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? 

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:
Instagram

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 okay....to 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:
Instagram
Blog

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? 

​Both!!​

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:
Website
Facebook
Twitter
Instagram


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
Instagram
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.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

a thing...


I turned 34 earlier this month. A nondescript, in between age. That's what I'm finding 30's to be. It's a good age for settling in, and coming to terms with who you are. What your beliefs are. What you stand for. It's a good age for  knowing what you are not. It's an even better age to throw out preconceived ideas, boxes you've put yourself in, and regimented thought. 

Ever since I was young I said I wasn't morning person. I'd wake up early, feel sick to my stomach if I ate anything, or if I didn't, and would be so. damn. tired. all day long. And so I stayed in bed. 

Long story short, after much trial and error I found my sweet spot for waking: 5am. Who knew. I certainly would never have guessed. Of course there are set backs, and some mornings I sleep through the alarm, but for the most part, 5-7am has been my time each day. I make a pot of tea and wake up with words on the screen and try to write my daily allotment on my novel.  I hear Lucas in the shower and he comes down and kisses me goodbye before he heads off to work. The kids slowly wake and make their way downstairs, their edges are all soft and they smell like sleep and morning breath. Big hugs and kisses and our day begins. 

Yesterday I struggled through half of my word count goal. And then I said screw it, I'll try to carve time out in the afternoon. The day went on, and I didn't worry about writing, as I normally do when I don't have the morning time, and I actually sat down and wrote in the afternoon. And you know what? I wrote more than I normally do in an hour of morning writing. The quantity AND the quality was better, there was no struggle to come up with words - not because I was in a groove, but because I was awake

One of the frustrations that I have with morning writing is that by the time I'm fully awake, and can get into a groove, my two hours - and the kids - are up. I enjoy the morning hours, being the sole one awake and the quiet of the house, the slowness of waking instead of being suddenly woken by children who talk from the moment they wake until they go to sleep. But... my brain is still so foggy in the pre dawn hours. I think I'd have to get up at 4 in order to get my brain to be awake enough to work the way I want to each  morning. 

Yesterday afternoon, after realizing the whole quantity and quality of daytime writing thing, a lightbulb went off. I'm forever trying to have my actions be a thing. I'm forever trying to have a thing. A qualified, legitimate, routine and time and place that I can call out and say "This! This is mine, this is the thing I do, I'm for real." 

And I meet my goals, but never exceed them, because that's simply my personality. I met the goal, I did the thing, now I can stop. 

Huh.

I think I've been doing that for the majority of my 34 years. 

And as soon as that thing doesn't work, I throw it aside and move on to the next thing. 

Luckily I've stuck with this writing stuff through many routines that have each been a thing. That alone makes me realize that writing is my calling. Even if it's hard, and even if it's not always fruitful or fun, and even though there is no certainty of a positive outcome other than that it makes me happy. 

But these things... this need to label and categorize and put limitations and constrictions on the time that I work... it's all so inflexible I could scream. And it doesn't mean anything. Having something be a thing doesn't legitimize anything, or make it more important or worthy than anything else.

So I'm taking back my flexibility. I'm going to pull some yoga moves within my writing and stretch when I need to stretch and breathe into it when the time is right and write what comes up in the morning {foggy morning brain is perfect for journal writing and blog posts!} but I'm going to carve space where I can throughout the rest of the day for fiction. Some mornings I'll be awake enough to write first thing in the morning, but I'm taking the pressure off of myself for writing within a certain time frame. It will get done. I'm sure of it. Because it must, and I know this. 

If nothing else, I've learned in the last 34 that I enjoy the concept of structure, but it limits me. I like the idea of structure, and the idea of regimented routines, but I flow much better with rhythm. With an ease and an ebb and flow according to what my daily needs are. In everything. From homeschooling to my writing life to meal planning. When something is a thing, I strive to keep up with it for the sake of keeping up with it, not because it serves me well. 

Flexibility does not come easily to me, by nature. But it's time to practice it. To hone the skill. Not because it's a thing, but because it serves me well. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

creating in the midst: Cheri Williamson

Welcome to the first post of the second installment of Creating in the Midst interviews. Today Cheri Williamson ~ crochet ninja, pattern designer, instructor, and homeschool mama of four ~ joins us to talk about pursing creative endeavors with little ones in the background, foreground, and underfoot. Thank you for joining me here, Cheri!




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

Before kids?  I became a wife at almost 20 and a mother at 21.  Before that, all my time and energy was spent on school. My grandma tried to teach me how to crochet but none of it really stuck. lol

After kids...bwahahaha! The whole reason I took up a hobby was because of the kids!  I felt like I wasn't getting anything DONE anymore. There were always dishes, I never finished them no matter how hard I tried. There was always more laundry, always more crumbs to clean up. I really started to feel desperate...in real need of saying, "Look what I accomplished!" So I went to Walmart, bought a hook, yarn and a "teach yourself how to crochet" book.

~What is your crochet story, when did you learn, and when did you decide to make it more than just a hobby?

Well, I taught myself...my first attempts were pretty hilarious!  Sometimes I wish I had kept some of those early samples to show my students how I started out. :)  It became more than a hobby about 5 years ago.  A friend saw a stuffed giraffe that I crocheted and she ordered one.  It wasn't long before I had LOTS of orders. That summer I probably made 20-25 giraffes!  And I was getting orders from people I didn't even know.  That led me to start I'm in Stitches, a Facebook page where people could come "like" it and contact me instead of working through my personal Facebook page.

God is so good to me because I had so many orders that I noticed that my wrists and elbows were starting to suffer.  I began to think of other avenues to take my crochet "business." I decided it was time to teach these people how to make their own crochet creations.  So I began teaching classes, almost 2 years ago.  Since that time, I have taught around 90-95 ladies and girls how to crochet.




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

MESSY!  I'm a homeschooling mama to 4 fantastic, yet MESSY kids. ha!

~What projects are you currently working on? 

I am currently writing 2 patterns right now, one is a baby blanket and the other is a stuffed piggy.  I just finished an American flag blanket.  I always have more than 1 crochet project going on at once, usually 3 or 4.



~What measures do you take to protect your creativity?

None, really.  I don't copyright my patterns because I've heard it can be a lengthy and pricey thing to do.  I just hope that others will recognize the hard work and time that went into that pattern and will be considerate enough not to share it.  I always think of it as being music on the internet. There are ways to get it and share it with friends, but an honest person will buy it and then tell others where they can get it too, not burn them a copy.  

~Do you create alongside your children, and are they interested in crochet?

I'm beginning to.  My oldest daughter who is 10 is able to crochet some things. She's made herself a few small animals and is learning granny squares now.  My youngest 2 kids are 4 and 7 and they just had their first lesson this week! :)  My oldest son who is 12 has no interest what-so-ever.  And that's okay.  I try to think of ways to include him, but it's not with hook and yarn! 

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

Funny you should ask that! I was just thinking today of updating my Facebook status to say something like, "It's hard to design a new pattern when your 4 year old is chattering about her life." ha!  There are times I am reminded to put the hook down and be present in my kids' life outside of school time.  Normally I do my crocheting while they are busy in the afternoon or after they go to bed.  The reason I crochet and teach classes is for them.  It's how I earn money for their piano, soccer, art, etc. I want them to also see a mother who is like the Proverbs 31 woman, working with her hands to provide for her family.  Of course their daddy does the main providing, but I'm hoping they will see a mother who works hard to give them what they have, and yet not have to work outside the home.  (I do not think I am anywhere near as good as the Proverbs 31 woman, but I strive on)



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

Time and balance.

~What is the most rewarding aspect? 

Listening to my son play beautifully on the piano.  Or watching my daughter draw an amazing picture.  God has given them natural abilities, but it's because of their lessons that they are developing those skills.  And that wouldn't happen if I didn't crochet. Well, maybe it would, but not to the extent that it does now.

~Has your creative process changed due to homeschooling?

I would say my creative process has changed, and continues to change based on the needs of the family. But I wouldn't say it's totally due to homeschooling. :)  


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

Hmmm...I hadn't really thought that far ahead, but I guess it would be to pump out more patterns. The more I have listed for sale, the less work I have to do! haha!  My goal last year was to reach 1,000 likes on my Facebook page "I'm in Stitches" and now that I've made that goal, maybe I should push towards 2,000! :)  


And last... a few quickfire questions!

~What was the last book you read?

In it's entirety?  Honestly, I don't remember the last book I read cover to cover. I read my Bible, I read books to the kids.  Oh yes, if we talk about kid books, I know I've read the first 3 books of "Little House on the Prairie" to the kids. :)  We're slowly making our way through the series. 

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

A granny square to teach to my class.  



~Daily indulgence?

CHOCOLATE!!!

~Least favorite daily task?

Waking up. ha! Just kidding. Sort of.  Seriously though, I would say trying to balance my time. That and asking my kids to please hang up their jacket for the 100th time. ;) 

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

Sleeping, eating chocolate, soaking in a jacuzzi....in silence.  

~Favorite movie?

Aladdin

~Coffee or tea?

Neither?  Hot white chocolate is AWESOME!  If you go to a coffee shop, ask for a hot white chocolate steamer.  You can thank me later.


Cheri - thank you for your thoughtful answers! I think you're our first participant who focuses on something other than writing, and I'm thrilled to have your perspective as a maker, and a fellow creative. Thank you so much!



Links for Cheri:


Facebook

Craftsy




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 13, 2015

I won't tell you where I've been


I won't tell you where I've been. I won't drone on and on about our busy Spring or Summer, the details of road trips and getting caught in the rain while camping, of family time and birthdays, scraped knees and bruised elbows. This space has never really been a "hey, this is what I'm up to" catch all. This has been a place for me to throw some thoughts into the ether. To connect. To write.

Times have changed so much over the last few years in terms of the blogging world. I've not shied away from the conversations about how personal, narrative blogging {that's not even the term I'm looking for... it's eluding me...} is pretty much dead. But is it? I still follow several blogs, but it's so much easier to comment on a Facebook post or an Instagram photo.

And as the kids get older I'm wondering how much of their stories I can share. How much of our stories, the ones that belong to them as well as me. I don't have an answer.

There's lots that I don't have answers to. But the thing that I do know is that I'm in a writing slump. Not a terrible one, but enough of one for me to lift my hands up in the air and say I don't know what the hell I'm doing. I'm working on a novel that sprouted out of last years NaNoWriMo. The plot is now very different, and the writing is slow going and it feels good when I'm in it, but I easily fall out of it, and my footing is hardly rooted.  I mentioned to Lucas the other night that I don't know how to move forward, I don't want to spend time on those things that move the story along. "Plot points?" he said. I nodded sheepishly into my glass of water. "Yup, those things." I couldn't remember the term, or even if it was the one I was actually looking for.

My brain is fried, and at times I feel like I'm hardly writing. I'm hardly qualified to do this. Hardly know anything. I will tell you that I went to hear Elizabeth Gilbert speak about her new book, Big Magic, and so I'm well aware that most of my issues regarding writing my book are fear based. And so I'm going to pick up the book and actually read it tonight. I've been terrified of that, because once I read it I know I'll have no excuse to let fear be my guide and let it pull me down paths which I have no reason to be on.

Years ago, at the beginning of this blogging thing, my appetite for writing was insatiable. I'd pen blog post after blog post, material flowed from my fingers and onto the page. The more I wrote the more I wanted to write.

That is my point. My point is that maybe it's time to unearth this blog. Because writing here, writing blog posts, has never been scary. There's no getting it right or wrong. Typos are fine. Grammar, eh. I need to get comfortable writing again and realize that I can put words on the page without them being so weighted, so heavy, so emotionally packed. Really, I need to get over myself. A place to keep it light, to write, to connect, and to be seen and heard (aside from, you know, the billion other social media places we can connect and be seen and heard... can you sense the sarcasm?) Someplace to simply write.

Blog posts, to me, have always been about sharing and wanting to touch someone, to connect and maybe inspire or at least get one nod and "yeah, me too." One thing I've learned along this rocky road that is my writing life is that it's often solitary, and the only thing you really need some days is to hear a "yeah, me too" so that you don't go out of your mind with boredom or frustration or even over the top excitement about something that no one in your house is excited about.

So maybe I'll write about writing here. Maybe I'll get back to sharing what books I'm reading (this summer, my friends, was so amazingly full of books!) maybe (quite possibly...) I'll revive the Creating in the Midst series, and maybe (definitely) I'll write through the slump and come out on the other side with stories to share and questions to ask.

I won't tell you where I've been, but I'd love to share a stretch of the road with you some days. To travel alongside and share bits and bobbles from this journey...

Monday, May 25, 2015

creating in the midst: Danielle Jones

 Welcome to Creating in the Midst! This week I'm thrilled to introduce Danielle Jones to you. Danielle is a homeschooling mother of four, writer, and photographer. Her writing inspires us to dive into the creative life, and it's an honor to have her here in this space. Thank you for being here Danielle! And now on to the Q&A's...


~ What does an average day in your house look like? 
During the school year we had homeschool co-op classes twice a week. The days in-between we are mostly at home. On those days we do our studies in the morning. I have twin second graders, one preschooler, and an infant. We are able to get most of our “book work” done in the morning, have lunch, and then everyone goes outside for a while. Then we usually come inside for some read aloud time. We crash on the couch and read books that relate to our science or history studies as well as fun fictional books. We still read tons of picture books as well as chapter books. Then I send the kids to their rooms for at least an hour of quiet time. The baby naps. I try to get in an hour and a half of writing time before dinner preparations start. 

~ What projects are you currently working on? 
I write monthly for two websites, so I often have an article due. I’m also working on that mysterious thing called “platform building.” All of last year I worked on writing and editing a book proposal and last fall I signed with a literary agent! It has been exciting to work with her to get my proposal ready to be sent out to various publishers. 




~Can you tell us a little bit about your writing life? 
I've wanted to write books for as long as I can remember. I wrote fiction all the time until going to college, which is when I began to love literary criticism and creative non-fiction. My degrees were in English and Graphic Design and my post-college job was heavy on the design side. Once I stopped working full-time after having twins, I decided to delve into writing more seriously again. I've focused on non-fiction for most of my adult writing, although I’d love to get back into fiction. I’m always “writing” in my mind. Madeleine L’Engle wrote about how writing is like cooking soup or stew. You have various pots on the burners and you drop a carrot in here, a potato in there, and let it simmer. Writing is a lot like that for me. I always have ideas going for a new article or chapter. 

~What measures do you take to protect your creativity? 
For me, it’s important to “protect” my writing time. If  I didn't plan to sit down several days a week to write, I’d probably get distracted and side tracked by house projects instead. I’m too tired at night to write and mornings are still too unpredictable with a baby. So afternoons work for me right now. Time slips away so quickly and I've realized writing is like a muscle. It gets stronger the more I use it. I don’t wait until inspiration strikes. I love that Picasso quote that says, “Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.” So even on days I don’t feel inspired or like I have anything to say, I often discover that I do have something to share or develop. 




~Do you need absolute quiet to write, or do you prefer noise? And how does that impact your day? 
I prefer quiet. If I have a well-developed idea already in my mind I can write with noise. I don’t mind the kids watching a movie in the background. But constant interruptions distract my flow. So that’s why I choose to write during our down time in the afternoon. 

~Do you create alongside and with your children? 
When it comes to art, I try to. I’m trying to do a better job at that. I have wanted to paint and sketch more, so I’m trying to do that more with my kids. Next fall my goal is to do nature journaling alongside my kids. 

~What is the most challenging aspect of being a writer and a homeschooling mother? 
Having my kids home all day! Seriously, sometimes I envy moms who send their kids to school and then can focus most of the day on their profession. But I wouldn't trade it for anything. I love watching my kids learn and grow and being part of that. Also, I was homeschooled myself for all 12 years of my education prior to college and I loved it. I think that really feeds into why I’m doing it for my kids. I flourished as a homeschool student and so I really want to give my kids the educational opportunities and freedoms I had as a child. But it is challenging to make that concentrated time to write at times. I hope I’m teaching my kids to respect my time writing though, and that when they’re older they’ll look back on that and be glad I took time for myself to continue learning about and pursuing something I’m passionate about. 




~Has your creative process changed due to homeschooling? 
Homeschooling has forced me to narrow down my professional creative pursuits. When the kids were little before we started homeschooling I did graphic design and then this morphed into a photography business. I did this along side writing. But once I started homeschooling it became too hard for me to juggle photography, writing, and homeschooling. My mind felt fractured and pulled too many ways. Maybe this is because I’m a perfectionist. But it caused me to take a hard look at my limited time and pin down what I really wanted to do. And I wanted to write professionally more than photograph professionally. So although this was a bit painful, it also helped sharpen and narrow my focus in terms of how I spent my creative energy.  
~Is there anything else you'd like to share? 
Whatever creative interest you have--even when you might not be able to create at this time or season--be a consumer of what you’re interested in. If you want to write, read! If you want to paint, look at lots of paintings. If you want to be a better photographer, look at photographs and learn why you like what one person produces over another. You will learn and gain knowledge just be looking and being aware of what’s out there. Then when the time comes to really create you’ll be better prepared. Be a connoisseur of whatever creative endeavor you’re interested in! 

Danielle - thank you for sharing your thoughts here. So much resonates deeply with me, as I'm sure with many of our readers. I especially love the bit about what Madeleine L'Engle wrote about writing being similar to cooking a stew, what a perfect bit to tuck away in the "about writing" folder! Thank you again for your wisdom, your words. xoxo

Links for Danielle:
Website
Twitter
Instagram


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.

Monday, May 18, 2015

creating in the midst: Kirsti Call

This week author Kirsti Call is joining us for Creating in the Midst to talk about her experience with homeschooling while pursuing her own writing. She is the mother of five, author of The Raindrop Who Couldn't Fall {which my children and I all adore and have read multiple times since ordering it just a few weeks ago!}, and a beautifully creative soul. Thank you for sharing this space today Kirsti! Now on to the Q&A....




~What does an average day in your house look like?
Our house is noisy and chaotic and filled with the energy of five kids ages 13, 11, 9, 7, and 4. The house brims with pressing ideas and interesting projects. We start out doing things together; poetry memorization during breakfast, reading the Wall Street Journal,  critical thinking, music flashcards, writing. I usually read to the kids as they clean their rooms and do the dishes. Then the kids split off to do other things like math, piano/guitar/drum practice, typing, coding. Then the three oldest spend time reading or working on various projects. My 11 year old, Naomi, started her own etsy shop, Little Andover Girl, and donates 20% of her earnings to The African Library Project.  She spends time making art and jewelry and sewing bags. My 9 year old, Sydney is our chicken whisperer. She studies and reads about chicken care, takes care of our 7 chickens and sells their eggs. Right now she’s researching how to care for the chicks that will hatch in 9 days!  My 13 year old son, James, especially loves spending time coding and programming lego robots. By 3:00 pm we go to choir, or theater or jazz band or some other class. We usually end the day with dinner, a dance party, and reading!

~What projects are you currently working on?
I’m working on several quirky picture books and a middle grade novel about a girl with super powered singing skills. I’m always percolating on several other ideas at the same time.


~Can you tell us a little bit about your writing life?
I’m almost always writing something in my mind or noticing things that  would make a great story. I love the meanings and musicality of words, so arranging them in the most powerful way that I can fills me with joy.


~What measures do you take to protect your creativity?
I try to really live in the moment and make every moment a creative one. With five kids in my house, I have to use my creativity to motivate people to help around the house or practice instruments. Paying attention to the creativity of my children helps me keep my mind ready to embrace ideas and inspiration.


~Do you need absolute quiet to write, or do you prefer noise? And how does that impact your day?
I used to need absolute quiet to write. I’ve gotten more flexible as my life has gotten more chaotic. By the time everyone is in bed, I’m too tired to write. So I try to take a few minutes to write in the morning before everyone is up and during the day and I try to catch five minutes here and there as the kids are working independently.  


~Do you create alongside and with your children?
I do. We have a project room which we named “Calliflower studio” (after Peter Reynolds told me to name it).  The room is packed with fabric, beads, painting and sewing supplies, magazines, glue, etc. The walls are papered with our paintings.  There we write songs and stories together.  


I had fun overseeing the making of creative birthday gifts for my husband recently. The boys (13 and 4 yrs) made him a movie. The 7 and 9 year old girls wrote him a song and sang it while accompanying themselves on the guitar. My 11 year old daughter made him a chess cake complete with chocolate pieces.  



~Do you have a set time of day, or of the week, that you set aside for your creative pursuits?
I try to write every morning, but honestly, I don’t really have a set time. I write when I find my muse or a moment when no one needs me.  


Do you set weekly/daily/monthly goals?
I join writing challenges to keep me writing. I’m a member of the 12x12 challenge which helps me write and revise one picture book monthly. In November I participate in Picture Book Idea Month where you write down one idea for every day of the month. Last month I participated in Reading for Research Month where you read picture books and use them as mentor texts. And now I’m participating in Rhyming Picture Book Month--all of these challenge help me to hone my writing skills and produce more stories. I also contribute to Writer’s Rumpus, Children’s Book Academy and Kids Are Writers, so I have set deadlines to follow.


What is the most challenging aspect of being a writer and a homeschooling mother?  
The most challenging aspect of being a writer and a homeschooling mother is prioritizing my time! I sometimes wonder if my writing time takes away from time I should devote to the kids.   And I’m constantly thinking about how I can ensure that I use my time in a way that makes me happy and everyone else around me happy too.  


What is the most rewarding aspect of being a writer and a homeschooling mother? I have the privilege of learning with my kids, understanding who they really are and helping them to follow their dreams. And there is nothing better for a kidlit writer than spending time with kids.  My kids inspire my stories and having them home and learning with me only make my stories more authentic.



How do you feel about the word balance? Is there such a thing?  Balance is tough.  I’m always trying to balance my professional needs and wants with the needs and wants of my family.  Sometimes I spend more time homeschooling and less time writing. Sometimes I miraculously accomplish both at once (usually when kids are feeling particularly motivated or interested in their projects).

~Has your creative process changed due to homeschooling?  Last year I devoted my 5 hours a week with no kids at home to writing. Clearly, I don’t have that quiet time anymore--but I do have an environment rich with inspiration and creative energy. I’m now able to create more with less time and more chaos!  My creative process has become more organic. I may have to stop writing in the middle of a sentence and I may not finish an entire blog post in one sitting any more. But I’m also more flexible and able to go into writing mode as soon as I sense I have a window of opportunity!


~What advice would you give to someone who is passionate about their creative pursuits, and just starting out on their homeschooling journey?
I’m just finishing my first year of homeschooling and I've struggled to discover a way to pursue my writing and give my kids the attention that they need and deserve. Now after 8 months, I've decided that the best way to create is to create with your kids. We sit at the table and write together and somehow, writing and homeschooling have never been sweeter.

Kirsti - thank you so much for sharing your experiences with us. I love how you talked about using your creativity to live in the moment, and how homeschooling has helped to make you a more flexible writer. I can relate to that for sure! It's also wonderful to hear that you create alongside your children, and how it can actually enhance your writing life. Thank you again for being here in this space, it's a joy to get to know you through your words!


Links for Kirsti:
Website
Twitter
Facebook
The Raindrop That Couldn't Fall


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.