Who says what?

Novelist, mother, minister, and yoga teacher muses on books, babies, motherhood, and what matters with reverent humor.

Monday, August 31, 2009

One of Them

It's a chilling moment, really. Standing there at the foot of the playground, surrounded by adorable children and endearingly engaged mothers, listening to the sounds of these otherwise normal women saying such things as, "if you do that one more time..." and "Good job! Wow!! You just slid down the slide ALL BY YOURSELF!!!!!!" And, "Johnny, sand is not for throwing. We don't want to hurt anyone. Look in mommy's eyes; see how hurting sand makes her sad. Do you want to make mommy sad? Johnny, I said look at me. Johnny, you're not listening."
Johnny is eleven months old.

Some part of me cringes to be in the thick of it, a throng of summer mothers. Surely, I don't talk like that. Surely, I don't look like that. And I take such pride in my mothering. It gives me such definition. I wouldn't want to make fun of these innocent women and their startling single-minded devotion to their exceptional slide-going offspring. (Because those first couple of slides really are worth the hundred and ten pictures you take, until you have a few more children....)

I speak in mother-tongue now. It's a language all its own. I sit on the beach and hear it all around me. Every now and then, it seems foreign again and I wonder who these strangers are. And then I realize they are me, and you really shouldn't throw sand because as we all know, sand is not for throwing, BALLS ARE FOR THROWING.

Are you looking at me?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Carleen Brice

Ah, content at last. What we've all been waiting for.

I'm part of the Girlfriend's Cyber Circuit--essentially cool women who write. My "guest" today is one of those excellent ladies, Carleen Brice. So excellent in fact was her first novel, ORANGE MINT AND HONEY, that it won the 2009 First Novelist Award from the Black Caucus of the American Library Association and the 2008 Break Out Author Award at the African American Literary Awards Show. It was also optioned by Lifetime Movie Network, and no, in case you're wondering, I'm not at all envious. That would be unseemly.

Her latest release, CHILDREN OF THE WATERS, is the "story about race, love, family & identity. As someone else put it, 'issues fiction.' Two women, 1 black and 1 white, discover they are related and the story deals with how that impacts both their lives."
Here's what Carleen had to say about the book, motherhood and writing.
ME: How did you come up with the idea for this book?
CARLEEN: The idea came from a story my sister-in-law told me. She’s biracial and was given up for adoption and raised by a white family. Her birth sister, who’s also white, found her when they were adults. I wondered what would happen if she had been adopted and raised by a black family.

ME: How does motherhood appear (or not appear) in your novel?
CARLEEN: Motherhood is quite important to this story. Billie, one of the 2 protagonists is pregnant. The other protag, Trish, is looking at having an empty nest soon as her son is a teen. And both women deal with the repercussions of having lost their biological mother. Billie’s adoptive mother plays a key role. So motherhood comes up a lot.

ME: What's been your own experience of mothering? (Giving it, receiving it, etc.)
CARLEEN:I don’t have children. I had 2 miscarriages, so my experience around mothering is one of loss. My first novel Orange Mint and Honey also deals with mothering—it’s about a mother-daughter relationship. My mother was very important in my life, though we sometimes had a difficult relationship.

(Editor's note: I'm sure that hasn't happened to ANYONE else in the world.)

Here's what some other writers are saying about the book:
“I was exhausted and singing the blues the hour I began Carleen Brice’s new novel,
CHILDREN OF THE WATERS. Five hours later, I’d finished this fresh, free-rein novel about mothers’ secrets and children’s sorrows and was shouting ‘Hurray!’”
—Jacquelyn Mitchard, author of The Deep End of the Ocean

In CHILDREN OF THE WATERS, Carleen Brice deftly explores issues of family, identity, and race with a wonderful abundance of humor, forgiveness, and grace.
This moving story of two sisters separated by prejudice will open minds and touch hearts.”
—Meg Waite Clayton, author of The Wednesday Sisters

In CHILDREN OF THE WATERS, Carleen Brice manages to explore the difficult, messy and unpleasant details of life with both humor and wisdom. The parallel journeys of sisters, Trish and Billie, will resonate with everyone and anyone who has questioned their identity and place in this world. Once again, Carleen Brice has crafted a thoroughly enjoyable novel that gets at the heart of the human experience.”
—Lori Tharps, author of Kinky Gazpacho

She is at work on her third novel, Calling Every Good Wish Home, and she maintains the blogs “White Readers Meet Black Authors” http://www.welcomewhitefolks.blogspot.com/ and "The Pajama Gardener" http://www.pajamagardener.blogspot.com/.

Monday, August 17, 2009


The cat is dying. I suppose that will do for gratuitous internet blog content. Drama, tragedy, and scandal are all the rage on the web. Whatever catches one's attention, a moment of voyeurism, or sympathy, I suppose.

"I don't want him to go," my son says.

Well, neither do I, not after thirteen years, my stealthy, black, anti-social ferret of a cat.

Somewhere, amidst the chaos of ordinary life with children, in its vibrancy and melodrama, its self-obsession and neurosis, a flash of the mortality of all things, the cat a skeleton with a tumor, sleeping behind the toilet.

What do we do? Set him up in the bathroom with water he won't drink and a cat box and two ratty, hair-lined cat beds. I give him rubs and hold him and wonder if he might make it because my son has kissed him and once, last year, when I accidentally uprooted (while weeding) a scarlet bean plant (gorgeous, healthy, productive), my son kissed the vine as it withered almost instantly in front of our eyes, then wouldn't you know, or would you never believe?, that plant, wilts and near-dies then (despite even a break in it's lower stalk--and of course I'd instantly replanted it in desperation), greens again. Lives.

I think of my novel, how I might be more literary, more serious, more important as a novelist if I'd killed off a few characters and encircled them with despair, melancholy, alcoholism--which always sells. But then life gives us more than we need of heartbreak. I don't think fiction needs to dream up sadness. It's a river through the landscape of every life, one way or another, and though we might like to glimpse another person's losses, laughter pulls us awake, and away, into the very fine land of perspective, where, though the cat lays dying, the baby and toddler make festive rolling over one another in paroxysms of hilarity and for a moment I recall the bold, squat face of my kitten, who my Jewish friend always said was surely a Jewish cat, and how the other month I had to pick the shit off his tail (what was he thinking?), and that he has never been a groomer or a lover of people, but that he has always liked me, and late at night will come for pats, like every other cat, or like a person, a friend, a lover, a child, to sit on your lap and be comforted for a short while.

Friday, August 14, 2009


Ever notice how when you post on your blog you imagine thousands, if not millions, of eager readers devouring your every clever word? Okay, maybe YOU don't do that. And hey, neither do I. I'm too busy trying not to check my book sales on Amazon.com, and, um, taking care of my children, to worry about the relative success of my blog personality. Anyway, I cannot compete. I am told, though I have not read, blogs that journal in great detail one's sex life, one's divorce, one's affairs, one's depression.

I have nothing on these people.

Well, except cloth diapers. They're very edgy, you know. Very now. Very political. And I've been using the same set through two children. Thrifty lady. Maybe one day I'll post a picture of them. Stay tuned. Don't turn off your computer. Things are happening on this blog! Watch out! Boring mother, woefully lacking in racy content, blogs on.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Why I Don't Love Sand

And other troubles with the beach vacation.

Drop bathing suit. Insert nipple into mouth of nursing babe. Watch her back away with a look of resentful disgust, puckering her lips and shaking her head. No, she will not nurse at the salty bosom of a woman who has been swimming recently enough to still have seaweed cleaving to her cleavage.

This leads to the ritual washing of the breasts, over the sink, with water and dish soap. Three times I go back. I hope the neighbors are enjoying the show because, as it happens, I am not.

Also, too much sand in the diaper does in fact lead to diaper rash.

And, it's possible for a grain of sand to plant itself in one's foot, impersonating a garden variety splinter.

Look out for sand in your hair as well as on your pretzels. Sand on the pretzel does not constitute a salty pretzel. You have to dip it in the ocean for that.

But then, I am on the beach every day. There is simply nothing to complain about. Not even the tedious, frustrating thrice daily application of SPF during which all children will fight against you while you shout threateningly, "Do you want to get burned? Do you? DO YOU? I don't think so!!"

For the record, my son has responded to this rhetorical drama. "Yes, Mama, I want a burn."

Oh, so speak the innocents who have no idea, no idea, of the suffering I am ensuring they will never have. Good mommy. Sleep well at night mommy, in your sandy bed.