Friday, December 31, 2010

thanks 2010

To love were my words for 2010. I knew it before, but felt it this year time and again: love is a really, really big word. I remember most little moments that passed my way, and recognizing I need to love them, just as they are.

Here are a few:
Laughing with mom and Jodi as we cleaned mom's kitchen cabinets in March. I'm all about weeding out what is no longer needed - Jodi and mom, not so much. The final task was moving all of mom's beautiful, treasured china and glass to a hutch dad made for her last year. It all glistens and sparkles from behind the glass doors.

Connecting with thoughtful, creative and amazing new friends I met through the Unravelling e-course in the spring. We live all over the world. Our lives are all very different. Yet we connected.

The Sisters at Clare's Well trusting that Tammy and I would know how to dig a ditch to bury a drainage pipe on the Sacred Path. I told Carol that I thought she had a lot of faith in us. She just smiled.

Spending a Saturday night in June home with the windows wide open. The nature center across the street was having an outdoor concert at the barn, which became a free indoor concert for me. It was perfect.

Picking dad up from the rehabilitation center he lived at for three weeks after his knee replacement in July. He met new friends there. It was strangely sad walking down the hallway with him as he said goodbye to all the nurses and physical therapists who helped him (pushed him) to recover. It was the best decision for him to go there right after the hospital. . . because he's completely let his PT work slide since.

A guest at Clare's Well telling me she felt my complete peace just before I left after my week's stay.

Invitations waiting for me when I returned from Clare's Well from two friends. For two different experiences/events. This was a true blessing.

Reading to baby Carlo and watching him point to buttons on his shirt, then to circles in the book.

Taking mom to the State Fair. She loves the fair - and it's been sad to see her miss it the past few years. She was brave tackling a day of the highest record attendance (ever!) on a motorized scooter. I'm so proud of her.

Jodi giving me $5 at Andrew's football game for concession snacks - 2 sodas, nachos and 2 popcorns - and me saying it wouldn't be enough. She grinned and said, "You're in Akron, Iowa, Jill - not the Twin Cities. You'll be fine." The total came to $4.

Laughing with Megan when we saw the olive green kitchenette in our hotel room in Portland.

Asking a current UMMer to take our picture at Homecoming.

Chatting with an off-duty pilot at Atlanta Hartsfield.

Hearing and reading happy birthday.

Watching Paul Frantzich perform at the Brothers holiday concert.

Falling asleep for the night on the living room couch at my parents on Christmas Eve.

Moving vases and dishes around in my kitchen, preparing to plant some new green plants after the Christmas decorations come down.

Gathering my favorite little books I made this year into a basket to sit next to my bed.

It was a year to love.

Friday, December 24, 2010

he see's you when you're sleeping

**This is a re-post from last year at Christmas time. One that I fondly remember writing. I was all set to keep up with the Reverb 10 prompts this month and just couldn't. They were all so juicy and introspective (which I love), but I just couldn't keep up. I have next week off from work and I plan to spend some time going through the list, selecting those that resonate with me, and doing some writing. A little gift to myself.

Enjoy the magic of this holiday, wherever you are and whomever you are with. Be it with one or with many, there is always joy to be celebrated. Take a moment to celebrate the season in your own way and notice how it allows you to connect to the whole.

Ah, Santa. The Santas around my home have captured my attention much more this year. For a while Santa's secularness and connection with the material part of Christmas sort of drove me nuts. So for the past few years I've been kind of down on the idea of Santa. This year I'm back to liking Santa more. I started thinking how hard my family worked to keep the magic of Santa alive for me when I was young, and what a true gift that is to me. My sister submitted my name somewhere so I would receive a letter from Santa, probably when I was two or three. My mom kept it, and added it to the Christmas decorations I put up in my room each year. It was big deal for me to pick out the cookies and the milk glass I'd leave for Santa on Christmas Eve. And Santa wrapped his gifts really well, and always in Santa paper.

The pictures are of a Santa decoration I've had since I was probably five or so. I believe it was a gift from a neighbor. Now I'm struck by the craftsmenship of it - it's so rare to see wooden toys and decorations now. It's always hung in my bedroom - at my parent's, on my closet door, and now at my place on my bedroom door. There's a little pull string on the bottom that moves Santa's legs and arms, which makes the little bells tinkle. I love it.

When I was in college I enjoyed watching my nephew, Andrew, live in awe of Santa. I would help him pick out cookies and pour milk and write his note to Santa. I'd stay up with my sister and help assemble toys and cardboard blocks and wrap Santa gifts. One year Santa came out to my sister's house and Andrew had a personal visit with him. He asked for a "comfortable quiet." My dad laughed so hard and couldn't believe how Andrew could know what we would all want for Christmas. If you knew Andrew at the time, this was completely fitting. He was perhaps the loudest, and somewhat obnoxious, little 3 year old. When Santa left, Andrew looked at us with big eyes and asked, "Santa drives a Ford Taurus?" (my brother-in-law worked for Ford at the time, so that's how Andrew knew about the Taurus). And after he drove away, I watched out the window as Andrew and my mom stood out in yard and walked all around the house, little Andrew pointing at the roof and mom explaining how Santa will find a way inside to deliver presents on Christmas night.

These memories simply delight me. Many of my Santa gifts are long gone, but the thoughtfulness and care my family took - and the enjoyment I've had "on the other side" of Santa - keep me believing in the magic people bring to this season.

Monday, December 6, 2010

on the sixth day. . .

Reverb 10: December 6 – Make. What was the last thing you made? What materials did you use? Is there something you want to make, but you need to clear some time for it? (Author: Gretchen Rubin)

This isn't the last thing I've made, but hanging art on this red wall is probably the most recent thing I've made that has brought me so much joy (sometimes I think maybe a bit too much joy because, after all, it is a non-living thing). It was a stated goal of mine to complete this task when I was 34 (which I did) and one that hung out on my mental list of to-do's since 2007 or 2008. I have commitment issues when it comes to pounding nails in walls. This little project, two in my living room and bedroom and soon another in my craft room are helping me get over my wall nailing fears. I'm loving the results. Makes my place feel more like home with each new addition.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

on the fifth day. . .

Reverb 10: December 5 – Let Go. What (or whom) did you let go of this year? Why? (Author: Alice Bradley)

This year I let go of worrying about things I do not have control over. The budget in my department and how it might impact my employment. The fact that my home has lost considerable value in eyes of lenders and the county. My dad making it OK through his knee surgery and rehabilitation. Weather patterns that could impact my family being together on holidays. I could go on with examples, but I'll stop.

I did and still do think about these situations, but I noticed this year that I didn't do a lot of future forecasting about them. I let the thought go through my mind when I needed it to, and let it leave when I had thought enough about it (which happened to be pretty fast, compared to other times in my life). "What is, is" has become my mantra with these situations that are out of my control. I can stew in worry and let that shut out thoughts about positive actions, or I can give them a moment of my time and then move on to new thoughts. I've practiced moving on to what I can take action with this year. It feels powerful.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

on the fourth day. . .

Reverb 10: December 4 – Wonder. How did you cultivate a sense of wonder in your life this year? (Author: Jeffrey Davis)
by taking time to notice who I am becoming
by treating myself to the unexpected
by taking time to be a little spontaneous and silly
by returning to the sacred
by sharing days with others
by seeing two
and believing in one.

Friday, December 3, 2010

on the third day. . .

Reverb 10: Moment. Pick one moment during which you felt most alive this year. Describe it in vivid detail (texture, smells, voices, noises, colors). (Author: Ali Edwards)

Near sunset on an early spring day in late March, I was walking on the floating dock in the nature center across the street from my home. This winding, plastic-slatted dock has long felt like a magical path to me. Tall grasses that enjoy water surround you on most of the walk, with an occasional clearing and larger observation platform where naturalists can gather with visitors to describe this habitat. You can view the red farm buildings to one side, hardwood forests to the other, and the pond all around.

This evening my gaze focused to the horizon line. The brown trees looking just a bit softer with the smallest of buds emerging. The tall grasses hinting toward green. The pond water as clear as I've ever seen. Reflecting the warm pale blue of the sky.

Warm pale blue sky. I only see the sky this color in early spring. I've noticed it for over ten springs now. The first in 1998, as a college senior who felt something beginning that evening, in a Jeep traveling back to campus on a rural highway in western Minnesota. I glanced out the window and the warm pale blue sky touched my heart. Birds flew above us, diving around in the farm fields. Greening grasses emerged. I looked at the sky, I looked at him and in my mind's eye, I saw scenes of my future. They were vivid, but fleeting. Playing out only for me to see.

The warm pale blue skies that followed each year since prompted twinges of sadness in my chest. I would turn away from them. Focus on the road. The building. My feet. I was happy to see them disappear into the vibrant bright blue sky of summer. The purple of autumn. The muted grey of winter.

Until this evening. I relaxed my body and looked through the grasses. And just gazed at that warm pale blue sky. A warmth was bubbling over in my chest. And in my complete stillness, I felt it moving through my body. To my head. My fingers. And my feet. Leaving me and moving into the earth and air around me. I allowed myself to rest in this moment and smile. This time my love was enough. It more than filled me. It spilled all around me. Gratefulness arose in my mind. For that moment twelve years ago, when I saw that warm pale blue and felt something beginning. Now, in this moment, I’m not concerned with the love that never filled that messy space between him and me. With not knowing if I will ever feel that exciting beginning of something again. It’s delicious to see that sky and feel only exciting, joyous love. Now seeing the warm pale blue spring sky is enough. I am enough.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

on the second day. . .

Reverb 10: prompt two/writingWriting. What do you do each day that doesn’t contribute to your writing — and can you eliminate it? (Author: Leo Babauta of Zen Habits)

This is an easy one for me to answer. I don't write everyday. Well, that's not exactly true. I write for work M-F. Emails, proposals and thank you notes, mostly. I feel fortunate because my work vocabulary is full of beautiful words: generous, thank you, gift, talent and motivated come to mind quickly.

I know I don't write everyday for myself because I struggle with finding just the right words. If they aren't coming, I stop writing. Part of that perfection and efficiency thing I deal with. I've taken a lot of writing classes over the past few years and I'm still not completely sold on the idea that writers write through the blah ideas, the lacking words, the stuck-ness. The rational part of my mind knows this has to be the case for people who make their living writing about what they are interested in. It has to be true. I know the writers I admire are human. They struggle. They don't feel in the grove. But those that continue to produce have some sort of discipline that I just don't possess right now.

For my habits to change, I have to change my attitude about why I write for me. That me as the sole audience for my words is good enough. That writing even when I'm feeling content and life is clicking is valuable to my growth. That I have something to say that I want to read, and quite possibly, that someone else would want to read as well.

And from Tammy. . . I selected the following intention from what she sent me. Happens to be a quote I've held close to my heart for over two years. It's actually my screen saver on my home computer. I haven't recited it to myself in quite a while. Just two days ago I remembered that and said it while walking around campus. Here it is:

Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray - Rumi.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

on the first day of advent. . .

An idea came to me a few weeks ago. I didn't dismiss it as frivolous or foolish or something no one else would be interested it. I made space for it to blossom, and then took action.  And, amazing enough (or maybe not really), someone else had a similar idea that's all over the blogs I read. I'll share both. Here's my story first.

The time between Thanksgiving and New Year's has become a bit challenging for me in recent years. Honestly, it's become sort of a lonely time. Growing up I loved this time of year - all the fun, school celebrations, days off, decorating, dressing up, Santa, unknown presents - but as my parents have become older, my nephew now a teenager and most of my friends busy with their spouses/kids, I've felt left out of "what the group is doing to celebrate the holidays."

I've decided I need to step up to the plate and start some of my own traditions. Two years ago I started playing along with Ali Edwards and other scrapbookers and made a holiday daily album. I've started my album this year and it continues to be a delightful experience. There are a few others, but this one is a highlight.

As I mentioned, a few weeks ago I was fondly remembering the excitement of opening a window on the same Advent calendar my mom would hang up each year. I'm sure by the end of her posting it I had each day memorized, but I still loved the experience. And I realized I missed this past ritual in my adult life. So, I asked my two good friends, Tammy and Laura, if they would be willing to each come up with 25 intentions/small activities to trade - so we each end up with 25 that aren't our own. They happily agreed to play along. We each had our 25 prompts as of yesterday, and today the magic of sharing begins.

I took the sharing one step further and asked a flickr group I belong to if they would mind me posting the daily intentions/activities I select on our discussion board. I received all enthusiastic yeses!

I selected one of Laura's prompts about asking for something you want. I'm working on setting this one into action yet this evening. More to come on this. . .

And here's the other project happening right now: reverb10. I highly recommend taking 2 minutes to sign up to receive emails for this month-long daily prompting extravaganza. Amazing energy is out there, friends. It's time to tune into it.

Here's the December 1 reverb10 prompt:
One Word.

Encapsulate the year 2010 in one word. Explain why you’re choosing that word. Now, imagine it’s one year from today, what would you like the word to be that captures 2011 for you? (Author: Gwen Bell)

I selected a word for 2010 that I've given much consideration to this year. It has fit. It has made sense. It's been guiding me. But the word that comes to mind for this prompt is different: it's connect. I feel like this web of connected dotted and full lines has emerged in my life this year, from behind a cloud of doubt and fear and not tuning into what is real. It takes my breath away at times. It's my top gratitude for this past year. I'm not certain about my word for 2011 - there are a few I've been considering (as this is now part of the New Year's ritual tradition I have with Laura and Tammy). It will become more clear as to what it will be this month - it always does.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

getting ready & celebrating

Preparing to take part in Ali's December Daily album making over the holiday season. This is the third year I've played along with this fantastic idea. I love feeling a part of a big, big community while completing this during the holiday season each year. I'll share more about my thoughts about the time between Thanksgiving and New Year's as the season progresses. Right now, I'm getting ready. A few more photos of my book in progress are here. More will be added along the way.

Today at work I was thinking about this project while eating lunch and decided to write out 10 intentions about it to keep on my craft table at home. My hope is these will guide me and keep my focused as I complete 30 days of documenting from November 25-December 25. I make a holiday daily instead of a December daily. For a few reasons. One, my birthday is November 25. Two, as a result I love the number 25. Three, Thanksgiving usually falls in this span of time and Thanksgiving is my most favorite holiday of the year, hands down.
On to other crafting projects. Elise posted a tutorial on a A Beautiful Mess a few weeks ago for making fabric wreaths. I loved her example so much that I dug through my fabric box (I don't sew fabric - I don't know why I even have a fabric box, other than I love patterns and I always think I'll sew fabric someday, so I collect fabric from time to time). I used only what I had on hand to make this wreath. Here's a photo in better light. This is the first time I've hung something in this cut-out spot between my kitchen and living room. I sorta like it. I think another winter wreath is in order - this one is for autumn.

And here is my current favorite minibook (favorite changes each time I make a new one). I mostly completed this while traveling in Savannah - just added a few finishing touches when I returned home. I had prepped about 95% of the base before leaving, packed a few tools with me, and basically added in journaling and some found paper each night while cooling off in my super fabulous hotel. Ali and Elise have shared great ideas over the years for books like these. I used some of their wisdom when I put this one together - like use a mostly neutral color scheme for your base pages, and rely on repitition of designs and patterns to create a cohesive look. Given their graphic design acumen, it's not surprising this is great advice. I love how this one turned out. All the pages here in a flickr set.

One more thing: how awesome is Jennifer Grey on Dancing With The Stars? I'll admit that I'm only watching DWTS because Jennifer is Baby Houseman in my most favorite movie of all time, but man, she can still move. I love seeing a woman who is over 50 bust back out into the scene even brighter and more confident than when she was 27 (not to mention that she'd been pretty much shunned by Hollywood after altering her signature nose). Way to go Jennifer!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

montreal and quebec city, part 2

I've unpacked my bags of sandals and short-sleeve shirts from my recent trip to Savannah, GA. I enjoyed six days of southern hospitality, food and accents. I wanted to go to Savannah for about nine years or so, and the experience lived up to my dreams. I've traveled quite a few places in the past decade and Savannah has always been "next" on the list as I planned a trip someplace else. Opportunities and new curiosities led me elsewhere. Now it was Savannah's turn.

I booked this trip in March and since then I had been thinking quite a bit about this trip I started to write about earlier this year. I wouldn't be honest if I said I wasn't apprehensive about traveling alone to Montreal and Quebec City for ten days. I was a bit scared. What I learned about myself and the art of traveling during that adventure prepared me to be so much more present and appreciative of all the new-to-me experiences of living life in a different place - even if just for a few days. Looking back that trip was gift.

Over the summer I found the journal I kept while on this trip. Those words I wrote are precious to me. Great moments captured that I long forgot. And time spent reflecting on my life and feelings as I was traveling solo. As I read those pages I laughed. Cried a few tears. And remembered a true adventure.

As I'm still enjoying my Savannah memories, here are some bits of the rest of the Montreal/Quebec City story. If you haven't read the post embedded in the link above - or you've forgotten what I said (after all, I did start the story in JANUARY), you might want to read that first.


The morning sun poured through the long, rectangular window across from my cot-like bed. The chair was still propped securely under the door knob. Morning brought great optimism to my mind. And through the brightness in the room I saw a small cube refrigerator under one of the desks. Hmm, that's a nice extra.

The bathroom wasn't scary. The hallways weren't scary. There weren't many people around, it seemed. I picked up morning breakfast at a cafe down at the end of my block that became my dining home base. I even ordered in Franglaise, which prompted the cashier to ask where I was from. "The US - Minnesota," I chirped. She immediately started speaking rapidly in English - ending with a "No need to try French here in Quebec Provence- we all know English." I tried my French a few more places, and was met with the same enthusiasm to put me at ease with encouragement to just speak English. I think one merchant tipped my off that this was due to Canada being so happy when Americans vacation in their country of late - our exchange rate "sale" was of great delight to Canadians. I'd likely spend more, and merchants wanted me to feel comfortable to do so. Money = the global common language. Sigh.

With breakfast consumed, I started my walk. My res hall hotel wasn't too near a metro stop, so I mostly walked everywhere on this trip. Quebec City is much smaller, so public transportation wasn't really an option either. I believe my first full day in Montreal was a Sunday. Not knowing that I needed to manage my expectations of what Sunday meant in Montreal, it was a downer day for me. Not too much hustle and bustle out on the streets. I ventured into a small artist market by the river front, but really, that's about all that was open. I wandered the Old Montreal for hours, looking in windows and basically feeling like this was a wasted day. I sat on a bench in the sun by the river for a few hours, reading. Bench-sharers would come and go. The last was a woman who a spoke a bit of French with, then English. It was pleasant, until she started encouraging me to come visit her church and kept handing me slips of paper with Bible verses on them. I politely shared that I belonged to a church at me home, and that I really wasn't interested in attending services elsewhere during my trip. She wouldn't stop. I finally had to get up and leave.

It was late afternoon by now and I wandered into a pub about a block away. I ordered a sandwich and while waiting for it, started reading a local arts and culture paper. As I scanned what was happening over the next week, I noticed a pain in my stomach. At first it was just a twinge - probably hunger I thought. I ate my food and the feeling turned into pain. And my mind started racing: I'm sick in a foreign city. What if it's my appendix? What will I do? Will my health insurance work here? What if I need surgery? I'm here all alone. How will I take care of myself, all alone here? WHY did I come here alone? Then I started to cry. I sat crying, eating my meal for about 20 minutes. It seemed like forever - like so much time had passed - and actually I wished a lot of time had passed because I still had about five hours of the day left, and then nine more days to go.

I wish I could remember what snapped in my thoughts, but by the time I had walked back to the residence hall, I was feeling more optimistic. I walked around the hall a bit and found the TV lounge. I remember watching 60 Minutes with some other people. I also found the computer lab and hopped on the internet for a while - reading news, the weather forecast for the next day. My stomach still hurt, but the pain wasn't getting worse. I decided to give it until morning and if I needed, I'd find a doctor.

I ventured up to my room and turned on all the lights. I pulled out a book I brought to read - and it turned out to be just what I needed for the trip. It was a travel advice book written by Erma Bombeck. And it was so light and funny. I still remember bits of it - specifically what she said about traveling with organized group tours. After having been on a tour vacation now, there was a lot of truth in what she said. And I remember at the time I though - I'm so not interested in traveling with an organized tour - how restrictive! HA - how my interests changed in seven years!

Right before bed I made a chart for the remaining days and poured over my travel book. I listed what I wanted to see, and grouped close activities together. Then I put them on my chart. The next five or so days were pretty much planned out. I rarely went with the flow with anything I did at that point in my life, and making this chart gave me so much confidence and hope for this trip. I went to bed feeling optimistic. And I left the desk chair at the desk tonight.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

been a while

Whew! It's been a busy, busy autumn for me. Lots of great fun and adventures. Started right after Labor Day with a trip to Iowa to watch my nephew, Andrew, play football. He's a senior this year - #68 above. The Westerners won! We had a fabulous weekend of family time. I drove my parents, and we enjoyed a weekend full of sun, warm weather and good food.

Trip to a local apple orchard the following weekend. Sorta a crazy place. Super busy. Think I'll find a smaller orchard next year. Drove a bit further east to Stillwater and walked around the historic downtown with many others who couldn't resist the 80 degree September day. New paper store = I was in heaven!

I went to Portland for a long weekend with my friend Megan at the end of September. We attended the Don Miller Storyline conference in the Pearl District. I'm grateful Megan asked if I was interested in going. . . I read Don's Million Miles in a Thousand Years this past spring, and Don's ideas and stories have left a wonderful impression on me. He's incredibly insighful and thoughtful, and opportunity to hear from him in person was a blessing. Megan and I had a great time together (even with cruddy colds) and Portland didn't disappoint. Just look. . .

Sidewalks are lined with gorgeous trees. Everyone is out walking and smiling and enjoying outdoor spaces. The Pearl District was designed as a space to live, work and relax. Portlanders are friendly and laid-back. We were able to travel to and from our hotel to the airport on the light-rail for $5 round-trip. It's obvious Minneapolis and St. Paul's light-rail systems were designed after the system in Portland. And someday ours will go more places, too. Can't wait!

Portland Saturday (and Sunday) Market by the riverfront. Lots of art, clothing and food vendors.

This graffiti art caught my eye. I said that to Megan as I stopped to snap this photo, and a woman walking behind us stopped to ask my name and where I lived. I told her I'm a visitor, and she was pleased to hear I enjoyed seeing this on a building. She seemed to be a neighborhood organizer and I wasn't sure what she planned on doing with my comment, but she was amused I was taking a picture and calling this art.

Last weekend was Homecoming at my college alma mater, University of Minnesota, Morris. Had a blast attending festivities with these friends. The woman next to me in glasses, Amy, were in the same first college class, Writing I at 8am M-F fall quarter our first year. She met her husband, Shawn, at UMM and Shawn, Jen (standing behind me) and I were RAs together my junior year. Jen was our boss in the on-campus apartments. Oh boy, did we talk about the old days. All our crazy escapades. We were disappointed that Morris' best greasy spoon, Don's, no longer served fresh cut french fries and handmade beef patties for burgers. Really disappointed. And the coffee shop isn't open on Sunday mornings. Strange. But all in all, it was a great trip down memory lane for us. And the Cougars only lost by one touch-down. Improvement!

Campus is GORGEOUS, including this new Welcome Center, home to Admissions and my colleagues in UMM Development and Alumni Relations.

This has been the most beautiful autumn in Minnesota I can remember in terms of weather. Tons of blue sky sunny days and warmer than usual days. I was on my way back to the office from having lunch with Tammy on Thursday last week. Crossing the Washington Ave Bridge, I noticed this mirror. Gotta be alert all the time for photo ops!

Mom and I went to a prized local garden center on Saturday for pumpkins and mums and general fall atmosphere. A gentleman from New London, MN (western part of the state) talked to us for a while, saying he and his wife make it a point to visit this garden center a few times a year because it's so great. He was in disbelief when he moved back to MN from CA, thinking there wouldn't be places like this here. We left with pumpkins and mums, apples and apple donuts. Yum!

Next was breakfast at Black Sheep Coffee. What a treat! Quiche, muffins and the best coffee around. And a bluegrass band playing in the background. Perfection!

And so this is what I've been up to. Pretty much gone from home every-other weekend this fall. Next weekend I leave for six days in Savannah, GA. I've dreamed of going to Savannah for over five years. Can't wait for some Southern charm, history and food!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

lining up & scatteredness

I sorta love how life is lining up right now. Yes, there are scattered parts accented with big question marks, parts that seem not to fit together. I'm choosing to pay attention to the parts that are lining up. Those lining up parts that take my breath away if I think about them for more than a minute. The parts that came from hard work and the parts that came from work I didn't know I was doing. I'm grateful for lining up. I'm grateful for the line I don't see yet.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

documented: august adventure

I finished up another of my minibooks documenting three of my summer adventures. This one is from my annual time at Clare's Well in August. The colors are quite subdued and felt relaxing to me, which is what my time at this amazing place is all about. The pages are also rather sparse - another part of Clare's Well living. It's a simple existence for a week. Just what one needs to feel comfortable, without the distractions that more sometimes creates. Complete book may be viewed here.

I put together many of the pages before leaving. What I did on the trip: Took the Instax photos and backed them with paper. Machine stitched the flowers to the paper and added the circle accent centers. I handwrote and typed my journaling strips add added them to the pages. Each sentence begins with "I. . . followed by action verbs of things I did during the week - like touch, eat, see, hear, etc. I ordered the pages I made there with those I pre-made and the album was complete. Supplies noted at the end of this post.

Simple, repeated design for a simple, yet intricately gorgeous vacation.

Here's what I've noticed: I love this album more and more as the days pass. I was sort of fretting about it on my last day of this trip (as much as one can fret about anything while being at Clare's Well). The issue was it didn't turn out how I thought it would (there's that expectation thing again). But I packed it away in my bag and set it on my desk when I returned home. I opened it up last weekend for the first time and remembered that I wanted to sew two little heart buttons to fabric pocket pages. Sewing those hearts was just what I needed to see how beautiful and in-the-moment the long creation of this album turned out to be. I could remember the evening in June when I sewed the cover, windows wide open and listening to a concert next door at the nature center. And the mornings I got up extra early to glue down the TOAST images, literally feeling how much they remind me of Clare's Well. Some of the text I wrote was already forgotten - and reading it again centered me into noticing and giving thanks for my everyday movements through life.

Now I am willing to let it be what it is: memories and expressions of my love of creating and of a magical place.

The photo only pages are from the summer TOAST catalogs. The images reminded me of Clare's Well, so they were natural additions. The Instax photos were taken this year. The paper backing them is from Sassafras. The beginning and ending rounded-corner photos were from years past. Buttons are a mix of vintage + new. Transparency pages are from Hambly. The scalloped pages are Paper Source flat A4 die-cut cards, which I don't think they are making anymore. Fabric flowers from K&Co are machine stitched to the cards. Flower accents include Jenni Bowlin chipboard buttons and American Crafts Flair badges. Vintage bird card. Martha Stewart fabric butterflies. 7 gypsies mini labels. Album is Maya Road. I painted the inside chipboard covers and machine stitched Amy Butler fabric to the fabric cover wrap. Stapled Heidi Swapp clear butterflies to the front fabric cover.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

first day of school

Even when I wasn't working on a college campus I'd get excited about the first day of school coming around again. I still try to wear a new outfit on the first day. Here's top half of what I pulled together this morning. With a skirt on the bottom. I'm starting my less pants. more skirts + dresses goal for fall right away.

Wait, did I say goal? Ha! Yes I did. This is one goal that I want and makes me happy. I think those kinds of goals are just right.

Friday, September 3, 2010

100% content

This post is philosophical and heavy on personal reflection. Some days, it just comes to me. I gotta go with it.

Here's something I thought about a lot and talked with my friend Tammy quite a bit - the idea of finding balance between constant goal setting and goal pursuing and trusting in the ebb and flow of my life. This has been a tough one for me. Somehow in the process of becoming an adult I developed an odd relationship with goals. What are good goals for me to have? How do I work toward them? What do I do if I'm not achieving them? And what about "just going with the flow?" Isn't that kinda the opposite of all this goal business? And don't we hear that going with the flow is healthier and will allow us more happiness? Shouldn't I just be going with the flow? How do I do that? That seems even more complicated than goals, and I clearly don't have a grasp on those! Why can't I figure this out? Why is finding where I need to be on this spectrum so hard for me?

The connector in me seeks to figure out why and how I don't get all of this. I have a few ideas. One, I'm fairly confident that "striving" strengths are not in my top tier of strengths (I'm using the Marcus Buckingham StrengthsFinder system to define striving). My top five strengths are spread around the other three strength quadrants, but none are in this area. I just don't think I'm much of a striver, and in my mind, meeting goals seems striver-like. Like I said earlier, I really relied on my love of learning in a formal environment to determine goals for me. But when I completed my MA in 2002 at 27, I was really at a loss. No more constant goals set up for me by subject matter experts. I had even met my Weight Watchers "goal" weight at that point. I didn't even have a goal with them anymore. Now I had "maintenance." And when I wasn't falling into line with other goals much of society says I should be attaining at that point in my life - getting married, advancing steadily in my career, having kids - I started retreating more and more into anti-goal living. Letting life just move me along. Society's goals didn't seem to mesh with my day-to-day reality, so I gave up on goals, period. I was like a leaf in a stream of water, powerless really, to whatever the water did to me or to whatever I bumped up against.

Then 2008 rolled around and I experienced what I call a crisis of conflicted thoughts. It lasted for a few months. It was a dark, dark time for me. I had developed pretty good attending skills from past work with a therapist so I decided just to allow myself to feel bad about all the negative thoughts I had about myself. I felt my way through it to the end. And then one day it ended. It was like God said, "Jill, you've thought enough bad things about yourself for a long time now, why don't you try feeling some goodness about your life for a while?" I didn't hear a God voice or anything, but my life started to change. Literally, one day over Memorial Day weekend in 2008 I was thinking horribly negative things about myself and the next day I thought, this is ridiculous, I'm not doing this anymore. That was the day I started learning how to really trust my feelings. And ever since I've been learning how to trust my life. During this time I haven't given much thought to goals. But I have given much attention to feeling content in my life.

So here I am, September 2010. September is always synonymous with the start of school for me. The start of all the goal setting and goal achieving, but most importantly, learning. Learning something even if you don't meet "the goal." I think I've figured out my relationship with goals. I like them for this: "it's my goal to finish these five things before lunch today." That's sorta the amount of power I give goals right now in my life. But I really love trusting my feelings about how my life is unfolding. And I know these realities are always with me: Faith in my abilities and gifts. I'm not alone. I'm loved by myself and others. I have hope.

If you made it this far with me, thank you. You've probably figured out this has been one of those "hot button issues" for me for a long time. I'd love to hear your ideas about goals and trusting life as it unfolds.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


less.more. intentions for September
inspired by Caiti's post

less coffee. more tea.
less thinking. more acting.
less filling up. more clearing out.
less inside. more outside.
less worrying. more praying.
less assuming. more asking for what I need.
less staying up. more sleeping.
less pants. more skirts and dresses.
less it's always been that way. more it can be a new way.
less frown. more smile.

Feel free to pass this on. Is there anything you need less of and more of this month? Leave your ideas in a comment and I'll be happy to keep you mind :)

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

day thirty one

Another month of daily blogging! It's smooth sailing once I get into it. It's just getting into a rhythm that can be daunting for me. This month of focusing on posting daily images sparked a few writing ideas. So, watch for those in September.

These photos are all from my six days at Clare's Well earlier this month. Hands down, the highlight of the month for me.