seeing and celebrating the sacred in daily life raises my joy.
Out of the Mouths of Babes
Out of the Mouths of Babes is an ongoing discussion of mothering and creativity. The blog series with over 50 contributors continues here on Laundry Line Divine. Our live event from the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers is featured on our home page. Start here. The Out Posts
Powder Keg Sessions
Ignite your voice in the next Powder Keg Sessions: Writing Workshops for Mothers and Others. I lead two different Sessions in the Berkshires. Ongoing at the Ramsdell Library in Housatonic, MA most Wednesdays at 6:30 pm. And a monthly 3 hour Session, next meeting on Sunday, April 27 at 1pm. Warm up your creative voice with a group of like-minded women. Follow the fuse
Be the change you want to see in the world. Share your work online in an appropriate way that supports your vision and expresses your care for the world. I lead Rampant Sisterhood workshops and keep a roster of resources here. Would you like to host a workshop in your area? Sisters?
Anthology of Babes is here.
Do feel alone in your mothering, that the last vestiges of your own voice chased out the door with the most recent crowd of small people who slammed out of here? An Anthology of Babes is the voice in the room who urges you to come play, pick up your knitting needles, a pen, a paintbrush, to answer your creative yearnings. Find the book on Amazon or in indie bookstores in the Berkshires. Read all about it.
In the Out of the Mouths of Babes blog series, Debbie Baron, sister to Stella Elliston, offers us a new post on Motherhood and Creativity.
If I was to sum up the soul of this blog series, it would be in this sentence of Debbie’s:
Under the guise of motherhood lies our original creative self.
Debbie speaks to something that has been bugging me about myself for a long time.
I have for a long while been trying to figure out how to navigate my voice here on Laundry Line Divine.
I am a woman who is an artist and a writer and a mother.
I am a whole passel of other things, like wife, sister, daughter, gardener, friend, Yooper…but when you show up here on this site, you expect to find me operating as myself.
My whole self.
I have been guilty of undervaluing my mothering because I fear those of you readers who don’t have children, for all the many different reasons that is, would be offended or turned off by my work.
Then, last night, I read in Brene` Brown’s Daring Greatly this:
Be grateful for what you have. When I asked people who had survived tragedy how we can cultivate and show more compassion for people who are suffering, the answer was always the same: Don’t shrink away from the joy of your child because I have lost mine. Don’t take what you have for granted-celebrate it. Don’t apologize for what you have. Be grateful for it and share your gratitude with others. Are your parents healthy? Be thrilled. Let them know how much they mean to you. When you honor what you have, you’re honoring what I’ve lost.
The decision to have or not have children is yours alone. It may have caused you suffering or it may have been just what is right for you in your life.
But me tip toeing around my motherhood because I fear I will upset those of you who don’t have kids, who are here at the Laundry Line to read about creativity and seeing and celebrating the sacred in daily life, about poetry, art and collaborations, or about the Berkshires or the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, or pleasure or all the other stuff I write about- the effort of this is giving me aches in my legs. I cannot keep this up.
After one of WAM Theatre’s Motherhood Out Loud performances, a good friend of mine leaned in to me and said, “I am surprised that I liked this show so much because I hate the topic. Motherhood is about my least favorite subject.”
I could only look at her and sense that anything I had to say, whether about motherhood or creativity or quinces, would just not be appealing to her. That is okay with me. Not everyone on this spinning planet will love Laundry Line Divine, which is about raising myself as I raise my kids. I am done apologizing for my life.
Reading those words, on page 125 in Daring Greatly, I knew it is time to own my motherhood again.
It is truly only part of who I am. It is at the center of who I am.
Whether you have felt this conflict in me at all doesn’t even really matter.
I have felt it.
And I am in the business of becoming more clear, so I can do what I do with greater agility and excellence.
Two of my Core Desired Feelings are Traction and Exquisite Excellence.
I am feeling them right now.
If you notice I have changed the tagline to this website, it is with great pondering that I do so.
I still see and celebrate the sacred in daily life, but at the heart of that is how I raise myself as I raise these kids. (even the ones that I didn’t birth)
It is scary somehow, saying this to you, but I need to lift off a filter I have laid over my work on this website. This work is one with everything else I do- with my book Laundry Line Divine: A Wild Soul Book for Mothers or with Rampant Sisterhood: Engaging Your Authentic Voice Online.
Guess I am waking up a little bit more today.
Thank you again for all your support and comments and participation in all the stuff I have going on here.
Thanks to Debbie too, for offering your wonderful blog post, illuminating Sisterhood in a new way.
I hope this Spring day finds you full of anticipation for all you have ahead of you.
It is a cool spring morning here. I sit in my bed, back to an open window through which bird song is carried on a cool breeze, truck sounds come up the valley from Route 7, and crows talk in the tall pines. My girl and boy, my husband and our German son headed off early to hike Monument Mountain before she had to be at school. The boys and I will drive off to the train at nine. There is no way I will get this writing completed by then, but this is my start.
My Writing Process begins early in the day. I wake, pee, light a beeswax candle on my dresser, meditate and pray, read a few poems- like this one of Jan Hutchinson in Raggedy Prayers and Crooked Ladders:
Untangle your heart.
the newly freed line
out across the chasm.
Step off onto your line.
Trust yourself and the wire
you have drawn on air.
It is this simple to become
an aerial artist,
a wire walker,
imagination alone. It is like this for me almost every morning. I read my Daily Rumi. I read a bit of John O’Donohue, I read a quote or two off my email and then I dive in to a blank page.
This post is about Showing My Work…so am I giving you the details. (For a sharp, concise post about writing process, go see Jaclyn’s post . For a messy, still-in-my jammies-at-noon-post, read on.)
My notes look like this.
• You have to be a connector
• Write about Julie BG and Tania and SheWrites and IWWG and making happen what happens
• How mothers just step out of the way and do what needs to be done
• “Makes shy persons get up and do what needs to be done” The Rhubarb Eaters of Prairie Home Companion (Use photo of nubs)
• Listening to the morning and deciding- if I want this to happen I need to make it happen for myself
• “All at once I felt like an honored guest in my own life.” Julie BG
• “Give credit and get out of the way.” Austin Kleon
• “If you want to be accepted by a community, you have to first be a good citizen of that community.” Austin Kleon
• “No matter how famous they get, the forward-thinking artists of today aren’t just looking for fans or passive consumers of their work, they’re looking for potential collaborators, or so-conspirators.” Austin Kleon
• “News from the deeply distracted” my writing about the work by mothers
This is the place that I start. I read. I take notes. I often outline but I don’t always. I start. Because I am totally in love with the blank page and the white expanse or the spaces in a collaged page that take ink and can carry a tune. This collaboration with the nib of my pen or this typing of words and this bare space, unsullied, ready to receive the nub of my being, however messy or garbled, I know that if I keep at it, things will begin to fall in to order.
But this morning, I saying goodbye to part of my family so I must get off this place and go….eat and run. At least I started. This is part of my writing process. Starting.
Now it is Tuesday.
I will answer the Blog Tour Questions posed to me by the illustrious Julie Bond Genovese. Her book Nothing Short of Joy is a beautiful story of one woman’s becoming her own full self. I will write more about that another day. But, in the community of women I have found who write from inside motherhood, Julie is a beam of pure love and hilarity. I dare you to read her post and not find yourself grinning.
What am I working on?
I am working on this blog post, on a description of my Mothers Writing workshop for the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers in early June, on my Rampant Sisterhood workshop on social media for authors and artists workshop for Women’s Voices, Women’s Vision in later June and on developing my book tour for late August. If you want to host a reading of the Anthology somewhere between the Upper Peninsula and Milwaukee, please let me know. Right now, Marquette is on the list. I am hopeful to have a reading event in Escanaba, Michigan and in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Ultimately, I write about how I raise myself as I raise my kids. I write about seeing and celebrating the sacred in daily life. I am writing my second book, Laundry Line Divine: A Wild Soul Book for Mothers.
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
Now you have me sweaty palmed. My writing is non-fiction, it is personal essay…really long essays, not classically formed essays. It is memoir. I am working on this question of where to place myself in a genre. It ain’t fiction. It is sometimes a mystery. It is sometimes poem. But it is always mine. Differing from the work of others, my writing is my voice. My voice is at times rough and tired, my writing is news from the deeply distracted- what I saw on the way to the lacrosse game and what it made me think about. It is that. Seeing from inside mothering. Others do it. Not quite like me, but they do it and I love that. We are all giving the territory of motherhood a voice.
Why do I write what I do?
Mark Twain said, “Write what you know” and when I first started out, that is what I did. But what has come is that I write what I want to know, how to navigate this time with grace and insight and humor. I write what I wished I’d had to read earlier in this lifetime employment gig we call motherhood. I write about what I love because I love it and I want to capture this world. I write to know myself better. I write to reveal myself to myself and to shed light on you knowing yourself more.
How does my writing process work?
I think I need a professional organizer to come in and help me because if you cast your eyes upon the list I have above, all those ideas, which I really love, especially about the rhubarb nubs emerging from the soil, pink tinged and vulnerable- just like a baby crowning- so fierce and so fragile- those ideas are not making their way in to this post so far. I have a ton of ideas. My writing process is usually writing from what calls the loudest to me, weaving in the inspirations that fuel me (see the list again) and aligning with the theme that has chosen me on the blog, like this month’s Show Your Work- completely stolen and chocked full of inspiration by the wordyword guy Austin Kleon who I’d love to meet sometime.
But I am trying like heck to be clear and concise today.
And I want to take a walk with Janet in the rain and talk this all over.
Because really? I write to reflect the gorgeous tearing mess of real life.
Over and over again, sliding down a hill on icy snow with Janet or laughing till I cry at Karen’s kitchen table, or weeping on the the computer keys to Tania, or highlighting Julie’s book or leaning on Lori’s counter watching my son talk to her husband or finding myself at a bus stop waving to four amazing beings who relate to me as a mother- this life is worth writing about.
“May you be blessed with good friends,
And learn to be a good friend to yourself,
Journeying to that place in your soul where
There is love, warmth, and feeling.
May this change you.”
Next up on this My Writing Process Blog Tour are three women who ever and always call me in to real life, tickle and nourish me and stand for the work of women over and over again in their lives. They are each represented in An Anthology of Babes: 36 Women Give Motherhood a Voice and on the Out of the Mouths of Babes blog series.
Lori Landau you may have met with me at the Museum of Motherhood guiding us in a group poem. Janet is all over the place with me, with Out of the Mouths of Babes and especially in my kitchen. Monica, I get to meet live and in person for the Anthology Book Tour in the Upper Peninsula this August and you can meet here there too!
Monica Devine is the author of five children’s books, among them Iditarod: The Greatest Win Ever, a former nominee for the celebrated Golden Kite Award. Her adult nonfiction piece, On The Edge of Ice, won First Place in Creative Nonfiction with New Letters literary journal. Monica was the 2012 Alaska State Poetry Contest winner, and in 2013 was awarded for her work by the National Federation of Press Women. She lives in Eagle River, Alaska.
Janet Reich Elsbach thinks and writes about the food she feeds her family of five, who live on a small farm with dogs and chickens and sheep (in increasing order of population). That writing can be found on the blog A Raisin & A Porpoise. She edits other people’s writing whenever she is given the slightest encouragement, and teaches writing at Community Access To The Arts (CATA) in Great Barrington.
Lori Landau, who has spent her professional career as a writer and artist, has published articles in a wide variety of magazines. Her poems were published while she was still a teenager. She has written for Silicon Valley Mom’s blog, Technorati, The Middle Ages blog, Laundry Line Divine, and her own blog, ConsciousnessCreativity.com. Her poetry and essays appear in the books; The Dead Father’s Club, andAn Anthology of Babes: 36 Women Give Motherhood a Voice. In addition, her art and photography have been exhibited in several local galleries: most recently she had two solo shows at the New York City Open Center. Long inspired by Tantric and Buddhist philosophy, Landau is also certified to teach meditation and yoga. She leads conscious, contemplative meditation classes that harness the power of quantum theory, as well as visual and language expression.
I have taken up much of your computer time today.
Please share this post with a friend then head outside. Smell spring or whatever season is dawning in our part of the world.
I have also been in the final week of a 6-week journaling experience with my friend Mandy Steward, of Messy Canvas, and Hilary Rain of Spirit,Soul,Earth. These Sisters, met on Instagram and Face book, have served me a dose of deep introspection along the path of Advent and Christmas and the 12 Holy Nights. I am entering this New Year having scoured my soul by asking some hard questions and noticing the places where my inner life and my outer expression mingle. I am not a weaver, but there must be a term for the territory where one pattern or color merges in to another.
I have been in that territory, in the dark regions of my soul and the colorful interior of my curiosity. Tracing this journey in my art journal has fed me.
And so, I emerge today.
I emerge ready to teach others about locating what is original and magnetic about themselves and how to bring that intricate pattern out in to the world online to construct author or artist or small business platforms. What I do on the interior is what I also do on the exterior. And as in a magnificent tapestry, the place where my inner life touches, mingles, and merges with my outer life intrigues me.
Which may explain a little bit why I have been so quiet here on the Laundry Line.
And why, in the midst of everything else, of my son being home, of the celebrations and gatherings and wintry sojourns to ice skate or hike, I have not posted much.
Metamorphosis is happening.
This morning I read in Mirabai Starr’s book about Saint Teresa of Avila:
“Transformation requires unraveling, and regeneration is predicated on rest. Multiplicity is born of oneness, and the sound of creation issues forth from the primordial silence.”
Today, I want to honor two women who have come in to my life, two more, beyond the treasures of Mandy and Hilary, through my interactions on the Internet.
One is Tania Pryputniewicz, who I met via SheWrites and the group of women writers we are in that focuses on mother writers. Tania lives in California and from across the country, through email, our blogs and real papery mail, we are getting to know each other, our writing, our mothering, our questions and our inspirations.
Tania offered me an amazing blog post for Out of the Mouths of Babes that I have been waiting to publish. Metamorphosis is her topic. Tania’s eloquent blog post energizes the Out of the Mouths of Babes blog series. Her words scatter light across the dark landscape of winter, shooting rays of refracted truths all over our bodies. Tania inhabits her femininity, her mothering and her writing with a fullness borne of paying close, slow attention. Her post will premiere Monday morning, as I am heading to Simon’s Rock to teach.
Where do I get to be fully present? The honest answer is in starts and stops and by listening to my body (most overlooked but most potent nexus) at each virtual and literal location. One website, one interaction at a time. Whether feeling whole, partially present, apprehensive, overjoyed.
I urge you to plan your morning read here on Laundry Line Divine tomorrow.
Speaking of reading, my fourth wonder of the web sister, Lucy Pearce, who I met via… well, we have many overlapping friends, but central to both of our lives is mothering and creativity. Lucy’s book, The Rainbow Way has been in my lap daily since it arrived here a few weeks ago. I look forward to devouring it whole. But what I read this morning urges me forward, as if Lucy is cheering me on.
Not everyone need dedicate themselves to the life of the artist. As a creative mother, unless your children are much older or you can afford full-time childcare, you are unlikely to be able to. But we can all learn to quiet ourselves, to look outside with open hearts and listen inside with curiosity. We can all develop our senses and practice giving expression to our inner experiences. Every single one of us can learn to express what we truly love, what we find beautiful and multiply this in the world.
It is this multiplying….
like the caterpillar, who, in the dark confines of the cocoon, turns to ooze, which turns, remarkably into a butterfly, this metamorphosis of our lives, ordinary and mundane, repetitive and worn scruffy, in to stories, paintings, cakes or doodles, this is where golden alchemy occurs.
And this is what Rampant Sisterhood, sharing that gold out in the world, is all about.
And what Out of the Mouths of Babes does with and for women who are mothers, who explore their creative voices.
And what Laundry Line Divine and all the other ways I work in the world do…. giving voice to the warp and the weft of being a woman or a man in relationship to all that is sacred in our daily lives.
Suzi, your book arrived yesterday and I have spent every spare moment devouring it, it is SO rich and deep and true, I cried many times, tears of recognition, and many times my heart stood still – I so didn’t want it to end. I was totally inspired by your FeMail project – and very honoured to receive one of your cards… Thank you so much – deep blessings on your work -I am so glad we found each other and do hope to be able to collaborate further in the future. ~Lucy Pearce
PPS Please comment here. I love your words. And do share this post. Thank you for your Rampant Sisterhood.
Two things I dreamed of as a child. One was to be an artist while the other was to be a nun devoted to prayer and spirit. Looking back, I continue to be on the path of both. I live my life devoted to spirit, prayer and honoring nature through my daily spiritual practice and dreaming of what to create next.
An artist? A creative, expressive being? My creative urge is intertwined with my being a woman, a daughter, a mother and now a grandmother. My creativity, I feel, is part of a weaving greater than myself. I reflect on women through time, creating out of necessity. Unbeknownst to them in consciousness, they are each a thread in the warp or weft of this larger weaving that is inspired and can be seen everywhere in nature, the night sky and in the vast spaces of meditation. We are all creative beings because it is our true nature to be so.
My medium is fiber, in any form. I create what I call functional art and essential creativity. I learned my love of fiber from my own mother. Though no one would have called my mother an artist in her lifetime, an artist she was. As I look back at her projects and use of color, she was an artist of function and life. Her craft room where my sister’s and I spent hours after my mothers’ passing was full of boxes and drawers of projects, materials and tools! This room was my mother’s studio, her sanctuary. Tucked in between skeins of yarn and scraps of fabric were her hand written notes of patterns and lists of ideas, some of which were finished, some in process and others, planned for another day. I smile now as I realize I have my own studio filled with similar tools of my own self-expression.
As a teacher, my mother was a perfectionist who taught respect for fiber and a strict foundation for making anything from raw material. I learned to follow patterns, to knit in a variety of stitches and to sew fabric together for a finished product.
Always with a love of fiber, I’ve had other teachers through the years and picked up additional skills along the way. I am reminded of the woman in Pennsylvania who taught me to spin. I learned to love the wool through stories she would tell while spinning in her barn, her studio, where the walls were lined with raw wool as well as skeins already spun and waiting. Her stories made the art of spinning a richer experience. She told me of the history of spinning and the time consuming tasks before getting to wear a sweater or cozy up under a blanket. Through story, I learned the importance of a broader relationship both with the finished product and women throughout time.
During my years as a preschool teacher I witnessed and remembered the importance of abandoned play, joy and laughter as essential elements of creativity. Children are not serious when they create. Play is their nature and what they bring to every activity. Putting both together has enriched my process of creativity and is now what expression of my Self is all about.
Adding abandoned play allows each creation to become my own personal impression and work of art. I, personally, like the practice of indigenous artists, in particular weavers, where a personal imprint or signature is added by leaving a “mistake” somewhere in the weaving. I see it as an honoring of Spirit by acknowledging the perfection within imperfection.
If it weren’t for my own mothering I am not certain my creative voice would have awakened in the same way. When I was pregnant, my love of fiber and my urge to make things was re-awakened with a new urgency. I remember working late into many nights on quilts, socks or sweaters. While pregnant, I was passing time and meditating on this growing being inside of me. That urge continued to blossom as she grew.
Only in retrospect do I realize that I was imagining, creating and expressing myself within the larger web of all women through time. Each piece, now, is a mindful meditation into this deeper connection. As I knit stitch by stitch I am lost into the rhythm and find myself wandering and wondering of women in the past using fiber in its raw and purest form whether animal or plant. Weren’t they following a similar urge? Weren’t they artists of self-expression, like my own mother, expressing themselves in functional art and essential creativity so their children were not only protected by the elements but had skills and stories to take forward? Am I not one of them? Expressing myself because I must in order to continue the warp and weft of a larger weaving with my own stories and skills to take forward?
For this I never know what to say! I’m an acupuncturist, life coach, massage therapist living a creatively spiritual life in a cottage in the woods with my dog & cat. I have all the degrees, licenses & certificates that give me permission to do what I do for work, which I love! When not at my work, I’m home creating, walking in the woods. reading, writing and doing yoga & meditation. I believe that this life is to be enjoyed fully and if I’m not enjoying it, I’ll simply stop doing it!
(not a traditional bio, but the truth!)