Thursday, February 9, 2012

Tutorial and Freebie: Coloring Book Valentines

This wasn't the post I expected to be writing today, but so be it! I got a note yesterday from my daughter's school. The note said, essentially, we have 21 students, please send 21 Valentine treats by Monday. What? She's in preschool! Do we start this early? I suppose we do - and naïvely, I was not prepared. I puttered and pondered what to do, knowing I wanted low-sugar and low-cost. I considered homemade play-dough but no, too much everything - time, waste, and work. If there is anything my daughter loves more than homemade play-dough it is coloring. Coloring and stickers. Wait, coloring and stickers? For a Valentine? Perfect! A solution was at hand.

I delivered the complete set of Valentine treats this morning, with extras. Twenty-five sweet little packets for $1.49 total. Inside each folded piece of paper was a coloring page waiting to be scribbled all over by little artists and a small set of stickers.

After I posted my project it soon became clear my friends might want in on the action. Only one problem - I used a quick solution, a piece of artwork from my library that is licensed for personal use only (not for giving away or using in business, just like the license on everything I give away here!). I do love that ornate heart though, don't you? It is from Sarah Paris, if you are simply dying for a copy.

Next best solution? All new artwork! I spent the afternoon drawing up a whole new Valentine for you. Yay for a hand done drawing and super yay because my daughter spent her after nap time coloring in all my discarded drawings. A win for all of us!

Download your Valentine's coloring page greeting now!

Add your child's name in the bottom box by hand or with the writable PDF (more info here if you are confused). Or hey, add your own name and send to your favorite kids!

If you would like to enclose stickers like I did go ahead and print this page on the back side of your coloring page. Fold the paper into three (like a letter), then again the other direction - unfold, slip your stickers in the middle, then close back up and seal with a sweet sticker or a touch of tape.

Just remember - these files are for personal use only. No selling, using for business, etc! I didn't put any markings/copyright info (though they are copyrighted, obviously) on these pages so I have to say it here, sorry.

Hope you, and your little artists enjoy!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Perpetual Harvest of Self-Learning

Note: It struck me, as I was writing this, how we often treat ourselves and our creativity like a perpetual harvest, always taking from ourselves and expecting more, but without the necessary break that we need to rebuild. That rebuilding time is just as vital at the fruits that come later, but our expectation, our demands seem louder in silence than in the hurry of harvesting. Then it is all hurry, hurry to preserve things before they "go bad" - but it is only with the quiet as a counterpoint that we can truly savor the summer within is, the sunshine and outward manifestations of a journey that is filled with many moments of preparation, longing, strife, and joy. Thus, I chose some of my favorite harvests from last year as a photographic, albeit slightly cliché, accompaniment.

Hello again, friends! It has been a little while, hasn't it? I suppose it has. Funny enough, I usually have a firm stance on blogging and explanations - mostly that there is no need to apologize or explain absences and that we should just continue to produce quality product, explanations aside. Three months though, that is a sabbatical. I've have half-written posts, fully-fleshed out excuses and a back-log of photos that will take me days to cull through. Truth? I fell. I fell off schedule, I stumbled through a bout of depression, I waded through getting back on track and I am trying, as always, and again, to walk tall on the path that brings me happiness and completion.

This is a cycle many of us face, I think, both small and large. From the pile of laundry that builds while you are busy with work or recovering from a cold (a hem, like me, right now) to the larger, more weighing struggles - we stumble a little, we fall, we give up, give in, then slowly pick ourselves up again. There is nothing to be ashamed of in the normal struggle that is being human, the oppositional, defiant pulling we do against everything that hangs on us, pulls or pushes us down. We all have our triggers, our weak points, and our emotional Achilles heels. I do love though, the way my friend Tara looks at things as freeing, especially depression (seasonal or otherwise).


Tara is one of those people who is wildly talented with words, incredibly thoughtful, and shirks social media (that alone makes me envy her fortitude) – a combination which could make you fiercely jealous if it weren’t for feeling so lucky that you were on the receiving end of her emails or phone call. She also happens to be very strong in her faith, which is neither here nor there but peppers her speech, so you know…

“…Lately I'm seeing depression as less of a curse and more of a natural season for becoming a free-er more honest entity.

As terrifying as that one monster depression patch was for me (can't believe how long ago it was now-praise God) I simply cannot ignore how much it has enriched my life. Depression...leads us to places of such desolation that we are forced, as we reemerge, to upgrade to new operating systems. We reached that dead end because, let's face it, something just wasn't working for us. Whether it was a body's chemical response to outside stimuli, a false belief about self and/or our creator, or the result of a long-term dose of self-inflicted stress and negativity. One way or the other we come back around from depression with the working knowledge that at least a few things that drove us into that pit just haven't been worth the agony. And (my favorite part) once the paralysis of depression wears off we are free at that time to drop them like it's hot (for lack of a better term).”

While it has taken a little while, I think I have identified what my cues were and what I needed to get rid of, change, take charge of, etc. Long story short, a whole lot of taking from me, too much giving, and one more person nagging/making demands was just too much. So be it. I have learned, and re-learned, the same truths I have known about myself for a long time, this time perhaps with more clarity, and in turning I have come back to the same place I know offers fulfillment as well.


There are some sad and inevitable truths and frustrations with being public about your life, this “business of blogging” – sometimes it can feel one sided, like you are constantly giving, and when people take, or rather, when people steal your work, your images, your words, your “product” it is maddening and defeating. The fulfillment of so many wonderful friends and readers can be so easily distracted by the disrespectful when really it should be the other way around - the light drowning out the darkness.

In the end, like all creative ventures, the fulfillment is in the process, the joy in the journey, the satisfaction in the small victories. I will probably never feel satisfied with my work, I’ll always be a little embarrassed that I could do better somehow. I will continue to have a list a mile long of things I want to write about but won't because I'm self-dismissive and fear being trite. I will always second guess how much to reveal and how much to keep close to my heart; the fine thread that embroiders the intersections of authenticity, honesty, creativity, and opinion will always be transparent and slip from my fingers just when I think I’ve grasped it – and I am learning, a little more with each test and every new day, to be ok with that, to embrace the balance of chaos and control but not let it take me to the brink.

Creative impulse is a gift and a curse; it is a burden to have a deep need to cobble together new projects and an unsettling emptiness when you are not creating, but it is fulfilling, wildly distracting, and satisfying in a way that can’t be explained as well. Many writers talk about this need, this yearning, this compulsion to write, it is the same for artists as well, for those who have a creative spark in their soul, you can leave it behind, you can try to tuck it away or hide from it, you can let your life get in the way, but in the end you always come home to the place of yearning, and in the end you have to feed that yearning in order to feel whole.

For now I'm taking my own advice, getting out of my way, and not apologizing for being. Sometimes we must simply be - in whatever way that is or needs to be, in silence, in laughter, in action or inaction, and most especially in our creativity. I’m glad to be back in a place that feels like home and I hope you’ll still come visit often.