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Favorite Frames #7 of ‘Out’ Michelle Gillett at PRESS and Hester Velmans at BFWW

My head is spinning from this week of the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers. When I first contemplated the events I wanted to attend back in February when I got hold of the booklet, I did not imagine the amount of inspiration I would take in every week. I have been on a diet of elevated inspiration delivered by the Festival and all the women participating for this entire month.

It is a blur.
My writing journal is full of quotes.

In an effort to share this week of wonderment with you, I will offer you a few photos with accompanying thoughts. And, a preview of the week ahead.

Sunday, March 18. Saw 2 Movies. Sarabah and Granito: How To Nail a Dictator.
I met Pamela Yates, director of Granito. She said, “When the hand of destiny touches you, you have to act.” and Ricky Bernstein of the Berkshire Human Rights Speaker Series said of the Festival and these two movies, “we begin to see the immense scope of contribution women make every day”.

Tuesday March 20 I was at IWOWWOW (in words, out words, women’s own words) an evening of live spoken words at Deb Koffman’s studio in Housatonic. 20 women shared for five minutes each- poems, songs, stories and one report from a naturalist. It was an evening of high energy; the full house applauded all 20 women warmly. I read a segment of Laundry Line Divine: A Wild Soul Book for Mothers. The evening was full of lush descriptions of love, loss and living, rich with phrases like Pooja Karina’s “ love is something that must be spent, a currency that is liquid in your hands” and Caroline Forsman’s “an intimate intense purpose” (describing a trip to her dentist).

I took off Wednesday and Thursday. Life at home beckoned. Then Friday, JNB and I attended “A Woman’s Work” at the Unicorn Theatre. It was an evening of women’s stories and excerpts from 3 plays. We were completely taken by Lisa and Fran Mandeville’s music. Listen to them sing ‘Little Bird’ here.

Then Saturday, I trekked up to North Adams for a day of ‘exploratory letterpress’ with Melanie Mowinski. I have worked with Melanie before and had a vision to create a piece of art to commemorate ‘Out of the Mouths of Babes’ to use as a give-away for this week’s drawing. (which you can register for my subscribing to this website) Here is Melanie.

I had a blast. Letterpress is an antique art being revived by printer makers and mixed media artists. PRESS is a public art installation, which offers workshops, classes and exhibitions of area letterpress artwork and visiting shows.

Plus, while I was in North Adams, I visited Gallery 51 to see The Mother Tree by Helen Heiburt. The show was curated by Melanie and features the artwork of three paper artists. Follow the link if you would like to learn more. Let it rest here with these words, there are an abundance of ways for women to describe their journeys as mothers and I am thrilled every time I witness one. Absolutely thrilled.

Which brings me to this week.

You can see my dear Michelle Gillett’s poem set in letterpress type at PRESS’ new show that opens this Thursday. Two of the pieces I created will be in the show too.
Michelle, who graced our March 2 event with her words and perspective as the mother of 2 adult daughters, is a poet who inspires readers of all ages. One of my favorite frames of ‘Out of the Mouths of Babes: An Evening of Mothers Reading to Others’ was Michelle’s thoughtful responses to audience questions. She is a great listener. Michelle and I were guests on Radio2Women earlier that week and I loved talking on the air with Michelle who beamed the whole time like a lighthouse of joy.
And, I also love working out with Michelle, but that is another story.

Michelle Gillett and Gina Hyams by Christina Rahr Lane
Michelle Gillett and Gina Hyams by Christina Rahr Lane

Also this week, Hester Velmans is appearing in a talk about self-publishing. Hester is a Berkshire author whose experience as an author, mother and daughter of an author are captured perfectly in this interview with Serene Mastriani and Susie Weekes on Radio2Women. Hester’s blog post is here as part of the ‘Out of the Mouths of Babes’ series.

Is your head spinning now too?
The only thing I can offer you is to snuggle up with a copy of Alana’s cookbook and dream about making your own potato chips. You can register to win a signed copy of this beautiful new book by subscribing to the Laundry Line. Other gifts to be won are two limited edition letterpress prints of my commemorative art created at PRESS. Or five of you could win the brownie recipe by Janet Reich Elsbach and a souvenir program from our March 2 event.

Okay. I am going to get a cool compress and lay down for a while. All this inspiration is making me dizzy.

Thanks for being here.
If you like please:
Read Hester.
Listen to Lisa.
Visit Melanie.
Register for the drawing, which will take place next Saturday, March 31.


PS This week you can expect guest blog posts from this outstanding line-up of mother/authors.

Kathy Drue
Susan Hajec
Leah Strimbeck
Linda Wisneiwski
Sharon Pywell
Ali Smith

A week of Favorite Frames of ‘Out of the Mouths of Babes’

Jennifer Browdy, founder of The Berkshire Festival of Women Writers
Jennifer Browdy, founder of The Berkshire Festival of Women Writers

Listen to internet radio with Melissa A Rosati on Blog Talk Radio

I’d love to hear your comments here, of the event, if you were there at Blodgett House, or of this BlogTalk radio show.
I feed on feedback when I am digesting a big piece of work being birthed in the world.
Love, S

Going First

Life is scary.

No fooling.

Things happen.
Broken legs.
Dropped stitches.
Missed planes.
Car accidents.

I know it.
I know you have it all going on in your life, just as I do in mine.
And, up on that banner across the top of this website it reads: “Laundry Line Divine: Seeing and Celebrating the Sacred in Daily Life”.

I guess I better put my money where my mouth is.

This week has been harrowing for the Baum family.
Today we celebrated one week from a hellish day at Albany Medical Center. Last Sunday we spent the day helping our 17 year old traverse the agony of a broken leg in a temporary splint, numerous transfers from bed to gurney and back again for x-rays and cat-scans and the long minutes of waiting for the swelling of his left shin to go down.
It was not an easy day.

But, time has passed.

The week has turned to February. The sky is lighter at 5 pm so I can ice skate at twilight. I scared the crap out of myself today. Let’s say I am still a little jumpy. Iced lakes make a sound not unlike a whale singing below the ocean surface- this deep, resonant twanging. Skating over glassy ice in the moonlight, velvet lavender ice sparkling then- BWOOOONNNNNG. The majestic sound of ice layers forming and the pressure changing across the inner surface of the ice booms across the sublime scene. I knew I would not fall in the water. To a lake skater, this sound is good.

But to an uber-alert Mom who has returned to infant style vigilance when every sound emitted from my son’s bedroom is a possible cry for assistance, I leapt out of my skin.

I let my heart slow down. I have felt the steady beat of my heart so much this week. I felt it race as I nearly hit the Ortho Resident for humiliating my suffering son by telling him to “man up”. I felt my heart then. Holding my son’s head as he screamed in pain as they put him in that first splint. I felt my heart then. Cuddling Ben today as he hugged me close to thank me for restocking his snack tray, I felt my heart then, too.
At the lake’s edge, I watched the moon shimmer.
I breathed gratitude for being alive.
And I headed home to write to you.

We are celebrating creativity in these early months of 2012. This is my work in the world. The Blog Series for ‘Out of the Mouths of Babes’ has 5 posts queued up for this week as more women step up to share their stories. I am so glad Linda Jackson, Sherry Collier, Shari Simpson, Kelly DiNorcia, and Lissa Rankin have posted.

It is not easy to rustle up the time or the appetite to do something other than parent when your arms are wrapped up in meals and care. Wiping and rinsing and brushing and peeling, hanging and sorting and folding and driving and running and debating and arguing and settling and admonishing and reminding and leading and modeling and paring and steeping and sweetening and badgering and cosseting and lacing and racing all just sucks up the hours and who the heck has time to thread the sewing needle anyway?

Legions of women before us out of sheer necessity, spent hours creating things for themselves and their families from materials they may have grown or raised, creating things that would comfort, clothe or cover their children and spouses.

This week’s ‘Out’ blog post by Linda Jackson reveals her connection to her mother and generations of women who have handled fiber. The thread of inventing beauty and utility connects all Linda’s diverse passions.

These antique textiles are from a show I saw at the Chicago Art Institute two weeks ago.

I have carried around this quote for years from Jennie June, a well known American needle worker who said this in 1880:

The little worktables of women’s
fingers, are the playground of
women’s fancies, and their
knitting needless are the
fairy-wands by which they
transform a whole room in to
a spirit isle of dreams.

I want to have an authentic conversation about mothering and creativity. According to Jan Phillips in her extraordinary book No Ordinary Time

“ If someone doesn’t go first, how will authentic conversations ever get started?”

I know it is fun to recall the hours I spent frosting Christmas cookies with my kids. We have all had those wondrous moments creating things with our children. But what I am calling out for here is what is birthed from the deeper places in your soul, the works that cry out to you in the middle of the night.
On one particular needy afternoon this week, Ben could not go for more than 20 minutes or so without me being near him. Pain, distraction, discomfort, warmth, drink- he just needed my company through it all.

I knew this was a temporary state of affairs. I will not be wiping my son’s chin for more than a few more days as he gets stronger and more confident in this new way of being. But, I was torn from my desk; from the slim momentum I had gained in stringing one thought after another. And I was angry.

I could not vent this on him. I would not even leak it to him. But it reminded me of the days, months and years of my early mothering in which this was the case twenty-four seven, even when I had child-care and a supportive husband. I still had to be back on time. I could not slip the yoke of responsibility from my neck permanently.

Mothers have fear that they will never, ever think a complete thought again. You get interrupted. You get distracted. You forget. One of the gifts of this week with Ben and re-entry into such demanding parenting is this thought: With young children, or in my case, time soaking teen agers, a mother has thoughts, but they are erased by distraction, stress, weary brains and bodies. You fear the worst, that you will forget the thread of that magic equation and you do in fact, lose it. How could you possibly hold on to it with the noise of your life diluting your essence?

This is where any connection to creativity comes as saving grace.

Your creativity is the string upon which the jewels of your authentic essence are strung. Your insiders story from the front lines of mothering- that soul food- is what we are able to serve through our acts of creativity.

I don’t wish this week of my life on anyone. I am aware that things could have been so much worse. I am thankful with every breath a prayer that we will all recuperate from this time and perhaps are stronger for it. We certainly will know each other better.

But, I would not exchange this chance of being intimately close to my son again. I am so very sorry he has to suffer this pain, this major time-out of his junior year in high school. And I will press in to my heart these moments of humor borne in vulnerability, of rousing joy at simple progress and the quiet peace of him healing under our care.

I could not have done this without my cell level mission that is Laundry Line Divine. I do see and celebrate the sacred in daily living.
In the ordinary and mundane.
In ambulances and emergency rooms.
On ice slicked evenings with the moon at my toes.

Write on.
Love, S

Plays well with others: QUF4PMST8UEM

I can have a lot of fun just on my own.

I am a woman who enjoys working with other people.
I also passionately crave the company of my own silence.
There are many times that I hanker to be with others making art, making jam, raking, ice skating, working at almost anything.
Togetherness makes my heart sing.

Paste Paper by SBB 2011

My friend Chandler sent me this quote.
I wish I had the exact source. If you know of it, please send it to me, so I can note it here.

“Design school taught me that collaboration makes ideas and outcomes more meaningful — not only in the final results, but also in the process. Life is so much about the process — having fun, playing with others. My artisan partners are the best part of the work I do.”

Karen and me at Lake George 2011

I have a slew of artisan partners. I play with Karen Arp-Sandel all the time.
I am playing with Janet Reich, Michelle Gillett, Alana Chernila, Gina Hyams, Jenny Laird, and Lynnette Najimy in ‘Out of the Mouths of Babes’.

Jess Conzo, Diane Firtell, Gina Hyams 2011

Coming up on my ‘Out of the Mouths of Babes’ blog series will be two months full of women writing about their mothering and creativity.
Monday, Shari Simpson-Cabelin’s post will be up.

Later this week, Kelly DiNicoria and Sherry Collier will be featured.
Kelly sent me this note the other day that sums up why I am so passionate about ‘Out of the Mouths of Babes’.

I LOVE the idea of nurturing mothers’ creativity in that way! I am taking the Level 2 Momoir course with Cori Howard starting next week (I did Level 1 through SheWrites) and I am really becoming interested in the idea of helping people to tell their stories, especially mothers. It is so empowering to tell your story, and I feel SO strongly that we need to consciously build and nurture small havens of non-judgment for women. We are so hard on each other, and most especially hard on ourselves!

Kelly DiNicoria

Out poster by Rose Tannenbaum

See how this happens? One little spark ignites another and soon we are all blazing with warmth of shared wisdom, experience, tears and laughter.
That is what the evening of March 2 at the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers is all about. Please follow our blog series. You are invited to attend our March 2 event. And please, savor the value of your mothering. If you have a story you’d like to share with us, consider submitting a blog post to me at

Your comments are heartfully appreciated.
With love,

if you are curious about those numbers, they are there to verify my authorship of this blog so I can play on the Technorati site. xooxox

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