Guest Post: Getting Beyond, Is It Safe?

By Cornelia Seigneur

A friend of mine and I were on an adventure hike at Tryon Creek State Park on Martin Luther King Junior Day. It was my 12-year-old twin boys and my friend’s 12-year-old boy, and my 6-year-old boy, plus two of our friends from Sudan — a 12-year-old boy and a 13 -year girl.

The four 12-year-old boys were meandering off the trail to discover trees that had fallen over the creek, and they wanted to walk over these logs to get to the other side of the creek.

They came up with this idea on their own. Though at first I thought they should not go off the trail, I soon realized that there were no signs up that said they could not go off the trail, so we let them. Too many times at school and in life, kids are required to stay in bounds and live between the borders of walls and books and desks, and told to color in the lines, but real life is sometimes off the trail and outside of the lines and beyond the boundaries.

So, the boys took off down toward the log which had fallen over the creek, and I followed them to make sure they were okay.

Then, another woman who was also out for a hike at Tryon that day, stopped to see what the boys were doing, and asked my friend, “Is it safe?”

My friend said unashamedly to this other woman, of course it is safe, and they are just boys on an adventure.

The question, Is it safe? got me thinking about family life and safety and kids living in our suburban culture, where they are so sheltered and not allowed to explore and where they are driven everywhere they go and are not allowed to walk or bike anywhere. Ironically enough because families move to the suburbs to be safe.

I also thought about faith and how we pray for protection and to be free from conflict, which is a great prayer and all. But is there not more to life than just praying for safety and hence, an easy life.

Of course, being safe and conflict free might be good things to want in general. But it seems that we forget that when life has conflicts and risks and outside the box experiences, that is when we seem to grow the most. When our lives are lived outside the box in the realm of adventure and risk, when we take chances and get out of the safety zone, we have so many opportunities to teach our children about real life and learning how to manage and problem solve and be creative. And when we try new things and live outside the box in one area of our lives, we will risk and truly live in other areas of our lives.

Adults need this. Kids need this. Kids in suburbia USA need chances to climb across trees that have fallen across creeks, to try to figure out how best to do this, to help one another in the task, to problem solve together the ideal solution.

As my friend and I watched our 12-year-olds,  we saw their eagerness to find log after log to cross the creek, and we saw team work as they tried to figure out the best way to make it and we saw their laughter and the challenge that it was. And we witnessed the excitement they expressed when they made it across the creek, each time waiting for one another to cross.

The challenge, the adventure, the risk, the creativity, the team work, the maneuvering to find the best route were all skills that can be transferred to real life.

The boys got dirty and the trails were muddy and getting off the trails was even muddier, but the boys did not complain. They kept looking for more logs to cross. 

The next day, I got a call from my mom friend, and she said her son had such an amazing time with us, and that is all he could talk about, the adventure with my boys.

Was it safe? Sure. And, most importantly, it was an adventure.

Cornelia Becker Seigneur is the mother of five children between the ages of 7 and 20, and the author of WriterMom Tales: Corralling the Commotion while Savoring the Chaos, Spilled Cheerios, and Prayers of Real-Life Motherhood, a collection of her essays on real family life that have been published in The Oregonian and other local publications since 1999. In addition to writing, Cornelia is an adjunct instructor at Multnomah University as well as a photographer and editor. Her website and blog can be found at www.corneliaseigneur.com

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Guest Post: Having a Girl by Claudine Jalajas

About 5 years ago I was in a car accident with my two sons on the way home from their annual pediatric check up. It was a beautiful summer day. I sat at a red light. My 2 year old and 7 year old watched a movie on the DVD player in the van. While I sat, staring at the light above, I heard a loud crash and was jolted out of my trance when my body tried to go forward while the seatbelt held me back. I looked in the rear view mirror and saw a man in his Infinity SUV hanging up his cell phone. My boys were very confused and mostly annoyed about the DVD player shutting off on them. I got out of the car quickly to check on them and saw Max, the 2 year old, had a scrape across his neck from the seat belt. When I saw that scrape I became the female version of the HULK.

I turned, teeth barred, growling, hissing, and pointing my finger while I marched towards the man in his car. “What’s wrong with you? You were on your damned phone weren’t you?!” He stayed in his car and pretended not to notice the crazy lady screaming at him. Suddenly I felt a lot of pain in my lower abdomen. I was 24 weeks pregnant at the time. We spent the better part of the day and early evening at the ER while they monitored my contractions. They did a CT scan of my abdomen assuring me it was in my best interest to check for internal bleeding but I feared for my little girl growing in my belly. There was no internal bleeding, contractions stopped, and I was told that I would likely be in pain for a while.

The next 89 days remain the most painful days I’ve ever had. I had herniated several discs in my back and the bigger the baby got, the more intense the pain became. My son Max was an active 2 year old—even more than your average toddler. I was so afraid I couldn’t keep up with him that we never left the house. To this day, when I watch House, I totally get it. When you have constant pain you feel like the world is your idiot. Everything was difficult and caused me to curse—standing, sitting, attempting to walk. The pain was so intense that the OB put me on Vicodin while pregnant so I could cope. They assured me the Vicodin was safe and I was grateful for relief but it barely took the edge off—so I used it very rarely.

When I got close to 30 weeks I begged my OB to schedule an earlier C-section for me (vaginal not an option for me—it just isn’t. Don’t flame me. It is what it is.) When we got to 32 weeks they did a Fetal Lung Maturity test. While performing an ultrasound they stick a long needle in your belly looking for amniotic fluid. It’s a tricky procedure because they cannot hit the baby. (The doctor doing the procedure literally said, while sticking that needle in my belly, “If I hit the baby it will be a disaster.” I’m not sure if she found that a comfort to me). When an amnio is done in early pregnancy there’s plenty of room but not when you’re 32 weeks pregnant.  The test results came back that my daughter’s lungs were not ready. If she were born she would go straight to NICU. I was devastated. My mind wanted her born healthy and safe but I needed to be rid of this pain. I just wanted her out.

Seven days later they were trying again. The nurse prepping me asked me if I was anxious to have the pregnancy over and I sighed saying, “Oh, I cannot wait.” My husband came over, smiling, and said, “I haven’t heard you say that before. I was kind of worried.” Confused I asked him what he was talking about. Haven’t I bitched every single day about how much pain I was in? He said, “I’m glad you’re so excited about having a girl. I heard you tell the nurse you couldn’t wait.” I smiled back but didn’t have the courage to tell him he misunderstood.

While they performed the second, and more painful, Fetal Lung Maturity test I went into labor and they whisked me into the OR for an emergency c-section. When Annabelle entered this world she screamed her head off.  I closed my eyes and then smiled when a nurse said, “Wow! Listen to THOSE lungs!” 

When they told me I was having a girl I worried. Boys are easy for me. I am an only girl with 3 brothers. I grew up hearing my mother complain, “I’d rather raise another 3 boys than a girl again.” Personally, I don’t know what she was talking about, I was a pure delight. But I’ve been most comfortable with boys. I can talk about money, techy things, and cars—and men make me laugh.  Between you, me, and the lamppost, I may have married my husband because he was the funniest guy I had met.

Annabelle has started kindergarten this year. I’ve never been the type to cry when my kids started school. Why cry? I was so looking forward to some quiet time to write, to get the things that usually have to wait until the wee hours when I’m exhausted. And she was over the moon about being a kindergartner and going to school.

It has been 12 1/2 years since I’ve been home alone. When Luc started kindergarten I had a baby at home. When Max started kindergarten, I had a toddler at home. I’m not sure if it’s because she’s the last one or because she’s a girl. But I’m finding it really unsettling how much I miss her.  I see the small bouquet of flowers she made for me yesterday and smile. A song comes on the radio and I can hear her voice singing along and see her flicking her long, knotted hair around.

I saw five monarch butterflies, at once, in the garden yesterday and thought, “let me get Annabelle, she will flip over this” and remembered she was at school.  Mostly, I miss her constantly needing to be right by my side. I miss her pulling at me to bend over so she can shmush her face into mine, saying, “Mama? I love you Mama. I love you more than anybody. I even love you more than 11.”

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Guest Post: “I am Exceptional, I am a Mother”

I have managed to stroll one child and hand-hold another while balancing a cake, a purse and a diaper bag…in heels. 

I am exceptional, I am a mother.

I know how to predict and curb a tantrum (hey, it happened once).  I am never without a stash of snacks or band-aids.  I can fashion a sling out of 2 tube socks in a pinch.  I am exceptional, I am a mother.

I know my children’s health histories, food aversions, fears and hot buttons.  I know when snack day, minimum day, share day and pajama day are.  I am exceptional, I am a mother.

I try to make learning fun, act silly with my kids and accept responsibilities for my failures.  I am exceptional, I am a mother.

I know how to kill bedtime monsters, get gum out of hair and act as my children’s advocate.  I am exceptional, I am a mother.

I know how to sneak medicine, sneak vegetables and sneak the good Halloween candy for myself.  I am exceptional, I am a mother.

I know how to make it all better when no one else can.  I am exceptional, I am a mother.

Just because we can all do these things doesn’t make even one of us less exceptional.  We have witnessed exceptional love from our mothers, our grandmothers, each other, our children and ourselves.  We do exceptional things instinctively.  We do exceptional things for them.  Our everyday is exceptional. 

We are exceptional, we are mothers.
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Lori Garcia is a married thirty-something California native.  Mother of two boys, she launched Mommyfriend.com as an opportunity to tell true tales of motherhood and mayhem with a healthy dose of humor and heart.  Illustrated by her husband and inspired by her children, Mommyfriend is a family affair.  Dedicated to reminding its readers or “Mommy Friends” that they are perfect as they are, Mommyfriend believes our best will always be enough so long as it’s filled with heart.

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Guest Post: Nancy Campbell

On Sunday night, a friend and I sat by the banks of the Patuxent River, drinking red wine and watching the sky bloom into rosy, amber perfection before settling into darkness.

We had one of those conversations that you wish you could put in your pocket–witty, thoughtful, and reflective.

She was discussing the world she wanted for her daughters, and it made me think about the world I want my sons to give her daughters, and in turn, her daughters to give my sons.

In other words, it made me think: How do I raise men who treasure, value, and respect women?

Redefine Strength

Masculine strength is traditionally viewed through the prism of power and physicality. Don’t get me wrong—there is nothing wrong with being physically strong. Yet, I try to teach my boys to recognize and admire strength in all its forms.

There is strength in speaking the truth, in proclaiming that it is not okay to use “fag” or “retard” as a pejorative.

There is strength in listening. Instead of thinking of what you’re going to say next, be fully present and engaged in conversation.

There is strength in humility. Don’t be afraid to admit that you need help, or you do not understand, or if you are afraid. Nothing builds a connection more quickly than simply acknowledging that we are all souls, and we are all on this journey together.

Recognize Our Light

Because we are all souls, we must live lives worthy of that light.

This means love should never hurt. We do not hurt our loved ones with words, our hands, or our bodies. We must never allow contempt to enter a relationship. Yes, people disagree. Yes, there may be anger. But never, ever allow those dark moments to extinguish another light.

This means that we are not better than anybody else. Talk to the waitress, the custodian, and the substitute teacher like you would talk to your grandmother. Say “please” and “thank you.” Hold the door open for people, and pick up litter on the side of the road. Give blood. Buy a stranger a cup of coffee.

After all, that’s somebody’s baby.

Put Your Feet in the Moment

You only get one life. Embrace the miracle of life, fatherhood, friendship, and love.

Embrace the grace which comes from life’s stumbles.

Seek the joy in a full moon, a cherry blossom, or a perfect line drive.

And, please. in the midst of all this…call your mother.

Bio:

Nancy Campbell is a former English teacher. Recently, she’s also been known as the author of the up-and-coming blog, Away We Go.

Her two sons, Owen and Joel, have taught her about patience and humility, while demonstrating that fart jokes never get old and wrestling solves all problems.

In edition to herding preschoolers, she enjoys running, yoga, reading, travel, wine, and photography. She is presently working on a series of children’s books, exploring various ideas for a novel, and submitting articles to magazines and newspapers. You may contact her at camp1974@gmail.com or visit her blog, Away We Go at www.npoj.blogspot.com.

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Guest Post: “Motherhood is like a Pacemaker”

Just like “Autodidact,” the poem that Write for Charity picked for their wonderful book, From the Heart, I wrote “Motherhood is a like a Pacemaker” when one particular day seemed just a bit too overwhelming ; when I wondered if the work I was doing as a mother really counted for much.

Like this poem, motherhood sort of transcends the normal, yet is required to keep the normal. There are difficulties that motherhood presents to us at times — and yes, there are happiness and joys, rewards and fulfillment involved too — but the role of a mother is never easy. It always receives, yet it also requires. It always is, but has to be ready for was or will be … or just plain won’t.

Motherhood is vital. And just as a pacemaker keeps one alive when the heart can’t function on its own, there is something about motherhood that children need to make their lives function.

Motherhood is like a pacemaker that keeps the lifeline of nurture’s blood open and rich not only for the child but also for the mother. And just as a pacemaker re-shocks the heart into pumping at times, a child’s need for love from mom just as kindly, shocks their busy and sometimes hectic lives into ones that are suddenly necessary, essential and full of meaning -but only if we as mothers, and parents, understand this.

Parenting is tough – as it should be. But with love, the active “life” to our children’s lives, it can overcome anything.

Motherhood is like a Pacemaker

Motherhood is like a pacemaker that
keeps you living and touching the
fundamentals of pain or joy.

That is the pulse of anxiety or monotony or
exhaustion and reward-
reminding you of your humanity;

the physicality of raising your flesh,
–gifted or homemade–
deep to a part of you that hurts, and heals

 just like the synthetic thumper. It
gives life, just as motherhood does,
making hearts beat and love flow through;

a power to protect our responsibility,
even when the days end long and full,
running circles around your sanity,

and question your stewardship.
There is happiness, there is life
when we remember this is ours to give.

Heather Spiva is a freelance writer from Sacramento, CA. She loves reading, writing, and spending time with her two young sons and husband. You can read more of her work at: www.heatherspiva.blogspot.com

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Featured Author of the Day: Liz Zuercher

Today’s Featured Author of the Day is Liz Zuercher.  

Liz lives in Southern California, where she and her artist husband raised two sons.  Now that the nest is empty and she has retired from real estate sales, Liz has time to pursue her love of writing to her heart’s content.  When she isn’t writing, she’s reading, getting together with friends and family, acting as CEO of the household or keeping the books for her husband’s fine art reproduction business.

Liz was born in Rochester, New York, but her father’s career took the family to Mobile, Alabama, Syracuse, New York and Philadelphia before they landed for good in the Chicago area.  After earning her English degree from De Pauw University in Indiana, she worked at The New Yorker magazine’s Chicago advertising office, until one too many snowstorms convinced her to pack up her bags and head to California.  There she met and married a guy from Illinois, and they happily embraced the Southern California lifestyle.  Both, however, remain true to the Cubs and Bears.  Some things can’t be undone.

Liz co-founded and contributes regularly to Little Bit Everything in Tasty Sauce, a collaborative blog featuring short works of fiction, nonfiction and poetry.  Visit http://tastysauce.blogspot.com to enjoy more of Liz’s stories.  Her work has been published in Chicken Soup for the Ocean Lover’s Soul, and has been featured under Curator’s Picks on the DimeStories Orange County page at http://dimestories.org.  Send her a note at lizbethze@aol.com.

Q: How did you get into writing?

True confession: I’m not one of those writers who scribbled journals or made up stories as a child.  Back then I thought I’d be a singer or a dancer or a fashion designer or an architect.  But I always had my nose in a book.  I loved stories.   In school I discovered that writing came pretty easy to me, and when I finally had to declare a major in college, I chose English Composition just because I liked it.  Fast forward through a host of secretarial jobs, owning my own company, raising two sons, selling new homes and you come to the moment when it was time to do something for myself.  That’s when I realized I wanted to tell stories, not just read them – true stories, made-up stories, whatever kind would shine a little ray of light on a bit of everyday life.  That’s when the fun started, when the writing began in earnest.

Q: Why did you decide to get involved with this project?

When a friend sent me the call for submissions, I didn’t hesitate a minute to send in my work.  What a wonderful opportunity to help families with sick children, contribute to vital research and share my stories at the same time.  I’m honored to be participating in this project.

Q: What are you working on next?

My major current project is a novel based on the frenzied rise and precipitous decline of the real estate market and the fallout for families who bought at the height of the market.  I also continue to contribute short pieces to Little Bit Everything in Tasty Sauce, the blog I co-author, and there’s always something popping into my head that begs to be written down.  I can’t ignore that inner voice at four in the morning.  When she wants me to write something, I oblige.

We appreciate Liz and her wonderful contributions to the anthology.

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Featured Author of the Day: Cheryl Somers Aubin

Welcome to another installment of our Featured Author Series.  Today, we introduce to you Cheryl Aubin! 

Over the last twenty years, Cheryl Somers Aubin got married and became a wife, started writing and became a writer and then she had a son and became a mother.  And while both the roles of wife and writer changed and enriched her life, when her son, Charlie, was born he changed her and opened her heart to a whole new world.

Cheryl can hardly believe that the little baby boy who called her, “Ma Ma” has grown into a 16-year-old young man, four inches taller that she is and asking to get his learner’s permit.  She still feels like it was just last week that she was wondering if she would ever get him to try out his new tricycle.  She continues to love every single minute of the wonderful, exhausting, challenging,  love-filled life of being a mother.

On the professional side, Cheryl has a Master of Arts degree in writing from Johns Hopkins University. She has been writing and publishing for twenty years, and her work has appeared in the Washington Post, Boston Globe, Foundation Magazine and other newspapers, magazines and on-line journals. She teaches memoir writing, has been a featured speaker at Personal History Writing Symposiums, presented at numerous panels and workshops and established a memoir writing course for Johns Hopkins University’s Evergreen program. 

Last month, she presented a workshop on “Writing the Family Memoir” at the Cape Cod Writers Conference and will be a presenter at the 2010 Washington, D.C. Historical Studies Conference on November 5th and 6th.  Her non-fiction and fiction work is currently featured on http://www.getsparked.org/   which matches writers and artists who exchange inspiration work.  Her website is: www.cherylaubin.com

Q: How did you get into writing?

I didn’t so much get into writing as writing got into me in a much more serious way about twenty years ago. I’d always written, especially some really bad poetry in high school, but my first big published piece was in the Boston Globe twenty years ago.  I’d written about etiquette and looking for a job.  I got some nice feedback on that piece and even a fan letter!

When my son, Charlie, was born, I was so humbled and honored and overwhelmed with parenting and I often wrote about it.  Essays instead of blogs because in the “olden days” there wasn’t even the internet!  Several of these pieces found their way into newspapers.  Recently, an essay I wrote about collecting shells with Charlie has been published in an on-line journal, an annual report, The Washington Post and is included in this wonderful anthology.

Q: Why did you decide to get involved with this project?

My dear friend’s six-year-old son, Ryan, has had several surgeries in his short lifetime and continues to be treated at Children’s Hospital by the wonderful doctors, nurses and staff.  I’ve visited the hospital a few times and met some of these caring professionals.  I am happy to donate my writing to be able to support this institution that has not only helped Ryan, but many other children as well.

Q: What are you working on next?

Right now I am doing research for a book about my grandmother and her bootlegger/gangster husband in the 1920s and 1930s in Galveston, TX.  Involved in a shoot out in 1931 where he killed one man and injured another, Theodore “Fatty” Owen was sent to prison.  A year or two later, he was pardoned by “Ma” Ferguson, the governor at the time.  He got out of jail, got back with my grandmother and together they adopted my mother in the fall of 1933.

Like most parents who write, I am trying to balance taking care of my son, our home and writing. Sometimes I feel like I am on a teeter-totter holding my computer, sheaves of paper and books on one side, and my husband, son, house, and all the other stuff of life (volunteering!  I just can’t say no!), on the other.

Cheryl believes that everyone has a story to tell and a story worth telling.  She encourages her students to write, and encourages all of our readers to write.  “Write every day, write what comes to you, know that you can do it, and know that it is important to give our words, our stories, our dreams and even our failings to our families now…and to leave them for the generations to come.”

We appreciate having Cheryl as our featured author today.

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