Work-Life balance: Daily routines and the quality of light by Christina Rosalie

I leave and arrive now in the in-between light; the light first spreading from the un-tucked hems of the morning, or the light leftover at the end of the day that spreads like a stain across the tablecloth of evening. On the way in, I drive with Bean. For the first part of the drive we’re mostly quiet as I sip a flat white in a ceramic cup and eat fried eggs wrapped in a soft flour tortilla, and he watches me from the back seat, patient, knowing better than to demand too much interaction before caffeine and quiet have set the internal tuning fork of my mind to thrumming with alertness.

Then we talk.

He asks me to tell him about summer when I was small, and when he asks, I smile, my mind slipping to the far off drawers of memory I keep inside my head.

I tell him about going to Bryce canyon and riding horseback with an old guide named Pinky up and down the steep canyon cliffs. I tell him about packing just enough clothes to fit in a sigle drawer in the camper; about the sketch book I always kept; and about about the way my older sister would yell at me every night when it was time to set up the tend and I’d just stand there holding the stakes, staring off at a neighbor’s campsite or into the sagebrush, stalking stories with my eyes.

I tell him about the jackrabbits with their enormous ears and big hind feet, and about the full moon above the canyon and the silvery pink rocks; and then I picture what it will be like in another summer from now when Sprout is a little older and we can travel together, all four of us, across this wide, wide country through the dessert to end up at the wild Pacific where we’ll collect sand dollars and blow on bull kelp bugles.

And abruptly we’re there, in the snow covered parking lot of his little school, and I pull up in the drop-off circle and he unbuckles his seatbelt and leans forward to kiss me and then grabs his backpack and goes in.

It seems improbable, all of this.

That I am leaving and arriving in the nearly light of early morning and the twilight of a spent day; that I have a job like this, full on, full time, full of possibility; that I am the mother to an almost seven year old who does the things I remember doing. Kisses me on the cheek, grabs his backpack, goes to school.

I remember that same routine with the indelible clarity of long term memory. The feeling of my backpack, the way my sneakers looked against the walkway cement leading up to my classroom door. I had a favorite cobalt blue sweater and my bottom teeth were missing, just like his—though his are growing in crooked like T’s were.

Bean's little boy smile is almost unrecognizable to me some days. He's a certifiable kid, now. Half way to fourteen already.

And so I kiss him quickly and then he slams the car door and goes into his blue school building where he spends the day discovering the world, while I drive off into the city and park, and then climb three flights of stairs and settle into my little brick and windowed office where I watch the light shift across the walls above my head.

I drink more coffee in a white mug, and at lunch I go running outdoors along the bike path that I used to run on every day when I first moved to this city and started running years ago. It feels strangely familiar: each turn and slope somehow written into the kinetic memory that the soles of my feet recall.

Snow cakes under my shoes, and I have to kick them hard against the ground every so often to loosen it, and above the lake the light is almost entirely flat gray, save for a place where the clouds are ripped and a rosy apricot spills through.

When I return, I am red faced, sweating, and focused and the rest of the day slips by in an ellipsis of concentration; the dark gathering unexpectedly, without my watching. When I return home, the house is full of lamplight and yelling. The boys are hungry. Dinner is on the table. The dog is whirling under foot.

This is the new tempo of things. The new state of leaving and arriving; the way the quality of light reveals much about this new process of becoming.

// How does daylight mark your daily routines? What do you spend your day doing?

When opportunity arrives by Christina Rosalie

My nearly three year old Sprout settles into my arms in a familiar way that I can’t even describe. It is a language we share, between our bodies. Another way of saying LOVE, this thing that we do, folding into each other, his small arms and legs wrapped around my torso, the heft of him against my hip.

We haven’t seen each other all day, and now he reaches up and brushes my bangs out of my eyes and says, “I want to rub noses.” And so we rub noses like seals.

Across the room Bean is drawing on an index card. In another minute he brings it to me. On one side: a red heart with an arrow through it surrounded in blue. On the other, a cheetah with brown spots and a yellow sun.

“You are the cheetah, Mommy,” he explains.

He’s right. I am. I am going thisfast.

T is at the stove stirring tortilla soup. It smells heavenly, and when he looks up to greet me and his smile turns my heart into helium.

Bean shows me the picture he’s draw for T. On the front, a heart that matches mine. On the back, a tall tree with the sun above it.

“Daddy is a tree with big strong roots and he reaches up to the sky and he’s surrounded by the sun. I’m the sun, and Sprout is a lion who plays with you.” He explains happily.

Sun, Tree, Cheetah, Lion. I love how he's captured some small truth about each of us exactly.

+ + +

So. I started a job this week that combines my love of story and creative work, with my superpowers in strategy and social media. I am now the Emerging Media Strategist at a super cool design firm here in Vermont. I’ll be almost full time until I graduate, and then definitely full time after that. It’s a new position, with a lot of culture changing momentum behind it, and I’m surrounded by some of the best and the brightest people imaginable. I'm thrilled.

It is also, of course, a shift for our little family. I had every intention of working once I graduated, but none of us expected the right opportunity would arrive right now. We're making a new roadmap. Finding a part time nanny. Exploring ways to make everything that needs to happen effortlessly and well.

And the truth is, I've always been one of those people who loves to work; who wants to be full time, full on, engaged, motivated, connecting, moving and shaking things up. And when n I think about what they’re getting, my two boys, by having a mama who sparkles when she talks about the creative, awesome work she does… I know it’s the just right opportunity to do this now.

And of course, I’ll be blogging about the process pretty regularly here: about the choreography of equipoise—of making time for the things that count, and doing them. And I'm curious about your stories...

I want to year more about your experiences navigating work and parenthood in whatever context you navigate that. What do you love? What makes your heart ache? What are your truest insights?

Also… PART 2 of the CREATIVE PROCESS post is coming up on Friday. And a post very soon about my 33 before 33 list progress. Also expect some news and sparkle and possibly even a love letter on my birthday. GRIN.

No one prepared me for this: The end of my baby's babyhood by Christina Rosalie

He's out in the sandbox, sunlight falling across his cheeks, and I am at the table writing. Through the window I watch him wipe his eye; watch as he rubs sand into his forever long eyelashes. He rubs it again, this time like I have taught him-—not with his sandy fingers, but with the sleeve of his jacket, a hand-me-down his brother wore at three and a half. The sand still clings.

“MAMA!” he yells, eyes close, face upturned. “MAMA!”

I run out in bare feet across the cold November grass, to cup his soft warm cheeks in my hand and brush the sand from his eyes.

“Thank you Mama.” He says, this small exclamation of gratitude something secondary to his nature. He grins as I kiss face, and returns happily to playing. I stand there for a minute, then go back indoors where the maple floors are warm and golden with slanting sun, and my work awaits.

This is the boy/baby who as of Sunday no longer sleeps in a crib. He’s been climbing out for months, agile and sure footed. He’s been swinging with the ease of a gymnast over the railing, in and out, the crib growing less and less sturdy with every vault, and finally I made the decision to put it away.

I didn't expect that he would be terribly sad.

“I’m still da baby!” he wailed that night, sitting on the potty, his face in his hands.

The next night he said, “My new bed is so cozy. The crib went bye bye. I'm big. ” (Yes, he said cozy.)

And just like that, I can feel the way things are ending. His babyhood. And with it an entire span of time where motherhood was straightforward and consuming. Where my physical presence could solve nearly anything; and a kiss could most likely solve the rest.

Now there is separation. There is the complex terrain of emotion. There is getting to know this person he is becoming, beaming-faced, hilarious, stubborn.

Neither of us are quite ready for the way things are inevitably shifting. At the dinner table he's taken to crawling into my lap, wanting to be close to me, wrecking havoc with my dinner plate. Some nights I'm all patience and games: "Here comes a bite for the hyena, the lion, the hippo." Other nights, like tonight, I'm worn thin by the way he squirms, his strong little body knocking me off kilter. But when I set him firmly back in his chair he begins to pout and then cry.

And I know the years to come will pass just like he counts now: “One, two, three, four, five, eleven, eighteen.”

It’s not something I expected or even considered: That it would feel this way to be here, at the other side of babyhood: Bittersweet and uncertain. He’s just shy of being done with diapers, and with that, he’ll be all kid, hair in his eyes, doing tricks on his bike, swinging ling a monkey from his bunk bed frame.

The world narrows so much when you’re in the thick of mothering in the first years—-when your kids are small, and then suddenly the aperture shifts, and they're chest high and learning to read.

How to do this gracefully? This part where I try to stop calling my baby “my baby?”

On motherhood and messes, creative process and apple pie: by Christina Rosalie

Today there is rain and the final splendor of leaves the color of the summer sun, sumacs flutter with fronds of flame, the poplars are already bare. There is wood for stacking, bulbs to be put into the damp, still-soft ground, and the last of autumn's apples for picking: small and hard, with thick skins and the sweetest nearly wild fruit, perfect for pies and apple butter.

Yesterday I made a pie with the boys: each one of them armed with a pairing knife; cutting the slices with gusto and irregularity. There simply wasn’t anything else to do, even though, like every other day, there always is.

Rain was falling and I took one look at the way they were spinning around the kitchen, after having arrived home from their various destinations and I could tell: things would meltdown all too soon if I kept on writing, hunching over my laptop at the counter like some long-legged bird. And so, apple pie.

So we set to work: the boys cutting up apples while I stirred the sugar and butter and spices in a pan. I’m always a little surprised and terribly pleased by how earnest they are in the kitchen! How they just want to be helpful, and how, given real tools and real responsibility, they both are. They formed a team almost immediately, Bean cutting the apples into manageable wedges, and then Sprout following through, chopping each into as many small pieces as he could, and tasting nearly every one.

I let them lick out the bowl of course. And later, when the pie was ready after dinner, we ate it warm, in bowls with a little heavy cream the way my father always used to.

This is part of it: each night as I gather Sprout year old to my chest in the dark, as we sit in the rocking chair in the room he shares with his brother, as I gather his small solid body close and press my nose into his sweet hair, he says, “I want Nonna.”

The first time he said this, I felt my heart hit my ribs, heat spreading across my cheeks with the anguish of this small betrayal.

But what I have begun to understand in the process of making this work, this book, this life, is how to inhale the ache and intensity of these moments, bitter-sweet, and then to release it on the exhale, and say yes to all of it.

To realize: yes, he loves his Nonna. How lucky are we all that this is the arrangement. That he has this tribe of love, and I do. That this work I am doing is possible.

And so I kiss his warm forehead and say, “You’ll see her again tomorrow, my love," and he burrows into my chest and hums along as I sing "Speed Bonny Boat" in the dark.

I’m telling you this because all of this is part of the process. This is the real, messy, frustrating, bittersweet stuff of being a mother and a pioneer/artist/writer/creator. And it is also absolutely the only way I would want things to be. This duality. This love. This creative life.

There are days I don’t see my boys until 4 in the afternoon or sometimes 5, and there are days that even when I’m here, I’m preoccupied with the work I’m in the midst of, and I sit in the middle of the stirring living room, in the middle of the ruckus, writing while they build marble towers or ride their plasma cars around like hellions. And there are days like yesterday, when the pieces all come together: apple pie, thesis abstracts, client deliverables, tickles, brown sugar and cinnamon licked off of fingers. And for the hundred-thousandth time I think to myself, Whatever way, this life is the only life I want.

Tell me, how many of you navigate this tenuous line? What is it like for you?

And so I am learning to moon walk by Christina Rosalie

The sky is grey and yellow and thunder moves about like a restless god above us. Rain falls then stops, and the gutters drip. In the yellow dark after the storm the birds sing twilight songs. The trees become silhouettes. The sky turns to taupe, then lavender, then black. Curled inside with my feet tucked under me like a cat, I can feel the way my breath catches in my ribs. The way I have to consciously remember to breath out. The way this week I’m always close to tears.

This summer I feel like I’ve landed on the moon: my third semester in graduate school, full time, in an immersive program that is, by it’s very definition a moving target: emergent media.

And so I am learning to moon walk, which is a lot like learning to fly except for the inevitable part when gravity always catches up in the end.

It’s work that requires leaping again and again toward the very center of what I love: telling stories with words, with images, with media that moves through time, with interaction. And inevitably: coming down hard again and again, as I fall short, underestimating what I think that I can do, imagining a project too big and wide for the scope of my limitations. Most of the time my limitations are about time. Ironic, isn’t it? Because of course, I’ve dared to write about this thing called the present tense. Of course I’ve leaped into the very thick of this glorious mess. Wanting all of it, hungrily, the way the humming birds come again and again for simple syrup we fill the feeders with. I keep coming back, even when every the nanoparticles of every minute are filled to the brim.

Some days being a mama and a partner while doing school and writing a book in a genre that blurs (personal essay + mixed media illustrations) makes my breath catch in my ribs like I’ve swallowed the pit of some magical tree that will burst forth from my ribs in full bloom.

Other days it feels more like standing in front of a fire hose. To move at the speed of emergent media means to be endlessly and simultaneously processing, considering, noticing, reading, questioning, answering, creating, making asking, and doing, all day, every day. But to write a book, means to dwell, linger, revise, consider.

It’s a brutal, brilliant, overwhelming combination. And time dissolves like sugar.

Maybe it's no wonder I've been feeling exceptionally thin skinned lately: as though the barrier between me and the world is as slight now as the screen that separates me from the night that arrives softly, filled with the trilling of tree frogs and bull frogs and the sounds of moths fluttering with their incessant, fragile wings.


I’m so grateful for your comments in my last post. You have no idea how much courage and joy they gave me.

elsewhere + back by Christina Rosalie

Hi friends. Missing this space, but feeling too overwhelmed to be able to share more than a few images from my week with a conference in the middle of it in NYC and two huge deadlines met.

I am exhaling into the memory of a different skyline: everything manmade, geometric, gorgeous, crowded, teaming with people and their endless urgent need to produce and create.

And I am breathing into the moments today of kissing my boys and making Mexican tortilla soup and eating apple chips and holding hands, and trying to be patient with my need for rest and with all the things that are uncertain and that must be accomplished.

Also: I'm feeling a little shaky of late in my niche here. I'm so different now than when I began blogging six years ago as a new mamam. I'm wondering how to make this space change to fit the work and life I'm growing towards, and I'm wondering: Why do you visit? What do you like about this little space? What do you want me to share more of, or differently?

Signs of life by Christina Rosalie

Riding 33.2 miles per hour on a back country road does something for your soul. It makes you grin, for one. It makes your hair, pulled back in messy braids yank like kite strings in the wind. Being that close to the pavement you see things differently. No, you feel them. The fragrance from every newly blooming roadside flower hits you like a cloud blossoms: magnolias, cherry, daffodils in front of every farm house the color of breakfast: scrambled eggs and pale yellow butter.

Where the sun has been the longest the heat lifts off the road embracing your calves and thighs and bare arms with sudden softness and warmth; and in the shady pockets where the road dips down, the cold air comes at you like something from a dream.

You see things: beaver ponds abundant with newly chewed logs and saplings. Geese with long black legs and wide feet, paired off, nesting. Turkey buzzards with wings as wide as your arms, their shadows quick and black across the road. New lambs, some just days old, their knees knobby, their ears swivling at the whir of your wheels as you ride by. A bearskin tacked to the side of a woodshed; two women sitting on lawn chairs smoking cigarettes, their pale legs bare and almost glowing in the late afternoon son.

This is what happens when you stop holding so fiercely to what you must do: the world gets all up in your face with its green and manure and potholes, and it’s utterly glorious.

For 26 miles the only thing you think about is whatever is right in front of you: every pebble, sharp curve, rut, and roadside marsh. You see a blue egret on one leg; a swarm of insets illuminated in the mossy golden light; a hairy brown goat let loose to wander in front of a barn; a barefoot teenage boy with shoulder length hair walking up to the open door of a grey log house.

You feel only this: the way your body does this thing nearly effortlessly in concert with this sleek machine; improbably balancing, moving fast, faster, until it’s only an intuitive, kinetic and immediate, and not a thinking thing at all. And when you return, the world is closer and newer, and you are more of it, than apart from it. Yes.