I Didn't Think I Could Climb the Hills

When I first arrived in Portland, and started riding my bike around, I had to walk up most of the hills. I am ashamed to say that even on the Breezer I was walking up the hills at least part of the way. I thought there was no way I would ever be able to make it back home by bike from any other area of the city. Well, maybe I would be able to once in a while, but not a few times a week. I was trying to figure out how we were going to afford to put an e-assist on the bakfiets. I felt defeated. I was worried that biking here wasn't going to be as fun as I had hoped.

I was wrong! So wrong! Most of my anxiety was purely mental. My body has now proven my mind wrong. In the first few weeks of being here I noticed myself getting stronger and stronger. No more walking the Breezer up the hills. Then, over the next few rides, I became better at riding the bakfiets up the hills. Slowly, but I did it. Sometimes I didn't even realize I was riding up them in higher gears than I thought possible for myself. It was fun! I can do it! I'm also getting better each time I ride. Is it difficult at first? Yes! Does it suck most of the time? Yes! Do I have to walk the bike sometimes? Yes, but I'm not riding in a race, so who cares! When I make it, all of the previous struggles become worth it. Not only does it boost my confidence, it makes my mind feel better and my body stronger.

I had imagined that riding here would be fun, and it is!


Creative Mothers - Mandy Brasher

This week's Creative Mother is Mandy Brasher. Mandy contacted me after seeing the interviews shared on the Lost in Living Facebook page (thanks again Lost in Living), and I am so glad she did. I am really in awe of all the amazing creative mothers out there. I love reading these interviews. Every interview has something in it that just hits home for me. I hope that's the same for all of you. Mandy is a great example of doing what you love, no matter when, where, what age, or how. We really don't need to feel we were born with creative talents, sometimes they come later and that's great too. I also relate immensely when Mandy talks about how becoming a mother gave her the confidence to be a writer. Same happened for me after I had my children. I felt that I had birthed humans, so now there is no reason I can't create art!

Mandy also mentions mama guilt. She makes a good point about how she doesn't think her husband feels the same when he goes to work. Why is that mamas? Why is it that we feel more guilty when we want or need to work, especially when it's creative? We really need to stop feeling this way, and that's a main reason for these interviews. We all are doing are best. Though, I can see reminders of that are always needed.

Thank you again Mandy for sharing your insights and creativity with us. I can't wait to read your first book!

Mandy Brasher
Mandy is a writer living out her 30’s in suburban Utah with her two kids, one husband, a racist cat and a rescue pup named Leo. Mandy is a regular contributor at The Good Men Project, and has written for many websites including mythirtyspot.com and mariashriver.com. She attempts to keep folks laughing on her blog, mandybrasher.com, where she covers everything from parenting like a boss to her failed attempts at writing a book. When she’s not structuring sentences on her laptop, Mandy enjoys traveling with her family (no camping), practicing yoga (wearing yoga pants), and trying new dark beers (she drinks anything with beer in the title). 

Find her on Twitter @BrasherMandy 
Check out her irreverent rants at mandybrasher.com
If you like stupid pictures, follow her on Instagram @MandyBrasher.
What about Facebook? Yeah, there’s that, too. https://www.facebook.com/mandy.brasher

1. What is your earliest memory you have of creating and/or writing?

I’m embarrassed to admit that I was never an avid writer as a child, so my earliest memory of writing was in junior high school. My grandparents had always been into natural living and they talked to me about aluminum in deodorant. They believed that it caused Alzheimer’s, so I did some research, wrote an article for the school newspaper and had it published. I was scared to use deodorant for quite a while.

2. When did you realize you were an artist, writer, creative etc.? (I see that you realized just a few years ago how much you loved writing. Do you feel that you were afraid to be creative in the past and finally allowed yourself to write, or did the desire come from somewhere else? Maybe it was always there?)

I never felt creative. My mom is very talented and I grew up watching her sew, paint furniture and make all kinds of amazing crafts. I failed in those aspects of creativity. After starting my blog, which was a place for me to rant, my mom was the first person to call me a writer. That was four years ago and she is still my biggest fan. Getting older, having kids and finding my voice really helped me venture into writing. I guess I never considered writing an art until later on in life. My belief was stuck in the idea that if I didn’t do what my mom did, I wasn’t an artist. My ability to write may have always been there, but I needed some life experiences before I tapped into it.

3. Why do you create/write? How would you feel if you could not write anymore?

Writing helps me deal with my long list of issues including OCD, my inability to coordinate outfits and my general neurosis about life. When I write, I feel normal for a few hours. It’s also a great way for me to share my humor without being in front of people. If I couldn’t write anymore, I would probably need to be medicated. Writing is my Prozac. Maybe I should Tweet that.

4. Did you create before you had children? After? How has becoming a mother changed or enhanced the way you create? 

I didn’t write before I had kids. My self-esteem was low for most of my life, so I never felt like I had anything to offer the world except maybe 40 hours of monotony in a cubicle. It never occurred to me that I could be a writer. I thought writers were smart, darkly dressed folks who were editors at school papers and lived in NYC. My kids were young when I started writing and I think the confidence I gained from being a good mom gave me the boost I needed to start telling my stories. I figured if I was good at one thing, maybe I could be good at something else. Having kids also gave me a ton of material to write about.

5. What is the most challenging thing about being a mother and an artist? How do you handle those challenges? 

Time, time and probably time. Although I have worked odd jobs as my kids were growing up, they have always had my undivided attention when I am at home. Now that I’m focusing on my writing full time, I don’t have the availability to take them to the park or make cutesy lunches every afternoon. I feel guilty about that sometimes. It’s strange, because my husband works full time as a small business owner and I don’t think he feels guilty for working. It’s a mom thing, I guess. Or a me thing. I handle it by taking Wednesdays off to take the kids on an adventure and by making the most of our family dinners. My kids are older now and capable of making their own lunches, so I need to stop worrying that I am ruining their lives by not cutting the crusts off every damn sandwich.

6. Do you ever involve your children in your writing? Do they inspire, help, mimic your projects, ask to learn, or be involved in your writing?

I have always written about them, they are definitely my inspiration. My kids have always been very funny and precocious little people. I’m positive that without them, I would have zero material. My daughter inherited the artist bug from my mom so she is always teaching herself new mediums. She has learned stop motion animation, sewing and is currently perfecting her watercolor skills. I’m in awe of her talent. She is always interested in reading my work and she is very supportive. Both of my kids are avid readers, so I think they get a kick out of the fact that I am a writer. They frequently ask how many books I’m going to write. It’s a lot of pressure.

7. What have you sacrificed in order to write? 

Money. I’m sure there will be other things down the road, but that’s our challenge right now. We are a one income family in 2014, so it’s a good thing I like shopping at thrift stores and eating at home. My husband has been very supportive, but he is a math brain and a salesman so he doesn’t always understand why I spend so much time writing pieces that don’t create income. He’s banking on me getting a publishing deal and a fat check. He doesn’t understand how difficult that really is. I have accepted the fact that I may never make a ton of money as a writer, but I’m doing what I love and I find joy in that. If I spent my life worrying about making a certain amount of money, I would be a miserable shell of a human being. Being a writer is a sacrifice financially, but we have a roof over our head and food on our table so we have a lot to be grateful for.

8. What have you gained from writing?

Self-confidence and a lot of new friends. Before I started my blog, I never imagined being considered a writer, so it’s pretty amazing to have people compliment me on my writing and want to read my crap. Over the past year, I’ve attended a couple of writing conferences and have finally found my tribe. Other neurotic folks who can relate to being home in yoga pants for weeks on end in order to finish up a manuscript. It’s a weird lifestyle. Writers don’t get dressed for work every day or have fancy lunch meetings.

9. Where do you want your art/writing to go over the next few years? Goals?

Before becoming a writer, I was never goal oriented. I think I was so scared of failing that I never wanted to give myself the opportunity to excel. My goal this year is to finish my book, get published and make enough money to treat my husband to dinner and a movie. Over the next few years, I would love to see my blog readership grow, publish a second book and make a comfortable income as a writer. I don’t have a roadmap of precisely how to get there, but I can’t read maps anyway. My motto has become “What’s next?” When I finish a blog post or meet a deadline that I’ve set for myself, I’m always ready for the next step.

10. At this time, what could you sacrifice, change, or simplify to help reach your writing goals? 

If I end up having to self-publish my first book, we will need to make some lifestyle changes to pay for that. Thankfully, that decision is still a few months away. We are also in the process of creating an office space for me, which will help immensely. Currently, I work on the couch with kids bouncing around me and I have notes and ideas piled up all over the house. It’s a hot mess.

11. Do you homeschool? Do the kids go to school? How does this affect your creativity and writing?

My kids attend public school which works well for us. I base my writing time around their schedule, so during the school year I get an earlier start so I can be done when they get home. Summers are challenging, but my kids are old enough to play with friends and find activities to keep them occupied. We still have days where I’m working on a project and they throw themselves over my lap claiming boredom. When I find the trick to ending that, I’ll let you know.

12. What does a typical day/week look like? Are you a morning or night person? Do you stick to a schedule or create whenever you can? 

Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday are work days for me. Mornings don’t happen for me until after 8 am because I’m not an early bird nor do I need to get a worm. I usually get started around 9 am and work until 4 pm during the school year, a bit later during the summer. We always eat dinner together and spend evenings as a family, no work allowed. Wednesdays are an adventure day for the kids and I and weekends are spent as a family. My schedule isn’t set in stone, but I try to stay consistent because it creates less stress for the people who live with me. There are nights when I can’t sleep so I will end up working on something until 3 am, but then I’m wiped out the next day so I try not to do that too often. There is also a ridiculous amount of coffee involved my schedule.

13. Can you offer any advice or tips to other creative mothers on? Inspiration, wisdom? 

Never give up on your dream. Persistence has always been tough for me and when I am ready to give up, I’m lucky to have my husband there to remind me to keep going. I’ve also realized that when I’m deep in my shit, I need to step away and do something active. My advice is to give yourself some goals that aren’t attached to your art, so that you can find inspiration and release in other ways. I recently trained for and finished a 50 mile bike race. I hadn’t ridden a bike in years, so that was huge for me. It gave me some great writing ideas and reminded me that I was capable of finishing something that initially seemed impossible.

14. Finally, name an creative mother who inspires you. Why and how does she inspire you?

My mom. That’s it. There are many other artist moms that I love, but she is my inspiration. She was a stay at home parent to three kids, living on a very small budget and she was always creating. Her talent is beyond anything I have ever seen on Pinterest or Etsy and I have begged her to sell her amazing artwork, but she refuses. She always tells me “I love the process of making something and the way I feel when it’s complete. Selling it was never the point of making it.” Needless to say, her house is filled to the brim with denim quilts, paintings, baby clothes and paper crafts. One day I hope to be that passionate about my work.


Creative Mothers is a weekly blog series here at Days With The Grays that helps to share, connect, and inspire creative mothers from all over the world. All right here, in one place. 

Are you a Creative Mother, or do you know one? Want to be interviewed? Send me an email at info@dayswiththegrays.com and I will send you the interview questions and info that I need. 


Bumfuzzle and More

Photo by Patrick Schulte (Bumfuzzle).

If you know us in real life then you know that a dream of ours is to live in a tiny home, or a motorhome traveling the country. Well, I guess you all know now too. Before we made our big move to Oregon from New Jersey we were seriously considering RV life, but honestly it all came down to what are goals were and money. Our number one goal was to remain car-free and get our butts to the west coast. Plus, we wanted to surround ourselves with some serious bike culture, which Portland obviously has. All that said, our apartment still feels too big, and I'm not sure owning a "normal" house in Portland is really in our future. It's not really what we want anyway. I know living tiny is in our future somehow, just not sure when or how yet.

Over the past few years I have searched the internet for families living the simple, tiny, and/or RV life. I found so many families living in such amazing and inspiring ways. One of those families is the Bumfuzzle crew. They are a family of four who for years lived on a sailboat in Mexico. Recently, they traded in boat life for RV life here in the states. I few months ago, while trying to figure out our move, I read Patrick Schulte (Bumfuzzle) and Nick O'Kelly's book, Live On The Margin to get more inspiration on simplifying our lives, especially financially. It was a great book and I even learned a thing or two about the stock market. Though Patrick and Nick made it easy to understand, I still can't really wrap my brain around the market completely. Numbers are just not my thing. Still a insightful and inspiring read. I definitely recommend it if you need inspiration on getting yourself out of debt and away from keeping up with those damn Jones'.

Anyway, the whole reason for this post is that Bumfuzzle has been hanging in Portland lately and decided to host get together here for anyone interested in meeting up with them. Of course, I wanted to go. No matter how awkward it felt. It's strange following people for so long and knowing their journey via the web, but at the same time it's great. It was awesome to connect with like minded people, learn about their lives on the road, and to thank some folks in person who have helped inspire us to make our lives better. The whole Bumfuzzle crew is really nice and they even had some time to check out our bikes. Plus, we were able to meet three other families who live full-time on the road, RV style. Thanks again Bumfuzzle Fam for hosting the get together and sharing your journey!

I can't wait to see how and when our tiny, simple life begins.

Actually, I guess it already has!