Posts

What’s Stopping You from Being You?

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?”

Here’s the post on the two halves of life where I compare bucket-lists, 7th grade’s and today’s.
And here’s our Top 5 Helpful Things for Creative People!


It was ten years ago and Betony was pregnant with our first child. We were having dinner with some friends who are a bit older than us; people whose wisdom in the music profession I trust.

After dinner we were talking about dreams and songwriting and insecurities.
My friend turned to me and gave me something I’d been looking for a long time: permission.

He told me it was time to take my music career out of the closet and give it some sunshine…
let it breathe. He told me I could do it and essentially to stop wishing it and go be it.

Isn’t it strange how just a bit of encouragement from a trusted source can be all we need?

Before this moment I had played in bands and led worship music and produced demo albums with incredible musicians. But I’d never taken any of it as seriously as I’d liked. When we played a show I rarely invited anyone. When we made an album I wouldn’t invest very much money or even pay to get it mastered. I had this major fear and hinderance in my mind. It’s one I still will wrestle with on bad days. It goes like this:

If I don’t make enough money doing this then I’m not successful.
If this doesn’t lead to a tipping point of notoriety that leads to sustainability then I’m not successful. If I don’t create enough income to arrive at the American dream of a sweet house and some cars, then I’m not successful.
If I can’t make a living doing this, isn’t it just a glorified hobby?

And around and around my mind goes
until I feel embarrassed calling myself a musician. 

We all have a major hangup, don’t we? That main roadblock that’s in our way that we just keep struggling with.
Mine seems to be this definition of success. What’s yours? 


My hangups are still present, but after this eye opening conversation 10 years ago something in me changed. I had a big shift in perspective. 

I probably wasn’t ever going to be a singer-songwriter as a singular career. But that was ok.
I was going to keep being an intentional singer-songwriter because…
when it came down to it, I had been compelled to since I was young.

I had written songs and longed to share them since 2nd grade.

I had a fire in my bones, as a prophet once put it, and I had to create and share.

That sentence reads melodramatic, but I think most creatives know what I’m talking about…
the compulsion to make something meaningful and share it with the people we love;
to connect in deep ways where what’s being sung and experienced becomes a conversation of “me too”;
to make something beautiful that speaks in and over and through the human condition. 


So that year, a decade ago, after that important conversation, I started taking creating seriously. I had another job as a worship leader but I also started dedicating time to songwriting, to having a website, a Facebook page, to setting up a series of house concerts. I put together my first ever tour with the goal to break even (I made $500 and was so thrilled).

I had just turned 30.
And I’ve kept this up the last 10 years.

When people ask what I do for a living I tell them musician
and it’s usually with a great deal of pride.
That title is a juggling of a whole lot of “main jobs” and “side hustles”. I think the most important thing the intentionality over these years has done… it has addressed the compulsion to make and given me space to create.

To put it maybe a better way, it’s helped me be the person I’ve needed to be; the person I’ve felt called to be.

I’ve made work I’m proud of. I’ve had people respond and let me know a song or project or experience meant a great deal to them.
And that truly has felt like the answer to the calling.
And it’s still not been my main source of income.
But it’s not a hobby.
It’s an identity. 

I’m so thankful, grateful that someone came along to give me permission to do this.
I needed the affirmation and encouragement
that even though creating this art is not my sole income, it’s my soul income.
That has personally been my largest hurdle to overcome in being an artist.


So now I say this quite seriously
to those of you with the fire in your bones to make and create and connect,
whatever your hangups are:

You can do this.
You feel deep inside you’re called to it and you HAVE to make.
Do what you need to do.
Be responsible. Live economically. Make it work.
It’s worth it.
Keep on your side hustles and passion projects
and add beauty to this world starved for meaning.
It makes a better us when you are fully you.
Thank you for being bold. It’s we who benefit. 

 

Desktops for Evensong

On Saturday, August 18th, I had the opportunity to give the message at St. Andrew Evensong, the church where I’m a music director in Highlands Ranch, CO.

I spoke on how with every revolution of the earth around the sun, the seasons themselves preach over us… fall, winter, spring, and summer tell of death, hope, resurrection, and new life. We encounter this every year and the truth of it permeates our lives as our Christian holiday calendar reflects these truths every season.

I let folks know that the symbol that Courtney Wilkinson initially created (and that my wife has redesigned a couple times) was to capture this wonder.

And then I ended the talk by telling the story of this icon and offering it as a wallpaper for desktop and iphone backgrounds. Enjoy, friends!

 

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:

February 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.

Ancient Greece:

Because of the olympics, we thought this would be a great month to learn about ancient Greece.

We read D’Aulaires Book of Greek Myths and I made these peg doll representations of each of the main greek gods with help from the girls.

We also read Lightning Thief for the first time.

And enjoyed tasting Mediterranean food courtesy of our TopMunch subscription

Coloring Greek god and goddess trading cards

Drawing mythical monsters

A selection of the Greek books we enjoyed exploring

Book Arts:

For our making this month, we explored the Book Arts – Marbled paper and Book Binding!

Making marbled paper for the end papers of our books –

Working on the covers for Asian stab-bound sketchbooks we made –

Harriet made an “un-tearable” tiny baby book for Arlo out of packing tape and her own illustrations

Constellations:

For science/nature this month, we learned about constellations (which tied in beautifully to our Greek Myth studies)

Magnets, Math, and Money:

In our little impromptu science club, we tried our hand at making Magnetic Slime

Played with fractions

Learning about money – “Count It and Keep It!” was a big hit with the kids.

Olympics:

The Olympics are my favorite! So fun to get to share this with the kids. We made tiny flags and olympic ring shirts for the opening ceremony.

Lots of USA spirit over here!

Watched Cool Runnings too just for fun

Preschool:

Learning about color mixing using air dry clay and “Do You Know Colors”

Lots of help from Buzzy getting this art piece ready to deliver to Houston

Stamping Letters

Valentines Day:

The table for valentines morning –

We participated in a Homeschool Valentine Exchange. So much fun!

Lots of love notes were written to each other

 

A very chilly Valentine tea party out in the tree house

Some of our homemade Valentines we made –

 

Valentine party in Kansas with Grandparents!

Wood Carving:

While in Kansas, we got to learn about wood carving from my Grandpa Fritz. So beautiful to watch.

 

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.

December 2017 Adventures in Homeschooling

Last year 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.

Cardboard Fun:

With all the Christmas shipments (and a couple of new tool purchases for art projects), we found ourselves with an awesome stash of large cardboard boxes.

As well as revisiting this favorite book –

We made all sorts of fun structures.

A castle with multiple rooms and a draw bridge –

A gingerbread house –

Handmade Gifts:

We had a lot of fun making homemade gifts this year. For grandparents, the kids designed and made wood cut out paintings. It was neat listening to them decide what image to make for each person. A fish for grandpa ed because he loves painting, a pie for grandmama because she is the queen of pie making, a girl with a dress for grandma DiDi because she loves buying little girl’s dresses, etc.

As part of our science club, we made bath bombs. So easy and fun! Next time I want to try hiding little surprises in the middle!

Bookclub! A Step back in History…

Our homeschool bookclub is turning into this magical much anticipated event. This month we read Benjamin West and his cat Grimalkin by Marguerite Henry. A historical fiction story about the father of American painting.

We experimented with making our own colors our of clay and charcoal, made quill pens out of turkey feathers, and practice life drawings of cats.

We feasted on homemade porridge at the “Door Latch Inn”

And even tried Peas with Honey (a funny reference from the books)

And learned how to play Blindman’s Bluff

Some Tinkering Engineering Play:

Hydraulics, robotics, and engineering. What a fun world we live in. So many cool topics to explore and neat things to make. And so thankful for grandparents gift subscriptions, uncles sending cool robots, and libraries sharing their resources.

Homemaking & Home Baking:

We have started having one day a month of learning about simple home making skills – how to fold laundry, how to iron, things like that.

We didn’t make huge batches of Christmas cookies for neighbors this year because our kitchen was torn up for most of December (an unexpected dishwasher replacement) and an expected and much anticipated new countertop and backsplash!

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But when it was finally done, we broke the new kitchen in with a glorious sugar cookie explosion of awesomeness with the help of Grandma DiDi.

Snapshots of Christmas Goodness:

I love this time of year so much it makes my heart hurt. Here are a few moments from December that I want to remember.

   

New Years Eve:

Instead of heading to KS this year, we had a little staycation (and played ALOT of Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey) and then had a fun night with friends on New Years Eve

Happy New Year Friends! May your 2018 be as fresh and beautiful as these paper whites, but hopefully not nearly as stinky.

NEW ALBUM! Haystacks: A Collection of Favorite Songs (2008-2016)

haystacks-album-cover

Today I turn 38. When reflecting on life this I realized something:

Over the past 8 years I’ve released 8 albums!
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Before that, when I had turned 30 I had crisis of profession. I wasn’t sure if being a musician/singer-songwriter was going to be good for my family. Our first baby was on the way and I had always treated this part of my life as a hobby. I wrote songs and shared them locally but I never went beyond our pocket of friends with any intention. Yet I had this strong pull that I needed to be giving more room for this in my life.

Then I had a transformative conversation with a friend.

He let me know, “Tim, this is the year of the baby. You’re going to have your first child. And then you’re going to let this other child known as your ‘creative career’ out of the closet you’ve locked it up in.”

Really, someone’s respected opinion that I could DO IT was all I needed.

I created a website.

I shared my music online.

I played shows and gathered emails.

I went on my first tour (to Kansas! because it was home!)

It was a turning point for me where I stopped talking about what I wanted to do as singer/songwriter and started actually doing it.

So collected here are songs that are favorites of mine and the people who have listened in over the last 8 years. In the fields of everything I’ve released these are songs that rise a little bit higher in their season.

Hence the name, Haystacks.


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“There is a Balm in Gilead” Song and Silkscreen Print

balm in gilead_web

For February we’ve explored the theme of “balm”, asking what does it look like to be a healing balm within the world and serve places as a family.

We thought this would be the perfect month to release one of our favorite new songs. Here is the fully produced, beautiful “There is a Balm in Gilead”. You can listen below (and feel free to share it with folks!):

Using the lyrics from the song, Betony has designed a limited edition of 50 silk-screened posters. With metallic-gold ink on heavyweight, navy-blue paper, it will be an incredible and framable 12×16 print.

Because of the silk-screen process we are only taking orders until March 7th! If you’d like one you can order it now by clicking right here (it’ll take you to our store).

About Bellwether and Our February Theme

At the beginning of the year Betony and I announced we’re working on a new project. Titled Bellwether, it will be an album and art series that explores belief (to be released November 2016).

Instead of just keeping the creative process to ourselves, we’re making it a bit more open; hoping to explore belief each month in ways that contribute and form the project being released.

So every month we’re doing a Practice & Process, choosing a spiritual practice and, in response, sharing the creative process.

For February our theme is Balm and we wrote all about the Practice we took on

Our plan is to continue releasing songs and posters throughout the calendar year- an ongoing process to these practices. Keep watching for more as the months progress!

Announcing the Giants & Pilgrims’ New Art & Music Project: Bellwether

So it’s time for announcements and proclamations.

For each Giants & Pilgrims’ project we choose a theme and explore that theme with art & music. Last year we released Becoming, about the constant process of growing up. The year before that was Almanac No. 1 and the art & music was centered in the realm of family and proven love.

Where are Betony and my hopes and dreams taking Giants & Pilgrims for 2016? What will fuel the works of art & music?

Here’s what we hope to explore this year, in depth:

Belief.

What do Betony and I believe as individuals? As a married couple? What do we really cling to? What do we want to pass on to our children? What do we hold as important and utmost in our lives? The thing behind the thing behind the thing? What are the values and vision and world views that truly shape where we head as a family? What are the words we put towards the big questions of God, metaphysics, doctrine, discovery, and experience?

And this is just a starting place of the questions!

We’re calling the project Bellwether. It’s actually an old shepherding term. A bellwether is a sheep that is a little more aggressive, a little more obnoxious and hungry. (It’s known to get out of pens for food).

And so a bell is placed on it. This not only helps the shepherd know where the sheep is, but it also helps the sheep. As the bell wether wanders for greener pastures, the rest of the sheep follow to new fields of grass.

Betony and I are looking for bells to follow. We’re asking questions. We are hungry and we hope to find great fields this 2016.

We’ll be creating towards an end project to be released this fall/winter, but we plan to share the process as well. Each month Betony and I are choosing a theme that will be our centering of exploration and practice. We will dig in to this Bellwether theme to as the year progresses. January’s Bellwether theme is “clearing” – see our full exploration of that theme here tomorrow.

The Odd and Random BEST of 2015 List!

We posted a list at the end of the year in 2014 with some of our favorite foods, experiences, stories, etc. from the year. Here’s our new, curated list for 2015. It is odd and random, but it is our “best of’s” for sure!

BEST METAPHORS of 2015:

(from Betony)

Are found in this tremendous book!
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Sometimes I miss the most obvious metaphorical scenes in books and movies. Tim will mention something about how a director was brilliantly foreshadowing or developing a character and I just go “huh?.”  All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doer was so rich with metaphors and intertwining stories that even I was able to catch the beauty of the connecting threads. The poetic writing in this book is just stunning.

Here is the quick Good Reads description of the book:

WINNER OF THE PULITZER PRIZE
From the highly acclaimed, multiple award-winning Anthony Doerr, the beautiful, stunningly ambitious instant New York Times bestseller about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.

BEST BREWERY of 2015:

(from Tim)

What an audacious claim! How can I choose just one? Runner up would have to be WeldWerks. Betony and I have loved heading over to that local brewery in Greeley and their beers have been fantastic.

But number one goes to NEW GLARUS, found in Wisconsin. And the great, heart-breaking problem is… they don’t sell outside of Wisconsin!

Anything that comes out of New Glarus Brewing company is pretty amazing. Their flagship is called “Spotted Cow”. It is creamy and rich and tastes like I’ve dreamed of what the best wheat beer in the world should taste like, then I get to drink my dreams.

If it is testament to how good they are, Betony recently had a friend smuggle 2 six packs out of Wisconsin in their suitcase all the way back to Colorado. All for my Christmas present! It’s so good we ask our friends to break the law so we might partake.

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BEST FOODS WE FOUND ONLINE of 2015:

(from Betony)

This is absolutely perfect German mustard – Lowensenf -(we love both the sweet and the spicy. Don’t discriminate).
I ordered it for our Oktoberfest themed cooking club and we can’t get enough of it. I don’t even like mustard usually.
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These little perfect buttery crackers – Effies Oatcakes – I told Tim I thought they were what Elven Lembas bread probably tasted like.
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BEST LOCAL-PRIDE MOMENTS of 2015 (STATE and CITY)!

(from Betony)

Tim had the chance to open for Nathaniel Rateliff a couple of years ago at the MOXI theater. We became kind of smitten with him. The rawness in his performance and songwriting pulls at your gut. He reminds me of a bluesy, rougher Johnny Cash.

Then this local hero out of Denver formed a new band and had a BIG break. Nathaniel Rateliff and the Nightsweats were asks to perform on Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show. They crushed it and Tim commented on how good this will be for Colorado and its music scene! Way to go Colorado!

The performance can be seen here. They get a standing ovation!

That was best local pride moment for the STATE of Colorado.

For best local pride moment for our CITY we have the breaking of a Guinness world record!

Greeley isn’t always known for being the coolest, most happening town. A lot of the press Greeley gets is negative – “smelly”, “oil-driven”, etc. But, the people of Greeley are pretty wonderful, so when the community can come together and do something like this – it makes my heart all warm and fuzzy. Real proud of you Greeley. Way to be unexpectedly awesome.
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BEST NEW LIQUOR Cabinet Addition of 2015:

(from Betony)

I went searching for this liqueur so that I could make a fun recipe I came across. I was at our favorite liquer store in town and the lady helped me search for it for quite some time. (Apparently most Greeley-ites don’t use it). When we finally got it, I kind of balked at the price ($50) but felt a bit obligated to buy it after she had spent so long helping me locate it. I am so glad I did! First off, the story of how it is made is pretty incredible –

Chartreuse  is a French liqueur made by the Carthusian Monks since 1737 according to the instructions set out in a manuscript given to them by François Annibal d’Estrées in 1605. It is composed of distilled alcohol aged with 130 herbs, plants and flowers. The liqueur is named after the Monks’ Grande Chartreuse monastery, located in the Chartreuse Mountains in the general region of Grenoble in France.
(wikipedia)

And, it tastes like its origins – very complex with floral and herbal flavors.
Our current favorite use of it is in The Last Word – a great classic cocktail.

chartreuse-verte

BEST NEW RECIPE of 2015

(from Tim)

Goes to a pie! a pie that will be made from here on out for my birthdays, Christmas’s, Thanksgivings, bar mitz fas, and whatever special occasion I can convince Betony to make it. (It’s being made tonight for New Year’s Eve. Of course.) It’s called Banoffee Pie.

(She posted the recipe here a few months ago) – She happened upon this one kind of by mistake and when she didn’t have the kind of cookie the original recipe called for in the crust, she improvised using Biscoff cookies (you know, those European airplane cookies?). Everything about it is pretty perfect if I do say so myself.

BEST INSPIRING MAGAZINE of 2015

(from Betony)

Truly I could not give this Canadian magazine, UPPERCASE, a more glowing review. It is immaculately designed, thoughtfully curated, and fascinating to explore. I read each issue cover to cover. Janine Vangool (the editer and mastermind behind it) is pretty incredible at what she does. Her tagline “for the Creative and Curious” is perfect as each issue digs into a theme in all sorts of interesting ways. The second to last issue was called “Perfection” and was a beautifully done exploration of stamps, lace, and other “perforated” artworks. If creativity is “the art of making connections”, UPPERCASE is a great example of that. The connections she makes and the circular way she ties all the pieces together is wonderful.

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BEST OUTDOOR GEAR Addition of 2015

(from Tim)

This was the summer of the bicycle for us. Lucy learned how to ride with out training wheels and I said goodbye to my 1994 electric blue Trek 820 (as I got a new bike)!

We picked up this WeeRide attachment from Craigslist so Harriet could ride with us (exhibiting great bravery for a 4 year old). And we are so pumped about it. With Lucy finally being able to ride her own bike, the addition of a baby bike seat to Betony’s cruiser, and this brilliant contraption that attaches to the back of my sweet new ride, we can FINALLY ride bikes as a family. We have declared 2016 the “Year of the Bicycle” for the Coons family and love how solidly made this little tandem attachment is.

WeeRide-Co-Pilot-Bike-Trailer

BEST AMUSEMENT RIDE of 2015

(from Tim)

We had a whole post about this from the spring but we went on our first family vacation this year. We went to Glenwood Springs by train, stayed at a great family friendly hotel and went up to Glenwood Canyon Adventure Park on the last day. I’ve done alpine slides before, but I’ve never really experienced an ALPINE ROLLER COASTER like what they had there. It was incredible.

You strap into this little car that’s a bit like a go-cart (and your kid is allowed to seat in front of you) then head down the rail at a great speed. Since you’re surrounded by mountain pines on all sides it feels like you could be in the speeder-bike scene from Return of the Jedi. When you’re done a snag-line takes you back up the mountain and you have a great view to enjoy of the forrest. It was better than any roller coaster, ferris wheel, or loopty-loop I’ve ever ridden!

 

BEST EMOTIONALLY WRECKING ALBUM of 2015

(from Tim)

The Collection is a band out of North Carolina and they created an incredible album here. The songs are rich in arrangement, powerful in melody, and lyrically striking (the spiritual honesty gives me chills at least once listening through the album every time).

Ars Moriendi | the Collection
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BEST NEW RESTAURANTS of 2015

(from Betony)

This award goes to a new Greeley restaurant and a new find in Glenwood Springs.

Hands down our new favorite MEAL in greeley is Right Coast Pizza‘s “Sunny Side” pizza – delightful thin crust, with house charred peppers, red sauce, bacon and a fried egg. Sounds a bit weird, I know, but it is A-Maze-ing!!
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Polanka could also win the “best restaurant with the worst atmosphere” award. It’s found in a dingy shopping mall with florescent lighting and ugly tile floors in Glenwood Springs.

But this is the kind of food I would want on my death bed. This place is like “last meal of your life” good. Partly because you can FEEL the love and history put into it. You might cry it is so good. Drop everything and drive there right now. Order everything on the menu. Ignore the fact that it looks like you are eating in a weird florescent lit packing store in a strip mall. Ignore the styrofoam plates. Just close your eyes and stuff your face.
unbelievably-delicious

By the way, honorable mention in Glenwood Springs goes to Slope & Hatch tacos too. Great creativity AND execution.

 

Hope you enjoyed our favorites of the year. With moments and foods and discoveries like this it makes us look forward to 2016!

Blessings and much love,

Giants & Pilgrims
Betony & Tim Coons

 

“Ghosts for Tinder” Painting Story and Process Photos

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A photo of a wildfire that was about a quarter of a mile from my parents’ house.IMG_5177IMG_5175

My parents’ farm in the Kansas Sandhills is surrounded by hundreds of acres of native prairie. Farmers there are constantly fighting the growth of cedar trees and other invasive species to try to retain the health and beauty of the prairie. One of the reasons why the prairie can be difficult to maintain is because fire is necessary to its life and health. Wildfires burn away dead plants; prevent certain other plants from encroaching; and release nutrients into the ground to encourage new growth. But in our world, we fight against fire.

Where I grew up, prairie fires are a very real concern. My childhood home was destroyed in a prairie fire (thankfully after we had already moved out). I remember many nights where my dad would leave all the sprinklers on in the yard “just in case”  because a nearby wildfire might jump the road and head our way.

Understandably, we don’t have room in our lives for fire. It can be dangerous and destructive. We have belongings and homes that are cherished. But, in our needs for safety and to protect the things we love, we can miss out on some of the restorative benefits. Especially in the sense of fire as a larger metaphor.

So the prairie here is a metaphor. Sometimes the best healing for new growth is a clearing out. This painting is my reminder to myself; that sometimes we need to start anew. Sometimes we need to let pain in and let go and begin again.

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Interesting little side note, this is the one piece in this series that was not started on a new blank canvas. The canvas had a painting on it that I was never happy with, so I painted over it to create this new piece – an act that mirrors the symbolism of the piece. The gray bird in the sky flying towards the past is the one element I kept from the original painting.

The butterflies here represent (as always in my pieces) hope and forward momentum.
The fire has sparkles of the universe within it.
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A 2013 photo of burning cedars in the prairie

 

GHOSTS FOR THE TINDER lyrics by Tim Coons

Come and keep by my lovely fire

I’ve got pieces I’m scheming from the liars with in me

You’ve replayed in my darker mind

You’re re-lived in the days I have assigned without you

Yes, I’ll leave it behind

Yes, I’ll leave it behind

Yes, I’ll leave it behind

Yes, I’ll leave it behind

Burn it down here

burn it down

it will come again

come up, on up from this ground

Up and around

So burn it down

I’ve got ghosts for the tinder glow

I’ve got pages to wash clean as snow to warm me

I’ve got memories for matches now

I will lighten the load so sad and loud for
When I see you

Heaven knows it will light

Heaven knows it will light

 

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