As a Family

It is wonderful to come together as a family to celebrate someone you love, isn’t it? This blog has a page dedicated to the wonderful story of Shane and I meeting and the preparations into my wonderful wedding where my family poured out love through their creativity and acts of service, and I so appreciated it! I got to give back to my cousin this summer as I helped in preparations for her baby shower.

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I know, I know, lots has happened between January till now, and suddenly all I post are some beautiful decorations. Well, I promise to share more of the blessings that have been so abundant in my life very soon, since, very soon, I will be flying to Oregon for an Artist-in-Residence spot at John Day Fossil Beds National Monument! But until I can gather my thoughts more for that entry, or entries, please enjoy this beautiful party at my aunt’s lovely Connecticut home that showered my dear cousin with love.

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A gift was disguised as a decoration in the dining room. The beautiful Proverbs 3:15 in a dark frame, because the soon to be oldest cousin has given the nickname of Ruby to baby-girl-to-be.

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A fox graced the front of the invitation alerting guests to the theme.

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Which dotted every nook and shelf in the home.

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What started as a bit of a joke the day before of counting the number of foxes turned into a sweet little shower game that gave folks the excuse to linger inside out of the humidity of that sunny August day.

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Little figures dotted the dining room table where there was a wonderful spread of things my cousin loves like macaroni salad.

Even the hounds were present!

What was even more fun than joking about the number of foxes was who we were joking with. The day before the shower, it seemed like the whole family worked and laughed together to put up tents, mix up salads, cheeseballs, and set tables.

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We laughed as my cousin’s brother-in-law licked spoons clean and “taste tested” the sweet tea, multiple times, as he took breaks from helping her dad outside.

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As the day came to an end, we all sat in my aunts “chair room” and enjoyed time together, knowing we still had vacuuming to do, and that, if we hustled, we could maybe get a picture printed from the maternity shoot for one last decoration before the big day.

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It was a good day. Everything was beautiful and given time, care and attention from people who love my cousin.

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Oh, and by the way, we found time to get that picture printed!

 

My Dog’s Beard

Between puppy naps I am trying to get some “to-do’s” done. Grizz is such a busy little puppy and it isn’t always the easiest keeping up with him with this bum knee. I am cautiously bending it now, but that doesn’t mean I am running. He had “bring” down by day five of being with us, bring meaning fetch, and he has sit mastered, because he has connected that when he does sit, he generally gets what he wants. I feel as though these pop up storms today are going to mess up our pattern of hanging out outside until I am absolutely certain he won’t make a mess on the carpet.

I have gotten some art projects done while I sit, babying my knee. With my dogs as inspiration, I created these fun images of a cartoon Drahthaar and German Wirehaired Pointer for merchandise. I know I am a dog person and love things having to do with my pets, so I figured others would probably enjoy my doodles of my pets as well. If you click on the image below, it will link you to my shop where you can purchase them in mug or t-shirt form and personalize it if you so choose. I know the cartoon image can also resemble a Griffon or Pudelpointer, so I made the breed text at the bottom changeable or removable.

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It has been fun learning how to work with this puppy. After frustrating moments, I try to not only refocus him, but myself and remind myself that this is a really smart breed, he just needs a job. So “sit” followed by “down” has been my next mission.

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A Deutsch Drahthaar is a very vermittle hunting dog whose native land is Germany and didn’t make an appearance in the United States until the 1920’s. They have wired hair and webbed feet because they do well in all terrains, including water. One thing Shane keeps reminding me of is that with this breed, when other dogs are getting tired, these tanks are just getting started.

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He will look a lot like Jagger, but they aren’t quite the same. Remember those sentences in English that made you think like “Every rose is a flower, but not every flower is a rose”? Well, Deutsch Drahthaars are considered German Wirehaired Pointers, but not all German Wirehaired Pointers are Deutsch Drahthaars. Jagger is just a German Wirehaired Pointer, Grizz’s breed is much more strict about breeding. When we got Grizz, the breeder explained how his color could only breed with a certain other color; forgetting what he had said, I looked it up when we got home with him and what I found about breeding them was a huge file with articles one through thirty-six with do’s and don’ts, exceptions and rules.

So that is a little background to our new furry member of the Elser household. To follow suit with Shane and Jagger, he is already working on a beard.

Rest

I flew into the rest of my weekend after I wrote my last post. I literally flew off of my longboard, onto the hard pavement, hitting first my knee, followed by a slide on my right side. The flying on the longboard stands out less against the memory of falling and sliding. I stood up quickly, annoyed I skinned my left tricep very much, and then I looked at my knee. I shudder at the picture that comes up in my mind. 

Shane was still at work, that was why I decided, after accomplishing my list of things to do, that I would ride my longboard. It was the first time I had gotten it out since last summer, and some pride in me said that I could indeed ride it to Rin’s house and back before Shane got home before our date. I had not considered the hill before her home, and there I met the pavement with a leap and a tumble. It was fortunately on this hill where a neighbors house is situated and this neighbor happened to be sitting on her porch with a biker who had been peddling by and took a break. So two angels, one a nurse, and the other ready and willing to take orders and help out, happened to be right on the scene and knew what to do till Shane’s dad arrived to drive me to the hospital.

So now, here I am, my right leg wrapped and velcroed into a brace propped up on a camp stool while I sit in a camp chair on our back porch. 

I can tell you exactly what got me into this situation, but it is still aggravating to think of how hurt my knee is. I shouldn’t bend it for two weeks due to the huge gash full of seven stitches and twenty-seven staples. Do you know how hard it is for me to sit still? Alas, I can count it a blessing it wasn’t worse. Unfortunately, that doesn’t make it any easier to sit still. As Rin put it, there must be some reason God wanted you to rest. 

Her comment made me look into verses about rest, because I have been doing a lot of that. I enjoy doing it on my back porch the most because I see our Orchard Oriole families, we have two, the yellow warblers, hummingbirds, cat birds, mocking birds, bluejays, countless red wing black birds and robins, and of course my little phoebe whose nest is just over my shoulder. It really has been a joy to just observe God’s nature, and on a morning like this morning where I was calling in a gobbler, interact with it despite my limitations. 

This certain, classic Psalm stood out to me though, because of the non-passive word, make.  He makes me lie down in green pastures. Why would God make me lie down when I have so much to do and I have this break before teaching summer workshops? Though I believe in signs, I am not sure a very obvious one is about to literally be written in the sky answering my question as to why right now must I rest. I just have to sit, be patient, and keep my eyes open and alert like I do when looking for all my different birds. 

Psalm 23:2-3 “He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake.”

Ironic I would’ve just ordered the book, and got about the day before my accident, “When God Doesn’t Make Sense” by Dr James Dobson. Again, I am not unaware of what got me into this situation, and I am thankful it isn’t worse, but the why right now at the beginning of my summer has echoed in my head. This book draws stories and examples from far worse accidents that have happened in christians lives, and dares to ask why. It doesn’t skim over the question of, “Why, God?” with verses like Romans 8:28 where it says all things work together for good. Dr James Dobson really pulls out good examples of people in the Bible with big why’s, and verses besides Romans 8:28. 

One verse the book brought up felt appropriate to my injury, as our nurse neighbor, gingerly, yet assertively held my knee together with a motherly touch. Then again, when my mom drove down on Monday and kept me company and helped around the house while I was confined mainly to the couch. 

Isaiah 66:13 “As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you: and you will be comforted over Jerusalem.” 

As I continue to watch the birds and finish some lyric videos for mu mom’s vacation Bible school, I actually want to leave some pictures of a bird that I can’t seem to identify. So for all you bird watchers out there, help me out, this grey bird has no other markings besides a light belly and red skin around its eye and a curved bill. I am in western Pennsylvania, so a curved bill thrasher doesn’t make sense, but that is what it reminds me of.

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Discovering Radiance

Living starts in-between your ears. It was something like this that my hometown pastor said during Sundays message. He was saying how sometimes before a week even begins, the list of things that must be done can be overwhelming and make you feel far busier or more rushed than you even really are. With my last post being about devotions or meditating on God’s word, for me through sketching, reading various books and making connections, I had to share my thoughts on “living between your own ears”.

In the evening, after that morning message, I was reading “Slow Stitch: Mindful and Contemplative Textile Art” by Claire Wellesley-Smith. I loved how she cited other artists and writers who, whether directly or not, seemed to have this call for the movement of Slow Art. We are surrounded by all these tools these days that are supposed to speed up processes of everything, from cooking to contacting people, but somewhere in that mindfulness has been lost.

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It has taken me twenty-eight years to sort of barely just figure out a little bit better how my own mind works. As an artist, introvert is often a blanket term tossed around, and I am comfortable with that term. Essentially, for me, it is being comfortable with solitude, being alone with out being lonely. In reading Claire’s book, I couldn’t help but connect my solitude, and working in it, with mindfulness. Taking the time to think through a project, a drawing, a painting, a series, gives me a chance to engage with it, sort things out beyond the project and get things sorted out between my ears. The author says something about the long amount of time it takes for her to regain concentration after engaging with external digital media, and I couldn’t agree more, as it can make me completely lose momentum in a drawing or painting.

Beyond my art, connecting more with the idea of lists or schedules like the pastor was pointing out, it can be so distracting to live fast. We can see twenty people’s opinion on a news story on Twitter in under twenty seconds, we can scroll through hundreds of pictures in less than a minute on Instagram, and we can start a group message with people all over the United States and get dozens of replies with in a matter of seconds. Actions that used to take a whole day, like to research or write to someone or about something now can be done in less than fifteen minutes. On this overload of media and images and messages, it can be hard to leave room to take things slow, to meditate on good things, or to be mindful.

Pslam 34:5 Those who look to him are radiant,
    and their faces shall never be ashamed.

This Psalm is how pastor finished his message, and I love it. In the context of today, we have all seen that person in distress from their hectic schedule, trying to keep up, they look exhausted. On the flip side, someone who has just taken the time to get a massage, or a weekend trip, or something, anything that is very deliberately un-rushed, always seem to glow, do they not? Well, what if every day, we took the time to meditate on Him, find that time to be mindful, make deliberate choices, wouldn’t we daily glow?

Start between your ears. Quiet your mind. Put the cellphone away. Pull out a pencil, a needle and thread, a paintbrush or a book and take it slow. You might just find yourself beaming!

 

Our First New Years

Last New Years, Shane and I were going to leave a day later than my parents to head to Connecticut. I was excited to head up, and had an audio book at the ready for us. That morning, full of vim and vigor, we packed the car, but by the time we were thirty minutes on the road I was doubled over begging Shane to turn back. I had gotten the flu. So we spent New Years at my parents home, Shane kindly bringing me ginger ale and crackers and I really don’t remember much of the first day.

This year could not be the same! I doubled down on cinnamon and vitamin C and felt confident I would not be too sick to miss out on one of my favorite traditions of visiting my New England family. Family that could now be called our New England family.

So up we drove, listening to the audio book intended for last year, The Bride Collector by Ted Dekker. We left a half an hour before my parents, but by the end of the journey, they were following us as I navigated around traffic and eventually landed us on 95, though not before we passed through the town of Bethel, Connecticut, where we passed three bookstores. Three. Also a library. So many books!

When we arrived, we nestled in to my aunts home and the first night enjoyed hot buttered rums. The next evening was our annual gift exchange. It is amazing that we still keep up this gift exchange despite all us cousins being grown, starting families, and new little ones running around.

I think it is less about the presents and more about the presence. We have one night we spend all together, we blame it on the gifts, but in the end it is the togetherness, the food, the laughs that seem to keep this good thing going.

Many of the gifts, at least on the woman’s end, are handmade. This year, an end table I refurbished was bought by one cousin and given to another, meanwhile I painted a sign that read “Merry Christmas” on one side, and “Count Your Blessings” on the other for my aunt. In previous years, my dad has handmade benches, each year giving one to another cousin of mine. One of my aunts is great at knitting, so her talent is often given as a gift. It is this giving of your own gift, ones creativity or talent, that makes the gift giving so unique in our family.

With the men not often making something, it is fun to see their thoughtfulness. Honestly, to date, a gift card has not entered the gift exchange. This year, my cousin Meg’s husband had Shane’s name and got him a throwing ax. His reasoning was simple, he likes sharp things and he likes throwing sharp things, so why wouldn’t Shane? Shane loved it and got to explain how he has thrown axes at competitions and this started a whole new level of stories to be shared.

We have no price cap. We have no limitations. We have no expectations. We just appreciate what is given, because it is so often given out of love and joy, it isn’t some obligatory act. The only rule, get something for your name gift, for the person Kim’s computer randomly lines you up with. And it works.

“You don’t choose your family. They are God’s gift to you, as you are to them.” -Desmond Tutu

Our First Christmas

Our first Christmas as Mr. and Mrs. was not unlike our other Christmases spent together. We spent time with my family, drove home and spent time with his. There is something about the familiarity that is comforting, down to the decorations I see from year to year.

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After such a whirlwind of a year, the familiarity felt good. New traditions, namely Shane and I driving here and there for different meet ups, easily nestled into the old.

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Gathering around the table, over foods we have each year, my red sausage soup, my grandma’s plum pudding, Val’s potato casserole, shared with new stories and new laughs, all comforting.

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There were gifts under the tree, but being together bested any gift wrapped up in paper or tucked in a bag. Though it was fun to watch the kids open gifts, Marcus being in a very sincere phase and was ever so thankful for everything.

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James 1:17 Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.

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The kids were soaking up the attention, and it is always fun to see so many generations interact. Even though we are all family, and it is to get expected, it is interesting to think of how little time is spent together by such a wide age range.

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Joanna was especially thrilled when her two little brothers went down for a nap midday and she got to spend that time icing cookies with me. In the evening she presented them to everyone on a plate offering them their choice of color. When her mom took one, she said, with her eyebrow raised, “But Mamma, there is a purple one?” So her mom changed her choice to purple.

This year, Shane and I got my dad a ukulele. It was something that had been on the back of my mind to get him for a while, and we finally did it. A new sound to echo in my parents home, now to mingle with the familiar.

Soon, our first Christmas would end, and we would head up to New England for our first New Years as a married couple. I’m so thankful for our beautiful Christmas and I wouldn’t change a thing.

 

 

While You Were Away

Okay, so it was me that was away for most of summer not writing, I just get so distracted with nice weather, places to go, things to do, I don’t take the time to sit in front of my laptop to write. You could say it is fall now, why the hiatus still, but it has been a really warm fall, so getting things done still keeps me from writing. Last weekend, while Shane road Scott’s four wheeler with friends in West Virginia, I stayed home and painted our dreary dining room.

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Our dining room is where I often sit and do things on my laptop, draw, and clearly cook and eat. With gold shag carpet, the unfinished dark red walls were feeling a little suffocating and enough was enough. With the dining room chairs that my mom had gotten refinished for Shane and I now in the dining room, I decided to paint the walls in a bright color that would compliment the Navajo design.

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So turquoise it was! Okay, so the paint sample says something like “Sailing Blue”, but it is a turquoise color, and I love it. To add to that, I had fun, a lot of fun, with texture. It was super simple too, just a little bit of paint on the wall, apply tissue paper, and paint over. Go big or go home they say, and being that I am home, I just went big then sat back and enjoyed my work, excited to show Shane when he got back.

The room is so much happier and I adore the texture. I ordered a southwestern valance, and soon we can check this room off our to-do list!

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