Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Amazing Sweet Potato Brownies. Wheat Free

http://eatdrinkpaleo.com.au/chocolate-brownies-that-blew-me-away/

I only added 1/2 tsp of baking soda though..and I used regular orange sweet potatoes, and chocolate chips.  very moist and you really can't tell it is potato; and you are actually eating something nutritious.

Money and Value


a stack of 11 afghan squares


This post is a continuation of my post from last night.

I am searching for a way to make a career/livelihood from doing these things I have loved doing these past few years, but I am not sure I can do that.  I am developing a sense of myself as an artist; something that I have always known deep inside that I wanted to do, but it never seemed "practical"  Always that voice inside warning me that i would never be able to support myself that way wins out.  I went to college to be a teacher, because I love kids and it would make it possible to live anywhere, even abroad. After teaching middle school, I had a really hard year, with very little support.  I was convinced that I was never going to be good at it.  I was not a very good "classroom manager"--I could connect with kids, but I was not so good at "controlling" them.  I decided to try counseling.  I went back to school and got the education to be a counselor. I worked as a therapist for a very short while; but then had my son, moved to Portland, and found that childcare was not going to be cheap.  My heart was with my son; I did not want to give away over half my pay so someone else could raise and be with him.  

My career as a counselor halted, except in the skills I try to remember while parenting.  And now, it has been ten years, my credentials long expired; to go back to doing it, would require more money spent, to internship; to take some classes to refresh/catch up/retread. The system is not set up to help mothers keep up with the careers while they are "away" taking care of their children. Those years do not seem to "count" professionally.

When I was eight years old; I had decided I wanted to be a writer.  I started journaling and never really stopped all these years.  I loved to write in school and felt I was really good at it.  I also took art in high school, and some art classes in college and loved painting.  Sometimes I'd latch hook; and wold spend hours doing that. I had this thought before I had my first son; that I could write a novel while home with my kids.  My kids took my all; and writing was a frustrating, and impossible experience for me.  Still, in my mind, it has been a bucket list goal.    

Here I am.  Now, I really want to figure out how to do this; and if even I can find a possible combination of ways to provide income for my family.  

Some artists and writers do their work without expecting money.  Sometimes you have to be detached from that.  The integrity of creating--the need to create is so strong--You just have to do it without hope of financial gain from the craft.  Our culture reflects value onto the money something can make--BUT--Just because it does not carry financial reward; does not mean it does not bring value and beauty into the world..  Volunteering in the school is not for any gain.  Serving a religious organization often does not bring any kind of financial support either; but it is still valuable.  Non-profit organizations..and so on..

But what if I can't entirely justify the time I put into it; unless it has some kind of financial gain in mind?  I need to help put money in a fund for my kids' colleges; help replace the roof on our house; help with special lessons and classes for the kids.  I want to be able to help pay for that, but I don't want to have to hire a babysitter which will eat up most the income anyway; or not be home when my kids come home from school.  I am quite right brained, but I cannot ignore the left side practicalities.  

I want to do this art, for the sake of its own value--I have been doing that with the knitting; well, usually, I knit for other people; what I "produce" is a service to myself, because I enjoy it, and it meets a need of my mind to continuously improve myself, my skills, making something beautiful; but I also have a product, I can give to someone, a friend, a relative, my child, my husband..  When I write; what is my product?  Does anyone even read this?  Do they care?  Am I being an idiot in front a an audience who can now scrutinize me? Will someone only see the grammar I miss correcting and discredit everything I have said?  When I am in a bad mood, my writing reflects the darkness and weaknesses of my very soul; lays it bare in front of others to be judged.  On a good day, I have something to offer; on a bad day, I might bring others down too.  Am I helping, hurting; or boring theirs pants off?

Am I even likable as a writer?

Yet, I really really want to write. And I need to be less concerned what anyone thinks.

  I want to create something better than this blog/blogs..  I am ready for something more sophisticated.  maybe?  But, I am also not there yet.  I still have a toddler at home; and possibly a homeschooler next year.  I really do want to do it all; don't I?  Supermom; only I'm not even close.  It may look good on facebook, but in actuality; it is tupperware.  I can only work on one corner at a time; and I may get that corner really nicely locked in; but in the time I get that corner; the other one pops up.  I am writing right now, but the dishes are sitting in the sink and my baby is watching TV; and I am not even dressed yet.  I have been up since 5:30, made breakfast, lunches, got the kids up, drank 2 cups of coffee, nibbled on some beans from their lunches; held the baby in my lap, nursed her, got the kids out the door; talked to them (not in this order), I have broth going on the stove.  And now I write. Almost 9AM. Ok, that sounds productive when I write it down. I wasn't feeling like I had been productive at all.  I need to do better today for my kids, and the house.  I really don't want to go back to using my left brain just yet..don't want to get busy with the dishes..I want to "know"--work and work and work and find out--If I can/am able to write something "valuable"
But--I  need to get my youngest out today; and I should get some exercise; have her exercise too-- After school, there is a violin lesson, homework, chores, dinner, more dishes. This may be all the creative I can do; until after bedtime.  

Did this moment have value to anyone outside of myself? It certainly will not provide any income, but I practiced writing; and the more I write, the better and more fluid I will write.  That may be the extent of its value right now.  And I think I may just need to be patient.  One stone at a time; and eventually it will become a structure.  Not today; not tomorrow, but hopefully someday.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Sense of Worth and Guilt. An Artists' Journey



Last night began a wave of creativity.  I spent hours of my nighttime knitting; and then reading.  Today, I indulged in quilting and photography.  I felt good about the quilting, but the photography lead me in a direction of looking up free photo editing software; then posting on a gallery/store website some of my older photos. Some of the photos are of my children. I am proud of them (of course because I love my children) but also from an artistic standpoint. I felt they came out really well--captured something I wanted to capture.  At some point, I started thinking of the photos as art, rather than personally "my kids"..so I posted them, but I felt a nagging feeling about "selling" pictures of my kids.  I later, put them in a gallery that needed a password in order to truly access the images/buy them.  

My toddler started to get restless. A part of me, thought I "should be outside" with her; taking her somewhere. The weather has been phenomenal. She was playing in the backyard quite a bit, but I was not doing a very good job as a mom today.  This need to spend creative time has been overwhelming to me lately.  Also, trying to figure out a way to supplement our income in a creative way; is also driving me.  

My kids were fine for the most part during my mental absence.  Not entirely.  I know I was a little too absent; and it was starting to not feel "right"--I wasn't sure how to break out of it; once the flow had begun, though..  In some ways, the day was wasted. I did not seize the outdoor opportunities with my children.  I was on this personal/career/creative track, but I was not sure if it was going to pay off.  It could be that I totally wasted my time.  I am a novice at many things.  Kind of good at them, but not superbly good at them.  And on top of it; it is just hard to be an artist and to market ones work, even if you are phenomenal at what you do.

I feel guilty for spending all this time in my head.  These ideas floating around may never work out.  Selling cards of my photos.  Making pillows out of afghan squares and selling them.  Printing larger images and framing them; and displaying them at a coffee shop for sale. Creating a children s book with some of my photos. So many ideas require initial overhead.  Overhead that may never work out if they do not sell.  I am trying to figure out what my "big project" should be.  What should I focus on?  Writing a book?  who to write for? what should it be about?  starting a knitting business?  knitting custom orders?  tutoring college students with their writing? babysit?

Thinking about homeschooling my son.  And wondering if I can truly help him learn what he needs; help him get excited about learning again; when that love of learning has almost all but died within him.  How can I serve my children and also be true to this need to "create something"?  

I am impatient.  I want to be able to write that novel now, but I need to practice every day.  I need to really work on my writing craft; not just in essay form, but also in fiction.  I want it now.  I feel this urgency.  But, I also feel this pull of guilt; like I shouldn't be going down this path..just yet..  I think of my almost 3 year old; her face, and how little I was really with her today.. It makes me sad.  

How can I find this balance?  Perhaps for me, it is okay to have a creative "day" or two?  Then, intense attention and outings with my kids.  Once I am in the "mode" of feeling creative; I don't want to stop it.  I want that whole day of being submerged in it; swimming, and musing, creating, and researching.  I also want those full days with my kids too; playing, paying attention to them; cooking special foods.  I may not be a one-hour a day woman.  I think I need "chunks"--to immerse myself in that focus; be it, writing, or crafting; or being with my kids.  I may not be the best multi-tasker..  

Then there is the house...Ug, the house.  It is so often forgotten; until, it screams at me to clean it.  I immerse myself in cleaning too, when it is time to; power clean for a whole day--and it feels exhausting, but good when it is "better"--It is never ever done.

I feel a little bit off even having this dilemma.  Am I lucky to even have this dichotomy?  This choice?  I want so badly to find a way to earn an income (in a way I enjoy) and still be able to be with my kids-parent them, still be present with them.  Is there a way for me to do this?  Or is this like the "false American Dream?"

In some ways, I see this as a feminist struggle-a struggle of being a full time mom; and that being in my heart what I want to do; but also this nagging need to feel valued--  Then another angle; is how many people feel fulfilled anyway?  Millions of people; working in sweat shops--how fulfilled do they feel in their work?  This self-actualization and fulfilling career idea may only be for the privileged..a small select minority of the worlds' population.  Does feminism really apply here on a global scale?  I feel guilty for wanting that "dream" of fulfillment; is that really what life is about?  I am thinking that life is about something other than that.. When the reality of most any man or woman is not about self-actualization.  Self-actualization may only be if you have your other needs met first?  Maslow..  And really?  My life is so full already without this "dream"--that I am also going to "create" something special too--something beautiful and I can make that my livelihood...I am worried it may be too much to ask; when I already have so many blessings to be grateful for.

I would not trade the time with my children while they are young for anything!  Why now; am I feeling antsy?  Maybe because it is time to start thinking..because they are getting older..and a new phase will be beginning when they are all in "school"--(unless I home school)

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Fourth Grocery Trip: All or Nothing




It is not all or nothing.  Sometimes we need to make decisions that are only for today and do not represent a "policy"  Parenting requires so much flexibility.  Yesterday, my older daughter was "off".  I am not sure why she was off.  There are a number of things that could have caused her unrest.  The full moon; not enough one on one attention; over-stimulus from a playdate the day before.  Our "unrest" as parents dealing with adult issues of our own, overflowing into our daughter's psychology.  Yesterday, I realized that I did not have to figure out what caused it; only, I had an instinctual intuition about what I should do about it.  I wasn't sure I was right about the solution, but I followed my gut--and accepted I might be wrong--and I might choose a different path on another day.

She actually had 3 different invitations yesterday; 2 play date offers, and one opportunity to go to a Birth of the Bab celebration with her grandmother.  She really wanted to go on one of the play dates, but her behavior was sending out all kinds of red flags---a symptom that something was not right with her.  It would have been easier to send her off to the play date, but sending her, I felt would not have given her the opportunity to work through what was going on with her.  She was very hard to have around yesterday; agitated; restless, crying, demanding, entitled acting; like she had a "cold" of her emotions. She was not happy that we decided to keep her home; just like she had a flu--  It made her even more upset; and choosing to keep her home this one time, may not be the "policy" we will adopt whenever she acts this way; however, I think it was the right thing to do, yesterday.  I sat with her for quite a while, just being with her while she vented. It was exhausting, but it felt right.  And, by bedtime, she seemed much more calm and centered.  The agitation was much less.

And this relates to biking how?

Well, after grocery trip number 3; I reflected on the anxiety I was feeling about biking while feeling imbalanced with her weight and the groceries.  I found a middle ground, for now, while I develop my "muscles"--  On weekends, I can bike to get the groceries without a child in tow; and during the week, I will bike my (almost 3 year old) on fun outings. I do not have to do it all; all at once.  So, today, I bike trekked with only groceries and it was absolutely okay.  A little heavy up hills, but no problems with balance.  Relief.  I do not have to quit getting groceries by bike because of the anxiety/safety issues; I do not have to quit because I can't do the super mom thing and tote both child and groceries at this time.  There is a middle way--a less ambitious, yet still ambitious enough path-

Wheat Free: Buckwheat Buttermilk Pumpkin Waffles


Pumpkin Waffles (makes 10-- half waffles) feeds 5

4 eggs
1 cup of pumpkin
2TB melted coconut oil
 1 cup buttermilk

½ cup of coconut flour
1 cup of buckwheat flour  (buckwheat is not a wheat)
½ tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
2TB maple syrup
1tsp vanilla

optional (chocolate chips)


Thursday, October 17, 2013

Photography and Creativity and Writing and Crafting



Part of the journey I am on lately at this stage in life is that I need to feel I have mastered something.  I am at midlife and need to feel I have something of  a marketable skill to show for it.  It is that part of me, that sent me to college and graduate school.  I have had my last child, and she is getting older; and I am working towards this next phase; as she become more and more independent.

I also, cannot deny that in my heart and soul, I am an artist: a writer, a photographer, a crafter, a creator.  And as I embrace this aspect of myself, I, more and more, need to have time every day to create.  It is my job; albeit, I do not make an income from it, as of yet, though.  In order to "indulge" this time, I feel I need to eventually have making an income as a goal.  My kids will, in the blink of an eye, need money for to pay for college.  We cannot live on my husbands income alone for too much longer.  This is the struggle. I still hear that voice in my mind that I must do something more practical, which is why I have two degrees, but currently the practical, is to find something I can do from home in this stage in life.

 (There is also the struggle of this need in my mind of it having monetary value: I have been parenting full time for ten years, and struggle with my feeling of "value"--and the feeling I have when people ask me when I am going back to work..This feeling of; this pressure of: if you are not in the work force--you are not "working"--or you are taking the easy way out, being a leech on your spouse, free-riding.."  There are all these assumptions that people do not come out and say, but are embedded in the question. There has been a building up of this feeling over the years..this feeling that I am supposed to go back to work.  And this feeling might be coming from the social pressure getting to me over ten years.)

Still, even ascending, that struggle; I cannot deny, that I also WANT and NEED to create; and I do want some kind of value from it..  Monetary would be nice.  But, also a sense of that is my "Work; my profession"  I am a MOM, but I am also this too--I am an artist; a writer, a knitter, a crafter. And a feeling that I am GOOD at what I do.  That I have skill, mastery--professionalism.  (funny I just re-read this and did not include what I have degrees in: teaching and counseling; .mainly because I cannot be either of those "professionally"  right now,  not without childcare; being away; and also going back to school to "catch up" my credentials and "hours")


 The artists' life, though, is very difficult.  Already, I find the challenge that when I start the "artists' work" I slip into a different mindset that is not very compatible to being present with my kids and what needs to be done around the home.  Ideas floating in my mind--titles, ideas of novels, then I start editing photos..and my toddler, pours out a container of cream onto the table and floor.  Being interrupted continuously, makes it very hard to "think" and carry through with ideas.  And, thinking about "ideas" does not make me a very present Mom which makes me feel guilty.  Putting the "art: aside after the set hour of work, is hard to do, once I have found a groove.  There is the fear of once putting the art aside, I won't be able to find the groove again.  Still, the biggest part of my job still is "Mother: cook, housekeeper, clothes washer, transporter, homework helper, diaper changer, etc"  That is my most important job right now... Still, there is some room to "create"..And I owe it to myself, and ultimately to our family's material well-being to try to find a creative way in a year or two to make some income while "creating"

If I can figure this out, it will be perfect, working from home, and being available  for my kids after school, when they are home sick; and also be open to the possibility of home schooling my kids during middle school years.  My son's disenchantment with school grows and grows each year.  I think he would benefit from some independent learning, and exploration.

  I need to figure out how I can provide something that people want, need..  I need TIME to do it, and to develop enough mastery of my crafts that I can feel confident that people will be happy with what I offer.

Well, here is one attempt.  I take photos all the time and some of them I am a little bit proud of.  When you take enough photos, you are bound to accidentally or on purpose end up with some good ones.  I have discovered a photo-gallery website for selling the art.  Here is mine:
http://fineartamerica.com/profiles/melinda-conway.html


I have also created an etsy account for selling knitting, but i do not have much on there yet.

https://www.etsy.com/shop/RubyheartsCrafts


On a side note;  I am making a table runner right now.  I took another class from Pine Needle Quilt Shop. http://www.pineneedlequiltshop.com/  I owe what I have learned to them for teaching me!  (and for my husband who took over while I was away at class)


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

My Biking Journey: Third Grocery Trip

Today, I made my third grocery trip by bike on my Xtracycle with my (almost 3 year old)..  The groceries were heavier this time, but it was sunny.  I anticipated the logistics more.  I knew to keep my child in the grocery cart while I unlocked the bike, turned it around in the directions I'd be biking away, loaded the bike, and then placed my child in the seat after it was already balanced.

A man kept looking at me a little concerned, I think.  I, honestly, felt concerned, myself.  It was a little wobbly starting off in the parking lot. My heart was racing with the questions in my mind if I could really keep us safe from tipping over.  I took it slow, I biked on the bike trail, away from cars as much as I could. I am probably one of the most cautious people, ever to exist!  (-;  I am most likely annoyingly cautious to other people.  Yet, I felt a look of scrutiny in someone else's eyes that I was being a risk-taker.  (actually it was probably in my mind)--My litte one trusting me; and here I was taking a risk.  Well, in my risk-taking, I was the most cautious person ever.

I reached a hill near home, and going up was tricky. A man on another xtracycle offered to give me a push. I accepted.  He was very chatty; and i was too nervous to be very social.  He told me about a special clip accessory that helps stability; and I asked him if it might be better to move the baby seat forward; and he said that also really helps.

My husband had convinced me to keep her seat far back so she can see better and easier to ride with 2 children, but I am most often just toting my toddler while my older ones are in school.  For now, I have decided to definitely move her seat forward.  The stability is my most important issue right now.  And I need it optimal for Kei and I.  I may not bike with 2 of my kids; not at this point anyway.

I am getting stronger.  On the way to the store, with Kei in back, even with her way in back, I felt pretty comfortable with her, and on hills.  It was only when I had about 55 pounds of groceries (I actually just weighed them), plus 30 pounds of baby...85 pounds to counterbalance that I became uncomfortable.

I am also realizing I don't have to be a supermom about this.  I can take some baby steps in between.  I should bike around more with just Kei..and relax the grocery part of it a bit.  There are the library, community center, and parks I can go to.  Perhaps, I can also, pick up a couple things from the store en route, rather than lugging a whole week's worth in one trip.

I am facing some anxiety and fear here, but I do not have to bite off more than I am comfortable with.  Phew..giving myself some permission to take it a little slower.  On the other hand, moving her seat forward could make all the difference in the world, and elevate my comfort level.

The weather is fabulous this whole week, so I should take advantage of the opportunity to practice in good weather before the rains come back again.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Fourteen Point Two Miles

 This weekend I passed a new milestone. I biked 7.1 miles to the Convention Center (and back)--for a total of 14.2 miles in a day-to attend Wordstock Festival.
When I was a teen, I biked all around town in a small city in NH. It was my transportation.  It was a small town; so I could cross it in 3 miles, but I would go everywhere; however, I never biked more than a 3.5 mile distance. I, perhaps, biked more miles than I realized in a day, but I did not bike far away from home.It was a time in life, I felt fit, courageous, spirited, independent, and strong and I have never forgotten how that felt.
I think I shall name her My Beasty Blue my new friend (I used to have a big station wagon nicknamed Beast)--She is like a station wagon.  (-;  

 In college in Ohio,  I continued to bike all over campus; from my apartment to campus. I used that same bike for a very long time. A blue Univega 12 speed, that I had bought with my paper route money when I was about 13. That bike felt like my friend, a part of my own self. I was perfectly comfortable with it, as I felt about my own body. I would even bike on snow and ice (carefully), but when I moved to Oregon; I drove more.  I would only bike on occasion.  I got out of shape.  Then when I did bike, it felt like a chore.  I had children and it became even more complicated.  I tried a bike trailer, but my two little ones would fight inside of it and it was heavy and awkward to pull them.  I tried again, last year, but once when my husband took the kids out to bike, my middle daughter had a bad spill and broke/chipeed 3 teeth. One of them she had to have a root canal for. It felt traumatizing. Fear crept in; and I became timid about going out.  The little flame that was beginning to burn snuffed out for over a year.

This Fall; however, I have had a wave of courage and motivation.   I decided to try Breezer/ Xtracycle.  It is working so far. I love the way the Breezer bike rides. It feels stable; it is a good fit for my height,  it handles hills well; and it is practical with a family. It is a simple 7 speeds, which at first, seemed meager, but now I find awesome in its simplicity.  I can fit groceries and a child or two on the back.  I have not yet, tried it with two of my children at once yet, but I have taken my 84 pound son on the back and was fine.  I have also taken it with my toddler and groceries.

I had been planning to bike to Wordstock for awhile. I was a little nervous.  Those of you who are already bike enthusiasts, I will seem like a toddler to you, I am sure.  7.1 miles on not so hilly bike trail, is not really a big deal; I realize that; but for me, it was. My husband, who rarely brags, bikes 10 miles to work every day. 100 miles a week. Biking is his way of life. I also remember my father, who struggled with back pain, would bike to limber up those muscles. He, I remember once, went on a 100 mile bike ride. He biked regularly, and often. He was part of a bike club.

 But for me;  before yesterday, my world was smaller; I did not think I had the strength to bike very far.  The idea of biking downtown; seemed unreachable.  But, in truth, it actually was much easier than I thought it would be.  I have to admit, the last leg, on the way home, in the dark, became more difficult.  At that point, I did feel tired.  I do not think I could have gone many more miles than that, at this point, but it was good to see what I could do.  I felt proud of my body; appreciative. Strong. Empowered.

It was a beautiful ride on the bike trail, following the river.  I hit the river at sunset.  I saw a heron fly overhead.  I could feel the sun, the air around me, a panoramic view you do not experience in a car.  I was experiencing the ride. The journey was part of the destination and the ultimate victory and joy in the day.  I felt so fortunate that the weather held an idyllic window this weekend  as the rains in Oregon have already returned.  It was warm, sunny, clear; perfection!  The ride was incredibly healthy for me on so many levels.

I have not even touched upon the excitement yet of the event I bike to.  That is a whole other story in itself--the inspiration of being in the presence of people who are heroes to me-Writers. And so many of them. I tried to soak up every moment like a sponge--  Being a writer is what I have always wanted to be; to do--  I have not yet, gotten myself to take the plunge of seriously writing every day; and truly trying to develop my own craft.  This year, it is my goal, to learn as much as I can, to attempt some fiction.  I have to put knitting aside a bit to do this, because I have very little time of my own to "work" It is hard to think of putting the knitting aside, but I feel this burning inside. Writing is what I really need to start doing now.  Writing and biking. (-;




 Pictured here is Newberry Metal Award Winner Cynthia Voight, and Kristen Kittscher author of Wig in the Window.

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