Just Start

Aloha friends! I’m experimenting with a new video/writing format this summer. It’s very much in the experimental stage, so thank you for indulging. While I share some thoughts on how you can keep your creative muscles flexed, I’m going to take you on a drive with me to La Perouse, on the south side of Maui. This is the site of the most recent volcanic activity on island around 1790. This morning I felt inspired to write, so I fired up the old blog that I hadn’t visited in forever. I got a little chuckle that the last post I’d made from a year and a half ago, started with this quote: “Start now. Start where you are. Start with fear. Start with pain. Start with doubt. Start with hands shaking. Start with voice trembling but start. Start and don’t stop. Start where you are, with what you have. Just… start.” – Ijeoma Umebinyuo

So here I go. Just starting. Doesn’t matter which foot I start with, but off I go.

What I’d like to talk about today is how to get back to being a creative person after having not exercised your creative muscles in awhile. First of all, most of us are pretty creative in myriad ways without even realizing it, so don’t beat yourself up if you feel like there is a part of you that you once valued that hasn’t been showing up as often, because that may or may not be the case without you even realizing it. Our creative reserves are not only tapped through our preferred modes of expression. We use our creative skills all the time – when choosing earrings for the day, when hopping like a kangaroo to get your kids to the car, when navigating sensitive conversations where you are a reluctant participant. But creativity in general is a topic for a different day. For today, I’d like to talk about the four steps you can take to get back on a specific creative train that you might have fallen off of. Perhaps, like me, you once had a consistent writing habit that has gotten put on the back-burner for over a year. Perhaps you have a camera or a guitar or some dance shoes collecting dust because there’s something holding you back from using them, whether that’s time management issues,  unhealthy habits running amok, or perhaps your own insecurities about your creative merits. Here are four steps you can take to reconnect with the creative outlets that once brought you joy and fulfillment.

STEP ONE. Start now. Start where you’re at. Start without any preconceived notions of what it will be and who it will be shared with. Don’t compare yourself to your idols or even your past self. Inspiration is your friend, but comparison is your enemy.

STEP TWO. When it is done, release it into the world with trust, whether that means you feel compelled to share it beyond yourself as I am sharing this video, or whether that means it is just for you right now. It is not perfect. It does not need to be perfect. It is not actually your baby. It should not be constantly checked on. It is not going to be for everyone. If you think it’s your baby, if you think it needs to be for everyone, if you think it needs to be constantly defended or explained or refined or perfected, you will drive yourself crazy and you will inhibit and postpone future creative contributions.

STEP THREE. That is not to say that you shouldn’t reflect and improve. What did you do well? What might you work on for next time? Don’t spend longer on this reflection than you did on STEP ONE. Learn, grow, allow yourself to be the ultimate decider on what’s good and what’s bad, and move on.

STEP FOUR. Go back to the beginning. Repeat the process. This process works best –  and many would argue, ONLY works – when it is part of your routine. Commit to a habit. Habits are best when they are manageable parts of your daily flow and chunked toward specific attainable goals. For example, I am going to commit to:

  1. 10 minutes of free writing a day.
  2. One video a week, built from this writing.
  3. Day one: Choose a topic, free write.
  4. Day two: Research around this topic and free write.
  5. Day three: Take video footage and free write.
  6. Day four, five and six: Refine and edit video, refine writing.
  7. Day seven: Share the video and let it go.

So that’s me getting back in the creative saddle! Mahalo for watching. I’d love to hear your techniques for staying creative and staying consistent. See you again soon!

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Just Start

start“Start now. Start where you are. Start with fear. Start with pain. Start with doubt. Start with hands shaking. Start with voice trembling but start. Start and don’t stop. Start where you are, with what you have. Just… start.” – Ijeoma Umebinyuo

There are all these ideas in my head, wiggling around like worms on hooks. But I’m unsure of how to start. Or where to put them. Or how they’ll be received. Or whether they’re worth getting out at all. But I know, having picked up and put down projects all my life, that ultimately what I need to do is just start, and make writing a practice again.

Maybe what I’m afraid of is that the part of me that writes things down is the part that feels this urge to analyze every irrelevant detail of my life, and that is so tedious. It’s annoying. It’s a part of me that annoys a different part of me. But I also feel like I’m losing myself. To work. To family. (My children, not my poor husband.) To a health concern. To having to be so on top of schedules, three or four of them. To work – it deserves to be said again. Writing is something – like exercise and reading and only a handful of other things – that’s just for me. So that’s what I’ll do here. I’ll climb to the top of the heap of all the things, breathe in fresh air in solitude, and I’ll survey. And I’ll release these words into wherever, and then I won’t worry about them again. Because the words don’t have to be for anyone else other than me.

So, that’s the idea this week. Just that these words are here, these words are okay, these words are mine, these words are not for me to guard or doubt, defend, qualify or refine. They’re mine, and that’s enough.

Here are other words I want to get out in the coming weeks:

this nagging health concern
health and a key to happiness
upcoming adventures
career
organization
habits and getting shit done
building a house
the standing date
finding a tribe and letting go
SLEEP

“Happiness always looks small while you hold it in your hands, but let it go and you realize at once how big and precious it is.” – Maxim Gorky 

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This time two years ago, heavily pregnant with our last child, I felt a silent pull. I didn’t want to return to work soon after baby was born. Or any time in the foreseeable future. With a two year-old and soon-to-be newborn, I knew the upcoming time would be precious, hard, and above all fleeting. And I didn’t want to miss it. I knew, having been there, that most working parents don’t “miss” time with their small children in the sense that oftentimes the time spent together is more high quality than time spent when a shower is the only break you get from your children. As much as some working parents might not care to admit this – particularly if they’ve never been on the other side of things – work actually is rejuvenating. At kerom your kids at least. And I say that as a teacher who works with other people’s kids. Going to work refocuses me on other things, makes it feel like a long absence has occurred, and refreshes me to all my children’s wonderful charms. Having a job with long summer and holiday breaks offers an interesting taste of both the experiences of a working and stay at home parent, at least as I perceived them. While the charms of your children are less likely to stay quite so charming when you have to take them alongside incessant doses of the not-so-charming stuff (tantrums, whining, poop), you do just learn each other better and jell. With the luxury of time, you can better figure each other out. You better understand your 2 year-old’s strange words. You can better predict outcomes or troubleshoot big emotions. You get a better flow with each other. With a second coming, I wanted that all the time. The problem was we weren’t sure we could swing it financially.

Side rant: this is why I can’t stand judgment about parent’s choices about whether to or who should stay home with children or work, and for how long. Personally, it almost always comes from the older generation, and in fairness maybe comes from a sense of nostalgia of the time their own children were young. I look forward to the days I’ve forgotten all about the whining and the tantrums and the bills too. The decision about how to support a family is personal and each one is unique, and the only opinions that matter are those who are affected by the decision.

In our case, two incomes does not afford a lifestyle of abundance, but a simple life that we love in the place where our friends, family, and community live, and that also happens to have the highest cost of living in the country. Deciding to stay home to care for my children is just not that simple. But, like I said, there was a silent pull and the more I thought about it, the more the silent pull got less silent. Crunching the numbers, with one income down, we’d need to live like monks PLUS figure out a few side hustles. So I took a deep breath, trusted the universe and myself and my husband, (the silent pull never leads you astray!), shut my eyes, gulped, and quit my job. A job that I really loved, by the way.

Long story short, the universe provided. I was offered a teach-from-home-online position from my employer, and after one rewarding school year juggling online students and enjoying the time with a baby and toddler, it was renewed for another year.

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A Chapter Closes

16681819_1825436880815839_8977919854287595338_nThis time two years ago, heavily pregnant with our last child, I felt a silent pull. I didn’t want to return to work soon after baby was born. Or any time in the foreseeable future. With a two year-old and soon-to-be newborn, I knew the upcoming time would be precious, hard, and above all fleeting. And I didn’t want to miss it. I knew, having been there, that most working parents don’t “miss” time with their small children in the sense that oftentimes the time spent together is more high quality than time spent when a shower is the only break you get from your children. As much as some working parents might not care to admit this – particularly if they’ve never been on the other side of things – work actually is a break. At least from the stresses of your kids. And I say that as a teacher who works with other people’s kids. Going to work refocuses me on other things, makes it feel like a long absence has occurred, and refreshes me to all my children’s charms. Having a job with long summer and holiday breaks offers an interesting taste of both the experiences of a working and stay at home parent, at least as I perceived them. While the charms of my children are less likely to stay quite so charming when I have to take them alongside incessant doses of the not-so-charming stuff (tantrums, whining, poo explosions), we do find a really solid footing with each other. With the luxury of time, we really jell. I better understand my 2 year-old’s strange words. I can better predict outcomes or troubleshoot big emotions. We get a better flow with each other. With a second one coming, I wanted to be together in that groove all the time. The problem was we weren’t sure we could swing it financially.

Side rant: this is why I can’t stand judgment about parent’s choices about whether to or who should stay home with children or work, and for how long. Personally I’ve found overt judgment almost always comes from the older generation, and in fairness maybe comes from a sense of nostalgia of the time when their own children were young. I look forward to the days I’ve forgotten all about the tantrums and the bills and all the other hard stuff too. Point is, the decision about how to support a family is personal and each family is unique, and the only opinions that matter are those who are affected by the decision.

In our case, two incomes does not afford a lifestyle of abundance, but a simple life that we love in the place where our friends, family, and community live, and that also happens to have the highest cost of living in the country. Deciding to stay home to care for my children is just not that simple. But, like I said, there was a silent pull and the more I thought about it, the more the silent pull got less silent. Crunching the numbers, with one income down, we’d need to live like monks PLUS figure out a few side hustles. But my husband said he had my back if it was important to me. So I took a deep breath, trusted the universe and myself and my husband, (the silent pull never leads you astray!), shut my eyes, gulped, and quit my job. A job that I really loved, by the way.

Long story short, the universe provided. I was offered a teach-from-home-online position from my employer, and after one rewarding school year juggling online students and enjoying the time with a baby and toddler, it was renewed for another year.

The past two years have been truly incredible. Much of it has surpassed my expectations:

1. The love and bond between the boys has been nothing short of extraordinary. I credit Micah’s nature to how great a big brother he has been from Day One. But it certainly helps to be a regular 24/7 team of three. Nico is his little sidekick in all things. Micah proudly introduces him at the playground, and reaches for his hand when he’s feeling shy. Nico follows Micah and copies everything he does. They are rarely apart and their closeness is clear.

2. I’ve been able to juggle the job from home better than I feared. A big part of that is my low standards in childcare in terms of screen time, not hovering, etc. In order to keep my head above water at work, I gotta do what I gotta do, and that doesn’t include being Mary Poppins when work needs to get done. This is another reason I’m thankful for my boy’s strong bond, because for the most part, they keep themselves entertained when I’m working.

3. Making time for workouts. Feeling sluggish and gross, I decided to get real about fitness. In the back of my mind, like most other habits I adopt, I assumed it would be short-lived. One year and eight months later, I’m still working out daily. Having a flexible schedule has been the key to this success.

4. New friendships. I figured that switching to the life of a SAHM would bring new friends, but I didn’t expect to feel such an abundance of community. I made new friendships, and preserved and strengthened the important friendships that have been so core to me. I joined a book club, finally started the film club David and I have been talking about for years, and made some new rad mama friends through Nico.

There have also been things that did not live up to my expectations.

1. Myself as a SAHM. At least not on a daily basis. So…. I’m proud of the fact that nearly every day I got my kids out exploring the island, meeting new and old friends, reading books, and getting dirt under their fingernails. But I’m not proud of the fact that after awhile it felt really old. I had good intentions, especially as Micah got older, of doing a lot of arts and crafts and learn-y type things. But I just don’t have it in me to be a preschool teacher. I love it in small doses (like when we have our concentrated times together during our seasonal breaks). But I just don’t have it in me to sustain it daily. Now, two years in, much of that innocent, wondrous joy has worn off. I want someone else to teach my kids how to hold a pencil. I want someone else to help them glue coffee grounds onto construction paper. It’s not fun anymore, not every day. And it’s my own children! How amazing are preschool teachers who nurture the wonder and joy of childhood with other people’s children! I’m just not cut out for it. The inescapable whining of a three year-old really took its toll. I got snappy and shouty. And when he messed with me (or a sleeping baby) during the sacred nap time? Oh man.

2. Myself as a SAHWife. The evening shitshow doesn’t look much different whether I’m a working mom or a SAHM. I’m definitely not wearing aprons and making meatloaf, that’s for sure. Whether working or not, I’m sipping wine and counting the minutes until bed time.

A few months ago Micah turned four. A year and a half away from kindergarten. These past two years have seen him make great strides, especially verbally. But I definitely feel like it’s time he had more than me. Since leaving daycare, he’s gotten clingier to me, and more demanding. He sometimes gets worked up if I just make a quick trip to the store, that’s how used to always having me he is. Nico’s a month away from two and hasn’t known any other reality than having me around nearly always. In my heart, I know I’m not best serving them on my own anymore. We need a bigger village. Micah needs friends he’ll see in elementary school. (He has a healthy gaggle of friends, but few acquaintances that do or will attend his elementary school.) He needs instruction from someone else and most importantly, sustained time away from me. It wouldn’t hurt Nico at this point either.

So once again, a few months ago, I started to feel the pull. This chapter has run its natural course.

I am sad to see it come to a close. What a wonderful time I’ve had with my babies. How fortunate I was to have had it. How supported, loved, and trusted to make the scary (and potentially reckless) decision. How amazing to watch them play and learn. To guide them through the days. Beach trips, nature walks, spotting lizards and sea turtles, gathering flowers, library story time, feeding ducks, playgroups (mimosas on good days!), every day a new adventure. I know I will forever look back on this era with wistfulness. The months are whittled down and preserved in five-minute videos that will just DESTROY me when I’m old.

In August I’m returning to the classroom. 11th and 12th graders which will be a fun and rewarding change. Solitary commutes listening to NPR sound sublime. I think I can squeeze my workouts in before preschool pick-up. And helping young adults chart their courses is more my bag than finger painting – so many times these past years I wished it weren’t so.

I know I wasn’t always my best these past two years. But, man, is my heart bursting just thinking about how fortunate I was to have been able to try. It truly was a precious, hard, and above all fleeting time. I am glad I trusted the silent pull. I have not a single regret.

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10 Cloverfield Lane

10cloverfieldWe normally wouldn’t be drawn to the suspense/thriller genre, but 10 Cloverfield Lane came recommended by our new film-guru, and it wasn’t a disappointment. A young woman crashes her car on a  dark, lonely street, and weeks up in a sinister dungeon-like bomb shelter. Her creepily off-kilter captor (played wonderfully by John Goodman) informs her that he rescued her from some apoclyptic event, and if she leaves she’ll die. So, you assume he’s just a crazy rapist until she meets a wholesome Midwestern-type young man in the depths down with her. And when she questions why he’s down there, he says assures her he broke in. So, the movie strikes all the right mystery notes and all the right suspense notes and it does it with a tiny cast on almost no change of scenery.

It was released in 2016, directed by Dan Trachtenberg (I believe his first feature) and gets 90% on Rotten Tomatoes, and is two thumbs up from me.

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Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter

kumiko

“The entrancing fifth feature of the Zellner brothers, Kumiko the Treasure Hunter, is like found art in the beguiling, haunting manner it combines the seemingly ridiculous and desperate with an ineffable and quiet sadness.” — Patrick Z. McGavin, Chicago Sun Times

Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter completely blew me away. Released in 2015 and directed by David Zellner, this movie is just about perfect for me. From its brilliantly bizarre plot to the performances to its unique style, everything about this movie was executed perfectly.

It’s based on an urban legend based on a true story, and after watching the movie it’s worth hearing the true story behind the brilliantly bizarre fantasy-version depicted in the film: http://www.npr.org/2015/04/24/401965548/fargo

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