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#16Days of Activism and Cherishing Gratitude

Janet's Offering Boat

A year of giving thanks on Laundry Line Divine:

We have entered the season of lists.
If you have had your fill of ten bests, three worst, or all the things I dream about condensed into seven bullet points, then this post is for you.
I will not be telling you any secrets to surviving the holidays.
I will not divulge just how it is that I already have an Advent wreath on my kitchen table, except to say, please don’t call it an Advent wreath until November 30. Until that date, it is a joyful Thanksgiving table decoration.
This post links to 16 days of action you can take about a very important topic. I move beyond Thanksgiving here. Forewarned is forearmed.

I cannot help but look back at Thanksgiving.

Mostly because it was in 1990 that I was guided by the angels, by my Al-Anon sponsor, by the hands of fate and maybe my long dead grandmother, to sit next to a very nice man who has since become my husband. But on that day, and ever since, JNB is one of the best conversationalists I’ve ever encountered, generous and curious, and he is also fervent dish-doer. Our friend Ted, husband of my sponsor, considers it is his doing that we are coupled these 24 years now, all due to a dearth of clean dishes after Ted’s preparation of a meal for many Thanksgiving orphans, like me. We stood, Ted, JNB and I, in a postage stamp kitchen, three-part-harmony, doing all those dishes. I dried.

SBB and JNB by Ruth Barron 2011

This year on Laundry Line Divine has had many highlights.

Here are links and highlights because while you are digesting pumpkin pie and packing in your courage for the later part of this post, a little dip in to the Laundry Basket might be fun.

• the Giving Motherhood a Voice Book tour to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan with my brave Anthology authors, three generous host organizations and my husband and me on a 17 hour drive in a car laden with bikes, books and art supplies. We did return with a few rocks. What a great trip it was!
• Making paste papers journals with my friends in Holliston, MA and the adventure Karen, Sarah and I had on the way
• The week I spent at Penland School of Craft in North Carolina making more paste paper, working with clay and dancing with my mentor Paulus Berensohn.
Out of the Mouths of Babes: An Evening of Mothers Reading to Others   the event, the blog series and the way this lives today? Mark your calendar for March 7, 2015!
• FeMail Art and IS183’s ArtLab event featuring To Spring From the Hand, a documentary about Paulus and the beauty of the craft arts
• teaching Writing Motherhood at Edith Wharton’s Mount as part of the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers
• Reading aloud my piece, A Minor Miracle at Mohonk as part of the Your Brave New Story retreat with Jeffrey Davis
• The long weekend conference Women’s Voices, Women’s Visions that meets next June at Skidmore College. Teaching Rampant Sisterhood was a blast.
• During the rousing, inspiring, captivating, humbling month of Berkshire Festival of Women Writers, I got to meet and present Gloria Steinem with my book and a gift. What a joy.
Seeing Sarah Ruhl in a reading of her collection, 100 Essays I Don’t Have Time to Write. Sarah is one of the 20 topmost produced playwrights in the USA not counting Shakespeare.
Slow Time Salon on Superior, making art and exploring our awareness of what happens when we slow down with 10 brave women on the shores of Lake Superior in August.
• My girl Catherine and all the work she has done in her junior year already, but mostly her maṇḍala project.
• My boy Benjamin, spending the first part of the year playing lacrosse, then working in Munich, then heading to college. He will be home in a few hours.
Being in Milwaukee with my sister and niece and my Geri.
• Being on the Cape with my sisters and our families.
Paper dress show at the PRESS gallery in North Adams, MA. Exploring themes of permission, freedom and constriction with paper and words.
• The day my pal Nancy Moon came up for a day in the Berkshires.
• Exploring myth during late winter with Elizabeth Duvivier of Squam Workshops and another weekend retreat with Catherine Anderson and Cat Caracelo exploring our personal myths. The day I spent alone with Catherine after that was pregnant with ideas and inspiration.
• The steady pulse of posting here on Laundry Line Divine. My more sporadic posting on Berkshire Family Focus. And all the people I have connected with online, especially Lucy Pearce, Pippa Best, Mandy Thompson, Tania Pryputniewicz, and Jennifer Louden.
• The Powder Keg Sessions, both the Sunday Sessions and the Ramsdell Sessions: what a varying group of amazing women who are willing to show up and write together. You can come hear them read on February 22, 2015 in West Stockbridge, MA at No. 6 Depot. 2 PM.

There are many more things that happened this year. This list is neither complete or in order, but if you follow the links, you will get a sense of how things roll out on the Laundry Line. There have been moments with friends, meeting new ones like Emily McKhann at the Social Good Summit or Holly Wren Spaulding at the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers, that have touched me deeply. By far, the most gratifying experience for me here is your comments. I have developed online relationships with some amazing bloggers, some of whom I know now and am close friends with, but I must say thank you to Elizabeth, Jennifer, Julie, Marisa, Nancy, Joanne, Laurie, Lori, Lorrin, Kitty, Mandy, Jenni, Amanda, Collen, Janet and Tara and so many more- your words mean so much to me. Those of you who don’t comment, but send me emails or speak to me in person-this back and forth gives me courage. I thank you for this.

I cannot leave this gratitude shower without some attention to the fact that today,

November 25, is Amnesty International’s day to stand up for women on

International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

The linked post offers you suggestions of things you can do over the next 16 days.

Last night, after a busy day, I sat at the kitchen table reading the new issue of Rolling Stone that had arrived in the mail. It was late. I had tea and a slice of gingerbread cake. I could have picked up an Athleta catalog. But I read the Rolling Stone coverage by Sabrina Rubin Eberly, of an alleged campus rape at the University of Virginia and the culture around sexual assault and date rape on campuses across the US.

If I’d read the catalog, I would have slept better.
Since I read the article, dreamed the dreams I had, I woke thinking of my son on a campus, playing lacrosse and studying to be an EMT, about my daughter, soon to head to college and all the kids I know who have set off to institutions of higher learning in the past few years…. all of them, each of them, fresh thinkers, inspired young people eager to engage in a bigger way.

What if one of them experienced what many girls and boys are experiencing on campuses?
Do you realize that in a college cafeteria, students are warned not to leave their meal trays with open drinks on them alone? The concern is that someone might slip a date rape drug in to his or her iced tea. Does that surprise you? Ask the nearest college kid about this practice.

My son is about to arrive home from school within a few hours. I really want to talk this over with him without stirring his concern that I am worried about his behavior. I have no desire to instruct him, but I want to ask him this and since I am here with you on Laundry Line Divine, I must ask you too:

What is missing in the lives of our children today that they escape to college for unlimited partying and wild social lives? Why the need to be so inebriated? What are they seeking to escape or create? If one person’s fun injures another, then how can that still be fun? How do we help our kids understand limits and tolerance? How do we as parents instruct our children when they are still young and attentive to our teaching that social lives that denigrate one person or another, members of either sex, cannot but lead to dangerous activity?

What is a mother to do?


Finding my way in to the arena of conversation with my kids is what I can do today. The facts make it imperative. The Rolling Stone article states

“One in five women is sexually assaulted in college, though only about 12 percent report it to police.”

You can read the New York Times coverage here.

So while you are managing the pumpkin pies and who is sleeping where in your full house this week, take a look at the crowd of girls at your kitchen table. Are there five of them there?

Conversation with our children is the best tool I know today to deal with the worries that plague mothers. Having the courage to open a difficult topic within the safety of our own homes is one way to draw common ground and explore scary realities. We cannot stop the reality, but we can find ways to build resilience, compassion and tools for self-care with our children.

I am about to write, “Hate to be a bummer.”
But it is true.
Motherhood puts you in direct line for a shitload of worry and concerns your whole life. Just ask the mothers of military personnel or parents and teachers in New Orléans.
We cannot gather round tables laden with food and love, without also too acknowledging our blessings and the power that compassion can work in the world.

My friend Peggy just sent this quote in her Thanksgiving message. It is more perfect to me than pie.

English novelist George Eliot said:
“Oh, the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person; having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but to pour them all out…knowing that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and then, with the breath of kindness, blow the rest away.”

I urge you to find ways in to gratitude this week.
Talk about gratitude, express your gratitude, take action in gratitude.      (click that link to Tweet if you please. xo)
I urge you to find the courage to talk about the hard stuff…maybe not over the Thanksgiving table, but sometime, find a way to invite conversation with your kids. No matter how old they are, there is an appropriate way to speak about social behavior, kindness, integrity and truth. Topics about alcohol and drug use, topics about how to ask for and find help or how to help a friend in need.

Our children rely on us to lead, no matter how old they are.

At Helen's in Ishpeming


Thank you for staying with me this long.
I am grateful, so purely grateful for the community of Laundry Line Divine.
Many thanks to you and much love,



For me and my gal(s)

Thursday night of art day here at Laundry Line Divine.
I have been listening to Harry Nilsson all afternoon while I paint Powder Keg Sessions prompts.

I sent out a newsletter on Wednesday announcing the sales page for my painted prompts.
If you didn’t get that bit of news, please consider subscribing to this site.
(In the sidebar on the home page of this site.)
I send out a newsletter once a month, usually.

This weekend, my Powder Keg Sunday Sessions: writing workshop for women meets here in Great Barrington.
I hold an intimate afternoon of writing.
We prime the pumps of our creative wells with painting and doodling.
And there is always tea.
If you are in the Berkshires and intrigued, please email me.

Powder Keg pencil image

Wherever you are when you read this post, the space we enter in the Powder Keg Sessions is always available to you.
Clear a spot. Brew the tea. Close the door. Put on quiet music. Light a candle.
Need a jumping off spot? Start where you are.


When you dwell in silence though, your inner ear opens.
~Jeffrey Davis

The Journey From the Center to the Page

Let me know what happens.


This Real World

Real Life Lemons

“There is a real world that is really dying,” Marilynne Robinson writes in Mother Country, “and we had better think about that. My greatest hope, which is a very slender one, is that we will at last find the courage to make ourselves rational and morally autonomous adults, secure enough in the faith that life is good and to be preserved, to recognize the grosser forms of evil and name them and confront them. Who will do it for us?”

This morning in the woods, a huge old red oak tree (Quercus Rubra) lay across the path I usually walk on. I began to follow the tracks around it when the green-mossed bark called out to me. In a flash, I was astride the trunk. What a rare gift to connect with a tree so viscerally.

I am intrigued by connection.
You could call me a connector.
And connecting fuels my writing process.

I am terribly plagued by this quote I read in Terry Tempest William’s An Unspoken Hunger by Marilynne Robinson- both writers I hold in high esteem. For so many years, I have looked at someone who I knew through their work and check out their hair and faces for distinctions born of age. I would compare where they are and where I am and think, “Oh I still have time to catch up with them. They got there first, but I am on my way.”

Now, when I read Terry’s bio and see she is only three years my elder I know there is no waiting anymore. If I don’t do the work that I feel called to do now, in an orderly fashion so as not to kill myself, then what is keeping me from it? Chaos is no longer an excuse. Nor is making lunches. I debate and debate about feeling reluctant to admit I have been a stay-at-home mom for 20 years. Yes, I grabbed this job from a nanny and I have been doing it ever since and WITH NO PAY, just a free ride from my husband who works out of our attic.

It is true. Comparison and guilt run through me sometimes. I want you to believe that they are not present ALL the time, but hell, they are, just louder some days than others. (This is not going to be a soft-spoken easy blog post. This may have a lot of CAPS.)

Yes, I look and weigh where I am in relation to where someone I respect/admire/idolize is and I say, okay…. just a few more months of this and then I have time. Just a few more hours on this project that really feels like chains around my ankles and I will be free to do the work that calls me in raw hours spent at the sink or right before I open my eyes in the morning.


The Owl

But, there is no project that I cannot say no to except raising this family with my partner.
Our children need me but have grown respectful of my writing and art hours.
I teach on a schedule that supports my own writing and time for reflection.
And if I want to fuel my wild soul, I just have to step out in to the woods, about 10 minutes walk from my desk (even shorter if I bike), stand at the trail head where a Barred Owl winks at me overhead. Soon, I am lying on a towering oak felled by time, looking at layers of clouds whisk past, watching leaves fall slowly, where I hear chiming goldfinches off in the shrubs and feel the aged wisdom of this tree seeping in through my layers of wool.


My oak at home

There is no time like now.

“There are two important days in a woman’s life: the day she is born and the day she finds out why.”
― Terry Tempest Williams, When Women Were Birds

I spent yesterday in the kitchen. I wiped the kitchen counters after every mess I made, vacuumed up the crunchy droppings from baking and prepared a big birthday snack for my daughter’s play rehearsal cast meal. I generally spend lots of time in my kitchen. Since having kids and taking on this role of full-time mother, I have wiped my kitchen counter about 72,800 times in twenty years- give or take the surge on holidays, birthdays and compulsive cleaning during flu season and the ebb during summer when we are eating out of our hands or over the sink on our way outside.

I was happy in the kitchen. I made granola bars for 45.

But, Marilynne’s quote about the real world vanishing stays in my mind.
It is here with me wiping up bits of millet and candied ginger.
It is with me shaking mud out of the treads of my garden boots.
It is with me watching a Great Blue Heron lift out of the shallows at the lake.
It is with me reaching for my daughter’s hand and her only giving me a finger’s contact, but contact all the same.

Yes. This real world?  Is this the real world you mean Marilynne?  And if so, then this is my real world, and my real world bears some telling, right? That if vanishing, then this real world bears being described and connected to, in the way that I do?
My real world is wiping counters.
My real world is multiple-y dried tissues stuck in the bottom of my jeans pocket that I discover when I wedge an acorn cap next to it on my walk.
My real world is going to bed hating my husband for being who he is because I am so tired I have forgotten what we stand for in our marriage and failed to accept the permission he urges me to give myself to go to bed.
My real world is waking up refreshed from a complicated dream about making arrangements to sense that hatred dissolved and notice the blossoming of an ordinary day, the morning moon fading under white-capped lavender clouds on the ridge.
My real world is eating the leftover granola bars today and sweeping up the crumbs.


BBG Quilt


“Evolutionary creators traverse constantly between the private and the public, deepening themselves in silence and study, then reaching out with what they’ve gained on the inner journey. Their energy, then, is whole and integral; their intelligence is embodied; and in their words and every action is a power that others identify as a force for good. It is this integration of inner and outer, self and other, insight and action that fuels the work of prophets and mystics.”
– Jan Phillips, No Ordinary Time

When Jan describes evolutionary creatives as she does in this quote, I find myself in her words. My work is a “great dynamic call and response” that is cluttered with sunflower seeds plump with honey stuck to my socks and a passage from Emerson that my “love afar is spite at home”. It is Terry and Marilynne and Jan asking me, why not write from where you are, take your inner journey out, as you so boldly urge others to do?
I get dumped back on my heels every once in a while with writing from inside motherhood. It does not always feel so dynamic or great, but it is real. And it is my life. This struggle marks me, but I run with it because I sense that other women know how this feels. And I am devoted to something larger than the vacuum cleaner and my counters, though they are all part of what makes this world mine.


I am devoted to unmasking the fertility of women through story, particularly the stories of mothers.



My daily journal page

I do this by writing my own stories.
I do this by running Laundry Line Divine, highlighting the work of people I admire, sharing poetry, music and an occasional film, but mostly telling it like it is from here.
I do this by teaching writing and art workshops; most prominent today are the Powder Keg Sessions, which you can read about here.
I do this by making my own artwork, mixed media collage, and mail art, book binding and painting and showing this work.
I do this by talking about permission and the sacred and value in women’s lives.
I do this by producing an event called Out of the Mouths of Babes: An Evening of Mothers Reading to Others for the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers and a blog series so I can include women’s words from far-off places. Our next live event is March 7, 2015.
I do this in the way that I live in community, with organizations and at the kitchen table.
So, if you, at your kitchen counter or your desk on the 30th floor of an office building wonder, “what is the use of me telling my ordinary story?” or if you plague yourself, as I do, with thoughts like, “who wants to hear about you and your regular assed life?” I say, listen to Ralph. Listen to Jan. Listen to Terry. Listen to Marilynne.


Love you more


Then listen to my friend Sam for awhile.



You are amazing.
And by that same token, so am I.







PS If you are in the Berkshires, or near and in the mood for a road trip, I will be selling copies of An Anthology of Babes: 36 Women Give Motherhood a Voice at the Bushnell-Sage Library in Sheffield, MA tomorrow from 10 to noon. This event lets local authors meet and greet readers and sell our wares. Which tomorrow means I will sell my Powder Keg Sessions writing prompts. You can purchase your own set of hand-painted cards that are perfect for daily writing, collage or photography prompts or as a mindfulness moment on your altar or even, over that kitchen sink. I package 20 of these small jewels in a vellum sleeve that can stand on your desk. They are $15.00 each. You can also order them here on Laundry Line Divine. The sales page will be live in the next few days. Make sure you are subscribed to this site to stay in the loop!


Display of many

November 10, 2014

“There are two important days in a woman’s life: the day she is born and the day she finds out why.”

― Terry Tempest Williams, When Women Were Birds


CBB singing



Today is a one of those important days

in the life of my girl.

I am forever grateful for her safe arrival.

17 years ago I was wiping off the kitchen table when I felt a sea change.

Just a few hours later, our beloved Catherine arrived.

She has been singing ever since.


Hug your people today.



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