Who says what?

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

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

My Year's End Top Ten

Not that I have a devoted following of millions, but my apologies anyway for such lazy blogging. I hope all of you were doing holidays anyway and not glued to your computer. People will like you so much more if you talk to them in person rather than send them a virtual message. (Trust me on this one.)

At any rate, hard though it is to be funny (very hard, sometimes), I will try to wrap up this glorious year with my Top Ten Mothering Moments. Feel free to send me yours. (And copyright them if you don't want them used in a future book of mine! Just kidding.)

Top Ten Mama Moments of 2009

10. My son, standing at a public potty, says to me: "Mama, sometimes my penis gets a little rusty."

(And no, I do not know what he meant by that. And yes, I asked.)

9. During a routine poppy diaper change, I noticed a flap of skin on my daughter's rear. (The really rear part of her rear.) It was pink. And small. I called my mother. I had no idea a baby could get hemorrhoids.
On later inspection, the thing accidentally fell off. To my total horror. And thus I discovered an undigested piece of pink salmon eaten the night before for dinner.

8. After the death of our cat, my son, curious about life and death, asks my husband, "What's alive?" He wants to know if beds are alive, if houses are alive, if cups are alive. Then he asks, "Daddy, are books alive?"
(What would you say?)

7. On an exciting trip to Vermont, my husband and I stopped for lunch and extracted the children from the backseat. Where we discovered my daughter covered in poop. Having no where to go and not wanting to bring her into the restaurant in such a state (and also unable to hold her in anyway without getting covered ourselves), we stripped her down on the sidewalk and used the entire box of wipes to clean her. Whoa onto the poor innocent diners eating on the sidewalk who had to witness this event. (We did try to conceal our activities. You know, in case it's illegal to change a baby in public. Which I'm sure it is. Somewhere.)

6. The classic and darling moment when my toddler, in public, began diving down my shirt, then ripping it off me, while screaming, "Nursies!" (Later when I told this story to a LLLI leader, she said, all too wisely, "That's great. What a moment to educate the public about nursing.")

5. Walking through the Borders Books in Vermont days before a book signing with my son and daughter slyly looking around for my book which I couldn't find anywhere. I gave up and started to head out when my son tugged my hand. "That's the same baby we have," he said, pointing at something. When I turned to see what he was pointing at, I discovered an enormous Danielle Steele worthy display of THIS LITTLE MOMMY STAYED HOME. With that fat baby on the cover.

4. This isn't mine. I've totally borrowed it. But it's the best. My friend has a toddler. The toddler calls her daddy's manly item (seen on rare occasions during dressing and also known as the penis for the more literal minded) his tail.

3. My son, during a play date, began to act wild, unruly, hyper and spastic. Otherwise, just like a three year old. He kept taking his friend's toys. After a particular bad go around between the two of them, my son said, "I'm really a good boy. I just act crazy sometimes."
So, you can teach them to use their words, but it won't make them act any better!

2. In a perfect moment of modeling his mother, my son, woken too early by his sister (while sleeping in the same room on vacation), said, in response to my daughter's request to "get my books," "Mama can get them later. I'm too tired."

1. Waking up, my son snuggled beside me (having snuck in from his own room), I turn and give him a warm cuddle and a kiss, and he says, "Mama, your breath smells."

Well, life is sweet, even if my breath isn't.
I wish you true sweetness in 2010!

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Origin of Streaking

Tonight, post-bath, Adeline decided to run naked back and forth through the hallway. My son found this so truly hysterical that he couldn't stop laughing, then, naturally, couldn't wait to join in. I observed these moments of pure delight with fond memories of the streakers in my college days who also appreciated their moments of nude revelry. Surely, we were all born to streak.

And then you grow up, and things change. Like your body.

I've been hanging out with some other "changed-body people." A.K.A. mothers. Motherhood has inducted me into this secret society where stretch-marks can be discussed with a certain air of competition. Where else can this be done?

I am certain that I ought to be blogging about life's deeper profundities. Were I not thoroughly consumed with a child who can scream continuously for almost an hour, I might have the time to consider the finer things of life.

Oh, right, unless, like those in the secret society, I hold some sense that parenting is one of the finer things in life. Or that, at least, in believing that (since we get to believe whatever we want), I regain my sanity. Never my former belly. Sanity, however, remains the more significant of the two, despite what all the beer commercials would have you believe. Beauty won't get you far if you're crazy.

Monday, December 14, 2009

What We Buy For Christmas

However scrooge-like I may seem in saying this, I don't like buying for Christmas. Or, at any rate, I don't like the "enforced" compulsion to buy arbitrarily.

And with kids? My son would just as soon get a branch to play with than a toy. My daughter gets really excited just before we nurse. The greatest gift I could get is sleep. And I think my husband would like me to get out of bed.

See? Nowhere in there are fancy presents, plastic things that sing, or objects to get broken, lost or fought over.

We like to give our hard earned cash to The Food Bank of Western Mass. We also like Heifer International. My husband likes Habitat for Humanity. But I think if you're going to give, the nicest way is more personally--if you know someone who has a need and you can supply it anonymously. I especially love to give to new mothers, so if you know of a new mother in need of something, tell me. I'd like to help.

In the meantime, I have to go purchase some Scotch tape. (We don't have any.) So I can wrap the two gifts that I've bought. The rest I am planning on baking.

Cause, hey, really, all we need is love.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

More Mysteries of the Universe

The thing about children is that when you're pregnant, you think you're going to have a baby. When they are born, you realize it's a person. I look at my children, sometimes, and marvel that they are themselves completely apart from any nurturing influence. All my good schooling has been blown to pieces: I believe in nature.

You can tell me then whether or not there is something in nature that creates the gender divide which brings about situations like this: as I make breakfast for myself and the two children, my husband makes his own breakfast. (In the same amount of time.) While I dress myself and the two children, my husband dresses himself. (In the same amount of time.) Of course, I adore him, and he is perfect as he is, I'm just pointing out what seems to me to be a great mystery. Have you noticed this before?

I suppose, and in my world I'd agree, that this men are from mars business doesn't suit anyone's full humanity. But by observation, it seems to be more true than before children, that men and women are not exactly the same.

Have any of you other wise, liberated women of the world come across such a mystery?

Monday, December 7, 2009

What to Get for the Holidays

Probably I should win an award for most boring person of the year.

I am, in fact, so boring that I can't even think of anything to blog about. I must then give in to seasonal blogging.

It's the holiday season. (I actually love this time of year and have lots of profound things to say about it, which I will spare you.)

So you're probably wondering what you can get me as a present, but are undoubtedly too shy to ask.

What I want for Christmas from the blogging universe is a second printing for my novel. You can either go out and buy 2000 copies personally (only about $20,000), or you can simply buy a few for your friends.

Seriously, I think the book is a perfect gift for new mothers. If you give my book and Anne Lamott's OPERATING INSTRUCTIONS you will make a new mother happy, healthy and sane in the new year. You will help her to feel like her feelings are okay. You will let her know that she is not alone. You will give her laughter. I have a special place for new mothers in my heart, having been one myself so recently, and if we can have some new-mother sanity, we will be that much closer to peace on earth. And a second printing for my book.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Wendy Nelson Tokunaga

I've got another good read, good thing too since the holidays are here and in my family the best gift is always a book.

Wendy Nelson Tokunaga, in addition to having just published her second novel, is a serious Japanse karaoke singer. How cool is that?

Her new novel sports the truly excellent and green (as in envy) inspiring title: Love in Translation. It looks like an engrossing read--and beyond that, the interview below with Tokunaga is a great one for aspiring writers, a group she often works with.

(Lovely cover too. My favorite colors.)
Here's the meat of the book: After receiving a puzzling phone call and a box full of mysteries, 33-year-old fledgling singer Celeste Duncan is off to Japan to search for a long, lost relative who could hold the key to the identity of the father she never knew. This overwhelming place where nothing is quite as it seems changes Celeste in ways she never expected, leading her to ask: What is the true meaning of family? And what does it mean to discover your own voice?

What inspired Love in Translation?
Many things. LOVE IN TRANSLATION is my cockeyed valentine to Japan, which is a place I’ve both loved and loathed, a place that has fueled both fascination and frustration. And it is also a place that has had a huge impact on my life and writing. I also wanted to explore what it means to be a gaijin (foreigner) in Japan and the benefits and downsides of that status and what happens when a gaijin sings in Japanese. I also am fascinated by the concept of the homestay, (something I never experienced), and how that would impact someone as an adult who grew up in foster homes and who never experienced a real family.

If you weren’t writing, what would you be doing instead?
I’d be singing. Before I started writing fiction I wrote songs, sang lead and played bass guitar in my own bands. Later on I got into singing Japanese karaoke. And further down the road I took voice lessons from a great Japanese jazz singer. I learned so much from her and was able to take my singing to a whole new level. I began to sing jazz standards with my husband accompanying me on keyboards. We play low-key venues once in a while but usually we just practice for fun at home.

Which craft books have inspired or helped you throughout your writing career?
There are many and some are not technically “craft” books such as “The Resilient Writer: Tales of Rejection and Triumph from 23 Top Authors” by Catherine Wald. Others include “bird by bird” by Anne Lamott, “The First Five Pages” by Noah Lukeman and “The Art & Craft of Novel Writing” by Oakley Hall.

What do you consider the heart of your story?
My stories seem to have several “hearts,” or at least I see them that way. In LOVE IN TRANSLATION it’s how Celeste Duncan, a woman without a family, finds one in a foreign culture. It’s also about the power of music on the soul and heart and the meaning of finding your own voice, both in the singing sense and the identity sense.

What has brought the greatest joy since you were published? The greatest angst?
I’d say the greatest joy is having readers who appreciate your writing. And the greatest angst is in working hard to keep those readers and gain more.

What do you love about being an author?
There’s so much that I enjoy. First, it’s great to be paid for something you love to do. But I also find it inspiring to help other writers. I enjoy telling my story of woe on my road to publication and let others know that they don’t need any special connections to the publishing world in order to get published. I like to promote the message that you should never give up. And if you work hard, keep at it and be flexible, your publishing dream may come true. I also like helping other writers make their work the best it can be.

What’s one piece of writing advice you’ve found valuable on your journey to publication?
That often you won’t discover the real story you’re trying to tell until the revision process.

What’s next for you?
I’m working on a novel that is a different departure for me: it has very little to do with Japan!
Thanks, Wendy! I can't wait to read it.