|Book Review by Janine Kovac:
Ready For Air: A Journey through Premature Motherhood by Kate HopperThe memoir Ready For Air: A Journey through Premature Motherhood, by Minneapolis-based author and writing teacher Kate Hopper, sat on my bedside for weeks before I had the courage to open it. Truthfully, I was afraid of what I’d read. My three-month NICU stay with my micro-preemie twins was harrowing enough and I didn’t want to read something that would provoke my own painful and scary NICU memories. The mere thought of it made my stomach twist.
But my curiosity got the better of me. I knew Kate Hopper through her online writing class Motherhood and Words and through her book Use Your Words: A Writing Guide for Mothers. She had exercises with titles such as “Writing the Hard Stuff” and “What Shapes Us: Reflection and Place.” I wanted to know—how did someone who designed those lessons apply them to her own writing? [Read More...]
|My son Nick had an appointment last week to take his senior high school photos. He’s been driving for nearly a year, and seldom needs or wants my company or advice, so I figured he’d get himself to the portrait studio. Until he texted me at my office the day before, in the late afternoon – You’re coming with me tomorrow, right? No – I responded, slightly annoyed at the interruption – I have to work. I think parents are supposed to come, he texted. A bell went off. Are you nervous? Senior pictures are no longer a couple of poses in a cap and gown – they’ve morphed into modelling sessions with different outfits and various fake backgrounds.
A little – Nick answered.
I looked at my calendar – two back to back meetings at the appointment time. I swung into mom mode – cancelling one and rescheduling the other. Dang, my son wanted me to go with him. I couldn’t remember my last invitation from him. [Read More...]
|Phone home. ET instinctively knew how to relieve stress. Now research confirms that if you reach out and touch someone, preferably Mom, you’ll feel better. According to a recent study, girls aged 7-12 who spoke on the phone with their mothers when upset showed decreases in cortisol, the stress hormone, and increases in oxytocin, the chemical that promotes well-being. Researchers speculate that the benefits also apply to older daughters.But what about the mothers?
In a survey of friends whose children have left for college, nine out of ten mothers considered ditching their phones to protect themselves from the stress induced by incessant calls. The tenth mother has a son. She would gladly accept a collect call from jail just to hear from him.
When my laconic daughter, Emma, went away to college, I initially welcomed her frequent calls. Homesickness made her more communicative. [Read More...]
|A few years ago, while my 10 year-old-son spent two weeks away at a summer camp in the Sierras, I wrote a log of my feelings and activities:
| When our girls were little there was a picture book their grandma sent them called Earth Is Good. It was a simple celebration of nature, with drawings of an ebullient child playing outdoors and text that ran along the lines of, “Butterflies are good. The sky is good. Trees are good.” And every page ended with the line, “Earth is good.”
I once army-crawled through our upstairs hallway holding a videocamera, back in the pre-smartphone days, so I could surreptitiously film the scene of my oldest daughter, then about two and a half, sitting on the floor in her bedroom reading the book to an audience of her stuffed animals. In the clip, she is wearing a big hat from her dress-up bin that obscures both face and shoulders, and she recites the words, dramatically though phonetically, she’d heard so many times: “Urfiss Good.”Urfiss Good. When everything else seems to be spiraling out of control, that’s a simple truth to remind yourself: Earth is good.
This little affirmation is something I say to myself once in a while, when things in the news chronicle a world backsliding into chaos, the idle speed set to “rage.” When the Gaza fighting seems as senseless as it does unsolvable; when a civilian airline is blown out of the sky by Russian separatists who have been overserved, weapons-wise; when yet another brown-skinned boy is killed by police. At a time when humor seems like the only possible antidote, one of the world’s comedic greats succumbs to depression and we lose even that comfort. [Read More...]
|Parenting is obviously a delicate balance, a dance even, between bribing and threatening our kids to do what we want them to do. My mother once bribed, er, encouraged my son with $5 for each ‘A’ on quizzes, tests, progress reports and report cards when he transitioned from the beeswax and fairies of Waldorf education to public school at the beginning of 5th grade. Within months, she had shelled out a considerable sum of money, to which she complained,
“I don’t think we (she and my stepfather) can afford this. Maybe it should be just for his report card.”
“Mom,” I said, “you can’t change the terms until after the school year.”
I always thought myself better than offering external rewards (and punishments) for my children. The reality was much different. I cannot begin to count how many times I have said, “No treats until you finish everything on your plate,” or the more positive, “You get dessert after you eat all your dinner.”
But those were standard statements in the parenting arsenal. I’d avoided the more blatant forms of bribery, until now.
A few months ago, I signed up Miguel, now 16, for a two-week community service-Spanish-immersion-vacation in Costa Rica.
“Nope, not going,” he said.
“Yes, you are!”
The next day I offered, “You can drive the car over the summer until school starts if you go on the trip.”
“Okay,” he agreed. [Read More...]
|I passed my driving test first time at 17 and, in a slightly cocky manner, have always considered myself a damn good driver. I am probably delusional, but back up this assumption with the fact that I have never had an accident that has been directly my fault and, until I arrived in California, had a clean license. I adore driving and drive pretty fast, particularly navigating the narrow windy country roads in the beautiful south of England where I grew up. Thinking back, I suspect I often used to leave home late so I would need to drive extra fast to make it to where I was going on time (I like to be punctual). It would get my adrenalin pumping and I would arrive feeling more alive, having successfully mastered hairpin bends at 70mph and overtaken every pork-pie-hat-wearing old dear driving at a snail’s pace on the way! [Read More...]|
|God, I love the Community of Writers at Squaw Valley. Spending a week with 150 other people who are as connected to writing as emphysema patients are to their oxygen tanks is nothing short of nirvana. When I attended Squaw last year, I focused solely on fiction writing. No big surprise given my MFA. But during the conference, I was so busy critiquing manuscripts, scribbling notes during panel discussions, and confessing my darkest secrets in Gill Dennis’s “Finding the Story” workshop, that I had little time to sleep, let alone write.
This year, I re-visioned Squaw as my own writing retreat, where I wrote in the morning, attended panels and readings in the afternoon and evening and then returned to the laptop until I fell asleep.
And this time, I also broadened my genre perspective to incorporate nonfiction, because I want to expand my creative potential by telling the truth.
Then came the breaking news from Squaw’s “Fiction vs. Nonfiction: Narrative Strategies” panel: There’s no difference between fiction and nonfiction! Who knew?
Perhaps I’m oversimplifying. Perhaps I’m showing my Jekyll and Hyde tendencies, a symptom of those who write in both genres.
So I must share a few notes from the panel to give my schizophrenic self a chance for integration. [Read More...]
|By the time the third tire blew we were somewhere near Preston and we spun twice across two lanes of traffic. Three of us were in Andy’s Fiat Panda, a two-door hatchback. Andy was driving, J was in the front and I was packed in the back with the stuff of students heading back to college.The first tire blew about an hour into the journey. The car shuddered a little before we realized we had a puncture, and limped off the road into a garage, grateful that help was close. We emptied the suitcases from the trunk and with the help of the mechanic, got out the spare. He levered up the vehicle and swapped the tires, packing the punctured one back into the well where the spare had been.
“You don’t want to drive too far on that,” said the garage attendant in his overalls. “That wheel’s got almost no thread.”
He showed us how we should be able to put a coin in the tire’s rubber indentations. There was nothing there. We were teenagers. Irresponsible. Immortal. My friend didn’t want to fork out a hundred quid for a new tire and we drove out of the garage on the spare. [Read More...]
|When my husband and I exchanged vows, I was smart enough to omit, “I promise to get you a dog.”I am a cat person. I love the moody, genius-friend way they stand in a corner staring at you. They love conditionally, but they give you space. They groom themselves and poop in appropriate places. Dogs, not so much.Kirk has begged for a dog as long as I’ve known him. I always had a great excuse. The kids are still in diapers. We don’t have a fenced yard. I am grieving over the loss of our cats. Last April, I ran out of reasons. With the kids grown up, a new house built, and the cats dead for years, it was doggie-time.We shopped online, and I had many criticisms: too big, too furry, too much butthole showing under the tail. We went to the pound, and I lucked out because my eight-year-old cried at the chaotic barking. At the Milo Foundation, I conceded. Quietly wagging his tail at me, with a “reporting for duty” cock of his head, sat Dusty. At home, my fears were realized. [Read More...]|