Be yourself

Hi Everyone!

How is February treating you? We are half way through what I consider the worst month of the year. Honestly it feels like this month is 60 days long. Looking at our projected two week forecast here, I truly believe we are looking at a high likelihood of mildew. Two straight weeks of mildish temperatures and more RAIN. We already have endless mud. Our horses and donkey keep coming in lame where they are slipping and sliding in the mucky pasture. The chickens need boots to keep from miring up to their feathers and I don’t dare let my car run off the edge of our driveway or it will be June before we can retrieve it from the bottomless mud pit. Yeah, fun stuff. 

So to survive February I decided that I absolutely positively have to give myself some daily art time to avoid a major outbreak of cabin fever. At the moment it seems to be working. There is still half of February to go unfortunately. 

I have been giving myself one hour most mornings (life still throws a curve ball at least once a week) and I’m pleased with the progress. The one hour doesn’t cause me guilt for what I’m not getting done around the house and keeps resentment at bay for not getting time for myself. Any evening art time is gravy! 

There has been one breakthrough. Ok, maybe more of just acceptance. Do you have curly hair that you have tried to straighten all your life? Or straight hair you have spent hours curling? Maybe you are a great runner but always wanted to play baseball instead.  I accepted my stick straight, baby fine hair that can’t hold a style longer than my ears, a long time ago. What I have fought against for five ridiculous decades is that I’m not good with paint. Passable maybe, but painting is stressful not relaxing. What I am good at, even as far back as my first crayons, is dry mediums. Give me a pencil and I’m in my element. Colored pencils even better because I have color to play with. Some of us are too hard headed to see what is in front of us (finger pointing directly at my hard head). Finally I am embracing it. I’m not throwing out my acrylics, water colors or gouche paints (though I have considered it many, many times). They will instead, be under paintings. Supporting actors now. 

For Christmas I got a small set of pastel pencils and have excavated my box of unused soft pastels, conte crayons and charcoal. I am pushing myself to learn new things though. Pencil drawings come so easily most of the time that I often get bored so I need some challenges. Soft pastels definitely have a big learning curve. Right now I’m mixing several things together. In about a minute I’m into the flow because I have to concentrate so hard. Finally a form of mediation that works for me. Sitting still, trying to ignore my thoughts only adds anxiety to my life! Here is what I have done or am working on (the building) in the past week. The door is an 8×10 inch piece, but the little girl and building are 5×7 inches. I’m trying to save supplies when I know the experimental stage results in trashed pieces. 


My advice, for what’s it worth, is quit trying to be something you are not. I have recently heard it called “your fantasy self” and that rings true. Don’t waste decades like yours truly struggling to do something that doesn’t suit you. Go with what you are good at naturally. Life is wayyyy too short!! Love your curls. Run your race not someone else’s. 

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February?

Hi Everyone,

How has your week been? My week has been as erratic as the weather here in North Carolina. It has been a week filled with ups and downs, surprises (not necessarily of the good kind), laughter, tears, stress, sadness, dread, hopefulness. You name it, I’ve had it this week. It has matched the February weather here spot on. Yesterday was 77 degrees, a week ago we were busting ice so the animals had water. Today it was 63 at 6 am and will be falling into the 20’s tonight. I’m hoping the weather levels out as well as life. I’m not sure I can get through another week like this one.

In case you are dealing with life in all its crazy forms as well, I just want to remind you to find some time each day to give yourself a physical and mental break. My tag line on this blog is “adventures in creative living.” Sometimes you have to get creative to just hold on to the roller coaster. You probably don’t have hours, but even 15 minutes can do a world of good.

I recently started giving myself 1 hour a day, morning or evening, to do regular artwork. There is so much on my plate right now that I found there was some resentment starting to bubble up. That is not good for me or those who have to live with me. I managed four of the five days this work week. I finished my commission and delivered it yesterday! This is a birthday present to the Mother of these three gentlemen. She had a similar portrait done of them when they were young and they are giving her this one of them as grown men. 


I have started a new drawing and as usual keep my knitting with me when I’m in a waiting situation. Several of my evenings this week have found me mentally, physically and emotionally drained. Too tired to read, knit or draw, I escaped to YouTube and watched art tutorials or American Pickers. Whatever it takes to give yourself a break. Well, there are some things it’s better to avoid when you are stressed so choose wisely. 

Find something you enjoy and preferably something that gets you into a creative flow and takes your mind off life for awhile. Music, games, sewing, gardening, playing with your goofy dog. Something to make time stand still and let your heart and mind rest and recover. 

I have about six boxes of stuff to clean out today. I was about 108 items short of my January goal. No lack of stuff just a lack of time. This week as I jump into another round of the minimalist challenge I need to clean out 46 items so far for February. Right now (before breaking into three unopened boxes) I have exactly 100 items either being donated or trashed. I found an entire box of socks that belonged to my son and D. had a big box in our closet. I estimate that neither of them will need new socks for the next 10 years! Sock hoarders!

Wishing you a peaceful week.

Konmari and a big shovel 

Hi Everyone,

I hope you are off to a great start this week. Once again I apologize for going MIA last week. It turned out much more hectic and stressful than planned. Every day except one was spent running to appointments. Some days had several. I also visited a dear friend who is in the hospital and she is in pretty bad shape right now. That alone took a toll on me. It’s so hard to see someone you love suffering and not be able to do anything to help. 

So this week I’m trying to catch up on the pile of stuff that should have been done last week. I somehow got a good start on the commissioned drawing. Well, actually that happened in the middle of the night when I couldn’t sleep. It wasn’t a good sleep week either so I have decided that on those nights I’m going to quit laying there trying to solve the world’s problems and quietly do something productive. Luckily drawing is a pretty quiet activity! Here is a sneak peek. 


If you have been reading this crazy blog, you know that I am in a major clean out phase. Unless you have had your head in the sand or like us, don’t watch TV, you have heard about Marie Kondo’s show on Netflix. I know about her because I read her first book several years ago, am reading her second book currently, and it seems like everything I read or watch on YouTube is talking about her right now. Don’t quote me, but I think I saw last week where donations to charities is up by something insane like 336% thank to Ms. Kondo. Last week I helped contribute to that by hauling a stuffed carload of clothes, household items, baby clothes (My babies are 23 and almost 26 years old. It’s past time, don’t ‘cha think! ), books, etc. to a local charity shop.  The hubby has gotten on board and started cleaning out the old tobacco barn which had become the storage unit for broken and unneeded stuff. He took a trailer load of old equipment and I’m afraid to guess what else to the landfill. The two barns are his domain. I have a hands off policy on those. 

I have been doing the 30 day minimalism challenge this month (google it for details, I’m on a time crunch today) so here are my numbers for last week. Decluttered and donated 74 items and trashed 60 items for a total of 133 items. That’s 73 items short of what I needed to do but I still have time this week to meet my 498 items for the month goal. Total items for the month so far is 376!  

If you are a new reader here is the backstory: 1) D. and I got married in 2016 combining 30+ years each of “stuff” that will not fit into his 1300 square foot home thus adding a storage unit to our monthly bills  2) In 2017 his younger sister passed away and her young daughter came to live with us and our already stuffed house became even more crowded. His sister was also the keeper of four generations worth of family stuff and after other family members got what they wanted we were still left with TWO more storage units of stuff to sort through while PAYING FOR. 3) Now we have decided to sell our farm, move back to our hometown and build a slightly larger house. 4) We are NOT GOING TO MOVE ALL THIS STUFF! 

I am doing the challenge to jump start the process as quickly as possible. We will be putting the farm on the market soon and if you have sold a house you know that whole staging and storage thing is a big deal. I am a deadline person also and need the deadline to keep me on track. I appreciate the Konmari method of asking if something “sparks joy”, but frankly I just don’t have the time to be pondering the whole joy thing. I need a timer and a big shovel to get this done! Three weeks in and I still don’t yet see a difference in the house or the storage unit I am currently working on, sooooooo February will be another 30 day challenge. In all likelihood it will continue until the unit is cleared or I have reached burnout and need a new method. 

Are you Konmari-ing your house? Are you watching the show? I would love to have some compadres in this quest for breathing room. Let me know your thoughts and progress. Its lonely out here. Have an awesome week!

Rhythm & Routine

Hi Everyone!

Yes, I’m back and hopefully will be back on my weekly schedule now. No guarantees, but the near future looks promising!

I had a lovely visit with my daughter and son-in-law last week. I will fill in details of their visit next week, but it also included getting a brief visit with my son who was house and pet sitting for my sister and brother-in-law. I have to squeeze in every opportunity since they do not live close. 

Summer is winding down here. This morning the air had a hint of Fall. I am NEVER ready for cold weather so I am trying to soak in all the heat I can. Yes, people think I’m crazy, but it is not unusual for me to be wearing a long sleeve shirt in the air conditioning. 

School starts back in two weeks. Woo hoo! I am ready to get back into a routine around here. Miss L. cannot complaint about her summer. I’m pretty sure she has only spent a total of three weeks at home. After next week, one month. We have packed, unpacked and packed again. 

Speaking of routine, I thought I would share some info that might help some of you out there. I feel like I blab every week about the crazy stuff out here and bless you, you keep reading. But in the spirit of giving and sharing I really should pass along useful stuff occasionally.

By nature I am an organized person though it might not always look like it to the causal observer. There are times life is organized chaos. When I moved out here to The Middle of Nowhere in 2016 I left a totally different life that I had lived for almost 20 years. I had virtually every convenience within a ten minute drive. I had daily interaction with other human beings. Now I have moved many times over the years, but this move was not just a location change, but a lifestyle change. One that I had no way of preparing for. The nearest grocery store is now a 30 minute drive. I now go DAYS where I only have the company of my husband, niece and various and assorted animals of the domesticated and wild variety. Let’s just say that the transition has not necessarily been easy or pleasant all the time.

For two winters now I have struggled through my usual winter blues but with the addition of a lack of routine that left me unmotivated and rather disheveled. Winter One I was just out of my element and hadn’t found my rhythm yet. Winter Two was spent recovering from the high level stress of eight months of a family crisis. My almost daily uniform consisted of yoga pants and a t shirt or pjs. I work from home and just couldn’t find the motivation to get properly dressed unless I had to go out in the world. Add to this state of affairs, Winter One, D. and I had combined 30 years of household stuff and were sorting out what to keep and what to get rid of, then Winter Two we were buried in family stuff that landed on us in literally trailer loads. It was all just freaking overwhelming and depressing! 

Blessed Summer 2018! Spring always makes me happy and this year as the rhythm of the season settled into my bones, I started to make some progress out of the confusion.  My first hour of work has been in the garden and with the animals each day. The sunlight and sounds of just nature and the company of goofy, loveable critters has been wonderful. It has been slow progress, but the house is beginning to rid itself of boxes and piles. The yard, though fringed along the outskirts with weeds from the over abundance of rain, does not have the look of a jungle that it did last summer when we barely had time to eat or clean. I no longer want to cry when I pull into the driveway. 


I have begun to find a routine again for the domestic affairs that have to happen daily and my biggest goal is to get regular hours for my artwork once school is back in and the garden is put to bed or at least down to manageable Fall levels. If you happen to be in the Land Of Overwhelmed, let me suggest the Flylady.net website. YEARS ago I found her when I was juggling a family business, four bedroom house and yard and two non-stop kids. She had a manageable and sensible way to keep house that my ADD squirrel brain could handle. I did not osmosis the domestic gene from my Mom because I much preferred to help my Dad with the outside chores. I needed help. I never got all the routines down pat, but learned enough to keep house reasonably well. 

Recently I found both “A Better Life With Flylady Kat” and “Diane In Denmark” on YouTube that refreshed my memory about the routines and I am back on board. I have only been at it for two weeks but can already see a difference in the house and my schedule and my squirrel brain. The two HUGE boxes of paperwork that piled up last year is cut in half and I will soon have all that filed and put away.  I suggest watching Kat for very detailed instructions on how the system work and Diane if you need some wardrobe improvement (I will not ever be as well dressed as she is, but I have upped my game to decent shorts, tshirt, mascara and earrings!) and want to see what life is like in Denmark. 


One more important tool for Life Reboot is my new planner from my daughter and SIL. I needed to go back to paper and they did so good. It’s cute but not too froufrou and has STICKERS. It makes those daily lists much more fun. 

Ok, there are my tips for the week. I have to get going and finish laundry and tomato canning today. Get out of the grungy sweatpants and rock your week! 

An Ending and a Beginning 

Hi Everyone,

I hope you are having a great week. I am finally almost over all the itching and pain from the shingles now and the weather is finally in my favorite zone of 75-80 degrees with sunshine. Life is good again!

Yesterday I made my last delivery of my last orders for my design & print business and am winding down 32 years in the industry. I have made so many good friends over the years and will miss seeing them on a regular basis. The work itself I don’t think I will miss as much. I’m ready to do my own ideas on my own deadlines now. I have a couple of logos to do for my daughter and our beekeepers association but I think those will be my last two logos unless I revise my own logos.

What’s next? Well my plan is for you to get to see more of my artwork primarily. I started selling on EBay last year as a way of cleaning out our storage unit and there are some remaining family items no one wanted that need new homes. I will also do that until I either run out of stuff or decide I enjoy it enough to go find more stuff to sell, but my focus is the artwork. 

I have the two commissioned drawings to finish and I will show you those when they are finished, but I can’t yet while they are in progress. Hopefully next week I can get started on the ideas that fill about four sketchbooks that were started more than twenty years ago. I’m so excited! And more than a little freaked out that I am finally getting to do this!  Keep me accountable.  Procrastination sets in when the fear starts breathing down my neck. If you have ever taken a big risk on something very important to you…you know exactly what I mean!

Today’s photo is of my lovely, happily blooming irises. 

Go do something you have always wanted to do…now!

Itchy

Hi Everyone,

It all started last week when I had a head on collision with a honeybee. She panicked and stung my forehead. 

A few days later we took on three tons of mulch spreading in the garden and yard. Evidently I disturbed a few ticks who decided to make a meal out of me. 

Where I found the poison oak I have no idea, but it found me. I’m not really allergic to it but this time it seems to have found its way into my bloodstream and is popping out in little uber itchy spots all over my body. 

To add insult to injury I began to have mystery pain across my right side that took me to the doctor who also decided it was a mystery that would require blood tests this week. During the weekend, before the scheduled tests, the mystery pain began to turn into itchy patches and revealed itself as shingles. 

When I say that it has been a VERY ITCHY week… It’s an understatement. 

So please excuse my brief post today. I can barely focus and of course, my new bees are ready to be picked up. I will be fully suited up for their transfer into their new hives (bees can’t wait for the beekeeper’s recovery). One more itchy spot might be one too many this week!

Hoping you have a no itch week! 

The art of frustration 

Hi Everyone,

I hope you are having a lovely week so far. Supposedly we are going to have Spring return here this week. I am very ready for my feet to thaw out!

Did you notice that I posted this on time this week? Want to know why? Nope, it’s not because I finally have my act together. I have misplaced my good drawing paper and cannot continue with the two commissioned drawings until I find it. I am hoping that the distraction of writing will let my brain work on remembering where I put it last. 

Finally I have a week that involves no crisis management of affairs of an estate, Spring Break is over and I have no huge impending deadlines. Yesterday was great! I worked on my Etsy shop, started these two drawings, did a little practice painting all before I had to pick up Miss L.  Today started out pretty much the same way until I realized my drawing paper is missing. Dang! I had two solid hours to work on them.

So here I am, coming into the last month and a half of my thirty year career, all geared up to get down to some serious creative doing and making and I am an organizational mess. Normally I know exactly where everything is unless someone I live with moves it and this happens all too frequently. This time I can’t blame them though. 

In June I will have lived here for two years. In those two years I have had to constantly keep moving my art supplies around.  Either a room is being painted/renovated, someone is visiting or moving in, or every spare inch of space is occupied by stuff that has to be sorted, stored or given away eventually. The frustration level with this situation is very high. Really and truly I am a minimalist at heart but I find I am always living primarily with people who are not. My son is the exception. Right now he lives out of a backpack, but take a wild guess who stores his bed and few boxed possessions. 

My dear husband promises me that one day there will be a separate little art studio that only I have the key to. Looking at our long list of “need to do” items I hope he is planning on adding wheelchair ramp and Geritol dispenser on it. Until then I retreat to my Pinterest board of studio ideas and dream. 

The current reality is that I set up my fold out table in my bonus daughter’s/guest room for the two weeks that she is away and frantically work on my sewing machine and other projects that have to be spread out (I’m a creative mess so most projects fall in this category) then pack it all back up before she returns. Heaven help me if I forget to take the vacuum cleaner out of her closet before setting up the table. In that case, or any other that requires something from that closet, I have to crawl over the bed to the other side, retrieve the item then push or pull it back across the bed.  There are many not so nice words said during this ordeal. 

If the table issue were not enough the fact that I have my most used supplies in…the china cabinet, under our bed, under the love seat, under and on my desk, in a file cabinet in Miss L’s room, beside the sofa, in an end table, on our bookshelf, AND in the master bathroom! The less needed supplies are in our storage unit 20 minutes away and I seem to need them several times a month. Honestly I do not own a store’s worth of supplies. We just have so little space that I have to stick them in every nook and cranny I can find. Trying to find what I need causes some high level frustration. HOPEFULLY as I wind down my design business and clean out files and supplies that I will no longer need, I can begin to consolidate the art supplies and cut down on the frustration. Did I mention that the nearest art supply store is over an hour away by car or two days away via Amazon. Wonder if I can figure out how to make horse hair paint brushes? 

Maybe I should remember to give myself a pat on the back any time I manage to finish ANYTHING.  Here are a couple of finished items from this week. My table quilt from my class got finished. Probably the worst sewing I have done in years but it doesn’t look too bad as long as you don’t look on the back, and a small painting of our cat, Sweetie Pie. I have her eyes too close together but I was focusing on some painting techniques more that worrying about getting everything “right”. 


I am going to make myself some lunch, take some water to the chickens, gather some eggs and make sure I didn’t put my drawing paper in their coop.

May your week have low levels of frustration!

It’s not the years

Hi Everyone,

Welcome to Spring if you are on the Northern Hemisphere. Actually it doesn’t feel like Spring here at all. Currently it is snowing and there is yet another three hour delay for school. I’m very glad I got more honey to my bees on Monday because there are not may good days for them to get out and forage for the next couple of weeks. 

I have finally started some new artwork but will have to wait until next week to get photos. There were plans to get new work in my Etsy store, but there were delays in getting the scans done. Today there will be delays on several projects thanks to the snow and school delay. Sigh. Dang, just got notice that school is now closed. Our Northern friends would die laughing at what these kids get out of school for around here. 

Last week was tough. We had two funerals. 

The first was for our beloved Muffin kitten (aka The Muffinator). Muffin was born Feline Leukemia positive. We think her Mom, Sweetie Pie, has probably overcome the disease now but we haven’t had her tested yet to find out for sure. Muffin was the only survivor in the litter. 

Muffin never got bigger than 3.5 lbs in her 5 months and 6 days of life, but no one told her she was tiny. She came into this world full of curiosity and spunk. She would stand in the barn and never flinch as the horses stepped over her. One of her favorite places to play was in our biggest horse’s stall…while he was in it!  She loved to chase our chickens who were about four times her size. She was so tiny that she could squeeze between the wire to get into the run while I was cleaning the coop and hunt chickens. She went into the bee yard with me and swatted bees. 



We were constantly vigilant about Muffin’s whereabouts because she was always living life on the edge AND she was the perfect snack size for much of the wildlife around here. Every time we heard a hawk we ran to find Muffin and put her in her kitty condo to keep her safe. D. often stuck her in his coat pocket while he was working because she had no fear of power tools and thought nothing of playing right beside a running skil saw! 

When we found out that Muffin had Feline Leukemia we did not tell Miss L. but decided to give the little rascal the best life we could for as long as she had. The vet had suggested putting her to sleep right away. I no longer see that vet. What the vet didn’t know was that this kitten had this great big heart to go along with her great big bravery.  When we let her out of her condo everyday she didn’t run off to play. Instead she jumped into your arms, crawled onto your shoulder and sat there and purred. Her first choice always, was to be held and played with. She was perfectly content in a coat pocket or the hoodie of your sweatshirt or riding on your shoulder.  She often rode with me to pick up Miss L. from school and did so sitting on my shoulder watching the world go by. 

Last week we noticed Muffin getting thin and Miss L. reported that she wasn’t eating. D. noticed she was coughing. On Friday I called the vet for an appointment. They could work her in after I picked up Miss L. I then had to tell Miss L. about Muffin’s disease and to be prepared for the worst.  After x-rays the vet showed me what was going on. Muffin’s little body was full of one, probably two large masses that were taking up 3/4 of her tiny body. She couldn’t eat and was struggling to breathe because the tumors were so big. Even her tiny heart was being pushed out of place. We had no choice about what to do. I called D. and he drove over as Miss L. and sat and cried and loved on The Muffinator.  We were all there with her to the end.

This little ball of fluff gave us so much love, fun and laughter in her short life.  When she was born we were going through one of the most stressful times of any of our lives. She was the bright spot in the dark. She made even non-cat loving folks love her. Muffin will be missed for a long time. 

Our second funeral was for John S.  John was eighty-three and grew up with my Dad. John was a farmer and a barber and also my and D.’s very first employer. We went to work for him and his wife in their tobacco fields at the ripe old age of 11 for me and 12 for D.  We both have many good memories of the summers we worked for them. It was hard, hot work, but there was much laughter and looking back, life instructions.  We are glad that we went by to visit with them about a year ago. John had already had a stroke and wasn’t doing great. D.’s Dad died when he was thirteen years old. John became a second Father to him. John was a very humble man with a big heart and huge work ethic.  I can see those same traits in D. 

The funeral was probably one of the warmest and truest I have ever attended. Each family member spoke, including John’s wife of 63 years as well as friends in attendance.  I also don’t think I have ever been to a funeral with so many men moved to tears. Many, many friendships were made while sitting in John’s barber chair.  I can remember going with my Dad and listening to the men discuss life over haircuts. 

I have pondered these two recent funerals quite a bit this week.  You can focus on work, stuff, impressing people, etc., but in the end what do you leave?  It isn’t how long you lived or how big your house is or how impressive your job is that matters.  A five month old kitten and an eighty-three year old man left the same legacy.  The people they left behind knew without a shadow of a doubt that they were loved. 

It’s a little bland

Hi Everyone!

A day late and a dollar short over here, but that’s life sometimes. The current state of affairs has me bundled up on the sofa sipping tiny quantities of coffee and nibbling on a bland rice cake. Since I am very rarely sick and I am now in my second round of sickliness this winter, I am assuming that my body still hasn’t completely recovered from the stress of 2017.  My one and only real goal is to get this post done today. Anything else will be gravy. Thank goodness it is D.’s day off because I’m not sure I could drag myself out to look after the animals today.

Our week has been somewhat bland this week too and I don’t have much to share but it’s way too easy to fall out of a habit and next thing you know I will only be writing here once a month. Just think about how much crazy you will miss out on if I did that! 

D. and I had dinner with friends Sunday evening that made for an enjoyable start to the week. Sharon, glad you and Alan could meet us. We had a great time!

Monday, snow, again. Ours was minimal to what much of the country is dealing with but it was enough to call school off and Miss L. to lose one of her Spring break days. 


Yesterday I went with my Mom to her post op checkup and was already feeling yucky. By the time I got home I knew that I would not be going to the monthly beekeepers meeting and crawled into bed. It was all downhill from there. Right now I have the energy level of a wet dishrag. My two mutts get very concerned when I am not up and going at my usual speed. This is Kato keeping watch over me last night until he couldn’t hold his eyes open any longer.  This morning they kept taking turns checking on me when I wasn’t out of bed at my usual early hour and would snuggle up closer than normal to me while I was trying to catch up on some sleep. Dogs are just the best!


My apologies for not having better to offer this week. I do hope to work on some drawings today if I can stay upright long enough.  Today’s post is like doing anything that is important to you that you want to improve at. Some days you have to show up, put in the time even though you know it’s not so good and persevere until things get better.  Sort of like the sock I have been knitting. I wanted to learn a new heel type. I pulled out that heel four times until I got it right. Not fun. Not fun at all but it got done. 

I hope you have a healthy week and bless you if you read this to the end! I hope for much better next week!