Wednesday's Free Desktop: Sunflower Against Blue Fescue

This photo is available for you download for free as a desktop
(see instructions below)

I plant a lot of sunflower seeds every year in the spring. And the birds plant the rest.

You see, I put sunflower seeds into the bird feeders February through April when the birds are all building nests and raising their first broods. Because our climate is mild we get early nesters. There aren't any seeds left to forage, and it's still too cool for the insects to be out that the birds would otherwise dine on. So this is the time when I fill the feeders that remain empty the rest of the year.

For some reason, all the birds (finches, chickadees, doves, you name it) like black sunflower seeds the best. Since the seeds are still in the shell, the fallen and forgotten ones easily find nooks and crannies where the spring rains make them sprout and take root. So I'm always pleasantly surprised to see what volunteers I'll get in addition to the varieties I meant to plant. The sunflower above is one of this year's volunteers courtesy of the birds.

Here's how to download this photo to use as a desktop:
  • Click on the image above to bring up the full-size image.
  • Once the full-size image is up on your screen, right-click anywhere on the image.
  • Select "Save image as..." from the pop-up menu that will appear.
  • Save the image wherever you want on your computer with whatever name you wish.
  • If you're on a PC, right click on your current desktop and choose "Properties". Click on the "Desktop" tab. Then click on "Browse" to find the file you just saved on your computer. Select it and you're done.
  • If you're on a Mac, choose Apple menu > System Preferences, and then click Desktop & Screen Saver. Open the Desktop pane of Desktop & Screen Saver preferences. Click Desktop. Choose a folder from the list on the left; then click the image you just downloaded.
  • Voile! You've got a new desktop!
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Thank you

Thank you all for your very important insights and advice in response to yesterday’s post. I feel you all are truly inspired in what you wrote.

I love blogging and being a blogger. I consider it a personal indulgence that's relaxing and fun. But my other hat I wear a great deal of the time is that of being a business owner and the CEO of Rosehaven Cottage Inc. With that comes the business responsibilities that are a lot less fun than blogging. Sometimes, I really need fresh perspectives and insights into what I face in running my business. Although I hesitated posting my business stuff on the blog, there was a part of me down deep inside that knew if I published what I'd been analyzing and thinking through for a couple of months now, that there would be someone out there that would have very helpful and important perspectives to add to my own. And I got far more than I ever could have wished for!

Thank you!

I won't go into too much detail because this blog isn't the place where I discuss business, however, I will say that I am in the process of formulating my business plan forward based on all of your advice, insights and suggestions as well as the ones that have come to me as I've read your words of encouragement and counsel. In one of my own handmade journals (of course), I’m journaling the insights. A huge necessity in running a creative business is a clear and cohesive picture of the path forward and I'm seeing that coming into focus.

Hubby and I are also discussing marketing workflow scenarios as far as what isn't working right now and is simply a waste of my time and energy. There's a pervading marketing practice out there in the land of online artisans that espouses utilizing every social networking tool available to market one's creations. But what I've found is that it doesn't really do much except irritate one's friends; market to those who are trying to sell stuff and not buy; and give poachers a heads-up on what ideas and concepts they can steal from you. My count was up to 7+ venues that I had to update for every single new piece I released! Yikes! That practice is going bye-bye.

And as many of you reminded me, what brings me real joy is sharing my creations with others. Making sales just happens to be a necessary evil that is part of sharing. So, I'm re-evaluating how I can safely offer my creations for free (as well as for sale).

One way is for me to tell you all that you are free to download the photo above and use it as a desktop on your computer. Here's how to do that if you don't already know:
  • Click on the image above to bring up the full-size 11x14 image.
  • Once the full-size image is up on your screen, right-click anywhere on the image.
  • Select "Save image as..." from the pop-up menu that will appear.
  • Save the image wherever you want on your computer with whatever name you wish.
  • If you're on a PC, right click on your current desktop and choose "Properties". Click on the "Desktop" tab. Then click on "Browse" to find the file you just saved on your computer. Select it and you're done.
  • If you're on a Mac, choose Apple menu > System Preferences, and then click Desktop & Screen Saver. Open the Desktop pane of Desktop & Screen Saver preferences. Click Desktop. Choose a folder from the list on the left; then click the image you just downloaded.
  • Voile! You've got a new desktop!
Thank you all again! You are wonderful!
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The fennel's as high as an elephant's eye...

One of Hubby's favorite musicals is "Oklahoma" and for a while a couple of years ago, he listened to the soundtrack practically every day. In the song "Oh What a Beautiful Morning", Curly sings about all the wonderful things that make that morning grand. Hubby is prone to impromptu tweaking of lyrics to get me to laugh. The line "... the corn is as high as an elephant's eye..." has been morphed so many times over I can't even count. Thanks to Hubby, it's now part of my internal vernacular out in the garden. I now measure things mentally to see if they are "as high as an elephant's eye". And the fennel in the front garden definitely qualifies. Its blossoms are so far up in the air that I have to crane my neck to see them when I stand underneath it. It's a fascinating perspective.

Perspective... I've been thinking a lot about this concept as of late.

On July 7th, I passed the two year anniversary of starting this blog. I went back and read my first entry and realized that although a lot can change in two years, an awful lot also stays the same. I started the blog as a place where I could share my own life perspective, hoping that someone out there in the blog-o-sphere would connect with my unique life experience. I also wanted to share my own creative reawakening with anyone that might find it of interest. I had been on a creative hiatus for almost 10 years, and had just started rediscovering all the creativity that lay dormant in me or had been channeled into home improvement projects. I had just taken up photography again and it was inspiring me to create more and more.

Over the past two years, I've explored lots of creative avenues. Some have been fruitful and others... well, not so much. With Hubby's endless moral (and financial) support, I've dabbled and dipped with some creative pursuits taking root in me and others not.

I find myself at a crossroads right now. I have a spare bedroom in my home that is my "studio" that is fully equipped so that I can create to my heart's content. Yet, I'm stuck. And I'm stuck on the same thing that always gets me--it did 20 years ago and it does today.

This sticking point is actually a question, "Why should I continue to create if very few people show an interest in giving my creations a home by buying them so I can fund the equipment and materials it took to create them?"

It is at times like these that more than just the fennel feels higher than an elephant's eye. It feels like everything is higher than an elephant's eye.

Expectation of "Free"

I know that by sharing on a blog, Flickr, Facebook, etc. I may be pleasing someone's eyes for the few seconds that they look at my work on the screen. But does sharing in this way actually dilute the value of a creative work? Is it viewed as "free"? Do people think, "Well, I can look at it again and again here on my screen. Why should I buy it when I can look for free?"

I also know that by putting my work out there on those venues, there are other eyes that see my work as an opportunity to copy, pirate, or shamelessly take elements and pieces of my work and then use them to market their own work. In an ever-coarsening world, the lines of ethics get very blurred when it comes to internet sharing. There are many people that wouldn't scan an original piece of art and then post it or sell it online but they would post, sell, or copy a piece of art they found posted on the internet because they see it as "free". How many people think, "Well, I can look at it again and again here on my screen. And if I right-click it, I can put it on my desktop. Sure it has a watermark on it and it looks a bit skewed and fuzzy because the resolution isn't so hot, but that doesn't bug me. Why should I buy a print to hang on my wall when I can right-click for free?"

I've read a number of articles about the changing market and how the expectation of everything being "free" is becoming more and more prevalent. I have to wonder then what does that do to the breadth of creative and artistic perspectives that are available for consumption. Does this societal expectation of "free" narrow the field drastically because there are individuals that can't afford to offer their work for free? I know that for me, it was much easier when I let my artistic creativity lie dormant and channeled my creativity into my home and my garden exclusively. I had a greater sense of satisfaction and purpose because I didn't feel like I had to monetize what I was doing in order to fund it. Society's shift toward everything being "free" didn't matter much to me at all. Nobody could come and steal my garden and market it as their own so I didn't have to be constantly vigilant about "creative garden theft" like I am now with creative art theft.

Over Saturation

I've identified another phenomenon unique to this new world we live in and that is the reality of over saturation. I've read a couple of books about this fact and also experienced it firsthand. People are so over saturated with messages, information, images, etc. that they stop really reading and seeing. If people stop really reading and seeing, where does that leave writers and artists? If we only visit other blogs, to drive traffic to our own what do we miss because we're skimming over the words and not truly reading them? If we're only looking at others' Flickr photostreams and leaving comments so they will come visit our photostream, what are we missing because we're not really seeing what others have created.

Instead of being a beautiful rainbow of many different creative perspectives, it's like someone came and stirred all the colors of the rainbow together to the point that everything has turned the same shade of brown and is muddy colored. No one looks unique anymore even though they really are. People stop paying attention and stop really looking because they figure it's all the same anyway even though it isn't.

"Authenticity" and "Being Real" Aren't Believable

The technology that makes it possible to share an image or words so easily has also distanced the audience of that image or set of words to the point where things don't seem "real" or "authentic". Here's an example of what I mean...

After a great deal of research and a lot of forethought, Hubby and I made the decision to purchase a very large piece of printing equipment so I could produce my greeting cards in-house. I didn't like the quality or price of on-demand printers that are online right now, yet I didn't want to produce cards that anyone could print with their own ink jet desktop printer. So we bought a Konica Minolta Magicolor 7450 4-color digital laser printer. It weighs over a 100 lbs. and is almost 3 cubic feet in its physical dimensions. It's a behemoth. But the printing results are gorgeous, and I can finally print my work on heavy glossy cardstock, hand-score the cards, and have them look more luxurious than a card available at Target.

Here's the problem... no one believes me. How do I know? Because I've been asked many times if the cards are "glossy" (code for "Were they just printed on an ink jet printer like mine?"). It doesn't matter what I write in product descriptions, how many angles I photograph the product from, or even if the person is holding the card in their hands in a cellophane sleeve. They still don't believe me.

A similar scenario is the case with my photographs and fine art prints on paper and hand-stretched canvas (otherwise known as giclees). Again, after a great deal of forethought Hubby and I chose to invest in a professional-level photo and art printer--an 8-color Canon PixmaPro 9000 with archival ink. It can produce up to 13"x19" prints on photo paper, fine art museum-quality paper, or Belgian linen canvas. The results are stunning. There's NO WAY I'm ever taking my work to a photo lab again for prints, because I've never gotten results as good as I do with this printer.

But again, people don't believe me. The assumption is that if I produced it myself then it must be sub-standard. Even if someone holds it in their hands, I know the thinking is, "Well, if she did this herself then it must be something anyone can do and that means it isn't worth much."

It doesn't matter if I make it clear that I've printed an art print on Hahnemuhle Museum Etching 350 fine art paper that's made of 100% rag (making the print water resistant) and then hand-buffed it with Renaissance micro-crystalline wax polish. Even if I went so far as to point out that Hahnemuhle is a paper company that's been around since 1584, it wouldn't matter much. People don't believe it.

It's really hard to be a completely truthful person in a coarse and disingenuous world. Especially when I'm just trying to create something beautiful that someone will want to buy to bring into their home.

My Dilemma

My personal dilemma is that I have wonderful equipment and materials to produce art pieces that I think are beautiful. But for one or a combination of any of the above reasons, I cannot sell my work.

Do I remove my work from all the social networking sites that are over saturated in order to not add to the muddy mess even more?

Do I let the equipment and my creative pursuits go dormant and focus my energies on my garden and home in a private way that is shared with few?

Do I continue to write on this blog when I know that most people haven't bothered to read this far down in the post because I wrote more than a paragraph?

These are genuine questions, and not an invitation to a "pity party". I sincerely appreciate any and all insights you have to offer. Because right now I'd rather that only the fennel be as high as an elephant's eye. From your perspective, what do you see?
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Chap 8: Motivation is Delivered in Furry Little Packages

Click on any image to view larger and read captions easier

It’s funny how unexpected events in life often come along that add motivation and encouragement when we need it most. We discovered this phenomenon firsthand in mid-September 2000.

We had been at work on the house for a month and half. My brother’s time helping us was drawing to a close, as he had university classes to go back to in mid-September. He left us with so much accomplished on the seemingly never-ending task list we had before us. Josh and my mom had tackled the major task of tiling the downstairs bathroom. As a team, they cut and set white tile after white tile with beautiful, narrow, and clean grout lines in between.

Josh and Mom were also able to grout most of the tile, leaving only the tile around the bottom edge of the tub for us to do.

And it was left to us to lay the large ceramic bathroom floor tiles.

Working on the bathroom and kitchen simultaneously while trying to maneuver around the stacks of moving boxes staged in the living room and bedrooms wore on our nerves and frazzled our sense of accomplishment. It seemed like we had been at this forever and would continue to be at it in perpetuity. It was hard to imagine a time when we could move out of the spare room at my sister’s house and really live in our own house. We had determined that as long as we had an operational shower downstairs and the toilet upstairs, we could move in. We didn’t need a kitchen sink. We didn’t need a downstairs bathroom sink. And we didn’t need a downstairs toilet. That shower was all we needed. But the daunting task of getting it completed with the last tile and grout around the edge of the tub was so overwhelming that we avoided it. And our move-in date continued to be pushed out indefinitely.

That’s when the unexpected life event came along to nudge us.

In mid-September, we drove a half an hour east of our new home to attend a family gathering of Hubby’s relations as everyone came together to attend the baptisms of two cousins. We all converged at the ranch of the in-laws of my in-laws (Hubby says that makes them “outlaws”). I love visiting ranches, farms, or anywhere else that has animals. I tend to have social anxiety at parties and gatherings, so if there’s an animal around for me to focus on, I’m a happy camper.

To my sheer delight, there was a litter of 10-day-old kittens on the back porch of the ranch house. All the young cousins gravitated toward the kittens, whose eyes were just beginning to open. Here were all these kids and me, cooing over the precious little balls of fur.

The mama cat, Skittles, was a blotchy tabby that had spots of red tabby and spots of regular tabby. The sire of the 4 kittens was a handsome red striped tabby that lived at the ranch next door. Both parents were large cats with frames the size of small jungle cats. And Skittles was a hefty mama weighing in at close to 20 pounds. A couple of “kittens” from previous litters were still at the ranch, and it was evident that “big” was part of their genetics.

The newest kittens were all red tabbies except one—a little black striped tabby with white paws, a white bib, and a red tabby undercoat that made him look like a tiny tiger with his black stripes and ticking. I held him and snuggled him. He was precious. The kids at the ranch had handled the kittens since day one, and it was obvious that this little guy had been socialized well in his first 10 days.

I was in love!

I called Hubby over to see this sweet little kitty that had already stolen my heart. Despite being allergic to cats, Hubby was smitten too. He didn’t have any allergic reaction to this little guy and before I knew it, we were making arrangements with the in-laws and reserving this little one as ours. We agreed that we would take him when he old enough to leave his mama at about 9-10 weeks old. And we agreed that we would be coming out every weekend to visit with our little one until we could bring him home.

I decided to name our little kitty boy after one of my favorite movie characters, C.K. Dexterhaven, from The Philadelphia Story played by Cary Grant. We’d call him Dexter for short.

This turn of events gave us the new impetus to get it in gear and get the shower done so we could move in and bring our little Dexter home. It gave us the hard deadline we had lacked up until that point.

Over the next month, we made our weekly visits to the ranch to see our growing kitten and visit with his littermates. The kittens were probably only about 4 weeks old when we went out to visit them and another turn of events happened.

As we sat on the back porch entertaining the kittens with dry leaves, one of the little red tabby kittens began to pay a great deal of attention to me. She came up to me where I was sitting on the porch step, and sat down right between my feet. Then, trying to be like a big kitty, she leaned into my ankle in a wobbly kitten-like way, looked up at me, and asked for affection. I brought her to Hubby’s attention. This little gal was very focused on us, as was her brother, Dexter. The other two kittens were more interested in playing with each other and roughhousing. I knew from past experience, that if you’re picking out a kitten from a litter you should always pick the kitten that is focused on you and not necessarily the kitten that has the color fur you’re looking for.

During that visit, Hubby and I realized that we were going to become the proud owners of two kittens and not just one.

We had to come up with a name for the little strawberry blonde sister we were claiming. We were fans of the Cartoon Network’s cartoon, "Dexter’s Laboratory". In the cartoon, a little boy named Dexter is a “mad scientist” of sorts and he always introduced his blonde tutu-wearing sister as his “stupid sister Dee Dee”.

It seemed fitting to name our Dexter's sister Dee Dee--even though she was far from "stupid" as she had artfully charmed her way into our hearts and into our home.

We had even more motivation to get the shower done and get moved into our house. We worked hard getting a downstairs room in shape to be our bedroom and getting the shower tile finalized and the floor tile laid so we could finally occupy our own home.

The month of October was spent finalizing all the things that were on the “must have” list so we could move in and then bring our kittens home.

I remember vividly the evening of Halloween, when the “cable lady” came and hooked up us up so we could have television reception. We accepted trick-or-treaters for the first time that night while I arranged furniture in the living room and moved boxes around so we’d have one room where we could relax and feel like we were "home".

Over the following week, the final touches were put on the tub and shower. When the fixtures were finally installed in the tub and shower, we could finally move in, and on November 8, 2000 we officially started living in our house when we spent the night in our own bed.

The next day, on November 9, 2000 we drove out to the ranch and brought Dexter and Dee Dee home. They made themselves right at home.

Dexter eventually claimed me as his human. And Dee Dee claimed Hubby as her human with her beguiling little feline feminine wiles. Their presence amidst the continuing work has been the bright spot we have focused on through some difficult tasks and trials. Their love and devotion has dried up many a tear and their antics have brought a smile to our face many times when nothing else could.

Since he was a wee thing, Dexter has monitored and supervised all the work that goes on around the house (including countless loads of laundry in our front loading washer). He will brave just about any power tool in order to remain in the room and supervise the changes we're making.

When Hubby comes home from work, they both run to meet him at the door. And when visitors come to Rosehaven Cottage, they are the self-appointed host and hostess. They fulfil their duties well by greeting the guests as soon as they arrive and giving up their nap time to interact and socialize with everyone until the visit is over.

Dexter and Dee Dee were definitely meant to live here at Rosehaven Cottage as much as we were.

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Chap 7: Finding Victories in the Mundane

Click on any of the images to view larger and read the captions

I have a very vivid memory of being about 3 or 4 years old and sitting in junior Sunday School. We were practicing for a program and learning songs that we would sing. The room where we met looked like the main chapel except the pews were small for our little bodies to be comfortable. There were tall windows along either side of this “mini chapel” and on this particular morning the sun was streaming in the windows with the kind of rays that seem tangible. I was mesmerized by the rays of light and all the little things that danced in them. Just as I am today, I was drawn to the wonderful visual artistry in the everyday and mundane that was before me.

It was at that moment that I can remember knowing that I had a Heavenly Father that was real. I could see Him clearly in my mind. I knew He loved me. I knew from that point on that regardless of what churned around me, He was there. And He would always celebrate little things with me—little things like the beauty of those rays of sunlight.

Looking back, I know that early knowledge was given to me so that I could survive the tough things I faced in my difficult paradoxical childhood. I was fortunate to have a mother that loved to create beautiful moments of discovery and learning for her children regardless of our circumstances. She fostered my creativity despite being quite overwhelmed with a little child that was constantly thinking of “big picture” things. Those times of childhood discovery became the joyful little blips that I connected one with another—bridging over the tumult of everything else that was going on in our lives.

Fast-forward almost 30 years, when I married my best friend and the love of my life. With him by my side I was navigating new territory for me. I was in a safe and nurturing relationship that was full of the healthy exchanges that a good marriage has its share of. I was learning how to do all of this without much personal experience to draw upon. And in the midst of that safety and security, my hardest and most difficult childhood memories came to the forefront after I had successfully suppressed them from my consciousness for decades. Like deep wounds that hadn’t been able to fully heal, I was finally in a place in my life where I could tend them appropriately so they could heal over once and for all.

When our physical bodies suffer from a deep infection, it is necessary to open and uncover it all; take the measures necessary to sterilize the affected tissue; and then let the long slow process of deep healing begin. That’s what had to happen on an emotional level for me. And because the process has to be long and slow for the deep healing to actually occur, I had to learn how to find joy in the small things—to celebrate precious little “victories” in the mundane beauty around me, just as I had when I was 3 or 4 years old. I also had to rely heavily on the one core truth that I’d known almost my whole life—I had a Heavenly Father who was real and who loved me. And He would celebrate those little mundane victories with me.

Because all of this was happening simultaneously with the restoration of Rosehaven Cottage, I was constantly finding the remodeling process to be a literal extension of my own internal healing process. I am prone to find analogies in everyday life, so I was really making some analogous connections amidst all the work.

There were times that the demolition got downright scary. This was particularly true when Josh had to start demolition in the kitchen. Even though it pained us greatly to have to tear out vintage ceramic tile, we knew that the “wounds” underneath couldn’t be healed unless we did.

Set in 3-inch thick beds of heavy-duty mortar, the counter tiles were not easily removed. If the cabinets and the rest of the kitchen had been as solid and firm as those counter tops, we wouldn’t have had to remove and replace them. These counter tops were a lot like the adult life I had built for myself prior to getting married at 31 years old. I was solid and firm on the surface—some probably would have used the term “rock solid”. But my solid and firm adult life was built on an insufficient base that wasn’t going to stand the test of time. Both the counter tops and me had to be torn down to uncover the deep “infections” lying underneath the surface so real healing could occur.

With crowbar and sledgehammer in hand, Josh took on the counter tops with zeal and vigor. He loves destroying things (especially when he has permission). I stayed out of the room because the flying pieces of tile and mortar were freaking me out. Hubby was braver than I and stepped into the room periodically to snap some action shots of the “Demolition Master” at work.

When the dust cleared, I was horrified at the mess that had been created. How in the world were we going to put this all back together again?

The rubble pile in the garage just kept growing and we weren’t doing much except adding to it. It seemed so overwhelming most of the time.

During those times, I would celebrate the small mundane victories like having all the dust and debris swept up so that I could see the subfloor. It was (and still is) those mundane victories that give me a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. If I told myself that I couldn’t be satisfied or feel a sense of accomplishment until EVERYTHING was done and perfect, I’d live my entire life feeling empty, discouraged and unsatisfied.

The word “perfect” comes from the Latin root word “perfectus” which literally means, "completed, finished”. If I expect EVERYTHING in my life to me perfect and enforce the requirement that EVERYTHING must be completed and finished before I’m going to be happy and live my life, I will never be happy. I will never truly live. But if I find happiness and satisfaction in small mundane victories that can be beautifully completed and finished, thus achieving perfection in the true meaning of the word "perfect", than I have discovered the secret of a happy life.

The challenge is to not let myself go back to the old “everything has to be done” mindset and to remind myself constantly that the joy is in the journey and not in reaching the destination.

The best way to remember that is to turn to my Heavenly Father for the guidance and perspective only He can give. And then He will provide me with soft, sweet and gentle nudges so I can see and celebrate the little victories in the mundane things around me--little victories that He will always celebrate with me.

Just some of the little mundane victories during August and September 2000...

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