Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The "Art Every Day" of Motherhood

Yarn Stash
As we wrap up the month of November, the Art Every Day challenge is coming to an end.  I didn't blog much about my creative endeavors this month, but I did find little moments throughout the days to create.  I especially enjoyed experimenting with new vegan, gluten-free recipes (that I hope to share soon), and loved getting back to my knitting needles.  I even bought some new yarn for the first time in a long time, and have been working on a few scarves and some felted flower pins.

Rather than making physical art pieces every day, though, I realized that my "art every day" in this moment is actually my practice in mindful mothering.  Balancing being the mother of two and all that comes with staying home with my children, working from home, and making sure my personal self-care and creative interests aren't totally ignored, is quite a challenge for sure!

Here's how I work these days:

Mama working
baby on my chest,

Kes Playing
little boy at my feet,

and kitty above my head.

And some days totally flow (especially the ones when I've gotten sleep)!  I set my expectations aside and simply move from one moment to the next - getting to my art and work in-between the feedings, diaper changes, potty training, laundry, grocery shopping, dinner prepping, playing trains etc.

But some days have me in tears as I throw up my hands and pray for Calgon to take me away! I feel tired, grouchy and frustrated because I can't spend more than one minute on anything without getting interrupted or someone needing something from me.

Being a mother is hard work.  We all know it's a 24/7 job with little breaks.  And here's what I can say without a doubt -  I love being a mom.  I love staying home with my children.  AND I love my creative work.  I used to have a belief system that the household duties somehow held more importance or value over my creativity.  Now I know that is just plain ridiculous.  If I don't make time for me, my art and the work I love so much, than I'm that tired, grouchy mama that no one wants to be around.  But when I put value on and make me, my art and my work a priority - NO MATTER WHAT - than I am joyful, happy and really fun to be with!

Making space for our creativity is absolutely essential.  Learning how to do this is an art form in itself.  For me, this notion of "art every day" will continue way beyond the month of November because I've made a conscious choice to create the life I love - EVERY single day.

laundry pile
This pile of laundry is literally stacked in my living room waiting to be folded.  I made the decision this morning to create first and to post this blog entry before folding the clothes.  Now that I've made time for my creativity I can head towards those baskets and simply enjoy folding the clothes, rather than feeling resentful or sad because I don't ever get time for the things I enjoy most.  (Except now I have a little boy who wants to play trains - hence, going with the flow!)

Making these choices, to make ME a priority in my life, is my art every day.  And it's what allows me to be fully present with my children, so I don't miss moments like this one:

Ashton Smiles

Your Personal Reflection:  What takes up your time and energy?  Do you make space for you, your creativity and your personal interests?  What small changes can you make, starting today, to make you and your creativity a priority in your life?  Are you ready to make the conscious choice to create the life you love - every single day?  You deserve to be happy and your creativity matters!  

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Inside Out Specials!

Our Maple Tree
Photo taken by Chris Duh.

The leaves have fallen from this amazing maple tree that stands in our front yard.  Although I didn't do much of the raking this year, I did get a chance to play in the leaves with the boys, and as always, that brings back such fond memories of growing up in the Midwest.

I feel so filled up this time of year.  And as I see the leaves fall it reminds me that the long winter is on its way.  Winter represents a time for solitude, for rest and for slowing down to go deeper within.  It is especially important during this season to listen and to reflect.  The year is coming to an end, and with the start of a new year we are provided with the gift of new beginnings.

In preparation for the new journeys that await you, take time to really listen to the whisper inside, that quiet voice that's gently guiding you on YOUR path.  What is it your heart is telling you?

I've heard from so many of you that you are ready for a big change in your life - one that helps you embrace your authentic place and purpose in the world, and one that helps you fully express your creativity.  For those of you who want to create the life you LOVE - one you truly love every day - then check out these exciting opportunities.

First off, go stop by Rhythm of the Home's beautiful blog.  I am honored to be one of the sponsors for their winter magazine (that comes out December 1st).  They are hosting my very last give-away for a spot in my e-course, Inside Out: A Creative Adventure of Self-Discovery.

Being Messy
Celebrating Cyber Monday!
Starting Monday, November 28th, I am offering a special exclusive to my Facebook Fans.  You have to be a fan to see the special, but let me just say, I am offering a huge discount to anyone interested in signing up for Inside Out!  

Feel free to join my Facebook Fan page for details.

December 1st is the official day registration opens for Inside Out.  Visit here for more info.

Your Personal Reflection:  What are your inner voices saying and are you ready to listen?

Friday, November 26, 2010

The winner of the...

Hip Mountain Mama $30 gift certificate is...


Thanks for stopping by and for leaving your fabulous comments.  I'll be introducing another free spirit soon with another great give-away!

And mark your calendars...registration for Inside Out: A Creative Adventure of Self-Discovery opens December 1st!

Your Personal Reflection:  Are you ready to make 2011 the best year yet?


Thursday, November 25, 2010

Simple Gratitude

My boys

Last night we drove many, many miles to attend a Christmas in the Park celebration.  The flyer said there would be a fireworks show and then the park would open, where we would have the opportunity to drive around the lake and look at the hundreds of light displays.  I was excited for it all day.  We put on our jammies, piled in the car and turned on the Christmas music.  

And we drove and drove and drove...

We got a little lost.  We arrived a little late.  We saw the end of the fireworks show from the shoulder of a busy road.  And the only light displays we saw after that were the hundreds of tail and headlights from all the traffic!  We never did find the display of lights at the lake and when we finally asked a cop, he said something about it being over and shooed us to keep driving. 

The night was a total bust!  We drove for two hours, pulled over to nurse 2 times, got frustrated about the directions and my head started to hurt.  I was disappointed for my family as I was anticipating this event all afternoon.  I had been building it up for Kestan, too..."We are going to see fireworks tonight and tons of Christmas lights around a lake!"  

As we drove away, Kestan said, "Where are the lights by the lake?"  And just as I was getting ready to explain to him that we couldn't find (or just completely missed) the event, he exclaimed, "Oh, there are some Christmas lights!"  He noticed a farm house on the side of the road that had, to our luck, decked out their house like the Griswolds.  And he was happy.

We pulled over for the third time so I could nurse Ashton, and Alvin and the Chipmunks Christmas song came on the radio.  Kestan laughed and laughed.  And so did we.  

And in that moment I remembered...it's the simplest things that bring such great joy to our lives.  It's finding gratitude in every moment that makes life so very special.

We didn't need to drive hours for some grand light production to kick off our holiday weekend.  We simply needed the time and space to be together.

And it's moments like these that I'm most grateful for today.

Your Personal Reflection:  On this day of giving thanks, what are you most thankful for in THIS moment?

Today is the last day to enter for your chance to win a great gift from Hip Mountain Mama.  Check it out HERE.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Create Wherever You Can (& another chance to win!)

Free Spirit Spotlight Graphic

This next Free Spirit Spotlight introduces you to Suzy, creator and owner of Hip Mountain Mama.  Many of you are probably already familiar with her as she has a wonderful presence on her blog in the world of Twitter.  She sells natural products for mamas at her on-line store.  I just ordered a Moby wrap from her and can't wait to start using it with Ashton. 

Enjoy her lovely interview, and leave a comment for your chance to win a $30 gift certificate to use at the Hip Mountain Mama shop!

*Photos provided by Hip Mountain Mama.

1) How did you come to a place in your life where you embrace yourself as a creative person?
I guess I have always felt like a creative person.  There are certain mediums that I am better at using than others, but as a whole I'm pretty creative.  I think a lot of this comes from my mom always telling me how creative I am.  She really boosts my confidence when it comes to my creativity and it has been important to have someone in my life to keep me feeling good about my creations.  I honestly feel that we are all creative beings; we just need to recognize and embrace it.

2) What's your favorite art medium for self-expression?
I really enjoy putting things together...making something beautiful from just a few materials.  Things like jewelry, knitting, and basket weaving.  I feel that when given a few materials and asked to create something, this really brings out ones personality and is such a wonderful freedom of self-expression.

3) Where do you get your inspiration?
I get a lot of my inspiration from nature.  I love creating things using natural materials or even things taken right out of nature.  I also find tons of inspiration from other creative people through blogs, craft fairs or friends.

4) How do you manage to find time and make space for your creative projects?
Well, if you are literally talking about space...I usually find myself crafting on my bed, or couch, or the kitchen table with materials spread out all over.  I don't have a craft room or area of the house, so I keep most of my supplies in my closet or mixed in with the kids art supplies.  As far as time goes, I usually create with the kids so I am basically killing two birds with one stone, right?  I get to spend quality time with the kids while teaching them the importance of fostering their creative sides, while also getting to embrace my creativity at the same time!  There are also times I find myself knitting in the waiting room of the dentist office, or in bed at night, or in the car on the way to Grandma's house...I sneak it in when I can!

5) What is a free spirit to you and do you feel like one?
I totally feel like a free spirit.  My definition of a free spirit and why I feel like one is: 
~having an open mind ~willingness to try new things ~not afraid to get messy ~lots of laughing and having fun ~exploring new places.  

To me, being a free spirit means having a blast, but also taking care of your loved ones and acting in a caring and responsible manor.

6) What would you say to those who want to live a creative, free spirited life but don't feel very creative and don't know where to begin?
Like I said in the beginning, I completely believe that we are all creative beings.  Think about it...when we are kids, we are all given crayons and glue and other materials and we know just what to do with them.  There is some point in our lives when we stop playing with those materials and we seem to lose the desire to create.  My advice is to start creating again!  Pick up those crayons and doodle, paint, learn to knit, start a blog, or take guitar lessons.  Don't worry about the outcome or about getting messy - just have fun!

BIG thanks to you, Suzy, for sharing your creative spirit with us.

Your Personal Reflection:  Do you carve out enough time in your day for your creativity?  Leave a comment here for your chance to win a $30 gift card to be used at Hip Mountain Mama.  Join my Facebook fan page if you want a double shot at winning.

I'll announce the winner later this week!

Monday, November 22, 2010

The winner of the...

Congratulations!  And thanks to each of you for entering this random drawing.

Check back tomorrow for the next Free Spirit Spotlight interview and for your chance to win another great gift.

Your Personal Reflection:  Do you openly accept the gifts that come into your life?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Nurture Your Inner Artist (and a chance to win!)

Free Spirit Spotlight Graphic

Today marks the first in a series of "free spirit spotlights" with some of my favorite creative and inspirational people.  Also, in honor of November and giving thanks, I thought that it would be fun to host some give-aways to express my gratitude for all of your visits and great comments.  (So keep reading for your chance to win a fabulous prize!)

Amelia Critchlow is an artist, writer and educational practitioner.  Last year she launched her first e-course, Experimental Art, and due to its popularity, she has created more opportunities to help you express your inner artist.

I recently asked Amelia to share with us what it means to live a free spirited life-style.

1) How did you come to a place in your life where you embrace yourself as a creative person?
I would say I've always been a creative person and encouraged to be so from childhood.  As an adult, I often found art and creativity slipping as it's not deemed practical or job-worthy, however, I made a decision to take that part of me seriously in my late twenties by going back to art school and doing a degree (10 years ago now) and it really has been the best decision I made.  I have definitely made it work as part of my earning life and of course it's my passion too!

2) What's your favorite art medium for self-expression?
I find it hard to choose one particular medium.  But my favorites are: collage, hand-stitching, and wild experiments with paint, and ink.  Currently I am exploring photography, but mainly where I can set up a scene though assembling, and also acquiring props - creating an imaginative reality and grown-up play really intrigues me!  See my latest post here on play.

3)  Where do you get your inspiration?
I get my inspiration from artists:  the amazing, wonderful, abundant resources of active artists who have chosen to embrace and honor their passion by doing art and being artists.  I go to exhibitions regularly and am an art book junkie!  Plus, of course, there is now a haven of art and creativity just by looking on the World Wide Web.

4)  How do you manage to find time and make space for your creative projects?
I have to treat my art and creativity as a professional and honored part of my life, otherwise it gets very easily side-lined.  It is not a hobby, it is an intrinsic part of my well-being, life and profession.  As dramatic as that may sound I have chosen to make it that way in defense of people telling me it was neither viable, sensible, money-earning etc.  I chose not to listen to them and instead listened to my own intuition calling.  I set aside 'making' or 'art' days and they are as valid as house-cleaning, any other paid work, or parenting.

5)  What is a free spirit to you?
I feel like a crazy free spirit and it feels good!  My definition is a person who does not conform to the norm without questioning themselves, life, and what it may be about.  A person who chooses to live life by their own rules and discovers and explores what works for them and honoring that without compromising others.


Thank you, Amelia, for sharing YOU with us.

I've been a participant in Amelia's e-course and it's awesome!  Visit her blog to learn more.

Your Personal Reflection:  What inspires you?  Share here by leaving a comment.  Everyone who leaves a comment will be entered for a random drawing to win a spot in the January session of Experimental Art E-course.  And if you want a double shot at winning, join my Facebook fan page today and you'll be entered twice!

I'll announce the winner on Monday.  Good luck!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The List:

How to Be a Free Spirit
The question, "What is a free spirit?" has been on my mind recently.  So I put together this list and I'm posting it today in honor of Artsyville's List it Tuesday.  I'm also happy to say that creating this (and the badge below) counts as my Art Every Day project!

I have met so many amazing free spirits over the last year - through blogging, through art and mama forum's, through Twitter and Facebook, through my e-course and even at my prenatal yoga class.  I believe we should surround ourselves with those people who bring excitement, enthusiasm, inspiration and joy into our lives - and that's what free spirits do for me. 

Over the next two weeks I will be introducing three of my favorite free spirits.  And in honor of this month of gratitude, they have kindly agreed to offer "thank you" gifts to some lucky readers!

So make sure you stop by often to get inspired and for your chance to win.
I'm a free spirit badge
I invite you to grab this badge and place it proudly on your own site or blog.  Feel free to link it to the "How to be a Free Spirit" list that can be found here.  Isn't it a great reminder to continue living our life more fully, boldly and freely? (If you do put this on your blog, let me know by posting a comment here.  I'll make sure to mention you in future posts!)

Your Personal Reflection:  What does being a "free spirit" mean to you?  What else would you add to the list?

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Loving the Ordinary

Ashton Love
There is no way to be a perfect mother, and a million ways to be a good one." - Jill Churchill

As many mothers know, caring for a newborn is one of the greatest joys in the world.  Nothing else can compare to the amount of love and connection that I feel to this little guy.  It's also tiring and hard work, and finding time for anything other than taking care of the immediate needs is darn near impossible.

The lack of sleep and the amount of details that come with taking care of two children has pretty much made my short-term memory nonexistent.  Today, as I once again lost my train of thought mid-sentence, I caught myself saying out loud, "I feel like my brain is split in so many directions."  Kestan chimed in, "What's wrong with your brain mommy?"

Well, child, nothing is wrong with my brain.  In fact, maybe forgetting everything but the essentials is exactly what I need to be doing right now.  Because when I forget and let go of all those meddling thoughts running through my mind, all I have to fall back on is the present moment, right?

So, this moment has given me a quiet house (which won't last long) and a little time to share with you a new parenting resource that stepped into my life.

I discovered this beautiful, thought-provoking, compassionate blog called Essential Parenting.  I love it.  In the most recent posting, Chris White quotes author William Martin, "Do not ask your children to strive for extraordinary lives.  Such striving may seem admirable, but it is a way of foolishness.  Help them instead to find wonder and marvel of an ordinary life.  Show them the joy of tasting tomatoes, apples and pears.  Show them how to cry when pets and people die.  Show them the infinite pleasure in the touch of a hand.  And make the ordinary come alive for them.  The extraordinary will take care of itself." -The Parent's Tao Te Ching

Isn't that just lovely?  And isn't that a great reminder for all of us - regardless if we have children or not?  Can you imagine the amount of compassion we could show ourselves if we didn't always strive to be extraordinary?  Can you imagine slowing down enough to really SEE and FEEL the beauty in all the ordinary things in YOU and in your life?  Can you imagine if you truly believed YOU were enough - exactly how and where you are in this moment?  What a beautiful concept if we all could slow down, and simply see the blessings in the ordinary, every day moments.

As I embrace this wonderful journey of motherhood that I'm traveling on, I'm choosing to celebrate the little moments.  Like the way Ashton gazes into my eyes, and how much I love the sound of Kestan's sweet voice, and what a gift it is to stay in bed a good part of the morning with all of my boys as we snuggle, laugh and love each other.

It's these moments - the ordinary ones - that I'm learning is what living is all about.

Your Personal Reflection:  Every day, ordinary life is full of simple gifts - right here, right NOW - in this moment.  Can you practice embracing these little treasures in your day, in yourself, and in your children, and feel the awareness, the beauty, and the wisdom that comes from loving the ordinary? 

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Who Am I Kidding?

Ashtons Milk Tongue
YES...I'm loving my baby moon.  I'm getting the "normal" amount of sleep that you get with a newborn.  I'm enjoying the slower pace.  I'm learning how to manage outings with two.  I'm doing laundry, although not really keeping up with it, and I'm cooking dinners again.  Physically I feel better.  There is still some sensitivity around my incision area, but it's definitely healing.  My belly still looks like I'm 5 months pregnant, but that's just part of the deal.  I will say that I can't wait for the day when I can wear pants with a zipper, and when I can get back to yoga and Zumba!

I had this big idea that it was time to start work again.  Since I work from home and for myself I set my own schedule and pace.  I love that I have the flexibility and freedom to do this.  Being a work-from-home, stay-at-home mom has been a dream of mine since I started having children.  (Here's just a piece of my creative journey that helped get me to this place.)  I was starting to get the hang of it with one child, but now that I have another one I'm finding that just taking a shower - one where I can shave my legs AND dry my hair - is a great accomplishment for the week!

So needless to say my attempts at making Art Every Day have, um...been challenging.  I've felted a little, I've written some, and I've played with legos and play dough.  I even had my sister come over to watch Kestan so that I could enjoy some time in my art room.  And although Kestan had a great time playing with Aunt Lindsay, I became frustrated because I set expectations that were not getting met.  I wanted to paint and instead I spent most of the three hours nursing, cleaning and trying to just get myself ready for the day.  And that's when the feeling of being overwhelmed kicked in.

Caring for all the needs of two children, cleaning, cooking, running a business, visiting with friends, quality time with my husband, keeping up with finances, planning for the future and on and on and on.  Trying to "do it all" is for the birds.  I mean, who am I kidding anyway?

Frustrated?  Overwhelmed?  Stressed?  Is this how I want to spend my days?

And that's when I reminded myself, "YOU HAVE A NEWBORN, SHAN!"  Chill out.  Relax.  Get more sleep.  Let gooooo...  Enjoy yourself and your time with your babes - they are growing up so fast!

So the next day I didn't set any expectations or have any plans in mind.  I ended up spontaneously creating some new meals, felting some holiday crafts, playing with my boys and I even got a nap in.  No expectations and no planning is where I need to stay right now.  I find I'm way less frustrated, overwhelemd, and stressed when I stop setting myself up with unrealistic expectations.

And instead of having these big ideas of jumping right back into work (after only a month), or painting, or opening up my Etsy shop again, I've decided to let each day be my guide.  So today I returned to my knitting needles, not only because I find knitting to be relaxing and meditative, but because it's the one thing I can do while nursing!

HEY WORKING MOMS - I want to hear from you!  How do you balance the joy (and challenges) of motherhood with your creative and personal interests?

Your Personal Reflection:  Do you ever set expectations or make plans only to see it end in disappointment and frustration?  How can you continue to plan for the future but live in the present moment, with less expectations of how things "should" be?  Try going through your day today with less worry and more unplanned experiences - and see how you feel.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

A Different Perspective

kes and mommy in lawrence
During the weeks before Ashton was born I made sure to spend tons of quality time with Kestan.  I knew we were all in for some big changes and I was kind of emotional about it.  I let go of work and made sure to be less distracted and more present so that he was getting my fullest attention.

We went on lots of "adventures" and took time for creative play.  Here's a fun activity we did that I think many of you will enjoy doing, too.

After reading this post on Aimee's Artsyville site I got the bug to drive to Lawrence. She lives in my college hometown, which happens to be about 45 minutes from where I live.  It's a really cool, creative, indie place and anytime I find myself craving inspiration I gotta make the drive there.  

kes photo coffee
So Kestan and I went on a short road trip for some spontaneous fun.  The only goal - to let Kestan lead the way with coffee and camera in hand.

I bought him a disposable camera, which for a two-year-old who can already operate an IPhone this was a lot like buying him something as archaic as a VHS tape.  He didn't get why you couldn't see the photos instantly and he really didn't get why he couldn't record video.

But once he got past the novelty of this old-fashioned thing he had a fabulous time getting to express himself through the lens.

kes shooting pics
And I just smiled as I waddled slowly behind him.  It was so adorable seeing what caught his eye.

kes walking lawrence
He made sure to have his "hot coffee" (aka: water) with him, too, and stopped about every 20 feet to take a photo and grab a swig.

kes photo tree
And here are just a few of his unedited, super-fab shots...

kes photo 6

kes photo 5

kes photo trees

kes photo 7

kes photo 4

kes photo 3

kes photo 1

kes photo 2
Isn't it cool to see from the perspective of a child?    

Another thing he didn't understand was - what happened to his camera?  Why in the world did we give it to the lady at the grocery store and instead of giving his camera back, he got an envelope of photos instead?

kes paying for photos
But he sure loved sharing his photos with us - and each one had their own special story.  I gave him an old photo album that I found from decluttering my art closet and now he has his own special book.  

This was such a fun experience and I can't wait to get him another camera!

kes showing his photos

Your Personal Reflection:  Get out and play with your camera today (and if you have kids - let them join in on the fun!)   Enjoy moving slower, being spontaneous and seeing things in a new way.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

This Moment

Sweet Ashton
Photo by my husband, Chris Duh.

As usual, the last few weeks have flown by and yet I'm treasuring every moment.  I find myself losing all track of time as I lay hugging, holding and smelling my sweet babe.

What I want to remember about this moment:  Ashton Quinn is a very peaceful baby.  He's gentle.  He's light.  He's relaxed.  He's intense.  He's an observer.  He's a wise soul.  He's a gift.

I love how his head folds into the nook of my neck and shoulders.  I love feeling his tiny breath on my face.  I love the comfort we both feel when he sleeps on me.  I love the little piggy sounds he makes when he's hungry.  I love his precious little fingers and toes.  I love that during his alert time he gets really still and quiet, and stares so deeply into my eyes.  Sometimes he scans my whole face from top to bottom as though he's processing some special code that's bonding us together.  I love how bonded we are.  I love nursing him and the milk blister on his top lip.  I love that he is here and that he is home.  And I love the tears that well up in my eyes every time I thank him for choosing me.

Your Personal Reflection:  What do you love about THIS moment?

Monday, November 1, 2010

Hello November

Kestan carving pumpkin 2

Kestan with the hammer

Kestan carving pumpkin

Kes coloring pumpkin

Kes the super frog!

Kes the scary frog!

Ashton the pumpkin
The weekend was such a blast - filled with Halloween parties and family fun.  We packed up the decorations and will soon get outside to tackle the maple leaves that are starting to fall.

I had a follow-up appointment with my midwife this morning and enjoyed my first time driving since the c-section.  I felt like it was my "coming out" party!  I treated myself to a decaf soy latte at Starbucks.

My energy is coming back and I'm super excited to start preparing for my January session of Inside Out: A Creative Adventure of Self-Discovery e-course.  (Mark your calendar - registration opens for this session in one month!)

And today for my Art Every Day Month project I picked up my bamboo knitting needles and finished this yummy scarf.

Yummy Fall Scarf
Your Personal Reflection:  What sparks your creativity and what fun are you having today?