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Breakfast with Laurie

Halloween greetings! You won’t find anything ghoulish about this week’s Breakfast visitor, however: meet Laurie Wheeler, intrepid fiber artist and mother of two. You will find more than a skein’s worth of inspiration here though — so brew a fresh cup of whatever you like to drink in the morning and enjoy.

CC: Who are you?
LW:
What an interesting question! The conventional answer is this: I am Laurie Wheeler, a woman who is mother of two, wife, fiber artist, and would be author/editor. The more interesting answer is that I’m a woman with a degree in international relations who has lived, loved, and worked in 23 countries and four continents. As an expatriate I always chose to live in the local communities and never behind the compound walls with other people from my own country. I love people, observing their lifestyles, cultures, and philosophies. In summary, I am the sum of my total experiences, minus those I have yet to experience.

CC: What do you do?
LW:
When I’m not homeschooling my 15-year-old daughter and 12-year-old son, I’m leading the charge at the Crochet Liberation Front HQ on Ravelry.com and on our website and blog. They call me fearless leader. My kids think that’s really funny. (“Geez Mom, they’ve never seen you run away from a bee!”)

CC: What do you do in the creative domain?
LW: (Have you ever tried homeschooling a teenager?) Crochet, hand spinning, needle felting, wet felting, and the occasional foray into mixed media (nothing I’ve been satisfied with yet, but hey someday!), oh yeah and I just finished putting together a 194-page, full-color collaborative work entitled Crochet Liberation Front, First Ever Book. I also have a rather nice herb garden and enjoy cooking and making home preserves. I also play around with an intuitive painting technique.

It is my belief that the axiom “I think therefore I am” is only part of the story for human beings. “I create, therefore I am” is a far more accurate statement.

CC: How did Crochet Liberation Front (CLF) come to life?
LW:
The story of how the group came to be can be short or long. The short version is that I was tired, suffering from insomnia, and being silly; in other words it was a joke. The long version mirrors my own creative journey as a fiber artist.

I learned to crochet after I learned to embroider, which means I was somewhere around 6 or 7 years old. I know I was crocheting at 8 years old because I made a hideous granny square (pink/purple and red) for my great-grandmother. My great grandmother taught me to crochet, and treasured all of my awful first creations. I crocheted off and on throughout my childhood and teens, even though it was not the cool thing to do. I put the hook down when I went to college in England, but picked it up again when I was in my third trimester of pregnancy with my oldest child and was forced into bedrest. Faced with a month in bed I spent my last free day scouring the country of Bahrain for hooks and yarn or thread. I couldn’t find any yarn, but I found thread and a lace hook, and with those supplies I managed to survive the bedrest and make lots of “pretties” for my daughter-to-be.

Fast forward: I came back to the USA in 1998 a single mother with two kids and not a lot of money (that’s another story). I crocheted all of our Christmas ornaments that year because I couldn’t afford to buy anything. In fact I made many of the presents for friends and family that year as well. I didn’t think what I did was art, I didn’t think too much of it at all. It was just something you do. Art is painting and drawing and sculpture — my brother’s the artist; I’m the “brain.” In short, art was something I couldn’t do.

In 2000 I got married a second time, to a wonderful man who happens to be a park ranger. He was the first person to really make me take a second look at the things I made with hook and thread or yarn. “How do you take that stuff and make it do what you want?” he’d ask. I hadn’t really thought about it, my answer was, “You just do it.”

In 2001 we moved to Camano Island for Jeff to run two fabulous Washington State Parks. Deciding we would remain in that area until he retired, I set out getting to know the people in the community. One day I met a woman in the local craft store and my world changed. Ann Hopkins, a local art teacher and fiber artist, declared that she was going to teach me hand spinning. I don’t know about you, but ever since I first read Rumpelstiltskin I wanted to learn how to use a spinning wheel! I jumped at the chance to learn a dying art.

It was in taking up spinning that the early kernels of the CLF were conceived. As I learned to spin and found books and magazines on the subject, almost all the information revolved about yarn and knitting. There was almost nothing about crochet in the literature. I don’t knit (not for lack of trying), and couldn’t understand why no one had information for spinning and crochet.

When I started attending larger fiber arts gatherings, hand-spinning events, and competitions I repeatedly got told, “Your yarn will work for you, you crochet.” The word “crochet” being said in a snide tone of voice. It really started to annoy me, because all of these people who had crocheted only edging or doilies (nothing wrong with either of those things, but I crochet everything out of necessity since I really am terrible with pointy sticks) kept telling me what I could and couldn’t do with my own yarn.

I have this kind of contrary nature, so the more they kept saying what couldn’t be crocheted, the more I endeavored to make the very things they said couldn’t be done. From sweaters to socks, bags, hats, and scarves, I used stitches they said didn’t exist, and made 3-D wall hangings.

The official story: The Crochet Liberation Front (CLF) came to life at 3 a.m. sometime in late July 2007. I had watched Monty Python’s The Life of Brian one too many times which is how our name became what it is…and was annoyed at how crochet is viewed by the fiber arts world in general. We’re really treated poorly by the industry, and often considered inferior by those who do other fiber arts. Initially the CLF was a cartoonish and sophomoric response to a craft world that was taking itself way too seriously. (As IF one craft could be superior to another other?! Pushaw!)

I turned the CLF into a real organization after we gained over 100 members by fall 2007, and saw that we really did have the potential to do some great work together.

What work? Well, liberating crochet, crochet hooks, and the hands that wield the hook! Liberation takes several forms:

  1. Busting really tired myths about what crochet is and is not. We do this by sharing our projects on Ravelry.com, and by me awarding really cool items on our blog!
  2. Supporting crocheters around the world to get out there, show crochet for what it is, be proud of what they love to do, and to form groups if they can.
  3. Encouraging people to design, or write articles. (This is how the book concept was born!)
  4. Taking on the publishing industry and craft yarn industry in the USA and abroad. They have all these things they like to say about crocheters. My personal favorite is, “They are cheap, they don’t use good yarn.” As a hand spinner I often raise an eyebrow at the yarn manufacturers because very little commercial yarn is what I would consider good…so I write to companies (and encourage others to do so as well) and ask them to clarify what they are saying. What they mean to say is we don’t buy expensive yarn. And, I do not think that is true in the least. I think they have not marketed to crocheters. When they do, crocheters will know about their products. You can’t buy what you’ve never heard of.
  5. Liberating our creative selves. We in the CLF do not think that the whole of crochet’s designing potential has been tapped. So we’re one big support party for opening our creative veins and pouring out our hooking souls to make one big creative soup together!

CC: What prompted you to start a blog?
LW:
Well, it seemed like the right thing to do about 6 months after I founded the CLF. That’s when I started to award crocheters for outstanding, phenomenal, and well-made items. The blog was the easiest way to go. I occasionally rant on the blog just to stir things up a bit.

CC: And what sparked you to launch a podcast?
LW:
Um…it sounded like a good idea at the time? And the idea of having a “mock” news show amused me…

CC: How’s it going so far?
LW:
LOL…um…I put it out when I can. I still love to do the recording, but it’s one thing that gets put on hold more often than not. I do like the podcast because people can actually hear my voice, and actually hear that 90% of the time I’m not really “angry,” but sarcastically self amused.

CC: Where do you do your creative work?
LW:
I crochet anywhere and everywhere! That’s the great thing about crochet — it’s super portable. I crochet in the car, waiting in offices, all over the house, when I meet with friends. When you are kinesthetic it actually helps you concentrate on conversations to keep your hands busy. Spinning and needle felting happen at home in my room, and at the fiber arts group I host monthly in Stanwood, WA. Other creative endeavors happen on the deck outside or in the kitchen. When working on the CLF website or book I can work wherever I can find a wifi signal, so that means the local library or my best friend’s house.

CC: Do you have a schedule for your creative work?
LW:
Yes and no. I crochet all the time; if I’m sitting down I have yarn and a hook in my hands. Hand spinning happens a couple times a month (especially after a shoulder injury). Crochet Liberation Front activities happen from Tuesdays through Saturdays (the library is closed on Sundays and Mondays). I try to get a few hours a day in online. Felting? Intuitive painting? That’s a totally spontaneous deal — that happens when the muse strikes me.

CC: How has motherhood changed you creatively?
LW:
Before I was a mother, I wanted to be creative. I was musical, but that wasn’t my passion — I was just born with a set of good pipes. I wanted to create visually but I tried too hard, and had too many inhibitions. When my daughter was 18 months old she drew a smiley face for the first time. So I bought her crayons and markers to encourage her obvious talents, one problem; she wanted me to draw with her. So I learned to doodle. She and I would spend hours making scribbles together. I would say my children liberated my spirit, taught me to play, taught me to observe nature and forms in a new light, and most important taught me joy. All of this gave me a fresh perspective, and so I found my creativity.

CC: What do you struggle with most?
LW:
Tough question. I would say that taking time for myself, time for my work without feeling guilty. Being a child of the 1980s I was socialized to believe that you could be “superwoman.” I learned in my mid-20s that there was no way that could work, at least not for me. Even though I was told, “You can be anything or do anything” growing up, I still was socialized with women being in a role of organizer and social secretary, not to mention housekeeping and child rearing specialist. When you’re doing all of that it’s hard to have creative energy left. I used to grumble about this and tell folks, “It’s not fair, no one can do all of this and have time left for themselves…” But taking the responsibility for myself to make time for what I need to do to fuel myself was the biggest challenge. I feel less guilty now, maybe because the kids are older now, or I’m pushing 40. What’s funny is that I realized I was repressing myself, that no one else was doing it…Not that there wasn’t a little resistance from children and husband when I chose to take more for me, but that was just in relation to change…they’ve really found “When Mama’s not happy, nobody’s happy” to be a very true statement.

CC: Where do you find inspiration?
LW:
Everywhere! Everything! Everyone! From the past and present, I often mix color schemes and patterns from places I have lived in Africa and the Middle East. I take a lot of solace from my garden and the way the colors and textures play through the seasons. I love to create things for young people, and so I ask them what they want to have. It’s amazing what you get out of kids. Oh and recycling and repurposing things is a big thought in my mind now, I find myself looking at “garbage” and wondering what I can do to transform the items so they don’t end up in a landfill.

CC: What are your top 5 favorite blogs?

CC: Just for you: What is your greatest indulgence?
LW:
Buying, spinning, and then using exotic fibers to make myself something. I make myself something special once a year. I have a glass crochet hook that I use — it’s a uniquely indulgent sensation to put a cashmere/silk/beaded yarn to that hook…it’s almost better than really good chocolate.

CC: Library: What are you reading right now?
LW:
Children of Dune by Frank Herbert (I’m re-reading the whole series).

CC: Soapbox: What advice would you offer to other mothers struggling to find the time and means to be more creative?
LW:
OK, you asked for it, I got a soapbox and I’m not afraid to use it. First of all I think most times when people say “mothers” they mean mothers of young children or babies…You know we stay moms for the entirety of our kid’s lives, it doesn’t end. What happens are stages. If you have babies, there are things you have to adapt. Your creative energy is often going into mothering. But you can sit them on your lap and do things. I watched a young mother of a month old put her baby in the sling and sit and spin at her spinning wheel at our group. It was great to watch!

For creative pursuits that have toxic elements (paints, dye, glues) you have to make space for it where the kids won’t get into it. It may mean you have to wait awhile to get back to it. That’s OK too, it’s just seasons in life.

I can say that I did far less crocheting when the kids were toddlers than I do now. I was too busy running after them (especially my son who was like quick lightening!). It feels like the little ones will never grow up, but they do and fast. I would get in what little creative activity I could when they were sleeping. I was really excited when my son slowed down at about 5 and I suddenly had far more time to be creative!

Understand that your creativity comes and goes with your energy expenditure and life stages. The other thing is, make time. Just make time for you, even if that means a soak in the tub by yourself. For me, that soak can just get it all revved up again!

I would encourage mothers to share their creative pursuits with their children. I began sharing so the children felt less deprived when I did need time to do what I needed to do. It’s kind of what Dr. Christiane Northrop says about mothers and the people in their lives, we’re like the “cat dish,” nobody’s interested in what we are doing until we’re doing it!

When my daughter and I were struggling through the pre-teen/early teen stage it was awful. In fact I lost a lot of my creative juices because we were constantly in conflict. Then I taught her to crochet. It became a needed common ground; now we share a passion (and she does occasionally raids my yarn stash and hooks, but you know there’s worse things teenagers could raid!) and enjoy creating together. Likewise my son enjoys helping me dye yarn It’s the ultimate chemistry lab!

Have some boundaries on what you do. As much as you are sharing with your children let them know it’s an invitation to your world, and that your world has limits (such as “Hands off the cashmere, Darling, that’s mine!”).

CC: It’s been a treat, Laurie — thank you!

Cathy: The Stars, Universe, and Everything Serendipitous

Never in my life would I have imagined that I would be emailed from prominent astronomers for my own little project of a kids’ novel. So far, I have had contact from two. Granted, I have only queried them, and they’ve replied that they want to know what this is about, but it’s a start. I can’t wait to see how either will respond! Of course I noted that anything they could help me with is absolutely at their convenience, so it may be a long wait. I’m so great at shooting myself in the foot, as I don’t want to be a burden.

Even so, I feel legitimized by the networking and consulting process. This is no longer just my writing into a void. There is professional interest in what I have to say. My sense from each of these astronomers is they appreciate their field being trotted out in front of a bunch of kids who may grow up to be interested in astronomy. I hadn’t really considered my book as being influential in that way. The thought may have previously hovered in the back of my mind, but now, wow! I could be pointing some kids toward science down the road, in that far off dreamy distance of published youth novel in the hands of real readers. Who would have thought it? I certainly didn’t, at least not consciously.

NASA has a rocket science research institute (I hope I have that right) up the road from my house. A block in the opposite direction is my son S’s Taekwando Dojon. S has been branching out from his narrow areas of interest — Dinosaurs, Godzilla movies, Calvin and Hobbes, and now Star Wars — to studying the solar system and claiming he will be the first man to land on Mars. He was telling a dad at Taekwando his intentions in rocket building, space travel, and Mars. That father said to me, “I work at NASA, here’s my card, I’ll bring him some stickers next class, as long as you email to remind me.” Of course, by next class, my little head went Ding! And I asked if he had any contact with astronomers. He didn’t, but since I emailed him, he has also fallen into my networking and nicely emailed me a link to NASA speakers and more. Well how about that.

I am also really excited that S is running a parallel interest to what I’m writing. He’s great at feeding me facts I can use, and we have something we can finally share enthusiastically, both ways. That NASA dad took one look at S after his speech and said, “You know how many of the engineers and designers I work with over there probably started out just like him? Most of them.” He also told S that he was just about the right age to make that Mars dream happen. Right now, a project is in the works with a speculated landing date of about 30 years from now. S has been going around telling everyone about it for the past week since their conversation. Ah, my son — the future rocket scientist, spaceship designer, and astronaut.

All of this must have been written in the stars.

10/29 Weekly creativity contest winner & new prompt

The dreamy entries for this week’s creativity contest were irresistible. I found myself utterly paralyzed and unable to select a winner — and this post might have been eternally delayed if I hadn’t had a visit this morning from a dear friend and colleague who came by to drop off a new project. You can credit her for the new prompt, as well as for tipping the scales toward our defending champion (aka last week’s winner), Jen Johnson. Jen writes: “Fun prompt! Got me thinking about how my mom always swore one shouldn’t talk about dreams before breakfast, and it took off from there.” Beautiful work, Jen — your repeat $10 amazon.com gift certificate is on its way. For my part, clearly it’s time to line up more of my guest judges. This is hard work!

Love Charm
You are the endless dream
told before breakfast,
shared with deliberate intent
of it all coming true.

You are petals from daisies
plucked one at a time,
an apple skin peeled all at once
and tossed over the shoulder.

You are pennies saved
and flipped into a fountain,
an eyelash wish
blown from my fingertip –

it floats there, between us,
between dream and waking,
caught on the current of breath
before it falls.

 

From Karen Winters:
There are day dreams, night dreams, “dreams” that are heartfelt wishes and many other kinds to explore. And even our pets, it seems, have dreams. If you’ve had a dog as a member of your family no doubt you’ve seen them making running motions or even small vocalizations as their eyes dart back and forth beneath closed eyelids.

So, my entry this week is a page from my Moleskine sketchbook, entitled “Dog Dreams” — which features an imaginary interpretation of what my American bulldog (girl), “Ripley” sees when she slumbers.

Dreaming can be a powerful tool in our creative life, which I learned when I interviewed Patricia Garfield (author of Creative Dreaming) for shows on Dreams and Nightmares on ABC’s 20/20 newsmagazine.

It was Garfield’s influence that prompted me to start keeping dream journals, a practice that I’ve carried out for decades, with varying degrees of devotion. These days, my dreams are my nighttime studio in which I work out solutions. I let my unconscious do the work while my body rests. It’s not uncommon for me to wake up with a picture in my mind that I have “seen” in a dream. So if someone asks me how much time a day I spend on art, I can actually say “practically 24/7.” However, unlike Ripley I do not dream of bones, gophers and kibbles. At least not yet.

This sketch was painted with a Japanese ink brush pen, which gives a wonderful thick and thin line that is as responsive as a paint brush.

 

From Cathy Coley:

Dreams
You slept between us,
little warm breath before dawn,
a tiny cry, so unusual from my happy baby.
Heart breaking, I considered waking you.
Another whimper and cry, a few more,
I imagined what may be going on
in your mind, so complex already.
Were you frightened, pulled suddenly from my arms?
Did you miss the dog, your dearest companion?
Was something happening to your big brothers
you felt helpless to do anything about?
Something about daddy?
He patted your belly and shush’d.
Waking you to comfort kept crossing my drowsy heart.
I thought, you’ll learn to deal with worse than this:
a night cry you’ll soon forget, if you knew at all.
Maybe you will be wiser than I,
resolve the problems of your dreams before waking.
You quieted and settled.
Furrowed brow smoothed back to round innocence
as the sun slowly rose, bluing the window from black,
Better without my intrusion to your sleep.

 

From Kelly Warren:
I’ve been thinking about this week’s creativity challenge ever since it was posted. I’ve thought about my dreams, the slumber-wrapped type, usually full length films in my case; I’ve thought about writing a bit of poetry or verse talking about what dreams I’ve dreamt or have yet to dream; I’ve thought about old loves that still haunt my dreams and wonder how and where they are; and I’ve thought about dreams I had in my younger days and paused to consider if they’ve come to be. But in sitting here tonight, working on jewelry for my show this weekend, listening to the girls’ laughter as DH gives them their evening bath, it hit me: I’m living my dream. Sure, I’m strapped for time….always have been, always will be. If it’s not the current things I have going on, I’d undoubtedly come up with something else. My plate is simply designed to be overflowing; I’m starting to accept that now. But really, what have I to complain about? I live in a beautiful home on the water, I have a very patient and supportive husband who puts up with all my hair-brained schemes, and I have two beautiful little red-headed daughters who light up my world every day. And while I may complain about the daily grind from time to time, I have a good job and a rewarding career that most of the time I enjoy, while others are losing their jobs left and right in these times of stock market crashes and dwindling state funds. I’ve certainly been through my share of sadness, maybe even more than the average, but who hasn’t had a touch of tragedy in their lives? Maybe I’ve been blessed with a happy spirit, I don’t know, but I’ve always been able to find a tiny bit of sunlight in every storm cloud. So I choose to believe that, yes, I am living my dream. It’s all in how you look at it, don’t you think?

 

From me (Miranda):

For the past 15 years or so, I’ve had a recurring dream. I call it the House Dream. The theme is always the same: I am visiting a new house that I’ve just bought or am about to buy. In each dream, the house is completely different and utterly concrete to its last detail. As I tour the house, I discover that there is a huge section of the house that I didn’t know about — a bonus wing, or a massive underground living space, or that an upstairs bedroom opens out onto a shopping mall — and that the previous owners have left behind things of value that are ours for the taking: useful clothes, jewelry, books, or furniture.

In the process of exploring the house, I can’t believe my good fortune. I’m in awe of this incredible place that I’m going to be living in. It’s really too good to be true, I tell myself — I must be dreaming again. But no, this time it’s real. The dream is so vivid that I always fall for it: the design of the faucet in the kitchen sink, the pattern of the carpet in the dining room (there was that one where the dining room was the size of a modest restaurant and the pope was coming for dinner; staff were preparing for the visit and setting all the tables with cream-colored linens, pale gold utensils, and large ornate plate chargers — meanwhile the carpeting was dark green and printed with a floral pattern; perhaps not worthy of His Holiness); the pattern of a lace curtain in a bathroom window, the wood grain of a child’s bunk bed built into the wall. And then, always before actually moving in, I wake up. It takes me a moment to realize that yet again, the House Dream was just a dream, and I am back in my own boring bedroom.

Naturally, I’ve thought a lot about what the House Dream means. At one point I decided it was a metaphor for my own creativity — that I have everything I need right now in order to create; I just need to find it (that “bonus wing”). I’m not sure if that’s right. In the meantime, I look forward to my next nocturnal house tour — although I don’t look forward to the crash of re-entry, and the sucker punch of knowing that I fell for my own fantasy yet again.

 

This week’s prompt: “Hands”

Use the prompt however you like — literally, or a tangential theme. All media are welcome. Please e-mail your entries to creativereality@live.com by 10:00 p.m. eastern time (GMT -5) on Tuesday, November 4. The winning entry receives a $10 gift certificate to amazon.com. Writers should include their submission directly in the body text of their e-mail. Visual artists and photographers should attach an image of their work as a jpeg. Enter as often as you like; multiple submissions for a single prompt are welcome. There is no limit to how many times you can win the weekly contest, either. (You do not have to be a contributor to this blog in order to enter. All are invited to participate.) All submissions are acknowledged when received; if you do not receive e-mail confirmation of receipt within 24 hours, please post a comment here. Remember, the point here is to stimulate your output, not to create a masterpiece. Keep the bar low and see what happens. Dusting off work you created previously is OK too. For more info, read the original contest blog post.

Dreaming of a few more entries for this week’s contest…

Only two entries thus far for “dream,” this week’s creativity contest prompt. If you sent something in and didn’t receive an acknowledgement from me, it didn’t come through. Please post a comment here to let me know. And if you haven’t sent anything in yet, you have until 11:00 p.m. eastern time to do so! (Deadline extended by a few hours, just in case that helps.)

Kelly: Fascinated by Little Minds

As a mother of twins, most days I feel like I’m living in a real life nature vs. nurture theory experiment. Will two children who popped out of the same womb three minutes apart, and who live in the same house with the same parents, and attend the same schools with the same teacher in the same classroom be basically the same child? I am here to give you a resounding “No way, Jose!”

Take a look at these graphs. This was a homework assignment in my girls’ math awareness series. I taught a class Monday night, and DH left these sitting out on the kitchen counter for me to see when I got home. Both girls followed the directions: color in one number 1 on the first row, color in two number 2’s on the second row, color in three number 3’s on the third row, etc. And both graphs are technically correct, yet look at how different they are. This was fascinating to me! And what fascinated me more was which graph belonged to which child. To date, Olivia has very much been a “color in the lines” kind of girl. All her drawings are typically very well thought out and organized; Sarah, on the other hand, has been a vertible Jackson Pollack. Looking at these then, I assumed that the organized picture was Livvie’s and the all over the board picture was Sarah’s. What that’s saying about the true meaning of assume? You got it. This time, the organized picture was Sarah’s and the all over the board picture was Olivia’s! I need a child psychologist to figure this one out.

Working in education, I hear so much about nature vs. nurture and how it affects not only our children’s success in the classroom, but moreover their success as creative, positive contributors to society as a whole. Through my visits to elementary school classrooms lately and my talks with those teachers, parent involvement is certainly crucial to children’s success; that’s the nurture part. Yet, though elementary, these simple math exercises seem to also point to the major differences nature sends us out into the world with. Interesting, don’t you think? I’m a certified Myers-Briggs and True Colors trainer, so I’m always fascinated by personality differences and how we all look at the world through different lenses, particularly for me when it comes to my twin girls. So what are your thoughts? What have you learned from your children’s differences in personalities? This should be an interesting lesson in creativity!

Kerry: Sometimes the Universe reaches out and gives little hugs

I wish I had a brain that could juggle two babies and two teenagers and a husband that wants to chat as soon as I sit down to check my e-mail. But I don’t. Not lately. Multitasking is holding one crying infant while making dinner, listening to the newest teenage angst about how I ruined yet another child, trying to make my way across the room with the 22 month old attached to my leg and then the phone rings? What? It’s my other teenager, wanting to come over for dinner, and she needs a ride.

I haven’t been very positive lately. If one more of my well-meaning relatives asks me if I’ve painted anything lately, or if I’m still writing (gave up that gig after baby #1), I think I’ll run screaming from the house. I don’t. I say something snappy about taking care of babies…that’s what I do. That’s all I do. I usually have to say it two or three times during the visit, reminding them that I still have the little ones. Are they blind? Are they deaf? Do they not see the little boy, the most adorable baby boy, scrunching up his tiny face in rage when I try to put him down for one second to pick up baby girl as she tries to launch herself from the sofa? Do they not hear the constant shrieking? I don’t get many visitors. Too bad too. I love it when someone holds the baby so I can run off for a potty break.

I can’t write. I can’t think. I always have my ears fine tuned for the sounds of baby wails, and my reflexes ready to grab another bottle as I’m trying to persuade my darling little girl that the potty seat is not a hat.

Kudos to those of us who can tune it out, but I  need to get into that space, that zone, that meditative communing with my muse or I can’t hear her. Two minutes is not enough. I don’t know how to stop listening to the happenings in the house. I don’t know how to turn it off. When the babies are quiet, I fall into bed and sleep the blissful sleep of one who knows it’s short-lived. Usually one, if not both babies wake up every night. I’m tired and I’m frustrated and I’m angry, if the truth be told.

Sometimes I feel like I’ve become a traitor to my true self, to that artist and writer I was, I am, I will be. I look at myself in the mirror and think, Really? Is this all there is? What happened to the me that I was? And then the baby cries and it all fades into another day. Another day gone by.

But that pity party won’t get me anywhere. I still have babies to take care of. And sometimes there is a little glimmer of hope…like e-mails reminding me that once I used to write a blog, and that things will get better. I suppose they will. I’m still trying to live in the moment, in the now, as Eckhart Tolle would say. But my now sure is full of dirty diapers.

But a positive, a piece of synchronicity at work in my very own life, a little reminder, a kiss from beyond:

My significant other has been working on various projects around the house…since we bought it. I’ve been waiting for the building in the backyard to become my studio for five years. So far it has housed an assortment of tools, old furniture and Christmas decorations. My paints are in there too, somewhere. But in my husband’s defense, he has been working on it, actually working on it for the last few weeks. Reframed a couple of walls, rehung some cabinets, and in the midst of it, he comes to me with an old piece of paper. “Look what I found in the studio,” he says. Studio, I think. That has never been nor will ever be my studio at the rate I’m going. But I take the folded slip of paper from his hand and see the date March 1994 scrawled across the top. Curious, I open it. And my heart beats a little faster as I read: “I am an artist and this was my studio. I hope it brings as much joy to the next person as it has brought to me over the years.” Signed by the artist herself. And I think, how funny, that building that we named “the studio” the first day we viewed the house, was always meant to contain art. Like it was taken out of my hands. It doesn’t have to become anything. It already is.

And inside I danced a little jig and smiled. It is mine. Given to me. Just like that. I’m going to frame that note and hang it on the wall for everyone to see, but mostly for me to see, to remind me of possibilities waiting.

Cathy: Sweet Surprises

I get it now. Or have I said this before?

I still need to go at my snail’s pace, but in keeping the pace steady, I am immersed. A little bit of writing in my manuscript most days is realistic with constant interruptions. Regularly communing with others at least online as well as scheduling virtual writing dates, keeps my mind set on the path. Also, it helps me to know that I’m not really sitting alone in the dark, even if I’m sitting alone in the room with wiggly baby on my lap, typing one handed.

My characters are coming back to life in a way I had long forgotten when I hit my first big bump that made me unintentionally set this gig aside years ago. Scenes I never intended are beginning to write themselves into the story while I sit back and go, “Hmm, so that’s why I wrote her in way back then.” or “Gee, THAT was unexpected!”

I’m finding that it’s going a lot like the way I cook. I follow the recipe or the rules of writing quite a bit, but when it comes down to it, there is quite a lot of improv, too. Like today, I baked a cake while measuring half-assed, dumped a boulder of sugar into the batter by accident, and the flour spilled over, too, which I didn’t really sift. Then I threw choc chips in just because I felt like it, and voila! An ugly, lopsided, yet delicious cake emerged from the oven. The boys, my audience, didn’t care what it looked like or how it got there. They just got off their respective busses, came in, and oo’ed that something smelled good, and promptly stuffed a piece in their mouths. One even said, “Chocolate chips? I’ll get a glass of milk to go with that!” So, it turned into a healthy snack, too.

In the writing today I ended up with three or more completely unexpected scenes: the bully did not punch the main character as I thought I’d be writing since day one, but kicked a kickball into the face of his friend, a girl, hard enough to stop the game and send her to the nurse. The nurse suddenly became the confidante of the three who get the brunt of the bullying. And the evildoer’s sidekick is turning his game face over to the good side sooner than I anticipated. Who knew? Certainly not I, and you’d think I had some control of the situation, seeing as I’m making it up as I go, right?

Above is a new Wordle of my work in progress. I find Wordle to not only be a fun waste of time, but a good editing tool. Now I can see how much of my most important and frequent words are drek which needs to be cut at some point when I begin to fine-tune it. But that’s later. First I just want to get the plot down from beginning to end. Page 60 and counting…

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