I confess. In my very few spare hours I’ve been ignoring all practicalities of life. I’m livin’ in digital la la land, a place that sucks you into a thousand more layered realities than the movie Inception. These creations are very basic. Still so much I don’t know about Photoshop! Trying to learn a couple of new skills each night. I have some fun ideas about how to use this stuff on my blog but need to practice a little more. Hoping they at least make you smile . . .
Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding. —Kahlil Gibran (1883-1931), Lebanese American artist, poet & writer
Happy New Year!
This is the time of year for pondering the purpose in our lives and the stuff cluttering our lives. Yay! Do I sound too perky? Yes? Probably because I love to organize. It’s therapy for me all year long. I actually feel a bit haughty, like the lady who shows up at church every single week and then has to put up with the clumsy holiday-goers a couple times a year. Yeah. I’m so ahead of you clueless-plastic-bin-shoppers-at-Target! Surely heaven has reserved special-plastic-bin-angel-wings just for me the faithful!
Seriously, this time of year I’m on to more serious stuff, like fine-tuning my picture organizing. I’ve also been thinking a lot about pictures and life lately:
- The big picture of my life. I turned 50 today.
- Playing with pictures, aka altered art. I’m learning Photoshop Elements, which is the non-pro version of Photoshop.
- How a seemingly meaningless object in a picture can wrench a heart with its story. I posted what I thought was just a baby picture of my niece K. on Facebook. Well it was so much more to her. To her it told the special story of her Lamby, a favorite toy given to her by her Granny.
Yet even the most beautifully organized and displayed pictures cannot begin to tell the messy stories of life. If our days and minutes were indeed as neat as our photos we’d all be, well, just flat. And boring.
So I am paying homage to my 50 Years on Earth with my Very First Lady. My very first digitally-altered (Photoshop’d), vintage photo lady, that is. If you are not familiar with altered art check it out! Think doodling, glittering and tattering old pictures and text (“real” or digital). I have several links on my list, including http://www.artchixstudio.com/shop/home.php?dir=home and http://www.timholtz.com/.
I’d like to thank Jane at http://pixie-gypsy.blogspot.com/ for her inspiring artwork. I happened upon her blog a few nights ago and haven’t been the same since! She’s now on my list too so visit her any time.
May Your Shells Be Broken and Your New Year Blessed with Glittering Goodness!
- who invented glitter (greenanswers.com)
I’m jumping on the blog bandwagon and adding a new feature of random links you might enjoy. Being a compulsive organizer, I can’t simply throw them out to you without giving them a named category:
By-the-Ways. Just little places on the Internet I have found interesting, helpful or simply enjoyable.
I’m still learning how to make neat, nice-looking links so you might have to put up with a few messy ones at first. Sorry! Sometimes I’ll link to a simple post and sometimes a full blog or other site. And if the site is Green Velvet worthy it will even show up my list of links to the right, like this one, for instance:
I discovered a magical place today. Visit http://thetoymaker.com/ and be prepared to smile with sheer enchantment. The Toymaker is a lovely hostess who will send you on your way with precious little toys to make for someone special. Click Free Toys at the top of her page. Come on. You could use a smile . . .
If your inner elf is a bit burnt out on toys at the moment, you could at least take a nice stroll (via snowboard!) around beautiful Montmartre in Paris: http://littlebrownpen.blogspot.com/2010/12/snow-in-montmartre.html. Remember this little gem the next time you’re walking about in your own neighborhood and think it’s not very exciting. Imagine a little foreigner on your shoulder who would tell you otherwise. And you guessed it, Little Brown Pen is now on my list to the right. So now you can visit Paris every time you visit me. Blatant bribing!
That’s it for me on this (thankfully) quiet winter’s night. Now that I’ve decided on my By-the-Ways name, you’ll be hearing more from me in between my regular posts. I’m always out here exploring and hunting for surprises, but I promise I don’t really let my grandkids drive . . .
Are you feeling it? That longing for simplicity and joy in the midst of running around like mad trying to keep up with the season? What is on your wish list? I have a feeling it’s not something from a department store. Most everyone is feeling the pressure of producing lovely Christmas memories on an increasingly smaller budget, while of course the dollars we get hold less and less value. Time to take a deep breath and think about all the things that make you smile at Christmas time. Here are some of my favorites. (Cliche warning! If you venture beyond this paragraph don’t say I didn’t warn you.)
Enjoying the views of Wisconsin winter from our house on the hill.
Off to the woods to cut down our tree. Okay, the woods aren’t ours. They belong to the Christmas tree farms. We’re lucky to have so many beautiful places here in Wisconsin. This year we got ours extra early so no snow . . .
Our tree filled with memories of a lifetime.
Christmas carols. We all have our favorites. Here are some of mine:That Spirit of Christmas by Ray Charles Blue Christmas by Elvis Presley December Child by Cyndi Lauper A Baby Just Like You by John Denver Christmas Canon by Trans-Siberian Orchestra Music Box Blues by Trans-Siberian Orchestra (anything by these amazing people!) Bluegrass, White Snow by Patty Loveless Santa Train by Patty Loveless Suzy Snowflake by Rosemary Clooney Frosty the Snowman by Fiona Apple Face of Love by Jewel Here was a Man by Johnny Cash
Cool Yule by Louis Armstrong Winter Song by Sara Bareilles & Ingrid Michaelson Winter Light by Linda Rondstadt Mary Had a Little Lamb by Garth Brooks Beautiful Star of Bethlehem by Patty Loveless Go, Tell It On the Mountain by BarlowGirl I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus by Jimmy Boyd What Child is This by Tanya Tucker While Roving on a Winter’s Night by Darol Anger
Making cookies with the kids. It’s always a mess and there’s usually yelling at some point. This is actually an old Easter picture but you’ll get the idea of the craziness. Don’t worry. No human mouths touched his finished cookies.
Christmas cards, a dying tradition I just can’t let go. I save all of my favorite cards and dream over them during the season. What a sap I know. But don’t knock it. It’s a great way to relax and simply enjoy beauty–no standing around in an expensive art museum, plus you can drink hot cocoa if you promise not to spill.
Handmade gifts. When we were young newlyweds, we made most of our presents for family members. Nowadays I try to at least make ornaments for all of our kids and grandkids each Christmas. Here is one I made in 2008 using an old greeting card and painted cardboard.
Finding gifts in unexpected places. My daughters and I love to spend the entire year keeping our eyes open for presents at rummage sales, Goodwill, St. Vinny’s and small thrift shops. No amount of mall shopping could have unearthed this little treasure. Does anybody know more about these beautiful containers? I’m picturing a little granny with her crochet hook . . . The cards all have a similar look. I’d love to know who the artist is.
Attempts to get all the grandkids in front of the tree and smiling at the same time. We came close in 2006!
Remembering the excitement of getting ready for Christmas when my girls were little. I can still smell their little shampooed heads. My doll babies.
Wishing all the hurt away. Let us remember the beauty of Christmas can be a source of great pain for many people. But don’t stop celebrating because we have sadness and worry. Just add a little compassion and gentleness to your gift list. It’s the ultimate gift you can afford to give everybody, even yourself. It’s free and personal. It’s the original Christmas gift, recycled for over 2000 years.
I made a few friends last night. Pretty crazy but I think I like them:
I hope to keep in better touch with you this coming week. In the meantime, here are few pictures from our Green Velvet Studio.
And while cleaning up I found some beautiful art in one of my favorite places–underneath everybody’s projects. (Will do a post on Leftover Art one of these days.) This one is from my granddaughter Beans. Quite impressive, don’t you think?
Oh we made cookies too, but that will be another post. Stay tuned. They are easy and delicious . . .
I really don’t know how to paint or knit or crochet. Well, my wonderful mother-in-law did teach me to knit and crochet when I was a very young lady but I never practiced enough. The only way I can explain why I’ve been so hung up on messy, distress painting and playing with fuzzy yarn is that it is FUN. Proof below that you don’t need to be a talented genius or spend tons of time to be artistic and creative. You just need to PLAY. It also doesn’t hurt to buy a nice selection of Tim Holtz Distress Crackle Paints (cracked cardboard, where have you been all my life?) or spend a few hours yarn-hunting on eBay. I admit it. I’m a needy-stuff artist . . .
Don’t be afraid to crack up a little and sprout your inner wild child. Be messy. Because there’s no messing up.
Three months of blogging today. I have bravely waded in the online waters. My feet are wet and I’ve even stomped through a few mud puddles. To date I have not drowned or gotten stuck in the mud . . .
So what do I know so far?
Blogging is about giving to others. On the surface, writing a blog may seem self-centered, but the best bloggers are all about sharing (granted it might be as simple as showing off your awesome taste in clothes or spouting your bad hair day).
It is hard work. Clicking away at the keyboard every thought that speeds through my head is easy. Clipping away at the 85% that the world doesn’t care to hear about is a different story. Trust me. There is a very fine line not to be walked by the insensitive. Only the truly talented can cross the line and get away with it. There is also of course the technical part of editing, which is an impressive yet extremely undervalued skill in my opinion. I am brazen. I break grammar rules all the time. There is nothing any expert can say to make me afraid of a comma. This is what happens when you spend a lifetime mastering a skill. You become the master.
Writing a blog is more about reading than writing. As any good writer knows, the same is true for writing itself. You must be a voracious reader and soaker-upper to be an effective writer. Soaked would describe my life these last few weeks. Most nights I spend hours on my blog. If not writing I am checking out sites and reading blogs about writing, blogging and just-about-everything. There are so many amazing bloggers out here! The subjects are as endless as people’s personalities. I highly recommend doing a little blog surfing once in a while, especially if you’re feeling a little jaded. It will renew your faith in the human spirit.
There is a LOT of competition. This is very helpful to remember when my daily reader count falls below 10 views.
A little progress is exhilarating! You cannot imagine the feeling of knowing that I have somehow reached those 10 people.
Blogging is about bravery. It’s scary to put myself out here. Period. You might be thinking, how hard can it be to talk about painting cardboard? Well, try it some time. And it’s especially scary when I ponder all the things I really want to talk about eventually. Messy things like God (yeah God I think you’re a huge, perfect mess), politics (aka taking part in the leadership and well-being of our world), the mysteries of our universe (like how math is the language God gave us to figure it all out, and I mean ALL out–messy but infinitely clever), and of course all the chaotic people issues . . .
What I’m not so sure about?
Focus. As many of us do these days, I have serious ADD issues. One day I will die of explosion (not a bad way to go). I want my every second to explode with creation and love of life. If there was a drug that would keep me awake and productive 20 hours a day I would buy it. Oops. There are drugs for that. They are illegal and very bad for you. Horrible idea . . .
Structure. It’s really hard to structure what you can’t focus on. But wait. If I structure first would it help me focus? Should I keep my one kitchen-sink blog or branch off into nine sharply-focused blogs? Should I keep it light and fluffy or dig for the uncomfortable? Should I write my blog entirely in poetic form? Today I bought new jeans / a size up / Ugh / Tonight I’ll eat no beans. Should I add annoying music? Should I buy a better camera in the interest of looking more professional? (Yes it’s on my list). Should I add the link of lovely-appearing charities? (I don’t have time to research every single fact about any of them.) I really need to work on reader interaction. Will I sometimes hurt the feelings of someone I love when I write exactly how I feel about an important issue? (Most likely yes which makes me sad.) Should I change my blog template so I can use fonts I really like? Should I tell everybody what I’m making for supper? Do my friends and family think I’m a spy, just waiting to exploit their every move? Should I blast to the world my anger at yet another newly purchased glue stick that doesn’t work? How will I find time to create my new art project? How will I find a foot of space for it on my art room table? Will people think I’m a lunatic if they see my messy art room? Should I add the polling feature to my blog? (With readership patience at about 3 seconds, a technical mishap could be fatal.) Hmm. That line of sensitivity. Maybe I should cross it once in a while? Or move the line? Wait! I am all-powerful out here. Maybe I should just go ahead and define it. Maybe I could learn to actually draw a straight line (daughters laughing). Should I Twitter? Maybe I should just go to bed because I’m being self-absorbed. Maybe the world doesn’t want to hear from me? Surely other bloggers have these feelings. Hey. I could write a blog about that.
So . . . even if you come across an eh . . . blog, please at least appreciate that most of us are cutting out our hearts and brains and eyeballs behind the scenes.
What I love?
As a blogger I am a real live published writer. I’d like to think if my parents were still living they’d be emailing and stumbling around in Facebook, embarrassing me with their blatant bragging. I am also an art director, a counselor, literary agent, editor, photographer, teacher, community link, brand manager, product manager, business manager, copy writer, retailer, Web specialist (hubby laughing), entertainment commentator, reality star, granny-to-all and public relations specialist. I am in the driver’s seat of my own organization. Every decision is made by me alone, which also means I can take me down fast (lots of responsibility which I also love).
I love that (usually) at least 10 people are counting on me each day. I try to put myself in your place every time I write a post or add a new link. I try to think about the things we all think about. The things that connect us. I want to share all the goodness in my life; my much-tested, almost-50-year-old wisdom, thoughts and passions (yes our passions are tested); and my nice collections of information. But most of all, I want to create a little place where you can relax, get a few ideas for supper or something fun to do, enjoy pictures and poetry and maybe a laugh; and sometimes even think hard on tough issues. But always leave with the sound of your warm heart beating in sync with this beautiful project we call life.
What’s the next brave thing I do?
Ask for your feedback. Yikes I’m jumping off the high dive . . . What do you think?
Did you have a nice Labor Day weekend? Here at our house we didn’t do much other than hang out together, which is the best ever. I had taken off work Thursday and Friday in order to . . . ahem . . . clean up my flower beds and get a little serious housecleaning done. Well, other than attacking a jungle of six foot weeds in the front yard (special thanks to Boy, my newly hired garden man) and cleaning out my art room, I didn’t get much work done. I could write a list of all the things I didn’t get done, but you don’t want to see it. I’m sure you have one of your very own.
But my play list! I accomplished so much! On top of my list was holding and feeding my newest grand-daughter, shown here with her mom.
And enjoying my five other grandkids. Didn’t get any pictures of them (I think I was too busy holding the baby–oops sorry kids!) Beans, my other grand-daughter, managed to snap some of her own pictures though. It’s always interesting to see the world through the eyes of an almost five year old.
We went shopping at Michael’s, our favorite craft store, where I stocked up on my favorite acrylic paint: Folk Art Metallic Sequin Black.
Which brings me to the title of my post. To top it all off, tonight I went to Cardboard Therapy. I really didn’t have a clue what I was going to make. I just starting painting and playing. Cardboard is so amazing and so free! When you paint it, it gets all wrinkly and beautiful. Love. It.
And how cool is it when you accidentally spill something like, let’s say, orange glitter, and it couldn’t look more perfect if you had planned it?
Well, before I knew it, I had a brand new friend. I won’t go into the details of how I made her. I stayed up way too late already, plus I’m going to make more of them for an upcoming village festival, so I’ll sound very official and say it’s a trade secret for the moment.
One hint though, I used painted cardboard.
Okay, you knew that already, so here’s one more hint: One of the most fun gifts you could ever give somebody (kids, teens, college students, little old ladies, etc.) is a little box of cardboard pieces along with a few bottles of acrylic paint and a paintbrush. You could easily give this unforgettable gift for less than $10. For this project, I obviously used a few more items than cardboard and paint, but trust my grandkids–you can have loads of fun with just the paint and cardboard alone. Try. It.
Of this our true individual life, our present life is a glimpse, a fragment, a hint, and in its best moments a visible beginning. — Josiah Royce (1855-1916), American philosopher
We visited a friend the other day. She has Alzheimer’s. I am ashamed that it took me many months to gather the courage to go. Very lame. But I finally went. It certainly helped to go with other family members. Now I know that it doesn’t matter how scared I am. It just matters that she feels loved and cared for.
On our way home, we all wondered, does someone with Alzheimer’s really not recognize people? Do they really not know what they want to say? Or do they know, deep inside, who you are and what they want to say, but simply cannot express themselves outwardly? At first, everything she said seemed bizarre. She stared away and showed no emotion. But as we sat and listened for a while, some of her still very fragmented statements started sounding familiar. It seemed like she was trying to tell us certain things but could not organize the words. It was if she were trapped in her own body, desperately trying to catch and toss to us the pieces flying about inside her heart and mind. A terrifying thought. It would be much easier to believe that she’s simply living in a happy fantasy land.
It seems like we are all slightly trapped at times. We have the input spinning around with our thoughts and emotions but sometimes find it difficult to express ourselves effectively. Or perhaps worse, we believe we are communicating clearly but those around us are wondering . . . Each of us is limited by our language, opinions, emotions and our bodies. Even with Google, how could any one of us understand everything? How amazing that we very often actually manage to say or do exactly as we intend. And when our words fumble or hurt, well, that’s when real friends love us anyway.
After visiting my friend I knew the perfect art project for this post. I save foil candy wrappers. Holidays are the best time to get different colors–I keep a special “wrapper basket” next to my candy dish. These tiny bits of color flying around (at my house they literally fly around), so often discarded, can be made into shiny paper mosaics. You can make paper ornaments, greeting cards, banners, fridge magnets, etc.
I made a couple of greeting cards. Please keep in mind I’m not nearly as talented as most kids!Directions: Coat your paper with glue and quickly press torn bits of wrappers onto the paper to make your picture. Then, if desired–while the glue is still sticky–sprinkle with glitter or sand. You could also do on cardboard, wood or whatever. If you’d prefer to go a little slower, you could glue your wrappers on the paper, then coat the glue around the wrappers for the glitter. I’m lazy so I do it the faster way. For greeting cards, try using sandwich-size zipper plastic bags for your envelopes. It’s a little kooky and will be much easier for the receiver to open the card without tearing the paper or causing too much glitter to fall off. I added stickers, and on the first card below I added a little bit of leftover Christmas garland.
Thank you friend for a perfect lesson in listening, patience and friendship. I will visit you again soon.
I’ll catch your fragments.
I will paste them into my
own fine mosaic.
A child of five would understand this. Someone go fetch a child of five. — Groucho Marx, (1890-1977), American comedian & film star
Once again, a child reminds me that creativity is in the eye of the beholder. And how limitless is a child’s sight. My grandson, Monkey, found yet another use for the coffee can liners I’ve been saving (thanks to a thoughtful friend at work). I’m not sure what to call his invention, but I think it has something to do with playing martial arts or Star Wars. He used cellophane tape which seems like a reasonable way to attach the whatever they are. (Tomorrow I will ask him.)
You might like to take a peek at my first little project with coffee can liners: What’s in Your Art Gallery?
Warning: The edges of the liners can be a bit sharp. Duct tape folded around the edges would probably be an easy way to remedy.
Any other ideas on ways to use coffee can liners? Feel free to ask a five-year old. Ask him about other stuff too.
There is no abstract art. You must always start with something. Afterward you can remove all traces of reality. — Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), Spanish artist
All of us have an artist wondering around in our souls. So many of us just don’t pay attention, whether we’re busy, tired or simply unsure of ourselves. And so we think we’re not artistic. I said exactly that about myself a few posts ago. Hmmm . . . did you notice my first sentence? Did I really mean wondering not wandering? Like there’s a little guy hanging out in there, finger painting on your rib cage, wondering why in the heck you don’t let him out to play once in a while?
I like Picasso’s quote because it reminds me that we don’t have to conjure up anything out of thin air to be artistic. We just need to relax and notice. Notice the used coffee filter, the dog’s hair flying across the room, the quick kisses before seeing the kids off to school. It’s all beautiful material meant just for you (just what you’re thinking when you are vacuuming!). You certainly don’t need to make one single piece of art out of any of it. Just living is the best art of all. And thanks to our amazing gift of memory, we each have our very own art gallery full of everything we love. Does your art gallery have any finger paintings?
If you look closely at my flower fridge magnets, you’ll see some familiar things: orange juice lids, shiny coffee can liners and bits of yarn. Here are instructions, along with pictures of one I made tonight (the others I made last Christmas).
If you’re not familiar with some of the items you can get them in any craft or scrapbooking store. You can make as fancy or glittery as you like. It’s your garden!You will need: metal orange juice lids foil coffee can liners paper (anything you like–I used an old greeting card for these instructions glitter (optional)–if using glitter you’ll also need regular white school glue to coat your flower very large glue dots (much easier and safer than a glue gun) magnets bits of fuzzy yarn paper brads (fasteners) large round and flower paper punches (optional) You can also simply cut with scissors. Most craft stores put their punches on sale every so often. They make great gifts for anyone who likes to be creative with paper, etc. Warning: They are very dangerous for children and should never be used without adult help. Punch or cut a circle out of the coffee can liner. If punching, you’ll notice it is a little tricky getting the liner into position because it is thick and stiff and wrinkly. I have pretty good luck if I first press out the liner with something heavy. Using a glue dot, attach the punched circle to OJ lid. Punch or cut a flower out the paper. Push a brad through the center of the flower and then push open the tips of the brad so it is fastened. Attach paper flower and yarn to coffee liner/OJ lid: Put one large glue dot in middle of liner and take another glue dot and pull apart to make a few small ones–put them around the circle, then twirl your yarn around and press into glue dots. Press the paper flower with brad into the large glue dot in the center. Press a large glue dot onto magnet, then press onto back of lid. Take a picture of your work! It will serve as a good reminder for days when you’re not feeling very talented.
Last Christmas, I found an aluminum pan to use for my little photo session. This would make a very fun arrangement for give-aways at showers, birthday parties, Mother’s Day brunches, visits to elderly care homes, etc. The little round aluminum pans would be an adorable way to show off individual magnets for a teacher or co-worker gift.
I don’t want to scare you away by saying the word “crafts”. I am really not a crafty person at all. Not artistic either. I am actually quite sloppy and in many ways even impatient. This is exactly why I love organizing, cleaning and poetry. I can find simplicity in the midst of chaos. And the coolest thing about it is that in the process of finding simplicity, I am being creative. I am creating simplicity. A basic statement, but really think about it. Creating simplicity!
What does all of this have to do with my Thriftie Gifties title and my mom? When I was in grade school, I was invited to quite the shin-dig of a birthday party, at least it was in those olden times. (I am almost 50 in case you’re wondering.) The entire class was invited and they even had a clown for entertainment. My very busy mom of eight (last baby brother not yet born) somehow managed to buy a lovely, modest gift for my birthday friend. I don’t remember a thing about the gift, but what my mom did with it stuck with me forever. We had no wrapping paper in the house. I was mortified. My mom went to the messy stack of newspapers in the corner of the living room and pulled out the funnies. By then I was in tears. She assured me it was a very neat idea. I did not believe her. I hated her. Of course I had no choice but to nervously march into the party with my ridiculous funnies-wrapped package. What did all the kids say? I don’t even remember (because they probably didn’t even notice). I do remember being mad at my mom for a long time. Yet . . . deep down . . . just a little . . . I was proud that my mom was so darn smart!
Well of course she was smart. Wouldn’t our parents and grandparents be rolling their eyes at how nowadays we “re-purpose” our old bath towels, etc. and then write glamorous blogs about it? I’m sure many people have used nothing but newspaper for wrapping paper all their lives. Simple ingenuity has always just been about playful common sense. It’s there for everybody. A game we can all play.
So in memory of my mom and all of our smart elders, I’m sharing some fun gift bags you can make for absolutely free. A reminder that I am a bit sloppy and impatient. I am happy getting the idea but not so much making it look perfect. If my amazing, artistic daughters would have been in charge of this project we’d have Martha Stewart squirming. Tonight you’re stuck with just me. But that’s okay. I’ve shared the simple idea and hopefully thrown in a few harmonic thoughts. Just do your own thing. Decorate with magazine cut-outs or search the junk drawer for string and doo-dads. Whatever. It’s now your opportunity . . .
Save, wash and dry all kinds of paper/foil/plastic bags. (This drives my hubby crazy!) You’ll need to turn them inside out, unless you want to be super funky and leave as is.
For bows and ribbons, you can use almost anything. I am fond of cutting (or just tearing as I did here) pieces from the ends of bags. May not be very strong though so be careful when tying. The best thing ever is large dog food bags. The material is super sturdy and looks cool too.
For bows, just scrunch the material, then tie with whatever.
Use the fun dog picture or turn it over for silver.
Stryofoam sheets from shipped products is fun stuff to. I made a bow but it ended up looking a little strange.
Oops I think it’s a headless angel (an idea for future post?)
Purple bow helped a little (or is it now a headless angel with a purple bow?)
Okay hopefully by now you get the idea!
Bits and pieces of fascinating possibilities.
We had fun making a banner for Independence Day. All you need are colored paper, pencils, glue, scissors and glitter and yarn, string or ribbon. Just let everybody make their own glitter stars (paper can be any size or shape you want), and once dry, attach them all together on the yarn. This can be adapted to any theme. We even made a pink and purple one for my new granddaughter. At our house we keep things simple. When you have a dozen or so complicated characters running in and out you need to focus on EASY. I learned this at an early age. My parents had 9 kids. My mom was the oldest of 15 kids and dad’s family had 11 kids. When big families get together, it’s all about eating peanut butter & jelly sandwiches and sitting in any nook or cranny you can find. Yay crazy fun! And there’s always room for one more, so go out and join a big family if you don’t have one of your own.