Calling all moms who are looking for simplicity, clarity, peace of mind and creativity:
My new book is available for preorder on Amazon. I can hardly wait to share it with you!
#30 days left (minimum) of social distancing here in Massachusetts! How about you? Here are some fun/inspiring/challenging 30-day ideas for #athome:
Delicious: 30 plant based power bowl recipes
Gentle: 30 days of yoga
Challenging: 30 days of daily burn workouts
Inspiring: 30 days to declutter your home
Let us know if you try any of these or other 30-day challenges! We have the power to raise the consciousness of the planet by raising our own, one good choice at a time. #stayhome #stayhealthy
Many years ago, I went through a phase when I sort of wished I lived on a farm. But when I dug deep into this desire, I realized I only thought of “farm” as a noun, and not as a verb.
To farm – the verb- would mean getting up at the crack of dawn and feeding or milking various animals, collecting eggs and gathering vegetables and swatting mosquitoes. And that’s just the first hour of the day.
I figured that I really just liked the idea of a farm – the adorable red barn (that would never need repairs) and the acres of lush green with little animals grazing (it would never snow) and most of all the farm fresh food that I would turn into healthy, delicious meals at the end of every day.
I would love the scenery, the spaciousness, the sunsets, the quiet. It would be a great place to raise our children, I thought. The nature! The freedom!
But I wanted a farm without actually having to farm. I’ve had a bad experience with chickens. I like to spend my early mornings writing. I don’t exactly love getting dirty.
“I think you want to be a farmer’s wife”, my husband said.
“Probably not even that”, I responded. ” I have issues with canning.”
Once I tried fermenting some vegetables. When it was time for me to loosen the lids on the jars I’d carefully placed in the basement, I could not get them off. I was home alone with my future sauerkraut and simply could not get the lids off, not matter how I tried.
I worried the glass jars would explode. I imagined shards of glass and shreds of cabbage bursting violently into the air, the smell of vinegar and rotting vegetables taking over our home.
I called my husband to ask if they might indeed explode. He has a chemical engineering degree, so obviously he should know.
He told me they wouldn’t. I didn’t think he sounded sure enough, so I kept a safe distance, treating the jars like angry house guests that might blow their tops, quite literally, at any moment.
I’ve long since given up my farm fantasy. I can buy locally grown produce at farmer’s markets, at least in the summertime. I can find beauty all around me, in the plants and trees and art. It is easy for me to seek out quiet. I continue to spend my early mornings writing.
Occasionally, I still wonder what it might’ve been like to raise our daughters so close to nature, on some vast piece of land that feeds the soul. But I’ve also wondered what it would’ve been like to raise them in the city, surrounded by culture and diversity and subway systems.
Alas, every choice means saying no to something else.
And every farm needs a farmer.
Long before I ever had a laptop, back in the day when I was tapping at keys on a typewriter, I kept various writing notes in a decorative box, the kind you find at a craft store for keeping photos or other treasures in. While I was raising young children and my writing time was limited, it got my creative juices flowing just to take the box out and hold in. I always knew I’d get back to my work-in-progress when I could steal time again and often that was enough to keep me satisfied.
My daughters have grown and moved out, and like Virginia Woolf, I now have A Room of My Own in which to muse and write and pile up essays and book chapters on my laptop. But despite the space and all the technology available to me today, I have not outgrown The Box.
My box has changed in size and type only, having now upgraded to one I found at Staples that fits my 4×6 index cards full of notes, quotes, and ideas. It comes with matching dividers and an adjustable follow block, keeping all cards upright and orderly. If one can fall in love with a box, I surely have.
I store essay and blog ideas, memorable quotes, notes from books I’ve read, and anything else that may inform my writing. For jotting down notes away from home, I simply carry a little green index card holder, one that easily fits into a purse or a book bag. Notes from this can be transferred into the box later.
Why not just store all these notes digitally? Because I often read in bed and want to be able to write on a 4×6 card rather than record info onto my laptop. But mostly because, whether working on an essay, blog or book, I want to be able to move the cards around, rearrange them while I am referring to them, build the piece I am working on. Having so many tangible ‘moving pieces’ to work with gets me to the finished product, the whole thing, in a way that feels so satisfying to me. It’s all part of the creative process.
I see my oldest daughter, now a mother of two babies, struggle to find time to create. I recently reminded her of her art journal, of the importance of getting her ideas down on paper, of not letting them fade away like a poignant dream that can no longer be recalled. Whether in a box, a journal, or digitally, capturing our ideas in a way that we can easily refer to later, is half the fun and half the progress.
Place holders of inspiration. Nuggets of information. Parts of the whole, pieces of projects, even with small pockets of time, bit by bit will bring the dream into focus.
Dana: It has indeed occurred to us that we have not posted in while. Since Brittni’s identical twin girls (my granddaughters) have been born, things have been busy- as in all-hands-on-deck busy.
Let’s just say Brittni’s hands are a tad full. And so is her heart. And mine. And all the hearts of all who love these precious babies.
Somehow, in October, Brittni managed to design a pumpkin for her fantastic seasonal art job with the JACK-O-LANTERN SPECTACULAR. (I don’t have the photo of this years pumpkin; this particular photo is from a previous year’s drawing but is a favorite). Have you heard that highly sensitive people are often also highly artistic? I’m kind of blown away by the creative work of the pumpkin artists, year after year. And one of them happens to be my daughter.
Other than that artistic escapade, it’s been pretty much all babies all the time for Brittni, as is the case with new twin parents, and especially for nursing moms. Double the joy and love and cuteness – and half the rest! The sleep deprivation is real, people.
My husband and I got away for our anniversary- 30 years! – and had a fabulous time. We are pictured here holding superfood smoothies from Newport Rhode Island’s JUICED cafe. Just as some people like to scope out the brewery or best restaurant in a city, I like to find the cold-pressed juice and smoothie cafes. The one I am holding is called their Turmeric Turbo and is made with turmeric, pineapple, carrots, lemon, ginger and banana. It was delicious and left me so energized. You can bet I’ll be trying this recipe at home.
Last month I wrote about Priorities and this month I am more committed than ever to keeping my focus on my top three: Family, Health, and Writing. Honestly, that is all I have time for. These three areas of life keep me busy for sure, but in a clear and satisfying way. They are all interconnected for me- when I feel healthy and vibrant, I have more to give my family and my writing flows as well. When I spend time with my family, as well as adequate time alone, I am inspired to write and to stay healthy. And when I write, I naturally fall into healthy habits. My life feels busy right now, but it does not feel cluttered.
And for me, uncluttered is a must.
How about you?
This piece was originally published in Literary Mama: The Sweet Spot of Less
I detest clutter. It feels bad, almost suffocating. Tangible or intangible, it’s all the same to me, space clutter and mind clutter. One leads to the other and a fog sets in that traps precious energy, stalling progress, making forward motion feel like walking through quicksand.
In order to write freely, I need to clear away distractions as much as possible. It takes conscious effort to maintain clarity of space and freedom of mind, and it’s a quest I feel is worthy of writing about. I especially notice how simplifying my environment improves my writing, as if the space in my home invites the muse to come in and move my pen across the page with ease. My mind is open to inspiration, words sweeping through me, uninhibited by too much stuff.
Creativity comes through the empty spaces, the open heart, the uncluttered mind and room. It is in this space that we can get creatively messy.
My three daughters grew up going through their clothing every season, passing down whatever no longer fit. They did it all together and it was a fun time for them, a chore that felt like play. We also made a game out of going through toys, handing them a bag for goodwill and asking them to “find ten things they don’t play with anymore.” Simplifying was a way of life, a joyful way to make room for something new, not necessarily in the material realm.
I get excited for anyone who tells me they’re cleaning out their garage or a closet. I know what it will do to their mind, how the clearing out will invite the flow of something good, something nourishing that finds the opening and begins to trickle in. Call it an obsession or a passion, but I’m harnessing it and letting it manifest into these words, from me to you.
To dive into the stillness, the emptiness, and poke around, is to invite the extraordinary. In the void, we stand a chance of churning out something new. Maybe it won’t happen that moment or that day, but eventually it will burst through as an idea, a creative urge, or the solution to a problem, fresh and stunning.