Friday, January 2, 2015

Embrace Joy

Always one to welcome a fresh start, a clean slate, a fresh page in a notebook, it is no surprise that New Years is my favorite holiday. Others may not realize this as it goes on with little outward fanfare but I love the internal shift that happens as the year rolls over, the one that has passed is reflected on and dreams for the next one are set in place.

This past year has probably been the best one yet as I grew into myself and into my role as a mother. We settled in to having all of my family back in town, new not-ever-going-to-let-them-go friendships became firmly established, our second daughter began her life on the inside just before our first celebrated two years of life on the outside, my goal of 52 projects was surpassed, we began simplifying our home in a big way and I felt more like myself than I ever have before. Maybe it is because I spent so much of my twenties doing the hard work of mucking through my past and trying to arm myself with better tools for facing the future, maybe it is just time, but while many I know feel like they lost themselves since becoming a mother, I do not feel like that at all as in many ways I am just now finding myself, or the person I have always wanted to be and I owe much of that to allowing myself to dive in to creative projects this year.

My creativity is at a high and I have made more this year than I have in so many previous ones combined and throughout that process I have begun to find the person I know is hiding underneath the one riddled with fears of not being good enough and maybe that is because looking into my daughters eyes I can now realize that I am everything to her and perfect in her eyes. She does not see the doubts over my shoulder, the crooked stitches or the uneven lines, she sees me, projects in hand, heart full and mind challenged. She doesn't care about the supposed imperfections and in her not caring I have learned to let them go myself. I use those few rare hours we are apart to fill my hands with creativity and many of those together creating alongside her, exploring with her, enjoying each other in our perfect imperfection.

She often turns to me - some random object in hand - and asks, "mama make this?" even when I had no hand in it at all and it makes my face fill with a smile each and every time. I always hoped for my one-day children to grow up in a home full of creativity even when I was not tapping into my own and I can see it happening every day as she believes we can make and do anything and with each requests for a mama-made, each question of who made what, each smile as she picks out a bit of yarn or fabric fuel is thrown on my fire and I dive in again to keep the flames alive. 

So yes, this last year was one full of creativity, something I hope and believe I will now keep alive as long as I am, but in this new year my focus will shift a bit as we welcome our next daughter into our arms. One project has already been completed with a second close behind, but there will likely be many fewer than the year we just put to rest as my intention for the coming year is simply to "embrace joy". This means allowing myself to love and embrace our now calmer home, saying "yes" to our moon walks even when I am not dressed for them, holding my husband and my daughters close and coming to know them even more fully, letting the worries and doubts slip away and reflecting with gratitude every day.

This last year was a wonderful one, but at many times it was more full of more stress than I could handle in our home and still feel truly happy and like I was being the person I wanted to be. Things have changed now, my stress level and general mood are so drastically different now that I would barely believe it if I weren't living it and though the heartache is still here and this past month will haunt me for an amount of time I cannot know, I am free now. I am free to squeeze joy from everything that comes my way and truly embrace joy as we journey into 2015. 


Monday, December 22, 2014

Allowing the cobwebs to be brushed aside can be intolerable when such heartache and sadness are on the other side, but one thing a life of rocky paths has taught me is that working through the pain is the only way to the joy on the other side, joy I only discovered in the span of my twenties as I did the hard work of bearing my soul and allowing it to be nurtured a bit by the hands of others. That same soul is aching at this time with the loss of a companion, of a dog who came into my life in my twentieth year and nearly saw me through to my thirtieth, the one who was there as I hit rock bottom and found my way out again, the one who was by my side as I said goodbye to my grandma, to my father, to the only place that ever felt like home. She was there as I allowed my heart to love and as I welcomed my sunshine of a daughter into my life. And now she is gone, forever. My heart is broken, the guilt and the pain are impossible yet very real and in ways that only those have lived it would understand a huge weight has been lifted. For the first time in nearly ten years I am allowed to breathe fully again - or at least will be if this knot ever untangles from my chest.

Life with her by my side was not easy and not only because of circumstances I was faced with but due to the circumstances of who she was, due to a part of her that I could not reach my own hands in and nurture into a joyful place of its own. By her first year her bite record was higher than would have been tolerated had those bites been reported. Despite the months of puppy and dog classes we attended I could not get through to her on the level needed to build the life together I had dreamed of. Rather than graduating class with a picture and a smile I left with guilt and embarrassment at her leaving the trainers hand bloody. We quickly had to stop visiting dog parks as it became too dangerous, too much of a liability. I had to switch vets after she sent a tech to the emergency room. A neighbor was bit in the face but took the blame as so many others did. There's also the story my mom likes to recall of her standing on a stump in the backyard as Lilly ran circles and repeatedly lunged at her, something we laughed off as puppy play at the time, but soon realized was a sign of something more. My own body was often left bruised and battered in those early days, in ways nobody would allow from another human, but that I felt was my responsibility to work through and fix with her. I made excuses and explained off the behavior. 

For nearly ten years I carried the burden and each year our box shrank down in size, our lives grew smaller and smaller while they should have been blossoming. With every bite or confrontation we took more precautions, we hired an in-home trainer, we took a class for aggressive dogs that was cancelled after the first night, we felt hopeless and desperate and I often begged from the deepest parts of my soul for something to change, for some kind of relief from living under the constant stress and increasingly unsustainable lifestyle we had made our way into. E has been left with physical scars he will always carry, Jasper's ears are altered from her very teeth, Leroy's face has been stitched back together after an emergency vet visit a few seasons ago to fix the cheek ripped from his face, we all have scarred hearts from living this life and all it entails for so long and for having to go through what we have to try to make our way to the joy on the other side. For what options we were left with if we wanted to stop the list of those who have been harmed in her path, to protect our family, our neighbors, our friends. We made the impossible choice, the only one left and the one I feel so misunderstood on by anyone who hasn't lived this life, the choice I never thought I could make, but the one I myself had to decide on after too many close calls with a hand much smaller than mine, mine that was once left numb for days after repetitive bites as a grown adult when loading up into the car after an otherwise fun day at the park. 

The gates were no longer enough, the constant shuffling in order to keep everyone safe. My health was suffering, my other animals were left neglected as all of my energy went to simply keeping everyone out of harms way, my family was under a constant level of stress I wouldn't wish on anyone. And yet we endured. We pushed through it and managed the best we knew how until we couldn't, until the bared teeth and rolled gums finally found their way into my mind rather than my heart and I made the hardest decision of my life, the one to say goodbye. To release her from the constant stress and anxiety, to allow our other animals to stop living in fear, to protect our family from anymore undeserved pain and suffering. It still all feels like a dream, like something as impossible as it was. 

Visitors to our home now delight in finally having a chance to meet our dogs, they ask if we enjoy having the gates down, having our lives opened up, not living under so much stress, but those questions are impossible to answer as all I feel now is a level of guilt and pain I have never felt in my life. At having said goodbye nearly two weeks ago tomorrow the tears have subsided a bit, but each time I walk past her ashes on my dresser my eyes well with them and I lose my ability to breathe. Nearly half my life has passed since I have eaten meat, I used to work at a no-kill shelter, I live a life in which I do my best to reduce harm to animals...and yet, here we are. I made this impossible choice. All I can hope is that others would understand how extreme the situation must have been for me to make this choice, how unsustainable. I wish there really were those magical farms where troubled dogs could run free, where I knew she would be loved and cared for until the end, but if our years of searching and begging have taught me anything it is that this was our reality. There was no magic answer, nobody who would come in and save the day. We had knocked on all doors and we had exhausted all resources, all we were left with was the hard reality, the fact that as her body lay still and the tears ran down my face, that was the first time in nearly nine years that I was able to bend down and kiss her without fear. 

So now we move forward. We all try to heal. We journey into the woods with Jasper by our sides to try to find our way to the lifestyle we can only imagine. We take down the gates. Our daughter can explore her home and yard freely for the first time in her life. We can welcome another daughter into our arms without fear of the other one being harmed when the balls are inevitably dropped and a gate is left unlatched, a door left open, a piece of food left on the floor. The anxiety can fade away. We can open our door and all flow in and out of the garden. We fill our other pets stocking with toys they haven't had the pleasure of playing with for years. We can shower them with love and affection. We are no longer living in a dangerous environment, we are now living in a home - I fear it will take me much longer than I would hope to enjoy that reality. For now there is so much sadness where I can only hope the joy will one day be. 


To anyone else who may be experiencing this, my husband found this post and reading through the comments filled with stories provided me with a lot of what I needed at the time. Maybe it will help you in some little way too.

Friday, November 28, 2014

A Year of Projects: Projects 34, 35, 36 & 37

This year I am to complete 52 projects - here are some of them:

Project 34: A tiny In Threes to have ready for our February girl (still in need of blocking as is almost everything I post). I absolutely love this simple pattern and wish I had the resources and time to make one for every girl I know. All the nieces received one for last years Christmas and I guess I will be set for our second daughter as I can continue to hand down those that Isadora outgrows and I make her larger ones. Definitely check out the pattern if you haven't - it's one of those that is very rewarding to make but comes together really quickly and easily...this is the seventh one I have made!

Project 35: Another Sally Dress for Isadora. We were walking through the fabric store picking out yardage for a few projects and I had a really pretty blue printed fabric chosen for her next dress. Showing it to her and telling her what it was for she insisted I put it back and that she wanted something orange and then continued on to pick out the fabric for this project. She knows what she wants and she was smart in her choosing - this one is perfect for fall and will be a great choice to dress up in for Thanksgiving.

Project 36: A hat for one of Isadora's friends. She has a lot of pals and a lot of party invites - keeps this mama busy, but I love every single one of the kiddos I have made one for so it is work I am happy to do and I love teaching her from an early age the joy of gifting handmade presents.

Project 37: A hat for a niece. This hat went to one of our nieces who is just a month younger than Isadora. Apparently she loves it and doesn't ever want to take it off. That's the kind of thing I like to hear!

I am closing in on 52 but still crafting away and hoping this momentum continues once my goal is met. I know next year things will slow down creatively as we adjust to being a family of four, but I do believe I will continue to make more than I ever did before after having challenged myself this year.  For so long the lists and piles of supplies accumulated with high hopes, but I held myself back from really diving in - I am so glad to have moved on from that part of life as being creative makes me feel so much more like the person I want to be. What do you find fuels your creativity?


Sunday, November 23, 2014

A Year of Projects: Project 30, 31, 32 & 33

This year I am to complete 52 projects - here are some of them: 

Project 30: Another birthday hat for one of Isadora's friends.

Project 31: A wall of happiness for our living room. I collected thrifted frames for a long time before painting them all with craft paint and E covering them with a coat of clear sealer. There is plenty of room for this wall to grow as our family does...I just have to keep an eye out for more frames. These kinds of projects are slow going as we have to keep it affordable by buying used and refreshing, but they pay off is worth the wait.

Project 32: Felt Ravioli with Marinara. One of Isadora's (and our) closest friends was celebrating her birthday and since I knew they were trying to gather some play kitchen goodies I decided to make her these raviolis with marinara sauce. Their family owns a restaurant that serves such delights so it felt especially fitting. Oh, and I made a second set for Isadora's kitchen of course!

Project 33: A Hat for Me because I was in between things and always need something on the needles. I think it was this hat but it doesn't do that beautiful pattern justice! Not one I wear very often and I'll probably end up passing it along, but I'm always glad to have a project to work on and someone can definitely use it to keep their noggin warm! 

I have just completed project 48 and am working on a couple more today in hopes of having all holiday gifts completed and packaged before November's end. At that point we will turn toward crafting for our gal and having fun as a family...we have a chocolate factory tour planned for a few weekends from now to delight our sweetest girl. She was gifted a Curious George collection for her birthday and her favorite of those is Curious George Goes to the Chocolate Factory. I can't wait to let her visit one herself and make that story come to life - just not sure we will see any curious monkeys on our journey, but I guess you never know!


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

A Year of Projects: Projects 27, 28 & 29

This year I am to complete 52 projects - here are some of them: 

Project 27: Honeycomb Shelves for Isadora's Room. I had been wanting something to fill the wall above Isadora's dresser and also some shelving to display her treasures, so I sent the idea for honeycomb shelves E's way and he liked the idea as well and put it into action. We chose this tutorial to follow and are so pleased with the outcome. I know things will be constantly shifting and changing up there as our Isadora changes and grows herself and I look forward to seeing the shelves, their contents and our little girl transforming over time.

Project 28: A Birthday Hat for Amelie. This one is for one of Isadora's best friends, a girl who looks great in red.

Project 29: A Birthday Dress for Isadora. A week before Isadora's birthday I was really itching to find her a dress with birds on it for her bird birthday party and then a link to a sale on The Sally Dress pattern  popped up in my instagram feed, inspiring me to purchase the pattern, run to the fabric store and get to work. I am a very inexperienced sewer and found myself a bit frustrated at times with my inexperience, but I love how the dress turned out, Isadora loves the dress (especially the big pockets) and I love continuing to grow in my skill-set, even when it leaves me frustrated...maybe that's when I'm learning the most.

This years goal has really pushed me to try new things, to dive in to the projects I have been wanting to accomplish for years and to not worry about everything being perfect. Sometimes things don't work out the first time, sometimes they are wonderful and quick, and other times there might be a few tears of confusion, but it has all been such an incredible challenge and experience for me, especially in letting go of perfectionism and in pushing myself to try new things. Have you ever felt that your creative journey has helped you to grow?