• Art,  daybook

    Cultivating margin…

    I wrote on Instagram the other day:

    I find myself strongly questioning the path I’m on at the moment. Our summer was one of healing, rest, and restoration in many ways, especially for those of us in the family who have chronic illnesses. Less than three weeks into what one might call a ‘normal’ fall/school schedule (such as it can be in the strange times we find ourselves in)—and I am completely and utterly depleted. My fellow Spoonies in the house are also showing the strain. Needless to say, we’re calling a time out and recalibrating. I’m not even sure what ‘normal’ can or will look like for us anymore, but running on fumes ain’t it. Now what?

    It’s been roughly a week since I wrote that, and I feel no closer to an answer. I feel like ‘butter scraped over too much bread’, and well, where does one get more butter and less bread? How do I serve the needs of my children, physically, emotionally, spiritually- serve my husband and myself similarly- when there just isn’t enough of us to go around? While for the first time in our family’s history we are not struggling financially- Glory be to God- everything else feels short. My husband and I both fell ill with you-know-what in March. While my case was milder, my husband suffered severely and required oxygen support for nearly three weeks. He has since suffered many long haul symptoms, and it feels like we just can’t quite get his ‘gas tank’ back to full. He will get a bit of rest, a bit of healing, and then something comes flying at us and it drains him to fumes again. We keep walking back and walking back from commitments, saying no far more than he would like, and still, there’s just not enough margin for him. I feel like a decision is before us that is going to greatly disappoint some people, cause some hurt and discomfort, but it’s a decision that has to be made, and soon.

    I could say similarly for myself in the gas-tank department. While I’ve gotten better and better at managing my symptoms and diet, there are still days, physically, where my illness just says, yea, nope. And it drains me so badly, those days- and it seems to take longer and longer each time to recover from them. And then regular life throws a curve ball, and what little gas I might have in the tank takes a nose dive.

    Both of my medically fragile kids seem to be transitioning too- one has improved a lot meaning less interventions, and the other (who has been pretty healthy for awhile) has suddenly downshifted and we’re having to recalibrate and recalculate there. The mental load of that is pretty exhausting, which I don’t think I was willing to acknowledge to myself back in the day but I do readily acknowledge now.

    I keep praying for wisdom and margin.

    A few reads that have encouraged me lately in this department:

    Finding Ground by Jordan Durbin

    Lord of the Sabbath by Leslie Bustard

  • Art,  WIP Fridays


    So August just kinda ran past me. Good gracious. I had a pretty consistent, relaxed rhythm for the summer (which is nothing short of amazing in and of itself, seriously!)- and then August happened. It came, it saw, it conquered. Slowly finding our feet in the fall/school/ballet/teen work schedule rhythm now, adjusting of course for the ever changing realities of pandemic life.

    For all that, still had some time to play. The first one is digital, done in Procreate. The other two are gouche and ink in my sketchbook (which I think is a mixed media cold press).

    I adore how the girl turned out! For some reason I kept thinking of Maraly Weaver from the Wingfeather Saga stories, who always struck me as this feisty, scrappy redhead when we were listening to the audiobooks. I guessed I missed the little detail that her hair was black, which actually makes sense as a Strander. Red hair would have stuck out like sore thumb and made her a target. Maybe, though! She streaked it with mud or something and by the end of the stories she’s more herself. Who knows! That’s what I love about reading.

    The middle one of the girl in the leaves was an old sketch in ink in the sketchbook that I abandoned for some reason. Colored it in and really liked it. Have no clue why it had been abandoned? Maybe I ran out of time and forgot it was there.

    The last one was the first time using gouche in hmmm, at least a year or so? Maybe more. Again, I had forgotten how much I liked working with it and the coverage. It actually started as a car doodle while waiting for a kid to finish a physical therapy appointment. Could not find a pencil anywhere. Ink makes you commit in a way you don’t with an eraser at hand- I think I need to stretch a bit. Hilariously after working digitally in Procreate all summer, the learning curve to ease back in traditional media was…interesting. I definitely want to keep working in both, but I totally see why I often default to digital when I’m short on time! It ‘dries’ faster, hahahaha!

  • Art,  WIP Fridays

    Following the muse…

    Making art has always been a retreat for me. It is not necessarily a place where I am producing or measuring up to something, though I’m always pleased when I cross a threshold of skill or understanding when it happens. It’s ever been, for me, about the process and the exploratory, playful aspect of it. I could take classes and level up my experience much faster, but I prefer the slow path of intuitiveness and figuring something out for myself. Art is one of those things that belongs solely to me, in the quiet of my days surrounded by the hubbub of being mama to six.

    For all that, it always surprises me where the muse ends up taking me. I told a friend recently that I felt like a new project was coming on, but couldn’t ‘see’ it yet. I’m still not quite sure what is bubbling to the surface. I had some ideas for new folk florals…but guess what I’ve been doing when I have a few minutes? Drawing portraits. In Procreate-digitally. And boy, does Procreate have a learning curve if you are used to working physically with traditional media! And yet, frustration has ebbed quickly and I’ve been enjoying the process each week. Who knew? Each week I’ve felt like my drawing skills have leveled up, and I’ve been so pleased to sit back from drawing and see more and more that what is in my head is coming out on the ‘paper’.

    These three pieces are the last three weeks’ work, usually posted to Insta on Fridays. I need to have a better posting groove for the blog. I keep forgetting to tuck in here. What have you been curious about and exploring lately?

  • Art


    It’s only Wednesday, but it’s already been a WEEK. This quote has been on my mind lately. My husband and I celebrated nineteen years of marriage yesterday. Considering everything we’ve been through, that is quite a feat. Reminding myself to always choose love, to the end of everything.

  • 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.