28 June 2006

Being a Brat

Have you ever had an experience that was like having a flashlight shone into a forgotten corner of your life? It's not like looking into a closet or a room that's been closed off. Instead, this area of your life is just a small, unexplored and under-utilized space that has accumulated dust, clutter and easy-to-ignore debris.

My sister and her family are currently living in Geilenkirchen, Germany which just happens to be about 5 minutes away from the place where my family lived for 4 years when I was an adolescent. Last week, she visited the school that I attended (actually we both went to school there) from 8th grade through the end of my junior year of high school. She was hoping that there might be a chance that her daughter could go there as well.

S's visit to our old school has inspired a great deal of nostalgia, for both of us. Today she referred me to the website for a documentary on the lives of military brats. What's funny is that I don't really think much about being a military brat. When I came back to the US for my senior year of high school, I quickly learned that no one wanted to know about the things that I had seen and experienced prior to my arrival in the Ohio suburbs. Talk of life or travels in Europe was more likely to alienate than intrigue. I also found myself completely lacking in understanding of many pop-culture references that my peers took for granted.

Reading the comments on the documentary's website, was a little like having a light suddenly flipped on in a shadowed corner of my life. All of a sudden, the dust and cobwebs are in stark contrast. And I'm finding that the shadows are concealing an alcove that I didn't know or had forgotten was there. This isn't the first time that I've explored the lasting consequences of my upbringing in the pages of my blog, it just seems like interesting timing to have it resurface. I've decided to actually seek professional treatment for depression. Perhaps I should make notes on all this stuff to take with me when I meet my new therapist.

08 June 2006

Nipple Gymnastics

The following is my second writing sample written for the application for the Club Mom blogging gig. Again, I am sharing these here on my blog because I enjoyed writing them and was pleased with the results. I just wanted to post them rather than round-file them.

Nipple Gymnastics: Adventures In Breastfeeding

Like most expectant mothers today, I began learning about the importance of breastfeeding very early in my pregnancy. I was not the first of my friends to go through pregnancy or breastfeeding. Having watched the nursing in progress, my appreciation for the beauty and wonder of the experience was mingled with a measure of fear. Some of the things that I had seen babies do to nipples during their feedings made my own nipples want to run for cover somewhere in the neighborhood of my spine.

Your lactation consultant may, or may not, tell you how difficult some women find breastfeeding. It is a serious commitment of time and energy. For at least the first few months, there is little else you can do while your baby nurses. A sling can help, especially if you have a support team to get everything set up and in the right place. Eventually you get used to doing with two hands what you'd really like to have at least 5 to manage. You may even be able to manage to multi-task. Checking email or talking on the phone while nursing can actually be very manageable.

The standard nursing positions may seem awkward at first. That is nothing compared to some of the non-standard positions that your baby will discover as she develops a bit more control of her body. We used to call the sidelying position the cuddle or snuggle position because there was nothing like curling up with a sleepy baby, the closeness, and the euphoric sense that everything was right in the world. We now realize that the sidelying position is really an arena for the aspiring nipple gymnast.

The first maneuver in nipple gymnastics is the belly roll. With just a little practice, your nursling will be able to roll from her side to her belly without breaking her latch. The stretching of your nipple that accompanies this feat won't seem as uncomfortable as it might have, since by this time your infant's increasing awareness of the outside world often results in sudden head turning while nursing. Most of your nursling's future gymnastic feats will build upon the simple belly roll. Before you know it, your baby will be competing for the gold.

In the coming weeks or months, I would like to share with you some highlights of the under-publicized sport of nipple gymnastics. If your own nursling has a particularly ambitious or daring gymnastic maneuver, please drop me a line and we can compare notes.

Image note: "Mickaninies Kow-Kow" Inuit Eskimo woman breast-feeding two babies. (c)1904 Copyrighted by Frank H. Nowell.
Source: US Library of Congress Online Print Catalogue

04 June 2006

Interruptions Big and Small

The post below is one of the writing samples that I submitted as part of my job application for the blogging gig with Club Mom. I've been somewhat uncertain what I should do with these samples. I'm actually very pleased with the way that these samples came out and I hate the idea of no one reading them. I thought that I'd just go ahead and post them here now that the status of the application has been finalized.

Interruptions Big and Small

Sprout is recovering from a sinus infection this week*. As a consequence of a stuffed nose and an icky disposition she's very clingy and doesn't want anything to do with food or drink other than breast milk. As she sits on my lap nursing, I'm aware of the smell of berry-flavored antibiotics and yet another wet diaper blending in a not entirely unpleasant way. My mind is wandering and making lists of the things that I'm supposed to be getting done.

I knew when we decided to have a child that, during the day at least, everything else in my life would come second to taking care of Sprout's needs. On days like today, that means that writing a blog entry can take 4 or 5 hours or that any hope that I might have had of catching up with business correspondence or shipping is doomed. I'd be lying if I said that I wasn't counting the minutes until Sprout's dad walks through the door and I can go into the bathroom by myself or, even better, go out to the studio for a couple of hours and try to get some work done for the craft fair which I have coming up in less than 2 weeks.

My goals now are so much different from my goals before Sprout entered our life. I used to dream of writing the definitive book on ceramic beadmaking and traveling around the U.S. and the world teaching workshops. Now, I dream pensively of typing a complete sentence with both hands.

It is hard sometimes not to think about these changes as a narrowing of my horizons or a loss of momentum. I've heard other women artists speculate that the reason that there are so few important female artists is that women throughout history have allowed their careers to be hijacked by childrearing and then caring for aging parents. Whatever progress has been made in the last 30 years, women are still the lower wage earners, and if one income must be sacrificed, it comes down to us to fall upon our swords. That's what the "mommy wars" are all about, isn't it?

I have to admit though, as I listen to my little Sprout laughing as she watches Noggin, it's really hard to think of her as an interruption. Instead, most times I find myself closing the cover of my laptop and inviting her into my lap so that I can laugh with her.

* This entry was actually written in mid-march, soon after our return from vacation in North Carolina. Our Sprout brought the sinus infection home with her as a special momento. She was so sick on the trip home and it actually really scared me a lot that she was feverish and miserable... Her daddy and I took her to Urgent Care almost as soon as my parents dropped the kiddlet and I off at the house. (Daddy didn't get to join us for the whole vacation.)

28 June 2006 -- Edited at the request of Sprout's father.

01 June 2006

Living With Disappointment

"We regret to inform you that after careful consideration we will not be offering you employment with our company."* And thus a door closes on my aspirations of moving my life/career in that direction.

As I've previously indicated, I applied for a blogging job with the newly launched ClubMom topical blogs. Although I was not selected for their initial round, their response was encouraging and even suggestive of a very promising outcome. They said that my application materials stood out and thought that they could find an audience for my unique voice amongst their members. Their message was encouraging and I was really looking forward to working with them.

As it turns out, the blog roll-out on ClubMom was a larger enterprise than expected and as a consequence, they've found that they don't really have a place for me amongst their ranks. I'm attempting to be philosophical about this. They've got some great writers working for them and I'm sure that they'll be very successful. I'm still trying to work out what this means for me.

In the interest of making the best of the whole thing, I would like to share the sample blog entries that I wrote as part of the application process. I'll be posting them as separate entries. I also have notes for additional entries which I started keeping in a file so that I would have "blog fodder" for slow days or in anticipation of vacations, etc.

This has been a learning experience for me. I have repeatedly read that for an artist to make a living in the US, s/he must write and/or teach to supplement the income from making art. I liked the idea of having a steady writing gig, and with it a monthly income (no matter how small) that I could count on. I haven't decided yet whether I want to try and find a similar opportunity elsewhere. On the other hand, I expect that the direction of this blog will be forever altered by my experiences over the last couple of months.

*This is not a direct quote... it is, instead, a summary of the communication received earlier today.