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The Return of Celebrate the Normal


I visualize holidays, birthdays, parties, big announcements.

But, what if celebrating were a part of our every day experiences. And I mean every day. Little victories and still moments. Have you been taken a back by a great expanse of sky? Or smiled to yourself over the sweet simplicity of a bowl of oatmeal?

Some may call it the mundane, and anything but extraordinary. But these sights and experiences that cause us to pause and appreciate the wonderful normal that we've been given, they deserve celebration. And we can build our capacity to notice and to appreciate by sharing these images and insights with one another.

I first ran this series in 2013, closing it a little more than a year ago. Nearly 500 images have been shared with the tag #celebratethenormal since it began. And though I may have not featured images from this series since last year, many, many photos have been taken that are fabulously ordinary and nearly amazing. For me, it's a prayerful experience to look through the images and appreciate the good gifts of this life and the many ways God has blessed us.

It has also trained my mind's eye to find those moments around me.

And it's time for me to return and to remind myself. I have a whole list of reasons why I need this, maybe you have a list, too. Let's help each other. Let's practice everyday gratitude. Let's share these beautiful moments with each other - because you recognizing the beauty of the spaghetti on your child's cheek will help me to remember to appreciate it on mine. We're in this together.

Beginning next Thursday and running every other Thursday, we'll #CelebratetheNormal here on Pars Caeli, the blog. And every day, I'll be working to find and to relish the beautiful ordinary around me.

Tag your photos on Twitter or Instagram with #celebratethenormal. I'll be showing off some wonderful entries next week.

Let us learn from you. Happy snapping!

xoxo, MJ




Lunchbox Notes

Eight or more hours away from home and at school can sometimes feel like eternity. A sweet note in your child's lunchbox can be a simple reminder that you're thinking of them. A silly joke can say have fun, relax, and laugh! I have an easy way for you to add extra love through #PC_lunchboxnotes.


Here's a simple way for you to be the cool mom or dad you always want to be (and give yourself a few chuckles in the process). Almost every weekday, I post jokes for you to copy (in your own handwriting) - even with a suggested doodle - and place it inside your child's lunch.

Look, parenting is hard enough. We've got to stick together. And I'm already making these so why not follow along and use what you like?

I've posted on Instagram/Facebook/Twitter my daily lunchbox notes to my children over the last year and a half. There's a whole 180 days (plus a few extra) out there for you to grab!

Over the year, as I've posted my ridiculous jokes and silly doodles, I've heard from a number of moms who would tell me that they stole my joke for their child's lunch that day.


And to that I say, "Steal more!" My hope in taking pictures of these notes is to make life a bit easier (and sillier) for all of us parents out there completing the rather mundane task of preparing a meal while thinking of our kids and wishing them laughter in their day.

Some parents have pulled up this hashtag #PC_lunchboxnotes during road trips. Others have pulled them out while waiting in the doctor's office. My own children now want me to post videos of them telling these jokes, as they practice their own social and relational techniques through humor.

Also, it should be noted that these jokes are not limited to children. Your spouse, your love, your mailman or neighbor might enjoy a corny riddle, too, so share the love and regram, retweet, and retell to your heart's desire!


Just follow along with Pars Caeli on Instagram or Twitter or Facebook. I post two different jokes every week day so follow all of these for maximum possibilities!

If you're looking for another easy way to send a laugh here are 180 printable lunchbox notes from 320 Sycamore. I'm particularly smitten with her selection of knock knocks. And check out these Instagram notes that Camille featured. How cool would these be to receive?

Happy start of the school year, friends! There's no other time quite so energetic and hope-filled as this time of year for me. Sending some of that hope your way...

xoxo, MJ

Continue to Celebrate the Normal

Hey ladies and gents,

We've come to the close of this year's (yes, there is talk of a return) Celebrate the Normal photo series. Tuesdays have become wonderful community days here on Pars Caeli. I have learned so much (you, too?), mostly in the ways to attune my eyes and senses to the moments around me. When I see your photos that isolate an amazing element of nature or an endearing family experience, I am reminded to double up my efforts to stay aware and to celebrate.

Life is going to throw us curve balls (I swung at one on Friday), but, I think, if we are in the practice, the habit of appreciating the everyday, we can still find the goodness and the levity surrounding troubles coming our way. That is my hope.

Please enjoy this week's artists and thank you, thank you, thank you for the gift of your perspective over these 19 weeks and 373 images.

xoxo, MJ

"To love beauty is to see light." ~ Brittani

Snuggles for the bday baby from uncle ~ BP

Cool summer evening makes for a gorgeous sunset at the end of the bike trail. ~teddy4775

Saturday afternoon crossword and comics ~ Becky

This pretty little guy showed up on the rainiest of days. ~ Melanie

A dose of happy in a mason jar..happy friday! ~ Julia

Seaside brainstorming sesh with @chunebez44 at Delmar Plaza ~ Louise

Sometimes you just have to dance in the sunset. ~ Meagan

~ Erin_lily

Oh New York, how I miss you ( and all the wonderful people I spent time with back in June).~ Theresa

Curiosity ~jenmygatt

I kinda love it when my daughter steals my phone to take pictures. The world has an extra sparkle through her eyes. ~ M.J.

Celebrate the Normal: 2nd to the last

Howdy, friends. We are back after a little time away visiting family throughout the midwest. I don't know if I could call it a vacation, but we did celebrate a whole lot of normal and had a ton of playtime so I can't complain. Please forgive my Thursday absence... sometimes finding time to blog amidst hours of outdoor fun and family time is not so easy (as well as finding wifi connections).

I am happy-sad to let you know that next week will be our last Celebrate the Normal post. This summer Tuesday community days have kept me inspired, surprised, curious, and always grateful. You just never know what the universe (or blog world) will send back when you put out an open request. And I've been nothing but overwhelmed by your generosity of beauty.

Round these parts, we're celebrating our last week before school starts which means some sleepovers with mom (it's still cool), more sibling parties, and an extra helping of chocolate chip pancakes.

Sooo, if you're a diehard contributor, someone who's offered a few photos this summer, or someone who's sat on the sidelines, be sure to tag your photos this week. I put these posts together Monday evening so you've got a whole lotta time to get to enjoying.


Thanks for a dynamic summer. It was one for the books (not sure yet which books, but something of note for sure). #celebratethenormal 

Let's just say that dance parties on a boat are than much more fab. ~ M.J.

Learning to crochet ~ Elizabeth

Sometimes you just have to spin yourself silly. ~ Meagan

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders, Let me walk upon the waters, Wherever You call me. Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander. And my faith be made stronger, in the presence of my Savior. ~ Brittani

Playtime after home vent training. Needed this! ~ Melanie


This seems like a good idea. ~ Theresa

Have a bright week!

xoxo, MJ




Celebrate the Normal: From afar

Happy Tuesday, dear ones. I'm coming to you from our mini-vacation, AKA: trips to both sets of grandparents. We are living the dream this week and doing nothing but celebrating a whole bunch of normal in impromptu wiffle ball games, time at the pool, family meals, and board games together.

So I couldn't leave you hanging in this of all weeks!

Huge thanks to the artists joining us! I get a big grin on my face every time I sneak over to #celebratethenormal during the week to see all the beauty you've captured. What amazing childhood moments you've framed in time!


Pure. Bath time. Awesomeness. {Creation & photo by Matt Church.} ~ Meagan

Four years ago today you were almost born at Disneyland! Ever since that day, you've made me rethink the impossible and grow in the best possible ways. Love you, Eamesy! ~ Theresa

Brookline in the summertime is one of my favorite things ever. ~ Joy

On top of the world. ~ Lidy

Caught in action ~ jenmygatt

Them: enjoying a rare treat. Us: enjoying the silence. ~ Karen


Ice cream time ~ roglows

Life is delicious ~ erin_lily

Artist at work. Medium: playdoh ~ Brittani

Weeds or flowers? Who cares! ~ Melanie

Cradled carefully to work. nothing will stop me from biting into it and having the juices roll down my face. ~ Becky

Refresh ~ M.J.

Loving all of these!! If you haven't yet joined in to Celebrate the Normal all around you, please tag your images (and if you have been a part of this community come on back next week!). I post artwork on Tuesdays every week. And please, check out the awesome blogs and Etsy shops of these generous individuals.

Let's have a bright week, friends.

Joining you tomorrow with our final Endless Summer Project! Ack, it's almost the middle of August!!

xoxo, MJ

Celebrate the Normal: The contagious

Week 16 and now 310 pictures have been submitted in the Celebrate the Normal series. You all are unbelievable in your keen sense of capturing moments and emotions. I love that this continuum has allowed creators and artists the space to share what could be put in the box of the everyday but is instead elevated to the beautiful.

I'm going to hold you captive for just a moment before I show off this week's captures.

And it's been a recent (though not new) epidemic going around our house.

You may have heard of it; likely you've experienced in extensive ways in your years walking the earth.

It's fear. And it's a strange connection, that place where fear and celebration comingle.

Let me take you through two quick scenarios that happened in my house this week...

Scenario #1: My eldest is fearful of bike riding. The prospect of having to balance on her bicycle and not fall brings her quickly to tears and a whole bunch of anxiety. In fact she's been so terrified that she been talking and talking to her little sister about how dangerous riding a bike is, and she's mentioned and shown off all the bumps and scrapes she's received (and attaching the label - From biking - in her head).

The confidante, her younger sister who last summer was breezing by us all on her two-wheeler with training wheels has developed a new fear of falling from her bike. Her imagination from too-careful listening has made her unable to enjoy riding and now we have two fearful bike riders.

Scenario #2: When my younger daughter gets sick, she most likely suffers from a bad cough or sore throat. During a winter doctor's appointment for an acute case of symptoms, she got to experience the strep swab. The fear that this procedure may happen again has brought a new found concern into our house.

And so when her little brother was sick with a bad cough, and she warned him and warned him about how scary the doctor's office is, and how he'll have to get something down his throat, he began crying at the announcement that he was going to the doctor. He asked amidst his sobs if he'd have to get something in his throat. And a new fear is born.

Fear can be contagious.

When we generalize from our own helplessness and project that others will also develop the same fears we have, we make the transmittal route from one young mind to another a slick and easy pathway.

And yet what is more normal than fear? To think that we will never fear or inadvertently pass along our fear is naive at best.

As someone who has had fear sitting next to me for many years, I have 2 thoughts to share on using fear well.

1. Own it. Stop yourself before you make the blanket statement that snakes are absolutely terrifying, that needles produce the deepest pains, that giant hairy monsters live under your bed in the dark. And turn that fear into a personal story rather than a generalized truth.

I have no psychology in my background, so this is just speaking from my mom life - when fear becomes a personal story that you share and a vulnerability to open, it takes the sting and even the shock away from those around you. And the anxiety has a space to be released. Bonuses all around.

2. I recently heard a mentor talk about stumbling blocks in our lives: disappointment, rejection, fear, etc. Often these roadblocks keep us from becoming and being the people that we want to be. They can also intrude on our sense of the divine and our connection with God.

Plenty of times, I've been too distracted to pray. Sometimes I feel fearful or ashamed that God thinks less of/loves me less. Sometimes I'm angry and convinced that my way would have turned out better.

My mentor suggested, as his mentor had suggested to him... in these times of struggle with silence and with prayer... make it simple.

Are you angry today? Make that your first line of prayer (eg: "God, I am angry today, and I don't understand how to let it go)

Are you scared or ashamed? (eg; "God, I'm scared today. I'm afraid...")

And I have found that beginning with the placement of the fear right in the beginning of my prayer conversation takes away the power that fear sometimes possesses. I dare you to try it.

So let's celebrate fear this week. When we normalize it and celebrate it, the horror is released, and you and I can, in fact, relate on a deeper, more meaningful level.

It's a family affair! ~ Lidy

First cuddle with her granddaughter ~ erin_lily

July 27 ~ roglows

The sun was setting on my way home and lighting the sky on fire. ~ Mere

Farmer's market love ~ Paige

Big fragrance, saturated color ~ M.J.

Received all these wonderful cards within the past week or so. ~ Brittani

Enjoying fresh air ~ Julia

Love it when packages come with a Thank You ~ Eden

And via Twitter, Dani: Just had a delicious dinner by my favorite chef, . Now watching jr w/my smalls.

Let's have week of bravery, friends!

xoxo, MJ

Celebrate the Normal & the Big, Giant Wonderful

Happy Community Day, friends! Another fabulous edition of Celebrate the Normal is coming at you in just a minute. Before we go to those beauties, I have a question for you.

When was the last time you poured out a big, giant wonderful gesture of love? For your significant person, your kids, your mom ...even your dog? Or maybe this is easier, when was the last time you received a grand, sweeping gift that says, "you mean the whole kit and kaboodle to me." We all repeat the token, "it's the little things that matter..." but what about the really big things?

It's been a busy summer for me, friends, and a busy summer for my kids and hubs. We've done a lot of learning, working, and transporting and had a ton of fun in the process, but all of that awesome can leave one a bit drained and unmotivated to take on domestic rituals. Dishes have sat around too long, floors have cared for their own tribes of dust bunnies, bathrooms (well, I'll leave out the detail here), my laundry room is now our entire basement with clothes just wishing to find a home.

Connect this state of chaos with the responsibility of hosting two sets of wonderful families, both of whom have not been to our home in years, and both of whom we'd love to entertain in our home. I've been working Wednesday evenings in the office, and last Wednesday my hubs was taking care of basic cleaning tasks, bathing children, and getting them to sleep. I arrived home near midnight, promising that I'd set the alarm for super early and finish up what needed to still be done. Of course I said that even as my body was begging for rest, and my mind was well aware that, realistically, there was no way that I was getting even half of the stuff done.

I set the alarm for 4:30 am, and we both snuggled in for a few hours rest.

Bing. Cue my son coming in at 7:15 am to wake me up. I roll over and mutter something of hopeless defeat to my husband. He mutters back, "it's all done."

Not hearing or comprehending, I stumbled off to the shower and attempted to narrow down the home tasks to what I could do in sweeping strokes. Sprinting out of the shower, throwing clothes on my still-wet body, I sort of notice that the bathroom is clean (perhaps I'm just imagining it?), and stammering down the stairs I see the shiny floors, the clean laundry, and I detect a new, fresh smell coming from the kitchen.

I find my husband.

"What? How did this happen?"

Seems that my husband allowed me to fall asleep (which likely took a whole 5-10 seconds) and proceeded to clean, polish, scrub, dust, and reorganize for the next three hours. He then returned to the snuggle (I, of course, had not moved at all), and racked up a whopping 2 hours of sleep.

Friends, I married a sweet man. He showers me with attention and affection, but, even for him, this was a huge, sweeping gesture of love. And for me it was the equivalent of the Christmas commercials with the Lexus SUV all wrapped up with a giant red bow and parked in the snowy driveway.

I love him, and I've been challenged to think, "When will I show my love in big, giant wonderful ways?" How bout you?

July 17 ~ roglows

The kids and I made this "stained glass" piece yesterday. ~ jenmygatt

Lottie's first sparkler ~ Dani

Oatmeal: it's what for dinner. Don't have time to make a big dinner, so it's pumpkin peanut butter oatmeal before we head out the door. The kids think they have hit the jackpot. ~ Meagan

She's a blonde ~ melbella97

Toes in the sand ~ erin_lily

Tomato hues ~ M.J.

Biking in Canada yesterday. I want to buy our own bikes so we can ride around Seattle! ~ Elizabeth

Keep your eyes open for little acts of love coming your way this week, and set into motion your next grand gesture of love! Join us next week for another great round on Celebrate the Normal!

xoxo, MJ

Celebrate the Normal: Changes

Ah, friends, how did it get to be Wednesday? Thanks for your patience with me. We were blessed with rounds of visitors last week, and I worked the weekend while the rest of the fam headed into Chicago.

Blah, blah, blah, right? That's all to say that I missed my post yesterday for Celebrate the Normal, but it's a a celebration post so we're just going to do our best to keep the spirits high.

Lacy Leaf :: Just look at the damage those darn beetles have done to our tree ~ Jen Mygatt

Car got an oil change so we went across the street for breakfast and playland ~ Alex

Water dancing ~ Meagan

Time to change the color and give the tootsies some love. ~ teddy4775

Lily on her birthday. Almost 2 years ago!! Where does the time go??? ~ erin_lily

Her first ballet class (and reward for playing tee ball). ~ Theresa

Love turning down this road to go to story time at Notre Dame ~ Jill

My son gave this sun-changer ring to his favorite girl. ~ MJ

Endless clouds ~ Brittani

~ Dani

Thank you to all the amazing artists who joined the party this week. Let's keep celebrating the wonderful normal that is around us. And let's leave behind the stuff that might be weighing us down.

Celebrate the Normal: A spotlight on Habit

Hello, lovelies!! Back am I from a bit of a blog glitch that kept me away on Thursday. Pars Caeli is back to normal, and it's time to celebrate once again! While I've been away on my NYC adventures, we suspended Celebrate the Normal but many of you have kept it going in your own way. And that I can say nothing but a huge WAY TO GO! It delights me so to know that celebrating - seeing the beauty - around you has become a regular habit in your lives.

And that brings us right to where I want us to land today! While at AltNYC, I had the chance to chat with Molly Balint. Molly does a whole bunch of wonderful, and today we're focusing just on a piece. Molly, along with friends Emily and Tara, post and inspire over at the community site Habit. It's a bit of calm, a bit of presence, and a bit of contemplation rolled into one. When I heard about Habit, I knew I wanted to connect it up with our Celebrate the Normal posts!! Here's a bit more from Molly about Habit. Thanks so much for the interview, Mol!!


What inspired the idea of Habit? Tell us the story.

Habit is part journal, part photography project, part community center.  Emily and I were inspired to start Habit in 2008 at a time when we were both feeling the urge to document our daily lives - beyond blog posts and creative projects and big milestones.  We were both capturing bits of our daily lives regularly with photography, but we saw the value of words as an accompaniment to those photographs.  We had both struggled with journaling over the years, and really just wanted a regular practice - a habit - something we could sustain in the midst of our busy lives.

At the same time, we were aware of the need for community.  We knew that our busy lives can be isolating - whether we're raising children or starting careers or moving or facing family challenges, and we felt that this practice - this habit - might have broad appeal.



How often do you post? Can anyone submit material?

We publish new posts at habit just about every single day.  There is only one post each day, but each day's post includes photos and words from a variety of people.  Emily, Tara, and I are posting all year round, and each month we have anywhere between three and twenty guests posting with us.  Most months, it's a small curated group of guests, and some months (like December) we have large groups of guests.  Our guests are specially invited and our groups carefully curated each month. Once or twice each year we open the Habit Blog up to any and all contributors by way of our flickr pool, where we invite everyone to participate.


In your work with this experience of gratitude, what 's struck you most?

Habit is very much about awareness as much as it's about gratitude.  It is our hope that, through this practice of mindfulness, of noticing, of recording, that we cultivate within ourselves and within our community, an awareness of the beauty and goodness that surrounds us all everyday, even in the midst of trials and tribulations.  We often hear from our guests and our readers that this practice of noticing the small details, of recording these bits of our days, does lead to a shift in perspective, to an increased ability to find gratitude in the midst of what are sometimes our messy daily lives.


How do you change your lens of busy to one of attentiveness in your everyday?

Part of the idea behind habit is our desire and determination to pay attention to the everyday - without making it a chore - and this is part of the beauty of the habit blog. Even the act of picking up our cameras, sitting down to wrap a few words around our day, causes you to slow down, catch your breath and reflect. Even if its just for a fleeting moment.

For our guest posters, it's a manageable task to record a single photo and 30 words.  For our readers, it's a meaningful reminder that capturing our daily life doesn't have to be limited to lengthy journal entries and elaborate scrapbooks. For all of us, it's about being part of something larger than ourselves and finding the connection and community that emerges among these varied voices which draws us all together.


I've found myself clicking through the pages and pages of Habit and soaking in the imagery. It's a great spot to land when you want a clear head. Big thanks to the uber-talented Molly for hopping over to Pars Caeli today.

So, let's strike up Celebrate the Normal once again. Invite some friends to tag along, too! Remember to post your photos on Instagram or Twitter with the hashtag #celebratethenormal. One photo from every artist is featured here on Tuesdays. In honor of the good work done over at Habit, our theme this week will be:

And let me share some of the great work that was happening while we've been apart. Big thanks to Jen, Meagan, Julia, and Brittani for these gifts.

Chalky goodness ~ Meagan


Sometimes you just have to run in the rain ~ Meagan

Just some summer solstice and clothespins ~ Jen


Thankful for this view today ~ Julia

Artistic week ~ Brittani

Spiderweb and morning dew ~ Jen

Off we go to capture and celebrate!!

Have a bright week, my friends. If you're up for a little sketching this month, join in the Sketching Project over at Life I Design. I'll be joining in along with Kim. Follow along with the hashtag #30daysketchbookchallenge

Celebrate the Normal: Or the Abnormal?

Happiness all around, friends!! We had an enriching Father's Day weekend (read: lots of time together, relaxing in warm sun), and we're off and running for a busy week. The kiddos are involved in a new round of day camps, and I'm packing my carry-on for Alt NYC.

My trip to NYC will involve many dreams-come-true for me, not the least of which is spending real-life time with my pal, Paige and Miss Emily, too. I will have the opportunity to experience an event that I've been following for years (remember my tongue-in-cheek series #altsummitwannabe?).

This blog has allowed me to give myself permission to grow and bloom and spread my creative wings wide and now I have the chance to bring personal connection into the equation. And I'm so excited. And ready to bring my A game.

I will be capturing as much as I can on Instagram so follow along if you're up for the ride at #ParsCaeliatAlt. Oh, and did I mention that I've never been to NYC? So fantastic!!

Thank yous go out to this week's fabulous artists. I feel like this is the most diverse set of photographs yet!

My friend Joy from Frock Files,an amazing contributor to this series every week, found this beautiful ode to the normal day over Here. Thanks to Joanne and Joy for the loveliness of these words:

“Normal day, let me be aware of the treasure you are. Let me learn from you, love you, bless you before you depart. Let me not pass you by in quest of some rare and perfect tomorrow. Let me hold you while I may, for it may not always be so. One day I shall dig my nails into the earth, or bury my face in the pillow, or stretch myself taut, or raise my hands to the sky and want, more than all the world, your return.” ― poem by Mary Jean Irion

Make room for wonder ~ Brittani

First bike ride ever ~ M.J.

Celebrating fathers and sons ~ Marilynn

My 3 yr old "made" me "cups of strings". Not sure what I should be doing with these but they make me smile. :) ~ Karen

Totally out of the norm: finding pretty bras that fit. On sale. Halleleujah! ~ Joy

An unexpected visitor wanted to go to work with me today. I wasn't a fan... ~ teddy4775 on Instagram

Long night walks = the best! Especially when there's a meteor shower to enjoy together. ~ Melanie

My Mom's Bougainvillea plant that was nothing but a half dead twig a year ago. It is now about 8 feet wide and 10 feet tall. ~ JenMygatt on Instagram

xoxo, MJ

PS. If you are heading into AltNYC, check out Koseli's very helpful ideas on how to make the most of the experience.

Celebrate the Normal: Just for Me

Hi friends! We've landed ourselves in June already. And June and July spell SUMMMER!! I am so ready for the easy breezes, pool time, tons of watermelon, even the smell of sunscreen. My children finish school this week, and this is the first week of a very full summer work schedule for me.

So my time to tend to Celebrate the Normal shrunk all too quickly this week. Nevertheless, some great artists captured the normal beauty found all around us. Enjoy and savor.

Beauty is all around. ~ Brittani

Relaxing. Cross Stitching. Me time. ~ Melanie

Watching the ships roll in. And then watch 'em roll away again. ~ Mojo

Enjoying my view. ~ Jill

A reminder that we're doing big things, which are both possible and worth it. ~ Joy

Floating flowers from the garden make me happy! ~ teddy4775 on Instagram

Glimpses of summer. It will be here soon! ~ Theresa


After finally taking off the baby swing, this big girl managed flips with no problem. ~ MJ


A perk of living a mile from the zoo/conservatory ~ Julia

Bye bye birdie ~ Meagan

Pure Michigan ~ MariaRom15 on Instagram

{Water} ...a morning dew drop caught in the leaf of one of our Sugar Snap Pea plants. ~ Jen at JenMygatt on Instagram

As many of embark on a summer filled with activities, full days and full schedules, I'm hoping we remember that it's time. It's always the right time to celebrate. Life is very normal most days, and we rarely appreciate the many normal blessings around us until they go away.

So I'm scheduling in some time to really taste that grilled flavor on my corn on the cob before I rush off to get the kids ready for baths. And I'm going to laugh more heartily over my husband's jokes, that he's concocted just for my amusement. And I'm going to squeeze my kiddos a little longer and a little tighter because I feel those minds and bodies growing with each passing day.

Celebrating the normal because, as I've heard before, the stuff of your normal days (even your really bad days) are the makings of someone else's dreams.

Next week we're showing off the summertime all around us. What does normal summer joy look like?

Thank you, thank you, wonderful artists!!! Some moments I want to crawl inside your photos and celebrate the normal on your side. :)

xoxo, MJ

Celebrate the Normal: Makes Me Smile


Hello friends! How was your four-day weekend? Even if you didn't have the joy of total downtime for 96 hours (but who was counting?), we've been apart, and I'm hoping you've had some time to celebrate.

I have some fun surprises headed your way this week including a summertime series beginning tomorrow and continuing every Wednesday with fabulous blogging mommas that you know...

So, I'm rolling Celebrate the Normal to Tuesdays because I could use a little gratitude to start my week off right.

And it never fails, every week, I am happily overcome with the art that comes my way through this series and the moments that you share with all of us. Some new artists have joined the fun this week, and you won't be disappointed by the things that "make me smile" from their points of view.

For my four-day I took Friday off to have some fun in Chicago with family. Despite the cold, we managed a very good time at Navy Pier and putt putt. Time back home was spent with barbecues and gardening, shopping and snuggling.

Here I am being a goof in front of the Museum of Contemporary Art and their giant, rotating installation art. I felt like I owned it.

And I was reminded, as only a great art museum parking lot can show you, that inspiration is found all around, even on the thick columns of garage structures. Here's this week's thought for you, artists:

So, here's to seeing things differently from how they really are - with Makes Me Smile...

It's the most wonderful time of the year...~ Erin

{I Dislike} ... having weeds in the yard/garden. ... but seriously just look at how perfect and delicate, though resilient, the weed really is. ~ Jen at jenmygatt on Instagram

Summer plantings make me smile! ~ teddy4775 on Instagram

Green. On a perfect spring day. ~ Ricky

Such a sleepy puppy #oscargram ~ Paige


Another pretty package ready for shipping tomorrow! ~ Melanie

Funny conversations while enjoying some milk and cookies. This makes me smile. ~ Karen

The product of a great time ~ MJ

Pure joy. My job makes me smile. #blessed ~ Brittani

Wonder Filled Grace. ~ Michelle

I hope that you all will continue (or start) joining us as we appreciate the crazy, messed up, wonderful, normal life around us. You might be surprised by how much the simple gesture of capturing an image can add joy to your every day.

Next week, we're focusing on the goodness right around you:

Have a bright week, everyone. Hope to see you back tomorrow for the grand beginning of something wonderful!

xoxo, MJ

Celebrate the Normal: This is my life

Hola, friends. It's Wednesday of a short week around here. We're off to Chicago for a bit of the holiday weekend to celebrate C's 6th birthday. She's a huge fan of Navy Pier so off we go this Friday!

What are you doing for the holiday weekend?

Even if you're not taking any grand trips, promise to celebrate the ordinary moments.

“And while it takes courage to achieve greatness, it takes more courage to find fulfillment in being ordinary. For the joys that last have little relationship to achievement, to standing one step higher on the victory platform. What is the adventure in being ordinary? It is daring to love just for the pleasure of giving it away. It is venturing to give new life and to nurture it to maturity. It is working hard for the pure joy of being tired at the end of the day. It is caring and sharing and giving and loving…” ~ Marilyn Thomsen

This is my life. My wish come true. ~ MJ

Looking up when things are looking down. ~ Paige

Man, I need a drink. ~ Marilynn

Random love notes from Hubs after a rough day. This is my life. ~ MyLittleAddiction

Gearing up for ice cream cone days on Cape Ann. ~ Joy

Sometimes you just need to take a day off. ~ Brittani

Enjoying a peaceful cup of coffee with just the birds and my chimes for company. ~ H at teddy4775 on Instgram

The boy on his bike ~ Julia

Teacher Appreciation Week begins today for us. Celebrating some special people. ~ Theresa

Water drops on leaf / so fresh and clear, round, and bright / gives life to nature ~ Jen as JenMygatt on Instagram


Gigantic thank yous to the incredible artists who joined the party this week. You embody Marilyn's words, "daring to love just for the pleasure of giving it away."

I hope you'll snap a few shots of your week ahead and tag them with #celebratethenormal.

Next week we're going head first into joy with the theme:

xoxo, MJ

How do I tell you this? I think I have a blog.

If you suddenly started an expansive button collection, consisting of the most majestic, sparkling, and extraordinary buttons, ones that make you proud to collect buttons and including a handful of, you know, mediocre ones you started with... Would you tell your friends? Take pictures of them with fun hashtags?

What if you started a blog, including a year full of posts that include your ideas, ramblings, projects, and collaborations, ones that make you proud to be a writer/designer/photographer/artist as well as a handful of posts that make you say, "Meh."  Would you share it with your family? Send them links to the posts that are your fave?

Do the real people in my life know I have a blog?

Do they read it?

Over the last year, I have thought about this first question - a lot. I began this blog to keep me actively creating, not necessarily to keep in touch with people I know or bring myself any level of attention (though I do love me a great big page view at the end of the day).

For the first few weeks of blogging I told only my husband about this new thing. Then I sent a Facebook message to a dozen girlfriends who I thought might be willing to read and follow along. Next I told my parents - admittedly a little heeby-jeeby'd that they'd be seeing all of this, in my very mature 30-something way.

It took me a bit to send the blog address along to my closest friends. Why? I'm not completely sure, but at first, this new adventure was easier to share with strangers than people who loved me. If a random person rejects me or, worse, is just disinterested by my blog, that won't hurt so much.

Well, over the year-and-some that I've opened Pars Caeli, it's become very much a part of my creative process, my inside jokes, my free time (what?), and my joy. And now it's kinda weird that everyone in my life doesn't know about it. But how do you casually bring up, "Oh, I have a blog. And, yes, I post something daily, sometimes a few times a week. Uh, yes, I've been doing this for an entire year. Did I not mention this?"

But honestly? The really brilliant part of this reveal experience is that I've been met with only support.

And that little boost or sometimes big bounce like the one that comes from your boss with jokes like, "you're going to be famous," or statements like "what can we do to help you grow?" ... well, those moments are the cups of crisp, cold water on my overheated, stewing mind. Never underestimate the power of support in the early buds of creativity.

So, friends, I've got a blog. It's not an easy conversation starter, but here it is.

And here are the whole spectrum of answers to this question from charming blogger pals of mine:

Do the real people in your life know about your blog? Do they read it?

xoxo, MJ

PS. Head on over to Twitter and follow all of these lovely tweeple because they are good and decent enough to respond thoughtfully to this request of their time. xo

Celebrate the Normal: Inside Here

Happy May!! Wednesday is a celebration day around Pars Caeli. I have so loved seeing the images of normal life in your part of the world. Admittedly I check throughout the week via Twitter and Instagram to see and giggle and gawk. Through this process, some of you have really embraced a new approach to looking at your environment; some of you have even changed your perspective on your every day life. High five on all of those!!


This week I can say that Celebrate the Normal has been a reality check for me. The normal I expect every day - from warm hugs from my kids and good morning kisses from my husband to a job that makes me laugh and work hard to a warm home and spring beauty around me - each element has become so much a part of the background of my life. I somehow wake up acting like I deserve all this goodness or rather that I have done something to deserve the normal around me.

And, fact is.

It is all a gift.

My normal is a blessed one (yours is, too).

And I'm determined to move the background into my daily perspective. It's always time to celebrate.

I hope you'll consider offering up a prayer of gratitude for the normal around you. I hope, too, you'll join the party next week. Send photo by Monday midnight via Instagram or Twitter with the hashtag #celebratethenormal.

Our new theme:

This week's theme was Inside Here, and each photo adds a different viewpoint and a spark of beauty, if I do say so.

xoxo, MJ

The Life of Chive from Jen at @jenmygatt on Instagram






                     Book picnic kind of day from Jill of Every Day is an Occasion

look up by Brittani

Happy note found on the Ipad today by MJ of Pars Caeli

Had a visitor during my product photoshoot today from My Little Addiction

#springhassprung from scatt85 on Instagram

Spring beauties from @teddy4775 on Instagram

        Typical Saturday: dance party at Ikea. from Erin of Such Small Steps

Ice cream for dinner tonight. Because we worked hard this weekend and we deserve it - from Rachel of Po Dunk Posh

Playing at the lake from Julia of Life on Churchill St.

Aw, enjoying some memories from last week. Have a great day! from Theresa of Inspiration Coop

Sick girls snuggling in bed like old lady friends... from Lacy of Living on Love

Enjoying the beautiful weather in a sun-filled cafe on the North Shore from Joy of Frock Files

"Twitter is the blogger's water cooler"

Today's quote is from the wonderful Nicole Balch from, a beautiful blog about stylish living. Nicole put on one great class last night through the Alt Summit Channel on Growing a Readership, and I was one of her 90 happy students.

I might be a little bit infatuated with everything Alt Summit, but in a totally unbiased way, I also think they are offering some fabulous classes for only $15 that are hip, informative, and filled with other really great bloggers (who you want to invite out for coffee after the one-hour class but they live all over the globe so you just meet up in the twittersphere).

I'm not going to give away all her nuggets, but here are 5 that you can put to use in your own blogging.

#1 Be Original              

What should you post to grow your blog? Original content that sets you apart from other blogs. Nicole recommended a ration of 90:10 - 90% original photos, layouts, tutorials, and creative writing and 10% share cute buys and faboo recommendations.

New to me: the idea of a blogger book tour. Some publishing companies like Chronicle give 10 or so blogs original content applicable to the new book and get the word out through great blogger reviews and posts. Love that.

#2 Share You

Your readers want to get to know who you are. Who is the great Oz behind the curtain? Share your story in fun and interesting ways. 

Nicole mentioned Mighty Girl's life list. Her blog follows the 100 or so things she wants to do with her life. Try spicing up your profile by letting people hear your story and connect with you, the author of your webhome. 

I also learned some awesome nicknames for loyal readers. I wish I could remember all the good ones, but it definitely made me think I need to have some kind of name for you good people who come here to see what's happening in my piece of Heaven. (my inspires? I'm still thinking...) 

#3 Predictable Fun                                        

Your readers come to rely on you, and consistency is key. Your timing doesn’t have to be every day. Nicole started blogging three times a week and now she's bringing us gorgeous photos and content daily..maybe even more soon. 

Stay consistent. But don’t put the pressure on yourself. Aim for once a day.

#4 Become BFF with Social Media           

Social media is fantastic. Stay attentive to the little things. Can your readers find you? This means easy buttons to follow you on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram.

Keep the same username for all your platforms so that someone can easily search for you.

Twitter = blogger water cooler!! Keep it fun. "Twitter is a great way to interact with your readers and jump into conversation…traffic will come naturally."

Oh, and match your header to your domain name.

#5 Comment Etiquette

"Don’t have anything in your house that is not useful or beautiful." via Pancakes and French Fries. That has nothing to do with anything, but I found it inspiring!

Stay active with other bloggers and leave a thoughtful comment. And a clear don't – don’t put your URL in a comment. You've already added it in to the basic info on the post. Double dosing here is clearly tacky.

Every post initiates a conversation. It's a like a great party. Be sure to respond to people. "Talk to the people who have been nice enough to talk to you."

And everybody loves comments. So true, so true.

Honestly, what I love best about the Alt Summit classes are the completely creative, dazzling folks who join in the very chatty webinars. You get a complete blog roll and a ton of twitter handles to follow...and I've found some great *inspires* to keep me going for quite a while.

Happy blogging!

Here we go.

A blog is born. Do blogs hatch or are they birthed? I'm not really sure, but I can tell you that this one has definitely been a lengthy labor. And, just like childbirth, I'm going to go ahead and forget all the painful, ungodly details and plow on through to the happy moments.

Welcome to Pars Caeli (pars kilee), a piece of Heaven. This web home will soon be filled with designs and ideas that inspire me and my family. I imagine that you're pretty inspirational, too, so I look forward to learning about all the amazing ideas and projects you have to share.

As I learn more about all things blog, you'll find me fiddling my way through Pinterest, Twitter, and Instagram (@parscaeli). Stop over a say hello!

It was really lovely to have you over. Hope to see you here soon.