Finding Our New Normal

posted in: Notes | 0

There’s something about life.  It is ever changing.  Just when you think you’ve got things under control, and are finally getting into a routine…

…things change.

The only certainty is change, right?  No matter how much we try to plan our days, to create a routine and maintain order… the inevitable happens.  Someone gets sick, sleeping schedules change, someone has a rough day.

Life is anything but routine.

Yet we try to create patterns, make routines, practice habits that will make life easier.

And sometimes those things work.

Since my younger son was born, we have been working on creating a new normal.  Helping my older son to deal with his emotions on those days when he “needs mommy time” …but baby’s basic needs have to be met.

I assisted at Toby’s preschool the other day.  While comforting a boy who didn’t want his  mom to leave, I noticed my son’s demeanor change from cheerful to concerned, and perhaps jealous.  I averted disaster by asking him to help find a toy to cheer the sad boy up.  But several other times that morning, I saw an angry frown on my normally happy son’s face.

Later I asked him about it.

He didn’t want to share his mommy.  He needed me.  He didn’t want others to need me.

And I get that.  In a world where you’ve gone from being only child to older brother, it’s important to know you can still have mom’s attention, that you still are deserving of mommy hugs.

Since my younger son was awake and needing mommy when we got home, the older had to settle for shared mommy time.  The three of us settled into our comfy reclining chair, and I read book after book to my boys.  Ultimately the three of us all fell asleep together.

The new normal isn’t bad, by any means.  Most days, Toby loves being a big brother.  He is a phenomenal helper, bringing diapers, wipes, pacifier for Zack, and snacks, drinks, or even a blanket to me when I need.  He has a giving spirit, he excels at helping others.

Our new normal isn’t perfect, but we are getting into a routine.  A routine that will be ever-changing as both boys continue to grow and develop.

Click on any image below to enter gallery view mode

My First Car (Grandma’s Car) – Snapshot Story

posted in: Notes | 2

Snapshots tell so many stories, they take us back to a particular time and place. This snapshot is of me, my brother, and his friend as we were about to leave for school one day. In my car — my first car, my grandma’s car.

My First Car - Grandma's Car -

My First Car

My first car was nothing spectacular, but it was special to me. My grandmother had gotten it years before. I remembered riding in it when younger, and now I was driving it. A Chrysler LeBaron, it was the epitome of luxury, with velvety blue seats and upholstery inside of its white exterior. It was small, but a perfect fit. I drove that car for several years, until it was time to take a car to college and my parents decided it wasn’t “young” enough to handle the long distance driving. A fine car for around town — but not for across state.

My grandfather “sold” me the car for $1 after my grandmother had passed away. He had no use for it, and wanted it to stay in the family to be used. And that it was. Used and cared for. I was and still am grateful for that gift-that-was-not-technically-a-gift.

Grandma’s Car

A bittersweet acquisition,
my grandma’s car
came to me through loss.
It was luxurious and fine,
my own chariot of the road.

My grandma’s car, now mine,
gave me freedom and responsibility.
Freedom to manage my own schedule
but with the expectation to
get my younger brother
safely to and from school.

We drove through town most days,
the highway being an unpredictable
route to get to school on time.
Rush hour traffic dominated
the roads during our daily drives.

In the early morning light one day,
my mother documented our departure.
We were ready to leave, and
reluctantly waited while she
took a snapshot of us — and my car.

Years later, the car is gone.
No longer in my possession,
I have only photographs to
remember my first car.
I no longer begrudge the delay
of a single snapshot.

Rather, I treasure this moment,
A captured memory from everyday.
The ordinary no longer,
but a piece of history.
My life history.
My grandma’s car
…now mine.

What was your first car like?

I’d love to hear memories of your first car, whether you had to save money to buy it yourself, or if a gracious family member passed an older car on to you.

What was it like? Did it drive well? Do you have a snapshot of you with your first car?

I’d love to hear your stories.

Independence Day – Fireworks

posted in: Fine Art | 2

Happy Fourth of July! To celebrate Independence Day, I’m sharing a photo from my archives — it’s of an Independence Day fireworks display that was done in conjunction with an orchestral concert (post-ballgame). Sadly, I don’t remember the details, but I do remember that the fireworks were lovely, and the music was too.

It’s always interesting to pull out old photographs like this and look at them. I find myself smiling at how digital art techniques have improved over the years, how something that was new and cutting edge 15 years ago is now quite dated and elementary. Regardless, here’s a throwback from years ago:

Independence Day - Cotton Candy + Fireworks -

And then, I figured a poem was in order to celebrate Independence Day… so here you are!

Independence Day

A day steeped in history,
the celebration of our nation
and our freedom to pursue
life as we deem fit.

A day whose meaning is
overshadowed by fireworks,
forgotten except as a vacation.

Do we remember our roots?
Is our past forgotten?
Our independence came at a price.
Let us never forget that fact.

Patriotic Crafts + Such

If you’re looking for some patriotic crafts to do with your children to celebrate today, check out this Patriotic Artwork Activity for Kids, or Patriotic Painting (Outdoor Fun).

You may also like this post on dealing with sensitive kids and fireworks — one of my tips is featured there.

Just Like Daddy – A Father’s Day Poem

posted in: Parenting | 7
A Truly Rich Man Quote - Father's Day -
“A truly rich man is one whose children run into his arms when his hands are empty.”
Father’s Day is finally here! We’ve been preparing a few surprises for Daddy over the past month, which I know he will enjoy. Take a peek at the handprint Father’s Day gift we made (also adapted for both grandpas).

Further on, you’ll find a poem I wrote in honor of all fathers, but based on one in particular. 🙂

As the parent who gets to stay at home all day, I try to cultivate a welcoming atmosphere for my husband when he gets back from a long day at work, which includes having our son welcome Daddy upon his arrival. When we hear the garage door opening, Toby will typically race to the laundry room to greet his Daddy… then there is an ensuing race to “steal Daddy’s spot” on the couch. I love being a spectator in this ritual.

Which brings me to this anonymous quote I found the other day. I had to pair it with a father-daughter portrait from last summer, it seemed too perfect.

How true are those words. While we, as parents, focus on what we can provide for our kids, we often forget about how children enrich our lives and bless us.

Here’s a poem I wrote in honor of Father’s Day, for my husband, based on the little things about him that light up my son’s life. I’m so grateful to have married this man, and I know our son just adores his daddy.

Just Like Daddy

Daddy is a giant
in his son’s eyes.
A champion to imitate,
a man to admire.

“I’m your little man”
exclaims an adoring son
who wants nothing more
than to grow up
to be just like dad.

Daddy is his hero,
his protector,
his lifelong friend.

Daddy is the best,
the greatest,
always stronger,
always bigger.

Following in
Daddy’s footsteps
becomes a goal,
a lifelong pursuit.

The highest compliment
a son can give
is to tell his father
“I want to be like you.”

Still Need Gift Ideas for Father’s Day?

Here is my pinterest board with gift ideas!

Follow Betsy @’s board Gift Ideas on Pinterest.

3 Poems Celebrating Motherhood

posted in: Parenting | 4

Happy Mother’s Day! I’m looking forward to a nice relaxing day with my family; I hope you have similarly enjoyable plans. In honor of all the mothers and women in my life, I wanted to share several poems I wrote this spring. There are three, actually. Additionally, you may want to read The Legacy of a Truly Excellent Woman, a tribute to my grandmother. I figured it wouldn’t hurt to share some photos of the lovely roses my mother-in-law got me for Mother’s Day either :). Enjoy!

Celebrating Motherhood - Mother's Day Roses -

Celebrating Motherhood

Motherhood isn’t all fun and games.
It takes work, patience, self-control.
Being a mom can be exhausting, true.
But the blessings are more than worth it.

Consider a life without motherhood,
without bear hugs and butterfly kisses,
no delighted giggles or mischievous grins.
Life would be very dull indeed,
if children were not present.

Motherhood gives us a window back in time,
lets us recall memories of childhood,
reminds us to be grateful for simple pleasures.

There’s no job harder than a mother’s job,
but no work with greater reward.
The world is a better place with children,
and the mothers who dare to raise them.

Celebrating Motherhood - Mother's Day Roses -

I also want to share a poem I wrote for my mother. Motherhood changes us, makes us realize that our mothers weren’t really all that crazy 😉 — and that we are more like our mothers than we would have cared to admit when younger. This was submitted to Positive Parenting’s Mother’s Day Contest (selected as one of ten finalists!).

A Reflection of My Mother

From birth, I was loved, unconditionally.
My mother held me in her arms,
keeping me safe from an unknown world.
As a child, my desire for and pursuit of
independence challenged her, but
ultimately she learned to let go and trust.

She prayed over me before I was born.
While I was growing, she trusted my
future to God – my life in his hands.
Faithful in prayer, she never stopped
lifting me up, whispering her hopes and dreams,
letting them go as I pursued the path
of my own choosing.

Even into my own journey of motherhood,
my mother has been there for me.
Supporting, encouraging, inspiring,
Continuing to plant in me a firm foundation
for my journey through life.

I see things differently now, through the
lens of motherhood. My mother’s actions
no longer seem so strange and unexplainable.
I can appreciate her patience, her selflessness.
Always overextending herself to make sure
her family is taken care of, nourished, loved.

I see in myself a reflection of her — different, but
echoes of the same. I am my own person,
redefined by motherhood – but defined, in part,
by the love of the mother who raised me.
she always gave freely…and she still does today.

Celebrating Motherhood - Mother's Day Roses -

And last but not least, I wanted to honor those mothers who do not have their children to hug and hold. Mothering is hard, but harder still is facing the loss of a child — whether in youth or in the womb (The Miscarriage: The Secret Heartache of 1 in 4 Women). I chose to write this poem as a haiku.

Empty arms, aching heart.
Childless mother, angel babe,
Apart on earth and heav’n.

Once a mother, always a mother.

I saw a quote floating around the internet that really summarizes up motherhood: “we are blessed to be a blessing to others.”

What About You?

Are there memories of motherhood that are near and dear to you?  Do you have something special planned for the women in your life who have made the transition to motherhood?

The Ultimate Guide to Baby's First YearThis post is part of The Ultimate Guide to Baby’s First Year — I’m one of 30+ blogs participating. Over the course of a week’s time, there will be posts on these topics:

  • taking care of new parents
  • feeding baby
  • taking care of baby
  • baby’s milestones
  • baby play
  • baby spaces
  • celebrating baby

Check out the The Ultimate Guide to Baby’s First Year for a list of all the posts on each topic. Posts on celebrating motherhood are listed below!

Celebrating Motherhood Links

Here are some posts by other moms about Mother’s Day and celebrating motherhood. Also check out my Motherhood + Parenting board on Pinterest. Links will open in a new window for your convenience.

Mother’s Day Gift Ideas

posted in: Parenting | 14

Still deciding what to give mom or grandma for Mother’s Day? I’ve got some ideas to share (and a link to a Mother’s Day poem I wrote too)! But first, let me share some art from quite some time ago that I created — and as I was preparing for Mother’s Day, I remembered these two pieces in particular. Both are digital/drawing/photo collages that I created over ten years ago.

This first one is my favorite of the two. I honestly can’t even remember what I titled it at the time, aside from Sunset Girl. My mother loved this image, and ultimately it graced the cover of her book, Riding Past Grief – A Daughter’s Journey #afflink.

So while this piece isn’t about mothers specifically, it is about being a daughter, finding your own way, and holding firm through the storms life may bring. I vaguely recall titling Riding Past Midnight (but that may be the title of a short story I wrote around the same time). The sunset and rough terrain are based on a photograph I took in the mountains of Montana, and the girl began as a sketch. I blended the two, using digital painting and other applications that are probably long obsolete by now.

Mother's Day Gift Ideas - Sunset Girl Fresco

This second image inspired a poem for my mother. The piece and the poem share the same name – Mother Daughter Walk. Well, her poem may have assimilated whatever I had originally titled it (but I’m ok with that). This image was created in a similar fashion, digital painting with the mother and daughter originating as a sketch and paired with a photograph of mine. The rocky mountain path is from Scottsdale, Arizona, on Camelback mountain if I recall correctly.

Mother Daughter Walk

Given my mother’s love of poetry and all things art, I’ve actually planned ahead and written her a poem.

I submitted it to a Mother’s Day writing contest, and amazingly, my poem was selected as one of ten “finalists” — head over to Positive Parenting to read “A Reflection of My Mother.”

Mom, if you’re reading this (don’t moms always read their daughter’s posts?), you don’t get to read it until Mother’s Day. Sorry. you can read it early but no complaining!

But then the next question, for me, at least, was how to help my son with the concept of Mother’s Day. I will *not* be helping him make a gift for me, as that seems tacky. Dad can be in charge of any gifts that might materialize (and frankly, I’m ok without… toddler hugs are sufficient for me!).

But, grandmothers are still important — so we will be creating something for both grandmas between now and Mother’s Day. Again, since one or both of them may read this before Mother’s Day, I am not going to share what we are creating. But, I do want to give you some ideas in case you’re in the same boat I was a couple days ago.

What to make/do/give… that’s the tough question!

Mother’s Day Gift Ideas

Here are some ideas and resources for thoughtful Mother’s Day gifts! I’ve included the link to the aforementioned grief poetry in case you know someone who has lost a mother and may find it helpful. Links will open in a new window for your convenience. You might also want to check out my Gift Ideas Pinterest board, as I may find some more cute ideas between the time of posting and Mother’s Day.

Follow Betsy @’s board Gift Ideas on Pinterest.

Do You Have Plans for Mother’s Day?

We typically go out for a nice Mother’s Day brunch, and this year we may spend time outdoors too if the weather is nice. Do you have any family traditions for Mother’s Day? I’d love to hear them. And, if you want to share any creative Mother’s Day gift ideas, I’m all ears 🙂

Making Sense of Words

posted in: Parenting | 15

Last night my toddler read his first two words. We’d spent a few minutes in the afternoon playing what I named “The Almond Game” — an Egg Carton Reading game based on the book, Teach Your Child to Read in 10 Minutes a Day by Sidney Ledson (#afflink).

I had bought this book a year ago, when my then-two-year-old said he wanted to learn to read. We didn’t really do much with it at the time, but since we started working on letter recognition, I did bring it back out this week. And what a difference a year makes. It was impressive to see my son process the sounds and read two words on his first day of “lessons.”

Anyways, I’ve shared some “teaching reading” resources at the end of this post, but please first enjoy my poem inspired by my son’s new milestone (beginning to read). This bookworm mama is proud 🙂

Making Sense of Words

Letters and sounds
lines and curves
cover the pages of books.

A secret language
unreachable, unintelligible —
for the illiterate child.

Picture books are well and good
but nothing compares to
cuddling up with a good book
and letting the words come alive.

The desire to learn is there,
the goal to decode those mysterious
black and white lines
marching across page after page.

The letter’s name is not its sound
As the animal, a cow, says “moo”…
the letter U says “uhhh.”

What tricky business, separating
names from sounds — unlearning
the alphabet to learn how to
sound out the foreign words
comprised of familiar letters.

But success comes quickly for the young,
a glow of pride spreads from ear to ear
as not one, but two first words
are sounded out — independently.

“Uhh” …”Puh.” Up. Pup.
High fives awarded all around
my young reader beams
excited that the world of words
has finally been decoded —
the world of books is his.

Reading Resources

Here are some resources for teaching little ones how to read. Links will open in a new window for your convenience. Also, make sure to check out my Learning + Education Pinterest Board for more ideas.

Follow Betsy @’s board Learning + Education on Pinterest.

What About You?

Do you have any tips for cultivating the love of reading? Maybe a tried and true way of teaching sight recognition? I would love for you to share in the comments.

As for me, I’m looking forward to continuing to cultivate my son’s love of reading. Maybe “bookworm” is a nickname that will be generational 🙂 — based on how much he loves “reading” the pictures of books he knows, I’m thinking yes.

Making Sense of Words - Learning to Read Books

Knitting – A Lost Art

posted in: Fine Art | 33

One of my (many) hobbies is knitting. I enjoy the repetition, the act of creating something delicate and utilitarian from practically nothing, and the fact that a work in progress can be easily toted along to keep my hands busy while in waiting rooms or the like. Plus, there are no batteries involved, nothing needs recharging, and there is no need to search for a wifi signal.

It’s interesting to recall the comments I’ve heard in regards to this hobby. I’ve been complimented by older women for my ability to create something so delicate as it’s “not common” anymore… and I’ve heard moms explain to their toddlers: “she’s knitting, like Nana does.” It’s also interesting to note how while my fingers are engaged in knitting, I’m free to observe and listen whatever unfolds around me.

While “engrossed” in my knitting, I notice a lot of people hypnotized by smartphone screens. There are always moms messaging and skimming Facebook or Pinterest posts while their kid is swimming in the class next to my child. And I wonder — what happened to being content with where you are, when you are? Sometimes I do set down my knitting, pause what I’m doing, to make sure I’m not accidentally taking myself away from where I’m at — but in general, even though I look busy, my mind is actually engaged with what’s going on around me.

Here’s my latest project – a lace wrap I test-knit for the Wearable Art Emporium (Linda has some lovely patterns — if you are into knitting, I suggest you check her stuff out). Skim a little further down this post for more images of the wrap, my poem, “A Lost Art,” and my Pinterest board for all things related to crochet + knitting.

knit lace wrap - leaves garden

A Lost Art

My needles click calmly as I knit
click, click, click, click…
a calming metallic repetition
that reminds my son of
a train engine on the tracks.

On resting rows, my needles fly
faster than fast — purling incessantly.
Then I return to the right side,
begin again the intricate pattern.
The clicking needles slow
to a pace that is calmer and more deliberate.

Don’t drop a stitch, don’t skip a row.
Aside from following my pattern,
my mind is free to wander —
to be otherwise engaged
while my fingers keep busy
passing yarn over needles, again and again.

The repetition is calming, even peaceful.
My stress melts away in the calming
process of creating something
from a simple skein of yarn.

My project takes shape slowly,
even I am unsure how it will turn out
until it is finished.

In this age of technology, my mind delights
in something so simple, so tactile and physical.
I am joined to generations past through
my knitting as I keep a forgotten skill alive.
This lost art is intriguing, ever challenging.
Each new project both challenges and calms me.

My low-tech creative outlet may seem
antiquated, obsolete, unnecessary,
but it brings me relaxation, inspiration —
provides an escape from this high-stress,
fast-paced world in which we live.

knit lace wrap - leaves garden

Knitting and Crochet Resources

Here are a few resources for you if you’re interested in learning to knit or crochet. Or if you just want to be inspired for your next project. Links below will open in a new window for your convenience.

Follow Betsy @’s board Crochet + Knitting on Pinterest.

What About You?

Do you have any favorite patterns or projects to share? Do you prefer to knit or crochet? Or, have you always wanted to learn? I’ve shared photos of a really complicated pattern here, but many projects are quite easy and good for beginners — such as scarves, dishcloths, and even granny squares. What are your favorite projects for beginners?

Feeling Overwhelmed?

posted in: Parenting | 8

Sometimes we get too busy, life gets to us, and we begin feeling overwhelmed. Like the tree bark photo below, we feel peeled raw, falling apart, imperfect and unable to be the “perfect” person. But life isn’t perfect. We can’t expect everything to go smoothly — there will be bumpy roads on our journey. Here’s a poem and some resources to help you be the parent your kids need — even when you’re tired and worn out.

Tree Bark - Outdoors - Feeling Overwhelmed (poem)

Feeling Overwhelmed

Too many things to do
A To-Do list a mile long
prerequisites and tasks
left unfinished
supermom is missing.
Vanished in the night.
Maybe she never was.
The pretense of
having it all together
looms overhead
weighing down
frantic attempts
to tread water.
How to escape?
Let go of pretenses
drop the weighted ropes
pulling me down
and tiring me out.
But pride keeps me blinded.
My idealized life
doesn’t match reality.
I need to let go…
Let go of the unachievable
and begin to breathe.

Resources for When You are Feeling Overwhelmed

Here are some blog posts for when you’re feeling overwhelmed, tired, or just not good enough as a parent. Let me add, though, that these resources are no stand-in for seeking professional help if you are depressed — please, please, please, seek help. That being said, these links may be helpful for the standard everyday parent “burnout.” Links will open in a new window for your convenience.

And if you want to see more, check out my Mothering + Parenting Pinterest board:

Follow Betsy @’s board Motherhood + Parenting on Pinterest.

What About You? How Do You Cope With Feeling Overwhelmed?

Do you take a break when you’re feeling overwhelmed? How do you recharge? Maybe a short nap, a shower to relax, or a fun afternoon out with the family? I’d love to hear your tips for finding peace and sanity in a busy and hectic world.


It’s The Little Things In Life…

posted in: Parenting | 13

I love that our son is adventurous when it comes to most things, including food. I’m not sure if it is just his nature, or maybe the “two bite rule” we implemented in our house proved helpful… At any rate, we have been blessed with a wonderful eater. Here are a couple snapshots of him devouring Bibimbap at one of our favorite local restaurants. These are the snapshots that inspired my poem that follows, about remember to enjoy little moments like this one I will treasure.

toddler eating bibimbap

enjoying bibimbap for lunc

It’s The Little Things in Life…

It’s the little things in life that we remember.
The memories that will stay with us years from now
are simple pleasures, nothing extravagant.
Living in the moment can be so tough,
especially when you give in to the pressure.
The pressure to
…do more
…be better
…live up to others’ expectations
…fulfill your destiny
…make more money
…be a success.
Giving in doesn’t guarantee these desires
will ever materialize or become reality.
All it does is take you away.
Away from
…enjoying the present
…living in the moment
…creating memories that matter.
Life is too short to forgo the little things
in favor of creating a name for yourself,
or fulfilling your destiny.
Step off the train, stop. Look around.
Life is here. Life is now.
It’s the little things in life that
…bring us pleasure
…give us enjoyment
…help us feel alive.
Don’t get so busy living that you forget
to actually live your life in the here and now.

Candid Snapshot Tip:

Sometimes the moment worth capturing has come and gone before you know it. Sometimes we focus so much on documenting a candid moment that we forget to enjoy it ourselves. Guilty as charged. As a photographer by trade, I know this all too well. When photographing an event, or even just taking snapshots at a family get together, my attention is focused (hah, an unintentional pun) on creating images — I’m not enjoying the moment as an active participant, but as an observer.

Don’t get so caught up in composing the perfect picture that you forget about being an active participant in what’s going on. Imperfection is ok. Take a snapshot or two, set the camera down, and enjoy the moment.

What About You?

What do you do to enjoy the little things in life? How do you keep yourself from getting so focused on “tomorrow” that you forget about the here and now?

Signs of Spring

posted in: Parenting | 25

Signs of spring have finally arrived! The weather is getting warmer, the last of our snow melted this weekend, and we’ve been able to venture outdoors in shorts (loving the balmy 60 degree weather!). My toddler has been asking to go outside multiple times a day, which I have unabashedly indulged. I am tired of being cooped up inside too. We’ve gone on walks, bike rides, and explored our yard… and I’m not sure who is having more fun!

signs of spring - toddler tricycle riding

P.S. Read to the end for some spring activity + gardening resources 🙂

Signs of Spring

Spring comes slowly,
but steadily.
The forgotten warmth
finally graces the ground.
Rains fall,
new life
springs forth
from the ground.
Her patience
reaps abundant
What was hidden
or hibernating
now springs forth.
Life is ready…
The sun shines,
divine warmth
wraps the earth.
Just another
season of life.
But one awaited
with much anticipation.
Thought it may have come
the signs of spring
have finally arrived.

signs of spring - first flower

signs of spring - feverfew starting to grow

Since spring is finally here, we’ll be starting work on our garden soon. Our four 4×8 raised beds are in need of some well-deserved TLC, as the grass infiltrated them (from underneath). Lesson learned… next time put down a barrier for the grass in addition to putting down chicken wire to keep out critters. My son is excited to transplant our kitchen scrap romaine lettuce and celery… we’ve acquired quite a collection over the past weeks. Sadly, we were not on top of our seed germination this year, so we do not have a plethora of seedlings to put in the ground (last spring, we had 200+ seedlings that we grew inside). Oh well, experimenting with different techniques is good, right?

Here’s my Pinterest board on Greenery and Gardening in case you too are looking to enhance your green thumb this growing season. I will tell you that we tried several experiments last year — one we won’t be doing again is the mythical potato tower. While we did get some lovely potatoes from our towers, it was just too much of a hassle to water and keep the towers of dirt moist. The final complication was harvesting the potatoes — I had a hard time figuring out where to put all that dirt! It ended up going into the nearest raised vegetable bed, I do admit. On the other hand, I did enjoy the string trellises that we made, and will be doing more of them I think. Give and take. It’s all a learning experience.

Follow Betsy @’s board Greenery + Gardening on Pinterest.

We found an old bird nest under our deck, and my toddler enjoyed asking questions about it, how it was made, why there were no eggs in it now, and the like. I love how the minds of children work!

signs of spring - old bird nest

Spring + Gardening Resources

Here are some gardening and spring resources I wanted to share with you. Links will open in a new window for your convenience (check out the Pinterest board a little further on in this post too).

What About You?

What have you looked forward to most as an authentic sign spring is finally here? Are there any spring activities that you enjoy doing — either as an adult, or with your kids? What will you miss about winter, if anything?

Contentment in the Journey – Poem

posted in: Fine Art | 19

This past week I’ve been thinking about the unpredictable nature of life. How things can take a turn at any moment, how we need to count our blessings, and look for them — even though sometimes it can be like finding a needle in the haystack.

Contentment in the Journey

Morning comes
The day breaks
Another day dawns.
Life goes on,
whether we want it to
…or not.
Being in control
is a joke, impossible.
Life’s circumstances
are unpredictable
always surprising.
We make the choice to
fix our eyes on the goal
before us…
…or get sucked into
the quicksand of
life’s troubles
surrounding us.
Life will never be free
from difficulty.
But we can choose
to find contentment
in the journey.

Pink Hued Sunrise

The image above is from a morning this spring (yes, we still had snow). We were blessed with a vivid pink sunrise over the lake. As the evening receded and the sun’s rising approached, deep purple and vivid pink hues were muted into orange and yellow tones. The moment was gone quickly, even as we enjoyed the lovely colors.

“We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature — trees, flowers, grass — grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence. We need silence to be able to touch souls.” – Mother Teresa

Sometimes morning’s coming seems to take forever; other times morning comes far too quickly. And with the night usually comes silence. Silence can be overpowering, overwhelming, and even frightening. It is in the silence that we are forced to deal with our own fears, thoughts, and worries. The hustle bustle of our days allows us to shut out these things, to put off dealing with them until later.

And the morning comes, whether we want it to or not.

Are we ever content with being in the moment? Willing to accept the reality of our present circumstances, whether they be joyful, grief-stricken, or even filled with apathy? I’ve known some strong people in my life. It has always struck me, how, even during their times of trial, they are looking outward towards the needs of others rather than inward towards their circumstances.

Resources on Contentment + Sunrises

Here are some resources on contentment and sunrises. That sounds like such a random assortment, my apologies — but I found some neat activities related to contentment and sunrises. Links will open in a new window for your convenience.

Contentment Resources for Adults

For Parents: Teaching Contentment

For Kids: Learning About Contentment + Sunrises

How Do You Find Contentment?

What about you? How do you deal with adversity, loss, or hardship? Do you think it’s possible to find contentment in the face of adversity? Sometimes it feels impossible to find peace in the middle of life’s trials. What do you do to help cope?

Peace. It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart. – unknown

Metallic Intersections

posted in: Fine Art | 7

Sometimes words escape me. Poetry seems to better convey the nuances of art, but still falls short. As adults, we look at the world through defined terms, we compartmentalize and limit our understanding of the world around us. Children on the other hand, are free from preconception, and don’t have to think inside the box. They create order and define the world around them in terms of what they know, the vocabulary they have on hand.

My son recently had his first vision test, and got to identify shapes: square, circle, apple/heart(?), house. His version: Knox, letter “o”, heart, house. Once he understood the nurse wanted him to say square, he refined his answer to fit the mold. But honestly, I enjoyed the creativity in his first answer. Knox is the name of the church we attend — and a church is a building. Hence, a square.

And what of these photographs I’m about to share? Trying to think like a toddler, I imagined these lines to be intersections, roads for cars to travel, a way to get where you’re going. And finally I was able to gather some words to creatively describe these metallic intersections:

Like little roads,
metallic highways
intersect haphazardly.
Circling, crisscrossing,
the lines travel ever onward.

What is it? I’ll let you know at the end of the post (along with some related kid activity resources). But for now, take a peek at this series of images.

fine art abstraction curved lines

fine art abstraction - curved lines

So, what is this macro photograph of? It’s something you’ve probably used on many occasions. Found in most homes. In the kitchen, to be precise.

Any last guesses?

fine art abstraction - curved lines

It’s a common kitchen whisk.

(Kid-Friendly) Resources On Using Kitchen Utensils

My son loves to help in the kitchen! When working on a puzzle the other day, he corrected my mother: “That’s not a chef, that’s a cook!” Whether he’s pretending to help or actually contributing, I hope to continue cultivating our son’s love of the culinary arts as he grows. As promised, here are some resources on using whisks and other kitchen utensils in creative non-traditional ways… and some more typical ways as well. The links will open in a new window for your convenience.

fine art abstraction - curved lines

Want to see other Fine Art Abstractions?

The Legacy of A Truly Excellent Woman

posted in: Notes | 32

Today I am sharing a poem in memory of a truly excellent woman, my grandmother – Fayola Ash. I wrote this in memory of her passing, which was almost three years ago — on my son’s due date (3/15/2011). He arrived about two weeks later, in good health — and he was known by name to my grandmother before she died. If you want to read the backstory behind the poem, consider some thoughts on creating a photographic legacy, and view more candid photographs, make sure to read to the end.

Betsy and her Grandmother, Fayola, in Pozzouli, Italy
Betsy and her Grandmother, Fayola, in Pozzouli, Italy (2010)

A Truly Excellent Woman

My grandmother was always certain,
calm, assured.
She had a firm foundation.
Her faith was strong,
her compassion knew no bounds.
She knew what she believed, and did accordingly.
Her whole life was a testament to her Creator.
She recovered from polio,
she raised four children (including twins),
she managed her household.
She loved and respected her husband,
deferring to him in public;
but if you knew them, you would know
he let her have the final say.
She was wise and thoughtful,
kind and loving,
opinionated but usually justified.
Her life was spent inspiring others,
through the works of her hands,
the music she created
as her fingers danced across the keys.
Age slowed them down, but didn’t stop her.
She loved music, and kept her dearest hymns
on her lips, even as death approached.
She lived a life worth living.
But in the end, cancer struck.
A vicious, quick attack,
leaving only weeks to come to terms with
the finality of the battle.
In her dying hours, she was selfess.
Caring more about the impending celebration of life,
that my son’s birth would not be
overshadowed by her death.
She always wanted the best for others.
Even at the sacrifice of herself.
Small in stature, she left big shoes to fill.
I hope my legacy will be worthy,
that one day I will fill my grandmother’s shoes.
She was a truly excellent woman.


Backstory of “A Truly Excellent Woman”

This section does talk about my faith and beliefs. If that might offend you, feel free to skip to the next section. It’s just an integral part of who my grandmother was, so I can’t overlook it.

The Voice Bible translation describes the Proverbs 31 woman as “a truly excellent woman” (Pr 31:10). This is where I began when writing this poem, as my grandmother was an inspiration to all who knew her. She was everything one would aspire to be as a woman of God. While we never get over the loss of a loved one, it has taken me several years to realize the impact her life has had on me, and how I want to live my life as a wife, mother, and person. I hope that I will one day be able to look back on my life and know that I too, with God’s grace, was able to be a truly excellent woman in all my words and deeds.

A Shared Journey to Italy + Israel

In 2010, I accompanied my grandmother on a trip to Israel and Italy (she did not want to go alone). At 86, she was not the youngest on the tour, but she was a trooper. She conquered all the stairs at Tel Megiddo, she walked the Via Dolorosa, and climbed aboard a camel. Why the camel ride? She’s always wanted to ride a camel since seeing them on her travels to Egypt with my grandfather (my photographic inspiration). On this trip, she carried his camera with her (yes, I helped her use it from time to time). It was an honor to have taken that trip with her, and I have memories I will always cherish. She was a world traveler, and I got to share in her last big trip abroad.

The images below feature candid photographs of my grandmother (and some with me as well) during our travels to Israel and Italy. I’ve plenty of fine art photographs from my travels to show you, but that’s for another day. Today it’s about my grandmother’s legacy. [click on any image to view in gallery mode]

Candid Photographs of Our Journey

What About Your Legacy?

What kind of legacy will you leave? What do you hope to accomplish in your life? What will the photographs say about you to future generations?

I know I tend to ask a lot of open-ended questions, and I don’t pretend to have all the answers either. I know what matters to me… yet I make new discoveries on that front every day. I hope you too will be inspired to take an active role in crafting your legacy.

The decisions we make today, the actions we take now, all affect the person we will be remembered as by future generations.

And if you haven’t checked it out already, make sure to read my post, Life is Too Short, which I wrote earlier this month as I grieved with my friend for their loss of a family member. Pregnancy does things to ramp up emotions, so maybe that’s part of the reason for these sentimental posts. But truthfully, sentimental is part of what I do for a living. I make memories for my clients, I create portraits that capture personalities, I help document family legacies. I love doing multi-generational portraits because, for me, family is really what it’s all about.

So, back to my question: what about your legacy? Do you have someone similar to my grandmother, a truly excellent woman, in your life? Will you be an inspiration to others, as my grandfather inspired me to become a photographer? Will you be known as a someone whose shoes others can only hope to fill?