• Art

    Swimming through mud…

    These are two recent shares from the sketchbook on Insta. The gnomes are from almost a year ago, June 2020, and the house hidden in the trees is from June 2021. It’s very appropriate to put these two side by side in my mind. When I drew the gnome friends, I had very recently been diagnosed. A medicine they were trying me on made my hands shake so badly that I could barely hold the pen correctly, and my hand-eye coordination was frustratingly awful. (I can’t tell you how many things got broken in the early months- my ability to grip, to tell where my hand was, where the object was, and connect the two resulted in a very rough case of butter fingers. Thankfully most of my favorite coffee cups survived! The French press didn’t, though, alas, alack.) If you look closely, you can see that all of the straight and curved lines almost vibrate in tight squiggles. Getting these little guys out on the paper was an incredible fight, and there was a point that I just wanted to throw in the towel and stop, utterly despairing that they’d ever make their way from my head to crawl out on the page. But they made it. Ever since, when I pass these two as I flip through the sketch book, I just feel an incredible sense of accomplishment and hope. They are there, and I am here, and together we somehow figured out the new skills I needed to keep making art.

    The house in the trees is a full year later. In somewhat similar fashion, it had been almost six months from my last foray in making art (the folktale pieces I shared here earlier). That week, I had been told that I was having an allergic reaction to one of my medications, and because it wasn’t clear which medication it was (as I had been on all of them for nearly ten months)- I’d have to come off every single one to see which one was causing the reaction. Now, my friends, the medications are what have slowly, slowly been returning me to a more functional state, and as I mentioned above, every addition to the medication regimen were hard fought adjustments. I am just getting to the point that I can conduct my days somewhat normally thanks to these meds. And now I will lose every single one until we figure it out. I remember sitting down to the page- angry, frustrated, feeling betrayed by my body yet again- and quite worried what would happen to me as all the medications made their way out of my system. Would I just crater? Or would I be able to function somewhat? I remember being quite angry that of course I would be hitting the time of year that I’d finally be able to paint and draw more, and of course everything would be flipping upside down again, and fiddlesticks! I just wanted to make art!

    As if that wasn’t enough, I think every artist struggles with imposter syndrome and blank-page-itis, and it’s really bad when you’ve been away from the desk for awhile. Do I even know how to do this anymore? was ricocheting around my head. I remembered the gnome friends though, and the lesson they taught me. Just make a mark on the page. Any mark. The rest will come. And it did. Trees appeared, and grass, and then a little yellow cottage informed me it needed to be tucked in between. And there it was.

    Now, are either of these my best work? Not particularly. Are they valuable work? Yes! Absolutely priceless. Hard earned lessons, both.

    I don’t really like the pat cliché answers anymore, especially when it comes to disability or making art, and I really abhor the whole just try harder, pray harder and you’ll heal attitude, the fake it till you make it, pull yourself up by the bootstraps way of thinking. I really do. I can’t tell you how much hearing any of those attitudes just makes me want to spit nails. Don’t mistake what I’m saying next for this toxic way of looking at life.

    Sometimes, sometimes, sometimes…

    You just have to start. And start again, and start again. One mark and then two. One step, and then another. One drag of the paintbrush, and then another.

    Even when the world is turning upside down, whether that’s your own inner private world or the world at large, spinning on its axis or tilting off of it, its okay to take a deep breath and trust the process. Just one step. And when you’re ready, one step more. Even if it literally feels like swimming through mud. You’ll be amazed at where you end up, and they might just smile up from the page at you and remind you to hope when you need it most.

  • daybook,  link love

    Bits and bobs…

    I am trying to remember to come over to the blog and post the recent ruminations from Instagram, as I know many are leaving the service. (I myself left Facebook, yet again, last week.) I don’t think I really have a grasp on how I want to use social media anymore. I know parts of it just leave me feeling absolutely awful. I have been trying to be more intentional in whatever I post, returning to the things that really brought me joy waaaay back when in blogging dinosaur time, which means books, beautiful things, thoughtful words, and art.

    The above quote, which I illustrated last week, really hit home that week. I had been wrestling with a ton of miscommunication and unkindness directed my way, and I needed to unpack it and let it go. It has ever struck me, when it comes to forgiveness, that is a life long journey. Christ was quite serious when He said “seventy times seven”- there have been incidences and people in my life that I very much thought I had healed from and had forgiven, and then something twinges, pain in the wound, and I find myself having to work through the process again, and again, and again.

    As to the recent reads, I’ll just copy my Instagram post here. I do very much feel a deep post coming on about disability. I think I’ve been dancing around it for a long time, and I think I’m going to work on it privately and then bring what’s fruitful here to the blog.

    From Insta:

    A small library stack this week. I just finished Sitting Pretty by Rebekah Taussig (@sitting_pretty ) yesterday and tucked my thoughts into Stories. I saved it as a Highlight under Disability. I feel a blog post marinating in my brain lately. There’s stuff that I’ve been wrestling with ever since my first child got diagnosed with a life-long disease, (and then, and then!) and it’s only recently that I’ve begun to understand why it was so difficult to begin with and why there has been so much wrestling. When I read writers who are disabled or are exploring disability, there’s been a lot of “you too?!” moments that have granted a lot of clarity. Anyways, far too much for a little IG caption to explore.

    I haven’t started the Austen Years by Rachel Cohen, but I think it’s going to be good. Part of the fly leaf blurb reads “Through Austen’s works, she reckoned with difficult questions about mourning, memorializing, living in a household, attending to the world, reading, writing, and imagining.” Definitely something I can relate to at the moment.

    We tend to use the summer to test run new recipes for the family to tuck into the routines for the school year, and so far we haven’t hit a bad one from Instant Family Meals. There’s one for Italian Wedding Soup that is blissfully easy and oh so good.

    Around the web:

    I have really been enjoying Rebecca Green’s monthly newsletters, and her last two are just chock full of good stuff for creatives and artists. Check them out here and here. I’ve also been greatly enjoying Aimee Kollmansberger’s substack, Homely. Just quiet little notes each day about what’s on her heart: home keeping, homeschooling, rhythms, routines, what she’s learning. They are just little balm bouquets every day and they’ve been really encouraging and inspiring to me.

  • Books

    The current stack…

    My current stack of reads. I used to swallow books whole in one or two sittings (I still do that for fiction sometimes), but now I find myself reading much slower, savoring, thinking, scribbling things down. The running thread through these, I think, is the question of culture care- how do I care for my neighbors, here, across the street, around the world? How do I engage with the world now as a disabled person with a chronic illness?

    What have you been reading lately?

  • beautiful things

    Job description…

    You know, social media is such a weird place, but then there are days when something just steps out of the ether, grabs your hands, and doesn’t let go. So it is with these words from @desireedallagiacomo , which I just HAD to write down. If there was ever a ‘job description’ for me in my creative endeavors as writer and artist, mama, teacher, lover of life, this is it.

  • Art,  collecting stories

    folk tales and love stories

    I have become quite the lackadaisical blogger over the years. I apologize- I spend what little time I have chosen to spend online mostly over on Instagram, though, even there, I have begun to post less and less. I hear blogging is making a comeback, anyhow, though I do chuckle at this- I’d have had to have left blogging to come back to it. Feels strange to be designated so ‘old school’. But I digress.

    If you have been following me on the socials at all you will know that I have rapidly stepped back from writing and sharing homeschooling tidbits- and have delved deeply into illustration. There are many reasons for this. I don’t even feel like saying much about it. I only speak of this because I know some have noticed (and asked why) only my art remains on my social media accounts. I archived the rest. I feel perfectly content in this.

    I don’t deny that writing is a fundamental part of me- I’ve had people begging for me to write a book for years- but it just is NOT the season. I’m okay with that.

    All that to say, a story appeared anyways and wove its way through the last few months, and I’ve been meaning to share it here. There was an illustration prompt for folktales on Instagram in November. I completed two in rapid succession, and then, by force of well, everything, I could only complete a prompt a month. It’s the only paintings or drawings of any kind I’ve accomplished for nearly six months, but I must say, I’m mighty pleased with the outcome. I didn’t realize I was telling the story of my marriage at first. But it happened- and I adored every minute. I can’t wait to hang these on our walls!

    There were seven prompts: Birth, Ritual, Courtship, Solstice, Death, Harvest, and Dance. I combined the last two. Captions are copied from Insta.

    Birth: I kept thinking about how long my love and I have been married now, and yet, how things blossom and grow in our relationship.
    Ritual: It appears I have a tale of my own to tell. This is for the prompt, ritual. Kisses and coffee, always and always.
    Courtship: Well, it’s taken a hot second or 500, but here we are. For the prompt, courtship. You know, I had no idea when I decided to do folktale week that the tale I would end up telling would be so close to home. To be honest, this year has been the most intense year our marriage has experienced (I’m sure many could say similarly)- not so much for my husband and I personally, but for the needs of our family, the pressures the virus placed on his job, my diagnosis and the pressure it placed on our entire support system…(again, we are not unique in this). These prompts have just brought to the surface the reason we can make it through all we’ve seen- the way twenty years of threads being knotted together have sustained and caught us in the free fall known as 2020. I’m so glad I decided to follow these prompts. What a gift it has been to delve into my own story. I love including all the aspects of our courtship in this one: hiking, camping, fresh coffee by the fire. Those years were such a gift we didn’t know we had at the time.
    Solstice: We bought our very first ornament together on the winter solstice; two foxes, sitting on a log, nuzzling. It’s the very last ornament to go on the Christmas tree every year. We hang it together. Every year that we perform this little ritual, I’m always amazed by where the year previous has carried us, always a bit surprised we arrived in one piece and relatively not much worse for wear. I loved painting this little nod to us and our ornament.
    It has taken a solid month to get this one done in bits and pieces, but I adore how it turned out. This was for the prompt, death.

    My husband and I both nearly died in our twenties, both from illness; when I almost died, we lost a child. Having something like that happen so early in our adult lives, in our relatively young marriage—it changes your whole view of the world. How you move in it, the choices you make, everything.

    It is one of the golden threads running through the tapestry of our relationship. At the time, things were indeed heavy and dark. But as time has worn on, I have seen the growth of the seeds buried in that dark place, grown now into the sun.

    I love all of the symbolism in this piece. (Fun fact: the flowers surrounding us are the flowers typically placed in sympathy and funereal bouquets, at least in the US.)
    Harvest & Dance: I didn’t realize when I first started working on these prompts that I’d only manage one a month. It’s just the state of things, man. I don’t know about you all but I am so tired. This in-between space has just *drained* my emotional, mental, and physical stores quite deeply.

    This was for the prompt, “harvest”, which stumped me at first- if this is the tale of my husband and I, what are we harvesting, exactly? In the end, I settled for a home. There are six flowers in the garden, and we reach towards the sun, somewhat symbolically, as we look towards our home and children. The ‘harvest’ is perhaps the hardest aspect of long term love and commitment- because you don’t see the fruits of showing up for each other again and again through thick and thin *in* the moment- it’s always in retrospect, caught at a glimpse, often an ambiguity. It’s so worth it though.

    ETA: I realized this also works perfectly for the last prompt “dance”- so I think this is where I’ll end my Folktale work for the year. It has been a lovely soul ‘fill up’ creatively during a really rough patch for myself personally. It kept pushing me to work just a little when I could. It also made me realize I definitely have an illustration style. I want to play with that idea a bit more! Thanks for joining me on the Folktale journey.