Sunday, August 29, 2010

Being OK with S p a c e

Many of us have taken the challenge this year to reduce clutter to create s p a c e for the things that matter most in life.  For the first 6 months I've focused primarily on reducing physical clutter.  It has been exhilarating, frustrating, overwhelming, relieving and wonderful.  Some days I feel like I've made a lot of progress, and some days I just want people to come over and take everything out of my basement. (Anyone interested?)

My husband has been out of town for the last 5 days taking a photography workshop in Utah.  So I decided that while he was gone Kestan and I would have our own mini-vacation in town.  I relinquished most household duties and we've enjoyed eating out, picnics in the park, swimming, a visit to the zoo, the farmer's market, and get-togethers with friends and family.

We've also enjoyed a lot of downtime at home.  And letting go of our daily routine has freed up some much needed s p a c e to do nothing.  Like playing in the park without a time restraint.  Or stopping in the middle of folding clothes to build a fort out of fresh sheets.  Or deciding that spices were just as interesting as blocks, so why not build a little town with them on the kitchen floor?  

My Internet has been down the last several days so I didn't have the computer to fill up my time.  And having this downtime has allowed me a chance to focus more on what it means to have s p a c e.  We can create physical space in our homes by donating boxes of old books and clothes, but what about our daily schedule?  How often do we fill up our day so full that we find ourselves running around until crashing in bed at some ungodly hour, just to get up early the next morning to do it all over again? 

Sometimes I find that clearing the closets, cupboards and basement shelves are the easy part.  The hard part is to keep from filling the empty spaces again.  I actually find great joy in looking at empty shelves, just as I love days with no plans.  In fact, I "schedule" days that stay blank on my calendar.  Sometimes I even encourage my husband to take our one-and-only car to work so that I don't get tempted to go do something.  That way Kestan and I can move slowly throughout our day, with no plans, and with s p a c e to explore around our home.  These are my favorite days.

But then there are days where I feel stir crazy, like my hair is standing on end, and I have a lot of s p a c e that I don't know what to do with.  I think, "What should we do?"  Why is it that we feel this need to do something, anything, to fill up the s p a c e?  

Now that I'm getting close to my last month of pregnancy I feel really moved to create even more s p a c e.  So I'm going to continue being more conscious when those feelings of needing to fill the s p a c e come up.  I want to be OK with s p a c e.  I want to have more time where I don't know what to do with myself.  I am going to practice embracing more being time rather than so much doing.  Less agenda.  Less schedule.  Less expectations.  Less thinking about what's next.  More unplanned days.  More time at home.  More spontaneous, creative play.  More s p a c e.

I know I don't need to do something, make something, go somewhere, be somebody, or fill up my days to feel important and productive.  I know what's important for me now is to be in the s p a c e, because it's in the s p a c e that I appreciate these special little moments - like simply playing in the park.  It's in this s p a c e where I learn the most.  It's where I'm the most present.  Feeling the stillness that s p a c e brings (along with the discomfort and agitation) is where I need to be.  And being OK with no plans, no agenda, and no time-restraints is what this little guy is teaching me.  Not only is he teaching me it's OK, but that doing nothing and letting our time spontaneously unfold is more fun than I could have ever imagined.

Your Personal Reflection:  How can you create more s p a c e in your day so that you move at a pleasant pace - one that is balanced with more downtime?   What are some things you can let go of to create more s p a c e in your daily schedule?  How can you keep from filling up your s p a c e and simply enjoy being there?  What do you learn when you allow yourself to embrace doing nothing?

Friday, August 27, 2010

Coming to an End

Your Personal Reflection: What are you celebrating at the end of this season? 

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Got Tomatoes?

Reducing our grocery budget continues to go pretty well and I sure have enjoyed the abundance of tomatoes, peppers and fresh basil from my garden.  Here's another super-yummy, super-healthy, super-fresh recipe to wet your appetite.  Please note that I am not very specific on my measurements.  I want to encourage you to experiment and have fun discovering your creativity in the kitchen!  

Red Pepper Basil Spaghetti Sauce
15 (or so) roma tomatoes (or any tomatoes you like)
1 can of tomato sauce
4-6 garlic cloves, minced
1-2 T olive oil
1 red pepper
1 T (or so) red wine vinegar
1/2 large onion chopped
handful of fresh basil leaves
dash of red pepper flakes
salt & pepper to taste
grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
pasta of your choice (we use gluten-free)

Prepare your ingredients - chop onions, red pepper, basil, chop and seed tomatoes, and mince the garlic.  Heat olive oil on medium heat.  Saute the garlic and onions first, then add the red pepper.  

After three to four minutes add the tomatoes and tomato sauce.  After two to three minutes add the red wine vinegar, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper to taste.  Add the chopped basil leaves.

Let the sauce cook down for two or more hours until it's the consistency you like.  If you aren't eating it right away, prepare an ice bath for the sauce before refrigerating.

Serve with your favorite pasta and top with grated parmesan cheese.  YUM.

Your Personal Reflection:  Are you having fun being creative in the kitchen?

Sunday, August 22, 2010

With Complete Gratitude...

I believe everyone is an artist.  Everyone.  I believe we all are born creative.  All of us.  I believe each of us has a unique set of gifts and talents, with an imagination that needs to be discovered, explored and nurtured, and an individuality that makes us US, and a connection that makes us ONE.  I believe we all have the ability to inspire.

For nearly 10 years I have worked at an art studio that strives to nurture the creativity in children and their families.  This special place has been provided free as a public service and creative gift to our community by one of the largest greeting card companies in the world for close to 40 years.

I started working there full-time and eventually reduced my hours to part-time to pursue teaching yoga and my deep desire to make art with yarn and felt.  For the last year I've only worked one day a week so that I could not only grow my creativity and holistic life-coaching career, but also to stay-at-home with my sweet boy.

This past Friday marked my last weekday.  (I can't seem to step away completely - I'll be going back just one Saturday a month after my maternity leave.)  But I've made the decision to keep both my boys out of daycare to stay-at-home and work-from-home on the things I love most.  

This job has been really good to me.  It's where I met the love of my life.

It's where I learned to knit.

It has been the stepping stone that I needed to make my dreams a reality.  

And on my last day something really cool happened.  The day itself was pretty uneventful.  I worked as usual, had a quiet lunch, said good-bye to a few friends, and then towards the end of the day I check my mailbox one last time.  

I found a letter from someone I've never met and I have no idea why the letter was addressed to me.  The man who wrote the letter shared that 25 years ago he remembered visiting this art studio as a child and he reflected on how it was such a joyful experience for him, one that let his creativity run wild and free.  

He goes on to say, "I write to you with gratitude from the child of my youth, the child within, and the grateful adult I have become for the special impact this [art studio] has had on my life.  ...I also write to you as part of a lifelong dream of mine that has been of great importance and value in my life as of late due to a recent diagnosis of colon cancer for which I anticipate a successful recovery.  It has, I admit, been a lifelong dream of mine to write a book as a tribute to those special to me. The idea came to me in the last year to honor these special to me with their thoughts of gratitude and personal legacies in a book for others to learn about, be inspired by, and appreciate these people.  ...more importantly I hope to have this collection of inspiration available for my loved ones to reinforce their gratitude and inspire them in the event that I may one day not be around...

I would be honored to know your thoughts on the following questions:

1) What are you grateful for?
2) What gratitude do you hope others will have for you?  That is, what legacy do you hope to leave for others?"

He ends the letter by saying, "I wish you all the best in the realization of your dreams and the realization of the dreams of those special to you."


Is that not amazing?

And to receive this letter on my last day, where I'm taking bold, big steps to continue manifesting my own personal dreams?

So I ask you today to please take some time to reflect on these two questions and if you are so willing, I would love for you to share with me here.  I haven't yet answered the questions myself.  And I promise to share when I do.  What I can say is I'm completely grateful to the universe for bringing this letter my way.  

So thank you, Mr. Letter Writer, for posing such thoughtful and positive questions for us all to reflect on.  You are an inspiration.

Your Personal Reflection:  What are you grateful for?  What gratitude do you hope others will have for you?  That is, what legacy do you hope to leave for others?

Friday, August 20, 2010

Kestan Wisdom

Mommy, you are the lemon.
Daddy is the lemonade.
I am the cup.

-Kestan's Poem, August, 2010

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Being Me is All I Know

(Photos courtesy of Chris Duh.)

Music and rhythm find their way into the secret places of the soul. -Plato

This is my brother, Jeff.  He is a very talented musician.  When I took piano lessons growing up I'd practice for hours trying to play a piece of Bach, then I'd step away from the piano and a few seconds later would hear my brother playing the same song - by ear!  Ooh...that was so frustrating.

When he got his first guitar we could name any song, usually Nirvana or Tori Amos, and it didn't take long before he sounded them out and played us the songs in their entirety.  This is talent that you are just born with - yet one that needs to be practiced and focused on to manifest and grow.  Luckily, he has done that over the years and has become a wonderful singer/songwriter. 

My frustrations of his innate musical talent subsided years ago!  In fact, I couldn't be more proud and excited for him.  For the first time, we have "collaborated" on a piece of music.  I have to admit that I didn't do much, but I did hand over a few of the lyrics and then Jeff created (wrote, sang, played, and produced) a beautiful, inspirational, just-makes-you-feel-good kind of song.

Go stop by his website and listen to Be Free.  This is the theme song for my e-course, Inside Out: A Creative Adventure of Self-Discovery.  I feel so incredibly honored, excited, OVER-JOYED, that my brother put his heart into a song that means so much to me, too.  (We're also making a music video together!)

Years ago when I was feeling sad and confused I heard an inspirational yoga teacher say, "Don't die with your music still inside you."  Whoa.  That statement hit me right over the head.  I felt like my talents, my passions, my true nature, my authentic way of being, my music, were all trapped inside - I was keeping them hidden - as fear and self-doubt consumed me.  

But never again, will I keep my music inside, and hopefully that goes for you, too!  And this is why I created Inside Out, to share, to connect, and to grow with other beautiful people in search of setting their inner music free.  Because how sad for any of us to let even one more day go by without creating and FULLY LIVING a life we LOVE.

Which leads me to the winner of my Inside Out e-course give-away...

Congratulations to...Amy with Girl's Life blog!

For those of you who still want to become an Inside Out explorer, I'll be offering one more give-away this fall and will open registration towards the end of the year for the January, 2011 session.  Join my Free Spirit Knits Facebook Fan Page to be the first to learn the details.  (Thanks to each of you for your thoughtful comments.)

Now everyone, get over to Jeff's site, turn up the volume and get your dance on!

Your Personal Reflection:  Are you letting your inner music - your most authentic YOU - out to dance, play, breathe, and be?  

Open your heart and your soul will follow. -Jeff Kinney

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Reduce Clutter, One Small Change, & another giveaway!

Back in December I gave myself the challenge to de-clutter something in my home everyday.  The transformation I experienced that month lead me to wanting more space and less clutter.  So I set my intentions for a new year, and launched the year-long challenge - Reduce Clutter; Create Space.

In six-months time, I donated big items and boxes to charity, avoided buying art supplies and used what I had - including recycled materials and old wood, remembered my cloth bags more often, found creative uses for brown paper bags when I forgot, cleared out my closets and gave away tons of clothes, repurposed sweaters and junk mail, started my first garden, cleaned out and organized my kitchen, got more creative in cooking healthy recipes, slowed way down to enjoy more quality family time, chose to stop trying to fit in so I can live my most authentic life, found time for yoga classes again, cut cable, reduced our grocery budget, interviewed these amazing reduce clutter explorers, launched three e-courses inspiring others to create the lives they love from the Inside Out, and joined the One Small Change challenge.'s been quite a year so far...big breath in, big breath out....

The closets continue to get cleared and revamped - I mean how many games does one small family need?

We are finding new ways to use the things we have, rather than going out and buying more.

Our garden continues to gift us with so much abundance and I love that I don't have to buy much produce at the grocery store this summer.  We are eating extremely well and it has been such a wonderful luxury since we made the decision to spend less on food.

All the vegetables you see here were picked just last night (along with a beautiful ripe watermelon!)

A few weekends ago our old pipes were clogged and we couldn't use the kitchen sink for a few days.  Instead we, I mean my husband, washed all of the dishes outside.  Although it was a hassle it kind of felt like camping.  And what I learned from that weekend is it's easier (after a while) when you live more simply.  It taught me to be much more mindful about how many dishes I use in a day.  You really start to become aware of it when you have to wash everything by hand!

So rather than reach for yet another cup, I am trying to use one drinking glass, one plate, and one bowl for the day.  I still need more practice at it, but it's my One Small Change that I'd like to implement for August.  I continue to be reminded that using less means more time and s p a c e for the things I enjoy most - so less dishes to wash or load means more time painting, playing, knitting, being fully present...

Although my reduce clutter challenge started out on a physical level, I can see that from clearing the physical clutter, my mental and emotional clutter are releasing as well.  I am seeing greater clearing in my home (with much more to go) and I am seeing much greater clearing and BIG changes going on inside myself.

I believe that Reduce Clutter; Create Space and One Small Change go hand-in-hand.  The more we can clear and let go, the more s p a c e we create.  The more s p a c e we enjoy, the more stillness we experience.  The more stillness we have, the more aware and mindful we become to make one small change at a time.  With each small change we are giving the greatest gift back to ourselves, to our families, to our community and to our world.  

I feel completely blessed to have charted down a new path to live a greener, simpler life.  Reducing clutter and making small changes along the way have brought more health, happiness, connection and a greater sense of peace in my life (along with challenges and resistance to be sure!)  And to honor the blessings I am experiencing (like another life growing inside me) it seems like another great time to... 
celebrate with a giveaway!

Leave a comment here, by Tuesday, August 17th, and you'll be entered to win a spot in my January e-course, Inside Out: A Creative Adventure of Self-Discovery.

Your Personal Reflection:  What is one small change you can make this month to bring goodness into your life?

(It's never too late to join the Reduce Clutter; Create Space or One Small Change challenges!  See the list of reduce clutter participants here.)

Want more inspiration to make change?  Read this article about a couple that gave up everything but 100 personal items.  And you have to check out the Happy Janssen's and their amazing life on the road.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Weekend Fun

Your Personal Reflection:  How are you celebrating the season where you live?

Friday, August 6, 2010

My Garden is Flourishing (and new recipes!)

We have gobs of fresh-from-the-garden vegetables over here, which happens to be perfect timing since we recently cut our monthly grocery budget.  Starting seeds in late March and planting our garden at the beginning of June has really paid off and brought a lot of joy to our family.

Enjoy, for a moment, the sexiness of these organic, freshly picked beauties!

Sticking to one of my tips for meal planning on a budget, I continue to find ways to use similar ingredients in a variety of meals.  Here are a few easy ideas...

Basil Cucumber Tomato Salad
handful of fresh basil
4-5 medium cucumbers
4-5 small tomatoes
2 T (or so) olive oil
2 T (or so) balsamic vinegar
dash of salt & pepper

Peel the cucumbers.  Before cutting, take a fork and draw lines with it down the length of the cucumber.  Do this all the way around. This is a tip I learned from my husband, who learned from his grandmother, and it helps the cucumbers fully absorb the dressing (plus it just looks pretty).  Slice the cucumbers as thinly as you can.  Chop (and seed) the tomatoes.  Chop the fresh basil.  Mix in a bowl.  Add your oil and vinegar to your liking - enough to coat the salad.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Let sit for 4-6 hours.  This salad is good for a few days and is SO yummy fresh.

Summer Tomato Feta Pasta Salad
1 package of pasta
handful of fresh basil
3 medium cucumbers
2 cups of cherry tomatoes (or tomatoes of your choice)
2 T (or so) olive oil
2 T (or so) balsamic vinegar
dash of salt & pepper
1/4 cup feta cheese

Cook any pasta you like according to package (I used this one).  Rinse, drain and let cool.  Mix sliced cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper - adding more oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper to taste.  Toss with chopped basil and feta cheese.  Refrigerate and eat when cold.  Enjoy.

Your Personal Reflection:  Feed your soul with fresh foods of the season and notice how good you feel! 

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Please Don't Say These Things

"Wow, you are really big!  How much weight have you gained?  Are you sure you aren't having twins?  Your belly is huge.  You've gotten way bigger in the last week!  Whoa, when are you due?  You look so much bigger than your first pregnancy.  Looks like you'll be having this baby any day now."

Seriously.  I've heard all of these comments in the last few weeks.  Let's just think about it for a minute. Would we say these to anyone who wasn't pregnant?  Then why do we feel it's OK, appropriate and downright expected to say such statements to a hormonal, hot, out-of-breath, can't-find-anything-that-fits, gotta-pee-every-second, tired, swollen feet and yes...BIG mama!?  

We know we are big!  We know our bellies, breasts and other parts are expanding!  We know we are adding a pound a week.  But do we really want to hear this from everyone we encounter in a day?  Do we want this to be pointed out in the grocery store, at morning playgroup or at the family wedding?  Can we talk about something else PLEASE, anything else, other than (what feels like) my ginormous body?

Don't get me wrong - I'm very proud of my growing belly.  Feeling so deeply connected to the life inside of me is the greatest gift in the whole world.  In fact, I tell him everyday to get bigger and bigger.  I love that I'm getting bigger because I know he is, too.  

I just want to speak up for all those pregnant women who have to put up with the fact that our weight seems to be the topic of every conversation we're in. 

And I also know that most people who say these comments have the best intentions in mind. I don't think they are saying it maliciously - sometimes we just don't know what else to say.

Here's my suggestion - give a compliment.  "You look beautiful today.  You are glowing.  You are going to be the best mom.  I'm so excited to see what your precious little soul will be like."  And it's going to be up to us to accept and receive these compliments.  Rather than saying, "Oh...I feel like a cow," say, "Thank you.  I really appreciate it."  

Your Personal Reflection:  Give someone (pregnant or not) a compliment today.  It will make them smile and it will make you feel good, too.

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Magnificence of Nature

We took a quick road trip to Omaha this weekend for my cousin's wedding.  It was a fun little adventure and we had a good time catching up with what seemed to be millions of family members.
I captured these photos on the way.  The clouds were just magnificent.  (For all you IPhone users, check out ShakeItPhoto - an app that allows you to take Polaroid images.  You can even shake your phone for faster developing. Way cool.)

I really enjoyed having a few moments of quiet time in the car.  I was mesmerized by the vibrant beauty of the changing cloud formations.  Paying attention to the clouds, I was reminded that when I take the time to really see the world around me, I feel more connected to what I'm experiencing, and I end up feeling more energized, happy and alive.

Allowing ourselves time for this simple practice, to really notice the things around us - especially the wonder of nature - is a great exercise in living more presently.  

Take some time today to stop, to notice, to observe and maybe even capture with your phone or camera - the every day things in your environment.  We all move too fast as it is, so slowing down is a great gift you can give yourself.  I think you'll be surprised at what you discover.  
Your Personal Reflection:  Enjoy this lovely quote from Eckhart Tolle, "Once there is a certain degree of Presence, of still and alert attention in human beings' perceptions, they can sense the divine life essence, the one indwelling consciousness or spirit in every creature, every life-form, recognize it as one with their own essence and so love it as themselves.  Until this happens, however, most humans see only the outer forms, unaware of the inner essence, just as they are unaware of their own essence and identify only with their own physical and psychological form."

So, today, take a few minutes to look up at the clouds, to hug a tree, to hold a stone or flower in your hand, and see its inner and outer beauty.  Can you see the life energy and feel a connection to its pure essence?  Can you become more aware of your own inner essence?  Remember, you are more than just physical form, but rather you are one with the source - and we are all connected.  And like the clouds, YOU are magnificent.