Friday, March 30, 2012

On being a painter.

I was at a doctor's office the other day for a meet-and-greet appointment - a new family doctor here in Calgary. He seemed a very nice man, patient, apologetic for running late, yet not rushing us through our appointment to catch up. He asks the requisite questions: family history, medical concerns, etcetera - and then we come to profession.

"I'm an artist," I say, "A painter."

"Ah," he says. "Ah. What sort of paints do you use?"

"Oil paints," I reply.

"Yes, but what sort?"

I think fast. What sort of paints? Is he concerned about workplace safety, or chemicals in my system, toxic leads and heavy metals in my breast milk for my nursing toddler? Is he asking me if I work with industrial grade or artist grade paints? Is he leading to questions about my awareness of the hazards of using oils and spirits, or wondering if I've done WHMIS training?

Then I get it. Oh.

"What brands, you mean?" I ask.

He nods and leans in.

"Well," I say, and rattle off a couple of paint brands.

Pregnant pause.

He looks at me, eyebrows slightly raised, expectant. Waiting.

Here we go, I think. I give in. I sigh. I ask what he is waiting for me to ask - "Are you a painter, too, then? These are painterly questions." Drily. Resignedly. In a voice that perhaps should indicate my lack of enthusiasm. He can't possibly know, but I have asked this question and had this conversation many, many times before.

"Yes!" he exclaims, and pulls out his phone to show me a picture of a brightly coloured painting of boats. A copy of a Monet. "It's big!" he says, proudly.

"Lovely," I reply - what else can I say? - waiting to move on, back to the reason we are there in his office.

"You'll have to bring in a picture of your paintings next time you're in," he declares.

I briefly consider handing him a business card, or providing my website address. Dismiss it, realizing he's not really that interested. "Yes," I say, in my most non-committal voice.

I think about the years I spent studying at university to earn my Fine Arts degree, and the day that I ditched the office job, shortly after graduation, to make a go of a full-time art career. I think about the 14 years I have spent working as a successful professional artist, developing relationships with national and international galleries, teaching classes on painting and drawing. I think about how the average income of a Canadian professional artist is $15,000 - well below the poverty line - and how I have been able to surpass that substantially and make a decent living at my work.

I am a painter. I feel I've earned the right to call myself that. I've worked hard for it. It's my profession. I've put in the hard hours, I've relied on that skill alone to keep me afloat.

I wonder what the response would have been if I had said to him, "Oh, I'm a doctor too! Here, look, I've got a picture of the sliver I pulled out last week!"

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Sibu Beauty Promotion

You may recall my review of Sibu Beauty products - oh, it seems like ages ago (I was pregnant at the time!). I have just heard from Sibu that they have a promotion on now:
Take advantage of our "March Blowout"-20% off all products and get free shipping (excluding Raw) through Saturday, March 31st. Use coupon code: SIBUDEAL20 at checkout.
 One to get in on quickly, as it ends soon!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Friendship, for Mums

After my daughter was born, I felt so isolated. My husband went back to work after a glorious - and exhausting - month of tandem newborn parenting; suddenly, it was just me and Mia. On top of that we moved for a three month stint in a different province while she was 3-6 months old – then moved again when she was just shy of a year! My BBFs (before baby friends) pretty much made the requisite newborn visit and that was it. They mostly had older children of their own, so we weren’t in the same trenches. The friends without children… well, they weren’t interested in my favourite (okay, only) topic of conversation, and suddenly staying up late or going out was not an option for us.

Meanwhile, I was going mad without adult conversation!

After a while – when I recovered from the birth, and the shock of having a new baby - I realized that it was entirely up to me to get out of the housebound rut and make some new friends.  I really am a shy person. It is not at all second nature to me to go out and meet people; it is a major effort to get over myself and stop being such a loner! Here’s how I overcame my shyness and made some mum friends that I have a lot in common with – because that was one of the hardest parts of having a baby, for me.

Here are some of the things I did that helped me make some great new friends.
  • Sign up for Baby and Me classes. Here are some places to try – your library, recreation center, fitness studio, Early Years centres (in Ontario – I’m not sure what the equivalent is elsewhere), and community centres. I joined Baby Goose at the library, which was a half-hour, once-a-week stories-and-songs program that went on for eight weeks and was quite inexpensive (I can’t recall, but I think it was around $40 at my library).  Most libraries offer programs for children.

    I also joined a Mother Goose program put on by Early Years, which was free (!), and that was amazing – mums’ chat time before and after, songs, stories, and lots of resources like guest speakers on topics like car seats, vaccinations, that sort of thing. I highly recommend that program if you have one in your area!

    A Mommy and Me Aquafit class at the local pool was also loads of fun. The babies sat in floating turtles, and us mums tugged or pushed them around the pool. We got a decent workout, the babies got to enjoy the water, as well as meeting some new friends.  There are loads of fitness programs for mums and babies; check your local rec centre, yoga studio, or look up a program like Salsa Babies. The fitness programs are generally a little more expensive, but it’s great for the self-esteem to start working out post-partum, and if you can take your baby with you, you don’t have to worry about arranging babysitting or sketchy gym childcare!

  • Do drop in at the drop-in play centres. I went to one in a local church basement that had loads of toys, lots of kids, and friendly people (again run by Early Years). They had a toddler and a bigger-kid room, and did circle time and snack time as well, for the once-weekly morning drop-in. That one was free; many of the drop-in play centres have a small fee, $2 or so. Check in your area – there are bound to be centres near you in community facilities or churches (often without a religious aspect, if that is holding you back). The parents are generally local and are often regular attendees, so you will definitely have a chance to get to know some new friends if you go back a few times 

  • Look online for mummy groups. I found one when we were in Calgary the first time on, just by searching my neighbourhood and interest. I managed to meet some really awesome people and have made at least one good friend that way – we kept in touch while I was back in Ontario and she is one reason I was not hating the idea of moving to Calgary for good – I knew I had a friend here!
  • Start your own group. Organized mums can post their groups on community forums or on the big sites like Meetup, Craigslist, Facebook, etcetera – and get a group of like-minded people together.

    After I had met a bunch of mums through the various classes in Ontario, I set up a Facebook group for mums of babies in the same age group in my town. I added some of the mums I’d met, and they added more. That group is still active and getting together for walks and playdates.  My group of mum friends here in Calgary also has a Facebook presence. That makes it so easy to keep up with what‘s going on, and to arrange outings and playdates.
  • Get out of the house and talk to people. You will find that just about everyone wants to look at and comment on your new baby – and many of those people have something to offer, whether it is advice (wanted or unwanted!), or community. Smile at other mums you see, and say hi – it just might open the door to a new friend. Nursing and baby changing rooms at malls are often full of mums just like you – getting out of the house in the daytime with their babies. In the summer, the park is a good place to meet parents of children the same age as yours, who usually live conveniently nearby. You can meet new friends anywhere that you can strike up a conversation.

    As an example, we just signed some papers at the lawyer’s office. I got to chatting with the receptionist about moving to a new neighbourhood, and not knowing where to get a child’s hair cut. It turned out she has a daughter close in age to mine, and was able to recommend a children’s salon. After our appointment, she gave me her email address and said she gets together with some other mums if I’d like to join them some time. How easy is that? All it takes is being friendly.
  • Ask for advice. Everyone LOVES to be asked their opinion or for advice. Really. Think of the last time you were able to help someone with something, even finding the right aisle in the grocery store – and you will remember the good feeling that helping someone out gives you. So give people the opportunity to have that feeling – ask a question of a likely stranger! See a mum perusing the baby aisle? Ask her which products her baby loves, or what she’d recommend. It’s such an easy opening to a conversation. 
One of my favourite things about being a parent is that Mia is an instant icebreaker, and I now have at least one obvious thing in common with a lot of the people I meet. Whether we like the same movies, books, music, whatever – it doesn’t really matter, as we always have something to talk about: our children.

Making friends has now become something I work at. Knowing people in the same phase of life makes such a HUGE difference. You can commiserate together, and celebrate the milestones.  Having friends with a baby the same age makes it easy to schedule playdates (with social benefits for mums and babies), talk over any troubles, get ideas for new things to try with your baby and get advice or resources when you need them.

I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the women I have met as a mother – they are funny, intelligent, friendly, and, perhaps best of all, are perfectly willing to talk about babies at length (as well as any other topic under the sun!).

I hope this inspires you to get out and make a new friend. It’s not as hard as you might think it is!

How have you expanded your social circle after children? I’d love to hear from my readers of experiences you’ve had meeting new friends – and any of your tips are welcome as well!