I am no Heather. I realize this. She inspires me, though, and allows me to be just who I am in all of my imperfection and mess. Though I try to resist comparison, it sometimes creeps up on me. When this happens, I work to change my thought pattern to one of inspiration.
One area of struggle for me is menu planning. I have a mental block, an aversion, to it, though I have prepared hundreds of meals and fed my large family daily for years. In theory it should not be this difficult, but in practice it is another matter.
Recently I was in Heather’s kitchen and noticed her menu written on a chalkboard hanging on the kitchen wall framed by an elegant frame. There was a Scripture verse printed on it, opposite the week’s menu. My mind went to the white board in my kitchen and to the possibility of writing a menu plan in similar fashion.
I decided to take action when I arrived home, claiming the lower left corner of the board for my plan. I listed Monday through Sunday and wrote down what I would prepare each day. At the end of each day I wiped off the day’s meal and wrote what I would fix the following week.
In essence it is a continual meal plan. A continual feast.
It has been a few weeks and the new menu plan has been serving me well. Now if I could get the grocery list under control!
For the curious, this is what my kitchen whiteboard looks like today
It’s not the most beautiful and could use a Scripture verse or two, but it’s doing its job. And my grocery list rhymes.
I decided to get more candles. Rather, I requested that my husband pick some up last Saturday while running errands with a daughter. I knew exactly where I had seen the boxes of pre-packaged, advent-colored, purple and pink candles.
They were sold out.
Instead a text image came through with the image of bulk candles and a question, Is the indigo color okay? I missed the message.
He bought three indigo and one white candle. I like the indigo color much better in person.
The following day, I used the seasonal snowflake paperbag that the candles were packaged in to cover a small cardboard box. I glued the words Get ready on one side and Celebrate on the other. I pressed the five candles into floral foam, lining them with pinecones and berries.
It was my adult son’s idea to move it from the living room mantel to the lazy Susan in the middle of the table. Each night we light the candles during dinner and put up the felt tree piece afterwards. It has been the most chill Advent to date.
If you look closely, you can see some scatter I added this week in honor of Hanukkah.
I love all things miniature and could not resist them!
Speaking of felt tree, this is how ours looks today, December 16, 2017. There are 15 objects placed, and the wall hanging makes 16. Since this particular activity begins December 1, we are actually on track. This is a momentous occasion for us.
Usually we miss several days and spend much time catching up. The candles on the table have been the game changer for us this year.
I chose to persist, in keeping with my word for a few more days. It has not been easy, but it has been good.
It is mid-week. Hump Day. In navigating my new normal there is still much I have to learn about pacing myself and having realistic expectations for what I can accomplish and what constitutes enough. Our themes follow us no matter where we go. Mine are here in my quiet house with me this morning.
It was a kind gift to wake with my alarm and read my Bible before starting the day. That led to a timely shower and the surprise of breakfast made for me instead of the reverse. Fed, clean, and clothed, I was able to take on the rest of the kitchen routine and pack lunches without being thrown by the unexpected surprises that usually occur between 7:00-7:20am.
Drop-off was smooth-sailing, and the dog-walk uneventful. The brilliant morning sunshine was a welcome lift to my sagging spirits. I recognized the kindness of a canceled plan which opened space for me to tackle an overdue task that has been hanging over my head. It moved to the top of today’s list.
Finishing my evolving morning ritual, I gathered supplies to the table to begin working on an art journaling project. It was fun to plan out and gather the words and images to use. I opened a new package of glue sticks and dug some scissors out of the drawer. Immediately I realized the blades were sticky and squeaky, but I decided to make do rather than extract myself from the table to my bedroom for the good scissors.
The ambient sound of scrapbooking!
A voice from the living-room couch piped up after I had been working for awhile. My son was seizing a few moments of his morning off to read a book he had received for his birthday. The silence of his reading was punctuated by the sounds of my tearing and cutting and gluing.
I even tried not to cut too loudly with these awful scissors!
I laughed. We both have sensitivity to certain sounds and pitches and noises. This caused more laughter and an invitation from him to take a break and watch an episode together in the living room. I accepted and hunkered down on the loveseat. Dewey trotted over and jumped right up, settling onto me for a nap.
Twenty minutes later, I looked at us and laughed, christening the day Lump Day, as we were lumping on couches and not accomplishing much. Then it was time to get moving. He has to work. I have to clean up the art journal mess and sort the rest of my time before picking up kids from school.
I might just keep lumping.
Shhh! Don’t tell.
The original post was edited to include this video shared with me by my baby sis who now mothers her babies every day and knows about songs like this!
I realized while on a recent trip to a conference with friends, that there are certain necessities that I pack while traveling. I have tried to take better notice of the things I need and use and those that are just wishful thinking travel items. In an ideal world I would create a packing list. Maybe one day I will.
My art journal bag is a necessity. I noticed this while sitting in the airport waiting on a delayed flight, cutting apart a Fly Washington free magazine and reassembling pieces of it in my travel journal.
I noticed it while sitting in my place at the conference cutting apart the program and reassembling it in my travel journal while the speakers were presenting. Occasionally I jotted down notes, but mostly I cut and glued and taped.
My clear, make-up sized bag contains the following:
glue sticks (must have at least 2)
several rolls of washi tape
mini binder clips
AAA batteries (wireless mouse needs)
I also take my rolled up case of colored pencils, however, I scored a mini pink zip-top pencil case with several basic colored pencils AND a sharpener for $1.14 at Target today on CLEARANCE! I was irrationally excited about this find. What made it even more fun was the risk of guessing what was inside since it was sealed. I was fairly confident there were little pencils in there. The sharpener was a bonus! This will definitely be a new staple in my travel bag.
So my travel necessities look a bit different from others, and that is okay. I am discovering things about myself that are unique, and this is one of them. I love to create things and recreate things and process in surprising ways. One of those is by cutting papers apart and reassembling them.
This image is from my final flight out to Seattle back in March. Those trips are also on my mind, as it has been a year since I began that journey. Since my heart and mind are so full, and it is difficult to focus on writing, I am grateful for the space to write about and process random things like my style of creating. Maybe it will inspire you to be curious about what inspires you.
How are you? How was the weekend? What did you learn?
These questions pepper me upon each return from Seattle. Other than the obvious jet-lag issue that happens every single time and the lack of space in this season to feel that I am truly processing well, I have some words.
I am feeling disrupted and dumped out.
I am learning a lot. About myself. If you want to study something truly terrifying, try studying your own story. Invite others to join you on the journey. Offer yourself up to the process. Write out your most vulnerable places, or those that you think are the most vulnerable, and then allow others to listen and speak what they see. They will see differently. They will speak.
Prepare to be undone in the best and worst of ways. Prepare for the ultimate ambivalent experience. Decide if you want to keep showing up, because you always have a choice. I keep choosing more. More truth. More honesty. More reality. More disruption.
I am back. Truly. I am coming back to myself. I am returning to more of who I was created to be. It has been a wild journey. I am grateful for the opportunity to experience this growth, in this season, in the company of courageous souls choosing to battle with and for me.
I get one more trip. Already I feel the grief of impending ending, while holding anticipation of one more weekend in this space with these fierce heart warriors. There is much to do to prepare for ending well. Much to read, write, process, and create.
I have learned that it is okay to slow down and tend to the parts of me that need care. That is what I will be doing in this next season. Tending. Caring for myself. Continuing to adjust my own oxygen mask. Sorting through what I find in the dumping out of my heart.
Oh, beautiful disruption, how I love you. How you terrify me!
This past week was a dear friend’s birthday. We share the same birth month, and several weeks ago went for coffee together. She gave me a card with a gift card to the coffee shop that we often frequent. She also gave me a box.
The box was significant and special, because it was handmade by her. What was inside the box was even more significant, especially at this time in my life.
While reading and preparing for my certificate work this coming school year, much is made about memory and story and processing and trauma. This month was all about the reading. Next month comes the first writing assignment.
Stirring around inside are memories to be curious about and stories to process. Launching another big while continuing to parent four littles middles stirs different feelings now that there are no more babies. I see more of myself in the life stages of my five girls ~ wherever they are.
And also my three boys.
With that background, I was curious about the box. I opened it to reveal this. . .
Can you guess the significance? Anyone? Need another clue?
She passed her childhood set along to me for safe-keeping, knowing my love for the dolls and their place in my story.
Playing with Sunshine Family dolls is a HUGE childhood memory. This was my alternative to playing with Barbies ~ modestly proportioned, flat-footed mom, solid, hard-working dad, baby, and even a big sister in one of the sets, this family provided me hours of creative fun.
I only remember having the dolls and some of the baby accessories. Mine were yellow ~ cradle, bathtub, high chair. There was even a tiny bottle. I don’t think I had any of the store-bought big accessories, but that certainly didn’t stop me from creating multi-level houses out of cardboard boxes, filled with hand-crafted furniture.
My dolls had yellow shoes. It’s funny the memories that stick.
Among my Sunshine Family memories are the pantry shelves that my mom created out of a Velveeta box, cardboard squares, and tape. The dining room table was cut from the bottom of a plastic gallon milk jug with chairs made from paper cups. One was turned upside-down, the other cut in half. The bottoms were glued or taped together, forming a chair with a back. Fancy.
Plates were the flat tops of milk jugs, cups were toothpaste caps, and baskets were egg carton sections cut and woven with yarn. The humble shoebox was a treasure trove of possibilities, most obviously, a bed, but also a closet or stove or counter.
To this day, my sister and I have an inside joke where we say, “It can be a bed, or a dresser, or a table, etc. . .” whenever we see something with multifunctional potential.
In my mind, I spent hours armed with fabric and scissors and wallpaper samples, creating and designing beautifully furnished housing for my dolls. I remember learning a pattern for a tiny bonnet for baby and diapers, as well.
I know that my sister played Sunshine Family with me, and I think some friends did, as well. Did any of you play with or remember these dolls from the 70’s? Did any of your children play with them? I am curious and curiouser!
What about you, Dear Readers? What are some of YOUR significant memories of play? Do share in the comments!
Another one has come and gone. Graduation of child 4 from high school took place last weekend. It was a full, emotional time and the chance to be filled with nostalgia, as my thirteen-year-old son was sure to articulate at every opportunity.
There were many finals.
Final concerts, final performances, final gatherings, final awards ceremonies.
There was also a Mama Final.
This is what I call the gathering and assembling of a memory board to display at the graduation party. I fantasize that some more organized mamas have it all together and have been working on the project gradually over the years, having only to add finishing touches here and there for the final display.
Remember those science fair projects and research reports that started with the best of intentions and ended with holding a blow dryer over a paper-mache dinosaur to get it to dry faster the night before it was due? Is it just me?
My process has been trial and error, fueled by pragmatic inspiration. Sadly, my firstborn was not the recipient of a properly-executed final exam. Her display took over most of the dining room, as school pictures of her were hung, illustrating her various awkward stages of growing up. I am grateful that she graded me on a curve for that.
I didn’t discover my method and groove until child number two graduated from high school. Because he was a pianist and giving a senior piano recital, I planned out a memory board to be displayed at the reception that followed.
Not wanting to waste my efforts, the thought struck that if I used a display board and attached decorated scrapbook pages to it, I could later remove the pages and insert them into an album. Armed with this inspiration, I chose to use green and gold, his chosen college’s colors as the backdrop colors and set to work planning out pages.
I did the same for the next graduate, a girl who planned to take a gap year. Her album was recently pulled out to remember and reminisce.
Enter the month of May. Busy and full, I felt grateful that my last day of work left me with two full weeks before everyone else was out of school. I began to focus on the task at hand.
Here is how it played out.
I pulled out the display board stored in my closet from the last graduate.
I started with a blank display board like the one used for school projects.
I collected the boxes of memories that I had saved over the years and began sorting, patchwork quilt style on my bed.
Choosing red, blue, and white as school colors and purple as an accent, I pulled them together with tie-dye and rainbow pixel paper as a background.
I began committing by cutting and gluing pictures to the scrapbook paper as page themes emerged.
Here is an up-close look at the marching band page.
I set aside my perfectionistic tendencies and not good enough voices in my head and just did it. I made something.
After attaching the individual pages to the backboard, I stood the finished project on the table to view a new perspective.
The morning of the graduation brunch, it was fun to have this for people to enjoy.
We celebrated at a park under a shelter. I propped the display on a picnic table bench for all to see, using a potted succulent to hold it in place. One of the other moms provided a journal for friends to write in, which was a wonderful touch!
Afterwards, I organized the pages into a photo album, scrapbook-style.
This is where I removed all pages from the display and slid them into a scrapbook. Here is a sample page from that.
There you have the process for a successful mama final exam. If this mother of eight can do it, you can, too! One of the biggest tips I have is to designate a bin for each child to collect their memories. I plan to write more on this topic soon, but that is a good place to start.
A friend recently posted Change is messy as his Facebook status. It quickly became my mantra for this season of transition.
I don’t like change or messy.
A vivid picture of this took place the other evening as I gathered materials to plant the porch planter. It once housed the hibiscus, which has since gone the way of plants who have lived out their time with us. I try not to read too much into its death.
I had an idea in my head of what I would like to try with the pot and began the process of change. Garden gloves on so as not to dirty my hands, I began gingerly scooping soil and piling compost to the side and around the inside edge of the full pot to make room for the new plant.
Oh no, some dirt spilled out onto the porch. I need to find something to scoop the extra soil into. Why can’t I just shove it around in the pot and try to make room for the new plant? I really don’t want to make a mess.
Trying to scoop a deep enough hole for the new plant to fit into the pot properly without spilling any soil out was impossibly frustrating. I didn’t want to make a mess in the midst of potting a plant. That sounds ridiculous, but it’s where I was!
My first attempt at placing the plant revealed the hole to be too shallow. Tempted to just shove it in and make do by heaping soil high around it, I knew that I would regret this decision later. I removed the plant, laid it on its side, and continued to dig deeper.
This is taking too long. I really want to just get it done and enjoy the finished product. Time is ticking!
Often that is how it is with change. We have to wait for it to happen. We have to be in the midst of the messiness. We begin to ache.
Oh, my back! Why does bending and squatting hurt so much more these days?
I stood to stretch and survey the initial result and subsequent mess I had made before beginning the process of sweeping up the remaining soil.
A few days later, the makeshift empty milk jug watering can was replaced by my luvvvah with a new one along with some additional flowers to add to the pot.
Sometimes change is surprising.
Hello, Beautiful Blooms! I am looking forward to watching you grow and change this summer!
My son recently performed in a piano festival. Each pianist played two memorized pieces that were evaluated by judges. A score of superior from each judge, double superior, meant that the performer was invited to play one of their pieces in a recital the following day and receive recognition and a trophy.
Now, this could be the humble brag post about how my son surprisingly received a double superior, but it is really the be your best you post that I need to write for myself to read later. So that is why I am writing it!
The festival took place on a Saturday with performance times beginning in the morning. A sister who also participated was in the 9:00 time slot. Son was in the 10:00 block. Participants were expected to be on time, stay for the entire hour listening to the other performers, and then check the postings on the wall in the hall to see if they received the coveted SS.
Mornings are challenging at our house on a good day, and there is never really one of those, so you can imagine what early Saturday performance mornings are like. Getting out of the house dressed and presentable was not a pretty sight or sound.
Son threw on some clothes, missed his coffee, iPod, and warmup on our piano, and jumped into the car with sister and me. There was much grumble-grousing. I was not in the most generous of moods and was lecturing on how we can’t all be in total comfort all of the time. There was really no other option than for us to all go together and boy to wait for his performance time. The use of my phone to pass the time softened the blow slightly.
I listened to nine-year-old sister play two memorized pieces almost perfectly and was impressed by her first festival performance. Based on past experience with siblings I was fairly confident that she might have pulled off a double superior. I said nothing but congratulated her at the end.
This is why I am not a piano judge.
At 10:00 it was brother’s turn, and I found him waiting in his performance venue. His skill level plays on the expensive upstairs piano in the auditorium. We sat together waiting for his turn. I could sense nervousness and heard negative self-talk coming from him and reminded him to just relax and do his best.
A fellow performer from the same studio went before him and played two complex pieces. The faster piece was filled with intricate-sounding runs up and down the keyboard. Son leaned over and said, I can’t do that! The dismissive shake of his head and shrug of the shoulders had me sensing even more of a downward spiral coming on, increasing the negative momentum, grinding him to a standstill before he had even started.
I leaned over to give him some motherly advice, and this is what came out. . .
You don’t have to play like the other performers. Just play like the best YOU in this moment.
I look around at my friends with their unique callings or their blogs with their voices and think I can’t do that. I can’t write about homeschooling or health or the benefits of _________. I haven’t designed a product or written a book or come up with a better way to __________. I haven’t gone back to school like _______. I don’t have that advanced degree like ___________. I’m not working from home in a job that I love like _________. I can’t sing like ___________. I am not a businesswoman like _________. I’m not as wise and spiritual as ____________.
I don’t have to do what other people are doing. I don’t have to compare myself to others. I just have to do what I do and be the best me in the moment.
Son heard his name, walked up onto the stage, and soldiered through his piece. I listened on the edge of my seat, slightly cringing at the areas where I heard him holding back due to nerves and lack of proper morning preparation. I coped in my classic way, through paper and pen in a tiny journal
“Mornings are never smooth at our house, so a Saturday morning with early piano performances at a piano festival seemed doomed from the beginning. Son’s score should really be interpreted through a baseline lens ~ meaning this is how he performs cold ~ no coffee, no warm-up, no sleep, cranky, and irritable. I am proud of him just for being here. It is hard to keep a 13 year old boy on track! It is hard to keep a 44 year old woman on track!”
He returned to his seat next to me, head shaking, hair flopping as he sat down. Whispered analysis of all that went wrong in the piece came my way, as the judges worked on his score at their table. I enjoyed the other performers, and then exited the hall to regroup with his teacher in a room downstairs.
Talking together, we debriefed on how the morning had gone, when a teenage boy sauntered up, face flushed, head shaking, eyes full of disbelief. What does it mean if your name is highlighted?
It means adouble superior, answered his teacher. That is what my son received.
This is why I am not a piano judge.
The following afternoon found us in a different performance space enjoying the fruits of his labor, of him being the best him in the moment, as we listened to the honors recital together.
Whatever you are, Friend. Be the best YOU in the moment! Bring yourself to the world and step right up.