About Me

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I am a mother, a teacher, and a nature lover. I grew up on a mountain we called Owls' Knob in the Ozarks of Arkansas. The first seven years of my life were spent living in a log cabin, far from a store or streetlight, without electricity or running water and after twenty years of travel, I returned to the abondoned homestead. Now I live on a hill by a small lake and work at a public garden. These are stories about nature written from a women deeply influenced by place.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

9 Ways to Keep your Passions as a Parent

A friend of mine wrote on her blog that she was afraid of loosing herself in motherhood... And it got me thinking...
Certainly we all loose some portion of our selves when we become mothers. We also gain some things too. But I have seen some mothers loose much more than others. Some mothers get completely lost in motherhood and as Natalie said it, "lose sight of who they are or the glorious potential of who they could become." And I find that to be very sad, because it doesn't have to be so! Though I have my annoyed and stressful days where I am just a frazzled mom, I feel that I have lost very little of my true self.
On the contrary, I actually feel like motherhood has motivated and inspired my creativity and self expression! Before I had children, time was not the issue. Looking back I realize that I had lots of time and much of it went unutilized. Much of my creativity was wasted too. I wrote stories with no plots and created art with no real meaning or purpose. Now, every moment is precious!  Since I get so little time, I waste much less! Furthermore, I have drive and purpose beyond myself. I am not just a woman. I am a mother and that means when I die my children have I inherit the world I leave behind. Nothing has motivated me more than that single notion!
But then again, I have passions. Perhaps you call it a hobby or even discipline, but I call it my passion! Writing is the most important and productive passion I have, but I am also passionate about environmental education, art, and craft. I really don't know if this entire post applies to a woman without any passion. This is really written for the creative person in mind!
So why have I not lost my passions? How do I find time for my hobbies? Where do I get inspiration for creativity? It is not easy! And everyone is different! But here are some tips:
  1. Recognize your passion or establish a hobby and honor it - This blog post is not written for the ideal and lazy. This is for creative people. To stay true to yourself you have to have something to stay true too. That might be creating art of some kind, or taking long hikes, or dancing, or climbing or surfing. Whatever it is that you like to do, you must recognize it and honor it! This post is written to the artist and writers more specifically, but I think creative mothers everywhere can relate.
  2. Keep your creativity alive by making motherhood count - Like I said before, my children motivated me. Before I became a mother I had lots of time and even inspiration but no greater cause. I have used motherhood to fuel my creativity. They are my life, but that doesn't mean they took my life away from me, they added to it. We coexist and make the most of it! I don't write fantasy anymore, perhaps I will again one day. But I have been working on a series of children's books. And I am more excited about the children's books than I ever was about by fantasy novel!
  3. Demand time for yourself. Sometimes I see mothers bragging or complaining that they have not had a moment for themselves (or a night out or a free day) for five, six, ten years! This is not endurance test! I am sorry, but I do not think these acts of selfless endurance are healthy for anyone. Every parent needs time for him or herself. Parents are better at parenting if they have had time to relax and be themselves. You may be thinking, "But there is no time!" No, there isn't, but you have to make time! Hire a baby sitter, trade with another mother (my personal favorite), or ask a relative for help... do whatever it takes! Not only will you be happier, but you will return to your family rejuvenated. It will actually make you a better parent!
  4. Capitalize on boredom. Now that we have the internet in our pocket or purse, boredom is going extinct. Waiting rooms, traffic jams, and dreary Sunday afternoons use to be boring. Now if you have a free moment, it is easy to find a distraction. But by loosing boredom we are loosing time for idle thought, which I believe leads itself to creativity! When you are washing dishes or folding laundry, try turning off the TV or radio talk show and instead just be with your thoughts. Think about your art or your story. Let your thoughts get boring, because there are lost gems of creativity in those lulls. Of course, it is easier to find this time before you have kids, so that is why it is SO important.
  5. Seize every moment and then force creations to happen. Once you have children you can wait for inspiration to strike. You have to seize every possible creative moment. If you feel a stroke of inspiration in the middle of your busy day, try to find a moment to jot the idea down in a notebook or type it into your phone. Then when you get some time off you can build on the idea. You may not feel like building on the idea at all when you get that hour break. And I hate to say it, but you are going to have to force it a little. Inspiration and free time will only occasionally match up. But you really can work with it, even if it doesn't seem ideal.  
  6. Use your phone as a tool instead of a distraction. The rough draft of this blog post was created on my phone while the children played nearby, in a waiting room, and in sneaky moments throughout the day. With the internet at our fingertips, the possibilities are endless. The average American spends 162 minutes a day on their smart phone. What do we all do with all that time? I am sure it is different for all of us. But there is no doubt that it is easy to spend a lot of time lost in that smartphone. But your smartphone can also be amazing tools to, for writing, researching, and inspiring. I blog on my phone often. I also have apps for writing that I use. Sometimes I read but I try to either read articles about writing, do research, or read blogs. I am nowhere near perfect! I really need to work on staying off of Facebook and so sometimes I delete most of my apps so its less tempting and easy.
  7. Don't try to be the best. You will never be the best because everyone has a different opinion of the best. All you can do, is be your personal best. I think a lot of people, especially moms, get into unintentional competitions with each other. Especially now that we have Facebook, where everyone posts their cute, fun, and amazing pictures, but not always the hard times and stress that went into getting to that point. Just be yourself, have fun, and enjoy both your creativity and your time with your kids. It is not a competition and it will all be over far too soon!
  8. Be present, stay engaged, and be the most awesome parent when you can. I am not proposing that you should ignore your children and focus on yourself all the time. In fact, I actually advise the opposite. When your children need you, be present. When it is play time, engage with your children. Take time to look your children's eyes and give them your all. If you give them your full attention for five minutes here, they might give you five minutes later on. Or they might not. But you can be sure that if you ignore them, they will become restless, annoyed attention hoarders. If you don't feel like engaging with your kids, then you are probably not getting enough free time.
  9. Remember that you'll be a better mother is you don't loose yourself! Nurturing your creativity is good for your relationship with your kids! You may think it is selfish, but I think that children who have inspired, energetic, and happy parents grow up to be inspired, energetic, and happy. No amount of care will teach your child to be true to his or herself. The only way for your child to learn that they can be unique and creative, is to see their parents being unique and creative. Making sure that you are sane and happy really will benefit your child. Don't take it to a selfish extreme, but find a balance!
I am sure some critics out there are saying, "This is all easy for you because you probably have a sweet, well behaved little ten year old who plays by themselves all the time, but not my kid!"
 So I just want to say that I am a mother of a special needs kid who demands much more attention than most other 5 year olds, has epic meltdowns, and is intensely obsessions with the computer I write on! And I don't just have one special needs kid, I also have a 2 year old. Oh yeah, and I have a part-time job!
None of this is easy, parenting is extremely difficult, but creativity is defiantly possible. When I became a mother, people told me I would not have time for creativity. They laughed at my hobbies. They did not mention the loss of self, but it was underneath their warnings. So I just want to say the opposite, "You can find time, don't give up!" Sure, some of my passions have faded, but others have emerged. And the passions closest to my heart, have continued to stay strong! So please, stay strong and be creative!
Also, please share! Do you have any tips to add? Comment below with more tips please!

Saturday, January 3, 2015

In All that Changes, Little Stays the Same

My sister and I went to Owls' Knob last weekend. It was a cold but sunny day. We had to keep our bodies moving as to not get chilled. We walked around the mountain reminiscing and telling stories.

First we walked around the pond. "How small it all looks now," she remarked. "These rocks use to be so big and that tree was huge." We both chuckle at how perspective changes everything.
"We use to spend all summer swimming in this pond," my sister remembers.
"Yeah and now it is all green and gross in the summer. That lily you see there, it takes over and covers the whole thing. You can't swim in it anymore."
"That sucks."
"So much has changed!"

Near the pond sat an old dodge  truck that had once been used to haul firewood but now didn't run. Hidden in the doorframe we found a nest of sleeping ladybugs. "They are lady birds in England," my sister informed me.
Inside the glove compartment we discovered a rat's nest. In summertime I don't dare to explore the broken down truck because it is swarming with wasps. I look in the wheel well, under the camper shell, and in the bumper to find that wasps are nesting in every nook and cranny of the truck. Nature was moving in and taking over. Every empty place or small shelter is a home.

Next we walked to the edge of the mountain, to a place we called The Point. Owls' knob is bordered on three sides by sheer cliffs that dive into tributary creeks of the Buffalo river. We stop on a rocky ledge that jolts out over the cliff face. Soft mosses and lichens cover the rock completely. I remind my sister of how our mother made a rule, "No shoes on The Point," she would say. She said our shoes would damage and kill the moss and lichen so only bare feet were allowed to walk out on this rock. The rocks, the mountains, the view, and the comforter of moss lies still and preserved, just as we remember it. I suppose some things don't change, at least not quickly enough for us to perceive it.

At the edge of the mountain we can see all the way to the buffalo river. Below us we can make out the rippling water in the creek, but we can not reach it.
"How did we use to get down there," my sister asks, remembering summer days playing the in creek as children.
"There are only three ways," I explain. "Each way is difficult and a long hike. We don't have enough daylight to make it down there today."

Noticing the low lying sun we hike onward. We hike to the other side of the mountain and investigate my father's crumbling kingdom. My father owns the 15 acres that my parents had first settled on. My parents had build a magnificently odd house, using found materials, florescent light covers, and a natural hole in the earth. It was part cave, part green house. After it burnt to the ground when I was two, they moved to the other side of the hill and built the log cabin that still stands today. My sister never lived in the old house and only remembers the barn beside it.
The barn was also a studio, animals lived below and my mother practiced Tai Chi or my father did art in the room above. It was built on living trees and completed with lofty dreams, nothing like a typical barn really.  When my parents divorced, they got rid of the goats and my father moved into the studio above.
We walk among abandoned cars to get to the barn, each one containing a time capsule of childhood memories--tape cassettes, sunglasses, kids meal toys--all preserved in the dusty tomb. Outside the cars, everything is returning to the earth. Moss covers what is moist, leaves blanket what is left on the ground, and rain rots or rusts everything else. As we sifted through the rubble of the barn, we both remember visiting our father there. We recalled  the rickety staircase, now nearly turned to dirt, and the stoop we stood on to poop in a bucket, now nothing but a few rotten boards. A rain barrel was our washtub, a wood stove kept us warm, and kerosene lamps gave us light. Yes, it was a unique childhood.

We wandered onward, counting all the abandoned vehicles on the property. For an environmentalist, my father has certainly left a large environmental impact on the mountain. He is very good at keeping his trash out of the landfill, but instead he has filled his own land with trash.
Among the Styrofoam, rotting 2X4s, and forgotten relics, we find treasures like an old still, an ice box, a three wheeler, and beautiful classic cars.

My sister and I walked through the winter woods together until dusk. "Our childhood is like something from a story book," she mused.
It is stranger than fiction," I agree.
Perhaps we will one day write it all down. Until then we will just strive to keep these memories alive while the world around our childhood home morphs and changes.