Not a Word Wasted

20180118_151546.jpgOne of the great things about technology and social media is the freedom and opportunity it gives everyone to write, share, and communicate with others. But on the other side is the overwhelming amount of words and information we must then sift through to find the “good stuff.”

The more I interact with social media, the more I feel these words rise up in my heart: Not a word wasted. Meaning, I don’t want anything I put here on my blog or anywhere else to be noise, fluff, or attention grabbing nonsense. I want what I say and the space I take up to be filled with purposeful, meaningful substance.

I feel this pull back and forth in wanting to be an actual “real” writer—between just being myself and doing my thing and feeling that there are things I should be doing and giving my time to in order to succeed. I need to build a social media presence and “brand” myself and share a certain amount of pictures and words in just the right space and way as to draw in followers and likes. I need to sale myself and what I’m doing or I’ll get lost in the myriad of others who are likewise writing and sharing and wanting to be heard.

Only, none of this social media stuff has ever sat very well with me. I like it when I like it but then I want to put my phone down and feel no pressure to post or share anything unless I’m independently moved to do so by the beauty I capture in a photo or the words I jot down after I’ve come to a realization I want to share with others.

It seems to have gotten turned around—we capture a photo for Instagram to build an audience and garner attention when really the photos we share would be better to come from such beauty and enthusiasm that we can’t help but share. The landscape so stunning, our heart so broken or full that we can’t help but overflow into the hearts and lives of others with our words and pictures. Better indeed than the turned-around situation we find ourselves in where we take a picture or scribble some words and practically bang down the door on other people’s hearts and lives in order to have our own hearts and lives seen and heard.

Lately, I’ve been writing and sharing here very consistently. It’s good practice for staying in the habit of writing and I find the more I write, the more I have to write about. It’s as if one thought leads to another and my heart opens up more and more to all the beauty and lessons around me that might be captured and shared.

But I haven’t gotten there yet with say, Instagram or Facebook. It just feels like too much work trying to keep up with it all. After all, my real, everyday life is only so sharable and interesting to others—especially when it must be summed up in an eye-popping photo complete with a succinct and engaging description (I’m looking at you, Instagram).

I don’t mean to sound like a hater. Like I said, I do like social media. I get to share and connect with lots of beautiful people only because such tools exist. It’s a really cool time to be alive and such an amazing thing to be a part of. I just don’t want to get carried away by it. I don’t want to become, as Thoreau said so far before his time, “a tool of my tools.”*

Not a word wasted.

So if you hear from me at all, I hope you hear something worth your time and attention. I hope I present to you only my authentic self and only when I’m ready and inspired to do so. Never because I felt compelled by self-centered motivation or the need to merely compete for attention with all the other voices around me. Sometimes I give a lot, sometimes hardly at all. At the end of the day, I have not deluded myself into believing you notice either way.

And if you do, perhaps you, like me at times, need to look up and away from the lives of others and invest a little more into your own. When I start to feel jealous or less-than in the world of social media, it’s typically not anyone else’s fault—it’s me, looking in all the wrong places for attention and fulfillment. And in those moments I’m reminded to keep my eyes on my own road and story. To be who I am and do what I do regardless of who notices or “follows” along. People and crowds and audiences come and go but I must live with myself forever—so there’s that.

If you have something to say worth hearing, people will probably notice and pay attention anyway. And if not, don’t sacrifice the quality of your life and words merely for the attention you might gain in doing something less than your very best in an inauthentic way.

I’m speaking to myself as much as anyone else and asking every time I go to Instagram or Facebook, “Why?” Why are you here? Why are you saying that or sharing that image? Would you do the same if absolutely no one noticed or cared? Or are you living to be seen and putting on a show for a hoped-for audience? Questions I must grapple with every single time indeed.


*The actual quote is, “Men have become tools of their tools.” Henry David Thoreau

 

Why Inspiration Matters

IMG_20171022_221813_524.jpgOnce a week, Darren takes the kids out of the house so I can sit and write. It’s magic and I’m so thankful for his help. Occasionally though, this doesn’t work out and if I want to write, I find myself doing so in all the moments I can find in between—like right now.

The house is quiet for a few more minutes before my son wakes and starts his day like a hurricane. He’s equal parts motion and noise so any activity requiring concentration or quiet must be done during the precious early morning hours before he wakes or while he naps in the afternoon (both assuming his sister is cooperating at the same time 😉 ).

Sometimes though, when the house is quiet and I have these valuable minutes to get things done, I feel a little guilty using the time to write a blog. I could be doing many other things, like pulling my life together for instance.

Is this a waste? Am I being selfish? Avoiding more pressing responsibilities? All of these are questions I’ve grappled with while hiding away with the laptop to tap out words. Words I write mostly for myself and will share with only a handful of people. Certainly I’m not changing the world over here so am I right to use my time in this way?

The answer and release of guilt I needed came for me after a few weeks of that evening alone I mentioned. I found that having a few hours to myself to do something I love refreshed me and filled my heart and mind with new inspiration. I’ve found too that being refreshed and inspired helps me be a better wife, mom, and homemaker.

Why?

Because burnout is no joke and can happen fast when all day every day you’re busy meeting the needs of other people (be it as a mother, teacher, doctor—whatever your vocation and calling may be). While our lives certainly shouldn’t be lived fully and exclusively unto ourselves—we are called to service and sacrifice without question. We also shouldn’t be so busy taking care of everyone else that we completely minimize the need for reasonable self-care.

I think we all know this, really. But I’m here to argue that finding and doing whatever it is that sets your heart on fire and fills your mind with energy and excitement for the next thing is a worthwhile endeavor and not a selfish waste of time.

I shared the picture of my daughter asleep in my lap, computer open, because this is often what writing looks like for me in this season. I write in the scrappy moments in between all the living and doing. And every word I tap out here gives me a little fresh energy and excitement to invest back into my family. My people are my top priority but I’m a better person for them when I take care of myself as well.

For me, this looks like getting up early so I can start my day slowly and quietly with a cup of coffee and my Bible. This gives me a minute to collect myself and prepare my heart before the day is underway. I get dressed in real clothes and put some mascara on because as tempting as yoga pants all day may be, they really don’t help my self-esteem ;). And as I said before, I try once a week to have a few uninterrupted hours to write and create.

Creativity is really so instrumental in raising children and running a home. Have you ever considered how often you, as a wife and mom in particular, use creativity day-to-day with your kids and in your home? In the meals you serve, the way you decorate, how you dress yourself and your family, the projects you do around the yard, house and with your kids—all of these are creative expressions of yourself—of what inspires you and makes you tick. So how worthy an investment then is the time you steal away to nurture your own heart, mind, and creativity? You’re helping yourself for sure but the dividends get invested right back into your home and family too.

Trust me, your family enjoys a happy, healthy wife and momma a whole lot more than a depleted one—I should know because I’ve been both and the difference I see in my family is staggering.

So if you’re struggling with guilt over making time for yourself, feel creative pursuits are a waste when there’s so much else to do, or just feel burnt-out and depleted in general, I hope you will give yourself permission to pursue something you love. This will look different for everyone—for me it’s this little corner of the internet where I can tap my heart onto the page once a week and connect with like-minds. What is it for you?

I can tell you for sure that sitting here writing and having some time alone to think is the fuel that powers so many of my other creative outlets. Typically by the time Darren leaves with the kids, I have made several threats about never having any more children and burning the house down. By the time he gets back, I’m ready to try again with the whole wife and momma things for another week at least 😉

Go do it. Get a cup of coffee. Give your babies to someone else for a minute and find that inner whatever that sets your heart on fire ❤

When the Fire Goes Out

I’ve been in a funk lately. Perhaps it’s baby blues or the relentlessly gray weather or too many days in a row spent at home in yoga pants doing the same dishes and laundry over and over again. I find myself on my phone…while feeding the baby or with a toddler in my lap watching a show. I get bored so I instinctively start scrolling through feeds and looking through snapshots and sentences of other people’s lives.

Creeper.

I know.

I find myself comparing. I find myself looking at the numbers instead of the hearts. I find myself jealous and discouraged because my focus has landed too many times in a row on all the wrong things.

In Love Lives Here, Maria Goff talks about comparison and “keeping our eyes on our own paper,”

He [Jesus] doesn’t want us to become like each other; He wants us to be like Him. The problem is that we’re letting other people do that talking for Him. We all have something we are good at. Figure out what it is and celebrate it.

God stretches each of our lives before us like a canvas. He hands us the brushes and the paint and asks us to make our lives look like our unique version of His love. Pick your own colors, not someone else’s.

Sometimes social media is a huge encouragement and inspiration and sometimes it eats away at my insecurities until I’m convinced I have almost no value at all compared to other people’s success. We all know the pretty pictures and words we see online are just lines and chapters out of someone else’s book—not the whole story. But when we never get the whole story, it’s easy to believe the messy and unlovely parts of our own lives will never size up to Miss Inspiration over there killing it.

To combat the funk and the comparison game, I took a break from my phone. Sometimes you just need to look up and look around for a little while to get some fresh perspective.

When I was tempted to grab my phone, I picked up an old book instead. I’ve been knee-deep in parenting books of late and I was craving something a little less about how to do everything right and a little more about dreams and adventure.

I chose a book I’ve read before about an American girl in Italy. It’s a story about adventure, and love, and a little bit of intrigue. Published over a hundred years ago, the book smells and feels old in my hands as I run my fingers over the slightly raised typeset. IMG_20171115_183613_452.jpgI get lost in the romantic Italian language and descriptions of the landscape. And I remember, the last time I read this book I was in high school or college and dreaming of seeing Italy for myself someday.

After visiting Rome, Florence, Venice, Sicily and many other parts of Italy now, the story feels familiar this time around. I need not rely on my imagination so much as I can actually picture from experience the stucco houses and terraced vineyards. I’ve walked these streets and heard this musical language in person.

Why am I telling you all this? Because it reminded me that I used to dream about big things. I used to pick up old books and get lost in a story. I used to love words because they carried me to far off places and lit my heart on fire.

Lately, I’ve been far too inclined to love words only for what they can get me—likes, follows, shares…a sense of affirmation by being given a virtual thumbs up. Where’s the adventure in that? I let the fire go out and it’s no wonder I found myself in a funk.21551921_10154856780841517_2828362598542887962_o

Tonight I’m sitting in front of a fire sipping coffee and falling back in love with words and the stories they tell. Stories of love. Stories of adventure. Stories of grace and redemption.

And I’m reminded all over again, that I have a story of my own to tell. I have days spent in Paris and Rome, nearly ten years of marriage to a man I still love, the birth of two fiery little babies. I have a Midwest childhood and many a day now spent exploring the streets and nooks of Boston and Massachusetts. I have five brothers. I have one cat. I have a story all my own. And the best part of all—I’m still writing it. There are adventures yet to be had. Love yet to be shared. Words yet to be written. More cities to see.IMG_20160920_122956.jpg

If you, like me, find yourself discouraged by where you’re at, stop and make sure your eyes are where they actually need to be—on your own story. The story you’re still writing every single day with your own words, pictures, loves, adventures, and mishaps ❤

 

Chapter Two: It’s Just a Blog

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I’ve been thinking a lot about this space over the last few months–what it is, why I’m here, do I continue, etc.

When I look back to what this blog was about in the beginning (intended to be a nature journal, essentially), I realize a lot has changed since those very first days of sharing my words and pictures.

There have been times when I had lots of readers and visitors and felt quite connected to people through blogging. And there have been times with hardly any visits, reads, or interactions. A lot of this has come down to me and my own investment in this space, I know.

After quite a long absence when my son was born, I’ve had trouble knowing how and when to pick back up over here—how to connect what this space was and now is into a coherent whole.

And as is often the case when I’m pondering and without answers, I pull in and keep quiet until I’m ready and know what I want to say. Thus the intermittent months of silence on all my social media.

I vacillate between being someone who startles people with my honesty about hard things on one hand and being deeply introverted and private on the other. I realize this sometimes leaves people not knowing where they stand with me—and leaves me not knowing what and how to share in a space like this.

So you want to know what my conclusion is after all these deep thoughts and said ponderings?

It’s just a blog. You should probably chill out.

I tend to over-think things sometimes and this blog is probably one of those cases—I’ve just been taking the whole thing way too seriously. It’s hard, because words matter to me. My words matter to me. And putting your heart and life on the page with written words can scare the fire out of you.

But…

Again, it’s just a blog. These are just blog posts and pretty pictures from one little person in one little corner of the world.

So I’ve decided to calm down and stop worrying. And instead, I’m just going to write and share pictures to my heart’s content without all the anxiety that comes with over-thinking and over-valuing every last word that comes out of my mouth.

That being said, you can expect to see me around here a lot more—like my goal is 3x a week a lot more. You may not like that, I know. You may get sick and tired of reading my words and seeing my face. And if you do, though I’d hate to see you leave, I understand if you decide to go. Kari Ann ain’t for everyone, that’s for dang sure…and that’s okay.

I’ve decided to view this space as a record and an online journal. It’s a place to hash out and write down what I’m thinking about and learning. It’s a place to rant a little and be silly. A place to share what I love and the pictures I’m taking along the way.

I hope you enjoy coming along for the ride.

And in closing, I realize many of the readers I had before are now gone and there are lots of new faces around here as well, so on Friday I’m going to re-introduce myself a little bit. This makes me feel profoundly silly, just so you know. It’s like taking selfies…not my thing looking at my own face close up. But I thought it might be helpful as we kick off with a bit of a fresh start.

And if you come back Friday and see nothing, it’s because I chickened out. So there’s that.

Until then, thanks for reading along ❤

—Kari

Writing When You’re Tired

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I keep telling myself I’m going to write more when I’m not so tired. I’ll get back to blogging regularly any day now, like probably tomorrow-ish.

But I just keep waking up tired. I thought you were supposed to wake up rested? Nope–tired. And then I get tired-er and then I get “I’m not doing anything else but watching Netflix and glaring at people” from about 7pm until bed. So that’s fun.

I’ve been waiting for that energy boost I remember getting when I was expecting my son. That glorious part of pregnancy where you stop feeling miserable and hateful all the time and instead want to clean and decorate all the things. Nope. I just want a nap. And coffee. I want coffee while I nap.

I blame by two-year old son. I blame my husband. I blame you. It’s everyone’s fault I’m so tired. You should be nicer. I could write more if you were nicer to me.

You see the quality material I pull out of my mind palace when fatigued? Amazing stuff, I know.

I’m just excited if I remember why I came upstairs or if I get to sleep through the night without my son waking up to tell–no, scream–that he needs more juice or that there’s a microscopic piece of dirt on one of his favorite toys that he somehow noticed in a dark room while sleeping.

But I’ll be fine. I’m sure I’ll be rested tomorrow. I’ll probably write a book or something…tomorrow-ish.

Definitely any day now for sure.

I Write Because I Want To

60a9ef4dc03ad22e48b521cd2481b779The rain is beating down outside; after months of dry weather I’m mesmerized by the sound—rap a tap tap, rap a tap tap. My son will be awake soon so I hurry with a cup of coffee to the computer to tap out words before my quiet, creative window closes for another day.

After my son was born, I stopped writing for a long time. I felt writing, for me, was a waste of time. I told myself I was too busy, had more pressing things to do, couldn’t spend time on a silly hobby that was going nowhere when I should be focused on more important work.

“Hardly anyone reads your words.” “You’re never going to be a writer,” I told myself. “You’re a blogger nothing more; stop wasting time playing around.” “If you’re not going to ‘make it’ as a writer then you shouldn’t be wasting your precious time fooling with words.”

I lost the magic and the joy in writing and stomped out any words that tried springing up in my heart; so the words stopped bothering me—for a while, anyway.

I made the mistake of thinking I was writing for other people, not realizing that really, all along, I had been writing for myself. I thought if other people weren’t reading my words, they’d have no meaning, never considering how much they meant to me alone. “If I’m not going to make it as a writer, I’m not going to write at all I said”— and the words tattooed all over my heart and soul had a good laugh, knowing, I was made to write and write I must.

Before I could read, I requested a journal for my birthday (a Princess Jasmine journal with a lock, mind you). Since I didn’t know how to spell and write the words myself, I would dictate to my mother what to write for me. Even before I could do the most basic tasks of reading and writing, I had words already pulsing and beating in my heart that I felt, as a little girl, must be recorded.

So perhaps I’m not a real writer, simply a mere blogger instead. Perhaps I’ll never “make it” or be able to tell people confidently, “I’m a writer.” Maybe this is it, this quiet little space in a dusty corner of the internet is the only place my words will live out their lives.

I’m ok with that.

I’m ok, because I understand now that I’m not writing to be known as “a writer” or “to make it” or for other people at all. I write because I like the way the keys feel beneath my fingers as I stroke out words. I like the way black words pop out behind that tyrant of a cursor ever blinking on my screen, seeming always to ask, “What’s next? What’s next?” I like the way my heart races when I’m writing and the way my fingers tremble over the publish button.

I love the cadence of words tumbling one after the other into life and meaning. Even if no one else reads my words, I read back over them a million times myself like a mother who can’t stop looking and marveling at her newborn baby.

Am I a writer then? Beats me. But I’ll keep on writing, simply, because I want to.

Image Credit: jasmine-marie.tumblr.com

Have You Tried?

tumblr_mjep9bMyqa1qgtfe8o1_500This question, “have you tried?” keeps pulsing through my mind. The other day I was admiring someone’s work and the impressive place they’re at in life. I wondered how they got where they are and how so much has been accomplished with all the other daily obstacles of work and caring for a young family. How does one person achieve so much while another struggles to do so little in comparison?

That’s when my nagging question came to mind: Have you tried?

The truth is I don’t always try very hard. I spend more time looking at pretty pictures and imagining the life I want than I do actually building that life into a reality. It’s like the problem everyone complains about with Pinterest where you spend hours looking through and pinning pretty pictures of elaborate meals and projects you will probably never actually taste or finish. This is not to say Pinterest or dreaming is bad. But dreams can become weights around our neck if we never do the work to see any of them achieved.

So I have to ask myself honestly, have I tried? Am I just dreaming or am I doing the planning and work that goes into making my dreams a reality? Maybe instead of sitting around envying the lives of others, I should be busier working and building a good life of my own.

I believe in a lot of ways we live the lives we create. We can’t control everything of course, but there is a lot of power in our hands to plan and work and make something of ourselves and our surroundings.

So the question I should really be asking myself is not, how did that person do so much, but rather, what can I do?

Have I even tried?

When Writing Isn’t Fun Anymore

I was watching a documentary yesterday about the modeling industry and one of the women being interviewed said something that I’m still thinking about. She said when you go through life being known for one particular thing {beauty, intelligence, a particular talent) then it can be quite devastating when you try to pursue a career in that area and find yourself faltering.

She was referring to people who are told all their lives how beautiful they are and how they should be a model. So the person begins to believe they are beautiful and attempts to build a life and career based on that belief only to be met with rejection by the modeling industry. Now everything this person believed about themselves is taken away and they’re left questioning who they really are and what they’re really good at.

This really resonates with me when I think about it in relation to writing and creativity. I’ve been told all my life that words are my thing, my gift. So I started writing and believing I would be successful with sharing words and stories. Sometimes I am; most of the time I’m not. I’m always surprised by how much it bothers me when my writing falls flat and fails to reach people in the way I hoped. I take it to heart because I believe writing is a part of who I am and I’m putting a part of myself and my heart out there every time I bleed words onto the page. It feels personal when I put my heart on the line with writing and people hand it right back to me. It makes me question who I am and what {if anything} I’m really good at if this isn’t it.

I’m not saying any of this so you will feel sorry for me and leave comments telling me not to worry because you think I’m really great. Actually, please don’t do that. My intention is not to feel sorry for myself or to garner pity. I just think it’s an interesting thing to think through.
This has me thinking about how I see myself and how much I allow other people to speak into and influence who I think I am and what I think I’m good at. It also has me thinking about how much I let my expectation and the expectations of others influence the joy I take in writing and creativity.

“Where I create, there I am true.”

Rainer Maria Rilke

I used to enjoy writing and creating more before people were watching. Originally words and creativity were just things I pursued because they brought me peace and pleasure, not because I felt the weight of proving anything by their merit. Blogging has changed this in some ways.
Blogging gives me a public platform to share my words and pictures and allows me to connect with others—and I love that.
But blogging also means I notice and take to heart every time my words or pictures fail to connect with others and I end up second-guessing myself instead of just enjoying the creative process for its own sake. I lose the joy of creating when I let the stats, the likes, and the comments define whether my words have value or not.

“It is both a blessing and

And a curse

To feel everything

So very deeply.”

In the end, I’m not going to stop blogging just because it can be a little deflating sometimes. I probably need to be deflated sometimes :] What I need to work on is how much I let my writing and creativity define who I am and what I’m worth. I can’t build my whole life around the expectation that I’ll excel at this one thing and then lose the pleasure of creating just because I sometimes fail to connect with people in the way I was hoping.

There is so much more to creating that just succeeding. And perhaps the worst failure of all would be to succeed without having enjoyed the creative process itself.

 

Waiting for Perfection

I often catch myself putting life on hold while I sit and wait for the perfect moment to begin. I waste lots of little snippets of time because, by themselves, they don’t feel substantial enough to get anything done. I say I’m too tired. I say I’m too busy. I’ll get so much done later…when I have time.

But time doesn’t come later. All the time we have is the time we have right now. So I’m learning to begin in the small moments in between the hustle and bustle of life. I read, even if there’s only time for a page or two. I write, even if I only get a few words down.

There is no perfect time to begin. And I’m starting to think life might not ever really slow down either. So I’m beginning in the middle, working with the time I have, and getting more done in all those small moments than I ever will while waiting for perfection.

The Hard Work of Creating

Creativity is hard work. It’s one thing to be inspired; it’s another thing entirely to be productive. I find myself lately full of ideas backed by zero action. What’s holding me back?

  • Laziness and procrastination
  • Fear of failing or being misunderstood
  • Getting bogged down by distractions
  • Making excuses about not having enough time or not having enough to say
  • Waiting for the perfect set of circumstances to start instead of just starting where I am

It’s nice to sit around thinking pretty thoughts but it’s also very nearly useless if I never actually birth those thoughts into some form of creative reality.

Sometimes the most important thing I can do is…start. I can stop thinking about what I want and start creating it. I can stop wishing things were different and change them. I can type the first word. I can take the first step. I can begin where I am with what I have.

Creativity is a hard and a beautiful thing; but it’s worth the beauty and it’s worth the work.

So let’s get started.

“If people knew how hard I worked to get my mastery, it wouldn’t seem so wonderful at all.” Michelangelo