open-handed recklessness & practical plans

Marian Parsonsa slice of life, Balance, Running a Business36 Comments

My time of retreat felt like flight.  Not the kind we’re used to these days when you’re herded like cattle through security and shoved into a seat appropriately sized for a nine-year-old.  It was flight that was light and swift, like a blue jay.  The wind was in my hair and I glided, soared, and soaked in the view.

The landing has been a little rough, though.  I thought I was prepared for it.  I knew that coming home after having completely uninterrupted days in 70 degree weather and sunshine would be a jolt.  It’s been more than that, like there are literal forces at work against me, trying to siphon all enthusiasm from a completely full tank.

I ended up in a mix of tears and manic laughter at my small group last Thursday, when I was asked to share a prayer request for the week.  Even though I was somewhat embarrassed, I’m glad I had my little breakdown.  One of the women in our group, who always seems to have wisdom at her fingertips, jumped in and said that I needed to approach this post-retreat time with recklessness.  Right away the tears stopped and I perked up.  That was an odd word choice, but it was perfect.

She continued, “Don’t be tight-fisted.  Be reckless.”

She didn’t mean it in the careless sense of the word.  She meant it in the best possible way – hurling myself energetically towards what I want.

So, I’ve been working on that this week, open-handed recklessness, as I implement some of my plans and unpack some of my notes.

While the creative retreat is fresh on my mind, I wanted to share some more practical details about it, for those who asked and also for those who are feeling weary and need to recharge.

This creative retreat was a spur-of-the-moment trip that Jeff planned along with the husband of a friend.  She needed a personal vacation, some alone time in a warm spot on the globe, and I needed a creative retreat, time to think about my business, get inspired, and plan for the future.  We both wanted lots of time alone, no schedule (other than our flights), no obligations, and lots of free time. Neither of us wanted to travel alone, though.  So, we traveled together, but would go our separate ways each day and meet up at night for a late dinner.  We didn’t know each other very well, but we ended up being perfect travel companions.  We were the same in the areas we needed to be the same and were different in ways that allowed us to each go our own ways.  She went running on the beach and I sat down by the harbor, writing in my notebook.  She went to a botanical garden and I sat on the beach and sketched birds and beach chairs.

It really was the perfect arrangement.  We always left dinner as an open option, but we were both ready for some company by the end of the day and it was nice to share what we enjoyed most or what we learned.  She is an art teacher, so I definitely took advantage of that situation and we talked about art.

Anyway, let me dive into what this post is supposed to be about – the practical stuff- what questions I asked of myself and what answers I found.

Going into the retreat, I prepared a list of questions and goals.  This wasn’t meant to be a measuring stick for success or failure, but a compass to guide me through the retreat, so I wasn’t wandering aimlessly through my thoughts.

Here were my goals and questions…

  • Think about and journal through the direction for my blog.  How will it change over the next year?  Why will people want to read it?  What topics will pull me to my keyboard like a magnet?
  • Put together a schedule to act as a framework for my work days.  Separating life and work, so each time is more concentrated and enjoyable.  (Right now there is far too much mingling of the two!)
  • Receive inspiration and clarity.  Where do I want my business to be in a year?  What parts of my business do I want to grow or simplify?  What do I want off my plate?  What do I want to spend more of my time on?  What is fulfilling?  What is draining?  What is “frontier” for me?
  • Put together a healthy habit plan.  I have not been pursuing health and balance and I need to make that a priority in my schedule.  I have been *trying* to start for months, maybe even for a couple of years (since whole30).  So, what do I want to look like in a year?  What do I want to feel like in a year?  How will exercise and eating well and a good night sleep impact my work and personal life?  What is a plan that will be effective, yet sustainable?

Yes, the goals were lofty and I was a little overwhelmed by them, even.  What if I came home with nothing more than a few nights of sound sleep?  But, to my surprise, I was able to work through each of these goals and the questions continued to guide my thoughts and how I spent my time.  I made sure I spent time on each topic, loitering there until I had some answers, some direction, some ideas.  I don’t have perfect answers for every question or a fully fleshed-out plan for every goal, but I have enough to get me putting one foot in front of the other.

Here were my ideas and answers…  

(I’m just going to share my generic answers and I’ll go into more detail in other blog posts.)


As I shared in this post, I have been censoring myself too much.  Not in the good sense, like needing to run words and ideas through a filter, so I’m not sharing anything and everything that pops in my head no matter how TMI, inappropriate, or unprofessional it is, but in the bad sense that there are good, honest, and true things I could share, but I talk myself out of it.  I’ll get critical feedback, people might think less of me, it won’t get page clicks or be Pin-able.  All stupid reasons to not share something that might be of value to someone.

So, I’m going to fight the filter.

I’m also going to do something I’ve never done – have a schedule!  Gasp!  I’ve always hated the idea of a blog schedule, because I wanted to write about whatever I was excited about that particular day.  It felt more spontaneous and somehow more authentic that way.  But, it also meant I would be working on a blog post that wasn’t coming easily until the wee hours of the morning.  Sometimes it caused stress as the evening was winding down and I had no idea what I was going to write about.  So, I have a schedule written down with days to create content and days to write content, which will free up my nights for more family time and a healthy bedtime.

Heidi, my assistant, and I have been working on sorting through my blog categories; cleaning and consolidating.  As I sifted through years of posts, I realized I wrote on four main topics – home, business, art, and life.  I’m calling them – All Things Home, Creative Business, Artistic Endeavors, and A Slice of Life.  If you notice, the sidebar has another category – Furniture Makeovers.  This really could fit under All Things Home, but it was my largest individual category by far, so I wanted to keep it featured.

I’ll be writing blog posts in all of those categories and try to hit each one throughout the week.  (Most of the time.)  It’s not going to be a strict schedule, but a guide to help me create well-rounded content.


This is the scariest part for me!  I felt this way, though, when we decided to start budgeting our finances.  The thought of putting a framework in place that actually needs to be followed is intimidating!  What I’ve learned after living by a budget for several years, though, is that there is a lot of freedom in the framework.  Budgeting made it feel like we had more money and it made us intentional about working towards our goals.  I think the same will be true with budgeting my time by creating and living by a schedule.

I’ll share my schedule in another post, after I’ve lived by it for a while, but it will start with exercise, included focused work time, undistracted family time, rest, and a reasonable bedtime.  It will also include a short list of daily goals to keep me focused and a stricter guard on mingling personal and professional tasks.


A lot of this is on a more personal level…thinking through priorities for my business.  At some point, I’ll share more detail on some of this – how I determine what to chase and what to let go.  As a spoiler, I don’t have it perfectly figured out, but my gut has been pretty reliable over the years.

I can say, though, the things that kept sticking out to me as I listened and journaled were authenticity and enthusiasm.  I want those elements in every blog post, in every product line, and in every aspect of my business.


I spent the least amount of time thinking about this on my retreat, but it made my list because it needs to be a priority.  I know feeling healthy and rested will make a big difference in my ability to have energy to meet my goals and to think clearly.  I’ll just be better all around if I feel good and feel good about myself.  It’s going to start with regular exercise and the plan will grow from there.  I’m revisiting P90x3 for this, since it was my favorite program and I saw great results.

It might sound silly, but I’m also going to set alarms to remind me to drink water, take a quick walk around our street, correct my posture, and eat small, healthy snacks.  And, as I mentioned earlier, I will have a bedtime.  I really need that, because I’ll just keep going, even if my brain and body are way past done.

I’ve already started implementing some of these things this week and have noticed a big difference in my productivity and my overall approach to each day and the tasks on my to-do list.  And, surprisingly (or maybe not), it’s some of the smallest, simplest things that have made the biggest difference.

Here’s to recklessness…


open-handed recklessness & practical plans

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36 Comments on “open-handed recklessness & practical plans”

  1. Thank you for your honesty and vulnerability in this post, Marian! I am encouraged by the intentionality of your plan and the thought-provoking questions you asked yourself on your retreat. What a purposeful and wise use of your time away! I love how you were blessed by the advice of your small group member, which clearly demonstrates the power and value in “doing life together.” Looking forward to reading and seeing the ways your blog will continue to grow and evolve this coming year.

  2. Marian,
    Your posts about your retreat and reflections are already success in your goal of fighting the filter. Best wishes for all your goals to be as successful as these first few posts. Ah… a bedtime… something I have always needed all my life. One night in the wee hours it came to me I was robbing myself of much needed rest and subsequently robbing myself of some of the next day’s joy and productivity.


  3. I love this in so many ways. I’m seeing a shift happening with a lot of bloggers that have been doing it for a while, where there’s a deep need to get back to the roots of what made blogging fun in the first place. I think for the past few years or so there was a giant leap towards Pinterest and Instagram worthy photos, and “curated” content, that led to a sense of needing to be perfect, or not share at all. I love that you want to get back to that here, because that’s what makes me want to read blogs in the first place. I want to connect with people. I think we all do. I don’t need to see your perfect living room or kitchen, because mine doesn’t look like that. I would love to hear more about trying to find balance between work and home and taking care of yourself, because I’m in that process right now too. I work from home, and have come to terms with the fact that it has been too easy over the years to put my health and other needs last, so I’m concentrating on that. Eating better and getting regular exercise. I’ve discovered I LOVE doing yoga and that’s been a huge gift to me. I feel my body getting stronger and it’s pouring over into every other aspect of life. I’ll be cheering you on as you take new steps forward!

  4. Oh Marian I love this post.

    I follow you regularly. There are 2 other bloggers that I follow, but, althougth they have consistently beautiful photos in their posts, it is starting to feel too staged. Too perfect. Not real life. I guess that is why I look at their posts first each morning and save the best, yours, for last.

    While you do seem almost super-human to some of us, given the pace at which you have “redone” your new home, you keep it real. Sometimes I feel a bit jealous of the other bloggers that I watch (and I pray for forgiveness for doing so- and even though I know they have days when their kitchens are as dirty as mine!), but I never feel that towards you. I feel like we are on the same team. I only wish you and your sweet family success and happiness.

    Thank you for sharing ALL of it–the good, the bad, the beauty, the clutter, the struggles and the successes. Because THAT is life.


  5. Being reck-less and scheduled ~ doesn’t sound like it goes hand-in-hand, but I love your thinking and approach to it! Love your thoughts and ideas…..coming along for the ride!

  6. Thank you Marian for this amazing post and for sharing your gift of wordsmithing with others. Your honesty and courage has come shining through again. My favorite MMS posts, aside from the furniture makeovers, are the ones that challenge me to think beyond the moment and to imagine what can be. Each road traveled by your readers is unique, yet you find the way to weave a common thread to unite us as one. As you undertake this next journey of creativity and intention, please know that many are stepping along side of you and lining the path to cheer you onward. You have been blessed by the One on High and He is pleased that you are sharing these blessings with others.

  7. Glad you took time to get away for a creative retreat to a warm climate. We all need creative and spiritual retreats from time to time to get things on track in our lives. From a distant, it seems your life has been going in a thousand different ways with so many things on your plate. Moving, designing lines, painting, decorating your new home, etc.

    All that is great if there is balance and we take time for ourselves in regards to our health with proper rest, diet and exercise. I am trying hard to get back on track myself and have started walking daily and cutting out sugar and bad diet choices. Good luck to you on your new schedule and goals.l

  8. i just finished reading Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist. You might find it helpful. I’m a generation older and I struggle with these themes too. I reboot and then slide back to old habits. Each time though there are good new habits that stick. As they say life is a journey.

  9. I don’t know if you are like me, but we moved 3 years ago and while it was something I always wanted I felt like everything had been yanked out from under me, like I had to start from scratch rebuilding my life and my hobbies. I was very depressed for a long time and couldn’t muster up any creative energy. I finally feel like I’m getting my footing in this “new” place, even though we’ve been here 3 years. I realized I actually really do like familiarity and routines and moving to a new place upset everything for me. I’m so glad you have people around you to help you though!

  10. I love your phrase, “fight the filter.” Nowadays, with so much social media, we are sometimes afraid to post an opinion about something we feel strongly about because there is always someone ready to jump in and criticize, and then honesty suffers, frequently a better idea as well. Learning the balance between straight-forward honesty and TMI is a challenge, but when done right — as I see you doing — it makes the world a better place.

  11. Thank you for sharing this with all of us. You might be surprised but we can learn through your retreat too. I know just reading this post has given me some good ideas. It looks like you were down in my neck of the woods and I am glad the location could help you.

  12. Thank you so very much for sharing… for posting a little bit of “Behind The Scenes Real Life”….. and may I say… you chose a great place to relax… I live in Florida and Indian Rock Beach is one of the prettiest beach areas on our coastline!!! (Also… I know you hear this so much… but every single time I walk into a specific antique shop / Market in our area … I see your entire line of Milk Paint Products on one wall … set up so pretty with samples to look at… and I think of you and this amazing blog and I smile !!!) Thank you Marian !!!

  13. I always love your honesty and it always resonates with me and so many of your other readers. Life nowadays is so busy and complicated, and as women, we are expected to do everything and still remain excited and energetic all the time. It’s good to step back and reevaluate from time-to-time…and as I was told recently by a complete stranger I encountered at a diner, sometimes it’s really good to color outside the lines and do something completely unexpected…something I’ve always struggled with…that ‘fear’ that you mentioned a couple posts ago. That’s me, always afraid to take a chance, a big chance, but I’m working on that. I also work from home in a family business, and while I work best with a distinct plan and schedule, I’m trying to be a little more spontaneous. Anyway, you are my favorite blogger because you are down-to-earth and keep it real, and I love that! Continued blessings to you and your family!

  14. I love this. Sharing and inspiring is your gift and sometimes our gifts can be a pain in the neck, even though we are called to do them. This post is timely for me personally as I am going through a time of growth, organization and re-organization…your words hit the nail on the head in so many ways. Thanks for touching me today, even though you probably didn’t mean to, as I move through the struggle between personal and professional life. Thanks for sharing your gift. <3 (can't wait for the un-filtered future)

  15. Being honest and open with yourself is awesome! The older I get the more I look at what I WANT instead of what others want out of me. Keep up your inner voice and you have the answers …

  16. Glad that you had an inspiring time away. Getting away always helps me clear my thoughts and think about what is important. I read a book on blogging and I can’t remember the name of the book or author, but she works every morning for an hour on her blog. She has her blog broken down into a few categories like you. She spends the time thinking of possible posts or writing content.

    Another book I read “Business Boutique” by Christy Wright (a Dave Ramsey employee) also talked about making time for business, family and ourselves.

    I wish you the best

  17. GOOD for you! You are learning this in time to make a difference.
    Get up early and you will go to bed on time. Getting up is as important as a bedtime.
    Everyday, no time off on the week ends.

    Please explain more about your exercise plan!

    Go for it! Your MUST come first!

  18. Marian, I follow a person on instagram cleansimpleeats I have ordered her recipe books and love them. They are easy to follow and delicious. They have downloads for family sized portions and single portions. The downloads also include an exercise routine. Enjoy

  19. Thank you, Marian, for sharing this. Your openness is a gift to your readers, reminding us to be kind to ourselves and pursue what brings us joy. Your motto “progress rather than perfection” is frequently repeated around my house–and it helps!

  20. Thank you so much for this post!! I am struggling in my life with personal, professional and my art & your notes and ideas are so helpful!! I think many of your followers read your blog because we like YOU. Yes, we love your art, products & furniture makeovers, decorating, etc. – but we like you first. I know I do! You could pretty much write about anything & I would enjoy reading. Here’s my tip on how to drink enough water every day. (A good rule of thumb is to take your body weight divided by 2 and that tells you how many ounces to consume per day, with more according to exercise and hot weather). Once you have your goal amount, fill up a bottle every morning and drink or pour from it so you can see where you are by mid-day. You don’t want to notice at 8pm that you are only half way through!! After the difficulty of the first few days, you will find that you crave more water. And you’ll feel fantastic.

  21. I like the response from your friend, “don’t be tight fisted, be reckless”. I see the wisdom in that. I remember a time in my life when I was down and couldn’t find any answers and the harder I tried to figure it out the more confused I got. I watched the movie “under the tuscan sun”, really just to see the beautiful scenery of Italy, anyway the line that screamed out at me was when she was going to buy a villa and a women said to her “oh are you going to buy a villa?” and she says “me? oh no that would be a very bad idea.” and the women says “don’t you just love those?” sometimes the scariest ideas are the best.

  22. I just want to giveback you a big hug! And thank you for your honesty and authenticity. It is a Wonderful post.

  23. I have followed and enjoyed your blog for a very long time and THIS one has been the most helpful, meaningful one for me. My husband and I have recently downsized and are in process of reordering this season of our lives. Your questions are the kind I have been working toward asking. I soooo appreciate your openness and that you have been led to share. What a blessing you are.

  24. I have been reading your blog as an invisible audience for a long time. I love the fact that you are looking back to your roots to see what is inspirational to you, and in that way you can enhance authenticity and enthusiasm in your writing. I believe you have created a very strong personal brand that showcases your expertise and your authenticity! I don’t think you need to worry about being pin-able so much anymore because you have already been successful in that area. Just have fun and share your expertise and your beautiful authentic self!

  25. Regular, intentional, and focused exercise has so many benefits. I strongly recommend getting an exercise partner. If it is possible to include a trainer…even just once a week…..all the better. Knowing someone is waiting to exercise with you really helps on the days when you want to be lazy. A trainer can help keep it interesting and help you focus on exercise that is safe and helpful. Also, there is nothing like having some one cheer “good job!!” After you’ve just achieved your personal best. Also, leave the house to exercise……just helps get ready mentally to be in your “exercise place.” Paying a trainer may seem like a luxury but a good trainer is worth it. I’ve dragged myself out of bed many a dark, cold, wintery morning because I know there is a partner waiting and a trainer I will pay whether or not I show up……..I have NEVER regretted going to an exercise session. Start your healthy living with the exercise piece…..the benefits you reap will help you stick with the other healthy livi

  26. I love coming to your blog. Really, I just love everything about it. And your honesty in posts like this one is, well, beautiful. Don’t be afraid. Be reckless. 2 Tim. 1:7

  27. Thank you for your vulnerability and honesty. I often feel that there is so much in me, so many dreams and ideas stirring inside, that I don’t know where to start or what to focus on. I love the practical questions you listed for yourself, they really helped me shift some priorities. You jotted something down in your notes that jumped out at me, big 3 task. This thought of big picture, smaller focus came to my mind. For me its the big dreams and ideas that can seem overwhelming and I am learning to break them down in bit size pieces. This blog post was great. Keep them coming. Thank you for fighting the filter:) Lymari

  28. Hi Marian,
    I have followed you for eight years now and so look forward to reading everything you post. As another person mentioned above, it’s not even as much about the content as is it about the fact that I just really like you! I met you in person a few years ago in Wisconsin when you hosted a painting workshop there. In chatting with you, it seemed like we had known each other for years. I think that is because of the authentic Marian that comes through in every post you write. Whatever direction you decide to take with your blog, I will continue to follow you, because I just really like you!
    Also, I got a Fitbit Charge 2 for Christmas and I Love It!!! You might find it helpful in your Healthy Lifestyle quest as well. It helps me track my water intake and exercise and keeps me honest about everything that I put in my mouth. I’ve lost 10 pounds since Feb 1st!

  29. i appreciate that you’re willing to be a bit more
    transparent. often in blogging we assume lives
    are perfect because generally the perfect or
    near perfect elements of life are shared.
    here’s to imperfection!!! ♥

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