It felt so real that when I woke up, I stared at the ceiling for several moments, separating fact from fiction in my mind, reminding myself of where I was, who I was, and what was true.
In actuality, the dream itself was absurd. It was the likely product of extreme fatigue, an Advil PM, and the movie Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, which I’d watched with the kids the night before. But it felt like there was more to this particular dream than just absurdity.
This was the kind of dream you don’t really want to forget, so you take a few minutes to review it when you wake up, solidifying every crazy detail in your brain before your feet hit the floor.
The dream started as most dreams start – right in the middle of the action. There was no lead up, no back story, if you will. If this dream were a novel, the reader would be confused.
I was in China, on a bus. Not too strange, given the fact that we are in the final stages of a Chinese adoption.
Oh, did I forget to mention that? It’s been a while since I shared in this space.
We are about two months away from flying to China to pick up a little boy that’s been set apart as our son. We’ve passed all the necessary background checks, been vetted and scrutinized by the United States powers that be, and the Chinese. We’ve been given the stamp of approval, and now need only to clear a few more hurdles before we go pick him up.
I’m going to tell you all about the events that led us to this little boy in the next post, but for today I want to focus on the dream.
So I was in China, on a bus, and I was scared. Terrified, actually. Outside the left window of the bus, a volcano smoked and belched ash. Flecks of lava spit from the top, and the air was kind of fuzzy and hazy with heat and smoke.
Outside the right window of the bus, winds swirled and howled as a hurricane whipped its way toward us. No matter which way I turned, there seemed to be chaos, and the overall feeling inside the bus was that of impending doom. People screamed and jostled around. Nothing felt safe or secure. It felt overwhelmingly frightening.
Now, trust me when I tell you that the silliness of all this is not lost on me. Like I said, I’d watch Jurassic World the night before with the kids, so the seed of outrunning a volcano was firmly planted in my consciousness (though, to be honest, it would have been kind of cool if I’d also been outrunning dinosaurs while escaping raining lava. Chris Pratt gets to have all the fun…).
And one year ago today, we were packing up our house and heading to a shelter as Hurricane Irma barreled toward Florida. That the two natural disasters came together in a single dream is not all that far fetched.
But there was more to my terror in this dream than those two events. Something deep inside me felt unsettled, like the moors of confidence had slipped away and I myself was being swept up in the winds outside the window.
I felt panicked. My heart was racing, my hands were shaking, and my throat was completely dry as my head whipped side to side and people screamed around me.
Then someone handed me a baby.
He was very, very small and had a head full of thick, black hair. His twig-like arms flailed and his legs kicked as he wailed. I don’t know where he came from or who put him in my arms, but somehow I knew that I was supposed to be the one holding him.
I pulled him tight to my chest, and immediately the feeling of panic disappeared. I didn’t hear the screams or the wind or the thunder of the erupting volcano. I didn’t feel the bus bouncing, and my heart beat calmed. I stared at his face, though I couldn’t really make out any features.
For a split second, I let the sounds of what was happening around me seep back into the moment. I looked up, confused, and tried to hand the baby to someone next to me, a faceless person who took the child from my outstretched hands. As soon as I let the baby go, the feeling of panic returned, the sounds around me were deafening, and I felt an immediate sense of dread.
I reached for the child again, and he was placed back in my arms. This time, he reached up for me, and I pulled his cheek to mine. The second our skin met the noise and panic and fear subsided again.
Well, actually my male readers might not be so into it given that this is a book written specifically to moms. But I bet you guys (all four of you) know some moms who could use a little encouragement, so go ahead and buy a copy and give it away!
It’s a book for the mom who once teemed with creative ideas and dreams, but now can’t seem to find the time to fit those dreams back into her life.
It’s for the woman who discovered a wealth of creativity that she never knew existed after she became a mother.
This is a book for the writers and the bakers, the photographers, home decorators, painters, crafters, scrapbookers, jewelry makers, hair dressers, song writers, party planners, graphic designers, and everything in between.
This is a book for the mom who longs to make some income from her creative passions, and for the woman who simply loves her hobby and wants to share it with others.
This is for the women who are raising wildly creative children, and for those of us who once upon a time were those children ourselves.
This is a book for the weary mom and the mom who leaps out of bed each day ready to go. (Does that woman exist? Can I meet her and get all her secrets?)
Life Creative tells the stories of over 30 creative moms who are walking the sometimes messy line between motherhood and art.
I’ll never forget walking through the mall that day with my friend.
It was a weekday, let’s call it Wednesday, and we’d met up with our new babies for a little afternoon out of the house.
We called it a “play date”, but given the fact that neither of our children could yet hold their heads up on their own, it was clearly a mommy date.
“How it going?” I asked her, and she smiled. Her daughter was two weeks older than my son.
“It’s good,” she said. “I’m tired, but it’s not too bad. You?”
I nodded. “The same.”
We were quiet for a moment as we strolled through the mall, pushing our way past windows with clothes we couldn’t quite dream of wearing, new motherhood still settling in places we weren’t yet proud to show off.
“I miss working,” she said after a few minutes of silence. She said it quietly, like it was a confession of something for which she needed to absolve herself.
Before having a baby, this friend of mine had been in the corporate world, and she was good at it. She was an event planner for a large company, the woman in charge, the one who called the shots.
Now she was at the beck and call of a 12 pound human without any language skills, but with demands greater than any corporate boss.
I nodded my head because I understood, but only to a degree. I had never been in the corporate world, you see. I’d known from the day I graduated college that I wanted to be a writer, and so instead of getting a “real” job, I’d done side jobs that let me fuel my obsession passion for the written word.
But I did notice that things had shifted in the weeks since I’d brought my boy home. Though he slept well and often, I couldn’t seem to find time to write anymore. I felt a little lost, and so we walked along, the pair of us, lost and unsure of what our roles would be moving forward.
Of course, trying to decipher what your role will look like outside of motherhood is always tricky in those first few months after having a child. Time offers perspective, which allows us to see where we can fit our dreams back into motherhood.
But it’s true that my corporate-loving friend and I shared a common trait – we feared that we’d somehow missed the boat in the pursuit of our careers.
[Tweet “Time offers perspective, which allows us to see where we can fit our dreams back into motherhood.”]
I understand that not all women feel this way.
Some have children, and they’re able to continue moving forward in their careers or passions after the allotted recovery time. But I believe we’d all admit that it’s different after kids come to play.
Two months after that meeting, my friend went back to work. While she was excited to get back to her job, she called me the morning she dropped her daughter off at day care for the first time, her voice quavering with emotion.
“This isn’t what I thought it would be,” she said. “That was really hard.”
I, also, was back working, though my work looked different than hers. During nap times, I was writing, tapping away at a book I hoped to finish. I researched agents and editors and publishers. But when baby cries pierced the silence, my work was done, and the whole process was moving along at a snail’s pace.
When I pulled that baby boy out of his crib and his smile split wide his face, somehow my longing to keep working melted away. I relished my role as his mom. That baby boy is now thirteen years old. He’s taller than me, and his voice is deeper, but he still has a smile that melts my heart.
He, and the ones that followed him, made the journey worth it. Maybe I haven’t written as quickly or prolifically as I’d dreamed of doing when I accepted my college diploma, but somehow I don’t care anymore.
Perspective is key.
Likewise, my friend now has three children, and she’s worked on and off in the last thirteen years. She still loves working, but she’s learned to love the in-between times when she’s at home. She, like me, has realized that this phase of raising children is shorter than we think. It goes faster than either of us ever could have imagined that Wednesday in the mall.
Maintaining perspective in this journey is paramount to contentment. Some of you hardly missed a beat after you had children, picking up and continuing in your pursuits with (relative) ease. And for others, this path has felt a bit overwhelming and ambiguous.
But the truth that all of us can agree upon is that motherhood changes things, and that’s okay. What we do with that change will look different, but at the end of the road we all took the journey and survived.
Co-authored with Wendy Speake, this book is specifically for the creative mom who wonders why on earth God designed her creative, and then gave her children. It’s full of encouragement and stories of renaissance moms who are impacting the world with their art, oftentimes with little ones by their side.
As a special incentive, if you buy your copy by the end of September you will receive a free pdf downloadable that expands more on how to turn your creative hobby into a thriving business. Offering practical tools that will help you take your art to the next level, this is the encouragement you need to move forward toward your creative pursuits.
There’s so much good stuff happening right now: books releasing, speaking engagements, book signings, school starting, toddlers talking – all of it is awesome. But it’s also all really overwhelming.
Currently, I am caught in the vortex of necessary work, which isn’t nearly as fun as spinning in the vortex of creatively inspired work. Launching books requires a different set of skills – the skills that don’t come as comfortably or naturally to this creative mama.
Marketing myself? Oh, how I hate it. And yet, it’s a necessary part of the writer’s job. Lately, however, I’ve been missing the art. I miss the craft of writing. But with little time in my busy days to dive back into it, I’m looking for other ways to feed my creative soul.
Because if the creativity doesn’t work its way out, I just might break down.
This is a common theme among creative mothers. We love our art, but the time in which to divulge in it is minimal, particularly when there are young children at home. I spoke to one creative mother a few weeks ago who confided that despite having consistent free time in her days with all her children finally in school, she still found it difficult to tap into the fullness of her creativity.
“I get them on the bus, then head to my craft room, and I just stare at the supplies. I finally have the time I need, but I’m feeling entirely uninspired.”
Oh, it’s a tightrope, this life of creativity and mothering. We inch our way along, at times completely unable to indulge in art at all, because motherhood takes up all the time.
And there are other times when the cracks of our days lengthen into wider spaces of free time, and the art won’t flow – such a cruel joke.
So what are we to do?
Here are a few tips for the creative who isn’t feeling creative
1.) Don’t Force It
The days that I most enjoy my family are the days that I don’t wake up demanding artistic perfection from myself. When I accept that there simply won’t be time to squeeze in the art, I can focus fully on the kids without an ounce of guilt.
[Tweet “An artistic mother is fueled by creative inspiration, and inspiration cannot be forced.”]
2.) Look for the Art in a New Place
I am a writer – that’s what I do. I’m not a decorator or a baker. I can’t sew a button on a shirt, and though I love singing, I cannot create music on my own. My gift lies almost solely in words. But what do I do when the words won’t come?
I look for other ways to let the art out.
I’m not a good photographer, but I like trying my hand at it. My favorite artistic expression outside of writing is through the camera. No one will be paying me for my photos anytime soon (or ever, for that matter), but the simple act of pulling my camera out and playing around can unlock the words in mighty ways.
[Tweet “Art begets art, and creativity will inevitably find its way out of an artistic mother.”]
Some days, inspiration hits and the time to create is magically present. Those days are a gift, and I cherish them. But they’re rare.
Most days are a little more parsed out. Wallowing in frustration doesn’t help anyone, so I simply take heart in my ability to do something. Maybe it’s post a picture on Instagram, or perhaps I have time to punch out a blog post. Maybe I can manage nothing more than a few necessary emails, or maybe I’ll have time to work on my next book.
[Tweet “There isn’t time for everything on any given day, but there’s always time for something.”]
At the end of this life, I want to look back without regret. I’ll see seasons of life that were all mothering, and seasons that gave way to the art. But I’m certain I’ll not look back and see a life that somehow balanced it all.
And that’s okay.
In just one short month, my second book hits bookshelves!
I was twenty years old, and I was living alone in Kiev, Ukraine.
Not totally alone, of course. I was living with a young, Ukrainian couple who spoke English (but often refused to speak it because they wanted me to become fluent in Russian), but I didn’t have any peers with me on the trip.
I was in Ukraine for two solid months before I even met another American. Looking back, I know this was a good thing. It forced me to adapt to the culture and the language, and it made me brave.
But I was lonely those four months. Trying to communicate in another language is exhausting. In the early days when I was completely alone, my only respite came from 3:00-4:00 in the afternoons after school.
I’d arrive home to an empty apartment and turn on the TV. Beverly Hills 90210 played weekday afternoons, and the translation lagged just enough behind the English that I could tune it out and listen to the show in my native tongue.
I never watched that show as a young girl, but I saw nearly every episode in Ukraine. I became well acquainted with Brandon, and Brenda, and Dillan, and Kelly, and all the others whose names I can’t remember now…
Outside of riveting television, though, I found my greatest comfort inside the pages of my journals. I wrote until my hand hurt, recording everything from the mundane moments of my days to the hysterical gaffes I made (I slipped on ice and fell on my butt more than once rushing to and from school).
After a weekend excursion to Prague, I came home with an English language copy of the book Jane Eyre, which I’d found in a little store near Charles Bridge. I devoured that book twice in my remaining months in Ukraine, and suddenly my journal pages were filled with poetic imagery. I used language like, “the leaves dance to the ground in a silent waltz,” and “the birds soar above my head on wings of freedom.”
WHO TALKS LIKE THAT?!
Twenty-Year-Olds who have too much alone time, that’s who.
It’s been 18 years since that life-changing experience. 18 years since I sat on a bench on a Ukrainian hillside overlooking the Dnieper River, and vowed to become a storyteller.
But what’s even more amazing is that it was just the beginning. That was only the first spark in my creative journey. It’s been a slow burn, sometimes dimmed by the pressures of every day life.
Motherhood slowed down the dream, but in a good way, because motherhood was a dream in and of itself. I’m living both dreams side-by-side, and it’s a messy little blending of the two. But I wouldn’t have it any other way, because this is better than anything I could have imagined 18 years ago as a lonely American student in Ukraine.
It’s also harder than I thought it would be.
Beautiful. Hard. Messy. Dream.
Those words all fit together in this puzzle of life. They’re tangled up, each piece getting its turn to take the spotlight.
Life Creative: Inspiration for Today’s Renaissance Mom releases on September 27. This is a book written for moms who are walking the line between motherhood and art. It’s a book for moms who had dreams long before they had children, and they want to know if it’s possible to blend the two parts of themselves.
[Tweet “Life Creative celebrates moms fitting their inspired lives into the ordinary places of motherhood.”]
Creative moms are coming together and linking arms, all of us agreeing that this life creative is equal parts grand and exhausting. We’d love to have you join us as we bring this encouraging message to all the moms who remember dreaming on a hillside so many years ago.