Vanity Muse


“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

This is my vanity.  It sits in a room that is empty.  This room was the original “courting room.”  Our house was built in 1880 and is a national historic home on the national registry. It has bay windows and a fireplace.  I imagine all the people who fell in love in this room, holding hands on Victorian couches.  I imagine people that were bored by mismatched socks of the heart.  Mostly, I imagine yesterday and the years that followed, taking us here in this present moment.

For now, it is a big sunlit room that I use as a reminder how full a room can be when it is empty.  Eventually, I would like to make this my writing room, but I don’t want to clutter it with books or desks.  It serves me better as an empty room I can retreat to when life’s clutter overwhlems me.  I set up the typewriters to use in a photo shoot for my author bio photo.  I still need to order those photos.  I love the yellow color and the sheer white curtains.  The room sits on the West side and the light is most dramatic in late afternoon.

“Foggy Woods” © Megan Oteri ~ All Rights Reserved

“The theoretician believes in logic and believes that he despises dreams, intuition, and poetry.  He does not recognize that these three fairies have only disguised themselves in order to dazzle him…. He does not know that he owes his greatest discoveries to them.”  ~Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Wartime Writings 1939-1944, translated from French by Norah Purcell

The photo of the woods is from the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina.  It was taken in the summer of 2007.  I was happy, but I was also sad as I thought I would never have a child of my own.  I had recently been diagnosed with a uterus septum and had surgery to correct it.  Now, I can see this was just one road that led me to my son. I do love this photo artistically

“Eagle Eye” © Megan Oteri ~ All Rights Reserved

“When you are describing,
A shape, or sound, or tint;
Don’t state the matter plainly,
But put it in a hint;
And learn to look at all things,
With a sort of mental squint.” ~ Lewis Carroll

The photo of the eagle is from our 2007 trip to Grandfather Mountain in North Carolina.  This eagle made me very sad.  He seemed sad too, but he was injured and the park was trying to rehabilitate him.

“Blue Ridge Sunset” © Megan Oteri ~ All Rights Reserved

“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious.  It is the source of all true art and science.  He to whom the emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause and stand wrapped in awe, is as good as dead; his eyes are closed.”  ~Albert Einstein

Sunset in the mountains of North Carolina.  I am a mountain woman.  I feel so alive when surrounded by the beauty of nature, specifically mountains.  If you add a  mountain stream, lake or river — well, I could gaze all day.

“What do you see?” © Megan Oteri ~ All Rights Reserved

“To think creatively, we must be able to look afresh at what we normally take for granted.”  ~ George Kneller

This photo is actually taken in Tennessee. We rented a boat and went boating on this lake.  I like this photo because of the cloud and angle.  I see a figure in the cloud.  What do you see?

“The Shore” © Megan Oteri
If you would like to share this, feel free. Please keep watermarks on it.

“To unpathed waters, undreamed shores. ”  ~ William Shakespeare

“Wyoming Muse” © Megan Oteri
Feel free to share, but please keep watermarks

Wyoming is my muse.  I carry her everywhere I go.  Forever West.

The two photo above, “The Shore” and “Wyoming Muse”
were taken at Yellowstone National Park and Grand Tetons National Forest.

“Home” © Megan Oteri
Feel free to share, but please keep watermark.

North Carolina is home now.  I am very happy here.  I recognize–most importantly–that home is in the mind–it the chambers and pockets of the heart.  The two are connected by our imagination, emotions, and ability to roam. We are all nomads at heart.

Nomad
n.
1. A member of a group of people who have no fixed home and move according to the seasons from place to place in search of food, water, and grazing land.
2. A person with no fixed residence who roams about; a wanderer.
 “Not all those who wander are lost.”   J. R. R. Tolkien
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Attachment Parenting, Engorged Boobs, Women’s History, Moose, and Muse


I know I posted on Facebook (facebook.com/memomuse) and Twitter (@memomuse1) that I would post the Monday Mooseletter Monday night.  I just didn’t get to it.  I don’t like to make promises I can’t keep.  So, here it is on Wednesday.

Afterall, I don’t want a riot to start because I didn’t have a fresh post on my blog. Ha ha. Seriously, I wonder who are my loyal followers.  What I think about when I get a new like on Facebook is not about the number, but the actual number — the person. The fact that one person in this great big universe decided to go to the sidebar and hit like.  It means a lot to me.  It means you truly heard me and recognized and appreciated  my voice. And I thank you.

So, here are some moose:

Mama moose and her little one

Here is an update of what is going on:

1. Remember 35 mm film and photos you hold in your hand

This post will be short (this is an out right lie) because I have a photography deadline to meet. I am going through my photos (35 mm film prints) from Wyoming (my home state) to find color photos for a Wyoming tourism brochure I was invited to submit photos to.  I have so many photos (literally thousands) of film prints to go through.  I am so biased when it comes to Wyoming because my heart still lives there even though I live in North Carolina now.

Moose on the road in Yellowstone. They are enormous in size.

It takes my breath away and it makes my heart swell.  It also breaks my heart that there are so many wildfires going on in the West, especially Wyoming and Colorado.  My sister lives near the High Park fire and she is safe now, but it was frightening to wonder if she would lose her farm.  See — here I said this post would be short, but now I want to write about my sister’s farm.

I love Wyoming. Photo taken in 2004 on my honeymoon.  We went to Yellowstone for our honeymoon.

2. Working on Two Books

An agent in New York is reading over my motherhood memoir (proposal and full manuscript requested).  It is a creative nonfiction memoir about Attachment Parenting, as it relates to me, as a new mom trying to find her way.  It is NOT, I repeat NOT, a how-to book.  All I know how to do is be the best mother I can be to my son and write pretty well.  I can do other things too, but you get my point.

BlogHer CEO and c0-founder, Lisa Stone, recently declared Mamalode magazine America’s Best Parenting Magazine. Mamalode publisher, Elke Govertsen, has agreed to write a blurb and endorse my book.  She is such an amazing person and has really taken Mamalode where it was meant to go — a publication with subscribers in every state and many countries around the world.  Elke is a true trailblazer and visionary.  Check it out.  There is a link to the magazine on my sidebar too.

3.  More Details about Book Projects

I have to just hit enter and go to the next number or I will ramble on.  I have so many ideas for blog posts, but they require research, development and crafting.  I just don’t have the time right now to develop the blog posts I want to write about.  I have been thinking about turning them into articles for magazines, but then I am brought back to #2: my books.  I have to finish these projects.

These two books (AP motherhood memoir and historic food memoir) are my priority right now.  The Attachment Parenting motherhood memoir is a book about my experience as a new mom. I kept detailed journal entries in graduate school for an independent course on motherhood I designed. It was called,  Motherhood: The New Frontier.  I picked five books to read, and basically had free reign to write whatever I wanted to about motherhood.  Well, to say the least, it is raw, edgy, hopeful, honest, vulnerable, and loving (and about a dozen more adjectives).  One of those books on my reading list was Operating Instructions by Anne Lamott.  Read it if you are a new mom.

Anne Lamott and me at Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh, NC.

If you haven’t met Anne yet, let me introduce her.  Reader, this is Anne Lamott. She is a recovering alcoholic and addict, absurdly funny, and radically Democratic.  She is not afraid to speak her mind.  She writes as if in a confessional, and turns a phrase with the craftsmanship of a needlepoint artist.  Anne, this is my reader (feel free to introduce yourself to Anne in the comments — I’d love to know more about you).  You two should talk.

One of  the themes of my motherhood memoir is the fact that I was practicing Attachment Parenting without even knowing it.  AP is flexible and you can adapt the 8 principles to fit your family’s needs.  People are up in arms about AP and the recent Time magazine cover.  I really don’t understand all the hoopla and outrage, but the Mommy Wars are a real thing. I’m a lover, not a fighter.

Motherhood is beautiful, ugly, difficult, easy, complicated, simple, textured, smooth, heart-breaking, heart-pounding, and one of the most complex relationships.

My road to motherhood was not easy; I struggled with infertility, postpartum psychosis, postpartum depression,  breast feeding, co-sleeping, and anxiety.  As they say in the South, I was a hot mess.  The thing is, nobody really talks about how hard motherhood is.  In fact, it is a taboo subject.  I guess it easier to talk about the joys and blissful moments instead of talking about nipple scabs, cracked nipples, sleep deprivation, and all the other little dirty secrets mothers live through.

My little miracle. Hard to believe something as wonderful as being a mom can be so downright terrifying at times.

I remember calling my friend, Debra Elramey in tears saying, “Debi, my boobs hurt.”  My milk had just come in.  I was not told it would feel like the lower falls of Yellowstone were dammed in my breasts.  I was parked in the parking lot near the super strip mall and my husband was getting me a Subway sandwich.  I was trying to be strong, and the baby blues were coming on something fierce.  Ben was sleeping peacefully in the car seat, probably a week old.  Debi said, in a voice only a good friend can emulate, “Honey, you’re engorged,” she paused while I cried, then said, “you need to get a pump.”  I was like, “What is engorged?”

She explained the situation and what I needed to do. I got a free hand pump from the lactation consultant that spent ten minutes with me the next day.  She said, “Yep, you got this, you’re doing it right,”  as if I was some tick mark to check off on a list.  I wanted to call her out and say, “Lady, I think you are mistaken — I have no f#@&ing idea what I am doing! Please sit your a$$ back down on my couch and please don’t leave.”  Instead, I just kept a stiff upper lip until she left and then I cried.  My next call was to the La Leche League and that is a story for the memoir…

Historic Food Memoir — The Community Kitchen

My other book is a historic food memoir about women in the kitchen and history in the making.  It is about my great-grandmother’s (Elizabeth Hawley Odell) food business. The Community Kitchen started as a food conservation project in the basement of the Evanston’s Woman’s Club in the summer of 1918, during WWI.  Read this blog,  to find out more about it.  I am working on the book proposal for this book.  Two agents have expressed interest in this book already.  The history is incredible, as it spans 1918 – 1951.

The Community Kitchen store front (600 Davis Street, Evanston, Illinois)

My grandmother, Elizabeth Odell Welch, was an executive chef for Alice Foote MacDougal, Schrafft’s, Birdseye, and General Foods.  “In 1926, she joined the staff of Alice Foote MacDougal in the tea shop business in New York. Later she did experimental recipe work for Schrafft’s and before she returned to Evanston in 1947, she was on the staff of General Foods preparing foods for advertising photography.” – The Evanston Review — May 31, 1951

Juney was a 1930’s version of Peggy Olson from Mad Men.  In fact, she had the beauty, style, and sass of Joan, the sense of humor and charm of Roger, and the creative vision of Don.  She was a trailblazer.

My grandma, Juney (nickname), was something else! She was a Taurus, athletic, smart, sassy, and beautiful — honest and funny too.  She loved New York so much that when her husband bought a home in Long Island when they were newlyweds, she said, “Take it back! We’re going back to the city.”

She loved my sister, Kathleen and me dearly, as we were her only grandchildren. She adored her nieces, Mary Liz Price Hunt and Virginia Price Ware and her grandnieces, Harriet Hunt Brown and Mary Hunt Newcomb, and nephew, Lewis G Hunt.  She loved her daughter (my mom) more than anything in the world.

I know this story is powerful: women’s history, food history, American history, and most important — family history! Did I mention how excited I am about this project! I am the sieve of this story.

Please tell your foodie and history buff friends about it. Word of mouth is a powerful tool in marketing. I hope you enjoy following The Community Kitchen as it evolves.

The photo below is a photo of my grandma, Juney — isn’t she just something else?  She was the only grandparent I ever met.  She passed away when I was ten.

This is my grandmother; her nickname was Juney.

4.  Moving on, as I am rambling on.  I am thinking about self-publishing a lot lately.  I have the motherhood memoir written and am working on final editing.  To be or not to be.  That is the question. I do like the glamour of a publisher and agent from New York, but the more I read, the publishing process is not very glamorous.  My grandma was a New Yorker and my mother was a New Yorker.  There is something magical for a writer to think their manuscript is traveling like a tourist in New York.  I hope that both my books not only travel New York City, but become residents, ultimately securing a book deal and publishing contract.  For now, I am enjoying the cab ride, gazing up  at the tall skyscrapers of possibility with wonder filled eyes.

5.  Artist in the Schools and Writer-in-Residence

I was selected by the United Arts Council to be an Artist in the Schools and a writer-in-residence.  If you are a teacher in Wake and Johnston County (North Carolina), you can apply for a grant to bring me to your school to conduct residences and workshops on Poetry (The Bicyle of Poetry: Riding through the Senses), Memoir, Poetry Slams and Spoken Word,  Photography (A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words) and any other writing program.  I am more than happy to tailor it to meet your classroom needs.  Email me directly if you are interested.  Don’t worry, I can tone it down for the public school setting, as I was a teacher for thirteen years (Special Education, Elementary Education, Middle School, and Residential Treatment Center).  There is nothing more powerful and rewarding than helping children and teenagers find and hear their own voice.

6. Brain Tumor Thursday

I have a profile for Brain Tumor Thursday, which will be posted tomorrow.  It was submitted by a man named John. He was an archeologist and his profile is moving.  I don’t find these profiles sad, but then again, my mother has brain tumors and has lived with them for the last twelve years.  They were diagnosed in 2000; she most likely had them longer. Brain tumor survivors submit their profiles to me, using the template I created.  They fill in the blank:

I hope…

I wish…

I dream…

I am…

And then they can share their diagnosis, treatment, photos, and three things about themselves.

Well, I should be wrapping this post up.  I do have that photography deadline to meet. Have a great day.  I hope to see you here tomorrow for John’s post.  It is whimsical, funny, hopeful, and beautiful. The photos he submitted are quite magical.

Find me on Twitter (@memomuse1 or @600DavisSt).  You can find me on Facebook too (facebook.com/memomuse).  I would love to chit chat with you there.

I leave you with one more photo, as you have been reading a rather long post (thank you for reading the whole post, even though I said it would be short). If you click on the photo it will take you directly to the food memoir blog.  If you are interested in this book, read the about page, as the history is fascinating.

This is a photo of my great-grandmother. She is the woman on the far left. The three women pictures founded the Community Kitchen.

Mystic


This poem, Mystic, was originally posted on my website, http://www.meganoteri.wordpress.com, that was dedicated to all things rodeo.  I recently made the website password protected to prevent further photo piracy.  I am figuring out what to do about that website.  Lots of left brain stuff has to happen before I make my next move with that website.  So, for now, we will continue our right brain magic here at memomuse.  Oh, how I love the right brain!

For the record, I used to be a Special Education teacher (I was a teacher for 13 years — now I am a stay-at-home mom and freelance writer and photographer), and when I had to get IEP (Individual Education Plan) paperwork ready for IEP meetings, I was a left brained rock star.  I do have a left brain, and a whole brain, but I love me some right brain muse, where color and poetry seeps out like a river running wild, wrapping itself elegantly around a mountain.  So, with that being said, here is a poem I wrote in 2009 in Cheyenne, Wyoming, as the last of the rodeo trailers, cowboys, cowgirls, horses, and people left Frontier Park, when Cheyenne Frontier Days ended.  The photo of this beautiful horse (sepia print) I named Mystic, was one of the last horses in the stalls.  She and I had ourselves a right brained conversation.

I love horses!  What I appreciate and love even more, are the people who take care of them.

It is a lot of work to take care of a horse.  A friend of mine (shout out TJ) recently was up all night, sleeping on and off in her barn, taking care of and loving her horse, who had an injury.  So this is a shout out to all horse lovers and for the people who take care of horses.

Source: artflakes.com via Megan on Pinterest

Mystic ~ Photo by Megan Oteri © All Rights Reserved

I have a horses board on Pinterest.  You can click on the photo of Mystic to lead you there.

Mystic

After the rodeo fans

leave

and the cowboys drive off

to the next rodeo

the horses graze under a sunlit sky

the emptiness of Frontier Park stands still

hearts ache for 2010

and the next time they’ll see each other at The Daddy

horses hold patience while feeding

and an intangible sadness calms the lull

off in the distance are

rodeo cowboys driving down long winding roads

to another ride

another rose

under a sunset somewhere across Western landscape

Poem by Megan Oteri

April is National Poetry Month.  Cowboy Poetry week is April 15 – 21.  Do you know any cowboy poets or cowgirl poets?  I am looking for cowboy poets on the PBR and PRCA rodeo circuit for an article I am writing on Cowboy Poetry.  If you know of any poetic cowboys or cowgirls, tell them to give me a shout.   They can contact me at memomuse@gmail.com.

"Up the Down Staircase" ~ Photo by Megan Oteri © All Rights Reserved ~ Photo of a cowboy going up the stairs in the cowboy ready area.

I think it is rather serendipitous that my photo of Wyoming cowboy poet and country crooner, Chris LeDoux is up for voting the week of Cowboy Poetry week.  Voting starts April 16 for my photo of Chris.  Here is a link to the photo, Chris LeDoux, on Talenthouse.  You can become a supporter today and you will get an email reminder from Talenthouse telling you when voting opens.  I am a fan of reminders.  I will also be posting a story about meeting Chris LeDoux at Cheyenne Frontier Days in 2003.  He is a special man and oh, those sparkly eyes and beautiful smile, can make a Wyoming girl blush.  Chris and I went to the same high school in Cheyenne (not at the same time): Cheyenne Central.  Go Indians!  So stay tuned for that story on Monday, April 16 when voting opens.  I promise it is a good one.

Here is a video of one of my favorite Chris LeDoux songs: This Cowboy Hat

Also, check out the  Chris LeDoux official website, run by his son, Will LeDoux.  When you go to the website, you will be greeted by Chris’ music.   Check out the tab that says, One Ride, while you are on the website too.  One Ride is a musical that depicts the life of a rodeo cowboy, set to Chris LeDoux’s music.  I can’t wait to see the musical when it comes to a theater near me.  Shout out in the comments if you have seen it.  I am writing a guest post on, Lost in E Minor, about it.  I would love to hear your thoughts on it.  Also, shout out if you want and share your thoughts on Chris LeDoux.

And I will leave you with a quote I really like.

“Why not just do something a little on the gentle side.” ~ Chris LeDoux

PS – Brain Tumor Thursday will be posted Thursday.  This Thursday I have the pleasure of sharing the profile of an amazing woman.  She calls herself @thelizarmy on Twitter.  She has a blog here: http://thelizarmy.com/.  She is also on the medical advisory board for the National Brain Tumor Society.  Check her out.  She is a rock star and a special human being.  I am really enjoying the connections with the brain tumor community I have made.  My mother has brain tumors.  Read this post to find out more about that and  Brain Tumor Thursday.  You can also read the last two posts here: Tom McLain and Stephanie’s I Am Stronger Now…  If you get freaked out about medical stuff and the mention of brain surgery makes you squeamish, you might want to steer clear on Thursdays.  I encourage you to read the profiles because they are inspiring.  People rock. Period.  Everyone has a story.