Gift Tag: Being Heard

December 6th, 2010

My 2yo, Baby Girl, likes books. And, she’s finally begun to like them for their value beyond paper needing to be torn and/or eaten. I can’t tell you how many pages and covers I’ve taped back together during the continuing saga of our love affair with books. I (and the boys) are thankful Baby Girl has moved into wanting to read the books now.

For a while, reading constituted simply turning the pages to follow her whims. Forward, backward, starting at the beginning or the end or the middle–it didn’t really matter. We were “reading.” By herself or with a captive audience, she mastered the mechanics of flipping through books. From there, she moved into the point-and-question phase with a perpetual “that?” attached to each touch of her sweet finger. Of late, her version of “read book” has finally reached some semblance of actual reading. She wants to listen to the words on the page, usually (though not always) in chronological order. Don’t get me wrong, listening to the words still evokes commentary. Her ever-present curiosity combined with pride at learning to speak new words prompts many questions and declarations relevant to the illustrations on the page.

Boots. Boots. BOOTS.

You may not recognize that phrase from any of the children’s books you have read recently. In keeping with her brothers and about a million other youngsters over the last fifty years, Baby Girl loves Good Night Moon, the classic by Margaret Wise Brown. No, there aren’t any boots mentioned among the “bears sitting in chairs” and the “old lady whispering hush.” Still, the other night her emphatic “Boots. Boots. BOOTS.” became more than parenthetical during bedtime. I tried to move on through the “good nights.” I tried to turn pages and continue with the “mittens” and “kittens.” To no avail. Baby Girl was insistent on “boots,” and as each utterance grew louder, I realized that we weren’t moving on until we addressed footwear.

The “boots” were actually bedroom slippers beside the bed of the sleeping bunny. Only now they ARE boots because Baby Girl won’t be swayed from her assessment. And by her insistence, she gave me a reminder about being heard and brought to light some things I hope for her future.

You see, Baby Girl has a way of repeating her tiny phrases until they’re acknowledged. And, she’s not afraid to get loud about it. Her brothers did too at her age, but somehow hers seems more definitive, more insistent. And, although interrupting is a no-no and a gentle, quiet spirit is admirable, I don’t want to break that in her. I don’t want to shush it out of her. I don’t want to squelch her own understanding that what she has to say is important. No, I want her to learn some things about her voice, things born from my own pitfalls. I want to tell her this…

Keep. On. Speaking.
Keep on repeating.
It’s ok to want to be heard.
Believe in yourself enough to make sure you ARE heard.
Don’t give up.
Don’t give in to the idea that your thoughts don’t matter.
That your opinions can be overlooked.
Say it again.
And again.
Even if it’s never heard.
Keep saying it.
Don’t acquiesce.
Don’t say it’s ok.
Don’t gloss over your feelings or opinions.
Say it.
SAY IT.
Because you are worth it.
You are worth being heard.

When you’re hurt, don’t suck it up. Say it.
When you’re successful, don’t celebrate in silence. Say it.
When you need something, don’t put yourself last. Say it.

By wielding a deaf ear, don’t ever let anyone back you into invisibility.
Don’t ever let anyone silence you into less than the beautiful creature you really are.

Gift Tags are the tiny messages God continues to include with my gifts — 2 little joys of boys and 1 little jewel of a girl, each with open eyes, open ears, open hearts, and much to teach. “Behold children are a gift of the Lord…” (psalm 127:1)

12 Days of Thanksgiving: A

November 16th, 2010

Art.

I’ve been looking at pictures this morning. Little Drummer Boy, Bug and Baby Girl are fond of creating pictures and selecting prime locations to place them in my office. They each have a unique way of expressing themselves through lines and colors and pictures. Their varied creations are such a tangible reminder of the blessing they add to my life at every turn. And they are a reminder of the precious value of their own imaginations that I hope to instill in each of their hearts.

Little Drummer Boy is the storyteller. His pictures are illustrations. They record whatever seemingly random series of events playing out in his mind. He has recently been much more interested in recording these images in shapes and density, a penchant I credit to his kindergarten class where each day they “write” in their jourals, even if “writing” is really drawing. It’s communicating in written form.

Bug is the free spirit. His pictures are a symphony of line and color chosen with deliberation–the exuberance of his spirit unsquelched by the limitations of a crayola box. He makes much less of a production about presenting his work. I often find Bug’s creations scattered about in unexpected places–little slips of paper inside my desk, propped on the piano, inside his pocket, on stickies attached to various furniture surfaces, occasionally embellishing the furniture itself. He sees no need for a “finished” product. It’s not uncommon for him to add lines and colors to the same piece of paper for weeks. The act of making the lines just seems more important to him.

Baby Girl is the newbie. She’s more interested in the tools themselves. While she’s moved beyond wanting to eat the crayons and the paper, she would still rather make her creations with a crayon unencumbered by it’s paper wrapping. So her preparation time is filled with peeling it away to explose more color. Still, fueled by her brothers’ examples, she has begun making her own haphazard scribbles.

I find myself in each of their creative tendencies.

Since I began working from home in July, my office (and it’s many surfaces for artwork display) has become a center of excitement for my children. I suppose they feel that they are getting to do something special when they can hang out in Mommy’s office. I’ve tried to cultivate an office space that is inspiring for me, since I spend most of my time here creating and designing. But, I also wanted it to be a place where they feel comfortable and welcomed. It has been a wonderland for them to visit because they have never seen so many of the things that exist in the Small Pond Graphics hub.

Oddly, that’s one of the biggest blessings of this year. Before I started my business this summer, all they knew of Mommy’s work was that she did it. She dropped them off at daycare and went to that place in town they sometimes visited to do whatever Mommys do when they work. That was the extent of their exposure to the creative life that fills so much of my time. I’m so thankful that now they know more. Of course, they don’t understand it. They don’t know what the computers do beyond providing photo slide shows and access to Sesame Street games. They don’t know what all the books are besides colorful spines and strange pictures. They don’t know what the shelves house except the ready crayons and construction paper. But, they know something interesting happens here. And they know Mommy does it.

We are born creative. Of that I am convinced. There is much debate over whether humans are born good or bad, perfect or flawed, natured or nurtured. But, when I read that we are created in the image of God, the core common element I see is creativity. Of all His glorious and inexplicable actions, creating was the first act recorded for the Almighty. In His benevolence, he chose to imbue OUR existence with that same tendency. The opportunity to show my children that reality about themselves has become very important to me. However that creativity manifests itself, I want them to see how it shows up in me and to explore their own creative bents.

Several years ago when I started this blog, part of my motivation was to find a personal creative outlet that wouldn’t disrupt my time with the children or provide any hazard to them (in the way so many art supplies can). But, I had also come to the realization that there was this whole part of me that my children had never known beyond crazy cupcake and party decorations. I’m an “artsy type.” It was quite a jolt to realize that my children might not really KNOW me and the pursuits that matter to me. EyeJunkie provided a way for them to watch me, to see me writing, to see me thinking, to see me making pictures on the screen. Small Pond Graphics and its downstairs home has been another catalyst for them to know their Mommy in a new way.

Art in one form or another has been a large part of my life for a very long time. From my youngster days watching my mother use her creativity in various ways, to my years studying Architecture, to my day-to-day work life, “the arts” have impacted me. Because I work as a graphic designer, I’ve spent my adult life “doing” art every weekday. And although I would probably more accurately classify my work as “communication” rather than “art,” it’s been part of my job to expose myself to many vehicles of inspiration and to immerse myself in the work of other creative types.

With the launch of a new venture, I’ve had the opportunity to explore that creative inspiration with fresher eyes. It’s allowed me to focus more on the sheer act of creating. Given the freedom to set my own schedules and parameters, it’s allowed me to examine my best creative habits and tendencies more carefully. It’s given me the opportunity to get back to the basics of my own creativity–a blessing that can be so easily snuffed by the cares of real life. It’s a joy to me to infuse my day-to-day experiences with the expression of art and creativity. It’s a privilege to be paid for that sort of thing. It’s a blessing to share that love with the little creative minds I’m nurturing.

Thinking About Cows

October 7th, 2010

What is it about kids and cows? Of all the animals in Creation, each of my children have learned to speak cow first. Most recently, Baby Girl has added the standard “moo” to her vocabulary. Only for Baby Girl, it’s a husky, emphatic and insistent “moo.” It’s said with a gusto not found with the ho-hum “woof” and “meow.” There’s just something about cows, I guess.

I grew up around cows. Sort of. My grandfather and my father both kept cows on my grandparents’ farm kind of as a hobby. We visited there almost every weekend when I was a child–sometimes on Friday night through Sunday afternoon, sometimes just on Saturdays. I didn’t spend a lot of time with the cows. They were more of a continual presence. A background, so to speak, for lots of other tomboy activities. In a farm setting, I suppose that’s often the case. My mom grew up on that farm, and I know the cattle were a physical and metaphorical backdrop for her as well. I remember stories she told me of playing “church” in the neighboring cousin’s barn. From the make-shift pulpit, she expounded on scripture she learned at Sunday School… “be not like dumb driven cattle.” Cows. A continual presence.

Cows have an uncanny stare. I’ve been the recipient of it many times over the years, both from near and far. The stare is deep and thorough. But, it’s also a bit blank. You just know there’s not a whole lot going on in there. Still, I’ve always wondered what they’re really seeing with that unflinching gaze. The whole “dumb driven cattle” reference is quite appropriate. They tend to be followers, there’s no doubt. When one begins to gaze, you suddenly find yourself in the grip of the whole herd’s stare. And, if they’re familiar with you, they’ll adopt that stare from up close.

The cows in my dad’s herd learned every pick-up truck he ever had. They saw it every couple of days and with Pavlov’s nod, rightly associated it with feed sacks. When the cows in the front pasture saw it coming around the gravel bend toward the house on those Saturday mornings, they began the trek to the barn. Even if the dumping of the feed sacks wasn’t imminent, I suppose they wanted to be prepared, to make sure they were in the necessary position.

In the back pastures where there were no roads only worn down and less bumpy paths, the cows would gather around the pick-up. There were only select places in that area where feed troughs were stocked. Those cows relied on hay and grass for their sustenance. Still, the truck meant something. They gathered around as close as a bunch of 600 pound, fattened-up beasts could. My dad would roll down the truck window to touch their noses or their foreheads. He wanted them to be familiar, especially the bulls. Bulls are a whole other essay of the more ornery sort, but Dad made a special effort to forge communication with them. He would talk to them, “hey Big Man” and coax them into letting him touch their oversized foreheads. It pays to have a bull on your side.

When the truck was ready to move on, no amount of honking could encourage the cows on their way. Only a small shift in the gas pedal and a slight bump to one’s rear would sink in. From there, the whole group followed that one cow’s jump and bolt away from the vehicle. It was the same with “driving” them or losing them. All it ever took was one cow in some moment of independence wondering if that blade of grass on the other side of the fence would be more tasty, and before you knew it, the whole lot of them had lumbered through whatever sagging barbed wire structure was there to un-pen themselves. Likewise, usually just one wave of the hands and gruff shout from Dad (or whoever might be helping him) could frighten them down the gravel paths required to get them right back where they should be fenced. You would think it would be harder than that. After all, I mentioned the 600-pound quality. But, I guess none of the other cows stopped to wonder why all the fuss or the need for such quick movement. They simply reacted to the one ahead of them, who reacted to the one ahead of him.

Thinking about cows has me wondering. How many times in my business, my home keeping, my relationships or my faith are my actions simply reacting to the one ahead of me? How often do I respond simply out of habit the way that’s always been expected of me? And, how much of my experiences am I missing out of plain old numbness because of it? That “be not like dumb driven cattle,” spoken from a young farm girl’s play and gleaning of faith, is actually a pretty good admonishment. I don’t want to lumber through my experiences bound by the blank stare of simply following old habits because they are habits or following the ways everyone else is doing something because that’s just how it’s done. And, I don’t want to bump and boulder through life immune to the thought that comes from really seeing what I’m seeing. No, perhaps I want to adopt that one creature’s wild hare and be bold enough to step into something new, to push my full weight against the fences binding me until they finally give way.

There’s just something about cows.

Two.

August 30th, 2010

Happy Birthday, Baby Girl! Two years ago today, you lit up my life with your smile, your softness, your unquenchable smile. I’m forever grateful for the incredible and beautiful gift of you.

Tues Ten 071310: News Headlines

July 14th, 2010

Wow! A Tuesday Ten post. Yep, the last one made an appearance back in May. Ouch.

I know; I know. It’s been an unreasonable amount of time since I’ve posted anything with real substance, and to be honest, I doubt this one will qualify either. However, I wanted to update the Junksters on some things that have been going on lately. You’re not going to see George Steinbrenner or Afghanistan or BP (well maybe a touch of BP), but they are newsworthy in my world nonetheless. And since I was in press release mode for my day job recently, I decided some EJ headlines were in order. Much of this post could easily have been part of an Oh Happy Day! Gratitude Project report, but I’ve opted for Tuesday Ten since it’s Tuesday Wednesday, and I’m in the mood for lists.

So, without further ado, I give you this week’s Tuesday Ten: Top Headlines in Junkie Land. I’ll go ahead and say right away that I can’t call it “late-breaking” because, I’m, well, late. But, you know me by now and to apologize would be redundant.

1. “Tuesday is Wednesday”
At least in EyeJunkie world this week. Sure enough, I’m late and not late-breaking.

2. “EJ Discovers Guest-posting Rocks”
I was invited by my friend, Annie, over at SisterWisdom to write a guest post as part of her ReDefining Modern Homemaking series this June. I was ridiculously negligent in promoting the series or my guest post, but click on over there and read it. And read the whole series while you’re at it. It’s moms from all walks sharing about how they view homemaking. Good stuff.

3. “Baby Girl Becomes Verbose”
Yes, my planned Tuesday Ten of Baby Girl’s burgeoning spoken vocabulary will need to be bumped up to a Thursday Thirty soon. How has this happened in my brief neglect of EJ? The news of note here is that “cheese” and “sickle” read “popsicle” have been added to the list. That’s my girl! And, you’ll be comforted to know that “No, Mama!” is still a perpetual favorite phrase. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

4. “Gulf Waters Matter”
You may have seen my recent posting of a dialogue about the Gulf oil catastrophe. I submitted the essay to my friend Ann’s Blogger Monday with Ann Evanston weekly roundtable of blogs on Facebook. I was amazed to see the interest of folks outside of the Gulf region in this earth-changing event. So, click over to that article and scroll down to the comments. They are worth the read.

5. “The Queen is Relinquishing Her Throne”
No, not the Queen of England or the Queen of all Media. The Queen of Dux D’Lux, my day job home for 16 years, decided in late May to retire. She opted to close the company, and I’m very excited to see what cool creative endeavors she finds next. Needless to say, her abdication means big changes for my work situation, but I am so grateful for her mentorship and friendship over the years. Plus, she’s promised me a pie.

6. “Little Drummer Boy Steps Out”
Into the big ol’ world. In August, LDB will be starting “big school” for five-year-old kindergarten. Can I get a Kleenex, please? I’ll no longer be the mom of three preschoolers. I’ll be mother to two plus one kindergartener with a Spiderman backpack in tow. I’m sure my processing of this particular event will be fuel for several upcoming essays. At the moment, suffice it to say: “Thank God he still wants to hug me.” I wonder how long that will last.

7. “Haley Jumps Into the Deep End”
Given the advent of #5, I’m pleased to announce that I started my own company this month offering graphic design, website development and online media services. I’m calling this whole shebang Small Pond Graphics, and it’s been quite a leap. I’ve been so amazed by the support and encouragement of my Dux D’Lux clients as well as my network of family and friends. Starting a business is a scary endeavor, but an adventure I’m very excited about. So, hop over, dabble your toes a little and let me know what you think. Also, please connect with me on the Small Pond Facebook page. I’d love to include YOU in the dialog.

8. “Plop! Launches”
So, I’m spreading my writing wings a little more. In conjunction with Small Pond Graphics, I’ve also launched a new design and marketing blog called Plop! You can read the backstory in my first post there, but I hope to use it to highlight the wonderful clients who place their confidence in my abilities, to offer exposure to some of the “creative types” in my life who are using their talents to do cool things, to inspire readers with images from around the design world that are fueling my own creativity, and to share some of my experience and maybe expertise in the areas of business communications and marketing. I hope you’ll book mark it or “follow” it on Facebook and join the creative conversation.

9. “Reclamation is the New Black”
Yeah, had to work hard on that one. Obviously, the structure of my days has changed somewhat with the closing of Dux and the launch of a new business. I’m very excited that I’ve been able to reclaim an area of our house to use for my office space. Something about getting my surroundings settled always helps settle my spirit as well. So, the opportunity to make this space usable and comfortable was very cathartic during this time of transition. I’ve gathered my books, reference materials, design inspiration, crazy packrat files, art supplies and general Wacky Pack nonsense all in one spot. It’s lovingly displayed and arranged so that I have computer working space, meeting space, art/layout space and couch space (which is so important). Enjoy a quick look.

10. “Invisible Girl Returns”
With all the changes and transitions in my life of late, it’s been a challenge to find the time to write here. It’s been even more of a challenge to muster the energy for the soul searching so often required for a quality look inside. Thank you for hanging in there with me. Regardless of the new adventures ahead, I still need this blog as my unencumbered outlet for thinking, paying attention and writing about that process. I’m ready to return. I’m working on some new posts to share soon. The first will involve green flamingos and Nelson Mandela. How’s that for a teaser?

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