Houston, EX

Late last night, I got back from a nine day visit to my hometown, Houston and birthplace Corpus Christi, Texas. Last time I visited was during the 2017 Houston Half Marathon, and so much has happened within me since. Because this was the first time visiting since I’ve felt settled here in Connecticut, I was able to feel all of the tough feelings associated with it.

I wrote this poem (my first since high school, maybe?) throughout the trip and wrapped it up before takeoff. Enjoy.

Houston, EX

I flew back
into your arms
ten-lane highways
open and wide
Then was grasped
bumper-to-bumper tight

Welcomed.

Continue reading

Create like you’re eight

Remember when I wrote about how to raise an artist? Not too long ago, my son started taking his art very seriously. He was shutting himself in his room all of the time. On weekends, when he’s able to use his computer, he was watching YouTube video after YouTube video underneath his loft bed, littering his floor with crumpled printer paper with half-done drawings, and aside from the occasional whir from his automatic pencil sharpener, there was hardly a trace of him.

On school nights, after homework, the sight was similar, but minus the screens. Door shut and increased interest on his art. This even showed up.

please knock

I respected his newfound assertion of privacy, but at the same time, I was a bit worried.

Eventually, we decided that if he was going to spend that much time watching YouTubers, he should contribute. After some encouragement from my sister, we made his first YouTube video to share the art he had been working on.

He got such a great response, and he’s kept up making the videos week after week.

I’m new to video, it’s something I’ve never experimented with before. I already have a subscription to the Adobe products on the creative cloud to edit photos, but these videos have been the first things I’ve ever used Premier Pro to create.

It’s funny, because with writing, drawing, painting, designing/decorating a room, or anything else creative, I’m so slow to finish. It can be a brief blog post, but it gets drawn out to days or weeks of labor. It can take me six months to buy the materials for a project I’ve been dreaming of making.

But with these videos, it’s different.

I’m okay with not knowing what I’m doing and with being kind of bad at editing the videos, for a change. He’s eight and I’m twenty-eight, but as creators, we’re so both so intolerant of imperfections. We have these creative ideas and want everything to look like it was when we first imagined it. He has his floor littered with drawings that missed the mark. My abandoned ideas are more hidden: half written essays, twenty-two unfinished posts in my drafts folder on wordpress, a collection of supplies from craft mishaps.

During the first video, if he was worried about mistakes, I’d just keep reminding him: “You’re eight! No one expects you to be perfect!” And as I edit them, he has to remind me the same.

If only I could take that stance for the other things I do, if I could take the pressure off and recognize that I’m not expected to do anything just right, right away. The pressure is self-imposed, but it’s been hardwired after years of good taste but not-quite-there-yet levels of skill. It’s so challenging to be a beginner and an amateur that few ever get to be where they want without giving up.

My hope, for my son, for me, and for you, if you’re afraid to start or afraid to share your work, is that you’ll do it anyway. And that when you see people proudly share their work, you’ll remember the bravery that it takes to do so. That you’ll always keep in mind that to share something created is exposing the most vulnerable parts and that it’s scary as all get out to do.

Take it from one of the greatest:

finish it

How’s he doing now?

Now that I found a way to get more involved by sharing of what he makes, he’s more open to sharing during the process. He’s not hiding in his room the same way. As you can see above, we’ve been doing weekly videos for six weeks now, without fail. It’s something we can do together, and I’m showing him how to work the programs as I’m learning.

It’s hard, because bullies from school go to his channel and ridicule him. One even insulted his artwork. While my heart is breaking, he is still confident: “Well, where’s his videos? Where’s his art?” The bravery that he exudes in the face of adversity is admirable.

Create like you’re eight

  1. Create because it’s fun. Not to be the best.
  2. Allow yourself be a beginner.
  3. Share fearlessly, so that others know it’s okay to be a beginner. Your progress will show over time.
  4. Be consistent.
  5. Notice who throws insults, and don’t take it personally.
  6. Never stop having fun!

Like his content? Subscribe to Tobias’ Channel! 

 

Where am I?

It’s been a little over four months since I deactivated my personal Facebook page and stopped posting on Instagram. Once active on the sites, it can seem strange to my friends and family. My grandmother asked if it had anything to do with what I considered minor family drama. My mother, who liked to show her coworkers the posts of mine shared by brands, couldn’t understand why I stopped sharing my photography so suddenly.

In truth, it wasn’t suddenly at all. Stepping away from those spaces is something I considered doing for years, but always had a different excuse. First, I worked in social media. I couldn’t deactivate my Facebook page or I wouldn’t be able to post for the businesses I represented. Second, how would I share my blog to a bigger audience? How would I encourage readership? Is that even possible without social media? Third, how would I stay connected to people whom this was my only method? Continue reading

One Room Challenge?! No Way!

one room challenge guest participant

In October, a local designer I befriended here in Fairfield, CT, Kate Smith, took part in Calling it Home’s One Room Challenge. It seemed like so much fun! I’m not quite a designer, but working on my house is by far one of my favorite ways to spend my time. I took note that the six week challenge happens twice a year, and decided I’d give it a go during the next time around.

Here’s the jist: it’s a six-week challenge to complete a room makeover from start to finish. Each week, you post about progress and link back. Simple enough, right?

I hope so. Hopefully I’m doing it right. Turns out, it started YESTERDAY. So, I’m late to the party. Regardless, I find that I get things done far more efficiently if I’ve got a deadline, or, as I often call it–a fire lit under me.

First thing’s first: the before!IMG_4610

Continue reading

My Creative Journey & Some Reflections

I went to Boston over the weekend. I didn’t Snapchat or take a single picture while I was there. It was my third time visiting the city, so  I didn’t do any touristy things and I won’t be making a guide to Boston. I went to visit a friend of mine and it was the kind of trip where two people are bonding with one another, with no need for rushing from one activity to the next. It was blissful.

The following post is a bit allovertheplace. It’s a scattering of the helpful things I’ve been doing, the media I’ve been consuming, and some decisions I’ve come to on my creative journey over the past year or so. It’s half-organized into the trip I took over the weekend. The metaphors are there and intentional. Maybe you’ll catch them all. Maybe not. Bear with me. I’m working on a New Year’s Resolution, after all. Continue reading

Crafting a Creative Kid: How to Raise an Artist

My eight-year-old son is the creation I am most proud of, and becoming a mom at nineteen & figuring this all out as I go along is no doubt my greatest adventure of all.

creative-kid-tobias-eli-9

When I studied writing, I learned with the rest to “write what I know.” This is why this is not, nor could it ever be a Mommy Blog. Read: I have no idea what I’m doing. Half of what I know about raising a family I learned from twentieth century sitcoms like Family Matters, Full House and The Brady Bunch. No lie.

Sometimes my husband asks, “Why do you bake him cookies for after school? That’s a dessert, not a snack.” And well, that’s why. Leave it to June Cleaver. I cringe when people tell me I’m a good mom, because it invalidates my constant negative self talk and second guessing myself. What do they know? They haven’t seen me loose my temper!

That being said, as I meet more children that are my son’s age, I find that he’s pretty darn creative. When he’s not working on his studies or doing his household chores, he’s making something, no doubt.

creative-kid-tobias-eli-3

Jamming out in the basement while making clay sculptures

Sometimes people ask me how I pull him away from video games long enough to make things and how he’s so creative. I don’t think this is something that’s hardwired, and there’s a few things that I’ve done to facilitate his  artistic attempts. Continue reading

How to Combine Two Woven Rugs into One

Before I was living more deliberately, I made many shopping decisions that weren’t all the way thought out. This rug was one of those. At Homegoods, I determined that I liked it, but couldn’t think of where I “needed” it. When I overheard another woman looking at the second (out of two) I bought it. That store has such a quick turnover, I didn’t want to miss out!

I got it home and, of course, I still didn’t have a place for it. Maybe if it was bigger? A few days later, instead of returning it, I bought the second one! It was still there! It must be luck, right?

These are the methods of thought I now know to be incongruent with my values. Even as I continue to purge excess, I still try to see where things would fit, given the right project. In this case, my upstairs hallway was the perfect length for them to run top to bottom.

diy-how-to-combine-two-woven-rugs-to-become-one-1

They moved around a lot, and I wasn’t fooling anyone. If you have two traditional carpets you’d like to attach, head over and buy some fiberglass carpet seaming tape and follow the instructions over at Ugly Duckling House. But if, like me, you have two woven rugs that won’t give the illusion of being one with some tape, Continue reading

Guitar-Shaped Chalkboard DIY

I always admired Urban Outfitters and Anthropologie window displays. They’re always so creative. So once, back in Houston, when I saw that some things they used for displays were on sale, I jumped at the opportunity. One was a painted plywood troll that’s taller than the ceilings of my current house, and the other was a raw piece of plywood shaped like a guitar.

Something like a million years later, I decided to turn it into a chalkboard for Tobias’ room. I assume you don’t have a piece of plywood shaped like a guitar hanging around the house, but you can always mimic the idea with a plain rectangle, or try your luck at advanced jigsawing.

Materials:

Tools:

Steps:

1. Prep the wood surface by filling any holes and sanding. Then, paint. I liked this color so much that I bought it before I knew what project it’d be used for.
diy-guitar-shaped-chalkboard-with-attached-chalk-4

2. Trace outer edges. I just rubbed the crayon’s side along the sides of the wood.diy-guitar-shaped-chalkboard-with-attached-chalk-2

3. Freehand draw inlay, cut out, trace onto craft plywood.diy-guitar-shaped-chalkboard-with-attached-chalk-3

4. Apply liquid nails, smooth over with a spackling knife.diy-guitar-shaped-chalkboard-with-attached-chalk-5

5. Use a vice or something heavy to keep it in place while the adhesive dries. During this time, I also planned out how the chalk would attatch to the board.diy-guitar-shaped-chalkboard-with-attached-chalk-6

6. Drill small holes for the strings.diy-guitar-shaped-chalkboard-with-attached-chalk-7

7. Use a pipe cleaner to help shove the twine through. diy-guitar-shaped-chalkboard-with-attached-chalk-8

8. I abandoned this project for several months, as I couldn’t figure out what to use so that the chalk would lay horizontal. During my craft clean up, I came across a business card holder that was left behind by our Houston real estate agent, Judy St. Julien. It was perfect! I used wood glue to adhere. diy-guitar-shaped-chalkboard-with-attached-chalk-12

9. When it came time to hang, I bought these guitar hooks and painted them black, to match my son’s room.diy-guitar-shaped-chalkboard-with-attached-chalk-9

10. All hung!diy-guitar-shaped-chalkboard-with-attached-chalk-10diy-guitar-shaped-chalkboard-with-attached-chalk-11

Tobias uses the chalkboard to make a mark every time he spends 10 minutes practicing his guitar. Once he reaches a certain amount of marks, he gets a treat! Though he’s the one who wanted to begin to learn the guitar, learning something new is tough. And it’s really tough to start new habits, practice something that you’re not quite good at yet, and stick with it. I don’t usually use incentives as a parenting technique, but once he’s in a habit it’ll be much easier (and far less painful) for him to keep going.

It looks cool and it’s practical.

7 Cheap (and FREE!) Wall Art Ideas

I mentioned in my 2017 Resolutions that I’m working toward “my version of minimalism.” What started as reading Marie Kondo’s book at the beginning of 2015 has turned into a process of weeding out all of the excess: from too many bookmarks on my browser, relationships that don’t serve me, cutting out social media accounts and slowly but surely dissipating many material items, I’m on the road to living with less.

When I say “my version” of minimalism, that means that though I subscribe to the “buy less, own less” method of thought, I have no intentions of living with the minimalist aesthetic. Minimalism to me means being surrounded by art, memorabilia from my travels, photographs, bright colors, whimsy and having a cozy, warm home while still having space in my life for experiences by the boatload.

That being said, I like to keep the things that go on my walls beautiful, useful, and inexpensive without looking like I raided a Bed Bath & Beyond sale section of generic reproduction art prints. (But if you’re into that, that’s cool, too!) The following are a few cheap and free ways I’ve added art into my home.

FREE Printables!

If you have a decent printer, downloading printable wall art is one of the cheapest ways to go about getting unique artwork for your walls. Many free printables can be found via Pinterest search. You can also find some higher quality ones for about $5 on Etsy. In my case, each printable serves a purpose. The Smart Kids Books printable from RedHillPrintables is the perfect parental propaganda to hang in my son’s room so that he can be constantly reminded of our values as a family. A sign in my mudroom advises guests to remove their shoes upon entering my home (though it rarely works), and I refer to the seasonal produce prints I have hung in my kitschy kitchen when picking out recipes to follow.

Banners

cheap-and-free-wall-art-to-decorate-apartment-26

I’m a little biased, but I think hanging year-round banners like my Roam Sweet Roam banner adds a little celebration to the every day. Make your own banner with the tutorial and printables in my archive.

Type it!

cheap-and-free-wall-art-to-decorate-apartment-23

More Parental Propaganda! When I saw a similar print from The Old Try, I knew I just had to have it for the kiddo’s room. Then I saw the price tag. After finding a similar font face and spending time on Photoshop getting it just right, I had a perfectly worthy reproduction.

Ads

cheap-and-free-wall-art-to-decorate-apartment-21

I’m leaning toward minimalism now, but I’m a recovering craft supply hoarder who had a habit of keeping random things with potential. This one worked out-a Kate Spade direct mailer that was just the right size for the logo to be out of the picture. A witty phrase above where I hang the dog leash, if I do say so myself.

Tapestries and Woven Art

You may remember my post about using a hula hoop for a grand scale weaving and how I finished it off. The flowered tapestry is one I bought from Peru, soon to be hung upstairs. Adding fabric art helps absorb some of the sounds that this old, tiny house doesn’t always muffle from room to room, and it adds cozy.

Public Records

fairfield-county-smaller

I love curating things that span many different decades (and even centuries!) as I pull together my eclectic home. This 1856 hand drawn map of Fairfield County will be soon on my living room wall,helping as I conquer all that it has to offer. I’m going to have it printed large, but with a large file of the map free on the Library of Congress website, I’ll only have to pay for printing.

Goal Reminders

I’m no lifestyle guru, but hanging my bucket list, vision board, and marked off map in my office help remind me of how far of come and keeps me focused on my goals and values. I often catch a glimpse of these items (that I put together six and two years ago) and reevaluate if I’m taking actions everyday toward my goals or just following the status quo.

There ya have it! Seven inexpensive things I’ve used to decorate my home. What are some inexpensive things you’ve done to decorate your house? Let me know in the comments!

Hiking and Ice Climbing the Catskills: Kaaterskill Falls, New York

Before we went hiking in New York on Christmas, the three of us took a different scenic day trip to The Catskills.

It was my brother-in-law, Dennis’ idea to head that way when planning their trip up here. I didn’t know much about the area, other than the name sounded awfully familiar. If you’re not from this part of the U.S. either, and it sounds familiar to you, it’s because it’s where Woodstock happened. And where Dirty Dancing took place. The area is a pretty big deal as far as pop culture goes.

A day trip there wasn’t near enough time to do all of the things that The Catskills has to offer, but we did a gorgeous hike in, and Dennis got to do a little bit of ice climbing.

winter-ny-hiking-and-ice-climbing-in-the-catskills-kaaterskill-falls-1

As the marker mentions, the area is historic as well. The Hudson River School was the first homegrown art movement in the United States and Kaaterskill Falls is one of the oldest tourist destinations in America. Continue reading