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On Wrestling with Creativity & Contentment

Maternity Photos with Lauren by Kristen Wood Photography

Back in 2013, some months into my life as a new mom, I realized that my magazine subscriptions to Vogue and National Geographic Traveler were fuelling a festering discontentment that was encroaching on my joy and creativity in the early days as a first-time mother.

Prior to my first pregnancy, I was obsessed with how much travel I could pack into a calendar year and thrived on back-to-back trips, travel logistics, and photography opportunities that took me from Sonoma to Siberia. I was weirdly preoccupied with tallying up my frequent flier miles and plotting their eventual uses.

But a of couple months before Lauren was born, Will encouraged me to find another hobby, one that I could do from home. I was stumped. In my 20’s my passion for photography lead me to art school, which resulted in my career as a professional photographer. From the age of 16 during my first overseas adventure, until the age of 31 shortly after Lauren was born, I immersed myself in all things photography & travel related. To be completely honest, I didn’t really have any hobbies I could do at home, besides research and plan for future trips.

I settled on dabbling in watercolours and calligraphy as I’d done a little of both in the past. I whipped up a simple sign that announced, ‘Homebirth in Progress’ and politely requested we not be disturbed. I think we taped that sign to our front door during all three of my deliveries and I treasure it now with sweet nostalgia.

Initially, I figured this little hobby would be short-lived, as travel was likely to pick back up following the birth of our child. After all, our families lived thousands of miles away and I had no intentions of letting my career vanish into an abyss of dirty diapers and sleepless nights. Essentially, I assumed that in no time at all, I would bounce back with a baby slung across one side of my body and a camera on the other.

But I had pushed myself too hard and too far during my pregnancy. During my first trimester I was relearning to walk after being thrown from a camel in the Jordanian desert and fracturing my pelvis a few months earlier. This was followed by two big trips, one in my second trimester as the photographer for a destination wedding in South America and another during my third trimester as a bridesmaid for my sister’s wedding in Canada. These lead to signs of premature labour and my midwives putting me on strict bedrest for a time.

And yet I still assumed I would have an optimal birthing experience (which I did),  nurse like a champ the way my mom had (not so much), and come out the other side a battle-tested mother of one, globe-trotting again with a baby to boot (lol). No other hobbies necessary. Creativity and career in tact.

Eight years later I write this and laugh at my naiveté.

“When life circumstances force us to adapt our creative outlets, they often become the first things to be sacrificed on the altar of our to-do lists.”

Jaime Fenwick in Jerusalem
Backpacking through the Middle East in 2012.

Turns out, breastfeeding was an all-consuming beast for me to tackle and made travel extremely difficult. I couldn’t nurse well in public because I struggled to let down any of the meagre milk supply I could muster. My midwives who’d seen it all told me that while most women struggle a bit at one stage or another with breastfeeding, very few struggled to the extent I did. And yet, we attempted travel during the newborn stage. 

Our pediatrician, who shared my enthusiasm for far-flung adventures grimaced when we shared our plans for schlepping our newborn to Mississippi for American Thanksgiving and two different provinces in Canada over the Christmas holidays. Lauren was the first great-grandchild on my side and the first grandchild in both our families and we were eager to introduce her to everyone.

While I do have fond memories and photographs of those trips, the struggles we faced vastly shifted my perspective on traveling with little ones. Specifically the one in which Will and I both wound up with bronchitis on the last leg of our journey, rescheduled our return flights incorrectly (my doing), found a flight to Las Vegas, rented a car at midnight, and drove through the dark to a little motel in the Mojave Desert where we slept for for a bit, before finally finishing the final eight hour drive home, sick and exhausted.  Through it all, Lauren was a total travel champ. We, however, swore off holiday flights from then until our last child was out of diapers, and have faithfully stuck to that vow ever since.

But wouldn’t you know, I continued to obsess over travel opportunities. To the point where it became unhealthy. Will and I fought over how to make travel work, I took on photography jobs that made breastfeeding a nightmare, and of course I poured over any and all books, magazines, and websites that spurred on my travel dreams. When my monthly issue of National Geographic Traveler would arrive, I would go down the rabbit-hole of wishing and hoping and land in a puddle of discontentment. The same thing happened whenever my issue of Vogue arrived…the content was so glamorous and pulled together that I found myself flipping the pages feeling jealous and resentful.

“I realized that stewing in a pot of discontentment, comparison, and resentment was not only going to make my life miserable, it was stifling one of the things that could help me thrive in this new stage of my life: my creativity.”  

This pattern continued for a while before I realized that stewing in a pot of discontentment, comparison, and resentment was not only going to make my life miserable, it was stifling one of the things that could help me thrive in this new stage of life: my creativity.

It was then that I realized that my creativity was something I had to defend and cultivate with more intention than I had ever done. Creativity is a gift we are all endowed with, but more often than not when life gets hard or circumstances change, our creative outlets get pushed to the back-burner. When life forces us to adapt our creative outlets, they often become the first things to be sacrificed on the altar of our to-do lists. 

But tapping into our creativity is essential to the art of thriving. Sure, it may not be what we have to prioritize in a survival situation, but if we neglect creative outlets or the exploration of our creativity on a regular basis, we make a way for discontentment to creep in, and with it, a host of other nasty neighbours like resentment, irritability, and comparison which are bound to take up residency in the space that creativity could have occupied. When we allow creativity to take its rightful place in our lives, it spills over and carves out room for healing, joy, and gratitude to settle in.

Kristen Wood Photography
Kristen Wood Photography
Hiking at Del Valle with Lauren

When all of this dawned on me, I canceled my subscriptions to Vogue and National Geographic Traveler with some sadness and regret, because it felt like giving up my dreams in a small way. Not forever, but for a time. And so I searched for other magazines that might inspire the current lifestyle I was immersed in. Home, garden, and cooking magazines became my inspiration (this was before social media or Pinterest  had the kind of presence it has today). The two current subscriptions I receive are Martha Stewart Living and Magnolia. In addition to content, I’m pretty picky about the quality of photos, paper, font, etc., (this is an art school geek talking here) but those two magazines really stand out in those departments along with subject matter that resonates with me.

Or course there are other ways I tap into my creativity, but I have found that what I’m reading, watching, or listening to, is often the first and perhaps easiest thing to begin cultivating in order to inspire my creativity. The things we surround ourselves with can either inspire us or make us feel worse about lives or ourselves. The same goes with people.

Left to Right: Lauren’s Winnipeg Winter, Lauren’s Post-Bath Curls, Nursery Photo by Kristen Wood Photography

If you’re stuck in a rut of discouragement, comparison, or bitterness, I highly encourage switching out some of what you consume for something that elevates and uplifts. It doesn’t mean that what you’re partaking of is bad, it just might not be right for the season you’re in.

Here are a few questions to prompt your search for healthy sources of inspiration to fuel your creativity:

  • Does what I’m reading, viewing, or listening to make me feel light-hearted, inspired, or motivated?
  • While I’m reading, viewing, or listening to this do I get a nagging feeling that it’s not healthy for me?
  • Are there other interests that I haven’t spent time exploring that could be inspired by books, magazines, music, movies, shows, podcasts, or social media feeds?
  • Do I find myself swept up into a comparison game when reading, viewing, or listening to this?
  • Do I feel guilty for things I purchase after I read, view, or listen to this type of content?
  • Do I find myself creating new things or adapting old ideas after I read, view, or listen to this content?
Kristen Wood Photography
Kristen Wood Photography

“Tapping into our creativity is essential to the art of thriving…when we allow creativity to take its rightful place…it carves out room for healing, joy, and gratitude to settle in.”  

I am passionate about coming alongside others to inspire them in their creative journey. With 15 years’ experience as a creative entrepreneur, I have been able to cultivate a strong repertoire of strategies to boost creative output and help others tap into their creativity. If you would like to have me speak either in person or online at your upcoming conference, workshop, or retreat, please email Jaime Fenwick at hello@bringinginspirationhome.com . 

Jaime Lauren Photography
Lauren napping on me at about 6 weeks old while I photographed the olive harvest at Olivina, our local olive oil producer here in Livermore.




How I Found Inspiration & Restoration in the Cotswolds


When I embarked on an 8-day walking trip through the Cotswolds, I had reached burnout in my career and exhaustion in my personal life. I’d been attempting to juggle running a photography business and an online wedding publication with a toddler and a baby clamouring for my attention. My work seemed strained and uninspired, and I felt my creative coffers had been drained. I was attempting to do too much, with too little rest. As a result, I felt like a mediocre mom and businesswoman.

Sound familiar? I think it’s something many of us women struggle with.

I decided that the best thing I could do for everyone involved was take a yearlong, self-imposed creative sabbatical in order to focus on rest and restoration. During that time I delighted in spending more focused time with my family and creating for creation’s sake. Around 9 months into my sabbatical, I traveled to England where I traversed the English countryside with two dear friends. I spent the first 4 days with my friend Jody from California, and the second set of 4 days with my friend Mandee from Canada, who now lives in the UK.

I’ve traveled to many countries, and have traveled by numerous means, but never had I traveled on foot before. The act was transformative and powerful. 


Before my trip I’d anticipated that the experience would reignite my creative energy, but what I didn’t expect was how the act of walking–daily, and for miles on end–would restore me physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. I’ve traveled to many countries, and have traveled by numerous means, but never had I traveled on foot before. The act was transformative and powerful.

Each day began with a hearty breakfast, the donning of my daypack, and the wide-eyed wonder at whatever landscape might slowly unfurl before us. I was both unplugged and yet deeply present, lost in the beauty of the place and the pace.  

We walked each day through small sections of the Cotswolds, an idyllic patch of English countryside just a couple hours west of London, that boasts of sleepy villages, hillsides dotted with sheep, honey-coloured limestone cottages drenched in roses, and rolling woodlands that make you feel like you’ve stepped into A.A. Milne’s Hundred Acre Wood. I paused to watch an earthworm wend its way up from the rich soil of a farmer’s field, knelt to brush the soft petals of deep red poppies. I stopped for breaks of tea from my thermos and to use the loo in a handful of cozy pubs. Those pubs offered us a range of local, seasonal fare that warmed us from the inside out: hearty tomato soup,  flaky pot pies, and amber pints of ale. There was no agenda but to eventually arrive at the next village, where drivers from our walking company would deposit our bags at our next farm stay, boutique hotel, or pub inn.



The act of following directions and maps provided by our walking company served as a giant scavenger hunt for adults. Seeking out field gates and trekking across farmer’s fields, scaring up a bouquet of pheasants, and spotting the spire of the nearest church were all part of the day’s events. The intimate connection with nature was restorative in every possible way. My body felt strong and healthy as I strode up one side of a verdant hill and then down the other, my lungs took in the fresh clean air and lingering moisture that followed a rain shower, my eyes gazed upon the beauty of God’s green earth instead of staring blankly into a screen, and my mind turned to thoughts of gratitude, prayer, meditation, and dreams for the future. When we turned in each night, following a hearty meal and a hot shower, my body and brain fell into deep slumber as the down pillows and duvets enveloped me in a snowy cocoon. I missed my husband and kids, to be sure, but I knew that the rest and restoration I was experiencing would linger long after I returned home to them. I knew that this experience was a gift and something I would cherish forever.





What I didn’t realize then, was how everything I’d seen, eaten, felt, and experienced while walking day after day, would impact and inspire me daily in the years that followed. I know now, from both my own experience and from all the reading and research I’ve done on walking, that walking has the power to stir the creative juices in ways that sitting and brainstorming cannot. So now when I need to rev my creative engines, I find time to walk in nature. I also know that dreams need mental and physical space to be nurtured before they can take root. This walking trip enabled small seedlings of dreams to rise up within me and be nourished while experiencing local culture and landscapes. I was inspired by everything I saw, and that served as the catalyst for dreams I’m pursuing even today. I also know that creativity is something that can be spent, but need not evaporate if we tap into our creative roots for sheer pleasure on a regular basis. This trip invited me to indulge in photography again for the sheer enjoyment of it, to journal and write for pleasure, and to cook potpies through every fall and winter since I’ve returned! The creative juices that began to flow during and following this trip have not been staunched. Instead, they are constantly renewed because of the lessons I learned on that walk, about how to keep my creative edge.


The other takeaway I experienced following my walk through the English countryside was how much I needed to share this place with other women. I knew in my soul how many women could experience restoration and inspiration if they joined me on a walk through the Cotswolds, and so I set out to craft a retreat that would enable them to do so. In June of 2020, I’ll be leading two groups of women through this tranquil region, and have designed the retreat to incorporate both content and opportunities to help each woman tap into her creative roots. If this sounds like the very thing you desire, I want to encourage you to dig a little more and see if this retreat is right for you. Just click on Cotswold Women’s Walking Retreat and I’ll send all the details your way! You can also email me at: hello@bringinginspirationhome.com

“This walking trip enabled small seedlings of dreams to rise up within me and be nourished while experiencing local culture and landscapes. I was inspired by everything I saw, and that served as the catalyst for dreams I’m pursuing even today.”  

I cannot wait to hear from you, and I am so looking forward to guiding you on this journey into restoration and inspiration as we walk through the Cotswolds next June!





How to Create More than We Consume

Every woman juggling all the things knows how tempting it is to start the day off scrolling before we’ve even left our beds and our feet have hit the floor.  But do we know what that’s doing to our creative spirit?  Do we realize how much the constant content consumption is depleting us of our creative juices and replacing our ability to generate authentic ideas with copycat material?

As a creative entrepreneur and homeschooling mom, I’ve come to recognize just how necessary it is to safeguard my brain from consuming too much content if I want to nurture my own creative spirit, inspire my kids, and live a life that feels free of Pinterest-pressure.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Pinterest, Instagram, and easy access to family and friends through Facebook, texting, emailing, and every other communication app. But I also know that these tools can add pressure to my day, drown out the needs of the loved ones directly in front of me, and sap my creative energy. The sheer amount of time I spend staring at a screen directly correlates to both my desire and ability to create and inspire.

The sheer amount of time I spend staring at a screen directly correlates to both my desire and ability to create and inspire.


So what does it mean for me to both avoid too much content consumption and actively create things that inspire me and serve others?  Well, I’ve developed a two-pronged approach that incorporates both defensive and offensive strategies which I’ll share below.

Defending my brain and body from an overload of consumption includes the following habits I try to maintain:

1) I avoid starting my day off with scrolling, email checks, and text replies. 

It’s easiest if my phone is kept in another room instead of by my bedside, but that doesn’t always happen.  I’m working on that one!  I know that beginning my day with prayer, devotions, a workout, or some tea in a quiet space is far more invigorating than lounging in bed staring at a dark screen. Will and I have started to get up to pray together at 6am every morning before the kids are up/allowed out of their room, and the days when we do this always leave us feeling more alive and excited to start our day…which is saying a lot especially for Will because he is NOT a natural morning person!

2) I respond to emails and messages in bulk and at times that suit me best. 

Once I’ve gone through some more natural, organic rhythms to start my day, I’ll usually do a quick check of my emails, texts, and messages at which time I’ll move emails into folders to deal with later and make a list on paper of correspondence to attend to later in the day unless something truly requires my immediate attention.  I don’t like messaging in front of my kids if I can help it, and also don’t thrive when there’s a message thread building up all morning while I’m trying to accomplish other tasks.  Plus, messaging and emailing tend to require less creative energy than a lot of other things, so I’d rather tackle those during quiet time or after my kids have gone to bed.

3) I’ve turned off notifications on my phone.

I’ve turned off all notifications on my phone so I’m not constantly being made aware of every attempt to reach me.  In truth, I generally have my phone on Do Not Disturb, but have enabled specific contacts to reach me even if my phone is on silent.  Again, this helps me to stay present, efficient, and protective of my mental space.

Now that those defensive tactics are in play more regularly, I’ve been developing my offensive strategies to find more time to create in ways that are meaningful and fulfilling.  This is the fun part!

If you don’t believe you’re the creative type, I encourage you to try experimenting with some new hobbies or potential interests just to see if you can nudge those creative juices into motion!  It might be a slow, uphill struggle, but the benefits are beautiful and I can guarantee will absolutely lead to more thriving instead of surviving. 




*Disclaimer – If you don’t think of yourself as the creative type, I would challenge you to reexamine that mindset.  I believe we all have a creative bent, but for some it’s never been nurtured and for others, it’s been buried so deep for so long that it feels impossible to discover/recover.  That’s a different topic for a different post, but if you don’t believe you’re the creative type, I encourage you to try experimenting with some new hobbies or potential interests just to see if you can nudge those creative juices into motion!  It might be a slow, uphill struggle, but the benefits are beautiful and I can guarantee will absolutely lead to more thriving instead of surviving.


So here is what I’ve been doing on a regular basis to spark creativity:

1) I find ways to implement creative activity, no matter how simple, into most days. 

I thrive on visual creation.  Whether that’s arranging a vessel filled with clippings from our garden, or putting together a cute outfit complete with accessories for an event coming up, or laying out props and details for a flat lay shoot I’m assembling, I have lately realized that my best days are ones in which I’ve spent some period of time creating something of beauty that brings inspiration into my home or enlivens my soul.  That could be as ordinary as dusting and refreshing a bookshelf, playing with watercolours at the table with my kids, repotting a plant or pruning the roses, or laying out a super simple charcuterie platter for myself at quiet time. I realize that not everybody has an aesthetic bent that needs to be nurtured in order to access their creative side (my husband is certainly not moulded that way) but for me I thrive best when I’m incorporating some element of aesthetic creativity into my day.

2) Creating before consuming has a positive affect on the rest of my day. 

Creating before consuming sparks ideas for other aspects of my day.  If I spend a little time doing something creative first thing in the morning, be it in my office or at home, I find the rest of my day is inspired.  I have more verve and excitement for homeschool lessons and cooking, seek out small ways to make errands and menial tasks more fun, and in general, have a more pleasant outlook on life than when I’m not accessing my creative side.  I also tend to be more thoughtful and intentional with my email and text responses, which is never a bad thing!

3) I try to avoid going online for inspiration–at least initially.

If I’m stuck and have no natural inclination to create anything, be it a journal entry or our next meal, I try to avoid going online to look for inspiration.  Sometimes just reading a chapter from a book, looking through old photos, taking a walk, eating something refreshing, or honestly, taking a nap (I’m not usually a napper except for when I’m pregnant) can be all I need to jumpstart my creative juices.  I usually tend to hop online for further inspiration once I already have an idea in mind and need to flesh out the details, but try to avoid this as my first stop.


Sometimes just reading a chapter from a book, looking through old photos, taking a walk, eating something refreshing, or taking a nap can be all I need to jumpstart my creative juices.  

Do any of these seem like options that would prompt a more creative, inspiring lifestyle for you?  If you want to be more intentional about finding rhythms that lead to more creativity and inspiration, I would love to be a part of that journey.  Just hop over here and subscribe to my newsletter updates where I’ll provide you with fresh ideas and creative prompts on a regular basis.  These updates are succinct, yet filled with rich nuggets meant to revitalize your lifestyle and refresh your creative endeavours so you can lead your life with beauty, adventure, and purpose.  And really, who doesn’t want that? 











Pursuing Rest and Creative Renewal After Burnout

You know those people who set their minds to something and churn out beautiful work with stunning results just as naturally as the sun rises in the east?  Well I’m not one of them.  And the more I hear their stories, it turns out they aren’t either.  In fact many of us creatives, entrepreneurs and dreamers tend to mask the inner struggle that come with striving, by burying our insecurities under the motto, “Fake it, ‘till you make it”.  I subscribed to this soul-sucking way of life for far too long, but found hope after my body hit burnout and I succumbed to a year of rest.  Along the way, I discovered a number of methods that helped me incorporate restorative rest into my lifestyle and continue to serve me well now that I’m back to work.  If you’re approaching burn out, are struggling to juggle too many responsibilities/opportunities/possibilities, or just need to develop habits that refresh your creative spirit on a regular basis, I hope my journey will inspire you to integrate restorative rhythms into your pursuits.

As a perfectionist by nature, ambition has been the ever-present monkey on my back. 

As a perfectionist by nature, ambition has been the ever-present monkey on my back.  And yet, I’ve never become successful in the way I’ve hoped for.  I could never make the top grades, turn my business into an industry game-changer, or truly excel in my hobbies.  The culmination of decades’ worth of striving to succeed was burnout, and I knew I had nothing left to give in terms of creative efforts or entrepreneurial drive.  With a growing family needing me, I felt like I hadn’t been giving them my best either.  Everything I pursued felt like a mediocre version of what I longed to accomplish.  I had become consumed by my fear of failure and the burden of comparison, both of which were holding me back from thriving, not just professionally, but personally.  I needed to put the breaks on everything I was doing in order to gain some clarity, not to mention rest.

In January of 2017 I embarked on what evolved into a one-year sabbatical from all paid work.  I decided to focus on my family, as well as personal creative development, which had taken a backseat during my career as a photographer.  I also needed to slow down and rest without professional pressures bearing down on me. 

Fast forward 9 months later and here I sit, right smack in the heart of a new business launch and entrepreneurial dream.  I honestly never saw this coming.  However, I often find that when I release my grip on something, it is returned to me in a new form and with less pressure attached.  As my year-long sabbatical came to a close, business ideas began to flood into my rested and restored imagination, and it seemed like every other night I was going to bed saying to my husband, “Sooo, I have this idea…”.  And for some reason, he didn’t think any of them were crazy.  (Believe me, I’ve watched his eyebrows raise with incredulity at my hair-brained schemes many times over the years, so this time, his lack of scepticism just served to fuel my passion!)  Something was different.  This time I was determined to pursue my career in a way that would serve me and our family, not the other way around.  There was no way I was going back to being a slave to my work or jeopardizing our family’s best interests in order to have a career.

Once I returned to work, the effects of the sabbatical really kicked in.  For the first time in years I felt like I could evaluate my career priorities and preferences with clarity.  I delineated strong boundaries between my work time and my home time, (even while working from home…but you can read about that here). I began to make business decisions that reflected my passions instead of those that would lead me back into the trap of comparison.  Original, creative thinking began to flow, and my focus became less about success and more about pursuing what made me come alive.  I came to the place where I finally believed that the success would come if I were using wise business strategies, trusting my creative abilities, and relying on God to keep me humble and at the centre of His will.

One of the biggest challenges I faced with returning to my career after a sabbatical has been how to implement periods of rest into my current lifestyle.  After all, I don’t see another sabbatical like that coming down the pipe for a long time!  I think the answer has come down to knowing what the most effective rest looks like for me, and how to ensure it happens.  While rest looks different for everybody, our bodies require it and our spirits are nourished by it.  When we rest, (and not just sleep) we give ourselves the opportunity to thrive, create, grow, and nourish others.  These elements are essential to living an abundant life, and who doesn’t want that?

If you are craving a period of rest in your life, or want to replenish your creative source, here are 4 things I did throughout my sabbatical that you can do to help achieve the restorative rest you need:

1) Evaluate times in the past when you’ve felt the most rested, inspired, and creative. 

Also consider those periods in which you’ve been the most burnt out, exhausted, and stressed.  Study your schedule in advance and decide how often you need times of rest that really refresh you, limiting the situations that burn you out and deplete your wellspring of rest and creativity.  Block out your times of rest according to your needs first and your lifestyle second.  Of course that doesn’t mean spending money on a luxury retreat if that’s not in your budget, but consider planning your calendar year with your physical, spiritual, and emotional needs first, before you fill up the blank space with activities and obligations.  I know that I need at least a couple of days a week at home without running errands or having to meet people.  We also like to have one weekend a month that is left completely unscheduled so we can be as spontaneous as we please.  I know I need alone time every day and time in nature on a regular basis.  Scheduling these times into my calendar helps me honour the time it takes for me to be restored and rested.

2) Consider the source of rest. 

Where is your true source of rest?  What have you discarded that might bring you ultimate peace in your life?  Seeking these truths out on a daily basis will result in the most restorative rest and life-giving freedom one could ever imagine.  I believe that God the Creator designed our bodies to rest on a habitual basis, hence the tradition of a Sabbath, or weekly day of rest.  I also believe that His Son Jesus Christ offers us rest for our souls when we are weary and burdened.  Spending time lingering in His presence through prayer, time in nature, meditation, the reading of Scripture, and journaling was a deep source of revitalization and inspiration for me.

3) Spend time in nature

Look for little ways to be outside on a daily basis and drink in your surroundings.  Schedule times in your calendar to be in nature that are longer and more lingering, especially while walking.  Keep a nature journal and document your surroundings.  If you can, seek areas of nature that are grand, isolated, and rich with inspiration.  The sound of freeways and crowded parks do little for our mental refreshment and creative enrichment.  During my sabbatical, I had the opportunity to spend 8 days walking through the Cotswolds with a couple of friends, and was invigorated by the very best of what rural England and its vast countryside have to offer: endless quietude, idyllic scenery, and hearty, farm-to-table pub fare.    

4) Create for creation’s sake

Find ways to create that have nothing to do with work or an audience.  Seek opportunities to indulge in creative activities for the sake of sheer pleasure and discovery.  While on sabbatical I had the pleasure of using a camera just for myself with no clients to impress.  I rediscovered what it meant to slow down and shoot in a way that was exciting and meaningful to me.  I fell in love with my favourite art form all over again, and experienced the joy of photography as it became more of an extension of who I was and less of a tool to earn an income.  Now that I’m back to work I have so much more of a reverence for my camera, the film I use, and my time spent behind the lens.  It’s a special relationship that I cherish now more than ever.

Whether or not you consider yourself a creative type or someone who has succumbed to the hustle of our fast-paced society, we are all beings in need of rest and inspiration. 

Otherwise our bodies cease to function well and our desire to live dissipates.  We were designed to need rest and regeneration, to cultivate our creative spirits, and nurture the gifts we were given, but we cannot do these things if our well has run dry.  The Psalmist knew that being lead to still waters and having our soul restored was essential to well-being.  I’m so excited to return to those waters again and again, knowing now what it is like to thrive in the midst of striving.

If you long to be encouraged by other like-minded women who long to seek restful rhythms, pursue their dreams while living practically, and develop their creative gifts while sustaining their ambitions, I’d love to have you join us for a retreat in the fall of 2019.  As we develop and plan for this time of restorative rest and encouragement, click here to let us keep you informed!




Maintaining Sanity & Balance While Working from Home

Back when I was still photographing weddings and family portraits for the majority of my work (oh and running a wedding blog for a couple years at the same time), I was attempting to juggle these things with a toddler and newborn needing my full-time attention.  I was on social media constantly, producing blog posts multiple times a week, shooting and editing for clients on a regular basis, and trying to do all of this while tending to the needs of a toddler whose position as only child had just been usurped by a new baby, and of course, feeding the baby (which for me included countless hours of pumping which resulted in producing barely enough milk).  I never took a maternity leave with either one of my daughters and was working from bed just days after giving birth.

After recovery I’d sit at the desk in our living room while my oldest sought attention, and my patience regularly gave out.  It’s hard to admit, but even while I struggled desperately to pour my best into both motherhood and my business, I felt like the results were mediocre at best.  Often I’d wake in the early hours to work, attempt to squeeze in a couple hours of work again during nap time, and then continue work after the kids were asleep for the evening.  I felt like a pathetic, frizzy-haired zombie. You can guess that eventually this lead to burnout. Exhausted and disappointed in myself, I took a year-long sabbatical from all paid work (you can read about that journey here) with no agenda but rest and focused family time.

“…even while I struggled desperately to pour my best into both motherhood and my business, I felt like the results were mediocre at best.”

When I began contemplating my return to work, I decided that two things would have to change:


I would no longer be a slave to my career and my work would have to accommodate our family and our preferred lifestyle, rather than the other way around.


I would limit the time I worked with my kids around.  Trying to cook dinner, write a blog post, and breast-feed a baby all at the same time left us all overwhelmed.  Time for work and family would need to be compartmentalized with minimal overlap.

So far, we are six months into this new way of functioning and I’ve never felt more alive in my work or confident as a mom.  Of course I have my down days, but that’s just part of the ebb and flow of life.  Here are 6 things I’ve changed that have helped me to balance motherhood with working from home.

1) Designing and sticking to a work schedule. 

Before jumping back into work I determined how many hours a week I felt I could invest in my career while still feeling like a good mom.  If ‘mom guilt’ started creeping in, then for me there was no point in pursuing my work.  I just didn’t want that looming guilt to be a part of my life anymore.  Initially I thought that when Will wasn’t traveling for work, I could commit more hours than has actually been reasonable, but at this point, my typical work schedule looks like two mornings a week for about 4-5 hours each, plus about a half hour’s worth of social media, emailing, etc. for each work day.  So about 10-12 hours a week.  When Will is away, that number might look a little lower, but I just have to do what feels manageable.  Having parameters like these also help me to stay on task, focus well, and work much more efficiently as I have zero time for wandering off on rabbit trails.

2) Arranging childcare. 

When Will is home, his schedule is quite flexible and he can work from both home and a nearby office with pretty adjustable hours.  The two mornings a week that I dedicate to focused work, he is fully in charge of the kids.  I try to get started before breakfast so that they know I’m out the door and working for the morning.  When Will is traveling, I hire a sitter to watch the girls on those mornings.  I also plan to scale back on social media and admin when he’s gone, as my capacity for that is diminished by my exhaustion with both single parenting and another baby on the way!

3) A separate space to work. 

After our second daughter was born, we built out the back half of our garage to serve as both a guest room and as a potential workspace for me.  This has been key to working with focus and productivity.  If you don’t have a space in or around your home that offers this type of setting, perhaps ensuring that your spouse, another family member, or sitter takes your kids out during your work hours.  Another option would be to arrange for preschool or daycare as a way to ensure you get time to work with minimal interruptions.  If heading to a coffee shop or library would suit your work style, those are viable options as well.  Also, I make sure that the guest room/office space is clean, inspiring, and free from distractions.  Whenever I walk in, I feel ready to work, purely because the space around me is inspiring and distraction-free.

4) No working during naptime. 

This was a hard habit for me to break, but I realized that if I was going to be a more congenial personal during the hardest hours of the day (which, for me at least, occur after naptime and between the kids’ bedtime), I needed a solid break in order to veg out.  Even though I have a 4.5 year old who doesn’t nap anymore, and a 2.5 year old whose naps can be shorter than I’d prefer, this is still a sacred quiet time in our home.  My oldest is set up with audio books and plenty of quiet activities she can enjoy in her room.  I’ve worked hard at establishing this time as my quiet time as well, and have set up an incentive that usually works well: no interruptions during quiet time results in a 20 minute show for the kids afterwards.

5) Batching. 

If you’re unfamiliar with this term, it basically refers to getting one type of job done all at once.  I try to batch everything I possibly can, from kitchen work (I’ll be making breakfast while that night’s chicken and veggies are roasting in the oven), to correspondence (I make running lists of texts/emails/calls to respond to and tackle them in one fell swoop a couple times a day), to business-related work (all my Instagram posts for the following week are put together each Friday).  Around the time I realized that multitasking wasn’t cutting it and was actually a truly inefficient way of functioning, I was introduced to batching.  This has become an almost habitual way of life for me and as a list-maker and efficiency-lover, the concept makes me giddy.  But I also feel like this tactic would work really well for someone who tends to be more scattered or spontaneous because it helps to bring a healthy rhythm into the home.  My family gets more of the focused attention they need, and my business receives the same.

6) Hiring a business coach. 

When Will and I discussed the prospect of me returning to work I told him that I felt strongly about the need to hire someone who could help me build a sustainable business that would suit our family’s lifestyle preferences.  Clearly that had not been my strength in the past, and I didn’t want to repeat my actions while still expecting different results—because that’s the definition of crazy right?  Hiring D’Arcy Benincosa has been the single best thing I’ve done for my business.  She has enabled me to gain clarity and confidence where I had none, encouraged me in my strengths while helping me understand where I require help, and set me on a path to creative productivity and success that I look forward to pursuing every day.  The decision was no small financial investment, but I knew that with a finite amount of time at my disposal, I needed to find a guide to help me use that time to the best of my abilities.  She has been a lifeline and I have thrived because of her guidance and accountability.  I highly recommend finding someone like D’Arcy who can mentor and come alongside you in your business. 

And that’s the gist of it!  I’m sure as the business progresses and our seasons of life evolve, I’ll need to shift and explore other aspects of balance that can enable both our family and the business to function well, but I know that these tactics will come with me along the journey. 

If you’re a business woman just starting out or are pivoting from one type of business to another and are looking for some support, I offer one-hour consultations to give you the boost you need, as well as photography services, and brand partnerships to help you grow your brand.  Click here for further details.  And if you have big dreams and want to see them become reality, or don’t even know where to start when it comes to defining your dreams, I’ve written another post just for you.