Friday Links.

Inspiration | The Orange Slate

Friday Links | The Orange Slate1

It’s the last Friday in April. Is that unbelievable to anyone but me? I am so excited about this weekend, mostly because we have all sorts of fun things planned, including a barbecue and a kite festival. A KITE FESTIVAL.

I’m working on my summer beach-reading. Any suggestions? Also, if you read on an e-reader, this might be the perfect time to try a free Oyster subscription, on the house. Hope your weekend is grand, lovelies!

A beautiful reminder about friendship and time. These words, especially: “We’ve made an exchange. More friendships, but less time to deepen them. Our networks have exploded, but our time to dip beneath the surface diminished.” (via Ungrind)

A fantastic roundup of travel tips – so many great ideas! (via Balance and Blueberries)

The April’s Fools joke that went viral. (via Business Insider)

And a better explanation of the joke. (via Vox)

A fascinating study on parenting and childhood attachment. (Hint: pick up your child’s sippy cup again!) (via The Brookings Institute)

Advice on weddings and marriage, from the Washington Post know-it-all. (via Cup of Jo)

The sweetest article on what your kids remember. (via Coffee + Crumbs)

Life-changing tips on party-planning. (via Cupcakes and Cashmere)

On the motivation myth. (via Darling Magazine)

My Search for The Perfect Summer Sandals.

Summer Sandals | The Orange Slate

Summer Sandals 2 | The Orange Slate

It has been the longest week – good in so many ways, but lots of early mornings and full full days. I’m also trying a new schedule/day structure with Miles to see if I can make our days a little less frantic and more peaceful and organized and it seems to be working well for him, for which I’m so grateful, but it leaves me feeling a little breathless at the end of the day.

Especially for work at home mamas, bur really for all mamas, do you find that your schedule and your juggling strategy change as your baby grows? (This feels like such an obvious question now that I’m writing it.) But seriously, do you have something that you *know* works and that sort of acts like the goal-post for structure or do you continue to flex? And when do you hit a wall and say “Ok, let’s change some things about how this day flows?” Anyway. That’s where we are.

Miles is suddenly much more active and needs a lot of intentional engagement and I am so excited that we are moving into a stage where he is discovering so much. BUT. My old (infant days) system of “I will answer all 300 emails while Miles plays quietly in his gym next to me and maybe falls asleep” is no longer functional. When Miles is up, I (or the babysitter, or Mark) needs to be focusing on Miles. And so I’m having to really think through our days and weeks carefully in advance to make sure that all of our time is organized and allocated and that Miles is getting what he needs and that Mark and I are fulfilling our work/school commitments.

I am also in the middle of a closet overhaul/packing for some summer adventures. I am not normally prone to a lot of style blogging. BUT. Summer is coming quickly and my shoe wardrobe desperately needs a little makeover. This girl needs some new sandals. Not flip-flops. SANDALS.

I love the leather gladiator styles (I’m so original, right?) and as I scrolled, I noticed that my picks were almost all falling in line with the natural leather color. I want to be able to wear this shoe comfortably all summer, but I want something dressy enough so that I can wear it without feeling like I’m dressing down – skirts, dresses, church, dinner out. You know. (So demanding. I want my sandals to do ALLLLL the work.)

I have all but given up heels for this moment in time (carrying a baby in a front-pack while wearing heels is possible, but risky, take it from someone who has tried.), so flats or nearly-flat is optimal.

So here is a run-down of the sandals I like. Which is your favorite? Cast your vote! I would love your opinions.

Summer Sandals

1. Tommy Hilfiger Ladonna. / 2. Tommy Hilfiger Leona Gladiator Sandal / 3. Steve Madden Comma / 4.Guess Rehon  / 5. Aersoles Back Atcha

I’m leaning towards a t-strap, but I really like the structured look of #3. And I like that #4 and #5 have the tiniest bit of a heel (although I would probably try to find #5 in a different color – maybe navy?).

How are you refreshing your summer closet?

P.S. I use occasional affiliate links on this site to support my work. There are a few affiliate links in this post. Thank you for reading!

Friday Links

 41715 Quotes | The Orange Slate

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How is it Friday? This week flew. Lots of fun projects are on my list for the weekend – what about you? Miles and I are excited to hang out with friends, hunt down some more basil plants, and watch a few episodes of Parenthood and Gilmore Girls. We’ll be playing quietly and cuddling a lot too because he is still under the weather, poor little guy!

Mark is tied up with school commitments for a lot of the weekend, but we are going to try our local Frisbee golf course on Sunday afternoon. (Any tips?? I’ve never played.)

Such a sweet post on motherhood. (love Taza)

I think I will just eat this for lunch every day forever. (smitten kitchen)

The most adorable gift idea (even for a non-teacher. Hostess gift?) (via Jenny Collier)

A fun travel hashtag project. Gather tips and share yours! (via Balance and Blueberries)

Danish parenting – I especially love this quote: “Play is considered one of the most important things a kid can do.” (via MOTHER Magazine)

My photos are legion at this point. I need an organizing strategy like this one. (via Lil Blue Boo)

What would your ideal work uniform be? (via Cup of Jo)

A beautiful (and terribly nerdy) essay about typography. (via I Love Typography)

A fantastic list of photography tips. (via Digital Photography School)

On having a moral bucket list. (via The Guardian)

Lullabies That Aren’t – 14 Songs to Update Baby’s Playlist.

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Baby Songs | The Orange Slate

Singing is such a special part of a baby’s life and development and bonding. Those early songs imprint us in a deep way that nothing else ever does, don’t you think? I can still remember the songs that my parents sang to me at a very early age.

For Miles, days involve a lot of singing and music. During the day, we sing and listen to lots of traditional lullabies and baby-playtime songs like “The Itsy Bitsy Spider,” “This Little Light of Mine,” “The Muffin Man,” and “If You’re Happy and You Know It, Clap Your Hands!” (I also sing him The Alphabet Song every day because I was a (double) English major and am a little obsessed with early literacy.)

But then there are the not-so-traditional songs that aren’t really written for babies, but somehow belong to a mother or daddy and their young baby. (I grew up listening to Dedicated to the One I Love by Linda Ronstadt, an entire album of well-known rock hits interpreted as  lullabies).

Some lyrics just take on a whole new, beautiful meaning once you have a baby. Others are so soothing or sweet that they are like lullabies in disguise. I asked a couple of people with wide-ranging playlists to suggest some songs for this post.

Here’s 14 that we gathered:

Do you agree? What are your favorites? (Also, if you’re searching for a special baby gift, this playlist would make a fantastic surprise!)

On Everyday Rituals.

The Orange Slate | On Everyday Rituals4

The Orange Slate | On Everyday Rituals3

It’s early morning. The sky is beginning to groggily make its way to light and I’m waiting on my French press. Coffee is such an important morning ritual for me. I just need a couple of minutes of silence and my cup of coffee and I can take on the day. Most mornings find me up just a few minutes before Mark and Miles so I can embrace this simple thing.

Rituals are funny, aren’t they? They’re the tiniest pieces but when they’re missing, the whole day feels like it’s been thrown off, like our world is rocking. Rituals are more than routines – routines, to me, are just what we are used to doing, the rote of everyday. Rituals are those gems that we relish in the midst of the ordinary chaotic mundane, those comforting signposts that whisper “Everything will be ok.”

I can think of a few more for myself. When I was working long hours on the Hill, I would start my day with a few minutes of reading every morning – nothing terribly remarkable, just whatever book I was working my way through at the moment.

The Orange Slate | On Everyday Rituals2

In college, I would read something for a few minutes before going to sleep – something purely for fun (no assigned reading allowed).When my family congregates in San Diego for reunions, we always get donuts from the same shop on the corner. I have no idea whether their donuts actually taste better or worse than any others nearby. The donuts from the Vietnamese take-out shop are in a class of their own, rendered sacred by decades of repetition.

Motherhood brings it’s own set of (ironically ever-changing) rituals with it. There was the nursing ritual when Miles was brand-new – the frequent fill-water-glass-latch-baby-rock-gently while listening to the gentle clicking of infant nursing. Now we have bedtime rituals – a bath, books, songs, a prayer, more nursing.

Marriage, like motherhood,  –  has its own set of rituals, those quiet stakes you hold on to as you’re carving one life out of two. Mark and I don’t put a ton of effort into formal fancy dates, but on the weekends or when we travel, we love to sit outside and drink coffee in the morning. Walking has been one of our rituals. – so many walks. Beach walks and walks in the woods and walks in whatever city we’ve found ourselves in.

Certain shows have become rituals  – Friday Night Lights, Downton Abbey. We try to go to bed at the same time as each other  – it doesn’t work every night between homework and work and baby’s schedule, but it’s more the rule than the exception.

Having a baby makes me think a lot more about rituals, since babies basically measure their whole day in routine. But rituals keep serving the same purpose for adults. Without my rituals in place, I’m as cranky and out of sorts Miles without his bath and story. When my rituals are in place, I’m calmer, I’m happier, I have more breathing space to be creative and give my best.

Part of this could be a planner-personality-problem. I’m sure those who tend toward planning hold on to more routine. But I would venture to guess that all of us, even the most spontaneous and unplanned among us, have a ritual or two.

So what are your rituals, those pieces of your everyday that you cling to, that you build around, that you miss? It’s good sometimes to shake out our days and identify those markers of sanity and calm. Find them. Write them down. Treasure them. (And if you’re willing, share in the comments. I’d love to hear about yours.)

An Apartment Patio Garden.

 Patio Garden | The Orange Slate2

Patio Garden | The Orange Slate3

When we moved south and into our current apartment, I was particularly excited about trying a potted garden. I’ve tried to grow the occasional potted herb, with varying and unexciting success.

When we lived in our last house in D.C., we planted a few ground plants, but I kept my potted herbs inside on the windowsill (where they didn’t flourish in the least) because, although we had a small yard and porch, we lived in a very urban area with a lot of foot-traffic at all hours of the day and night. The idea of eating herbs that had been exposed to our street always made me a little nervous.

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Patio Garden |The Orange Slate2

This year, I was excited to give gardening a real effort and eat the fruits of my labors. We have a narrow catwalk  and I knew that growing anything in the space would require a little bit of space strategy.

It warms up early in Texas and so a weekend afternoon in March found me in the garden department of Home Depot. After a lot of brainstorming and help from Pinterest, and arranging plants in pots and then rearranging (and with a lot of help from Miles) I ended up planting two flower-pots and three herbs. They fill all of the extra corners on our catwalk, but there is still room for a bench and so now we have a mini patio area.

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Patio Garden | The Orange Slate4

Even though garden is tiny, we’re already using the herbs (basil, rosemary, and oregano) in our meals on an almost daily basis, which makes me way too excited.

The flowers (impatiens, mums, and a Gerbera daisy) seem to be doing great*. Our catwalk has a nice full view of the sun for about 1/3 of the day and nice shade for 2/3, so I think I just lucked out with an ideal location (although sometimes the impatiens seem to get a little wilty in the afternoon if I don’t remember to scoot them back into the shade), but I’ll credit my black-thumb-turning green, my obsessive hovering, and the “magic soil” that the Home Depot staff convinced me to buy.

Here’s to gardens and eating what we plant! Tell me about your gardens. Do you have space for a big garden or do you have a patio garden? What do you like to plant?

*Some of these photos were taken on the day I planted and some were taken a few weeks later.

Friday Links

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It’s early Friday morning and I’m waiting on my French press. The weekend schedule is a little busy around here, but I’m looking forward to some down time. I have some of little project to-dos, like organizing and backing up our pictures, ahead of me and I’d like to check out our local farmer’s market tomorrow.

I also have an announcement regarding this blog’s email list coming next week. Make sure that you sign up (in that box in the right-hand corner) to receive updates so that you don’t miss it!

What are you up to this weekend?

There were so many fun pieces floating around this week!

This is a darling idea. (via Rue Mag)

5 basic cocktail recipes that everyone should master. (via Real Simple)

Post-baby beauty  tricks for a new mom. (via Mother Mag)

On the importance of being boring. (via Peggy Noonan)

A wake-up routine from a professional wake-up consultant.  (via The Chalkboard)

Become more creative with these steps. (via Fast Company)

This breakfast looks so yummy. (via Julia’s Album)

Some fun prompts (and a free printable) for memory-keeping for your children. (via Jenny Collier)

This. (via The EveryGirl)

How are your surroundings affecting you? (via Gretchen Rubin)

What are you reading this weekend?

My #Unfollow Experiment.

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I love social media. Everyone who has been reading this blog for fourteen seconds knows that. I am in love with all things Instagram-Pinterest-Twitter-take-another-picture-with-your-iPhone. Social media and the Internet have given us so many wonderful, enjoyable ways to share and be inspired by beautiful photos and words.

But one day recently, I realized that it was time to have a DTR with my social media. I felt like I was drowning. Feeds that I once enjoyed and where I once found inspiration felt like a black hole. I found myself scanning my blog feed frantically, waiting for something useful to leap off the page in the midst of tons of word clutter.

Instagram, my best bud, had become this sticky mixing pot of inspiration and family and friends and acquaintances and friends of friends that I met briefly years ago and spouses of people who used to be friends but whom I hadn’t talked to in forever and friends of friends that I met at parties that I can’t now place who I really clicked with but then we never actually ended up meeting up for coffee and so I don’t understand why I now see every meal that they eat.

My social media feed had turned into that bad party where you pretend to like someone you are standing next to while you frantically scan the room for your actual friend who never turns up.

And then I read about one woman’s adventure in unfollowing. And one creative’s radical approach to Instagram. And this plea for an Internet Holy Year of Mercy. I knew I wasn’t alone. There was a way for me to take back my social media consumption and my sanity. The answer was within my reach. I just needed to act.

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Here were the biggest, most glaring problems with my social media streams.

1. I was following people in the wrong channels for the wrong reasons. I would follow people because I felt obliged to follow them back if they followed me, even if their feed provided me with no inspiration or encouragement or anything good whatsoever. I would follow people for the same reason people stay in bad relationships. Some vague sense that maybe we were friends or could be friends or should be friends kept them in my streams, even though actual relationship ground was, like, nada.

(I’m not saying you have to be actual friends with people to follow them. But one shouldn’t follow Instagram accounts under false pretenses. Like in any good relationship, you should know where you stand and why you stand there.)

2. I was following the same people in multiple places, so a great deal of my content was duplicative. (Thanks, Jeffrey Kalmikoff, for pointing this out.) I would see the same pictures on Facebook and Instagram and like them both places (often, the second time, again simply out of some cloudy feeling of obligation.)

3. I was following friends, inspiration, and acquaintances on channels where they had accounts but weren’t active. So if I had a friend who was on Instagram and Twitter, even if she only used Instagram, I would still follow her both places. This is a totally futile endeavor. Multiple this by 200 and the futility factor is sky-high.

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Why do we do this to ourselves? Part of it, for me, was FOMO. I was terrified to miss out (what exactly I might be missing out on is unclear). I was afraid to miss a great article, an important update, a cool shot.

But isn’t that part of the whole grand scheme that keeps us hooked to our screens? We are utterly terrified that somewhere, something really great is going to happen and WE ARE GOING TO MISS IT. OR BE LEFT OUT. OR SOMETHING.

This is irrational fear. This is ridiculous. And this is making us all a little crazy. First of all, I cannot follow every single thing that every other person in the world does. Even if it’s all awesome. There aren’t enough seconds. So even attempting such a thing is totally ridiculous. And let’s admit it: most of what is on Instagram and Twitter is not awesome at all. A good chunk of it is entirely meaningless to the majority of the population.

The other part of the equation of for me was a fuzzy sense of polite obligation to follow and “like”. The Internet’s moral codes of politeness are still being honed, but following is not an obligation. It is a choice to consume or not consume.

I found myself following bloggers that I love and then routinely becoming irritated during the day as they Instagrammed their perfect (through the lens of Instagram) life: “Beautiful breakfast!” “Followed by cute baby napping!” “Followed by new haircut!” and then “Date night in new gorgeous outfit with perfect makeup!”

I was suddenly less content with my breakfast eaten with one hand while playing with Miles who was not napping because he believes that a nap strike every other day is perfectly normal, in a ponytail and yoga pants because I didn’t have time to shower or answer my work emails, much less get a haircut. This times 15 blogs times every day was a lot of irritation.

This is not a criticism of aforementioned bloggers or their Instagram accounts. I still follow the same bloggers and I still love their content. But if I am routinely becoming discouraged instead of encouraged and annoyed instead of inspired, I need to disconnect from the pieces that are dragging me down and focus on things that fill me with joy. In this case, it was blogger overload. They may take pictures for a living, but I don’t have to consume every single image they produce.

This is part of intentional living, of choosing what comes in and what gets my time and what holds my attention and where I spend my energy. I realized that I just needed to practice what I know about being intentional in a (heretofore) very unintentional space.

Here’s what really scared me into action: I began to realize that every needless word, every pointless article, every headline I scanned and skipped, every picture that held nothing for me was actually taking (in tiny microscopic bits) my time, my day, my year, and my life. Literally. From myself, from my family, from the creating that I am actually supposed to be doing.

Are those milliseconds? Yes, of course. But those milliseconds add up. I needed to do so serious purging for the same reason that I leave the television set turned off during the day and the same reason that I choose my reading material with care. Those little margins that we reclaim are what make the difference. Were any of those useless pieces of social media, added together, worth one less conversation with Mark, one less game with Miles, one less real book that I actually want to read? Absolutely not.

And so my unfollow campaign began. I determined to squeeze every drop of futility, pretense, and time-wasting out of my feeds. I was going to take back control of my social media accounts.

First, I turned to Instagram. I scanned through my list and unfollowed almost half of my list. To decide if an account stayed or went, I asked myself:

  • Am I personally attached to this person? (I.e., do I talk to this person regularly, do we share life offline, am I interested in hearing about their coffee-cups and family reunions and children?)
  • (If yes to the above, then) Does this person post regularly in this channel? (Or should I be following them somewhere else to more effectively stay in touch?)
  • Am I inspired, encouraged, or motivated by this feed?
  • Do I frequently interact with this person, either in person or through comments, blogs, etc.? (And, if yes, does this person post in this channel regularly?)

If I couldn’t answer yes to one of the above, I unfollowed. (Tip: If you do this, move FAST. Don’t think too long or hard about this. Go with your gut.)

Side-note: Was it weird to unfollow actual friends? Yes. But if we are friends on Facebook (for instance) and we actually interact there, then it doesn’t make sense to also follow them on Instagram. Or vice versa. I used this not as a time to *unfriend* people but to decide whether Instagram was the best possible way to keep up with this friend. If the purpose was already being served via Facebook or Twitter or some other channel, then Instagram was simply duplicative.

The second hard truth about this is that a lot of people that I follow because of “friendship” are not actually my friends. The world of Facebook has made friendship such a funny thing. We think we are connected to people who we will probably never see or talk to again. We think we have long-lasting relationships with people that, were more effort required of the relationship, we wouldn’t consider a part of our circle.

This is harsh, but it’s true. Brothers’ old girlfriends? Not actually my friends. Bridesmaids in weddings that I attended years ago? Not actually my friends. Girlfriends that I text and talk to on a regular or semi-regular basis? There are about 8. There are not 50. If we tell ourselves that we actually have 500 close friends, most of us are lying to ourselves.

Next came Twitter. I used the same questions and unfollowed almost 2/3 of my feed. I follow a lot of news accounts, journalists, etc.  on Twitter for work purposes, but I was still able to do a lot of purging.

Sometimes I would run across an account that was connected to a blog that I loved. But if I followed the blog in Feedly and/or on Pinterest, then it was likely that I was already seeing updates and inspiration from the blog. Again, the principle of duplicative content: DELETE.

At the end of the process, I was annoyed at myself for having followed so many accounts that were so easy to delete for so long. And a little exhilarated, because purging, all purging, is good for the soul.

This morning, when I checked Instagram, there was far less content. And it was refreshing. I actually looked at my Twitter feed this morning because I knew that the channels on there were resources I had intentionally chosen to allow onto my screen.

And then, this afternoon, I spent more time writing, because I had more energy that was not being drained away through the Internet Black Hole of Passive Consumption. Day 1 of my #UnfollowProject was a success.

We need to be creating more and consuming less. Purging your closets, cupboards, and feeds is an easy beginning.

And what about me? What about this blog? My Instagram account? My Twitter feed? If I don’t inspire you, encourage you, motivate you toward better living, please unfollow. Make it the first step in your own #unfollowproject.

The first step of living intentionally is to stop wasting our time on that which is not for us.

Nine Months: A Snapshot

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DEAR MILES.

How is my baby 9 months old? 9 months! 3/4 of  year. You’ve been out in this big world with me longer than I was pregnant with you now, which seems like a milestone in and of itself.

Here are a few things I want to remember about you at this age:

I want to remember how happy you are. You giggle uncontrollably when your Dad and I play with you or tickle you. Games like “Peek-a-boo” and “Open-Shut-Them” are simply hilarious to you, as is the game where I bob toys in and out of your reach. You smile at cashiers and strangers. When we sit on the grass outside and the breeze blows on your face, you laugh enthusiastically and kick your little toes like there you’ve discovered the greatest entertainment on earth.

I want to remember how suddenly, you move everywhere. You don’t quite crawl yet, so your movement is hard to see, like a little caterpillar, but I turn my back and like a flash, you are across the room, under the table, under the bed. You scoot backwards on your back, roll like a snowball across the floor, army-crawl – whatever it takes to reach that red ball or those wires that are just beyond your reach (or Mommy’s iPhone!).

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I want to remember that this month, suddenly, without any warning and for no real reason, you suddenly start TO SLEEP. It happened slowly at first, a few nights at a time of 6, 7, or 8 hours of sleep. And now I put you down, maybe wake you up a few hours later for a late-night meal, and know with almost complete certainty that when I put you back in your crib, it’s for the night. It’s funny, too, how I miss you now if I wake up in the middle of the night and realize you aren’t crying or calling to me from the other room. I’m so grateful for the sleep and so glad my little man is getting the rest he needs, but I get butterflies in my stomach when I realize how fast your baby days are disappearing.

I want to remember how your little personality is emerging. You have opinions now – strong ones! You love avocado and hate peas. You love applesauce and (this week) won’t touch bananas. If I read you the wrong book, you throw the tiniest, funniest fit and when the book that you love ends, you throw another one until I re-read it.

I want to remember how affectionate you are. You love to give Mommy and Daddy (and Bear!) big hugs and kisses and love it more when we applaud your sweet demonstrations. You are happiest when all three of us are together. When your dad walks out the door for the day, you watch him through the window until he disappears down the stairs and when he walks in the door, your face beams.

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I want to remember the things you are doing and loving and learning too. I want to remember that you are

loving your red ball. You carefully pass it back and forth with us (using the back of your hand, only, for whatever reason). If you see it in the room, you ignore all of the other toys and roll as fast as you can to get it. You pass it back and forth from your hands to your feet endlessly and thinks it’s just as tricky every time.

trying SO HARD to crawl. You love sitting in a little mini-yoga pose, rocking back and forth, not quite able to lift up your second knee.

wondering about bubbles. They fascinate you and I could entertain you with them for hours.

learning how to feed yourself. Right now, everything I place on your tray ends up on the floor. But I know this too shall pass.

reading so many board books. You stare so intently at the pages you love, the one with the baby laughing in the bathtub, the pages in Goodnight Moon, and the picture of the duckling in your farm book.

eating so many new things. You love squash and sweet potatoes, blueberries, applesauce, and of course, still – always – avocados!

playing in the big bathtub. You love bath time, splashing in the bubbles, and wiggling your toes in the warm water.

wearing your first polo for Easter!

opening your first Easter basket, knowing exactly what to do with the surprises inside and having not a clue about the plastic eggs.

Can’t wait for the next month of adventures, my sweet boy!

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Conversations about Creativity with Monica

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On Monday mornings around here, I interview people who inspire me. In April and May, the theme is CREATIVITY and I’ll be chatting with some wonderful (and very creative!) friends about how they incorporate creative talents and impulses into their lives and schedules.

Today’s interview is with Monica. Monica and I have never met in person, but we’ve been online buds for over a decade now (how weird is that??). Monica is a self-taught crafter – she makes fantastically beautiful creations (including gorgeous jewelry) out of wood, bone, and leather. Be sure to check out her portfolio and shop here.

It baffles me that Monica is able to find the time in between chasing three active boys to create and practice her craft (something she addresses in the interview), but I’m so inspired by the work that she does and by what she had to say about creativity during our interview.

Have you always thought of yourself as a creative?

Unlike some, I didn’t considered myself creative as a child. I had no taste for decorating or sewing, much preferring to duck out and ride a horse or take a walk. I don’t even have much fashion sense. I gained a reputation in our family for a general lack of creativity, and really believed it of myself. Eventually, I developed a crippling fear of failure that kept me from trying anything at all.

Then I met my husband, and everything changed. He’s a very creative sort (“artsy”, my mom calls him), and implicitly believed I could do whatever I liked. I could draw if I wanted. I could paint if I wanted. I just had to work hard at it. That really brought me to a new understanding of creativity. You can’t force it. Your creativity is bound up in what excites and energizes you. The challenge becomes finding out what it is.

What are your creative outlets?

I love leather. I love the smell of it and the feel of it. I love making useful things out of it. For me, sewing leather is a relaxing, exhilarating, and sometimes infuriating experience. The potential is amazing, and while sometimes the result is disappointing, making an object that will be in daily use really inspires me. I also get excited about trying new recipes in the kitchen, writing occasionally for my blog, and playing music.

Everyone is so busy! How do you make time to be creative?

I hate to admit it, but I make time by not doing housework. Also, by not reading much, not playing mandolin, or doing anything else relaxing. I manage an hour or so in the afternoon, and then another two after the kitchen is cleaned and the boys put to bed. If my husband didn’t feel so strongly about the importance of creativity, I’d be sunk. Don’t get me wrong – I do clean my house. But it is never, ever in a state of perfect cleanliness. And I do read, but 75% of the time I listen to an audiobook.

Who inspires you?

My husband and his friends had a conversation at work over the course of several years, discussing the difference between being a consumer and someone who contributes something real to society – ideas, art, or something more tangible. I find that idea hugely compelling. I am also inspired by people who work hard, and people who are humble and passionate about what they do.

What do you do when you’re in a creative rut?

I used to experience a lot more creative frustration. I felt that to claim originality, I had to create new ideas out of a vacuum. It was extremely frustrating, but I felt anything else was cheating or plagiarism. After spending a year working on my own, I realized I would never get anywhere until I immersed myself in the subject,, which also meant getting involved with people and making myself vulnerable by showing my work. Now I spend a good hour a day seeing what other people make, trying out their ideas, and trying ideas that often don’t work. I found that learning is imitating, and once you gain enough experience, you can start adding small innovations of your own. And the process has rewarded me with several unexpected friendships along the way.

One friend likes to say that when it comes to solving a problem, everything is relevant. You can find the answer to your creative dilemma in the strangest of places, be it in your kitchen, or related to the book you just finished. I’ve learned to be open to cross-pollination between my hobbies. Often times, I tried something new, and while I didn’t end up liking it permanently, it sometimes improves my abilities in another, unexpected area.

Now when I get the between-projects doldrums, I spend two or three days surfing the web and reading a book. It feels like wasted time sometimes, but it’s really just part of the process.

Why do you think it’s important to make time for creativity. 

I think creation is bound up in the nature of God, and if we’re made in the image of God, then creativity is in our nature as well. I think we find contentment and happiness in the act of creation. I was content before I discovered my passion, but I didn’t regularly experience the excitement and intense satisfaction I do now. I want my kids to see that life can be exhilarating and fulfilling, not just a 9-5 grind of normality punctuated by searches for amusement.

What are ways you’ve challenged yourself or grown as a creative?

At first, my husband had to talk me into new creative endeavors. He’d help me assemble all the tools and he’d try it first. I’ve come a long way since then, thank goodness. I’m ready to try some things I would never have dreamed of even a year ago. I’m learning to take my failures without feeling too embarrassed, and trying things that are out of my comfort zone. I love it when someone asks me to make something special for them. Usually it’s not something I would have considered, and it forces me to learn how to do something I’ve never done before.

What are some creative goals you have for yourself?

I have a lot of far-fetched goals, one of them being boot making. Maybe one day. Practically speaking, it’s less a matter of goals, and more a matter of hours and hours of practice and experience. However, one of my pet goals is to start making time to teach my boys how to make some cool accessories for themselves.

Thank you for sharing, Monica!
Check out the other interviews in this series with Lindsay and Gwen.