My New Studio

Today I went a little wild and I tried a small art store at the south end of town. I’ve been watching videos on abstract painting on the Coursera app, and I have really been getting interested in it. I have always loved abstract painting, but through watching these videos I have learned a lot about how to do it. I’m sure I will never be a great artist but I think I could have fun and make some interesting images if I keep trying at it for a while. So I bought textured mediums, paint, brushes, mixing pan, gesso, pallet knives, and some panels and artist trading cards to paint on. I have set up the studio in the laundry room instead of at my craft room desk. First of all my craft room desk is in a carpeted room so if I get paint on the floor, like I did at the yellow house, it probably won’t come up and we will end up owing base housing a lot of money. I really don’t want to have to pay that. But the laundry room has enough space on that big counter for me to spread supplies out and work on creating. And right next to it is a deep sink. That means I have easy access to immediately wash my paint brushes clean. And I can do so in a sink that I don’t have to worry about staining or getting any gunk on. It’s a laundry room deep sink. It is designed for dirt and paint and anything else you can think of. So it’s a perfect environment for me. I’ll be sharing the space with Parsnip, who lives in the laundry room, but so far he seems interested in what I’m doing and he nuzzles my feet.

I’m really going to try to stick with this for a while. I’m not going to give up if my first few images really suck, which they probably will. I’m just going to enjoy the process and see what I can create. And it will be fun to photograph what I create and edit it on my phone and see what I can make out of that. I think this will be a lot of fun.

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Homemaking Part 1

I am reading a wonderful inspirational book about homemaking titled The Life Giving Home. It really gives some great suggestions for making a house a home and making sure that the home environment you have created for your husband and children is one of warmth and relaxation and unconditional love and acceptance. There is so much from this book that I want to write about. Mostly good stuff. But I’m going to start out with a post about some aspects of the book I cannot relate to.

The book emphasizes making your home warm and hospitable for everyone who comes to stay or comes to visit. Almost no one comes to stay with us and we almost never have visitors. I am an introvert, but beyond that my husband is downright antisocial. When I want to have visitors over and do something social and welcome people in, he does not want to. So if I’m creating a good home environment for my family it will realistically be one that does not have the doors open to people who are outsiders. Pleasing my husband must come first and he does not want our home to be the center of any entertaining, at least not any entertaining that he has to be a part of.

I would like to have friends over now and then and I can when my husband is not home. But when he is home or if it is a couples activity it simply doesn’t work. But my husband accepts me with all my quirks, and I need to accept him as well. The most important thing is that I create a home that is beneficial for my husband and my daughter. My husband benefits most from having a place to retreat from the world and social interaction, and so I want to create a home filled with things that he loves to do and things that he likes to look at in order to create an environment of peace for him.

Someday, if I have the pleasure of becoming part of a creative community, I would like to be able to welcome other creatives in the my home and discuss books and art. I would like to provide finger foods and nice little drinks, and make my rather extensive library available to anyone who is interested. But I don’t know if I will ever be part of such community. It is so hard to meet people. And if I ever am, for the most part it would probably be best if I attended gatherings at other peoples’ houses unless my husband gave me the okay to hold some get-togethers at our house. Making my husband feel at ease in his house, making it a place that he enjoys coming home to and relaxing in, is priority number one. Essentially, making it a home for him is vital. So that is one type of advice in this book that I personally would have to say has to be ignored for some of us. Whatever you are doing to try to make a home you have to base it upon the needs of your individual family, and my husband needs a retreat from the world. He likes to come home to his loving family, and generally speaking, to no one else.

The other thing that strikes me is all the fancy Traditions that the writers of the book, a mother and daughter team, talk about as being important. Of course they suggest developing your own traditions but the amount of work and creativity and thought that goes into some of these things that they do is astounding. Some of them are easy things that I already do, like saying to read your children books. I already read my daughter books. But some of them are elaborate Valentine’s Day projects and elaborate meals and tons of decorating for the holidays. I like to decorate for the holidays a little bit. I do enjoy the holidays. But I have poor organizational skills and I don’t like to overload my house with supplies for any given holiday because then I have to cope with the anxiety of taking it all down and finding a place for it. As for fancy meals, we are people who order pizzas. I’m a horrible cook and my husband, who actually likes cooking, still prefers take out or eating out most of the time. I want my daughter to have fine memories of our meals together so I need to find a way to make them sweet and intimate without necessarily being Gourmet. I am thinking that we should make a habit of praying before meals when we eat out in public. I know about that verse that says not to pray in public like the Hypocrites but to keep your prayers private, but I don’t think that it applies to this as long as we’re praying quietly at our own table. And she and I cuddle a lot when we go out to lunch or dinner so we spend some good time together. When we eat at home I think it would be good to start eating at our lovely little dining room table more often. I want Angelica to have beautiful memories of family meals around that table.

I need to get more creative with the stuff that we do together, Angelica and I. But I am just not what you would call a Pinteresting person. Hand me a pile of popsicle sticks, construction paper, doilies, and watercolor paints and I’m just going to look at you with a confused expression in my eyes. So much of what these women suggest doing is very creative. And I consider myself a creative person. I am a poet. I write poetry all the time. And periodically I practice art. Soon I will be taking up abstract painting. But what I guess it comes down to is not that I’m not creative, but that I do not think like a child. I am not childlike at all. It’s just not in my nature. So I don’t look at kids craft supplies and think we could make this fun activity that would last all month long. I am horrible at coming up with stuff like that and to be honest I don’t really enjoy it. When Angelica gets old enough to tell me that she has developed particular interests of her own, I’m going to try to share in those interests with her so that we can bond. But as long as it’s all on me to come up with things I don’t think it’s going to happen. Plus I’m not sure how good the memories will be if we’re doing something that I actively dislike. I want to build fond memories for my daughter, but I also want to remember having a good time with her and if I have to spend hours preparing something I barely know how to prepare and making it awful at that, I feel like the memories will be marred. I feel like on some level she will know that I did not enjoy it and that I did not want to do it. Kids are perceptive that way. I’m hoping to involve her in things that I like to do, like painting and scrapbooking. I am thinking of starting a stamp collection and maybe she would want to do that. And of course like I said if there was something particular that she wants to I would be glad to do it with her. So if she decides that she wants to take up dance or tennis or softball, I will participate as much or as little as she wants. I will be at every recital and game. But I just don’t have it in me to come up with kids’ projects.

I do want to make sure though that Angelica is enjoying her childhood. I want to make sure this home is a place of joy for her as well. She has a lovely room with lots of toys and parents who adore her. Are there any memories I could make with her with my skill sets that might actually be special to her and that she would get something out of? That’s what I have to figure out and give some thought to as I go through this book. I will never be that crafty cutesy mom. I admire women who are that way but it just isn’t me. I have to design a home life where my family will grow and thrive, but I need to find a way to do it within the scope of who I am. I don’t know how to be anyone else. And it needs to be a restful Haven for everyone in the family, including me.

KonMari

Today I went through my closet and threw out 3 full, heavy bags of clothes I don’t want anymore. Some were just plain old, some stained, some too big or too small, and some that I no longer like. I used the KonMari method. If I took it off the hanger and it didn’t spark joy I put it in the bag.

There’s a few things left in the closet, most of which I will probably get rid of. I am on the fence about a few things. Lately I’ve been wearing the same 7 or 8 dresses all the time, and it finally dawned on me that those are the dresses that I like and look good on me. If I liked the 20-30 dresses in the closet I’d be wearing them. But I haven’t worn them in weeks.

I have a new system for my dresses (which is all I wear except for the occasional skirt). I don’t hang them up anymore. I put them in the chest of drawers. This is for two reasons. The first is that I hated putting away my clothes. I have always loathed hanging them up. I can’t explain why. It isn’t hard to do. I just hated it. Well, we recently got a new bedroom suite. We got a bed with built in drawers and compartments, and then a chest of drawers that Craig and I share. One day I decided that since I hadn’t used my share of the drawers, I should put some dresses in there just to alleviate the pressure in the closet. Then I discovered that I loved putting my dresses in the chest of drawers! It didn’t stress me out or feel like a chore at all. I am happy to fold them up and put them away. Now, since I’ve started doing this, I put my clothes away as soon as they are out of the dryer.

The second reason is that I want to limit the sheer number of clothes that I have. My side of the closet was brimming with dresses of all lengths, colors, and styles. It was too much. Even if I had liked all of them, that would be too much clothing for one reasonable person.  By keeping my dresses in a finite number of drawers, I am limiting how many I have. I never want more than 12 dresses at a time. Right now I’ve got about 7 or 8. When those new dresses I ordered fit me I can add four more.  After that, I need to start getting rid of dresses as I buy new ones. Initially I probably won’t even notice because as I go down in size I’ll simply be getting rid of things that don’t fit. But when my weight finally settles at a stable point, I will keep it to about 8 dresses – 12 at most. If it won’t fit in my share of the drawers, it doesn’t stay (or get bought, if I’m not willing to part with anything I already have).

This will also decrease the amount of laundry I have to do, which makes me happy. Back when I used to try to make use of all those dresses I had way too much to wash and put away.

What else can I throw out? What else can I simplify? Soon I plan to replace my old towels and get some more. But that doesn’t really count as cleaning stuff out since I’ll be replacing them. I did a huge purge of craft supplies before we moved. That felt good. If I don’t start scrapbooking again soon, I may consider parting with a lot of my scrapbooking stuff. I don’t know why I don’t want to scrapbook lately, but I haven’t in months. I am so focused on digital stuff and on writing and reading that I just haven’t wanted to.  Tomorrow I think I will go into the craft room/office and just look through my supplies. If that inspires me to start working on some stuff, then great. I won’t start til Monday since my inlaws will be here tonight through Sunday morning and I’ll undoubtedly be busy with them. But I’ll at least go in and see if I feel inspired. If not, I’ll consider what to do from there. Past a certain point if I keep going through my stuff and don’t want to use it, it is time to clear the space and part with it.

I got rid of some makeup yesterday. So that was a good start. I organized the remainder in my brand new vanity that Craig put together for me. I threw old prescription meds in the trash.  That was healthy – and a mark of organization. I don’t need the meds so they don’t spark joy.  (Whereas every time I see my Lamictal I get a little shot of bliss.) What’s next?

Inspiration For Housework

Sometimes it is easy to forget that everything we do we are supposed to do to the glory of God. We are supposed to be joyful in our work. Lately I don’t think I have been joyful enough. The Bible says that all labor is profitable. I should take more joy in my work.

God doesn’t just task us to move mountains. He tasks us with moving mountains of laundry also. When I sweep the floor I should sweep it to the glory of God. When I clear the counters I should do it happily.

Sometimes we do things so much that they become completely mundane to us, whether it is office work or housework, but housework especially seems to fall victim to this. I know it does for me (although I don’t have office work). If you are a stay at home wife or a stay at home mother, you should take special pride in housework as one of your primary responsibilities. Sometimes, though, it is so hard to feel inspired. I mean, some days I wake up in the morning eager to get started. I am not skilled in homemaking, but the basic things I can figure out and am happy to do some days. Other days, I don’t want to touch housework. It’s my job, and I don’t want to do it. It’s not my only job, or even my primary job. My first job is to raise my daughter. It is, however, a very important job.

How can I get more inspired? Today I’m actually pretty inspired already. I organized my new vanity, started organizing the bathroom, started laundry, and I have more projects planned. But other days my well runs dry. I feel depleted and housework seems dreadful.

This is not a post that will give you the perfect answer to your housework inspiration woes. But I do have a few ideas that I plan to start using myself.

  1. Blogs. There are a lot of homemaking and housework blogs with tips, and more importantly, inspiration. Sometimes that inspiration comes from seeing pictures of beautifully organized and put together homes. But more often, for me at least, since I don’t aspire to perfection, I think I would benefit just from following the blogs and reading the articles. Just reading about how important homemaking is, or possible to do lists, or to hear a diary of someone’s day homemaking can be inspiring. So I need to find some good blogs and follow them.
  2. Facebook. Now hear me out. Most of the time facebook is a time suck that distracts you from your housework. But I’ve recently discovered that there are homemaking and stay at home mom groups to help inspire you and keep you on task. There is a group called SAHM Motivational Group, for instance. I’ve joined and slowly been gathering inspiration from there. I am going to look for others as well. Facebook is like any other tool. It can be a drain or a positive in your life. Make it a positive.
  3. Books. I am only beginning to explore this as well, but there are books out there about homemaking and books to encourage homemakers. I hear Martha Stewart has a great one with checklists of what needs to be done and how often. I probably wouldn’t go all out with everything on those checklists. I’m not really striving to have a Martha Stewart type of house. But it could give me a good starting point to work with and maybe make me consider things I’d never thought of trying before. There are books out there, and it might be inspiring and instructive to read them. Some women have an inborn knack for homemaking. I do not. So I stand to learn something.
  4. Have a friend hold you accountable. I’m not sure if any of my friends would be willing to do that, but if someone is that would be great. It would make housework a little less lonely. That is the problem sometimes with housework I think. It is lonely. People who work in offices have camaraderie.

I am going to try these thing in earnest and see if they help me get more done, and equally importantly, if they help me do my housework with joy to the glory of God.

Church Pews, Birthing Chair, Secret Compartments

Today we went furniture shopping and we did something a little bit wild. We bought two church pews. They are white and wooden and one is longer than the other. We are going to use them in the formal living room to be our seating there. I love the idea. It will be beautiful to have a little slice of the church in my very own home. Now I just have to find beautiful pillows for them. We found them at an eclectic furniture store called Platte furniture. There was a lot of really nice stuff in there, some old some new. There’s a grandmother clock that Craig is really interested in and the employees are going to see if they can get it to chime correctly again and if they can we will probably buy it. Craig really likes clocks. Angelica fell in love with a birthing chair. It’s this old, little wooden chair with handles on it and babies have been born on it. Personally the fact that people have given birth on it put me off a little bit (a lot of bare butt and vagina have probably been on that chair, along with all the products of birth) but Angelica loved it and Craig liked it too so that’s going to be a little extra piece for our formal living room.

Then we went to another store and we found a bedroom suite that we loved. It doesn’t come with a dresser and the reason is that there’s a bunch of drawers built into the sides of it and built-in underneath the bed. It also has a mirror and built-in lighting so that one partner can stay up reading while the other one sleeps. It has secret compartments. Seriously. You have to feel around and find them. It has outlets for charging phones built-in, and it has a tray on each side that you can slide out to have a place to put your drink at night. Admittedly the finish is not my favorite. Nice but not my favorite. But the functionality was unparalleled by anything else that we saw. I prefer other finishes but I absolutely love bed sets that have a lot of compartments and shelving and places for books and drawers and that sort of thing. Throw in a light for reading and I’m all set! So we bought it. The bed is being delivered on Thursday and the church pews and birthing chair are being delivered on Saturday.

Chasing Accolades

All my life I have been ambitious. My ambitions have changed a few times, but I always have them. Being a wife and mother was always on my list of goals, but I have always avoided the thought that motherhood might be my only job. How we define ourselves as women has changed over the past 40 years, and now many women don’t derive enough satisfaction from their own lives. They need careers and ministries and awards and promotions to feel full, to feel satisfied.

I have given up my goals of becoming a professor and of being the worship arts leader at a church, but I still have dreams. I long to get a second chapbook published, as well as a full length book of poetry. In and of itself, there is nothing wrong with dreams and ambitions. But my fulfillment and satisfaction should come from my God-ordained roles as wife and mother. I am reading a book called Girl Defined. For the most part it is written for younger women, a book I will save for my daughter. But in it the authors do pose some interesting questions that have given me much to ponder.

Why do I feel so strong a need to get published, and how will I feel if I don’t get published? If my poetry is good it is good whether anyone publishes it or not. If my poetry is bad it is bad whether anyone publishes it or not. And there have been many good poets that went unpublished and there have been many bad poets published.  Most importantly, I can enjoy writing poetry whether anyone publishes me or not.

Poetry is an act of  communication, so it is natural to want readers. But I have my blog for that, and I value each and every visitor and comment.

But underneath a healthy desire for communication with other people, is a culturally instilled sense of inferiority. In our culture it is not enough to be a wife and mother. Rather than being purely motivated to share my art as an act of sharing beauty with the world, I am also motivated by competitiveness, and a deep-seated need for worldly approval. In someone who is not a Christian, such an attitude can lead to messed up priorities and low self esteem. Ditto for Christians, but it is also completely unacceptable. Our highest calling (with the exception of childless women or women gifted with singleness) is as wives and mothers. Being a wife is enough. Being a mother is enough.

It is fine for women to have ambitions. It is okay to have hopes and dreams outside family life. But family life should always come first, and any ambitions should be held up to careful scrutiny. Does this goal glorify God? Am I striving for this to share beauty or wisdom or knowledge with the world, or to exalt myself? Accolades are not bad, but should never be the goal.

Ultimately, what it comes down to is that it’s okay to have dreams for the future as long as those dreams for the future don’t arise from dissatisfaction with the present. In all things we are supposed to give thanks to God. My problem is that I am chasing satisfaction where I should not be. I should be wholly grateful for my life at home with my family. I should not let the world’s definition of success define me.

Sweet Cravings

I am absolutely starving for a new volume of poetry that will blow my soul open. I need some poetic C4. I’ve been asleep lately, and only some fresh imagery and sensuousness can wake me. Alliteration allows me to think in music. Synesthesia strokes my senses.

I have been writing a little bit the past couple of days, but I still feel a tremendous pressure in the back of my head from all the images that are stuck behind my mental block. I’ve been able to birth a few good lines, but mostly I am blocked. It is as though there is a dam in my mind and the poetry is leaking through at a trickle, when what I need is a flood.

Science fiction and horror are starting to call my name, so I think I will read through some of the volumes I bought but haven’t read yet of horror and scifi. I  am renewing my interest in microfiction too.

Today my mom had surgery on her toe. Thankfully it went well and she is out of the hospital and at home resting comfortably. I wasn’t able to go to the surgery because my poor babysitter is sick with the flu, but my thoughts are with her. I  was going to take Angelica with me to visit Mom at her house after the surgery, but Mom was tired (turns out she had to be sedated in addition to her local anesthesia) and needed to sleep undisturbed. I will go over tomorrow to keep her company and see if she needs anything. She can walk on her heel, but she cannot drive so if she needs to go anywhere she has to have help.

Today I have washed dishes, loaded laundry, emptied trash, washed and refilled our Soda Stream bottles, supervised Angelica cleaning her room, and I am feeling utterly uninspired to do anything else. I don’t have to do a major cleaning because the cleaning lady is coming tomorrow, but I should at least sweep. I might read a good homemaking blog to give me that little boost needed to do the boring but Holy work of house cleaning.

Lately my brain has been trying to climb upward toward hypomania. I had to cut back on mood stabilizer because it was making me too tired (one of the reasons I always have low energy) and I think it is causing me to swing a little. But so far instead of feeling super good and creative I just get suddenly irritable and angry at no one in particular and for no good reason. I will suddenly be overwhelmed by a desire to yell (that I don’t give in to) or to be alone.

Rising like this has made me miss my good hypomanias. I don’t miss mania, but hypomania can be fun if you don’t do anything too stupid and get in trouble. I become keenly creative and highly energetic. Colors actually look brighter. All my senses awaken. I can see connections between things that I normally can’t. I really hope if I do swing high into hypomania I get one of the exciting ones, not one of the angry ones. No hypomania is good for you, but at least I get something out of the ones that feel good. It doesn’t get scary until you are thinking so fast you can’t remember your thoughts.

Cleaning Up and Clearing Out

I have so many arts and craft supplies that my once homey craft room / office has begun to feel cramped and chaotic. It makes me not want to spend time in there anymore. And the truth is I don’t use most of the art supplies. I have to face the music. I don’t have any talent in art and so I will buy a new material to use and try out, and then I will not use it again. I’ve gotten a lot of enjoyment out of my art supplies in the past. The room also used to be really organized. One of my friends organized it for me one time and made it absolutely beautiful. I still have her sticker filing system in place, among other things. But the fact is I don’t have very good executive functioning and I’m not good at maintaining organization. So many projects require you to pull out so many materials and then I just don’t remember where everything goes back into or I can’t get everything back the way it was and soon the place is a wreck. So I’ve decided to scale down. I am only keeping my stickers, which include the flower embellishments and the letter stickers, my scrapbooking paper, and of course my photos. Everything else must go. I want to be able to display art that I own and collectibles that I own and use the space as an office for writing and other activities. When I scrapbook I want to have a lot of open desk space to use.

Adding fuel to my fire is the fact that we are moving at the end of February. Now the Navy will pay to have the movers pack up your house for you so I don’t actually have to pack the stuff. But if it’s not fairly neat and organized I have heard stories about them refusing to pack for people and coming back later expecting the place to be redone. I don’t want to be in that situation of having 24 hours or so to organize my house I’m having to Rack my brain as to how to do it. Much of the house is going to require Craig help because it is Craig’s stuff and I’m not the type of wife who will throw out her husband stuff without permission. But everything of mine I’m going to start going through and seeing what needs to be thrown out and what’s really important to me and should be kept. Perhaps some things that were really important to me and brought me a lot of joy in the past, like the art supplies, no longer bring me the same Joy. Perhaps certain outfits I used to love no longer fit or certain handbags I used to add or have gotten kind of old and worn out. I need to start clearing stuff out of here. I’ve got 6 bags of Arts supplies to be tossed or sold. Who knows what else I can gather. And I plan to enlist the help of friends and family and maybe also the nice lady who cleans our house to get this place ready for the move. When we get to Colorado and have to unpack I don’t want it to be a nightmare. I want an amount of stuff that will easily fit into a slightly smaller house, which is what we’re going to, and I do not want to have to unpack anything superfluous. There are several spots in my house that tend to be messy and unorganized and I don’t want to haul that messiness with me across the country to a new state.

Prayer Room/Altar/ Sacred Space

I saw something online where a bunch of women who are pagan have altars to their various goddesses in their homes. I wondered if there was a Christian equivalent so I asked around and did some reading. There is, especially among Catholics. Many people are making special places in their houses for they have Christian artwork and Crosses and rosaries. They create these beautiful spaces as a sort of act of worship. Many use these areas to pray in, study the Bible, or worship together as a family.

I would like to have something like that in my house. I would like to have candles and beautiful candle holders and to collect some more rosaries. Rosaries are really beautiful works of art and although I do not pray the rosary I sometimes hold the rosary when I pray. I would like to learn more about the Rosary and other prayer beads. Prayer is very powerful and tradition is very beautiful.

How and where can I design such a space? A corner of the library? My craft room?  I know it may seem like a silly thing to do when I am not Catholic, but there are many things about Catholicism that I admire. Plus I don’t see why you should have to be Catholic to make a beautiful sacred space in your home, and I want to incorporate symbols of what is important to me in my house.

I am thinking I could convert part of the craft room into a sort of prayer space. Then again I really like doing my devotionals and bible study in the library where it is nice and sunny, so it would make sense to have it in the library. Better yet maybe I can use the FROG . Right now that room is unused and maybe I could put it to good purpose. I know that next year in military housing we will have to go down to having three bedrooms and I will have to find a prayer space, a craft area, and a library in the mix of that. But for now I have 4 bedrooms and an office and I may as well use them.

I am really giving this some serious thought and I’m going to start shopping around to see what I could put in the room. I won’t put in any iconography because my husband is against it. But surely there’s a wealth of beautiful religious art that isn’t iconography that I could use to make a dedicated religious space in my house. Of course the Holy Spirit will move through the whole house, but I think having a designated place would be a lovely idea.