Six Reasons You Should Make Some Art (Even if it’s Bad)

Six Reasons You Should Make Art - Even if it's Bad

I’m not creative.

I could never do that.

I can’t draw a straight line.

I hear you. Feeling like you aren’t capable of making art is actually pretty common. I would guess that most people, if not all people, have struggled with feelings of creative inadequacy at one point or another. And as is the case with most feelings, these are totally valid and understandable.

However, as valid and understandable as these feelings are, they don’t have to stop you from making art. I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t matter whether you are “good” at it or not. Making art is a worthwhile thing to do for SO many reasons.

Making Art Reduces Stress

According to this, spending 45 minutes doing something creative can significantly reduce stress levels on a physical level. Most of us spend an alarming amount of time with those levels riding high, which takes a toll on both our physical and mental health. Anything that can reduce those levels, especially for a sustained period of time, is probably worth doing. The best part? You don’t have to be any good at what you are doing to enjoy the benefit. The reduction is stress is a benefit of the process, not the product.

Art Makes You Smart

Just like a healthy body needs exercise, so do our minds. Whether you are making art or simply observing it, there is evidence that art makes us more intelligent. Personally, I think it’s because art lights up a different part of our brain than we use regularly. It forces us to think outside the box, at least a little, and stretch our minds a bit in order to make sense of the jumble of lines, colors, and shapes before us.

Creation Versus Consumption

It is very easy to get locked into an endless loop of consumerism. We are constantly surrounded by advertisements, media, and even other people, who feed the urge to consume. We buy. We eat. We use. We want more. While it’s pretty hard to completely escape consumer culture, making art provides at least a small vacation from it. I find that the more time I spend making something new the less I feel the need to buy, eat, or use up anything else. My little piece of art may be a small contribution in the grand scheme of things, but it feels good to add something beautiful instead of spending all my time taking away.

Art Builds Self Esteem

Do you ever feel like a garbage person? Like you have nothing remotely remarkable to offer the world? I know I do at times. It’s a rotten feeling, and one I am glad to report that art has helped me with. Unlocking your creativity can remind you that you are a unique individual, that you have a special point of view, and are capable of creating things that literally no-one else can. Even if what you create isn’t particularly beautiful or useful, it is new, and it is yours. It feels good to accomplish something, no matter how small, and art gives us the chance to do that over and over again.

Art is Healing

There are many reasons why art therapy exists. If you ask me, one of the most magical things about art is that it has the ability to say what we sometimes can’t. Deep down in the mazes of our brain we associate all kinds of sensory input with things like emotions and experience. We don’t always realize it, but when paint hits paper or clay squishes between our fingers we are slowly, but surely, letting some of those built up feelings out. When you make art you are expressing what is locked inside in a language that only you speak.

Art is a Gift

Maya Angelou said, “I have found that among its other benefits, giving liberates the soul of the giver.” I believe that when you create a piece of art you are giving a gift to the world. You are giving a piece of yourself, even if only a small one, and that gift counts. When people see your work they will feel something. Sometimes it will be a small feeling. Sometimes it will be a big one. That feeling is a gift too, and it is one that makes life richer for all of us. Whether you share your work by actually giving it to another person, or if you simply share pictures of it on social media, you are giving a gift, and that can feel really good.

Coming Up for Air

Mary Helen Leonard

Have you ever experienced a period of time in which you felt utterly adrift? We all have cornerstones in our lives – the relationships, careers, or locations that seem to define us. These are the things we make our plans around. These are the things we lean on when life tires us out, and the things we shelter in during the storms.

Sadly, they are also often the things we complain about, shovel blame onto, and even run away from when pressed into a corner. But the thing about cornerstones is that they remain where you left them, even when you take a while to come back.

So what happens when those cornerstones shift? What happens when they crumble, or simply get up and leave one day? Where do you shelter? What do you lean on? Where do you place the blame you can’t stomach taking upon yourself?

Sister Moon Ceramics

It’s the kind of experience that can really humble a person. And sometimes it can even break your heart. It’s painful. It’s scary. It feels like more than you can handle, and it really is.

But after the dust settles, and you come to grips with the fact that the cornerstones you’ve built your life around aren’t where they should be anymore, an opportunity arises from the ash. This is your chance to recognize that among the many pillars we lean on there is one standing taller than the rest. That is you.

You are the stone that will never shift away from your life. You are the friend that will never leave you. You are your constant companion and your deepest relationship. Maybe it’s time to start building your world around this cornerstone instead of all the others. The first step is finding out what she really needs and how to really make her happy.

So that’s been my mission for all these silent months. I’ve been making art, cuddling my babies, spending time in nature, and focusing on healing myself in both soul and in body. I can’t say that I have it all figured out quite yet, but my priorities have been refreshed, and I’ve forced myself to face some really hard and disappointing truths about my life and how my cornerstones have changed.

Sister Moon Ceramics

I’ve also spent a whole lot of time thinking about what I really want, and what I really need. It’s a small list, but the items aren’t easy to get.

These are the things I need every single day:

  • To be loved.
  • To make art.
  • To watch what I nurture thrive.
  • To connect with the earth.
  • To nourish my heart.
  • To nourish my body.
  • To indulge my curiosity and imagination.

I have a feeling that other people have the same needs, so I’m going to try and include you all on my journey to figuring this stuff out. I know it has been a while, but I love my blog and I don’t want to see it die. I’ll be working on breathing new life into it as I work on breathing new life into myself. Stay tuned for art, food, creativity, and more.

XOXO MH

We Can Be Loved Exactly As We Are

We Can Be Loved Exactly As We Are – An easy painting featuring a beautiful quote from Mister Rogers

We Can Be Loved Exactly As We Are - Make this easy painting featuring a quote from Mr. Rogers

I love having art around the house. Finding new ways to display prints and paintings is one of my favorite parts of decorating a room. When we started working on redecorating my bedroom I knew that I wanted to make art a focal point.

This message is something I think a lot of us need to keep in mind more often. Having it in my bedroom helps me remember that I am lovable as-is. It’s also a concept I hope to instill in my children. I love them as-is too.

What are your favorite quotes or sayings to keep around your house? I’d love to hear your suggestions. Leave your favorite in the comments and I will check them out!

You’ll Need:

Directions

Start by prepping your art board with a coat of white paint.

While that is drying, mix two shades of blue. I used a little bit of black and a lot of white to create two shades of dusty grayish blue. You can adjust these shades to your own taste or go with a completely different color palette. It’s up to you!

Apply five strips of masking tape to the canvas (make sure it’s totally dry first) to divide the canvas into sections.

Next, paint alternating sections with the darker shade of blue, and let this coat dry completely before moving to the next step.

Now comes the fun part! Use a medium-width brush to paint your letters. It’s ok if they come out a little messy. Adding borders in the next step will help clean them up.

If you are using a different quote on your project I highly suggest sketching out your lettering on a piece of paper before trying to paint them on the canvas. It can be hard to judge how each word will fit, so practicing on a test paper really helps!

Let your letters dry completely, then use a thin brush to apply a thin border around each letter. You can also use this brush to add small details and simple patterns throughout the piece. Try not to get hung up on how neat or messy it looks. The message on the painting should be kept in mind. Try and love your wonky painting just as it is.

Mine was certainly a bit wonky, but it looks adorable in my room. Don’t you think?

P.S. If you enjoy projects with painting, check out my posts for Making Your Own Feminist Art Canvases and Hand Painted Geometric Planters.

We Can Be Loved Exactly As We Are - Make this easy painting featuring a quote from Mr. Rogers

Life With Two

Wow, guys. It’s been a while.

A year, in fact, since I had my amazing baby girl and subsequently went into full-on mommy hermit mode. To say that the past year has been overwhelming would be a bit of an understatement.

Even so, no other word comes to mind. So I’ll use that one to sum things up. So far, life with two kids has been overwhelming.

Life with two

Overwhelmingly hectic.

Life with two

Overwhelmingly messy.

Life with two

Overwhelmingly demanding.

Life with two

Overwhelmingly crowded.

Life with two

Overwhelmingly busy.

Life with two

Overwhelmingly challenging.

And at the same time…

Life with two

Overwhelmingly special.

Life with two

Overwhelmingly funny.

Life with two

Overwhelmingly satisfying.

Life with two

Overwhelmingly surprising.

Life with two

Overwhelmingly happy.

Life with two

We’ve had some other challenges too. In September I had my thyroid removed and it took about six months to get my body back to something resembling normal. Just as that happened I broke my foot, so I’ve been stuck in a wheelchair for almost two months, realizing just how hard things are when you don’t have two legs to stand on.

This past year has been transformative as well as traumatic. While being unwell for an extended period of time was pretty much torture, I did find myself with extra time to think. I’ve been taking a close look at my life, my relationships, my kids, my job, my blog, and everything that goes along for the ride.

I realized that my goals have changed over the years, as have my expectations – and not always for the better. Changes are on the way – some big, some small, and one area where I plan to extend that change is here on Mary Makes Good. My focus on this blog will continue to be creative living, but I plan on giving art, motherhood, and everyday life a bigger piece of the pie.

Some things I’m excited to share with you this coming year are:

  • Everyday art challenges
  • Kid-friendly art and craft projects
  • Food recipes that I’m genuinely excited to eat (spoiler: this means ice cream)
  • CBD food and skin care tutorials
  • Projects inspired by the recent renewal of my mystical, witchy, and hippie-dippie roots
  • Patriarchy smashing crafts, fundraisers, and activism
  • Clay tutorials? Would you guys want that?

If there’s something you are hoping to learn more about please let me know! I’m really looking to sharing my insight on making creativity an everyday part of life – even for those of us who may not feel particularly artistic. My motto is you can’t do art wrong and it’s better to make something bad than make nothing at all.

So let’s go for it, friends. When I share challenges I will be doing the bulk of the communication and sharing on Instagram. Make sure you are following me there if you want to participate.

Meanwhile, be patient with me. I”m still figuring this whole mother of two kids thing out.

Life with two

Eight Ways Alexa Can Entertain Your Kid

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Eight Ways Alexa Can Entertain Your Kid: The best Alexa skills for kids

How to Get Alexa to Entertain Your Children - The Eight Best Alexa Skills for Kids

Both my father and my husband are suckers for gadgets. These guys love electronic doo-dads and are forever discussing the latest and greatest gizmos. I’m more of an analog girl myself, but after learning to use our Alexa I have slowly come around to seeing how helpful it can actually be. It started when my Dad gifted us a Sonos One player with built-in Alexa software for the holidays last year.

Surely they both knew that music would be the thing to tempt me over to their side. We set up the Sonos in between the living room and kitchen where we could request Pandora radio stations, Spotify playlists, or even local radio. I found myself using it more and more, and before I knew it I was also using it to set timers, look up recipes, and keep track of my grocery list. We have a smart bulb in the lamp on our bedside table which we dim and change color every night to accommodate the different phases of bedtime.

Our Bedtime Night Light Routine

  • Jammies = bright and cool white.
  • Books = dimmed 50% and soft white.
  • Lullaby = dimmed to 1% and blue.
  • Sleep = off.

We had been using an app on our phones to control the bedroom light, so when Prime Day rolled around and I saw Amazon Echos on sale I decided to jump on the deal. Now we could control the light by voice and use Alexa for even more – like setting alarms for morning wakeups, playing music, checking the weather before rolling out of bed, and even telling bedtime stories.

How to Get Alexa to Entertain Your Children - The Eight Best Alexa Skills for Kids

It’s been a hot summer here in Austin. In fact, this year’s heat wave has been one of the hottest and longest on record. Having a newborn and a four year old to keep busy all summer long has been a real challenge. It’s too hot outside for the baby, and most indoor play places are too full of germs for someone who hasn’t had her shots yet.

So that leaves us stuck inside and bored out of our minds. If I thought it was hard to keep a four year old busy before, I had no idea what I was in for after weeks of going stir-crazy. There was crying. There was yelling. There were random acts of destruction. It wasn’t pretty, folks. When the Echo arrived it occurred to me that it might be able to help. Surely there were some Alexa skills for kids out there!

We ended up trying out a ton of Alexa skills for kids this summer. The following skills are perfect for getting the wiggles out of my four-year old while I’m stuck under a nursing baby or for calming him down at the end of the day.

(This is the echo we keep in our bedroom, by the way. Ours is white, and it’s pretty tiny.)

And here are some clips of Charlie enjoying some quality robot time. Thank you, Alexa!

Alexa Skills for Kids (Play Time)

Animal Workout – This is by far our favorite game on Alexa, and I love watching him play just as much. Alexa tells him which animal to be and what kind of silly activity to play along with. It’s ridiculously cute and usually keeps him busy for a good five minutes, PLUS he’s exercising.

Freeze Dancers – Another house favorite, music plays and we all have to dance until it stops. Then Alexa asks who kept dancing when the music stopped. The resulting accusations typically include a lot of giggling and pointing and are almost as fun as the dance-off.

Play Music – I don’t know about your kids, but Charlie has very strong preferences when it comes to music. The first thing we did when we got our device was connect it to our Pandora and Spotify accounts. We can ask Alexa to play our favorite Pandora station for background music or load up a special playlist or specific song for a quick dance party or sing-along.

Alexa Skills for Kids (Anytime)

Kid Jokes – My kid loves jokes – the cornier the better, so this skill is perfect for him. He loves learning new jokes and I love getting cracked up when he tries to retell them later.

Kids News – This is a fun daily ritual for kids and a light-hearted break from the ever-depressing world of grownup news. It usually includes brief stories about things happening around the world, kid-relevant trivia, and letting you know what random holiday it supposedly is. My one complaint is that these holidays always seem to involve asking your parents for ice cream. WTF Alexa? Like he’s not already asking me for ice cream enough?

Twenty Questions – A kids classic turned tech. You think something up and Alexa tries to guess what it is using yes or no questions. This skill is a little bit buggy at times, but it can be a lot of fun. And she’s actually pretty good at guessing!

Alexa Skills for Kids (Quiet Time)

Animal Yoga – This skill is similar to Animal Workout but goes at a slower pace and encourages yoga-inspired stretching and posing. Kids also get to choose which animal to pose as for each turn.

Audible Books – Audible has been a HUGE hit at our house. Charlie will almost always settle down and listen to a story. It’s even better when we have the book at home and he can follow along with the pictures. I’ve found that the best bang for your buck is to sign up with Audible and to use your monthly credits to buy story collections. So far, these have been our favorite picks:

Deal Alert: Right now you can get two free audio books when you sign up for Audible on Amazon!

Looking for more motherly advice? Check out my past blog posts on baby sleep tips and keeping kids well during cold and flu season

How to Get Alexa to Entertain Your Children - The Eight Best Alexa Skills for Kids