“Waking Up with Mountains in My Eyes," an acrylic on canvas by artist Heidi Keyes, who is hosting private marijuana-friendly studio sessions called Puff, Pass & Paint. CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE (Courtesy of Heidi Keyes)

Parenting: “Me time” is revitalizing and no time for guilt

I just had one of the best nights of my life. I mean, getting married and having my son were pretty important milestones. But going to a painting class and openly toking with a room full of like-minded individuals was a chance to just focus on me for a change and was a most enlightening experience.

Mommies and Daddies need a break sometimes, from the business of raising a child and the endless responsibility that goes with it. And now there are 420-friendly ways of doing that. I decided I would treat myself — or rather, be treated for my birthday — to a Puff, Pass & Paint class. Though I might take it a step further and call it a party.

The artist running the event, Heidi Keyes, did good by sending an e-mail a few days before our class (in case you didn’t have it circled in big red Sharpie on YOUR calendar like I did), and including a tip to dress appropriately in case of paint spatters.

When I arrived at the well-appointed home (who doesn’t like exposed brick?) there were no gatekeepers, just a sign on the door that says to come on up. So up I went! I got there around 6:45 p.m. and was the second to arrive. Heidi introduced and entertained us both in the kitchen as others began to filter in.

Tonight, Heidi reminded us, there would be a UK news crew filming. They’d be doing an 8-minute segment as part of a news broadcast for ITV, a station they said was the direct competitor of the BBC. Whoa. A documentary crew was there as well. This was a full house.

Amid bottles of wine and bowls of weed being passed around Heidi casually had us all take a spot at an easel of our choosing. There were stools at most spots but there was a little standing room in the back and I preferred to be one of the people standing while everyone sits. We took a majority-rules vote on which scene we’d be painting. As a group we chose the mountain landscape over the cityscape, 5 to 1; the two of us in the back had no preference … I wonder what that says about us.

I wished my husband could be there. He loves making art, and for a while now I’ve been encouraging him to take a class or something just for him. I know part of his hesitation is just not feeling like you fit in when you go try something new. Wondering if anyone will be friendly in the class or if your eyes are too red can be unsettling.

That’s when I started realizing just how cool this was. Here there was no worry that you’d be the odd man out. We shared a commmon bond of the enjoyment of marijuana and that was making socializing natural. Even though I had just met my classmates, we are all talking and connecting as if we’d been friends for ages. There hadn’t been a silent moment yet. People were happily passing bowls, joints or wine and no one was getting out of line, too loud or aggressive.

Heidi suggested colors, but ultimately left it up to us. Participants began loading up their palettes and passing tubes of brightly colored paint here and there. This might be a little messy.

As the painting began, I felt myself letting go. I managed to relinquish the role of “Super-Mom” and the nagging voice that was saying, “You weren’t home to put your son in the bath and down for bed” (for the first time in his entire life). Maybe it was the weed, maybe it was the company, maybe it was the therapeutic nature of painting, but I was starting to feel a weight lifting off of my shoulders compared to the slightly downtrodden feeling I’ve been accustomed to.

I didn’t even really notice the filming, except when the UK news crew asked that if we wanted to smoke, could we do it now as they wanted some shots. We were all pretty much already smoking at the point anyhow, so … cheers!

Over the next two hours we painted. Heidi sweetly called out her next moves on the canvas, inviting us to join in with her. She also encouraged us to do what felt right to us. In the living room sat a former participant, who was there now to be a designated driver for her husband. She said during her class she had just painted a portrait of her cat.

Heidi also spent some time walking around in between brush strokes to check on how we were doing and admire our efforts. I don’t know if there is another human being with as much positivity in them, but Heidi is glowing from it and it rubs off on those around her.

As our paintings neared completion, the smoking had subsided and we were now all curious what the others in the class had created. And they were all completely different. Heidi instructed us to sign our work. I debated over how to do so, opting for a simple BD in the corner.

It has been a long time …

Let me try again.

I have NEVER, since becoming a mom, done something so much for myself. I love my family and I love my son, but to be the best ME that I can be I need time to recharge. Being creative was something I thrived on before I had my son. Since he has come along I tie myself so much into him that having a separate “me” becomes nearly impossible.

The evening of painting helped me discover Brittany again. After the class I felt renewed. Radiant. I’d long forgotten the sadness I felt leaving my son before bedtime that night. I’d been able to just be me, for those two hours, separate from all those other things I am.

I would highly (pun intended) recommend Puff, Pass & Paint (here on Facebook) for someone looking for a solo excursion or date night. It provides a unique outlet to express whatever it is you want to.

And in the tough world of parenting, where one must sometimes just put on a happy face for the good of others, it was a huge relief to be able to slap on a grin just for myself.