It is interesting reflecting on the series of events that lead you to a given place in your life. I think the past two years have fairly led a lot of people to unexpected places. One of those places for me has been homeschooling. We have turned into a homeschooling family.
My oldest was sent home in the spring of 2020 when he was in kindergarten. Then, my middle child started kindergarten the following fall virtually. About a third of the way through the year, we realized virtual learning did not work well for our family and we had the ability to pull our kids from that platform and homeschool...so we did. Then, fast forward to the fall of 2021, we had every intention of sending out kids back to traditional school. It was to be in-person learning and my oldest was to start the second grade and my middle child was nervously awaiting first grade.
We live in the southern United States, and while numbers of COVID cases were low for the summer, they saw a huge spike at the end of July. School starts at the beginning of August where I live, and my partner and I made the decision that the risk was once again too high to send our kids back to in-person learning in a traditional setting. Thus, we once again decided on homeschool.
It has looked different this year opposed to last year. I have been able to find small group activities for my boys to participate in with children their own age. I feel so privileged that any of this was even a possibility for my family and both of my older kids have really enjoyed homeschool routine, which I try to keep challenging yet predictable for daily stability. We have decided that we will finish out this year as it is, without throwing the kids into traditional learning mid-year, and then make a decision for what is next this coming summer.
And that seems to be what life has turned into a little bit. We live in the moment, make decisions that are best for our family and hopefully our community, and then see what happens. I don't know what to do for next year, but that's okay. It's a strange place to be, I definitely acknowledge that. We never saw ourselves as a homeschooling family, that wasn't our plan, but clearly plans change. Now I have two school-aged children who have really only experienced homeschool. My youngest is going to be preschool age next year and he has absolutely loved having his brothers close by- he really doesn't know anything different either. They all seem happy and healthy and it makes me feel perhaps this is actually a good fit, at least for now.
It is so hard to know what the right things to do is sometimes. And I guess this is an acknowledgment that maybe there is more than one route that is right and more paths depending on the needs of you and your loved ones. This accidental homeschool has worked well for our family; but it would not work well for every family, nor is it even possible for some. It has been both rewarding and exhausting, but I know I am lucky. I probably spend far too much time fretting over it, worrying if I am somehow damaging my children by doing something different, but when I let that go I feel joy.
Maybe I can just embrace this happy accident.
I recently listened to a conversation that was part of the Soul Craft Festival. It was a wonderful talk with Jamila Reddy about showing up and giving yourself permission to create. It was powerful, refreshing, and really got me doing a lot of self reflecting. The part of the conversation that struck me the most powerfully was about making sure your metaphoric cup is full. In a nutshell, we cannot show up for those we love and help support them through their struggles if we have ignored our own needs and struggles. This metaphor of a cup is simple and straightforward. Your cup needs to be overflowing in order to truly show up for those around you, otherwise you are taking from your own cup to fill theirs. Half full doesn't work here.
This is something I struggle with; perhaps you do, too. Sometimes it doesn't feel like we have a choice on whether we show up or how full our cup is. I have three young children who need and do not yet have the ability to see peoples' cups or how much they are asking of a person. I cannot decide to not show up for my kids just because my cup is not full. The same is true of my partner, who struggles in a very real way with anxiety. "Sorry, can't help you today, my cup isn't full." That doesn't sit right, does it?
But this isn't an accurate picture...or at least not completely accurate. It is not an all or nothing type thing.
The idea, I think, is to work daily at filling your cup so that when these moments arise that take from your coffers, you have extra to give. It might take a little while before you feel like your cup is overflowing, but if we work at it, we will get there. This can look different for different people, but I think it all starts with self care. While I cannot decide to take the day off when my children need me, I can make decisions prior to the need to help make sure I am cared for before caring for others.
I don't think we need to overthink this. Getting a good night's sleep is self-care. Taking ten minutes to read your favorite book or stitch a few lines is self-care. Eating healthy foods, or maybe even eating a treat seem like they fit the bill. None of these things are "WOW!" type activities, but give yourself permission to take part in them every day and I think that cup will start to brim.
Showing up for yourself is hard, but you are worth it. Please give yourself permission and be there for you just as you are for others.
Sometimes I feel discouraged. I have all of these lofty dreams of being an artist. But no matter what, I feel like I am always falling short, being unrealistic, running out of time, too old...the list is quite long, but I'll stop there. But none of these thoughts serve me. So, if you sometimes feel the tug of self doubt and are drowning in negative thoughts toward yourself and your craft, take a deep breath and reset.
This is clearly easier said than done. But we, both you and me, should try. All of our doubt and discouraged feelings are things we would never project onto someone else. We would encourage those around us to try, to continue, to enjoy, to be patient. Let's extend that love to ourselves. Sometimes life makes it hard for us to pursue our passions, but we must not give up.
For me, changing my mindset is critical when I start to feel clouded by stress and overwhelmed by a lack of productivity in my creative life. I have to take a step back and tell myself it is okay. I have to refocus on why I create art, not on what or how much. The process has to come back to the forefront, not the product. With this slow shift in the way I am thinking, I find that everything leans more toward joy. The moments with the people around me become beautiful again; they are not seen as moments where I cannot work on my projects. And this joy translates. My art improves even if I have to take breaks or work on it in is short bursts. My mood improves even if I have to put my art away for days at a time.
This is a continual work in progress. Just as this website is. I have ambitions of writing weekly posts. Maybe even posting twice a week! (Surely, I must be joking.) But, in reality, I post about once a month...if I'm lucky. And you know what, that's okay. I'm keeping the flame alive even if I can't tend to it yet with the vigor I want. It can feel disappointing. I think it is important to acknowledge the negative thoughts even if you work to reframe them and you are not inviting them to stay.
I feel disappointed. I feel sad. I feel frustrated. There, I said it. You can, too. It's okay.
However, because I have hung on, I feel stronger. I find new ways to include creating in my life, and that feels good. I want to focus on that feeling. And I want to teach my children that life isn't all one thing. Sometimes we cannot focus only on our passions, but that does not mean we cannot feel good about what we do and what we accomplish. We should never give up on the things we enjoy. So, know you aren't alone when you feel down, but please hold on with me.
Last week, my local fiber guild sent an email about an estate sale of a member who had recently passed away. Her family was offering an early sale for any guild member who wanted to purchase some of the woman's bountiful collection. I did not know the member, and it felt a little weird- the idea of going through her things and buying her tools. However, it was wonderful that the guild was given the opportunity to make sure her things stayed in the community and went to loving fiber oriented hands. So, I guess I am trying to say I was conflicted.
I decided I would go, not rush out in the first wave of early access but see what was available after perhaps people closer to her had an opportunity to bring pieces home. The woman lived alone, her daughter had traveled in to take care of her local affairs. However, her house was clearly a wonderful, warm workspace of creation. Every room was a beautiful little personal studio. All of her spinning wheels had already gone, but her floor loom remained. There was a project still sitting, patiently waiting to be finished. I touched the cloth and was nearly overwhelmed by emotion for this woman I had never met.
We are all going to be in the middle of something when we die.
She was clearly in the middle of a charming twill hand towel. It will likely never be finished. I am in the market for a floor loom, but that particular loom was not for me. I really wish it had been. I would have finished her towel.
As a maker, it really struck home. What is it that we leave behind? Tools, certainly. We can't take those with us. Supplies, for sure. Hopefully we leave more, though. A legacy of knowledge, a piece of community, a continuation of history perhaps? That way, even when we go and still have projects unfinished, our work will live on in new hands. I hope all of this woman's things went to good homes and that they will continue to be used in creating countless more pieces of art. In that way, it won't matter that the twill towel was never finished, it didn't need to be.
The thought has crossed my mind (more than once) that maybe I'm just taking up space in an already crowded creative world. (Confession: This thought usually is louder when my internal weather is a bit cloudy or rainy.) There are quite a few fiber artists out there. Many of them post projects, patterns, tutorials, host classes...does it make sense to take time to do the same thing that has already been done? My answer is always yes. Yes it does make sense, at least a little. And not just as applied to fiber craft; I feel that way about most things in the art/creative world. And not just applied to myself. If you have something to share that brings you joy, share it. It will bring someone else joy, too.
Everyone is different. Every mind has its own special way of ticking. Every person has their own way of learning. I like to post tutorials- obviously warping a loom or steeking in knitting are not new. There are many teachers that have come before me and there are many people demonstrating the same exact techniques I use at this very moment. But maybe my voice speaks in a way that someone understands just a little bit better than when they tried before. Perhaps I take a picture that just makes it all fall into place for some weaver just starting out. That is such a super feeling and it makes it very worthwhile to share. Having many voices keeps a craft alive. Allowing being to really find what "fits" is a very powerful thing. And often what fits isn't always the same everyday. It's good to have choices.
As for patterns and finished objects? What inspires me does not inspire everyone. But that is true for everyone's creations. Having a lot to look at might be overwhelming, but it also makes room for what inspires you. We assimilate the world around us and as artists, make it our own. We share what we experience in our finished projects, whether they be patterns or items to wear or display. In a way, it can help someone else find their own voice by hearing ours. It is a balance of listening and sharing- we are inspired and in turn inspire others. I think it important to reflect here, though, that one must listen to be also be heard. If you enjoy my website, I promise there are many more out there you will find equally (or more) inspiring and useful. (I am trying to be more active in this space, and I have a tab for "Things You May Like." This is where I am adding a collection of fiber and non-fiber things that I have absolutely nothing to do with creating but really enjoy. Maybe you will, too.)
There is room on the field. I guess that's what I'm trying to say. Having more than one source to learn from is wonderful. The internet can be a dark and dangerous place, but it can also be a powerful tool for good. People can connect, learn and create using the tools and teachers all around the world, and that is a marvel. I think we do still need to be mindful that we are not appropriating cultures or taking what is not ours to teach. But as far as there being too many? Never. There is always room for art. And allowing that room will make space for the truly great among us to emerge- and hopefully by our example they will reach their hands back out toward us and share what they create and help others feel the joy or success that shines on them.
It is springtime where I live, and with that comes the blooms and hopes of of a new season. This year, in particular, that seems really important. Many of us have spent the last year tucked away, unable to connect in person with those that we love. Far too many people have lost loved ones and the whole world mourns. It is almost too much to process. This is layered with issues of social injustice, meaningful political shifts and human rights. In many ways I feel helpless in the face of all of this. I feel unable to contribute, unable to help, unable to find a meaningful path forward.
But then another thought crept in to my mind.
A small one.
But one that shouldn't be ignored.
Perhaps I cannot contribute in a grand way or affect sweeping change or even a visible one. But I can perhaps provide a connection. I can provide knowledge in a creative space. I can be more of a person in this online space, share more of myself with those that might need a little something to encourage them in their own journey. I am honored to be part of a crafting community. Perhaps there is more I can do in that space to...help.
So, here it is. The start. When I feel lost, I turn to my art. When I feel uninspired, I turn to my books and my favorite blogs to see how others are creating. When I want to learn, I take classes online, I watch videos, I read. I have tried to provide some of those things in this space, but I think I can do more.
There is beauty in the day to day. Even in dull moments, there is charm. I think this past year has taught me a lot in appreciating the present moment. Heck, I think it has taught me to see the present moment. I might have been missing it before. I think it is so easy to get caught up in what is wrong or what is stressful and where you want to be and where you'd like to go that is not where you are; it is so easy to miss the wonders of now.
Perhaps you may think it is cheesy, but I have discovered the power of positive affirmations. Setting a little intention for the day to carry you through and to change the perspective a little on your daily thinking has proven to be...dare I say life changing? The whole idea behind affirmations is to train your own thoughts. It doesn't always work, but if I find myself spiraling, sometimes repeating the affirmations I set helps to reframe how I look at my day. My affirmations for today:
I am where I should be.
I can do hard things.
I am strong.
I hope you can find a positive affirmation. And until next time, happy crafting!
Also, does anyone know what flower this is? I saw it on a walk and would LOVE to have one of my own. It is gorgeous.