Artist in residency in motherhood

Artist in residency in motherhood

A power year is about intention and exploration. It’s a way to structure life so that the questions “Where do I begin?” and “What do I do next?” shrink to a manageable size. I’m thrilled to have found a similar tool to reframe parenthood. I start my artist residency in motherhood today. And because the tool is adaptable and I consider myself more of a creative than an artist, I’m calling it a creative residency in motherhood. Here is my statement, if you’d like to watch the process unfold follow my blog or see what I share on Instagram.

Creative’s Statement

Adapted from Lenka Clayton’s Artist Residency in Motherhood Statement

I became a mother on April 28, 2018. Right now this aspect of my identity is priority. However, I believe it’s possible and necessary for me to continue writing, thinking and collaborating in a focused, disciplined way. I aim to shape my shifting identity into a form that uses parenthood as a well of abundance instead of viewing it as an energy sucking burden that eats time more voraciously than the very hungry caterpillar.

I will undergo this self-imposed creative residency in order to fully experience and explore the fragmented focus, nap-length office/studio time, limited mobility and resources, and general upheaval that parenthood brings and allow it to shape the direction of my work, rather than try to work “despite it.”

Unforeseen consequences

FrontCoverimageThe payoff since publishing my book has been more rewarding than I was able to imagine it would be. I’m not talking royalties, I’m talking connection with readers and other writers.

Even though I knew I wanted my book to find its way into the hands of teen and emerging adult transracial adoptees, I blocked out thinking about readers the entire time I was writing, because I had to focus on what I wanted to say, not what I thought they might want to hear. I wrote about my experiences, thinking some of them might resonate with adoptees and hoping my words might bring comfort to any adoptee feeling isolated or alone in their own adoption story. After one friend read The Struggle for Soy, they told me their daughter who’s in high school asked if she could read it, and share it with her best friend, who is a Chinese adoptee. She thought it would help her. Hearing this brought such joy to me and filled my heart. If what I wrote is able to help just one teen, I’m honored. I hope the book reaches many more adoptees— at the very least, as evidence that our stories matter and sharing them positively adds to the diversity of narratives out there in the world.

A gift from another writer popped up in my message box a couple weeks ago, it read:

From the “unforeseen consequences” department: Seeing you have the courage to publish your book made me finally stop the endlessssss tinkering with mine, stop being a sissy, and just push it out of the nest. AND made me sign up for a writing retreat in Puget Sound (well, on dry land) to start developing a more personal body of work. See how that all works? Thanks so much.

I really appreciate her sharing this with me because although people influence and inspire each other on a daily basis, so much of the time we don’t pause to tell each other. Hearing how my action gave momentum to hers was soul nourishing. Of course I ordered and read her book, and am so glad I did, because it is full of the type of prompts that will help keep me stretching myself to grow and explore what a better version of my personal consulting business looks like.

I urge you to pause for a moment and think, “Is there someone who’s positively impacted me who I can reach out to an tell?” If there is, I encourage you to do so. It’s these connections that spread joy and hope, refreshing relief in the world we live in.

Inspiring Individual Spotlight: Georgianne Rollman

Georgianne Rollman (or “Gee” as she’s affectionately called) exudes kindness and embodies an intelligence that comes from a life lived fully with open mind and intention. Our paths cross a lot; we both had pieces in the Denver Community Museum’s “29” exhibit; we each shared stories during Teacher’s Pet at Buntport Theater; Gee generously made one of her famous hand sewn quilts for my husband and me when we got married. Her daughter is one of the creative masterminds who started and runs Buntport Theater; I saw Gee there recently and she made a comment that I found inspiring. She was talking about how being a parent to her grown children has a different dynamic than parenting growing children—and recognized that the shift is a healthy thing. I’m grateful Gee was up for an interview, her insight made me laugh and cry. Please enjoy:

When did you start quilting?

I learned how to sew by hand when I was literally sitting at my grandmother’s knee. I’ve always loved textiles in general and quilts in particular. I liked the idea of making something useful and beautiful from scraps. But I didn’t actually start quilting until I was in my early forties, about twenty-five years ago.


What do you enjoy about the process of quilting? 

I love the way you phrased this question because the older I get, the more I realize how important “process” is to me. If it’s not fun while I’m doing it, why bother? When I first started making quilts, I thought I’d like the design aspect best. What I’ve discovered is that I love the meditative quality of hand quilting, and the feel of the design taking place under my fingers.  That, and the fact that it gives me an excuse to watch television!


How many quilts have you created?  Do you have a favorite?

I have pictures of 91, from small wall hangings to queen-size quilts. I’m sure there have been some that I forgot to document. I used to make them because I loved doing it and when I had a stash, I’d give them away. Occasionally I’ve been commissioned to design and make a quilt, but it’s not enjoyable for me; I worry too much about the finished product. Lately, I make quilts only if I have an occasion to work toward: a baby shower or wedding. I’ve become much more interested in hand-building ceramics, although I like to always have a quilting project on hand.

My favorite quilt was made for a Foreign Service friend who asked me to create something out of the leftover silk from shirts he’d had made in Thailand. The result looked like jewels. It’s the only quilt I’m sorry I couldn’t keep.


Are you part of a quilting community?  If so, will you describe what is unique about that community?

I don’t belong to a quilting group now. When I first started I was part of a very active group. My husband, David, had joined the Foreign Service in the mid-’80s. Twelve years and four tours later, both of our children were away at college and David and I moved to Seoul, South Korea.  We lived in an Embassy compound on an Army post in the middle of the city. The first friends I made were other Foreign Service spouses who were part of a quilting group run by the military wives. I joined and not only learned to quilt but met a lot of wonderful, strong women. Quilting is a good hobby for people who travel because you can find fabric in every corner of the world.


What is the most challenging part of being a parent?

For me, discipline was always a challenge: how, when, what… It helped when my pediatrician said that consistency is the most important thing. “Be strict or not. Just don’t keep the kids guessing.”  So I gave myself permission to be consistently lenient.

I also had a hard time putting up with the bickering that took place when the kids were little. My brother and sister are eight and nine years older than me, so I didn’t have much experience with sibling rivalry. I can remember pleading with the kids to “Stop fighting!” David—who’s one of eight—would just look at me, shake his head and say, “You call that fighting?”


What is the most rewarding part of being a parent?

My children are my heroes. It’s indescribably rewarding to have raised children who are smart, tolerant, talented, good people! They’ve made fulfilling lives for themselves. Now that they’re grown I try to stay out of their business, but I hope they know I’m here if they need me.

If I could give advice to young parents, it would be to actively listen to your children when they say something, regardless of how young they are.  And read to them.


In retrospect, what stand out as the most meaningful moments in your life so far?

Aside from giving birth, there have been many defining moments in my life. Some were huge, like losing both of my parents by the time I turned fifteen. Most were simple, like watching the sun rise over the Euphrates valley from a mountaintop in Turkey or holding my grandchildren for the first time. But maybe the most long-lasting impact was made when I was in fourth or fifth grade and my best friend got mad at me for something awful I’d done to her. I can remember standing in her kitchen trying to tell her how sorry I was and hoping she would forgive me. I felt the pain of having hurt her so strongly that I told myself, “I’m never going to be mean to anybody ever again.”


What’s the first thing you do when you get up in the morning?

David and I do yoga stretches together to a Rodney Yee tape. Oops, it’s a CD; I forget sometimes that I live in the modern world!


What’s the last thing you do before going to sleep?

I always read in bed for as long as I can keep my eyes open.


Do you consider yourself spiritual?  If so, what do you do to encourage your own spiritual growth?

Something in your earlier interview with the young comedian named Kristin Rand resonated with me. She said her philosophy of dying is that “energy changes forms but it’s still there.” I think this idea best describes my own spiritual life. I believe in energy and I surround myself with people who feed my positive energy, then I try to share it in small ways. I like to avoid negative energy, but it’s a challenge; there’s way too much of it in the world.


What’s your philosophy when it comes to living?

I think the most important thing is to be kind to others. Kindness is underrated and some people seem to equate it with being weak, but it’s the opposite. I think it takes a lot of moral strength to be kind in difficult circumstances, or to ask forgiveness when you’ve done something wrong.

That being said, we shouldn’t let others take advantage of our kindness. I remember feeling that I was finally grown up the first time I said no to something I didn’t want to do. I just hope I said it kindly.


What’s your philosophy when it comes to dying?

The thought of Death itself doesn’t frighten me: it’ll either be exciting or nothing. The thought of dying scares me, though. I’d rather not be in pain and I’m not ready to do it yet, but I suspect there will come a time when Life will no longer be “better than the alternative.” I hope I’ll be able to die with some sort of dignity.


Describe the last time you felt inspired.

I don’t think this is quite what you had in mind because I wasn’t inspired to write a poem or take a picture or design a quilt, but I found your questions inspiring. I don’t often make time to be introspective.


What are you grateful for these days?

Certainly for my wonderful family and friends. I’m grateful, too, for every sunrise, for laughter, for solitude, and for the fact that my poor old hands can still make things and my legs can still walk.  Oh, and I’m grateful for wine and cheese!


What are you working on letting go of these days?

I’ve been working my entire life on trying to let go of the feeling that I’m responsible for the whole world. I have to recognize that I can’t fix much, if anything. That doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try to do what little I can, though.


Is there anything else you’d like people to know about you?

I believe I am who I am right now partly because of everything that’s ever happened to me, both good and bad.

Inspiring individual spotlight: Kagen Sound

Interviewing my husband might be considered lazy on my part of seeking out inspiring individuals, but he is truly one of the most incredible people I know! Whereas many are awed by his designs and woodworking skills, I am most impressed by how unique his view of the world is and how he has forged his own path in it. Kagen was kind enough to answer some questions for the Spark newsletter this past summer. In honor of his birthday month, I’d like to share them here on the blog as well.


When did you begin making puzzle boxes?

I made my first puzzle box in 1990 when I was about 13. I made it from cardboard. I quickly made another with ball inside that needed to be rolled through a maze. 

What has been the most challenging part of being an artist?

I channel a lot of emotion and thought into my work. I truly love doing this. It is like having a conversation with your best friend.  After many years of being a full time artist, I realized I had not been talking to my real life friends enough, and when I did, I only could share stories about my work.  I had to learn to take time off from my art so that I could be with people again.

What is the most rewarding part of being an artist?

Version 2
Artist and cat person Kagen Sound

For me it is when I create a new puzzle box.  It brings me a lot of joy and for a moment I am the only one who knows it exists in the world. The second most rewarding thing is sharing the new idea with the rest of the world.    

What advice do you have for artists who want to make their passion their livelihood?

Follow what fascinates you the most.  Don’t let other people tell you what it is or should be.  Making art has to be fascinating to you first and foremost and it can be anything.  Spend some quality time getting to know what you love to do and learn how to craft it well. Once you are comfortable making your art, reach out to other people who share your interest. Get lots of advice on the best way to keep making your art. Some people enjoy doing it full time others enjoy it as a hobby.  Find what feels right for you. After a few years, check in with what you are doing and make sure it is as fascinating as when you began.  f it is not, make adjustments. 

What has been most surprising to you, when it comes to looking back on your career so far?

I’m surprised I became a full-time artist. I was told all my life that this is taking a huge risk and I never thought of myself as a risk taker. I feel very grateful that I followed through with being an artist, even though it was very difficult at times. 

Where do your ideas for puzzle designs come from?

It is hard to pinpoint where my ideas originate. I know that I am influenced by other works of art all around me in many different forms. It can be books, movies, paintings, performances, puzzles, designs, even a beautiful landscapes. I think I store what I experience inside me and let it mix together.  At some unexpected moment a new idea pops into my head. Once I have the idea I start to make prototypes of it until it becomes a puzzle box.

Do you have a wood that you enjoy working with the most?

It is very hard to pick my favorite. At the moment, I love maple for all the different grain patterns it has. 

How has your work changed from when you first started your career?

I have a greater understanding of how strong wood is as a material. When I started I often relied on thinner pieces of wood than I would now, to make structural parts.

What are you grateful for these days?

I am grateful for my work and that I have my health and will get to be an artist for many years to come. I am grateful to have my wife in my life even more so! 

What are you working on letting go of these days?

I’ve been working on letting go of resentments. It is easy to let things that happened in the past influence how I feel in the present moment. Feeling grateful helps me do this a lot. So I am working on feeling grateful more often. I try to do this daily even for seemingly small things. At this moment, I feel grateful to have electricity : ) 

Who are your professional and personal role models? What is it about each one that resonates with you?

My mom was a huge role model. She never shied away from doing creative projects no matter how wild and crazy they seemed. She taught me to follow my dreams. Frank Lloyd Wright inspired me because he could truly build what he designed and dreamed, not what people expected him to do. Around the time I started making puzzle boxes I learned about a Japanese puzzle box maker, Akio Kamei, who designs and makes what he truly loves as well. Seeing that this was possible gave me a lot of confidence to pursue making puzzles professionally.

Is there anything else you’d like people you’ve never met to know about you?

I’m a cat person.

Find Kagen:

Follow Kagen on Instagram

Connecting the dots with Dalí

Of course there are eggs on the roof and bread on walls

My appreciation for Salvador Dalí drastically increased during my recent visit to the Dalí Theatre-Museum in Figueres—Dalí’s birthplace in Catalonia, Spain. I knew little about him before my visit, besides that he painted those iconic melting clocks.


The Theatre-Museum is one giant installation by Dalí. Walking through it feels like your experience is being curated by Dalí himself; which means that every single individual has a unique experience based on their literal perspective and the way their mind processes and interprets the vast amount of stimuli. When the tour guide talked about how Dalí connected ideas and objects in his art I felt like I’d discovered a kindred spirit in what on the surface appeared to be just another egotistical artist (he is noted as saying, “I don’t do drugs. I am drugs.”; “Each morning when I awake, I experience again a supreme pleasure-that of being Salvador Dali.”). Connections. I love connections, which is evidenced by the theme I chose for my 36th year: Connecting the dots.


Capturing the capturer

During my visit I got a better sense of how Dalí thought, how he approached life, and how he shattered social conventions. Although I question his affinity for flies (apparently he’d put honey on his mustache to attract them and then capture them in his mouth and let them fly around in there for a bit), I admire how he constantly challenged people to question what is fixed reality. The works of Dalí’s that I viewed contained layers and layers of meaning, each one a playground for my mind to jump from one idea to the next.

Dalí is buried under the center of the stage at the Dalí Theatre-Museum, which means that every visitor who walks over his body becomes a character in his story, and he in theirs. He has ensured that he is at the center of all the individuals who bring their own narratives to the space. I like to imagine him watching the show of life go on in the Theatre-Museum that he created—seeing connections of all our lives, even from the afterlife.



Three spoiler-free reasons to see Zootopia

It’s been inspiring to see what Disney Animation Studios has created since Ed Catmull and John Lasseter began leading it nearly a decade ago. After seeing Zootopia last night, I’m convinced that Catmull and Lasseter have successfully created a culture at DAS that empowers the artists who work there to express freely from the heart. I’m sure it’s a constant challenge to maintain a company space that cultivates creativity; Zootopia is proof that DAS is doing just that.

Here’s why I think watching Zootopia is worth your time, even if you’re an adult:

  1. While a certain political campaign that started out as a joke to many and is now terrifyingly real—is all about hating on the “other”—Zootopia is about inclusion and questioning the tactic of fear based actions and reactions.
  2. I never thought I’d have empathy for meter maids, yet after seeing Zootopia, I do.
  3. It’s funny. I know humor is relative, but there are so many smart and clever jokes; I love when animated films offer subtext humor for adults.

I tend to rate experiences and films with a soul check; if my soul feels nourished after being somewhere or seeing something, I take note. Zootopia nourished my soul. Not in a huge way, but a way that made me appreciate that the film was made.

Summer flings and goblin kings

When I was 25 I created a job posting for “Summer Fling.” It was a seasonal position with benefits, pay started at a penny per day DOE. Here is the position summary:

The Mission of Megatron (Megatron was my nickname, many still call me Tron, a nickname to that nickname) is to have a fun, memorable summer, by packing as many unique experiences as possible into two months. She seeks to spend some of her days running around, being a goofball with anyone willing to apply for this position.

I posted the position on the fridge at a party my roommate and I threw and counted on friends to spread the word. The one and only candidate who

Summer Fling Position Description

applied for the job picked up on the playful nature of the game and mailed me a headshot along with their resume, which included relevant experience and fun facts. Two of my friends and I interviewed the candidate, which included asking them questions like “Do you like roller coasters? Can you please explain the physics of a rollercoaster to us?,” “What is your height? At what age did you stop growing?,” “Please open up your desk and chug the beer as fast as you can. You will be timed,” “What are your feelings about squirrels?” After listening to their solid answers we decided to hire them and they officially became my Summer Fling of 2005.

The idea most likely came during casual conversation. I imagine my 20’s self telling a friend, “A summer fling would be nice, fun and no commitment, I could post an ad, haha.” And then I actually made it happen.

I was recklessly creative and curious in my 20’s. As evidenced by my love for Jim Henson and all his creatures, I made my 27th birthday party an ode to him and billed it Dance Magic Dance on homemade invitations. I dressed up as Red Fraggle and some friends came in character as Ernie and the Goblin King. Everybody else came ready to majorly cut a rug at one of my favorite magical spaces in the world—Buntport Theater. When my

Ernie and Red Fraggle, 2007

roommate of four years and I prepared to go our separate homestead ways, we threw an All Things Extinct party. One friend created a diorama of dinosaurs on their shoulder and head (this makes it sound like they only had one shoulder–they had two–the diorama only occupied one–aren’t you relieved I cleared that up? I am). After I watched a roller derby bout at Bladium I pulled one of the skaters aside and asked what it took to become a skater—and then I joined the league and skated for two seasons. When I recall all I did in my 20’s I am amazed. It would be easy to believe those were the golden days and now my 30+ life is on the decent. Easy, yet inaccurate.

I think it’s hard sometimes, to let go of a phase of our life. It can feel like we’re letting go of part of ourself, and oh how the ego can’t stand that! I like to think of it as letting go of the physical, and our strengths remain. I can let go of my 20’s body and still have my health. I can let go of my 20’s social life and still have fulfilling friendships. I can let go of bringing many different ideas to fruition and still be curious about life. I can let go of single ladies life and still hang out with Beyoncé on the weekend have fun with the single and partnered up ladies in my life.

Sometimes the phases we let go of aren’t the ones we’re most proud of, and we’re happy (or scared) to put in the work to transform ourselves. Other times the phases we let go of are filled with fun memories, and we appreciate those times for what they offered to us and we try not to get stuck on recreating them. Instead, we channel our strengths into the now, the environment we find ourselves in, and we live fully—free of ties to the past.

Beautiful sunsets are great reminders to practice letting go—and to savor the moment.