Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Refresh and Rejuvenate with a Non-cation

I haven't been home in three years.

By home, I mean sitting at the kitchen table drinking my mom's coffee and eating what she cooks. Her food. I haven't been in her house, under her roof, being taken care of like a daughter should be now and then.

It's only our fault. The long, long drive with two little girls has been daunting enough to scare me from making the long trip the last two years. The budget never seems to accomodate a vacation. There's not enough time between board meetings, committee meetings, kid meetings, adult meetings, work meetings ... meetings, meetings, meetings!

The excuses are long, drawn out and unnecessary. The point is there hasn't been a real vacation in three years. The kind that takes you away, wisks you away, sails you away, floats you away.

And there won't be any again this year thanks to unemployment hitting our family. There's oddly no time now. I'm not sure how that works?

Nonetheless, we don't really need to go on a vacation. Of course, it would be nice. It would be really nice. But, when you live like today is your vacation, vacations aren't really needed. That's just been my motto.

And while the to-do list always outweighs many things, it never overpowers the living in our family. We haven't done a long stretch away but we do things to celebrate living and life and this world around us almost daily -- at the very least, weekly.

Vacations are meant to rejuvenate, refresh and enliven us again to what is our Ordinary life.

But, I love Ordinary very much. I love baking, and doing art projects and just swimming in the pool that we are blessed to have in our backyard. I love just doing nothing but snuggling on the couch with my family. And movie nights with popcorn and blankets and pillows.

So, while we won't be going away for vacation in August, as planned, I do intend to take some days off and seriously pretend that I am on vacation. Here's how:

Staycation: From lazy mornings and easy breakfasts to lounging by the pool, the best part of vacation is doing very little. I mean so little it is almost boring -- almost.

Re-discover the simple things: Hot tea and cookies for an afternoon snack. Wine over a meal. Fluffed up pillows. (A friend of mine even bought all white bedding once for their staycation). I'm freezing things like scones, granola and pancakes so that we can just heat up and enjoy.

Read: Read a travel book. Read about faraway places. Dream a lot. Maybe even devour a beach read by the pool.

Head to the water: Even if it's a day on the local lake being around water is relaxing. I plan to indulge a bit.

Do little cooking: I cook nearly every meal we ever eat -- from scratch. It's crazy but I love it. But, even I admit that it can burn a person out and that a week spared of throwing together big, fresh, local meals is dreamy. Dreamy, I tell you. I will do very little cooking.

Only clean the serious messes: Assuming the house is clean when you start -- and that you have to clean it when it's over -- a week is not too long to just let it all go. Really, it isn't. (right?)

Watch the stars and the sky: This is one of those subtle, life-changing moments that I'm oddly just sleeping through because, well, I do too many things and I'm tired. But I want to be outside, drinking a glass of wine and just relishing my smallness to this great wonder of the Earth.

More ways to vacation while not vacationing may come to me ... like find a quiet corner and just write all day ... but for now I just know that it's a pretty good plan. How about you? Do you have any ways to enjoy a stay-home-when-you-really-want-to-get-away for vacation, vacation?

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Ordinary picnic turns magical

I can't stand to do things the same way every day. Each week, I try hard to find small, loving ways to incorporate fun and creativity into our days. I'm always coming up with something.

Today, we created a living room picnic that, as soon as we sat down, became a Poetry Picnic. This is one or two steps up from a regular picnic.

It all began at our church service, which featured poetry from many poets. And, since it was too hot to go outside and we forgot one important thing at home, we decided to go home and have a picnic rather than head to a local park (which was the original plan.)

For me, this was a magical experience -- and I love turning ordinary days into magic.

Here's what you need to do this at your house soon. And, I encourage you to do it very soon.

  • Picnic fare. We always choose sandwiches because our girls like them and will eat them without fail -- important for a picnic. Always adding in fresh fruit like cherries, often yogurt and treats like potato chips and cookies that our regular meals rarely include.
  • Soft blanket. It's important to sit on the ground and lay around like lazy people for a picnic. Tables just aren't the same.
  • Fine drinks. A lovely strawberry lemonade would be great. But, in our world, juice boxes fit the crowd nicely.
  • Stacks of poetry books. If you don't have these readily at hand you can easily go to the library and get a couple anthologies out. We have many volumes of poetry so I just grabbed them all and sat leafing through them, picking the ones we liked best and that fit the moment.
  • Read aloud. Have everyone pick a favorite and read it. Then, if the spirit moves you as it does us, create your own poem. Songs are just poems to music, too, so if you have a living room picnic, you can put on a CD of your favorite songs and listen to that as well.

There you go. A poetry picnic. Nothing fancy but definitely jazzes up a Sunday lunch.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Fire Up Your Muse: A Writing Retreat

Fire Up Your Muse

Let's face it. The demands of life are non-stop no matter what season you are in, no matter what phase of life you face. Your to-do lists outnumber your word counts. You are constantly wondering when -- maybe next week, next month, next year? -- things will finally settle enough, calm down enough to give you some much-needed time to tackle that creative project.

You've thought it a million times -- if you just had one day, a single day -- to focus on that one thing you love so much, expressing yourself on paper with real, wonderful, fabulous WORDS.

Life is short. You love to write. You have always wanted to dabble in writing. You're curious about how to start writing for the first time. Maybe you never stopped writing and the journals -- oh the journals -- are piling up on your nightstand.

I know. I feel the same exact way.

You are invited to retreat into the wilderness and write all day.

Saturday, Oct. 1st

Glen Rock, Pennsylvania

10 A.M. to 2:30 p.m.

(directions available upon registration)

This writing retreat is just for YOU. This is your time, your undivided attention to yourself and your mind. Your time to just be in one place for just one day, where time seems to almost stand still for a few precious hours.

Best of all, we toss out all those rules about grammar and spelling and punctuation that have you paralyzed to move your pen or pencil. Rules, schmules. They are nothing to us.

Fire Up Your Muse is designed to spark your creativity and expression. If you are someone who has a lot to say but often keep it stored in some dark corner of your mind, this retreat is for you. This is for you if you are trying to write for the first time in a long time.

Fire Up Your Muse will literally and figuratively set fire to those mental demons and loser critics that have been holding you back from finishing or starting a project. It will then fill you back up with positive energy that will stir your creative juices -- so that you can move onward and upward. You will leave inspired. I promise.

Fire Up Your Muse will give back some of that lost time you've been trying to find. Four hours, in fact. We'll even retreat into some yoga poses designed to get the mind relaxed.

Fire Up Your Muse will offer you time to write and work on your own project while uncovering some new ones that you never new you had inside your heart.

Fire Up Your Muse will help you learn to work through writer's blocks and press onward to face new, bigger dreams.

Fire Up Your Muse will show you how to shove fear aside and write in your authentic voice all while and turning writing into a daily (or weekly) practice.

You are a writer. Yes, you, sunshine.

Join me for this wonderFULL day.

Registration information:

Just $45.

Register on the lefthand sidebar

Then do a little happy dance

because you did this for YOURSELF.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Finding my way

I've been resistant to a lot lately. Wondering if I'm wasting my personal time on things much bigger than me, much greater than me. "I can't do it," I heard myself say. "I don't have to do it," I said. "I don't want to do it," I said, almost in a temper tantrum.

Not without some anger, I pushed through and took some risks -- leading my first writing retreat, for instance. It was easy to tell myself why would anyone listen to me?

I resist what I fear.

Danielle LaPorte's piece on resisting success spoke wisely to my soul not long ago.

I have been struggling with for time with figuring out what my personal brand really, truly is going to be. I have many dreams. I am a renassiance soul, to the core. I have many interests and talents. I have many facets to my personality. I always feel close ... almost within reach of what my inner authentic power is and then, just like that, it slips through my fingertips and I'm left standing watching a cloud of dust dissolve into thin air.

I've had this feeling for some time now. A couple years. Long enough to know that it's constantly nagging at me. What am I supposed to be doing? Where do I belong?

It's funny, I can so easily coach others into figuring out what THEY should be doing with their lives but, for myself, this is a hard exercise. The list of ideas are too long. My brain is always all over the place. I want, often, what I cannot even dream of at this time due to a job and children.

Will I ever, ever figure out this mystery? Or, is the mystery the real honest picture? I'm a puzzle piece that just doesn't fit into the bigger picture? Not in a sad way but in a happy, this-is-me way?

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Who doesn't love free things?

I've been working on this surprise for all of you for a while. I love things that I can print from the big wide world of the Internet. Printables, as they are called, just speak to my inner list-maker and pile-maker.

This first printable is just that -- a first, a first in what I hope will be many more to come. I love the idea of creating and sharing art with the world.

Please sign up for my newsletter and receive your free printable within one day of signing up. It's that simple.

Now, bigger things to discuss ... what are you doing to live creatively this holiday weekend? I'm sitting and doing a lot of nothing. And reading. Basically, just being very gentle with myself after a very long and busy period of time. It's time to let go and relax. That means lots of writing ideas are flowing, too!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Celebrating and Gratitude

I'm so grateful for so many things in this life -- this one precious life. I love the way the cool breeze hits my face first thing in the morning on an early walk. I love how each bird sings its own song, a mixture of peace and warning all at once. I love how people, all people, are so quirky and fun and annoying.

I love that we have so much to love in such time of disarray. I love the smell of warm, fresh coffee. I love how the kitchen floor is squeaky clean thanks to my husband. I love how little girls giggle late into the night and rise early excited for a regular Monday. I love how blueberry zucchini bread tastes so buttery and creamy, not at all like any other bread I've eaten.

I love how the days zip by but we still take time to celebrate, putting a single candle inside whatever we can -- a fig newton, a bowl of ice cream, a homemade chocolate truffle.

I love the feeling of walking far, so far away, that your cares just have to melt away because the phone, the computer, people are too far to touch. I love running, the feeling of my heart pounding in my chest -- a feeling new to me as I haven't much cared for running in the past. I love that feeling of adrenaline, of feeling powerful.

I love sitting outside and watching nothing and meditating on nothing and feeling peaceful when the to-do list is longer than a mile. I love crossing off that to-do list and feeling like I've accomplished something every single day. I love that today is the first day of summer camp and that when I told them they jumped up and down and squealed, clearly having no idea of what to expect. I love that they will learn the value of making new friends today and all week. I love that we're all here together, feeling so much love.

I love writing every morning, letting the thoughts flow and flow and flow without error, without perfection, without fear.

There's not enough hours in the day to prepare for what is to come so we have to just wait, let it happen how it will happen. It is what it is. We can't control this destiny anymore than we can control the children. But I do know it will be OK. We will be fine.

Today I will send love out into the world, as I have been trying to do. I will do my job to the best of my ability and we will see how it goes. I will take care of people and make sure that they are happy. That's really all that I can do. I have plenty to be happy about and I am filled with love for my life and my family.

That is really all that I have to do right now is love and trust. Love and Trust. Love and Trust. Love. And. Trust.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Success slips through her fingers

All of my life, like many others, I have been chasing one dream after another. Each goal being a single step closer to that ultimate reality of success -- that feeling of finally making it. And yet, after each goal is realized, it's never enough. More is needed. More is desired. More power is wanted. More money. More respect. More. More. More.

Recently, I began reading, "The Gift of an Ordinary Day," by Katrina Kenison. At first I wasn't sure I wanted to keep reading it as it's mostly about raising adolescents and teenagers and considering that my daughters are only now starting school, I didn't think it would be relevant to my life. Only a few pages in, however, I did start to see some of the issues we'll have to encounter years from now and that the book, really, is almost a glimpse into the future. Kenison talks a great deal in the first couple chapters about success and what we expect that to mean for our children. Is getting the best grades on test what it means to be successful? I'm not sure, yet, as I know we have a lot to learn yet but I know for sure that I wasn't the best test taker. My grades were often low. I was easily distracted by more important things like being with my girlfriends and cheerleading and any other social event around. Perhaps I needed that since I was an only child and social interaction was lacking in my life at home.

By reading this book now, I'm given a great opportunity to set the stage for my girls, and the way they shape what being successful is about. It's not about having the most money but having enough money to enjoy life. It's not about climbing the corporate ladder but knowing how to balance doing a great job at work and having enough time to enjoy this One Great Life that we've been given. It's not about rising to the top, it's about feeling really good about where you are at any given moment -- like right now.

So will I stress when one of my girls gets a low grade or gets into trouble for having a little fun? I can't say for sure but what I do know is that they will be just fine no matter what and they haven't even started school. They will be just fine. I know this because they are happy, healthy children who like to know about the world around them and ask questions. If they grow up to be seekers and explorers who love to learn new things, I think that's pretty much perfection. If they grow up to be happy adults with lots of girlfriends around them, that's pretty ideal. If they grow up to travel the world and try new things, that's pretty fantastic. If they grow up to know what they like and do not like and aren't afraid to admit those details to anyone that's pretty wonderful. If they grow up and can speak their mind and not feel fear, that's pretty damn good. If they are passionate and kind -- oh so very kind -- that's pretty much all I can ask. If they grow up to have any of these traits, that's success to me.

They willl certainly have their own ideas about what it means to be successful and that's OK, too. We may differ on a few points and I will have to respect their choices and opinions. We, as their parents, have a big job to prepare them for the future that awaits them. I don't think a few dozen Straight As is the answer, though that certainly does help get one into college.

It feels good to think about what success is as I am struggling with that definition myself. It feels good for their sake and my own -- someone who has pretty high expectations of herself and what it means to be successful. I've come a long way to learn all of these great things about life and what it means to fully live, authentically, without fear and worry. Well, a little bit anyway. I still live with a little fear and worry, especially now, but particuarly right now it's timely to consider what we really need in life. Is it more money? Is it the best job? Or is it a happy family life and a happy household. Is it doing fun things and enjoying life to the fullest before we die? I think so. I really honestly think so. It's not going to be easy to pass this message along to our daughters, who already have pressures in their minds about things like the way their hair should be or what outfit to wear.

It's not going to be easy raising two very different girls to live authentically.

But I think I'm up for the challenge.

Photo Credit: Elma