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Monday, October 25, 2010

quietly joyful

Both D and I were out with the stomach flu last week, and I’m having trouble getting back in the groove. Usually illnesses don’t keep me away from my computer; I work even when I’m not feeling well. But the stomach flu is, of course, a different kind of animal, and for much of the week last week I was incapable of doing anything other than lying in bed. I hadn’t felt that shaky since Stella was born and magnesium sulfate was pumping through my veins. And before that, it was when I had food poisoning in Panama during Carnavál. (That was the result of pure stupidity. Who eats pink potato salad from a street vendor when it’s 100 degrees? I’ll spare you that story—it’s much too long and disgusting to share here.)

By the end of last week I did feel better, but I was busy with the girls because both of them were out of school, and then I just didn’t feel like working. Then D and I celebrated our eleventh anniversary. (How have eleven years already gone by?) And I spent the remainder of the weekend playing with the girls and curled up on the couch reading Olive Kitteridge.

Maybe in part it was this book that made me feel incapable of work. I felt heavy with the lives in Elizabeth Strout's stories, heavy with their disappointments and betrayals. I couldn’t put the book down—Strout really is that talented—but I also found her stories terribly depressing. Short stories are often depressing, I think—there is something about the short form that can handle intense melancholy in a way a novel cannot—but the stories in Olive Kitteridge were filled with such loneliness that it was almost unbearable for me. All those affairs! All of those long, lonely evenings, with children grown and living far away, disinterested in the lives of their parents!

But of course there were moments of hope and connection in these stories, as well. I was so grateful for the last story, so grateful that Strout ended the collection with a sense of connection (even though it was tempered with sadness and regret). And I love the moments in so many of the stories in which Strout reminds us to live in the moment, to not take what we have—what we are living—for granted. I love this paragraph from “Tulips,” one of the stories in which Olive is the main character. Olive is remembering what it felt like to watch her son’s soccer games:

There was beauty to that autumn air, and the sweaty young bodies that had mud on their legs, strong young men who would throw themselves forward to have the ball smack against their foreheads; the cheering when a goal was scored, the goalie sinking to his knees. There were days—she could remember this—when Henry would hold her hand as they walked home, middle-aged people, in their prime. Had they known at these moments to be quietly joyful? Most likely not. People mostly did not know enough when they were living life that they were living it. But she had that memory now, of something healthy and pure. Maybe it was the purest she had, those moments on the soccer field, because she had other memories that were not pure.

I want to be quietly joyful. I want to know that I’m living life as I’m living it. I want my children (and D) to know that I am there, present, living with them, enjoying our lives, even on those days when living is hard. I’m not sure what I need to do to make this happen. Maybe it means I don’t turn on my computer on the weekends. Maybe it means stopping each day and taking stock, appreciating what we do have.

How do you stay in the moment? How do you remember to be quietly joyful?

Monday, October 18, 2010

good enough moms

My interview with Marti and Erin is now up at Good Enough Moms. Click here to listen to our conversation about the term "momoir," my upcoming Mother Words retreat and classes, and to hear how writing about motherhood has affected some of my wonderful students.

Thanks for taking the time to talk with me, Marti and Erin!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

the reading, the reading

I have been meaning to post about the Mother Words Reading for a week now. But the days have been vanishing before my eyes. I have been busier this last week than I have been in a long time (and of course it's not as if I'm usually lolling around the house eating bonbons). I've been jumping from class prep to teaching to the book, the book, the book. I keep stealing away when the girls are occupied for a moment to sit down in front of my computer. And of course this busyness is compounded by the fact I'm exhausted because my dear toddler has been waking up in the middle of the night every night. Once she is situated in our bed, it often takes her an hour to fall back asleep. (It’s lots of fun.)

But I do have to write about the reading, which was wonderful. There is nothing like standing in front of a room of both familiar and unfamiliar faces, describing the work that is closest to your heart. That’s what I had the opportunity to do on Thursday in the lovely Target Performance Hall at the Open Book in Minneapolis. Thank you to all of you who made it down to the event!

Also, a huge thank you to The Loft Literary Center for hosting the event and to my friends and family who contributed appetizers (and amazing shortbread bars!) for the reception. I am also incredibly grateful to Hope Edelman and Bonnie J. Rough for flying to Minneapolis for the event. I know they both had long flights, and I’m honored that they made the trip in order to be a part of the 4th Annual Mother Words Reading. Thank you, Bonnie and Hope!!

I also have some great news: for the first time, the reading was recorded and it will be available as a podcast through Good Enough Moms! Thanks to Marti, Erin, Luke, and my dad (who helped cover the recording costs) for making this possible. I’ll link to Good Enough Moms, of course, when the podcast is available.

Now on to a few photos from the event:

I love this photo (except for the fact that it was the 4th—not 3rd—Annual Mother Words Reading. (It was the third one held at the Loft, though, so I’m sure that’s where the confusion arose.)

Me and Bonnie (center) and Hope (right) before the reading.

The wonderful opening act! I was thrilled to have Maria Asp, Darcey Engen, and Nanci Olesen perform a song from their new act, I'm Telling, an hour-long show featuring song and real life stories of motherhood, to kick off the evening. I'm sure many of you remember Nanci from her MOMbo show. And now, with the help and Maria and Darcey, Nanci is continuing to be an important voice for mothers in the arts. (I'm going to interview Nanci in the coming month here at Mother Words, but in the meantime please check out the group's website for upcoming performances.)

So it was a wonderful evening, and I'm looking forward to next year's event. I already have the readers lined up, and I will let you know more as soon as dates and details have been confirmed.
Thank you, as always, to all of you out there reading and promoting motherhood literature. You are making a difference!!

Thursday, October 7, 2010


Please come down to The Loft Literary Center at the Open Book in Minneapolis tonight for the 4th Annual Mother Words Reading featuring the wonderful Hope Edelman and Bonnie J. Rough.

Where: Target Performance Hall, Open Book

When: 7 - 9 p.m.

There will also be a special opening act by Darcey Engen, Maria Asp, and Nanci Olesen -- a brief sneak peak of their new show, I'm Telling.

It's free, so bring your friends and stay for the reception following the reading. I hope to see you there!

Monday, October 4, 2010

mother words week at cribsheet!

I'm thrilled to announce that it's Mother Words Week over at the StarTribune's Cribsheet blog. I know many of you are regular readers of Cribsheet. If you're not, you should be -- May and Kay are fabulous!

This year's Mother Words week features essays from my online Mother Words students, and it's being kicked off with a lovely piece by Cecilia, who writes the wonderful blog, Only You.

Please check out Cribsheet each day this week for a new essay. And congratulations to my wonderful students!