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. Not 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.]

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