Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Artist in Residence

I began this new year with a lot of fear. Fear that the everyday would trample me like wild horses as long as my kids still live here. Each day started under the rubble of laundry, dishes, meals, and lesson plans and I was defeated before I could even get out of bed.

Inspiring, isn't it?

Many of us probably have a tendency to condense a week, a month, years(?) into a single day of worry and tasking and then wonder why we stumble through life with anxiety, simply surviving, instead of really living.

Well, I was tired of simply surviving and I was tired of hauling around the mother lode of fear, discouragement and confusion.

So I brought it to the Lord and told Him how miserable I was and how I didn't feel up to any of the tasks set before me. I told Him I wanted more time to be creative and contemplative instead of walking around spinning plates and sweeping up shards of mess all day. I told Him that my heart wanted to keep homeschooling but that my body and spirit were at war with the ideals of my heart.

I quit looking for solutions and remedies and perfect and I just dumped it at all at the feet of Jesus...and waited.

And do you know what He did?

He took my junk and replaced it with joy.

And yes, I do realize that the previous statement may be met with eye-rolling and skepticism. You may think I'm one of those who looks at the rain and just knows that a rainbow is right around the bend. Actually, I am the opposite of that person...which is why the joy is all the more miraculous.

He is teaching me to live in this day and not in the next, opening my eyes wide to the beauty and possibility of moments lived with wild enthusiasm and fresh perspective.

And all of this started to unfold about the same time that Emily began writing about art. {Here and here and here are some of my favorite posts.} And God also started showing me, through real-life situations and brave people who wear joy like a sparkly cloak, that art is just waiting to be lived out. Every single day.

And so the divine invitation came. And with real and true inspiration I said, Yes. I'll do it.

It's all in how I see the day. Is it a list of tasks and to-do's or is it a tableau of grace and beauty? I hold the brush and the Spirit guides it. What will we create together? And while the same stuff has to get done each and every day, it's no longer driven so much by controlling measures to subdue the chaos. Opportunities unfold now that I'd never see otherwise. And as I've said before, the kids teach me a lot if I'll let them.

Without realizing it, I'd seen myself as an "Artist in Waiting" instead of an "Artist in Residence." And frustrated waiting becomes a breeding ground for resentment. No wonder I felt cranky and overwhelmed and trampled.

If beauty comes out of mess, then surely I'll have an endless well from which to create. Life is messy, kids are messy, and I as type this, my kitchen is terribly messy.

It's not easy. I'm still neurotic when it comes to noise and my strong-willed 3-year-old is a full-time job who drives us all to the brink of crazy. On this cold and rainy day, I've already battled bad attitudes and broken up fights. Every moment is not a party.

But last night as I mopped up Blondie's tears and held her tight, as we talked and prayed about the hard stuff and her very real 9-year-old girl pain, her broken heart split my own to pieces and I sensed Him saying, Know that this is one of those moments. She needs you like never before and this is the pain and the beauty of being her mom.

In the last three days I have built trains, said yes to a living room dance party, delivered an impromptu lecture / Q & A session about the Industrial Revolution {while driving the kids around in the van,} scraped dried peanut butter and neon stickers off the kitchen table, read to the older ones while the little one has watched entirely too much Dora, and of course, wiped away plenty of tears. Theirs and mine.

And I'm seeing, sometimes through the tears, that it is all beautiful...if I choose to see it that way.

And how I see it makes all the difference in how I live it.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Puppies, Play and Perspective

Their names are Cinnamon and Milky Way and they are the cutest pups you've ever seen. They have been scampering about my house for a while now and I can't believe they're not tired of being dogs yet. You know, because they're humans and all.
She leads them by ribbon leashes knotted around elastic headbands {so as to avoid strangulation by grosgrain.} And the boy pups let the bossy girl owner take them on walks and find them when they've hidden under the furniture and feed them mac n' cheese for lunch.
It's January but the pups don't know it. Not like I do. For me, this month and the next tend to be a time of both renewal and regression. My high hopes for the future are often tempered by nagging thoughts that I'm not getting it right and that maybe I've misinterpreted my calling and that I'm failing them as a mother {and as a teacher.} And I do. Daily. We all do.
But the magic and the truth is in the "daily" part. Daily, His mercies are new. Daily, we thank Him for provision. Daily, I find fresh hope and strength. In my fretting over the future and wondering how I'll both survive and enjoy the gift of motherhood, I forget to simply take it one day a time, to just live in today and to entrust the Father with the string of tomorrows that will write the story of my life.
The puppies show me how to do that.
God gives me moments that breathe life and perspective back into my bedraggled and bewildered and worrying mama-self and I feel like I can stand up straight again and face this day with confidence and calm and maybe even some creativity.
This week has swelled with moments of make-believe and games, love and laughter.
The gifts of the everyday have been wonderfully obvious, opening themselves right before my eyes. I'd have to be blind not to seem them and a fool not to appreciate them. I allow these teacher-kid-heroes of mine to inspire instead of aggravate...even though we all know it can sometimes be a little of both. {After all, puppies can be loud and terribly messy and prone to lots of tumbling and aggression. But oh, they sure are fun.}
I've been inspired a lot recently by creative and confident people who have a knack for seeing beauty and a boldness to be who they are. I love to be around those people, to learn from them. Probably because it's always been this great and scary desire of mine to live with wild enthusiasm and unabashed authenticity. I often wonder to myself, What if that crazy, imaginative girl stuck on the inside felt brave enough to come out and play more often? What might I actually do?
But these puppies don't think about it. They never consider why they are innately creative and bold in being who they are...which today just so happens to be puppies and dog-walkers.
It's simply their nature, as it is with every child, to be full of wonder and play and to see a ribbon and imagine it as a seize the inspiration of the moment and to make something wonderful out of it.
They are "those people" I admire and observe and think about and they happen to live right here in my own house. How convenient.
And I've decided...
I want to be just like them when I grow up.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


I never really know what I'm capturing as I click and adjust settings and bend in crazy positions that are too much for my old-lady knees. But I think the aperture fairy has smiled on me in the last month because I've taken some of my favorite pictures ever. Not because the lighting was great or I got the settings right but because I captured some priceless expressions of my favorite people.

{And because I am having writer's block and have written but not published four posts in the last month, I give you photos.}

A dusting of snow for Southerners is akin to the Apocalypse only happier and with less fire. Everything shuts down and we dust off our roasting pans because all of the stores have sold out of their 3 sleds. We had day after day of snowy, slushy fun around here.

I love this picture of The Man and Blondie with scared-half-to-death Cupcake sandwiched in between. I love it because Blondie looks so incredibly happy and I've never captured that kind of giddyness of hers on camera.

And I love it because my man is quirky and funny without ever trying to be. He is wearing running socks and golf shoes and khakis. In the snow. And he doesn't think there is anything unusual about this. I love him for many reasons but this quality of his is near the top.

Is DSS going to arrest me for loving this picture so much?

I don't usually photograph my loved ones when they're in the throes of despair but I couldn't help myself. Cupcake is having a big ol' fit because he wants somebody's sled. I see this face many times every day but never thought to get the camera. I'm so glad I did. He is the third child and I suppose that is why we laugh. There is not much we can take too seriously anymore.

And I felt like I was leaving Brownie out so I scrolled through and found this picture. I love it because he's in his jammies doing school and eating pineapple {his favorite fruit} and painting a picture of Marco Polo. I don't even remember taking this photo but it makes me cry happy tears.

I'm sure this looks and sounds as if our homeschool is idyllic and artsy, but I can assure you that Cupcake was probably in time-out for the fourth time and the rest of my house was certainly in disarray. I needed to see this photo because I've had the January homeschool blues and I tend to forget that we have actually enjoyed some really sweet moments of living and learning together, chaos and all.

Photos are such dear friends. They always provide perspective and help me to remember. And to laugh. And to cry.

But always, they help me find gratitude.

Thursday, January 6, 2011


Apparently I went from 35-85 over the last couple of years and skipped about 50 years of gradual. The world seems excruciatingly loud. 

A few ventures into stores to do holiday shopping convinced me that I was losing my mind or had stumbled into a rock concert disguised as Old Navy. 

I craved quiet and still like a pregnant woman craves gas station hot dogs. {Tell me I wasn't the only one.}

This is odd to me because I could have spent every moment of every day at the mall when I was a teenager. And during my college years, the loudness of dorm life and student center hubbub was absolutely delightful.
My most frequent utterances these days are:
Be quiet!
Turn it down!
Where is all of this noise coming from?
I can't even hear myself think.
One person talking at a time, please.
I am in serious need of a noise sabbatical. A noiseattical?
Becoming a nun sounds positively dreamy. I wear a lot of black anyway so it could work.
I'm not sure how I got to 85 so quickly and without warning but I'd like to know why and more importantly, what can I do? Perhaps it's the constant commotion and chatter and frequent bickering of young children in the house. There is indeed a lot of sound that comes along with little ones. For someone who has become more introvert-ish over the years, I suppose the constancy of it all has worn my nerves down to nothing.
There is no point to this post, except to ask if any of you feel like an 80-year-old trapped in a much younger body.
Please tell me I'm not alone in my crazy. And for those of you who homeschool, where do you go for quiet? And wherever it is, can I come with you? I only have unfinished attic space and it is cold up there.
{If you're wondering why someone with an aversion to noise would buy a guitar with an electric "whammy bar" for a 3-year-old's birthday, rest assured that I did not. That's a gift only grandparents would give.}

Saturday, January 1, 2011


When I think about this holiday season, the break from the normal crazy and the experience of short-lived, extended-family crazy, I feel full.
It's a word I borrowed from my mom. After yet another delicious meal and too-good-to-be-true dessert and more than a few of us talking about how stuffed we were, she said that "full" was the best word to describe how she felt in every sense of the word.
I couldn't agree more.
My tummy is full, my heart is full, my people quotient is full, and my camera's SD card is maxed out.
Our break from the normal isn't quite over as we cram in another day or two of feasting and family and fun and staying up much too late. And it would be easy to look at all of the travel and packing and unpacking and bed-switching and extended-pajama-wearing and wish we could have just spent time in our own home resting and getting affairs in order and such.
But I'm glad we didn't.
My tree is still up, the wrapping and unwrapping clutter is piled high, and I don't think I could look at any area of my life and find an ounce of orderliness. I'm choosing to be okay with that.
There may or may not be time to reclaim organization and orderliness and yes, those things do make me feel better. But this year's memories with cousins and aunts and uncles and grandparents and brothers and sisters and in-laws can't be cashed in further down the road.
I have a feeling that years from now I won't look back and remember how January 2011 began with a bit of chaos and disarray but I will certainly reflect upon the fun and the food and the amazing family {both mine and The Man's} that I belong to.
So here's {more than} a few photos of our very full holiday and the obligatory commentary of course.
Christmas morning. 

This year was our turn to spend most of the holiday with my side of the family. We spent about 6 days with my parents, my brothers and their families, and my sister and her family. My grandparents and some other extended family members came up for a bit as well. It was loud and crazy and festive in every way.
There are now 20 stockings to fill and they are hung on a 2 x 4 since a mantle can't hold them all. I love this picture.
Poppy and some of the grandkids on the Gator.
Okay, I have to preface the ridiculous number of food photos. In my next life, I am going to travel the world as a writer and photographer for Food and Wine or Saveur or some other posh foodie publication, but until then my own family provides more than a few delicious subjects to capture {and eat.}
My youngest brother spends his free time baking gourmet confections and he baked 10 desserts for us in 6 days. Seriously. {And they were seriously amazing.}
My mom's traditional sweet roll ring.
Cowboy cookies
We don't mess around. Look at the size of that whisk!
Peanut butter crispy bars {with a ganache topping}

Chocolate mint thumbprint cookies

Christmas Day "Whiteout Cake"
A few of the little princesses I got to hang out with...

As if Christmas isn't special enough, God decide to blanket our southern 'scape with a white Christmas.
My mom and dad
The boy cousins on the toboggan
The Man and our 3 young 'uns

My mom and Brownie. If you look closely you'll see that he lost a top front tooth and on Christmas Eve no less. He delivered one of the best quotes ever: "This is very rare. Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy might finally get to meet each other."

Yep, that's me in the middle. This is such a special picture of my dad and Blondie and me sledding. I have so many fun memories of sledding with my dad when I was her age.
Blondie and a couple of her younger girl cousins

Cupcake took about 2 minutes to figure out to immerse himself into the snowball fun.

And if all of that time with my side of the family wasn't enough fun, we then spent time with The Man's family for more feasting and cousin craziness and a whole lot of Just Dance and Sing Star. I am sore...which is pathetic.
My sister-in-law made super fun frosting for the kids to make "New Year's cookies."

Clearly, they are not shy about the frosting.
Some impromptu twister on the rug...

And one of the best Christmas presents I've ever received...getting to see my reserved, economics-loving, conservative, never-ever-dancing husband break it down. He's going to die if he reads this post so enjoy the photos now. They may soon be censored.

Happy New Year to all of you!
Love, Scooper


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