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.

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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.

Their Eyes, a poem

I see thousands
Of children
And one out of every
Five hundred or so
Reminds me of you.
The tilt of your head,
The grace of controlled movement,
But mostly it’s in
Their eyes.
Deep, liquid pools
That meet my gaze
And draw me in.
I can’t help but imagine
What you were like at their age.
I feel a loss,
An inexplicable grief,
Poignant and true.

Copyright 2015, Kat Micari

Helping Inner City Students Dream and Create Amidst the Violence of Their Daily Lives

Last week into this one, I was in six different inner city elementary schools through my employer with a major arts initiative. It was a hectic whirlwind of a week, but the end result was that most of the students (with only a handful pulled out for bad behavior) each got to have an individual moment of attention from half their school and from us, with their final projects each getting praise. I was a “guest artist” coming in, and I was wowed by some of the final results. I picked out specific design elements that were impressive whenever possible, and praised the overall project when I couldn’t. And the kids lit up. They soaked all that attention up like sponges. They had created something, and that creation was getting positive attention, something that many of them don’t have.

There were so many that I wanted to take home and give them a bath, a good meal, and clean clothes. So many that I could sense the fragility behind their swagger. So many that met my eyes with a soulful gaze. All at various stages of putting their walls up. All at various stages of losing trust in adults, in themselves.

And during this week, the videos from Spring Valley High School emerged, and people crawled out of the woodwork to support the officer’s violent actions against a child 1/3 of his size. Again, people preaching compliance towards a system rife with abuse, preaching we should all “respect” officers because of the badges they carry and the dangerous job they have, and I am ashamed to say that I once said the same not because of any respect toward them but because I wanted the general population to stay safe. But no, this action is not ever okay, especially not in a classroom setting. If any adult man had touched a daughter of mine like that, I would be in jail because my revenge on him would have been swift and merciless and he would no longer have any balls because they would have been shoved down his throat after being ripped off by my bare hands, and I don’t care how rude she was to him. But no daughter of mine would get treated like that by an officer of the law because my husband and I aren’t black.

That people think this action is okay because she didn’t comply with this officer is so wrong. I’ve seen people using it as a tool to complain about millennials yet again and their rude upbringing, lumping the childhood of the inner city child with those in the suburbs, and it is not the case at all. Last week, while at one of the schools, someone was shot on the street less than a block away and the school had to go into a safety drill. This week, on the last day, one of our people noticed two men going after each other with baseball bats just as school was letting out, again only a block away. The children live in this. The parents that struggle to raise them and love them live in this. Having that level of stress, those cortisol levels raised in the brain all the time do terrible things to you. Add a difficulty in getting proper nutrition and being in an education system that’s run like a prison most of the time, is it any wonder that they act the way they do? Beyond that though, how can so many still be in denial about America slipping into a police state? How can so many willingly hand their power over to others? I don’t understand the mindset at all.

I’m glad we were able to do what we did in the schools. Maybe getting them in touch with their creative sides will give them a means to escape the reality of their lives, will give them goals and dreams to work toward to hopefully break the cycle of poverty and abuse. That positive connection to adults may be enough for some of them. But not all. And that hurts.

Nearly Almost Had It All Career-wise

I had the opportunity come up to work on a big project that is currently being done locally. Someone from that project contacted one of the higher-ups of my organization, they recommended me, I sent in my resume and my hours that I would be available, and they forwarded that email to the appropriate person on their end. I was excited, because it’s a side of industry that I haven’t gotten to do since 2009 and it would have been my first time doing it at such a high level. Not as a creative lead, but the process would have given me so much experience that I was willing to overextend myself to make it happen.

Then it came. The email from the person that was the creative lead. And it was a firm job offer sitting in my inbox. I could have been head of the department, but I was needed for 12 hour days 5-6 days per week for five weeks. And I had to turn it down. I again offered the hours that I could commit to for a lower position, and I recommended a few other locals that could potentially fill in too, but they wound up bringing in a non-local. My town just isn’t a freelance town. We can’t clear weeks of our calendar on two weeks notice. Even when I was freelancing full time out in CA, I would run into this though. People wanting me to commit on days’ notice when I was usually booked months in advance.

There were bitter feelings on my end, for a little bit. I hate turning down opportunities. Hate feeling trapped. And my ego flared a little, wanting to say yes just to have that on my resume, just for bragging points to boost my opportunity for marketing myself online a little. But that bitterness was short-lived, which honestly surprised me a little. I have such a great blend of job security and creative freedom with the organization I’m at now that I would be foolish to sacrifice that in the name of my ego. I have a huge project I’m working on for them that wraps up when this other project would be finishing, where even if the other project had taken me up on my offer of working partial days or one to two days per week I would have been taking away from the quality of my work for my regular employer. And honestly, with wanting one more child soon, I don’t want to get back into that side of the business yet that requires me to work 12-16 hour days away from my children. Yes, I’m working days like that sometimes now, but I can do some of it from home or after my son goes to sleep. I can have him come into work with me. I fully plan on having my next child at work with me for most of the first 6 months, and my work is going to be fine with that.

There is a part of me, though, that mourns the loss of that parallel-life me that focused everything on business, just as there is mourning for the parallel-life me that was 100% a stay-at-home mom. Staying the middle course has given me so much joy and growth as a human being, but it also comes with frustration and exhaustion from the constant tug-of-war. I try my best to avoid asking “what if’s” in my life, but every once in a while, maybe when the veils thin, I feel my other selves on their paths, and I feel a longing for their experiences in addition to my own.  It’s very strange.

Anyway, I’m not entirely shelving the option to branch into that part of my field sometime in the future, and I won’t stop offering my assistance when the opportunities come up as much as I’m able to, but it will be more years down the road before I am willing to sacrifice the time away from my family. And that’s okay.

Life Lessons from Hungry, Hungry Hippos

My son has been really into games of all kinds lately, so when his 4 year old birthday came last week, we got him Hungry, Hungry Hippos as part of his gift. And I had an epiphany while playing with him last night. He, being four, would start slamming down on the lever as fast and hard as he could, while I was doing the same with one hand. But with my other hand, I was operating a second hippo at a slower and more cautious rate, and it was that hippo that ate more marbles most of the rounds. So, a metaphor for life, where humans are the hippos:

Frequently in life, we fight to consume as much as we can as fast as we can when it is actually the one who watches and waits and figures out what they actually want who takes the biggest bite.

So I would ask – what is it that you are fighting so hard to consume? Things that will nourish your body and soul or things that attempt to fill a void you want to pretend doesn’t exist? Or do you bide your time and wait to take the bite that you really want?

Also, who or what is taking the biggest bite out of you? And are they worthy of that bite?

As a complete aside, the games today are so cheaply made. I could have stood on the old version of Hungry, Hungry Hippos without breaking it, but now, not so much. It’s almost like goods are designed to break, causing you to throw them away and buy another after a certain amount of time.

Night Terrors – a poem

My son is
Pure emotion
Joy and frustration
Curiosity
Strength
Constant love.
But there are nights
I lay awake
Worrying about the world
That surrounds us,
Knowing that for all I do
As a mother,
I can’t protect him from it all.
And while I may feel
Like Cassandra,
I can’t really predict the future.
In this day and age,
I don’t think I would want
That kind of knowledge.
Yet my nighttime demons
Live in reality,
Which make them so much more
Terrifying.

Copyright 2014, Kat Micari

Necessary Unplugging

My life has gotten crazy-busy lately with my day job and trying to finish up my holiday gifts that I’m making for people, and we’re going through a lot of transitions right now with my son which means emotional changes and even less sleep than usual.  Then the school shooting happened Friday in CT and I just had to shut off part of my brain.

As a Virgo, I want to put everything in neat little boxes in my head, and this won’t be contained in a mental box.  At least not yet.  So I’ve built a little pen around it, I go a few days without looking at the news and then catch up a little and cry, and then I put those feelings back in its enclosure.  My heart breaks for those children, both those killed and the survivors.  I mourn the loss of so much potential in those little lives cut short, and I feel the sickness of our society growing by the day.  It touches me even more deeply as a parent now, because my son is a piece of me.  I told my mother that this raises my desire to homeschool, and even if some madmen goes on a rampage in a mall or something, at least then I have a chance of being killed with my son.  Because I don’t want to know if I’m strong enough to live through a tragedy like that, or live through it with any shred of sanity remaining. 

That being said, I am also disgusted by the hurt some people are causing as they discuss this issue.  You can’t pinpoint one thing that led to this event and fix it, and we shouldn’t be reactive in coming up with solutions.  We should be able to have honest dialogs with each other and for once actually try to look at the big picture, but the problem is the big picture sometimes feels too overwhelming to fix, so we narrow in on single issues.

As for what we can do individually, I said this on my crunchy mom facebook group: “I think that something is just so broken in our society – the rise of those with mental health issues (all along the spectrum) coupled with the rise of immuno-diseases (again, all along the spectrum) has GOT to be tied with our diet, our lifestyle, our focus for life, and the chemicals we are exposed to in the products we can’t live without. Not to mention the generations raised on formula instead of breastmilk. You can’t pinpoint or fix just one thing, which makes it seem hopeless, but I think we can live each day the best we can, as lovingly as we can, and influence those immediately around us, and that CAN create ripples that change things for the better.”  We can also urge our corrupt government to pass legislation that actually is for the benefit of society, whatever that may mean.

I am retreating again, probably at least until Christmas Eve.  I need to process this more and also maintain some holiday cheer by burying it a little more.  I have opinions forming, but they are still nebulous.  I may have some rather dark artwork to come out in January too, as a purging of these emotions I’m still burying.