Archive for the ‘creativity’ Category

Remember my basement?  The Hellmouth?  Well, maybe I cannot accomplish miracles in one month, but give me two or three and all matters of accomplishment can happen as my photos will attest.

Before:                                               After:



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Finally bought and planted the Limelight Hydrangea and am so psyched at the pretty.  See for yourself!  When I started working on the garden last March, I cleared all of the weeds from this small area and divided and transplanted the hostas.  The Limelight Hydie was the crowning touch.  Thank you Labor Day gardening sales!

The once derelict plot

Up close and pretty

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Okay, got it.  I’m going to turn the hell mouth that is my basement into a pleasant, creative, fun, happy space for my kids on a budget of zero $.  Currently it’s a disaster zone of toys, art kits and supplies, trains and stuff.  The Huz moved the kid items out of the “art” room in the basement to create a Man Cave.  Said items do not have a home and look sad laying around in piles.  I will organize them and make pretty.  Huz hung art work, for which I’m grateful, but it’s still awfully bare down there.  Here’s some photos to view the BEFORE scene.  Clearly something must be done, stat!

The Hell Mouth

The “art” area
The art on the walls barely disguises the chaos. Barely.
My kids transform most places into “beds”

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Well, I returned from Italy on Friday night but jetlag has pursued me like a hungry hound.  I’m finally feeling right in the head today so I thought I’d follow up on the goodbye post.

Spannocchia: courtyard view

I had a great time!  My home-sickness was bad in Rome, the first four days of the trip, and that was with constant phone calls and Skype, but then something happened.  I had a great workshop of my two pieces, we left for Tuscany, and I shared more of my work in public readings.  Wallflower no more!  Actually, I was still pretty quiet on the trip, but during workshop I felt comfortable to share my thoughts and in smaller group settings, I was perfectly happy.

The estate where we stayed in Tuscany, Spannocchia, had so much to do with my feelings of ease.  We had time to get to know one another, communal meals, wonderful open-mic-style readings every night,

and dorm life.  Plus, most of us went to the pool after dinner to slough off the heat = more community-building.  Can you sense a theme?  For a program that is low-residency, meaning we don’t see one another for a year and do most of the work on our own at home, feeling part of a community is important (well, at least it is for me).

Community meals with bottomless wine

So, many new friends later, I am home where the heat index is far worse than it was in the middle of the Forum in Rome.  I’m thrilled to spend a month with my kids before school starts, happy to see the Huz when I’m not passed out from exhaustion, and sneaking moments at the computer to start my first writing packet for the semester.

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One of my unpublished, unspoken resolutions for April has been happening and I’m pretty excited about it.  Last month, I finished my first semester in the Spalding University brief-residency MFA in writing program.  With this in mind, I was hoping to take some time off from writing and actually start submitting my work with some degree of planning and regularity.  Well, the planning has fallen to hell with spring break and now my realization that I have to write an essay on two Fellini films in two weeks, read two books and submit 20 pages of writing by May 5 or 7 (I forget), but somehow, when I’m procrastinating on laundry or cleaning the fridge, I’ve managed to research and submit three essays, one a day, this week alone!  Four in the past month.  So I’m putting myself out there and it’s both exhilarating and terrifying.

Wish I could say I’ve done more on the spiritual search, but I did have a great conversation with an old friend and mother role-model the other night that gave me momentum.  More to come.

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While I have already summed up some of my progress/failures of the month, I thought I’d do so in a more official manner to match previous months.  Then, I’m moving on!

Purchase peat pots and terrarium for seeds — NOPE, haven’t done it yet.  Still have plenty of time and I’m going to sow some of the seeds directly into the soil because my father, the expert gardener, says that’s how he does it.  Make way for lettuce, radish, and maybe carrots, Garden!

Move plants that are in the wrong place — CHECK!  Well, for the most part.  I can’t move the peonies or hollyhocks until after they bloom, so fall.  But I did move the oak leaf hydrangeas and my husband moved the crowded azalea.  The hostas and irises, and maybe tulips, will also have to wait for fall dividing and replanting.  At least now I know.

Build 2 more raised vegetable beds — NOPE.  We’ve had a cold spell and haven’t gotten to the yard in weeks.  It will happen.

Plan the garden in front of the garage — IN PROCESS.  I did plant a knock out rose to fill in the gap where I pulled a hollyhock last summer and to hopefully dissuade my dog/moose from traipsing in the bed.

Attend gardening workshop — NOPE.  Fortunately, these happen pretty regularly throughout the spring and summer, so all is not lost.

How’d I do?  On the surface, not great.  Dig deeper and I’m satisfied.  It was a busy and wrenching month and still I was able to purchase new plants, move old ones and plan ahead.  Compared to last year, I am a master gardener.

Celtic knot symbolizing body/mind/spirit interconnection. I've always been drawn to Celtic symbols.

One thing I’ve learned from focusing on the soil is that I gain a lot of spiritual comfort getting my hands dirty, sweating in the sun, seeing my plants bloom, and having quiet time just me and my yard.  The categories that I have set up for this blog are organizational constructs, but I know that body/mind/spirit are false divisions devised by Greek philosophers and reinforced by Judeo-Christian texts and homilies.  It all blends together for me.  Gardening is one part body (dirty hands, sweat, sore muscles), one part mind (understanding basic botany, visual organizing), one part spiritual (as outlined before), and altogether creative.  This is as close to religion as I sometimes get, but now I’m eluding to next month’s goal: Spirituality.  And it’s a doozy!

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Almost the end of the month time, time for reflection.

This month I didn’t have lofty goals.  I knew that my kids’ schedules would not permit much room for me to percolate with personal growth.  And then smack in the middle of the chaos came death.  My father’s long-time girlfriend – a strong charismatic woman – fell ill and passed in one brief month.  Not enough time to process the loss, to know what to say to her or my father.  So, in between running to ballet and soccer and ping-ponging between schools sometimes 3 or 4 times a day with various events and volunteering commitments, I drove to the hospital.  I drove to the nursing home.  I drove back to the hospital.  And I wrote daily emails to my out-of-town family to help them keep track.  This month did not turn out like I expected, but I am glad my personal goals were digestible and I’m learning that each month’s goals need not end the last day of the month.  Each month is a beginning process, rather.  An opportunity to grow and commit to stop the neurosis, start the action.

The focus of the month has been my garden/s, my yard.  The main thing I’ve learned is: it’s too early to start most of the gardening I want to do!  It’s a great time to plant or transplant shrubs, so I did that.  Summer bulbs can go in – still on my list.  And some vegetables can be sown directly in the garden soil, particularly root vegetables that take longer to grow and lettuces.  Haven’t done that yet either, but did turn the soil in the beds.  Some of my more nagging weeds are gone, so that’s improvement, and I have more of a vision for what I want the green space surrounding me and my family to look like.  I haven’t attended the garden workshops on my list, but there’s still time.  Most are offered throughout the growing season.  One big thing I learned is some garden centers charge much much more for a plant you can get for $9.98 at Lowes.  If it doesn’t make it, I’m only out $9.98.  I call it stress-free, budget gardening.  I also learned that friends are willing to give me cuttings for free.  If anyone in the River City needs some Sedum or Hostas (come Fall), give me a shout.

New leaves on the Oak Leaf Hydrangeas that I moved! They like me! They really like me!

Gardening, and being outside in general, has a calming effect on me.  It boosts my mood, even if I don’t know what I’m doing.  Taking walks with my beastly dog amongst the flowering trees has helped bring comfort at a time of loss.  I know I haven’t been as diligent getting to the blog and my posts have been more scattered in focus (and trust me, I’m still taking the Vyvanse!), but I am feeling the old adage hold true–March is going out like a lamb, or in my case like Lamb’s Ear.

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This has been a hard month.  I knew before February ended that my March would be straightjacketed with scheduled obligations, mostly my children’s.  When I say that, it sounds negative.  I don’t mean to whine.  I’m happy to be able to chauffeur my kids to all of the places they need to go.  I’m happy to have a schedule that allows me to volunteer (and dress like a pig in a tutu) at my daughter’s school.  I’m happy to give my time and energy to fundraising for her school too. (Side note: the read-a-thon that I co-coordinated with another awesome mom raised over $2,300!!!  This overwhelms me with joy when I think of how many truly needy kids at that school will benefit from the additional funds.)  So, I am tired but relatively happy.

What I hadn’t counted on was my father’s girlfriend of six years ending up in ICU and bouncing between the hospital and nursing home.  What I hadn’t counted on was her diagnosis of inoperable cancer.  I hadn’t counted on her rapid decline or my father’s remorse.  It has been a hard month.

Despite the hectic schedule and the emotional roller coaster, my husband and I put in a couple hours of yard work to bring a few plans to fruition.  I had the vision, my husband did the grunt work, for which I thank him.  So, to balance the sorrow of this past month, we have spring in our yard.  Woody weeds removed, forsythia planted, grass seed scattered, and detritus cleared, kids on bikes and hiding in tents on the lawn, the dog happily chasing squirrels.  A little solace on the porch.  Soon I will plant the fledgling knock-out rose bush in the back flower bed, scatter some lettuce seed in the vegetable garden and plant some summer dahlia rhizomes to replace the perky tulips.  And it will help.

Forsythia from above

I look forward to the forsythia sprawling like a wild child

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Despite the crazy busy-ness of this month, I’ve had some creative moments and some organizational breakthroughs.  Hazaa!  First, on Monday I finally arranged for my mother figure to come over and counsel me on de-cluttering.  We looked at three rooms, I took notes (one column for what to change, one for what to buy).  I checked my bank account balance then went to Target.  Lucky me, it’s Easter season.  No, I didn’t stock up on Cadbury Eggs (though that’s a good thought).  Instead I loaded up on Easter “baskets” which I am now proudly using as storage.  Check out the colorful tin and baskets I used on my daughter’s bookshelf.

An organized shelf

My mother figure and I have several more Mondays of work ahead of us (thank you!), but I’m inspired.

Next, I got my daughter’s Junie B. Jones costume together for Literacy Day at her school.  Since I’m on the planning committee and volunteering, I got the hint that I had better wear a costume too.  Choosing a children’s literary character isn’t easy.  Most of them are animals or ordinary kids or worse, kids (or animals) in period costume.  I didn’t want to spend a lot of money and did want to use whatever I already have in my closet.  I’m going as Olivia.  This Olivia.

She tends to dress only in red with occasional black and white striped or polka-dotted accents.  In her fantasies she sometimes wears a tutu.

So, I made a red, Olivia-inspired tutu today which I’ll wear with black and white stripes.  And a pig snout.  Ta-da!

I can’t take complete credit for this tutu.  Thanks goes to the mom at the Feels Like Home blog who gave great instructions along with helpful step-by-step photos.

Last thing — and it’s only Tuesday, mind you — my four-year-old son and I visited two gardening centers in the rain.  I’m talking Seattle downpour rain or Louisville Flood of ’37 rain.  My son splashed in the puddles and put all of the fishy-shaped watering cans on our cart while I priced some forsythia bushes to replace the oak leaf hydrangeas (too pricey, will look elsewhere) and got a great suggestion on a ground cover for the patchy area under our dogwood: blue star creeper.  It will be in stock along with other step-ables next week.  We shall return.

Ready for its close-up: Blue star creeper

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After yoga this morning I figured, hey, I’m already sweaty why not get dirty too.  So I headed to the backyard where my family was already tidying and playing.  My husband turned the compost, mowed the grass, and laid a path of pavers from the sidewalk to the vegetable garden, right under the pesky dogwood tree.  I gave the mophead hydrangea a haircut (deadheaded) and transplanted the oak leaf hydrangeas from the front to the back yard.  In two short hours we made some nice improvements!  The paver stone path will look awesome once I plant a creeping ground cover around them, maybe a step-able herb that releases aromatic scents when you step on them like thyme.  And I’m relieved to have the oak leaf hydrangeas in a nice shady spot below the deck.  Their roots looked good, there’s some new growth.  I’m encouraged.  I dug the new holes deep and wide enough to accommodate the root balls. The soil is really clay-y but fortunately huge roots from my neighbor’s oak tree run through the holes meaning the bushes will drain well.  I mulched and watered, but now I need to leave them be for a little while.  I can’t over-water them or the roots will rot.  Before you judge, the bushes are supposed to look like skeletons in early spring.  The mophead hydrangea already has loads of new growth.  I’m ready for the trees to start flowering and get this spring party started!

This is an excellent site chock full of hydrangea information: Hydrangeas! Hydrangeas!

Oak Leaf Hydrangeas in their new home

Sassy Mophead Hydrangea showing off its new growth


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