Once babies start moving... and biting and screeching, I think that's when they become toddlers. I've been kind of dormant on here because I'm chasing this fucking adorable rugrat around. As she is running around more she's tuckering out more and naps more... which means Mom gets to paint.
Here's a little sneak peak of what I'm working on.
They're not finished.
I'm fortunate to be part of a group showing this July at The Morris Burner Hostel. Alongside many other talented artists I will be painting my version? rendition? feeling baby centering around the theme of Medusa. I had forgotten about the show completely until a month ago when Jackie Dilworth reminded me of it--thank goodness.
Thank goodness for this show.
Just.... thank thank thank goodness.
Because of this show I am painting through some emotional baggage I've left bottled up for way too long.
Our stories, Medusa and mine, much like this painting, entwine.
You see, Medusa wasn't born vile. She was normal. Just a mortal Gorgon chillin. She was capable of death, capable of pain, and susceptible to life. She was a beautiful maiden. Medusa used to be a babe. She was so beautiful that Poseidon desired her... desired her so much that he raped her in the temple of Athena. Athena, pissed that her temple had been desecrated, cursed Medusa into being a hideous, snake hair'd monster who turned men to stone with her gaze. Athena cursed her and the world hunted her down for it.
I had no idea of Medusa's lineage, her narrative, or her rape.
I, too, have been assaulted in the temple of a goddess.
I, too, have been punished for this assault by banishment and emotional scarlet letterhood.
I, too, have paid a great price and have been contorted by the weight of action and repercussion.
I, too, have an assaulter who roams free as the sea.
I, too, have worn this face, this hair, this weight.
I, too, have looked into the mirror of myself and seen it's hideousness as well as it's mortality.
So I'm painting it. Well, I'm attempting to... Medusa and I are one in this freeing moment of self-realization. Caravaggio's Medusa has always been my favorite--androgynous, reactionary, revolted, and emptying. Her mouth agape, jaw locked in sound and rage and darkness. Caravaggio captured the exact moment where Medusa catches her own reflection, catches her own gaze, catches her own death.
Through the creation of this painting, I'm allowing this incident to die.
Through the three eyes of us, we see and recognize, we give in and succumb, and we will be reborn.
So.... folks, I haven't been doodling. I haven't been lollygagging, futzing, or forgetting.
I've been digging and digging and digging.
I've been dreaming and letting go and rebuilding.
I've been making something beautiful out of the present from the past.
I've been recreating myself every time I lift a paint brush.
I'll post a finished image when I'm through.
It's hard not to feel dissolved.
The identity of funny girl, artist chick watered down to a clear liquid and brought back to a boil to first time mom and all that carries. Struggling to thicken, wondering if I ever will again.
It's hard not to feel trapped.
Home for seasons on end-- depression to bed rest to baby to baby to winter to now. Identity in a cave, mortality around the corner, and life right in front of you... delicate... with ten little fingers and ten little toes.
It's hard not to feel invisible.
Spending all this time looking down and lifting up the tiny human mirror that I've created leaves little time to worry about eyebrow hairs, fashion, attraction, health, and I end up looking like a neglected juniper bush, akimbo in the shocking sun and wind.
It's hard not to feel unattractive.
Two plus years without riding a bicycle, without hiking, without swimming, without movement and sweat and consistency and muscle and aches. Pale skin with new textures, new colors, bruises and veins. Avoiding your reflection cuz you rather like the way the little one sees you over the way you see yourself. Plus, looking down at your body just means more looking down at your body.
It's hard not to be jealous.
Jealous of the love that can be given so freely to her and the effort that has to go into loving me, who created her. Jealous that she's gotten all the best of me and I'll never really know what that feels like. Jealous that other Moms get love while giving love and aren't diminishing their wells. Jealous that these feels don't exist for other people.
And you stop and think about how foolish you were to think that the Upgrade to Motherhood was a linear thing and silly to think it had a beginning, middle, and end. I know full well that time is relative. Time doesn't end and Upgrades don't end when you have a one year old. It doesn't end when I turn 36.
It doesn't end.
It's hard not to be lonely.
Guess I'm supposed to be the leader of this little family--the head of household. A Mom is shielding, strong, full of answers, and lugs a purse full of snacks. I really want to take care of someone who doesn't need me, but who wants me. I feel way too fucking cool to being doing this alone and it's hard not to let that mentality? thought? hope? strength? crumble when each day it's brightness fades... kind of like a gemstone that dulls from over wear or a piece of glass that curves over time from the grinding of the tide on the beach.
I guess it’s time for some sort of year in reflection. 2019 is tomorrow. I don’t like the idea of looking back and wishing things were different...
(I do wish I hadn’t had that chicken noodle soup for lunch that is now wreaking revenge on my bunghole and keeping me home on this “holiday”)
Maybe not different, but looking back as to what went wrong in some fake analysis, veiled hope that I might learn from it or do something different next time, if there is a next time. There’s a couple of pressing thoughts, a couple of thentheresthat’s that keep recirculating in my head. I don’t know if that means they’re important or if it means that I am shallow, readable, operating on some level of surfaceness.
I keep thinking about how this was the first year in a long time nobody held me. Granted, I did a lot of holding. Still holding. Holding this teething fever into the new year holding...
No one held me.
What a sad thing that is.
What a sad statement. It creates a chill in me and my brain nips are erect and trembling. I don’t enjoy this vulnerability. Especially when I feel vulnerable for two.
I’m a creature built for companionship.
I love deeply.
I find joy in acts of service.
I will bend the sky so my love can be the stars.
This is the first year I’ve bent it for ourselves, I bought warmer sheets so we are less cold at night.
I are now we.
I reinvented my purpose while grounding all the egos of my nature.
I held myself upright.
I held myself accountable.
I held up up my part of the deal.
I held space.
I held the door open.
But I keep thinking about arms and warm and how fucking cold it is outside.
And then I think about how alla this is prolly just weaning hormones and the boiling fact that haven’t had sex in over a year while the ghosts of wangs past are all around and haunting.
I’m really grateful that the goals are aligning, that’s my other thought. Grateful that my family has their health and togetherness. I’m grateful for this rickety roof sheltering all of us. I’ve been able to really manifest a future for myself with my daughter.
Starting, well, starting tomorrow I guess.
In 2019 I will be teaching “Caretake and Me” painting classes at the Lucky Childe. The Lucky Childe is a new, amazing, family centric, all inclusive café where your kids can play and eat good food and hang out and do homework. Unlike anything I’ve ever seen. I’m excited to put some of my momentum behind the place.
This year I’ve also pitched a program to the Nevada Museum of Art—Stroller tours. One day, two days, three mornings—whatever it turns out to be, pack up your kiddo and meet me at the museum and will go on a kid friendly tour of the artwork. I’m hoping it really takes off and I’m excited to partner with such a respectable organization.
My dream of getting to take my child to work is slowly coming true. Creating my own future, independent. I might not be held by anyone, but at least I’m not being held back.
It’s been a transitional year for people around me as well. My moms health, my brothers happiness, my dad’s retirement. Friends, too. Friends that once played a large role in my life have withdrawn since I’ve had a child. I think there’s truth to that myth... that rumor? That saying? that once you have a child your childfree friends taper off. Moms make new friends with similar alignments to cope with the isolation.
We’re just trees in two separate forests now. Trees trying to break through the crown with no hard feelings because every tree needs the light.
And then there’s my lil seedling, sapling, sweet lil bundle.
You know how I know I love you? I let you have the carrots from my chicken noodle soup. Best bites. Always.
You know I know I love you? You take a shit and I feel relief.
You know how I know I love you?
I vacuum daily.
I chew when you chew.
I’ve willingly tasted your spit just to be kissed by you.
I make your food for every meal.
i feel it when I hold you and can’t stop feeling it when you aren’t near.
I tolerate the idiocy of *ahem* because I want you to be able draw your own conclusions.
You came out of my body this year, into my heart last. Our souls are on a path together and I’m in awe of your fearlessness, curiosity, softness, and humanity.
And your amazing JLo booty that I know didn’t come from my genes.
Heres to wishing together, walking together, laughing, and holding.
Cheers to my kin.
My better half.
The precious sweet potato, Nugglebuns Beeble, DottyMo Rey Go made of star stuff.
Last August I was fortunate enough to create a phenomenal memory.
My girl was there and my wonderful Mother was there and all these other wonderful Mothers and their little Petunias and Ashlee... and Flowers.
Creator, artist, Mother, photographer, space holder, Ashlee Dean Wells passed through Reno on her amazing photography tour collecting, promoting, and working with Mothers for her 4th Trimester Bodies Project. Dean describes the purpose of her project as follows:
The project exists because humans, particularly women, are judged too crudely on the way we look and are often told we don’t measure up. Because no real person can compete with the tools in Photoshop and glossy magazine covers. And because parenthood is sacred and should be celebrated.
So basically holy shit this is amazing, right?
How could I pass up an opportunity to participate in something so needed, so revolutionary, so powerful?? So community? So body positive? So necessary??
Ashlee herself is a fierce artist and delicious soul. Well spoken and sincere, she welcomed all participants of the day to sit in an circle and open up. Mothers of all walks were there, Mothers of all struggles, denominations, stories, and paths and they all had this wild thing called 'childbirth' in common.
For those who can afford, the photos and time and session did cost an absolutely reasonable amount money. I applied for and was awarded a scholarship to participate. This alone blew my mind. The fact that there were gifted/donated spots in her photography session set aside for struggling Mothers.... endeared me right away to this woman and her art.
Participants were allowed to bring along a fellow helper to help wrangle child as necessary so naturally I brought my Mom. Considering that without her love and support there would be no We, I thought it was fitting. Plus, she's my main Mama, my buddy, my rock--she's in this story as it's happened AND being written.
So of course.
And share we did, each person and partner was welcomed to tell the tale of how their Motherhood came to be and it was enlightening and powerful. Birthing trauma, infant loss, marital struggles, family issues--we all had our share of weight. We all have our share of disappointments and triumphs when it comes to upgrading into Motherhood and to be able to sit in a safe, loving, and open space and share and support was priceless.
We all were struggling to fit in this new role of Mother emotionally and physically.
And that's why we were there.
To document, to prove, to witness, to see.
To be photographed, to be remembered, to embrace and support.
To love ourselves, love our bodies, and love our kiddos.
I'm very grateful for the opportunity to be able to participate. The photos came out phenomenal.
Keep an eye out for Ashlee and check her tour dates to see if she's coming to a city near you. Congratulations to her and Flowers on their newest addition xo
Click around on her website and donate.
When you’re a working artist, maternity leave doesn’t exist. Help a Mama out.
Below are links to Ashlee's magic--have a look yourself:
There is wine all over the house—in the garage, behind the bar, in the family room, upstairs, and in my closet. Bottles ranging from 1970somehing to 2012 yada ya. Every kind of red wine you can imagine.
(I drank the white, but, to be honest, there wasn’t much of it) My Dad collected? hoarded? wine for years and years until he retired, wanted more mobility? flexibility? space? and gave it all away.
I feel like I’ve seen some talk regarding Mommy/Wine culture as of late and... to that I say:
I think that applies across the board to all, always.
I was a bartender for many years—The Zephyr Lounge, Redrock Bar, Jub Jub’s Thirst Parlor, all over Reno (and Black Rock City) with the oddball gig other places. I slang the hooch, listened to the drunks, laughed til the wee hours, and hung over many mornings. I stood and watched youngsters and old farts alike pound PBR, snort booger sugar, and chain smoke into friendships, arguments, and tomorrow’s. I dated bassists, door guys, coworkers, and good tippers. I danced to the jukebox, cheers’d the newlyweds, and tossed shitheads out the door. It was a great job and it taught me a lot about the human dynamic, the human condition, and choices along with their consequences.
Those were my twenties and I lived them hard, year round.
These days the smell of whiskey makes me nauseous, I can’t even take a shot on my friend’s memorials.
These days the thought of being hungover sounds like a nightmare.
These days Tylenol is put to better use on joint pain and sleep deprivation headaches.
These days I can’t afford, literally cannot afford, to drink.
These days I don’t smoke.
These days my favorite bar is closed.
These days I’ve got Nugget and she’s more important than anything.
Sometimes I like to drink a heavy wine glass of red wine really fast just to feel less for twenty minutes,
Less sober, less controlled, less back pain, less poor.
Sometimes on around 11am some days it feels like the day has doubled itself in length and instead of cooking another baby friendly meal it’s easier for me to crack a lager. Just one. For calories and cuz I can.
Sometimes on my few “days off” baby I reach out to people to grab a drink cuz I am thrilled at the idea of being able to go park my car, get out of it alone, and enter the forbidden building within two minutes with only my purse.
Sometimes when I have ten bucks I’d rather put it in a pennies machine and pretend my life is different while I push the same insane buttons over and over and over.
Sometimes I feel like a bar is the only place where people talk to other people and I am so tired of talking to myself, I would rather sit alone on a stool in a crowd.
No fuckin’ judgies.
There’s a park by my house where it happened.
A year ago, more already.
Time flies when you don’t? can’t? won’t? look up.
Across one busy road where traffic halts for a stroller and down a small hill to the geese, pavement and rock encircle a lake. A lake with a park I remember playing at in first grade. A lake where I remember releasing my brothers pet turtles in the 90s when my mom got sick of their stench. When I was sixteen I was grounded for the summer and the only place I could run to was literally running around this mile stretch of lake and land. I never ran so much in my life—and me and my giant boobies and shin splints are not runners! Once or twice I saw my mom cruising, creepin hella slow around the lake in her red suburban, making sure I was where I said I would be.
There’s this little hillscape on the southwestern ish corner of the water where geese go to snack, crows to murder, and folks to contemplate both. Between sage brush and tree are metal benches, for view, for thought, and for privacy. The elderly feed critters, take rest, and birds seem to go out of their way to shit on these benches.
It was here last November where it happened.
I had gotten here early to collect myself and reread the notes I’d tried to memorize earlier. The ones about crucial conversations and listening with love and quieting defenses. I’d been lent this book and it resonated so deeply with me that I thought it was the answer to all our problems.... which at that moment, was me. All me.
I had gotten there early to smoke a cigarette.
Okay, fine, two. In secrecy and shame.
I made my way over to the green bench, the one facing north, the one half shaded and chilly.
I waited and rehearsed, imagined, and planned. I waited openly, with eagerness, with child and with faith.
It was cold and we were both wearing carhartts, but only I showed up to do work.
You arrived with your decision on your face.
This relationship was over and launched to its end like a torpedo and I didn’t even get to turn my key. It felt like the most major of decisions in the whole entire world had been made without me.
I don’t think I cried until I got back to the car... I didn’t stop crying until the year ended.
I had to avoid this bomb sight of a lake bench for sometime after that. Take an alternative route, avert my eyes. I remember regretting having agreed to meet you there, this sacred, historical lake to me. After I stopped crying and the pills began to kick in (and I would leave my house) I would let? make? myself walk the path around the water most every day. As I would approach the hillscape to the bench I would look and I would see and I would remember. Sometimes I would cry, sometimes I would be angry, sometimes I would turn the music up. I would just glare at that bench and wonder and replay. The bench became an icon I fixated upon... I dreaded it’s eye contact and yet it fueled me.
It’s now November again and the city has been kind enough to pay special attention to that patch of land. The bushes have been trimmed out, leaves collected, weeds pulled and wouldn’t you know... benches utterly rearranged? replaced? reset?
I couldn’t tell you which one was which or where that one is. It’s just no longer there. There’s no green, metal reminder facing north, half shaded and chilly anymore.
I walk there now with our daughter. Sometime she sleeps, sometimes she coos at the birds, and often people stop us to tell me how beautiful she is. Especially the old people...always the old people.
I’ve walked that circle more times than I can count to my life. I’ve walked that circle most of those times in the last year. I’ve walked to breathe and think, I’ve walked to isolate and stew, I’ve walked alone and with friends. I’ve walked to sweat and shrink. Nugget and I just finished a Saturday stroll come to mention it and I’ve lost all the baby weight and then some.
I feel great. Renewed. I feel lighter and less heavy, like a great many weights have been lifted.
Insert cliche “dropped dead weight of 180 lb boyfriend” line here.
Come on, 2019.
I am ready for ya.
Mallory Kate is a blogger, artist, single mom and funny girl outta Nevada.
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