Bringing the Party

December 15, 2015

Calling the lonely, the disappointed, the heartbroken: we're throwing a party for you!

If you are feeling down and out & 2015 has kicked you in the shins a bit, we want you to celebrate your fragile condition with us. My newest project is You Bring the Party, a collaboration between myself, Emily Gastineau, Billy MullaneyTaylor Baldry, dancers Erika Hansen, Charles Campbell & Blake Nellis, and playwright Rachel Jendrzejewski.

Come eat cake, listen to Morrissey & exorcise your demons....with friends!

Save the dates: February 11-14, 2016 at Fresh Oysters Performance Research in Minneapolis.

We're selling just 30 tickets per performance. Sign up here to be the first to find out when tickets go on sale!

What's True Today

December 4, 2015

Not writing regularly is a recipe for creative constipation. Every word starts to feel SO IMPORTANT. Lower the stakes, yes?

The state of the world is a recipe for creative constipation. Everything from the book I'm reading to my recent quest for financial organization feel irrelevant in a world where the police get to be judge and jury for young black men, and mass violence is happening regularly. Put it together with the newly dropping temperatures, grey sky, and my sometimes still very sleep deprived state and why bother? Let's just be sad together and call it a day.

But coming to a standstill doesn't do anyone any favors. (Nor does inaction, so please write your legislators.) I spent a lot of time expecting and fearing that life would come to a halt after having a baby. That December would come and I'd still be on the couch trying to figure out how to breastfeed, worried about how tiny and vulnerable the neck of an infant looks. How can that be safe? But sleeping upstairs right now is evidence that time has passed and change is constant. The newborn days are over! I leave the house and rehearse and work, we juggle the 2 freelancers and a baby thing semi-gracefully, and said baby laughs and gives sloppy kisses and sits up by himself (except for when he falls down in a pile). Ben and I have hit our stride with this parenting collaboration. There is movement, and I am grateful. 

On August 30, my 33rd birthday, I got to chat with Laura who lives in Austin now. She asked me what I want for my new year. It's a question that I love, because I am guilty of too much analysis (something I'm thankful to have less time for these days). I told her that I didn't want more this year, but I wanted to get better at a lot of things; to dig deeper with a lot of things; to get clearer. I'm excited about how this is starting to manifest itself. 

For starters, we've been getting rid of a lot of shit. Literally. There's nothing like a lot of baby gear, even that which is kindly loaned to you, to fill up a tiny 913 square foot house that 2 people also work out of. So we've been purging. And Ben and I had a lightbulb moment and realized that we no longer want to force a business collaboration, and are enthusiastically working on separate endeavors (Ben's website is here, mine is on the way). It felt instantly good

Right now I don't want to make loads of work, but I want to make better work. And to feel like the work brings me closer to people, because that's the whole reason I make my creative work in the first place. I've been reading Sarah J. Bray's book Gather the People- the most bullshit-free marketing book I've ever read (worth every one of the 35 dollars I paid for it and more). Sarah advocates for integrating the making process with the sharing process, and I love this; building your creative work and sharing the process along the way. This is what I've hoped to do here, but a lot of the time it feels like a very impersonal way to share something that feels pretty personal to me. You know?

I'm craving a way of sharing in a smaller space. And so I'm writing a bi-monthly-ish letters that will go straight to your inbox. Letters about building creative work with brains and heart and empathy; thoughts on things I'm learning from the people around me; strategies for lightening the load while we make the work. You can subscribe over here. And I hope this offers up more of an opportunity for me to hear from you. (And yes, I will still occasionally blog. Ideally more frequently than I've been.)

What else? I'm hopeful about a lot of things. This is a strange thing to feel when I also know that the world is going to shit. Some of my enthusiasm belongs to the seemingly shallow and irrelevant: my morning cup of coffee; knowing that I'm ditching my big bank at the end of the year in favor of a credit union; the episode of Rectify I watched with Ben last night. And some of it is downright profound, like the incredibly vulnerable talk Jamie Millard and Meaghan Murphy gave for Creative Mornings Minneapolis 2 weeks ago (which I'll share more about once the video is posted). It is mostly a lot of little things. My baby threw his butt up in the air, pushed his feet off and moved towards a toy. And that felt like magic. He is feeling very pleased to be alive, and I want to find more moments of this same satisfaction.

Thank you for reading.

How to Choose Ideas

November 16, 2015

Hi! BLUEPRINT closed Saturday, and I'm jumping into new projects and feeling the pull of new ideas, and the push back of reality and time limits and budgets. The result: lots of decision making, which is necessary. And a little painful. I thought I'd share an old blog post I wrote a couple years ago for the McGinley Motion blog. And after posting this I'll work on taking my own advice. Wishing you a week of taking things bird by bird!


How to Choose the Ideas That Push You Forward

I’ve decided that the greatest challenge facing artists and creative entrepreneurs is having too many ideas. When I meet with clients about projects, or talk to artist buddies over a beer, their brains are spinning! In some ways this is a great thing. It’s because you have big ideas that you do what you do in the first place. It’s a gift to be an ideas person. Except for when they’re getting in your way...

All too often I hear ideas that are actually huge distractions from the business endeavor or progressing career of the artist. They end up diffusing the energy of the creative person into a million directions, until their most important endeavor is taking a back seat.

They are ideas like:

+ Going back to school
+ Signing onto a project that’s not in line with your goals (or giving you something you need)
+ Changing jobs
+ Changing the direction of your business (or adding new services or products)
+ Learning a new skill/art form that distracts from becoming an expert at your current one
+ Creating a new project just so that you’re eligible for a grant

For the right person at the right time with the right motivation, any of these ideas could be good ones. I’ve had most of these ideas myself at some point. Luckily, I also have a strong inner pragmatist and a couple of accountability buddies who tell me when to shut off the ideas and get down to work. The challenge is pinpointing what ideas will move you and your creative endeavor forward, and which ones are only getting in your way, and sucking up valuable time and energy.

Here's What I've Found Helpful:

+ Write It All Down: Sometimes it just feels good to put your ideas in a safe place and get everything out of your head. Find a notebook or computer file to put them in. Decide which ones to shelve, and which ones actually need to be dealt with now.

+ Make a Mission Statement: Use your personal strengths, past experiences, and training to come up with a paragraph or two about who you are, what you do, and what you\'re working towards. I call these your Suitcase Contents.

+ Craft a 5-year Plan: Create some long-term goals that are driven by your mission statement.

+ Do Not Change Course: Well, try to avoid huge changes, or scratching your plan without giving it a decent chance. Challenge yourself to make micro-adjustments (small changes) or to refine your plan and the steps towards your goals.

+ Get An Accountability Partner: This person should be familiar with your Mission Statement and your Mega Plan. Their job is to help you get as objective as possible, and help you ask The Big Questions.

+ Ask The Big Questions: Your Accountability Partner can help you get honest: Is this idea moving you down the path of your Mega Plan or distracting you? If it's not moving you forward, do you have enough energy to give to it AND your Mega Plan? Or, if not, is it going to eventually give you something that will help further you towards your goals? Does it make you insanely happy, give you a lot of money, or teach you a skill directly applicable to your plan? These things are worth considering.

+ Set An Indecision Limit: I have lost days to indecision. So have a lot of creative people I know. Give yourself a set amount of time to decide whether or not you\'re going to go through with something. Your Accountability Partner can help you with this. Now, go read Steven Pressfield's The War of Art. I'm pretty sure he'd claim that a great deal of our Idea Overload is actually resistance-- a way of self-sabotaging and preventing ourselves from Doing The Work. Our ideas can make things complicated; keep it simple. Keep moving!

I Like You | 2

November 12, 2015

I've read (and listened to) a lot of gritty, beautiful, inspiring, smart things lately

+ Let's make our work, even when it isn't convenient. Let's talk about it mid-process, even when the process gets messy- it's How the Sausage Gets Made.

+ Jess Lively interviews Elizabeth Gilbert, and Gilbert makes some interesting points about making money from our art & being tortured by our creative process. Thoughts?

+ This Terry Gross interview (as in Terry herself being interviewed!) made me feel lots of feels. It turns out that everyone and their mother wants to be interviewed by Terry. Me, too.

+ "I love the thing that I most wish had not happened....What punishments of God are not gifts?" Oh Stephen Colbert, you are an awesome human.

+ It's gritty and inspiring in a different way: Food 52's Smokey & Spicy Paloma, my first cocktail creation in over a year!  

And a couple of personal plugs:
+ BLUEPRINT, the show I've been collaborating with the talented Candy Simmons on for the past 3 years, has 3 more performances. Tonight tickets are name-your-price! 

+ Ben and I chat with Levi Weinhagen for his podcast Pratfalls of Parenting.

+ Small Art is part of Minnesota's big day of charitable giving, raising funds for our new project You Give the Party, featuring an all-star group of collaborators. Even $5 or $10 go far, especially since our awesome fiscal sponsor, Springboard for the Arts, has offered to give us $10 for each of our first $25 donors. You can give here! (Also, a big shout out to three of my favorite arts organizations, Red Eye Theater, Open Eye Figure Theatre, and 9x22 Dance/Lab, who are oh-so-deserving of loads of support in whatever way you can give it.)

Life and Art: Bigger, Smaller, Funnier

October 13, 2015

(Image from Scott Patt's Bigger, Smaller, Funnier)
I love hearing about how artists choose projects for themselves and create parameters around those projects. Artist Scott Patt made a painting a day out of a desire to "sketch, ideate and work more consistently." The result is a huge and awesome body of work-- which you can affordably purchase!

Scott was recently interviewed by Lisa Congdon, and I was particularly taken by a couple things he said about how he chose this huge commitment of a project- a project that forced him to pay attention to "the everyday thoughts, ironies, emotions, and experiences that I often ignored because I was too busy." I love that this project forced Scott to become better acquainted with his everyday life, something that I think a lot about in my approach to making small art. A bit more from Scott on that:

"A little less than half way through the year on piece #144 I had a revelation. Because of the project’s appetite for content, I was forced to source the material closest to me; my own everyday experiences, stories and happenings. I mined years of life-changing personal adventures, photographs, collected ephemera and alliterations that have filled my head, shelves and storage containers for years. Without being conscious of it I had achieved one of the things I had set out to discover. Through the velocity and pressure of the project, my work was being directly informed in real-time by every day life. I was listening better and observing more. The little moments that make life great were the moments that were creating the art."

It's a reminder that I want the line between art-making and life to be a smudged one. It's a reminder that I want to choose projects that will feed me and push me. It's a reminder that our artistic practices (and approaches to life!) can and should evolve and help us to take new risks.

+ Elise Blaha Cripe's Make 29 project (more great parameters)
+ Miranda July and Harold Fletcher's Learning to Love You More project
+ On Decisions (thinking about how we choose projects in the first place)


September 21, 2015

what a difference 4 months makes.

I had a really good day yesterday!

The details aren't super important- or even that remarkable. I've had a string of challenging days coordinating parenthood and work (especially while Ben has been traveling for work), but yesterday a lot of things happened that felt like wins. 

This brings to mind 2 things:

#1- For the love of everything, celebrate your wins. Stop being humble about it, stop spending your energy anticipating that things are going to get worse again. CELEBRATE. Give yourself a high five and drink some wine. Do a happy dance. Tell someone about it that isn't Facebook. We actually could all use being surrounded by more people that are celebrating the good stuff. (Let's also have the common sense to know that this doesn't mean that their lives are peachy easy 100% of the time.)

#2- Change happens. Though at times it's really challenging to remember, it's literally impossible for change not to happen (sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse). If you're feeling stuck, hang tight. Also: it's not 100% on us to force a change to happen. Sometimes all we have to do is show up fully- that's our job. Sometimes the things around us change: babies get older and trade one crazy phase for another, opportunities open up, transitions get more comfortable, the universe throws us a bone. Life happens in cycles, and these are always fluctuating. We can have fresh starts and do-overs and make tweaks to the things that are driving us crazy. THANK GOODNESS. I've been realizing that it's not healthy to feel so responsible for making things work perfectly (says the person who obsessively googles advice for babies who won't nap). Let go. It will happen. There are more good days in store.

I Like You | 1

September 3, 2015

A few things I've read/listened to lately that I want to hang onto & think about & share:

+ There are just a few hours left in midwife/postpartum coach Rebecca Egbert's kickstarter for Little Mother's Helper, a deck of cards designed to help women through the postpartum months. It's really cool- exactly what I would have liked to have had available to me during this time.

+ Speaking of motherhood, I loved this article from Amanda Palmer about the mix of motherhood and art-making, and Austin Kleon's list of books on this topic

+ I have been listening to a lot of podcasts- handy when folding diapers and going on walks and when your brain is too overstimulated for television. Sometimes I like podcasts where I'm learning something, but mostly I'm into empathy and things that make me cry while cleaning. It's like free therapy!

+ Brené Brown has a new book, and it's about getting up after you fall. RESILIENCE, baby! It was my birthday gift to myself. So far, so awesome.

+ If you're a local and like supporting arty things, come to our Twin Cities Producers Circle season preview party on September 25! It's free! Wine and snacks! Art-like things made by myself and Candy Simmons and Julie Johnson. You can find out more on our Facebook page as the date approaches.

+ I really love this print, and think it belongs in my house. Support a local artist!

+ Maker/performer Emily Gastineau writes about Art in the Attention Economy for I've been thinking on many of these things for the piece I'm making for February. Emily is a super smart writer. 

+ People ask me all the time for tips on making your own website. I think these common website-making mistakes shared in this piece are really helpful.

Tell me about something hopeful and/or useful and/or inspiring you've found in the world! (I like emails, too: LMholway[at]gmail[dot]com.)


August 18, 2015

This week I got an email from a friend that started with something along the lines of "Congratulations! From what I see on social media, it appears that life with a kid is going swimmingly." It was a quick reminder to me that I want to tell an honest story when I put things out into the world- not something that is manicured and neat and happy, happy, happy. Because there are lots of different ways that I could craft the story of this time in my life. Yes, I have a kid that is making my heart burst, and there's a whole lot of intense love flying around my house right now. But equally true is the fact that I feel a bit insane from all of this change. And that's what, exactly, makes this time so tricky: all of these contradictory things living in the same room together. I feel the most vulnerable I've ever felt in my life- heart on sleeve, and that's exhausting actually. I feel the happiest and most ambitious I have in a very long time, but the highs are so high and the lows are so low. I also feel anxious and tired and my nervous system is absolutely fried. I have about 30 tasks and projects that are half-finished at any given time, and it seems like a cruel trick to be a person who thrives on getting things done but can't seem to finish any one thing. And now, at 12 weeks postpartum, I'm supposed to figure out how to fit work into the equation...I want to figure out how to fit work into the equation...and that seems particularly insane. 

So I was thinking about all of these things today, while I ate a second breakfast in my breastmilk-stained t-shirt and Fox finally napped (!!!!!). I started listening to this episode of Being Boss Podcast, which happened to be with maternal health expert Rebecca Egbert and had a good cry because it seemed like she was speaking right to me. The episode is a gold mine of smart information for women reconfiguring their lives and healing their bodies after having a baby, but the part that stuck with me the most were these words from Rebecca:

"Get out of your head and into your body, because our heads are exhausting."

Boy, are they. My lists are exhausting. Trying to figure things out is exhausting. Googling that strange thing that my baby just started doing is exhausting. Oh, and worrying... 

But bodies? I know something about those. Yeah, I have one, but I also study the body as a dance maker. It's pretty smart- way smarter than my mind. I haven't been fully in my body lately. But the body is really the key to making everything work. When I feel calm and nourished and embodied, my life makes so much more sense. But somehow taking care of my body always seems to come last.

I've written a lot about foundations. We all have two or three things that we need set in place in order for our lives to work. One thing I'm loving about this change in my life is that it absolutely requires that I make sure my foundation is in place- no excuses. I have a lot of shit I want to make happen and time is limited. I'm more efficient when I feel healthy. I'm more efficient when I feel happy. I can be a better parent when I don't feel certifiably insane. It feels counterintuitive to take care of myself before I take care of my to-do list, but I'm pretty sure that's all backwards. 

So that's the story right now: figuring out how to prioritize self-care and get rid of any guilt I have surrounding that, or any ideas I have in my head about what I should be able to accomplish at twelve weeks postpartum. Because I strongly believe that, regardless of how confusing and challenging something appears, we aren't ever stuck. Things are always changing- it's literally impossible for things to not change. It's good news!

An Experiment

August 5, 2015

"I think of artists like scientists. Just like scientists, we begin with a question, something we don’t know. We go into our studio and research that question. Like scientists, at the end of our research,
we share the results with the public and with our peers... Just as in science, a negative result is as
important as a positive result... Failure in science and art is a sign that the process is working."

I still identify as an artist, even though I sometimes go months without getting into a dance studio. Like I've written, these days I'm making small art. There is lots of talk and argument about the difference between being an artist and a hobbyist. I think Andrew Simonet sums it up quite nicely in the quote above: artists are researchers. Regardless of medium, artists research questions. 

I've been thinking about this a lot as I'm moving daily things around to make space for our new family member- and soon, work. Approaching all of this as an experiment lowers the stakes and makes it more fun. For instance, I'm still figuring out Fox's preferred schedule. He's a baby, so every day he's changing and what he needs shifts a little. Some nights we wonder: will he sleep longer if we put him to bed later? Will he sleep better swaddled or does he prefer to have his hands free? I wonder about myself: will I function better if I get some exercise in the morning or is it a better to get my most challenging work done first thing? Etc, etc, etc... 

Framing life as an experiment makes me feel less stuck if things aren't working out. I remember that I can always shift them- a little here, a little there. I remember that nothing is absolute and there's a certain freedom in that. I remember that I can take something that feels hard and make it work from me.

3 Things

July 30, 2015

I read 3 things in the past week that I particularly loved:

For starters, this interview with my former boss lady Sarah Schultz conducted by writer Lightsey Darst for Lightsey- one of my favorite arts critics- is, per usual, amazing at asking great questions and offering insightful observations. Sarah's responses are smart and funny and thoughtful- because she is. Her thoughts on work particularly resonate with me: "I'm feeling a pull to figure out what my 'work' should look like-- you work at a job but you also work in the garden. You work at problems. You work in a studio. You 'work-it-out'."

I love this onbeing blog post called Where the Earth is Most Torn: On Staying with Discomfort. This year I've been thinking a lot about how to get comfortable with discomfort, because, let's face it, we probably all spend a lot of time in this state. Transitions are uncomfortable, growth is often uncomfortable, the best things in life are uncomfortable. I particularly like this quote: "I give myself this advice as a resource: become intimate with discomfort. Pull it closer. Mend nothing first. Don’t say, 'I will allow discomfort to teach me when I have finally done XYZ.' Take to discomfort now and feel the sensations in the body that correspond and feel how alive you are." I'm going to practice.

And finally, an email newsletter from Sarah J. Bray, one of my favorite people from the internet. I spend a lot of time deleting mass mailing from my inbox, but Sarah's is delightful. Last week she discussed reading Cheryl Strayed's Tiny Beautiful Things for the first time- one of my favorite books, of course. Here's part of what Sarah wrote: 

"I was struck by how Strayed can take any horrendous, gut-wrenching human problem and apply empathy and wisdom to make you feel like even this is something you can deal with, and even use to make you a better person. 

I thought, how amazing. And then, I want someone to do that for me. And then, maybe I can be Dear Sugar to myself. 

So I did. I wrote a long letter to Dear Sugar about all the things that are bothering me, and then I wrote Dear Sugar's response back to me. 

It was amazing. Exactly what I needed to hear. Because you know what? Everything we need, we've already got. We just need to give ourselves the empathy and wisdom that we are so willing to give to others."

Everything we need, we've already got- I'm hanging onto that thought this week.


July 24, 2015

I've been thinking about this article, awesomely titled Everything's Awful and I'm Not OK: questions to ask before giving up. Everything in my life is certainly not awful, but I am still adjusting to some pretty significant life changes that sometimes leave me feeling confused and even panicky. I get worried that I haven't found my new normal yet. I start to think that there's something really wrong.

Then it turns out that I just need to eat something and get more sleep (and be patient). This is why these questions are so helpful. Don't give up, just drink a glass of water. You know, Maslow's hierarchy of needs: you have to make sure that you have food and shelter and sleep before worrying about the more nuanced aspects of life.

This is probably key for every life transition. Sometimes feeling more even-keeled comes down to the basics.

So, this week I went to bed a little earlier. I did a few things that reminded me I can still be productive. I bought a few shirts so that I can wear something that isn't stained with breastmilk. I ate more frequently. I took a few deep breaths.

I felt a whole lot better.

Related: Peter.

In the Body

July 22, 2015

photo by Gene Pittman for the Walker Art Center
I'm very interested in body...interested in how my body and other people's bodies are in the world, and I have been since I was a kid. There can be a purity to [dance] in that it's this tactile thing. It's just feels like in our world, where everything is fighting against the body, it's a statement. It's like being an anarchist or something. --Angharad Davies on making dances via Justin Jones' podcast TALK DANCE

Lately I've been convinced that most of the smarts we need for pretty much every challenge in our life reside in our bodies. I don't mean brains (yeah, those are important too). I mean body wisdom: the memories and intuition that live in our bodies, that can't be accessed unless we slow down and breathe and listen. I've realized that I can go days without any real awareness of my body, other than knowing that I'm hungry or tired. I can go days without fully feeling or paying attention. 

I listened to this podcast interview with badass local choreographer Angharad Davies, and have to agree with her sentiment: there's something rebellious about focusing on the body. There's something necessary about it, too, which is why I continue to be curious about making and watching dance. Making dance forces me to tune into my body and its needs and emotional intelligence in a way that little else does. 

Days and Weeks

July 14, 2015

Fox is 7 weeks, and we are in the trenches of newborn: a sweet and disorienting place. People ask me what I'm up to these days- besides baby things. The truth is, learning how to make life work with a new baby is an all-encompassing process that consumes my days. Figuring out breastfeeding and sleep and baby gas and then adding in a layer of adult things- eating, going places and seeing people, paying bills, maybe cleaning a house or showering, and eventually working- takes time. These things don't make for exciting adult conversation (even for me). And yet, there's a lot happening beneath the surface of banal daily occurrences like figuring out how to combat excessive boob leakage, deciphering baby cries, and working against the urge to destroy my partner with sarcasm after one too many nights of not sleeping. Maybe this all sounds horrible, but there's actually been a beauty in such a simple, utilitarian time. These days contain metaphors and life lessons applicable to all of us- not just parents. I am, however, usually too sleepy to properly absorb and apply them.

One thing that seems particularly notable right now is the strange, contradictory way that time works: the days are simultaneously long and short; a million things have happened, but I'm not sure what. Sometimes it feels like nothing is happening, and I will always be in a sleepy haze and whatever challenge I'm facing will never change. This isn't the first time I've encountered this feeling. It's happened when I'm undergoing any kind of big transition- a move or job change or big project. Anything where getting perspective is difficult because I'm so in it. 

I've been trying to reserve a few minutes of each day for perspective. I don't have the energy (or desire) for diary entries or that kind of thing, but I do have a notebook that I scrawl a couple of bullet points in. An incomplete sentence about one or more of the following: something that was good; something that was hard; something I'm totally excited about and hope to someday follow through on; something I want to remember. There's a lot I want to fully relish in these strange, slow days, but I still need reminders that they won't last forever- that things are changing and shifting and finding motion. I'm reminded that 'motion' was my word of the year, knowing that this year motion would look differently than it has in the past. I like to go, go, go, and right now the challenge is getting comfortable with slow motion and endless transition. 


June 23, 2015

Our baby, Fox Carroll McGinley, was born on May 23 accompanied by a great big howl of a voice and two eyes that refused to open for a long time. When they finally did, it was just one eye squinting suspiciously at me for at least 20 minutes, and I finally wondered if there actually was a second eye. Guess what? Two eyes!

He is beautiful: 10 fingers and toes and an amazing smirk that he utilizes regularly to make me laugh even in the middle of the night. 

I have to admit that I'd had a really hard time wrapping my head around the fact that I was carrying an actual human- not a reptile or alien. The various lumps and bumps were hard to identify and match with real human parts. The midwives kept saying that his feet were the bulge on the side of my abdomen, but part of me kept wondering if it was actually a second head. The last couple months of pregnancy were filled with unexpected worry and extra medical appointments and testing, and finally an order to induce labor 3 weeks early. So imagine my surprise over two things:

#1-- a rather undramatic and even joyful (though fast and furious) labor where all of the things that I'd been told could Potentially Go Very Wrong went right, and where I felt insanely loved and supported
#2-- giving birth to a perfect little human that I fell fast in love with

My brain had been so absorbed with pregnancy and anxiety that I hadn't spent much time thinking about all of the awesome things that would happen afterwards-- that there would be a real baby. I want to remember sitting there in the hospital room marveling over Fox's sweetness, and the strange and wonderful mix of my features and Ben's on his face. Ben's first known blood relative! I want to remember Ben saying over and over to me: he's cute, Laura! look at how cute he is! with the biggest grin I've ever seen on his face. I want to remember the whirlwind of bringing him home, and how I felt insanely confused and sore and overwhelmed but so happy it truly didn't matter. How Ben and I kept saying to one another this is the biggest win! How we couldn't even believe what had just happened to us or how much our hearts hurt from loving so much and feeling so fragile and vulnerable: our hearts now outside our chests! How we truly cried with joy- often. Because joy really can be the scariest emotion.

Ben and I spent a lot of those first two weeks just staring at Fox while he slept and then looking over photos we'd taken of him earlier in the day. We talked about his spontaneous smiles, the wrinkling of his brow, and how he puts his arms under his face, senior picture- style. He looks pleased with himself, and I hope he is. We talk about the day he will actually do things! He will swim in pools and play in the sand and eat delicious food and see beautiful places. It's all far away. For now he grunts in his sleep, and continually shifts positions. We talk about being proud of him- of his sleeping patterns and bravery when his heel is stuck by yet another doctor. We congratulate him on overcoming jaundice and on kicking his feet. His greatest challenges are moving from sleeping to waking and surviving a diaper change. We applaud each victory with seriousness. He is so small. He shrinks down almost a pound in that first week and he's practically miniature-- still with a formidable nose, just like me.

I want to remember all the friends who stopped by with food and celebrated Fox from afar and send encouraging emails and sweet gifts. I hope we were all loved and celebrated like this the moment we were born!

Did I mention the crying? Our crying, not his. The combination of the hormones and the lack of sleep and the vulnerability of loving a tiny human so much that you regularly wake to check on his breathing makes for tears of fragility. We talk about the people we know who have lost children and loved ones. We talk about the people we know who are trying to have children. We talk about all the people we love. This openhearted state is amazing and exhausting. I want to remember it-- feeling that open. 

I was thinking about this fortune I received with my Chinese food a couple of years ago: yesterday was a dare to struggle. Today is a dare to win. This first month of parenthood has felt like the biggest win. We have felt like the absolute luckiest, and every hurdle has felt worth it. I want to remember this victorious feeling. I think about the shitty times and the emotional gunk and Ben's transition towards sobriety and my miscarriage, and they all feel small in comparison to this feeling.

I'm a big fan of talking & writing about the hard stuff. But I was reminded this month that it's equally important to mention the life wins- to avoid being humble about them, to accept them without surprise or question and even bask in them a little...these reminders that the universe is conspiring in our favor. I want to bask in this, the biggest win. I want to talk about this little person with the double chin and how light his presence has made me feel- how calm; how certain.

News & Notes

May 13, 2015

I've been moving my schedule around to account for the news that our child's ETA has been moved up three weeks by my midwives. Let it be one of the first lessons of parenthood for us: let go of your perfectly made plans. Ben says he learned this when he was sure we were having a girl, and could pretty much only imagine himself with a daughter.'s a BOY!

All to say, I'm wrapping up work and other plans until the beginning of August. If you're interested in a business coaching session in August, email me at LMholway[at]gmail[dot]com and I'll contact you as we get further into summer. 

A couple other bits of shameless self-promotion:
+ Ben and I (and Small Art) are a part of a collective of artists (including actor/theatre maker Candy Simmons and flutist Julie Johnson) that are part of the Twin Cities Producers Circle season. The collective aims to connect local arts enthusiasts with independent performing artists. You can check it out over here

+ I'm super proud of Ben and his 4-episode-long podcast, Thirty Minutes in Front of a Vending Machine. You can check it out here, or on i-tunes.  Caution: there's adult content! (A lot.) Mom, this one is probably not for you.

Unrelated to shameless self-promotion....
It's basically my Christmas--- it's the Red Eye's New Works: 4 Weeks Festival! It starts May 29. I'm hoping I will be able to magically show up with a baby at watch post modern performance. We shall see. If you're in the Twin Cities, the lineup of artists is spectacular.

Meanwhile, I'm alternating my time between walking (with the intention of baby eviction), finishing up a long list of odds and ends and enjoying as many adult meals eaten out as possible. I will report when the small human arrives (...eventually).

The Final Frontier!

May 2, 2015

I'm just 5 weeks from my due date! Though there's plenty of unknown around birth and parenting and future life, I'm feeling pretty ready to be done with this pregnancy gig. I write that with total reverence for the fact that many of my friends would bend over backwards to be pregnant, and with an awareness that it is a gift and a privilege in many ways. AND with gratitude that my body has supported and grown this baby like a pro-- holy crap, that's amazing. 

It's also been incredibly anxiety-inducing. I was feeling really confident about the work I'd done to minimize my anxiety: therapy, exercise, mantras! I've especially seen the results when it comes to art-making and work projects. I've been less filled with unhealthy amounts of responsibility; the stakes have felt less daunting; I've learned to give myself space to mess up (so liberating). But pregnancy has caused me to revert to many of those old fearful feelings and controlling impulses. I've felt so responsible; I've lost hours and days to an ever-evolving list of fears that would make you laugh (but which feel so real to me); I've then felt gobs of guilt for having the negative thoughts & fears in the first place (your unborn child, I've been told, senses everything). 

My first impulse was to try and figure out why I've been stuck in this anxiety spiral and to fix it - I love fixing! It turns out, though, that fixing and analysis is not what I've needed. It isn't about finding a magic vitamin and exercise routine. It's about what those meditator types call "noticing without judging." (Just seeing those words makes me a little bit confused-- noticing WITHOUT judging?) It's about being with the feeling, and not trying to change it, but being open to learning from it. It's about taking this as an opportunity to learn how to ask for lots of emotional support, and to remember that my body is a smarty pants-- it's not looking for an opportunity to betray me. Maybe this is the final frontier of my anxiety! Maybe this is all an opportunity to learn to find comfort in discomfort, which I'm sure I'll need to lean into as a parent. 

Final frontier/growth opportunities aside, this time has been really damn hard. What's been awesome, though, is that it's forced me to reach out to friends, ask for help, and open up about these challenges. This has never come easily to me. Even when I've experienced the really hard stuff-- Ben's addiction recovery, a miscarriage last year-- I mostly avoided talking to others about it. I realize now that this was actually a huge disservice to myself. If no one knows that you're suffering, how can they help? Yes, it's vulnerable. Yes, you  risk having people say incredibly awkward/inappropriate/unnecessary things. But usually? Usually you get empathy and support, and those magical words: me, too. Those words are priceless. Whatever it is that you're going through, rest assured that you're not the only one. Find the people that make you feel safe and keep them close. It makes a world of difference.

More Small Art: April 23 & 24

April 17, 2015

Ira Brooker gets why I love Small Art, and puts it so well here:

When everything goes like clockwork and you're sitting fifty feet from the stage, a play can start feeling a bit like a movie. But when you're right on top of the performers, squeezed in with a tribe of like-minded imbibers, there's no denying that this is unfolding in the moment, a singular occurrence that no one not currently in the room will ever have the privilege of seeing or understanding. That spirit permeated and elevated every moment of Small Art.

It's been over a year since Ben and I last hosted a living room performance. I'm so excited to get to do this again next week! Small Art is taking place next Thursday and Friday in our South Minneapolis home at 8pm. You can buy tickets here and find out more on our new website (we are getting to be weebly pros over here).

I'm particularly excited about the 3 groups of artists presenting work, because I predict that they'll play off of one another in odd and wonderful ways. First of all: Taylor Baldry is bringing an event he shared at Open Field in 2012, the Conversationalist's Cafe. It's a social experiment that serves face-to-face conversation in a faux-cafe setting. 

Taylor is "an artist, community organizer, and large-nosed person. He is also the co-founder of Grown-up Club, which empowers a community of wayward adults by hosting monthly themed events that are accessible, entertaining, participatory, and promote interaction and community involvement." Find out more at

Brian Beatty and Craig VanDerSchaegen are bringing a brand new collaboration to Small Art. Brian Beatty is a "writer, comedian and bearded genius," and Craig (who you might remember from here) is "a photographer, web developer & maker of beats, obsessed with Belgium." Craig is creating music inspired by and created from a series of photos of streaking lights. Brian will be reading new poetry with his composition. | 

Actors Shanan Custer and Carolyn Pool bring a totally different kind of collaboration- excerpts from their play 2 Sugars, Room for Cream, which won them an Ivey Award in 2013. The duo first created 2 Sugars for the 2008 Minnesota Fringe, and have since expanded it into an evening length piece that has been performed at the Illusion Theater, the New Century Theatre and most recently on the Boss Stage at Park Square Theatre.  

Bios and accolades aside, I'm looking forward to next week because this group of artists makes really interesting, fun work, and they're also super great people- a good combo, I think. I don't know that you'll ever experience what they make in a setting quite like this- over wine, on a couch, enjoying the company of a stranger. I think you'll like it. A lot!

You can purchase Small Art tickets here

5 With: Kate O'Reilly

April 15, 2015

I'm a huge fan of Kate O'Reilly, aka Clever Kate. I admire her for her vulnerability, her smarts, her ability to make things happen, and her unwillingness to put up with bullshit. Aren't those great traits? I think so. She's also my Twitter role model. You know, she models ways of being helpful and unobnoxious on social media. Very important! I'm so grateful to get to share Kate's cleverness below. I especially love reading about how she found her work, and how she makes things happen by sticking to her values and priorities. So smart. One last Kate-related plug before you read: last week's episode of Kate's podcast (with Jenn Schaal), XOXOJK, discusses worthiness and feeling stuck- two topics particularly dear to my heart. It's so good! Check it out. Now, read!

What do you make or do? How did you come to do this kind of work?
For my work, I write, speak, and help people and small businesses make transitions of all kinds. In my free time, I make a weekly podcast with comedian Jenn Schaal and sing with Prairie Fire Lady Choir. I am also in the midst of starting a cooking show. I love to make things and push them out into the world.

I am also working on a couple of human boys, through parenting them. It’s a constant state of checking in, adding tools to my parenting toolbox, many moments of humility, being armed with snacks, with heaping scoops of dirt and an abundance of fresh air. I still get them on and off the bus every day. Pure joy.

I came into my paid work by patchworking things I knew I was good at with things I liked to do together and then calling it a thing. It was not even close to an exact science. I love that we live in a world where a large majority of people are hyphenates.

How do you make it all happen? 
I get enough sleep. I have a recurring reminder on my phone that goes off every night at nine that reminds me to start transitioning to sleep time. I’m the type that will justify staying up if I don’t. And in my years, I have learned that the Kate that gets enough sleep is the Kate that makes good choices and the Kate that doesn’t, well, doesn’t. I love my sheets and pillows. Loving your bed has a lot to do with wanting to be in it more. But: Sleeping too much isn’t good for depression, which I have suffered from in the past, so I keep it to around 8 hours a night. (Plus, my famous 20-minute naps.)

I also know that am the type of person that values downtime. Even if it means I end up on a bike ride to meet friends for a beer, I want to know I have the option of staying on my couch reading magazines and eating Dip for Dinner™. So, in addition to scheduling travel, meetings, work, exercise and appointments, I make sure to schedule downtime. Seems backwards, but it works!

Two things that I find help with balance are simplicity and organization, and one sort of feeds into the other. Fewer things means they’re easier to organize.

I learned to simplify my clothing and other items when I was traveling a lot for ARTCRANK. I would get home from an intense trip, unpack, and wonder why I had all the rest of the stuff in my closet. When traveling, I pack what fits well and makes me feel good. Why the hell would I ever wear or need the rest of these shoes, clothes, this makeup, jewelry? So I donated it all. I have never missed one thing. Over the last few years, I also culled the rest of my possessions. I have only the books I love and items that are either useful or beautiful. It’s pretty spectacular and definitely one of the reasons I have time and space to create. 

What are your biggest challenges?
I was addicted to food for many years, in helped me cope with some trauma that occurred earlier in my life. Now that I’m healed, all that’s left is the habit. It’s excruciatingly hard to break. I’ve come a long way, and have to work at it every day. 

Give some advice: what's been helpful to you? 
Studying Buddhism. Seeking out laughter. Hanging out (exclusively) with people who make me feel good. Listening closely to people who are struggling with things like gender identity and race, and fighting for and standing with them. Looking forward to the future.

What's exciting you right now?
Not wearing socks. Everything softens in the spring here in the North, and we all need a little bit more of that.

Find more of Kate on her website, her podcast and Twitter. Find more 5 With interviews here

So Granola

March 30, 2015

My upbringing was very "granola." You know, soy milk and birkenstocks and aroma therapy- that kind of granola. Perhaps appropriately, I consumed a lot of granola. My Mom make it from scratch and the recipe evolved over time. I think it probably always hugged the crunchy side of the granola spectrum (which I still prefer), and usually included cinnamon, almonds, vanilla extract, sunflower seeds, oats and either honey or maple syrup. I probably ate it with soy or rice milk. Don't worry: I never got into hemp milk. I have standards!

Since we moved in together (going on 6 years ago?) Ben has been our household granola chef, usually improvising but more recently adapting Molly Wizenberg's Granola No. Five recipe. It's pretty much perfect, thanks to the use of olive oil (I know- you wouldn't expect that to work, but it does) and a good amount of salt. It's well in line with what I like best in a granola recipe:

#1- Crunch (and ideally, clumps)
#2- Heavy on the nuts
#3- Moderate sweetness

For the past few months Ben has been on a sugar-free/fruit-free/grain-free/fun-free diet, not due to his own choosing (who would choose that?), and has given up the temptation of granola baking. In a move which I admit is less than totally supportive of these dietary restrictions, I have made giant batches of Granola No. Five twice. The most recent version was particularly good and worth raving about (and writing down to remember). I added cinnamon and nutmeg, which I think Molly would totally disapprove of. It was really good. I also cut down the sweetness a bit, and used more nuts and fewer oats. Here's the final version. I eat it with full fat plain yogurt and occasionally, milk. Milk from a cow! How my life has changed.

I'm Still So Granola (adapted from Molly Wizenberg's Granola No. 5)
4 cups oats
2-3 cups unsweetened coconut flakes
5-6 cups nuts (I combined cashews, walnuts & almonds- a great combo!)
2 teaspoons kosher salt (don't reduce this- it's what makes the recipe so delicious!)
3/4 cup maple syrup
2/3 cup olive oil
vanilla extract (2 teaspoons?)
cinnamon (to taste)
nutmeg (to taste)

(note: I also added sesame seeds to this batch, as seen in the photo, but I regret that addition.)

Mix the dry ingredients together. In a separate bowl, combine the maple and olive oil and stir. Combine everything and mix well. Divide the ingredients between two cookie sheets. Bake at 300 for around 40 minutes, checking/rotating the cookie sheets every 15-20 minutes. It's done when the coconut flakes are looking nice and brown. 

5 With: Amanda Lovelee

March 26, 2015

I'm really excited about the art made by Amanda Lovelee! She works conceptually in a variety of mediums, creating events, spaces and physical structures. You might know her name from her piece, Balancing Ground, which won the Creative City Challenge last summer. I've been particularly excited by her participatory event-based pieces. For instance, It's Always Someones Birthday, which brought people together to enjoy cake and write birthday cards for a local nursing home, and Call and Answer Project, which used square dancing to encourage hand holding and physical connection. Here she discusses how parenthood has changed her practice, her path towards the work she makes now, and the challenges of having an art-related job. Thanks, Amanda! 

Describe your current creative work and how you came to make it:
My current work focuses on creating spaces and tools for gathering. I am interested in reimagining how we use public space. The mediums that I use shift depending on the project: some pieces are event based, and others physical structures. I am constantly asking questions, researching the world around me, and testing my hypothesis in the form of projects. I really hope that over time my work creates genuine connections between people.  

I started my artistic career as a photographer and spent my time in graduate school focusing on media installations. I have always been interested in people's relationship to each other, the environment, and play. I know these things sound disjointed (and at times my work can look that way), but conceptually I just want to weave connections between people, build a utopic society, help the environment, and tackle these large ideas in playful and engaging ways. 

I have gotten to this point in my career through building relationships, moving slow while making a lot, dreaming large while embracing the possibility of failure, and with the help of many amazing people. I sometimes wish there was a more direct route to being an artist, but I'm also so grateful for all the steps that have grown the work I now make. Most importantly, I do not give up easily and work really hard and maybe too much. 

What are your biggest creative challenges?
Time. I feel like I am constantly thinking up ideas but there is not enough time where I can focus on developing them. I try to sort out a few and then start applying for grants. Whatever gets funded gets built. That process is slow and shoved between working and raising my son. I dream of a month away from packing lunches, washing clothing, writing emails, and applying to things-- which makes me think I need to make time to apply to a residency. I have also been amazed at how my son has slowed down my practice, while making it tighter in a good way. I am bolder, more vulnerable, and have no time to waste. I think I just really miss the time to daydream-- not planning, solving or writing, but just being. In the whole tide of life I do try to keep in mind that this is just now. Maybe I will have more time again?

How do you balance work that pays the bills with work that's creatively exciting to you?
I try to weave them together, because it was too much mental work for me to silo my life. Now I have a job where I work as an artist. Much of my work is thinking about gathering, public space and play.  I find myself at public playgrounds every day with my son playing. I know I am lucky to have a job that pays my bills and where I get to make my work. Working as a City Artist in Residence is a constant research position as well. 

Before this job, I worked multiple jobs at the same time-- adjunct teaching, babysitting, and assisting other artist. There are advantages to both situations. When I make art as my job, it makes it hard to come home and still want to make work and generate ideas. A great friend once told me you just have to pick what you are going to be good at that day-- you can’t be great at everything every day. 

I left a full time job with benefits in 2008 to get my MFA. It took until this year to have paid sick days, health insurance and a salary close to what I made them. I also now have a large bill from my MFA...

Give some advice: what resources that have been most helpful to you?
+ Travel: Get out and see the world; live in other countries. You will see new things, but you will also see where you come from and yourself in new ways. Make sacrifices and work hard to get the chances to see new places and things!

+ Go see art: I love books, but I have been a museum geek since a young age. I love science museums, history museums, natural history museums and art museums.  

Favorite Museums that shaped me at different points in my life:

What other artists have been inspiring you lately?
+ I have always been in love with Ann Hamilton. Her large, site-specific installation gives voice to a space's history. I really enjoyed hearing here speak at the MIA last year-- her words are just as poetic as her spaces.  

+ The work of Future Farmers is something I have been watching for last few years. I love how each of their projects has so many layers and engages with the community. I am amazed by their project Soil Kitchen!  

+ Other things that I have been reading, looking at and considering are some of the interesting work of landscape architects, architects, urban planners, and environmental scientists. It is exciting to see how different fields think about the building of cities. I have been researching Copenhagen recently and how artist/designers are creating innovative projects that are both atheistically beautiful, but also working toward making the city more eco friendly. I never knew my career would veer towards and civic spin but I am really excited about where it is going!

[Find more about Amanda and her work on her website. Read more 5 With interviews here.]

a hobby, a project, a something

March 25, 2015

I'm not very good at hobbies. Even cooking, which felt like a pretty safe bet, has been relinquished to Ben (I like it, he loves it-- and now I'm used to having dinner prepared for me every night...which is really nice it turns out.) I like yoga, but is exercise really a hobby? I've also considered drumming lessons, but have yet to act on this in any serious way. Crafts take patience. My plants are all dying, so I think gardening is probably out. 

I love this excerpt from a talk that Molly Wizenberg gave, which I'm sure I've mentioned before. She talks about reasons for blogging-- how it can give space for reinvention and learning to tell our personal story in new ways; how it can force us to show up and do the work, and keep us excited about writing. I like that even though Molly's blog, Orangette, has led to book deals and a stream of restaurant patrons, she still works to keep it something that she writes for herself. I think that's probably the definition of a hobby: something you do largely for yourself

Molly's reasons are many of the reasons I've continued to write, and when I've really dug in, I like what's resulted. Blogging has helped me document projects and interests in hopes of figuring out what I like and what I'm good at, to find a way to start making dances again, and to create community around creative challenges. It's helped me discuss the hard stuff, and then discover that the hard stuff is universal-- it's just often not talked about openly. 

Somehow over time I began to feel less permission to write about what I want to: just because. The voice of self-censorship got louder. Writing felt more like something I should do to improve my business or promote my art or because it was helpful to others, and less because it was something that could help me. And hobbies? I think what makes them great is that they're a gift for ourselves-- we're not doing them for anyone else or out of obligation. 

I've discovered that it's easy to make space in my day for work (bills need to be paid) and easy to make space for things that seem "necessary." You know, I don't forget to make time to brush my teeth or go to the grocery store or even exercise. But, carving out space to do something creative just because I want to seems almost like an indulgence. Except that I know it's not-- it's vital. 

Ben's been working on his podcast. I've been inspired by watching him dive fully into the process, without too much hesitation or over-consideration. (A lot of that is the looming deadline of our spawn's arrival-- if it doesn't happen now, it might not happen for a while. Puts a little fire under the ass!) He's worked on the podcast during work trips and late at night and early in the morning; he's put personal funds into it. He's not doing it to better his business or strengthen his artistic resume or to get noticed-- he's doing it for himself. He's doing it because it's feeding him in some way. Isn't that enough?

What I like about just because endeavors is that they usually require a bit of letting go and a willingness to try something new. We usually don't expect just because ventures to be really GOOD, because that's not the point. As a result, they can lead us to really cool places that we wouldn't have arrived otherwise. 

I'm up for going to cool places and learning to let go and try something new....just because. My life feels like it's changing a lot lately, at least based on what I keep seeing in the mirror and the tiny hand-me-down small clothes that continue to arrive on our porch. I have a feeling that creative endeavors that exist solely to soothe my soul might be more important than ever before. And in that vein, I'm committing to making my next project about writing regularly for me-- not for my career or business or because something might be useful. 50 posts: a nice number. Too many to get precious with the assignment or overly consider what I'm writing; too few to get daunted. These posts can be 3 sentences or 1,000 words, but they're for me. Also: no deadline. I'm not in need of any more of those.

What's your hobby, your project, your something? 

[photo by Steven Cohen for Open Field-- Lydia Liza and I participate in Don't You Feel It Too?]

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