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On Wrestling with Creativity & Contentment

©KristenWoodPhotography
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
Del-Valle-Hike-with-Baby
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.

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Helpful Tips for Decreasing Digital Dependence

Having had a completely analog childhood (rotary telephones…with cords, film cameras, boom boxes, overhead projectors), I feel pretty protective of my kids’ childhood and ensuring they know how to do things without relying on a device or an app. 

Actually, it’s not just my kids. Personally, I started getting pretty annoyed at how often I was having to find my phone in order to tell the time because I’d stopped wearing a watch at some point. So when Will bought me a watch for our 10th anniversary in 2019, I was delighted and felt like I was some strange blend of old-fashioned, classic, and old-school all at once.

I feel something similar when I reference a paper wall calendar, write a thank you note in cursive, or slip a record onto my newly acquired turntable. A little nostalgia, a dash of reverence, and if I’m being honest, a hint of smugness….because I had the privilege of growing up analog. I’m totally dating myself here, but I had the privilege of growing up in a material world where this material girl was rocking fluorescent from head to toe, a naturally-curly side pony, and a walkman built so well my kids are still using it to this day. They really DON’T make them like that anymore. Believe me, I’ve tried ordering walkmans off Amazon and they break if you so much as look at them. I’d recommend finding a thrifted one if you’re after 90’s walkman.

All that to say, if you are tired of being so device dependent and want to outfit your home and life with some stone-age tech, here are the things we’ve integrated into our home so we can kick it old-school and gift our children with a simpler childhood.

“Technology can also be the biggest party pooper of our lives. It interrupts our own story…”    — Steven Spielberg

Jaime Lauren Photography

“Keep notepads and pens around the house so that when something comes to mind, you aren’t instantly looking for your phone to do a search, make a call, or open an app…Tackle your tasks when you have time to do them efficiently.”

Jaime Lauren Photography
Jaime Lauren Photography

Jaime Lauren Photography

MUSIC

  • Buy a walkman for your kids or dig out an old one and then hit up friends and family for old cassette tapes. You could use a discman too, but they’re probably better for older kids and not littles who tend to drop things! My kids have loved my old walkman because it’s about the size and colour of a digital device (but obviously a lot chunkier, because, um it’s from the 90’s!
  • Purchase a record player and go on the hunt for vintage records. I’ve been wanting one for years and finally bought one during the pandemic. I wanted music to be a more tangible experience again…not just a digital one with a never ending playlist (don’t get me wrong, I love it, just not all the time). My kids were fascinated by the spinning disc and the needle and the short play time!
  • Get a CD player and set it up for you or your kids outside/at quiet time and dig up your old cds. Hours of entertainment with nary a screen in sight.
  • Bring real instruments into your home. The piano and the banjo are used all the time in our house even though Will and I didn’t necessarily grow up as musicians. But we’re enjoying them now and it sets a great example for our kids. I’m seeing ukuleles and harmonicas in my kids’ near futures!

Jaime Lauren Photography

TIME

  • Purchase a real alarm clock and use that instead of your phone. Will and I each have an analog alarm clock that does nothing but tell time, wake us up, and let us hit snooze.
  • Buy a kitchen timer and use that instead of telling Siri how long to set the timer for.
  • Use an hourglass to time kids’ clean-up, music practice, or attempts to get out the door on time. This is great for kids who can’t tell time yet.
  • Hang real clocks in your house. I’m on the hunt for two…one with numbers all the way around so my kids can learn and one with Roman Numerals, also for my kids’ benefit.
  • Wear a (non-Apple) watch again! It’s so refreshing to not have to look at a phone for the time. Also as a photographer, this is my opportunity to stand on a soapbox and say that Apple phones look so tacky in professional portraits. If you’re getting them done, take it off and put it in your purse or bag (NOT your pocket) and either wear no timepiece at all, or swap it out for something timeless or trendy, just not a screen on your wrist.
Jaime Lauren Photography
Jaime Lauren Photography

SCHEDULES & TO-DO LISTS

  • Put calendars around your house…ones to write on, ones to reference, or both.
  • Use a dedicated address book for contact info and (if it has this option) a section at the back for important dates. Update every year when new Christmas cards come in the mail.
  • Keep notepads and pens around the house so that when something comes to mind, you aren’t instantly looking for your phone to do a search, make a call, or open an app. Compile your notes and tackle your tasks when you have time to do them efficiently…as in all in one swoop without being interrupted. Batching your to-dos is a major time saver as switching gears and multi-tasking these sorts of things is proven to be a highly inefficient way of getting things done.

“I feel something…when I reference a paper wall calendar, write a thank you note in cursive, or slip a record onto my newly acquired turntable. A little nostalgia, a dash of reverence, and if I’m being honest, a hint of smugness because I had the privilege of growing up analog.”

Jaime Lauren Photography
Jaime Lauren Photography

A Note on Defaulting to a Device When Bored…

Honestly, it’s good for all of us to be bored. It inspires creativity and allows us to think deeper. When I’m well-rested and out of the habit of defaulting to a device, I’m more likely to pick up a book, grab some paints, plunk away at the piano, or peruse some cookbooks. But when I’m bored and need something that takes minimal effort and minimal brain power while trying to avoid staring at a screen, magazines are a great choice. I always keep a couple new ones on hand and have them easily accessible so I can grab one when I’m feeling bored and tempted to let my eyes glaze over in front of a screen!

For more of my thoughts on Boredom & Creativity, you can jump over here

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

Our Family’s One Week Device Detox

It’s been YEARS since Will or I went anywhere for more than a day or so without our laptops. Not since before kids have we gone a week without shows. And with few exceptions, it’s been almost a decade since I’ve fallen asleep without listening to an audio book. Toss in a year’s worth of online church, meetings, reunions, and extracurricular activities, and the burden that digital dependence has placed on us (or that we’ve invited in, if I’m honest) has only worsened. Which is why I knew that in order for us to kick off the year properly and open up pathways for further creative pursuits, our whole family would benefit from a digital detox.

Recently we took the kids on our first vacation since 2019. At the beginning of 2020, Will began a new job and throughout the course of the year, only took 2 vacation days. We kept hoping we’d get a chance go see family, but with quarantine restrictions in Canada being prohibitive, and numerous friends and family in Mississippi contracting Covid, we put our travel plans on pause.

So when we had the opportunity to stay for a week as a family in a cozy cabin nestled in the Sierra Nevada mountains this winter, we chose to make the most of our time together by planning to be as tech-free as possible while on vacation.

The photos below are a departure from my normal offerings of film photography, but since I didn’t shoot much film on this trip, I decided to give you a glimpse of what our trip actually looked like via iPhone shots.

Jaime Lauren Photography

The idea of going tech-free seemed a bit daunting, but I weaned myself off my phone for weekends during the month beforehand and I told the kids the week prior that we wouldn’t be taking the iPad or the laptops. They would have my childhood walkman with Adventures in Odyssey tapes to listen to on the drive and during quiet time. I would have the luxury of staying up and reading late enough to fall asleep without the aid of a device. And who needs shows when the cabin’s living area comes with a beautiful stone fireplace next to the grand piano! I also packed supplies for watercolour painting, a couple puzzles and games, some craft stuff to do with the kids, a few toys for Travis, and plenty of books for all. Will brought his banjo, and of course we had plans to play in the snow. I dreamed of days that would leave the kids tired from playing outdoors and leisurely nights where Will and I could relax by the fire.

And you know what? Those things happened. Sure the snow melted around the cabin by the time we arrived, but most days we drove a little further up the mountain for enough snow time to satisfy the kids. And sure, Travis decided the last couple nights to escape his pack n’ play and refuse to go to sleep for hours, but Will and I did get the first few nights to hang out next to the fireplace in peace. I read an entire (really good) novel for the first time in years, and Will played banjo almost every chance he got. On the first day we were there, I overheard the girls in their room at quiet time talking about how they were glad for a break from TV. To be clear, we don’t have an actual TV, but they do get to watch about an hour of shows on the iPad while I make dinner on weeknights, as well as enjoy a movie on the weekends. And yet here they were, ages 5 & 7, delighting in the absence of technology.

Jaime Lauren Photography

There were other benefits to limiting technology while on vacation. I say ‘limiting’ because we did use our phones to chat with our families, send a few messages during our stay, and capture our memories on camera. I had the chance to sit down with my kids and play or paint or read when they asked. I try to do that at home, but it’s not always possible. The kids never had to compete with a device for our attention while on vacation. We try to be pretty conscious about not being on devices around them too much, but we’re not perfect and it does happen more often than I’d prefer. Will and I got to talk about things more in depth than we have for a while without being exhausted and resorting to a show. We also painted together and just sat quietly in each other’s presence while playing banjo (him) and reading (me). 

Jaime Lauren Photography

“When I’m working after a tiring weekday or a Saturday following a long week, I’m not really producing content that’s as inspirational as I could be producing if I were working from a place of rest and creativity.”

One of the things Will brought up was that in our normal life, my margin is so scheduled that it doesn’t enable me to fully relax and really rest. I’ve been on a quest for rest the past few years, so this felt like a profound statement that resonated with me. I schedule my rest so that I don’t fill up all my time with things that ‘need to get done’, but because all of my rest is SO scheduled, it’s not truly restful.

In spite of taking a couple of vacation days last year, Will is so much better and well-practiced at resting than I am. His southern self is perfectly fine with sitting on a front porch doing nothing but shooting the breeze for hours. That kind of leisure drives me nuts…unless I’m reading or painting or talking about something of consequence. But he has the ability to just BE. He can nap on a dime and will rarely sacrifice sleep for anything…except to ensure that I get mine.

What does more leisurely, unscheduled rest look like for me? I have zero idea…that’s going to take some intentional sacrificing of things that I think need to get done, and it probably won’t look like how he relaxes, but I need to explore this concept of unscheduled rest. I’m great with open-ended resting on vacation, but not so much during my normal life. If you have ideas, please feel free to share!

Jaime Lauren Photography

Jaime Lauren Photography

The other thing we discussed is that by the time I get work finished either during certain weeknights or on the weekend, I’m so exhausted that I can’t rest well. I just want to veg out and watch a show, or go be alone, unable to fully enjoy the company of my family. We hashed out ideas about how to ensure I get time to work but how also to live in a way that allows for truly restorative rest. We also talked about the fact that when I’m working after a tiring day or on a Saturday following a long week, I’m not really producing content that’s as inspirational as I could be producing if I were working from a place of rest and creativity. I wondered how much more impactful my work and my own creative process could be if I began working from a more restful place. You, dear reader, will probably be the best judge, as I’m hoping you’ll be able to see a difference in the quality that my content possesses.

What does working from a restful place look like? Well, I’m currently in the midst of what I hope will be a successful resting/working environment. A full weekend tucked ‘away’ in our detached guestroom/office sleeping in, working out, writing, creating, eating, coming and going when I please. The plan is to do this one weekend a month and see what happens. It’s an experiment I’m enjoying immensely and I’m only a portion of the way through the weekend. I’m hoping this will also enable me to be more present and restored during the rest of the month.

Jaime Lauren Photography
Jaime Lauren Photography

Jaime Lauren Photography

But back to our Digital Detox. 

Since returning, I’ve decided to attempt falling asleep without listening to an audio book. I originally tried falling asleep to an audio book over ten years ago because I’d spent my entire life lying awake at night trying to shut off my brain. Growing up, I would often lay in bed for up to two hours unable to sleep. This is in the pre-device era too, so it’s not like my sleep was being impacted by screen time.

When I first tried listening to an audio book in order to fall asleep, I realized that if I chose one with a soothing voice and a book that wasn’t an edge-of-your-seat kind of story, I could fall asleep within about 5-10 minutes. I would set the audio book to sleep mode so that it would turn off in about 15-30 minutes, and promptly pass out. My ear buds would fall out and the phone would remain on my nightstand in airplane mode until the next morning. That is unless something came to mind that I thought I needed to Google. Or a text came in that I wanted to respond to. Or unless I woke up early and started checking email and working from bed. All bad habits I needed to break.

So while I wasn’t so opposed to falling asleep to a good audio book, I was ready to kick the habit of keeping my phone in my room because I knew that scrolling before bed was detrimental to my sleep and scrolling first thing in the morning was an unhealthy way to start the day (more on that another time, because I could go on!).

To tell you the truth, I was nervous to come home and try sleeping without the help of an audio book. But if I could do it for one week on vacation, I figured I could carry on at home. We’ve been home for just over a week and I’ve successfully kept my phone in the kitchen at night for the entire time!

Want to know my secret to finally falling asleep on my own after all these years?

Jaime Lauren Photography

I try listing off as many countries in a particular continent as possible. I am currently trying to name all 54 (ish) African nations and some nights I make it all the way to Zambia and Zimbabwe and have to move on to another continent, but most nights I find myself falling asleep somewhere around the M’s. Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania…Mauritius…Morocco……

My goal is to get through all of the African countries in alphabetical order and be able to visualize them on a mental map and then move on to another continent once I’ve mastered those facts. And then the capitals, major bodies of water etc. So I’m learning as I’m sleeping and it’s a heck of a lot more interesting than counting sheep!

I’m also on the hunt for another great book that will entice me away from defaulting to a show most evenings. I read ‘A Gentleman in Moscow’ by Amor Towles in 4 days while on vacation and as a lifelong devourer of books, I have to say it was one of the best I’ve ever read!

Will has been playing the banjo every evening, and the kids have been skipping many of their pre-dinner shows in favour of more time outside. We opted out of one of the Zoom book studies we were doing through church. Still doing the book, but not the Zoom discussion. I’m also trying to leave my phone in my room during the day until lunch or quiet time so I’m not as tempted to use it in front of the kids especially during our school hours. Whatever our device use looks like in our house now, the detox was a fantastic opportunity to get the overuse out of our system and replace it with healthier alternatives. I’m planning to do the same thing at home once every 4-6 weeks. I’m excited about what that will look like as the weather warms and as the days get lighter, longer.

Jaime Lauren Photography

Want to lighten the load of digital dependence in your life? Try your own digital detox whether on holiday or at home! You might want to start with a short ‘tech-Sabbath’ and can read about our experience here. 

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 .

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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.

girl-holding-jar-in-field

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.

girl-in-red-dress-sitting-in-a-field
mom-with-baby-son-in-a-field

Girl-with-bug-jar-at-dusk

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.

three-kids-in-a-field

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! 

baby-sitting-in-a-field
dad-with-baby-boy-at-dusk

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.”

homeschool-mom-with-daughters

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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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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