Friday, September 23, 2016

The Art of Mess

My camera likes to find the glowy bits, the sacred more than the dirt.

I got to talking with my sisters-in-law recently about the pressure of keeping up with
Western "mom-culture," as seen through the filters of Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, and their ilk.
As an artist, I promote myself. I show my best side.
As media-savvy socialites, we most of us show our best sides.

We share our successes, because... who wants to share the flops?

But regular scans of others' tidy homes, clean kids, and glorious creations
can feed into a suffocating sense of failure, especially among mamas.

{It's so clean out there! So tidy! So productive! So creative! So delicious!
So overwhelming! }
With such a tide of seeming success out there, how can one stay afloat? 
In truth, my house is so messy from life and work that I don't want to open my doors.

And yet!
I think the secret to staying afloat is being honest.
Maybe the rest of everyone is as clean and productive and delicious as they seem, but I am not.
And I have a hunch that there are a few lovely souls out there like me, too.
So here is me, letting you in past the front door.
I am cobwebbed and sloppy.
I don't like to sweep or clean the windows.
I don't remember to dust.

I like to read. I love to make art. I want to write.

I love to snuggle with my family. I like to watch sunsets.
When all those things are accomplished for the day, I breathe.
Sometimes I clean up.
And the thing about the mess is
that we live here.

We, with all our strings and nests.

We, with our hive of buzzing. our endless scraps of paper
our mountains of books.

We, with our jars of pencils. Our oddball sorts of tape and fabric and library card and rubber band and broken watch.

We, with our shuffle-off-your-shoes and slough off the backpacks, hunker down with a good book, snuggle in for a daydream or a few minutes of escape and forget the chores.

What does our mess represent?

That dinner happens here.
Not elegant. Often blacky on the edges.
But family and chatter and real plates and silverware.

That health happens here.
Not spit-spot. Often grimy. with mildew creeping on the fringes.
But fresh, running water and soap. Running shoes. Soccer gear. Bikes. Laundry.

Music happens here. More practice than polished. But honest and earnest.

Art blooms here.
With scribbles and smudges. With paper crowding all the corners.
With story starts and muddy middles.

This is us.
This is our mess.
A haven. A canvas. A library.
for dreamers, athletes, artists, readers.

Life is a beautiful mess.
Here's to enjoying the sacred and the dirt, my friends.

What does your mess represent?

Our latest reads:

Also an Octopus by Maggie Tokuda-Hall, ill. by Benji Davies
Leaves by David Ezra Stein
Fletcher and the Falling Leaves by Julia Rawlinson, ill. by Tiphanie Beeke
Book Scavenger - by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman

Chalk Lessons

How do you feel about failure?
This summer, we made chalk paint with cornstarch, food coloring, and water. 
Summery delight!
See our driveway canvas?
 Little did we know that a thunderstorm brewed two hours away.
All our chalky wonders washed away overnight.

It's that resonance of art and failure that makes us strong, right?

Do you ever wonder if we can learn as much from our flops
- our sloppy first drafts, our rejections, our imperfections -
as from our neat and tidy successes? 

I have this thing. This fear of ruining a brand new notebook or sketchbook. 
I figure if I'm constantly working at something, then naturally, I'll keep improving. 
And when I look at my old notebooks stuffed with terrible first drafts and awkward brainstorms, 
I get panicky. What if this first page represents who I am through that entire notebook or sketchbook? Can't it at least start out perfect?
Talk about writer's block, eh?
So, I solved it. 

It's my secret to hurdling the fear of failure. (in a notebook.)

I just skip the first page. 

Then I'm set. I have a one-page cushion keeping me from a first-page flop. 
(Really, it means that the second page becomes the first page, but shhh.)

But really, don't we gain something in being brave with each feeble offering of ourselves?
In truth, even if I jump right into the first page of a notebook and ink it up with a scratchy failure, 
actually my "failure" teaches me something, and that becomes growth.
And if that's true, then maybe "failure" isn't so much of a failure. 
Maybe the effort of trying something stretches and grows our skills. 
And actually, that is beauty right there: being brave.
So, go out and be brave, my friends!
Ruin some second pages.
Scribble your heart out.
Make sloppy chalk paint that gets rained on overnight.
Get all muddy and splash around in those glorious flops.

Our Sidewalk Chalk Paint recipe:

Mix equal parts cornstarch + water.
Add a few drops of food coloring. Voila!


 Chalky books!

Journey by Aaron Becker
Quest by Aaron Becker
Chalk by Bill Thomson
Art & Max by David Wiesner
The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds
Harold's Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

First Day!

Because we like to shoot at least an entire roll of virtual film
on the first day.

No jitters here!
Birdy just wants to meet the classroom bunny!

 The fella dealt with his jitters by making faces. 

Here's to the firsts in life, my friends - 

First grade!
First time in middle school!
First page in a new book!
First scribble in a sketchbook!
First line of a new story!

Here's to all the beauties to discover ahead - 
all the joys, 
and even more exciting,
all the mistakes around the bend - 
the rough starts, 
the scribble outs,
the failures
and bad days.

May they grow us kinder, brighter, wiser, 
full of grace,
and brave in hope. 
Here's to the beginnings in life, my friends!
Here's to joy in all of our seasons,
in all of our chapters.
Here's to each day we get a clean page
and fresh pencils
to make our mark.

Here's to erasers, and forgiveness when we make big, scribbly messes. 
Here's to friendship and kindness
and all the beautiful things we pick up along the way. 


Wherever You Go - Pat Zeitlow Miller, illustrated by Eliza Wheeler
Atlas of Adventures -  illustrated by Lucy Letherland
Zoo ology - Joelle Jolivet
The Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White, illustrated by Frank Marcellino
Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliet
Ramona the Brave - by Beverly Cleary


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