Thursday, October 18, 2018

A Vision of Mother-Life (A Poem)




This morning I dreamed
a friend rose to greet me
with a dark smudge 
of ash on her chin.

And as I wondered on this,
the blot transformed,
regathering into the outlines
of an intricate tattoo,
spreading across her cheeks. 

Then vibrant colors seeped into
the empty spaces, and a full scene
emerged on her face:
a vignette of a radiant woman 
quietly tending her garden 
with peacocks and gladiolas, 
sculptures and fountains,
sunrise.

My friend smiled at my astonishment. 
“I want my children to have
something interesting to look at
in the morning...”
Indeed. 

This is the mystery of 
mother-life:
a vision of glory,
bright and beautiful story.

Who knows where this dream
would have taken her, and me,
if I had not woken up just then?

But is it just a dream?



A few thoughts:

Why didn't I see children in the tattoo/dream rather than just their mother? I think it is because the child is the beholder, watching the life of her mother in a moment in time. The mother is in the child's world, but the mother and child are distinct from one another, with their own identities and interests. The garden is also not the only scene she sees in her mother's life. There are so many other realms in which women flourish. As I said, who knows where else the dream would have gone? 

My own amazing mother was a skilled computer trainer, a talented stained glass artist and seamstress, a member of the National Christian choir, a devoted wife & mother & grandmother, a travel lover, and an avid gardener. This is just a tiny description of a large life. She was my mother, but so much more! (If you'd like, you can see more about her here: In Memoriam: A Tribute to My Mother, Mary Quarrier and Radiant Nurturer: Recent Photos of My Mother.

Unfortunately, I am a black thumb gardener, but I still try to keep plants alive. My days find me in many places: working at my writing/art table, cooking and cleaning in my kitchen, answering crisis calls in the 211 center, listening to a lecture in a seminary classroom, typing away at online class assignments, shopping at the grocery store, in my mini-van picking up my kids or going through a drive through, strolling through botanical gardens and art museums, preparing for a family birthday for one of my adult children, visiting my adorable grandchildren... I am a mother of ten amazing kids, but I am more than a mother.

I do think an important milestone in maturity is for children to see their parents not as extensions of themselves, present solely for the purpose of attending to their every need, but as unique and distinct people with lives of their own. Our children do things with us that they will someday do themselves, or maybe even later with their own children. And they will accomplish many other things that we never even thought to do. And we will do other things not only when they have flown the nest, but while they are still with us. They need to see that.

As part of one of my seminary assignments, I watched a movie called Vision about Hildegard von Bingen, a medieval German nun. She excelled in so many areas - founding abbess/magistra of two cloisters, visionary mystic, traveling preacher, philosopher, poet, composer, playwright, gardener, herbalist, naturopathic medicine expert, scientist, ecologist, and so much more. She was "Mother Hildegard" to the nuns in her care, yet she was so much much more. In the movie, a very somber magistra from another cloister rebukes Hildegard for writing and producing an amazing musical play, Ordo Virtutum, on the moral virtues. How worldly and immodest to see nuns out of their habits, dancing and singing! Hildegard sagely responded, "God loves beauty! In paradise there is no ugliness." Ah!



On the dark smudge... So many dark things happen in life that dominate our mother-days at times. In this poem, the pieces of ash reorder themselves into art and come alive with color. This picture of grief and redemption makes me cry. Why did I dream of ashes and mothers? Maybe this: earlier in the morning, I had scrolled through my On This Day memory feed on Facebook feed. I saw pictures of a trip I took to Acadia National Park with my daughter, sister, and niece. We were scattering the ashes of my mother in the ocean at Thunder Hole. That poignant experience turned into a poem which you can read here: Thunder Hole

Back to the present, and to the future...

What is your vision of mother-life?

Grace,
Virginia Knowles



P.S. I found the stained glass picture at the top of this post on Pinterest. There is no identification to it. I wish I knew the title and artist!

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

This Mom Starts a New Chapter



Dear friends,

I'm starting a new chapter in life.

In the last post on this blog, I wrote about my One Word for the Year, which is FocusI was trying to figure out what to do next with my life. It's funny how once I really focused on it, the way became more clear. Here is some of it:

School and Work Choices

I also wrote in that last blog post about my friend Patricia leading a Lectio Divina Bible study. That opened a new door for me: I'm starting a Master of Arts in Ministry at Asbury Theological Seminary (Orlando campus) this fall, partly funded with two of their scholarships. 




But this leads to other transitions. 

After 31 years as a (mostly) stay-at-home mom, I'm looking for a part-time job to help pay for my tuition. I went to a job fair last week, and as a result of that, I have an interview tomorrow at a social services agency working with people in crisis. (Update: I got the job!)

Because I will be going to grad school full-time and (hopefully) working part-time, I won't be home schooling my youngest daughter, so she will be going to public school for 7th grade.

Summer

During the summer, I'm scrambling to get a lot of stuff done around the house and with my kids before I don't have as much time. Big clutter purge going on here!

I'm also getting a jump on my seminary studies since there is a ton of reading due pretty quickly. I took home school books to Brightlight Books (my favorite used bookstore) and traded them in for several of my theology text books, which is one of their specialties. I downloaded several texts in Kindle version, which is much easier for me to read since I can adjust the font. I ordered a few other books new on Amazon, and now I have just one left to find at a decent price. 



Side note: My son just came in and said, "I think someone's been using my debit card on Amazon." Oops. We share an Amazon account, and for some reason his debit was listed as the default. I now owe him $80. Of course, he owes me his very existence, but that's beside the point. 😉


Digital Organization

Getting my digital life organized helps me get the rest of my life more organized. I have used Evernote and gTasks for quite a while, but my friend Susan Moore clued me in to Trello and I'm hooked! 

I'm not quite sure how to describe it, but Trello is an organizing system that you can use on your computer and all of your devices. 

Trello has boards for the major project areas of your life. These boards can have really cool photographic backgrounds of your choice.




Each board has categorized lists with cards (tasks) on them.



The task cards can be opened to enter more details, such as check lists, due dates, labels, and file attachments.




I opened two windows in my browser and set up tabs for all of my Trello boards. Then each day, I click through the tabs to see what I need to work on. If I'm away from home, I can open the app and swipe through my boards on my phone.  For some reason, this is just so much more satisfying than my gTask checklist, which I still use for some things. Plus, it's more comprehensive and intuitive.

In addition to my Trello windows, I keep another window open with tabs for my email, Facebook, Google Calendar, and Mint financial tracker.


Wisdom from James

I also started another blog, but this one is not your typical format. It's a study of the book of James. Each passage has separate pages for Read+Reflect+Respond (study questions, applications, a hymn, a prayer), My Reflections (an extended paraphrase) essays, poems, links), and Study Helps (alternate versions, related verses, commentaries). I'm about a third of the way through it! Links to each post are below, but the main link is Wisdom from James.



That's about all for now, except for links to my recent blog posts below! I'd love to hear what you are doing, too, so leave a comment!

Much love,
Virginia Knowles

Recent Blog Posts

Virginia's Life, Such As It Is


Watch the Shepherd

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Focus (One Word)



OK, so it's only been like, what, eight and a half months since I posted on this blog? Eek! Oh well! That's life! There's only so much I can do sometimes.

But here I am. 

It's now February 2018, and back at the end of December, I thought about my new "one word" for the year.

FOCUS.


Because that's what I need to do. Focus.

I have a lot of growing up to do - as the title of this blog suggests - and so much progress to make in areas where I've been lacking. I need to sit down and take a good hard look at what I still want to do in this life, where I want to go on this journey I'm on. This takes planning and preparation and productivity. And focus, of course.

To be honest, this morning I had a hard time focusing. I was tired and stressed and had a headache. It took effort to move forward with the day. After I returned from running errands and eating a little breakfast, I tackled the dishes and other basic household chores. That put me in productivity mode so I could focus on creating this blog post that I've been meaning to write for a while. 

I won't be able to cover everything rattling around in my brain about this, but I'll write more in the coming weeks. 

For now, I'll just share a few things which remind me to stay on track.

Visual Cues

I created this framed picture by adding the word "Focus" to a photo of one of my tie dye creations. Focus encompasses creativity, too, not just dry logistics.



This large montage reminds me of what areas need my attention this year. I listed several key words for each one.










 



I also created my own calendar on Snapfish
. I thought of several Scripture passages that I felt would be powerful encouragement toward focusing my life. I used The Message paraphrase since it's poetic, and I paired the verses with some of my nature photos from the year. Here is my February page.



For my front hallway, I just created my new chalkboard design for the spring season. As a visual metaphor to go with it, I set out a vintage Polaroid camera and its case. They belonged to my late Grandpa Quarrier in the 1970's.



Apps & Planners

In my last post on this blog, The (Unexpected) Ritual of My Daily Do List, I shared about how I had stopped using apps for planning, and was using a Daily Do sheet that I had designed. That worked well for many months, but then it didn't anymore. A few weeks ago I replaced a malfunctioning phone, and when I set up the new one, I decided to give the gTasks app another try. I'm glad I did. I also switched from the default Apple Calendar app to the Google Calendar app. 


gTasks app

Google Calendar app

However, even with the apps, I'm still using a paper planner as a backup. Writing things down physically helps me remember them, and it's also helpful as a backup for when I accidentally delete an event from my phone calendar. The book on the right is my planner, and the one on the left is a journal with writing prompts and beautiful illustrations.




What I really like about this planner, which I bought at Walmart, is that for each weekly page spread, there is an extra lined page for writing whatever is needed. Monday and Tuesday are my high productivity days since my home schooled daughter is in classes, so I can do a more detailed to do list for them on this lined page.




(This was actually my second attempt at using a paper planner this year. I bought a much more complicated loose leaf system at Michael's Crafts, but it was confusing and overwhelming to me with all kinds of different pages. This new one shown above is much more doable for me.)

Books

I recently purchased several books on focus, planning, brain boosting, and financial management at our library's used bookstore. Please note that I haven't read them yet so I can't exactly recommend them, but for less than a dollar a piece, I figured I couldn't go to far wrong grabbing a pile. Perhaps I'll be sharing some of what I read in future posts!




Lectio Divina Study

So many lovely people have taken their time to help me learn vital skills and to grow as a human being. Besides my own family, I have a circle of friends, both on-line and IRL (in real life) who have been priceless. 

I recently joined a Bible study that my friend Patricia is leading each week at a local church. Connecting with a small group of women there has been such a gift. The study style - Lectio Divina - helps develop focus, too. It's not a teacher imposing her own opinions on a subject for everyone else to hear. Instead, we carefully listen as Patricia reads the Scripture passage three times slowly. We try to be attentive to what God wants us to take into our hearts from the passage, reflecting on the words and phrases, and then jot this down in silence. This is called Meditatio. Then we write a prayer based on this, which is Oratatio. Third, for Contemplatio, we write down how we plan to apply the truths and ideas this week. After this, we briefly share our thoughts and pray for each other. Later on at home, I spend a more extended time with the same passage, perhaps making a list or an outline, or reading it in another version. This practice - or spiritual discipline - helps me to focus better on God's word, which in turn brings clarity to my life and decisions.




And now I'll just leave you with some links to other posts.

Some of my earlier "One Word" posts:

Two other related posts on this blog:



Recent-ish posts from my other blogs... 








Sunday, May 21, 2017

The (Unexpected) Ritual of My Daily Do List


True Confession: I have a complicated history with To Do lists.

I have tried all kinds.


I've used pre-designed To Do lists. They didn't fit my fluid, artsy, distractible personality.

I've custom-designed countless To Do templates on my computer over the years. They would always get lost and neglected in a notebook somewhere.


I've used excellent apps like ToodleDo and gTasks for years. I like their alarms and the ability to categorize, prioritize, and reschedule tasks. And gTasks pulls in events from Google Calendar, which is cool. But I found myself resisting and then ignoring them. 


But now... I've got something that actually works for me.


It's uniquely mine. It evolved over a period of months. Its focus and line items reflect what is important to me, which I described in Seven Gifts and Visions and Values.


Here's the story.


Like I said, I have been using gTasks for a long time. Unfortunately, it doesn't provide a lasting record of what I actually did on a certain day.


So in February, I gradually embraced the habit of sitting down each night (see The Art and Soul of My Blue Haven) to write down what I had done: an "I Already Did It" list. It gave me a satisfying feeling of accomplishment. I realized later that it was a kind of bullet journal, a technique that has become quite popular recently.


Well, then I decided to start jotting (at the bottom of my "Did It" list) a short list of things I needed to remember for the next day. Which, when I thought about it, is a kind of To Do list.  So then I decided to flip this, and start the page with the list of what I needed to do the next day at the top. Then I could check it off as I actually did the things, adding whatever else I did that day at the bottom.


And then I decided that I needed a daily habit tracker to make sure I was doing certain things every day. For example, as a diabetic, I need to exercise, keep a food log, take my medicine, and check my glucose levels. Before bed, I need to shut down the house for the night, as well as do some self-care tasks.


I didn't want to handwrite those every day, so I decided to take another crack at creating a To Do template.


I wanted something that gave me flexibility with certain tasks like organizing. I wanted to be reminded to organize something every day, but then be able to write down exactly what I was organizing.


I wanted space to write down stuff that didn't fit into a regular category.


I wanted my list in basic chronological order, to give a sort of sequence to the routines/rituals I have embraced for morning and evening.

So I created a hybrid form: part habit tracker, part task reminder, part free-form journal. I tried it out. I tweaked it. I tried it some more. I tweaked it some more. I'm using it every day, and I'm sure I'll tweak it even more as my needs change.


The thing is, I got in the habit of working with a list every evening and morning and sporadically throughout the day. That's what made it work, even before I had the list itself fully functional. It works because I love it, and I want to do it, and it makes me happy to be more productive, and I'm on a roll that I don't want to stop.


Ta da! Here it is!



Here is a filled-in list for Wednesday, when I was home most of the day, had pretty good energy, and was able to get a lot of different things done. My daughter was sick for a few days, so I didn't need to home school her. Thursday (when I was a little sick and very tired, but still able to get some low key stuff done) and Friday (when I was driving all over town with various teenagers from one event or appointment to the next) were quite different from Wednesday, but all three days were directed and curated by the same flexible Daily Do List format. Works for me!




A few other notes...
  • I put these Daily Do forms in the front section of my notebook, not behind a tabbed divider. I leave the notebook open on the desk I use for my morning and evening planning ritual. I have a Food Log and space for Health Notes on the back side.
  • I keep my glucose monitor, hand weights, medicines, Bible, and other necessary materials within easy reach of the same desk, so I can do them and then record them.
  • I have other custom designed forms in various tabbed sections of the same notebook. I glean information from these for filling out the Daily Do forms. For example, I have a list of home projects I want to complete in the near future. I can look at that and decide when to schedule them.
  • I do not usually bring my notebook or my Daily Do page on errands. I don't want to risk loss or damage. If necessary, I will snap a photo of the current page on my phone for reference while I'm gone. Or I will enter an errand sequence or short shopping list in a simple note on my phone. If I must bring paper along, I put it on a pretty clipboard.
  • It's a fun game for me to see how well I can check it all off. I might even put a snazzy star by something that was a substantial project completed. Yay me! I circle the checkoff boxes of key items that must be done. Or I put an arrow by a task I am postponing until another day, or an X through it if I'm not going to do it at all.
  • It still use my Clock and Calendar apps on my phone, with alarms to remind me of events, appointments, pill times, wake up times, and bedtime. I have Attention Deficit Disorder, so this is a must. It's also necessary since I don't have my notebook with me all the time when I'm out and about. I also like that I can enter a location in the Calendar app, and then access Google Maps directly from that.
  • I don't feel like I have to do something in every category every day.
  • I print a week's worth at a time, so if I know I want to do something on a particular day in the near future, I can go ahead and jot it in.
  • When I'm done with one day's page, I move it to the back of the section, so the next day is on top.
  • I designed all of my forms in Google Docs. I imported the check box bullet. I use the columns function to fit more on the page. 
  • The AirPrint feature doesn't work from my laptop, but I have both the Docs app and AirPrint on my phone so I can print forms without taking my laptop into the room where the printer is.
  • What is "Laundry Landing" in my evening section, pray tell? Glad you asked! That'll be in an upcoming blog post.
Here's another post that might help!

You can do it!

Grace and peace,


Virginia

Monday, May 15, 2017

The Art and Soul of My Blue Haven



Welcome to the newest installment of the My Blue Haven series. My Blue Haven is my affectionate name for my bedroom, which has undergone multiple transformations over the past few years as I have found out more of what works for my fluid, poetic, ADD personality.

I have completely rearranged and reorganized the room since I wrote Strength in My Blue Haven back in January. It may be hard to believe, but I now have three desks in my room, and I use them all for different things.

My Original Desk

You may have seen this desk on the blog before. Still the central spot for my office supplies, it also has its own library hutch on top. I mainly use this one for doing logistical work and on-line writing with my laptop computer. The books are food for my soul. And the art? I try to add little crafty touches here and there. I painted that wall shelf to the right, and the vintage chair to the left. I hand-mixed the colors so the chair and shelf would match the room and each other.
On this wall shelf, I display dainty things that my loved ones and I have collected from our travels. Always a little beauty for the eyes and soul.
I bought this frosted glass jar at a craft store and added the blue with a permanent marker. It holds miscellaneous small items on my desk.

My Morning and Evening Desk

This is where I start and end my day, sitting with my notebooks every morning and evening. I'll have to write about that in a separate post, but this daily ritual has been transformative, not only for my emotional health but for my productivity. 

The bottom ledge says, "Fill your soul with all good things and let the beauty pour forth."  Those are the words I live by in My Blue Haven.

I crafted the blue desk by sanding, dyeing, and wood burning a 2' x 3' pine board, and mounting it on the base from this smaller rolling table that can be adjusted to tilt or raise at the turn of a knob. You can see that whole process here: First Attempts at Furniture Restoration

I moved the chair from across the room to improve the traffic flow. It's the most comfortable spot for reading, journaling, chatting, and just sitting to relax. Later, I brought in the wooden bench and organizer that is on top of it. The bench, which had been in our front hall, serves as a divider to create a cozy nook, as well as a place to keep vital daily supplies (like my glucose monitor and purse) close at hand. I'll write more on the logistics of this area later, too.

My original reason for making the table bigger was so that I could open both my thinking/writing notebook and my new large print study Bible side to side. 


I also use this blue table for tidy artwork, like drawing and calligraphy.
  

My Art Desk

I am an artist at heart. I don't sell my work (yet, but maybe in the future?), but I love to create for myself and my loved ones. I don't want to mess up my blue desk with paint, dye, or glue, so I cleared out a corner (moved my elliptical exercise machine to another room) and brought in a small white laminate desk. I use the tri-fold display board to protect the wall and a piece of foam board to protect the desktop. When the foam board gets messy enough, I replace it with a new one. I buy them at the dollar store and always keep a few on hand. When I'm not doing artwork, I put away all the supplies and the foam board. 

Where do I store my supplies? I have a huge bookcase that is my pride-and-joy organizing project! Most of my art supplies had been stuffed in a spare dresser in my walk-in closet. The drawers were so crammed that I could barely open them. It was all a muddled mess, so I decided on drastic action. First, I moved hundreds of books from this bookcase to sell, give away, or store elsewhere. I bought bins at the dollar store and filled them with art supplies that I had sorted into categories. Wood burning. Wood dyeing. Furniture restoration. Acrylic and gouache painting. Chalk pastels. Art markers for sketching and calligraphy. Laces and trims. Crochet. Stencils. Tie dye. Scrapbooking. And, when I get around to learning it, stained glass from the supplies I inherited from my artistic mother. I also have art and craft instruction books, as well as travel books for creative inspiration, on one of the lower shelves. 


So that's the story of the three desks (and the shelves that love them) that call forth the "art and soul" of My Blue Haven. I'll just leave you now with these.




Other My Blue Haven posts:

Strength in My Blue Haven
A Big Makeover for My Blue Haven
Spring Cleaning and Creating in My Blue Haven
My Blue Haven for the New Year
My Blue Haven
More Beauty for My Blue Haven