It’s been almost eight years since I first picked up a fancy camera.
It’s been even longer than that since I first wrote on this blog.
& all the while, the dots have felt so disconnected. I keep saying that phrase, “connect the dots.” It’s one of my favorites. I love wrestling with making sense of the puzzle. Why? When? How? (in a much more exasperated tone than I can type with letters that show up on a screen.)
But the struggle to make sense of it all, for someone who really needs to have a plan, is real.
I’ve spent a lot of the last several years being quiet. Quiet here, and in my real life. Being a homebody, or spending time with just my kids in the forest. It’s been great for all of us, and I think allowing so much of the noise that controls my life some space to breathe is helping me connect these dots. Letting books and nature into my head, simultaneously, has been so good. But lately, every single day, my hands reach for one thing:
My eyes squint. I study the light. I tilt my head. & I see something that inspires me.
I have such a love hate relationship with my camera. I love her and despise her. She means work and she means play. & understanding these “dots” and how I sit with the path I have taken has been a big wrestling match. Business vs. Pleasure.
Seven years ago I got my first dslr and I really enjoyed it. I played. I learned. I was at a place in my life where I was about to give up my first big girl job, for my husband’s career, and it was scary. So what did I do? I dove into art. An interesting coincidence (?) that I never picked up on until this week.
I started my color consulting business and took pictures along the way. & then, with no more corporate job (and no real desire for one anymore) and everyone talking in my ear, I let myself turn that new love of photography into a business. If people would pay me, I should get paid. (right?!!) & in one fell swoop, I went from loving the art to loathing it. Pretty darn quickly.
I loved taking pictures! (well, some pictures…)
But I hated sitting at the computer.
I loved dreaming up ideas for images!
But I sat and compared myself to everyone else & got increasingly frustrated that I couldn’t take my version of their idea and get what was in my head out of my camera.
I loved that people loved my work!
But there I was. At the computer again. Download, cull, edit, deliver.
& It stole my joy.
So I put the camera down.
& eventually, I finally got to have my first baby. & still had that expensive camera. & I let my guilt for having nice equipment and not making any money with it, totally kill that joy I got from making pictures. For a VERY long time. How dare I let myself spend so much on a camera and lens and computer and software if I am not even going to do what I promised to do with it? What will people think if I just give it all up? Who am I if I don’t follow through on my business plan? I am NOT a quitter! So much shaming. Coming from no one but myself.
I wish I could have known then what I know now: I just really like to make stuff. Give me a tool, I’ll learn it. If I like it, I’ll use it. A lot. & if I love it. Well. Try not to over do it. Seek joy, not a business.
Today I can step back and see the clearer picture. It tells the whole story, which really comes down to the fact that I do really like taking pictures. I love printing them. & even more than that, I ADORE hanging them on my walls to enjoy. My photographic art makes my home MY home. I love to decorate above all else. & to do so with my own images is what creates my personal brand of magic.
Had I never had a business, I would’ve never bought a fancy camera or have acquired the level of knowledge I have to do what I like to do with images. Had I never wrestled with starting a business vs. being home with my kids, my conviction to stay home may not be as solid. Had I not had this art form to capture the precious story in my home, that ONLY I could capture in my way, I would not have some of my most treasured work.
But I didn’t need to make it a business. I let my marketing mind take over & create a niche market, focusing so hard on one aspect of creativity that I let the rest slide. & I don’t think that’s healthy for a creative soul. When you like to make stuff, it’s never just one kind of thing. Maybe it is for a successful photographer, but for me, my heart and hands need to make more than pictures.
Will I ever have a photography business again? Definitively, No.
Will I ever stop taking pictures? No way!!
But the pictures I did make, and continue to make, tug at my heartstrings. I don’t take them for anyone but me. They are the story of my experience, because I got to be there. I got to freeze the moment of joy, amidst the sea of hardships, and I get to hang on to that. Maybe, someday, even share it. Maybe my kids won’t care. & that’s ok. I have enjoyed the process & there is something about what I see that I’m often called to photograph. So I listen. It’s all part of the story. & as I keep feeling the intense urge to use my camera again, in a way I haven’t felt in a long time, I am really curious and excited to see what I can make next.
My photography is a big part of my creative life. Business or not. (But mostly not.) It’s one dot on my creative map, leading me to and from everything else that brings me creative joy. From the kitchen to the sidewalk to the forest and everything in between.
I am a photographer & I want to document this colorful life. So I will. But I’m not stopping there…
Have you read it? If you haven’t, run. Buy it. I made the mistake of waiting for it to arrive at the library and one chapter from the end, I amazon prime’d it so I could remove the thirty sticky notes from the library book and switch it to permanent underlines in my very own copy. I want to quote every chapter, because there was something in that beautiful mess of words that spoke right down to my core & moved me in a way no book has in a very long time. Call it the Big Magic, call it fate, call it inspiration. I don’t know. But there are so many connected dots and I am so ready to explore them. Some privately, some publicly. But they are THERE. My curiosity is at an all time high and so many parts of this book helped me see that I have my own permission to be right where I am in my own creative shitstorm. It helped me find peace with all those businesses and the ideas I still have and just weave my own way on this winding path I wrote about last time.
“You may spend your whole life following your curiosity and have absolutely nothing to show for it at the end except one thing. You will have the satisfaction of knowing that you passed your entire existence in devotion to the noble human virtue of inquisitiveness.” –Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic
I mean, really. What better gift can I give myself, AND my children, than to live life this very way.
I’ve determined that my personal path boils down to two things: being curious and making stuff that makes me happy. & somewhere along the way, many years ago, I began to share it. Both here & in my real life. & I loved the community that began to surround me. Not because of the ego boost, but because so many of you have shared with me that you learned something here. You learned something that helped you in some way. & that is just as addictive to me as the creative high. The feeling of being helpful and giving. Talk about giving meaning to art.
It may not have seemed to fit together until now, but I see it. I see my journey in a whole new way. & I cannot tell you how much relief this book about creativity and inspiration has gifted me.
Are you sold yet?
In this magic spirit I want to move forward here with a familiar but defined mission. Move forward. Why have I not yet been back here regularly? Time? Energy? Priorities? Yes. But there’s that perfectionist I have been fighting for all my life lurking down inside me that has kept me away. If it’s not right and the story isn’t all there, then I stop.
“Perfectionism stops people from completing their work yes–but even worse, it often stops people from beginning their work.”
& then she talked about perfectionism as the “high end haute couture version of fear…in fancy shoes and a mink coat, pretending to be elegant when actually it’s just terrified.”
Am I (is she) preaching to a choir yet? Social media has warped our perception of beautiful realities so much that I feel this is so so imperative for me to bring to light here. & make it part of my blog mission moving forward. WTF is perfect, anyway? (Sidenote: I LOVED this article I read recently.)
So here’s how I am defining this blog/happy place of mine from here on out:
My mission is to change the conversation between mothers (& makers), as we work to intentionally build each other up. I want to foster a place of empathy, so we can talk about where we stand and why & share feely, respectfully. I want this to be a place where we do not forget to acknowledge struggle, but always seek to find the joy. I want to create a source of honest inspiration, so we can learn from our different choices & help better define why we each do what we do, and find ways to do better. To be better. & to encourage those around us with genuine energy & a realistic spirit.
You never know how what you choose to share, and how you choose to share it, may change someone’s day.
& as always, I aim to make the complicated simple & inspire you to GO and DO. In style. & as warmly and positively as I can. This is my little creative haven…where pretty meets practical.
& because this is the internet, and I’ve seen my fair share of less than pleasantries…I just have to include what is quite possibly my favorite passage of the entire book. Because no one, I mean NO one, can ignore a perfectly placed f-bomb:
“If people enjoy what you created, terrific. If people ignore what you’ve created, too bad. If people misunderstand what you’ve created, don’t sweat it. And what if people absolutely hate what you’ve created? What if people attack you with savage vitriol, and insult your intelligence, and malign your motives, and drag your good name through the mud? Just smile sweetly and suggest–as politely as you possibly can–that they go make their own fucking art. Then stubbornly continue making yours.” –Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic
Cheers to THAT! Now hop to it. Your magic is waiting…go make something! Even if it sucks. Pick up your camera, your paint brush, your glue gun, your laptop, your spatula. Life’s too short to wait to make something that will make you (and your kids!) smile, today!!
Are you here? Or is it just me?
I don’t know what it is. But I am stuck. I can’t move. I can’t make. I can’t even start. It’s scary and there is no plan and I have no idea where to begin. I don’t know where I am going. There is so much I want to learn but I cannot seem to think of anything, all at the same time.
Where do I start? How do I make the first move? I mean, why should I? I’m busy. I have a house to maintain. There are dishes to do, laundry to fold, and a lawn to mow. How dare I take time to make something, that, in the words of Elizabeth Gilbert, “matters enormously, and it doesn’t matter at all.”
Are you with me?
Who I am as a person has always been more than my daily tasks. At my core I am a maker, a creative, and a lover of color and craft. During this quieter season of “daily essentials” I have continued on my path as an admirer of beautiful work, but I have not been the one creating it. & it’s chipping away at my soul. There is something in me that is begging to be released. My creativity is killing me, and pushing me forward all at the same time.
I recently went back to counseling again, which I have always talked about here, as a positive part of my life. I will continue to believe that there is not an ounce of shame, but rather great strength, in seeking out counseling to improve managing our lives and working on becoming better people. (note to my fellow military spouses, counseling is a completely covered benefit under Military One Source!!) I was recently listening to Brene Brown’s Rising Strong on a long road trip I took with my kids, and constantly heard stories of her and her therapist’s journey. Why can’t we welcome professional help openly & deem it a sign of great strength? Don’t we all want to be better? Do better? Well I do. & what I know is that my counselors through the years have helped me connect the dots in ways I couldn’t myself. & recently, my creative block has been a big part of my work in therapy. To be more specific, why am I NOT being creative? How is this impacting my life, and the lives of the other people under my roof that have to deal with my pent up creativity? & probably, most importantly, do my talents have to generate income, for me to believe they are a valuable part of my life?
That’s a biggie right there. Did you see it?
Do my talents have to generate income, for me to believe they are a valuable part of my life?
Well, I know the answer. But it was really hard to admit it. & sometimes, it IS really hard to do something and deem the work valuable if it only serves you. But here’s what I am learning: it doesn’t only serve me. My creative work makes me shine. Like, from the inside, because it makes me so happy. It gives me an outlet that I don’t have while being a mom or a wife or a yogi or anything else. It gives me a sense of self that is greater than my more routine roles. It may not be paid work right now (and that is ok!!) but when I am ready, and find the path that makes sense in the future, it probably could be.
I think this is one of the great problems that we moms who leave the work force to raise our kids run into–what deserves our time and attention, aside from our great big job with no paycheck? What defines us, beyond being a mother? and a wife? and a chef and lawn mower and house cleaner? You know what I mean. What makes us happy, and puts us in to that incredible state of flow that Csikszentmihalyi wrote about. I remember reading his book in college and spending all my time in the art studio wondering if this feeling, the one I get when I am creating, is what he meant.
See, this creating. It’s always in there. Yearning, longing. It must find its way out.
I have all these ideas for businesses and working and generating income, but I am going to just let it be for now. I am just going to make. & what comes of that, I don’t yet know–but something will. Because this is the journey. It’s part of my story. Like this blog outlet that I created almost ten years ago while I had a “real job” and was earning a great salary (which, thanks to saving, allows me the opportunity to stay home with my kids), but left me feeling completely unfulfilled. Then the color consulting business, that turned into a photography business that turned back into just a blog and then babylogs, before I stepped away & hit pause. It’s not all for nothing. & after this podcast (episode #1) socked me in the gut, I am even more convinced. Each part has brought me to this place of discomfort. & maybe, as Brene Brown says, it’s this face down moment when I can see the clearest.
& all I can see, is color and paint and patterns and textures and creation.
So I went to my favorite coffee shop and finally dove into a calligraphy kit that I ordered two years ago. & it felt SO good. I had a moment of flow in my day, and you know what?
Everyone around me felt my joy. & my peace.
It’s not just for me. It makes me the best me.
& everyone benefits from that.
Beautiful lettering above by Stately Type, one of my favorite IG accounts and an awesome pair of makers. We love their work & t-shirts!
Back to weekly posting??! I don’t know…I’m not going to jinx it! :)
Three weeks ago, I had to have surgery on my wrist. There was a giant bump on it and while it had bugged me for a while, it recently got to the point where I couldn’t do chaturungas or weight bear on it for planks. I had to do something about it. I need yoga like I need air to breathe & it was getting in the way. I was even struggling to chop during my food prep. So I had surgery. & I completely underestimated the blow that the recovery would take to my overall productivity, particularly in the kitchen. I prepped a bit before surgery but figured it’d be no big deal. My surgeon even assured me that on a scale of 1-10, my husband’s cases were a 10 & mine was maybe a 2. So seriously, NBD. (I think the lesson that I learned was that nothing, and I mean NOTHING is “a big deal” when you are married to a heart surgeon…gushing blood? NBD. It’s not coming from your aorta. Get over it. A little bump? Just “pop it out.” HA. HA.) Well, the ganglion cyst I had removed ended up being the size of a silver dollar–so no small little invasion to my tiny wrist. I’m still splinted and immobilized, which makes food prep–a huge part of my life–a challenge. Enter: smoothies.
Over the summer I went home to visit my parents and used their Vitamix daily. I had long convinced myself that my eleven year old blender that I received as a wedding gift was FINE. Totally fine. But then…I used a Vitamix. Oh, it really is as awesome as every lucky duck who had one told me it would be. & I just couldn’t work it into our budget right now. But my incredibly generous parents decided to surprise me with one (this is the one I love!) & since the day it arrived, I don’t think I’ve used it any less than twice a day. It is AWESOME. It has literally saved me during this recovery!! So I have been experimenting. :)
My dear friend Dr. Christine Maren (are you following her blog & IG? You should be! She is a fantastic nutrition educator, and the person to whom I credit for my major family food overhaul) introduced me to this amazing vegan peanut butter shake a few weeks ago. It sure hit the spot. But she says all sorts of stuff about peanut butter and toxins and blah blah blah (Sorry Christine, nutrition is a value, but not a passion of mine so I will leave the enthusiasm & science to you!) and I started altering it to my taste. If you knew me back in Texas, then surely you saw me sleep deprived and holding a Frapuccino, which I downed almost daily. It’s been probably two years since I last had one & I haven’t found a yummy drink to replace it with, that isn’t loaded with sugar and junk. Until NOW! Is it a paleo frapuccino? A vegan frapuccino? I don’t know. I don’t like labels. & apparently you can only buy frapuccinos at starbucks, so I know it’s a whole lot healthier than those! I don’t always drink coffee in the morning anymore, so often I’ll whip one of these up around lunchtime with a little snack. So. Yum. I’ll call it the Almond Joy Frappé.
Please note: we eat a pretty low sugar diet, and I know my tastebuds have definitely changed since we moved toward what I like to call “Paleo-ish” eating. (More on that ASAP!!) I cook with natural sweeteners and very rarely use refined sugar. So I am now very sensitive to things that are sweet. This will not be super sweet if you are used to & love a sugary frappucino, but it is worth a try until you rework those taste buds. Those of you already eating mostly Dairy Free, Sugar Free & Gluten Free will hopefully love this as much as I do!
Almond Joy Frappé | Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Naturally Sweetened
- 1/2 cup cold brew concentrate**
- 1/4 cup filtered water
- 1 1/2 tablespoon raw cacao powder (a bit more, if I am being totally honest!)
- 1 tablespoon chia seeds
- 3 soft dates, pitted
- 2 tablespoons almond butter
- 1 tsp coconut oil
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon unsweetened coconut flakes
- 3-4 handfuls of ice
- Blend all ingredients except the coconut and ice in the blender. A high powered blender like a Vitamix is the best option. I use the smoothie setting on my Vitamix.
- Blend coconut flakes and ice. I use the smoothie setting a second time.
- & enjoy!
**note: not ready to drink cold brew coffee. You want to use the concentrate, which you typically dilute 1:1 with water. I get mine at my favorite cold brew coffee shop, but you can buy concentrate at the grocery store. You could also make your own, which I used to do with my beloved Philz coffee.
You may wish to increase the coffee flavor by subbing the 1/4 cup of water with additional cold brew concentrate.
I like to use coconut flakes instead of shreds, as it leaves a little left to “chew” in the actual smoothie–kind of like the bits in a java chip frapuccino.
Now I wonder if I could come up with a pumpkin version…!!! ;)
Gosh. Thank you all for the warm welcome back. I worried for a time that my intentional absence would leave me with no one left when I finally returned–but here you are! & you have been so kind & understanding of the choice to walk away for awhile. & I can tell you–I am truly so so excited to be back here. Like, my mind is racing with ideas. & I cannot wait to write!
Before I dive too far into any one thing, I think it’s important to address what has brought me to this place of peace. I have overhauled our life in some really drastic ways in the last two years, but shutting out the internet and welcoming books (real books! like, with pages!!) has probably been the biggest positive shift I chose to make.
It all started in the dead of winter. The holidays had come & gone. I was constantly exhausted. I desperately sought time alone and the only place I ever found it was at the gym. The problem with: I was working really, really hard when I was alone at the gym. So that time to be creative or sit with a book or catch up with a friend was still missing. There was still no downtime. Add my early bird (as in, 5:30/6am riser, neeeedy son) and my night owl (9pm to bed, one more snuggle daughter) and life was just not working. I was spending several hours after the last one finally went to sleep piddling around the house, mentally making a tally of all that I wanted to do and all that I was too spent to actually do. It was defeating and destructive to my sense of accomplishment. I mean…my house is my job and it’s a disaster…and I have nothing else…and…WTF did I DO today…and…I am getting dumber by the day because I am not learning ANYTHING! (running on repeat through my head) That’s not good self talk. So after I checked the internet for the bazillionth time, seeking escape from my messy living room, I went to bed about midnight and was then awakened, while it was still dark outside, by a child who just wouldn’t sleep another second. (As if that was anything new.) What could I do? How could I make this better?
& so I brainstormed. I remember a part of one of my favorite books that I read years and years ago (remember, my first one is my sleeper–so back then when I read books) and knew that was part of my answer. There is a particular section in Steady Days where the topic of being rushed comes up. Nothing good ever happens when mama is rushed. & my mornings were so rushed. I was too tired to give my son what he needed at the early hour when he first woke up. I was hitting the snooze on him, which made me more and more agitated with each thing he did to try to rouse me before my preferred 7am wake up time. & mornings suuuucked. I got up at the last possible second, tried to get the kids ready while I got ready, so we could get to school on time and it just sucked. I felt like a bad mom. I was not nice. They were struggling to make sense of my inability to manage the morning. & I knew I wanted to be better. So I did something crazy.
I decided to become a morning person.
[Find a Sunnier Place, the gorgeous art that hangs in my office, by the talented Emily Jeffords]
Now, those of you who already are morning people are probably snickering…it took you this long to discover the beauty of a silent morning?!
But for those of us night owls
–we just cannot even fathom lights out at 9:30 pm. FORGET an alarm that goes off before six. You craaaazy. No. Thank. You.
But I did it.
It started as an experiment. I set my alarm for 5:45am. I was in bed by 9/930 (painful!! So much time left in the day to do stuff!!) & then I made myself get up early. Then the second week, I set it for 5:30. By the third week, I was up at 5:15, going to bed sometime before ten, and often getting a whole 45 minutes to sit on the couch in silence and read before my kids got up. Or shovel the driveway, getting a bit of exercise in the silent darkness. There is really something beautiful about a quiet house in the morning. & it feels very different than a quiet house at night. The transformation that happened when I got to take care of me (or my home) for just a little bit, before I had to take care of someone else, was life changing.
It turns out that my early bird boy is perfectly happy co-existing with me in the morning. He just wants someone up with him while he plays with his trains. & so that’s what we do. I get up, get dressed, take a little me time to read & then when he gets up, I start chores. Often, I have breakfast made before we have to go up & start the [highly unpleasant] task of waking the night owl. That’s never fun. But it’s a whole lot easier when I am already awake & have plenty of time to let her hit snooze within my easy morning.
[image by Kate L Photography]
Back when I first started this, I definitely relied on my hot cup of coffee to start my day. & often, the thought of my favorite mug warming my hands and the smell of it was enough to get me going. Since, (& I will elaborate separately) I have cut out most of my caffeine intake and no longer drink coffee first thing in the morning. Outrageous, I know. WHO am I? I tell you…it’s been a very, very transformative couple of years. :) & it feels great.
& beyond the morning routine change, the ability to keep up with the news and politics (which I really enjoy!) and the reintroduction of real books has nourished me in a way that was lacking. I always have something to talk about, beyond my kids, because I am always learning something. That’s part of my puzzle that can’t be forgotten–my own personal growth. I found that reading on the iPad just didn’t do it for me (no screen, please!), but I also didn’t want to buy books, because I’d always feel bad, & like I was wasting money, if I ended up not liking a book and abandoning it. Again, making myself feel like a failure, and not allowing myself to move on to something I may really enjoy, before finishing the last. Thus, leaving me stuck with a shitty book that I would never finish and nothing on the horizon in nourishing reading-land. Deciding what is and isn’t worth your time to read is just another one of those empowering moments. Not finishing everything you start, because you decide it’s not worth your time, is powerful. It’s owning your precious time & filling it with value–NOT you being a failure for giving up something that is not worth your time. Important lesson I learned, right there.
So I put together a list of what I wanted to learn about & read, and requested books at the library. (the LIBRARY!!) Why I had not thought to get books for ME at the library, when it was a weekly part of our routine for the last five years ANYWAY, is beyond me. But it gave me the freedom to get what I wanted and make the conscious choice to let it go if it was just not working for me. Recently, I have started checking out audiobooks using the app Overdrive (where you can access the library’s selection of books, then download them on to your iPhone for a while & listen while driving without an internet connection, or while doing chores, exercising at the gym, etc.) It’s been really great & I highly recommend it. Some of my favorites: Rising Strong, The Magic of Tidying Up, The Nesting Place, Wheat Belly, It Starts with Food, The Plantpower Way, All Joy & No Fun, The Creative Family…and each deserves its own discussion. But for now–if you need some recommendations, there you go! :)
Oh, and no Facebook on my iPhone. Ever. IG? Sure, but that’s because I keep it private and use it to really interact with those I care about & am inspired by. It’s a very controlled feed. But Facebook? Maybe a few minutes a day, on my desktop only. & hide, hide, hide those on the feed that are time-suckers, anger inducers. I limit Facebook, too, to really the only people I care about and am inspired by. & a small number of groups that I participate in & seek encouragement from.
Finding time to read and find quiet and start the day on my terms has been a huge part of my sanity. & Mornings are so much happier this way! Every morning? No. But there sure are a whole lot more pleasant ones than there used to be!
[image by Kate L Photography]
As a side note, you are going to start seeing some general housekeeping around here. Some editing & restructuring to make things flow a bit better, so my site is easier to navigate. One exciting thing I am working on is an Amazon Shop that will be my own personal curation of all of my favorite things. Hopefully I can, once & for all, rid us of the broken links that are sitting in My Baby List post! I am so excited to have everything I love in one easy-to-find place! I don’t have time to blog everything that I love & use, but you will soon find my favorites (books, cook books, kids literature, toys, games, kids gear, kitchen gadgets etc.) all in one place. It will also serve as an affiliate program to keep my site financially viable, but free of sponsorships and ads, which is just the way I like it. Look for the Amazon Shop link in the sidebar, for my ongoing collection of stuff I love, and that makes my life easier! Happy Shopping!
It’s been six long years. & at the same time, six wildly fast years. They have been quiet and rich. Loud and empty. Happy and exhausting.
& I wouldn’t trade them for anything.
Having my kids with me all day, for every single day of their first three-ish years, was wonderful. It was hard work and it was rewarding work. (& sometimes thankless, but thank you can be taught quickly & easily, with sign language even before words, right?!) And I can proudly say that they are my very favorite people on the planet to be around. Molding and shaping them and at the same time learning about them and creating a unique environment to help each of them grow has no doubt, been the greatest work of my life so far. Now, as I gently ease them into school, I get to watch what we’ve spent so much of our time cultivating at home be released into the big world. & that is pretty neat.
But, now, after six years of parenting 24/7/365, they are gone. & it is silent.
Like, I am home in the middle of the day and no one needs me.
And it is quiet.
And I am alone.
& it is so, so weird.
I fantasized about this moment many times. Those times with tired, sandpaper eyes when I felt like I could fall asleep standing up. When I just could’t take the arguing one more second. When everything I just cleaned became a disaster within seconds. I used to daydream about actually finishing a load of laundry without being torn in a million directions all at the same time. What would it look like if I could just have two hours to do chores. Oh, what I could accomplish!!
& here I am, six years later. I am home alone.
And it is quiet.
& as I am finally left to sit in my own thoughts for more than a second, I can’t help but think…now what?
The first day I walked away from school without anyone holding my hand was more emotional than I ever imagined. I was driving in the car. (BY MYSELF!!) Quiet, which I long wished for, was uncomfortable. I was overcome with sadness. Where are my little people? Where do I go now? Who is going to be my buddy? Who was I going to talk to at the grocery store? There was no one in my cart to squeal about yemons and yimes. It was sad. I was sad. & at the urging of one of my dearest friends, I spent that first day embracing the sadness and letting it all out. I took the journals that I write to my kids over to my favorite coffee shop and through tears, put it all on paper. What I adore about them, what frustrates me and what I miss terribly, now that they are both away from me for a small part of the day.
& then, for the first time since before Everett was born, I unwrapped a journal of my own. Not for anyone. Not to anyone. Just mine. A place to organize and plan and accomplish what I kept meaning to write down between wiping noses and making lemonade and reading books. & books. & more books.
I took deep breath after deep breath and just wrote. & planned. & mind mapped (remember that?!) I have ten months left in this city and I have things to accomplish. & for the first time in a long time, these things do not include my children.
It is time to work on ME. To find that part of myself outside of the role of mother, which is honestly, the most natural and comfortable place for me to always be. It’s really easy to let that mothering role I love be everything. But there is an itch that I haven’t scratched that is bugging me more & more lately. I feel like I am on the brink of some clarity regarding what is next here in St. Louis, and beyond that. What comes after our next move, where we put down some deeper roots. & I am prepared to work through that & blog along the way. But that part of me that makes me uncomfortable–where I push myself to do things that scare and inspire me and excite me–that’s what it’s time to think about.
I am a mother. & more. I…am…more. & I have to do more. I want to do more.
& this, is a really exciting place to be.
All of the images in this post are credited to my dear friend, Kate L Photography, who stepped into our crazy life for a weekend and gave me the absolute most precious gift of capturing our perfectly imperfect way of living. Kate, I am forever grateful to have these images to share with my children when these memories aren’t as vivid for them as they are for me. We love you!!
Hi Internet! I’ve missed you! I really have. As I sit here on July 1st, aka New Year’s Day for anyone in academic medicine, I can’t help but realize just how fast these twelve months have gone by. We’ve lived in St. Louis for a year. I have been in this house for a year. We have explored and adventured and explored some more. But it still feels hard. This season of our lives continues to be jam packed with new experiences, lots of laundry and food food & more food. I had to look back through what I wrote eight months ago to really reflect on all that has changed, because a lot has. Mostly good. But it’s still a grind. I think this has been one of the hardest academic years of our family’s life together. Everett’s first year was pretty awful, but this was tough too. It’s been full of unique struggles that so many of you who solo parent children at awesome ages can probably relate to. It’s sad to not be a family. It’s sad that he’s missing it all. But gosh, are we ever lucky to be here in St. Louis during this season of life. We never, ever run out of places to go, museums to visit or puddles to splash through. This city is really, really beautiful and rich with adventure. I feel so lucky that my husband’s fellowship brought us here.
As I mentioned last time I wrote, I still struggle with the eternal “what else” in life. This corner is still whispering for me to come back–and I think that is a positive thing. I am surely not done with styleberryBLOG yet. I think there’s so much more on the horizon, especially as life shifts to different interests and passions and goals. Everett finally potty trained recently, which means we are done with diapers. The “thing” that sort of got this ball rolling. As this blog transitions from the baby zone to the kid years, and I transition from being a sleep deprived, overwhelmed mother, to one who again finds her passions and joys get some attention during busy days, things will shift here. & that’s good. That’s what this place should be–my happy place. :)
When I first saw this come across my IG feed I just instantly loved the message & what it implied–figure out what you want. Last time I wrote I made my goal very clear–I want time with my kids, free of distraction, to explore their interests and just be with them. I am still happy with that decision. With every passing day, and each automatic please and thank you, and moment of compassion that I observe from the sidelines of afternoon play, and big words used in correct context, I am reaffirmed. Giving up some of my joys to focus on the joy of the preschool years with my children has been the best decision for us. I am happy with what I have, while working for what I want. Right now, that goal is not much beyond healthy, active, pleasant children who know they get the best of me. I’m about a month away from having two kids in school. I have had a child with me 24/7 for nearly the last six years. I cannot even imagine having an hour a week at home to myself right now–and soon I will have three school days. Three! Oh, the things I can do!!
I have so much to share…I have made some really major life changes (Paleo! Gluten Free! Early Bird life! KonMari!) over the last eight months, and I have so much to talk about. I was going to do a big giant update & then realized that I really want to break it up. I’ve learned a lot. & I am inspired to share. In my own time. In my own way.
Oh, and the house…this house! I love this house! It’s not my dream house, but it is such a perfect rental for us and I have really enjoyed decorating. Shocker, I know. ;) But I want to share, because I have learned that when I get five minutes to daydream and I close my eyes and picture what I am doing when time passes freely–I am decorating. Right back to my one true love. Maybe I have come full circle. Maybe the place where my heart was when I started this styleberry business was just exactly where it should be. Now that I’ve explored the other things that I thought I loved, I’m right back where I started. Color. Texture. Practicality. Pretty.
[above you can see evidence of the fundamental difference between my two children]
More to come.
& thanks for hanging in there with me!
[& Yes, I do still shoot with my fancy camera. No, I have not edited but a handful of images of my children since we arrived here. It is on my kids-in-school bucket list. Until then, these are Instagrams & some beautiful work by the oh so talented Ashle Photo, who we worked with last fall!]
Oh, and the age old question–YES. stylebabyLOGs will make a final print run soon. Stay tuned. & Thank you for your continued support of my business!!
The leaves are changing. (THE LEAVES ARE CHANGING!!) I wish I could fully exude my happiness about this Autumn colorshow. I have been staring in awe all day, every day. Seasons. Oh, how I missed them.
I was recently in conversation with a family member who was living back in the Midwest after a stint in Southern California and we were talking about seasons and how they impact a culture on such a deep level. When nothing changes, including the weather, life just…carries on. I think I savored less, accepted monotony more. Nothing ever changed. Not the landscape, not the activities. It just was. After six years longing for crisp mornings in south Texas, I am home. Home in the Midwest. Not home where I was raised (Northern California) but my adopted home. Cool air. Color around every corner. We are truly savoring the light & warmth as we prepare for a deep change, prepared to weather stuff that makes life difficult. Seasons are so metaphoric. They change you. I really think they do. I love them.
I have not been one to hide how little I enjoyed living in South Texas. I made the best of it and walked away with lifelong friends (which made it worth every bit of the misery) but I do not miss it. Not one bit. I am happiest when my nose gets cold in October and my lungs fill with ice cold air. And where there are huge, massive, colorful trees around every corner. I just breathe better here. Summer is bearable, because it never lasts. It’s just a season.
I seem to say that a lot. It’s been the story of my life. Life married to a resident. Life with non-sleeping newborns. Life that was hard. It was just a season. But it really all is. As the colors change and the winds shift, so do priorities. I never thought it would take me until October to log back into this blog, but I really needed to take a break. My kids pretty much just have me right now, and I need to be everything to them. Business & writing & this outlet–it wasn’t what it always has been. Like any season, it darkens. It brightens back up. Leaves fall. & then the tree blooms with life again. I am just not sure when that life will come back here.
It’s been a bit of a rough transition for our family–our first big move. There has been lots of adjusting and a new home to set up. New parks (TONS of new, incredible parks!!) and a whole new city to explore. New people, new food, new (dream) school, new routines. It’s all new. We do love it here in St. Louis, but it’s still been tough for our family. Being married to a medical fellow in his seventh year of post med school training is hard. Life feels really heavy, a lot. Life & death are daily topics of conversation & I am not sure when that heavy feeling will lift. I am hoping it is just a season, but I am sort of gripping the reality that heart surgery is not just a season. It’s kind of always heavy. & we’re working through how to handle that.
Like many moms I still struggle with the “what else” in life. The non negotiable priorities are food, exercise, cleanliness & books + art. Beyond that, well, I just don’t know where it all fits right now. Real food takes forever to cook & prep. Hard exercise makes me really tired. Laundry and dishes and the floor don’t clean themselves (darn) and books + art…well. We just love those. Non negotiables during this season. But what about what is missing?
It’s been a constant pull between what I CAN do, what I LOVE to do and what I actually have the ENERGY to do. My puzzle pieces just don’t fit together very well right now. So I am trying to make peace with this season & embrace it for what it is. All my time constraints would be solved if I had the desire to outsource, but I don’t. I want to be with my children and I feel strongly about that decision, strong enough to let all the other stuff go.
The season of “no.” That is what I am calling it. Just me, my kids and the non negotiables up there. :)
That’s what feels right.
I keep thinking about the next season and what that will hold. It’s fun to daydream. I know I am really good at taking things I love and turning them into a job, that I no longer enjoy, so I am being very mindful of that trap. I feel like I still haven’t found my calling in life, beyond motherhood. & maybe, just maybe, that is my true calling. I am good with that. But I also have “the fear.” The fear that someday when they are in school and It’s just me around here, that I will need something more. So I daydream. There’s no harm in that. Now’s just not the time to formally do anything more, unless it’s simply for my own joy.
So until that season, I’ll keep dreaming. Mostly, that looks like decorating imaginary spaces. It always seems to come back to making something pretty. & practical.
Imagine that. :)
So…to answer a couple of questions that are lingering in pending comments:
Q: Are the stylebabyLOGs going to be for sale again soon?
A: I am not sure. I have supplies to print another huge batch, but I haven’t resumed business in Missouri, and with the way things are going, I am pretty sure it will not happen until next year. Come August, I will have two children in school (at least part time) so until then, business will wait. Unless I find that energy that I seem to be missing. :) But thank you for your continued interest!!
Q: How has your Pelvic Floor rehab been going? Any updates since the article?
A: Yes!! I left my awesome PT and am still working on a referral to see one here. Due to a lack of good yoga, I ventured into a whole different world: Pilates. I have been working with an insanely amazing Pilates instructor with a lot of formal education in rehab & Pilates is the best thing to happen to my core in years. I mistook it for a posh and prissy workout–oh no. How wrong I was. It’s the hardest workout I have done in a very long time and I am even back to doing my beloved squats and lunges with zero impact, on the reformer. I could not recommend it more. I have also been doing a home yoga practice using YogaGlo.com on my ipad (I love Katherine Budig’s flows) and that has been a nice filler. I am at the gym three days a week in my classes, and doing my home yoga practice at least once a week. Before I left it was confirmed that I was able to reverse my original position quite a bit, just by rehabbing. So again, let me be your hope–it’s not a life sentence of misery! Just a detour that may lead to something out of your comfort zone! Like some awesome Pilates!
& also, I have hundreds of blog comments in queue. I try not to approve them if they warrant a response to a valuable question. I just haven’t found the time to sit at my computer to adequately reply! So if you have one pending, I am sorry. I am a mama, with a big solo parenting responsibility and while I would love to resume professional blogging, the kiddos win! :) Thanks for understanding!!
So, pictures?? It’s been almost a year since I posted any big camera images. yikes. I have a zillion, and I love them all. BUT…hardly any are edited. So we’ll celebrate my very favorite time of year to take pictures of my kiddos. HALLOWEEN! Happy Halloween! I can’t believe this is our SIXTH with kids!! Oh, so fun. But entirely different, with our first deep freeze of the season projected for tomorrow night. FUN!!
Gosh, I love Halloween!! We always try to make costumes that are appropriate to their interests. Everettosaurus + Rainbow Ballerina Hello Kitty. Concepts by kids, execution my this creative mama. :) Now I have to go back & reminisce…to the First, Second, Third, Fourth…and oh my goodness, I forgot last year. Well, for old time’s sake!! Can’t forget Ariel & her turtle friend, Squirt, who was totally into backpacks:
All so fun.
& random things worth linking:
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