Round here lately

I still haven’t been able to look at our photos from Spain or even process them in order to look at them or make a book, or upload them. Or any of it. I’ve had a hard time explaining this to people or even understanding it for myself because, duh, Spain! But it felt like a dream. The night before we left for Spain my aunt and uncle from Washington were in town and we hosted them for dinner. My Aunt asked me about Spain, I gave her the answer I was giving the people closest to me: I was a little scared.

Absolutely excited, elated, over the moon. And terrified.

She asked me why. I told her because I never knew I was allowed to be this happy. Not “my husband surprised me with an amazing, once in a lifetime gift Happy” more of an actual happiness. Contentment. A stillness in the wind but you can still hear the music of nature and you stop the car, get out and look around in awe happy. I had no idea I could have some of that too. That it was for me. That, essentially, it’s for everyone. I had no idea.

It took me by surprise. A little fox in the night.

But the haze of the dream is lifting and I’ll be able to share more about it soon. Once we got home, there was no grace for adjusting back to wakefulness. We went straight into Parenting and Owning a Business and Work and Life and Meal Planning.

It was rude.

Work on my dream Studio started, I haven’t stepped off cloud nine yet.

That thing when ideas happen.

It currently sits like this:

Total progress from yesterday. Got so much done. I can see the finished studio :)

We took the roof off and framed in for a window border around the entire building. Then it started raining. It hasn’t really stopped. I keep seeing myself in the finished studio writing or painting or sitting with a friend/colleague and doing the work of life, and being joyful.


Jessica’s gluten allergy has reared it’s head again and we’re a good 5 days into the transition for her to be completely off gluten successfully. We’ve been at it for more than a week but it’s been completely gluten free for a good five days and we’re seeing so much progress at home already.

I might be doing a few posts on gluten free baking/cooking and what it’s like to cater to an allergy in a house where the rest of us don’t have it. The best part is she’s advocating for herself, she can tell a difference which means we’re on the right track.

There’s been many (MANY!) failures in the kitchen so far and almost everything is being compared to what her pallet remembers of the wheat version of her favorites, but we’re getting there. I’ve had a couple successes and I happy-dance the shit out of those. In the middle of the kitchen. While she looks at me like a crazy person.

To this #glutenfree victory I've had approximately 13 failures today alone. We will eat cupcakes for every meal.

This one! #glutenfree

She’s emotionally allergic to baked potatoes and mayonnaise but will eat both when pigs fly. Guess what’s gluten free? Both baked potatoes and mayonnaise. Not that I need a reason to serve her condiments but we take everything we can get right now. The other night we had potatoes and meatballs for dinner (both GF) and she offered to pray before dinner. (She never does that.)

She prayed that Oliver would stop crying (he had a hard day of being adorable and exhausted from all the cuteness) and that she wouldn’t throw up from the baked potato.

What I heard was “I’m concerned about my brother and I see what’s on my plate and I agree to eat some.”

She totally ate some. AND LIKED IT.

Potatoes are a new food group, we’re going to live.


Oliver had his first birthday party invite last weekend. He had a big day, actually. Barber Shop hair cut, Kindergarten Halloween Birthday Ball, learning to read. We had conferences for both kids last week as well. Of course they’re doing great (3rd grade and Kindergarten, respectively) but we have areas to grow and work on, too.

Like keeping up on all that paper that comes home.

I mean.

I was telling a friend that I feel like every parent walks into conferences feeling like they’re doing everything wrong. That somehow the Teacher has the upper hand in the exchange because they’re reporting to us on our child’s progress outside of our home. They made it this far (our kids) so we’ve had to take some credit for that, and now? Now, let’s talk about how to keep them moving forward. Sign here, here, here, aaaand here.

I feel a little childish sitting in seats 3 sizes too small and looking at standardized test scores that look like soduku puzzles.

My kids aren’t going to the same school I went to. (Actually, they literally are.) But … I mean, education wise. It’s just different. I’m learning 3rd grade all over again too, only this time around I know what carries through. (Hint: not everything.) And yet I can’t remember if I want them to get “3’s” or “A’s” or “100%’s” or be somewhere on the upper curve? Or is there a curve?

It’s just all very weird, basically. Finally feeling like a legitimate adult and being completely dumbfounded that my son only knows his alphabet by zoo phonic noises. An A is not an A to Oliver unless you start with Allie Alligator.

I have to google new names to the letters of the alphabet in order to teach him how to read.

I was hoping the ABC song would live a little longer.

Pretty proud of this one for progress made on learning to read. But now time has to stop. Forever.

But we’re healthy! And their teachers are both amazing. I love love love that I feel like they’re invested in my children with me.

Apparently I have a lot to say. I’ll stop here and be back soon for more catch up.

Safe tricks with your treats, friends!


Madrid memories

Tomorrow we leave Madrid for Granada. We thought maybe we’d take the next 3 nights to explore a few different places but decided that having a home base after what it took to actually get here feels more like vacation than constantly uprooting and sleeping in different beds.

Before we go – I want to make sure I remember a few things like:

This is the best place to get dehydrated. Water isn’t offered unless you order it, but that’s so hard to do when Sangria’s available. Or beer. Or that bottle of red wine. We started to order water first, wait for it arrive drink it ALL, then order more water and a drink at the same time.

I had to think fast and move out of the way while someone tried to plant one on me. Aaron was only a couple feet in front of me, but apparently that was enough space to sneak in and give it a go.

The smell here is nice. Not full of spices. A little body odor, some chocolate, some fresh air before it spoils. It’s sweet and fragrant but not assaulting. It greets you every time you walk out your apartment door and you’re saturated in it until you return.

Their street performers are very talented.

Sunday was the busiest day, and it seems everyone buys groceries on Sunday.

We actually saw people open their windows and balcony doors while eating dinner at home on Monday night – before that we assumed no one ate at home. They have mini fridges.

We couldn’t decide what Michigan would have to offer in a compelling way to Madridians (Spaniards?) because they offer such a wide variety of delicious foods with renowned chefs and old-world recipes … and we have Public? Journeyman’s? The Piper? We do have a Lakeshore, about 1,000 burger joints and cheap beer though.

Being cut off from language for a few days really heightens other things. Like lip reading – and that, did you know, english speaking mouths move differently than spanish speaking mouths. The way we use our cheeks and tongues, the way we use our teeth and lips. We’re elaborate, show off, speakers with our language … but Spanish rolls around inside the mouth more before it exits. (But their hands always give it away.)

High heels and cobble stone streets: not a myth.

After a few days of being a tourist it’s easier to actually BE a tourist. Take the photo, linger, walk around in circles.

Ham hocks are to Spain what the mitten is to Michigan.

I bought a scarf from Spain, but it was made in India.

I am directionally talented. North and South? Not words I know how to use – but take me somewhere and I can return you home and remember how to get back tomorrow, in case you wanted that churro after all.

Aaron absorbs information and wants to engineer commerce wherever he is. He wants to talk to you about it. I absorb information and want to marinate in everything new and different and alike but not and I want to think about it. And take it’s photo.

We missed the bullfight, but we’ll be back next Sunday and try to catch it then. We’re not big sports fans so didn’t try too hard to take in a soccer game.

We didn’t make it to the Botanical Gardens but I did see an English Garden, for free; and we walked around Madrid at dusk to see the Palace in lights. We went to the Prado during their free hours, saw the things we thought we should.

Every important painting has to do with Jesus, his death, Revelations or celestial beings and mythology. This isn’t new to me, but seeing it – and seeing it EVERYWHERE makes me out-loud wonder why this culture holds so tightly, so well, to these images and the culture I live in repels them?

I like Madrid and the fact that I never know what her streets will look like, only that they’ll be there when I go outside.

This is what I want to remember about Madrid: Life is meant to be experienced and shared.

where we live

We live here:

After! Happier and cleaner.

And have been doing little updates here and there. I painted the dining room from peach to petosky stone:

progress shots of house May 2012


Dining room

We finally added blinds and got rid of the overbearing curtains. It was all so temporary. This house that wasn’t supposed to be temporary has become a project of “until we can afford to do more” and we live in the middle of stages of progress.

Which: touche, life, is also where I am personally.

Last week I got super frustrated and instagramed this shot:

F is for completely Frustrated. So many ideas, personally and professionally, and so many mental road blocks. Instead I will paint our dining room. And scream.

F is for completely frustrated. I think it was also for Friday? I can’t remember that far back, lets not split hairs over it. You be the detective with your calendar and brain cells. But that’s the day I decided to paint this dining room. It cost me zero dollars because I already had the paint and supplies. It just cost me time, which I have a lot of this summer and yet not enough of. And it’s a cycle of crazy making proportions and waiting, always waiting.

We moved in to this house and waited a year before we did anything about announcing our address change. There were personal logistics to that for a long time. Some privacy issues, some other issues. And we, I say we – but I’ll speak for me, I felt like hiding. I wanted everyone to feel comfortable coming over but … not just yet. I needed a season. Or four of them.

And we’re making progress on this house. A renovated basement, landscaping, curb appeal. Line by line this little house is becoming the very place we’ve been dreaming up before we ever knew it existed and it takes time, sure. And money. It takes resources and allowances of more than currency.

But I got crazy last week looking around knowing what the end result was going to be and feeling completely powerless to effect lasting change. Everything is temporary. It is, I mean, that’s true. This is all temporary. But the changes we’re making “for now” and the “stop gaps” of not bleeding money vs. doing what we can for the time being started to feel like a never ending tick tock on a clock I couldn’t see.

I went a little ape-shit.

And I painted my dining room. In two hours. I had two hours, I probably had 4, but it took me months of having paint in the basement and being afraid I’d completely screw up the house by choosing the wrong paint to even TRY to start.

This dining room is the only room in the house that we’re not changing. We’re not knocking walls down or removing flooring, windows or doors. We’re not adding anything to this dining room or expanding it to a larger living area. This is the one and only room that will literally keep it’s footprint. It’s the one room in this house that wasn’t waiting for something larger to take place before we made it ours.

And I kept waiting to make it ours. Because what if I make it mine and don’t like it? What if I choose the wrong color scheme, the wrong window coverings? What if I wake up every morning and regret this room?

This is where we live. Right now, today. This is it.

It could change tomorrow (don’t tell me that) but it could. It always could. And I’d be ok with that, I’d be ready. But what I wasn’t ready for was wanting to stay.

Being ok with the temporary, being ok with the madness of waiting feels like a meditation I’ve been forcing on myself for 5 years. And things are finally sinking in. They’re fluid, flexible and able to change – but they don’t look so much like DIFFERENT at every turn any more. It feels the same with different colors on the wall.

Boom. #nofilter

And this is where we live.

Gathering inspiration, momentum, and ideas.

It’s been a while since I brain dumped ideas here, mostly because Pinterest is so easy or because I’m focusing on really defining a Why for my creative life, but I’m still collecting ideas and I’d love to share.

I entered a competition with Lilla Roger’s Studio and it’s stretched me beyond anything I thought I could ever (even possibly!) accomplish, do or dream. I’ve been asked to create a playground themed journal cover as if Paperchase were a client and all of those words in one sentence have been a dwindling fight in will power and creative energy for me.

The good fight.

Yesterday I finally went from my sketch-book to watercolor and when it was all said and done I thought to myself “Well, at least I got that over with.” As in, that was exactly as awful as I was expecting it to be. Now that I got that out of the way, let’s get to it.

Here’s a few other ways to get from A to B in your current situation that seems to be stumping you or bullying you into thinking you’re never gonna get it (that bully is wrong, by the way, Get it girl). And I’ve found that the path from A to B usually involves a few subtext categories like A1, A7 and A109. But you will eventually land at B.

Go away.

Literally just go away. Leave the problem on paper, make a paper airplane if you need to and toss that sucker to a high and mighty place, with out you. You need a break. You can simply go for a drive, jump on a trampoline, take a shower, lay in a hammock, draw/doodle/color, fly a kite or pack up for a night and escape to the far yonder calling you.

I mostly drive or shower – those are the ways I subconsciously work through tangible problems that the ink on my journal can’t seem to dilute into a clear path for me.

Do something you used to do for fun.

Before we entered those years of “being a grown up” without actually knowing what that meant, at all, we had a lot of fun. Criminal amounts of copious fun. Before I was married me and the boyfriend went to Chicago almost every weekend. Adventure was only line-item on the itinerary. We snuck into hotels to swim, we climbed trees and drank expensive coffee but ate ramen noodles and donuts and somehow found balance. The pressure was off. We were allowed to have fun.

I call bull-shit. We still are. I can’t make a habit out of Chicago-bound road trips, but we have amazing beaches near-by. We own a tent. Maybe a new journal and a set of charcoals with a hike and a picnic basket of nourishing foods would feed my soul the way gas station beef jerky and skinny dipping used to. I’m willing to bet on it.

Collect something.

Memories, words, magazine clippings. I follow some amazing collectors on Instagram – and they follow Typography and Branding – but they find it in the most beautiful places. A night sky, the sidewalk, drainage grates. Trees are a language all their own to me … so I collect pieces of trees. Mostly in photos, and the sky line. Bark, nests, feathers. Grab a baseket and a friend, bring your iPhone or camera or your little adventurer with crayons and go find something that makes you look again. Keep those things, they’ll find their way into what you do before you even know it.

Watch and Read.

Nothing inspires me quite like a video marathon, a backlog of my favorite blog’s to catch up on, or a book that was recommended to me. On the flip-side, nothing drowns me quite like these things either. If I’m standing still and all I see are the forward movements of the leaders I admire: I watch in dismay as they talk about, do, capture, work on or deliver the ideas I’ve been percolating and investing in. Problem is: I’ve been investing in the ideas quietly and alone.

You have to drive the boat. In fact, you are driving it, whether you see yourself in that seat or not. It’s awkward at first to say something you think about out loud. Especially an idea you hold passionately close to who you are. Those ideas, those conversations? Those are your movements. And if you’re not sure how? Watch and read. You’ll learn.

Maybe, but what if.


This is a new kind of struggle. I can often feel, or be tricked into feeling, like I’ve given the best part of me away already. To my husband, to my kids. To past works. As if I’m sitting here in my life, watching the rest of it fly by and I have nothing left to offer.

On our drive home from Florida there was a stretch of road in Tennessee where I was driving, ear buds in and cranked up and I wept over and over and over again. Everyone else in the car was sleeping or busy, not really paying attention to me. I had my sunglasses on and every song that played and the wide open road and the place my heart was in: it was an overwhelming peace.

I got honest with some demons, I was thankful for others, I was open to being this emotional and heavily imbedded spirit in my own life. I am a spiritual being (we all are, if you want my opinion) and I’m awake to it. I operate in it, I thrive there. I dream there and love there and live right there. And this stretch of road carried me, just for a few hours, in a reality where I was welcome to do so.

Since being home and back to the regular demands of life, I’ve cried and wept more. But they’ve been angry and sad, hot tears. Impatient tears. Not thankful, not full. I’m tired here and I know exactly what I want but not how to get there. I’m afraid to say it out-loud, or ask for help. I don’t think failure is the lure that keeps me waiting, it’s no being worthy to say the things I want to say or offer the expertise I want to offer, or even art, because who am I?

And aren’t the real artists, poets, writers, photographers, authors, dreamers, teachers, coaches, travelers, life-givers already doing it? Aren’t they all already being everything you want to be?

And in my sad open places where seldom I’m brave enough to show it, the answer is; maybe. But what if?