Posts Tagged ‘Creativity’

why don’t you just be the mom

April 26th, 2016    -    32 Comments

If you ever wondered what you are supposed to teach your child, please read this and learn from me.

It was Thursday afternoon about four-thirty. Georgia was racing through her mound of homework before we left for gym practice at five. (Do math, do science, write a poem.) The minutes were ticking.

This is where it gets sticky.

She’s finishing gluing drawings into her “Silk Road Journal” (16 pages, front and back, history project due the next day) when she lets out a high shriek. The glue has exploded out the cap from a hard squeeze and blanketed two whole pages. The booklet is a soppy mess. Her artwork is doused. She sobs. I stiffen. She collapses. I look at the clock. And what I think I see is no more time.

I really think that time is up.

How is it that a girl and her mother can get stuck between two pages of the Silk Road Journal? Wedged between the pitiless hours of four and five on a Thursday? Strung between almost-done and starting over? Knotted, tangled and ripped in two?

I don’t want to tell you.

I don’t want to tell you what I told her. About what she didn’t do, didn’t plan, and didn’t finish soon enough. About how little and how late. The cause and the fault. How I couldn’t and wouldn’t and didn’t know how to help.  And what did she expect me to do?

Then she turned to me, through her sobs and streaked cheeks, and asked me the one thing that is still so hard for me to do.

Why don’t you just be the mom? Why don’t you encourage me?

Why can’t I just be the mom, and not the taskmaster, the lecturer, the appointments manager, the critic, the cynic, and the know-it-all? What is more important to show her than love? What is there always time for?

All great people, in their profound humility, remember their mothers most. They remember a mother who believed in them. And no matter how late, believed that there was still time. No matter how little, that there was enough. No matter how dismal the prospects, that it was possible. A mother who loved without measure, without schedule and without hurry. A mother who was just the mom.

So we blew off the timetable and moved to the dinner table. I gave her all the room she needed. She spread out and started over, using all the time it took. It went slow, but I encouraged her. She might have learned a lesson about glue, but I learned a lesson that I pray will stick.

When we realize that our child is not the child, then we begin to practice parenthood. It’s never too late to for me to grow up and be the mom. In fact, it’s time I did.

Originally published on Feb. 27, 2012, proving that it’s always time to just be the mom.

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important things are close by

January 22nd, 2015    -    4 Comments

rockIn the past, I thought the important things were far away from me. I worked hard and thought hard every day in order to get to those important things. But soon I realized that these were actually close by. — Lee Kang-hyo, master potter

I’ve watched a video about this man several times this week. As in some books, the first lines are unforgettable. The simplicity is brilliant. I hope you can make the time to watch it, and if you can’t see it at the bottom of this post, you can go here to watch it. You may never get a chance to meet this man or glimpse his life, and even if you met him, you might not recognize him as a master. His shirts are stained and he smokes.

Earlier this week I spent a day with the ponds in the backyard. The leaves in Southern California have finally shaken loose and there is work. Everything I do in the garden or house I do by hand, like you. I bend low over a small stream under the sycamores and lift layers of wet leaves from the slow flowing water. They smell of earth and decay, a luscious stink. I scuff my hands and crack my fingernails without knowing. I try not to fall into the deeper water, aware that no one will come and fish me out, but I straddle the rocks without fear. After a few hours I’ve built a mound of leaves and muck at the back of the yard. My shoes and pants are wet. I need a shower. I don’t give a backward glance at what I’ve done. It will be meaningless tomorrow. I feel alive.

Do you ever experience something like this? Is it possible to live like this in an everyday way, doing everyday things? The potter in this video is a master of the Korean onggi, which means large jars. They are amazing creations, these massive jars. He says that when he began working, he saw them as sculpture. He wanted to make beautiful sculpture. Now he appreciates that the clay pots, first created to store fermenting food like kimchi, chili paste and soy sauce, are inextricable from Korea’s food culture. Food that people make for their own families and eat in their own homes every day. Large jars are even more beautiful as large jars.

Important things are close by. Let this bring you peace.

my spectacular failure

September 8th, 2014    -    4 Comments

This week I’ll be going into a recording studio to tape the audiobook of Momma Zen. This is a welcome and unexpected chance to put my speaking voice to my writer’s “voice.” The occasion reminds me of this passage in the book about the eternal power of voice:

“In the cozy darkness, tucking in my three-year-old, I ask her what she loves best. ‘Your voice,’ she says, dreamily. She is halfway dreaming, when answers are undefiled. I am reassured. It will change a bit, weaken and grow old. And then she will hear it in herself: a song without words, a lyric beyond language, a smile, a laugh, a moment’s silent consolation. It will always come back because it never leaves. I know that voice.” — Momma Zen

I’ll be sure and let you know when the Audible book is ready so you can hear my voice in my own voice and share it with those inclined to listen.

In my work and practice, I’m continually exploring the intuitive voice within us, the voice that speaks a truth we know before we know it. Earlier this year I had a videochat with my friend, artist and writer Christine Mason Miller about the mysteries of voice, the peculiar humiliations of a writer’s life, the organic uncertainty of the creative process, and redefining professional success (which in my case looks like spectacular failure). If you wish to write or try to write — or if you harbor any artistic or professional aspirations for that matter — our conversation might be helpful. What I say applies to any expectation or ideal we cherish and it might just be something you need to hear today.

The video was included in a comprehensive e-course Christine put together for aspiring authors called “The Conscious Booksmith.” The six-week course will be offered again in January, and if you’d like to get more information about it, sign up here. It’s worth it.

In the meantime, you can watch us talk about success and failure right here and now. (If you’re reading this post in your email and don’t see the video, click on the headline and you’ll be taken to the blog.)

 

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a billion wasted words

April 28th, 2014    -    11 Comments

deadtree~s800x800

The titles stand like dead trees.

I was at the school board meeting last week. Kids were getting certificates for doing things that lift our hopes near the end of another hard year. The first middle-schooler called up had participated in a program called the Million Word Challenge, a six-week contest to read a million words. I can’t imagine enticing a young teen to read one hundred words, let alone a million.

How much is a million? My latest book barely registers, clocking in at about 38,000 words. Small words, too. So 25 times that.

The principal bubbled over when introducing the honoree, a slender girl behind a curtain of dark hair who had read two million words in the contest period.

After the awed applause, a board member asked the girl what she had read. The answer was nearly inaudible.

“I can’t remember,” she said. The man behind the mike repeated it so everyone could hear, and we chuckled, as if she had instantly disqualified herself. She read two million words and didn’t retain the title of even one book.

And then I thought: Yes!

Yes! Read two million words just to read them. Read five million for no reason. Read a billion without knowing how. Use them for kindling, for compost, for dust rags. Swallow, spit, shit, and forget. Take your certificate home and leave heads wagging. That’s what reading is for.

I read a lot in the last year. I wrote a lot in the last year. The two are indistinguishable. What did I read? So much that I didn’t keep track — couldn’t keep track — can’t say and don’t remember. I read poetry every day, first thing in the morning or last thing at night. I read bestsellers and no-sellers, big names and not. Two books a week or was it three? My appetite was fierce, my need consuming. I read whatever there was to read today, no waiting, for free, from the e-book library. If I scroll through my device I can tell you what they were, but not what they were about. The titles stand there now like dead trees, empty shadows. What did they give me? I don’t know. They fueled an invisible, molecular process, the combustion of dirt, air and water, and from it, came this glorious, shimmering waste.

Read, read, read, and don’t remember why.

 

 

lost in living

March 3rd, 2014    -    4 Comments

lost+socks+sockSome nights as I put myself to bed, a tremor comes over me with the thought that there’s no time. Of course there’s no time but what I mean is that in my house there is no baby, no little girl, no tween, no new bride, no young mother, no thirties, no forties, no fifties, no yesterday, no tomorrow, and no someday. This is real, people! There is no time to question how much or little time there might be, where to go or when, what comes after, how to end up, the next great thing I should or could do. The days of wondering are spent.Paradise in Plain Sight

About a year ago, I recommended a documentary called Lost in Living that follows the lives of four artists in different stages of work and motherhood. You might have caught a screening of the film in your community, purchased a DVD or attended a house party viewing. Now, Lost in Living will be available for free streaming for 24 hours beginning Saturday, March 8 to coincide with International Women’s Day. This global Web screening event is an opportunity to share Lost in Living with women around the world. I know some of you have been waiting for this.

Before I say more, let me give you the vitals:

Here is the link to view the video which will be public for 24 hours only beginning at 8 a.m. PST on Saturday, March 8.
Here is a link to more information about sharing the live stream on your website or social media.

I hope you can find a quiet corner sometime Saturday to watch the film, not least because you’ll spending a few hours with yourself. That opportunity alone is worth cherishing. As you watch the film you’ll see beyond yourself into the connection women have with one another in every phase of life, and how motherhood transforms our aspirations. It’s poignant, funny, powerful and oh so good.

A few weeks ago I caught a screening of the film and heard director Mary Trunk talk about how she started the project that consumed seven years of her life. Her motivation sounds universal. She and her husband had just relocated to LA and she was home alone with a one-year-old in a new and unfamiliar town. She felt adrift and isolated. Her camera became her passport into friendship and collaboration.

As our lives change and children grow we find ourselves in unfamiliar places where we have to reinvent our work, rhythm and purpose. This is where I am right now — at the end of one stage without ready answers or expectations. As everything around me changes, I am changing too. Something new will appear and give me a new way to express my life. A new way to serve others. I don’t need to wonder what it will be. Generations before me have walked this path: an infinite world of women who live the story of becoming themselves.

Find the time to see Lost in Living this Saturday.

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Photo Credit: Lost Socks do-it-yourself project at Brilliant Like Fireflies.

 

 

telling

April 14th, 2013    -    44 Comments

bracha_amulet_2Every now and then someone will write to me and say, “It feels like you are reading my mind. It’s so comforting to know that I’m not alone. You have a way of writing exactly what I need to hear at the moment I need to hear it.”

Other people will pipe up and say about me, “She is so not me. I can’t relate to her at all. We’d never click in person. I dislike the way she writes as if her story is exactly the same as any mother’s story.”

Whatever people say is revealing, because whether we realize it or not, we are always telling a story about ourselves.

Stories are universal. We think that our story is unique and special. Particularly painful, particularly wise, particularly interesting. What really matters is when we see that our stories are the same, because then we see the invisible connection between us—a greater truth than told in the particulars. For that moment, we stop judging each other and begin sharing what lies beneath the story: love.

Here are two pieces of storytelling I want to share with you today.

Amulet: Spring 2013

First, a community of wildly creative women has collaborated on the spring edition of an online magazine called Amulet. A friend asked me to spread the word, and this is what she said. See if it doesn’t sound familiar.

“We have poured endless love and guts into it, and you know the drill—being mothers and workers and creators—whoa. But we are so in love with doing what we do.

If you aren’t familiar, Amulet is a field guide for seasonal living that includes inspiration to help us keep connecting with the earth under our feet, the world around us, and the universe inside us through prose, DIY, recipes, herbal stuff, book stuff, music, hand made goods—every day life stuff. ”

Sounds like my stuff.

Lost in Living

In January I shared the story of a new documentary about the intersection of motherhood and artistic expression, Lost in Living. Filmed over seven years, Lost In Living confronts the contradictions inherent in personal ambition and self-sacrifice, female friendship and mental isolation, big projects and dirty dishes. The response was amazing. Many of you wanted to know how you could see it. Now you can. While the film makes its way around the country in public screenings, it is also now available on DVD. I have a copy of the DVD to give away to a reader who comments on this post anytime this week.

You will know if it’s your story. All stories are your stories. They tell you that you are not alone.

The winner for this giveaway has been chosen and notified. Thank you for entering.

unhatched

April 8th, 2013    -    4 Comments

I was going to write a special post a month before Mother’s Day and put it up today. I marked my calendar. Collected info. Jotted down some ideas. But I’ve decided I can’t. Or rather, I won’t. Looking at the matter closely, I see that it’s one more thing I don’t really need to do.

Here’s the deal: I spend way too much time troubling with what comes next. Thinking ahead. Hatching a scheme. Nagging, pushing, poking. Trying to produce something, make a difference, get a result.

I was going to ask you to buy my books. And say nice things about them on Amazon or Goodreads. Recommend them to friends. Come to a retreat. Do something for me. But I’d like to take a little break from that. My special post is this post instead.

I’ve noticed that most of my problems—my conflicts and disappointments—are because I’m trying to get somebody to do something I want. Only rarely do I realize that I don’t have to do that. Because everything truly wonderful (except most clean laundry and occasional meals) appears before me ready made.

Like this.

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Custom Bird’s Nest Talisman Necklace by Wendy Cook

Something truly wonderful, ready made for you to give to any mother, sister, or friend for Mother’s Day. The perfect reminder that the eggs always hatch when they are ready.

 

uncaged

January 27th, 2013    -    5 Comments

open_cage

Your children are not your children.
They are sons and daughters of life’s longing for itself.

When they are young, our children can seem like the tiny thorns to our bloom: our creative yearnings confined. As they grow up, our children can seem like the blooms to our thorn: their freedoms caged.

And yet, our longings are the same, two parts of an indivisible whole: life’s longing for itself.

I’m excited to share two upcoming events that examine motherhood as the unfolding of a creative journey. I hope you let yourself out of the house and come, where you are certain to meet a part of yourself you thought you’d lost.

Lost in Living
A full-length documentary by Mary Trunk
Friday, Feb. 1, 6:30 p.m.
Free, or a $5 charitable donation to benefit the All Saints Foster Care Project
All Saints Church
132 Euclid Ave.
Pasadena

Behind the domestic curtain of motherhood, where the creative impulse can flourish or languish, are four women determined to make a go of it. Filmed over seven years, Lost In Living confronts the contradictions inherent in personal ambition and self-sacrifice, female friendship and mental isolation, big projects and dirty dishes. The complex realities of family life unfold in this documentary film about the messy intersection of motherhood and artistic expression.

Magical Journey: An Apprenticeship in Contentment
Discussion and book signing by Katrina Kenison
Friday, Feb. 8, 7 p.m.
Free
Vroman’s Bookstore
695 E. Colorado Blvd.
Pasadena

“No longer indispensable, no longer assured of our old carefully crafted identities, no longer beautiful in the way we were at twenty or thirty or forty, we are hungry and searching nonetheless.”

An inspiring, beautiful book for every woman whose children are growing up, but who is not done growing herself. Kenison explores the belief that even as old identities are outgrown, new ones begin to beckon, inspiring readers to summon enough courage to heed the call.

Heed the call.

(If you subscribe by email and are unable to see the trailer below, click here.)

my favorite book of all time

May 15th, 2012    -    17 Comments

Because it is utterly, totally true.

 

Yesterday someone sent me a gift that proves it: wildflowers grow in profusion where you least expect them. And that brought me back to this treasure book, one that is so intimately meaningful that if I could, I would plant it in everyone’s home with a carefree toss from my open hand.

A gift to my baby when she was barely born, from a faithful and nearly lifelong friend, this book delivered a set of emphatic instructions for my own life.

Miss Rumphius
Story and Pictures by Barbara Cooney

“When I grow up, I too will go to faraway places and come home to live by the sea.”
“That is all very well, little Alice,” says my aunt, “but there is a third thing you must do.”

“What is that?” I ask.

“You must do something to make the world more beautiful.”

“All right,” I say.

But I do not know yet what that can be.

My goodness! All the passion and discovery, all the trial and error, all the heart and truth and promise in that simple “I do not know.” It is my wish and recommendation for you.

This post originally ran as part of a series on children’s books. Other recommendations are found here, here, and here.

be careful of the words

January 9th, 2012    -    67 Comments

This probably puts me in the category of a Kevin Costner sympathizer.

I’ve begun thinking in apocalyptic terms about what seems certain to be the demise of the US Postal Service. Admittedly, I’m a cultural throwback. I still think of writing as something that you do on paper, with your whole hand, in a cursive script that is elegant and intrinsic, like your DNA. I still think of community as consisting of people with bodies, using arms and legs and good manners to stand in line patiently at the post office, where we buy stamps, grouse about the three-penny price increase, see somebody we know, say a kind word, conduct our minor essential business, and go on our way, until next Monday or Thursday or tax season or the holidays.

I’ve noticed that they’ve started selling greeting cards in my little post office, which is ingenious, really, in a demoralizing way, since the only people who enter a post office these days are the sappy has-beens like me. People who saw those lame Kevin Costner movies in the 1990s predicting the disappearance of the post office, global warming, and the end of the world as we know it. And now we really do know it. read more

paw prints

July 9th, 2011    -    11 Comments

Book Review & Giveaway
by Georgia Miller

Since my daughter’s literary interests have long veered toward the furry four-legged, she was eager to share her latest book review. Read the instructions at the end of this post and you will be entered to win her own special giveaway.

A Dog Named Slugger by Leigh Brill is a touching true story about a young woman and her service dog.

Because of her cerebral palsy, Leigh was in need of a service dog. She had trouble walking and a dog would help her balance and walk up stairs. When she finally received Slugger, she had to go through several training courses. I learned that dogs can be used for more than companionship.

One day, when she was walking around on campus, Leigh met her future husband. They always loved playing Frisbee and catch with Slugger. When Leigh was interviewed for a job, they wouldn’t accept her because of Slugger. No matter how hard they tried to get Leigh to work without her dog, she wouldn’t give in. She was brave.

Of course, after the many years of helping Leigh, Slugger developed arthritis. It eventually got worse and worse, so Leigh decided to get another service dog named Kenda. Kenda was a young, fun-loving puppy. So she helped Leigh during the time when Slugger was sick and had to be put to sleep. That part of the book was so sad I didn’t want to read it at night before bed so I read it in the car on the way to gymnastics.

I thought this was a great book. It is absolutely perfect for the young dog lover, or a dog lover of any age. It’s good to read books about dogs so if you’re looking to get one, you can learn what they are like. This is now one of my favorite books. I loved it. I learned a lot about people and dogs, and it made me feel lucky.

If I could say anything to Leigh Brill it would be that you are really awesome and you are one of my idols. I hope you write a book about you and Kenda!

Now for my giveaway. Please leave a comment with your suggestion of more books I should read and review this summer. If I choose your name, I will send you a super cool duct tape wallet handmade by me!

It’s Kid’s Week on Cheerio Road. Check back frequently for guest posts on the darnedest things.

 

juicy oreo wednesday

May 11th, 2011    -    79 Comments

Book Review & Giveaway
By Georgia Miller

Rip the Page! by Karen Benke is great for the young, aspiring writer. It features everything from ideas to poems. It even has a list of 24 of Karen’s fave words! And, it lives up to its name – there are even places where you can literally rip the page! There are letters written to the reader from authors such as Lemony Snicket and Annie Barrows.

This book will help kids start writing because it gives great ideas, support and different ways to write. It gives examples of fun words to use, and tells how to write poems. Once the author tells you about a way of writing, she gives you a blank page to try it out on. It really helps to put the fun into writing. Now I’m going to share some of my favorite words:
Guadalupe
Basenji
Antidisestablishmentarianism
Bacon
Gymnastics
Juicy
Oreo
Wednesday
Turtle
Frog
Marshmallow
Actually, those are just random words that I happen to like. The point is, though, that this really is a great book for young writers like me. So I give this book two thumbs up! I really love it!

***
You may win a copy of this book by leaving a comment telling Georgia your favorite word. Enter by next Tuesday. She will announce the winner, naturally, on Wednesday, May 18.

The Winner: Georgia selected comment #55, from Caitlin, for her word, “gubbins.” Thank you everyone for your wordplay!

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rilke to rodin

February 13th, 2011    -    2 Comments

With love from Rilke to Rodin:

Why do I write these lines? Not because I believe them to be good but out of my desire to draw near to you so that you can guide my hand. You are the only man in the world of such equilibrium and force that you can stand in harmony with your own work. This work, like you yourself, has become the example for my life and my art. It is not just to write a study that I have come to you, it is to ask you: how should I live? And you have responded: work.

The Living Brush: Zen Creativity Retreat

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