Thursday, August 31, 2006

Let’s Talk About Sex And Motherhood

Okay, so I’m not gonna shoot my husband.

Honestly, how could I shoot a man who would sit and listen to me rant and rave about my lousy day for almost an hour yesterday afternoon, then still cook me a nice dinner? And it was a really nice dinner too.

Yesterday was pretty bad, but it had its good points too. The best part was that Sam was asleep in her crib by 8:30 PM. I actually got to read for half an hour before going to bed early. Not that I got much sleep. My husband was feeling kind of frisky so I ended up staying up late last night anyway.

I’m in two different minds when it comes to sex and mommyhood. On the one hand, I feel like I just can’t be a mom and a sexual creature at the same time. Exhaustion simply kills my sex drive, and motherhood is nothing if not exhausting. I get six hours of sleep at most each night, and that sleep is frequently disrupted by late night feedings and preschoolers waking me up to announce there are monsters under the bed. During the day, I’ve got two kids hanging all over me. One is usually latched on and sucking the life out of me. The other is wrapped around my legs screaming for me to play with her. This leaves me with no time to relax or take care of myself, and if I can’t relax, I have a hard time sparking any interest in sex.

On the other hand, though, I miss feeling sexy and I miss having sex. Sex is a huge part of my identity. I write erotica and I create erotic art. My work revolves around creating arousal. My everyday life used to revolve around it too. I can remember a time when I would wake up in the middle of the night, not to nurse a baby, but to ravish my husband instead. Michael and I would spend entire weekends in bed, having non-stop sex and making enough noise to scare the neighbors. Back then, the only toys we had in the house were sex toys and my lingerie draw overflowed with Victoria’s Secret instead of nursing bras. Yep, those were good days.

So I’m thinking about sex right now, wondering if I can ever go back to the love life I used to have with my husband. People tell me no, it’s normal to watch your sex drive dry up and blow away when you’ve got kids. But part of me thinks that’s just bull crap. I can get my sexy groove back. I just have to figure out how.

I’ll talk about this some more tomorrow. Right now, I think I’m gonna catch some Z’s in the glider.

Here's today's artwork. This poor guy's got a sex life about like my own, I think...

Figure drawing, 30 August 2006

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Getting Ready For Preschool, Part III - Can My Husband Even Get Out Of Bed?

I had honestly intended to write about an entirely different subject this morning, but I’m so damned irritated today that I’ve just decided to vent instead. I feel like I’ve spent the last several weeks busting my ass while everyone else in the house does their very best to thwart my efforts to accomplish any work. Sam won't go to bed without a fight. Cassie refuses to nap. And now Michael... First it was the paper he had to write, then the business trip he took to present said paper. Both these things required me to give up a lot of my time so I could handle most of the child care on my own while he worked. Now we’re just a few days away from the start of preschool and try as I might to get this family on schedule in preparation for what’s going to happen next week, nobody seems to care, and I'm the one getting screwed as a result.

I get up at 4:45 AM. No, I’m not joking. 4:45 AM, the butt-crack of dawn. I do this to grab an hour of work time before the rest of the family wakes up, because once they’re up, there’s no way I’m going to be able to sit at the computer and work. Not with a baby to nurse, a preschooler to dress and feed and a husband to prod out of bed. And let me tell you, I just love that last task. Why the hell is it that I’m the first one up and the last one to bed, and yet he sits there and complains that he’s not a morning person? He’s not even setting his damned alarm clock. He’s depending on me to nudge his ass out of bed! Hello! Can we say completely unfair? It's not like he’s getting out of bed at 2 AM to take care of the baby. That’s my job too!

I’m so tired of this. I wish people (i.e. my husband) would show a little more respect for the work I’m trying to do. I wish it mattered to him that I’ve got a novel to submit and artwork to draw. But I guess my work just doesn’t make enough money to matter to anyone else but me. Grumble, grumble, bitch, whine, complain...

Sigh. I love my husband. But if he doesn’t start getting up on his own at 6 AM, I’m gonna shoot him.

Here’s the artwork for today. More work on that Manga Academy assignment, this time drawing champagne glasses. It’s not thrilling stuff, I know, but it does give me practice.

Champagne Glasses, 29 August 2006

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Getting Ready For Preschool Part II - Will Cassie Even Make It Out The Door?

It’s 6:45 AM and Cassie’s already thrown her first tantrum of the day. Lovely.

I decided two weeks ago that the whole family needed to practice getting up early and running through our morning routine the way we will once Cassie starts preschool. Up until yesterday, though, I’m the only one who’s been doing that. Michael claims he’s not a morning person, and has continued to sleep until 7 AM. I can’t get Cassie and Sam up and going at the same time, so I’ve been juggling between the two, trying to at least get Cassie used to the idea of breakfast first, then playtime. Now we’re in the final week before preschool. Michael has gotten up early two days in a row, but Cassie keeps protesting that she wants her Sesame Street first before she’ll eat. What she doesn’t understand is that come next week, she won’t be getting any Sesame Street at all, before or after breakfast, because she'll be headed off to school.

At least Cassie got up early this morning. She came trotting into our bedroom at 6:15 while Michael was still in the shower. I was working on the dreaded novel synopsis so I let Cassie crawl into our bed while I tapped away at the laptop. At 6:30, I told her she needed to get up and get dressed. That’s when the tantrum started.

Cassie: “I don’t want to get dressed. I eat in my pajamas!”

Me, picking up a very hungry Sam who has just woken up and wants to nurse: “That’s not how it works, young lady. You get dressed first, then you eat.”

Cassie, pulling the covers up to her chin: “No! No no no! Eat first!”

Me, still holding a fussing Sam: “Cassandra, get up and get dressed, now!”

Cassie dives under the quilt. I pull it off of her. She giggles and grabs at the quilt again. I get pissed and yank it back.

Me: “Young lady, if I have to put your sister down to make you get out of that bed and get dressed, you’re getting a spanking!”

Cassie, now playing tug of war with the quilt: “No no no no no no!”

Naturally, I am forced to put Sam down, which only makes her howl. I march over to the bed, envisioning snatching Cassie by the ears and dragging her screaming into her room. Sensing her impending fate, Cass jumps out of the bed and runs for it. All that saves her from a butt-paddling is Michael going after her to get her dressed. I finally sit down with Sam and nurse.

I know this is a scene that’s going to repeat itself many mornings. No matter how badly Cassie wants to go to preschool, she’s still bent on dawdling and doing things her own way in her own time. I just hope I can find my patience before I really do have to catch her by the ears.

Here’s some artwork from Sunday. Yes, it’s a soccer ball. It’s part of an assignment from Manga Academy. I’m supposed to hunt through various manga, looking for drawings of simple objects and then copy those drawings, paying attention to tone and line thickness in relation to the light source in the image. Considering that manga mainly focuses on people’s bodies and faces, it’s taking me forever to find simple inanimate objects to draw. However, I like my little soccer ball. It actually looks like a soccer ball, with a light source shining on it, so I’m pleased.

Soccer Ball, 27 August 2006

Monday, August 28, 2006

Getting Ready For Preschool - What Will Mommy Do While Her Baby Is At School?

This is just me thinking out loud this morning. After spending a chaotic weekend adjusting to having my husband back at home, I am now confronting the next big change in my life - Cassie’s first day of preschool - and am trying to decide how to deal with it. She starts next week, and will be going on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays for half-days. The idea initially was to give me a little time off so I could get some work done while she’s at school, but now I’m starting to wonder if that’s going to work. Sam continues to be difficult at bedtime, and she keeps me up all night. That can really screw up my day, you know. This morning, as a matter of fact, she was up at 4 AM, spitting up and fussing like nobody’s business. I finally handed her off to Michael at 4:45, my usual wakeup time, so I could get started on my day.

Why do I get up so early, you ask? Well, I have this lovely schedule planned out that involves me getting up at the butt-crack of dawn so I can fit in a few hours of work amidst all the chores and childcare I end up doing during the day. The first block of work time is from 5:30-6:30 AM, the second is from 8-10 AM, and the third is from 2-4 PM. The first and third scheduled blocks work just fine. At 5:30 AM, I’m usually the only one awake. Sometimes Sam is up, demanding to be nursed, but that’s not usually a problem. I can nurse her and write at the computer for an hour if I need to. The 2-4 PM work time occurs during Cassie’s afternoon nap, and that works really well, because I can usually get Sam down for an hour or more during that time as well. Plus, if I save drawing for that block of time, I can sort of let the work bleed over into the time after Cassie wakes up. I have very sneakily dubbed this time to be “Craft Time,” so I can hand Cassie some markers and paper and tell her that she and Mommy are going to draw pretty pictures for an hour or so. Hey, we get to spend time together and I get a little drawing practice in, so I’m happy.

Anyway, my early morning and late afternoon work hours are happening as planned. It’s that 8-10 AM block that’s a bit of a problem. Technically speaking, I haven’t started using this time for work just yet. Until Cassie heads off to preschool, 8-10 is pretty much playtime, where I do my best to keep my rambunctious child occupied. I’ve come to realize already though, that planning on doing any work during this time, even after Cassie starts school, is going to have some problems. First off, Cass is only going to be in school three mornings a week. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I’m not going to be able to use those hours. Second, Sam isn’t exactly cooperating with me on this schedule. I’d like her to take a morning nap from 8-10, but she’s usually wide awake then, so I’m not going to be able to get much work done.

**Sigh.** I don’t know what to do yet. Maybe I could reschedule that second block or I could forget about it entirely. I’d really like to have three separate work periods so I can handle three separate types of work - writing, animation, and drawing. I’m going to have to think about it some more.

Here’s today’s artwork. I’ve been practicing more figure drawing, especially problem areas like hands. Don’t be surprised if one of these days I post a drawing of nothing but feet, because I really stink at drawing those.

Figure drawing and hands - from 22 August 2006

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Welcome Home, Daddy?

Well, Michael got home last night around 6:30 PM. You should have seen the welcome he got. There was a little confusion, you see. I wasn’t certain he was going to show up in time for dinner so I asked Megan, our babysitter, to come over for an hour just in case Michael was running late. She’s been over for an hour every other evening this week to play with Cassie and help take care of Sam, and that’s how I’ve managed to survive this whole fiasco.

Well I got a call from Michael telling me he was on his way home and expected to be pulling into the driveway around dinner time. So when Megan called I said all I really needed her to do was come over and get paid because Michael was almost home. Then Sam blew out her diaper and I had to go bathe her. While I was washing the poop off of Sam, Cassie came running in to tell me the door bell had rung. “That’s probably Megan,” I said, and that’s where the trouble started.

See, Megan is fifteen and probably Cassie’s most favorite person in the whole wide world. Megan gets down on the floor and plays dollies and Legos and Lincoln Logs and other stuff. Megan will take Cassie outside and run with her and play tag and hide ‘n seek. Megan is young and still has two good knees and she can more than keep up with my overly energetic three-year-old. So when Cassie heard that Megan was downstairs waiting, she took off, screaming, “Megan! Megan! Meeeeeeeeeeegan!” Unfortunately, by the time I had managed to wrap Sam up in a towel and get downstairs, there was nobody at the door. Cassie, of course, started to bawl.

Cassie: “Where’s Megan? I want Megan!”

Me (still holding Sam who is only wearing a bath towel and may erupt in poop again at any moment): “Honey, it’s okay. I’ll call Megan and ask her to come back. But she’s only coming to pick up her money, she’s not staying, okay?”

Cassie: “I want MEGAN!”

Me: “Oh look, sweetie! Look who just pulled into the driveway. It’s Daddy!”


Me, on the phone trying to get hold of Megan: “Hi Kathy? Is Megan there? Yeah, I was busy cleaning up the baby. Could she come back over real quick?”


At this point my husband has pulled his bags out of the car trunk and is headed up the sidewalk. He can see us in the bay windows and is giving me the hand signal for “What the hell is going on in there?”


Me: “Um, Kathy? Could Megan stay and play a few minutes with Cassie? She’s a little upset that we missed Megan at the door.”

Michael, walking in the door: “Honey, I’m home! Where’s my big girl? Where’s Cassie?”


Fortunately, Megan showed up at that point and kindly agreed to play with Cassie for a little bit. While the two of them went into the living room to build the Taj Mahal out of Lincoln Logs, I raced upstairs with Sam, who had that peculiar look on her face that always means, “Mommy, I’m going to make a big poopie!” I got the diaper on her just in time.

Not exactly the warm homecoming that I’m sure Michael was expecting. But the house was still standing and everybody was still alive and Sam waited a whole hour before spitting up on him, so I think it went pretty well, all things considered.

Now that Michael is home, we’re back to our usual chaos. I was up all night again with Sam, and thus only managed to sneak in ten minutes of a conjugal “welcome back” before having to nurse again. Then this morning, we had everyone, and I mean everyone including the giant ballerina doll that my sister sent to Cassie, piled in our bed at 6 AM. Michael did manage to evict everyone for a little bit so I could grab a little shut eye, and then after breakfast he kept both kids occupied while I passed out on the couch. I can not believe it, but I slept there for two hours this morning, mouth open, snoring and drooling and everything. What a pretty picture I must have been. (Oh god, I hope nobody took any pictures). Anyway, Michael is finally home and life is finally back to normal.

Or at least, whatever passes for normal for us.

Here’s something I drew yesterday. You’re probably wondering what the heck it is. It’s a contour drawing of a badly torn up pinecone. No, I am not kidding, this is actually a torn up pinecone, not a mistake. This is an exercise from a drawing book I have. The purpose is to draw just the outline of an object, and then come back afterwards and fill in some of the detail, but again, outlines of details only. It's a hand/eye coordination exercise. If you squint, it does sort of look like a pinecone that got mauled by a lawn mower. Trust me.

Mangled Pinecone, 25 August 2006

Friday, August 25, 2006

Surviving Michael’s Business Trip - Day 5, Reward Day

I had seriously meant to post artwork yesterday, but couldn’t manage to get back online again. Sam kept nursing every two hours and when I wasn’t holding her, Cassie demanded I get down on the floor and play. She’s been good all week, but two days of Sam being in my arms non-stop is really starting to irritate her. I can’t get her milk for her when I’m nursing Sam, I can’t play when I’m nursing Sam, I can’t read stories... Well, actually I can do all those things while nursing Sam, but it’s not easy and I prefer not to have to do them because I think past a certain point it’s just expecting a little too much of me to jump up and answer Cassie’s every whim when I’m trying to nurse her sister. Cassie has to learn to wait, that’s all. Either than or she has to figure out how to pour her milk herself.

Um, no. On second thought, I don’t want her to pour her own milk just yet. I can just imagine how that would turn out. More milk on the floor than in her sippy cup. Too messy.

Michael comes home today, sometime between 5:30 PM and 8:30 PM, depending on traffic and his connecting flight. I can’t wait. I was trying to decide this morning if I was going to blow off the whole routine again. When the alarm went off at 4:45 AM, I figured I’d go ahead and get up and just take things one step at a time until I reached the point where I was too tired to keep my eyes open any longer, then I’d crawl back into bed and sleep. So far this morning, I’ve pumped some breast milk and had a shower. I was going to head downstairs and draw for a bit, but while I was getting dressed, I looked over at Sam in her car seat and saw she was wide awake. Little twerp gave me the biggest gummy grin and waved her hands at me, as if to say, “Mommy, I’m ready for more booby juice now!” So she’s nursing again while I write this. Drawing will have to wait. I’m pretty sure by the time Sam is done, I’ll be ready to go back to sleep. Or else Cassie will be up insisting that I play with her and get her some milk.

But that’s okay, because today is Reward Day. In addition to my Blow Off Day rule, I also have a rule about Reward Day. Whenever I’ve gone above and beyond the call of Mommy Duty, I get to treat myself (using Michael’s credit card, of course). Going above and beyond the call of Mommy Duty usually includes things like finishing a major art or writing project without killing the kids or husband, deep cleaning any room in the house, suffering through a week of nasty temper tantrums, or surviving a growth spurt with Sam (like the one we’re going through now). Making it through the past week on my own with two kids and dealing with the growth spurt while continuing to get some work done definitely qualifies for a reward, as far as I’m concerned. A major reward. So I’ve planned today to revolve around the concept of doing something really nice for ME.

For starters, I’m going to make myself a very nice breakfast, probably eggs with toast and a pot of hot decaf coffee, preferable the fancy whole bean stuff I bought before Michael left, not the ground stuff that tastes like potting soil if I don’t add enough soy milk and sugar to it. Then once everyone is dressed, I’m taking us all to the Y, where I can leave the kids in the nursery for a whole 90 minutes while I swim some laps in the pool. I’m not even going to bother calling this exercise. I’m just going to glide peacefully back and forth for a bit until I feel like I’m done. Then I’m going to shower and dress up, grab the kids and go out to lunch. Preferably some place quiet where I can breastfeed the ever-hungry Sam while I linger over some nice finger food (because I can’t use a knife and fork while breastfeeding - really, I can't). We will not be going to McDonald’s or Chic-Fil-A, I can tell you that. Afterwards, we’ll head over to Borders. This is the highlight of Reward Day, and a stroke of genius on my part. I discovered at the beginning of the week that I can go online and search the inventory of my local Borders, then submit a request via the web to have particular books pulled for me. That way, I can just walk into the store, pick up my books at the register, and take Cassie to the children’s area where she can play while I flip through my selections. This beats the pants off of me trying to hunt for what I want while Cassie pesters me to help her with the headphones in the store kiosks so she can listen to Wiggles music.

So what am I getting at Borders, you ask? What else? Books on drawing and erotica (recall what I do for a living). To be specific, I’m getting a book on dynamic figure drawing and some adult manga (Japanese comics for those of you who don’t know what manga is). After Cassie's had a little time to run amok in the children’s section and I’ve had time to confirm which books I’m buying, we’ll finish off our trip with a stop at the café where I intend to get my own pastry and my own drink rather than split an item between Cassie and me, because on Reward Day I don’t have to share.

Yes, that is the plan. Sam seems to have fallen asleep now, so I’m going to put her back in her car seat and slink into bed myself. Hopefully, I’ll get this entry posted a little later today. My eyes are already starting to close and I don’t think I can stay awake long enough to post this right away. Besides, I’ve earned the extra sleep. It’s Reward Day.

And before I forget... Here is today’s art. It’s a work in progress. The drawing was done in pencil, but the painting is being done on the computer. I’ve still got plenty left to do on this one. It’s something that I’ve been working on while nursing Sam in the evenings.

Medusa - Work In Progress

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Surviving Michael’s Business Trip - Day 4, Blow Off Day Continues

Oh, we are so blowing off today’s plans.

It’s 5:20 AM. Last night, I nursed Sam at midnight, 2 AM, and 4 AM. The alarm went off at 4:45. I was able to get a shower, but now it’s 5:20 AM and I’m back in the glider again nursing Sam, who keeps beating the crap out of my boobs because, guess what? My breasts are E-M-P-T-Y EMPTY!!

So all today’s plans are going out the window. It is once again, officially, Blow Off Day. As soon as Sam nurses herself back into a stupor, I plan to put her down and return to bed myself. Whenever Cassie wakes up, she can have whatever she wants for breakfast, up to and maybe even including M&M’s. I was planning on going to the dojo and take karate class today, but now I’m thinking we’ll hit the library instead. Mmmmm, the library. Such a nice quiet place. They have chairs in the library. I can check out a nice book on drawing and sit in one of those big comfy chairs. Yeah, sit and read... sit and read... sit and zzzzzzz...

I’ll post artwork later today. Maybe. Remember, it’s Blow Off Day.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Surviving Michael’s Business Trip - Day 3, Blow Off Day

Well, it was bound to happen. At least one day while Michael was gone, I knew we were going to end up blowing off my carefully planned routine.

The trouble started last night. Cassie went to sleep at 8:30 PM, and I thought I had Sam asleep at 9, but then the little pooper woke up twenty minutes later, doing the usual fussing and farting. Turns out she was hungry, in spite of having nursed an hour earlier. At 10 PM, Sam was still hungry, but my boobs were completely tapped out so I put her on her tummy in the bassinette to let her fuss it out for a while. She fell asleep after half an hour and I was able to transfer her to the car seat, but because she was up so late, I didn’t get to bed until 11:30 PM.

Of course, Sam woke up at 2 AM demanding to be fed again. And then she woke up at 4 AM... 6 AM... 8 AM... If you’ve ever breast fed a baby, you should be familiar with this pattern. It’s called a growth spurt, and let me tell you, an infant can suck down a lot of breast milk when they’re going through one of these things. I was supposed to get up at 4:45, but with only four and a half hours of uninterrupted sleep, it just wasn’t happening. Cassie crawled into bed with Sam and me around 6:30 and nearly smothered me in her attempt to cuddle. Sandwiched between both kids, I got no sleep at all from that point on, especially since Sam kept kicking me in the ribs and Cass kept digging her pointy little elbows into my spine. Family bed my ass. Kids need to sleep in their own beds so Mommy doesn’t chop off her hand the next morning by accidentally sticking it into the grinder while trying to make coffee. Yes, the sleep deprivation really is that bad.

The good news is I have a rule for days like today. If I’ve been up all night with the baby and haven’t had at least six good hours of sleep, I can declare the day to be Blow Off Day. Blow Off Day means I can toss the whole plan out the window if I want. The only things I have to do are feed the kids and make sure nobody kills themselves or burns down the house. Cassie can watch as much TV as she wants, eat popsicles all day, and run around in her PJs for all I care. I can spend the entire day sitting on the couch doing nothing but nurse Sam and contemplate my navel. Let the dirty dishes pile high and the cats puke all over the carpet. I don’t care because it’s Blow Off Day.

There are, of course, various degrees of Blow Off Day. Some days I blow off more than others. The worst case scenario was back in April when Michael and I both came down with this really nasty stomach flu. We spent all night passing each other as we ran to the bathroom to puke up our guts. I was so sick I couldn’t even take a sip of water without vomiting. My husband and I spent the next day passed out on the couches in our living room. Cassie sat on the floor between us, eating sherbet and popcorn and watching ten straight hours of The Wiggles. We were so sick, we didn’t care. To make matters worse, I was seven months pregnant with Sam at the time. I don’t ever want to be that sick again as long as I live.

But that’s the worst case scenario, as I said. Being sleep deprived and on my own with the kids isn’t quite that bad. So I only blew off the morning routine - wake up at 4:45, shower, dress, feed the cats and write for an hour. I decided to sleep in (as best I could, anyway, with two kids piled on top of me) and just pick up the daily routine at whatever point I got out of bed.

The beauty of this is, it didn’t matter if we got back into our routine or not. It was Blow Off Day, for crying out loud! But if I did get us back on track... well then, I would deserve a little reward for that, wouldn’t I? Say, an all expenses paid trip to the bookstore, courtesy of my loving hubby's credit card? Ka-ching!

So in spite of a rough night and a late start, I did work to get my act together. We got out the door by 10, hit the YMCA for a bit of exercise, and then met with some other moms and kids for our weekly play date at a nearby park. Both kids went down for their naps at the proscribed hour. I made up the hour of writing I had skipped in the morning and was able to follow that with an hour of sketching after Cassie woke up by convincing my darling daughter that she really did want to draw with some of Mommy’s special pencils. Dinner was on the table by 6 PM, bath time was at 7:30, and Cass was in bed by 8:30. Sam is still in my lap right now, fussing and nursing. She feels a little warm, so I’m wondering if she’s coming down with something. She doesn’t have a fever yet, but if she gets one and we’re up all night again, it’s okay.

Tomorrow can be Blow Off Day too.

Here's today's artwork. This is actually something I finished last week. It's from my "Waiting Room" sketch book, the little sketch book I keep in my purse that I doodle in whenever I'm waiting for an appointment. These sketches take a while to complete, but the results are always... interesting.

Motherhood, 18 Aug 2006

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Surviving Michael’s Business Trip - Day 2

Being the only parent at home to take care of two kids doesn’t leave me with a lot of free time. I managed to get maybe 45 minutes of writing done yesterday and stole half an hour for drawing after Cassie and Sam went to sleep. The good news is, both kids seem content to go to bed around 9 PM. The bad news is, when I don’t get work done, I become a basket case.

However, I’ll survive. To help make the week a little easier, I picked up some bribes, er, toys for Cassie yesterday. I bought her a scooter and a set of Lincoln Logs. I was going to get her a tricycle, but when she saw this little pink scooter, she refused to look at anything else. It’s actually a nice little scooter too, except for the fact that it’s decorated with Baby Bratz toddler whores. Could someone please explain to me why toy makers think it’s okay to make toys for three-year-olds that encourage them to look like prostitutes? Have you seen the Baby Bratz? Jeeze, I thought the regular Bratz were bad enough.

Anyway, Cassie has her scooter and we’re taking it for a spin this morning. In the afternoon, she’ll get to play with her Lincoln Logs. While Lincoln Logs don’t encourage kids to look like whores, they are a lot of fun to play with. Even Cassie agrees with that.

I did manage to finish one bit of work, in spite of the lack of time I have. I’ve been working on this sketch since February. It’s colored pencil and ink. Not perfect, but pretty to look at.

Mermaid - 21 August 2006

Monday, August 21, 2006

Surviving Michael’s Business Trip - Day 1

Michael left yesterday for a conference in Keystone, Colorado. That leaves me home alone with a 3-month-old and a 3-year-old, a rather challenging situation to say the least.

So far, however, things haven’t been too bad. Cassie and I have had the minimal amount of arguing. It does get a little annoying when she stamps her feet and demands to have something “right now!” For some reason, she thinks that if she shouts loud enough and stamps hard enough, I’m going to magically drop everything and cater to her needs. I’ve let her know that she’s going to have to learn to wait, and to say please, otherwise she’s going to do without.

Anyway, yesterday was uneventful. Today we’re going to the YMCA and then to the toy store. I told Cassie we were going to get a surprise, so naturally she keeps demanding to know what we’re getting. I’m not telling her though, because if I can’t find what I want, I’ll never hear the end of it from her. “But moooooooommmmmmmmmyyyyyyyy! You promised me a triiiiiiiiiiiiiicycle!”

Nothing else going on here, folks, except for yesterday’s drawing. Enjoy.

Manga Academy Assignment #1

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Jack Of All Trades Or Master Of One? A Career Makeover For A Frustrated Artist And Mom

We’re off schedule today. Sam woke up screaming to be fed at 1:30 last night. It was a little early - she’s been nursing at 2:30, maybe 3:00 AM - but not a problem. I just pulled her into bed with me and let her nurse. But then she started kicking me in the ribs around 4:30 AM, wanting to be fed again. Now that is a problem, because I get up at 4:45, and I couldn’t figure out how to unlatch a baby who was actively feeding when my alarm went off so I could get out of the bed and get started on my day.

Naturally, I fell back asleep and didn’t get up until 6:30.

The entire day wasn’t shot though. It’s Saturday, so I figured I could relax a bit, sleep late (yes, 6:30 AM is late for me, unfortunately). Michael made breakfast so while he cooked, I snuck up to the office and worked on the dreaded synopsis again. I’ve only got a few scenes left to add and then I’m sending that sucker out to my writers’ group for feedback. With luck, I can send my very gay fantasy novel (remember, I write erotica, so it really is gay) out to another publisher within the next two weeks.

Yes, my writing is on track. Now if only I could do the same with my art.

I read an article in Salon about science fiction writer James Tiptree, Jr., who’s real name was Alice Sheldon. I’ve never read any of Tiptree’s stories, but that may soon change. The article talked about Sheldon’s inability to achieve her full potential in life due to various reasons, but one paragraph seemed to sum up the problem pretty succinctly:

With Sheldon, the nagging problem of her identity, who she wanted to be -- a genius, an artist, a scientist, a writer -- kept interfering with the things she wanted to do... if she had cared more deeply, obsessively and passionately about any one of the half-dozen types of work she tried in her life, she might have looked up from it one day to find that the whole woman had arrived unbidden.

In a lot of ways, I feel like this is my problem. I get tied up trying to figure out who I want to be, rather than getting on with what I want to do. And like Sheldon, I can’t seem to focus on doing just one thing. My mind is fragmented into so many different directions, so many different projects, that almost nothing gets done. I have a dozen different computer graphics interests, all of which I’m pretty good at but at none of which I excel. I must own at least ten different 3D programs - Poser, Bryce, Carrara, etc., but I’ve never picked just one to concentrate on, so I’ve never mastered any of them. And since I haven’t mastered any of those programs, I can’t manage to make the illustrations I really want to make as quickly as I’d like to make them, which means I get frustrated when the work takes so long and I end up abandoning a lot of projects (I hate admitting that, but it’s true). I’ve got plenty of ideas, but not the skills to make them happen. Of course, I could get those skills with lots of practice and time. But we all know what that means...

It means I need to focus. I need to drop the excess stuff going on in my work and just pick one thing to do.

I did it with the writing. I picked a genre (erotica) and ran with it. Almost three years ago, I joined the Erotica Readers And Writers Association and started writing just erotica and submitting it to the group. The end result? I’ve completed half a dozen short stories and an 82,000 word novel. I need to push myself a little more to get my stories out the door to a publisher, but I’m working on that and will continue to do so.

Now I’ve got to do the same thing with the art work. I’ve invested so much money in various 3D graphics programs, but I’ve got so little to show for it. However, the graphics program I’ve had the most success with isn’t even 3D, it’s a 2D animation program called “Flash.” The flaming header image and the sidebar image of the demon mommy and baby on this blog were made with Flash, as were the Cynical Woman cartoons and other oddities over at I’ve even made money with a couple of adult Flash cartoons I submitted to AtomFilms. They’re called “Stick Figure Porno” and yes, they are exactly what the title says they are. I know I ought to do more Flash cartoons. I have ideas for them. And if I did them, I could make more money and maybe get a little of that fame and fortune I seem to crave so much at times. So why the hell haven’t I done any? Because I get too sidetracked futzing with all those 3D programs I’ve got sitting on my hard drive, that’s why.

So as of today, I’m narrowing my focus to just three specific areas - Flash animation, writing and drawing. After working on my schedule, I’ve made room for three work periods during the day - one from 5:30 AM - 6:30 AM; one from 8:00 AM to 10:00 AM; and one from 2:00 PM - 4:00 PM. I can use the first work period for Flash animation. I can use the second for writing. The third will be for old fashioned drawing by hand, and that's mostly going to be cartooning and comic book drawing because I want to get back to the things I loved when I was younger. Besides, the Flash artwork is only going to improve if I draw more, and if I take the comic book artwork far enough, I could start writing my own. I'm a writer and an artist after all. Why not combine the two interests at some point?

Since joining ERWA helped so much with me getting the writing done, I’ve also looked into other forums that I can turn to for info, feedback and support while I work. Haven’t picked one out yet for Flash animation, but I did find something for the drawing. And to further ensure that I do some artwork and get things done, I’m going to start posting my daily drawing efforts here. Here’s this afternoon’s work.

Figure study for 19 August 2006

I’ll be very interested in seeing how this all works out a year from now.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Mommy As Artist

I took some time this morning to scan in some sketches I’ve done in the past year. I didn’t have a lot to scan in, unfortunately, but there were a few things among the meager pickings I had that I liked enough to post here. Here’s one that reflects what’s really been on my mind lately...

Time Flies

I may have worked out a schedule that I can live with that will let me do the writing, the art, and the computer graphics work all while taking care of two kids, cleaning the house, and finding time to be a real partner to my mate. It’s going to take a lot of discipline to stick to that schedule - it starts at 4:45 AM and keeps going until 10 PM. I’m trying to change that bedtime hour to 9 PM, but that’s going to require a little more cooperation from a certain poop-producing pixie I fondly call Sam. She’s not going down easy in the evenings, although last night she did sleep from 11 PM until 5:30 this morning.

Anyhooters, I made a schedule and I’ve got plans. Now I just have to survive next week, when Michael heads off on a business trip for six days. Keep reading, folks. Things may get very interesting over the next few days.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Hot Mama! What Makes You Feel Sexy?

It’s 6:50 AM and I’ve been up for two hours already. Not that I’m complaining. I had a nice quiet morning and got to spend a productive hour working on the novel synopsis. I’m hoping I can get this damned thing done in the next few days.

We had an interesting discussion in the Erotica Readers And Writers Association a few weeks back. The question was, “What Makes You Feel Sexy?” Most of the answers were pretty standard - a hot bath and a glass of wine, reading a sexy (i.e. erotic) novel, favorite perfume, lingerie, etc. I was hoping for some more interesting answers, and was a little disappointed. Maybe it’s just me. Maybe I’m weird (you think?), but after pondering the question myself, I decided that what made me feel sexy was doing karate, especially when I work with the weapons. There’s something about throwing on a heavy-weight gi, wrapping a black belt around my waist, and kicking the crap out of something that makes me feel good. Real good. I like the way I look when I’m doing a kata. Very intent, very focused, and no kids hanging off me, whining and fussing for my attention.

I guess it’s a power thing. I feel most powerful when I’m doing something physical. I get the same good feeling when I go running (something I can’t do right now thanks to the way post-partum hormones screw up my knees), or do any other intense physical activity. But karate is best. It makes me feel unique in addition to feeling strong and physical. Not everyone has a black belt. Not every can swing around a bo or a pair of nunchaku. Not everyone can kick ass.

But I can }:)

So I’m just wondering. What makes you feel sexy? And please, think about your answer. Go beyond the lingerie, the perfume, the hot bath and the glass of wine. Think about what makes you feel uniquely your best, your most confident, your most sexy self. I’m curious to know.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Mommy Needs Personal Time

Let me ask you something, moms. How far would you go to get a little time to yourself? Just a little peace and quiet, some time to sit alone, drink a cup of coffee and do something just for you. Would you kill to get some time for yourself? Because I think that’s what I’m about to do.

This past week has been nothing short of a disaster for me. I’m still struggling with the synopsis of my novel, trying to write it so I can send the novel out the door to a publisher and hopefully get it sold before the end of the year. I’m getting nowhere with this however, because I’m not getting any time to write. My writing and my artwork are secondary to everything else going on in this house. And I’m starting to resent it big time.

I can’t recall most of Saturday, mainly because I ended up being so sleep deprived. I was up all night with Sam, I remember that. She woke up to nurse at around 2AM. By 2:30, she was still wide awake and fussy. Since I’d been up late and was dead tired, I woke Michael up and asked him to take her so I could get some sleep. At about 3:15 I woke to the sound of hacking and sputtering and crying. Seems my genius husband decided Sam needed to fuss it out so he put her in the bassinette on her back, completely forgetting she was still congested from the virus she’d contracted earlier last week. He, of course, was sound asleep in bed, so I got up and tried to nurse Sam back to sleep again. By that point though, she was too congested and so at 3:45AM I ended up standing in the shower with her in my arms, trying to steam the snot out of her. She eventually started breathing easier but still wouldn’t go to sleep, so at 4AM I took her downstairs, put her in her swing, and then I started cleaning.

I cleaned until 5:30AM, when I ran out of things to clean. Sam still wasn’t asleep. So I sat down with my drawing pad and pencil and started to sketch (and here I’ve been complaining about how I never have time to draw anymore. Silly me!). Sam was dozing, but kept waking back up every time she nodded off. By 6:30AM, I couldn’t keep my eyes open anymore so I took Sam, who was still fighting sleep, upstairs and tried nursing her again.

At some point, she and I both fell asleep in the bed. Michael got up around 8 AM, I think. Cassie got up shortly after. Then around 8:30, Michael headed out to karate class, leaving Cassie alone downstairs watching TV. I don’t like Cassie being left alone like that, so I crawled out of bed with Sam and went downstairs. Cassie watched Sesame Street. Sam snoozed in her bouncy chair. I lay on the couch nursing a pot of coffee. Not a cup, mind you. A pot.

When Sesame Street was over, I somehow got off the couch and started cleaning house again (because kind person that I am, I only cleaned the downstairs of the house at 4 AM so as not to wake up anybody sleeping upstairs). Michael waltzed in around 10:30 AM and announced he was going upstairs to take a shower. I told him to take a frikkin’ number, because now that he was home, he was going to watch the kids while I took a hot bath.

I vaguely remember the bath. I also vaguely remember dozing in bed for a brief period. I had lunch when I got up. Then Michael took Cassie to the playground so I could work on my synopsis for an hour or so. Only I fell asleep at the computer and dreamed about Elmo instead.

And that’s the punch line to the joke, folks. My darling husband graciously gave me an hour or so to write, but I was so damned tired I couldn’t do it. I think by the time he came home, I had managed to write two or three lines. That was it.

The rest of Saturday was a blur of breastfeeding Sam and managing temper tantrums from Cassie. Underneath it all was an almost overwhelming feeling of resentment. That feeling carried over into Sunday, when I got up early to clean house once again. However, I took my frustrations out on the dusting and when I was done an hour and a half later, I decided things weren’t going so bad after all. Michael took Cassie with him to church, then to the playground and the hardware store. I used the free time to sketch, take a much needed walk, and take care of Sam. It was a nice day, and I was almost starting to feel human again. Cassie was sound asleep when Michael returned from the hardware store, so he put her into her bed and headed out to do more errands. I sat down to work on the synopsis, and then everything went to hell in a hand basket again.

Sam woke up first, fussing and snorting and demanding to be fed. I sat down with her in the glider and continued writing while she attacked my left breast. It was a little distracting since she wouldn’t settle down, but I was determined to work. Then fifteen minutes later Cassie walked in and announced she was done taking a nap. Frustrated, I took both kids downstairs and brought my laptop along. I spent the next two hours trying to write between sessions of bouncing a gassy infant and distracting a cranky preschooler. I think I completed a grand total of three sentences.

You can imagine the rest of the evening. Dinner came and went, accompanied by the now-routine sets of tantrums and fussiness. Then the bedtime routine started, with extra whining and pouting thrown in to top off the day. Somehow, Michael and I managed to get the kids into bed without one of us winding up in jail. Then as he went off to watch the nightly news, I sat down at the dining room table and planned a way to get my work hours back.

Remember my initial question? How far would you go to get a little time to yourself? I made a decision that I’d go pretty damned far. I decided I’d get up at 5 AM if I had to, well before anyone else in the house was awake, and spend the early morning hours either drawing or writing. I plotted my whole day around that idea, and then made a plan to keep Cassie up and moving as much as I could during the day so she’d be worn out come nap time and therefore would actually take a nap instead of pop out of bed to drive me crazy.

I had a plan. I set it in motion. The next morning, I woke up at 5 AM. I showered, got dressed and was downstairs by 5:45. I was running a little late, and I still had to pump breast milk and get the coffee going, but even so, I figured I’d still get in 40 minutes of “me” time. Ha ha. Twenty minutes later, I was still swearing at the coffee maker and the breast pump, both of which had decided to piss me off by refusing to function. The coffee maker was giving me brown-tinted water rather than full-blown java juice, and the breast pump wasn’t giving me any suction. I reran the coffee and futzed with the pump. By 6:15, I had milk and joe, but only fifteen minutes left to work. I sat down with a pad and pencil, determined to use what little time I had left. Then Cassie came bouncing downstairs demanding a sippy cup of milk. A minute later, Sam woke up howling to be nursed.

The rest of the day went pretty much the same way. All my plans and hopes for stealing time to work were constantly fouled up by one child or the other. Nap time, which I had reserved for working on the novel synopsis, was a complete disaster. Cassie had fallen asleep earlier in the car, but as soon as we got home she woke up and wasn’t tired any more. Attempts to get her to lie down devolved into a screaming match. Then Sam woke up from her nap and that was it for work time.

That’s about when I finally hit the end of my rope. I just couldn’t take it anymore. I called Michael up and let him know that the moment he came home, I was packing up my laptop and leaving. Not for good, mind you, but I had to work. He could take the kids for the evening. I was going to the library to write.

I made my escape at 6 PM, the moment Michael walked in the door. I have never felt so free and so guilty at the same time. It was amazing how quickly I could get out the door when I wasn’t saddled with two kids, but I also felt terrible because I’d just abandoned my post and left my darling husband at the mercy of two screaming brats. Good thing my guilt only lasted about five seconds, otherwise I never would have made it to the library where I spent two and a half hours doing some blissfully child-free writing. I managed to complete two pages of my synopsis before the library closed.

I headed home around 8:45 PM. Cassie was screaming in the bath tub. Sam was draped over Michael’s shoulder, spitting up for all she was worth. Michael was struggling to keep calm. I almost choked trying not to laugh at him. I set my laptop up by its rightful place beside the glider, reclaimed Sam and sat back down to nurse. Half an hour later, both kids were in bed. Michael and I sat collapsed on the couch. When he asked me about my evening, I had to admit how good it felt to just leave the house. “Maybe that’s something you should do twice a week,” he suggested. I never loved that man more than I did at that moment. “Once a week,” I replied. “I want at least one evening during the week home with you and the kids.”

I’d like to say things took a dramatic change for the better after that. They haven’t. Over the past couple of days, I’ve continued to struggle with tantrums, diapers overflowing with runny green poop, malfunctioning coffee pots, and a serious lack of work time. None of this is going to change anytime soon. But I’ve made arrangements with Michael to escape to the library again tonight. I figure it’s only fair. Next week he leaves for Colorado on a business trip and I’ll have both kids to myself for six days straight. I want to complete the synopsis before then so I don’t end up going all week with this unfinished project hanging around my neck like a stone. That would just make me want to kill Michael the moment he walks in the door, and I certainly don’t want to do that.

I got up this morning before 5 AM again just to steal a little more work time. But now it’s 7 AM. The kids are up. The grind continues. I’m just holding out until this evening when I can make my escape from the asylum again. I keep telling myself I’ll survive.


Sunday, August 13, 2006

Cry Me A River - A Three-Year Old’s Never Ending Stream Of Tantrums

Sam seems to be recovering from her stomach virus. She’s still congested, which means I spend a lot of time standing in a hot shower with her in my arms until she can breathe normally. I wouldn’t mind so much, but I can’t actually wash while I’m holding her, so I end up taking a separate shower just to clean up. I’m starting to get a bit waterlogged.

Speaking of waterlogged, Cassie’s really been turning on the tears lately. I never knew a child could throw so many tantrums. Some are fairly minor, just a little crying and pouting when I ask her to do something. Others have been complete meltdowns, like the one in the playground parking lot on Friday, resulting in some disciplinary action (i.e. a spanking) that led to even more screaming. Ugh.

I am so tired of dealing with temper tantrums. I know what sets them off, I can predict when they’ll happen, but there’s not a damn thing I can do to prevent them it seems. Basically, Cassie will be doing something she enjoys and for some reason or another, I’ll have to ask her to stop and do something else. In fact, we’re starting to develop a routine of tantrums, based on our daily schedule. It goes something like this:

0630 - Cassie wakes up, usually in a bad mood, and wants a sippy cup of milk and an episode of Sesame Street. I’ll give her both, but we only allow half an hour of TV in the mornings, so...

7:00 AM - I turn off Sesame Street to have breakfast and Cassie throws a fit.

7:30 AM - After breakfast, I spend some time finishing up the morning chores. Cassie likes to sit and play with her Little People or her Barbies. That’s fine, but at some point she needs to get dressed and make her bed, so...

8:30 AM - Once the morning chores are done, I pick up Sam to upstairs and nurse and tell Cassie she needs to get dressed and make her bed. She immediately proceeds to throw tantrum number two.

9:30 AM - Cassie, Sam and I are dressed and ready to head out the door. If it weren’t for the temper tantrums, I might have a shot at getting to the Y on time to take yoga class. I haven’t been to a class since the week Sam was born. This doesn’t look like it’s going to change anytime soon. I do still manage to get to the Y though, where I can leave the kids at the nursery for an hour or so while I get in some much needed exercise. Sam usually dozes in the arms of one of the attendants or sleeps in a bouncy chair. Cassie gets to play with other kids her age for an hour or so. I get to blow off some stress and rebuild my post partum body. At the end of that hour though, we have to leave, and that means...

11:00 AM - Cassie throws tantrum number three because she doesn’t want to quit playing. I sigh and do my best to make a graceful exit from the Y with my screaming child. I’m sure we’re very entertaining to watch.

11:30 AM thru lunch - Depending on her mood and my level of exhaustion, we may or may not experience various mini-tantrums. Subjects such as the lunchtime menu, getting to the potty in time to avoid an accident, washing hands before the meal, using utensils to eat, chewing with our mouths closed, etc., are all opportunities for outbursts of screaming and defiance. If I’m really lucky, Michael is home for lunch and we alternate tantrum management sessions between us until he has to go back to work. If I’m not lucky, I’m on my own with the little demon spawn.

1:00 PM - Clean up time after lunch. Cassie’s been pretty good about letting me have 15 minutes or so to clear the table and put things away, but as soon as I’m done, she jumps on me to play with her. I do my best to accommodate, but if Sam needs a diaper change or she has to be fed... well, let’s just say things can get ugly.

1:30 PM - I try to get us out of the house in the afternoons, either to run errands or take Cassie to the playground. This is the tricky part of the day, especially if we go to the playground. I can’t chase Cassie around the jungle gym like I used to - it’s just impossible with Sam in my arms - so she has to make do on her own. If there are other kids around, it’s usually not too much of a problem, but some days the playground is pretty empty (other moms aren’t crazy enough to deal with the heat, I suppose). Additionally, Cassie still hasn’t figured out how to pump her legs so she can swing on her own. Again, I can’t hold Sam and push Cassie, and since most playgrounds in this area are covered with mulch, they’re not exactly stroller friendly. Still, Cassie copes with these limitations. But as naptime approaches, I must start the countdown to let her know we’ll be leaving soon. Fifteen minutes... ten minutes... five... four... three... two... one... and we have meltdown. The screaming, sobbing, howling and kicking are unbelievable. I seriously believe my daughter is possessed at times like this and wonder where I could find a Catholic priest who would be willing to perform an exorcism on the daughter of a casual Buddhist like myself. I mean really, Cassie does all but spin her head 360 degrees and puke green pea soup all over the place as I try to get her in the car. Last Friday it was so bad I had to resort to grabbing her by the ear because it was the only part of her I could reach without dropping Sam. I had to haul that kid to the car and lift her up inside of it (by the ear, no less!), then shut and lock the door behind her to prevent her from running amok in the parking lot. She shrieked all the way home, into the house and up the stairs to her room. Then she screamed even louder when I put her to bed without any stories. As the tantrum continued, I went downstairs and collapsed on the couch until Cassie finally passed out from screaming so much.

3:00 PM - 6:00 PM - If I’ve done my job right that day, Cassie will be worn out enough to sleep for a good three hours. That gives me time to focus on Sam for a bit and do some work. If I didn’t wear her out though, Cassie will wake early and fuss and whine until I give up on any hope of getting any more work done and agree to go downstairs and play with her. We may or may not have a tantrum, depending on how determined I am to work and how determined she is to get me to play. If she sleeps for three hours though, we can skip all that and head straight to...

6:00 PM - The witching hour. Cassie wakes up and wants her movie. I must remind her she doesn’t get a movie until after dinner. She insists that she’s already had dinner. I explain she had lunch, not dinner. This little argument goes on until Michael has the meal on the table. Then we have a repeat of lunchtime’s fits and fusses, accompanied by the required time outs. This lasts up until...

7:00 PM - Movie and treat time. If Cassie hasn’t managed to lose her evening privileges by this time, she gets half an hour of movie and a small treat (usually a piece of chocolate, a bit of dessert, something like that). Or else she gets time to play with Michael or me for a bit before going up for her bath. And that’s where the trouble lies, because like all good things, this too must end, and it ends in...

8:00 PM - The end of the day meltdown. This one is a doozy. It starts with Michael or I telling Cass that it’s time to turn off the movie, quit playing, put her toys away and go upstairs for her bath. This particular tantrum lasts off and on through out her bedtime routine, with pitched battles of defiance over getting undressed, getting into the tub, getting out of the tub, brushing her teeth, brushing her hair, going potty one last time, and turning off the lights and setting down for the night. On a good night, Michael is home and he gets to deal with it while I nurse Sam and put her down for the night (a monumental task in its own right). On a bad night, Michael is either working late or at karate class and yours truly is just plain screwed.

You know, looking at all this reminds me of when Cassie was an infant and she screamed all the time because she had colic. Back then, we called her “Angry Baby.” I had hoped she would outgrow it. Now I know better.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Resisting The Urge To Divorce

Sam has a stomach virus. Joy.

I spent all day at home Wednesday trying to keep Cassie entertained and Sam comfortable. Fortunately, Sam slept a lot and Cassie decided not to throw too many temper tantrums. Even so, it was a long day.

As I do on any long day, I spent a lot of time thinking. While wading through dirty diapers and buckets of spit-up that evening, I started contemplating the idea of divorce, including my own. Before anyone panics here, let me say that Michael and I are not getting divorced. It’s just that I’m one of those morbid people who think about things like that. I mean really, what would happen if we got divorced? What would happen if one of the kids developed some near fatal disease? What if I died, or if Michael died? What if a hurricane tore through our area and demolished our home? What if aliens landed and replaced the president’s brain with a kumquat? Wait, I think that last one has already happened...

Anyway, I think about these things. It’s sort of like a mini-rehearsal for the real thing, should it ever happen. I run various scenarios through my head, imagining what it would be like, asking myself questions about the possibilities. Let’s say I did decide to divorce Michael. Where would I live? Would I get the house, or would he? What about the kids? Where would they live - with him or me? How would we handle custody? And what about money? I’d have to get a job, that’s for sure. Where would I work? At some mind-numbing minimum wage burger joint, or could I find better pay at some mind-numbing not-so-minimum wage corporate job? If I worked, what would I do for daycare? Would I be able to continue writing and drawing (not that I get much of that done now)? What would my friends think? What would my family think? If I left Michael, would I have to (pause for dramatic shudder) move to Arkansas and live with my parents?

Yes, all these questions were running through my head on Wednesday. You see, I was irritated. I’ve had very little sleep in the past seven days and almost no sleep the night before. Plus I’d been stuck in the house all day with a sick infant and a three-year-old who could run the legs off a bull moose. My writing and my artwork were languishing on the desk in our bedroom and I knew there was no way in hell I was going to get any work done. Then Michael walked in at six, sat down at the dining room table with his laptop and went to work on his resume. Apparently NASA is asking people to submit resumes for an open job pool in case any positions come up for aerospace engineers or project managers. So my husband the rocket scientist decided to polish up his extensive resume while I went around the house scrubbing baby vomit out of the carpet. Did I say I was irritated? Make that more like pissed off. Yes, Michael needs to submit his resume for this open job pool. His branch is considering taking on more space exploration work and it’s one of Michael’s dreams to be involved in that sort of thing. I wholly support him in that. But damn it, I’ve got dreams of my own and who the hell is supporting me?

Things hit a peak that night at ten, when Sam simultaneously vomited all over me and blew diarrhea out her diaper while nursing. I sat in the glider, covered in half-digested milk and green poop when in walked my eldest child, still dressed and still wide awake.

“Honey, where are your pajamas?”

“I’m not wearing them, Mommy.”

“I can see that, sweetie. But it’s past bed time. Why aren’t you ready for bed?”

“Daddy says come upstairs and play.”

“Oh did he really?”

At that point, Sam vomited again and I asked Cassie to fetch her father. She stood at the top of the steps and yelled, “Daddy, come upstairs!” then came back and reported that Daddy would be up shortly. He never came. Instead, I did my best to clean up Sam on my own and then, still reeking of poop and vomit, when downstairs to find out why Cassie wasn’t in bed yet.

“I’ll get to it!” he snapped as he typed away at his resume.

Needless to say, I was royally pissed at that point. I went back upstairs with Sam, who had decided she was not going to sleep. I turned out the lights, sat back in the glider and rocked her, fuming as I waited to hear the sounds of Michael coming up the stairs to coral Cassie into bed. What I heard instead was the sounds of Michael coming upstairs and locking himself in the bathroom while Cassie sat outside and screamed. Sam stared wide-eyed at me in the dark. Cassie’s screaming got louder. Gritting my teeth, I tucked my non-sleepy baby into her car seat and went outside to handle the problem.

Cassie, who was near hysterics, was still not dressed. I coaxed her into her room, got her out of her dress and convinced her it would be very smart if she got into her pajamas before I was overcome with the urge to run screaming myself through our neighborhood. A few minutes later, Michael came out of the bathroom and took over. Deciding I was not up to facing the fussy infant who waited for me in the bedroom, I went downstairs and started cleaning the house.

And I thought about divorce. Not just my own at that point, but all the divorces I’d seen take place within my circle of friends and family. I wondered why people left each other and ended their marriages. What was the straw that broke the camel’s back? How bad did things have to get before two people decided they really couldn’t stand each other any more? How bad did things have to get before Michael and I decided we couldn’t stand each other anymore?

Of all my friends, there’s only one couple who’s been married longer than Michael and I. Everyone else who was married when we got married has long since divorced. In fact, I am not allowed to look through our wedding album anymore because I always sit there and point out the couples who’ve since split up (see, I really am morbid).

Why did all these people get divorced? I couldn’t remember. There was no reason that stood out. I think most of them just got fed up with their lives and decided to walk away from their problems. I could understand that impulse. I certainly wanted to walk away from mine at the moment - sick baby, screaming preschooler, husband who’s so preoccupied with work right now that he’s almost never home. I was covered in vomit and poop and on my hands and knees cleaning yet even more poop out of the litter box and man, did I ever just want to walk out the door.
But I didn’t. Because I’d already thought about the alternatives and none of them appealed. Yeah, my life sucked at the moment, but I knew it could get worse. Having seen the aftermath of divorce up close and personal, I knew if I walked away it would only be to a different set of problems, ones I really didn’t want to have.

That made me think of something Michael once told me. On the day we got married, he said my dad gave him a bit of advice. “Remember, no matter who you marry, it’s always the wrong woman.” On the surface it seemed pretty insulting. How the hell was I the wrong woman? But thirteen years later I knew what Dad meant and so did Michael. You always marry the wrong person. No one is perfect. Your spouse is inevitably going to piss you off and make you want to tear your hair out. But even if you left them and got married again, that new person would still be the wrong one for you and after a while you’d be just as pissed with them as you were with spouse number one. And the same thing would happen with the one after that and the one after that. You could spend your whole life looking for Mr. or Mrs. Right, but you’ll never find them because they just don’t exist. It’s always going to be the wrong person.

By the time I’d finished cleaning the cat box, I knew I didn’t want to get a divorce. Even if Michael was pushing all my buttons at the moment, he was still the guy I married, and even if he was the wrong guy I was sticking with him. After all, how many other men would sit upstairs and read “Pigeon Finds A Hotdog” for the fifty millionth time to a cranky three-year-old? Sure, there are lots of other things I’d like to see Michael do for me. I’d love for him to buy me art supplies and talk to me about my writing and drawing. I’d kill to have him take care of the kids all weekend so I could spend the time working on my novel synopsis. And if he ever took the initiative to call up the babysitter and plan a romantic evening for the two of us (instead of waiting for me to do it), well I certainly wouldn’t complain about that.

He doesn’t do those things though. Instead, he researches laptops for me and helps me buy the best machine for my money. He builds me a wireless network so I can sit in the glider and handle e-mail while Sam nurses. He cooks dinner almost every night so I don’t have to, and then he plays with the kids so I can at least have some quiet time as I clean up the dishes afterwards. It ain’t heaven, folks, but it’s not hell either.

As I tossed the dirty kitty litter into the garbage, I decided then that what I really needed wasn’t a divorce but a little romance, just something to pull me up out of the tedium of my day-to-day life and remind me of all the things my husband does do. Being an aerospace engineer, romance is not usually on Michael’s mind. But it could be on my mind. Yeah, I’d rather he initiated it, but maybe it was more important to just get the romance started than worry about whose job it was to get things going. I could set the mood myself if I just tried, and maybe Michael would get the idea and start to play along.

So I grabbed a post-it note and wrote down something mushy. “Don’t forget to add the phrases ‘World’s Best Dad’ and ‘World’s Best Husband’ to your resume. Love, Helen.” I stuck the note on the screen of his laptop and went back to cleaning. A little while later, he came down and went back to work on his resume. I waited a few minutes and went in after him. My little note didn’t inspire any big passionate fireworks, but it did get me a kiss. Afterwards, we spent a few minutes sitting and talking. Nothing big, just taking a few moments to be husband and wife. When we were done I gave Michael another kiss and went up to bed. Miraculously, the baby was asleep.

Being married is hard work. The only thing harder is being a parent. I know we’re at a difficult point in our marriage right now, and fighting the urge to divorce is a choice I’ll have to make again and again. Good thing for me I’m stubborn.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The Descent Into Hell

The Italian poet Dante wrote a story called “The Inferno.” It’s an amazing piece of work, wherein Dante describes his descent through the nine circles of Hell, guided by none other than Plato himself. Plato gets to play tour guide in this one because he was a non-Christian but, in Dante’s opinion, still one of the good guys who ended up residing in Purgatory. Dante’s “Inferno” is written in intricate rhyming stanzas with brilliant imagery, calling up all the details of the nether realm, right down to his visitation with Lucifer at the very bottom of Hell. It’s truly astounding to read.

My own descent into hell last not was not nearly so imaginative. It started early yesterday afternoon. I was having trouble getting Sam to go down for her nap. Normally, I can nurse her down with no problem during the day. It’s night time that’s usually the nightmare. But yesterday, I couldn’t get Sam to settle to save my life. She’d nurse and fuss and fuss and nurse. I tried repeatedly to put her in her bassinette, only to have to pick her up again because she had blown out her diaper or spit up all over herself. Sometime around 5 PM, she finally fussed herself to sleep. Cassie didn’t get up until 6PM from her nap so I managed to squeeze in an hour of work. Then things really got interesting.

Michael left at around 7PM to go to karate class. I went through the usual evening routine of misbehavior and tantrums from Cassie. I had to hold Sam through all of it because she kept wailing. I finally got Cassie into bed just before Michael came home. Being completely exhausted, I put Sam down in her car seat to cry for a while as I tried to prepare for the next day. I kept hoping she’d cry herself out and fall asleep. That never happened.

Fifteen minutes after Michael got home, Sam’s wailing turned to shrieking. Michael picked her up and held her while I finished off my evening chores and tried to do most of the next morning’s chores as well. She fell asleep on her daddy around 10:30 PM. Relieved, we took her upstairs and put her back into the car seat to sleep (she still can’t sleep lying flat on her back). I went back downstairs to get a drink. When I came back up, Sam was awake and screaming again.

The screaming went on all night. Michael and I took shifts trying to comfort her. I tried nursing her, but Sam kept popping off and on again. Michael took her downstairs around midnight and after an hour of rocking her and patting her back, he got her to sleep for half an hour. As soon as he brought her back upstairs and put her back in the car seat, the screaming started all over again. So we ran a hot shower and I took Sam in with me. She calmed down a bit but wouldn’t fall asleep. I got dressed and tried to nurse her. She wouldn’t nurse. I checked her temperature. It was normal. We changed her diaper three times, each time discovering it was full of that damned green watery poop that has plagued us for the last seven weeks. After the last diaper change at 3 AM I took Sam back downstairs and tried putting her in the swing to lull her to sleep. It worked for a few minutes. Then she started howling again. I grabbed a blanket and a pillow and lay on the floor with her. She nursed a little bit and sometime around 4:30 AM fell asleep again. Then she woke up screaming at 5 AM. I took her back upstairs and crawled into bed with her. She nursed again and finally fell into a deep sleep around 5:30 AM.

Then at 6:30 AM I woke up to the sound of Cassie screaming bloody murder. I sent Michael out to check on her. He came back and said she was on the toilet and wouldn’t talk to him. She wanted me. I sent him back out again to try and calm her down. The screaming got worse. Since Sam was finally asleep, I put her in her bassinette and went to see what was wrong with my three-year-old daughter.
Cassie was in hysterics, crying and screaming so hard that I was afraid she’d puke all over herself. I tried calming her, but she was inconsolable. Frustrated and tired, I sent her back to her room and shut the door. Michael lay on the hallway floor, semi-conscious. I waited for a minute until Cassie’s sobs slowed. Then I pulled myself together, grabbed a washcloth, and went in to soothe my sobbing child.

Even now, I still don’t know why Cassie was screaming. I never could get a coherent answer. It may be that she just woke up knowing that Michael and I had descended straight into hell and she wanted to contribute to that experience as much as she could. Or it could be that she was a little jealous of all the attention Sam was getting through out the night. Or it could simply be she had a nightmare. I’ll probably never know.

As for Sam, she continues to scream in between short naps. There’s snot coming out her nose now, and she feels a little warm. I’m going to take her temperature again and keep watching for strange green poop. Later today, around 3 PM, we have an appointment with the pediatrician. In the mean time, I’m doing my damnedest to stay awake and take care of both kids.

I’m in hell, people. That’s all there is to it. The bitch of it is that I don’t even have someone cool like Plato to give me the 25 cent tour.
And people wonder why the mommy and the baby in my profile picture have horns on their head...

Mommy Can’t Work Because...

Boy was yesterday a real peach. Remember that mid-life crisis I was talking about a few days ago? Yesterday was a prime example of why I’m having one. I was up most of the night before with Sam, who just could not settle down to save her tiny little life. All night long she fussed and grunted and kicked and thrashed in the bed beside me. I tried nursing her, but she kept popping off and on. It’s not a comfortable way to spend the night, nursing a baby like that. I kept waking up to find Sam beating my chest with her tiny little fists as she screwed up her fat little face and wailed. “Mommy! I can’t sleep! If I can’t sleep, you can’t sleep either!”

Normally, after a night like that, Sam would be out cold all the next day. Not so yesterday. She continued to fuss and cry all day long, only taking little cat naps here and there. Cassie, of course, was all hyped up and raring to go as soon as the sun came up. In fact, I’d say she was up before anyone else, except that I never really went to sleep so it doesn’t quite count. As you can guess, I spent all day dragging after Cassie and hauling around a screaming Sam. We did make it to the YMCA, where I managed to get in 30 minutes on the elliptical machine without falling asleep. Then we came home, had lunch, and I tried to nurse a very fussy baby while Cassie jumped around the living room like a howler monkey. She made just about as much noise as one too. Once Sam was done popping on and off the breast, I decided I deserved a break and I trundled everyone into the car and headed off to the mall.

My excuse for going to the mall was to pick up the contact lenses I’d ordered last week, but I had a secondary mission as well. There’s a Barnes and Noble right next to the eyeglass place. I had this little fantasy of taking my well-behaved children with me to the bookstore, where I would spend half an hour or so browsing through the graphic novel section and then go to the café to grab a cup of coffee and sit in the café while Cassie munched quietly on a cookie and Sam dozed in the stroller. This little fantasy of mine should tell you exactly how sleep deprived I was yesterday. In my right mind, I would have known better than to hope for such a lovely little scenario, and I never would have bothered to try it.

There’s a play area in the mall, sandwiched right between the eyeglass store and the Barnes and Noble’s, so I decided to let Cassie run around there for a while and burn off her excess energy. I sat zombie-like on the bench for thirty minutes, dreaming of my coffee, while Cassie ran around screaming with other kids. Sam sat quietly in my arms watching her sister. It was the only time yesterday she was calm. When thirty minutes was up, I told Cassie it was time to go. I did that little count down thing you’re supposed to do - “Cassie, you’ve got ten minutes left.” “Okay, Cassie, just five more minutes before we leave.” “Three minutes, Cass, then we’re going to the bookstore.” “Cassie, it’s time to go!”

The countdown thing doesn’t work very well, in my opinion. Actually, I think it just outright sucks. Cassie acknowledged every announcement with an “Okay, Mommy!” But when it came time to leave, she had a complete meltdown. I had to pick her up off the floor and shove her shoes onto her feet because she refused to do it herself. Then I had to drag her screaming from the play area. It was already 2:30 by that point, which is normally about the time I try to settle her down for a nap. I was really determined to go to the bookstore though, and it was only a few feet away from the play area. Cassie finally calmed down when I told her she’d get a treat from the café. Unfortunately, Sam only remained quiet long enough to let me browse for five minutes before she started to howl. So I ended up rushing Cassie through the café, grabbing a couple of fruit smoothies and a cookie to go, and then taking the kids home where I could nurse Sam while Cassie enjoyed her treat. God knows, I wasn’t going to subject everybody in the bookstore to my kids when I could barely tolerate them myself.

So my dreams of a quiet, relaxing afternoon kind of went up in smoke. This was quickly followed by my dreams of a quiet, relaxing work period also going up in smoke. I’m trying to write a synopsis for my really gay fantasy novel so I can send it out to a publisher by the end of this month. It’s rough going, trying to reduce 82,000 words to just a few pages. I was really hoping to get at least an hour to spend on it yesterday afternoon. However, while Cassie went down okay for her nap, once again Sam wouldn’t settle. Every time I tried putting her in her bassinette, she had a huge spit-up so I had to pick her up and clean her off. I finally got her down around 4:30ish. Then fifteen minutes later, Cassie woke up, skipped into the bedroom and demanded we go downstairs and play Little People again.

I just wanted to cry. The moment she walked in, I knew my work time was over. I spent the next few hours playing dollies, nursing babies, reheating dinner and otherwise dragging myself through the daily grind of mommy-hood. Michael called at six to let me know he wasn’t coming home for dinner. In fact, he didn’t get home until I put both kids down for bed. He’s got this paper he has to write for a conference. The same conference he’s leaving for in two weeks. The one where he gets to go to Colorado for seven days and I get to stay home and take care of the kids all by myself. Keep watching the news around that time. I’m sure right after Michael gets back, you’re gonna read about a homicide in the headlines.

Monday, August 07, 2006

All Screwed Up This Week - Sleep Deprivation Continues

The fun never ends in the Madden household. Sam is going through another patch of sleepless nights. It’s impossible to get her down, and once we do get her to sleep she wakes up early and won’t settle again. She’s fussy, gassy, and uncomfortable and wants to nurse non-stop. All my usual methods of calming her to sleep don’t work during these times, and that leaves me scrambling to try and deal with the problem. To top it off, Cassie demands attention non-stop during the day and I can barely keep my eyes open. I’ve got to come up with a way to get Sam to sleep. I just can’t survive on four hours of sleep a night.

I hate being sleep deprived. The Army introduced me to the concept back in college, by forcing me to get up at the butt-crack of dawn and running me ragged until midnight or later every day. I particularly remember the six hellish weeks I spent at Camp All American at Fort Bragg where at times I subsisted on as little as two hours of sleep a night, and even that little amount of sleep was broken up into 15 minute snatches here and there. I recall sleeping while standing up, sleeping while marching, sleeping while running, sleeping while driving a tank (doesn’t that scare the crap out of you?), etc., etc. But that time of my life only lasted six weeks. I knew it would eventually come to an end. I have no idea when Sam’s sleepless nights will stop.

Being sleep deprived has left me feeling miserable. My eyes are as dry as the Gobi desert. In fact, the rest of me is pretty dry too. I can’t seem to stay hydrated no matter how much water I drink. My head aches all the time and my stomach hurts. My face is breaking out and my hair so tangled and matted it looks like a tumble weed rejected from the set of Gunsmoke for being too nasty to film.

Somehow, I’ve got to get through the day. I’ve got to take care of Sam and keep Cassie entertained. I am going to make the Herculean effort now to get out of the glider and go to the Y. Once I drop the kids off at the nursery there, perhaps I can snatch a few minutes of sleep on the treadmill.

It’s worth a try.

Friday, August 04, 2006

I’m going crazy. I mean it, really. I’m going out of my damned mind.

You see, for the past three days, I’ve been working on a blog entry about this whole mid-life crisis thing, trying to put into words what’s been going through my head. And I can’t get the damned thing written. Cassie keeps jumping around the bedroom, pestering me as I write. Michael is getting ready for work and keeps asking me questions like, what are my plans for lunch? All the while, Sam keeps popping on and off the breast. She’s nursing. She’s done. Nope, she’s nursing again. On second thought, she’s done. But wait, maybe just a few more minutes. Nope, we’re off again. On second thought, let’s beat on mommy’s breast and scream because we want more milk. By the way honey, what are your plans for lunch today? Mommy, I want my Barbie doll. Fix my Barbie now. Helen, did you remember to call the eye doctor? By the way, I’m going to karate class tonight, so you’ll be home alone again with the kids all evening. Mommy, fix my doll! Mommy, I want ponytails. Do my ponytails! We’re eating again, no we’re done. Wait, let’s spit up all over Mommy and blow out our diaper while we’re at it. Mommy mommy mommy mommy mommy mommy mommy mommy mommy mommy mommy mommy--

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh! Ah ah ah aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh! Pasoidhdfhfojnadpo fifgiupqos8seety lwi454y b-9sdfdhg lksjxhisd sfboai sddfhoa pd8f7 hkl hasdf h@#$@ $*@#@%&@*^%!!!

I’m sorry. I don’t know what came over me. I’m just feeling a little stir crazy today. Don’t know why.

Oh hell with that. I know exactly why. I’m trapped in the damned house scheduling play dates, fixing Barbies and nursing babies all frikkin’ day. It’s no wonder my head feels like it’s going to split in half while my eyeballs pop out of the sockets and I do my best Linda Blair impersonation out on the front lawn. And when the men with the funny white jackets come to take me away, ladies and gentlemen, you’ll know why too.

The whole mommy thing is just driving me up the damned wall right now. I’ve been trying for three days to write about how I want to be an artist and how I crave having a little time each day to sit and draw. But it’s gotten worse than that. As I’ve looked at the problem, I realize it’s a lot bigger than me just wanting to sit and draw. Way bigger than that.

I want to be famous, damn it.

I want to have acheived some massive success with my art, but since I haven't been doing any serious work on it since I was thirteen, I'm kind of screwed on this point. So what I'd really like to do is turn back the clock, go back to when I was thirteen, give myself a good hard slap and say, “Pick up the stupid pencil and start drawing now! Otherwise, you’re going to wake up one morning when you’re thirty-seven and realize you’ve got two kids, a house to clean and a husband who wants to know what your plans are for lunch, but you don’t have a portfolio or a cool artist job or even a fine arts degree. Hell, you’ll be lucky if you can even find a 2B pencil anywhere in the house!”

Of course, my thirteen-year-old self will more than likely just slap me back and tell me to kiss off. What do thirteen-year-olds know anyway, huh?

I need to do what I did after Cassie was born. Back then, the midlife crisis was writing. I was desperate to write. I had dabbled in it a bit for a few years, but had never really applied myself. Sure, I had a 20,000 word novella sitting on the hard drive, but I couldn’t publish the dang thing (too long for magazines, too short for publishers, at least back then before the advent of e-publishing). I also had two erotic short stories that I’d managed to sell. But that was about it. So at the age of 34, I sat in the glider nursing Cassie and ranted about wanting to write. Fortunately for me, I actually got off my ass and did something about it. I spent the first year of her life writing a truly horrible trashy gay novel (yes, you read that right) in a three-ring binder. I still have it too, all five hundred hand-written pages. I had planned to transcribe the whole thing into the computer, but never could get around to that. Taking care of an infant just kept me a little too busy. But at least I was writing. When Cassie was almost a year old and I had a little more time, I decided to take things a step further. Writing porn in a notebook wasn’t enough. I needed to write complete stories on the computer and get them out where people could see them. That meant finding a writers’ group.

This part was tricky. I needed a group that I could participate in at my own pace. I couldn’t read and critique ten or more stories a week. I could handle one or two. I also couldn’t manage to make any weekly meetings. I was either in karate class in the evenings and on Saturdays and so wouldn’t be available, or else I was home taking care of the baby while Michael went to class and I didn’t even want to think of taking a baby to an hours-long meeting of a writers group. So that meant the writers group had to be online. Finally, I wanted a writers group that would consider reading erotica, because that was one of the things I enjoyed writing (remember, I’d handwritten 500 pages of trashy gay porn at that point).

Well, after a lot of searching on the internet, I found one group that fit the bill - the Erotica Readers And Writers Association. Erotica was the only genre they handled, but I decided that I could handle that starting out. I could branch into science fiction, fantasy and horror later on, once I’d established good work habits and a regular writing schedule.

Two years later, I’m still on the ERWA. In fact, I work for them as a feature editor for the website. I’ve written yet another gay trashy novel, this time on the computer, and I’m actually sending the manuscript out to publishers because guess what? There’s a viable market for that sort of thing these days. As a writer, I’m happy. The work is slow, but steady. I’ve garnered a few publications and a little money over the last two years. And I’m looking at doing bigger and better things in the years to come. I’m set. I know where I’m going with my writing.

Now I just need to do the same thing with my art.

I’ll talk about that tomorrow, maybe. Sam’s finally popped off the breast and is snoozing and Cassie has yet another play date to attend in fifteen minutes. It’s time for the lunatic to go back to being a mommy until the next time she can slip out to play.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

What The Hell Happened To My Life?

I'm having a midlife crisis. This is my second midlife crisis, actually. The first one happened right after Cassie was born. Now it's happening again with Sam.

What's my problem? Before my first child came along, I had no idea who I was or what I wanted to do with my life. I was 33, had two degrees in communications, and had never once gone after any of the things I dreamed of doing when I was in high school. Pathetic, isn't it?

When I was a teen, I knew I wanted to be an artist. Hell, back then, I was an artist. I drew all the time, I had no lack of ideas. Everybody who knew me knew I could draw. I was even voted most artistic in my senior class. Problem was, at some point I sort of lost my way. It started even before I graduated from high school, to be honest. Even as my peers were proclaiming me most artistic, I was slowly letting my artistic interests fade away. I wanted to draw and paint, but I didn’t pursue it the way I should have. I should have taken art classes in high school. Instead, I took band. I should have drawn every spare minute of the day. Instead, I pissed away the days by doing other things, like watching TV, goofing off and hanging out at the mall. That wasn’t to say I still wasn’t creative. By the time I was sixteen, I had gotten heavily into fantasy and science fiction costuming. But my real passion, art, just got left in the dust to wither and die.

It didn’t help that my dad insisted I could never make a living as an artist. I wanted to go to art school. Dad insisted that I major in something “useful” instead. Since I hadn’t spent the last four years of school preparing for art school by taking art classes and building up a portfolio, guess who won that argument? And the end result? A bachelor’s and a master’s degree in communications, two pieces of paper that I’ve had almost no use for in the last 15 years. Yep, six years of my life and several thousands of Dad’s money devoted to a subject I really couldn’t care less about.

To be fair, it’s not Dad’s fault. He also swore my sister Carolyn could never make a living as an actress, but she fought for what she wanted, and she prepared for it by taking acting classes every year in high school and by being heavily involved in school musicals, dance productions, and the chorus. She showed Dad up front what she could do and what she wanted and then she went to college and pursued her dream. It is entirely besides the point that now at 33 she is getting a new degree in something else - physical therapy - because making it as an actor in New York is almost damned impossible. What matters is she pursued what she wanted. I didn’t. Carolyn at least has several years of theater performances and a production company to show for it, even if she is now changing course.

So here I am, mother of two and still wishing I could be an artist. I haven’t been completely without my artistic successes. I have a tiny portfolio of very nice 3D and 2D graphics. Too bad I only complete two or three pieces a year though. I do have a couple of animated cartoons done, the only instances where I had any use for my degree in broadcast communications. I’ve even got a couple of nice colored pencil drawings floating around the house. But none of this is enough to make me feel like I can stand up and shout “I’m an artist!”

To be an artist, I would have to draw every day. I don’t do that. To be an artist, I would have to turn out a prolific amount of work. Do I even have time for that? To be an artist, I would need to do any number of things - take classes, enter shows, submit work for publication in a magazine or online gallery - that I simply don’t do. Why the hell not?

Because I don’t know how. I haven’t been practicing this shit and at the age of 37 I know no more about being an artist than I did at the age of 12, which was probably the last time I took my drawing seriously.

I’ve got to change something. I’ve got to go from being the stay at home mom to being the artist again, because honestly folks, I feel like I’m dying here. I am not suited to just being a mom and I know it. I've got to have something more. I recently bought myself a subscription to ImagineFX magazine. Paid $150 to have it shipped to me from the UK every month. It’s a gorgeous mag, full of 2D and 3D digital fantasy and sci fi artwork. I’m reading every issue from cover to cover, devouring every detail inside. And it’s killing me, because every artist published in that magazine is between the age of 16 and 24.

What the hell happened to me? I'm 37. Is it too late to change things now?