Stay Curious.
Dig Deeper.
Nurture What Matters.
Be BoldHeart.
Enjoy Your Life.

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The BoldHeartMama desires to enjoy living out the choices that she’s made for herself and for her family. She is a relentless learner: curious, inquisitive, and open to the possibilities of her life and of the human condition. She understands that there isn't one right way—she asks questions that dig deeper to make sense of it all and to find her own path.

She pays attention to and nurtures whatever it is she really cares about, letting go of the rest (for now) knowing she can't do and be everything all at once. She embraces her imperfections in favor of "good enough"—her imperfect self, her imperfect home, her imperfect mothering, her imperfect desires—and she never stops evolving as a woman and mother. She is a BoldHeart, authentic and true to herself.

The BoldHeartMama knows there is only this one life and she's all in. She is present and engaged and making things happen. Her intuition is her guide. She seeks to be inspired and relies on her creativity and her resourcefulness to solve the big and little challenges that she and her family face together as they navigate their relationships and their world.

The BoldHeartMama is willing to take calculated risks to make her biggest dreams come true. She is living out her BoldHeart in the moment, making small moves and taking little steps that add up, and she's cultivating a good life for herself and her family in the process. Read More!

Sunday, February 26, 2017

The Modern Nature Home: Interior Finishes

Modern isn't the word I would use to describe my decorating style, my fashion sense, or my favorite art, but motherhood has inspired a greater appreciation for order, simplicity, and minimalism—probably because babies and the early years of parenting bring a whole new level of unpredictability and chaos to daily life. Change is the only constant, as they say, and it's no wonder that we modern mothers crave a sense of control—the desire to regain order, to simplify our time and our belongings, and invest our limited resources in the good stuff of life that matters most.

With that said we will soon have a home with modern architecture and I am thrilled for the ways that this artfully designed space will become our sanctuary for good, easy living. We already feel intimately connected to this house through the design process, and the trickier task of choosing interior finishes from endless possibilities, but the modern design resonates like a kindred spirit as we move into the next phase of living and of raising our family.

Our intention for the interior design has been to strike balance between modern/industrial/nature without falling too hard for the latest trends, all while keeping our spaces warm and cozy with a classic vibe. It's been my challenge to make this unicorn concept come to life with only paper plans to work off. Making many decisions at once without being able to see how all the pieces will play off each other has made this process worrisome for me, but I believe that as long as the individual choices we make are in favor of what we truly love then the details will come together as a reflection of us and we will enjoy it for a long time.

My strategy for choosing interior finishes has been to lean heavily on the architecture of the house, coupled with a few key choices we made to create a high contrast interior: all white walls, black window frames, and clean shaker panel doors. To warm up this modern shell we chose bronze hardware for the doors with a traditional knob and plate, and honey hued acacia wood in a varied size plank that will be installed throughout the first and second floors with the exception of the communal and master bathrooms.

So far we have made final decisions on all flooring, cabinets, counters, tile, hardware, and plumbing, leaving only the main lighting fixtures and a few options for built in cabinetry. I'll look forward to doing a walk through when the house is complete, but in this post I'll share some of the big ideas from the kitchen, the master and communal bathrooms, and powder room.


To achieve the high contrast, minimalist look that we like so much we chose white walls, white painted shaker-style, frameless cabinets, and dark soapstone counters with a soapstone farmhouse sink. We decided to take a little leap and go with brass finger pulls instead of knobs for the cabinets, a brass faucet, and wooden open shelves to complement the acacia flooring. We will have stainless steel appliances, including a double oven and separate cooktop, and a streamlined range hood with a white stack bond tile behind it. I like the way that mixing finishes creates depth and adds interest. Faucet is Delta, Trinsic.

Master Bathroom

In the master bathroom we wanted to create a refreshing, romantic, and serene space. We chose a large 12" x 24" gray ceramic tile with a subtle wood grain for the flooring, carerra marble counters with backsplash, and a wood inlay for the vanity area. A freestanding japanese soaking tub will be sublime year round, and in the separate shower we went with 4" x 8" white beveled edge tiles in a diagonal herringbone. Faucets are Delta, Trinsic.

Communal Bathroom

The boys' bathroom is a communal area meant for all the kids to share, but it's near to the guest's bunkroom and intended for use by our family and friends when they stay over as well. The communal bathroom has one common space with two separate but identical toilet and shower areas. This room will have concrete floors throughout, and a concrete countertop with open wooden shelves underneath. To keep the interior of the shower/wet zone bright and no frills we chose a 4" x 12" long bright white stack bond tile. Faucet is Brizo, Litze.

Powder Room

One last little detail about our tiny powder room on the first floor is that we will be using moroccan fish scale tiles on the wall behind the sink. I want the bathroom to feel a little wild as an ode to our James River and so we chose this style tile in an earthy river forest palette. I haven't decided which direction I want the scales to point yet but I'm really excited about this little splurge.

Are there any do it yourselfers out there tackling projects or making big house decisions, either renovating or building new? I would love to hear the process for how you came to your final decisions on interior materials.

Which direction should we point our moroccan fish scale tiles: clouds or scales?  You can check out some examples here and here. :) 

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The Modern Nature House: an update in pictures and Q&A

We walked through the first floor of the house over the weekend for the very first time. We've mostly been voyers from afar since framing began because we try to stay out of the way of the crew when they are working.

On Saturday all was quiet so we climbed up the foundation wall in the garage, and into the entry to give ourselves a little tour of the space. We were there in late afternoon and I got all awestruck seeing how the final hours of daylight will stream brightly through the big windows in our kitchen. The boys quickly found their bearings with long pieces of rebar and began a play fight scene in the living room, while I did a walk-through to get a sense for each space. I've felt somewhat out of touch with the details since Winslet was born, so seeing it in person was helpful to my process as we are currently in various stages of choosing and purchasing all the finishing materials. It's wild to see this dream we've had on paper for all these years finally come into something tangible over the last month. 

If you are curious you can check out the latest and FINAL exterior schematics and floor plans, or catch up on the WHOLE story of the design process, plus a few of the hiccups we encountered along the way to finding land here in the archives

For now, here's a visual progression of the construction process so far.

Raw land after some clearing of the woods.

Excavation, footing pour with rebar: COMPLETE!

Foundation forms built and walls poured.

After stripping the forms the foundation walls are ready!
Checking it out, and taking it all in.

Deck of first floor in progress.

My Crew.

Over the edge they go! Deck is almost done.

Deck and site work (moving all the dirt to where it needs to go) complete!

Framing going up.

Everyday, new progress.

Wheeeee! A new playground. View from the project space/living room looking into the kitchen. <3

Another view of the kitchen from a different angle.

The first floor framing will be complete soon, and the second story deck and framing will wrap up by the end of the month.

In the meantime, we just placed a big order for our windows and doors, and have otherwise made all other decisions in flooring, cabinets, counters, tile, hardware, and plumbing. We are researching now for lighting fixtures and considering our options for woodwork and built ins. More to come on these details soon!

A quick Q&A

I get asked these questions a lot so I thought I'd share the answers here in case you were wondering too. :)

Do you face the river?

How close are you to the river?
A two minute walk down the driveway and around the corner.

How much land do you have and where is it?
A little over half an acre, in city limits, near pony pasture rapids.

What does ModernNature mean?
I think the best explanation is to go back to our original vision for the house which was this:

A modestly-sized, environmentally sensitive, low-maintenance home that effortlessly integrates into its surroundings. Industrial and natural materials: glass, concrete, wood, metal.

A comfortable—sometimes luxurious—technologically enhanced, light-filled spaced inspired by modern design that melds minimalistic architecture and natural family living in fascinating and surprising ways; a relaxing retreat that invites nature to come inside.

A floor plan that fosters intimate family interaction, and accommodates larger gatherings for entertaining. Spaces that serve a clear function and purpose.

We hope to turn the land into a sanctuary for good, easy living that brings us in tune with the river, ourselves, and each other.

How many square feet is the house?
2700 square feet of living space and a 2 car garage.

Who is your builder?
We are the builder! Andy is acting as the general contractor (GC).

What does that mean?
It means that he is responsible for managing the project, making sure it is built correctly and on budget, purchasing materials, coordinating all of the subcontractors and trades, as well as permitting and compliance. It's like a part time job he works on in the evenings after work, and it's one of the reasons we put everything on hold when Winslet was born, we just didn't have the resources to focus our attention there when we had so much happening at home.

What are the benefits to acting as the GC?
Building the house ourselves gives us very detailed control over every aspect of construction, for example, where a builder may simplify in order to keep their costs low and profit high, we can have done exactly as we wish. Also, the costs, overhead, and profit that a builder would include in the price of a new home we will gain as instant equity at the completion of the project.

When will it be done?
In May if all goes as planned, no later than August (worst case) because that's the term of our construction loan.

When will you move in?
Probably late May, early June.

Updated Schematics for our Modern Nature Home: Exterior and Floor Plans

One benefit to having a project without a deadline, and in our case, one that we put on hold for the better part of a year due to the variables of my pregnancy with Winslet and then her early birth, is that we've had a lot of time to mull over every detail, to sit with particular ideas for weeks and even months, to dream up different ways of doing things, and discuss every option at length. 

Building a house like this, from scratch, is a big undertaking and the sheer number of important decisions that have had to be made in between tending to our little family during some really stressful times made it challenging for me to fully engage at any given moment. I'm thankful that we've had time on our side in that way, but it's hard to believe two years have passed since we first sat down to begin the design process. 

From the start we had a very concrete vision for how we wanted our home space to feel and for the functionality of each area, but we weren't too (too!) attached to specific architectural or interior design elements, so the emergence of the details of our home over time—each meeting and each decision making way for the next—has been such a fun and surprising experience. 

The final plans reflect a culmination of ideas and effort, and all the minor tweaks made by us and by our architectural team over all these months, including a very recent and last minute (big!) revision to give Winslet her own room, which I'm really glad we decided to do. It was a swap for what would have been an amazing laundry room, but I think this will suit everyone well as the kids grow up. 

With that said, I'll just share here these updated exterior schematics and floor plans in part to keep the process documented, and also to reference as we move forward with some more detailed house posts. For some conceptual perspective, if it helps, the house is L shaped and is nestled on the top third of a steeply sloped corner lot.


Front Elevation: view from Road 1

Rear Elevation: view from Road 2

Side Elevation: View from Top of the Hill Looking Down

Floor Plans

Sunday, January 29, 2017

BoldHeartMama Storytelling Series: Immigrant, Student, and Mama of a Growing Family

I have long been fascinated by the different ways that women, especially mothers, make decisions for themselves and their families about their work and home life. Equally curious is how their choices actually play out in the day to day, because there are so many ways to make it work. 

The BoldHeartMama Storytelling Series offers a peek into the lives of mothers from all over, and highlights their unique BoldHeart stories, from struggles to triumphs in work and mothering and life.

Melissa Yeager, Richmond Virginia

Melissa Yeager, 39, is an immigrant to the United States from the United Kingdom and received her citizenship just this past summer. She came here in 2007, met her husband Sean soon after, and their three boys David (6), Henry (4), and Peter (2) followed in quick succession. A former history professor profoundly changed by motherhood she become a birth doula in 2011 and a lactation educator in 2014. She currently owns Open Arms Birth Collective, and is on a path to become a homebirth midwife. 

The labels of "work" that we use to define ourselves in motherhood can be telling. I can relate to the fact that you are a part-time student and co-owner of a birth services business—by all accounts a working mama—yet you call yourself a stay at home mom who also owns a business. Can you share some about your work and your thinking on this?

I am a stay at home mom but I also own a business, Open Arms Birth Collective, with two friends, offering doula services as well as pretty much everything birth related you can think of from childbirth education through prenatal massage and herbal support.

I think of myself as primarily a stay at home mom because that is my main focus most of the time. The vast majority of the waking day I am with my children—at least some of them. I fit in work and school around their needs for the most part. I am also aware of the privilege of this choice and that not everyone who wants to make it can make it, and it seems important to acknowledge that.

What factors went into your decision to pursue mothering and professional work and when did you know it was the right decision for your family?

After taking a year of unpaid leave, I went back to work as a history professor when David was 13 months old, though I was very soon pregnant with my second child. It was financially necessary for our family for me to go back to work, but it was emotionally very hard for both David and me. I wanted to be at home with him. When Henry came along, we planned the same thing—a year of unpaid leave and then a plan to go back. However, very quickly we decided as a family that I would stay home. It meant financial sacrifice—few 'extras' like holidays, lots of shopping at Goodwill, that kind of thing—but tremendous peace of heart. I was fortunate to find a close group of friends who were also balancing staying at home with some kind of birth work, so I always felt part of a larger community, never isolated or alone. I had started attending births as a doula before Henry was born, and came back to the work when he was about 6 months old. I felt like I had found my vocation in life and the more births I was privileged to witness, the more women I came to know so intimately, the more I felt I was on the right path.

Did you have to let go of anything in order to reach this place?

I definitely had to let go of my academic ambitions, especially writing, and the prestige that goes along with being a (just) tenured professor. However, I still teach—which I love—and I still have ambitions. They are just different.

If you could go back in time, is there anything you would do differently?

Not a thing. Going back to work when David was tiny was really hard, but it also cemented for me, and for my husband and I as a partnership, that staying at home was the right choice. Birth work involves a lot of challenges for our family, especially being on call and tied to my phone and the city, but it is incredibly fulfilling and my children see that.

How do you make your days work for you? 

Usually we have a pretty strict routine at home, one that grew out of the patterns the boys fell into as they grew. We learned that trying to change it hurts everyone! Now that the boys are a little older though, they can be more flexible, and they are used to Grandma being here when they wake up or a friend picking them up from school if I am at a birth. My incredible mother-in-law makes it possible for me to do on-call birth work by looking after my boys when I need to go, and I have also been part of a birth-worker babysitting co-op. This combination has pretty much eliminated the stress of birth work related childcare. We have welcomed friends' children into our home at 5am as a sister doula has gone to work, and we have dropped off our own kids the same way. I actually love that most women labour in the wee small hours, because then I can be gone after my children's bedtime and home before they wake. We have also found it important to schedule in months when I am not on call, to plan any time off well in advance, and to keep everyone really closely in the loop at all times.

In the moment: love and light and dutch baby pancakes

What is your sense of purpose right now?

Right now my sense of purpose is centered in mothering. We are trying to raise our children to be kind, loving people and citizens. I feel enormously fortunate that we were able to make the choice for me to stay home. Second, I am part of an extraordinary community and building and sustaining the friendships that make up that community is important to my sense of self. Finally, I am on that very long, very slow path to becoming a midwife. If all goes well I will start working as a midwife when David is in high school. I always feel comfortable having a plan, step by step working towards it. So in that respect I am currently tackling Microbiology! I literally take one class per semester, but I will get there!

Synchronicity relates to the meaningful coincidences that happen in our lives—those seemingly random events that you can’t foresee, but that make total sense in hindsight—and that serve to tell us something or to point us in a new direction. What role has synchronicity played in your journey of professional work and motherhood?

Meeting Nancy Giglio [a local Certified Nurse Midwife] and being so blessed to have her as our midwife changed my life. This is not an exaggeration. Nancy really showed me what total loving care of women means: I sometimes feel that you receive so much love from her, there is nothing you can do but turn it around and shine it back outwards. I think there are ripples of 'Nancy love' that reach all the way around the world.

Mama and Peter (2 years old)

What are some of the fears or worries that you feel in your life and how do you overcome them?

I experienced my greatest fear this year, when I lost a baby girl, Gracie, at 12 weeks gestation. I had always thought that was a loss I would not be able to endure. But it turned out that there was no choice other than to endure, because I have these three other babies who need me. I also have a wonderful family and incredible friends who together held me up until I could stand again. Like most parents, I fear sometimes that my parenting is not good enough—that I yell too much or look at my phone too much or fail to have the same intensity of parenting with my second and third children as I was able to give my first when he was the only one. I remind myself often that 'perfect is the enemy of done', that I am one human, that my kids all know they are loved. They are fed and clothed and secure and read to and booted to the back yard to make mud pies by themselves while I make supper in the blissful silence.

What’s your best advice for another mama out there who may be in your shoes?

As much as I hated to hear it when my first was tiny, this time does flash by. There is no holding on to it or slowing it down. You do not have to relish every moment, but noticing and calling out the moments of joy, or hilarity, or sweetness brings them into relief against the mundane repetition and hard hard work of parenting.

Name three ways you take care of yourself on a regular basis: 

1. I plod step by step along the path to my dream. This may not sound like self care, but for me, having a plan for the future and using the intellectual, academic part of my brain is essential for sanity.
2. Regular outside time is necessary for me—sometimes that means running, sometimes walking, sometimes sitting somewhere beautiful while my children play.
3. Alone time in silence is also absolutely crucial. Often with a novel and a cup of tea.

How do you find balance in the context of your future career aspirations and mothering, your primary sense of purpose? 

Balance is so hard. I remember a profound moment of realisation that some things are time sensitive and others are not: for example, I could take a hiatus from my career, but my childbearing years could not be put off indefinitely. While I might, over my lifetime, be able to 'have it all', I may not be able to have it all at the same time, and I am entirely comfortable with having a different focus at different times in my life.

These so intense, so often hard, so all-consuming and so sweet and fulfilling years at home with small children will end up being maybe one eighth of my whole life. I am privileged to have them and I choose to enjoy them. That doesn't mean that it doesn't sometimes drive me absolutely bonkers. Enforcing simultaneous naps/quiet time for all three kids each day, protecting a little alone time on weekends (even my kids call it 'Mummy's sanity time'), and proceeding slowly along my chosen path all help me to stay sane in the face of the six year old's ferocious questions, the four year old's control freakery and bizarre sense of time, and the two year old's emerging tantrum mastery.

My mantra right now is 'One Damn Thing at a Time', even if that means ruthlessly compartmentalising where I focus my energy: 30 mins homework, 30 mins laundry, 30 mins building epic train track, and not necessarily in that order. As I move through all the phases needed to reach my formal midwifery practice, things will have to shift, juggling balls will have to be picked up and put down in different orders. But the timing of my school and life plan is such that by the time I get there, my children's need for me will be less all-consuming. And they will see me striding off to an incredible, fulfilling calling.

What does the phrase intentional mothering mean to you, and share two ways that you feel you are successful in this way?

For me, intentional mothering means that I have a picture of the kind of people I want my children to be, and that means that I have to model—to be— that kind of person myself. It has meant learning something about child development so that I know what to expect fairly from my children— it's no good expecting a three year old to have empathy, for example, and it does not mean that your child is a sociopath when they don't. So we talk a lot about what it means to be kind, and a good person, and how to treat other people the way we like them to treat us. I also try very hard to remember that as their mother they will copy what they see, and not just what I say. If I lose my temper all the time, then that's what they learn about anger management. Of course I still lose my temper fairly regularly, but I try to let them see me taking deep breaths or some time and space to calm down before we work out whatever the issue was.

Melissa and her three darling boys

Think about the last class/workshop/or opportunity that you took to teach yourself something you really wanted to know more about. What was the topic and what did you learn?

I just took 'Acupressure for Birth Attendants' with Keith Bell, which was a wonderful, mind-stretching class. One of the most extraordinary things I learned was the way in which many of the things we instinctively do and touch as doulas have importance in the energy pathways of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

How has time changed your mothering?

I joke that with every baby, you are forced to lower your standards. This is funny because it's true, but I would phrase it differently now. I am more relaxed, more able to let go of the small stuff and focus on what is important—even to be late on occasion! Time has also let me integrate my mothering more and more into my wonderful community. When I need help, I ask for it, which I had a difficult time doing before. It is totally possible to do this alone, but it is oh so much more warm and wonderful to do it together.

What role does your partner play in your BoldHeartLife? 

Our partnership is the pivot of our family. If we are not strong, everything is at risk. Sean is my rock and my inspiration, my sounding board and my safe space, my tether to earth and my launching pad to my dreams. Talking through my ideas with him has been so important to figuring out who and what I want to be. There's a Cowboy Junkies lyric that sums it up: '...In the storm, you are my destination; in the port, you are my storm.'

What role does nature and time spent out of doors play into your experience as a mother?

We spend time out of doors every day, whether it's a playground or a walk or bike ride or just the back yard. I love how imaginative their play is, and how, now that they are older, they will go off and play by themselves and just come back to check in from time to time. Too, outside time has been the cementing of the community I talked about before. The hours sat around a picnic table talking over one another's glories and woes, periodically interrupted to count heads, dispense snacks, kiss boo boos and cheer new climbing skills have shaped me as a mother. I remember feeling pretty desolate at the realisation that this aspect of parenting—playground sisterhood—would be fleeting. Time spent out of doors is most often where I notice the wonder—right now, the low, late afternoon light on the ridiculously beautiful trees, for example. Those moments of awe and wonder, which I always think of (even though I am not religious) as moments of Grace, fill me up with something that is completely necessary to my being. I try to encourage my children to witness these moments too and it fills me with joy when they point out something that has moved them. Even when it's a dead wasp: 'oh look Mummy! Isn't it beautiful?!'

Family time in Nature 

Share an example of a time when you let your BoldHeart drive your decision making. What happened? 

Right now I am driving a grass-roots movement to protect Planned Parenthood in the wake of the 2016 presidential election. I floated an idea, initially just that women could consider moving their Well Woman Care (annual exams for cervical cancer for example) to Planned Parenthood, so that private and insurance dollars could be used to subsidise care for those who cannot pay. A friend connected me with the CEO of Planned Parenthood RVA, Paulette McElwain, and I learned that here in town, Planned Parenthood (PP) offers not only Well Woman care, but Primary Care more generally—and for everyone, including our trans brothers and sisters. I made posts about this idea in various places and, in Richmond at least, the idea has really taken off. People are transferring their care and making appointments to see the wonderful primary care doctor at PP, Dr Carter. The funds that will come in from this movement will, I hope, bolster and protect Planned Parenthood against the attacks expected from the new administration, as well as sending a clear message of support and solidarity from the community. The idea is being picked up and spread by others, and people outside Virginia are starting to investigate whether their own local PPs would welcome and benefit from a similar movement. I've learned a lot about the power of a simple idea, the importance of finding the right place in which to voice it, the advantage of useful connections and the incredible amplifying power of social media.

For those who are local and interested in switching their well-woman care to Planned Parenthood, or in expressing support for this movement, what are some first steps they can take?

1. They can donate money here.
2. They can book an appointment with Dr Carter for primary care here, and planned parenthood staff will talk them through the process of getting records send from a current PCP if they transfer care.

Marching together in Richmond Virginia

In light of all that is happening politically right now in the United States, I'm wondering if there is anything you'd like to share about the current turn of events here and abroad in the context of your experience as a newly minted American citizen?

It has certainly been a baptism of fire, to become a citizen in 2016 and to be able to be fully politically active. I would be lying if I said I had never second-guessed my decision to apply, given my political and humanitarian bent and what has happened since. However, events back home in the UK have been—and continue to be—almost as disturbing and challenging as those here, and we have chosen to make our lives here in the United States. We are building our family, our careers, and our community here. In the current climate perhaps more than anything else I feel a moral imperative not only to stay, but to be politically active, to use my voice and my privilege and my vote and my dollars, to work towards being the best, fullest kind of citizen I can be.

A Quote to Live By:

Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach. Any small, calm thing that one soul can do to help another soul, to assist some portion of this poor suffering world, will help immensely. It is not given to us to know which acts or by whom, will cause the critical mass to tip toward an enduring good. –Clarissa Pinkola Estes

The BoldHeartMama Storytelling Series is based on the BoldHeartMama Manifesto. Mothering demands BoldHeartedness from all of us. I want to help YOU share your story! If you are curious to learn more about sharing your story email me at

Sunday, January 22, 2017

BoldHeartMama Curated Deck of Wisdom Cards Giveaway...and the winner is...

Congratulations Jessica, you are the winner! Please email me at with your preferred mailing address and I'll have your curated wisdom deck mailed out to you this week.

Thank you everyone for playing! I loved hearing all the ways that you are taking care of yourselves.

The curated wisdom deck for the BoldHeartMama can also be purchased in Suzanne L. Vinson's lovely etsy shop Silver Tree Art.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

::GIVEAWAY ENDS TOMORROW:: Wisdom Cards for the BoldHeartMama

Just a reminder that the BoldHeartMama Wisdom Deck Giveaway closes tomorrow night! I hope that you win! I know we can all use positive pretty things in our lives right now.


I love love love Suzanne L. Vinson's Wisdom Card decks, which can be used as reflections, reminders, mantras, encouragements, blessings, affirmations, and more. Share them with a friend, hang them up where you can see them always, tuck them away for just the right moment.

I'm giving away a curated deck of Wisdom Cards for the BoldHeartMama, which includes: 

  • live this moment
  • practice self care
  • lean into your truth
  • start where you are
  • boldness becomes you
  • deep peace be with you
  • be your wild self
  • wisdom resides within
  • the clearest way into the universe is through a forest wilderness.

I have a deck, now you can have a deck too!

To enter please leave a comment here or in the original post to share your current favorite self care practice. That's it! So easy. The contest ends tomorrow night!!

For additional entries please "like" Suzanne's Silver Tree Art Facebook page, and/or follow her on Instagram. If you already like or follow her feeds, that counts, so leave an entry!

Please leave a separate comment for each entry.

The Fine Print: The BoldHeartMama wisdom deck giveaway will close January 20th at 11:59pm EST. Winner will be chosen via's random number generator and announced on January 21st. Winner will receive wisdom deck shipped to the location of winner's choice. All entries will be verified; comments that contain more than one entry will be counted only once.

Monday, January 16, 2017

BHM Storytelling Series: Suzanne L. Vinson Part II, Taking Care of the Mother's Soul & A Giveaway!

I have long been fascinated by the different ways that women, especially mothers, make decisions for themselves and their families about their work and home life. Equally curious is how their choices actually play out in the day to day, because there are so many ways to make it work. 

The BoldHeartMama Storytelling series offers a peek into the lives of mothers from all over, and highlights their unique BoldHeart stories, from struggles to triumphs in work and mothering and life.

This is Part II of a storytell by Suzanne L. Vinson, 39 year old artist, mother and minister living an intentional life toward wholeness, kindhearted listening, and compassionate care. You can read Part I here.

Today I also have a fun giveaway to share. Leave a comment to enter, see below for details. 

Suzanne l. Vinson, Richmond Virginia

Last week we discussed your business Silver Tree Art and how well your home and work lives are integrated, but also how you are learning to appreciate and set better boundaries around your work as an act of self preservation and care.  In the context of this sometimes delicate balancing act what is your best tip for other moms about carving out time for Self?

Hide in the bathroom. Take a good magazine with you. ((And i’m only half joking.)) Before I knew how to say to my love and children that I need time for me, I would just take my time in the bathroom, using it as my “office” for my own quiet time. Eventually I let it slip that no, I do not require so much time in that space, but I needed time to myself that was my own.

Now I schedule self care. My love and I have a good working arrangement, too, where if I seem a bit on edge or frayed or stressed, he gently suggests I take a bath. I know what that means— take time to care for yourself today/tonight. Not tomorrow, not next week; well, those, too. Take time to care for yourself in the here and now. The mom life/work life fully melds into my wholeness only where there’s an ease of being.

Share a fear you hold in your life right now. How do you overcome this fear and what might you share with another mama in your shoes?

Framed Watercolor Wisdom. Photo cred: Rebecca Brunson Studios

My fear is that something will keep me from my wholeness. That I’ll somehow get lost within myself and my children will miss out, with weeds entering their lives because I’ve missed teaching them how to pull themselves up from their roots. My fears include those we all face—that illness or trauma or injustice will harm those I love and hold most dear. So I attempt to face my fears, holding them in my cupped palms, noticing them. When I have a nightmare of some form, I have my coffee, eat my breakfast and ponder what my fears are trying to say. Sometimes I talk through my fears, as I have a fantastic therapist who uses mindfulness based stress reduction as a means to being present to what is true. Fear is there, but I will not be afraid.

If I have any advise for mothers, it’s coming from the well within ::

1. Use your gentle strength. Be gentle with yourself and your young. Being gentle requires strength. When you lift your baby or child in your arms, you’re balancing gentle touch with the strength in your upper arms, back, and legs. Gentleness requires that balance between muscles and mind and hands. Thoughts require the same strength and tender touch. Our tone with our children requires the same mindful approach. I know that when I’m over-extended because I’m thinking about everything besides the moment I’m in, or when I’m exhausted from lack of sleep with a very sick or crying-through-the-night toddler—hence the dark circles under my eyes—my tone of voice needs work. I have to explain my tone to the nearly 10-year old so that he doesn’t turn it into something that isn’t true. Mom’s tired. Mom gets moody.

2. Care for your sacred self. Take the shower. Cheer when you have. Give yourself time to move your body, especially outdoors. Make time for what brings you joy and adds delight. If you love to read, read for even 2 minutes. All the self care steps, whatever the stride, matter to the wholeness of who you are and who you are becoming.

3. Mark mothering moments. When your babies have birthdays, you have a mothering marking moment to celebrate. You’ve been a mother for how many years? What’s taken place during that last year? What do you need to quietly celebrate with a hot cup of tea or a tall drink?

4. Live this moment. Mindful practices, deep breathing, asking yourself “What do i need, right now?” noticing—without judgement— the colors, textures, and objects that surround. Taking a walk and taking notice of all the things that catch your eye. Play with your kiddos rather than saying “just one more minute.”

5. Motherhood is ministry. I’m preaching to myself with this advice. I’ve had many other clergywomen tell me that they give so much to the world they don’t save as much for home. I’ve had fewer who could name that they were called to motherhood in the same way they were called to serve people. My own call is a triune balance :: I am called to gather women around the table. I am called to love and care for my family. I am called to make soul wisdom art.

Hand Painted Sign. Photo cred: Rebecca Brunson Studios

I'm struck by your intuition and self awareness, I love that you know what you need. What are some favorite ways you've built self care into your regular routine. Tell us all your secrets!

Near my 20’s I was diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome. I’ve learned in the last 20 years that I need a different pace, a rhythm of work and life that needs to shift according to my body’s needs. I’m reminded again and again through health and wellness ((or the lack thereof)) what I need to maintain a healthy course. Most of the time, I want to pretend that fatigue isn’t there, that I’m fine. Then I over-do the work-flow and under-do the self care practices. I skip lunch or work through half the night. While my work gives me energy, avoiding meals and sleep isn’t sustainable for any of us.

Friendships are also foundational in my path to wholeness and healing. I seem to meet the right people at the right time. Friendships help me to survive the fatiguing moments of motherhood and life.

As for self care routines, here you’re touching on what I love talking about. I have quite a few, and will share some favorites with you.

1. Painting my nails. Painting my nails creates space. I sit down and paint, letting them dry. If I’m asked to do something, I can’t. If the phone rings or a text comes through, I let it be. It’s a sacred time of stillness, when I won’t always give myself the space to be still. The polish never lasts very long, though that’s not so much the point for me. I just paint them again.

2. Moving my body. When I make time to stretch and practice yoga, I feel better. when I’m exercising with regularity between the Y and outdoor movement, I’m feeling good. When I’m doing all of this with routine, I’m sleeping well and loving myself more.

3. Eating a rainbow. One of my favorite meals is a noodle-free thai noodle bowl. I love making these and adding all the colors, with cashews on top and the lime-fish sauce-cilantro-garlic goodness that is the dressing. When I make these, I’m saying “I love you” to myself and those around me. Making time to add the ingredients to the grocery list, to chop each vegetable, to make the dressing.

Make no mistake though, right this moment, self care is having a fine cup of tea and a gluten free canele from WPA. Not everything I eat is rainbow colored or raw, as I do love the foods that do not necessarily love me back.

What does intentional mothering mean to you? Share two ways that you feel you are successful. 

I have chosen motherhood. I am living motherhood as a woman who wants her children to know who they are: creative, lively, beautiful and whole. I’m honoring that by seeing myself in those ways and aiming to model well. In our home we aim to live our values through our financial stewardship, the language we use about ourselves and one another, the way we spend our time and energy, and creating adventure as a family, most often in nature. We want our children to have the opportunity to discover through play, exploration, and adventure.

Suzanne with her Family on a Nature Hike

If you could go back in time is there anything you would do differently?

If I had anything to do-over again, I’d have learned to say “No, thank you.” much sooner. Many of the steps leading me to this beautiful moment would remain the same, but the internal turmoil of decision making and questioning decisions would have been much easier.

What is your sense of purpose right now?

Suzanne with her sweet pea and sweet boy

Right now I’m learning to accept myself fully as “good” and “beautiful” and “tender” and “strong” and all of the reminders I give myself through my wisdom cards and art. The words I use in art are the words that I find when I listen. I listen to wisdom, to intuition, the songs that come on the radio, the lyrics that land in my head, the poetry that pours through the creative flow. I listen to my friends and family. I listen to myself. I listen to the Sacred. By listening, I curb the busy “you should be doing something other than listening” thoughts and move into a place of inner peace. These Spirit whispers become “soul seeds” that are planted within. That newly planted space feels whole and good and true.

Echoes of the past, hearing negative words placed by others into my mind —negative words I believed as a young person—that i was “fat” and “stupid” and “unworthy” became trapped inside, and through some path grew alongside the positive words that I was “kind” and “beautiful” and “loved”and “here because I was meant to be.” The negative words became something of weeds aiming to choke out the positive truths.

These days I’m tending the garden of truth and clearing out the weedy mess. It’s a lifelong process: listening and learning and accepting and loving the self. Claiming wholeness and beauty and love. Sharing that wholeness and beauty and love. Creating safe spaces for the self and others.

More about Suzanne and where to find her:

Suzanne offers private "gather your tribe" mini-retreats, birthday celebrations, and day long or overnight retreats for groups. She's available for speaking engagements and workshops as well. Her art is made available through and she has in-studio shopping and pick up available. Locally, Orange carries a wide assortment of her work in Carytown, as well as Patina’d Grace, The Valentine Museum Shop, and soon to come Twig in the Northside. She wholesales her art as well and welcomes new shops into the fold. Follow her on Instagram and Facebook.

Hand Painted Sign. Photo cred: Rebecca Brunson Studios

The Giveaway: CONTEST IS CLOSED, winner announced

I love love love Suzanne's Wisdom Card decks, which can be used as reflections, reminders, mantras, encouragements, blessings, affirmations, and more. Share them with a friend, hang them up where you can see them always, tuck them away for just the right moment.

Today I'm giving away a curated deck of Wisdom Cards for the BoldHeartMama, which includes: live this moment, practice self care, lean into your truth, start where you are, boldness becomes you, deep peace be with you, be your wild self, wisdom resides within, and the clearest way into the universe is through a forest wilderness.

To enter please leave a comment sharing your current favorite self care practice. That's it! So easy. 

For additional entries please "like" Suzanne's Silver Tree Art Facebook page, and/or follow her on Instagram. If you already like of follow her feeds, that counts, so leave an entry!

Please leave a separate comment for each entry.

The Fine Print: The BoldHeartMama wisdom deck giveaway will close January 20th at 11:59pm EST. Winner will be chosen via's random number generator and announced on January 21st. Winner will receive wisdom deck shipped to the location of winner's choice. All entries will be verified; comments that contain more than one entry will be counted only once. 

And last but not least!

The BoldHeartMama Storytelling Series is based on the BoldHeartMama Manifesto. Mothering demands BoldHeartedness from all of us. I want to help YOU share your story! If you are curious to learn more about sharing your story email me at

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