Sunday, December 3, 2017

Birding In A Winter Wonderland

I met a new group of friends this afternoon in Belfair, and boy did we have a good time! Literally, there was one man/boy there :-)


With yummy snacks to keep the holiday cheer intact and no example to hold our paintings in comparison to, the paint flew and the laughter echoed off the still-under-construction space we occupied.

Branching Out

Like Mother, Like Daughter

Our subject today was two little birds huddled up on a branch after a snowstorm, so there was a chance to talk about how to build depth and dimension with natural branch building and feather layering, how snow drifts form, and how to mimic the randomness of falling flakes too.
One of my students was a little ball of artistry and although she didn't create the same image as the rest of us, she did paint a lot of ornaments, a Christmas tree, and a smile on my face :-) She would have liked for me to play tag outside with her, but instead I turned on my Homeschool Mom voice and played Word Tag, a rhyming game I made up on the fly, with her! Needless to say, I think she would have enjoyed a good old fashioned game of chase more lol.

Birds of A Feather Huddled Up Together

I am looking forward to working with this group again, and they put me in such a merry mood, I decided on the way home that I'd offer $5 off any of my next class to any of my past students... so watch for a blog post with more details about that coming in a day or two.
Another of my students has known me long enough to help me reflect with joy about how I've been so fortunate with the way my craft "career" has progressed. The support of my friends and family, all the new people I've met, the incredible opportunities that have been and continue to be offered me... well, I'm just darn lucky to get to share my passion for making with others. Even Ray had to give me a big hug when I got home. Maybe it was out of relief-he'd been on baby watching duty for over 5 hours!- but I think it was because he's proud of the success I've been able to enjoy sharing something I'm so passionate about.
It's all thanks to the encouragement I continue to receive, and dear reader, that includes You!

Thursday, October 12, 2017

An August Birthday in October

There's just no telling when a baby's finally going to decide to make an appearance... but some signs point unequivocally to NOW! This morning, my baby boy August decided it was his time, and he's happily at home after a (quick!) and easy birth and delightfully unexpected family meet and greet.
All the excitement of the day started shortly after going to bed last night. I was introduced to the concept of hypnobirthing during my pregnancy with Sunday, and lately started listening myself to sleep through a meditative cd. As Ray and I lay in bed visualizing the arrival of our new addition, I suddenly sat straight up in bed with a catch in my throat. As my loud hacks died down, I felt... intuition perhaps? Whatever it's name, the feeling that I'd better get out of bed was quickly followed by the relief that I had managed to do so; my water had broke!
Ray went downstairs to get me a towel, a Depends :-), and to call our midwife Susan and my mom, who would need to watch the girls for us. This was about 11pm. By 11:15, I'd made my way downstairs and also called checked in with Susan and texted my best friend, Jennifer, who would serve as both doula and photographer. Everyone agreed that we'd meet at the Birthing Inn of Tacoma at 12:30- which seemed like plenty of time but just barely was :-o
Getting food ready, double checking our pre-packed bags, and rousing the girls to transport them to the car and tuck them into their seatbelts took just long enough for me to wonder if I'd be giving birth in the Highlander... but lucky for me, we got over the bridge in record time and our welcome party was cozily busy inside, preparing for our arrival.
I had to laugh to myself in between contractions as the kids talked a mile a minute all the way there. Of course, I was laughing carefully! Another good laugh was internalized when my mom came to help me out of the car. I told her, no, I'd just wait for Ray to walk me in and she said, Well, it's not like you're ready to push or anything, are you? Well, yes, I said, I was. Vroom! She hightailed it inside, probably recalling that moments just before she'd first met me! The funny part was, here I was still out in the car, deep breathing and holding the baby in- ALONE.
Finally, I was escorted the short distance to my room and helped into the tub after a quick bathroom stop. I still had time enough between contractions to pause for candid photo ops of course :-) Ahhh, the relief of the warm water was absolutely what I need to slow down and collect my wits.
 The girls were able to see their mom cheerfully preparing mentally for the arrival of their brother. My mom was able to give me a mental power exchange through a forehead hug and then those three were off, leaving me to rely on Ray and Jen for all my soothing needs.
There aren't words that can express what it is to be able to rely on those who love you to keep you tethered to the moment while making you comfortable too. Ray cushioned me in the exact position I had envisioned while Jennifer thoughtfully ran warm water between contractions to keep me relaxed.
With the sensations of birth escalating rapidly, I really needed to stay calm, and they spoke softly and listened intently so that I wouldn't have to ask twice for anything of them.
Now August was a different story! That kid was barreling down the birth canal so fast I literally had to hold his head in and ask him as nicely as possible to just hold on and give mama a chance to catch up <3 I'll spare you those photos but I love that my friend knew I'd want them to look back on and hid within the pages of my scrapbook for future memory enhancement.
I can remember reaching down to feel his head as it emerged every time I stroke his hair- it gives me goosebumps of love every time. I hadn't experienced the births of my girls quite so intimately, and I felt that even in the most overwhelming of moments that I was still in control and welcoming my son to join us in the most open way possible. My teacher, Susan Boyle, was instrumental in instilling me with the confidence to trust my body and breathe through the intensity.
With Rays arms around me, we reached out together to hold August while the umbilical cord was gently moved off of his shoulders, and then our littlest child yet was ours to admire. "Gust"-y little squawks pierced the air and unbeknownst to me, my mom and the girls were out in the waiting room saying he sounded like a baby blue jay! What a happy surprise to find they hadn't left after all, and within moments the three of them were able to come in and see us and share that special time before we got out of the water.
cozy as can be
Another gift for Rainier and Sunday; to hear their mom deliver their brother without a single scream, smiling and radiant, and him healthy and beautiful with eyes wide open to bond with them. A moment to share with my mom that we hadn't planned and the ability for her to see him so soon and to then take the girls home with her to relive the excitement until their return. And gifts for Ray and I, that our son was born healthy as can be (albeit extremely wrinkled), that we had all the support we needed, and hours to rest before we took our slightly larger family back home to the house we started our family in.
Bradshaw, party of five

Although his birth record says he weighed 7 pounds, 7 ounces, I believe he lived up to my prediction of 7.9 because he'd had a chance to poop by the time he hit the scale, and well, because I'm the mom and I say so lol. 19 inches of pure potential. A full head of hair to cover his tiny skull containing a brain ready to absorb and learn all that it can. Born at 1:39am on October 12th and back home before 10 this morning to get used to the outside world, we welcome you, sweet child of ours <3
August Ray Lawson Bradshaw

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Nightmarish Night Class

  I fear there's something in the air...
 I experienced my most out of control class EVER last night... and yet it still ended up a success!  There were some students who needed no coaching whatsoever (until they did), and some who would have liked me to paint their Nightmare Before Christmas inspired scenes for them!
You know, one of the most boggling aspects of this get together was that the most talented artists had the most trouble with accepting praise for their talent... what reminder that when we let self doubt and negativity cloud our minds, we actually become unaware of our gifts, or unable to acknowledge the reality of how gifted we truly are.
I hope that on this first day of October, you are finding some joy in the color changes, falling leaves, and from the knowledge that you are magnificently formed by the most talented artist of all <3

Saturday, September 30, 2017

The Hunt for Chestnut-ctober

 'The last three years, we have gone down the road to our pickin' grounds to see what we can forage from the underbrush. Poking about is so rewarding!" 

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

My Library Peeps

 The Friends of the Key Center Library sponsored another #CraftWithAnna class on Monday and it was SO much fun! The theme was Faux Batiking, and the idea I had was that we would use bleach on fabric with wooden block stamps to create some unique impressions.
The images were decidedly not distinct, except in their originality! There was hardly any way to predict what would happen. Depending on the fabric, the amount of bleach and water ratio'd, the quality of the stamp and or the image of it, they all created something! I made sure to caution each participant that the most important thing to remember was that the goal was to experiment, and have fun, not to expect perfection, and to enjoy the process.
Judging by the feedback, I'd say those goals were achieved!

Saturday, September 16, 2017

MOPS Make and Take Mini Albums

My local MOPS group which meets up the street at the Lakebay Community Church during the school year contains some of my favorite people. As we gathered for our first get-together after summer, I was more excited than usual because I had the opportunity beforehand to assemble paper bag mini album kits for everyone.
 After a good bit of socializing over a provided dinner, and a tiny amount of business-ish information, we were all set to start gathering the precut papers and assemble our mini memory keepers. As I looked around at my friends intently glueing and cutting, my heart was truly full. In fact, I enjoyed commenting on everyone's joy so much that I didn't even sit down to make one myself!

Sunday, August 20, 2017

3-D Painting Inspiration

While doing some "research" on YouTube for a flamingo painting class I taught last week, I stumbled across a fantastic idea from Monte Mart; painting in 3-D. How did he do this? By literally opening the tube of paint and drawing with it on his canvas to create texture that sat on the canvas in the form of painted poppy stems. What a mind blow! Plus, who doesn't feel inspired when you hear that accent (swoon)?

While I didn't use this technique for flamingo legs, it did get my wheels turning... and then lo and behold, my online pal and Community Manager for, Jessica, sent me this awesome project for creating Salt Dough Paint. What a co-inky-dink! So, without further a-dough (!), here are the instructions Jessica sent me for how you can get busy getting funky as a flamingo yourself:

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Push Weeks

About once a month or so, I find myself feeling a bit overwhelmed by the amount of planning I've compiled into one week. This week is definitely one of those "push weeks!"
Yesterday, I proudly took my first shipment of handmade greeting cards into a local vendor, Purdy Cost Less Drug & Pharmacy. I'm thrilled to be offering my one-of-a-kind greeters within my own neighborhood out here on the Key Peninsula. It's hard to believe I've been in the greeting card sales business for about three years now! But, I still love it, so what can I say, I'll stay in :-)
Tonight I'm hosting a CraftWithAnna fundraiser for the Red Barn in my booth at the Key Center Art Walk. It's my first time participating, and actually, my first time attending, too. Needless to say, I'm pretty excited. I had grand intentions of filling up my 80 card space rack and making a bunch of planner-journals to sell... well, that didn't exactly come to fruition! However, I've got lots of cards to display anyway, and a few other handmade things that I can offer up to interested shoppers. The most important part of tonight, for me, is getting involved with my community crafters and raising funds for more art classes at our local youth center <3 I love seeing what people make and knowing that in some way, I've inspired them! Paychecks of the heart are so much more rewarding, right?
Then tomorrow the girls and I will get to play with a large amount of our friends during a few hours of showers at a nearby park... with record setting heat to deal with, an outdoor shower would be pretty pleasant, but this one will be a baby shower for wee August, due at the end of October. I'm considering wearing bikini top and skirt, lol cause "baby," it's gonna be HOT! I can always come home and jump in the horse trough pool we cleaned out last night though :-0
Friday I'll get a little break-maybe. We're in the process of shopping for an rv, and that's where a lot of our family time has gone over the last month or so. It's interesting to say the least. We finally put a deposit down on "the one," only to immediately reconsider, which is basically the story of our life lol. Perhaps by the end of the weekend I'll be figuring out how the heck I'm going to pull one of those busses into our twisting turning pot holed driveway though. I'm pretty sure the air conditioner unit being below the floor would be a bonus, considering the amount of low limbs we have around here and my inability to clear them while preggers! "Whoops" is not a refrain I want to adopt when driving a big rig, you know?
Saturdays are reserved for fun, and I'll be teaching a painting class this coming Saturday afternoon~  in my previous blog post, you can see an image advertisement for that. Should be a lot of fun, but I always try to test out my classes on my own children first, and thus far, I haven't squeezed that in... Hay, I've been a busy gal! Oh, well, we can't always work so hard, and after all, there are a lot of people who don't get to spend their time making as much art as I do, so I'm not complaining. I have complete access to enjoying my family, healthy snacks to consume when I'm getting low, and not many of my friends get to go about their work in their bathing suits!  Besides, Saturday night I'll get to unwind with a round of karaoke, celebrating my mom's birthday with a large glass of kombucha, my new go to for when I feel like I need to have a festive beverage.

So what's taking up your last month of summer (gasp- did I really just write that)? I hope it's something fun... even better, something crafty!

Monday, July 24, 2017

Mini Me's

Well, baby is growing by leaps and bounds, and my heart was leaping with oohs and ahs when I reviewed these sweet pictures taken in our midwives office at the Birthing Inn of Tacoma. Aren't Sunday and Ray just the spitting images of each other? From their expressions, you can almost hear them saying, "Mom, you can keep dreaming of having a baby that looks like you, but we know better!"
Well, one can dream at least :-)  and really, what better option is there while I fill my time, #waitingforAugust <3

Friday, July 14, 2017

A New Wrap On Kids Activities

We have been raising poultry for about the last three or four years at our house, and you know what? As a result, we have a TON of feathers floating around the yard. Whether it's by unfortunate bird snatchings by coyote, dive bombing by ravens, or just plain molting, birds tend to shed feathers the way toddlers shed clothing; here, there, and everywhere, and especially when you've just gotten them cleaned up :-)
Feathers hold a certain fascination for me. As a craft embellishment icon, they are wings down one of my faves. In fact, I rarely use them, and just look at how pretty they are still in the packaging most times- gah! Native and First America cultures have long used feathers for symbolizing a connection to Nature, and even adorn  their outfits and costumes with Spirit Animal representations of their strength and power
Figuring on my desire to inspire others and get more kids interested in artistic expression, my internet friend Jessica Lightle, Community Manager for,   sent me this amazing post to share with you, and lo and behold, it puts to use all those beautiful, fancifully enticing feathers!


Branch Weaving

Kindergarten Science Activities: Branch Weaving

What You Need:

  • Twigs
  • Leaves
  • Rope, or raffia
  • 1 Liter bottle, clean and dry
  • Optional - feathers or beads

What You Do:

  1. Ask your child to hold a twig in one hand and line it up with the mouth of the bottle. Tie the twig to the bottle using the rope. 
  2. Holding the twig and bottle with one hand, ask him to hold another twig up to the bottle, lining the base of the twig to the mouth of the bottle. Help him tie this twig in place, weaving the rope in and out of the previous twig.
  3. Repeat this process with at least one more twig, or as many twigs that will go around the bottle.
  4. Encourage him to add in feathers and leaves into the rope weave, adding more rope as needed.
  5. Tie additional rope at the top of the twigs for hanging his branch weaving from a tree.
Ta-Da! You've just created a masterpiece! Adorn your front entry way, line your driveway, or give them away as dream catchers to your older kids heading off to college.  However they turn out, you'll have a few less floaties around the house to pick up this summer <3 Thanks, Jessica!
If you enjoyed this activity and want to see more incredibly inspiring projects to keep your kids busy this summer, follow THIS LINK ...and let the creativity abound!

Monday, July 3, 2017

Summer Yum

Do you ever try on an outfit for the day and then say to yourself, I really ought to save this for (insert special occasion here)?  I do this. Constantly! I also do the opposite; try on an outfit that I've pictured so fantastically in my mind, and then look in the mirror and say, Hmm, that's not what I expected! I guess whichever of those choices you feel most inclined to identify with, the fact is, we are human- or at least, I am- and with humanity comes CHOICES.

Many of us learn at an early age that there are parts of our body not to love. What plants that in our forming mindset? The careless phrase of a parent? A more intentionally demeaning comment of a peer? Mental comparisons to the influx of imagery on tv, in magazines, movies, etc? And there are so many parts of our bodies, again we are presented with a myriad of choices about what not to love!

Well, there's one thing I'm loving about this third pregnancy: the "advanced maternal age" bracket I'm residing in has brought the wisdom to hear those negative self-image comments and completely disregard them as being total bullsh*t. Yep, my bras don't fit. Do I want a reduction? No, I want to feed my baby with the nourishing milk I believe I'll have the capacity to offer him. Oh joy, none of my pants now feature a non-elastic waistband. Do I wish I were thinner? Not if it meant my baby wasn't getting the nutrients he needs to live up to his full potential for the rest of his life. You see, I've embraced a new kind of attitude about what it means to be large and in charge :-) In charge of what I think about myself- what a concept!

Do I love it that my daughter's head bounces off that rounding tummy when she runs to give me a hug? Do I love it that I can no longer suck it in? Do I enjoy going through my closet and pulling out another round of "can't squeeze into that anymore" clothes? YES!

I tried to jog to get the mail the other day~ if you'd seen me the way I seemed to feel, you'd still be laughing. Half waddling duck stride, with lot's of arm movement, but only on one side cause I was trying to hold my boobs down. Oh yeah, cute! So, I'm taking a pass on anything more strenuous than strolling.

I tried to get past an chair sticking out into the aisle at a restaurant. Well, I thought for a moment I was stuck until I went up on tiptoe and lifted my belly over the top of the chair back. FUNNY! So now, I ask politely if someone can move their chair in a bit for me to get through.

Every time I stand at the sink to wash dishes, I seem to get Braxton Hicks contractions... well, I still haven't figured out a way to get out of that chore, but you'd better believe that along with my self-perceived body image verbiage, I'm working on it ;-)

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Blueberry Hill

When Rainier was quite small and Sunday was even smaller, my mom and I started taking them to the little park across the street from my very first home. Blueberry Park contains hundreds of bushes loaded with berries that are free for anyone who wants to pick them... and seeing as how my family consumes a fair quantity of these anti-oxidant rich morsels throughout the year, we go! 
I love spending time here in the later day, with the setting sun piercing through the shadowed insides, searching for ripe or close to ripe berries with my family nearby. Listening to the chatter of other gleaners as they converse in multiple languages across the fields is soothing somehow. I think one of the best parts about this day was celebrating August reaching an official 6 months of gestation. And boy was it ever rewarding, bringing home that first batch of Yum like we did this afternoon.
I even had a new thrill on Blueberry Hill when I spied a ginormous dragonfly resting amongst the leaves I reached between. Lucky me, it stayed still long enough to show my whole family AND get a few cool pictures to remember the moment with.  Then off it flew, and Dad called out, "Forage on, family!"

Monday, May 29, 2017

Photoshopping in Hong Kong

This Memorial Day weekend was full of travel for our family. My younger brother got to join our dad in Hong Kong visiting our older brother and his family. My muse went to visit his parents and scout craft room relocations for yours truly in North Carolina, and even the girls and I enjoyed a day with my grandma and an overnight with theirs, followed by a day of play with friends at a local-ish swimming hole.
Being a big fan of travel via airplane, I couldn't help but to be a little bit jealous of my family who got to venture forth by air. So I channeled those feelings into a little app I like called PhotoGrid!
With a picture of my honey loving on our budding baby bump, two of my family hi-jinking around Hong Kong, and a few free downloaded sticker overlays, it looks like I saved myself about $1,000 of plane tickets and got a terrific family photo too!

Created on and then sent from my Verizon Wireless 4G LTE smartphone- a Note3

Friday, May 26, 2017

Tangled Try-outs

In April I was introduced to the simple but fascinating art of Zentangle. I have always loved to draw-by-instruction, and there are plenty of patterns to choose from on the now favorited site I found,, hosted by Linda Farmer.
After cutting a few cardstock squares, I grab a pen and go from there. Sometimes I am inspired to try the featured "tangle" from the free weekly email newsletter I signed up to receive, I'm not always impressed by my results, but often times, I am. My pen is not fancy, I've used everything from a blue Sound Credit Union handout to a pink Zig fine-tip marker to a red ball point, and the results are always the same... a small dose of creativity which requires me to flex my skills in a new direction.
I have found that the patience required to follow through with each step of the drawing can be challenging, as I generally prefer to spread my creativity over many projects simultaneously (I read more than 3 books at a time for the same reason- I get bored!)
I have found that I am more at peace with the possibility of a "mistake" than most. Score one point for the CraftWithAnna indoctrination table! For one thing, hardly anyone you present with a hand drawn item will notice, let alone comment on your boo-boo. Second, in a twisted mass of lines and shading, the distraction of an overdrawn line here or there is simply not relevant to the viewer. Heck, a lot of times, I can't believe I've drawn something so ethereal!
In a way, I don't really feel as though it is me that has done the drawing; I'm following the step-by-step patterns largely designed by others, my general array of tools are absent, and my mind sometimes successfully achieves the quiet and reflective mindlessness that Zentangle-ing should result in. Some cards, I can't wait to finish because I'm not enjoying the process, and other cards have to be extended as I just have to continue this adventurous form of  doodling :-) So, it's kind of like the internal, more inclined to follow directions to the letter instead of taking an idea and making it my own ME is at work on these little pieces of art.
With the support of Two Waters Arts Alliance, earlier this month I was able to take teach a Meditative Doodling class at my favorite spot to hang with the teens, Key Center's Red Barn Youth Center. Over three one hour sessions, we explored umpteen designs and created some really cool keepsakes including a birdhouse, flower pot, and picture frame. I encouraged the students to give their intriguing doodle-scapes away, but we all laughed about the suggestion each time it was made because, it is kind of hard to do. The overlapping scenes, organic flow of designs worked, rigid encapsulation of each expressed element; well they are all part of the our internal mind-flow, made visible. Except instead of being a jumble of unexpressed turmoil, these tangibly tantalizing tangles hint at the greatest executioner of artistic possibility that lies within each of us.
So go ahead, grab a moment, something to draw on, and a pen and try your hand at Zentangle-ing awhile. I can almost promise you, the moment will expand and fill you with a quiet rest that will reside in the future viewing of that attempt. And of course, if you happen to tag a pic of your try with a #CraftWithAnna, I'll be able to applaud you from afar!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Celebrating Spring!

 The sun was shining brightly enough for us to set up our lawn chairs and table with umbrella for an afternoon card making session this afternoon, huzzah!
Here's one of the messy cards we'll be creating in week two of my Seasonal Greeters cardmaking class at TCC's Gig Harbor campus. After embossing the Celebrate sentiment, we dragged it through a mix of Tim Holz Distress Inks misted with water. The watercolor effect around the edges is dreamy and I love how the raised image picks up those same variations in color. A spray inked back ground and washi tape borders and added punches of star shapes make this a fun and festive card just right for a summer birthday or wedding.


Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Bootlegged Besties Page

Making scrapbook pages for others has been a creative kick in the pants for me this year. From the pregnancy and newborn albums I assembled for my cousin, to the gift I'm sending overseas for my older brother next week, downloading other people's pictures from facebook and creating scrapbook layouts for them fills my heart with the same type of joy that committing my own family's memories does.
Since I never (ok, hardly ever) make two of anything the same, I've learned to enhance my satisfaction over creating for others by creating scrapbook pages without photos as part of the process. Not only does this leave room for additional photos I may not have on hand to be included, leaves room for the recipient to add their own journaling too, and sometimes invites some otherwise unconsidered cropping, but then I have a blank template to overlay my own digital images upon!

If you look closely at the background of this two page layout of my best friend and I at sleepover camp in April, you'll notice it is practically the same image, just rotated. In the picture on the left, I simply laid a piece of yellow-green polka-dotted paper that was nearby down on top of the grid background. I didn't have to use any adhesive! And it helped bring the photos I grouped digitally on top together harmoniously. The ink splatters I had adorned that single page with mimic the handholds on the climbing wall photos featured on the opposite side.
 Adding titles is a breeze, and mixing fonts in perfectly color matched hues is no problema- this one reads, "above all, relax reach & remain fearless." Good advice that is hard to follow once you step out of your comfort zone and start climbing a sheer wall of wood. I pushed myself to my limit and then gave into the cheering of my comrades as the shouted, "keep going! you can do it! don't give up yet!" Wow, that was like hearing my internal monologue in stereo lol. Although I was shaking, sweating and stammering, I did reach a little further and in a surging leap of faith upward, grasped the next hand hold successfully before repelling down to the graveled safety of the ground below.
Breathless, smiling with exhilaration, and warmed by the adventure and the friendly encouragement I'd received. Add the knowledge of a few photos taken for me to document the experience waiting for service to be sent, and I had all the makings for an inspiring rest of the day teaching others to play with paper and embrace their self-expressions.

The app I used was Photo Grid btw :-)

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Unseen Gifts

With both of our daughters and myself sharing Easter as our day of baptism, I always feels a special sense of wonder and reflection amidst the commercialism of colorful eggs, baskets of goodies, and once-a-year attendance at church. Easter has long been celebrated by Christians and pagans alike in some form or another; as the story of Jesus' sacrifice and out of rejoice after a dreary winter's end.
This week I found myself pondering a new connection to my baptism; pregnancy. Say what? Well, the two subjects don't usually coincide- both of my girls were born at winter's end and were baptized as infants. However, as each year passes, I find my thoughts overlap in remembrances and bring about new reflections, so here it goes!

When I first made the decision to get baptized, I was 18 years old. Every Sunday morning I would drive to my grandma's house and together we'd walk next door to the Lutheran Church behind her house for worship service. I was too old for youth group, and too young to consider myself an actual congregation member; those older people were nice but I didn't relate to them. How could I picture their lives being like mine? At 18, living with my boyfriend, with a barrier of teenage angst between my mother and I, and with little to no money to throw in the offering plate. Without a routine life, there was never a consideration in my mind to don a choral robe and join in the worship service, although one time I did get to light the candles as an acolyte. Although I grew up with the idea that "God loves You," religion wasn't a hot topic at the dinner table, nor did any rules to follow extend beyond "do unto others as you would have done unto yourself," and, say a prayer before large, extended family meals.
At this age, and for many of the same reasons, I was in no way looking to become a mother myself. I didn't have any desire to hold a baby, let alone allow one out of my birth canal! If required to follow through with a pregnancy, I'm sure I would have loudly professed that I needed all the drugs allowed and a cesarean section too. Formula would have been mixed because, excuse me, boobs shouldn't be used for kids. I had no way to identify with Jesus' mother, Mary, and the pain that coursed through her body as her son passed away in agony before her...
Mi familia, 1981
I had no time to consider my own mother's dismay as she watched her bright light of a daughter slip into the abusive, drug selling lifestyle of a boy not much older than she'd been when she herself had become a mother. Hey, "I was 18, if I made it through this year without a kid," I thought, "I'd in fact have a one-up on her"; she sought independence even earlier than I and married at 16. She took me along as her private passenger as she headed towards her graduation ceremonies. Now, I can look back and think what it must have been like for, carrying around that knowledge, developing that secret bond that begins to form that unfathomable connection between a mother and daughter, during the stresses of a working teen's married life. I'm so glad that my grandmother spoke these words to me later in life when I tried to say I didn't ever want to see my mom again; "That's not what Jesus would want."
 with Grandma
 That absolutely changed me. Not all at once, no, just like reading enough through the Bible to pick out the principles of faith that I could relate to took many years, so has coming to terms with and being patient in those relationships that are most challenging to me. They are challenging because they are important; I love those people. Or animals. Sometimes we have intolerable connections we can't live without, and we endure. Bible texts can be quite challenging as well. Ever caught a few phrases from a King James version? Whew! I prefer The Message myself! Perhaps because the message is in fact so clear; do unto others as you would have done unto self.

The choice to get baptized seemed like a good one; I enjoyed going to church, and I didn't want to go to hell. Martin Luther proclaimed on the church door that "spiritual gifts come directly from God to the individual," in other words, one didn't have to talk through someone in order to communicate with God, and that sounded pretty good to me, although I did enjoy my Pastor's sermons. So a few days before Easter, I phoned a few of my friends and invited them to come to church and see this happen. And happen it did, with a new baptismal font and large seashells of water, much agreeing to love and watch over me by the congregation, and a lot of rebuking Satan later, there I was, a Child of God. Except, I didn't feel any different. I had the same troubles as when I walked in when I walked out those church doors that afternoon. I also had a new candle, a plaque of remembrance, and a beautiful handkerchief to remember the occasion by. It took me years to understand that my relationship with my spiritual beliefs was one that required diligence on my part. That God, the energy that is creation itself, is always there. Jesus, our example of saving grace, hears me. It is my own belief that these concepts exist that forms the base of my faith.

 together at the beach
 My Anchor
Meeting Ray and falling in love with the idea of beginning our family immediately has never been one I've regretted. While we didn't take a long time to come to this agreement, but that commitment to raising our children with diligence has manifested itself into two beautiful girls who anyone would say, are sweet, well-behaved, attentive children. But making sure they are in safe environments and regularly fed real foods, feeding their curiosity with solid but multi-faceted educational experiences, that all takes diligence as well. Ray works extremely hard to provide the healthiest options for us. For me. He takes the time to research and discover ways that we can be more thoughtful about our surroundings and what we ingest. For that effort, I am extremely grateful.  I have a beautiful house, the time to spend with our family, the best foods to prepare our meals with, and outlets for my creativity within a large space (read: the entire house) galore. Maintaining that feeling of respect for all that he provides in our lives, remembering the payments he makes daily with his body and health, takes steady maintenance as well.

wait for it...
does that say what we think it says?
You know, not one of my friends who hadn't actually attended my baptism would have known about it if I hadn't told them. You see, finding a way to God doesn't really show externally, it's more of an internal exhalation. Instead of feeling alone and fearful, there is a mental friend to voice concerns with. There is a satisfaction felt upon waking and thinking, "I'm alive! Praise be to God." There are beautiful moments that we thank the heavens for, and terribly painful moments that have us shouting, "help me get through this!" But for me, that hasn't been an outward exclamation. My introductory statements have more to do with selfish praise for my involvements than ones that involve my stance on faith.
Whenever I've found out I'm pregnant, there have been a lot of similarities. Although the knowledge that I'm growing a baby exists, nothing really changes right away. The house still needs to be cleaned, commitments still need to be followed through with, and no one can really tell anything is different just by looking at you. In fact, even your own spouse may not know you are carrying something besides waste products within you belly! So, not much really changes. Except, it does. No more going out for margaritas with the girls, no more blue cheese crumbles on salad, and no more lunchmeat sandwiches, either. It's almost always coincidentally been after a few good parties with heavy drinking and binge eating of crap food that I do find out I'm pregnant, so for me there are lamentations and worry mixed in with the wonder and joy filled thoughts in the discovery of new life within as well.

Then there are those quiet moments where I reach for my womb and shift my energy into an exchange with that being. If you hadn't guessed by now, for the past 2 months these moments have been filling my resting moments. When I wake in the early mornings, which of course with frequent bathroom trips happens pretty much all night long, so I mean early morning beginning around 12:15 am. I rest my hand on my changing abdomen and visualize my new baby's growth. My senses heightened, the responsive flexations of his kiwi sized body twitching within... well, that's actually just gas, I'm only entering my 2nd trimester :-)

blooming in North Bend
Resting and reflection almost lend themselves intuitively to speaking with my best self's highest power. Gratitude, worry, celebration and hopes for the future, remorse for past actions, and shining-from-within joy can all be expressed in sigh when communing with unseen forces. I listen closely for the word of God to fill my head and answer or reassure my heart, but then again, this is all prayer based on the faith that one not need God to do anything but be. Same as he asks of us. To live in each moment knowing that all can change in an instant. That sometimes sacrifices are necessary and for the good of someone more important than yourself.

In my walk of faith, I suffered many set-backs. I've had long periods of thankful, joyful living, with literal arm stretching to the heavens in gratitude. But, sadly,  I've suffered through and inflicted self-and-others damage with nary a thought to the consequences as well. This isn't an easy fact to live with, but it's the truth. And as I've heard, "the truth can set you free." One of my good friends, speaking at a ladies luncheon last weekend, spoke of this when she made the comment, You really have to be broken, at you weakest, and desperate, to lay your life down before Jesus and choose to walk with Him. I know the truth in that, for isn't it always at our most heart-breaking moments that we find it easier to reach for something of a higher power for guidance and protection from life's misery's?
This knowledge of my brokenness reminds me of the trepidation that stems from the experience of miscarriage; that constant concern in the beginning stages of, "will this baby make it?" The fear of, if I tell people, will I have to then share my grief if the pregnancy turns out to be unviable... So for a long time, introductions can only include visible members of the family. When asked, how many kids do you have, there is a little mental voice arithmetic-ing away the unseen child within before it's mentioned. Even though a pregnant woman is connected with another life in a way that others never have an opportunity to experience, there is a loneliness that accompanies the beginning of this pregnancy as I exalt in joy at the life growing opportunity I've been given, while commiserating on my sacrifices of food and drink and whatever emotional and physical changes will be endured in the coming months.

The mental image of one in prayer that was formed in my head as a very young girl was that of a person kneeling... and boy do I do a lot of that at the start of each pregnancy! I honestly do try to enjoy the constant nausea as a sign of healthy development, but those first few months are like surviving a death in the family. Well, in less dramatic form, an extended illness. The fog of stomach discomfort, the overwhelming emotions, the heightened sense of fatigue that can't always be addressed; they are like having the flu for two months straight. Then, lets add to that hormone-prone skin issues, and then every woman's favorite issue: clothes that get tighter and tighter with each washing. And all the while, you're supposed to be happy! But without telling anyone why.  I tell you, its secret keeping at it's unhealthiest looking. Even your family, who knows you have an excuse to look grumpy and unkempt, will accuse you of well, looking grumpy and unkempt!

Here's a particularly Easter-iffic visual: At MOPS a couple weeks ago, the pastor of Way Point church emphasized the story of Mary (not Jesus' mother) pouring an entire vessel of expense perfume over Jesus. While the men gathered around began to grumble, saying, How can you be so wasteful?! they are interrupted by the anointed who says that she is in fact preparing him for his death. If you can only imagine the vials of shea butter, the bottles of avocado oil and the containers of coconut creams that I've slathered on myself in an attempt to enable my skin to remain it's most elastic, you would think I ate the stuff like butter. There is no telling what will happen to a woman's body as it shifts during pregnancy and then rebounds into a new form following, I just rub a dub-dub and hope for the best each time.

Another thought I've had along the lines of being pregnant and being baptized has to do with talking to other people about it. If you mention you're pregnant, there are a lot of questions! When are you due? and What are you having? being the least invasive and most common, they are relatively easy to answer if you've been paying attention to your menstruation happenings. But then there are all the birth stories and predictions that strangers and friends and family all want to share; we can't help it really. Every woman who has carried and birthed a baby will want to share that experience with another, especially if she hasn't had the chance to do so yet, but also if she has. Sometimes the stories are heart warming, and sometimes you won't be able to help but cry over the details (remember, hormones are at an all time high)! At the pinnacle of every single birth I've witnessed- and I used to binge watch DVR'd episodes of A Baby Story- I've cried with joy at the miracle of seeing that new baby's tiny form emerge from it's mother. My favorites are the one's where the baby is born without drug intervention, in the water, like my Sunday was.
The same goes with faith declarations; some people wear their heart for God on their sleeve. Literally! Like, in tattoo form :-) And others include their declaratives on their facebook profile pictures, in meme'd prayers shared online, and through constant mention in conversation. When they find out you've been baptized, they are happy for you and want to know the details, What brought you to that choice, Where did it take place, and, Were you dipped or dabbled? They will want to share their own story, and sometimes they are mundane and sometimes those stories are powerful due to their apparent reconciliations. As tears stream down my cheeks at every single baptism I've had the pleasure of witnessing personally, the feelings of being part of something larger than what we see in this world are so intense by the time the babt-ee turns to face the welcoming congregation, I really do feel like I have committed to watch over that person in prayer. My favorite type of baptism that I could hope to see would be one where someone goes to a natural water source like a river or the ocean, and is submerged :-) So, Oh Brother Where Art Thou?

So that's it, my Easter take on Jesus and Pregnancy, and the big news that our family of four will be expanding to include a baby boy in October. With the same fortitude as his older sisters, he ought to be sitting up and laughing by the time his baptism at Easter rolls around next year, and just as he shared the same body as I and Rainer and Sunday have, he will be able to have the same shell dipping to sprinkle on his forehead water from the same baptismal font as we've had as well <3

(and they all sang,) Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!!!

Monday, April 10, 2017

Paper Bag Mini Albums

Oh my word, did I ever have an exhilarating time at this weekend's Woman's Wellness Retreat, hosted by the YMCA at local Key Center neighbor Camp Seymour. Along with various camp counselor-led activities like the climbing wall, archery, boating, and a ropes challenge course, there were camper/instructor-led courses on topics like creating your own makeup, bath bombs, henna paste, neck warmer/coolers... and of course, two opportunity for campers to CraftWithAnna!
I met women who attended guided meditations on non-traditional prayer, as well as ladies who learned information about how to "Make Change Stick," which, it turned out, was not the class I envisioned as I had read, Make A Change Stick lol. #Makers want to make change sticks! There was a book club discussion led by my cabin mate Scarlett on The Orphan Train. I got to know a vivacious lefty during what turned out to be an epically tall game of Jenga!
Now, about a month ago I led the teens at the Red Barn Youth Center through an easy to do project that is so customizable, it can be made for any occasion- and on the cheap! It's a class my friend DF developed, and she had even donated all of the class contents for the kids to use how they would. Of course, no two booklets were alike :-) I am always inspired by the creativity that is shown, and also by the amount of product they are able to cram onto small surfaces.
These books measure 6x6" and are made from paper lunch sacks. Yes, paper lunch sacks! By adding a few patterned papers and pieces of cardstock, these ordinary household items become unique memory keepers. I knew they would be the perfect project to teach at this weekend's Retreat... and it turned out to be an extremely enjoyed class for both myself as the teacher and for the students who took  time out from the great outdoors to make with me.
I saw a cat book made by a dog lover (?!), an album that was intended as a graduation gift, a "Kirk book" (turns out it was not an ode to Star Trek; Kirk was a meaningful marriage recipient), and even one or two that were for what I had in mind- camp memory keepers! To finish off our paper stash and kit contents, we even made some greeting cards that could be sent to loved ones we thought of while making our goodies... be still my heart!
Now, I've learned a few things in the course of my teaching career; first off, I should not drink wine before crafting with others if I plan to teach them how to do something :-) That wasn't a problem this weekend! Another lesson is that, if I start to make the same project at the same time as my students, I get kinda grumpy about helping others... and that is just not cool! So, during my classes I mostly walk around encouraging others and trying to be helpful when I sense someone not embracing their inner craft goddess. Plus, I get such a kick out of seeing what other's make, and I would miss that if I was all wrapped up in my own creation.
BUT, the next morning, I had the (brilliant) idea to collect a few cardstock momentos from campers whose company I enjoyed immensely. Paper momentos that I can now use to create my own unique- to- my- experience mini album- JOY! Double joy actually, with the potential for a soon third; reading those comments after my return home filled my heart with appreciative happy. The comments were truly touching, personal, and boosted my spirits- I will treasure the reading again and again. Once I've bonded paper to lunch sack myself, I can include those cards in the folds of my pages.

Towards the end of my appointed teaching time, I quickly ran through some simple ways to use leftover embellishments and trimmed off papers to make some greeting cards that could be sent out the old fashioned way- through the postal mail. Once I have my version complete, I'll do the same thing and send thank you's out to my new friends who shared their contact information :-)
To anyone reading this who I might have met this weekend, as well as my faithful blog readers~ thanks for stopping by today and Happy Crafting!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Stampendous Trash to Treasure

I'm a hoarder. Not of all things, but many. When it comes to empty sticker sheets, I have the darndest time putting them where they belong once every sticker has finally been used. After all, some of these have been with me longer than my own children! That's funny, but it's not a joke, lol. 

So, this last year I have made a huge effort to a. not buy any more stickers, and b. use up as many stickers as I have available, especially those that have had like, two or three left on them for ages. And while I recently succomed to a small shopping splurge at Scrap That's closing sale, I have also made a considerable dent in the amount of space that all of these sticky bits need for keeping!

The only thing I found discouraging was my complete inability to throw away that empty packaging... so I needed to have a space for sticker sheets with stickers, and sticker sheets without. And that, my friends, is just ridiculous. Especially when space in any crafting area is at a premium... on Saturday, I finally did it.

 Upcycling Saturday 
I grabbed that considerable stack of empties and I dumped them into the garbage. I even crumpled it all into a big ball, so I'd be less likely to try to retrieve them later in the day. Like five minutes later. 'Cause this isn't the first time I've tried this method of disposal/effort!

But then, guess what? I went back to my craft space and stood marveling at that newly empty space, and inspiration hit- BLAMO! And back to the garbage can I went, to retrieve before mentioned ball of garbage to carefully smooth out and look at with a fresh gleam of creativity in my eye.

What if... I used the sticker backs on a piece on top of a piece of paper- let's say it's patterned. And then, what if... I used my new WeRMemory keepers stamping tool to fill in those "frames" with all of those stamps I have and also don't find much use for. I may have danced in my pants just thinking about the possibilities!

 This idea was...
What a fun project! Both kids were so interested in seeing how I was going about placing the clear stamps, picking out colors with me, and marveling at how easy it was to stamp repeatedly in the exact same place (most of the time). I know the clear acrylic block/clear stamp combo is supposed to make that an easy task, but my stamp skills are not all that terrific, nor do I usually care to be careful when I'm making a mess.

The best part about this process was that if I didn't love the results, I didn't feel the need to keep them. That is HUGE! So I gave them to the kids. What, you didn't think I'd actually throw them away, did you :-)

Trash to Treasure #318: Stampendous Sticker Sheets!

Sent from my Verizon Wireless 4G LTE smartphone

Friday, March 17, 2017

Tender Loving Care Remembered

Today marks the unfortunate passing of one of my favorite relatives. Aunt Lisa was and will always be remembered as a warm, giving woman who gave generously to many her broad smile and genuine laughter. As a teacher, she touched the lives of many. As a cherished wife and dependable mother, she will always be missed. As my cousins continue to mourn her too-soon passing, we look to the moon and hear her voice, rich and full of love, saying as she often did, "I love you to the moon and back... and so much more."
Seeing Kaitlyn Hermson's vibrant photo posted on the Key Peninsula Facebook page one morning, I knew it would be the perfect pairing to a heartfelt outpouring of grief rendered online by Lisa's daughter just days before.
I chose to hide this journaling just as that anguish is often hidden by her family and friends; there beneath the surface but only accessible to those who seek to share the sentiments expressed.
Losing a loved one reminds me of the light of the moon, which shines both brilliantly in the night sky, illuminating our planet while remaining distant, out of reach, fading in and out of sight as time passes, so do those memories of our departed. Some are too lovely to even bear thinking on... texts, voicemails, personal effects, photos of a life well lived, and a legacy of love and laughter; each are reminders to live every day to the fullest.