November 2018 Desktop Wallpaper

Happy November beautiful friends! Here is a poem the girls and I have been working on memorizing. Simple and yet lovely.

The stripped and shapely
Maple grieves
The ghosts of her
Departed leaves.

The ground is hard,
As hard as stone.
The year is old,
The birds are flown.

And yet the world,
In its distress,
Displays a certain
Loveliness—

By John Updike

The desktop is inspired by the shifting palette of the landscape. The paint color chips come from an antique book about the science of color mixing. I love the subtle variation in hue. Enjoy!

For the desktop, click on the image below to view the large size image.

For the iphone wallpaper, navigate to this page on your phone and then click and hold on the image you want. Select ‘Save image to camera roll’. Then from your camera roll set your home screen/lock screen or both.

iphone wallpapers:

Top 5 Favorite Things to Share with Creatives

As I turn 40 this month I’m writing a few reflective posts. It’s always good to take step back and ask, “What have I been learning and experiencing these last few years… or better yet, decades?”

You can read the post about having two halves of life and comparing their bucket-lists here
You can read the post called “What’s stopping you from being you” here

 

Betony and I often find ourselves in incredible conversations with awesome, creative people. We talk about the how-to’s and inspiring maxims and stories we find.
These seem to be Betony and I’s top 5; the wisdom we’ve come into over the years we keep returning to. What would you add to the list? 

1. All Projects Have 3 Parts

Let’s stop viewing art through a romantic lens for a moment and get down to the flesh and bones.

A project has three distinctive phases:
creating/ producing/ sharing

We write the songs or dream up the idea or finish the screen play. That’s the creating part. But then we have to get out the microphones, gather the teams, rent the rehearsal space and produce what’s been dreamed. We’ve got to give life our ideas. Producing is such a hard phase!

And most creatives stop there. I know I have before. Your dream has come alive and can be seen or heard or experienced…

but who’s going to invite your friends and fans to the glorious thing you’ve made?!

Marketing is difficult but for the most part no one is going to do it for us. We have to find natural and loving ways to share our work with those who we know will love experiencing it!

2. The Journey of the Project is as Important as the End Product

Early in my career I made an album that ended, I believe, 4 friendships. I was close to each of these musicians and invited them to play on this new project, but after so many rehearsals and events and lack of communication, I burned them out. They didn’t want to work with me after that.

The final project turned out great; everyone played beautifully and it sounded wonderful. But it’s my least favorite album of mine. I actually rarely open and listen to it because it relives, for me, such a failure of leadership and lack of understanding.

There’s a love of journey and joy in making that needs to resonate in the creation of a thing. Climbing the mountain can be tough and challenging, but a great time too. That’s why we do it. It shouldn’t be a miserable experience that turns people against each other or creates bitterness.

I’ve tried to take this to heart. A few years ago Betony and I finished a project called Becoming. When musicians came over to record in the evenings we would often feed them and spend time with them, just hanging out. Then when the album was done we had everyone involved over for a foodie’s paradise experience, an award giving ceremony (think Throne Room scene from Star Wars and old war medals), and a Becoming listening party. I look back on the creation of that album with warm memories of special times. The journey was wondrous. 

3. Make Lots of Work

There’s a wonderful passage from the book Art & Fear below and Betony and I reference this whenever we start to romanticize our current project too much. It goes like this:

The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality. His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the “quantity” group: fifty pound of pots rated an “A”, forty pounds a “B”, and so on. Those being graded on “quality”, however, needed to produce only one pot – albeit a perfect one – to get an “A”.

Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. It seems that while the “quantity” group was busily churning out piles of work – and learning from their mistakes – the “quality” group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.

I talk with young music writers that have been working on the same 5 songs for 3 years and my first challenge to them is: You have 20 minutes. Go write a new song. And then after that we’re going to do that exercise again and again. It’s shocking what people start to make when they get unstuck from what they’re trying to perfect.

We learn by doing or make the road by walking. In the arts it’s no different. 

4. The Most Personal is Often the Most Universal

My friend and artist Wes Sam-Bruce was where I first heard this idea: the most personal is often the most universal. I was still surprised when it came true for me.

I was getting ready to release an album called Frailty and was a little worried with how personal the themes were. My first daughter had been born and all of a sudden I was faced with my own morality. It sank in that one day I will leave her, my wife and family, leave all this I love, and walk through that passage we will all walk; death. So the album was a collection of my reflections in that season; facing my own frailty with bitter-sweet sentiment and outrageous hope for the New to come.

As I shared the album from this place of uncertainty and vulnerability(on social media, email, and beyond) I was surprised by many responses that came my way. Lots of parents had experienced similar feelings and struggles. Lots of people in general wanted to talk to me about these themes charged throughout the songs. 

When I was willing to write from the personal places of my story
it struck a chord in the story of those I loved as well.

5. Just love them

There are two things I do before going on stage. And this is whether I’m leading worship at a church or performing at a concert or teaching or whatever.

Two things.

And they are a bit embarrassing to disclose. (At least the first one is.)

The first I learned from a TED Talk.

I look into the mirror of the nearest bathroom I can find (a place of privacy). I look into my reflection and give a big smile and I square my shoulders in a sort of power-pose. The TED Talk explained that doing this physical act of showing yourself to be strong actually helps our brains believe we really are. The study involved people doing these power-poses in the mirror before job interviews and they reported an increase in confidence. 

I’ve done it for years. Even more than confidence, I’d say it helps me focus on being present and energetic and fully ready to be a good leader.

The next thing I do I consider the most important.

I look in the mirror and I say, Just love them.

The power-pose was from a TED Talk but this one is from some article my wife found. It was by a motivational speaker who traveled and spoke all the time. He made sure it wasn’t about his performance or some results oriented marker. Just love them. That was his main goal entering the room.

And so I find myself at times wondering,
will I do a good enough job?
what if my voice doesn’t hit those high notes?
what if they find my songs boring?
what if I’m not cool enough or say something stupid?
what if no one shows or no one buys any CDs or what if…?

Just love them

I’ve found that if I orient myself around that, everything else will be secondary and I will have achieved what I was supposed to and I can let go of the outcome.

 

There’s my top 5 pieces of wisdom I’ve returned to over the years in my creative field. I hope you found it helpful and/or interesting.
I would LOVE if you wanted to add to the list below in the comments. What’s an anecdote or concept you’ve found helpful?

October 2018 Desktop Wallpaper

 

“It cannot be seen, cannot be felt,
Cannot be heard, cannot be smelt,
It lies behind stars and under hills,
And empty holes it fills,
It comes first and follows after,
Ends life, kills laughter.” 
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

Sweet October is here my friends. The days are darkening, the spooks are out, and the leaves are shifting. Enjoy this walk into the dark woods!

For the desktop, click on the image below to view the large size image.

For the iphone wallpaper, navigate to this page on your phone and then click and hold on the image you want. Select ‘Save image to camera roll’. Then from your camera roll set your home screen/lock screen or both.

iphone wallpapers:

 

“There are different kinds of darkness,” Rhys said. I kept my eyes shut. “There is the darkness that frightens, the darkness that soothes, the darkness that is restful.” I pictured each. “There is the darkness of lovers, and the darkness of assassins. It becomes what the bearer wishes it to be, needs it to be. It is not wholly bad or good.” 
― Sarah J. Maas, A Court of Mist and Fury

March 2018 Homeschooling

Two years ago we began homeschooling Lucy (8), Hattie (6), Beatrice (3), and Arlo (1). We’re including this on our Giants & Pilgrims blog as all our family adventures seem to impact our art & music so much! Also, we just like sharing the stories. So we’ll be sharing posts on the themes we’ve been covering each month and calling the adventure “ABACUS”! Our hope is that these posts will help spark creative direction and inspiration for your family as well as giving us somewhere to be document and record our experiences.

Easter Goodness:

I don’t love it when Easter falls so early in the year, because I feel like I haven’t gotten fully into the swing of Spring yet, but it is a great kick off for the season.

Easter morning photos (Tim is missing because he had services to lead at his work)

Dying Ukrainian Easter eggs as part of our “Good Master” Book club. It is such a beautiful layered process – you use very intense dyes paired with layers of beeswax to create really beautiful eggs.

 

We read “The Good Master” for our book club. It is a story about two Hungarian children on a farm – a perfect portrait of spring. Our book club is never complete without lots of literature inspired feasting!

Sneaky little bugger…

Making seed bombs

Lots of fun hunting easter eggs –

 

 

And of course a visit from the Easter Bunny

Art:

We spent a morning studying birds nest and eggs

And wrote bird postcards

Harriet rediscovered her love of hedgehogs

Matisse inspired “backwards color” portraits

Life:

We delivered this art piece to Houston

And we maneuvered a family crisis with a lot of love and help from our friends

Rainbow Science:

We spent a day in rainbow land (including color themed outfits)

Rainbow snack time

Light table fun with magnatiles

Preschool Fun:

Learning about cavities the importance of teeth brushing

Buzzy showtime on our table top theater we made last year!

Engineering Fun:

Fun with ropes and pulleys as part of our Simple Machines exploration

And we made an official inventors kits!

and finally, we built little circuit lanterns with Tinker Crate

May 2018 Desktop Wallpaper

Thanks for being patient with me on this months desktop wallpaper. Moving is a lot of work! I am running a few days behind. One of the unexpected joys I am finding at this new house is how loud the birds are in the morning! Tim has had to shut the window a few times in the morning because they were so noisy. I love it. So the artwork this month is inspired by our new noisy neighbors.

For the desktop, click on the image below to view the large size image.

This months poem is from a Newberry award book called The Girl Who Drank the Moon. I love it so much –

“The heart is built of starlight

And time.

A pinprick of longing lost in the dark.

An unbroken chord linking the Infinite to the Infinite.

My heart wishes upon your heart and the wish is granted.

Meanwhile the world spins.

Meanwhile the universe expands.

Meanwhile the mystery of love reveals itself,

again and again, in the mystery of you.

I have gone.

I will return.

Glerk”

 Kelly BarnhillThe Girl Who Drank the Moon

 

For the iphone wallpaper, navigate to this page on your phone and then click and hold on the image you want. Select ‘Save image to camera roll’. Then from your camera roll set your home screen/lock screen or both.

iphone wallpapers:

 

Some Art Pieces I Have Never Shared

As I have been going through old photos as a part of our moving process, I came across several pictures of artwork I don’t think I have ever shared on this space. Most of these were various commissions. All have them have sold, but I thought you might enjoy seeing these.

(If you are ever interested in commissioning a piece, feel free to contact me at betonycoons@mac.com) 

_______________________________________

This piece about a small mining town in Alaska – created for a beautiful family that spends half their time in Colorado and half in Alaska.

This commission for a missionary on an Indian Reservation struggling to find home in the midst of difficulties –

These little tiny painting about light and warmth and springtime –

This tattoo design –

This painting I made during a live painting performance with Tim about light and home –

This butterfly commission piece about being remade –

This “Frolicking Flowery Fox” made as part of a concept project that never panned out –

This Metallic bird piece –

This block print for a Country Western Band –

 

And this project I just finished TODAY for a beautiful travel loving couple in Denver. They also love antiques, so I found and refinished this ornate gold frame to complement the painting.

Moving to a New House and a Song About Home

The blessings came in waves
and could be felt for days
O, how my bones still shake at your names
In sweat we set the stones
in blood we brick the roads
a holy breaking comes for every home

Give me your hand, we’ll climb up the balcony
Ditch the front row and sway with the symphony
Make as much noise and be as we want to be
Your voice in my voice and hands are the canopy
Feel the old rhythm play what’s inside of me

The fields are glories now, the fields are glories now
So guide your wild eyes down
The promise in the pain, the code that’s in the grain
We’ll move beneath the weight ‘til you raise


When I was a child, around this time of year on the orchard my dad would prune all the apples trees. I would help look for branches that were crossed, or growing in at strange angles. We would then clip off the offending branches and sometimes prop them with these little red supports to help them grow straight so that they could get the best light possible and eventually grow the best fruit.

Tim and I are moving to a new house in 10 days. We bought a “fixer upper” in the middle of town near a big park. It’s a MUCH bigger house in a nice quiet neighborhood. We weren’t really planning on moving yet, but then suddenly everything fell into line at the same time, like it does.

This whole moving thing is crazy… crazy exhausting, crazy nerve wracking, crazy exciting, and crazy scary.
Ten Years.
Ten years we have lived in this house I am sitting in right now.

I know where every light switch is and where to step over the crooked floor boards.
I know the name of every plant in the garden,
why there is a funny hole in the kitchen screen,
how to walk in the middle of the night so the squeaking floor doesn’t wake the children,
the funny trick to the bathroom door downstairs,
and the story behind most of the nail holes on the walls.

It’s where I found out I was pregnant for the first time and where I brought each of my four babies home to. It’s the place where we’ve had so many wonderful Christmases, Thanksgiving feasts, and simple, every day meals.
It’s where my children took their first steps, laughed their first laughs, and tried their first foods.

It’s also where Harriet broke her leg,
where the basement flooded too many times,
where I had my anxiety breakdown,
where Tim and I had our most difficult fights,
where we had belongings stolen off our front porch,
and had to call the cops on the neighbors so many times.

This house is old. It’s been around more than 100 years.
It really has seen its fair share of marital fights and make ups.
It’s flooded but it’s dried back out.
It’s been cold and drafty and also cozy and safe.

I hope it will be around for at least 100 more years. I hope it will be the same gift to the next residents as it has been to us. (Please take care of my planty’s!)

I am sure for this home, 10 years is just a blink. But it feels so significant to me. 

Somehow leaving this house feels much more substantial then leaving high school or leaving college. I suppose if you look at it that way, those were only four year institutions. This home has been ten of mine.
Ten years of themed birthday parties and late night hard conversations with friends sitting on the kitchen floor (the best place for those kinds of talks),
nights pacing back and forth with wakeful babies,
ten years of pinching pennies to patch the wear and tear of everyday life,
of having tea on the front porch,
hosting cooking clubs and wedding showers,
play dates,
years with miscarriages, mistakes, and misadventures.
All the rhythms of our days and what I know have been centered in this place for ten years.

You can hear it in my lists… It is breaking me to leave. It feels like a close friend.

Like family.

And I am scared.

Scared this new home won’t be me.
Scared I’ll hate it.
Scared something will happen to the kids and I’ll somehow blame this decision.
I am scared it will change me. Change us.

And yet it’s time.

Time to move on, time to adventure out, time to try something new, try our hand at starting with a blank canvas, try this new place out. It’s time to move.

Time passes so damn fast, doesn’t it?

My babies are getting bigger. It comes to the end of the day and I wonder. Wonder if I did it right, wonder if I could have played it out differently, wonder if this is it, wonder are we centering our lives on the right things? Wonder if we are making the right choice.

10 days. We are moving in 10 days.

So I’ve been obsessing over this new place. This new house.

It’s not the one I would have picked. I did not like it at first.
I love old and history and craftsmanship.
This is black shag carpet and popcorn ceilings. And florescent lights. And 80s. On a cul-de-sac.

So I have created every pinterest board, design mood board, photoshopped room, shopping budget, detailed plan I can possibly do with out actually living there.

And I am starting to see it.

See the lovely that could be revealed there.

I know I can make it beautiful.
I know WE will make it beautiful.
I think about how it’s only about a block from a huge green space,
and a pool,
and how I found rhubarb sprouting up near the fence,
and how this one room feels like the barn I grew up in,
and how the layout is perfect for us,
and how we will have room to spread out,
and be able to have people over more easily,
and host house concerts,
and how I want to give every room its own theme,
and how we are going to start off by pitching tents and camping in the great room,
and so many other new things.

It will be a challenge to start from a blank slate.
But we can’t wait. We are so excited.

And still, the packing and processing all the memories and moments sucks. It is such an emotionally wrecking experience. 

Is this pruning?

Pruning is painful but good. It helps us grow straight and true so we can bear more fruit.
The truth is that I am scared about not being able to find the light switches,
and whether I can hear the playroom from the kitchen,
and having to use a 1980’s electric stove for the next ten years,
and life on a cul-de-sac,
and even more that feeling of being exhausted and wanting to go home and not being able to.

But then I take that step back.
I am reminded of my white privilege and how we are going to be living in a mansion compared to the rest of the world, and how millions of refugees can’t ever go home again, and I feel stupid. Stupid white suburban mom. Ha.

You make it work and you make it beautiful and you invite people into the mess,
because it is NOT about it being beautiful.
And it is NOT about it being ugly.
And whether it is HERE or THERE doesn’t matter.

It is about WE. And US. And TOGETHER. And HOME. And LOVE in the best way we can.

And so, let’s adventure on family.

April 2018 Desktop Wallpaper

My good friend Wes Sam-Bruce shared this poem at his film screening for The Wonder Sound. It has been floating around in my head ever since. So good.

“Widening Circles”

I live my life in widening circles
that reach out across the world.
I may not complete this last one
but I give myself to it.

I circle around God, around the primordial tower.
I’ve been circling for thousands of years
and I still don’t know: am I a falcon,
a storm, or a great song?

So here is to living our lives in ever widening circles. Migrating outward…

More on that soon. It’s been crazy around here lately….

For the desktop, click on the image below to view the large size image.

For the iphone wallpaper, navigate to this page on your phone and then click and hold on the image you want. Select ‘Save image to camera roll’. Then from your camera roll set your home screen/lock screen or both.

iphone wallpapers:

 

January 2018 Adventures in Homeschooling

Two years ago we began homeschooling Lucy (8), Hattie (6), Beatrice (3), and Arlo (1). We’re including this on our Giants & Pilgrims blog as all our family adventures seem to impact our art & music so much! Also, we just like sharing the stories. So we’ll be sharing posts on the themes we’ve been covering each month and calling the adventure “ABACUS”! Our hope is that these posts will help spark creative direction and inspiration for your family as well as giving us somewhere to be document and record our experiences.

JAPAN:

We continued our world tour this month with a “trip” to Japan. This was definitely one of our favorite countries/cultures yet! I surprised the girls by setting up a Japanese style low table in the middle of our dining room with zen inspired decorations and gave them each a silk kimono (twelve dollars on amazon!).

We had a Japanese tea party –

We practiced calligraphy and mark making with these lovely Teagas water scrolls –

We played with origami –

And REALLy loved getting to try all these yummy Japanese snacks from our TopMunch box!

  Watched fascinating videos about silkworms and zen gardens –  

We of course went out for sushi at the end of the month!

SNOW:

A reoccuring theme for January for us is “Snow”! Thanks Colorado!

A day at the best sledding hill –

All the snow books –

Building a funny snow man (snow deer?)

Painting snowy scenes

READING:

Lots of letter play for this little one –

The two big girls joined the Secret Society of Letter Writers

And for Harriet this month we worked REALLY hard to read every day. She has been doing so great!

Polymer Clay and Stop Motion:

We had lots of fun making some little stop motion videos with my iphone and also made lots of oven bake figures.

IMG_7713

 

ART:

So many fun art projects this month. Buzzy helping me do the underpainting on a canvas –

Painting owls inspired by Owl Moon

Painting our to-do list clip boards

Face painting fun

And a really cool art show up at the university

BOOK CLUB:

For book club this month, we read Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin

We got to experience Chinese Hot Pot

 

Went on a journey to find the Old Man of the Moon

Had a great discussion

And celebrated the Year of the Dog

DINOSAURS:

Our Natural History Museum at a really cool touring exhibit of dinosaur skeletons, so we adventured to Denver to check it out.

Digging for dinosaur fossils

HOMEMAKING:

Some days, when the chaos is winning, it is best to take the morning off from normal homeschool and learn about the lost arts of homemaking. Headphones and fun music help (Annie soundtrack all the way for these girls)

Harriet came up with her own recipe for Orange Cake. Turned out pretty tasty!

A dinner Lucy and Harriet made.

One day Lucy really wanted to build something. So they designed, built, and painted this shelf with a cup holder for next to their bed.