From Art

Under the summer moon…

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My husband and I, we had one of those long good talks that spans hours and days. It started in a corner booth in the middle of the lunch rush, him sipping lemonade, me stealing his pickle when he wasn’t looking. He pretends not to see. It had been ages since we’d really seen one another, sat across from each other, completed whole sentences without pause or interruption. We kept talking in stilted syncopation for at least half an hour until the realization that the children would not be interrupting truly settled in.

We wandered into our favorite art museum, a bit of an anniversary tradition- we usually search one out wherever we are. We tend to stay in the Medieval and Renaissance sections, but we’ll eventually wander to the Modern Art, turn our heads perplexed, laugh embarrassed at our inability to understand. We have our favorites. We both were a bit disappointed with the National Gallery last year, the amateur art critics that we are. It was so hot, so crowded, the galleries half empty from loans, the Degas and Monet barely visible for the tourists crowded about, taking selfies.

We are so different, the two of us. He is quiet and circumspect. He prefers the winding, sunlit dirt road, the gentle curve of a mountain’s back. I am the rushing creek, the waterfall, always getting ahead of myself, the roar in my ears. He gives roots to my wings. I give him flying lessons.

I don’t know how art museums became our thing on anniversaries, but it has. Neither of us know a whole lot about it, which I guess is part of why we picked it, although now we both can speak with some education about the difference between a Seurat and a Renoir, or identify and contemplate the biblical symbolism in medieval works. But somehow, this little tradition of ours gives us space to dream. I guess you can’t help it, looking at soaring cathedrals and beautiful landscapes, the impressive curve of millenia-old marble; you lay eyes on someone else’s life work and the niggling mosquitoes of bill paying and diaper changing definitely fade.

I guess you can’t look at saints, either, and feel your life so difficult in the end. We are not dying at the stake. We may suffer, but not like that, we think. We stand long before La Hyre’s Job Restored to ProsperityIt’s not the riches laid out before him, the celebration on the faces of the crowd about him. It’s Job. His face. The layers of exhaustion that radiate from him, slumped in his chair, his hand supporting his head. We understand in some small way how it feels; we pray for his steadfastness of faith.

We talk about Job, the saints, the landscapes, the Song of the Lark. The dreams we once had. The hopes we hold. C.S. Lewis says that “Friendship is born at that moment when one man says to another: ‘What! You too? I thought that no one but myself . . .’” How interesting it is to me to note that my husband and I can go months without voicing the thoughts inside our heads, only to sit across a table from one another and find we’re of one mind on something without ever saying a word before this.

And so here we are, under the summer moon, with the chance to begin again, rejoicing in the place where we are set.

Reading…

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One of the trouble spots I mentioned yesterday was the children’s artwork. They are prolific creators, and the bucket was overflowing. We went through them together and picked our favorites to keep, favorites to put in a book, and discarded the rest. I photographed the artwork for the book in about twenty minutes one afternoon, and then we uploaded them to a same-day photo service that made linen backed photo books. This book is 8 x 11, and it cost us $10.34 with a coupon. We love it, and I wish I had done it sooner. The kids can flip through the book whenever they like and the huge pile of paper is gone. I think it will be fun if we make more of them to see how the children’s skills progressed.

The other thing we’ve instituted is a rest period after lunch. All of my children are really past the age of naps, and having a scheduled quiet period in the day definitely fell by the wayside this year. My kids all grab a blanket and a couch pillow and find a spot on the floor in our living room. They don’t have to sleep, but the only allowed activity is reading. It has made a very noticeable difference in our family culture. The reason I have them do it in the living room is to keep my littles from getting loud and playing in their rooms, which would surely happen if I sent them upstairs to ‘take a break’. Occasionally Ellianna or Josiah will fall asleep- one day Lorelei did! There was grousing at first, but even my preteens say they like it now. I like knowing that my older kids have at least thirty minutes each day to engage with reading in a relaxed way. We’ve also seemed to gravitate to the dining room table afterwards, to draw and paint and create. I’ve been trying to make space myself to join them.

I am grateful that I’ve been able to scrapbook a bit in the last few months. My mom has been pulling me away and encouraging me to attend crops with her every other month or so, even in the midst of all the nutsy. In so doing, I’ve remembered why I loved it so in the first place- the chance to create coupled with the chance to tell our family story. Especially in the midst of such a storm, remembering and knowing that story is so important!

Speaking of reading, I have a whole treasure trove of links to share.

- My dear friend Diana lost her sweet Mary Rose to Trisomy 18 last August. She has been writing through and about her grief in hopes that it will help others. A lovely, safe space for those who have lost a child and a new resource.

- Aimee is blogging again! I’ve missed her voice so. I remember reading this sitting in a hospital room nearly two months ago and getting all teary and saying, YES! I absolutely needed to hear this the day that she published it, because I was struggling so hard with the voices in my head. Especially if you have a child with chronic illness or special needs, but true for any mama. MUST READ.

- Sarah Bessey has long been a must read for me. We are united in our love of Doctor Who. Regardless of the fact that we hail from very different traditions, I always appreciate her gentle candor about issues of faith and theology as she searches out what is good, noble, and true. This post was another of those read in a hospital room that enfolded me long-distance and brought such deep comfort. I refer to it often.

- My dear Tonia…she loves me deep and I am so grateful for the way she sees. I loved this post.

- When I think about my vocation as mother, the intensity of it all can overwhelm some days. This post on Simple Homeschool was a thoughtful, lovely read. It is a great read for any parent, not just homeschooling mamas.

- I loved Emily’s A Kitchen Kind of Day. I’ve been remember those words ever since, every time I step into the kitchen.

- Kort has been exploring Soul Rest through Art and I really enjoyed reading along. You’ll have to click back and forth a little bit, but it’s worth it!

- Amber’s book is almost here! Man, she’s been through the ringer as much as I have with her Titus. Just so much. And she’s written through it all- her blog has always been a must read for me, all the way back to 2006. When I surfaced two weeks back and started reading through everything, I pretty much squealed when I saw her book was coming out. It was a gift after being on the dark side for so long. (Another perk to shutting off social media for breaks- you sometimes return to lovely gifts like these!)

- I always seem to sign off the good reads post with John Blase, but I can’t help it. He is a wonderful, earthy poet in the spirit of Wendell Berry. He helps me to hear and to see and It Is Not So Much has been riding shotgun with me for awhile now.

Creative refuel…

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On Friday, I took the day off. No chores. No laundry. No cooking. None of my usual duties. Things have been so intense and there is still more to go- I knew if I didn’t stop and refuel the next leg was going to be even more difficult. My brain has been so fried, more so than I’ve ever been used to. I mean, I’m a mother of six. I’m used to thinking on multiple tracks and noting things all the time. But this medical stuff? It’s for the birds. I have pages and pages of notes from talking with this insurance, that doctor, this test, that billing supervisor– and all of our appointments are logged automatically into our Google calendar so that our phones will yell and ding and buzz at us in plenty of time to get wherever we need to go– but even so, details keep slipping. It’s pretty overwhelming. I really needed to ‘get out of my head’ for the day.

I was able to read part of a book I’d really been wanting to get into. I sipped all the hot coffee I wanted. (Most of the time it cools before I drink it because of this or that.) And I scrapped. I blasted the Fiddler on the Roof Pandora mix, which has a pleasant mix of show tunes and sang along at the top of my lungs. It was exactly what I needed.

I am not going to deny how very hard self-care has been for me the last few years. It is a bit ironic that the caregivers in medical situations who often need a refuel the most almost always don’t get what they need for the very uncertainty and rapid schedule changes that happen with medical needs. It also doesn’t help that the primary caregiver has become the ‘expert’ on the patient(s), either, which makes it hard to translate for someone else to step in so that we can step back and rest. But it has to happen. I am determined to get creative about meeting my needs so that I can pour out better. No one can give on an empty tank and running on fumes helps no one. I deserve more; my family deserves more. It feels so good to look at these pages. Telling the story is so important to me, and it fills me up in so many ways.

Scrap happy…

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I joined my mom for a scrapbooking date this Saturday at a local crop. (Yes, they still happen, no, scrapping isn’t dead yet!) I’ll admit the last couple of times I have attended I didn’t get anything done- just sat and stared and pushed the paper around. The muse was not there. This time, however, things were hopping. I got these five done (the Coppelia is a two pager) and could have kept going well into the night. My fingers are itching to finish the others that were in my head from Saturday—and we won’t talk about how very long it has been since that has happened! Years! It is a great feeling- I’ve missed this aspect of myself quite a bit. All the pictures are from at least two years ago, sometimes earlier than that. If anything has changed since I first started scrapping, I have definitely learned to date or put an age somewhere on the page- when I look back at older work, I’m really hard pressed to figure out when it was and have to look for clues in the background photos. Save yourself some consternation later!

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