Thursday, March 28, 2013

favorite thing of the week



My parents are visiting us from St. Louis this week and next, and since they arrived it seems like we've been running all over town nonstop.  I haven't had a lot of time to write, much less focus on a favorite thing of the week, but really, it doesn't matter.  THIS is my favorite thing of the week:  being with family, seeing friends, enjoying Los Angeles, and most of all, watching my little girls twirl and laugh amid the landmarks of their city.  Case in point:  Evie at the Getty Center yesterday.  My heart could burst over these photos.  She twirled until she fell over giggling, then twirled some more, and more and more.  She made her sister join her, and they both twirled until they both fell over in a sea of happy.  This is my favorite thing of the week.






























Tuesday, March 26, 2013

New print available - The Little Mermaid (Sea & Sky)



Hello, friends!  I am very happy to present the first print in my new Fairy Tale series, available now in my Etsy shop.  Meet The Little Mermaid (Sea & Sky).  I hope you like her.  She wants to be out of the water to see what she believes is a magical land out of the sea, not realizing that she has the magic within her already.  She is a dreamer, and she makes her world beautiful.



Prints are available here!



Also, don't forget that I offer custom drawings of homes and beloved places, also in my Etsy shop.  Parents and grandparents seem to appreciate these drawings most of all.  I've had the privilege of drawing new homes, childhood homes, and the homes of great-grandmothers based on seventy-year-old photographs.  So far all of the drawings have been very well received - I have had lovely responses from each of my customers.  Now, I know that Mother's Day might seem like a long way off, but a custom drawing takes several weeks to create and ship, so order now to reserve your spot!




Thank you so much for all of your support!

melanie















Monday, March 25, 2013

the best



Today is a good day by default.  Not just because the weather is gorgeous and sunny-blue springshine, not just because we have the girls home for spring break, and not just because my parents will be arriving in less than half an hour for a nine day visit.  Today is a good day because it's this guy's birthday.

I love him to pieces.

Happy birthday, baby.



I hope you are as happy as I am, today.













**** Thank you all for your attention to my friend Andi Cumbo's book launch last week.  Kimberley, you've won a free copy of God's Whisper Manifesto.  Shoot me your email address and I will get it to you right away!****

Thursday, March 21, 2013

God's Whisper Manifesto - book launch




Spoiler!  Giveaway at the end of this post! 

It seems like I should have, must have, met Andi Cumbo at some point during my college career.  My circle of friends at that time was largely comprised of writers ("English majors" we called them then, but I know better now) and I can't imagine I didn't meet every member of their department at some point or another.  But my memory is so terrible, and somehow I didn't really become familiar with Andi until a couple of years ago when our mutual friend, Jon, sent me a note to follow her on Facebook because "she's always mentioning that band you like."  Well, I think I've only caught her mentioning that band just once or twice, Jon.  However, it was excellent advice all the same, so I forgive you for it.  Getting to know Andi has proven to be one of the more adamant pros in my ever-growing Facebook Pro/Con Tally.  She writes almost daily, with her humanity and honesty in constant view, ever aiming to be better, ever encouraging peace and grace, and always making every effort to be fully present in this life with all its labors, loves, and simple pleasures.  She is a continual encouragement.

Today is the launch day for Andi's book God's Whisper Manifesto: The Makings of a Dream, and I am happy to be a part of it.  It is a very quick read, but one that provokes a seed of thought which will stick in your mind until you pay full attention to it, to your benefit.  In the book, Andi writes in complete sincerity with all her hopes on the table for God's Whisper Farm, her new home as well as a place of retreat and inspiration for anyone who is interested in such qualities.  While her words in this book outline her intentions for this singular place, those words also speak to a place we all dream to know:  a place of rest and honest work, of open air and cozy comfort, of community and solitude, of respect and laughter, of inward contemplation and outward consideration.

In reading this manifesto one also gets to partake in a beautiful dream coming to life at this very moment.  In God's Whisper Manifesto, we catch Andi in active progress of building up her farm into the haven she has so thoughtfully detailed, and proceeds from the book sales go straight to that cause.  What a privilege - the chance to be part of God's Whisper Farm in any way.


God's Whisper Manifesto is available on Amazon Kindle for only $4.99, and I hope you will check it out.  Andi can also be found at her website where in addition to writing she offers a wide variety of online writing classes.

FOR A FREE COPY OF ANDI'S BOOK just leave a comment below with your name by midnight tonight (3/21/13) PST!  Andi would love to hear your answer to What makes you feel most at home?  Winner will be selected randomly, and you MUST check back here by Monday 3/25 to see if you've won, so I can contact you.  Good luck!


**In full disclosure, I was happy to provide the cover design for God's Whisper Manifesto, however, I am receiving no compensation from the sales of this book or from this promotion.  I just like Andi, and her book, and think you would like them both, too.**










Wednesday, March 20, 2013

favorite thing of the week




Yes, my favorite thing of the week is another song, and this time it isn't even a new song.  It's true, though, this IS my favorite thing of the week: Arcade Fire's Sprawl II, remixed by Damian Taylor & Arcade Fire.  I'm addicted.  So there.  I cannot, however, recommend the video, and I'm sorry about that, but it made me want to give everyone in it a Xanax and the number for my chiropractor.  Instead, I recommend pressing play and then switching back over to your email or your facebook or that presentation you're supposed to have finished by one o'clock this afternoon.  I promise this song will make it all feel better.

















Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Jeannie & Eric - interior



When I first moved to Los Angeles I lived in this house rent-free for a solid year thanks to our (now) very dear friends Jeannie and Eric.  They barely knew me at all when they invited me to stay - I was just a kid about to graduate college with no idea what to do next, a student of one of their grad school buddies - and I don't think any of us imagined I'd live with them for so long, or that one day Eric would be standing on a beach in Malibu officiating my wedding.  I'll never be able to pay them back for everything they did for me that first year in Los Angeles, or in the ten years since.  But I do try to offset the expense by helping them choose paint colors now and then, or holding Jeannie's coffee while she shops, or texting her classy photos of camo-lingerie or unintended visual double-entendres on children's board game boxes whenever I come across them.  And I think she appreciates the effort.

I took this photo a couple of weeks ago on one of those days when I ditched my to-do list in favor of visiting real live people.  Life had been building up to that suffocation point, again, and hanging out with Jeannie was like rolling down the window of a baking hot car and letting the sea breeze in.  For me, this photo is an almost perfect depiction of what I feel when I'm with them:  calm, open, solid, light, and a bit like home.  I know Jeannie doesn't always think her house is offering all of those things, but it always does for me.






Monday, March 18, 2013

Easter preview



The mornings have been gray and foggy here and we are scheduled for rain later in the week, but daffodil buds are on sale at Trader Joe's and my parents will be here next week for Easter.  Easter!  Two weeks from yesterday!  Honest-to-goodness it's true.

Since my parents are coming and Easter is my mama's favorite holiday (and since I'm pretty sure I'm running out of years to get away with such things) I let the girls choose poofy Easter dresses from Tarjay, and even bought them hats and gloves for the first time.  All out, baby.  (And all on sale.)  Needless to say, the girls are ecstatic about poofy dresses and Easter and Grandma and Grandpa and chocolate bunnies and egg hunting, so when I popped the dresses on them for the first time it was almost all I could do to get them off again before bed.  Evie, poor kid, wanted to cuddle with her dress while she slept that night.  So, no danger of raising tomboys here.  I would have loved a girl who preferred baseball jerseys and Batman cartoons.  But for now, this will do:









Sunnier days are coming, I promise.









Friday, March 15, 2013

favorite thing of the week




Happy Friday, kids!  First, thank you all for so many encouraging notes and messages regarding yesterday's post.  I LOVE hearing back from you, and really, I take all of your words to heart.

Second, here's my favorite thing of the week:  Escondido's track "Black Roses" from their debut album The Ghost of Escondido.  It's a song that makes me stop to turn up the volume every time I hear it, a pretty, quiet spot in the middle of the pink glittery land of toddlers and Ponyville I find myself living in most of the time lately.





Have a gorgeous weekend, friends.



melanie











Thursday, March 14, 2013

confident



Eight years ago when we moved into this little half of a duplex, I cried.  I was leaving a small studio apartment in West Hollywood for a barely larger space in Culver City - not exactly the most happening neighborhood in Los Angeles.  Both the neighborhood and the house felt removed, dull, and small.  The duplex was in the midst of being remodeled for the first time in sixty years or so, and I lacked the vision to see it as anything more than a shabby box of an apartment previously inhabited by hoarders.  And a duplex meant sharing space with a neighbor.  In this case we were lucky to be very good friends with that neighbor, but as a newlywed (and introvert) I wasn't entirely sure I wanted to live too near anyone we knew.  So, even though Jimmy was quite content with our new situation, I insisted on dragging him to rental opportunities all over the city in the weeks leading up to our move, desperate to find something - anything - even vaguely comparable to the duplex.

But a yard, a garage, and low rent are all difficult perks to come by in this city, and we were on a tight deadline, so we moved into the duplex.  And I cried.

At least once a year, certainly every spring, I've looked over our options for moving.  I crave more space - an eat-in kitchen, an office, room for an upright piano, a guest room, a second bathroom, a closet that doesn't dump its contents on my head every time I open it - for starters, anyway.  With the arrival of each of our girls I have been convinced that it would be impossible for us to continue living here, but each time it has somehow worked out.  Twice we thought we'd found the right place to move into next, once even going so far as to submit a deposit, but both times we withdrew at the last minute because there was something or other that just wasn't quite right about it, or didn't feel right, and we just couldn't shake a feeling of unease.

I've spent these eight years doing a lot of praying about our situation.  And not just about our living quarters, but in desperation to change anything I have been praying about everything:  Should we be here?  Should we be in this city?  Should I be working?  Should I be working from home?  Should we have another baby?  Are we doing this right?  Are we missing something?  So many times when we've tried to make a big change we've ended up withdrawing the decision at the last minute, and with each passing year of the same place, the same budget, the same questions, the same single-income-family-living-in-an-expensive-city worries, I have become increasingly frustrated.  After eight years you can bet that my prayers have evolved from "help us to find x," to "please give us any direction - ANY direction?" and still....this.  Just this.

At this point we are feeling very tied to our neighborhood due to schools and whatnot.  So, last Saturday we visited the open house of a duplex nearby, another small space priced about the same as a house would be priced around here.  And still, when we looked at the numbers, it just couldn't work out.  I told Jimmy that if we couldn't make that place work - a place where we could at least earn some rent back to put toward the mortgage, then we just couldn't buy here period.  And that was heartbreaking.

On Sunday we went to church.  The message was complex, covering Genesis 3, but the portion which struck me was about being confident that our God is God, that He has a plan for us, that He is in control.  Normally, when I hear these phrases, I have just felt more frustration.  So many years I've been begging for direction and hearing so little back.  The question I have been most turning over in my mind is at what point is there a plan, and at what point do we just need to make our own decision?  Because waiting for a plan has been so much waiting, and making my own decisions - making my own attempts at action - have been so much running into a brick wall.  And I am tired and bruised.

But on Sunday it struck me that there is another way to look at this.  I have been overlooking a word:  confident.  If I am going to say that I believe in God and I believe He loves me personally - statements I do believe, because even when the questions have been unanswered He has found ways to remind me that I am not forgotten - if I am going to assert these truths, then I must be confident in Him, in His love, in His plan.  I must be confident that if we have been open to any direction and any change, yet here we are, then this must be the right place to be.  And if that is true then I must be confident that as unstable as our future can appear, He does have a plan for that, too.  I have been so busy looking for answers and direction that I have not realized that where we are now IS the answer, at least it is today.  And in missing that realization I have been missing many years of peace.

The space is small, but our children - and also my husband - rarely notice.  I am continually purging our belongings and reorganizing in this puzzle of small space living, but these are all activities which I have always enjoyed.  The remodeling which was done as we moved in has made the house much nicer than most rentals, and though it is difficult to entertain indoors we have a lovely yard and Southern California weather to accomodate such occasions.  Hosting visitors from out of town will always be tricky here, but we do our best, often with the help of our generous next-door neighbor.  Did I mention that having a friend as a next-door neighbor has turned out to be one of the best perks of living here?  We never speak of moving without lamenting even the thought of losing her, and additionally, our girls could not love her any more, and take immense joy in invading her home at any and all times possible.  In the absence of family nearby (save one), she has become much needed family.  And the neighborhood I dreaded?  In the years just after we moved here, the little downtown area underwent a revitalization effort and is now filled with excellent restaurants and shops, and something we never dreamed of needing at the time we moved in - schools - have turned out to be better than ideal.  We honestly love this little town.

I can't say I want to live here forever.  I can't say I don't still have a lot of questions about children and careers and housing and proximity to family and....everything.  I sincerely hope that part of our future involves more space and more stability, and room for a piano.  And I plan to work toward these things as much as makes sense to us.  But I feel a peace, now, in the act of placing confidence in my God.  We have told Him we are ready and available for whatever and wherever.  So if we are here, I am just going to assume that here is right.  And honestly, it feels right.

Because I have known for several years, now, that even if we earned everything we think we want, that these years we have spent in a small space stumbling over each other at every turn, piled up together on the sofa, tripping past each other in the hallway, dodging our opposing comings and goings, forever at arms length from one another, these are always going to be the very best years.  Years when we could reach out at almost any moment and grab hold of someone we love more than life, or space, or pianos.

I can be confident in this.












Wednesday, March 13, 2013

fog



Best laid plans.  I realize we're nearly halfway through March and I haven't written yet about budgeting or meal plans as I intended.  In fact, I haven't been able to write much at all.  Last week I came down with a small cold which somehow managed to knock me completely off my feet - probably because it kept me from sleeping for three or four nights, or from even enjoying a Nyquil-induced coma, and really that's just rude coming from an otherwise insignificant cold.

At any rate, I am finally feeling like myself again, and am ready to get to it.  Watching this morning's fog burn off into a gorgeous 81' degree blue-sky day feels appropriate.  Thank you for hanging in there with me.  There is certainly more to come.












Wednesday, March 6, 2013

favorite thing of the week



Yesterday my friend Becky drove all the way back and forth between San Diego and Los Angeles just to spend a few hours with me in between the miles of traffic.  In an era where gas is expensive, money is tight, and time is the most precious resource, her visit was a gift I deeply appreciate.  And once again I was reminded that putting aside whatever it is I deem to be "productivity" is WELL worth the exchange for time spent with good friends.

This morning she sent along some articles and recipes which touched on our conversation or that she thought I would enjoy, and she did a good job.  My favorite thing of the week this week is one of the blog posts she sent - something just published today by a writer I've never read before, Rebecca Reynolds.  And I don't believe Reynolds could have more accurately described a problem that has been nagging at me for months, now, if not longer - a push/pull argument between ideals and reality, between nostalgia and the present time, human connection and social networks, writing and blogging, chicken and nuggets.

But after a few days of quiet, it seems like I always come back to one question: What sort of good might there be in daring to walk among those who walk with me, giving them everything I have? What if I freely give them my best art? What if I freely give them my best honesty? What if I spend time pouring my imperfect love through these channels that exist, leaning on God to speak this new language through me? Am I willing to paint my masterpieces (or as close as I ever come to such a thing) on cyber-alley walls?

Go read it.  And Becky, I haven't even thanked you personally for this, yet.  THANK YOU!













Monday, March 4, 2013

patience



Thank you, you guys, for being patient with me while I took a few days off from blogging and facebooking.  The break did me a lot of good, and to be honest, my plan is to continue to cut back on my facebook time.  Being mostly away from it last week left a little quiet spot in my life which has been desperately needed.  I plan to cultivate that quiet, let it grow, see if it blooms.

I think I might have said something about this before, but I was just getting overwhelmed by too many things - expanding my shop, developing this blog, branding the blog's facebook page, keeping up with writing and editing photos.  I couldn't possibly do everything in a day, and every day before I knew it I would look up from a rabbit hole of Photoshop techniques to sidestep facebook's automatic image downgrades, or local short-run printers, or unhelpful app FAQ's, and suddenly it would be time to pick up the girls from school and I hadn't paid bills or done the laundry or gotten groceries or whatever.  So, as you can see, I just needed to cry uncle last week and sit it out for a few days.  My plan was to use that time to catch up on all the housework, but as it turns out, I really did mostly just sit it out.  And you know what?  We're still here.  The house is still here.  I took a nap, I gardened, I spent some time with friends, my family spent some time being - oh yeah - a family.  I got groceries and Jimmy helped with the laundry, but most of what was stressing me out just got blown off, and it's. all. o. k.

The best part?  Because I took a step back and took some time to visit with friends, I was able to find friendly one-on-one coffee-assisted help in a lot of the areas I've been looking for help online.  One friend gave me great feedback for my new shop project, another friend has short-run printing advice, and now I've got a personal resource for some of the graphics problems I was having, too.  I do still feel a little bit very much under water.  But I also feel more relaxed, and greatly encouraged.  I do want more time in the day (newsflash), and I wish I had all these things up and running, like, yesterday, and it makes me crazy that it's so hard to build a business while keeping a tiny house in order (I can honestly see four cheerios stuck to the carpet from where I am sitting right this second.  Nope, five.), but I am trying to be patient, instead.  Patient with the hours in the day, patient with all my learning curves, patient with my family, patient with the laundry, patient with progress, but really, mostly, patient with me.

Keep running.  Keep breathing.  Push forward.  Be patient.


When we were choosing baby names, particularly for Eve, I found myself in love with the name Patience.  Such a pretty, unusual, old-fashioned name, quiet and restive, a name that feels so nice in your mouth, like a kiss and a whisper put together.  Luckily, I knew better, especially after being given the best baby name advice ever, which is to stand in a busy playground and yell the name you're thinking of using and see how you feel yelling that name, you know, out loud.  At which point I realized, oh, yeah, yelling.  I'm going to be yelling for this child, this child who will be a toddler one day, a toddler who can't put on her own shoes but must DOOWIT MAH SEFF!  A toddler who shoves multiple tissues up her nose and licks Target shopping carts with her entire mouth and climbs bookshelves in order to reach ceramic keepsakes, who squishes peas into the carpet with her toes because it feels funny and squirts toothpaste onto the bathroom CEILING.  So, yeah.  No babies named Patience for us.  But YOU should totally name YOUR baby Patience, and I will love her forever, I promise.  Because it's a beautiful name for a sleeping baby and for a full grown adult who always uses her turn signal.  And you have to know how much I love turn signals.


Eight cheerios.  Time to sign off.  Thank you, again, and happy Monday, friends.