Art Project for Brave Writer Retreat: God’s Palette

needle felting the layers of the heavens

needle felting the layers of the heavens

My art project for the retreat is done. I am glad…art is hard.

Our theme is “what does it mean to be good to me”. Our canvas is a quilt square. Every woman attending the retreat is expected to personally translate her definition onto a square. At some point the little works of art will be sewn together into a lovely quilt…a beautiful symphony of goodness. I am both excited and frightened to compose a part of the quilt. Experiencing the creative energy from my fellow retreatants will be enthralling. Sharing my own artistic endeavor feels vulnerable…exposed.

guac snack is required for the creative process

guac snack is required for the creative process

I really had no idea what it meant to “be good to me”. I know how to be good to my family and doing those things brings me joy. Most of my day is spent tending to the needs of my children, husband and house…I’m not very good at keeping the house up to be honest. Sometimes my husband will ask me where I would like to go if we eat out. My mind usually goes completely blank and I probably have that deer-in-the-headlights-look about me. I want everyone to be happy; it doesn’t matter where I want to eat. So, maybe you can sympathize on the difficulty of this project for me

felting lots of layers

felting lots of layers

when I cannot even figure out a restaurant I’d prefer when given the choice.

I’ve had a few months to work on the project. Once I figured out how to define the idea for myself the imagery for the project came quickly to mind.

God’s Palette

Being good to me means accepting that I am a work in progress.

He began this work, I call me from the bursting hearts of stars millions of years ago. Over time these scattered elements were 20160629_131147 (513x640)formed into my being from God’s palette of exploding suns. I am simultaneously ancient and new–a work in progress and a masterpiece–significant in my insignificance. I needn’t worry over the parts of me that feel lacking, lost to the darkness my inner daemons bring. He will love these into His canvas and I will be woven into grace for a moment. Always, I am a work in progress.

Well…that sums up what I learned from the project. Probably not what Julie the Brave Writer was looking for…

finished quilt square titled God's Palette

finished quilt square titled God’s Palette

Symbol key:

Exploding sun: creation

Gears: sacrificial love–I know that is a really weird symbol for love. My husband is a gear head (into cars) and so I associate gears with him and what it feels like to be loved by him. Gears are also created and formed for a purpose and so it made sense to form the exploding sun from a gear–a beautiful part of creation that God sacrifices to compose the elements. Two little gears are on the butterfly to represent the bringing together of the elements to create life.

Gold rays: the exploding elements, the gift of love

20160629_131404 (480x640)Butterfly: life and soul infused with love. The butterfly that I attached to the square came from a care package sent to my daughter from a very sweet friend. So the butterfly also represents acceptance and interconnectedness.

Little white stars: my four kiddos

Be Brave charm: the butterfly carries and accepts the grace of being a part of God’s palette…it takes a bit of courage to put the idea into art and words (for me anyway). It is also a nod to Julie who commissioned the work.

watercolor and ink early sketch and final piece

watercolor and ink early sketch and final piece



2016 Word

A new year full of promise, hope, new adventures, and dreams.

Not exactly…

Just more of the same-old, same-old.

I’m not one for keeping New Year’s resolutions. I’ll let the fitness hype go this year. But, now that we are getting settled in the new house I’ve returned to working out a bit. My youngest loves Wii dance games and I like to join him. I try not to think about how awkward my attempt at dancing (especially to some of the hip-hop songs) must appear. Sometimes I jump (not literally) on the treadmill and walk a bit. New songs on my iPod would be motivating…but every year it seems the learning curve for iTunes grows exponentially.

Progress in healthy eating of the slow and steady variety is coming along nicely too. Not out of desire for health though. Mostly to escape pain. So many foods (the stuff that actually tastes good!) aggravate my stomach or ignite my inflammation troubles. I quit trying during the move but time to get back to taking care of my health. The joints in my hands and wrist are so painful. I expected the pain but not the weakness or the crunchy gritting sound in my wrists. I’m back on my ginger now that all of the holiday travel is over so some of the discomfort is already starting to ease up a bit. Sadly, the strength doesn’t come back…I’ve learned that sad fact this year.

I wanted to choose a word this year. A point of focus. Originally, I had clarity or perceive in mind. But as I spent time meditating, praying, reflecting and remembering my reaction to this year’s trials…well, those chosen words were without meaning.

my childhood in a picture

my childhood in a picture

Fear beat me down this year. Fear brought on by rejection. My wee little black hole, you know, the one in my soul? The core center of my very self. (Please see my series on Made To Crave if you are interested). As this year’s events unfolded my black hole began to grow in strength. My deep sense of unworthiness threatened to overwhelm me as I felt discarded…again. I’ve broken down and cried many, many times since July. All of the fear from my abusive childhood returned. I felt like an unwanted little child all over again. Unloved and not even worthy of being loved.

I’m wise enough to know that I’ll never be rid of those feelings…not entirely. I’m blessed to be loved by an ever patient man. My husband is the warmth that keeps those old demons away. I should have been a pillar for him this year but he supported me instead. Only out of love for my husband did I not torch and burn a few bridges to lifeless ash. I am consumed with fear.

I do not want to be ruled by fear. I do not want to be that nearly lifeless child pleading to be loved.

My word is brave. My word terrifies me.

Let me be brave…


Re: Diagnostic

Hannah over at Praying With One Eye Open asked a question.

What do you need most? 

Have you asked yourself that lately?

Would your answer change if your spouse were the one asking?  A friend?  A travel agent?  Your mom?

It’s worth thinking (and maybe writing) about.

The answer might free you if you’re brave enough to tell the truth.

From the moment I sat to answer this question I’ve distracted myself with Periscope, texting my husband and completely changing my blog theme. That last one took a while ’cause I tried out a few themes. (Do you like this new theme?)

Naturally, my answer would be different based on who is doing the asking. Let’s start with an easy one. The travel agent. I just moved. Travel is the last activity I would choose to engage in at the moment. Packing a suitcase? Still haven’t finished unpacking and for that matter I haven’t the foggiest idea which box is hiding my traveling bag. If it’s even in a box. It may already be unpacked. In my mind’s eye I can see where it was kept in our former home. Everything is still like that for me. Whenever one of the kids or my husband asks for something I immediately remember the item’s location from before the move. My poor family, they get mostly blank stares from me these days when they need help finding an item. My brain is getting on in years so I have to think a moment. It is slow like a computer with too many tabs open. No travel agent for me. I’m still getting to know my home.

What do I need from a friend? That one is easy too. I’ll laugh when you laugh and cry when you cry. I’ll take you as you are and give you the freedom to grow and change. You’ll never have to hide your true face. Just do the same for me.

How about from my mother? That is a prickly one. We have a less than pleasant relationship. I try really hard to be patient and understanding but usually fail. I am uncomfortable around her. She did not protect me (or my brother) from harm. She let my father abuse me both physically and sexually. I was, at one time, sympathetic and forgiving toward her. Until I became a mother.

Once I bore my first child, I just could not comprehend her negligence. Every time I am around her the soul deep wounds just tear and bleed anew. What do I need from her? To stop! Quit telling me how to raise my kids! Quit telling me how to treat my husband because I am pretty sure he would divorce me if I took your advise! Quit putting all the blame on Dad. I was there too! And please quit putting mayonnaise on my sandwiches! I’ve never liked mayo on my sandwiches. Never, ever! Not when I was a kid and not now. The only reason I have the stuff in my refrigerator is for you. Because I know you like the stuff (yuck!) I wish you loved me enough to remember that I hate mayonnaise. I wish I hated you because then these painful emotions would just go away.

What do I need from my spouse? Nothing new. I need your arms, your warm embrace. I need to feel safe. I never felt safe or secure until you entered my life. Twenty nine years is a long time to be afraid and insecure. That is still more than half of my life dwelt in fear. Sometimes I slip back to that dark place. You always pull me back…to being loved and feeling needed. To me there is no one more beautiful or more fascinating than you. I adore you. I’m a better person and mother because of you.

So what do I need? Nothing really. I’m content with my life at the moment. I already have way more than I need.

I told my husband my writing topic tonight. His answer to the question is Oreos…no matter who is asking. Guess I better run to the store in the morning for him…I can totally provide Oreos!

Sophrosyne: Riding Shotgun

My thoughts while exercising

My thoughts while exercising

I’m stressed this week. I was stressed last week too. All because I do not like to drive. I would rather visit the dentist and get my teeth cleaned than drive. And that is saying a little something because I have sensitive teeth and haven’t been to the dentist in about nine years. Last week and the rest of this week I will spend two hours a day driving my boys to Lego camp. Three more days to go and it is over! Thankfully one of the trips my husband will drive for show-and-tell-day. And the-powers-that-be are doing construction on the interstate too…a little extra stress for me.

The really interesting part of this to me is that my husband loves to drive! He is a total car guy. I know what a Mustang motor sounds like because I married him! I love riding shotgun but hate the driver’s seat. So this week (and last) because I am in the driver’s seat I am really having a hard time with food…stress eating. Give me all your Little Debbie cakes!!! I need them to cope with my reality!!

Only three more days…and this will be over.
My two oldest boys are having a wonderful time at Lego Camp and so it is worth the personal turmoil and pain for me…that’s just a mother’s choice. Three. More. Days.

Anyway, I’ve recently started reading the All About Healthy Choices blog. He just issued a healthy “Creative Lifestyle Planning” challenge or weight loss challenge for eight weeks. I am always motivated when there is a challenge…I just love these kings of things. So I started the challenge today… in the middle of my need for Little Debbie cakes!!! HA!

Just for total transparency I did not meet all of the challenge requirements…I totally stress-ate today. And I over did it on the whole six ounces of water before and after a meal. It wasn’t until dinner that I decide to measure what six ounces of water looks like!!! I was downing about twelve ounces of water before and after every meal today!!! I had enough calories today from stress eating that I skipped dinner…I’m not hungry. But I totally nailed my water intake today!!!

Tomorrow is a new day. Tomorrow I will not stress eat! My breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks are planned for tomorrow. There are no Little Debbie cakes in my house. I am ready to deal with any stress-eating that comes my way tomorrow.

I hope!


Last week I managed to exercise five out of seven days…not so bad. The first two days I got up early and had exercised and showered before the kids were out of bed. Those were good and productive days. The rest of the week I walked in the evenings with my husband or during lunch time. I like walking with my husband. Unfortunately he thinks the walking may be aggravating his hip and is going back to using the stationary bike for a while. So back to early mornings for me…hopefully. I used to be a morning person…not sure what happened to change that. Anyway to ensure that I will get up in the mornings to get my exercise in I am gong to drink a big glass of water before going to bed…that WILL get me up and out of bed in the morning!!!

I’ve concentrated on lowering my cholesterol and have been preparing meals for my entire family based on those needs. My husband started having some problems and eventually went to the doctor and discovered his B vitamins (6 & 12 I think) are low. I need less red meat but he needs more! Some of the foods I had cut back on he actually needs. I’ve gone back to making a high fiber bread for him and a separate loaf of bread for the kids. As much as I enjoy making bread I rarely eat it anymore. I used to have toast every morning but now have either a bowl of high fiber cereal or a green smoothie. I put my husbands pre-sliced loaf of bread in the freezer so it will last him all month. Homemade bread does not have all the preservatives of store-bought and will mold very quickly. The kids still get their loaf of white bread but I have started adding chia seeds, wheat germ and bran, and ground flax-seed to their bread.

I went back and read the chapter in Ellie’s book (Life’s too Short to Eat Bad Cheese) about B vitamins today. She says B vitamins need to be consumed with vitamin C (which should be combined with iron). Oi! This stuff gets complicated! So he should have his B vitamin supplement with a salad and some steak (sounds yummy to me!). I once looked into getting a vitamin supplement for us to take but gave up. There are so many choices and different brands. Also, some articles I’ve read say that vitamins are not beneficial unless your body can digest them and taking supplements is a waste of time. I just gave up on taking any supplements. Ellie pointed out in her book that I can test vitamins by placing a tablet in a little cup of white vinegar. If it dissolves within thirty minutes then the vitamin will most likely be helpful. If it has grit on top then it isn’t worth the money. She also advises liquids and capsules as better supplement choices. I’m going to test my husband’s vitamins right after this post is published. I’ll tell the kids it is a science experiment and we’ll have some fun!

My goal for the next few weeks is to get up early and exercise since my days are so much better when I do. Prepare fish once a week for dinner and have tuna with my salad a couple of times a week for lunch. So far I have about four fish recipes my family will eat. Maybe I can find one or two more to add. I also hope to stay at exercising five days a week for now and turn that into a regular habit.


Sophrosyne: Health Report Card

A couple of weeks ago I had to submit to a semi-physical for our health insurance company. They weighed me, took measurements, and a blood sample. I’m not sure about the accuracy of the bloodwork since I got the results within fifteen minutes or so. I’ll still have to go see my doctor sometimes this summer to see if I got my cholesterol numbers low enough to avoid medication. After all the herding and prodding one of the associates took me into a little room and told me I needed to improve my weight management methods. Well, isn’t that a nice way of calling someone “fat”! She then went over my “health report card”. I pulled up my numbers from December for a comparison and was happy to see some improvements. My weight may not be moving quickly but my biometrics are slowly improving…or maybe at a normal rate. I have no idea.

My cholesterol dropped from 216 to 205mg/dL. Good, but not good enough…still too high. My LDL dropped form 132 to 123. My HDL dropped one point from 55 to 54…this number is still way too high. Triglycerides went for 140 to 137.  My blood pressure was taken twice because the technician thought the machine had messed up. She told me I had the blood pressure of a teenager at 103/75. I have no idea what those numbers mean or what it means to have the blood pressure of a teenager. They gave me a D- for my weight on the report card with a body mass index of 34.19 and waist circumference of 35”.

I walked out of the place with a health report card and total grade of B-. But I did not leave with any understanding of the meanings of these numbers or specific strategies for improvement. Seems a bit pointless to me…

Sophrosyne: Ginger for Mum

My sweet bloggy sister across the grand pond wanted to know how I take enough ginger to keep the arthritis pains at bay but not get heartburn from ginger tablets. I do not take any vitamins or pill form supplements. I’m not really opposed to vitamins and such…I just don’t like how much they cost and all the research involved to know which brands are actually useful to the body. I looked into it a few years ago and just got overwhelmed by all the conflicting information. I’ve chosen to avoid all that confusion by learning which foods contain the nutrients I need.

Learn how to process ginger here.

Ginger is an amazing little plant and for me it does wonders in battling the effects of inflammation. It takes about three weeks before I really noticed the effects. At first I added ginger to my smoothies but you need a much better machine than mine to get it blended properly. I would like to experiment juicing with it but I have to save for a juicing machine first. My family does not like the taste of ginger so I cannot cook with it. But I have found a few ways to enjoy ginger without assaulting my family’s taste buds.

Everyday I enjoy a cup of masala chai. I make a big concentrated batch on Saturday or Sunday and enjoy a nice warm cup after a hectic and busy homeschool day. I collected several recipes from online and played around with them until I found the combination I like best.

My Chai

6 cups water, four inches of ginger (peeled and sliced), 1 cinnamon stick, 1 and 1/2 teaspoon of anise seeds, ! tablespoon of peppercorns I give them a few whacks to bust them up), I/2 tablespoon ground cardamom, 1 teaspoon of coriander seeds, I sliced orange (peels and all).

I bring all of this to a boil and then simmer for about thirty minutes (I love how my kitchen smells when this is simmering) before removing from heat. One time I had a used vanilla bean pod that I had used to make extract and put it in the pot to simmer with the other spices. That was my very favorite pot of chai!

I then add 10 tea bags to the pot and just two tablespoons of sugar. Sometimes I add a bit of vanilla extract. I let the tea steep about thirty minutes or so. I then squeeze out the orange and strained the liquid. This is my tea concentrate and I keep it in the refrigerator. I plan to experiment with different teas like green or rooibos in the future.

When I want a cup of chai I bring 3/4 cup of the concentrate to boil in a small saucepan. I remove it from heat and whisk in 1/4 cup of half and half. I like to get it a little frothy. I pour it into my favorite cup and enjoy.

The last time I made it I forgot to add the sugar. I loved it without the sugar so I won’t be adding it to any future pots. I have tried some of the spice mixes available on the market but they are always too sweet for my taste or have way too much cinnamon.

Easy Ginger Salad Dressing

I’ve been trying to have a salad everyday for lunch and this is my favorite dressing.

1/2 cup olive oil, I/2 cup apple cider vinegar, 2 tablespoons of grated ginger, I clove diced garlic, a pinch of salt, and 1/8 teaspoon of black pepper. Keep it in the refrigerator and give it a good shake before using. If you like your salad dressing a bit on the sweet side then add a tablespoon or two of honey.

Crystalized Ginger Salad Dressing

One time I was out of ginger but I had some candied (or crystalized) ginger on hand. It is the same recipe as above except I diced up about a tablespoon of crystalized ginger slices. My kids thought I had lost my mind but it is tasty.

I have never made crystalized ginger since I can get it fresh for a good price from the Mennonite shop. If I decide to make it myself sometime I would use this recipe from Alton Brown.

Beef and Ginger Broth

I usually buy beef broth for this but I plan to start using steak bones to make my own beef bone broth in the crockpot.

4 cups beef broth, 2 cloves diced garlic, 2 tablespoons grated ginger, 1/2 teaspoon of chili flakes, 1/2 teaspoon of pepper, 1/4 teaspoon of salt (check to see if it even needs salt first!) Bring this to a boil and then simmer about fifteen minutes or so. I like the broth by itself but it is also good with rice noodles and any vegetables you want to throw in. If you cook the vegetables in the broth you may have to simmer it longer until the veggies are the way you like. I prepare any noodles separately and ladle the broth over top.

Those are all of my current ginger recipes. I found two more beverages on-line that look interesting: Golden Milk and Turmeric and Ginger Iced Tea. I haven’t tried them yet. I plan to make a ginger syrup next for making a ginger fizz.