Tag Archives: being a mother

Essay at Tiferet Journal!

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(un-edited, sweaty, post-Zumba author photo/selfie.)

I’m thrilled to announce that my essay, “(Perfection) DEFECTION” was published in the summer issue of Tiferet JournalYou can read the essay by clicking on the link below. Please also consider purchasing the full issue for $4.95 through Tiferet’s marketplace.

This essay grew from a rant I wrote and performed at Women’s Voices Out Loud in Yellow Springs, Ohio in 2016. (You can read more about Women’s Voices Out Loud here.)

I’m grateful to Gayle Brandeis and all the good people at Tiferet for the opportunity to share this piece, and for the work they are doing in the world.

Enjoy!

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Open letter to my daughter

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January 20, 2017

Dear Merida,

Today, I’m knitting the last of three black wool pussy hats for friends who will travel to Washington DC to the women’s march. Today, for a few more hours, Barack Obama is president. I’m grateful that he’s been the only president you’ve know in your lifetime thus far. I’m sad to see him go. No one is perfect, but he has been a wise and compassionate leader. This morning when I put on my Obama tee-shirt, you said you’re sad for your friend. When I asked why, you said because her birthday is the day after Trump moves into the White House. I said no, he can’t ruin our parties! I said he’s not that powerful.

Here’s what else I want to say to you today: There are so many ways to make the world better. Some ways are to listen to other people, to be kind, and thoughtful, and maybe most importantly, to be fair. To realize that we all deserve to be free, and to work to make that happen. When we see something that isn’t right or fair, we speak up and make it better. If you keep these things in your mind and heart as you grow, if you keep paying attention to ways you can make the world more kind and fair and just, you will make the world better. No one can ruin the party of the world that you and your generation are creating. You know that song we sing, the one that goes: “A woman who loves herself, though she may be shaken, a woman who loves herself will never fall.” The beautiful world we are creating is the same as that woman. We do create the world, all of us, each of us. If we fill it with fairness and compassion, even when it is shaken, it will never fall.

At the Women’s Park in Yellow Springs, along with many other friends and family, your name is on a stone, along with the words of Patti Smith: “The world is yours, change it, change it!” You and your generation will find, and will be, the leaders. You will continue making the world more fair and loving. All you need to do is keep listening, and trust what you know in your bones: that we all deserve to be loved and free.

I have infinite faith in you and your generation. You are strong and mighty. Your hearts are brimming over with love, and your voices resonate.

Use your strong hearts to keep shining the light of love and compassion outward to all.

I love you,

Mama

The Normal Magic of a Place (on the Antioch School)

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Peter breaks through (from Peter and Wendy, by J.M. Barrie; illustration by Lucie Mabel Attwell)

In perusing the Antioch School’s website this evening, I noticed that a piece I wrote awhile ago about the importance of story had been posted there. The memory of that time provided uplift for me just now, so thought I’d share it here.

Uplift is nice.

 

A song I am praying for Hillary Clinton.

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I sing this song often. I sing it in my circle. When I sing it, it is sometimes a balm, sometimes a war cry, sometimes a dirge for some part of myself, or a blessing, or an encouragement for someone who needs to remember what is waiting inside her, and has been, all along.

It goes something like this:

My sister, pick up your power. 

My sister, claim your voice.

Remember those gone before us.

And pray for those yet to come.

Today I am singing it for Hillary Clinton: May she pick up her power, claim her voice, remember those gone before us, and pray for those yet to come.

May she plant her feet firmly in the ground, feeling the connection to Mother Earth.

May she feel the strength of the ancestors in her bones.

May she sing the songs of peace and protection that are in her to sing.

May she access all her selves, and even discover new ones: mother, warrior, peacemaker, human.

The Climber (an old poem)

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When my daughter was four months old, I wrote a poem called “The Climber” which was published by Mothering Magazine in 2008. Because the magazine is now defunct and the poem is no longer archived online, I’m posting it here so I can share it with a Facebook friend.  (p.s. I always feel vulnerable when I put a poem out because I’m not a poet. And because this is old, I want to edit and make it a better poem, but I’m not going to tinker right now, and instead just share it. A new mother of my acquaintance describes how her baby and her body intertwine as they nurse, and when I think of that, I zoom back to those raw, free-falling moments of early motherhood, when the tiniest thing seemed also like the biggest thing, and vice versa, and I was so sleep deprived and confused, who could even tell the difference. I remember how hard that time was, and now just want to stand in the swirl of those complexities and say to anyone in the midst of any of it: you are not alone.)

***

The Climber

 

When I was twenty-one,

I went rock climbing in the Clifton Gorge.

 

The leader held up

a bandanna,

said:

we could use it

to climb

blindfolded

if we wanted to.

 

Late in the day, I decided to try.

 

Belayer below me,

blindly I climbed,

finding foot holds

by braille.

 

Later the other women said I’d picked

places to support me

I wouldn’t have chosen

with my eyes.

Crevasses chosen by touch, by feel.

 

Twenty years later, the rocks in the Gorge are off limits

to climbers–

there were accidents,

people got hurt

or worse.

 

So I hike there,

carrying you,

and find columbine in the rocks

I climbed before.

 

And at night, when you nurse beside me,

eyes closed,

your tiny toe finds my navel.

 

Okay, you be the climber,

I’ll be the rock.

Trust your toe holds,

don’t fall,

don’t fall.

And if you fall,

I will catch you,

breech baby climber,

head up.

 

Little rock climber,

four months ago,

you were on the other side of my belly button.

Your hand grips my thumb now

like a walking stick.

 

You came from here.

“How not to buy more babies”

Photograph of three dolls

Left to right under Merida’s arm: Big Baby (note 99 on foot); Sasha, Gregor.

In my computer files, today I found something I had written in June 2011 for one of my daughter’s caretakers. The title of the file is “how not to buy more babies.” Good timing. Last night my husband and I were reminiscing about one of our daughter’s babies which we called “Big Baby.”  Big Baby was purchased from a thrift store in Dayton when my very young daughter fell in love with the hunk of plastic and wouldn’t leave the store without her. Big Baby had “99” sharpied on her foot, because she cost 99 cents. A while later, my daughter agreed to pass Big Baby along to another family. I found a photo of Big Baby with the Sasha dolls from my childhood, and my daughter having a drumming circle with them. Here are my instructions about how not to buy more babies:

We’re working on some population control strategies for the baby dolls in our house. I know it’s hard to say no to her, but this has worked for me:

If she asks to go to the toy store, offer another option, another place to go, like the playground. If she is insistent, say you will take her to the toy store and get her a balloon, she can choose whatever color she wants, but not a baby. This works best if you talk about it before you are there. When you get there, if she grabs and wants a baby, tell her what a nice baby that is, but that baby is for someone else, and that she can come back and VISIT the baby at the store again sometime. (And by the way, what color of balloon would she like?)

There are several reasons we want to control the number of babies in the house:

  1. She has plenty already. There’s too much stuff on the planet and in our house.       We want to teach her that she doesn’t need more and more stuff to be happy. She already has so many other babies that she loves, etc.
  2. For her 4th birthday, we will get her a very special baby, and we want her to understand the idea of quality over quantity.
  3. Also, we want to start teaching her about the value of money. We’re trying to find her a good piggy bank so she can start saving money toward things she wants, so she understands the value of saving and choosing carefully.

With your blessing, we are going to negotiate that some of her babies might come stay at your house, so she will have some other little souls to take care of over there. :)

 

Anyone can fly

 

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Betty Bronson as Peter Pan (with shadow)

M, age 8: Will you make a Peter Pan costume for my Finn doll?

(She had me at Peter Pan. She had me at herself, actually.)

I made the thing; tiny green sock-scrap leaves sewn on tiny beige sock-scrap shirt, a messy torrent, surpassingly cute. And then I reminded her that Peter Pan is often played by a woman. That anyone could wear the costume. It was silent for a moment, as it often is when she’s thinking, and then she said, actually, her girl doll A. will probably wear the shirt every day, because of her dolls, she’s the most adventurous and flexible…

And this is how we raise them, how they lift off despite gravity, and perhaps even fly…

 

(Unfinished post about) Hello Kitty

IMG_6471Cleaning up my computer desktop, I found this fragment, written in autumn 2012. I am leaving it unfinished because time has passed, and I no longer have that authentic fire to finish it (=my daughter has moved on), but it still seems relevant.

Why I hate Hello Kitty

  1. She has no mouth. (A friend pointed this out to me. My friend was disturbed because her daughter was interested in Hello Kitty, but Hello Kitty was physically incapable to speak, eat, laugh, or sing. The idea came up to draw a mouth on Hello Kitty, but the challenge becomes how to reach every Hello Kitty in the world? It turns out that someone has written a poem about Hello Kitty’s lack of mouth. http://www.queeg.com/hellokitty/)
  2. Hello Kitty causes an otherwise pleasant four and three-quarters-year-old daughter of mine to whine, yell, and sob when I don’t cave in and buy an emblazoned purse at Target because she had already chosen her “impulse buy” (a pink scraper with a pig head on the handle!) at Bed Bath & Beyond. (And this from a child who can usually be re-directed away from whining for plastic crap.)
  3. It’s impossible to avoid the Hello Kitty aisle at Target: THAT CAT IS EVERYWHERE!

Long live the book (and long live the conversation)

from Peter and Wendy, by J.M. Barrie (illustration by Lucie May Atwell)

from Peter and Wendy, by J.M. Barrie (illustration by Lucie May Atwell)

Here’s a NY Times article that brings up some more questions about where and how we should read to children, and whether any reading (on an e-reader, for instance) is better than nothing.  (The brief answer:

“What we’re really after in reading to our children is behavior that sparks a conversation,” said Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, a professor of psychology at Temple and co-author of the 2013 study. “But if that book has things that disrupt the conversation, like a game plopped right in the middle of the story, then it’s not offering you the same advantages as an old-fashioned book.”)

Again and again, what seems central to so much about how we live: being active (rather than passive) is almost always best.

“What if Peter hadn’t caught the wolf? What then?”

Was this the album cover of my youth?

Was this the album cover of my youth?

This morning, with my daughter’s school I went to hear the Dayton Philharmonic concert perform several stories, including Peter and The Wolf.  I was sleep-deprived, having worried overnight about a very scary situation a friend was going through–a reminder that we don’t get out of here alive. The strains of Peter and the Wolf  hurled me back to childhood, and left me tearful…the music (as music will sometimes do) approached me from other human hearts (composer, musicians), reached into my body, held my wrung-out heart, exposing that red and tender mess to music’s melodic touch.  Of course I cried.

At the end of the story of Peter and the Wolf, the characters parade to take the trapped wolf to the zoo.  “What if Peter hadn’t caught the wolf?  What then?” asks Peter’s grandfather.

I cried while I watched the story today in part because a friend from college, the roommate of my college boyfriend, went to the hospital last Christmas day because his stomach hurt.  It was stomach cancer.  Two weeks ago, despite the ever-youthful impish angel energy he carried with him so beautifully through the decades, after how many rounds of chemo and thousands of people circling him with love and support, he died.  (The wolf was not caught.  But my friend the imp-angel, in his final months, due to his loving, kind spirit, pulled back together a circle of friends whom I’d missed for years.  One bright fact in this horrible loss, the light he shone on us.)

This morning I learned that last night’s freshest reminder of our damned mortality, my friend who I worried about while I did not sleep, might have cheated death awhile longer.  This morning I pled in my journal , “Please let him be okay,” covered the page with scrawled hearts, as I often do when I’m wishing, but I might as well have written, more bluntly: “Please let him cheat death awhile longer.”

Each breath cheats death, doesn’t it?  As I write this and as you read it, look at the two of us: just a couple of lucky, breathing cheaters.

As a child, the wolf was a scary dark force, who always slinked up at the same point in the symphony, on cue.  This morning, watching the Dayton Philharmonic and the Dayton Ballet School amid an audience of school children,  my adult mind was able to see a crucial nuance: The wolf is hungry.

The wolf is always hungry.

So hungry, in fact, that she swallows the duck whole.  (If you listen closely, you can still hear the duck’s song.  That’s called memory, children.)

But what if Peter hadn’t caught the wolf?  What then?