March 26, 2015
Spring break is next week, and so is the Noctiluna Spring Camp! As you can imagine, this is a busy week for me.
As with most jobs I do, preparing for a camp has it’s own pattern, so here is an insider’s view of what I normally do in the week before I run a camp:
Transcendental Lesson Planning Marathon
I always leave the lesson planning until the last week (a habit I picked up in college). This is a tried and tested format that has it’s own wisdom to it. I decide on a day to plan lessons, then on that day I shut myself in my work room with a cup of tea and background music, get into research mode, and write shiny new curriculum in a trance-like state for hours without a break. I’m so absorbed that I can’t even hear the phone ringing until I’m done. Trust me, it just works better this way.
Turning My House Upside Down
Gathering supplies for an Art camp is no small feat! Things have moved since the last camp, sometimes they can migrate right out of my house! Also, Art camps aren’t just about art supplies, you also need cleaning supplies, medical supplies, books, games, snacks and protective clothing (yes). This is normally the time when you will be able to hear me shriek “I need an empty milk carton, a beach ball, talcum powder and a dust mask!!” across my driveway, while dragging an old bed sheet and tennis rackets to my car. My neighbors have given up trying to guess what I’m doing.
Clean Out My Local Library
Yet another reason to visit my local library. During my planning-trance I also put every possible book related to my projects on hold at the library. Right now, I need to pick up a stack of books on butterflies, color, and Fauvism, and let the librarians eyeball me suspiciously. Did I mention how much I love libraries?
Major Weather Freak Out
Two words that strike terror into every teacher’s heart: INDOOR RECESS. Aaaaaghhh!
Summer camps are great because of the fact that they take place in the Summer when sunshine and good weather are usually a given. Not so with Spring camps, no, no, no; Spring is a time of great stress and uncertainty. Right now, it looks as if next week will be wet and chilly, which means less outdoor breaks, which means incredibly wriggly children, and the need to find different ways for them to expend energy, which leads to….
The Last Minute Target Run
There is always something I need at the last minute for my camps; sometimes it is art related, but more often it is Band-Aids, or tissues. Right now, I’m thinking that I need to buy some indoor sports equipment: skipping ropes, hula hoops, a basketball etc, because of the impending sogginess. There is ALWAYS a reason for a last minute run to the stores.
Have THE Talk with my daughter
“Honey, when you are in my camp, you have to remember that I’m your teacher. Behave the way you would with your school teachers…blah, blah, blah” Hopefully it will sink in this time.
Deal With a Babysitting Crisis
Why do I always have a childcare crisis just before each camp? Why? The four year old’s spot at preschool/kiddie camp/babysitter always falls through right at the last minute for some reason. Anyone interested in babysitting on Monday morning?
Plan Lunches like a Robo-mom
I make a very obsessive, color coded chart with lunch and three snacks for each member of my family (including myself) for each day of the week, so that I’m not expending valuable, groggy, morning minutes figuring out what goes in who’s box. Just look at the damn chart, and stop thinking!!
Take on one Extra Task That I Couldn’t Possibly Finish
Yep. I did plan on printing shirts for the Spring campers, but it isn’t looking likely right now. Hmmm, maybe I can just squeeze it into the next three days?? We’ll see.
March 19, 2015
The last two weeks have been pretty productive, thanks in part to the lovely Spring-like weather. With no sudden, unexpected snow days, I managed to finish screen-printing all 1 million of my products (Well, it certainly felt like 1 million!). I have also almost finished ironing them all as well. My right bicep is now impressively larger than the left one, leaving me rather lopsided, but proud nonetheless. I’m right on target to finish tomorrow, and be free to spend all of next week getting organised for my Spring break camp.
Oh, and of course, I finally managed to film an intro to my YouTube channel (see below). Don’t expect too much, I’m no Martin Scorsese. I’m hoping to film the next video tomorrow, which will be a tour of my ‘work space’ (hopefully, I will have cleaned the house up a bit by then).
Feeling rather pleased with myself, I decided to go for a walk today, and bought a bunch of cool books at my local library’s used book sale. Then my phone rang, it was my four year old’s preschool: “Ms Sharma, your son is running a temperature, could you come and pick him up? That will teach me to get too smug!
So I’m at home with my little honey right now, typing this as he snuggles up to my side and watches Sesame Street. Apparently, it might snow tomorrow. Hmmmm, fingers crossed for that photo-shoot. Well, at least I have an understanding boss!
March 9, 2015
It is 9am, and my younger child just left for preschool with his dad. The house is empty, I have limited time before I need to leave to do the midday pick up/drop off (it’s complicated, my younger child has a strange schedule), but I just can’t motivate myself to start printing. I am a bear with a sore head today. So I filled the kettle, and wrote this list:
No, it is not written on fancy stationary, because I can’t find any fancy stationary anywhere today. Yes, I do realize that this is not the first time that I have used writing my blog as a form of therapy.
I guess we all have these types of lists in our heads, so I should really stop wallowing and get to it. But before I do, one last thing:
Working from home is not easy, especially when you are combining it with being a parent, and working for yourself. So from me to those of you who are currently at home, struggling to change gears and motivate yourselves to work/get changed/tackle that big project, here is a big virtual hug. You are not alone and, yes, it is tough, bloody tough, so it’s okay to feel despondent from time to time, and write a ridiculous blog about it.
Give yourself a break (well, obviously a mental break, because if you are a parent, there is no such thing as an actual break), insert cheeky, eye winking emoji here.
There, got it out of my system (sort of), time to tackle one of those tasks.
March 5, 2015
I had a baaaad printing day yesterday. I made so many silly mistakes, messed up so many shirts. My head was fuzzy, and my heart was just not in my work. It was a thoroughly unproductive day.
I think all the many, many snow days have thrown me off. Last week was like this: one day of work, two days with the kids, one day of work, the weekend – maddening! I understand why my four year old cried so much when he had to leave for school yesterday, it’s difficult to get used to anything with so much stopping and starting. When it comes to work, routine is all.
Wait, did I just say that??
Routine is supposed to be the enemy.
I have been known to say on more than one occasion that I dislike routine. I get stuck in a rut easily, and thrive on being spontaneous. I go out of my way to keep having new experiences, and avoid a repetitive, homogeneous life. I know this keeps my brain on the edge, it keeps me creating. In fact, I’ll wager pretty much all of my friends in the Arts feel this way.
One of my heroes, Debbie Harry, said it so well when she talked about getting older in the Telegraph recently:
“If you stay creative, interested and open to new things, you won’t stagnate. “You have to look around, keep new influences coming in. A lot of people sort of pick a world to live in, and they’re comfortable in that – which can be disastrous.”
I don’t want to pick a world, or a routine, to live in.
However, over the past few weeks I have realized that I actually do rely an alarming amount on routine. The nitty-gritty of my life hangs on routine, I need it in order to do all the unpredictable things that I do. I call it (somewhat predictably) The Routine Paradox, ie: if you keep a strict dinner/bed/bath routine with your kids, they go to bed earlier. Then, once they are asleep, you have time to work on that crazy huge canvas in your bedroom (supposedly).
Routine has been my friend, my ally, in my quest to not be so routine:
– My tea routine.
I make myself tea every day, yet I do not always drink it. The actual act of making the tea is a way of signifying the start or end of an activity to me. I make a mug of tea to tell myself that it is time to start my work day. I make tea in the afternoon to signify that it is time to take a break and do something else.
Without a gym routine, I would just melt into mush on my sofa and do nothing. It’s a cliche, I know, but the more I stick to my work out routine, the more motivated I am to actually get things done in other parts of my life.
It’s pretty hard being a parent without embracing routine with both arms. You try getting two kids through homework, dinner, bath, and bedtime without turning into a drill sergeant. Routine, routine, ROUTINE! I’m shouting it from the rooftops here.
As for screen printing, I’m taking a break from it today in order to do some lesson planning for the camps. I’ll get back to it once the lesson planning begins to get tiresome. In between, I think I’ll try starting a You-tube channel, and learn to Samba. As long as it all gets done in time, who cares.
February 24, 2015
So, my resolve to blog at least once a week broke, last week. It just broke apart like a large, warm, flaky, soft, buttery croissant does… mmmmmmmmmm…but I digress, let me tell you more about last week.
Last week it got very cold and snowy, and the kids had just one day of school. Then the weekend happened, and lo and behold – more cold and snow. Long story short, I didn’t get much work done. I did, however, eat more baked goods than I normally would (snow does that to me), play Animal Charades with my kids (proud inventors of said game), and perfect my piggyback techniques under the strict guidance of the four year old. So all is not lost.
While the Polar vortex had sucked the will to work out of me, my husband had been sucked into a very different type of vortex not often encountered in this part of the world. The Cricket World Cup Vortex. Well that’s that then. Bye bye husband, hello to posing for silly photos wearing valentines glasses with the kids……and more baked goods.
I’m treating this week as a fresh start. I love fresh starts, which is why I love Spring so much. Everything about Spring makes me happy – Spring cleaning, Spring sunshine, cherry blossom, hot cross buns, what’s not to like? Where are you, Spring???? Rumor has it, you have been frolicking around Europe for a while. I need you!!
Anyway, this week I will print my Spring/Summer collection of tees and onesies, so that I can hopefully get them into local shops in March. I will post pictures to show you the fruits of my labor in a couple of days. Basically, this whole post has been a very long winded way of saying- I’m back working, the T-shirts are coming! Thank you for listening!
February 14, 2015
‘Macarons, trampoline, notebooks, unicorn, dancing, bike, box’
The above is a ‘list of good things‘ I found in my work room this morning. It was written by my daughter when she was about six years old, her likes have not changed much over the past two years. In fact, I like all the things on her list too, that last item is especially intriguing (What kind of box? What’s in it?? Can I open it?). If she grows up to be a big kid like me, that list will be valid for the rest of her life.
Taking the lead from my wise daughter, especially since it is Valentines Day, a day of gooey happiness and sparkle, I would like to focus today’s post on good things. I’ll go back to being a grump next week, but for now – Happy Valentines day, I hope you enjoy the following list of things that brighten my day.
- Magical BooksI love fairy tales with a twist (again: big kid syndrome). I have become somewhat obsessed with the Grimm brothers, and their dark Household Tales. Polly Shulman’s The Grimm Legacy kept me very happy for a few days, until I finished the book and was left with that empty feeling you get when you finish a great book. It’s a Young Adult book, but that doesn’t bother me. If you are a fairy tale geek, read it. Apparently, there is a film version in the works.
- Surprises in the Mailbox
Hardly anyone sends letters anymore. I for one, still love receiving snail mail surprises, the kind that don’t involve medical bills, or Home Owner’s Association notices. Today I opened my mail box and found the cutest valentines card, made by my four year old and posted by his preschool teacher. Also, a copy of Amy Poehler’s new book Yes Please, left by a friend who’s timing is impeccable – no more empty feeling! I want other people to feel this way. I’m going to mail my own surprises next week.
- Art with my honeys This week was the week of the Great Pizza Project, googly eyes, and the discovery of window crayons.
Being an art teacher, I have always felt a bit bummed that my four year old never wants to paint/draw/sculpt anything with me. He has a fine motor skill delay, and has always avoided those types of activities. However, this week was different. What a breakthrough! We made pizza’s with paper plates, paint, and felt; we drew on windows and mirrors with gel crayons; we made valentines cards with googly eyes. Everything looks better with googly eyes. Needless to say, while we were doing this the eight year old whipped up her own portfolio of art work. Smarty pants.
- Having an excuse to stay in It is bloody freeeezing out there, but it is also the weekend! No need for frigid walks to the bus stop. I stocked up on groceries last night, and am getting ready to spend the weekend embracing my family, and the sofa for some warmth. There’s something to be said for a good movie, a warm blanket, chocolate, and huggable companions. I’ll brave the elements some other time.
- Random Acts of Love
My eight year old is the best at this. Sometimes I find notes on my pillow/laptop/mirror that say things like “I love you mommy. You are the best”, or “You smell lovely”, or “thank you for helping me with my boo boo. I love you”. It doesn’t really take much to make someone feel good. I sat up last night and drew her a picture of her favorite things to give her today. It’s not the greatest picture I have drawn, but it makes her happy.
It also doesn’t take much to make someone feel bad. So the next time you feel like snapping at the person in front of you at the grocery store – don’t. Go home and mail something nice to a friend.
Kids really are the smartest. Have a lovely day, and pass it on!
February 6, 2015
“It was a cold and wet December day, when I touched the ground at JFK…” I know how you felt, Bono, I know how you felt.
We (me, my husband, and the kids) have been in Disney World (and Universal Studios) for the last six days. It was golden, t-shirt weather. When we got off the plane in DC, a sharp cold wind slapped us hard in the face, and the four year old actually tried to run back onto the plane.
It is always difficult getting back into a work routine after a vacation, but even more so when you are a parent, who works from home. Mixed in with the pile-up of emails, phone messages, and forms to be sent out, are lunches to be packed, bags to be unpacked, and of course, groceries to be bought – I had to put Horizon vanilla milk in my tea today. Revolting!
First of all let me tell you this, I have never really had a hankering to go to any Disney theme park. I’m just not such a theme park kind of girl. I’d rather be hiking to Macchu Picchu, or exploring Marrakech. As a child I never visited any Disney Park, I never actually went through a princess phase (I recently took a Which Princess Are You? test, and got Maleficent – says it all), and when I turned fifteen, I got heavily into the Grunge scene and left-wing politics – not really a Disney state of mind. However, my daughter has been dropping hints about Disney World for sometime, so I thought “why not”, and I have to admit……… it was a blast!! The best thing about Disney World? Seeing the perpetually enormous smiles on your kids’ faces every single day. Here are some high(and low)lights from the trip:
- The people who work at Disney are truly the nicest, happiest, most helpful people on earth, with no exceptions. No one was ever grumpy or snappy with us (except for Grumpy the dwarf, of course).
- We kept encountering a massive group of Brazilian teenagers, who would spontaneously break into song every ten minutes. It felt like we were on a Glee set.
- The kids amazed me with their stamina. We did not use a stroller because, the four year old has not sat down since he was two. Sitting down is not his thing. Those kids must have walked at least ten miles a day. Strong kids. By the way, what’s up with all the people pushing seven year-olds around in strollers at Disney?? Car culture is making us weak.
- Every single ride exits through a gift shop. Every single product is Ammaaaazing!!! Really!!! You have to stay strong, my friend – leave the gift shop, and keep walking, don’t look back.
- The Ghirardelli store in downtown Disney gives you free chocolate. Yes, free chocolate. By the way the Cheapskate Princess blog is an invaluable source of information about that kind of thing.
- The four year old (who looks and acts like a three year old) kept screaming “I want to be first!”, “I don’t want to wait in line”, and also, “I don’t like the people!!!!” because he felt that he ought to be allowed on all rides first. He also looked terrified and crumpled during every ride, but always asked to go again. ???
- HARRY POTTER WORLD. Hogsmeade, Butterbeer, Hippogriffs, Honeydukes, Ollivanders, Diagon Alley, the Knight bus. I think I enjoyed that part more than the kids. Once a geek…
- I felt homesick at Harry Potter World when we walked through Kings Cross Station, and I don’t even like Kings Cross Station!
- I gained disproportionate pleasure from the fact that they labeled sprinkles as ‘hundreds and thousands’ at Florian Fortescue’s Ice Cream Shop, at Diagon Alley. Nice attention to detail.
- The eight year old is better at keeping the four year old happily occupied on planes than I am. On our way back, we were stuck on a stationary plane for hours, waiting for our pilots to arrive from some storm afflicted destination – not a single whine, whimper, or complaint. I see babysitting in her future.
All in all, a pretty fantastic trip. Time to get back to reality now (while wearing socks with ‘hundreds and thousands’ on them of course).
January 29, 2015
Having said that, being an artist working from home, with kids, while actually maintaining a semblance of order in your home – it can be done, well almost done, with the help of the things below.
1. Put things in Boxes
I make separate boxes for different activities: drawing, painting, printmaking, screen printing. I have a massive box of paper scraps, and one with every type of tool imaginable to help you cut or paste things.
So, if I decide to spend a morning printmaking, I move my printmaking box downstairs, and it will have almost everything I need when I’m mono-printing: brayers, inks, carving tools, newsprint etc. It makes things easier to clear away, especially when kids are helping out. Obviously, certain things won’t fit in the boxes, but what can you do?
In the same vein, when I have kids over for camps and classes, I always put crates by the front door, one for each kid, for them to drop their belongings into. At the end of the day, there are less socks/books/packets of Cheez-its/mini figurines lying around the place feeling lost and forlorn. I could go on and get all philosophical about putting different parts of your life into boxes, but I won’t.
2. Be Prepared
A no-brainer, I know, but Lord Baden Powell was so right.
I work near my kitchen, and use the kitchen sink to clean tools, so I have to be very careful that none of our cooking/eating utensils get yucky art materials on them. On days when I know I’m going to do something messy (most days). I always, always empty the kitchen sink in anticipation of the big clean up. This way I’m not frantically cleaning breakfast plates while the ink dries onto my precious screens and brushes, destroying them slowly and painfully. I also make sure that there is always a space cleared for wet artwork to dry – printmaking is time sensitive stuff. Do what you have to do to make your life run smoother.
3. Power sprays
Get…a…power…spray. My kitchen tap has one attached. That baby can blast paint/ink/gunk off anything within seconds. Who wants to waste precious time scrubbing stuff anyway? My power spray is a good friend and ally.
4. Use Child Labor
I take the time to teach my kids and other kids, how to clean brushes, brayers, and other tools properly, and how to put pencils and pastels away without stuffing them into a box. If they make the mess, they clean it up. Kids are competitive, even about cleaning, so once they can do this, you are golden.
5. Use the Water Based Stuff.
I used to love working with oil paint sticks. However, until I get my own studio to work from, hell no to that! Apart from turps being toxic, imagine a four year old leaning against oil paint, then walking around your house touching everything. NO!
6. Buy Pretty Stationery
Pretty stationery makes me want to make to-do lists, and tick things off my to-do lists. This in turn makes me more productive, and helps me organize my time efficiently, making sure I have time to do things right, and clean up afterwards. Everyone wins (I had to slip this one in to justify my stationery fetish).
January 22, 2015
One was that I would start facing problems head on, and another, more agreeable, idea was that I would start each day by actually creating something.
So here we are. I have spent the last few days doing things that make me feel deeply uncomfortable. I tried getting my husband to do them, but he pointed out that I need to get used to doing scary stuff. I batted my eyelids, and he still said “no”. Hmmphh.
So, I spent time doing some conflict resolution, cold-called organizations, negotiated terms and prices, crunched numbers, and sent out emails I was truly scared of sending and………….it was okay. Better than okay, I feel exhilarated! I managed it all!
January 12, 2015
…So, where were we? Oh yes, identifying things that make me happy and, therefore, more productive. I thought about this a lot during the midday preschool pick up/drop off. Here is what I came up with:
Start every day by creating something
Obvious for an artist, you may say. However, I’m finding that often I get so bogged down in the minutiae of running a business that I don’t have time to do the things I really want to do.
For example, on the first working day of 2015, I was itching to come up with new designs for my spring/summer shirts, but I decided that answering emails, and looking up venues to run camps from, were more pressing jobs. Bad call – I spent the whole day staring at a computer, and at the end of the day, I felt drained, uninspired, and as if I had not achieved much. Actually creating something, whether a drawing, a piece of writing, or even a lesson plan, gives me such a sense of achievement that I am motivated to work harder, and happier, for hours, no, days to come.
Go to the library
Everyone has a favorite place. Mine is the library, any library. When I was a kid, my mom would make my brother take me to the library during half term holidays. He was a lot older than me, so he would drop me off in the children’s section and just wander off. I would spend hours nestled in between the stacks, blissfully reading books, and daydreaming. Now every time I step inside one, I feel relaxed and happy. The smell of the books (yes, the smell), the loud silence, the comfy reading nooks, they all make me unspeakably happy. Nowadays, doing my work at the library twice a week, means I get a change of scenery – always a good thing.
When the going gets tough, I have a habit of curling myself into a ball, and hoping the problem goes away. Invariably, when I come out of my ball the problem is even bigger and has fangs, and is now towering over me with clenched fists. I’m the queen of procrastination, and I often wait until the very last minute to sort out my problems. This doesn’t make sense for a person who loves crossing things off her lists. So I’m going to try really hard to not run away from challenges, and face up to them. My husband says I need to sharpen my ‘consulting skills’, which basically means ‘man up’. I’m taking his advice.
When I first came to the USA, the hardest thing to get used to was that my parents and childhood friends, people I had grown up around and gone to school with, were now on a different continent. It was tough starting from scratch, in an unfamiliar country, and I realized just how much I really needed good friends. Fast forward ten years, and I have made many good friends here, but I spend vast swathes of time alone, now that I’m working from home.
I really shouldn’t complain about working from home: I have a very short commute, easy dress code, flexible hours, and friendly boss. But, I can’t handle the lack of human interaction, so I’m going to find ways to be around other grown ups during the week. Catch-up lunches, brainstorming sessions, mid-week gym sessions, subbing at my son’s preschool, it’s all worth it for my mental happiness.
Moving Things Around
I like unpredictability. When I get stuck in a rut, I move the furniture around – which freaks the rest of my family out. Being able to move things around, whether my furniture, my schedule, or my interests, is important to me. Being a parent means that routine is a big part of my life. However, that doesn’t mean that we can’t shake things up every now and then, does it?
Embrace the Imperfect
The workroom does not have to be spotless before I start working. I don’t have to wait until I have a whole new batch of prints before I contact shops about my work. The kitchen could use a new coat of paint, but look, that bunch of flowers makes the whole room prettier for now! No, my schedule is not going to open up and magically get easier this winter. I need to get better at just getting on with things.