Writing Practice for Rhoda Jane

Grief is a howling hollow echoing in my belly.
Unlike depression which is just an empty hole.
It’s my mother telling me her stories of sorrows, loss and longing,
by the glow of her cigarette and the dim light of late night TV,
as she lies on the couch, me on the floor next to her,
because she’s too scared to sleep in her room alone.
While my dad’s in Vietnam,
I keep her company.


I didn’t miss my kids’ childhoods. I don’t regret my choice to raise them myself and be available to them. But it’s got me pondering the definition of success. I did turn down a career offer when my son was three. Entry level position with this agency with opportunity for growth. My kid’s growth was just more interesting to me at the time.

I worked through my pregnancy with him and Jason (his dad) collected unemployment. When the unemployment ran out, J got a job driving the shuttle van for the hospital which he complained about constantly. That and a bit more got him fired. And I don’t think he could continue collecting unemployment.  I was offered a full-time job washing dishes at the time (only female of about 100 or so male applicants — unemployment was high during that part of the Reagan era), but I was nursing my baby and I really did not want to be away from him.

Since we had a child, we qualified for welfare so that was the route we took. Jason would grumble and carry on regularly because of the job contacts and whatever else he used to have to do to stay in the program. I considered another job when A. was a year old — retail — but still I just could not leave my boy. By the time he was two though, with Jason not really looking for work and me feeling we can’t live this way forever, I took a job in a dry cleaners pressing shirts. (I pressed some of the most famous shirts in the city of Burlington I might add). But every morning  at 6:55am when I walked around the corner to work, I used to hate leaving my little boy standing on a stool at the front door, looking out the window at me as we waved bye-bye until we could no longer see each other. There were pluses to the job — walking to work, finishing at 2pm every day, having my lunch break at home, weekends off, a decent wage, boss and co-workers. I stayed for 5 months before I accepted a position with the Girl Scout Council. That felt like more than a job. 8 to 4, Monday through Friday and no going home for lunch. It was a grind. I took the bus to work because we only had one car, Jason wouldn’t let me drive it, and he wanted to sleep in. So I would leave in the morning, with my boy crying in the window when I left, because this was a different kind of work that took me further away, and for longer. He and his dad would pick me up at 4pm though and it was always a joy to look out the picture window from my office and see them waiting in the Dart for me. Sometimes, they’d come in. Anthony impressed everyone, he was so sweet and so “articulate” for such a wee guy.  J. would tell me what they did that day, who they hung out with, sometimes they went fishing or just hanging.

I’d try to tell myself how progressive we were with the role reversal. Househusband (who left the housework for the wife). Stay-at-home dad who took his boy fishing sometimes and bought him “jolly” doughnuts from the Freihoffer’s outlet. (Anthony loved jelly doughnuts and he also loved Cheez-lits, as he used to call them).

J.  loved smoking weed, and don’t ask me why, I didn’t get an “allowance” for working, but J. did for “babysitting.” We always called it “the allowance” and it was a huge bone of contention with us. I tried to feel “modern” but career woman just wasn’t my thing. Neither was the allowance.

Some mornings I would feel so trapped going off to this daily grind, missing my son terribly, heart breaking every morning as he cried in the window. Sometimes, when it was just Joyce and me in the office before anyone else arrived I would cry. She was so good. She was 63 at the time and we both started working around the same time. She was going through a divorce so was back to work. She’d had two children, but her daughter died in a single car crash at the age of 19. As Joyce put it (and I’ve always loved this expression relating to loss), she “healed well.” She loved her pb & j sandwiches. Every day for lunch. And nature and Twin Hills, the girl scout camp she took the boys and me to once. She soothed my sorrow after I returned from a trip burying my best friend, she soothed my sadness over my marriage and leaving my son every day.

After about a year and a half of this, I’d finally told Jason I was sick of it, I wanted him to get a job, I wanted to be home with our son. I’d been after him to get into UVM, and sure enough he did; he got a printing job that he enjoyed — good pay, benefits and hours. And I could finally stay home with the boy. But I’d also been applying for jobs in case J. didn’t get one — jobs with more opportunity. So when J. accepted his UVM job, I’d also been offered the job with what was then called Resolution. It was basically an upstart PR agency and I knew what I was turning down when I turned it down. Because I was already successful. I got to stay home and grow with my child.


…because we all have our stories to tell. Share here.

** Photo Source from The Kitchen Sisters Flickr page.

You Can’t Go Home Again

Isn’t that the name of a book? I think so, one I read back in my college years. It’s true you know. You can’t go home again. It stays the same and yet it’s never the same.


We sometimes search for an entire lifetime, and perhaps never find our true love. Not necessarily a person either. In my case I was lucky, I found my love in not just one lifetime, but in two. When I met her in this lifetime, we already knew each other so well, we just picked up where we’d left off previously, and many times we didn’t need words to communicate. We could read each others’ thoughts when we were together (and sometimes when we were apart).

She died when we were in our late twenties, and that was the first time I knew the raw physical ache of emotional, psychic loss — and I howled, keened, beat myself as the deeply grief-stricken do. I pulled through to the other side, as she was pulling through to the other side. We still communicate wordlessly to this day as we once did a long time ago.

A Story — Part 1

I used to love talking names with my pregnant aunts, then my pregnant self and friends and even business names with folks birthing a business. I once named a sewing shop for someone — I was just talking off the top of my head, but she liked the name enough to use it, so the Nimble Thimble opened in Newport, Vermont back in 1980. Still have a thimble and ruler with the name stamped on them.

Personally, I don’t like trite, or something that sounds too limiting. For example, even though I refer to my retreat as BEAR, for Bay End Art Retreat, I don’t necessarily want to call it that. My first two retreats will be at Bay End, but who knows? I love to travel and may want to create retreats in different venues. So no names that are venue specific. I’m not sure what it will be but something that is wordplay of a sort, branding — when someone types in BEAR, this retreat will hardly be at the top of the search engines. Now I bet if I googled Squam it would be right up there. Or Verizon, Comcast and so on. So as this dream unfolds, so too, will a name.

Now, go make a cup of tea and maybe grab a snack (I have some salty oatmeal cookies that I love), because I can have a knack for making a short story long. (I rarely write long blog posts because it’s hard for me to read other’s long blog posts — too much info on a screen rather than a page can overwhelm me sometimes).

I’m not sure I fantasized about creating women’s retreats when I lived in Vermont, but when I moved back to Cape Cod twelve years ago, I mourned my beloved Vermont (I still do). Was I crazy?? What was I thinking? I beat myself up for giving up not only an incredible house, but also a strong support network I’d built of friends and local community. There was always someone I could connect with in person, so important for me. I didn’t have to seek hard to find connection when I needed it. A few weeks ago I reread my pros and cons list I wrote when I struggled with the decision to stay in Vermont or leave, I didn’t have the distance from it that I do now — clear as day! — 2 negatives and 6 positives for Vermont, and 2 positives (one, a job that I left within a year after moving back), and 6 negatives for the cape — go figure.

I found a wonderful, very cool (and very old) psychiatrist to help me work through parenting struggles, guilt and grief. Her office was in her home down lanes that twist and turn. The bathroom wall was a mural of Lascaux. She turned me on to Jungian psychology, Carolyn Myss (and her book The Anatomy of Choice, to help me come to terms with my choice of leaving Vermont), synchronicity, the Celestine Prophecy and so on. Those books led me to others and I started dancing, too (one of my longtime friends at the library had told me about belly dancing). Katrina, my dance teacher turned me on to more books and resources — Goddesses in Everywoman, Women Who Run with the Wolves, and more. I was insatiable. I even went back to church for a while — at a church in Baltimore I heard a priest tell us for the first time about the divine feminine, who was there in the very beginning — Sophia — wisdom. I was thrilled to finally hear a priest speak of a feminine power beyond Mary.

Each step I took brought me deeper into a wonderful spirituality and connection I’ve found hard to maintain over the years, and yet that was what sustained me at that time, brought me joy, made me feel good, and gave me a great community to heal and grow with. The community changed over time, as communities do and with that change it became harder to sustain. I stopped dancing, but never stopped reading. I turned to blogs more and more and found another community, still not enough.

I think blogs are beautiful; they have been lifesavers for me in very lonely, dreary times, but I still long for conscious connection in real time, however I can get it. Finding kindred souls is not easy. Maintaining connection is not easy. It takes time, and many people are too busy with hand to mouth survival to take that time. It’s hard, but I do believe it’s something we all need — to take the time.

What I am learning is maybe I need to take the time to be the person to create the connection I seek. And so I begin. Again. More in tomorrow’s post.

** the above photo, taken almost 5 years ago, represents a piece of me that’s still in Vermont

Superheroes, Dolls and Stories, Part 1

So, I am clearing out treasures to make room for more treasures in my life and am selling off some of my favorites.

This past spring and fall, I bought some troll beads and a bracelet because they reminded me of a fond Amherst memory. They are all handcrafted glass beads, designed by different artists, and Trollbeads tag line is “every story has a bead.” (I usually get that backwards).

I chose these individual beads for my stories or the meanings I associated with them. Turquoise armadillo for the Indian prayer associated with the armadillo: “Protect my borders, teach me my shield, reflect my pain so I shall not yield.” Gray wolf because I am a woman who runs with the wolves, Freddie because it reminded me of traveling the back roads of New England in my son’s battlewagon when he was a teenager and listening to Queen’s Bohemian Rhasody (plus I am a Virgo and a Mercury girl). The throat chakra because I seek my voice, the rainbow for hope, dreams and the promises rainbows hold, and circus because my kids and I used to go to the Big Apple Circus every summer when they were little. Plus, who hasn’t wanted to run away with the circus at one time or another? Rose for my daughter’s middle name, and buttercups because as a child I loved picking buttercups and holding them under folks’ chins to see if they liked butter. Barely worn. What are the stories you will create?

I am asking $165. for this including shipping and handling if you’re in the USA. Insurance is extra. (I’m happy to ship beyond the USA for cost of shipping). If you’re interested, please leave me a comment with your email, or just email me.

This entry was posted on November 12, 2009, in story.

History Herstory Ourstory Mystory Yourstory

About the writing – I have to tell my story. If people want to read it, great. But I have to get it out.

I believe we are all full of stories, and how we tell them makes them interesting or dull. It’s not necessarily the story itself but the sharing of it, the sharing of a piece of us. I have always loved stories — they are how I get to know people, how I look at myself — through my story. I use words to tell my story. Some people use photography or music, dance and so on. I use language. My story is part of the bigger story of course, our story. My tribe’s story. A piece of the world’s story. Perhaps a part of your story.

What’s Your Story?

Check out the Kitchen Sisters latest project — What’s Your Story? — the secret lives of girls and women around the world.

Not at all what I was going to write about today but it has me too excited to blah blah blah my own thing today.

** image from Kitchen Sisters

This entry was posted on July 10, 2009, in story.

Natasha Richardson

I had been following the Natasha Richardson story since I first heard of it day before yesterday and was so hoping for the best. I worked in a trauma unit for years and had pretty much guessed what the problem was. Still, I hoped.

While lying in bed last night after watching the last of our Joseph Campbell DVD, Marty called very sadly to me from the other room, “She died.”
I have had a hard time thinking of much else. I’m not too crazy over celebrities, but I’ve always liked Natasha Richardson and Liam Neeson. Perhaps because they’re genuine and don’t make the tabloids every time you turn around. They had class.

I like what Susannah, a fellow countrywoman of Natasha’s wrote on her blog, “So today I honour Natasha Richardson; I hope she devoured her life, every thrilling glorious moment of it.” I do believe she did.