Two weekends ago I had the opportunity to attend the Black Fly Writer’s Retreat in Grand Lake Stream, Maine. Four different sessions were happening simultaneously. I was with the poetry group. It all went by in a blur. Three days is not enough time for me to drop into my poet self in the kind of way a week allows. So, now I know–but it did allow me to have several pieces work shopped. I was very pleased with how the group responded to my voice, and overall poetry process.
My “water poems” as a body of work moved forward, and I made a few very cool new writer connections. On the final night we had a bonfire reading. Here is one of the poems from the weekend that I wrote and read. The form came from an activity where you list, but only allow yourself one verb. Mine didn’t follow directions exactly, but I was pleased with the outcome:
The Minister and the Snake
The missing goldfish
(nine now dead)
the rusty spade
at the back of the shed
a gardener’s rage
a snake’s split head
on Easter Sunday
bread and wine
for the visitors
in their best dressed
more promises of forgiveness
except for the serpent
now dead behind
the minister’s shed.
A week ago, Shrek and I went on an international adventure, alone, for three and half days. We dropped the boys off with Uncle and my father and his wife on a Thursday in Massachusetts and drove across the Canadian border the next morning.
We spent three days and two nights in Quebec City. We had not spent more then one night together alone, without any of our seven kids in the entire two and half years we have been together.
If you are trying to navigate the richly rewarding and intensely complex world of a blended family follow our lead and plan a get away trip as soon as you are able. If you have been with your honey since before the littles came onto the scene, I bet the same logic applies.
Ten reasons to leave the kids behind and get away together now:
1. Being alone in your own house (for even one night) without the kids in the next room allows you to feel like a grown up in your own home. How you spend that time is up to you. We chose the station on the radio, and didn’t have to worry if the music was too loud after 8:30pm. A cuddle on the couch was not at risk of being interrupted.
2. Planning a trip without one whit of consideration about what we do with the kids once we got there, meant we didn’t really have to plan a thing! I checked out a book about Canada from the library the day before we left, because I could. I haven’t allowed myself that kind of “ease” or lack of planning in a decade.
3. A six hour road trip can be leisurely. You can have NPR on, lingering uninterrupted adult conversation and no prepared snacks. It does not include fear of dead gadget batteries, DVD players malfunctioning, or sudden panic struck forays into unknown strip malls for a public bathroom because I HAVE TO PEE RIGHT NOW MOMMY!!!
4. The car stays clean.
5. When you pass through customs, there is not confusion about if the kids are your kids, or his kids, or someone else’s kids. There are no letters or birth certificates to provide on demand, or explanations of what a donor is or isn’t, or why there is no father named on the birth certificate of the one you adopted or birthed.
6. At the hotel, you actually get to choose to sleep in the same bed as your husband, fiance, or partner. You do not have to promise to sleep next to one kid on one day, hold hands with the other the next, or give them all your pillows, and leave all the lights on to make sure they can go to sleep.
7. You can eat whatever, and whenever you want. You can be the quiet table. You can wander slowly in the streets afterwords, and be the sweet couple in the window of the bar where the local blues musician is playing some deep and slow wrap your heart around these notes rift that is wafting onto the cobble stone street. You can look into your honey’s eyes for an extended period of time, and realize you had no idea they were that green.
8. When it is raining out, you can still hold hands and walk along the river for several hours in a frightfully American looking parka that could be mistaken for a tent, and compose an entire poem in your head because you have space remember it.
9. A museum does not have to have the word children in it anywhere to be on your list of possible destinations. You can stroll through a gallery in a museum and actively loathe the painting you see, and not need to explain that while the artist may have been trying their best, you do not actually have to agree that it is worthy of an entire wall. You can sit in the cafe and eat all of the cookie you bought for yourself, or share some with your honey. You can linger in front of one image for twenty minutes, and even come back to it, and not have to thank the guard for helping you find your missing child, or be horrified when she asks you to leave because playing tag in front of the Degas is forbidden. You can put your head on your sweetheart’s shoulder while he talks about why they like a print, and notice that they are kind of sharp in a way you hadn’t noticed before.
10. After almost four days of uninterrupted time with your partner, you remember the sixty-two original reasons you fell in love with them, and add at least seventy-three more. In a way it feels like I finally met the man I have been waiting to fall in love with for the last two and half years. Or, I finally recognized in myself, a woman who was ready to deepen and deeply trust in this relationship. But, for me, this had to happen independent of parenting. I didn’t realize just how much more to us there could be when we finally created the chance to find out. Or maybe I was afraid that I wasn’t ready to show up as a partner, and a woman independent of my super woman single mom identity? That identity was formed long before Shrek came into the picture, so it was critical for me to get outside of that me, in order to lay down a solid foundation for loving Shrek as Shrek first, and then as Shrek the bonus dad, and father.
What you might be thinking: Take away the necessity of caring for the kids and what will we discover? What if we don’t enjoy each others company when we are alone? What if we don’t know how? Is it a skill we could learn? I now in my case, it wasn’t until we were on the road, with passports in hand that I knew we were about to find out. Bottom line? I couldn’t be more happy that we did.
In Search of Spring (a found poem in the signage)
A found poem, is just that. Words arranged on the page, from words discovered around you. In my case, I took off at 6:00 am yesterday, in the rain, for signs of spring on the first of May. So, I took words from the signs I encountered on the way. Aside from a lone daffodil, and one glorious poplar tree in full bursting joy, it wasn’t immediately apparent that Maine had yet received the message. Writing in the rain, under a store front awning at 6:15 in the morning is about as perfect a start to May as I could ask for though.
A few days ago I was I was stunned and overjoyed to learn that my “application and writing sample were so compelling,” I was being offered a generous scholarship to make it possible for me to attend an upcoming four day writer’s workshop and retreat.
I will be staying in a cabin, on a lake, working with an established poet, surrounded by many other like minded folks. (The event allows writers in many genres to work in community, and individually with one of the four distinguished writers they have asked to work with.) The water poems are insisting they make their way into the world apparently.
Thanks to Shrek’s deep belief in my work and passion to create, I was encouraged to say yes. He and the boys will embark on their own sweet adventures. It is as it should be.
If you would like to help me raise the remaining necessary funds to attend the retreat details are included at the bottom of this post. (Raising $250 here would complete the registration fee, the travel expenses [gas and tolls] and cover the additional childcare costs for the boys on the days that I will not be able to collect them after school. Meals and lodging are provided!) My father and step mother have offered to match the first $75.00 I raise. As a thank you I will publicly acknowledge you here, unless you mention in the email that you would prefer that I did not, and I will send you, in the mail, a set of three new poems that emerge from the retreat.
Update: thank you so much to Mia of Pragmatic Mom for her $25.00 donation! If you don’t know her amazing site covering children’s literature, parenting, and education then head over there as soon as you finish here!
Finally, I will leave you with this recent image that I captured on a windy, exhilarating walk with Shrek recently. Can anyone guess where we are?
How to become a MamaC benefactor:
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