"Give yourself a break. When you find you have free time, go for it! But you know what? If you don't, don't sweat it ~ you will. If you live in the present instead of fretting about all the projects and dinners you're trying to juggle, you'll start enjoying your time with your kids more and you'll be able to recognize and utilize your pockets of free time. Sometimes you have to put your art on the back burner and take care of your kids while they need you. Baby- and toddlerhood are tem-porary conditions, mommas, remember that. They'll all be in school soon, right? And we'll have a few hours every day in which to get to know ourselves again. Eyes on the prize, ladies...eyes on the prize."
~Liz Hum, writer, filmmaker, designer, photographer
The Studio Mothers listing of e-courses &
Did You Know?
May is Creative Beginnings Month
(That's great, but how about a Creative *Finishings* Month instead??)
|Read past issues of the Creative Times||
Hello, creative mamas!
In theory, it's supposed to be springtime in New England, but our reality is back-to-back rainy days in the upper 50s. All we can do is watch from the window as the dandelions take over the lawn in glee. One benefit to this somewhat uninspiring weather is that you can nestle on the couch with your laptop and not feel badly about missing out on the sunshine. And it's just a little rain delay, not the disasters that others are faced with elsewhere in this country and around the world. Warm weather will come to New England soon enough, and then we'll all be tempted to complain about the heat.
I've been thinking a lot about seeing the glass as half full versus half empty. But really, our perspective shift can go even deeper than that. In the words of Albert Einstein, "There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle."
Chose miracles, even if that miracle is simply the comfort of a sofa, a few lines of a poem, and the warmth of a child snuggled next to you.
From my creative home to yours,
Many of us grapple with a mounting sense that things aren't quite right. Life is beautiful, in lots of ways, but if we could just shift this or that or accomplish X, the pieces would fit together better and we could make it all work. At that magical moment, we'd finally arrive at that elusive place of "balance" that everyone always talks about.
With trumpet fanfare in the background, we'd finally figure out how to raise happy children while holding down a job, reading two books a week, keeping the house spotless, fitting into our skinny jeans, growing heirloom tomatoes, and making mind-boggling progress in our creative work that results in a finished project that ultimately brings fame and fortune.
I've spent many (most) years of my life pursuing support systems and strategies that I believe will enable the flow and sense of ease that we all yearn for. I often seem tantalizingly close ~ if I could just tweak my organizational systems a bit or come up with a few more ounces of self-discipline then I would really be at the top of my game. I'd be able to do all of the most important things and stay constructively focused on my priorities.
Well, not so much. Despite my deep, abiding affection for all things organizational and relating to time management and life design, I must acknowledge that my addiction to these tools is often just another distraction. The truth is, I can't get this messy, often chaotic life to "balance." The pieces are big and unwieldy and no matter what I do, they're going to fall on my head. And you know what? That's OK. Balance isn't really the point.
Increasingly, when I feel uncomfortable or anxious, I am able to take a breath and say, "This, too." My preschooler has another toilet-training accident on the living room carpet? This, too. A client miscommunicates a marketing project outline and I end up having to start all over again? This, too. I can't find time to finish that art project with the kids? This, too. The collard greens I'd planned to steam for dinner have gone wilted and weepy in the crisper? This, too. It's the resistance that causes suffering.
I'm learning how to let go into things that are seemingly unpleasant or upsetting. I ask myself, in the refrain of Buddhist teachers, "Is this worth sacrificing my ease?" Because in truth, 99% of the time, whatever irritation or anxiety I'm experiencing is really not worth losing my sense of peace. Ease is always there, always within grasp, if I chose it.
When you start choosing ease as a matter of habit, you begin to realize how much you used to get carried away by the utterly minor dramas of daily life. You begin to notice how other people around you seem to complain a lot and are constantly fixated on what isn't working. You can't help but observe how so many others unwittingly opt for disharmony.
You can't change other people, and that's OK. You can't be all things to everyone at the same time. You can't do everything you want to accomplish today, right now. You can't fit your many passions into a simultaneous funnel. But you can learn to wake up in wonder at the start of each new day.
Making Creative Hay Outside
If fair weather has come to your part of the world ~ or if you live in a mild climate and enjoy fair weather more often than not ~ think about using outside resources to your creative advantage. When younger kids are out of school, making outdoor time a regular part of your routine can yield many benefits.
If you have a yard of your own, make the most of this bonus. If you have a fenced-off space ~ even a small one ~ so much the better. Many mothers are able to sit on a lawn chair and write, read, or sketch while their kids play safely nearby. You can peruse that stack of magazines you haven't read yet ~ any reading material that is easy to put down as needed. Outdoor time is also a great opportunity to take photographs of your kids or the world around you.
To stack the odds in your favor, use this four-pronged approach to outdoor (and indoor) downtime:
- Make sure everyone is well fed, watered, and toileted.
- Spend some time totally focused on the kids.
- When the kids seem engaged or playing independently after having some Mommy face time, turn to your creative work.
- Try to remain flexible. There will be days when the kids don't want you staring at a notebook for even 30 seconds, and there will be other days when they're happily immersed in their own worlds for 30 minutes. Go with the flow.
If your inventory of outdoor toys seems insufficient, yard sales and consignment shops are great places to pick up a few more. You might also send an e-mail to friends with older children to ask if they have anything hiding in their garages or attics that they no longer want.
Many toddlers and young children love to play with water. Consider filling a small kiddie pool with a few inches of water and a bunch of bath or beach toys ~ often good for at least 30 minutes of interest. For other outdoor play activities, do a bit of google searching and jot down the ideas you like best.
Food always seems to be more fun outdoors, too. Whether it's just a snack in the backyard or a full-on picknick basket in the middle of a field, eating outside makes everyone happy.
When you're headed to the park and your kids are old enough to play safely without constant supervision and won't walk in front of the swings, don't forget to bring a notepad, sketchbook, or something else to spend time with while you keep one eye on the children. You may find that it's worth going out of your way to visit a playground that is fully enclosed and is equipped with a good amount of safe climbing structures to keep your kids entertained.
While you don't want your kids to feel like you're constantly on standby, waiting to bolt off to your own thing, you do want to be prepared to squeeze in some creative work when the opportunity arises. Over time, you'll find the middle way that feels best for your and your family.
What works for you? Share your experience!
No Time for Journaling?
One oft-heard reason for not writing a journal entry is that there's no time in a day to do that. Here's a perfect strategy to overcome that issue:
Write just a ONE WORD journal entry that describes your day. You may be able to think about it while you are commuting home after work, or while preparing dinner, or while brushing your teeth before going to sleep.
Writing a one-word entry keeps continuity in your journal writing, so that when you DO have time to write, you'll have something to remind you of your past days.
Reprinted from the International Association for Journal Writing (www.IAJW.org) by permission.
The Project: Making Maps
Each month in the Creative Times, Tammy Garcia of Daisy Yellow brings you a family-friendly art project. Enjoy!
By Tammy Garcia
Age range: 3+
What is your favorite type of map? Search your house and bookshelves for maps to peruse. I found a National Geographic map of California from the 1950s in my dad's attic last summer. Rental car driving maps. Quirky hand-drawn city maps at hotel front desks. Maps of intricately detailed islands. A map of Disney World!
- A few large sheets of paper ~ tape together printer paper to get a sheet about 18"x24" to start. Space is important because the kids aren't yet sure of scale or perspective, so this gives them a lot of freedom. We draw our maps lying or kneeling on the hardwood floor.
- An assortment of markers, pens, and colored pencils.
A few notes before you get started: The idea is not accuracy (not even resembling accuracy); it is to inspire kids to think in new ways and enjoy the process of drawing and inventing. It may help for kids to imagine looking down at the place they are mapping from a helicopter. The place can be real or imaginary. Ideas include the backyard, their room, their school, or a favorite park. Imaginary worlds are a blast ~ an imaginary amusement park or tropical island or pirate cove with houses, igloos, stop signs, wacky animals, stores, volcanoes, parks, forests, ponds, and rivers.
Try this project without rulers or erasers. Simply let the kids draw and play.
You'll wind up with several maps that you develop together. If you want to check out some of the maps we've made, go to Making More Maps. You can also Teach Kids How to Read a Map.
- Lay out paper, pens, markers, colored pencils on the floor or very large table. I usually just start drawing a pretend city and the kids either get interested in my map or start drawing their own.
- Encourage creative naming for everything from streets to stores to mountains.
- Ask the kids to add details and colors in colored pencil or marker.
Tammy Garcia, mother of two, is a self-taught artist and photographer. Find creative inspiration at her blog, Daisy Yellow. Don't miss Tammy's Art Journaling 101, the monthly Creative Experiment Challenge, Kick-Start Journal Prompts, and a bounty of other creative resources.
Enchanted Evening Benefit Gala
Loaves and Fishes is an organization based in Ayer, Mass., that provides food and temporary support services to residents of area communities.
This vital organization is holding a fundraiser gala on June 9 at the Fruitlands Museum in Harvard, Mass. This special evening includes live music and a benefit art auction. And I'm delighted that a small multimedia piece I submitted will be included in the auction.
For more information or tickets, click here. And thanks!
Visual Artists: What's Your Experience?
As a creative mother, you're brimming with wisdom to share with other mothers. I'd love to have your response to the following question, which will run in an ongoing column at a new creativity website (details coming soon!).
THIS MONTH'S QUESTIONWhat strategies do you recommend for visual artists who are looking for ways to break a larger project into family-friendly smaller bites? If you only have 30 minutes a day for your creative work, what's the best strategy for making the most of that time while still working toward a larger goal?
I'd love to include YOUR experience in my column. To contribute, send me your e-mail response.
Do you have a question for a future column? Send it in!
Life Assessment Tool Update
If you completed the Life Assessment Tool and are wondering where your results are, I haven't forgotten you!
Responses to the Assessment have been overwhelming and it's taking me some time to get to each one and provide the attention that your thorough and thoughtful responses merit. Hang on...your response is coming soon!
If you haven't yet taken my free online Life Assessment Tool specifically for creative mothers, you can do so here.