the art inside

subtle shifts in perception

I've been working through what was a very emotional weekend.  My housemates birth process was one of the more intense experiences of my life.  Just being a witness to such an amazing event and all that went into her very special process was exhausting, I can't imagine what it must have felt like from her perspective.  I can say that I have never been so proud of a person, never so in awe of someones strength and power and grace, even when the whole thing sweeps you up in such a way that you can't hold on to the tail of the tiger anymore and have to allow yourself to be flung free, hoping you'll land safely.  And she did, with a beautiful baby in her arms as well, not too worse for wear.

I'm still recovering in some ways (though not as dramatically as her, of course).  Still processing the whole thing.  See, I have a hell of a lot of knowledge about birth and have had an abundance of resources available to me in my lifetime.  The midwives I am honored to call friends, the women who work tirelessly for safer birth that I am so fortunate to have at the end of the phone when needed, the sheer volume or passionate, caring women who have helped me learn all that I could... they still couldn't prepare me to witness such an event.  Even having babies of my own didn't really open my eyes to birth in America. And it frightens me a little, the sudden change in direction to which I feel called.  I don't have the resources right now to follow that call, but it's sitting within me, this desire to become more of the solution rather than an innocent bystander who sits on her knowledge and doesn't use it to change things for the better. 

Of course, this feeling may fade.  I may look back a month from now and wonder where all this passion went.  It may be that my sudden desire to change the world comes from the rush of endorphins still spiking in my body.  It could be that this immediacy will fade and I will go back to working for theatres where we make pretty plays for pretty rich people.  Maybe the two don't have to be mutually exclusive.

I don't know.

I just know that I am changed for what I witnessed.  And I think that is a good thing.  Now I just have to see where it takes me.

Sweet perfection

I'm at work today but taking a bit of a break to update this here blog thingie.  Mostly because something amazing happened this weekend and since I never did make baby books for my girls, this is all I have in the way of a record of the important things in their lives.

On Saturday evening our housemates welcomed a baby girl into their family.  It was a very long, emotional and difficult process that didn't exactly go as planned but at the end there was a healthy mama and a healthy baby and that is all that really matters.  Their daughter is so beautiful and fluffy (9lbs 4oz worth of fluff) and calm and perfect with little folded over ears from all that time with her head stuck in a pelvis.  She makes me want to cry, she's so amazing.  Mom and baby get to come home today and I can't wait to have a baby in the house again.  Especially one like her, perfect.

The housemates are very protective of their privacy so I don't know how much of her I'll get to share.  Maybe the photo of me holding her in recovery, maybe even a shot of the little boo, but whatever they allow just trust me that she's so cute it'll make your uterus hurt (you know, if you happen to have one).

In the meantime, send sweet babymoon vibes our way.  Our home just got a little fuller and I couldn't be more thrilled.

spending vs sharing

A while back, while listening to public radio in the car, I heard the following simple statement (paraphrased):

We're so wrapped up in trying to figure out how to spend our time, we forget how to share it.

Since then I've been watching for the moments that mean the most to me or my children and trying to get a sense of what surrounds them.  Is this a structured activity or a spur of the moment tickle attack?  Are we lounging on the couch cuddling (when "proper things" must be done) or are we in the middle of working hard together?  Is this art project careening off track or is it taking a path I couldn't have imagined?  Am I stressed about getting to the park to play and relax or am I pulling off the side of the road and throwing the kids into a stand of trees for an impromptu frog hunt? 

Those moments that reach into my heart and plant a little speck of magic come from so many different sources, I haven't been able to pin down the formula.  But I have found myself asking this question in those moments that feel off: am I spending our time or sharing it?  So often things go wrong when I'm simply filling up space.  When I'm truly looking for the connection, things go shockingly well.

How about you?  Are you spending or sharing your time?  What do the two feel like to you?

The New Children's Museum

Shadow Play

Lily checks out the shadow play at the New Children's Museum

Last week when Mark was out of town we decided to hit up the brand new Children's Museum in town.  It was stunning.  Lily's favorite was the pillow room, a space where the floors and walls were padded with mattresses and large, tire shaped pillows crowded the room.  She threw herself around in stacks of tires, climbed and slid down the way countless times and generally wanted to live there forever.  She also enjoyed the climbing wall, tent city and well, everything else about the place.  We went ahead and picked up Memberships despite the fact that it has one fatal (to me) flaw: no free parking.  They have a structure, but it cost $10 to park there and since it's located downtown, everything else in the area is metered and limited to two hours.  You can walk about six blocks to the mall and park there, but then I have to walk six blocks with my kids, who complain about having to walk six feet and constantly demand, "UP!" 

I'm willing to work with it.

It was just too much fun to watch Lily go from not wanting to touch or do anything to scaling a wall or laughing outrageously.  Anya, who usually takes longer to warm up to things, even started having a blast towards the end.  It was awesome.  I can see us spending a whole lot of time there.  Or at least two hours at a time until the meter runs out.

Do you have a children's museum in your town?  How is it?   

30 tiny moments: Found poetry

Eight years ago when I was getting married my dad handed me one of those (in my opinion) cheesy little books about marriage. You know the ones, all full of sappy poetry and sentiment. I set it aside and for almost a decade it's sat on a shelf collecting dust. *** click on over and see what I found in this little book that made me cry like a girl ***

one space or two?

I recently submitted a piece for publication. You know, in an actual book like object. I don't expect much from the experience just because I'm one of those people who believes in not getting your hopes up. But the truth is that it's one of the more exciting projects I've seen in a loooooong time and I've got my fingers crossed (abet behind my back). *** click on over for more ***

Mama Says Om Creative Challenge 1

MSO Weekly Challenge 1


Over at Mama Says Om, Christina posted a brilliant photo challenge for the week (but then, you already know that, because you went and checked out MSO... like I told you to!).  She writes:

This is a dare. Find good light: late afternoon is preferable, when the sunlight falls in long golden angles through the window or the trees. Take some pictures. Of your face. Of you. Good pictures, that you can love...

(click the quote to read the rest of the challenge) 

So today while having a picnic lunch ALL BY MYSELF I pulled out the camera and took a few shots.  It was so lovely to lay there in the sun while my children played at Grandma's house and I sat far away atop a hill, alone.  Of course, as soon as lunch was over there were groceries to buy, caulk needed from the hardware store (which sounds so dirty when you say it aloud, but not so much when you type it), and endless chores; but those moments under that tree made me feel oh so much more connected to myself.  Granted, these are no glamour shots.  Noooo.  But they made me feel like I could look back on them one day and see that there wasn't always chaos in my face. 

What about you?  Will you step up and look at yourself in the sun? 


elaine climbing 1993

A friend came by and brought with her a couple of pictures of me from 1993. They show me rock climbing and I exhibit such confidence, power, beauty and joy that I had a moment where I wanted to be her again. What happened to that girl? When did I become too afraid to tackle a rock face or rappel off a 12 story building? When did I loose that self confidence and that easy way of standing? It’s so easy for me to become idealistic about that time. But to be honest, 1993 was a really hard year in my life. A friend was killed, my world was changing, I had an actual breakdown (short, but rather dramatic). So much was shit. But I look at these photos and I can’t help but become nostalgic for who I used to be.

Of course, in those days if I got arrested for urban climbing, I’d only have my parents to answer to and not a nursling to worry about. If I fell off a rock, my life would be mourned, but I’d not have any children to leave behind. These days, with tiny faces turned up to me in wonder, I am so much more cautious with everything. One of my biggest fears is to leave them without a mother. Call me selfish, but I don’t want anyone else to be the one they call mommy. I want, more than anything in the world, to see them learn and grow and hear their thoughts about the world. I love watching them discover something new and can’t even fathom the idea that I could miss all of it, through one careless act.

And then? Crap. Then I start thinking about them pulling these kinds of stunts. I start thinking about all the risks they will take in their life and find my heart thumping at what little control I have. I comfort myself by looking at my mom and thinking, she raised two kids without too much horror, it can be done.

Tonight as I put Lily to bed, I lay next to her in the dark and listened as she told me all the things she planned to dream about (trees, houses, broccoli, hot dogs, mommy and daddy, her dog, the park...). I told her I loved her and smiled as she replied in kind. I resisted telling her she wouldn’t really understand what love is until she held a child of her own one day. I resisted telling her to be safe, so she’d get that chance. I resisted the thousands of words that pushed at my heart, knowing that I just can’t tell her; she’ll have to learn on her own. Besides, if she believes me, she might never know the joy of standing on top of a rock, wind at her back and adrenaline coursing through her body. And as much as I fear her fall, I also envy her freedom and the long line of risk she has yet to walk. There is so much to experience in this world. I just hope I have the courage to let her embrace it.

elaine on rock 1993

family score

My husband is a hummer. No, not the big gas guzzling ridiculous monsters passing for vehicles on the road these days; as in he hums. ALL THE FREAKING TIME. Sometimes, for variety, he whistles. I’ve grown used to it over the years. In fact, I often don’t even realize he’s even doing it anymore. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve caught myself singing some random song, like the theme for Bonanza and turned to Mark to ask, “You do this to me?” only to have him snicker and reply, “Yep.”

Now the girls are starting to do this. Just today I caught Lily humming some classical bit she heard on Little Einsteins. Even Anya will hum little tunes, her head bobbing comically and her little fingers twirling. The truth is, I love listening to my little family make music, especially when they are all humming something different and wander together to make a new string of music, discordant at times and unexpectedly melodic at others.

This is how I picture our future as we learn and grow as a family. I see us coming together to make music or discord and drifting away at other times to make our own tunes. I see sheets and sheets of music, written and rewritten to reflect our paths, together and apart, frequently losing our pages and running amuck as we try to find the right notes. Mostly I see so much beautiful music it makes my heart ache. Especially because the beauty will be made so much sweeter by the vast quantity of sour notes we’ll undoubtedly hit.

And so I once again find myself with music in my head, unaware if one of my family members put the tune there or if it was one from my own memory. And I can’t help but hum while I type, thinking about what song would be formed if only the kids were awake; waiting for morning so we can make music again.


When I was in school as a Creative Writing major, one of the things every professor stressed was writing every single day. Great idea; so didn’t happen for me. BUT when I started this blog after Lily’s birth, I’ve since managed to come pretty darn close. Now I’m a wee bit nervous because whenever I commit to something good for me, I then often turn tail and run away, meaning I may not even post a single entry all November. And that would be really funny, except that it wouldn’t be. So this could be a rather interesting study in my strange neuroses.

Signing up for NaBloPoMo means I’m committing to a post a day for all of November. Now I just have to figure out how to make this happen while on the road over Thanksgiving. Hmmm, could be interesting.

crafty ghosts

Holidays have kind of lost their magic for me over the years but I always knew that once I had kids I’d find it again. Then I had Lily and she was tiny and lumpy and didn’t do much. The magic? Not so much. BUT NOW! Now that she’s getting bigger and starting to get the anticipation and excitement, I’m starting to enjoy holidays again. Today we made salt dough pumpkins (me) and free form blobs (her) and ghosts (us) and then painted them while Anya ran around in circles demanding “UP” and fussing.

On a sad note, the pumpkin we carved got all shriveled and weird and started looking like a little old man pumpkin and before I could photograph it for you all, Mark threw it in the canyon. BUT we’re going pumpkin picking on Friday and will try not to destroy that one immediately. Finger crossed.

As always more, pictures available at Flickr.


Free Hugs

I got to meet up with a blogger today and will tell you about that tomorrow when I have more energy. For now, I want you all to watch this. After all the heavy subjects I've been foisting on you lately (religion, politics, TOOTHBRUSH SHARING!) I think we could all use a free hug. Watch it all the way through, it's totally worth it.

More on Juan Mann's fight for free hugs here and the song by Sick Puppies here.

pepper tree perfection

Every once in a while, time slows down and I find myself living in the moment. Today, as Lily, Anya and I walked across a long swath of fresh, damp grass towards a playground, I had one of those moments. I could hear my breath, the sound of Lily’s flip-flops in the grass, the kids on the playground, the buzz of insects in the grass. The breeze pushed gently at my back as Anya’s thumb moved rhythmically against my shirt, her legs hugging my middle as she sat perched on my hip. I watched our friends move slowly and easily, children on the equipment, moms chatting in the shade of the big pepper tree, snacks shared, laughter shared, quiet pockets of air drifting through the chatter. I almost stopped walking as I realized that this, right here, was a perfect moment. That my life would never be better than it is right now and here I am, so hurried and stressed, that it was getting away from me. I thought I might burst into tears. Instead, Lily ran ahead of me a little, excited to play with her friends and then turned to flash me a smile. Anya reached up and tugged on my hair and I felt my whole body smile.

Seriously, life doesn’t get much more perfect than this.

Meet Karak

As someone who has worked in a creative field all my life, I have been waiting for the moment that my children busted out with the creativity and really started to imagine. Lily has been becoming more and more imaginative in her play and tonight? Tonight she gave us a very special treat:

She introduced us to Karak.

Karak is a blue and white tree monster with red eyes. He likes ice cream and swimming. He has no teeth, smooth skin, and no hands. His tail is long, goes all the way to the ceiling and has white fur on it. Karak is the proud owner of four feet and lots of toes. He’s about monkey sized, not much bigger than Lily’s sister. His mom is named Juney and his dad is Burt. He smiles a lot when he’s climbing trees and cries when he gets a scrape. A big band-aid helped when he got a scrape, but mommy kissing it made it even better. She wants him to sleep in her bunk bed with her, but only if it’s OK with Juney and Burt and he promises not to be scary. She loves him. And he’s beautiful.

The end.

The muse, she can be one heck of a bitch

When I was a little girl I'd crawl under the covers at night with a stolen flashlight and a library book to read quickly and hungrily, hoping against hope that I wouldn't be discovered. My brother, asleep in the bed across the room was all about music, but I was all words. My parents must have known what I was up to, but they turned a blind eye to my little habit, fostering in me a love for books and stories and the landscape of fiction as it played across my impressionable mind. I devoured books through High School, becoming the Editor in Chief of the monthly school newspaper and living words, layout and action shots. In college I stalked the halls of the Humanities building, reading everything I could find, sitting through lectures on poetry, short story, long fictions, art. I learned so much, it suffocated me a little bit. When I finally graduated with a degree in Creative Writing and a minor in Women's Studies I was so thick with thought and literary rules I couldn't read anything serious for years. And I couldn't write at all. I still managed to read, but it was magazines, popular fluff novels, the occasional short story; nothing that inspired my inner artist; she was just too tired, too slammed by the responsibility of writing well.

Now that I have children, the time I have to read is even more limited. I've been struggling through Wicked reading only a few pages at a time, caught up in the story but continuously interrupted by my nursling who is wild with discomfort now that her teeth are coming in, or distracted by my toddler as she turns summersaults in the hallways. In some ways, I am still on a reading diet: small sips and tiny bites. But lately, I am gluttonous for more. I want to loose myself in the Time Traveler's journey or sink into the life of those suitors of the Little Chinese Seamstress or even run wild on the mountains that Prodigal Summer.

And I'm getting my fill. My secret is simple (and I'm happy to share!): my local library and audio books. These days, I listen in the car while we go from here to there or while sitting in a shady spot, both girls asleep in their seats. I itch to go anywhere, just so I can be taken across the sea or learn more about why American needs a major overhaul. I am falling in love with Barbara Kingsolver and am intently studying her voice: fluid and gentle and like someone I would love to sit and talk to while we work a garden plot. I am finding that there is so much more I need to know and am once again hungry to swallow the words that fill me with action, hope and passion. I am writing again, tenderly getting my feet wet here and on Mama Says Om. I am not creating more than I did in college, but what I am creating is infinitely more interesting and speaks to my own heart.

It's a lot like falling in love again. I just have to hope we never suffer another lover's spat.

Poetry Monday #3


we sit quietly on the deck

under the full moon

with radiance kissing our skin

your breath rising and falling

under my chin

as you snooze

to the beat of

precious moonlight

pregnant in the night sky

stars spinning manically

around our hurried lives

dreaming of tribal drums

and thousands of full moons to come

full moon

Painting by one of my talented partners in Mama Says Om, Christina. Visit her on Om or on My Topography to see more of her amazing work.