by Anna Yarrow
It started with a pool noodle.
Several pool noodles, actually. Summer camp. Afternoon play session. My 9-year-old daughter gathering all the water toys, then yelling at the other kids to come “steal” them from her.
They stared. Swam away. Ignored her.
I explained that maybe this didn’t sound like a fun game? How about diving for rainbow rings instead?
I flung, and she fetched.
Over and over.
I watched other girls her age—sunbathing, holding hands, giggling at the boys shooting hoops in the deep end, then getting on their bicycles and roaming around the ranch unattended.
My daughter didn’t make a single friend that week. The youth leaders didn’t have a clue how to interact with her. We were back in daily-meltdown-land, and I was scared.
What are we doing here?
Where do we belong?
How do we find our tribe?
“Look at me, Mom!” She mastered dramatic flailing and underwater somersaults at 3 ½ ft.
Suddenly, an image came to me.
A Name: Sleeping Ink.
An Idea: Launch an online class.
Purpose: Create a supportive community. Lasting friendships. Collaborative art/literary projects.
Right there by the pool, I bought the domain name and brainstormed my new website.
Sleeping Ink is an 8-week online creative workshop for writer/artist parents of children with special needs: a safe place to share our writing, photography, and other art forms: exploring the complex beauty of day-to-day life.
I created Sleeping Ink because I’m frustrated by the shallow Hi-how-are-you-fine relationships I have with local parents (who are busy and overwhelmed and don’t have time or energy to make new friends).
And I’m disturbed by online Autism groups; some populated with desperate complaining and “Please wish my child a happy birthday!”
Surely there must be something more?
I like this quote from Free Play, by Stephen Nachmanovitch:
“A momentous and mysterious factor that keeps us going through every obstacle is the love of our unfinished work. ‘The whole difference between construction and creation,’ wrote G. K. Chesterton, ‘is this: that a thing constructed can only be loved after it is constructed; but a thing created is loved before it exists.’ A thing constructed is a product of mere consciousness; we see all of it. But in creation we are pulling and being pulled in an erotic union with powerful, deeper patterns still emerging from unconsciousness. We cannot see our unborn creation, we cannot know it, but we know it is there and we love it; and that love drives us to realize it.”
Sleeping Ink is a labor of love.
Love for my daughter. Love for this wild life adventure.
I love—words and images.
I love—brave women sharing their stories and art.
What shall we birth together?
Sleeping Ink is a place to muse, dabble, experiment…
And in time, craft…
Photography & Art Exhibitions
Sitting by a pool in July, contemplating hostage foam noodles and social ostracism…
My dream took form. Hope swelled in my ribcage.
I saw Sleeping Ink. Felt it.
As Seth Godin wrote:
“Everyone is lonely. Connect.
Art is vulnerability without the prospect of shame.
Art is a commitment to a process and to a direction and to generosity, not to a result.
If your work is to do art, then doing art is what you ought to be organizing your energy and time around . . . the work (your work) that connects is all we are seeking.”
The first Sleeping Ink session began September 7th with eight participants.
I signed up for Sleeping Ink because my friend Nicole told me about Anna and her workshop, and suggested I might like it.
We are both special needs moms, both writers, both in need of connection with other parents who know what we are talking about, and what we need to hear, even in the simplest and shortest of our sentences, texts, and phone calls.
That is the kind of support and community we need, moms who make it possible to do the impossible things, like parenting an atypical child, finding community in chaos, and transforming the mess into a work of art.
I joined Sleeping Ink specifically because in all the writing I do these days, I don’t spend much time writing about my daughter or my experience as a parent. That was the draw for me. Connecting with other parents about their experiences, and reading real, honest accounts of how this all works for other families is important to me too.
Thanks for this opportunity!
If you’re reading this and thinking, “Yes! Me! I want to be a part of this…,” we’re still easing into the September-November class. New participants may join until September 21st.
Sleeping Ink will run again in January and April 2015.
For more information, or to register, see: www.sleepingink.com
About the Author
Her essays, poetry, and images have been published in the anthology Monday Coffee and Other Stories of Mothering Children with Special Needs, in the San Francisco Chronicle, the Santa Fe Reporter, and online at Hip Mama, The Equals Record, Literary Kitchen, Heart Gallery of New Mexico, and NationalGeographic.com.
When overwhelmed, you may find her consuming dark chocolate, petting the cat, staring at a blank wall, hiding under the covers, or writing very long sentences.