Jenny Anne Mannan

American Songstress

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Peace Where You Find It

I love family photos. I love taking them, I love looking at them. When I was a little girl I loved nothing better than a visit to either of my grandparents' houses where I would pore over photo albums documenting family vacations and events big and small. My aunties are great scrapbookers, and they have archived decades of family gatherings, trips, haircuts both successful and regrettable. Their photo books chart fashion eras, home decor fads, cousins coming of age, and most of all they tell us that time really does fly.

In the age of digital and social media, memory preservation looks a lot different than it used to. We don't always print photos anymore, we stream or share them. Photos aren't just family photos, they're social networking tools. And sometimes, as I scroll through Instagram or Facebook, I wonder how much of our memory sharing is about preservation and how much of it is about creating a brand. Of course when I post pictures on Facebook or Instagram, I want to put my best foot forward, so to speak, so I filter or edit out the less-than-picturesque bits -- the chaos in the mudroom, the dustbunnies, the dark circles or crow's feet around my eyes, and I accentuate the positive. I slap on some lip gloss and zoom in on one of the good intentions that made it past my wishlist and I share that with all my friends. And acquaintances. And other moms who, if they're anything like me, feel pretty overwhelmed a lot of the time and carry around more than a little guilt about all the fun or productive or meaningful memory-making they wanted to do with their little people today but probably didn't because they had laundry to fold or multiplication tables to teach or errands to run or a friend to visit with or a shower to take. But the picture doesn't show all of that, because I've taken pictures of dust bunnies before and they're gross and who would want to share them, and I'm not sure how to photograph Guilt but when I figure it out I'll let you know. So there I am accentuating the positive and my brand becomes Frost-Filtered-Homemaker-Earring/Baby-Wearer-Who-Reads-Aloud-To-Her-Kids-All-The-Time. Even though my actual persona is Busy-Mother-Trying-To-Capture-Snapshots-Of-Beauty-And-Peace-In-the Midst-Of-Chaos. Putting my best foot forward, I'm not really telling the whole truth. Pictures are worth a thousand words, but sometimes the whole truth takes more like two thousand.

This is exactly the problem. We forget that, online, we're not always our actual selves. We're the image of ourselves. This image may not have much to do with who we really are, how we actually feel, what we actually do, because, of course, we're trying to be positive and prove to ourselves that our lives have picture-worthy moments too. The trouble is that many people on the receiving end of that image think it's the real thing, and so they look at other family's photos and sigh and wish they were one of the happy, chill moms who let their kids get out the glitter glue at any time of the day. It becomes a vicious cycle - the effort of one person to remind themselves that their life is beautiful becomes a measure for another person to live up to.

The immediacy of photo sharing has changed things too. I remember back in the Dark Ages having to wait at least an hour to get my photos processed. Now, I snap a pic and post it within seconds, fully edited and framed and hashtagged. And the options for improving that photo are limitless. Glance over any photography Pinterest board and you'll find tips for how to get more Instagram followers, how to use Photoshop, how to pose. Always use the same filter, put your hand on your hip, be clever but direct about hashtags...It's not that there's anything wrong with using technology to take the best photos we can, it's just that sometimes it feels like we're more focused on the share than on remembering the original experience. A great yoga instructor once told me when we experience a thing -- a sunset, a meal, a feeling -- our efforts to describe the experience take us out of the moment, until we're experiencing the description instead of the original event. I think it's this way with our modern means of memory preservation - sometimes the result and the feedback are so immediate, they influence our record of the event or even the event itself.

My aunties and grandparents were primarily interested in preserving memories for themeslves and their posterity. They just wanted photographic evidence that they made that trip to Yellowstone, that all the siblings and cousins were together that day in 1990, that they saw that rocket launch from Cape Canaveral. They weren't planning for all of their friends and relations and acquaintances to see and comment on each of those events, they saved that privilege for the few who were invited over for the slideshow viewing. They weren't creating a brand. Glennon Melton over at Momastery has said people can use their online persona or brand to do things at each other. We post our Saturday morning breakfasts or 4 layer birthday cakes at each other to prove that we're okay, we're justified, we're right with God and the world. Maybe we've got it wrong. Maybe we should take a page out of our grandparents' photo albums, the titles of which could easily be, "See, kids, we did have fun sometimes!" If I'm really telling the truth, that could be my caption to myself for every photo that I share. Through that tight spot between my shoulder blades, the mess in the pantry I'm trying to ignore, the lunch dishes that have yet to be taken care of, the sharp words I wish I could unsay, the great unnamed Something for my kids I may or may not be able to identify and get around to today, I can take some photos and remind myself, "Look! WE DO FUN THINGS! Our little life is messy, but it's great!"


Look! We throw rocks in the river!


Look! We sit on the sun-bathed porch!


Look! We love each other!


Look! We go to the movies!


Look! We take ferry rides!


Look! We do the Ciderfest!


Look! We live in one of the most beautiful places on earth and we go to the orchard!


Look! We build forts!

We're discovering that peace isn't an ethereal, far-off, pie in the sky concept. It's here, right here, in the middle of all the chaos and the stress and the lack of sleep and everything else. It's active, it's the sometimes tenacious belief that THIS IS THE LIFE. Peace is right here, if I look for it. Peace is where we find it.

The thing is, I'm not posting these pictures at you. I'm posting them AT ME! My brand is a byproduct of what I'm trying to do: remind myself of what's actually true. Sometimes when I glance around my life, I focus on the to-do list, the work, the messes, and the backdrop of peace and beauty is a little blurry. Sometimes the camera lens is the tool that helps me focus on those things. And when I look my friends' photos, I could stand to remember that that's probably true for them too.

And also it's a good idea print some pictures and put them in an album in case this whole internet thing doesn't work out.

In Which It Takes 45 Minutes To Make A Pie


Or, put another way, "Oh this old thing? I only wear it when I don't care how I look."

What is this quality of effortlessness that we seem to value so highly? For some reason, it seems that working hard on something isn't as valuable as as being good at something without trying. Hollywood is full of illusions of effortlessness - effortless beauty and fitness, effortless talent, effortless wealth. The only thing Hollywood will admit to working at is their 'craft', which, having seen more than my share of wooden performances, makes me wonder in many cases which craft they were working on and why so many film and television act-ors are so bad at working as well as acting.

But back to the point - effortlessness. My husband has this idea of effortless beauty (we're children of the 90's, you know), but unfortunately, since he's a guy, he doesn't understand that this idealized picture in his head of effortless beauty can really only be achieved by at least getting to Beauty Base Zero - which even Katniss Everdeen knows involves some tweezing, some moisturizing, some smoothing, some concealing, and probably some hair-coloring. And, as I get older, 'effortless beauty' also involves quite a bit of exercising and some strategic shopping. Unless, of course, he wants me to look like I'm actually still in the 90's, which he certainly doesn't and it's a good thing too because even my sacrificial love has its limits. And anyway I'm not altogether sure I can still grow my eyebrows that thick or find that particular shade of cranberry lipstick or that Eddie Bauer flannel. And by the way, the whole hair color issue really bugs me. My husband has the most incredible, thick, shiny, black hair - natural highlights and lowlights, glints red in the sun, gets blacker in the winter.


I was a towheaded little kid whose natural haircolor as I've gotten older has grown into a non color, and I am unwilling to spend my adult life with mousy, nondescript hair just so that I can feel that false sense of superiority that apparently accompanies natural haircolor. The other day I told Caleb it's just mean when he says people shouldn't color their hair - it's like Heidi Klum saying people shouldn't be ugly.

But the illusion of effortlessness haunts us wherever we go. When I go into someone's spotlessly clean house, I don't automatically think of all the work that went into cleaning. I just think their house is cleaner than mine. When I attend one of my nieces or nephews birthday parties where I'm greeted by a smiling hostess and handcrafted desserts and decorations and thoughtfully selected party favors, I don't think about the week of planning and preparation that went into making that party a success. I just think my sisters-in-law are inherently better at party planning than I am.

A week ago I spent the morning dashing hither and thither around my house, trying to outsrip my kids' pace of domestic destruction and keep each room tidy long enough to actually enjoy a clean living space for a few minutes. My afternoon was booked full of lessons, and I wanted to pretend that order reigns supreme in my house long enough to make an impression on my students and help facilitate the learning process. I quickly realized my mistake, though, when my students' mother came in and assessed the level of clean-ness in my house and started stressing out that her kids would wreck it up. I'd taken for granted that she would realize that, like herself and all mothers of small children, I'd achieved this magic window through careful planning and a dither of activity and quite a bit more hollering than I'd like to admit. Yes, I wanted order, but I didn't want to perpetuate such a false idea of perfection that a fellow mother didn't feel comfortable bringing her kids over. I won't be able to maintain that standard for very long, and I'll be wildly misrepresenting myself in the meantime. How often do I work to create an illusion of effortlessness, only to put someone else under a burden? And if I'm working this hard at it, isn't it possible that everyone else is too?

So, I'd like to state the following: I spend at least 1/2 hour getting ready every single day. I wear mascara to the pool. It takes me 45 minutes to make a pie (not including baking time), and that's with the help of my KitchenAid. I get stressed out before every one of my kids' birthday parties, and usually dissolve into tears at least once. I color my hair. I work out, and I read articles about how to dress a post-baby body. I count calories and ratios. I often change outfits several times before leaving the house. I clean what my GrandFriend Jill calls the 'company path' every time I know someone is coming over, and I feel a slight pang of irritation when someone stops by and catches me in my jammies before I've had a chance to pick up the breakfast dishes. It isn't that I want credit for working so hard, it's just that I'd like to be free to say I am working hard. I'm coming in on Saturdays. I'm putting in overtime. I found it so refreshing when Salma Hayek talked frankly about how hard it was to lose the baby weight while maintaining a healthy nursing-friendly diet - much more endearing to ordinary women than Giselle Bundchen, who apparently breastfed her way to her prebaby runway body in 9 weeks while eating cheeseburgers.

Let's be nicer. Let's be honest. It takes 45 minutes to make a pie, and I wore this because I absolutely care how I look.


Monsters In The Closet


We've had about 4 days of good spring weather so far this year (and I just looked out the window and found today isn't one of them). You know, days when the sun shines and the birds sing and all those projects I've been putting off all winter suddenly seem worth it and I think I might be able to reclaim my house and my yard and my attitude from the ravages of winter. The sun streams through my dirty windows and I start to see my house with fresh eyes. Gone are the rose colored glasses of Christmastime and the cloudy, sun-deprived lenses of March (I think I may have a touch of SAD, but that's a discussion for another time). The dread of the work ahead of me pales in comparison to the euphoria of organizing and purging one basket, closet, and room at a time until order reigns supreme in every nook and cranny of my little house . . . well, in my mind it does anyway. It never quite works out that way thanks to my three angel faced distractions. But purging and organizing are two of my favorite things to do, and I feel the dark and the rain have deprived me of their company for far too long. I may even put away the winter coats, although I'm honestly afraid that might be a little premature.

I have found that the topic of organization and purging triggers strong emotions. I know people who hear the word 'purge' and they immediately look like a deer in the headlights and I can almost hear them taking mental inventory of their possessions and making a case for why each twist tie in their tool drawer and each piece of high school memorabilia up in the attic is an absolute necessity. I also have a friend who purges so frequently and so ruthlessly that one time her 5 year old daughter, upon seeing a new pair of slippers at the kids' Gap, asked, "Mommy, when you sell my slippers on Craigslist will you buy me these?" One time she threw my family Christmas card in the trash while I was standing right there! (That's my sister-in-law, by the way. She has many many brilliant things to say on the subject of home organization and being a mom, and if you read them your life will be changed. I'm serious.)

I never used to get rid of things. Before our first baby was born, we bought a house with a lot more space than we needed, and we filled it with a lot of things we didn't need. They weren't necessarily expensive things, they were just filler. 3 bathrooms = 3 shower curtains, that sort of thing. We literally had more bathrooms than people. Anyway, after a couple of years of drowning in our mortgage payment, we sold our house and seriously downsized. We moved into a 900 square foot, 3 room (that's total, not bedrooms) cottage with one tiny bathroom. By that time we had 2 babies, and it took me awhile to figure out how to manage the 4 of us in such a small space. I came to realize that purging was my best friend. And I discovered some things about myself and my relationship with my things.

  1. I didn't always buy things for the right reasons. It's so obvious, I know, but saying it out loud was incredibly freeing. Now, everyone has a unique list of right reasons for buying things, and I have no interest in comparing my reasons to those of someone else. My wrong reasons usually involved guilt, fear, dissatisfaction, discontentment, impulsiveness, etc. It's no surprise that most of those purchases triggered those feelings once I brought them home.
  2. My stuff was blackmailing me. If you've ever hung onto something because you feel guilty about buying it, you know exactly what I'm talking about. You spent money you didn't have on something that didn't work out, and now instead of getting rid of it you pay penance and beat yourself up every time you look at it. As if every self-accusation has a dollar value and if you make enough of them you will pay back the money you spent.
  3. Things represent ideas. A bin of crafting supplies represents creativity. Tools represent usefulness and competence and self-sufficiency. A vast collection of lotions and personal care products represents taking care of myself. The trouble is, things can easily become conductors of negative energy. A bin of crafting supplies can grow to represent an unrealized endeavor. Tools can represent all the things that are broken in the house. Personal care products can take over that space under the sink and holler 'Self-indulgent!' at you every time you reach for the hair dryer. Untitled
  4. I kept and stored things that triggered feelings of loss or grief because I couldn't yet process the actual loss or grief. I decided that this is okay. I have a few things that I can't make decisions about. I just keep them. Hopefully someday I will use or display them in a way that is more intentional, but in the meantime I have made peace with the emotions they represent and I know they'll be there when I'm ready.

Overwhelmingly, I realized a lot of my things triggered negative feelings. And I realized I'm in charge of them! If I don't like how I feel when I look at something, I don't have to keep it. I'm the boss of my stuff, and I can tell it what to do!

There are many organization experts with lots of practical tips to help people de-clutter their spaces (Peter Walsh is a personal favorite of mine), but their advice is useless if it doesn't address the emotional power of our things. Our closets can really hide all kinds of monsters like Guilt and Fear and they really do have power over us. It isn't until we face them down and make them behave that tips like the in-out rule (whenever you buy something, get rid of something) will be any use to us.

I have learned to ask 2 questions when I am purging.

  1. "How do I feel when I look at this?" If I feel sad or guilty or anxious or unsatisfied when I look at something, it's okay for me to get rid of it. It's okay for me to be honest that I made a mistake in buying it. It's okay for me to admit I was trying to find a tangible solution to an intangible problem.
  2. "Is that how I want to feel?" If the answer is no, I can let it go. I don't owe the world my guilt.

Obviously there are a few exceptions to this rule. But in general, I'm hoping for a tone of peace and joy in my home beneath the surface level of chaos.

Untitled Untitled

If my things don't contribute to that tone, I don't need them. I can get rid of them.

From here, I am free to employ all kinds of practical tools, like the in-out rule. I am free to have things in my life because I genuinely want or need them. And I am free to get to work purging Winter from my house and my mind, one basket at a time.

Happy Spring!


A Few More Thoughts

17th January 2012

To begin with, I solemnly promise that, having opened the Pandora’s box of topics that is Housecare, I will not allow myself to use this blog and your patience as a platform to validate my all too frequent assertion that I Do Tricky Stuff At Work.

So if you found my last post to be the height of self indulgence, please allow your attention to wander and meet me back here later in the week for some music.

I was surprised and flattered and a little overwhelmed at the response to my last post, and I keep thinking of more things to say on the subject of laundry and, really, my philosophy of housekeeping. So I’ll get them down really quick, and again, if you’re bored beyond the point of tears, please just smile & skip.

I want to say in front of God & The Internet & everyone else that, like all of the busy moms I know, I function in survival mode a great majority of the time, my lingerie drawer is a mess, and the floor under my bed is hatching a beautiful collection of dust bunnies. My house has plenty of dirty little secrets, in other words, and I am not trying to project the idea that my house is always spotless and I wear pearls and an apron and high heels while I make a ham every night for dinner (although I do think that sounds just lovely). The only thing I have to offer is the truth of my own experience, and since I am blessed with friends who are gifted, verbose, and insightful, I tend to host a running Q & A with them in my mind as I go about my day, and I’d love it if you’d join us.

Although many of you found my previous post about my BFF Ramah’s laundry system helpful, a few people voiced some reservations. I’ll address those now.

Q: Won’t your clothes be all wrinkly?

A: My answer to this question is twofold. First, my clothes were always wrinkly before I implemented the laundry system. The whole reason I felt compelled to adopt Ramah’s system was that folding the laundry wasn’t an option for me. I wanted to do it, I tried to do it, sometimes I actually did it, but the burden of guilt about this overwhelming task I could never complete hung over my head like the sword of Damocles. So it was important for me to realize I wasn’t choosing between folded laundry and unfolded laundry. I was choosing between unfolded, chaotic laundry that overwhelmed my laundry space, my living space, and my bedroom, and unfolded, tidy laundry that has a home on neat shelves in clearly labeled baskets. Second, this system in no way prevents me from folding the laundry. If someone in my family happens to be fastidious about their clothes, they are welcome to grab their basket and fold their laundry. I like for my jeans to be folded, so I fold them. I don’t care so much about my workout clothes being folded, so I toss those in the basket. My husband likes for most of his clothes to be line-dried, so I hang those in the laundry room as I am switching loads. The possible variations and adaptations to this system are endless, but I always have to remember to distinguish between what’s REALISTIC and what’s IDEALISTIC. I’m not choosing between folded laundry and unfolded laundry. I’m choosing between an unrealistic ideal and a reality. I’m choosing between pressure and relief. Between guilt and surrender. So for every household, this will look a little different, and every person has to determine what they will REALLY do, not what they WISH they would do, and plan accordingly.

Q. Where do you put the baskets?

A. I have a couple of chrome shelves (from Target or Costco) in my laundry room.

My laundry room hasn’t always been big enough to house the laundry center, but the laundry center has become so integral to my sanity that even when our house was so tiny that the (stackable) washer and dryer were sandwiched between the kitchen stove and the bathroom sink, I carved out a space in my bedroom for the laundry shelves. I just can’t do without them.

Q. What about the clothes that need to be ironed?

A. Ahhhh, I’m so glad you asked!

I’ve said it before: I wish I was someone who enjoys ironing. But irons are dangerous, they’re time consuming, they are HOT, they take forever…again about the sword of Damocles. The reality is, I won’t get around to ironing in a timely manner. I reached a breaking point when, just after our second baby was born, my husband went to work for two straight weeks in un-ironed clothes. He could have ironed them himself, but it turns out he hates ironing even more than I do. So one day as I was telling Ramah about my ironing dilemma, she said, “So you need to find a way to apply the laundry system to ironing.” Total stroke of brilliance. I did some research and invested in my steamer, which changed my life yet again. I found that my steamer doesn’t quite replicate the crisply starched look you hope for from a freshly dry-cleaned shirt. But again, I wasn’t choosing between starched shirts and steamed shirts. I was choosing between rumpled, wrinkled shirts and freshly steamed shirts. Realistic vs. idealistic. So upon their removal from the washer, I hang the permanent press clothes to dry, and then I spend a few seconds with the steamer and melt the wrinkles out of them. Voila!

So, if you’re somebody who has no trouble laundering and folding and storing all of your family’s laundry, congratulations! Maybe you could come fold some stuff over here? No doubt you’ve hit upon a solution that has eluded the rest of us. But, if you’re one of the rest of us, welcome to the club! Here’s to embracing what’s realistic and experiencing a little freedom to enjoy the important things in life. Like this:

Tools of the Trade

13th January 2012

Okay. Let’s talk about laundry and housework. I know, these are not my favorite topics either (actually, who am I kidding? I never met a topic I didn’t like). But running a household does represent a huge part of my life and work, and finding some tools and efficiency in these categories are the only means by which I ever have any time to devote to my ‘art’. (At some point I’ll stop putting ‘art’ in quotation marks. I’m not sure when, but stay tuned. One day you’ll see it. No apologies, no disclaimers. Just ART. It will be beautiful.)

My cousin (who, according to my husband, looks like a Disney princess) came over yesterday and started asking me about my laundry system. I tried not to get too excited or talk too fast, because this system has changed my life to such a degree that I’ve contemplated knocking on strangers’ doors to share with them the good news of freedom from laundry. But wait, I’m getting ahead of myself.

First, a little background. I am a crippling perfectionist. As such, I used to believe that the only way to do housework is to do it thoroughly, painstakingly, and above all, perfectly. If maximum time and effort cannot be expended on a certain task, it isn’t worth doing at all. You might think such an approach would result in sparkling, gleaming organization as far as the eye can see, but you’d be wrong. In fact, chaos and disorder were my most predictable result. If I don’t have an hour to spend on cleaning the bathroom, I might as well leave the toothpaste that just splashed on the mirror until I can get out a spelunker’s light and a toothpick to clean all the mold from the caulking around the bathtub. It makes sense, right?

Then, a few months into my married life, Caleb and I moved into a little house down the street from my best friend Ramah. I spent many mornings having coffee with her and their little baby, Lucy. Watching her approach to housekeeping literally changed my life. One morning, we were drinking coffee and talking really fast when, headed into the kitchen for a refill, she glanced at the top of the TV armoire and said, “Wow, that’s really dusty.” Then she kept chatting about shoes or the state of the Union or whatever while she got out her duster and dusted the top of the TV armoire. Just like that. Then she put away the duster and got some more coffee. In that moment, I realized the way I was doing things was ridiculous. I just didn’t know that you could do things as they bothered you like that, one at a time, and never have to be a slave to a perfectly clean house.

So, a few years later, when Ramah had three small children and was drowning in her laundry, I watched with baited breath to see how she would solve this unsolvable housekeeping dilemma that has driven many talented and capable women to the brink of sanity. Here’s what she said: “I have to figure out how to plan for what’s REALISTIC, not what’s IDEALISTIC.” She then went on to identify the breakdown in the traditional system: You wash the laundry, you dry the laundry, you put the clean laundry in a basket, you fold it, then you put it away. Sure. But in reality, you wash the laundry, you dry the laundry, you put the clean laundry in a basket, you set it on your bed or on the couch, and you tell yourself that while the kids are napping you’ll fold it. Then while the kids are napping you decide you’d rather put on a bra or maybe take off the chipped toenail polish that’s been there since last summer, and you don’t end up folding it. Or maybe you do fold it, and then you put it back into the basket and tell yourself that you’ll put it away in the kids’ dressers when they wake up. And then the kids wake up and you’re busy making dinner and telling the kids not to swing the toy golf clubs at the baby’s head, and you forget all about the clean, folded laundry until tomorrow when the baby’s diaper leaks all over his jammies and you open the dresser drawer and it’s empty so you rifle one-handed through your basket of beautifully folded clothes looking desperately for the right sized t-shirt at least so the baby doesn’t run around naked and then when you’re done you can’t tell anymore what’s clean and what’s dirty.

So the breakdown is in the process of folding and putting away. For Ramah anyway. She says everyone has to find their own non-negotiables and then plan around them. (BTW, I keep telling her she needs to write a book and she laughs. But I’m not joking.) So instead of making promises to myself I can never keep, I instead tell myself the truth: I am probably not going to get around to folding and putting away the laundry. Here’s what I do instead:

As they come out of the dryer, I put the clean clothes in the sorting basket. And then I sort them into their own baskets: Violet’s pants, Violet’s shirts, Violet’s jammies and underthings…etc. Then, when Violet is getting dressed, I send her down to her baskets where she is free to rifle through the unfolded, clean laundry and find clean clothes to wear.

How are you fellow perfectionists doing? Have your heads exploded? (Hi, Mom ;)) Here’s the thing: if I still want to fold my laundry, I’m welcome to fold my laundry. But in the meantime, all of my clean clothes that are as yet unfolded have a home. And when it comes to baby and kids’ clothes, folding is entirely superfluous. The only reason I ever did it was because I thought I had to.

This system has an endless list of benefits. Packing for a trip? No big deal. Just bring the suitcase over to the shelves and start throwing stuff in. Unpacking? same thing. Caleb has actually said, more than once, “The laundry turnover in this house is amazing.” Let me make this clear - it’s not because I spend my life doing laundry. It’s because I followed the advice of a genius and embraced what’s realistic and not what’s idealistic.

This idea has made its way into other areas of housework as well. For instance, I have found that I am not someone who will ever get around to ironing. I wish I would, but I just won’t. I can’t. I hate it. So instead of trying to change myself into a person who enjoys ironing, I gave up and bought a Jiffy garment steamer. It’s true that it doesn’t do a knife-edge crease down the front of Caleb’s work pants, but neither does not ironing them! See? Realistic vs. Idealistic.

And then there’s the floors. I have 2 things to say about cleaning the floors.


And this:

A broom, a mop, a bucket, and (ideally) a scrub brush used to be the non-negotiable tools for cleaning the floor. But, thanks to some honest evaluation of what I will and won’t do, these two beauties have extended Ramah’s laundry method all the way to my floors. And realistically, when I’m on the way up the stairs, I can grab the Shark and steam the kitchen floor…and nothing else! Thank the Lord for insightful, talented, and honest friends.

So there. Hopefully it all means that at some point, the system will run smoothly enough that whatever is left of my ingenuity will find its way into my ‘art’.

Work Station In Progress

10 January 2012

 Caleb is always talking.

(Talking not pictured. He was busy driving and listening to rock n roll.)

Lately he’s been asking me all about my work station - you know, that perfectly quiet, orderly place where I can go to shut out all the sounds of the kids and the world, where the chaos is contained, where all visual and tactile stimuli are perfectly designed to enhance creativity…I hope you can hear the hollow laughter in my head. It’s pretty loud.

But pipe dreams notwithstanding, I think he’s onto something. Caleb’s writing desk is strewn with favorite books, WWII knives, and vintage bookends, among lots of other things that taken as a whole look like clutter but individually comprise his physical sources of inspiration. He says when he gets stuck, he looks at a book, or picks up a physical object that gives him a tangible link to his work.

I like him. I think he’s wise. And I like it when he talks. So, I’ve been working to set up my desk in a way that makes me take a deep breath, ignore the lunch dishes that are still on the table, and listen to those ideas in my head. Even though I can choose to look at the dirty water glasses at my elbow, I also have the option of looking straight ahead.

See? The antique owls aperch behind the vintage rosin on the stack of pretty books? I feel inspired already.

Then there’s the question of what sort of book in which to write. Spiral bound? White paper? Lined or unlined? Ball point or roller ball pen? It’s a highly personal choice, and finding the perfect combination is a little like finding the perfect wand (“The wand chooses the wizard!”). I’m a spiral bound, unlined, matte paper with a ball point pen kind of girl:

It’s coming along. Waiting for inspiration is a little like waiting for lightning to strike. But it’s so much better if I’m prepared when it does.

The Beacon of Advent

16th December 2011


I just read something that compared a Christmas tree to the Christmas Star. The star that lit the heavens, that led the Magi to Jesus.

Advent, the season of preparation, is a time to remember who I am. And where I’ve been. But most of all, it’s a time to celebrate who Jesus is and what he did for me.

The tree in my house is laden with ornaments - in fact it’s leaning forward just a little, so heavy with pretty things. All things that remind me of how I am loved. Small remembrances of people and places, of births and deaths, of failure and redemption. Each ornament on the tree tells a piece of our story, and symbolizes our anticipation of all the promise of heaven.

Merry Christmas, everyone! May love and joy and peace be yours, this season and always.

Pleasant Surprises

10th August 2011

You know that 9:30 am feeling? The one where you've had too much coffee, not enough breakfast, not enough sleep, and you wish you had more to show for your morning?

And then you suddenly realize you haven't heard from your children in awhile. The constant barrage of chatter has fallen silent for, like, 6 minutes. This can't be good. If you're like me, your dread of the worst case scenario is rivaled by your guilt at how much time you just spent window shopping fall boots on The kids could be feeding their baby brother Legos. They could be splashing in the bit of wet carpet at the bottom of the stairs where the air conditioner leaked. They could be cutting each others hair. They could be expressing their creativity all over the white walls of the antique kitchen. What does it matter that stiletto workboots are on trend for fall? There is surely a reckoning just around the corner.

And then you could peek your head around the corner and see this.

Or this.

Being prepared for the worst case scenario is a bona fide occupational qualification for motherhood. And sometimes, it makes you feel silly.

Copyright 2016, Jenny Anne Mannan. All rights reserved.