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 realized that I was experiencing all phases of motherhood simultaneously. And so far I've lived to tell about it.

Writing Retreat: a girl in a book on a bike at the beach

I took the Trees to Sea highway over to the coast for a writing retreat recently, criss-crossing streams until I arrived in Oceanside, Oregon, my mountain bike on the back of my car, my trusty tent inside. Rooms on the coast are expensive, but camping is a boon. I pitched my REI tent in the trees just beyond the sand dunes of Cape Lookout and listened to the ocean purr all night long, cozy and content like a kid on an adventure, sunny and glorious for three whole days. In between writing spurts, I rode my mountain bike down the Netarts Spit, the only bike in the sand. My tires are wide but not super fat, so sometimes they bog down, and I turn to where the sand is wetter or drier and pedal harder. Riding and writing have a lot in common. Or nothing. Sometimes I fight for words,…

Can Nanowrimo help with Memoir? Or your revision?

Last year I started a YA novel on November 1, but 4 days in I had to go see my 85 year-old mother, suddenly hospitalized in Las Vegas. Determined to keep my commitment, I wrote in a journal and caught up my word count when I returned. Three days later I flew back to Las Vegas again, journal in hand, still determined. By the time I returned, I’d written a dying grandmother into the novel. Before the month was over I made three trips to Las Vegas from my home near Portland, OR. The novel morphed into some other genre, meta-memoir? I’ve been working on it ever since; now it’s a memoir that starts out about writing a novel, but turns into an exploration of the mother-daughter relationship and the euthanizing affects of morphine at the end of life. This year, I’ll be working on a second draft, maybe ignoring…

My Second Swarm

My friend, Stephanie, just texted me- another swarm! This time it’s in the bait hive I put near her house, up in a tree. Stephanie is the same friend who called me last time, where we got our first swarm : https://lorilyngreenstone.com/first-bee-swarm/. This time, there is no one around to help… Can I go collect this swarm alone? activity in the bee bait hive! I decide I can. I put on my bee suit, leftover from our days in Bend, OR, when Lily, our then teen was into beekeeeping (busy “adulting” now in nearby Portland, but still a bee enthusiast). The swarm, if it is one, is in my “bait hive.” I made the bait hive at Bee Club in April, then hung it in my backyard/forest, but never got any action until I took it over to Stephanie’s. She owns http://oneearthbotanical.com/, a nursery with some bee hives. We met…

First Bee Swarm

Today we collected a swarm of bees, our little family of three. Yes, we wore our bee suits… A friend said bees swarmed up into a tree on her property, maybe 25′ up. Did we want to come get them? We have never collected a swarm of bees, but Arielle and I have been going to Preservation Beekeeping Council meetings here in Camas, learning natural ways we can help the bees. https://preservationbeekeeping.com/ When we lived in Bend, Lily got bees from Glory Bee in Eugene, so we have a bit of bee-ing experience, but mostly a lot of studying or doing the wrong things (our Bend bees froze in winter- see Mothering Bees post on how to convert those hives to insulated, happy ones). https://lorilyngreenstone.com/mothering-bees-quilt-boxes-convert-langstroth-hives/ How to keep your bees from freezing in winter, or boiling in summer… We got our hives ready back in April- one double Langstroth conversion…

In-laws, Steps, & Halfs

We need some new terms for family relationships… I accidentally referred to my half-brother as my step-brother in a post, and he was quick to text me about it. I was writing about my stepfather who begat my half-brother, so you might understand the confusion. The slip-up highlights the problem with these terms– these are my real family. My “step”-father was a step up from my real, or biological, father; my “half-brother” is more whole to me than my real, DNA-equal brothers. And I once had a son-in-law that felt every bit like a soul son. Putting an X in front of that term didn’t cross out any of my familial feelings when he and our daughter divorced. I have a sister-in-law who is more of a sister to me, and more of an aunt to my daughter than my real sister, and that’s okay. I’m okay with all of…

Mother’s Only Brother

A Memorial Day reflection on the trickle down effects of war deaths He went off to the Korean War and never came back My mother was a high school girl when her older brother went off to the Korean War. Not until her recent death have I thought deeply on how this event affected her young life. She only talked about her brother in brief outbursts, then tears overtook her, as if she were experiencing his death all over again. This mystified me. It was so long ago, why wasn’t she over it already? As a child of 10, I remember awakening one night to the cacophony of her playing both the piano and the organ at the same time. They sat at right angles to each other in our open dining room. I peeked out from the sliding pocket door that separated the hallway to my bedroom from the…

The Baby I had at 47 1/2

My youngest daughter is 12 today. I am 59 1/2 exactly. I know this because today is May 1, exactly 6 months until my next birthday, November 1, when I will turn 60. It still does not fail to amaze me that I have a 12 year-old, but especially this 12 year-old, this child I was sure I didn’t want. At the time I found out I was pregnant I was applying to grad school, literally filling out applications in the physician’s office, just getting a yearly check-up, but feeling a bit tired. We already had five kids. The oldest daughter was 25, trying to get pregnant. The oldest son was in college. One son was high school age, and another junior high. Our youngest daughter, a surprise when I was almost 40, was a third grader. It was finally my time to go back and get the graduate degree…

Mothering Bees- quilt boxes convert traditional hives

Our bees housed in Langstroth hives died in winter when we lived in Central Oregon where it gets cold and snowy. But now we live in the Columbia Gorge near Portland and I’m making quilt boxes for bees- me who does not quilt–luckily, no quilting involved. Converting Langstroth boxes to bee-cozy habitats We live in Camas, Washington- soon to be designated a “Bee City, USA”, the 3rd in the state, after Seattle and Puyallup. What a great place we’ve dropped into- https://www.beecityusa.org/current-bee-cities.html But bee survival is still challenged here by wet weather and other factors. Our interest in bees was piqued by our middle daughter a few years ago when she asked for bees for her 16th birthday. We attended Glory Bee’s beekeeping weekend event in Eugene. $1000 later we returned with bee boxes, bee suits, 16,000 bees, and a myriad of beekeeping paraphernalia. It turns out most of this…

Good-bye REI

It just so happens I gave my notice at REI this week, just ahead of Jerry Stritzke handing in his letter of resignation over a “consensual relationship” with the head of some other outdoor company. I didn’t play a big role in REI- I was an Action Sports Specialist in the Bend, OR store for 5 years, and then again in Portland for the last two years, mostly part-time. Before the ride with CEO Jerry Stritzke and other REI high-ups- no helmet head yet. Even so, I got to know Jerry just a bit. He came down to Bend to mountain bike, and my manager asked if I could help lead the ride, the token female. Almost everyone went down on that ride, and when Jerry hit the dirt I was off my bike fast, grabbing my phone, just for the fun of getting a pic of our CEO eating…

Of Winning with Daughters

Sometimes the most powerful words are your own, recited back to you. Lily is a poet. You might remember she won the Central Oregon Writers Guild poetry award last year. She won it again this year and I got to stand up with her and get my own award for non-fiction. I wrapped a story, basically a letter to her, around one of her poems Lily, our 18 year old daughter, won the Central Oregon Writer’s Guild Poetry Award again this year (two in a row). And I won 2nd in the non-fiction category. And for the first time in a long time I feel like I might be winning this motherhood game. But I also might be cheating- I used one of Lily’s poems, collaging parts of it into a story for her, and without her poem the story wouldn’t be much. Here’s the story: Such Unkind Things …

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