Category Archives: Uncategorized

my new happy place and more

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Whenever I move, I need to find a happy place away from the chaos of little boys. Where I can unwind and think. (Lately I’ve been squeezing my temples with my palms when I have all three boys clamoring at me, as if my head will explode. Sometimes I think it will.) And because I don’t have my pottery shop yet (soon!), I’ve been looking in the community for this place.

So far, the trails behind our house up to the aqua duct have been where I go to get away. I take the dirt trails to the paved path, and up there, if it’s not too windy, it’s quiet and I can see the houses and yards below — small, as if I can hold them in my palm. The other day, I ran up there as fast as I could. The mountains stood in the distance, beckoning me. And, down below, there was a grove of Joshua trees. I wandered down into the quiet. About 20 ravens gathered in a tree and were chatting with each other, as if on a break from their hunting and flying to gossip. A lizard darted across the path in front of my feet. A butterfly flitted by my face. And for a moment, I forgot that we live in a city. I stood still and absorbed the quiet.

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Yesterday, after registering C. in Kindergarten (to my disbelief), I wandered into a coffee shop in Quartz Hill called the Sagebrush Cafe. A local artist’s acrylic paintings adorned the walls. Women in skirts and pony tails sat cross-legged, chatting and laughing. The cafe sold sandwiches (avocado toast!) and a delicious latte and I felt, for a moment, I was back in an urban center instead of a conservative enclave in California. I could see myself meeting girlfriends there and talking about schools and parenting and arts. And I could also see my pottery in there — perhaps some mugs and pour overs.

Our house, thankfully, is coming together. Our kitchen is (mostly) done — we still plan to add a counter, another cabinet and a backsplash. The floors are in.

 

IMG_9944We painted the kitchen, living room and dining room. Our window seat is done save for the doors — and I love our cushion and pillows. The bathroom is usable. We’re working on the yard and the garage now.  The projects are never-ending, but now we’re not living in a construction zone and I’ve been cooking healthy foods (thank you Cookie and Kate blog!) And I feel so much better than I did in the winter.

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And… and! We have a summer full of travels and friends and then I can get back to this community when C. starts school and we can both make friends. Yes, after a long winter with some scary family illnesses and a renovation, I’m feeling good. Hope you are too, wherever you are. Happy weekend. x

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Filed under DIY, great outdoors, happy, inspiration, running, Uncategorized

back in the california desert in a fixer-upper

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It happened so fast. And then I was in denial. And then I was excited. But by late fall, we found out that we were moving back to the California desert. In January. After only a year and 1/2 in Albuquerque. Just as I had found a community of cool moms.

Then, we decided to buy a house. First-time homebuyers. You know, to make things easy. We were moving to a market that doesn’t have a lot of rentals. We were moving to a market that plans to add a lot of jobs in the next few years. Interest rates were still low. And I wanted a kiln.

So the week after Thanksgiving, we flew to Palmdale with baby L. and left big C. and little C. with my parents. We found a real estate agent and we decided we’d buy a house that week. The first day, we walked into a house the right size for us with vaulted ceilings and lots of light on a corner lot in the right neighborhood. We knew it would need work, but we said what the hell. Let’s do it. We put in an offer, and we closed within 30 days.

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The house, built in 1990, turned out to be more of a fixer-upper than we expected. That first week in town, we stayed in a hotel. We pulled out the carpets; we scrubbed the floors and walls. We demolished the kitchen. We pulled out the bathtub. We laid carpet in the bedrooms. And then we called in A.’s father for emergency help. “We need you,” we said. (And by “we,” I really mean A.)

The second weekend, I drove the boys to my aunt’s and uncle’s house in Atascadero. I teared up when I saw the ocean. It had been a year and a half since I’d seen it — the glorious, vast ocean that makes me feel alive and connected to the earth. And what a year it was — the closest brush I’d ever had with death.

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Now, we’re living in a construction zone. I didn’t enroll the boys in preschool since big C. starts kinder in the fall and it’s our last chance for freedom — to not be bound by a schedule. So they’re adjusting to no schedule and a new space. And I’m adjusting to very little “me” time. But we’re exploring our new town. We met my parents in San Diego last week. We can go anywhere and do anything and it feels good.

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A. rigged up a sink and we bought all new appliances. It’s livable, but a bit cluttered. All I really want to find is my blender so I can make L. varied baby food. He’s living on banana, sweet potato and baby oatmeal lately. But he just turned 7 months so he’ll be OK.

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Dad O. has painted the bedrooms — the boys’ room, the baby’s room, the guest room — and he’s working on the master now. (I had no idea colors were so hard to pick out.)

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We’re slowly unpacking. It sounds hectic. It feels like it should be hard, but since I’m not working, I don’t have much stress. A. is doing the bulk of the work (he’s my hero). I put my Etsy shop on hold till I have the space to throw again. I bought a kiln — it arrived today and it will be a while till I try my first firing. But for now, I’m living in the moment with these boys in our new house that we have yet to call “home.” But we will call it that — soon.

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the outdoors, northern new mexico and more pots

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Last weekend, we drove up to Northern New Mexico, where one of A.’s coworkers owns 220 acres of land that’s been in his family for a century. He’s an Army guy who went to West Point and carries a gun on his hip (but I didn’t see it). It was the first time I’d chatted with his wife, and she was easy to talk to and had many qualities I admire (easy going and a problem solver).

We stayed in the house that’s been in the family for 100 years. It was built in 1898 and there are no hallways. The house feels like it’s out of the ’50s, with a TV from that era, a kitchen with a stove that has an opening to burn wood and a toilet that’s so low it was easy for my 4 year old and 2 year old to get on it.

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There were Readers Digest books from the ’40s on the shelves. The floral curtains and the smell — oh that smell — reminded me of my grandma’s and grandpa’s house in Flint, Mich.

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The next morning, we drove up to the land. Open, beautiful land where elk and bears roam at almost 9,000 feet. The leaves were starting to turn color. A. brought a newly crafted tire swing for the boys, and another guy made ribs on the slow cooker. I had decided to go home that night because L., at 2 1/2 months, is a bit young to camp — he’s already had two colds in his short life — and the temps got down to the 30s. But I enjoyed my morning/early afternoon out there and I know it was the right decision, even if I missed the ribs and the stars. Just being out in the fresh air and staying in what felt like a museum invigorated me.

Another thing that has invigorated me: I opened my Etsy shop (Erin Killian Pottery) more than a month ago and already have 15 sales and 9 good reviews. I was worried I’d be overwhelmed — you know, with three kids under 5 including a newborn — but I haven’t felt like that at all. It’s a fun challenge.

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The pace has been perfect — a sale every few days. With the two older boys in preschool three days a week, I’ve been able to get an hour in here and there to throw more.

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And I was pleased with my last firing. One of the potters at New Mexico Clay, where I do my firings, said, “They’re looking really good,” and she sounded surprised when she said, “You did all of this with a new baby?” Well, babies do sleep a lot and L. is particularly chill. (Besides a few days of gas, but gripe water helped with that.)

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I bought a book Mastering the Potter’s Wheel: Techniques, Tips, and Tricks for Potters, which has some important tips for me and is also inspiring. I keep waiting for my love of pottery to wear off and it hasn’t happened yet. So I’ll keep on throwing and keep on growing and keep on finding ways to feel invigorated. I’m sure the cool fall air will help with that, too, and getting ready for family to visit soon. Here’s to making the most of life and living in the moment. Hugs to you all.

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Filed under camping, ceramics, family, friends, great outdoors, inspiration, pottery, the great outdoors, Uncategorized

on healing, exercise and pottery

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It’s been six weeks since my surgery, and I feel back to normal. Well, as normal as you can feel with a newborn. Luckily, L. is a decent sleeper. Usually. OK, last night not so much, when he was up at 2 a.m., 4 a.m., 5 a.m. and 6 a.m. But three nights ago my little 7 week-old gave me a 6-hour stretch, which had me dancing to “Foot Loose” around my living room. (Another exaggeration, I can’t help myself today.)

I’ve been walking and I tried to run a few days ago. That wasn’t happening. It’s hard enough to run after a pregnancy, but now I have a surgery to contend with, so it will take more time. I’m trying to be patient.

We took the boys rock climbing in the Jemez mountains yesterday and A. set an easy climb for them (and me), but I wasn’t feeling up to it. Rock climbing is harder when you’re carrying extra weight and I have 10 more pounds to go. But it was lovely being in nature — trees! Fresh air! Sunshine! I’ve missed day trips like this.

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In other news, I opened an Etsy shop to sell my pottery. I was simply investigating how to do it, and then suddenly it was done. I went with Erin Killian Pottery so it’s easy to find. My sister-in-law is a graphic designer (check out her stuff at Beth Killian Design) and she whipped up a logo for me.

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I haven’t formally announced the shop to family and friends yet — I want to tweak it a bit and maybe add a few more items. I’ve read it’s good to have 20-30 items to start and I have 16 up there. Who knows, that might be enough. On Saturday, I started to throw again for the first time in two months. I made four mugs and three small ring bowls and felt relaxed and in my element. I’m pretty sure I think better when I’m throwing clay. A. said, “Look at you, you’re filthy!” and I nodded and gave him the biggest grin. It feels good to be back to myself again.

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the first weeks (not home)

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If A. and I have learned anything in the past two weeks, since our third boy, L., arrived at almost 11 p.m. on July 5, it is to respect the fever.

In L.’s first two weeks, he spent three nights at home. All of the rest were in the hospital. The first two were the standard recovery nights. The next one was because his bilirubin numbers (jaundice) were too high and he needed light therapy. And then, a week after he was born, I was admitted for a 104 fever.

The fever came on five days after L. was born. And it broke with Tylenol. But by the third day, I knew we had to go in. Something wasn’t right.

At the OB/GYN triage, my fever spiked. The pain was concentrated in my lower back and head and I was so cold the nurses put four warmed blankets on me and I was still shaking.

That Tuesday evening, my pulse reached 220, which had the doctors running to see what was going on. I was on IV antibiotics, but it wasn’t till the next morning that they knew that I was septic (blood infection). That afternoon my right lung started to hurt when I breathed. And by Thursday, my liver enzymes were rising.

The blood cultures finally showed I had group a strep — an aggressive bacteria that releases toxins to shut down your organs. And the way to treat it is to act fast and get rid of the source of the infection. For me, that meant an emergency hysterectomy.

My doctor told me I was the fifth case the hospital had seen in two years (some were flown in from rural New Mexico, one was after a home birth), and the other four ended up in the ICU. One of them died. Because my doctors acted fast, I didn’t have to go to the ICU and I came home a week after I was admitted. I’m still finishing up IV antibiotics to get rid of the blood infection.

It was a scary week, and I plan to write about it more fully, but that’s what we’ve been up to. And I’m grateful for good health care, fast-acting doctors and, truly, my life.

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getting ready for babe no. 3

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I’m two weeks away from my due date, and feel like I’m barely holding this baby in. Achey back, waddling when I walk, pressure on my bladder, swollen ankles. The baby is doing constant dance parties inside of me and punching me in uncomfortable places. I’m amazed I ever worked in this state. I’m eating well — I cut out all ice cream and treats in the last three weeks — and yet I’ve still gained 45 pounds. This pregnancy? Hardest yet. It’s probably because I’m 39. And because we’re living in a dry climate at almost 6,000 feet. And I’m spending my time with a 4 year old and a 2 year old. And it was 100 degrees today.

But the end is near. And the sleepless nights holding a sweet newborn are quickly approaching. We still don’t have a name. A. is finishing up a dresser for the big boys — made entirely out of 2x4s — so we can move the one with a changing pad into our room. I registered at UNM hospital last week, and A. installed the car seat (three seats in the back of a tiny Mazda 3, thank you very much).

I’ve been trying to keep the boys engaged with fun summer activities while I rest. Play dough, ice pops, the trampoline park, playing with the hose in the backyard, play dates with friends, library time and dinners on the deck.

Today, I picked up the last batch of pottery I’ll do for a while. My mind spins daily thinking about different combinations of glazes and what my “style” is. I’m cleaning up my shop, knowing I’ll have to shut it down till probably the end of August, though the thought makes me cringe. Then, I’ll throw more and open an Etsy shop. I’ve realized I can’t keep this hobby up without selling — it’s expensive and we can’t keep everything I’m making. And the truth is, I’m excited about a new challenge, but I won’t be able to launch it till the fall. Until then, I’ll put my energy into three boys under 5 years old. Wish me luck.

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artists’ trading cards and letting go of self doubt

When A.’s parents visited in late February, I had one full, glorious free day to myself. Nonni and grandpa boarded the Rail Runner train to Santa Fe with my two boys at 9:30 a.m. and I had till close to 6 p.m. to do whatever I liked (with CM’s school conference smack dab in the middle of it, but no matter). I decided I would write a bit at a coffee shop, throw some pots and get exercise in no particular order.

While at the coffee shop, I researched things to do in Albuquerque and surroundings. And that’s when I stumbled on the Women and Creativity conference. I missed most of the events, but it looked like I could still be involved in the poet’s post trading cards project. It involved me beautifying 10 cards and sending them back to the organizer, and then I would get 10 back in the mail from 10 different artists.

I donated $10 to the cause and signed up. When the blank cards arrived several weeks later, I felt like a fraud. Real visual artists were filling these cards out — my arts are clay and writing. But I pulled out some water colors and painted, and man did it feel good to let go of any self doubts (I had no stake in this) and ego and take a paintbrush to these tiny cards.

IMG_7190Last week, I received the 10 in the mail, and I opened them up like a joyful little kid. (I also had my joyful little 4 year old next to me, who was excited as I was.) The cards are spectacular. And every one is completely different. They’re mostly from New Mexico, but one is from New Jersey, one from California and one from Pennsylvania.

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I haven’t decided what to do with them — I might take my favorite few and frame them if I can find something suitable at Michael’s. But the point isn’t (and wasn’t) the end product. It was the process — it was more fun than I expected. It gave me a bit of perspective to calm down and change gears and relax creatively. And that’s what I need often when I’m throwing pots or writing a story. Perspective.

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throwing, throwing, throwing: my love of pottery keeps growing

I’ve mentioned before that I’m hooked on pottery, but this weekend it reached a fevered pitch as I tried to replicate vases and mugs from my last batch.

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My lovely teacher Lois Hinman (click to see her work!) in Ridgecrest, Calif., always told me that she started selling her pots (decades ago!) because it’s an expensive hobby and she couldn’t take the money from her family. I’m starting to feel that way, too — each firing (including bisque and glaze) is close to $100, not to mention the clay and the glazes. And we don’t have enough cupboard space for all that I’m making!

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So, now I’m thinking about how to sell — where, what that means, coming up with a plan, etc. Of course, I’m also 28 weeks pregnant  (entering that third trimester, yeesh!) and slowing down physically, so that will keep me from doing it anytime soon.

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But, I like the idea of creating a plan and having inventory for when I’m ready to enter a show or put pieces up on Etsy. Maybe I’ll do it sooner than later, but given how tired and achy I’m starting to feel, I doubt much will happen before baby boy no. 3 is at least three months old.

IMG_7025What I love about the process is not only the physical act of throwing and creating useful, beautiful things, but also the challenge — starting a “business” is scary. And entering a show is scary. And I don’t even have a kiln yet. Once I get a kiln (after we move out of our rental) I can start to mix glazes. There is always, always more to learn with this craft. And I have a long way to go to be really good.

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But the bottom line is I love it and that passion isn’t going away.

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If you are a potter or artist with a small business and have any tips or suggestions along the way, I’d be grateful!

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clean living — will it help my allergies?

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It’s spring in Albuquerque, and the way I know this, besides hearing the birds sing in the morning and watching the trees bud with white flowers, is that my allergies are getting the best of me. I started up my nasal spray and eye drops, but now, every night before I go to sleep I need to shower to get the pollen out of my hair and change my pillow case. I was reading to CM the other night on the couch, and I nuzzled my nose into his thick hair, and then I had a fit of sneezing, which made me sad. I should always be able to snuggle my 4 year old.

I’ve read that eating clean and removing chemicals from your house can help with allergies (as well as digestive issues and chronic pain). During my recipe searches, I stumbled across this cookbook by Amie Valpone. There’s a section about beauty and cleaning products called “10 never-use ingredients” — including parabens, amines and sulfates — so I’ve been going through my products this morning, seeing what it might help to change.

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I’m ready to try new shampoo (though I’ve been using Aveda for a decade) and get rid of my shaving cream. I can keep my sunscreen and lotion. I’ll probably try a new laundry detergent. I plan to dust more often. It’s a tedious process examining my beauty products and cleaning products for toxicity, but if it can help, even a little, with snuggling my boys, it’s worth it.

I’m also working on reducing gluten, sugar and dairy in my diet (it seems to be helping my energy levels, though I don’t plan to give up coffee or all sugar, let’s be honest).  I never thought I’d like chia pudding, but this recipe for Creamy Chia Pudding is surprisingly delicious — and filling. I’m also putting cashew cream on strawberries. Next, I’ll try the french toast (made with gluten-free oats) and the pumpkin enchiladas. If you want to read more, here’s Valpone’s website. Happy eating and cleaning, everyone!

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the open road, two kids and a pregnant lady

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One thing I miss about pre-kids is the ability to travel easily and efficiently. A. and I would book a flight a few weeks ahead of time, pack a backpack each and off we’d go. I’d buy a guidebook and most likely read the works of a novelist from the country we’d visit. Our last international trip was to Iceland in 2012, when CM was 5 months old.

So instead, during this “we have small kids who wouldn’t appreciate a long, expensive trip to Europe or Asia” phase, I’m embracing traveling locally. And locally for us, right now, means New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Colorado and Texas — where there is stunning scenery and lots of hikes (I put a premium on being outdoors with the kids).

So, this past weekend, we packed up the car, picked up CM at 3 p.m. from school on Friday and drove. Our only agenda was to go to Arches National Park, just north of Moab, Utah. We ended up driving more than 800 miles in three days (about 4-5 hours per day) — from New Mexico to Colorado Friday, Colorado to Utah and back to Colorado on Saturday, and home to New Mexico on Sunday.

And guess what? It wasn’t miserable. The boys were troopers (there were a few whiny “I’m tired of driving” and “Mama, can I hold you?” moments but overall it was a success.) We didn’t have reservations, so we stayed in small Colorado towns (Moab was booked up — I never knew how popular it is!) We told lots of “made up” stories in the car, the boys paged through books (CM read “Hop on Pop” out loud) and we listened to music.

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Highlights: Arches National Park, though now that it’s March, it’s starting to get busy — there was a half hour line to get into the park.

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Dinner and dessert in Telluride.

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And touring Native American history at Chaco National Park in New Mexico on Sunday. The village was built between 800 and 1200 A.D.

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The boys were giddy. I loved the feeling of adventure. A. was happy. My hope is these little trips will prime them for longer, more intense trips in the coming years.

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