So happy to have Staci Frenes visiting today! Staci’s written an excellent book and I’ve asked her to share a little bit about it here.
What inspired this book?
It’s funny, based on the title you’d think it came out of a rich creative season of my life. Totally the opposite! I was near the end of a long spell of difficult and painful family challenges which had left me completely dry, creatively. We had lost our home after the California housing market crashed; our two teenaged children were struggling with big identity-defining issues, my mom was going through radiation treatment for breast cancer, and not long after that my dad was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer and given three months to live.
I could barely breathe when I got out of bed in the morning, never mind trying to write songs. It was too painful, too raw and I didn’t want to dig around in the emotional wreckage of it, so I just went numb for a while. A long while. I did my job and everything else kind of on autopilot—and part of me was convinced I could just go on forever that way. It was easier than facing the disappointment, the bitterness, the fear.
But something stirred inside of me one day. I remember picking up my guitar, dusting if off and tuning the strings differently. I strummed until I started to hear a melody again. With the melody came a concept and lyric ideas, and I wrote a song about coming back to life. The first one I’d written in over a year. I wept during the whole process. Writing it broke the proverbial dam, I guess, and more songs for a full album tumbled out soon after that.
So, in the middle of this new rush of songwriting I started thinking about how the creative process works—how doing what I love, what I know I’m designed to do—heals me and helps me deal with what’s going on at the deepest level. I couldn’t help but think I wasn’t alone. I wanted to share my experiences and insights with other people. I wanted to write about how a creative life isn’t just optional for some of us—it’s essential.
What makes you feel most fulfilled creatively?
Songwriting is my happy place. I’ve loved words and music since I was a little girl. I used to write in a diary from the time I first learned how to spell! I wrote poems, stories, and letters to my friends and family. When I was 12 or 13 I asked my parents for guitar and piano lessons, because I started hearing melodies for the words I was writing. I’d start singing them in my head, and needed to learn how to put them into a musical context. When I discovered I had a knack for putting together lyrics and melodies it was like I’d found a way to express my true self.
To this day, it’s like that for me. Songs are the language I speak, the thoughts I think, they are the way I receive and give back to the world around me. When I write and sing my songs, I’m more grounded and content than when I’m doing any other thing. I feel like I’m connected to something bigger than me; like what I’m doing matters in a way I can’t quantify or explain.
What would you say to those who don’t believe they’re ‘creative’?
I’d like to challenge that notion! I think there’s a difference between those hobbies we do once in a while that feel artsy—like a weekend dance class or scrapbooking group—and what, in fact, is our unique set of talents, skills, and personality seeking creative expression. So, while it may not be a career path for many of us, creativity is a soul path that uses a different part of our brain and allows us to daydream, imagine and explore possibilities. We might all do those things in different ways, in various mediums, but it comes from a common desire to make something and call it good. The desire to contribute to the world in a unique way is something we share, I think.
What do you hope people will come away with from reading your book?
For me, writing this book was about remembering that our life’s work—whatever it is—matters. And about discovering the joy of sowing myself—the full measure of my talents and resources—into the fields God has given me and seeing the beauty that grows there. At the very least I hope readers will find a starting point for their own creative journey, or encouragement for a long-forgotten one.
I’m so excited about your book, Staci. I wholeheartedly agree with everything you said, by the way. The world would be a happier place if we’d all give ourselves permission to create. Thank you for sharing your heart with us!
Make sure to buy Flourish here: http://www.amazon.com/Flourish-Cultivate-Creativity-Beauty-Color/dp/1502347032/ref=tmm_pap_title_0
Fabulous video about Flourish that must be watched, click here: http://www.flourish-book.com/#about
Hi there. Long time, no chat. I’m making my way through this year, trying to figure out how life is going to be now. It’s taking time. I’m catching glimpses of beauty every day, even in the sadness. It seems to make it all the more sweet.
Greyley and I met a girl yesterday. Her name was Mariah and she was a tiny little girl. I’m not sure how old~she could have been anywhere from 6-9 years old. It was hard to tell because she was so petite. I smiled at her when we sat down in the doctor’s waiting room and she smiled back. It was just a blink later and she was standing in front of me, chatting away. She could hardly breathe, she was so stopped up, and her mom slipped a mask over her face and kept telling her to back up from me, but she paid her no mind. Before I knew it, she had crawled in my lap against her mom’s protests. I reassured her mom that I had fallen just as hard for her girl as she had for me and I nestled her in closer and breathed in her sweetness. We covered some ground in quick time, talking about her Little Pony game, her favorite color being pink (!!!), and that she has a feeding tube.
We were very sad when the doctor came out to tell us it was time for our appointment. I told Mariah I hoped we were able to see her again and that she better remember me. I said, LORILORILORILORILORI, super duper fast so she would remember my name and her laugh filled the whole room.
When we were walking away, I heard her ask her mom what Lori’s sister’s name was again, and Greyley and I smiled at each other. (Clearly, Mariah was oblivious to my grey hairs peeking through…) Greyley and I were both completely smitten, our steps were lighter and happier from meeting such a sweet person.
Sometimes it takes seeing the genuine joy in someone who has it harder than we do. Recognizing that they’re conquering their difficulties and still able to be silly and share their big hearts with others…well, it just makes me want to do better. Be better. Love better.
It will totally be worth it if I get sick.
I wrote this poem on December 6, 2013…back when I felt a melancholy that didn’t fully make sense. Now it does, and I feel it even more than when I wrote it.
There is beauty in it all.
Sometimes when life seems more than I can take
When the emptiness is as vast as a stark canyon at sunset
And the ache feels like another character residing within me
I look around and see what is.
There is beauty in the way the blue connects with the pink and the white in the sky
There is beauty in the way my son laughs from his belly, so hard that he cannot breathe
There is beauty in the smile my daughter gives me when she appreciates something I’ve said
There is beauty in the love I see in my husband’s eyes as he kisses me
There is beauty in the breath I can take every second of every day
There is beauty in seeing the beauty.
I hope I can remember that.
I think maybe the anger has come. You know~the five stages of grief and all. I’m neck-deep in grief and feel like hitting someone. My mom would nervously giggle about me saying that, so I will tone it down for her sake, but…I think she knows how I feel. She lost her parents when she was 36 and 37. I know she was never the same after that and I know I never will be either.
All the sweet messages and notes and flowers~it has truly been comforting to feel the love and support of our loved ones during this time. I don’t know what we would have done without it. As it is, we’re clinging to each other desperately, and then knowing people are praying for us through it…it is the only way we can make it.
But then there are the others…oh the things people say.
Back in May, Mother’s Day to be exact, the day before my mom had surgery for breast cancer…a lady came up to my mom’s window as we sat in the church parking lot.
“I heard about the cancer,” she said with a shake to her head. “I tell you what, everyone has been so sick. I’ve had this cold for weeks! Just can’t shake it. Have never been so sick in all my life…” And on and on she went about her various ailments.
My mom nodded her head and smiled sweetly, not trying to add or take away from the conversation, just listening. She was the best listener. But besides that, it really can be hard to get a word in edgewise with some people.
When the lady finally moved on, I looked at my mom in disbelief. She wasn’t going to say anything. So I said it. “Can’t people give you one day? One minute even? Without talking about their stuff? You have cancer!” I went on a bit more and she laughed about it.
She was so calm about cancer that I had to sort of calm down about it too, but I wanted everyone to at least acknowledge what she was going through and not just feel the need to talk about their Aunt So-and-So’s sickness in that moment. Or their own bout with cancer. Or the time their dog had cancer…
Fast forward to this past week. Shock. We’re stunned because my mom survived breast cancer. It was pneumonia that took her. We never dreamed we would lose her right now.
Standing by her casket, the same lady came up to me. The Cold For Weeks Lady. I tried not to cringe, but to treat her kindly as my mama taught me to always, always do.
“I just can’t believe it about your mother.” She shook her head. “It has been an awful week. I’ve had two deaths in the past few days! One was a guy I went to high school with and the next day your mother!” She shook her head again. “I have to go to another visitation after this!” She looked at me, like, can you believe how busy I am?
And again, I wished for just one day that my mom could have it be about her. Where we could talk about her beauty and her unending patience and loyalty, her passion for talking about the Lord, the all-encompassing way she loved, her quiet way that never asked to be the center of attention, but her gracefulness that still captured it…her quick humor, her table that was always set to perfection, the way she had OCD with her closets, the light in her eyes when she talked about her grandchildren, the way she always knew the alto part, the pink tinge in her cheeks and her red lips…her smile.
She loved like no other.
I know no one will ever love me like she did, and that is such a huge loss. It was more than her being my mother~I’ve met plenty of mothers who didn’t really want to know all about their children. She wanted to know everything and felt everything I felt and then some. I tried to protect her from some of the knowing, because I knew how deeply she carried my burdens.
There just aren’t many people in the world like that. There was an art to her caring~a precision to it that was exact and always on point. It came naturally to her and she exhibited it to the very end.
If I run into Another Visitation Lady ever again, I cannot be held responsible; however, most likely, I will smile sweetly and nod. And hopefully I can have a good laugh about it all with my mama one day.
We laid my beautiful mama to rest on Monday, December 30th. I can’t even begin to express the pain we feel at losing her. I know we’d never be ready, but it all is such a shock.
I wanted to share this for those of you who aren’t nearby…I know so many people around the country loved my mother. She was to love, that’s for sure.
Kathryn S. Hicks (Kay), 69, of Cabot, Arkansas, passed away Friday, December 27, 2013. Kay was best known and will long be remembered for her kind, gentle spirit and for her selfless love for her family and friends. She was a member of the Apostolic Church in North Little Rock and loved the Lord Jesus above all else.
She is survived by her husband of 43 years, David Atkinson, of Cabot, Arkansas; son, Troi Atkinson and wife, Phyllis, of Toledo, Oregon; daughter, Lori Sabin and husband, Nate, of Saint Paul, Minnesota; grandchildren, Stefen and Jared Atkinson, Greyley and Indigo Sabin, and Brittney and Nicole Connolly; sisters, Wannie Jean Pope, of Pine Bluff, and Patricia Newell, of Denver, Colorado; brother, Rev. Joe Hicks, of Mayflower, Arkansas, and several nieces, nephews, and a host of friends. She was preceded in death by her parents, Robert and Gladys Hicks, two sisters, Gladys Mae Hicks and Rita Hymer, and brother, Robert Hicks.
Since she was so difficult about getting her picture taken~I believe I’ve blogged about that a half dozen times on here :)~this is the last picture I have of her before this week. I’m so glad I have it.
Wishing you and all of yours so much love and joy this Christmas season. Let your hearts be merry and light. xo
We’re going through some hard things with Greyley and a friend of mine~Andrea~asked me for the link to Indigo’s story. I have to remember those days every time I start losing hope in the here and now. Greyley fell in gym at school over two weeks ago and has had such a hard couple of weeks. She’s been in pain every day, hasn’t been able to walk without stumbling around, and is pretty out of it. At physical therapy this week, she was discouraged, but Nate told her she just wanted her own miracle story to tell.
He was kidding. We already know she’s had her share of miracles too. Just her being born is a big one. There was THIS day. There’s been years of THIS and that’s been so much better than it used to be, thankfully! But sometimes you just forget all that and need reminding. I know she’ll be okay. It’s just hard right now.
We’re having a lot of cuddle time, which I am eating up. My fifteen-year-old baby girl still loving me is something I will never take for granted. I’ve held my breath that it will change at some point~everyone puts the holy fear of God into you about those teenage years, especially with girls…but we’re hanging in there. We still love each other madly.
The doctor told her again a couple days ago to not do anything. Don’t text, read, watch TV…and added two new ones: don’t lay down and no napping in the day. When you feel rotten, you just want to lay down and when you’re not sleeping well, naps sound mighty good. But since she’s having so much trouble walking, they said with the concussion, she’ll have to retrain her brain to think it’s okay to sit and stand up. So we’re taking it slowly. Things are quiet and calm around here. Well, except for the little chatterlove who has been so concerned about his big sister.
Last night was the best I’ve seen her. I could tell she was feeling a little better because she started teasing her brother. Today she has to get an MRI and she’s dreading that in a big way.
Looking back on previous posts over the years, I’ve asked for prayers so many times and I know so many of you have really taken our family to heart. I appreciate it more than I can say. So once again, add Greyley to your list. xo
Continued from Summer Road Trip Part 1…
I saw friends that I haven’t seen in so many years, but we fell right back into our fun, easy friendship like no time had passed at all.
Indigo took this one of us and I’m so wishing I’d taken one of the two of them. They hit it off right away, like I knew they would.
The next morning, Nate and I did a rehearsal with the musicians at The Rock Church in Mountain View, CA. The very first person I saw was my dear friend Samantha! I wanted to weep and laugh all at once. I think I did do that. We played in the band at church together for YEARS.
Oh man, it did my heart good to see her.
And then Stanley! It was just too much. The best day ever.
And so many more. I had a non-stop grin on my face for days.
The church was great—so welcoming and kind. We just loved it there.
Photos by Ron Hodges
Mindy…Greyley fell hard for her and I knew she would. Even though she’s all grown up, her personality is still as huge as ever.
And then the next day, Deanna!
(This dress made the rounds. I washed it, I promise.)
Such a good visit.
From her we went straight to see my brother from a different mother/father. Rudain.
We visited while Greyley drove the 4-wheeler. She was having a blast and being all careful.
And then Rudy said, “Come on, I’ll teach you how to drive it fast.”
This is a nice picture before she turned it on its side…
Everyone wants to know where that picture is.
Um, I was running out to my baby with heels on…in the dirt…not taking time to take a picture.
She was fine. She and Rudain were both laughing when we got to them. It took my heart too long to recover.
That night, we went to my nephews’ house and had the best time. Never enough time, but always sweet…
They just all click.
Christina & me
To be continued…
Want to go on a road trip? Like, a really totally LONG road trip?
Okay, let’s get started…
Minnesota to somewhere in Nebraska…stayed in a hotel that looked awful on the outside, but was actually quite shocking inside. Great place. Ramada, I think. There was an indoor tiki hut courtyard. I know, it can’t be explained. But what really caught my eye was the sign in front of the (truly) fabulous pool.
Sometimes you just have to spell things out, I guess.
It was bliss when we found this train out in the middle of nowhere…in Wyoming. There was also the nicest log cabin Subway I have ever seen. If that and the Walmart hadn’t been there, I would have expected Tonto to come out at any moment.
It was beautiful in Wyoming and Nevada, but crossing into California…it really is something special. And we were so happy to FINALLY be in CALIFORNIA!!! (Insert wild dancing here!)
We made it to our dear friend Staci’s house after two days on the road. She promptly fed us and took us over to her mom’s house to swim. The kids needed it! There also happened to be a scooter that Indigo became instantly attached to…
Went to San Francisco…I’ve wanted to take the kids there for such a long time. I have so many great memories there with my family and friends…Nate and I have so many great memories there too. So I had a perma-grin that whole day. We rode the BART.
Indie took this shot…
We rode the cable car…Stace took this one. Wish she was in the picture instead of Poser Dude.
It seems we adopted a new family member for the picture. ^
Found some minions.
Dreams were fulfilled.
I found my place.
Died over this…
Enjoyed the beauty. Healed my insides to see the beauty.
To be continued…
Even though the rain just keeps pouring down, the feeling of summer is in the air. Promising something…good.
I’m ready for that, how about you?
Let’s start off with the troubling things first. My parents’ health has been a huge and growing concern. My dad hasn’t been improving as much as we’d like. At all. And my mom has breast cancer. She had surgery the day after Mother’s Day and it went well. She starts radiation in a week or so and finds out later this week if she’ll have to do chemo too. We’re hoping and praying she won’t have to do chemo.
Through it all, my mother has made it hard to be overly worried—I still am, but her peace about whatever happens next has been instrumental in calming my heart and mind about it. I still have bad days when I’m just a mess about it, but most of the time, I’m feeling so hopeful that everything is going to be all right.
All of it has made me try to stop and be grateful for the moments I have…to be mindful that life is fleeting and each moment counts. I don’t want to waste it being held back or fearful. I want to live each moment loving…whether it’s my children, my husband, my parents, family, friends, strangers, fill in the blank. NOT food. haha Trying to not love food QUITE so much as I have been. A healthy love, you know?
Work is good and plentiful and overwhelming and fun and has made my life topsy turvy, but in the best ways. Traveling more than I ever have and while I love it as much as I ever did, I am learning what it really means to be homesick for my husband and kids. Before, it was so rare that I was away from them that it felt like a healing time to go away and recharge. Now it feels like I don’t need that so much, but am THRILLED when I get to come home to them.
I think my last post I shared the books I’d worked on from Jan-April. Will try to give you the latest, in case there are any book lovers still reading my spotty blog and looking for a beach read. The Last Hour by Charles Sheehan-Miles, Happenstance by MJ Abraham, There is No Light in Darkness by Claire Contreras, Darkness Before Dawn by Claire Contreras, and Picturing Perfect by Melissa Brown. There are several coming out soon, too, that I’m excited about. Two, in particular. I’ll try to share those links when they’re available.
Speaking of beach…I’m seeing that in my future. Oh, I need to see that beautiful water. Who’s going to the beach this summer? If I don’t end up getting there, enjoy it for me, please. xoxo