Creative Growth

Hi Friends!

The month of May has always been my happiest month in the garden. I just love watching the daily growth in my perennial and herb gardens. Last week, I took great delight in planting containers of annuals for our front porch and added a few tender herbs to my Herb & Tea garden. Our abundance of rainy days blessed the garden… and the gardener!

On the days when Mother Nature was watering my garden, I retreated to my little Paper Garden studio downstairs. It has been necessary to intentionally plan small, daily steps to nurture my creative growth for quite a while now. In The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron stresses the importance of ”filling the well” to help artists who feel creatively blocked. It was most definitely time to fill my creative well. Little-by-little, step-by-step Springtime arrived in the Paper Garden, too!

On the first day of my special project, I spent hours happily die cutting, layered stamping, and adding highlights with Prismacolor pencils. After several hours, colorful tulips filled my art table. Over the following days, baby’s breath, pussy willows, and cherry blossoms emerged. Ahhh, Springtime! With no pressure to design, the pure joy of creating began filling my creative well… and my heart!

All of these stamps and dies are from The Greetery.

With tiny pots full of Springtime blossoms, it felt almost like being in a flower shop choosing stems to create a bouquet for someone very special. Oh, what fun to clip together tiny paper bouquets! No stress, just pure joy!

Then it was time to fill my tender heart in a very special way…

Mother’s Day was coming… and this would be my very first Mother’s Day without my dear, sweet mom, Darlene. I just knew that Mom would love my plan! I could feel her smile.💕 This May, I decided to celebrate three very special young moms who have become such an important part of my life.

Especially for Ada’s mom 💗

I have known Ada’s mom for a very long time!! She was a student in my first grade class and my second grade class so long ago! For several years, she would come back to help me during her recess time. For many Summers, I looked forward to a very special picnic with her family. During her college years, Ada’s mom would drive over to visit us. She enjoyed picking her favorite ‘tea’ leaves from our Herb & Tea garden and sipping tea together on our front porch swing. My husband and I felt so honored to be guests at her wedding! Ada’s mom now works as a speech pathologist and spends her days helping seniors with Alzheimer’s and other speech therapy needs. She is also working on her PhD in clinical speech pathology. This month, Ada’s mom celebrated her first Mother’s Day! I look forward to meeting little Ada very soon.💗


Especially for Elijah’s mom 💗

Elijah’s mom has been a very special part of our family for three years already. In fact, she is in many of our treasured family photos! She works so hard with everyone at the senior living community where my dad lives. She loved my mom and my mom loved her! Elijah’s mom helps everyone living there feel right ‘at home’ each day. She is always so cheery, whether she is busy at her desk, helping serve meals in the dining room, or running to someone’s apartment to help out. I love to hear stories about Elijah’s day in kindergarten, his current favorite activities, and their family celebrations. Elijah’s mom and I have become ‘sisters.’ (I always dreamed of having a sister.) My ‘sister’ always brightens my day… and gives the biggest hugs! 💗

Especially for Emerson’s mom 💗

I have only known Emerson’s mom for a few short months, yet she has become a true blessing in my life! We are most definitely creative, kindred spirits. Emerson’s mom is the Bereavement Coordinator for the hospice that helped my mom so much last September. When I reached out for grief counseling for my tender heart following the sudden loss both of my brothers to Covid and my sweet mom to an unexpected medical issue, Emerson’s mom entered my life. Her extensive education, experience as a chaplain, and work in the fields of bereavement and spirituality enable her to help children through seniors who are grieving the loss of loved ones. We both enjoy sharing our thoughts and creativity with one another. When I asked her for homework assignments, she began suggesting truly meaningful activities that tap into my creativity in so many ways. I love hearing about her family life and seeing photos of Emerson! She just celebrated her second Mother’s Day! Emerson’s mom and I have been meeting together via Zoom, but we are both looking forward to meeting in person in June. I truly look forward to our growing friendship in the years to come! 💗

How do you fill your creative well when you have difficulty getting started on a project or hobby that you love?

Hope you will share with us!

Wishing you healthy, happy Springtime (or Autumn) days!

Take time to nurture your tender heart, too.💗

Perennially yours,

💗Dawn

Gifts of Nature

Hi Friends!

I bundled up warmly at sunrise on that February morning. My heart told me that there was something very important that I must do… and I always listen to my heart! 💗

I hugged a tree… two trees, in fact.

It was a day to thank our towering pines for the many gifts they have bestowed upon us for over one hundred years ~ homes for the cardinals and other birds, a playground for the squirrels, and cool shade for the hostas, ferns, and mature perennials that thrived beneath them. Such an important gift for our climate, as well. Every few years, an arborist would come to check our pine trees and trim a few branches. He always shared the happy news that our pines were in good health.

As I hugged the trees, gratitude filled my heart! Our pine trees have provided a magnificent background for many of our treasured family photos over the past thirty five years. They provided welcome shade on our deck for quiet mornings, yoga practice, family Fourth of July celebrations, and tea parties with friends. They shaded teacher curriculum-planning sessions on so many summer mornings. The beautiful pines were always appreciated as we talked late into the night with family and friends, from near and far. The neighbors enjoyed the far-reaching branches that shaded their family gatherings, too. What fun to hang a piñata from the lowest pine branches for their birthday parties! Every year in early December, I loved to snip a few pine greens and gather fallen pine cones to fill an antique wooden box and to mix with dried garden gatherings to decorate an antique sled for our front porch.

Our towering pines watched over many life changing moments, too. My husband and I spent many hours getting to know one another while relaxing on my shady deck. A truly heartwarming part of our first date, on a Sunday afternoon in July nearly twenty years ago, was spent talking on my shady deck. The pines cooled our deck and entire backyard for the special picnic where both of our families had fun getting to know one another following our engagement! The following summer, my mom and I spent a lovely June afternoon on our shady deck tying bundles of flowers from my garden with satin ribbons, to hang from the chairs for our Victorian-style wedding ceremony. Ten years ago, the pines shaded our wonderful family celebration in honor of my dad’s 80th birthday.

If those trees could talk, they would tell so many stories of the single woman who dreamed of owning a home of her own to put down roots so long ago. The moment she saw the cozy, little 1922 bungalow, with a swing on the front porch, a big garden, and two towering pine trees… it was love at first sight!💗

Alas, there are BIG changes happening nearby! A very large, new home will be built next door. Half of the branches and half of the root systems would soon be destroyed. Our towering pines couldn’t safely survive the construction next door. So, my hugs and thanks that February morning were also a heartbroken ‘goodbye’ to our beloved pine trees.

Just a few hours later, the heavy equipment arrived…

A week earlier, I met with Matt, the tree man. I had two very important requests! He must be sure to protect my mom’s beautiful Rhododendron that grew on the edge of my Shade Garden, beneath the long reaching pine branches. This large plant grew in my childhood garden and is almost as old as I am. It was a gift to my garden many years ago when my parents moved to Arizona. Every summer, its large, pink blossoms warm my heart! My second wish was to have several slices of the tree trunks to use in a future garden project. Matt promised that he would make my wishes come true!

Oh my! It was a sight to behold! As I safely watched from the door of our deck, Matt worked from high in the air with pinpoint accuracy, cutting long branches, dropping them in the space between my white picket fence Herb & Tea Garden, our deck, and our roof. Mountains of branches were chipped into pine mulch. His team of four worked with guide ropes, chain saws, helmets, and ear protection.

As I watched the crew from the window, they were also watching me! It must have been entertaining to watch the little lady alternating between covering her eyes, giving thumbs up, and prayer hands of thanks as they worked. The four, strong men on the ground performed a ballet of twirls, turns, and leaps to quickly guide the falling limbs away from Mom’s Rhododendron.

Our century old pines towered over 75 feet tall. Our little house shook and my teacup collection rattled as each thirty foot section of trunk plummeted to the ground, landing in an ever-growing pile of branches in the neighbor’s yard.

The white sheet marks my mom’s Rhododendron surrounded by fallen pine branches.

When there was a safe path through the yard, I walked out to carefully uncover Mom’s special plant. It was perfect! Only two flower buds had fallen to the ground.

(You can see my beautiful mom and her Rhododendron in bloom

last summer here. Such a treasured photo.💗)

I walked over to thank the crew for their very careful work and to take a closer look at the fallen tree trunks. That’s when I discovered it…

a final gift from our towering pines!

A huge heart!

None of the crew noticed it… but I saw it right away!

It felt like a final gift of love from our pines.

We will find a way to use the carefully cut wood slices in our new, sunny garden design in the coming months. Although our towering pines are no longer with us, they will always be a huge part of our story!

We cherish their lovely memories…

and ALL of the gifts they gave us over the years!

🌸 🌸 🌸

Wishing you many Springtime blessings!

Stay safe and healthy!

Warmest hugs,

💗 Dawn

Small Moments

Hi Friends!

Happy International Women’s Day! I’m so glad that YOU stopped to visit with us today. The nicest people, from across the globe, always seem to find their way here. Yesterday, we had visitors from the U.S., UK, Ireland, Nigeria, the Netherlands, Germany, Norway, France, South Africa, Canada, and Brazil. It fills my heart with joy to know that you spend a few moments of your busy day in this little corner of the internet! Whether you are a longtime friend or this is your very first visit, I hope you feel ‘at home’ here.

I have been contemplating some small moments that I want to remember as the weeks pass. Today, in my Midwest garden, there are only a few small snowpiles remaining. In January, we had 22 inches (56cm) of snow. February brought us 22 more inches (56cm) of snow! Shoveling snow became my regular ‘workout’ for a few weeks. With a desire to play in all that snow, I couldn’t wait to build a snowman (actually, a snowlady!).  😉

Meet Rosemary, the snow gardener! 🙂 She was named for my favorite herb and enjoyed wearing my straw, garden hat over her dried Hydrangea tresses. Each time I peeked out the window, Rosie was smiling back at me! To her good fortune, an Arctic plunge kept temperatures below 0 degrees for days on end.

With several more inches of glittery snow, Mother Nature dressed Rosemary in a flowing wedding gown. We will always remember her nice, long visit and all of the joy she brought us!

Last week, I gratefully put away my warmest, woolen mittens. As the snow melted, I happily noticed a most welcome sign of Spring during my daily walk through the neighborhood. It definitely put a smile in my heart and a spring in my step!

It just amazes me how these delicate Snowdrops can withstand the weight of so much snow cover! In our garden, the Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ is showing its foliage. The Daffodils are already three inches tall. The buds on the Lilac, and Rhododendron are swelling. True signs that Spring is just around the corner!

The Magnolia buds have me dreaming my garden dreams as I wait. In fact, I have been thinking about mulch this week as I ponder a few changes to the garden. 😉

This is already my tenth year of choosing ‘One Little Word’ to guide me throughout the year. This year’s word  reminds me of the many ways to add S P A C E to my life. On the first page of my 2021 Self-Care bullet journal, my new word is surrounded by all of my previous ‘words.’ I continue to call upon all of these ‘words’ day after day!

As I continue to work through The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron, I have been reflecting on Creative Space and the ways that I incorporate creative rituals, inspiration, nature, and sensory experiences into my little Paper Garden studio downstairs.

 

For my Artist Date last week, I added touches of Springtime to my Self-Care bullet journal. The dot grid pages are filling up with creative affirmations, studio rules, and my creativity contract. Little-by-little, step-by-step, I can feel tiny, meaningful changes happening in my creative soul. I always look forward to our Tuesday Creative Cluster gatherings, via Zoom. Creativity is such an important part of my healthy lifestyle!

This year’s valentine for my sweet husband used non-traditional colors for a more natural look.

I never remember to photograph the inside of my handmade cards before I write in them! (So, I used a few seashells to hide the personal words here. 🙂 ) My cards are always embellished on the inside as a special treat for the recipient.

Distress inks and more stamps and dies from The Greetery helped me to create a collection of winter sprigs.

It was such fun to fill a tiny, stoneware pitcher with winter berries and greens for my parents. It won’t be long until things start to ‘bloom’ in my Paper Garden studio. Springtime usually arrives a bit early there! 🙂

Last week, I was blessed with the BEST small moment of all! It truly felt like a Red-Letter Day!!

After weeks and weeks of searching unsuccessfully for a vaccine appointment, a wonderful, unexpected opportunity arose! Our suburb worked to provide vaccines for 970 Seniors (65+ years old). With support from the police and fire departments, city officials, several pharmacists, and many volunteers, they set up a one-day vaccine clinic to administer our first dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. Everything went so smoothly. We will all return in three weeks for our second dose of the vaccine!

As I headed home, my heart was overflowing with gratitude. My vaccine felt like a very big deal!! Each precious vial of ‘hope’ will help to lead us out of this pandemic if we all continue to do our part, by wearing masks, social distancing, and washing our hands! We cannot let our guard down yet… This week marks one whole year since we went on lockdown and began staying at home. Like so many of us, I long for the day that my whole family can gather together again!

I continue to be so very grateful for the diligent work of the scientists across the globe and those who volunteered in clinical trials, the dedicated doctors, nurses, and lab technicians (true unsung heroes), the first responders and the essential front-line workers whose personal sacrifices every day make a difference for us all.  I see you. I appreciate you. I honor you all!

Very often, the small moments take up the most room in our hearts!

♥ ♥ ♥

I’m thinking of you all

on this

International Women’s Day!

Stay safe and healthy!

With much hope,

♡ Dawn

P.S. Please let us know what small moments are bringing YOU hope right now. If this is your first visit, please say “Hi.”  We would love to meet you! 🙂

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Artist Date ~ A Walk Down Memory Lane

Hi Friends!

Warmhearted greetings! I hope that you are healthy, safe, and cozy today in your little corner of the world. I am still feeling wrapped in the warmth of last week’s Artist Date. It truly was a walk down memory lane, in the sweetest of ways!

One of the joys of my Renaissance (the ‘R’ word that I use for retirement) is creating one-of-a-kind, handmade cards. It’s always such fun to surprise family and friends with these tiny pieces of my heart. My joy was doubled each time I mailed off a handmade card to my parents in Arizona. They felt like tiny, ‘paper hugs’ and kept us close in spite of the miles between us.

Every time I visited my parents in their lovely, desert home, I noticed my cards on display in places of honor ~ on the fireplace mantel, on top of my mom’s oak, rolltop desk, and in my dad’s Lionel train room. I often stopped to peek at my little works of ‘heart.’

Two years ago, when the time came to help my parents move back to our area, they surprised me with a very special gift. My mom filled a package with all of my handmade cards. What a treasure! I carried this very special package in my backpack on our flight back home to Illinois. Then I gently placed the package in a sunny, yellow, archival box on a shelf in my little Paper Garden studio downstairs. I looked forward to opening it when the right moment came along…

My first Artist Date of The Artist’s Way Creative Cluster felt like the perfect time! I gently carried the yellow box upstairs and enjoyed a sentimental walk down memory lane, as I carefully spread all of the cards on our dining room table. Although the sun was streaming in through the lace curtains, I’m certain that it was these ‘paper hugs’ that warmed my soul. There were so many handmade cards of all kinds created over six years. The insides of the cards were also decorated and filled with sweet sentiments and notes with news of the week.

My earliest cards were created right here at our dining room table using a Big Shot and a few embossing folders and dies. I can still remember the joy I felt as a brand new card maker!

My passion for patterned paper, dry embossing, buttons, and twine grew with each tiny creation. I only had black ink and blended chalk for a bit of soft color. With a lifelong love of lettering, I was so excited to collect sentiment stamps!

Early on, I adored dry embossing on patterned paper creating the feel of vintage, patchwork quilts. As my collection of stamps and dies grew, I was so grateful to set up a dedicated, creative space downstairs in our unfinished basement. Oh, how I loved carrying a big cup of tea (to warm my hands) down to my new Paper Garden studio!

I hung dried Hydrangeas and herbs from the ceiling rafters, added task lighting, tables, a rag rug, and music. Antique wooden boxes held many of my supplies. I felt so blessed to have a space to be messy and play for hours and hours. Newly retired, it was so nice to have ‘a place to go’ each day! Eight years later, my little Paper Garden studio is still a very special blessing in my life.

Wreaths, wreaths, and more wreaths! You will find a wreath on our front door, in the dining room, in the guest room, in the kitchen, on the deck, and on our garden gate. Simple, grapevine wreaths are my favorite. Soon they began appearing on my cards, embellished with die cuts and stamping. Die cut sentiments on my cards became a new passion. As my ink collection slowly grew, I loved to match ink and paper colors.

I was so inspired by Art Impressions Watercolor stamps. Oh my! Separate stamps for each tiny bit of foliage, flower, branch, container, tuft of grass, and creature provided endless possibilities. Watercolor markers, watercolor paper, and a No. 4 round brush let me create tiny vignettes to my heart’s desire. I grew more interested in light and shadow and composition. I will always remember sitting in my parents’ desert garden watercoloring tiny, desert scenes. I was inspired by Nature’s color palette, as we hiked in the Sonoran desert, and the colors of my Midwest perennial gardens for so many cards. I could feel my creative heart expanding as I stretched my skills. That year, I began packing a few art supplies whenever I traveled. There was always space for this precious cargo in my backpack… and I needed it with me! 🙂

Pure Innocence stamps and dies melted my heart and are still such fun to create with! They bring back memories of playing with paper dolls as a child. Creativity should feel like play! I began to pack die cut images, watercolors, Distress inks, and patterned paper for paper piecing whenever I gathered with creative friends for our monthly   paper crafting ‘Crops.’

Creating tiny cards and tags using die cuts, watercolors, dye inks, and Prismacolor pencils always makes my heart smile! They add the perfect touch tied onto a bouquet of garden flowers or fresh, baked treats for friends and neighbors.

My mom shared her passion for gardening with me so long ago. So, naturally, I love to add florals to her cards! Watercolors, layered stamping, and ink blending brought these colorful blossoms to life.

It is always fun to include my dad’s favorite things on his cards! Tools, antique telephones, classic cars, toy trains, and vintage motor scooters make him smile. I love the way he studies each card to figure out the techniques I used. 🙂

Over the past two years, I have taken great delight in hand-delivering so many handmade cards to my parents. It’s such a blessing to actually watch them open each card and smile! Their apartment has a growing display of my latest little works of ‘heart.’

This Artist Date brought back so many wonderful memories of the early years of my creative journey! It was a chance to reflect on the ways I have grown as a maker and a creative over the past several years. As I carefully tucked all of the cards back into the yellow box, I knew that a tiny bit of my heart remained in each card. It excites me to think of all of the new skills that lie ahead… just waiting to be explored!  🙂

I am so very grateful to be a part of The Artist’s Way Creative Cluster. It feels like one of the very best gifts that I have ever given myself! I wonder where this incredible journey will lead me next?

What are you busy creating at the moment?

Are you curious to explore any new creative skills?

♥ ♥ ♥

Hope you’ll share with us!

Thank you for stopping by today!

Our hearts are with all those affected by the terrible winter storms.🙏🏼❤️

 

Sending inky hugs!

Dawn

 

 

 

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Winter Gardening

Hi Friends!

Rabbit! Rabbit! Wishing you the very best as we begin this new month together! I hope that you and your loved ones are staying safe and healthy… and warm! Know that I am keeping you close at heart as February begins.

I’ve been singing this song for the past few days…

Today is the perfect day to take a little walk through my garden! In Illinois, we have been experiencing a snow drought due to warmer than usual weather throughout November, December, and most of January. Over the past few days, though, my garden has turned into a ‘marshmallow world.’  Last Tuesday, we had six inches of snow. A big snowstorm on Saturday and Sunday added at least ten more inches. (Just over 40 centimeters in all.)  Bundle up! Let’s take a walk!

Gazing at all of the snow covered buds on our Magnolia tree, near the front porch, gives me such a feeling of hopefulness.

With the snow almost to the top of my boots, I made my way to the backyard. The towering Pine trees look lovely with their heavy boughs frosted in white.

The huge Rhododendron (nearly my age) grew in my mom’s garden when I was young. Today it looks exquisite adorned with sparkling snow and tiny icicles. The large buds fill me with even more hope as I dream of the billowing, pink blossoms that await us!

The Yucca plants, cloaked in white, also were gifts from my mom’s garden many years ago. I’m dreaming of their tall spikes filled with cream-colored blossoms. In the words of garden writer Sydney Eddison, “Gardens are a form of autobiography.” So true!  I treasure all of the stories that my garden holds. They truly warm my heart… even on the coldest of days!

The Mason Bee house hanging from our deck has been decorated by Mother Nature, as well. Last year, we noticed that several new bees emerged as the warm weather arrived. I hope they enjoyed our colorful, old-fashioned perennials and the blossoms on our herbs and mint plants!

The snow reached over the top of my boots as I peeked into the ‘heart of my garden.’ My Herb & Tea Garden will always be my very favorite place to while away the hours, savoring the heady scents of the culinary herbs and mints for tea.

It looks like Benjamin Bunny was hopping through the garden very early on this first day of February! I have noticed so many different tracks in the snow the past week. In addition to the rabbits and squirrels, I spotted some unusual animal tracks in the snow. The neighbors on both sides of us have seen coyotes and red foxes in our yard recently!

♥ ♥ ♥

My garden is such a special blessing in my life all year long! While the garden sleeps, protected under a thick, white blanket of snow, I especially enjoy the blessings of my little Paper Garden studio downstairs. Ink, paper, watercolors, paintbrushes, stamps, dies, and stencils are my ‘garden tools’ as I enjoy winter gardening in the studio. It’s chilly downstairs, so I always bundle up and bring hot tea to keep me warm as I make cards.

The most wonderful stamps and dies, from The Greetery, keep me inspired to do a bit of winter gardening!

Sprigs of winter berries and mistletoe, created using layered stamps and Distress Oxide inks, are ready to fill tiny paper Mason jars, vintage bottles, stoneware pitchers, and watering cans for future cards. I just love the chance to gather garden ‘bouquets’ all year long! 🙂

I have also been creating tiny Shiplap boards to build backgrounds on cards. First, I blended Distress Oxide inks onto white cardstock. The Shiplap die (also from The Greetery) embossed the wood grain as it cut these little, wooden planks. It was so relaxing to create tiny wooden walls for upcoming cards!

Feeling creative during the pandemic has been a real challenge for me. Our lives have been turned upside down for almost a year now. So, I’m trying extra hard to spend some of my time at home creating more handmade cards. I’m certain that receiving a ‘paper hug’ in the mailbox will warm hearts… when we need it most! 

Are you finding it hard to be creative in this moment?

Have you been spending a little time in nature?                                                       

Are you already making plans to get your vaccine?                                                     

Hope you will share with us…  

♥ ♥ ♥

Take extra good care!

Warm, squishy hugs,

♡ Dawn

Stillness…

Hi Friends!

It began as a quiet Winter’s day here in the Midwest. After a nice morning spent with my parents, I headed home to watch the ceremonial registering of the 2020 Election ballots in the U.S. Capitol Building. I still have such fond memories of visiting the Capitol Building as a child on a special, family trip to Washington, D.C. Perhaps that is where my interest in government began so long ago.

Tragically, January 6, 2021 will be remembered for an assault on democracy in our homeland by American terrorists. As I watched in shock while white Supremacists climbed the Capitol stairs and scaled the walls, I kept asking myself, “Where are the police and the National Guard? How can this be happening?” It was such a contrast to last year’s Black Lives Matter marches for racial justice that were surrounded by police in riot gear and National Guard troops. Enough is enough!

The peaceful transfer of power is a cornerstone of our government. Thankfully, democracy prevailed! I noticed small changes late into the night when members of Congress slowly came together to work toward change. The events of Wednesday have further opened our eyes to the extreme dangers of the deep divide that separates Americans. Although I am fearful of the things that could happen during the next twelve days, I remain very hopeful that things will improve for everyone with the peaceful transfer of power to the new administration. I pray that our new leaders will guide us carefully through the pandemic, saving lives and helping us all slowly move back into our routines. Working together can make life better for us all!

♦ ♦ ♦

Since Wednesday, I have felt a strong need for quiet and stillness… just to process all that has happened. There have been many conversations with family members and video chats with friends abroad as we all try to understand. I have also been listening to the voices of Black women and learning just how much trauma they are feeling in the aftermath of Wednesday’s attack on our democracy.

Sipping soothing, herbal tea while rereading last year’s journal brought me comfort in the stillness

My ‘word’ for 2020 proved to be very helpful as I learned to savor all of the unexpected time spent at home!

Tucked behind each monthly welcome page, were my goals and a list of things I looked forward to during the month. There were so many changes during the year as Covid restrictions completely upended our daily lives! Although I made fewer handmade cards, I wrote so many more letters to friends, near and far, last year. We were all looking for personal ways to connect at a distance.

It was interesting to revisit some of the lessons learned that helped me through 2020.

As I reread the pages of my 2020 Self-Care bullet journal, I found so much peace in all of the monthly Gratitude pages. There were so many blessings, large and small, in the past year. I’m truly happy that I documented them all on my journal pages!

I looked back on the little things that filled my December days. A few times throughout the year, I document the little things that are currently happening. These pages become tiny time capsules of months gone by.

I quietly reflected upon all the valuable lessons that my Self-Care journals have taught me over the past three years. During my first year of bullet journaling, my monthly “Reasons to Be Proud” pages were filled with things I had done for other people. Ever since, I have intentionally documented things that I am doing for my own Self-Care each month. It was a challenge at first to find things that I had done for myself. Now it has become easy to fill a whole page with things that I do for my own Self-Care each month! 🙂 I am often surprised by the unexpected ways that my bullet journals help me to grow.

Savoring the healing stillness during this emotional week has been a true blessing for me. I’m looking forward to ‘restarting’ the New Year next week! 😉 I have a brand new journal to fill with healthy habits and positive thoughts. I also have a brand new ‘word’ to guide me through whatever 2021 brings!

How are you feeling this week?

What has helped you through these challenging times?

Hope you’ll chat with us…

♥ ♥ ♥

Please take extra good care of yourself!

Stay safe and healthy!

Sending healing hugs,

♡ Dawn

Togetherness…

Hi Friends!

Togetherness, during this year of change, feels so very different! Thankfully, we are all finding ways we can gather while we stay safe and healthy at home. Today’s letter is a very long one! You will need a cup of tea or perhaps some eggnog. 🙂 Get cozy, sweet friends! Hope you’ll enjoy…

Longtime friends of our blog know how much I cherish the hand-lettered words and beautiful watercolors of my very favorite author and artist, Susan Branch. Susan’s creativity has touched my heart ever since since 1986 when her very first book was published. Six years ago, Susan’s blog inspired me to enter the wonderful world of blogging. I always look forward, with immense joy, to the times I can gather with Susan and her Girlfriends. We always celebrate togetherness as the entire room overflows with creativity, kindred spirits, and kindness!

A few memories from a book signing with Susan Branch in 2013

I was overjoyed to meet (and hug!) Susan for the very first time at a small, independent bookstore during her cross country road trip to celebrate her book, A Fine Romance. New friendships made that evening continue to grow today. Long after most everyone went home, Susan and Joe lingered to chat with us about their travels in England as we gathered outside around their van.

A lovely tea party with Susan in 2013

Later that same week, Susan gathered with even more Girlfriends at a tea party in her honor in Wilmette, Illinois. It was such a treat to hear more stories about Susan and Joe’s travels in England. As we all waited in a very long book signing line, dear new friendships formed among kindred spirits. Of course, there were more hugs as Susan signed my books!

Another delightful tea party with Susan in 2016

Meanwhile, Susan wrote and illustrated the next two books in her wonderful memoir trilogy, The Fairy Tale Girl and Martha’s Vineyard, Isle of Dreams. So, she and Joe celebrated with another cross country tour in 2016. There was an even bigger tea party, in Wilmette, Illinois in Susan’s honor! Kindred spirits reunited that day to celebrate deepening friendships as we met more new friends. Susan has a such a wonderful way of bringing us together. Of course, there were more hugs from Susan! She truly touched my heart with her ever-so-kind words that day. Oh my! I was so surprised when she told me that she enjoys stopping by to quietly read our little blog.   Kindred spirits!

Togetherness suddenly changed for us all this year. Throughout the Spring and Summer months, while she stayed at home, Susan worked extra hard on a new book in her home studio, on Martha’s Vineyard. She realized that we would all need a little ‘extra’ Christmas spirit THIS year!

My copy of Home for Christmas arrived, hot off the press, several weeks ago. I carefully tucked it away until the first week of December when I knew I would need a little ‘extra’ Christmas. What a delight!  Susan’s charming story of her very special family Christmas in 1956 will warm your heart, bring back fond memories of your own, make you smile, and might even bring a few tears.

As I read about Susan’s family Christmas, so many memories of our family Christmas celebrations in the late 1950s and early 1960s danced through my heart! I’m sure my parents will enjoy this little gem of a book, too. The past few days, I’ve been sharing some of my favorite family Christmas memories with my mom and dad…

Susan shared her memories of looking at Christmas decorations in their California neighborhood in 1956.

Our family loved to visit my Aunt Judy and Uncle Jimmy during the holidays. Their Chicago neighborhood was a Candy Cane Lane, too! I have such warm memories of bundling up for an after-dinner walk down their block on Christmas Eve. One house had a large glass case with a life-sized Santa Claus playing an organ! Christmas music drifted down the block as we walked and admired the twinkling lights and decorations at each house. It was a Winter wonderland! After our walk, we would sit in my aunt’s fancy living room (Do you remember plastic slipcovered furniture?), sipping Christmas punch (while trying not to spill it), and singing Christmas carols while Aunt Judy played the organ.

Susan shared her joy as her grandma arrived for the holidays!

Our special tradition was always to celebrate Christmas Eve with my dad’s side of the family. Each year, we would gather at a different home for a magical Christmas Eve celebration! Several years, we chose to celebrate a different country each Christmas Eve. One year, we had an old English Christmas, another year, we celebrated a French Christmas, and so on. I will always remember my Aunt Gilda (a wonderful artist, teacher, and world traveler) illustrating the invitations as I carefully helped her color them. We would tuck a special recipe into each invitation, so that each family could bring a special dish from the country we were celebrating.

We always celebrated Christmas Day with my mom’s side of the family. After we opened our stockings and our presents from Santa early on Christmas morning, we couldn’t wait for my grandma, aunts and uncle to arrive from the countryside. Their car was filled with big surprises for the entire family. My collection of dolls seemed to grow every December! Each year, there was someone new to love and care for ~ Tiny Tears, Chatty Cathy, Poor Pitiful Pearl, Barbie, Ken, Skipper, and of course, a Dawn doll, too. (Did you play with any of the same dolls?) My mom always made a delicious, traditional Christmas dinner. We couldn’t wait for her amazing Christmas cookies to appear on Christmas Day! She had been baking cookies for weeks and hiding them so that they would last until Christmas Day. (Shhh! I might have discovered Mom’s secret hiding place for cookies!) 😉

Susan’s sweet illustration of her grandma’s car brought back a flood of happy memories, too! We had the very same 1955 green Buick! We loved driving out to the countryside every other weekend in that car to vacation at my grandparents’ home along the Fox River. In the days before expressways, it was a very long ride for my younger brothers and me! Sometimes, we had to draw that ‘invisible line’ dividing the backseat to keep us all happy. Most of the time, however, we were content playing Auto Bingo, as we searched for cows and horses along the way.  Our biggest adventure with our old green Buick was our drive from Illinois all the way to California to visit relatives in 1960. Since our car didn’t have air conditioning, my dad bought a special air cooler to hang on the window for that five day drive out west. Along the way, we made frequent stops to fill the air cooler with bottles of water. (Do you remember air coolers on cars?)

Christmas ‘magic’ always fills me with childlike wonder!

Home for Christmas truly is the little ‘extra’ Christmas we dream of in 2020. As you take delight in Susan’s Christmas memories, you will savor so many memories of your own Christmas celebrations! What a gift to us all, dear Susan! Heartfelt thanks for stirring so many precious memories of togetherness to help us through this holiday season! ♥♥

Of course, Susan wasn’t able to come visit us all this year in celebration of her newest book. So, she planned several virtual gatherings of Girlfriends over the past few months. Her gatherings benefited a local senior center and several small, independent bookstores.

Visiting Beatrix Potter’s home was a dream-come-true for Susan!

In August, Susan invited her readers into her cozy kitchen, via Zoom, to share a slide show and some of her favorite memories from their trip through the English countryside that inspired A Fine Romance. What a delightful afternoon of togetherness!

In September, just as our copies of Home for Christmas arrived in our mailboxes, Susan gathered with us, via Zoom, to share some of her favorite family memories of Christmas 1956. Susan was in her kitchen and I sipped tea in our dining room, with a special feeling of togetherness.

Yesterday afternoon, 1,034 Girlfriends gathered with Susan Branch for a final gathering of kindred spirits this year.  It felt like a reunion as we chatted, via Crowdcast, while we waited for Susan. There were so many friends greeting one another from near and far! From her charming kitchen, the ‘heart of her home,’ Susan answered our questions, shared her dreams, and told us about the books she is currently writing and illustrating.  We are looking forward to her book of beautifully, illustrated quotations! (Just my cup of tea!) Susan is releasing the first chapter of her upcoming book, Enchanted. This very special book is an illustrated diary of Susan and Joe’s four-month adventure in England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. (Can’t wait to read about their travels in Ireland!)

Huge thanks, Susan and Joe, for inviting us all into your home so many times this year! It’s always a very special treat to spend time with you. You inspire us and warm our hearts every time, Susan. Sending big air hugs! ♥♥

Heartfelt thanks for visiting with us today, sweet friends!

I look forward to gathering here again very soon.

We all need a little extra togetherness right now…

Be safe! Stay healthy!

Warmest hugs,

♡ Dawn

P.S.  Please let us know if you have ever attended one of Susan’s gatherings!

P.P.S.  If you type ‘Susan Branch’ into the search bar in the blog Archives, you will find many posts about Susan. 🙂

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Spaces…

Hi Friends!

It’s such a tender moment in time as I sit at my keyboard on Thanksgiving morning 2020. For the first time ever, our family will be celebrating this special day Together-Apart. We have chosen to stay physically distant now so that when we gather again, no one is missing…

My sweet husband and I are enjoying Thanksgiving with just the two of us for the very first time. It will be a poignant, quieter, reflective kind of celebration. We are intentionally blending some of our favorite holiday traditions with some new, non-traditional plans. Who knows? Today may be the beginning of some new Thanksgiving traditions!

As the cranberries simmered last night, I lovingly paged through Susan Branch’s Autumn book, savoring the memories of all of our family favorites. Countless times through the years, my brothers would say, “This is really delicious. Is it a Susan Branch recipe?” 🙂

As I set our Thanksgiving table for two, I intentionally chose different linens, place settings, and candles. Making a few new traditions will make our longtime family traditions feel even sweeter when we can gather safely again.

Later today, we will gather via Skype for pumpkin pie and favorite family stories. This is an old, family tradition that made each Thanksgiving special while our parents lived in the Arizona sunshine. Virtual gatherings continue to warm our hearts, even though our parents now live in a beautiful, senior community just twelve miles away! The blessings of technology are sure to be a part of so many family gatherings across America today!

Thanksgiving isn’t just one day for me though, it’s my way of living every single day! The Gratitude pages in my bullet journal are filled with the many blessings of 2020 for our family. It has been a truly difficult time for us. Yet, so many of our blessings are the doctors and nurses who have helped us during this very challenging year.

I am especially grateful for the doctors and nurses that have taken such wonderful care of me over the past eight months. Over time, my ophthalmologists, neuro-ophthalmologists, my primary care physician, and many technicians helped and advised me after sudden double vision and a loss of depth perception made every minute of daily living quite a challenge for me. Two weeks ago, my wonderful surgeon performed eye muscle surgery and eye muscle adjustments that seem to have solved my vision problems for the moment. 🙂  As I rest and heal from surgery, I am savoring the many blessings of good health! I am really looking forward to driving again after so many l-o-n-g months!

One of my special blessings happened last weekend when we visited the beautiful, grounds of the Theosophical Society. Walking meditation on the spiral labyrinth has always felt very meaningful to me. When we attempted to walk the labyrinth in October, I couldn’t even walk the path. My double vision caused the stepping stones to jump all around me, without a visible path to follow. My sweet husband had to lead me out of the labyrinth… heartbroken.

Last weekend, it felt so easy to follow the stepping stones! With each step, I counted my many blessings for the past several months. I can’t wait to share the happy news with my eye surgeon at my next checkup! For me, it was the ultimate eye test… and a perfect, little outing on a sunny, Autumn day! 🙂 I will always treasure that small moment that felt like such a huge milestone!

During life’s most challenging times, there are always things to be thankful for. Sometimes, we have to look really hard to find the blessings, both large and small. I am so grateful for all of the front line healthcare heroes, the dedicated teachers, the essential workers in the food stores, the hardworking volunteers at food pantries, the mail carriers and delivery workers, friends and neighbors who offer a helping hand, and the artists who continue to inspire me.

 

My friends, YOU are definitely some of favorite blessings!  Thank you for taking the time to visit and read older posts from the blog archives. Most of all, thank you for joining in the conversation with all of your thoughtful comments. Your comments are my very favorite part of this blog! You teach me and inspire me every time you share your thoughts.

Although we must patiently be physically distant for a while longer, kindred spirits can stay socially connected in so many ways. I have been writing lots of letters over the past week. (So many friends wrote back right away!:) ) It was such a joy to hear all of their family news.

I will try very hard to write more regularly here in the coming weeks. I’m looking forward to visiting all of my special blogging friends, too. It feels like blogging is such an important way to stay connected during this moment in time. We need one another more than ever right now!

Today we remember all of the precious lives lost due to Covid as we worry what may happen next. We think of the terrible economic challenges facing so many families and businesses. We look for ways to unite and work together to solve our many problems. We wait for the vaccines to be ready. I remain hopeful.

The spaces in our togetherness often allow us to grow in new ways, take actions toward change, offer us time to create, and to just pause… breathe… and count our many blessings.

Please stay safe and healthy, my friends!!

Warmest Thanksgiving blessings!

♡ Dawn

 

 

 

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Let’s Stay Home

Hi Friends!

You have been in my heart so often lately as we all walk together through this unprecedented moment in time. ♥ I truly hope that all of you and your families are well. How are you doing?  Please let us know…

If you are new to our blog, “Welcome!” Please say “Hi” in the comments…

My family is adjusting to all of the changes and just taking things one day at a time.  Here in Illinois we have been under a Stay At Home order for three weeks already. My husband has been working remotely from home. We have turned our dining room into his temporary office with his computers gracing our dining room table. I am trying to be extra quiet to help out. 😉 We both feel so grateful that he is able to work from home during this unsettled time.

We have both been taking extra precautions to stay healthy so that we can continue to help my parents as care partners. A few weeks ago, we began doing our grocery shopping online and having groceries delivered to our front porch to avoid all the stores. We have recently begun wearing masks when we must leave home.

At present, there are thirty-three known cases of Coronavirus in our town and over sixty Coronavirus patients in our local hospital. So, we continue to heed the advice of the scientists and doctors, our state governor, and local leaders. By staying home and social distancing, we are trying our very best to help flatten the curve.

Personally, this quiet time of staying at home feels like an unfamiliar ‘pause’ for me. Since the beginning of the year, life as a care partner had been very, very busy with doctors’ appointments, hospitalizations, and extended stays with my parents to help out. It always feels like an honor to spend time with my dear parents. They are still my best teachers as they show me how to live our best lives with bravery, resilience, and everlasting love!

For the past month, however, their Senior Community has been on lockdown. Everyone there is healthy… and they are using an abundance of caution to avoid the Coronavirus in their building. Three meals each day are delivered to their apartment. I’m so grateful that my parents have one another for company! All activities have been cancelled and their gathering spaces must remain empty. Everyone there is doing their part to Stay At Home. So far, it has been working…

It’s definitely a worrisome time, though, as a care partner who cannot visit! Lots of phone calls and Skype ‘visits’ are helping to keep us close, but nothing can take the place of real visits to help out in so many ways. So, it’s a challenging time for us. I am still able to drop off packages of medicine and other essentials at the lobby and staff members deliver them to my parents’ apartment. Last week, after dropping off a package, I followed the outdoor path along to their apartment and made a surprise phone call to invite Mom and Dad out onto their second-floor balcony. It was so nice to chat (loudly!) together for a few minutes as a family! ♥

Now I am savoring this unexpected ‘pause’ in quiet ways, giving myself much grace to feel all of the feelings. Reading, soaking up creative inspiration, writing in my Self-Care bullet journal, listening to podcasts, attending virtual WW Workshops, talking with friends, and writing letters help to lift my spirits. The online communities of creatives have been connecting with one another more often, as we encourage one another to share our handmade kindness with the world. I spent time tidying up my little Paper Garden studio downstairs and plan to spend lots of time creating handmade cards in the weeks to come. 🙂 I’m so very grateful that my creative spirit is slowly returning!

Spending time in nature has also been nourishing my heart and soul. I’m savoring daily walks through my garden, practicing ‘the art of noticing,’ as the perennials awaken during my very favorite season. I have also been taking brisk, solo walks (with lots of social distancing) through the neighborhood enjoying the sunshine and birdsong, as the Forsythia and Magnolias begin to bloom.

Unhurried time and ‘white space’ on my calendar have led to simple, new mindfulness practices. They are just small changes, but they feel very meaningful. During this heartbreaking time in our world, I have been even more aware of the importance of practicing gratitude. Every morning, as I hang the flag on our front porch, I quietly thank all of the doctors, nurses, first responders, scientists, store clerks, mail carriers, delivery people, and other essential workers who are doing such brave work while we stay at home.

Each evening, as I take down the flag, I think of all of the teachers who are working so hard to prepare meaningful lessons for their students while they cannot gather together in their classrooms. I think of the students who suddenly have to adapt to this new way of learning and their parents who have been pressed into the role of homeschooling. I also think of all the volunteers who are helping in food pantries and distributing boxes of food for those who have suddenly found themselves unemployed due to the Coronavirus. It’s humbling to see so many people who have come together to help during this frightening time.

I have also begun counting my blessings out loud each time I wash my hands! We are constantly washing our hands these days and practicing gratitude each time I use soap and water helps to soften the effect of all the breaking news. Although life feels very different now, there is still much to be thankful for each day. It helps us to remain hopeful that if we all do our part, there will be brighter days ahead!

Let’s stay home, stay safe, and stay positive!

♥ ♥ ♥

 

We are all in this together…

Please let us know how things are going in your corner of the world.

How are YOU coping with all that is happening?

 

Sending warm blessings for Easter and Passover,

Dawn

 

 

 

 

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Blank Pages…

Hi Friends!

Warm greetings from the wintery Midwest! Tiny snowflakes are dancing down as I write. A long string of cloudy days has us all dreaming of sunshine here! The first four weeks of the new year have flown by quickly.

Quiet moments of stillness during January often found me daydreaming…

As we rang in the New Year, I was really looking forward to my third year of bullet journaling and couldn’t wait to carefully unwrap a brand new Rhodia dot grid journal! Keeping a Self-Care Journal has been such a positive, inspiring way to create purposeful days over the past two years. Just a few quiet moments each evening spent reflecting on the day have taught me so many important lessons! My Self-Care Journal has become a powerful teacher, a place to set new goals, celebrate special moments, count my blessings, and track my healthy habits.

The time spent setting up my bullet journal each month always feels like a special, little gift ~ to me, from me! This January, however, felt very different. The blank, dot grid pages waited patiently while I relished several different creative thoughts…

Hmmm…  Was it procrastination or laziness that slowed me down this January? Not at all! I truly treasure the time I spend on my Self-Care Journal. So, why were the pages in my journal blank during the first half of January?

Those blank pages were cherished, day after day, while I relished the possibilities!

I was simply taking the time to honor my ‘word’ for this year. 🙂

For each of the past eight years, I have focused on a ‘word.’ Throughout our home, there are visible reminders of each word. Last Summer, I created Word Stones for my Friendship Garden to carry this mindfulness practice into the garden, too! 🙂

 

It feels so lovely to have a new ‘word’ to guide me this year…

2020 ~ savor

This Spring, I can’t wait to add a brand new ‘word’ to my Friendship Garden. 🙂

 

It felt simply luxurious to take extra time to savor several creative thoughts before beginning this year’s bullet journal. In my past two journals, I added bright color to each page. Using colorful markers kept me motivated all year long. Perhaps this year, it would be fun to try a more minimalist journaling style? Lately, I’ve been inspired by black and white pages, with pale, gray, drop shadows. It might be fun to create a completely new look in my 2020 journal! Oh, the possibilities! Day after day, I delighted in my creative thoughts until it felt just right to put pen to paper.

My 2020 Self-Care Journal will feature monthly spreads with soft colors and habit trackers in black and white, with the palest gray lines to chart my progress. Handlettered quotations will keep me inspired throughout the year. It felt like such a blessing to intentionally slow down and take time to savor the creative possibilities!

I’m so grateful that the ‘word’ savor chose me this year! It will be the perfect reminder to slow down a bit and take the time to fully appreciate the special moments sprinkled throughout each busy day. I have already noticed subtle changes! At a recent WW Lifetime gathering, we each created a Mind Map for the new year. I wrote savor in the center of my map, and set my intentions to savor time for Self-Care, Family, Creativity, Growth, and time in Nature. This Mind Map will be a visible reminder to slow down a bit and savor the joyful, meaningful moments in each and every day. 🙂

In January, one of the inspiring books I read was Seeking Slow, by Melanie Barnes. The author offers so many thoughtful ideas for living a slower life focusing on the simple pleasures in each day. I took notes as I read and look forward to making time to savor her ideas throughout the year.

I have been noticing and honoring the “slow moments” in my days ~ listening to music, writing in my journal, brewing a cup of herbal tea, watching the snowflakes fall, writing a long letter, and walking in nature. Melanie Barnes has also inspired me to create a “Quiet Corner” ~ a calm, relaxing place to savor at home. Now there is a small space for Yoga practice in a corner of our living room. I have been taking time to enjoy the plants blooming in our sunny dining room, noticing the vibrant Christmas Cactus blossoms, the pale pink Cyclamen blossoms, and the fragrant Lavender blossoms. It all feels very comforting and healing!

My blank pages are slowly filling up…

as I savor the quiet moments tucked into the corners of my days.

Thank you so much for taking the time to visit today!

What things have you been doing to nourish your heart and soul?

Do you have a special goal or ‘word’ to guide you through the new year?

What have you been reading lately?

Hope you will share with us…

 

Warm, cozy hugs!

♡ Dawn

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