Thursday, April 23, 2015

Enjoying: Small Messes, Little Efforts

For months now, I’ve preferred to write at my kitchen counter, a tiny office space carved out at the last bar stool while my real desk in my bedroom is slowly taken over by stacks of books and papers and a thin film of dust. I can work amidst a mess, I tell myself—a half-truth that has been stretched into all sorts of creative bullshit to justify not being organized. “We’re creatives,” I tell my sister, “artists thrive in mess.” The fact is, this isn’t true. No one thrives in messes except maybe cockroaches. What happens when I shove dirty dishes aside to open my laptop is that the mess just gets louder in my head. And to avoid it, I shop online or read pop-up articles or find any and all distractive things to “get me inspired.” It’s all additional clutter, an anchor to unproductivity.

I’ve fooled myself into thinking that I have to clean the whole mess if I’m going to clean any at all, and since the whole mess is too big and I don’t have the energy to clean it all up right now, I walk away from all of it. It’s easy to do this in other areas of life as well—friendships and marriage, parenting and health, home projects and personal goals. Big messes are not singular though—they are compilations of small heaps that together look daunting and insurmountable but alone are just a few Windex squirts, a long run, a kind gesture, an “I’m sorry”, a procrastinated e-mail, a few paint strokes and a better choice away from noticeable brightness and a clearer path.

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No matter how urgent everything else feels, I’ve been devoting time to cleaning small messes lately—things that I know are cluttering my brain, weighing me down to what I don’t want to do. I don’t clean them all, but one is better than nothing, creating powerful momentum to tackle more. A clean counter, a rinsed sink, a laundry basket follow-through, one e-mail, a put-off phone call, a chapter in a book that I will finish, a choice for the healthier option—nutrients over junk, people over screens. It’s not a transformation—that’s far too intimidating a term for me that comes with the expectation of cleaning all the mess, of fixing all the “be betters” in one fell swoop. But I’m good at celebrating the small things, be it little people, little moments or little messes cleared for good things to happen in the small space created.

The only mess I can work amidst is one I'm making efforts to clean, however small those efforts may be.


Enjoying this week...

Brave knights.

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Noticers of nature.

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Generous givers of affection.

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Sneaky side glances.

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And unexpected gifts. 
A special needs teacher and faraway friend that I've only met once posted a photo on Instagram a couple weeks back of a stack of notes her students wrote with their Best Buddies. They will be posted and displayed all around the school as reminders to all students. I commented that I loved the photo--that it should be a print. Today, a package was dropped on my doorstep--a large wood block of the print that is now in the girls' room.

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You got this.
Be yourself.
Be love. 
You can do it.
Don't give up.
You're a wonderful person.
...and, my favorite...

All was be pawd of your self.

I love people. We are all small messes that together make big miracles with little efforts of love.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Preparing Your Son Or Daughter for College: Suggestions for Parents of Children with Intellectual Disability

Last month, when Liz Plachta and I traveled to North Carolina to observe the UP Program in action at WCU, I took lots of mental pictures of what I saw--a promising future for Nella and a target more clearly defined for our hopes that consequently guides our actions today. It's important to note that college isn't the be-all and end-all of life, even for kids without intellectual disabilities, but it does represent something that we all want for all of our children--learning and opportunity, not to mention a fulfilling social life and independence. Whether one pursues these things through college or not, what we saw at WCU provided meaningful inspiration for me and Liz--moms of kids who, twenty years ago, would have had a different outlook for the future. Because I'm a nurturer by nature, I often have to remind myself to step back in parenthood--put my worries aside so that my nurturing doesn't hinder my children's ability to fly and figure things out for themselves--flying that will, no doubt, deliver experiences that are hard, that hurt their feelings, that don't go perfect on the first try. With Nella, these reminders are even more critical for the success of her future. If I constantly view her opportunities through the filter of "she's going to need us more," I will clip the wings she was given to fly.

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What we observed at WCU was truly beautiful--a microcosm of what we want to see more of in the real world--inclusion at its best--students of all abilities working together and learning from each other. Zach and Ali both live fulfilling lives of independence that are seasoned with friends and learning, failures and success. There were several things I witnessed that I asked about later--"Wait, who's helping them with that? Do their parents know they're making plans for the weekend? How are they going to get there?" Dr. Westling and Dr. Kelley smiled at our questions. "They have to learn how to do these things like everyone else. They'll figure it out. We don't jump in to do it for them."

Liz and I joked that we'd get kicked out of the program after they found us in camouflage, hiding in the bushes, spying on our kids to see if they needed us. Letting go is hard, especially when disabilities have required more of our support over the years--but I don't ever want to hinder my kids' success. We now promise to hold each other accountable and to meet for donuts and coffee when we're feeling the itch to shadow our kids in college. Nella will mostly likely kick me out anyway. "Mom, get out of here. You're embarrassing me, and I need to study for my exam."

Nella might not be a Zach or Ali someday, and that's okay--she's Nella. But the world of opportunities for individuals with intellectual disabilities continues to expand with more knowledge, more stretching, more chasing, more asking, more letting go. The fact is, college is possible. Independent living is possible. Fulfilling employment is possible, and these things were hardly existent years ago. With a glass-half-full perspective, I'll choose to see that word as beautiful: possible. And with our family's efforts and our community's support, we can fill that glass right up to the top. Likely.

It's clear after spending a day with Dr. Westling and Dr. Kelley that they not only have years of experience with individuals with intellectual disabilities and a deep knowledge of special needs education, but they have a remarkable passion to help individuals succeed. They believe in inclusion in education and the workplace with all of their hearts. They've given their life's work to helping individuals with intellectual disabilities soar, and they want to help others do the same. I'm so honored to have their words and hearts in this space today. Their advice is so valuable, I found myself shaking my head through every tip, pertinent not only to Nella but for each of my children.

For every one of us...a brighter future starts today.

Preparing Your Son Or Daughter for College:
Suggestions for Parents of Children with Intellectual Disability

David L. Westling, Ed.D. and Kelly R. Kelley, Ph.D.
The University Participant Program
Western Carolina University
Cullowhee, NC 28723

It is not uncommon for us to receive each year five to ten times the number of applications to the University Participant Program, our postsecondary education program for students with Intellectual Disability (ID), for the number of slots we have available. Parents are quickly learning about the availability of college programs for their children with ID, and they are seeking admission to them at an unprecedented rate. As they do, they often ask us, “What can we do to increase the chance our child will be admitted?”

Unfortunately, when they ask the question, it is often too late for them to do the kinds of things that will ready their child for college. The kinds of attitudes and activities that are most important should begin early in life and continue until the young man or woman is ready to enter college. So through this paper, we are reaching out to parents to tell them what we think will best prepare their child for college. We hope you will find these suggestions useful.

1. Know that the family is the key to success.

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Photo by Kristina O'Brien, courtesy of Lauren Perlin

The clearest lesson we have learned is that the family is the key to what their child can accomplish. There is nothing we can teach in our program, or that students can learn, that will lead to positive outcomes if families don’t support these outcomes. Families have to realize the potential of their son or daughter from early in life and promote their full participation in life so that they can achieve as much independence as possible. Without this attitude by families, there is little we can do. So if we do not recognize this attitude in the family, and know that it has been present from the beginning, we will likely not admit an applicant.

2. Know that the role of parents must change during the child’s life. 

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Photo courtesy of Shannon Blaeske

It is very natural for all parents to want to nurture and protect their children. This is what good parents do. But good parents also give their children lots of chances to learn, let them find their interests, let them practice their skills, encourage them to try new things, and let them test their wings. If parents stop at the point of “nurturing and protecting,” their children will not gain in learning new things or acquiring independence. Even though the mental development of your child may not be the same as that of others, your development as a parent must progress so that your child can progress as much as possible. We are most interested in applicants who have done as much as they can with what they have to work with.

3. Be future focused. 

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Photo courtesy of Colette Cosky

If you have not already noticed, soon you will: Life happens very fast. For many parents, the activities of life are so overwhelming that it is difficult to look beyond each day. But days go by and before you know it, you have a young man or young woman living under your roof, and you are trying to figure out what the rest of his or her life will be like. Even though you might not know exactly what the future holds, start getting ready for it. Make sure your son or daughter is fully involved in family activities, community organizations, and is taught in inclusive schools and classrooms. He or she should have chores and responsibilities, should learn that work is part of life, and should think about career options. We can usually tell when a person has been immersed in life activities, and this is the person we want in our program!

4. Have high expectations

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Photo courtesy of Heather Rodriguez Photography

Everyone progresses to the highest level they are able to achieve if there is a clear expectation by those who matter that they should do so. Not everyone will be a nuclear physicist or a Nobel prize winner. But everyone can go to school, have interests, find a career (or two or three) and have a happy life in a happy home. This is not too much to ask for anyone. The only thing that can get in the way is if there is not an expectation for this to happen, or worse, if there is an expectation that it cannot! You might not know now exactly how it will happen, but if you expect it to, it will. When students apply to our program, we ask them why they want to come. When they have a clear picture of what they want in life, we know that they are more likely to be successful in our program.

5. Let your child take chances and make mistakes

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Photo courtesy of Heather Seal

We know that safety and security is the number one concern for parents, but opportunities to take risks are also important. And sometimes these risks will lead to mistakes. But if there are no risks being taken, and no mistakes being made, there is no learning occurring. On our college campus, we expect that our students will venture into new settings and activities, and that some of these will be a little risky. We try to guide them and help them avoid big mistakes, but at the same time, we know that what they have experienced earlier in life will better prepare them for life on campus. When we view applicants as having experienced a relatively sheltered life, we suspect that our program might be too overwhelming for them.

6. Allow voice and choice. 

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Photo courtesy of Heather Seal

Individuals need to learn how to make their own decisions, have a say in their life activities, and know that risks and rewards can be a part of every decision. We often see applicants for our program who turn to a parent or guardian every time they are asked a question. They do not trust their own judgment and feel they will be more correct if they rely on what mom or dad tells them. You have to realize that you will not always be around to make decisions and that the more practice your son or daughter has, the better they will become at it. We like to see applicants who, even though they might struggle, try to figure out for themselves what they want and what they should do. And we know if this is going to happen on campus, it has to start happening early in life.

7. Inclusion is essential

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Photo courtesy of Heather Seal

You cannot teach someone to live in a typical, heterogeneous world...they have to learn it through experience. We can tell when applicants are comfortable around others on our campus, and when they have not had the experiences to help them do so. The best kind of experience for them to have is to go to school with kids without disabilities in inclusive classrooms. As we look at conditions around the country, we know that some states and school districts include a lot of kids with ID and some do not. But we also know this: if parents are steadfast, their kids will be included. Don’t accept anyone telling you your child cannot be included. With adequate support, everyone can! Even though it might take extra effort on your part and on the school’s and teacher’s part, inclusion is the best education for someone who wants to go to college.

8. When the time is right, get a job! 

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Photo courtesy of Heather Rodriguez Photography

One of our outcome goals is for graduates to work in a career of their choice in a community-based job after leaving our program. And the best predictor of getting a job later is getting a job sooner. Kids in high school work at grocery stores, fast food restaurants, and lots of other places. Having a job teaches responsibility, independence, good decision-making and a lot of other soft skills that people need to be successful in the world. Use your network of friends, relatives, and acquaintances to help your son or daughter find a job during after school hours and on weekends and holidays. We find it hard for students to be successful in our job training component if they don’t know that working is an expectation. Let them know, when the time is right, that it is!

9. Take advantage of “natural supports.” 

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Photo by Kristina O'Brien, courtesy of Lauren Perlin

Parents often try hard to get their son or daughter every type of service that is available. Either through the schools or in addition to them, they pursue speech and language therapy, physical and occupational therapy, music and art therapy, dance therapy and hippotherapy, and various other kinds of therapeutic services. Although there is nothing wrong with this, it often results in the person with ID having more professionals in his or her life than non-professional people. In our program, we recruit numerous college students to hang out with and support our UP students. You can do the same by enlisting friends, schoolmates, neighbors, relatives, church members, scouts, and anyone else to spend an hour or two with your child every week. Not only will he or she be in a position to develop more friendships, but will also benefit from learning to engage with a variety of individuals, an expectation on our campus.

10. Share your success stories.

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Photo courtesy of Heather Rodriguez Photography

Lots of times, when a person applies to our program, they have already been successful and have acquired celebrity status. When they apply, they include their newspaper clippings and their videos of television interviews, and we are generally very impressed. When your son or daughter achieves success, if you can, get it publicized. This accomplishes lots of things. It lets the world know that your son or daughter is a capable person, and maybe more important, lets the everyone learn that people with ID can be successful. It also reinforces the notion of success in your son or daughter which will help him or her grow in confidence and pride. And most importantly, it tells the world, and us, that you are a great parent who is proud of your child and will do everything you can to help him or her be a successful person! This is the type of parent we want in our program!

We wish you the best in preparing your child for college or for whatever kind of successful life awaits. For more information about the UP Program, please visit And for more information about all college programs for students with ID, you can visit

Thank you, Dr. Westling and Dr. Kelley for supporting us parents through your words and the work you do. 


An update to the Ruby's Rainbow 3-21 Pledge you all helped make so successful.

It's time to give that money away! The deadline for 2015 scholarship applications is Friday, May 15

Note: This scholarship can be for ANY life-enriching type class (as simple as a local art class, community college program and, of course, programs like the one we shared at WCU). These scholarships are intended for individuals with Down syndrome of all abilities, not just individuals who are pursuing a rigorous college program.

1. This grant is for individuals with Down syndrome 18 years of age or older.
2. Desire and intent to enroll in a class or program that will enhance your life through employment, independent living or life skills, or interests in any other areas.
3. Provide High School transcript or equivalent.
4. Individual’s that were awarded a scholarship from Ruby’s Rainbow in 2014 will not be eligible for another scholarship in 2015, but may reapply again in 2016.
Click HERE to apply now.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Imagination Powers Activate: Pet Rocks

I know this doesn't sound very exciting, but we got a surprising level of thrill this weekend from making pet rocks--so much so, that Lainey woke up early this morning--her eyes barely open--to ask if we could play pet rocks again. I know we parents are very good at pretending we are every bit as excited as our kids for things like watching garbage trucks out front or finding the moon in the sky, but the more you play along, this amazing thing happens. You actually do find these things thrilling. I felt like an 8-year-old this weekend, digging through the craft bin looking for anything that might make good rock hair (pipe cleaner! yarn! felt!) and felt a wave of endorphins kick in watching Lainey write down personality traits for each of her rock pets. Getting swept up by imagination is about the best thing that can happen to a little brain.

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But first, snow cones--a cheery prequel for coming months and a refreshing end to our Farmer's Market morning yesterday.

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Who has time for spoon straws anyway? Dig. In.

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On to pet rocks. They provided hours of entertainment this weekend--both from creating them and imagining stories for their characters.

What You Need

acrylic paint
small paintbrushes
googly eyes

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We dug through junk drawers and craft bins and used what we found to make clothes and accessories. A few ideas:

For clothes & accessories: wire (glasses), yarn (hair), pipe cleaner (hair), felt (hair or clothing), cotton batting (grandma hair), paper doilies (clothing trim), lace (clothing), fabric (clothing), thin ribbon (hair bows), small silk flowers (hair accessory), doll house/Barbie hat, small pearls (necklace)

For Pet Rock house: shoe box, x-acto knife (for cutting door and windows), decorative scrapbook paper (we found a brick print for outside of house and floral for the inside wallpaper), scissors, spray adhesive (for adhering wallpaper), moss (for floor), glue (adhering moss). Furniture and home accessories: dollhouse/fairy garden accessories or make your own

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They transform from dumb 'ol rocks to real characters when you add a mouth. I saw it happen.

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This is Grandma Lou Lou. She's my favorite.

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I love watching my kids name things. There's no rhyme or reason to any of it: Mia, Zappy, Pinto Beans.

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Grandma Lou Lou looks like she's about to do something crazy.

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Making bed sheets.

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And then she took it to the moon by creating personalities, and I died. Of course Grandma Lou Lou is a gem--I mean, with a face like that, how could she not be?

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Watch out for Malloy though. She's a real starts-with-b, rhymes-with-itch. 

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If reincarnation is a thing, then I want to come back as a pet rock.

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Sneaky face.

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Imagination seemed to be the theme of the weekend because our bunnies also became alive.

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And this is why you don't walk bunnies in real life.

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Happy Monday!

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"I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living, it's a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope. Which is what I do, and that enables you to laugh at life's realities." ~Dr. Seuss

Thursday, April 16, 2015

My Mother's Shoe Legacy: High Standards

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"The fact is, sometimes it's hard to walk in a single woman's shoes. That's why we need really special ones now and then. To make the walk a little more fun." ~ the one and only Carrie Bradshaw.  Shoe posts are fun. This one's sponsored by Børn Shoes.

I wore a lot of heels in my twenties, even teaching in my classroom--pointy little toe-crampers ramped up on tall skinny stilts, the higher the better. My mom always laughed, pointing out that my craziness wouldn't last forever and that someday I too would care about comfort as much as looks. I laughed right back, scoffing at her shoe-shopping standards. Arch support? Cushioned footbed? Ha ha ha. Give me height! Blisters! Heel spurs! I'll take them!

Good shoes--along with college basketball, well-made dolls, homemade cherry pie, fabric stores and Gaither Band music--have been one of my mom's obsessions since we younger. "We're going to run in real quick to this shoe store" sounded to us when we were kids a lot like "Here's a fun Friday. How 'bout you roll around on the floor, bored, begging me to leave while I compare leather suppleness and examine insoles?"

I should have known though that along with "You won't always be able to burn the midnight oil like this" and "Just wait 'til you have kids, you'll understand it all," my mom knew what she was talking about with the shoe thing. Let's just make the overall statement like "I See Dead People" that Moms Know Things. Slap it on a t-shirt, put it on a plaque.

Oh, I still have the sky high heels--a few pairs that, given a good occasion--or not--I'll slip on and proudly wear out maybe just to compensate for the other days when my soles are planted as close to the ground where I need them to be. But for the most part, my closet is full of flats, mid-heel compromises and investments in comfort and quality. "That's my girl," I can hear my mom saying.

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For the record, how cute my shoes are is still the final deciding factor in shoe purchases though. My sister and I have also appointed ourselves as cute approvers for my mom's shoes. She'll send us pictures of on-the-fence purchases--the arch support, leather quality, stitching and fine details already passed through her rigorous approval standards, of course--and we'll text back the final say which sometimes looks like: "God, no. Mom! Please! You're still young!"

We've got a lot on our plate as moms and sacrifice a lot of things to make room for something else (clean house for hands-on kid-rearing, sporty car for functional minivan...), we can certainly put our foot down (har har) when it comes to shoes--give me "and"! Comfortable and stylish.

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Black boots

Børn gives moms both, providing all day comfort with on-trend styles, premium leathers, fine details and a unique hand-sewn technique that--are you listening, Mom? You'll like this--allows for a more flexible sole providing a natural feel and ultra cushioning.

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Heels that don't teeter, toes that aren't cramped.

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Turquoise heels

And when you Clark Kent into the phone booth to transform from Park Mom to Drinks with Friends Mom, you can save a step and keep your shoes on because Børn has you covered on both fronts.

Push a stroller, pick up take-out, kick your heels, save the world. All in a day's work, mom.

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Brown sandals

The Gaither Band's not my thing and I haven't seen a single college basketball game this season, but I'm proud to follow in my mother's cushioned-insole, hand-stitched, supple-leather'd shoe steps. And I make a damn good version of her cherry pie.

A huge thank you to the folks at Born who contacted me earlier this year, wanting to get behind our Down syndrome awareness efforts. When they heard about our Ruby's Rainbow 3-21 campaign, they wrote, "How can we help? Can we give away shoes?" They donated free shoes to five people who donated $50 or more, and we're so grateful for their support. 

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Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Woman Crush Wednesday: Nici Holt Cline on Art, Social Media and Leaning In

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I'll be honest, I saved the answers to today's Woman Crush Wednesday interview for my own enjoyment like the last pages of a good book--such delicious relatable soul food and from a dear friend who has been inspiring me for seven years now with her art, her words, her love for her family and her tenacious commitment to live purposefully. I traveled to the other side of the country with Lainey and Nella five years ago to meet her in person and she was everything I knew she'd be--real and funny, not to mention her backyard is a painting you don't want to leave.

Nici Holt Cline is a writer, artist, mother and, to me, a friend I thank my lucky stars for aligning our paths to cross. We talk art, work and purpose over the phone just about every week, and I've filed those conversations into very important folders of my brain and heart--folders I refer to often. She writes at Dig This Chick, sells her handmades at Geo but can mostly be found at home, a word that embodies so much of who she is. When I feel lost, I call home...and she's always there.

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Let's kick this off. I'm bold, Nici's fine print.

You know I'd much rather be doing this in your kitchen over martinis with Andy and Brett watching all the kids, right? So since I'm the interview host and I can move the show where we want it, let's say we're in your Montana kitchen. Early spring, ski hills are a little bare, garden's promising, mountains are everything they always are...beautiful (seriously though, your back yard photos!). What are you serving for food and drink for this interview? Nice hostess I am, right? Making you do all the work.

I am serving something I last-minute curated from my pantry because I don’t plan (and I’m finally 100% groovy with my spontaneity). It’s like 50/50 or, honestly, 80/20 that’ll be a good meal. And if the food is bad, I can distract you with my wit and charm! I sincerely believe in the whole Like Water for Chocolate thing where a cook meditates on the people they are serving, the nourishing feeling they want their diners to enjoy. I swear good vibes can make beans and rice extraordinary. Anyway, you in my kitchen would knead some awesomeness into any loaf I could bake. (go on readers, INFER. *wink*)

It's an offsite interview, but you still get a song to walk out on the stage to. What's your entrance song and what are you wearing?


The Pixies "Where Is My Mind" because that song just gets in me in the guts every time I hear it, like I want to cry and run up a mountain with every person on the planet. Or maybe "This Must Be the Place" by the Talking Heads because it played on a juke box every Saturday night at the Union Club in downtown Missoula when I was 19 and dating my husband and we were out with art school friends; it was a giant foreshadowing into the friendships, marriage and place that is my life today. Oh and I am wearing this new onesie (as my kids call it) / bodysuit that I never thought I’d consider for myself. I see them about and think "oh man, that’s cute on people who have small boobs and straight hips" (um, not me). But for whatever reason, I tried this on (with my kids) and they loved it. Me too. But I remained concerned I was delusional so I texted a photo to three friends. You were one and gave me the green light. I am so thankful because it feels like pjs. Yesssssssssssss.

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Look at you. I love it. Okay, business, business, heart, heart. Let's dive in.

I don't even know where to start because there are so many meaty conversations we've had, about so many topics, that have inspired me. Let's start with art. We'll probably end with art too.

Five years ago, you took a huge risk leaving an art job that you loved to pursue a creative dream. I still remember talking to you just weeks before you finalized it. You were confident that your passion and belief in it all working out would sustain your family. And IT DID. Tell us about that journey. Advice for anyone thinking of doing the same?

This is probably my most asked question on the interweb. At the time I didn’t feel brave or worthy of knowing anything worth sharing over my choice but now? Now I look back on my six-years-ago self and think fuck yeah that was so gutsy (My job had a steady paycheck (about half our income) and insured our family. The path I pursued offered a steady heart and insured my family holistically. I have always trusted my gut and I believe we all have that in us. I think we unlearn it. I did. I relearned it sometime after all my grandparents died and before I had kids. The rhythm in my soul is my compass and the more I trust it the more I know it to be true.

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Photo by Linda Thompson for The Missoulian

A few things:

1. Trusting your gut doesn’t usually manifest the way you imagine. It is literally about TRUST. Like, trusting that whatever happens is an opportunity to live bigger, create more beautifully, walk more gently and glean insight into the next thing. But that trust has to come from a trustworthy place. We must get *there* before we can go *there*.

2. Be honest with yourself. I took this leap having some nuggets in the fire. I wasn’t all idea/no reality. My blog seemed to have something that might be something and I made stuff that people seemed to want to buy. Bottom line: AUTHENTICITY + BE SMART + GO FOR IT. Nothing is worth anything in business if it isn’t YOUR thing.

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Dude. Look at Andy. He looks very skeptical of whomever's taking this pic. 

Use your very own unique skills and proclivities to create your very own thing and people will come. I promise.

Don’t try to grow your readership. Stop asking for people to like your page. Quit reading about online growth models for your store. Just do your thing and believe it will lead you to you next best self. Trust that the people who see/buy/like/endorse you mean it. Deliver on your promises. Keep trying. Forgive yourself, stay true in your intention.

Kind of here-nor-there, but on the same vein really: Nothing drives me more batty then this whole thing about ex-professionals starting an online lawn furniture business and blog because some 1-2-3-get-rich program told them to do it. Actually, many things drive me more batty but I don’t think you are going to ask me about politics, abortion, human rights for gay people, god or contemporary culture for girls. (I'll call you tonight and let's talk about them on the phone). Ahem, next point:

3. Only ever do what you believe in. At first I was thinking only ever do what you love but that isn’t quite right. Sometimes things we believe in require a bit of uninspiring activity. I mean, we have to do certain things to afford our lives. So, if your thing feels like a worthy push toward what you want: GO. If your thing feels like a slog toward more of the same: CHANGE. You don’t have time to do things you don’t believe it.

4. Define success. How does “rich” feel like to you? What do you want with this life? Write it down. Refer to it. Make choices that support it.

We recently had a conversation about what art means to us after we saw something some "stop copying me, this is my art" shit go down from an artist we both admired--it rubbed us the wrong way. I loved that conversation we had. With that said, what does art mean to you? You studied art in school, you embody what a "maker" is in so many ways and--to me, at least--you model so beautifully what an artist truly is. It's less about being able to say "I'm an artist" and more about...pardon me, this is your interview. What is being a maker and an artist mean to you?

Oh, I too loved that text exchange about art and copying and righteousness.

An artist is her. A maker is her. I don’t do the "capital A-artist" or "capital W-writer." Being in a creative space is vulnerable enough without feeling like there is a club surrounding who is worthy and who isn’t. I’ve certainly felt like I am part of the worthy and unworthy camps. I find them equally unsettling. I am inspired by people who create and share as it feels right to them. I don’t believe in “creative types” as I think we are all type a, type b, type q hybrids and have learned to squish certain areas to make room for the areas that make us boom with joy. It’s up to us to nurture our creative selves. Let’s all of us choose the thing that makes us boom with joy and love our neighbors’ choices.

Also, I have been copied. Like, literally a few different times people have made things like I make and tried to sell them to my retailers on the hush hush - for less money. Twice, I’ve discovered etsy shops that completely plagiarized my work - from the fabrics used to the item descriptions and policies. I’ve found pieces of my essays on other blogs. I was hot and hurt a few different times but I have learned and grown from it:

There is enough creative room for every single person on this planet.

The only thing we are in charge of is our own choices. We know our own intention. Let’s honor this gift, let’s be pure about it.

Nobody can copy our brains.
Nobody can copy our hearts.

When we, as makers and artists, inevitably find ourselves in a situation of feeling copied or wronged, we have two choices: put up our fists and point our fingers OR take a deep breath, smile (did you know that smiling allows more oxygen into our lungs?!) and know that there is enough creative room for every single person on this planet, the only thing we are in charge of is our own choices, nobody can copy our brains, nobody can copy our hearts.

How has motherhood changed you as an artist?

Shit. How hasn’t it? How has it? I’m obviously still me but I have a different lens. I am more altruistic, more able to feel creative in the most mundane of circumstances, more patient, more ready. Also, numbers 1-4 up there. Trusting my gut, being honest with myself, making choices I believe in and defining success; my kids changed the way I do business - both in career and in relationships. I see more clearly that everything is ABUNDANT: content, creative energy, ideas, love and space.

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How has social media hurt you as an artist?

I often read something I wrote through another’s viewpoint, which is pretty much never helpful in the wanting-to-be-REAL place. I think will *they* think I am too attached to my kids? Will *they* think I am too carefree? Will *they* think my house looks filthy? Will *they* think that sounds self-absorbed or judgmental or crass or……..????? Sometimes I think why share my work at all? What for?

How has social media helped you as an artist?

It is really cool to have regularly scheduled access to like-minded and unlike-minded people. Also, the mediums I choose to engage with - instagram and blogging - are a fun, creative expression.

We've talked a lot about social media--the good, the bad, the ugly, but mostly the really beautiful things like friendship and inspiration and supporting women. I mean our entire friendship has social media to thank for it. We've had so many conversations about this incredible community but also about those awful moments when we've been hurt by mean comments or second guessed something we put out into the world.

Let's talk about people being mean online first. What have you learned from it?

I get to pick what I listen to. I get to pick what I take home with me. You taught me this, Kelle. Your commitment to not clicking into certain arenas has inspired me to adopt the same policy. Every online conversation we have is a vote for the kind of internet we want. I choose where I get my energy and inspiration and there are so many brilliant sources out there. I can’t help but want to do more, give more. Humans are incredible, powerful sources. I choose the power that uplifts, raises awareness, challenges, progresses and loves.

Also, I am sensitive and I don’t fucking care to change it. I feel it. I am not going to get “thick skinned” and I don’t really want to.

SISTAH! Preach it! (I should also tell you, congrats. You've officially dropped the f-bomb for the first time into ETST, and I'm okay with it. Let's move on.) The friends you've met online? The community you've been a part of? The inspiration? What have you learned from it?

That love is endless and abundant. That kindness and honesty win. There is so much gumption, intelligence and momentum in the pulsing, growing community of people who want to give back, give in and feel what we feel. It isn’t about branding or hits or traffic. It is about being a part of the thing we want our kids to be a part of - and I’m talking way bigger than onlineness here.

I want to make art. I want to write. I want to be involved in all these big conversations that are happening around me. I have professional goals. I have talents. I want to be out there making a difference. But I also want to be home and make breakfast and tie shoes and not feel like I'm left out of the "leaning in" club. Marry these halves, please. In a few sentences...

Oh sister. I believe I have time to be other things when my kids are older. Or I won’t have the time - I can’t control that, but I am in charge of this season of my life. Right now I very intentionally choose to lean in to my family.

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I know I won’t regret it because this feels right, now, and will lead to the next thing that feels right. But, yo, that doesn’t mean I don’t have regularly scheduled bouts of insecurity about my choices. You wrote a best-selling book and are working on another! And you have three more children than me. Every time you tell me to just open my document and type BOOK PROPOSAL at the top I feel twitchy. Every time an art colleague asks me if I’ve been in the studio I feel defensive. Every time old co-workers ask me if I’ll get back into arts advocacy work I feel I like I’m letting them down with my answer.

I cannot marry the halves as they are already one. Our professional goals, talents and desire to make a difference can happen WHILE being moms, not in spite of being moms.

I love you. Can I just say that? Okay, there's an overused word that's been stretched to define so many different things, but I can't help but use it in describing who you are as a friend, as an artist, as a writer, mother, community member, thinker, human being. You are authentic. What does that mean to you?

Overuse away! I love that word. Pretty sure I’ve already used it a few times in this conversation. It means honest, always. Actions speak louder than words. In the non-fiction online world it means the person you bump into on the street is the person you already know.

The way you love the where you live (both in terms of geologic place as well as figuratively, this "place" in your life) has so inspired me to appreciate where I live and this sliver of life. How do you do that so well?

I practice. I believe the deep appreciation and intention I have/strive for is a work in progress. It is available to all of us. We are complex and untidy. But our muse is available in all things, through a gentle attention to detail. I try really hard. You do too and I am so inspired by your drive.

And some fun questions for good measure--favorite nightly routine after a hard day?

Just my immediate family. Music, good food, wine, walk after dinner, early to bed where I cuddle and talk about boring stuff with my husband.

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Five songs on your kitchen dance party play list?

Can I please share some of the dance videos you’ve made? Ok good. Please don’t edit them out.

Very funny. Um, no.

Why is this so hard for me? I have three that immediately come to mind. Fill in my other two.

1. Icona Pop, "I Love It"

2. Kid Cudi, "Pursuit of Happiness"

3. Katy Perry, "This Is How We Do"

4. I'm going to say Justin Timberlake and Madonna's "4 Minutes." It always makes me think of you. We've had a few high-on-life moments together with that song. 

5. Some weird instrumental song that called for weird interpretive moves because I have a feeling you'd rock that out.

You're a damn good cook and kitchen goddess. What's the one kitchen item you can't live without?

Immersion blender

Last best book you've read?

Just finished The Long Winter with my kids. I am amazed with Laura Ingalls Wilder’s ability to stay honest, relevant, interesting to me and appropriate for my five year-old.

Best suggestion for something to make with your kids?

Bread. Easy, hearty, healthy. Science + art. Process + intention. Conversation + down time.

Your heart is big, I love you. Thank you for being you. There is no one alive who is youer than you.

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