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.
On Reading An Account of Virginia Woolf’s Death
I’m thinking of a woMan who walked
into the waters of a river
with stones in her pockets
thinking of the waters
of the rivers of my life
thinking of the stones
in My pockets
woMen are born
with stones in their pockets
eMpty them eMpty theM swiM
–Karen Ethelsdatter, 2002
This week I have thought about symbols and treasures, what clutters my altars and windowsills, cups of rose petals and postcards wedged between sash and sill to form a gallery of goodness, messages from my friends to flag joy when I pass. As a girl I collected birds, teddy bears, baskets, and stationary decorated with rainbows.
I am very interested in decluttering, my studio in particular. In all the forms of art and craft that I am engaged obsessed with I require materials- yarn and more yarn and needles and pins, thimbles and more needles and a darning egg in a basket, hoes and trowels and jars of seeds, envelopes of seeds, and tightly wrapped tissues bearing my friend Mary’s wine dark red hollyhocks seeds still in a compact circlet of future blooms. If I start telling you about all the papery wonderment I have in my studio you may call out the Clutter Brigade. So, to ward off alarm, let us just say that I have enough vintage postage and chocolate wrappers, maps, painted papers, tickets and labels to press on to long years of collages and mail art without collecting another one. But, every bit of paper tells a story. And I celebrate stories. So, there is always more paper. If you had to select ten of your most potent symbols, what would you choose? In my Magic of Myth class, we were asked to make a big list of personal symbols, then narrow that list down to ten. I can only narrow my long list down to thirteen and I am pining away for the other 13 I had to leave behind. If I select from what I can immediately see, right here from my red chair writing spot, my top thirteen symbols all are within view. Here are the first three. And yes, I notice each numbered item contains many…these are groups of symbols that seem one.
1. Needles, yarn, thread, thimbles, fiber, felt, fabric, laundry, linen, irons, baskets, rope, clothespins, a washer, a tub, water, soap, forgiveness, redemption by the sun’s pardon, another try at this day, fresh air, pillow cases, clothes racks, drying tables, things aired out.
From this chair, my laundry line is waiting for the load of towels I put in earlier. We have guests right now, and it is a good drying day- the first of this spring. Our comforter is out on the porch railing airing out. Somewhere in me, deep in my tissues is an absolute devotion to warp and weft, fiber and symmetry.
2. Chickens…eggs, feathers, their companionable clucks, the way they follow me. Chickens stand for community to me. Other birds too. Eagles in a very big way and bluebirds. And dragonflies. The ceramic bird from Aunt Ruth and the eagle feather laid at Catherine’s feet along Ford River. The Hummel Goose Girl, sturdy girl.
Right now, or a flash ago, a bluebird sat on the top corner of our tree house, waiting its turn to dive down to the bird feeder hanging in front of the window over our kitchen sink. Since I was a little girl, fascinated with the Hummel Goose Girl on our mantle piece feeding two geese from a bowl in her sturdy arms, I have loved birds- chickens, eagles and bluebirds in particular. But it you put a pink galah in my view, I’d be in heaven or in Australia which is equivalent.
3. Rocks. I have been picking up and hauling rocks around since I met the Great Lakes. Heart shaped rocks, rocks with patterns, fossils in them, holes through them.
I have been thinking and thinking of the stones I collect, that I ring garden beds with, tip in to small sculptures in beautiful places, make honoring cairns, how I carry them and set them upon my altars. Karen Ethelsdatter’s poem, reaches me. How I shed the stones as a memorial for our words and our stories. I don’t know how to find this poet, I have searched for her. If anyone knows of her now, let me know.
This is the first of my thirteen top symbols. The others I will write more about. But what I would love is if you’d tell me about yours. What objects tie you to something deeper, older, resonant in your life.
What do you line your windowsills with or find in your pockets after a walk? Acorns? Leaves? Feathers? or what do you prowl tag sales and junk stores for? Typewriters or lamps, oilcans or pitchers? My best friend Benita collects Fiestaware, which counts for a symbol in her life because she is one of the most naturally social person I know, creating gatherings, making family and community blossom around her table set with bright-colored tableware, like a garden full of bursting zinnias.
Do share with me in the comment section here some of your symbols. Extra credit goes to the person willing to post a photo of one or two of yours, With Disqus it is so easy!
I am not the one to read these symbols for meaning beyond my own. There are many who could do that expertly. For me, interpreting the bearing these objects have in my daily life, and in the broader span of my journey leads me to an understanding of what is important to me and why.
Lastly, if I could pick my family up and put them in my pocket, I’d be holding the most important symbol of all to me:
connection, togetherness, communion.
And that is why I am off to lunch and a walk with my German son.
Today is the day of Waxing Half Moon. Just now the chorus of leaf blowers began their drone, marking spring’s arrival. That and the first Spring Peepers in the east facing cove at the edge of a still ice covered Lake Mansfield. The ground is getting dry enough so I can rake. Yesterday, we saw Janet’s new lambs.
Spring is happening. And the bare exposed ground shows the work of winter. Sticks, branches and those things we dropped in the driveway that got lost in a gust, now lodged at the bottom of bushes…a glove, a receipt, a water bottle. The yard is worn but mighty. First crocus are stalwart symbols of what is to come, purple and brave on this cold Berkshire morning.
This month is Show Your Work month at Laundry Line Divine and today marks the beginning of a Blog Tour passing through here. I was invited by Marilyn Bousquin to participate in sharing a post titled, “My Writing Process”. Then, Julie Bond Genovese invited me again, and I figured there is plenty to say about this topic and many women to link to in these posts. So today, you will have my first response, which features three Berkshire bloggers. Next Monday will be my second installment in honor of Julie.
While I am writing, the leaf blowers provide a bass line.
So it was an honor to receive from Kate an invitation to participate in this writing process meme, a blog tour that passes from writer to writer accumulating as it goes a collage of individual writing processes, which is to say, glimpses into human beings saying yes to the messy gift of showing up on the page.
Please replace Kate’s name with Marilyn’s and you have my quote- “saying yes to the messy gift of showing up on the page.” Thank you Marilyn.
1. What am I working on?
I am multi-passionate in every single way. I work on many things at once, with laser focus for each thing at some point during the day. Right now, I am keeping up a commitment to write daily for 100 days with my mentor and friend, Stephanie Gunning. This dovetails or lays over my intention set in September 2013 to write at least 500 words a day on any project with the ultimate goal of completing my non-fiction book proposal for Laundry Line Divine the book. This means that daily I write blog posts, pieces that will be in Laundry Line Divine: A Wild Soul Book for Mothers, I write responses to writing prompts that just nudge me off calcification, I write poems in response to longing within me, I write bigger pieces to be used in events for the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers that filled up all of March. So to be clear, I am working on:
• thrice weekly blog posts
• material that will be used in Laundry Line Divine- stories of how I raise myself as I raise my kids.
• responses to prompts from the Magic of Myth course I am taking with Elizabeth Duvivier of Squam Workshops. This post, titled “The Discomfort of Blossoming”, was one of those.
• random poems and responses to writing prompts that become other things, they offer pieces of themselves to other writing. Like a yoga practice, I write not towards an end but because I must.
• pieces for calls on a topic, like the prose poem I wrote in response to Norman Rockwell’s Freedom From Fear. You can read that here.
• there is no place in this blog meme to mention what I am not writing, so I will insert here, just to out myself that though I have indeed written daily since September, written for easily 210 days running, I have altogether avoided the pieces to my non-fiction book proposal for Laundry Line Divine. Boy howdy, I have not written on that but I have thought about it a ton. Is this all a warm-up or avoidance? Cannot tell. I say yes to this messy gift every day, no matter what. Butt in chair, write.
2. How does my work differ from others in its genre?
My work differs by the very simple sense that it is mine. My experience, my life, my family, my history, my sense experience, my passions, my unique aches and longings, my memories, my mistakes, my over use of the passive voice and long long sentences which make sense if you hear me read them- but yes, my work differs from other mother writer artists by being ardently positive and forgivingly real. I have found some who write like this and I honor them with all my heart. You will find them as guests here on Laundry Line Divine and in the Out of the Mouths of Babes blog series. Another way my work differs from the work of others is that I am devoted to collaboration. I love playing with others, playing off others, responding to the work of others. And I share those collaborations here.
3. Why do I write what I do?
If I didn’t, life would be messier, grimmer here, I’d likely be a very different person if I did not express myself. I am a woman pressed to express. That is all there is to it. I care deeply about women’s stories, which is not to say I don’t care about the stories of men- but until I started paying attention to my own stories and reading the miniscule roster of women writers who write from inside motherhood, only then did my flame rise up. Now that I teach and create events honoring women’s voices and work to help women authors and artists build their platforms online, I am seeing every day the value of what I do and learning how to do it better. I am not much of a fiction writer. I play with it. I will likely be a student of fiction for my entire life, but I write non-fiction to secure myself in this world, to love it through making art of my daily life.
It is important to write.
My experience of my inner world, acted upon, impressed and marked by my outer world is worth capturing and expressing.
I let myself fall in love with the world, as Mary Pipher quotes in Writing to Change the World, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky:
Love all of
God’s creation, the whole of it, and every grain of sand. Love every leaf, every ray of God’s light! Love the animals, love the plants, love everything. If you love everything, you will perceive the divine mystery in things. And once you have perceived it, you will begin to comprehend it ceaselessly, more and more every day. And you will at last come to love the whole world with an abiding, universal love.
I write because I love deeply and in writing and making art of my daily life, I encounter what I am sure is the Divine, or at least, a Power Greater Than Myself, who has a hand in this design that I study. I write, as Marilyn says so elegantly:
Writing my truth within the bigger picture of what it means to be female has returned me to myself. As Bill Roorbach says, “To have a voice is to have a Self, and to have a Self is powerful.” So, yeah, I write what I write to be who I am.
4. How does my writing process work?
Today? I got up a tiny bit later than usual because we have guests and we ate dinner later than usual which meant I had to sleep a tiny bit longer than usual, which put my routine off by an hour. Then there were people, other people who aren’t our guests, in my kitchen so my morning ritual of green smoothie made before I sit down to write was thrown off too. (Do you notice the domino effect here? Every decision has an impact. I do take one day a weekend off, but I often write anyway) In this post I wrote last week, I share with you my ideal day. Today, still ideal only different- I wrote in my journal early, while those people milled around my kitchen having a meeting with my husband. Then I dressed and went to yoga from 9-10. I walked home. Took photos of the trash in my yard. Made that smoothie. Talked to my guests. Then came up to my red chair, door closed and began to write. The other work I have to do today has to wait until I do this part. When you know people who write or make art or do some kind of work that requires solitude, you may notice them skirting groups of talking laughing people at the coffee shop- they just bolt in, order a latte’ and leave without lifting their heads. This is because they are heading in to this zone of working time that is whittled away so easily by family requirements, social pleasantries and work that pays money. If you see me being somewhat anti-social, it is not because I don’t like you, I just have to get to this page or to my studio with the same urgency that wakes you in the night to get out of your warm bed to pee. You. Must. Write.
On the days when I am rested and all things are in a homeostatic state, I am awake, meditating, praying then writing all before 7. I spend the next bit of time with my family. Then we all get to work or school or whatever is employing our interests on that particular day.
I will close with this thought.
My life has not always been like this. I began my career as an actor.
I left that career along with my day job of sewing custom designed clothing for women when our son was a year old. Family life took over and I happily became a stay-at-home mother.
I have kept a journal since I was 14, so the habit of writing has been with me all along. In January 2007, I was completely frustrated and singed by the heat of my yearning, a nameless want for something more than breakfast, lunch, dinner, laundry, sniffles and itches, the house, the schedule and the chaos. I was managing okay but I knew that I was missing a major piece of myself. In the teeth of my mothering, when my kids were 13 and 10, I began to take my writing and art making more seriously. I scheduled time for myself. This felt like a revolution. And my husband, who has been my comrade every step of the way- the nighttime parent on duty so I could sleep- he coined this phrase, “If it is good for Mom, it is good for all of us.” At this point, I began to carve out time to write and make art one day a week.
There is a necessary compression that happens to a woman’s desire while mothering. I began to see myself as maple sap being made sweeter by the heat of that yearning. I saw that those intensely demanding days were feeding me in important ways. And I began to capture stories of how I raise myself as I raise these kids with my husband.
This is really the heart of Laundry Line Divine: A Wild Soul Book for Mothers.
Now that I have told you this part, it is my commitment to take a step towards making that book a reality today.
So I pass the baton of this Blog Meme on to 3 capable and exciting young women who are writers and social media mavens here in the Berkshires. Please visit their blogs and look for their “My Writing Process” Blog Tour posts on April 14.
Jaclyn Stevenson is a writer, publicist, and blogger based in the Berkshires of Massachusetts. Co-founder of the annual social media event PodCamp Western Mass., Stevenson’s work has been recognized by the New England Press Association (NEPA) and the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA). Writing about travel, the arts, culture, and more, Jaclyn continues to broaden her portfolio by covering things she deems relevant to today’s world or just neat-o.
Kelly Bevan McIlquham
Founder & Editor, Berkshire Family Focus
I am a 40-something, born and raised New Englander, mother of 3, wife of 1, daughter of 2, older sister to 1, younger sister to none, aunt to several, friend to a few, pet owner to 2 dogs, 1 cat and an occasional fish or two, and controller of me and only me.
I believe that if you are not happy with something, you have the power to change it, and I don’t do well with people who believe things happen to them, not because of them. I, like Oprah, believe that people show you who they are the first time and if you choose not to listen then you and only you are to blame for what happens as a result.
I enjoy writing, cooking (sometimes), sports, anything creative, “chelaxin’”and drinking all kinds of wine (and I’m just as happy with a cheap bottle of Lambrusca as I am with an expensive Malbec), as long as it’s shared with good friends. I am an avid listener of music, talk radio, and my kids complaining, and I am addicted to reality TV. I am a former lifeguard, school counselor, psychotherapist, newspaper editor, and more, but I’m still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up, but I’m hoping it has something to do with writing, this blog, and helping others. I am also the founder of berkshirefamilyfocus.com that takes up any of my “spare time.”
So join me on my journey, and the journey of others as we all navigate our own renaissance. renaissance-mom.com
Born and raised in the Berkshires, Kaitlyn is a true New England girl. She is a sports fan, lover of all things visual, and local fashion activist working to bring more fashion to the Berkshires. Her creativity emerged at a young age which was inspired in large part by her grandmothers. Both women were incredibly crafty and not only sewed their own clothing but were artists with a variety of mediums. Kaitlyn has always been a dreamer and began writing at a young age. All of the writing quickly translated to blogging by the age of 12 and her love of the web was born. She is married to her best friend and became a mom for the first time in February of 2013. She writes about her journey through life and loves to connect with new friends through her blog and social media. Tweet with her at @DigitalKaitlyn.
If you are curious about your writing voice, spend this Wednesday evening with me at the Powder Keg Ramsdell Sessions from 6:30 to 7:30 pm. Children’s activities are available at the library for this hour. If you are further afield, beyond the Berkshires, check out your library or local bookstore for listings of writing workshops. You are never far from a woman willing to help you learn to tap your sap!