Friday, May 31, 2013

It can't tune in Helsinki, but it can hold my Cuisinart.

It's so much fun to take something that's not getting much use and turn it into something both practical and beautiful. In my dining room, I'm currently using vintage test tubes as flower vases. In the living room, an antique shadow box explaining the tadpole to frog life cycle does a turn as our end table. And in the kitchen, I've just completed the transformation of this 1930s radio into an island.

I have a thing for old radios. Maybe it's my fond remembrance of writing up the news for a station in Winona, Minnesota, during my college years. But whatever the reason, I always stop to admire radios when I go antiqueing. I bought this one almost 10 years ago. Sorry to say, I didn't take a before picture, but the piece had a poorly done stain job, and I always meant to refinish it. It never actually worked as a radio, and I had little desire to learn how to fix it, but it was a decent piece of furniture in our living room for many years.

Then, we moved, to a house whose small kitchen has SIX! doorways/doors. I wanted more storage, and also a place where the kids could sit and have a snack or work on something while we're cooking. I shopped around. Nothing was the right size or price. Then, my eyes fell on the radio I already owned. If you've never opened one of these things up, you'd be amazed how much space there is inside, once you gut it. There's a huge main compartment where the speaker was, another compartment where the tubes were, a pull out drawer which used to house the record player and a cubby for holding records (now wine).

I painted the whole thing in a chocolate brown, then dry-brushed black over top. I couldn't find butcher block at a good price, so we bought an IKEA solid beech table, tossed the legs aside, and attached the table top with some glue and screws. Decorative brackets added a nice touch, as did the fabric I attached to the piece of plywood that used to hold the speaker. The old diner chairs are from a local thrift stop.

I love, love, love this island! And now I'm eyeing all the other stuff in the house and thinking about what it could become. Hmmm, the dog is about the right size for an ottoman...


Saturday, May 11, 2013

Write Like a Mutha

Ah, Mother's Day Eve.

Tomorrow, after the kids climb into my bed smiling those sweet little grins when they present me with a plate of French toast they helped prepare, I will hug them and thank them, and feel thankful for them, and then I will shoo them away for a few hours to work, likely some much needed freewriting on my second novel.

What? you ask. Aren't you spending the entire day basking in the adoration of the fruit of your loins? Nope, sorry. I bask every day, you see. I get plenty of basking around here. Recognizing that I need a little time to be creative, and demanding that time for myself (within reason) is what gives me the strength to be an okay parent. When days go by without any writing time, I am a cranky mommy indeed. How can the kids say they love me? By playing nicely and quietly with Dad while I do something I love.

I recently applied for a grant specifically for writers who are parents of young children. That such a grant even exists filled me with joy. And it seems more such programs are being added all the time, programs that recognize it's difficult to be creative while assuming full-time parenting duties, whether from a monetary standpoint, from the standpoint of not-enough-time, or just from the emotional standpoint of giving yourself permission to care about someone else (often fictional people, in my case!) very deeply and with the kind of attention that you usually reserve for real, flesh-and-blood family members.

As part of my application, I had to write about how being a parent informed my work. What an impossible question that was! How could I tease apart my life as a mom from my life as a writer? Was it even possible? And would I even want to? I know I couldn't have written my first book if I wasn't a parent.

How does being a parent affect my day-to-day writing life? Well, I could write faster pre-kids, right? The answer should be "yes," but it's not. I wasted a lot of time, surfing cat pictures on the Internet and whatnot... Being busier means I have to do a better job of prioritizing than I ever did pre-kids. It means I have to be better about setting professional goals, making deadlines and meeting them (as someone who answers, professionally, to no one but myself, this can be difficult...though to be fair, I've got a bitch for a boss;) 

Tonight, like many nights, I've got one ear tuned to hear footsteps on the stairs, the other tuned to the voices in my head. I'm writing like a mother, the only way I know how.