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   When I was a kid I remember reading a book where there was a 'birthing room' in the house. I've long forgotten the book, but the idea of a special room, set aside just for birth, always fascinated me and stuck in my mind. How special, i thought, to have a room just for this momentous occasion, where generations of family members came into the world.

   That concept, and the happy deluge of little babies and expected babies I am so thrilled to see coming into the world inspired this latest painting, "Born At Home." The feeling behind this piece is one of happiness, joy, and the sanctuary of home. I love how, even if our babies arent actually born literally at home, the concept of simplicity and family environment has started making such a comeback in our culture. There is a push back against making pregnancy and birth seem like an illness and something to view in a clinical light. I love the concept of raising a family naturally, simply, without a lot of fuss and pressure.

   Those feelings, and the images of home birth, the powerful tenderness of the mother, the skill of another wise woman alongside her to help guide her, and the active support of her spouse and even other children--- that is what this painting is all about.

    I often think back to my own ancestors when I think about my own life as a mother in these modern times--- which are in many ways easier, and in other ways harder, than what they experienced.  I'm only a couple of generations removed from women who were birthing and raising babies in little cabins in the Ozarks without running water. I decided to use the names of these women in the community quilt that I have laid on the bed of the scene---- Mary Jane was only about 15 when she had her first child on New Years Eve in the early 1900s. Emma Delilah, her daughter, gave birth to a baby, my grandma, who was so little that the midwife wrapped her in a blanket and sat her in a pot to warm in the oven. Minnie Fayetta and Pansy Lenora, whose names are a bit hidden, were also strong and lively women who had daughters at home. Minnie finally got a son after 5 daughters--- and his name was Robert!

  Of course, my hope is that when people see this painting, they create their own story for it. Often times, when I paint, things just come to me. Like the Annunciation painting above the bed-- that wasnt planned until it was basically coming off the paint brush. It seemed so fitting though. Perhaps it will speak to someone in a way I can't even imagine.

  This original painting is now in my etsy shop. If you're looking for a unique gift for mother's day, or perhaps for a midwife, I think this would be pretty perfect!~ Im sure I'll do prints later as well.

  Thanks for coming to visit me today!~ Have a great week, and Blessed Holy Week to my Orthodox Friends!~

Original Art

    I'm perched here this afternoon on a chair in my studio, watching a spring storm roll through. Luckily I just got back from the post office before it began to pour, but the thunder was rolling....I felt a bit like Marianne in Sense and Sensibility: "You always say it wont rain and it always does!"

   I'm finally feeling feisty again though, after weeks of being under the weather. I kept thinking if I just toughed it out and pushed through I'd get over the constantly aching head and ears and stuffiness....but no. It took a trip to the doctor for me, and later one for the baby and now we're finally getting back to our old selves!

   I just finished up this painting above called "Born At Home" Which I've just finished and listed on etsy! You can find it HERE. I'll write more about it in my next blog post, I'm very pleased with how it came out! I've also listed my little painting "A Kiss For Saint George" which is a popular print--- now someone can have the original! :D

   Also---- dont forget! If you're local, we're having our first "Sketchbook Club" meeting on May 7! Would love to have you join us!~

New post on Grow Christians!~

   Good morning!~ I wanted to share with you some exciting news--- Grow Christians, which started out as a pilot program for Lent, is going to continue on through the next few months, and I've been asked to continue to be a contributor!
   My latest article is about simple ways to bring the Easter season into your home--- and you can read the entire article HERE.
  This is exciting news for me, as I havent been a 'real' writer in several years. Time to dust off my pen, er, keyboard! :D
  Hope you're having a great week---

Sketchbook Club!

   Hi Friends!~
     Well spring is here and it's time to dust things off at Prairie House, my studio that I share with my good friend and fiber artist Natasha Ball from House Sparrow Fine Nesting.
   We are starting to host more events in our common space and wanted to invite you to take part in a "Sketchbook Club", a monthly get-together for artists or budding artists of all ages and abilities.

   I'm hoping for us to meet monthly to bring our sketch books to share with eachother--- see what other artists are doing and get some great feedback and support from fellow artists.

   Club members can also take some time to sketch small still-lifes set up around the studio, or sketch in the garden around the studio (weather permitting.) After that, we can come together for a pot luck tea time to chat some more and have some yummy treats.

   There is no charge for attending, just bring your sketching supplies, good attitude, a simple snack to share with the others.

  Our FIRST meeting will be SATURDAY May 7 from 2-4ish pm.

Prairie House is located at:
120 E. McKinley
Sapulpa OK 74066

PLEASE RSVP if you plan on coming so I'll have a general idea of how many artists to expect.
RSVP: audreyeclectic@gmail.com

Books on my night stand....

   Ah, well, obviously my idea to review the books I've read for the month at the end of the month was a case of wishful thinking. Getting myself together in a timely fashion has proved....not the easiest thing to do! But I still really want to talk good books with you! So, hey, lets do it now--- shall we?

   The last few weeks have been really interesting. I've been reading some really great books that are helping me with some major confusion as to the state of Oklahoma's public schools. Slashed budgets have been slashed again. Parent's are being asked to fill out surveys about what core services or classes we'd be "least/most upset" about having cut out of our children's education. It's worrisome, and has me thinking I need to beef up things at home, and not just for education's sake, but for the sake of doing some fun things with the kids in general.

  Some great resources for this endeavor have been Amanda Soule's books--- The Creative Family, Handmade Home and The Rhythm of Family. Amanda is known the world over for her blog Soule Mama and magazine Tap Root, but these books are some of my favorite of her writing. Lots of projects for little hands, ideas for lazy summer afternoon crafting, and starting a more handmade approach to life in general. You know I like that!

   However, hands down my favorite book to read this past month has been Simplicity Parenting. I literally read it with highlighter in hand. The timing of this book coming into my hands has been nothing short of perfect. I believe I read an article about some of the concepts in the book the Monday after we'd done one of those massive clean-outs of the kids room and little playroom.
   I was so tired of hearing "I'm bored" from amidst a mountain of stuff, and of tripping over stuff and picking up stuff and just generally dealing with stuff that didnt seem useful so much as just the things always in our way. 
  Pair that with a freshly minted 9 year old declaring that she was done with toys and didnt want all the stuff anyway and well, it was quite the haul we made to Good Will.
  Something amazing happened afterwards though--- not just that rooms were clean, but you could see those special items again--- the dollhouse, the few beloved dolls or toys that had once been hidden under mounds of junk. The mood of the house changed, it was calmer, less chaotic. Picking after play became manageable, quick.
  Then starting this book made things come together even clearer--- in the book, Payne describes the palpable anxiety that comes from too many things--- how the clutter of activities and entertainment add to this as well. 
  He wrote "the process of simplification-- a shifting of a family's core axis-- is usually driven by a parent's simple desire to protest the ease and wonder of their child's early years." and continued:" as distractions fall away, a sense of ease takes hold and expands. There's more time for connection, room for contemplation and play."

  Some of my highlighted bits from the books include these points:

- Too much stuff deprives kids of leisure, and the ability to explore their worlds deeply

- A protected childhood allows for the slow development of identity, well-being and resiliency.

- Simplification is not just about taking things away. It is about making room, creating space in your life, your intentions, and your heart. With less physical and mental clutter, your attention expands, and your awareness deepens.

- When children are given so many things, nothing has value--- the only option is 'more.'

- The less a toy can 'do', the more they can 'become', in play

- Meaning hides in repetition: we do this every day or every week because it matters. We are connected by this thing we do together. We matter to one another.

- Its not just what you make of your time, but whether you have the time to make it your own.

- Love something for it's own sake--- not for its potential for fame, glory, scholarships, awards.

- Through the noise and bustle of daily life, a parent's words can help shape the way a child sees the world and themselves.

  Reading this book has triggered a yearning in myself to give my children a more natural, uncluttered home life and childhood. I think back to my own early years--- and my earliest memories are of being with my great-grandparents, who took care of me while my parents worked. I have flashes of memories of blue skies and towering plants in a vegetable gardens, of watching birds, grass under bare feet, singing songs, sitting on the kitchen counter while granny worked at the sink. 

   What is so interesting to me about these memories are that they aren't totally unreachable to my kids, because granny didnt live in the bucolic countryside. She literally lived on the same street we live on now. She had created that garden and home in an ordinary suburban lot in town, yet it was a world all her own--- at least to a little one like me.
   Lately I've been finding myself walking by that little house--- because it seems so very little now--- and gazing at that yard that was a magic wonderland to me and thinking "I want that for my kids."

  And so, coupling those memories with my reading, I've been working hard to make our yard a more kid friendly area--- moving the shovels and spades to the garage so that the shed can be a playhouse, incorporating the care of our animals in the routine of even the littlest's day--- making garden time a family event, listening to simple music that is kid friendly-- searching out the soothing instead of the busy.

   It hasnt been perfect, but its a work in progress that I'm really excited about. I feel like this book is one of those books that will go down as an absolute favorite and go-to source for inspiration. I think if you're feeling some of these same things I am, you'll find it an invaluable source too.

   Now--- are are we tossing out all the toys and the tvs and electronic time over here to sing in harmony around a campfire? No....not quite ;) but I am being more mindful about our interactions--- even as I mess things up. But we keep on keepin' on, keep trying, keep improving and looking for ways to have fun simply. And make art, of course!~

And so--- these are the books on my mind right now. Maybe you'd enjoy them too? What have you been reading? Do you have any great books about childhood that you'd recommend I put on my list? I'd love to hear!~ Let me know in the comments!

Hope you're having a great week!~