In this season

Hello friends, and I hope this finds everyone having a very warm, wonderful, and blessed holiday season. We are almost out of 2019- how did that happen?

Photo by Craig Adderley

As I sit with my tea still enjoying the glow of the Christmas tree several days after Christmas, surrounded by my children happily playing with their gifts, still caught in the magic of the Christmas feeling- I can’t help but to feel the need to acknowledge that familiar feeling of a heavy, sensitive heart at the holidays due to the loss of family gone and those slipping away.

My beloved Aunt who has become a second mother to me since my mother- her sister’s- passing, is in the end stages of a cancer that she has fought more bravely than I could ever imagine anyone else ever doing. She received the news of it’s return around the same time of her husband’s death. She dealt with his passing and her own news- all on her own so far away from me and her family here. I want so badly to be with her… to be near her in this time, but also to share in this time with her. To share stories and reminisce. To hold space for one another as families need to do. I miss her even more intently now that our family has dwindled so much, and because I know her time here is so precious. Each day is a gift. Every hour is a gift. Her fight reminds me to never ever take time for granted. The ordeal and the strength she has shown has changed me in a way that I do not yet fully understand, but what I do know is that time is a gift and I don’t wish to waste anymore on wishing that things were different.

My “overly sensitive nature” as I have heard it called many times, heavily weighs on my heart this time of year. I read not long ago in Victoria magazine about a woman writing of her “difficulties” with sensitivity and how she had also spent her life being shamed for it, and I love what she wrote about it as I take this time to fully allow myself to feel as I sit here reflecting and to be fully aware of it all now:

“…As it turns out, being sensitive is a lovely trait. It doesn’t mean I am thinned-skin; it simply means I am willing to put my heart in someone else’s skin. Once there, I must be very, very still in order to determine if there is more that I can do or give…”

Mary Sanderson, Kindly Gestures. Victoria Magazine. Jan/Feb 2020.
Photo by Ylanite Koppens

Christmas has always been such a magical time for me. Growing up, we had our holiday traditions that were so ingrained in us and our routine, that those acts- the gathering of the family, the unwrapping of beautifully papered gifts so thoughtfully chosen for each person, the secrets whispered by the many, many foster children my mom kept and whose excitement for Christmas was palpable – all these acts were especially precious to me due to the fact I was adopted and had never experienced a holiday until my 8th year of life, and had never experienced the closeness of family. I think because of my abused background, the importance of family was not only somehow made more important to my holiday traditions, but also to my life in general.

Our family began thinning- first my grandmother’s passing in 1988, a loss felt so strongly- not the least of which at the holidays- and my uncle’s passing in 1996. He was a man among men- gentle yet strong, loving yet reserved, a gentle giant that could do anything it seemed to me, but most importantly- he was the man who gave a me the safety within his arms and life that I would not be hurt physically or that he did not want something more from me in exchange for being a father figure. It took many years for me to trust any man- and it would not have ever happened if it had not been for this man. I owe him and now his memory so much. A true gentleman whose patience, kindness, and love brought a scared little girl terrified of men out of her shell and made her able to trust. A man I still miss keenly and whose presence will always be missed in my life. I wish I’d had more time with him. I wish I could of told him what his life meant to mine.


A few years later, my mother’s passing solidified the disintegration of our family as I knew it. Her passing took something of me with her. A firm foundation- a knowledge of who I was and where I was going. The rock the family seemed to depend on without realizing we did. Strength that held up our family and the glue it seemed that held it all together. Her shoes were too big for me to ever fill. I tried for many years to honor her memory and her life in continuing with her life’s work in keeping my invalid “sister” (not biologically related but I spent every single day of 30 years with her), and the rituals she fulfilled for the family. I saw the sacrifice of my education and job offers and relationships as honorable and thought I was doing what she would of wanted. I see now that I was only hurting myself and setting myself up for a great deal of pain and sorrow that turned into a hurtful regret over the years. It took me so many years to figure out that I am not my mother. And that she would not have wanted me to be her. She would not have wanted me to walk in her shoes- to hurt, to uphold, to be that glue. She would of wanted me to live my life and make my own choices- not hers. I have learned these lessons slowly and with a great deal of emotional pain that I brought on myself. The growing pains were not something I would want for anyone- and I plan to make certain my own children know they must lead their lives for themselves and never, ever second guess this or their own hearts.

While I was buckling under the pressure of being my mother, my life simultaneously stood still and took wrong paths at the same time. My family continued to disintegrate and so many hurts collided in on us and tore us in to different directions and we became estranged. My other uncle’s passing which I was not permitted to attend, my husband’s family members passing away. And then the estrangement of his family- from each other-and from us.

I feel the weight of this loss but understand that life isn’t about holding on to a picture perfect idea of who our family should be or what we should do in it. I cannot make people see or feel through my eyes. I do not wish for any of them to know the hurt I have felt to understand me. I have come to realize that I am the person God made, and with all my faults, I can be loved and deserve to be loved. It is a family’s job to love a person- their family– through their faults and to accept them, but whether my family chooses to do this or not, I no longer allow it to define me.

Photo by Matt Hardy

So while I can remember that this was a Christmas some of our family chose not to honor their loved one’s memory in my children’s lives, or that other family chose to exclude us once again, or that we made new memories- and hopefully new traditions- with unexpected family- we are still making memories- as our own little family. We can still enjoy the season for what it is- and remember our blessings and not be weighted with guilt, regret, or hurt. And it is in this way, I can find who I am now. I can be still and sound in the knowledge of who I am. And I can enjoy a holiday without the familiar pull of my heartstrings from loss and regret. I can be happy- and sentimental and sensitive all- without attaching my self-worth to the memories of family- and times- past.


What did you marvel on this Christmas? Do you have family hurts that weigh on your heart and mind at Christmas or the holidays? Please share with me, if you feel like sharing or talking, in the comments below. I would so appreciate hearing your words of wisdom on how you dealt with family issues/loss/grief. Let’s go in to 2020 together, knowing that we have each other – that family is more than blood – and that family can be who we make it.

Photo by Kat Jayne

The 5 Top Inserts for your Planner

Yep. I am one of those. A planner addict. I should own stock in Cloth and Paper. Until recently (2 months ago), when my husband suffered a health setback and a job loss, I was subscribed to their monthly subscription service. It brought me SO much joy and I truly miss it. So I thought I would pass the time by giving you my list of 5 items that you do not want to be without in your own planning.

  1. Dividers: I have purchased dividers from several different companies. I have not found any that I am truly in love with. I love the premise of Cloth and Paper’s plastic plain dividers, but have found that they are quite heavy in the planner and it just makes the weight uncomfortable in the planner. I understand they now have lightweight plastic dividers, which would solve all the problems, but I have yet to try these. I also have their gold foil nude color dividers (as seen in the photo above). I have a love/hate relationship with them. I absolutely love the aesthetic, but they have a tendency to bend, which just ruins the look for me. I also have pink heavy weight paper dividers from Brooklyn Grace Co. that have held up absolutely perfectly. I use these in my A5 planner and if I had to pick amongst all of my dividers, I would say these are my current favorites. I have heard excellent things about Sessavee’s dividers as well.
  2. Calendar: I have gone to the minimal side of planning of late. To this end, there are so many awesome calendar and planning inserts out there, but my favorites that I have found are actually from Tul, Crossbow Printables (in the U.K. so shipping time is extended a bit), and Cloth and Papers multiple types of calendar pages.
  3. Clear card/large pockets: These are useful for putting planner cards, or if you use your planner for a wallet as well, these are useful to hold credit cards or any cards you carry with you. I use these for holding my inspiration planner cards I get mostly from Sequins and Paper.
  4. Planner cards: from aforementioned Sequins and Paper and several other shops: Bunny Plans, Sessavee. There are so many amazing planner etceteras, but the planner cards are my favorites, especially with the inspirational sayings just because I enjoy seeing them and these make want to open my planner which in turn makes me keep up with my planning more consistently.
  5. Contact Inserts: These make my planner completely functional. With this addition, I basically have everything I need in one spot. I also use Password hint inserts which streamlines my life as well. No more keeping up with 15 different resources to keep track of things.
  6. A BONUS: one more thing you could add to your planner if you wanted to keep more of a journal are plain note pages. This way if you are more interested in creating your own pages of inserts, you can. The paper quality then becomes an important factor. The best paper quality I have found is once again from Cloth and Paper. Their dotted grid paper is amazing quality and no pens I have used leak or ghost.

I hope these suggestions help some of you in setting up your planner or agenda. There really are so many options out there , I did not even broach the subject of planner stickers. That could be a topic for an entire blog post, but the inserts and accessories I have mentioned here will definitely get you started in your own planning.

FEELING LEFT OUT?

Me too.

In fact, I often struggle with feeling like the uninvited left-out kid pressing my nose to the candy-store glass looking in at people having all the fun. But I know this is ridiculous. I just wish my head would let my heart know this. I mean… yes, I do get out of the house (except for the past month or so while my hubby’s car has been down and we are having to share my car). I go to Bible study and to MOPS and my son has several extra-curricular activities I need to attend with him. But even in these groups I feel like the one on the outside looking in at all the moms and friends going about their lives connecting and enjoying each other’s company, and somehow, I always feel like the one set-apart because of illness or family’s illness, or some thing that I have never fully understood. It is like I somehow set people uneasy. So I start yammering on trying to make them comfortable, and end up making the situation worse. Does this ever happen to anyone other than me? Am I the only one waving this freak flag?

 

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This ridiculous feeling also extends to my work. In fact, I have allowed it to brew itself  (we all know what they say about holding on to comparing ourselves!!) into a type of jealousy. I have found myself making comments in my head saying, “This girl has been working two years, and is already making a living from this.”  More recently, has been the bigger voice saying, “I cannot believe that mid-westerner is getting the bridal show in MY state!!” Ugly voices that I know are not healthy.  I will be happily following along with someone, then they reveal they started their “calligraphy journey” a WHOLE TWO YEARS AGO!!  I think to myself how I have been studying it for the better part of 25 years now, and practicing since 2012, and still consider myself a newbie student.  I find myself thinking jealous thoughts, and feeling even older and more left out. Yes, I am self-teaching, but so have A LOT of these ladies. One in particular I allow to really get under my skin: she taught herself not only calligraphy, but the business of calligraphy as well, and is pulling in a good income now. Of course, she has worked her tail off, I am certain. But that knowledge does little to impede my feelings of inadequacies. I suppose that is what this boils down to, right? Not feeling good enough.

 

So, not being one to allow myself to revel in despair, I came up with a game plan I thought I would share with you in case you are ever feeling the green-eyed monster stealing your joy and robbing you (and me) of our right to feel proud of ourselves. After all, we have the right to pat ourselves on the back for a job well-done too!! It is no small feat to self-teach, but add to that mix a special-needs son and a hyper-toddler, a husband with anxiety disorder and other health problems; holding down family obligations as well as keeping up with the nine-million mom duties, a house that isn’t going to clean itself (they can make computers that sit on the end of a pencil, but can’t seem to make carpet that cleans itself????), and I know in my head I have MUCH to be proud of. So what if these twenty-something girls without a family to take care of, (or at least kids) are making enough money to be able to buy and sell me? I will not allow myself to be bitter. I will not allow myself to be bitter. I WILL NOT ALLOW MYSELF TO BE BITTER. And every day, I learn a little more to move myself closer to earning a living myself with my business.

 

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So, as promised, here is a little action plan to help when the monster takes his turn with your self-worth.

  1. Understand that how you speak to yourself speaks louder than you may realize. Whether or not you lend credence to the “Law of Attraction,” the basic principles at it’s core is a powerful one psychologically: the words we speak are what we believe, therefore, that is what will become our reality. So, the first and most important thing we can do for ourselves is to speak kindly to ourselves, and speak positively. Get a self-worthy, uplifting mantra (affirmation) and speak it to yourself. EVERY. DAY. It could be something as simple as saying, “I can do anything I put my mind to because God made me exceptional, and I am exceptionally His.”
  2. Understand that loving yourself is not egocentric or selfish, but it is a necessary- even mandatory-  part of being a healthy, whole individual.  It is about having self-love and treating yourself with the same compassion, tolerance, and generosity as you would your best friend. You need to be your own best friend first and foremost. Again, it is important to recognize that God made each of us exceptional, and we are exceptionally His.
  3. Trust your instincts: or trust your gut. This is one I have the hardest time with.  Drawing the line with well-intention-ed friends or family and taking their love, advice, words of wisdom to heart, but listening to your own heart and internal voice is what you should be making your final choices with. God gave us a brain and a conscience to use, not to lock away and depend on (or be led by) others.
  4. Analyze and re-evaluate yourself often. This could also be taken as “Know Yourself”. For us list makers or journal-keepers, this is an excellent time to weekly (or even daily depending on your personality) put down on paper questions to know ourselves better and to continually strive toward self-discovery and growth. Questions like:
    • What skills do I have?
    • What are my strengths/weaknesses?
    • What do I want to be doing with my life? Am I doing this or taking steps to do this?
    • What makes me feel fulfilled? Am I working on these things, or am I constantly working towards/on other’s fulfillment?
    • What makes me happy?
    • This last one is probably the MOST important one. One that I am almost certain that we all do the most frequently: stop making your self-worth contingent on other’s opinions!! I think that one bears repeating too, STOP MAKING YOUR SELF-WORTH CONTINGENT ON OTHERS OPINIONS. If we try to live up to others expectations of us, we will never be able to see our own expectations, AND, we will NEVER meet their expectations. (I have learned this the hard way). It is very hard thing to feel that you are letting someone down and their opinion of you down, but it is a shaky bridge to walk across, and without a doubt, that bridge will not hold you up forever. If a parent or loved one or even friends or teachers- anyone- who knew you as a child, their opinions of you are often skewed and it is not healthy to allow them to determine your own thoughts, actions, or self-worth. Their opinion is fine…it is their own, and it often has little to do with the person you are as an adult. Let their opinions stay their own and not affect who you are.

woman open arms while closed eyes smiling photo

So, there we have it…my little attempt at a pep-talk to let go of the (my) green-eyed monster or help you build some positive self-worth. I hope that you can take something from this post, or that it helps someone out a little bit. Until next time, friends!

STYLED SHOOT PORTFOLIO

STYLED SHOOT PORTFOLIO

When it comes to photography, novice doesn’t begin to describe my knowledge or technique. In my rare moments of spare time, I have been doing tutorials and taking online free courses in order to learn some basics to up my Insta game.  So when the opportunity arose to be involved in a styled shoot came my way, I was beyond excited! Not only would I get to be a part of a group of amazing artisans all working toward a common goal to be publicized (which we were VERY excited and honored to be a part of Artfully Wed’s publication), but it was an amazing opportunity for some high quality, beautifully professional photos of my work (keep scrolling for a look).

 

I highly recommend you getting involved with a styled shoot if the opportunity arises. Typically these are non-paid collaborations, but the payment you receive in seeing your work in print and getting your name out, is well worth your effort; not to mention getting some amazing photographs. The amazing photographs below (along with all the work from the rest of our amazing team you can read about if you follow the link above to Artfully Wed’s blog) was photographed by the amazingly talented, witty, kind, and beautiful soul’d Brandi Cutshall of Unbound Images.

 

 

 

ANY OLD SEPTEMBER SUNDAY

ANY OLD SEPTEMBER SUNDAY

And just like that, August has rolled into September. I am still not sure where August went. Our schools here started school on August 1st again (the premise being that the earlier start date allows for a full week off to enjoy the Fall break). In any case, it literally ATE the entire month. There are still so many things I had wanted to get accomplished this summer. A trip to the lake…(why is it that NONE of my friends own a boat?!?!?!), another long hike with the family, a picnic, and some painting of furniture that has been on my to-do list for too long to be novel.

However, with my ever-increasing dizzy- nausea- headaches from needing a surgery that we cannot find a surgeon to do in my particular circumstance, and a few other ailments that often times keep me from being as productive as I am used to being or want to be; a hubby dealing with his own issues with health, and work, the days that we could get busy, we don’t always get to be busy doing the things on our bucket lists, as it were.

So, today, we made a marked decision to go sauntering in our neighboring town of Abingdon, Va. It was a beautiful day, weather wise, and we needed to get out of the house, as the children have been at each other’s throats, quite literally, and I was feeling an itch to blog, and an itch to hone my photo taking. Yesterday was such a yucky day, both rainy and cold. Our only excursion was the dreaded grocery store visit. I have never understood it, but car riding provides some of the best talk time also. It was a good time for the hubby and I to discuss some important things, to make some plans, and to examine ourselves. That was a hefty obligation to place on a little car ride, but it really does provide the best respite in which to hash any emotional chow-chow, I have always felt. Am I the only one that does my best thinking and talking in the car?

Now, I am a BIG fan of Abingdon, Va. Blog-worthy? Check. Photogenic? Check. Plus, going there provides the best (albeit, bittersweet) trips down memory lane for me. My late mom and I used to go several times a month often times just to “Sunday drive”. It is such a beautiful town, with its old brick buildings, its old-fashioned feel, its antique feel. But my very favorite part of Abingdon has always been its brick sidewalks with moss, and the real shuttered windows. Often times, the windows are still the old, handmade ones with the beautiful wavy glass. I LOVE the historic part of downtown. Something about it speaks to my soul, whispering secrets from times long-past. You can read some of the history of Abingdon, Virginia here .

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I can just feel the history on these bricks..

One of my favorite things about upcoming fall is Halloween. I just love a good ghost story. Especially one of local lore. One of the best ghost walks I have ever taken was the one in Abingdon. It was just a surreal experience walking the same bricks on which the people in the stories the docent was relaying to us travelled. You can get a good idea about it on this page.

So, without further ado, walk with us, friends…

The first building I will show you is my favorite, The Tavern. It opened its doors in 1779. It has had an interesting, storied past, as often times old buildings do. During the past two centuries, the Tavern has served as a tavern bank, bakery, general store, cabinet shop, barber shop, a private house, post office, antique shop, and, as it is now, a restaurant. It also served as a hospital for Confederate AND Union soldiers during the Civil War. Most importantly to those of us that do love a haint, it has a ghost attached to it.

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The Tavern is also known for its mossed roof

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A ghost lingers here…

Next on our little Abingdon tour was the Martha. The Martha Washington Inn is aptly named after our first president’s wife. It was built in 1832, and it too, has a storied past. Its history includes a women’s college, a private residence, and a Confederate hospital. You can read more about it’s history on this page.

The Martha Washington Inn in Abingdon, Va

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Couldn’t resist adding one with my two cuties, Grey and Lily

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Old Glory, may she fly high forever

From The Martha, we travelled around the rest of downtown, taking random pictures. Following is a selection of the ones we took today. Enjoy!

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Thank you for joining my family today on this little excursion. Its always good for the soul to wander. “Wherever you go becomes a part of you somehow.”
― Anita Desai

All photos on this post belong to Lisa Jones, greylilyco. Please ask permission before using.

SOME REAL STUFF

I am going to share some real-life drama stuff today here on the blog. As you know, I have two children, Grey and Lily.  Normally, cherub faced angels that fulfill our lives as much as a Hallmark movie would portray. And then there are days like today. Days that leave me crying while hiding in the bathroom on the toilet days.

It started declining pretty much as soon as I opened my eyes. My son (who is almost 8 and is a highly-functioning autistic) is standing in front of me in tears crying because he got banned from his favorite online game for using a less-than-child-like word that he picked up at the end of the school year when another little boy shared it with everyone. My tactic with things like this is to down play it so as not to make it seem more interesting to him by making a big deal of things. Apparently, this is a word I should of dwelled on the fact that is a B.A.D. word. So, after dealing with the fallout of this (punishing him by taking away his computer privileges for two days), I get further bombarded with hearing him screaming in his room, “I HATE MOM!!” Ok. So, this adds insult to injury. I confess, I didn’t know how to handle it, much less what to say. This is something I hear other parents deal with, not us. In my naivety, I never thought it would EVER be something we would be facing, much less having to deal with. So, I cried. I stood there and cried. With “normal” kids, they see a parent doing this, they deal with the issue in the moment, and more often than not, kids get over things quickly. Not my son. Not in his little mind. He sees me cry (or any emotion, really), and it sets off a tail-spin of fits, stemming, and o.c.d. behaviors in him. Its almost more than I can bear on a good day, much less a day that was already hard.

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He is such a high-functioning, that most everyone do not see what he is enduring trying his best to “fit-in” or be “on” as I call it. It drains him. I am still trying to determine if our putting him in public school was the right choice. On one hand, I knew he learned best from a small amount of peer pressure. But as he has just finished first grade, it is already becoming a little more than “a small amount” of peer pressure. Yes, most of the children treat him wonderfully, he rarely gets made fun of, but what is changing is the fact that he is aware of the difference and the patronizing. It seems an impossible choice most days. We just pray. Pray over him, pray for him, pray ahead of him, and behind him. And we try to go with the flow the best we can, and most days, we get through just fine. Then there are days like today that end in tears: mine, his, sissy’s, dads. Tears and feelings of failure and frustration. Did we do the right thing? Did we address it the best we could? Did he understand what we were saying? Should I have talked to him more than I did? Less? Days like this are ones that I truly wish came with a manual.

GREYLILY EXPANDS

GREYLILY EXPANDS

I have been wanting to delve into the world of holistic health for many years now. Something has always held me back…wasn’t the right time, too busy, children too young for me to divert my attention… you see where I am going with this. But I have decided that no time is like the present, so after much research and asking questions of companies that I respect and love, I have found the proper fit for my online continuing education.

I am excited to be applying to the American College of Healthcare Sciences. I am already a college graduate (in 2004, BS Criminology). I have been out of school many moons, and this is a little intimidating for me, but I am excited to get this journey on a roll. My interests lie in both herbalism and aromatherapy. I threw around the idea of obtaining two MS degrees, but after speaking to the advisor, I think the best fit for me right now is the certification in natural product manufacturing. I plan to make my little tinctures and salves at home, and sell in my etsy store. Ah, the old etsy store. That is another entire blog post on it’s own. Tell me friends, are you finding selling in an overly-saturated marketplace exhausting, intimidating, frustrating, time consuming? Is it just me?

I have busied myself trying and reaching out to other all natural companies whose products I love and appreciate, and use. I am excited to try a few new ones. I received one in the mail today, from Herbivore.

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I hope to begin this journey this summer. My plan is to begin manufacturing all-natural (organic when possible) products and using my calligraphy for my labels, packaging. This opens a whole new world for greylily. We hope to help fill a niche in the market for educated holistic skincare. Wish me luck friends!