Patchwork Love

There’s a quote by author, Ray Bradbury, that has always resonated with me. “Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched, some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you’re there.”

When my mom, a gifted artist, passed away in 2013, I carried home her supplies with no expectation of when or if they might ever be used again. In my grief, it simply made me feel better to see those well-worn brushes standing at hopeful attention in her favorite coffee mug, along with boxes of paints, fabric, and canvases.

Finally picking up one of her brushes in 2016, I focused on flowers, one of her favorite subjects, as well. Suspending judgment, I simply allowed myself to see what developed, and with each piece I came to understand more deeply how every creative act we engage in holds seeds of joy, and the power to help us heal.

Fast forward to now. Like me, my favorite jeans have begun showing signs of wear. Despite being tattered and frayed, though, they’re far too comfortable to toss aside. Instead, I’ve begun reinforcing the weak spots with leftover silk scraps from my mother’s batik paintings. Odd shapes, sizes and colors, one patch even contains her signature. My stitches are mismatched and irregular, but no matter.

Ray Bradbury had it right. I smile more now while wearing these crazy patchworked jeans, just knowing the story those slivers of fabric can tell – one of comfort, connection, and honoring my mom’s beautiful spirit.

Self-Care Through Journaling

My cup runneth over with friends who have recently become authors! Well, today I’m delighted to talk with Elizabeth Miller of Happy Healthy Caregiver about her new book, “Just for You: A Daily Self Care Journal. You are going to want it!

Elizabeth, your book has such a warm and welcoming energy to it, and that polka dot cover just makes me smile. Would you share an overview of what the book is about?

I’d love to! Thank you for spotlighting my book on your blog. The Just for You: a Daily Self Care Journal blends 365 days of writing prompts with monthly ‘fun’ activity pages. Each page includes a complimenting illustration just begging to be colored. This journal encourages writers to personalize the pages by adding splashes of color and creativity. The daily lined pages allow for one or multiple years of responses – it just depends on how much the writer wants to share about the prompt.

So, it’s multi-functional! You can get in some coloring time and some writing time combined! Share some of the other goodness this book offers.

Ultimately this is a creative tool to boost and inspire the recipient to live their best life by focusing on integrating health and happiness into each day. My sincere hope is that this journal guides the writer on a journey of self-discovery while intentionally exploring the seasons of life. With that said, wouldn’t it be amazing to have a completed journal from your grandma, aunt or mother, too? What a family treasure for future generations!

Also, I love your idea of using the book in writing groups where everyone could have fun discovering and sharing the journal prompts and amplifying the importance of self-care. I hope they’d invite me to attend!

Yes, using the book’s prompts in a writing group setting was the first thing I thought of after seeing some of the questions, and what a great idea to work through the journal with an older family member to create a keepsake for everyone to enjoy.  Will you tell us a little bit about how this book came about?

I have a few books in me but this one felt like the easiest and most fun one to start writing. My overall mission through the work I do and the resources I create with Happy Healthy Caregiver is to help family caregivers integrate self-care into their busy lives. I often say that waiting for a girl’s night out or weekend away is not the self-care solution. Rather, self-care is the tiny intentional activities we do for ourselves in the nooks and crannies of our crazy days. This mindset is what I believe will truly help energize all of us physically and mentally. While the book is aligned with the work I do with family caregivers through Happy Healthy Caregiver, it’s really a book for everyone.

Wow, I love your definition of self care. “…the tiny intentional activities we do for ourselves in the nooks and crannies of our crazy days.” Can you share some of the prompts readers and writers will find in the journal? 

I had a lot of fun creating and compiling the questions. You can click here for a sneak-peek video tour of the book, and below are some additional examples of the 365 daily  prompts:

Listing the things you’re ridiculously good at is such a great question. Ok, we’re in, Elizabeth. Where can folks buy a journal for themselves or as a gift for someone they care about?

The best place to purchase is from the Happy Healthy Caregiver website. When you purchase your copies there, you receive free shipping and signed copies.

You can also hear how my guests have responded to prompts during the Caregiver Spotlight episodes of the Happy Healthy Caregiver podcast. Check out this example from a show I did with Susanne White, who cared for her mom during a four year period: https://happyhealthycaregiver.com/podcast/susanne-white/. 

How cool! Well, thanks, Elizabeth, for taking part in this interview, and for all you do as an advocate for caregivers. Now, if you’ll excuse me I’m going to hit your book and start writing!!

Plates In The Air

I’ve been doing a lot of creative work these days, and this piece came out of my deep affection and connection with caregivers, everywhere. You are the stitch that holds everything together, and I’m honored to be part of your community.

Living An Artful Life

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When someone asked my mother who or what was most dear to her, the two-fold answer was given without any hesitation. My siblings and I came first, and art was second.

Always focused on the positives in her life,  she embraced family, friends, and a variety of painting mediums, in much the same fashion – with profound appreciation and attention to the qualities that made them unique. Her signature work was all rich jewel tones and welcoming flowers, which, over time, offered a visual reflection of her personal journey as both a woman and an artist.

When she died in 2013, her supplies came home with me. It didn’t matter if, or when they might be used again. What I needed most were her well-worn paintbrushes standing at hopeful attention in a favorite coffee mug, and those boxes of brightly smudged tubes of paint.

Working through the grief, I threw myself into writing a guide book about caring for both my parents in their final years; giving workshops on the topic; and even creating a writer’s group especially for caregivers. It has been soul work for sure, but at the same time, I’ve yearned for something less end-result and more about finding joy in the process.

Just like the Zen saying, “When the student is ready, the teacher arrives,” this month I found my way to a glorious collage and painting class called Big Bold Blooms, given by Lynn Whipple, one of my favorite artists. The irony is not lost on me since I could kill a plastic plant if given enough time.

The old paints and brushes are thrilled to be needed again, and my collection of tissue paper and oil pastels are calling out, “Pick me! Pick me!”  Feeling my mom’s presence close at hand, the first piece emerges in a mix of ripe purples, greens and turquoise, with a few tiny buttons thrown in for good measure.  Is it perfect? No. Do I care? Not a bit. Discarding judgment and being open to wonder are the real goals here.

Thanks to Carla Sonheim, a private Face Book page has been created for Bloomers, as we’re known, to share our progress. The wildly diverse styles and colors are breathtaking, and so is the generosity of spirit towards sister painters, from newbies to professionals, around the globe.

Starting with the warm and wonderful Lynn, our gifted guide, everyone’s words are kind, the encouragement is enthusiastic, and for those going through difficult times, there is comfort and compassion to be found.

Every day, I become more enchanted with each creative session, and with my gracious teacher and classmates, as well.  Like my mother, they understand that living an artful life is not just about learning to paint. It’s about celebrating each other with an open heart.

Carla and Lynn’s websites: You’ll want to check them both out.

http://www.carlasonheim.com

http://www.lynnwhipple.com