A “What If-er”

 

Mood swings, irritability, frustration, guilt and self-recrimination.  That seems to be my constant lately.

Some days I wonder if it’s worth the effort of maintaining any sense of optimism.

Some days, hope is hard to come by.

And then, something happens that turns things around and lightens the load…

On Mondays, I teach a class of Kindergarten, 1st and 2nd graders at a small private, Christian school.

I pretty much teach a process over product class and place the emphasis on the “what if” idea.  What if you try this…what will happen?  I emphasize creative thinking.  When the class project is done, the kids get to work (play)  in their journals and work with all of the scraps that we have collected in what they have dubbed the “what if” box.

Yesterday, as we were working on a owl drawing and painting project, I shared a story from my own early elementary days.

A long, long time ago when I was about your age, I was working on painting a plaster owl in art class.  We didn’t have an art teacher or classroom at the school I was attending at the time.  It was my regular classroom teacher and she wasn’t an artist. We had red, yellow and blue paint.  I remember that I wanted my owl to look like an owl with lots of colors and texture.  I was young and didn’t know how to achieve that so I kept layering on paint…lots and lots of layers.  The paint began to muddy and crack. My teacher told me that I was doing it wrong and took my owl and washed all of the paint off.  She returned it to me and told me to start over and do it the correct way.  I didn’t want to finish the owl because I was afraid that I wouldn’t do it right.  It’s important to follow instructions, but it’s also important to try new things and not be afraid to make mistakes because sometimes that’s how we find the answers we are looking for. 

After I told the story, my little artists finished up their project for the day and  moved on to their journal time.

As they were working, one of the boys in my class who I often suspect doesn’t listen very much because he is always talking, stopped drawing in his journal and said to me…

Miss Kelly, what if God gave you that teacher who messed up your owl so that you would become a “what if-er?  What if you were supposed to become a “what if-er so you could help me be one to? ‘Cause I think I’m a what if-er like you are and we’re supposed to figure stuff out.  Is that even a word?  What if-er?  I think it is and I think that’s what we are.

Well.

What if I’m supposed to be a what if-er and I have just forgotten what that means?

What if it took a child to point out to me that there is a purpose and a meaning to my life that I have lost touch with?

What if I just keep trying things out and remember that life is a process and not a product?  And that I’m going to make mistakes and that’s okay.

What if I quit striving to reach the destination and spend more energy on seeing the joy in the journey?

The destination is a mirage that you never actually arrive at.  The journey is the reality and there are magical moments to be found…often when and where you least expect them.

Here’s to what ifs and the what if-ers who explore them…and to the joy to be found in the exploration…

And here’s to the purported wisdom of owls and some art teachers (including myself) and the actual wisdom of small children…

 

– and to following the instructions (mostly) and then celebrating the beautiful, varied and sometimes messy results of our “what if ” life.

Progress, not Perfection

Third post I’ve started for today.

Reality and perfectionism at odds in a big way.

This has kept me from writing for so long already.

I kept it simple yesterday.

A part of me needs the connections that I find here.

I’d like to think that it matters in some small way.

I have big thoughts and dreams and ideas.

But I am a small person.

Fragile right now.

I’m trying not to confuse that with weakness.

For I am strong.

I’ve made it this far.

Full of emotions and fear and hopes

and plans

Committed to taking small steps

Progress not perfection

and art…

lots more art

0519171233.jpg

 

Live Today

So.

I’ve been depressed.  If you understand depression – that’s enough information.

If you don’t – a thousand words couldn’t explain it to you.

I’ve been getting up in the morning and doing the stuff that needed to be done.  I’ve had good days and not so good days.

Unless you know me well, you might not have even noticed that something was wrong.

I’m doing better.

I think I’m feeling free of the “blues”.

Life has more color.

So we shall start the blog with today.

Some of the yesterdays may find there way here in stories.  Maybe.

I’m just planning on living today.

A month or so ago, I bought a paper-making kit for my art classes.  It turns out that it was more for me than for them.  The paper-making classes turned out great, but the last few days have been even better.

I have become obsessed with making paper!

0518171157a

 

I’ve cleaned off my desk and shredded junk mail.

I cleaned out my studio and shredded scrap-booking paper and old artwork and leftovers from previous projects.

I’ve shredded all the scrap and left-behind artwork from school.

I’ve shredded old magazines and journals.

0518171158

 

And I’ve been making paper.  Lots and lots of paper.

0518171157

And I’m starting to have some ideas for how to incorporate it into an art project.

I’d tired of using other people’s artwork for my mixed media and collage projects and this is the next step.

I’m getting braver and am using confetti and glitter and grass and whatever else I can find.  Some of it works…some of it doesn’t.

I watched the starter video on how to make basic paper (so my class would think I knew what I was doing), but I haven’t done any other research.  I’m enjoying the process as much as the product.

It’s great fun to see how it turns out!

I hope that you are doing some living today and not worrying about yesterday and tomorrow too much.

And I hope that, today,  you make the time to spend at least a moment doing something that helps you smile.  The joy is there.  We just have to take the time to embrace it.

Peace…

 

 

January 1, 2017

0101171112
Brainstorming New Year thoughts on the first page of a new journal
0101171113a-1
The beginnings of an “inspiraton” wall in my new studio
0101171113.jpg
A new quote for a new beginning of art-making
0101171114.jpg
a canvas finally finished…almost…trying to figure out what’s behind the door
0101171115.jpg
a new canvas ready and waiting…

Happy New Year!

Wandering

Warning.

This post may wander a bit.  That’s a good thing. Today, I am wandering for the first time in many days.

I have no specific goals for today.  Nothing that has to be done urgently.  Nothing urgent at all really.  (Happy sigh).

My sister saw her doctor on Thursday for the follow-up to her last hospitalization.  His first words, “You really dodged a bullet.”  There are a few minor(ish) things to clear up, but basically he told her to, “Go live your life.”  She’s to increase her activity as she is able and not to worry about the blood clots.  They should resolve in the next 3 to 6 months.  It’s been a scary, hard month.  We don’t know if she’ll get back to where she was health-wise, but time will tell.  Life is good.

Barret the dog has had a relapse of his meningitis and is back on medication.  We caught it very early so his prognosis is good(ish).  I suppose that the recommendation for him is the same as for my sister…go live your life and take each day as a gift.  He’s getting lots of treats.  He’s still weird and dorky.  That is good.

Today is my youngest daughters 13th birthday.  My last teenager. Her school lessons are still challenging, but I think we are starting to get the hang of it all.  I’m hopeless at the math, but I have an answer book!  I start with the answer and work back to figure it all out. I’m not crying as much over the homework.  She’s not crying at all.  Good stuff.

I’ve started a new art card…

0910160948.jpg

And I’m going back to work on this…

0910161035-1

…the door makes more sense now. https://faithacrestudio.com/2016/08/27/doors/

And someday I probably need to work on this, my studio worktable…

0910161035a

Honestly, a lot (okay, all) of my house looks like this.  Except for the parts  that are really messy.

Today, I don’t really care.  Everybody and everything that is supposed to be breathing, is. Family and friends are gathering for a birthday celebration.

The food is waiting to be prepared.

We’ll shove the mess to one side and eat off of paper plates.  Nobody will complain.  There won’t be many disagreements (it is close friends and siblings after all).  Will have fun and celebrate.

It’s all good.

 

 

 

 

Knowing vs. Worrying

 

There are many changes happening around here.  Change can be challenging when you are the type of person who likes to believe that you have it all under control.  Change can mean admitting that everyone is not okay and that there might be a better way to do things.

Change can mean that “growth” is taking place and changes are in order to accommodate that growth.

It would appear that the current art project is a reflection of that.  The glass jar is now obscured, although we all know that it’s there…buried under several layers now.  The house has evolved and will continue to do so, I expect.  The roots appear inadequate now as a foundation for the house.  They worked for the jar, but need to grow to support the new structure.  What’s it all mean?  Good question.  I’ll leave that up to you.

The biggest change around here has been our new attitude towards money – specifically the purchase of the new window unit.  We all agreed that change needed to happen.  We would be most uncomfortable living in a home without air-conditioning when the temperature is 95 degrees and it’s June.  It’s only going to get hotter.  We briefly considered attempting to get a loan of some type to solve our problem.  That would be solving one problem and adding to another one.

We are committed to getting out of debt.  We managed to not add to our debt and purchase the air-conditioning we needed.  Less than a year ago, we would not have had the information we needed to work through this issue in a responsible manner.

Because we started a budget (You Need a Budget) and started using Dave Ramsey’s Snowball Debt Reduction Plan, we are better equipped to make responsible decisions.  I recently found another tool, UndebtIt.com, that is also helping.  This site calculates our debt accounts, payment amounts and projected payoff date.  I love having programs that do the math for me.  I do not have a head for numbers.

I can’t say that I’ve enjoyed the brutal process of getting our finances in order.  It was hard to face the amount of debt we had versus the income we have.  It was a shock to see how long it will take to pay off everything.

But now we know.  We know how much money we really have and it’s not the amount on the paycheck.  Now, when I am shopping, it’s easier to make the distinction between want and need.  There is a goal in place to work towards.  Knowing, even when I don’t like the information I have, is better than not knowing and doing nothing to improve the situation.

We have the beginnings of a savings account to handle true emergencies.  I know how much we need to pay on each debt monthly to reach our goal.  Unexpected things can still happen and throw a metaphorical wrench in our plan, but I’ll be on top of the situation and have a better idea of how to deal with it.

I’ve spent a lot of time reading about debt.  I’ve read the advice of experts and personal blogs discussing specific stories and solutions.  I don’t normally give advice here – if someone finds something of use or inspiration here that’s great – but I don’t have any great insights or answers (just my stories).

In this case, I’m going to make an exception.  If you are struggling financially, in debt, and spending way too much time worrying about money, it’s better to know the facts.  It’s better to have a budget and a plan.  It’s better to face the facts right now and start the process of fixing the problem.  Denial doesn’t help.  I have shed many a tear over our finances.  I have blamed myself and everyone around me for our problems.  I have ignored the situation and pretended that everything was okay.  We have paid out money in bank charges and late charges and interest.

Not any more.  Now, I know where we stand.  There is a goal, a light at the end of the tunnel and hope.  It’s easier to make financial decisions when I understand the consequences. We no longer are living a life where it seems like the current situation will never end.  Things are going to get better.

Knowing that simple fact makes everything easier to deal with.

Decluttered the last few days:

  1. a ball cap
  2. a small shelf
  3. some old records
  4. a bank for spare change
  5. a cookbook
  6. another ball cap
  7. some more socks with no mates
  8. some textbooks
  9. curtains
  10. expired medication

 

One. More. Step.

Do not be afraid.  This is not going to be a whiny, woe-is-me posting (although I’m kind of perched on the edge right now).

I know I have a good life.  I can look up towards those that appear financially more stable and down towards those that are struggling much more than I am.  That means that I am somewhere in the middle.

0614161423

As I sit in front of my tiny fan writing this post, I am contemplating the arrival of my new window air-conditioning unit that will be in place by this evening.  The tiny fan is doing it’s very best…spinning it’s little tiny blades as quickly as physics will allow.  It’s hot as hell in here.  I’ll live and these couple of days will make me even more appreciative once the cool air is blowing once again.

Brainstorming, debate, research, numbers-crunching, and realism have allowed us to figure out a way to make it through the summer…without accruing any debt.

A central AC unit is out of the question.  We really wanted to put in ductless air conditioning units sometimes known as “splits”.  They are energy efficient and allow for zone cooling which is good for our really big house and fluctuating body count.  Alas, they are out of our price range (for now) and require some construction time.  Stress is pretty high around here and the home projects never-ending.  I voted against any more to-do’s on my poor husbands list.  He has enough projects to keep him busy without adding any more.

We played with numbers and re-arranged the budget in such a way that this window unit purchase is feasible.  Who needs groceries?  The fridge and pantry are full and the family has all voted to eat what we’ve got while being cool rather than eat what we want in the heat.  That was actually not a hard decision.  With the new window unit, two portable units that we have and the gifted air conditioner on its way, we can cool the whole house!

I’m proud of the fact that we worked through this problem and found a solution that didn’t involve any more debt.  We’ve have made so much progress in so many ways.

Still, life can be hard sometimes.  It’s so easy to see the things that are undone and to get weary.  It’s easy to be overwhelmed by situations and to want to give up or to give into the frustration.  Gratitude can be hard to come by.

It’s important for me to count the little “wins” and to practice patience.

I want it all now:  cool air to flow out of the vents, the bathroom put back together, the debt paid off, the new floor finished, the painting done, the yard cleared, the decluttering done…

I want life to be easy and perfect.

Then I look around at the rest of the world and feel ashamed and guilty.

Life is not easy and I am not perfect.

All I can do is take one more step in the right direction.  I may pause or stop after that one step and shed a tear or two.  I may lose my cool and yell at someone I love.

I will apologize and pick myself up and take another step.

Things will get done and fixed. Something else will need to be done and something else will break.

One step…a lot of hugs.

Life.

Decluttered yesterday and today:

  1. a hand soap dispenser
  2. a contractor size bag of construction by-products off of the back deck
  3. a bucket
  4. a hose reel
  5. a laundry hamper
  6. two empty plastic storage bins
  7. a pair of jeans
  8. the bird’s nest off of the top of the cabinet from last spring https://faithacrestudio.com/2015/03/27/a-bird-in-the-hand/
  9. the cabinet that held the bird’s nest (one more step in the kitchen redo
  10. a stand for holding fireplace tools – all the tools have disappeared and we don’t use the fireplace

0614161522

 

Today Needs a Prayer

I don’t talk a lot about my faith on this blog.  It’s not that I’m embarrassed about what I believe or out of some sense of political correctness. Mainly, it’s because at this point in my life, my faith has become more personal and inward. I think it may be a growth period for me after a long period of dormancy.

In any case, for the most part, I believe political correctness is a load of manure. I do, however, believe in being respectful of others’ beliefs or lack thereof.

But today needs a prayer. Feel free to substitute any vernacular that fits your life: happy vibes, positive energy, smoke signals, loud and raucous profanity, meditation, or the like…you get my meaning, right?

Today needs a prayer for those going through changes. Any change, whether perceived as good or bad, can be traumatic. It may involve a wide range of emotions including, but not limited to grieving, anger or joy. Change is hard for most (if not all) of us.

Today, I pray for those trying their best to find their way in the world. Especially for young adults trying to figure out this thing called “being a grown-up”. Wanting to be free of the constraints of parental control and influence…flapping their wings madly…terrified of all the choices and possibilities…peeking back over their shoulder at the shelter they are leaving behind. Some have a nest they can be welcomed back to if the need should arise, but so many don’t have that option, if indeed they ever did. My prayer is that they find a safe place to rest when their wings are tired. A soft place to rest their head when the journey is too hard. A springboard to launch from on the next leg of their journey.  Growing up is hard and should not be done alone. I pray that they have community with friends and family or friends that are family.

Today, I pray for parents whose children are referenced in the above paragraph. A prayer for patience and tolerance and forgiveness…that they remember their transition and act wisely. That they open the door for their children and hug them as the leave. Most importantly, that they leave that door open and are ready to give another hug when their child returns…either triumphantly in success or despairingly in failure.

Today, I pray for those experiencing loss. Especially for those who have lost a parent. Even as an adult this loss is hard. You may have achieved independence and become the “grown-up, but the child within is always there. You are an orphan. The person who has always been there is no longer there. You can no longer peek back over your shoulder at that shelter you so desperately fled years ago. We never lose the need for that anchor.

Today, I pray for those dealing with serious illness and aging. For those coping with the changes that are occurring as their body no longer performs for them as they have become accustomed. For loss of independence and freedom. For endless hours in waiting rooms and treatment rooms and recliners trying to rest and heal. For the uncertainty and loss that is a constant part of this new life they are living.

Today, I pray for the caretakers…the folks who are sheltering the ones in need, making casseroles, fetching glasses of water, running errands, and standing ready for whatever…

Today, I’m rearranging things to welcome a loved one to our home, attending a funeral, checking in on a family member, and planning a piece of prayerful art work for a friend.

Amen.

And now…today

Two more layers done.  I kind of hate it at this point.  I walked away rather than paint over it.  That’s not an uncommon reaction.  Today was the easiest day to work on it so far.  I really have missed making stuff.  It’s been months and months and months.  I kept saying that I would get back to it when I got this or that done.  As I’ve discussed recently this and that never get done.

I’m not really a flowers in a vase, still life kind of artist.  We’ll let it “simmer” overnight and see what happens tomorrow.

Decluttered today:

  1. some old seeds
  2. 3 shoes (a pair and a shoe and interestingly enough, the random shoe is not a mate for the odd shoe earlier in the week)
  3. a favorite t-shirt that was more holes than shirt
  4. a stack of old artwork that my kids made – I saved my favorites
  5. an old journal that is not filled with happy memories

I’m going to count today a success.  I made a little money and I made a real dinner for the family.  The trash is out before the trash men are pulling into the cul-de-sac tomorrow morning.  I didn’t yell at anyone and used mainly kind words.  I had to drive the dying car without air-conditioning and it made it where it was going and back and I didn’t melt.  I worked on some art and decluttered and cleared off a surface or two.  My youngest and I did a bunch of school.  Oh, and I deposited the money I made in the bank before we were overdrawn.

I’m going to let you in on a little secret.  Most of the day, I didn’t feel like it was a good day.  But I’ve been regularly reading a friend’s CaringBridge entries and she is relentlessly looking for the bright side.  If she can do it, then I certainly should be able to do so.

So today, I have been trying to live in gratitude – in all things and in all ways…grateful for a car that serves my needs if not my wants, grateful for a small paycheck that was just enough, grateful for excess that allows me to have trash, grateful for people in my life that I love even if they drive me crazy sometimes, grateful for the opportunity to homeschool and spend time with my daughter, grateful for my talents and the desire to use them, grateful to have choices, and opportunity and wise friends.

And that was today.