There is something pretty amazing about finding a creative outlet and losing yourself in it. I’ve been fortunate enough to have had lightening strike twice before in this capacity. First, when I started this blog in 2004. What began as a way for me to let off steam, share with friends and family, and improve my writing voice quickly became one of the best parts of my life. I found myself writing into all hours of the night, only stopping when I could no longer keep my eyes open. I wasn’t writing for the likes or clicks, but because I simply enjoyed it.
Later, I found a similar peace in photography. I would sit at my computer as my family slept, learning new editing techniques and taking online classes. Photography felt like a puzzle that I was learning how to put together. I couldn’t afford to go back to school full time, but I could use every tool the internet put at my fingertips to be the best I could be. At the time, I wasn’t charging for my skills or take photos of others, but instead just doing it for the pleasure of creating. It was a wonderful time in my life.
It’s been a few years since I took these creative endeavors and made them into my career, and while I wouldn’t change a second of it, I do often miss that feeling of joy and freedom that comes from just making something because you feel called to do so, with no thought of outcomes.
I have been noodling around the thought of creating a podcast for a few years, but I never found an idea that really lit me up. I didn’t want to remake any of the amazing podcasts already out there, I wanted to do something new. However, I’ve been lucky enough to have been interviewed for a few awesome podcasts, so I had baseline knowledge of what I needed to make one of my own. And out of nowhere, this past summer (while in the shower because all good ideas come while I’m in the shower) I had finally had an idea for a podcast that I couldn’t shake. You see, that’s how I know a creative inspiration is one that MUST be carried out…when I just can’t get it out of my head. Usually the plans come and go, but this one just kept cropping up in my mind. So I decided to sit down and do some research…how does one create a podcast?
Turns out, my old friend “The Internet” still holds a lot of keys to the mysteries of creativity, and I found a wealth of information to get me started. Now, usually this leads to me becoming overwhelmed and giving up. But not this time!
I slowly started working on this little idea until it became a reality. And today, I’m sharing it with you!
Never Not Grateful is a podcast about how gratitude can change your life for the better. One of the most significant tools I’ve used in the last five and a half years into my recovery has been cultivating a daily gratitude practice, and I realized this is something that’s not as popular outside of the recovery world. I wanted to share how gratitude has changed my life, and how anyone can use a gratitude practice to make themselves happier and healthier. Of course gratitude makes us feel better emotionally…that’s obvious! But did you know that by consistently practicing gratitude, you can improve your mental and physical health as well? It’s true! Studies have shown that people who practice gratitude sleep better, have more energy, are more alert, live longer and are more optimistic. So why not give it a shot?
Never Not Grateful is a podcast that will dive deeper into how to create a gratitude practice, how to cultivate it daily, and how to surround yourself with people who encourage thankfulness. We will be talking about specific, simple things you can do TODAY to change your life for the better. I will also be interviewing inspiring people about how they have used gratitude to get through life’s challenges. I have plans to do episodes on motherhood, politics, grief and much more.
This is the first time in a few years that I’ve felt the creative pull from beyond…like I couldn’t rest until this idea was made and put forth into the world. However, I am feeling a little apprehensive. So far the only people that have listened to Never Not Grateful have been those in a trusted circle. It has been received with such joy and support, I have been overwhelmed, and part of me wants to keep it close so it can’t be ruined by critiques and unkindness. But then I remember the whole point of making this thing was to encourage more people to share and cultivate gratitude, and that won’t happen if I keep it all to myself. I hope you enjoy this little project and that it helps you find a little more gratitude in your day.
You can follow Never Not Grateful on Instagram, and listen via most podcast apps, including:
*If you don’t see your podcast app listed here, try searching for Never Not Grateful within the app itself and it should come up. Click the video below to hear a short preview of our first episode. If you enjoy Never Not Grateful, please rate and review in your podcast app, as that’s the best way for new podcasts to get seen by more people!
Back in May, after a couple of months of overwhelm and anxiety surrounding my social media use, I took a step back and decided to take a break from all social media. What was supposed to be a few days or a week, quickly added up to almost two months away from Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, and I’ll admit, I wasn’t sure I wanted to go back! But the nature of my work and my advocacy means that I have to have some social media presence, and I know that FOR ME, completely abstaining wasn’t the goal. My social media break was about evaluating how it was affecting me so I can use these tools in a way to enhance my life, not to quit them all together.
I learned so much during my break, and I wanted to share some of this new knowledge with all of you. If you’re worried about your social media consumption or behaviors, I think these tips might help you figure out a solution!
- Take a week to look at you social media behaviors and track them somewhere. I have a bullet journal where I keep everything, but you could use the notes app on your phone if that works better for you! I also installed the Moment App, which tracks how much time you spend on your phone during the day, and can break down what apps you’re spending the most time on. This was a HUGE eye opener for me, as a person who is perpetually “busy” and often feels overwhelmed with all I have to do. Once I literally saw how much time I had been wasting scrolling social media, I knew a break was in order!
- Do your research! Two books that really helped me were How to Break Up With Your Phone by Catherine Price and Reset Your Child’s Brain: A Four-Week Plan to End Meltdowns, Raise Grades, and Boost Social Skills by Reversing the Effects of Electronic Screen-Time by Victoria Dunckley. The latter was actually a book I picked up as a parent of screen-obsessed kids (more on that soon), but I found a lot of into that was pertinent to my own screen-time habits. The first was an awesome, step-by-step plan of how to cut down on your screen-time as an adult, with lots of tips and hacks (like apps that will block other apps so you can’t use them at certain times of the day!). I highly recommend them both. This podcast (iTunes, Stitcher) actually came out while I was on my social media break, but I thought it was so great I wanted to share it too. It’s a really emotional conversation with Brooke White, the singer and creator, who makes her livelihood on social media…but had decided she needed a break.
- Delete all social media apps from your phone. You guys, I tried to keep the apps on my phone so I could still check my work social media and everything for August Light Studio, but it was impossible for me. I kept wanting to “just check in” and see what people were up to. In the end, deleting the apps and then checking work social on my desktop was the only solution and it worked for me.
- Make sure you let friends, family and followers that you’ll be on a hiatus. I do a lot of my advocacy work through social media, and a ton of my kids’ school activities are coordinated through it as well. If I just cut off everything without notice, I knew I’d miss out on party invites for the kids and DM’s that needed to be attended to. So I put together a “Social Media Break” post for each social network and posted with my plans, along with ways for people to get a hold of me if needed. I also reached out to friends and family to let them know they should text or call, rather than message or tweet.
- Make a list of a few things you’d like to accomplish during your break. I had been struggling to find the time to complete my family photo book from 2017 or submit for a project I’d really been wanting…so those went on my list and I was able to complete both! I also had a few other goals (read some real books, work on content for the blog, get some new clients, etc.) that went on there as well. It made me feel great to know I was using my “free time” wisely and to make my life more full.
After two months away, I felt refreshed and excited about social media again. However, I didn’t feel that way until that point. Earlier on in my break, I wasn’t sure if I’d EVER go back. But I reached a point where I knew I could moderate my social media in a way that was healthy for me and my family. If I reach a point of overwhelm again, I will probably take a mini break before it gets too bad in order to reset. I’ve also evaluated how much I’m posting and when. I no longer post to social media when my kids are around (I save the photos and videos to my phone and then upload them later), and I’m posting only a couple of times a week, instead of daily. I’ve also decided to focus most of my energy on one social media outlet (Instagram!) that I enjoy, instead of spreading my time to all of the platforms. I still have Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, but they are fairly specialized. For example, I mostly use Twitter for my advocacy and political work, while LinkedIn is all career, such a posts from August Light Studio or client work. I also still don’t have most of the platforms on my phone, and instead post when I’m sitting down at my computer (other than Instagram, which is difficult to post to from a desktop). This helps me create a separation and makes me much more intentional with my posting and scrolling. So far, it’s working for me, but I’m definitely going to continue to evaluate and make sure I feel good…social media shouldn’t make you feel like crap!
Have you ever thought about taking a break from social media? If you have done it, I’d love to hear how you felt about the process? And if you haven’t, I’d love to know why not? What’s holding you back from taking a break? Or do you not feel you need one?
Everyone, we are ONE MONTH into summer vacation! It is just flying by over in our house, but it makes me happy to know we still have over half of summer left to enjoy. Since June is National Aquarium Month, I headed over to Fox 4 Kansas City, to share how putting together an aquarium with your kids can be a perfect summer activity. The team from Picasso Exotic Aquatics taught me the best tips for creating an aquarium and I am super excited to share them!
Building one gives your children the chance to learn responsibility, critical thinking and patience. Aquariums can also be a nice escape from technology (we are dealing with a video game and tablet obsession this summer) and have soothing qualities that have helped my kids become calm, especially at bedtime.
Here are my top tips for building your own aquarium:
- When creating an aquarium with kids, it gives them the chance to work with their hands and learn about nature. Make sure to talk with the about the science and let them really get hands on with the process.
- Get a test kit and cycle your aquarium. Not only is this beneficial for the health of the aquarium in the beginning, it allows your children to learn how to test water and learn about water chemistry. Use your test kit often: regular testing aids give your aquarium longevity.
- Let the child help Aquascape the aquarium. Aquascaping is the art of placing the stones, plants, and other decor in a natural and aesthetically pleasing manner. Allow them to be proud of the new and beautiful home they have provided for their fish.
- Add live plants. These feed on aquarium waste, keeping the tank cleaner and algae production to a minimum.
- The location of the aquarium is important — people are naturally drawn to them. You want to be able to enjoy your aquarium while also allowing others to as well. Placement can also determine the aquarium’s stability.
- Keep the aquarium away from direct sunlight. Those beaming, morning sun rays can grow a mass amount of algae. If you want to place the tank right near a window, it is good to keep the blinds closed when the sun shows the most. Drafts from a window can affect the aquarium’s temperature.
- Cool or hot air blowing onto your aquarium can cause temperature changes and more evaporation. Especially in the winter when the air is dry. Buy an aquarium thermometer to help monitor changes and a heater to warm the water to tropical temperatures.
- Your aquarium needs it’s own space bubble. Allow room on the sides of the aquarium so you can easily do maintenance. More room to work is motivating when maintenance needs to be done.
- Locate an outlet for easy access and regular cleaning.
- Consider putting the aquarium in a part of the home you would like to inhabit more. The aquarium may draw you and your family to occupy a room not usually visited.