Monday, July 29, 2013

At the Intersection (Vol. 3)- Alison Chino

Today I am so happy to have my very good friend, Alison Chino, sharing today about the intersection of art, faith, and parenthood in her life.

If you have a copy of A Homemade Year, and have read the Michaelmas chapter, then you know all about how Alison and the other gals of  the "playgroup," helped rescue me from the dragon of loneliness and therefore will always hold a very special place in my heart.
In just a few short weeks Alison and her family will embark on a three year adventure in Aberdeen, Scotland. I really can't wrap my brain around this, and pretty much tear up each and every time I try. This is one of those times when I am so very grateful that I live in the age of blogging. Over the years I have managed to record quite a few sweet memories that include all the Chinos here on my blog, and through Alison's blogging, I  will be able keep up with my friend and her sweet family during this next chapter of their story.

So without any more rambling on my part, let's get to it:

(photo by Whitney Loibner)

Name: Alison Chino
Creative Endeavors: Making Dinner Yummy and Writing
Children's Ages: 16,14,12,7
Status: Married to Taido Chino, youth pastor turned PhD candidate
Job other than afore mentioned creative endeavours: Free lance copywriter/Caterer
Expression of Faith: Home church will always be Fellowship North in North Little Rock, Arkansas. I love it like my family. We are a broken, but beautiful community, constantly evolving to be called out followers of Jesus, a racially unified body in a world divided. 

Moving from Arkansas to Aberdeen


How did you find your creative niche? Was this something you have always done, or did you fall into it by accident?

I've always been a writer.  I started filling up notebooks as a little girl and I have boxes of journals saved from my need to write down Every Little Thing That Ever Happened.  I love memoirs because they are well-crafted journals.
Cooking did not come to me until I was married and had a home of my own.  I started writing down recipes when I was a young bride, working in a bookstore, and I fell in love with the process of creating fulfilling meals from scratch.  I love to start a meal all the way back to the most basic and natural of ingredients.  Somehow it makes me feel like I am creating something from nothing.  Or from very little. 

(photo by Whitney Loibner)

Where do you create? Office? Kitchen table? 
Do you create best in solitude or in the middle of chaos? 
I love most to be outside with my notebook or clipboard, but I can work almost anywhere that is quiet.  I prefer to be alone, and in silence.  I'm amazed by people who can study or work in the midst of a lot of noise.  Even when I'm cooking, I like for it to be quiet.  I can cook in chaos, but it's just not as fun to me.  Often I start dinner before my kids get home from school so I can enjoy the chopping or the kneading. 

How does your faith influence your creative process?
How does that process influence or enrich your faith?

It is hard for me to separate faith from my writing process.  Over half of my journal entries are prayers or answers to prayers.  I find that even if I am not phrasing my words as a prayer, I am often still pleading with God in my writing.  
Also, I feel like I wouldn't have anything to write about if God was not authoring my journey.  He leads me to the most amazing experiences and then I get to write about them.  I am overwhelmed when I think about all the gifts he's given me in my forty years on this earth.  If I never again left my house, I could write about all the ways God has been faithful to me so far.  

Sometimes I feel as if writing, parenting, and the practicing my faith are all drawing from the same well inside me, that they tax the same part of my heart. This means that quite often I find that I have depleted all of my resources pouring into just one of the three, leaving the other two wanting.  Do you have this same issue, or is it just me? What do you do to recharge, or refill the well,

In your creative process?

In writing, I just need time alone.  It's essential.  I get twitchy if I've been around people for too many days in a row. 
When I find that I am tired of cooking, it's time to try something new.  I go to a new restaurant and get inspired or look at magazines and cookbooks until I have a whole pile of new recipes I want to try.  I am fortunate to have a family that enjoys trying new foods! 

In your parenting?
When I am struggling as a parent, I need community.  Instead of being alone and all inside my own head, I need to be with other moms who understand what I am going through.  For as long as I've been a parent, I have had some other moms that I respect that I can go to and say, What about this?  I think I am doing it all wrong!  I remember one year that I was really struggling as a parent, I reached out to another mom with several children and asked her if she would study a parenting book with me?  I am not exaggerating when I say that the relationship with that mom has changed my life.  We have tons of practical, What Do You Do When...? conversations, but also, she reminds me that I am myself a child of God, covered in mercy and grace. And parenting is a journey.  When I fail, I can wake up and begin again tomorrow.  Often I need her to say out loud to me what I already know.

In the practicing of your faith?

Faith journeys are long and winding roads.  I believe that what recharges my faith is always the same and always changing.  What reawakens me to faith is to see God.  What changes is the way that I see Him. Some days I see Him most by studying His Word.  Other seasons seem to me marked by how I experience God in nature or in music.  Community continues to be a significant way I see the face of God in someone else's eyes.  Serving does this as well.  Sometimes I can't seem to connect with God unless it is quiet, and I am in prayer or meditation.  I've had a lot of Come To Jesus moments on my yoga mat.  Different years of my life seem to be characterized by a stronger emphasis on one of the ways God shows me Himself.  It encourages me to see that He is always meeting me.

Do you have any advice for other mom's out there who are also trying to learn how to live out their callings as artist, mothers and followers of Christ? What is something you wish someone had told you earlier on?

People told me early on to go easy on myself, but I didn't listen.  I am truly trying to give up the addiction of being a perfectionist.  It's a miserable, dead end road.  If you can let go early on in parenting and in art, you'll be the healthier for it!  Also, this may sound kind of silly, but I wish I had known about blogs when my kids were little.  They weren't really a "thing" yet, but I would love to have the same kind of online record of my older kids as I do my youngest.  It's such an accessible treasure, complete with pictures!  Sometimes I will go back and blog something from an old journal, just because I want it to be part of the story I'm telling on my blog.  Even if you keep your blog private or just for your family, it's a wonderful way to record and mark your life as a child of God. 

What are some specific challenges you are facing right now in all three of these areas? 

Again, I struggle with wanting everything to be perfect before I can let others in on my life or my writing.  I want to let go of this so I can be more free to create.  I want to give myself freedom to let go of some obligations or expectations of myself that are keeping me from writing more.

As a parent, I am shifting seasons.  Two of my kids are in high school now, and I still want to treat them like they are little ducklings under my wing.  I am daily learning to let go.  Even now, both of them are off in the world somewhere, away from me.  When it keeps me up at night, I try to remember to drop to my knees instead of wringing my hands. 

How can I, and my readers, pray for you?

Honestly, our whole world is being framed by this giant move to Scotland right now.  Most days, I am struggling to believe that it is all going to work out.  We have only a few weeks left to sell/rent our house, procure visas and tickets, pack up and move to the other side of the world with just what we can carry in our suitcases.  And then, where will we live?  How will we live?   There are more unknowns than answers right now and while that is exactly where I think God wants us to be, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little scared. 

Is there anything else you would like to share with my readers regarding the interplay of art, faith, and parenthood in your life? Any experiences or practices you would like to share?

One thing that I haven't mentioned is that travel is a huge part of my creative process, my faith journey and my parenting.
New places open up new parts of my brain and get my juices flowing.  It's great inspiration for writing and for cooking, because I try new things.  I also find that I have to rely more on God when I am pushed outside of my comfort zone and normal routines, and being dependent on God always grows my faith.

In parenting, travel provides the opportunity to be together as a family in a way that is completely different from being at home.  We are able to pay more attention to each other and we make these memories that are quintessentially us.  My strongest memories of my own childhood are the crazy trips we did with my family, so it's important to me to create those same experiences for my children.  Even when it seems impossible or crazy.  Like the summer we spent all together in a pop up camper traveling the Pacific Northwest or going backpacking in the Rocky Mountains this summer.  These journeys have not been without hiccups and challenges, but I hope that my kids are taking away that in faith and in life, what you learn and experience along the way is as important as the end result.  I'm praying that we will be able to say that about moving to Scotland as well!

I am by no means a journalist so if there are questions you would like me to ask future interviewees please leave them in the comments on this post.

Also, if anything Alison said struck a chord in you, please say so! The great thing about blogging is that we can encourage each other, right here in this little online space, from wherever we are, no need to even put on make-up or brush our hair. So please, leave Alison some love in the comments!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

sunday's challenge- we have to get our hands dirty

"The fairest thing in nature, a flower, still has roots in earth and manure."
- D. H. Lawrence

Being Christ hand's and feet here earth means that we must be of earth and not just of ideals.
We must choose, over and over, to put our roots down in the dirtiest and stinkiest places of all. The places no one else wants to go because they are filled with waste and mess. Places that smell funny and look different and are completely repulsive to our American ideals of tidiness and order. We must dig deep, and loosen our bound-up standards of what are the right choices and what are the wrong ones. We must abandon any ideas we have of what a successful life looks like, what a human worth investing in looks like. We have to throw away the nice, safe containers of qualifications and merit.
Instead we must allow ourselves to be planted with the dusty and struggling row crops, in the little strip of earth that  breaks through the cracks in the abandoned sidewalk, and on top of the compost pile behind the overflowing house. Only then will our hearts be undone, only then can we see that we receive and give back through the same process of photosynthesis as every other living thing. We all must look to the same sun and the same rain for our nourishment.  We are all, even the fairest of the flowers, meant to be rooted in, and grow out of,  earth and manure.

Friday, July 26, 2013

settling back in

I am not sure if it is because we are coming up on the one year anniversary of taking our house off the market, or if it is because things are starting to look so lovely on the outside, or if I have just gotten used to the idea,  but lately I have a renewed hope and energy for our life on Ridge Road. I am once again excited by the idea of  improving our little house and Sweet Man and I stay up late planning kitchen renovations and weekends are often spent working in the gardens or tackling a small decorating project or two. I have plans to show you all of our changes and updates properly, but July and early August are always so busy around here with the start of school and both the boys birthdays, that I am doing good just to have clean underwear for everyone.
So a few pictures taken on the fly with my phone will have to suffice for now.

The outside of our house is really starting to take shape. Mother's Day weekend the boys and my MIL stared this landscape project along the front of the house and Sweet Man has continued to add to it ever since.  I am loving the green brick, and the windows are almost all painted and now just need to be scrapped. I want to cover the iron post with some sort of vine, as I am not a fan of the post as they are. There is still much to do in the front yard and to the exterior of the house, and while we still have a ways to go (new roof, more grass, some fruit trees...) just having this much done feels like a huge step in the right direction.

Inspired by our trip to Eureka Springs, I have hung white curtains in our bedroom. They are currently mismatched, as I just used whatever bits I had stuffed in the fabric closet. But I have figured out what kind of white fabric looks best in the room and now know what I am looking for. A thin white cotton linen blend or white seersucker are the best. Our last curtains were very heavy, and while they were probably a little more "energy" efficient they left our room dark and cave-like. I love how happy and cheerful the room feels now.
There are other changes happening in our bedroom-slowly but surely- and I am hoping to have a complete room tour in a few weeks. Maybe.

I have had this bench for years, my FIL made it for me out a bed frame found on the side of the road. First I left it unpainted, then a few years ago I painted it an extremely pale pink but was never truly happy with that choice. Recently I have been overtaken with a love of a melonish coral red and an acidy mustard yellow. These colors are showing up in every room of my house, but nowhere more than in our dining room. I just love how happy this bench looks now, and I cannot wait to see how it will look against the very pale mustardy yellow walls - which I am determined to see painted very soon.

Despite all this settling in, I still have bouts of wanderlust. I still daydream of a someday-farm-life, and tear up from time to time at the thought of how close we came. But lately, thankfully, I am having more bouts of gratefulness for where we are- instead of frustration about where we are not. And, truthfully Sweet Man and I feel a call to be good stewards of the life we have here-to care for the home, the yard, and the neighborhood where we live in the here and now, instead of letting it all fall apart and deteriorate while we wait for tomorrow to come. So that is what we are doing, little bit by little bit.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

On the nightstand

I am barely into this book and already I have filled a handfull of notecards with quotes and passages.
It is challenging and encouraging all at once. I want to inhale it. 

A new all-time favorite. Maybe in my top 5 favorite fiction books ever. Right now Sweet Man is reading it, and when he is through we are going to read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle together.

 I loved this book written by mother and daughter. So much inspiration and encouragement found between these pages. So much honesty about the creative process, road blocks, and finding breadcrumbs along the way.

I know this is a standard for writers, but I just now finished it. I think I was somewhat afraid of it. Afraid I would read it and think, "well crap. I am not a writer like I thought I was."
Instead I found myself crying while I read certain passages, thinking "yes, that's it exactly." The tug to write that much stronger. Oh goodness.

So what are you reading??


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

camp love

I am all about crafting some camp cuteness over on the At Home in Arkansas Blog today! 


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

bounded up in blue

I have begun collecting old quilts. Specifically patchwork and crazies.
I love the myriad of fabric choices that each of the quilters made.
I love that they seem to be made from scraps. From the leftovers.
I can well imagine the time it took to chose and cut each piece of fabric.
Piles of triangles and odd geometric shapes big and small covering the dining room table, pushed to the side to make way for dinner or homework.

I never buy the pristine, the mint condition, the heirloom quality.
I buy the quite-used variety instead.
These quilts are not the things of blue ribbon prizes or art exhibits.
But they are each pieces of domestic artwork at their best.
Because they have been loved, and used, and  loved again.

Made from what is left of baby blankets, work shirts, Sunday dresses, feed sacks, several of the fabrics are worn. Threadbare.
Over the years they hold steady because they are lined and stitched to other pieces of fabric.
Some of those pieces are stronger than others. Some are brighter. Some are softer. 
Some pieces are smaller and some bigger.
Colors and patterns clashing and contradicting, left and right.
But there they are.
Making it work.

As a child I made up stories to go with the variety of patterns found on the quilts pieced together by my great-grandmothers. Laying in the big bed with the yellow headboard at  Maw's house, listening to the gentle constant sound of the ceiling fan whir, counting down the minutes until naptime was over, I studied and traced each scrap, each square.
Running my hand across the quilt I could feel the rough bumps.
The knots, here and there, holding the whole thing together.
Little bits of knotted up threads and yarn, that seemed to float randomly, tying the top to the bottom, the front to the back. 

I whispered to myself tales of ballerina dancing queens, picnics at the beach, sailboats in storms and love stories filled with hearts and flowers.. Each piece of fabric seemed to stand alone. Able to tell their own singular stories in a sea of color.
Finishing my quilt tour I always chose my top three favorite patches,  wishing I had dresses made of each,  as I (finally) drifted off to sleep.

This is a new-to-me quilt.
Standing back, at a distance, I can see how each of the patches works with the others.
How the the twist and turns of the shapes now seem purposeful, instead of haphazard.
If I look closely I can see how the entire blanket is made of pieced together rectangles, triangles and odd make-do shapes. I can see how the knots speckle the quilt like soft little polka-dots, placed exactly where they are needed most.
The quilt is beautiful up close and from far away.
It is also imperfect.
One of the corners is ripped up. There are a few small tears on the top.
But the majority of the quilt is still intact. Big enough to cover a swinging bed, or a sleeping child at nap time.
Or me when I catch an evening chill.

When not in use, the quilt lays atop my chifferobe next to my favorite vintage chalk figures of Mary and Jesus, the ones that have been broken and glued back together. Next to them is the pair of open hands I found in Memphis and  the colorful handmade clay rosary beads the boys bought me for Christmas. Behind all of this is a poster-size collage I made from torn magazine images, all representing some sort of sacred space in my heart.  From my side of the bed, I can see each of these items perfectly and it has occurred to me more than once  that I have created some sort of alter up there, some sort of visual expression of a soul-offering, over the place where I keep my yoga pants and sundresses.

Last night, feeling particularly anxious and adrift, I pulled the quilt down, searching for comfort. Once again I found myself tracing each scrap with my fingers. Picking out my favorites. Making up stories. Wondering about the person who made this quilt, wondering about the patches that look liked sofa fabric, calico dresses, barkcloth curtains. Wondering how the binding earned it's rips, and whose bed this small quilt was meant for. Gradually feeling less adrift as I wondered if the maker knew just how beautiful the mismatched bits of her life would look all stitched together and bound by the color of the sky.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

sunday's challenge-what if?

What if instead of hearing Jesus scolding Martha for being busy, what if instead we hear Jesus encouraging Martha to take a break? To give herself permission to rest. 
To sit. To listen. To go slow. 

What if we heard it as a reminder instead of as a reprimand?

Yes. The laundry has to get done, dinner has to be considered, and deadlines are real things.

But first, always first, go back to the source. 
Lean in a little closer. Wait a little longer. Breathe a little deeper.

Friday, July 19, 2013

fields of grace {mid-summer blog tour and a QUICK giveaway}

This is Brittany. She is a momma of boys (like me!) and a liturgical calendar nut (like me!) She is also the author of The Lily Field blog, a precious blog full of fun ideas, and real life post, that I quickly fell in-love with.

Over the next little while you might see bits of A Homemade Year turning up here and there as we celebrate the simple joys of Ordinary Time. As part of the summer tour, Brittany is hosting a giveaway of the book!!
There is only a day left in the giveaway, so if you haven't entered yet, make sure you do! And check out her post about Ordinary Time and the pasta salad recipe she shares from the book!

Also, Ashley Ann from Under the Sycamore posted a quote from AHY yesterday afternoon on her Instagram feed. 

I cannot express how overwhelmed I get when I read all the sweet and encouraging comments on post such as Brittany's and Ashley's. I am blown away every time. Blown away and grateful. Also I am humbled by the weight and the responsibility that comes with sharing ones heart. The call to be authentic and real and to let the mess and the hope hang out becomes that much more important. To live the truth of All is not perfect,  all is not lost, instead all is grace daily. 

Speaking of being blown away...
Guess who gets to present at Wild Goose? 
If you don't know about Wild Goose, check out their website and be amazed by the gathering of talent and heart they have amassed (including Phyllis Tickle, Sybil MacBeth, Glennon Melton, Brian McClaren, Nadia Bolz-Weber, Phillip Yancy...)  The name of the festival comes from the Celtic word used for the Holy Spirit, which also means wild goose because it cannot be tracked,or tamed. Golly I love that metaphor.
I am truly blown away that I get to participate and share a bit of my story and the heart of AHY at this festival. Talk about fields of grace.
(And yes, the hippie part of me is excited by being at this sort of gathering. I am already planning how to decorate my tent....)
If you are going to be at Wild Goose come see me! I will be presenting in the Art & Soul Cafe, Friday night, August 9 from 6:30-7:30. As a friend of mine you can get a 20%  discount on ticket prices if you click here. Yay you! Yay Wild Goose!

Tomorrow is Miles' birthday party. It is all about the Minecraft this year. Cannot believe my baby is  9. 

Have a great weekend friends!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Queen of Harts Bridal Shower

Last weekend I had the honor of helping throw a shower for the daughter of some of our very good friends.
We have known Caitlin since she was Miles' age or younger and I cannot believe she is all grown up and about to get married! 

 Caitlin, whose name will be Mrs. Caitlin Hart, as of August 3rd, is a creative and artistic and fashionable gal, who also loves Tim Burton movies, old Hollywood glam, vintage chic, and fairy tales (to name just a few.)
So we felt it was only right to throw her an Alice in Wonderland themed shower.

Instead of a fuzzy white rabbit kicking things off, we started with a fuzzy white wreath, with a nod towards our theme...

Then came a dreamlike book page garland, many tick-tock-clocks, and an old looking glass, which led straight to Wonderland where you could

meet Queen Alice, all ready for the party...

Drop off your gift, featuring a brooch for the brides bouquet...

Pass the Mad Hatter (aka Hank)...

and finally arrivie  at the Tea Party fit for a queen bride.

Jeanetta came over Saturday (she is the genius stylist behind the Mad Hatter and Alice) to help decorate and get things in order for the party.  We had a grand time creating and fluffing and dreaming up ideas, just like when we used to decorate and fluff our shop years ago.
Sweet Man asked how we split up the duties when we decorate, and I realized that we work so closely, and think so alike in this way, that I am not even sure how it all gets done. 
I guess that is what happens when you have been creating with someone- in some or fashion-for twenty years. Suddenly you realize it is a natural as breathing. It's a little bit like magic.

My friend Lynn brought all the decadent cakes and pies and tinsy sandwiches and tons of fruit.
Another friend, Kitzel, brought the flowers.
So wonderful to have friends who are happy to pitch in and help.

Jeanetta found these cute little "Here Comes the Bride" stir sticks at Target. We stuck them in everything- the cake, the flowers, used them for coffee stir sticks...

I loved getting to pull out all my party stuff and put it to good use.
It seems as if we have fallen into this lull where none of our friends are getting married or having babies, and our babies are not quite old enough to be doing those things themselves, so I have not thrown a shower in quite a while.
So great to pull out the vintage tea pots and the all the cake stands and cover everything with flowers.

Hank was breaking hearts right and left as the Matter Hatter aka King of Aces. 

The LOVE bunting my sister Jemimah made graced the light fixture.
This little bunting has come in handy on so many occasions.
I think I might need a few more...Maybe some PEACE, HOPE, and JOY ones? In a variety of colors??

  A whole bunch of favorites: Pompom garland, Striped candles, my Happy, Blessed flash card, as well as some Southern Voodoo Punch.

 I have a thing for finger sandwiches. I could eat two dozen in one sitting I think.
 There were cucumber ones and then another kind that had cranberries and cream cheese. Little bits of homegrown basil were interspersed as a garnish. I just loved these the most I think.

I love Ryan and Caitlin's Art Deco styled wedding invite.
So them.

Did I mention that I love getting to use all my vintage goodies?

Here is the Bride-to-Be receiving what I bet was her most favorite gift- a copy of the Vintage Tea Party book.
How apropos don't you think?

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

First Day of School 2013




Monday was the first day of school for us.
We were rushed getting out the door in the morning, so I took our traditional "first day" photo's when we got home.
I won't make that mistake again.
Good grief.
Welcome to real life folks.


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