An Interview + A Giveaway {Christine Mason Miller}

Today is the second installment in my monthly interview series.  A series in which I hope to introduce you to some very special people…individuals who work equally hard at their craft and at living an intentional life. Someone new each month, sharing thoughts on creativity and discussing current work dear to his/her heart. Each individual who joins us will also generously offer some sort of giveaway. It could be a handmade item, a spot in a workshop, a collection of stones or crystals…anything that’s connected to the feature artist’s work and life. Their gift to you is of their choosing. This series will, I hope, create space to explore what creativity looks like to different people; I hope it will also create space to spread a little love through the gifts of our guests.

656typewriterToday, Christine Mason Miller joins us.  She’s someone I’ve had the pleasure of meeting in person, someone I’ve gotten to know better over the years through thoughtful email conversations and through this class.  She is down-to-earth and kind.  She is wise and intuitive and has a terrific sense of humor.  Christine is someone who creates endlessly with her own hands and heart; she is someone who shows up for herself and, time and again, for others.  She’s more than a little awesome.  Are you ready?  Here she is…

Can you tell us about your creative work?

At the moment, my creative work centers around writing—I just published a memoir—and a new podcast inspired by the experience of writing the book. It is also about giving myself the time to explore a lot of questions that writing this book has inspired, which I will ultimately want to write about. I have a tendency to dive into new creative projects without a big cushion of time in between because I am such a do-er. But right now I’m aware that an integral part of my current creative work requires a lot more of that in-between time—time to sit with the questions and let myself follow a lot of different threads before trying to formally articulate anything.

What does creativity mean to you?

It means making things—objects, connections, compositions. It means having a certain kind of order even if things look messy on the surface. It is about creating beauty. It means looking at a situation or a problem or a question from every possible angle. It means trying and reaching and expressing.

656buddhaAn underlying theme of your new book, Moving Water, is family. Can you share a bit about how you honor your creative passions while also tending to those you love?

I have come to appreciate all the tiny ways I can express myself creatively while also, simultaneously, taking care of those I love. We have a pretty active household—lots of guests and entertaining and providing—and I always strive to make these experiences as beautiful and thoughtful as possible. So on a day when we have a big family dinner, I won’t likely have time to sequester myself in my studio to write or paint or whatever, but I will get to spend time putting together a beautiful table for dinner.  In either situation, in the end, I have created something beautiful, and both experiences are gratifying. Channeling my creative passions in the realm of writing or artwork is usually more long-term and project-oriented; doing this within the context of caring for my family and loved ones has to do with smaller things. Mother Teresa says, “Do small things with great love,” and that is one of my favorite quotes.

When you write (for books, for magazines) are you a pen and paper kind of girl, or do you head straight for the keyboard?

Keyboard all the way. My hands, with a pen, can’t keep up with my thoughts. Although I love the act of putting pen to paper, and there are absolutely times when I need that slower process. When it comes to editing, I am decidedly old-school. I’ll print out the pages and go to work with a pencil, scissors and tape. With Moving Water, I literally cut pages apart and re-assembled them, arranging multiple pages in a long line across our floor. If I’m trying to re-arrange things, it is really difficult on the computer because I literally can’t see the overall structure.

656pagesIn the process of writing Moving Water, can you share something you learned about the writing process? And can you share something you learned about yourself?

I learned that I know very little about the writing process—that even though I’ve done a fair amount of writing, there is still so much to learn, and always will be. So the process made me very humble. I think the most important thing I got—really got—is that the first draft really is, as Anne Lamott is famous for saying, a crappy first draft. That is has to be crappy because it has to involve dumping all my thoughts and ideas and possibilities on the page. Then the real work of crafting a story or book comes after that. I found the writing process to be very similar to sculpting. I only took one sculpture class in college, but the experience stayed with me. I’ll never forget working on a clay figure, thinking it looked pretty good, but then turning it to the side and seeing a complete disaster! Writing is kind of like that—it requires turning and turning and seeing things from every possible angle, and it requires removing and adding and revising the material.

What I learned about myself? This is a big question for me right now, as the experience of writing Moving Water has radically altered my view of all the stories (and others) I shared in the book. The short version of my answer is that I’ve learned how dynamic my life story is; nothing is rigid or static or permanent. At any moment, I can alter my view of things, I can let go, I can shift my focus, and within those choices the landscape of my past can change dramatically.

Your new book is brave and tender. Can you share what inspired you to write this memoir?

The inspiration initially came from looking at the blended family I married into and seeing how easily it could have crashed and burned. In other words, if you got a glimpse of the baggage each of us—me, my husband, his daughter, his son—brought to the table, your prediction would have been disaster. Yet we’ve not only survived, but thrived. Once this fascination took hold, the idea of writing about it took hold.

656speaktrueAnd now, some lighter questions…

Do you have a favorite food(s)?

One of my favorite things is from a cookbook called Olives, Anchovies and Capers. It is this:

  • Olive bread
  • Butter
  • Anchovies
  • Lemon juice

When my husband and I tell people about this, the typical reaction is, “Anchovies? EW,” but then we make it for them, and they love it.

When was the last time you laughed?

First thing this morning, when my chocolate lab Tilda crawled on top of me this morning to wake me up. She’s sixty pounds, so this was no gentle wake up.

I think, like me, you’re a lover of quotes. Is there one you’d like to share with us today?

I usually go immediately to Hafiz or Rumi, so today I’ll share something a little different, but also one of my favorites:

“Man is condemned to be free; because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does.”   -Jean-Paul Sartre

What colors do you like to wear?

I am totally boring—90% of my closet is gray, white or black. Navy blue is walking on the wild side for me.

If you close your eyes right now, what word comes to mind?

Breath

***
And now for the giveaway!!!

Christine is generously giving away one signed copy of Moving Water.
(For this giveaway, shipping will be domestic only.)

To enter the giveaway, here’s what you need to do:
Leave a comment below. Maybe share what family means to you. Or maybe just say hello. Whatever you like.

Wanna enter more than once? Share a link to this interview on Facebook or Instagram. For each share, you’ll be entered an additional time!  Comments will close at midnight PST on Monday, February 20 , 2017. The randomly-selected winner will be announced here in this post on Tuesday, February 21.

I hope you enjoyed this chat with Christine as much as I did.
Thank you, Christine, for being here with us.

Sending a little love your way, m

***

300cmm1_lowresChristine Mason Miller is an author and artist who has been guiding others toward a meaningful life for more than twenty years. Her experience with writing, publishing, licensing and teaching has established her as an experienced, compassionate authority on how to bring dreams to life, particularly those related to writing and publishing a book. Her latest book, Moving Water: A Memoir, is now available in her shop, and will be offered on Amazon.com in February 2017.

Here’s where you can find Christine:
Website
Instagram
Podcast

Friday Gratitudes

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It’s early on this Friday.  I’ve just had breakfast with my teen son; my daughter is still snuggled in her bed.  I sit at my desk as I write to you and there’s a draft from the window.  But my slippers help, and the fleece blanket, and my thick sweater.  The sky is just beginning to lighten, and I can see my birches.  (If you’ve been with me for a while, you know I love the birch trees outside my window.)  Their bare branches are busy twisting in the wind.  I know it’s cold out there, so cold.  Though we had temperatures in the sixties (Fahrenheit) on Wednesday, those temperatures dropped drastically yesterday.  And they’re holding.  I can feel the cold pressing against the window.  But the heater hums and the twinkle lights shine.  There’s freshly brewed coffee in my mug.  There’s a project on my desk into which I’ll dive soon, when the light of this day is fuller.  For now, I sit here on this Friday morning.  Feeling connected to my kids (one awake, one sleeping).  Feeling connected to the birch trees and the sky which lightens.  Feeling connected to the gratitude in my heart.  All of this.  Just this morning.  I can only imagine what the rest of the day will hold.

I wonder what your day will hold too…

Sending a little love your way, m

 

***
I want to let you know that registration is open for Just Five Things.  Dates for the next class are April 3-14.  Join us as we play with lists and words and self and each other.  It’ll open your eyes and soften your heart; and I promise you’ll be in the sweetest of company (my students are always amazing).  Click here to read about the class.  And contact me here if you have questions.

 

 

 

Stay with Love

img_0722This has never been a place of politics.  But it has always been a place of being present and showing up.  It has always been a place (I hope) of quiet intention.  And so I write with some trepidation today, not wanting to offend, not wanting to upset, not wanting to be part of the overload.  But if I’m to be true to this space, to my presence and my intention (to my self), then what I write will parallel necessarily.

People are scared right now.  People are angry.  And people don’t know what to do.  And I don’t claim to have answers, but I do have some thoughts.

Do not give in to hate or fear.  It does not serve the higher purpose.  Hating Trump and his cronies will not make them go away.  Hating Putin will not make him go away.  Hating terrorists will not make them go away.  At the same time, be clear on your beliefs and values.  Do not stand down, do not get complacent.  Stand strong.

The other day, I listened to an On Being podcast with John Lewis.  Lewis spoke about his protest days, and how the protestors were trained to look people in the eye.  To look arresting officers in the eye.  To look haters in the eye.  To disarm them with human acceptance and compassion.  To, in essence, love them.

I know it seems an oversimplification to ask people to stay strong with love.  But I tell you right here and now that I believe this.  With my whole heart.  It’s the only thing I know to be true.  I must love.

I must love my children and my husband.  My extended family.  The neighbors.  The mailman.  The dentist.  Friends.  The driver who cuts me off in traffic.  The person who is walking down a war-torn street in Syria right this very minute, whose name I do not know, whose face I do not even see.  I must love.

Start there.  You can do that, and I can do that.  You and I can extend compassion to every living soul on this earth.  I’m not saying it’s easy.  But it’s possible.

Here’s what else you can do:
You can write to your representatives and let them know you care about women’s rights/human rights/climate change/religious freedom/LGBTQIA rights/immigrant rights/insert your passion.
You can follow along here.  They’ve got 10 actions planned for the next 100 days.
You can make soup for a sick friend.
You can donate food and clothes to a homeless shelter.
You can attend rallies and marches and town meetings.
You can stay as informed as possible on current affairs.
You can reduce, reuse, recycle.
You can buy a pin.
You can keep a list of gratitudes.
You can look people in the eye.
You can choose love.

Mix and match any of the above, as inspired.
Be true to you.
Stay strong with love.

And if you have more suggestions, please share with us in the comments below.

Sending a little love your way, m

 

 

 

 

An Interview + A Giveaway {Mindy Tsonas}

This marks the first in a monthly series of interviews.  I’ve done a handful in the past (here and here are two examples); moving forward, my intent is to introduce you (on a regular basis) to some very special people…individuals who work equally hard at their craft and at living an intentional life.  Someone new each month, sharing thoughts on creativity and discussing current work dear to his/her heart.  Each individual who joins us will also generously offer some sort of giveaway.  It could be a handmade item, a spot in a workshop, a collection of stones or crystals…anything that’s connected to the feature artist’s work.  Their gift to you is of their choosing.  This series will, I hope, create space to explore what creativity looks like to different people; I hope it will also create space to spread a little love through the gifts of our guests.  I’m excited to begin this series with you.

***

img_0686Today Mindy Tsonas joins us.  She’s badass, mixed with gentle, mixed with sensual, mixed with artist, mixed with guide, mixed with someone who always seems to have a hand outstretched.  Years ago, I attended Squam Art Workshops; Mindy was there too.  I only “knew” her from Instagram, but at one point in the weekend, she and another friend were walking towards me on the road – and  I don’t remember what either of us said – but I remember that she embraced me in a hug.  That’s Mindy.  It’s a pleasure to watch her and her work progress and bloom; she’s someone who is always creating in one form or another.  She’s whimsical and grounded.  Intuitive.  Caring.  Really wonderful.  Are you ready?  Here she is…

 

Can you tell us about your creative work and business?

Hello.  My work in this world is as an Embodiment Artist, activist, and the owner and creator of Studiofemme, a dynamic gathering space for women wishing to become more powerfully themselves.  It’s a place where we are free to explore our edges and connect in the tender places of intimacy, identity, creativity, and sexuality.  Really my work is about helping others claim the full complexity of who they are, unshame all their desires, and express the truths of our heart.

What does creativity mean to you?

To me, creativity is a conduit for connection.  It is meaningful, purposeful, and is a way for us to build bridges to one another.  As a little girl I always remember using my creativity to make things for others.  It is a love language for me as much as it is a passionate endeavor.

Creativity also is a way I connect with my body.  The tactile, sensory, and physical act of creating helps me feel more embodied and integrated, and is an important part of moving energy through my system.  If I am feeling stuck, I know that is simply a story in my head and often just moving paint around or scribbling words on a page is enough to create the shifts I need to keep moving forward.

Two words that surface in your work (correct me if I’m wrong!) are juicy and vulnerability.  Can you share with us how you help others dig into the juiciness of their lives and their art, and how you help them open to vulnerability?

Juicy and vulnerability are absolutely a part of my creative landscape.  The juiciness is about accessing and allowing the full range of ourselves to be expressed…depth and breadth.  It is inhabiting all of our light and shadows, and giving ourselves permission to claim who we are, fully, and without judgment.  I used to believe I was just a creative person, but I realized pretty quickly that that is just one facet of my femme.  My longings are more than just artful ones, and so I say yes to exploring them all.

This is where the vulnerability comes into play.  Just like coming out in the full expression of your creative self, so too is the process of blossoming into other parts of our truth, one tender step at a time.  I always check in with myself to ask, “Is this action/desire moving me closer to my truth, or further away?”  It’s a pretty honest gauge for moving towards and sharing more vulnerable parts of ourselves.

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Living intentionally – soaking up the juiciness and opening to the vulnerabilities – requires gentle attention.  How do you honor your creative/artistic/business passions while also tending to those you love (yourself included)?

After more than a decade of digging deep, my creative life is finally a fully integrated aspect of how I show up in the world.  It is a part of everything I do as a Girl Boss, as a parent, and simply as a woman in the world trying to live her truth.  When I try to compartmentalize my world into separate corners, that is when I feel tension and the friction of everything struggling to fit together and coexist.  When I can embody my work and passions and soul as one, be who I am in every space and context, that is when I am most powerful and joyful and free in all realms and roles.  Nurturing one part then feeds the whole system.  Self care simply becomes a necessary part of that equation, not a separate thing I do just when I have time.

One of your new endeavors is a podcast, The Underneath, which you’re recording with your husband, Alex.  I’ve listened to the first few episodes and appreciate how your candid conversations seem to effortlessly blend the work of relationship and intimacy with creativity and living in general (I do love connections).  Would you like to share a bit about your brave, new project?

The podcast is a brand new adventure and the first creative collaboration between my husband and I.  Although I have been sharing stories about our life together for many years now, the act of speaking our truth is adding a new dimension to the creative process.  The vulnerability of out-loud is a new edge we are exploring together.  Being part of the LGBTQIA landscape and living a non-conventional life, we wanted to be a voice out there for others.  We also both believe in the value of sharing the imperfect process underneath the polished outcomes, thus the name.  It’s really just us talking about life and love and sometimes the hard things.  The messy parts are so much a part of real life, especially as creatives.

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And now, some lighter questions…

What’s the weather in your corner of the world today?

A huge storm has just finally past.  It feels like a metaphor in so many ways.

When was the last time you laughed?

I laugh all the time…maybe last night at yoga.

What’s your favorite color to wear?

My color story is black and grey neutrals with colorful pops of pink and maybe turquoise, here and there.  I can’t find anything in my drawers, because it’s pretty much a sea of black, my go-to for sure ;)

What did you eat for breakfast this morning?

Toast with a fried egg and a little side of kimchee, decaf coffee with almond milk and agave.

If you close your eyes right now, what word comes to mind?

LOVE.  Always love.

And now for the giveaway!

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Mindy is generously giving away one spot in her brand new, upcoming online class (February 12-18) Studiofemme // Tiny Revolutionsyour life is your revolution, a week long adventure in Art, Love and Embodiment as Activism!  In Mindy’s words, “We will write, paint, tell stories and get messy, all for the purpose of positive change in our own lives, and out in the world.”

To enter the giveaway, here’s what you need to do:
Leave a comment below.  Maybe share one way that creativity surfaces in your life.  Or maybe just say hello. Whatever you like.
Comments are now closed.

Wanna enter more than once?  Share a link to this interview on Facebook or Instagram.  For each share, you’ll be entered another time!
Please make sure to tag me, so I see the post!

Comments will close at midnight PST on Sunday, January 29 , 2017. The randomly-selected winner will be announced here in this post on Monday, January 30.   …And the winner (selected by a random generator) is Suzanne!  (email coming your way, Suzanne).  Thanks to all who played along here and on Instagram.  xo

I hope you enjoyed this chat with Mindy as much as I did.
Thank you, Mindy, for being here with us.

Sending  a little love your way, m

***

img_0686I am a Sensualist, Embodiment Artist, and Provocateur.  Part sparkle maker.  Part shadow dancer.  Part soul seeker.  As a woman and person of color in a queer and open marriage, I’m also a Revolutionary inside my own life and out in the world.  In a nutshell, I talk about girl-power as its own sacred Love Story.  I help guide women into the extraordinary Wonderland of themselves.  Through juicy creative pursuits and honest explorations, my passion is to inspire others to shake loose and get naked in empowered, exquisite truth.  Delicious freedom and expansive joy is always the discovery.  My magic tools for going deeper are art, love and sex-positivity…my wild sacral shimmy.  I write, I paint, I touch, I dare.  I make things both tangible and intangible to hold space for universally meaningful experiences and luscious conduits of connection.

Here’s where you can find Mindy:
Website
Podcast
Etsy 
Facebook
Instagram
Pinterest 
Twitter

 

Heart Wide Open

img_0634A quick something on a Friday morning. Which is like every other Friday in some ways and not at all like every other Friday in other ways. I am having computer issues right now. Which leaves my heart heavy as I wait to find out how much data will be retrieved.  A new US President will be sworn in today.

And I’m not scared or angry about either.  Unsettled by both, yes. But not scared, not angry. The heart channels are open. And perhaps that sounds hokey to some. But there it is. Heart Wide Open.  It’s what I can do right now, on this Friday.

I make this choice as I wait on my computer.  I make this choice as my country swears in a man whose values and behaviors are not in alignment with my own.  It’s all going to be okay, it will.  This is not the Friday I would have envisioned for myself a year ago.  But it’s the Friday that has shown up.

And so I will live it.  With my heart wide open.

sending a little love your way, m