The view from up here? It's lovely.

 A rare summer rain comes down gently
Perched high in this room that feels like the treehouse I always wanted as a kid
My long lens sometimes sees more than what my eyes can see.

Sunshine yellow tops of blooming fennel as high as an elephant's eye...
A blossom on the 'Tahitian Sunset' rosebush that's grown into a hedge...
The curve of the wing of a turkey vulture soaring overhead.

If I open all the windows
The warm moist summer air will blow gently through my treehouse
Fluttering the curtains that conceal me so nature doesn't know I'm here.
I'll leave the windows closed
And remain hidden from her view.

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Dreaming of carousel horses and the wind in my hair

An excited kid sitting atop a carousel horse
With the wind in my hair...
It was my steed
And we were racing bravely 
Through the wild fields
Of places far away
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Feeling grateful for the right off-ramps and interchanges in life

Some of you may not know that I have fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. [I usually don't write about it here and choose to write about it on my health blog, Could Be Worse... Could Be Raining (click here to go there).]

I have days and weeks when I can accomplish more than others. This week is turning out to be in the "others" category.

When I'm facing a stretch of time when I'm physically unable to accomplish as much as my busy brain would like me to get done, the last thing I should do is to fret about what I'm not getting done. The stress from fretting can actually exacerbate my fibro/CFS and make it worse. So I have to get really "zen" and figure out other things to occupy my brain.

Fortunately, there's always plenty of great reading I can do. Because of my last couple of posts and the comments that followed, I bought a Kindle version of Barbara Sher's book Refuse to Choose: A Revolutionary Program for Doing Everything That You Love, and I've been reading it on my iPad. So far I'm liking the book. I still don't know if I fall into the category of personality type the book is geared toward, but it's always good to get a fresh perspective.

A while back, I wrote the following on my health blog. It's been something on my mind for over a week. I decided I'd republish it here... just because.
I've always loved maps, so a few years ago I came up with an analogy that I picture at times like this... 
I imagine a paper road map of the state of California all unfolded and spread out. I'm like an ant crawling along on the map, only able to see a giant ink line in front of me. Sometimes I can't even tell what that ink line's name is, but I just continue to follow it. Then there is God--the holder of the map. From His perspective He can see the map in its entirety and can see the things my ant eyes cannot see from my limited vantage point. He can see that the black ink line I'm following is actually a road--Interstate 5 to be exact. And if I continue traveling in the direction I'm headed, I will eventually reach a wonderful destination--Disneyland! My loving Heavenly Father can see each leg of my journey plainly. He knows there are off-ramps and interchanges I need to take in order to continue to head in the right direction. He knows there are some odd little towns I must pass through. He knows there are rest areas along the way. He knows there are incorrect off-ramps I could take if I'm not paying attention to His navigational guidance, and I can get lost. But if I'm ever lost and wandering, He's always there to navigate me back to the road I need to be on whenever I'm ready to finally listen again.
Since we bought our home almost 13 years ago, there were times that it seemed overwhelmingly urgent to do something that seemed completely out of sync with the monumental "to do" list of DIY projects we had in front of us. The tasks that leapfrogged ahead of the rest, always seemed rather "low priority" at the time they were being promoted to the top of the list. But looking back, I can see the map analogy in play. Every time I felt that sense of urgency, I listened. And each time, I had the energy and the resources to accomplish the task I was feeling needed to be done.

Some completed accomplishments have proven to be the things that have kept us safe like when I felt the urgency to tear out the sheet rock in the garage. To our surprise, we found the exterior load-bearing wall was so riddled with old termite damage only a few studs were holding our garage and second story up and the corner post holding up the front corner of the garage came off in my hand. Our good friend is a termite inspector. After determining there were no active termites, he was able to hook us up with a crew that came and put in a temporary bracing wall right away. Two weeks after that bracing wall was complete, we had an earthquake with an epicenter so close to us (only about 15 miles away) our friend told us had we not discovered what we had, our garage wall would have collapsed in the shaking and taken our newly remodeled master bedroom on the second story with it.

Some completed accomplishments have proven to simply be necessary for our contentment and comfort during the times when I haven't had the energy and resources to do anything but sit and enjoy them. The first winter we were here we discovered a drainage problem-spot in our back garden where water pooled. I felt the overwhelming need to go out and start digging with the shovel in the sloppy rain-soaked clay soil. All that digging ended up producing a 1200 gallon pond and was my introduction to water gardening. That pond soon became the central water source for our backyard wildlife habitat. Years later, the pond is full of naturalized water lilies, water grasses, hundreds of mosquito fish and has been the birthplace of many dragonfly and damselfly nymphs. Now, years later, when I don't have physical energy, I can sit at the pond's edge and just "be". The calming sound of the waterfall soothes me and my brain calms down. I don't fret about the tasks I'm not able to tackle.

Over and over through these last 13 years, I have been the little ant on the map. I've tried very hard to listen to what off-ramps I needed to take. Because I listened, my Heavenly Father was able to direct me on how to provide myself with the "rest areas" I would need in the future--the places of respite I need now. He knew I'd need them, even though I didn't.

When I sit my fatigued body in the chaise lounge under the shade of the oleander and wisteria and watch the birds coming and going from the bird fountain, I am reminded again. I felt so strongly we needed to put a bird fountain in the back garden last year. Despite Hubby's perplexed looks at my instance we needed one more water feature, we did. And the blessings are evident now.

I am grateful and hope that I can always be the little ant that listens to the One who holds the map.

I have no affiliation with the book mentioned in this post.
I don't receive any compensation for having mentioned the book.
I don't receive any compensation for you clicking the link 
that I've provided for your convenience.
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Marching to the beat of my own drummer... again

Carolynn at A Glowing Ember left a comment on my last blog post that has given me yet another epiphany. (Actually, her comment is the only comment that's been left. And I think I know why.)

First, here's Carolynn's comment:
"It sounds like an interesting read. Author, Barbara Sher offers a different perspective in her book Refuse to Choose. It spoke to me, because I have so many diverse interests and have always felt paralyzed and unable to take action because I felt I had to choose to do just one of them. Her website, has more information on the books she's written."
I read and re-read the above comment. I let it mull in my brain.  Here's what I think...

I think the majority of creatives are like Carolynn describes herself above. The full title of Barbara Sher's book is "Refuse to Choose: Use All of Your Interests, Passions, and Hobbies to Create the Life and Career of Your Dreams". Most creatives need permission to pursue anything they want and not have to focus their efforts in order for them to be inspired, bloom and produce beautiful things.

I think that the minority of creatives are like me.  Today, I realized that for my entire life I've thought that if I am capable of doing something well then I was obligated to include it in my repertoire of "what I do". Just as Barbara Sher suggests, my mental script was definitely allowing me to have as many creative pursuits as I wanted.

I believe this mental script is a product of growing up in the unique household I did where the general family motto was (and still is) "How hard can it be?" If you wanted something but were on a tight budget you figured out how to make it yourself. It didn't matter what it was... a fashionable outfit... delicious artisanal french bread... a finely upholstered piece of furniture... a house. It didn't matter. The motto always applied, because, heck, somebody has to make it so why not that "somebody" be me?

Well, there's a downside to that way of approaching life...

Since I have been encouraged to be proficient in many things, from tiling my own shower to sewing my own clothes, when it came to my artistic pursuits my repertoire has become unwieldy, unmanageable and paralyzing. I currently sit in a studio surrounded by the supplies to make just about anything imaginable. I have bookmaking supplies to make and bind a book from scratch (and I mean "scratch"). I have every kind of paint in every color you could slap on a canvas or piece of paper with the proper paint brushes for each medium (I've got the blank canvases and paper too). I have sketchbooks full of illustration sketches that still are waiting to be finalized and brought into being in full technicolor and idea notes hanging on my bulletin board reminding of me of illustrations that don't even have sketches yet. I have enough supplies to provide the floral arrangements for an entire wedding and not have to buy anything but the flowers. And the sad thing is that most of what I've just listed remains in its original packaging untouched and unused.


That's the place I've been at for quite some time now... the place of "Why?"

If I have a dedicated studio and all the supplies I could possibly imagine, why am I not creating something with them? Why am I seemingly paralyzed?

Now anyone following my blog all this time is probably thinking, "You weren't paralyzed. You were posting photos and creating stationery designs all this time. You were creating like crazy!"

Notice that my case of creative paralysis affected every creative pursuit in my life except photography and stationery design. Every time I've felt like I'm drowning in all the creative projects and supplies that remain untouched, I have retreated to the place that makes me the happiest and still lets me feel the gratification of creating something--the "go to" creative outlet of photography and/or stationery design.

Yes, I'm probably the odd ball for having given myself too much creative permission (it wouldn't be the first time I'm an odd ball). I'm also probably in the minority among creatives when the thought of narrowing down my creative pursuits to only two focuses feels like the most liberating and freeing act I've done in a long time.

Yup... the more I think about it, I really am an odd bird.

This male Anna's hummingbird didn't crash into the water fountain, he isn't dead and he isn't taking a nap...
he's taking a rather vigorous bath and loving every moment of it.

I have no affiliation with the book mentioned in this post.
I don't receive any compensation for having mentioned the book.
I don't receive any compensation for you clicking the link 
that I've provided for your convenience.

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Learning about when to quit and when to stick

In less than a month, this blog will have been in existence for 6 whole years. When the blog came into being, so did my business, Rosehaven Cottage Inc. (even though our home had been "Rosehaven Cottage" for quite some time before either). Six years is the longest I've ever worked at any "job". This is a huge milestone for me.

Last week, I started listening to an audible book by Seth Godin called "The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit (and When to Stick)" (it's in printed form too). I have several of Seth Godin's books in hard copy, so when I saw the title of this one I was very intrigued and asked Hubby if it was available on Hubby has credits built up in his account and downloaded the book for both of us to enjoy.


I started listening to the book during my time sitting out on the chaise lounge in the shade of the oleander and wisteria in the late afternoon and evening. While hummingbirds would flit down to the bird fountain for a last bath before bedtime, I was listening the book through my iPhone propped on my front with the speaker turned down so only I could hear it.

What have I discovered about myself as I've listened to the book's insights? Actually a great deal. But there have been some epiphanies that have been particularly important.

I've realized that it is okay that my passion is photography--that even though I'm capable of drawing, painting, illustrating and lots of other art forms it is okay for me to devote all my creative energy to photography. I don't have to do all of them. In fact, doing more actually dilutes my efforts. And it's okay to quit the things that dilute my energy.

I've also realized that what I happen to be passionate about is also what resonates the most with my audience. The vehicle I use to make my work usable by my audience is stationery designs (online, printed and printable stationery). And the designs that include some element of my nature, floral or "life vignette" photography and my digitally manipulated vintage paper ephemera are the ones that are the most popular.

And guess what...

Those are the pieces that I've derived the most enjoyment from during the creative process! Huzzah! Interesting isn't it?

So I've concluded that I'm "quitting" all the other creative pursuits that I kept thinking I needed to maintain in order to be "diversified". It turns out diversification is not necessarily a good thing. And "quitting" isn't always a bad thing or a sign of failure. Sometimes it is the wise and smart option.

Many of you are part of my creative community. I'd like your thoughts on this. Over time what creative passions have you chosen to focus on and be passionate about? How has that resonated with those that appreciate your work?

I have no affiliation with the book mentioned in this post.
I don't receive any compensation for having mentioned the book.
I don't receive any compensation for you clicking the link 
I've provided for your convenience.

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Just call us "Cluck Med: Vacation Paradise for Poultry"

Just as mysteriously as she showed up, the chicken (aka "The Big Ging" or "Ginger") went away some time on Sunday while we were away all day visiting family not far away. She was wandering the garden all day on Saturday, but by Monday there was no trace of her in the garden. I haven't seen her since.

In total, the chicken stayed here for about 10 days eating lots of bugs, taking naps in the shade (even if it was only a few feet away from a cat), dusting herself in the dirt of the strawberry patch, and preening her feathers to make them look nice and glossy. She gained enough weight over that time period that she looked really healthy.

I could tell by Saturday that she was getting bored with the offerings here. Even though I put out chicken scratch (a mixture of cracked corn, wheat, oats and millet) for her everyday, she wasn't impressed and didn't like it. She would pick around the corn and leave the corn on the ground for other critters. I tried giving her shelled sunflower seeds. She liked them at first but then went back to foraging for bugs. By Saturday, she was wandering around the house to the front garden and foraging there. Apparently, she had gleaned all she could from the larger back garden.

The good news is that even though when she showed up she had diarrhea, after a few days here she was getting healthy and no longer having digestive problems. Once she started into marathon preening sessions while laying in the shade, I knew she was on her way to being a happier and healthier chicken.

She stayed here about as long as someone stays at a resort spa--relaxing and detoxing from real life. Maybe she was on vacation and we were her "resort spa".

Just call us "Cluck Med".

P.S. Despite my joviality in the above post, I'm sad she's moved on. I will admit I shed some tears yesterday when I didn't have a chicken to entertain me as I sat in my chaise lounge getting my outdoor R&R. I hope we get another "guest" soon.

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