I couple of more thought-provoking links this week along with the light stuff. What can I say, the baby's been sleeping and I've actually had time to read whole articles!
I'm glad to see this legislation is happening, though saddened that it is necessary and also how much some of the big companies are fighting it. The stuff we put on our skin is pretty scary and I'd really like to have a bit more confidence that I know what is in the products and that it is safe for me.
In spite of the fact that both my father and my partner are coders, I'm not sure I agree with this article. I do believe that girls should be encouraged in math and sciences, and should be encouraged to do anything they want, including code, but I disagree that coding is the *best* skill to have. I took some programming classes in the beginning of my tenure at Apple and discovered I'm no coder, so this may sound like sour grapes. But my point is really that I made a very lucrative career by having skills complementary to people who code. And I don't feel like I'm missing out.
I recently posted a link to a template on Cathy Zielske's blog that was designed for Instagram photos. I love Instagram. I knew I had a handful of sweet little photos of The Bean that I had shot with Instagram, so I put together a quick little layout using CZ's template. I am so bad at Photoshop, but using a template made the process bearable. I really like the result. And working with these pictures again I realized how much I love them, filters and all. I'm so glad to get them off my camera and used for something creative.
In my Thursday morning mama's group a couple of months ago, our check-in was to describe our most "brilliant mommy moment." For one mom that was when she finally figured out how to wrangle 18 yards of Moby to wrap her baby safely against her chest while she made dinner. For another it was every night she remembered to cut up snacks for the next day after her toddler was in bed, so they would be ready when she needed them throughout the day. When it came to be my turn, I said I felt brilliant when I put myself first.
The Bean was only about a month old at that point, and putting myself first seemed both counter-intuitive and impossible. She seemed to nurse constantly, and when she wasn't nursing she was sleeping in my arms. I couldn't put her down, I couldn't feed myself well, I was so tired I couldn't see straight. She needed me so much. How could I possibly put my own needs in front of the needs of this tiny, helpless infant?
But somewhere in those few weeks I had discovered that if I asked someone to hold her for me just a little longer and got that shower, or made sure to eat enough protein in my meal and set aside some good snacks, or napped when she did at least once during the day, I would be so much more able to be present for her in all of the other moments.
Many days I felt guilty asking for that kind of help. I felt I should be able to do it all, always be on. After all, I was the mother. I had everything she needed and no one could replace me. How could I choose to turn away even for a little bit of time to take care of myself first? But when I pushed past the guilt and did it, I realized how necessary it was. Putting myself first made me a better mother. More able to deal with the hard moments, more patient, more flexible. More able to be brilliant when the situation demanded it.
In my postpartum yoga class, our teacher talks a lot about mindful breathing, and how, if you come back to the breath, you can better manage the anxiety and stress and fear that comes with parenting a small child. When you are with your breath, there is only this moment, this breath. No before or after, just the one moment you are living right now. And with mindfulness, you will feel the right thing to do. What you need, what your child needs, what your partner needs. How to navigate the complexity. Because even a complex situation is simpler when taken a single moment at a time. Even when you think you have no more to give, committing to give in just the next moment is possible. And then the next. And then the next.
Maybe that's really the secret to parenting - the point is being in the moment, not how brilliant that moment is. We can only be brilliant one moment at a time. If we are lucky, maybe we get a short a short string of brilliant moments. But we can't expect brilliance in every moment - we may get ugly ones or ones when we feel like a failure. But in the next moment we can start again, come back to the breath, and risk brilliance again.
I love Sunset Magazine. I don't even know how long I've been reading it - longer than I've had a house of my own, certainly. When I recently did a clean out of my magazine subscriptions, Sunset was one of only 3 subscriptions I didn't cancel and the other two have since lapsed. I love when that new issue arrives in my mailbox and I can curl up with a mug of tea and flip through the pretty lifestyles that don't actually seem so unattainable, unlike a lot of magazines I used to read!
When I bought my house it had been a rental for a number of years, so as you might imagine the yard had largely gone to pot. Everything was overgrown or weedy. The gophers had the run of the place and I had the twisted ankles to prove it. A couple of times in the years that I've lived here I managed to rein in the weeds in one or another corner of the lot, but I've never really had the place looking good all at once. I've never even had all of the front or all of the back looking good at once. Let's just say the yard was best enjoyed with blinders on. Just focus on this clean bit and don't look over there!
I've added flower beds, let them grow over, installed a container garden and let it get unruly, trimmed back the lovely antique roses that came with the place and then let them get out of control again, built raised vegetable beds and then forgot to clear them out in the fall, and hoed the weeds down to the dirt just to have them spring back after the next rain. It has definitely been a one-step-forward-two-steps-back sort of situation. But slowly, slowly, at least the back yard was becoming habitable. But then my back went out last fall right when I should have been cleaning up the garden for the winter. So that didn't happen. By the time my back healed I was too pregnant to do much in the way of yard work. And then right when it started to get warm again I had a new baby.
One fine day in late March I tied the baby to my chest and went out to survey the damage in the back yard. I could see the bones, and they were lovely. But oh, the weeds. So I set in. After about 30 minutes, during which I woke the baby by leaning forward so far, drenched myself in sweat from wearing 18 yards of Moby in full sun, and only pulled about 4 linear feet of weeds, I admitted defeat and called my friend Kate for some help.
I think she spent 6 hours back there, and let me tell you, that woman is a whirlwind. She dealt with the weeds, cleared out the veggie beds, refilled them with fresh dirt and compost, brought me veggie seedlings, was ruthless with the containers (emptied some, cut others back), and even cleared out the trash (hoarded containers) that was lurking in one back corner. Do you need help in your garden? Hire this woman.
By Mother's Day, I had a garden worthy of a Sunset photo shoot. At least from one wide angle.
The first week of this year I set a goal: paint 52 paintings before next New Year's Eve. This was 4 weeks pre-baby, and also 4 weeks pre understanding what living with a baby is like, so it might have been an overly ambitious goal. But a good goal should be a stretch, right? So far I've painted 4. Two of them I painted in January.
And if I'm counting correctly, we are currently in week 27. No matter. That means I have 25 weeks in which to catch up, right? I'll paint them small.
Whether or not I complete all 52, I'm enjoying the challenge of painting fast, without a goal beyond getting it done. I don't care if they are good, I just want them to be done. This painting for example, I really don't like:
It was inspired by a painting I saw at an open studio in May. And it did come out similarly to the source, but I realized about halfway through that the composition is boring and I wasn't loving the background color, and my brushes were too big to do what I was trying to do with the smaller branches. But it is done, and I learned some stuff (and I ordered some smaller brushes). And so I consider it a success. Though I'll probably paint over it to re-use the panel.
The biggest thing I'm learning is how to just get in the studio and go. My mom has been giving me the wonderful gift the last two months of two hours two afternoons a week without the baby. Sometimes I use the time to read or nap, or catch up on cleaning up the house, just keeping my sanity within reach, but as often as I can I spend at least one hour in the studio. Which means I can't dally like I used to. I don't have time for artist block. Get in there, paint, get done. It is immensely freeing. Sometimes frustrating, when Mom arrives home and The Bean is hungry and needs me immediately and I'm *so close* to nailing that little bit in the corner, but really that only happened once. And working fast is so good for me.
I've been photographing and posting the paintings on flickr as I finish them, so keep any eye out there if you are curious about my progress. I'll do an update in a couple of months - hopefully with more than 4 more paintings done!