MaMoMeMo
May is motherhood memoir month

May 2019

10 Posts Back Home
Showing all posts made in the month of May 2019.

Day 31 of 31 Days of Memoir

This is what I’ve got: A skeleton, a story with a beginning, middle, and end, the bones in place- not as much sinew, ligaments or flesh as I would like yet, or lumps of flesh that will need liposuction later, but enough, definitely more than I’d have if I hadn’t committed to writing everyday for the month of May. Next up: an excerpt from the memoir I’ve been working on about my being my mother’s daughter, and my three daughter’s mother in the face of my mother’s recent death–for an anthology with a due date halfway through the month of June. And more writing, more wrenching. “No matter how self-aware you are, Mary Karr writes in the introduction to The Art of Memoir, “memoir wrenches at your insides precisely because it makes you battle with your very self–your neat analyses and tidy excuses.” It’s tempting to excuse myself and take…

In-laws, Steps, & Halfs

We need some new terms for family relationships… Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash 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…

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…

Back to the Bones

the skeleton of the story- Photo by Danielle MacInnes After a mid-month slump (something I’ve come to expect might happen now, and maybe because of that it just does…), I’m back in the saddle with writing a memoir in a month, at least the bones of the story. I return to the bones, that inner framework; every story has a skeleton it hangs upon. The backbone of this memoir is a series of three trips made in one month to see my dying mother. All flashbacks and side stories hang from this time frame, the central story. But how to stick with just the bones and not get carried off with the flesh at this point- this is the challenging question. I’ve pondered the pantser vs. plotter assessment and know that I’m not as much a plotter as a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants writer. But I also know that every story, including memoir, has…

The Secret Letter

Tucked into the flap of The Sphynx, my mother’s high school yearbook from 1949, a folded note falls out. It begins Dearest Marvin, an old love letter that feels like a find, a message from beyond the crematorium, a hidden bit of my mother’s life. There is so much I didn’t know, may never know, but here is her voice at 17, penciled onto a piece of yellowed notebook paper from 70 years ago. The letter was lost, or forgotten, a chance find when I noticed the outer binding separated on two sides to reveal a hidden pocket. I’ve been going through my mother’s stuff with renewed interest since she died. When she was alive, her manic meanderings about people I didn’t know didn’t interest me, and I was impatient with her continual complaints. I was interested in her past, but I could rarely get a cohesive answer when I…

Death & Mother’s Day Cards

I am looking at the rack of lovely Mother’s Day cards when I realize I don’t need to buy a Mother’s Day card this year. My mother is dead, or as I like to think, has flown away. The Mother’s Day card was always a quandary for me anyway, filled with so much glowing praise that just didn’t apply. It always took me awhile to find the right card. Some years I just modified an all occasion card or, in my artsy phases, made my own card. It was always a rather conflicted occasion, so why now am I close to tears standing in front of the Mother’s Day card display? I never thought I’d miss her, but I was wrong. And yet I don’t miss so many things about her, but there seems no way to be in touch with my actual feelings, processing them instead of numbing them,…

In Over My Head

Photo by William Daigneault Ask yourself every once in a while: Am I in over my head? Am I posing questions in my work to which there can never be satisfying, final answers? Am I trying to tackle a project here that is well beyond my capacity as a writer? Am I just a little afraid of the direction that all of this is going? If the answer to each of these questions is yes, then you are heading in the right direction. Steady on. These questions and quote from the The Mindful Writer by Dinty Moore speak directly to where I’m at on Day 8 of Memoir Month.

Simply Write

The Power of a Writing Salon collage by LLGreenstone Today we met at the Camas Library, six writers and myself. This is the third month we’ve met, and we all went away amazed at how productive a bit of writing time can be, even with minimal feedback. I introduced our prompt and we got right to work, a short session of only 5 minutes, plus a minute to wrap it up. Each writer had the option to read or pass. The first reading is not up for feedback. It acts more as an introduction to each other, without any words spoken except those that were written during that 5-6 minutes. But beyond this, it is an opportunity for the writer to hear her own writing, how the words she’s put together fall upon the ear and heart. Years ago when I was at UCSD Eudora Welty came into the Honors…

Running from Writing

Why I run to and from Writing ( photo by nathalie d. mottet) Writing makes me run. Sometimes I sit down to write, get a few sentences in, and want to jump up. Suddenly something seems more important- I’ll be able to work better with more coffee, or water, or a snack, my mind says. This is not my higher calling mind. This is my primitive feed-me-now toddler mind, the one that does not want to work hard. The one who loves pleasure and avoids pain. There is something both painful and pleasurable about writing. But most of the pleasure comes after the work of writing, so I discipline myself to stay on the ball (I sit at my desk on a balance ball) and keep writing for as long as I can. The pleasure, if it comes, is usually later, after I’ve written, maybe when I’m reading over what…

Permission to Struggle

It’s okay to struggle. painting by L.Lyn Greenstone Give yourself permission to struggle, Char, the Pilates instructor says. She also says things like, it’s okay to wobble. I never see her wobble, and none of the HIIT Pilates moves we do seem a struggle for her strong body, but I trust she knows what she’s talking about. As I take in her words, something settles within, allowing me to focus and be okay with weakness. So I take this bit of wisdom home, mull it over as I write this memoir. I’m struggling with organization, structure, and cohesiveness–all things I shouldn’t worry about right now. But I want to name all 31 chapters, know more about where I’m going, what the stops along the way will look like, and how I’m going to get there. It turns out writing isn’t like that for me. It is always a surprise journey.…

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