Happy Anniversary with a Hawk, a Yellow Finch, and Nature’s Symphony

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On this past Sunday morning, I was sitting at the table reading, waiting for everyone wake up so that I could take a walk. As we were all saying good morning, my husband noticed a Hawk just outside the window, directly across from me on the fence. It was a sign for sure, and one that reminded me to get outside to begin my morning walk through nature. A reminder to step out and lead.

As I was walking, I did something intentionally, that for years had been just under the surface, but it is something I am learning to bring into my work. As I walked down a sidewalk flanked by nature that had escaped for now the bulldozer of new homes, I asked permission to enjoy this space from the very nature that inhabited it.

The breeze picked up, and the symphony of sounds slowly built into a beautiful melody almost drowning out the construction sounds near by. As I stood there taking it all in instead of walking by unnoticed, I saw a tiny yellow bird, a finch I think. I would not have noticed it playing in the thicket of tall plants if I had not stopped. It was bouncing from stem to stem, having a grand old time. I then saw a larger bird, but only its shadow, mysterious and still as if watching me watching the small yellow bird. I said thank you and moved on my way. How much do we miss in our hurried lives?

This is reflected in our homes every day, if we have not slowed down to notice what is happening around us. We can become turned out with artificial stimulus like computers, smart phones, and everything else under the sun. I do think technology has it’s place, but the next time you walk through a natural area, put away your phone or headphones and listen. You might be surprised at what you hear.

In your home, take time to make entry and exit points free of clutter and infused with natural elements. A plant can have a miraculous calming effect if placed as you enter and exit. Noticing the new growth of emerging leaves reminds us that growth, whether personal or business, takes time. Growing plants makes you stop and care for something, and that might even remind you to nurture yourself.

As we celebrate our one year anniversary of living small, I am filled with the joy of having unearthed what was already there. Love of life, a gratitude of everything beautiful, a path to a livelihood in line with my true path and values, and the people I have the pleasure of sharing this small, but full space.

Wishing you all well on your journey. Where will it lead you in a years time?

 

Foraging for Answers: How to Decide With So Many Possibilities

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I use nature to help me in so many areas of my life, and have since I was a child. It was not something consciously chosen, rather a natural solution to much-needed solace.

A recent conversation with Paula of the popular blog, Rainforest Mind, happened just as I had completed a few pages in my “capture” journal.

One of the most difficult aspects of modern life is actually not a new problem, but today’s hectic life can mute out your greatest desires if you do not have a way to turn them off now and again.

I am an idea person and over the last year I have worked on a way to bring those ideas down out of my spinning mind and into a safe place. I believe that to make sense of these messages and ideas, you need to capture them. You need to do this in the same way they come to you, naturally and in bits and pieces.

I recommend a method that is as fluid as the very generator of the messages itself. I use a sketch pad for such “idea captures”. No electronic media, just an artist’s sketchpad. I don’t write in complete sentences. Just whatever is coming my way in bits and pieces. I add photos I have taken or clips from magazines if they inspire me.

Next, I do nothing.

I only add to the pages if another idea comes my way, or I feel compelled to know more. You will likely feel a rush of energy from this. Unresolved thoughts can drain your body and mind, capturing them and putting them in a safe place alleviates this energy drain.

A day or two later, I come back to the pages. Do I still feel that way? Are these messages part of a theme? If you have one that says, I want to live in the country, but the photo you have is of a condo in the city, then you have conflicting messages. This is okay. This is better than okay, it is great!

The idea is to look at all the notes and words and consider what it might be hinting at?

Often we need to edit the thoughts, but our mind is too busy for that at the moment. This technique is one I have used throughout my life. Get out into nature. Now, a walk around the block will help, but a true walk through a botanical garden, forest, or a hike along a river will have a much different effect on your senses.

This was first thought of as a therapeutic tool in 1874, and referred to as a camp cure. It is very much like pressing the mental reset button. You do not need to go camping to get the benefits of a camp cure. Often we need a simpler reset to clarify the messages we are receiving.

Find a local state park, a botanical garden, or hiking trail and take some time for yourself. Consider your “capture journal’, talk to yourself if you want, or simply walk.

Take in all that surrounds you. You will see that there is beauty hidden in plain sight. Consider looking for natural elements you can collect to take home (if that is allowed). A smooth rock that catches your eye, take photographs, listen, and really listen to the sounds around you. As you learn to tune out the noise of the modern world, you may just hear and see what your own intuition is trying to tell you.

You can create a foraged memory bowl of your walk. Just put your treasures into a glass bowl, and leave it next to your capture journal. You may think this is a bit hokey, and if you do that is fine you can stop reading. You are trying to capture the moment when you unplugged with something you can see and touch.

After your local camp cure, take a few moments to add it to your journal capture. When and if you feel compelled to make a decision on your captured ideas, take a slow walk through your journal and imagine it coming true.

This is not about wishing on a star, rather really seeing if these images and words are something you want to dive into. If it is yes, then by all means dive in. If it isn’t, turn the page. Every new page, brings a blank slate.

Can You Work & Learn With Your Kids?

In my search for a life and work that works for our family, I have learned new skills and discovered callings that were long since hidden. Today’s post is short and sweet. It is possible to work and learn with your kids, but you may need to reconsider your meaning of work. Here is a peek inside our work/play/learn day yesterday for our beginning of  “Not Back To School” week.

Just start by exploring treasures just outside your door. The effects of nature on happiness and vitality will allow you to listen to your calling and the time together is good for the soul.

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Downsizing: Deciding Where to Move in Transition

Small Space Living Garden Herbs

This sign is a piece of a crate that has seen better days. My parents bought peaches at a roadside stand over 60 years ago. I found the crate in their attic several years ago.

I know what you are thinking… I would go nuts in 1000 square feet with two kids, a husband, and a family pet. Add on top of that the fact that I play (aka work) at home and you probably think I should be in the funny farm by now. I have had several people ask me how we decided where to move, so this post is about the choices we made.

Should It Stay or Should It Go?

One of the things that has helped with this transition is that we only have things we love… well the adults anyways. I have read so many books on how to declutter kids, and all I can tell you is that the process evolves just as their interests do.

I make sure that the possessions that inspire me to play (aka work) and nurture relationships win a place in our home. My husband frankly, is the least cluttered person of all of us so this was not hard on him at all.

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This was not easy at first, because just prior to our downsizing, I had a small wedding design business. I did about 20 weddings a year. All handmade, rustic, vintage style and I had the props to prove it. I had old doors, farm tables, vintage chairs, and more. Upon deciding to downsize, we decided to shut down the business. We were moving more than an hour north and it just was not feasible to continue. It was a relief in some ways. I started this business with a friend to supplement (replace) my lost consulting income that dried up overnight. She and her family moved and I kept the business going. I loved working with flowers and plants and styling an event.

I loved getting to know the local flower farmers. I had the right ingredients, but the wrong business.

This process has taught me to live with only the things we love and that my former business had all the right ingredients, but the wrong recipe.  I did not have to give up on the elements that gave me so much joy, but I did have to find the way to incorporate those into my work in a way that everyday would feel like play.

Key Ingredients for a Happy Downsizing Experience

One of the key stops on our downsizing path came from, where we chose to try this experiment. We had to get real about what we could afford, but we (I) had conditions. I did not want to feel punished. I knew we needed a reality check, but I also knew that I would not have the staying power if I was not at peace about it. Call me weak, but I knew myself well enough to be sure I set myself and my family up for success.

What Are Your Musts?

We chose a Townhome with an attached garage. This was important for a mom of two kids that had not lived in the apartment since before we were married. It also felt more like a home.

The golf course seems excessive, but it was about the environment. I did not want to feel boxed in, so even if the Mad Scientist could not afford golf (yet) we could see the beautiful rolling grass and nature.

What do you have now that drew you to that home? Try to think back to the day you chose it and why.

Professional Help

I used a Realtor to find this property. This is the first property she recommended, even though I looked at the others. I was not convinced I had to be in a Townhome. This seems silly now, as most days I feel like I am on a vacation.

Finding a Quiet Place

The last thing that was on my list of requirements for working from home. A quiet place to make phone calls and write when I need it. I use the business center that is available in the community to find a quiet place to work. I also have taken calls in my micro garden. It is a beautiful way to enjoy outside and still get some work done.

My two micro gardens are always just outside the door if I need a minute or 10 of calm. I always enjoyed gardening before, but micro-gardening is more peaceful. It is all the good parts of a garden, the scents and scenery, with none of the stress or obligations of tending to a large space. I also bring clips of herbs and cuttings indoors to liven up the place. I will write more about how to start a micro garden in future posts.

The key here is that everyone needs a personal space. Even if that means a corner with a comfy chair, headphones, Pandora, and a book.

Why You Need to DeClutter Now

What you may not know is that I feel more engaged and in touch with a greater level of creativity than ever. Why? A cluttered, complicated life is a recipe for disaster. It is like a layer of fog over your life. More and more families are trying to do it all and be everything to everyone, except the very people that matter… themselves.

I hope this gives everyone a better idea of where to start when downsizing with kids. We have had a happy experience that has changed the way we live. It is not easy in the beginning, but if you take the time to consider what is important you will be glad you took the plunge. The best advice I could give you is to stop worrying about what everyone will think, and just do what is right for your family.

Opting Out of a Frantic Life and Into an Inspired One

Opting Out of a Frantic Life and Into an Inspired One

 

It did not hit me until the “Kindergarten Round Up”postcard arrived from the local public school district that our decision to opt out of public education really sank in.

Opting Out of Kindergarten

Intellectually, I knew that my children already know many of the requirements to exit Kindergarten and that they are already learning organically as they did when they were infants. It still gives one a little pause when you know that you are going against a cultural norm or expectation. Luckily we are in a state, where it is so common to homeschool that you barely get a second look from many.

I was reading an article by writer Ben Hewitt about how he and his wife Penny Hewitt are unschooling their kids – freestyle. The article highlights their two sons and their ability to roam on their property and the stories they tell at the end of the day. They talk about a very small amount of time spent on actual studies and the rest is hands on learning.

We are currently living in a suburban golf course community, but my children spend so much time outside.  We chose this for a downsizing experiment and we have everything we need. Whether that be swimming, local parks, or just playing outside of our small home. The elements of fresh air and open spaces is still available and in my opinion vital to their development. You may not have acres for your kids to roam, but local parks are close by. We often joke that we could be tour guides for the best parks within a ten mile radius.

Nature Soothes the Soul

As much as I would love to live in a country house on acreage, our small living experiment is just what we needed to escape our self-imposed prison. Our two tiny porch gardens are not only a retreat for me and the boys, but also for our neighbors. Many have stopped by on their morning walks to say how much they enjoy our small oasis, and how it brings such beauty their morning walks.

The idea that nature soothes is not a new one, but how far off track we have gotten from enjoying the health and learning benefits of nature is startling. I recently had a conversation with a school psychologist, who remarked how surprised she was to drive through a town recently and to see children outside playing. We talked about the amount of time children spend indoors and how the number of children that knock on her door has increased. Isn’t this crazy?

When we lived in our former suburban nightmare, it was common for the boys and I to go out for a walk or a hike around the lake and not see any children. Not one! These master planned neighborhoods are built with green spaces to promote health and well-being, yet there is no one home during the day to enjoy them.

This is not a judgement against those living that life, rather a message that nature can heal what stresses them. It can give our children a place to run, learn, and grow into the grounded people that know how to handle the stresses of the world. It can give tired moms a place for a personal retreat. It can heal a frantic world.

In Search of a Calling

In Gregg Levoy’s bookCallings: Finding and Following an Authentic Life he writes about listening for your call. I find that modern life has to be simplified to hear that call. This is a terrific book for helping you get quiet and listen to what your life is trying to tell you. It also reminds us that we do not have to change the world, we just need to live authentically in ours no matter what your resume says.

I know this because I am living proof. I was finally able to tune into how to live a life that was truly ours, but it took simplifying our lives to block out all of the noise getting in the way.

You can simplify your life without radical downsizing like we did, but getting quiet is essential for anyone struggling to identify their best work.

It is difficult to find quiet time for reflection, with no “place” for it in your life. This can be as simple as a cup of tea and a blanket. This is a signal to your body that you are taking the time to nurture your soul and by extension your life.

To create a place to nurture your soul can be as simple as a small spot for plants and a place to sit and enjoy them. Even in our 1000 square feet, we have nature tucked into places to bring as much peace and harmony into our very active household as possible.

Whatever your plan for the upcoming autumn, take a few minutes today to find a small spot to begin soothing your soul to hear your call to your best life.

How to Turn Up The Volume on Your Intuition and Mute Your Fears

 Tune Into Intuition and Drown Out Fear

A few days ago, I called my Aunt to wish her a happy 84th birthday. We had not spoken in some time, not by phone. Life gets in the way, but we have a great bond that began many years ago with a letter.

I was 19 when my Grandmother, her mother, passed away. My Grandmother was a writer and wrote to all of us often. I can still see her secretary where she wrote those letters in my mind. Photographs tucked into the woodwork and glass above the desk. She wrote to the people in the photos. She wrote to me at times when I needed it most, although I never knew how she knew that I needed her. Losing her was this first time I had experienced a profound loss.

My Aunt, her daughter, took up her place as my supportive pen pal. Not often, but the timing was always just what I needed. I am sure my father had something to do with this. Over the years since, my Aunt Nancy has always been there in the background, when things were tough reminding me of who I was and that I would find my way. She was at my wedding, telling my husband that he found a good one. She was there to remind me to believe it too. She was there in letters, when my diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder in my twenties both rocked my world and saved me.

She said, “you sound so good honey.”

It was more than just a statement. I knew she felt it through that connection on the phone. I am happy. I did make it.

We talked about writing and how hoped I would I help someone else as much as she and Ma (my grandmother) helped me. I am the current generation of “the writer” in our family.

As I was working with a client a few weeks ago, I knew that she too was not trusting her intuition. I had traveled this path and could see it clearly. She had one persona for her work and the other that was just there in the background if you read between the lines.  Her truest self was there, but it was hiding. She needed to know that those subtle pieces of her soul did reach her audience unless they were really paying attention. It was hidden in the very few photos on her blog with her family. This was a huge part of who she was, but she had separated it from her work. She needed to serve the others and herself, by letting them see it too. She needed to trust herself.

Here is a little of what she wrote back to me, “…you really hit at the core of me… I want to say thank you though. You care so much. And you help me think about myself in a new way. ..”

The ultimate betrayal is when we betray ourselves. Worst yet, we cannot share our best work with the world if we are hiding the very pieces that define us. Those pieces when you can feel joy over a phone are the ones that are the truest part of you. Just talking to my Aunt reminded me of how far I have come, and how much I have to share.

We are always on our right path, but somewhere along the way you muted your intuition, you stopped trusting it.

This is what Jeane and Nancy would say…”you are strong and gifted. You can move mountains. You just need to trust your gut.”

Why Movement Makers Need Advocates

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“You have great talent as a writer and a coach.” Jeff Sandefer, Acton Academy Austin

I just completed work for an educational movement that I wholeheartedly believe in and not a moment too soon. As an advocate and coach, I know my role and it is my greatest joy to be able to do this kind of work knowing when it is time to move out of coaching and back into my role as an advocate. The world of education is experiencing a revolution and not everyone is happy about it. Many people are afraid of change, just because of the uneasy feeling of not knowing what lies ahead.

It is particularly difficult when you become a parent. I had a higher tolerance for risk before the boys were born, but I have learned that fear holds you back and that is what we will teach our children. I want them to explore their world and how to use their gifts in it.

I always knew I wanted to be a writer, but I was afraid to do it. It was not practical.  How do you make a living as a writer? This was before, during, and after music. Writing unlike music has always been there.

“Come on now, buckle down and find a real job” is something that would knock around in my head…and I did just that over and over again until I identified my ideal work.

I loved writing as a kid, and it was not until my first college creative writing class that I ever experienced the red pen of death. It was like a death for me. I lost confidence. I lost my voice. The one that was not afraid to say what needed to be said. I am brave when I write.

The world of work is changing and movement makers are building companies, brands, and tribes, but they need something. They need the champions of the brand. The advocates of their vision to show the maker the things she has hidden from herself. Seth Godin talks about having your customers be your brand advocates and I take this one step further. What if those advocates are also connectors and amplifiers?

As makers, they are often so deep into their world of making that there is a language they develope. A hidden world that is not always transparent to those wanting to peer in to get a closer look. Makers guard their vision. They have to in some way or their vision would never become anything. They can work to share their vision without intrusions into their world.

How does a maker use the skills of an advocate to share their message?

It is a delicate balance of two very different skill sets, that actually do not work together well in an organization. If an advocate is to do their best work, they have to be shielded from the day-to-day necessities that go into building a movement. Their excitement and passion for the cause will be affected if they are too in the actual making. They will know too much. Advocate types soak up emotions like rays of sunshine and for that reason the day-to-day running of a business is not a good fit for them. It deletes their energy. It affects their effectiveness.

So, how do advocate types create a living? First, they need to know that they are an advocate, and they have to use their skills in advocacy and sharing on themselves. They need to see how their talents and gifts are needed in the new economy. More importantly they have to understand the makers.

Understanding the makers and helping them understand your talents of bringing their vision to the world is a recipe for unbelievable success.

I am an advocate. I will champion causes that will change the world if I believe in them. Advocates feel compelled to do something that leaves a legacy.

Many of them know this, but are afraid to say it out loud. They accept jobs just to have income, instead of designing or seeking the perfect fit.

There is a perfect fit for the advocates. There is a place for a champion of a cause. That cause can be anything, from the writer who must share her struggles through stories that might help one child overcome their struggle in life. It might be a photographer who feels a need to document the lives of ordinary people in such a profound way that leaves their mark on history. It might be the mother who strives to create the most nurturing home school environment for their children. It might be the coach who wants to help others own their future.

It might be you.

I coach advocates, champions, and artists. It is my calling to bring their art into the world, and to keep reminding them that the world needs their art. The world needs to hear their song.

What is your calling? Are you brave enough to name it?