The Spectrum of Conversation

Right now we are dealing with some behavioral challenges. It’s somewhat helpful for us to call this a “negative developmental phase”. Somewhat helpful because it helps us to remember that this, too, shall pass. It would be easy in some moments to throw up my hands and abandon E. to herself. It is hard work to model calm, loving gentleness under normal circumstances; even harder when I am running on 3 of my four cylinders sleep-wise.

So when something comes to me like an idea-gift I have to write it down because chances are I’ll need to read it again in a few days because I’ll be tired and I’ll forget.

So here it is. Today’s revelation that is helping guide my daughter through this negative phase:

In any given conversation, there are constantly varying levels of passion on both sides.

Now, everyone has their own lexicon and might define marks along the spectrum a little differently, but this is what I came up with on the fly, starting with the least passionate and becoming increasingly heated:

Conversation, Discussion, Disagreement, Argument, Fight.

Here’s how that plays out in our family…we did some role-playing and here’s what we came up with:


“I think we should paint the room blue.”

“I think we should paint the room red.”


“I think blue would be better for the following reasons.”

“I get that, but I think red would be better for these other reasons.”


“I hear your reasons, but I still think my reasons are better and I still like blue.”

“I know you like blue and I know why but I really think red would be better.”


“I like blue better and I will not really listen to anything about red.”

“I like red better and I will not really listen to anything about blue.”


“I don’t like red and I don’t like your shoes!”

“I don’t like blue and your hair is ugly!”

One way this is useful in our interaction is that I can check in with E. and say, “We are talking about this and I thought we could discuss it, but you are full on fighting right now.”

Another way it’s useful is to check in with myself and figure out where on the spectrum I am at opportune moments. If I am broadsided by a three year old who comes out swinging (so to speak) when I ask her to use the toilet, it’s easy to match her at the angry end of the spectrum. But even though it’s hard, it’s worth it to pull myself back for a minute and leave space for a “gentle answer” which “turns away wrath”.

Some Brainwaves I Didn’t Waste…

After my last post, I have done tolerably well (meaning really well some days and not well at all other days…we all do the best we can) at monitoring my thoughts and at least recognizing when I am wasting them.

So what kinds of things do I consider to be worth my energy to think about?

Well, here are a couple of things that I’d blog about if I had myself more together:

Plastic diapers – I recently read this alarmist and judgmental article and was left with the feeling that my baby would be sterile, have autism or possibly even burst into flames if I continued using the polyurethane laminate diaper covers that I have had for 3 years as they likely contain PVC, phthalates, and other neurotoxins. So I called all the makers of all the diapers that I have (about 8 different phone calls) and then called several PUL manufacturers when I couldn’t find the maker of one of my diapers (Captain Fluffy Pants has disappeared off the face of the earth, apparently. It happens. She was a WAHM and has moved on to other things that don’t involve answering emails from someone who bought her stuff 3 years ago) to ask them questions.  One very kind man at a manufacturer’s customer service line assured me there was only a 10 percent chance that my baby would burst into flames. 😉

He explained to me that there was a short period from about 2006-2007 or so when PUL was very popular but hadn’t yet been regulated. before that there was really only one manufacturer who sold it and they didn’t use pvc in their production of PUL. Then cloth diapering got trendy and CPSIA certification became a thing and now it seems like most cloth diaper companies (I say most although I don’t want to generalize…do your own homework and make your own decisions, people) are using certified PUL which means it is presently understood to be the most stable and least toxic plastic possible. Yes, it’s still plastic. It’s not the best thing possible. Yes, ideally we would diaper our babies with hopes and dreams and marshmallow fluff. Okay, maybe not marshmallow fluff, but you get the idea. Natural fibers or bust. I have looked into wool covers for diapers, and even made a few of them myself. But they are too expensive to be something I would use exclusively, and require a lot of extra work to care for that I frankly am not willing to put in at this moment in my life. Even plastic reusable diapers are still reusable (each one of my diapers has now replaced hundreds of ‘sposies at this point) and we are doing the best we can.


Food and Community – We like food at our house. We like to make it, like to eat it, like to think about it, like to talk about it, love to share it. We try to eat things that are food, and for a long time that was stressful because I was working out what that meant for family get-togethers and things. I am not good at hiding what I am thinking, so as I went through this process I would make the most unseemly faces every time someone handed us a potato chip or a cookie at a function:

Well, what does that have in it? No way to check. Don’t think too long…it’ll be weird. They said they got it at Giant Eagle…ummm….ok…starting to think too long…quick, decide! Will compromise on: genetically modified foods, conventional vs organic, more sugar than normal, maybe a little high fructose corn syrup. Food dyes? Jury’s still out. Preservatives? Not too sure yet. Probably compromise. Will not compromise on: hydrogenated oils, chemical sweeteners, meat from suspect sources. Crap. Thought too long. Yep, 30 seconds of silence is definitely too long.

So that’s what would go through my head every time we were offered any food. And because it wasn’t settled in my mind yet, I was extremely awkward about it. I was trying to decide each moment what we were going to do, and trying to do it without being a Crazy Hippie Mom. I didn’t want to just say, “no, we don’t eat that,” because it felt judgmental but I couldn’t figure out what to say which ended up being way worse.

My very patient MIL confided to me the other day that I’ve gotten much better about this as I’ve grown into my opinions more. She said it’s a lot less awkward now because I just quietly explain what we do or don’t eat (she only told me this because I asked her if it was okay that I didn’t eat the croutons in our lunch salad because I knew from getting takeout from that restaurant before that they contain hydrogenated soybean oil…E asked me why she couldn’t have them and Iwhispered to her that there were things that weren’t food in them, but that we’d compromise and she could have the salad with the HFCS dressing and I wanted to make sure she wasn’t offended…she’s not the kind of lady who volunteers opinions like that, just FYI. She kinda rocks like that).

Sometimes people will take the choices that I make as a personal indictment, whether they are about food, natural living, or Jesus. Whether they are meant that way or not (they’re not, by the way). It’s not my job for everyone else to be fine with the choices I make. But it is my job to be thoughtful about them. As a church we are called to give an answer for our beliefs to anyone who asks us. It actually says that, in Timothy. And if we’re not instructed to be preachy and obnoxious and judgmental when sharing God’s love, who am I to be any of those ways about anything less important than that (which is everything)?

Well, kids are requiring focused attention again. Those are some brainwaves that I know for sure aren’t wasted.

Assume the Best, Expect the Best

When you become a parent, it’s hard. You’re in over your head. You have a new person living with you and they’ve never lived with…well, anyone; they don’t know how to be a good roommate. They puke all over you and your stuff and you keep having to clean up their poop. They even invade the sacred space of your sleep, which can feel like torture. If you’ve never felt any of these ways, then congratulations. You’re a better person than I am.
What I’m getting at is that I get why people complain about their kids. It’s an easy way to bond with people by pointing out your children’s flaws so they can agree with you and complain and point out what’s wrong or annoying about their kids too. See? We can be good friends because we can laugh together about how our kids are ridiculous.
And on the surface, that makes sense. We bond over a shared experience.
But I’ve found that the problem with that is how it colors our perception of our children at other times too. We begin to look for things to complain about rather than ways to help problem-solve. We abandon our children in the places where they need us to stay engaged and be with them inside their emotions and even their tantrums. When they need us the most, we throw our hands up and say, ‘Gah! Kids!’ Like Pilate we wash our hands and blame the fact that they are an infant, a three year old, or a teenager.
You know what? I don’t want the easy out. If E. does something rude at someone’s house, I will apologize (and encourage her to do the same) even if it seems that rudeness is expected solely based on the fact that she’s three.
This doesn’t mean that I plan on punishing her severely for every social infraction. There is some truth to the idea that 3 year olds know less than older people about how to be in the world. They are also not likely to stumble on this easily by themselves. But we can teach them, by reacting in gracious ways to let them know what is or is not acceptable. My kids aren’t perfect, and neither am I. But that doesn’t mean that as a rule I should disengage from a crucial teachable moment because it’s too hard.
I know this is the difficult path, but I think it’s the one worth taking. As a parent I have a lot of power to affect changes in the culture of my family. And with great power comes great….well you know what Spiderman teaches us.

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False modesty

I have a navel ring now. I got it yesterday.

But don’t worry. I still love Jesus.

I wasn’t sure if I should talk about this or not. I have been very concerned with modesty and how it plays out in my family, especially since I am raising a girl. Lately the whole idea of discussing anything that could be even remotely construed as immodest feels like a landmine. I spend an inappropriate amount of time wondering if I am going to screw up ‘the talk’ when it rears its ugly head  (“Mommy, why don’t I show everyone my private body??” gulp…where to step…). It feels a bit like any answer I give her will give her some sort of weird hangup and she’ll need therapy someday. I don’t know how to raise children that are truly modest.

See, I don’t think modesty truly consists of just wearing your skirts down to “there” or your shirt a size too big, or whatever. Certainly I think that I am instructed to not put myself on display for the purpose of making everyone think about How Great I Art (am?). But pursuing modesty in appearance can become a trap too.

A few days ago, J and I were discussing navel piercing. I don’t remember why, I just remember that it happened. He said, “That’s hot.”

I said in surprise, “Why didn’t you ever say so before? I might’ve….”

“Well, I knew you wouldn’t do that, so I never bothered to bring it up.”

I am having a little of what I’m calling a third-life crisis (I’m too old for a quarter-life and too young for a mid-life crisis). It’s not as dramatic as it sounds. Basically I cut off all my hair, bought a few new clothes (new to me, anyway, and a couple brand new fair trade items), and now with this new dare, as I took it, I set out to find a place to have my belly button pierced.

So before J’s drum class last night, I told him we needed to make a stop first. We went to the piercing shop, all four of us. J helped pick out the ring. It felt like a reclaiming of my abdomen. After having a surgical birth, then a completely unmedicated one, I wanted to celebrate that I have made peace with my midsection in some really important ways. I think this could have been accomplished without a VBAC (or a navel ring, for that matter), but that’s how it happened for me.

Also, my husband thinks it is hot.

The deed accomplished, we proceeded to drum class. I was holding the baby and chatting with one of the teachers. He wiggled just so that my tender act of celebration and a hint of rebellion stung, so I told C (or “the beautiful Miss C” as E sometimes calls her) that I had just gotten my navel pierced. She was being very encouraging and sweet and said it was beautiful. I said that I didn’t plan on showing it off much, but that I was excited to have it. She said something like, “You could, you know…there’s nothing wrong with your belly.” “I know.” I said. “I think I look fine, it’s just…well you know, modesty…” Internally I cringed. That’s not what I meant. I meant that I primarily got it for myself and my husband.

I think sometimes people might feel unwelcome at Sunday Services because people inside it look at them and judge them as immodest, whatever the condition of their heart is. As I said before, I think modesty has to go deeper than wearing enough clothes. It is so much more than being embarrassed about your body. It means recognizing your body for what it is, and realizing what it is not. I am for my husband (navel ring and all), and not for everyone else to look at in certain ways. But I am also not in charge of what everyone else thinks about. I am, in all things, to strive to bring attention not to myself, but to God’s goodness, beautiful creativity, and redemptive power.

Like I said, I wasn’t sure if I was going to share the fact that I had pierced myself. But then I started thinking about it, probably too much as usual, and it started to feel like false modesty not to. So there you go. I’m almost 30 and now I have a navel ring. And most people probably won’t ever see it. And I’m fine with that. And lots of other people have navel rings and everyone can see them all the time. And I’m fine with that too.

Once Upon a Time…Later…

So…Gandalf comes back and he’s all cool and powerful and wise. And…they all lived happily ever after?


That’s when the action of the story really gets going. See, Gandalf needed to become the white wizard because he would need all that power to deal with the increasingly overwhelming circumstances that would come.

One thing I have learned from J’s video games, board games and rpg’s is that you don’t want to go after the big bad until you’ve had a chance to level up.

So what does this have to do with me?

Well, I feel like I’ve leveled up. This doesn’t have anything to do with me being on some level that other people have to get to. Or with me wanting to get to some level that other people seem to have reached. That’s not what I’m talking about. But when S was born, some things were forever redeemed for me. God proved certain things to me, to the point where I no longer feel justified in my doubts about what He thinks about me or if I will be given the resource necessary to handle the challenges that arise.

So, when I think about having leveled up, it doesn’t mean that my life has suddenly become crazy in ways that it wasn’t before. I mean sure, I have two kids now. “Two is more than one,” as a friend is fond of saying when asked what it’s like having another child. That’s true. But really, I think I expect more from myself than I did before. Certainly more than I did when E. was this age. When she was 3 months old, I was a post-traumatic puddle on the floor. I think the main thing that saved me from sliding unchecked into depression was Phoenix Coffee, my great husband, and a few close friends.

But that’s where I was. I’m not there now. And I want to live in a way that honors the progress that I’ve made. It feels disingenuous to live as though I don’t know more about myself than depressed-puddle-on-the-floor Katie.

I’ve had some glimpses of this new power. Last week I took the kids and went to visit a friend L.  We had many, many opportunities to fall into old patterns of being stressed by each other. But we didn’t. There were a lot of factors that could have added up to a terrible time…I was only there for 24 hours. We had harvesting, canning, shopping, cooking and eating to do. We had 3 kids to take care of. We had differing opinions about recipes. We had fundamentally different understandings of why I was even there (teaching someone how to can is NOT the same as canning all their produce for them). Really any one of these things would have been enough to ruin a visit in the past. But you know what? I think it was the best visit we’ve ever had. And not just because of the tomato marmalade. We were able to assume the best of each other and respond to each other without our relational insecurities looming large and eclipsing the fact that we were there to have fun and encourage each other in our distinct yet symbiotic (someone who knows canning but can’t farm goes really well with a farmer who doesn’t have a canner) paths. We communicated honestly and without spite or hidden subtext (which I’m bad at hiding in my own speech and even worse at detecting in other people’s). She pointed out that “10 years’ll do that to you,” which I think is true. But I also think that insecurity will block a person from responding in love. But this time it didn’t, because I didn’t let it.

See what I mean? Leveled up.

And I’m hopeful that it’s just the beginning. I want to react graciously when E. is pushing boundaries. I want to not feel the need to fight to be heard just because deep down I am afraid I don’t have anything valuable to say. I want to be a better wife by having more of myself to offer J. I don’t know yet what else I want. I don’t know what the big bad is, but I want to be able to meet it head on.

Lesson 1 from George MacDonald

I have recently started reading “The Lost Princess” (aka “The Wise Woman”, “A Double Story” and several other titles) by George MacDonald out loud to my daughter. Usually over tea or a snack.

The pertinent quote:

“As she grew up, everybody about her did his best to convince her that she was Somebody; and the girl herself was so easily persuaded of it that she quite forgot that anybody had ever told her so, and took it for a fundamental, innate, primary, first-born, self-evident, necessary, and incontrovertible idea and principle that SHE WAS SOMEBODY. And far be it from me to deny it. I will even go so far as to assert that in this odd country there was a huge number of Somebodies. Indeed, it was one of its oddities that every boy and girl in it, was rather too ready to think he or she was Somebody; and the worst of it was that the princess never thought of there being more than one Somebody—and that was herself.”

As we finished the chapter, E. looked up at me and said, “I am Somebody!”

“Yeah?” I said, then held my breath to keep from dictating what would come next. I wanted to know what she would do with that information of her own volition. Will she get it?

“You’re Somebody! My dad is Somebody!”

Then later, when a younger and more wild friend hit her repeatedly in the head, she wisely said, “He’s Somebody. But he forgot I’m Somebody.”

I like my kid.

Africa, Culture Shock and Integrating the Second Child

My friend Kate came to visit us this week. She gets a whole name mention because she is a Kate…one of the ones who has helped me find my own Kateness over the years. When we first became friends we were “the Kates” and I have some really great memories of that time in high school and college. She moved to Tanzania a few years ago because God told her to (soon after I had a kid and became a stay-at-home mom because God told me to. It’s a funny old world). Now she’s back for a year for a medical leave because her back is all messed up and she can get better care here.

The thing about Kate is that she sinks deeply into a role, or a culture, or really whatever she’s doing. So when she comes back here it’s hard for her to reintegrate, and it takes a long while. We spend a lot of time having conversations like this:

“E.’s little dress is really beautiful. Did you make it yourself? Oh wait…do people ask about that in America? Is that a thing?”

“Yes, that’s a thing. I don’t know if everyone would like that, but I do. Thank you.”

The “Is that a thing–yes that’s a thing” dynamic didn’t truly strike me until I saw my daughter and my friend together the past couple of days. They I realized that they are both having almost the same issue. And without even realizing it, I’ve started treating E. as though she has been in Africa for a significant part of her life. Because kids can go through culture shock too. Only, their cultures are smaller so it doesn’t take moving to a new continent, or even a new house. Receiving a baby is quite enough to send kids into a tailspin of confusion around what the culture of the home and family are going to be.

To be honest, the culture of our family has changed quite a bit since S. I sleep differently which means I am differently awake during the day (coffee can only help so much, you know?? And anyway I’ve limited my intake as I’m caffeinating my son too which could eventually make him more wakeful; though it hasn’t been a problem thus far). I can’t always just go with her right when I want to because there is someone else to bring along or to stay with. And mostly, she’s come along beautifully. But we have our issues. So I have begun attempting to just respond to them as though she’s trying to learn a now unfamiliar culture.

She screams. I say, “I still don’t like it when you scream right next to me. That’s still a thing.”

She throws things inside the house. I say, “It wasn’t safe to throw that in here before you had a brother, and it’s still not safe now. It’s still a thing.”

She pees on the floor. I say, “We still make our pee go in the toilet, or we wear diapers. I still don’t enjoy cleaning pee off the floor. That’s still a thing.”

I ask her to get in the car. She runs to the back of the yard. I say, “Before you had a brother, did I tell you things just to be mean to you?”

“Ughhh. No, Mom.”

“Why do I tell you things?”

“To help me. Or to keep me safe.”

“Well, that’s still what we do. That’s still a thing. So please get in the car.”

And it seems to actually work. Amazingly well. We’ve had some stressful times in the past month (you know what? It really isn’t fun to clean pee off the floor). But we are reserving sweeping judgment of her based on her behavior until…well, hopefully until never but certainly until after we’ve had time to set up a culture. But setting up a family culture without letting its structure be determined by the selfishness and insecurity that is all around us and wants to creep in like a poisoned gas our lungs appear to want is really, really hard. But it’s worth the fight. Because I love my family. And that’s still a thing.

Normalizing Different

The “popular kids” and I have never been what you’d call close. In high school and beyond I have usually had a somewhat adverse reaction to doing what was mainstream just because. Even when I tried to blend in I did it so awkwardly that it was doomed to fail even before I bought my over-sized flannel shirt (yes, I grew up in the 90s, before flannel plaid was worn ironically in a tight-fitting style).

But one valuable lesson I have learned from them is this: if you act like what you’re doing is normal, other people probably will too.

Or, on the flip side, if you act like you are a freak, then other people will treat you like one.

The first time this post started rattling around in my head it was in the context of breastfeeding. If women continue to act as though it is something to be done exclusively in a separate wing of the house, in the car, sitting on the toilet, or worse, then it will always be something that is considered ‘other’ in some significant way. I’m not saying we should all insist on the right to walk around shirtless until our children wean at age 4 (like they do without social issue in Africa, I have it from friends who live in Tanzania and Uganda). Yelling loudly “I am not weird!” is another way of admitting that yes, in fact, you do feel disenfranchised in some way and have to cover your feelings by making a scene about it. It doesn’t normalize the behavior.

Another example of this that comes to mind is that I was reading a story a while back in which this woman was talking about the first time she refused a plastic bag at Target, since she was only purchasing one small item. Her telling of the story revolved around how everyone had treated her as though she was stealing the item and she was very uncomfortable the whole time. I have to wonder; what was her facial expression and body language like? Did she act like she was stealing it?

I have developed the habit of just calmly stating that I don’t need a bag, or a straw, or whatever. I don’t furtively glance at the cashier or my fellow customers as I say this, or act embarrassed to be refusing something they are offering (obviously this is trickier in certain situations…if a dear relative offers my daughter a piece of plastic crap toy certain to break and spread tiny beads of plastic all over my house it is much harder to refuse in a way that isn’t taken personally…I’m still working on that one!).

On the food front, I know people I respect who will loudly declare something to be ‘poison’ for everyone to hear in a somewhat misguided effort to educate those around them on the dangers of chemical additives in food. I’m not talking about how we explain things at home…I want to be clear with my daughter about why she can’t eat certain things. I tell her that there is just too much in them that isn’t food, so we aren’t going to eat it. Bless her, for a long time she didn’t even recognize most candy as something edible. As she’s gotten older, though, I just explain to her (quietly, off to the side…not on a soapbox for everyone to hear…) the reason we are not going to eat something. And then I tell her that other people have different mommies, so they might eat things that we don’t and it’s not our job to make them feel bad about it.

This is also glaringly obvious to me (now) when it comes to sharing faith. I grew up in an evangelical tradition wherein it was highly valued to be ‘bold’ in speaking the truth of God’s love to people. In practice it was often more of the same “I am not weird” rhetoric but dressed up in religiosity. Unfortunately, I was not able to communicate in a way that was at all sensitive to the fact that God might say different things to different people at different times. I was not even able to admit He might change the wording a little. If you tell people in an abrasive or confrontational way, “God loves you!” most people will be put off for the same reason that I suspect people reacted oddly to the woman in Target who was made to feel like she was stealing. If you act like what you are saying or doing is false in any way, it can be sensed. It will ring false and people can tell, even without realizing why they are put off by you.

So in conclusion………..if you really think you should do something, then do it and don’t be afraid to not act like a weirdo about it. Also, I’m certain there will be some point today at which I’ll need to take my own advice, as I do lots of stuff that some people might think is weird. Wish me luck with that.

Our Girly Dynamics

So, I love my daughter. But I have some bad moments. Dramatic moments. The other day I reinjured my foot because I stamped it in a fit of anger during a silly argument with her. Aforementioned argument ended with both of us ‘taking a few minutes’ to calm ourselves down so we could talk it out. I am sharing that (slightly embarrassing) story lest you think  that our parent/child relationship is better than it is.

But mostly I am really glad we are so similar. It makes many parts of our relationship flow naturally and I hope that having a grown-up who is like her will give E. some much-needed feedback so she can learn how to be sensitive to other people’s needs during her formative years.

The other day we had friends over for dinner. We were setting the table and getting ready to sit down when one of the friends mentioned that she might want to sit on the toilet. “Nope.” she said dismissively and leaving little room in her 3 year old world for discussion.

Her dad pushed back a bit and said, “Honey, I really think you should sit on the toilet before we have dinner. It’s been a couple of hours and you might have an accident.”

“Dad, I’m not going to do that.” He sighed and tried to figure out what to do next, with this little girl who so reminds him of me when we first met…

They both talked with her for a couple more minutes, trying to convince her to sit on the toilet. Eventually I overheard their kind, reasonable requests and her flat-out refusal.

Setting down the plates I was holding, I said, “Kiddo, go sit on the toilet please. We don’t want you to have an accident, and you need to respect your daddy’s words.”

She tossed her head and raised her eyebrows. “I WON’T.” She planted her flag and dug her heels in firmly.

“Excuse me? What in all of our time together has made you think that you can talk to me like that? GO sit on the toilet.” I dug my heels in too. They’re bigger than hers, and have years more practice being dug into places…sometimes I am the mommy and it is my job to be more stubborn.

She spread her fingers wide and said, “Mom, I’m NOT going to pee on the floor. I don’t want to sit on the toilet!”

“And I don’t want to clean pee off the floor and your chair just because you’re trying to prove a point!”

Tiny sigh, but somehow huge…”Okay, Mama. I’ll go.”

Like I said, my girl is like me, and mostly I really enjoy that dynamic. If we do end up with a boy who is laid back like his dad, we will have to try very hard not to let him get squished in between us. That will be a huge challenge, but we are smart girls and I know God will use that  and help us figure out how to be gracious to each other as we go. We just have to remember to leave room for expansion and growth in our communication style.

The Emotional Palette Revisited

As I mentioned in a previous post, I have come to think of feelings as different paint colors on a palette. The painting we are working on is our emotional interaction with the world around us. We all start out with a  blank canvas and few primary colors, and we get more as we go. Our parents, our peers, and all of our experiences have the potential to affect the hue or shading of our emotional palette.

We all end up with a certain amount of black from the hardness of life. I think for me dealing with depression was like adding black to the palette. Once black is introduced, if you aren’t very intentional all the colors are in danger of turning into a murky disgusting mess.

Remember when you were a child; wasn’t it frustrating when someone else colored on your picture? I think that a hard thing about the idea of painting with emotion is that our feelings are affected by so many things beyond our control.

I start ‘painting’ myself a good morning. The yogurt I made turned out really well and tastes delicious with blueberries and granola for breakfast. Mmmm….add some purple.

It’s sunny outside! Actually sunny! Add some brilliant orange in a few places.

A thoughtless driver nearly crashes into my car and speeds off without a second (or even first) look. Tiny grey-brown spatters. Not enough to ruin the picture or anything, but it does change the mood slightly in a small area.

Go to a playgroup. Watch other parents and enjoy talking about a variety of subjects ranging from everything from Food, Inc. to Magic Cards, and from potty training to our various religious upbringings. Many different colors represented here, and I add a bit from each of them to my day. I like how that mom redirected her son…that particular hue of green matches really well with this part of my painting!

I get stressed out when another parent at Whole Foods doesn’t redirect her kids at all and fails to even notice her son pulled a chair out from under E. and is now laughing about it while she sits bewildered on the floor. Then after several more incidents and side conversations wherein I try to encourage her quietly I say out loud, “Tell him no! What he’s doing is not okay.” The other mom finally hears from across the room behind a plant, gets mad and says “I’m SORRY!” in a way that really means…well…not an apology, I feel certain as I meet her angry stare. There will be no productive conversation there, so I move on. A muddy black splotch–all over the corner where the sunshine was. Shoot. What now? That’s not how I wanted that to look…

I really don’t want to paint such a dark picture right there. So I need some white to balance out and take away some of the murkiness. Or maybe I just need to cover it with white and start again in that spot. Where do I get white? People find it in many unlikely places. A smile from a stranger, a hug from a friend, a flower. I think God puts it many-wheres in the world for the finding, as He is the source of white and understands much more than we do how and when we will need it. And if we ask, we may even find some help for how to incorporate it into our own work to make it more beautiful.