Wednesday, August 18, 2010

I have "monkey mind," as evidenced by my bedside table

Those who practice meditation may be familiar with the term "monkey mind." It describes a mind full of noise and activity, which prevents one from achieving an inner calm. Meditation is supposed to help with that. I probably need a dose of meditation now. I usually am a one-book-at-a-time kind of gal, but now, just look at the bedside reading I have on my nightstand and you can tell I've got a mind that just won't calm down (in order of acquisition from the library and Amazon, not including the children's books for storytime): The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise (classic classical homeschooling lit -- I highly recommend this book to any homeschooler who doesn't want to leave any gaps in their child's education), Best Food Writing 2009 edited by Holly Hughes (fun and educational, but it's all over the place -- I guess that's how an anthology is going to end up), Naked, Drunk, and Writing by Adair Lara (supposed to inspire potential memoir writers...I haven't read enough of it to feel particularly inspired, but the conversational style is my kind of writing), Craft, Inc.: Turn Your Hobby Into a Business by Meg Mateo Ilasco (and no, I don't have a hobby I can turn into a business right now because I have no product to sell! -- just thought it'd be a fun read), Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer by Novella Carpenter (perfect for me, right? I love reading about food and I love memoirs; can't wait to find time to get past page 6), No Plot? No Problem! by Chris Baty (to help with the Maylin's and my novel writing during National Novel Writing Month in November), and Writer Mama: How to Raise a Writing Career Alongside Your Kids by Christina Katz (it sounds interesting to me, but I don't think I'm ready to pull it off and I'm not even sure it's something I'd want to do).

This is a sign of a brain going in too many directions at one time! Whoa, Nelly! Instead of requesting all these interesting-sounding books from the library (by the way, making book requests is THE way to go for busy moms who don't have time to browse at the library because they're chasing their toddlers from the periodicals section through cookbooks and crafting to a well-used graphic novel section), I COULD just writing down the titles somewhere for future reference. Geez.

Yes, I have an inability to focus. I think when I focus, I can really excel at something, but inevitably, I get bored. I move on to the next thing. Once I feel I've mastered something, or have achieved the highest level I think I'm capable of achieving (sometimes it's a plateau), I get the itch to move on. In the last couple weeks, I've had a few itches. Let's see if I scratch or not.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Toddlers don't like Impressionism

On Sunday morning, we took the kids to see the Birth of Impressionism exhibit at the De Young Museum in San Francisco. The exhibit featured many familiar and not so familiar masterpieces from the Musee d'Orsay in Paris. When we lived in Paris, this museum was my favorite, so I was so happy to see some old friends, including Caillebotte's The Floor Scrapers (the light is so amazing, and I find myself very calm enjoying the beauty of this work) and one I hadn't ever seen before, an unusual Cezanne entitled, Maincy Bridge (it's so geometric, so structural, but you can feel the cool, humid air and sense the mystery of the water under the bridge). Of course, there were the Renoirs and the Monets, but we see them so much these days on calendars and notecards, that they don't thrill me like they did when I was in high school. Unfortunately, today these masterpieces are nearly cliche.

Okay, so I loved the exhibit. The kids were grumpy and hungry (we woke them really early, whooshed them out the door, and stuffed some -- not enough -- Gorilla Munch cereal in some Tupperware which they gobbled in the museum cafe before our exhibit entry time), so you can imagine the loud complaining from Stefan ("I want to go hooooome") in between content sessions on benches with his Hot Wheels cars and the quiet, yet constant, complaining from Maylin ("I'm booooooored"). I even gave Maylin a primer on Impressionism the day before, so she saw many of these paintings in a book before seeing them in person. I thought it'd be cool for her, but boy, was I wrong.

We had a pleasant lunch in the cafe afterward, so at least the visit ended on a positive note. Maylin did remind me that she had warned me before of her dislike of museums. Ugh. Thought this would be inspirational for my little future artist. I guess she's still a little young.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Old fantasy come true!

It's 8:35 a.m., Sunday morning, and I've just sit down in a cafe on a plush purple armchair with my laptop on a small marble table -- free wi-fi, an electrical outlet and hot lavender tea by my side, surrounded by the character of an old building, the cheerfulness of the barista, and Beethoven. For years, since Maylin was a baby, I had imagined this type of scenario. A complete hour or more of peace. My private time. A mind open to creativity. And I also have a dance class to look forward to across the street. Not my usual hip hop, but I'm venturing out to a different world of dance. We'll see what happens, but I'm definitely in a phase right now where I feel like I'm being reborn.
My focus lately has been on getting Maylin's third grade curriculum in order. It's been fun, but frustrating at the same time. It was fun finding a social studies curriculum ("Story of the World" by Susan Wise Bauer -- Maylin LOVES it!), fun finding a language arts program (by Susan Wise Bauer and her mom, Jessie Wise), fun discovering a Chinese program that I can use for Stefan, too (, and frustrating locating the ideal math curriculum. After scouring reviews of many math programs, borrowing and buying various books, I've decided upon a mix of two programs, Singapore Math (for mental work) and Developmental Mathematics (for mastery). Last year, there weren't enough drills of basic arithmetic and now we're paying for it. At least she understood the concepts of multiplication and division -- my only math victory. The handheld electronic Flashmaster that we discovered the other day is providing a fun way of drills of addition and subtraction facts.

I've been slowly making my way back into music -- I've been singing in an a cappella group and, in September, I'll be singing with a classical chamber choir. But I think I'm itching to get back into solo singing. I'll probably go back doing the classical thing. For a little while I was thinking of learning vocal jazz or composing my own songs to sing at open mics. Still on the fence, but I definitely feel the best about my singing when I'm singing classical music. I can use the full range of my instrument -- extreme louds and softs, very high notes -- things you don't find often in jazz or pop. I miss acting, too, but not sure if opera is where I want to be for that. Maybe join one of my friends in doing improv?

It's all pretty exciting. But I'm trying to think where all this excitement and all this motivation to reinvent and rediscover myself has come from. And actually, it was from a pretty dark place. One evening, the day before my thirty-sixth birthday, I was experiencing one of my semi-annual nervous breakdowns which resulted from weeks of sleep deprivation, little help around the house (John was working long hours), and no break from Mommy duties (it was Camp Mommy this summer for the kids). I was just about to run out of the house screaming, but decided instead just to take a quiet walk. Ended up on Telegraph Avenue in one of my old college haunts, Moe's Bookstore. Looked through volumes on book design, illustration, and freelance writing. It made me feel a little better, but I was in a slump for a few days. As a newcomer to the large club of Project Runway admirers, I've found myself both inspired and depressed. I'm inspired by seeing designers take on projects with all their differing creative processes and depressed feeling that I should be doing creative projects as well. If I would do my youth all over again, I would have taken drawing classes in high school and put together a portfolio to go to art school. I don't know what I would specialize in, but some sort of design, I think. Well, it's never too late, right? Maybe I should take some drawing classes. I'm really quite a hack and have no technical background.

I'm a little girl full of big dreams (or just too many dreams). Let's see what happens next...