Category: be kind to yourself

Serious Artist

“Don’t have kids” I was told. “You can’t be a serious artist and have kids”. My legs got weak. My friend said the teacher of the art class and she were talking about me, that I shouldn’t get pregnant, I shouldn’t have kids. That I was a good artist, if I had kids I wouldn’t have time? Be taken seriously? This was right at the beginning of me trying to get pregnant.  Years later, right before Jack and Fiona were born, I was turned on to a fabulous artist by one of my teachers. She lent me his catalogue. I took it and read it. He did wonderful paintings and studies. He did travel diaries which he worked on abroad for a year. I read he had kids and I became obsessed about who took care of the kids. It was the wife. She stayed home and took care of the kids while he went on a yearlong painting residency in a tropical rainforest. Is that why I was told women artists who are also mothers can’t become serious artists because it would be difficult to pick up and leave the children when they are young for a year to do a serious yearlong art residency? Or that we can’t just work in the studio all day long. We have responsibilities in home. Why can a woman have a full-time job and be a mother, but not be a serious artist? Why did my friend and my teacher tell me this? I looked through a book last night, a survey of contemporary painters. There are several women in the book, and it’s filled with top notch paintings. I read through the writings about the different artists. I noticed no one mentioned children, having children, how domesticity has influenced their work. There are a lot of fiber arts that deal with subjects of domesticity, but it’s mostly a direct connection with a material used in domestic products; fabrics, yarn, embroidery, wool, using these materials in new and interesting ways. My work uses traditional picture making materials, paint, paper, glue, charcoal, pastels, canvas, wood, the printing press, even my Nap Time Notebooks are in traditional sketchbooks. But my identity as an artist has been very influenced by my childhood, my relationship with my mom and her death, parenthood, wifehood, domesticity. It’s filled with memories through color and line. Raising children is emotional, my work is emotional. Was their critique of me having children saying I didn’t have it in me to do both? I wouldn’t work hard enough, or I didn’t want it bad enough? I remember my mom telling me I would never be able to be a serious artist because I would never be able to spend hours alone in my studio. After my declaration of becoming an artist she found out that she was wrong, that I did have it in me to spend countless hours working in my studio. Thank God for the women in my life who said, “Go for it”! Have kids and be an artist. Thank you, Ladies! It wasn’t easy, making time for my studio after Jack and Fiona were born. But I did it and I wrote a book about it too.

Be Glum, Be Happy

Today is a studio day. That is something to be VERY HAPPY for! I don’t have a crappy job. I’m writing and painting and being a super groovy mom. On Face Book a friend posted she wanted to hear some good news (it’s been depressing lately for so many of us).  Ones who care about humanity. We all agreed on Coffee! That was one of the best things in life! Anyhow it altered my consciousness just being part of that conversation. Even though things are very glum right now.

I’m sitting down to have lunch. I flip through my red journal, I read the first entry 12/16/03. I notice I have stopped putting dates on things. I wrote, Happy Birthday Mom! Then I talk about how “Today I hate this place more than ever, it is one of the worst environments I could find myself in.” I went on to talk about how I wish I could get a new job. How my manager said to me “People shouldn’t be so jaded and just be happy”.  I had a few more journal entries about eating bagels, wanting to lose ten pounds, and my dog Wiggly. Then I quit writing in this journal. I grabbed it the other day to take to the beach.  It has a leather cover with a string to tie it shut and blank cream-colored paper.  I Sat on the sand behind a large log that blocked the wind coming from the sea. I wrote, “Beach, cold, ice air, Poetry? Beautiful Day. October.”  Today I have Navratan Korma for lunch, sit in a quiet house and write. The bit of blue sky peering through the smoke, knowing the fire will be over eventually, having fresh drinking water, a happy family and a good dog makes me happy.

Time for New Paper Turkeys

The space in between. In between two paper turkeys that hang on the wall from over a year ago. Above the kitchen table, many meals shared. The crows cawing loud today. What are you cawing about crow? September heat rot summer figs. Dried dark purple corpses, tears down the middle, reminiscence of pink and yellow juicy insides. The leaves on the fig tree so large now, they canopy the sand box, crisp dried fig leaves crunch under my feet. I walk to my green chair I put in the corner at the beginning of summer.  I sit down, it’s cool here, the coolest place around. I wonder if I should put away the trucks for the winter? Will they deteriorate if I leave them out in the rain and wind? Should I put up new paper turkeys? These are baby paper turkeys, just dollops of paint, glue, brown and orange construction paper, and googly eyes. Jack and Fiona are three and a half now. Their Thanksgiving decorations this year will be more sophisticated. A few little baby paintings are still taped on the wall. Fiona is drawing “The Green Faced Man” now. Jack rode a scooter down the sidewalk this morning to school and stopped at all the driveways.  Time that passes between is a growing time, a learning time. It’s hard to let it go, of the past three years, the baby phase. It slipped through my hands like sand in the sand box. The narrative was set, predetermined. The baby is born dependent on the caregivers, the child learns to be interdependent and become caregivers themselves. I never think about the time they spend away, in their communities without me. I think of them as they are with me. Fiona started helping a younger child we were with yesterday in a very mature way. I can only imagine she is a caring person on the outside. Jack likes talking to everyone. He looks older than he is and speaks clearly. He looks at people’s eyes when having a conversation.  What’s happened in between the spaces here-  two babies have grown into confident, individual children. Maybe it’s time for new paper turkeys.   

Cruel World

“STOP LOOKING AT YOUR PHONE” this cop shouts. I look his direction. “I’m not, really” I say. “YES, YOU ARE” he says. I didn’t like his tone. He had asshole written all over his face. I still should have said, “OK” and put my phone down. I wasn’t even looking at anything, except a big blob of a bright red and yellow and green circle that was hurricane Maria, at the same time I was listening about the earthquake in Mexico on the radio. I was also still wondering what kind of birds I’ve been seeing that fly in a flock and look like a cross between a turtle dove and a hawk, birds I’ve never seen here before. The light was red, when it turned green I turned right. I failed my first driving test because I didn’t turn right on a red. I learned to drive in New York where rights on reds were illegal and I was taking the test in California. Maybe the cop was annoyed at me because I was lollygagging. I was too numb to be on the go. I am too numb. The cop made me cry, a few tears came from my eyes and my body felt frightened. I felt scolded like a child and mad like a rebel.

“I love you mommy” Fiona said as I carried her in my arms, the top of her head was all purple. We were playing tag and she fell over a big tree. Her eyes were closing. “Wake up Fiona” I said as I carried her up the hill. I had been lost all night. As usual I couldn’t remember any phone numbers or find any phones that worked. There was a party at my house, shards of glass were on the floor, windows broken out. “What happened?” I said. “I have three-and-a-half-year old’s, you need to pick up this glass” At the top of the stairs I left the house. I walked through people, I saw a city scape and a mountain range. All the people I met were nice. They were artists and musicians and children. I kept trying to find out where my family was. I thought I was in Oregon but there was no smoke in the air. When I woke up I was surprised how deep I had fallen back asleep. I woke up sometime last night with insomnia, afraid to look at the clock. I thought I would be up for the rest of the night.

A giant spider just crawled up my wall. Dark brown, menacing. Billy the dog is laying down at my feet and the house is quiet. There’s only moments left before I must take a shower and pick up the little ones. Jack didn’t want to go to school today, he said he was scared, that kids were hitting and pushing him. I don’t know if it’s true or not. But it reminded me of what a cruel world it is. As much as I have protected and nurtured and poured everything into raising my babies they will eventually be exposed to all the things we think are true about life but turn out to be untrue as we get older. Fiona told me she wanted long hair, like her friend. There’s no way for me to alter their course anymore, how they respond to peer pressure. I will always have conversations with them and in the end when they are old my teachings will be in their core just like my moms are in mine. But my children are individuals, I don’t control their minds, they are free, just as I have always been free. It was a strange feeling when I saw this door opening, this future door.

Worrisome Times

I’m having anxiety lately. It’s hard to just sit here and not worry. Are other people feeling this way too? I am worried about the people getting hammered by hurricane season. I am worried about the Trump administration. The horrible things I worried about when president Trump became the Republican nominee are coming true. The worst things I thought he would do are happening. Thank god for our judicial system, at least things can be slowed down a little. I worry about the Earth and Global Warming. I worry about nuclear war. I worry. The furrow between my eyes becoming deeper. The lines around my lips. We all die someday. Will I be alive to see the collapse of the world as we know it? What future is there for Jack and Fiona?  I live in the moment when we are together, like it is the most important time in the world. My worries slip away when I am with my children. I cherish those moments, even the annoying ones.

I am forcing myself not to turn on the news again today. I must force myself. I am consumed by the bad news, the fires, the racism, all of it. I need to not watch the news and not look up facts about places and weather systems and wars. This morning when I was walking Billy, passing the Mission, I read the Church Services Schedule. I noticed there was a Haitian service, one Sunday a month at 6:00 PM. I thought about taking Jack and Fiona. I imagined the Haitian Priest conducting the service in French, and how beautiful it would be. Then imagined Jack and Fiona making too much noise and maybe the church goers would be mad at us and think we were rude. It felt good to know there is a Haitian community in San Rafael.

Outside, a sea of noises. Dogs barking, Blue Jays cawing, the Sycamore tree leaves rustling. The chimes-chiming. I finally take a deep breath. Fiona and Jack will be home from preschool soon. Older and wiser than when they left this morning. I’m going to try not to worry this afternoon. I’m going to give myself a break. Drink a glass of Sake, take my sign language class, take care of the kids and go to bed early. I want to turn on the T.V. so bad. I should unplug all of the T.V.’s. Turn off my phone. Let it all go. Except my sign language class. It’s a webinar!

Old Dog #2

How to build up your immunity when you’re an older mom with multiple young children


#1. Take baths, or meditate, or drink a cup of tea or coffee alone. The point is to be alone and chill. I know it’s hard, to find the time, to get away from the kids, to let go of responsibility and stress for twenty minutes. It’s hard and hard to justify it, until you realize you’re not so young anymore. Until every rendezvous to the kids museums and schools send you home with the flu. Until you can’t believe how much you’re getting sick. You start feeling like a heroin junkie on the couch playing cartoons for their little kids. Are you sick mommy? They ask. Yes, my throat hurts. I don’t tell them about the fever, the horrific body pains that shift each time I get a new fever. You begin to realize it’s time to take a bath, often. To take those twenty minutes. To not exercise as hard or as much as you used to, even though you see no reason not to EXCEPT that you literally do not have the energy to do it all. Just the basic stuff, cleaning, exercising, taking care of the house, the dog, playing with the kids, taking them places, grocery shopping and meal prep. Your body says NO in one way or another. Maybe it’s too late, maybe I’ve used up too much of my reserve, but it seems to me by trying to be healthy and productive as a mom I have made myself prone to sickness. I’m getting in the bath now, with a facial mask and shaving my legs. I’m drinking my water, having a glass of white wine. It’s Friday, the house is clean and all the laundry is clean. Jack and Fiona are at the park with the babysitter. The only thing I truly regret about this week is my lack of studio time, but I was sick. I miss the studio so much when I’m away.