Crafting is for lovers

Last weekend I was a vendor for the first time in my life at the Tacoma Is For Lovers craft fair. I was selling my originally designed earrings and I even designed my display table complete with spray painted twigs to hang the earrings on. I decided to participate mainly because I wanted to try something new and to do something that I was a bit intimidated to do, sell my craft. What I learned was more than I bargained for.

I was originally thinking, “I’ll go and maybe sell ALL of my stuff and pocket the earnings and live a life of self inflated ego trips like the rest of my crafty sisters. Or maybe I’ll just sell half of my 50 plus pairs and, in the end, never do it again but enjoy the experience of it all. What really happened was that some people bought, most didn’t. I sold some stuff and met some great people but really, I had a pretty quiet two days.

I’ve been writing for years now as well as showing my photographs and a lot of what I write and shoot gets a great response from people who read or see my work, so I’ve felt fairly comfortable and encouraged with my artistic expression. But when people don’t want your art it takes a huge hit on your ego and you MUST maintain the right self talk or it totally deflates you. I had to conclude that my jewelry wasn’t for everyone and my display was pretty rustic compared to some of the more pro crafters. Also, I’m not good at marketing myself, I tend to feel like a used car salesman when people pass by and I have to comment on their scarves or sweaters in order to get them to look at my work. “Oh, I love that sweater. Where did you get it? Really? Well what do you think of this color to go with that beautiful sweater?” It feels phony. But “phony” sold one women a whack load of jewelry.

I kept imagining how other artists must feel when they throw themselves out there. Crafting is definitely art. There were some amazing creations at the event! But people who put out a project whether it’s their music, an album, a movie, a painting, a book…whatever it is, if people don’t want it, even if you think it’s the best you’ve ever done, you have to wrestle through what it does to your emotions and you have to make a decision: “Am I done trying to create or shall I continue to make more art?”

I love what Glen Hansard says after he won the Oscar for the movie Once. If you’ve ever seen The Commitments you know he had a small and slow start to his music which began a long, long time ago. On the stage at the Oscars he ends his speech with simply saying, “Make art! Make art!” So tonight I went back to the drawing board, literally. I grabbed a photo that I took of my daughter dancing in the living room and it’s such a lovely shot of her that I drew it. I even hung it on the wall. I’m even thinking of doing another craft fair in February but this time I think I’ll skip the spray painted twigs and I’ll put a little more effort into my own art.

Very inspiring. Happy Thanksgiving, readers. Make art!

Now

My friend, Leslie, posted this article and besides the fact that it’s incredibly moving and heartbreaking I was trying to figure out why her story seems sort of freeing to me. I don’t mean to say that I’d like to be in her situation. I don’t think any parent would want that.  I’m intrigued that her journey in having a terminally ill child has freed her from a heaviness that a LOT of parents struggle with; parenting for the future.

She mentions that her style of parenting isn’t typical because her son has no future so their family must focus on now; enjoying kisses, naps together, cuddles and kisses and little milestones that will be very short-lived. Over the past six or so years I have come across so many books, magazines and blogs that try to point a parent towards a better and brighter future for their child. In the end I have literally thrown books across the room because I’ve felt that I can’t possibly live up to the standard that’s set before me by “experts” or just mommy bloggers who seem to have it all figured out. “Homeschool your kids in order to ensure they will actually be smart and creative. Teach them to read at age four, so that they can live a productive life without the likes of Elmo and Power Rangers. Give them enrichment classes and enable them explore their inner creative genius. Spend every waking moment intentionally investing into your kids to ensure they have a better future, you know, the one you wish you had!”

Dramatic? Me?  I don’t believe any of these models are wrong, per se. But I have felt an enormous pressure to do it all properly, to have thought through any and all of the implications on how I parent. What lies behind all of this intentionality seems to be so future focused; so they don’t end up screwed up; so they change the world by how well I’ve trained them! It makes it hard for me to relax and enjoy today with them.

I recently read The Idle Parent and had a good laugh. For a few days I even felt so free to be ok with my own imperfections as a parent. It was glorious to not feel the daily pressure of parental failure. I’m certain most of the message comes from the Western-cultural view that we are to make our mark and leave the world different than we found it; become Steve Jobs! “He changed the world, what’s your excuse”….slacker!

This article moved me in a variety of ways. It must be unbelievable to lose a child. I have a few friends who have and the grief they carry is alien to me. Yet, her language suggested a freedom to live and enjoy her child now; to let the future take care of itself and to deal with it when it comes. Something else that is total alien to me. I am trying though. What’s your excuse?

Sometimes, you just have to wear poodle slippers! You know?

The tension

A friend of mine, whose blog and family I adore, recently posted my exact sentiments about wanting to write as a place to process, reflect, and update on my life with children yet feeling the time is so limited to do so. This has been my tension since Sylvie was born. We moved to the West coast eight months ago while I was in my last month of pregnancy and since then we’ve had our third child, I’ve taken a break from homeschooling my son to put him in part time Kindergarten, we recently bought a house and we still have yet to move all of our stuff into it. Don’t forget the holidays and three birthdays plus an anniversary. It’s been a full eight months. It’s been so busy that I’ve even been too busy to cook and I’ve opted for pre-made foods from Trader Joe’s. What is my life coming too?!!!

Still these transitions aren’t the largest zap of my time which is keeping me away from blogging. God knows I have a ton to say right now. There have been major life changes for me, some too personal to share in an online journal form, so I would love to write out what is going through my head these days but the biggest form of time-zap is my family. I’ve reached a place in my life (maybe “reaching a place” is a bit more accurate-I’m still in the process) where my family is the MOST important thing in my life and spending time with my kids is the way I want to invest my time. This is the main reason I’m not writing, I want to invest deeper into my kids because they need this with all of the transition in our lives. This is not to say that women who blog aren’t spending enough time with their kids. For some moms their children are older or they have kids with different needs than mine, allowing them a bit more free time to write.

Here lies my tension! I want to write because I feel I’ve learned more in the last few months than in the past few years but there just isn’t enough time in the day right now. Maybe when we move and get a bit sorted I’ll feel that I can give more time to my ruminations. I also started to invest more time into jewelry making in the evenings as a creative outlet and that has taken away  from writing, but if there is one thing I could communicate about these past few months it would be this: Family is the most important gift there is. Time is very fleeting. We get one go around so don’t waste time with mindless tasks that keep you busy but never accomplishing anything. Love! Yes, indeed….LOVE!

Oliver just turned 6 and I can’t believe his feet are so big and his body so grown up. He’s not a baby anymore, never again. Someday he will marry (I hope) and want a family of his own. Someday I’ll be a grandmother and that day will likely come closer than I would even realize. Someday my teeth will stop working as will my eyes and the changes will come to my body like a hurricane. Someday Matt and I will be no more and these days I’m not so concerned with the ‘legacy’ we leave behind as I am about the time we were given to love and create. So here we are in a very normal life with very normal activities but I’m very aware how extrordarinary our lives are while we are here.

Perhaps I’ll write more on this tomorrow….

Getting Old(er)

After I hit 30 I noticed that certain things began to change. When I was 29 I was probably in the best shape of my life. I was getting married so I did what most people do….worked out a lot right before the wedding day. I was going to Hawaii for honeymoon and also going to be ‘neked’ in front of the husband for the first time so I wanted to look all splendid and stuff. I look back at photos of our honeymoon and think ,”Dang! I was pretty hot!”

I got pregnant four months after being married so watching my body shift and morph into a house for a baby was very surreal. I loved the preggy look but it was strange to share my space with another human. I’ve had two more since then and I’m closer to 40 than I am to 30. I’ve noticed a lot of changes since I was married and some of them are very profound. Some are pleasant, some are welcomed, some are very unpleasant and some just are. I want to see a bumber sticker that reads, “Cellulite happens” but I’m sure no one is brave enough to stick it to their car. It’s a lot more daring than throwing up “Obama ’08” or “I heart Pat Buchanan”

I find that there are areas that I buy into culture like the next shmuck when it comes to body image. This culture idolizes youth in a variety of ways but the young body is probably the most pervasive. Every check out stand I go to (except Trader Joe’s) I find magazines shaming female celebrities who dare to go out to a public beach with saggy thighs. There are also times where I really don’t care what is happening to me as I age. I like my grey hair and my wrinkles. I dye the grey sometimes otherwise I’d rockin’ the bride of Frankenstein look. It’s only greys on the sides. I also like my crows feet and laugh lines. I like my narrow face and the fact that I don’t look like I’m 25 anymore. I think there’s a certain dignity in getting older and watching things change.

The other areas that are hard to accept are back problems and various pains through the body. It seems like you hit 30 and your body turns on you. It slows down it’s metabolism so you just look at food and gain weight. Seriously, what is with that? Seems as you get older you actually need energy to keep yourself from atrophying. I have also noticed how my teeth are failing me. After nursing three babies they are really not as good as they should be. Now that I’ve had so much work done on my mouth I’m thinking of my teeth everyday. I think of how much sugar I eat and how it’s effecting my teeth. I notice other’s teeth like some sort of obsession. Just the other day an old man, maybe in his 80’s, was talking to me and I was noticing he had his original teeth….and, they looked great! Great for being in his 80’s. I can’t believe how much I’m noticing teeth now that mine are becoming weaker and weaker.

I don’t lament the loosening of my skin or the changing of my body as much as I’ve actually been heartbroken thinking of more pain, sickness and decay as I get older. The beauty of age is wisdom, peace and experience. I want to be one of those old women who smile a lot and drive so slow that everyone behind them gets pissy. Those slow drivers have all the time in the world to take it easy. They’ve rushed their whole lives, it’s time to rest and enjoy now. Ah, peace! Come to me in my old age! But can you please just leave my teeth in tact?

If there is one piece of advice I could give the youth today I would tell them…. Floss!

The Difference Three Can Make

 

Oliver and Chloe reading to Sylvie

 

I thought the transition from two to three kids was going to take me down mentally and physically when I thought of the day Sylvie would arrive. Maybe it’s because going from one child to two was like whiplash as my first two are so close together. One day I was cuddling my son as he was hitting the 18 month mark and just a few months later my daughter came along. I found myself chasing after a highly active boy with a newborn in a car seat that was slung under my wrist. Even if I wore her on me I still had to chase a small boy while nursing and recovering from labor. I remember how scared I felt when Matt returned to work full-time and I was left in the house, outnumbered, by two little humans.
I thought that surely three would bring the type of chaos that drives women to develop a bad prescription pill problem and causes their homes to wreak of the ubiquitous soiled nappy. To my surprise the chaos hasn’t been much of an issue. What I have noticed is that I really don’t have much time for anything. I can be in the middle of cutting a sandwich in half and literally have to put it down mid slice because the screaming baby has to be held. Some days my laundry makes it to the front door (apartment living=laundry room) and just sits there until I get a chance to start it.
My most obvious sign that I have so little time these days is the fact that I haven’t written much even if I feel like I have a lot to say. I’d like to write just to vent or to heal. Gardening and writing were always my outlet once I was at home with babies. It’s not that it’s been taken from me as much as I’ve chosen to put other things first. I do however miss the process; writing (similar to journaling) to search for an answer or to prove to myself that my life is amazing. I’m sort of a verbal processor so if I can’t talk it out I need to write it out. I am also my worst critic and usually feel I’m not doing a good job at this ‘mommy’ thing. When I write I can see that I, in fact, am giving it my best and there is movement in terms of how my kids are developing.
When we moved to Washington my son started to really struggle with his attitude. I think it was all of the transition. For a boy who doesn’t transition well this might have been a bit traumatizing for him. Within less than a year we sold our home and said goodbye to the only place he’s ever known. We waved away all of our friends and moved into a much smaller living space with no garden to play in. He now shares a room with his sister and is making all new friends. We then had a baby and I put him in Kindergarten for 2.5 hours a day. Oh, the poor boy!
So since I haven’t been writing about our journey together I am unable to see where I am doing well with him and where I need to work through how I parent him. Basically I’m feeling a bit like a failure. It’s funny how the writing actually helped me step back and evaluate my efforts. The photos I posted went so well into my themed post that I could sit back with a sigh of accomplishment. I’m being honest in saying that the comments left have also been healing and have spurred me onto being a better mom. Funny how encouragement will do that; make you want to be more!
These days I have time to read to kids (some days even that doesn’t happen), make sure they aren’t wearing stinky clothes, bathe their bodies  (although that too doesn’t always happen as much as it should), and feed them food that won’t make their teeth fall out someday. I’m also enjoying my new little girl something awful. There’s something about having a baby this time around. I’m more relaxed, choosing to enjoy her more. That’s about all I have time for these days. Keep stopping by. I love the company!

Other rites of passage, teasing on the playground

What is it about watching someone’s child teasing your child that makes one want to jump into the action, take advantage of being ‘bigger’ and rescue our kids from pain and disappointment? I know protecting our children is the main element to this response but maybe there’s more in there that brings us back to our own experiences with pain when we were young. It feels like we need to fight that injustice. I’m not really sure. All I know is when Matt and I were with the kids yesterday and three boys started taunting our son, it was really disheartening.

My son is super friendly and outgoing and has always felt comfortable approaching strangers and children he isn’t familiar with, asking them if they want to play. He really does make friends wherever he goes and he hasn’t reached that shift in life where one becomes insecure about their likability and how others view them. Yesterday we had a family day and took the kids out to a park to play. Three other boys showed up, mom still getting stuff out of the mini van somewhere. It didn’t take long for Oliver to approach them and say, “Hey, do you wanna play with me?” Matt and I always smile at this because it reaffirms to us that our kid is comfortable in his skin. He’ll have his adolescent years to become an awkward, lanky kid with a cracky voice and oily skin who tries to conceal his insecurities when dealing with how others are viewing him.

For some reason the boys didn’t give Oliver a chance and just said, “No kid, you’re boring. And you’re no hero, you’re a zero!” I’m not sure they even knew what it meant except that it was some sort of a taunt. They likely heard it on a cartoon or a show. But they kept saying it, even though his parents (us) were right there. Matt and I just looked at each other with that, “I know we can’t really jump in right now but how far do we let this go?” look. Oliver just came over by us and said, “Pappa, can YOU push me on this toy?” and that was that.

It seemed pretty painless for my son but it was gut wrenching for me. Maybe it’s because I know that this is only a small portion of how children actually treat each other and it seems to intensify when they get older; the taunts are more hurtful and I can’t really protect my children from most forms of pain. I hate it when they fall and experience physical pain but emotional pain is a totally different world! It’s a world I’m very familiar with as an awkward kid from a really messed up and poverty-riddled home life. I know very well how deep teasing runs into forming how you see yourself but I’m also aware of how crucial it is for parents not to transfer their pain and insecurities onto their own children. I’m sure we all know of parents (maybe we are those types parents) who instill a false sense of superiority in their kids because they don’t want them to experience rejection like they did and it’s a very dangerous path to walk with formative little people.

So we sat and watched and listened yesterday, wondering how our son would interpret what was happening to him. It’s similar to watching kids play with your child and they are doing the ‘run away from the loser’ game, this time your child is the ‘loser’ they are running away from. You can’t really jump in, but you sort of have to. Or do you? I have no answer for this. I just know when my kids are playing the run-away game from another child it is NOT ok and I for certain jump in. I can’t keep them from experiencing rejection but I can help them learn that inflicting it is unacceptable!

The best part of yesterday was indeed how Oliver interpreted and responded to what will go down in history as ‘the playground event’. When we were leaving we asked him what he thought of what they said to him. His response gave Matt and I the assurance that he’s going to be just fine. He said, “I don’t know why they were saying that to me. A zero is just a number. That doesn’t make sense”. Matt and I smiled and said, “Yes, you’re so right. What silly boys who think it’s mean to call someone a number. Great attitude Oliver”. And that was that!

Similar Post:

Rite of passage for girls (the battle of the body)

This place matters!

Oliver helping

There is a home down the street from us that has been under renovation for a few years now and it’s coming along wonderfully. I wish I had before and after photos of how it looked then compared to now. Every year they scrape away at the exterior, paint one side of it or reside it with real wood. It’s been going on since we moved in four years ago and I love to see the slow progression of developing beauty. It parallels to what we’ve been doing in our home. It’s been slow-moving and a every year we do a bit more. We’re actually almost done with our goals that we set before us in order to sell it. I’ve been aware of how much we’ve tried to love this house and make her beautiful since she was so unloved and ugly before. Our neighbors tell us stories of her former treatment. Originally we thought we would just flip the house but we stayed and the long haul has taught us about the slow process of real change.

Everything that was done to this house before we owned it was very slap-dash; just get it covered with white paint or throw up a slab of wood panelling to hide a derelict wall. There was absolutely no craftsmanship or care put into ANYTHING and it’s always been very sad to me as we’ve been tearing down old things that were cheap and poorly done to put up something new.The house was even a rental for a while and you know how that can go…. just cover it with paint and call it good. Paint over light plates or splash primer on a wood floor. No big whoop! I’ve lived in many apartments over the years and have seen how rentals are ‘updated’. We found a joy in taking care of our home so that people feel safe when they come over for a meal and when someone buys our home they see that she has been well loved, not just maintained.

The other day I walked by that old house that someone has been fixing up and there was a sign in the window that said, “This place matters” and I smiled big. I couldn’t agree more. Our homes and how they are taken care of matter. I even found a picture book for the kids a few years back about a family that moves into ‘the hood’ and you see the transformation that happens over the years, perhaps even a few decades. Flowers in the garden, children being born, a community garden in the place of an alleyway.  It was a huge challenge to my ‘hurry up and get ‘er done’ personality. Sometimes beauty takes time to develop. This has truly been the case in our home. Having two kids inside while we work has always been the challenge in getting projects done, that and a husband who works full time. Nap time is short and it’s the only time to work if you don’t want to totally neglect your children. So our home has taken the past four years to make beautiful.

We have both leaned so much about fixing up a home. I can now mud, sand, cut and throw up tile, hang all sorts of bits and bobs and turn a waste land into a flourishing garden. The irony is now that she is where we want her, we’re selling her. My garden that I’ve dug up myself and turned from a rubbish bin, planting food and flowers for our family, it will belong to someone else.  I’ve literally pulled garbage in the form of plastics, toys, bolts, hygiene products and all sorts of goodies from the earth for the past four years and replaced them with seeds and compost that thrive and feed us. My colours and textures will bring rest and refreshment to another family. Children that are not mine will run and chase one another on these beautifully sanded and finished hard wood floors. And others will wake up every morning to a bright and naturally lit kitchen and dining room and they will sit with morning coffee or tea and flow refreshingly into the day. I’m choosing to enjoy these last months or weeks that we have left within these walls, allowing our home to love us back but when we leave I know I will cry. This place does indeed matter mainly because we have cared for her so much. Four years seems like a dot in the scheme of time but it’s what we’ve accomplished in these four years that has taught us so much. Beauty really does matter.

Thursday night dinners

salad from my garden

More food

One of many outdoor fires