Thursday, July 31, 2008

Purge the Bad. Make Room for the Amazing

I quit.

Yes I did. There was a straw. It was the last one. I said I'd had enough and quit my crappy part time job waiting tables in a crappy, if craggily romantic outdoor grill..

Ever quit a job before without prospects? Such a strange, freeing, scary prospect. When I first quit I was giddy with the idea of putting my energy into creating freelance opportunities and my etsy store. Now I am just getting froze up. Good and frozed.

Facing the prospect of actually going after my own dreams without any back up plan, without any distraction (aside from those pesky little children) is a frightening thing. You mean I actually have to make all this stuff MEAN something? I have to put myself out there in the big, bad world and PROVE myself?

Oh it is all feeling so very significant, now. And by "it" I mean everything. This post. Buying art supplies on line. Sketching an idea in my journal. Looking over my old stuff. Watching tv with my kids. What I have for dinner. It is as if every small decision I make is imbued with the heaviness of my success and/or failure.

So in the face of the importance of my every little decision and action, I was surfing around on line (also known as avoidance) and came across this over at Zen Habits and all of a sudden, a light went off or I took a deep breath or something that seemed to make the world work just a little bit better and make a little more sense.

It's not all that significant. Life is transitory, even when we try to hold on. It's okay to play with all the things I want to do. Maybe I don't have to be the BEST painter or the BEST writer, maybe I just have to play with what I love and share? Hmm? Maybe if it's not so significant, then I can take the shot and jump in with both feet instead of taking half-baby steps? Maybe my spiritual development and my development as a human being (as well as that of my kids) is STILL more important than whether or not I ever make six figures as an artist/writer or get reviewed in the NYT or even manage to make a living with it all. And gosh, if I haven't aggressively gotten rid of all the crap in my life this year, then I don't know what I have done. I've left room for creating lots and lots of good.

What kind of delicious mess can I make of my life now? How often can I play with my paints? What pickles can I get the characters of my novel into? What limbs will my kids color with markers? How many chances will I have to try out something new and exciting? (It's EXCITING, not SCARY!)

It isn't about fixing things so that they are perfect. It isn't about making lots of money. It isn't about "saving" my life through internet connections. It isn't about finally fulfilling all the ambitions I've every had.

It is just about living. It is about enjoying my kids and my art and my writing and the sun and the leaves and my favorite shows and my guy and my family and my food. Get rid of the stuff I don't want and/or need. Indulge in the stuff I love. Trust that I am enough just the way I am. Be at ease with the way things are.

Just Be.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Remembering What Comes From the Glorious Mess of Life

Today I am thinking about creativity and inspiration, the works we have done and the works still to do. I am thinking about freedom from the rules and the fears that hold us back. In short, it's a normal day. But today, because of Kate Lord Brown's prompt, I decided to focus on my room, my inspiration board, just something to give back to my creativity with love.

I went through my portfolio to look at what I had in there, and instead of waiting for the perfect inspiration board or an easel or a string and clothespins, I did not want to put it off anymore, and I just taped the suckers to the wall and opened all the shades to let in some light. What I found were pages I had taken from my journal over the past years, many from 2001, a wondrous, difficult, challenging, triumphant, grief stricken, transformative year. Not only were there personal tragedies, but there was 9/11, something that affected everything if you were, like me, born and bred and living in New York City within sight of the World Trade Center.

These paintings, collages, mixed media pieces and drawings are all about taking your life into your own hands and creating something wonderful with it. What looking through my old work also reminded me is that I have come so far. So many of the things I struggled with 15, 10, even 5 years ago are just not something that bother me anymore. I do not feel incomplete. I do not feel crippled by my fears. I am not too insecure to stand up and speak for myself. I believe more in myself than I ever have before. Is this a function of all the work I have been doing on myself and my art? Is it a function of growing up? Is it a function of being a mother and having the world open up to include these two, completely new people who don't deserve to be saddled with my own woe-is-me's?

Whatever it is, it almost doesn't matter. What matters is that we look at where we are from and we continue to move forward to where we need to go, eyes always on what we need to fulfill our deepest dreams and live the life we are meant to live. This is about dreams of tomorrow and what you do this very day to get there. Plans plus action.

Today, I had the children paint pictures to send to their Papa in New York City, where he is working right now. Oh, how they enjoyed it.

I disappointed myself.

I found myself running around, with baby wipes, cleaning up spills and taking paint brushes out of mouths, and tapping the paper saying "no, paint HERE," and asking if he needed me to give him a new paper now? no, now? no, now? trying to get him to stop smooshing paint on something that I had really liked and move on to something else. Control, control, control. And worry about a mess to clean up.


With all my talk about breaking through boundaries, and getting rid of the internal editor and experimenting with your medium and being adventurous, here I was being the one who wanted to keep my children drawing within the lines.

I had to physically remove myself from the room to keep myself from telling them what to do and what not to do. I had to make a new rule that if my children have not made a mess that I need to clean up that day, then I am not doing my freaking job.

It is funny. There is no end point to human development or to the search for creativity and meaning and understanding. Even if you understand and accept one moment, you can completely forget and return to that small place of negative criticism in a blink of an eye. If I can do this to a toddler and a preschooler, then what am I doing to myself when I sit down (or don't sit down, as the case may be) to work on the stuff that I say is my calling?

Despite knowing that I need to turn of the internal editor, stop worrying about perfection, stop worrying about the marketplace, stop worrying about the kids almost done with naptime in the next room, stop placing boundaries around my success, I am still doing it.

If I were my own parent, what would I do to support my creativity?

I think I would say, I believe in you. You can do it. as many times as was necessary. I think I would bring myself flowers to say I was loved. I think I would buy myself the art supplies I needed to create (I am doing it for my actual kids, why do I not do it for myself?) I think I would make myself a sandwich so I could go to work without a dizzy head. I would give myself the space, the corner of a room in which to create. I would let myself make a glorious mess that needed to be cleaned up. I would make myself go to sleep at a decent hour so that I was not exhausted for the day. And I would tell all the other people that myself needs to be left alone to create. And then I'd send myself to my room to get to work.

Hey, my "Me-mother" is really cool. My "Me-mother" is exactly what I need. Self care. Self love. Self-support. Self-discipline.

What do you need your "Me-mother" to do for you to make your glorious messes and become your best self?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Last Lecture: Randy Pausch

I know I'm late to the party on this. I'd been hearing about this man for almost a year, but being engaged with my kids and moving and living and all the things that take up my head space, I never got a chance to see his lecture or read it or anything.

I finally got the chance to watch here on Youtube, and figured I would just watch a few moments of it, since my nap time freedom is so brief. I sat and watched the whole thing, alternately laughing and nodding in agreement and crying. Geez. He really was an inspiration. If you've got an hour or so to spare, and you haven't seen it, give it a watch.

What a legacy to leave the rest of us.

Randy Pausch, RIP July 25, 2008

Happiness Is... Necessary

July has been quite a month, chock full of big endeavors and little tasks. I little too full, I think, a little too stressful. I find that I am still not that far off from being the overwhelmed mother of two very small children, particularly considering the challenges I have set for myself and my career on top of caring for my little ones almost 24/7.

I have been a little lax at taking care of some of my basic goals and needs, I am finding. One of those goals is my novel rewriting. I find my desire to write in my novel has fled... maybe because I am in a spot that is completely new, as I need to add a scene that was not there to begin with, and I am not sure what needs to go in it. Hmm. A solvable problem, and one that I can tackle once I sit down and try. What I need is the energy to sit and face it... and in order to get that energy, I think I need to take care of some of my basic needs that I have been ignoring.

One of those is my own diet. Mama knows we need to eat a balanced diet, but Mama often subsists on left over chicken nuggets and grazing from an open fridge. Bad Mama. Another is my living environment. Instead of just trying to keep ahead of the wave of laundry, dishes and spilled cheerios, I would like to make some area of my home nice... for myself. It was desire to inspire that fulfilled her wishes and inspired me to start decorating again.

One other big thing that I have either been ignoring or avoiding (not quite sure why) is my daily happy pages. I have been working on them for quite some time, but not since I came back from my brother's wedding. Is that why I am having some trouble keeping equilibrium? Or is it just another symptom of my exhaustion. Either way, I have decided to do a massive dump of all the things that have made me happy in the past few many as I can remember, in no particular order.

Focusing on the happy, on the grace and joy is a way to balance out the small and large struggles. It is a way to train your brain to look for the positive, rather than the negative. It is a way to practice living in the now. Anyone else want to try keeping a journal of their own happiness, I highly recommend it. You can just do a one off list, like 100 things that make me happy (I think I did that once) or you can give yourself the challenge to keep track of everything that makes you happy for a week, or you can promise yourself to write down three things every day. The impetus for this post came from Pink of Perfection, and I thought I'd join in.

  • watching a hawk fly, from above
  • soft moss covering a hillside.
  • making a mocha with a piece of chocolate in the bottom of a coffee cup.
  • the view from a mountain top
  • Gabriel chasing the flower girl around and around the pool, both of them laughing.
  • Ivy in her green toile romper with the chiffon sash
  • Gabriel in his argyle sweater vest and button down shirt
  • Ivy's barrette
  • "mmm good!" drive by swipes of wedding cake frosting at the reception
  • Sleep
  • Cute little dollhouse like A-frame hotel cabins
  • Staring out the back window of the car for hours, no interruptions.
  • Happy meal toys.
  • New emergency shoes for G. Had no time for trying on, just grabbed the first ones I saw and bought them. Luckily they were only five dollars and fit him and he like them.
  • First thing he says is "ooh stars!" because there are stars on the soles. Second thing he says is, "they don't hurt!" Oops. His shoes were too small.
  • A deer sighting
  • Kudzu makes the trees look like loping giants.
  • A sign: Giant Hot Tub Sale. (why do giants need hot tubs?)
  • Sitting on the deck with my journal and a coffee.
  • Biscuit and local jam.
  • The kids love bugs.
  • G and Ivy went hunting for lightning bugs with the flower girls.
  • Mommytime while the kids nap.
  • Salt cured ham.
  • Soft Georgia grass.
  • Cows and horses dotting the country side.
  • Making a dinner out of appetizers.
  • Got to wear my fancy shoes.
  • My brother's face as he saw his bride walking down the aisle.
  • When my camera started up again after taking a dunk and being non functional for 24 hours.
  • Saturday morning cartoons.
  • Little girls and boys in dress clothes running up and down a grassy hill.
  • reading a book in the car at night, with a flash light.
  • Finally getting home
  • no social obligations
  • polka dots.
  • singing made up songs to the kids.
  • waking up late because everyone is so tired, including kids.
  • finishing The Valley of the Horses (a comfort re-read before bed every night)
  • my "Enough" illustration
  • sherry on the rocks.
  • peanut butter cups.
  • So You Think You Can Dance
  • Good photos of the kids.
  • Compliments from distant friends.
  • Taking care of business that I have been avoiding
  • Getting a new phone in the mail
  • G and Ivy's fort in the doorway, so they can look out the screen door and watch the rain.
  • Getting my to do list done
  • Grocery shopping fun style, with the big car/cart and little who "drive" until they turn into dinosaurs and charm all the other shoppers.
  • Being told by an old woman that she can tell I am a good mother by how happy my children are.
  • Drawing in the garden.
  • Children covered with their morning of play-- markers, chocolate, mud, blueberries, jelly, grass stains, water, whatever.
  • Google reader... a better way to keep track of my favorites.
  • Iced coffee with coffee ice cream.
  • Standing up for myself when faced with someone who is manipulative.
  • Being nice to customers and remembering that I am a great waitress, despite the manipulations of other people.
  • Taking a photo from an unusual vantage point and having it turn out awesome.
  • My replacement phone for the broken one. I am back in communication!

Monday, July 28, 2008

When The Inner Child Attacks, or Rockstar Breakdown

I have to say how much I want to get rid of that rockstar post. I have to tell you how much I am confronted by it. This is a totally unexpected development. I did not realize how difficult it would be to declare myself great, and how accustomed I am to looking at the negative in myself. And then, after a rather uncomfortable experience at my part time job yesterday afternoon, I have found myself spiraling a bit into a funk of non-rockstar-ness, of suckitude, if you will.

I have been working, for a long time, on focusing on the positive aspects of life. I actively look for the grace in every day living, while trying to minimize all the things that suck. It has helped a tremendous amount to pay attention to the positive, the happies.


I still have the litany of negative running through my head. All the things I should be but I am not. All the fears. All the yucks. All the scared little girl whimpers... they are still whimpering as soon as I move on from the joy of "dancing" salsa with my three year old.

I debated not posting about this. I have thought a few times about focusing only on the positive things on this blog, only the lovelies, only the grace, only the successes in living the creative life. But after spending my funkydunk night surfing all the inspirational, beautiful, crafty creative life blogs, I have decided that I don't want to just show my successes on this creative journey of mine.

I am a teacher. Even if I am no longer teaching in the schools, I have found that I am a teacher by nature. It is a good thing. I am happy to be so. I enjoy helping people. As a teacher, I could fill my blog with creative activities and tutorials, and give my readers instructions on how to live this creative life... but as a person who is on this journey also, I am discovering that it is not the MAKING of art that is the difficult part of being an artist, it is the struggle with the self.

And perhaps, what I am discovering also, is that it is not the piece of art itself that is the point of art, perhaps not even the process of making art, but actually the point of art is what is going on inside of the person who is making that art. Maybe that is what makes art special for the audience, even, that keyhole into the struggles and joys of another human being.

So here I am, broken open a little, and being transparent to you, because I know that these struggles are not only vital to being a rockstar, but also to being an artist. I struggle with feelings of worth, even if my logical mind KNOWS that I am worth it. My logical mind KNOWS who I am. My logical mind KNOWS that it is a good thing. This is not about my logical mind, it is about the smaller part of me, hiding and ignored.

The little girl inside of me is much like my three year old son before nap time, when told he could not keep the blankets and pillows in front of the door anymore. It was not a good place to make a fort, even if the cool stormy air came through the screen. He had to help me clean it up. He could not go out in the rain before nap. My three year old son pouted, then his lip trembled. His heart broke open and he cried for comfort, first for his pacifier, and then he denied he wanted it, then for his papa, and he just cried. He had no logic for his feelings. It was all emotion. It was all wants denied and feeling powerless.

How does one comfort a small child when he is in that place? I took my son on my lap and cuddled him, told him I was sorry he was sad, I understood his pain. I gave him a drink of water and took him up to bed for rest. He is sleeping now. I know he will be better when he wakes up and will be ready for more adventures.

How does one comfort that inner small child, when the world does not go the way that you want it to and your logical mind is drowned out by inexplicable smallness? Who is there for cuddling? What comforts you? Do you allow yourself to be sad? Do you understand your own sadness and allow it? Do you let yourself get the rest you so desperately need so you can continue on your adventures?

These are questions I must ask myself as I ask you. And because I am on this creative life journey, I am going to give myself a creative project to deal with it. Play along if you need it.

ACTIVITY: Find a spot that comforts you. Your bed, the bath, the garden, a sunny window, a cozy cafe. Take out your journal and a pen you love to write with.

Close your eyes and spend a few moments just breathing. Take deep breaths. Focus on your environment, the sounds and smells and everything around you, then let it go. Take more deep breaths. Focus on your body. Relax your body, part by part, from your toes to your head. Take more deep breaths. Focus on your emotions. Allow them to come up. Allow yourself to feel them. Allow yourself to be those emotions. Then let them go.

Now, open your eyes and write. No one has to see it. Just write. Write without stopping. Write whatever comes. Random words even if they make no sense. Just let it out. You do not have to ever read it again. You do not have to show it to anyone. Whatever comes out is fine. As are you. It is all okay.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

I Am a Rockstar! And So Are You!

This is a world that does not really appreciate those who appreciate themselves. Especially if you are a woman, you are expected to be meek and self effacing and humble, or you should expect to be pounded down until you lay as flat as all the others.

But what would it be like if we lived in a world that allowed us all to really revel in all the ways we are rockstars? What if it wasn't always about wallowing in our imperfections and failures and all the ways that we are just not good enough? Maybe we could let go of all the self-hate, the guilt, the self destructiveness, the insecurity, the overcompensation, the meanness towards others.

If we were to honestly look at ourselves, not just for our faults to be fixed or despised, but for our inherent amazing qualities, not only would we be happier, but so would those around us. If all of use were secure in our greatness, then no one would feel the need to knock others down to feel better about themselves.

So here I am, challenging you to spend some time and energy thinking about what is awesome, great, beautiful, outstanding, delightful, heart warming, and plain old ROCKSTAR about you. Think about it. Write it down.

Here are the rules:
  1. No qualifications. No buts or ifs or sometimes or maybes or excepts. Just the great and only the great.
  2. No apologies. You don't have to apologize for our greatness. Being great doesn't take anything away from other people's greatness. They're great too. There's room for all us rockstars on this stage of life.
  3. No negatives. You have plenty of practice finding the suckitudes of you, you spend WAY too much energy searching out your crappiness. If a negative keeps popping up in your head, turn it into a positive. For instance, I am not "lazy," I am "easy going."
Here is the optional challenge, and here is where it gets scary. I personally am getting flutters in my stomach just thinking about it. After you create your list of your greatness... SHARE IT. Share it without fear that someone will knock you down or think you are an egomaniac or an egg head or really not that great after all! Share it without apologies, because even if someone does come to knock you down, you need to really OWN it. You are those wonderful things because you just are, so if someone says you aren't, you won't believe it anyway. Savvy?

So here I am, I'm going to do my rockstar list and I am going to share it with you even though I am getting shades of being in fifth grade when all the kids thought I was the teacher's pet... but here I go, no apologies.

Rockstar Rowena

  • I am easy going and very open minded.
  • I can write like the wind and I love it. I love not having to struggle with the words and just letting them flow.
  • I have a natural talent for art.
  • I am witty.
  • I am classically beautiful in the physical sense.
  • Most people like me, heck it's kind of unanimous. I'm likable.
OH MY GOD, I just need to take a breather here and say how hard this is. I can not believe it. My mind is seizing up with it. I know I wrote it as a challenge and I have all these conceptual ideas about it, but I did not realize how hard it would be to do in actuality... just some support for those of you who might struggle with it on your own.
  • My kids are gorgeous and brilliant :)
  • I can fit in almost any where I go.
  • I have a logical mind.
  • I know how to break things down so that they are easily understandable.
  • I am a really good teacher.
  • I have a great eye for style and can make lots of things look good.
  • I have a great singing voice.
  • I am really focused on those things I want to do.
  • I know what I want out of life and I am working on getting it.
  • I'm a good, creative cook.
  • I have some pretty powerful intuition.
  • I am wise.
Phew! Had to come up for air. Some of that was really hard. It feels really self indulgent. Some of it makes me be afraid that people will not like me because of it. Some of it wasn't hard at all. Here's another thing to think about... what things are you easily able to own up to, and which ones are like pulling teeth to admit. Which ones kept you stalled out because your mind kept wanting to add caveats and exceptions and qualifications. Yikes. I think I might actually have been holding my breath.

Okay, I'm going to stop now before I pass out. If it would make you feel more comfortable, tell me what is great about you here in the comments, a relatively obscure spot... and then get ready to tell people who might actually know who you are in real life....

Oooooh. I dare you.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Crazy for Feelin' So Lonely

This is a collage I did for a creative project I am doing with some friends. It was all supposed to be based around the ephemera of my life that I collected. I titled it L.O.N.E.L.Y for some boy/girl type reasons, but upon further reflection (pushed by my friend) I realized that I was not lonely for someone else, but lonely for my SELF. When that came to me, it was like the clouds lifted. Of course! It was the fact that I was surrounded by people 24 hours a day, without any time (especially with the wedding) for myself.

Wow. That was a realization. Well, I knew I wanted some good me time, I knew I wanted to relive my glory days and spend weeks just delving into creative projects, I wanted to wander new cities, exploring galleries and museums and woods and junk shops. I knew I wanted to sit with tea and stare out at the wide open skies, urban, suburban or rural... but I didn't realize how much of my current frustration was coming from the constant gogogo of motherhood and living and familial responsibilities. If it's not the kids, which it usually is, it's the dishes, the laundry, the job, the wedding to go to, the aunt to visit with, the uncle to watch movies and chat with, the dinner to cook. Always thinking of someone else, and even when I am trying to do my own thing, someone else is always on the edge of my consciousness, knowing that my time for myself is limited.

What I really need for my mom creative health-- maybe just for my human creative health-- is to take some time and just be. I'm really glad that during the whole weekend of road trip and wedding festivities there was one afternoon nap time when I was able to just sit out on the beautiful deck with my journal, mostly just staring off into space. It took a good long time of staring off at this view:
before I was able to even open up my laptop with my novel and do some serious creative work.

People talk all the time about how moms need to take care of themselves, but they are so often referring to things like manicures and outings with the girls. Don't get me wrong, those are great things, but what I need like deep breathing is the stillness that allows me to listen to what my soul has to say.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


I stayed up late to do the Illustration Friday challenge: Enough. It was so confrontational. Illustration is scary to me, despite the fact that I have been doing and studying art since I was five. Illustration is a commercial field, as in, not for one's own enjoyment, but for money. Cashola. Somehow I have always felt that I am not quite good enough to be paid for who I am and what I do. I'll give it away for free, but I won't try to be paid. This is just one of those landmines that my psyche has dropped into my path.

The fear in joining this illustration challenge is that I would be rusty, be not quite good enough, clumsy and awkward, have no defined style and nothing to say.

Then I remembered the Be Brave project (which I had been avoiding) and got up the gumption and...

And that's where the prompt Enough comes into play. Because that's the question. When will you have had enough of the fears? Enough of the self sabotage? Enough of the perfectionism? When will you finally put all that behind you and stretch out your arms, taking the leap of faith that you can fly?

Faber Castell Pitt artist pens and Holbein acrylic gouache.

edited to add: actually, I had trouble adding my link, and I have to put the kids to bed, so hopefully I will get a chance to do that after the kids have gone to bed. It is all still a learning process.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

What Little Girls are Made of

Polka dots!

When I got back from my Georgia road trip, I checked Inspire Me Thursday
only to find that polka dots was the theme. I don't usually have much to do with polka dots, so I had no idea what I was going to do with the prompt, until I looked at Ivy and realized she was coincidentally wearing a polka dot shirt. She almost never wears this shirt, it was just because I needed to do laundry after the trip.

So I thought I would go out into the garden and do a little photo shoot of Ivy in her polka dots, particularly since she was having a kind of tantrum filled morning. I thought the juxtaposition of the cutesy polka dots and the dramatic tantrums was interesting, but you know, once she got out into the yard, she stopped being so dramatic and got curious about the world around her.

Was she chipper? Not quite, but lots of things can make a bad mood feel better. Things like polka dots. Things like sunny gardens. Things like singing songs.

That's one of the things I did with Ivy and her bad mood. I sang her a made up song, sung to the tune of Row Your Boat.

Aye, Aye, Ivy Bean
Ivy I love you!
Sing a song and don't you cry.
Papa loves you too.

By the time I had sung the song a billion times, Ivy was singing along, Aye Aye Aye Aye, and had left her polkamoody tears behind.

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Dark Side, Waiting for Light

I am back.

I think.

I took a 12 hour road trip (12 hours up, 12 hours down) with two toddlers and two grandparents. But it wasn't as bad as everyone had thought it would be. It didn't live up to the horror stories I'd heard, or the dire warnings that everybody tossed about.

I actually got some me time, me with my camera, my journal, and peace. I started taking photos before dawn, in a moving car, through the smudgy window, after only 3 hours of sleep when my head was full of cotton and I was still wired from the nervous energy and load of coffee.

I surprised myself with the painterly, impressionistic feel of the shots from the very beginning. This one with the cows is one of my favorites. They may not count as fabulous photos, but they were a pretty accurate representation of the beauty that I found along the highway to Georgia.

When we got to Georgia, however, it was a different story. Don't get me wrong, the mountains were some of the most beautiful things I've ever seen, but me and my 3 hours of sleep were not equipped to wrangle a three year old and a 16 month old through a cocktail hour, rehearsal dinner, speeches and so on. I took my tantruming three year old out onto the soft Georgia lawn, and almost broke down in tears myself. And the rest of the weekend was much the same, even after early (kid and mama) bedtimes and naps. Breathtaking views, lovely family, all just too much for the three of us. My camera even took a bath, and so was out of commission for most of the festivities, putting another damper on things for me.

I debated only talking about the good things this weekend, about how, after catching up on sleep a little I actually got a chance to go for a solo walk and take some photos and write in my journal and even sit on the deck and write my novel. I had enough photos to illustrate a fantastic trip, glossing over all of the bad parts... but then I thought about what I have to give.

I look at blogging as an opportunity to share myself, to share wisdom, to help people find their own creativity, to help them find their own strength, along with the chance to play with words and pictures and the web. I look around at all the inspirational blogs out there, and I feel a twinge of jealousy, along with the inspiration. I want my life to look like theirs. I want to have the successes. I want to be surrounded by that beauty. I want to be as funny or have that many friends, but the truth is that while I may find beauty and joy and inspiration, I am also finding lots of roadblocks and struggles and frustrations in my daily life.

But today, while I was still procrastinating on my next post, it suddenly came to me. I can only be me. I can't be any of those other bloggers (and I'm not going to name names, because I'm not looking to make others question the paths they are taking.) I have to be me, and part of what I am is the way I handle the not so easy parts of life.

I believe in being transparent. I don't believe in secrets. Secrets lead to shame. Secrets lead to worse things. Sometimes bad things happen. Sometimes life sucks. I work to find the beauty and the strength and the humor and the lesson in the suckitude.

I'm not really interested in detailing my personal life, but the struggles that go into being an artist, being a mom, being a woman, these things can enlighten others who are struggling.

The truth is, we are all struggling. Sometimes we struggle more than others, sometimes we don't. Sometimes we are cruising along and life is a blast. Those are great times, but even then, the dark side of life is still there, somewhere, maybe just waiting for night.

So what I have to say is that during this trip, I sometimes didn't think I was going to make it. But I did. I struggled through. I even asked for help sometimes. And even while I was struggling, I saw beauty, I talked with loved ones, I managed numbers 20, 26, 47, 59, 87, 97, and 100 on my list of a hundred things to do to live life creatively.

Most importantly, #100. I never gave up believing... well maybe during one of the melt downs I lost faith a little, but it came back-- it always does.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

10 Steps to Being a Glamor Mom

I am probably still driving back down the Eastern Seaboard towards home and/or exhausted from the trip this weekend. I don't know if I'll have the opportunity to post on this day, so I am going to re-post some old things from my stint. You see, they are closing down, and I don't want to lose my favorite posts over there, so here and there, I think I'll find a place to put them. I am okay with them closing down, as I find I have been putting much more energy into this blog, but I am thankful that I had the opportunity. I find that writing for domesticglamor got me remembering that I have a sense of humor, and I started incorporating it more into warriorgirl, which has a tendency to be a little serious.

So, back by popular demand (my popular demand, no one else asked me for it, I just like it) I bring you my Glamor Mom post. Huzzah! Huzzah! Let the glamor commence.

217.jpgGlamorMom with bad hair (edited to add: yes, I used my bad hair photo as my profile picture. My attempt to take a flattering picture of the bad bangs worked, and I liked the photo, which I probably wouldn't have taken if it weren't for what I did to my head. That's called creativity, my friends.)

1. Do NOT pick up a pair of scissors during naptime and think, ‘hmmm… I could use some bangs right now.’

2. Find a passion, any passion, and dive head long into it (somehow finding a way around the kids, the shopping, the housekeeping, the cooking, the errands, and may be or maybe not the DH.) What did you used to do before kids that you gave up? Find a way to bring it back. Art? Pick up a paintbrush. Reading? Start or find a mom’s book group. Margaritas? I sense a Friday Afternoon “Happy Mom” play date in your future.

3. Indulge in the occasional Girly mom escapade. But don’t confuse happiness and true self esteem with shopping and feel good for now things, like chocolate or a manicure, those are temporary fixes and don’t last, although they are fun while they last.

4. Get out and get your body moving. This is one I skip far too often, but it makes a body feel good to be active. Find some sort of physical activity that fits your personality and lifestyle. Some women love the gym… me, not so much. But yoga kicks my butt and makes me feel centered. Maybe dancing is your thing, turn on the Ipod and shake your butt. Sometimes, all you need to do is take the kids for a walk, get out in the fresh air, see the sights and burn some calories that way. However you do it, be active, it helps in all sorts of ways.

5. Have fun with the every day things that we all have to do. Shake a little monotony off. Sing a song and dance with the broomstick while you are sweeping up the cheerios…AGAIN. Experiment with the spices and ingredients when you are making that same old same old chicken. Make the walk home from school into an impromptu scavenger hunt (can you find a Seedpod? An orange car? An empty can?) Whatever you have to do that day, try to toss in a little enjoyment, a little adventure.

6. Get sexy. Got a partner? Send a suggestive text message. Got no one? Indulge in some lacy underwear. Read a sexy book. Take a bubble bath with candles and scented oil. It doesn’t have to be about straight up sex… explore your sensuality. That means pay attention to your own senses and physical pleasure, in all its forms. You are attractive because you love your self. And you can keep this idea of sexy/sensual to whatever level of comfort feels right to you.

7. Remember your dreams. I don’t mean your night time dreams, I mean the things you want. A glamormom has her eyes on the prize, whether that means the prize of winning the Oscar for best actress or the prize of having the most fun a girl ever had growing zucchinis.

8. Spend quality time with those you love. Your kids, your husband, your best friends, your family. Don’t hold back here. This is it. This is your life. These are your people. Feel the love. Show it.

9. Love your life. This is the biggest key to being a glamormom. It’s about choosing the life you have because this is the only life you have. It doesn’t mean everything has to stay exactly the same as it is right now, but it does mean accepting yourself for who you are, and accepting your family for who they are, flaws and all. It’s about saying you are worth it, and so are they. Loving your life is about paying attention to all the loveliness, despite– and because– not everything is always lovely.

10. And did I mention the thing about scissors and my hair and the bathroom and not ever doing that to yourself? Please? As a favor from one Glamormom to another?

Saturday, July 19, 2008

100 Ways to Live a Creative Life, 76-100

By now, my brother and new sister in law will have been married on a mountain top, and I, perhaps, am sitting in a back yard barbecue, allowing other people to dote on my little poopets while I take a few breaths for myself. And maybe a gin and tonic. That's my wedding drink.

Hopefully, I have been taking amazing photos for the whole weekend and have gotten in some writing in my novel while the kids sleep and I do not have access to the internet. Hopefully, I have had my mom and/or my sister take over the kids while I go wander a new town by myself, or maybe wander in the woods. Or maybe just sit under a tree and stare off into the difference. I have no idea what to expect this weekend.

Maybe I can get in some of the suggestions I am making for living a creative life. Here are 25 more for you.

76. Go thrift shopping or yard sale-ing and look for things to inspire your creativity. Supplies. Instruments. Collections. Old photos. Think about what you COULD do with the things you see, not just what they are or have been used for.

77. Host an art party. You can provide the art supplies and some snacks. Set up in the yard or a park. Sit around and talk and listen to music and paint or draw the day away.

78. Keep a notebook by your bed so that you can write down those fleeting thoughts that often come as you are falling asleep and your conscious mind lets go a little.

79. Join an online creativity challenge or prompt, like this or this.

80. Create a fairy house in a hidden spot in the park or your yard. Using only what materials you can find, build a house for fairies or children of all ages to find.

81. Watch a great movie, listen to a great song, go to a great museum, read a great book, enjoy a great performance... and then create a response to it. It's a grand old creative tradition to write about other artworks. Give back to those creations you already love.

82. Give yourself a living challenge. For one day, do not say "no" to anything... or do not say "yes", whatever you need to do to push yourself out of your comfort zone.

83. Have a taco bar dinner... or an omelet bar brunch... or a sundae bar dessert... or a pizza bar lunch. Whichever it is, set out all the ingredients, including some adventurous ones, and allow everyone to create their own version of yumminess.

84. Hang up beautiful fabric. It could be an old quilt that has been hiding in a chest, or a tapestry from another country, or some lovely silk scarves or a kimono you never wear or those vintage dresses that you love. Hang them up and revel in their beauty outside of their functionality.

85. Fill a bowl with fruit. Leave it out as a centerpiece. Draw it. Photograph it. Enjoy it. Eat it. There is nothing as fruitful as fruit.

86. This is a long term project, but one that takes very little time each session. Take a self portrait in the same outfit or in the same place or in the same pose on the same day every year. Do the same for your children and spouse. You will have a documentation of your lives that is hard to beat.

87. Or challenge yourself to take at least one picture a day for a whole year. That's a different kind of documentation of your life.

88. Watch a documentary and allow it to inspire your creativity. Write a story or a poem set in that time and place. Paint a picture based on those facts and details.

89. Challenge yourself to perform in public. Do karaoke or a poetry slam. Play guitar at a cafe open house. Sing songs for a group of toddlers. Audition for community theater.

90. Draw an outline of your hand like you did when you were a kid making turkeys for Thanksgiving. This time, fill your hand with words or drawings or paint or collage. The only thing that limits you is the outline you drew, and that's not even a real limit, more like a guide.

91. Call a distant loved one and sing them a song over the phone.

92. Take an old book and alter it. Paint the pages, tear some out. Collage inside of it. Cut and reassemble the words into something else. Hollow out the pages and fill the hollow with something surprising. Get over your aversion to writing in books and make one your own.

93. Set up a lemonade stand and give away handmade postcards with each glass of lemonade.

94. Dress up for Halloween in a homemade costume. Or dress up for a costume party. Or just dress up for dress up, no occasion needed.

95. Find a small box, match box, cigar box, what have you, and fill it with wishes. You can create an assemblage of lovely things, or a collage inside of it, or you can just write your wishes on small strips of paper, or draw them out and use the box as the receptacle for your dreams.

96. Teach someone else something creative that you already know how to do. No one learns more than the teacher.

97. Go somewhere new, whether a new country or a new city or a new park or a new store. Look at things with new eyes.

98. Collect quotes that inspire your creativity.

99. Go on a nature walk. Collect beautiful things. Display them in a bowl or in a collage or through photography, or pressed in a book.

100. Believe. I wanted 100 to be special, and it came to me from out of nowhere. The one thing that allows you to live a creative life more than anything is the belief that you deserve one, the belief that you are creative, the belief that it is worthwhile, the belief that you are brave enough, the belief that you can explore and try new things and create something beautiful, so just believe in yourself and your creativity.

Friday, July 18, 2008

100 Ways to Live a Creative Life, 51-75

51. If work or school seems to be getting in the way of your creativity, use it to fuel your creativity, instead. Write a poem about the assignment. Use images from your studies or your job to create a collage. Use the research you are already doing to write a story. Use clients or classmates or coworkers as characters.

52. Paint your toenails all different colors.

53. Bake something as a present for someone else. Give them a recipe card to go along with it.

54. Start a blog. For goodness sake. It will help you write more often, make you more aware of images and photography, help you develop a creative community.

55. Show people your art. Share your writing. Sing them a song. This takes some bravery, but it fuels your own creativity to see your work in their eyes.

56. Ask to see other people's work. If they talk about being creative, be open to them. Talk with them about their own work.

57. Turn on a great song and dance wildly around the room. Alone or with other people, just dance.

58. Stand on your head.

59. When you take a plane or a train or a bus, bring along your creative work. A journal, knitting, a sketchbook, a camera. Take advantage of that time to be creative. Take photos out the window. Sketch your fellow passengers. Write your thoughts as you flow through space and time.

60. Weed your garden. Throw out old clothes. Get rid of old magazines. Give away books that you will not read again. Purge your life of the things that are useless, cluttering and unloved. Then go back to your creative work with that editing mindset, and clean things up in that arena.

61. Go through your old creative output. Photo albums, journals, portfolios, projects, videos of performances, ignored stories and poems. Take stock of what you have done in the past. Love what is good. Honor your own creativity. Pay attention to how you have grown and what you have learned.

62. Start a window garden.

63. Make some ink blots. Spill a few drops of paint or ink on a page and fold it over. Open it up and marvel at the beauty that can come from a mess.

64. Begin a collection. Hone your eye for beauty and color and shape and order.

65. Display the artwork that you already have so that your home is full of inspiration every where you turn. Get frames and hand the work, or prop canvases against the wall.

66. Before you go to bed at night, write about what you did that was creative that day and what you would like to do the next day.

67. Look at negative space, the space AROUND an object. Try to draw that negative space... the area between the chair slats, not the chair itself. The air around the pear, not the pear.

68. Paint a room. Change the color. Indulge in paint chips from the hardware store and dive into thoughts of the world that is color. Look at your favorite colors in your wardrobe and life. Go through magazines to see color schemes that you like. Pick a color and go with it. If it doesn't work out, you can paint it again.

69. Write an ode to your favorite food.

70. Host a dinner (or a tea or a cocktail party or a pizza party or a dessert tasting) and set the stage. Create a table you might see in a magazine. Decorate with flowers and candles. Have it outside under a flowering tree. Allow other people into your creative life.

71. Create your own creative space. A desk, a chair, supplies. A place you can go to work without interruption, for however long you have. If that doesn't work, create a creative station that you can carry with you-- a basket or bag filled with art supplies-- and carry it wherever you go so you can be creative where you are. Or set up a space in a family area that allows you to take advantage of those few moments while the kids are watching cartoons or the food is on the stove. No one says being creative has to be in one place or look like one thing.

72. Get up half an hour early or stay up half an hour later than everyone else. Use that time to create without interruption.

73. Or hide away in the bathroom to plan your next project.

74. Start a project with your partner or with a friend or with your child. Both try to write a play, compete to see who can write more pages. Try taking photos to go along with their poems. Have them serve as a reader for your novel. Or if they are not creative, ask them to hold you accountable to your project. Knit a hat for them.

75. Trade child care with another friend, creative or otherwise. You take her kid, so she can have her me time, then a few days later she can take yours, and you can spend some times being creative.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Mama's Little Art Industry

Mama’s Little Artist

I am not a perfect mom. I am not a Type A personality, who creates a curriculum and fills my children’s days with enrichment activities…although I could, one of my specialties when teaching was creating curriculum that integrated the arts into academics. Of course, that I COULD do it, but don’t makes me even less marvelous in my mommyhood. It makes me feel bad sometimes that I don't do all I could do.

But I would like to put forth a cheer for all the slacker moms out there. Just because we aren’t getting down there in our knee pads flipping flash cards of Impressionist Painters does not mean we are doing a bad job. No one really knows what makes one kid turn out to be a wonderful person whose life enriches the world. So I’m going to pat myself on the back a little and hi-light one of my slacker mom accomplishments.

Sometimes I check my googlereader while the kids are watching Little Bear. Yes it’s true. TV is my babysitter. Sometimes, the baby will sit on my lap and play with her toy computer while I do this. Sometimes, we will take out the Crayola Color Wonder finger paints and she will smoosh around on the tv table while I type comments on my favorite blogs with one hand.

She did so yesterday. And then toddled off to find some trouble to get into. But when the Little Bear dvd ended, G wandered back to my impromptu desk to check out the what’s what, and he came upon this:

Orignal Art, by Ivy

This was the baby’s painting. The red circle was mine, but everything else was hers. Gosh, G started smiling when he saw it. “Mmm,” he said, “Good. G likes!” and he would not rest until I displayed it on the refrigerator. I see what he means about this scribble drawing. It almost looks like a bird flying above the trees to the setting sun.

My boy Gman has very developed artistic tastes. I don’t know if I made it happen. I didn’t have those flash cards of Monet and Cezanne… although I must admit I sat with him and looked through some of my old art books. I didn’t force it on him, I just noticed his interests. He liked paintings. So we’d read the art books he picked out, along with “Where the Wild Things Are” and “Moo Baa La La La.”

He still likes paintings, although I can see he gets frustrated with not being able to draw what he wants to. Lately, he has been focusing on drawing bad guys. But even when he can’t draw Spider Man and the Green Goblin, he can appreciate artistic beauty when he sees it.

Art and the Collector The Collector and his Gallery

(reprinted from

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

100 Ways to Live a Creative Life, 26-50

Here it is! The continuation of 100 things to do to live a creative life. It's too big to post all at once, and I felt even posting them consecutively would be too dense, so I'm taking my brother's upcoming wedding as the opportunity to back post some material.

I'm still home, but busy with packing and getting the littles and myself ready for a road trip to South Carolina. I'll be gone until late Sunday night, so look for some more creative tips this weekend.

26. Lay on your back under a tree for fifteen minutes. Watch the leaves and sun and shadows. Let yourself be inspired by that.

27. Empty out your bag and draw or photograph the contents.

28. Take your lunch hour and visit a gallery or museum.

29. Listen to a favorite album from your past. Reflect on how far you have come.

30. Take a walk in a familiar or unfamiliar neighborhood. Look for things you have never seen before.

31. Draw a shadow.

32. Go someplace where there are a lot of people. Just sit and people watch. Allow yourself to be. Allow them to be. Look at all the marvelous ways people are unique.

33. Draw a picture of your monsters. These are the monsters you see when you sleep at night. The monsters that are in your memory. The monsters that tell you what you can't do or how you are no good. Draw them, then tell them to shut it.

34. Keep a flower by your bedside.

35. Get a corkboard or string up a cord with clothespins. Keep an inspiration board. Any time you find something beautiful or meaningful or inspirational, pin it up there. Keep this where you can look at it and let it inspire your work.

36. Have fun with paper. Make a paper hat or a paper plane, a football, or one of those finger games where you flip it around to find out your future. Make a paper crane. Have some scissors handy? Cut out some paperdolls, or paper animals. Snowflakes. Paper is everywhere, explore what you can do with it.

37. Leave post it notes with inspirational messages on them in places where people can see them.

38. Put a secret on a postcard, send it in to Postsecret.

39. Learn a new hobby or pick up an old one that you can do during quiet times, like watching tv at night or hanging with your partner. Knitting, sewing, painting... something that you can do with your hands but leaves the rest of you still present.

40. Organize your life by color. The cupboards, your closets, the bookshelves, collections, photographs. Use the rainbow to reinterpret your daily life. Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet. It's surprising how different things look when they are placed in a color scheme.

41. Walk around with a hand mirror. Look at the world through this mirror. You become very accustomed to what you see. Looking at it in the reverse can help you see things that have gone invisible.

42. Stand on a table, or a bench. Get up high and look at the world. It looks different. It feels different.

43. Get down low. Sit under the table or over in a corner. Crawl around and realize all the things that are going on at this low level. This is what children see, and pets. It's a new experience.

44. Don't wash the dishes. Go out and see the sunset.

45. Wash the dishes. Put on some music or just allow the world to be full of splashing and clinking. Feel the water, the warmth, the suds, the slippery dishes, the different textures.

46. Pick up a guitar or sit down at a piano. Remember that instrument you took lessons on when you were 12? Play it. Don't try to follow any music if you don't want to, or do. Pick out an old favorite song by sound. Make up your own. Experiment with chords and fingering and all the sounds that you can make when you just try to make music.

47. Sing. Sing while you are watering the plants. Sing while you are going to the mail box. Sing while you are walking from the car to the store, sing while you shop. Sing the kid to sleep, sing some old games like B.I.N.G.O. Sing along to the radio, sing in the shower. Just sing, sing a song.

48. Take a walk in the rain. No umbrella. (One caveat, make sure it is not freezing rain and you have some dry clothes for later, or at least a place to go without air conditioning. I speak from experience.)

49. Get some chalk and draw on the sidewalk. With kids, without. Who cares. What would you like to see?

50. Instead of simply writing out your To Do list, try to map it out. Sketch a map of the route you would take to get your To Do list done. Draw symbols for your goals. Or do it the other way around. Draw the map out of what you did that day and where you went.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

This is the Way We Roll, Like It Or Not

Have you notice how life goes in cycles? It goes up it goes down. It goes back up.

It goes down again.

Whenever I find myself on a roll in achieving my goals, in getting a hold of my focus again, in being productive and in facing the fears and in writing in my novel and painting my paintings and in taking care of my kids in a loving and creative manner... well, it is just inevitable that roll comes to a stumbling halt.

Or maybe it's not really halting, maybe it's just kind of hiccuping and limping a little.

I have been heading down into a funk. Oh yeah. I've been kind of angry about it, because I've been working so hard on staying positive and being creative and facing the fears and all. Well, funks suck, right? Funkity funk. And then getting angry and upset over it makes the funk worse.

I brought my laptop into a new room today so that I could work on my novel, I pulled up the file, and I just sat there with tears in my eyes and cotton filling my head. I ended up playing spider solitaire for about 15 minutes, before giving up and going back on line to browse.

I thought about starting a fight with S, even though he is in NY right now. Well, not really starting a fight, but bringing up my funkity funk feelings when I know he can't really do anything about it from where he is.

I thought about going to take a nap and recharge my batteries so that I would have the energy to tackle it all, but I often feel worse after naps, so I blew that off too.

In the end, I yelled at my kids too much and let them watch some PBS and started dinner late and felt sorry for myself. I even made bedtime about 15 minutes early because I just needed a time out, and had no other way to get one than bedtime.

But in the end, two things made me feel better.

At bedtime, Mama picked the bedtime story. I read them The Cat in the Hat by Dr Seuss. I enjoyed it. I could feel my tension slipping away as I rhymed and sing-songed my way through it. Sometimes I don't even need to read the words, they just come out of my mouth automatically.

The second thing that made me feel better is when I sat down to write this post, full of anxiety again, and then I read what I wrote for my first sentence and I said, "yeah. That's right. This is part of the process." All of a sudden the anxiety evaporated as I remembered what I already know. You struggle, you fall, you struggle, you fall. This is how we grow.

And sometimes it hurts.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Face the Fears, Big and Small

Today, as opposed to yesterday, I was filled with fear.

Or maybe I was filled with fear yesterday, too, and my way of avoiding it was to think about being creative? Not necessarily a bad way to deal with it, but is it just sliding the fear aside, without taking care of it?

I think the Be Brave project is making me notice my fear more. Or maybe I started the project because I was aware of all the small fears filtering into my life and making me stall out on all my wonderful goals. Maybe it was only a subconscious awareness, and the project brought them to the forefront.

It doesn't really matter why I am noticing this all, it just matters that it is there.

I even started a list of the things that I am afraid of, but I really want to do or really need to do in order to make my larger dreams come true. Am I brave enough to write them out to you, even though I think, aww, I don't want to admit to wanting these things. See, now I've called myself out, I have to do it. So here goes.

Things I Am Afraid Of
  1. To call myself a real photographer by putting my work out there as "art."
  2. To start painting again-- to make that commitment to being a real artist.
  3. To open a PayPal Account
  4. To ask for babysitting when I do NOT have to work so that I can do creative projects or just decompress from being a mom 24/7
  5. To create a business plan for my dream of a business that is just wisps and wishes right now.
  6. Paint REAL paintings, not just sketches in my journal.
  7. Paint my Tarot/Goddess/Archetype paintings.
  8. Open my Etsy shop
  9. Spend money on new art supplies.
  10. Submit my writing to real opportunities to publish.
That's enough for now. I think you are getting the picture though.

But aside from these reaching for your dream fears, I am afraid of so many other little things. I am afraid of leaving my comfort zone. Things as small as leaving the kids in the playroom and going upstairs to get the laundry make me afraid. It's not a big fear, but it is a fear. I am afraid to start dinner. What might I miss if I start it? Will I lose the impetus towards creativity? Will the kids start screaming and tantrumming? Will I get too tired to go back to work? Will I find nothing decent to eat and spend another night just grazing on the kids discards and leftovers and cookies? Ugh. No wonder I don't want to start dinner.

This train of thought has me thinking something new. What if my legendary laziness is actually fear? What if I am not really a lazy person, but one who is very afraid to try new things, or to give of herself, or to step out into the world and be seen and possible face... what? What if my occasional flakiness is actually fear? Fear of people? Fear of being out of place? Fear of people needing me? Fear of people expecting more from me? Hmm.

Yes. This is very interesting. However, again, once I call myself out on my fear... I kind of have to do something about it.

That's not really a bad thing, because fear, once you look it in the face, isn't really that scary, it's very small. Identify it, and it seems silly. Understand what fear has been stopping you, and you can deal with it.

I don't really know how I am going to deal with it, but now I can see it... maybe it will scatter, like cockroaches when you come into the bathroom at night and turn on the light.

Ewww, Rowena, did you have to go there?

Sunday, July 13, 2008

100 Ways to Live a Creative Life, 1-25

Today I was filled with the desire to write out 100 things to do to lead a creative life.


Are you crazy girl? Don't you have kids to watch? Shopping lists to make? Novels to write? Bravery to be?

Maybe, but I was feeling grumpy and small and pulled this way and that, and I wanted to stop and think about creativity, and how I can make it part of my every day life. Some of these ways are things that I have already done, some are things that I would like to do, some are things that I don't know if I'm up to.

As I wrote out my list, some things came clear to me, though. Being creative is about seeing the world and paying attention to what it actually is. It is about questioning the old ways of doing things. It is about experimenting with media. It is about playing and having fun. It is about taking the care to see things and make things that are beautiful and meaningful and loved.

This is by no means a comprehensive list. It is only partial and really off of the top of my head. I am not a musician or a dancer or an actor, so I must admit those areas are skimpy. As are crafty projects or cooking or gardening or other creative pursuits that I know even less about. It's also rather geared towards women, sorry dudes, that's the hand I was dealt. Feel free to adjust to your masculine masculinity. It's list meant to inspire, not as a set of rules, anyway. Not every woman has kids, either, and I write from that perspective, too.

I am also going to break it up, because it is really long. So you'll have to stay tuned to see the rest. I welcome any suggestions or additions in the comments. We always need new ways to perk up our creativity.

1. Keep a small camera always on your person. Whip it out whenever something strikes you as lovely. Take pictures. Flowers, people, clouds, cars, buildings, anything you see can be fodder for your creativity.

2. Pay attention to the daily things. Take, for instance, breakfast. Don't just stand at the counter gobbling a breakfast bar. Feed your soul by feeding your body. Make your meal an event, even if a small one. Pick a flower for your table. Grace your cereal with blueberries. Use your best china. Sit outside and breathe in the morning. Imagine it is a celebratory breakfast, and what you are celebrating is your ability to be creative.

3. Turn off the tv and paint a picture instead, just for the time that you would have watched the show. Which would make you happier? Half an hour of a syndicated sitcom, or half an hour of painting a picture?

4. Carry a small notebook with you. Use this notebook specifically for creative ideas, brilliant thoughts, little sketches. Don't let those wonderful ideas pass you by, capture them in your notebook.

5. Make up stories and tell them to your kids and scribble them down when they go to sleep.

6. Fill your home with vignettes. Your mantel, your dining table, a bookshelf, counter top, bedside table. Bring out your collections and group lovely things together. Use scarves or scrap fabric for draping, books or boxes as pedestals. Group in themes or color schemes. Remember to add height. Rearrange things until they please you.

7. Find some books and/or magazines that feature creativity you admire. Read those instead of doing the crossword or while waiting on line. You can go to the library, you don't even have to buy them.

8. Take a recipe and change it up. Or take two recipes and put them together. Experiment in the kitchen. Write down what you have done and how you got there. Take a picture of it.

9. Next time someone has a birthday, make a card for them, instead of buying one. It doesn't have to be fancy if you don't want it to. Simple words, simple images, a fine doodle, a collage with stamps. Give someone your small work of art, it's worth more than a store bought thing.

10. Doodle when you are on the phone or in a meeting. Then paint the resulting doodle. Hang it up as if it were fine art.

11. Spend 10 minutes every morning before you get up writing in a journal without stopping, without reading. Just write write write. You don't ever have to go back in to the journal, just let it flow. Make it a daily practice. Yes, these are the Morning Pages.

12. Start your own list. Write down all the creative projects or ideas you would like to do. Every time you have a free fifteen minutes, take a look at the list and work on something from it. You can make it the same item every time, or pick a new thing, but it's good to have evidence of your creative ambitions. It's good to remember them.

13. Next time your kid does something creative, play along. When was the last time you did finger paints or put on a puppet show or messed with some clay? And you don't have to have kids for this one, just play like you did when you were little.

14. Get a package of balloons and blow them up. Toss them around. Draw on them with markers and make faces or flowers or monsters. Play.

15. Schedule an artist's date with a friend. Bring sketch books and draw the park. Go to the museum. Write poems and share. Go to a dance performance. Read Shakespeare out loud to each other.

16. Take a creative class. You are much more likely to spend time in your creative pursuits if you have made the declaration by signing up, and even, oh my, PAYING for that class. Make the commitment with others as witness. Do it and enjoy your You time. You earned it.

17. Remember your dreams. Write them down. Or create a song from them. Or paint them. Or collage them.

18. Create an unexpected flower arrangement. Play with colors and textures. Search for unusual additions, leaves, twigs, seedpods, fruits or vegetables, grasses, ornaments, whatever strikes your fancy. You can buy these things, or just search them out in your actual environment. Is that a weed... or a stunning arrangement?

19. Write a poem while at a stop light, or between subway stations, or while the bathtub fills, or while on line at the post office. The point is to make it quick, and low stress. Do not worry if it makes sense. It's only something you dashed off while the light changed. Let your brain flow free. You just might surprise yourself with what you end up with.

20. Carry a glue stick and scissors with you and collect little pieces of paper that you come across. Receipts, postcards, business cards, brochures, wrappers, whatever. Glue them in your journal and collage about your day. Add writing as you go or later on.

21. Shake up your wardrobe. Don't just wear the same old same old. Put on that antique necklace of your grandmother's that you never wear. Take out your fancy wedding shoes and wear them with your jeans. Put together a dress and a sweater you wouldn't normally do. Wear scarves around your neck, or your wrist. Rock it like Carrie Bradshaw.

22. Eat lunch somewhere new. Have a sandwich on the front stoop. Sit at a fountain down town. Try that new restaurant you have always been afraid/in awe of. Sit in a window and look out at the world. Lay out a blanket in your bedroom and have a picnic there.

23. Turn the tv off and look into the reflection on the darkened screened. Doesn't your room look different in there?

24. Get a deck of tarot cards and pull a card a day. As you go about your day, think about how that tarot card reflects upon what happens to you and how you react to the world. You can use other forms of wisdom, too. The I Ching, the Medicine Cards, The Bible or your Riverside Shakespeare for quotes. Heck, you could use a Dr Seuss book for this.

25. Cut open a fruit and look at what is inside. Draw it. Write a poem about it. Use it as a writing prompt. Press it in ink and make a stamp out of it. Even an everyday apple, when you cut it crosswise, looks new and different.

to be continued

Friday, July 11, 2008

Power Posting, Power Painting, Power Healing

This mixed media piece was done for Inspire Me Thursday. The inspiration was the word "Healing," and I think I really need it right now. It was a timely challenge, seeing as I feel like crap. It's nothing serious, but enough to make me feel like crap and not want to do anything and snap at the kids all morning.

At first I thought of it as emotional healing, but upon waking up and feeling icky, I turned it back into physical.

Here, this is about connecting with the power of your body, your spirit, the universe to readjust the negative energy of pain into something that is healing and gentle. The heat of pain becomes the warmth of the sun's rays. The anguish of hurt becomes the release of allowing yourself to be in pain, allowing yourself to let your body do what it does to heal what is wrong.

Sometimes, I think, allowing yourself to be in pain, not fighting it, not whining "but I don't want to be in pain," lets the good things in. As we resist, we block our natural abilities to recover, maybe making it even worse next time. And here, I am talking about emotional pains too, not just physical.

I did this piece with whatever was in my art pouch. Pen and ink, gouache, egg tempera, paint pen. It's in my favorite journal book that I carry with me everywhere.

Oh. Did I say I actually feel a bit better after focusing on the painting, not my ouchies? Hmm.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Arte Y Pico Blog Award

Another first for Rowena. I have gotten an award! I'm not used to this, I feel a little bashful, in addition to grateful. But I like it. ;)

Natasha, over at Creative Nachos gave me the award, and it is a beautiful little trophy. Thank you Natasha for thinking of me. I am happy that we've 'met' and look forward to a long association, and lots of mutual inspiration. You would have been on my list if you hadn't given it to me, you little minx, you.

I've been hemming and hawing over who to pass it on to, trying to decide, make a balance between artists and writers and spiritual guides, and then I saw someone I wanted to give one to had already been awarded with it, so I'd better get on the ball and start passing out the award and stop being afraid to make a decision or leave people out or be rejected by the cool kids. If you're keeping count, this is another thing for my Be Brave list.

The Arte Y Pico Blog Award is given to bloggers who inspire others with their creativity, and for contributing to the blogging world in whatever medium. The Arte Y Pico site is written in Spanish by a doll maker named Esey, as near as I can figure out with my rather bad Spanish.

There are some rules that go along with this award. The Arte Y Pico Award rules are:
1. You have to pick 5 blogs that you consider deserve this award through creativity, design, interesting material, and also contributes to the blogger community, no matter of language.
2. Each award should have the name of the author with a link to their blog.
3. Award winners have to post the award with the name and link to the blog of the person who gave them the award.
4. Please include a link to the “Arte Y Pico” blog so that everyone will know where the award came from.

My first award goes to the genius Elsita. I am continually amazed with the beauty and generosity and depth and breadth of her work, and she was one of the first bloggers to welcome me to the blogging community, even if she is tremendous and I am small.

My second award takes a different tack on creativity. Perhaps she isn't the same type of visual artist, but her serene, wise spirituality and wonderful writing have again and again steered me back to the page and the computer and the muse. So, this one is for Karen at Cheerio Road. Oh, yeah, and the breath of fresh air that is her Zen Writer's Workshop

My third award, I have decided, will go to Mapelba, of Writing on the Water, for her tiny badgers, and her poetic and evocative writing, and the world that she is writing that I am leery of getting into, for I am afraid that it will trap me and wrap me up and I will never want to leave until her novel comes out at Barnes and Noble.

My fourth award is going to someone I have been reading since way back in the day when I first started blogging, when I was too intimidated to leave comments and take part. I lost her for a while, and recently discovered her again in my search for creative blogging compatriots. For her wonderful heart, beautiful photos, constant inspiration and her fiercely creative living, I give the Arte Y Pico award to Andrea at Superhero Designs. You are your own Superhero.

And last, but never least, I give the fifth award to Patty over at Daily Goddess. A cohort in crime, a woman who is always looking to fire the inspiration, to calm the soul, to struggle past those blocks and help everyone reach their creative potential.

If your name is not on this list, it isn't because I wasn't thinking of you, believe me. I am so thankful to be meeting so many of you. Your creativity and thoughtfulness and inspiring words and images spur me on. Maybe I will make my own award and start passing that out. Hmm. that would be a big challenge to the fear.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Fun! (and Scary!)

(stay tuned for the credits. I am having [surprise! surprise!] technical difficulties.)

Oh, big fun. I always get so nervous the first time I try some new technology, and then I muddle around in it and fiddle with it and try to figure enough of it out to actually make it work. I don't even know if this will actually work until I post it. How exciting.

It's two firsts... well, actually three if you stay tuned and let me tell you about what else I did.

My first first is that this is the first time I have done a meme and posted it on my blog. It's my fear of jumping in to the big wide world, my chicken High School kid who is afraid to sit with the cool kids at the lunch table. I wasn't invited to do the meme, but I saw it over at Leah's Blog, and at Blue Poppy and finally said, hey, that looks like fun, so I invited myself in.

This is how the meme goes:

Type your answer to each of the questions below into Flickr search.
Using only the first page, choose an image.
Copy and paste each of the URL’s into the mosaic maker over at FD's image maker.

The questions:
What is your first name?
What is your favorite food?
What high school did you attend?
What is your favorite color?
Who is your celebrity crush?
Favorite drink?
Dream vacation?
Favorite dessert?
What do you want to be when you grow up?
What do you love most in life?
One word to describe you.
Your Flickr name

I agree with Blue Poppy that it's great fun. And it really is like a kind of poetic portrait without words.

My second first is that I went ahead and tried to make this mosaic. Oh, technology. I have had so much trouble with photos. Well, actually, in addition to making this mosaic, I tried to upload some photos to Flickr, (something that was actually on my to do list) and that didn't work... do you see what I'm saying? I think the files are too big, but anyway, I didn't need my own photos for this project, I just needed to play with Flickr, and I think the more I get used to Flickr, the more I will not be afraid, when I finally make my way to posting photos.

The third first was actually something that I did yesterday. Late at night as I was browsing blogs and links, I stumbled upon something new and scary. It just so happened I was watching a horror movie (Evil Dead, if you're wondering) and I needed the distraction of the internet to keep the creeps at bay. But what I found was even scarier than fiction. It was this. I was almost forced to join in when I found out that she had taken up her own challenge again that very night, just hours before I had found her. It was her beautiful badge that made me click it. The challenge is to do something brave every day. As I read about her project I kept thinking that it was a cool idea, but I wasn't really in the place to take it on, I mean, it's not brave to change diapers, but as I kept reading, I thought maybe it was the perfect project to get me out of my diaperland domestic rut.

I want to get out into the world and do the things that are important to me... which also happen to make me scared out of my skin. I don't know how brave I was to keep my scaredy challenges to something over the web, where I don't really have to face my true fears of getting out into the world, but you know, small steps really do get us where we want to go, often more so than the huge dives into the unknown without and safety wires.

Let's see if being brave actually does change my life.

(With all the new technologies and games I'm playing with, this post took about ten times longer than it usually takes me. And I have had to go back in and edit a half a dozen times. I'm not even done, yet. New things are hard. I'm a little scared of my oafishness here.)

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

The Feast

The thing about being creative is that it feeds the soul.

It isn't just about the product that you create. It isn't just about the glory of "being a writer" or "being an artist" or "being a dancer" or whatever medium you choose to create in. It isn't just about the community it creates, or the people you can reach with your work. It isn't just about publication or your volumes of journals in storage or putting that painting on the wall or that performance at the community center. All those things might give you a feeling of satisfaction and pride, but there is more to creating than that.

Creativity, in the physical, mental and spiritual act of creation, helps you. It helps your insides. It helps you understand your emotions. It helps you release them. It helps you stop and pay attention to the world around you. It helps you make sense of that world. It helps you try on another persona and step outside of yourself. It helps you dive into the very heart of your self and start to understand what it means to be you. It is fun, and it is challenging, it is purifying and it is relaxing.

Art can save your life. I think it's done so for me multiple times over.

So when I get stuck in the morass that is living sometimes, the gloomy moods and the exhaustion, the blocks, the fears, the busyness, too busy for me, it's awful easy to just chuck the work of creating, to just wallow in my struggles, but it isn't better.

Creating from the heart can be confrontational and difficult, painful or disappointing. Sometimes it doesn't come out the way we want it to. Sometimes, maybe even most of the time, we have to sacrifice something else in order to do it. I don't think it gets easier when you go from being a student to an amateur to a hobbyist to an expert to a professional. It's just as hard, but maybe you build up a tolerance to the difficulty. Or maybe you learn tactics to get yourself through them. But no matter what level of commitment you have to creating, I truly believe it gives back to you more than it takes.

I guess I could look at the work of creating as part of my spiritual practice. In addition to being my calling and my career and my study and my joy. But even if you don't want to make art your career, even then, it feeds the soul. Anyone who steps up to creating art is going to get something back, I think, as long as they are willing to fight through the fear and confusion of beginning. That is one of the reasons I have taught art or poetry or film or writing to teenagers (I've seen kids start to glow when they truly connect with the work.) It's one of the reasons I want to make my children's lives full of creativity. It's one of the reasons I have been actively working with women's empowerment and creativity. It's why I advocate mothers, in the midst of all the responsibilities of being mothers, rediscovering or uncovering their own creative powers.

Because creating, in all it's forms, is food for the soul.

And life should be a feast.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

The Magic in Childhood

This is the day of G's birthday party, even though his real birthday is tomorrow, and I have been thinking about ways to make his birthday, his childhood magical and creative. Is it even something we can do, or is it the nature of childhood to see magic everywhere? Maybe it's an innate quality in a child that we can encourage, as parents.

It was a post over at Writing on the Water that got me thinking about my own childhood, and the magic in that. I don't remember planned activities to encourage and stimulate, except maybe baking with my mother. I don't recall that organized things were generally all that magical. Maybe my mother set us out on games and activities, but I only remember what my sister and I did with what we had at hand and our imaginations.

I had summers at my grandfather's farm, where we searched the lawn for Indian Paintbrushes, rolled down the hill, held buttercups up to our chins, played house in the big bush by the road, ran from snap dragons and went hunting in the woods for fairy circles.

And then I had my regular life in Manhattan, in a sprawling, falling down apartment, filled with house plants, cats and room to run up and down the halls. We spent our times making up games, there. We made dolls out of plasticene, dollhouses out of wardrobes, spaceships out of bunkbeds, radioshows out of tape recorders and circuses out of cats and shopping carts (poor cats.) If we took off our shoes, we were Indian Maidens creeping through the forest, or when we took a bath, we were mermaids. That was where I learned how to make something out of nothing, where I learned that if you try and keep trying, you can do anything. It was where I learned that I had the ability, maybe even the right to create. It was also where I learned the power of wishing, and focusing, and singing. And of course, the power of imagination.

Maybe this goes to show that while having the freedom to roam in the great wilderness is a wonderful thing, magic can happen anywhere.

I don't think I've given up on magic, either. I think I still find it today. Maybe that's why I take pictures of strange fungi, or write Science Fiction novels, or read Harry Potter and wait for my belated invitation to Hogwarts. Where have you found magic in your life? In your childhood? In your adulthood?

Friday, July 04, 2008

We're On A Road to Somewhere

I think (knock on wood) I am back from the land of the on-line living dead.

It was a harrowing ordeal for me. I was confronted with all sorts of things-- emotions, thoughts, conflicts, frustrations, memories-- that I had been avoiding or I had managed to not have to face.

Sometimes I end up wondering why I can't just have an easy life? Why can't my desires and goals be greenlighted all the way to the destination? I imagine an old school crossing guard, waving me through at each juncture, a big smile on his/her face as I stroll my way to the life of my dreams. "Yes, Rowena, this is the way to the life you are destined to live. Yes, we love and respect you. Yes, you deserve to have everything you want, pass on through."

It's a nice image, isn't it?

But as I have been very rarely greenlighted through life, I have come to value the struggles that I have had to face. Broken hearts, flat broke wallets, getting stuck in subways or getting mired in jobs that go nowhere. People taking advantage or making false accusations. Confusion, frustration, anger, sadness, has all just been so darn HARD. I'm sure you have your own litany of roadblocks. You know what I am talking about.

But when I look back at my history, and see those moments, it is always the most difficult struggles that have lead me to the biggest breakthroughs in my life. I stop putting up with wrong situations. I learn to depend on myself. I turn to creativity to answer my questions. I find a better community. I commit to actually being the person I want to be.

Without the struggles in my life, would I have had the successes?

Someone said, I don't know who... that life provides you with just the obstacles you need to get to where you are going. Or maybe it was that YOU provide the obstacles.

I like the idea that obstacles are not really blocks to our progress, but stepping stones. I like even better the idea that we are in charge of the things that get in our way, that on some level, we CHOOSE the struggles we go through.

It may not make the struggles any less hard to get through, but it helps me to think that 1, we are not at the mercy of life, but in charge of it, and 2, all those seemingly unproductive years and blocks and failures are actually getting us where we want to go.

Let me rephrase that number 2. Our struggles are not stopping us from achieving our mission in life, they are actually GETTING us there.
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