Death to the Stock Photo Writing Prompt #1 – The Obstacle & the Path

Sidenote: I love to write but sometimes get completely stuck on what to write. Prompts are a really cool way to kick through a writing block and keep me warmed up and in the practice of writing regularly. Sometimes the stuff that comes out is complete garbage. Sometimes there are some diamonds in the rough.

The fine folks at Death to the Stock Photo have partnered with creatives (like Paul Jarvis) on occasion in the past to issue writing prompts and whatnot. Recently, they created their own series. If you’d like to participate, they post the prompts on their page at Medium.

Death to the Stock Photo writing prompt #1

The prompt.

What’s your biggest creative challenge, and how do you overcome it?

My response.

Creative challenges abound for creative people. Anyone who tells you they are endlessly creative all the time is a liar. We all hit obstacles. Sometimes they are a mere nuisance and sometimes they are debilitating. Read more

Forget cyber Monday – I celebrated fiber Monday!

I’m a little late getting this post up… a plague descended on our household post-Thanksgiving. There was a lot of coughing, couch naps, and sinus headache crankiness. We’re starting to sweep up all the snotty tissues now and consume more than just Nyquil so I wanted to report on my cyber Monday adventure.


So who really needs cyber Monday? I had a FIBER Monday!

I had the privilege of visiting Villa de Alpacas – the farm at Villa de Sales in Acquasco, Maryland the Monday after Thanksgiving.

The owner – Angel – is a family friend and she graciously gave me a tour of several areas of the farm. Naturally, the best part was meeting the alpacas and llamas!

Angel’s farm is one of only 4 remaining bicentennial farms in the state of Maryland. And it is the only continuously operating and self-sustaining bicentennial farm in the state.

I feel really strongly about historical preservation and maintaining buildings versus pillaging our green areas to build tracts of McMansions. As evidenced by my own 165-year-old domicile and my ever-growing disdain for structures that are younger than me… but I digress!

The point is, I’m really in awe of what Angel has accomplished – both in preserving her family’s legacy and in using the alpacas and llamas as a unique solution.

Llama alpaca collage
Alpacas and llamas galore!

Angel’s property and gorgeous Victorian home are awe-inspiring but her animals and the amazing things that are made with their fleece are the real stars of the show.

Although quilting and sewing are my main passions, I also knit so I know alpaca fiber is fabulous. Their fleece can be as soft as cashmere and is warmer than wool. Plus it is hypoallergenic! Since alpacas don’t have lanolin, their fleece doesn’t cause allergic reactions that way that wool does for some people.

You don’t have to knit to appreciate the lovely things that Angel and other artisans make with alpaca fleece. During my tour of her studio and shop, I was harboring serious fantasies about snuggling down in a pile of alpaca blankets and sweaters for an afternoon nap.

Alpaca kisses
Penny gets a kiss from Bonquita!

As I said, the highlight of my afternoon was my visit with some of her “girls” – a dozen or so alpacas and llamas. (Angel owns about 200 animals – 65 or so are on her property. The boys and girls are separated like any kind of livestock and I just met a group of the girls.)

It was cold and rainy, so my visit to the barn was short. But let me tell you, nothing is more delightful than a kiss from an alpaca and some snuggles from a friendly llama!

Angel’s girls were friendly and curious and they like to have their necks rubbed. I was thrilled at how soft they are! I just wanted to hug them and pet them all day long.

Please check out Angel’s website for interesting info about the farm and about alpacas. I believe she is working toward making some of her gorgeous alpaca fleece products available for sale online in the near future so keep your eyes peeled!

How my two days with Death were unforgettably amazing

Death Salon at the Mutter Museum

Death and mortality are such great topics to explore both in creative expression and in mindfulness practices, don’t you think? And what better time to dwell on the subject than the Halloween season!

Last week Connor and I spent two days in Philadelphia with a couple hundred of our fellow deathlings at the Death Salon. This was an event put together by the Order of the Good Death and hosted by the Mütter Museum. Read more

How to change the world

Be the Change |

This post was originally written as a guest post for another site. It never got published so I’m adding it here. I strongly believe that what you do matters, no matter how big or small.

Be the change you wish to see in the world.Mahatma Gandhi (Although, word on the street is that he probably never said this.)

I remember finding this quote on a bottle of kombucha a number of years ago. I peeled this bit of the label off and taped it to the back of my cell phone where I saw it every day.

I thought it was a really nice quote. But, I’ll be honest, I couldn’t relate to it much at the time. It spoke of activism to me. And I DO NOT think of myself as an activist.

Sure, I had – and still have – strong beliefs. There are great injustices in the world that should be tackled. Wrongs that should be righted.

But who am I to fight any sort of fight? How does my voice make any difference? I’m white. I grew up lower-middle class. I’m perpetually broke but not broke enough to take wild chances.

Big change seemed like a losing battle to me. And who has the time, anyway? I’m a mom, a person with a full-time job, a mortgage to pay.

But here’s where it got dicey for me.

I’m also an artist and creator. Despite my full-time profession, my creative endeavors have always been there on the margins. In the past few years, those projects began to rattle their cages more loudly.

I was still looking at that quote, too. I can’t explain why but something made me transfer it over to my new phone. It was tattered and wrinkled but still visible through the transparent case on the back of the phone. (and it’s still there, even today!)

Somewhere around September or October of 2012, a realization welled up inside of me. I can’t point to one “kicked in the head moment;” it was more like my internal tea kettle went from simmering to boiling to whistling in fairly quick succession.

The realization went something like this: (cliche alert) Everyday is the first day of the rest of my life. I shouldn’t be waiting for a flash of lightning or the time and resources to do something immense with my talent.

I should be doing something NOW! Today!

That realization coincided with the reemergence of a long-abandoned spiritual journey. I became a seeker again and started allowing myself to have faith and believe in the magic of everyday things.

Holy crap. I suddenly realized I was being the change I wished to see in the world. It was by knocking aside the nonsense and getting clear on what I wanted in my life and beginning to see what my purpose was in serving others. (aside: the answers to those questions are always a work in progress.)

I didn’t start a revolution, I just started walking my talk.

I wanted to be optimistic so I started looking for inspiration. And then talking about it. I wanted less anxiety and more fulfillment. So I sought solutions to that and talked about it more.

Lo and behold, I began to see changes in myself. Happier, more optimistic, less anxious. People started noticing and also mentioning that my subtle changes were inspiring to them. They asked me for suggestions and advice on doing the same.

Even people who had no idea what I was up to – who didn’t subscribe to my mailing list, or read my blog, or follow me on Facebook – commented on the value I brought to a conversation. It was like I was a good role model or something. Whoa! ME?! A role model? no effing way. That is crazy talk!

In all seriousness, by focusing on improving myself, I realized I could help other people make positive changes too. Some days it’s through a blog post or a few Facebook updates. Some days it’s through an email or text message to one person.

My way of being a catalyst for change doesn’t happen overnight. I’m just not a big, bold revolutionary. But I strongly believe it’s the small steps and the little actions that have lasting impact. It’s a total cliche but I mean it in the best possible way:

Everyday is the first day of the rest of YOUR life!

Ask yourself: How will I be the change I wish to see in the world?

This is what lonely feels like

What lonely feels like | a story at Creative + Mindful |

I wrote this for the Bravery Blogging Project. I want everyone who ever feels lonely to know that they are brave in my eyes. Just because you are by yourself and feel like an island doesn’t mean you are alone. #braveblogging

I’m an only child. And an introvert. And suffer from anxiety. And social awkwardness. Growing up, I was labeled “painfully shy.”

Which is why I go to events alone. Obviously.

Read more

David vs. Goliath… but how dare David charge that much for a toga pattern?!

David vs. Goliath | blog post on Creative + Mindful |

Humans have a knack for criticizing. For railing against the unfairness of it all. For finding fault first. I’ve taken a look in the mirror. I know I can be a glass-half-empty kind of girl.

The truth is, you can’t please all of the people all of the time. You can’t even please some of them some of the time. It’s been awhile since I’ve taken to my internet soapbox but I’m feeling a little salty today.

Read more

Why bother? Here’s why. (plus 3 suggestions for getting over that attitude!)

Just. Do. It.

When I was a kid, I regularly tried to convince my mother that making the bed was a waste of time. “Why bother, Mom?!” The covers would only get messed up again later that night when I went to bed.

I think her response was something like, “Why should I bother cooking dinner, then? You’re only going to get hungry again.” Touché, Mother. Touché.

Unmade beds and sarcastic mothering aside, I’ve noticed a lot of my peeps – myself included – tend to get a “why bother?” attitude towards our creative projects. We get a creative block, so to speak.

There are a multitude of reasons why we should bother. I’ll get to that in a minute. But first, my inquiring mind had to analyze where “why bother?” comes from. I came up with a few different possibilities.

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Minding the mindfulness

Scales of justiceAs I’ve been planning to unveil the Creative + Mindful website, I’ve been stockpiling a bunch of resources about mindfulness and meditation.

I think of myself as fairly down-to-earth and pretty darn logical. But I do also feel like I’m a solid example of how engaging in the practice of mindfulness can change a life. Which is why I was surprised to find a number of articles slamming mindfulness.

Read more