Poems & Essays

27 Jan

Book Review: Naked Parenting

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Review by Jennie Robertson

My husband and I had great parenting examples, though I often fall short of what I know to be best. But, even with strong parenting examples, we all need occasional reminders. Naked Parenting: 7 Keys to Raising Kids With Confidence offers just that: many much-needed reminders.

“What is Naked Parenting?” That’s the title of the first chapter and a good question that I think can be answered with this quote: “Wide open, up front, and direct communication, especially when it could be uncomfortable, is a basic tenet of Naked Parenting.” I believe being honest and openly affectionate are the pillars of this idea.

The book contains chapters on love, honesty, communication, responsibility, discipline, mistakes, and gratitude. I found the honesty chapter the most thought provoking. It opens with an anecdote about child after child getting up on stage in a school talent show and squawking out a tune while the audience squirmed uncomfortably. The point was that the children’s parents should have told them they had no singing talent before their child got up there—I found that a little challenging because I question whether most parents are able to see their children’s talents that objectively. Personally, I’m still trying to absorb that my helpless baby can now walk and talk! Nonetheless, I think she has a good point, and I appreciate her giving permission to parents to steer kids towards their best potential. Later in the chapter, she talks of not gushing over every piece of artwork, but saving your praise for the very best pieces in the interest of being honest and not making kids question your sincerity.

Here’s a quote that illustrates another aspect of honesty in parenting: “If you’re bored silly watching the kids dunk underwater for the 63rd time, then it’s okay to call them over to you, tell them that you’ve enjoyed seeing their new trick and you’re happy they’re having fun, but now you, too, would like to have fun, so you’re going to sit and read your book or talk with your friends.” My first thought was an excited Really? It’s ok to do that?! Looks like next summer might be a lot more enjoyable than last summer!

Possibly my favorite quote in the book is a simple one in the chapter on Naked Responsibility: “No adult with a victim mentality is happy.” All I need is a scroll through my Facebook feed to convince me that this is true.

In the chapters on responsibility and mistakes, there were good words on the importance of failures and frustrations. I always feared failure; I didn’t learn that it could be helpful and healthy until I was in my thirties. Perhaps this was a gap in my parent’s technique, or maybe it was just my personality. I’m told that, even when learning to walk, the important thing to me was not falling down, ever. Here’s a sample of DeCesare’s wisdom on the subject of failure and frustration: “The feeling of frustration pushes us and drives us forward to achievement. Don’t rob your child of the accomplishment, of the success after the hard work, because you don’t want him to feel frustrated.” She points out that successfully dealing with failure and frustration helps us to be more prepared to deal with them in the future; I would add that this makes us more willing to take risks, knowing that even if we fail, we can move on, and that risks, of course, are what help us make progress. I think of myself skiing when I was in high school: I snowplowed ever so slowly down that mountain, and I never fell down, but I never got better. I needed to be able to fail.

I made a list of about 25-30 other short reminders and ideas gleaned from the book, but why not give it a read yourself? You may not find a lot that you didn’t know, but you will find plenty of reinforcement, and we all need that as parents.

Every chapter in Naked Parenting closes with a couple of pertinent quotes, and I’ll follow that model with a quote from the end of “Naked Mistakes”:

“Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan Press On! has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.” Calvin Coolidge

Headshot Leah DeCesare

 

Leah’s first book, Naked Parenting: 7 Keys to Raising Kids With Confidence stemmed from her main gig as mother of three and her fifteen years as a doula, childbirth and early parenting educator. The second in the Naked Parenting series was released in December 2015: Naked Parenting: Guiding Kids in a Digital World and she is finishing her debut novel. Leah’s current parenting adventures revolve around her kids, tween and teenagers, who created the basis for her Mother’s Circle parenting blog, www.motherscircle.net, where she shares perspectives on parenting from pregnancy through teens. She parents, writes, teaches and volunteers in Rhode Island.

 

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25 Jan

Announcing: The Literary Writers Boot Camp SEPTEMBER

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An online workshop for those interested in perfecting the literary essay.

What makes a piece of writing literary?

With so many websites publishing parenting articles today, the lines between the literary essay and the blog post are often blurred. Many publications publish both. However literary journals seek that pearl, where the language itself is the experience. The story, while strong, takes a backseat to the art of creative writing loaded with well-turned figures of speech that enhance the reader’s understanding of the theme. This workshop will help writers learn to write in the literary style.

The workshop will provide: 1) A suggested assignment prompt with an outline of the literary essay; 2) A general critique of your piece as a whole for content; 3) Specific line-by-line edits including explanatory comments; 4) The opportunity to ask editors questions about writing and the publication process; and 5) The opportunity to produce a literary essay on a topic of motherhood and to have the piece considered for publication by MAW. We’v now extended our workshop to three weeks so that participants have ample time to write without pressure.

The boot camp runs for three weeks beginning September 19. Cost is $75 (Proceeds support MAW’s mission to pay its contributors). Space is limited to fifteen participants per workshop. Our first Boot Camp filled up in 24 hours. For registration, contact editor@mothersalwayswrite.com.

Boot Camp Instructors:

Sarah Clayville is a Creative Writing and 11th grade English teacher as well as freelance editor and writing mentor. Her fiction has appeared in The Threepenny Review, Central PA Magazine, StoryChord, and other journals. Her areas of expertise are short and flash fiction. She is a poetry and essays editor for Mothers Always Write.

Michelle Riddell has earned her B.A. and M.A. in English from Wayne State University in Detroit. She has written for Ford Motor Company, MSX International, The Cornerstone, MomSense Magazine and Hello, Darling. She is a two-time recipient of the Albion College Cathy L. Young award for French poetry, and has written a novel. She is a poetry and essays editor for Mothers Always Write.

Julianne Palumbo has worked as an attorney and a writing coach. Her poems, short stories, and essays have been published in Ibettson Street Press, YARN, The MacGuffin, Kindred Magazine, Poetry East, The Manifest Station, Literary Mama, and others. She is the author of two poetry chapbooks, Into Your Light (Flutter Press, 2013), and Announcing the Thaw (Finishing Line Press, 2014), and will be part of the HerStories Anthology: So Glad They Told Me. She is the Editor-in-Chief of Mothers Always Write.

Read what participants in our April workshop had to say:

“I think every Writer, whether aspiring or established, could have benefitted from this Boot Camp. I appreciated our Mentor’s feedback, as well as what was given to me by my co-horts. The idea of having a deadline, articles to read, and a private Facebook page to share on, really brought this whole Boot Camp to life. I kept saying that I felt as though I had enrolled in a University-level class. Michelle [my Mentor] didn’t just push me to do my best, she provided an array of suggestions. Thank you so much MAW Editors for pulling this together!!”

Susan Goldstein

“The MAW Boot Camp helped provide a workable timeline on writing an essay and taking it from draft to finished product. If you are looking for a way to jumpstart your literary essay writing, this workshop offers the tools, resources and editorial help to guide you through the process. Top notch editorial feedback helps take your writing to the next level. I highly recommend working with Juli and the other editors at MAW.” 

Rudri Patel

“I have been participating in a 10-day literary boot camp put on by the editors of MOTHERS ALWAYS WRITE. This magazine is not just a wonderful venue for mother-writers to share their stories, it’s also a loving, supportive community of writers. A family of sorts.  I made so many new, wonderful writerly-friends, learned copious amounts of writerly-stuff, and had absolutely amazing (did I mention I’m addicted to alliteration? lol) mentoring from Julianne Palumbo. And, thanks to Juli’s suggestions of where to submit, my essay has been accepted for publication in MANIFEST STATION, an brilliant online literary magazine. I would never have tried to submit to this magazine before. But this workshop, and the support of my mentor gave me the courage to try.”

Leslie Wibberley

“Boot Camp was just what I needed to help motivate me to write. I enjoyed the small group feeling and enthusiasm from the other members.  It was helpful to receive feedback both from my mentor and other group members. I feel as if I have made some new connections to other writers.”

Cheryl Maguire

“My editor pushed me without being pushy. She offered thoughtful, probing comments that made me dig deeper into what my essay was really about, and offered encouragement every step of the way (and sometimes receiving permission not to rush the result is as important as anything else!).”

Robin Flanagan

“The MAW Boot Camp was by far the best value writing experience I’ve participated in during my five years as a freelance writer. It’s affordable and accessible, and provided a much needed burst of inspiration. The detailed level of feedback from engaged and excellent editors, along with a supportive and encouraging community of fellow writers, make it a hugely worthwhile investment for writers at any stage of their career.”

Ruth Dawkins

 

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25 Jan

Bumper Stickers

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My husband had been nagging me to trade in my old car. “It’s time,” he said. “Your second warranty is up.” I had closed my ears to him until he provided a reason that made sense to me: there was a Special Deal—0% financing and a $1,000 rebate. Now we’re talking! A sale!

The lure of a discount is the only thing that could have overridden my resistance. I loved that dinged-up van! I spent more time there than in my home. I recall, during one short visit, my ex-mother-in-law was appalled by the alleged “messy interior,” to which I rolled my eyes. I let her clean and vacuum as she muttered about “Ach! All zeez germs und diseases” that her precious grandsons could catch from the “filthy” interior. Please! It wasn’t so bad. Maybe there were a few fossilized Cheerios stuck to the carpets, but, excuse me: that van was our dining room, living room, and bedroom. Her grandchildren went from booster seats to driver permits in that vehicle.

This old whale of a van, this monument to my years of motherhood, had shuttled mini soccer players to tournaments and then out for celebratory or consolation DQ swirly cones. The proof was deep in its stained upholstery. That clichéd ode to soccer moms had also held wriggling cub scouts eager to begin their camping trips. There was ground-in mud on the van’s floor from various campsites, and the assorted hidden crumbs would keep us fed if we were ever lost in the wilderness. My two boys and I had shared so many adventures and memories in that car. I could never ever consider parting with my mom mobile because she was so much more than just four wheels and a body. This car was my personal time capsule.

Her rear bumper proudly boasted that I was an “Emory Mom” and a “Jayhawk Mom,” and don’t you forget it. I had to nag for those stickers. My kids didn’t understand why they were so important to me. Those stickers did more than just help me find my car in the grocery parking lot. They colorfully proclaimed my status, my identity: I’m a Mom! And not just any old mom … I’m a Mom who had successfully pushed, prodded and encouraged her boys, who had then graduated from good colleges. I loved and adored those stickers, they always made my heart feel full and happy—they were a constant reminder of my sons.

My sons haven’t been in college for several years now, haven’t lived at home, (one is already married!), and I really did need a new car. I had no choice. I thought I was ready. I decided on a shiny blue sedan. But, immediately after signing the contract, I raced outside and tried to scrape off my precious stickers and transfer them to my new car. It was an impossible task. I shredded both the stickers and my nails. Wait! WAIT! I changed my mind. If I let that van drive away, stealing my memories—what then? My new car doesn’t have a single bumper sticker; how will people know who I am?

I stood immobilized, realizing how much growing up had taken place in that van and how much more was left undone. I had been a frantic single mom, holding down a job, trying hard not to compare myself to their friends’ Super Moms. But, honestly: hadn’t my sons proven that, no matter what my shortcomings might have been as a mother, I did a good enough job, so that they were able to plow ahead and thrive?

And yet.

What’s the problem here? Why am I not ready to let them go?

I have to admit that it’s because I know I could have done better. I could have made it to every soccer practice. I could have enforced time-outs. May I please have a do-over?

I promise never to park them in front of the TV; never to serve them microwaved frozen kids’ meals; I vow to better monitor their computer time; I would even follow up on consequences and insist that they clean their rooms. I just want one more chance to live those years and make every second count. One more chance.

This sudden panic that I haven’t prepared them for life is totally unfounded; it is much more likely that I haven’t prepared myself for life without them. It is textbook obvious that I want to return to playing an important role in their lives, driving them around, being the Ring Leader of their Circus. I understand that I want the impossible.

I know the exact moment when I officially promoted my sons from dependent children to young adults: it was that day in the car lot when I waved a final goodbye to my van, watched my cherished “Emory Mom” and “Jayhawk Mom” bumper stickers until the van disappeared around a corner.

I left the car lot, driving my spiffy new Dodge Charger and feeling … sexy?! What is this long-forgotten thrill? I suppose there are some benefits to trading away the old gas-guzzler. And, I know darned well that life zips by and someday I will be able to paste “Proud Grandma” stickers on my car’s bumper. But not for a few years: I want to enjoy my new car before cumbersome baby seats destroy its beautiful leather.

 

Susan W. Goldstein’s English major proved helpful in both Corporate and Mom-hood settings. As she now transitions from Active to Passive mom, she is finding her lifeline by returning to her beloved English Lit roots.

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22 Jan

First Born

General/Column One Response

I lay in the bed beside you,
That grave face,
Those clear eyes.
We were refugees together,
From the sleeping wars.
I was looking at you,
Thinking all kinds of things,
Among them,
Fear,
The desire to hold you,
The desire to run.
And then the reality,
Of that small head,
On the pillow,
So perfectly complete,
Making its own declaration.

 

Beth Mills has been writing poetry all her life. Her grandmother was a poet who wrote in Yiddish. She has been greatly influenced by her work and her father’s love for poetry. She was an elementary school teacher for forty-three years during which she read and wrote poetry with her students.

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