Holding the parts of my life

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The poem from the yesterday {when I began writing this post} the other day was my way back to this space.  I read it just a little while ago and it gave me words to even begin to describe where I have been.

I have been flat for such a long while. But pretending otherwise, because if you fake it you make it, and all of that. You are what you think so I was all on top of everything and holding it altogether and actually inside I wasn’t so much.

But I didn’t think I was depressed. Because I wasn’t crying all the time, and I wasn’t really sad, I was just kind of joyless. Ironic given the name of the blog!! :)

But I was holding it together, to one extent or another, not many people would have realised quite how out of whack I was…because even I didn’t. So..life happened.

Things got a bit demanding on the Board and took so much energy and time to work through the processes we needed to go through unexpectedly as a school, my Beloved was made redundant, both of us looking for work to pay mortgages and all that other unfun stuff but to no avail.

Feeling completely useless and not of service or value to anyone because I was not/am not getting employed in paid work. Losing all creativity (perhaps the scariest thing of all because it just is, really scary, still). Not sleeping except for a couple of hours for weeks. Suffering panic attacks…4 or 5 a day at one stage. Having a difficult relationship with my family of origin and that going to a place that is completely foreign to me, and I was in a place. A place where I had nothing left, just really flat.  Not really sad, though I had tears as well, but I felt more lost and completely overwhelmed than sad.

I was also completely empty.

So I put a brave face on it, but I only had enough for the most immediate of needs, which was not here, and besides with my dearth of creativity, I had nothing to share anyway.

A friend came over and opened a well of tears while she was here but I still felt I could manage this.  I had not yet succumbed to needing drugs again.  I was aware, I was taking self-care steps, I was not weak enough to need drugs.

And then one Saturday we went for a drive to the beach and I saw this view of the ocean (in the photo I took above and it was the most beautiful moment of grace that I didn’t have the capacity to hold it and I broke down and realised I did in fact need drugs. So over the rest of the day I came to the realisation that I couldn’t do it anymore and in fact I needed to go on drugs. Again.

And I snapped a couple of self portraits on that day of breakthorough. As well as some shots of scattering sea gulls that felt a lot like the mixed up detrius of my mind.

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So I made an appointment and went to my most fabulous doctor, and got sleeping tablets, and anti-anxiety tablets, and antidepressants and I evened out…eventually.

I still had no joy. But I was not crying and my panic attacks were only a few a week. No creativity though I did try.

I thought I may art journal my way back but I couldn’t even finish this page and didn’t get any further.

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At the doctors 6 weeks ago she asked how I was doing and I shrugged, and said okay, better than I was, and to my surprise she said she was going to double my dose of antidepressants because she thought I was still under medicated and my usual joy and spark still wasn’t back. So she did.

And the most amazing thing happened.

I felt lighter and actually happy for the first time in over a year maybe. Actually truly happy with no thought at the back of my head about what a faker I was. I made these photos when I was playing.

And I am there now. Feeling lighter. But still no creative urge so that scares me.

But I am here.

Trying to find my way back and trying to figure out what that means for me.

Toward the Solstice

p20141128-103935 Toward the Solstice

by Adrienne Rich

The thirtieth of November.
Snow is starting to fall.
A peculiar silence is spreading
over the fields, the maple grove.
It is the thirtieth of May,
rain pours on ancient bushes, runs
down the youngest blade of grass.
I am trying to hold in one steady glance
all the parts of my life.
A spring torrent races
on this old slanting roof,
the slanted field below
thickens with winter’s first whiteness.
Thistles dried to sticks in last year’s wind
stand nakedly in the green,
stand sullenly in the slowly whitening field.

My brain glows
more violently, more avidly
the quieter, the thicker
the quilt of crystals settles,
the louder, more relentlessly
the torrent beats itself out
on the old boards and shingles.
It is the thirtieth of May,
the thirtieth of November,
a beginning or an end,
we are moving into the solstice
and there is so much here
I still do not understand.
If I could make sense of how
my life is still tangled
with dead weeds, thistles,
enormous burdocks, burdens
slowly shifting under
this first fall of snow,
beaten by this early, racking rain
calling all new life to declare itself strong
or die,

if I could know
in what language to address
the spirits that claim a place
beneath these low and simple ceilings,
tenants that neither speak nor stir
yet dwell in mute insistence
till I can feel utterly ghosted in this house.

If history is a spider-thread
spun over and over though brushed away
it seems I might some twilight
or dawn in the hushed country light
discern its grayness stretching
from molding or doorframe, out
into the empty dooryard
and following it climb
the path into the pinewoods,
tracing from tree to tree
in the failing light, in the slowly
lucidifying day
its constant, purposive trail,
til I reach whatever cellar hole
filling with snowflakes or lichen,
whatever fallen shack
or unremembered clearing
I am meant to have found
and there, under the first or last
star, trusting to instinct
the words would come to mind
I have failed or forgotten to say
year after year, winter
after summer, the right rune
to ease the hold of the past
upon the rest of my life
and ease my hold on the past.

If some rite of separation
is still unaccomplished
between myself and the long-gone
tenants of this house,
between myself and my childhood,
and the childhood of my children,
it is I who have neglected
to perform the needed acts,
set water in corners, light and eucalyptus
in front of mirrors,
or merely pause and listen
to my own pulse vibrating
lightly as falling snow,
relentlessly as the rainstorm,
and hear what it has been saying.
It seems I am still waiting
for them to make some clear demand
some articulate sound or gesture,
for release to come from anywhere
but from inside myself.

A decade of cutting away
dead flesh, cauterizing
old scars ripped open over and over
and still it is not enough.
A decade of performing
the loving humdrum acts
of attention to this house
transplanting lilac suckers,
washing panes, scrubbing
wood-smoke from splitting paint,
sweeping stairs, brushing the thread
of the spider aside,
and so much yet undone,
a woman’s work, the solstice nearing,
and my hand still suspended
as if above a letter
I long and dread to close.

(1977)

The belated postcard post

This is a very very belated post about my postcards I made for Hanna’s Postcard swap.  I showed the start of the cards in this post.

I was trying to decide what to do with my pile of backgrounds.  I didn’t want to lost too much of that background because I liked it.  It reminded me of a grafiti wall, or raw street art kind of feel and I wanted to retain that feeling.  I was thinking of characters initially and one night I woke up remembering this photo I had take a little while before:

One of my favourite walls.

It is one of my favouritest walls and I did some research on what it was representing and it was bringing attention to shark finning which is one of the most detestable practices done at the moment I think. So barbaric and pointless and inhumane. Learning that in fact made me love the wall even more. And so at about 2:30 in the morning I decided to do shark inspired fish. I decided not to be too focused on shark making so to speak, but to just do a series of shark inspired fish that were a bit zany and fun and would fit onto the street arty kind of feel I wanted. Once I decided I then didn’t go back to look at this photo because I didn’t want to completely rip them off, just be inspired by them.

I drew some rough shapes with charcoal and filled them in with gesso. Once that was dry I began filling them in, with a mix of coloured pencils, acrylic gouache and paint pen.

This is what I ended up with:

DIY Postcard

DIY Postcard

DIY Postcard

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DIY Postcard

DIY Postcard

DIY Postcard

DIY Postcard

DIY Postcard

DIY Postcard

DIY Postcard

DIY Postcard

DIY Postcard

DIY Postcard

DIY Postcard

I am so grateful I signed up. Not least because just after I did my work as the chairperson of my children’s school board exploded and became so incredibly difficult professionally and emotionally (thankfully it is drawing to an end now so expect some catch up posts…just a warning :)), but this allowed me some time to decompress and not lose complete touch with my creative work, and so still stay somewhat sane. It was one of my self care practices.

Also I got the 10 most wonderful postcards in return. I can’t even tell you the joy each one brought me. I know I mentioned (I think I did), that the last 2 times I did not get the full amount, which was fine, but a little disappointing, but this time, all ten arrived. And on perfect days. Where things had seemed incredibly overwhelming and hard, there was a ray of joy. I was so incredibly grateful.

I thought I had taken a photo of all of them, and it appears I haven’t. And the light is too terrible to do this now (thanks to a dark grey early setting winter sky), but I will post a photo of all the wonderful cards I received. Because they are too delightful and wonderful to not be shown off a bit! :D

Three weeks of happy…

This is the joyful part of been behind, I now get to go back over three weeks of my #100happyday posts and catch up on here.  There were days that I was not good about sharing on social media what I did, because it was hectic and I was distracted, but I did try and take a photo at least, or in some cases, think about it and decide what to shoot the next day because I had left it too late and the light was rubbish by the time I got to it!!

Day 22:

Collecting pinecones with this view in front of me. #100happydays

This was taken at my Aunt’s farm where we were collecting pinecones while others were busy with drenching calves and sheep. I used to hate the very idea of country living, gumboots and manure was not something I desired. But more and more I find peace in this existence, surrounded by the space it provides. It is idyllic, though I will be honest, that I do wonder if I love it so much because I also know that I go back home again. :)

My favourite photo could as easily have been this photo:
Collecting pinecones...

Or this one:
He is better at mass collection.  :) Though the competition to beat his sister has motivated him greatly.

I love that they get to experience this. Also I want to note that Sebastian and I bet my Aunt and Victoria in pinecone collecting.

Day 23:

Watching this ritual between them become a tradition is happy-making for me. #100happydays #hairstylesarenotmystrength

I love this. My aunt doing Victoria’s hair. It is becoming a ritual for them. When we went camping at Christmas, she did Victoria’s hair every day, when we go visit, she does Victoria’s hair. When we have family get togethers, Victoria goes with her hair brush to get her hair done. I love it. It also relieves me of hair style pressure, because she is over the messy bun which is my specialty. :)

Though this photo of them with my Grandad I am also partial to as well (cheating galore with picking my top photos clearly).

I love this photo. The children with their great grandfather.

It was nice catching up with him on our way home even if it did involve a bigger detour than I had thought it did in my head. Little wonder my Beloved looked at me sideways when I asked if we could pop in our way home.

Day 24:

Victoria getting ribbons for 3 firsts, 2 seconds and a third out of 6 events with a medal for first overall agrregate.  Sebastian getting ribbons for 4 firsts and a third out of 6 events with a medal for first overall aggregate. #100happydays #proudmama #

The children got their ribbons and medals from their St John’s competitions a couple of months or so ago. At the time there was a mistake with the addition so Sebastian thought he had missed out on the medal for first over all aggregate like his sister got for her section. But he found out that night about the mistake, and he had such pride in his accomplishments for himself. It was quite emotional for his mother!

Day 25:

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This girl of mind reading my old books (and some of my favourites I could no longer find so bought secondhand). I am finding delight that she she finds joy in the same words I did. It is one of the highlights of right now for me. I kept my favouritest books like Charlotte’s Web, Pippi, and Anne of Green Gables and the Folk of the Faraway Tree etc, and after my failed urgings for Sebastian to try and read them, I was wondering if I should have kept them all these years. That she is loving them is a complete thrill for me.

Day 26:

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My Kindle at the moment is a happy moment bringer. I was dubious about much I would like this, because there is nothing to me like the feel of a real book. Though I will always prefer real books there is something about having so many books immediately available to me, and also I just finished Divergent bypassing the Library’s ridiculous waiting list for this book.

Day 27:

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My Beloved bought passionfruit home and I parked myself up and made a proper afternoon tea of them. It was a treat. :)

Day 28:

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The week started with a lot of grey and that cold which reminds one that Winter is coming. When it cleared one was left a little more grateful for the sun than they had been when it was a sure bet.

Day 29:

And Saturday winter sports begin! Her first game of netball ever and they lost by one. His game they won 50-0.  #100happydays

Winter sports begin. Though I am honestly in two minds about giving up my Saturday mornings if I am honest. Particularly when it is rainy and muddy and cold, but the first games of the season are exciting. It was Victoria’s first ever game of netball and it was hilarious to watch. They were all happy to just be playing.

Day 30:

I needed this to blow out some cobwebs. #100happydays

It was Mother’s Day and it was a lovely peaceful day where I was much loved, even if I was so tired and on edge I had not a whole lot left for these children I birthed. They all seemed to know I was in need of some spoiling and so my Beloved made me Eggs Benedict for breakfast and a gorgeous dinner. Victoria chose to get me a lavender plant (quickly agreed to by her brother because he had no ideas according to her :)), because it is my favourite plant. What I love most about it was the level of caring and throughtfulness of the gift, that she had really thought about it because I had not mentioned wanting one recently. I love a thoughtful gift more than any other kind.

This could also have been my happy day photo. This snippet of Victoria’s card. I have never been so horrified or laughed so much upon reading a card. Truly morbidly hilarious. And I have kept this on me and opened it up so many times since in the last week. It has been my portable happy.
A snippet of my mother's day card. My girl has a flair for the dramatic and an original take on Mother's Day sentiments. #thankgoodnessIamnotdying

Day 31:

Witnessing the sunset. #100happydays

This was a day. In so many ways. I didn’t stop really, until I noticed it was time to get dinner. I glanced outside and noticed the sun starting to go down and stepped outside to take a moment.

Looking back like this, this photo takes me right back to feeling as overwhelmed and unsure of myself as I felt that day. It was in this moment I stopped rushing and crossing things of my to-do list. I didn’t think of anyone else’s needs or everything I had to do for just a moment. And I told myself I was okay. This photo even now makes me well up with tears. Maybe because I am still in the thick of overwhelm but I am not feeling as unsure about myself anymore.

Day 32:

It is a day where my favourite soy wax melts have been much needed.  #100happydays #selfcare

It was grey outside and I was feeling grey and so I lit one of these babies. They are my treasure and I don’t have a lot left so I am stingy with them, but their scent is what I imagine heaven will smell like. It smells of paradise for me, and this morning I lit one, for no reason, for no company was coming but just because I decided I wanted the treat of luxury.

Day 33:

Finding treasure at the second hand book store. #100happydays

In between running errands and appointments and meetings I had a spare half hour and as I was on my way to treat myself to a coffee, I decided to go check out the second hand books in here instead. I found a couple of treasure books for me, and one for Sebastian, and my half hour whizzed by.

Day 34:

My Beloved brought this family treasure home. It used to belong to his grandmother and even has scribbles inside that his father did when he was a tiny tot. #100happydays

Holy Mother of Goodness. My Beloved returned home from visiting his father (and work!! :)) with this gorgeously solid kauri sideboard. It is all kinds of perfect. It is handcrafted, and used to belong to his grandmother. On the inside cupboard there are even scribblings from his father when he was a tiny tot. It truly is a treasure. The children struggle to imagine their grandfather as someone who is capable of been that little and that naughty to scribble in a cupboard. I love it. As I write this I wonder if there is a family link to wanton scribblers because Victoria went through a stage where no cupboards, carpets, walls, dressers, beds, linen, drawers, shelves were safe from her scribbles.

Day 35:

Breathing in this day that has passed in a blur and taking just a moment. #100happydays

Taking a moment at the end of another day that rushed by in a blur, though this one was not taken up with activity as much as it was rest and rest and more rest.  And then the beginnings of some reflection on the last couple of weeks.

 

Fortnightly reflections

Thank goodness for this practice I have started of doing weekly reflections.  This combined with my morning pages has ensured that even when I have felt off track and completely taken over by non-creative activities that in fact I have not strayed too far from the path.  And it is a whole lot easier to find my way back again.

#weeklyreflections in my #artjournal. A lot of thoughts concerning foundations and commitment this week.

The journaling this week was about how far behind I was, or felt I was. That I was forgetting everything I had just decided I was going to. Just made plans for. And how disappointed I was in myself for that.

For self-sabotaging just when I was making progress.

But when I looked at what I had done behind the scenes I had still been plodding along. I had not stalled completely. Just that other events had to take priority. As sometimes happens. And often those priority-taking events, don’t announce themselves before hand or give you time to schedule them in!! :D

Look at it now, I was quite negative with myself and my self-talk, but this page is actually a lot kinder and compassionate than I was with myself. I want to keep this page hand as a reminder to myself to trust in my foundations and be kinder to myself through the different cycles I find myself on.

Last week's #weeklyreflections.  Finally taking a photo.

I love the background for this page. When I was going through my box of scraps looking for something to use, (because I am all about using up my hoardings on these reflection pages), I found this piece of refill. It had some paint scraps from some page or maybe even just cleaning my brush, half of a knitting pattern. The scrawled paint recipe for making an alive-looking black…just disparate scraps that have found themselves layered into this page I put aside to use as for something maybe. It felt as messy and uncoordinated and lost as I felt that week. But it also worked for me.

It came after I hadn’t caught up as I planned to, and so the voices were even louder in my head. Berating me for not keeping up. Been regular and keeping to my own schedules that I set. Allowing myself to feel so behind that I didn’t know where to start to catch up again.

This page now, feels like an acknowledgment that I was at least giving it all thought. Even if most of my actions and to-do list was been dedicated to other events. Just looking at this page now makes me want to well up and cry.

An acknowledgment and awareness of my descent, a gentle abiding of the reality and my surrender to that part of my journey. Underneath it all though there is still an acknowledgment that no follow up care is required. Nothing is broken. Nothing is unfixable.

It feels like a relief looking at it now. And here I am.

Come in…

I was asked to participate in a virtual blog tour by the wildly spirit-inspiring Cynthia who I met online while doing Big with Connie Hozvicka.  I was then asked again for the same day by the multi-talented Jeanie who I met while doing Deep with the same Connie Hozvicka

So, here I am inviting you in to my little virtual tour behind the scenes in my own messy creative life.

I will admit I did get a little nervous at the questions (do I even have a genre…it seems like such a grown up question!). But here are my answers as best as I can give them right now.

The questions were:

  1. What am I working on?  
  2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?
  3. Why do I write/create what I do?
  4. How does your writing/creating process work?

So without any further rambling, here are my answers :)

What am I working on?

I wish this was only one thing, how much easier this answer would be but I have so many balls in the air right now.  I have some non-creative work that I am working on and is demanding a fair bit of my time at the moment.  As well as that, I am behind on a few online courses that I am trying to catch up on.

I am trying to teach myself to paint with a palette knife. Trying been the operative word:

Palette knife wip

I have been busy with making postcards:

Mail art wip

Playing with charcoal:

Charcoal sketch

Reflecting, planning and organising in relation to how to achieve my creative goals:

Planner reflection

Using up my postcard scraps on an idea for another piece:

Art piece wip

Reading my bookclub book and trying to develop an online course on tarot cards that I have had a brainwave on.

Planning an ebook on texture making…

In fact writing all this has made me realise why I feel so scattered and all over the place right now. Because I am! There is a lot spread out over my table at the moment, literally so I am going to need to pare back and refocus.  I will put that on my to-do list. :)

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Honestly…what is the genre? Creating in general??  This is the question that scared me.  What I would hope is that what makes all my stuff different is me.  I made them, and I could go through all the guff about been raw, expressive, and intuitive, and heart-centered, and self-aware, but really, to keep it all real, what makes it all different from anyone else’s stuff is that I made it, as opposed to them making their stuff.  That feels like a lazy answer though, but the more I have pondered it, the more I come back to the fact that my work is different from the work of anyone else because I did it.

Why do I create what I do?

That is how I play and practice self-care, how I process things that are going on for me and really because at the end of the day it keeps me sane and I think it makes me a better person to be around.  And I want to.  I create what I do because that is what I have been inspired to create as I have been inspired or intrigued by what I find down the rabbit hole.

How does my creative process work?

Morning pages for the organisation of thoughts and flashes of inspiration (though at the moment it is honestly more sporadic than it should be…if I am confessing to the truth though it is at least four times a week), lists and routines support the creative work to actually happen and make it a priority in amongst everything else, and then doing the work, because nothing else gets it done other than pulling out what you need and actually doing it, as opposed to thinking about doing it or writing about doing it.

I have a creative to-do list and if I am stuck (not that I can remember that happening any time lately) I could find something on there to do, or I have an ideas and planning book and sometimes I just go through my sketchbook and see something I wanted to play with a bit more.

Where the inspiration comes from is infinite, but the actual process is really just the doing.  Ideas can hit me anywhere, in the shower or out on a walk, in my morning pages or my idea and inspiration journal.  But the idea is only part of it.  The other is always the doing.

Taking action, starting, pulling out the paints or the charcoal or whatever it is I need and doing it.  In whatever time I have available, hence the organising and scheduling is a big part of my process as well, and deadlines.  I work well to deadlines even if I am the only one making them up and enforcing them.

And that is all really.

Three people will continue the tour on their blogs next Monday:

Wendy has been messing around with something ‘arty’ since childhood, has always been able to squeeze in time to explore some new creative venture, but still hasn’t managed to settle on one thing . . . she’s not unhappy at the prospect of remaining a mucker for life, living on a beach on the wildish west coast of the North Island of Aotearoa/New Zealand. You can find her at Late Start Studio.

Patricia Dattoma is on a creative journey to find & explore her own voice as an artist,  after many years of teaching art to young teens in inner NYC. She is inspired by the grittiness of NYC (her hometown)& her love of the American Southwest. She believes in the power of creating something everyday. You  can find her at Magenta Matters.

Carmen is a mixed media, colour loving, illustrative, arting, zombie loving creative in the UK who inspires me on my own creative journey.  She is busy in the thick of life but is always supportive and finds time to work on so many swaps and collaborations, I don’t know how she manages it all. You can find her at Whoopidoings.

 

 

This week’s happy

Day 15:

My beloved splitting wood to keep us toasty warm during winter is right up there in happy making for me. #hiskindofromance #100happydays

I have a strong aversion to been cold and there is something about this man of mine splitting a ginormous pile of wood to keep us warm over winter that cheers my heart. I feel like it is a gift to only me. There is security in having a giant wood pile, I feel like we are well ready for the cold. (Though it now needs to be stacked and we will all be required for that).

Day 16:

Thanks to brilliant godparents there are no children in sight and I have spent the afternoon hanging out with my Beloved. #100happydays

My son’s godparent took the children out for the day and while they were having a fantastic day of laser strike and hanging out with people they adore I got to hang out with this man I adore. We visited a couple of quirky shops, people watching and I got lost in a couple of second hand book shops. He suggested we go to an art supply sore I had mentioned earlier in the day but that had JUST closed just before we went there but he said we could come back another time and I will hold him to that. :) We had a coffee on our way home and it was very good. It was so lovely to just have a chance to talk about nothing and hang out together.

Day 17:
Here is to fantastic free holiday programmes in the local community.  #100happydays

Our local community had a free holiday programme for a couple of hours a fay in the last week and Victoria loved it. Some arting and craft activities, visits to the local pool, face-painting, bouncy castles, dance classes, and games, they did a great job and I got to read Divergence in the downtimes and do some planning and organising.

Day 18:
First fire of the year.

We had our first fire of the year and oh my gosh the excitement. Truthfully it was possibly not cold enough for a fire, and after a little bit we were all a bit too hot but there were no complaints here. It thrilled me just looking at the fire, and what is the point of having so much wood if you don’t use it I say!

Day 19:
Making feijoa and apricot jam and feijoa and fennel relish was happiness yesterday. #100happydays

One of my most favouritest things is seeing a pantry filled with homemade preserves and so making feijoa andd apricot jam and feijoa and fennel relish was right up there for me. Especially the relish because I made some last year and I didn’t like it, so I made this recipe up completely and it works and tastes just how I wanted to make it. Which actually makes me think I should note down what I put in it so I have the gist of it for next year.

Day 20:

Not that you can see it very clearly but he was carrying her through the water on his shoulder. After a morning of squabbling and bickering hearing their laughing together was a much needed tonic. #100happydays

The last week of the holidays and there had been a fear amount of squabbling between these two. In fact there were even threats brought out that they would not be going to the pool unless there was an end to the fighting, yelling and tears. So it was heart-warming to see them actually choose to play with each other and be giggling together when faced with the other children at the holiday programme as well. They went their separate ways shortly after this photo was taken but fir five minutes they loved each other. :)

Day 21:
Going away for the weekend and no longer feeling carsick. #100happydays

We went to my Aunt’s farm for the weekend and it was fantastic! But it was not an easy journey for me. I also tempted fate with this caption on the photo because just after I wrote that I began feeling ill again. But the scenery and all the space was just beautiful as we spent a few hours in the car looking forward to the arriving.

I hope you all had just as fantastic a week and a joy-filled week coming up!  :)