Friday, August 31, 2012

year five

Every August we have the same conversations, this is the day I arrived in California, this is the day we met, this is the day you went out of your way to find me a Starbucks, this is the day we took that walk. You talked about robots and were so nervous.  Pieces of the story that we never forget, that never fade into the mirage of the rest.  The beginning of us. 

It seems like anything before us was a lifetime ago. There was childhood. College. Us. 

Five years now.

The late summer air was thick and warm, typical of Bell Buckle, Tennessee. The barn was swept and decorated, not a single centerpiece looked the same, much to the chagrin of my best friend.  Mugs filled with coffee beans, table numbers and crayons. Paper on the tables for drawing.  Twinkle lights strung across the loft.   And a certain magic in the legacy of this barn, a story that needs to be pressed between pages for safe keeping, another time.

There was the moment I will always cherish, a sweet reverie just for me, as if to close one chapter and signal another.  As quickly as it came, it passed and Moon River filled the open air, my cue forward.

It happened beautifully, with a mix of blurred parts and pieces etched in the stonework of our memories. And every year we retell and reminisce.  It was a great day, absolutely, full of lovely details and special moments, but it was simply the beginning of our story, the first pieces of exposition that set the scene.  The ruffles in the dress that mixed with the pleats at the bottom. The way his face changed when I walked around the corner. How we tried so hard not to laugh during communion as we watched flies feast on our bread. The beginning is what draws us in and hooks us, but the rest, that is why we keep reading… living. 

The plot thickens, the characters evolve and grow, you begin to root for them through trials and find yourself in the most unexpected places.

This year, number five, it’s been full.  A husband working two jobs, two marvelous, loud creatures that sink deeper and deeper into our hearts, blurring the parts before them, redefining the meaning of  exhaustion.  The pursuit of dreams, pressing on through glimpses of beauty and struggle and waiting and blessing.  Pages full of love and light and shadows and painted skies and new mercies.

This is the part of long days, tired hands, and hard work, where love is decorated less in white dresses and slow dances, but in stolen moments, shared glances, and masked laughter (caused by your kid saying the most ridiculous and brilliant things when they are trying to get out of trouble or eating dinner or going to bed). And it’s no less beautiful.  This where were love grows and matures and deepens, refined in the fires of time.

Anniversaries allow us to retell our story from the beginning, to celebrate all the pages that have been filled in since the last year, and dream about the ones to come. 

five years later, it’s still my favorite.  

Carrigan Wedding Pictures 511

Monday, August 27, 2012

Introducing: Words in Color

I promise that this post is about art, but first it’s about money, because we don’t live in imaginary land and we can’t ignore it.  Unfortunately.

A few years ago, in our second year of marriage, we went through a course called Financial Peace University.  We learned some great wisdom and practices to implement into our lives to live within our means and succeed with money. We both had seen first hand from our parents massive mistakes regarding finances and we wanted to be smarter, to build a strong foundation.  Within the first month of the program, Matt lost his job, when his employer went out of business.  Thankfully, our needs were meant, side jobs, unemployment, provisions, we did not lack, but we couldn’t really begin our attack plan to destroy the debt we did have.  We were in survival mode, and we were not alone, as the country entered the mess of a situation we still face.

It often feels like we are still in that place, where we always have enough, but not extra to chisel away the bills that do not shrink so easily.  And you know, it’s life, this season of being a young family, living within our means, making it work.  The process is a slow one and we know that if we are faithful to this lifestyle, we will see the benefits. 

When we talk about dreams for our future, we speak of travel, art, missions, empowering others, and being supporters of dreams.  But, every month that feels so far away, when I send off the payments to student loans and pesky credit card bills.  Sometimes, we hope that those mountains will just dissolve, you know, who wouldn’t, but the truth is, we swiped the card, we signed the loan papers and there are great lessons to learn as we accept the results of those decisions.

Not too long ago, I prayed that God would show me ways that my creativity could be used to address this responsibility. Here’s a shocker, student loans don’t really care if you decided to become a stay-at-home mother and artist.  And not for one second do I regret that experience or the amount I must repay, it was so defining to who I am, the people I know, and the places I’ve gone.  Not for one second. Yet, my greatest endearments towards it all seem to have no erasing effect on the balance.  So, I said that most earnest prayer and within 48 hours, I received a serious monsoon of inspiration.

A brand new collection came alive.  Every free waking moment and some from my dreams have been dedicated to this production and I’m so eager to share it with you.  It’s special to me, because I believe it was an answer to prayer and because it mixes my love of writing and art.  Words and colors, the way I see the world; the way I share it. The idea was that each painting could be a page torn from a book, able to stand alone as a complete thought, but fit right into its place in a bigger story. Just like you and me.


Words in Color is a series of 15 small mixed media pieces. The originals will be available for purchase at a very affordable price, because I think art is meant to be shared rather than sitting in stacks in my home wearing a costly price tag.  Prints will also be in stock. All the profits will go towards paying off chunks of the debts quicker, allowing us to have more freedom to give, and go, and empower.


What excites me the most about this collection is how as a whole it speaks of hope, beauty, dreams, adventure, love, and encouragement— the things that move us and connect us and challenge us.


You can find the entire collection here in my shop.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

the mistake.

I covered the paper in paint, with a color called fawn.  It was still wet and reflecting light.  From the book that I have destroyed in the name of art, I grabbed a oddly shaped strip without thinking.  My intention was to create a base rich in texture and layers.  The paper bonded with the wet paint and when I looked down,  it’s possible the world froze in time, at least in my living room, it did.  I shivered slightly at what I saw.

Art has a way of taking our randomness and our mistakes and making the best things happen. When we simply respond to the process and begin with the tools, it leads us down a foggy trail, where we see only one step at a time.  Every layer and color, shadow and edge, they come together creating something reflective of something bigger than us.  People  often fear the unknown, but I think the best outcomes are waiting for us there. Ones we couldn’t imagine; ones we risk never knowing.  In art and in life, of course,  because I find no distinction between the two. 

Dreamers Paradise copy

I looked down and I saw him instantly, roaring his dreams to the open night sky.  There is something huge in this torn-paper-bear, telling of life and the search that compels and sustains us.  We begin with the idea of the search leading us to where we will find Him, but really the search is where we find Him, in the middle of our doings, in the process of creating. The search is our life and in the responding and creating and applying paper to wet paint, He causes the best things to happen.

*This is the first from my new collection that I will be sharing soon and adding to the shop soon. 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

This week in history

Some of the best decisions I’ve ever made happened during this middle of August week in years past.  Usually, I find August to be a filler, a waste of space, summer slowly interfering with the arrival of pumpkin spice lattes and cooler temps.  I don’t suppose I give August enough credit for the days that changed my life.

Case #1 

The year is 2002.  I traveled lands far and wide to a place of sunshine and humidity.  I left my homeland of Michigan and the safe choice of college in (of all places Minneapolis, freaking, Minnesota) for the tropics, for the great, world renowned, Southeastern College.  That’s right, COLLEGE and I will cherish those last days before it became a Disney resort University all my live long days. 

If I remember correctly, on this exact day TEN YEARS AGO, was the freshman community service project.  We were bussed to a local park, that I am certain we never visited ever again, to free it from the oppression of air potatoes, the great offender of all weeds.  Looking back, could this have been a massive joke?   Quite possibly, yes.  I remember the dehydration, being stranded under a pavilion, in the afternoon rain shower, while other students showed off their coolest human tricks, this was our moment, to make our mark, after all!!  Mostly, I remember the people I met, who became my friends instantly, because that’s how it was in college… and that is in my opinion, the very best quality of post-high school education.  Real-life-post-college-adulthood-friend-making could learn a few lessons here.

Case #2

The year is 2006.  I wake up in a camp on a dusty mountain in California.  I was already smitten with the land of wonder. My new co-workers and I are making a pilgrimage into a tiny little town called Los Angeles, to sit in the warehouse of the company office and listen to guy named Ernie tell us about car insurance.  It was wildly boring. Thankfully, promises of a fun evening staved off death by insurance safety lectures.  The night before, one person in particular was talking about going to a concert in Hollywood.  I was mildly impressed that he was familiar with this artist named Mat Kearney and I wanted in… also I was excited about shopping and Starbucks, before returning to our wilderness camp.  I didn’t ride in the same van  or even hang out with him that night, but it was our first conversation.  I fell in love with a sweater, a marvelous red and white striped beauty.  It cost exactly $188.  Every last co-worker of mine thought I was insane and made fun of me. Clearly, they had never heard of Anthropologie, not the most fashionable bunch. I didn’t buy it, I still wish I did.

The following night at dinner, we found ourselves sitting across from each other.  He made fun of me for liking Dashboard Confessional.  And the rest is history. 


College and California… the best decisions I’ve ever made, and that’s all for today’s episode of this week in history.  Until next time, friends.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Evening in Missoula, the dance of the water at dusk.

A typical sequence of events on a Monday afternoon, walk to the mailbox, check e-mail, read a text, so ordinary.  We spend minutes and hours, living and doing these normal things.

Yet, there are days when each note plays out like a grand orchestra, conducted by the most brilliant of masters. The skin shivers, the breath quivers, the tiny forming eye wells, I have a friend who calls these secret messages. Yes, indeed.

And you consider how each piece played out, how the sender mailed the letter at a certain time, entrusting it to the system who took x amount of days to deliver it to you, and how a random errand meant you were the one to walk across the grass to the mailbox, when usually it’s him.  After catching your breath, another message is waiting for you, but not moments earlier, right now.  Because in the raw emotion of blessing and awe, these words transcend their usual power, once again taking your own limited breath, so you only can inhale love from the origin of love itself. And it rushes past body and into soul, leaving you amazed at the one who pens the story of our days.

We don’t always see how our actions touch others, how one small ripple shatters the smooth, glassy surface and prompts the dance of the water at dusk.  My lovely friend was drinking tea the other day, it was called Evening in Missoula.  If this dance had a name, the dance of the water at dusk, it would be Evening in Missoula. Lights once still flicker and sway extending past their origin, tiny currents lap the shore and wash over the stones, smoothing them, in contrast to the gritty sand.  One event sets this scene in motion, creating a masterpiece to behold, but no one dwells on the exact boat or breeze or rock that started it. 

In the same way, life can feel trivial, the stirrings we respond to, the encouragement and light we send, but perhaps it’s the best way, so we step out of view, letting the true masterpiece shine.

It’s magic really, and not the card trick kind, but something so much bigger than our wildest imagination, something that connects us all to each other and to the heavens.


Monday, August 13, 2012

on the bat pandemic of 2012…. that never was.

We are on day seven of the plague over here.  After we came home from the cabin, the kids got sick.  The husband got sick.  God spared me for the sake of my family, I’m sure, but people, my battery is exhausted.  Funny little story, all seven of the other kids that were also at the cabin have been sick all week and some parents too, that is not the funny part.  This past weekend, when we found out, someone suggested that it might have been caused by the bat feces that was swept up from the deck, where they all played.  Well, upon hearing such possibilities, we took a trip to the doctor, who wore a face mask and scared my children, just to be sure that we were not going to be the origin of the great bat feces pandemic of 2012.  I mean, I watched Contagion, it happened here in Minneapolis. For twenty-five minutes in the car and in the waiting room, we entertained ourselves with the  hypothetical events that would happen if in fact the great bat pandemic of 2012 was real.  Of course, it was only funny in our exhausted heads.   And as it turns out, the real problem is  four little infected ears. 

The doctor humored our inquiries about the diseases caused by inhaling the fungus found in bat feces (how disgusting was that sentence?), and I’m pretty sure he searched WebMD or something.  I mean, I already did that.  He tried to get H to talk to him, which of course he didn’t, because he not overly conversation with strangers, especially people wearing masks.  And then went into a full monologue to the baby girl about the flowers on her shoes, so he could check her ears and eyes, she fell for none of his tricks.  I don’t know, again, maybe the mask?

Alas, the verdict was nothing that will ever be make it in the history books or future documentaries.

Miracle of miracles, they are willingly taking the medicine, which is now recorded for all time and I know this has to end soon.  We are going to make it!  Until I have more eloquent words, some photos of items recently added to the shops.

Dream Bird Collage Owl Wall Art Print

His name is Thatcher and he’s new in shop.  Feel free to visit him here.

Stripes. Hood. A touch of green.  The Finley Hoodie.

This lovely winter jacket is made from 100% French wool.  The Claire Jacket.


I’m sorry for the sentence about about the fungus and bat feces.  The end.

Friday, August 10, 2012

on whining and adventures.

The air is cool. The sun is rising. Minnesota has its moments.  Coughing sick children were the soundtrack on repeat last night… rather all week.  At a definitive point this morning, I determined more sleep felt inferior to an hour of writing with a cup of steamy tea and silence.

Last night I fell into bed, upon hearing some news from a friend and all I could do was feel incredibly ridiculous for the ways in which I am skilled at complaining.  I mean, what in my world is even worth a complaint.  And it’s not just a case of wow, their story is so hard.  It’s more like you think of the Israelites wandering in the desert for forty years and you are so judgmental of them, seriously people what is your problem, didn’t you learn your lesson already

But, before the sentence has a punctuation, comes the moment when you realize you could have auditioned for ring leader of the pack.  It’s never anything major, just all these little bits that we bemoan over and over until as Shauna wrote in Cold Tangerines, “It’s been really hard in my head.”  We make it so hard in our heads.  When it’s not really any harder than the normal hard parts of life.

Once I had this conversation with one of the dearest and wisest people I know.  My infant son was unhappy and making his demands.  I wish I (adults) could just whine and scream until I got my way, like babies do.  And in her gentle, truthful way, she answered, oh, but we do don’t we.  Oh. Yes, we kind of do that.

Here’s the problem, whining does not go with being an adventurer and if I have my say, I choose the latter.  We can paint it on canvases and scribble it on pages and whisper it to the wind, but at some point we can’t be really adventurers if we are always marching circles in our heads. It gets pretty heavy and has this way of distorting our vision and without knowing it we get lost in a desert of sorts for a very long time.  All the while, we’re marching and shouting, what is your problem everyone else, didn’t you learn your lesson already?  (when all we are saying is, I’m the best complainer EVER.)

My kids have been sick all week and people I know are moving to really fun places. Pretty tragic stuff, I know. 

And the adventurer me can’t find any reason to open my mouth other than with gratitude.


Monday, August 6, 2012

a weekend

A weekend away, a cabin full of people, lots of kids, new faces, late night games, campfires, small town strolls, and sitting by the water every moment possible.  No other words necessary.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

an adventure within the adventure

They have this way of talking, special conversations between the two of them.  He sits next to her and asks questions,  Is that your shirt?  Are you okay? Are you thirsty? No, Harper, that’s not a baby, that’s a dog. She looks up at her big brother and in a sweet, high pitched voice tells a tale in words to complicated for adults. Somehow he gets what she’s saying and responds.  He waits for her answer.  Repeat.

It’s my favorite thing.

Sometimes he speaks for her, but mostly she speaks well enough for herself.  Want some chips Harps?  And without waiting, Harper wants some chips.  For breakfast.  How could anyone refuse when they both want chips, for breakfast?  I laugh and she confirms their request with a squeal. Chips.  They have already learned the power of joining forces.

When he’s sick, she senses the difference and and brings him essentials: bears, cars, coloring books, and her babies.  She sets off on a mission and doesn’t stop until all of babies and animals have been relocated to his side.  She’s sits with him and if he throws up or coughs, she makes the same sounds. Her eyes tell how she loves doing this for him and his gentle smile comes alive and he thanks her.

He named his bear, Beetabop.  Beetabop it is.

The way he’s cautious and she is fearless makes this perfect blend.  She instigates the stacking chairs on top of the coffee tables.  At eighteen months.  He catches the infectious look of her eyes and joins.  When we intervene, she’s crushed and he gets over it quickly.  We’ve banned her from watching any of the gymnastics during the Olympics.  She doesn’t need anymore ideas at the moment.  But, that thrill in her eyes, the way she is so alive when jumping off the couch or climbing across a collection of furniture, it’s the most amazing to witness. The wild eyes, the energy, the moment between the destinations, the squeal,  her happy place.

This week, I took them to the park where the play structure is not too high for small ones and she couldn’t believe how I let her roam across the bridges and scale the stairs.  One of those squeaky bridges caused her brother to pause and ask for my hand, while her little legs bolted across bravely onward.

She is expressive and he is pensive.  The worlds he creates in his head, the way his toys have ideas and feelings and stories to tell.  We marvel.  When she sleeps, we build little towns of trains and Lincoln logs and animals and garages for his cars. It’s creating and possibilities, getting lost in imagination and adding details just for fun. And by fun I mean necessity, because life is our canvas and we can create just the basics or revel in the beautiful details.  Especially… the details.

You know, in the same way that God created rocks that sparkle with a parade of colors and rocks that are every inch smooth and black.  How he designed sunsets and snowflakes and the color scheme of fall.  The way leaves rustle a sweet song when they dance with the wind.  The way that the sea is moody and grey one day, then brilliant and blue the next. It’s all extra, the finishing touches on his great work.  Because, why not? Because, he can.

And in the same way, he could have just given us any old random kids, but I’m in awe of how he knows us and our children. We talk endlessly of dreams, risk, adventures and here we have this wild eyed, daredevil of a daughter looking for every chance to fly.  Her brave heart left in our care. Our boy with his quiet ways and a head full of stories and possibilities.  That which we pursue for ourselves, we are entrusted to protect and nurture in them. An adventure within the adventure, really.

It makes me feel small in the best way, how this huge part of my story is really about them, and how these pieces of them are so crucial to who I am. How we met and fell in love and made babies, these two marvelous babies. What a wonder these details that make up our days.

Rocks on the shore, decorated with a parade of colors that sparkle and glisten, shades of bravery and possibilities and love.

What do you see in the eyes of your children? What details leave you in awe?  What radiates from the shore?