Sunday, April 24, 2016

exploring the grey...

{unsure where this image originated from... 
but saw it on Instagram on a friends account}

I saw the above image on Instagram the other day, and it's been on my mind ever since. I've been missing the truth telling blogs, the honest, authentic stories that used to be the rule in blogging, not the exception. I've missed the stories that show who we really are. 

After many recent, amazing in person discussions about honesty, and the importance of sharing our stories, I want to tell you a story I've been sitting with the last few months. 

Those of you who have been reading here for a while, or who know me well, know that I quit drinking over six years ago. Back in January I hit six years of sobriety.  I celebrated this milestone quietly, I didn't want it to be a big deal, as other years had been. Somewhere along the lines I became disenchanted with my identity as a sober person. At six years sober I started asking myself, what am I doing? Why am I not drinking? And my answer was much, much different than it was six years ago. 

Six years ago I needed to not drink. A young mother with two babies, a head full of lifelong anxiety, and perhaps a bit of postpartum depression, my drinking was a problem. And the only way I knew how to stop drinking, and to keep myself from being wishy washy about it, was with a sweeping gesture by way of a declaration of alcoholism. 

Now, looking back, I know I needed to do that to stay safe. To stay sober. To figure my stuff out. And when it comes to alcohol abuse, there's a very limited vocabulary that is available. 

But there's a whole spectrum of alcohol abuse. 

The word alcoholic never fit for me, but nothing else came close and so that loaded word kept me sober for six years. 

And it's a good thing. During those six years I learned how to handle myself, how to be a mother, how to be an adult, how to cope with and diffuse anxiety attacks, how to be me. 

Around my anniversary I started wondering about my sobriety. What it meant. If it was forever. What would it feel like to have a drink now, verses all those years ago?  If it was an alcoholic's brain making me question all this, or if I really could safely have these questions and conversations. I talked with my husband, my cautious and thoughtful, well meaning and patient husband, and we had several discussions about what it would mean if I had a glass of something at some point. 

And then I knew that I needed to. I needed to know in order to keep evolving as a person and grow into myself.

Now, if you've read this long, I want to tell you something very important: this is my story. This is my journey. Please don't compare yours to mine. This conscious, deliberate exploration of the grey area is NOT for everyone. And even talking about this makes me nervous, because there are people who have stopped drinking who should never, never, explore what it would be like to drink again. 

But I'll tell you something else, it doesn't do anyone any good to hide their truths. I've done a lot of truth telling in this space {and other blogs... I've changed them so many times...} and only good things have come of it. Opening the door for discussions, and making human connections is what I'm striving for. We're all struggling with something. We're all human, I think sometimes we forget that fact. The strange part of these last few months has been feeling like I'm hiding something, or holding back, because I haven't written through this journey like I have through many other aspects of my sobriety. Where there's hiding there's danger. And there's no need for that in my life.

Back to the story... 

Over the last few months I've been exploring the grey area of my place on the spectrum of alcohol abuse. 

There was no bender, no relapse, no drunken nights or hungover mornings. Every now and then I'd have a drink. A glass of wine when we were out to dinner, a cocktail when I was out with a friend, I cooked with wine for the first time in years and tried my brother's homemade mead, all in safe environments where my anxiety was low.

A funny thing happened when I started to explore this area, alcoholics popped up everywhere. Not necessarily in person, but in the shows we watched and the books we read. There was Flaked on Netflix {a really fantastic series that both Lucas and I enjoyed} in which the main character is Chip, an alcoholic who bikes around Venice Beach. Then Because of Winn-Dixie, with an absentee alcoholic mother. And I know there were a few more, but I can't remember for the life of me what they were {and neither can Lucas, I asked!}

All cautionary tales. All reminders. All warnings.

What did happen during this experiment? I learned that red wine gives me migraines, that any alcohol messes with my much needed and beloved sleep, that my anxiety ramps up with even one glass of anything, but also that I can have one drink and stop. That was something that never happened six years ago. 

{Something I was also noting through all of this, was how often alcohol isn't really the issue. Alcohol is so often a numbing agent for the root problem, for the mental health issues or trauma that often starts it all. This of course is highly controversial to talk about... getting down to what is the disease of alcoholism and what isn't, who has it and who doesn't. I'm entirely unqualified to go down this road, but it's something to note.}

Most importantly, after having a tiny taste of life with alcohol, I'm choosing to go back on the wagon.

I may not be a textbook, classic alcoholic, but I am certain that I've abused alcohol in the past, and it's something I need to be very careful about. My relationship with alcohol is not cut and dry, but I am better off dry. I'm more able to be present, to enjoy life, to be me, when alcohol isn't involved. 

But I need to have that choice. To ask myself what kind of a place I'm in, to asses situations for what they are, including who I'm around and what purpose a drink would serve. If it's to numb or to check out? Nope. If I'm stressed? Nope. If it's because my brother poured his heart into his new batch of mead? Maybe. If it's because it's fun? Nope. Champagne toast at a wedding? Possibly. Is my anxiety even a tad bit high? Then absolutely not. Do I need to sleep? If yes, then no. 

There are very few times that I can justify drinking, for me {I promise I'm not passing judgement on anyone who drinks. Cross my heart!} 

So. Sobriety.

Coming back to sobriety needed to feel less like a confining box, and more like freedom.

And so, I am reserving the right for myself to explore the grey area. To not say forever, but instead for today. 

I'm better off dry, navigating the world through sober eyes. 

And knowing that? I feel totally, utterly, happy and free. 

As a note to all of this, please know that I take alcohol abuse and addiction very seriously, and because of that, and the respect I have for all of those who have issues with alcohol, I want to reiterate that this is my story. There are so many paths, so many ways to get sober and stay sober. And as I said within the post, I would absolutely hate for this post to be taken as permission for anyone to drink. I've written this post to further the conversation, to share my story, and to be open and honest, which is the best way I know to live. The blogging/internet climate is so different than it was when I was first writing about sobriety, that I'd be lying if I said that I wasn't nervous about posting this. But here it is.... in the name of truth and authenticity!

If you are struggling with alcohol know that you are not alone. 
There's so many places to find help. 
Here's a few:

Thursday, March 31, 2016

currently... {1}

Today {two days late} I'm joining in with Katy Upperman who writes these posts every other Tuesday on her blog...


...I'm loving...

The sunshine. The wind. Time spent outside laughing, talking, blowing bubbles and reading. The breeze on my face and the sound of bubbles popping... you have to listen closely, and when you hear the gentle pop it's like you're entering the fairy world... it's pure magic. I'm loving... early mornings, and early evenings. Having the windows open and still keeping the flannel sheets on the bed. His smile when he walks downstairs in the morning, the way he laughs with his eyes when he sees me squinting at the computer screen in the dark early hours. The way we're growing older together. The way we're staying young together. The way we laugh and love together.

...I'm reading...

... {rereading}The Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline, this time for a book club. I'm happy to reread, as I've been going through books a second or third time to figure out the way some of my favorite authors write. How they structure. How they move a book along... {the biggest issue in my own writing!}

I'm also slowly working through A Gracious Space Spring Edition by Julie Bogart, Writing Tools by Roy Peter Clark, Wild Bird Guides: Black-capped Chickadee by Susan M. Smith, and This Cake is for the Party, stories by Sarah Selecky. I've never had as many titles going at once. But. They are all different, both in subject matter and genre, and so having the variety to choose for whatever mood I'm in has been a nice change of pace from my normal read it start to finish manner.

I have to note, A Gracious Space has been a pleasant surprise. I've found it difficult to find a secular daily... devotional of sorts for homeschooling parents. And half way through, this is fitting the bill. Julie Bogart is kind, thoughtful, funny in her own way, and gentle. With the reader, and with her ideas for homeschooling families. Love it.

...I'm watching...

...lots of YouTube videos....
Minecraft videos
The Daly Show {Tim Daly... his YouTube show... not for everyone - language, content... but good lord, I laughed until I cried, especially during the episode with Nathan Fillion...}
Our Queen at 90 {yup, you know I love it!}

...and planning on watching the new season of Grantchester in the very near future...

...I'm listening to...

...the children having deep conversations with each other about how they are individuals and yet it's strange to think about how everyone has their own thoughts. The birds laughing. The Lumineers station on Pandora and Modest Mouse's Float On and Coldplay's Us Against the World: "And if we could float away, fly up to the surface and just start again, and lift off before trouble just erodes us in the rain..." The tea kettle boiling. Bubbles popping...

...I'm thinking about...

Beach days. Floating on the waves. Sandy toes. How I need to find a big water jug so we can stay at the shore long past we drink our individual water bottles empty on hot summer days. Connection. Intentional connection. Intentional everything. The story I'm writing. The characters. Orchards and chickadees. How early mornings are wonderful but I wish I could work around being a night owl... but the kids. And time. Time. I'm thinking a lot about time. End of the homeschool year write ups and evaluations. Lilacs and allergy season and warmth. Sandy toes. Wet beach towels. Crusty, salty mermaid hair. Floating...

...I'm anticipating... world - our world - in bloom. 

... I'm wishing...

...for kindness. For a gentle wave of kindness to spread across our country. For people to think before they act or react. For calm nights and days where ease spreads in front of us like a picnic basket of space to breathe, kindness, and thoughtful approaches to challenges to feast on. I'm wishing for some movement. Some stillness. Some quiet. Some heart thumping, loud music. For everything and nothing. 

...making me happy...

... tea. Always tea. The 1000 piece puzzle we're working on as a family, how we each come and take a stab at it, and then retreat only to be called back to it. Sometimes at the same time, sometimes on our own. The changing seasons. Texting with friends. Walking into town for the first time this year, holding hands with my babies who are no longer babies; seeing our streets up close and personal. How their hands still reach for mine, they still sneak into our bed, and they give big hugs and say big things and feel even bigger things and they want to share it all with me and him. Amazing, this life we're living. 

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

starting from scratch

I always come back here.

I know. It's been a while. But still. This space is forever in my mind. I don't know what place blogging has any longer, with the insta this and the facebook that. In the past few years, it seems like that's what most of my posts here have been about... is this still a thing? Can I do this? Does it matter? 

It does. It all does.

As I've said time and time again, writing begets writing, and I'm writing. So I'm here.

Last October I said I wouldn't tell you where I've been.

Not much has changed. Except that I'm spending this year, 2016, working on one specific project. My novel. I started from scratch, outlined, and am knee deep in the writing of it. It feels different this time. Deeper. Fuller.

I'm giving myself this year. To dive in deep with the writing, to make it my job {aside from the whole homeschooling kids thing...} and to see if I can hack it. And if at the end of this year I'm fed up? It's not working? Then I'll know that I've given it my best shot.

Nearly two months in, and I'm pretty sure I've got my answer.

So here's the thing. I may write here, still. But I'm not pursing any new Creating in the Midst interviews unless someone truly wants to share their creative journey with homeschooling. I'm not going to plug my writing, or share writing how to's - because truth be told I find that whole scene incredibly noisy and overwhelming. I may write blog posts the way we used to, soulful stories and posts that mean something.

Or maybe I'll simply be back when I'm done my book.

Either way. If you're here, as many of you always are, I'm humbled that you still read my words. Most of them are being shared over on Instagram these days, but I'm feeling less enthralled by that space as the days go on.

What do you all think? Is blogging a thing of the past? Do you still read blogs? And if so - how? I'm using Bloglovin, and I'm not thrilled... I miss the good old days of Google Reader. I'd love to know if I'm barking up the wrong tree by even considering blogging again. Perhaps it's just another form of procrastination? Self indulgence? Screaming into the ether?

Either way. Hello. Again.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

creating in the midst: Gina Kimmel

Welcome back to Creating in the Midst. If you're new to the series, all of the posts are located here. Thanks for joining us!

This weeks guest is Gina Kimmel. Mother, writer, photographer, Gina captures ordinary moments in beautiful, extraordinary ways through her words and pictures. She's someone that I would love to sit and share a pot of tea with, and talk and write alongside each other for hours. She exudes grace and thoughtfulness, and I'm thrilled to share her words here with you all.
Welcome to this space, Gina!

~ What does an average day in your house look like?

 Each day looks a little different for us, depending on the weather and what appointments or errands we have to run, but what do look similar are our mornings. Mornings are sacred to me. It is my absolute favorite time of day. From the soft silence that I have before my son wakes up, to the first light that touches the sky - our mornings take on a slow gentleness as we both allow it to unfold before us. About a year ago, I decided to start waking up around 6 o’clock so that I would have some peace and quiet before my son jolted out of bed. I found that having that time, whether it’s a half hour or two hours (depending on how long he decides to stay in bed) helps me to be a better mom. I use that time to write, to read, to work on a project, and always to sip tea. If it’s nice, you can find me on a rocking chair on the porch with my mug and notebook in hand. Once he wakes up, he’s ready to start the day. We use that time for morning journals, a drawn out breakfast (my favorite meal of the day, of course) and whatever else we want to do together. I try to extend the mornings for as long as I can, often times not getting a shower or getting ready for the day until 11 or 11:30. The flow of the morning is peaceful. Unrushed. Untethered. We flit around the house or stay rooted to the rocking chairs on the porch to observe our own little piece of the world, while discussing what’s in our midst. After lunch is when our days become varied and sometimes harried, depending on what we have to try and get done before dinner.

 ~ What projects are you currently working on?

 Right now, we are getting settled into our new house in the mountains. I’ve been trying to transform our house into a home, while also working on finding a daily rhythm for our homeschooling now that the little one has turned 5. Another project that keeps drawing me back in is a book of poetry about ordinary moments that I’ve experienced as a mother. I love to pair my photographs with words that I’ve written as they come to me. As I look back through my pictures, those words linger on my mind and help transport me right back to the moment I captured each image. I intend to weave letters and recipes alongside of the images and poems to bring the story of our family to life. It’s an offering first and foremost for my son – one that I can hopefully share with others someday, as well. And I’m always, always sharing pieces of my life and writing, and lately my morning views, on Instagram. 

~Can you tell us a little bit about your writing life?

 About four years ago, I found writing again. It began to develop into a daily practice that has sustained me and led me towards discoveries about myself I never dreamed of making. Whenever I’m feeling off, I know that it’s been too long since I picked up my pen to write. Over the past year or two, I’ve been finding my way with poetry and nature. I’ve reconnected with them both on a deeper level. Often times you can find me staring outside my window in search of the moon, lounging on the porch listening to the bird songs as greet the day, or simply walking with my camera – putting miles behind me as I pass rocks and trees and water sources that all open my eyes to the beauty found in this world. I feel that the earth is always communicating with us, if we take the time to pause and listen to her guidance. We can always find messages from the universe scattered among the stars. These messages and the ordinary beauty of the space we inhabit all move me – it moves my pen across the page, it brings words to my lips, and fills me with joy. Each day I try to slow down. To take several pauses amid my day to notice the everyday, ordinary beauty that surrounds me, not only in nature, but in my connections and interactions with the people in my life. It fuels my creativity. It brings me clarity in so many different aspects of living, especially parenting. And if I let it in, I am never at a loss for words. The poetry writes itself, all adding to the pile of notes that I’ve been collecting for a book I hope to share with others, someday.

 ~What measures do you take to protect your creativity?

 I keep a pen and a notebook by my side always {I’m the type of person that favors the written word to typing. It all has to be hand-written first.} If I notice that it’s been a few days since I’ve written, I make sure I either get up a bit earlier or ask my husband to watch the little one so that it gives me some time to write. I’ve encouraged my son to pick up his notebook when I do, if I find myself penning a poem when he’s around. I guess what I’m saying is that I just do it - as often as I can. I make it a priority and it’s become just an everyday ritual in my life, whether it’s filling up two pages at a sitting or jotting down a few short lines of poetry that came to me while we were eating breakfast that morning.

 ~Do you need absolute quiet to write, or do you prefer noise? And how does that impact your day?

 When I’m just scribbling down memories as they happen or when inspiration hits me during a sunrise, as I watch a leaf fall from the sky, or when I truly notice the curve of my son’s smile, I can usually write as the moment is transpiring. Sometimes I ask him to give me a moment of quiet so that I can record the words a bit more quickly, but often times he’ll get out his notebook to “write,” too. Whenever I go deeper, whenever the words pierce my mind and I am able to tap into the flow from someplace outside of my Self, I need silence. I can’t listen to music, I don’t like to be constantly interrupted, I just need myself, the paper, and the pen.

 ~Do you have a set time of day, or of the week, that you set aside for your creative pursuits?

 The only time I truly have set is first thing in the morning. I wake up around 6:00, probably six days a week (sometimes seven), so that I have that time to write. I’ve found that if I don’t set the alarm and pull myself out of bed before my son rises, I feel off all day – moody, tense, and just out of balance. I use that time for whatever I feel called to do, whether it be to read, to write, to art journal or even catch up on my favorite shows on Netflix – whatever it is that will fill me up and allow me to begin my day with grace and allowing. Besides those precious moments in the morning, I also try to fit in time for myself throughout the day. A half hour while my son plays on his own, an hour after my husband comes home while he is deep in some sort of household project that my little one helps out with. I think it’s so important for children to see their parents making time for that which brings them joy. Whether he is asked to find something else to occupy his time for a while or he asks to work alongside of us, he sees creativity in action.

 ~What is the most challenging aspect of being a writer and a homeschooling mother?

 For me the challenge is creating space for everything. For writing, for editing, for actually living the moments that I will someday write about – all this while still keeping the connection to my son and my family that I hope to have. Some days I get so caught up in the words or the projects we are doing together that I realize I haven’t looked, really looked at the people I am interacting with. I haven’t given them my full attention; I haven’t looked deeply into their eyes or absorbed the words that they are sending my way. I find that there is so much that I love experiencing as a writer and a homeschooling mama, that it’s difficult to find the space for it all.

 ~What is the most rewarding aspect of being a writer and a homeschooling mother?

 I think that because creativity and exploration are such a huge part of our homeschooling life and our life in general, being at home with my son has afforded me the time and inspiration to dive deeper into my writing. Being at home with him, watching him learn and grow, has been such a rich experience – full of ups and downs, littered with insights into how I hope to support and encourage him as a homeschooler, as well as time to self-correct when we discover what actually works or what we need to rethink in our everyday ritual and routine. I try to capture these moments of joy, as well as the moments of struggle within my writing to share with others. I feel that speaking the truth about what mothers may go through opens the doors for sincere communication between parents around the globe, as well as allowing others to know that they are not alone as they walk through the difficult aspects of creative family living.

 ~How do you feel about the word balance? Is there such a thing?

 Hmmm, I’m not really sure, yet! I do know that if I take some time to reflect over the past couple of days and realize that I haven’t given myself much time to work on my writing, then I don’t feel guilty take an hour or so to myself during the day while my son plays on his own. If I notice that the last few days have been packed with nature hikes, reading, Lego building, and errands, then I don’t feel guilty for giving us both a day to relax with a movie, or just keeping the day entirely open for staying put inside the house to play in our own ways. I try to sprinkle in moments here and there for things that are important to us, activities like baking together or hiking, if I notice that they haven’t fit in naturally with the flow of our week. Perhaps that’s all the balance we need.

 ~What advice would you give to someone who is passionate about their creative pursuits, and just starting out on their homeschooling journey?

 What I try to keep reminding myself is not to lose myself in the process of homeschooling. We are all learning together as a family. Every day, each year, we are all growing and shifting. It’s important for me not only to facilitate learning for my son, but also for my Self…to carve out time, to grasp those moments of unexpected stillness, and utilize them for any creative pursuits that are calling to me at the moment. I recently copied this quote from “Conscious Living” by Gay Hendricks:: “You wonder, am I courageous enough to tap the deep wellspring of my creativity and express it boldly in the world? As you walk along, ask yourself, what would I most like to create, both for my own nourishment and for my singular contribution to the world? Life reaches its full flowering when we bring forth our creative desires and the treasures with which we have been blessed and act on them in the world.” For me, this quote not only encourages me to act on my creative desires, but reminds me that it’s necessary for my own soul’s contentment.

And last... a few quickfire questions:

 ~What was the last book you read? 

I just finished rereading Project-Based Homeschooling by Lori Pickert.

 ~The last thing you made? 

I'm in the progress of making a monochromatic mixed-media canvas. My son and I both started one after reading Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans.

 ~Daily indulgence?

 Lately, my daily indulgence is an episode of Gilmore Girls on Netflix. I love relaxing to one of my favorite shows in the evening.

 ~Least favorite daily task? 

I'm on a cooking low. Some weeks I'm at a loss for what to cook for dinner, so lately that's been my least favorite task.

~If you had an entire day that was just yours, how would you spend it? 

 I would spend it on the beach in the sun with a stack of books and magazines (after spending the afternoon before at a bookstore selecting some from my list)

 ~Favorite movie? 

 My all-time favorite movie is Dirty Dancing, my recent favorite movie is About Time.

 ~Coffee or tea? 


Gina ~ thank you so much for sharing your words and thoughts here! I loved getting to know you better through your answers. Reading about how you weave your creative pursuits through your day reminds me that I'm not alone in this daily struggle/joy to create in the midst, it sounds so familiar to what happens in my house as well. And of course, you know About Time is one of my favorite movies, and I love that we have that in common!

Links for Gina:

If you or someone you know, are a homeschooling parent who is in the midst of creative pursuits and would like to contribute to this series, please contact me at crnnoel(at)gmail(dot)com.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

creating in the midst: Jen Precourt

Welcome back to Creating in the Midst. If you're new to the series, all of the posts are located here. Thanks for joining us!

This week Jen Precourt is sharing about her life as a writer, creative soul, and a homeschooling mom of two. I'm honored to call Jen one of my closest friends, as well as my writing partner. I'm so happy to have her here today!

~Can you tell us a bit about your creative life? Before kids? After kids?

Before kids it was knitting. Some writing but not much. Since having the girls my creative life has exploded. I think it’s because I’m viewing creativity differently. Anything can be creative, making a home, homeschooling, playing with the girls. Now my creativity revolves around my thoughts about how I want to model creativity, how I want to express myself, how I want to teach them that we all have creativity swirling around inside us and it is okay....more than express that creativity however we see fit. I want them to see me as creative, as BEING creative. That it’s a part of me. It isn’t meant to fit in a nice neat box. You think you can’t draw or paint or knit or sew? Well just try, play with it. Create SOMETHING. A drawing, a meal, a book, a poem. The girls also have taught me….play is creative. Get messy. Not sure how to use a tool? Well pick it up and experiment. You aren’t using it the way it’s intended? Who cares (as long as it’s safe!) figure out how that tool can serve you. I also find that if nothing else creative happens in a day (because lets be honest, some days don’t go at all as planned!)….taking a picture of something that catches my eye, putting a few words together and posting on Instagram helps a lot to fill that creative well. On the days when I post quite a bit of pictures on Instagram….that’s how you know that my creativity is needing a boost! On the days when I’m in the creative flow with ideas & writing, then not so many posts on Instagram! 

~What does an average day look like at your house?

I wake up early, ideally it would be get up at 6 but lately it’s been closer to 6:30. The early morning hours are sacred to me. I love the peace of pre-dawn for coffee, prayer, morning pages, dreaming about projects I want to do. The girls wake up & come down between 8 & 8:30 typically for breakfast. We then do any number of things: homeschool field trip; work on school; they play; I do dishes, laundry, etc. we run errands. Lunchtime, then they go up for nap/rest time. I sit with a cup of tea & my knitting for a bit of quiet time myself. Then I catch up on more chores or write. Marie-Therese comes down about an hour & a half later for some one on one schoolwork or we do art projects together. Veronica gets up and we play together or go back outside before dinner. It’s really an ebb & flow. We move to the rhythm of where we feel called to on any particular day. No two days are the same and yet they feel a lot alike. There’s always schoolwork, chores, creative time, quiet time, food. It’s the activities within those frames that shift day to day.

~What projects are you currently working on? Do you have any upcoming workshops?

Right now I am in the midst of preparing for NaNoWriMo. Except I’m not planning a novel, I’m planning a collection of essays based on creativity, mindfulness, spirituality, motherhood, & seeking the beauty in the everyday. I’m also in the beginning stages of creating a self-directed study on poetry. I’m feeling called to writing poetry so that might be woven into November too. No concrete plans for a workshop but the ideas for them are in the back of my mind. I’m waiting to see what direction November takes and see what flows from that! I also have the idea to turn the pictures I take into notecards, to open up a small etsy store with them. Taking pictures helps me stop and be more present in the moments, in the beauty, in the ordinary parts of the day….and a lot of time taking pictures sparks a creative movement in my soul. To write more, to think more, to be more connected to my soul.

~What measures do you take to protect your creativity? 

Accountability partner. If it was up to me, I’d most likely remain stagnant with my creativity, my writing. Having someone to answer to, someone to gently nudge me to write, knowing someone is waiting for me to check in with how its going helps me keep creating even on the days (or weeks!) when I don’t want to.

~Do you create alongside your children? 

Yes! I used to have the mindset that I needed absolute peace & quiet to create. But then nothing got done and I got terribly frustrated. So now if I feel called to write or draw or take photographs I just do it and the girls flock to me and they do it too. We don’t really talk about it, its just something that happens naturally. And sometimes Marie-Therese is at the table painting or drawing or art collaging and I sit down and follow her lead.

~Do you need absolute silence and space to write, or are you able to carve out moments while in the middle of daily life? 

Writing is different then the other forms of creativity I like to do. I do need quiet focus for that. I jot down ideas throughout the day as they come (usually at inopportune times like when I’m doing the dishes, homeschooling, driving or taking a shower!) But even that is changing time goes on. I am able to sit at the table while the girls play around me and write pieces. If I leave the document open or the notebook at the table, I am finding I can add words to it as the day goes on. I have to edit my words more afterwards, but at least I’m getting the ideas flowing!

~I think of you, my beloved friend, as a writer, a knitter, seamstress, an overall ninja in terms of creativity, as well as a mother, friend, and homeschooling parent. Do you think all of these things are tied together by the strings of creativity? 

I do! Each aspect of me is a part of another aspect. All tied together by creativity. My creativity is a part of my soul & it is released through being a mother, writer, homeschooling parent, knitter and any other actions I take throughout my days.I used to think I wasn’t creative because I can’t draw or paint well. That is only one aspect of creating. My views on what creativity means has opened up so much over the past few years!

~What is the most challenging aspect of being a writer/maker and a homeschooling parent? 

Finding the chunks of time to create deeply. A lot of mornings I just get into the writing groove and the baby starts calling or Marie-Therese comes downstairs. Same with the afternoon quiet time. And now some of the time I used to use to create goes towards planning our homeschool days & activities. I don’t regret that, it’s just a fact and I am re-working my time. It’s an ebb & flow and this season of homeschooling life is teaching me to be flexible with my creativity and how I view it and when I do it. It’s teaching me that I don’t always have hours of free time but I do have pockets of 5, 10, 15 minutes at different parts of the day. I need to learn to use those pockets more instead of waiting for a two hour chunk of time. Because those are far & few between!

~What is the most rewarding aspect? 

Time. Time to be, time to create alongside my daughter. To learn from her & her process. We aren’t restricted by the schedules of a traditional school day. We feel like staying up a little later to paint or color at the kitchen table? Then we do it! We want to read books & stay in our pjs until 10? Then we do it! We have the time to dream creatively and the time to follow through on that creativity. Homeschooling has opened up our days and how we learn together. And we all model to each other learning & exploring & experimenting. She sees me having a passion for writing, reading, nature, knitting, photography, etc. She is learning that even as an adult learning doesn’t end. School isn’t just sitting at a desk or table, the classroom is the world and we are exploring that classroom together. 

~Has your creative process changed due to homeschooling? 

Those pockets of time I mentioned above? Yea those! I am learning to recognize them, to use them not for checking in on social media but to pick up the pen & notebook. Or knitting needles & knit just a row or two. To look out the window and snap a picture and string some words together about the current moment. Seriously, I used to think that if I couldn’t have a huge chunk of uninterrupted time then I couldn’t do it. I am slowly learning that I need to use those small pockets and that a lot of times those small pockets are more productive then huge chunks of time.

~What are your dreams for your creative pursuits in the next year? 

Ohh so many. To continue growing as a writer. To take myself seriously as one. To work hard at my writing in order to start sharing it with the world more. That takes a huge leap of faith, but it’s one that I plan on working towards. I want to write more poetry. I would like to begin blogging again, to share more of my writing. I would love to turn my photographs into notecards to sell. Maybe do a series of poems based on my nature photographs. We’ll see! I have so many ideas, the big thing is to begin working on them. Movement. Baby steps, but at least take those steps!

And last, but not least... some quickfire questions:  
~What was the last book you read? 

Fiction: Still Alive by Lisa Genova Non-Fiction: Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

~The last thing you made with your two hands and creativity? 

Socks! I have a goal to knit 12 pairs of socks in 2015, I am on track to make that goal too! And now that I think about it, I colored in a coloring page yesterday with my daughter. That is creativity too! 

~Daily indulgence? 

A cup of tea and Grey’s Anatomy re-runs. The girls go down for rest time, I sit with my tea & watch (and usually knit too). It’s very rarely a whole show but even 15 minutes helps rejuvenate me and gives me a few minutes of doing something that I enjoy.

~Least favorite daily task? 

Cooking! I have a love hate relationship with food preparation. My people love to eat, I hate making it!

 ~If you had an entire day that was just yours, how would you spend it? 

Watching the sunrise as I drank coffee and wrote my morning pages. Going for a long rambling walk in the woods. Come back home for more writing, some reading, some knitting (maybe a stop at a local yarn store & bookstore). Yoga, prayer, maybe a nap. And then reunite with my people because no day could be complete without time with my husband & girls!

~Favorite movie? 

You’ve Got Mail

~Coffee or tea? 

Coffee first thing in the morning…that’s part of my morning writing/prayer rhythm. In the afternoon it’s tea. Bengal spice is my favorite at the moment!

Jen ~ Thank you so much for answering all of my questions! I adore you, and I'm thrilled to be able to share you with my readers. So much of what you've written resonates deeply with me, and I'm sure with many others.

Links for Jen:

If you or someone you know, are a homeschooling parent who is in the midst of creative pursuits and would like to contribute to this series, please contact me at crnnoel(at)gmail(dot)com.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

creating in the midst: Gwynn Raimondi

Welcome to Creating in the Midst! This week's interview is with Gwynn Raimondi. Gwynn is a family therapist, women's guide, writer, grief counselor, and homeschooling mom of two. Gwynn reached out to me last year as we were both running online workshops at the same time and we ended up taking each others courses. She's an incredible guide and teacher, as well as a moving writer.  I encourage you to check out her work {links are all at the end of the interview}. I'm thrilled to have Gwynn in this space today!

~Can you tell us a bit about your creative life? Before kids? After kids?

Ha! Before kids I would have told you how I am not creative. How I don't have time for such things. How I had a career and did "real" work (I was an electrical engineer). My daughter taught me the importance of play and how having a creative life is really the only life worth living. She has taught me that being creative doesn't only mean picking up a paintbrush or a pencil, that is about exploring and experimenting and playing and being. It is about having open space. It is about allowing myself to be, right where I am. And sometimes that can look like picking up a paintbrush or a pencil, and it can also look like daydreaming while savoring my coffee or trying a new recipe for dinner or getting us all to the park so we can move and run and be in our bodies. ​

~What does an average day look like at your house?

​Um, chaos? I would say there is no "average" or regular routine. I can count on us all getting up out of bed and food being eaten. Beyond that it all depends on the day and how we are feeling. Sometimes there is a lot of screen time and sometimes there isn't. Sometimes we have play dates at a friends or at our house or at the park. Some days we just explore. Some days we clean. I have been giving myself the gift of getting up before them in the mornings so I have time to breathe and write. And even that ebbs and flows with what the night before was like or what the day ahead has in store for us or if either of them are having growing pains or had a bad dream.​

~Gwynn, you're a writer, homeschooling mama, and a psychotherapist, and you also offer online workshops. Is creativity the thread that ties all of these roles and jobs together? How? ​

Absolutely. First I have to be creative to find time for All The Things. Or at least Some of the Things. Allowing the space for problem solving, outside the box, letting the ebb and flow of priorities shift as it needs in any given day. This is all part of the creative process for me: Letting go of the ideas of how things "should be" or "should go" or "should look like" and not worrying about what others think or don't think about me (and realizing that really, they don't think about me)​. Being true to who I am, opens me up for insights for my clients as well as my kids. I truly feel like every moment of my day is an opportunity for living creatively whether I'm in the office with a client or writing a prompt for one of my online workshops or being with my kids or even sitting enjoying a cup of tea and staring out the window. For me, creativity isn't so much in the doing, but in the being.

~What projects are you currently working on? Do you have any upcoming workshops? 

​I feel like I have my fingers in so many pots right now! I am working on a book that I am really excited about, I'm keeping the details secret for now, in part because I want all my ideas to have the space to be born in their own time. I am hoping to have the first draft complete by the end of the year, but I am not setting a hard or fast deadline right now. I also continuing my work with the (Un)Becoming Circle and am so so SO loving all we are doing there. We are in the second module and I just am amazed every single day by the women in this circle and the growth I see. ​And while we continue our work, I am reimagining the program for the next time I start it in the spring. And I am extremely excited about my 21-day online retreat that starts December 1, called Sacred Self, where we will explore ways to incorporate self-care into our super busy days while digging into the stories that stop us from taking the time to love and honor our Self. And I'm getting back into the practice of writing for my blog and creating stream-of-conscious pieces on Instagram.

While all that is happening online, I'm also working on some in-person workshops and retreats that I'll be offering this coming spring, summer and next fall. And of course I am continuing my work with grieving families and starting my private practice.

~What measures do you take to protect your creativity? 

​I recently started getting up in the mornings before the kids, and getting up early on the weekends (which are my work days). This is a HUGE shift for me and is part of my own self care and honoring who I am and recognizing that I am worthy and deserving of this time to me and to create; that my work is worthy of this time and space. It is feeling really good. And setting boundaries when I am working, particularly on the weekends when my husband is home and taking care of the kids, that my office door is shut and I'm not available and being really clear about that. Yes, every weekend one of them opens the door and tries to talk to me and every weekend I say, I'm working, it needs to wait until X (lunch, dinner, my next break). And it's important to keep reaffirming those boundaries for me to remind myself my work is important and for them to recognize that mama has important work outside of them too.

~Do you create alongside your children? ​

Yes! We do more traditional creating together - coloring, painting, drawing. We also build together and read together and I encourage them both to sit and replenish and daydream with tea too​. :) Also, my daughter (8 yo) and I create intuitive collages together and we just love that time cutting up magazines and arranging it all on our boards or in our journals.

~Do you need absolute silence and space to write, or are you able to carve out moments while in the middle of daily life?

Yes to both. I feel I do my best writing in the early morning silence. And I also take moments in the midst of the day to write a stream-of-conscious piece on Instagram or to create an intuitive collage or to sit and daydream and allow for inspiration to settle into me. ​

~What is the most challenging aspect of being a creative soul and a homeschooling parent?

Honestly, there are never enough hours in the day. I always have more ideas for me and us than we can possibly fit in. This used to frustrate the heck out of me. And I've really come to a place of acknowledging there is a time and a season for Each of the Things, and that I don't have to do them all Right Now. And really I don't want to do them all at once, I want to honor each project and give it its own space and time. And sometimes that means something waits for days or weeks or months while I focus on a different project. ​

~What is the most rewarding aspect? ​

That in most moments of every day I truly love my life and what I am doing; that I feel whole and that I get to raise my kids in a life where their creativity and ideas are honored and encouraged.

And last, but not least... a few quickfire questions:
~What was the last book you read? ​

I'm currently reading (and almost done with) Elizabeth Gilbert's Big Magic. I'm not sure what I'll pick up once I'm done with it. ​

~The last thing you made with your two hands and creativity? ​

The intuitive collage board for my Sacred Self online retreat. The process, and the end product, really helps me focus in on what this retreat wants to be and I am so excited about it!​

~Daily indulgence? ​

TV. Which right now is Gilmore Girls and Once Upon a Time with my daughter or Arrow on my own. ​

~Least favorite daily task? 

​Dishes. ​

~If you had an entire day that was just yours, how would you spend it? ​

Writing,hiking and taking pictures and creating intuitive collages. ​

~Favorite movie?

​Oh, so many!!! But the first one that popped into my head is The Princess Bride. ​

~Coffee or tea? 


Gwynn ~ Thank you so much for being a part of this interview series! I've loved getting to know you through social media, so this was an added bonus to see a bit of the behind the scenes of your daily life. Thank you!

Links for Gwynn:

If you or someone you know, are a homeschooling parent who is in the midst of creative pursuits and would like to contribute to this series, please contact me at crnnoel(at)gmail(dot)com

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

creating in the midst: Brooke Scott

Welcome back to Creating in the Midst. This week Brooke Scott is joining us. She is maker, a mother, a poet, and a homeschool mom of five. I've known Brooke for some time via her Instagram feed, and have fallen in love with her writing through her blog and recently published collaboration: Book of Hours, mamas edition. Thank you for being here, Brooke!

~Can you tell us a bit about your creative life? Before kids? After kids? 

Before children I worked at a bookbindery and as a studio assistant at a ceramics studio. When my husband and I were superintendents of condo buildings I was able to start and maintain a handmade fashion accessory business. A few years in to my business I thought adding a baby would be easy. Like everyone else I found it difficult. I tell the story of how I came back home from my first birth of how there were orders waiting on my fax machine (fax machine!). I am pretty sure I covered my eyes and started crying when I saw them. My business then shrunk and shrunk to be nonexistent. In the years following my focus was getting comfortable in my new mama skin. We immigrated to Canada when I was 6 months pregnant with our third child. To handle stress I began knitting and during the pregnancy with our fourth child began voraciously sewing. I find sewing calming. Working with my hands is a known quantity in a home with five children in various states of childhood.

~You mentioned in your email that you've only just begun writing in the last few years, what drew you to writing?

In my teen years I wrote a music and personal zine with a friend. We sent it out all over the world and traded with other folks with similar interests. Writing the zine and receiving a positive response boosted me during those years. It was in my early 20's that I felt not interesting or smart or educated enough to continue writing for public consumption. I lost my nerve. Three years ago I decided enough was enough and started writing a blog. Meandering my way through blog posts I began to write poetry. I love expressing myself in a curated word count. It is a challenge for me.

~What does an average day look like at your house?

Our days are long and cut up in to tiny bits. Our homeschool is inspired by Waldorf and I try to have a loose plan of our days, weeks and months. We are together doing lessons in the morning (currently grades 7,4,1 and fairy ring for our four year old) followed by an outdoor time. Living in the country is a relief for all of us. We all have space and quiet. I find morning a good time for me to plan, word dump or start a sewing project. Lunch draws us back together for the afternoon when I try to keep us home. The hardest part of homeschooling, I find is staying home! The smalls need as much home time as can be afforded so I work to protect it. Right before dinner is my golden time. I have made strides in what I am working earlier in the day so my progress panic is lower. I like to edit or finish sewing. I am pragmatic and more honest with myself at the end of the day. We eat, rush around doing chores and fill my husband in on the day before I shuffle off with the baby to bed. Early. Really early these days. Say 7:30 pm. I keep a pad of paper at the bedside and read till my baby is sleeping. Some night I have ideas, some not. I try to be realistic at night. We do not have wi-fi at the back of the house in the bedrooms and it is a blessing. My newest routine these past weeks since starting lessons up for the season is to sleep till 2 am. I get up, fuss around the house and set out notebooks or make lists for the older children's work the next day. If I can I like to watch some sort of BBC silliness and go to sleep. It's a funny routine but it has been working and I am not overtired.

~What projects are you currently working on? 

I am and have been working on a series of poems about a historical figure that is possibly fictional. The ambiguity is what drew me to him. He sounds too good to be true but how can you make that up! My two eldest sons are comic book readers and have influenced the pieces through their story recall. I also do a quarterly Tiny Letter newsletter. I am working on an essay about how having babies and toddlers for a decade can start to mess with your head and perspective.

~What measures do you take to protect your creativity?

I like to model behavior for my children to emulate and I do specifically tell them that INSERT WHATEVER I AM DOING is important to me. We have a rule that everyone is as important as anyone. I am reasonable with my timing but do ask that questions and can-you-help-me's are saved until I have had time for my work
~Do you create alongside your children?

Yes! We inspire one another.

~Do you need absolute silence and space to write, or are you able to carve out moments throughout the day while in the middle of daily life?

I'm a time whittler. With an under two and toddler time is not yet my own.

~What is the most challenging aspect of being a writer/maker/creative soul and a homeschooling parent? 

Burnout. If a candle could have more than two wicks I would be tempted to light them all. I am trying to head burnout off at the pass but I'm not able to yet. Over scheduling is my downfall every time.

~What is the most rewarding aspect?

That little piece of me I know is under the dates scribbled on the calendar or that is forming a line in my head while sitting with a math problem and frustrated child. I am a better mama when I create because I have more to give.

~Has your creative process changed due to homeschooling? 

It is streamlined. Before we began lessons in earnest I was open to every possibility. Lace making! Baton twirling! Why limit myself? These day I am more realistic.

And now... a few quickfire questions!

 ~What was the last book you read? 

I just finished Bryson's Dictionary of Troublesome Words and I just have to throw in what I am reading now. The Encyclopedia of Early Earth, a graphic novel by Isabel Greenberg and The Secret Chord by Geraldine Brooks. These are a perfect example of books I can't get enough of, sagas.

~The last project you worked on? 

Book of Hours 

~Daily indulgence?

Gummy candies

~Least favorite daily task? 

Pumping gas or anything to do with the toilet

~If you had an entire day that was just yours, how would you spend it? 

Taping together PDF sewing patterns on my dining room table. The worlds most dreaded job with toddlers around.

~Favorite movie? 

Purple Noon

Brooke - thank you so much for your words, your insights and inspiration. So much of what you wrote resonates, I especially appreciate your routine, and that you find moments for your creativity, no matter the hour. I myself have trouble being flexible, and taking time as it's given to me if it doesn't look like what I imagine it to...  It's been wonderful getting to know you a bit better, and I thank you for your honesty.

Links for Brooke:
Blog: violicious
Book of Hours, mamas edition

If you or someone you know, are a homeschooling parent who is in the midst of creative pursuits and would like to contribute to this series, please contact me at crnnoel(at)gmail(dot)com.