Staying Thankful Through It All

My kids like Thanksgiving a tiny bit more than I do.

Hey, I grew up in England, so I have no rosy childhood memories connected with the holiday. I have many rosy memories connected with Bonfire night, Harvest festivals, and May Day, but not Thanksgiving. I never learned about it at school, or took part in any pageants dressed as a chubby little turkey (you know I would have been the turkey).
When my daughter first came home with the story of the first Thanksgiving, that sweet story about sharing, love and pilgrims wearing huge buckles on their shoes, I automatically felt sad for the indigenous people of America, who paid a huge price when the European settlers arrived;  I am too old to listen innocently to that story. Let’s be honest, Thanksgiving for me has always just been a blip on my calendar, a little distraction from my Christmas shopping, Christmas decorating, and cookie baking. I have always treated it as a non-day, a day of lounging.

Until This Year

“But I want a proper Thanksgiving!” Yelled my son last night. It’s a big deal to him it seems.His friends are eating turkey and inviting family over, and thinking hard about what they are grateful for in life. Well, we are vegetarian, so homemade pizza will have to do, but giving thanks for all the good things in our lives, well that does sound like something I can get behind. This year, we will make our own traditions, and celebrate Thanksgiving in our own way. Pizza, fiery hot jalapeno cornbread, family, low maintenance sweatpants and slippers, board games, Harry Potter movies, group hugs (my idea), and really, really,  thinking about what we have to be grateful for. I’ve been thinking about this already, here are some obvious, and not so obvious ones:

My family  (this is one of the obvious ones) who are gorgeous in so many ways that I can’t even begin to put them into words, so I won’t.

The new(ish) friends that I have made over here, that have made me feel welcome, and been a comfort over the past few weeks, when truth be told, I crumbled a bit.

The old friends who, even though I only see them once a year or less, when I visit England, still pick up where we left off, and make me feel more ‘me’ again.

My British Indian childhood, that prepared me for my life as a smart ass, sarcastic, and outspoken woman, bridger of cultural gaps, stereotype breaker. It made me sensitive to the next generation of children growing between multiple cultures. It taught me to keep an open mind about people, and never take anything for granted.

Art and design, for giving me a language that makes communication so much easier, and for giving me succour and direction.

My studio, it may be a tiny half bedroom with a broken closet packed with art materials, but it is still mine, and I’m lucky to have it. I’m lucky to have the beautiful house that it is in as well.

My ‘otherness’. My background, race, multiple nationalities and career choices mean that I have always been a minority, and have often felt, and been perceived as ‘other’ wherever I go. This is not necessarily a bad thing, I think it has made me more empathetic and helps me see things from many perspectives. I hope my children discover this about themselves too.

People who will stick up for others. The rabble rousers and dreamers, the outspoken people who care so much about what is right, and want to change the world for the better. Thank goodness for them, we can all take a page out of their books. Speaking of which…

JUST BOOKS. I am a bibliophile, and so are my kids, books cheer us up, make us smart, make us laugh and cry , teach us so many, many things. Thank you books.

Goodness, I could keep going, but I’ll save it for my adorable family, who love to listen to my long impassioned rants. Happy Thanksgiving everybody, stay thankful and spend the weekend (and your lives) being kind to one another.






Gratitude Amidst Grieving

I have been feeling pretty despondent over the past couple of weeks, and it has been difficult for me to cobble together even the tiniest of positive posts lately. After a period of hibernation, and greatly reduced productivity, I finally got myself back to full steam at work yesterday. I did this by focusing on the glimmers of happiness nestled between those black clouds above my head, their brightness like threads holding together an old quilt.

There are many things that have been worrying me about the world around me, but I can only make sense of them, and deal with them if I take into account the good things in life as well. So here is my list of things and events that have made me happy over the past week, and helped me hold things together better.

  1. Date Day
    Every Veteran’s Day, my husband has a day off work; this is a particularly momentous occasion. You see, there aren’t many days in the year that my husband doesn’t work. To sweeten the deal, the kids had school, score!! I played hooky, and the two of us went into DC with absolutely no plans, and no huge bags containing snacks, wipes, band-aids, and discarded hoodies/coats/hats/boogers. We wandered around in a relaxed state with no whining in our wake, eating whatever and whenever we wanted from food trucks, and having long, uninterrupted conversations about pretty much everything. We also discovered a hidden treasure (number two on this list). Both of us had started that day in a state of post election despair, and we benefited greatly from spending the day this way together.  I want more mental health days like this!
  2. The Textile Museum
    We discovered the Textile Museum (how have I, a textile design graduate, never visited this place before?? I’m blaming the kids). The museum is a little gem, it has the friendliest staff I have ever encountered, free tea and cookies, and the Bingata exhibition of robes from Okinawa is absolutely stunning. Yes I actually wrote that, I’m a geek, a textile geek. I don’t visit museums and galleries as often as I should, but when I do, I feel inspired, and like a young art student again (despite my husband talking about Mr Miyagi during the whole exhibit). Oh, and I came home with some pretty cool freebies for the kids. I came home, and started working on my painting again.
  3. Mail from England
    Our wedding anniversary is in November, my husband’s birthday is in December, and then there is Christmas and New Year. From November onwards, for the briefest of periods, we start to get more exciting stuff in our mail box from friends and relatives that we miss deeply. Presents,cards and letters start to liven up the normally depressing pile of junk mail and bills. Snail mail at it’s best.

  4. Books
    A little escapism never hurt anyone. I have been relying heavily on books to lift me up since around kindergarten. Right now I’m reading Polly Shulman’s The Poe estate, and Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Lowlands to myself, and the most hilarious Mercy Watson series to my son, who is a first grader.
    In addition to this, I have turned to books to help my kids to make sense of what is happening around them better. My local library has thoughtfully stocked the shelves at the front of the library with books about inclusion and equality, for kids. I have been using them to talk to my kids about the importance of kindness, and inclusiveness, and am so amazed by my ten year old’s capacity for empathy . I’m very grateful to the librarian who curated those shelves.
  • My Kids
    Yes, I know that I just wrote about the great liberation felt during my daylong date without kids – every parent needs that from time to time. Despite this, my main source of joy is my kids (they are, indeed, a double edged sword). They are delicious, and they make sure that you never really have the time to mope. With kids, time just keeps marching on and you can’t stop for a break. My six year old is teaching himself Spanish, French, and German (it’s hilarious), and has the ability to make me snort with laughter a few times a day; the ten year old  believes in Selkies, and sings Rapper’s Delight with all the wrong words. Enough said.

There is a lot in my life to be grateful for, and a lot in the world that needs to be worked on. As a parent, teacher, and human being, I intend to keep striving towards building a kinder and more empathetic world, starting with myself and my children, but not ending there. Helen Keller once said “We may have found a cure for most evils; but we have found no remedy for the worst of them all, the apathy of human beings.” It is important to keep moving forward; it is important to feel deeply, and to not forget to advocate for the important things in this world.

Jack of All Trades, Master of Pub Quizzes

I can’t control myself. I want to do so many things, and I want to do them now!

I have a habit of getting over excited about life, like a little kid looking at toppings at an ice cream social. Working on multiple projects simultaneously, reading a stack of books on rotation, having numerous new passions and interests. At first look, it seems as though I’m just a very energetic and enthusiastic person, a regular renaissance woman. But if you dig deeper, there is more to it all.

I think for me, this diversity of interests is symptomatic of working from home. When you work in a place with many other people, you take short breaks between tasks, stopping to chat to a colleague at the proverbial water fountain, taking a short walk, going to a meeting. Working from home in the suburbs can be problematic when you want to take a short brain break or need a change of scenery. What do you do? Your options are limited. Most things you could do for a break (take a walk, talk to your mum on the phone, have a snack, run errands) have the potential to end up spiralling into a much longer break than you can actually afford to have. With no colleagues or boss to keep you in check, it is too easy to end up slacking off, and so very difficult to get back into the flow of your work. There are two options for people like me: #1. Never take a break, or the infinitely preferable #2. Switch it up. You know what they say…

A change is as good as a break

I just switch between projects, or choose something to do that classifies as a brain break, but that I don’t associate with slacking off. Something I can pass off as ‘skill development’ or ‘self improvement’ and not feel too guilty about. Something that doesn’t make me relax too much, or for too long, you get my drift? But sometimes this can grow out of control, and there you have it, too many pots on the boil at the same time .

In case you are in doubt about the magnitude and proliferation of my interests. Here is a list of what I generally get up to:


I can’t just have one job, no, no, no.  I split my work into seasons. Fall and Winter, I am a maker, I screen print, paint and sew products, and sell them at local shows and markets. In the Summer, I am an art teacher and run my own Visual Arts camps full time. In the Spring time I write curriculum for my camps, deal with enrollment and office admin, and work on my own book illustration projects (I have three on the go). Also, every now and then, I write this blog, but as I probably have a readership of 4 people, and don’t earn anything from it, maybe I shouldn’t classify that as work! I’m considering throwing another job into the mix, watch this space.



I love books, and libraries, and literature; they keep my Mojo going. I am currently reading three books, one at bed time, one on weekends, and one very slowly. In addition to this, I’m listening to two audiobooks, one in my car, and one at home while I screen print, because I can’t afford my own butler to read books to me while I print. Sigh.




Creative Projects:

I have two canvases leaning against the far wall of my bedroom that I work on sporadically. I draw in a sketchbook every evening until my hands start feeling numb. I am teaching myself to embroider, I have two mural projects scheduled for this winter, and guess what? I have taken up knitting just for the hell of it.img_4324

All that in addition to the following pre/post work activities: I volunteer at my kids’ school library once a week (because I harbor a secret yearning to be a librarian), I coach at a school Fitness program once a week (because sports with first graders is hilarious!). I do Yoga twice a week, swim with my kids, and Zumba whenever I can (because I have a serious sweet tooth).

Time to simplify my life?

I’m a pretty laid back human, despite not being idle very often. However, I do tell my kids that it’s a good thing to be idle from time to time, so maybe it’s time I listened to my own advice.
I do know that, diversifying too much can stop you from really focusing on and gaining mastery of specific skills. So I’m going to try to find the correct balance for myself, and learn more about less. I love to learn new things, so I won’t be simplifying my life too much though!

I’d love to hear advice from other people working from home. What practices help you stay sane(ish) and productive?