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Posts tagged ‘breakfast’

Kelly: How the Birds and the Bees Made Me Grateful

I came across this picture cleaning up and packing my office before our repaint and recarpet this summer and found it tucked in my calendar last week. It was taken at the beach wedding of a friend. Sarah and I were watching the wedding while DH and Olivia were off shell hunting, and the wedding photographer caught this shot. Such innocence. Where the heck did it go!?!

I was driving the girls to school Friday when Sarah asked, “Mama, how can teenagers have a baby?” Stalling, I asked her what she meant, and she said she saw a teenager on TV that had a baby. Wow! Didn’t expect to have the birds and the bees conversation quite this early. I tried to respond with, “Well, teenagers really shouldn’t be having babies.” And she said, “’cause you aren’t supposed to have a baby until you are at least 30.” See, I’m trying to train them well! I tell them that you can’t get married until you are 30, so therefore, you can’t have a baby until you are at least 30 because you have to get married before you have a baby. (Now, I realize that in this day and age, many women are having children without getting married, and that’s fine, but that’s a discussion for another post…) Anywho, Sarah continued with, “So do we have to start taking no-baby pills now so that we don’t have a baby?”

You see, when the girls have asked me about the little pill I take before I go to bed every night (they are far too observant), I tell them that’s my no-baby pill so that I don’t have any more babies. (Okay, so maybe I need to rethink that conversation.) I tried to explain that while, yes, no-baby pills work to keep you from having a baby, there are things that mamas and daddies do to make babies that you won’t need to worry about for a long, long, long time (like when you are 25, she says, as she sticks her head in the sand). “What’s that, Mama?” And I stupidly responded, “Sex.” “What’s sex, Mama?” I somehow managed to change the subject by responding again that it’s something they wouldn’t have to worry about for a long, long, long time, and then said, “Hey look! They mowed the cow pasture! What are the cows going to eat now!?”

I’m guessing the topic of “What’s sex?” has now probably come up at school amongst their friends. I can hear it now: “Destiny, do you know what sex is? My Mama said it’s what mamas and daddies do to make babies.” I am expecting a call from the school any day now.

This Mama stuff….when you don’t have your own Mama around, it’s very much a make-it-up-as-you-go-along thing. I guess even if you do have your Mama around, you might still be making it up as you go along. There are mornings when it just smacks me out of nowhere. I’ll be standing at the kitchen sink, washing up the breakfast dishes while trying to keep the girls on task to brush their teeth, pack their backpacks and get ready to head out the door, and it smacks me right across the face: I’m a mother. I don’t know why it sometimes hits me that way. From early on, I knew I wanted children. Heck, I wanted four children! Boys! I think maybe that came from seeing my college boyfriend’s family. They are a family of four boys who all absolutely adore their Mama. But still there are days that I find myself amazed that I am a mother…that I am worthy of this task…that I have been given this blessing…that I have the qualifications for this most wonderful of jobs… Maybe it’s because we had to go through so much to get where we are, who knows?

Take a peek over at Brene Brown’s post Monday. She and I corresponded a bit after this post and I’m working on doing a few things on campus related to this project. What does this have to do with being a mother, you ask, other than what should be the obvious that “perfect mother” is an oxymoron? In our e-mails, she directed me to a TED talk she did about vulnerability, and what she speaks of everyday, having ordinary courage, taking the time to realize the small wonderfulness that happens in our lives every day. The little things we overlook. That’s what it has to do with being a mother. I will remember the conversation Sarah and I had Friday morning hopefully for the rest of my days. And standing at the kitchen sink tomorrow morning, I will remember what a blessing it is to stand there and wash the breakfast dishes of two little angels. And I will be amazed and overjoyed that I am their Mama. And I will be incredibly grateful for that gift. How about you? Have you taken the time to think about what you are grateful for today?

[cross-posted from Artful Happiness]

Breakfast with Thea

I know you’ve all been having hunger pains, what with so many weeks elapsing since our last Breakfast installment — so you’re sure to enjoy meeting Thea Izzi, jewelry designer, blogger, and single mother. Thea is a dear old friend of mine from high school, and she recently moved from San Fransisco back to the Boston area. She sent me her interview responses more than two months ago and I’ve been totally delinquent in posting. (Thea is too modest to note in her interview that she earned her BFA at the Rhode Island School of Design and won a Fulbright to study jewelry making in Italy, so I’ll do that for her.) Enjoy!

tniCC: Please give us an intro to who you are, what you do, and your family headcount.
TI:
My name is Thea Izzi and I’m a jewelry designer, artist, and metalsmith. I am a single mother of one beautiful 2.5-year-old boy named Edan. We just moved to the Boston area from the SF Bay Area a few weeks ago!

CC: Tell us about your jewelry design and how your work has evolved. Any other creative pursuits?
TI:
It’s always difficult to answer this question because I feel so often that my work and ideas come out of nowhere. My inspiration comes from basic geometric shapes in nature and architecture and repeated patterns. It’s what feels good to me. My process is about playing and discovering new ways of engineering or putting together interesting parts in a simple yet aesthetically pleasing way. What is produced tends to mirror a much deeper connection to rhythm, balance, and feminine energy. Usually it is someone else who is drawn to the force of energy around a certain design and points it out before I notice it as more than just a really nice thing to wear. Even though I would like to explore making work that is deliberate in expressing my deeper connection to and interest in what I would describe as the divine feminine archetype, my work of late has been jewelry that’s purely for fun and fashion and affordability. That has been both from necessity and desire to work with new materials (rubber). The outcome is a body of work that could be described as “urban tribal,” which I guess, does, in its own way reflect a modern feminine (and masculine) archetype idea.

EarthtonesPinCC: Making a living from fulltime creativity obviously adds a huge amount of pressure to your creative life. Do you love what you do, even though it’s your “job”?
TI:
That’s a great question to ask me right at this moment because I have now been studio-less for two weeks and my business is essentially shut down until I find a place to set up again. I am at once relieved to not be under so much pressure but also missing my time at the bench, which I have not had for a few months because of all that it took to move.

So the short answer is YES, I love what I do and having a job based in creativity is essential to my well-being but the stress of running a business has stunted my creative growth and motivation. I am now searching for a better way to make a living as I restructure my life; work and home. It may mean working for someone else for awhile or getting a job at a company as a designer but that will likely be temporary because what I do is who I am…an artist and my purpose in this life is clearly to create and express through artistic mediums.

Singing and dancing feed my need for self-expression as well as making jewelry. They are the other great talents I was born with.

CC: What prompted you to start a blog? What keeps you going?
TI:
My blog is a new addition to my web 2.0 networking efforts! I resisted for a long while as journal writing in general has always been an uphill challenge for me—but I have found blog writing surprisingly rewarding and easy. The most difficult part is making time to do it. My motivation is definitely rooted in “business marketing and branding” but my approach has been to be real and honest about who I am and what is happening in my life. This helps ME to be clear about my goals and identity. It also draws in would-be customers because they have a “story” about me, the artist. That is SO important in marketing handmade art.

Thea@bench2CC: You’re in the process of moving right now, but tell us about your studio in SF. What will you be looking for in your new creative space?
TI: As I write this I am in the process of searching for a studio space. While without one I am deeply appreciating the one that I had and realize how much it feeds my identity. No surprisingly because it represents MY space. No part of my living space now or in CA belongs anymore to just me. It is all shared with my sweet 2.5-year-old roommate!

What I am looking for as I search is as much space and light as possible. I like an uncluttered environment as well. I would like to be in a building with other working artists as this is something I was missing in my last situation. I like working alone but that can easily turn in to isolation if there are no opportunities for socializing. I think having other artists around would especially good for me being a “newbie” in town.

CC: Now that you’re shifting your work life, will you still maintain a schedule for your creative work?
TI:
In short, yes. I did not plan it as scheduled creative time but I took advantage of the spring season of classes starting at RISD and signed up for Adobe Illustrator to improve my computer-aided jewelry design skills. Now I HAVE to schedule time for the homework which I am finding to be very satisfying creative work. It also seems that the prospect of making income from creating my own jewelry is still BETTER than that of getting a “job” so as soon as I find the studio…creative work begins again. Will I be able to schedule it? Maybe not but the Universe’s plan for me clearly includes being creative no matter what else I try to plan.

Rubber O- RingsCC: How has motherhood changed you creatively?
TI:
Hmm. Not sure, at first thought. I think more about what I could design or create for children. My son particularly likes my new rubber jewelry with magnetic clasps. He has showed me how well the entire collection looks attached to the refrigerator. I guess I think creatively in terms of what is FUN.

CC: From my own experience, being a single parent can sometimes magnify the challenges of being a creative mother. What are your challenges in being a single mother as well as an artist? What are the advantages?
TI:
Challenges: Sigh. The selfish part of that answer is that I have almost no time left for myself right now. That’s why this has taken so long to get to you, M! It’s been stuck at the bottom of the priority list. I pulled it up this morning out of sheer frustration that NOTHING on the to-do list today looked any fun at all.

One HUGE and direct example of my daily challenges right now is that I am, as a single mother with no child support, eligible for financial assistance from the fed/state government for child care, health care, and more but as a self-employed person I must prove my income (or lack thereof) and work schedule in several different formats which is exhausting and time consuming. I then have to reprove it 2-4 times a year depending on the program. Some of the vital documents I need are in a box on a truck due to arrive in weeks. Sigh again.

CIMG5815Advantages: Let me get back to you in a few years on that. Hopefully my son will learn that it is possible to be successful doing something he loves. Hopefully he will see me being HAPPY doing something I love. I think he gets that dancing pretty much makes me ecstatic and that I love to sing and that I make some cool stuff you can wrap around your wrist or put over your head but I don’t know yet how he integrates that information.

CC: Where do you find inspiration?
TI:
Architecture, patterns, flowers, electronic music, and mostly by playing and experimenting with existing “parts” on my bench.

CC: The West Coast seems to place a lot of emphasis on the mind-body connection. What are your own feelings about how physicality influences creativity?
TI:
I 100% agree with the mind-body connection theory. I am most alive, free, and pregnant with ideas and the most aware of my intuition when I am regularly dancing and moving my body.

CC: What are your top 5 favorite blogs?
TI:
Oy. I really just started the public blog thing. I don’t know too many but so far I enjoy reading Lydia Kirtchthurn’s blog Lydia Oh Lydia.

CC: What is your greatest indulgence?
TI:
Hot springs… natural outdoor CALIFORNIA hot springs. I am going to cry now. Well, hand me a fresh warm croissant and I’ll be OK.

CC: What are you reading right now?
TI:
Ha ha ha! Read? We are currently reading anything by Eric Carle. I would LIKE TO BE reading Michael Pollan, Eckhart Tolle and more….mostly non-fiction subjects on human potential and our evolution to a new paradigm.

IMG_2615CC: What advice would you offer to other mothers struggling to find the time and means to be more creative?
TI:
Don’t give up on being a creative person. Listen to your intuition not what other people have to say about what you “should” be doing now that you are a mother. If nothing else there is always time to DANCE and BREATHE! The rest will follow.

CC: Thank you, Thea! Please give us an update when you find a moment!

Breakfast with Nina

So glad that you stopped by for our latest Breakfast installment! And you’re going to be glad too: Meet Nina Johnson, clothing designer, blogger, and single mom of two. Nina’s commitment to her creative life — and her ability to make it happen — are a huge inspiration. So whip up a fruit smoothie and enjoy!

nj1CC: Please give us an intro to who you are, what you do, and your family headcount.
NJ:
Let’s see…some know me by NeoSewMama. My given name is Sha’Nina — although most everyone calls me Nina. I’m a 29-year-old funky, vegan, urban hippie, rockin’ a nose ring and a curly red ‘fro, who designs clothing, sings way too much, and spends most of my time making the lives of those around me lovely. I’m currently living in my hometown of Portland, Oregon, which just so happens to be the metropolis of everything funky, vegan, indie, and Earth conscious…therefore I fit right in!

nj2I am a single SAHM to two beautiful and full-of-life little people — Jade, 6, and Myles, 3. I also have a special guy in my life who we call Buckets, that I spend as much time with as his busy college football coaching job allows (long-distance relationships aren’t for the faint of heart).

My journey as a SAHM began when we learned shortly after birth that Jade had a rare condition called VACTERL Association. She spent 3 1/2 months in the NICU, had countless surgeries (open-heart, diaphragmatic hernia repair, TEF repair…just to name a few) and once home, required my around the clock TLC. nj3Although she has long-lasting medical issues, Jade has made remarkable strides from where she once was.

A few years ago (after becoming a single mom and having Myles), I began providing in-home daycare so that I could bring in some extra income and remain at home with my children. About 10 months ago I realized that the long hours and stress was putting too much of a strain on our little family, so I quit and decided to pursue my clothing designing on a more full-time basis.

CC: Tell us about your creative work and what’s on the offing in your Etsy shop.
NJ:
Although my true love creatively is clothing construction, baking and crafting with my children come in a close second and third.nj4 I can and will make just about anything. Lately I have been focusing a lot of time on learning (and mastering) dyeing, printmaking, crocheting, knitting, and weaving. I used to think it was bad that I was so all over the place with my creative interests. I now know that it’s great because it expands the possibilities of what I can create.

My goal is to incorporate all of these various mediums into my clothing creations as embellishments. My dream is to build a complete line of clothing and accessories and to successfully maintain a boutique of my own. Right now, my etsy shop consists of a few hand-dyed items and a handful of my favorite vintage finds. Over the next month or so I plan to introduce many new designs…mostly one-of-a-kind pieces for spring and summer.

nj5CC: What prompted you to start a blog? What keeps you going?
NJ:
I originally decided to start a blog as a project of sorts with my best friend and sister, Ki. We are inseparable (even though we live thousands of miles away and didn’t grow up with each other) and are ALWAYS finding things that we can do together. We thought blogging would be a good way to document all the things happening in our lives and provide a visual scrapbook not only for the two of us to share, but also something that we could show our children someday. Gradually it grew into much more than that as I found it becoming a part of me…my voice. As a single, stay-at-home mom with very little family and few friends, I spend all of my time with my children. There is only so much that I can share with them…meaning there is not a lot of deep, intellectual conversation being had here. So a lot of my thoughts and ideas where being stifled. I have found that blogging is just a new form of the journaling that I have used as an outlet throughout my life. I’ve also met so many wonderful people blogging. I feel blessed to have made many lifelong connections through the blogging community.

CC: Do you find that your blog keeps you “honest” creatively? Meaning that you have a place to state your intentions — and that you need to keep producing work in order to have something creative to blog about?
NJ:
I do believe that it keeps me honest creatively…just not necessarily so that I have something to blog about. I mean I do believe that mentioning my works in progress helps keep me motivated somewhat. I’m a firm believer in the idea that we speak things into being. So once I state it there…and can visually see it, I am much more determined to see it completed. As much as I am blogging to share my creations with others, I am also doing it to encourage myself.

nj6CC: Where do you do your creative work?
NJ:
I do most of my creating in our living room/dining room. I began working in a small space I set up so that I could work while watching the kids play. My work has now spilled over to the dining room table (it has a larger cutting surface area). I have also created a dye “studio” in my basement in which I spend quite a bit of time as well. I want to move my work elsewhere so I can feel better about leaving things messy, but that will have to wait…more than likely until we move into a bigger place.

nj7CC: Do you have a schedule for your creative work?
NJ:
I have a schedule. I even went as far as setting alarms into my BlackBerry to stay on track. It worked for a while but as of late we have had a lot of distractions and illnesses that have really curtailed things on the creative end. Since I’m at my best in the morning, I try and spend the first two hours back home after dropping Jade off at school blogging, e-mailing, picture taking, packaging, fabric cutting and/or sewing. From noon til 8:30 it’s pretty much mommy duty. After the kids are in bed I try to fit in as much sewing and dyeing as I can before I pass out (which lately has been well before 10 p.m.).

nj10CC: How has motherhood changed you creatively?
NJ:
My journey through motherhood has pushed me to pursue my creative endeavors with much more passion. I was originally planning to go to college for fashion design right after high school. But for whatever reason I thought it was impractical, so I put my interest in clothing design aside and focused on becoming a teacher instead. I packed away my sewing machine and let it sit collecting dust. After many, many years of always putting everyone else’s needs first and going out of my way to make sure everyone else was happy, I made the choice that it was time to do something for me. I rediscovered my first love…sewing.

nj9CC: What do you struggle with most?
NJ: My biggest challenges are time management and staying productive. There is hardly enough time in the day to do all the things that I need to do, even less to do all that I should do and NEVER enough to do all that I want to do. I have tried many tactics — some that have worked better than others (lists and prioritizing), but it continues to be a struggle. I want so badly to be able to become more productive as far as my shop is concerned. I have very small blocks of time to work within, so a dress that I should be able to finish in day usually takes me days (sometime a week) to complete. I know there is a solution…I just haven’t discovered it yet.

nj11CC: Where do you find inspiration?
NJ:
I find inspiration everywhere…literally. Playing outside with kids. The colors in ads or product packaging, old movies, African and Japanese culture, magazines, people on the street, blogs, the way my daughter puts her clothing together, vintage fabric, my imagination…the list goes on. I sketch out ideas as I get them…sometimes in my sketchbook other times on napkins, receipts, bills, or on whatever I have near me at the moment.

CC: What are your top 5 favorite blogs?
NJ:
Just five? Hmmmm…this is hard. I’ll have to do the first five that come to mind…

  1. Quejimenez — my sis
  2. Fly
  3. Heart Handmade
  4. Jubella
  5. Puhti

nj12CC: What is your greatest indulgence?
NJ:
Indulgences…another hard question. It used to be fabric and magazines but I have cut both my fabric and magazine buying drastically in the last year or so. I’d have to say that drinking tea or coffee in the morning before the kids wake up…and again at night after “cuddle time” is over is something I like doing just for me. The occasional pint of Ciao Bella Blood Orange Sorbet or a movie via Netflix (when I can stay awake) is always a lovely treat. With all that said, my most favorite thing — hands down — is spending time being silly with my children. Our singing/dance parties are much more lively than any nightclub could ever be.

CC: What are you reading right now?
NJ:
I’m always reading something. There are stacks of books all over my house to prove it. Never been much of a novel person. I was always that kid reading biographies and home improvement/how-to manuals…which is probably why I can figure out how to make just about anything. The books I’m currently dragging from room to room are: Donald Trump’s Think Big and Kick Buttocks (I don’t use the real word), The Unschooling Handbook, The God of Small Things, Ralph S. Mouse (with the kids), Fast Knits Fat Needles and a constant source of reference is Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth.

nj13CC: What advice would you offer to other mothers struggling to find the time and means to be more creative?
NJ:
I know it sounds like the obvious, but be creative when and wherever you can be. As a single mama with very little help, I’m almost never alone. If I waited for free time to create it would never happen. I find things to do that are portable and take them with me to Jade’s doctor’s visits, to the park or anywhere else we go. It may take me a bit longer to finish things, but at least I’m continually creative.

Although creating for self is great, I believe making time to create on a daily basis with your children is just as important. Teaching kids to be creative at an early age helps open them up to self-discovery and gives them methods in which to express themselves. It puts the power to dream in their fingertips.

nj8It’s never too late to learn a new craft or skill. I’ve always wanted to learn to crochet or knit but could never quite get the hang of it. I had come to the conclusion that maybe it just wasn’t for me. But after Jade learned to knit from a kit she got last Christmas, I was determined to pick up a pair of needles myself. I’m happy to report that since then I have not only taught myself to knit, but I have also figured out crocheting and we have made a weaving loom as well. I guess I’m trying to master all the fiber arts.

Last but not least, NEVER let anything or anyone keep you from expressing yourself creatively. There have been many setbacks and detours in my life that at times had me questioning whether or not I should pursue my creative endeavors. But to suppress that desire would be to deny all that is within me. And what good are you to anyone — yourself, your family, or society — if you aren’t your authentic self? I have known from a very young age who I was meant to be and what I wanted to do with my life. I am not settling for anything less than living this dream. Don’t stop until you have become the you that you see in your dreams!

CC: Love, love your advice and perspective, Nina. Thank you so much!

Breakfast with Gabrielle

gblairheadshot2It’s Breakfast time again! This week you’ll want a generous helping. Gabrielle Blair is a New York-based designer, mother of five (OK, so I have a soft spot for that particular trait), and the blogger behind Design Mom, named a Top Motherhood Blog by the Wall Street Journal. If you aren’t familiar with Design Mom, don’t worry — there are at least four of you out there!  ;-)

CC: Please give us an intro to who you are, what you do, and your family parameters.
GB:
I’m Gabrielle Stanley Blair. I was formerly an art director and graphic designer by profession, but just last year my work hours filled up with blogging and kirtsy — I’m loving this second career. My husband and lover is Ben Blair. We have 5 kids: Ralph, Maude, Olive, Oscar, and Betty. They are really good kids. I hope we have more. I also write at Cookie’s Nesting blog.

2191602648_408c3b55a11CC: Your blog is, uhm, insanely popular. What prompted you to start blogging? How did your huge and loyal readership evolve?
GB:
Gosh. Thanks! I’m blushing from reading your kind words.

I started blogging a couple of years ago, when my youngest baby was born. I’m prone to some pretty serious post-partum depression, and I knew that being creative helped me manage it. Blogging was a perfect solution. I could do it in my PJs, in the middle of the night. And it was free. If I skipped a day, no one cared. Just the sort of non-commitment a new mother needs.

But I rarely skipped a day, because I LOVED it. And the more consistent a person is with blogging, the more one’s readership tends to grow. Which is what happened with my blog.

olive_garageCC: In addition to your “day job,” where you must be creative nonstop, do you have “extracurricular” creative pursuits?
GB:
For sure. I love when I get any opportunity to flex my graphic design muscles — like making a poster for school or a flyer for church. And creative projects with the kids are pretty much non-stop. We had a great time making gifts for each other during December. I still dream of designing textiles.

CC: You have five kids, a demanding career, a serious blog commitment, and everything that goes with busy urban family life. What are your time-management strategies?
GB:
Hmmm. I feel like my schedule, and how I manage, it changes from week to week. Working from home certainly helps keep me flexible. I also put my kids to bed pretty early and take full advantage of the time they are sleeping — those evening hours are some of my most productive.

gb_deskCC: Where do you do your creative work and blogging?
GB:
Computer work happens mostly in my home office. We carved a rough office space in the back of our garage. Non-computer creative work happens at the kitchen table and is often interrupted by meals.

CC: What do you struggle with most?
GB:
Keeping my fridge stocked with chocolate milk for more than 48 hours.

CC: How much does guilt factor in your life?
GB:
I’ve mostly said goodbye to guilt. But I have found that our home life works most smoothly when I’m home and concentrating on the kids from after-school through bedtime — no computer allowed to me during those hours.

gb_kitchen_tableCC: Where do you find inspiration?
GB:
I find inspiration pretty much everywhere. Most recently, I was inspired by the holiday windows at Bergdorf’s. I don’t know who does those windows, but I need to find out and send some fan mail. They are unbelievably gorgeous.

CC: What is your greatest indulgence?
GB:
Candy. I’m a complete addict. Not really for chocolate, but for straight-up sugar. Pear Jelly Bellys and Life Saver’s Wint-o-Greens are my favorites. I never say no to Swedish Fish or Sour Patch Kids.

CC: What are you reading right now?
GB:
Two books: An advance copy of Kathryn Center’s new novel, Everyone Is Beautiful. It’s so good! I’m also deep into In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan. It is life-changing.

hanging_birdhousesCC: What advice would you offer to other mothers struggling to be more creative?
GB:
Don’t think about it too hard — just do something. When I started my blog, I remember hating that I was using a standard template, because I am a designer for goodness sakes! I should have a really cool custom design, right? But if I’d waited to make the perfect design, I would never have started. I’m two years in and I’m still working on the perfect design. :-)

CC: Thank you, Gabrielle!


Breakfast with Jacqui

It’s Breakfast time! Enjoy the latest in our bi-weekly visits with creative mothers from the blogosphere: Meet Jacqui Robbins, children’s author, blogger, and mother of two. Jacqui is funny and down-to-Earth — just what you need in order to start your day with a smile and a dollop of inspiration. Sunny-side up, please!

jrCC: Please give us an intro to who you are, what you do, and your family headcount.
JR:
My name is Jacqui Robbins. I’m a children’s author, sometime teacher, and parent to Tinkerbell, age 6, and Captain Destructo, who is 2 in every way. I live in Michigan with my kids and husband and two cats, a fish, and, lately, two families of attic squirrels against whom I battle daily. I am a 37-year-old who feels 25 or 98, depending on the day.

CC: Tell us about your children’s books and other creative endeavors.
JR:
My first book, The New Girl…And Me, illustrated by Matt Phelan, came out in 2006 and Two of a Kind (also illustrated by Matt) comes out this summer. I was a first grade teacher for many years and my books all reflect how hard social drama can be when you’re six. In The New Girl…and Me, it’s Shakeeta’s first day at school. Mia would like to show Shakeeta around, or to learn more about her pet iguana, but how do you start talking to someone who might punch you in the head?

Two of a Kind is about mean girls. You know those two girls in your class who won’t let anyone play with them and are somehow still the most popular? Yeah, them. What if they finally let you play but then they made fun of your best friend?

Right now I am working on a chapter book. It’s a mystery/adventure story with a hint of romance but not too much. I’m in the first draft stage, so I’m still in love with it.

I’m also writing a non-fiction book with my sister called Egghead and Monkey Girl Kick It Old School, in which two sisters (us) raised in the heart of feminism realize they never learned to do any traditional women’s work and can barely feed themselves, and set out to learn everything they need to be domestic goddesses, and to teach it to other domestically challenged souls, while maintaining their fundamentally feminist attitudes.

CC: What prompted you to start a blog? What keeps you going?
JR:
I always blogged. I used to write regular group letters, then e-mails and send them to all my friends and family. But I was insecure. I thought you had to be, I don’t know, famous or INVITED to blog, so I came late to the game. Also, it took me a while to find the voice of Jacqui’s Room. I’m a picture book author, but I’m also a novel lover and kind of snide. I wanted to talk seriously and hopefully helpfully about writing, but also be goofy about the classics and pretend to interview Salman Rushdie. When I realized I wanted the blog to be like the meeting rug in my classroom, a place where I hold forth, but everyone can comment and be welcome, it flowed from there. Now I keep going because people are (gasp!) reading it. Also, I am addicted to the internet.

twoofakindcoverCC: What goals do you have for your writing? How would you define your “life’s work”?
JR:
Wow. That second question is hard for me because I always thought teaching was my life’s work and I’m not sure it still isn’t. I guess I hope my books tell kids, “Yeah, I know it’s hard. But you’re not alone and you know what? It’s gonna be okay.” And I want to make people laugh those laughs where you smile for a while afterwards. That’s the most important thing.

CC: How has motherhood changed you creatively?
JR:
I’m more scatterbrained. I’m also more efficient. That’s a paradox I think only a parent can understand. My books are shorter, because I read to my own kids and I know bedtime is long enough already. I have a broader understanding of human emotions, which is very good for writing. But I’m also exhausted and frazzled and that’s bad. In the morning, I wrestle two kids into snowpants, hats, gloves, boots, coats and carseats, grab two lunches, homework, break up three arguments, find the library book, scream, “Whatareyoudoingupthereyou’resupposedtobebrushingyourteeth?!” and “Noyoucan’twearyourfairywingstoschoolputdownyourbrother’sorangejuice!” and get everyone off to where they need to be and then, heart racing, face frozen in a scowl, and every muscle tense, I sit down and tell myself, “WRITE! BE CREATIVE! You have ten minutes. GO! AAAH!”

officeCC: Where do you do your creative work?
JR:
Hee hee. Here is a photo of my office from the summer. It’s even worse now, but I’m working on it, I swear. Meanwhile, I write on the sofa and at my local coffee shop a lot.

CC: Do you have a schedule for writing? Did the pressure of writing under a book contract change your time management strategies?
JR:
I DO have a schedule for my writing. I make schedules for my writing all the time. Then I lose them or blow them off or one of the kids barfs and, well, you know. Sigh. Lately, I have been trying a timer: I sit down and write until it goes off. It works for me, this forced discipline. I’m a fast writer, if I’m focused, which helps. My books were all contracted as finished manuscripts, so I haven’t had contract deadline pressure. In fact, having the first book contract was very freeing for me in terms of feeling like “Hey! I’m a writer. I deserve time to write.” So even though I don’t keep a schedule, I respect my need to write and my need for time to do so.

CC: What do you struggle with most?
JR:
Balance, or more specifically, my neurosis over the lack of it. Because there IS no balance, I think. My work is clearly much better when I am 100% focused on it and my family is palpably happier when I take a week off writing. So I struggle with the constant feeling of not giving things/people that are important to me everything they deserve.

CC: Where do you find inspiration?
JR:
People assume I’m inspired by my own children, but really it’s my students. This is good, because at some point, my daughter is not going to think it’s so cool that her mom writes all these books about little girls who can’t make friends. I’m inspired by the difficulties my students have socially. Also, coffee helps.

CC: What are your top 5 favorite blogs?
JR:
Ack. This is hard. I read a lot of writer blogs, but I also like to read blogs by people whose lives are totally different from mine. I’m going to go with the top five that make me smile and spend the rest of the week worrying I hurt someone’s feelings.

  1. Yield and Overcome has musings, poetry, and laughs from a writer, father of four, and recently rediscovered good friend.
  2. Bookie Woogie is new to me. It’s a father and his children reviewing books and they are funny and honest and charming.
  3. Bossy cracks me up.
  4. Elise Murphy (who’s in my writer support group Rock Sugar Beets) blogs about writing and life on the farm. Math for Writers is my favorite post of Elise’s.
  5. Picture books get little respect in the writing world, but Boni Ashburn writes all about them at Life on the Bookshelf. Her own book, Hush Little Dragon, is fabulous.

new_girl_jacketCC: What is your greatest indulgence?
JR:
Books. I love them. Our shelves are overflowing and sagging and I love running my fingers across the titles and sighing happily. My friend, Erika Mijlin, wrote Feldman and the Infinite, a play about a guy who stole 15,000 books from the New York public library. He had books in the bathtub. I’m not there yet, but it doesn’t sound so bad.

Also, I never drank caffeine until my son was born. Now I am addicted to overpriced foamy coffee and soy milk drinks in big ceramic mugs.

CC: What are you reading right now?
JR:
I just started City of Thieves, by David Benioff. I’m also in the middle of Shadow Country, by Peter Matthiesson, which is lovely, but as dense and murky as its Florida Everglades setting, so I take little breaks from it to read Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, which I recommend to everyone ages 9 to 100.

CC: What advice would you offer to other mothers struggling to find the time and means to be more creative?
JR:
Two thoughts, one internal, one practical. First, make sure you are not the one sabotaging yourself. Make sure that if something is important to you, it’s not last on your to do list. Put it first, and then believe that you deserve that time and that your family/your day job/the world will keep spinning if you disappear for 30 minutes.

Secondly, one of my new year’s resolutions this year was to do something every day to make the next day easier on myself. It’s worked out really well; before I relax for the night, I do one thing on my to do list for the next day. Then, the next day, I’m all, “Hey! I already did that! Look at all this extra time I have!”

CC: Wonderful, Jacqui — thank you!

Breakfast with Suzanne

There are many fabulous, creative women in my local community. One of them is Suzanne Révy, an inspiring photographer, blogger, and mother. Those of you who live in Massachusetts or southern New Hampshire can see Suzanne’s work in person at her solo show at the Griffin Museum of Photography‘s Atelier Gallery, located at the Stoneham Theater from February 2 through March 21, 2009; reception on February 26 at 6 p.m. For now, enjoy this latest edition of Breakfast — a feast for the eyes and a good dose of inspiration along with your morning cuppa.

56slefportrait-copycropCC: Please give us an intro to who you are, what you do, and your family headcount.
SR:
I am a 47-year-old wife and mother. I have two boys, ages 9 and 7. College days were spent at Pratt Institute, a Brooklyn, NY, art school, majoring in photography. In my professional life, in the days before kids, I was a photography editor at U.S. News & World Report magazine, and did a short stint as acting picture editor at Yankee magazine after moving to Massachusetts. Since having the children, I left the world of magazines, and returned to my artistic roots of college, and took up the camera again.

CC: Tell us about your photography. Given that you shoot with film and print your own photos yourself, how do you feel about digital photography?
SR: There are two aspects to my work. I make commissioned portraits for clients. I prefer to make portraits in natural light, dockand allow my sitters the freedom to be themselves in front of the camera. The second part of the work is a personal portfolio of images exploring childhood, and childhood play. When my kids were quite young, as I watched them play, I would notice light dancing through their hair…I would watch their hands, feet and toes. Soon I was compelled to make pictures that looked ever closer at the worlds they create.

As for digital photography, I have no problem with it, but I choose to use traditional media, because it suits my vision. And I dislike the obsolescence factor built into so many of our digital gadgets.

CC: What prompted you to start a blog? What keeps you going?
SR:
I found that I enjoyed reading blogs written by other photographers, and decided to give it a go about two years ago. I have found the discipline of keeping a blog instructive, and helpful when I want to clarify any thoughts or problems I have had in my work. And, I have to keep my five or six readers satisfied. So, I keep at it!! lol

swingnshoes-copyCC: Where do you do your creative work?
SR:
I have a darkroom in the basement of my home, and I rent some studio space about 15 minutes away. All those prints were taking over the house, and I needed a bit more space!! Oh… and if any of your readers are interested in building a basement darkroom…bear in mind that your sink CANNOT be too big!!!

CC: Do you have a schedule for your creative work?
SR:
When the kids are in school, I get into the darkroom at least twice a week. During the summer months it gets a little harder, but when I can’t get into the darkroom, I expose a lot of film. Every day.

I find that I have an annual cycle, where I shoot a lot of film during the summer, and processing film is not as time-consuming as printing, so I am able to keep up with processing film when the kids are home.

Then, in the colder months, I make a lot of prints. When I have a printing day planned, I get into the darkroom right after I get the kids onto the bus!

evolutionCC: How has motherhood changed you creatively?
SR:
As a college student at a New York City art school, I was deeply immersed in learning the creative process. I had a classic art education from foundation year through my senior show. It was an extraordinary opportunity to thoroughly engage in an artistic process. After art school, I was faced with that pesky business of making a living, and eventually landed into the world of editorial and magazine photography as an editor. For a long time this satisfied me creatively, and had the benefit of paying the bills, but my own artistry became dormant.

After marrying, and having kids, I was able to stay home with them, and found myself, as any new mother would, making pictures of my children. I found taking film to a local mini-lab frustrating, and started to think again about working in the darkroom. I was motivated to make beautiful prints of my children to hang on the wall. My artistic impulses that had lain dormant for almost two decades were resurrected when I built the darkroom. I did not realize when I had children, just how much I had missed making art for myself. And being immersed in motherhood made the connection for me.

foolsgoldCC: How do you feel about photographing your own children? How do your kids feel about being your subject matter? Do you obsess about capturing every moment that catches your eye?
SR:
I love photographing children. In fact, I love photographing people. I can make an emotional connection to them that is quite unique and apart from the connection I might make with someone in a different context. Looking at their faces and eyes through a ground glass of a camera offers me a unique view into them. It feels like falling in love.

Sometimes, my kids complain about my photographing them, but I think deep down, they find it special. They certainly like it when I make prints of them. As for capturing every moment…oddly enough, I’ve captured enough moments that I don’t need every one. And if we are doing something that I am actively participating in with them, a special day for example, then I don’t make pictures. Or even when they have a concert or play they are performing in. I don’t want to turn those moments into art-making opportunities for me. I want to enjoy them without the distraction of my own work.

And my photographs are about the every day, not really the special days. And there are lots of moments every day to capture. If I miss one or two…well, that’s ok. I will remember them in a different way.

That said, my older son, when he was four, had a bad fall in which he broke his arm and had a large bruise on his face. Fortunately, neither the broken arm, nor the contusion on his face was serious. In the days following, as he recovered, I never made a picture of that bruise. I hadn’t quite immersed myself in photography just yet…and I’ve always regretted not having a record of that injury. I don’t want him to hurt himself again, but if he does…I will remember to record it. Such injuries are an integral part of growing up.

steadyCC: What do you struggle with most?
SR:
Clutter.

CC: Where do you find inspiration?
SR:
I’m inspired by photographers who make good photographs no matter where they are. I am especially interested in photographers who have photographed one subject in depth…Emmet Gowin, Ralph Eugene Meatyard, Larry Towell, and Andrea Modica.

In addition to photography, there are amazing things to be found in the history of art, and I never miss an opportunity to go to museums. I’m drawn to the paintings of Caravaggio, Vermeer, Singer-Sargeant, Homer, Edward Hopper, and several abstract expressionists: Willem de Kooning and Mark Rothko. Oh…and I love the paintings and sketches of Jean Francois Millet.

CC: What are your top 5 favorite blogs?
SR:
I have a pretty big blogroll on my blog and in my reader. I have made connections to a lot of photographers through blogs, but if I have to pick 5:

I’m active on a couple of forums as well — the Analog Photography Users Group and Filmwasters. There are a few online photography magazines that I follow, Fraction Magazine, Flak Photo, and Lens Culture.

toad3-copyCC: What is your greatest indulgence?
SR:
Buying photographic monographs, and if anyone’s interested in helping me out with that, I have a convenient Amazon.com wish list!! lol

CC: What are you reading right now?
SR:
I just finished The Gift by Lewis Hyde. This book is a must read for every artist engaged in an endeavor that has seemingly no commercial value, because it has extraordinary value to a healthy society. It was one of the most important books I’ve read. Since I haven’t kept this answer short, I might as well add Michael Kimmelman’s The Accidental Masterpiece. An excellent book I read about a year ago.

CC: What advice would you offer to other mothers struggling to find the time and means to be more creative?
SR:
Make art before you clean the house.

CC: Thank you, Suzanne!

Breakfast with Carrie

Ah, the first Breakfast interview of 2009! Meet Carrie O’Neill, artist, mother, and blogger. You caught a glimpse of Carrie’s work last week, when she won our weekly creativity contest for the prompt “gift.” Her work is irresistible. Enjoy a bit of New Year’s inspiration with your coffee this morning!

2422593416_fbb3ea75c6_mCC: Please introduce yourself.
CO:
I’m 34 years old and live in a 113-year-old house in Olympia, WA. I’m married and have a 3-year-old daughter. I’m an artist and illustrator, and sell/show my work in town and through my Etsy shop, 365 Illustrations of Love. I’m also in the process of having my illustration work distributed through a stock illustration company.

CC: Tell us about your artwork and other creative endeavors.
CO:
I love to paint with watercolors and ink. I’m currently working on a series of paintings exploring my family history. I’m fascinated by the contours of the many relationships within a family and developing personal imagery for expressing that topography. I’m also in the midst of a yearlong daily illustration project. Each day I create a small painting and post it to my blog and Etsy shop. I started it as a tool to help me practice and develop my drawing skills. I also try to do the Illustration Friday challenge each week.

3125939123_0224dee9c0CC: What prompted you to start a blog? What keeps you going?
CO:
Honestly, I started my blog, Whole Cloth Designs, on a whim. A little over a year ago, I had just started doing little felting and sewing projects when I came across crafting blogs. One morning I got a bee in my bonnet and decided I would create a blog, too. Fortunately, there are so many accessible (and free!) blog-hosting options that I found the whole process really easy. Whole Cloth Designs is a catchall for my art projects, creative process, parenting adventures, and gallery for my daughter’s art projects. I try not to feel weighed down in maintaining a certain focus in this blog, since it is really just for fun. I love that I can keep in touch with far-flung friends through blogging.

My second blog, 365 Illustrations of Love, is my gallery for my daily drawings.

CC: What goals do you have for your art? How would you define your “life’s work”?
CO:
Since beginning to seriously pursue art in the past year, I have found so many avenues that I am excited about exploring in the years to come. I would love to do children’s book illustration and freelance illustration in addition to my personal artwork.

I studied art while I was in college and believed at that time that gallery representation was the sole path for the working artist. One of the things I love about the Internet is that it has unlocked the potential for artists to make a living off their artwork. Whole communities are sprouting up online for artists to show and sell their work directly to people all over the world.

3126792252_3aed9a4ecc_mCC: How has motherhood changed you creatively?
CO:
I think motherhood has changed every fiber of my being. When I quit my job right before my daughter was born, I planned to stay home with her because my job at a senior center didn’t pay enough to cover the expense of daycare. As a family we decided to live really frugally for a few years; walk instead of drive and make do with what we already had. I had always planned to go back to work.

What I hadn’t planned for was the postpartum depression I sank into in the months following her birth. It developed when she was 3-4 months old, exacerbated by my brother’s suicide. I really struggled to maintain a sense of self, but being a “stay-at-home mom” really didn’t fulfill me in the way I thought it should. It wasn’t until I started working on little craft projects that I was able to get my footing again. I studied art in college, but gave up making art after graduation while I worked various jobs. The gift of motherhood has been my return to art making. In the past year, I’ve gone from making a little needle felted pin for my friend’s birthday to showing and selling my work online and in my community.

3126774630_59c47a6959CC: Where do you do your creative work?
CO: I have taken over our small spare bedroom. It’s on the main floor of our house, which has proven to be very convenient. I can go in and work on a few things in between fixing snacks, reading stories, and playing with my daughter.

 

CC: Do you have a schedule for your creative work?
CO:
I have a few times each week devoted to art making; specifically, one weekday morning when my daughter goes to daycare and Saturday mornings. My daughter had been an excellent nap-taker until recently, so I’m adjusting to our new no-nap routine. I’ve recently tried getting up before her and getting a bit of time that way. Otherwise, I wait until she has gone to bed.

3125949819_b82a881ce2CC: What do you struggle with most?
CO:
Time, energy, and guilt-all three, for the good part of every day.

CC: Where do you find inspiration?
CO:
Looking at other blogs and Flickr illustration/drawing groups inspire me each day. I also tend to check out stacks of library books on any particular subject that I am drawn to. (However, I don’t always get the chance to read them!)

CC: What are your top 5 favorite blogs?

3080683795_93339a98dbCC: What is your greatest indulgence?
CO:
Art supplies, especially new watercolor paints. Oh, and naps. Delicious naps!

CC: What are you reading right now?
CO:
Middlemarch by George Eliot.

CC: What advice would you offer to other mothers struggling to find the time and means to be more creative?
CO:
The first thing I would like to suggest is that if a mother is feeling blue, to see her doctor right away. Get help, and when you’re feeling better, make something about your experience.

CC: Thank you, Carrie!

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