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.

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. 


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?


~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?


~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:



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...