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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 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


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


Mary Liz Ingram —  October 15, 2014 — 2 Comments

Grandaddy, ink doodleMy Grandaddy just turned 97 years old, and I have to say, he is one of the coolest people I know. My little family and I had the privilege to live with him for a year during our move back to Birmingham in 2008, and that remains one of our favorite experiences.

Grandaddy is sharp, hilarious and awesome. He eats a big breakfast at his table every morning, and after a year of joining him for eggs, bacon, toast, strawberries, milk, juice and coffee, the Ingrams still sit down each morning for breakfast together no matter what.

I read his old mysteries, which fill my shelves, and we rotate Dick Francis books between three of us: me, Grandaddy and my Dad, always making sure to sign our name in the front cover after we finish. He cares about people, and has lived a rich life, full of stories and jokes. He loves my grandmother, who taught me to paint and draw and create, and years after her death, he remarried in his 90s and is a happy, funny man.

Everybody who knows him can’t get enough of Buddy Moses. He’s a cool chap.

Grandaddy, ink doodle

Grandaddy, ink doodle


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.”


Chalk War

Mary Liz Ingram —  August 1, 2014 — Leave a comment

Summer is a haven of slow enjoyment. The air is hot and heavy here, and it pulls our busy lives to a slower pace, like a gentle tug of the shirt. Languid afternoons, the summer sun presses and the chirping bugs lull. Children find mischief and explore, and you begin to feel more like a child yourself as the summer nights lengthen and fireflies glow.

Moments become picturesque.

One Sunday afternoon my children were overjoyed to join the youth for a “chalk war” at church. My little son covered in a tie dye of colors, his small hands scooping up the colorful powder, the ground a wash of rainbows…

A moment to capture in art.

Chalk War, 9x12 pastel on homemade paper

Chalk War, 9×12 pastel on homemade paper


For a little background on the paper, earlier in the summer one of our not-so-fun activities was cleaning out the art room. My budding artists use A LOT of paper. In the spirit of creative responsibility, we decided to make new paper out of our old paper. We tore it, soaked it, smushed it, diluted it, screened it, squeezed it, dried it and voila! Paper.

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

Thanks to the fabulous suggestion of a dear friend, we loaded up our little family in our little car, picked up the always wonderful Dariana Dervis (check out her art work, by the way!), and drove out to her friend’s blueberry farm.

Hats on, buckets ready, bushes loaded with fat blueberries, we began picking away. Even our little 2-year-old cutie did a great job finding the blue ones…pretty sure she ate every other blueberry.

Blueberry Picking, ink doodle

Blueberry Picking, ink doodle

With full bags of little berries, we headed back home, sweaty, happy and full of blueberries.

Tire Swing, ink doodle

Tire Swing, ink doodle

"In flight", colored pencil & ink doodle

“In flight”, colored pencil & ink doodle

“The world is wide, and I will not waste my life in friction when it could be turned into momentum.” -Frances E. Willard

A week out from a transforming experience, I’ve recovered from jet lag, spent time with my kids, sorted out things missed at work, uploaded photos, and let the adventures rest in my mind. Two weeks in Europe, touring, learning and changing, with a group of 30, thanks to the generosity of family, travels never cease to change a life. In order to cement memories, absorb lessons into my life, and recount my journey through words and art, I’m sharing my daily doodles, journal excerpts and reflections in small bites over the next few weeks.

As with all great journeys, mine starts with leaving one place to go to another.

Equipped with lots of hugs and kisses from my kids, a packed bag, and a tidy stack of traveling art supplies, we headed to the airport in Atlanta, headed for Germany. Ready to experience and discover, always growing and seeking to move forward, reforming and becoming better in order to do my part to better the world.

June 16, 2014

“With the roar of the jet engine ringing in my ear, and the bright sun streaming in through the oval window, we zoom above the puffy clouds towards Germany. Sitting by the window, looking down on the patches of trees, snake-like streets and glimmering drops of lakes, our journey begins.

The engine drowns out the sounds of the mother in front of me. It muffles the conversation of the parts seller who builds his own motorcycles. It blankets the woman clutching her rosary in an unknown fear or grief. It lights the spirit of adventure that makes my heart skip, taking us high from the ground and letting us soar through the blue sky to new places, new people, new experiences. 

Below us, a mountain range of clouds, a landscape made of cotton…

A ribbon of rainbow streaked across the sky as the sun begins to set over the wide ocean.

Dozing in and out of a quickly passing night and into morning, I look down to see the sun rising like a jewel on a blanket of ripples like sheep’s wool. Clouds like an ocean of foam blanketing the sea.”

Germany, ink doodles

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!