Create February 2019

Do you guys know my sister, Shannon? She’s an amazing, kind hearted, loving, funny, talented woman. She’s also an artist. There’s a whole line of paintings that she’s done called Cat and Mouse. The picture above is one of them. They are a couple of sweet, unlikely friends that bring a glimmer of hope and light to the world. While I love all of her art, these two characters hold a special place in my heart. I think she would tell you the same thing.

Do you know my sister, Danielle? She is an equally amazing, kind hearted, loving, funny, and talented woman. Funny enough, she happens to be a budding artist as well. But beyond that, she’s also a talented writer. Now me, I have this blog, I love to write…can anybody maybe see where I’m going with this? Go ahead. Make a guess. And then peak down to the next paragraph to see if you’re right.

My sisters and I have often talked about creating children’s books together. I think I’ve always had it deep down that I could (and that I wanted to) write a children’s book. It feels like something that has always distantly called to me. Danni has been writing her own books since she was young. And Shannon just creates the sweetest little pictures. It only makes sense that we would team up, and try to make something happen. We have specifically talked long and hard about creating a Cat and Mouse series. While we’ve both taken a couple of shots at writing to these precious pictures, we haven’t quite “landed on” anything yet. Danni did write a really sweet, rhyming prose for them. But for me, it’s always been one of “those things” on my to do list that I really want to do, but may never actually get around to doing.

Enter my #create2019 goal. I knew that I had to put it on my list. And put it on soon. I decided that February would be the month. I was all excited, and rearing to go. Then I sat down and tried to write. Nothing came, so I put it off. I talked with Shannon about what she wanted her characters to be like, what kinds of stories she wanted, what kind of layout she had been dreaming of. In her typical Shannon style, she was super laid back about and said something like, “Just write what comes to your heart.” Ok, so it may not have been that exactly. But I think you get the gist.

The thing is, these two characters are extra super special extraordinary. Shannon’s normal job is as an ASL interpreter (which is pretty bad a** if you ask me). This being the case, she sees a lot of really hard, unfair things. She has seen so many ways in which life can be unfair. When she has the worst of days, she comes home and she paints Cat and Mouse. She paints a little light, and a little hope into the world. There’s a lot of heart and depth behind these guys. It’s more than just a drawing. So think about that. And then think about trying to write a children’s book that honors those things about them. Think about trying to write a story that uses these special friends to help soothe the soul. Yikes! That’s a lot of pressure. And I froze. I just got stuck and could not put to words the meaning that they hold.

I wrote a little something, and didn’t know how I felt about it. My sisters said it was cute and asked why I wasn’t sure about it. I said I didn’t know. Then last night, Shannon texts me and says, ” I think I know what’s missing from your stories. I think it’s missing you. Your heart, and what you’ve seen and been through.” She essentially told me to stop over thinking it. Stop looking at it as a children’s book, stop worrying about it being perfect, and just write! She told me to try every different format, to go here and there and everywhere and just find what works. So I did.

You know what? It worked. I typed up a few different ideas before I decided to try something totally new. I opened up my notes and started to type away. This may sound a little bragg-y. That’s not how I mean it. I love what I came up with. It’s simple, and deep, but not overstated. It gives me chills and makes me teary eyed when I read it. I sent it Shannon’s way and she said, “It’s perfect!”

I wish I could share with you now, but I can’t. It will have to wait. Maybe, just maybe one day you’ll see what I wrote. I hope that’s the case. But for now, it’s for me. And for Shannon and Danni. And a select few others. Either way, I finally feel accomplished with my February goal. I honestly thought that for a moment there, I would have to check it off as a “tried but failed.” So thanks, Shanni, for giving me the push I needed.

As far as the other Cat and Mouse prints, along with a slew of other Shannon Sweeney Originals, you can look at, or purchase them here.

I’m so excited for my March goals! And I’m excited about what the future may hold for Cat and Mouse. Now, does anybody know how to publish a children’s book?

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

brown pinecone on white rectangular board

Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

Christmas. Oh, how I love Christmas! It’s so magical, and fun, and amazing. And honestly, I just love it so crazy much. Most people are in an extra cheerful mood, and are more inclined to give, society, as a whole, kind of steps outside of itself a little bit. Not only that, but let’s talk about all the fun traditions. Candy canes, hot cocoa, decorating the tree, singing carols, the presents, the parties. All of it. I love every, stinking bit of it. Sure, it’s a little stressful at times, but to me, it’s all worth it.

Warning: the words I’m about to speak will probably offend, or at least, maybe, tick some people off. Or maybe not. Maybe I’ve lived in a certain bubble of a world where I let things affect me too much, and it took me too long to settle everything in my own heart. Maybe you’ll laugh and think, “The things this poor girl put herself through.” But either way, here it is I am done with the Christmas guilt. Phew, there. I said it. Do you know what I mean? Do you know “the guilt” that I’m talking about? It’s that church-y voice telling me for as long as I can remember, “Yeah, sure, Christmas is great and all, but it’s far too commercial, and don’t forget about Jesus.” By the way, let me be clear, this “voice” I’m talking about isn’t some metaphorical voice. It’s been people saying it every Christmas season since forever.

Now, hear me out. I’m not saying that those people are wrong. I don’t, personally have anything against them. And I don’t even have any specific person in mind. It’s just the cacophony of voices passed down through the years. I know that almost all of them are coming from a good place. I know people are speaking their own convictions, and that’s ok. But for too long, I personally, let the convictions of others affect the joy in my own heart during this season.

It was a few of years ago, after hearing somebody talk about how they’re so disappointed in how Christmas looks, and doesn’t anybody even remember that Christmas is about Jesus anymore? I honestly don’t even remember who was saying these things. I only remember that it wasn’t a personal conversation, it was a meeting, or a message, or something of the sort. It may have even been something I saw on youtube. I don’t remember. I just remember that the whole time they were talking, I felt sad inside. I felt sad that I just love Christmas so much. And I felt like this person was telling me that I should feel guilty about that. That I should cut it out on the “non-holy” traditions, and only fully embrace the ones that have to do with Jesus. The whole time I thought, “not this again. It happens every year. Somebody feels like they have to advocate to the church to chill out on the commercialized Christmas on account of looking too ‘worldly’. I wish I could just enjoy it.” When all of a sudden it was like a voice (an entirely different voice, mind you) said to me, “stop feeling guilty. Just enjoy this gift.”

There it was. Plain and simple. Just. Enjoy. Christmas. Stop feeling guilty that you love to give, and yes, *gasp* to get, gifts. Stop feeling guilty when you want to listen to only Christmas music all day every day (and not just Silent Night). Don’t feel guilty when you get super excited about all the cute Christmas decor they have out at Target. Don’t feel guilty when you get all caught up in the hubabaloo of the holiday. Because that’s exactly what it is. A holiday. And it’s meant to be enjoyed. Once I realized that, I felt free. I enjoyed that year’s Christmas like nobody’s business. And it’s a good thing, because the following year, hell came crashing down around me. Right at my favorite time of year. Right at Christmas. And it was honestly what kept grounded, and hopeful, and going. I have no idea what darkness would have enveloped me had it not been for Christmas. Had it not been for all the Christmas cheer that surrounded me. Black Friday, ugly sweater parties, cookies, and lights, and the whole nine yards.  It kept my head above water. I am beyond grateful that the year before, I had let go of all of that useless guilt that I let crowd my heart.

Now, please. Don’t misread me. We celebrate Jesus in this household 100%. Our kids know that we celebrate Christmas because of Jesus and the ultimate gift that He gave. They know that He came and lived, and served, and died, and rose again. In fact, they love Easter more than anybody else I know specifically because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  We don’t downplay that part of it. We know that there are some seriously holy aspects of Christmas. But we also know that we live in a day and age when there are other parts of Christmas too, and those things are crazy fun! And there’s nothing wrong with them! I honestly feel so much more worshipful during the Christmas season when I don’t listen to the voices that are saying it’s strayed from the main point. I feel so grateful that we have an entire holiday that most people choose to participate in regardless of if they are “church goers” or not. In fact, what an awesome way to relate to people and share the love of Jesus. By enjoying the traditions with them instead of enjoying them a little bit but also feeling a little bit guilty about it, because “it’s not what Jesus would want.” Christmas is an awesome time to unite people of different opinions, and to celebrate the things we have in common. I think we, as a church, are missing it just a little bit when we frown upon the commercialized version of Christmas. I think there’s a way where we can enjoy both aspects of this amazing holiday.

Please also understand, I know that Christmas is an emotionally tough time for a lot of people. None of this is directed at you. Maybe that’s obvious, but in case it isn’t I want to make it obvious. In fact, let me just say that this whole post about letting go of the Christmas guilt is not supposed to make anybody feel bad or guilty. Heaven forbid I do the same thing I’m trying to help people break free of. I’m not pointing fingers, I’m not calling anybody out, and I’m not saying that anybody is wrong verses right. I’m only saying that when I allowed myself to breathe and release all that ugly guilt in my heart, I was able to enjoy and celebrate and be thankful for Christmas on a whole new level.

What about you? What are your thoughts? Am I alone? Because I could be. I could be the only person in the group of people who will read this post that ever felt like I love Christmas but maybe I shouldn’t love it so much. Let me know your thoughts! I would love to hear them! And by the way, Have a very merry Christmas season – happily, and guilt free. 😉🎄