Heads Up: AUGUST


In just a few days we’ll be in another month! Our Word for August is Imagination, and the main creative expression featured is Theatre (meaning live theatre/drama). We’ll explore the value of visual story-telling and the power of imagination. Here’s what’s on the docket:

Audio interview with the Pacific Conservatory Theatre director/dean Mark Booher

Spotlights on a playwright, a high school drama director, and a few actors, including a Jr. Higher for a young person’s POV

Ideas on how to foster imagination in our kids and ourselves



SPOTLIGHT: Mark Booher’s Office

Mark Booher is the Artistic Director/Associate Dean at the Pacific Conservatory Theatre in Santa Maria. (We’ll be hearing more from him next month). His personal office at PCPA was so interesting and inspiring.


Posters from his plays decorate his walls. His bookcases are full of notes, scripts, and books on the theatre. 


His grandmother’s diploma hangs right above his computer. She was one of the first women to graduate from this college in 1927. She had to commute daily by train, and pack her own lunch because as a single woman she wasn’t allowed to eat in the train dining car with the men. Her strength and tenacity are an inspiration to Mark.


Feast for the Eyes

I’m always looking for inspiration for my home. It’s stimulating to change things up every so often, which is one reason I love decorating for the holidays and seasons. Surrounding my family with seasonal colors and scents or holiday trinkets feeds the imagination and also gives us a sense of time and the passing of a year.

But what about the in between times? Changing up my inspiration board or putting out different toys and art supplies for the kids keeps things fresh. I stoke my creativity with some outside media too. Two magazines have been so worth the subscription!


HGTV Magazine is a feast for the eyes with its bright colors, bold designs, and beautiful house features. It’s mainly visual with little to read, which makes it the perfect magazine for me to flip through during a “recess/coffee break” in our homeschool day.



Magnolia Journal is lovely in all aspects, from its beautiful photographs to its inspiring and heart-felt columns written by Chip and Jo and friends. This magazine encourages me, makes me think, and reminds me of the truly important things in life.


Here are a few Instagrams I follow that inspire my space-building:

Magnolia–every day there is something beautiful to see from Joanna Gaines and her company

By Vanessa Leigh–she posts breath-taking pics of English countryside, gardens, pubs, and tea houses. Makes me swoon.

KP Spaces–her catch phrase had me: “Designing, styling, and trying to find a little pretty wherever I go!”

Centered by Design–just lovely

Folded Pages Distillery–she’s actually a book reviewer, but her visual displays of the books she reviews is near-breath-taking and so inspiring


Family Mission Statement


A few years ago my husband Michael and his men’s small group came up with this idea of forming family mission statements, and then posting them in our homes. Each family discussed the values important to them and formed their unique mission statement. (See July 21 post for another family’s statement.) Michael did a color wash in acrylics on canvas, and lettered ours with paint pens. It hangs on a spacious wall leading to the family room, and can be clearly viewed from the dining table.

Creating a mission statement brought about really good conversations between Michael and I on our values, our vision for our family, and how we want to be perceived by the world. After much discussion, we were able to sum it all up with the above statement.

We (and our friends who did the same) found this very helpful for multiple reasons:

  1. Our mission statement helps us prioritize activities and investments. It’s so easy to become overly busy, to have our kids involved in everything, to say “yes” to anyone, and pack our schedules with every event and activity. Now we have a guide to help us pick and choose what we busy our lives with. This has been especially helpful as our kids are growing into the age of extra-curricular activities like sports and music, etc.  We ask ourselves, “Does this activity serve others? Is it an investment in one of our passions? Does it tap into creativity?”
  2. Having a clear vision for our family focuses our plans for the future. We love to dream about all the places we’ll go and all the things we’ll do as a family. In order to make dreams into realities, we need a plan. One passion Michael and I have is travel. We want to take our kids to Europe in about 10 years, so we’re investing in that passion now by tucking a little money away each month.
  3. Our mission statement helps shape our lifestyle. ‘Unchaining Creativity‘ in ourselves and our kids is very important, so we have set up our home to do that. We have spaces for playing, spaces for creating, and spaces for reading. (see July 11 post and July 16 post). ‘Investing in Passions‘ is a priority, so we work in time for these passions into our everyday routines and weekly schedules. For example, I go to Starbucks every Sunday afternoon to write. Michael tries to see a live theatre production once a month. Westly has ‘quiet time’ every day while the littles nap; he draws and crafts and builds Legos. We chose to homeschool because it’s a lifestyle that reflects these values for our family. ‘Serving Others‘ keeps us from becoming too focused inward, and reminds us to look outward. Michael sings on the worship team at church. I serve on the Women’s Ministry Board.

Really what it all boils down to is intentional living. Forming a family mission statement helps us live with intention, instead of just coasting on auto-pilot and letting our fast-pace culture swallow us up. It’s so easy to get distracted, so having our statement hang in our home is a visual reminder of how we want to live.

And this contributes to the nurturing atmosphere we hope to create at home.



SPOTLIGHT: Espino Home

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If our walls could talk…

Actually, our walls do, whether we mean for them to or not. What we decorate our walls with speaks a lot about our interests, our tastes, and our histories. Or at least they should. Wall space can play a key role in creating an inspiring and personal atmosphere in our creative spaces.

My best friend Bethany is very intentional about decorating the walls of her home with creative and meaningful pieces that speak volumes about her and her family.


This is one of the first pieces you see when you walk into their home: Espino Family Mission Statement. She hand-painted their family motto: Lead Others through Empathy, Compassion, and Creativity



Bethany made these two macrame pieces that hang in her office and guest room.


Bethany mounted her grandfather’s wrench  in memory of him.


The Espinos collected these pieces of drift wood from their three favorite places: their neighborhood, Avila Beach, and Yosemite.


An original art piece by Bethany inspired by the characters from her YA novel.

After being in the Espino home, I always get inspired to take a look at how I’m using my wall space at home. What do my walls say about me and my family? What do yours say?

Don’t Hide Books

We love books. I’m sure you do too. Even if you’re not a big reader, chances are you still like the look of books and like the idea of them being around. As a parent I want my kids to love books too, and I want books to be easily accessible to my kids.

One of my big no-nos when it comes to setting up space is this:

Don’t hide books!


Now, books can get untidy and find their way under beds and between couch cushions and on the stairs. So it’s tempting to stash them away in bins, or up on the closet shelf, or in a deep drawer. But the problem with this is a common one: out of sight, out of mind. Especially for kids.

I heard one of my favorite children’s authors (Jonathan Auxier) tell about how his childhood home was filled with books and his parents could always be found reading. He grew up thinking that’s what you did as a grown-up: you read books. Reading books was normalized for him. And today he is a prolific author.


I don’t expect my kids to be authors, but I do want them to be readers and to love books for many reasons (to be life-long learners, seekers of knowledge and wisdom, creative and imaginative, self-actualized, deep thinkers and clear communicators, and the list goes on). For our part, Michael and I read to them every night, we take them to library, we give books as gifts, etc. I’m intentional about storing books where my kids can get them. We don’t hide books.

If you’re interested in my middle-grade books (for ages 8-12), check them out on Amazon: Sherlock Academy mystery series Books 1-3 and The Magical Flight of Dodie Rue HERE


My Space


We set up many different spaces for many different purposes in our homes. We have spaces with beds and dressers for sleeping and changing. We have spaces with flat screens and couches for entertaining and relaxing. We have spaces with broad tables surrounded by chairs for eating and talking. Sometimes we even have spaces with Legos and play kitchens for playing and imagining.

Yet few of us think to set up spaces for creating. Through my years of home-making and having kids, I have learned the value of setting up spaces for our creative endeavors. A big turning point for me was when I rearranged our master bedroom and set up a writing space. I saved up some extra money and bought a desk and a chair. Instantly I saw the difference a writing space made for me; it was simple but impactful: I wrote more. 

Seeing the pay offs of having a writing space inspired me to rethink our home and make spaces for other creative endeavors, especially for my kids. (see July 11 post).

When setting up a creative space I follow the 3 Ps: make your space Personal, Practical, and Pleasing.

Personal: your space, like every other part of your home, should reflect who you are and what you love. The first items I set on my desk were my published books to remind me of how far I have come and that dreams come true. I also have little trinkets from my grandmother’s desk that add a little history and magic.


Practical: if your space is going to work for you, it must be in a convenient location, be stocked with everything you need for your creative endeavors, and be functional. Originally I had my desk against the wall. But every time I sat down to write I felt like I was in time-out facing the wall. Talk about a Muse-Killer! So I thought outside the box and angled my desk to face out at the windows. Much more inspiring.


Pleasing: your space should invite you in. It should be a place that makes you want to hang out in and create. I’m aesthetically sensitive to light. I work best in spaces well-lit by both natural and lamp light. So my space is in a corner of the house that gets sunshine all day long. I also chose my decor colors carefully, and put thought into what went on my inspiration boards. My latest addition is a little alarm clock that tickled me so much I had to have it.

Whatever your creative endeavor may be (sewing, crafting, painting, cooking, playing an instrument…) invest some space into it. Rethink your house, your yard, your garage, your shed. You don’t have to live in a sprawling Colonial-style house or on a ton of acreage. You just have to decide that your creative endeavor is important, and make space for it. I guarantee you won’t regret it.



IMG_6121Age: 41

Job: Home School Teacher for Inspire Charter Schools

Instagram: @aliandjoel

Creative Expression: pottery

Creative Space: pottery shed

How did you get into pottery?

I have always been internally motivated to make things beautiful and make beautiful things. About ten years ago, I took a Parks & Rec pottery class with several of my friends and learned the basics of pottery making. I really enjoyed the challenge and wished I could do more, but an eight week class was the most I could work into my schedule with three small kids at home. Then a few years ago someone gifted me an old Cress kiln. At the time I had a side job which provided me a bit of cash to invest in other pottery supplies. I found an old used wheel on Craig’s List that came from the UCSB pottery studio. I ordered some glazes, tools, and clay. I set up my new gear in a corner of our garage and with the help of YouTube I started teaching myself. With my laptop next to my wheel I would watch a potter center his clay, hit pause and try it myself. I slowly improved and began to turn out some passable items that I gave away as family Christmas presents. 


How have you made space for your pottery?

Two years ago we moved a half mile up our street to a house that we fell in love for two reasons: a large private yard where we can garden to our hearts’ content, and a detached garage in the back that was just crying out to be turned into an art studio. Now I have a space where everything is ready and waiting for me to come and be creative. I don’t have to set up and tear down gear like I did in my old garage, which makes a huge difference in how often I am able to make pottery. 

How do you make it an important aspect of your life?

It’s summer vacation, which means more time! With my endless pictures of inspiration pieces from all over, I have a feeling this month will be a great time to create some beautiful things! Next school year I plan to set aside time in our school day on Fridays to let my sons try their hand at pottery as well as other artistic endeavors. 


Are there other areas of your life where you exercise creativity?

Pottery is just one way that I enjoy being creative. I love gardening with my husband and making our modest sized neighborhood lot as productive and beautiful as possible. We almost exclusively plant edible plants and find satisfaction in making the functional aesthetically pleasing. 


The Right Atmosphere

In our first house when we had only Westly we had a ‘toy room’. It was cute and stocked and fun to decorate (for me). But we quickly found that Westly didn’t want to go play there–he wanted to be with us and ended up taking his toys with him around the house. So when we moved into our new house with two kids and one on the way, I didn’t set up a toy room (even though the guest bedroom downstairs would be a perfect space for that). Instead I set up spaces in the midst of our living areas where toys could be kept and our kids could play.


Our house has lots of different areas and fun spaces, but this nook is perhaps the most unique and, for our kids, a bit magical. This space is located under the stairs landing and is actually an indoor garden space! Under the floorboards we found soil, and there is a small faucet for watering (see on the right?) But in this stage of raising babies the idea of loose dirt in the house is not appealing. So we put down a rug and made it the kids’ play space. This space is constantly evolving as our kids grow. During nap/quiet time, West used to hang out here and builds Legos and looks at books. Now he’s a bit too tall, so we moved toys and books for the two younger ones. Will and Amelia play together here while West and I homeschool. Next year I have plans to put a play kitchen, a baby cradle, and lacy curtains to make it Amelia’s play house.

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We’re very intentional about how many toys our kids have and what kinds of toys they have. We’re not in favor of toys that make a lot of noise and do all the work of entertaining our kids. Rather we get toys that require our kids to do the work of imaginative play. We keep the volume down by regularly sorting and cleaning out. I store extra toys in the garage, and every month I rotate them. It keeps things fun and fresh, and also keeps the clutter and clean up minimal.

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This is our back room, formally the family room, but it’s our homeschool space. The open kitchen overlooks this room, and this room opens up to the patio and back yard. It gets lots of natural light and pretty views of the yard. There is also a couch where I would nurse the baby, we read together, and hang out.


Growing up my family did our homeschool lessons at the dining table, which works for a lot of families. But we also spent lots of time setting up and cleaning up because the table obviously served other purposes like eating. Heading into homeschooling, I knew it was important for us to have space for it with its own table and storage so we had to set up and clean up just at the start and end of each day. The kids can have ongoing projects throughout the day, and I can lessen my housework load.


About every six months I re-evaluate our home based on the ages and stages of our kids, and I make changes accordingly. While the toys, activities, and purposes of our spaces may change, I always keep in mind the importance of creating an atmosphere that nurtures my kids’ creativity and imagination.




Permission to be in Process

My interview with interior decorator Susie Fitler was deeply satisfying. (see July 7 post for full audio interview.) I came away with lots of great things to ponder about the creative journey. But one point stuck out to me and has lead me to ask myself some provocative questions.IMG_9386

Susie talked about giving yourself permission to be in process, and by doing so, giving your kids permission to be process. In other words, allowing yourself to make mistakes and learn from them, and modeling that to others. In terms of interior decorating, Susie used the example of “putting that nail in the wall”. She is always surprised at how many people are afraid to put a nail in the wall for fear of making a mistake. As a result they have wall hangings, art pieces, and the such hidden away. She encourages her clients to be brave, take a risk, and just put that nail in the wall.

Why are we so afraid to make mistakes, especially with our creativity? Sure, there is a lot of pressure for perfection these days where our lives are on public display via social media. And there is an innate instinct to avoid vulnerability that kicked in when Adam and Eve hid their nakedness. But I think the root of all this is the Fear of Man. Hang with me as we dive into a bit of theology!IMG_9233

Mankind started out creating with freedom and courage (Adam’s first job was creating names for all the animals, for goodness’ sake!). Creativity was an expression of obedience to and communion with God. The only fear in the garden was the appropriate Fear of God, who deemed everything ‘good.’

Then the big shift happened. Lies told mankind that God wasn’t good and He didn’t have the final word on what was good. Pride made mankind shrink back from creative expression for fear of being exposed. The Fear of Man became the gatekeeper.

And that’s one thing we’re always fighting against in our creativity. What if no one likes it? What if it’s not good? What if I make a mistake?

Part of our ongoing redemption through Christ is reversing the shift that happened in Eden. We have to shift from the Fear of Man back to the Fear of God. If we have the proper perspective on our creativity–that it’s essential to life and is an offering to God–then we should no longer worry what others think of it, but rather we should find freedom in God’s opinion of it: it is good.


As parents we delight in our kids’ art. They give us their scribbles and paint splatters, and we hang them on the fridge. In the early stages of childhood they are so eager to create and show us; there’s no fear because they know we will gush over their work and deem it ‘good.’ So does our heavenly Father with our offering, if only we will let go of our fears. I suppose this could be one example of having ‘child-like faith.’

So now I have to ask myself the tough questions:

Am I willing to make mistakes in my creativity?

Do I let my kids see me making mistakes?

Do I create an atmosphere at home that gives us all permission to make mistakes?

The answer to this last question in particular can have many layers from spiritual to practical.

Spiritual: When my kids mess up, make the wrong choice, or disobey, how do I react? I’m guilty of yelling at them, getting frustrated, etc. Rather I need to model God’s parenting: chastising, leading them to repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation. IMG_9135

Practical: Is our home set up in ways conducive to creating, exploring, and making messes? While I like our home to be aesthetically pleasing, I need to be practical. The table and chairs in our homeschool room is no looker, so the pencil marks, paint splatters, scissor-knicks, and Sharpie marker can only improve its look, right? I won’t fuss over the dirty feet smudges on the couch because it only cost me $20 from the thrift store. I buy a lot of craft supplies and Play-Doh from the Dollar Tree to save money and allow my kids to create with reckless abandon.

But most importantly, it’s my perspective that affects our creativity the most. If I’m to nurture an atmosphere at home that encourages creativity and gives permission for mistakes, I must first do the same.