I know the hoopla around Mother’s Day is hard for some people.
For all the millions of reasons that any relationship
gets complicated, Mother’s Day can exacerbate strong feelings.
I have had a perfectly decent Mother’s Day. I heard first from my daughter’s friend, who I love
as another daughter. Then my son. Then later, my girl.
I had a hard time not waiting to hear from them, even though I TRY my best to not have expectations like that.
So, I went to yoga and then turned my compost pile.
It seemed the best response on a day when many people are wearing corsages and being given cards and boxes of candy. I was happy with my compost.
Then a dinner with our boy. I like a in-person event.
My Mom used to say, “It’s a Hallmark holiday. Every day is Mother’s Day. Go thank a mother.”
Here she is handling a snake in Florida.
I never heard the story of this moment in her long life, but I sure wish I could.
I have been looking at this photo for a few months, thinking she was holding a scythe or some other tool. It wasn’t until I scanned and enlarged the photo did I see the SNAKE!
Sometimes stories take a closer look.
Don’t you think?
Call it what you will.
A piece of mine was published over at The Mid.
It’s about my Mom.
Let me know your thoughts.
Spring has me standing under towering Horse Chestnut trees to watch the sunlight filter through brand new leaves that weren’t leaves just yesterday. I crane my
neck under the Copper Beech so I can see the new reddish leaves, nearly copper, as they strain the morning sunlight to a golden shade, where just yesterday, there was only sunlight unabated.
Spring has me stopped in my tracks.
This is what I am listening to.
And this is what I see, standing open mouthed under a magnolia petaled by firm, weighted pink blooms. I wonder if I bite in to them, the perfume would soak my tongue. I don’t because they are so very perfect. The heavy petals hit my head falling towards newly green grass.
And my son is home. For a full day. He helped me sort out converting the recording to the proper file for Sound Cloud. He is very helpful. And he asked if I would make recordings of his favorite books on Sound Cloud. I have to sort out permissions on that idea, but some of his favorite books are very old books.
Oh there goes a shiny object taking my attention away from this very blog post. Chart my lost minutes as I follow a rabbit down a hole…ARGHHHHH!!!!
How about you? What are you looking at, mouth agape?
Terri has responded to the prompt, The Village: Who else is here while you mother? I am still enjoying the submissions I have received to this call. I will feature them on Laundry Line Divine until I run out. Then, I will be brewing on the theme for 2016.
What aspect of a woman’s life inside motherhood perplexes you? What would you like to investigate in your life? What investigation is calling you? The diverse responses to this theme tug at my heart, challenge my mind and open my eyes to a wide array of influences that women encounter as they mother. I wish you could have been at the live Out of the Mouths of Babes: An Evening of Mothers Reading to Others in March. The stories read aloud were fierce and so very full of a vivacity…like those magnolia petals, so dense, so rich, so completely beautiful.
(And now I understand my son’s longing to hear a story voiced)
As you know, I am caught and stung by motherhood, perfumed and poisoned in a certain way, never the same, every day, never the same, changed by it, by the conversations around it, by what I see of myself and others as I mother, what comes true one day that seemed so impossible the day or even hour before.
There are many ways to care for our own lives, as women, as daughters, sisters and mothers.
One of those ways is to give our selves permission to live our fullest lives. I felt for so many years that there was some external permission necessary to be my full self. I kept waiting for my turn to speak. Every single day I engage in a practice of giving myself permission. If you are intrigued by this, consider joining me for an intimate evening at Lifeworks Studio on May 17 at 6:30 PM. More about that here.
And til then, consider what has you perfumed and poisoned?
Where might a dose of permission give you some space to breathe and then take in where you are?
Could permission give you some space to consider where you are headed?
I am curious.
And very intrigued by shiny objects.
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.
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 New Year began with these.
Sol LeWitt at MASS MoCA
At Out of the Mouths of Babes 2014
The writers of Out of the Mouths of Babes
I met Gloria Steinem this year!
in this group of vivid women and one equally vivid man, Anni Crofut is there between me and Michel Gill. Thanks to WAM Theatre for this group photo.
Me and my girl
Karen and I at the ArtLab 2o14!
Collaging my personal myth with Cat and Catherine
by my dear Carol LeBlanc
Betty J. Burkes on the right, Jan Phillips in the center and me. These two women inspire me to be my fullest self, daily.
Powder Keg Sessions!
Lucy Pearce of The Rainbow Way writes a review of the Anthology in this issue of Juno!
Last time at pediatrican for this kid
The river the river the river
Here is the Slow Time Salon on Superior workshop women. We took a lovely walk to the Big Bay Point Lighthouse after lunch.
My family. Someone always has eyes closed
After our talk at the Escanaba Public Library.
Nancy Moon and I had fun photographing in Stockbridge
The Permission Slip in it’s early stages
captured by Lynnette Lucy Najimy of Beansprout Productions
Ben’s first game at Bard
Emily gave me a bracelet
The tree on the Williams
Molly is a Sea Captain and a very able bodied mate in a row boat.
they let you take a rowboat out on the lake here and you know I love to row
My German exchange daughter was describing places in Munich where she has seen yarn coverings like this. Have you ever come across this kind of woolly fun?
One single drop
Each one is unique, hand embellished!
Winter is coming.
Catherine plays Eduardo
This much, this whole, this filled with wonder
• 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,
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.”
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 Dinah Maria Mulock Craik 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.
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,
PS If you need more information or want to look at a website designed to support conversations about gender equality, see He For She.
“One of these things is not like the other”- do you remember that song from Sesame Street?
While interactions on social media are never the same, there is a common thread that runs through what happens on Laundry Line Divine and on the other platforms I participate in, like Twitter and Instagram. I am fascinated with connections. I am intrigued by the stories of mothering. I am intrigued by the patterns we make in our lives, what we return to again and again and when and what we learn new and relish, a new vista, a new flavor, a new photography app.
There are things that happen on Face book that I never imagined enjoying.
This month the building I lived in for six years in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan was demolished. As the nymphs of social media would have it, a woman who was in my Powder Keg Sessions, who happens to live in Portland, Oregon but was in the Berkshires on a certain Sunday last fall, got wind of this small factoid as it scrolled by on my news feed. Well, this woman, Margaret, has a good friend, who lives opposite my old apartment building. While she was in Manhattan this week, Margaret snapped a photo of the space that was the building in which I lived with my former beau. There has been quite a funny banter on Facebook including this man, who I love being connected to in the Face book way we are- loosely but within a distance to enjoy his humor. Now, the place where we once made Thanksgiving dinners and fed cats and organized a rent strike is a pile of rubble.
Without Face book, this connection would not have been made, linking my former life on 25th Street and 8th Avenue with a new writing student who has a penchant for laundry lines and vintage stamps and sends me little missives full of gifts. Nor would I have found a comfortable social relationship with my former partner. Aside from a funeral for a common friend perhaps, I don’t know where we would have connected.
I have met many amazing women on social media. Many of the contributors to An Anthology of Babes: 36 Women Give Motherhood a Voice and the Out of the Mouths of Babesblog series are women I met through Twitter or on other blogs, or on Huffington Post. One such author, Amanda Magee, who lives with her family in the Adirondacks and worked at the Williamstown Theatre Festival for several seasons, writes today’s Out blog post. She and her husband have a set of Huff-Po blog posts written together that are cause to get up off the couch and go hug your partner. You can read Amanda’s response to “What do mothers make?”post here. I will include links to her Huffington Post pieces there.
Social media has it gifts. This past Monday I got to have a real live visit with a dear friend and collaborator, Lori Landau. Familiar to readers of the Anthology and the Out blog series, Lori lives with her family in northern New Jersey. I was passing through her area and stopped for a whole afternoon of slow wandering through a park near her home. Long walk and talk, sharing book forms and parenting thoughts. Her daughter is just south of mine in age and her challenges are ones I have lived with for a year or so. We dove right in to conversation, relying heavily on all the threads we have woven in to friendship through social media, emails, texts, real live mail and art sent back and forth, as if all those lines of intersection weave something tangible. Looking in to Lori’s eyes, I would say very tangible.
Writing about being a mother is dicey. You write, freely I hope, with no editor on your shoulder, just letting the stories flow. Later, when you look over your writing, you decide whether you have told yours or someoneelse’s story. That is how I decide whether what I have written is mine to share. When I publish something that includes my kids I always run it past them.
So, last night, I had a surprise. In my Powder Keg Ramsdell Sessions we have been experimenting with the blazon, a form of poem that is a list of attributes of another. I learned about it from Monica Devine. In its medieval roots, it was a roster of praise for a woman, starting from the top down. Over time and with a dose of irreverence from William Shakespeare and many others, the form retains is roster of attributes aspect but has come to include wry pathos and revelation.
I wrote one last week that has been simmering in my writing mind. I was itching to share it with you all, as I prepare for teaching a Writing Motherhood writing workshop in June. So, while my girl was preparing to go for a run last evening, I read it to her. I just blasted open whatever reticence I had about exposing my tender heart to her and a potentially personal moment in her abundantly sweet life.
She stood in the doorway to this studio listening. I picked my way through the lines I thought she might take issue with and cruised to the end, expecting her standard, “Oh god Mom, you can’t say that”. But, because she is not standard in any way, her response was a deep flush of pleasure and she beamed at me.
And without asking, she said I was free to share it.
In honor of this week and loving daughters, every single girl, each of us, daughters and sons, and the loving gaze that mothers hold us each in, no matter which realm those gazes issue from, I give you my Blazon for Catherine.
Please be tender with yourselves these days.
Find a live person to go hug and share an appreciation with.
Social media brings us together but what glues us takes breath and skin and the mingling of fingers in to a grip that is unforgettable.
Blazon for Catherine
Catherine the Great.
Catherine the girl.
Catherine my Fluffy Angel who leaves teabags drying into
crispy dead bats in the bottoms of long ago supped tea cups,
her rosebud lips with a staining pale birthmark over the
upper left petal,
drew comment from a very opinionated neighbor, that
oval of color rises when she is furious or
when she is flushed with pleasure as she was
one summer night, arriving after her curfew, confessing to
making out in the parking lot of the appointed place where
she was to meet her older brother and be safely transported home,
he, who texted and paced and prowled looking for his little sister,
Catherine, Cath, Cat, is the little sister, a strong beautiful
quiet storm of a sister, who, that night,
stretched in to the arms of a tall boy
who kissed her til that mark raged red and
here she, Catherine, the young woman flushed at the
foot of our bed apologizing and fearful we will take
away her new found, enpinkening freedom.
Catherine who works harder than most to
overcome what she sees as a lack.
Whose “tiny writing” fills pages of her little books but now,
whose writing, big words typed by long fingers
Catherine the smart, the able, the curious,
the persistent as a raccoon in the trash,
ass over head with her nose in a book
or baking vegan zucchini bread
or sussing out a social conundrum.
This girl is a sucker for a thrift shop.
Catherine is a seller of squash and a bagger of lettuce,
rows of community supported lettuce, spun neatly in to a plastic sack
and sold on sunny summer Saturday mornings.
Catherine is market-fresh, this girl and she is mine.
May 1, 2014
Suzi Banks Baum
Powder Keg Ramsdell Sessions
Love your friends.
Love your mothers.
Love those kids, Nigerian, Amanda’s, Lori’s, Margaret’s, yours and my own.