Thursday, May 30, 2019

g r o w O O 3

Every since I started this new blog format - corresponding with my 52 Weeks project - I've learned a lot about my own creative process. I've learned that I work best when I can bounce around from one project to another, sketching out something and then moving on to the next. Not in order to forget about the first nor to simply try and get "more " done but to get my ideas out into the open. I've learned that in order for me to get anything accomplished, I have to get it out of my brain FIRST, then I can actually create it.

This has prompted me to think about my writing, something I haven't really focused on in a long time. It's not that I have given it up, I just have to let it go for a while. Or rather I've needed to put it in the ground, let it germinate. There's something there, a story or more that want to be written but I'm tired of trying to push them into being. And I'm quite OK with that. In fact, it opens up some room in my head to let all those other creative projects to float out into those aforementioned sketches.

It's fun, really. I'm not sure where it's all going. It might not be going anywhere but in my little studio, making me happy to keep my hands moving and my mind clearing and my supplies dwindling into lovely little things. But I have plans and goals and I'm working on clarifying those into workable actualizations. Is that even a word? Well...it is now!



In other growth news, the garden is coming along! The picture up top is the zucchini and boy is it trying to produce some fruit. Of course there's a couple that aren't doing to good and I'm trying really hard not to take it personally!

The delphinium, however, is doing really well. I'm a sucker for anything blue in the garden and these beauties are giving me such gorgeous color! They sit behind some lovely snapdragons, a bit of rosemary and two rue plants that are starting to blossom. Oh, and there's the rose bush that I thought didn't survive the transfer but, lo! She's getting ready to bloom again. No picture yet but as soon as the new buds burst forth I'll post one here and on Instagram.

Eh, not the best picture, but you can see the bright yellow of the snapdragons just there in the front and the pale blue of the delphinium. Sometimes I wish there was a better way for me to post pictures here and there probably is but me with my limited knowledge of design will just have to wait until it's one of those easy-peasy versions - like those Instagram filters and settings. In fact, I'll admit to using Instagram as a photo editing program! I'll just edit the photo, take a screenshot, crop all the bits and bobs away and ta-da! There's the picture. Not this one, of course. This is straight from ye olde phone.

Well, that's about all I have to report for now. I'm still working on my theme for the week. It's been enlightening to say the least. Again, I find myself growing in ways that I didn't suspect when I started this little project. But I'm excited to see where it leads. I'm always amazed by these little things, you know, something you put together to see if you can complete it and see how much creating you can get done in a set amount of time? Anytime I do one I end up with a lot of work I otherwise wouldn't have gotten done, but I also end up learning so much about myself and my process. So here's to more growth and more exploration through crafting and writing.

Have a wonderful rest of your week!

With heart in hand,

Monday, May 27, 2019

s h a r e O O 2 & c r e a t e O O 3

I got up this morning about half passed 7 and was out the door by 8. Not to go anywhere; I had to start painting the patio before the temperature climbed up into the triple digits. Yes, Friends, here in the South, we're already looking at 100 degrees!

It was about 75* F when I started painting this morning and right at 90* F when I decided to give it a rest. I did get the first coat of paint on the posts of the old patio and it already looks better than before. Our ladder is still at a friends house so I wasn't able to get to the very top so I'll spare you the "in between" photo. But don't worry! I'll post a "before" and "after" shot as soon as the "after" happens!

If you're in the States, Happy Memorial Day! We went to a cookout yesterday afternoon and spent the rest of the day being lazy. Sorry about the lack of Sunday post but, as I said, we were lazy. And I enjoyed it! Even fell asleep in the armchair I loved it so much!

Not the patio, but I did paint this last week :D
Last week's theme for the 52 Weeks of Gentlework Journey was "veriditas". If you're interested in the 52 Weeks Journey, click here to be whisked back in time to the explanatory post. If you're interested in the meaning behind "veriditas", give this link a click and you'll learn!

Veriditas was a bit of a challenge for me. I mean, I'm well acquainted with the green and growing power in my garden. At least, I think I am. I learn something every single day that astounds and confounds me. For example: why are those pepper leaves continually turning yellow? They get plenty of water, plenty of sun. I even spray them with neem oil to keep the little buggies from chewing on them (not that it works 100% but I don't do those chemical things). Ah well. It's a wonderful journey, learning all about plants and their habits and what works and doesn't in both raised beds and regular old flower beds. The plants in the photo above used to reside in one of the raised beds. Until I realized that two of the three needed some shade. The third one just looked very unhappy so I put it in a pot and it's been thriving ever since.

Picky little so-in-so's!

The garden has grown, even if I feel like it's staying small and laughing at me in the form of flowers that aren't yet turning to fruit. Here's a little "before" and "after" action in the first raised bed, the one with all the veg in it. The second bed has most of the herbs but still needs some fill in. The third bed has the over-flow veg in it and my one sweet pea, started from seed, and prayed-over-rain-danced-over-any-other-ceremony-you-can-think-of-overed. I'm desperate for this little guy to survive and turn into some luscious sweet peas that smell like heaven on earth. You can't buy them here except in seeds. To be honest with you, the plant nursery selections around here are pretty blah.

Right! Pictures!

There it is! Photographic evidence that the garden is growing. Not very fast, mind you, at least, not fast enough for me to feel as if it's going to be successful.

But there are blooms on the peppers and tomatoes and squash. The broccoli and kohlrabi are getting larger and the mystery squashes/pumpkins/whatevers actually have blooms on them. I guess I'm just in too much of a hurry. I need to slow down, take a deep breath, and just let that green and growing power do its thing.



To be honest with you, I didn't get as much art done this week under the veriditas theme. I did a bit of sketching and I did some work at the clay studio but this one wrapped me up and left me hanging. But I'm glad I tackled it. It forced me to do some research. I learned a lot about Hildegard of Bingen - the 12th century German abbess who first coined the word. I looked at some of her art online and read some of her poetry, music lyrics and quotes. She was a woman ahead of her time, very much aware of the need to take care of the Earth. In fact, her art inspired a couple of pieces of my own. Here's one of them:

A little physic garden for your viewing pleasure.
This will become am embroidery pattern in time.
It might even become a mini-quilt. We'll see!

Now then, on to Week 3!

I didn't get the theme for this week until just a few moments ago. I went to take a picture of the piece above to share with you and thought, "Hn. I haven't decided on a theme for Week 3." And then, just like that, it hit me and I got it.

That's how it's been with all the themes so far. They just come to me. I don't seek them out and I don't deliberate over them for days or hours. I just think that I need one and - poof! - there it is! And, funny enough, it's exactly what I need for the week. I certainly hope you're finding that these themes speak to you too.

52 Weeks of Gentlework Journey
Week 3 Theme

commonplace

Don't be fooled by your initial reaction to this word. Most people see it and think, "Ugh. Commonplace. I don't want any part of that. I like unique!" Well, yes, we all do, but think about it. What exactly is something that is commonplace? It's something that is familiar, comfortable. It's a common place that we return to often, it's our living room, our grandmother's kitchen, our mother's garden. It's something that has become so ingrained in our day to day life that we take it for granted yet if it went missing we wouldn't quite know how to handle ourselves. It's like the blanket on your bed. It's there. You don't think about it. I'd wager you don't really think about it when you make your bed in the morning but it's there. But if it went missing and you got in bed tonight you'd be uncomfortable. I wouldn't be able to sleep. Even if I'm warm, I have to have the weight of a blanket on my legs. It's comforting.

Commonplace.

So there's your marching orders, Dear Ones! See what you can create with it! I've got a few ideas brewing in my mind right now. We'll see just how many I'm able to commit to paper and fabric over the next few day.

OH! Do you remember how in the first post - the one where I explained what all this themed gentlework was all about? I mentioned something about doing TWO projects and I kept that second one under my hat. Well, tomorrow is when I start that second project! If you follow me on Instagram you'll know about it before the next blogpost. Even if you don't follow me, you can still wander over and check it out. But if you're the patient type (the slow living type) I promise to let you all in on it Thursday right here! Well, not right here...it will be in another blog post. But you know what I mean!

Stay tuned for some more creative fun and do give the 52 Weeks of Gentlework a go! I really do want to know what you come up with, what ideas sparkle in your brain and what gets your hands and fingers moving and creative juices flowing. Together we can cultivate a lovely creative community <3

With heart in hand,

Thursday, May 23, 2019

g r o w : O O 2

Growth happens in a million different ways. The first thing I think of when I see or hear the word growth always has to do with the natural world. Specifically: plants. I love it in the Spring when the first glimpses of green begin to peep out on the oaks. When the crepe myrtle begins to get those tiny little leaves I know that the temperatures are warming up and pretty soon we'll be hit smack in the face with all the color of the new growth that Spring has to offer!

Baby balloon flower getting ready to blossom!
Lately, the yard has definitely been going through some growth, and I'm not just talking about the grass! The little seedlings are threatening to burst out of their pots, the plants we planted a few weeks ago are now putting out small flowers and there are more than one pepper clinging to the underside of crisp, green foliage. The zucchini are flowering, the watermelons are still standing upright and the sweet pea (which I started from seed) is three inches tall and still living!

And yesterday, something we thought might not happen again did:


The hibiscus bloomed! This plant was in a pot for over 5 years. I bought it when we moved to Savannah and put it in a shaded courtyard. I think it grew out of the sheer stubbornness I demanded from it! When I put it in the ground, I was afraid it was too much of shock. The leaves turned yellow and dropped off but I kept watering her, kept talking to her and behold! There are now three gorgeous blossoms and more on the way.

I have a particular affinity for blue flowers. They're difficult to find; blue isn't a color found often in nature. These delphiniums - planted this past Sunday - are bursting with blue blossoms already! Oh how I'd love to bring them inside so I could enjoy them on the table or counter but I don't want to cut it's blooming time outside nor do I think they'd survive the two scoundrels I have in the house who like to eat any and everything in a vase...even if it's known to be poisonous to cats. In fact, they prefer those plants. If they go after something, it's guaranteed to be deadly to cats. If it's safe, they ignore it.

I'm not joking!

"we are Siamese if you don't please..."
Growth can happen in more subtle ways as well. For the past several months I've been discovering some very interesting things about myself, things that I really never knew that have helped me gather up my courage and go after some long held dreams.

Every day I'm trying something new! My self imposed 52 Days of Gentlework project has caused this sudden growth spurt of creativity. I've been diving into crafts I've toyed with for years and one that I'd given up on but was reintroduced to two weeks ago quite by accident.


Sewing I've done for years. I keep a project going at all times and some days I have just enough time to get in a few stitches while standing next to my table, waiting for the oven to preheat or the kettle to boil. I have, however, started making time to sew. Now that I have a solid focus, it's much easier to allocate the hours needed to complete several new project ideas and design even more!


I'm going to let you in on a little secret. I've been drawing again. Years and years ago, I drew every day. It was a part of my life just like breathing. Then, like many artists, I grew up, got interested in more mundane things, succumbed to peer pressure and gave up on this aspect of my creativity. The main focus of this 52 Weeks project is stitching but I've spent at least the same amount of time drawing! Granted, these drawings are on their way to becoming stitching patterns, but there's some that may want to be something else. I'll keep you posted on all of the above!

To say I've been busy would be an understatement! With work, the garden and these new explorations in folk art, I've been going non-stop! Used to, this kind of creativity overload would have pushed me past my limits and landed me on the couch but this time, this time is different. I'm energized, even when, like now, I'm exhausted to my finger tips and want to do nothing but lie on the couch and watch Murder, She Wrote.

* Full disclosure: Murder, She Wrote is on the telly as I type*

So what about you? Have you been experiencing any growth lately? How's the garden coming along? Have you been able to sit with yourself this Spring and dig deep, feel around for things long buried? Or are you taking it easy, breathing, letting the morning breeze blow through you and cleanse you from some still stagnant Winter? Have you, like me, rediscovered some old joys and started working on some new ones?

I really do want to know xo

With heart in hand,

Monday, May 20, 2019

c r e a t e : O O 2

Whoops!

So I said I was going to post a new theme every MONDAY, didn't I? Weeeeelll, I sort of got ahead of myself and posted it YESTERDAY! Ah well. Here's a link to Sunday's post with all the nitty gritty of the second week's theme for the 52 Weeks of Gentlework.

Bother.

The theme for this week's gentlework creating extravaganza is :

veriditas

It's a word coined by the twelfth century German abbess Hildegard von Bingen which means "the green and growing power" and I thought it made a wonderful word for a week of creative activity. Like I said, if you want all the details, click on back one post to read all about it. I promise I'll do better next week and remember my own schedule!

Now then.

Last week I did a lot of thinking about circles. The theme, as you'll recall, was "circles of quiet" and I sat with that theme several days, letting it permeate my creative juices and really settle into my bones. I got several essays that want to bring their pretty good parts together and be one exploration of these quiet circles. Again, most of those crafty circles are in yesterday's post.

BUT I do have a little project that I want to share with you. I did this one a few weeks ago. It's a fabric brooch that I free cut out of scrap fabric. I've toyed with the idea of fabric brooches for years but never sat down to do one until this month. It was nice to finally see the reality of that thought inspired by who knows what way back when.


It is a rather large brooch, isn't it? Well, I love it! In fact, it matches an old sweater that I'm in the process of updating with a couple of elbow patches and pockets. The matching wasn't intentional, but I'm so excited to wear them together! As soon as that sweater is finished, I'll post it right here :)

In other creative news, I did get a couple of hours in at the clay studio today, glazing some experiments and starting a a few more. Here's a little picture of what some of the experiments look like without any glaze. These were shaped by hand then painted with colored slip (thinned clay with color pigments added to them). What do you think?


The large piece in the front is a cheese board. Never made one before and it's not entirely flat but I don't think the cheese will mind. These babies will be bisque fired and then I can glaze them. They'll be fired again after glazing and then I can bring them home! 

(I'm kind of in love with those little ghosts)

So there you have it! My weekly romp through some creative exploits that aren't tied to the 52 Weeks of Gentlework Journey that I've got going on. I'm still getting the hang of this new schedule and theme based posting so bear with me as I work out the kinks. Sundays will be when I share what I've worked on for that particular project while on Mondays I'll give out the NEW weekly creative theme and share all the other wild ideas I've had the previous week!

Take care and have a lovely evening xo

With heart in hand,

Sunday, May 19, 2019

s h a r e : O O 1

h e l l o !

How has your week been? were you wildly creative, able to dive into those projects that call to you in the middle of the night? Or, like most weeks, did life get in the way, elbow it's way into your creative space and demand that you take care of things RIGHT NOW?

Hey. That's OK. Really. It happens to us all.

Sundays are for sharing. what you were up to this past week, what you did, where you went. It's a day for taking it easy and relaxing, reflecting on the week behind and planning for the week ahead. It's also going to be the day I share with YOU the products of my weekly crafting journey 52 Weeks of Gentlework.

This past Monday I posted my first ever 52 Weeks of Gentlework theme and encouraged you to play along. honestly, I wasn't sure how I was going to handle the phrase that came to me as the inaugural theme but as the week went on, I was amazed at how I was able to dive in and play around with it and come up with some lovely patterns for future stitch work. I started one of those patterns and I must say, it feels good to be stitching again!

52 Weeks of Gentlework OO1 
circles of quiet

here is the sketched pattern. all those lines will be stitches!

here's the real life version, just started and not much more than an outline.
I've never drawn patterns like these before and I'm excited to give them a whirl. there are two others that came to me during this week's theme but I'll save them for a rainy day :) Sometimes it's nice to have a secret or two, yes?

~ ~ - - ~ ~

I'm seeing circles everywhere. I see connections in things, fractals intertwining - dishes, pots, tea cups, halos of light; the oval of cat sitting on the red rug between the doorway bookshelves. I hear them: the ceiling fan, the banjo, the round, full stories told of mountains that open like portals and transport me back home.

For years I searched and searched for my own circle of quiet. The longer I sit with this mysterious little phrase, inspired by the title of one of my favorite books, I see this circle as a concentrated, central location, a rain drop in a pond. Then it reverberates outward, expanding its reach until the little waves disappear from sigh but you know they continue to the edges of the pond.

We are the central drop, the little blip in the pond of life we inhabit. The more we nurture our sense of inner calm and quiet, the further out it stretches, reaching around us, shifting our perspective of everything we encounter.

We can reverberate with peace, carry our carefully nurtured tranquility with us, let it encompass us and invite others in. It can be a shield from the harsh climates of the world. It can also be a banner we wave proclaiming softly, 'there is a stillness to be found right where you are'. But you must be brave enough to go deep, deep, deep to find it.

~ ~ - - ~ ~

For week two of this 52 week journey, the word that came to me was veriditas. it means "the green and growing power" and refers to the healing power inherent in all plants. the word was coined by the 12th century German abbess Hildegard von Bingen to "mark the moment that God heals one through a living plant" [reference found here]. I've always been fascinated by plants and found Saint Hildegard during one of my many random internet searches many years ago. She's a fascinating woman and worth studying if you're the least bit intrigued by a 12th century herbalist nun who received visions from God. I mean, why wouldn't you be?

So that's our theme for Week OO2 of the 52 Weeks of Gentlework Journey. 

veriditas

The green and growing power.

What does this conjure up for you? Are you tempted to get outside and poke about in the brier patch, see what you unearth? Are your fingers itching to pick up a green pen and write down every word for "green" and "growing" that you can imagine, diving into a thesaurus to discover more? Or, like me, are you thinking of something more along the lines of green embroidery floss and, perhaps, a little stitched patch of healing garden?

Whatever you decide, I know it will be lovely and I can't wait to see what you come up with!

With heart in hand,

Thursday, May 16, 2019

g r o w : O O 1

Good afternoon!

I totally meant to post this yesterday, but with the planting and the painting, well, time got away from me. And that's OK because those things go along perfectly with this post.

Along with creativity, growth has always been so very important to me. I love learning and seeking depth through knowledge as well as through spirituality. Even as a child I longed to stretch and grow more into myself. Though I didn't really know what that meant, I knew that I needed something deeper than what most of the people my age were going after. Of course, like most people, I got caught up in "people pleasing" and for a very long time I didn't grow in directions that were healthiest for me.

Growth in the garden, in nature, has also always been close to my heart. I like to tell people that I was raised in a garden and that is practically true. My father always planted a vegetable garden and he was the one who put in the grapevines, fruit trees and muscadine vines that still inhabit my parent's yard. My mom still grows herbs and flowers and vegetables in every available space of soil. There's always something green of interest growing in her yard and she's had decades of experience with that piece of land. I long for the time when I can walk out in my yard and see a mature garden, burgeoning with blossoms and humming with the song of bees and birds and all manner of green and growing thing.

With this desire to grow both internally and externally so strong in my own experience, I thought it safe to say I should devote a weekly post to growth! Here you'll find updates on the garden (or as we've started calling it The Farm-den!) as well as some creative growth, new ideas I've discovered as well as new insights into old ideas I've always held. I love to wander and wonder through subjects as diverse as ancient history and mythology to astronomy and herbalism. I really don't know what all will be found here but, as with the c r e a t e  posts I wrote about on Monday, I invite YOU to share your own stories of growth. Feel free to share your gardens, your stories, your insight, your strength and your weaknesses. Lord knows I'll be doing all of the above (and more!)

I'll keep this week pretty easy and post some garden pictures. We've done so much on this little property since we bought it in December. It's kind of funny, really: there's so much to be done inside but we've focused all our attention on the outside. I mean, come on! The weather is great, it's been warm enough to plant since March, and I don't want to miss a minute of bird song. So the painting of the walls will have to wait; the sanding of the floors will hold off; the purchasing of curtains will flutter in later (don't worry - we have blinds. Those ugly, plastic kind that remind me of some icky apartment living of the past...)

I love watching things grow and flourish in nature. I love planting seeds and get a bit over-excited when I see a little sprout emerge. I do a little dance and sing a bit when they first break through the soil. After planting our first veggie bed, I marched around it and roared a bit like that scene in "My Neighbor Totoro" when the sisters and Totoro plant the acorns in the yard. Yeah, my real neighbors probably think I'm a bit mad. But, hey: it's working! Everything's coming up g r e e n !

image found here

Three beds of herbs, flowers and herbs xo



The courtyard fence : the courtyard will be  on the side I'm standing on, looking out into the rest of the garden
Sprouts!
Little gatherings for future projects <3
Herbal abundance going in the ground!
Have you planted your garden yet? Are you still waiting for things to warm up a bit more? Do you grow in pots? Are you not inclined at all towards a green thumb? How about some internal growth? Do you you find yourself leaning towards something new or a new understanding towards something familiar?

Have a beautiful evening, Dear Ones and may your Friday be bright and swoosh you into a blissful weekend xo

With heart in hand,

Monday, May 13, 2019

c r e a t e : O O 1

Hi there!

I hope your Monday has been a lovely one. I had a little idea last week, a way to better organize my thoughts in order to better share them here with  Y O U !  I love the idea of themes. They keep you focused and grounded in the task at hand. They give you a bit of bones to work with in regards to your art. Like a sonnet, as Mrs. Whatsit once told Calvin O'Keefe, you're given the structure to adhere to but you have complete freedom within that structure to do whatever it is you want.

just in case you were wondering where Mrs Whatsit came from <3
Monday's theme shall be create! When we had public television (before the satellite moved and our TV went kaput), there was this lovely station called Create! and I LOVED letting it play on my off days. There are so many interesting shows on that channel. Shows about gardening and cooking, baking and sewing, painting and crafting. There's even a show about a guy who travels around in his motorbike visiting artisans and craftspeople who still do traditional arts and crafts. So many angles to that one, glorious theme!

I may post about stuff I'm creating, things I've created in the past or ideas I have about projects in the future (especially if I'm in the throes of trying to figure something out!) I'll also post other people's creations: things I've found online or out and about town or in magazines. Who knows? Like the old song says, "Anything goes!"

Some of you may remember two years ago when I did a little project I called "100 Days of Stitching". I started it in September and ended it on New Year's Eve. I spent 100 days stitching on various projects and ended up with a handful of items that I was very proud of, some of which became Christmas gifts. I LOVE creating projects, especially projects that come with a set number of days. That really helps my brain keep things orderly. It also gives me something to look forward to every day. If you have trouble getting excited about a new day, a new week; if you feel like time is flying by, why not give it a try? Seriously. People around me are always going on about how quickly the months are going by but they don't to me and I believe it's because I create projects to keep me focused on something each day, something to look forward to. It distracts me from the day to day passing of time and the day to day business of living. When I'm at work, I think about my current project and it reminds me that I am more than just "a job" (even though I enjoy my job, it's nice to have that reminder = ) ) and I know that when I get home, I have something calling to me other than a full litter box.

Why not join in? I've got my first TWO projects all lined up and ready to go and I'm inviting Y O U to play along. Whatever your art, craft, make or bake is, you can leap right into this first one. I'm beginning with a weekly themed project called 52 weeks of Gentlework. What IS gentlework you ask? Well, technically, it's used to describe hand stitching projects. I've seen it used for cross stitch, embroidery, quilting, mending, sashiko stitching, samplers, whatever you do with a needle and thread that forces you to slow down and do mindful, deliberate stitches. I like to expand on the gentlework concept to mean anything that you do to incorporate slow living into your daily life. This could be anything most people consider "old fashioned" : gardening, baking bread or cakes, hosting tea parties for friends, taking time each day to have a cup of tea for yourself; reading a book (the real, paper bound version), learning to paint, carve gnomes out of granite or making clothes out of fig leaves. Seriously: anything that would make you think, "Hmmm, I'll be my ancestors did this!" or even that someone's ancestors did it is enough to constitute gentlework in my little world.

So grab your trowel, your pen, that old table in the attic you've been wanting to cover in broken pottery. Every Monday for 52 Weeks (why, yes, that IS an entire year), I'll be posting our theme for that week's creation. Now, this doesn't mean that you have to create something that is an end all be all representation of that theme. For example, if I choose the word "joy" for one week, you don't have to paint a picture of someone dancing or create some literal expression of the word. All you have to do is think about what the word (or phrase, or quote, or picture) means to Y O U! Perhaps what brings you joy is walking in a park early in the morning. "Well how am I supposed to be creative with THAT?" Easy. Gather leaves, twigs and acorns. Come home and create a nature table and photograph your findings. Write a little note about the things, about your time collecting them. Did you see anything on your walk that you want to remember? A bunny? A hawk? A naked jogger? (Hey, I live in Savannah...it could happen!)  Put your observations on a little card and leave it with your findings. It's really that simple.

On Sunday I'll post what I've been up to during the week. I invite YOU to share your creations as well! And there's no pressure. It's just something I want to do to cultivate creative community with other people who, like me, want to put a little more creativity into their lives. You can create something different every day if you want. You can create one thing or a lot. Heck, you could create something out of a different medium every week or you could decide on one (the nature table idea comes to mind) and stick to that throughout the year. And if you're reading this after it's been up for a few weeks (or months) no fear! Jump right in where you are! I'll also be posting my weekly crafting adventures on instagram. You can find me here : https://www.instagram.com/jenchandlerwashere/. If Instagram isn't your thing, you can always find me here and give a little comment down below.

>>Just a little heads up about comments: I don't accept anonymous comments on this account. I've had issues with getting really strange and creepy comments from anonymous users in the past so I disabled it. All you have to do to comment is sign up for a Blogger account but you don't have to blog. I know, I know, another password to remember, but really, once you're logged in and you start reading blogs, you don't have to log out. I don't think I've logged out of this account in YEARS!<<

If you're an astute reader (and I know you are) you'll remember I mentioned TWO projects. The second one won't start until May 28th because it's another 100 days project and I want it to run out on 31 August in order to make it a summertime pursuit. And, yes, I already have another project lined up for the autumn :D

So there you have it! A lot of rambling in order to let you know I'm organizing this blog, making things a bit tidier and inviting YOU along for the ride. Stay tuned for the other two days' of the week I'll be blogging and what they're purpose will be.

Without further ado: Your FIRST 52 Weeks of Gentlework Theme is .. .. ..

circles of quiet

I can hear you already. "Jen! WHYYYY! Why can't you just choose something concrete? Why can't you just give us something easy like 'blue' or 'birds' or 'pigs in blankets'???" Well, that would be boring, wouldn't it! Besides, the purpose of creative projects is to push you out of your comfort zone. Hey, I may have the 'poetic' theme license but that doesn't mean that I've already planned out what I'm doing with it! I'm just as baffled as you!

The interpretation is completely up to you! So is the medium, the method, and - if I may - the madness! Have fun, Dear Ones! I can't wait to see what Gentlework we all come up with during week one! And don't forget to share your creations with me by tagging your posts on social media: #jenchandlerwashere, #lessonsintheartofslow, and #52weeksofGentlework.

I'll find you and follow along!

May your Muse be with you,












PS: Oh, and don't tell me you're not creative and you can't do anything and so you won't join in. Yes. You. CAN! You just don't know it yet. Grab your crayons and some glue sticks. I promise you you'll find something to create!

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Why Slow Living? My Story (in brief)

Since March I've been reading some very interesting and soul-freeing books. These books have filled me with wonder and have pushed me out of my comfort zone, into a realm of really sitting with myself and my internal monologue. They've helped me reconsider a few things and get myself back on track with others. I'll talk more about these books in detail in upcoming posts. For now, just know that it's amazing the peace you can find between covers of press board and paper.

>>> and if you're interested in what I've been reading so far this year, scroll down to the reading list on the sidebar on the  right of your screen. I'm up to 14 books so far :)  <<<

I found the first book after a visit to my doctor. Thanks to her willingness to listen and take the time necessary to develop a patient/doctor relationship, I've learned that I do not have the autoimmune diseases that I thought I had. The revelation freed me from so much physical pain and I've been walking in less discomfort than I have in many, many years. The truth of my issues is in mental disorders, not physical. And yes, I do know that many doctors take a look at someone who exhibits physical issues and tells them "It's all in your head." That's not the case. My doctor ordered tests, spent over 2 hours with me in deep conversation and shared with me her own struggles with mental disorders in order to help me come to the conclusion that would ultimately help me find my path to healing.

I have social anxiety and panic disorder. I'm also agoraphobic. Looking back, I've noticed that I've exhibited these symptoms since I was around 5 years old. It's amazing how things that used to baffle, that used to confound now make sense when put in the right context. I see the patterns that developed throughout my childhood and teenage years, the anger and frustration and fear and avoidance I went through in young adulthood to the crippling anxiety and fear of leaving my house that I have to fight every single week now just to get to work.

Mental illness used to come with a stigma. In some places it still does. I know plenty of people who would look at me and judge me as "other" now that I admit this, people who may even try and convince me that it's something that I'm not "supposed" to have and therefore can be overcome out of sheer willpower alone. That just isn't so. Knowledge is power and I've come so very far in the past three months in terms of healing and growing that I have in the past 20 years. Still, I have days when leaving my house is physically painful. Still I have days that if I don't leave work at a certain time I begin to panic and have terrible anxiety until I pull into my driveway and breathe an audible sigh of relief. I still have days when being out and about doing normal things such as grocery shopping or walking around the city cause me such anguish that I break down in tears in the car and start to hyperventilate until my husband can talk me back into some semblance of calm.

I share all this with you to be honest. I want you to know where I'm coming from, where I'm at, and what I've been battling with all these years. It all makes sense why I've been so drawn to slow living and pulled back to simple, old fashioned forms of living. These things soothe my ragged nerves. They don't cause any type of anxiety at all. I'm free to be myself, to move slowly, at a pace conducive to my thought processes and my emotional interpretation of life itself. It's hard. Modern life does not make much room for people like me. When I thought I was dealing with autoimmune diseases, I at least had the comfort of knowing that the research is there, moving at a slug's pace, but there. It speaks to the physical discomfort and the mental and emotional anguish I deal with on a daily or weekly basis. Knowing now that it's mental disorders and not physical is a bit harder. It's hard to admit you have a mental disorder, even to close friends and family. Many of them - if they read this at all - will be hearing my diagnosis for the first time.

That's why I started down the path of slow living. That's why I'm pursuing this handmade, slow life, longing to learn these "lessons in the art of slow". When I first came up with this concept, I was in desperate need of grounding though I thought, at the time it was just because I was trapped in a dead-end job with no outlet for creativity. The puzzle pieces are all in place now and I see that it wasn't the job at all but the anxiety and agoraphobia that I'd dealt with for YEARS finally coming to a head and calling me to a pace and place of healing.

So there's my story, in brief, as to why I'm here and why I'm following this little rabbit trail. Where it will go I don't know. I'm not even sure if it's going to head in the direction that I want it to. What I do know is that I'm excited to share the lessons I learn as I learn them and I hope that you'll share with me any and everything you learn along the way. I hope to pass along the slow living and creative life projects that I learn with you and encourage you to share with me what you learn and your interpretations of the projects I post here.

Please do help me cultivate this creative, slow community. And if you deal with mental illnesses, know that you are NOT alone, that you are loved and needed and that you have a special light all your own. I'm just here to give you a little place to shine.

 xoxo,

Friday, May 3, 2019

Fear & the Art of Radical Cleansing




There's a pillow on our couch I made from a hand towel. It's white, has a half wreath of ferns and wildflowers on it with the words WILD & FREE embroidered in bright blue in the middle of them. Sometimes I forget it's there, ignoring it until I lean against it in the evenings or rub my cat's belly when she's lying next to it, on her back, twisted in that way that only a cat could find comfortable. When I do notice it, I always smile and Tom Petty's "Wildflowers" begins playing in my head. I recall my childhood, running barefoot through white clover, Summer days spent outside, in the pool, in the playhouse underneath the canopy of pines. I was wild. I was free.

What happened?

Oh, a lot I suppose. I grew older. I went to work. I moved away. I got married. And while I know that we can't all run around in our backyards barefoot all day long, day in and day out, I have to ask myself: should it change that much just because I'm older?

Recently I was diagnosed with anxiety and agoraphobia. Retrospect shows me that I've been living with those since I was very little. Probably as young as five which makes sense when you think about it: five is the age most of us first leave home to go to kindergarten. That's when the exit from the nest begins. Apparently I wasn't ready for it and carried that anxiety and panic and phobia with me for 36 years before knowing exactly what was going on.

I tell you this so you understand what follows. Stress affects anxious people in more pronounced ways than those who aren't. Everyone deals with anxiety. It's a fact of modern life. But for those of us with anxiety disorders, we aren't able to move from fight/flight mode to "normal" swiftly and seamlessly. The truth of the matter is, we live in a permanent flight/flight/fear operating mode and things that seem innocuous to most are catalysts into panic attacks and the inability to leave the house for us anxious types. 

I had a little epiphany at work this morning. Since my diagnosis I've been looking for ways to detox from as much stress as possible. I take a different way to work that's less hectic. I am hyper-aware of my surroundings on the best of days, but when I know I'm feeling anxious, I hone in one things that could trigger a panic attack or an agoraphobic episode and I remove myself from the situation as swiftly and in as unobtrusive a way as possible (which can require some creative thinking let me tell you ...). At work today I realized just how many emails I have in my personal inbox THAT I DON'T READ. And by emails I mean "newsletters I subscribe to".

"Well, why don't you read them?" you ask. Fair question. I don't know. I just don't. I discover a site that I find fascinating and I sign up for the newsletter and then I sift them into their appropriate folders when they come through and then ... there they sit.

I've got emails that go back YEARS.

The truth is, I'm a magpie for knowledge. I hoard information. I love it! I love being able to say, "Oh, I read about that somewhere..." or "I've got an article on that right here" and I can pull it up, search though my emails, or flip through a magazine and, voila! 

I'm fast as Google, ya'll.

The point is, it's pointless. I mean, why keep all these sources for information if I'm not actually utilizing it? If all it does is sit in my email folders, is it really doing me any good? No. Is it doing me any harm? Well, no. And yes.

It sits there and I ignore it. It's out of my inbox so I don't see the number climbing up, up, up! BUT the notifications come through and I have to sift through them or I get panicky about having more than 20 emails in my inbox at a time. Then I start thinking about them and I tell myself, "I'm going to read those emails!" and I go to the file and - ACK! - there are just too many and I run away. That causes guilt and more anxiety and more panic and...

See what I mean?

So I made a decision today. I decided to face my fear of not knowing and unsubscribe from most of the newsletters that come my way. Not all. There are a few that, without the distractions of all the others, I will enjoy sitting down and reading, cup of tea in hand, on a rainy afternoon. That fear of Not Knowing stretches all the way back to my childhood. I HAVE to know all the answers. I mean, I am the Smart One after all.

Yes. That's what I've always heard and it stuck and I've assimilated it into my personal story and now I'm absolutely terrified to NOT know something.

More anxiety. More panic. More reason to stay home and not get involved.

For me, today, I made a radical decision for self care by unsubscribing to thirty newsletters that do nothing but create clutter and make me feel anything but wild and free. It doesn't create a cure but it does create space for me to think and re-evaluate and reconsider things I thought I was interested in, things I thought I needed to know or be informed of. 

And this radical cleansing helps me slow down, pay attention to what's actually coming into my virtual world and allows me to connect with those people and places that really speak to me and my inner child who so desperately needs to be wild and free.

Have you ever stepped away from something that you believed you just HAD to be involved in? How hard was it? How desperate were you to be seen in a certain light that you got involved in the first place? After you detoxed, how did you feel? Afraid? Panicked? Relieved? All of the above? Yes, me too <3 Share your story in the comments. I really do want to know.

xo

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Happy May Day

h e l l o !



As you probably know, I've been away from here for a while. Nothing's wrong. On the contrary; things are clearer than they ever have been.

s l o w l y  I'm getting back to my creative self. My True Creative Self.

This self will look different from what you're used to but don't worry. It's me! I promise <3

There's a lot going on inside right now. The creative juices are flowing and rattling up old bones and blowing the dust off of old dreams.

Stay with me, Dear Ones. We're going to dream deep together. Here and Elsewhere.

For now, here's a little thing I did for May Day / Beltane:



I hope your day has been filled with light and fresh air, flowers and gardens just waiting to be planted.

y o u r s,