Stay put. Motherhood and writing.

Thank you call again


We devote some time regularly (every day) to the process of writing…
We write – not to create works of art – but to build character, develop integrity, judgment, balance, order, restraint, and other valued inner attributes.
Through writing, we develop self-mastery, which contributes to our emotional and spiritual growth. Writing, then, becomes the teacher.
It is not what you write or what you produce as you write that is important. It is what happens to you while you are writing that is important. It is who you become while you are writing that is important.
-Louise DiSalvo
Writing as a Way of Healing
via Sub Rosa

This morning, waking in a strange place, I did my morning practice anyway.

The writing process is so very much like the parenting process.

I wish there was a word other than process, which sounds so neat and engineered, that would capture the messy chaos of both writing and parenting. But it is the regularity and relentlessness of both relationships that have pressed me to learn more about life and myself than I ever expected.

My kids

Like on Christmas Day. Not ever an easy day for me, torn for a million reasons that I don’t want to go in to here, I was in the kitchen this year on the first, literally the first Christmas that I would call easy and fun, in my whole life. No stress. We had small gifts for each other and time spent cooking in the kitchen for meals we were all going to eat together was high. A ratio of low gifts to high hands on cooking led me to have a day in my jammies, then in an apron and nice outfit. I loved this. Until about 3 PM my son, an eager chef, decided to upgrade the dinner plan and rather than use spaetzle from the package, he wanted to make it himself. This was a 2-hour job. Easy. He did it. While he worked on that, I baked and then set up the frosting for the gingerbread cookies. My daughter and her friend frosted. Once we had that cleaned up, I was ready to go for a walk. 5 PM here is dark, but I wanted to get further than the compost pile before the next meal. But then, Ben asked me to help him with the salad.

This is a salad we learned from Ursula. It has appeared now for three years at our Christmas table, but I did not feel like making it. I heard him ask me for help. I stood there with my hands releasing my apron strings, looking at my boots by the door and slowly tied my orange linen apron back on. Ben and I stood shoulder to shoulder for another hour, sectioning orange, measuring spices, showing him how to clean and chop green onions, his big fingers working off the slippery outer skin of green to reveal the tender centers of the tall fresh stalks. I could have been off on my own along the lake. I could have been on the phone to wish someone else a happy holiday. But instead, I stayed put. Experience has taught me that by staying put and present to what was being asked of me, I may be led to a closer stance with my son.

Writing is just like this. Some days, I have my hands on my tools, but something else calls me. I know from experience, that if I stay put and keep at it, things begin to happen with my words. Muddles pass and I assemble something of value.

The salad was delicious, but what was more important was what happened while we made it. Like Louise writes, “It is not what you write or what you produce as you write that is important. It is what happens to you while you are writing that is important. It is who you become while you are writing that is important.”

What happens to me while I mother is what is important. When I let myself in for the salad preparation, I stepped closer to my son for an hour of time I would not trade for anything. When I sit, as I am now, at this computer, having written in my journal already, primed my heart and mind to hand connection, to write, no matter what, I step in to that same light of devotion.

We shared the last dregs of the salad dressing together, comparing opinions on the flavor of the grapefruit juice we replaced for a lack of orange, the way the cabbage serves as a crunchy carrier for the complex mix of toasted sesame, ginger, garlic and lemon. As we went spoon for spoon, smelling, tasting, gulping, I felt the savory sweet vinaigrette run into my blood, licking a drip from my chin. He took the last glug directly from the bowl’s edge. That lusty interchange is what makes mothering something other than a performance of duties.

Take a little piece of my heart

My theme for 2015 has been to weave my literary and visual work together. This theme, in synchrony with writing from inside motherhood has yielded the website upon which you are reading this blog. It has yielded a whole lot of other stuff, like community, classes and exhibits, but most importantly, the work has begun to reveal more of who I am becoming while I doing it.

How about you? Have you considered your theme for 2016? Does finding a theme seem too complicated?

Making sense of your life through creative practice can be like finding your way through a recipe. You don’t know exactly where it will lead you, but you will get somewhere different from here. Having lived for years without a clue to my joy, I am now devoted to revealing what is more about my life by regular writing and art making. My life has become more complex and exciting as a result. And who knows what this new year may bring?

I am pondering my theme for 2016. If you are intrigued to join me writing, check out my offerings page. There are several opportunities there for you to write with me online and in person.

Off to my day.
Blessings on this fifth day of Christmas.


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Showing 4 comments
  • Peggy

    I love everything about this, Suzi – and I am right there with you on the unmistakable and irreplaceable wonderfulness of spending time with your son, as I am equally-blessed. And that push-pull of here/there, this/that…and what goodness can happen if you simply stay put and present with whichever you choose. Yes.

  • Peggy

    Suzi, it may take a while, but I will hold you to lunch! 🙂

  • Cindy Henson

    Suzi – Thank you for the reference to staying put. Just as we are and are not. I am loving saying yes to those moments that present themselves as an unexpected invitation rather than an intrusion or crowding out of my predetermined idea of the next step. Thank you for sharing your wonderfulness of staying put with your son and the salad. What a joy you are! Happy New Year from Woodstock (1969 travel trailer) in the middle of the Arizona desert. Love, Cin

    PS looking forward to your west coast world tour…teehee!

  • Kate Hopper

    Lovely, Suzi. I love that image of you and your son standing side-by-side making vinaigrette. Here’s to a year of staying put and discovering those gifts as they reveal themselves to us.