Creative Family Series | Pars Caeli
A few months back I taught an online class on finding your blogging voice. After class, a student named M.J. reached out to me and we started emailing back and forth. She was new to blogging, but I could already tell she was one to watch.
Pars Caeli, M.J.’s online home is full of liveliness and beauty—from tips to being an effective teacher for your kids, to ideas for actively pursuing happiness, to a whimsical column called A Tri to Try. Her energy and enthusiasm are contagious.
I’ve asked M.J. here today to discuss creativity, family life and how she got to where she is today…
How would define creativity?
Okay, starting me off with a tough one? Well, for me, creativity is the making of the new–anything from a re-creation to an inventive solution to a masterpiece. I have yet to meet a person that I wouldn’t consider creative. Creativity isn’t special pixie dust reserved for the brilliant artists of the world. We’re all born with it, and some of us cultivate it in broader ways than others.
Have you always considered yourself creative?
I snicker at this, but, yes, I think I have. In times of challenge, I’ve always hung my hat on my creativity.
I’m the youngest of three, eight years younger than my next closest sibling, and I spent a lot of my childhood keeping my imagination active (AKA: playing by myself). As a child, I knew I could create my own world from nothing more than cardboard, crayons, and glue, and my imagination filled in the gaps. I found amazing comfort, confidence, and joy in my abilities to entertain and amuse.
Throughout adolescence my desire to share my creativity waxed and waned until I found some of my best friends in life who honored and loved my far-fetched ideas and encouraged me to hone my gifts.
I studied art in college and that gave me a great opportunity to explore various instruments and mediums of expression, but I think I was just as creative when I set off to teach and get my masters in education.
How do you nurture your own creativity?
Great question! I totally believe that in order for creativity to grow, you need a little fertilizer.
I’d say that I took a birdwalk from my usual creative energies for about 6 years, while I was dedicated completely to the creativity of life, including the pregnancy, nursing, and early childhood of our three kiddos. Initially I was disappointed with myself for getting away from the drawing, reading, and crafting that once fostered my creative juices. But, I can see now how learning to juggle a dependent little one with healthy habits, necessary sleep (!) and the joys of life forced me to channel my creativity in new ways and find beauty in the small and ordinary. It also allowed me to stand still and observe the unbelievable process of life. Human development is a Divine act of creativity, and I still feel so blessed to be a part of it all.
Our children are 7,5, and 2, and I find that I can exhale a little bit more now. I’ve always loved doing creative activities with and for them, but as of late, I’ve challenged myself to return to my own inspirational habits and routines.
I started blogging about 3 months ago over at Pars Caeli. My husband and I named our home Pars Caeli (pars kiley) when we moved in 10 years ago; it’s Latin (he’s an ancient cultures nerd) for piece of Heaven. I wanted a place to house and foster inspiration and creativity for myself and so I birthed my web home, Pars Caeli. It’s keeping me creative (through design, family, faith, and other such goodness), and I’ve found that it really helps me move projects to completion and set aside time to explore, read, photograph, write, and design all with the intent of helping and sharing what I know with others. Plus, it’s a whole lot of fun. I’d love for you to come on over!
Did you grow up in a creative household? If so, what were some of the ways your parents nurtured your creativity and curiosity?
Yes, yes! My mom worked from home during my childhood, and she fostered our creativity at every turn. She is and was an amazing seamstress, and I was surrounded by fabrics and textures as she made window treatments and other stylish home decor. In high school she encouraged me to design my prom dresses, and my brother (also a whiz at sewing) hand-beaded them!!
My dad, a chemical engineer by training, is a great artist, too, always drawing, imagining, and challenging us to learn more. My brother is a gifted artist and architect, and my sister is an amazing educator, musician, and crafter.
Creativity permeated our leisure time together and our family traditions. We made all of our Christmas gifts for one another, and, for special occasions, my mom always delighted us with something fabulous and homemade that she’d been working on without us knowing. Road trips usually involved me perched next to my brother, sketching side-by-side. We’re a family that loves to play together, too. It’s a wickedly talented and competitive game of Pictionary with this crew!
How do you nurture it in your children?
We say yes a lot. We’re actually very hands-on parents, and we set clear guidelines for our kiddos, but we also seek out and support their intuitions and ideas. When one wants to try a new sport or activity, we all join in and support. We say yes to their ideas for new projects, new places to travel, new books to read. Inspired by the concept behind the book “Yes Day”, we even have one (very special and from the parent’s perspective, very long) day every year that we call Yes Day where we let the kids, within reason, hear a yes from us on every question they ask.
We celebrate in heavy doses as well. I think finding reasons to appreciate goodness naturally cultivates creative energy. We invite our children to imagine new holidays like Sisters Day (August 18th in our house) and Sibling Day (February 15th here), and we live it up, photograph it well, and rehash the specialness of the celebration again and again.
On a very practical level, we never recycle anything! My eldest daughter is a great inventor, and she looks to our recycling pile with such enthusiasm…it’s hard to get rid of much.
I try to have plenty of organized, available space in our home and yard for our children to imagine and spread out. Our living room has transformed into the art room over the years, and we’re looking forward to moving a piano into the space soon so that the area can be a place for all kinds of fine arts!
My husband and I are both trained and experienced (former) teachers so we love finding new and interesting ways to bring learning into our home. We run “Mommy & Daddy School” in the summer with our three littles, and they get to set the curriculum. It’s amazing to see what they want to learn! Finding ways to break open the material on a level that a 7, 5, and 2-year old can digest is a great challenge for my creativity!!
What are some of your favorite ways to spend time together as a family?
It’s going to sound strange, but grocery shopping as a family of five is one of our favorite things to do. My husband encourages our children to get to know the staff at our local store and engage them in conversation every week (and they’ve become dear friends). We eat dinner at the store and while doing this we talk about what we want to cook and do together that week. We explore new foods, reinforce the value of the dollar, and help each other hunt and gather all that we need.
We love to travel together, too, and we often find the journey to and fro just as interesting as the final destination. Our kiddos are excited about boats right now so we’re looking into exploring some time on the water with them.
We love to do–singing, dancing, sports, crafts, games–but we also adore the not-doing of movie-watching, quiet reading time, and prayer together.
How have you been able to integrate work with pursuing your creative passions?
My full-time work is in communications, as a graphic designer for a non-profit. I guess you could say my work forces me to be creative, but sometimes I let my professional life become more about a series of deadlines than a development of something new.
I also have a tendency to work and work and work (you, too?), and this tireless nose-to-the-ground pattern can drain my creativity at times.
But, I am blessed (and some days cursed) with the opportunity to work from home in the afternoons, and I find that being in my home with the people I love most offers a steady flow of new ideas and fresh perspectives all bouncing off one another.
What are you working on now?
Sometimes I feel like there are way too many wonderful things going on to sleep!! So much to do. Right now, I’m really excited to dig deeper into the world of blogging. I am working on tweaking my blog design and finding new ways to reach out to my readers through DIY projects, engaging content, and (thanks to the gift of a nifty new camera) some kicking photography.
I’m also incredibly immersed in the individual learning of each of my children, and I’m super excited to host my eldest daughter’s first bookclub gathering (they read the Chocolate Touch) and craft with all of her adorable friends! My younger daughter is headed to Kindergarten in August, and she is delighted with her new-found reading abilities, and I want to show her the world through the written and illustrated page! And my youngest, my son, has just discovered that he can create shapes in his artwork, and I want to capture every new circle he puts on paper.
For my own creativity, I want to always be learning so I have photography and sewing classes lined up for the summer and fall. And I’ve recently returned to calligraphy, and I have a few prints that I’d like to create. I also love to bake so I’m trying to take advantage of summer harvests.
From time to time everyone’s creative juices wane. How do you handle times when it does?
I’ll be honest, I can be a ball of stress. When I’m feeling less than creative, I usually go outside, and I engage in play with my kids or work in my garden.
My body was not made to run, but I do find going out for a jog helps to clear my mind and allow fresh patterns of thought to emerge.
I don’t know if you experience this, too, but I can get overwhelmed by the immensity of the internet, other blogs, and social media. Sometimes I have to remind myself to walk away from the computer for a while. I’ve kept all of my sketchbooks, and I find it helpful to look back at previous projects and utilize ideas that may not have been fully developed in the past.
I love to travel, too, but sometimes budget and family activities do not necessitate it… so I try to take small journeys to local museums, parks, and new stores to find the unique right under my nose.