Thursday, June 25, 2015

On encouraging creativity in your husband (or wife)

A Mother's Day treat to myself: new art supplies!

I have been feeling the pull (the very need, it seems) towards creative outlets for over a year now. I am creeping slowly towards more actual writing, reading encouraging books and blogs about creativity, and dreaming a little bigger.

I've always been creative.  I loved dramatic play and the arty extracurriculars as a kid.  I really loved the old, light blue typewriter I had as an older elementary student.  It was delightful hearing the click-clack of the keys as I typed.  Naming my characters was very nearly the best part of writing.

I lost sight of some of that creativity as I got older, figuring things out, being angsty in my twenties. (Wink.) Motherhood in my thirties, with all its beautiful, messy glory, has helped zero back in on what energizes me.

My husband is an artist.  He is trained in fine art and graphic design but seems to enjoy digital art and making costumes the most lately.  (Did you know people sculpt amazing costume pieces out of EVA foam?) He also sings really well.

We met at a community theater.  He was the main Nazi in Cabaret.  I was a Cabaret Patron, a fancy title for extra.  It has been easier for him to stay involved in theater as our children were born, and I have been okay with that thus far.

Nowadays, I'm at home, facilitating our homeschool and volunteering at church, and my husband works in design.

Lately, we've been having an ongoing discussion about how to encourage each other creatively.  We ask questions like this:

  • Could I get away to write once a week?
  • Should I blog more?
  • Shouldn't our next house have an art studio for you and an office for me?
  • What are our long-term creative goals?
  • What could we be doing every day to reach those?
  • How can we make sure we talk about this regularly?  (I think this might involve an early Friday evening happy hour and a snack.)
  • How can we make more time for you to work on costume pieces?
  • How can we meet our family's growing needs (and some wants) while leaving room for creative outlets?  
  • How can we observe and gently encourage our kids' emerging talents?
  • How can we discern for and allow the Holy Spirit to breathe life into our pursuits?  
  • Could we work on something together?

Considering these possibilities has been invigorating and exciting.  I am curious what other couples do to encourage each other creatively, in a large and everyday sense.  Big dreams and practicalities.  Share in the comments, if you'd like!

Monday, June 15, 2015

What I've been reading (June 2015)

I've been reading a lot this month, but it's been pretty light reading with small, quick doses of one fine literature selection.

You might remember this huge stack on my dresser from last month.  I've been working my way through it.  First up was:

Shopaholic to the Stars by Sophie Kinsella.  I've giggled, chuckled, and been thoroughly amused by her other books, and I was excited to read this latest installment of Becky Bloomwood's adventures in shopping. (But why? I don't even like shopping that much.)  Except there wasn't a whole lot of shopping in this one.  I like to read what Becky puts together.  The focus was mostly on Tarquin and Suze (Suz-ee or Sooz, you think?) and Becky working a celebrity angle.  I finished it but didn't enjoy it as much as the others.  I was surprised by the ending, too.  It seemed like a ploy or trick. Next, I tried to read:

Dragonfly in Amber (Outlander #2) by Diana Gabaldon, but I abandoned it a little ways in.  I abandoned it in a "I'll likely come back to this but am just not in the mood for it right now" kind of way.  Not being able to pronounce words, places, and names drives me a little batty.  (Why didn't I look up how to pronounce Sassenach sooner?)  All of the French names were getting to me.  I enjoyed the beginning of the book (wow, a complete turnaround from the end of the first in this series!), but then, I decided that it was too much for right now.  I also abandoned the new Brooke Shields memoir about her mom a few pages in.  Then, I moved onto the fun...

Pies and Prejudice (The Mother-Daughter Book Club, #4) by Heather Vogel Frederick.  These books are too fun to read.  The author went all out for the ending of this one.  I guess you have to when your book is inspired by Pride and Prejudice!  There's a big dose of all things English, if that's your cup of tea.

I also read another Liane Moriarty book this month.  The Husband's Secret had a secret I just couldn't buy into, but I kept reading it because I wanted to see what happened with another plot in the story.  Moriarty can pull her reader in with a great narrative voice, but so much of this book wasn't believable.  The epilogue plain ticked me off.  Too much cheese.  To date, Big Little Lies is my favorite of this author's books.

Instead of grabbing another book off of my precarious stack, I found myself floating over to the Mother-Daughter Book Club books at my next fairly unnecessary library trip.  Home for the Holidays (book #5) made its way home with me and was quickly finished.  For being Becca's story, there wasn't much focus on her and her family's situation.  Still, I'm glad I read it, for now I want to read the Betsy-Tacy series, which Nancy at Reading Catholic often mentions!  They sound like books that I would love but never discovered as a kid.

Next to last this month was Austin Kleon's new Show Your Work!: 10 Ten Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered.  A very nice follow up to Steal Like an Artist (one of my top 5 favorites I read last year), this book is another shot in the arm for creatives.  I bought new art supplies and a Moleskin because of him.

Finally, I read Rainbow Rowell's Landline, which showcases her talent of writing dialogue.  She's like Moriarty in that her narrative voice is very strong.  The magical plot device almost made me ditch the book, but I really like her novels and wanted to see it through.  The main character's husband, Neal, seemed underdeveloped.  What was I supposed to learn about him?  I felt like he was supposed to gain some insight by the end, but it never really happened.  And why did Georgie love him so much?  What was their connection?  Much of this book didn't feel fully realized, but I'm glad I read it.  My favorite Rowell book is still Eleanor & Park, followed by Fangirl, and this is a distant third.

I also reached a milestone in my classic literature selection this month.  I hit 200 (out of 600+) digital pages on my Kindle app.  Whoo-hoo!  I think I can, I think I can......if I finish, I'll let myself watch the movie (again)!  I should be done by now, but I kept (keep!) picking up other books and sabotaging myself.

Tell me what you're reading in the comments.  Linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy's Quick Lit, as usual.  Click over there for more what-have-you-been-reading fun.

Friday, May 15, 2015

End-of-the-year homeschool thoughts

Halfway done with the month and still haven't crowned Mary

More than one person has asked lately when school is over for my family.  Quite oddly, the question caught me off guard.

I did not have an answer.

Last year, I had an almost five-month-old this time of year and just up and quit at the end of May. I hadn't planned on when to end our school year, and I finally realized I could.  If I remember right, I might have hoped to school a bit through the summer, in a reduced capacity (e.g. math games, reading, handwriting).  Instead, I let go.  (Good call.)

But then we just stopped.  Full stop.  It helped that it was husband's birthday and Memorial Day Weekend.  The time period certainly encouraged me.  It was a good time to stop.

A particularly long game of Corners
This year, I could do the same and might very well still.

However, I would like to finish two things:

1) listening to and doing the map work for Story of the World, Volume One, the Ancient World. We also enjoy interlibrary loaning lots of the literature suggestions in the companion activity guide; so, we might go ahead and do that, too.

2) Right Start Math Level B.  We are approximately ten lessons from the end.

So, maybe we'll stop when that's all done.  Sounds pretty good.

Are you about done with the homeschool year? Do you have a favorite date you like to end on?  Or are you like me and want to complete something first?  Tell me in the comments!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

What I've been reading (May 2015)

Real-life dresser stack waiting to fall over

It's the fun time of the month again: time to share what I've been reading with the Modern Mrs. Darcy Quick Lit linkup!  

I had brought home a big stack from the library a while ago, and I just couldn't gain traction with some of the titles.  I'll share what I abandoned farther below, but here's what got shaken out of the stack:

When I Was Puerto Rican by Esmeralda Santiago.  I've been on a memoir kick since my college days when my sociology professor had us write our autobiographies.  She introduced some of us to titles that would help us realize our projects more vividly and illuminate lives different from our own.  This book made me think of her and our projects.  I appreciated the candid look into big family life in rural Puerto Rico.  Santiago's mother continues to stand out to me as quite the figure: just busting tail to support her family, keep her kids safe, and encourage them to make better lives for themselves.  The book's summary in various places online made references to her journey to Harvard; so, I kept waiting for the narrative to speed up.  Eventually, I realized this is a series of memoirs, and this first book in the series only takes you to her high school years.

Dear Pen Pal, the next book in The Mother-Daughter Book Club Series by Heather Vogel Frederick, affectionately imitates Jean Webster books, especially Daddy Long-Legs.  I needed something easy and breezy, and this book-themed book provided a nice break.  That being said, I couldn't shake an adolescent lit professor's comments about Daddy Long Legs being kind of creepy from my mind because of who Judy's benefactor turns out to be and what that means for the story.  I should read Daddy Long Legs again with a critical eye for I can't remember much about it except its epistolary format and that I liked it well enough.  A bonus about the Mother-Daughter series?  The Concord setting is fun and pleasant.  I've been to Boston a couple of times but never Concord.  I'd love to visit!

Besides these two books, I've also been moving through the last Well-Read Mom selection for the year at a respectable pace, but you probably won't hear about that until July.  Reading an electronic version of that book is undoubtedly helping me not be overwhelmed by its heft, though I don't enjoy staring at the smartphone that long.  I also thumbed through Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey for some interesting factoids about the various schedules and routines of famous creatives.

This month, I abandoned:

Astonish Me by Maggie Shipstead because the storyline just wasn't grabbing me after a chapter or so, as well as

The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert despite its killer description and title, and finally,

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley.  I read it in high school but wanted to read it again.  I had to let it go after a while.  I needed a lighter read that the book couldn't provide.  I will return to it eventually.

What have you been reading?

P.S.  Read more bookish posts!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

What I've been reading (Quick Lit - April 2015)

Happy Easter, friends!  And welcome to another month rounding up what I've been reading and when I link up with the lovely Anne Bogel over at Modern Mrs. Darcy.  Some great reads this month!

Scary Close by Donald Miller.    This is full of short essays revolving around searching and taking the risk for true intimacy.  I appreciated Miller's honesty, insight, and how he sought out the advice of men he respected.

Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin.  I've really grown to enjoy Rubin's writing, and once I started my pre-ordered copy, I went right through, except for the part where I stopped and shouted with glee. Rubin (I really want to call her Gretchen since I'm so familiar with her work) conceptualized a nice framework to elucidate those notions about habits that you've sorta kinda noticed but hadn't fully sank in yet.  I imagine I will be writing more about this book.

Geekpriest: Confessions of a New Media Pioneer by Fr. Roderick Vonhogen (with the umlaut over the second o, I have to figure this out, will update).  It was so fun to read about the life of this priest after years of hearing about his podcast from my husband.  If you like new media, Hobbits, Star Wars, Harry Potter, Catholicism, and memoir, this book is for you.  If you like only one of those things, this book is still for you.  Fr. Roderick's winning personality comes shining through this book. Check it out.

What have you read lately?  Any of these?

Thursday, April 9, 2015

The day I realized I am in a Gretchen Rubin book.

I'm in here!

Yes, readers, you read that correctly!

I am in a Gretchen Rubin book.

I was merrily scooting along in her newest book, Better Than Before, when I let out a whoop during the transfer from page 196 to page 197.

"I'm in Gretchen Rubin's book!  Oh, my goodness!  I'm in the book!"

But wait, I thought.  I can't be sure.  Maybe someone else failed to continue her rosary habit after Lent and commented on Gretchen's blog about it.  I looked myself up on Disqus (and I usually kind of dislike how transparent Disqus makes all your comments) and followed it to Gretchen's blog post on the finish line and how it affects a new habit.

There I was!  I was right!  Edited for the book, but there I was.

I scooped up my laptop and book and ran to my husband to show him.  He smiled, congratulated me, and perhaps wondered if I was a loon.

What a thrill.  

Gretchen's so fun.  I love reading and talking about all the things she writes about in her Happiness books and, now, her newest book.  She's great at interacting with fans on social media and on her blog, which I enjoy.

Sadly, my inclusion in the book recounts a failed attempt at keeping up a daily rosary habit a few Lents ago.  I hit the finish line and dropped the habit.  Womp, womp.

Now, my husband, on the other hand, he set the same goal for Lent one year and kept it up.  And do you want to know why?  He attached praying the rosary to his car ride to and from work.  He gets two or three decades in on the way and the other decades on the way home.  Sometimes, he walks into the house still praying to himself.  (I like that- the kids get to see him in action.)  He laments not praying the rosary on the weekends, and we have talked about how he doesn't do it because it's not attached to anything else.

I did not attach the rosary to anything during my Lent.  I just white-knuckled it through, forcing myself to pray.

I've finished Better Than Before now, and I just loved it.  I'm going to go through it again and do some freewriting to her questions that help us know ourselves.  I'm sure the book will come up again here.

Until then, I am just enjoying this little thrill.

Have you read Better Than Before?  I recommend it!  Any new insights on a particular habit of yours?  

Sunday, March 15, 2015

What I've Been Reading (Quick Lit - March 2015)

I've only read one book this month, and I've nibbled at others.  I restrained myself from reading books I really wanted to dig into because I was trying to read my Well-Read Mom selection for this month: The Betrothed by Alessandro Mazoni.  But then sickness invaded the house, and I am abandoning The Betrothed for now.  Instead, I will order the next WRM selection and institute a schedule of "read some of this, get to read some of that."  Hopefully, this will allow for some recreational reading in addition to the usually tougher books prescribed in WRM.

Before I started The Betrothed, I read one book after vacation.  It was:

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett (paperback, library) - I was a bit disappointed in this book after reading all the good reviews.  I mean, I enjoyed it.  I did.  But I think the ending spoiled reading it for me. I didn't buy into the ending at all (the very end, if that makes sense to those who have read it).  I didn't really buy into one of the main relationships in the story either, which I realized a moment ago.  But the writing was lovely; Patchett has an observant eye.  I even took two book pictures with my phone to capture two passages!  I thought my favorite character was Mr. Hosokawa, but truly, I was most touched by the Frenchman with the scarf.  

Have you read Bel Canto?  What have you read lately? Linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy's Quick Lit linkup! Check it out for book reviews and recommendations.