Still Here, Still Creating

This time at home with my children this year has been really great, but it has left me with not a whole lot of time and energy for writing here or tackling big projects. Add on some freelance costume and sewing gigs finally, and trying to update Originals by Katharine Tracy monthly, it means there are sometimes weeks of no writing or art. I still always carve out time for music even if it’s just 10 minutes on piano every day, but there were a couple months at the start of the year that I couldn’t even play the uke or flute because it seemed like too much effort. The cycle of feeling energized and then almost burning out has been a theme this entire pandemic, and if I’m honest, my entire life. There hasn’t ever been anything like steadiness, which definitely keeps life more interesting.

I have songs and poems and stories and art inside that I hope I will have the chance to manifest into reality. I always chip away where I can. In the meantime, I’m continuing with focusing on my biggest creative endeavor (my children) and consider it such a profound privilege to watch them grow and help shape them into amazing human beings. I am pursuing my costume and sewing work, which is satisfying creatively in different ways. And I have learned to let myself off the hook a little bit. I cannot be a “creative machine”. I don’t need to feel guilt when I need to rest. I’m finally learning to ride my own waves, and that’s where I need to be.

Where are you all emotionally at this point? Hopeful? Despairing? Taking things in stride? Wherever you are, I wish you well.

She Hangs Stars, an abstract painting

she hangs stars by kat micari - blue texture painting

I finished this abstract painting about a month ago, but I had to install my scanning software onto a new laptop since my old one decided to die. I’m hoping to get my gallery pages updated this week at some point.

I’m here and creating when I can. The creativity comes in waves during this social isolation and political turmoil. It’s still been kind of a roller coaster ride emotionally, and there are so many nights that I’m too wiped out after cleaning and prepping prek homeschool for the next day to do anything. But I do what I can. Anyone else feel like they are scraping bottom of the barrel and have been for months? We have to do what we can to refill ourselves, because there isn’t anyone “out there” to do it for us. But it’s a hard task. I find playing creatively is the best means for me to do that though.

Social Distancing Ideas for Keeping Yourself Sane, Sharp, and Stimulated

I am creating this list both to share with all of you and to remind myself in the long days ahead when having everyone at home will start getting overwhelming.

  • If you live with others, take this time to truly enjoy the company. I have the feeling that this is a make or break time for a lot of relationships. Keep the communication flowing, let the little things go, and find the humor whenever possible.
  • Keep moving. Get fresh air if you are able to, get some kind of exercise routine going for you and your family, if you have one. I like putting music on and dancing like a fool and doing workouts at home anyway. My son’s karate is live streaming his classes and he has P.E. recommendations that I participated in with both kids tonight.
  • Get done those organizational or cleaning or yard projects that you have been putting off. Today I realized that light fixtures in the bathroom aren’t actually frosted like I thought… oops.
  • Consume media that you wouldn’t normally do. Project Gutenberg is a great resource for free books (though throw them a donation if you can).  Try to learn something you’ve never learned before.
  • Create as much as you can, in any way as you can. The creative process keeps you happy and healthy.
  • Take the time to get to know yourself as you currently are. As you can handle this, of course. There is so much opportunity to really grow through all of this.
  • Stay connected to other loved ones as much as possible through phone calls and video chats. Check on people. This is tough when you have kids you are trying to manage through school work and not destroying your home, doubly so if you are trying to work at home on top of it, but even if it’s just a couple people a day, it will make a difference to both you and them.
  • Stay connected in your community if you can, and help those that you can as opportunities present itself.
  • Do something kind for yourself every day, and do a teeny random act of kindness for each person in your household.

I am a creature of action, and I refuse to allow this time of social distancing to bring me to my knees. I know many people are trying to cocoon themselves, and by all means, do what you must for your well being. But we owe it to ourselves and each other not to succumb to apathy and neglect. Take care of you, take care of your loved ones, and let love win over fear.

Do any of you have big projects you are tackling or tricks to keeping yourself sane in this time? Please share them with me!

On Aging Gracefully

Last Friday, I found my first gray hair atop my head. I have had a few pop up in my eyebrow line in recent years, very white, which I jokingly referenced as “finally growing my unicorn horn”, but this was the first in my hair. By Sunday, two more had appeared. My first feeling was actually excitement, because the single strand of silver was very pretty against the rest of my hair, and I showed it to my husband. Then I felt a little disappointment that I will soon no longer be mistaken for being a decade younger than I actually am, and I’ve been really thinking deeply the past couple of days about being a woman, questioning how others will view my worth once I’m “past my prime” and less an object of sexual desire, and how tired I still am along with all my other mom-friends with young children and just beyond caring.

Older Katharine Hepburn with gray hair

Katharine Hepburn, my namesake, has been my ideal for aging for a long time. Her entire life was lived the way she wanted, she had a fantastic career well into the later part of her life, and she didn’t fall into the trap of trying to be something other than what she was. And she was a striking woman, right up until her death. But now that I find myself at 36 starting to transition more fully into middle age, I find myself feeling a little insecure. I think it may be due to the fact that I know I don’t have the option of hiding the grays at this point. Even if I wanted to dye my hair, due to my allergies and chemical sensitivities, my only option would be to use henna (even organic dyes use harsh chemicals that would set off my inflammation), and I’ve used henna once and liked the result, but it lasts for so short a period of time that I do not want to get into that kind of maintenance schedule.

So my hair will slowly get streaked with silvery white, and I am okay with that. My husband has assured me that he will also be okay with that, especially since he has been adding silver to his hair for several years now (but men look so sexy with that gray at their temples…). I am embracing this next stage with more wisdom and clarity than I ever could have had in my youth. I think a big help has been having women as friends in a wide range of ages, from late teens to their seventies. Feeling that chain, observing the different stages of growth… it has been so beneficial.

And as I embrace middle age-hood, I am recommitting myself to self-care. My body, my mind… both need nurturing and tending so that I can last a good while longer yet. Life is too interesting to throw it all away neglecting myself.

Love who you are, where you are, even while working to move to where you might want to be. You are worth it.

Becoming Myself Again

I am finally beginning to feel like I am reclaiming myself after the birth of my daughter. With both my children, the first few years of sleep deprivation and wanting/needing to spend time with them over everything else, I had this disconnection from myself. My children were the center of my world, and everything else, even frequently my creative work, just kind of went on autopilot. A necessary sacrifice, and truthfully, when I finally reclaimed myself when my son reached about 2.5 years old, my inner growth the following year more than made up for the pause I took. And my life is about ready to push play again, and even though I am still sleep deprived and still learning self-care again, I feel ready.

Despite feeling on pause for the past couple of years, I have learnt so much about myself. I have tested the absolute limits of my physical and mental strength when I worked myself sick two years ago and had such a slow recovery. I have finally grasped the notion of true care. I have made decisions regarding my work in the future in that I have no interest in doing “bargain” quality work for lower pay but prefer to do the very top quality and detail work and be recompensed fairly for it. That is something I had a hard time with in the past, especially working for nonprofits. I have learned to truly listen and hold space for people. And I have continued questioning and studying, although much of what I have been doing has been internal rather than external. Maybe that is the biggest lesson I’ve had… learning to keep silent not because I have to but because I can learn more in the silence sometimes than in shouting my views out. Comes back to that notion of being an active listener. All very important lessons, but it is now time to step out of the blurry haze of newborn and toddler parenting and into the steadier tread of helping to raise decent human beings and reclaim my sense of self again. I’m very interested to see where my creativity and personal growth leads me. And hopefully you all will be interested too.

Preorder for The Kindness Book is On!

The preorder page for The Kindness Book is up and running here! As a reminder, this is the short story collection for children which I am included in, and this is the only opportunity to buy the collection in the United States, though I may include my story in my own collection if I ever manage to write enough that I am proud of to include in a collection of my own.

20180924_140747

My story is called A Spring Search and was inspired by my illustration A Hope For Spring which I’ve shared below. It was a serendipitous happening where I posted on Instagram about wanting to write more and thought using my old illustrations as inspirations for short stories would be good, and I was invited to write something and submit it for the collection.

Spring Hope

I will do a blogpost next week with my thoughts regarding kindness.

Also, in an effort to spread the kindness outward, I will be donating half of all profits of this preorder to charity to help feed needy children in my local city. Specifics are on the preorder page.

Stepping Fully Into My Life

So my New Year’s began with more of a whimper than a bang. My baby has a horrible head cold, so my husband and I were all set to spend New Year’s Eve together at home, snacks and drinks on hand, to begin getting giddy about our future projects, the things that have been put on hold because of the chaos of living, and New Year’s Day was supposed to be spent having a glorious planning session on how to implement the creation of those projects. However, my daughter kept waking up because she couldn’t breathe, and I could feel myself starting to succumb as well, so I would wander back and forth between cuddling her and trying to get excited amidst filling sinuses, and last night I wound up going to bed at 8PM.

My plan for 2018 is to begin living the life that I have always wanted for me and my family. One where my husband and I share both income-making and raising the children duties, one that gives me time to actually take care of myself the way that I know I need to so I can take care of others in the ways I want to. One that gives me more flexibility – for parenting, for travel, for fun, for personal and creative growth.

I had hoped to be freelancing full-time by the end of 2017, but that didn’t happen. We need to have a firmer financial base for me to make the leap (either more in savings and/or my husband bringing in new income streams, which both are being worked on). So new goal is by the end of June, by the time my son is out of school for the summer. I horribly hated having to work this past week when he was out on holiday break. It was the first time since he started preschool that I didn’t have the time off with him. Last summer was super hard too. So no more.

But getting this cold is a reminder that I’m STILL not as physically healthy as I need to be, so taking care of myself physically is important this year, as I begin implementing my plans. Self-care, self-love, and mostly more sleep need to happen. I need to have both patience and persistence as I begin to implement my plans. I need to accept that I can’t have it all at once.

So the online shop is on hold until I leave my current position. I can’t sew for 8 hours a day and then continue to sew late into the night. I have, at most, another hour worth of sewing in me, plus some extra on my days off. I have a costume commission for this month, and potentially 2 designs for the spring plus a paid workshop that I’m in talks to do, and I may have to bring shop work home with me once we get into prom alterations this spring. Any extra sewing time will be spent alternating between some personal sewing (want to make some things for the house) and coming up with the samples/patterns for my first offerings in the shop, so that hopefully once I leave my current position, I can be opening the shop within a matter of weeks.

That leaves me with 1 to 1.5 hrs a night to split up between music, writing, and art, on top of sneaking in a little bit of writing during the day when it gets slow. I want to start promoting myself more again, and I have some lofty goals for getting work out this year. We’ll have to see what happens. When I am able to be freelancing, I hope to double to three hours a day spent toward those things, setting things up so I can be painting while my kids are doing arts and crafts again, like I used to, having fun creating together.

Again, this is going to be about patience and persistence. About applying my will toward the creation process. About making sure I’m not burning out and then having to recuperate, rinse and repeat. About creating a sustainable and nurturing life for everyone in my home, myself included.

I do not regret my time working at the theater for a few years, even though I was so overworked. It gave me amazing health insurance to have my second child, and it gave me the financial stability to get a mortgage and a decent home for my family. I do regret this past year working the bridal alterations because of how much time I’ve missed with the kids, but it gave me the flexibility to work from home for the first six months for part of the time, which was huge for my relationship with my daughter, and I’ve learned so much working on these gowns that I can apply to my own designs. It means a lot to be able to support my family, so there is that too. But I’m ready now to step into the life that I’ve been saying I’ve wanted for almost 10 years now. Our time on this earth is too short to try for less than what we truly desire, no matter how “safe” other paths may be.

And if the world completely falls apart around me, if my dreams don’t come true, if we end up losing our civilization, at least I’ll have tried. At the end of the day, that’s the most important thing of all.

May your 2018 give you the strength and courage to follow your own deepest, truest selves as I will be.

Life and Love and Creativity

I have been absent again from posting here lately. The baby has been teething and starting her one year growth spurt, and I have also snuck away on a few short trips with the family, visiting the 1000 Islands and Buffalo/Niagara Falls. It is so much work to travel with kids, but the time with friends and getting close to nature was well worth the effort. I feel more grounded, more accepting of the current state of affairs in my life, and ready to allow myself to expand again after feeling retracted for so long.

My time to create has been so short, and this was one of the biggest things I had to come to terms with. Almost all my efforts right now are going into creating my sister’s wedding dress and jewelry. The only writing I’ve been doing lately is an occasional email or letter, and I haven’t had any time for music or painting. Because my energies are being poured into my family and into the work that allows us to survive, and that is where they need to be right now. Because the love I have for my family and the joy I experience witnessing my children grow makes the sacrifices worthwhile.

All this to say that my creativity is not gone; the fire has merely been stoked, waiting the right opportunity to blaze once again. In the meantime, I will guard my embers and feed them as I may.

 

Freedom’s Just Another Word…

I came across this quote recently from the author David Foster Wallace that I thought was interesting, because it’s the exact opposite of what most people think of when they imagine freedom.

The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day.

The truth is I have found more internal freedom than I ever thought possible through having my kids. I’ve grown so much in making space that includes family and deep soul connections in my life. I’ve lost fear. Which is the biggest freedom there is. So even though I can’t go out partying if I get the urge, even though I can’t blow my paycheck on concert tickets and new clothes, even though I frequently put another person’s needs before my own needs and almost always put someone else’s needs before my wants, I am free or on my way to being free in the ways that truly matter.  Sometimes, though, I very badly need the reminder, and so this quote hit home.

What are your thoughts on freedom?

Also, the title of the blog post comes from the Janis Joplin song “Me and Bobby McGee” which I’ve always loved singing along to.

I’m So Very Very Tired…

Cue Madeline Kahn. If I ever decided to pursue a career in acting, my goal would be to follow in Madeline Kahn’s footsteps.

But seriously, I’m so tired. My 9 month old has been going through a sleep regression for weeks now. And the lack of sleep is taking a huge toll on me emotionally and physically. I’ve been suffering a severe lack of “me” time, either to relax and self-care or to create. We know what we signed up for as parents, especially being the second time around, but it’s still not easy. I pity those who are chronic insomniacs.

I’m also tired in the sense I blogged about last spring. You can read it here. More people seem to be growing aware of the bigger picture, that change is needed, but will it be enough?

And really, I’m so tired of being strong. Strength of will, strength of character, a pillar of strength, a warrior woman, juggling it all…  Is it strength to do what you feel you have to do? I don’t know.

It’s probably a good thing I didn’t start this blog until after my son was a year and a half years old. He was a terrible sleeper and I was a “mombie” for a long time. A couple of weeks at a time with his sister doesn’t seem half bad by comparison.

I’ll be back to normal soon, I hope. I feel like I’ll be emerging from my cocoon soon.