Finding the Joy De Vivre

I love all the french expressions that have found their way into english vernacular, and none more than joy de vivre. I’m not a french speaker but I don’t think it even requires a translation – it just sounds like it is bursting with all the good things. It’s pronounced ʒwa də vivʁ, just in case you’re french is as bad as mine.

But for those that can’t hear the meaning in the sound of the words, it means finding the joy in life. It is described as an exaltation of the spirit, a joy of conversation, a joy of food – a general delight with living.

So in other words, it’s finding joy in the small things. Stopping, taking a moment to look. Tuning in to the small things. To me, this is living slowly and mindfully. Today, these are some of the things that helped me feel the joy de vivre:

★  Walking my daughter to school on this fresh autumn morning. Rugged up in my new scarf, and a warm jacket, with the sun on my face and my kiddos chatting easily with me about life.

 Taking a bus with my youngest. We usually have the car, but not today – my husband needed it for work. So I thought we’d have a little excursion. We took a bus to the station, then a train two stops. On a recommendation, we had morning tea at The Sunbeam Cafe. It is as delightful as the name suggests. Established in 1945, not a great deal has changed in The Sunbeam Cafe since then, including the style of cakes. (Think cream puffs, apple turnovers, chocolate eclair… my mouth is watering just thinking about them.)

 Coming home, and on a whim deciding to make lentil rolls from the Lunch Lady website. How can anyone go past these, when the headline is “it’s a long way to shop, if you want a lentil roll”. And even better, the real song is stuck in my head. Here’s the result.

(I supplemented the pumpkin for a tin of cannelinni beans, added a zucchini and some LSA instead of breadcrumbs, and happily, none of this was to their detriment.)

 Whispering silliness into my four-year-old’s ear, and hearing her electric cackle escape loudly from deep within her belly.

Taking the time to reflect on these little, but magical things, improved the quality of my day in an immeasurable way.

Are you taking the time to find the joy de vivre? Tell me some the things that have left you delighted with life.

Back from Blog Holidays & The 100 Day Project

It’s been a while, but I’ve been having a little blogging holiday. Sometimes I just lose my mojo and get a bit distracted so I don’t blog. I take a step back. Sometimes I fret about it, and worry that I should be blogging. But when I think about it, holidays are good and they help you feel refreshed and recharged. So it’s been a blogging holiday.

So I haven’t blogged for a while because I’ve been busy with this business we call living. School holidays, Easter, work, life.

If you follow The Morning Drum on Instagram you’ll know that the other thing keeping me busy is The 100 Day Project. I am loving this project. For so long I’ve been wanting to make space for more art and creativity. All the best laid plans would always fizzle, I’d get busy with kids or work and I’d be left thinking ‘maybe tomorrow then…?’

But very rarely did tomorrow bring that mystical pocket of time that I needed to sit and do some sketching or painting.

I’ve written about how I needed to make the time to write daily, so I got up earlier. That has worked like a dream and I am consistently writing on weekday mornings now. As I sighed and contemplated the art practice that never happened, I realised that if I really did want to do this (rather than just ruminate on how I wish I could do it) I needed to make a change, somehow.

With my pre-dawn rising already committed to writing, I had been thinking about how I could work things, and still manage to do my paid work, and all the running around that comes with three kids.

Then one morning I was reading about The 100 Day Project.

And there was my answer. I just needed to commit to something. So I rather spontaneously decided that I would do it. After a few hours I felt a little bit sick thinking about 100 days, (it seems like such a long time!) and the project finishes on July 12th. We leave for Vietnam on July 1st – my first road block.

But I forged ahead and decided I would just work it out.

The 100 Day Project is about making art, or creating something every day. You choose a theme and create daily based on that theme. Mine is 100 Days of Seasons, here’s my hashtag if you want to take a look on Instagram: #100daysofseasons.

The 100 Day Project promises to help cultivate a daily creative practice, gives you access to a supportive community and an opportunity to look outwards and see what other people all over the world are creating.

Day 2/100 Tomatoes for Summer

Some of my offerings scream “amateur”; but some I am very proud of. The 100 Day Project has made me a little braver. Braver about putting myself ‘out there’, and braver with the type of things I am creating. I am trying different styles and different mediums. Ultimately something like this fosters growth. It’s Day 22 today so it’s early days, and who knows what is around the corner. But while I can manage to do a piece of daily art, I’ll continue with it because the benefits have been so wonderful.

I’m virtually off social media – I post my art on Instagram (as part of the project) and while I’m there I stop to look at other people’s projects. But when it comes to Facebook, I briefly pop in and then pop out again, which I am SO damned happy about. Late last year I took a month off Facebook, but it snuck back in. I feel like I’ve broken the habit and because there is no embargo on my use of it I can dip in when I like, but I’m finding I just have better things to do.

Day 11/100 Bunnies for the Easter season

I am constantly working towards living a slower life. It is a work in progress, of course, because the actual world we inhabit is not that slow. Not slow at all, in fact. So in a way it is like running against the tide. But doing something like The 100 Day Project is a perfect accompaniment to living at a slower pace. In the evenings I’ve been leaving my lap top at my desk and sitting with my sketch book. It’s mindful, it’s considered and it is so satisfying.

In the morning the kids are eager to see what I’ve created the night before. Happily, my work is a source of inspiration for them. So once they are dressed and fed, they’ve been reaching for their own sketch books. I tell you, the volume of art work coming out of the Beck house at the moment is extraordinary – anyone would think we had a contract with Lombards!

For my youngest, in just three weeks, she has gone from writing her name in a way that (sort of) resembled letters, to writing her name clearly and neatly on each drawing. Every day her pictures improve and she adds more and more new detail. There is less nagging for the iPad and the three of them interact and compliment each other on their work.

The thought of participating in something like The 100 Day Project in the past has been too much to get my head around. But the benefits are more than I could have imagined – and we are only three weeks in. While taking on something extra like this may seem tin conflict with my ultimate goal of slow living it has actually made me feel less stretched and hassled by the day to day machinations of life.

Day 20/100 Poppies for Anzac Day

What helps you slow down? Do you have a daily practice of any thing?

It’s March Already: Taking Stock.

We are in March already. Sometimes I want to just press pause for a moment, but no matter how    hard we try the cyclone of life collects us up in its frenzied twister and dumps us into the new month. The arrival of March signals a change in seasons, cooler autumnal weather, which ultimately signals winter. While we can’t complain too much in this southern tip of Australia with warm sunny days every day this week and the same for next week, the mornings are decidedly cooler.

My daughter observed on a day last week when the temperature tipped 36 º, that in Summer she longs for the Winter, and in Winter she misses the warmth of the Summer. I completely understand this, and often find the same. Although the benefit of adulthood is that I can remind myself not to wish life away. The cooler weather will come, all longing aside. It will come anyway. And then we will curse how cold it has got, and will the Winter days to pass so we can glimpse the Spring.

As most of you who read regularly will know, I took all of December off Facebook. It was quite a    revelation. If you’ve ever given up sugar or caffeine, I liken the experience to this. Withdrawal headaches in the first week, shadowy voices calling you back with temptation. December was a hard month to step away, with parties and lots of goodwill – and perhaps a toned down version of the internet outrage. There were a few times in that first week where I did feel that I was missing out.

Then I started being mindful and taking stock of what I was doing in the time where I would otherwise be staring into that lonely blue computer screen. I found time for art, reading – both books and magazines. I found an embroidery, buried in a box, that I started more than 20 years ago. It was a gift from my Mother-in-law when we still lived in the UK. I haven’t done a lot of work on it, but it has been lovely to be able to pick up, do a little then put it down again.

First corner completed (most of it was done 20 years ago!)

 

Making progress on the second corner!

It is only when we stop and take stock that the important things come back into focus. My  daughter is giving up the iPad for Lent, so I decided to pick up her lead and give up evenings on Facebook. I find the evening is when it becomes so insidious – it’s my down time from the busyness of the day, the kids are in bed. Facebook is easy, it’s so mindless that before I know it an hour has passed and I’m fast losing my evening to something I don’t much care for. The happy result thus far, is that I’ll have a quick look during the day but my separation from has highlighted just how inane it can be.

While I have made some lovely connections on there, and been able to keep in touch with friends and family who are not in my immediate orbit, there is a lot to wade through for these benefits. But enough Facebook bashing, this post is about taking stock.

So this is where I am at on this day in early March.

Making : time for the things that I love doing (well, trying to anyway)

Cooking : Jamie’s Fiery Dan Dan Noodles from the Jamie’s America cook book. It’s a good way to use bok choi, which I’m really not keen on, but it comes in my organic box and I hate the waste!

Drinking : right now it’s tea, but over the weekend it was home brewed beer, and some bubbles.

Reading: I just finished The Sunday Philosophy Club by Alexander McCall Smith, and tonight I start The Light Between Oceans by ML Stedman.

Wanting: a little something to nibble with my cuppa

Looking: at a gorgeous rose I just picked from my garden. (See above right). The bush is old and gnarly, and the roses are covered in thick thorns but it never fails to produce velvety bright orange roses. This one is still in bud. I love the anticipation of what it will become, and the smell is just heavenly.

Playing: with my four-year old daughter (well, in a minute. We are going to the park just as soon as I finish my cuppa.)

Deciding: How to spend the long weekend in Melbourne. We are contemplating a camping trip but I am also keen on a slow weekend pottering around the house, mornings in pjs and pots of tea in bed.

Wishing: that this weather would last forever. It is my perfect climate, sunny and warm, but cooler at night so sleeping is easy.

Enjoying: being back into reading, and making time in the evening for reading.

Waiting: for my second round of home grown strawberries to ripen

Liking: growing my own strawberries. There has not been an abundance, perhaps one or two a day, but we split them five ways and all enjoy a slither. I feel like Charlie from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Oh, the sweetness…

Wondering: what 2017 has in store

Loving: getting to know our new chooks – we have four of them. And they are funny little things.

Pondering: how I can get more organised, why siblings fight so much and how I can tune out from that.

Considering: going for an after dinner walk. The sun is shining till late in the evening at the moment and it’s an opportunity to claim half an hour for myself.

Buying: not too much but considering a new couch. Our current couch is 15 years old and was bought pre-kids, but now that there are five of us, we don’t all fit on it.

Watching: The Crown – just so good.

Hoping: to spend more time in our art room – maybe over the long weekend.

Marvelling: at how my eight year old son can continue to talk non-stop without drawing breath.

Cringing: at my Kath & Kim dancing on Saturday night. Fun at the time though…

Needing: a nana nap. And a slower pace of life.

Questioning: our way of life, we seem to chase our tails working, earning, spending…

Smelling: my gorgeous home-grown rose.

Wearing: shorts and a t-shirt, it’s 28C and sunny.

Following: lots of England-based people on Instagram, which is making me pine for the mother-land…

Noticing: how tired I feel right now.

Knowing: that we are all doing the best we can.

Thinking: that kindness costs nothing and it can make the world of difference.

Admiring: lots of artists on Instagram

Sorting: dinner out – the kids are excited about the fiery Dan Dan noodles

Getting: excited about planning our trip to Vietnam in July (recommendations please!).

Bookmarking: not much actually, it’s amazing how much less online reading I do since disengaging from Facebook.

Coveting: not much, but maybe that new couch

Disliking: all the running around and chasing of our tails

Opening: a new book tonight – excited!

Giggling: at my funny little chooks.

Feeling: thankful for the day I’ve had.

Snacking: hmmm, perhaps some cheese and crackers, or some nuts. I didn’t realise I was so hungry!

Helping: my son with his home work – this is his first year of homework and it’s been a bit overwhelming.

Hearing: my kids chatter (and not fight!)

What’s been happening for you? 

2017 Spinning The Plates

Well, I know it’s like… half way through January, but dang, how did that happen??? 2017, I mean, it’s like I looked up and the year was over, and the new one had begun. That isn’t meant to happen when you are trying to live a ‘slow’ life.

I’m about to head off camping for a week so thought I’d jot down a few musings for 2017. I’ve done the whole ‘choose a word’ thing for each new year for the past couple of years, but like past resolutions, the word was quickly forgotten. I can’t even remember my last year’s word, and given 2016 finished only two weeks ago, I’m thinking that the ‘word’ thing doesn’t work for me.

I know that that particular exercise is inspired by that lovely feeling of possibility that comes with the start of a new year, and I completely embrace those possibilities. There is something so wonderful and energising about possibilities.

But I want to start as I mean to go on.

And I want to mean it. 

I’ve found what most inspires me is hope. Which can include ambition, and professional goals. But I think there is so much more to life than this limited framework. For me, hope includes plans for travel; working towards more meaningful interactions: with my family, with my friends, with my clients and work peers, and within the community that I live in.

Those connections are so important. Call me a cynic, or perhaps a little bit jaded, but there seems to be a lot of grabbing going on, in insidious ways. People ‘reaching out’ with the sole intention of trying to sell you something, sign you up to something, to get you follow them to increase their stats or numbers…

This year, 2017, is about looking for hope, enjoying what I’ve created, hoping it continues, investing myself in projects, and people and family so all the beauty does continue.

Finding joy in the small things and continuing my slow journey is a central focus. I feel lucky to be able to say that mostly I’ve got the ‘work/life balance’ right in my life. That’s partly due to committing to a slower lifestyle; you actually need less when you live slowly and intentionally. I know. A revelation.

 I’m looking for things that are bigger than me. The world is shrinking into the tiny social media connections of Facebook and Instagram and I don’t want to shrink with it.

Last year, I was in a client meeting and a team member was introduced and one of her ‘achievements’ was growing her Instagram followers to over 50,000. This was one of the reasons for having her on board. I left that meeting feeling a little disillusioned.

I’d gone back to uni to do my Masters’ in Editing & Communications. During the time that I was studying I gave birth to two of my three children. Visited the Mother & Baby Sleep Unit with both of them, sold our house, bought another and moved across the other side of the city, and in my final semester of uni I joined the Marketing and Communications department of a top tier law firm. It was a struggle to say the least. To hear that someone was on board the project because they grew their Instagram followers to 50,000 left me wondering if I’d wasted my time, energy and money on study.

When I say that the world is shrinking into our social media connections, I fear for struggle and the pain and the energy that people put in to doing work that has depth and real meaning. When someone can appear with a large Instagram following and be hired on the strength of that… Social media is the way of the world, I get that, but I live in hope that there is movement beyond this flakey imaginary world. I know now that my MA could never be wasted, because it was so personally enriching. That’s what I’m coming back to. Enriching my life, my family’s life, my friends’ lives.

This is why I took the month of December off Facebook and I rediscovered life before social media. Time to read, watch great TV (although there was no Netflix back then!). Don’t get me wrong I’ve actually made some lovely friends online, through blogging, who I’ve never met in person but definitely have a connection with. So YouTube, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, they all have a place, but rightfully, they should only take up a small space in our lives.

On my month off I discovered an embroidery in a box that my mother-in-law gave me so many years ago, when we still lived in England – before we were married. I had done one corner and started the second, put it away and forgot it ever existed. I’ve come back to that, I’ve done a little bit more on it. I’m rusty, that’s for sure.

When I started I had my mother-in-law to defer to, but now we live on opposite sides of the planet. I had forgotten how to do a french knot. When I realised I couldn’t remember how to do this, she would have been asleep so I couldn’t even Skype to ask. Thank goodness for YouTube (see, not all bad!). I’m still rusty, but at least I know how to do it now.

These are the little things that I speak of. Having projects, making plans, investing in my lovely community and friends and family. Rumi offers advice for those who have lost hope in life:

“Look as long as you can at the friend that you love.”

Friendships can nourish us. Strong relationships can nourish us.

Retreat in equal measure is just as important, which I experienced with my Facebook break. But it is also part of a living a slow and intentional life. Retreat provides sustenance. I’m still learning how to spin all the plates and keep things ticking over, but setting out with the intention to go gently means I look forward to the new year, whatever it may hold, with a simple recipe up my sleeve.

Retreat, hope, love, kindness and repeat. Practise one at a time, or all together.

Do you have a plan for your 2017?

Creativity, Confidence & Kindness

paint-1273070_1920I made a commitment to myself to make more art. It’s been a round-about path to where I am at right now, but as things often do, I seem to have come full circle; as I am back on the blog. Lately, I’ve taken a step back from the blog. Simply because I was getting a low-grade buzzing in my ear that was making it feel like a bit of chore.

This, combined with some real nastiness on the internet, led me to think it’s not really a place I want to hang out. The online blogging community can be incredibly warm and embracing, full of people who want to engage and connect. But it can sometimes be crowded out by acidic, ambitious people who behave poorly; just like real life I guess.

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