Creative Outlets: How I Try Not To Lose My Mind

During my last MFA residency, a wise group of women authors/faculty members led a presentation about creativity. In other words, what writers do when we aren’t painting portraits with our words. Come to find out, writers are also talented graphic designers, knitters, artists, musicians, photographers and interior designers. Yeah, yeah, I know there are other creative pursuits, but these are the ones that hit home for me. The ones that spoke to me. Those creative outlets that faculty members discussed as fuel for writing and those fulfilling pursuits that we escape to when our word well has temporarily dried up.

February brought draught-like conditions to Narragansett No. 7 and to those more serious writing projects I’m currently working on. The ones I am attending graduate school to perfect…under the tutelage of those aforementioned authors/faculty members.

In the midst of last month’s barfing, coughing, cleaning, nurturing, crying, sleeping and mental breakdowns, I began questioning my choice to attend graduate school. I did that thing that so many writers do and I decided that I am most certainly not a writer.

For the 1,457,962nd time, I came to the conclusion that everyone else at Stonecoast is a serious writer and I’m just there by some fluke. Some day, those smart faculty members and writers diligently pursuing their MFAs are going to find out and they’ll all laugh at me. They’ll point and they’ll laugh and then they’ll all tell me to leave after dumping a secretly stashed bucket of pig’s blood on my head at the next Stonecoast prom. (You have to be a Stephen King fan to appreciate that list bit.)

See how whacked out I became last month? I’m the first to admit that I do this every so often and I’m finding out that many writers go through similar patterns of self-doubt.

So I went with it. I decided to let my word well fill up again and I read a few of the books assigned to me for this semester. Mostly, I just tried to forget about the pressure of the writing part. I realized that I must have faith in my ability and the learning process and that the words always find their way back to brain. (At least, this is what I repeated to myself over and over again.)

Aside from reading, I nested.

1. I ordered chickens. 8 chickens to be exact. They will arrive during the second week of April. Prepare yourself for the insanity.

Not my Domoniques - photo courtesy Wikipedia

2. Two nights a week for two weeks, I made dinner for my family plus two others. Remember when I shared that post about my friend Jess? She’s home and recovering from surgery but we’re all trying to help out in any way we can. I also cooked dinners for the family of a little boy named Finn who went to Gwen’s preschool last year. Finn is being treated for brain cancer and I hope to post more about him in the next few weeks as they are at the point where fundraising has become needed. And prayers. Don’t forget the prayers.

Jessica and her beautiful family

3. In the name of St. Valentine, I made cake pops and Oreo cookie pops and blew the insides out of eggs  and cut heart-shaped pieces of watermelon. And I did this while I should have been writing.

4. I entertained a cursing fairy to the point of exhaustion. She slumbered in a beanbag on the kitchen floor. Presumably having dragged it there to escape her mother’s manic creative pursuits and ADHD-riddled thought patterns. Note to self: adults with short attention spans confuse the shit out of children. Please don’t forget the ADHD medication.

Swearing fairies require naps up to the age of 4

5.  I became addicted to Pinterest whilst nursing my children into the wee hours during the now infamous Barf Fest of 2012.

6.  I was overcome with the need to make some changes around the house that we just moved into and which I just made changes to last year. But that’s me. I like to make things pretty. In fact, I struggled between returning to grad school for that MFA or pursuing a degree in Interior Design. Somehow the thought of bitchy women being bitchy about something I designed didn’t appeal to me, so I opted for the MFA.

Anyway…Pinterest sparked that creative side of me that dives headfirst into design projects and I spend my writing dry spell on little projects like this: 

Joe's dresser, newly painted and with knotted rope handles. I'll post more on this later!

 And this…

The Valentine’s Day eggs that I blew out, painted and then proceeded to shove tiny messages of love inside off. Damn you, crafty Pinterest people. Damn.You. Life was much easier back when I just went to the store and grabbed a couple of Hallmark cards and some chocolate.
And this…

The girl's bedroom - undergoing some changes

Gwen and I went to My Sister’s Garage in Windam, Maine and she fell in love with a vintage children’s room they had so perfectly arranged. For those of you not in the area, My Sister’ Garage is a local antique/vintage shop that gives new life to furniture and collectibles and I just love to go there. They will be at Brimfield in May if you want to check them out. They also have a website with just a sample of some wares. Pop over and take look. Gwen loves My Sister’s Garage much that she cried last week when I said we wouldn’t have time go. I think I have pickin’ partner in Gwen because she has inspired a new vintage bedroom for herself and Kate. I’ll post more about this later in the week.

photo courtesy My Sister's Garage

So there you have it. This is what I was doing during the month of February when Narragansett No. 7 sat collecting dust and the only thing I was writing were status updates. Sometimes, you just need to take a little vacation from what you love. And that’s okay.

The Great Plague of February 2012

This post was written several weeks ago in the midst of  the month from Hell. I will now refer to February 2012 as the Lost Month. The month of the plague…and laundry…and no writing. Not at all. It was written in haste and forgotten. This should explain my lengthy absence from No. 7.

Sad, sick baby...

By 11:00 a.m. last Sunday, Dave and I were equally annoyed with Kate. To the point where I actually said, “No, seriously. If that kid doesn’t stop whining in the next five minutes I am going to run from this house screaming and never come back. Fucking NEVER.”

We were hiding in the pantry, quietly performing one of our “What I wish I could say to Kate/Joe/Gwen” sessions. As in, Dave and I hunkering into the dark recesses of a tiny room and saying things like, “”Why don’t you quit  being such a douchebag, Kate and say that in English.” Clearly we would never dream of saying horrible things like this directly to our children. But in those tense moments – say, hour number seven of incessant whining – we have found this to be an effective method of blowing off steam. We say horrible, awful things to our children then snort and giggle at the mere thought. This is not the type of relaxation method one finds in crunchy new age parenting books but it works for us. Our whispered tirades make us feel good. (Forward all hate mail to narragansettno7 at yahoo dot com then move on to a blog that gives tutorials about kitty shaped tuna sandwiches.)

Well, Kate threw up precisely five minutes after I declared that I was going high-tail it out the front door and run down the road like my hair was on fire.

And yes, I immediately felt like the world’s most horrible mother.

I heard the unmistakable sound of gurgled heaving and spun around to determine the source.

The sounds were emanating from Kate’s tiny body, parked high up on one of the stools at the kitchen island. She’d been noshing on hommus and baby carrots.

After the second it took to locate the source of pre-vomit gagging noises, Dave and I lunged across the room and looked down upon Kate with a mixture of horror and parental concern. I wanted to pick her up and hold her but simultaneously felt a wave of disgust for what was about to happen. A quick glance at Dave’s face told me I wasn’t alone. The grimace he was wearing made his feelings completely obvious. A strange mixture of oh, my poor little girl…oh, God this is going to be so nasty. He stooped and cupped his hand under her chin just as the carrots and hommus reappeared. With Jedi-like precision, he caught and held onto the contents of Kate’s stomach.

Again, I just stood by like a useless lump and watched in horror. Of course, at times I interjected with what I imagined were motherly sounding sentiments. “Oh, you poor little baby,” and “Jesus, how the hell does a kid that size have so much in her stomach?!”

I’m a good mother. Right?

Dave took the other two kids off to a birthday party and I stayed home with my little puking princess. We cuddled together on a bed swathed in giant beach towels and watched Calliou. I hugged her and tried to ignore the pungent odor wafting from her hair. She sucked her fingers and barfed for a few hours before falling asleep.

Before we knew it, Tuesday came. And so did Dave’s bout with the bug.

Then along came Wednesday and in the last minutes of the day – the very seconds before the midnight hour – Gwen came in and stood at my beside complaining that her tummy hurt. As she made this declaration and her lip quivered, the purple colored fruit roll-up she snacked on after dinner introduced itself to my bed. With a change of the sheets, clothes and the procurement of the barf bucket (master bath garbage can) Gwen spent the next four hours barfing while I held her hair.

To keep myself awake, I spent hours on Pinterest. While Gwen puked I pinned recipe upon recipe and got hungrier and hungrier.

And now I know. I know there’s something wrong with me.

I have a strong stomach. Back in my law firm days, I was privy to some highly gory photographs courtesy of personal injury cases and medical malpractice claims. I was the person who was able to look through and document a set of photos while launching into a chicken sandwich. When the others whined about nausea after viewing  appendages that had been launched through a wood chipper, I was able to nosh on a slice of New York’s best pizza pie.

So, it was nearing 4:00 a.m., Gwen was reduced to dry heaves and I was drooling over someone’s recently pinned buffalo chicken pasta when I heard Joe’s feet hit the floor. I could tell he was running and then I heard the unmistakable sounds of…well…you know.

Since I was already wide awake and Gwen was winding down, I calmly walked downstairs to fetch another barf bowl then lined Joe’s bed with a beach towel and turned  his area rug back. I climbed in beside him and I was thankful that we bought the bunk bed will a full-sized mattress on bottom. I rubbed his back when needed and continued on my quest for comfort food via iPad and Pinterest.

I was resigned to the fact that I’d be the next person to fall. I’d been breathing the fumes for hours. I’d washed my hands 9,000 times but really, who was I kidding?

Well, it’s 5:51 p.m. on Friday and I have not yet succumbed. In fact, last night I was so famished that I made myself a giant salad and a grilled cheese sandwich with cheddar, tomato and bacon and ate it while my husband looked on in disgust.