Ekphrastic Mama

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I am the mother of three daughters, each born in a different decade, and three sons in a somewhat closer clump. One "hub" hold us together. This is not what passes for wise family planning in American culture, but as the beat poet Alice Notley wrote, “I didn’t plan my pregnancies. I’m an experimentalist.” When I was writing Ekphrastic Mama for Mothers Creating/Writing Lives: Motherhood Memoir, I took stock of our family span: with one child married, one in college, one in high school, one in junior high, an elementary schooler, a toddler, and now a grandbaby, I was experiencing all phases of motherhood simultaneously. Years later I'm still experimenting with ekphrasis- art that speaks out- and hoping to inspire others in their writing ventures.

The Year-End Letter

Dear Friends & Family,We end this year with gratitude and send our heartfelt greetings, especially to those who’ve lost jobs, co-workers, friends, or loved ones. Whatever challenges you’re facing, we hope and pray love wins… During this year of going nowhere, instead of traveling to far off places, we’ve escaped into the local forests around us and sought to bring the outdoors inside… While John was off work for 4 months (Cargo w/ Alaska Air) he learned to epoxy thick slabs of Juniper we brought from Bend to make a desk, coffee table, and bathroom counter (left pic). We also stained, painted, and modernized the staircase with textured carpet & metal accents (on right). And John used his welding skills to build an artistic gate to hide our kayaks on the side of the house. Essentially grounded this year, we completed projects that make home more enticing. And haven’t we…

Walking Away

Small plane goes off runway and crashes in San Diego County; pilot walks away. https://www.newsbreak.com/california/fallbrook/news/2101199393210/small-plane-goes-off-runway-and-crashes-in-san-diego-county-pilot-is-able-to-walk-away?s=oldSite&ss=a3 My friend sends me this snippet on e-mail, a thin connection to our past lives from ten years ago when I lived in the village near the runway where the small plane went off and a man walked away. Later, this morning when I am out running—a carpe diem act done during a break in the frequent PNW rain—that runway unfurls itself in front of me, my steps paved by that snippet. A first kiss from my then future hub happened at that airpark where the runway runs short. I hoped to never marry, but I couldn’t pass up someone who kisses like that, beneath low flying planes. Years later, my hub’s father learned to fly, his long-time late-in-life dream launched off the end of that too short runway. At different times, we all went…

How is NaNo Serving You?

At the end of a very interesting first week of NaNo, how are you feeling about your writing? It has been an up-and-down week for me, but it’s ending on a high note. I hope you feel the same. Here are some of the ways I’ve gotten myself back on track when enthusiasm or motivation lagged. First, I looked at my thoughts- what was I telling myself about the writing (and the life going on all around me)? Awareness of my own thoughts, along with knowing that I choose my thoughts has enabled me to 1) accept myself and my thoughts, and 2) choose thoughts that serve me. So, for example, this week when I thought writing was drudgery and the world around me felt like a mess of uncertainty and upheaval, I acknowledged that sometimes life just feels that way. Actually, we have negative thoughts about 50% of the…

Make Nanowrimo Work for You

NaNoWriMo has been part of our family vocabulary since 2009 when two of our sons, ages 12 and 15, each wrote 50K+ novels while educating from home. I was finishing an M.A. in Lit./Writing at the time, with no spare moments to craft a novel, which made me envious. Since then I’ve done NaNo off and on with limited success (and created a version for memoir- MaMoMeMo- May is Motherhood Memoir Month… http://mamomemo.com/2018/04/welcome/, a place where you set your own goals…). None of the novel messes I’ve generated during NaNo have become what I’d call a finished novel; think of a ball of yarn, 50K yards of it, in need of serious untangling. It’s easier to start fresh with new material. When I’m a slave to word count, I churn out an ugly mess, though I do make some interesting discoveries. And I hone the habit of putting words on…

The Daughter of 21 Years Ago

I have three daughters, born in three different decades, all with the same father, but very different from each other, if for no other reason than they were each born in essentially separate generations. Each daughter thinks she had a different upbringing than her sisters, and I suppose that’s true. In fact, the youngest one never lived with the oldest. And the middle one never lived in the house or state where the youngest one has spent most of her life. And we are different parents in our 60s than we were in our 20s, with better resources, but also more challenges, like a pandemic. On birthdays, the daughters often compare gifts–what they remember of the gifts they got at the same age. It’s mostly done with a good bit of fun. The daughter who is 21 today is sure the youngest has gotten more than she did at her…

May is Almost Here-mamomemo time!

So what are we doing for Motherhood Memoir Month during the coronavirus sequester? Writing of course. Not a mother? No worries. Everyone has a motherhood story to tell, because obviously… where did you come from? Was your mother missing in some or many ways? Absence is a strong theme in many motherhood tales. But wait- I’m not writing memoir at the moment. Perfect- me either. I spent so much time writing about my mother and our manic relationship over the past year-and-a-half since she died that I have put that away. So what am I doing? I’m writing a novel. And the mother-daughter theme, or conundrum, drive a lot of the story. So the prompts this time will be for fiction as well as memoir and journal writing- because if you have a mother, you need a journal- a place to download all those thoughts- the good, the bad, the…

What are you reading?

“Even she, reduced to a thumbnail,/ has her side to tell.”                                   — Privilege by Mary Adkins, a line from the poem that opens the book. Privilege, a narrative about life after date rape, is an entertaining tale difficult to leave down as it straddles the uneasy line between comedy and tragedy. Annie, our first-person narrator, takes us into a world new to her, carrying some interesting baggage, that of a burnt bassoonist with an unexpected scholarship, a step up the class ladder. In this adeptly interwoven and intriguing narrative–a triangulation of three women from diverse backgrounds and perspectives–the reader experiences the second coming-of-age in a high-end college with its inherent challenges. As I get to know Annie I want to help carry the weight of what life thrusts at her like a close friend might, but it is far more satisfying to watch her figure out adult life for herself,…

Carpet Ride

(A version of this story just won an award from Central Oregon Writer’s Guild 2020 for creative non-fiction) As I pull in the circular driveway of my parent’s house for the last time, the blown speakers on the rental car radio crackle out Steppenwolf’s Magic Carpet Ride. A dumpster filled with recently removed carpet blocks my path around, the same brown shag carpet from my teen years. The undersides appear ash gray, loosely stacked rolls poised to unfurl at me like someone I once walked on. My stepfather built the long, low ranch-style house in the early 70s when wall-to-wall carpet was the new trend. We moved from the city ten miles away to the foothills of Fallbrook, beneath the Sleeping Indian that gave our street its name. It’s horse property, Mother said, trying to lure me away from everything familiar as high school started. Once the house was finished,…

What are You Reading?

The Art of the Wasted Day by Patricia Hample is “a picaresque travelogue of leisure written from a lifelong enchantment with solitude,” and it’s getting many of my allotted reading minutes at the moment. It’s rather perfect for these times of armchair travel and virus inspired daydreaming. Why I like it: I tend to feel bad about not accomplishing much on a given day, but now that I know it’s an art form, I’m all in. I can feel good again. Carry on. A favorite writing inspiration: The author doesn’t believe in the narrative arc, “that fiction of fictions.” I find this more than a bit freeing, along with the idea that the final destination of a novel or story is “the creation of form offering the illusion of inevitability, the denial of chaos.” The author wanders and muses about travel, writing, her lost love, and those musers who have…

Are You My Mother?

The Unexpected Cheese-white cheddar laced with parmesan- is the sample offering at Trader Joe’s as I run in to get a few groceries before heading back for my daughter at ice skating. I take one, happy to see it’s finger food. All their samples can be finger food, even the slaws and salads, eaten in a few bites without the plastic-wrapped-plastic-fork, but then you need a napkin. I add the cheese to my cart, then turn back for the coffee sample, wishing I had my double-wall espresso cup in my bag, but I’ve gotten careless. A slender lady in a tailored gray wool coat is taking her time getting coffee, adding cream, stirring, tasting. Her cart is pulled across the sampling space and people are starting to line up. I move to one side of her, slip around to nab a tiny cup. She looks at me, then steps back…

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