Sunday, January 27, 2013

Sunday photos and making space ...

This week there has been a public holiday and a sick girl at home for a bit (all better again) ... not much time to take photographs but lots of cakes baked and long phone chats had and catching up on my Mondo Beyondo and Intuitive Lens online courses. I am loving them. And the community these courses nurtures always blows me away a little bit. Such support and sharing and openess. Just what i needed to start my new year off.

Just a few shots from the week - lots of playing around and learning.

The light lately has been so so beautiful in the late afternoon ...

Today in the Mondo Beyondo class i read a lesson on clearing and it's exactly what i need right now. Making space for new things. A new home. Maybe. A new project just beginning. Hopefully one I will see through. A new adventure. Please. Definitely. Maybe more than one. I hope. I am writing a list of dreams. Some of them feel impossible. But that is the whole point.

 (image from my pinterest boards and this link)

So here's to making spaces and clearing out clutter and things I don't need around me anymore. Unhealthy food I don't need in my cupboard. Toys no longer played with. Baskets of papers which have been lying around for weeks and months and sadly even years. It is true. I am feeling a very strong urge to pack up the house - all the books and drawings and lists of things I haven't done. I feel their weight and i need some light and clean spaces around me.A little while ago I gave away some paintings I no longer need and it felt really good. 

Have a lovely week.


Thursday, January 24, 2013

Push that knot away

There have been a lot of times in my life when a song or one particular album carried me through. When I hear the song again I am taken right back to everything I was feeling and going through at that time. Memories held in the words of a song. 

Sometimes there is nothing else to do but to let a really good song carry you away enough to dance across the floor, feet stamping and jumpingly so. Today is a day like that for me ... so many things eating at me inside but I am listening to this song over and over and jumping jumping jumping.

Happy Thursday everyone.


May you always, may you always walk in hope And may your days just be a way to walk along the great high road When the dark comes, when the dark comes to your door Will you deny him, don't recognize him He's not welcome anymore In your life, in your life, in your life In the forest, in the forest when you hear Something that scares you, be aware that it is frightened of you too You can push that knot away, you can push that knot away Yes, you can push that knot away, you can push that knot away You can push that knot away, you can push that knot away And in the morning, in the morning when you wake It is a doorway for you to walk through to become what you make And just remember you have heaven in your heart It is inside you, and it will guide you so long as you listen hard In your life, in your life, in your life Daisy, you know this. You know this already Daisy, you know this. You know this already Daisy, you know this. You know this already Daisy, you know this. You know this already Ohh, ahh, you can push that knot away You can push that knot away Oh, oh, oh, ohh, you can push that knot away You can push that knot away, uh ah You can push that knot away, oh, oh, oh, oh (Daisy, you know this. You know this already) You can push that knot away, oh ah (Daisy, you know this. You know this already) You won't regret it, I'm betting you'll push that knot away (Daisy, you know this. You know this already) You won't regret it, I'm betting you'll push that knot away (Daisy, you know this. You know this already) Yes, you can push that knot away, you can push that knot away (Day ee yeah ee yeah ee yeah ee yeah)

More lyrics:

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Week's Photos

I am feeling inspired by my current online photo class and by some of the wedding photos of South African photographer Yolande Marx. I found her via The Pretty Blog where she recently photographed this stunning home in Melkbos, South Africa. i REALLY want this house. Just as an aside. Really. Really. It's everything I love : simple, clean, a little rustic and earthy, lots of white, beachy ... not to mention that it's in the Cape. Ah. Bliss. Have a little peek if you have a minute and dream along with me.

Anyway, all that said, I am going to try really really hard to post a photo a day from my week, and to do it on Sunday nights. A way to make myself keep taking photos as this really is an area I want to grow in, and I am always best with deadlines, even self-imposed ones.

I hope you had a lovely weekend and here's to a good week ahead.


Thursday, January 17, 2013

Intuitive Lens with Thea

Ever since university I have been really intimidated by the manual settings on my camera. I had good friends who studied photography when i majored in painting and I was always so impressed by their beautiful images and their technical knowledge, it was a foreign language to me and one I never took the time to learn, or thought that i could. Because i couldn't develop my own images in a dark-room and only used the automatic settings on a very old camera i inherited from my father's belongings, I hardly every took photos. Most of my years at Rhodes are not documented - the odd photo here and there from digs-mates or someone who happened to be carrying a camera around, but I only took a handful myself.

And then I went to London and suddenly it was more important to be able to record places I went to, things I did - i wanted to send images home, to share my travels and my life overseas. I started with a simple very inexpensive point-and-shoot but the manual settings worked well and I was happy - simple quick shots of where we went, who we were with. And then Clint bought me my first canon at the airport in Heathrow, a totally spontaneous gift - and I was hooked. I fell in love with the quality of detail I could capture, and from there my love for photography has grown. Now I use a digital version of my first camera and as a mother, recording the day to day has become that much more important. It's not just about creating memories for myself of what we did when, now it's about capturing Hayden and Lexi's days - the things they love doing, their expressions, their personalities, capturing something of the mood, a little soulfulness. Over the years I have grown to love my camera more and more and now I feel a little lost if it's not in my hand when we go somewhere. I pay more attention to light and composition and I really cherish the fact that we have so many images, so many memories of their first years.

And now it's time for the next step - to feel a little more technically-savvy. Since i started my blog a year ago I have been concentrating a lot more on photography and writing, before that it really was always painting. So quite a shift for me but also one which feels natural and which I am really enjoying. When i applied to Tech and Rhodes all those years ago, photography was on my list of first choices for Tech, after Graphic Design and Interior design and although it's years later and on a whole different scale, I am having a lot of fun getting back to it and spending more time on it nowadays.

Thea Coughlin is running an online course through SQUAM, called Intuitive Lens, we're in week 2 and I am loving it. It's the perfect pace for me and just enough technical information not to be overwhelming for a beginner. Photography is such a vast subject and I don't think you ever stop learning, but for me it's so exciting to finally be using my camera on manual and to feel a tiny bit less intimidated by it all. What i love most is that it's online - the community of students is amazing, there is a lot of support and discussion when we post our images or ask questions. And I can take it at my own pace.

There is a growing trend for e-courses - they are inexpensive (mostly) and wonderful if you want to do something for yourself, in your spare time, at your own pace. There's no real getting left behind and it's a really great way to learn something new, or pick up a new hobby. Have a look around and see what you can find, it just might spark a wonderful new direction for you.

On a little side note, a few of you have been asking how to get post updates in your email inbox ... if you look to the right of the main page, there is a small window where you can put your email address - you might be asked to verify another link later on but once you're subscribed the updates will be emailed to you directly, no need to go to Facebook.
The other option, which is what i do with most of the blogs i read, is to save the page as a favorite or in the bookmarks menu (mac) - that way you can scroll through and check on updates at your own time.

Happy memory-making.


Sunday, January 13, 2013

The juggling act of being a mom (and working vs stay-at-home)

Clint has been working Saturdays and at a time of year when weekend sports have not yet started and life is a little quiet with not much going on, and no desire to get outside in the cold ... we have been playing Lego Duplo for the past two weekends. I help the kids set up their homes and businesses (they are of course grown-ups in the game) and off they go. Interspersed with the necessary fighting and having to come in and interrupt, it's a game they both love and it keeps them busy for a good few hours. Which = Happy Mama.

Last weekend Hayden built himself a mansion with a butler and a helipad, said he was very very rich and he wanted to be the owner of a zoo. We built the cages and found some animals. We had a shark tank and a car park and an office for him. He added a bakery and picnic tables and then he needed someone to manage the bakery for him. Cue baby sister Lexi. She had built herself a house with a LOT of beds. There were at least 8 children, grandparents (would that mean us ?), a nanny and a babysitter (she knows about this, not from me but because of where we live) and a few other stray people who seemed to be living there permanently. She had a LONG car to fit all the people in, and three strollers in her front entrance way. I watched her mother her little family, making food and getting them all to bed. Then came the offer to work for her brother. So off to work she happily went to run the bakery. Only she had all these children. And her nanny couldn't take them all and school was closed that day. So she took some of them to work. But Hayden wasn't at all happy about that.

'Lexi, you can't take them to work with you. And the zoo is not even open, so they can't be here.'
'OK' said Lexi. 'I will leave them in the car. Oh, but they need a grown-up. Maybe the Dad can stay in the car until they can come to the Zoo and play.'
'Lexi, why can't they stay home with the Dad then.'
'Because he has to go to work. Oh, and I need to take him to the station. I can't work now.'

And so it went. I sat on the couch watching my three year old daughter already playing out the struggle so many of us are battling with nowadays. Gone are the days when a woman expected to marry and have children and if not, she would live as a spinster, most likely a dutiful daughter taking care of her aged parents in her childhood home. If she got to study or choose a career, it would be in nursing, teaching or as a secretary. The world is our oyster now. We are encouraged to study hard at school and after, we play sports and have music and dance lessons, or learn to horse ride or ski. We care about our looks but not only because we need them to 'catch a husband'. We buy clothes which express who we are and want to be, we experiment, we take chances, we get to explore the world. We choose careers which not that long ago were not avenues open to women. We believe we can do it all. We buy our own cars, houses, go travelling, start businesses. We feel that the world is open and exciting, a whole adventure waiting for us.

If we are lucky, we find love - in one form or another - maybe more than once. We might have our hearts broken or break a heart ourselves. We take our time if we want to, or we rush into love headfirst. Sometimes we get married and our lives don't change too much, or we feel more settled and buy a home together. And then maybe there are children, and things slowly change.

Suddenly there is the question of childcare and who should take care of them during the day. Should one parent stay home and put their career on hold ? Can both parents be more flexible with their hours and pressures so as to juggle ? Are there grandparents or friends who can take share the load ? Should a nanny be hired, or a housekeeper or an au-pair. Should we use daycare ?

And so we go through the myriad of choices. If we give up work, we might be thrilled to be home or we might feel lost and isolated (not to mention poor). We might find a new confidence and identity, or we might feel we have lost one. We might thrive or we might sink into depression and sadness and feel we have lost our way. Some of us might want to stay home but have to go to work. Some women might love working and being home and find it impossible to have to choose. Some might be able to create just the right balance of working from home, or part-time or not every day of the working week.

As I watched Lexi struggle with her many children and extended family and the logistics of where everyone needed to be, how she could fetch and take and shop and care for, but also have her job at the bakery ... I was thinking that at 3 she is already aware of some of these issues facing us grown up women today. She and Hayden were discussing it all as part of the game. We have the odds stacked up against us in many ways, us women - not to complain - we have the freedom of choice (mostly) and for that I am eternally grateful. But there is still so much pressure - from businesses for those of us who work to be reliable, present, not distracted by family emergencies and sick children. To be focused and driven. Pressure from society seems to me to go both ways. Women should re-enter the workforce but 'the best place for a child is with his / her parent' is also a line I come across often. There is no perfect solution. Every family is different. Every woman is different. And so are their children.

It seems to me that we as woman keep making our camps - those who are home, those who are working. Instead of acknowledging that life as a mother is beautiful and complicated and wonderful and hard, that we all battle with certain things and find other things second nature .... that the choices we make are hard enough already - fitting in family, work, time to oneself, career, dreams for one's life, travel, family vacations, nutritious meals, school activities ... maybe instead of judging each other for our choices we should be trying to support each other. For our differences. For our decisions which may or may not be popular or easy to understand. For the very different life experiences we  have all had. For the need to be flexible, to change the pattern every now and then as we figure out what works and what doesn't, for ourselves and for our families.

It's a process, it takes time, it's a constant juggling act. For all of us. The issues we battle with may differ. The working mom might feel stretched thin and always rushing, with never enough time on her hands. The stay-at-home mom might feel like her life has passed her by, that she's not connected to the adult world any more, that part of herself has gotten lost as her days get a bit monotonous doing laundry and cleaning.

As I watched Lexi stressing and eventually sitting down in a huge heap on the floor after Hayden fired her for not doing her job properly, and saying 'I'm not playing anymore' I thought to myself how we all need support and lifelines to each other - suggestions, ideas, a helping hand, a new map for unchartered territory. How we're so much stronger together. How i hope for her that by the time she's grown up and making these choices for herself, navigating these waters of work and family and home (if she marries and if she has children),  that things are a little easier. That her expectations are realistic, that she knows that no matter the choices, something will be sacrificed and that that's ok. That it's not forever, any of this - it's a chapter in our lives - and that she will hopefully have support no matter how she decides to live her life.

Here's to all the mothers out there: to all the jugglers, magicians, keepers of secrets, protectors, holders of hands, wipers of tears. Here's to all of you who struggle a little bit, who find it hard sometimes to get the balance right. Here's to all of us in this together.


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Parenting is not easy !

Sometimes parenting can pull you until you are stretched out thin and taut like an elastic band, ready to spring back unannounced at any second, stinging the hand which got in the way by mistake. Ready to snap. Exhausted. Torn in different directions.

That's how i feel tonight. A day of one child sick with fever and a bad cold - needing to be carried everywhere, incessant coughing and a little throwing up in between. Needing Mommy by her side. All day long. It's lovely to be needed. Flattering. Some of the time. But in small doses maybe. And then the second one decided it was the perfect day for two-and-a-half hours of solid crying, tantrums (the rolling on the floor sobbing hysterically kind) and fighting about e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g. Everything I said caused the lip to crumple and more tears to erupt and a wailing noise to sound. He could audition as a fog horn. Seriously. A never-ending supply of tears and screeching. From a fight over which room to eat snacks and watch TV in, to more arguing and rudeness over homework. Even a bath to calm down, did nothing of the sort. It just went on and on and up and up. And today none of my tricks to divert or calm or change focus worked. It just escalated. Like being on a runaway train. Until, like the old woman who lived in a shoe i took away dessert half way through the eating and sent him to bed. Very early. And when i came back downstairs the other one was curled up asleep on the couch, exhausted from being sick. Or just from all the yelling. Possibly both.

My first post of the new year and i have been thinking of all the things i wanted to say. The new online courses i started - altho they are going a little shakily due to unplanned interruptions (aka paragraphs above).  My new years resolutions. And actually a few days ago it was the one year anniversary of starting this blog and more than anything I have been feeling like it's time to call it quits and stop writing. It seems that everyone and her / his dog has a blog, at least here in the States it feels to me like that's the case . And seriously, how many Mamas talking about their kids and creative lives does anyone want to read about. I was thinking that I should just graciously bow out and leave the stage for all the other amazingly talented and successful or at least funny, bloggers and designers and i-have-my-life-all-together Mamas out there. But then maybe not yet. Because I am so grateful to those of you who subscribe to my posts and who read my scribblings and leave a comment now and then. Thank you. You make my day. And it's OK for it not to all be perfect. In fact it would be boring if it were. I battle with this one. Quite a lot. Being a perfectionist at heart. It is hard. Like parenting.

We are not a perfect family. I struggle. We struggle. We laugh along the way but we also fight and yell and get so completely caught up in tangles and knots. We cry. We wonder if we should have married other people. Then we are so glad we didn't. Then we wonder again. That's how it goes. We love our kids but sometimes we fantasize about boarding school. And then we cannot imagine spending a night apart from them.

Sometimes I am SuperMom and I am creative and positive and funny and the bestower of best treats and surprises. And other times I am a little scary with wild hair flying and feet stamping and determined to get her way. The old woman in the shoe rears her head. But then they are asleep and the day is over and there might be a glass of wine and a little downtime and tomorrow we get to try again. Because that's the thing. We get to keep trying. Knowing it's not always going to be postcard-pretty-as-a-picture perfect. And the people who say it is - well I've never really believed them and give me gritty over perfect any day .... it's OK for things to be a little messy and confusing and not always having the answer, and a bit of a struggle. Sometimes we do get stretched to our maximum - STOP, i'll snap, it's too far you are pulling. But we don't break and we don't tear - not too much anyway. We bounce back (eventually) and we gather ourselves back into shape and we ready for battle the next day. Or maybe we're pleasantly and oh so happily surprised when there is no battleground at all and instead we are given a hug or a tiny smile and the world is right again.

Wishing you balance and love and a huge amount of laughter in your own life and stretched-taut-elastic-times.