Jul 022009

I finally did it, sent away the stuff for the classes I’m going to teach next fall. Thanks for your comments,a and offers for help. When I told my husband about that post he said, “But I offered to help you last weekend, and you didn’t want me too!” (He’s right, I’m stubborn.) He also said that he knew I’d do it at the very last minute, that man knows me well. The thing I couldn’t write about myself turned out to be exactly three sentences long. It would have been much easier for me if it had had to be three pages. I do better with long formats – which you can see on my blog, ahem.

I finally managed to write something by writing a first draft in English. My excuse for being more comfortable with writing in English has always been that I’m more used to it because of the blog and the internet but yesterday as I was scribbling down my draft on a piece of grocery list at midnight I thought again and I think that I take writing in English a bit lighter because it feels like paying with toy money. It feels a bit less real and therefore less threatening.

I told my husband about my feeling that writing in English is a bit less real for me than writing in German (I know it doesn’t feel like that for most of my readers) and he said, “English is your teddy-land!” I don’t know whether you’re familiar with teddy-land, it’s a land that my son invented where all his stuffed animals live. He goes to sleep there because teddy-land is mostly his bed, and my son is emperor of teddy-land.

So, it seems that English is the land where I go to play. I do know that it is a real language and that there are people who speak nothing else but for me it is as if there where teddy-land inside my computer, it’s where all the nice stories and music come from, and they even invented their own language. Plus there are all these nice imaginary people, and there seems to be a lot of knitting and writing in my teddy-land.

Anyways, here is my draft for the short bio:

My name is Susanne. I’m a singing teacher.

I love improvisation which keeps me in the moment, as does mindfulness meditation.

Since I also love to knit I combine the two in mindful knitting.

I told you it was only three sentences. The tricky part was connecting the singing with the knitting, and the meditation.

In German and after several re-writes it turned into:

Mein Name ist Susanne. Ich bin ausgebildete Musikpädagogin und unterrichte seit mehr als zehn Jahren Jazz- und Pop-Gesang.

Mein Interesse gilt dabei besonders dem Bereich der Improvisation, der spontan im Moment entstehenden Musik.

Die Konzentration auf das Jetzt, diesen Moment ist auch das Grundprinzip der Achtsamkeits-Meditation, und dieses Prinzip verbinde ich mit meiner fast lebenslangen Liebe zum Stricken durch “mindful knitting”, Strick-Meditation.

Kreativität hat viele Facetten.

That’s (in toy speak):

My name is Susanne. I am a trained music educator, and have been a singing teacher for jazz and pop for more than ten years.

I’m especially interested in improvisation, spontaneous music made in the moment.

The focus on the now, this moment, is also the guiding principle for mindfulness meditation. I’m combining this principle with my almost life-long love of knitting through “mindful knitting”, knitting meditation.

Creativity has many facets.

See, it turned out to be four sentences in the end.

As for the classes, there will be a lace knitting class (that’s self-explanatory, isn’t it?). I probably will be designing a lace scarf pattern for this, one that starts easy and gets more difficult over the six week class. There will be a class called “knitting as a spiritual way” where we will use knitting as a focus for mindful sitting meditation and we’ll think about how knitting connects people, how it tells stories, and such.

And then there will be the most exciting class for me (never mind that I’m making each of these up as I go along) the circle singing. There will be a one-day workshop where we will be making up songs as we go along. If you want to hear this kind of singing, go to the webe3-site, or go and listen to Bobby McFerrin’s Circlesongs-CD . We’ll stand in a circle, and I’ll make up patterns for the others to sing, then we’ll build patterns upon patterns, and in the end there will be music made by all of us together. If the students are able there even might be a bit of soloing.

So, if you’re living next to M.unich I’d love to see you at these classes. I probably will put up a link to them once they are link-able. The knitting classes will start in October and the circle singing will be November 8th.

Seems that there might be a bit more posting in this place now that the procrastination is out of the way…

Jun 142009

I had a bit of a weird week last week. We came back from the trip to my parent’s to a week with almost no teaching. I distinctly remember that there was a lot of laundry and grocery shopping at the beginning of the week.

On Wednesday we all went to a fabulous concert, WeBe3 at the Unterfahrt. It was my son’s first time ever attending a jazz concert. We didn’t have a babysitter, and since he didn’t have to go to school this week too we decided it might be fun to have him with us for the first part. He behaved marvelous even thought the concert didn’t start until his usual bedtime. At first he was a bit disappointed because he had expected to go to a big concert like the rock concerts he has seen on TV in big stadiums but we were at a nice little jazz club. He was very interested (and well prepared, we had been listening to WEBe3 CDs all day long. At one point he said, “I wish this were on CD, and I could listen to it in my bed.” but he didn’t fall asleep. In the break my husband took him back home, and I got to stay and see the second set as well.

I always feel a bit strange at these concerts. I have been to many WeBe3 and Rhiannon (who is a member of WeBe3) concerts over the years. Just that day I met someone who told me he had attended one of Rhiannon’s workshops 12 years ago. I remember being at that workshop with him, and I doubt that it was my first with her. So, I know the singers on stage very well, and I know about two thirds of the audience as well, since there are a lot of singers who come back again, and again.

I know those singers, and I like them but we only meet for the workshops and concerts. It’s not like we were a community or friends or anything. So I get to experience a very familiar feeling, being part of something, and being apart at the same time.

Everything was wonderful until after the concert when I decided to say hello to Rhiannon because this year I didn’t attend the workshop. I waited and waited, and then waited some more, and then got to say hello, and then waited some more, and then talked some, and waited, until I had missed my train by four minutes. Blah.

That experience, combined with PMS and heavy sleep deprivation because I had been up until half past three, only to be woken up by my son at 8, sent me back to a feeling of not being an artist, and not being a real musician, and that crappy familiar mindset.

I decided to not take those feelings seriously, to just write my story for my writer’s meeting on the same evening. Of course I could have written that story two months ago, or one month ago but, as usual, I chose to procrastinate about it until the very last minute. I wrote about half of the story with gnashing teeth, then I hit a wall, and then I had to leave in order to get to the meeting.

That was one of the most interesting writer’s group meetings ever because besides me nobody else showed up. You can imagine how I felt at first, sitting in a café at a table on the sidewalk, waiting for one of my fellow writers to show up so that I could discuss my writer’s block, and general lack of creativity with them, and waiting, andcursing myself for being too busy to send out my usual “I’m coming who else will be there”-e-mail.

Fortunately I had taken the book “Finding Water: The Art of Perseverance” by Julia Cameron with me. I hadn’t want to at first because it’s heavy and I was already running a bit late. In fact I had left home with my hair still damp and no make-up in order to catch my train. I didn’t quite know why I wanted to lug that heavy book around but then I got to read for an hour, and I found myself just a bit more grounded, and a bit more optimistic, and I made a plan.

I decided that each, and every day I’d play the piano for ten minutes before switching on my computer. And I decided to, somehow, find the time to write three pages of longhand on something fictional.

I’ve done that two times already and I can say that: a) I feel much better, b) if I do that I don’t have time for doing something on the computer before three in the afternoon, this will be interesting when tomorrow my regular teaching starts again, c) the story I started for the meeting, and that I had wanted to be about 1,000 words long, now stands at 1,800 and has barely started, and d) I’m really excited, and am looking forward to even doing housework.

So, now I’m praying for the strength and discipline to continue with that. I also tackled things that have been laying around for ages, I have weaved in the ends of two lace shawls, and two pairs of socks, some of them had been laying around, finished, since the beginning of the year. I also finished a pair of socks, and finished spinning the yarn for a cardigan. I had started spinning that in August or September of last year.

And the most startling thing that I have been doing was that I helped my husband with moving and turning the compost yesterday. We worked in the garden, all three of us together. You probably can’t imagine the novelty of that, the last time I did any yard work (and that was before my son was born, mind you) my husband took a picture as proof.

When I can go on like this I will be able to ease myself into a new routine. A much happier routine. Because when I start my day with morning pages, and a bit of exercise (I’ve been doing morning pages and a bit of T-Tapp in the mornings before even getting out of bed for a couple of weeks now.), I can face the rest of the world, and life, and everything much calmer.

Mar 202009

Lo and behold, here are the pictures of the doll’s clothes (is this a doll or a stuffed animal?) I made between 1976 and 1981. (I wrote about the first of these clothes that I made when I told you how I learned to knit and crochet.) In chronological order:


Nice summer combination of sleeveless top and short skirt. Think of a day spent sailing on a lake.


Cozy and practical sleeping bag. Removable pack of tissues as a pillow. Notice the border in contrasting color. (The designer probably ran out of yarn.)


There’s a few year’s gap between the above models and this one. Here there’s actual seamless construction in a floor length sturdy gown with puffy long sleeves. The dress is buttoned at the back and features single rows of single crochet in a brighter color to add interest.


This model is meant to be worn at elegant tea or garden parties. A black skirt sets off the brightly pink top, again with long sleeves. The bow at the neck adds a little extra touch, and for those chilly evening breezes there is a nice black shawl to complete the outfit.


City wear in bright colors. This is an 80s model after all. A simple straight and sleeveless dress that can be worn with or without the matching short sleeved jacket. The simplicity of the piece draws the attention to it’s cheerful color, and the interesting texture achieved by irregularly placed rows of single and double crochet.

The next dress is actually my very first piece of sewing. My mother made herself a dress at that time, and since I was so interested she decided to teach me machine-sewing. The fabric is leftovers from her dress. She helped me measure the doll, and cutting the pieces, then I sew the front and back of the dress, and the hem. My mother helped me gather the skirt and then she sew it to the top of the dress. She also made the hat. (So this time my mother’s the designer, not me.) There was a matching shawl made from thin red cotton but I don’t have it anymore.


A light summer dress made of brightly printed cotton. Notice the matching sun bonnet with it’s pretty rick-rack at the brim.


Again a summer dress, lacy and flowing, fit for a party in a nice dusty pink. Unlike the earlier works this one is knit instead of crochet which gives the fabric a nice flowing drape.


This one is for colder weather, a wooly coat and matching hat. The moss stitch fabric is gathered at the cuffs. The double-breasted front is once again closed with bows. The crocheted hat has a ruffled brim that frames the face and a bow in contrasting yarn to add more visual interest.


Another evening gown, a straight top and skirt with embroidered detail at the neck and shoulders made from a sleek, silk-like material. This model also features a matching bag with embroidered detail, and matching shoes (not pictured because they didn’t fit the model).

It’s really interesting to me to see all these in one place. I find that I still avoid seaming as much as I can. I even used pinky shears to cut out the pieces for the green, hand-sewn dress so that I didn’t have to sew more than absolutely necessary. The preference for bows and yarn as closures is due tot he fact that I didn’t have any buttons. Later I took inexpensive snap-fasteners that my mother didn’t mind giving me.

The other reason for why I tend to knit as seamless as possible came to me just a few days ago when I used my little sewing kit that I got from my grand-aunt when I was 14. I needed a tapestry needle and when I took it out that I had another one tucked away in there which I hadn’t known about for twenty years or so. In my youth there was the tapestry needle. One. It lives (to this day) in my mother’s knitting basket. We were not allowed to take it without asking, and we had to put it back immediately afterwards. Of course I avoided asking for it as much as possible.

I thought tapestry needles were expensive and rare. I don’t know when I decided to buy my own, certainly some time before I moved out of my parent’s house, and imagine my surprise when I found that tapestry needles are actually quite cheap, and that you can’t buy one only, you have to take a packet of two. At the moment I’m the proud owner of about four or five of them, the two I bought myself, and two or three that came with the sewing basket I inherited from my husband’s grandmother who was a seamstress.

Of course the doll clothes you see above aren’t the only ones I made when I was young. But these are the only ones I still have. I kept them because I liked them so much. I remember making clothes for a stuffed ape in bright yellow, blue, and pink cotton, crochet dresses for Barbie dolls, purses, and hats, and such. All made from leftover yarn and fabrics. I’m not sure but the yarn in the first picture on the top might actually be leftover yarn from my third big knitting project, a Norwegian sweater with colored yoke. When I was a child, I didn’t know you could have a home without a sack of leftover yarn and fabric in the attic.

Mar 172009

I distinctly remember coming back home from an improvisation workshop last year in May with the firmly set conviction that I had to post an improvisation a week on my blog. Or at least once a month. Since then there was music exactly – once.

I also distinctly remember that the reason for me to move my blog from blogger to my own domain was that blogger no longer allowed me to play my music on my blog because it didn’t accept the code for the player anymore.

So, since music seems to be so important to me, why is it that I don’t make more of it, and don’t post any of it on my blog?

At first I thought I was lazy. And that I’m fooling myself by telling me that I want to be a musician when I grow up. Then there was this day, two weeks ago, when I suddenly felt a bit better than the months before – you know, with the on-going flu – and I sat down and played my piano and sang, and improvised a bit. Something I hadn’t done in months. I did sit down and play during those months but always other people’s songs. Never my own thing.

And then it hit me: I hadn’t been lazy. I had been in constant turmoil, health crisis after parenting crisis, after another. Since fall. It hit me that I took one of the first moments I had, a moment when I felt a bit more myself, and I sat down and made myself some music.

Of course I only sat down twice since then but there might be more space for that in the near future. I hope.

I’m not quite ready to record anything yet, at the moment I feel like someone who hasn’t rode her bicycle all winter long, and now it’s the first time she gets up again. All wobbly and insecure. Nevertheless.

For those of you interested in my music, however little there is, these are the posts where you can hear me sing.

Jan 262009

Just the other day I was telling somebody on ravelry that I don’t have much stash, also I’m running out of sock yarn. When I have finished the two pairs of socks currently on my needles there is no more new sock yarn.

On the other hand I can barely close my yarn drawer, and there are projects, patterns, yarn and needles everywhere in the house. How can those two things be true at the same time?

So I decided to a) think about it, and b) pull out the wool and have a look at it. I haven’t gotten as far as actually looking at it right now but thinking about it helped a little. I think I might start to understand what’s going on here.

  1. I usually put my leftover yarn in the attic. Sadly the “leftover yarn boxes” are full. More knitting means more leftovers. This is one of the reasons why there is a lot of yarn in my yarn drawer.
  2. When I ordered the yarn for my last two sweaters online I, of course, ordered a bit more than I thought I’d need. Since the shop isn’t nearby I can’t just go and get more. Actually, with the last sweater I ordered the exact amount of yarn needed and I have about 2 1/2 skeins left over. I know, it’s a mystery. That accounts for 400 g of yarn between the two sweaters. The leftover yarn would make great mittens or hats (I don’t knit scarfs, hate making them). Only the colors don’t match anyone’s coats.
  3. Even though I thought I don’t have any more sock yarn there is in my yarn drawer: a) an almost finished pair of summer socks, b) leftovers of two pairs of socks, enough yarn two knit another pair out of the same yarn, c) between 40 and 60 grams of each skein of Wollmeise sock yarn that I’ve ever owned (which might become either striped or fair isle socks at one point).
  4. There is leftover Wollmeise lace yarn, enough for a lace scarf, or if combined with the two other colorways of Wollmeise lace that I have (that accounts for two of my currently active projects), there might be enough for yet another stole,
  5. There is yarn I bought in order to make yet another lace stole, this one will be for a friend.
  6. There is leftover yarn from making a scarf and hat that will eventually become a pair of fair isle mittens for me. (
    And it would be nice if I finished those before August. So that I can actually wear them.
  7. There are three balls of cotton sock yarn that I wanted to design socks for. They have been sitting in the drawer, untouched since July. I had an epiphany last week, and have declared that I will just make socks following a pattern. Designing should be fun, not a chore. The pattern is sitting on my piano at the moment, the yarn is in the yarn drawer. And I won’t start them soon, since it’s not summer yet.
  8. There is enough cotton from 1994 to make yet another preemie blanket. Only I hate working with cotton.

I think that’s all, apart from the hat that needs seaming that sits on top of the fridge, the lace shawl and pirate scarf that need blocking that sit on top of the dresser, the two pairs of socks, and two lace shawls in progress that sit on the kitchen bench, the unfinished cotton sweater that sits in the knitting basket in the living room (it only needs another sleeve and a button band to be finished), and a ziploc bag with the cast-on for the aforementioned baby blanket that probably will never happen.

So, you can easily see why I have the feeling that I’m in desperate need of wool, can’t you? O already ordered yarn for another sweater (one that I really need), a knitted doll, and a pair of socks. I’m desperately waiting for them to arrive. Before I run out of yarn and things to knit.

I feel quite virtuous, though, because only half of the drawer is full of wool. The other one is occupied by my fabric stash. That somehow overflows into the rest of the bedroom too…

P.S.: I just remembered the spinning stash, and the handspun. And the yarn that was a hat that was too big for me until half an hour ago when I wound it on the niddy-noddy to re-knit the hat. Ouch.

Jul 082008

First there was a blog post on the 50 songs in 90 days-challenge on the shy singer/songwriter-blog. Then I got my astrology newsletter where there was mention of a singer, and when I checked out the site there was a link to the Immersion Composition Society whose members challenge themselves to write 20 songs in a day. (By the way I like the music of Ultralash a lot but when I wanted to buy the CD I couldn’t because I don’t have an US paypal account. Meh.) I already sensed a theme here but I’m still not ready for writing music again. And just then I opened Neil Gaiman’s blog in my feed reader, and there was mention of his former web elf, and voilà, former web-elf has posted one-minute-songs to her site three times a week.


Did I mention that I still have about a gazillion things to do without even having touched any instrument?

Humph, indeed.

You know, I have bought myself a new recording thingy. And I already used it. Once. In April or so. Since then I have wanted to mix the recording. And I still haven’t done it. But here is the draft of the blog post I intended to write about it:

I actually got my own “connect the mike with the computer”-device last Thursday half a month six weeks ago. It’s called Onyx Satellite, hence this post’s title. [The post should have been called “I got my own satellite”.] However, due to life, and yarn expeditions I only unpacked it three days later. And managed to record a very short and not that exciting improvisation. Of course I wanted to present you with something really great but then I thought I’d better just post what I have. Because if I wait for something really great I might never get around to post music on my blog again. Using that thing is much easier than using the big mixer my husband has.

So now I’m doing something that no musician should do. Ever.

I’m posting a raw first take of a boring improvisation. Without having listened to it again.


Nice post, isn’t it? Even if it is a bit incoherent. The only problem is that I then had to listen to the improvisation again, and it had the deadly flaw of being far too soft. Not loud enough. When it started to play on my computer I checked and rechecked three times to see if the loudspeaker was on. So I couldn’t post it.

There was only one thing to do. I recorded another improvisation today. Which is based on a groove idea that I had on May 1. I carried that idea around in my head for more than two months. Then I connected my new recording device, everything was fine, I even remembered to check the levels, and then I sang it. It was beautiful. Really. Unfortunately you can’t hear it because for no good reason the computer didn’t record it. Which I found out after more than two minutes of singing. Then I had twelve minutes left before I had to leave to pick up my son. I recorded the thing again, well, something based on the same groove. I had seven minutes to mix it which is why I’m not completely satisfied with that artificial sounding reverb effect thingie.

But here, finally, is at least some music by me:

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I had wanted to make a new category on this blog like the “Story of the Month”-feature. “Monthly music” or, why not go wild, “Weekly Improvisation”. But, alas, it seems that a month in music is like six months in real life for me. But who knows. Maybe there will be something else before Christmas. Though I’m sure there won’t be 50 songs in 90 days.

Jun 202008

Of course I thought I would have it all figured out by now. And I do have a job. A job I happen to like. But then, I always seem to get restless after a while. I have already written about how I feel like I’m pulled in several directions at once, how the things I like doing just don’t go together that well.

Which reminds me that I had promised you a post about the things I like. I have been thinking about it for weeks now but all I can come up with is “Raindrops on roses, and warm woolen mittens, …” (and I just found that I misquoted it, I’m horrible at remembering song lyrics) Every time I try to write a list of things I like I end up with something like this, and it feels totally arbitrary.

So. I’m almost 41 now, and I keep thinking about what to do with my life, where it’s headed, and I still don’t know. Music is important, I now know this, because without music I get depressive. Sometimes I also get depressive with music but without it I always do. I know that I want to sing more, and make up songs, and improvise, and that I want to perform again. I only don’t know how or where or when or with whom. And I find that it feels a bit pointless to hum to myself at home, and so I bought myself a new recording thingie that is sitting on my desk and gathers dust. (I actually recorded something and started to write a post about this at the end of, um, April. Well.)

Last year I had this feeling that I should become a tarot reader. I bought tons of books, and three more decks of tarot cards, bought a spiral notebook, and started learning the meaning of two tarot cards each day. For about a week or two. Because while I enjoy pulling cards and doing readings for people with the oracle cards that I have, I never can remember the meanings of the cards. I always have to look them up. And while I feel pretty good about drawing cards for people it then occurred to me that people might want to know about serious life-issues, and I didn’t feel up to the task. Also, learning while I go along might work for the things I usually teach and do but for this I felt that I needed a better foundation. I haven’t abandoned the thought, though, it’s just one of the things that is swirling around in my mind.

Then there’s the knitting. It has become quite important to me again over the past year (which you might have noticed), and so I started thinking along the lines of, “Maybe I should teach knitting classes.” or design knitting patterns again and see where that leads me. That’s my latest spleen, and so I have started drafting a plan for knitting classes, and have run into my old obstacle of not being able to promote myself. I just can’t do it. I have all these plans, and enthusiasm, and I know people would love the classes but when I put it all to paper it becomes stiff and hollow and brittle. My husband has been going over my draft to help me, and now it’s up to me again.

Then, the designing. As I have said before, having ideas is never the problem for me. (And I thank God for that.) As soon as I decided that I wanted to design something there were a few ideas popping up. I even bought yarn, and I have thought about them constantly. Now all I need is a couple of days to really do something. And, most important of all, I need some space in my head for that.

Just in case you’re wondering why I, all of a sudden, think that I can design knitting patterns, well, back in the eighties when I lived in a small town I pretty much made up all my own patterns. Not always successful but then, these days, I actually knit gauge swatches and such, and on top of that I’m totally willing to rip everything back until it looks like I want it to. The only thing I’m a bit nervous about is that in the eighties sweaters were just rectangles, and these days they are supposed to fit a bit more tightly. On the other hand, from what I see these days, baggy sweaters might be back again soon. And designing fitting sweaters only means doing a bit more math. Which, strangely enough, is not a problem, it only takes a bit more time.

I also would like to teach creativity, and work as a coach but I have this feeling that I need to grow a bit before doing that. The other thing I’d like to do is improvised music. So I’m planning to teach circle singing, and waiting for the opportunity to improvise with others.

Then there’s the writing. I like doing it but I still have to read my two NaNoWriMo-novels. (That still sounds weird, my two novels. Lately someone asked me what I had been doing, and when I told her “I have been writing more, there’s the blog, and I have written first drafts of two novels and a screen play.” it sounded really weird to me. But then, it’s true nonetheless. It won’t do me any good, though, until I do something with what I have.)

I know that this is pretty much the recurrent theme of my blog, my lack of focus on just one thing. So, I have decided that I’m unable to do just one thing, and go in all directions at once. Which is fine, only now all these things in my head keep canceling each other out. Where to start? I start each day with a plan to do one of the important things, like, “Today I’ll be working on my concept for knitting classes!” then procrastination happens, or housework, or blog reading, or exercise, or family, and soon it’s “I’ll do it on the weekend when I’ll be having more time.” (That one’s always good for a laugh.), and so the weeks go by one after the other.

So, this, of course, will be the weekend when I will be:

  1. Doing some extra thing with my son like going to the zoo, or riding our bikes.
  2. Sew a dress, and about three bags.
  3. Knit about 250 rows on Mystic Meadows.
  4. Clean the house.
  5. Do all the laundry.
  6. Design and knit a pair of socks and a men’s sweater.
  7. Finish my plan for knitting lessons, write a CV to go with it, take a new picture of myself, write accompanying letter, and mail it off.
  8. Sleep for at least eight hours straight each night.
  9. Cook something not fast food-like.
  10. Read half of “Shadowplay”, “The Mindful Way through Depression”, a third of “Spook Country”, “Anger: Wisdom for Cooling the Flames”, and re-read “Mindful Knitting: Inviting Contemplative Practice to the Craft”. (I sense a theme here with the self-help books.)
  11. Watch two games of soccer because of the European Championship.
  12. Write my monthly story for the writing group.
  13. Mix the improvisation I recorded.
  14. Record some more.
  15. Write one or two blog posts.
  16. Do yard work. (If you knew me in real life this one would be ROFL-worth funny.)

While I’m at it, I could also teach my son how to swim. Or something.

These are not really my plans for the weekend but then I might have taken on a bit more in my life than I can reasonably do. Do you know anybody who hasn’t? Which of the things should I drop? I know, the answer is housework but my husband doesn’t like doing it all alone. And I don’t blame him. So, any advice? I could quit blog-reading of course but that isn’t really an option, isn’t it?

Apr 252008

I just bought a new book.

I know, how unusual, and I even read it, and read it with much pleasure. It’s called “the creative family” by Amanda Blake Soule and with that title of course I had to have it. Also I love Amanda’s blog, I find it very soothing and positive and inspirational and it’s the same with the book. So before you read anything else you have to keep in mind that I really love the book, am about to read it for the second time in a row and just went out to get embroidery supplies to embroider some of my son’s drawing onto cloth even though I never liked embroidery before. I will make quite a few of her projects and am looking forward to do some “family drawing time” in the future. There was only one thing in the whole book that didn’t sit right with me and that started with the following paragraph from the introduction:

Given the creative nature of children, it is no coincidence that so many of us are led to seek a more creative life in their presence. Either an old creative passion or pursuit that has been forgotten is internally churned up, or we suddenly feel a need for something else in our lives when we’ve never considered ourselves creative before. Being around even the youngest children – and the purity of their rich creative energy – brings out our need for that same innovative spirit. They inspire us not only to nurture and embrace all of who they are, but to nurture and embrace our own creative selves as well.

(from “The Creative Family”, p. 2)

I know that my situation before having a child was quite different from hers in that I already was an artist then. I wasn’t exactly lacking imagination or creative spirit, only energy and sometimes time to make music, or write, or craft. Then I got pregnant and tired all the time and tried to record vocals for my husband’s CD while being out of breath, tried to help him mix the CD while being extremely sensitive to loud noises (and music), then had a baby, and was even more tired all the time while trying to parent, teach, and still make music on the side while helping my husband with his next CD, recording vocals during naptime, and once with a baby on my hip (oh no, on his hip, but in the same room, and it even kept quiet). So, while I always encourage people to be creative and while I have even written a series of posts about how to be creative when you don’t have the time, resources, or space for it there are several things about having children that don’t foster creativity for me.

Before I dive into list-making though I have to tell you that I really love my son and really think that he makes my life richer. He is a very creative and imaginative person. He’s fun to be with. So this is not about him, it’s about the daily things that come with having children.

  1. I’m tired. When I’m tired my body wants me to sleep, or eat and rest, not to spend energy making art.
  2. I have much less time than when I didn’t have a child even though I teach less. I have to spend a lot of time caring for my son or attending to household chores that didn’t exist before. For example ever since I returned from the hospital after his birth our laundry has been triple the amount than before.
  3. I’m being interrupted constantly. It’s much harder to find time to hear myself think.
  4. After talking with him for more than ten minutes I feel as if my brain is dripping out of my ears. Now, don’t get me wrong, he is an intelligent and entertaining human being, it’s only that after being talked at for an hour about robots, or building a submarine in the backyard, or going to the moon with his stuffed bunny in a LEGO rocket I usually need about thirty minutes of quiet time on my own to feel like I have any mental capacity at all.
  5. There is so much more organizational detail to attend to that my mind gets constantly drawn towards things like bringing money to kindergarten for the field trip, organizing baby sitting, searching for his rain pants, remembering that he had his rain pants with him when he went to that birthday party three weeks ago, asking the mother of his friend where his rain pants are, searching again because that other mother said her husband had dropped the pants off at our place, remembering while her husband might be sure that he did that I haven’t set eyes on the pants since my son left for the birthday party, making a note on my to-do-list to buy new rain pants at the second hand store, actual remember the rain pants when I’m near the store, go in, look for pants in his size, not finding any, make another note for another day, finally after three attempts get new rain pants, only to have him lose them at kindergarten the following week, start over. – And that was only one thing. And one child.
  6. Did I mention that I’m tired? Before I had a child when I stayed up late I just slept in the next day and restored my energy. Nowadays if I stay up late I have to pay for it for three days straight.

These things don’t make being creative impossible but it’s much harder. Even on weekends there is never a feeling of “open end”. Creativity has to be pressed into whatever slice of time is available. And for me that is partly the reason that most of my creativity these days comes out in knitting and blog posts, and there are no new songs written by me. That’s not to say that I can’t be creative with my son around but I have to say that I find it hard.

And I have found that there are different degrees of creativity for me. Things like knitting or sewing other people’s patterns, while fun, don’t fulfill my creative urge adequately (and neither would designing my own patterns, I tried). Writing blog posts is okay but writing fiction is better. Practicing guitar and playing other people’s songs is okay, improvising is better, and writing my own songs is best. But writing my own songs or writing fiction is neither “fun” nor relaxing for me. It’s hard and takes a lot of energy. I tried to find a way to make this easier but even when everything flows perfectly afterwards I feel like I have climbed a hill. And also my mind is entirely elsewhere. My son doesn’t like this. Nobody likes it when his mother has this far-away look on her face and doesn’t really pay attention.

The creativity Amanda talks about in her book is mostly the crafting type. And in the book there are mostly projects you can do with your children, which I love. But that’s just it. I can sit next to my son and knit, even while he plays or draws or even knits himself. (I’m so proud of him, he has knitted all of two rows on a scarf for his teddy bear. Of course after that he lost interest again.) Sometimes, very rarely, I’ll even play the guitar a little or sing while he’s with me but I can’t do more than that. Creating art requires your full attention and your child does too. Which is why even Amanda does most of her book writing and serious embroidery and sewing at night after her children have gone to bed.

Please understand that I am not saying anything against her or her book, in fact I strongly recommend buying it, it is lovely and very inspirational. That paragraph I quoted was only the starting point for me to say something that has been on my mind for a long time (and on my husband’s even longer). I find that I am not alone in this. I see a lot of musicians who used to practice for hours every day spending their evenings slumping in front of TV these days because they feel too brain dead after a day with their children. I also see people picking up something new through their children’s activities like the mother who started playing the guitar when her daughter didn’t want to any longer and who is now learning something she always wanted.

So, what’s your experience? Are you more creative or less since you’ve had children? (Of course, comments are open for people without children too…

Feb 242008

It feels pretty weird to get an art award at a time when I feel like I’m not doing any art at all, but then, who am I to judge. Joanna gave this to me, thank you very much. And isn’t it pretty?

art award

I had a hard time finding the origin of the award since the url got scrambled somewhere but here it is, arte e pico (And that’s a link to the actual post where she (I think it’s a she) explains the award and the rules for it. Unfortunately I don’t speak Spanish (I know, it’s shocking. I understand a bit of it after having learned Latin, French, a bit of Italian, and Portuguese, but only a bit. (It’s really interesting how much you can study languages without every becoming fluent.))

I’m very happy about this award since it’s especially about art and creativity, two things that are very close to my heart. On the other hand I don’t feel very creative or artsy at the moment. I don’t really count my obsessive knitting since it’s all about following a pattern. That’s crafting, not creativity. And while I could go a step further and design my own sweaters or socks or whatever (and I have done so in the past, before the internet and ravelry, back in the days when there was a shortage of nice patterns, and we still had to make up our own) but then it doesn’t feed my heart the same way music does. Unfortunately.

But maybe I better get on with this award thing, and save the “creativity and music and my problems with it”-discussion for another day. Preferable one where I can show you a new song or something like that. (Did I mention that my voice is gone again? No? Well, that’s a serious problem in making music. If you are a singer, that is.)

So, here are the rules (And as a former academic I haven’t altered the quote. Since I am not an academic anymore I also have refrained from writing (sic!) after every typo.):

Reglas en ingles:
1) You have to pick 5 blogs that you copnsider deserve this award, creativity, design, interesting material, and also contrubuites to the blogger community, no matter of language.

2) Each award has to have the name of the author and also a link to his or her blog to be visited by everyone.

3) Each award-winning, has to show the award and put the name and link to the blog that has given her or him the ward itself.

4) Award-winning and the one who has given the prize have to show the link of “Arte y pico”blog , so everyone will know the origin of this award.

5) To show these rules.

Award winners are:…

Well, I consider every blog on my blogroll to be extremely interesting. Otherwise I wouldn’t be reading it, trust me. Most of these bloggers are also very active in the blogging community. That’s why there still are the just posts. (Just because I always forget to remind you, could you just send any links to blog posts about social justice things to me as you see them? And, please, do it before March 7th? Thank you.)) So, this is about creativity, design, interesting material, and contribution to the blogger community.

All of the blogs that I’m reading are creative, interesting, and almost all of them contribute to the community. That leaves the design aspect. While there are many bloggers that I dearly love there are some who are more about art and design and creativity than others. So I’d like to give this award to:

  1. Lia. You should really check out her blog. She has these stunning collages and writes beautiful stories. Also I find her perspective intriguing since she is a Canadian living in Germany.
  2. Hel. She takes the most beautiful and dreamlike pictures. Her posts are mystical and poetic. They lift my heart and soul up even when she is writing about things not very uplifting. I think she should make more of her photography, by the way.
  3. crazymumma. You know, she isn’t crazy at all. She is a real artist. I really hope that she will be getting back into making visual art and pottery and sculpture and the like. Also her photos are marvelous.
  4. De. Again. You might think that I just pass every award on to her that comes my way but really, she is a writer at heart. Her words often take my breath away. I will never forget the first posts of her that I read. When I went back to check her archive and found that I already had read everything there was. She often plunges right into the deep end of the pool, riding the waves of emotion with her writing. And you probably all know her comments which are always special.
  5. My husband. I know that this seems incestuous but he makes the most beautiful music, he combines it with stunning pictures, and if anybody deserves an art award, it’s him. He’s not that much into the blogger community though. So I want to give him this award and relieve him of the burden to have to pass it on.

And that goes for all of you award “winners”. Take it as a compliment and if it feels too much like a burden, well, then let it go.

Nov 252007

because the craziness of National Novel Writing Month is over.

At least for me:


And this is what a NaNo winner looks like after writing 8,413 words in two days. And yes, I didn’t even put in my contacts today.


The exceptional panic that is speed novel-writing is over. I will now return to my family to celebrate. We have had a bottle of champagne in the fridge especially for this for days.

Normal panic mode will be resumed in short order. I may even read the 150 unread blog posts in my feed reader. Or sleep, who knows.

To all of you who still are in the grip of NaNoWriMo or NaBloPoMo: I’m cheering you on. Keep going!