September 30, 2009

2 sides to every story

September 29, 2009

Why read poetry?

I have read a bunch of poetry over the years. Why? I don’t really know for sure. Perhaps it is the whole idea of painting a little picture of a moment in time or a feeling has an appeal to me. Perhaps it is ‘cause when I read a good poem it is like having an insight into genius, I love to be amazed at how someone could describe, so succinctly an experience I have had. Perhaps it is ‘cause I grew up in Ireland, that poetic place where poetry and the Irish identity seems to have a unique living history.

But, in all honesty I have struggled at times to keep on reading. So much poetry is rubbish. I have struggled through poems that seem to me senseless. They make me feel like I am missing something obvious, that I am just not smart enough to ‘get it’. Those poems are either not for me or in reality don’t make sense, like the poet tried too hard to be clever or artsy but end up talking gibberish.

I have also struggled through poems that are overly sentimental. With lots of hearts and souls, but are uncomfortable to read. Poorly written, clichéd, trite, obvious, like the poet learned to string poetic sounding words together without being ‘real’ (I am particularly sensitive to this criticism because I admit to have written many of this type of terrible poetry in my time ;)

But in recent years I have found poets that are brilliant, insightful and can capture reality so perfectly it makes you sigh to read their work. It is like watching a 5 star movie like Gladiator or Pride and Prejudice. You can identify with the words or concept so easily it is a pleasure to read. I have found poets that write poems that are accessible to regular people, poets that seem to not be trying too hard to be someone they are not, that are authentic and insightful: Billy Collins, Claudia Emersen, B H Fairchild, Charles Simic, Ted Kooser, to name a few.

When I read poems by these poets the world slows for a minute. I can see how important the details of life are. Reading accessible, clever poems helps me appreciate life a little more. And in the face of all the busyness I need to be reminded, constantly, to appreciate life. My kids are growing so fast, goodness I have been pregnant for 8 months but it seems like a few weeks – have I really taken the time to enjoy it, to think about life – how it is now, how it will be when Max is born?

I want to read more. I enjoy reading about all topics, but I am constantly on the look out for poems on the topic of motherhood that are beautiful and accessible and real. I love Sylvia Plath’s work, but she is not exactly uplifting. I like Carol Ann Duffy, but she doesn’t have too many poems about being a Mom. I find random poems here and there, but it doesn’t seem to be a topic that has been explored enough.

If more Moms saw the relevance and importance of reading poetry, perhaps then there would be more poems written about being a Mom too. I want to read them. Like this one:

To My Daughter in a Red Coat

by Anne Stevenson

Late October. It is afternoon.
My daughter and I walk through the leaf-strewn
Corridors of the park
In the light and the dark
Of the elms' thin arches.

Around us brown leaves fall and spread.
Small winds stir the minor dead.
Dust powders the air.
Those shrivelled women stare.
At us from their cold benches.

Child, your mittens tug your sleeves.
They lick your drumming feet, the leaves.
You come so fast, so fast.
You violate the past,
My daughter, as your coat dances.

Here are some articles on the issue of reading poetry.

September 26, 2009

Art Journaling & art class

Shannon Mucha and myself worked for a year on creating a journal on the topic of motherhood. I wrote about it here. Well, our work was featured in this magazine by Stampington & Co. Art Journaling. I recommend getting a copy if you are interested in art journaling at all, this publication has tons of other great articles.


The kids and I are taking an art class together. It is an online program that was recently started by a friend of mine, Brandon Nixon. He has created a really good website with video lessons and an interactive community. I was originally only going to do it for the kids, but as we got started I decided I might as well have a go too! I can always learn more about doing art and it is a long time since I took 'fine art' classes.

This is just the beginning of a great art business for Brandon. He has created a site and videos that are very thorough; he seems to have thought of everything you would need to take the class, get the right supplies, and even fit art practically into your life.

The first thing we did was watch all the 'about your supplies' videos, the kids learned all about different types of paints and brushes, how to clean and store your supplies etc. This week, when the supplies came from Dick Blick, we did the first class which is on value. It was excellent! The kids enjoyed it so much that Matthew asked if we could do art 3 times a week!!

The classes are geared towards homeschooling, but his program would also work perfectly as an after school activity at home. So, check Brandon's art site out here.


I was out last night with friends eating yummy steak and sides, smelling cigars wafting from the pool when the men gathered to visit. It was heavenly. I remember saying to someone how I just crave creativity, the new, something I have not seen before, something that stops me in my tracks, something beautiful. Then today I visited Susan Tuttle's blog, to this post. Wow, check out her macro photos, stunning.

Susan is one of the contributors to my book, a true Artistic Mother.

September 25, 2009


Going to be getting out the old baby toys soon. Had an ultrasound this morning, Max is looking healthy and about 6 pounds :) 5 weeks to go.

September 24, 2009

Moving towards the end of the pregnancy

Being pregnant is a weird and wonderful thing. I am 5 weeks out now and starting to feel more and more uncomfortable. I am having a hard time staying asleep and am not moving around as easily as I was. I have started to turn my attention and prayers to giving birth. I am so not prepared as I should be. I have been focused on art, the book, school, photography... anything but that birth thing. At number 5 I should be a pro, but each birth has been a little different, and I feel as unprepared as ever!. But I am interested to see what this birth story will be. Whenever I start to worry about it, I focus on the person that is on his way and how great it will be to meet a new Cole kid!

I plan to continue creating art, taking photos and writing up until the day I go in to hospital (yes, I know on paper I should be a good home birth candidate, but Mark and I are just not cool and calm when it comes to bodily functions/pain, we freak each other out in our panic at the seemingly unknown... we need a pro to keep us in check ;). I can't wait to capture with my camera all those little details that are so precious and fleeting, and to have a new face/personality for my art.

My girls are beside themselves in excitement. They constantly talk about Max and what they will do with him. I don't think Annie realizes he will lay around and sleep and eat for the first few months, she is getting ready to feed him cheerios! And from their conversations I am sure one day that poor little boy will be wearing nail polish and a tutu! Hence, the manly name of Maximus.

I have not yet started nesting. To be honest I don't know exactly where this baby will sleep. All the bedrooms in our house are taken. I guess he will be nomadic for a while: a crib in our room, playpen/bassinet in the school room and newborn bassinet in my mother's room for daytime naps. I have a few things to buy him, a new carseat for one. I used the same one for all the others, but it got left out in the humid garage and became ruined. I need a new Ergo as I gave my other away (I wanted a new one anyhow, so I was happy it had a new home). After that I just need to go through Matthew's old clothes. I can't believe I kept them all this time, but each time I was pregnant before I thought that I was having a boy. Finally! My mother said I should buy the kid new clothes... but I like the idea of him wearing Matthew's. I guess I will decide when I see what state they are in.

Talking of mother - my Mum is arriving from Ireland on Oct 13, early enough to help me get things all sorted before my Oct 31 due date. She is so great, she has come over for 3-6 months for all my kids, she has such a servants heart, she has been such a blessing to us all. As a result all the grandkids LOVE her so much, she has carried them all around from birth and is into every facet of their lives. It is so good to have her know them so well.

Thank you to those folks to take the time to read and follow my blog. I really appreciate your visit and support. It means a lot to me.

September 23, 2009

September 22, 2009

Before kids

His life began as an idea of something more than
afternoons in Empire Café on Westheimer
long copies of the Houston Press
a huge cake slice for desert
time for thinking.
I had quiet days then
time to notice the details of other people’s
dress, intonation, gestures.

Soon the thought of possibility -
could we do it? really be parents?
seeped into our conversations
It seemed so outlandish
as I moved to the bathroom with no concern
for anyone, leaving my adult kin alone and safe
at his sandwich, his copy of the Iliad open
my drink unspilled when I returned.

But once that seed had formed
it was as gripping as the gradual desire to marry,
buy a house, live in one town, be a grown up.

And so one day my days were no longer quiet
my thoughts no longer free
my bathroom trips no longer alone
and the skin of home no longer hushed.


I know it is a week late, but Happy 9th Birthday my son.

September 18, 2009

Bones of a Poet eCourse

I am taking an online photo course by Madelyn of Persisting Stars. She gives us assignments each Sunday for 6 weeks. We are in week 2 and Madelyn has created a gallery of some of the students work. Out of some 160 photos in the Flickr group so far this photo was chosen for the first gallery (this gallery may be changed as the course progresses)! Thanks Maddie. Note the photo next to mine is in the gallery by Shannon Mucha, friend, artistic mother and contributor to my book.

September 17, 2009

When artistic desires clash

As a visual creature, I like my house to be ordered and stylish.
As a Mom, I want my kids to live creative beautiful lives.

Sometimes these two desires butt heads.

Like today. Every Thursday my husband runs a reading/discussion group called ‘Great Books’. Tonight it was our turn to host. That means I wanted my house in order for my guests. Not perfect, just orderly: chairs pushed into a clean dining table, cushions lined up on as I like them on the sofa, vacuumed floor rug that follows the lines of the tile floor, DVD’s & toys put away, clean towels in the bathrooms, toilets flushed (really! with 4 little kids that has to make it on the list). After a full day of school that seems like a whole bunch of work.

Today I was feeling a little tired, too many late nights, pregnant, working on book marketing ideas, Artist On Call work write ups, episodes of Dexter on Netflix Instant Play (! *guilty smile*).

After morning school I told the girls it was a media free day (no lunchtime educational video), just play instead. Sounds nice and quiet – but for my girls that means serious creative mess time. I should have seen it coming. Within an hour they had completely dismantled the living room and created a ‘camp ground’, with chairs and blankets and pillows and bedspreads. And filled their tents with bears and dolls.

As I was following my initial urge to crash into their playtime and remind them they have to put all that stuff back, my husband came in from a meeting. Without his saying a word I could hear his measured voice in my mind – 'don’t worry, they are having creative fun, who cares about the mess?' He’s right I know, he values creative play way more than a tidy house, and he always loves to see evidence of happy homeschooling lifestyle. His very presence reminded me of that.

So I swallowed my clean freak nature at least for a few hours and embraced their play, we even did afternoon school in their camp on pretend mud.

Eventually the room was cleaned up and reassembled (minus the coffee table that has permanently lost it's place so Matthew has a place to juggle); Lily at 7 has become such a good little helper so I didn’t have to do it all alone. But it really did take mental discipline to decide to be the artistic mother for those few hours and not just the artistic person with a nice house!

September 16, 2009

September 15, 2009


The bird swooped from such a height
we never saw it coming
her eye on the carcass
on the muddy slopes of the pond
my children with chatter and questions follow
we can’t know what it was,
what life lay down to such a rough funeral

we throw broken crumbs to the fish alive
they jump in anticipation
as the arc of white puffy bread flies,
my children delight in this chore,
this feeding of unnamed fish

I unfurl my giving in lunches,
laundry and time
making ripples wide and even
while the stone of my love lies
on the bottom of what becomes
their whole life long

September 12, 2009

September 08, 2009

Elizabeth Bishop's realism

This is an amazingly touching poem about a family that may seem unlovely to some, but the center of the world to another.

Filling Station

by Elizabeth Bishop

Oh, but it is dirty!
—this little filling station,
oil-soaked, oil-permeated
to a disturbing, over-all
black translucency.
Be careful with that match!

Father wears a dirty,
oil-soaked monkey suit
that cuts him under the arms,
and several quick and saucy
and greasy sons assist him
(it’s a family filling station),
all quite thoroughly dirty.

Do they live in the station?
It has a cement porch
behind the pumps, and on it
a set of crushed and grease-
impregnated wickerwork;
on the wicker sofa
a dirty dog, quite comfy.

Some comic books provide
the only note of color—
of certain color. They lie
upon a big dim doily
draping a taboret
(part of the set), beside
a big hirsute begonia.

Why the extraneous plant?
Why the taboret?
Why, oh why, the doily?
(Embroidered in daisy stitch
with marguerites, I think,
and heavy with gray crochet.)

Somebody embroidered the doily.
Somebody waters the plant,
or oils it, maybe. Somebody
arranges the rows of cans
so that they softly say:
to high-strung automobiles.
Somebody loves us all.

Learn more about Elizabeth Bishop and read some more of her poems at Poetry Foundation.

September 07, 2009

September 05, 2009

More junk mail art

This is one page from a junk mail art series, each page has a piece of a poem I wrote entitled 'Emerge'.

September 04, 2009

September 03, 2009

Sewing totes

Our library used to offer heavy duty plastic tote bags in which to carry books home. We would get and reuse them for weeks and weeks until they tore. When we returned to the library after our summer holiday and went to check out some 40 books we found they no longer had those bags. The company who made and donated them had gone bankrupt, which is sad to hear. We had to carry the books in our arms to the car, we had a few tears as books were sliding out of little arms.

So for this year I needed a new tote bag solution - I got one at a homeschool convention (a plain navy one with a logo). I decided to make another one. Of course I prefer my homemade one, at least it has some personality. I think I will make a few more, one for each of the kids now and replace that plain navy one.

This bag is very similar to one of the projects in my up coming book 'The Artistic Mother'.


On another sewing note - my girls started their sewing course 'Kid Sew'. The first thing they made were draw string bags. They are not quite tough enough for books, but they filled them with with bears and other light things instead. Next week they start to make skirts!

The finished product. They are so proud of themselves.

September 01, 2009

My girl's poems

In week one of school we worked on a poem inspired by the children's book Blueberries for Sal. I would be lying if I told you my girls wrote it. Let's say they were a little rusty after the summer off, so I had to help, prompt, drag something out of them. The result is not worth posting here ;)

But this last week they were in groove! We worked on the idea of using visual art to prompt poetry. This is something I do often when I write something to go with one of my photos. In art appreciation this week we were discussing the painting 'The Oddie Children' by Sir William Beechey from the book 'Come Look with Me':

So the girls (Matthew.... I can't recall where he was, working on his reading or something... somehow he missed poetry 'class') each wrote a poem inspired by this painting. They were so tickled that the painting showed 4 kids who are about the same ages as my kids, so they named them the Cole children and spoke about them as if they were themselves.

They both dictated their poems to me and I wrote them down and then helped them try to find slightly better words (Laura had used the word 'nice' 4 times), but I find that they are fairly resistant to change once they have recorded their 'words'. Laura was particularly delighted to see how much of the page her ideas filled up! It is going to be a good year.

Here are their sweet poems:


Four children playing
at the end of the forest
under the weak blue sky.
The girls are comfortable
in their sashes
the boy’s arrow ready to fly.

By Lily Cole age 7


Laura in her nice pink sash
Lily in her bright blue sash
Annie in her new blue sash
Matthew in handsome royal green clothes
Silver buttons on his coat
They are so happy playing
that they smile with joy.

Annie happily crawling on the ground
The dirt is plain brown
And gets her hands all dirty
Lily is holding her straw hat in her hands
Laura peeps from behind Matthew
They are so happy playing
that they smile with joy.

By Laura Cole, age 5


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