Saturday, noon, the doorbell rang and there was Meliss with her magic blue suitcase.
I’d wanted to do some sort of ritual at this new point in my writing life. At first I imagined something to summon what’s next as I send my revised book proposal out into the world.
I asked Meliss if she might help me; I knew she’d be the perfect person. She’s one of the most creative people I know. She’s warm and encouraging and definitely the somebody you want at your side when you’re trying to manifest magic in your life.
You know you’ve asked the right person when your favor request is met with obvious delight. She might have rubbed her hands together.
Did I mention that Meliss has a degree in art therapy?
She asked questions about what I wanted from this ritual. Did I want to put something behind me? Did I want to burn something? Did I want to make something? A zine?
Thinking about it for a few days, I realized I didn’t want a ritual about what comes next. I wanted to honor the 30+ years I’ve spent making a writing of myself. I wanted to do it on paper, because paper is my medium. And I want to incorporate collage because collaged writing is what I love best.
You also know you’ve chosen the right guide/accomplice when they text back to your request, this: We will honor the heck out of you and your love, time, effort, passion, energy that you have devoted to your writer-self.
The photo above shows more than thirty years’ worth of journals. Doesn’t look like much, but when I started reading through the early ones Friday night to prepare, searching for my beginnings as a writer, I was amazed at how much was there. I’ve read and reread the journals of our homeschooling life as I work on my memoir, but it’s been years since I read back through the college journals, the early marriage journals.
Chris was out of town so I cried and cried without bothering to wipe my face, reacquainting myself with that girl.
I woke up early Saturday, giddy. I copied journal entries, printed photos.
At noon, I opened the door.
Meliss showed me books she’s made, asked what I wanted. The ones she’d made with thickly gessoed pages made my heart judder. We got to work, laying down a base.
She opened her suitcase, pulled out supplies. Asked what colors I like best, helped me blend shades. We painted pages, scraped in texture, splattered gold. So freaking fun! Meliss explained how back-and-forth brush strokes are soothing to the brain. I felt soothed. And invigorated.
We drank tea and she put up with hours of my folksy girl singer songwriter playlist. The kitchen table thus encumbered, we took to the dining room for Israeli takeout. And then she had me cut images and words that spoke to me from ridiculously pretty magazines.
“Flip and rip, baby!” she said.
As I flipped and ripped, cut out the clippings I’d printed, Meliss worked at a little zine of her own, one she made and folded from an old map. She sketched a woman’s face like it was no big deal, painted stars around her head in gold.
I assembled my first page. I’d printed pages from my journals, glued one in. I tucked a tiny copy of a journal page from 1985 into a teabag. I pulled a few key words from the entries and typed them out on my turquoise Olivetti. I added flowers because there must always be flowers and glued it all down on the backdrop of a painted page my kids made years ago. (And if you read that post: see! They did get used, almost 14 years later!)
After closing clicks on the suitcase and many hugs, Meliss left at 8:30 or 9:00. I stayed up until 1:00am, working on pages. One was a freewrite on the magic of the day.
Originally I thought I’d mostly finish the book this weekend–ha! It has a bigger story to tell and I’m okay with that. Meliss and I hatched a plan for a monthly creative date to keep the project going. I’ll keep reading through my journals, gathering, copying pages tiny and thinking about my story of becoming a writer. Then Meliss and I will meet up, make art. I can’t wait.
Is there a longing inside you that calls for art to acknowledge? Do you have a friend who might help? If something here makes your own heart judder, I hope you do it.
parents, caregivers & educators chat
Last month I asked, What could schools learn from homeschoolers? You had such inspiring wisdom to share:
Trust kids. Become a resource, and give them control over their learning. Less testing more observation and conversation. — Kerry
Relationship first! — Barbara
That it’s okay to have the children lead and not always lead them. — Jennifer
That children have a wide variety of learning styles (some fidget, some read quietly, etc.) … there’s not a single RIGHT way to do things! (For example, my brain can NOT write an outline before constructing a paper! I have an MA in English and TRUST ME … I have tried 😂) (My son learned math by reciting facts while jumping on the trampoline … my daughter used manipulatives and worksheets. Both kids learned their facts!) — Courtney
Trust the children. — Kristin
The single theme that comes out of my experiences thus far – and they are far from over – is that “one size does not fit all.” I have always wanted something different than a “standard” education for my children, where transient standards are set by an amorphous committee of sorts and I have little to no influence in addressing my children’s individual needs. I believe that learning is a joyful lifelong endeavor to be cherished and autonomously and enthusiastically engaged in; contrary to a restrictive, time-bound experience that must be endured, often with coercive methods for enforced participation without sufficient consideration for – or application of – accommodations for individual needs and circumstances. –Dawn (more here)
- Speaking of play, do you know the work of Peter Gray? His work on the decline of play and the corresponding rise in mental health issues among young people is fascinating and an influence in my own work. His Tedx talk on the decline of play might break your heart.
- If that interests you, you might enjoy my old lament to Seth Godin on how he was missing out, dismissing homeschooling from his conversation about the future (2102-style) of education. Gray was influencing me way back then.
- There have been lots of interesting comments on my tiktok about how a teaching background isn’t good prep for homeschooling. And also on the follow-up video about our first homeschooling days with a former teacher in the house. (Many lessons were learned, not necessarily by the kids.)
writers & book lovers unite
This month’s question is for book lovers and writers (and I’m kinda giddy about it.) What are your favorite memoirs, essays, novels or poetry collections centering on motherhood? You can answer in the comments of this post or by responding via email. I’ll share responses in the next edition.
A few things I’ve enjoyed lately:
- The Golden State by Lydia Kiesling. Kicking off books about motherhood, this is a novel about a young woman who runs off with her toddler daughter to escape her life, heading to the empty trailer home of her dead grandparents in a fictional nothing town in upstate California. My favorite sections are the interactions with her daughter Honey, often written without commas to convey the unrelenting ongoingness.
- The Undying by Ann Boyer. If you missed it, a mini recommendation of this bold, smart, memoir of what it’s really like to have cancer. I’ll never stop thinking about her thoughts on chemotherapy.
- I mentioned that I’d planned to write here about how I’m bringing more play to my daily writing routine–it’s been fun and a direct line to my intuition! But then this day with Meliss happened, which was PLAY in all caps and I went with it. Hope to write more about the daily writing practice soon.
misc. good stuff
- Speaking of art therapy, I’ve enjoyed following Amelia Hutchison of Art Therapy in Real Life on TikTok–she’s also on Instagram. The book she made to honor and leave behind her 20s inspired my own project.
- I discovered this album of piano solos, Ethiopiques, Vol 21 by Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam Guèbrou via Timm Chiusano, whose daily vlogs on TikTok tickle me and often use songs from this album as a backdrop. Turns out the pianist is an Ethiopian nun. It makes for wonderful writing music.
- Since we seem to be on the theme of play here, Justine Doiron’s tofu nuggets with buffalo sauce are for when you want to eat like a kid. A rather healthy kid.
If you know someone who might appreciate this post, please consider sharing. ❤️