Repeat the Sounding Joy: DIY Marquee Sign

heaven and nature sing

I hope all is merry and bright in your corner of the world.

In case you are searching for a last-minute, homemade gift from the heart…

create JOY!


I used 13.5 inch jumbo letters from Hobby Lobby for this project.  Apply a coat of paint and allow time for the paint to dry and eat some cookies.  Once dry, drill holes using a drill bit the size of the tiny bulb on your LED battery operated lights (again, I found mine at Hobby Lobby).  I didn’t measure before using the drill.  I just drilled where I thought the lights might look good.  Add a few batteries and insert the lighted tips into the holes that you drilled.  Do a little cleanup on the flip side, taping off the leftover lights and cords.  A dot from a glue gun helps to anchor each light to the back.


Maker’s Gonna Make Make Make



Trust me: this is an easy project.  The hardest part for me was finding the drill!



 Focusing on the little things:  the simple + the divine = JOY.


IMG_4525 Intention ornaments from last year.


Music tip:  I bet you thought I would recommend this song… I would, but I can’t stop listening to Ben Howard’s Every Kingdom deluxe album.  I am here to say:  it is fantastic.

Here he is singing Silent Night.


Choose joy.  Especially in the chaos.

Repeat the Sounding Joy!


Holiday Intentions and 10 Creative Gift Ideas!


Sometimes I have to slice life into tiny pieces to understand anything. Chop, dice and toss: all in an effort of understanding and stitching together thoughts on why suffering seems to lurk in every corner.   Individually what can we do to collectively make a difference?  How can ordinary gestures add up to anything in a complicated and divided world?  My mind stalls while my heart processes instantly and an internal struggle always ensues.

In the season of overwhelm (admittedly self-induced); I am attempting to embrace Advent with lofty goals like grace and empathy and plans to sprinkle gestures of kindness.

I am implementing a teeter totter strategy this December.  It likely sounds crazy… but let me try to explain.


Consider balance as a beacon.  Its all about trying to counter my own disingenuous holiday plans and selfish actions (or reactions – like annoyance in line at the post office) with meaningful random acts of generosity.  The key word of course is: trying.


Since I am a fly by the seat planner, I am making it up as I go of course.

Perhaps you will want join me?  The teeter totter has two seats and maybe you can bring me up when I am down.  Please?








A few humble examples…

Yesterday I was tired, cranky and on the edge of unleashing angst in my house.  So, I left with my camera before I threw out words I knew I would regret.  I found the church aglow featured in the photo above.  A ten-minute detour to a calm heart.

Last week, I stopped at my local GW (Goodwill) and downsized the items in my car.  The “stuff” wasn’t destined for donation, but since I hadn’t taken the time to unload them in a couple of weeks (coat, books, wine rack, etc.), I decided I should release them with an open heart.  Kinda hard for someone who saves ribbon shreds for future projects and still wears her high school cross county sweatshirt.  It’s easy to donate the things I proclaim we no longer need.  In this case, I wasn’t the boss of what I was donating; and it was way harder than it should have been.

While shopping for others, I ended up with a couple of gifts for myself.  I know I should have returned them immediately.  But they are books and I feel like I need them and that books don’t count as selfish indulgences.  My car was parked in front of a laundromat so I countered the behavior by digging for every quarter I could find and I handed them all over to a random stranger inside.  Her smile brought a little equilibrium to my day and I hope it buoyed the recipient’s experience with the washers and dryers.  See how the teeter totter works?

Trusting that even letting someone check out ahead of me in line at the grocery store might make someone’s day.  Ordinary and simple gestures so far.  I hope to connect the dots of December with an extra ounce of grace.  Join me?  Love to hear from you in the comments!!!

- – -

10 Creative Gift Ideas!

1.) Do you shop Sevenly?  The company exists to bring funding and awareness to the world’s greatest causes.  Every item purchased on gives $7 to the designated charity.  To date, Sevenly has donated more than $4 million to various charitable organizations.  I love the dreamer shirt I bought last summer and I purchased Sevenly gifts today (for others :).  The gift that gives.


2.) A wise teacher recently suggested a powerful book: Steal Like an Artist, by Austin Kleon.  I read it once and re-read again so I could write my ideas all over its pages!  Mr. Kleon’s message centers on the theme that creativity is everywhere.  And that creativity is for everyone.  It’s a small book, but full of heart.  Another recent read was Shooting with Soul by Alessandra Cave (loved).

3.) Print and frame beloved photos to give to others.  It is like a somersault; easy to convert digital images to the physical world, but we don’t always do it.

4.) Create a set of coasters!  Check out this link for a tutorial.

5.) Hop over to Minted and create a watercolor photo gift! How delightful, right?

6.) Enroll someone in one of Ashley Ann’s two SnapShops online photography workshops.   One class focuses on learning to shoot manual with a DSLR camera and the other focuses on phone photography.  I took the DSLR class last year and found the course content, as well as her interactive teaching style, terrific.  Her blog is awesome too!


7.) Find and gift a heart-shaped rock.  Include a note about the power of finding hearts in nature!  Or include a book on the topic like All the Love in the World or Find it in Everything.

8.) Plan an experience gift (concert, hike in woods, creative night or insert your creative experience idea!).

9.) Invest in a deck of Vision Quest creative photo assignment cards.  This is the perfect tool to spark creativity and encourage artistic growth with photography.  This product was developed by the wise instructor who lead a recent photography retreat that I attended.  In his words… “I offer these Vision Quest cards to help jump-start your creative process and invite the power of intuition into your photography.”   -Douglas Beasley

10.) Gift a some songs!  Rivers in the Wasteland on vinyl by NEEDTOBREATHE?  Or my friend Keith Pulvermacher’s cd, Midwestern!  Music – the fuel for creativity.

Go forth and sprinkle kindness and creativity!


*I feel compelled to share that I am not an affiliate with any company.  If I ever do become an affiliate, you will be the first to know.

Lyrical Photos: Name that Song

wonderful world

Music: the common thread stitching the ebb and flow of life together.

into the mystic

How can lyrics tap places in your soul that words alone can’t touch?  Maybe its poetic ambiguity, enabling lyrics to become personal. They often perfectly align emotions and anchor memories.  Tremendously grateful for musicians and the soul nourishment of their artistic expression.  Tonight my photos collide with some beloved lyrics. Can you name each source song title and artist?

beatles lyrics dear prudence

blackbird lyrics

drops of juniper lyrics

fix you lyrics

speed of sound lyrics

say what you need to say

i and love and you

long live the heart

album 2

The inspiration source songs!

wonderful world





“What a Wonderful World,” Louis Armstrong

into the mystic




“Into the Mystic,” Van Morrison

beatles lyrics dear prudence





“Dear Prudence,”The Beatles

blackbird lyrics





“Broken Wings,” Mr. Mister

fix you lyrics



“Fix You,” Coldplay


drops of juniper lyrics





“Drops of Jupiter,” Train

speed of sound lyrics




“Speed of Sound,” Coldplay

say what you need to say





“Say,” John Mayer

i and love and you




“I and Love and You,” Avett Brothers

long live the heart







album 2



“More Heart, Less Attack,” NEEDTOBREATHE



And, in a face the lens leap of bravery…

smile lyrics

I would love to hear which lyrics your memories ride upon.  Please share them in the comments.

Thinking Outside the Frame: DIY Photo Frames

Paradise Springs, Eagle, WI

Paradise Springs, near Eagle, WI

It is funny how creative inspiration is delivered through nature’s treasures.  After visiting Paradise Springs last weekend, I can’t stop thinking about the endless photo possibilities within this state park. And the power of thinking outside the frame.

I just finished a project channeling my inner Edward Scissorhands.  I loved that clever movie and the story of Edward, who in spite of his inherent ability to hurt someone, was actually a gentle soul whose only wish in life was to be loved.  Classic.

Let’s just start at the end (for once).


This was a leap from my previous tile projects (tiny tiles and coasters).   It all started with my photo printed at 11” x 17″ on paper at my local Office Max.  I combined the print with a $9 grid of tiles from Home Depot.  My strategy for transferring the paper to the tiles was simple (no pencil marks or measuring).  I scored the paper photo against the tiles, row by row and column by column, and trimmed each square based on the paper imprint.  Matte Mod Podge served as the adhesive to attach each photo square to each tile.


The scissor work is easier than it looks and the repetition (literally 30 “cut and pastes”) is therapeutic.  Once finished, I attached the resulting photo grid of tiles to a thin watercolor canvas panel base, which I had painted dark brown before attaching the tiles.  The canvas panel just happened to fit inside this open black frame.


Have you seen the new Kelly Rae Roberts intention ribbon?  Love at first sight.




I especially love the distressed wooden spool which I converted to a photo display!


I started by creating a narrow photo collage of some amazing photos I recently received.  Each photo helped me reach back in time, unfolding stories about my grandparents, complete with notes written in pencil on the back in my grandmother’s handwriting!  Both died years ago.  (My grandpa died when I was 12, my grandmother died when I was an adult).  If you were to ask me who was the brightest creative light of my childhood, I would name my grandmother in precisely one heartbeat.  I was born on her birthday.

ordinary creative grandparents collage

IMG_1728 IMG_1734

 For more information on the KRR ribbon, click here.

I will be wrapping the ribbon around my intention Christmas tree!

- – -

Since I mentioned Edward Scissorhands, I have to mention another old classic: High Fidelity. Did you see it?  It dates back to Y2K (translation 2000).  I loved Jack Black’s character (Barry) who compiled top 5 lists for every conceivable event.  I assembled a top 5 list of my own.


Top 5 Most Beloved Songs from Movie Soundtracks

1.  “Women’s Work” Kate Bush from the She’s Having a Baby soundtrack

2.  “Songbird” Eva Cassidy from the Love Actually soundtrack

3.  “Sweet Disposition” The Temper Trap from the 500 Days of Summer soundtrack

4. “Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want” Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Pretty in Pink’s soundtrack

5. “Uninvited” Alanis Morissette City of Angels soundtrack


Um, just kidding… I can’t stop at 5.  The next 3 songs are my favorite songs ever (perhaps, but that is another top 5 list).  Each song I discovered on the P.S. I Love You soundtrack.

Love you Till the End” The Pogues


If I Ever Leave This World Alive Flogging Molly

I hope the rhythm of your life is more up, than down

and that you are stepping into the season of gratitude!

Grateful for you!

3 x 3 Thursday & DIY Photo Display

3 x 3 heart leaves

I am going to turn things upside down here and start with a song.  And, deliver it in 3 flavors.  It’s like 3 for the price of one.  Except the suggestion is free, as always.  I recommend sampling the 2 Cellos song rooted in these lyrics first:

I’ve been roaming around,
Always looking down

at all I see…

use someday

Play the original, angelic or complex rendition and tell me which one wins the honor of your favorite.  Likely it will be three-way tie.  The Jansen cut is like a cupcake, all sweet and dreamy; while the 2 Cellos literally transform melody to ballet.  The Kings simply “own” the song and today when I listened to it, it was as if the song provided a portal to where my memories live.  I was transported to a long-ago class reunion where I was laughing with my friend Julie.

 –  –  -

In my last post I mentioned our recent visit to Photoville in Brooklyn.  Please stick around for the 3 things I didn’t have time to tell you about in my last post.

#1.) I feel in love, love, love with a photo.  I found it in the Instagram exhibit.  A little background…


Source:  @Shineonyoucraydiamond via Instagram photo featured in Photoville

Source: @Shineonyoucraydiamond via Instagram photo featured in Photoville

Thank you @shineonyoucraydiamond.  Your photos are a pure joy.

#2.) I met photographer Tara Israel!  She appears in the photo below, far right, as she explained her photos to me!!!

photoville 2014

Doug Kuntz and Tara Israel photos featured at Photoville, 2014.

Doug Kuntz and Tara Israel’s “then and now” photos were featured in the Ordinary People, Extraordinary Stories exhibit.  (Don’t you love the title?)  It was ebb and flow:  Doug Kuntz’s  photos from 30 years ago sat next to Tara Israel’s current images.  The photos depict decades on the water with same subject matter: Long Island fisherman.

#3.) I found the diverse mix of methods for displaying photos inspiring.  The Faces of the Ferry exhibit motivated me to come home and try to create a little gallery of my own.


Faces of the Ferry


I started by printing 3 of my photos at Office Max (11 x 17 in black and white).  I also picked up a few supplies at Home Depot and found that the metal straps cost less than the super magnets ($4).  I added a little spray paint to the metal strips but mostly this was a light assembly project.

photoville inspired project

Put it all together and wallah…  a new method for displaying photos on a red blank wall in my house.  I can swap out the photos easily and for once in my life I didn’t use a hammer or nails.  It also enabled me to move a few more photos from my Mac to my life.  Try this inexpensive project and send me a message if you have questions!

IMG_0028 IMG_0031 IMG_0039

- – -

I will leave you with a bowl of accidental philosophy.  Think of it as 3 cups of wisdom, courtesy of David Millar’s sentiments on creativity.

Like a wind filtering through the trees,
it awakens one to an unknown awareness.
Left alone, it grows with abundance,
to analyze it suffocates its beauty.
It is not a conscious effort,
but an inspiration from afar.
Without love it is impossible,
with love it is immovable.
It is not the sum of one’s experiences,
but a leap of consciousness.
Without it there is no vision,
with it there is wonder.
To evolve we must harness it
because our lives depend on it.

Except, I can’t leave you just yet.  I have to tell you about the Chinese version of 3 because it is simply beautiful.  It’s pronounced as san but cleverly reads as 三.

You are once, twice, three times my favorite if you made it to this last sentence.

xo xo xo

Wanderlust: 10 Manhattan Moments, Version 2

wanderlust defined quote ordinary creativeIn a seize-the-weekend decision, we landed in New York last week.  I am all about intention (it is my word of the year in case I haven’t mentioned it lately) so I seriously packed a mission statement and  I shared it with the family.  You can read it below…

advenuture quote ordinary creative

Last year I shared my Top 10 Most Beloved NYC Moments list.  I am recycling the idea because of course, when in the city of David Letterman’s studio, it feels appropriate.  Please be patient and lower your humor expectations.  I didn’t fall while running in Central Park like last year and I still haven’t exactly mastered proper sarcasm.

Top 10 Manhattan Moments, Version #2

#10.)  The deep history of faith in NYC always fascinates me.  It seems there are many treasured hubs of sacred peace in the big city.  And, they welcome you to step inside.




#9.) I love what unfolds as you walk the grid.  We walked everywhere but on one specific jaunt we trekked from Soho to Brooklyn Bridge Park.  Our route passed an elaborate photo shoot focusing on a very tall model wearing a stylish pink winter coat (it was 79 degrees).  We also saw a suitcase commercial being filmed and talked to several lovely locals.


#8.)  Photoville! It was described in Time Out Magazine as one of the top five things to do in the city.  My enthusiasm #8 just might scare you.  I may not continue with the countdown. Take a peak…

Artist:  Ian Teh

Artist: Ian Teh

In case you haven’t heard of Photoville, it is a temporary pop-up photo exhibition (it ended on 9.28 but will be back next September). It included presentations, interactive workshops, and multimedia projections.  It’s cleverly based amid shipping containers on Pier #5.  Below is Instagram’s a giant floor to ceiling photo scroll, curated from the global Instagram community.


My favorite container featured an exhibit titled, The Farmers.

IMG_8010 IMG_8007


I am currently working on a project inspired by our visit.  Let me just say, it was a complete experience with gourmet food and well, you know… beverages.


Brooklyn Brewery

#7.)  I know #8 was all about Photoville, but #7 is all about the view from Photoville.



The Freedom Tower

#6.) What can I say?


#5.) We didn’t have time to step into a drama or a comedy or any theatrical venue, but I read up and made a dream list (yes, I am list obsessed and I blame it on my word of the year):  This is Our Youth with Micheal Cera; every play on deck at The Manhattan Theater Club including the current show, The Country House with Blythe Danner, and The Elephant Man with Bradley Cooper.  Oh, and every musical in the heart of Times Square.

#4.) Alan Powell and Caitlin Nicol-Thomas performed a few songs from their new movie, The Song.  They were in NYC for the movie premier and landed on a stage in front of us! They described the movie as a music-based romantic drama about things we all pursue—love and meaning. Can’t wait to see The Song and listen to the movie soundtrack (I just purchased it!).


#3.) Still fascinated with the High Line, the elevated freight rail line that has been transformed into a public park on Manhattan’s West Side.


#2.) We did a little shopping at the Woodbury Common Premium Outlets (outside the city in Central Valley).  We didn’t manage to step foot in the Tory Burch store.  Seriously, look at this line to gain entry to the store!  We did enjoy Vineyard Vines, Hunter, Burberry, Lululemon, Kate Spade, etc. but we didn’t buy much.  It is huge (200+ stores) and interesting to see many guests pulling suitcases!  I am not sure why.  Maybe to hold all the purchases?   If you have been, please enlighten me on the suitcases.


#1.)  Best.concert.ever.


I learned something new about live music: attend the last show of a tour.

“When the curtain falls for one last time and closes out the show.
Marching left, right, left, another step. Keep smiling as you go.”

Moving On lyrics, NEEDTOBREATHE

The “good energy” was completely contagious (see mission statement at the beginning of this post).   An expanded set list, song introductions that included in-depth back stories and musical perfection resulted in an epic concert.  It was awesome to see The Oh Hello’s perform (opening band)!  Serious joy in that theater, both on stage and in the audience.


The Oh Hello’s and NEEDTOBREATHE; sharing the stage for a couple of tracks!

We met The Oh Hello’s after the show and learned they are from Austin, Texas and are an intentionally independent band.  Did I mention I caught the drumstick at the end of their set?  Now that is funny!


I will leave you with some song suggestions….

1.) The Song (Awaken Love), Alan Powell, from The Song soundtrack

2.) Falling Like Stars, Caitlin Nicol-Thomas, from The Song soundtrack

3.) The Lament of Eustace, The Oh Hello’s

4.) Eat you Alive, The Oh Hello’s

5.) All NEEDTOBREATHE songs.  Or at the very least this playlist…

Needtobreathe suggested playlist

 I would love to hear about your favorite spots in NYC!


A Story… of Hope


Earlier in the week I shared Jack and Annie’s story in honor of Gold in September: G9.  I ended the post with a plea for action and a request to hear your stories.  Shortly after publishing the G9 post, an email landed in my box from Cameron Von St. James and a spark of serendipity ignited.


You see, Cameron’s wife, Heather was diagnosed with mesothelioma; an extremely rare form of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. Three months after giving birth to a baby girl they named Lily, Heather and Cameron were delivered life-shattering news. Doctors predicted Heather would have 15 months to share with Lily.


A life-saving surgery that included the removal of one lung altered Heather’s journey.  Today I am honored to introduce you to Heather in recognition of Mesothelioma Awareness Day (9.26).  Since Heather’s recovery (she is one of the few survivors), the Von St. James family has been dedicated to one mission: spreading awareness.


Heather and Lily Von St. James.  Photo credit of Cameron St. James.

raindrop sunrise mesothelioma

 Did you know?

- The median survival rate for patients diagnosed with mesothelioma is about twelve months.

- Medical experts consider mesothelioma one of the most aggressive of all cancers. The latency period from exposure to onset of symptoms can be up to 50 years.

- Expect to see a higher incidence of mesothelioma diagnoses in the coming years due to exposures caused by national crises such as September 11, Hurricane Katrina, and Hurricane Sandy. The Twin Towers contained 400,000 tons of asbestos, which was dispersed in the air of Manhattan when the towers collapsed. Hurricanes also spread large amounts of asbestos, exposing both victims and those helping with clean up.  Source for preceding facts: click here.

Asbestos exposure is the primary cause of mesothelioma cancer.  To learn more, visit Heather’s website, Dying to be Heard.


If you are a new visitor: welcome!  I love to weave a song suggestion into every post.  Isn’t life one big mix tape (ok, playlist)?  Today’s song of the day: Heaven’s Here On Earth, by Tracy Chapman. The lyrics are poetic and powerful and they just seem like the perfect accompaniment for Mesothelioma Awareness Day.

“I’ve seen and met angels wearing the disguise
Of ordinary people leading ordinary lives.
Filled with love, compassion, forgiveness and sacrifice
Heaven’s in our hearts.” – Tracy L. Chapman

All photos courtesy of my iPhone during an early morning run last Friday: Sweet Serendipity!  (Actually that is another terrific song by Lee DeWyze).  Oh, and rewind to the photo of the raindrop please.  Did you see the sunrise resting inside that tiny drop?  Delightful outcome without intention (isn’t that the definition of serendipity).

 As always, thanks for tuning in! Embrace 9.26!


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