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Acting With Grace and Joy: summertime pleasure research


Clothespins at the Coop

These windy June days are perfect for hanging wash on a laundry line.


I am heading to Women’s Voices, Women’s Visions tomorrow for
three days of learning, sharing and celebrating women creatives
at Skidmore College. The symposium is led by my friend Jan Phillips.

This morning I read Jennifer Currie’s newsletter. I think she has been reading over my shoulder as I prepare my class plans for Rampant Sisterhood.

I teach women who want to build platforms for their work online.

Jennifer asks a beautiful question that I wanted to share with you.

So, I’m wondering…what dreams and great ideas are you turning over in your mind or actively working toward? Now is a great time to be doing research and creating a plan. Mercury is Retrograde until July 1st, and it’s good to review things, gather information, and complete projects that are already underway. Mercury is the planet that rules communication, travel, and electronics so it does have a reputation for causing miscommunications, computer glitches, appointments that seem to vanish from the calendar, and urgent texts that don’t go through {to name a few}.
from Jennifer Currie’s newsletter

My dreams and great ideas are percolating like mad this month.
I consider summer a time for research. I try to make my decisions based on pleasure, no matter what. Yesterday I was in North Adams where I am collaborating with a group of women artists making paper dresses. I’d spent the afternoon making pressure prints from fabrics I have kept hoarded 35 years or more. I hauled out a black silk kimono that I’d borrowed stole from a community theatre I worked with when I was a teen. I wore it to a party and someone spilled white wine on me. I was horrified. I tried to repair the damage, but wine on black silk permanently altered the fabric, so I carried that kimono around with me to every single place I have lived and never wore it again. It had a terrible stain on the front.

It was in my box of shame.

Yesterday, I gave myself permission to let it out.
My friend Karen, who is my FeMail collaborator, stood next to me as I bravely cut out the embroidered panels of the dress and used one on a printing plate. I set up the Vandercook press under the guidance of my friend Melanie, and before you know it, the very piece of clothing which bore the shame of my mistakes- multiple- come on! I took it without asking. I wore it. And while I wore it, the kimono was ruined.
Not life shattering but I take my integrity seriously. Even at 18, I knew I was in the wrong.

Yesterday allowed me to release this mistake and let that shame be transformed in to art. Jan says this:

To create is to make something whole from the pieces of our lives and in the process to become more whole ourselves.
~Jan Phillips

Whatever I am making makes me whole, mends the rents that daily living make in my spirit.

Whether it was the hummus I made on Sunday or the pressure prints I made yesterday, the book I published last March or the book tour I am taking with that very book back to my homeland- back to the town with the very community theatre that I stole from! Hey, I am sure there is some way I can make a little forgive me card from one of the prints.

Oh well. You see how one thing leads to another in my life.



A doodle in the ZenTangle style by my dear Carol LeBlanc
A doodle in the ZenTangle style by my dear Carol LeBlanc

The breeze is high in the Berkshires today.
Forgiveness is running clear.

So I want to ask you:
What wholeness can you create from something you release?
A cleared off shelf upon which to set a vase of peonies?
A dumped out magazine bin to turn over and set your latest doodle in a frame upon?
Some badge of shame that really does not need to clutter your life anymore?

I look forward to hearing.
Heading out to the laundry line,



Thank you for reading Laundry Line Divine.


For more writing from inside motherhood by Suzi and 35 other women, find yourself a copy of An Anthology of Babes: 36 Women Give Motherhood a Voice. In a recent review posted on Amazon and Good Reads, a reader said:


This book is filled with little gems, golden nuggets of words and illustrations, emotions and dreams, vulnerabilities and expressions of deep pride, humor, poetry, and prose that’s visceral.


You can give a gift to a friend that has the power to grace women’s lives. Proceeds from the sale of An Anthology of Babes benefit two organizations in Berkshire County that provide free and low cost health care for women and families locally. Make a difference in one woman’s life that ripples out in to the world.

If you will be in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan in August and would like to know more about the Giving Motherhood a Voice book tour, subscribe to this site for updates and opportunities to connect.


Order your copy here.



Jenny Doh’s JOURNAL IT!

Super excited to review #journalit by @jennydoh featuring one of my favorite art sisters- Melanie Mowinski of #PRESS. XoS

I admit it.
I love books. (recent purchases are Barbara Kingsolvers’ new fiction and a gorgeous book about writing by Katherine Paterson)
I love to read books. (see a girl with very bad hair emerging from the library, feeling her way down the steps with her feet because she cannot see around the armload of books tucked under her chin obscuring her view)
I love to make books. (I make and keep a daily journal, art journals, collage-a-day art journals, tiny books of quotes, recipe journals, desire journals)

Book taking shape. Sewed one today. More tomorrow. #paulusberensohn #laundrylinedivine #mixedmedia #artistbooks #fun

And, I love books about making books.

My pal, Melanie Mowinski is a sister in art making. Mel runs PRESS up in North Adams, alongside being a professor of art at Massachusetts College for Liberal Arts.
Mel was recently featured in Journal It! Perspectives in Creative Journaling by Jenny Doh.

Mel sent it to me so I could read it and share it with you.

But the sharing got delayed because after pouring over the book, I got busy with these.

As close readers of LLD know, I am a collaborator with Karen Arp-Sandel in FeMail. We create one of kind mail art that we send to each other. We produce a line of note cards with our work and we sell postcard collage kits filled with vintage, hand painted and found papers for you to jump start a piece of mail art. You can find these in the gift shop at Kripalu in Lenox, MA or at our website.

Selling @FeMailArtNews art notecards at the #wwam weekend marketplace. Don't ya wanna sit right down and write someone a letter? #snailmail

Thinking I was preparing papers for our mail art kits, I took the cue from page 101 and used walnut spray, gesso, watercolor inks to create these pages that I have since decided will be part of my next ArtHouse Sketchbook Project for the Brooklyn Art Library. I will keep painting papers for our kits, but this series is calling to be used in my next sketchbook. Here is a visit with one of my sketchbooks at the Brooklyn Art Library.

Journal It! gathers 29 artists who keep a wide variety of visual journals- from gardens to photographs to Tyvek tree journals. If you have any appetite at all to embellish your journals or to keep a visual journal this book offers you just the direction you need to get started. And, if you are, like me, an avid art journal keeper, filling books with doodles, collages and writing, this book will light you on fire.

Melanie’s books are made from dyed Tyvek.
Just take that in for a moment.
She makes books about trees that are just so fine; you will look out at your yard and want to go rub the bark of those tall sentinels who provide you with shade. Now, they will provide you with art!

The techniques highlighted in this book are all attainable without fancy equipment.
There is a great list of definitions and resources in the back. The sidebars give you small bites of information that can change your approach by giving you ready tools.

A journal captures your journey. The transit of one day or a trip or a relationship or a project documented with techniques found in Journal It! will hold your attention for years to come.

Jenny Doh says about making Journal It!,

“I have come to value the process of studying and observing my surroundings. Journaling allows me to be a good observer and it allows me the opportunity to better react, respond, and relate to all that is around me.”

Jenny has assembled a lively inspired group of people who keep journals for all sorts of reasons. I believe that capturing your day, your experience on paper gives you the chance to integrate the learning of each day, the gifts each day delivers in your life and opens the door to a deeper understanding of your self in the world.

These books, artist books, art journals, collage-a-day or visual journals all fall in to a larger group that I call by an ancient reference, ‘commonplace books’. All of these books are visual and intellectual collections of inspirations and experiences, written, illustrated or simply scratched out in list form, as a way to document your time. Commonplace books were used to collect ideas on a theme, to draw out ideas from a collection of sources compiled therein.

It is a human act to collect and order our thoughts. Books have been used as a means to cataloging a time since the earliest centuries. Great thinkers, inventors, scientists and artists have collected their ideas in commonplace books. I love the term ‘commonplace book’ because it draws on our daily life as source material. You can fill a book with lists of what you see on your way to work, with doodles you make while on the phone with your grandma or ideas for your next great novel. Think of your high school diary and the love sodden poems you illustrated in number 2 pencil. Think of the doodles in side margins of all those yellow pads of lined paper you filled in biology class. We are constantly digesting the information we take in. Giving your thoughts and ideas and daily experiences a home in a gorgeously created book elevates the act of keeping a log to making art simply by paying attention and letting yourself play for a while.

If you’d like some company with making a small journal of your own to capture your writing, you could join me at the International Women’s Writing Guild Winter Wonderland conference in February. Information will be out on this gathering soon. I will be leading a workshop about the commonplace book and writing techniques, mixed with some art experiences. We will play with words, paper and color for a weekend retreat with other women writers. The conference will host one of my favorite poets, Myra Shapiro, author of 12 Floors Above Earth, who is a fierce teacher of the art of poetry and an experienced miner of the magic in daily life.

Karen and I will be leading a FeMail workshop in the Berkshires in the fall of 2013 where we will dive deeply in to art and writing techniques and build our own commonplace books over the course of a weekend. But if you are far from here, look at your local art stores or schools for classes to get you started on embellishing your journals. The web is full of people sharing their art journals for inspiration. Many artists are showing their artist books in shows. I would love to see the books in Journal It! in person, but the next best thing is pouring over the beautifully laid out pages of this hefty book and taking plenty of notes!

I don’t know about you, but the information overload I experience every day is better managed when I write and make art. My journals keep me seated in real time where the virtual world melts away. I dare you to take up journal keeping and heck, I double dare you to doodle. Here is a post about some books I made last summer.

Hand doodle in progress. XoS

Please go find Jenny Doh’s beautiful new book published by Lark Crafts. Here is a link to Amazon, but I bet you’d like to go to your local bookseller to buy it there.

Let me know how this journal thing goes for you.
Where do you like to write?

Start with a comment below!
xo S

Favorite Frame #10 by Michelle Gillett here on the Laundry Line- and she brought snacks!

Michelle Gillett, our poet in the house of ‘Out of the Mouths of Babes’, won the first copy of Alana Chernila’s new cookbook The Homemade Pantry: 101 Foods You Can Stop Buying and Start Making. Here is the first report from her kitchen. More on this week’s drawing below.

We all win sometimes. I hit the jackpot twice when I got to read an essay about mothering at the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers’ event, “Out of the Mouths of Babes.” Not only did I get to read about running a marathon (okay, a half marathon) with my daughter, but I got the added bonus of reading with five wonderful writers. The energy and pleasure of the evening—reading to a receptive and attentive audience, listening to my colleagues’ stories, engaging in a lively discussion about creativity and mothering– made it memorable.

And THEN I won one of the event’s raffle prizes: a copy of Alana Chernila’s about-to-be published cookbook, “The Homemade Pantry: 101 Foods You Can Stop Buying & Start Making.” (Clarkson Potter)

I didn’t leaf through its pages noting what I would or would not be likely to cook as I usually do with cookbooks; instead, I read the stories about food and family that precede each recipe section and found them to be as nourishing as the recipes and advice offered in the book’s pages. Then I looked at the photographs and reminisced about my two daughters when they were same ages as Alana’s girls.

I looked at the photographs some more, read some more. I was as hooked as I am when I read a really good novel. But I thought I should honor the book’s intention and try out a recipe. Since I always make a snack for the writing workshop I teach, I studied the possibilities for baked goods and found a recipe that sounded uncomplicated yet likely to satisfy my students’ hunger after a lengthy discussion of “the unreliable narrator.” (It’s one thing to be an unreliable narrator, but quite another to be an unreliable baker.) I decided to make “Car Snack 2: The Sweet Bar, because I happened to have all the necessary ingredients in my cupboards including Lyle’s Golden Syrup. They were easy to make and delicious.

In the essay my students read in the workshop this week, “The Truthless Narrator,” the author Judy Doegnes writes, “…in the end our unstable world doesn’t topple the unreliable narrator but shores him up.” After our break for tea and coffee and snacks, I encouraged them to try creating their own unreliable narrators which they did with great success no doubt because they were shored up by Alana’s Sweet Bars.

Thank you Suzi and Alana for rewarding me with so much enriching and enduring sweetness!

Thank you Michelle!

Snack bars! Potato Chips? Butter? Alana offers a story for them all along with the warmest of invitations to her table, where, if you are lucky, Joey and the girls will share a jar of homemade pickles they just cracked open.
Would you love to win this book or one of the recipes of our bedtime snacks? Or, a piece of my art work, a letterpress print with a quote from my ‘Out of the Mouths of Babes’ program?
To register you must be a subscriber to this site already or become one by simply filling out the box in the upper right hand corner of this page. You will be joining my mailing list, which will deliver to you a discreet note every time I put up a new post and a very occasional announcement of Laundry Line Divine events.

One upcoming event is my appearance in Pittsfield at the Alchemy Initiative on April 28 for a day-long FeMail workshop with my collaborator Karen Arp-Sandel. Details here.
Another is my appearance in the WAM (Women’s Action Movement) theatre 24 Hour Theatre Project on April 14th. Details here.
And lastly, Michelle Gillett is leading a Memoir workshop with another of my She-ros, Marion Roach Smith, on April 20 &21, 2012 at the Stockbridge Library. Details here.

But first! Wait! There is more fun with the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers first. Saturday the Gala closing of the Festival at The Mount. I will be there, grinning from ear to ear, celebrating this wonderful Festival and all it has created here in the Berkshires and the ripples that flow out from this beautiful place.

I cannot leave without telling you about another mother author who shared her journey with her adult son, this time in Manhattan. Linda Wisniewski came to ‘Out of the Mouths of Babes’ blog series through Face Book and I could not be happier. Please read her post here.

The growing list of women offering their insights in to their mothering through the lens of creativity fills me with glee. Thank you authors and readers for joining this discussion.

Be the Ripple, right?
xoxox Love,

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

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