The Art of Gathering

In January our Word was Gathering and our creative expression was Culinary Arts or Food!

Thank yous to our Spotlights Naughty Oak Brewing Company, personal chef Ashley Enriquez, and gourmet cupcake baker Jenna Mason. Also thanks to our home chefs who contributed great recipes: homeschooler/photographer Mallory Drazin and actress/mom Erin Drazin.

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The importance of meals goes beyond the basic function of nourishing our bodies. Meals can build community, foster relationships, and develop routine rest. For some of us, sitting down to a meal is the only time of day when we actually sit down. We’re forced to take an intentional break from moving. It may be the only time of the day when individuals gather together at the same place at the same time to enjoy something they have in common: the food they’re all eating together. Gathering for a meal opens opportunity to talk and have relationship.

Most socializing happens around the table. Couples go out to eat when they’re dating. Families invite others over for a meal to get to know them better. Churches host bar-b-qs and potlucks to unify the congregation. Celebrations always include cake. Even Jesus used meal time to display his power (the miracle of the fives loaves and two fishes) or to have sacred conversations with his friends (the last supper) or to celebrate His victory over death (breakfast on the beach).

It’s so easy to slip into the drudgery of daily meal-making. In rough seasons of being pregnant or having a newborn or having a husband work late, it can seem like a miracle just to keep my children fed! I get burned out, I get frustrated by my picky-eaters, I dread the dinner hour, and I get too tired to clean up after.

But when I shift my perspective of meal time from it just being a chore I have to do to keep my family alive to the perspective that meal time is an opportunity to sit down, talk with my family, and build our little community, the drudgery starts to evaporate. I remind myself not to gauge the success of a meal on whether their plates were licked clean, but rather on the laughter and conversations that happened as we all sat down at the same time together.

It’s not the recipe that makes the meal time great–it’s the gathering that meal time creates.

The chore I dreaded for so long, I have come to find out is actually a gift…It will never be the dinner itself that makes it matter. It’s that beautiful thing that happens when everyone lingers at the table even though the meal is over.–Joanna Gaines


Balance of Beauty

IMG_1944I was raised by a mom who wore no makeup, used zero hair products (except shampoo), and wore a basic wardrobe. (She did like her jewelry, surprisingly). She viewed her no-fuss approach to her appearance as a virtue; but later I came to recognize deep-rooted insecurities she harbored about her outward and inward make-up. Rather than take risks and exercise creativity with her appearance, she played it safe and used scriptures like Proverbs 31 to justify her insecurity as virtue.

Now, there were some pros to being raised by a mom who was not vain. My sister and I were told we were pretty just the way God made us. We didn’t get caught up by superficial pursuits of beauty in our teenage years.

But for awhile I wrestled with fashion and beauty in general. I had an innate interest in all things pretty, but I felt these areas were taboo. I feared that if I started wearing mascara or got a curling iron or splurged on an outfit, I would be in danger of vanity, pride, addiction–namely, sin. If it took me more than 15 minutes to get ready in the morning then surely I was too obsessed with my looks.

So for awhile I went the ‘tom-boy’ route. The funny thing about that is I put just as much thought and effort into dressing ‘simple’ as I would have into dressing feminine. I was IMG_1943still uncomfortable and insecure because I wasn’t fully expressing my true self. Everyone has to dress ever day, and whether intentionally or unintentionally, our outward appearance reflects our inward state of being. Once I made this connection, I realized there was nothing wrong about using my outward appearance to exercise my inward creativity and joy and preferences.

As I grew into womanhood, I slowly found freedom from this legalistic view on femininity. And of course the more I grew into myself and learned about my likes and dislikes, my fashion point of view evolved. I embraced the fun of trying a new lip color. I exercised creativity in putting outfits together. I invested in some good skin and hair products–not in vanity but to take care of my body in the same way I exercise and eat healthy things.

Interestingly, there was a correlation between my outward and inward appearance. As I stepped out of my comfort zone by wearing statement earrings or heels or trying an A-line bob haircut, I became more confident in who I was as a woman. And as I solidified my identity, I was more game for changing up my look.

There is a constant check not to let my outward identity be the only validation for my inward identity. There is a balance between taking pride in how I put myself together and not letting fashion and the pursuit of outward beauty consume me. There is a fascinating tension there. But there is that tension in every aspect of life. And within that middle tension is found something life-giving: freedom.


Step Up

The past few months we’ve explored lots of different creative endeavors. We’ve delved into some of the deeper more theological reasons for creativity. It’s one thing to be inspired by others. It’s one thing to understand and agree on the importance and value of creativity. And it’s quite another thing to actually put it into practice.

Creativity takes initiative. Yes, sometimes inspiration hits us out of no where. Sometimes ideas land right in our lap. But in order for those ideas to come to fruition, in order for us to live out creativity, we have to take action. I’ve talked with so many people who have great ideas, but also have big excuses for why they never did anything with those ideas. In particular with writing, it seems like everyone has an “idea for a book”. People say they’ll write it when “life slows down” (which will be when?). Or when they retire (really?) Or in “another lifetime” (unrealistic). None of these excuses hold any water. Really what it comes down to is people not taking initiative to develop their creativity.

Listen, you don’t have to have every detailed figured out. You don’t have to invest a lot of money into supplies. You don’t have to declare it on Facebook. You don’t have to make it perfect or even be successful. Remember, the value is in the journey and expression as much as the product.

All you have to do is show up.

Living an Art Class Vibe

In November our Word was Initiative and our creative expression was Hand-Made crafts. I interviewed graphic designer Kyle Ahlgren.

Thank yous to Kyle and our Spotlights who shared their amazing hand-made products!

Christy Rice & Abby Palmer and their furniture refurbishing business

Jayden Yamamoto and quilling art

Nathan Burtnett and his lathed pens

Christie Dunlop and her dream-catchers and macrame

Trudy Toering and her hand-sewn dolls

Amber Lundberg and her felt ornament business

Julie Ryver and her arts & crafts

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From Writer to Author

I’ve been writing since I could read. I have notebooks and journals galore dating back to my early elementary years. From an early age I had no problem labeling myself as a writer.

But having the confidence to label myself an author came much later. By my late twenties I had written my Sherlock Academy series, dabbled in self-publishing, and was leading a writer’s group. Yet I couldn’t muster the nerve to call myself an author. The reason? I hadn’t really taken myself seriously as an author, so why should others?

Then a seasoned author, who also became a friend, told me to attend a big writing conference.  I had to make a choice to take writing seriously by investing time and money into it–aka going to this conference. So I sold my wedding dress to pay my way and spent three days in LA. And my life was changed. I found my tribe, I learned about the publishing industry, I heard editors and agents and authors talk about writing, and I got inspired.

From that day on, I owned being an author. I moved writing from Hobby to Profession. I invested time and money into professional development. And a funny thing happened: I got published.

Here’s the thing: while there is no guarantee to getting published, there are important steps to take if you’re wanting to pursue a writing career:

  1. Be Informed–whatever genre you write stay informed on what’s being published. Peruse Barnes & Noble, scour Amazon, read Publisher’s Weekly. You want to write a children’s book? Know who are the big names and what they’re writing. You want to write YA? Check the New York Times best-seller list or even the movie theatre list (YA books are constantly being made into movies these days!) Know what’s on trend and who’s your competition.
  2. Study the Craft–attend workshops on writing, read books on writing, follow authors’ blogs, listen to Podcast interviews of authors. You must have a firm grasp not just on on the mechanics of writing, but on the key parts of story. One of the first books I ever read was Keys to Great Writing that gives a good overview of story components. Recently I read Writing Irresistible Kid Lit that delves deeper into the nuances of writing.
  3. Understand the Publishing Industry–it’s important to know how submissions work, how the publishing world operates, what roles editors play, how agents work. Attend writing conferences because editors and agents lead workshops and speak on panels. Learn how to write a good query letter and synopsis and how to submit.
  4. Join the Tribe–there is acceptance, inspiration, and growth to be gleaned from the writing community. Tap into it. Join or start a writer’s group where you critique each other’s work. Attend conferences and workshops both large and small. If you’re writing for kids, join the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators asap and attend their conferences. There are chapters of SCBWI all over the world, so find one in your area and check their calendar for events.
  5. Put Yourself Out There–create social media accounts for your writer/author self. Join social media writing groups. Follow authors and agents on Twitter (the publishing industry is huge on Twitter). When you attend a workshop or conference and there’s an option for critique, pay the extra money to submit your pages for an editor or agent to critique.  Get a hold of the current Writer’s Market for up-to-date publishers and agencies to submit to. I have used the blog Literary Rambles to compile my agents list for submission.

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Most importantly, just own it. If you’re serious about your writing, then take it seriously. Others will, too.

Here’s Why

When people find out we’ve chosen to homeschool (we are doing a charter hybrid), they want to know why–especially since I was a former teacher and my husband is currently a public school teacher who has taught every age from preschool to college at one time or another, if not simultaneously.

Let me first be clear that this post is not a more-holier-than-thou-cuz-I-homeschool-type of post (just NOT true). Nor is it a shame-on-you-for-not-homeschooling-rant (my LAST intention). I’m just sharing about our lifestyle in hopes of inspiring others to live intentionally, whatever their family choices.

First, we’re not homeschooling out of fear. Just wanted to throw that out there.

IMG_9866Reason 1: Relationship–at the heart of our lifestyle choice of homeschooling is relationship. First and foremost, our relationship with God. I have only a few short years to teach my kids to love truth and abhor sin, to learn the Gospel, and to point them to God, and I want to make the most of that block of time. Secondly, I want to fortify my relationship with them, and build bonds between them, which comes more easily when we’re home learning and living life together.

Reason 2: Involvement–I want to be a part of my kids’ childhoods and education. These childhood years are so few and I don’t want to miss out on them. There are approximately 180 school days out of 365 days in a year, which is 49.31%. School days take up nearly half of a kid’s year. I’m not okay missing out on half of my kids’ year. I was there when they took their first step and I want to be there when they read their first word. I was there when they beamed after going on the potty for the first time, and I want to be there when they beam after counting by 2s.

IMG_0439Reason 3: Learning–I don’t want to compartmentalize learning, which is what school does. Kids go to a building for 6 hours where they “learn”, then they leave the building and are “done”. Rather I want my kids to be life-long learners who learn not only during ‘school work’ but throughout the day as we go about life together. I want a balanced mixture of book learning and real-life learning that happens in our home together.

Reason 4: Time–I want to lavish this precious gift on my kids. It only takes my kids a few hours to complete school work at home, which means they have time to be kids. They have time to play, bond with their siblings, explore interests, be curious, be bored, be alone with their thoughts, exercise creativity, have conversations, make memories, relish life.

IMG_0575Reason 5: Education–I can offer them tailor-made education that reflects my values, and provide them with a holistic education that is not a slave to test scores, state standards, and assessments. I want them to read, do math, write, memorize, speak. Also I want my kids to be deep thinkers, clear communicators, problem-solvers, passion chasers, truth defenders, wisdom seekers, creative expressers, team builders, beauty appreciators…to name a few. Education goes far beyond phonics and math facts; it is the very shaping of the heart and soul.

Is homeschooling hard? Yes, but then so is parenting. Is it a lot of work? Yes, so is raising kids. Do my kids and I sometimes strive over school work? Yes, but also over chores and bedtime and finishing meals. Homeschool is just another part of our lives together. It’s what we do, right along with keeping house, taking vacations, going to church, playing with friends, visiting family, grocery shopping, celebrating holidays, and growing up together.

It’s our lifestyle.


Learning Lifestyle

In September our Word was Lifestyle and our creative expression was Education. I interviewed homeschool mom, artist, and writer Jessica Pahl who at the time was living in an RV with her hubby and four kids while renovating their forever home.

Thank yous to Jessica and our Spotlights elementary teacher Tanya Lee, Biblical counselor Ellen Castillo, homeschooler Donna Burtnett, preschool teacher Melissa Smith, and curriculum pioneer and sailing adventurer Chris Scott.

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