Makes Me Happy Monday ; Being Happy with Being Alone

You know what really made me happy recently?

Being okay with being alone.
No, actually ….  being HAPPY about being alone
made me happy.

Jason Mraz came to Augusta to serenade us with his lyrics, tunes and instruments.
He has been one of my favorite musicians for years and years. As soon as the tickets went on sale, I grabbed one.

One ticket.

So, I would leave my house alone.
I would arrive alone.
I would stand in line alone.
And I would sit and listen and soak in the beauty … alone ….
in a crowd of 2,000.

The Jessye Norman Amphitheater beginning to fill as we wait for Jason Mraz

After years of being a homeschool family of five that did everything together
to being a family of 2-3 after a kid and husband moved out
to now being a family of two in the house (just me and the youngest),
life continues to change.
And the youngest often has to work in the evenings, so we don’t get to do things together.
So, now, it’s most often …..  just me.

For years I dreamed about when the children move out and move on
and I would be able to fully and totally focus on my spouse again.
How could I bless him? What would make him happy? What would be fun for him?
I was SO looking forward to being a married couple with freedom to go and do
and enjoy what we WANTED to do
rather than what family-life dictated.
I find myself instead alone to go and do.

And you know what? It’s been wonderful.

I’ve dated some since becoming single.
Being in a relationship – whether married or not – is complicated and a great deal of work.
But right now ….
I don’t have to worry if my outfit will please the man I’m with,
or if I’ll say something that will be upsetting to the balance (or lack thereof) in the air,
or if my stopping to talk to a friend for ten minutes
or snap a half-dozen pictures
will be considered irritating.

I can go where I want,
do what I want
and know that I don’t have to fret over upsetting anyone.
This is bliss, I tell you.  Pure, unadulterated, wonderfully-freeing bliss.

So, I arrived early (because I didn’t have to wait for anyone).
I stood in line and chatted with those in front of me and behind me.
I EASILY found a seat near the front because I just needed space for my one little fanny
not two or three or five of them. Waiting for Jason Mraz to play at the Jessye Norman Amphitheater

While we waited for the stage to be taken,
I found myself in wonderful conversation with all of those around me.
The couple beside me was from Charleston (where James now lives)
but just moved there from Raleigh (where Glory now lives).
I discussed what makes a good BBQ sandwich with the couple to my right
as they sucked BBQ sauce off their dripping fingers
having just brought down two HUGE BBQ sandwiches from a vendor.
Another couple was there from out-of-town with their awesome son
who had met and played guitar with Jason at another concert
and had nothing but kind things to say about Jason, his talent and his spirit.

We watched ominous clouds
roll past in the distance
and I prayed they could stay in the distance
and they did. Praise God.

Clouds filled the sky as we waited to hear Jason Mraz play at the Jessye Norman Amphitheater

As Jason played, boats meandered in and kayaks followed.
There were kids and dogs and cool-down splashes and  ….
it was just so neat!
Jason even played to the crowd to his rear
that were privy to his waterside tunes for free.
He turned to them and spoke to them and sang to them from time to time.
He was so gracious!

Jason Mraz playing at the Jessye Norman Amphitheater

As the sun began to set, I snuck down to the stage and snapped a few shots
of the golden light
and the calm.
It was ethereal to me … poetic and dreamy and so easy.

Jason Mraz playing at the Jessye Norman Amphitheater

This being alone just gets easier
as I relax and become more me than I’ve ever been …
more me than who someone else wants me to be
and more me than the me that I thought I should be
before he and she and them
began to impress upon me
that I was too much of this
or too little of that.

It’s a new freedom and I love it.

Jason Mraz playing at the Jessye Norman AmphitheaterSo, bring on the solo concerts.
Bring on the solitary kayak trips and independent camping trips.
Bring on the stag social events and the solitary moves.
And bring on the days and nights of being the only one in my home.
I’m ready for them.
I’m excited for them.
And I’m so very happy to be alone.

What about you?
What makes you happy this marvelous Monday morning?

 

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Makes Me Happy Monday ; Nippon Condiment bowl

There is always a “to go” bag near my door for donations. I will swing it by Goodwill or Julie’s House Thrift Store when it gets full. I downsized a LOT (probably by 3/4 of my belongings) when I moved a little over a year ago, but I still have too much (or it HAS ME, as the philosophy goes).

And I don’t yard sale or thrift shop much any more. I have an on-going list of things I’d love to have … most of which are power tools, if I’m totally honest. I keep this list above my desk and add to it as something new comes up that I know would be super helpful in my creating endeavors. When I find that I need something time  and time again (like the palm-sander!! I NEED), I plan it for next month’s budget.

ToolWishList

My new home is much smaller than the house we left last February. So, the things that are decorative have fewer spots to be displayed. Thus, there are fewer of them.

A few weeks ago, I was downtown at one of my favorite plunder shops, Ray’s Estate Sales, when I spied this beautiful little treasure.

Nippon China Condiment Bowl

I didn’t buy it immediately because ….
I didn’t “need” it.
But, after I left the shop, I couldn’t get it off my mind.
I love the shape, the color, the design and the sweet feel of this beautiful ceramic china.
After days of remembering, I messaged Ray and asked him to set it aside for me
and when he opened back up (he’s only open a few weekends a month),
When he was open next, I dropped by to pick it up.

Nippon China Condiment bowl

A little research tells me that Nippon is the Japanese name for Japan. And this style bowl set is marketed as being a mayonnaise bowl … but …. I don’t think of mayonnaise as being a Japanese staple. Am I wrong? I’ve seen this bowl also called a condiment bowl, which makes a little more sense.

But, whatever others call it, I call it stunning.

Nippon China Condiment bowl

I won’t use it for condiments or mayonnaise very often. More than likely, it will be filled with acorns or some nature treasures
or it will simply sit empty on my shelf to be adored.

Just look at that pretty hand-painted edge!
This style of painting is actually one that I use in my own artwork at times. I like really loose color with broken, fine, loose lines to give the illusion of an outline. I’m really just learning how to paint this way (with watercolor and usually black pen). It’s a strong contrast to my patterned, heavily textured, mixed media acrylic work.

Nippon China Condiment bowl

It’s a tiny thing …. painted bone china, fired and antique ….
but it makes me happy.

Nippon China Condiment bowl

As always, my reason in sharing some little something in my life
that makes my heart feel happy
is to spread a little joy
and challenge you to find beauty in the little things
that surround you in your every day life.

May your Monday be wildly blessed
and graciously lovely.
What makes YOU happy this marvelous Monday morning?

Nippon China Condiment bowl

Makes Me Happy Monday ; Paper Craft

I can’t stop crying.
And it’s wonderful.
Wonder-FULL!

I spent years and years stuffing my emotions
because they made some people uncomfortable.

It was made known to me that I was too emotional.
There was no arm-around-the-shoulder, “Awww, come here.”
I received more of a “You’re crazy. Stop being emotional” response.

So, I learned to hold it in.
and I was proud of myself.
I could keep myself together in any situation.

Anybody could say or do whatever they wanted.
I wouldn’t cry. I wouldn’t get emotional. I’d just keep going.
You could even walk out on me and leave me all alone …
and I’d just keep moving ahead. No tears.
I was a well-conditioned machine …. numb.
It’s tragically sad, really.

But, oh how weary and dull that leaves us …. living like zombies going through life.
But, God is ever-so-gently tearing down more walls. I am grateful.

As I worked last weekend on a project, I chose to add some decoupaged little foliage in patterned paper. I knew the shape I wanted. So, I drew out the shape, drew it onto a piece of plastic and formed myself a little stencil.

 

I cut out the stencil and began working on making a small handful of these precious little shapes for my project.

Paper cuting

In the most giddy sort of way, I got so excited. I’m not sure why but I LOVE this shape. It really makes me happy.

As I finished with that sharp x-acto, I sat there amazed at the paper pieces
in different colors
and patterns
but all the same

and I got teary. Patterned paper pieces

I mean …. look at those. ^^^ Just LOOK at them!!!!
Aren’t they gorgeous? I LOVE them! LOVE them!!!

With little tears welling up in my eyes, I sat there asking God “WHY?”
Why does this move me? What is it about patterns … paper … and nature
that stirs something within? Guitar front - close up - patterned paper pieces

I found no answers
but I’m ever-so-grateful.
Days move ahead.
I take steps daily to live in greater freedom
from the nay-sayers out there
and the gremlins within
that want me to live quiet, hidden and paralyzed by trying to please others.

And today, I am reminded that these tiny patterned cut outs of nature
make me really, really happy.
I don’t know why, but I don’t HAVE to know the why to know that it’s real.

What about you?
What has made you happy recently?

Makes Me Happy Monday : “Weird” Gifts

When the children were younger, Christmas gifts were more plentiful … but money was, as well. Now that I’m a single mom, I’ve had to make some major changes. And like so many things that come with divorce, these forced changes
have proven to be very, very good.

My two oldest children are adults on their own and my youngest is working now and making a wage. So, the biggest change we’ve made in gift giving is that we now draw names for gifts. Each person draws one name and we focus on creating a special gift for the person that we choose. My oldest received a huge stash of socks, boxers, t-shirts and pajamas for Christmas. They were deeply and enthusiastically appreciated because they were thoughtful to his needs and desires. My youngest got an amazing jacket that has been on the wish list for several years. It is a perfect fit and was excitedly received. My gift will be a tattoo that I’ll be getting after the start of the year. Rather than having no gifts to open, Glory gave me a few smaller items, too.

Our sweet little tree with a few, carefully chosen gifts beneath

Glory went to Final Cut to shop. Final Cut is a dumping-ground, so to speak. I say that with the idea of a grand, exciting treasure hunt in mind.

It is a huge store full of boxes and piles of home decor, rugs, kitchen accessories, jewelry, shoes/boots, furniture, clothing, bedding and window treatments. All these items come from Anthropologie, Urban Outfitters, Free People and BHLDN. My understanding is that some things are overstock, some are from runway shows, some are from store displays and some are clothes that were being fitted and altered before mass production. But … all are at excellent prices!!

And Final Cut is the only store of its kind on the east coast. I don’t know if there is anything like it in other parts of the US, but it’s the only one like here in the east. I’m SO excited we have it here … I love to shop there! You are guaranteed to find something interesting … if you have the time to dig.

If you know anything about the stores that supply Final cut,
you know their items are unusual.
So …. Glory said, as she was out shopping
she decided to head to Final Cut to “look for weird stuff.”

And she bought me this incredible plate.
Isn’t it gorgeous? It’s green
(“autumn” is my favorite color … but any shade of green is my favoritest).
It is clay (my favorite dish type).
And it looks organic and natural *swoon.*

It reminds me of a lily pad.
Lily Pad plate

But, when it is stacked
it reminds me of a leaf of cabbage.
Cabbage plate

It is stunning to me.
And Glory knew me well enough to know that
I would love it.

She also bought this little metal grid. She said
“I don’t know what you’ll do with it, but I know it’ll be neat.
Use it in art. Or hang it like an ornament. Or do whatever you want.
I just knew you’d like it.”

One of my "weird" gifts - a 3x3 metal grid

And I do! I love it.
Right now, it’s on a wooden crate with other things I adore
so I can look at it all the time
until I decide how to work it into a piece of artwork.

I think I’ve done well when I have been able to impress upon my children
that gift giving … like so many things in life …. isn’t about you and your likes and your desires …
it’s about the recipient.
To love on someone else,
we must figure out what they need to feel loved and seen.
Do they need to be heard? Touched? Receive a physical gift?
A letter? An act of service  … like a dirty job they keep procrastinating?
We all receive love with the most ease
when the gift given speaks to our heart, our soul, our spirit … our needs. 
My daughter knows me well and she “sees” me for who I am
so she gave me unusual gifts
that she knew would bless me.

I am so thankful for”weird” gifts this Christmas
and children who can see and understand what others need to feel accepted and loved.

Yes, weird gifts make me happy as I look back our Christmas.
What about you? What gift did you give or receive that made you happy this year?

Makes Me Happy Monday : Pillow Talk

I have learned to love my weekends.
In fact, I look forward to  the weekend all.week.long.
My weekends are now about wonderful outdoor adventures
or house chores and projects  … the ones I want to do
rather than the kind that I need to do or have to do.
After becoming a single-mom who owned a home,
all the responsibility of every.thing fell upon my shoulders.
After my move in February of 2015,
it is such a relief to be in a much smaller home
with a landlord who keeps everything up and running.

This weekend embraced several projects.
I wanted SO BADLY to join in a MeetUp adventure
that involved kayaking on the Augusta Canal!
The weather was in the 70’s this weekend .. with cloudless skies. *swoons*
That would have been the perfect trip to close out the fall and start the winter.
But, my common-sense gene over ruled and I stayed home to finish projects.

Woven, appliqued, rag-strip Magpie pillow

One little project was finishing up the pillow that I mentioned last Monday. 
I would have finished it quicker, but I ended up making two runs to two stores
to secure a good match on thread that needed to hide the closure stitching.

Woven, appliqued, rag-strip Magpie pillow

I love how raw strips of different patterns look when they are woven together.
I’m all about loose ends, frayed edges and lots of pattern.
It’s so intricate and interesting!

Woven, appliqued, rag-strip Magpie pillow

This pillow fits perfectly in the sitting area in my bedroom …
and it makes so very happy.

What about you, my friend?
What makes YOU happy this marvelous Monday morning?

Makes Me Happy Monday : Play

Do you play often? Do you play “well?”
I don’t really do either.
I have to make myself play.

In my head, I hear those voices that remind me
there are jobs to finish, things to do … tasks to complete.
Somehow … for some reason ….
washing the dishes is of more value than crafting a card,
vacuuming carries more weight than painting on canvas,
and working for an hourly wage is more valid
than crafting for a by-the-piece income.

So, I have to MAKE myself stop and play.
I have to MAKE myself exercise or paint or create.

I made time for that this weekend.
For several years, I have had an idea for a way to embellish a pillow.
The pillow was a cast off from Glory before she moved away.
She left two behind. I took the covers off and washed them … and I stalled.

Yesterday afternoon, I pulled out my scraps

Woven pillow embellishing - gathering fabrics

and quickly ironed and cut strips
then wove them together and pinned them in place.
Woven pillow embellishing - sewing into place

I used my machine to run back and forth to hold each strip in place.

Woven pillow embellishing

And now I’m in the process of pinning the finished woven mat onto the pillow.
I should be able to finish this project today or tomorrow.
And I’m just thrilled.

This will be one more unfinished project I can check off my List-of-things-I-have-wanted-to-create. It will be one more item I can pull off the to-craft pile. But, so much more than that, it will be one small investment in time spent well to make me happy. This project was an investment in my well-being. This is important … just as important as washing dishes, vacuuming or working for income.

I’ll post a follow-up, finished-product photo on Instagram later and add the link below.

Making time to play, craft and create makes me terribly happy.
What about you? What makes you happy this marvelous Monday morning?

Makes Me Happy Monday : Bandersnatching

I follow Erika Morrison on Instagram. I don’t know how I found her. But, I have highly admired that she is comfortable enough in her own skin to wear her hair in a fairly unconventional cut. This drew me in … and I have loved her feed.

Yet, my favorite IG images have been those involving her children. She encourages her children to explore themselves and the world.
Click here  to see a perfect example of that parenting style in action.  She says,

“i’ll give him any haircut, hairdo or hair dye he asks me to.
i’ll hold his hand when he gets his next piercing,
because i want to be present when he’s self-exploring,
because self-exploring is best anchored in unconditional love.
and yet, it’s wisdom to tell him
to wait on getting that tattoo until his skin is done stretching:
“we wouldn’t want the depth and design to lose its integrity as you grow.”

This is how I relate to my own children. Children begin to assert their independence as soon as they have the strength to do so. An infant will turn her head away from someone in her personal bubble.  A toddler declares his dislikes with a strong “NO!” Middle schoolers become dishonest when they believe their actions will not be embraced. And high schoolers may simply rebel … and close you out.

I set boundaries for the children under my authority, but if their square corners won’t fit into my round, preconceived ideas of fashion or opinion, I have made the decision that I will allow them to make their own choices. I don’t think it is my personal job to smooth and sand their square edges into the pretty, little circles that I have fashioned.  Why would any parent want to force a child to behave in a way that the child absolutely rejects (speaking, of course, within legal and moral boundaries) ? If they cannot stretch their wings during their teen years, they will early adulthood. And by then, they will be long gone from my nest of influence. My clout will be lessened and they may stretch their boundaries much farther and wider than they would have had they had the opportunity to do a little exploring while still at home. We’ve all known the kids who left home and “went wild.” Or the children who struggled because they were “never good enough” to please their parents.

I don’t want to be that parent.

I have to admit that I’ve often looked at Erika and wondered how does she “do it?” How does she walk in her own uniqueness with such confidence? How does she so bravely wear her hair like that? And be a mom like that?  Doesn’t she … worry about rejection? How does she embrace herself?

And now I know.

Like me ….
and probably like you …
she has struggled.

And she has written a book with stories
and encouragement
to help us excavate our uniqueness
as she explores hers.

She recently mentioned that her new book will be released tomorrow
so I went to Barnes and Noble to pre-order it …
and it was already on the shelf waiting for tomorrow’s release date!
So, I bought a copy right then!!

Bandersnatch by Erika Morrison

You KNOW how much I love questions.
I thought I might burst wide open
right there in the parking lot as I peeked at the introduction!
With line upon line of poetic prose
and probing, revealing ideas for personal examination,
my interest was stirred.

I headed home, opened the cover and began the journey.

Bandersnatch by Erika Morrison

I read
and I highlighted.

Bandersnatch by Erika Morrison

I read
and I decorated.

Bandersnatch by Erika Morrison

I read
and I took notes.

Bandersnatch by Erika Morrison

Her questions
somehow felt like a catalyst
untangling the few remaining messy feelings that I still have about myself.
With my word of the year, “desire”
and my searching to uncover
what I really want or desire (rather than what others expect of me),
this has been a good year
for discovery.

My youngest and I sat at the table Saturday morning with coffee and pound cake
and I read several pages of Erika’s book out loud.
I found myself being asked, “So Mom, do you think
the goal in life is to find yourself
or create yourself?”
These are my favorite mornings  … the ones that involve my children
and deep conversation,
sharing opinions and ideas
investigative query
and an open back and forth of dialogue.

Erika says she wants to make the word “bandersnatch” into a verb.
I’m looking forward to reading this wonderful book
and learning
how “bandersnatching” can be a positive thing.

Bandersnatching is bringing me joy right now.
What makes you happy this marvelous Monday afternoon?

Makes Me Happy Monday : Caramel Candy Corn

Candy Corn is one of my favorite fall indulgences. I buy a bag or two every season and do my best to make sure the bag lasts at least a few days.

My treat list is fairly limited since I have a chocolate allergy. You’d be surprised, for example, how many granola bars, candy bars and trail mix flavors have chocolate in them. Until you’re searching for chocolate-free treats, you don’t realize just how common chocolate is in treats and desserts.

I know many people who dislike that seasonal items are placed in store aisles more and more early each year. I don’t mind that I can find candy corn in the Halloween candy aisle as early as the start of September!

Brach's Caramel Macchiato Candy Corn

And this year? Brach’s has brought out a new flavor : Caramel Macchiato Candy Corn. It is scrumptious, I’m telling you. It has the coffee flavor and the caramel flavor blended so deliciously perfect that every.piece of candy is a fabulous treat in your mouth!!

If you haven’t tried it yet and you’re a coffee or caramel lover, you need to buy a bag. You won’t be disappointed!

Caramel Macchiato Candy Corn makes me exuberantly happy this fabulous fall morning.
What about you? What makes YOU happy on this marvelous Monday morn?

Makes Me Happy Monday : Tiny Creatures

Potato Beetle

Isn’t there something fascinating about tiny critters?
Insects with their beautifully marked, delicate wings
and intricately adorned abdomens are enthralling to me.Praying Mantis

Mini versions of captivating creatures make them even more interesting.
Look at this gorgeous Praying Mantis! Could he possibly BE any cuter?

Green Lynx Spider hidingAnd LOOK at the hairs on the legs of this spider! Isn’t he amazing?

Gorgeous slug

Even though many people shudder at the sight of a slug,
I think they’re intriguing and charming.

I tend to prefer a macro perspective … living life looking close at the little details
of creation, artwork, food, fabric, people … and even problems.
When we look closely, we can figure out the “why” and the “how.”
When we examine closely, we can uncover design elements
and purpose for operation.
When we inspect, we can more easily detect
motive which often allows us to be more empathetic.

I love animals of all kinds,
but I especially love the tiny creatures
that creep, crawl, fly, slither and hop across this earth.

Tiny creatures make me happy today.
What makes YOU happy this marvelous Monday morning?