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.

  • 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.

*Denotes an affiliate link.

10 June 2014

Moving On

Just one day left. One day to sort through papers and collections and clothes. One day to put my life in boxes and in storage. One more day to soak up everything that this beautiful farm is and has been, to say goodbye to pups and family and my comfort zone.

On Thursday, everything changes.

While packing, I discovered the Millennium Backstreet Boys CD that I spent a whole twenty bucks on when I was about twelve and listened to a hundred million times. (I probably still know all the lyrics.) I found notes from my very first boyfriend, transcripts from high school, a packet of British receipts from when I went on a year-long adventure there alone in 2007, and even a plane ticket from when I traveled with my family to Hawaii in 2004.

I have held onto nearly everything.

And I realized, as I smiled and reminisced and sorted these things into piles to donate or throw away, that I am not only physically releasing these things that I have kept for years and years and years; I am saying goodbye to the past –– to self-doubt, to swirling pools of depression, to completely false perceptions of who I was or had to be –– , letting go, and jumping into my future free of the burdens of years ago.

What beautiful freedom.
(But I'm keeping the CD.)

16 May 2014

In Numbers

Continuing the theme of the last two posts, this one is about numbers – specifically, important numbers that are occupying my life, my energy, and my mind. This is something that I've been trying to put together for hours and hours; I'm finding that my emotions are too tied up in these numbers, though math is one of the most objective concepts in the world.

Perhaps that's why I've chosen to do this post the way I have: I can state facts and not have to wrestle with how to ever write comprehensively or eloquently about all these huge, simultaneously-occurring changes. (It may help you contextualize if you remember that I am currently living at home.)

SIX // states
will separate me and my mama when she and my stepfather move to New Hampshire in June.

THIRTEEN // school days
until the academic year ends and I leave my position with the YMCA.

THREE // weeks
until I move in with a friend in Philadelphia.

TWO // months
until she moves away, too.

ZERO // additional plans
that I have been able to solidify (like a job and permanent housing).
I am terrified and overwhelmed and, in moments of peace, excited for the road that lies ahead. Charge, indeed. I will keep you updated, as I am able. Please keep me in your thoughts.
All my love.

05 May 2014

Half a Decade

Hey there.
It's been a while.

I am still here, alive and well, but busier than I have ever been. Big changes are coming, and preparations (and stress, and overwhelm, and excitement, and tears) are ongoing. I shall reveal it all, in time.

Last week a milestone passed: this little blog turned a five years old. Five! Time does fly.
Through all these years there have been ebbs and flows, ups and downs, bursts of creativity and periods of stagnation. As an individual I have grown and changed and learned and overcome, and My Peacetree has reflected that, too.

I have become quieter over the years, both in this space and in the chatter of my mind. The stillness of the latter is welcome, though I regret not being more present here. Perhaps when things settle down in my life I will be able to return to regular posts – but then again, who knows? I am at peace with who I am and what this space is. If you'd like to see more of me, however, you can find me on Instagram, where I share photos daily.

Please know that, no matter where I am, I love you dearly and think of you often, sweet reader. I appreciate your patience and your companionship to no end. How I wish we could spend the day together, painting, chatting, and enjoying each other's presence!

Until we meet again, dear one –
All my love,


09 April 2014

Twenty Six

On Sunday, I turned twenty six. I woke up to a beautiful, sun-drenched morning, went for a walk serenaded by birds, and did an it's-my-birthday photo session. This is becoming a yearly tradition. (And, incidentally, I don't care what others think about selfies and the people who take them).

I felt like a warrioress. I am amazed and overwhelmed and so proud of myself at how far I have come emotionally and mentally in the last years. I arrive this new birthday with ever-increasing confidence in my abilities and my worth. And those 'truths' I told myself over and over for years? Now, I actually believe them: I deserve happiness. I do not have to please everybody. It's okay to stop apologizing. I have permission to choose and chase my own dreams. I am whole and good and worthy of love.

Change has been a constant this year, and far more of it will come in the next few months. At times, it is terrifying to think of the uncertainty ahead, but in other moments, I look to the future and know that I am more than ready for and capable of meeting new challenges; I shall do so with grace, flexibility, and perseverance. I will find success and joy on the other side of fear and in the wide world that lies outside my comfort zone. (Erm.. It might be unnecessary, but I want to make clear that there are no babies on the horizon!)

Here's to a new age and a new chapter – to growth – and to adventure!

See past birthdays: Twenty Five // Twenty Four // Twenty Three // Twenty Two

16 March 2014

Let's Talk Shame, Authenticity, & Vulnerability

Bloggers have been talking about authenticity for quite a while – years, in fact. I'm late to the game. There've been discussions about personal versus public spheres, the perception of perfection, creating a "real" space or an "honest" space or a "professional" or "happy" space, conversations about filtering one's thoughts and creating a virtual persona.

I wonder, sometimes, what my readers think of me. (After all, I have only ever met one of you in person.) I wonder what kind of person I represent here – what or whom I've created, unconsciously, in this space over the past five years. I wonder if I have been true to myself, as I currently am, or who I want to be.. or perhaps they are both me, or perhaps I can never be defined in such simple terms, either online or in person.

I have for a long time felt that exposing my flaws would chase others away, whether in romantic relationships or friendships, or here.

Well, screw that.
I am who I am.

And I am making a change this year: I want to break down the walls I've built as protection, and I want the light to come streaming in.

I'm human. I get angry. I can be extremely messy. I curse. I don't do laundry as often as I should I go weeks without doing laundry. I am an impulse buyer. I don't cry often, but when I do, it's an all-day affair. I am liberal. I take medications. I have days when I do nothing more than surf Pinterest and eat popcorn.

But you know what I'm most hesitant to tell people? That I live at home.
Yes, I am nearly 26 years old and I still live with my mother. Cue all the social stigma, the late-night-show jokes, the images of stereotyped 30-year-old "losers" who have never had girlfriends.

That's me. Sort of.

But stripped of all that subjective guilt and heavy imagery weighing me down, I am a college graduate – with, yes, tens of thousands of student loan debt – who wants nothing more than to have a liveable salary and a steady job (preferably with an organization I support) and an apartment of her own. And a cat. Oh, and that le boyfriend be granted a visa so we can eliminate the "long distance" prefix of our relationship. But you know.

I guess what I'm saying is that life is sometimes really hard. We feel alone and think we're failures, or that our best just isn't good enough. We have big dreams that we keep close to our hearts because it hurts too much to hope. We come home from work exhausted, feeling unappreciated, knowing that tomorrow the same old s--- is going to happen all over again. And we dream of a vacation but just keep pressing on because what else can you do?

Oh, darling, I see you. I see you not because I know all the answers or how the journey will end, but because I am right there with you. I see how hard you try. I see you get up, bruised and bloodied, after being knocked down once again by life's unfair and unexpected blows. I understand. I know.

And I think that this is what makes us human – all the ups and downs and disappointment and pressing on anyway. I think we all struggle, even the most perfect of the perfect, from celebrities and bloggers to us normal folk. We all have awful, sucky days (or months.. or years). And we're going to get through it. Together.

So chin up, baby. Forget what others think and be who you are, because it's hard enough trying to manage normal life (taxes, relationships, jobs, etc. etc.) without trying to invent and maintain some fantasy you. We, the ordinary, are going to accomplish amazing things. Just you wait and see.

08 March 2014

Soul Conversations

Even after years of art journaling, I still create many things I don't especially like. Take this spread for example: while I like the color scheme and individual elements, the whole leaves me – I can't put my finger on it. Unsettled? Needled? Uncomfortable?

As I write this, I think back to what prompted me to create this page: I had had an argument with someone close to me, and I came to my art supplies indignant and defiant and angry. It's funny how, even unintentionally, my emotions become tangled in my creations; I am my art, and my art is me. A beautiful realization, even if the sentiment recorded in this spread is not a particularly cheerful one.

How much is your artwork partnered with your emotions? Do you ever look back at your work and see unexpected messages peering out from the pages? More and more, I find that my art journal is a place for my unconscious self to speak to my aware self, communicating things I have hidden, avoided, or turned deaf ears upon, if only I take the time to look. Slightly scary, and pretty cool.

So yes, even though this spread makes me uncomfortable in ways I can't quite articulate, I am grateful to have had the chance to empty my head and heart through intuitive painting and collage, capturing a moment in time that will represent my journey and whisper words of wisdom to my present, aware self again and again. I so love art journaling.

02 March 2014

Springtime Dreams

This has been a brute of a winter, with temperatures hovering well below freezing and so much snow that the ground has been covered for months. I try my very hardest to appreciate each and every season, knowing that each has its gifts and beauty and purpose, but my patience is wearing and I am longing for winter to pass the torch.

(I do believe that this will be the most marvelous, welcome spring yet. After all this white and cold, the life that appears from every branch, bulb, and nest will bring boundless joy and wonder.)

The forecast is calling for another significant snowfall tonight, so in quiet protest, I'd like to share some photos from last spring. Will you please join me in sending warm, gentle, sunny thoughts to the northern hemisphere?

15 February 2014

8 Myths About Art Journaling

One of the most wonderful things about art journaling – and one of the hardest to become comfortable with – is that there is no wrong way to do it. You can't screw up. Which means, too, that there are no guidelines for what is "right" or "good", and it can be difficult to find your way without any boundaries at all.

Additionally, especially while embarking into newness, we set expectations based on the results of individuals who have spent years honing their style and technique. I thought I'd address some of the myths that I have struggled with while on my own art journaling journey, in hopes of helping you to be gentle with yourself while you begin or continue with your artistic journey.

The Myths

1. You need a main focus/image.
Sometimes my pages are dominated by a central image, but usually they are not. Often, a color scheme is all I use to tie a spread together. Try creating a page that feels loose and spontaneous and purposefully vast, try creating a page with a main focus, and try creating one that has a balance – and decide for yourself what feels best for you.

2. You need text – text that is beautiful and wise and poignantly written about growth or struggle.
This is one that I struggled with for a long time. I felt like I was missing some important element of the process of art journaling by not being struck by some magnificent revelation while painting. But I have found that, for me, it is the process that is most important, and I don't have use a quote to prove (to myself or to others) how art journaling benefits me.

Alternately, if you are looking to use text in your art but don't know what to write, try a stream-of-consciousness approach: write for a set amount of time without stopping and without thinking too hard about what comes next. (For example: "Now I'm doing stream-of-consciousness but I don't really know what I'm writing and it's weird but oh well I'm trying to fill up text and here's the end of the sentence.") Most of the text in my art journal is this kind of writing!

3. You need to paint.
Scared of paint? No worries. Start with what you feel comfortable with, whether it be collage, ballpoint pen, crayon, sharpie, pencil, marker, charcoal, or something else entirely.

4. You need to draw/paint/sketch figures.
Nope. Creating realistic images takes time, patience, and passion. If you are interested in getting better, go for it! Otherwise, skip what you're not interested in (or yet not ready to attempt) and experiment with color, texture, and other abstract concepts, or use magazine or catalogue images for figures you want to include. You can also check this out if you want some tips.

5. You need expensive materials.
In art journaling, cheap is possible without sacrificing beauty. Try using items you probably already have at home or can snap up for just a few dollars: a thrifted book, watercolors and brushes from the dollar store, newspaper, crayons, magazines, tissue paper, scrap paper, glue stick, staples, masking tape, ink-jet printed text and images. And, if you want to spring for it, an acrylic paint set under $10. Crayola brand has some fantastic materials, too, many for under $5.

Using cheaper materials, incidentally, lessens the fear of wasting product and makes it easier to experiment!

6. Every page has to be "finished" before you start the next one.
One of my greatest inspirations once posted something that forever changed how I approached my art journal. I paraphrase: "If you don't like what you've created, turn the page and start again." It takes courage to stop, turn to a new page, release whatever frustration you may be feeling, and try something new. But my goodness, loves, is it so exhilarating to give yourself permission to screw up and move on!

Don't spend all your time and energy wrestling with something that isn't turning out the way you've envisioned. Put it behind you, turn the page, and start again.

7. The pages have to be done in order.
I skip around in my art journal all the time, inspired by the images that are on the pages of my thrifted books and my whimsy. Follow your instinct! Incidentally, if you are using an altered book, switching between working in the first half and the last half of the book actually helps to keep the spine more even.

8. You are a serious art journaler only if you do it every day.
This is something I still struggle with: admitting that months sometimes go by between when I pick up my brush. But you know what? Fact is, I paint when the inspiration strikes, and that means that I do not paint regularly. While I know that I love art journaling, and often I fall into a creative streak when I force myself to put color on the pages, it is important for us to be gentle with ourselves, especially when it comes to our passions.

Is there anything that you have struggled with while art journaling? What is holding you back?

13 February 2014

The Process of Union

Of late, I've been inspired by the pink/black combination showing up in artwork by Carissa Paige (here, here), Mati Rose (here, here), and iHanna (here). So, having yet another snow day (is spring here yet?!), I played and experimented with this color palette all afternoon in my Busy Day Journal.

This spread contains a variety of materials: acrylic paint, stickers, collage bits (found notes, receipts, illustrations, magazine clippings, tissue paper), rubber date stamp, washi tape from here, india ink, and white gel pen.

I had a wonderful start, gluing down this and that without too much thought, pulled along by instinct and the process of creating. It was when I started noticing the results of my work, liking the way it was all coming together, and switching to a focus on the outcome (perhaps you recognize the fear of not wanting to "mess it all up"?) that I started fumbling and growing frustrated. So I threw a bit more paint on and called it quits; personally, it is best to just walk away when I have my focus on perfection rather than enjoyment of the creative process.

I also noticed repeating symbols emerging from the pages. Union is a theme that snuck in a few times, from a fortune cookie fortune (that apparently was covered up) that said, "In union, there is strength." to a free sticker I got at a concert a few months ago. I noticed the irony, too, in having difficulty unifying the pages while they shouted "union" at me. There is a repetition of the feminine, too, from the text on the right side of the page – part of a magazine ad – to the two illustrations of women, to a bit of text that reads, "little girl".

I think, though completely unintentional, thoughts about Valentine's Day, love, romance, and marriage emerged in my artwork. This is something that I adore about art: sometimes it provides a release of intense emotion, and other times it reveals my own hidden emotions to me!

09 February 2014

Somewhere Over the Rainbow

I did this art journal spread while waiting for pages in my Sketchbook Project to dry. It was inspired by my word of the yearcharge – and the possibilities 2014 presents, much like the spread I did contemplating a new year in late 2009.

The bright rainbow that appeared surprised me, as I usually try to stick to a palette of 3 or 4 colors, but the energy and vivacity of the spread makes me happy!

I hope you'll forgive this short post; I am a bit braindead after watching about seven straight hours of Olympic coverage! More soon, sweet souls. All my love.


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