Let’s NOT go fly a kite!!

Last year I asked my 3 closest friends a scary question: what is it like for YOU to be my friend? I told them to be brutally honest…but please, please, PLEASE sandwich any “bad” stuff with “good” stuff. I mean, I knew how shitty I can be; my flaws flash through my mind unexpectedly throughout each day. I was terrified to get their responses. Would they confirm what I already knew? Would I survive and recover? Would I be able to face them again? I nearly vomited when I heard my phone ding with their responses. I was in tears as I read each one, not because the texts were what I expected, but because they were the absolute OPPOSITE of what I expected. They told me how much they loved me and numbered off my character traits that made it EASY for them to love me. And they all included the words “joy”, “strong”, and “brave”. Brave, me?

My mom describes me as a very Pollyanna-type child. I was regularly overly positive and talkative. My aunts have a long list of one-liners born from my cuteness that are still a part of their regular vernacular. However bubbly and adaptable I appeared, inside my little girl guts were in knots of fear. That fear never let me enjoy experiences fully. My mom, my personal self-historian, recalls irrationally fearful responses when I was a very small child—running to “take a nap” when the marching band would practice on the street in front of our house or when someone would fly a kite near us at the beach.

The truth is I feel like I have been wrecked by fear for as many of my 40 years as I can remember.

I now adore the driving rhythm of marching band drum lines and once attended a kite flying festival without needing to nap under a blanket. But new fears occupy those spaces now. I am afraid of heights, fireworks, walking on a frozen lake, and jumping off of a boat in the middle of a lake (what if there is a log jammed under the water and I jump in and get impaled…or what if my family doesn’t notice that I have fallen off the boat and another boat can’t see me, runs over me and decapitate me?). I am afraid of my children choking when I leave them at home for an hour or of a bear maiming my son as he walks from the house to his above-the-barn teen space. I’m also afraid, although to a lesser extent, of my shirt coming up in public and exposing my plumper-than-a-decade-ago belly. I’m afraid of thinking that people really like me then finding out they laugh at me behind my back. I’m afraid of being abandoned and rejected and wrecked.

When I step back and look at my life, I see that I have a fair amount of fear, yet I still live my life in a way that my friends can see strength, boldness and even joy. As adults we are expected to negotiate reality and fear without too much struggle, but really…HOW do all those contradictory things occupy space within us without us going crazy?

The next few posts will look at fear. What is fear? How do we combat fear? Can we defeat fear? How can we feel fear but still more forward on our path? What do we do with our fear?

For now, let’s try to notice fear in our lives this week. What physical sensations do you feel when you are in pain? Are there any patterns you notice, like time of day, or specific activity, or a smell or color?

Let’s tackle this together!!

Good, Scary Change

A fellow writer recently asked our writer’s group how we felt when reading our old writing. Like, what if we believe differently than we did several years ago and changed our minds about some big things in the world? What if we got some things WAY wrong?

I didn’t hesitate to tell her that initially I feel embarrassed–head shaking, blushing, mouthing “what the hell?” kind of embarrassed. Like seeing a picture of yourself in TBT form with big bangs and shoulder pads to match (that sure dates me). After that first burst of emotion, I settle into neutrality about who I was a decade ago, acknowledging that we all grow and change. Change is inevitable. Life on this planet can knock us around and traumas can change our brain structure and any number of good, hard stuffs can open our eyes and heart to new information, learning, and growth. When it comes down to it, I sure hope I read this post in another decade, blush, then see how much I’ve grown. I better be different in 10 years. No way do I want to stagnate in this big beautiful adventure!!!

Change and growth can be scary because there is always great potential for loss in growth. The emotional math of that statement is perplexing but still true. I often try to find a way around it, but always come out with the same product: I will grow and simultaneously, I will lose.

I witness this phenomenon each summer in my garden. Growing a garden is one of the joys of life in Minnesota. The months of 4am to almost 10pm sunlight create a short but powerful growing season. All that light can cause a tomato plant to develop quickly and prolifically, overshadowing and neutralizing any plant nearby. I can tie up, prune, and guide the tomato plant all I want but if it is gonna grow I can’t stop it. Sometimes that is disappointing. I was really looking forward to making chile rellenos one summer, but my tomato plant consumed all the sun and space of the pepper plant.

That same cycle happens in our own lives. As one area of our life grows another area is overshadowed, maybe even to the point of extinction. That prospect can be as terrifying as it is exciting.

Our family went from 2 kids to 5 in just 15 months. We made plans for growth, becoming foster parents while trying for another biological baby. We didn’t imagine the growth we desired would be quite so HUGE or that it would require ALL the space for years. That was scary. I even resented the growth sometimes. I missed my friendships. I missed reading books. I missed how easy it had been to take day trips with only my oldest 2 kiddos. But our big, new family was awesome. I couldn’t deny that.  

Have you experienced growth that changed you? Maybe you’ve had some big business wins that have eclipsed your time with family. Maybe you’ve developed friendships that are so fulfilling that the “bare minimum” at work is all you can do. Maybe you’ve has some trauma that requires everything you’ve got just to breathe and eat. All of these change us and move us to new places in this big, beautiful world. And as scary as they are, they can be good. Don’t be embarrassed or afraid or sad when you look back in a decade and see change galore. Don’t be afraid when you lose things that used to be THE most important things. Grow. Change. Embrace your new space.

What growth are you seeing right now? Does that scare you or excite you? What kind of support could you use in your growth? I’d love to hear from you!

These are a few of my favorite things!!

Yes, I did sing that title loudly…

As you know, I tend to feel all of my feelings deeply and overanalyze and ruminate. Sometimes I have to remind myself that life needs lightness and brightness and pleasure. Let’s do that this week. You already know that I love coffee on my porch with my chickens.

Here are some of my favorite things:



I love podcasts. I listen in the car, while folding laundry or loading the dishwasher, while I’m sketching or doodling. While my full list of podcasts I follow is significant, two favorites stand out above the rest.

The Lazy Genius hosted by Kendra Adachi is a game changer. She is a real life genius, I swear it. Her tagline is “Be a Genius about the things that matter, and lazy about the things that don’t”. And she does just that. She has helped me let go of so many stupid “rules” and complex systems that just don’t serve anyone. From meal planning to book swapping to making a new friend, Kendra lays out easy, lazy genius systems that make my world better. Plus, she is super likeable and hilarious. Her episode about the Meal Plan Matrix freed up so much brain space for me. Follow her on IG @thelazygenius.

Holy Ordinary Collective hosted by Amanda Whiting is a symphony of beauty, comfort, and regularly brings me to tears. She is a mom of many (biological and adoptive), farmer, pastor, and enchanted shutterbug. You can find her at her blog This Abundance but she is most active on Instagram @thisabunance where her words and photos cradle your spirit and inspire you to see the beauty right in front of you. This fall she added a podcast called The Holy Ordinary Collective (@holyordinarycollective) to feature the stories of how we connect with God in the ordinary ways of the every day. She offers each story as a narrative first—reading the stories from fellow writers—then interviews the author the next week. Note of interest: I will be featured in a few weeks!!!



I adore reading. I don’t do it often enough, but I here are 3 books that take up room on my side table in my Cozy Corner right now:

Ministry of Ordinary Places by Shannon Martin—I received an advanced copy of this book and it has seriously changed my life. Shannon is a great story teller and speaks hard truths with grace and love. This book helped me refocus my soul-vision from way out in the ethereal to right in front of me with my kids, my neighbors, and my community. It isn’t a book about beauty but brokenness and uncertainly and our role in those.

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott—This book changed me as a writer. I’m rereading it now and am forever grateful that it was recommended to me last year.

What Comes Next by Heidi Barr—Heidi is the author of one of my favorite books, Woodland Manitau. Heidi’s work has an air of otherworldly beauty but is grounded in human experience and connection to Creation. Her new book (not yet released) What Comes Next is brief, published as a Little Bound Book Essay Series with Homebound Publications, but no less powerful than her previous work. She explores the experience of being layed off from a long-term job and figuring out what would come next. Heidi is an IRL friend of mine and I love everything she puts out on her personal Facebook page, her IG @embodyabundance, and her collaborative group 12 Tiny Things (@12tinythings).


Food and drinks:

I am a little bit of a foodie. I love to cook good food. I love to feed my family delicious treats. But, sometimes I like to treat myself to yumminess that I didn’t prepare.

Apples for life!!! Forget a Pumpkin Spice Latte, next time you hit Starbucks or some other specialty coffee place, try a Spiced Cider. Because I happen to embrace this part of my basic nature, I visit a Starbucks at least once a week. I do NOT like the PSL (but the Eggnog Latte is another story) but I have found that I adore the apple-based drinks. If you like drinks on the sweeter side then go for the Carmel Apple Spice or Apple Chai. For a sweet-but-not-diabetic-inducing-sweet, then go for the chai tea bags with steamed apple juice instead of water. Delicious!

Donuts are life! I happen to believe that no food is bad—food doesn’t have a moral value. I absolutely adore the much vilified donuts. Every summer I take my kids on what we like to call “The Great Donut Hunt”. We make a list of all the donut shops in the Twin Cities and mapquest a path through them all. We don’t make it to all of them, at least we haven’t yet. By the third shop my kids are holding their bellies and asking me never to give them another donut. It is awesome. Year after year our favorite shop is Glam Doll Donuts. The shop is retro meets whimsy meets hipster and I love it. Pink ceilings, vintage furniture, a weird cow video game—perfection. Also, the donuts! I tried to pick my favorite one but they are all too delicious, even the Havarti filled curry and peanut one!

Now I need to go to Minneapolis for a donut!

What are some of your favorite things? I’d love to see some of your favorite things. Tag me on IG @bigbeautifuladventure to share.


Leaving Drudgery for Coffee with a Chicken

Weekdays during the school year have a pretty standard routine in our house. Well, more like a series of multiple mini-routines; nonetheless, there is little variety day-to-day. Over time these daily routines can begin to feel automatic and eventually boring…then hollow…and then drudgery.

I hate when things get to that point. I feel my body cringe with every step of the daily routines. The early morning alarm, sounding in the darkness, feels torturous. School papers pile up in the bottoms of the multitude of backpacks as I avoid spelling lists and sight words. School lunches lose their individual touch and become a handful of pre-packaged foods that I can’t even label as “good enough”.

The downward slide feels awful for me and I’m sure it feels equally as bad to my kids.


I know I’m not the only woman to find herself begging for a break from the monotony of every day life. And like other women, I have found that even when a break in the school calendar shows up, the relief is short lived. The dread, and dare I say–resentment–transfers to a different set of must-do family care tasks.

At the beginning of last school year I decided that I was done with that downward spiral. It wasn’t serving anyone, least of all me. In deciding on a course of action to change my course of action, I knew I didn’t need to reinvent the wheel or create a more complex system. I didn’t want to find myself again ruled by MORE check-lists–mastered BY not master OF each day. Not another day could pass with me playing catch-up in a schedule that offered no beauty and nurturing pause.

I didn’t know exactly where to start. I mean, all the daily routines still needed to happen but I needed space in there, too. My first move was small, but it ended up being powerful. After the kids boarded their school bus I drank my morning coffee on my porch. I breathed slowly, sitting on the cold cement and watched my chickens scratch the earth in their search for tasty, hidden bits. I watched the leaves in the trees overhead dance in the breeze and felt the embrace of sun as it warmed my back. After a few weeks my cuckoo maran would come sit next to me and let me put my arm around her. Silly as it sounds, the hopes of her unexpected companionship kept me sitting outside even after the Minnesota fall extended from frost on the picnic table into a firmly frozen ground.


This change wasn’t a major overhaul of my life, it was merely a nurturing act that I could maintain, do every day. Just one small change that provided stillness, beauty, and depth perception for my soul in my every day life. It fit, it was manageable, it was pleasurable, it made me feel better. It was just the start of bigger changes in my life.

What small change can you make to add stillness, beauty, and an element of re-charge in your daily life? You don’t have to quit your life as it is, you just need to add some small act of kindness specific to your needs. What do you need today?

I’d love to hear from you. Share your nurturing ritual with me on Instagram. You can tag me @bigbeautifuladventure.

Rituals…and Other Spooky Things

“Rituals are the formulas by which harmony is restored.” Terry Tempest Williams

Last night I carved pumpkins with my 3 youngest kids. It was excruciating. Hands-down the worst creative experience of my life. It was so, so messy and slimy

and I spent a ton of time moving from kid to kid to trouble-shoot those gross strings and to add my more significant muscle and dexterity with a metal spoon. I scraped and scraped and scraped then sawed with those baby-sized, orange handled saws for what felt like 100 million years.

My kids worked so hard. Serious faces concentrated on stenciled or hand drawn designs, making sure their pumpkin lived up to their expectations of a semi-magical transformation. It was kind of intense, and fairly awful, but also pretty dang great.

The kids thought the whole process was exactly what they wanted it to be. Even when we cut open one of the pumpkins to find brown goo coating the inside, my kids weren’t daunted by any of the steps. For some reason we had a package of doctor-style latex gloves in one of the kitchen junk drawers. The gloves were quite a few sizes too big but the kids slipped them on an operated on those orange orbs like pros. When I lit the tea lights at the end of the second hour and we turned off all the lights, the kids roared with giddy delight at how spooky and amazing their creations were. They danced a spooky dance, they called Dad from our bedroom to partake in their celebration. They woke this morning, checked on their babies and started counting down the minutes until the sun sets and they can light the candles once again.

My parents didn’t celebrate Halloween when I was growing up. I didn’t trick-or-treat or carve pumpkins. We belonged to a fairly conservative Christian denomination and my parents were even anti-Harvest Party in their rejection of Halloween. Really, and I think they would agree now, I think they just were cheap and lazy. They didn’t REALLY believe it was the Devil’s Day or too “of the world”—they just didn’t want to pony up for costumes or candy or trick-or-treating. It is a fairly common affliction of their generation, I think (not to be too anti-Boomer, but for realz).

I want my kids to have traditions they remember with affection, like carving pumpkins in October. We have a few silly family traditions like “Birthday Cereal”, and frikadellers on Christmas, and racing down the rows of our vineyard every Labor Day. Those traditions help keep us connected even as we grow as individuals and our paths start to move away from each other. They need those regular expressions of commonality. Additionally, I want them to know the joy of a ritual.

Ritual is a spooky-sounding word (PERFECT for this time of year) but really, rituals merely are those predictable, intentional series of acts that are life-affirming and that allow us to be our authentic selves in any situation. Mini-routines/rituals have been life giving for me, whether they are daily or seasonal. There is an unexpected fusion of connection and freedom in creating a ritual. I create movements that honor my authentic self, manage boring self-care, and connect me to the people and things in my world that need tending; and in doing so I create freedom for myself to do MORE of what I need.
My favorite rituals involve my Cozy Corner. That name sounds lame now that I’ve typed it out, but I’m going with it anyway. I love, love, love my little corner in my house. With 6 kids and 2 adults in our house-of-perpetual-projects

space is a prized possession. I honestly do not have any space in this house that is exclusively mine. Every bit is “shared” (I say it in air quotes because while I’m supposed to have rights to space, any space I claim gets encroached on by my husband or children). I try with all my might to keep my Cozy Corner to myself. I set up my favorite chair (that my teenaged daughter tried to claim for her room because her cat loves the chair) in my favorite corner (windows on each side of me), and made it comfy—throw pillows, a blanket, a basked for my books, a little side table for my coffee, plants all around me.

Turns out that this is everyone’s favorite spot to sit, but let it be known that it technically is MINE!!!! My Cozy Corner is where I write for 20 minutes each morning—nothing earth shattering, just personal writing that isn’t journaling. It get’s my mind rolling and provides some structure when I could regress into laziness (aka falling back asleep in my comfy, cozy bed). If my kids aren’t awake yet after I drop off my almost-licensed driver at his early morning bus stop, I grab a book and settle in. I have a few books that I’m reading but the usually fall into the categories of a devotional, an inspirational, and a writing book.

From my Cozy Corner I have a perfect view of autumnal leaves. I watch their progression knowing that soon the trees will be bare, and I will be watching snow fall.

Also, from my corner I watch my chickens free range around the house. They are housed in the barn several hundred yards from my corner, but they circle the house every morning, their own kind of ritual. My Cuckoo Maran is very vocal and makes eye contact with me thru the window nearly every morning.

My Cozy Corner is big enough to host a snuggle with a kiddo. My youngest daughter, ginger-haired and freckle-faced, is a new reader and has a stack of fun books she likes to read to me. This surprised me a bit because she never liked when I would read to her before this. But, her leading is fitting because one of her first full spoken phrases was, “I do it myself!”

She sounds out words in the cutest way with her light orange brows in a serious tilt and she turns her baby-toothed smile towards me whenever I gasp over a difficult word read correctly. It is Heaven, I swear it.

My Cozy Corner is kind of the heart of the household because it is where my centering rituals take place. It is where each kid knows they can go to create their own comfort or receive my comfort. They find their harmony in a place where they see me find my harmony. I hope this provides them a lifetime of knowing they have the means of returning to harmony.

Rituals are great. I feel the wobble in my rhythm when I miss one. They aren’t magic. They aren’t spooky. They are simple and sweet and create a safe center for those in our world.

What rituals do you have in your life? Do you need help figuring out how to create a ritual? Do you think they are lame? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Let’s share on IG and hashtag it #ritualsweetandsimple Look for posts from me the next 2 weeks that share thoughts and pictures from my Cozy Corner and other little rituals in my life.

Me and Bilbo and Aerosmith

I turned 40 this summer and honestly, 40 feels great. It offers all sorts of permissions to be really, truly, wholey myself. I mean, by this point I am certain in who I am and what I will accept; I’m not gonna step around toes so much any more. I mean…

I’m 40, YOU aren’t the boss of me.

Additionally, I’m leaning into permission for grace in all sorts of ways. There is space for grace for my body and all it has experienced and accomplished. I am loving finding ways to nurture it in health instead of beating it into submission (or ignoring it and hiding from the world). I don’t need to try to force myself into some fully subjective societal construct of beauty. I’m 40! I don’t need you to like my ass!

On top of all that, I’m relaxing into knowing that life goes on even if I’m not perfect. I can make mistakes, adjust, and mive forward without drama. Imagine that!!

This new decade of life, besides providing confidence that comes with age and experience, slipped me a gift in the form of some new and welcome changes for my day-to-day world. For the first time in my almost 16 years of parenting, ALL 6 of my kids are in school. They are spread across 4 different schools, but they are ALL gone from the house during the day. Just me, the cats, the dog, and the chickens are at home from 9:15am-2:30pm. The silence has been amazing and taking shower (or a poop) without children in the bathroom talking at/to me is unreal.

But..I’ve never done this before…this whole alone-and-in-charge-of-only-myself thing is totally foreign to me. I mean, I grew up in a family with 2 brothers, an extrovert dad, and a homebody mom. Then I moved into a dorm-style living situation in college. Then I got married and worked full-time until I became a mother. I have never been “on my own” during the day. I’m completely thrilled and also a bit overwhelmed—I feel almost unmoored by the freedom in front of me. I have 5.25 hours each day “to myself” and feel a little frozen trying to decide what I want to do.

Of course, there is the mom/keeper-of-the-home side of me that thinks about how clean I could get this place. I also think about all the DIY projects I could bang out in a month. Then there is all the art I could create, and all the trails I could hike, and all the hours I could volunteer with refugee families, and all the books I could read, and all the yoga classes, and all the baking projects (I WILL conquer cinnamon rolls one of these days!!) And napping!!! How could I forget about napping?!?!?

However, after the “Creating Space” series I know that some relief from doing/producing/striving is needed in my days. I’m beat, just plain depleated. I don’t so much feel physically exhausted, but I feel like Bilbo Baggins described himself before he disappeared at his birthday party:

“I feel thin, stretched out, like butter scraped over too much bread.” (J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Rings)

The past few years have been emotionally draining with plenty of unexpected changes on multiple fronts. My fight-or-flight stores are drained and I need to shift so that I can rebuild all that lost ground.

Neghar Fonooni (@negharfonooni), an inspirational yet delightfully salty voice on IG likes to say, “Energy in before energy out.” I’ve neglected the “energy in” part for so, so long but have had the “energy out” part on full blast. My butter can’t spread across all my bread. Time to change all of that.

So, I want to get this right, honor myself, use my 5.25 hours wisely. At the risk of sounding like Aerosmith (boy, I’m quoting a lot today), I don’t want to miss a thing. But, I also don’t want invite too much into my world or put my energy into the wrong things.

Nevertheless, I am not going all paralysis-by-analysis here; analyzing myself into a corner is a bit of a habit with me. I’m going to start simple and loosely structure my days with plenty of space for mistakes, new growth, and/or modifications.

I know for certain from my “8×11 Life” page that I need space for experiences and feelings (adventure and belonging, 2 of my core values, btw). I am filled to the brim with feelings. I am basically emotion in walking, human form. I am going to try giving myself time alone to manage those feelings–processing, releasing, and coming back to equanimity. I’ve unsuccessfully put my emotions on the back burner for the past decade. It hasn’t been pretty. Barely touched emotional processing has bubbled over into anger, frustration, resentment. Like I said, not pretty. That can’t continue. I must use this gift of time to cultivate patterns of emotional wellness and long-term stability.

However, if I live only in my emotions I will become disconnected from reality. I need experiences to ground me, connecting to the greater world around me. I need the woods, different cultures, to create art, laugh with friends (and cry…I do love a good cry with friends), and eat good food.

So, I’m building my weeks and months around 2 foci: alone time for feeling my feels and experiences to connect my feelings to the world.

The loose structure is where I put these ideas into action. Have you read that quote about goals without plans are just dreams? Yeah, I bet you can guess I have tons of dreams. I do. I dream of traveling the world, building a teepee, racing a half Ironman. I have no plans in place to accomplish those, so they stay in dream form for now.

My days alone are real and need a plan. Here is how I’ve loosely broken down my days:

Monday: Groceries and prep for the week, personal appointments, housework, take a nap

Tuesday: Writing work, reading, baking

Wednesday: Writing, hike/explore a new neighborhood, family appointments

Thursday: Art day!!! Also a secondary hiking day.

Friday: Friday Farm Day! DIY and farm chores, friend time

Weekend: Family time, writing, exploring new places together, church, friends

I’ve really loved my time at home the past 4 weeks of the school year, investing into my rest (remember our discussion here?) so that I can be the best mom/wife/woman/human to all the people in my world. I have been pretty serious about honoring the structure I need, too. I felt bad doing it, but I’ve said no to lunch and coffee invites multiple times over the past few weeks. I love my friends but…my butter, ya know?

How can you set up your days and weeks and months to honor your needs? Do you prefer a more rigid structure or a loose one? Do you thrive with almost no structure? For those of you who work full-time, what do you do to honor your needs? I’d love to hear from you.

Connect with me over on IG (@bigbeautifuladventure) to see pics of how my daily routines work out over the next few weeks. I also post hilarious pics of my adventures with my kids and my farm life. I also have a cat that I swear sends me death threats via kitty telepathy. You can see her glaring at me over on IG, too.

Keep on keeping on, Brave Hearts!!! See you back here soon.

Creating Space #4: Putting it all Together

This week our farm officially entered harvest mode. We have an almost 2-acre vineyard with 5 or 6 different varieties of grapes that are ripe and juicy and calling for picking. Each of the grape varieties are wintery-hardy and developed by the University of Minnesota. They are pretty amazing plants. We have gorgeous green grapes that will produce light, sweet white wines or get mixed with a lighter purple grape for a rose. A few rows up there are deep, dark purple grapes—they almost look like a blackish blue. The wine from these grapes turn teeth a hilarious shade of purple. Closest to the house we have a row each of King of the North—the most delicious juicing grape I’ve ever hiding grapescanned—and Somerset Seedless, light, sweet, almost bubble gummy table grapes.

I love to walk up and down the rows, some of them almost closed in with vines arched toward the sun then reaching down & across to intertwine with their grapey sisters. When I push back the leaves I find clusters of heavy, juicy fruity globes. My husband has tended the vines all spring and summer, listening to political talk shows while walking tens of thousands of steps, clipping vines, testing sugar levels, adjusting care methods. Now, in mid-September the fruit is ready to be harvested, crushed, soaked, and fermented.

I haven’t been an active participant in the grape harvest in years past. Usually I have my own long list of harvesting and canning to do. But this summer we needed a lighter load and opted to skip a garden. So, this year I am going to do my share of clipping grapes. Our 3 youngest sons love to clip, too. They feel like magicians with each cluster they locate; they clip buckets, and buckets, and buckets full. I helped with the first round of king of the northKing of the North just to learn the ropes. I’m harvesting the rest on my own soon—ALLLLLLL the vitamin D for me as I pick in the gorgeous sunshine.

Harvest time is pretty amazing. It is the tangible proof that we aren’t crazy people who did all that work of caring for these green viney living things for nothing. Tending plants feels a like like magic. I mean, plants start as a spec the size of a freckle and grow into this long or tall or spiny or leafy or fruity or legumey twisting feat of creation. You add water to that freckle-spec if there is no rain, the sun shines, you make sure the plant has all the space it needs, and it produces stuff you eat for months. See!!! Magic!!!

Our own growth is like this, too. It starts small, so small you might not be able to see it. You make sure it has the stuff it needs for growth, you let it be seen in the light, make sure it has the space it needs–MAGIC!!!!–you have new growth in your life that sustains crushed grapesyou for a long, long time. We are in that process now with working through the “Creating Space” series. Let’s keep it going.

Go get your last 3 sheets we wrote out: your “Hierarchy of Needs”, “List of Shoulds”, and “Core Values.” We are putting it all together and making a plan…making space for our souls to grow. But first, let’s set a few ground rules:

1.)    Be kind!! This means you will speak kindly to yourself. No criticizing yourself & no judging yourself, your needs, or your values.

2.)    No comparing yourself to anyone else in your world, on IG, or in the media. You are unique and don’t have to fit into anyone else’s mold or match up to any one else’s life-model.

3.)    Be gentle!! You can take your time, you can move slowly, you can try and fail and try again. You are a real soul who has real feelings and real needs.

Let’s start…with another sheet of paper…yup, I said it…or get that journal that we talked about last time. We are going to create our “8×11 Life”.

Write your core values at the bottom. Make it pretty, if you want. They are your foundation and everything you add to your “8×11 Life” will have those values in its DNA. Interestingly enough, as I worked through this on my own, I found that my values have shifted in the past 6 years. This happens. We grow, life changes, our hearts heal and unlock new treasures of our soul. While “Belonging” and “Adventure” remain, I’ve shifted “Love” into the category of “Belonging” and have added “Beauty” (not on that list I gave you here). I’m leaving that a little loose though. “Thoughtfulness” is holding pretty strong up there, too. But I see those 2 as sisters; beauty is thoughtful. The way God put together the beauty of the redwoods and oceans and hair follicles was so very thoughtful. When I put together a houseplant vignette in the corner of my living room, I am thoughtful to make it beautiful. I take my time, I look at the spot multiple times every day for a week to make sure it is just what I want. I switch the chair next to the plants, I try different side tables and throw pillows. So, “Beauty” and “Thoughtfulness” go hand-in-hand for me. All of that to say, NEW VALUE for Melly!!!

Now, back to our task at hand. Now that we have our values in place, pull out your “Hierarchy of Needs”. Start at the bottom of your pyramid and give your needs some space. For example, I struggle with sleep. I’ve done some emotional excavation around that struggle and discovered that I often feel separate from my family, like I am an employee rather than the loved mom and wife I am. So, I’ve focused on reminding myself that I belong IN my family and not TO my family…then I  let myself have space to rest. It sucks sometimes and feels so difficult.

A friend of mine in Texas once quoted her child’s tutor, “It isn’t hard, it’s just unfamiliar.” That is so true! All unfamiliar activities feel just.so.hard., but they may not be really all that difficult. After the muscles of our mind and body learn how to move in this unfamiliar way we may find that once hard thing has added ease and joy to our lives.  Even though resting and NOT doing work for my family feels unnatural and “hard”, it is just unfamiliar and will make my life better in the long run.

So, fill in those needs. Give them space. Let that space feel unfamiliar and uncomfortable so that it can feel fabulous in a few weeks. Remember that you aren’t making a lifetime commitment. Just scroll back up to 2 paragraphs ago where I stated that my core values had changed. So, give it a try. Just try to give your needs some space and see what happens. If it doesn’t work after a month or two, then you have my full permission to stop and go back to your old ways. Mmmmkay?

What about those “shoulds”? What do we do with those sons of b’s? Well, some of them will have to stay. When I look at mine I see that parts that must stay, but the intensity or the focus on productivity can shift toward a softer, more mindful presence. Like, I want to be more regular with my pottery practice, BUT I don’t *have* to sell it or push hard RIGHT NOW to get it into local galleries and local home décor stores. The push to PROVE success can be removed as it is NOT one of my values. You know what? “Success” may be one of my husband’s values. I often pressure myself to conform to his values because, well, “Belonging”. I want to belong and absorbing into my spouse can mimic that feeling of being seen, being valued, and being loved. But boy, oh, boy has that done me wrong!!! I can practice beauty without trying to work in someone else’s value set.

Keep working through those “shoulds”. How can you shift them to honor your values? If you can’t make it shift, then drop them completely. Add in the most important ones to your 8×11 life.

Make sure you leave empty space on your page. Even if you feel like you must label aaaaalllll the spaces, don’t. Let there be space in your world for those things that come up unexpectedly—emergencies, last-minute lunches with a friend, oops-gotta-run-and-get-ingredients-for-dinner, mental-health days, etc.

The last step is to stay true to what you’ve written down. Don’t let “shoulds” creep into your space. Don’t let your needs slide off. Look at your weekly schedule and routines. How can you build them to honor your 8×11 life? What can you drop? Where can you add in what you really need? How can you make the boring self-care stuff (paying bills, making meals, washing clothes, take meds) fit better and easier?

I’m going to work on filling my 8×11 page this week and will post it on my Instagram page @bigbeautifuladventure. I’d love to see what you come up with, too. Post your “8×11 Life”, either in-progress or a completed page (both are so great) on IG and use the hashtag #8x11life. I’d love to see how this is working for you.

I’m so proud of the work we’ve been doing. This is hard unfamiliar stuff and takes a lot of bravery and strength to explore. Keep being brave. Keep connecting to yourself and your world. You’ve got this!

Creating Space #3: Your Core Values

This time of year feels so bittersweet to me. There is so much pulling and pushing on our lives. Do you feel the push of August? 20180318_110329.jpgThe push to cram in last bits of fun, to get all the school prep done, to harvest all we planted in the first bit of summer; the push is there, we can’t ignore it. The pull is there, too. The pull toward things of fall is unmistakable. I often find my mind wandering to solo hikes on trails with multicolor leaves to delight my spirit, a morning routine of books and hot coffee on a cool porch, and picking up kids home from school with tired smiles ready for mama’s snuggles. August pushes and pulls me back and forth between making summer last and rushing toward fall.

Kendra Adachi of The Lazy Genius Podcast (one of my must-listen podcasts) urged her listeners this week (episode #70) not to live in fall yet. The calendar still says we are in summer. School may have started up again for some, either homeschool or brick-and-mortar school, but August 16th is still summer. She pointed out that our bodies live in one season while our minds live in another and that can rob us of joy. She encouraged us to let August be a gentle transition from the looser schedule of summer into the firmer structure of fall by building our fall routine gently one item at a time and even doing all of our school shopping and prep done in a day or two…and then leaving it tucked away until it is needed. We can do this without sacrificing our last weeks of summer, soaking in every drop of goodness with our children, with the sunshine, and with the lake and beach.  “Get everything bought and packed and washed and done, and then rest. Look around. Still have fun. Slowly transition, and you’ll be able to say goodbye to summer and say hello to the school year with balance and presence. No desperation. No kicking kids out of the house. No looking back at how you missed out on the pace of summer because you looked into fall too quickly. Go slow. Go slow.”

That is tough to do, isn’t it? Go slow. I’m not so good at it. I move swiftly, always have. I pick up new skills pretty quickly, make new friends in an afternoon, move from task to task in my home at lightening speed, and I talk fast—I speak so swiftly that I often have to repeat myself, which I LOVE (sarcasming pretty hard with that one).Screenshot_20180421-145415_Instagram.jpg

I am so glad that I made it a priority to learn how to go slow. It was a challenge, but one that has been worth every bit of intentionality and effort. By going slow I’ve been able to let go of not-so-healthy habits and behaviors, add in some healthy ones, and get to know people in my world in deeper, more meaningful ways. I’m now a huge fan of slow.

This process we’ve been working on the past few weeks is a slow process. If you don’t have it all figured out by the end of the “Creating Space” series, don’t worry. You don’t have to rush this process. You can take your time. Getting to know ourselves is an important and often slow journey that really is the catalyst for health in all other relationships in our world.

Okay, our next step requires another sheet of paper. Maybe we should have just grabbed a notebook. Maybe you already did. You are smart. Thanks for being great.

This week we get to figure out our core values!!! Yaaaayyyyyyy!!!! This is one of my favorites because you will come ALIVE when you start to acknowledge what is in your soul. Plus, generally speaking, thinking about our self is fun.

All of us (most likely) have different values and they are ALL good. My top values are adventure, belonging and love. Those 3 values pretty much inform most of my thought processes and decisions. That means that values are motivators for all of my thoughts and decisions. If something is adventurous, makes me or someone else feel like we belong, or if love is the basis of something then it gets included in my life. Or at least it gets first consideration for things vying for my attention. You may not give a hoot about those values and that is just fine. You do you!

So, here is a comprehensive list of core values.


You may be able to find a more comprehensive list out there, but this one is still pretty great. We are going to narrow this huge list down in small steps. Ready? Let’s do it!!!

First Step: Read thru the list. If you don’t know the meaning of any of the words in  context, then look up the definition. Here’s a link to a dictionary.

Second Step: Cross out any words that you could care less about. Don’t judge yourself. Like, don’t say you are a crappy person because you don’t care about “Generosity” or “Truth Seeking”. You aren’t. There are other people in this world who have those values and they live them so well. We need you to live YOUR core values as only you can.

Third Step: Now you have a long list of values that have at least some importance to you. Probably feels good but maybe you still are scratching your head. This list is too long to provide any sort of focus in your life. You are right. Let’s cut it down some more; get to your top 20 core values. Important to note that some values may fit in other values for you. Like I find that curiosity fits inside adventure, as does creativity. Figure out what fits in what in order to narrow down your list to 20.

Forth Step: We are making more cuts…let’s get that list down to 10. You might know a few right away. Maybe one or two have surprised you but feel like they don’t fit with how you live your life right now. Give them space and I am sure you won’t want to let them go. If you are going back-and-forth between a few maybe take a few days to try out different values as leaders in your life to see if they really fit.

Fifth Step: Okay, even tougher now…we need to narrow down our list to 3. That is our magic number. If we landed with only 1 core value, then our lives would be run by a dictator of rigidity. That’s no good. Two can and often do work together well. Not all of my decisions fit in all three of my values simultaneously. But my decisions often are made with 2 of my values ruling the roost. 3. You can do it.

Sixth and Final Step: So, for your final step I want you to tell someone your top 3 values. WHAAAAAAAT?!?!?! Don’t be afraid.  I bet your best friend won’t hate you. Tell your spouse, your mom, a trusted co-worker, your counselor or therapist, your priest or pastor, a chat room/fb group, a sibling. Let your values both take up space and be seen. If that seems like too huge a step for you, then just say your core values out loud to yourself (or your cat). The bravery of staying things out loud and the physical act of hearing them spoken is pretty powerful.

Congratulations! How do you feel? When I went through this process I felt free and alive in a way I hadn’t experienced before. Really, it felt like I was no longer unimportant and constantly failing. I felt that way because I had been living in the values of OTHER PEOPLE. Remember how I said that you can live your values as only you can? It is so true! When you try to live the values imposed upon you or values that you think you should have (ugh, there is that rotten word from last week) you will never live up to expectations, or if you do, you will be exhausted and drained. You know you have your right values by how alive you feel when you think or say each word. Confirmation comes when you start to live out those values and life feels happier, easier and fuller.

When you come back next week we will use our values to eliminate some shoulds from your life and set yourself up to take care of your unmet needs identified in week one of this series.

I’d love to hear how this is working for you. What are your top values? How is knowing them affecting change in your life? You are important to me and I want to hear about your journey.

See you next week, Brave Hearts! As always…

Be curious. Be brave. Be connected.

Creating Space #2: Don’t should all over yourself!

This summer has been challenging in my world and creating space has been more difficult than I imagined it would be. I didn’t go into summer blind. This is my 15th summer as a mom and generally I know what is coming. I did my prep homework, listened to podcasts about helping make summer more “manageable” (THIS is my go-to podcast; episodes #62-65 are all about summer), I readied the house, I made my calendar, I opened my heart. Buuuuuuuut, life sometimes throws us curves that knock down all our nicely lined up little boxes.




A mental health crisis with one of my kids and my own medical “crisis” (2 surgeries…no fair) in the early weeks of summer sent us straight into emotional and physical disequilibrium. It has been a bit rough. I’m not really struggling, but the extreme lack of summer fun left a damper on our whole household. Summer brings challenges with all the extra bodies around, increase in amount and duration of noise and words, more planning, more cooking, for some reason more laundry (can’t they all just live in their swim suits and “bathe” in the sprinkler?). Add to that the unexpected challenges we had to manage, and I felt like all my space is used up.

So, while this summer has been anything but typical, life is already starting to self-correct. I am healed from my stuff and my child has their care established and rolling forward (huuuuge relief); I am quite hopeful that in the last 27 days of summer will see margins reestablished and fun/connection flowing freely again.

How have you felt this summer? Do you feel too rushed or your world too loud? Are you feeling like yourself or do you feel like a manager of tiny humans without the connection and fun piece? Do you feel drained? Does the idea of more space in your days sound too sweet to pass up?

Creating space isn’t an easy task, but certainly well worth it. It requires honesty and bravery. You will have to tell some people NO, you will need to quit some committees or groups, you will need to lower your standards in some areas of your life. Those thoughts might terrify you. When we let go of our involvement, our systems, all the things that take up space, we lose a fair amount of control in our lives. At least we think we do. That’s a post for another day.FB_IMG_1529191484731.jpg

By saying no and quitting activities you might worry that you will lose friendships in the process. (I just want to point out any “friend” that ditches you based on the removal of a service to them is NOT a friend.)  You might worry about losing career momentum or social status or cutting back financially. All of these are legit worries and it is best to know up front that you could have some mourning to do in the future. But let’s not jump ahead of ourselves.

In my last post we took a look at our hierarchy of needs thanks to Maslow and his wonderful pyramid. (I’m so grateful that God made so many smart people throughout history.) I challenged you to create your own pyramid to see where you might have some neglected needs. We can’t move on to “bigger and better” until we have a solid base to our pyramid. How did that go? Did you learn some things about unmet needs? Do you see how those lower unmet needs are keeping you from moving on to other social and self-actualization needs? I’d love to hear how the exercise worked for you.

This week we are going to need another 8×11” piece of paper and a pen—bonus points for a purple pen, of course. I am super visual and love to compartmentalize the areas of my life. If this doesn’t work for you, think about how you can examine your needs, your responsibilities, and your room for margin without the visual aid.

Before we know what can be let go, we need to know what IS. Today’s exercise is all about discovering all that occupies space in our life either as an actual thing or a thought of a thing, a pressure to be more, do more, produce more.

So, grab your paper and pen and start writing out everything you think you SHOULD do. This list will contain a mix of things that are necessary, like sleeping well and eating vegetables and going to work, and those things we think we need to do because someone in our world tells us we should. The people who tell us what we should do could be people we’ve invited into our lives—”gurus” like self-help, nutrition, movement, relationship experts or even religious leaders and teachers, and also friends or social groups; or people who MUST be in our lives–teachers, spouses, parents, children, employers, the government…you get the picture. The list may take up the front and back side of your 8×11” paper.  Keep this paper out where you can see it and add to it any time you feel that “should” push in your mind.

shoulds list

Here is my list, written just now. I wrote everything that filled my mind right away. I am sure my list will be longer next week.

Your list might frustrate you. Once you see all the shoulds listed out in written form you may feel like laughing, crying, or screaming. You might feel overwhelmed, but take heart! You don’t have to do everything on this list. We can’t keep “shoulding” on ourselves. Should is a bad word from here on out, okay? We don’t ever need to live by shoulds.

So, this week, keep writing your list. Write out everything, no matter how tiny. Do you feel that you should use recycled paper toilet paper? Do you feel you should be happier? Write it down. Fill up as many papers as you need and bring it with you for the next post.

Next week we are going to look at our values and what we want to fit into our 8×11” life. This is getting interesting!!

As always, be curious, be brave, and be connected!!

Creating Space #1: Your Hierarchy of Needs

The past year I’ve been working at cutting out unnecessariness from my life. You know, those things that say they should be in your life, so you work to fit them in, but you really don’t enjoy them or find they to add anything to your life. Yeah, *those* things. I didn’t dive head-long into my life-purge and cut my days down to nothing, like some sort of fad diet. Instead, I’ve been mindful, contemplative, and intentional with figuring out what goes and what stays. There were times that I was a bit unfeeling in the culling of American mom-life busy work, but generally this has been a very thoughtful process.

I’ve mentioned before that 6 years ago I was in a class that helped me define my life’s values—those abstract ideas that pull my soul into light and move me into life. Adventure landed in my #1 spot, but I’ve taken years to let it live there, seeing light, growing with me and leading me onto a path that I found was single-file width. The path toward honoring our values is narrow for a reason. You can’t fit everyone else’s values next to you on the path. You have to set down the arms full of everyone else’s stuff that you have collected over the years. It was all part of that thoughtful purge to free myself to be myself.

Is any of this resonating with you? Do you feel weighed down by what you think or what you are told you should do? Do you feel sick of it yet? Want to try to let some of that stuff go? Let’s do it. Let’s take a look and see what small steps you can take to free up your life to live your own values.

The term “creating margin” is used quite frequently in today’s blogging and self-help realms. I usually hate any pop culture terms but this one creates a picture in my mind that I love. Imagine that all the space your life can take up is an 8×11” sheet of paper. That’s all you get at any one time. We need to be ultra-picky about what we allow in there. Certainly, we can try to fit on 100 different tiny values/tasks/responsibilities/categories, but then what kind of room are we leaving for the unexpected? What kind of space are we leaving for spontaneity or creative freedom or time zone mix-ups? If we have every bit of space occupied, we aren’t ready when certain categories need more space. Then, we stress when categories overlap or when new categories pop up and need space and there IS NO SPACE. We need margins in that life-space. We need room in between the categories. The margin is where we get to just BE rather than DO.

But how do we create margin? I have some ideas…

So, let’s start with an 8×11 piece of paper. Go get that. Don’t forget a pen. I’ll wait. I use a purple pen almost exclusively. My mom does, too, so does my oldest daughter. It is kind of our thing and I find that I almost instantly trust anyone else I meet who has a purple pen in her purse. Are you back now? Great! Let’s do this!

Look at this cool graphic—Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

hierarchy of needs

This is a great tool and if you haven’t noticed yet, I love a good graphic. On the bottom, you find our essentials, the physiological needs. These are pretty standard for everyone—autonomic responses like breathing and excretion—and biological functions like food and sex and sleep and homeostasis (the ability to come back to “normal” after stress). We usually don’t make space for those things in our lives, as we consider them to be more of a given. Like, they automatically get space; however, moving forward I think that considering those needs is important.

As we move up the pyramid, we find each category builds on the other. We can’t move on to realizing our needs in each level until the needs of the previous level are at least mostly met. That top area is called “self-actualization” which means our needs are met in such a way that we can be free to live as God made us to be. God made me an adventurer, but I couldn’t start realizing that “self-actualization” need until I started to meet the rest of my needs below it.

This is where our sheet of paper comes in. Draw a Maslow’s pyramid for your own life; list HOW each one of your needs are being met in each level. Next to the pyramid list any needs that aren’t being met adequately or at all. Be curious, ask yourself questions, examine your patterns, take your time. Be brave and be HONEST about your needs. I bet if you have some gaps toward the bottom levels, you have some big blanks in the top levels. That’s okay. No one is judging you. This is a tool for you to figure out what gets more space in your 8×11 life. Denying your needs doesn’t make them disappear. So let them take up space.

I’m going to be brave and show you mine:


It isn’t fancy or pretty, but it is pretty accurate. I have a lot of my basic needs met, so I’ve been able to move up to meet other needs…but have a ton of gaps in “esteem” and “self-actualization”. I look down to my see gaps in the bottom three levels. I know I won’t get very far toward reaching my top goals if those gaps don’t get some attention.

THAT is where I start creating margin. I can see from my pyramid that I need more sleep, more water, and skills to manage my anxiety attacks better. I also need peace in my home by making the fixer-upper projects come to an end (good Lord, it has been almost 4 years straight of home repair and dust and tools and odd room configurations). I also feel like I need to make more money in my life. My husband earns more than enough and I work (very) part-time at a domestic violence shelter. I’ve never really been a money-maker as I LOVE the non-profit realm. I’m not lacking money for life, but I do see that I need more for my adventures (distance hiking isn’t cheap and traveling via plane to all the places I MUST see will cost a good chunk change). I think I might be able to make more money doing 2 things I like to think I’m skilled at—writing and speaking. Also, I don’t feel completely connected to my community. I don’t have a church that I love. We have one that we attend irregularly, but I’m just not feeling it. I miss having a church community. I miss being part of that kind of family. It is a need that isn’t being met.

So, let’s start with that and explore more next week. Work on your pyramid this week. Pray, think, meditate, or do whatever you do to process things. Talk to a trusted friend or pastor or counselor or spouse or your mom about your pyramid. They might have some good insight into what they see in your life. Be brutally honest about your needs and if they are being met. I know this might feel like it could hurt someone in your life. That’s okay. Your needs are allowed to take up space. You are allowed to meet your own needs or ask for your needs to be met. Really. You are allowed to take the time and space to do this.

Next week we will have another pen and paper exercise to help us map out our needs and responsibilities AND create margin in between them all. Until then, Brave Hearts, be curious about what your heart and body and mind need. Be brave enough to be honest with yourself and someone else in your world. Be connected with yourself, your real life, your areas or lack and overflow. We can do this!

Feel free to email me at bigbeautifuladventure@gmail.com to share your pyramid. How can I support you in this journey? I’m happy to help take a look and help with the process.

Next Post in this series click here!!