I Don’t Want to Say Goodbye — So, I Will Say Hello


I am going on a trip to Wyoming without my husband and son.  I am going to visit my mom and spend time with her. She is in a nursing home.  Last May I got a call on a Thursday from the nursing home that she was very sick and that I should get out there to see her.  I got the call on a Thursday night and I was on a plane Saturday.  I thought that she was going to die.  In fact, I have thought she is going to die since she was diagnosed in 2000 with brain tumors. It’s a pretty heavy burden to carry.

My beautiful mother, Betty.

Unfortunately, my son and husband cannot make the trip with me.  I am very nervous about leaving my son for a week.  We are very attached to each other.  Our family practices Attachment Parenting.  It’s not even something you practice, it’s just something you do. And I think a lot of families are practicing Attachment Parenting without even knowing it, but that is a topic for another time.

My son is still nursing, and now I am worried about that.  I plan on pumping while I am out there.

I decided to spend eight days out in Wyoming (two days are travel days) since my 20th high school reunion is happening, as well.

There is nothing more beautifully blue than a Wyoming sky!

My sister has warned me that my mom has declined even more.  She was pretty much bed ridden and could not move from the waist down last May.  Now, she can hardly move her hands and has to be spoon fed her meals.

For most people, I assume you think this would be the most difficult thing in the world to experience.  I am a little callous about the whole death thing to be honest.  I have been expecting her to die for so long, that I have failed at times to see she is still living.  It is hard to accept this could be the last time I see her.  OK, now I am feeling sad and am not so callused.  I think that is why I feel so anxious.  I just don’t want to see her so helpless.  If you want to read an essay I wrote about her and the impact she made on me as a mother myself, read this: Magic Mama.  Here are some past posts about my trip to Wyoming last May if you would like to read them.  You can also read the archives by using the archive tab on the sidebar.

My mom, Redhead Betty

I don’t want to say goodbye — so I will say hello.

Anyway,  I am going to be offline for a week.  I am not going to log on to a computer. Anywhere. Anytime. Period. I do not have a smart phone, so I will only be able to text my friends and call people.  I think it will be good for me.  The fact that I will in Wyoming will magnify this sense of disconnecting with technology.  I am burnt out from social media (I am trying to build a platform as a writer and I really have no idea what I am doing.  I am just putting myself and my work out there).  I have also started to focus more on the great relationships I have built. I have met so many wonderful cyber friends.  I am evolving and learning more and more about myself as writer everyday.

I am not totalling going off the creative grid.  I will be taking photographs and writing by hand in my notebook and journal.

I have also been working really hard on my Attachment Parenting motherhood memoir.  It is in the editing stage and I am about 85% done until I feel it is as good as it can possibly be.  Then I will begin the submission process with various agents.  An agent in New York (I love saying that — it sounds so important and distinguished) is reading the manuscript now, as well as the book proposal.  I have been working on putting the book together so it is a complete manuscript.

Writing a book is a long process.  Right now I am excited about the future of my writing career as I have evolved in the past six months and I no longer look for outside validation to acknowledge I am a “real” writer.

I am also working on finishing up this memoir so I can get started on my next book project: The Evanston Community Kitchen.  This book is about my mother’s side of the family.  I’d tell you more about it, but it is all on the website.  If you enjoy history and food, I pretty much can guarantee you’ll enjoy the story.  And that story is still growing; in fact, I have merely only planted the seeds.  It is very exciting.  I am bringing my video camera and tape recorder so I can interview my mother.  She is still mentally “with it.”

I will leave you with a slideshow of some photos of Wyoming. It truly is like no place on earth.

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PS – I dyed my hair red.  My mother is a red head.  I was pretty nervous about it, but I have received feedback that it looks great.

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.

Fight Stance


I have always been one to rise to a challenge.  I work better under a hard stiff deadline.  I actually work better when my back is to the wall.  I come out fighting. 

My thesis defense got moved up two weeks.  I had planned on turning in my thesis before Christmas break, but I have to turn it in to committee members this Friday.  So it has to be edited and ready to go by Thursday for my thesis advisor to have one final look to see if it is ready for thesis defense. 

My thesis is about my experience as a new mom.  It is a collection of essays and journal entries.  There is one Facebook status update too.  The thesis was originally titled “Motherhood — The New Frontier,” but I think I am going to change the title to the first line of the first essay.  My advisor said I have more than enough material to write a book about the first two years of motherhood.  I am only including fifty pages in my thesis.  And I certainly have over 200 pages of raw writing.

I have learned that the writing process is pretty grueling, at least the editing part.  It is necessary to make a manuscript readable and enjoyable for the reader.  I have grown a lot as a mother and as a writer over the past three years.  Benjamin has been with me since the first day I started my graduate program.  I found out I was pregnant the first day of graduate school. 

So, because time is an issue and I still need to soak my old bones in an epsom salt bath, I am going to post some photos.  Our family is co-sleeping.  Ben is too big and takes up too much room now in our queen mattress on the floor.  We are trying to transition him to his new toddler fire engine bed.  But we will tackle one thing at a time.  Right now, I am focused and ready to tackle my thesis challenge.

“Rise up!”  That is what my husband says when the Patriots are playing defense.  “Rise up!”  I will rise to this challenge. 

I also hear, “Dig deep.”  That is what my Providence College soccer teammates would say during games.  So, I’m digging too. 

One of the things I have written about in my thesis is morning tub time.  It was initially started as decoy of boredom from morning play mat time when Ben was just eight months old.  The sunlight streams in our small bathroom window (about the size of six cereal boxes stacked two wide, three high).  The silhouette of the Bradford Pear tree in front of the window creates the most beautiful fluttering leaves on the bathroom wall.  It is really beautiful.  So here is a photo of that. 

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Another thing I am really grateful for on my journey through the new frontier is a group of women who are supportive of my parenting choices (extended breastfeeding and co-sleeping and Attachment Parenting principles).  But most of all, they are just cool women with kids and babies of their own who I can get together with when the loneliness of motherhood strikes and when I need some adult interaction.   It is my humble opinion that playdates are for mothers.  It is nice for the kids, but for me, playdates have been a saving grace.  I have made a new friend within this group that I really adore.  She is funny, intelligent, an art enthusiast, creative, wonderful with kids, and I think she really likes me.  She’s an old soul. 

The slide show below is from our day at the park flying a kite.  She gracefully and casually took out a colorful kite out of her grey wool coat.  It was a late November day and air was crisp and chilly.  Ben loved that kite.  I peed my pants running the kite.  But it was worth it because I haven’t flown a kite since childhood.  (Just a funny sidenote as I have no shame — I thought I needed to change Ben’s diaper when we got back in the car — it smelled pretty strong.  When we got home, I asked my husband to change his diaper.  Well, what do you think hubby said?  He said, “Nope, his diaper’s dry as a bone.”)  Looks like I need some adult diapers if I am going to be running any kites or marathons! 

My friend and I laughed about this lovely side effect of motherhood on our kite adventure.  She said, “Yeah, there’s a reason they tell you to do those damn keigels and it ain’t related to sex!”  We laughed deep from our bellies and more keigels were needed.  I love her honesty and humor.  I never have to censor with her, not that I am any good at that anyway.

Flying kites should be mandatory inner child induction.  We also walked near a cotton field and let our boys explore the picked over field.  Cotton is a beautiful crop.  The soil tells so many stories.

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I remember a journal entry I wrote for my thesis about wanting to find a mom friend.  I was so lonely as I transitioned from working mom to stay at home mom(Ben was four months old when I returned to work from one month maternity leave and three months of summer vacation.  I was a teacher.  I quit my job four months later in December of 2011). 

Journal Entry March 9, 2011

I saw a mom pair today and instantly got jealous.  I wanted a mom friend.  A mom friend is a friend whose a mom with a kid the same age as your own.  They were pretty young girls, younger than me, probably in their middle twenties.

I’d take anyone for a mom friend.

I will end this post with a slide show of Benjamin and some of our recent adventures.  He is certainly my muse.  

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