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Feeling a little overfed today? Have another slice of pecan pie and enjoy a bit of surfing. Here’s our bi-weekly roundup of interesting goings-on from the personal blogs of Creative Construction community members:

  1. Christa Miller is making a big change.
  2. Liz Hum regretfully abandoned NaNoWriMo. She also turned 30. Happy Birthday, Liz!
  3. Susanne Fritzsche reflected on the 18 different women inside of her.
  4. Kelly Warren is thankful for the little things, including fallen cake.
  5. Emma-Jane Rosenberg celebrated 11 years of marriage.
  6. Lisa Damian checked on her list of things to do before dying.
  7. Benita Larsson posted very cozy pictures of her snowy street in Sweden.

Enjoy the long weekend, if you’ve got one!


Wonderful wishes to all who celebrate Thanksgiving today.
May your holiday be full of love, laughter, and lots of good food.


11/26 Weekly creativity contest winner & new prompt

A few lovely “silver” pieces for this week’s creativity contest prompt. Our winner is Karen Winters. Karen writes: “When I really want to challenge myself to paint something in a realistic style, I often select a still life that includes a piece of silver or glass. We only know that something is shiny metal by the presence of reflections. And those reflections require us to look deeper and to notice the subtle color and value changes that lie in the peaks and valleys of the intricate surface. What makes an exercise like this so valuable is the process of close observation, a practice that borders on a meditative experience, and can carry over to other things that we paint as well.” Beautiful work, Karen. Your $10 gift certificate is on its way.



From Cathy Coley: “i had no ideas, except for something vague and rather cliche having to do with the moon. then this:”

This morning, he announces,
“Mom! It’s snowing!”
just after six am.
I roll over in the dark,
see the sky slowly
rising from dark to silver.
Silver drops float, barely visible.

For the bus’s arrival, he is waiting
humming with excitement
over this small miracle,
yet the ground is only glazed
by cold rain.


From Cathy Jennings, a magical image:



From me (Miranda): I had ideas about what to create for this prompt, but as the time slipped away, I settled for photographing one of my favorite possessions — my silver charm bracelet. Each one of the bracelet’s charms represents something — there’s one for each of my children and my husband, as well as reminders of my creative self: a pen, and a cup of paintbrushes. Wearing this bracelet always lifts my spirits (maybe that’s because it jingles softly when I move?)



This week’s prompt: “Thanksgiving”

Use the prompt however you like — literally, or a tangential theme. All media are welcome. Please e-mail your entries to by 10:00 p.m. eastern time (GMT -5) on Tuesday, December 2. The winning entry receives a $10 gift certificate to 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.

Balancing work and motherhood

heatherIf you haven’t discovered Momversation, hop on over and join the fun. This site features slick video conversations — and a lot of laughs — with notable women from the blogoshpere. Don’t miss Heather Armstrong from lead a video discussion on the perils of navigating work and family life. [Note that the image to the right is not embedded video; you’ll need to click the link above in order to watch the video.]

You might also enjoy the video conversations on surviving the holiday season and how to deal with family members of a different political persuasion, among others.

Heather Armstrong’s blog,, is an internet phenomenon, as reported by the New York Times. Heather has just announced that she’s pregnant with her second child. If you’re not yet familar with Heather’s no-holds-barred blogging style — even when it costs her sponsors — you’re in for a treat.

Cathy: Room of one’s own?

Lately we have had a few posts here addressing the issue of creative moms having a space to be creative. One where no one else gets into our stuff; one where no one else’s stuff piles into our stuff; a computer, or a desk or a room of one’s own where we can have some clear head space, a view, and the ability to be in a creative mood or mind without interference.

I reluctantly share my writing PC with my children for homework and personal projects. The eldest, K prefers burning CDs to his MP3 while checking his email while making surreptitious maneuvers around parental controls to view videos and play internet games his brother should definitely not be looking over the shoulder to see. However, in general, though he may break my rules, I’ve made him good and paranoid of internet predators, so he’s not up to anything that will get him into any trouble other than with me. He also happens to be working on a couple of novels, albeit a lot bloodier than mine and full of fantasy genre: lone wolf types fighting their way through a world of evil. The second born prodigy, er I mean progeny (right, ma) is obsessed with Windows Movie Maker and typing up titles and credits to his films. He sneaks watching videos on youtube, too, but he’s easier to catch.

I also share my office with my mother-in-law, retired, who really likes computer games. We sit here much of the day together, especially when the boys are in school. Sometimes I am distracted in conversation with her, because I’m trying to write, sometimes, the conversation is just what’s needed. There are many writing rituals I used to do that I’ve given up with her presence: the sing-song reading aloud, the general weird noises and seat dancing, music playing, etc. Just weird writer things, like saying LA-LA-LA-LA-LA while I’m not really sure if the part I’m trying to write makes any sense, but I’m writing it anyway, for now. There’s also the time I tried bouncing a writing dilemma off of her and she was looking at me very strangely. Did I mention she is a retired accountant? She disproves my old theory that all avid readers are writers at heart.

It’s a decent sized room, but there’s a lot of furniture crammed in here, including a full-sized guest bed. Oh and I didn’t mention what I usually mention: the fact that while I’m trying to write, I have squirming, nursing or sleeping baby on my lap.

Today, my husband asked to move in, too. We broke out the tape measure, and technically, we can make it work, but aren’t doing well on agreeing about how. He wants to share the desk. I am going to go wicked eighties for a sec here, but I’m like, totally no way! It’s bad enough with the kids and me. His paper problem is much worse than mine. And mine is admittedly bad. I suggested he bring in the hunk of kitchen counter that’s still in the garage from when we removed it from the kitchen 18 months ago. With some maneuvering of a giant file cabinet and my desk, it’ll be tight, but it’ll work.

It’s really the least I can do. Of course I’ll be more inconvenienced than I am already. I already feel boxed into a corner. But the guy has been a real trooper. He took care of me and my kids from marriage number one, when I was a pain in the butt bedrest preggo for a very long time. He also provides for an increasingly large household through not just a day job, but side jobs. Until we make room for him in here, he wanders the house for an open corner of kitchen counter with stool, the dining room table after dinner and dishes are done. Sometimes I can hear the hum and click of his laptop at two in the morning, when he has to get up and do it all over again in about four hours. The very least I can do is squeeze him in next to me in here. Hey, maybe we’ll even end up spending more time together.

So, room of one’s own? I doubt it’ll be possible until, ah, shucks, I don’t have the foggiest idea! My youngest won’t graduate high school til I’m 60. Even though I do not want to live through another pregnancy like hers, I can’t help having that ‘what if’ in the back of my mind. After all, my late father-in-law still doesn’t have a grandson to carry on the name.

Notes from a Crone: Rock-Seeing

[Editor’s note: “Notes from a Crone” is an occasional Creative Construction series written by artist and artisan Juliet Bell. Juliet reflects on living a creative life after one’s children are long grown — with inspiration and wisdom for women at every waypoint along the spectrum of motherhood and creativity.]

rock-seeing-1I thought I would share with you a tool I learned years ago for tapping into the subconscious. I have used this method to resolve creative roadblocks, especially writer’s block — working out plots, and the like, and for quieting those deadly fears that rise occasionally, threatening to snuff out the flame of inspiration. There is no end to the ways this tool can be put to good creative use.

Back in the 80s I attended a weekend workshop on shamanism. It was led by Michael Harner, whose book The Way of the Shaman I had read years earlier. When I saw in the paper that he was offering a workshop in Boston, I jumped at it. It was a profound and life-changing event.  The many “coincidences” and synchronistic happenings that occurred over those two days still weave through my consciousness today.

Over those two days, we explored many tools for seeking answers to questions. Here is one which is particularly delightful, fun, easy to do, and a great one for sharing with children. It is described in Harner’s book mentioned above. He refers to it as rock-seeing, and was taught the method by a Lakota Sioux medicine man.

First one poses a question to oneself for which one seeks answers. Then you take a walk. Your goal is to come across a grapefruit-sized stone that draws your attention. (We were asked to come to the workshop already having found our stone.) You then find a comfortable place to sit, place the rock in front of you, and pose the question to the rock. Then examine it carefully. As you do, you will begin to see shapes, little creatures, living things, symbols, animals and such, in the crevasses, markings, pits and shadings of the stone. Make note of them, and then examine the other side. Once you feel you have seen everything, begin to work out what these things mean, how they fit together, and how they address your question. When you have found your answer, you return the rock to its original location and thank it for giving you guidance.

rock-seeing-2This can also be done in pairs, where you both examine the stone, and work together to find the meaning of what you see. At the workshop we were paired up. As my partner and I took turns posing our questions, we were not only blown away with the answers that were held in our stone (our subconscious), but by the interesting “coincidence” of our pairing. I was beginning the search for my birth mother and was seeking answers as to my motives, and he, with his wife, was beginning the process of adopting an older child and was seeking information about that journey. How weird is that?

You may find as I do that when you are searching for your rock, you will find many that in themselves take on the shape of animals and other living things. This can become a game in itself. Like looking at clouds or at the cracks in an old ceiling, one sees all kinds of shapes. This is great fun to do with children, though it does tend to slow the walk down a bit. The other day I found a perfect profile of a dog, a ewe’s head, and a little stone etched with a Ninja warrior, carrying sword and shield.

Happy rock-seeing!

For more information, visit the Foundation for Shamanic Studies, founded by Michael Harner.

Breakfast with Anne

Breakfast time! Back to the UK we go. Brew a fresh cup of tea and meet Anne Pettigrew, mother, knitter, spinner, designer, teacher, and blogger. And she’s a friend of Emma-Jane Rosenberg‘s, so you already know Anne is one of those cool creative types that you want to hang out with. (One lump, or two?)

01headshotCC: Please give us an intro to who you are, what you do, and your family headcount.
I’m Anne, married to John, with two children, Adam (6) and Ruth (4). I teach maths part-time at one of the local sixth form colleges.

CC: Tell us about your knitting and other creative work.
Since rediscovering knitting (sometime around the end of 2004) I have had at least one, usually more, knitting projects on the go. Prior to that I stalled (for 20 years) on a sweater knitted entirely in moss stitch using fingering weight yarn. Ripping it out and rejecting project monogamy was immensely liberating. I longed to learn to spin for years — it’s a kind of magic to convert fluffy stuff into yarn which has strength and purpose. I had the chance to learn at the SkipNorth retreat in March 2007, and although I don’t do as much as I would like, I did make a cardigan from my own handspun. I have also started crocheting.

13daisiesCC: What prompted you to start a blog? What keeps you going?
I started reading other people’s blogs and, having scoffed at my husband for writing one, realized that I could have one of my own. I love having a space which is mine. I can write about whatever I choose to write about, so long as I remember that ANYONE could be reading it. As for what keeps me going — being able to “blog without obligation.” I generally post very infrequently now, although I am attempting NaBloPoMo — posting every day for the whole of November. It’s been hard to start with, but the discipline of having to write something every day is making me consider everything as potential blog-fodder, which is making me more reflective generally.

05whereiknitCC: Where do you do your creative work?
Mostly I knit or crochet sitting on the sofa, while watching television at the end of the day. This photo shows the clutter I cannot keep under control.

CC: Do you have a schedule for your creative work?
Not really — I feel guilty when I do any during the day, as there is always a huge list of things I should be doing.

07bakingCC: How has motherhood changed you creatively?
I didn’t really knit until after my children arrived. I like making things for them (partly because small things knit up faster), but I think that the day-to-day tasks of being a parent call for a lot of creativity. When a little girl arrives home from her grandparents and announces that “It’s not FAIR. I wanted to play a game, but there wasn’t time. And I’ve never been on a sleepover. And I’ve never been on an airplane. It’s NOT FAIR!” it’s probably not the time to reason with her, it’s time to coax her through to the kitchen to nibble bits off the chopping board as we finish preparing dinner together.

I love doing creative things with them, although I find it hard not to act as a total control-freak. Letting go and letting them make a mess doesn’t come easily. We do do a range of things together though — from making stained-glass windows using tissue paper, to baking, to finger knitting…

06stainedglassCC: What do you struggle with most?
I find the day-to-day things hardest. Adam and I are both celiac, which means that I pretty much do have to cook from scratch every day. (I know that’s good practice anyway, and yes, we do have a couple of gluten-free ready meals in the freezer for days when it all falls apart.) When things are going well I love menu planning, and I enjoy cooking. But whereas the creativity needed for knitting isn’t essential (I don’t *have* to knit, I just enjoy it), we do need to eat, and finding the inspiration for a nutritious balanced dinner after a long day at work when I’m getting a migraine and my back is playing up can be a distinct challenge.

03shawlFrom a fibrey perspective I think I find it hardest to stick with each project to the end. Partly this is because I get seduced by new patterns and yarns which cry out to be tried, but I also generally find finishing a garment rather disheartening. Until that point I view my project as the Platonic ideal. Once all the seaming is done (and I do enjoy seaming — mattress stitch is another kind of magic) all the flaws are revealed — the bumpy seams, the uneven tension, that point where the stripes don’t quite meet up… and I often lose the love I’d been feeling.

CC: Where do you find inspiration?
Ravelry! I try not to spend too much time idly pattern browsing (see above — they’re too seductive). I think I feel slightly guilty about process knitting. I should be aiming at a product, my hobby should be producing something beneficial. (Or at least, this is how I feel.) So I try to start by thinking about what would be useful, and either find a pattern which satisfies it, or design something appropriate.

12surpriseCC: What are your top 5 favorite blogs?
Oooh — only 5? I think I’ll go with Yarn Harlot, Dooce, The Sartorialist, Bad Science, and What Housework?

CC: Just for you: What is your greatest indulgence?
A long hot soak in the bath with a good book.

CC: What are you reading right now?
The Problems of Mathematics by Ian Stewart.

08fingerknittingCC: What advice would you offer to other mothers struggling to find the time and means to be more creative?
Take the moments when you can. Recognize the creativity you are using for everything you do, and remember that the “tiny baby” stage doesn’t last forever. If you feel that your creativity has left you, don’t worry, it hasn’t, it’s just being channeled very differently for a while.

CC: Thanks, Anne!

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