Archives For children

Southern Hygge

Mary Liz Ingram —  January 19, 2015 — 2 Comments

This weekend has left several improving marks upon my life.

It began with a challenge: an attempt to clarify a fuzzy whisper in my mind.

Feeling another step in the right direction of living well in my place, it tickled the edges of my thoughts. The many tasks and routines and duties of daily life crowded out any understanding. For the weekend, I decided an easy and concrete way to lessen the buzz and listen to life is to set aside the smart phone. You know how it is these days…our children telling us stories or asking us questions while we continue staring at the screen, looking for who knows what.

Be present, original photographyIt started with a sentence: “Be with the ones who are here.”

I added it to my phone’s lock screen photo, my favorite photo. Each time I lift it and push the magic button, I am reminded to be present. Most often, I put the phone down. I needed nothing; just an idle addiction to “news” and “notification.” When the timing is appropriate and I am the only one here, I browse. Friday afternoon happened upon an article introducing cultural concepts from outside the US. Several of these ideas struck chords in my heart and set off a light bulbs in my mind. I ate up as much information as I could to understand (and correctly pronounce) these new terms.

It begins with an “H”: The Danish Hygge (pronounce something close to “hue-gah”)

A warm, cozy sense of well-being; being grateful for the present moments, for warming, light-filled simple things. Like walks in the woods, bundled in soft clothes. Like a warm cup of tea, or hot chocolate by the fire. Like snuggling on a deep couch with your family, or taking time to pet your dog. Watching your children run and laugh and play down a trail; watching the sun rays through the trees, shining off the puddles and warming your face. A home that exudes welcome. Good friends and good company.

In Denmark, they say this contributes to the Danes being the happiest people on earth. Filling their homes with candles and lights and joy and camaraderie. I ordered some string lights for our home (with Christmas past and hygge not quite celebrated here, they proved hard to come by!) and have candles in mason jars on my mantle…a southern type of hygge. I’m ready to bring warmth to these cold winter months and more peace and awareness into our daily moments.

It starts with an “S”: The Japanese Shinrin-Yoku

Translated as “forest bathing,” we immediately explored this concept of “spending time in the forest and natural areas,” which is supposed to be “good preventative medicine.” On our sunny and mild January Saturday, I loaded up the three kids and headed around the way to our nearby Red Mountain Park. We wove our way through the forest, up and down and around the hilly trails and through the tall, tangled towers of bare trees. We soaked in the forest, the sunlight, the changing earth which darkened the nearer we came to the old iron ore mines. We explored and adventured.

It was good for the soul.

The two children who had earlier been squabbling as we stayed indoors now laughed and ran and chased each other, finding rocks and sticks and life. The mother who was tired, morose and irritable breathed deeply and gazed warmly at the world and with so much love and gratitude at the scampering kids. Can hygge and shinrin-yoku go together? Fusion philosophies, like fusion food? It seems that way.

There is so much to learn in the world; so many ways to improve our lives so that in turn, we may improve the lives of others. In our fast, competitive, needy American life, these slowing, peaceful, contented cultural concepts sound like good medicine. I already feel a difference in my life, just from the first days of appreciative attempt. I wish the same for you, along with a warm and welcoming winter.

Explore, original photography

Explore, original photography

 

Recently I had a cool opportunity to share about creating portraits for my sweet friend Julie Holly’s sermon serie, The Faces of Jesus, at Canterbury United Methodist Church here in Birmingham.

Now, my nerves were threatening to get the best of me as soon as my den was overtaken with a big ol’ camera, a bunch of bright lights, and I got hooked up to a microphone. But thanks to the kind cameraman, I did my thing as best I could.

I hesitated to share the video, you know how we humans pick ourselves apart, but they did such a good job making it, and it’s not everyday you get to share what you do in a video, so here goes nothing:

The Garden

Mary Liz Ingram —  October 23, 2014 — 5 Comments

For months, I’ve been consumed with my latest project:

My fabulous front yard garden.

I’ve researched, I’ve measured, I’ve sketched and planned. I’ve shoveled dirt, I’ve carried rocks, I’ve moved buckets and buckets of soil. I’ve planted, I’ve watered, I’ve problem solved, I’ve watched food grow, I’ve eaten produce from my front yard.

With my trusty helpers, including the 2 year old, we have made my dream a reality and I have to admit I am super proud – giddy even. If you follow my blog, you may remember my post from St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, when I was first inspired to plant the garden. Well, I’m happy to say I DID IT. I did it!!! And if you follow me on Facebook, you’ve been barraged with garden doodles.

In planting, I tried to be responsible – environmentally, economically and practically. After a persistent search, I found an amazing deal on recycled fire bricks ($25 a ton!) to edge my garden. I ordered a huge dump truck load of soil at the best price. I compost and I now own a $40 rain barrel. I ordered non GMO seeds ($.99 sample packs!) from seedsnow.com and they grew. I shop at my local Homewood Garden Shop and have healthy blueberry bushes and lovely plants.

I worked my butt off building and planting this garden.

Beginning at the end of August, in the Alabama heat, I made it happen with my ever-present garden buddy. My kids, especially my son, now understand exactly where food comes from and how to grow it and care for it. My son waters it, pulls grass out of it, harvests the radishes, and takes a walk through it every time I open the door.

My garden is planted to grow community.

I didn’t know how that would work, but the first day I was out there I had real conversations with a dozen people, neighbors and passers-by. I share food with my neighbors and have met all sorts of new people. My kids tell anyone who asks about the plants growing, and I find that food is an easy thing to discuss, a common denominator.

My favorite story happened a few weeks ago. As we walked home from school, I began talking to an older lady about rosemary, as our kids were smelling it by someone’s mailbox. I just made a quick comment, not aiming at anything, not trying too hard. A few words later, we were talking about my garden. She was interested and missed her garden, as she said, “in my country, we have sun everyday and I grow many plants.” As we parted ways, I told her to stop by anytime and see the garden and take some herbs.

A week later, she stopped me at the corner with her two grandsons and asked if they could walk down to see the garden. On our short stroll, I find out they are from Haiti, and that her entire family was there during the earthquake except for her. She had arrived in the US four days before the quake for a wedding, and was plagued with anxiety over the separation at such a time. I now know her name, I know a portion of her amazing story, and the kids all ran together along the stepping stones of my garden.

Growing something, overcoming obstacles (like cats, cabbage worms, flooding rains, aphids…), being faithfully attentive and persistent…you learn things from gardening. About life, about children, about the world. I feel at peace and connected to nature when I’m checking the leaves and hearing the spray of water hitting the thick pile of green collards. It is a small miracle to see a snow pea sprout and grow out of the dirt, mere days after planting. There are more benefits to this garden than I can name.

My Garden Doodles thus far:

 

 

3rd Grade

Mary Liz Ingram —  October 20, 2014 — 1 Comment
Homework, ink doodle

Homework, ink doodle

I’m slowly realizing as the days go by, that with the advent of my daughter entering 3rd grade, things are rapidly changing.

3rd grade is hard.

3rd grade does not mess around.

3rd grade means more homework and less fun.

3rd grade math makes me feel dumb sometimes.

3rd grade means my daughter is passing out of the “little kid” stage into something else…some fuzzy middle area before the preteen stage (*gasp*).

But she’s still only 8, almost 9. And she is a rockstar.

And I love her.

And I have to help her with a lot of terrible homework.

But we’re in it together.

Reading, ink doodle

Reading, ink doodle

Dominoes

Mary Liz Ingram —  October 17, 2014 — 2 Comments

With a ramekin of Raisinets and a game of dominoes carefully laid, we sit in a quiet house changed by time. Same waxy table and wooden chairs, same salt shaker, same floors, same smells, different people.

I used to be the small child playing on my grandparents’ floor in this den. My grandmother would be cooking in the flagstone kitchen, the smell of southern specialties like no other filling our noses and making our stomachs growl. My grandfather would be sitting in his navy recliner, telling us about the fish mounted on the wall or his latest wood-working project. Chipmunks and birds scurried and hopped on the flowered mountainside out the tall windows.

Dominoes, detail, watercolor

Dominoes, detail, watercolor

But today a different crew sits with elbows on the table. My grandfather runs this house now and acts as eager host. My grandmother rests not far away, getting the care she needs in a different place. My two oldest children make their own memories with their great grandfather in this same room, with a tournament of dominoes and hors d’oeuvres of sardines on crackers with tabasco. My daughter turns up her nose, as expected, but my son forms a bond of sardines with Paw Paw, the only two to enjoy such a treat.

Seven games later and snacks devoured, memories are made, added to, reflected upon. A special time for my kids; a bittersweet time for me. Time moves and carries on, we age and change, get busy and get lonely. Too long we wait to visit, too little we think of others as we go about our days.

Domino games and mismatched snacks don’t come often enough, and it is so hard to change. My emotions ebb and flow as I create this picture. Thinking of the old and the young, my life and my past, the simple things that can mean so very much if we just pay attention.

Dominoes, 12x12 watercolor

Dominoes, 12×12 watercolor

Grain of Sand

Mary Liz Ingram —  September 16, 2014 — 1 Comment

To see a world in a grain of sand
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour.

-William Blake, Auguries of Innocence

Magical evening, original photography

 

If you follow my blog, you may have noticed it’s been awhile since my last post. I’ve taken a few steps back to regroup, to build my garden, to reflect, absorb and let peace grow and guide. This time of retreat ended with a magical week with my family at Grayton Beach. I took this picture on the evening we arrived, and was blown away by the beauty of our world.

We played and read, built sand castles and dug holes, swam and walked and enjoyed every second, living in the moment.

I doodled every day and recorded my thoughts in words and art:

“A week at the beach, life relaxed.

Cotton candy clouds on early mornings, we beat the sun.

Thunderstorms in surround sound, we watch from the porch, candles flicker as clouds flash.

Feet in the blinding sand, we become one with the sun, warmly wrapping us and renewing our souls.

Splashed by aqua waves, we wade deeper into the mystery of the sea, finding new things and taking in life.

Rejuvenation. Perspective. Enjoyment. Refreshing retreat as the world swirls vividly around us.”

 

Summer Rain

Mary Liz Ingram —  July 28, 2014 — Leave a comment
Rainy Day, ink doodle

Rainy Day, ink doodle

The sweet, hot smell of the first drops of a summer rain

Like an old friend we welcome it back and it steams off the baked asphalt

We inhale the familiar scent of renewed life

Saved from drought, the parched earth soaks up every drip

We rush outside in our bare feet, my little one giggles at the spray

The rain trickles down her nose, curls her wet hair and it plasters to her cheeks

Water beads on her little arms and drips off her chubby elbows

All smiles, dimples, rain and dirt, she plays with sticks

She stirs mud with her toes, the ground that was hard and dusty minutes before

A good summer rain that restores the dry soul

It lifts drooping leaves and greens the earth with life like resurrection

Wide World: Age

Mary Liz Ingram —  July 13, 2014 — Leave a comment

As twilight fell, the hour was late.

By a river we walked, a thin path columned by tall grass and soft Queen Anee’s Lace. My hands fell gently upon the white flowers, as they bent in the direction of my steps. Searching for a bridge we never found, our stomachs full on roast and yorkshire pudding, we wandered past mossy tombstones, a sleeping country church, steep cliffs and quiet trees. Across the stream, we could see the glowing facade of Willersley Castle, the manor house in which we slept for the night, windows open to the cool night air.

We’d been to York and Epworth earlier in the day. We stretched our heads back to take in the tall magnificence of Yorkminster Cathedral. We felt the echoing organ fill every corner of the beautifully cavernous sanctuary. We climbed high and walked the ring atop Clifford’s Tower, looking down upon York with it’s ancient streets and yellow bicycles, banners and window displays preparing for the upcoming Tour de France…a city full of color and life, people walking, laughing and eating ice cream.

Epworth, EnglandIn Epworth we walked through the peacefully frozen house of John Wesley, preserved and restored like a snap in time. I touched the leaves of the garden plants and smelled the lavender on my hand. The quiet street was only interrupted by the call of a raven and the bleating of sheep. Near a church, we found a green field and a short path between trees. Exploring it’s ending, we found a spreading field of barley.

Such history preserved.

Again I lost sense of space and time and felt sucked backwards to earlier days, an immersion in ages past. When people gardened and read and walked and lived without such haste and stress. When life took more effort, but probably saw more of reality.

Maybe. Maybe not.

But it encouraged me to slow my pace, to open my eyes and to work with my hands.

The next morning, with mist still rising, we walked down a quiet street to St. Mary’s Church in Lutterworth. Inside, young children rode on bright plastic push cars, drank juice from sippy cups, played and laughed and cried, filling up the old stone space with the sounds and activity of today, of new life. Outside next to a blooming hydrangea and 15th century tombstones, I met a mother from Vermont and her baby girl. Now living in England, she shared my appreciation for the rich history and beauty of the place. Like I was trapped in a bubble, our easy, American conversation was a reminder of the present. The present living in and among the ancient. It’s something we are not used to, living in our young country across the sea.

St. Mary's Church in Lutterworth, England, marker & ink doodle

St. Mary’s Church in Lutterworth, England, marker & ink doodle

 

Ink Doodles

Mary Liz Ingram —  July 2, 2014 — 2 Comments

One day I decided to have less noise in my life.

Since I run a preschool and have three young kids, this might sound futile. I’m surrounded by noise. Tattle tales, laughter, squealing, talking, cartoons, singing, crying; the grating sound of my son digging through legos, cereal being poured on the floor, the dogs barking, the kids asking.

This isn’t the noise I’m talking about. This noise will be missed one day, when I’m old and my kids are grown and moved away. This noise needs to be welcomed and noticed, even if it gets on my nerves.

The noise I aimed to reduce is the noise that I invite and create myself. This is the noise that clouds my vision, that distracts my purpose: picking up the phone every few seconds to check Facebook or Twitter, worrying and planning and fussing over the mundane, the stress, frustration, and a world of busyness.

I decided to find another way to be.

Habits are hard to break. To get rid of a bad one, it helps to substitute it for a good one. Cue my ink doodles.

I didn’t expect to learn and change so much from carrying a notebook and pen in my purse, but it has calmed my life and taught me to notice.

Instead of browsing Facebook for 30 minutes in carpool, I draw something interesting around me. Instead of piddling around my house until I drop, I take a break and scribble down something funny I noticed my kids doing. It’s become a journal, a record of daily life. I see so much more than when I was deafened by the excess noise in my life. I hear the birds more clearly, breathe the air more deeply, enjoy the small moments with my family, soaking it in and doodling away.

It’s almost meditative, and it has helped me live with more peace in every moment. I wake up early and draw a sketch while sipping my coffee, starting the day by noticing life.

Most recently, thanks to this new practice, I doodled my way through Europe, creating an entire book of drawings that describe my experience.

Here’s a look at how it all began, with some of my first doodles. If you follow me on Facebook and Twitter, this is old news, since I post them as I draw them, beginning way back in March!

Doodles…

Nora

Mary Liz Ingram —  April 4, 2014 — 1 Comment

A portrait really is something special.

Of all the art in my house (and I have a lot, as you can imagine), the ones that make me stop and stare and think and smile are the portraits of my three kids.

I grew up with an artist for a grandmother. Her den was filled with family portraits that she painted. I could describe every detail, because I spent so much time looking at them. When she died, everyone took their portraits home, a treasure that lasts. She made them with her own hands, and her children and grandchildren pass them down.

Now I have the honor to do that for my own children, and for other people. I love to look at the pastels I’ve drawn of my three buddies, and think (or hope) that one day they will treasure them in their own home. Something lovingly made by an adoring mother, attempting to express what treasures they are by creating a piece of art to capture a moment.

If you’d like me to create a lasting treasure for your family, check out my portrait page. I’d love to get started and create something meaningful for someone you love too.

Now let me share my newest piece, finally adding my little Nora to the wall, next to her brother and sister. I will have this piece on display at my art show in Crestline tomorrow, April 5th.

Nora, 18x24 pastel

Nora, 18×24 pastel