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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Bigger Than Mary

Several years ago I was driving near my parents home and saw a modest Christmas display.  A manager and a plastic virgin Mary were cast in dim lights.  And in the manger was a plastic baby Jesus, clearly a left over from another nativity set and not at all proportionate to the manger or the Mary.   And a great theological truth came to me like a light bulb going on: The baby Jesus was much bigger than Mary. Not just in their plastic presence on the snow covered lawn, but in life.  Jesus is our source though we both acknowledge and are humbled by Mary’s courage and purity.  Jesus is bigger.  God even uses the mismatched leftovers for his glory. Amen!

Merry Christmas Everyone,

Friday, October 21, 2011

Aiming for Mediocrity

I am a perfectionist and its a curse!   But last year I decided that I give too much of myself away in striving for perfection and instead my new motto was simply "Aiming for Mediocrity."  A friend made me a card with a target on the front with the arrow missing the center with the motto below--it was perfect--I still hit the target, but I wasn't quite in the center.  Perfect!

In my new found liberation, I vowed to do enough to fulfill all my obligations but I also vowed I would no longer expend myself to the Nth degree in this silly and counter-productive pursuit of perfection.  Unattainable and probably unhappy with something even if I reached perfection, I finally climbed down off the mountain of pressure I had created for myself and decided to breathe.

What did this do for me?   I relaxed about some things that used to drive me nuts.  "Let it go," became something I uttered frequently as a new mantra of sorts.  And my work didn't suffer one bit!  Aiming for mediocrity was a worthy pursuit! And yet, I still slipped into my old ways now and then.  

So, my motto as of late, lowering the bar even further, is, drum roll..."Aiming to show Up."  
Now you may laugh, but for a perfectionist, this has been a major turning point for me.   Sometimes when you care less you can actually achieve more.   I got to a point in some aspects of my life where I could literally say, "I don't care about this, why do I stress over it?" So I let the contral freak in me go on vacation. 

One would assume then that my work has in fact suffered in some way.  To the contrary, dear friends!   So perhaps everything isn't as I would love it to be, but nothing is greatly out of place.   Yes, there may be a typo in a document, yes, I don't return all my calls within 20 minutes. But the pay off?  A calmer, happier, nicer me.  

Where did I become such a stress ball in the first place?  I really had to take stock of this question and find the answer--this was the key to my transformation.  

After some soul searching and encouragement from a patient friend who just tells it like he sees it, I saw myself through a different lens.  Sometimes hearing the perspective of others is difficult but most of the time we really need their perspective.  The reality?  We are not objective and cannot be objective about ourselves.   Ponder this-- Even if you see yourself head to toe in the mirror you cannot ever truly see yourself as others see you--you can only ever see a reflection.  How humbling is that?   God knows we need others and proves it by making us unable to see our entire body.  We need another to complete the vision.

We need the perspective of others to whip us into shape, motivate us, affirm us, and change us.   So, with a new perspective, a desire to still achieve that life-work balance, I decided to focus on the things that really needed to be focused on, and to "let it go" where everything else was concerned.   I decided that others come to expect things of me because I exude that expectation of myself.  If I expect less of myself that others may come to expect less of me as well.   And in fact I found that to be true.  

So my new goal was simply to show up to life.   And when glitches happen, instead of stressing over them, I can embrace them.  Well, ok, not all of them, I'm human!   Remember, sometimes when you care less (and I don't mean that I don't care) you can achieve more.  Relax.  Make your goal either Aiming for Mediocrity or Aiming to Show Up and see if you don't feel better and actually achieve more.  

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Either/Or: Time or Money

It seems when I have time, I have no money and when I have money, I have no time.  If I had both simultaneously I’m not sure I would know what to do!  I might be very impulsive and buy Gucci or Prada. 

But, I’m not a Gucci or Prada kind of gal, you see.  I’m not sure I would even know designer accessories if they were mingled with a whole bunch of no-name ones.  I would probably have a thought process about the practicality, color and number of pockets in a purse and the height of the heel and width of the toes in the shoes and never even notice the brand.  

I am practical at heart.  $500 for a purse?  Not on your life!  $1,250 for a wool coat?  Never.  If money was no object I would buy the best (within reason).  But I'm a starving artist.  And I don’t own one thing that’s expensive or glamorous.  I love my $12 Dress Barn heels!

It's not that I abhor the idea of designer labels and fashionable things.  I admire people with a real sense of fashion and flair.   But in fact, according to one special person in my life, my wardrobe more resembles Marian the Librarian.  Perhaps the glamorous ritzy lifestyle is more for someone who would appreciate the signature characteristics of top brands.   Or maybe I'm just too practical and consider comfort too important to wear the latest things.  Whichever reason prevails, I strive to be myself...and perhaps I, in fact, resemble Marian the Librarian :)

If I had time and money simultaneously I may have the propensity to be reckless or a spendthrift.  I might also do a lot of good.  Only God knows.  For now, I'll cherish what I have and hope that one day I might be blessed with a personal style coach.  Until then its back to the library for me.

Think about it:  If you had unlimited time and unlimited money, where would you put yourself in the world?  Do brand names and labels mean anything to you?  Why is that?   Do you know the label on you reads: Made in Heaven?

Friday, August 5, 2011

Home--A Beautiful (Economical) Canvas

In my last blog I promised to share some ideas with you on how to make changes to your home, apartment or even cubicle to make it more inviting, inspiring and productive.    I'm drawing on some of my earlier posts ( A Stack of Old Suitcases, Piles,Piles, Piles and A Space to Laugh) so for my loyal followers (all 12 of you!)  you'll find some repeated ideas.  Hey, at least I'm consistent!
If you feel your space is currently uninspiring, assess what small changes you might make.  Small changes can mean BIG impact. 

PAINT    Take the photo below as an example of small change with big impact.   When I bought my house I did so knowing that the first room I would paint would be my bedroom.  The previous owner told me of her painstaking ceiling venture using four different colored paints, but in addition to the very strong wall color it was WAY too much for me.   Though it looks like I'm painting it white, in fact its a creamy neutral--the whole room calmed down and I was able to really see the space and its possibilities.  Far too often paint is the solution but many people can't look beyond the walls to really see the space--this is a great tip when buying a house--which, by the way, after yesterday's market crash you should seriously consider!

FURNITURE   You know that one piece in that one room that you really don't like but you can't afford to replace?   Have you ever thought about painting it or sprucing it up?  One example of a quick change on an old chair would be to paint the wooden legs a bold color--you won't notice the faded upholstery so much!
Let's say you don't want to paint it because its an antique or its a family piece one of your siblings might want someday.  Do you have a quilt you could drape over it?  Fresh pillows to accent it?  For tables or buffets, could you use a little bit of velcro and fabric and skirt it?  Do you have a piece of glass that goes on top of it?  What about putting fabric underneath and the glass back on over that?   What about an eye-catching floral arrangement or mirror on top to detract from what you don't like?  Or a spruced up lamp shade on a table nearby that would pull the focus?  Use what you have, think about old things in new ways and if you have to buy something to complete the look think about inexpensive yet bold colors or sizes.
If you do decide to paint your old piece of furniture, prep the surface--a light sanding followed by a gentle wipe of tack cloth, primer, and a bold or muted color could take that old piece of furniture to a whole new place.   I like using gesso and a disposable foam brush for a really smooth finish without any brush strokes. And I always recommend some sort of sealer--varnish, polyurethane, or lacquer so your hard work will last for years.  
Repurpose, Repurpose, Repurpose!  A stack of old suitcases or wooden crates as a side table, your old Red Flyer as a plant stand, and an old feed bucket as a magazine corral--think of your old things in new ways. 
TEXTILES    Pillows, drapes, tablecloths, rugs, towels, bed linens--these can really change a whole room without ever picking up a paintbrush.  Discount stores, overstock websites, dollar stores, and thrift stores carry lots of these items often very reasonably priced.   While I would never buy bed linens at Goodwill (they probably don't even sell them there, actually) I would buy a set of drapes there.  I'd wash the heck out of them, press them and probably embellish them too.    I bought an inexpensive pair of curtains at Target (see picture below) but they were too long.  So i cut the excess off and sewed it to the top of the panel for a two-tiered look and everyone asks me where I got my curtains!
In this same photo you'll see glass vases from the dollar store (yep, 1 dollar each) in which I've put some fake snow (also from the dollar store) and some salt cedar sticks ($5) that I spray painted silver.   The three large jars were $4 each at Christmas and were filled with peanuts--I gave the peanuts away and kept the jars--I don't even think you could buy a jar like it for $4!  Total cost for my curtains and window decorations:  $40.00   House Beautiful hasn't called me yet but I know their dying to come to my house for a photo shoot :)
 Other ideas for textiles:
  • Buy an inexpensive neutral short pile rug and stencil a decorative edge or design on it with fabric paint for a custom look with colors that match your decor.
  • Get fabric from the discount section of a fabric store and simply tie a bow around your old pillows--no sewing required.
  • Use a good fabric glue and gross grain ribbon and put a decorative trim around clearance bin pillow cases.
  • Make your own monogram towels with a stencil and some pliable fabric paint (use a thin coat).
  • Spruce up tired bedding with a new bed skirt--its not a big commitment of money (I've definitely seen these at Goodwill).
  • Have some nice sheets but they have stains or have yellowed?   Dye them in the washing machine.  I love Dylan Cold Fix Dyes!  Rit Dyes are readily available in grocery stores and they even make a whitening dye to spruce up your whites--you could do a whole load including your tidy (tighty?) whities!

  • I'm a fan of neutral solid colored furniture and walls and using pattern or bold colors for my textiles and accessories.  This is becuase I'm am easily bored and like to change things up frequently.  What are you like--do you find something and love it equally as much 20 years later?   You could probably be bolder in your furniture fabric & wall color choices.  
  •  Find out how you feel around various colors.   I love green but don't like how it makes me feel when its on all four walls so any shade of green for me is not a wall color option but I'd definitely commit to green curtains.   You have to find what feels right for you.  I really suggest visiting a large furniture showroom where they have a bedroom suite or a living room set up in a particular color family.  Reside there for a few minutes and see how you feel in that color.   It may seem silly but I think our creativity and moods are greatly affected by color and light.  If you have a dark room, think about bolder wall and textile colors. 
  • The color choice for walls is important as it will be the backdrop against which everything else falls.  Consider your light sources both day and night and consider a test patch on a wall that you can view in both daylight and lamplight.   I painted my kitchen three times because I loved the paint in the day time but hated how it made the space feel at night. I strongly recommend a big test patch on the wall and living with it for a few days and nights.
  • If your current wall color is too bold for a space in which you want to relax, you can tone it down. Try a white wash.  Thin (with glaze or water, depending on which type of paint you're using) a neutral paint color and with a sponge, rag or a flat floor mop in hand, drag, rag or swirl on a white wash coat over the bold paint for a semi transparent toned down look.  You'll see some of the color through the white wash but it will be greatly toned down.  If you've never white washed try behind a door first, not in the middle of the room!
  • If your bedding no longer suits your taste or color preferences but its still working for you otherwise, get a duvet cover (or make your own out of sheets!)
  • Dye your curtains a new color.   Overdyeing is an absolutely fabulous way to breath new life into old textiles.
  • Art--if you want to add life to a very drab or neutral space get a large canvas at a discount art supply warehouse or several small ones and wrap with a bold inexpensive fabric or simplycut and place fabric into standard frames. Or use an overhead project to project simple images (like a tree, birdhouse or repeated patter) onto canvas and paint.  No art school degree needed!  
  • Replace your lamp shades--I always see lampshades on the clearance end caps--grab the red or turquoise one for an instant pop of color.
  • Candles, flowers and tablecloths can also make a dramatic color statement--again, check those clearance bins or better yet that one closet you haven't gotten to the back of in years--you might be able to shop in your own house!  Wrap a bow around a vase or a pillar candle (push it down low or remove if you're going to light it!
One reason we fail to make changes and live unsatisfactorily in our homes or offices is because of clutter and piles.   We feel overwhelmed and drained looking at it but we don't know where to start so we walk around it, scootch it to the side, put a blanket over it, or whatever else we have to do to avoid it.  Let me encourage you to just tackle it--put it on your calendar and just do it.  If its a big job you can either bite the bullet and devote the day to it (my recommendation) or do it in small batches.
  •  Here's why I recommend tackling any job in one day---momentum.  If you stopped midway after an exhausting few hours would you go back to it?  Probably not. 
  • So, first things first--sort things into like piles  (all the books here, all the shoes there, all the papers over yonder).  Make areas:  Donate, Yard Sale (only have this pile if you will really follow-through and have one!),  Others (things you're going to give to specific people),  Store (as in it needs to go in long-term storage in the garage or attic) and then piles for particular rooms such as Bathroom, Kitchen, Basement, etc
  •  As you sort this way throw the obvious garbage but don't make a lot of decisions about purging just yet.  Why?   Isn't it the case that you throw a shoe because you don't know where the other one is only to find the other shoe at some point in the organizing?  Purge last.  Here's another reason to wait.  We often buy something we need when we can't find the one we have.   You might have 12 flashlights after you've sorted everything--then its easy to see that you don't need 12 and then you can purge.  If you purge as you go you'll really fail to see the large picture of what you have, how you got there and what you need to get rid of!
  • After purging you must find a home for everything.  In kindergarten classrooms everything "lives" someplace.  Crayons and floor mats and books all have their space.  We need to employ the same practice at home.  Why do you have piles?  Because you don't know where the things should live.  Maybe its an odd random thing that doesn't go with anything else so it remains on the buffet for 6 months.   Random things need a home too so make sure that when you're organizing you leave room for the new things that will come in and the odd things that can't be put into a  particular category.   Think bins, buckets, baskets, shelves--you need some system in place.  It doesn't have to be gorgeous, it has to function.  I had a stupid cardboard shoe box lid I covered in fabric to corral papers in my first apartment.  I used that thing for a few years because it was functional and colorful even though it was sort of tacky and flimsy.  
  • If you're organization ends up really not being attractive you'll find a curtain or blanket can mask a storage area nicely--function first--especially if you have a real clutter problem.  Find a space where everything is going to live.  If you don't have enough room for everything to live comfortably with room to grow, you have TOO MUCH STUFF!   Its going to be ok--you can let go of some stuff--I'll be your personal cheerleader.   I am the poster child of letting things go--my family thinks I'm nuts because I let go of things very freely at my annual yard sale--just let it go, pocket it the money and think of the clutter free space you'll have!   You can do it!
  •  Let me know if I can help you in any way in your quest to beautify and organize your space!  And remember, its not so much about having a perfect home or office (I don't) but its about having a space in which you can function well, feel energized and inspired and welcome others--you can do this inexpensively and creatively--I believe in you!

Have a creative day!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Home--A Beautiful Canvas

It seems to me that if you are really someone who loves to decorate that your own home is the first blank canvas you'd choose.   Through several moves, apartments, the college and grad school lifestyles and now in my home, I've honed my decorating skills.   Given that I paint, sew, build, organize, cook, bake, and do my own landscaping, I have always found the problems and challenges with any space quite invigorating.  It forces one to think differently and if you can't find furniture or decor off the shelf to work in the space, you create your own!   And if you do it well these become trends.  I have been often imitated by friends and family and I find that very flattering.

The photos in this blog are of my own home--I've sewn all my own curtains and pillows and all the artwork and decor is handmade by me. I love color and texture and glass jars, books and old suitcases and ribbons and buttons-- you'll see all of that reflected in the pictures.

Now, the only problem I have is that my brilliant decorating skills aren't really seen by the rest of the world so I'm not certain how far reaching my brilliance is!  I entertain but not everyone I have to my home really gets that it's brilliant :)   I say brilliance with a wink--I'm not really that vain! 

I get the magazines--I understand what's cool and why it is so.   I've actually opened a magazine to find something similiar to what I created 5 years earlier.    They say true artists aren't really appreciated in their own time--I take comfort in this :)

Decorating for me isn't about status, keeping up with any trends (me trendy? HA) or trying to impress anyone.   For me, a beautiful home is about bringing order and calm, inspiring myself in my next great adventure, about being a happy and well adjusted person, and making a place that people want to come to and sit a spell.   Beauty is all around us--God invented the concept with sunsets and flowers and the rushing waters--nature is God's canvas.  I feel my home is my canvas and that I am called to create beautiful things and spaces as a testament to His creativity. 

But why take time to write about it?   Because you have a beautiful idea of your own and I want to coax it out of you--let me be your cheerleader as you try a new color scheme, rearrange the furniture or declutter that spare room--one box, pile, color choice or fabric swatch  at a time.  Surround yourself with beauty and you'll both feel beautiful and be more productive and optimistic.  In this crazy, scary and tumultuous time, we need to surround ourselves with beautiful things and beautiful people.  My next blog post is about how to do this on a budget!

Have a creative day!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


I've blogged about creativity before as it's a passion of mine but I've never really expressed in writing why its important to me.  The first verb in the Old Testatment is the word created--" In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth."   Therefore, God is the author of creativity, the first artist, the only truly original anything.   I see my own creativity as God working in me.   And as I seek to honor my Father, I am passionate about creating, the creative process and the sharing of creativity.  I'm encouraged by other artists, intrigued by materials, curious about how others work and always fascinated by finished products.   I am driven in this regard.  I don't just go shopping, I research.  I don't browse products, I read labels, ask others lots of questions, research EVERYTHING and experiment.  A lot!    My love of creativity in fact makes me creative in its pursuit. 

I grew up very aware of right and wrong and rules.  Unfortunately in elementary school I was scolded for coloring outside the lines and I had my hair pulled by a teacher for taking too long on an art project.  I didn't realize til much later how this stifled my creativity.  I felt for years there was "a way" to do things and because I didn't know it I shouldn't even ponder it.  I didn't know that I had such a natural, God-given instinct to be creative and I stuffed it for a number of years or dabbled safely in familiar realms.

Well in the last 10 years I have made up for it and there are very few mediums in which I don't work.  Life is a great big canvas and I wake up every day anxious to be about creative things.   And I am extremely thankful for such a drive.  I'm thankful for the new found freedom to experiment, analyze and learn about the creative process.   My inspirations are found in the very creations of our creator--nature, the human body, sound, the elements, smells--all the mark of a very creative God.

Don't let anyone box in your creative spirit--try it, do it, live it and push away the voices which seek to limit your creativity.

DO IT:  Have you always longed to try something creative but were afraid or hindered in some way?  Seek out someone that could answer your questions, guide you or encourage you to give it a whirl--who knows what creative spirit lies within you!

Have a blessed and creative day,

Sunday, June 26, 2011

When It Gets Dark

When I lived in the South I attended a church with an enormous stained glass window at the front of the church.   In the daylight, the image was brilliant....a huge cross.   I took comfort in the image and admired its beauty.  One evening at worship, I noticed the cross in the stained glass wasn't visible; a light bulb went on!  The truth of it was literally written on the window--when it gets dark the cross is hard to see. A profound truth.   In the darkness we can lose sight of what is right in front of us: the beauty and comfort of God's love. 

Even in the darkness God loves us and speaks to us in His word. Sometimes the darkness lingers longer that we think we can bear. In those times we must cling to the knowledge that the sun will once again cascade through our windows and things will be clear.

Think about it:   What has been the darkest moment in your life?  The brightest?  Compare the two—what strength did you have in the bright moment that you might draw upon in dark ones?   What did you learn in the dark that you might have missed in the light?

Have a creative day!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


Did you know that whirlygigs, pinwheels, spinny thingys--whatever you call them--are known to date to perhaps as far back as 400 BC?   The Chinese believe they are a symbol of turning one's luck around.  The Iranians are said to have developed the first vertical windmill in 644 BC to aid with irrigation.  By the time the windmill came to Europe in the 1200's the form of the pinwheel is much more recognizable.   In Pieter Bruegel's Children's Games of 1560 children are seen with whirlygigs on sticks.   Whatever you call them, I don't know anyone that doesn't love the color and spins of a pinwheel!

I've recently starting seeing pinwheels everywhere. Pinwheels galore actually. Since I've always loved them,  I made my own garland version above and thought you might want to learn too--so here's my brief pinwheel "how to" lesson--they take some time but I think you'll be pleased--get the kids involved--a perfect summer project!  While these don't actually spin, hanging, they look like they could!

Materials Needed For Your Pinwheel Garland

12 inch ruler, pencil, 3- 5 sheets of square paper, spools of ribbon in coordinating colors, large pony beads any color, scissors, hot glue gun, large colorful patterned or plain buttons (1.5 - 2 inch recommended), eyelet set, eyelets
  • Start with a thick piece of colorful square paper that you have previously painted, decorated, stenciled, etc...  (I hand painted handmade paper. Handmade paper is key to the textured look above)  BUT scrapbooking paper is so incredible these days you'll have no problem finding preprinted papers to use.
  • I used 12 inch paper but that makes these very heavy.  I guess I would recommend 9 - 10 inch square--if it's double sided you get a great look!
  • Using a ruler, find the center point of the paper and mark with an x.  You'll need a center circle around that x--I used a clear votive cup, centered it over the x and traced--trace lightly with pencil.
  • Now, four cuts need to be made from each corner of the paper to slightly outside of the center circle on the diagonal-- eyeball the cutting if you're good at it or use the ruler to make faint pencil lines. 
  • Now you will have four triangle flaps on your paper.  In the upper left corner of each triangled section make a small x.
  • Decide which two opposite flaps will be the sides of your pinwheel and dry fit the flaps in place by lining up the x on your flap to the x in the center.   With a flap hand held in place, find a good spot for the eyelet to be placed--look in my photo below and you'll see i placed them just slighly behind the center point of the flap.  As long as they are in the same place on both sides, it will hang evenly--but no fear, this isn't rocket science and you have some wiggle room--I eyeballed all of mine and never used a ruler!  
  • Now, make a small dot where you want the eyelet to go and put your eyelets in now while the flaps are flat--I did mine afterwards and they worked but this will be easier!   Now, you don't really need the eyelets--you could simply poke or punch a hole--totally up to you!  And if you wanted to reinforce the holes (the purpose of the eyelets) the low tech way, you could also paint or color those round donut-shaped adhesive reinforcement stickers.   After the eyelets or holes are in (you need 2 holes for each pinwheel on opposite sides), dry fit again by connecting the x on the flap to the x in the center and see if they look about right.  You can manipulate where you put the corner in the center if you need to correct an error of an inch or less--just put it slightly higher or lower on the center x--remember the large center button will hide a lot!
  • Bring each x'd left corner to the center x and hot glue down.  Let the glue dry between each subsequent corner being glued down--you don't need a lot of hot glue for it to stick, but you do need to hold them in place while it sets.  On the last corner, put a bit of hot glue on the button you've chosen and let that help you secure all the pieces together--hold til it has set. 
  • I used pony beads to help secure the ribbons on the insides of my pinwheels--i love using organza ribbon but it would take 20 knots to be thick enough not to go through the eyelet so simply tie the ribbon to the pony bead and feed through the holes--at each end I tied in bunches of coordinating ribbons with a knot.
  • The finished garland in the photo is about 80" long but it hangs best when the ends are between 73 - 75 inches.
  • How long the ribbons will be is up to you--just make them even on the ends and between the pinwheels.  The heavier your paper, the shorter your ribbons should be between them or they hang funny.
  • Didn't take all the photos I wanted to--if you have any questions at all, don't hesitate to say hello--I'll be glad to help!

Have a colorful, spinny, historically creative day!


Sunday, May 29, 2011

Iris and Hosta

 I love iris and hostas.  I have a fair amount of both in my flower gardens.  A wonderful garden spot exists in central Illinois where the Iris and Hostas are plentiful.  In the spring 450+ varieties of Iris are in bloom and one can walk through the iris field and check their favorites off a list to order.   When the iris are done blooming in July the bulbs are dug up and one can either pick them up or arrange for them to be shipped.  For me it’s the ideal way to buy an Iris bulb—to see it in all its splendor first.  It is not for those who are impatient—it will be another year before you see the iris in your own yard, but I guarantee it will be worth it.  Over 500 varieties of hosta are also on display in beautifully landscaped spots which inspire even the novice gardener. 

The garden spot I refer to is Hornbaker Gardens.  Their homepage ( states, “Hornbaker Gardens is a family owned and operated nursery, specializing in perennials, located 5 miles southeast of Princeton, Illinois. Our large collections of hostas, daylilies, irises, grasses, aquatics, and other perennials, along with an excellent offering of trees and shrubs, draw plant enthusiasts from not only the Midwest, but from all across the country.”   They have a neat story about how they’ve grown and changed over the years and the work of their hands is evident.

Their weigela are among the finest I have seen and their collection of pottery containers is spectacular.   I’m itching to get my hands in some dirt just thinking about it.   The staff was also very kind and helpful to this novice.  I’m lucky to live within a few hours of the nursery but if you plan to be in Illinois during the spring, summer or fall, it is well worth the trip.

Write about it:   Growing something shows us the power of God at work.  Plant something today as a way of demonstrating God’s nurture and care and document the small weekly changes in its growth.  Turn over a new leaf for yourself by tackling one small self-improvement project and along side the entries for your plant, document how you are growing and changing also. 

Do it:  Look up nurseries in your area and plan a day trip to see several and compare their offerings.  What kind of plants really jump out at you and why?  Your taste and preferences should not be diminished or overshadowed by what everyone else is doing.  Do your own thing!  Know your soil, lighting and moisture conditions well before buying and utilize the staff’s expertise—most will be happy to share their enthusiasm for gardening.  And if you don't have any land in which to dig, there are plenty of blooming plants that will look beautiful in a window box, hanging outside, or hanging in a sunny corner of your home.

Have a creative day!

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Chocolate Cake

There's a moistness to it you don't get with just any chocolate cake.  Its dense yet light, has beautiful texture and complimenting the cake is the silky smooth homemade icing that melts wonderfully between my tongue and the roof of my mouth.  I make great homemade chocolate cake. 

The cake is time consuming and requires fresh ingredients but its worth it.  The smell of the cake baking only furthers the anticipation.  The texture, taste, smell, and moistness all contribute to the experience.  And since I don’t make it all the time the chocolate cake almost becomes an event.  

I have made a chocolate cake for no reason, just for me.  But not often—there’s no way I can finish one myself so it seems like such a waste if I don't have an occassion.  So I save the cake for special times, birthdays and holidays.  Some of you may do the same with table linens or an expensive perfume or the silver service.  But what happened if I made the chocolate cake once a week and used Grandma’s hand stitched linens daily?  Would they cease to be less special?  Is that our fear?  

We all have perfectly logical reasons for why we treat some things as sacred or  “for special occasions only” and that can be good.  But reevaluate what you treat as special and consider using the things you felt should only be behind glass.  Life is meant to be lived after all—one piece of chocolate cake at a time.

Try it!  So you have someone's birthday coming up and you said you'd bring the cake but its been a long week and you're frankly no in any mood to make a home made cake.  You can put your homemade touch on a boxed chocolate cake mix. I get a dark chocolate fudge cake mix,  add a dash of vanilla flavoring, olive oil instead of vegetable oil and instead of water use a cup of cool coffee or a coffee and buttermilk combination. Add ½ a bag of mini chocolate chips for richness and garnish the frosting with chocolate shavings….see if anyone can tell it was made from a box!

And why don't you get out Grandma's antique cake stand or the good china?   Yes, it might break or it might not.   Let it go and have a piece of cake.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Piles, Piles, Piles!

Are you one of those people who has various piles of stuff to deal with?  Is your dining room decorated in Early American Clutter?  Do you feel frustrated because you simply don't know what to do with stuff?   You're not alone--keep reading for encouragement! Among other things I've done in life, I've studied professional organizing and though I'm not immune to piles I have tamed them for tthe most part.

First we have to understand that piles are just delayed decisions.   We aren’t sure what to do with it or we don’t know where to put it or we're looking for the other part of something or we need more information before we can throw it or file it.   The dining room table, center island or coffee table--whatever the favored spot, I know you have a pile there!   Let's face it,  the clutter is stuff we don’t want to deal with. 

Imagine those piles representing our inner ‘stuff ‘ that we don’t want to deal with.  How many piles would you have then?   Would you have to put on an addition to hold it all?   Most of what I write is processing inner stuff to which I think anyone can relate. The Bible says that no temptation is that which is but common to man.  So we all have similar temptations though we are all quite unique.  And we’re all tempted to delay decisions resulting in piles.  And the piles get bigger until we hate the piles and we finally make decisions or we throw it all and get rid of any decisions to be made.

There are many great organizational methods designed to get us to deal with the piles.  There are the piles of Act Upon, Read, and Throw which equals: ART.  There’s FAT: File, Act Upon, Throw,  and any number of other acronyms designed to quickly remind us of what to do with our stuff.   I use ART because, well, I love art!  Easy to remember and easy to do.   

There’s also the rule that says you should only handle a piece of paper once before putting it in its permanent home—make immediate decisions about something and then deal with the paper.  This doesn’t work for me because I often don’t have all the information I need to make a decision on the spot so it goes in, yep, you guessed it—a pile.  For any time sensitive material, I try to put it somewhere visible because with me it's out of sight, out of mind.  So, my approach to organization has to be very visual--color coded bins, open shelving so i can see things.  I take my cues from grade school classrooms—they stay neat because there’s a labeled bin for everything—do the same and not only will you be able to find things, but you also tame your clutter.

Caution:  Avoid the miscellaneous category--its just a bin of more delayed decisions.  The things in it usually end up there because they don't have any like items with which to be make a bin or box or basket for it on its own. 

A note about your uniqueness--your organization system doesn't have to make sense to anyone but you unless a lot of other people will use it.   If you're visual, put things where you can see them or create a board or visible list of where things are if they can't be out in the open. 

Do it:  Use A.R.T or  F.A.T. or any other simple organization technique of your creation to manage your piles.  Designate a drawer or prominently placed basket for time sensitive or very important things.   You will control the clutter when you 1) understand why things pile up  2) proactively create a plan to deal with the stuff that comes in and 3) are consistent in moving the things that must go out.  

Have a creative (and organized) day!


Thursday, May 5, 2011


I love the smell of wood.  Sometimes you can identify a wood just by its smell. Take cedar or cypress for instance.  I love seeing the wood grain patterns created by the way in which it was cut…the rings that took so many years to produce.  I love the feel of smooth wood under my fingertips and I love its ability to be molded and shaped, cut and chiseled into so many different things. 

I wonder if Jesus felt so strongly about wood?  He was a carpenter.  I wonder what he enjoyed about wood? I wonder what types of things he would have crafted?  Boats?  Furniture?  Coffins?  Canes?

He died on a wooden cross.  Is it a coincidence?  I wonder if he could smell the wood and if that was comforting as he was dying? 

         Think about it: If you were given a block of wood in any species of your choice,  what would it be and what would you do with it? 

Have a creative day!


Tuesday, May 3, 2011

A Permanent Reminder

We likely all have them--a scar, an injury, a story of some sort-- a permanent reminder of a moment in time we can't undo.  I have a few reminders--a scar on my chin, a scar on my knee, and recently a finger that's partly numb due to a puncture wound--not as bad as the guy's above though :) 

These scars, injuries and stories are a part of our history.  In a world where we unfriend and delete others from our lives with a click, these permanent reminders are good reminders that we are human,--not invincible, and that we come from somewhere.  They remind us we cannot delete the unpleasant moments of life.

I awoke this morning to memories of old friends that I had failed.   I was not a true friend to them.  I look back and know that I harbored anger and resentment but I couldn't articulate it at the time.   In fact it was much later that I understood it.   Though I didn't feel they would recieve my thoughts at the time and that it was likely why I turned my back on them, it was not right to do so and I have harbored regret.   That regret is also a kind of permanent mark but on the soul, not the body.

God is a loving, merciful God, the balm of Gilead, the patient shepherd.... Though forgiven, he allows us to feel the sting of regret as a reminder to stay on the good path.   I think of David and his sin with Bathsheba--David felt that regret and the separation from God and because it was so awful he never wanted to experience it again.    A bad moment in time with long-term consequences.   I believe our own regret is a powerful burden to bear.

So, we can wallow in regret or we can ask forgiveness and get on with gettin' on.  Sometimes forgiving ourselves is the harder task.   I think the best thing to do is to pay it forward in some way--tell the story so that others can benefit from your mistakes--that would be much more creative than wallowing, wouldn't it?  Regret and sadness aren't the most creative choices one could make--And for all the creative types reading this you know you're far too creative to choose it!  So get creatifve--find a new way to deal with your regrets, disappointments and self-loathing--how could you benefit others (and yourself) by choosing differently?

Have a creative day!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Uh, Why Did I Say THAT?


   Foot, Meet Mouth!

Have you ever said something and the moment you finished you thought, “Oh, why did I say that!?”     Are you nodding?  Ok, you’re a confirmed member of the foot-in-mouth-club.   The cool thing about the club is that we’re hardly exclusive.  We have millions of members world wide! 

How do you get out of it, though—that’s the kicker.  Depending on the offense you could utter many things.  Here are a list of my favorites—and yes I’ve used some of them!

“Oh did you say ________? I thought you said __________!  Sorry for the confusion!
I’m sorry, my mouth censor was turned off!”
“Please forget I said/asked that.”
“Forgive my intrusion, I wasn’t thinking.”
“I’m sorry I’m so curious, please don’t pay any attention to me.”
“I didn’t mean to hurt you, I got caught up in the moment.”
“I can’t believe I just said that!  Someone keep an eye on me!”
“Its time for my meds—I know because I just say anything that comes to mind!”
“Sorry, I’m tense and I’m taking it out on everyone—forgive me.”
“This environment/ situation has me on edge—I’m sorry.”
“I’ve had a bad day and I’m taking it out on you—please forgive me.”
“I haven’t had any chocolate today so it makes me crabby—I’m sorry.”
“Can you forgive me?  I’m a ditz.”
“Well, I’m so rude—why don’t I just ask your weight next!”
“I don’t want to be snippy—I’m not sure what’s bothering me but it certainly isn’t you—I’m sorry.”

Write it down:  Create five “I’m sorry” messages of your own based on the kinds of friends and situations in which you might find yourself.  We will surely say something dumb in the future—lets be proactive in fixing it!

Have a Creative Day!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

I'm Practicing My Royal Wave

As the Royal Wedding is now less than half a day away, I give pause to ponder yet again the nature of love.

What is it to love another fully?   We use the word unconditional as a descriptor for the loving relationship, but I wonder if the word selfless is the better descriptor and the higher path to full communion with another.  In any relationship we will hurt one another, disappoint and be disappointed because when you care for someone it comes with expectations, hopes, needs. To love fully means you are fully invested in the life of another, fully aware of their strengths and weaknesses without exploiting (or reminding them) of either, fully invested in their successes and failures, fully invested in what others think of them, fully invested in the strength of your union, and fully aware of when that union is shaken.  

Single and 42, I will never claim to be an expert in matters of love. Full communion with another for more than a few years has eluded me, but love has not eluded me.   It's easy to love, harder to live out that love. My approach to relationships is often very practical before it is emotional--this is the rational side of my brain at work.   I am almost never attracted to the physical aspect of any man before I am attracted to his brain and his heart.  “What good is the beautiful package if the contents are ugly,” I say in my head.  That's not to say that I don't appreciate physical beauty, but it’s all subjective isn't it? 

I know some women who get upset with men who say they like tall thin women for instance.   That's like getting upset with a man for liking the color green or lasagna or The Rolling Stones. Taste is what it is--a preference. If I am not someone's type I say "amen" to it and life goes on.  So no one can get upset with me for liking intellectual, sensitive and articulate men...that is my preference. 

Love is the subject of most songs, much art, literature, plays, is pursued with great fervor and paraded with much pomp and circumstance. Americans in particular seem to be in love with love. The wedding industry and greeting card makers alone profit every minute from our love of love. But in the trenches anyone in love knows that love for the sake of love is short term. Selfless love is the kind that lasts and the kind that requires one to first acknowledge that God loves us fully and we did nothing to deserve it. In other words, love starts with humility.  To understand God’s love means we’re more likely to be understanding and accepting of others--it is the higher path, the narrower path and the less traveled, but it makes all the difference. 

I must examine my heart daily—I am not the giving, selfless person I’d love to be and a daily moment before my heavenly cardiologist shows me how clogged my arteries are with the gunk of being earthly minded.

Do it:  Ask God to unclog the arteries of your heart so you can be free flowing in all that He desires for you.

Ponder it: “Age does not protect you from love but love to some extent protects you from age.”    -- Jeanne Moreau
Have a creative day!