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As I was coming up on my fortieth birthday, I considered what I wanted the theme of the next phase of my life to be. A life mantra, if you will. While mulling it over, I thought about my lifestyle, goals, spiritual beliefs, and where I sometimes struggle. When all was said and done, I settled on: Make Do and Be Grateful. Earth-shattering, I know, but the more I think about it, the more it fits me.

It fits perfectly in our kitchen–the beating heart of our house–right where the chaos is centered.

Though I tend to be a quiet person with introverted tendencies that make me appear like I’m calm and collected, in truth, I’m nearly always planning and scheming. Not, I’m Gonna Take-Over-The-World end goals, though I have some serious ambition that keeps me hustling onward. Making do with what we as a family have been given is a personal reminder not to overdo it. In my inexperience, I have occasionally burned myself (and others I care about) when planning and executing projects that were realistically too much. While it sometimes drives me crazy to have to plod along, rather than sprint at the light speed I’d like to be going at, gratitude is the antidote to many of my challenges. Rather than reaching for the fundamentally unattainable ideal, if I look over my shoulder at the progress I’ve made, it’s easier to measure it. Make Do and Be Grateful. So simple, so profound, so perfect (for me).


Since graphic design is not my particular forte, though I have great respect for those who can create beauty from the ease of their laptop, I turned to a friend who’s done several of my book covers and asked if she’d be willing to tackle part of this project with me. Through several exchanges, she tweaked fonts, colors, and floral designs. The end product is gorgeous. It looks like watercolors, and while the font is scrawly and fancy, it’s readable. It would have taken me ages to make something half as gorgeous. That’s the power of knowing your strengths (and conversely, weaknesses), and when to ask for help. So glad I have people I can tap into for turning my dreams into tangible realities.

I knew those old fence rails would come in handy…

Once the design was set, I had it printed on canvas, and asked Claire to mod podge it for some extra protection, and to give it a hand-painted look–I have zero problem with being able to see brushstrokes, haha. I *could* have gone to the store to buy a pre-made frame, but that’s not my usual style. Since I have a stack of old wood, mainly from tired old fence rails that weren’t safe to use to contain animals anymore, I have a fairly hearty supply of craft pieces that I’ve slowly been using to make everything from accent walls to shelves to mirror frames. Because I already have plenty of natural wood in the space I wanted to hang my mantra, I decided I would paint the frame for an added pop of color. I chose pieces of wood from our deck that we had removed, and ran them through the tabletop planer to get the old paint off. Darn it if they’re not gorgeous underneath. I am definitely a sucker for woodgrains, especially if it has a history behind it. The whole process felt very fitting of the meaning of my chosen mantra, which added another layer of personal meaning to its creation.

The frame was definitely not the most complex project I’ve ever worked on, but every time I tackle something new, there are ALWAYS bumps in the process. I stapled two of the pieces together incorrectly, pricked myself with an errand staple gun staple, and it took F-O-R-E-V-E-R to mix the right color of paint for the frame. As I’ve accrued more experience, I’ve also begun accepting that the reality that things rarely, if every, go off without a hitch. I guess it makes for a good story, right? I also decided once the frame was painted that I didn’t care much for the stark, solid green. It lacked character, so I went back and sanded the edges for a worn, antique appearance (look at me, getting all fancy in my decorating!).

When I put it all together, and hung it on my kitchen wall, I admit to some glowing pride at my accomplishment. It is a testament to progress, skill, ingenuity, and a physical representation of how I’m trying to live my life. Frugally, joyfully, intentionally. Make Do and Be Grateful. đź’•


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True stories of raising children, remodeling, braving the elements and plotting out life, all while living on a humble acreage in central Indiana.

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