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3 Helpful Tips for Homeschooling with Littles

I am not a naturally patient person. My two girls ask me multiple times a week if I’m having a stressful day, usually because they are catching me in the middle of their little brother tracking dirt through the house at the same time that one of them is crying over a damaged treasure or unfair state of affairs, all while something on the stove is threatening to burn or overflow! My day can be going along swimmingly and then an hour of madness can hold my sanity hostage for a short time, leaving me overwhelmed and frustrated. Add homeschooling to the mix, and let’s just say, sometimes the entire concoction can feel like I’m stuck inside a blender with no ability to control or see anything with clarity! And yet, after 3 years of homeschooling our young children, we have learned a few things that give us the desire and the ability to press on.

If you’re considering homeschooling and are at a loss for how to do this with little ones to both educate and keep occupied while you teach, I thought I’d share 3 things that have helped us succeed in covering our main subjects.

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The formal ‘sit-down-and-study-a-subject’ style of schooling is just one element to our children’s homeschool education. The learning truly never stops.

As the kids get older and we need to spend more time on academics, we’ll spend more time on schoolwork, but for now, especially with a toddler who wants to get into EVERYTHING and has a relatively short attention span, we can usually only accomplish 3 subjects a day.

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1) Math Lessons Before Breakfast

Math is not my strong suit, so a couple times a week, Will has started spending 30-60 minutes working on new math concepts with our oldest (who is almost 7 and is going into Grade 2 at the time of writing this post) while I fix breakfast, unload the dishwasher etc., and keep the two younger children (age 4.5 and 1.5) out of their way. Will and Lauren often wind up on working on our bed in the back of the house where it’s quiet and where they won’t be interrupted. They cover new material that I review during the week. This enables me to opt out of having to figure out what to teach, how to teach it, and how to assess Lauren’s ability and comprehension. Will shows me what I need to review during the week, so I’ll usually try and take 15 minutes 2-3 times during the week to help Lauren review the concepts she learned with Dad. We’ve really seen her math flourish with this process in place, and I think the fact that she is a morning person and that she’s at her peak attention span first thing in the morning, has really helped.

If you give this early morning teaching a whirl, you might want to try it first with at least one of the pair being a morning person…Will isn’t one, but Lauren is, so it seems to go smoothly. Coffee for the parent might help, and a pre-breakfast snack like a banana, muffin, or applesauce might be helpful for the student too.

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2) Post-Breakfast Language Arts

During the school year, we’ve found that immediately jumping into our language arts lessons is the most effective use of our time when it comes to focusing on school. Lauren and Natalie take turns sitting with me and doing reading lessons and phonics, while one of them plays with Travis (outdoors when the weather is good) so that the one doing their lessons can concentrate and have (most of) my attention. Lauren can now work on spelling lessons, journaling, and copy work on her own, so I often save this for once we are done the things that need my focus. I usually get about 20 minutes with each girl before Travis needs more of my focused attention. Once math and language arts are done in the morning, I can either sit down and do some reading aloud with Travis and the girls, or get some household chores and meal prep done before lunch. As the kids all get older, their attention spans will expand and we’ll have more time for morning schoolwork, but while they are all this young, I find that by mid-morning, we need the break! 

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3) Afternoon Subjects

After lunch we all take a quiet time for at least a couple hours. The girls play quietly in their room (or once in a while the living room or the garden), while Travis naps, and I take a break to both relax and work. We all feel refreshed and ready to be together again, which is a great time to start our afternoon subject. With littles, I feel like I only have the capacity for one extra subject a day: history, geography, science, art, or French. So we maybe spend 30-60 minutes on that subject before the kids are sent to play, or I read aloud while they fold laundry, or we prep dinner. They get to watch a 30-minute show during the lead-up to dinner while I get my final prep done.

Again, as the kids get older and we need to spend more time on academics, we’ll spend more of our afternoons on schoolwork, but for now, especially with a toddler who wants to get into EVERYTHING and has a relatively short attention span, we can usually only accomplish 3 subjects a day. This might not seem like a lot, but because the teacher/student ratio is so optimal, we pack a lot into those short stretches of time. And because my kids have so much time for both indoor and outdoor play, their creativity, curiosity, and learning only increases. Our mealtimes are overflowing with the kids’ excitement over what they discovered in the garden, endless questions about history and cultures, and regular Bible reading, Scripture memory, and poetry reading. The formal ‘sit-down-and-study-a-subject’ style of schooling is just one element to our children’s homeschool education. The learning truly never stops.

“Because my kids have so much time for both indoor and outdoor play, their creativity, curiosity, and learning only increases.”

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Want to learn more about our Homeschool Journey? CLICK HERE for one of my past blog posts, detailing why and how we started out.

How I Stopped Technology from Taking Over My Natural Rhythms

Between the ages of 7 and 17, my parents owned and operated a fly-in fishing lodge in the remote reaches of northern Canada. This meant that I spent a large portion of every summer virtually cut off from the rest of the world. Until I was in my mid-teens and wanting to spend more time with friends, and also be more independent of my parents, I don’t remember feeling particularly phased by this annual period of isolation.

During the early years while my parents were building up the camp and the business, our family shared a one-room cabin that lacked indoor plumbing. Electricity was generator-powered, but at night we lived by the light of our trusty Coleman lanterns. My younger sister and I spent our days exploring woods and beaches. We fished and read and played games. I think we each had a walkman and I had a film point-and-shoot camera. We were living out the creative, curious childhoods I desire for my own children.

“the ebb and flow of each day was free from distraction, hurried schedules, and…technology.”

Even once the camp gained more luxuries (indoor plumbing, round-the-clock generator power, and our family’s personal 3-bedroom cabin), our days weren’t much different. The long, often sweltering, northern summer days were sometimes punctuated with trips to sit in the tiny laundry cabin where my sister and I would watch the ice machine produce massive sheets of cubes while we munched on bowls of ice to cool down. The occasional evening in late summer provided us with a spectacular display of northern lights. That was about as exciting as things got, and I don’t mean that in a negative kind of way. During those long and lingering summers, the ebb and flow of each day was free from distraction, hurried schedules, and what stands out most to me now, technology.

“I let technology override my natural rhythms.” 

Now that our family has been mostly at home for the past month during the Covid-19 pandemic, I’ve noticed that life has still felt stressful in terms of the amount of things I expect to accomplish on a daily basis. While most external obligations have fallen away, the internal pressure to ‘keep up’ with school, cleaning, meals, relationships, exercise, yard work, extracurricular activities, and my own business, have almost seemed to ramp up.

Since I haven’t been busy with things like errands or playdates, I haven’t been entirely sure why I’ve been so overwhelmed. We already homeschool, sit down together for three meals a day, and consciously keep our schedules free from too much ‘programmed’ activity. And yet, something felt distinctly ‘off’. Yes, we were without the support of our normal community and were thrown off our typical rhythms, but we were experiencing far less disruption than many of our friends and family members. So what was triggering my heightened state of overwhelm? After taking some time to reflect, here’s what I’ve concluded:

I have let technology override my natural rhythms.

Instead of listening to my body cue me as to when I’m tired, when to be quiet, when and what to eat, how to relax, who to connect with, what task to work on, etc., I’ve allowed technology to drown out my internal nudges. 

Since being in isolation, my online presence has increased tremendously. During the first couple of weeks, my inboxes exploded with texts and emails, and online shopping carts bulged. I had to limit time spent on Google or news sites because my brain felt like mush and my nerves were frayed. But then I moved on to courses and conferences, Zoom hangouts and sermon streaming. All good things to help my mind stay engaged and stimulated. And yet it felt like too much because I wasn’t maintaining a healthy dose. On top of this, I still had to work, which required me to be in front of a computer and on social media a fair amount.

In response to the technology consumption that has made me feel so distracted I couldn’t tune into my own needs as well as I would have liked, I suggested we return to something we tried two summers ago. Saturday technology sabbaths.

See, in spite of my Christian faith and practice, Sundays have never felt like a Sabbath, or day of rest for me. As an introvert, albeit a social one, I find myself happy yet exhausted at the end of a day often spent with a lot of people. I also typically use Sunday afternoons and evenings to plan and prepare for the week ahead, which while helpful, isn’t exactly restful. So we made Saturdays our Sabbath and included a break from technology into the mix. We kept our phones out of sight for the most part, went to bed when it got dark, and in general, used as little technology as possible. We weren’t legalistic about it, just trying to give ourselves and our kids a break from digital distraction and our bodies a chance to reset based on nature’s rhythms. I was in my third trimester of pregnancy with my youngest, yet felt the most well-rested of my entire pregnancy.

And so, we recently returned to Saturday sabbaths that include a break from technology. Our first one was incredibly restorative and not near as difficult as I anticipated. I’ll share more about what those Saturday technology sabbaths look like in the future, as we plan to keep them going even once the quarantine is over.

What I’m most excited about, is that I realized a one-day break from technology is enough to shift me back to a place of listening to my internal cues. And because right now we work and school from home with very little external expectations placed on us, I have a unique opportunity to try and live every day according to natural rhythms. My guess is that once I am more attuned to these cues, my kids will also feel so much more stable and settled.

I want to thrive during this time of isolation, and I want that for my family too. I know not every day or week will feel upbeat or pleasant, but I don’t want something I can control (my use of technology) to prevent me from living as abundant a life as possible, one full of beauty, purpose, and adventure. Just like the one I experienced during my rural, remote, childhood summers.

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How I Found Inspiration & Restoration in the Cotswolds

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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. 

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

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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!

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5 Easy Ways to Exercise Your Creativity at Home

If you’re overwhelmed by the thought of trying to find time or motivation to exercise your creativity, you are not alone my friend! As a mom of 3 littles attempting to run a creative business, homeschool my kids, and juggle life without any family around for thousands of miles, I am pickin’ up what you’re puttin’ down!

But in the same way that I feel kinda gross if I don’t make enough time for physical activity, healthy food, good sleep, or time with God and my family, (not all of these every day mind you, but at least a few times a week!) I know I’m not functioning at my best when I let opportunities to create find their way to the back burner of my life. So how does one integrate ONE. MORE. THING? By making sure creativity isn’t one more thing. By incorporating creativity into the everyday.

Here are 5 of my favourite ways to exercise creativity at home even in the midst of sleepless nights and zombie-esque days! Each of them make me feel vibrant and a little less frumpy. And they all require less than 15 minutes of my time.

“Perfection is no small thing, but it is made up of small things.” —Michelangelo

1) Bring nature into your home.  

Grab a glass, jar, or vase and find something natural to fill it with. Even if you don’t have flowers, clip a branch filled with leaves (or a barren one when that time of year comes). Dried dill from your garden, a handful of rosemary sprigs, twigs filled with pods or berries. Don’t feel like fiddling with an arrangement? Fill the glass with pebbles, pods, seeds or shells. The act of handling, arranging, and sorting is an easy entry point for tapping into your creativity and flexing some unused muscles. The practice also enhances observation skills, offers moments to revel in nature’s most minute details, get kids involved in creating their own visual inspiration from nature, and perhaps prompts a sketch or watercolour rendering if you’re so inclined. Notice I said ‘inclined’, not ‘gifted’. Practicing observation and focus through sketching or quick watercolour journaling can lift the soul, remind one that happy accidents and imperfections make life more interesting, and can be a fantastic alternative to meditation if you don’t do well with sitting still in silence..like yours truly!

“You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.” — Maya Angelou 

2) Juxtapose books with household treasures. 

Peruse your home library and pick out a stack of books that have similar coloured spines, interesting text, or feature the same subject matter. Find a place in your home (coffee table, kitchen table, kitchen counter, shelves, bedroom dresser, nightstand, guest room, entry table) for the mini collection and arrange them in a pleasing way. Top off the stack with something of interest, or use an interesting piece from your home as a bookend. A sculptural rock, bud vase with single flower, an artifact from your travels, an heirloom such as an old camera. Perhaps the item relates to the subject matter, then again, maybe not. Let whimsy and intuition be your guide. Don’t worry so much about following rules, concern yourself more with what you find aesthetically-pleasing and thought-provoking.

3) Refresh what you wear.

Plan an outfit. For tomorrow, a special occasion, your next date night. Go through jewelry you haven’t worn in a while and pick out something you want to wear and then design your outfit around it. Or do the same with a pair of shoes you love but haven’t had an excuse to wear. Don’t worry about what’s fashionable, consider what feels the most YOU. Or just put together an outfit for fun that you might never wear outside your house and see if some new combination strikes a chord and resonates with you. Experiment if you have the wherewithal, or just freshen up your everyday outfits.

4) Enhance your dining experience.

Set your table for the next meal. Choose linens, dishes, and decor (vases, napkin rings, candles) that make you happy. If you can’t match it, clash it. Mix up patterns and pieces if you just need to break out of the mold and reject the norm. Switch up your typical seating arrangements. Do it alone or with your loved ones, just elevate the everyday by doing something different. If you have young children and butcher paper or wrapping paper, create a look that’s fun and festive

5) Use the written word to encourage, motivate, and inspire.

Using a wet or dry erase marker, write out favourite verses, poems, or quotes on mirrors throughout your home to inspire, encourage, or make laugh. Try a new font, add a few flourishes, and add some design elements. Erase and start over if you don’t like the look or leave it up and see if it grows on you. Messages to your loved ones can be just as meaningful and fun.

“There’s the whole world at your feet.” — Mary Poppins 

I truly believe that creativity is something we are all gifted with. That doesn’t mean we’ve perfected a specific skill or even yet tapped into our true gifting, but it does mean we are all imbued with a sense of creative spirit that can be exercised even in little, everyday ways. 

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7 Creative ‘Date’ Ideas for Tired Parents

This winter was a tough one for Will and I when it came to finding time to connect and nurture our relationship as a couple. Between juggling life with a new baby, a host of colds running rampant through the family, adjusting to a new job and long commute for Will, plus homeschooling a kindergartener and preschooler, I’m gonna say it was just about the least romantic season Will and I have experienced since having kids. We recognized this when the strain started to show itself with more arguments than are usual for us, and began to work more intentionally on getting quality time together. The payoff, of course, is incredible, because more connection between the two of us leads to our children feeling more secure, our mindsets being more aligned, our productivity and creativity at work or with homeschooling more measurable, and our life being more balanced. That’s a whole lot of good that can come from making sure we are getting some quality time together.

So if you’re a tired parent wondering how on earth you can reignite your connection with your spouse or drum up the energy for a date when you’re exhausted beyond words — literally, you have no words left to give your spouse by the end of the day, and if you do have any, they might not be worth expressing — then hopefully some of our ideas and the things we’ve been trying out can help your relationship to thrive, even in a season of stress.

This was taken while in Italy five years ago and I am now realizing it’s one of the only nice photos of the two of us since having kids…time to fix that!

Here are 7 creative ‘date’ ideas we’ve been enjoying as really, really tired parents! If you can make it through the list without falling asleep, kudos to you!

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Double dates save you from having to stare awkwardly at each other across the table with nothing to talk about…sometimes all you need are two other tired parents to help reignite inspiring conversation and a sense of connection.

1) Double Dates

They save you from having to stare awkwardly at each other across the table with nothing to talk about but work and kids. Sometimes bringing along two other tired parents is all you need to reignite inspiring conversation and a feeling of connection. One night we met up with another couple and went for an evening walk, then broke out wine and dessert while on the trail. Inexpensive and fun, plus it gave us a chance to feel connected without having to figure out what to talk about!

2) The Gym 

No joke. If I’m already paying for childcare, then why not use a guest pass for Will and either get a workout in together or just chill poolside. Recently we actually decided to forgo the workout as we were a bit behind schedule and just took the kids swimming. This lead to ice cream and a drive through the hills looking for wildlife while a couple of the kids slept. Unbelievably we came across a herd of 17 elk, (totally rare for our area) which gave us something exciting to see and talk about together. Even if we didn’t get much time to ourselves on that occasion, we came home feeling like we’d been on a mini adventure and were bonded by the experience.

3) ‘3000 Questions About Me’  

Not so much a date, but something we can do when a date isn’t an option. I bought this book ‘3000 Questions About Me’ on a whim, thinking it might enliven our conversation. While it might sound cheesy, it’s actually been fun and thought-provoking. This book is literally just a list of 3000 questions that Will and I open up while getting ready for bed or while driving in town. Some questions are deep while others are anything but, however all have been perfect jumping-off points for further conversation. I’ve learned things about Will that I didn’t know, which is nice, because after 12 years together I feel like I’ve heard most of his stories and know all his preferences.

4) Puzzles & Audio Books

One of our best at-home date nights involved wine, popcorn, an audio-book and a puzzle featuring an illustration of New England in the fall. We listened to ‘As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of the Princess Bride’, written and narrated by Cary Elwess (Farm Boy/Wesley/The Dread Pirate Roberts from the movie ‘The Princess Bride’). It was one of our best in-home date nights ever. I went a little overboard with the next puzzle I purchased and it was so difficult that after one night I gave up, leaving Will to tackle it on his own over the next week or so. Before you rain down judgement, let me just say that I spent hours that night attempting to piece together a cloudy sky while staring at the puzzle upside down (Will was working on the puzzle across from me but got to look at it rightside up.) My eyes were burning by the end and it was so difficult that we barely said a word to each other the entire evening. I highly recommend a puzzle that can be done in one sitting and doesn’t require so much concentration that you don’t speak for hours!

5) Day Dates

To be honest, I’m often exhausted by the time a Friday or Saturday night rolls around, and I’d much rather get my pjs on and cozy up with Netflix, chips and guac, and something fun to drink, than get all done up and go out. Those casual date nights in are great, but you know, so is talking and not staring at a screen. So over the past few years, we’ve discovered the beauty of daytime dates. Our go-to for this is a hike/walk and then brunch. Pretty perfect right? You also get your money’s worth when it comes to utilizing a babysitter because the kids aren’t in bed for half the time and the sitter can wear them out with hide and seek or random games that I just don’t have the energy for these days! The other bonus is that there’s less pressure to dress up if that’s either a) not your thing, or b) not something you have the energy for.

6) Art Exhibits…or something like them  

Okay, I realize that this is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but you can substitute it with any other cultural or sports outing that you might not take in on a regular basis. Honestly, it’s just nice to do something that doesn’t require a lot of your own creativity but sparks conversation and is a good time. The Monet exhibit recently featured at San Francisco’s De Young museum was so incredible that I decided I needed to show it to Will. He wouldn’t necessarily call himself an art guy, but he really appreciated it and the show allowed for some discussions that didn’t involve diapers, yard work, or time-outs.

7) Evening Gardening 

This is very different to me than ‘yard work’. This is done after the kids are in bed and there is a glass of something lovely in hand to sip while we water our flowers or burgeoning citrus orchard. We chat, we wander the yard dreaming out loud about what we could do in this corner or with that section. It’s a nice way to let the stresses of the day fade and allow the beauty of our little garden to envelope us. It’s romantic in its own way, and I look forward to a summer filled with many evenings like these. Evening gardening is also a way to get something done together without feeling the pressure of ‘yard work’. 

I think one of the benefits to having an intense season where romance or connection with Will wasn’t as easy as it has in the past, was that I was challenged to think outside the box and find ways to connect that didn’t feel high pressure or cost a fortune. I think that a number of the ideas I stumbled upon will be things we do well into our old age. Puzzles anyone? Gardening, absolutely. Plus they’re almost free and bring a lot of pleasure without the pressure. I think we’ll gravitate to these ideas in future times of challenge or stress. One of the things that I admire most about my own parents is that even when their relationship was under duress, they still did a lot together. They still pursued hobbies and were still each other’s partners in various pursuits. They continued to connect over common interests and I believe that is one of the key components to maintaining their marriage even during the tough times. I love that example and it’s one I want to experience as well as model for my own kids.

All right, well if I wasn’t tired before, I sure am now after writing all of this. Plus it’s lunchtime and my crew has probably worn my babysitter out. She’s gonna need a nap. You might too after reading all of this. If you can, sneak one in for me okay!

Also, if you’re wondering how to handle summer boredom (for you or your kids) I’ve got a blog post with you in mind!

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We Bought A Garden

I gasped the first time I saw our back garden in full bloom. It was not long after our offer on the house we now live in was accepted, when the owners had us back for a more detailed tour. Stepping into the garden I truly couldn’t believe my eyes. Roses in full bloom were spilling out everywhere and tree blossoms hummed with bees. A jasmine border lined the entire back fence. A pair of meyer lemon trees (more like large shrubs) were blossoming. There was a raised garden bed constructed of stone and a massive olive tree arching over a significant portion of the back yard. In spite of being set smack in the middle of a suburban neighbourhood, it felt as if I’d stepped into my own personal secret garden. It offered not only complete privacy from the surrounding homes, but had been designed as a delightful sanctuary appealing to all the senses. I was awestruck. We hadn’t just purchased our first home, we bought a garden!

Growing up on the Canadian prairies I was influenced by three garden spaces belonging to my parents, paternal grandparents, and paternal great-grandparents. My parents owned 30 acres only a few minutes’ drive away from grandparents’ own rural property, and some of my most enduring childhood memories include spending time in the vast vegetable garden and walking through the fields to find wild roses. We could never have much in the way of flowers in our home due to my mom’s allergies, so   I vowed that one day my future home would be filled to the brim with flowers (except when my mom visited of course!).

In spite of being set smack in the middle of a suburban neighbourhood, it felt as if I’d stepped into my own personal secret garden.

My Grandma was forever harvesting fresh produce and flowers from her gardens and us grandchildren always delighted in the tart, puckering promise of a crunchy stem of rhubarb or crab apple plucked from a tree.

My grandparents’ home featured expansive country gardens that included a crab apple orchard, multiple vegetable gardens, an exceptional range of flower beds, and views of a pond filled with geese and ducks that my Grandpa tended to. My Grandma was forever harvesting fresh produce and flowers from her gardens and us grandchildren always delighted in the tart, puckering promise of a crunchy stem of rhubarb or crab apple plucked from a tree. My grandparents’ home and gardens were probably my greatest influence on my passion for the harmonious blend of architecture and nature.

While I didn’t spend near as much time at my great-grandparents’, their home in Winnipeg was situated on a large lot in the city. My memory of it was that the back yard was a magical oasis. My Opa was a skilled wood worker and filled the rolling property with wishing wells and enchanting niches that looked as if fairies and elves dwelled there on a permanent basis. It was a backyard that beckoned a child’s imagination to take flight and I always delighted in allowing mine do so.

By the time we moved to British Columbia just before I turned 13, the joys of the garden, no matter what the style or size, were permanently rooted in my psyche. From then on, I was obsessed with how nature could be mindfully cultivated in order to bring both beauty and bounty into one’s everyday experience.

As a young artist and photographer, I sought inspiration from the blossoms of the Okanagan Valley’s myriad of fruit orchards. In university I indulged in purchasing my first store-bought bouquets from the flower stalls of Vancouver’s Granville Island market and Kitsilano’s neighbourhood shops. During the summers I returned home to the Okanagan to plant flowers for the city, hauling and planting hundreds of flats of marigolds and zinnias every May and June. I traveled to Morocco and found myself mesmerized by the lush courtyards of Fez and Marrakech, and to the English countryside where chocolate box cottages spilled over with a riot of colour and fragrance. An Eden of my own became my goal and that was realized the moment we closed on our home. I mean, our garden.

Over the past five years, Will and I have both flourished and floundered as eager, beginner gardeners. We’ve celebrated bumper crops of lemons with pies and daily honey and lemon tonics, sat lazily under the arc of the olive tree while sipping local white wine on hot summer days, and filled our home with a rotation of blossoms, unfurling roses, and vessels filled with olive branches. We’ve also battled typical garden pests, made poor planting calls (my succulents and a couple of finicky shrubs still irritate me but I don’t know when I’ll have time to uproot them and replant something else in their place), struggled to get cucumbers to taste just right, and let our garden run out of control following the birth of each baby. But it’s ours and it’s everything I’ve ever wanted in a secret garden.

I also love that our children are going to grow up smelling jasmine and citrus and roses, with those scents imprinted on their psyche, taking those fragrant memories wherever they go. It’s the perfect backyard paradise for painting, flower picking, and planting their first vegetables. This garden brings inspiration into my life on a daily basis, no matter the season or the weather. It has taught me how to bring inspiration into my home and find beauty in every day no matter what challenges we might face as a family. Nature brought into our home feels like a soothing balm when days are tough, and a source of inspiration when the routine of motherhood feels a bit mundane. We bought a house, for sure, but the garden will always be our most cherished part of this place.

“I also love that our children are going to grow up smelling jasmine and citrus and roses with those scents imprinted on their psyche, taking those fragrant memories wherever they go.”

 

Nourishing Your Creative Spirit

Do you feel like you’re not enough?  Too much?  Never quite hitting the sweet spot of where you were truly meant to be living?  I’ve definitely felt and believed all of these things—sometimes individually, but often all at once and for long periods of time.  The sheer existence of these questions combined with the pressures and expectations of reality can easily force our creative spirit underground.  A trove, buried for years, waiting to be uncovered, rediscovered, perhaps unleashed for the first time in our adult lives.

“We are powerful forces for inspiration and yet we are often trapped by our own lack of inspired living.  Surviving rather than thriving.”

Often this unwitting burial takes place in our younger years, when vibrant, creative dreams are squashed due to the attitudes of others who sneer, scoff, or raise skeptical eyebrows in the direction of our passions or attempts at creative endeavours.  Many of us are encouraged to sideline our creative play or pastimes in favour of academic pursuits or practical responsibilities without being taught the value of integrating these creative ambitions into our adult lives.  How many of us still sketch or paint for fun?  Take regular dance classes or music lessons?  Invest portions of our lives into a creative hobby that doesn’t revolve around our family?  And yet we assume we’re serving our kids through the relentless shuttling of their imaginative souls between similar endeavours, exalting the importance of creativity and passion.  Anyway, right now I’m talking about you.  About us.  About the busy moms and career women and empty-nesters who have lost their creative spirit somewhere along the way and don’t know if they’ll ever scratch the surface of what it means to thrive in a manner that unleashes their God-given creative gifts and lands them smack at the centre of where they are most inspired— producing beauty in the world around them and nourishing creativity in others.

“Abundant life might seem most attainable for women who have the support of many, bodies that perform or look a certain way, or financial freedom to live as they choose.  Abundant life according to Scripture, however, does not come with these qualifiers”.

I believe that women were designed to breathe life into the world around us.  No, not every one of us is going to procreate and birth a literal life into the physical realm, but each one of us is in possession of the ability to build up or break down the creative spirit of others through our words, our attitudes, our actions, and our own ambitions.  We are powerful forces for inspiration and yet we are often trapped by our own lack of inspired living.  Surviving rather than thriving.  Just getting by.  Depressed by the doldrum of daily routines, severed at the creative artery by schedules and to-do lists, not to mention the needs of everyone else around us.  What about our story?  Our strengths?  Our need to thrive and cultivate a life of beauty, adventure, and purpose?

This is within our grasp more so now than at any other time in history.  At no other time have women in the west been so free to pursue their purpose, their passions, and the promise that God gave us in Christ that we might have abundant life.  And yet we are pinned down by duty and the pressures of society, which leaves us wondering where on earth we would find the time, muster the energy, and nurture the space in which to dredge up more than a pot of homemade soup, a Pinterest-perfect birthday party, or the most flattering Christmas outfit.  On any given day, those are often the outer limits of our creative attempts.  And we wonder why we are so tired, so frustrated with ourselves, so spun out from the swirling world of social media and societal expectations.  Abundant life might seem most attainable for women who have the support of many, bodies that perform or look a certain way, or financial freedom to live as they choose.  Abundant life according to Scripture, however, does not come with these qualifiers.  No, we were born with something innate, unique, and discoverable, and given the freedom to pursue that magic within us when Christ came to set us free from the tyranny of our sinful selves.

Nourishing the creative spirit within begins with believing that doing so matters, that we even have a creative spark to fuel, and that our busy lives can actually hold space for us to pursue what will truly enable us to thrive.  Ever since I was a little girl, I have been fighting for my creative life in spite of numerous odds thrown my way.  But somehow God has given me the desire and drive to persist in my passions and hide them under a bushel – NO!  I believe part of that purpose is to fan the flame of creativity and ignite inspiration in the lives of other women who doubt their dreams and don’t know where to start when it comes to reviving their creative gifts and nourishing their creative spirit.

If you feel like your creative life is lacking or you’re in need of creative nourishment, I’ve put together a free resources outlining 12 of my favourite prompts that help me revive my creative spirit.  Rather than sap my strength, these actions have bolstered my energy, enabled me to thrive, and encouraged me to pursue creativity on a variety of levels.  You can download this free resource right HERE.

Do you know another woman or a group of women who could use some encouragement in their creative life?  Feel free to share this post and free resource filled with inspiring prompts.  And then come join me  for more inspiration through my email updates that include links to my videos, more free resources, my favourite inspiration, and photography tips.  I can’t wait to connect and encourage you to THRIVE. 

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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.

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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. 

 

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*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.

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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? 

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Our Homeschool Journey – Something I Said I’d Never Do

I vowed I would never homeschool.  Oops.

I have a bad habit of letting my all or nothing personality get the best of me and ‘never’ is something I’m learning to not to say.  I’m a work in progress I guess!

I enjoyed (most of) my public school experience and wanted the same for my kids, but I also looked forward to the day when I could have my ‘me time’ back once my youngest was off to elementary school.  And yet here I am on the brink of my eldest’s kindergarten year and plunging full-steam ahead into the realm of homeschooling.  What changed?  Well, to sum it up briefly, my husband and I knew we wanted to prioritize the flexibility to see our families when it suited both us and them, which could mean a couple weeks away at a time due to their being spread out across the continent.  We also wanted to ensure that our family’s preferred pace was not dictated by the busy Bay area breakneck speed which often threatens to overtake us if we’re not intentional about slowing down.  After a year of homeschool preschool in which we dipped our toes into unknown waters, we knew that homeschool would suit our family best in this season of life, and with our oldest’s learning style.  Those things may change and we always want to be open to other options, but at present (and for the foreseeable future) this is the option we feel most at peace with.

Anyway, all that to say, here we are!  September is around the corner, and while we’ve already been slowly incorporating lessons into the final weeks of August, I can’t bring myself to ‘officially’ begin school until after Labour Day.  There is just something in me that feels like I’m rushing the seasons if we start school before ‘fall’ (even though that looks a lot different in Northern California compared to what fall looked like growing up in Canada!).

So that’s the brief summary of how we got to where we are, and if you’re at all interested in what the rest of our year ahead is (hopefully) going to look like, you can both check out the first Homeschool Episode on my Instagram TV channel as well as read the details and check out my show notes below.

“We wanted to ensure that our family’s preferred pace was not dictated by the busy Bay area breakneck speed”

Classical Conversations

Once a week, for 24 weeks out of the year, we’ll be meeting with a group of other homeschooling families who are following the same Classical Conversations curriculum.  It is based on the classical model, which means that for our littles, the focus will be on memory work (relating to history, language arts, math, science, and Scripture) through games, music and activities.  This gives them the ‘grammar’ they need to eventually expand upon the various subjects as they mature.  The students are broken up into class sizes no larger than 8 kids, are taught by parent-trained tutors, and participate in art projects and science experiments every week.  They also practice their public speaking skills on a weekly basis with a short, individual presentation given during snack time.  We use the Classical Conversations curriculum as a framework for our other lessons and most of our memory work is done while in the car or at irregular intervals throughout the week.  We did CC for Lauren’s preschool year and all of us enjoyed both the classical model and the community.

Connecting Waters

We have also chosen to enroll in a public charter school (Connecting Waters) that gives us a ‘distance ed’ option and offers support and resources through the monthly visits of a credentialed educational specialist who can assist with assessments, guidance, and information regarding state requirements.  One of the other big benefits is funding, which we can put towards everything from school and art supplies to curriculum and books, to swimming and ballet lessons.  This is a new experience for us but our ES is wonderful and we’re looking forward to our monthly visits.

Morningtime

Morningtime is something I’ve found a lot of homeschooling families incorporate into their daily routine, but I love that it could be a rhythm that any family could weave into their day.  Essentially, we come together as a family (usually around the breakfast table–or lunch and dinner if we just haven’t gotten through everything) and go through an assortment of reading and flash cards that enrich our days and our girls’ education.  Here is what we currently incorporate into our Morningtime routine:

We initially started with one or two things and then just added in other elements as we felt inclined.  When the kids are older I foresee moving Morningtime to the living room or outside where the kids can work on their nature journals at the same time.

Nature Journals 

My intent with nature journaling is that this is the space where art, science, latin, and geography merge.  I’ve ordered all the necessary supplies and have been inspired primarily by Kristin Roger’s Nature Journal guide, which I purchased (but may have run out) from Wild + Free — a homeschooling resource and community I love.   I have a feeling that Will, Natalie, and myself will also have our own nature journals that we take out when we’re all sitting in the backyard, when we go on nature walks, or when we travel.

Reading + Math Curriculms 

I’ve been going through The Ordinary Parents’ Guide to Teaching Reading with Lauren and it’s been a fantastic resource.  I love that everything is scripted so I’m not trying to figure it all out myself or needing to lesson plan.  We have ordered our math curriculum from Right Start Math and I can actually say I’m excited to get going with this–math has always been my weakest subject, but thankfully Will is very hands-on, and a good teacher so if I get hung up on something I’ll be passing things off to him!

Reading Aloud

I’ve become convinced that reading aloud (along with the use of audio books) is probably one of the most important things I can do to contribute to my kids’ education — whether I were to homeschool or not.  I believe Lauren’s vocabulary, communication skills, love for learning, desire to learn to read, and unquenchable thirst to explore the world around her has been nurtured through the act of reading aloud.  I’m sure I’ll be observing the domino effect for decades to come.  You’ll likely hear me trumpet over and over again about Sarah Mackenzie and her book Read-Aloud Family, podcast the Read-Aloud Revival, and her fantastic book lists.  I might be inclined to share my own booklists from time to time.  You’ve been warned!

Extra-Curricular Activities 

Lauren has been involved with swimming and ballet for the past couple of years, but we’ve decided to put a pause on those things for the fall so that we can a) get our school rhythms established before our third baby arrives, and b) spend more time bonding as a family once the baby is here without needing to rush off to other activities.  We plan to get both of the girls involved in these activities after Christmas, but for now we want to pare things down to ensure our girls get as much time with us as possible throughout this new season.  In the meantime, Lauren takes virtual piano lessons from a dear friend and has become obsessed with sewing as of late.  There are also a number of fall projects from leaf-dipping to cornhusk dolls that I’m excited to enjoy with them before the baby is born.  Once our little guy has arrived, I’m sure they’ll be spending lots of time on nature walks with their dad and grandparents, which should keep them active, inspired, and hopefully sleeping well throughout the night!

So that’s an overview of what homeschool will entail for us in the near future, and I’ll be sure to update you with more details pertaining to each aspect, as well as what our schedule looks like both pre-baby and postpartum!  If you have any questions, I’d love for you to jump into the Bringing Inspiration Home Facebook feed or hop on Instagram and share your questions for the larger audience.  I really want to grow the Bringing Inspiration Home community so we can all inspire and support one another in our dreams, adventures, and rhythms.

Speaking of growing our community, I would LOVE to connect with you through my regular email updates.  I promise they’re not obnoxious and are chalk full of updates and inspiration.  If you sign up, you’ll be the first to know about what’s coming down the pipe for Bringing Inspiration Home, and I’ll always make sure my email subscribers are given extra special love 🙂  Click here to become a part of our growing community.

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Embracing the Beauty of Boredom

Have you ever wondered how we as a society have become so dependant on mindless scrolling that we take our phones into the washroom with us?  I’m not talking about slipping your phone into your back pocket (in which case you’re definitely tempting fate with the high probability of your phone plunging to the depths of the toilet bowl!), rather, I’m recognizing the fact that probably most of us have succumbed to the ‘squat and scroll’.  Am I right?  Definitely some cringe-worthy guilt over here!  Have we really become so averse to the possibility of being bored or left with our own thoughts for a few moments that we are habitually inclined to take our phones to the toilet??

I don’t know about you, but I’m on a mission to alter my scrolling habits. When left with a few moments of potential boredom, I want to seek opportunities that result in creative, imaginative thinking, problem-solving, and greater awareness—of my inner self, the world around me, and of God’s Spirit speaking to my soul.  Doesn’t this sound like something we could all be refreshed by and excited about?  What sort of ideas and possibilities might be sparked if we were using brief fragments of time to create rather than consume?

“Have we really become so averse to the possibility of being bored…that we are habitually inclined to take our phones to the toilet??”

If you long for a more creative outlook or are unsure of how to initiate more opportunities to integrate creativity into your daily routine, look no further than those moments of boredom that so easily beckon us to our phones for a small sliver of mindless scrolling.

If you long for a more creative outlook or are unsure of how to initiate more opportunities to integrate creativity into your daily routine, look no further than those moments of boredom that so easily beckon us to our phones for a small sliver of mindless scrolling.  Whether you’re just waking up, hanging out in a waiting room, or are waiting in the car, I’ve outlined 3 ways that you can utilize boredom as a catalyst for creativity.

1) Transition from scrolling to another activity.

First, we need to kick the habit of scrolling when we’ve got a few minutes to either wait or busy ourselves, and I think one of the best ways to transition from scrolling to intentional, imaginative thinking, is to read something tangible that does not require a screen, nor your thumb’s ‘scroll function’.  Author, podcast host, and speaker, Sarah Mackenzie (of the book The Read-Aloud Family and the podcast Read-Aloud Revival) suggests simply keeping a book with you.  Her straightforward suggestion has prompted me to keep a smallish piece of light reading material in my handbag at all times.  You’d be amazed at how much reading you can accomplish with just five minutes here, or ten minutes there.  Now I wouldn’t recommend Dostoevsky’s War and Peace, or anything else that’s a) cumbersome and b) needs some time to access with focus, but I would recommend anything from a self-help or business book to a children or youth novel that you could read either silently or aloud to your kids.  If this seems too daunting, keeping a couple of magazines in your car, or a crossword puzzle or sudoku book on hand might be a great alternative for you.  Start with what is most accessible and gets you in the habit of doing something other than turning to your phone for entertainment.  I’ve kept a crossword puzzle book in our master ensuite for years and it’s the one washroom I’m almost never tempted to take my phone into.  A devotional, magazine, or piece of light reading by my bed—something I’m eager to delve into that doesn’t take much brain power either first thing in the morning or later at night—will often persuade me to read tangible material rather than scroll through my phone.  This bedside habit has resulted in both better sleep at night and a more positive outlook first thing in the morning.  Win-win right?

2) Stir the creative juices with prompts.

If you want to take things to the next level and stir your creative juices up a bit, I’d recommend keeping a notepad or journal with you, along with a short list of prompts, perhaps penned at the back at the top of a few blank pages.  Here are a few prompts to get you going:

  • “If I could design my dream house, what would I include?”  Keep a running list of design and landscape elements that you come across that you’d want to integrate into your dream property.  Mine would definitely include complete privacy, acreage, lots of big windows with sunlight streaming in, rustic wooden beams, and pretty Mediterranean tilework. 
  • “If I could spend 10 days in one place anywhere in the world, what would that look like?”  Would you spend your time exploring a Caribbean island while staying in a jungle or beachside bungalow?  Driving the backroads of Tuscany and sipping wine in the local piazza every evening?  What would you pack for a trip to Thailand?  Would you find yourself walking the Cotswolds or the Scottish Highlands, or roaming the plains of the Serengeti?  Let your imagination wander and try to envision what you’d wear, how you’d travel to and from your destination, what the weather would be like, and who your travel partners would be.  You might find yourself staring off into the distance instead of writing…a fun and essential part of becoming lost in creative thought!
  • “If I could plan the ideal dinner party/Sunday brunch/high tea, who would I invite to join me?”  Let yourself think beyond the box of close friends or potential acquaintances.  Consider a mix of people from history, or an assortment of creative minds and talents, along with the meal’s setting and menu.  Every time I delve into this daydream, Queen Elizabeth is definitely at the table, but we’re at Balmoral in Scotland where she’s on holiday and more relaxed.  Then I fill in the gaps with an eclectic mix of friends, family, and famous figures from throughout history.  

3) Consider your surroundings and tap into a deeper awareness.

For an even more ‘advanced’ attempt at pushing the boundaries of boredom, even if just for a few brief moments, I like to consider my surroundings and tap into what my brain and body are experiencing.  This not only prompts me to reflect on my current needs and desires, but also on my preferences and opinions.  Taking a few deep breaths and noting how my body feels as I wake up, or how it settles into a chair, what the light around me is doing, or how other people are responding to our surroundings, helps me be more attuned not only to myself, but also to those around me.  This process enables me to be more open to hearing the Spirit of God speak into my life, often compelling me to meditate on Scripture or extend love, patience, or compassion to someone else, whether they are physically present or not.  I believe that intentionally seeking opportunities to be aware of one’s surroundings can have a beneficial effect on one’s mental and physical health, relationships, and spiritual growth.

The great thing about embracing the beauty of boredom is that it opens up opportunities for growth and enrichment, fulfillment and peace that trolling the internet never can.  That’s not to say we shouldn’t spend time online or use our phones for pleasure or purpose, but the more that we view boredom as having the potential to cultivate creativity, (and less as something to avoid) the more our scrolling habits will find an appropriate place in our lives—preferably not while in the loo!    

“What sort of ideas and possibilities might be sparked if we were using brief fragments of time to create rather than consume?”

If you are struggling to draw creative ideas from a wellspring that starts with scrolling, the results will be largely inauthentic and even less gratifying.  Visual inspiration is important, for sure, but I would argue that it’s vital to engage in observation that takes places offline if we want to produce results of the highest caliber.

Are you an entrepreneur or aspiring creative looking to take your ideas to the next level and really grow as an artist, business person, or influencer?  Let’s set up a time to chat and discuss the possibilities for your future success.

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