Archive | June, 2007

The Queen of Notebooks

19 Jun

I have to admit something. I have this fetish for notebooks. From my childhood, I have always been intrigued with the promise of an empty notebook just waiting to be filled. As a little girl, I loved to make books of my own by stapling typing or notebook paper together between construction paper covers. Often, I would peruse the office supply aisle at the grocery store looking for the “perfect” pocket-sized spiral notebook to spend my pocket money on. Eagerly, I would spend hours filling the tiny pages with my big ideas. Drawings, poetry, and stories poured out, unrestrained.

Now, my own two daughters, ages 8 and 12, follow in my footsteps. My older daughter has begun journaling and logging her pre-teen experiences in a snazzy, spiral-bound book while my younger daughter’s stapled or ribbon-tied “books” can be found on countertops and bedrooms under various stages of construction. I recognize that familiar sparkle in their eyes, the compulsion to create and express oneself on the holy medium of paper. Many books are started but few, if any, are ever completed. Every time I help my girls deep clean their rooms, we come across their stash of personal notebooks. Too sacred to toss, we always find a convenient drawer or compartment to store them in.

Like my daughters, my own collection of notebooks and journals has grown over the years and come in varying sizes and shapes (though I seem to gravitate towards the basic 70-sheet, wide-ruled, one-subject spiral notebook or the more durable, hard-cover, 100-sheet composition book.) Some notebooks, filled from cover to cover, are my “morning pages” or freewriting ramblings (see Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way.) Other notebooks which started out as places to write book reviews, travel experiences, letter boxing expeditions or favorite quotes remain unfinished. But even in their unfinished state, the notebooks’ blank pages are a symbol of hope, reminding me of the realm of possibility beneath my fingertips. Currently, a tiny hardcover book with lilacs on the cover nestles in the bottom of my purse to catch those fleeting writing ideas or “seeds of thought” and a recycled spiral notebook, rescued from a child’s backpack, lays in the bottom of my desk drawer to hold my sporadic morning musings.

And now the urge to fill yet another notebook, a “Mother’s Notebook,” as recommended by author Lisa Garrigues in her new book Writing Motherhood: Tapping Into Your Creativity as a Mother and a Writer, is too tempting to resist. I was intrigued to read Garrigues’ description of the differences between a diary and a Mother’s Notebook. She says, “Think of your Mother’s Notebook as an open space for contemplation, reflection, and meandering…Let it be experimental…Let it be colorful…Let it be collaborative…The Mother’s Notebook, finally, is where we can write down our experience in our voice…this is where we take ourselves and our writing seriously.” Then she quotes Georgia Heard who said, “My notebook is a constant weight in my already-too-heavy black bag…Its presence always reminds me I’m a writer, and it helps me live a considered life that doesn’t spin by focused only on groceries, dinner, and car repairs. A notebook is fertilizer for my writing, not just a record of daily events. It’s a place to dream, to explore, to play. It’s a companion.” I can hardly wait to go shopping this afternoon for my first Mother’s Notebook. And whether I fill it or not is irrelevant. I know that it’s the personal journey of expression that matters, the discovery of self. Like Garrigues, I believe that “just as mothering gives us material for writing, so writing gives us tools for mothering.” Who knows if this new attempt will help me work out my maternal salvation, but for a couple of dollars, it never hurts to buy another notebook.


Writing Motherhood, Part I

18 Jun

All of a sudden, I have too many writing books going! Besides Pen On Fire by Barbara DeMarco-Barrett, I’ve been working my way through Christina Katz’s Writer Mama, finally got Brian Kiteley’s The 3 A.M. Epiphany, and just picked up another promising writing book for moms at the library this morning–Writing Motherhood by Lisa Garrigues. I’ve only had the chance to read the foreword to Writing Motherhood so far, but I really like how the author compares the obstacles we face as mommy writers to rocks in a river. She says we need to be like river rafts and bounce off of our excuses for not writing, rebounding and redirecting our energies into the determination to keep at it no matter what is going on around us. And so, inspired by this metaphor, I wrangle my laptop from my persistent toddler’s death grip, put him in his highchair, feed him lunch, and hope that I can find a few minutes to write this blog between his nap and any home showings that might come up this afternoon. 

If there is anything consistent about a mother’s life, it’s inconsistency. I miss attending my college classes and churning out an article every other week when I was a student columnist. I can’t wait to go back in August. It seemed as if I got more writing done when I had more to do. Well, I still have a lot to do with keeping the house picked up and my five very active kids’ schedules running smoothly, but I’m afraid my lofty writing goals for the summer are going by the wayside. I can certainly see them veering in that direction at breakneck speed as I’ve allowed the demands of maintaining a pristine home while it’s on the market consume my time. Windexing away fingerprints and sweeping and vacuuming floors all day long is not my idea of personal fulfillment. I guess it’s time to carve out my writing time again, reclaim it and put it back on the “To Do” list. Garrigues says, “If you let the obstacles in your life–dishes, diapers, dirty laundry, just plain doubt–mount one on top of the other, you will create a hurdle so high that you will never be able to clear it. If instead you learn to manuever around the obstacles, bumping into some, bouncing off others, like a raft navigating a river, sooner or later you will get where you want to go. In the process, you will become more agile, more resilient, more resolute.” I think it’s time for me to get bouncing!

Mid-life and Me

12 Jun

I’ve recently discovered what’s wrong with me. All of a sudden, my seemingly erratic emotions and actions of the past four years are completely understandable. From my sudden and fleeting fling with adult ballet lessons to my emotional outbursts, to my full-blown determination to return to college after an eighteen-year hiatus, I finally realize that I’m in the beginning stages of a mid-life crisis.


Impulsively, I want to ask everyone I know in my age group, “Are you going through a MLC, too?” but somehow, even though the print media is full of advice about how to handle this common occurrence, it’s not the kind of conversation starter that seems appropriate somehow, even among friends. For goodness sake, no adolescent goes around shouting “Eureka!” because they’ve discovered they’ve entered puberty. But for me, the discovery that I am not too young at the age of 39 to experience this universal phenomenon is freeing in a sense. At last, I have some explanation for my rants. What a relief to know I am not crazy! I’m absolutely normal!


So what could have set off my mid-life crisis so early, I wonder. Perhaps my near-death experience delivering my fourth child in the spring of 2003 had something to do with it. Facing one’s own mortality is never a slight thing and certainly forces one to reevaluate life and cherish every moment. Certainly, sixteen years as a stay-at-home mom with unfulfilled dreams has something to do with it. So does nearly losing my 61-year-old father last year to a ruptured brain aneurism and the realization that my oldest child will be leaving the nest in two short years.


As usual, whenever I need answers, I go to the public library. There, I can search among the stacks and find the divergent, thinking voices I crave to help me decide where to go from here. As I read, I indulge in the conversations I can’t seem to have with my husband, my friends, even myself. In the private sanctuary of my mind, I puzzle over these new-found, gut-wrenching, teeth-clenching sensations of my current reality knowing that the life boat of literacy and my ever buoyant life vest of wit will keep me afloat through this indeterminate period of uncertainty.