One of the recurring themes woven throughout the book I wrote with my friend, Wendy, is the idea that life ebbs and flows, and with each changing season we find ourselves facing new joys and new challenges.
When Wendy and I wrote Life Creative, I had just given birth to my fourth born, a cherubic little baby with gigantic princess eyes, and a precious disposition. Because my other three children were older, the newborn phase was completely different that fourth time around.
I actually had some space in my days thanks to school schedules, nap schedules, and a general rock star quality to life that year.
But alas, Wendy and I were on to something when we wrote the following words:
“As the ocean ebbs and flows with the pull of the tide, so do a mother’s days, pulling away for a time, then gathering back close to the shore of family life. It’s not always easy. In fact, it is anything but easy. Constantly riding the waves of change, high and low tide, looking for our rhythm. Sometimes this in-and-out pull happens gently, while other times we crash like the white-capped waves. And through it all we learn to practice our unique artistic gifts like a spiritual discipline. These are the moments when we learn to drop anchor.” Life Creative, 2016
Once gain, the ebb and flow of life has brought with it a new phase – one that has me feeling less like a rock star and more like a psychotic squirrel on crack.
My cherubic baby has morphed into a wily toddler overnight, still with the gigantic princess eyes, of course. Only now those eyes of hers stare at you with a mischievous gleam, which can be quite unnerving at 3:00 in the morning.
She’s discovered that she can climb from her crib, and with this discovery a whole new world has opened up that she didn’t know existed. It’s also revealed something about her that my husband and I didn’t know until now:
Our daughter is a ninja.
She has an ability to pull herself out of bed and walk out of her room in absolute silence, so stealthy that when we wake to find her by our bed, or turn the corner to find her standing completely still in the dark, we nearly jump out of skin.
This new phase has turned an already crazy phase of life into a crazy and unpredictable phase of life.
Between our sports/homeschool/middle school/church/travel/ninja-toddler schedule, I have less time than ever before in which to work.
For many years, this little corner of the internet was the place where I worked out how I saw the world. It was my place to share thoughts, share funny stories, share heartaches, and to keep a record of our crazy life.
But the world has changed, blogging has changed, and my season of life has changed, and I need to be more careful with my quiet moments, which I’m mining out like gold right now.
Many of you who get these posts delivered directly to your mailbox signed up for this thanks to one of my book launches last year. Some of you are fiction lovers and are likely confused by the writer girl with her ninja toddler.
Others are creatives who, like me, have precious few quiet moments in your day, and you need to be judicious with where you spend those. So what to do with the writer girl and her ninja toddler?
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Our little house sat nestled on a five-acre field, the sprawling Wisconsin woods providing the backdrop to what was a pretty idyllic scene. I was a child, so my memories of Wisconsin winters are filled with nothing more than magic. Hours spent tunneling through the snow, building igloos, eating snacks inside our burrowed out snow caverns in six and seven foot drifts.
We lived at the top of a large hill, so the neighborhood descended upon our back yard daily to sled. We’d bring out pitchers of water at the end of each day, and build up a ramp of snow, sprinkling it with water between each layer. By morning, we’d have a frozen solid launching pad for our toboggans.
My bedroom was on the second story, and I’d wake up each morning to look out over the stark white landscape, a wonderland of possibility for my imaginative mind. I didn’t need a wardrobe to reach Narnia. It waited for me in my backyard.
It’s easy to remember those Wisconsin years with great fondness. I was a child, and my only responsibility was to bundle up and give in to the imagination. As an adult, I shudder at the thoughts of frigid winters and snowy fields, but as a child?
I lived for winter.
When I was little, there were few things I enjoyed more than exploring. My brother and I would wake early and make plans to traverse the woods behind our house. Of course, during hunting season it was imperative that we wore bright colors and made enough noise to not be mistaken for deer, but in the summer, when the snow finally melted and the trees turned vibrant, we’d spend hours and hours in their shade.
There’s magic in exploration, and I miss it.
There are days when the mundane feels like a blanket over my head. The predictability of life presses down, and I find myself longing for those early years when I was nothing more than the girl in the trees, swinging from one grand adventure to the next.
There are other days, however, when I’m completely smitten with this life I’m living. As the cooler Florida weather kisses my bare arms (I’ll take a Florida winter over a Wisconsin winter any day of the week now), I watch my husband and kids play in the backyard.
The boys kick the soccer ball, whooping and hollering in delight with each scored goal.
Tia flips and tumbles over her mats, the very same mats upon which I used to flip and tumble in my Wisconsin yard as a child, and I feel her delight as she takes in the world upside down.
And Annika tromps through the yard, high stepping over the areas where the grass is a little too high. Her face is filled with that rapturous delight that only toddlers possess when they’re given the freedom to roam unhindered.
All the sights and sound assail my senses, and I realize there’s plenty of adventure left. Some of the adventure is awesome, the imaginations of my small people lighting the path for grand adventures.
Some of the adventure I could do without – like broken bottles of nail polish and shattered snow globes, and everything else the rambunctious toddler longs to attack inside the house.
It’s all an adventure, even the monotony. I guess it’s just a matter of perspective, and a willingness to use your imagination. Because the truth is, we were made for adventure. We weren’t made for monotony because it leads to complacency, and there’s no power in complacency.
If you sit back and think about it, I imagine you’re seeking adventure just like I am. Maybe you’re an obvious thrill seeker, always open and game for the next wild endeavor.
Or maybe you’re a homebody, content to stay nestled inside your comfort zone.
But I imagine you still long for adventure.
So what does adventure look like for you? Is it the challenge of your work? Is it the delight you take in watching your children grow? Is it travel? Do you find adventure in a good book, or in the creativity of your every day life?
What is it that breaks you free from the monotony of the day to day? When was your last adventure?
Has it been too long?
Helen Keller told us that “Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing at all.” If this is true, and if you believe it, then what are you doing to enjoy the ride?
Happy Tuesday, friends. Make today an adventure.
“There will be many times in your lives – at school, and more particularly when you are grown up – when people will distract or divert you from what needs to be done. You may even welcome the distraction. But if you use it as an excuse for not doing what you’re supposed to do, you can blame no one but yourself. If you truly wish to accomplish something, you should allow nothing to stop you, and chances are you’ll succeed.”
The Last of the Really Great Wangdoodles
I opened up the attachment, and immediately my eyes began to burn. The photo was everything I’d imagined, and nothing I ever allowed myself to dare dream. It was a colliding clash of conflicting emotions, and it all washed over me in a giant wave.
When I first dared to dream of writing a book, I was twenty-one years old. I was told it was an attainable goal, and I believed that fully and without doubt. I had no reason not to believe it.
I didn’t understand how difficult the process would be, though – how hard I would have to fight to tell the right story in the right way. I didn’t know that I would sweat and labor and toil, and I had no idea the effect all that fighting would have on my confidence.
All around me, it seemed other people were living out my dream. People launched books, and they all seemed to do it accidentally, never having really wanted to publish in the first place.
So I wondered if I wanted it too much. But then I realized, it’s okay to want it, and it’s definitely okay to fight for it. In fact, the fight makes the end result that much sweeter.
I am constantly telling my children that they have to fight for their dreams. Success doesn’t just fall into your lap – you have to work for it.
This week, my daughter got a much coveted skill in gymnastics – the cast to a handstand on the high bar. When she came home after practice, I asked her how she felt when she did it.
“Scared,” she replied. “I was so scared to try it, and the first time I didn’t get all the way up. But then one of the bigger girls told me to do it again, and I reminded myself that I have to just keep trying, so I got up and tried again. And I did it! The third time I tried, I wasn’t even scared anymore.”
Out of the mouths of babes, right?
Friends, big goals and dreams take courage. You’re holding yourself up on the high bar, arms quaking under the strain of desire and fear, and you have a choice to make. Will you cast, or will you jump off the bar?
Maybe you cast and you don’t get all the way up. Maybe you even fall. That’s okay. Cast again. And again. And again and again and again.
Because one day, after all that casting, you will manage to push into the handstand. You’re heart will thump with adrenaline as you teeter high above the ground, and you’ll realize that all that casting was worth it.
Accomplishing goals takes courage, yes. But it also takes hard work and perseverance. You have to look at your dream for what it is – a bar high above the ground, and it begs for you to swing.
So what are you waiting for? Take the advice of my tenacious nine year old with the big dreams. Remind yourself that you just have to keep trying, and climb back up on the bar. Because you can do this, friends.
All you have to do is take that first swing.
I sat up tall in the chair, elbows resting on the desk as I soaked in every word. I leaned in close, hoping to maybe catch the magic of each phrase and bottle it up for later.
“You each have a story to tell,” the professor said. He wasn’t flashy, like some of my other professors. He didn’t bring in a clunky keyboard, like my Latin professor, and make up quirky songs about the Greek gods.
He didn’t come to class dressed as Chaucer and recite The Canterbury Tales for twenty minutes like my Lit professor.
No, this man was different. He was a writer, and he had the aura of one. He was cool and laid back, with a sharp wit and a mischievous twinkle in his eye. He leaned on the podium and looked at us, one at a time.
“You have a story to tell,” he said again. “And that story is only yours.”
That was a long time ago. A loooooong time ago.
It took me thirteen years, and several drafts to write my story – my first story. Because as soon as one story ends, another begins. In between all that storytelling, you see, is a whole lot of living, and life breeds story.
When I finished my novel, I wondered if I would ever find another story to tell. For several months, I thought I’d used up all my words. It was about this time that my blog began to die, and swirling inside all of that was a healing heart after a terminated adoption.
I had to fall into the heartache for a bit so the wound could scab over. Did it heal? Yes, I believe it did.
But there’s still a mark.
Scars are stories, though, aren’t they? I have scars on my knee that tell of a young girl who could swing the parallel bars…until she landed wrong and tore her ACL. It’s a story, and it’s all mine.
It’s been two years since I finished my novel, and in that time I’ve also written a non-fiction book, a couple of short stories, and lots of online words. But I wanted a new story to tell. And I was getting impatient.
In the last month, I’ve felt the tickling sensation of an idea formulating. It likes to prick at me late at night, usually when I’m tired, and I want nothing more than to crawl up in bed with a cup of hot tea and Netflix. At first I tried ignoring it, but then I remembered this is what I was waiting for.
So I recorded it.
Chicken scratches on a scrap piece of paper next to my bed may very well hold the key to my next story. It’s relieving to know there’s more to come. I’m not finished typing words just yet.
But life is hectic. There are so many small people running around my house, it makes my head spin. Half the time little people who don’t even belong to me are here! So I’m fitting the storytelling into the cracks of my day, and in the larger chunks of time I’m choosing to live.
Because life – with all its hectic hilarity, all its pain and confusion, all its joy and laughter, all this smashed up living inside four walls – breeds story.
You have a story to tell, too.
Maybe you don’t desire to write a book. That’s okay. I don’t blame you. But that doesn’t mean you don’t have a story worth telling.
All of mankind, every bit of the history that tells us who we are, and from where we came, is built on story. Consider this my podium moment as I lean in close and look you in the eye.
You have a story to tell, and that story is only yours. You live your story every day, and it holds weight in this world.
So live your story, and then tell it.
Write it in a journal, on a blog, or on the walls of your home. Tell it with the lens of your camera, or with a video camera strapped to your wrist.
Life is happening right now, all around you. Everywhere you turn, life is waiting to be observed and recorded, and you have a perspective that no one else shares.
Tell your story. I promise, the world needs to hear it.
Four years ago, I got on a plane and headed West. My friend and writing cohort suggested a weekend away to focus on our crafts, and it sounded like exactly the thing I needed to jump start a few projects. That was the birth place of our Creative Retreat.
Today, Wendy told you how to plan and execute a Creative Retreat. I’d like to piggy back on her words and tell you why you should do it.
There is no substitute for the power of like-mindedness. As females, we crave relationships. Conversation with others is the Yin to our Yang. We thrive on those deep seeded moments of connection.
While this is true for all women to some degree, for creative women, relationship is almost like oxygen. As Creatives, we are known to have ALL THE FEELINGS! We see life in a unique way, and by unique I mean totally different from our more realistic, left-brained peers.
Let’s just say we might still believe in unicorns and fairies.
When Creatives come together, the days suddenly feel a little more sparkly. Tuck Creatives away in a beautiful place with inspiring scenery, and a bit of magic happens. Imagination takes flight when a group of creative women comes together, because as we share ALL THE FEELINGS, and we dream the dreams, we see that perhaps this thing that we do, this creating, isn’t such a strange thing after all.
There is comfort to be found in a room full of women who agree that they’ll forgo cleaning the bathroom/kitchen/house in order to write a few more paragraphs, or edit that last batch of photos, or simply read a book. There is beauty seen when we stumble out into the early morning sunlight together because we couldn’t sleep, all the visions and stories calling us out of bed.
A Creative Retreat extends a hand out and says, “You’re not alone. I get you. Let’s do this together.”
What makes a Creative Retreat?
Wendy gave some excellent tips on what makes up a successful gathering for the creative minds. But more than anything, a Creative Retreat is simply a place where you come together, and you enjoy designated, un-interrupted, guilt-free hours specifically on your craft.
A Creative Retreat is a getaway that allows you not only to escape your day to day home life, but also to escape fully into the gifts that let your soul breath a little bit easier.
Why Is a Creative Retreat Important?
In the four years since Wendy and I began planning these Creative Retreats, we’ve seen the women who join us grow in their talents. The photographers, both already phenomenal in their own right, have gotten more confident in their abilities, and in their callings. The teacher has found that the time away fills her soul, preparing her to return home to pour back into both her students and her children. The writers have each expanded their reach and platform, and have accomplished project goals.
A Creative Retreat is not only fulfilling to the creative heart, but it also allows you to set and achieve goals. Concentrated time focused solely on your project can yield amazing results.
Three years ago, I wrote 50 pages in my novel in just three days. All I needed was the space and time.
If you’re a creative who’s looking for space to breath and stretch your creative wings, I would urge you to look for a retreat that you can attend that will meet that need. And if you can’t find one?
“Mom, are you having another baby?”
I get asked this question by my nine and seven year olds at least twice a week. Three times if I’m lucky. Our fourth born arrived four months ago, and the children are certain that something is terribly wrong with me since my body hasn’t immediately bounced back.
Tact. We’re working on it in our home. Clearly we need some practice.
Dressing your postpartum body can be quite the chore, particularly in those in-between months when you’ve finally (blissfully) gotten to the place where your regular clothes fit again, but they don’t fit…well. What to do when you want to wear something besides yoga pants, but you don’t want to purchase a whole new wardrobe? I have one word for you:
The modern day girdle, Spanx are a gift for those living in that transition between almost there and finally made it back to pre-baby weight!
It’s true that Spanx make you feel like you might die a slow death of midsection claustrophobia. Just pulling the body-shaping undergarments on is a workout in and of itself, so basically when you wear Spanx you’re killing two birds with one stone: Workout, and completely eradicate the flesh over your abs.
I am now at the point that, with the help of my trusty Spanx, I can fit into almost all of my regular jeans. No, I don’t think I get the full amount of oxygen that I need to fully function while wearing Spanx and jeans, but I do get my kids off my back about having another baby. So I consider it a win.
So for you moms who are trying to get your body back after baby, here are a few tricks (to go along with the Spanx, of course).