Wednesday, August 31, 2011

End Your Summer With Ice Pop Joy

Hard to believe summer is coming to an end.  And although September is near, it still feels like summer around these parts.  It's hot and humid, and I have a constant craving to be outside as much as possible!   So I think I can still get away with posting about a really cool book I discovered by Anni Daulter called Ice Pop Joy.

This beautiful book offers a collection of healthy, organic ice pop recipes that are super yummy and so fun to make.

Ice pop photos from Anni Daulter's website.

The recipes include foods you would expect to see in a homemade ice pop - like strawberries and blueberries, and foods you may never think to use - like kale, kidney beans, walnuts, and quinoa!  There are recipes for veggie pops, yogurt pops, herbal tea pops and more.

What I love about this book is it offers suggestions on how to introduce healthy foods your kids usually say "ewwww" to.  There are so many recipes to choose from that everyone in the family will find one they love.  I especially enjoy "Granola Goodness," which includes rice milk, bananas, vanilla flavored granola and wheat germ.

Kestan's Popsicle Fun

Kestan loves the "Blackberry Swirl" which has blackberries, lemon juice, banana, agave and yogurt.

For someone who doesn't like giving her kids sugar, I feel so happy when I see them eating an ice pop that has spinach and kale mixed in!  Now, when I make a green smoothie in the morning I add the leftovers to the ice pop molds - easy, delicious and soooo good.  (They are great for teething babies, too!)

Anni offers suggestions in her book on safe ice pop molds.  I've been using the stainless steel molds and they work great.

I found this book to be such an inspiration all summer long.  And I know I'll be referring to it year round because we are ice pop over-joyed!

Your Personal Reflection:  What's your favorite summertime treat? 

Monday, August 29, 2011

Helping One Another


The Twist and Shout art auction for Joplin was this past weekend and it was AMAZING. Over 100 pieces of art were created out of the tornado debris and the event collected nearly $24,000!

I wanted to share more photos of the artwork with you, but only had my iPhone and it was just too dark.  Visit this blog and you can see a glimpse of some of the artwork. Watch this video to learn more about the creation of this wonderful event.  (See more about the piece I created in my previous post.)


This photo needs no description.


I had the privilege to meet the woman in this photo the night of the auction.  Anne lost everything in her home.  She shared her personal story with my mom and me, as tears filled her eyes.  Yet, she had an amazing sense of strength and gratitude, and dare I say, happiness.  She had a smile from ear-to-ear and said she could feel the love in the room. And oh was she right.  The love and care and compassion everyone was exuding that night was truly magical.  

This duplex has already been rebuilt and Anne's landlord wondered if she'd be returning. She told us, "How could I live in a place and think, There's where my mother's china use to be, and know I didn't have that anymore?"  She showed us photos of her new home - a beautiful cottage with a wraparound porch.  Anne is a grief counselor and this new house has a special place where she can work with her clients.  I asked Anne how this tornado has changed her life, and although it's still so fresh, she knows it has given her a new sense of power, one she carries with her and shares with her clients when they are going through the many challenges they face.  We hugged and thanked her for sharing.  

Meeting Anne was a blessing - she is such an inspiration. 


Here's the chalkboard robot my husband created using parts of an old door.


And here's the beautiful woman who purchased my felted piece, "Rising Up," - my mom! The piece had several other bidders, but in the end, my mom won, and she was so happy.  And so was I!  We had such a nice time sharing the evening together, which included many serendipitous moments, too.

160 people lost their lives.  Many lost everything they owned.  Many, many lives were changed forever.  And this evening proved once again that we are resilient and hearts can expand beyond measure - especially when we connect, come together and help one another.  

Your Personal Reflection: What are you grateful for - right here, right now?  How can you be of service to those in need?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Heart Felt Art

Joplin Tornado Project
Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end. -Seneca

I was asked to be part of an amazing art project that I'm so excited to share with you.  

On May 22, 2011, a major tornado struck the town of Joplin, Missouri.  160 people died and it now ranks as one of Missouri and America's deadliest tornadoes.

Kansas City Artist, Matthew Dehaemers dreamt up an idea - to gather a group of artists who could transform debris left from the tornado devastation into works of art, with the intention to give back to the people of Joplin.  So he gathered a crew and they collected tons of materials from the wreckage - wood, metal, windows, doors, toys, bikes, car parts - just to name a few. 

Joplin Tornado Project 2

The team joined together with a local gallery, Leedy Voulkos, and created Project Reclamation.  Over 90 artists sifted through the collected debris and have created beautiful works of art.  These finished art pieces will be auctioned off at the Twist & Shout Art Auction, this Saturday, August 27th, from 6-9. (If you live in the Kansas City area, please come out and support this wonderful cause!  Admission is $5 or you can bring a new art supply.)  100% of the proceeds collected from this event will be donated to support artists and arts education programming in Joplin.

Joplin Basket

My husband and I both made an art piece for the auction.  We kept our collections simple - he chose an old wooden door and I stumbled across this sewing basket.  The Precious Moments embroidery patterns, reading glasses, needles and thread were all still intact. As I looked through each item, I felt such compassion and tried to imagine whom this might have belonged to.  Maybe a grandmother who was planning to make gifts for her grandchildren this Christmas?  How sad to think she may have lost everything, maybe someone she loved, or maybe even her own life.  I don't know who this belongs to, but this basket has a story - one that I tried to respect as I created my piece. 

Joplin Project Thread Found

I chose to use the embroidery floss that I found inside the basket and incorporated it into my felting.  I gathered my wool, hot water and soap (while my boys played with the soapy water, too) and felted a landscape of flowers opening up to the big blue sky.  I had never needle felted embroidery floss before, and I really like how it turned out.

Joplin Project Needle Felting

I also used the needle and thread found in the basket for all my stitching and finishing touches.

Joplin Needle and Thread

I loved felting this piece!  I thought a lot about the preciousness of life while creating it - and was again reminded about how everything in this world is temporary - and how wonderfully important it is to awaken to the present moment.

Joplin Final Flowers

There is a lot of devastation in the world, that is for sure.  And there is so much beauty.   When we fall, it is in the rising up where we tend to build the most strength, clarity and wisdom.    

Joplin Stems

I feel honored and blessed to be part of such a compassionate project.
I am grateful for this moment.
And I embrace the possibilities that come from new beginnings.

Your Personal Reflection:  How can you rise up from a challenge you may be facing in your own life and start living more for this moment?

Joplin Final Felting

Spring is a time of renewal, with flowers rising up from the ground as a sign of rebirth, bringing color to the landscape and joy to hearts.  "Rising Up" symbolizes the rite of spring when the land comes to life.  In this work, the hand-felted poppies rise up from the ground on stems of yarn and embroidery floss gathered from the sewing basket of a needlesmith strewn in the wind from the Joplin tornado.  Just as spring brings color and joy, "Rising Up" is about new beginnings and the amazing beauty Mother Nature provides.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Pure Love

Lindsay, Matt & Brynn

No one who has ever brought up a child can doubt for a moment that love is literally the life-giving fluid of human existence. -Smiley Blanton

In my last post I wrote about mourning the loss of my children's newborn stage, and all of a sudden I get to experience the joy that comes from holding a brand new baby all over again.  My sister had a natural, amazing, magical birth while her beautiful baby girl took her first breath this week.  Lindsay and her husband, Matt, are floating and I can see their hearts are expanding into the realm that you really only know once you become a parent.

Me with Brynn

I have been floating, too, as I've gotten to hold this sweet soul a little each day.  She's so tiny.  She smells so good.  She is pure love.

And I am a very proud aunt, indeed.

Oh, the cycle of life - what a miracle.
I love this moment.

Welcome to the world, Brynn Parker.

Your Personal Reflection:  There is nothing more refreshing than watching a newborn baby see the world for the first time.  What, in your life, are you ready to see with fresh, new eyes?

Friday, August 12, 2011

Let Go of More; Live Fully Now

baby clothes

It has been a while since I've written about clutter.  But, it's still something that's on the forefront of my mind and heart.  Letting go of the physical, mental and spiritual junk is definitely a daily practice, and just when I think it's getting easier, something like baby clothes, reminds me just how hard it is to give away things, especially with sentimental value.

I've taken advantage of some hot days to organize and now I have two full bins of clothes that no longer fit the boys.  Although I did set aside my very favorites, all the others I'm ready to let go of.  Or so I thought.  The bins have been sitting in my dining room for the past week.  I couldn't get myself to bring them to the thrift store.  The consignment shop sort of interested me, but still, I avoided going.  Finally, I put a post on Facebook to see if anyone knew of a mom in need.  I did get a response - a soon-to-be mom of 3 who is expecting her first boy.  She could use some help.  And, even though I am more than happy to help, I noticed some sad feelings come up at the thought of letting the clothes go.

clothes donation

After taking some quiet time last night to reflect on what I was feeling, I realized that I was clinging to the clothes, the things, because really I'm feeling a sense of sadness that the precious newborn and early infant stage for my boys is over.  It's gone.  Just like that. They are too big to fit in those tiny, tender little clothes.  The clothes that at one time I held in my arms only wondering what my sweet little baby would look like wearing them.

And now, not one, but two boys are too big for them.  They are growing before my very eyes.  Yes, just the thought of it can make me cry, yet, when I sit with these feelings, I see that I really only feel that sadness when I try to grip, hold on to, and resist the rhythm of life.  Everything changes.  Moments are temporary.  Life keeps moving on.  My children are growing out of their clothes.  

the boys

And then, I remember that I don't have to hold on to the past, because the only moment I have is NOW.  I can let go.  Sometimes letting go is easy.  Sometimes it's hard.  And if I choose to, I will carry the memories in my heart.  I can take a big, deep breath and smile knowing that all I need to do is enjoy, LIVE, fully experience, and have gratitude for the moments I do have with my boys.  And know that in letting go of the past I am making space for what's to come.

Bye-bye baby clothes.  Oh, how I've loved zipping up my boys in those winter-newborn-jammies-with the-feet.  I know you will keep another baby warm.  

And I'll keep celebrating this moment as a mother to my growing boys.

One day.
One moment.
One breath at a time...

Your Personal Reflection:  Is there something from your past that you are holding on to? What are you ready to let go of?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Breathe Easier By Being You

Free Spirit Spotlight Graphic
I'm very proud and delighted to share this next Free Spirit Spotlight with you!  Lindsay Weiss is a beautiful woman, from the inside out.  She is creative, kind, super generous and one of the funniest people I know.  She also happens to be my little sister.  Lindsay is expecting her first baby in the next few weeks and I couldn't be more excited for her. The way she lives her life, while staying connected to what she values in her heart, is a true inspiration.  Enjoy her interview as she shares some thoughts on living an authentic, present, fun-filled life!

Lindsay's Bio Photo
Laughter is the spark of the soul.  -unknown

Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I am 28, happily married to the love of my life, and we are about to meet our first child this September!  I love working with young people and helping them help themselves.  I would love to meet Tina Fey someday because I just know we would be instant friends.  I think comedy and a sense of humor is so important to have and to share it with others.  I am always up for learning or trying something new.

Lindsay and Matt 2

How do you enjoy life and what makes you happy?  
My family makes me most happy.  My husband is a kind, strong man and he makes me laugh every day.  My family is supportive and talented and very fun to be around.  My dogs provide that unconditional love and they are always up for playing, which makes me smile.  I enjoy my life by spending time with my loved ones and helping others.  I have invested myself in my work by helping young people and their families the past several years.

How did you come to a place where you now embrace yourself and live an authentic life?
I have found that it is best for me to live my life simply and live my truth (whatever that may be).  To live authentically, to me, means doing what feels right.  It means caring about things that speak to your soul and has nothing to do with what your friends or neighbors might care about.  I know how quickly the days go by and if you are living authentically or at least trying to, you can breathe easier every day.

Lindsay Art

What's your favorite art medium for self-expression?
I love writing, expressing myself through short poems, stories and accompanying them with drawings.  I have loved photography since high school and continue to have a good eye for taking great pictures.  I enjoy spending time in my art room by mixing different mediums together (oil pastels, paint, collage and words).

What is a free spirit to you?
A free spirit is a beautiful thing.  I think a free spirit is someone who isn't afraid to be themselves and that takes courage.  A free spirit does what feels right to them even if it looks completely abnormal to the next person.

Lindsay's Clouds

Where do you get your inspiration?
I find a lot of inspiration from nature and when I spend time outside.  I love road trips, getting to stop anywhere we drive and take pictures or just revel in the open land as I often crave more space.  I often want to write after I make another good connection with a young person when I get to learn about their background and the things they have overcome.  I am fascinated by the human connection and how sometimes it fails and other times it is magnificent.

How do you manage to find time and make space for your creative projects?  Any struggles with balance?  Any tips to share with us?
Reflection, reflection, reflection.  I think we all need time EVERY DAY to just stop and breathe.  Sometimes I get that time in the car quietly feeling the breeze, or singing, dancing, meditating, resting, walking or gardening. Time to think about your day and how it went and how you felt about it.  I know this time creates balance for me because it helps me connect deeper to my own voice and I feel less stress and a better connection to what truly matters.

What would you say to those who want to live an authentic life but don't know where to begin?
I think living authentically starts with shifting your perspective.  What is really important to you?  What, at the end of the day, do you want to spend your time on?  You first have to listen to yourself, take time to be quiet and reflect, and then figure out what it is you want to do (or don't want to do) and then put it into action.  It takes daily practice to live authentically because it is so easy to get wrapped up in other people's stuff and chaos. When you start listening to yourself more often, you will realize it is worth any effort to try and live well.

Lindsay and Matt

How is being pregnant changing you and do you think it's allowing you to really listen to your heart even more?
My special time these days is when I get to see and feel my baby move - she is an active little one!  Feeling this little being move and grow inside of me is the most amazing thing I have ever been a part of and I feel at ease as we patiently wait to meet her.  I want to start setting an example to my daughter that it is important to take care of yourself, to find what makes you happy, to be kind to others and to try and live well every day.  I know that it is important to listen to my heart and I want to pass this lesson on to my daughter.

Thank you, beautiful Lindsay, for sharing.  There is such simple wisdom in your words.  I love you and that sweet baby growing in your belly.

Your Personal Reflection:  Take a deep breath, smile and listen to YOUR heart today.

Monday, August 8, 2011

More Life Lessons From a Darn Kidney Stone

refreshing water

If you receive my newsletter, I mentioned that despite this amazing summer heat wave, I feel so blessed these days and it's hard to complain about the 100-degree weather.  Sure, my garden has seen better days, and I feel like we've been trapped in the house for a few weeks. But, I have so much to be grateful for.  And I know you do, too.

You may remember that I suffered from a kidney stone a few months ago.  Well, since then, I had to make yet another trip to the emergency room due to the same darn stone! I started to get pretty frustrated, thinking maybe I didn't know my body as well as I thought I did.  I was overheated, overwhelmed and just plain over feeling blah.  (The stone is officially gone - thank you, lord.)

I'm a true believer that we can heal ourselves from the inside out, and when things are feeling off, I really want to go deeper and get to the core of the problem.  So I've been mindfully (and sometimes not so patiently) observing why I've been feeling run down. And here's what I discovered.

hands in water

Did you know that our kidneys represent the fire that fuels our essence?  There is a yin and yang in the kidney area - a water and fire that when balanced, keeps our kidneys functioning efficiently.  And the heat of summer, my husband's workload, my pitta body type,  my tendency to overcompensate and take on more than I can handle, balancing being a mom of two, staying home with the kids, and growing my career - well, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that my fire was running on overdrive and my water was just plain running dry.  And the kidney stone was simply a symbol - a reminder to slow down and listen.

So after two visits to the ER in 8 weeks, and a bout of mastitis, I continued researching, taking a food allergy test, going to attunement, meditating, resting, slowing down, asking for help, had an eye-opening massage and finally, I tried acupuncture.

The massage therapist I went to specializes in working with people who have deep tissue scars.  It never occurred to me before, but the therapist believes some of the imbalances I've been feeling in my kidney and bladder area have to do with my cesarean scar. (You can read about my emergency cesarean birth here.)  Hearing that connected so many dots for me, and since then I've learned about many women who have suffered from things like IBS, ovarian cysts and scar adhesions, after their c-sections.

playing in water

Ok, then I discovered an amazing acupuncture practitioner and with the touch of my pulse, he could tell that I am a vegetarian and he looked into my eyes and asked, "Do you eat a lot of kale and spinach?"  When I answered, "Yes," he explained that eating those foods and not drinking enough water was the cause of my kidney stone.  What's so funny about that is after my first attack with the stone, my husband's first response was, "It's because of all the kale you eat!"  His comment got me thinking and it's how I learned about high oxalate foods (like kale, spinach, and blueberries.)  I even mentioned it in my first post about the stone.

The practitioner went on to explain that many women after pregnancy and childbirth need some rebalancing - and that's what acupuncture did for me.  He said that over time we have build-up on our meridian channels (the pathways through which our energy flows). Think of it like little beavers building damns, and those beavers can be stress, toxins, fear or worry (just to name a few).  The acupuncture needle helps break up the damn to allow for proper energy flow.  And I'm telling you, I felt the flow return after one visit.  My old self came flooding back.  My energy was restored.  And I haven't had any kidney or bladder issues since.

more water play

But it takes more than a few visits to a holistic healer to maintain our personal wellness. I make a more conscious effort every day to take better care of my body.  I start my morning with lemon water or warm tea.  I eat a good breakfast.  I take my vitamins.  I still eat my favorite health foods, but I drink a ton of water and I carry a water bottle with me everywhere.  I take electrolytes.  I do less (well, most days).  I go to bed earlier (well, most nights).  And I make sure to take time each day to listen to the messages my body so wisely communicates with me.

Why am I telling you all of this?  Because I so believe in the power of sharing and connecting as a way to grow and expand.  In my sharing I hope that some of you will gain a new awareness that you might be able to apply to your own life.  In sharing I always learn something new from you, too.

And the other reason I'm telling you all of this is because I just can't help myself.  Sharing my most authentic self IS my yin, my water, my flow...  If I stop myself from going deeper, and from opening up to my vulnerabilities, then I'm just allowing another beaver to build a damn.

water shot

So here I am, allowing the water to fill up again...and flowing, breathing, laughing, being...ME.

Let it go.
Let it flow.

And listen to the healing wisdom that lives within YOU.

Your Personal Reflection:  Every thing, message, person and experience in your life is a symbol.  What are the symbols in your mind, your body, your spirit and in your life trying to tell you?  Give yourself some quiet time this week and really, deeply, listen.

Photos by Chris Duh.

**Disclaimer:  I am NOT a medical professional.  Please seek the medical advice that is right for YOU.  I am a woman, mom and a student of life - and these lessons that I share with you are the ones I've learned work for me.  What you find along your path will be right for you.  

Monday, August 1, 2011

Inside Out E-Course - Registration for Next Session!

A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step. -Lao Tzu

Inside Out: A Creative Adventure of Self-Discovery e-course registration opens TODAY!

This is the 5th time I'm offering this course and I couldn't be more excited.  This 5-week life experience gives you an opportunity to become a bold explorer of your inner world. You know, that place where your secret wishes and creative yearnings live.  You'll discover new things about yourself and learn how to shine light on those dreams ready to manifest.

The course is full of daily reflections and inspiration, creative play activities, art journaling, weekly yoga poses and guided audio meditations.  One of the best parts about this course is that you get to do the exercises in the comfort of your own home, at your own pace, while connecting to women from all over the world through our on-line community. (Inside Out has reached over 16 countries and counting!)


If you sign-up by this Friday, August 5th, you will get to take advantage of my early bird special at the discounted price of $79.  This is a $20 savings.  (By the way, I've added another week of yummy, creative goodness, too.)  And if you've already taken this course in the past, you get an even greater discount - so email me directly for details. (

Inside Out runs from September 12th - October 21st, 2011.  
The on-line material will be available 4 weeks after class, and you will receive PDF's to download, so the class can fit around your schedule.
 Space is limited so do sign-up early to reserve your spot. 

To register at the early bird price of $79 for 5-weeks, visit HERE.
To learn more about the course, visit HERE.
To learn why I created the course, visit HERE.
To see frequently asked questions, visit HERE.
Create the Life You Love
I could continue telling you just how wonderful the course is, how life changing the process can be and all the other amazing benefits you will receive once you sign-up.  But instead, I'll let some of the past participants do that for me.  Throughout this next month, I'll be sharing testimonials from Inside Out graduates, so you can get inspired by all of the beautiful changes they continue to make in their lives.

paintbrush end

I thought I'd share just a few with you today...

"I would say to anyone wanting to connect (or re-connect) with their inner artist that they should pay a visit to Free Spirit Knits and invest in the Inside Out e-course.  I've experienced this amazing e-course twice and my creative life has been transformed because of it.  I am now much more confident about expressing myself creatively and not worrying about the outcome, learning to just trust the process.  There is nothing more freeing than 'playing' with paint, being a child again, creating for the fun of it.  And this e-course will definitely let you do that!  There's also a great on-line community where you can feel perfectly safe sharing all your creations and connect with like-minded souls."        -Jennifer, UK

"The course really helped me reconnect with my love of creativity and helped me try out different, simple, fun and colourful ways to explore and connect with my creative self, and especially to know that I can make the time and space for that most days when I choose to.  It really helped me to look within a little, take the time for that self-reflection and actually be intentional about that, and journaling about it rather than just a passing thought.  As a stay at home mum of a toddler, I often found I really didn't prioritise or make the space for this important self-reflection and care.  It was really wonderful, encouraging, warm and inspiring to be able to share the journey with so many other women across the globe through the online community, and nice to still keep in touch with many of them." -Katie, Australia


"I loved Inside Out and it has done so much for me in so many ways, even though I am up in years, it is never too late to change and learn.  I have been changing my life and really letting a lot of the artist side of me come to the surface.  I love the ideas Shannon gave us to follow, think about, as she encouraged us to let ourselves go, which has been a very meaningful and eye opening experience.  I am now trying to put some new ideas of mine to paper again, through writing, and I'm experiencing the joy of putting my thoughts down and expressing how I feel about aging and life in general at this time in my life.  I would definitely recommend the course to anyone who wants to know what makes them tick, and to reveal some of their thoughts, feelings and expressions that are ready to take flight." -Iris, US, age 70+

To read more testimonials, visit HERE.

I'm so excited to share this journey with YOU...


Your Personal Reflection:  Are you ready to begin?