Balancing Act

Journal page #20…

0708181922Not a lot of journaling happening lately…

Last week ended with a two-day trip to San Antonio to visit my future grandson and his Mom and Dad.  I forgot my journal although I remembered to bring my supplies.  (Sigh)

Then I got busy working on a larger project (which I finished late last night).  It was inspired by one of my journal pages.

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Houses without Windows

I have an idea for another project that relates to it.  Hopefully, I can start on it this afternoon.

But first, I need to get some other things done.

You know, mundane things like laundry and dog hair patrol.  Necessary tasks but not nearly as interesting as paint and glue and paper…

I could have become overwhelmed by the to-do list buzzing in my head, but I stopped before that happened.

I took a deep breath.

And made a list of all the things that I thought needed to be done by me today.

And then I edited it.

I left the things that had to be done today and started a list for tomorrow (or the next day).

I drew a line through “save the world” and settled on “write a note to a friend having a difficult time”.

I added “journal page or two”.

I wrote “studio time” with the knowledge that I may get started on my new idea or I may spend some time sorting and tidying.

Dishes, laundry and dinner are still on the list.

At the bottom of the list I wrote “balance”.

Then I wrote it at the top also.

I can’t do it all, but I’ve got a degree in English so I can write and edit and make a list that helps me define what is possible and necessary and helpful.

And not overwhelming.

It’s been a long time since I dedicated myself to making time for art-making in my life.  To really commit to the process as a priority.  I’ve sporadically done a bit here and there, but not made it a daily thing.

It’s going to require a great deal of effort to balance consistent art making with the rest of my life.   To effectively integrate it with my other responsibilities and not overwhelm myself.

Making art is an important part of who I am.  It makes me happy (not all the time happy because art is a sometimes frustrating, time consuming and always messy undertaking).  I have some talent, but a definite calling.  At the risk of sounding cliche – art completes me.

I can’t journey towards an intentional life if I don’t include art-making in it.

But, I have other responsibilities also:  Wife, Mom, Sister, Homemaker,  Teacher and on and on…

Adding artist to the mix on a daily basis is doable (I hope).

A balancing act…but a worthwhile one…

Peace.

 

 

 

 

Good Night Moons

1112170214aCan’t sleep Saturday night and now it is Sunday morning.

Most of my world is sleeping and will awaken with the sun.

Pulling out a canvas…adding a bit of this and removing a bit of that.

Becoming frustrated and putting it to one side.

Pulling another one off of the top of the stack.

Determined to make something happen.

To actually finish something and not to walk away…giving in and giving up once again.

Then, I am staring at these two works in progress that were once two singular blank canvases…

Two canvases that, in turn, were painted and repainted, laid aside, placed back on the easel, a brush stroke here, a change there…

and now upon study and contemplation in these early morning hours have suddenly and quite obviously become one…

Destined without plan to go together.

A before and after perhaps?

The meaning is still unclear.

The symbolism still to evolve into something real or at least understood.

But it appears that tonight I am staring at two moons that are staring back at me…

waiting…

for the sun and light and enlightenment.

But further discernment will have wait.

Progress.

A small victory.

Light shining from an artwork worked on in the dark.

Perhaps that is enough to allow sleep.

 

 

 

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.

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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

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A Field of Blue

0606161655Here’s the canvas with the first coat of paint on.  I wasn’t really in the mood to work on it today.  It was extremely hard to focus on the canvas and ignore all the nagging “need to do’s” in my peripheral vision. I did it anyway.

I have no idea where this is going or what it might look like when it gets there.  Rarely, I start out with an idea or vision and I actually get where I was going.  Often, I end up somewhere far afield of the original intent.

The canvas journey is not always enjoyable.  Some of it is fun.  Some of it is aggravating as hell.  Some of it is beyond tedious.  Sometimes the canvas finds itself buried for a period of time…days, weeks, months, forever…but, usually I come back to it ready to try again.

It’s not unusual for me to reach a certain point and wonder, “What am I doing, why am I doing it, and what was I thinking when I started?”  Experience has taught me to persevere and push through the frustration.  Sometimes this involves moving in a new direction.

This is all sounding a lot like my life, come to think of it!

As a result, my art work is almost always textural and multi-dimensional with a lot of bumps, occasional rips and mended spots, and layers.

In the end, when the canvas says its done, I stand back and say, “Oh” softly. “That’s what I was trying to say”.  It would have been easier in the beginning if I had know where I was going.  That’s just not how the creative process works for me.  I seem to have to wander around from here to there, double back, try again, and emerge from the darkness into the light.

There’s that life journey again.

Tomorrow, I will add another layer (or two) if the spirit takes hold.  I will need to intentionally look and listen to what the canvas and life are whispering to me.  I’m out of practice.  I haven’t made an art piece in quite a while.  Other things have held my attention.  Important things to be sure.  I need to find my balance again – the ability to make space in my life and my heart for all of the things that I love – and for the things that I don’t love, but have to do anyway.

It’s a start.

The 5 Decluttered today:

  1. a knick-knack that I don’t love enough to dust
  2. a cross that was a gift but isn’t really my style anymore
  3. a small box of art supplies that “might be useful someday”
  4. several spools of thread
  5. a slowly deflating ball that’s been rolling around my studio – original purpose unknown

When Less Equals More

Two posts in one day?

Yep.

I’m ready to move on from decluttering being such a frequent topic.  I’m sure that I’ll never be completely decluttered around here – things will come and things will go as life continues.

But, I would like to focus more on the things that decluttering is helping me to accomplish…like more art, more creativity, more family time, more visiting with friends, more quiet time, more of everything that is positive and life-enriching…

And focus less on the “more” which is less inspiring:  more stuff, more housework, more stress, and more to-do’s that I don’t enjoy doing (that may not have made as much sense as I’d hoped when I thought it in my head.  It may have lost something in translation.)

Basically, I’d like to move on from the getting ready mindset and start doing what I’ve been working towards:  that more intentional life that I keep talking about.

Enough talking already.  Time to start doing is what I’m trying to say.

During this transitional month, I’m going to do one more big decluttering search and destroy mission.  I’ve been trying to  declutter 5 things a day for the month of June.

Here’s the list so far:

  1. a humongous entertainment center type storage cabinet
  2. a pair of shorts
  3. a stapler
  4. a lampshade
  5. a stuffed animal
  6. a handful of socks with no mates (why are these so hard for me to let go of?)
  7. a stack of magazines
  8. a down comforter
  9. seeds saved from too many seasons ago
  10. a stack of outdated “important” papers
  11. a children’s book that I’d been saving for the illustrations
  12. miscellaneous mason jar lids that don’t have jars to go with them
  13. a headband
  14. one shoe (can’t find the other one)
  15. a visual journal barely used – made up of disappointingly flimsy paper
  16. a picture frame with no glass that I kept thinking might be useful for something
  17. a pants hanger that was almost impossible to hang pants on and even harder to remove the pants from
  18. one of three cutting mats
  19. lightbulbs that don’t fit anywhere in the house
  20. a dusty cookbook (if I need a recipe, I almost always go to the internet)
  21. wood scraps saved because they might be useful for something someday
  22. a blouse that doesn’t fit quite right
  23. bathing suits that my daughter has outgrown
  24. a beach hat that has seen one too many trips to the beach
  25. a summer dress that I had hoped to fit into this summer, but that obviously has no appreciation for the fact that I’ve given life to four children

Why am I providing such detail about my decluttering efforts, you might be asking?

Well, if anyone is struggling with clutter, maybe, just maybe, this list could inspire them to search for extra stuff that they don’t need in a new spot – to find things that they didn’t realize they had or hadn’t thought to search through.

We’re not in this alone.  This is something that a lot of folks are working through.   I don’t have any magic words or instructions that can really help.  I’m not going to tell you that having 3 bins to sort into is the answer,  or that there is a magic amount of time that will solve all your problems.  It’s truly about more than just the stuff.  Getting rid of things helps, but there is always an underlying problem that we’ve got to deal with.

The journey is worth the effort – no matter how long it takes.

I know.  I’ve struggled.  I’ve given up.  I’ve started over (and over) again.  I can see daylight at the end of the tunnel (and it’s not an oncoming train).  It’s the light shining on this blank canvas that I’m going to start work on first thing in the morning.

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Tomorrow will be a new day with less and a whole lot more!.

 

Happier Days

Happier days are indeed here!

But…

The challenge is cleaning up the mess that’s left behind from days past.  The actual mess that exists in my home from the days that clear thought and any hope of organization were impossible.  The multitude of things left undone because I simply couldn’t deal with any of it.  And, worst of all, the guilt and self-recrimination.  The constant little (but loud) voice in my head that keeps saying “What’s wrong with you.  You are the worst housekeeper ever. Why can’t you keep up with things?  Everyone else can!”

I’m trying to replace the voice with a more positive message.  It’s hard.  And I wonder where the negative messages originated.  Are they literal messages from my childhood?  Am I repeating something that I’ve heard before?  Are they actually my thoughts?  In any case, why is it so hard to be nice to myself?

But, enough of the negative.

Art work has been made – remember the little canvases?

IMAG1045IMAG1048I placed them in a old drawer that I find at a vintage (junk) store.  I wish I could take a better photo because the canvases are very textural and “damaged”.  I didn’t really plan this one out.  Just stared at it a lot and rearranged them…and painted on them some more.  Then last night I started looking at some paper from my stash and decided on houses again.  Then when I was putting everything up for the night…I saw the drawer and it was a done deal.  I like the simplicity of the design and the calming colors.  I like the neatness in the drawer.  Everything all tidy and peaceful.

Hmmmm.  Art imitating what I’d like for my life.  Peaceful, tidy, calm, simple?  I love the way my art can speak more clearly what’s in my head.  How it can become the truth that I am seeking.  How my art can answer questions and clear away the confusion that I am feeling.  Maybe I need to be making more art.

As promised…

…and I am back today to write another line or two of my story.  We all have one – a story, that is.  While mine currently seems enormously insignificant, I’m going to keep on living it and writing about it anyway.  I know I’m not alone in this struggle called life.  And I am aware that it is not always a struggle.   “This too shall pass” as my Dad used to say.  He stole the quote, but I can still hear him saying it so I’m going to credit him.

Art today…

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I’ve had these little canvases for a while.  I bought them for another project that hasn’t happened yet.  They were just sitting on my shelf and looked lonely.  I’ve started just painting them – and then repainting them – and then layering some more paint.  Now I’ve started sticking on the dried paint scrapings from my desk.  They are becoming quite heavy and textural.

Why?  I don’t know yet.  I suppose they’ll let me know when it is time…

I am not a tidy artist…

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But sometimes, I’m not sure that I’m an artist at all.  But my middle daughter says that I am an artist and she should know.  She will be graduating with her Bachelor of Fine Arts in December.  That makes her for sure a “real artist”.

She tells me to make what I enjoy.  To do what I like to do and not to worry about it all so much.

So I made this recently…

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and yes, those are little plastic chickens on top.  I think it might be a little bit of art therapy.  As I look at it I see little parts of my life reflected.  Some of the “down” moments and quite a few of the hopeful ones.  Art?  I don’t know.

While “doing school” today, my youngest and I stumbled across a poem we both liked.

The Sparrow

 A little bird, with plumage brown,
Beside my window flutters down,
A moment chirps its little strain,
Ten taps upon my window-pane,
And chirps again, and hops along,
To call my notice to its song;
But I work on, nor heed its lay,
Till, in neglect, it flies away.

So birds of peace and hope and love
Come fluttering earthward from above,
To settle on life’s window-sills,
And ease our load of earthly ills;
But we, in traffic’s rush and din
Too deep engaged to let them in,
With deadened heart and sense plod on,
Nor know our loss till they are gone.

It was written by Paul Lawrence Dunbar.  It was a good message for today.  A good message for tomorrow.  Just a simple, good message….