Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Hopefully the Last Post About Packing, Ever

I am DOG tired. Dog tired as in--I want to lay on my kitchen floor with my legs curled under me and my head on the floor and fall asleep in the sunshine. I love this illustration because it captures my current state so well: So tired I'm walking around with one eye closed (figuratively), and I also have a cold so my breathing is a little bulldog-ish, if you're familiar with their lovely sound. The flowers--well I just like flowers. Not sure why they are all over his head.

This move has been wrecking me. In the past, Jon and I get all macho-tough-guy about moving and we're like, "We're going to ROCK this packing!" We get prideful, like packing snobs, because we think we are so good at packing. We have phases, systems, detailed labeling of boxes. And we're fast. We make the boxes our biatch, yo.

Not this time. This time I'm a sniveling little baby, who half the time is living in denial that packing is even an activity to do, and the other half I'm blatantly procrastinating by checking facebook 100 times a day and overdosing on TV in the evenings. I've been in some existential crisis over this moment in our lives. I won't go into it all, because I'd rather be laying on the floor, but for a while I was stumped about why I felt so crazy about this move. Stumped because we have really wanted this move to happen. Selling our house is good for so many reasons. Yes, packing and moving stinks for anyone, but still, why the existential crazy-crisis? I think I've figured it out.

I had been working so hard to order my life to make room for art and writing, yet still play with my family and friends, all while having a clean house. I was fighting for it, and succeeding sometimes. To me, it was all about order, and packing up a house to move to a yet-to-be-discovered location, screamed loudly in my ears, disorder. I'm afraid our fuzzy future and chaos is going to steal my creativity and my time to invest into that part of myself.

Somehow, just by recognizing this fear, I've been able to release it a bit. I have to stop being so dependent on order and comfort and predictability. I guess I thought I had a handle on that because of the nature of Jon's work, but apparently I'm not at the master level of openness yet. My friend Michele reminded me of Ann Voskamp's physical motion that helps in the act of letting go. Clenched fist, opening and releasing that which we hold tightly. I may or may not have paced around my house doing this over and over. Okay, yes I did. While deep-breathing like a bulldog. :)

Now I'm going back downstairs to finish packing the kitchen. I'm still going to keep my labeling system:

All-caps in the upper left hand corner of the box. KITCHEN.
Listed below it in small-caps, all the contents in the box.

Don't make me let go of that!

***Bulldog Illustration

Monday, November 28, 2011

I lost it. Then I got it back.

Advent, that is. And my sanity.

We were tearing our house apart, preparing to move on December 8th. Then our buyer's buyer's loan got weird, then okay, but we won't move for two more months. I say I "lost" Advent because I felt like I didn't have room in my head to move our house and peacefully reflect on Christ's birth through anything that took planning and intentionality.

Now that I've regained my presence of mind after freaking out about our contract falling apart, I've taken some big breaths, stopped packing and started enjoying--CHRISTMAS!!

In the last couple days we've:
Decorated a little tree
Decorated our big tree
Listened to an obnoxious amount of Christmas music
Read Christmas stories by the light of the tree a couple times--with lots of blankets and stuffed animals
Drove around looking at Christmas lights
Made a gingerbread house
Played a lot with the "little people" nativity set

I'm still trying to wrap my mind around how to practice Advent with our kids since they are at a great age to begin this, but it's a new tradition for me. I'm drawn to it because I love the idea of preparing mind and heart before the actual holiday celebration. So far, I have a couple books of poetry that I've been reading and reflecting on myself:
Accompanied by Angels by Luci Shaw and A Cry Like a Bell by Madeleine L'Engle

I think I need some candles? Some specific scriptures to read with the lighting of those candles on specific nights? I know we've missed like half of Advent already, and I know it only takes is a quick Google search to figure out what to do, but I'm still reveling in the freedom to celebrate Christmas in our house one last time--and the feeling of sanity.

Art credit: I adore this little tree painting made with vintage paper dots!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Goodbye, House

In less than a month we will move out of our house. Over the past years when talking about the idea of moving I've said things to friends like,

"It's just a house, I'm not crazy attached to it, I'll be fine when we move."

"It's not like it's our dream-home, it's a great house, but when we move, I won't be crushed."

"It's a roof and walls."

That was my idealistic, unattached, overly-positive self talking. Now that moving is a near reality, I'm trying to allow myself to honestly feel the transition and all it means. It means leaving the place I've watched my babies grow out of their babyhood and into childhood. These walls encase precious memories of playing sports in the living room with my son, dancing in the kitchen, playing pirate ship in the loft. The floors have been witness to both kids' first steps, wrestling matches with Daddy, games of hide-and-seek, potty training. The roof has sheltered all kinds of noise, lullabies sung late in the night, countless boy sound effects, parties with friends, Jon and I living life together and weathering storms together. During our longest storm of the "never-ending job hunt", our kitchen seemed to be the setting for many moment of truth conversations where one would bolster the other with, "it's going to be okay" and "don't loose hope".

In reality, I am leaving a roof and walls for a different set. This house hasn't done anything another house won't be able to do in the future, but this has been a dream-house for me. I've lived out dreams in this house. I've grown my own dreams for myself and my family while living in this space. This house is unique in the time we've lived and loved under it's shelter. And for that, I'm sad to say goodbye. Now to start packing...
And try not to freak out...

Lovely houses:

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Freedom of Routine

You know how we all tend to cling to a false-belief or beliefs that can spread into our way of living and behaving? We carry on without even noticing and our lives are shaped by the belief. Big or small, they have power to create patterns in our lives. A big one I've been working through lately is:

"Routine will suck the life out of my creativity and be a vicious death of any potential spontaneity and fun in our schedule." Dramatic, I know, but that's really how I feel/felt about "routine". 

Since I've recognized this as a false belief, my new theory is this: 

If I can create effective routine to accomplish the mundane (the stuff I'd rather be in denial of its existence--like bathroom cleaning) my time for creativity and spontaneity will actually be more free.

I've been wanting to write about this for a while but each time I start, I have visions of the post plummeting quickly into dark depths of boredom on levels never before seen. But this is pretty huge in my life right now, so I'm going to take the risk and write about it anyway.

I've been testing my theory, these past couple weeks, through what I've named a "Housewifery Bootcamp". You have to pronounce "housewifery" like this {house-wiff-ery} in order for it to be effective.
I have a schedule of housecleaning jobs and I've stuck to them (mostly) and it's been amazing. I won't go into the details for fear of boring myself to sleep on the keyboard, but I'm now a believer in the benefit of a healthy routine, even though it's still majorly a work in process.

This week I'm testing out part two of my theory--the creative part. The idea that my head will be clear enough of the necessary mundane that I can write and paint without feeling like I'm neglecting my home or my family. I've designated this week as "make progress on my creative projects week". Okay, so I don't have a creative title for the week, but that's the idea. I want to work on my novel and finish an art project.

Since it sounds like my little one is actually going to nap, and my coffee is done brewing, I'm going to stop writing ABOUT it, and actually DO it. Off to be creative...

Next up in my false-belief bashing process: "I have to have a gym membership to work out". 

One false belief I will not give up: "Each time I kiss my kids' foreheads and stroke their hair, it slows time a little bit."


Friday, November 4, 2011

Thankful--expression through visual art

My friend Dawn is having a blog "link-up party" and invited me to join in. The theme is 30 Thankful Days, where bloggers write about what they're thankful for each day in November. I am really not going to pull off a post-a-day, but I'm shooting for twice a week. :)

Today I'm especially thankful for truth expressed through visual imagery. I love words, hence, this blog. Writing is a form of self expression and a creative outlet for me, but I think what most speaks to me at my core is the visual. I love how so many times in our lives words are unnecessary in expressions of love and communication. I love how God communicates Himself through creation--visual expression.

Well, today our friend Luke posted this video of a live illustration he did during their church service. I loved it. I think especially in church, sometimes a break from words can be welcomed. We speak words when singing, listen to words of the pastor, think words when we pray. Then of course, talk, talk, talk after the service.

This is his description of the video: 
"live ipad illustration created in a span of 35 minutes during the worship time at Woodmen Valley Chapel. For the series Extravagant Grace. Using the ipad2 app Sketch Club, I recorded the sequence of illustrations and then played it back during the final worship song."

Check it out:

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Airplanes: A love story

After a year and a half we have a contract on our house and we will move into a different house in another part of our city. We've lived here for over five years and one thing I will miss deeply is living under a flight pattern for our city airport.
When I was a girl and my family was shopping for a new home, I recall two big rules for choosing a good location: 1. Not backing to a busy street. 2. Not near an airport.
I've since learned rule #2 does not apply to me because the sound of an airplane rumbling toward our house sends me flinging curtains aside and shouting, "airplane! come look!", every time. 

I think this love came upon me by proxy through my toddler Jack a few years ago.  Like many toddler boy fascinations--construction trucks and cars--airplanes were one of them. We would gawk in wonder, time after time, pointing up. "Ah-plane", he called them. Now that he is five and Nora is two, and not as taken by them as he was, my love for planes endures and is outlasting even their wonder.

I've been wondering why. Why, after seeing maybe hundreds of airplanes fly by in the past five years, do I still look with anticipation to see what is flying by?  I keep rolling metaphors around in my head trying to pinpoint the reason for my endearment. I feel like my adoration is deep and subconscious. So far, I have enough reasons to start an entire blog on airplane love, so I'll try to summarize. Ready?  This is going to be one of those "write to figure it out" experiences for me.

I love the sound, the power of jet engines zipping souls through the air in encapsulated safety.
I love their lines and the gray silhouette against the sky. Blue and Gray.
I love what they represent in my memory: vacation, adventure, the world.
I love riding in them and seeing the ground below as a quilt.
I love the history of their invention and development.
I could go on...and I said--airplane blog.

Airplanes, to me, are moving art merged with scientific marvel in my favorite canvas, the sky. When I look at the sky, in any state, my soul stirs. The variegated blue inspires creative thinking. Gray churning clouds remind me of my powerlessness, and conversely, God's power. Like a canvas, the sky is often a starting place for me in prayer. Airplanes flying past my house pull my eyes upward to the sky, reminding me. I remember God is present and surrounding. They remind me of God's immensity and how He gifted humanity with creativity and ingenuity enough to create something so intuitively illogical as a giant hunk of metal floating weightlessly.

Airplanes are part of my scenery, mixed with my natural surroundings. We live deep in suburbia where the minimal vegetation is still young and tiny. We sit on a slight hill overlooking a sea of rooftops with a backyard void of plants. Being a naturalist at heart (but now pretty citified if I'm honest), what I love about our setting is when I look out any window in our house, I see three quarters sky. Rooftops and sky.

A plane's low hum draws my eye to the sky. I am reminded to dream big, to pursue the impossible in my own world, like the Wright Brothers did in theirs. I'm reminded that God surrounds me in my pursuit of living and loving; there always in the endless blue, gray and black.

Our new home will most likely be away from my beloved place under the air-traffic. I guess some airplane art on my walls will be a tiny consolation for me.

Cool airplane art in this post:
Paper Airplane Heart
Boy with Plane
Paper Airplane Card

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Yes, Ma'am?

I stepped out of the hotel lobby, turned and asked a bellboy for directions to a pond I saw when we arrived.  He gave me instructions and said, "have a nice jog, Miss!"

This single word, "Miss", set me lightly upon my jog with a spring in my step. I was a gazelle. If he had chosen to say "Ma'am", I would have been fighting my "ma'amness" the entire laborious run. Dragging my ageing, out-of-shape behind along while I sucked in air to fill my atrophied lungs.

The very word "Miss", when applied to me, makes me want to tip my face up, give my hair a little shake and bask in the word's glorious sunlit drops of goodness.

Yes, this is really how I feel, and this really did happen--minus the sunlit drops.

Maybe it's a thirties thing, why I feel such a visceral reaction to the word. At thirty-four I feel steady in the decade, no, more than steady--I feel empowered in this decade. I feel more motivated than I've been my entire life.

And yet. The word "Ma'am" lands like a thud in my ears and rounds my shoulders. While "Miss" nearly makes me giggle.

In my twenties I was exhaustingly introspective, always searching for "who I am". Now, I'm refreshingly onto "who I love" and "what I do". I feel better in these, happier. No matter where I'm at though, I will always love what stereotypically comes with youth--hope, expectation, energy, passion (even naive passion). Words associated with aging aren't as fancy-free--maturity, wisdom, self-actualization.

I don't care how self-actualized, mature or super-spiritual you are, "youth" always sounds good, "aging"-not so much. The word "Miss" nicely encapsulates all things young and lovely. "Ma'am"; formal, stodgy, critical. (Feel free to leave a comment below and make me aware of my "issues" I might need to seek counseling for!)

Despite all this, I fully intend to embrace aging with gusto. I'm going to wrap my arms around it like a big pillow (or so I say now.) A full-fledged fight against aging can only result in bad wardrobe choices.

One night this summer, for Jon's birthday, we had four generations of women gathered for dinner at Salsa Brava. My daughter, the youngest, Jon's grandmother the most "mature". Our young-man waiter addressed each of us as "Miss". I immediately loved him for this and had to tell him how he would get a bigger tip because of his word-choice.

As much as I am actively seeking maturity, wisdom and self-actualization in my life, I will always feel a little skinnier, prettier and sunnier when called "Miss".

Okay-so I'm dying to know if you disagree with me! Would you be offended if someone called you "Miss" over a certain age? Maybe it would come across as patronizing or disrespectful? Do tell...

I'm a fan of the artist who created the above work. I would love to see her paintings in person because they're mixed media and I'm imagining they have lots of wonderful depth and texture. Her shop on etsy is called Sleep and Her Sisters. Check it out.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Old to New

Jon and I have been reading through the Bible in a year. We'll be done with the Old Testament by the end of October. Eight solid months of nothing but Old Testament. No study with it, just taking in the story. I've read  most of the Old Testament before, but never in such a concentrated dose. (Speed reading it in college for an OT class doesn't count.)

One thing I love about the Bible are some of the more mysterious passages and how if you put two equally brilliant and reverent scholars in a room together they would not see certain things the same way. Like the book of Ezekiel. I'm dying to know about those wheels in the air. But who can really know until we see God face to face?

This mysterious component has also been the frustrating thing about reading the OT straight through without a study. Sometimes I feel so eluded by the greater meaning.

The greatest value I've taken away from this experience, aside from the sheer discipline of sticking with the reading (a big deal for me) is I feel I have a broad-brush-stroke image of the story. To me, it looks like this:

I see the dots in the heart representing God's people. They are sewn together by cords of God's love for them, tied to Him through His covenant, yet hurting and bleeding because of their unfaithfulness.

It's a bloody mess, yet surrounded and hemmed in by love.

That's all I'm going to say about that because I feel if I write anymore I'm going to muck it up. I'll let you look and ponder because I believe in the power of visual art. Ponder away.

I will tell you I'm going to do a happy dance in November when we move into the New Testament. Because to me, the New Testament looks like this:

The artists: Heart & Photograph

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Goodness in the Land

This is what I see from where I sit in life. From the era and country I've been born, the city where I was raised, the heritage of those before me, the parents who carefully raised me, to my own dearly loved family; this is what I see:

I see men working hard to provide for children they adore and wives they love.

I see women who push through fatigue to intentionally build into the lives of little ones they raise.

I see children loved, growing, thriving.

I see friends earnestly seeking time to soak in the presence of a Holy God. Seeking to know Him, Love Him, Trust Him, every day.

I see women leading other women into a life more free of anxiety, self-focus, sadness, trauma, anger; into a life more full of grace, healing, joy.

I see teachers, their eyes shinning with love for students, energetically guiding with wisdom.
I see a couple who made a major lifestyle change start a food pantry to serve the needy in my community. I have seen them labor with their hands till they bleed for people who are struggling to feed their families.

I see pastors leading churches into what it really looks like to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with our God.

I see organizations filled with compassionate people diligently working (and succeeding) to release children from poverty in Jesus' name in holistic ways--meeting their physical, emotional, social, spiritual and educational needs.

Of course, some days (or seasons) I'm half-blind to the surrounding goodness and instead see minor inconveniences looming bigger than they are. I see the distance between where I am and where I want to be like a gaping chasm. Or I get stuck in my own tiredness, irritability or selfishness. Or I see the news. (Enough said on that one.) 

But right now I am seeing the good in a big way and feel like declaring it and letting my mind stay there for a bit.

I am feeling the weight of goodness surrounding me like a cozy blanket from where I sit in my space and time of life. I see shiny happy people holding hands. Go ahead, sing it... :)

What goodness do you see in your city, time, place? I'd love to hear about it!

**Be sure to check out the artist's page on etsy: Don't  you love her illustrations?!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Mental Grooves

This morning I was bouncing around everywhere but in the groove. My mental wheels were about to pop off from all the jumbling and jiggling. And I was not doing aerobics; I was just trying to get us ready for the day.

I learned from one of Jack's books on trains that the inspiration for train rails came from observing how a cart could travel easily through grooves worn into the road from carts who went before it. If it came out of the grooves, the trip would take longer and the cart would be more prone to damage from the rougher ride.

My rough ride today is due in part to the paradox of need. I've been thinking about paradoxes lately--I'm always so intrigued by them. In my motherly opinion, "NEED" is one of them--how amazing it feels to be needed, and how suffocating it can be sometimes.

Today my kids have been "needing" something at every turn--way more than usual. (Is it a full moon?) Sometimes I embrace the reality and love it--hello--I am their mommy. Other times, like today, I  feel unceasingly interrupted and it throws me from my happy groove of how I want to move through life.

This is what it looked like in my head.
My nice spiral of thought, purpose and plans are all jumbled and broken. I can't THINK. I want to have a complete thought, but instead I fill another sippy cup, or answer another a question, or help someone pee.

This afternoon God helped my mental wheels get back into the smooth path. After school drop off, Nora and I went to the World Prayer Center to walk around. We've never done this together before, but today it suddenly occurred to me how lovely that would be to do with Nora. The sidewalk around the building is surrounded both by stunning front-range views and nice little places to sit and BE. We slowly walked, chatted, enjoyed the sunshine, and prayed. I prayed for our state, our country, the people suffering in Somalia. We went inside and read beautifully displayed scripture on prayer, listened to a guy playing piano, looked at flags from around the world and prayed for several countries.

This is my groove. Remembering to pray and worship, slow down and BE.

Now my brain looks more like this:
Smooth, peaceful, restful.

As I'm finishing writing this my kids are happily playing with each other and not needing anything from me. I think when they ask me for something in a few minutes, my peaceful, in-the-groove self will jump at the opportunity to be needed.

Psalm 23:3--He refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for His name's sake. 

Here's my idea for my blog that I'm crazy excited about! I am going to include artworks from artists I find on or other places and use their pieces in my posts! I'll include the link so you can check them out and see their other works. One day, I'll include my own. :)
The artist I discovered today has an amazing story--go read it!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

I'm No Grammarian

Yes, I did get a "D" in the grammar portion of one of my High School English classes. The only reason I squeaked out a "B" overall was that the rest of class was literature which I adore.
I'm admitting this because my blog title might not be grammatically correct. I honestly don't know if it is, but I love it!

Here's why my blog is called "Ontologically Happy"--

One of my favorite women is Madelein L'Engle. She's a woman I will have over for dinner in heaven because when she lived, she was too far across the country to invite over. (New York) When she published her book "A Circle of Quiet" in 1972, my favorite of hers, I was five years shy of being born. My parents weren't even married yet. She was in her 30's raising babies (my age & stage) in the 1950's. She died in September of 2007 after living a long and fruitful life. Madeleine's perspectives and wisdom I find completely relevant and insightful even to our current days, even though they were written decades ago. To me, that makes her all the more fascinating.

But I will definitely invite her over for dinner in my heaven-dwelling because she is a major inspiration to me in my life as a growing artist, believer in Jesus and woman.  We'll sit on a cloud-couch and drink star-light tea and talk about our love for life, art and Jesus. Something dreamy like that.

Anyway, in a couple of her books she talks about being "ontological". Generally the idea of being ontological is to be in a state of who we are at our core. Like being at peace, in an un-self-conscious way, with who you are. Not so much what you are, as in roles (parent, teacher, artist, spouse), or who you want to be from the expectations and pressures of culture, but WHO. She talks about the joy of getting away to her favorite spot by a pond and just "being".

From this ontological position, we are more free to pray, create, love.

As I've considered starting a blog, I've way over-thought it scrapped about five versions. One hang-up has been the issue of "theme"; do I need to commit to a certain topic? I love randomness, so committing to something where it would be weird to throw in a post about my crush on Jimmy Fallon, or how I secretly want to be a paleontologist, was not sitting well with me. Somehow I keep coming back to the desire to start my own blog because I've been inspired by, learned from and grown spiritually from the writing of other people sharing through their blogs. So I want to do it too--and let the random be free!

I want to write about things that strike my interest in the moment, and things that give me a deep, lasting happiness at the core of who I am. My place to write and be ontological--as grammatically incorrect as that may be. As you know, happiness is fleeting and sometimes plain absent, but I've found when I'm in a place of  "being" WHO God created me to be, I feel happy. Ontologically Happy.

Madeleine says, "Our truest responsibility to the irrationality of the world is to paint, sing or write, for only in such response do we find truth."

So that's the "why" of this blog for me. I want to write about life from a place of ontological happiness.

Cheers, Madeleine! Thanks for being inspiring and living ontologically so others can follow your example. I think I'm going to quote you a time or twenty-eight!