I love the New Year. It’s a time for setting goals, fresh starts, and new hopes.
I realize the New Year is arbitrary. You could and should start at any point in time to work towards your goals and resolutions. I am a firm believer in doing what you can today to get closer to your goal.
But still - I think it can be helpful to focus on certain big goals that we can return to throughout the year. We can use the calendar year as a frame for focusing on our intentions. Some people choose a word, an annual mantra to hold onto.
Last year I focused on play, and while I feel like it was definitely something I carried with me throughout the year, I feel like I need to continue to push play into my life. I want more play like relaxed Summer days of sitting in the creek with the kids, more of just being silly, more dancing, and more making myself laugh. For instance, I like to write the days of the week like this: “Sundae”, “Mondee”, and “Thor’s Day.” And I use “chix” instead of chicken, “styx” instead of sticks, and “Biznasty” instead of business. It’s dumb and pointless, but it brings little ounces of joy to the mundane.
So, what is on the deck for 2019? In five words: Community, Creativity, Confidence, Body, and House! I am going to be starting many new ventures next year. I’m pushing myself harder than ever, and I feel really excited and terrified at the bed that I am making. I think it is going to be exhilarating and probably exhausting, but I feel like it’s an all or nothing moment.
Here are my goals for 2019:
What are your goals for 2019? Do you have a “word” or a mantra?
Happy New Year!!!!
More From Spring Bird
One of my goals this year was to acknowledge joy and delight. So, I started keep track of my favorite things - things that truly make me smile and laugh.
I was going to present them daily leading up to Christmas like an Advent Calendar (because Advent Calendars are one of my favorite things), but I didn't get my illustrations ready in time.
So, I am presenting them in the form of another favorite thing, as a listicle! I hope this post brings you some joy as you read it, and I really encourage you to keep a list of your favorite things. It's a fun thing to come back to -- especially on the sourest of days!!!
1. Advent Calendars - Especially Ones With Doors and Chambers
2. Stop Motion Animation - All Kinds
3. Clear Plastic Containers ( aesthetically - not environmentally)
4. Walled Gardens
5. Secret Worlds
Let’s talk about failure!
What do we do when outcomes do not meet our expectations?
Do we alter our expectations to meet the fruit of our efforts? Do we internalize perceived defeats as a challenge to double down even harder - to persist? Do we pivot and try something new - employ a different strategy?
I struggle with failure at the end of the year, when the books get balanced and the tally marks scratched into the wax of this year’s tablet. All of the hard work, effort, hopes, and dreams get boiled down into numbers that may break your heart.
How much longer can we go like this? When is a business failing, and when is it pushing through the weeds, over the bumps, and up the steep learning curves?
At times like this, all I can do is feel the fire in my belly that pushes me forward to the next day - to the next painting, blog, strategy, and hope. (Maybe this one will work.)
I say, “ Here I am - today - in this moment. This is what I have to offer the world.”
And I can feel good about that - one hundred percent satisfied. I may be losing by some metrics, but I embrace that loss if I know that I am doing work that I feel good about.
It’s at times like this that I keep thinking about the blue, weedy chicory plant that miraculously bloomed in the barren dirt patch that is my front yard, left by an excavator that disturbed the top soil and removed its greenery.
I was so happy to have this singular chicory plant find its way to my dull yard - to bring its beauty there, but to my disappointment, that night, a deer snatched the blue flower off its stem!
My spirits sank. “So much for that!” I thought, but the next day, there was a new blossom flowering on a different spot on the plant. Hope springs! Well, it got eaten during its first night, too! Then, the day after, a new bloom would arise, and it would go on like that throughout the whole Summer. “Here I am!” it would say, and then, “Now I am gone!” Then again, “Here I am!”
Eventually, a second and third chicory plant found rooting. By the end of Summer, there were three tough, weedy chicory plants in my mostly barren yard. Maybe this Summer the three plants will give rise to a few more. And maybe after several Summers, there would be more than enough chicory plants blooming in my front yard that I will not be able to refer to it as barren anymore, and maybe then there will be so many that we won’t mind losing some to the deer.
How do we make our homes? Our culture impresses upon us the value of disposable trends and knicknacks sourced at Target end caps, but I remember growing up with elaborately embroidered dish towels and pillow cases and braided rag rugs constructed from work clothes. Traditional women's work meant that quilts were made for warmth but also served as creative expression for their makers. These homemade items not only make a home but can also be satisfying for the maker. Furthermore, they become enduring and beloved because of their homemade-ness.
So, with the recent rennovations at the cottage, I knew I wanted some new throw pillows. I could have easily picked something up inexpensively from Ikea or Traget, but I saw the need as an opportunity to use up t-shirt yarn (yarn made from cutting up t-shirts) and to practice my own creativity . . . to make something more special and unique for the cottage.
Because I often get asked about how my loom works and the difference between warp and weft, I've included a very basic tutorial of how I made these. This is mostly meant for non-weavers to understand the process. So, if you are a weaver looking for specifics on reeds and yarn, you won't find that here, but you probably can figure this one out on your own.
Hope you enjoy the photos and explanation. If you are coming to the cottage soon, I hope you enjoy the pillow in your restful time at the cottage!
The warp runs length-wise through the loom. It's the part that actually gets physically tied onto the loom. Every weaving project begins by determing how wide you want to make the piece, how long it is going to be, and how many ends (or strings) per inch is required for the fabric you are weaving. The more ends per inch, the finer the thread and therefore the finer the fabric that you are weaving.
For weaving rag rugs, you use a fairly thick thread for durability. I used a cotton rug warp thread for this project in a variety of colors that I think matched my weft nicely.
To measure and wind your warp, you need a warping board like this!
The warping board makes it easy to measure out your yarn, but it also helps to structure an "x" shape that will help to keep the ends from tangling before you thread them onto the loom.
This is what a bunch of ends look like on the warping board. It looks like pulling fabric taffy! While I am winding, I am counting bundles of ten to make sure I wind the exact amount of threads.
What if we approach each day as praxis - in which we make intentional choices, repeatedly with the goal of getting closer to making our life a work of art?
Both of my kids have been playing the violin from age five, and since they are learning via the Suzuki method, I read about Suzuki’s method in his book: Nurtured by Love: The Classic Approach to Talent Education
In his book, Suzuki makes the argument that every child can learn to play the violin if they practice. And while learning to play the violin is indeed wonderful in and of itself, Suzuki further claims that the practice of learning actually leads to developing beautiful human beings. My kids were taught by their teachers that practicing the violin is not something you have to do, but it is something that you get to do. Also that in learning to play the violin, you learn how you learn. Each person learns differently and at their own pace. Within the Suzuki method, you must keep going, however slowly, with the intention of improving - even at smallest intervals and most definitely after repeated trials and failures.
“To make a resolution and act accordingly is to live with hope. There may be difficulties and hardships, but not disappointment or despair if you follow the path steadily. Do not hurry. This is a fundamental rule. If you hurry and collapse or tumble down, nothing is achieved. DO not rest in your efforts; this is another fundamental rule. Without stopping, without haste, carefully taking a step at a time forward will surely get you there.”
― Shinichi Suzuki, Nurtured by Love: The Classic Approach to Talent Education
I find so much hope and solace in knowing that being careful and intentional is the best course. Nothing happens overnight - even when it seems like it does for others. We don’t lose weight or learn a new language quickly. We can’t sew a quilt or write a book overnight, but we can choose a life of praxis in which we are thoughtful in how we carve out time to do the things that we really want to do.
We make time to intentionally journal, meditate, cook a delicious meal, walk our dogs, breathe, or sketch. Doing these things everyday - or most days- becomes the rock we roll up the hill. When we concentrate on doing them and reflect on them afterwards, we begin to notice how we are changed by our actions. We become better at drawing, running, or cooking, or maybe we notice how much we have learned about our dogs after dozens of dozens of walks. These seemingly small practices are actually sacred moments brought to us by sacred choices. You don’t have to practice, you get to.
I know this method of Mr. Suzuki works because I get to listen to my kids play their violins every day. I hear how they have developed, how they know books and books of songs like the backs of their hands, and while sometimes they drag their feet to practice ( it can still feel like have to), once the violin is in position and they begin to move the bow across the strings, they sound like I get to. Maybe they also know something of the commitment and intention that they have practiced these years can be applied to anything new that they want to make part of their lives. If they don’t know that now, I am hoping they will be able to understand that when they are olds. For now, I am certain that there bodies sure know it. Their fingers, their chins, their breath, and their wrists know praxis well.
When we choose to look at our life as a practice and each day as an opportunity to try again, we continue to grow and evolve as humans. Now if this same praxis is applied to practicing our creativity - to infusing each day with practicing - pushing - evolving our creative selves - of continuing when we are stuck, what would be possible for us?
What do you practice? What would you like to begin learning or incorporate into your praxis of life?
PS I encourage anyone interested in educational philosophy to get their hands on Nurtured by Love. It will be life changing. I am definitely planning on reading it again and again!
The absolute truth is that making soft, stuffed heart ornaments makes my heart grow three times as large. I can't explain it, but it is a project I regularly undertake in various iterations each winter.
This year, I decided to use upcycled wool (from old coats and skirts) that I had previously felted in my washer and dryer. Felted wool is so cozy; it adds warmth and fuzziness that I am particularly longing for this season.
While you could applique anything, I chose the cheery polka dots that allowed me to utilize more scrap fabrics in a rainbow of colors. (Again, all things that bring me joy.)
This is a simple sewing project perfect for beginners, but an experienced sewer will enjoy it as well! The process alone is heartworming and worthwhile!
Let me know if you make stuffed heart ornaments!!!
For this project, you will need to gather the following:
Cut out a heart template from the card stock.
I free-handed this one, but you could easily trace a cookie cutter or print a heart template from google images for a more precise and symmetrical heart.
Pin the template to the front fabric and cut around the template to create the front of your heart.
Choose your fabric scraps in colors that are pleasing to you and cut little circles from them.
Again, I free-handed these, but you could use circle shaped stickers as an easy template if you are after precision.
Turning thirty-eight has got me thinking about my younger self, but not in the way you think. I don’t wish I was closer to thirty than forty. I really don’t want to revisit my twenties. No, I want to go further back -- to a time when I was a shame free and unrestrained five-year-old.
I have this memory of crouching over our dining room table with my siblings. We had tiled the table in sheets of paper, securing them with scotch tape. On top of our giant sized paper, Frankensteined together, we drew roads, houses, buildings, and parks. We took our map into the third dimension by cutting tiny paper trees and stop signs, and by folding and taping a flap, we erected them in parways and at intersections. The experience of creating with abandon, with limitless possibilities, was indeed thrilling for my little creative brain and tiny hands. Our creativity was fueled by each other’s ideas and agreement that we could built it, our own world. It seemed like we were getting away with something. I was grateful that our Mom didn’t interrupt our game. She wasn’t upset with the scraps of paper littering the floor. I felt on top of our little paper world.
This sense of creative power is something that I have worked my whole life to return to. I want to hold on to myself at age four or five - full of curiosity, possibility, play, and wonder. I do not know much about early childhood development, but this seems to me to be the age where our sense of self and personality are fully rooted. We haven’t been negatively impacted by the socializing forces of school. We haven’t been taught to doubt, to fit in, or to be normal. All of which curb creativity.
We all have this fearlessly creative five-year-old in us. We can find her again. It’s my life’s goal to get her back. I’m confident that play and creativity are part of the process of finding her. Also, I need to let go of fear of judgement and cut away any attempt of “fitting in”. These limiting ideas should litter the floor like the rain of paper scraps.
Yes, my five-year-old self still exists, and she is probably cutting paper trees, or getting lost listening to records in the corner of the dining room, or she is feebly sewing pink gingham pillows for her Barbie dolls, making enormous stitches with black thread.
Can you remember when you were five? What did you like to do most?
Anna Lentz, artist, writer, and creativity coach who blogs about making a creative life connected with nature at Spring Bird.