Twenty Nine

Yesterday, I celebrated another year around the sun -- which makes it exactly 366 days since I've written here.

It's interesting, getting older. I find myself less concerned about the things that used to worry me, I love myself more, I care less about what others think. For the most part, anyway. At 29, I am pretty content. I work far more than I should, for sure, but I have a home and food on the table and people who love me and I feel safe and like I have the ground solidly under my feet.

This past year, I saw Garrison Keillor speak. I visited Chicago. My godson became an older brother. I moved out of a one-bedroom apartment entirely by myself, due to stubbornness. (I proved just how strong I am, but I'm never moving solid wood furniture alone again.) I pet so, so many dogs. I read dozens of books, and returned to Germany for the first time since 2012. I took part in a brutal election process, and in the process have realized -- and stood up for -- what truly matters to me.

I am lucky, and I am grateful.

Here are nine things I know, now that I have reached the-year-before-thirty:
  1. Adulthood is not scary. It's freedom.
  2. Telling your story is the first step to reclaiming your power.
  3. Camis are the solution to too-short, too-transparent shirts.
  4. Habits are hard to break. Pick good ones.
  5. Self love is everything. Practice it like it's your job.
  6. Sleep is so, so precious. Guard it.
  7. You can choose your own family by surrounding yourself with good friends -- and you can re-choose the actual, biological family you were born into.
  8. Going outside is a natural, immediate soul balm.
  9. The negatives will consume you. Pay attention to the positives, and then be the change you wish to see.
Every time I think back to a decade ago, I feel so much sympathy for the girl I once was. Being a teenager is hard. As an adult, I have autonomy in my own life. I am responsible for my successes and my failures; my own happiness is in my hands. As a child and teen, you have so little control of your life and of the people in it. Dearest, if you are in this situation -- I see you. I hear you. Keep going. It gets better, I promise.


Twenty Eight

It's my birthday.

I'm twenty eight.

And I'm happy to be here -- to be alive; to be part of this grand, wonderful world; to know that in small ways I am changing the course history.

I am so happy to be where I am. Ten years ago, I was struggling to keep from drowning. Five years ago, it felt like I had no hope. Some days are still difficult. But today, I can unconditionally say I love myself and I am proud of who I am and how far I've come, and I celebrate this life that I have created, where once I saw no future.

I am at peace, and at peace with myself.
I am empowered, and comfortable, and I feel safe.

I am happy.

Thank you for being part of my story.

International Women's Day 2016

Today I am quietly celebrating myself – and all the other three or four billion women on the planet – for International Women's Day. I don't remember this event last year; as a nanny, I was likely too busy snuggling a four month old and wrestling two toddlers into eating lunch.

But this year, it was a day of intention and reflection. I am incredibly privileged, and I acknowledge that I have and am grateful to have the opportunities and legal protection that I do. Women around the world are deprived of education, respect, and independence. Individuals who do not fit the so-called standards for womanhood (whether standards for beauty, or submission, or gender identity, or interests, or sexual orientation) are bullied and abused. Sex is used to control and dominate and shame.

Yes, I am privileged as a woman in this country and this time, and I am aware and grateful.

(Not to say that there is not a higher ideal to be met here, too; only a few hours ago a stranger believed that it was okay to honk at me as I walked, supposedly to show his approval. I am still paid less than a man earns for the same work. Sanitary necessities are taxed as luxury items. Thousands of rape kits sit untested in police storage. And on and on..)

In reality, women are strong, intelligent, capable, compassionate warriors and nurturers and builders and dreamers. We are all – every single one of us – capable of incredible, magnificent things. We are complex and awe-some and we deserve nothing less than to own our rightful place in the world.

I know that I have a responsibility to speak up, not only myself, but my fellow women who are suffocated under systems and practices of inequality. Today, I hold my sisters around the globe in my heart, and make a promise to do what I can to make the world a better place for all of us, our daughters, and our daughters' daughters.

Help me speak up for and celebrate women and womanhood with the list below!

Be Mine

Happy Valentine's Day, sweet soul. You are precious and worthy and so, so, so loved. Be gentle with yourself today, whatever your circumstances. Treat yourself to a hot chocolate, or a walk, or an hour with your art journal. Do yoga. Smile at strangers. Write yourself a love song.

My family always celebrated February 14th as a day of love of all kinds: friendships and familial and romantic alike. It was a day of appreciation and gratitude for the good things and people in our lives. Love is one of the most central qualities that make us human -- we, social creatures by nature, have the gift of recognizing ourselves in others, demonstrating empathy, and reaching out a helping hand to lift each other up

The state of the world often leaves me overwhelmed with worry and fear. From imminent threats like climate change -- that requires all of us to work together, the consequences of not doing so threatening our very existence -- to the cruelty and ego of the American political race, I am disheartened by the greedy and self-absorbed attitudes dominating current events. (Don't get me wrong: I believe in selfishness to an extent. Learning and believing in your own value is a critical component to happiness.)

Today, I am choosing to believe in the goodness of ordinary people. I choose to believe in the power of love to change the world. Small acts of kindness are an undervalued strength, and I will make a renewed effort to infuse love wherever I can.

Big hugs. I am so grateful for you, darling.

Lessons Learned in Art and Life

I worked on this art journal spread two autumns ago. I used up a bunch of collage scraps that I'd saved for years, not knowing what to do with, and added acrylics, crayons, wax pastels, and texture paste (try this recipe to make your own!).

These pages are somehow unsettling to me; maybe it's the oversaturation, the business, or the rawness. Regardless, it causes me to pause and seek out what, exactly, it is that I don't like -- and prompts me to turn the page and try again.

My experiments in art do not have to result in perfection. In fact, they rarely do. We as a society, as a world, are obsessed with success, and failure is often a threat. Not so in my art journal. Here, I can play and seek out and explore and find comfort in the tension and disharmony of my mistakes. Here, I can accept them for what they are.

I thank them for the wisdom they've given me. And I turn the page.

A List of Thoughts



I'm going to jump right in with a list, which is in no particular order.
1. It snowed. A lot. I have felt like a hibernating bear for the last few days, cozied up in my little home-cave. For four days, I have surrendered to the elements and released real-world expectations, errands, and sense of time. It's been lovely and restorative.

2. I have still not yet chosen a word of the year. Do you follow this practice? For about seven years, I have carefully selected a word -- a mantra -- at the start of each New Year for guidance and focus. (See 2012, 2013, and 2014.) Last year, I chose cultivate, and it impacted me in positive ways I had not expected. This year, I am looking for something that will push me to both dig deeper into myself and to stretch beyond myself. If you have suggestions, I'm all ears!

3. I have not written in a while. Well, let me clarify: I have not written for myself in a while. Last May, I began a new job as a grantwriter, the essence of which is to persuade foundations and organizations to contribute financial support to a worthy cause.

4. Being an adult is wonderful. I was thinking recently about how grateful I am to have, finally, my independence. Being a teenager is hard. Feeling like you don't belong, longing more than anything to fit in, battling inner turmoil and external drama and parental oversight is hard. It's lonely being a teenager. It was for me, anyway. And being an adult.. I treasure that I alone am the master of my fate, and the captain of my soul. (Financial security, however, would be icing on the cake.)

5. World events of late have me heartbroken and furious and not a little terrified of what the next decade will bring. I'd love to share my thoughts -- if only I could find a way to articulate them.

6. Though I haven't yet read Gretchen Rubin's new book Better Than Before, I have been thinking quite a bit about habits. As I get older, I find myself unconsciously lulled into routines that are comforting but provide no inspiration, exhilaration, or challenges. I want to change this.
7. Perhaps on a related note, I keep thinking, "Oh, I'll blog more when I finish redesigning the website." or "But I don't have a fully formed thought to share yet." I need to keep reminding myself to start, and the path will unroll before me. This is true with art, with exercising, with pursuing a dream, with home projects, with trying a new skill, and so on. Just. Start. Take the first step.

Thanks for bearing with me, loves. Hope to see you soon.

A Fork in the Road

How many times over the past few years have I written about returning here, fully present, and picking up where I left off in 2010? My Peacetree started, when it comes down to it, as love letters to myself. Years ago, I was in an unhappy place, unsure of my worth and value and role in the world. Uncertain of my future. And this blog was a part of my healing -- an outlet to explore, express, and examine myself and my life. Art and art journaling, and connecting with other artists, helped me to find my voice and build my self confidence. But here's the thing: I've changed.

I have come so far -- SO far -- since then. I can't tell you how proud I am for fighting through every battle hurled my way, fighting for myself. It was so difficult. But I did it. And along the way, I learned so much about myself. I learned that I am worthy of love. That I am whole, though imperfect; that I am more than capable of any number of things; that I am smart and discerning and deeply empathetic. That I am a fighter and that I have a voice.

And so I feel a disconnect from where this blog began and where I am now. I feel far more assertive and opinionated (whereas, years ago, I was incredibly intimidated by conflicting viewpoints). In addition to practicing self expression, I am deeply passionate about speaking up for those whose voices are trampled by those of the loudest -- especially children and those who are treated as "lesser than".

Darlings, the direction of this blog is going to change somewhat to reflect who I am what inspires me. For example, I came across two eye-opening articles this morning about women's rights (here and here) and was compelled to start writing. These sorts of topics are what moves me at the moment, and I'm going to follow where my heart is tugging me.

We'll see where it leads. After all, in my life there are always more goals than follow-through! I do have some art journaling projects tucked in my back pocket, but giving myself the room to grow, explore, and find what compels me is so important to my own journey.


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