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Alison: Confessions of a Guilty Writing Mum

  • I let my children sit in front of the telly during the holidays for great swathes of time (never did me any harm — in fact it taught me about narrative, character, humour). They concentrate on educational programmes like Horrible Histories (surrealism, history) and Greatest TV Blunders (media awareness) and Come Dine with Me (wishful thinking about dinner/cookery skills).
  • I tidy up by shoving everything into cupboards and closing the door very firmly by leaning on it. The estate agent who sold our last house told me a funny anecdote about everything falling out of a cupboard when the prospective buyers were taking a look. I wonder why he chose that story for me?
  • In times of crisis my children look for me, not in the kitchen, but in the study.
  • I’ve forgotten the names of my children (joke!).
  • I do all the housework for the day in one hour, including making the dinner. Before my husband comes home I do a breakneck tidy of the kitchen in 5 mins so that it won’t look so bad when he arrives.
  • My two-year-old makes his own Weetabix (awwwww).
  • I burn some part of the dinner or lunch on 50% of occasions but I always get my twitter friends to remind me when I’m grilling peppers.
  • My oven hasn’t been cleaned in 3 years.
  • In the holidays we have ‘clothes’ days rather than ‘pajama days.’
  • I fool the younger children by giving them the ‘privilege’ of hoovering or filling the washing machine.
  • My children have forgotten my name (I wish).

[Cross-posted from Head Above Water]

Jenny: Going Public With Your Wildest Ambitions

So in all my calls to bravado of “Share Your Dreams!”, my dear friend Alex picked up on the fact that my shouts to action hadn’t quite drowned out the glaringly obvious fact that I, myself, had not yet divulged the deepest longings of my heart.

Why? Because it’s terrifying. It’s one thing to allow yourself to dream up grand plans, but it’s quite another to share these longings with the world, to put them (and more notably, yourself) in the direct eye of others, who can see exactly if and when you actually put your money with your mouth is. Because if you don’t, oh hells to the no, you might actually look… *shock horror* STUPID.

But, even just writing that there, makes it feel a lot easier to pour it out. Namely because:

a) Who cares if I look stupid? Really? You’re looking at somebody who’s flashed their nether-regions at an entire room-full of strangers under fluorescent lighting no less (during birth, thanks very much, I’m not THAT bad. Ehem.)

b) Going public makes me feel that little bit more accountable. Perhaps it shall inspire some action? (Agh, okay, I’m totally freaking out now. Ventolin? Okay. No, no, please don’t worry, I’m good now, really.)

c) By me saying “Share your dreams, it’s better for you than an apple a day!” but then refusing to walk the walk myself and hiding my stuff away where it’s safe, private and – here’s the clincher — unlikely to ever see the light of day, I am really saying that I’m full of it, and that really, you should keep it to yourself too.

So, adieu my inner hypocrite!

Now say hello to my biggest, wildest, untamed dreams:

1. To create an arts retreat centre (inspired by the incredible Banff Centre in Canada, where I was extremely fortunate to do my own residency last year), somewhere in the hills of northern NSW or Maleny, to which people can come to create new works (in one of the gorgeous little studios around the property), run workshops, conferences, retreats, and the like including an annual Improvisation retreat.

2. To run my own production company, which not only produces projects for screen (feature films, docos and television projects) but is an extraordinarily family friendly place to work.

3. To write/perform in/host a comedy television show of such utter brilliance and sheer fabulousness that it is only spoken of by future generations in whispered gasps of awe.

4. To launch an organisation which encourages and supports families to do volunteer trips abroad.

5. To be a philanthropist, setting up some sort of organisation or initiative whereby improvisers, comedians and other performers can access opportunities to improve their skills and create new work.

6. To write a national column and publish my cartoon on parenting through funny-coloured glasses.

7. To write books, non-fiction, fiction and of course, spend my twilight years pouring myself into my extremely self-indulgent memoirs.

8. To travel, travel and travel. Perhaps even come up with some projects which delve into the tribulations and triumphs of doing this with kiddly-winks.

9. To deck out an amazing family-friendly Tour Bus and do comedy tours of various continents with the fam, no less, perhaps documenting this ridiculousness in some form.

10. To spend my final years with family and soul-friends around, my marriage and integrity in tact and my soul at ease.

Phew. See? Piece of cake.

*knocking back a Scotch*

[Cross-posted from Comic Mummy]
[Image courtesy Stephen Mitchell]

Kelly: Moments that Take My Breath Away

“Life’s not the breath you take, the breathing in and out,
That gets you through the day, ain’t what it’s all about,
You might just miss the point trying to win the race.
Life’s not the breath you take, but the moments that take your breath away.”
~ George Strait
I had one of those mornings yesterday. Frustrated over continuing dizziness, very concerned about my upcoming two-and-a-half-hour flight to New York City because of said dizziness, FTS-ing and facing a very messy house that my girls apparently think is cleaned by the cleaning fairy (yes, they actually said that), I snapped at my girls. And I mean really snapped…one of those had-to-stop-myself-from-throwing-something-very-large-across-the-room snaps. This happens pretty rarely as, thankfully, I’m usually pretty easy-going, but when it does happen, I must be making up for all the times it doesn’t happen! So, yep, there you have it; I may not share my down moments much (my blog is called Artful Happiness after all), but my life and I are far from perfect.
A bit later, after DH and the girls cleaned up and headed to the park to give me some space, I headed to the grocery store, heard this song on the radio for the first time, and drove across the bridge with tears streaming down my face. I couldn’t wait for my girls to get home from the park so I could hug them. This little face and this little face, they bring the moments that take my breath away, and make the moments that make me want to snap pretty pointless. I’ll do my best to remember that the next time I want to throw a stair basket stuffed full of clothes, shoes and half-empty cracker wrappers across the room.
…and in case you were wondering, FTS is the Southern version of PMS. Bonus to the first of you who knows what it stands for!
[Cross-posted from Artful Happiness]

Robin: Home is where you dwell…

“You Belong….” – See more HERE

The idea of what “home” represents has shifted considerably over the last 9 months while living in Germany. Those things I held so confidently as the things that would sustain me and see me through the loneliness of being away from everyone and everything I know failed miserably. I spent the last several months mourning the things that weren’t to the point where I suddenly realized I MUST awaken my heart to the things that could be catalysts for change and growth within me. Changes I would not have thought to ask for. People I would have never encountered had I not had to seek connectedness elsewhere. I considered listing these beautiful people here but I know I would leave someone out so I have made it my mission to value them personally.

This mixed-media piece above represents the beginning of some inspirations birthed from this season that is closing in the next 14 days. Oh how I am ready to see it end! And yet, I KNOW the changes I have experienced could not have been chiseled by any other means. So I do extend grace to those who thought they could be there but were not. I ask for mercy for those times when I broke those promises to the people I care about in their most desperate moments and I prepare for the shifts that have occurred as a result of this extended separation.

Jenny: 5 Things Making Me Smile

1. This super cool poster from the very sweet selection at Sycamore Street Press.

Admittedly, it would be even better if my baby could read it. And get the joke. But in the meantime, I’m happy to laugh in…

2. …my bubba’s cute little face.

The Cass-Meister

3. The thought of doing my upcoming week-long stint of Kids Tours at the Art Gallery! SOOOO in love with the exhibition I’ll be leading kids through and so excited to be getting back into working life again.

4. This apartment — oh my word, not only is it Colour Central (a place after my own heart — my hubby is always saying that it takes him a good few days to come to terms with some of my bolder clothing choices, only to realise that they are perfectly me!) but this place is a NON-PROFIT ART HOTEL FOR TRAVELLING ARTISTS. Say what? Are you serious?

Philadelphia Art Hotel

Excuse me would you? I just have to find a spatula to scrape my drooling jaw off my now rather limp foot.

And finally…

5. My 7-year-old daughter came running inside yesterday from the mailbox, with a letter in her hand, all suspicious smiles. “Mummy!” she called. “You have a letter!”

Knowing full well I’d already collected the mail, I played along and opened my lovely delivery. And this was what was inside:

Needless to say, I will be holding onto this one for life. So when if she turns evil in her teens and/or tries to divorce us daggy, out-of-touch parents, I can present this as evidence that I ain’t all bad.

Oh yeah, and you know, it’s beautiful and all that!

Evidence, I tell ya!

What about you? What’s making you smile right now?

[Cross-posted from Comic Mummy]

Brittany: Happy Surprises

It’s been an eternity since I wrote a Studio Mothers blog post. For months, my life has been in an endless state of upheaval. My husband and I decided it was in our best interests for him to leave his job of 10 years, sell our house, and move from South Carolina to New York with all our worldly possessions, two toddlers, and four pets. Had I written a blog post on the subject, it would’ve consisted of a whole lot of whining and weeping, or a combination of the two, as we put our house on the market, freaked out during the period of time it took to sell it, bought a new house, and prepared to move. Moving isn’t fun in the best of circumstances, but Dante left out the layer of hell known as Moving With Children.

I didn’t know what New York had in store for me, but I knew it couldn’t be good — not in the short term, anyway. I was leaving home, and all my friends, and all my sons’ friends, 14 hours (and a universe) away. We would be living in isolation in temporary housing — a two-bedroom suite hotel — for three weeks, and then after that I could look forward to a long, depressing, boring summer. I figured all that solitude would give me ample opportunity to write, even though I didn’t welcome all that free time, and was feeling grumpy at the prospect.

Mind you, I was trying to be optimistic, and was going to try my hardest to have a good time no matter what, but deep down I was steeling myself for disappointment.

And then the happy surprises began.

The first surprise was the drive itself. A 14 hour car trip with a 2-year-old and a 3-year-old can easily become a 20-hour car trip, so Tom and I decided to break the trip up into two days. Since we were driving both cars up to NY, we split the boys up, plugged in the DVD players, and fervently prayed that the drive wouldn’t be too bad. Now, I don’t even like to drive across town, so I dreaded the cross-country drive with a (possibly hysterical) two-year-old. But I put on my complete collection of CS Lewis Narnia books on CD, plugged in the portable DVD player for John, and hoped for the best. And then the miles flew by. I was listening to Voyage of the Dawn Treader when we arrived in NY and felt like my brain had spent a week at a spa. I had not had to think in two full days. It was wonderful, and a welcome relief.

The second surprise happened with a knock on my hotel room door. Our next door neighbor turned out to be the best friend I could’ve hoped for under the circumstances. A mom of 2-year-old and 4-year-old boys, whose husband had just started at the same company as Tom. Both of us were stuck at the hotel until the 1st of July, both of us were a long way from home, and both of us were about to lose our minds. What was supposed to be Part I of my long, boring summer of solitude turned into a whirlwind of little boys out-on-the-town. Kira was destined to be my friend, because we have similar interests and personalities anyway, but it certainly helped that our boys loved each others’ company and wanted to spend every single second together, and that our engineer husbands could hang out, talk, and understand each other, as only a pair of engineers could. They’ve moved to the town right next to ours and even though we’re no longer together at the hotel, we see each other almost daily.

And then a third surprise. I thought our neighborhood in SC was the friendliest, most awesome neighborhood that ever existed. But I was wrong. Our new neighborhood is just as friendly and the neighbors we’ve met so far have all been so welcoming, at times I have to pinch myself because I really feel like I’m living a dream. Our house is cheerful and quirky, and the most “me” of any house I’ve ever lived in. The neighborhood itself is picturesque and charming. The location, absolutely ideal.

And yet Tom and I were this close to losing it all. When our house was on the market, a family loved it, but ultimately chose another house in our neighborhood with an identical floorplan but a larger, flatter lot. At the time I was really perturbed that another house was chosen over ours. But the final happy surprise occurred last night, when Tom and I checked out the MLS listings in our old neighborhood to see what the market was doing. That house, which had gone under contract several weeks before ours, was re-listed and touting its recent home inspection and appraisal. The sellers moved out and then, we’re guessing, the deal fell through, whereas our buyers came along a scant few weeks later, fell in love with our house, and couldn’t move in fast enough. I feel horrible for our neighbors whose house is re-listed, and I feel boundless gratitude that the Fates smiled on us and let the sale of our house go through.

I can’t think of another time things have aligned so perfectly in my life. I’m reassured that the upheaval was worth it and our lives are finally on the right track where, no doubt, other happy surprises await us.

Cathy: oh writing, let me count the ways…

…you can frustrate me:

1. my new printer won’t communicate with my computer, so I can’t print out the edits I did at writing group to read and redline a bit more by pages in hand.

2. you come to me in fits and starts while occupying half my concentration all the time.

…you make me do cartwheels, figuratively speaking, of course:

1. I love a new idea, it makes my heart race and my arms want to write or type in that very moment to the exclusion of all else. I get that tingly feeling like a teen falling in love.

2. I love rewriting, reworking, getting it right.

3. (Please let there be a 3 so the positive side can win today.) That netherworld feeling of one foot here, in the house with the kids and the laundry, and one foot there, in my imagination with my character and his family and friends and dog. This week has been hovering around 100 degrees outside and in my manuscript, it’s Thanksgiving in New England — bare trees, the beginnings of snow, nose reddening winds.

Ah, thank you writing, for the cool, cool breeze!

[Crossposted from musings in mayhem]

Jenny: How Limited Time Can IMPROVE Your Productivity Part II

[Editor’s note: The post below is a follow-on to How Limited Time Can IMPROVE Your Productivity Part I, which ran last week. Jenny Wynter is an Australian comic and mother of three, aka Comic Mummy. The post below is cross-posted from Jenny’s hilarious and insightful blog. Jenny has generously allowed us to republish several posts from her archives — enjoy!]

“If you want something done, ask a busy person to do it.” Lucille Ball

I’ve always loved this quote, but only just this morning discovered that the voice behind it was:

a) a woman;

b) a mother; and

c) a woman and mother in COMEDY!

I can practically feel the fairy-dust a-spilling! (Do be careful not to trip, won’t you? I don’t have insurance on this blog.)

But now that I think about it, it seems perfectly natural that Lucille — a mother (unarguably a synonym for “busy person” if ever there was one), striving to carve out a career following her creative passion — would be the one behind it.

I just LOVE it, LOVE it, LOVE it! Namely cos it turns that whole “Boohoo! I just don’t have any tiiiimmmeeee….” thang right where it should be: on its whingey, sad, defeatist little head.

*Disclaimer: author of this post is talking to herself as much as you.

Indeed, having limited time can be our bestest little buddy in the whole wide world when it comes to getting stuff done. Because:

  • when we do have an opening of time, knowing that this may be a small window at best forces us to quit stuffing around (I mean, does it really matter whether there is such a thing as a Johnny Depp Batman doll on ebay? I mean, really?) and just pull up our socks and get into it;
  • it forces us to get organised (bearing in mind that being ‘organised’ is a continuum, so by this I mean ‘more organised than we might otherwise be if we had limitless time to squander at leisure’)
  • the simple state of being ‘busy’ with things to do, means that we are creating momentum. We are already moving! Okay, sure, that might be movement involving wiping snotty noses, wrangling snotty children, or fixing snotty meals — hang on, did I just say that? — but the bottom line is that this ‘business’ can lead to a snowball that you can ride, baby! And anybody who’s ever tried to haul their butt out of a lovely, fluffy, inviting, retro, heart-shaped lounge knows, that starting any movement from zero, just ain’t easy.


Have your to-do list/goals list ready at hand so that when the moment of free time strikes, you are not wasting a moment of it scratching your head, looking heavenward and pondering the secrets of the universe.

Note that I’ve found it works better for me just to have a generic ‘to do’ list to work on as required, rather than a strict time-based schedule. i.e. if I start doing the whole “at 9am I will work on ‘blah blah'” thang, I start pulling my hair out pretty quickly thanks to the ingenius knack of kids to turn all unpredictable on me. Seriously. I have a bald patch. I don’t like talking about it. Could we please change the subject?


I’m serious. When it comes to squeezing every last drop out of these fleeting moments of peace, you’ve gotta commit to the battle, people! For instance, in our house, we have those rare — yet treasured — but rare, occasions, when my older kids will arrive home from school while my littlest is still sleeping. It’s around this time that I squeal for joy like a little piggy on steroids. (Silently of course, what are you, crazy? I don’t want to wake the baby!)

I then, in what can only be described as “somebody’s pressed the fast-forward button on Jenny’s new show: So you think you can guarana!” I assemble a line of snacks with a bansheed cry of “I LOVE YOOOOOOUUUUU!!!!!!” as I disappear back into my lair.

Mummy needs "ME" time.

Sure, it only buys me an extra 10-15 minutes at best, but in the words of Sarah Connor: “We loved a life time’s worth.”


That is all.


But enough about ME!

No, really?

Yes, really.

What about you?

*Just for the record, if there really is a Johnny Depp Batman doll — on ebay or anywhere else in this cosmos — please contact me. Not that I need it. Ehem…

Kelly: Learning to Spread My Wings

Over the past month, I’ve been taking an e-course with Kelly Rae Roberts called Flying Lessons. Let me just say wow. The amount of content Kelly Rae has written for this course has been absolutely phenomenal. I imagine the full thing would print out to be a 300-page book. It’s been crazy chock full of great information. Of course, as par for the course for me, I’ve been having a heck of a time keeping up so I’ve been hopping around a bit, but today’s post really struck a chord with me. It talks about embracing the journey of a creative business… “the ebb and flow, overwhelm and burnout, celebration and joy.” I’ve most definitely been experiencing that. (Bracelet above listed in my Etsy shop.)

Kelly Rae said, “After all, in the big scheme of things, it’s often not the destination that we can control. The only thing we really can control is staying centered and inside the perspective that the creative biz path really is a journey. If we can give ourselves permission to not always know, to give up the “shoulds,” then we allow ourselves and our creative spirits a bit more freedom to roam the mysteries of its possibilities.”

Well said, sister! Last year, I postponed the majority of my regular juried show schedule in lieu of participating in the Riverside Arts Market (RAM). I was so excited about RAM. The venue was gorgeous, the idea was fabulous, and I felt like it was something Jacksonville really needed. And if I could stay right here at home and sell my jewelry and photography, awesome! Now, I still think the venue is gorgeous, and the idea is fabulous, and the people running it are truly wonderful; it’s very well organized. It just didn’t work for me. My sales for 13 weeks at RAM barely surpassed what I normally do at a large juried festival in one weekend. Granted my jewelry is on the higher end of what you’d typically find at a market like this, so maybe that was part of it. And maybe I expected too much. Who knows? I’d love to see RAM move to a once-a-month format instead of a weekly format. While RAM is still the top dog and the best run market in the best venue, nearly a dozen little Saturday arts and farmers markets have sprouted up in the area, and I wonder if the market is getting a bit too diluted.

My experience with RAM was a big lesson for me. And it was a big lesson that caused some major burnout. All those Saturdays in a row at the market away from my family, not making many sales, really took a physical and creative toll on me. Because of that, this year I took a big step back. I only did one show this spring, the always fun and profitable Springtime Tallahassee Arts Jubilee. (I wrote about my very first Springtime Tallahassee here; it was quite an experience!) I’ve started worrying less about selling my art and started enjoying more the process itself, creating whatever I’ve wanted to create when I’ve wanted to create it (obviously, since in the last week on my blog I’ve shared the jewelry above, a mixed media postcard, and some Best Shot Monday photography!). That’s been very freeing. I guess that’s part of the ebb and flow Kelly Rae referred to. And because I’ve let go of the need to sell, every little sale I do make on Etsy or on my website is cause for celebration! And it’s made room for other things, allowing me the time to explore other creative areas, the freedom to experience amazing adventures like Artful Journey, and even the room and opportunity for my first solo gallery showing of my photography (more on that later!).

It’s fitting that I wrote this post on June 30. Thanks to that letting go this first half of 2010, I’m now starting to feel better about loading Sally up and hitting the road again, so this fall, I’m planning to get back to a scaled-down version of my regular show schedule. Because I’ve been so scatter-brained lately (okay, I’m always scatter-brained, but I’ve been more scatter-brained than usual lately), I missed the application deadline for Market Days in Tallahassee, which has been one of my regulars, but that’s okay; that’ll save me that $375 booth and application fee, and I’ll fill that spot with a less expensive show. I’m looking into the Glynn Arts Association shows for this fall. I could essentially still sleep at home with those since they are just an hour up the road in St. Simon’s! So thank you, Kelly Rae. That post was just what I needed to read today. It was a good reminder that the journey really is so much more enjoyable when we worry less about the destination. That’s a good lesson learned.

[Crossposted from Artful Happiness]

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