Happy Thanksgiving from the WordSisters

IMG_1733We hope on Thanksgiving Day, you will be sharing good food with people you love. We are grateful for you, our readers. You inspire us. Thank you for reading!

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“Is there anything about me in here?”

Crystel

Crystel

“Is there anything about me in here?” Crystel said with a hint of despair in her voice.

“Yes,” I answered. “There’s a sentence. Keep reading.”

She was skimming my recent blog about our 3-legged cat.

“This story is mostly about Antonio,” I added.

“Grrrrrr,” she responded.

I laughed. “Do you want the next blog to be all about you?”

“Yes,” she said emphatically.

Writers often worry about writing about their kids online. Using them for fodder when crafting a story. Much is written about the ethical implications of mothers writing about their kids and the online privacy of children. Mothers don’t want to betray their children.

I’ve had a different experience with Antonio and Crystel, both now thirteen years old. My children want to be seen, noticed, and heard. They want to be important enough to be blog material. They would feel betrayed if I didn’t include them in my writing life.

Crystel helping me with squad maintenance checks.

Crystel helping me with squad maintenance checks.

From time to time, I get squeamish blogging about my children. Not because of what my kids might think but what other writers might. Mothers should protect their children, not exploit them for media attention. Sometimes, I feel tempted to add an aside to blogs and tell the reader that my children have read and approved of the story and photos. I don’t do that. Another voice emerges in my head, a much louder voice. That it’s my business what I write and readers have a choice whether or not to read my material. I won’t be silenced as I was when I was a child.

If the blog is about them, Antonio and Crystel know the contents before I even start drafting the blog.  Before it’s published they’ve read the article and seen the photos. They might ask me to change a line or to take a sentence out or to use a different photo. Most often the blog is published as is with their approval.

There are benefits to having a mother who will blog about you. Last week, Crystel was finishing a class project for her Language Arts class – a 3 panel brochure – that needed to include pictures of herself when she asked, “Do you have any photos of me?”

In the trunk of squad cars there are stuffed animals for children. Crystel is picking one of her monster dolls to add for a give-away.

In the trunk of squad cars there are stuffed animals for children. Crystel is picking one of her monster dolls to add for a give-away.

Antonio answered her, “Just Google yourself. I put a picture of me and my birth mom Rosa on mine.” He looked at me and explained. “That was the most recent picture I could find online.”

Crystel was positively gleeful. “You’re right.”

Crystel’s desire to be a part of my writing life isn’t limited to the WordSisters blog.

She visualizes herself sitting next to me signing copies of House of Fire, my yet to be published manuscript.

House of Fire shows that thirty years of breaking free from a cycle of silence and betrayal was not enough to prepare me for the trials of starting my own healthy family.

Jody and I have worked hard to create a home of love, safety, and joy where no one gets silenced.

Crystel’s been practicing her autograph. I’ll be so proud to have her next to me. Both of us will be seen, noticed, and heard.

Her only complaint about this blog – “It doesn’t have enough pizaaz.”

Well, next time kid.

I Never Wanted Anything Bad Enough to Camp Overnight for It, But . . .

Antonio had me at, “You can blog about it.”

I studied him, then upped the ante, “With photos … of you?”

To convince a twelve-year-old boy to pose for photos at any time is challenging.

Antonio pointing to an empty display of Amiibos

Antonio pointing to an empty display of Amiibos during our ‘dry’ run.

He nodded.

That is how I came to be standing in a line at Target on a Friday morning before the store opened.

Amiibos would be released at 8 am. It was Antonio’s goal to get three of them before they were sold out. But, he had school. Since I had the day off from work, I would be a perfect stand-in.

The night before the big release, Antonio insisted that we take a practice run. I needed to know the most direct route to the sales counter.

He would have preferred that I camp overnight outside the store doors. He even offered that he and Crystel would join me. He surmised that the both of them could bring their bikes and leave me first in line when it came time for them to bike to school.

I actually thought about it. It would be a new and shared experience. But, then again, I thought I should save that opportunity for something other than a fairy-type Pokemon. Concert tickets or ….. I don’t know …. I’ve never wanted anything bad enough to camp overnight for it.

What we would do for our kids. Antonio certainly wanted these Amiibos. His goal was to collect every one. He has 17.

I’m not a collector. I’m a purger. It took me awhile to understand that my children were different from me. There were times that I cringed realizing — a little too late — that they were collecting the very items I was purging. The items were already down the road at ARC or the school store or the garbage can.

IMG_6301That Friday, after dropping Antonio and Crystel off at school I headed over to Target. I was number 8 in line. I looked down the line at my 7 peeps.

A text message interrupted my thoughts.

Antonio wanted to know if I was in line, how many were in front of me, and if they were kids.

All men in their twenties except a young lady sitting next to me, I text back.

I set down my phone and asked her why she was there. “My brother,” she said. Adding, “He owes me.”

I stood up. “Hey, I’m writing a blog,” I said, loud enough for everyone to hear. “Do you mind if I take your picture?” A thumbs up, a nod of the head, a grunt. “Anyone mind?” I questioned again. No answer, which was my answer.

At 8 am when the doors opened, I was surprised at the calm.

My peeps walked single file. No cutting in line. The first guy determined the pace. Three clerks were at the counter waiting for us. Amiibos were stacked behind them. By the time it was my turn, two amiibos were already sold out.

IMG_6307I can only tell you that I got a Jigglypuff.

Antonio will learn if I scored any others on his birthday in July.

Not knowing until then will torment him. I love doing that to an almost 13-year old.

 

The Perils of Being a Writer and Other Favorites

This month marks WordSisters’ three-year anniversary. To celebrate, we’re sharing a selection of blogs—our favorites and yours.

crazyquiltWe hope our new readers will enjoy getting to know us better. If you’ve been reading WordSisters from the beginning, we hope you’ll enjoy rediscovering some of our perspectives on parenting, families and relationships, working women, and the writing life.

On Losing My Ambition (Open Letter to 35-Year-Old Hiring Managers) 

My friend C. mentioned that after years of freelance writing, she was interviewing to be a marketing communications manager—a position she’s eminently qualified for. During the preliminary phone interview, the interviewer expressed concern that C. wouldn’t be satisfied with being a mid-level manager. We both burst out laughing and couldn’t stop. More

The Perils of Being a Writer

“I knew it,” she says. “I knew it! I knew you were going to say it one day!” She jumps up and runs out of the room.

“What!” I say, alarmed.

I look down at the writing on my laptop and immediately know what happened. There in black and white it says Antonio and Crystel aren’t my children….More

It’s a Good Day When I Kick Somebody in the Head

I started Tae Kwon Do, at Kor Am Tae Kwon Do School when I was 50 years old. Yes, it was an age thing, time to do something new, challenge myself, and show the world that I’m really not all that old. More

Competing with Friends for Writing Awards

Earlier this month, I applied for an Emerging Writer’s Grant and a Loft Creative Prose Mentorship, knowing full well that I’m competing with my good friends for these honors. I really want to win. So do the women in my creative nonfiction writers group. More

Your Moms Can Get Married Now

I imagine someone at school saying that to Antonio and Crystel and them responding, “Huh?” As far as they are concerned, we are already married, and Crystel, much to her chagrin, wasn’t a part of the wedding that we had before she and Antonio came home from Guatemala. She can hardly believe that we had a life before them. More

God Bless Middle-Aged Daughters

As I walk into the skilled nursing center where Mom is rehabilitating, I see other women like myself and think, “God bless middle-aged daughters.” We’re the sensible, competent women who make it all happen. More

When we launched this blog, we envisioned making new friends and sharing our perspectives. But the reality of our weekly conversations with you has exceeded our expectations. Thank you for reading WordSisters and sharing your thoughts!

What Was This Farm Girl Doing at AWP?

Ellen, Brenda, and Jill  Members of my Writing Group

Ellen, Brenda, Elizabeth and Jill
Members of my Writing Group

The Association of Writers and Writers Program (AWP) had their annual Conference and Bookfair this past weekend in Minneapolis and over 13,000 people attended, including me.

I could have left after the first panel discussion I attended: Stranger than Fiction: Personal Essay in the Age of the Internet. I got my money’s worth in the first hour of the four-day conference.

I heard, “What is our truth and are we doing that on the page?”

I heard, “I allow myself to be a person who can change.”

I heard, “Let’s put out shit that matters.”

Those few words gave me the courage to own my story in its entirety.

When asked what I write it was easy for me to say, memoir, adopting infants from Guatemala, raising them with another woman, etc…but I generally would not say the whole of it.

Fear of how people would see me was part of that.

But, no one else can tell my story.

My completed memoir manuscript, House of Fire, uses fire as a metaphor for the dysfunction in my family of 14 growing up on a Wisconsin farm. I interweave the incest that defined my childhood and teenage years with how I healed. The book describes how my partner, Jody and I, intentionally created a safe healthy family by adopting and raising two infants from Guatemala.

I’ve spent over thirty years working on myself to have my past not define me.

And, to that end, I’ve been successful.

I contain multitudes: the Tae Kwon Do black belt who is a goof who loves to spar at the Dojang, the mother of two twelve-year olds, the police reserve officer, the human resources manager, the soon to be Assistant Scoutmaster, the writer and author, and the woman who married her partner last August.

I’m also the woman who suffered repeated sexual abuse, who had a hushed-up abortion after I was impregnated at 14 by one of my brothers, who was pregnant again within a year by another brother, who gave up a son and never saw him again.

What I wanted most in my early twenties was to know that people could not only survive what I did, but heal and live a good life.

Now, my book, House of Fire, will help me be that person for others.

I didn’t go home after that first hour of the AWP conference. I remained among my tribe of 13,000 writers.

I also have another tribe who I hope to reach through the printed and spoken word.