Garden Mapping

Every spring for several years, I have made tiny stakes to plant alongside seeds, little markers to help me make sense of new sprouts in the garden. And every year the marker bleeds or fades, and I’ve been flying blind. Weed or plant? What kind of pepper?

This year I tried something new. I drew a veggie map:

It may not have been to scale, but it was enough to help me keep tabs on what would be popping up.

I love moments like this. When recognition of repeating a pattern that no longer works leads to seeing a new way of doing things.

I’ll be garden mapping again for sure.

This post is part of Think Kit by SmallBox

Prompt: “Doodle Up. Scour your notebooks and share some random doodles. Or, try a #doodleaday challenge for a week. How’d it go? Did a doode theme emerge? Share your drawings.”

Seven-Year Stitch

Part of me wanted to stay in my robe all day, looking out at the snowy white through my kitchen window. But I’d made plans to meet my knitting group at SoBro Café, and I didn’t want to bail. So I found myself boots on, bundled up, and out into the cold.

Two recent knitting projects.

We gather on Sundays in the afternoon, a perfect way to unwind and slow down the inevitable end of the weekend. SoBro has become this warm and cozy place for us. They always ask what we’re making and don’t seem to mind if we linger a little with our knitting.

From earlier today: Cindy and SoBro’s awesome pannekoeken.
From summer 2015: I was going to snap a photo of my progress on a project, but Whitney jumped in with a sweet photobomb.

We’ve had people come and go, but a few of us have stuck with one another. Our lives have changed and grown. There have been new jobs, home purchases and repairs, weddings, separations, loss and heartache, hangovers and shenanigans. Through it all, there’s the comfort and grounding of a new project, and good friends who can save me from any slipped stitch or knitting error I can commit.

We’ve been meeting since 2009 – this year will make seven years of co-crafting. To think of all of the things we’ve made, the stories we’ve shared, and the cups of coffee we’ve downed.

This post is part of Think Kit by SmallBox

Prompt: “Homies. Friends are our chosen family. They have the wonderful capacity to make us laugh till we cry, to hold us up in dark hours and to keep our secrets under lock and key. Tell a friendship story.”


Over the holiday, my mom pulled a small stack of black and white prints from her purse. The photos were a recent find, having been stowed away in a box at my grandma’s for decades.

This image is my mom at four years old with my uncle John and my grandfather, who has been gone for more than twenty years. I’ve heard of their trips to Colorado, but I’ve never seen them.

In this snapshot they were pulled over at a rest stop. My mom says they never ate at restaurants when they were on the road. There weren’t many out west anyway. They packed lunches, ate from the cooler. Sometimes Granddaddy would fish at the stops when there was water nearby, and mom and John would play until it was time to get back in the car.

I turned over the photo as my mom is telling me all of this.

“Plunka?” I asked.

“I didn’t even know that was on there!” She went on to tell me that they called Granddaddy’s old Plymouth Plunka. I’d have never known this small family history without this photo.

This image came to me at a time I’ve been thinking about my 2015 goals. One I’ve been kicking around is to up my photography game. Today I researched classes, one small step toward capturing better images. I want to understand all of these mysterious settings on my camera, the lighting, the technical stuff. I want to be able to capture moments like this one, the kind to unlock lost worlds, stories, feelings.

This post is part of Think Kit by SmallBox
Prompt: “One Small Step. Set your sights on the next year: what’s one step you can take to support a goal you have for 2015? Whether it requires a written plan, a list of supplies or ingredients, or even a flowchart: getting your plan down in words should help spur you into action.”

The Making of #heartmyhood

Once per year for the past six years, SmallBox has built and donated a brand new website to a nonprofit who otherwise wouldn’t have the budget to up their digital presence for 24 Hour Web Project. In recent years, we’ve upped the game by adding things like email templates, editorial calendars, photography or videos.

This year we wanted to help our recipient Indianapolis Neighborhood Resource Center with name recognition. While they do incredible things for Indy, like their Public Allies program and hosting Courageous Conversations, they fly a bit under the radar.

We came up with an awareness and engagement campaign to spread neighborhood love in Indy. We decided to rally conversation around a hashtag, so we named the initiative #heartmyhood. We planned to put the call out for stories and images showing why people love where they live.

While we knew each image and story would be unique, we wanted to create some connection between them. I was tasked with creating a mark. Time was short, so I used a sprint technique to sketch out as many ideas as I could dream up (and fit on one page, which as it turns out was 43 different sketches).


I took the concept sheet around to my project partners, Dan, Lydia and Kasey to see which idea resonated most with them. I dotted the ones that rose to the top, then fired up Illustrator.

The first three concepts were pretty similar:


I thought #3 would be the winner, but I wanted to try something totally different,just to have a more stark counterpoint, so I made concept #4:
When I took the concept back to the team, #3 was indeed the unanimous winner. To account for different situations, I created a few color variations.

heartmyhood-useAnd here is the mark added to the very first image submitted to the campaign:

The first photo submission we received was the lovely gate at Garfield Park by Jules Bush.

People sent in submissions from all over the city – Irvington, Herron-Morton, Garfield Park, the West Side and so many more. You can see more of the neighborhood love we got during 24 Hour Web Project here. I even added my own story, claiming the Monon as my ‘hood.

INRC has taken this idea and run with it. For their annual meeting, they made stamps out of the mark, and did some analog story collecting.

They are still collecting stories via their website if you want to submit your own!

This post is part of Think Kit by SmallBox
Prompt: “Show & Tell. Time to show off your handiwork: what did you make this year? Share something personal, like a song or art. What inspired you? Was the finished work what you initially imagined? Or a work project – what was the process? The end result? Share your vision…and your work!”

Sound Bite: Fire

Earlier this year, I started collecting sounds. I don’t really know why – I didn’t have any plans to use them for any purpose. I captured things like rain or bird song, recorded with my phone, and just left them there in my voice memos. The only one I posted somewhere: a crackling fire.

This was the last fire we had in our old house before we moved. I can listen to this on end, get lost in the pops and cracks. What I really love about this sound is this: when we build a fire, we’ve committed to slowing down, staying put.

This post is part of Think Kit by SmallBox
Prompt: “Insert Theme Music Here. Strike up the band – what was the soundtrack to your year? Was it the music you listened to the most? A certain song that kept reappearing, or worse…that you couldn’t get away from? Or maybe it wasn’t music at all – maybe a podcast, voice, performance, or significant sound played over-and-over. Whatever you heard: we’re all ears!”

Coaching at TEDx


Earlier this year, I volunteered as a Speaker Coach for TEDxIndianapolis. I’m not sure if this is a TED thing, or if the local organizers at Big Car & co. came up with the concept of pairing speakers with coaches. I really enjoyed the process and saw the value a role like this could bring, especially to reluctant speakers, or those who need a lot of preparation.

(If you’re one of those quick studies who can speak with just a small amount of prep, Kiko Suarez gave an excellent portrait of what it’s like for those of us who have to work at it).

Coaches were asked to be a sounding board, to listen to the speaker practice their talk and provide feedback. We were also expected to be present during the rehearsal the day before the event.

Among the benefits: the speaker gets practice and consistent feedback from someone who has the context of how the topic evolved, there’s accountability in periodic check-ins, and the speaker has built rapport with someone who can help ease pre-talk jitters. Event organizers also get the peace of mind that they don’t have a speaker who is woefully unprepared.

I had the honor to work with Bud Caddell on his talk on complex systems. He is a natural and didn’t need a lot of coaching, so my job was incredibly easy. Watch his talk:


Louie asked for a bird feeder for Christmas. I didn’t know it, but we were standing on the edge of a slippery slope. One feeder turned into six. We set our first feeders up January first and waited. It took about ten days, then our backyard exploded with activity. The gallery above features some of our backyard birds from January 2014.

Featured (I think! I’m still learning): Dark-Eyed Junco, Northern Cardinal, Northern Flicker, Red-Bellied Woodpecker, European Starling, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Purple Finch, American Goldfinch, White-Breasted Nuthatch, Mourning Dove.

Good Tidings

Who doesn’t love getting mail that isn’t a bill or junk? In December, when more good tidings than usual grace the mailbox, it seems like a shame to just shove these notes into a pile, or to send them straight to the recycling bin.

I used to tuck holiday cards into the greenery drapped over my mantle as a way to display them for a few weeks. Today I decided to get crafty and make a paper garland to drape over a mirror by the front door.

I found the mini wooden clothes pins at Silver in the City. The silver cord is a yarn I purchased for a snowflake knitting project I planned to do, but eventually decided against. The multi-colored papers were leftover from making holiday gift tags, and the green paper was the stock we used for some of our wedding stationary in 2008.

Since I was going for a home made sort of look, I wasn’t too worried about making the triangle cut-outs perfect. I did some hand-lettering to spell out JOY.


I actually save the holiday cards I get until the season rolls around again the following year. When I pull out my holiday decorations and such, I have a neat little package of last year’s cards, which really helps me start my card list.

This post is part of Think Kit by SmallBox
Today’s prompt: “Handwrite a _______. A tweet. A letter to a friend. A list. A note to someone you’ve never met. Your signature font. What’s it look like? Take a picture of it!”


Imperfect Works

Months in the making, my impossibly long scarf is finally complete. As I finished weaving in the ends, I pondered over this work marked by uneven stitches and why I sink hours into the pursuit of making imperfect things.


There are different kinds of knitters. There are those who can knit on through mistakes, overlooking a purl that should have been a knit stitch. There are some who would rather rip out hours of work than wear a scarf with one wrong stitch. I’ve admired in wonder those I know who knit in perfect, even stitches, achieving uniformity on par with any machine. And then there are those, like me, fated to knit the occasional loose stitch.

Somewhere along the way, with years of knitting and many projects under my belt, I realized this tendency wasn’t something I’d outgrow with practice. It just is. And so knitting has become an exercise in patience and acceptance.

With $26 worth of yarn and unknown hours of needling loops into loops invested, this handmade thing absolutely looks the part. It wasn’t always so, but I can now say this and really mean it: I’m good with that.