Helloo!! When it rains it pours. Suddenly flooded with fun opportunities, I have been busy, busy. In a really great way!
So you know I love books. If you read this blog regularly, you have seen image after image of me and my kids with books. It’s a small obsession of ours and we take reading very seriously around here. Our weekly trips to the library consist of picking 30-40 books to read, in addition to the titles we own, so I have been able to enjoy quite a bit of what is out there & see what really sticks with my kids.
One of the publishers we LOVE is Usborne. I always bought the activity books & a few titles from B&N but I always wanted more than I could find locally. I had NO idea they had consultants, who offered the entire collection, until recently. & after attending a totally online Facebook party that was run in the most beautiful way–I knew I had to be a part of it. Mostly, to build my own library up, but also to help share our favorites with friends. I never, ever thought I would sign up for something like this (because I do have a business to run!!)…but I did. Because books are EVERYTHING. & these books are something special. The more kids who have awesome books, the better. & they absolutely, completely saved me on my 2000 mile road trip with my kids last week. Seriously.
A couple weeks ago I hosted my kick off Book Bash. & while I will not be making this a big thing (I envision a Holiday & Summer online Book Bash) what I would like is to make myself a resource for YOU, to help you find the best books for your children that meet them at their reading level as they grow. My kick off with my friends was so fun & I got such amazing feedback–especially as the books arrived in homes around the country–that I wanted to bring it here. So I am hosting a second Usborne Holiday Book Bash just for my blog readers, this week!
SO…Please join me on Wednesday December 9th at 8:30pm CST for a fast and fun online party, completely on Facebook! I will be continuing to kick off my partnership with Usborne Books & More, publisher of many of our long time FAVORITE books (I couldn’t fit them all on the stack in the picture…). I cannot wait to share some of our tried & true, most loved titles with you—just in time for holiday travel & gifting! There’s no better gift than something wonderful to READ on Christmas morning!!
Usborne Books is the 2014 Children’s Publisher of the Year, offering over 1700 books for babies through young adult.
This is the perfect excuse to stock up on gifts and fun activities that keep kids entertained and boost brain power in the process! We’ll explore some best-sellers, newly released titles, and recommendations personalized to YOU and your families. Books start at $5. I thought about sharing some here…but I am going to save all the good stuff for the night of the Book Bash. You can catch up the following day if you miss the event. December 10th will be the last day to order to ensure Christmas Delivery–so if you are looking for something last minute–I’ve got you covered! & I will be doing some fun things in my personal Usborne Book-tique year round to keep you sane and your libraries fresh.
There will also be prize drawings during the book bash, so make sure to RSVP right away to stay in the loop on opportunities to earn raffle tickets! (Click GOING on Shawna’s Usborne Holiday Book Bash event page so you don’t miss out!) Looking forward to “seeing” you online soon! :)
When we moved into this rental, our very first rental, I took seriously every word of The Nesting Place and made it home, ASAP. We knew we were only here temporarily, so I went crazy when we first moved in. Within two months, my house was DONE. I mean, nothing left to hang & no wall left to paint (so grateful for a landlord who said “go for it!” when I offered to repaint the whole thing…!). It was so weird. I had planned and planned and gathered all my supplies and decor to make this as seamless as possible. & since we knew this was just a short season in our lives, there was no need for tweaking & I was certainly not going to buy any furniture or much decor to make this place “just right.” What we had worked and worked pretty well. But I was DONE. I was usually never done. But here I was. There was nothing left to decorate.
& then I stopped creating in the way I am used to. It’s taken me a good year to realize how much of myself I lost during that dark year, but now that I am resurfacing, I can see how I redirected my energy. Reading Big Magic opened my eyes to just that. My creativity was never dormant. It was still alive. I had just used it all to create my Paleo-ish kitchen. Food got all my energy. & back then, that was ok. I had something new to learn about and focus on.
But as I started to get the hang of the whole Paleo thing & learn my shortcuts and favorites, I yearned for more.
& at the very time I was reading pg 37 in Big Magic, the part on saying yes or no to creative inspiration & what happens when you choose one or the other, I was presented with a big opportunity. A friend from school who had been to my home, and raved about it, asked me to help her decorate hers. Like, she wanted to hire me to do it.
Woah, woah, woah. This was all floating in my head and exactly what I envisioned when I ramped things back up again when we moved back to Texas, next Summer. But I hadn’t finalized my business plan or my process or built my spreadsheets and I have not yet wrapped up my stylebabyLOG business (psst! back in stock in a couple weeks!!) and…and…and…
…I said yes.
So here I sit, a couple weeks into the largest design project I have been a part of, on the largest budget I have ever been able to play with and it is SO MUCH FUN. I have learned so much along the way, but mostly, that this is exactly what I need to be doing right now. I LOVE making a house a home. I LOVE curating pretties for a room. & I LOVE making a highly functional space, that is easy on the eyes. Pretty & practical. Business and creativity. Everything I love all wrapped up into one job. That doesn’t feel like a job.
You guys. I think this is IT.
So I thought I would finally share Caroline’s room, to bring some decor back here. It’s been awhile. :) When we left her beautiful nursery, she asked me specifically for a Rainbow Room. As we narrowed down the specifics, and colors, she asked for one wall “the color of Elsa’s cape.” She’s since declared herself “totally over princesses” and purged her room of anything related to Frozen, but the wall is still there. Not the color I would have chosen (turquoise! coral!) but it is her room. & I wanted her to feel ownership over her space. So alas…welcome to Caroline’s Rainbow Room. This is quite possibly the cleanest it’s ever been. Don’t be fooled…this girl is a tornado and she can’t keep a room clean for more than five minutes. She is a maker and her hands are in projects all over the place. You can see them all over her colorful walls! Just the way she likes them. :)
I think the biggest thing I learned about decorating a “rainbow room” is to keep the rainbow in the accessories. Everything major is neutral. All you need is little pops of color!
I insist both my kiddos have my favorite DIY bookshelves for their books. I love that they can see all the titles. If you are not into DIY-ing them, you can always get a ledge from Ikea!
Oh, this QUILT!! I saved up all of Caroline’s special favorite baby clothes and found the perfect keepsake. Each strip of fabric on this quilt came from an outfit, sleeper, blanket and even her beloved playmat that she used as a baby! It is so, so special to me.
Have a daddy that works a lot? Yeah. We do too. Most days she doesn’t get to see him. So they write notes. This is just a frame with some scrapbook paper cut to fit behind it. Glass works awesome with dry erase markers. & pom poms make great erasers.
& below, that’s a thumb tack (decorative furniture nail, to be exact), a ribbon & some clothespins for the most recent art. Lifesaver.
I learned the hard way that simple art supplies create the best work. One kind of marker. One kind of paper. The mess stays a bit more contained. You’re welcome.
For her second birthday, I painted and scrapbook paper-wallpapered this gorgeous dollhouse. I found it on sale on one of those awesome GILT sales & it is still so well loved. We even expanded to the basement, recently. We LOVE it. & they have awesome customer service. We learned this when this was set on the opposite side of the dresser and she accidentally slammed the door shut on the open dollhouse and it was a catastrophe. Like, major breakdown. But we all survived. Thanks to PlanToys and their excellent replacement service!!!
& some of the specifics that I know you’ll ask about:
- Duvet: Pottery Barn Teen
- Bed: Pottery Barn Teen Outlet
- Dream Colorfully: Pottery Barn Teen Outlet
- Herringbone Quilt (it’s made out of her baby clothes!) & Custom Name Pillow: Anna Joy French
- Flower LED Lights: Ikea
- Wall Shelves: DIY
- Victorian Dollhouse: PlanToys
- Desk stool: Target
The rest of the fun treasures have come from years of collecting from all over. :) & I cannot find the paint chips for her room. If you really want them, I will dig. But I am not sure I’ll ever use either of these colors again…so I tossed them! ;)
& Lastly, because books are everything (!!), the chapter book series on her dresser is her current favorite, Magic Treehouse. It’s a really great chapter book for young readers that covers a vast array of Non Fiction topics, but is a fictional series. We could not possibly love it more! She’s on book 46, and is so sad to be almost done. I highly recommend! We got a great deal on ours through Scholastic. We also love the thorough non fiction Fact Trackers that accompany the series, that provides a deeper look into some of the subject matter. Definitely her favorite books, so far!
It was the dead of winter. The holidays had passed & I was left with the January gloom. But this year, it was more than my usual post-holiday blues. My house no longer glowed from the Christmas lights and I was staying up late, not accomplishing much and living on lattes. Granted, this has been a really rough couple of years on our family, as anyone in their eighth year of a surgical residency/fellowship training experience will tell you, but something more was going on. & I was determined to get to the bottom of it.
I started looking at my life and what I could change. Why was I feeling so run-down? How could I make some small changes to feel better? Where could I find knowledge I could trust? How could I even find the time and energy to make my life better right now, as we’re going through one of the toughest seasons of our life as a family?
I am a one woman show around here, and my kids deserved a better me. It was scary & felt like a lot of work to make some of the changes I had in mind. But it was time. I could not live like this any more. Latte to latte. Crashing in between. Flopping into bed feeling unaccomplished at night, then beyond irritated to be woken up in the morning by a child that really, just wanted a hug. Or a granola bar. Either seemed annoying at a pre-dawn hour, when I had stayed up too late. I was not a pleasure to be around and I needed something to change in a really big way.
The first change, as I talked about before, was my sleep overhaul. I gave up my beloved nightowl habits and started getting up early. It started with a six am wakeup and every week, I pushed that up fifteen minutes. It took some tinkering with, but I learned that for whatever reason, my body’s rhythm doesn’t like an alarm in the 5am hour. I can’t get out of bed. But 4ish? That’s my sweet spot. I get up, without engaging with my phone, and drink my 24oz cup of (sometimes lemon) water while I am getting ready. My reward is my cup of coffee (a 6oz pour-over style is all it takes anymore!) & I am ready to do what I need to before my early riser is up to join me.
These days I am a 4:30am kind of gal, who is in bed by 9:30. I know, I know. I would have laughed at myself so hard a couple of years ago. But seriously. Having quiet time to myself (and that cup of coffee!) before my kids get up has been life changing. It also provided me with the time to read. To learn. & to understand why my brain was feeling so foggy. It may seem insignificant, but this sleep change really has been instrumental to my “lifestyle overhaul” if you want to call it that. It’s when I carved out the time to learn.
I am not going to walk you through the true “why” of a Gluten Free or Dairy Free Paleo-ish diet. I am not an expert. I have taken the time to read a lot, from sources I have deemed trustworthy. Together, they have opened up my eyes to nutrition in a way I was never open to before. Forget fads, forget the word “diet.” Healthy living is really a lifestyle, in my opinion. & I wanted to understand the WHY before I could dive into the HOW. Here’s what I read–some are books I checked out at the library & some are great articles that you can read now:
- Wheat Belly–for a fascinating understanding of what wheat does to your body, and an explanation of the inflammation response that can be so problematic. “Inflammation” is a buzz word amongst everything I read–basically I aim to consume foods that decrease or don’t increase inflammation. This book describes, on a very deep level, how the new version of wheat we consume today, causes inflammation.
- It Starts with Food–by the creators of the Whole30 program, which is an elimination diet that helps you determine what foods make you feel good/bad. I have not done Whole30, but I do try to eat in a way that closely mimics the Whole30 guidelines. An important quote that I LOVED from this book was “The food you eat either makes you more healthy, or less healthy. Those are your options.” and that has been a real factor in my daily food decision making.
- Why I am a Pegan–or Paleo Vegan–& Why You Should Be Too! by Dr. Mark Hyman— This is SUCH a great article, packed with links to other articles to help understand some of the scientific findings behind why considering food as medicine is so important. I spent a lot of time on his site, reading his articles.
- How Soy Can Kill You and Save Your Life by Dr. Mark Hyman–a really balanced overview of the claims and data. I choose not to eat much soy, if any at all.
- Got Proof? Lack of Evidence for Milk’s Benefits by Dr. Mark Hyman–a great synopsis about recent data on dairy consumption. He has several other articles on his site on the topic worth reading.
- 3 Important Reasons to Give Up Gluten if You Have an Autoimmune Disease by Amy Myers— A great overview. Dr. Myers has so much great information on her website. I gathered a LOT of my information from her thorough explanations.
- 4 Steps to Recover from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome by Dr. Amy Myers–I like how this article is organized. She is all about autoimmune disease and gut health, and how to fix them both!
- Calcium, Vitamin D & the Milk Myth by Dr. Christine Maren–Christine is one of my dear friends, and THE person who I credit for all of my dietary changes. She shares the most informative articles on her Facebook feed and her blog has taught me so much about all the things I care about, nutritionally. She also has a passion for childhood nutrition, which is a major bonus for us health nut moms!!
- Wheat and Endometriosis–A super fascinating spinoff hypothesis for those of us who deal with monthly flaring of Endo symptoms. My experience below!
So…NOW WHAT. WTF do I eat?! Is that what you are thinking? Because that is pretty much how I felt. I shouldn’t eat bread and pasta and crackers or peanut butter and milk and cheese and yogurt and and and…the list seemed to go on. Um. That’s mostly, with some added meat/vegetables, all I ate. So whaaaaaat do I do?
There was a quote in one of the food documentaries that I watched that encouraged people to make food changes with this mindset: “Instead of focusing on what you are cutting out, just focus on the really amazing things that you are adding in.” Then it went on to say that eventually you’d grow to like the new, healthier things so much that they would naturally take the place of the junk, and you wouldn’t even want it anymore.
& I believe that to be absolutely true, based on my experience.
The very first thing I did after I decided that I was going to make the big lifestyle change, was get two new cookbooks. For the first month, I ditched every single recipe in my evernote folder and ONLY cooked out of:
What this did was introduce me to absolutely delicious new foods, and in the process, cut out all dairy, gluten and sugar, because the recipes I was using were all “safe” and free from the ingredients I was trying to avoid. These two books also walked me through new ingredients to me–like coconut sugar, arrowroot powder and coconut aminos. Danielle Walker is a gifted chef, educator and photographer, so while the books are filled with BEAUTIFUL & inspiring images, They are also full of really helpful explanations of all the “new foods” that replace the old staples. My daily menu looked a little like this: Eggs for breakfast, leftovers or a meat + vegetable for lunch, dinner was a new recipe from the book.
I gutted my fridge and pantry and sought to only buy “compliant” foods. This was going to be a huge experiment and I didn’t want to derail my results by accidentally eating something that included the ingredients I didn’t want to have anymore. I snacked on GF crackers and avocado. I carried nuts everywhere I went. I started forcing my body to live off of healthy fats, instead of so many grains.
A HUGE change for me was when I ditched my 2x/day lattes and forced myself to drink my coffee black, with a tiny splash of cream to start. Eventually I weaned off coffee completely, but I decided that I do just really, really love coffee. So once I didn’t need it anymore, I added it in a tiny bit at a time to get to a comfortable amount, daily. It’s always been my vice, but this was a cleaner version. Philz Silken Splendor, black, is my favorite!
Over time I have added in recipes from trusted blogs like:
Well. A lot happened. & it’s really, really wonderful to be on the other side of this lifestyle experiment. A friend of mine was recently diagnosed with Celiac Disease and she was devastated. I swore to her, up and down, that once she gets through the really hard couple of weeks of eliminating all the gluten, and emotionally accepting the fact that all those foods associated with holidays and big events are no longer part of her life, that she would not want any of the foods that trigger her symptoms because she would feel so good. I so strongly believe this to be true. I do not, for a second, miss the bread and pasta and milk that I used to consume, ever. It plain and simply, made me feel like shit. & I didn’t know I could fix it until I did. I have undergone testing, and while I do not have Celiac Disease, there is no doubt that I have a sensitivity to Gluten. & once you start really learning about what it does to the body, I think it would be safe to say it would be a good thing for most people to avoid it in its current state.
As far as specific changes I have seen:
- Brain Fog– mine disappeared. Like, I could finally think clearly all day. That was a VERY real symptom for me and was very present in the hour or two after I ate or drank a latte. Wheat Belly explains this phenomenon (lack of blood sugar stabilization, is the short answer). There is even a book, that I have yet to read, called Grain Brain. I am SO glad it’s gone–and is one of the first symptoms that returns if I consume something with wheat in it now.
- Bloating–every night before I went to bed I used to look at my distended belly and wonder where the flat one I had in the morning had gone. Well. That problem is certainly not a problem anymore. Cutting gluten has resulted in pretty much no more bloating for me–all day long!
- No Food Cravings-Since I don’t have the glycemic swings that I used to, I don’t crave much. Certainly not sweets. I will say, that I do sometimes crave vegetables though! That’s a new one.
- Stable weight & endurance-I never started this to lose weight. I am at a good place in that department, and I exercise regularly. I used to run out of steam during my workouts and I have found that my endurance has improved since the change in nutrition. I don’t count calories and I don’t really measure portions. I eat what I eat, move a lot and everything stays pretty much the same, except I keep getting stronger. :)
- Endometriosis-This was a shocker for me & something I didn’t read about until I was several months into this lifestyle change and noticed a marked reduction in my monthly Endometriosis symptoms. The cramping wasn’t as bad and my periods lightened up a bit. It was awesome. Since I gave up Gluten and most Dairy at the same time, I am not sure which to attribute the changes to, but I don’t want to go back to the other side!! It’s certainly worth an experiment if you suffer from the monthly endo pain that just plain sucks.
- Tastebuds-Mine have changed. Big time. Some of the things I used to enjoy, I just don’t anymore. There isn’t a drink at Starbucks, even the coconut milk version, that I enjoy. I can taste the wheat in things that used to taste good to me if I choose to have a bite here and there. Even some fruit is too sweet for me these days. It just proved to me how much our bodies adapt to what we feed them. When sweet potatoes are enough, sugar that is often loaded on top, tastes awful. I really believe we can teach our bodies to love food in its natural state–we’ve just been consuming it in certain ways for so long that those ways, sweetened and artificially flavored, become the norm. But they don’t have to be!
IS IT STILL WORKING?
I like to call the way I run my kitchen “Paleo-ish” for a specific reason. Strict rules are hard to follow. I like some things in moderation. & my whole family is from Wisconsin…which means that I really happen to like cheese. &…we like the occasional ice cream or donut date as a family. So I have added back in foods here and there to balance it all out so it doesn’t feel so rigid. I do my best to not eat gluten and I don’t drink milk, but we have balance. Sometimes, I’ll have a little bite of something that breaks all the rules. My kids still eat whole grain crackers & bread. My husband still insists on having real milk in his hot cocoa, despite my claims that cashew milk tastes just as good. & we still use a little organic raw sugar in our favorite cookies. But mostly, we eat really, really healthy. Do my kids always love it? No. But I make them take a “no thank you bite” so maybe, a little at a time, they can learn to love the things I do.
One of my favorite reads, recommended by my sister in law Kim (who also happens to have a business that helps overwhelmed women create a new normal & transform their lives through simple food & lifestyle changes,) is The Plantpower Way. They have a really gentle approach to nutrition that celebrates real food in a beautiful way. & what I really appreciate is the encouragement of balance. I don’t think anyone can argue that our goal should be to add as many plants as we can to our diet. That seems like a no brainer. My family adds meats and nuts and seeds, too. & sometimes, cheese. & occasionally ice cream and donuts. I don’t want to paint an inaccurate picture of our life. But we do our best, and learn as much as we can, and make the choices we do with the knowledge we believe to be true and valuable.
As we start to see powerhouse medical programs like The Cleveland Clinic roll out new ventures like The Center for Functional Medicine, I think there’s going to be more focus on preventative care that includes nutrition as a core element of treatment for disease. My husband, who is a cardiac surgeon, sees the debilitating effects of heart disease on a daily basis. He often shares his frustration about the lack of heart disease prevention resources/education & desire for patients to take their health seriously. The gap between doctors and food seems to finally be getting some attention as we see more Integrative and Functional Medicine physicians seek certification and produce data to help those of us who really care about using food as medicine to prevent whatever we can. But it does take discipline and a lot of effort, in a world that often makes it really, really hard to eat good food.
So that’s when I rely on my favorite Maya Angelou quote to sum it all up:
Do the best you can until you know better. When you know better, DO better.
Do you have a favorite Paleo/Vegan/GF recipe?? Let’s get a thread going! I’d love some new meal inspiration! :)
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!
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