The Project Moratorium

At some point in our older home’s history, an extra room was added on to the first floor.  Since we’ve lived here it has alternately been “the studio”, “the office”, “the shove everything in there” room, and again “the office”.

home office ideas

In it’s latest transformation back to the land of the functional, I uncovered something of interest.  A shelf jammed with this and that: wool slippers, cork kilim coasters, DIY nursery decor, an old clock in need of refinishing.  What do all these have in common, you ask?   They all have found a home on the shelf where projects go to die.  Each just shy of completion: almost done but for one supply that I’ve run out of, or one tricky hurdle I don’t want to jump, or one disappointing outcome that I hadn’t expected.

unfinished projects

As I reordered and organized my space, (now the “studio-office hybrid”) I had an epiphany.  I created a small niche on half of one shelf, and piled up a few of these unfinished projects.  These projects would be completed.  They have to be completed before I am allowed to start any new projects. (And oh, how I do want to start some new projects!)

So this means that when I stop by JoAnn’s to pick up silver foil for the clock, I won’t stop by the clearance shelves for some perfect project-y deals.  And when I drop off our clutter at the thrift store, I won’t also buy that amazing, unique mid-century side table at 30% off.

Wait, as I’m writing this, I realize that may have been a mistake.  The table thing…. It was really cool, and only $7!  Should I go back…?

Anyhow, as we’ve discussed before, I am a starter.  Not so much a finisher.  I’m hoping that by bribing myself with more, better, amazing projects to come, that I’ll finish up what I’ve begun.  When the shelf is empty, I’ll add a few more from the pile, and get to work on those too.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

A non-sequitur to end with…  I started and finished this cake yesterday.  And by “finished it” I do not mean that I ate it all in one day!  It was good, but not great, and makes me want to perfect my “from scratch” techniques.

home made yellow cakeI’ll let you know how that goes, too!  I have a 1 year old birthday and a 42 year old birthday to bake for soon…

Hope you all have great days!  See you soon. 🙂

A Secret at the End of the Road


One day a long time ago, I was angry, fuming, sad and despairing.  That snowy morning, I crawled into my car and drove, making the first tracks along the way.  I left the highway, and crossed the narrow bridge over a wintery river, determined to follow the water as long as I could.  When the road veered away from the river, I parked and walked into the woods.    I don’t remember what I was upset about, or how I resolved my feelings. But I know that I walked and prayed and kicked rocks and cried.

I walked, and prayed and kicked rocks and cried and I found my secret place.  There was no sign to indicate where I was (although maybe there was a No Trespassing sign, come to think of it), and I wasn’t even sure how I’d gotten there.

I went in empty and left with treasure.  

Here are some bits of it.

These were taken last weekend when I shared my secret place with a few special people. (I did find my way back….)


One Resolution…


"I Will Achieve my Goals" by Decoylab

On New Year’s Eve, I had a grand list of resolutions and goals going in my journal.

  • weight loss
  • whole house organization, accompanied by charts, graphs and glossy photo “after” shots
  • monthly artistic assignments, blogged about regularly
  • more frequent dates with my kids
  • every other week brunch at our house with friends
  • sleepovers for the four older kids each weekend
  • read through the bible and journal
  • daily yoga
  • regular hiking on weekends
  • on, and on, and on.

Then I woke up on New Year’s Day with a kid hangover… The special cocktail: get up with a sick baby from three to seven, after waiting up for the oldest until almost one.  (I party like a rock star, I know).

The morning after, all these goals not only seemed ridiculous and unattainable, but repulsive. …They basically represented just the opposite of what I’d ever want to do with my life.  (Ah, the perspective of a sleep deprived woman…)

After some reflection and coffee (and then some more coffee), I saw clearly.  I realized in two hours what typically takes me two months to acknowledge.

to do list printables

"Owl To Do List" by Boy Girl Party

I was never going to do all that anyways.

I’d already suspected this, even yesterday, while I wrote on clean, new pages in my 2012 journal.  Something seemed off, but I pressed on anyhow.

The burblings of something important were trying to break through, however…  and they did, shining clearly through the fog!  This is something I know (and have even blogged about) but forget frequently.

Do what’s most important first.  Everything else will fall into place, or just fall off.

I am a deeply spiritual person; a Christian (although I am loathe to use that term for all the weird and sometimes well-deserved negative connotations).  In almost every way, my faith defines me… all of me (a creation) coming from the source of my creator, and all of me attempting to be headed toward that source as well.  My own creativity – coming from and headed toward my creator; my love for my family, the questions I have about life, my joy in natural beauty, my intrigue in and enjoyment of all kinds of people… all come from my source and my goal.  Even the yucky parts of me – my selfishness, despair, impatience, self-righteousness –  are at the very least being submitted for transformation and grace.

New Year's 2011So this is what’s most important to me.  And as important as it is, somehow, the ways in which I nurture this relationship with God – my faith – can get lost in the shuffle of dishes, packing lunches, napping, calorie counting, and even in more lofty endeavors; artwork, friendship, doing good works…

I’m excited about my new (and old) perspective:  I can’t do it all.  I’ll put this first.  

Jesus gave a teaching, addressing his audiences’ legitimate concerns about material things… clothing, food, anxieties about tomorrow.  He reminds them that he already knows all their needs and cares about them. The secret is that when he is in the center of their lives, everything else will fall into place.  (This is from Matthew chapter 6).

I’m counting on this.  It’s not that I’m abandoning hope of having a clean house, or dropping ten pounds, or making more art, or of brunching and hiking and slumber partying.  I’ve just remembered that these aren’t the things that belong at the center of my life. I get wacky when they are.

So now I have one New Year’s Resolution instead of 40.  It’s to nurture this relationship, and enjoy it and learn from it every day.  Whew!  That is really quite a relief.  I look forward to seeing what emerges in this pursuit.  I’m guessing more than I can hope for.

I’ve Been Blogged Down

An essay on the perils of living in a “lovely” blogosphere

blogger's block

"Writer's Block" available for sale from I Wear Party Hats on Etsy

I’ve had a tough time blogging lately, and have begun to refer to it as being “blogged down”.   There are several factors that have seemed to contribute to this lapse…..but I’ve recently realized the primary dilemma:  I’ve forgotten who I am and have thought I should be someone else.  

blogger's block

The Boden Girl and Me... She looks great, doesn't she? Sometimes, I wish I could be her.

My Google Reader and Facebook feed run long with “love, love, love it” blogs about beautiful people living lovely lives in tenderly restored vintage homes.  There are perfectly symmetrical (and dust free) mantels decorated for Christmas with just so eco-friendly handmade snowmen.  There are the cutest candids of model-gorgeous women in short skirts and great boots who look over their shoulders through gauzy filtered light as they bake vegan pies from scratch, while surrounded by beautiful children in clean, matching Hanna Andersson jammies.

My not necessarily clean nor cherubic (but very much loved) oldest son in his "ugly Christmas sweater" which he wore for three days in a row.

There seems to be lots of cleanliness, a good amount of order, and quite a few cherubic children.  All of this is captured by women who are not only cleaning and creating that order, but raising the shiny angels, doing amazing DIYs, and also blogging about and photographing it all.  In their great boots. With their amazing long legs and upcycled hand made skirts.

I”m not a hater, although I’ll admit there’s a part of me that is jealous…  I’m sure that if I met these stylish, talented, kind, organized, creative women I would like them – maybe even a lot.  I’d want to have coffee and vegan pie in their tidy and romantic kitchens.  I don’t hate them because they’re beautiful.

Perhaps, though, there’s trouble (at least for me) in blog world, because there is so much perfect, perfect, perfect.  We’re always to be showing off our finest accomplishments, remodels, DIY’s, and the best of the photoshopped photos.

Part of it is that this is what we readers want to see.  Who wants to read a blog about a floor covered in dirty laundry?  You’ve probably got some laundry of your own at home to look at if you want to!  Who wants a blow by blow tutorial of me making Kraft Mac and Cheese?  For that matter, who wants to read a blog about my struggles with blogging?

I’m banking on the fact that someone out there does.  In part, this is an explanation of my absence and my journey to the group of genuine, interesting and kind friends whom I’ve met as a blogger, and to all those who have shared the joy finding creative inspiration along with me.

I’m also wondering if there are others out there who feel swept along (and away) by all the perfection and “lovlies” and simple solutions of the blogosphere.  Can we be more real, and still be winsome, interesting and valuable?  What does this look like for me as a writer?  I don’t aim to write any sort of confessional blog, but I also don’t want to burden myself with the high bar of always being “on”, good, or right.  Neither do I want to portray myself to you in any way that doesn’t at least move towards fuller disclosure of what it means to be a real person living a real life.

I don’t have an answer yet, only a few ideas and a general direction.  I started the day by cleaning most of the design and decor blogs out of my feeds. (See, I did some cleaning)!  I kept the art blogs that I love, and a few others that I think will help motivate me to write more genuinely.

I am also reminding myself of what my own writing is about:  art, creativity, imagination, inspiration and all the variety of people who express those in their lives.  This is what I love, what I sometimes do, and what I want to share.

Thanks for joining me in these incomplete thoughts – I’d love to hear your takes, your experiences as either readers or writers in this culture of “lovely”, and certainly any input that you have to offer!

To conclude, I wanted to point to a few of the bloggers I’ve met along the way whom I like in particular.  These are all newer writers, and I think one of the reasons I’m drawn to each of them is that they (in different ways) reflect authenticity and beauty at the same time. When you have time, check them out!  I think you’ll enjoy…  (Any to add?  Tell us in the comments!)

Beauty of Everyday Life

Shambolic Living

Still + Life 

Take Care…  ( Look for a double dose of 52 Fridays this week!  🙂  Delaware and Florida coming up!)

Thankful for Bookshelves


When I was at my parents house for Thanksgiving this week, everyone spent a lot of time reading.  Kids read with their feet propped up in comfy armchairs, grandparents pulled out the reading glasses, Todd snuggled up with his i Pad, and I wandered around looking at the bookshelves.

readingMy parents are official book-aholics.  They read prolifically, give books as gifts, and collect them on shelves, in stacks, in baskets and in the back seat of the car.

I certainly and thoroughly inherited this love.  When I was a kid and needed consequences and discipline, the only leverage my parents had was in my books.  If necessary, I would not be permitted to read in order to refine my focus on other areas, such as math problems, exercise, dishes, and getting dressed on the weekends.

love to read

I had some good tricks up my sleeve for sneaking my habit unnoticed…  (Cracking the door just so, to let in the tiniest shaft of light; the ability to feign sleep at a moment’s notice and to deftly slip a book into my pillowcase and under my cheek.)

Looking back, though, I wonder if my parents didn’t know all along of my sneaky ways, and yet allowed it to go on…  They empathized with my situation.

I am so thankful for the book passion that my parents nurtured in me.  Their shelves are full of books about faith, far away lands, how to build a deck, who murdered who, ideas, truth and humor.

My kids didn’t inherit orderliness from me, nor did I from my parents.  I’m so glad, though, that our stacks and piles and overflowing closets are mostly filled with books.

Be Creative Today.


Creativity Quote by John Updike

photo: “Massachusetts – John Updike", 1962. ©Dennis Stock / Magnum.

“Any activity becomes creative when the doer cares about doing it right, or doing it better.”
John Updike

I am thinking about this today as I try to approach my (huge) to-do list with creativity and vision instead of dreariness and dread. So much of life is mundane; why shouldn’t I see these tasks as creative opportunities? We were made to be creative, I believe, so why not unleash it every day?

Look out, dishes. You are going to be extra shiny today!

Boo! Failure is Scaaaarrrrrryyyyy!

In a series on Good Ideas, Our Flirtations with Them, and Our Commitments to Them.

Well Happy Halloween to you!  Today, our discussion is a bit dark and rather scary.  I want to talk about failure, because it has a very important place in a series on Good Ideas.  The creative life simply does not progress without failure.

dealing with failure as an artist

The Raven, mixed media by Mari Lowery, available on Etsy














I know this from experience!  When I was an art student, I took my first pottery class.  How exciting!  How wonderful to put hands in clay, and mold it on the spinning wheel into a sleek, organic, functional vessel!  I could totally rock my neuvo-hippie chick thing, sell some pottery at a festival or two, and have lots of Christmas gifts on hand for everyone!

Except that when I sat down at the wheel and hit the pedal, goopy wet clay spat in vicious circles and hit me in the face, covered the wall, and coated the other zen-clay students.  I was humiliated and so disappointed.

After that, the only time I’d return to the studio was late, late at night when few other students were working. I guess my hope was to work out all the kinks and appear one day in my day class as if nothing had happened, and as if I had all my “slip” together. 🙂  I progressed very slowly, as there were no teachers and not many experienced students in the lab at that time of night!

failure and creativity

Me - circa a long time ago

That was a long time ago, and I’ve learned some very valuable lessons since – primarily about grace and the freedom to be a fool and to fail. Here’s what I want to share today:  Not failing (and not failing publicly) will prevent you from succeeding.

  • Failing publicly means you tried to add value in a way that would impact other people.
  • Failing again means you tried again.
  • Making a variety of mistakes means that you are experimenting with a variety of “what if’s” and “maybe’s” and “hopefully’s”
  • Failing publicly means that you are in a position to be noticed (oh no!) and get some help, tweaking, direction…
I believe that purposing to add value, trying again, experimenting, and seeking critique as well as support, will lead to successes.  Purposing to achieve perfection the first time, and to make sure that everyone thinks well of you all the time will – ironically –  lead to defeat.
artists and failure

Finally... a teapot!

  • If you’ve ever felt paralyzed by creative failure, what got you going again?
  • What kinds of things have you learned from failure?
  • Do you put yourself in positions where you can fail publicly? If not, what can you do to be more vulnerable?
  • What advice would you give a friend who is stuck in failure?
Alright, talk to you later creative friends!  I hope I didn’t scare you too much today. 🙂  See you soon. 🙂
Mari Lowery is a former dog walker and a Brooklyn photographer and mixed media artist. Find more of her frightening creations at her Etsy shop.

My (Good) Advice Column!

In a series on Good Ideas, Our Flirtations with Them, and Our Commitments to Them. _________________________________________________________________________ So I want to talk about the role that advice plays in our decision making.  Really, I should have brought this up before I told you to Just Pick One (a good idea, that is).  Generally, the time to seek counsel is before a commitment!  Oh well, better late than never, right?

good advice

2 divided by 2 equals 1, by Cori Dantini. Available on Etsy

You have your Big Idea.  You’re mapping it out in your brain, doodling it in a sketch book, detailing it in your idea journal, making Excel spreadsheets (or not! 🙂 ), checking out your finances…

–  Do you reach out and ask someone for their perspective on your dream?  Why do you do this?  Or, Why don’t you?

– Who do you typically talk to, if you’re one who’s inclined to seek advice from others?

– Who do you wish you could talk to?

– What do you hope to gain?

I feel like there’s a tension there for us creatives.

On one hand, as expressed by the comments on this very blog, we need people to help us filter our idea-prone minds.   On the other hand, a creative can’t be successful if she is always waiting around for someone’s approval.  (And we do want approval, don’t we!?)

And this, friends, is why life is challenging.

  • We need both the tenacity to hold on to an idea in the face of dismissal, and the good sense to listen and let go of it if it isn’t quite right.
  • We need the patience to see our ideas from many angles, over a period of time, through other’s eyes, and the decisiveness to act now, when the time is right.
I’ll sum it up by saying this: I believe we all need a strong inner compass AND a map.

From the Direction series, by Heidi Sorensen Muller

What do you think?  I’d love to hear some of your thoughts and experiences with this…   Thanks! 🙂
Cori Dantini is a full time illustrator, full time mother and full time wife from Pullman, Washington.  She says of herself,  “I love a sharp pencil, and a 005 black pen, i heart walnut ink, and japanese pen tips, OH and a new pad of paper, i love ANYTHING shiney or sparkly, and consider myself to be a bit of a crow in that way”.
Here is a link to her lovely Etsy site.


Just Pick One

This is part of a series on Good Ideas, Our Flirtations with Them, and Our Commitments to Them.

I’m a person who doesn’t know that I’ve thought until I’ve spoken it out loud, or written my thought down.  This is why I LOVE friends, coffee, and fresh paper. Whether you’re my type of an idea-phile, or more of a reserved “just between me and my diary” type; writing, documenting, and listing the ideas that pop into our heads is essential to harnessing their energy.

Keep a List, and No “Pooh-Poohing”

When I used to work at Urban Concern, a co-worker would always remind us that there was to be no “pooh-poohing” of ideas that came up at staff meetings.  Well, initially, at least.  That is the sense in which you are to keep your idea notebook.  It is a dumping ground for every idea that comes into your head:  the good, the bad, and the “maybe you should see a therapist”.

Oh, and this is just the best for idea-philes.  It’s absolutely guilt free day dreaming. How fun is that?  Of course, though, none of us really aspire to be only dreamers.  We are, after all, Makers.  So what to do when this ongoing list keeps growing, and we still remain hesitant (fearful) to stop jotting and act?

Please Pick One

Just Pick One  

There are unlimited good ideas in life, but our lives themselves are limited – even if only by the 70 or so years we’re given.  A very wise friend counseled my idealistic and driven- dreamer husband this way…  She said that life is like a box of chocolates (no, I’m not going all Forrest Gump on you!), and that eventually you have to pick one to eat.

Once you choose your chocolate, you need to enjoy it, savor it, be grateful for it, and STOP wondering what it would have been like had you picked the one that may have had truffle filling!

(OK, I have to confess – I DID eat every. single. piece. of chocolate in that box after I took the photo.  That doesn’t really work with my analogy, but I had to tell you anyhow. 🙂  )

This week, I encourage you to give your ideas a voice in a notebook.  (Remember to work on your Yes List, too).  We’ll wrap up with some thoughts on the value of counsel in the next few days.

Good Idea, I Think I Love You! (Focus)

We’ve established that there are a lot of good ideas out there, and that a lot of us have them, a lot of the time.  We’ve also established that despite this fact,it can be difficult to grab hold of this kind of creative energy, and really see it through to fruition.

For the next couple posts, let’s talk about strategies that help us weed through the pile, pick a good idea and commit!  – This post is a little longer, but read through to the end to see how it bears on your creative ideas.  I’d LOVE for some of you to share your “Yes” lists in the comments!


1.  Know your Big Picture focus  (What will you say YES to?)

This is so much more fun to think about than all the things you might have to say “no” to! I’ve learned that part of growing up is that you make:

fewer and fewer decisions between good and bad…
–   should I get really drunk tonight at my work party, or should I remain sociably sober?

and more decisions between good and better.
–  should I spend Saturday hiking with my friends or baking cookies with my kids?

The simplest way to deal with the constant barrage of “good v. better” decisions is to clearly know what you will always say “Yes” to.

Grab your cutest notebook, and start to jot a list.

What will I say "yes" to?

– I will always say yes to my family.
– I will always say yes to my friends.
– I will aways say yes to my neighbors.
– I will always say yes to spiritual growth, to God.

3 Things:

1.  This is my list.  Yours doesn’t have to be like it.  My list is not perfect, and will get tweaked as I learn more and fail more.

2.  Keep your list short.  Leaving something off doesn’t mean you can’t do it, it just means that you won’t do it at the expense of a “yes” on your list.

3.  “I will always say yes” has a context.  For instance, I do not mean that every time my kid wants something, I will give it to him, or that every time a friend asks for coffee I will drop everything and head out.

Example:  My oldest son plays football.  Most of his games this year have conflicted with the time that we go to church.  There’s a tension there, to be sure…  it seems that there’s almost a cultural mandate to be at every one of your kids’ sporting events, or risk being a bad parent.

Theo, #54

With my “yes” list in mind, I talked to my son, and told him that I love him being in football because he loves it.  I want him to learn to stick with the things he commits to, so I endorse his participation, and want to be there often.  However, his participation in football can’t compromise my spiritual growth, the nurturing of my closest friendships, nor the rest of our family’s interests. (My kids all LOVE going to church – probably because our church is not churchy. 😉 )

So see, there are 3 yeses there…  my family, my friends, my spiritual growth.  They helps me to make this good v. better decision.

Good Ideas

OK.  That’s Cool. But How Do “Yeses” Help Me Creatively?

The great ideas that you can do, that you will do, that you will complete successfully, are the ideas that work in your life.  If you go into an idea enterprise blindly, what happens is that a few months into it, you realize it’s not fitting into your life.  It’s pushing up against “yeses” that you didn’t know you had.  You will drop that idea, after having likely already jeopardized some “yeses”, and wind up feeling discouraged about the whole “good idea’ thing.

Yeses help you trim your idea list to the ones at which you can succeed!

(We’ll talk about idea lists later – keep all of those good ideas!  Your “yes” list will change as your life changes, and you may find you can then succeed at some of those “listed” ideas.  Pie Shop, anyone?)

Please note:  This post is about the BIG ideas – business ventures, new directions in life, time consuming commitments.  If you have lots of good ideas for tweaking a Toll House cookie recipe, or painting your bathroom, or writing a poem, have at it!  No need to consult the “yes” list. 🙂

Alright now, peeps – let’s hear about some Yes Lists in the comments section!  I’m sure it will be thought provoking.  See you next week!  I’m out for a weekend away.  Yay!!!