Recently I went away to one of my favorite places in the world (so far) for a weekend with a single-mama friend to meditate, write, swim, laugh, and listen to God.
I connect to my visionary spirit, and my soul in this healing spot that I’ve been coming to since I was seven. When I get quiet, and a respite from my parenting modality I return in a palpable way to what I know to be true.
This time that truth cleary took shape in three distinct areas:
First is a deepening commitment to my sons feeling celebrated and accepted for exactly WHO THEY ARE today. (Middle school requires ferverent monitoring. Who are you-vs. who do you begin to believe your peers/teachers/ society or family says you SHOULD be.) This demands my being fully present, compassionate and flexible.
Second I heard that I will return to my dream of creating a one woman performative event (monologue/story telling+poetry) celebrating and exposing my first fifty years on the planet, and the events and people who shaped it.
Third, a new direction calls for my fifteen years as a transracial adoptive, biological, single and partnered parent. I will be unveilling this in more detail soon, but for the time-being it is already thrilling to announce it simply as a “Coming soon: Mama C Coaching and Consulting”. How can you help? If a particular post, conversation, article, or anything “Mama C” has been of help to you on your transracial/adoptive single or partnered/parenting/blending/ donor or other journey will you consider leaving me a comment I could use on my promotional materials?
I look forward to hearing from you, and hope everyone can create a little quiet space for themselves in the near future.
Being in a moment of expansion and contraction simultaneously is a complicated and thoughtful space to be. I find myself turning to the camera to capture and chronicle our world- even if I always see it as clearly as I may appear to from the photographic capture I share with you here.
With tenacity and fervor I have been writing more and more poetry with greater ease and clarity as well as submitting often to journals, contests and the like. I participated in my first public poetry reading this week. After the poem, a woman in the audience came up to me, tearful. “I am a birth-mother, ” she said. “I placed my daughter for adoption when I was 17. Your poem gave voice to my experience with a truth I have never heard in a poem before.”
I left the reading, racing home, tearful too and in the dark reminded that art heals, enlightens, bridges, sustains, and connects all at once.
On “Mother’s Day” a poem of mine appeared in the The Portland Press Herald. I had submitted it in response to a call for a year long curated series of poems that address or grapple with the theme of “Deep Water” in some way. In my case the depth related to the grief connected to losing a child you are carrying.
This week is the anniversary of her leaving us, and moving on to other adventures, or so I like to think. I said goodbye to her on a little cove in late July with two dear friends while their daughter and Sammy were running and laughing in the sand at the water’s edge.
I remember holding myself through the shaking as I felt her spirit take off and race to the sea. At the last moment, I stood tall and tried to smile with one arm waving goodbye to her. I wanted her last image of me to be one of courage and joy for the gift her brief life was to me.
I was going in for my D & C (dilation and curettage) the next day.
She would be ten and a half today. Marcel will be ten in October. I had found out I was pregnant on Mother’s Day, 2006 coincidentally. Marcel was miraculously conceived on her due date in January. We believe that her brief appearance on this earth was to make way for his soul somehow. In more ways then one, Marcel and his sister Dixie are connected.
That Gibson Fay-LeBlanc, the poet laureate of Portland chose it to run on Mother’s Day was courageous and deeply important to many (myself included) I learned in the days and weeks following the poem’s appearance in the paper. When a poem allows your friend and his wife to openly grieve their own miscarriage together, something they hadn’t known figured out how to before, you feel that on your knees in the ground kind of gratitude for so many things.
Last night I ordered one of each of these shirts from DNBE, a company that promotes what they call positive propaganda:
If you think about it, your t-shirt is like a billboard, and every day you’re walking around advertising something (or maybe nothing if it’s a blank tee or a meaningless design) . That advertisement says something about the person wearing it and has an effect (conscious or subconscious) on the people around him/her. Why waste that valuable advertising space? Why not use it to uplift the people? … For that brief moment you know that there are other people out there that have not lost their minds. And that positive energy is infectious and magnetic. With enough people catching on, we can start to turn this situation around. That’s positive propaganda, and that’s why we’re here…
To grab onto something that feels positive in the message department for young Black men today is not an easy find. I, like many mamas I know who are parenting young men of color have found myself traveling the continuum from abject despair to enraged disbelief and everything in between. I have been attending rallies, and reading my poems out loud to honor Trayvon, Michael, Tamir, Eric, and, and, and…
I have been talking to colleagues, friends, family, and anyone really who will listen and tried again to get those who don’t seem to care to notice what I am saying for a moment. At work when I am asked how I am, I try to answer truthfully; “In a state of disbelief. Crushed. Shocked that our country has such a broken judicial system, and devalues the lives of so many of the young men and women here in our schools…” I have prayed. I have hugged my boys so much more. Each time I catch myself forgetting, I notice Sammy or Marcel just walking out of the room and think to myself; “he is coming back.”
I say this to honor all the mothers who can’t.
I have also tuned out completely, because I have that choice. I don’t just mean that I deactivated my Facebook, and disappeared almost entirely from social media. I mean that I can pop into the gas station to get a cup of coffee, and not engage with the headline on the newspaper out loud or in private, if I don’t want to. I can say; “I can’t deal today.” I am not the one Black colleague in the school who everyone either avoids, or seeks out after another horror show is splayed across the news. I can just carry on and not engage. I can, and I do. I am not a young Black man walking down the street wondering if it is safe here, or in the convenience store being watched to see if I steal a candy bar while I am waiting to pay for my coffee.
I have accepted invitations to be on panels, and co-design Ferguson units with colleagues. I have scheduled several meetings for the next three months with various white men in positions of power in the field of education to talk about how we keep talking about this in schools and beyond, because it is one way I can use my voice, experience and privilege to promote a little more positive propaganda.
I have wondered if I would care this much today if my sons were white. I have not always answered that question honestly.
I have so much gratitude and appreciation for all the people in our lives who can listen, and who are climbing up underneath this massive weight next to us, and offering to do more than just hold it up too.
Sammy just woke up, and asked for a cuddle. I stopped writing, and crawled up into his bunk bed, rearranged his twisted up blankets and sheets, and wrapped myself up in him too. In a few days he will be ten. He will be just two years younger than Tamir Rice who was shot when he was reaching for his toy gun-most likely show the police officers it was fake-when they were all screaming at him to put his hands up. That’s when he was killed. It was a few days after his twelfth birthday.
Sammy will not be getting any toy guns for his birthday, and we have talked about why. Sammy asked for anything in the remote control helicopter department, an x-box, and some footy pajamas-because he used to love to wear them when he was little…
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 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:
Go to Square and email me a donation of your choosing. There are no fees, and according to my brother it takes about three minutes to set up. All you need is my email address: email@example.com. Creating abundance and support for my work in the world one bold ask at a time. Thank you so very much. Any amount is appreciated.
All last week I felt a little trapped in the fast lane. After the photo shoot, and the excitement of a full house on the bonus side of the family, I was a few days away from a poetry reading to a crowd of five hundred plus people ages four to eighty-four. Not an easy crowd to prepare for.
The poetry reading took place at the ninth annual faculty talent show at the middle school where I have worked for fourteen years. I believe I have read an original poem there for at least seven of those nine events. (We’ll leave out any commentary about my dance performance that one year..) The event raises money for a two night and three day camping and community building event for our 7th graders in the fall. This year I read four new poems, three of which came from the water series. The first one was about my own experience in the locker room after gym class in junior high. It was an epic success.
As a thank you to the three donors who have reached out to support me so far I will be sending along your own hard copies of all the poems I read that night. To encourage a little more participation in my own modern day benefactor outreach here is my fourth water poem; Lifeguards which I began while sitting alone in the observation deck of the local YMCA swimming pool. I imagined that perhaps someone else was there too…
She pulls herself unencumbered for the last
five lengths. Almost eighty, and with deliberate consideration
in each step, the woman leaves the pool.
Her legs are bowed, her skin pale, vieny, and taught.
The back of her suit, is almost identical in shape
and color to that of the teenage girl hugging
the young man with the easily rumpled hair
coming on duty to relieve her.
The young lifeguards do not see the old woman pass.
They make no notice of her diminished bone density,
or the heaviness in her joints (relieved a little by the
swim hopefully). The thirteenth anniversary of her husband’s
death, or her frustration with her great nephew’s odd wife
do not interrupt the young people’s embrace. That she will be dutifully honored
for her years as a military pilot after the Vietnam War,
or that she lost two children because of some genetic anomaly
that will die with her, is not snap chatted during the lifeguards’ exchange.
She steps into the locker room, to shower and sauna.
Her companion admires her from the observation deck, sees her exit,
and delights so in the grace, and comfort of their friendship.
I am noticing a definite theme to my work is surfacing. I’m not quite ready to name it yet, as I am still exploring, but the awareness is powerful. It has to so with the relationship, or space between (inspired by a favorite street photographer of mine in San Francisco) two people. I feel that that space is often the place my poems scramble to inhabit. In the case of the poem above, I was also caught between the two women (who I witnessed pass and that is when and where the poem began) in how I see my own life. Layers of relationships are so compelling to me
Patronage in the modern day: I have an ambitious goal of making $500.00 today in patron donations (that would put me over half way to my $1000.00 mark for my spring campaign!!! and allow me some very necessary support to use the precious free time I have to keep writing poetry, and designing the anti bias curriculum I am committed to instead having to squander it away trying to obtain underpaid freelance writing “opportunities”.) Thank you for your consideration. Any contribution is so deeply felt as a vote of confidence in my work and voice.
How to become a MamaC benefactor:
Go to Square and email me a donation of your choosing. There are no fees, and according to my brother it takes about three minutes to set up. All you need is my email address: firstname.lastname@example.org For $25.00 you get my thanks, and one poem a month for the next eleven months. For $50.00 you will receive my thanks), and two poems a month for the next eleven months. For $100.00 you get In tact my original water poem, two new poems for the next eleven months, and a bound and signed copy of the collection by May 2015. For $500.00 you get a poem a week and a photo montage along with a bound and signed copy of the collection by May-June 2015. OR, if you are more interested in the race work please specify that in the Square email, and I will keep you informed about the progress of the curriculum and let you know as soon as it is complete.) Creating abundance and support for my layered work in the world one bold ask at a time.
For $5.00 I’ll send you a random poem and all my gratitude for believing in me.
Total raised so far: $300/$1000 spring benefactor goal >>>>>> THANK YOU SO MUCH.