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17 June 2017

ICAD 2017: Week One

Each year, Tammy Garcia of Daisy Yellow hosts an index-card-a-day challenge. This year's ICAD started June 1, and will run til July 31, 2017. (It's never too late to jump in! Get all the details here.)







07 April 2017

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.

Kisses.

06 April 2016

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.

08 March 2016

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!

14 February 2016

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.
XO



28 January 2016

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.

25 January 2016

A List of Thoughts



Wow.

Hi.

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.

17 October 2015

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.

26 August 2015

Show Up as You Are



Hi there, sweet souls.
I am, slowly, making my way back to this space.

I have been mentally preparing to re-enter the blogging world, to take the passing thoughts that bounce and flit around my mind like shy mythical creatures and transform them into something coherent for others. It's a strange task, once one has fallen out of the habit of solidifying internal thought.

Again, I realize that I harbor some apprehension about tending, watering, and pruning My Peacetree -- apprehension about living up to my own expectations of what it has been and what I want it to be. So right here and now, I promise myself to take this journey in my own time, in my own way, however that happens to look right now. People change, blogs change, and for anything thing to become great, we must start at the beginning (again). And that's ok.

So here I am and here this new not-really-first post is, unperfected, and finished.
See you soon.

06 February 2015

Checking In


Hi, loves.

I am still here.
I am still here, working hard, growing professionally and personally, building my life.

I am a nanny of three young boys, who fill my days to the brim seven days a week. I am an intern at a beautiful, creative, passionate organization that fights for children's rights to an art-filled education.

I am happy.
And oh, I am so tired!

I love this space.. And I love you. And I miss both of you.

And when my days are less full, when I have a few moments to spare, I will visit this space with joy and excitement and share all that I have been doing, all that I have done, how I have grown, and where life has taken me.

In the meantime, follow me on Instagram or Twitter.
Kisses!

04 October 2014

Knowing Yourself, Knowing Your Blog | Part One



Way back when I first began blogging, I found and shared a questionnaire called "15 Questions to Discover Your Personal Mission". The survey pushes you to define what you love to do, what – and who – inspires you, and in which areas you are most naturally gifted; the idea is to condense these answers and reveal what would be most fulfilling to you in your career or personal life. I first answered the questions in a post called Soul Searching in 2009.

I have come back to this survey a few times, and it has always been helpful. Answering the questions again 5 years later shows me how much I have changed, grown into myself, and lets me see how I am healing from the scars of emotional abuse. I am sharing it again to assist in developing my blog focus, but also to get back in touch with myself and let go of those things that I still assume are part of my identity, even though they have long ago disappeared. I also may discover new things that have changed how I define myself.

I will be breaking this up into three posts – the original single post just kept growing and growing! Comments have been disabled, but if you like this or want to share your own answers, you can write me here or contact me on Twitter or Facebook!

Discovering You, Part One | Questions 1-5


1. What makes you smile? (Activities, people, events, hobbies, projects, etc.)
Animals. Children. Terrible anti-jokes. Spring. Creative flow. Beautiful stories about compassion. Those who struggle, fighting their way to higher places. Being inspired. Thunderstorms. The ocean. New Year's. Working on a craft project. Experiencing others' joy and excitement, especially kids'. Investing in clothes & housewares that feel like me. Fireflies. Beautiful art. Spoken word poetry. Sunlight. Nature. Rainy days. Trees. Seeing little ordinary things that no one else notices – like an ant crawling in the grass, or a heart-shaped piece of confetti forgotten on the sidewalk. Being barefoot.

2. What are your favorite things to do in the past? What about now?
Piano. Crafting. Being in nature. Art journaling. Observing wildlife. Journaling. Nurturing animals, dolls, or children. Writing. Learning about art.

Traveling. Spending time with animals & nature. Decorating. Crafting. Visiting my dearest friends. Reading self-help stuff. Working on design. Window shopping. Collecting ideas. Having deep discussions. Being anonymous in a city. Spending quiet time alone. Spending a day at the beach. Observing wildlife. Driving. Talking to people of different backgrounds and experiences. Improving my Self, one moment at a time. Doing anonymous, random acts of kindness. Thrifting.

3. What activities make you lose track of time?
Reading a great book. Any creative flow. Being busy with things that are interesting and somewhat challenging. Web/blog design. Seeing a good play. Listening to Prairie Home Companion. Window shopping. Browsing Pinterest. Learning something new.

4. What makes you feel great about yourself?
Doing my hair and makeup. Getting enough sleep. Finishing something – usually art or an article – that I'm proud of. Making another person feel valued, loved, and worthy. Having time to myself. Going to a new place. Getting all the dishes washed. Connecting with animals. Having beach hair. Being affirmed by others. Running, and meeting my goals. Having things in order. Wearing clothes that fit, are beautiful, and make me feel amazing. Spending times with kids. Being barefoot outside all day. That first kiss after 6+ months apart. Feeling productive.

5. Who inspires you most? (Anyone you know or do not know. Family, friends, authors, artists, leaders, etc.) Which qualities inspire you, in each person?
> Kate Winslet as Clementine - who possesses a carefree, I-am-who-I-am, take-it->or-leave-it attitude.
> Nicole of Life Less BS - who is an I'll-give-you-a-kick-in-the-butt-because-I-know-you-can-do-it cheerleader.
> Morgan M & Amanda G - who both radiate sunshine, positivity, confidence, and love.
> Natty Mutrux - who is funny, quirky, and amazingly artistic.
> J.L. - a girl I taught who is creative, wonder-filled, funny, sensitive, active, and comfortable in her own skin.
---
To be continued; stay tuned!

30 September 2014

Rediscovering Blogging: Linking the Past and the Future



Part of the process of aligning your Self with your blog is looking at the journey your blog has taken. Taking a close look at where you have been – examining your favorite posts, most productive stretches of time, and most popular subjects –  correlates directly to where your blog is now, and can help you solidify your vision of where you want it to go.

I want to share with you some of the important indicators I've found while looking at patterns from the past five years of blogging.


WHERE I WAS (2009-2010):
  • Reader: Quiet, fragile, tender, vulnerable. Seeking safe place to be accepted.
  • Content: Art journaling journey (discovery, process, technique). Love letters. Observations of the seasons, nature, and world. - Examples: one, two, three
  • Frequency: 3x/week
  • Keywords: Art. Gentleness. Self-discovery. 

WHERE I AM (2011-present)
  • Reader: Die-hard! ;)
  • Content: Life updates. Art journaling (finished pages). - Examples: one, two
  • Frequency: 1-2x /month (see graph below).
  • Keywords: Inconsistency. Unfocused. Disjointed.

WHERE I WANT TO BE:
  • Reader: Resilient, courageous & compassionate woman in search of ___.*
  • Content: TBD*
  • Frequency: 2x/week.
  • Keywords: TBD* 

* These answers are developing as I travel this road of rediscovery.


The above graph shows how my pattern of posting has decreased over the past five years. This is not something new to me, but seeing it visually is quite illuminating. 2010 was my most productive, artfully successful year – and it's very obvious in the huge spike in posts. This was when my interests and blog focus aligned, making it easy to compose and publish posts that were interesting and pride-worthy.

My goal is to once again find that beautiful balance, one that inspires me to share often, my writing heart-felt and my focus bigger than my Self. Looking at blog stats is part of that; rediscovering who I am and what drives me is another. I'll be writing about that soon!

How do you make sure your blog and your Self align? Tell me here!


25 September 2014

20 Facts



^ This photo is property of Natty Mutrux. Find her on her blog, Twitter, and Facebook.

Several months ago, Natty (artist and generally awesome person extraordinaire) tagged me in an instagram post. The challenge was to list twenty facts about oneself. I am long overdue, but here goes:
  1. I believe in kindness, compassion, and love.
  2. I also believe in fiercely fighting for oneself and others who can't fight for themselves.
  3. I take my sweet time drinking coffee, and have no problem with sipping lukewarm coffee an hour after I make it.
  4. I have been in a long-distance relationship for more than six-and-a-half years.
  5. I am a self-taught artist.
  6. In another life, I would've liked to pursue psychology or marketing/advertising.
  7. While the arts lie very, very close to my heart, I hope to make a career that in some way addresses the nexus of education and socio-economic and racial inequality.
  8. I really, really like sleeping.
  9. If I were an animal, I'd like to be a seagull. Independence, flight, and the ocean – it couldn't get better!
  10. Anne of Green Gables, by Lucy Maude Montgomery, is one of my very, very most favorite books.
  11. I graduated college in 2013, but I still have nightmares about forgotten classes and homework.
  12. I get dizzy really, really easily!
  13. I have a huge sweet tooth.
  14. I am an INTF.
  15. Ingrid is my middle name. I've been going by it on My Peacetree since 2009; in real life, 2010.
  16. My brother is one of my very best friends.
  17. Three of my all-time favorite movies are Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Amelie, and You Can't Take it With You
  18. I connect deeply with nature and animals.
  19. When I was about 11, I taught myself piano.
  20. I really dislike raw onions.
Want to join in? I've disabled comments for this post; instead, send me your list or a link to your blog post, or reach me on Twitter!

22 September 2014

Dear Summer, Farewell!


Yellow the bracken, golden the sheaves 
Rosy the apples, crimson the leaves,
Mist on the hillside, clouds grey and white –
Autumn, good morning!
Summer, good night!
("Autumn" by Winstones Press)

Fall is here! It is unbelievable, but yes – summer has begun to make her way to the Southern Hemisphere, and last part of the year approaches. Today is the autumn equinox, when long, lingering summer evenings give way to chilly, Orion-lit night skies. The Michaelmas Festival will be celebrated in a few days, and before we know it the approach of winter will have made it presence known in the intricacy of sparkling early morning frost.

(Incidentally, the tilt of the Earth's axis is what determines the date of the equinox – not when day and night are the same length. Read more here.)

Practically overnight, the trees have dressed in bright oranges and reds, putting on a fireworks display before each leaf dances with the wind to the ground. I have been collecting the most beautiful leaves I find, in part to brighten my apartment and in part to help convince me that summer is at an end. I do love this season, as long as I stay in the present; winter is not my favorite. But there is no denying that this is a magnificent time, full of movement and bustle and the most beautiful palette imaginable.

The transience of seasons, really, is what makes each of them so precious. It is knowing that everything comes to an end that makes it that much sweeter.

Check out these lovely fall-inspired activities to make the most of this season:
All my love!

21 September 2014

How to Use Structure to Inspire Creativity



Hello, my loves.

I've been reading up on a lot of theories and opinions and suggestions about blogging. Many successful bloggers use an editorial calendar (a planned schedule of posts to publish), ensuring that they have on-topic posts prepared and ready to publish long before they need them. This creates consistency in voice and the blog feed, increases readership, and (they say, or at least suggest) keeps a wave of inspiration flowing.

After reading these articles, I was overwhelmed with inspiration. I decided in the midst of all this to reevaluate the blog, rediscover myself, and make sure that my interests are aligned with my posts. So I delved into Evernote for the first time, came up with more than seventy post ideas, and even planned out an editorial calendar all the way through the next three months. I wrote up and published the first post on that list right on schedule – and haven't followed through with anything I came up with in that frenzy of creativity since. Even though I had the next post planned out and half written. (Instead, I jumped ahead two weeks and posted an art journal spread that required little writing.)

Inspiration strikes me in bizarre ways. I can be overrun with ideas and motivation – usually at about eleven at night when I have to be up early the next day – and can ride that wave for hours and hours, so long as I stay with it. If I go to sleep, I often wake in the morning with little inspiration left to pursue the big ideas I'd had the night before. If something like work or running an errand interrupts my wild-donkey-riding, I become distracted and that momentum is halted.

As I went through this whole process, and as I attempt to try again, I wonder about the relationship between structure and creativity, right-brain and left-brain thinking, and the spontaneity of creation and the reliability of planning.

I feel like artists are often thought of as impulsive: so much of creation is about the flow of creativity. We talk about writer's block as an impediment to that flow. Yet when I took a course in oil painting in college, much of the process of creating a painting was spent planning out the composition, doing preliminary sketching, and deciding just the right angle and colors and methods to use.

Steve Denning wrote the following in "Creativity Must Have Structure", published on Forbes:
"Structure and creativity have the same parentage. It is structure that enables creativity. [...] In the twelve notes of the musical scale, in the twenty six letters of the alphabet, these fantastic structural inventions have unlocked the enormous creativity of literature and music. Without structure, there is nothing for creativity to get leverage upon." 
When put that way, the correlation between structure and creativity is obvious. In fact, I am reminded of an article I actually wrote several years ago discussing whether or not originality exists. (I unfortunately no longer have the piece. But my conclusion was that, since every individual is influenced by art, tools, behavior, or ideas others have created, there is no originality – only original thought of how to re-assemble pre-existing pieces.)

Below are five tips on how to use your left hemisphere to jump-start creativity:
  1. Research: Read books or articles that address the creative blocks you are currently facing.
  2. Delegate: Find resources that help you prepare and plan ahead for future creative droughts. (Blogging-wise, use the schedule post tool on your blog to automatically publish to your blog, and check out BufferApp as a useful Twitter/Facebook-publishing tool.)
  3. Create a routine: Take out your journal, paintbrushes, or sketchbook even when you aren't inspired. The act of beginning, of pushing yourself into creation, often inspires inspiration.
  4. Prepare: Get ahead of yourself. Having a list of possible posts, ideas, or ideas to explore will give you a place to jump from, and you will avoid having to start from scratch.
  5. Make notes: In a moment of inspiration, get as much done as you possibly can. If you have to step away from your project, leave a note outlining where your project is headed to help yourself find your way back into it.
I am determined to balance my creative impulsiveness and elusive bouts of inspiration with the structure and self-discipline that are foreign to my creative process and nature. Balance is key, and I think that however frustrating in the meantime will prove valuable in the long run.

This subject something I'm going to keep thinking about, mulling over, and addressing. I'd love to hear your thoughts and opinions on this, and I'd especially love to know about your own habits and ebbs and flows of creativity! Please share in the comments below.

07 September 2014

Hey Gals! Art Journal Spread




This art journal spread is from a few weeks ago. I used several vintage pieces that I got from my grandmother when I visited her in July; the photos and newspaper clippings are things that were my grandfather's in his high school and college days!

I used these, acrylics, water-soluble crayons, chalk pastel, and ballpoint and Sharpie pens. Just a handful of materials can create such a wide variety of outcomes; it so much fun to see how different each page I create is.





I love that symbols, thoughts, and impressions pop into my head as I create, even as I clear my mind and fall into instinctive movement and creation. The bear cub, "que sera, sera", cactus-like plant, and star themes were not planned, but made their way into the pages nonetheless!




What do you think of this spread? Do surprising things show up in your art, too?

02 September 2014

Blog Renovation: What Now?



Woohoo! You've decided to rework your blog!
So... what now?

I've been going back to basics and reading up successful bloggers' advice for new bloggers. The things I'm most interested in are maintaining consistency in voice, subject, and schedule; targeting your audience while staying true to yourself; establishing trust and community; and figuring out your blog's focus. One of the most helpful articles I've found thus far is called "How to Decide What to Blog About". I've found its content a very useful way to measure My Peacetree's current focus, purpose, and pull. The author of the article, Amy Lynn Andrews, proposes that there are five general reasons readers will return to a blog or website:
  1. It helps solve a problem.
  2. It assuages the reader's fear(s).
  3. It teaches or introduces something new.
  4. It pushes the reader reach a goal.
  5. It is entertaining.
Think about the most popular blog genres; from fashion to food to DIY, you can likely put them in at least one of these categories. This made a lot of sense to me, and reminded me of something I learned about when taking a playwriting class in college: without some sort of conflict to be resolved, there is no interesting story to tell (or to hear). If you need an example, check out this simple playwriting exercise and accompanying article.

But back to the list. Where does your blog or website fall? My Peacetree started out in the solve-a-problem/learn-something-new fields, perhaps with assuage-your-fears thrown in (reminding readers that they are, indeed, loveable and valued). This weekend, I went through every single post I have published here, saving and categorizing my favorites. As early as December 2009 – only seven months after founding My Peacetree – I wrote,
When I began blogging, I intended to write about creativity and philosophy and inspiration, and how all three are woven together in a beautiful, complex, astounding way. Instead, somehow these things have morphed into hastily written snippets about what I am doing or what will be happening soon.
Dissatisfaction with my posts is not a new thing. But I also surprised myself with how many, of the hundreds I have written, I like and am proud of.

I also noticed that every post that represents my best self, art, and writing falls into one of the categories above. Additionally, other than end-of-year reflections, every single post I put onto these lists is "big picture". In other words, its content has little-to-nothing to do with my day-to-day life, but with overarching themes of life, beauty, art, and creativity. Each of these subjects can be applied to the five categories above; my day-to-day life can't.

Right now, my goal is to make sure my interests and blog posts align. The very first step I am going to take in making that happen is to ask, each time I publish, "Does this post solve a problem or attempt to soothe a fear? Or does it teach, set a goal, or entertain?" For now, anyway, this will be my guideline for content creation – making sure my posts stay on task and are relevant, useful, and interesting.

Many more posts on blogging to come! I'll be looking at how getting re-introduced to yourself; planning blog posts; defining your reader; using helpful apps and marketing; and interpreting your stats can all help to inspire you and create a blog that both you and your readers love to visit.

(And don't panic, darlings.. I have other non-blogging posts in the works, too.)
Whew! What did you think of this post? Have any suggestions, questions, or requests? Drop me a line here!

28 August 2014

A New Leaf



I have been blogging for over five years now. I was first inspired to develop my online presence after reading about altered-book art in high school and stumbling into the world of art journaling and mixed media artists' blogs. My Peacetree also began as a way for me to escape from my own insecurities and depression.

For the first year or so I wrote exclusively about the joy and beauty of life, particularly of nature. I bought a fancy shmancy Nikon camera and began taking photos of my art. I gained a following of gentle, loving dreamers who felt safe in this somewhat magical, ethereal place, where everyone arrived in their spirit or essence and not in their tangible body. I resisted, for a very long time, sharing my photo or details about myself or my own life in detail, afraid of those I knew stumbling upon my inner life and afraid to be defined by what the mirror held. I desperately needed a place of secrecy and safety where I could explore my own vulnerabilities and fragile dreams and reach out to those kindred spirits I couldn't find in my waking life. I created and tended a secret garden, if you will.

The summer of 2010 was the most successful period for My Peacetree: I was insanely inspired, I painted daily, I wrote often, and I participated in art swaps and engaged in others' blogs and online conversations and on social media. In the first two years in this garden, my following grew hugely.

And then I went back to school, and things changed.
I changed.

And I realized tonight, as I browsed Pinterest for articles on blogging, that I just don't enjoy posting about what I once did. I have felt obligated to stay true to an art/tender-soul approach, to that old version of myself that defined this blog for so long, and that the only reason I have been compelled to open my art journal has been so that I can photograph it, write about it, and share it here, because I feel like that's what's expected. I struggle to post, and when I do, I make a half-hearted attempt that ends up being a short, boring update on my life. I take little pride in what I write anymore. It was a bittersweet realization: my passions have shifted – and that's okay.

Guilt and obligation are no motivation. Pretending to be engaged is unfair to my readers and to myself, and to be truthful, I think it shows up in the quality of my writing here.

So I had an awakening: I will search for my new purpose, a passion that drives me to return with full joy and spirit, inspired to write endless material that is true to this new changed me. As this year is all about charging ahead, trying new things, practicing bravery and exercising perseverance, I think this is an excellent challenge.

My Peacetree. A tree grows. It branches. It stretches and reaches for the sky, and in autumn its leaves die and fall to make room for new growth. Perhaps My Peacetree has been dormant for a while, hidden under snowdrifts. And perhaps it is time for the spring to come.

I am excited to have you with me on this new adventure.
Stay tuned!

26 August 2014

The Wanderer at Home


Oh, my loves. What a summer it has been.

For the past ten weeks I have been moving between various friends' and family's spare rooms in cities and suburbs, depending on their kindness and love and generosity and support (for which I am deeply indebted and endlessly grateful). I've applied to scores of jobs, reached the final round of interviews for a dream job, and been ignored by many other organizations. I have given it my all – I have charged and cried and fallen and stood up and persevered. I've made some difficult decisions, and I have also felt like I had no choices to make.

And finally – finally! – an opportunity arose, and I whole-heartedly made a leap.

Just a week ago, I accepted a position as a live-in nanny with a wonderful, gracious family in Maryland. This position gives me the freedom to pursue other dreams of all sorts, to have a place of my own, and to work with two (soon-to-be-three) amazing kiddos.

I am so very, very lucky.
And while circumstances lead me away from Philadelphia, I am very, very happy.

And, my darlings, this welcome stability allows me to return to regular blogging, painting, creating, sewing, writing, and to fully enjoying life. I'm so glad to be back.

All my love,

11 July 2014

Le Chat



These are photos of my friend's cat. Because of her markings, she looks angry – but she is in reality a super sweet, playful kitty. I very much enjoy her company as I job hunt from my temporary home.

My week has been a whirlwind. There was a long day driving back to my storage unit to grab important papers. There was errand-running. There was a job interview on Thursday (which turned out to be an information session for nearly ten people, including myself). And last weekend, of course, was a very old friend's wedding.

How is life treating you, sweetest?

02 July 2014

"Peek"-ing into My Peacetree



I stumbled across an incredible tool that I can't help but pass on. Let me say up front that I am not getting paid for this and that everything here is my own opinion; I was so amazed with the service – and such a useful one at that – that I want to share it!

Peek from UserTesting is a service that gives you insight into how a new visitor, completely unfamiliar with your website or blog, reacts to your site. What's amazing is that it's in realtime, meaning you get instant feedback and can see their process as they interact with your site. What are they most interested in? What works? What doesn't? The answers may really surprise you.

It's free and is super crazy fast; they emailed me with my three-minute video in less than two hours after I submitted my request. It's fun, too, to watch a stranger visit your page; you're seeing your own site, however familiar, through a stranger's eyes.

Here's what I learned about My Peacetree.
The positives:
  • Interesting
  • Purpose is fairly clear
  • User would return
The negatives:
  • Empty Etsy shop seems pointless
  • Header is lacking; needs color
I've been itching to create a header that pops, so the feedback on it is something I already suspected. But the Etsy thing surprised me: if it were me, I'd head straight to "About", not "Shop". But I am glad, regardless, that readers are still interested in what I might sell. I'll either need to add a message on Etsy or change the nav bar, I think, to make things clearer.

And once I make these changes? I'll submit another request. Peek allows up to three tests per month.

I'm grateful to this anonymous reviewer, too. He was kind, professional, and provided constructive feedback – and I can't help but like anyone who is a fellow dreamer! A shout out to you, Mr. Reviewer. Thank you for your insight!

30 June 2014

Little Steps, Big Year // Update



In January, I posted a list of 20 small-ish goals I wanted to complete this year. As today is the last day of June (!) and officially marks the halfway point of 2014 (!!), I wanted to share an update on what progress I've made and thoughts about this approach to making a bucket list more manageable.

What I have completed:
  1. Spend a full day at the beach.
  2. Finish and send in book for the Sketchbook Project. (Part 1 / Part 2)
  3. Lose 5 pounds. (I lost 15!)
  4. Go on a road trip.
  5. Move.
  6. Get a credit card.
  7. Sketch from life.
  8. Get a car. (It promptly died a few weeks later, but I had a car nonetheless.)
What is in progress:
  1. Write 60 blog posts. (Currently: 17/60)
  2. Read 40 books. (Currently: 5/40)
  3. Go to the gym – or exercise – 30 times. (Currently: 16/30)
And what I have yet to do:
  1. Buy a new camera.
  2. Try getting another art journal into Stampington.
  3. Travel to Germany.
  4. Get married, or at least wear an engagement ring.
  5. Paint big, on canvas, with oils.
  6. Go ice skating.
  7. Go to an aquarium.
  8. Go to the beach in winter (again).
  9. Visit to NYC.
Looks like I'm right on target! Having a few specific things to focus on this year has been wonderful. As you may know, it's been The Year of Change (see here, here, here); goals to cross off, even including such inevitable things as moving, helps to give it a little more stability.

My mantra through it all has been CHARGE – it is a battle cry, a reminder to push forward no matter what and to find that which electrifies me in the best possible way. It is strength and power and persistence and determination. It doesn't escape me that it's only one letter different than "change", either! You can follow allow along with the hashtag #charge2014 on both Instagram (you will have to do this in the app; I can't link the tag from the website) and Twitter.

Tell me: have you made goals for this year? How are you doing? What do you need to give yourself to get 'r done?

27 June 2014

Free Workshop: Beautiful Radiant



In 2011, Connie invited me to teach a workshop in her unique, virtual gathering of artists that she calls 21 Secrets. This playground, now in its fifth year, is made up of twenty-one lessons taught by experienced artists and the hundreds of participants of all capabilities and levels who join them.

Starting today, I am releasing my workshop – Beautiful Radiant (originally called Beautiful You, Radiant You) – to the public! It consists of 6 videos, a full-color PDF for you to download, and the step-by-step instruction needed to create the page above. It is entirely free.

The original description was as follows:
"We spend a great deal of time focused on the external happenings of our lives, yet often neglect to explore our own dreams, needs, and souls. Join me in dedicating a few hours to amazing you - we'll investigate and celebrate all your one of a kind wonderfulness! Learn how to create mandalas, use symbolism, tuck away secrets, and employ other techniques to bring your unique self into your art journal pages. Step by step instruction, writing and artistic prompts, and a great dose of inspiration included!"
Interested? Head on over and have a look!

25 June 2014

Growing Pains



“How strange that the nature of life is change, yet the nature of human beings is to resist change. And how ironic that the difficult times we fear might ruin us are the very ones that can break us open and help us blossom into who we were meant to be."
- Elizabeth Lesser

Eleven days ago, I put the last of my things in a five-by-ten foot storage unit, hopped on a train with nothing but a suitcase full of clothes, and landed on the doorstep of one of my oldest friends in a big city I used to call home. I feel like a nomad. And while part of me loves the possibilities that stretch before me, there is a big part of me that is paralyzed by the enormity of change: after all, I did quit my job, say goodbye to my mama, forever leave behind a beautiful farm that has been my home for the past four years, and leap into uncertainty, all within a week.

After a particularly overwhelming day of job-hunting, I found myself at an arts supply store. My entire art supply collection is packed neatly in boxes in that storage unit, several hours away; not yet knowing where I'll be in the next months, I wanted to travel light. But on the verge of tears and with tension building in my shoulders, I felt that could either spend a night sobbing and eating Ben & Jerry's out of the container or allow myself the tools to play in my art journal for the first time in months.


I bought five tubes of paint – the primaries, black, and white –, a paint brush, glue stick, and a few Caran D'ache watersoluable pastels* that I've been eyeing for some time. Then, I created this art journal page.

The symbolism that appeared without any conscious effort on my part is both surprising and appropriate. After creating the background – which could represent the green of the farm of the home I left –, I added big blocks of black paint, a nod to the efforts of city authorities to erase graffiti by painting over it. Black represents the unknown and mourning, as well as potential and possibility (think "clean slate"), according to this site, a favorite for symbol interpretation. After adding the pink and white, my friend pointed out that the shapes on the left page create a pixelized version of the Monopoly man with a top hat and monocle; very apt, as I am unemployed and worried about finances. There are elements of travel in this spread, too.

These pages captures it all: I am mourning what has been and cautiously looking forward to whatever is to come, all the while repeating positive affirmations to bolster my spirit. I so love how art both soothes the soul and reveals it.

More soon, sweet souls.


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