Live the Dream!

The Mountain Farmgirl is DOING it … are you? It may not be the perfect time or place or a million other things, but you CAN live the dream every day. Look where Cathi’s has taken her this week and take a peek into what she is doing in … Live the Dream!

I was going to start out by writing, “Toto, I’m not in Kansas anymore!” … but frankly, my life wasn’t a black and white place to begin with … no offense to Kansas-based farmgirls.  That’s totally just a reference to the movie, not the state, when Dorothy ends up in a colorful place called Oz, and WAKES UP TO see the contrast.  However my life already IS colorful … I love what I do, where I live and the people I do  those things with … but it just got a bit MORE colorful this week, thanks to something I want to share with all of you!


To end the suspense, I’ll tell you right off that I’m in Maine, I’m camping by myself on the coast and I’m going to a 3-credit graduate program taking place in only 7 intense days on The Book Arts!!  I’m writing this to you on my laptop from under a pine tree where I just happened to hone in on some rogue Wi-Fi signals. But let me give you some background on  how  and why I got here, and why this is so earth-shatteringly wonderful to me.

This journey I’ve been on for 59 years so far, has been very exciting at times, naturally with many peaks and plenty of valleys, like the mountains I hold so dear. My family and I have had some extraordinary adventures, not the least of which was moving to the White Mountains in New Hampshire and buying an inn nine years ago.  It is awesome!!  But even earthly paradise has its downsides and statistically, five years is the burnout time for innkeepers. Whoever figured that out (probably an innkeeper), was right on the money, almost to the day. Five years  … try to imagine: That’s 1825 days of entertaining guests in your living room … sometimes  125 of them at a time, day in and out, morning, noon and night ,,, even THROUGH the night. It continues when you’re sick, sometimes when you’re so tired you can hardly keep your eyes open, and when an occasional (and fortunately rare) unhappy person wants a scapegoat and you’re the only one in sight. 

As an owner/operator, I literally work 18-hour days in the busy season. However, in this business, if you own, operate and live in the same place, it is easy to have your whole life consumed by work, even if you adore what you do.
Innkeeping for me, is the coalescence of many things I love:

• Food: Cooking and creating things  in the kitchen for my guests
• People – meeting and talking with guests from all over the world, many of whom become good friends
• Teaching: Giving workshops on various things I love to do
• Gardening – taking care of 5 acres of flowers and a few vegetables
• Writing – creating the content for a website and marketing ideas
… just to name a few off the top of my head (there are many others).
The perfect life, right? For me it IS, absolutely! And yet, wanting to do it, and HAVING to do it are sometimes two different animals, and take a toll on a healthy outlook. No matter how much I love it, it is important to keep a bit of perspective and know that this is my profession, and that I have a family and a life (the “WHO”  I am) that is separate from “What” I do. And I need to give as much importance to those things as I do to my business.
Right around year 5 (and don’t forget we’ll be starting year 10 in a few months), I started to ‘feel the burn’ as Jane Fonda would say.  Except for me it was definitely burnOUT. I was exhausted.  Something needed to change, and I thought it might be my livelihood.  Except that is was exactly the same time that the economy crashed and selling our business absolutely wasn’t an option I could consider. If I couldn’t sell the inn, what I could do was to stop selling myself short:  I needed to start making time for ME, so that I could get back to work with re-charged batteries.  This is essential advice whether or not you’re an innkeeper, own another type of business or work for someone else. All work and no play makes ‘Jane’ a dull and unhappy girl (… not our MaryJane, though, certainly!).


Livin' the Dream!

A few years ago I wrote a Farmgirl Blog on following your passions. One of mine was to make time for creativity, and one of the ways I wanted to break into that was through a book called The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron.  I’d had the book for almost a decade, and every time I rediscovered it on my shelf, I had a small “Ah-ha” moment, and thought,”Oh, yeah, I REALLY want to do this”  … but then good intentions aside, life (and my business) would intervene and back it would go on the bookshelf. Timing is everything.  Maybe I wasn’t ready in the past; maybe other priorities really were more important, but one day last November I said to myself, ‘I AM going to do this, and I am going to start TODAY.’ And fortunately for me, I did!!

Intuitively it was the right time, although making the commitment  right before the holidays was most inconvenient. And yet I knew this 12-week course in a book was important enough to make a top priority. It was all about getting rid of blocks to creativity and becoming the artistic beings we are all born to be.  It literally changed my life. I’ll have to write a blog about it sometime, but suffice it to say for now that it was one of the most important things I have ever done for myself.  When those 12 weeks were over and I was through the book, I turned back to the beginning and went through it a second time. It was this ‘thin thread’ that led me to another artistic connection called “Weaving a Life” which had an even bigger personal impact – certainly worthy of ANOTHER blog! Last year, as a result, I studied one-on-one with Weaving a Life’s founder, Susan Barrett Merrill.  After a very intense internship with her (covering 4 months), I am now certified to teach this amazing program, which I plan to do in the future both at our inn and at our cottage on the coast of Maine.  I have recently been asked to teach next summer at the New England Fiber Arts Retreat, and locally at the Jackson Art Gallery and Studio in NH. This just goes to show you that when you are in the creative flow of life, opportunities arise that put you in the right place at the right time.

The Book Arts program, where I am now, is an offshoot of all of this. It was a serendipitous connection as a result of an “artist date’ I took myself on as a homework assignment in Julia Cameron’s book.  Yes, the Artist’s Way book was the catalyst, that has put me in touch with a local bookbinder, and led to an incredible place that will impact the rest of my life! The ‘Book Arts’ which I am studying are Bookbinding, Papermaking and Calligraphy … all of which have been hobbies of mine since college.  They will now be a source of livelihood for me in the future! These arts bring together everything I love and want to incorporate into my life in the future.


Unheard of in the past, I have been able to get away during our busiest innkeeping season.  ANYTHING is possible if we want it enough! I am studying in one of the most beautiful places on earth: a 25-room, Greek Revival Stone House built in 1917, on Casco Bay.  This former home was given to the University of Southern Maine and has been our classroom all week.  What could be better than this? We’ve had famous bookbinders, paper crafters and calligraphers teach us every day this week. Delicious, healthy lunches have been catered daily. I have learned so much I feel like I will burst! 

This is all part of “Living the Dream” and it can begin as soon as NOW, no matter what your situation. For me it came about because I was determined to find -- No, TO MAKE!!! -- 15 minutes a day to start the process rolling. Living the dream comes in small steps, in increments, just minutes carved out of every day at first.

I like this idea that someone had, which I paraphrase, since I don't have the original qoute in front of me under this pine tree! Basically it said, 'Why get all depressed that you can't go to Italy right now, when you can sit on your balcony sipping cappuccino and eating a cannoli, planning for how and when you will get there?'

Why wait until ALL conditions are right before you start living your dream? Start NOW, one tiny step at a time. What is YOUR dream?  What one simple thing can you do today to move closer to realizing it?  That is what life is all about. I’ll have some tips next time on how to get started.
Until then, Mountain Bounty, Mountain Blessings from Cathi,
The Mountain Farmgirl




By: Linda B.
On: 08/12/2013 07:29:12
I, too, have had The Artist's Way on my bookshelf for years. One of my favorite quilt artists, Freddie Moran, wrote that it changed her life also. You have inspired me -- I am taking the book with me to my sewing and beading space and getting started TODAY! Thanks for your post.
By: Diana Henretty
On: 08/12/2013 07:30:28
I loved your thoughts and pictures this morning, what a sweet way to start my day.
Your quote is right on the mark, sometimes what we long for is right in front of our eyes all the time, we just cannot see it.
When we first moved to the Ozarks, I wanted to live in the country, but couldnt afford land prices, so we settled on the edge of town where we could buy an old house with cash.
Come to find out it was one of the smartest things we could ever do, and we have all that we longed for right here at our fingertips!
Blessings to you for reminding us to be grateful wherever we lay our heads and can work with our hands and call home, Diana, Noel, Mo.
By: Bobbie Calgaro
On: 08/12/2013 07:31:33
I think this is an "aha" moment for me.I just turned 60 in February. I work as a library assistant an elementary school which I like but am counting the days until I retire in two years. Now is the time to explore what I want to do next. And being creative is tops on the list. I have been familiar with The Artist's Way for years but never read it. Now as I start school I'm going to go buy it and start it with the intention of finding out what's next in my life. Thanks for inspiring me to quit frittering my life away in what I wish for and what I can do now. I have frittered this whole summer away but now I look forward to some conviction.
By: chris
On: 08/12/2013 07:42:48
hi cathy,

sign me up:) it seems to me that great writers are always
great teachers, and you are both:) i'm going out to get the books you mentioned as I am at a crossroads and ready for something new and just haven't quite figured it out yet...I find creative pursuits whether gardening, cooking, mothering or any of the arts seem to bring out the energy that we need to savor life to the fullest and I too find I need to go to the woods on a regular basis to unwind and renew....please post your workshop/class schedule when you have it ready....thanks:)
By: Debbie
On: 08/12/2013 08:01:21
Whew! Cathi, you are on fire girl! I'm happy to see you are taking time to stretch and grow your creative muscles! you have inspired me to pick up my Artist Way book again. Our 17 year old son ( who writes ) recently told me he wanted to order a book. I asked him which one and he said, " The Artist Way". I went and grabbed it off the bookshelf for him and gave it to him. I don't think he's done anything with it yet. Perhaps he and I will do the 12 weeks together!!! Love all you do... you do it with such verve!
Hugs from the shorelines my sister!
By: Adrienne
On: 08/12/2013 08:35:34
Congratulations! I had the same epiphany in 2003 when I decided to purchase a motorhome and go on the road for seven years. The Artist's Way is an excellent book and I'm so glad you're enjoying your time in Maine. You will return enlightened and refreshed. Best wishes to you.
By: Lois Schultz
On: 08/12/2013 08:50:36
I love your life and love your courage to live your dream.
By: Denise S
On: 08/12/2013 09:03:28
can't wait to hear your tips! And I really liked what you said "to start with only 15 minutes" and that's what I need to do... thanks! enjoy your retreat!
By: Dianne
On: 08/12/2013 09:10:45
Cathi: I am so happy for you. I have always loved things handmade by artists and craft persons. I fell in love with the John Campbell Folk school upon visiting it years ago. The idea of living and learning at the school sounds wonderful. To be free to immerse oneself every day in the discovery of an art and not be distracted by the everyday routines must be a blessing for you. Thanks for the inspiration.
By: Kathleen Lafond
On: 08/12/2013 11:14:43
I so needed something like this today.

Thank you and looking forward for the rest!

By: Kim Denn
On: 08/12/2013 13:08:31
How inspirational and timely too! My jobs are wonderful and each provides something I need, however, not too long ago an opportunity presented itself to do something I had wanted to do for so long - learn to weave! I signed up for the class and several subsequent classes. Now I only want to weave all day long but my work gets in the way of my life (and new-found fun). Time to find a way to make it all work. Thank you!!
By: Cindy
On: 08/12/2013 20:14:35
I am thrilled for you, my dear! Absolutely thrilled! I find when I take a step towards something, it takes a step towards me. Just give the Universe a sign you are willing, take that step, it will meet you more then half way! "Move confidently toward the direction of your dreams, live the life you have imagined".
By: Nancy
On: 08/13/2013 04:09:43
Oh Cathi, it's nice to read someone's blog that has something so very big in common with my own life. Julia Cameron's book changed my life in a big way over 15 years ago. My art is fuller, my life is fuller and I can truly say that few minutes every morning is now as essential to me as breathing. My wish for you is to keep on pampering you and remembering you can always change your mind.
From Ontario.
By: Diane
On: 08/13/2013 06:12:09
Hi Cathi - You are soooooooooo inspiring! I wish that your Inn was close by so that I would learn weaving, spinning, etc. from you! You seems like you would be a really great teacher! Calm, patient and not in a hurry! I have to learn how to become this way! I can't wait to read your book! I wish you would have written it already since I am having hip replacement surgery in a few weeks and I think you inspiration would calm my nerves! I always look forward to reading your articles. Hope to meet you one day!
Diane Loehr
By: Christine
On: 08/13/2013 07:51:26
Thank you for this inspiring article, and it is so true. I think we all loose sight of our dreams, by putting too many obstacle's in our way. I look forward to reading your next post.
By: Miriam Russell
On: 08/28/2013 19:49:17
I love your strength of character. You tackle challenges so confidently and artfully. It is a good reminder to all of us what we can do with a will. And I am learning more about New England from across this great land in California. Keep us inspired with your spirit of adventure!

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Cathi Belcher

Cathi Belcher,
an old-fashioned farmgirl with a pioneer spirit, lives in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. As a “lifelong learner” in the “Live-Free-or-Die” state, she fiercely values self-reliance, independence, freedom, and fresh mountain air. Married to her childhood sweetheart of 40+ years (a few of them “uphill climbs”), she’s had plenty of time to reinvent herself. From museum curator, restaurant owner, homeschool mom/conference speaker, to post-and-beam house builder and entrepreneur, she’s also a multi-media artist, with an obsession for off-grid living and alternative housing. Cathi owns and operates a 32-room mountain lodge. Her specialty has evolved to include “hermit hospitality” at her rustic cabin in the mountains, where she offers weekend workshops of special interest to women.

“Mountains speak to my soul, and farming is an important part of my heritage. I want to pass on my love of these things to others through my writing. Living in the mountains has its own particular challenges, but I delight in turning them into opportunities from which we can all learn and grow.”

Column content copyright © 2010– Cathi Belcher. All rights reserved.

Mountain Bounty

“Keep close to Nature’s heart ... and break clear away once in awhile to climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods, to wash your spirit clean.”
– John Muir

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