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.
The first thing I do when I find myself obligated-ly (I made that word up) baby free... is take 4 ibuprofen. It's good for the swelling and back aches that come along with lugging around a 19.5lb, 30 inch long Nugget of Love around. The Doc prescribed 800mg motrin for postpartum recovery and in my adrenaline haze of ''holy shit baby here'' sleep deprivation rush, I never filled it.
It'd be nice to have, is all.
One pill to rule them all.
I recommend a light self-medication of the same--whether it be weed or anti-inflammatory meds, it helps in the release of bodily tension everywhere. Marijuana is especially helpful in the shifting of mental gears for some. For me? It just makes me anxietal as FUCK.
The next thing I like to do is start laundry.
In the name of multitask, wash them sheets, girl. Those baby-weaning night sweats are upon us and they ain't pretty. They're chilly and hot at the same time with cold, clammy toes and bad hair. Don't forget to collect baby socks from every corner of the house and be sure to look under couch and chair. Oh, and bib collection. The really gnarly ones that have blueberry and yogurt all mashed into the fabric. And things that may or may not have touched poop are also very important to wash. Poop likes to hide. Poop has poop spores that float and attach... be thorough.
After the laundry is sorted and domination of the machines is expressed, order is claimed.... run the bath.
Run it hot.
Think of all those showers you've taken in the last week with your Nugget. She gets the warm water droplets dribbled on her, not you. She gets the toys and the giggles. You... you just kind of crouch into a ball in the cold, half wet back of the shower awkwardly hovering like a security guard making sure things are safe and stay safe and safe.
Add bubbles to that bath. The ones you bought for you nephew but you secretly love.
Yeah, those ones.
Not those intense bath bomb things that have glitter and odor and feel like overkill. The only chemical reaction I want to have happen in the tub is cognitive calm brain trance release.
Mr. Bubble baby bubbles, actually.
Grab that book you've been ''reading'' for over a year. The one that has nothing to do with parenting, self help, communication, child psychology, language and linguistics, things you can't afford, or cartoons. You know the one. Grab this book and open the blinds to let that winter sunshine in.
Once you're in, don't forget to look down and see beauty.
Remember how amazing the female body is and how our vaginas and lady organs are like re-built engines. Remember to thank your colon for finding it's parking spot again. Remember to thank your body for creating life. Massage your scars in every direction. Still. Always. Put your ears under the water and remember when we had two heartbeats, two separate pulses and one set of lungs.
After the bath, pluck those fucking chin hairs.
No one is going to tell you about them, so do your face homework.
Put on your big girl panties.
Don't forget your lashes/lipstick/whateverthefuckmakesyoufeelputtogetherandsexy
Change over the laundry.
Make a list of all the adulting you have to do:
And attack the day.
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.
It's 9:30 in the morning and I just pounded a beer.
For the first time in what feels like ages I'm home alone. Mom is out running an errand, I took Wyatt to school, Dotty to FOB's, Brother is at work as always... and it's just me.
Having to see FOB at 9am on Tuesday mornings makes me want to drink.
Makes me want to feel less.
Makes me angry.
Makes me remember.
We're also creeping up on a year dump-iverssary of preggo Mallory and lots of feelings are being trudged up.
Feelings that make me want to pound a beer at 9:30am at home because it's better than stopping by Shea's for whiskey and shenanigans I can't afford.
I want to dance.
It's 10:15 in the morning and I just cracked another beer.
I feel like acting out.
I feel like being irresponsible.
I feel like singing.
I feel like screaming.
I want a brief reprieve from accountability.
I want some recklessness.
I want loud music and cleavage and lipstick and posture.
I want a red dress and dim lights and musk.
I want toothy grins and glitter and glamor and sound.
It's 11:30 in the morning and I miss my daughter and her little hands gripping the handle of her car seat.
It's 11:30 in the morning and I'm grateful for my life as is, untrapped trying to make happy the unhappy.
It's 11:30 in the morning and I need a nap.
I just spent a few hours at the Nevada Museum of Art.
I drive or pedal by their front of the building design sign and giggle read. I always want to post a picture of it to DDOI.
I end up on the doorstep of the museum when I need somewhere to be and when I am uncomfortable inside my own skin. I look at the art and get so angry that it's so talented, so well put together, so beautiful that I end up leaving inspired to do. I read the blurbs and make notes of my own, take pictures of things that move me in an effort to remember the impact. I dance and wiggle in front of each installation and presentation.
Today Ani DiFranco accompanied me because I need(ed) her and she's always there for me. I put her in my ears and let her words tell me it's okay to cry, to be angry, to dance, to feel, and to fight. Together we spent much time on the third and fourth floor. We spent a lot of time with the Annie Brigman exhibit and the put together exhibit Laid Bare in the Landscape by the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. The strength of art, the creative drive, the moodiness of landscape and humanity and the inter-respectful reflection of one onto the other, the dichotomy of being human and woman, the freedom of nature, the wildness of the land, the voice of the nude figure, the power of isolation, the need for portrait, the manipulation of materials, the understatement of femininity--all these things and so so so much more were on display.
It made me cry.
Yes, Mallory goes to museums and cries.
I've cried three times in the last 24 hours.
-in the jeep outside the courthouse
-at the computer being gifted
-face to face with creative expression bearing witness
My crying comes from being a glass that's too full. Like, it's not a conscious choice, it just happens in reaction to too much liquid in my skin. Like, I've been holding too many saturating emotions and thoughts inside my flesh and form that my body glass starts to drown and it all has to come spilling outside my body... and sweating... sweating just isn't enough.
All the feelings I've swallowed and the spit I've withstood are all compounding into the biggest glass of ''hafta cry soon'' and I kind of just hope I'm sober and aware enough to catch all the feelings as they come pouring out in violent, wet purge.
It's like barfing a river or water rainbow and I only become slightly familiar with it as it all flees and exits my body.
And after it's over. After I'm emptied and the wet turns to mist turns to air and dry and I'm left only pruned and dried on the inside. There's room for something now. There's space for the rest of me to breathe and for a moment I feel relief. Like, my spine can expand and the weight of everything eases up slightly so I can throw my shoulders back, I can touch my toes, I can reach into the air and exhale. There's room for something now.
In my time in personal therapy, in my time in the classroom with kids, in my time as a grief counselor, and in my time as a aunt, friend, and stranger, I've learned how to ''hold space'' for people.
I've "held space " for children and family, for strangers and people... people I don't respect or like.
No one teaches you how to ''hold space'' for yourself. How to bring your entire presence to yourself. How to walk along with yourself without judgment, while sharing my journey to an unknown destination. I've never been completely willing to end up wherever I needed to go.
And here I have this LO. This tiny bodied, massive energy of light that I ushered unto this plane through the portal of my body and... she needs a strong me. She needs a Mom with two working wings, with security... and she needs tangible. She needs and deserves.
All this crying and all this not painting. I feel like I've shrunk and I'm just a speck of what I used to be. I have no idea how I'm supposed to do this.
How am I supposed to do this?
I feel like everyone else is living life like it has written directions on paper and to me that feels like... some sort of game I wasn't constructed to be able to play. I can't see the pickup stix under all the stix. This game of Twister is in color and I'm color blind. I'd rather use the plastic as a cape anyway. Red light, green light and I have my earbuds in. Red Rover and no one wants to hold my hand.
I could tell you what I left with or I could tell you what I now know.
Time moves too fast for both to be relevant.
I just spent a meager six days at Burning Man in the Black Rock Desert in Black Rock City, Nevada. It's my fifteenth year out there and I come home each time re-centered. I drive home solo in the silence and the wind and think until I can't think anymore. I come home understanding without the need to articulate. It's glorious.
In the past I've built large scale art, camped quietly in the corner, composed massive theme camps, led drunken Esplanade debauchery, volunteered, and barista'd. This year, like the few before it, I was Lead Barista Trainer in Center Camp Cafe with a crew of lovely baristas to support the baristas I train.
Does that make sense?
It's a labor of love, this Cafe, this coffee.
This year was no different. It is sweat, patience, humility, strength, repetition, appreciate, gratitude, and passion.
It's different things to everyone--in the moment of, in the moments before, and tomorrow. I learn year after year what it means so me.
This year, one of the things my playa experience means to me is IF YOU CAN'T BE GOOD TO SELF, AT LEAST BE BETTER.
"If you won't take a break, girl, we'll give you one.
Sincerely, Ligaments ."
It's not just our hands that hold things--it's our bodies, our organs, our backs, our beings... subconsciously and full-consciously. We carry things for other people and we carry other people’s things. Their weights, their sorrows, their stresses, their baggage, their stories, their loads.
During this experience, my six days at Burning Man, my hands put down my Nugget and I worked effortedly to pick up parts of myself. I drove away from my heart outside my body and forced myself to relax about it. She spent those six days with FOB and I was meant to take some time for me. I was told to rest and being told to rest is way harder to do than it sounds.
I dunno if y’all ever been to Burning Man, but sometimes it’s Working Man. Meeting after meeting, training after training I graciously, with morale, and punctually shared the love of the bean, the art of the shot, the fine lines of Center Camp Café, only to return to my jeep jeep, curl up into my smoosh taco, "rest," and do it all over again at 7am.
It was in that rest that my body seized up, but my mind re-opened and I finally had some time in the world to think.
After six months of breastfeeding unilaterally, mastitis, side lying, sleeping sitting up, carrying and sharing my body with my Babe, my joints, my ligaments, and my soul began screaming in agony, yelling at my body. It's almost like my flesh and all it's hard working components recognized that my Babe was not near and like a uniformed symphony came together to pluck every ligament in my Mothering body to express my physical need for help and rest.
I don’t know how to explain it, but my right side gives up.
Forcibly, my body is telling me to BE BETTER.
If we let the past define us we never really find the now.
I brought things of his to burn. An old shirt, a postcard, a photo or two. I thought in order to be absolved of his memory it had to disappear into ash.
I simply had to be open enough, woke enough, aware enough, to rid it's power over me. I now see that he is my partner in Babe--nothing more. I've been trying to communicate with him for months, for a year now... and he's still he and I am still me and we're two magnets destined to never touch again. We don't exist on the same plane. Our paths couldn't be more different. I'm happy to be out of his orbit.
I have to close all the doors between us and leave a window cracked.
While out on the playa I lived in the now. I was rusty at it. Being pregnant you project into the future and plan and worry. Being a Mom you wonder behind you, worry over the now, and secure the future front. Mentally exhausting oneself and always coming second.
It was nice to find the Now again.
Just for a few meager days.
The Now comes with the Choice of the moment. It comes with how one currently feels. It comes with what speaks to you inside and outside and what that equation means.
This post is taking days to come to fruition because decompression is a hard landing while running. Here's what was reinforced in a nut shell while at Burning Man 2018:
Mallory Kate is a blogger, artist, single mom and funny girl outta Nevada.
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