Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Mom to Mom: Nancy Bea Miller

What I love about blogging is that it leads you to the most wonderful people. Meet Nancy Bea!!!

Mom: Nancy Bea Miller
Peter, 13 1/2; Henry, 13 1/2 (they're fraternal twins, which run in my family)
Hugh, 10
Genre Cookshop

1. In what ways has becoming a mother changed you?

Too many to list. Becoming a parent has so completely changed me in every way, on every level. I barely recognize myself in old letters, photos and diaries.

2. What is one tip you would like to share about

"This too shall pass" The different stages, both good and bad, move on. At times it may feel like you are stuck in one place and all your plans and reaction are based on that, but try to keep the bigger picture in mind.

3. What is your creative outlet/medium?

I am a professional oil painter with gallery representation in New York City, NY; Philadelphia, PA:and Portland, Maine. I also love taking photos and even sometimes get paid to do so, which I guess makes me a semi-professional. Same with writing, and I have written several magazine pieces published in national magazines. But I don't pursue the photography or the writing on a career basis...opportunities just occasionally come up.My creative hobby is my photo-blog, Genre Cookshop,which combines my love for photography and writing, purely for my own pleasure.

4. How do you find time for creativity?

On a theoretical level, I feel like my creative life IS my life, and all the different parts of living flowing and out, intermingling and fertilizing each other. Therefore, its never a question of finding time to be creative, it's just all part of of the same thing. For instance when I was on bed rest expecting twins, I drew and made cartoons about being an expectant parent of twins, which were later published as a book by Laugh Lines Press ("twin Toons")and singly in The Funny Times! When it became apparent that one of my twins has autism and mental retardation I began painting pictures of the people I was meeting who had special needs, and their families, which has evolved into my Genre of Inclusion project. On a practical level, it's hard to explain how I never stopped doing my work, even when the kids were small. I certainly slowed WAAAAY down, but I never completely stopped. We don't have a nanny, or regular babysitters or even any family anywhere nearby, and I didn't put the boys in daycare or preschool except for a few mornings a week when they were older, just before kindergarten. My husband (Paul Downs) has always been 100% supportive of my work, which is key! He is a furniture designer, so completely understands how following one's creative muse is a necessity, not just a nice hobby. On weekends when the boys were tiny, he'd watch them for at least a few hours so that I could do some work. Some evenings too. And he makes my frames, which is enormously helpful! My studio is in my house, which also helps, and I've learned to become very quick, and also to be able to do something in small amounts of time. I know people who say if they don't have at least two hours they won't bother to work, whereas I'll run into the studio if I only estimate I have 20 minutes! I think part of it is simply needs must, I'm driven to do my work and that's the only way I could do it. I wasn't logging a lot of studio hours, but you'd be surprised how it adds up over time! Now the school hours are my work hours. I am constantly turning down invitations to lunch, which bisects my day uncomfortably, but I will meet friends for breakfast or after-dinner coffee. And I have resisted being drawn into the Home and School Association (PTA) activities: I bake for bake sales, go on occasional field trips, photograph school events in which one of my children is participating, and yes, I chair one easy HSA position (liaison with the local art center for the yearly district student art show) AND THAT'S IT! Working at home I can see how it could be very natural to lose focus and spend my days doing other things. But I am very driven to do my work, making it easy for me to just say No.

5. Why do you blog/journal?

Ha! My older brother decided I needed a website for my artwork, and he made me one. Then he decided I needed a blog, as a way of promoting the new website. When he told me this, I said "What's a blog?" !!! He very patiently explained and sent me a primitive digital camera so that I could blog photos of my art process. Well, one post into the process, I immediately changed the focus and just started blogging about my daily life. I thought my mom and dad (who live far away)might like to keep up with my family's doings that way, but in truth they almost never read it. But I still keep in mind that they might, or that a stranger might happen upon it. So I purposefully don't use a lot of in-jokes or reference many people or events without explaining them. Genre Cookshop has a pretty good following (which blows my mind), most of whom are complete strangers to me! I very deliberately do not enable comments, for reasons I can explain if you want. I regularly get annoyed emails from people demanding to know why, so I keep a set of pre-written responses with which to reply ( which I send depends on the level of irritability displayed by the questioner)

6. Which blogs do you frequent?

All the ones on my side bar! I'll periodically retire one, if the person has started taking too long between posts, or has begun using the blog as a venting/dishing/bragging venue. It happens! But I am also occasionally adding people I chance upon, too. Usually I'll bookmark a "likely candidate" and check in occasionally for a month or so, before adding them to my side bar. Some blogs make me think and some are there for pure entertainment value. The best do both!

7. Who are some bloggers that you would like to meet?

Great question! Almost everyone on my side bar is someone whose writing/life/interests I feel an affinity for, so if you're up there and I haven't already met you, you know I'd like to! I have actually met the wonderful Shelley, of But Wait There's More!, when she showed up at one of my Philadelphia art openings (she lives locally) and Paula of Momma Pajama and I have exchanged gifts and phone calls from other sides of the country. I email back and forth with Kerri of Kerri Posson and with Eileen of May Seek Life. Several other folks are old friends and there is even a relative or two who blogs! So it seems like a real community, even if it is only virtual!

*please share what you would like the readers to know about autism.

I guess the main thing that bothers me about the general, media-fueled, perception of autism is that autism can be "cured". First, this is not true a whopping 70% (estimates vary widely) of the time. If your child falls into that vast majority, which gets 0% of the media attention, as it is neither exciting nor happy news, you end up feeling that your child's failure to be cured is all your fault. If only you'd tried this instead of that, at this time instead of that time, given up on that sooner, started this earlier etc etc. This feeling is underscored by people who have read the screaming headlines "I Cured My Autistic Child By (fill in the blank)!" If I had a dollar for every total stranger who felt free to offer me advice about surefire special diets or therapies they'd read about I'd be in a much higher tax bracket! Second,the term "cure" itself is often seen as an offensive term by people who have higher-functioning autism. Just as many deaf people refuse to consider that they have a disability, just a natural human difference, so do many people who have autism feel proud of the unique ways they are able to function: neither better not worse than the general population, just different.

My own son is what used to be called "low-functioning"(although that is no longer pc) and is essentially non-verbal and also has mental retardation. Despite countless hours of effort, multitudes of diets, supplements and therapies he continues to be more or less the same. As he is an adorable sweetheart, this is not the big tragedy you might think! But going to college? Having an independent life? Not likely. At age 13 he still can't even say "Mommy" with any degree of reliability. However you never know what the future will hold, especially as autism research is in its infancy, so hope springs eternal! I feel very grateful for him, and for the rest of my wonderful family.


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posted by Wendy at 6:19 AM


Anonymous Anonymous said...

And I feel her gratitude too. What a nice contagion to spread. I'll make myself go there soon.

11:32 AM  
Anonymous amanda said...

Interesting interview!! The thoughts about slowing down but never completely stopping (in regards to creating) really struck a chord in me. Also, not seeing the "creative life" as something seperate from day-to-day living--that is so inspiring. All the different parts of life "intermingling and fertilizing each other"--so true. I need to remember that.

9:27 AM  
Blogger Wendy said...

indeed! nb is a very inspiring mother/artist. i'm grateful for her presence.

9:35 AM  
Anonymous vickie said...

wonderful interview and sooo inspiring, so poetic and helpful especially the part about creativity just flowing in a different way, that everything you're doing is creative and finding any time no matter how small but keeping the flame burning for your art.

Love it!

1:16 PM  

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