Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Taking time to see the beauty

This morning the light was beautiful. We were driving to preschool and the sun was just stretching fingers out across the snow. Gone was the cloudy icy grey of the past days. Grasses, dusted with white, were touched with morning gold. Trees stood black and stark against the white. And i was thinking that instead of grumping and moaning about the cold and how much i am not in the mood for winter, i should be grateful for the beauty around me. I've forgotten to be grateful lately. Sometimes it comes naturally and sometimes it takes a bit of effort. Instead of sitting inside complaining and making excuses, i could remember to take my camera and stretch my legs outside my comfort zone, and capture some of the beauty around me. The roads i was driving on were difficult to revisit on foot but when i got home i took my camera and went for a little walk down my road. I remembered to stop and look and captured what i was seeing. And walking down the road i found a stillness in the air. I saw deer tracks and I took a few minutes to appreciate what's right under my nose. For once I didn't mind my wet feet or my fingers numb from the cold, or that I had to jump into pile of snow each time a car flew by.

Sometimes we just need to change our perspective and see things with fresh eyes. Get our feet dirty. Go wandering.


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Still January

I am still holding January responsible. The month, not the person. Not that i know anyone called January, but you might.

It's the cold and the snow on the ground which is just not melting and the roads look all chalky and dry and my car ... well let's just say it's actually grey but no one can tell when i drive by anymore. A good time to be spying or having adventures where i don't want to be recognised. But it's too cold to be out and i don't feel like having adventures.

I think it's the winter blues and in January they're the worst and at least February is short (even though it has Valentines Day, but then some people like that, and all the red and pink hearts do cheer things up. A little.)
And March is lots of birthdays and spring and Easter ALMOST there. But January. It just has nothing going for it. Not in my book anyway.

January has me feeling like i will never feel excited about anything in the whole world again. Ever. It has me sitting on Pinterest for an hour when i should be asleep, desperately trying to find just one image that makes me feel excited, alive, inspired. Nothing. Instead i eat way too many Oreos and i don't even like them that much. It's either that or some of the kids' snacks. And i've eaten enough Goldfish in my lifetime (the cheesy - cracker - kind, for those of you not American. Not the fish. The real ones i mean. I have never eaten actual goldfish, nor do i plan to).

January has me trying to paint and just having to throw my hands up in despair wondering why i bother. No wonder i nearly failed Art School.

It has me thinking i have completely messed up my life and that everyone else is happier, prettier, super successful, very famous and having way more fun. Especially those beautiful happy people on private yachts where it is WARM. It has me thinking of all the things in my life i have done wrong. There's a cheerful train of thought for a cold winters day. A very long train.

It's not just me, either. Everyone around me seems to be feeling the same way. Uninspired. Hopeless. It's the lack of sunshine and Vitamin D. I know it. The rich among us are booking tickets to St. Thomas or the Dominican Republic for the February break. The rest of us are dreaming of wearing flip flops and drinking something large and red from a cocktail glass. Throw in a cherry and a slice of pineapple. And a beach under our feet. Ah. Wouldn't that be bliss. Maybe we'll have to recreate our own beach paradise indoors with huge UV lights and a pile of sand. Nothing desperate about that.

I shall keep crossing off the days on my calendar. Keep my head down to brace myself against the cold. Just a few more sleeps. We can do this.

February, you had better warm up and be super sunny. Or else.


Friday, January 24, 2014

Things making me happy right now ....

Friday again ... and it's still COLD. Very very cold. Today it's 9 outside (that's - 12 folks, in the place i come from). Cold. It's the kind of cold that slices straight through to the core and no layers seem to be enough. The snow is beautiful but after a few days it has me dreaming of spring and warmth and buds on the trees and daffodils shaking dusty tendrils off and snaking out of the ground.

But till then .. tho i dream of spring, here are a few things making me happy lately ...

* Fresh flowers in the house .. i forgot how happy they make me.

* The deer coming to visit ... we've been marking the seasons by the way their coats have changed in color over the past months. They are beautiful. 

* Playing around with rooms and things in the house, starting to feel like we're making it our own. I've got very little creative energy right now - maybe it's the season or the fact that my painting room is once again blown full of snow. But i'm starting to build up energy again to finish tackling the long list of home projects we have going on. Half finished things like painting the stair treads and spindles, pulling up the carpet on the basement stairs and painting them in shades of blue. Hanging up curtains in the kids rooms so that hopefully they'll sleep longer when the sun rises early again. In the spring. Oh sweet sweet spring. Never have i awaited spring as eagerly as i am this year. Even the kids are asking when it's coming. How many sleeps ? When will it be warm enough to go swimming.

* Starting to hang up artwork around the house. This involves a LOT of nails being hammered in and taken out again, polyfilla and patching of paint as i try and play and change my mind. But it's all part of the process. And as i am the one making the holes AND fixing the mistakes, no one is complaining. Just as well (for them). This is a piece i had started on last year just as a little painting, and stopped. I gave it to Lexi and she turned it into something beautiful. I think she's already an amazing artist and I also think that collaborating with my 4 year old might just be the way to go. She has a lot to teach me.

* It's the time of year for going through all our photos from the past 12 months. I do it ritually every January (when i'm organized, or in this case - there is snow outside and it's the perfect thing to be doing when we're house bound). I print out copies for both kids of the photos capturing memories special for them from the past year and make one scrapbook for each of them. Sometimes I do them online but for while they're still little (like Lexi) i like the gluing and cutting of actual paper in a scrapbook ... i add in cards and messages and ticket stubs and drawings and it's messy and colourful and hopefully for them, a little reminder of the years as they go. Now that Hayden is bigger i wanted to condense the books somehow - i can just imagine him leaving for college and me handing him a huge heavy box of 18 scrapbooks. So not cool. Now that he's 9 i'm changing track to the 'We R Memory Keepers' album from Target. It has clear pockets which hold 6 x 4 photos and also clear scrapbook sized pockets so you can add as many as you like and change the order around too ... they sell scrapbook papers to fit the pockets so it's a fun and easy way to create memory pages without the need for layouts or filling a whole scrapbook. It's similiar to the Project Life series, available on Amazon - this was just nice and easy for me to pick up during my weekly shop. This way i can add just a few pages for each year so that the pile i hand him when he moves out of the house will be more manageable. He'll thank me someday, i know he will.

I love this project though ... it reminds me of all the adventures and memories we have had over the past year which is a good thing in a month when i'm forward-focused and wanting vacations and new things and this and that and apt to feeling slightly grumpy at not having everything i want RIGHT NOW. It's a good reminder of the seasons past, the cycles passing, how quickly the children are growing, how often it really is the little things we remember the most - the bowl of cake mix we licked out, the barbeque on a lazy sunny afternoon, a day at the beach, a snowball fight, a good visit with friends. A gentle reminder to appreciate those things more - the ordinary moments of the everyday - they're the ones i end up choosing for my albums each year. So it's a fitting project for the first month of the year for me. Plus i get to give myself a giant noddy-badge for clearing hundreds of photos off my computer and archiving them away. Big achievement all round.

That's it for today folks. Last night i was thinking that i should set myself a creative project for the year since it's been 2 years since i started writing in this quiet corner, a way to push myself a little - like ... a drawing a day. Poems. Creaive stuff i actually have to share. I do work best under deadlines after all. But ... nah ... i'm not quite there yet. So for now ... i'm off to drink another cup of tea and bundle up in a million layers on my way out. 

A little quote to share with you ... by Solbeam.

And music i'm just in the right mood for at the moment ... maybe it's time to buy the album (belatedly, but still). There are surprisingly few original music videos from him but here's a song i love ....

Happy weekend to all of you.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Friday bits and pieces ...

Although it's snowing again as i write, soft flurries floating through the trees, the past two days the light has been flooding into the house, reminding me of summer afternoons. It was much needed and cheered me up no end. Made me feel energetic and ready to tackle a long list of 'to do's'.

I remember why i used to love January, once upon a time - when it meant the start of a new school year, a blank canvas, a new beginning. When i loved re-arranging and tidying and feeling organized for the year ahead. I read somewhere that because Pisceans are at the end and the beginning of the Zodiac cycle, we're particularly sensitive to beginnings and endings - both are bittersweet for us. Maybe that's part of my January Blues .... the sadness at the ending of one year, the beginning of a new one.

So i've decided to embrace the quiet mood and just to have this month as one of quiet time at home ... while the kids are in school i am slowly working my way around, room by room - sorting and tidying and re-arranging. Trying for less clutter and more space. For things to feel a bit more matched and less unfinished. The list of what i want to buy and change is long, but in the meantime, i'm trying to use what i have in the best way. Baskets, hanging art, just playing in the house. Already i feel better. Wish me luck though, the basement is next.

I'm making plans for coffee with friends - much needed this month.

I'm reading.

I must have known this time of year would find me slumped and lacking energy because i signed myself up for Mati's online painting course a few months ago, just to get myself playing with paint again after many months of not doing anything. I had forgotten all about it and it started this week. I'm still making space to work so am a bit behind already but plan on catching up this weekend. It meant more re-arranging ... the room which we thought would be my studio space is a sunroom / porch off the side of the house. A week or so ago it looked like this. 

Yep. That's snow covering everything. There are no windows, only screens so the snow got blown in. I need windows and insulation and - well a lot of things to finish off the space ... it's on the list of jobs to be done. So in the meantime the dining room will just have to do.

I changed the windows last week from holiday to winter wedding ... 

I also found two lovely South African blogs that have been a breath of fresh air. I know, I know. A long post on letting go and all of that. I know. But it's complicated and it's still home and even though i'm trying to be more emotionally present here, there still holds my heart and it's lovely to be able to read some day to day life stories from the other side of the ocean.

Midlands Musings
Disco Pants Blog

I think that's it folks.

Happy weekend.

Monday, January 6, 2014

On why i don't love January ...

It's official. I have the January Blues. The time of year when the nights are ever so dark and the cold is not just cold, it's freezing. All the excitement of the past months is finally over - from October birthdays, Halloween, Thanksgiving to Christmas and New Year. It's suddenly done. It's the month of taking down all the festive decorations and lights and the tree and suddenly the spaces which were twinkly-sparkly-beautiful look plain and dull in the winter light. 

Every year it hits me the same way and so now it's an official Thing. These January Blues. Maybe a good title for a blues song. Didn't Bessie Smith have a song by that title ? It's too long since i studied Appreciation of Music, that extra credit thrown in to make up a degree and i'm not even going to google it to check. That's what the January Blues does to me.

So if this is a birthday month for you, or you're celebrating a wonderful event or going on holiday, i'm so sorry, i don't mean to rain on your parade. Or if you're lazing on a hot beach, or skiing in Europe with a whole group of friends (I'm truly happy for you guys, really i am, just using you as an example, honestly) ... that's great and i don't envy you one bit. Not in the slightest. But here's my list of all the reasons  I do not love January. Not at all.

I mentioned the early dark evenings and the very very cold.
Which means that the kids are inside ALL the time and have nowhere to burn off their energy. Which means a LOT of fighting.
All of the above makes me crave sugar. A LOT of sugar. Sugar. Sugar. Sugar. (How come the best things in life contain sugar ?)
And also, a lot of snacks. As in, i crave them - all day long - and have them - all day long. Since there is nowhere to go because of the cold which means it's also a little bit boring and so i break up my day with snack breaks to mark the slow passing of time. That's my excuse anyway. 
And even though i try to keep the portions small, 30 small snacks a day is a lot of food. 
Which in turn makes me super cranky and grumpy. NO, it has nothing to do with all the sugar or caffeine. Yes i KNOW exercise would make me feel better and NO, i don't want to do any. And NO THANK YOU i DON'T want any salad. Can you pass the cheesy-garlic bread please. And another glass of wine.

In January i don't want to do anything. 
I hate my hair.
I hate my face.
I don't like any of my clothes. 
I have nothing to wear.
I don't want to go grocery shopping or collect the mail. I want to stay in bed.
I feel overwhelmed by loads of endless laundry and the constant tidying and why does nothing ever feel finished in this house.
We have lived in this house for over 6 months now and not one room is finished. Not in the 'designery' finished that we see in magazines. Just finished. As in - put together, complete, vaguely co-ordinated, done. I am happy with all the furniture and the pictures hanging on the wall. Not one room can i say that about.
Nothing goes with anything and i am tired of all the mismatched lamps.
And that rug that has a stain on it.

In January i don't have any friends and nobody loves me.
I would like to be jetting off to a Caribbean island in February, but instead we are having to choose between a new couch and sorting out my painting room and going back to South Africa. Which really is not fair. I NEED to go home and see my friends and family and a week in the bush with friends i miss VERY much is just exactly what i need. In fact i want to go tomorrow and not have to wait till July.

It is January and would have been my dad's birthday yesterday. I have no memories of him. In January, this hurts more than any other time of the year.

In January i would like to go and shout at all the trees standing so quietly. It's just too quiet out there, ALL of the time. And it's so cold for the deer. Where are the deer ? I hope they are alright.
The world has disappeared and it is just me and my mismatched rooms and the kids shouting and me yelling and time for another snack and more snow is on the way.
I keep getting links from Greenpeace telling me about global warming and climate change and they are using the temperatures from MY part of the world and a map showing WHERE I LIVE to illustrate this point. In January, i want to bury my head in the sand (any warm sand, anywhere, so long as it's not snow) and NOT READ ONE MORE WORD.

It is January. I have read all the good books in the world and seen all the good movies. The next event I have to look forward to is ... the kids leaving for college ? Old age ? My life feels over.

It is January and i am NOT being melodramatic.

It is January and I am going back to bed.


Thursday, January 2, 2014

Happy New Year

2014 We've ushered you in. With huge street parties and silver-ball-dropping in front of cheering crowds. With fireworks and raised glasses and huddled pink-cheeked singing in the cold. On mountain tops and beside the sea, quiet ocean breezes whispering the promises a new year holds. In quiet houses, children asleep, fire softly rustling, dreams floating in the darkness. With family. With friends. Alone in the silence. With hope. With joy. With relief. With worry. With sadness. With regret. With determination. In all our different ways we've celebrated an end and a new beginning. 

Here's wishing for a beautiful sparkly bright and happy one. That the sad may be less than the happy, that the brightest might be lighter than the darkest. That there's someone to share the load with, sit down at the end of a long day with, hold your hand in the hour before dawn with. That there's singing and laughing and a lot of silly dancing around the kitchen. That there is beauty and magic and long coffees and big slices of cake. That there is quiet and the hum of life. That there is busy but also time for reflection.

For myself I don't have a long list of resolutions but there is a little list growing of what i'd like this year to hold for me. A vegetable garden and new recipes. More walking and a lot more dancing. Painting. Writing. Being brave enough to step out of the shadows and to push myself. Listening to my heart. Following my instincts. Being more sure of what to do next. Being afraid and doing it anyway. Feeling alive again. More adventures. New horizons. Less safe and isolated, more part-of. Letting go of the things I need to, and holding on to the ones I should not let go of. Red wine and long conversations. New friendships. Long coffees. Good books. New music. Feeling more myself inside my skin. Having this house feel like my home. Not someone else's. More playing. Less yelling. Patience. Hope. A vision. Direction. 

No pressure or anything !

Here's raising a glass and throwing a hand of sparkle your way.

Happy New Year.