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Posts tagged ‘parenting’

Superheroes at Home

LiseQuintanaLise Quintana, a rather fabulous and erudite friend of this blog, created a series of homeschooling prompts for movie-loving students that are compelling additions to your quarantine arsenal. Admittedly, reading these delicious morsels will make you wish you were friends with Lise too, but we can’t have everything.

Language Arts
Explore the concept of the Mary Sue in Captain Marvel, and contrast with the Larry Stu of Iron Man.

Social Studies
Discuss Iron Man 3‘s commentary on the notion that absolute power corrupts absolutely. Contrast it with any of the Captain America films.

Physics
Calculate the amount of thrust the Hulk needs to employ in order to push himself 250 feet into the air to pound Thor into a paste. The Hulk weighs 1200 pounds, and Sakar’s gravity is assumed to be equal to Earth’s.

Geography
Outline on a map of Africa a possible location for Wakanda. It must be in eastern Africa, contain mountains, one major river, and plains. It cannot contain a major city of any existing African country, and must be 185,000 square miles in size.

P.E.
Follow the training scenes in Captain America before Steve Rogers becomes Captain America. It just include running with a loaded pack, pushups, army crawl under obstacles, wall climbing, and climbing a flagpole.

Math
If each major character (Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, Black Panther, Captain Marvel, Star Lord) has 3 films, 1 spinoff film, and 3 films with a group of at least 3 other characters, how many possible Marvel films could be made?

Want to know more about the brains behind these prompts? Lise is pretty much all over the interwebs, but here’s a good place to start

 

For your parenting survival toolkit

kids + quarantine = omg

Of the many creative responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, the collective efforts of the children’s literature world are rising to the top. Wondermore, a Boston-based literacy organization, is curating an ongoing list of reading and book-related resources for parents, educators, and students across the country. Check it out. You can also find Wondermore at Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

wondermore

Brittany Writes a Book

britmirandacropEditor’s note: Brittany and I have been friends for more than a decade. Our friendship started through this very blog and then transitioned to the holy grail of IRL. I’ve read enough of Brittany’s writing over the years to know that I love her work. So when I saw that she’d self-published a narrative chapbook of poetry, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a copy. Brittany graciously fulfilled my request for a signed edition and mailed it to me post-haste.

It’s always an interesting experience, reading the work of a friend. I’m a writer and editor by trade and have worked in the professional world of words for nearly 30 years. As a creativity coach, I enthusiastically applaud every passionate, whole-hearted foray into creative work—but that doesn’t mean I admire the work itself. As many of my creative friends will attest, I’m unable to say, “Wow, this is brilliant,” when I’m not of that opinion. I’m preternaturally allergic to even little white lies of artful affirmation. I don’t want to give or receive disingenuous compliments about creative work. With that nugget of context, here’s what I wrote to Brittany after receiving Courtesan

Courtesan

“Brittany, your book arrived on Monday (or was it Tuesday?) and after a ridiculous work day that capped off a 55-client-hour work week, I crawled into bed with it. Granted, I was a little punchy on account of chronic fatigue, but in the dozen pages I read that night, I laughed out loud and—I know this is going to sound like I’m blowing smoke up your poopchute but it’s the truth—I wept with happiness. Some of these poems are So. Damn. Good. At one point I had to explain to Liam (11 years old, who still sleeps with me when he’s home and my man isn’t) why I was making such a racket (‘persnickety douchebaggery’ set me off). I’m bursting with pride for you, Brittany. I truly am.”

Courtesan is an anthem to the contemplative divorcée. This slim volume will delight you, hit you in all the right spots, and leave you wanting a bit more—just as an experienced courtesan should do. These poems confront you with the pain and loneliness of being married to a person who (you are ultimately forced to concede) will never be able to love you in the ways you most want to be loved, even if one day he does stop screaming and throwing shit and raving like the asshole he is. (Apparently you’ll also find a dose of catharsis between the lines.) Despite what hurts, Courtesan is also a tale of hope—and finding oneself, and love, again. Highly recommended.


Brittany

It’s amazing how much can change in 11 years. In the spring of 2008, Miranda discovered my blog Re-Writing Motherhood and plucked me from total obscurity to ask me to become a Studio Mothers contributor. The Studio Mothers blog was still in its infancy, as was my life as a (theoretically) stay-at-home-mom and full-time novelist. That time marks one of the most prolific creative periods of my life. But considering that I’m *still* working on the novel I started that year, it’s clear that creativity waxes and wanes, too. Now in 2019, I’m in another creative period. In addition to the 900 craft projects I have going on, I recently self-published a poetry chapbook titled Courtesan.

Courtesan is a diary told through poetry. It’s an eye-opening, no-holds-barred exploration of social and sexual re-awakening post-divorce. This is the book I never had any intention of writing. Generally speaking, I’m fun-loving, free-spirited, and unabashedly whimsical. Dark, brooding, erotic stories that would cause my southern Baptist relatives to have a collective pearl-clutching stroke were never part of my repertoire. But as I state in the book, there comes a point when the last thread of I-would-nevers snaps, and you become someone who would.

I became someone who would when I got divorced in 2015, after 13 years of marriage, eight of which I’d spent as a stay-at-home mom. There is a reason stay-at-home moms don’t just up and get divorced and abruptly go from full-time mom, to full-time working/part-time mom. It is traumatic on every level, and something I don’t think you can ever be prepared for. I was completely unprepared for the cold, hard smack of reality that awaited me.

And I did this alone. I was in Upstate New York, which was a 14-hour drive from my family in North Carolina, and across the country from my mom in Idaho. Not that my family was supportive. No one could understand why I was willing to give up such a seemingly comfortable life to go back to work and become a part-time parent. They acted like I had selfishly decided on a whim that getting divorced, re-entering the workforce after a 10-year absence, and parenting my children only half time would be a fun thing to do.

Brittany_bouquetI sunk into a horrible depression, a depression deeper and more pervasive than the depression I had already felt in the last year of my marriage, a nasty black pit I couldn’t seem to dig myself out of. For the first time in my life, I experienced panic attacks and constant anxiety. I’d always been an introverted loner, and suddenly, I couldn’t be alone anymore. I would beg my friends to let me come over and sit huddled on their couches, just to hear the noise in their households and feel like I belonged somewhere again. I cried constantly. My relationship with my children suffered. They were angry that I’d left them. My relationship with my ex further deteriorated. My family was as unsympathetic and unsupportive as it was possible to be. And overnight I became a third wheel among my married friends. Suddenly, I had not very much in common with them anymore.

I liken it to throwing a grenade on my entire life and watching it blow up around me. And into this stew of existentialist crisis, I thought it was a good idea to jump headlong into dating again.

Fresh from a bad marriage, I lived in a fantasy land where post-divorce dating was like an island of misfit toys. Divorcées would arrive broken and battered, having seen better days as a result of living with the wrong partners, and there they would magically find a more suitable person and live happily ever after. But my little fantasy couldn’t have been further from reality. Dating post-divorce is an, as yet, unexplored layer of Dantean hell and I realized that for most men, I was merely a commodity. Interchangeable with every woman out there. The transactional aspect of these relationships left me feeling very much like a courtesan, or more colloquially, a whore.

Brittany_mermaidI wasn’t sure how to process any of this, but I started a diary and wrote down snippets, dialogue, things people said to me that angered or inspired me, and all the observations I made, to process it, make sense of it, and ultimately learn from it. I pulled the diary out periodically to add to it, but was mostly preoccupied with other things, like paying the bills and buying groceries.

The worst part of that period was the complete lack of creative spark inside me. For the longest time, I was barely functioning. And when my creativity started to trickle back, it only came in fits and starts. I knew for my own sanity, I needed a creative outlet, so I took a painting class. And a jewelry-making class. I started to dabble at doll-making and embroidery again in my spare time. My friends knew I was their go-to girl if they saw something on pinterest they wanted to try and we started having semi-regular craft nights. I felt better when I was crafting, so I crafted. I felt better when I was painting, so I painted. I wasn’t able to write anything for the longest time, but eventually, poems started forming in my head again. I wrote them down on whatever piece of paper was handy. If they were good, I stashed them away and saved them. They were shoved inside books and drawers, and sometimes fished out of the dryer lint tray.

Fast-forward three years. My life was entirely altered. In the past, I’d thought of myself as a writer, and only a writer. But during my post-divorce journey, I became an artist, too. And after three years, I was more artist than writer.

Brittany_carI bought myself a little green bungalow and painted the walls bold turquoise and coral and purple. I painted the furniture and decorated the walls with my artwork. The dining room table was always covered in hot glue, paint smears, and glitter from the numerous projects I had in progress. I was always creating something, and as a result, I was happier than I had ever been at any other time in my life. My happiness changed the trajectory of my relationships and three years post-divorce, I was living with the man who would become my husband. In clearing away my clutter to make space for him in my house, I started to rediscover the writing and poetry I had been stashing in all manner of strange spots for three years. He encouraged me to do something with them, rather than re-stashing them somewhere new. But what was I going to do with a bunch of mostly unhappy autobiographical poems about my days as a single divorcée?

Brittany_bouquet2One day as I was driving (a time when great ideas seem to arise), and it occurred to me that if I collected all those poems and added the love poems I’d started writing more recently, I had a story there. I imagined calling it Courtesan, as a nod to my former single life and the way dating had made me feel. I mulled the idea in the back of my mind for some time. It continued to grow on me.

This winter I put it all together and self-published my chapbook. People ask me why I didn’t go the traditional publishing route. I self-published because I figured my “weird little book” didn’t have mass appeal. I wasn’t really sure how you’d market a diary that was poetry. And I thought it would only appeal to women of a certain age who’d experienced a traumatic mid-life divorce. Plus, to be brutally honest, I wasn’t particularly confident in my writing. I liked my writing. I had written it for myself, but I wasn’t sure at all if it would resonate with anyone else and I didn’t want to alter it in any way.

Since I published Courtesan, I have been shocked to my core by the feedback I’ve received. Women who are single, and never been married, have written to tell me how much they related to and enjoyed it. I don’t know whether to feel pleased or saddened that so many women can relate to so much darkness and despair.

Brittany_wandsI think that in most stories, and Courtesan is no exception, the main narrative is that a woman’s life turns around when she experiences true love. But the story functions on two levels. While on the surface, Courtesan is the story of the darkest time of my life and how I fell in love with my husband, there’s also the secret story hidden in the pages, about my love of the creative process, how it brought me back to life, gave me purpose, and fueled the creation of the diary in the first place. Ultimately, I rediscovered myself through the act of creation. And I continue to be amazed at what I can do, and how much joy I get from the doing.

 


See more of Brittany’s artistic projects at her current blog.
Order Courtesan at amazon

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Busy? How Technology Can Save Your Creative Life

Marion Dooling is a real-life friend who creates enchanting digital art. After admiring her pieces on Instagram, I asked Marion to share her thoughts on the creative life, along with her wisdom as an empty-nester who has been through the trenches of raising children and has revived her creative life. Enjoy!


2013-02-26 11.48.14I’m sitting at home in the midst of a blizzard in an area that hardly gets snow. The weather forced me to cancel my workout plans. While we still have power, we have no WIFI because of a corporate mishap. I can’t access my art files in the cloud. I’m bored. And I can’t even watch Netflix to assuage my boredom. My laundry is half done, the kitty litter needs changing, and the bills are unpaid—but I’m unmotivated. I get stressed out when I feel like I can’t control my life or am off my routine.

I spent much of my active parenting days feeling this way. Like a blizzard of parenting had buried me and my creativity. How do you get back to creativity when the flow of life carries you through a blizzard of endless chores, appointments, obligations, meals, chauffeuring, and such?

The fact is, you can’t. Any creative life you may have had previous to children is gone. At least gone in the form you may remember. But not gone for good, just changed. It might be in moments, now, as opposed to in hours or days. But don’t despair: In this era, technology can help you fit creativity into those spare moments. A moment may come at 5:53 am, 9:28 pm, or midday naptime, or waiting for an oil change. These moments do exist—we just have to look for them and take advantage when they arrive.

SHADOWSMH

If you’re a parent, you’re inevitably already creative with your kids on a variety of levels. Don’t forget your own creativity in the mix. As a mother, I learned the hard way that it’s all too easy to forget ourselves and just become “Mom.” But we are more than that. I’m sure that if I had made the time for myself when my kids were young, I wouldn’t have become as depressed and isolated as I did.

Moments of Opportunity

When you find a pocket of time, do what you love. As active parents, we often want to take those free moments to eat popcorn and watch another episode of our latest binge. Especially if the kids are napping and you find a rare moment of solitude. But don’t. Instead, look outside: See the view. There are apps to help you write about it, draw it, edit it, film it, transform it, and then to share it. You will have a much better time doing that than holding the remote in one hand and a handful of popcorn in the other.

headopenMH

I’m a digital artist, collager, and recent empty nester still trying to find my routine after the advent of some major life changes. I’m coming to realize that as much as I want it, routine is not all it’s cracked up to be. It can become monotonous, dull, and in a word….routine. Creativity is a lot of things for me, but it’s never been routine. Over the years I’ve had to learn to squeeze my creativity into the pockets of my life that remain unclaimed by partner, kids, pets, and life in general.

Technology Is Your Friend

I’m a lifelong photographer, paper and ephemera lover, and inveterate collector of everything from buttons to feathers to boxes to Pokémon. Today, technology allows me to create anywhere and in many different ways.

More and more I use my iPhone for pictures, along with a plethora of photo apps that enable me to do whatever I want to my photos. I have a flatbed scanner at home to digitize my paper collection and I splurged and subscribed to Adobe Suite, which allows me to access Photoshop on my phone and iPad—and more importantly, allows me to access Lightroom and ALL my digital resources stored in the cloud. It’s like having my laptop anywhere I go. I can create in bed, on an airplane, or in a vet’s office waiting for the doctor. It’s all there as long as I have an internet connection.

MATHMOUNTAINSMHSomeday Is Today

I started on this path many years ago as a scrapbooker, well before scrapbooking became what it is today. And if you think I’m going to tell you I scrapbooked my kids’ lives from birth to 18, you would be correct. I did. However, they were 16 and 22 when I started. So don’t be impressed or feel bad. It took determination and commitment and waiting for my kids to be grown.

Back when they were young, I didn’t think I had the time, the resources, or the energy to make good use of my time. I didn’t have today’s game-changing technology. Instead, I saved every scrap of paper from their early years through graduation (remember what I said about collecting?) with the idea that someday, I would have the time to create scrapbooks. Finally, about four years ago, someday arrived. In a way I was glad I’d waited. Scrapbooking had transformed into the magic of stickers, papers, and all sorts of delightful things. I spent a small fortune on these supplies, on top of the considerable cost of photo development.

And it was very slow going. After slogging through 7 months of daily work and effort the old-fashioned way, I discovered digital scrapbooking. I made my oldest daughter’s high school yearbook as a digital scrapbook and had it printed. I loved the process and the outcome.

daydreamMHMy discovery of digital scrapbooking set me on the path of digital collage, photo compositing, and figuring out what to do with all those photos of clouds, trees, and interesting patterns and light and pattern I’d taken over the years.

Digital Tools

Take advantage of the resources available online. Find your people, live in those pockets of time, and relish that nothing goes as planned. Today there are even more there are apps to record our children’s lives in the moment. There are apps to create montages, scrapbooks, days in the life, etc. It’s really only limited by what you want to create: Ali Edwards’s amazing One Little Word, Tangie Baxter’s amazing Art Journal Emporium, and many other great artists out there on YouTube and Vimeo all there to teach you a craft.

As a photographer, I rely primarily on Snapseed to edit my photos. When I create collages, I use Photoshop Mix and Photoshop Fix. To transform pictures into digital paintings, sketches, or distort them into something new, I use Glaze, Decim8, and iColorama. When I draw, I use Procreate.

timestopsMH

During the course of my daily life I keep an ongoing bullet journal (I call it that, but it’s really a Moleskine with to-do lists, ideas, reminders, and thoughts). I also keep pen and paper handy. I also use notes on my iPhone for everything from passwords to prices paid when I’m out thrifting for the Pokémon who have escaped my grips so far. Dropbox and Evernote sync across multiple apps. If you’re are a Mac person, Airdrop is your ally.

Pockets of time are your friend in a busy life full of obligations. Use them to develop or rediscover your innate creativity, whatever that may be, and you’ll find that those pockets of time become universes in and of themselves, opening new realities and discoveries.

Find Marion at Instagram.

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Thinking About Role Models

role_modelToday I’m thinking about role models. Role models on the international stage, alive today, who are exemplars for ourselves and for our children. As we grapple with continually breaking stories about A-list sexual impropriety, sexual assault, questionable business dealings, and most every kind of NO YOU DIDN’T, it’s increasingly difficult to settle on well-known paragons of the behavior that we want to emulate and want to hold up as examples to our children.

What is a role model? In its deepest expression, a role model is a person whose behavior you want to emulate. Who embodies and exemplifies your personal values, interests, and beliefs. While on the one hand we understand intellectually that we all, as humans, make mistakes, we want our role models to be beyond reproach. We don’t want to have to say, “Well, this person is amazing and upright in 90% of his or her actions and speech, so I’ll ignore that pesky 10% of not-so-great choices.” We don’t want our most beloved icons to have feet of clay.

When I sat down to write a list of my personal role models — alive, well-known, and scandal-free — I had an extremely difficult time of it. I managed to come up with 30 names, but it wasn’t easy.

I share my personal list with you not because I want to create partisanship (my list is rather left-leaning), but because I want to contribute to an honest conversation about what we hold as important on a societal level; what we want to espouse as our legacy. With your help, I’d like to triple my list, which is notably low on artists (partly because many artists are not visible personalities).

The 30 people on my list are, to my knowledge, people of character. They are leaders. I may not agree with everything these people do and stand for, but I believe that their choices are guided by something I respect. I believe that these people want to make a significant and positive impact on the world — and that they share of themselves and their talents at least in part from altruism. My selections are people who are generally esteemed as “nice people.” I get warm fuzzies thinking about them.

My list, segmented by cisgender (for no good reason) and otherwise in random order:

Females

  1. Michelle Obama
  2. Brené Brown
  3. JK Rowling
  4. Helen Mirren
  5. Maggie Smith
  6. Judy Dench
  7. Oprah Winfrey
  8. Rachel Maddow
  9. Martha Plimpton
  10. Ellen Degeneres
  11. Malala Yousafzai
  12. Judy Blume
  13. Viola Davis
  14. Pema Chödrön
  15. Emma Watson
  16. Toni Morrison
  17. Byron Katie

Males

  1. His Holiness the Dalai Lama
  2. Barack Obama
  3. Pope Francis
  4. Justin Trudeau
  5. John McCain
  6. Neil Gaiman
  7. Steven King
  8. Nicholas Kristoff
  9. Trevor Noah
  10. Steven Colbert
  11. Gabor Maté
  12. Thich Nhat Hanh
  13. Gary Zukav

And you? Who are the role models, alive today and free of scandal, that inspire you and serve as guides along the pathway of self-betterment? Please add your thoughts in the comments. Let’s grow this list!

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Why You Need to Leave

MH_crowDespite our romantic fantasies of the tortured artist producing works of genius, creativity is supported by wholeness and authenticity. Just as the best crops grow in ground that has been appropriately prepared and fertilized, the fundamentals of how you live your life have an enormous impact on who you are as an artist and the degree to which you’re able to produce work you find satisfying.

Several months ago, I posted the piece below to my personal Facebook page. In addition to a warm embrace from my community, I received private messages from women in my distant network who wanted to share their struggles and thank me for my transparency.

I share this post with you today. If one person reading this blog reads the words she needs to hear, the public display will prove worthwhile. This piece also serves as an update for previous readers who wondered about the long silence. With love:

Understanding that Facebook is not the best place for emotional exposition and vulnerability, here goes.

If you’ve been jaded by years of difficult and/or abusive relationships, have faith. After two marriages spanning 25 years, I’d concluded that the harmony and deep affection I wanted in a relationship was simply a fairy tale. When I emerged from my second marriage in January 2015, I decided that I was done for good. If dealing with conflict in a relationship necessitated yelling, violence, and intentionally inflicting pain, I was ready to spend the second half of my life alone—and happily so.

But the universe had other plans. I’ve spent the last 18 months in a relationship with a man who wants, as I do, a relationship based on kindness, unfailing mutual respect, adoration, and delight. We’ve shouldered considerable difficulty and challenges during our time together—but everything that life throws our way brings us closer. We are not a study in the attraction of opposites; we have uncannily similar life views, sensibilities, and curiosities. I did not think it possible to be so fully myself and be so fully embraced for it.

Now we’re engaged. It will be a long while—years, most likely—before we tie the knot and cohabit fulltime. Our first priority is our kids (all seven of them!) and ensuring that our relationship continues to enhance, rather than disrupt. Until we meld households, we’re able to spend 60%-75% of each week together. And we wake up every morning feeling like we’ve won the lottery.

To my female friends, especially: Hold out for the person who adores you—and demonstrates that esteem through behavior, not just words. Hold out for the person who possesses deep integrity. Hold out for the person who is characterologically incapable of saying unkind things to you. Hold out for the person who treats you like the princess, goddess, and warrior that you are. Hold out for the person with whom you experience an intense physical, emotional, and intellectual attraction that only grows over time.

Relationships need not require walking on eggshells. You don’t have to origami yourself into a form so foreign that you no longer recognize yourself. You don’t have to withstand criticism, unkindness, or cruelty. You are not asking for too much. And for the love of god—if you have children and you’re subjecting them to your abusive partner—whether a biological parent or otherwise—just stop. You’re scared to leave, but staying is worse than any unknown. My single biggest regret is keeping my five kids (three from my first marriage and two from the second) in a highly toxic environment for so long. The pain and guilt I carry for failing to protect them is inexpressible. Please, don’t make the same terrible mistake.

Be you, dear friends—follow your truth, and wonderful things will happen. Everything fabulous depends upon you being who you really are.

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Giveaway: Simplicity Parenting e-course

Oh, this one’s hard to resist. Have you been feeling like there must be a way for parenting can be more fun, peaceful, and less overwhelming?

Simplicity Parenting

Are you wishing for simpler times as the world seems to speed up and encourage us to cram more stuff into our lives? Wanting to find time to connect with loved ones competing with an influx of activities, screen time, and outside commitments? Daydreaming about having the support to implement simple but effective changes to your family’s rhythm and flow?

These are the reasons why Kathy Stowell decided to get certified as a Simplicity Parenting Workshop Leader. Kathy writes: “After reading the book Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne, I realized that my desire for a slower childhood for my kids is a normal, healthy mama-bear instinct reaction to the hectic, materialistic culture we find ourselves raising our children in today.”

Kathy is excited to offer this four week e-course centered on the principles behind Simplicity Parenting. With much support, she walks you through simplifying your home life by touching upon these realms throughout the month of June; environment (clutter), rhythm and scheduling (activities, pauses), adult content (media), and tending to soul fever (meltdowns).

The class will be held via videos and blog posts in a password protected blog with discussions held in a private forum as well as an optional weekly conference call that will be recorded for later listening at your convenience. And with this held space, small steps will be taken toward your vision of a peaceful family flow in attune with your consciously crafted values and ideals.

The course runs from June 1 through June 29, 2012. To learn more, click here.

To enter our giveaway, leave a comment on this post with a note about any steps toward simplification you’ve recently taken or would like to take! How would you like to see your family life simplified? The drawing will be held on Wednesday, May 30, at 8:00 pm eastern time. Good luck!

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