Monthly Archives: November 2012

a room of one’s own

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Virginia Woolf once wrote that a “placeless person is a silenced person.”

In her essay, “A Room of One’s Own,” Woolf admonishes us to find a space in this big crazy world, claim it, and return to it. This will help us find ourselves. This will help give us a voice, or give us back our voice if we have—for some reason—lost it.

Originally Woolf meant this piece to call forth women writers who were awash in a patriarchal industry. Her message was: let’s find our place—both literally and figuratively—and in doing so, discover our voices.

I love all this as it applies to you and me today. Our meditation, therefore, is to consider if we have a place of our own where we can go and connect or reconnect with ourselves.

Do we have a place that we can settle into and listen to our own thoughts? Do we have a place where our deepest feelings can bubble up? Do we have a place where we can hear our own voice? Where our creativity resides. Where our true self is nourished. Where we can be absolutely real.

For some of you, this place is a familiar corner in a coffee shop. A certain cropping of rocks at the beach. Your bed. An old desk. For some of you it’s a long stretch of pavement where you ride your bike or run.

Many of you don’t know where this place is. That’s OK. I’m just telling you to start thinking about it. Where could you go to be with yourself? Where could you go to alleviate the ways in which you’ve been silenced?

This will be exciting to some of you: Why not commandeer an area in your house—even 5 square feet—and create a magical moment right there in your own home. Infuse that little spot with all things inspiring to you. Sharpie extra fine tip markers in all colors. Twine. A huge roll of kraft paper. A candle. A soft place to land. A book of prayers or poetry. Manilla tags. Sour gummy bears. Sparkling water. A few turquoise felt flowers strewn here and there. The Elizabeth soundtrack’s “Nimrod” on repeat. A blanket. I could go on and on . . .

Make yourself a nook in this world. Make yourself a place. Return to that place as you would an altar, a shrine. A place to commemorate, record, resolve, hash out. A place to hear your own voice once again or for the first time. And in that way, a place where you just might find a bit of God.

***

Do tell . . . Where is your place? What’s there? Why is it meaningful to you? Or, what is your resistance to creating a space like this for yourself? How has being “placeless” silenced you?

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women in the trenches — tina wells

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Today, I’m interviewing Tina Wells in our ongoing “Women in the Trenches” series. I have known Tina for years and years and years. She was in the same graduating high school class as my older sister, and I was in the same class with Tina’s younger sister, Annette. So, really, we have all kind of grown up together.

Tina is a working artist. I say that with all the awe it deserves. I am always struck by those who have the stamina, talent, discipline, and business sense to make a living at their craft. Tina is one of these amazing women.

I asked Tina about her work, her blog, her knack for decorating and entertaining, her ideas for a budget-conscious Christmas, her personal experience with the recession, and being a creative person while mothering young children. I KNOW you will enjoy getting to know Tina and will be as inspired as I am by the way she is so beautifully doing life in the trenches.

Here’s Tina . . .

How old are you? Well, I have been 39 for a few years now :) Ok, Ok, I’m 42.

How long have you been married? We have been married for 14 years.

Kids’ names and ages? My son Kenny is 9, and my daughter Genevieve is 2 1/2

Where do you live? We live in East County San Diego, CA

What’s great about where you live? There are so many things I appreciate about where we live! The weather in San Diego is divine; I love spending time outdoors year round. We are 30 minutes from the beach and downtown, yet our home feels a little more rural, nestled in the hills. It is really nice to live 10 minutes from my parents, especially with kids.

What is your job and why were you drawn to that particular field? I am a free-lance artist, primarily a painter. I paint canvases, murals, and specialty wall finishes. Much of my work is custom, and I enjoy that collaboration with clients.  Art has been part of my world since childhood. I started my first art business at 16. Experiences and education have led me down different paths artistically. During college, I started painting more seriously and fell in love with paints, color, and the whole process. Truly, I believe anyone and everyone can paint, even if it is simply an abstract play of colors.

Do you find it difficult to be a creative person while mothering young children? How do you order your life to make it all work? Well, it is certainly a balancing act! Sometimes being creative means doing something crafty; other times it’s trying a new recipe. Those are things I can do with the kids yelling and running circles around me. Serious painting projects require more mental space and focus. I have to be very intentional about it. I am a “morning person” so often getting up several hours before the kids is when I work. It’s a week by week flex, planning when there will be time, when James can watch the kids, etc.

Any advice for someone who is desires to be a full-time, working artist? There is always the route of getting a job in the art world and working your way around within it. I have always worked for myself, and word of mouth has always been my best marketing tool. If you want your own business doing art, my advice would be to start by doing your art on the side, and experimenting with your market.

How do you create when you don’t feel inspired? This kind of block is usually a reflection of the busyness and stress level in my life. The best thing I can do is to carve out some space to be alone. Visuals always help me too; looking through a favorite magazine, inspiration file, or Pinterest board can help me get into a creative place. If my “TO DO” list keeps spinning around my head, the best thing is to stop, take out a paper and pen and clear my head. I will write what I am feeling, thinking, everything I need to get done…and after a few minutes, it’s out, and I can focus on the project ahead of me.

Every corner of your house has amazingly creative personal touches. I’ve especially loved coming to your house for parties. You’re able to make things feel so pulled together and yet relaxed. As we enter the holiday season and begin to prepare for entertaining, what are some tips for throwing a memorable party that doesn’t kill us in the process?!?! Thank you for the generous compliment, Leeana. I truly love gathering people together. And who doesn’t love a great party, right? I decorate seasonally which means that things have probably changed since the last time a guest came over. This keeps it interesting. Decorate early! The Christmas season is only a few weeks, so I try to have decorations up by the first weekend in December. Don’t try to do it alone! Those days ended with the birth of my first child. Don’t hesitate to ask people to bring something. If each guest/couple contributes something to the party, it will greatly reduce your workload. A little advance planning. As you plan your menu, include items you can make a day or 2 in advance. Have a back-up plan. If your week spins out of control, go pick up some good take out and be ok with it. Having a great appetizer and drinks ready a few minutes before guests arrive will buy you some time to pull last minute details together while they are nibbling. A stressed out hostess doesn’t make for a good party, so Relax and Have Fun!

Your blog, www.winsomewren.blogspot.com is such a feast for the senses: recipes, art, creative ideas. LOVE! Tell us a little more about your blog and what you hope readers find there. I find that when creativity spills over into the everyday stuff, life’s little chores become more fun. A new recipe, a simple creative project, playing with my paints… these things make my life interesting, and I love sharing it with others. It is easy for me as a mom, to get lost in the piles of laundry, milk spills, and endless dirty dishes. But, when I am intentional about fitting creativity into the rhythm of my life, the laundry doesn’t seem so bad. I think delving into a creative project can seem overwhelming for some people, so I try to keep it simple and fun. I hope it’s contagious.

Any advice/tips for gift giving and entertaining at Christmas if we’re on a tight budget? We have a ridiculously tight budget this year! Here are a few things I will be doing: I suggested to a few girlfriends that I exchange gifts with that we make something simple for each other…

A few ideas: a jar of fresh salsa, homemade cookies, a handmade scarf, hand stamped/decorated notecards, music mix cd, a mini recipe book of top 10 favorites, small photo album or scrapbook, or the gift of time: a promise to help organize a closet, babysit, prepare a favorite meal, etc.

We are really excited to try this. Giving the gift of time/acts of service, is fantastic because it is a promised gift, to be redeemed after the holiday madness, and doesn’t add stress to the giver in an already busy season. I am also going to add handmade items to purchased gifts to bring the gift cost down. I think the key is to start early, and choose one or two projects that you can replicate for multiple people.

You’ve told me that the recession has been particularly hard on your family. How have you kept hope and faith through difficult times? It has been a truly long season of underemployment for us. Through it all, God has provided what we have needed. It is extremely difficult to walk day to day with an uncertain future. Keeping my focus on what I need to do today alone helps keep me sane. Prayer is not like a magic wand; you don’t just say “please give me $100,000” and it magically appears…but then again, you can ask God to give you peace, and in an instant it will wash over you like a cool breeze on a hot day. God always shows up in my moment of need. And of course, counting my blessings helps me keep things in perspective.

What is one thing that’s helped you stay married? Saying I am sorry, and in turn being forgiven.

What is one item or product you cannot live without and you think everyone should know about? Toms wedges (shoes)…comfortable, casual, they make me taller, AND I love that Toms gives a new pair of shoes to someone in need with every purchase!

What is your one wardrobe staple? A great pair of jeans…and I live for accessories (sorry, I couldn’t narrow it down to one)

If any of my readers wanted to purchase or commission art from you, how could they go about doing that? Email me at:  thewinsomewren@gmail.com or go to my ETSY store at: www.etsy.com/shop/WinsomeWren These links are also on the SHOP page of my blog: www.winsomewren.blogspot.com

***

Thank you, Tina!

What resonated most with you guys from Tina’s interview?

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care-fully

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Today’s meditation is about caring.

To me, caring is about showing up to life, participating.

Kathleen Norris writes, “Care derives from an Indo-European word meaning “to cry out,” as in a lament. Caring is not passive, but an assertion that no matter how strained and messy our relationships can be, it is worth something to be present, with others, doing our small part.”

Caring is a vulnerable posture. Sometimes we’re caring about things we can control; more often, we’re caring about things over which we have little control. To care, then, means to open ourselves up to disappointment. Last time I checked, disappointment’s never fun.

The alternative—not caring—seems much safer:

“I don’t care if the book sells well.”

“I don’t care if he calls me back or not.”

“I don’t care if they invite me.”

“I don’t care if I get the interview.”

“I don’t care what they think of me.”

While every once in awhile some of this kind of non-caring is actually true, most of the time it’s pretty much total B.S.

We act blasé because it gives us a sense of control, especially when we’re actually feeling completely out of control, completely exposed, completely vulnerable. Our “meh, whatever” attitude is a defense against our deepest, scariest desires.

Is there something in your life that—deep down—you really do care about (perhaps you’re even dying over a little bit) and you need to admit that to yourself?

Today, what do you need to “care” about? Not take care of.  No, not that. What do you need to engage with your true feelings about? What do you need to awaken to? Participate in? Face? Admit your desire around? “Cry out” regarding?

Usually, it hurts to care about something. Sorry to say. But you know what hurts worse? Meh, whatever.

***

Has acting like you don’t care ever backfired on you? Is caring hard for you? How has caring about something taught you more about yourself? What have been some of the consequences of not caring?

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the spacious place

I wrote this as a guest post recently, and I wanted to share it with you here. As you read, consider leaving a comment to the question I ask at the end of the post. Your words might be just what someone else needs to hear.

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Over the last three years—since becoming a mother—I have looked in the mirror, and more times than not, resembled Charlize Theron from “Monster” in most every way. Dark roots. Bad skin. Scowling. Just generally the most unattractive version of yourself you could imagine.

This has been a grief for me, as I would like things to feel much more like the Anthropologie catalogue then they have ever turned out to feel. Three babies in three years has put me face-to-face with myself in such an intense way, that I have had to do some reckoning.

For as long as I can remember, I have struggled to feel a sense of spaciousness within myself. Instead, I have spent time feeling ill-at-ease in my own skin, squeezed from self-contempt. Motherhood intensified all of this immeasurably, and I was confronted with the following question: was I going to be a constant critic of myself or was I going to learn to be a companion to myself?

I saw these little creatures at my feet. Gorgeous, wide-eyed tinies. And I knew I needed to find a new way of thinking, of being. After all, how could I really be there for them if I had no idea how to be there for myself?

Practically speaking, one of the things that has most helped is better understanding the concepts and practices behind 12-step recovery.

I had this swirling mess of voices and anxiety in my head, and so I looked into how a person might break down such a big problem, how a person might begin to think (and then act) differently, how a person might stop certain habits and begin new ones. That’s what 12-step offers us.

In my opinion, the single greatest truth from 12-step is the idea that we must approach each day anew. We don’t graduate from our struggles. We don’t arrive. Things aren’t ever solved, once and for all. We wake up each day and we begin again. We put into practice those truths that have become part of our health. And then we do it again tomorrow.

I’ve become really attached to a Scripture passage from Psalm 18:

But me he caught—reached all the way from sky to sea; he pulled me out 
of that ocean of hate, that enemy chaos,
 the void in which I was drowning. 
They hit me when I was down, but God stuck by me.
 He stood me up on a wide-open field; I stood there saved—surprised to be loved! (Psalm 18:16-19, The Message)

Instead of “wide-open field,” other translations use the phrase “spacious place” or “broad expanse.” YES. That’s the kind of living I want to do. How about you? Don’t you long to live from the spacious place instead of the squeeze? Don’t you long to offer yourself breathing room instead of badgering?

I really believe that we can live our lives drowning in the void, or we can live our lives in the spacious place. I have floundered in the void, as some of you have or maybe still are. There is so much more life in the spacious place.

There is so very little in life that we can actually control. Almost nothing. Three little babies will teach you that quickly. But one thing we CAN control is this: How we treat ourselves.

The truth is, I still look like Charlize Theron from “Monster” most every day. And, the truth is, that’s still hard for me. BUT . . . somehow I can forgive myself now, I can care for myself, I can see that things will go so much better if I will simply stop believing that I am the sum total of my perceived inadequacies.

God has offered us a very broad grace. Can we offer that same grace to ourselves and, what’s more, wake up tomorrow morning and choose it all over again.

***

What helps you to be a companion to yourself (instead of a critic)?

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saltines & sardines

Further thoughts on the loaves and fish . . .

Sometimes our five loaves and two fish look more like a handful of stale saltine crackers and a sardine carcass. We had wanted to wait until our five loaves and two fish looked more like a special delivery from Dean and Deluca. Delicious. In good taste. Rustic and yet gourmet. Beautifully presented on a reclaimed wood plank. With a side of fig jam. You know, or something like that.

And it troubles us so that we can’t seem to get things together like her over there. Or our lives just don’t seem as sexy as his over there. I just don’t have what it takes for God to do something major with my life.

So we turn away from God with our sad little remains, and we miss the most important part. We believe that we have to pretty it all up before God could ever do anything with us. We believe we’ve got to get ourselves worthy enough.

And Christ says, All I require is what’s in your hands. Just bring it to me. Bring me the stale saltines. Bring me the sardine carcass. Bring me the meager, the humble, the modest. That little old lunch. And watch me be God. Watch me set a table of glory.

When we see who we are and who he is—and we do our part and let God do his part–all of a sudden the angst is transformed to awe.

And that’s how I want to live. Filled with awe.

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my offering

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A meditation for you this week:

You may be facing the insurmountable, or so it feels. Swirling from too many demands, too little resources. In the chaos of those feelings—and they are chaotic, fragmenting, corrosive—could we stop?

Stop moving our bodies. Stop moving our minds. Stop moving our hands. Stop moving our feet. Stop moving our mouths. Stop. Be still.

In the stillness we realize that something is plaguing us. Comparison? Shame? Lies? Fear? We realize the toxic tapes have taken control. The howling monkeys have been loosed.

We need to stop and breathe.

And then we say—in the face of those toxic tapes—all Christ requires of me is my five loaves and my two fish.

All Christ requires of me is my five loaves and my two fish.

I bring him what little I have. The limited time. The limited resources. The crazy brain. The drama. The passion. The dream. The desire. The unshowered self. The mistake-maker. The gypsy-in-training. I bring it to him. My offering. Modest as it may be. I place it in his hands entirely (which is incredibly hard to do). And I see that he is the one who makes the miracles happen. Not me. He is the one who multiplies and multiplies and multiplies. He is the one who takes my not enough and creates plenty. He is the one who nourishes. I cannot feed the crowds on my own. They’ll consume me in a second.

All Christ requires of me is my five loaves and my two fish.

He will do the saving. Not me.

So, God, help us to quiet down. To stop buzzing. To put our phones down and look up at you. To bring you what little is in our hands and allow YOU to make a certified miracle happen. Because we’re nuts. And plagued. And we forget that you’re sitting right here with us, hands extended, asking for our little so you can blow us away with your much.

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october in pictures

I always love the transition from one month to the next because I get to reflect back and document my month in pictures for you here. Always fun to sift back through images, remembering captured moments. Here is October in pictures. Enjoy!

IMG_1184October started off with a visit to the Grand Mosque. You know, by now, that this is one of my very favorite things to do in Bahrain. I went with a handful of other mil wives who hadn’t done the tour before. Such a fascinating and unique experience — every time.

IMG_1124Of course, I called my friend and tour guide, “Fatima” to do the tour for us and she so graciously spent all morning with our little group. Answering questions. Taking pictures. Helping us to better understand the world she has grown up in. Helping us to better understand a religion that has become so misinterpreted and misunderstood. As you know, I wrote about my first experience with her in chapter 16 of Found Art. When we first got back to Bahrain, I took a copy of Found Art to her to read. We are getting together soon to discuss her reactions. I know that will be a fascinating conversation, and I can’t wait to share it with you.

IMG_1141 There are so many magical moments in this mosque. This is the inner courtyard. I wrote about it in painstaking detail in Found Art because it is just that memorable.

IMG_1137The interplay of light and dark in the mosque is practically poetry. Love this moment.

IMG_1123Also love this moment.

IMG_1121This is what most mosques around Bahrain look like. Humble, neighborhood gathering places. So you can see, in contrast, the Grand Mosque really is grand. Something important about the idea of neighborhood places of worship, though. I like the idea of not needing to go to the fancy place to find God. Just walk down the street.

IMG_1196Beautiful old doors are hiding all around Bahrain. Loved these old red ones. Perhaps I’ll have a gallery wall of Bahrain doors in my house someday. Love.

IMG_1162As October unfolded and we approached Halloween, things got a little festive around our house. Thanks, Gran, for these fab PJs. My three little pumpkins. Couldn’t quite get them to hold still long enough to capture them in focus. :)

IMG_1211Lane has fallen in love with My Little Pony and chose “Twilight Sparkle” for her costume this year. I ordered this SO cute crocheted hat from Etsy (which also has a matching tail that you can’t see in this picture) and was so pleased when it arrived. Luke decided he wanted to be a knight and every picture I have of him from this Halloween includes some sort of similar tough-guy snarl.

IMG_1287Lastly, I love this shot of Luke and me. How his hug is smooshing my face. How sweet he is. We are just weeks away from leaving age 3 behind. Four feels like a big birthday, like I’m trading in toddlers for little kids. Cherishing these 3-year-old snuggles. Love my boy.

What about you? What was a moment from October that stays with you?

All of these images were taken with the Instagram app. You can see more of the life and times of the Tanks on Instragram at @lmtankersley.
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