Steal Like a Thief: Making Time for Your Muse

Photo by Megan Oteri ~ All Rights Reserved

A good thief leaves no trace and leaves with a bounty.

I say, steal time away like a thief.

I just read a great article by my writing and personal inspiration, Anne Lamott. She wrote this article in Sunset magazine.  I was lucky enough to meet her recently.  She came to Raleigh, which is 45 minutes away.  I got the call from my writer friend, Debi Elramey (you can read her wonderful blog here, “Pure and Simple”) at 4:30 in the afternoon. She told me Anne was coming.  I asked her if she was going and she could not get away.  But she said, with her curious giggle and enchanting smile I could hear through the phone, “You should go and represent our town.”

Our tiny town in Eastern North Carolina.

I said, “I’ll represent proudly.”

Debi is a recluse and takes pride in this.  As she should.  She teaches piano during the day; she writes through the wee hours of the night.  Sometimes, there simply is no time to chatter.

Photo by Megan Oteri ~ Copyright 2011

I write this post as I look at the clock.  Aware that my son will wake soon.  Oh, that is him right now.  I ignore the sounds of morning milk wants and continue writing, thinking to myself, perhaps I could give him a gulp of breast milk and be on my way back to the keyboard, back to the muse. Back to my post, that I ride like a proud cowgirl, on top of my gallant horse.  But mom duty calls and I will honor it.  But I plan to improve my thief skills.  I will steal away more moments.  I will make a plan.  I will practice.  Because as Anne says in her article, life is too precious to multitask.  I want to wander, daydream, create, be filled with muse.  And I will have to steal away moments to do this.  Not always, as many moments are there for the taking if we are truly present.

But it helps to know how to pocket an hour in your sleeve without a soul knowing.  These early morning hours are delicious to me.  They taste like caviar.  Like picnics.

I was lucky enough to meet Anne at Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh.  It was a delightful evening.  I got the call from Debi at 4:30 PM.  By 4:45 I was off the phone and had called my husband at work and made plans for him to watch our son.  I was in the car by 5:30 and off to Raleigh singing songs of wonder and excitement.  Alone, but in company of thousands, on the highway, in the city, at the bookstore, I was present.  I was able to get the last copy of her new book, which she was promoting, Imperfect Birds.  Now, that was a sign.

I had my camera in hand.  I saw her.  There she was, greeting her fans like Jesus.  Holding hands, hugging.  The crowd was kind, and aware of something.  They had made the time to come see her.  Many stealing away from their husbands, children, jobs, energy, housework.  But they were there.  I was lucky enough to get a photo with her.

I snuck into a cove of crowded people.  I am a fire sign, so when I have my eye on something, you better watch out.  I’m an Aries to boot. And I lack a filter of sorts, thanks to my New Yorker mom and South Side of Chicago dad.  And time living in Wyoming. And the years in-between.

I inched my way closer, squeezing through  a narrow path.  You know, suck in your gut, squeeze in your buttocks, and scoot your way through a wormhole tiny.  Yep, that is what I did.

“Excuse me.”

“I’m so sorry,” dressed in a hopeful smile.  Inside thinking, “Yikes, I’m lucky someone doesn’t purposefully trip me, I am so annoying.”

The target was seen.  I was so close.  I stopped to gather more strength.  I was this close, I was going in.

Anne was greeting her fans still. Smiles were contagious.  Everyone was high off Anne. High off her energy.  High off the fact she is an icon for recovering addicts and alcoholics, one herself.

Her dreads dangled in her purply pink hair bandana, tied in a triangle around her fluffy head, soft with the brittle looking combs of dreads.  She is simply beautiful.

Her wrinkles were within eye looking distance.  I took a deep breath and spoke shortly with a pretentious looking woman.  Well, it was more of how she reacted to me that thinks that.

I forgot what I asked her.  But she responded with, “I’ve been following Anne for a long time.”  In a deep husky patronizing snobbery way. thick with black wire rim glasses and some sort of grey black yogenia outfit.  She had grey hair too.

It’s not what she said, but how she said it.  But I don’t blame her for being rude to me.  I was a bull in a China shop and she was a porcelain jar I had just tipped over.

Oops.  Sorry.

Moving on, I jimmied my way through another batch of women.  This time a circle of more stout and plump women.  I had my work cut out for me.  I was between the rotating cards on their display racks and a table of discounted books.  I picked one up to be inconspicuous.  My camera was around my neck.  A woman smiled at me from across the room.  She was me, only five steps closer, already one step away from Anne’s embrace.  I put the discounted book on travels in Ireland down.  The stout, plump women smiled at me.  They moved their dangling legs off the discount book table top to make room for my eager ram horns wiggling by the discount book table and the greeting cards.

Photo by Megan Oteri All Right Reserved

“Thank you so much.  I appreciate you letting me by, since it is pretty tight quarters?”  They laughed, poised in their make shift seats on the discount book table.

I stood about four people deep from Anne.  I said to the woman in front of me, “I’m stalking Anne,” as I clutched my copies of Bird by BirdOperating Instructions (which was a saving grace to me as a new mom) and Imperfect Birds. Anne was scribbling away her name in black thick Sharpie ink, talking and chatting as she wrote.  Her smile thick was like a blanket for many.

So, there I was.  So close.  The woman I said that to said, “We’re all stalking Anne.”  I looked around the room and sure enough, we were.

A cute little spit fire of a five foot nothing gal, looked into my eager eyes, and saw my camera dangling.  She said, do you want me to take your picture with Anne?”

“Ah, yeah.  Word.  Thank you so much. Do you have a camera?  I will take yours with her.”

“Nope, I’m all set.  But thanks.”

See, there you have it – the Anne fans.

Since a picture is worth a thousand words and it is time for this thief to make her getaway, since I have a nice size essay in my pocket.

I will leave you with this photo.

Photo by awesome Anne fan who took photo

But before we take care of that.  Do me a favor.  Read the article in Sunset that Anne wrote about making time for your muse.  Whatever it is you do, do it.  Don’t let yourself talk yourself out of it.  Steal away the time like a thief in the night.  There is no time stealing police.  Only responsibilities and multitasking that need to get the hand.  Talk to the hand.  Go ahead and put that hand up like you are some bitchy high school girl.  (hand motion – wrist circle and up it goes — “Talk to the hand.”)

Find the time.  Because what fills you up fullest is often empty from external and material view.



Mama’s Night Out

Yesterday evening I had the chance for a night out of the house on my own. Today, I’m recalling another evening a number of years ago when I really wanted a night out, but I wasn’t in the place to make it happen. Let’s compare and contrast those two evenings.

Yesterday Evening

  • My children were three-and-a-half and seven years old.
  • Both children were sleeping through the night.
  • Both children had experience being put to bed by someone other than me.
  • Their loving father felt confident taking charge for the evening.
  • I was working from home, so I had lots of time with my kids during the day.

Playing around post-Easter egg hunt
My children now

Long-Ago Evening

  • I had one child who was about eighteen months old.
  • That child still nursed to sleep every night.
  • That child also still woke up regularly after falling asleep.
  • Her father, while very loving, did not feel confident putting her to sleep without me.
  • I was working outside of the home, and wanted to minimize other separations.

Hiding in the bin
My daughter then
As I contrast the two situations, I can see clearly that I just wasn’t ready to take a night out on the town away from my daughter on that evening years ago. I didn’t go out then, and I’m glad I didn’t. Even if everything had been fine at home (and there’s a good chance it would have), I would have been worried about it, which isn’t exactly a recipe for fun. But things change, and kids get older. In my current situation, I feel no qualms about leaving my children with a trusted and loving caregiver while I head out for the evening, either by myself or with my husband.

On that long-ago evening, though, things were less clear to me. While I decided not to go out, I felt some pressure around that decision. Many of my friends and acquaintances often took nights away from their own toddlers. I was receiving some subtle messaging that my decision to spend my evenings with my daughter was harming both her and me in some way. We’re often told that it’s important for moms to get away for the evening, or maybe even overnight. When everyone else seems to be doing it, we may feel sheepish that we don’t.

It’s important for me to pause at this point and acknowledge that every situation is different. Some children are just fine being put to sleep by their father or another trusted adult from a very young age. But some children aren’t. Attachment Parenting International talks about the importance of providing consistent and loving care. That’s going to look different in different families. The important thing isn’t when the separation occurs, or how often it occurs. The important thing is that we do our best to respect everyone’s needs, and that we feel free to do what we know is right for our families.

It can feel stifling to be at home with a baby when it seems like everyone else is going out. But as I’ve learned in my years of parenting, children grow. In fact, they grow at a pace the feels alarmingly fast. If you’re not ready to take that night out on the town yet, take heart. Your day will come. Mine came yesterday evening, when I put on a fancy dress, kissed everyone good-bye, and enjoyed myself with my friends. My family was ready, I was ready, and I was able to really relax and have a good time because I had confidence in the situation. For me, that’s worth its weight in gold.

What about you – did you ever find yourself staying home with your child while everyone else went out because you weren’t yet ready for that kind of separation? And how did you know when you and your child were ready to be apart for the evening? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

You can catch up with Amber’s other adventures on her blog at

Mommy and Baby Yoga: The Screaming Practice

With my baby just 8 weeks old, I was ready to venture out for some peaceful yoga practice. I couldn’t wait to feel like a piece of “me” was back and feel a splash of calm come over my anxious mind. I wanted to stop thinking, researching and overanalyzing everything about babies. I wanted to just ENJOY my baby and JUST BE. I also wanted my baby to ENJOY the concept of “being” though so far, she was only enjoying a good cry. I’m not insinuating that babies are mature enough to understand the calm of yoga, but I did believe if I were calmer, she might follow suit and also be calmer.

I planned the class around my baby’s feeding schedule thinking this would help her enter that adorable “quietly alert” state I so loved. I wasn’t sure how baby would react to a dimly lit room with new age music lingering but was hoping for the best. She had, after all been here in the womb. We unrolled our purple mat and got comfy . Things were going great for oh say the first five minutes. Admittedly though, even those five minutes were not the best as I started to realize just how out of shape I was. Soon the instructor was moving us into some warriors in which we held baby on our hips and gazed at the ceiling. Instead of the ceiling though, I was gazing at my screaming baby. Apparently this was not pleasant for her. I never did figure out what the trigger was…after attempting comfort nursing, burping, a diaper change and a short walk around the parking lot, I sadly had to depart mommy and baby yoga.
Somehow though this experience taught me more about yoga and my parenting skills that I will carry with me as my daughter grows up. Although I felt I had wasted $12 to pace a yoga studio with a fussy baby, what I realized is that there will be many times I will introduce my daughter to things she will reject: ballet, sports, piano.

Being in a quiet yoga studio with Buddha staring me down also reiterated how important it is to remain calm during a stormy scream. And by the way, doesn’t yoga teach you to slow down and focus on your struggles, tackling them one by one with a focused demeanor? I had to stop pretending life was as easy as my pre-mommy days and accept my new world. It was after I learned to pay closer attention to my daughter’s mood that I was able to listen to the drumbeat of our lives and come back two weeks later with a successful yoga practice. Babies will cry. Yoga is not a fancy land of purple mats like some in society pretend.

Just as we learn to balance our core and inner yogi, we must balance our parenting life with our personal satisfaction. Adaptability, flexibility and strength, all good physical qualities of a yogi are also keen to parenting .You must listen and respect your body, just like you should your baby.