Monday, January 14, 2019

Where I've Been

We traveled to Chattanooga for Christmas, and then brought Julia home for 2 weeks before I took her back to college in the mountains on Friday. It was bittersweet to take her back there, but she's happy and ready to get on with her college career. No ... I didn't take a single picture! I didn't want to oppress her with the can-I-take-a-picture-of-you-with-your-RA/waffle/coffee/new dorm/etc. We also spent a little time with Philip and Kara again who drove over. 
Geese fly over our little farm often these days.

So now I'm back home after all the busyness of the last month. I've been looking forward to  PEACE. Of course, now things will pick up again after the Christmas break: Bible study preparations, piano lessons, music responsibilities. Life never slows down entirely.

It's good to be in our cozy home. Today Adam is diagnosing and repairing a faulty outlet in my studio. It showed up first as a bathroom outlet run amok.
 I'm very thankful for a helpful and handy husband.

My mind turns lately on the uncertainties of life, on how precious relationships are (especially family ones), and on how we must hold on to each other and forgive each other. It's not easy because people are complicated, families lean toward conflict, and forgiveness is hard. Plus, individuals have their own opinions about how to relate. I find myself repeatedly feeling that we can only muddle on and do our best, which means we make mistakes, which means we must be quick to apologize for ourselves and to forgive each other. Is there any other way? After years of struggling, this seems the best way to me, the way that leads to peace. 

Recently I spoke with a friend and we'd both read a book years ago, Heart of Anger, Christian advice about raising children, especially angry, rebellious children. I don't remember the rest of the book much, but one tiny section arrested me and helped me just about more than anything else I've read. I'll post photos of the reading here so I don't have to type it out:

I post this only for those who, like me, struggle with hurt, bitterness, and eventually anger. I'm sure it applies to children too, but it certainly applied to me. I'd been hurt by others in various situations, but I found it nearly impossible to forgive them -- they were Christians who should know they'd behaved wickedly. I wanted apologies and some sort of restitution, a correction of the wrong. That didn't happen, of course, and I was left to deal with my hurt on my own. This is the usual course of events -- the person who wrongs you goes on his merry way and you are left to deal with the fall-out. The writer (Lou Priolo) gives 2 other options in addition to forgiveness, however. I could also decide, after deeper examination, that an offense hadn't really occurred. But beyond that, I could also decide to "overlook the offense." Adam has a great phrase for this act; he tried to teach it to our kids. He'd ask them, when they'd been hurt, "Can you absorb this and let it end with you?" What a cool idea! 

I knew I suffered from this track toward bitterness and anger because I could see it in me, the rehearsing of the offenses, the growing anger and how it absorbed my mind. In the end the solution I found that worked best was simply to pray for the people who had hurt me -- to pray specifically and repeatedly for their welfare, for God to bless all the aspects of their lives. Nothing poured cold water on the fire of my anger more effectively than that praying.

Both praying for the people who've hurt me, and deciding to overlook their offenses -- to let it go, are acts of generosity and kindness on my part that defuse the damaging effects of bitterness. They bring healing and peace to my soul. And peace is what I want. 

I first read this book and learned this method about 15 years ago. It was effective in immediately ridding me of bitterness and anger from past wrongs, and has become more effective as I've used it since then.

I also realized about a year ago that when I see anger in other people, often the true emotion they're feeling is fear. It's only outwardly manifested as anger. This makes me feel compassionate toward them in their fear, rather than reciprocating their anger with anger. It's also worth asking myself: When I'm angry, am I actually just afraid? What am I afraid of? Why?

I wish I'd known this when my children were young, especially in their teens. Teenagers vent lots of anger, but if the root of that anger is actually fear, there may be something a parent can do to mitigate that fear. Children don't like to share their fears; they keep them hidden. But they share their anger quickly. This might be a useful diagnostic if you need to discover why your child is angry.

I'm rambling a bit. Next time ... hopefully .. when the electrical repairs are complete and I have a full, quiet day in my studio (and the heater is back on!), I'll post more creative things. Till then --

Monday, January 7, 2019

Winter Creativity

Having Julia home has been lots of fun, as she adds to the general creative air in the home, especially in winter when Adam and I tend to hunker down and let our minds wander along those creative paths. Julia and I worked on gourds together last week. Here's a video of what we did.
Hers is delightful with all its colored windows. Here's how mine turned out:
 There's a little door to put a tea light inside ... or for the fairies to welcome their guests.
Plus two windows with beaded curtains.
 Adam studies and writes a lot in winter. Whereas I churn out a children's book every couple of years in a slapdash sort of way, he's been writing and rewriting his book for about 25 year or so. It's called Tubalcain, and traces the family history of Adam and Eve's children and grandchildren.  My hubby's creative mind at work on the front porch (which gets a bit chilly in January):
 Working on Adam and Eve's family tree:
 He peruses various ancient texts to get cultural detail.
 Right now though, he and Julia are on the back porch. She's using a dremel tool to decorate a piece of bone.
 I ditched many of the books I was struggling to read with interest, and changed to an Elizabeth Goudge book (of course), The Rosemary Tree.
If I didn't already know and trust Goudge as an author, I'd never choose a paperback that looked so much like Grace Livingston Hill. Goudge writes massive tomes and slim children's books, but The Rosemary Tree is in the middle. And it's written so strongly in a 3rd person omniscient style that it nearly jolts me; Goudge leads me by the hand and dips my brain deep into the minds of one of her characters after another. Do you know the pensieve in the Harry Potter books? Imagine dipping your head into one pool after another until you fully understand each person in a story, in a village, and can then tie their lives together in the lightest of plots. I'm halfway through it, and we've covered one ordinary day in a family's life. 

In one paragraph I read last night, she switched seamlessly from the mind of one old lady to her great-nephew's mind. If I hadn't been looking for it, I might not have noticed. All that to say ... it's not heavy on plot, but the characters are very rich and compelling. I appreciate the challenge of reading chapter after chapter with limited dialogue, no 'action,' and subdued plot. I worry about how we're becoming addicted to action in stories. I want a mind that is patient in reading and still relishes the wait for the slow revelation of what the author has to say.

Speaking of story, Julia and I saw Mary Poppins Returns, and we absolutely loved it. I cried when she sang "Where the Lost Things Go." If you haven't seen the movie yet, please do go! I've never seen a new movie so beautifully parallel and embrace its elderly partner. Dick Van Dyke and Angela Landsbury make appearances too! It's delightful and feels like OLD Disney -- sweet and hopeful.

I take Julia back to college later this week. It's bittersweet for me. She is maturing into a different person and I'll miss her a lot. Life is painfully short and we have little time with those we love. My daddy left this life a year ago today, and I know I had not enough time with him. He's who I cried for during that movie, and I haven't cried much over his death -- I believe he's alive in Heaven and we're parted temporarily. I cry for myself, I think, as I traverse the rest of my years without him close. Well, now I've gotten distracted with Mary Poppins youtube videos (terrible confession!) Here's the song that made me cry.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

The Best News Is at the End ....

I'm still working on gourds. Here's a youtube video of some of what I did today:
(While you're over on Youtube, click "subscribe" if you'd like to subscribe to all my little crafty videos from my studio.)
Since then I've added metallic paint and 2 coats of varnish:

 I do love the swirly magic of these gourds! Who'd've thought that watercolor paints could look so good on a dried plant?

Philip and Kara gave me a gorgeous assortment of Darjeeling teas for Christmas -- my very favorite type of tea. Look at all of them!
 This morning Julia, who is a coffee lover, joined me in a cup of this, augmented with a bit of my dried herbs. It really did have a deep golden color. Delicious!
 And what did Anna and Gramm give me for Christmas, you ask? They gave me a children's book -- Anna's favorite, I think.
 On the inside cover were these sweet words:
 Yes, you've probably guessed it ...
We have a BABY COMING!!! Oh, my goodness, I am so excited. I have BEEN excited since late October, but we were sworn to secrecy. Shhhh! But now, the happy parents have announced it, and I am free to share with my friends that I am going to be a Nana!! I am joining the ranks of the most privileged of women. I cannot wait to cradle that little bundle of wonderfulness in my arms and quietly cry for happiness. (Okay, I do need to remember that it's not all about me and the baby. The baby does have parents, ahem. So much tender-loving-care will be showered on a certain daughter who is very precious and very petite and very tired from teaching school.) Anna, I love you. That's my big news, world!

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Happy New Year!

I'm really hoping 2019 will be a much better year than 2018, which was a bit of a heartache in some ways. Some lovely joys too, of course. To welcome the new year, Julia and I decided to go to the beach. And since it was supposed to be 72 and mostly sunny, it seemed a good idea.
 It was a good idea. A bit windy and chillier than we'd hoped, but still a lovely day.
 My lovely daughter:
She's growing her curly hair out long.

 Julia got her first fancy tattoo this fall, a cute snail amid mushrooms.
 The seagulls were particularly friendly.
 Over a month ago I visited the thrift store late in the day. A box of dishes had just been set out - lots and lots of blue Currier and Ives, $20 for the box.
 But dishes were half-off, so it was only $10. There were 11 large dinner plates, salad plates, little bowls ...
 Plus three beautiful platters!
 At home, I was nearly out of everyday plates, and I only had a random mix of various patterns. 
So I left all the chipped ones at the store and brought home the nice ones -- most of the box. I took back my mismatched ugly plates, and now I'm enjoying my Currier and Ives!

My farm strolls show me some interesting things.

 Yes, buttercups are blooming in our pasture.

 The fungus among us:
 Here's a little shot of my chickens, most of them.

Arthur (upper left), Sylvie (foreground), Lady Grey (with her gray fluffy fanny in the air), Henny Penny (black head and gray body), Brownie (far right), and Sheena (black hen in the rear). Clementine was elsewhere. She's a loner hen, the bottom of the pecking order.

This morning before heading to the beach, I investigated the strawberry bed with Adam. I dug out some strawberry shoots (strawberry plants send out lots of shoots that easily root in any soil nearby), putting them into three large pots full of Adam's lovely compost. Then I put them in the winter greenhouse, our front porch.

They're covered with straw. I'm hoping they'll flourish there in the sunny warmth and in March we'll have plants to start a new, large berry bed in the garden. We'll also transplant (I hope) some of the other plants that are overwhelming the small, raised berry bed we now have. We started with only three plants back last June. How they've grown! Next summer, and I want PILES of strawberries :)

That's all for now! Happy New Year to everyone!

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Beauty Here and There

This will be a hodge-podge post. First, I failed to show you the toenails I had done when we girls went to the nail salon Monday before Christmas. This outing is a tradition for us now.
 I'd never chosen blue before. When the nice lady asked if I wanted sparkly snowflakes too, of course I said yes.

My first tincture is finished. I strained it off into these dark bottles. Three of them have droppers for dosing. I cleaned the old essential oil bottle very well before using it for tincture.
(photo bomb by baby Philip)
 I took my first dose a few minutes ago, and the taste has passed. But I cannot quite describe how utterly bitter and vile it is. One friend said, "medicinal," but I think that's kind. Still, if I can tell a difference (this one is supposed to be calming and good for anxiety), I'll take it.

I returned from the Christmas trip to find 15 eggs underneath a broody silkie hen. {{{{sigh}}}} I do not want a broody hen in January ever again! We threw the eggs over the back fence and into a ditch, and I've been stealing all her eggs ever since. She will not be setting eggs, no sirree!!

My youngest hen, also part silkie (with a prominent tuft of black feather crowning on her head) finally started laying. She's my only olive-colored egg layer. See?
 I'd been baffled in finding her a name. But as soon as she laid the egg -- a minute later -- I knew exactly who she is. She's Clementine.

Soon more gourd painting will commence. I have three dried and ready; Julia wants to do one. One is spotty, one is half-spotty, and one is small and funky. And see what I'm using for my paint brushes? A toothbrush holder from the thrift store -- perfect!
 This is a very nice one. I think Julia should pick this one.
I painted, varnished, and sold 2 of these gourds before Christmas, and I think they are just stunning. Here's my remaining one:


I can cut holes in the gourds with a small knife if needed; I cut a hole in the bottom of this one to string the yarn through pinholes in the bottom, and then glued the piece back in. I can also put holes through the neck of the gourd with a thick needle and thread the yarn through that way. I like them to have some thin yarn with a long loop above to hang the gourd. I want to get progressively creative and inventive in how I paint them, and in how I use the holes and yarn. 

I think I enjoy this particular craft because it combines growing something (all summer and well into fall, plus curing them) with painting ... and yarn too. All my favorite things!

Julia's here for a brief stay before heading back across the state for college. We had a lovely, balmy visit to Oriental, and more fun adventures will follow in the next week.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

HOME

We drove back home yesterday in all-day rain. That's exhausting. However, it gave us a tale of divine providence. The day before we left Chattanooga Adam bought new windshield wipers for our van at Advance Auto Parts. We'd need them for the 12 hour drive, plus the old ones were dry and scratchy. Fairly soon he noticed one wiper seeming to slip, and I heard it smack the windshield (or something?) occasionally, but it continued to work for hours of driving. We stopped twice for Adam to check it, fiddle with it, reverse it. Nothing seemed to make it right. Finally, somewhere in the middle of North Carolina (I really don't know where exactly), as I drove along, it came apart at last, while I was flying down the interstate. Yikes! I'd been using them as little as possible (which is scary enough), and now I quickly turned them off. "Done with that!" I said in a panic, and hunted for the next exit, which was only a few hundred yards away. I zipped down the exit ramp, looking for the first parking lot so Adam could get out and fiddle with that wiper again. It was a big exit; I had to turn right at a light. There was a car dealership. Then there was a McDonald's. I chose that. But as I'm nearing the burger place, I notice the store next to it: Advance Auto Parts.

Granted, there are quite a few Advance Auto Parts stores in North Carolina. Still, to me this was a situation of obvious divine assistance, and I was very grateful God popped in, at that moment, and said, "Yep. I'm here. Taking care of a little need. A windshield wiper. If I'll care for you this way, you can trust me for the big stuff." Or, as Jesus said it, "Your Father knows what you need before you even ask Him." And, "How much more will your Father in Heaven give good things to those that ask Him?" I've been asking a lot lately, but a windshield wiper wasn't on my list.

Alright, here's a comparison showing what changes I made to the orange wreath this morning as I painted in the peace of my studio. Here it was before:
 And here it is now:
Subtle changes -- more background green, lost more little green branches, lots more red berries. 

Now begins my resting time (I hope) of the year. Winter hibernation. I'm not at the farmers market this morning, although it might have been a good morning for sales. But I need a break at some point, mostly for the sake of mental peace and deeper creativity. I need to write, and paint, and work on my gourd-painting too. Adam and I both find this little farm and our life here to be very calming and peaceful. That's a nice way of saying that it helps us in our struggle against constant anxiety and regular depression. I could probably benefit from a psychiatrist, or at least a therapist, and a bit of medication, but I'd rather use painting, music (lots of gentle music), chickens, working in the greenhouse, and puttering and fiddling around in my studio. I plan to get back to spinning wool again too. Beginning each day with a good dose of Scripture reading is my good medicine too.

Some weeping prayer this morning as I sit and read the miraculous Word. We are such a broken world, such broken people. I feel we are all walking around this planet, crumbling away as we go, trying to do some little thing with our lives. Meanwhile there is beauty and peace to be had, if we choose it. I pass my days plucking from my brain all the dirty evil thoughts, sad images, blowing out the accumulating muck and filth from this life, and simultaneously put in their places bright, small joys, sprigs of hope, and soothe the dryness of unhappiness with the balm of divine promises. The weeping helps too. Weeping at night; joy comes in the morning.

May you find peace and joy in the quite after Christmas as we all step into the new year.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Art with the Girls

Julia has been asking, "Let's paint together." So we did. We even got Kara to paint!
 I've been wanting to paint one of the Williamsburg wreaths I photographed last week. I chose this one:
This is what I painted:
 I can't help thinking my painting is not finished. It's missing something - perhaps just more fullness, more depth of color in the wreath. I'll work on it later. I like the distressed corners though.
Here is Julia's painting from today:
We used the same cookie tin top to start with a nice big circle. She opted for a space ship. She sketched it first and asked me what I thought the ship ought to be yanking out of the earth. I said a statue of Athena. She chose Medusa :)
I can't show you a photo of Kara's painting yet because she's not finished. Maybe later ....
It's later!
Kara at first claimed not to be able to paint at all. Julia and I begged to differ. Nice job!

Anna and Gramm left this morning to go back home, or we would've dragged her into our artistic pursuits too! We all drove to the Unclaimed Baggage store in Alabama first, before sending them on their way. Philip and I picked out a laptop there for me, which I'm using now. The other one was truly dying, and Philip will scrounge as much value as he can from it. Unclaimed Baggage can be a good place to find a great computer - I got a laptop that costs $1600 new, worth $350 used, for $230. It has lots more storage space.

We are all fooded out. Tonight we will snack on leftovers (which we've been doing for about 24 hours how), and maybe make some popcorn. We still have a cheesecake, a pumpkin pie, baklava, and chocolate cake. Ugh. Fooded out :)