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Archive for February, 2012

Monday Post ~ February 27, 2012

“I can’t say enough about the connection between body and mind; when you stimulate your body, your brain comes alive in ways you can’t simulate in a sedentary position.” ~Twyla Tharp


This is the moment to deepen, or commit to, your regular creativity practice. Regularity — a daily practice, if at all possible — is key.

So what are your plans for creative practice this week? Given the specifics of your schedule, decide on a realistic intention, goal, or a milestone to reach for — and plan that time in your calendar. An intention as simple as “I will be creative for 10 minutes every day” or “I will gesso three canvases on Wednesday” is what it’s all about.

Share your intentions or goals as a comment to this post, and let us know how things went with your creative plans for last week, if you posted to last week’s Monday Post.

Annette: Creative Practice is Fertilizer for Your Soul

Editor’s Note: I’m delighted to introduce you to Annette Varoli, a smart and talented creative mother who I connected with during Jennifer Lee’s Right-Brain Business Plan course last year. Annette is the real deal. When Annette recently told me that she had firmly committed to a daily creative practice — and that her practice was life-changing — I asked her to share her journey with Studio Mothers readers. Enjoy.

Annette Varoli: I am the proud momma of 6-year old girl, I’ve been married 11 years to a guy who is a modern day “MacGyver” and I’m in love with my cat, Coco. I’ve lived half my life in New York and recently returned to my birth state of Maryland but I love traveling, having been to over 100 cities in 20 countries. I am the artist of my life. My mission is to live my life in FULL color and inspire others to do the same. This has taken the form of architect, project manager, and holistic health coach to name a few. Currently, I’m a budding entrepreneur, exploring the next best fit for my creative expression. Three themes that have run through the course of my lifetime: making heart-to-heart connections, the creative arts, and abundance. This is what inspired my new blog. Check it out!


Fertilizer for Your Soul

Recently, my six-year-old has been asking me to keep her company in the bathroom, specifically for “number 2’s” — and not just for the wiping part.

Although I don’t particularly enjoy the aroma, I know that this is the time of day where she either imparts deep wisdom or where she philosophizes about life, so I go willingly. I sit on the floor of the bathroom ready to listen to what my little Buddha will teach me each time.

Yesterday, she did not disappoint. She assumed her position on the throne and within a few seconds, she says in a voice that sounds like when you rave about your favorite dessert, “Mommy, why does pooping feel soooo good? It just feels sooooo good. Why is that?” Her angelic face alternating between an inquisitive look and a squinching one, whenever she unloads her bowels.

She’s dead serious so I do my best to contain myself and say, “Well, sweetie, it’s because it’s a great release and a way for your body to get rid of the icky stuff… imagine if you couldn’t poop, then all of it would get STUCK inside you.”

That’s when it dawned on me that doing daily creative practice is like having healthy bowel movements… it just feels soooo good. It helps you get unstuck and feeling like yourself again. Like taking all the crap in your life and turning it into fertilizer for your soul!

I know this for a fact because over the past 15 weeks, I’ve been doing a daily creative practice and it has been life changing. Although most people know me to be a creative person, it feels like it took me a hundred years to arrive at this particular place in my life. One where I finally understand how essential regular creative practice is to my life, my success and personal happiness. But how did I get here one might ask? Allow me to share a bit of my creative journey.

Creativity Controlled

As a toddler, I got spanked for drawing on walls and climbing up on the bench so that I could play the keyboard (not before they took a photo for posterity like the one at right). My parents wanted clean walls and feared for my safety if I sat on the bench unsupervised. They meant well but that marked the beginning of my creativity being controlled.

Later in my early education, elective classes and extracurricular activities fed my creativity. I loved anything music and arts related.

However, I didn’t realize at the time that my creative pursuits were being filtered through my young, naive, brain. The one that bought into the idea that these activities were called extra or elective because they were outside of the normal curriculum, optional… in other words, “not really important.”

At the same time I was an academic, excelling in my normal subjects. Unfortunately, my achievement in what society deemed “serious subjects” led me to pick a major using only my head and not my heart. It was a decision based on this equation, “I’m good at math, science and art. What does that equal? ARCHITECTURE.”

With that decision, I entered my first semester in architectural school and quickly learned that they frowned on extracurricular activities, wanting the students to focus solely on architecture. Thinking I was taking a vow for creativity, I willingly followed the rules, not realizing that I was trading in my 18-year-old creative self for a creatively stifled 50-year-old.

My inner child decided to leave the building, while the school’s climate and a few misguided professors helped grow my inner critic.

Everything became very serious, very quickly. Ironically, all the creative passion that I threw into my portfolio which in fact, got me accepted into the college would be exactly what the school intentionally wanted to strip away. My passion for mixed media, vivid colors and freehand drawing was replaced with ink line drawings and white box models. Color was forbidden.

Once, I was getting a desk critique from a visiting professor, whose teaching style was unlike the majority at my school. He looked at my sketches and looked at me and then said, “You’re a young woman, why don’t you draw like one? Be more young and free in your drawings.”

The school had successfully controlled my creativity. I made drawings that finally fit the mold and yet I didn’t recognize myself in any of my drawings and neither had the visiting critic. I had failed at being myself but my true creative spirit didn’t leave me. She just ended up biding her time in once again “elective” classes, taking every type of dance class offered.

I’ll admit that architecture school allows more individual creativity in the latter part of your education, but by then for me, it felt too late. One of the only places that my authentic self overlapped in the architectural world was when a few students and I formed our own acapella group and sang at architecture events.

My education culminated in me on stage at the graduation ceremony singing “Blackbird.” I had partied a little too much the night before drowning my sorrows in disbelief that my education didn’t feel more fulfilling. The next morning, I actually woke up without my voice and barely squawked out, “Blackbird singing in the dead of night… take these broken wings and learn to fly… You were only waiting for this moment to be free.”

I don’t think the universe could have sent me a clearer sign that my creativity was stifled. Read more

Monday Post ~ February 20, 2012

“Declare yourself to be a contribution.
Throw yourself into life as
someone who makes a difference,
accepting that you may not understand how or why.”

~Rosamund Stone Zander & Benjamin Zander,
The Art of Possibility


This is the moment to deepen, or commit to, your regular creativity practice. Regularity — a daily practice, if at all possible — is key.

So what are your plans for creative practice this week? Given the specifics of your schedule, decide on a realistic intention, goal, or a milestone to reach for — and plan that time in your calendar. An intention as simple as “I will be creative for 10 minutes every day” or “I will gesso three canvases on Wednesday” is what it’s all about.

Share your intentions or goals as a comment to this post, and let us know how things went with your creative plans for last week, if you posted to last week’s Monday Post.

Creating in the Middle of Things

How many years pass while we wait for the “right” time to do something? Even after decades of adulthood, many of us still believe that one day — in the not too distant future — somehow, eventually, ideal circumstances will arrive at our doorstep. We’ll wake up one morning and say “Yes! It’s finally here! That day I’ve been waiting for, when my to-do list is all crossed off, my in-box is empty, the house is spotless, the kids are occupied elsewhere, and the time has come to do X!” If this day ever does come, it probably doesn’t amount to more than once or twice in an entire year. So why are we still waiting?

Eric Maisel, creativity guru (and one of my former teachers at the Creativity Coaching Association), is a proponent of “creating in the middle of things.” This framework is perhaps the only way to stop perpetually deferring ourselves with an imaginary carrot.

I have learned in recent years that I am ALWAYS in the middle of things. There is nothing BUT the middle of things. As someone who continually heaps mounds of responsibilities and projects onto her plate, if I wait for the seas to part and reveal some magical “opportunity” for me to create, I’ll die waiting.

I’ve finally learned to stop saying “I just need to get through this week/month/season.” In the well-worn words of John Lennon, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” So long as I see daily life as some kind of obstacle between me and what I really want to be doing, I’m living in a very dark and unsatisfying place. How many moments have I wasted by trying to “just get through it” while staying focused on some mirage of future calm like a brilliantly wrapped gift, eternally beyond my reach? The present moment can’t be the obstacle. That’s insanity — and many of us seem to be afflicted.

I encourage myself, and you, to fully embrace the concept of creating in the middle of things — because for most of us, that’s the only way to create. Even my clients who have no children and no work obligations still find themselves with an overfull calendar and difficulty “making” time to create. In fact, one client who has no children or job says she can’t get her creative work done because her pets distract her too much. Regardless of our circumstances, we are always in the middle of something, aren’t we? It doesn’t matter what our details are.

If we have an overflowing, double-booked planner on one hand, and a paradigm of “I can only create if I have five hours of guaranteed solitude on deck” on the other, then we either need to get very serious about going to a cave every day, or we need to figure out how to change our parameters about what’s possible.

There are strategies that help. Always having a notepad on hand while out of the house. Knowing what the “next step” is in any given project so that we’re ready to jump right in. (See Emma-Jane’s wisdom at left for visual artists.) Staying connected to creative networks to bolster of creative sense of self. Keeping an ongoing list of all the projects we’d like to work on so that inspiration is always a glance away. If we have children, learning how to create WITH them (either alongside them or in collaboration). Allowing ourselves to make the most of creative practice even if we end up deviating from that “next step” plan. And most importantly, always keeping our eyes open for slivers of opportunity.

In Eric Maisel’s words: “If we intend to create we really should be checking in with ourselves several times a day (not a few times a week or a few times a month) with the question, ‘How about now?’ Sometimes we will answer no and sometimes we will answer yes, but if we answer yes only a quarter of the time and we are checking in with ourselves four times a day, then we will create every day. We should check in with ourselves as soon as we wake up, in case THAT is a good time, as soon as we get home from wherever, in case THAT is a good time, when an empty hour suddenly looms up in front of us, in case THAT is a good time, after dinner and before television, in case THAT is a good time, and so on.”

Are you checking with yourself?

“Don’t wait. The time will never be just right.”
~Napoleon Hill

This piece was reprinted from the last issue of the Creative Times, our monthly newsletter. Click here to subscribe!

Giveaway! Bliss and Soulful Mothering e-book/audio

Last week at Studio Mothers you met Kathy Stowell, the homeschooling, simplicity parenting mother of two little ones who blogs at Bliss Beyond Naptime. I’ve so enjoyed getting to know Kathy over the interwebs and on the phone. She is truly an authentic, deeply creative soul who is dedicated to a life of simplicity, creativity, and presence. I’m always inspired by women who are so clear about the path they want to follow — and walk the talk, with all its challenges and rewards.

Kathy recently released the e-book and audio recording The Bliss Filled Mama: Self-Care for Soulful Mothering. I’m delighted to offer a free copy of this magical resource (e-book AND audio file) to a Studio Mothers reader! Simply leave a comment on this post and you’ll be entered to win. You have until 5:00 p.m. eastern time on Friday, February 17, 2012, to enter.

In The Bliss Filled Mama: Self-Care for Soulful Mothering, Kathy shares the strategies and practices that help pull her through the “delicate dance of being a loving, present mother who also has the time and energy to tend to her creative spirit and life calling.” These are the basic self-care approaches Kathy swears by that help make every day an opportunity to keep her needs front and center while “ensuring my genetic makeup flourishes, happily, for generations to come.” And because being a busy mama can make it tricky to sit down and read a whole e-book, Kathy recorded herself “whispering these sweet somethings into your ear.”

The Bliss Filled Mama offers over 10,000 words of insight into:

  • Kathy’s approach to optimum health
  • Simple yet saucy mama style
  • Ladies’ night ideas to maintain your precious friendships
  • Ways to garner your partner’s support in your bliss quest
  • Protecting your boundaries
  • Housekeeping; simplicity style
  • Exploring and pinpointing the joys in your life
  • Carving out pockets of time to indulge in these joys
  • Kathy’s own parenting philosophy that accommodates more mama bliss

If you aren’t the winner of the e-book/audio package, you can purchase it here for $14 USD.

Good luck, creative mamas!

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Monday Post ~ February 13, 2012

“Whether it’s a painter finding his way each morning to the easel, or a medical researcher returning daily to the laboratory, the routine is as much a part of the creative process as the lightning bolt of inspiration, maybe more.”
~Twyla Tharp


This is the moment to deepen, or commit to, your regular creativity practice. Regularity — a daily practice, if at all possible — is key.

So what are your plans for creative practice this week? Given the specifics of your schedule, decide on a realistic intention, goal, or a milestone to reach for — and plan that time in your calendar. An intention as simple as “I will be creative for 10 minutes every day” or “I will gesso three canvases on Wednesday” is what it’s all about.

Share your goal(s) as a comment to this post, and let us know how things went with your creative plans for last week, if you posted to last week’s Monday Post.

Kathy: The Crafty Loft Nest Monster

Editor’s Note: Kathy Stowell is a homeschooling, simplicity parenting mother of two small kids, and a hobby farmer’s wife who blogs and offers Backwoods Mama Sew Camps over at Bliss Beyond Naptime. She recently released The Bliss Filled Mama: Self-Care for Soulful Mothering, an e-book and audio recording on proper crafty mama care. You’ll be hearing more about this new release here at Studio Mothers next week!

I remember the first time we laid our eyes on our home — it was like love at first sight. It was kind of like spotting a soulmate for the first time. After getting over the initial giddiness of its strawbale walls, I was stoked about the open loft smack dab in the middle of the floor plan, right above the kitchen. Typically the deep inhales of my day are taken while I prepare meals while my exhales are lavished all over any one of my many crafty pursuits so it was kind of cool how this setup offers both of my breathing spaces the opportunity to be literally layered on top of each other.

Regardless of where we ended up, I knew I needed a space of my own; even if it only consisted of a corner in the basement like in our two previous homesteads. But to have a space right in the middle of all the action — that was kind of a symbolic bonus.

And here I sit now. I call it my Crafty Loft Nest. And I feel at such times like a legendary Loft Nest Monster lurking up in the clouds. This is my happy place. Typically, I get up the earliest; before the little ones, and get my blog musings down (which often report on any sightings of or debris left over from the creature) or dive in deep into the current creative project. For the rest of the day I am able to dip back into the loft for mini bursts of spinning or sewing in between homeschooling my daughter, keeping the home fires stoked, tending to the farm critters, and minding my etsy shops.

These days the calling is pulling me deeper into the world of mama creativity and simple living. I’m in the process of pulling together my Bliss Beyond Naptime coaching practice where I will be serving mamas toward a life of more peace and simplicity while embracing and nurturing their creative spirit. And these last few weeks the Crafty Loft Nest has been the location for a Simplicity Parenting workshop I’m facilitating as I spread the word of a childhood well savoured as we embrace a simpler approach to family life in terms of mindful scheduling, more distinct rhythm, and less cluttered and filtered environments.

I’m so happy to be invited to share this space with you here and get glimpses into your creative nests. Your studio, mothers; in whatever forms they appear. With such a sacred task, this raising the next generation in the most conscious way possible business, it’s of the greatest importance to see that all our own mama needs are met and creative desires fulfilled. The key to help keeping me centred as I take on this divine endeavour is ensuring that the well of all my needs is continuously filled. And most of that filling happens here at the heart of our home — one of the major love hubs in my life.

Monday Post ~ February 6, 2012

“In the midst of our daily routines, it is critical that we steal a few moments to sit with our idea or project each day to be sure our target is ‘still’ there, even if we can’t direct our energy to it at the moment.”
~Suzanne R. Roy


This is the moment to deepen, or commit to, your regular creativity practice. Regularity — a daily practice, if at all possible — is key.

So what are your plans for creative practice this week? Given the specifics of your schedule, decide on a realistic intention, goal, or a milestone to reach for — and plan that time in your calendar. An intention as simple as “I will be creative for 10 minutes every day” or “I will gesso three canvases on Wednesday” is what it’s all about.

Share your goal(s) as a comment to this post, and let us know how things went with your creative plans for last week, if you posted to last week’s Monday Post.

Giveaway: Join me at the wishBIG e-camp!


I’m *delighted* to be part of the teaching roster at the wishBIG ecamp this month!

To celebrate, I’m giving away a spot by the campfire to one lucky winner.

This fabulous online course is structured like no other, thanks to the creative genius of Mindy Tsonas at wishstudio. Wherever you live, the wishBIG ecamp allows you to connect with other creatives and get your 2012 mojo going strong.

February 19 – 26, 2012
Online – eight 2-hour workshops (self-paced)
Free for wishstudio members ($86 for non-members)

It’s time to gather round the creative fire!

Your week at ecamp includes:

  • Eight (2-hour) online creative living workshops from a host of fabulously inspiring Camp Counselors, each bringing their own special talent and insight to help you wishBIG, createBIG and liveBIG! In addition to myself, your instructors include Connie HozvickaVivienne Mc MasterChris ZydelAmy PalkoJenna McGuigganStacy De La Rosa, and Rachel Awes.
  • Daily ecamp mail! Inspiration Postcards (sent via e-mail) created especially for YOU by our talented teachers for a little extra creative spark, each day of camp.
  • Evening campfire gatherings designed specially for the group and the work at hand! These fun and inspirational nightly gatherings are created from what comes up specifically for us as a group. Mindy tunes into the thoughts and activity of each day and thoughtfully carves out space for a relevant community discussion. These tend to be intimate, powerful and wonderfully connective whether you sit in the circle quietly or dive deeply into the conversation.
  • Supportive kindred community with our own private group for sharing thoughts and work throughout your camp experience, as well as individual support and cheering from each of our ecamp Counselors within their workshop and beyond.
  • An easy, go-at-your-own-pace format that allows you to work through the workshops in a way that best meets your needs. All classes will be available online for one month, and are self paced.

My own course is A Life of Intention: Your Map for the Next 12 Months (Thursday, 2/23). In this workshop, you’ll create an empowered and inspired map for the next 12 months that moves you toward your longer-term goals. This process involves naming your intentions, gathering your assets, and making your map. It’s a dose of inspiration and clarity!

Won’t you join us? For more details and to register, click here. Meanwhile, if you’d like to be entered in a drawing to win a spot, leave a comment at this post before Friday, February 3 at 5:00 pm eastern time. Good luck!

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