Hippie in Disguise Saturns Sister Mushrooms

In the News: Saturn*s Sister Author, Sisterkeeper & Muse

Hippie in Disguise Saturns Sister Mushrooms

We are headed off to camp for the weekend, but I first wanted to share some very exciting news with you. A few months ago I was asked by my friend Tiff if I’d like to join a circle of women that would form a creative group of women and sisters to share their respective knowledge in a mutually supportive way. It sounded pretty great. As the idea evolved and other women joined and we prepared to launch the site I knew this was the right fit for me and that something special was blossoming.

On Wednesday, Saturn*s Sister soft-launched, opening its arms to the world. Please visit! We have a blog that shares stories of motherhood and ideas for bringing calm to our chaotic and creative lives — and there is a lot more in store for it so check back often. Right now, the blog features posts with women from the collective sharing their thoughts on chaos, calm, creativity, practice, clarity, space and inspiration.

You can read my post “Chaos as Magic, Chaos as Life-Giving” here.

Here’s a little excerpt:

“When I am open to the chaotic unknown as potentially beautiful, fresh, new and positive I welcome chaos as everyday magic. This doesn’t mean that having two baskets of laundry to fold and a sink full of dishes feels magical, but it does bring a pleasant mindfulness to the chaotic mundane.”

In August, Saturn*s Sister will launch it’s community circle (a subscriber group), which will be a supportive online circle where the women of the Saturn*s Sister Collective will share their knowledge, including: yoga practices, home health care and apothecary, recipes, inspiring stories, meditations, and much more. Stay tuned for the launch! And if you’d like to sign up now you can use my code: HIPPIEINDISGUISE for a discount.

Saturns sister hippie in disguise discount code

Let’s be friends! Please come find me in other places:

Interview with a Minimalist: Claudia

Minimalism recently crept up on me, it was lurking in the shadows, subtly suggesting itself. Or, maybe it’s always been there, but without a name or firm identity I couldn’t recognize it. Perhaps, now that the term ‘minimalism’ is popular and applies to a lifestyle – a way of life – rather than just an art historical movement, aesthetic sensibility or home décor trend, I can more easily recognize it as part of my life. I think about my childhood, my personality, and my intense need for mental calm, my need for order and simplicity in my surroundings because clutter in the outside world has always meant clutter in my inside world. It’s never been simplicity / less / minimal for the sake of simplicity / less / minimal, but for what these enable: a sense of peace and calm, and, ultimately, a sense of freedom. Freedom from things, unnecessary decisions, emotions and thoughts, maintenance work, stress and strain.

In talking recently with Claudia (interviewed below), I was reminded of another early start on my minimalist path: yoga and my related study of non-attachment, drawing from Tibetan and Buddhist thinking. I initially thought I’d talk about that in my introduction to her interview, but I’ll leave that for another time, because she dropped this one on me: “The process of becoming minimalist itself is minimalism.” Thank you Claudia! I won’t dissect this from every angle but want to suggest a few things to think about.

Minimalism is a perspective, it’s not an end state. It’s a process, a path, but we don’t arrive. In this light, minimalism is a lens through which we make decisions (“one pair of rain boots is all I need”), it doesn’t decide for us (“I can’t get rain boots because I already own 50 things, and 50 is the limit”). Principles ground our decisions, ground our practice of minimalism, but they do not dictate. In fact, a minimalist dictatorship could be quite dangerous. That is, care has to be taken to not go too far with minimalism.

So…don’t give away your last mixing bowl if you make pancakes every Sunday, unless you want to mix the batter in your rain boots.

When we begin applying minimalism to our lives it can be a challenge because we are used to holding onto things, ideas, emotions, obligations; but once we get started it’s easy to keep going. Our minds shift from “less is good,” to “less feels great”. But we need to be careful to not take things too far or to be too rigid with our rules; we need to re-evaluate along the way. Less for less’s sake should never be the goal. Minimalism is a process, it has ebbs and flows, rhythms and phases; it is a means to an end, not an end in itself.

For those of us on the path, we are always on our way, we are always arriving, but never there.

In what follows Claudia shares her experience and insights related to minimalism – there are many delicious nuggets to savour, please take your time. In recent months, Claudia has been a huge inspiration to me, as I walk along my path, with her open mindedness, encouragement, and worldly wisdom. I know you’ll enjoy reading this interview and I encourage you to pause, ponder and share with others.

Dear Claudia, let’s start with a little bit about you. Who are you? What’s your background?

I was born in Cuba, the daughter of an ex-political prisoner. We were granted asylum in Peru and later in the United States, where I was raised amid the Cuban diaspora in Miami, Florida. Unsurprisingly, I became an early advocate for human rights, joining Amnesty International at 15 years old. I earned a BA in Psychology and International Affairs and an MA in International Studies with focus on human rights, refugees, and migration policy. After graduate school, I worked as a program coordinator assisting individuals who suffered from torture and other forms of persecution in their home countries secure asylum in the US, followed by a brief stint in a consulting firm before welcoming our daughter. These days, I’m a stay at home mom and while I look forward to one day returning to a career in advocacy, I’m enjoying this new stage in life and the immense rewards and challenges that come along with it.

What part of the world do you live in? 

NYC [ New York City ]

How many children do you have and what are they like? 

I have a 12 month old daughter named Eleanor. She is joyful, curious, daring, and strong. A real charmer and people person. While intensely observant she also loves to explore and is always busy, but never fails to find her way back to my lap or arms. She gives the sweetest bear hugs and I love that she is independent but still so connected to us. It’s been amazing, though bittersweet, to see her hurtle through milestones – she is such a force. We are utterly in love with her and feel she’s given us an immense sense of fulfillment.


I believe there are many ways to be a minimalist and many forms of minimalism. What does minimalism mean to you? And, in what ways are you a minimalist?

I’ve made a commitment to living with less (even when my means allow for more), living sustainably, embracing mindfulness, choosing with care, and prioritizing experiences over the tangible. This translates to a smaller home and fewer possessions; less wants and more reflection; and being as conscious of the mental clutter as the physical. In practice, this has led to perpetual evaluation. I’m always, by habit now, taking stock of what I have and trimming the excess by identifying what I can do without – whether it be possessions, time commitments, or even expectations and goals.

I believe minimalism is much more than an uncluttered home, capsule wardrobes, and Scandinavian design. To me, minimalism is freedom – from attachment, from obligation, from possessions, from draining relationships, from frivolousness. It’s about eliminating excess and living with intention.

The process of becoming a minimalist itself is minimalism.  

What has been the greatest benefit of minimalism?

How liberating it is.

What is your story, how did you start on a path toward a minimalist lifestyle?

My husband and I went to a museum on our first date. There was a traveling exhibit of Tibetan monks working on a sand mandala. The work was beautiful but painstaking and I was taken aback to learn that once finished, it would be swept away rather than preserved. Years later, during my graduate studies, I spent a month in India working with Tibetan refugees and was once again exposed to this non-attachment philosophy. Tibetans believe attachment to be one of the three root causes of suffering. The combination of Tibetan monks, the humbling foothills of the Himalayas, and having successfully lived off only what I could carry in my hiking pack left an undeniable impression. While I had always been prone to de-cluttering, when I returned home I truly embraced minimalism on more than a purely aesthetic level and began the journey of reassessing and refining my needs and wants – physical, emotional, and otherwise – accordingly. That was over six years ago, and each year since I’ve felt lighter and more empowered as a consequence.

I know many people come to minimalism through circumstance – already overburdened by excess they can’t control and desperate for change or otherwise forced to downsize due to finances or other environmental pressures (like moving from the suburbs to the city) – for me, however, there was no breaking point, no line in the sand, no forced hand. There was just introspection and a desire to evolve past unhealthy attachment, whether it be to a thing or an idea, in order to focus on what and who matters most to me.

Is your parenting influenced by minimalism?

Absolutely! I would say that minimalism along with the Montessori method, the two of which I find often overlap, have been most influential in my parenting style. From the beginning, it meant rejecting ‘more’ and ‘bigger’ as cornerstones of parenting. We opted for less of everything – ultrasounds, interventions, baby gear, expectations. We never owned the majority of what our consumerist society has declared “must haves” for infants and new parents, and have thrived regardless. People are often taken aback when they come to our home and see no exersaucer, no chests brimful of toys, even no crib (for the curious, we’ve embraced cosleeping and a Montessori floor bed instead). As with everything else in our lives, our approach is quality over quantity. Her toys, which are limited in quantity and selected with great care and thought, are put out on her shelves a few at a time, spaced out, and rotated often. We avoid screens, prize open-ended play, and so forth. More importantly, I reject the idea that childhood has to be busy or encroached with academics. I believe there is more to be gained from exploring a fallen leaf than flashcards.


Are there any books, websites or other resources that have inspired your minimalism?

One of the Tibetan monks I volunteered with in India told me how in the south of India, people would cut holes in coconuts, fill them with sweets, and tie them to a tree to lure monkeys. The monkeys would come, fit there hand through the hole and grab at the sweet, but now, having made a fist around the sweet, were unable to pull the hand back out through the hole. The monkey wouldn’t think of letting go of the sweet, and so it held itself prisoner and would ultimately be captured — all because it didn’t think to let go. That parable has stuck with me since.

I’ve also found a great deal of inspiration from the works of Henry David Thoreau:

Our life is frittered away by detail… Simplify, simplify, simplify! … Simplicity of life and elevation of purpose.

…and Leo Babauta’s blogs.

With regard to parenting, I recommend Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne [ my favourite too! ] and The Anthropology of Childhood by David F. Lancy – which is a dense, academic title but offers invaluable perspective.

In what ways do you struggle with keeping things minimal? What is your weakness?

Digital clutter – articles bookmarked for later reading, news subscriptions, and an ever-growing photo library. Digital clutter is easy to overlook because it’s not tangible and doesn’t take up visible space, but, as with all else, the more you have, the more upkeep it requires. My digital clutter stresses me out and I work, seemingly tirelessly, at reducing it, but it always feels like an uphill battle.

Have there been any struggles with the other people you live with about living in a minimal way?

While my husband is not as intentional about minimalism as I am, we’re largely on the same page. Although he occasionally hangs on to a few smaller things, like old t-shirts, longer than I’d like, he embraces living small and is incredibly supportive of my passion for minimalism.

What advice can you offer to people interested in living a minimalist lifestyle?

As with the sand mandalas, it’s in the process not the product.

Do you have any goals for this year or the next few that you want to share?

I want to document less, which can be quite a challenge as a new parent in the digital age. Also, while we recycle, repurpose, compost, and shop locally and “green”, I believe there is still more we can do as a family to live sustainably. Inspired by the zero waste movement – which I see as an extension of minimalism – I’m hoping to continue to reduce the amount of packaged goods we bring into our home.

Thank you, Claudia! So much to think about. Readers you can find Claudia on Instagram @thearroyos. [ update October 2016: Claudia closed her Instagram account ]

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Let’s be friends! Please come find me in other places:

Have you subscribed to the Global Guardian Project yet? These are monthly learning capsules for children and families to learn about global stewardship. Each month features a different country’s wild life, landscape and challenges, and includes art projects, activities, meditation, recipes and more! Use my discount code: HIPPIEINDISGUISE for 10% off, you can read more about it here

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A House of Cards: Mythical Motherhood, Judgment and Identity

A guest post by: Cricket la belle

 I had lots of plans when I was 21.

I was going to travel the world, volunteer in the Global south, speak 5 UN languages fluently, and get a graduate degree in international human rights law.

I was going to have a Real Career and make Lots of Money. More importantly, I was going to make a Difference in the World while doing so.

The night before I found out I was pregnant, I was doing tequila shots with old friends in an Irish pub in Midtown Manhattan, sharing my plans to move to Shanghai for a university teaching stint.

I never made it to China.

Ava was born six months later—I hadn’t even graduated from college.

Physically bringing a child into the world was as close to a mystical experience as I have ever had. Love for my tiny muse replaced the youthful, destructive tendencies to party and forge serial relationships with the wrong men—which was how I got pregnant in the first place.

However, the joy of caring for an infant was punctuated with pangs of jealousy as I watched my friends travel, have careers, and live and play in NYC while I wallowed in domesticity in the outer boroughs (not the cool one).

If becoming a mother was an ecstatic experience, it was tempered by an equally powerful dislike of being a wife.

My partner was a good man, but I was too young to appreciate him and I had only begrudgingly accepted to play the role of wife, as a seemingly inescapable consequence of my biology. It didn’t feel like a real choice—it was a socioeconomic reality and I resented it tremendously.

When Ava was an infant I finished my masters in Education and I tried desperately to convince my partner to move abroad. Dubai, Costa Rica, China—there were so many opportunities for my skill set and experience—but he was simply not interested in leaving New York.

He maintained that if I wanted to travel, I was free to do so, but he wasn’t coming and neither was the baby. I was shattered by his provincial attitude. I felt like I was dying inside, stuck, not growing, not living, and I clung desperately to my one and only joy and passion, my child.

One summer I got a gig consulting in bilingual education in Santiago, Chile and I packed my bags for a one-month trip. I left Ava at home with her father and although I was excited to experience South America for the first time, I missed my baby intensely after only three days, and it became clear that I was not going anywhere until she was emancipated.

I never resented motherhood for my inability to find personal fulfillment, even though the tie that bound me to my ill-suited partner was the result of the child we shared together. For me the culprit was feeling suffocated in the marriage relationship and the control it exerted over me. I believed that with the right partner it could have been a totally different experience.

I felt dead, and although my baby was a source of great joy and I found passion projects closer to home, I was filled with a constant feeling of regret, like my youth was slipping away and leaving me nothing, save my baby, to show for it.

As my plans for living a Meaningful Life of Adventure were dashed, I poured myself into my child and our lifestyle, channeling my personal growth into her development.

I thought I was a great mother. I mostly was, I think.

I leaned toward, ok, stood firmly in, the camp of the super crunchy—breastfeeding beyond age two, baby wearing, and of course I had a midwife-attended, un-medicated birth in a non-hospital setting.

However, the truth is that I was having an epic identity crisis and was hitching my ego-driven wagon to a cult of my own creation—mythical motherhood, the fallacious notion that I could subvert my personal ambitions and channel them into motherhood to become self-actualized.

I admit I was a bit snobby and holier than thou. My family would say (and probably did) that I was an overzealous mothering nut.

Fueled by idealism and Internet research, I went to elaborate lengths to shield my precious baby from the evils of—you name it: mainstream media, Big Ag, patriarchy, plastic.

Our stuffed animals were referred to as ‘she’ to ward off the evil impressions of patriarchal language on her innocent subconscious mind.

We ate only raw food and juice.

There were toy sanctions: no plastic, no batteries, no Barbie, nothing from China, no characters. I wrote obnoxious and lengthy letters at holiday and birthday time to remind well-meaning relatives that non-approved gifts would be summarily tossed (and where to buy the pricier wooden toys and Waldorf dolls).

I yelled at my partner when I found his mother applying make-up to my two year old daughter’s face (she was graciously babysitting while I was taking women’s studies courses).

I was tyrannically enlightened.

Resisting the institutionalization of childcare, and determined to preserve my daughter’s creativity, I unschooled her until she was seven years old

Crippling my future self financially, I used higher education as a form of social welfare. To make my lifestyle economically viable, I lived off student loans so I could be a full time mother and pursue passion projects as my schedule and interests allowed.

But my youthful idealism and good intentions reeked of self-righteousness and also of privilege.

Holidays and summer barbeques with my partner’s family gave me anxiety, driving me into micro-depressions where I fantasized about being free—mostly of my partner.

The refuge I had sought worshipping at the alter of mythical motherhood was menacingly threatened by the contempt that welled up in me towards the plastic cutlery, fake whipped cream, and droning of television sets never turned off at my sister-in-law’s house.

Anyone who didn’t mother with the fierce ideology that I did was poking holes in the ill-conceived illusion that motherhood alone would save me from the deep unhappiness I had created all by myself through nothing more than my own choices.

Mythical motherhood was a house of cards.

I judged harshly any parent who used disposable diapers or sent their infant to day care and sought only the company of women whose lifestyles were a perfect mirror image of my own, or an aspirational version of it. I was hopelessly narrow-minded and caught up in the cult of my own superiority.

It’s easy to overlook the mental bondage of mothering dogma when you can justify your choices as environmentally superior, or as a pathway for optimal child development.

But my desire to create the perfect life for her had more to do with compensating for my own perceived failures in life—not having that career, getting knocked up out of wedlock, achieving far less financially than my parents had at my age, feeling dead creatively and professionally.

Out of desperate unhappiness for my lot in life I was driven maniacally to create for her a childhood utopia. Jackie Kennedy’s quote ‘If you bungle raising your children, I don’t think whatever else you do matters very much’ became my mantra and I poured all of my creative energies into my child.

We took French classes, ballet, visited farms, museums and libraries on a weekly basis, living life as if it were a never-ending field trip. It was fun, and I learned alongside my young child.

Our lifestyle freed us from negative outside influences, and by ‘outside’ I mean non-sanctioned influences that I feared would pollute the perfect bubble I moved in, a fantasy where my lifestyle choices alone would redeem the mess I had made of my life by becoming a mother at the wrong time, with the wrong man.

The truth is I felt simultaneously inspired and suffocated by motherhood and I sought redemption in orchestrating the most enlightened path I could because the cruelest hand my daughter could be dealt was to end up like me.

Ironically, while motherhood dealt the death blow to the fantasy future I thought I was entitled to, in fact it saved me—if not from partying too much, then from my own ego-driven career plans which in reality were nothing more than the shackles of my parents’ expectations of me, yet to be cast away.

When I could no longer tolerate the slow death of being married ‘unwillingly’, economic reality swiftly turned my commitment to mythical motherhood on it’s head and I crucified the pursuit of motherhood perfection on the cross of my own selfish desire to leave an unsatisfying marriage.

My partner had the house, the job, and the lawyer— and so he also got the child. She swiftly went to school and slowly began to do normal things like eat potato chips and watch bad tv. She was six and I went overnight from being a devoted unschooling mother to being a weekends-only mom.

It was a very dark time. She would never live with me again.

I coped the only way I knew how— by enrolling in another graduate program and making plans to go to Brazil and work with impoverished children in the favelas of Rio. The outcome of the decisions I made during this time resulted in a slightly different version of the story I am telling you now, proving that until you learn from your mistakes, you will be doomed to repeat them.

Fundamentally, I share most of the same mothering values with my younger self, albeit in a far more inclusive and tolerant way. I do not judge the parenting choices of others nor do I get any validation from what we eat, what we watch, or what we wear. My identity is not so single-mindedly bound up in the role of being a mother like it was the first time around.

I no longer cling to the notion that I must insulate my children from the world—I see now that just like us, our children have souls with unique journeys to make and that while as a mother I certainly influence their trajectory, my lifestyle choices are not going to make or break her destiny and future.

Rather, I am thankful for the ability to make choices at all knowing that for many women all over the world, basic human rights go unfulfilled on a daily basis. I have come to accept my life as the sum total of my own choices rather than a cruel drama inflicted upon me.

Most of all, I know the spiritual ecstasy of motherhood is a tonic to the death of the creative potential of the individual—not a death to be mourned, but accepted with grace and navigated with more soul and creativity than I ever have thought possible.

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Readers you can find Cricket la belle on Instagram and Tumblr

You might also like:

My Motherhood Story: The Mathematics of Love

How to Make All Natural Temporary Tattoos from Real Flowers

Spring Cleaning: 13 Ways to Simplify Your Wardrobe

Minimalism and Sustainability: Talking with Instagrammer @twentyventi

Want to find me in other places?

Giveaway: Breastfeeding Online Classes from Lactation Link

Today I have an amazing giveaway from Lactation Link over on my Instagram account! Lactation Link is a small breastfeeding support practice run by Lindsey Shipley. Lindsey is a nurse, mother, childbirth educator and lactation coach, and a really nice person too! Through Lactation Link Lindsey works to empower women through education to reach their goals, whatever they may be.

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When I had my first child I knew that I wanted to breastfeed and like so many women I assumed that labour and childbirth would be the biggest challenge. I took natural birthing classes, read some books and spoke with women about child birth. I studied up and looked for support – I prepared myself as best as I could. But, in contrast, breastfeeding appeared so simple, so straightforward that I didn’t at all prepare myself for it. Three weeks postpartum with terrible mastitis and never-ending nipple pain I sobbed that “Childbirth was way easier than breastfeeding! Why didn’t anyone warn me?” And I meant it: breastfeeding was way harder. But that was because I didn’t know what I was doing! Fortunately, with help from my midwife and a lactation consultant I easily learned what I was doing wrong and how to get on track to loving breastfeeding. I’m so thankful for those women, for the knowledge and gentle encouragement they gave me. Lactation consultants and coaches are amazing, empathetic people. I went on to nurse my children for over 8 years (put together, not each!). Now when women ask me about natural child birth and home birth I share my experience and tips, but I always make sure to spend time telling them that they need to equally prepare and educate themselves about breastfeeding, to find a coach and support network, and to believe in themselves and what their bodies can do.

{GIVEAWAY details BELOW}

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Lindsey wants to give 3 of my Instagram followers a free online breastfeeding class. Lindsey’s classes are super popular, if you are a mama-to-be or a breastfeeding mother these classes are great. You can learn in the comfort of your own home and on your own schedule. Lindsey also offers all kinds of other great free resources through her website so check it out (here)! A great place to get started is with Lindsey’s ‘Top Ten Tips for Breastfeeding Success’.

To enter the giveaway, visit my Instagram account (rules are explained there too) and make sure to:

  • Follow @lactationlink
  • Like and comment on the giveaway photo
  • Tag at least one mama or mama-to-be in the comments. Each tagged friend counts as a separate entry, so more tags=more entries! Please tag each friend in a separate comment so that it is easier for me to make the ballots 🙂
  • No limit to the number of friends tagged.

Giveaway closes Sunday February 28 at midnight and is open worldwide. Good luck friends!

{ Photography in this post by Janae Kristen Photography } www.janaekristen.com

 

The Mathematics of Love: My Love More Story

Sen and Ro Chassin by Natasha Moine

Around this time last year I was asked to contribute to a collection that would be titled “The Love More Stories.” I don’t often write about myself or share personal stories because I tend to shy from the sort of attention this could bring. However, over the last year I’ve had a nagging feeling that I should share this story more broadly. The story captures a number of key themes in my life and the tension between them. The desire to have a large family and the desire to be responsible in our family’s use of the earth’s resources. The pull between personal interest and the greater good.

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Growing up I always knew I wanted children. In fact, I knew I wanted a big family. Seeing my mother skilfully raise the three of us, knowing she always wanted a fourth, I thought to myself that four was the perfect number, at least as a minimum. And so, my heart was set on having four children. As I later learned, these were certainly the idealistic musings of a young person who hadn’t put thought into what their life partner might want and who didn’t consider the environmental impacts of raising children in the first world.

Today, I am a mother to two children. First, there’s my kind-hearted daughter, Ro. She’s the creative type, always dancing, singing or drawing, and usually doing more than one of these at once. Ro is highly intuitive, deeply loving, naturally funny and the definition of a social butterfly. Then, there’s Sen, my wild little boy. He is head strong, while also being a very sweet and calm child. He loves climbing, dancing, and pretending to be a ninja. Together these two are the best of friends and siblings. Most days I dream of having their level of connection with another human, their love for each other is so fierce and all-consuming, it has taught me so much about the powers of love.

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I am always a mother first, but I am also a wife and friend, and I work full time outside of the home. I work professionally to provide for my family, but my passions lie in the arts, in writing, in photography, in adventure, and, of course, in nurturing my children. My aim is to develop deep and genuine kindness in my children, not only toward their family and friends, but toward all humans and toward all life on earth. This is why we spend most of our free time outdoors connecting with each other and with the abundance of animal and plant life around us, cultivating a love and reverence for the earth.

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And then, there’s Matt, my husband and partner in life, a highly rational and deeply principled person. These two things I love most about him, but they also make life with him hard. There’s no being flaky about your values around Matt, principles should be lived by. Fun or not. Easy or not.

We knew soon after we met that we were a perfect match; we didn’t share any hobbies, but we agreed on the big stuff, like politics and ethics. We married a few years later. We both wanted to have children while we were young, at least by today’s standards, and so soon after we  married we had our first, Ro. It was like a cliche seeing my child for the first time and having so much intense love instantly, and over the first year seeing my love for Matt grow and mature seeing him become a parent, and seeing his love for his daughter. When Ro was nearing one year, I felt ready and excited for a second child. I talked to Matt about having our second, we were both in graduate school at the time, and so the timing of the birth was not inconsequential.

And so, I started the conversation on a very practical point: timing. Since the question of having a second child or not, was already answered in my mind, and presumably in Matt’s too. Now, Matt is someone whose heart strings are perfectly aligned with what he believes, with his principles and ethics, and so he replied with “We shouldn’t have a second, it is not responsible, it is not right to take more resources from the earth to satisfy our own cravings to have children. One child is the right number.” Now, as you can imagine, I didn’t accept this without presenting a few counter-points, strongest among these was that “surely, the world needs more children like the ones we will raise, they will be role models in caring for the earth.” But, to be honest, I knew in my heart that this was pretty presumptuous of me and motivated by self-interest. In this instance, loving meant not only loving our kin, not only loving humans, but loving all life. If I were to truly act lovingly toward all life, toward the earth, then I wouldn’t have a second child. So, I accepted, very reluctantly, that Matt was right.

Danielle Chassin Hippie in Disguise

But my heart still wanted that big family, so I began to talk about adoption, which I thought Matt would agree to since it wouldn’t bring new people into the world. And this is when I got an answer I never ever expected. “Danielle, I love Ro so much it hurts. I love her so much there is just no way that I could ever love another child this much. I would never forgive myself for having a second child in the family that I didn’t love as much. That child would know, they would feel the lack of love. And if by some crazy stroke of fate I did love that second child as much as I love Ro, then I would certainly have to rob Ro of some of my love.” I could see the calculus of love floating in thought bubbles above his head. Like any resource, there is a finite amount. In a family you only have so much time to share among its members, there’s only so much food in the fridge and bedrooms in your home. Who was I to say, naively, that there would be enough love to go around? When I thought about the woman living in the apartment below us, who had 19 children, I thought Matt’s right, there is no way she loves any one of those children as much as we love our one child. This was without any poor judgment of her, it was pure math, pure logic. And so, once again, I conceded to Matt’s view. It would be one child for us. Logically, I knew he was right, but I’d be lying if I said my heart was happy about it.

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And so, for the next four years we carried on pouring all our love and energy and resources into our one child. Then one day, as I carried Ro on my hip to go downstairs for breakfast, the same as I did every morning, she excitedly said something very peculiar. “Mama, you have a baby in your tummy!” To which I replied “Oh no, sweetie, there’s no baby.” And she replied with complete confidence, “Yes, there is. I know it. You smell like mummy milk, you smell like you did when I was a baby.” What a quirky thing to say, I thought to myself, and with that we prepared breakfast and carried on with the day.

A week later, having forgotten my conversation with Ro,  I started to experience symptoms of pregnancy. I ignored them for a few days, and then decided to take a test just to rule out my worries. Worries because I believed in Matt’s reasons not to have a second child.  I was in complete and total shock when the test came back positive. And then like a tidal wave, Ro’s intuition washed over me. She had known. The sensitivities and keen perceptions of a small child are truly astounding.

Now, for us, while we had agreed one was a responsible number of children for us to have, there was never an option to not carry a pregnancy through. We respect all life and couldn’t end a life prematurely, and so eight months later we welcomed our son, Sen, at almost 10 months gestation, into our family, born at home into his papa’s arms.

Matt Surch and Ro Chassin by Natasha Moine

Living life, living in a family, there are many lessons in love. We learn that there are all sorts of love: love for a child, love for a partner, love for a friend. We learn that love evolves and matures. One of the great lessons in love we learned from our second child is that love is not a finite resource, as we had naively thought. When we saw our son for the first time, we had that same overwhelming feeling of love, of the biggest, most intense love, the same feeling we had had with Ro, and that we still had for Ro. There was no diminishment in our love for Ro or for each other, and yet we had as much love for Sen. In fact, our love grew. Seeing Ro love her brother instantly, our love grew for her. Seeing Matt hold his son, my love grew for him. Even though everyday I think that I can’t possibly love my children more than I do, I somehow love them more than I did the day before. Of all the lessons in love, the one I think of most is that love obeys no rules of math or logic. Love does not diminish when it is shared, rather it grows. You can always love more. Love is infinite.

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You can find the full Love More Stories collection for purchase here

You can also read an interview with Amanda who started the Love More Shop, where she talks about her motivation for starting a shop focused on loving more and how she gives back to the community.

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mama mala meditation

Malas and Human Connection

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Before I launched this blog I thought about what I wanted to use my teeny tiny platform for. I knew I wanted to have a space where I could share what the children and I were up to, mostly our city adventures and our art projects. I knew I wanted to share my passion for sustainable living and the arts. But I also knew that I wanted to make it a space that celebrated other mothers, other creatives and entrepreneurs, and so I started a series of interviews with inspiring and creative mothers.

I am excited to share my second interview in my Creative Mothers series. Through this series I am hearing from women who have been able to translate their passions into meaningful work. Today, you will hear from Heather Mudry, owner and designer of Mama Malas. I first met Heather through Instagram, a little while later I got one of her malas and was astounded by the energy it brought into our household. I felt so strongly about its positive impact that I asked Heather if she would share more about her malas through my blog. In talking with her over email, I got to know much more about her and her lifestyle and how it all fits together in a holistic way. It was music to my ears! I hope Heather’s story will inspire you too.

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Tell me a little bit about yourself. What is your background?

My name is Heather Mudry and I’m a mom to one squishy, energetic almost three year old, and wife to a funny, handsome man named Mike. I love bonfires, coffee and the mountains.

What part of the world do you live in?

I’m originally from the Canadian Prairies, but am very happy to call Calgary, Alberta, my home.  I love being nestled into the foothills of the Rockies and being able to take day trips to the most beautiful places in the world.

How many children do you have and how would you describe them?

I have one son, Owen, who turns three in June (2015).  He is the funniest, most thoughtful and pure soul I know.  I can’t believe how in tune and observational he is, he blows me away daily.

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What are your core family values?

Be nice, live in the moment, and make time to play.

How do you spend most of your days?

Every day without fail, I am woken up at 6:00am by my son Owen (I swear his internal clock is unstoppable).  We laze in bed together for a bit and then head downstairs for some breakfast and coffee.  Most days we will do a quick 5 minute yoga session which he loves to direct, and then I fit in a quick meditation when he plays.  Twice a week when I drop him off at his toddler yoga class, I head to a coffee shop and work for a few hours, otherwise we head to the forest and go for a walk or just hang out and play at home.  After lunch Owen goes down for his nap and I work for a few hours.  After nap time I put my work away and we play outside, and prep dinner.  We always try to have dinner together as a family when my husband gets home from work, and then all three of us head upstairs for a bath and bedtime stories (probably my favourite time of the day).  After Owen is in bed I do some yoga, and spend some time with Mike talking or catching up on our shows.

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What is your favourite thing to do as a family?

My absolute favourite family activity is to take a day trip to the mountains. I always feel so at peace there, and once we are there it feels as though we are in our own little world.  It’s like a mini vacation and we always come back refreshed and connected.

What are you passionate about?

I’m passionate about staying present and keeping healthy boundaries with technology.  I think it’s so amazing that we live in this age where we have so many advantages, and technology that should allow us more time to connect with those we love, but it’s amazing how easy it is to jump at every beep and ping from your phone or iPad, and forget about the people right in front of you.  I’m passionate about being engaged with those around me when I am with them, especially my family.

What inspires you?

My son, my husband, my friends and community, the forest, the mountains.  Whenever I feel uninspired I go within and sit in meditation. Works every time.

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What are malas and when did you start making them?

The thing I love about mala beads is that they can represent whatever you want them to.  They are traditionally used in mantra meditation to keep track of the number of times you repeat a mantra, which traditionally is 108 which is why the malas have 108 beads.  They represent your intentions in life and are a tangible reminder of the person you want to be.  I made my first mala when I realized how easy it was to be distracted from the mother I wanted to be for my son by the unimportant things in life.  I needed to create something to bring me back to my core intentions and desires, and since I’m such a tactile person a mala was the perfect solution. Every day when I would put it on I was reminded to meditate for a moment on my intentions and then it served as a reminder throughout the day whenever I felt it tap against me.

Why are malas important to you? And for mothers?

My malas are important to me because I find it so easy to be distracted by the unimportant things in life, especially as a mother.  With digital devices taking over our lives, it can be hard to put everything aside to just play with our kids, take some time for ourself, and to remember that we are a spiritual beings.  As a society, we feel the need to fill every moment with distractions, and for me my mala beads bring me back to the moment and remind me that I want to be able to sit with my son without checking Facebook, or compulsively researching something online.  It helps me disconnect, go inwards and live in the moment.

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Why did you decide to start your own business?

For as long as I can remember I’ve wanted to have my own business, although throughout the years none of the plans stuck. I achieved some level of success with some of my previous ventures, but lost interest and felt like something was missing.  I had actually decided after closing my previous business that I wouldn’t open another.  It was almost a little embarrassing telling everyone that, yet again, I was starting something new, but I had such a strong belief in how much the malas could help other mothers that I couldn’t not do it.  I had finally found a business that I felt could make a huge difference in the world, and in turn it has become successful because it comes from the heart.

Did you career aspirations change once you had a child?

Absolutely. The biggest change was that I had this powerful need to do something that would make the world a better place for him to live in, money was no longer important.  I have learned that success comes when you set out to be of service to others, not yourself.

What are your dreams for your business?

I would love for Mama Malas to reach as many mothers as possible, and to create a supportive community of women that celebrate and encourage each other to live a life that is authentic, intentional and fully present.

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What has made you the most proud of what you’re doing?

By far the most rewarding part of this adventure has been the emails I receive from women telling me how much of a difference their Mama Malas have made in their lives.  I’m so touched by the number of women who take the time to thank me for giving them back time they would have otherwise missed, or to let me know that their Mama Mala has helped them become more engaged and present with their kids, or served as a reminder to be still and take some time for themselves. I’m so grateful that Mama Malas can play a small part in these women’s lives.

You can find Heather on Instagram @mamamalas and to learn more about her malas or to purchase one visit her website Mama Malas and make sure to check out her BLOG page, there are some lovely posts over there.

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You might also like my post:

LMS button2   The Love More Stories

Processed with VSCOcam with c3 preset   Sa Ta Na Ma Meditation for Children

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset   The Joys of Human Connection – with Dana Luna

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Hippie in Disguise ro and sen Chassin Rideau Canal

Talking Motherhood and Minimalist Fun with boy+girl

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In the news! I was interviewed by boy+girl as part of their series on motherhood. I loved doing this interview, because they asked really great questions that got me thinking more deeply about life and career and pushed me to open me up more on the topic of motherhood and my own struggles. You’ll also hear about my personal style, the aesthetic of my home, where I want to live internationally and lots more. Please check it out. And a few excerpts to whet your appetite…

On motherhood:

“Feeling in a deep and embodied way what unconditional love means: it is a gift. The challenge that comes with that is the vulnerability you feel knowing that unconditional love ultimately means loss. Motherhood has given me the gift and reason to live life fully.”

On personal style:

“My style is classic with bohemian mixed in, and, as much as possible, sustainable. I avoid fashion trends because fast fashion leads to waste.”

Advice to my 20 something self:

“Follow your passions and don’t worry about being practical!”

I hope you’ll skip over there to have a read.

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Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset   You might also like my post: The Love More Stories

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Instagram Book   You might also like my post: Confessions of a Minimalist

Connected Living with Inspiring Mother Lauren

Uncharacteristically, Ro and Sen were not cooperating with each other this morning. We were downtown in the busy market and each decision point seemed to present an impasse between them: where to stop for a snack, what game to play in the courtyard, who got to carry the shopping basket. I knew this probably had something to do with the fact that our Saturdays start out anything but slow. The day starts earlier than a school day, with us rising early and hustling out the door to walk Ro downtown to her ballet class. The bustle of the Saturday market probably doesn’t contribute to a calm and cooperative demeanour either.

After a post-ballet snack in the courtyard, which involved no snacking by Sen, and Ro and I awkwardly playing Senny Says while eating our sandwiches, we walked over to the Ottawa river pathway for a splash in the water. Like a small miracle, as the children started forward on the path, their outlook on the day and toward each other became cooperative and positive. The sight of the river, the small changes in foliage and flowering bushes since last week, drew them in and all conflict disappeared. This didn’t really surprise me, I’ve seen this ‘nature effect’ many times. It’s just one of the reasons why I spend as much time as possible in natural settings. Our moods shift, curiosity peaks, and conflicts dissolve.

I also think time spent in nature is important because with an understanding and connection with the natural world, Ro and Sen will develop a strong love for and bond with it. Yes, humans are nature, we are part of nature, but many of us also live very disconnected from the natural world. When I see other parents placing a priority on connectedness with nature it makes me happy, curious and filled with hope. I like to learn from and take inspiration from the ways they connect. I am also encouraged to see what seems to be a growing number of parents doing this, which I think is an enormously significant shift.

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Lauren is a mother I follow on Instagram, who has inspired me in a number of ways. First, there’s her positive, open and kind attitude. Sometimes I feel there aren’t enough people who share her sensibility. I like to think there really isn’t such a thing as being too kind. Second, Lauren runs her own small business making herbal goods for her apothecary, Moon Rise Creek. I’m always a fan of women who have been able to turn their passions into their day job. And, finally, most of all, I love that Lauren places a big emphasis on time in the great outdoors.

I hope you’ll enjoy reading her interview and hearing about her way of life.

What part of the world do you live in?

My family and I live in Southern Nevada, on the outskirts of Northern Las Vegas. I remember the day, while living in Northern California, that my husband received a call with a job offer to move here. My first reaction was to giggle a bit, brush it off and put it out of my mind entirely. Being a woman who thrives off of Mother Earth, the trees, crashing ocean waves, grey overcast days, and rich foliage, I honestly couldn’t imagine what life would look like in the vast high desert of Nevada. After a lot of discussion as to what we truly envisioned for our future as a family, we chose to take this new, unchartered path, and see where the wind took us. As my favorite author Annie Dillard once wrote, “You’ve got to jump off cliffs all the time and build your wings on the way down.” Needless to say, that is exactly what we are doing, finding the beauty in entirely new surroundings and embracing the differences Mother Earth has to offer.

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How many children do you have and how would you describe them?

I have two children, Isaac who is 2 1/2, and Noah who I still carry in my blooming belly, who is now 35 weeks along. Noah is a little twisting, twirling, kicking bundle of pure bliss, and we cannot wait to welcome him earth side. Isaac is pure wild fire. He feels ever so deeply, brings complete utter joy to all seemingly mundane moments, has the biggest heart you could imagine, is fierce and determined, has a laugh that is absolutely contagious and is truly our little wild and free boy. He comes alive exploring in nature, climbing as well as jumping on and off everything, loves animals, creating art, shouting at the top of his lungs, dancing in circles, reading bed time stories, and just recently has become a huge fan of camping. He honestly never stops, he is such a “go go go” kinda kid, a mover and a shaker, makin’ sure to always keep me on my toes. I may be completely exhausted at the end of every single day, without fail, but I honestly wouldn’t have it any other way, he is an energy vortex in the most beautiful way you could imagine.

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What are your core family values?

To Love. Honestly, that is our core family value in all aspects of life. Of course it roots itself into so many dimensions, but that is the best way to sum it all up. Love thyself, love one another, spread love, speak with love, act with love, treat those around you and the earth with love, love the hard, the ugly, the difficult and challenging, the painful, the blissful, the ups and downs, ins and outs. I guess we just feel that living a life with optimism and compassion really gets you quite far, and though it may not always be flowers, rainbows and butterflies, there truly is something special and beautiful about it all. I guess we just try to walk through life with hearts and arms wide open, embracing each moment for what it has to offer, as well as giving what, when and where we can.

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How do you spend most of your days?

During the week when my husband Christopher is at work, we spend a lot of time outdoors, exploring what Mother Earth has to offer us, and just taking in the raw beauty that encompasses the high desert. I also run my own business out of our home, Moonrise Creek. It is an herbal apothecary, botanical skin care, aromatherapy line of handcrafted goods made of plant magic and earthly wisdom. This takes up a small portion of our days as well, and Isaac is often right by my side while creating these goods, making up his own witchy creations. When we get papa all to ourselves on the weekend we like to cozy up and watch movies, go camping and discover what the surrounding areas have to offer, cook together and just get in some solid family time with one another.

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What is your favourite thing to do as a family?

This is a hard question, because it really does change with the seasons, as Isaac grows and with where we are both location-wise and in life. Right now, I would say our absolute favorite thing to do as a family is to go camping. It allows us to connect with our roots, so to say, what really makes us happy. We all love being outdoors, making food over a fire, finding new places to explore, looking up at the stars, and essentially just breaking space from a more suburban life. I guess it reminds us of what we are working towards as a family, living where we do, to save up for our dream of a little homestead where we live a more sustainable life, cultivate the earth, raise livestock and ultimately live a life more connected to the earth right out our front door.

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What are you passionate about?

I am a very passionate individual, the things that fuel my fire a d bring me joy are many. Yet, I would have to say I am most passionate about the earth, and creating a life of stories worth sharing. I try to live an intentional life, one where I feel pride in the decisions I make, and proud of the way it naturally unfolds. In no way does this mean my path winds and turns in a way I have planned, and/or expected, but I try my hardest to make the best of it. I guess you could say these passions fuel that, they drive and steer me in a way that makes me feel whole, like a better person, and proud of the way my family and community see me.

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What inspires you?

Mother Earth. Her undeniable beauty. The way she teaches me so much about myself, my surroundings, my family, my community, emotions, love, passion, growth, death, rebirth, change … I could go on and on. The connection I feel to her is in all of me, every inch, in everything around me, and I feel I can truly see that, and feel blessed to be able to tap into that world of natural wonder. I am inspired by her day in and day out. I find solace, serenity, and peace in her grasp…I feel alive, full of wonder and energized in her presence…and it truly brings me great joy to share this with my all of my boys (Papa Chris, Isaac, Baby Noah & our old soul pup Makkah).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThank you Lauren for the inspiration. Readers: you can find Lauren on Instagram @laurenofleaves. Her herbal apothecary Moonrise Creek is online here and on Instagram @moonrisecreek.

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Processed with VSCOcam with a7 preset   You might also like my post: Living Simply, Living Fully: Interview with Hannah

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset   You might also like my post: Wit and Wisdom with Inspiring Mother Nelly

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset   You might also like my post: Malas and Human Connection

Living Simply, Living Fully with Inspiring Mother Hannah

When I started planning this series of interviews, I knew I wanted to include Hannah. There is nothing overtly heroic about the way Hannah shares her life on Instagram, and I really like that. Hannah is a humble woman, who has much wisdom and beautify to share, but does not take herself too seriously. Similar to Josie, Hannah’s effect is cumulative.

Hannah shares pieces of her days at home with her two boys, who she homeschools. I enjoy reading Hannah’s simple reflections and reminders to appreciate the things that are right there in front of us, that are too easy to take for granted. When we can appreciate and truly enjoy what we already have, the way our life is already furnished with beauty, like the scent of lilacs or the greening of grass after a long winter, our lives are full and there is nothing left but to enjoy it. There is no pursuit, there’s just right here, right now. Living simply, Hannah is guiding her boys in the best of ways: showing them how to find pleasure in the everyday and nurturing their creativity by leaving them unencumbered by too many toys. By sharing her life through Instagram she’s inspiring me, and I imagine many others, to look closer to home and closer to the natural world to find those things that ignite our imaginations, that quench our thirst for beauty, that complete us.

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What part of the world do you live in?

We live in the US, in the great big state of Texas, in a tiny cabin by a small country town. My husband and I have done quite a bit of wandering since we married and are probably not settled in for good yet, but this is definitely one of my favorite places we’ve lived. One of the first things we noticed when we were new here was the regular sound of braying from our neighboring donkeys (somehow they always sound like they are being attacked by lions, mournful and desperate) and how much brighter the stars look in this part of the country.

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How many children do you have and how would you describe them?

We started out wanting to have about 12 children, but after having two we decided to take a good long break from all that children-having. Our two sons, Duncan and Phineas, are 5 and 4. Duncan is eternally curious, wanting to understand how life works and always asking me questions about everything. It can be exasperating at times but the truth is that I love and admire his thirst for knowledge. I know it will serve him well, and I’m ready to be impressed by whatever he chooses to do with that smart little brain of his. Phineas is my sweet snuggle bunny. When he’s not snuggling up to his mama he’s a man of action! He loves playing with toy cars and riding his bicycle. He’s often outside doing one of those two things, or interacting with the dogs. Dogs are his favorite. He’s got a great sense of humor and a twinkly sparkle in his eyes.

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What are your core family values?

Our faith is very central in our lives. Whatever decision we make as a family it’s always important to us that our spirits remain strong and nourished. We value honesty and kindness, simplicity and groundedness, and don’t take ourselves too seriously.

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How do you spend most of your days?

I spend almost all my time at home. We are a one car family, so when I say I’m a stay-at-home mom, I mean it in the most literal way! Usually my days consist of homeschooling, cooking, cleaning…you know, all the exciting stuff. I’m always happiest when I’m doing something that connects me to the earth. Whether it’s working in my garden or hanging laundry on the clothesline, especially if I can throw music into the mix somehow. There is almost always music playing around our house!

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What is your favourite thing to do as a family?

Our most  common family activity is going to the park. Another thing we love to do  together (although we don’t get to do it quite as often) is go yard sale-ing or  thrift shopping. A lot of our possessions are second-hand, and it’s a fun way  of beating the system when you don’t have a lot of money. Our house is extra  tiny, though, so I usually have a giant “donation” pile tucked away somewhere so we can keep the clutter at a minimum. Out with the old gently used, in with the new gently used.

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What are you passionate about?

I love beauty. I’m in a constant state of longing to surround myself with beauty. I want to create it in written form, in visual form, in my home, in my yard, and in the sound waves around me. Creating beauty gives me strength and makes me come alive. I also dream of living a life that is in harmony with nature, taking care of my spot on earth and not contributing to pollution. I’ve realized that for our family it’s not an “all in” or “all out” kind of thing, though, but a process of growth – in knowledge and commitment – towards the final goal. If I’m failing in one or more areas to live out my ideals, it doesn’t mean I don’t care or I’ll never be successful. There is always room for growth and improvement, and there is always hope that the growth and improvement will take place if we hold onto our desires.

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What inspires you?

Lots of things! Creative women. People who are dedicated to sustainable living. People who live passionate lives. Pinterest! It stretches my brain and feeds my thirst for loveliness and teaches me ways of living life that I never would have thought of on my own.

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Thank you Hannah for sharing your world. Readers, please find Hannah on Instagram @flutterbyhannah.

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You might also like my post:

Processed with VSCOcam with c3 preset   Drawing a Day

Instagram Book   Confessions of a Minimalist

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset   Talking Motherhood and Minimalist Fun

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The Love More Stories

A few months ago I was asked to contribute a story to a collection that would be called The Love More Stories. At the time I didn’t know of The Love More Shop or the kind woman, Amanda, who ran it. But I said yes, because, well, she had me at the title. The book was released last week just in time to give Mother’s Day a little bit of extra celebration this year.

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The Love More Stories is an e-book of 15 personal stories written by mothers about learning to love more, whether it was loving themselves more, their children more, their partner more, someone or something else more. The stories are honest, some very raw, inspiring and enlightening. I am truly honoured to be in a collection full of such wise stories words written by some very inspiring women.

My story talks about our decision to have only one child, based on the idea of loving the earth more, by taking less from it, but also based on a surprising admission from my husband. Here’s a little excerpt:

My heart still wanted that big family, so I began to talk about adoption, which I thought Matt would agree to since it wouldn’t bring new people into the world. And this is when I got an answer I never ever expected. ‘Danielle, I love Ro so much there is just no way that I could ever love another child as much. I would never forgive myself for having a second child in the family that I didn’t love as much. That child would know, they would feel the lack of love. And if by some crazy stroke of fate I did love that second child as much as I love Ro, then I would certainly have to rob Ro of some of my love.’ I could see the calculus of love floating in thought bubbles above his head. Like any resource, there is a finite amount. In a family you only have so much time to share among its members, there’s only so much food in the fridge and bedrooms in your home. Who was I to say, naively, that there would be enough love to go around? When I thought about the woman living in the apartment below us, who had 19 children (yes, nineteen), I thought Matt’s right, there is no way she loves any one of those children as much as we love our one child. This was without any poor judgment of her, it was pure math, pure logic. And so, once again, I conceded to Matt’s view. It would be one child for us. Logically, I knew he was right, but I’d be lying if I said my heart was happy about it.”

There’s an interesting twist in the story that brought us to our two children, but you’ll have to get the e-book to read how our story unfolded.

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As the collection came together, and I got to know Amanda a little better, I wanted to interview her to share her story and get the word out about her project with the Love More Shop. I love hearing from women who have been able to follow their passion as mothers. If you ask me, that is living the dream.

What part of the world do you live in? 

I live in the beautiful state of Oregon. After six years in Portland I just recently moved my little family back to Hood River, where I grew up an hour east of Portland.

How many children do you have and how would you describe them?

Theodore (who goes by many nicknames but I call him Theo) is pushing two years old. He is a happy, energetic, and curious little guy. He loves to play outside and is obsessed with trains, nursing, spaghetti, and dancing. I’ve never seen a baby bust a move the way he does and I love it. He is turning into a toddler now and I love seeing the ways he changes and grows each day. When you are a parent you notice all the “unnoticable” things. “Oh he has never walked up that slope without falling!” “That’s the first time he said “R” like that!” I didn’t expect to notice as much as I do before becoming a mother. He takes all of my energy and he is amazing.

Graham is my seven year old step son. He is mature beyond his years and has a wisdom that most kids his age don’t. My partner, Isaac, raised him on his own for the first three years of his life so they have a special bond. Being a stepparent is far more challenging than I ever expected but I have also learned more than I ever imagined. Through him I am learning that I can’t hide from my pain or my shortcomings. Through him I am learning that the only way out is deeper in, enveloped in a blanket of love. Through him I am learning what it means to be a true and vulnerable woman.

I could write a book about our experiences navigating the waters of step parenting and dealing with the pain caused by his birth mother because it’s been a huge part of our life for the past three years, maybe someday I will.

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What are your core family values?

To be kind and loving. We are broken people that have felt what darkness really feels like – something I am grateful for because we haven’t been destroyed and each day that we live an honest life we discover that we won’t ever be destroyed by it. We try our best to be kind, good people even if that means we are going to be uncomfortable or that we aren’t going to get what we want; that’s our goal each day.

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How do you spend most of your days?

I spend most of my days trying to figure out how to do this mom thing well. Our life has been chaotic for the past three years. A lot of uncertainty, a lot of transition and change, a lot of disappointment to move through. I crave routine and structure and I think it’s on the horizon with our move to make a better life for our family and our new home.

I stay home with Theo and run my shop the best I can while he sleeps. We spend a lot of our time at the park, library, cooking, taking multiple baths a day, and going on walks.

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What is your favourite thing to do as a family?

Now that we are in the new house we like to work out in the yard together. Planting our garden and making our home our home. We like to go to the park, having dance parties, building forts, sitting down for dinner together, and going out for coffee and donuts or pizza. Snuggling up to watch a movie together is also a favorite.

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What are you passionate about?

Motherhood, living simply and well, natural childbirth, documenting my family, design.

What inspires you?

Other mothers being honest and real. Other mothers embodying their values and beliefs.

Water is something I need when I want to feel inspired or connected. A bath, a shower, walk by the river, float on a lake, listening to the rain. Water grounds and inspires me.

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Did your career aspirations change once you had a child?

Definitely. I have always wanted to be a mother and when I got pregnant I knew I wouldn’t want to return to working away from home. I was a designer and I didn’t want to go back into that world unless it was doing something that I truly believed in. Even then, I was not about to leave my baby with someone else both because I just didn’t want to and childcare is too expensive for what designers make around here.

So things shifted and are still shifting. I am hoping that design can weave it’s way back into my life in the near future. We will see!

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What is The Love More Shop and why did you start it?

The Love More Shop is a brand that reminds people to love their family, friends, and world more each day because creating empathetic, kind, whole human beings starts in a loving home. Our shirts remind each other to love a little more each day – because there is ALWAYS more love and sweetness to give.

A portion of proceeds goes toward sending parents out on dates to nurture their love with the idea that creating a loving home starts with united and loving parents. When our baby boy was a few months old our friends gave us $100 to go out on a date. It was such a thoughtful and unexpected gesture that really touched our hearts. We were broke but desperately needed some time out together and to escape one evening for a couple of hours together. (We pretended we didn’t know each other and drank too much.) Love More had been my mantra for a few years and then I thought “well why not print it on shirts and see if I can sell them and give back in someway.” I wanted to find a way to give back that was authentic to me and a little different and what our friends did for us inspired me to help other parents have a night out together. So, each time the Love Fund reaches $100 we donate that money to one sweet couple to go out together and nurture their relationship.

It’s small and I know that giving people cash to go on on date together won’t heal the world. But it’s something and it starts a conversation and hopefully when people see the shirts being worn it will inspire them to love a little more.

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What is the Love More Stories book all about? And why did you want to publish it?

I started a series on the blog in September called The Love More Letters. They are short love letters written by about a dozen mothers who wanted to participate. Then I thought it would be nice to collect longer stories to put together an e-book that would inspire mothers to love more in their own lives or celebrate the ways they already do. I love reading other peoples experiences when they come from an honest and vulnerable space. I can feel what they feel. I am tired of the judgment and shaming of how mothers choose to raise their children. There needs to be more acceptance and empathy and my hope is that sharing simple stories will help build understanding and community.

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How can people buy the Love More Stories?

On our website right here.

What are your dreams for the Love More Shop and your family?

My dream is for the Love More Shop to grow into a movement of some kind and a business that can help provide for my family. I want to be sending a couple out on a date each week! Wouldn’t that be awesome!? I also don’t plan on simply selling shirts forever and I think the e-book is the start to growing into something bigger.

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Be sure to visit the Love More Shop to read the Love More Letters and to see what else Amanda is up to. You can also follow Amanda on Instagram @thelovemoreshop.