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Mapping Motherhood: finding home

Catherine and JNB
Catherine and JNB

I am traveling for the next few weeks.
Today, I am in Boulder, Colorado with my daughter and husband.
It is her spring break from her semester school where she, along with 47 other high school juniors, is discovering a new confidence and establishing her own ground.

She is finding home, in herself.

I will tell you right now that hugging her, I smell the wind.
I will tell you right now that holding her, I feel her strength which has nothing to do with me.
I will tell you that walking along a dark street, fingers knitted together, telling each other our deeper thoughts, I find a young woman who sees fear and acts anyway, who is gracious and real when encountering disappointment, and who inhabits a language that is being newly inscribed in her heart by challenges in the back country and in classrooms, and in the clutch of her nine bunk-mates who are each responsible for keeping the wood stove burning and the foxes out of the food on the trail.

This is a very interesting part of my map of motherhood.
This is new territory.
My eyes are open.

by Suzi Banks Baum
by Suzi Banks Baum

If Mapping Motherhood calls you, please join me in Charlotte, North Carolina on April 19 at the studio of my dear Catherine Anderson. This day-long writing and art adventure will put new tools in your hands to illuminate your own journey. Please email me using the contact form on this page to complete your registration.

Fitted for the road.
Surprised by what I find.



Moods of Motherhood: Nutcracking Glitter Fests Make Me Hyperventilate

Santa arrives in Great Barrington, MA

Today’s post is part of the Moods of Motherhood blogging carnival celebrating the launch of the second edition of Moods of Motherhood: the inner journey of mothering by Amazon bestselling author, Lucy H. Pearce (published by Womancraft Publishing ). Today over 40 mothers around the world reflect on the internal journey of motherhood: raw, honest and uncut. To see a list of the other contributors and to win your own copy visit Dreaming Aloud.

Moods of Motherhood by Lucy H. Pearce















One of the moods of my motherhood at this time of year is impatience

verging at times on hyperventilating dread.

I find the commercial pressure, exacerbated by online highlights of people’s Nutcracking glitter fests, dispenses a toxic tonic of comparison. It is hard to just want to do something fun without immediately comparing it to something else, like the neighbors decorations or who did what with whom when.

What if we aimed to out do each other in humbleness this season?
What if we aimed to have fun without having to out-wrap, out-shop, out-devout, out-overdo each other until we are each raw nubbins of unpalatable marzipan?


When my daughter, who is a teen and not willing to be represented by a current photograph, was about nine, I thought is was a great idea to go in to New York City to the American Girl Doll store just after the holidays. Her birthday is in mid-November and often squashed by other large-scale events, so this trip worked to celebrate her with something extra special. I shall not fail to mention that I was on a bender with a sinus infection and horrible cough that had brewed all Advent and bloomed at Solstice and ran rampant through Christmas. Just a little holiday bug. This tiny little adventure where I pictured us strolling Fifth Avenue looking at the windows, shopping briefly for a few small items at the American Girl doll store, then wandering downtown for biscotti and tea sounded so very do-able.

Do-able perhaps by a marathon mom who has her gift shopping done in July. Manageable by the sort of person who has name tags printed on ribbon to sew in to the back of t-shirts with their kids name on them well before the summer camp season opens, who complete photo albums by the time their kids leave for college, where the kids will find them packed in to the trunk that sits at the end of their extra-long dorm bunk.

I am not, nor have I ever been, that mother.
I stink at marathons.
But in the face of my child’s joy, I am willing to over-do to a level that compromises my health and sanity. I down the wicked brew of comparative holiday doing and exert myself to extremis. This is who I was as I ankled through masses of shoppers and tinsel draped window displays holding my girl’s hand, which was permanently glued to mine. It is not who I was when I arrived home afterwards.

I learned a hard won lesson on that trip. Perhaps it was during the mad crush of nine-year old girls around the Josefina accessories when I thought, “might this be a little too much for her?” Or maybe when I had to sleep in the closet with my head on rolled up jackets because my cough was keeping our friends and my girl awake in the night? “Too much for me?” Photos of this trip capture us as weary people trapped in a snow globe.

So, at the cost of a few days illness and a girl who really could have done without the hoopla, we emerged wiser. The American Girl Doll store can carry on without our purchases. She was immensely content with the things we ordered for her from the catalog. And we all felt better.

My girl is not one for fanfare.
She is one for ritual and regularity.


The Snowman in CT


Not only did I learn that her pleasures and treats need not come with a parade and fireworks, I saw that the way we enjoy things, shopping, learning, gifting, adventuring can happen at a much slower pace than the commercial world would like me to think. I did not have to pitch over in to the zone of hyperventilation or break in to a beady-eyed sweat if I or the small person with me needed to slow down.

The bigger lesson for me in this, though, and my husband gets credit for putting it in to words (blessings on the man who is willing to wade through my exploits and misadventures to come out on the other side with a truism that helps me the next time I consider over-doing),

“The best child care is self-care.”       (click to tweet)


Do you believe that?
I dare you to try it.

When you feel compelled to race around this holiday season, take a bath.
When your kids think they must go shopping in a crowded plaza with thousands of other people, divert them with a long walk on a snowy lane with a thermos of cocoa in your knapsack.
Let yourself get caught making gifts, cards or choices that really support your well being. As my friend Sarah says,

“If it feels like too much, then it IS too much.”

Catherine Mountain 2006

I promise if you build this habit of caring for yourself in the greatest season of over-doing and hoopla, you are modeling a gift your children will recall the rest of their lives. Just think: picture them in the future with a kitchen full of kids begging to make a foray in to mall and all that parent can think of is a couch. They will have this sweet recollection of you doing something kind for yourself, like tea and a book in a cozy chair. And they will make a choice that supports their own patience and resilience. Isn’t that a far better gift than anything else?

And no one will end up sleeping in a closet on rumpled up wool jackets. I promise.

Impatience with the pace of the world may be part of my general outlook.
The impatience I feel about the way I handle this busy time is up to me to address.
Self-care builds a much more lush landscape within me. I make much better decisions; plot adventures that support everyone’s needs with ease and joy, and provide time to listen to myself and to the needs of my family.

John O’Donohue says in his gorgeous book Beauty, which you could read in the tub,

” When we devote some calm time to the heart and come off the treadmill of stress and distraction, we can enter into the beauty within.”

I don’t claim to be good at this, but my research in to self-care as a mother continues. I’d love to hear how you navigate impatience during the holidays and what brings you joy at this time of year. Please leave me a comment and do share this post with a friend. A bit of #RampantSisterhood goes a long way.

Congratulations Lucy on once again bringing voice to motherhood. I am delighted to be part of this blogging carnival and eager to get my hands on your book!

For those of you new to Laundry Line Divine, I write about motherhood, the sacred and all things creative here. I run a blog series, Out of the Mouths of Babes, that hosts the work of creative women who are mothers. I have published a collection of this work titled An Anthology of Babes: 36 Women Give Motherhood a Voice. In her review of this book in Juno Magazine, Lucy wrote, “I have read many anthologies of mothers’ voices in recent years…but this, this is my favourite by far and I know I will return to this slim volume again and again, and that many of this contributor’s words will be carried always with me in my heart.”

I welcome submissions to the Out of the Mouths of Babes blog series which will shift in to high gear in January 2015. Please email me for submission guidelines.

All my very best to you each this holiday season.
I will be thinking of you every time I pour a serving of bath salts in to a filling tub.
xo S


Two duckies in the tub


These Angels Watching Over Me

Catherine Canyon Falls

I have come to believe over and over again that what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood.

Audre Lorde

This really just happened to me.

This morning I woke and said good-bye to my son who was home from school in Florida for 2 days to visit a college near-by. Oh how I would love for him to attend that school. I am keeping that opinion to myself. Just between us here, you and me and the Divine. My husband drove Ben to the airport where he would catch the first of two flights carrying him south. Hugging that big boy, young man, holding his bounding energy for a moment to my breast, marked me.
After he left, I sat down, as I do daily, to meditate and read the books that nourish my hunger for sacred words to begin my day. “Page 17” I hear from the quiet place to which I have learned to listen. So I turn to page 17 of Jan Phillips’ No Ordinary Time. I read:

In the silence of dawn do I find you
In the roar of the crowd you are there
In the eyes of the foe can I see you
In my enemy’s heart do you dwell.

I read on. I read Rebecca’s Song, a prayer song that Jan heard in her meditation. I continue reading the following pages.
“We have one lifetime under this name to speak our truths…” I jot this in to my journal. I write a passage from page 18 that begins with “Meet this day with clarity and be a light in the darkness”.
Then it is time to go. A quick yoga stretch. Time to hurry to brush my teeth, dress and drive Catherine to school. She had walked to town to pick up a cup of cocoa as a gift for her friend whose birthday is today. So I scoop her and the hot drink up on Main Street and head north on Route 7 to her high school, which sits below Monument Mountain. If you stand with your back to the front door of the school, you can see the high ridge where legend has it, the Stockbridge Mohicans climbed before they departed for any journey. Our family loves to hike this mountain. After years of pushing our jogging stroller up the easy path or wearing the kids on our backs, we graduated to all of us walking up the difficult path, which takes us past a cave opening and tremendous boulders. In the shadow on this mountain Catherine goes to high school.
I leave her and her lunch, hands full of the cocoa gift and her heavy backpack at the curb. I pull in to the lane of traffic leading out from the parking lot. My car is followed closely by the big yellow bus which is heading to the middle school down the road.
I ease nearer to the intersection where cars move at highway speed, the two lanes busy at this hour. I wait for my turn. I look south and see my friend Heidi driving her daughter in her small sexy black car, always a trendsetter, Heidi is. But as she waves gleefully at me, I see the driver’s side door is badly smashed in. Not so bad as to prevent her driving it, but as the car shot past me, I worry for Heidi and the moment she got hit. That small car seems little protection against an impact. I send up a prayer for Heidi and her girl.
Then, with the bus breathing down the trunk of my car, panting for it’s turn to pull out on to Route 7, I see the busy road is thick with cars flying past in both directions. Unless you have a kid attending this school, you might not think to slow down. At afternoon dismissal, a police car sits in the center of the roadway, slowing people to make this exit easier and safe.
Safety is on my mind. I see no opening soon for me. I worry that I am holding people up. I send up another prayer. I ask for the help of angels to get me across the highway.
Before I finish this tiny prayer request, a black car, a station wagon driven by a bearded man slows to a stop in the northbound lane of Route 7, like he was getting a direct demand from the angels. As I pray, he slows to a stop. Cars barrel up behind him have to stop. And I proceed across the road way safely. I wave gleefully at the man who accelerates without expression.
I get home to continue with my day and I remember my morning reading. In my meditation I had heard, “Page 17” but had taken notes from other pages. My journals are filled with lines from books, poems, quotes, notations about the weather and animal life, who is going where when, doodles and small paintings and long passages of my personal entries. I copy according to what strikes me on any given day.
I go back to the book and re-read page 17 and Rebecca’s Song is there. I had read the song but not taken notes until the next page. This is what I glossed past.

For you all have an angel who sits at your side,
who waits for your calling, who hears every cry
she’s there at your service, there as your guide,
so call her, she’s waiting with arms open wide.

I clean up the kitchen. I write a few more words, then walk down the hill to yoga class. A new teacher is with us today, the teacher of my teacher. I have never taken class with him before. He tells us we will be working our front body by opening our back bodies. He talks about how our doing self is our front body while our receiving self, our grace self is our back body. Our receptive self is our back body, full of grace. (It is where our angel bones are, right?) For the entire 90-minute class we practice “falling in to grace”.
I shed a few tears of gratitude in class for this gift of getting to embody what I had already experienced this morning.

I have spent the first four hours of this day feeling how the Universe has my back.


This is the week of Catherine’s birthday. She was born 16 years ago at a small hospital in Sharon, CT. She, like Ben, was nearly birthed in the car. I seem to be tolerant of labor and willing to keep moving until I am ready to give birth. Catherine was born a beacon of light. I write about her in my book titled Laundry Line Divine. I don’t write about her so much on my blog. She is younger than my son and I protect her more in certain ways. And, while she is braver than anyone I have ever met, I feel it is my job to filter, for as long as I can, what I expose of her exquisite beauty to the wider world. She is moving at her own pace now though. And, if I take the lessons of this week to heart, the Universe, the Divine, the Angels have her back too.
Here at LLD I write about seeing and celebrating the sacred in daily life. There is no mistake that “page 17” was an indication about my day, about my son flying on two jet planes back to school, about my daughter celebrating her friend’s birthday just 4 days ahead of her own 16th birthday so I drive her to school with a bag of caramel popcorn and a cup of hot cocoa and embroidery hoop and a collage kit. There is no mistake that this guest teacher was talking about opening our grace body. I lived the lessons of the morning with gratitude.

The morning felt like one long “YES”.

Yes to my back body. Yes to feeling my shoulder blades as hands of grace, coming together behind my heart, holding me, lifting me, opening my doing body to receive grace. So



can see
and celebrate the
sacred in daily life.






Suzi Banks Baum
November 6, 2013

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