Thursday, June 27, 2013

Sunshine On My Shoulders {and in my heart}

This day started a few years ago really.
Started in my heart as Erin would draw girls with curl-i-cue hair and sunshine on their heads.
Then she started to put hearts over their head.

Even farther back to my Art History 101 class in college on those early summer mornings.
Three hours of Art History in an upstairs classroom on campus with no air conditioning
with a professor, very soft-spoken and introverted, 
who had a difficult time making eye contact.
Long mornings of trying hard to keep my eyes open yet remembering one thing:
the sparkle in his eyes when he brought in a folder of his daughters' drawings.
He talked about how children's drawings develop . . . how most of them grow the same way.
They start with a circle for a head and eyes and the arms come out of the side of the head,
and legs come out of the bottom of the head.
Eventually, they add a body and arms and legs from the body instead.
And then fingers, usually three, but then five.
And more and more details emerge.
That is what I remember from that class.
And so I watched my own children as they began to grasp crayons with pudgy fingers.
Starting to scribble and then create shapes.

Ordinary miracles as children grow.
Drawing.  Speaking.  Rolling over. Crawling. Walking. Reading.
Miracles of movement and of communication.

Remembering moments and living fully in the moment.
That is important to me.
I have a desire to create sacred spaces for meaningful memories.
So, "Sunshine On My Shoulders" emerges.
From my heart and on Shaw Ranch . . . way out on the prairie . . .
where this woman had a idea and 
took a brave flying leap of faith 
forward to carve out of time and a humble little home 
this sacred space for moms and kids.

The day begins early.
Quiet. Still.

Kaira brings me an towering 2 foot tall bouquet of flowers
she has pulled from the root
from their ranch an hour's drive north.
Generously giving and sharing from what she has.

Nine o'clock comes and my little house
is busy and busting at the seams.

With a little man who tells me which painting is his favorite
as he traces wings with his fingertips
asking, "How did you do that?"
and a little blonde pint-sized jalepeno popper of a girl who tells me,
"I am an artist too!"

I share about hiding treasures in a collage painting
while sitting on my breezy western South Dakota deck,
not noticing the significant pieces of my life all around me, 
until I see the photographs.

Treasures . . . of life memories.
A paint covered plastic table I bought at a yard-sale for $5, 12 years ago at my feet
that gets used almost daily and bumped and kicked out of the way
because it sits at the foot of the stairs going into the kitchen.
When I see the table out of the corner of my eye, I carefully skirt it, 
because it usually holds a full cup of water stuffed with paint brushes.

I see that I am sitting on a quilt from Grandma Edna that she made
so that my brother and I would each have our own car quilt
after she rode in the car with us fighting over a blanket,

which is exactly 

what my own mother would do for her grandkids today.

A quilt that has traveled many miles keeping us warm in the car in winter
 and has been to many softball tournaments covering the ground in the shade of a spindly tree
crowded with hot sweaty kids trying to get out of the blazing sun . . . 
and that same quilt shaded a mom and a grandma from brutal sun
as they sobbed in the road ditch of a fatal car accident
as we were coming home from one of those tournaments.

There is a copy of The Very Hungry Caterpillar at my right hand
about which I could write a book of memories from student teaching
a child that told me, "Dat's good story, teacher,"
to my own children and then my own spiritual journey.

It is not the "things".
It is the journey.
It is the memories of how I have gotten to this place
and the things I do not want to forget.

All of which

brings me here to this place with these women and their treasured chidren...

and their bits and pieces of a life

and little things to remember.

It is a day for
being intentional about preserving one of those abundant drawings
that her child creates in a season of life
in which he or she proudly writes their name on everything
including the kitchen counter or their bed or the bathroom wall with a Sharpie.
{What did we ever do without Mr. Clean Magic Erasers?}
~ When I was five, I painted my name in red nail polish on my bed. ~

Because the days are here when we sweep drawings and papers
into the garbage when little eyes aren't looking
because we cannot possibly keep them all . . . 
but then a day comes when the handwriting is mature and the spelling is correct
and the fear of not drawing "good enough" creeps in and so the drawings disappear.

Prairie-wind swept blonde hair covers minds that
are still brave in drawing and painting.
Still hold fascination and confidence and carefree summer days.

It is a day for "Little E" and me to share our art supplies,
including smocks and aprons from Grandma Linda and VBS
and jars of left over colored pencils from school boxes, paints and glitter, and
a stack of scrapbook paper that, at one time, I hoarded,
but has now traveled from school to country school,
to camp and Bible school and to art class after art class,
and surprisingly is still just as tall of a stack as when I started,
even though I haven't bought anymore paper.
The paper is kind of like Jesus feeding the 5000.
The more I share it, the more it seems to multiply...yay for miracles!

It is a day for moms to grab hold of their child's thoughts
and creations from their small hands and give them a place of honor.

To remember that her boy loves monkeys and bananas
or tractors and farming.

To remember that they draw what they love
or what is important to them.
To pay attention to the things that they draw 
over and over and over and over.

To remember preciousness like, 

"My mom never unloves me."

"My mom makes the best life."

"My favorite thing to do with my mom is snugl."

"I love my mom because I just love hr."

It was a morning to learn and to try something new.
To learn how to have courage with a brand new canvas,
and what to do when we mess up.
And how to deal with the fear of messing up.
That there are times to start over and times to keep going through the ugliness.

There are times to take a break and have a snack.
To just walk away for awhile and breathe and come back fresh...
or that maybe even to come back to it another day

It was a morning that I shared 
about how I am afraid to write in a brand new vintage journal that I bought,
just like I am intimidated by a brand new big white canvas.

But after sitting with God, He helped me see that
even though we want to just put "special" words on a page of a new journal
or only the best and prettiest things on a canvas,
starting something new is like life . . . like a new day or a new year.

Each day is made up of mundane tasks, and mistakes, everyday stuff
as well as the things we do get right and the fine beautiful details and treasures that get weaved in.
The day-to-day stuff gives us substance and foundation to build upon.

When we write we begin with words.
When we paint, we begin with color.
We do not have to think that the "mundane" or even the "mess ups"
do not have a place in our journal
or in our art
or in our life
because the only way the good stuff gets in
is by starting
and continuing to go forward and put more into it . . .
through the boring times, through the ugly times, and through the good times.
All of it adds to the richness and the texture and the substance and the realness.

Many kids start and finish with art quick.
Often, they dive right in and are not afraid to just get paint all over.

They finish, and it's too hot for my idea to pick wildflowers,
but never too hot to jump on the trampoline for a bit.
They find the cool air conditioning of E and Syd's tiny little room.

Moms chew on things awhile longer.  They linger at the table adding more detail.
Thinking things through.
Thinking about the day, about the things their child wrote, about the things they wrote,
noticing how large her daughter prints yet how tiny she draws,
thinking about how this is harder than they may have thought,
or maybe wondering why putting paint down can feel so scary.

This day was for the kids, yes.
But really . . . deep down . . . 
it was for the mamas.

For their hearts.

It is for them to let their child open the creative door . . . 

and after their child runs off to play . . . 

they keep going on the creative journey
that they might not have taken
had they not let the child open the door for them
and hold hands and walk through it together.

The child helps them begin . . . 
which can be the hardest part,
but once they begin . . . 

it is hard to find a place to stop. . . 

There are giggles
and silliness

weaved in with moments
of seriousness and growth.

It is good to stop and take a moment
to be together,
and to let yourself linger
the moments matter.

The moments become the pieces of life.
The blocks that build the mama life and the child's life.

Sunshine shines on our shoulders
sometimes making us cry
sometimes making us happy . . . 

Sunshine over our head
and in our hearts.

If you'd like to join me,
I had two more dates available for this class here:


  1. What a glorious dream, so glad you found your way in making it happen. Loved seeing and hearing about all of it.

  2. My eyes were full of tears while reading most of this post . . . Because what you have done is created a moment . . . a memory that they will have FOREVER. And it truly makes my heart so full of joy, that I cry. Beautiful friend. Beautiful moments. I love every second of it. BIG HUGS!


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