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art journal

On Gratitude



This is my second try at this post. I wanted to share how I got here - to November 3, 2014 in relation to gratitude - and how my commitment to a daily gratitude practice has evolved over time. That seemed important to me. I was being defensive. Defending something I started years ago as a way of healing and holding on to hope, when I really only wanted to crawl into a hole and stay there through the holiday season. Something that a few of my Facebook friends were finding trite over time, and decided to complain about and tease in their own status updates… I thought I needed to clarify, to defend, and to justify why I think November is a great month for people to express gratitude on their own and in public.

I don't want to do any of that.

A few months ago I began reading One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. On page 58 of her book, Voskamp says the following: 

"I know there is poor and hideous suffering, and I've seen the hungry and the guns that go to war. I have lived pain, and my life can tell: I only deepen the wound of the world when I neglect to give thanks for early light dappled through leaves and the heavy perfume of wild roses in early July and the song of crickets on humid nights and the rivers that run and the stars that rise and the rain that falls and all the good things that a good God gives. Why would the world need more anger, more outrage? How does it save the world to reject unabashed joy when it is joy that saves us? Rejecting joy to stand in solidarity with the suffering doesn't rescue the suffering. The converse does. The brave who focus on all things good and all things beautiful and all things true, even in the small, who give thanks for it and discover joy even in the here and now, they are the change agents who bring fullest Light to all the world. When we lay the soil of our hard lives open to the rain of grace and let joy penetrate our cracked and dry places, let joy soak into our broken skin and deep crevices, life grows. How can this not be the best thing for the world? For us? The clouds open when we mouth thanks."

That is why I do what I do and why I want to do it (THANK YOU ANN VOSKAMP!). I want to embrace joy, to be brave, to focus on all thing good and beautiful and true. I want to give thanks for all things, even the small things because I want to bring the fullest Light to all the world.

I don't care if it makes other people uncomfortable. In fact, I -kind-of like that it makes some people uncomfortable. I would invite you to explore the discomfort if and when it bothers you to witness another's expression of joy. That discomfort will tell you more about you than it does about the other person. Go there.

In the past, I have used an art journal as a means to capture my gratitude each day. I have been on  a mission to figure out the easiest, least expensive way to make an art journal because I LOVE art journaling, and find it to be healing and hopeful and fun. This is what I've come up with so far…

Junk Mail Art Journal

I took a catalog I received in the mail (it was a Williams-Sonoma Fall catalog). I glued 2-3 pages together throughout the catalog with a glue stick, to form a series of new, thicker pages. I used plain old cheap craft acrylic paint to cover each page. I glued tissue paper to the covers of the catalog - I used two pieces to completely cover the catalog cover. Some of the words and images from the catalog show through the paint, and I love that. It was so easy to make and it was virtually free because the catalog was junk mail and I had the paint on hand.

Each day this month, my family and I will choose one word to express that for which we are most grateful that day. We will record the words on a piece of paper and at the end of the month we will have a special journal filled with our gratitude. I look forward to seeing how this evolves.

Our first page. 
I stamped part of the quote from Ann Voskamp on the first page, and left the
Williams Sonoma Thanksgiving table, rather than painting it.
I love how the quote turned out.
My sister made a Junk Mail journal too! I love it!

Each and every day, in every minute even, we have a choice about whether to "deepen the wound of the world" with our voices and actions or "bring fullest Light to all the world." Hands down, I choose light. It is absolutely a choice. It is not always easy, but I make it because I believe it makes a difference to me, my children, my husband, and our community.  I make it because I want to experience joy while I'm here on Earth - to balance out the pain.

Gratitude manifests joy. It's been proven time and again. Try it - big or small, in whatever way works for you. Share what you find.

With love and gratitude. Especially to Ann Voskamp. I don't know her, but I LOVE her and her beautiful words. xoxo

Tradition with a Twist


Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It involves all of my favorite things in the world: Autumn, my family, friends, and food. For a while now, my husband Dan and I have hosted Thanksgiving dinner at our house. We invite all of his family, all of mine, and my sister's in-laws. Everyone is welcome.

When I faced my first Thanksgiving after my dad passed away - that would have been in 2011, I wanted to boycott Thanksgiving. I didn't want to host it. I didn't want to acknowledge it. I didn't want even a whiff of turkey.

While I was given a lot of grace in that first year after my dad's death, nobody would let me off the hook for Thanksgiving. I decided that instead of wallowing in my dread of the impending holiday, I would embrace the opportunity to give thanks.

On November 1 I used my Facebook status to share my gratitude for that day, and did the same for every day in November. I called it 30 Days of Gratitude. I'm not sure why I had to do it publicly, but I'm thinking maybe I needed some accountability. Once I committed to a public declaration of my gratitude for every day in November it was much harder to stew in the muck and much harder to disappear.

Several of my friends reminded me about 30 Days of Gratitude the following year and so it became a tradition for many of us to share our gratitude through the month of November.

This year, I'm trying something a little different. I've been keeping a gratitude journal for several months now, and it is something I've come to love - the actual journal itself and the practice of setting aside a few minutes each day to give thanks for the things that moved me that day.

The cover of my first journal (I'm on my second)

The journal itself is an old book I altered and made into an art journal. It was inspired by Jeanne Oliver in her class The Journey of Letting Go (Creating Beauty from Ashes). It's one of my favorite things I've ever made. In fact, at my fall retreat I incorporated an altered book workshop so my guests could make one of their own.

Art journaling is a really special way to combine words and art. Art journals aren't necessarily meant to be shared so it can be liberating to create just for the sake of creating. I love flipping through the pages of my art journals. There is so much going on in there!

I love the way watercolors look over the old book pages

It can be super simple or very elaborate. I've seen photos of some really beautiful art journal pages. I keep mine pretty simple because I want to get them done fast. It's more about the process than the outcome for me.

a Zentangle page

Sooooo, this year instead of sharing a few words of gratitude on my personal Facebook page I'm going to share last night's entry from my gratitude journal on my Heart Connected Facebook page. I will most likely share the post on my personal page too. I think it's going to be fun, and maybe even inspiring?!

AND, here's where you come in... When you "like" the Heart Connected gratitude post on Facebook, you will be entered into a drawing. At the end of the month, I will draw a name from the "like" pile and make an altered book journal for the winner! YAY! How fun is that?! I may even include a little art journaling kit when I send it.

I hope you enjoy my posts! xoxo




You're likely to see a lot of hearts in my journal. This page is with acrylics.



OH, one more thing! You must "LIKE" or have already liked Heart Connected on Facebook to win.









Saying YES!

helping hands - my mom's and mine

I spent the last two days on my living room sofa coughing, blowing my nose, and watching HGTV. I had no voice. Even though I was in bronchitis hell, I am grateful for the opportunity I had to rest and take care of myself (thank you school bus and all day kindergarten!).

The neatest thing happened yesterday morning. I was feeling really sorry for myself and wanted my mommy. I texted her and asked her if she could bring me some chicken noodle soup from Costco - if she was going to be in town. Before I even set my phone down a very dear friend of mine texted me and asked me if SHE could bring me some of the chicken noodle soup she had made the night before! I couldn't believe it. We had made plans and I had to cancel them so she knew I wasn't feeling well. Isn't that the sweetest thing?

As I devoured the delicious soup my friend made and delivered later that day I remembered a time in my life where I would have said "No thank you" to my friend's kind offer. I never wanted to be a bother or make anyone go out of their way for me. I didn't mind helping people out when I could, but I preferred to take care of me all by myself. It just seemed less complicated, and again... I hated to inconvenience anyone. I even hated to ask salespeople for help. Um. Hello....?!!

After my first child was born, I slowly opened up to the idea of accepting help. First from my mom and sister, and then from my mother-in-law.  Eventually my dad and father-in-law joined the party. Once I saw how amazing it was to open myself up like that, it became easier to ask and then to receive. It never occurred to me that they might actually enjoy or want to help me. I still hated being a bother, and at the same time I so greatly appreciated the times when they were there for me and the ways they helped my family and me. I remember my sister bringing me a plate of sliced apples and dollop of peanut butter for a snack a few days after we brought little baby James home from the hospital. I was a wreck of a new mom. I can still see the plate in my mind. She made it look so pretty. I almost wept I was so grateful.

Over the years, and especially after the birth of my third child, I have continued to learn to accept offers from others to help and to ask for help when I need it. Sometimes it feels like memorizing lines for a new play in that it requires practice to say "yes" and "please" without feeling anything but grateful. I am appreciating opportunities to work that muscle - to accept kind offers and to receive the help that follows.

I am taking that online Brave Girls Club class I mentioned a couple few ago called Soul Comfort. It's so fun and still open for registration if you're interested. The journal prompt I chose last night was Today I know that it feels good when I... and I wrote "say yes to a very kind offer."

super goofy journal page from last night

Even at bedtime I was so grateful for my friend's kind offer. I felt nourished and even healed as my voice started to return. I was so happy I said YES! Opening up to that opportunity to be taken care of by my friend allowed me to show up for my kids last night in a more effective way. I felt better which made for a better night for all of us.

I understand that there are lot of people out there who don't want any help. It seems as if "sucking it up" is a bit of a badge of honor around town. There is a lot of value in learning when and how to muscle through life's challenges. That's for sure. And at the same time, there is a lot of value in learning how to say yes and how to accept help from others. Sometimes the bravest thing a person can do is ask for help. Sometimes sucking it up gets you nowhere.

We live in this crazy world where we are so obsessed with doing things the RIGHT way. Sometimes there isn't a right way or a wrong way. Sometimes you just have to do things. It's not easy to let go of the stories we've written about how we will be perceived if we are a bother - if we feel like a bother. It's not easy to make a shift in the way you operate in the world. It's not easy to try something new, perhaps fearing that you will be judged. Nope, not easy at all.

However, I will tell you one thing I know for sure: it feels GOOD to say yes to a kind offer, and to simply accept what comes from that offer. It feels really good. I highly recommend giving it a try!

xoxo