Modern Map Art – Review

My dad is a map-person. He has tons of different maps. Everything from small county maps to huge atlases of the entire country. I remember when planning a trip he’d get out the map or maps he needed, spreading them out on the kitchen table. He still does this even though he has the technology not to need to. He likes to know where he’s headed.

Before I had my smartphone with my trusty maps app, I would print Google Map directions to where I was headed. Even if I had been there before, if I was going somewhere outside of my usual route, I printed a map. My mom did this too; she might still do it. Dennings do not like to get lost.

Maps are good at showing us where we are and where we are going. But they can also remind us of where we’ve been. I was recently asked by Jennifer from Modern Map Art to review one of her maps. I decided not to pick where I live now but where I used to live. I chose Columbus, our capital city and one of the several places I’ve called home in Ohio.

Kenneth and I spent the first four years of our marriage in Columbus. I can see the street where we lived on the gorgeous black and white print Jennifer sent me. A lot happened in those four years. We learned to navigate the city after growing up in a small town and going to college in a small town. Kenneth went through the most grueling academic period of his life, veterinary school. I started my first real adult job as an educator at a botanical garden. We found new favorite restaurants and parks.

Adjusting to life in the city was hard. By the time we left Columbus I had finally decided that I liked the city and that I would miss it. And I do. Columbus is unique. It’s an artistic, diverse, vibrant and energetic city. Columbus has beautiful parks, museums, and creative communities.

Check out Modern Map Art. Besides map posters of cities and countries, there are also city skyline prints. There are accessories too, iPhone cases, and map pillows. You can even create your own custom map! You could cover your wall with maps of your travels. You could decorate your couch with pillow maps showing where you want to explore in the future. You could even get a map of where you’re from and put it on a case for your iPhone. We don’t need paper maps anymore to get where we need to go. But maps are still a big part of connecting us to our past, present and future.

Thank you Modern Map Art for letting me frame the only big city I’ve ever called home!

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Modern Map Art

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Thank you to Modern Map Art, for sponsoring this post. All opinions are my own.

July Flowers (and remembering that you’re enough)

When I started editing these photos for this blog post, I was thinking I would post it as a regular photoblog. Hey, friends, hope you’re having a great summer! I am too! Look at my beautiful flowers! As I edited and admired the photos, I thought about how I felt when I took these pictures. Over the course of the summer, especially in July, our yard has blossomed with color.

When I got home from work or after a morning walk, I’d walk around the yard, admiring the flowers and taking pictures. I remember feeling surprised. Surprised that all these beautiful flowers were growing in our yard. Why was I surprised? I didn’t expect these gorgeous blooms. I didn’t think I had done enough in our yard this spring and early summer. I really felt that I had slacked during July. So, if I hadn’t accomplished enough, how could our yard look so pretty right now?

I’ve been wanting my husband, Kenneth, and I to have a backyard of our own for years. We lived in apartments and a townhouse for the first six years of our marriage. The most I could do garden-wise were potted plants on a balcony. For a few a couple summers we had a community garden plot in Columbus. It wasn’t enough to please my want for a garden and a yard. Over the years I gathered a lot of projects, ideas, and plants that I would one day put in place in our backyard.

When we bought our house last summer, we painted and planted a pollinator bed on the south side of the house. In the fall, with help from my parents and my dad’s pick-up truck, we removed the Bradford Pear tree from the front yard. Bradford Pear’s are strictly ornamental. Not only are they invasive the trees are weak and have horrible smelling blossoms in the spring. Kenneth and I replaced the Bradford Pear with two native Eastern Redbud trees. We planted a cherry tree and a pear tree in the backyard.

This summer I planted a woodland/shade garden in a corner around the back of the house by our deck. I filled the space with ferns and other woodland plants from a friend. I added hostas collected from other parts of our yard. I’ve begun creating a dry streambed in the shade garden with rocks found in the yard. We also planted our first vegetable garden since having our community garden plot. We ordered a keyhole raised bed from Vita Gardens and have begun composting as well. I took a tree pruning class and have begun pruning our crabapple trees and shrubs around the house. We created a planting in the front yard with chokeberry bushes, lavender, and thyme.

With all these projects we’ve started and finished so far this year, why did I feel like I hadn’t done enough? Because I usually feel like I am not enough. That I don’t work hard enough. That I could do more and do better. Even when I’m complimented on my work, I figure that person is only being nice. Or that eventually, everyone will figure out I’m not that great at what I do.

This feeling, constantly thinking that you’re not enough, actually has a name. It’s called Impostor Syndrome. Besides having chronic depression and anxiety, I also lack self-confidence. I haven’t been diagnosed with Imposter Syndrome, but I’m making an educated guess that I have it. It’s ridiculously common: lots of famous, very accomplished writers, actors and athletes have admitted to this feeling of inadequacy. You have maybe felt this way too.

And it’s bullshit. I am enough. You are enough. We are enough.

Our yard looks fantastic this summer – and both Kenneth and I have accomplished a lot. I harvested our first tomato this week. I’ve had fresh mint for smoothies and basil for pesto all summer. We’ve had happy bees and butterflies enjoying our pollinator garden. I grew sunflowers this summer. I think the last time I grew a sunflower was in preschool. We started them in styrofoam cups and my dad planted it in the garden for me.

I’m going to think of this ridiculously cheerful flower the next time my inner dialogue of self-doubt starts to get too loud. I AM ENOUGH. I am more than enough. 🌻

New Project: #HomeGrownStories

I have a new and exciting project to announce! In partnership with the Miami County Visitors and Convention Bureau, I am working on #HomeGrownStories. Inspired partly by Humans of New York (@HumansofNY), #HomeGrownStories will feature images and stories of the people of Miami County. Folks who live here, work here and visit, people who just love Miami County.

This is a project that feels like a really good fit for me. I’ve been trying to share why my community and home state is amazing with my blog and on social media, but lately it’s felt like something was missing. I wasn’t connecting with the people in my community who already know how awesome Ohio is.

That’s what I will be able to do with #HomeGrownStories. I will be going out to meet business owners, residents, and visitors who love Miami County and interviewing them. I have a couple interviews under my belt and already I can tell that this project is going to be amazing. There are so many interesting stories in my home county!

To follow along on this project, be sure to follow the Miami County Visitors and Convention Bureau on social media. You can also check out the initial blog post about the project on the MCVCB blog and my first interview with Mainstreet Piqua Director, Lorna Swisher.

I hope you enjoy these small glimpses into the lives of the people who make Miami County such a wonderful place to live!

Miami County Visitors and Convention Bureau

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BlogThis Will Be Our Story. #HomeGrownStories

#HomeGrownStories – Lorna Swisher

GLOW: Nature at Night

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In October I had the privilege of creating an art installation for one of my favorite places in the world: Aullwood Audubon Center and Farm in Dayton. The event was GLOW: Nature at Night and I created a display called Tree of Light.

Aullwood holds a special place in my heart. I first visited Aullwood when I was 12, as part of a field trip for Science Olympiad to study birds. After that first visit, I was hooked. I went to Aullwood  throughout junior high and high school, first to learn about birds and later to study trees. My mom and I took a spring ornithology class twice, complete with overnight field trips to birding locations throughout the state. My sister and I did the same with a summer tree identification class. During my senior year in high school, I went on a canoeing trip hosted by Aullwood to Michigan. This was the first trip I had ever taken that wasn’t school related and didn’t have my parents, sister or friends joining me. We canoed the gorgeous Au Sable river and went birdwatching. I learned a lot about myself on that trip, mainly that I can be independent and that I love canoeing.

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After graduating high school, but before going to Ohio University, I interned at Aullwood for three glorious months. I spent the summer teaching Summer Earth Adventures camp, working on the farm, and getting to know three amazing women who interned with me. Going to college that fall was rough, not only was I leaving home, but I was also leaving my second home, Aullwood.

Fortunately, I was able to continue my relationship with Aullwood throughout college. I volunteered as an animal character for Enchanted Forest and Breakfast with Woodland Santa (to date I’ve been a big brown bat, centipede, scarlet tanager and a southern flying squirrel) and for a few summers, I came back to teach Summer Earth Adventures.

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My sister, Brittney, was my camp assistant for several camps so we drove down to Aullwood together, listening to our favorite soundtracks (Chicago and Sweeney Todd). I actually adopted Olivia with Brittney after we finished teaching one afternoon. We stopped at the Miami County Animal Shelter, and after I fell in love with my little tuxedo girl, Brittney helped me dig up enough dollars and change to pay the $40 adoption fee. We didn’t check with my parents before getting a kitten (lucky for us Lou was as adorable as she was, my parents were only upset with us for a while). Brittney was very literally, my partner in crime, that summer and Aullwood was the backdrop of our adventures.

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After getting my Mom and sister involved with Aullwood, I convinced my high school sweetheart, Kenneth, to volunteer too. Kenneth was an assistant for Summer Earth Adventures and when I volunteered as an animal character he helped lead visitors on Aullwood’s wooded trails by lamplight.

Aullwood played such a big role in my life growing up, that Kenneth and I could think of no other place to hold our ceremony and reception when we got married after graduating from Ohio University.

On August 14th, 2010, we were married in a beautiful ceremony in a beautiful place. It did rain that day (I’ve heard it’s good luck!), so we were married indoors, but the rain stopped in time for taking pictures outside. It was a wonderful day and not only were we surrounded by family and friends (quite a few who work at Aullwood) but we were also in a gorgeous setting, surrounded by nature.

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While Kenneth and I lived in Columbus and the Cincinnati area, we didn’t make it to Aullwood as often as we wanted to. But since we’ve moved back home, we’ve both signed up again as volunteers. This summer we were animal whisperers, working with ducks and goats on the farm to make them more comfortable around people so they can be good ambassadors for their breed.

When Aullwood’s volunteer coordinator asked me if I would be interested in creating an art display for Aullwood’s new fall event, GLOW, I gave her an enthusiastic “yes!” I love volunteering at Aullwood and I especially love the challenge of creating art from recycled materials.

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Because Aullwood has had such an impact on my life, and because this past year after moving back home has brought on so many memories, I made that the focus of my installation. Memory, emotion, and dreams portrayed as light became my theme.

My artist statement below describes my vision for my display.

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My dad helped me take a large branch from an apple tree in my parent’s yard and turn it into the centerpiece of my display. This apple tree, which has long stopped producing apples, was one of my favorite trees to climb when I was a kid. It has one branch that is perfect for swinging a leg onto to help pull oneself into the tree. The tree is so big that you have to really look for the bare spot we left when we removed a large branch.

We attached the large tree branch to a shipping pallet to give it a sturdy base. While my dad worked on securing the tree to the pallet, I went to town trimming branches and shaping the tree to my liking.

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Once the tree was completed, I had a lot of smaller projects to work on at home. I pulled items from my stash of crafting tools to make “memory bottles:” glass bottles filled with beads, thread, and other small mementos that remind me of different periods of my life. In high school, I was very interested in beading and jewelry making so a few jars were filled with beads. When I worked at the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, I used the 3D printer in the MakerSpace to make a glow-in-the-dark gnome. I’ve loved gnomes for years (my best friend got me one as a graduation gift from high school – yes I am that nerdy ?) and the fact that this little gnome was made from glow-in-the-dark plastic made him perfect for my GLOW display.

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Other items that were created for my display included a glass owl recycled from a coffee pot and a broken pair of sunglasses, faux mercury glass jars lit with battery operated LED candles, glass mushrooms, metal spheres, white pumpkins, and lambs ear. The mercury glass jars I made with old glass jars my parents had saved for future canning projects (don’t worry – I didn’t take their whole supply!) which I lightly sprayed with a solution of water and white vinegar before spraying with a silver/mirror effect spray paint. It gave them a nice silvery, mottled look which looked great with the LED candles we borrowed from a family friend.

The glass mushrooms were made with thrifted glass vases and bowls. After I glued them together to make a mushroom shape, I spray painted them with the same silver/mirror paint. I really like how these turned out – they will be going into our garden this spring!

The metal spheres I bought at Expressions of the Home in Troy – one of my favorite eclectic shops downtown. The lambs ear were dug up from the landscaping at our new home. They are often included in plans for night gardens because of their silvery leaves.

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In addition to creating and installing my Tree of Light, I also took on the role of Big Brown Bat for some educational character interactions in Aullwood’s bank barn. I performed a skit with another volunteer who portrayed the Luna Moth.

I had a wonderful time getting to know the other volunteers in between our performances, and I even had a few minutes to sneak out and see how my GLOW display looked in the dark. On the second night of GLOW: Nature At Night, my mom dressed up as a Southern Flying Squirrel while she and my dad volunteered with some children’s activities.

I always enjoy time spent at Aullwood and this year’s GLOW event was no exception! Happy Smilies

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