Micropoetry Monday: Hymns of Motherhood

Hymns of Motherhood

The Shutterfly Edition

All through her childhood,
her mother had been behind her,
safeguarding the cupboards
& pantry
& cabinets under the sink,
making sure her food & baths
were not “Papa Bear hot”
& her feet not “Mama Bear cold,”
pulling the car over
to fix the straps on her car seat,
remedying hazards she had created
(which always included Legos),
watching her when she took her to the park,
keeping one hand on the grocery cart,
& following her closely when she wanted the freedom
to walk around & look at toys,
& checking all the locks
on the doors & windows,
because so many in the big world
wanted a little girl,
though her mother never told her why
until she already knew why.

According to the world’s standards,
her child was neither the sharpest
nor the brightest;
she would never know how to solve
the world’s problems,
maybe not even her own,
but if more people were like her—
possessing an empathy so many lacked—
there would be fewer problems to solve.

She had grown up believing that children
should only be seen & never heard,
but when she realized
the errors of her raising,
her children were too deep
into their electronic devices
to want to say anything.

Fiction Friday: Micropoetry Based on the Book

Her maiden name was her something old—
far removed from who she had become.
Her married name was her something new—
in her newly-widowed state.
Her something borrowed was a string of pearls,
for they represented perfection & integrity,
longevity & fertility.
Her something blue was the cameo
David had custom-made by a jeweler
for the only daughter
of a poor Irish father & strict Russian mother—
this daughter who had remodeled herself
into the All-American housewife, circa 1958,
& into someone unrecognizable to me.

Donna, ever practical, despised Valentine’s Day
as others despised Christmas songs before Thanksgiving.
Bearing tidings of clean living,
she had brought a plastic laundry basket filled with sundries:
soap, for washing the body after sex,
toothpaste, for washing out the mouth after sex,
& laundry detergent, for washing the sheets after sex—
items that would be donated to the local women’s shelter
to which Mother gave all her old clothes but never new ones.

Sister Kyle presented a wooden box
that looked suspiciously like a cigar box.
The pillowy satin glued to the inside reminded Caitlin of a coffin,
&, resting on the unblemished, flesh-colored material
was a set of real scriptures—not the Church-issued ones.
That vessel would become a Pandora’s box—
filled with a corpus my mother would live by . . .
& die by.

Sister Thompson, who had just turned “Social Security eligible,”
handed Mother a bag with Happy Birthday on it.
Inside was a gaudy bowl with all the characteristics of a recycled gift,
for no markings indicated it was new;
Sister Bear gave Mother a coupon organizer stuffed with starter coupons,
though we wouldn’t know most of them had expired
until we had gotten home,
which was like getting a gift certificate to a restaurant,
only to find that the restaurant had gone out of business.
Sister Batts had not brought a gift but a Ramen salad,
which Sister Wiley had hidden as if it were a meager offering,
akin to Cain’s vegetables,
for worse than a recycled gift
was recycled food.

When Mother held up a lacy black negligee,
the conversation veered into when it was permissible
to remove the sacred garments to don the naughty lingerie.
One-third of those present believed that the material
created a barrier to intimacy when worn right after sex,
but two-thirds of these hostesses
of this manufactured heaven in this mortal life—
like the valiant souls who had been given the opportunity
in the premortal life to live this one—
believed it was most pleasing to the Lord
that garments be replaced immediately
after the act of procreation ceased,
& I knew then,
as sure as I knew my name,
that just as the fancy black would bring Mother & David closer,
the plain white would come between them.

Logline for Because of Mindy Wiley An Irish-Catholic girl coming of age in the Deep South during the New Millennium finds her family splintered when two Mormon missionaries come to her door, their presence and promise unearthing long-buried family secrets, which lead to her excommunication and exile.

Fiction Friday: Micropoetry from the Book

Sister Wiley bought extravagant gifts for herself,
saving the posh bags to toss in dollar store presents
that didn’t even pretend to be knock-offs
for the endless showers that rained on the parades
of the unattractive & infertile women
whose hope for salvation through a husband or children
dimmed as their looks & eggs degraded further.
This woman, this Sister Mindy Wiley,
who dazzled the men & bedazzled the women,
held the bag that was a lie
in the palm of her hand for all to see,
pointing to it with her other hand like Vanna White
pointed to the letters on Wheel of Fortune.

The shower included a toilet tissue wedding dress contest.
Following the mysterious rule of three,
we were divided into teams of such.
Perhaps each group represented the unholy trinity
of an earthly bride of Christ:
a goddess,
a goddess’s daughter,
& the spirit of the goddess—
for in each team,
there was a woman,
a young woman,
& a woman-child.
Donna Marley had called the game sexist & refused to participate.
To her, dresses were as oppressive as make-up & high-heeled shoes.
Everything Donna saw as feminine & anything she saw as something
that separated the sexes, was, to her, sexist,
& through her eyes,
I began to question my worth to the world—
not as a person but as a woman
who was undeniably, happily female.

We were like little children,
scouring the living room for the scavenger hunt,
looking for plastic eggs containing a coupon for some food or beauty item
in hopes of finding the golden egg,
in which was nestled a 5-course meal prepared by the silly goose
known as Sister Wiley.
Donna deemed the game as lame,
saying something should have been done with power tools—
something that mattered—
which, for Donna, was always something
that pertained to manhood or masculinity
& was a curious form of sexism itself.

We finished up the farce
with a memory game that screamed housewife.
On a serving tray covered with a new-looking dishtowel
were 17 hand-held kitchen items
(most of which came from the pink breast cancer line,
making them harder to distinguish).
We were given 5 minutes to memorize them,
then 2-&-a-half minutes to recall them on paper,
& I wondered if this activity was a mere memory game
or some type of social conditioning that dictated
what every good wife should have in her kitchen.

You could tell a lot about a person by the gifts they gave:
Mother’s gift from Sister Wiley was a book:
The Lost Art of Homemaking.
David would love it.
Sister Page’s was a crocheting book.
None of us would love that.
Plenty of how-to books were given—
books that looked as if they were Dick & Jane-era throwbacks.
There were plenty of not-so-powerful kitchen tools,
several items with the As Seen on TV logo,
& a funhouse mirror toaster no one claimed.
When I looked at my reflection in the appliance,

I couldn’t help but think that perhaps I was looking at myself
on the inside.

Logline for Because of Mindy Wiley An Irish-Catholic girl coming of age in the Deep South during the New Millennium finds her family splintered when two Mormon missionaries come to her door, their presence and promise unearthing long-buried family secrets, which lead to her excommunication and exile.

The Homeschooling Mama’s Dilemma

Pledge

The frazzled, second-time mama,
whose nerve endings were frayed,
grieved for the time she robbed from Penny to spend on Polly,
for the times she snapped at Penny because of Polly,
& for the times she did not even hear Penny because of Polly,
whose color of hangry ranged from tomato red to beet purple.
As the principal of Sally Jane Richards’ Homeschool for the Housebound
(& wife of the dean)
cradled her colicky cuddlebug,
her other hand reached out to reassure her doodlebug—
this shiny new piece of change who had come into her life
without a heads-up & put her into a temporary tailspin—
that Book Club & Reading Club,
Math with Monopoly Money,
A.M. & P.M. Bingo,
Wheel of Fortune-inspired Hangman,
& Alphabet Soup & Word Salad with Bananagrams,
had to wait for the not-so-secret formula
to do its disappearing noise magic trick.

Fiction Friday: Micropoetry Based on the Book

Mother’s wedding gown was a modest one,
with long sleeves & white lace that crawled up her throat,
making her swanlike neck seem longer,
even as the cut of the bodice
made her bosom seem almost invisible.
She looked like a bride around the turn-of-the-century;
the next century was coming in a couple of months,
& the New Millennium would usher in her new life as David’s wife,
which would place me,
having come of age,
as something between a stepdaughter
& something that defied definition.

As I gazed upon my mother in her bridal finery,
she turned to me & said,
“Someday, it’ll be you, Katryn,
& your young man will be able to take you to the temple.
Keep yourself worthy of him,
so when that time comes, you’ll be ready.”
She had turned back to the mirror then,
admiring herself,
reminding me of Snow White’s stepmother,
reassuring herself that she was, indeed—
with her eyes like dark chocolate Doves—
the fairest of Mormonland,
while I thought how much more loving it would have been
had she said,
Find a man worthy of you,
for it was something David would have said.

Mother’s bridal shower was held at seven p.m.,
or seven-fifteen, Mormon Standard Time,
with Sister Wiley as the mistress of a ceremony
that Donna found sexist,
as men weren’t allowed.
True equality, for Donna, was that men be as miserable
coming to these things as the women who came to them.
Sister Kyle handed everyone a safety pin as they came in,
while Sister Grahame helped Sister Wiley in the kitchen,
thrice saying Sister Wiley was the best cook in the ward.
These servants of the Lord
now served the sisters of the ward,
who trickled through the door like queen bees
with their Southern lilts that dripped with honey
& whose stingers sometimes came out at these things.

My eyes traveled around the room,
settling on each individual:
There was Sister Schafer,
pink elephants dangling from her ears,
as she worked for the local Republican party
& was a true blue, red-state conservative.
“A Christian Democrat is an oxymoron,”
was her campaign slogan for the Lord,
to which I knew Mother would have taken offense,
for David believed that even though capitalism
made a few rich,
it was liberalism that kept the many
from being poor.

A bridal shower in the Mormon Church
was like a G-rated bachelorette party,
where no man in a cop or firefighter uniform
would be showing up to remove it.
Donna had come for the free meal,
& had certainly not come
for the company of a henhouse,
where feathers often got ruffled
over the slightest slight,
without a rooster in sight.

Logline for Because of Mindy Wiley An Irish-Catholic girl coming of age in the Deep South during the New Millennium finds her family splintered when two Mormon missionaries come to her door, their presence and promise unearthing long-buried family secrets, which lead to her excommunication and exile.

The Loveliest Bones

Bebe shoes

Since reaching late thirtysomething,
Anne had wanted to know what it was like
to have a child who would tell her she loved her
without prompting,
& the awareness she saw in the weeks-old bundle
was sometimes more than she had seen
in the years-old bundle
who was crawling towards the age of accountability.
As she looked at her children,
one cradled in one arm,
the other,
snuggled under the arm that had yet to fall asleep,
she knew there was not one daughter she preferred over the other,
for how could one choose a right eye over a left?
This mother—
a family tree whose feminine, blue-eyed branches
reached for the sun in opposite directions—
brought the fruits of her labours closer to Solomon’s twin fawns.
When Anne of the 1000-plus days looked to her husband,
the king of her 900-square foot castle,
she saw confirmation & absolution of her beliefs,
reflected & shining from within the deep green pond,
for to this ageing former head-banger now headmaster,
they had the best of both worlds:
a child who may never leave them
& a child who may know well enough to do so.

Micropoetry Monday: Opposites

Opposites

The Shutterfly edition

His life was spent seeking absolution,
hers, validation.
She sought
what she needed
through God’s images,
but he,
through God Himself.

He was a hospice worker
who sought to make comfortable the ill
& comfort the well.
She was a pathologist
who only dealt with the cadavers
that she disassembled.
He saw his patients as whole,
even as she saw her “visitors”
as parts of one.
She couldn’t deal with the
grieving family members
any more than he could deal
with the body after the soul
had left it.
Their vocations–
his, a calling,
hers, a trade–
was all the reason why
he came home to an empty,
fifth-floor walk-up,
& she surrounded herself
with the presence of so many
who were so full of life.

Money was the only thing
that ever came between them;
he made not enough,
& she made too much.

Micropoetry Monday: Anti-Love Story

Dark heart

Her wedding had been a bright dot
on the timeline of her life,
her divorce, a dark one.
The line connecting the two
turned clear,
for the way it had all gone down
had blurred the happy memories
they once shared.

When he was alive,
she was a hypersomniac,
for she slept to escape him through dreams
that led her into the arms of her dreamboat,
but when he died,
he haunted those dreams,
driving her to insomnia,
& into the arms of the man
who would become her lifeboat.

He chased ambulances,
she chased dreams,
but when he helped her see that
the new American Dream
was as shallow as suing those
with deep pockets,
she got herself a settlement
to pay for law school,
becoming a bank breaker for some
& a dream maker for others.

Practical Minimalism: Things Can Lead to Experiences

Shelfie

Experiences are better than things, but a thing can lead to experiences.

The minimalistic creed that experiences are always better than things is untrue, for I say it depends on the experience (and the thing).  

The experience of going to the library was okay, but the experience of a book I buy and read multiple times is better. Since Covid, I have subscribed to Amazon Kindle Unlimited for me and have added many more books to my daughter’s physical library.

The experience of shopping for a new phone was a hassle, but using that phone to group text my friends for a girls’ night out, promote my Instagram poetry, or play Scrabble is better; buying a new TV was forgettable, but having a 42″ screen where my husband and I watch Wheel of Fortune is better. We bond over skewering Pat for some of the !@#$ he says and the contestants for the bad calls they make. 

The experience of going to the Pensacola Interstate Fair was all right (I make better, and cleaner, fair food at home), but I’ve had just as much fun playing with my daughter in the big blow-up pool (a “thing”) in our backyard.

Some experiences have sucked (like revisiting the Italian restaurant where my husband and I used to go when we met ten years ago), where my time would’ve been better spent watching the current Holiday Baking Championship.

However, some experiences have been wonderful. Sometimes, the simplest experiences are best, such as having a meal at Chick-Fil-A with my family (before Covid), meeting friends for drinks and tacos (or one-on-one for coffee), reading a new bedtime story, playing board games, singing Christmas carols, trying a new baking recipe (will be making my first savory cheesecake next week), making Christmas placemats (a laminator is a must for any homeschooling classroom), creating unique Christmas cards via TouchNotes for some of my friends, and so forth. 

Experiences like these are what life is made of, and most of them aren’t Facebook or Instagram picture-worthy.  

There’s a great quote in the movie Tully, in which Tully tells Marlo (a married mother of three young children who seems to be struggling with the baby blues) that she hasn’t failed but has made her biggest dream come true: “That sameness that you despise, that’s your gift to them [Marlo’s children]. Waking up every day and doing the same things for them over and over. You are boring. Your marriage is boring. Your house is boring, but that’s … incredible! That’s a big dream, to grow up and be dull and constant, and then raise your kids in that circle of safety.”

You don’t have to experience something new every day because every day in and of itself is an experience. My best experiences haven’t always included pictures but are in the stories I tell and the memories I share.

When my job situation often changed (the nature of being a student worker), with my husband and I moving every two or three years (you have to go where you can afford to live), I found myself in a constant state of anxiety. However, we are finally reaching a level of homeostasis that feels an awful lot like contentment (not to be confused with complacency). 

I love my life as it is, which doesn’t mean that I don’t want more; I am just working towards being more. I tell my daughter in homeschool: The more you know, the more you can do, and the richer your life will be, for the more you will be able to do for yourself and others.

I remember a motivational speaker once saying that the two things that make us happiest are helping others and creating something. This Christmas season, I have been fortunate enough to do both. I would also say that staying connected to friends and family (in-person, if possible, or via telephone, not text) is the third part of that, for being giving of your time is the greatest gift.

” … remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).