Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Nesting, Rearranging, and the Poetry of Space

Nesting has begun! I welcome it with joy. It is wonderful to have all of this spontaneously generated energy, motivation, and focus. I can really make use of this by harnessing it in service of some household projects that have been nagging at me for accomplishment.

We've been clearing out the former office/guest room/ exercise room and turning it into a nursery for Little Guy (who up until recently has still been in our room) with a craft corner for me! This will be great as I haven't had a dedicated place for my crafty pursuits since I moved my sewing nook out of the living room back when Bear started to crawl. I hope my son will not mind sharing his room with space for one of his mother's hobbies. It is a bigger room than he needs and the girls will have to share, so it's only fair, right?  Space in our home is limited so we need to multipurpose some areas.

Anyway, over the last week I've been doing a lot of decorating and sundry projects in there, trying to give the room a nautical theme. It is looking pretty good although still not quite done.

We've moved H's desk and office equipment into our room. I've also re-organized my closet, cleared clutter from off my dresser and nightstand, and done some general reducing of stuff, boxing things up for Goodwill. I love getting rid of things. I love that sensation of lightening my load, lightening the house.

There are soon to be five of us in this 1400 square foot bungalow. I'm convinced it can be comfortable, even spacious and roomy, if it is efficiently arranged and we keep our stuff under control. And really that can be a very agreeable task, as I believe there is a deep poetry and symbolic resonance to the way we shape our spaces to fit our changing needs, personalities, and desires.

When worked mindfully from an imaginative, soulful core, creating and caring for inhabited space can be a journey of fulfillment and life celebration. I think household chores and the domestic arts only become stifling and tiresome when we take them up from a value system foreign to our true selves, heaping on the "shoulds" and personally inauthentic measures. Easy to do, wonderful to be free from. I'd like to bring more of a sense of freedom, poetry, and soul to my homemaking endeavors. It's a process, but I feel better about everything when I keep those deeper values in mind.

Moving out of the heady and abstract and back to the kitchen etc., ;-), I'm gaining more appreciations for the benefits of clear space for creating a sense of harmony and peace. Clear floors, corners of rooms, surfaces (counters, dressers, table tops, etc). It gives a feeling of expansion and rest.

It's looking like the recent endowment of nesting zeal will be enough to help me pull this off (a lot of clutter has accumulated from the days I wasn't feeling so well). I'm glad the nesting has started early in this pregnancy. Maybe when I'm done reorganizing the house I'll still have time to paint and decorate the laundry room before the baby (due in May) arrives.

I suppose anyone who still reads here (site traffic has dropped significantly since I haven't been participating in blog challenges for a couple weeks now) may have noticed I haven't blogged about my art journal in awhile. The fact is, I haven't been art journaling hardly at all due to being preoccupied with the subjects of this post. I'm sure I'll get back to it, probably soon, in the meantime I'm liking writing about other things from time to time as the inspiration strikes. Anyone who is reading feel free to say hi, I love hearing from you!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Holy Ghost People, 1967, film review and commentary by me

Last night H and I watched a 1967 documentary about a snake handling church. It was called "The Holy Ghost People," and apparently there is going to be a movie of the same title coming out in 2013 sometime. I do not know how much it will have in common with the documentary, which was weird. It was partly weird because it was very low budget with extremely poor quality cameras and cinematography, but that somehow lent an eeriness to the filming that was an atmosphere all of it's own. It was black and white and stilted and occasionally shaky. There was very little commentary. A brief introduction as to what snake handling churches even are was unemotionally narrated, while filmers in a car "snaked" through a small town in the Appalachian mountains, on the way to the destined church service. It was a small country church with about thirty people, maybe less. Several old folks, several babies, there was quite a mix. There were  a few brief interviews and then the service got started.

It was the strangest blend of the familiar and the bizarre. The country church, people engrossed in worship, the group energy (hysteria?) that builds, "manifestations of the spirit", the peculiar little cliches and catch phrases of charismatically spun fundamentalism-- these are elements I've encountered  in various combinations before. **spoilers** All together in one room it seemed a bit much, and yet I sympathized somehow with their purpose, feeling, and fervor. But I would not have felt at ease there at all. When they started tossing snakes around as part of their worship, it was as if the world tilted slightly, that blend of the familiar and the bizarre I mentioned above. Still I found myself devoutly hoping no one would be bitten. And someone was, the preacher himself, quite spectacularly.

He was swinging a rattlesnake around saying that even if it bit him, the Word of God still stands, even if he died (I think he said that, am I embellishing now?) the Word of God would still stand. It bit him. On the hand, quite suddenly and with a vicious hiss. He dropped it and his hand was bleeding. Someone tried to clean up some of the blood that spilled, but he said something to the effect of, "Leave that blood on the floor sister, that's all right." He was obviously shaken and in pain, but he bravely continued to address his congregation, swaying a little. He said sometimes we ask ourselves why these things have to happen, and that he just didn't know. He didn't know why these things happened.  There seems more than a bit of ludicrousness in this assertion of ignorance under the circumstances, but that was completely overshadowed by the pathos of a man who thought to be following God beyond common sense, left alone with the natural results of his folly.

It happens.

He kept talking, they kept praying, his hand kept swelling, the movie ended.

It was one of those moments that I think you don't forget, even if seen second hand. I wonder about the children that were there then, what they are like now, what they think of those things, how they have made sense of their experiences. A follow up on all that would be an interesting study. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Sweet and Spicy Crock Pot Beef Recipe

I don't often craft recipes, but yesterday I tried an experimental combo of my own invention in the crock pot.  It was super easy and came out surprisingly well. I thought I must share it with my loving audience here (and I also wanted to document it for myself). So here goes!

Sweet and Spicy Crock Pot Beef


1/2 can orange juice concentrate
2 fresh jalepenos 
2 pounds stew meat
1 cup water
1 tablespoon honey
1 tsp salt
2-3 tablespoons flour

Blend jalepenjos and orange juice concentrate in food processor. Add to crock pot along with other ingredients and stir till thoroughly combined. Make sure meat is mostly covered, add more water if necessary. Cook on low 7-8 hours. Serve over rice. 

Note: this is quite peppery, so if you don't like spicy food you may want to reduce the amount of jalepenos!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Letter to My Shrink: A Dream About Therapy

So, in this dream we were in your office and you were sitting in your chair as usual. You were holding your hands cupped in front of you and there was a glowing yellow light emanating from them. Curious, I stepped closer to see what it was and three golden balls, of light or fire or something, materialized and began revolving in a circle, ferris wheel style. It was as though you were juggling them, but your hands were still and they were moving on their own power. I was entranced. I reached out to touch one and it turned into an egg yolk in my hand, which made me marvel even more.  Then for some reason I held it to my cheek and it instantly transformed into a baby chick, all yellow and fluffy, healthy, squirming, and with fluttering wings. I laughed. Then I woke up.

Cool dream, yes? I haven't analyzed it thoroughly yet, but I'm thinking the yellow light you were holding represents insight, which when taken and accepted can turn into new life.

Hope you are having a good day and that you inspire such lovely dreams in all your clients. :)


*       *       *        *       *        * 

And I am posting this on my blog because. . . the dream weaver is also an artist. Dreams are a kind of art and so is dream interpretation. Plus I just liked this one a lot. It was so pretty and resonant. Kind of reminded me of the mood of an earlier dream I wrote about here.

Next in My Practice Watercolor Series and a Few Purchases

This is the next in my little practice series of watercolors featuring my daughter's most loved toys. She calls this guy "Puppy Dog". Two year olds,  I've learned, are very literal people. When I showed her the picture she gasped, "It's Puppy Dog! I like it, Mommy. Thank you very much." Too cute. :-)

And speaking of all the wonderful children in my life, Saturday I finally got a chance to make a trip back home to see my family of origin, who were sadly stricken with the flu for sometime causing me to miss seeing them for both Christmas and New Year's! But finally all are recovered and so I made a little day trip to see them a couple days ago, bringing the two kids. H stayed home to enjoy the silence and tinker with his pickup truck. To each their own.

But yes, I was writing about my kiddies, in a more expanded sense. I have an eleven year old sister of whom I am very fond. Coincidentally, she has been doing a fair amount of painting and sketching lately! She proudly showed me some of her watercolors while I was there. It was so fun to see what she is up to and has been working on, and I think she has a flair for it. Her pictures are imaginative, and show a good instinct for color and some knack with lighting and shading. Only, her brushes, paints, and paper are all Crayola or equivalent. I thought that given the level of effort she's putting into her art, she'd probably get a lot of enjoyment out of and see encouraging results with her supplies if their quality was bumped up a notch or two. And since she has a birthday coming up, H and I decided yesterday on splurging slightly and getting her some better art supplies. I love shopping for this stuff, even online. Here is what we ended up purchasing:




Happy Birthday little sister! Can't wait to see what she creates with them! 

Linking to Mandarin Orange Monday and Creative Every Day.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Practicing Watercolor and Existence Take Two

I wanted to practice my watercolor skillz a little, and had the idea of doing a practice series of some of Bear's favorite toys and things. I'm sentimental about my kid like that.

Hmm, it's funny, but now that I'm actually about to post them I realize I feel more self conscious about posting pics of actual attempts to paint something than I do about sharing my journal pages. I think that's because with art journaling, there are no real goals or rules. It's self expression, an intuitive process, sometimes even spiritual. It's fun to do and cathartic and there is no real way to fail at it. Success means feeling satisfied with your page, and that's that. At least, this is how see it. Whereas with other kinds of painting and drawing, there are more defined principles, measures of skill and talent, etc. I am very much a beginner. But I'm posting anyway, because this blog is about chronicling my arty adventures, so here goes.

Bear's basketball slippers. She really loves these things and wears them all the time around the house; it's too funny. They came in a box of hand-me-downs for her brother, but as they are her size right now she latched onto them something strong. 

One of Bear's favorite stuffed kitty cats. I actually kind of like how this one came out.

In a very different style, here is a journal page I reworked the other day. This is one I had done for the Fall Fearless and Fly challenge, but I was not liking the results very much so changed it up a bit:

You can see the previous version here. I kept the quote from the challenge "Existence really is an imperfect tense that never becomes a present", layered some more paint and stuff, did some scraping through the now many layers. I like the page much better now.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Art Therapy Monster

Lately I've been enjoying learning a little about art therapy and practicing some interventions on myself. Toward those ends, I read all the blogs by art therapists I can find (and I wish more of them blogged as I haven't found all that many). However, the few I do read are pretty awesome and today one of them, Carolyn Mehlomakulu, did a post on metaphorizing problems into monsters via art media of some kind. Rather than elaborate on the dynamics here by quoting too extensively, I'll link to the post in question and encourage people to go have a read. It's interesting stuff.

At any rate, thus was I inspired to create Fran The Tired Monster.

Let me tell you about my monster. I have three children under three. (Well, one of them won't be born for another few months yet, but she still has all kinds of ways of making her presence very much known. So practically speaking, I feel I have three under three already.) I've always wanted at least a few kids and I think there are advantages to having them close in age. Realistically, though, I expect that most of those advantages are things we will be experiencing more in the years to come. Right now, I love my babies bunches but I'm tired a lot.

It so happened that I was particularly tired by the time I got some time to myself today, as I'm fighting off a cold and so is Little Guy, and neither kid was good about taking a nap this afternoon (erm, is this all starting to sound too Dickensian)? I ended up hiring the teeenager across the street for an hour of babysitting so I could rest. Whilst relaxing and skimming the feeds on my google reader, I came across the post mentioned above and thought, "Ah, yes, this is what I will do right now. Make a portrait of my monster of woe."

And so, here is Fran, poor girl:

I didn't actually finish her by the time the kids came home, but that was okay because I set Bear up with some art supplies and we worked together companionably for a bit while Little Guy played on the floor. It was kind of fun-- blending feelings of self pity and humor into an understanding monster that I now have some affection for.

 I think, after the kids are settled for bed, Fran and I will satisfy a pregnancy craving and treat ourselves to a bowl of mint chocolate chip icecream. With vanilla wafers and whipped cream and bananas. Now that is the way to make friends with a monster. :)


Sunday, January 6, 2013

Fall Fearless and Fly Challenge 7

I had this unfinished page in my art journal from sometime last week.

When I read about the current Fall Fearless and Fly challenge I had the idea of using the page as a base. Here are the prompts for the challenge: 

Headline Prompt:  Future Imperfect: What is different about your life now than what you once expected it to be?  How is the way it turned out perfect or imperfect.  If your future turns out differently than you imagined in the first prompt, could it still be perfect?
Color Prompt: Yellow
Quote Prompt: "Existence really is an imperfect tense that never becomes a present."  Friedrich Nietzsche

And here is my journal page again, some yellowing up, several layers, some extensive journaling, one imperfect human figure, and one Nietzsche quote later:

I dunno. I'm liking the center, the rest not so much. It seems unfinished, but then again that does kind of jive with the spirit of the quote prompt. :) I have a feeling this page will be repurposed and at least partially painted over again someday. Might as well get as much mileage out of my Strathmore Journalas possible. :)

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Morally Questionable Behavior

Today's post will be a story about my two year old. :-)

Earlier today Bear, Little Guy, and I were playing in the living room. After a little while Bear wandered into the kitchen, and soon I was hearing tell tale sounds of dishes clattering and liquids being poured from one cup to another. Now, Bear is allowed to help unload the dishwasher and to wash dishes with me from time to time (which she loves), but she is well aware that making unauthorized messes in the kitchen is prohibited, if not always strictly enforced.

"Bear!" I called from the living room.


"Are you engaging in morally questionable behavior?" (She doesn't know what that means, but I'm pretty sure she recognized from my tone that she was being interrogated as to her actions.)

A moment of silence, then. . .


"Well, maybe you should come back into the living room with us and stop engaging."

Bear soon reappeared,  clutching a coffee cup with a little cold coffee sloshing in it (yes, I hadn't done the dishes yet). She fixed me with a calmly defiant gaze and asserted coolly, "My not stop engaging."

It was cute, there is no denying. I tried not to laugh, and instead meet her gaze with the tolerantly skeptical look of one secure in their authority, smiling while ordering, "Bear, go put that cup back in the kitchen."

It actually worked. If only all our power struggles were negotiated this simply. Meanwhile, it really is fun to use big words with her and watch how she incorporates them into her vocabulary. Maybe she'll be reproaching Little Guy for his morally questionable behavior the next time he tries to play with her toys. :-)

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Art Journal Page: Words Behind a Brick Wall

 While I was making today's art journal page, I actually remembered to keep a camera by me so I could snap a few pictures of the page in progress as I went. I enjoy my own blog posts better when I have pics of the stages of a page, so I'm assuming it works that way for readers as well.

Here goes. 

I started, as usual, with some diary writing on a blank page. This began sedately enough but quickly devolved into the pen and paper equivalent of incoherent scribbly screeching. The page actually looks pretty psychotic at this point, but it's all good.

 I colored over it with a couple of my daughter's Crayolas.

Then I drew a rough brick background with a sharpie, painted over it with some very thinned down acrylic cream colored paint,  and added a layer of journaling in pencil.

And here are a couple of the finished page, embellished with more paint, some words, and paper motifs.

 It says, "Words behind a brick wall add character and mystique." I was kind of thinking about that as I worked the page, obscuring my journaling, "walling" it in, in effect. I thought about how much is made in these days of the virtues of authenticity, being real, letting down walls, emotional intimacy, and etc. These are each cliches in their own right. And in all seriousness, I do believe we are the better off for being capable of emotional intimacy. Still. . .  I retain an appreciative regard for secrets, the enigmatic, the elusive quality of silences colored with unspoken words, the mystery of the half told tale.

In Shadowlands, one of my favorite movies, Anthony Hopkins' character says (and I'm quoting sketchily from memory here):

"Why do you look at me like that?"
"Like what?" (Debra Winger's character)
"As though I were lying to you. I mean what I say."
"I know you mean what you say Jack, but you never say it all, now do you?"
"Well, one can't say it all. It would take too much time."

I just love that scene, probably partly because it's so well acted.  But it's true. One can't say it all. Sometimes because it would take too much time, most often because of all we lose in translation.

End of introspective musings for the day.

Hope everyone's year is off to a good start! :)

Linking to Paint Party Friday and Art Journal Every Day.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Christmas Day Art Journal Page

 This is the art journal page I did on Christmas. Since the majority of my relatives calamitously came down with the flu and our holiday gathering was cancelled the very morning of Christmas, I unexpectedly had time for such things. All in all, it was not a terrible holiday though  it had an overlay of melancholy as we missed everyone and felt bad for all the sick ones! But I enjoyed the moments I spent in the living room with my art journaling supply box, collaging and scribbling away while my kids played on the floor.

I had several clippings tucked away in the pages of various books and boxes (because I have yet to really organize such things), clippings that I've loved but was saving for the right moment. For instance, the dress pictures on this page were torn from an old piece of wrapping paper originally from a department store in Italy. My grandmother had been using it to line a drawer or something. I was helping her unpack when she moved houses a few years ago, happened to admire the paper, and she generously gave it to me. :)

The dress dummy was clipped from a magazine, and the black and white images are from a movie illustrated copy of Jane Eyre. I loved them too much to just leave them in the book, and I like the way they look on this page, although they don't exactly tie in with the theme-- on the other hand this page is mostly theme-less, just some random elements I liked and thought happened to look well together to cheer me up on a lonely holiday. Mr. Rochester is included because he is my one true love! (Er, apart from H, that is.)

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

One Word 2013

In the last couple weeks, as bloggers have been doing their seasonal posts about goals for the new year, I have several times run across an idea that resonates with me more than New Year's Resolution suggestions generally do. The idea is simple: you choose a single word for the year. A word that will remind you of your focus and that is more of an over arching theme than a goal in and of itself.

I liked this idea and a few days after I first heard of it a word did suggest itself. . . so my word of the year is--


We've made some good changes in 2012, H and I, both as a couple and individually, and I'd like to continue to explore along the new paths forged rather than setting a goal of taking off in yet more directions.

For instance, my reading has changed in the last year, specifically my online reading. I've become much more selective about what I give my attention to, prioritizing things more according to the effect they have on me. I used to have a higher tolerance for reading things that bored, irritated, or depressed me, because I told myself I cared about the subject matter or that it was important to me to keep up with some trend or controversy. But if you consistently read things that bore, irritate, or depress you, guess what happens? You become a bored, irritable, depressed person. So what is your net gain? Negative something or other. I deleted about a million feeds from my google reader, cleaned out my list of email subscriptions, and have become increasingly choosy about the books I read as well. I want to invest my limited reading time in things that genuinely nurture, inspire, intrigue, and enlighten. Things that make for a feeling of peace.

I also quit facebook in 2012. See paragraph above on prioritizing what I give my reading time and attention to. The reason I stuck around on facebook as long as I did is because I thought it was the simplest way to keep in touch with people I might lose track of otherwise. . . but it dawned on me that the people I really care about keeping in touch with, I talk to outside of facebook. I've found that since I left facebook life seems a bit different, a little slower and less cluttered. It's a good feeling. I don't intend to go back in 2013, that's for sure.

Okay, I need to be less wordy on each of the changes I'm discussing because this post is turning too long and time consuming. Streamline, Leah.

I want to continue incorporating creativity and deeper journaling into my daily life.

Continue blogging.

Become a more integrated member of the little local church congregation we joined.

Continue spiritually searching, being honest about doubt, thankful for faith, real with God and when discussing God.

There are more things I could write about, but you get the drift. It's a good drift, and I want to keep with it.


P.S. Check out the One Word 365 Community. Consider writing your own post and linking up!