Truth is its own magic: A Mother’s Day message

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When you’re a mom, some of the things that come out of your mouth may sound strange:  “Don’t chew on Jesus,” “Will you just hurry up and poop?”, and “Stop putting chicken on your head!”, are some of my greatest hits.

As I was getting my daughter ready for bed the other night, thinking about what I wanted to read to her (praying she wouldn’t mention Minnie, as in The Mouse), the Beatitudes of Jesus came to mind.  I realized then that I’ve spent so much time reading and singing to her and teaching her the things she will need to know to get on here–like letters and numbers, saying “thank you” and not littering–that I hadn’t focused much on the religious part of her education.

Thinking back, that’s exactly how my parents raised me.  For them, church was something you needed if you were an ass.

When I was in high school in the nineties, a lot of kids were self-proclaimed “Jesus freaks,” wearing “True Love Waits” rings and WWJD bracelets.  There was a lot of talk about the rapture and born-again virginity.  Church was their social life, Praise and Worship music their vibe.  Some of them even carried their Bibles around at school.  

Just as Felicity (remember that WB show?) followed a boy to college, I, a freshman, followed a senior boy to his church.  One evening, after service had ended, we sat in a pew as he led me through the salvation prayer, and I was like, “That’s it?  Are you sure? It’s that easy?”

I had been expecting a feeling–a total transformation like Saul’s to Paul–and now I wonder when Jesus told Doubting Thomas that (and I paraphrase) blessed are they who don’t see but believe, that “see” could also apply to “feel.”

Four years later, I joined the Mormon Church.  All the good feelings I had expected to feel when I had gotten saved, I felt then, but who isn’t going to feel good when they’re around so many friendly people who open their hearts and homes?  Even though it’s been years since I sent my name to Salt Lake to be expunged (er, removed) from the records, I will admit that the Church made me a more spiritual person.

In the Church, I was taught that the glory of God is intelligence and yet, according to these same people, for those who had mental challenges, the devil could not touch them. 

To my understanding, a lack of mental capacity (e.g. intelligence) saved a soul.  It seems contradictory, and yet, it somehow makes sense to me.

As I gaze upon my child, I see that light and intelligence.  She knows so much more than she communicates, which can be frustrating, but I have learned to overcome the need to explain why she is the way she is to people who don’t know her–to explain why she doesn’t respond when people ask her her name–but then, I have had several people who’ve taken one look at her and ask if she’s autistic.

I may never know how much she understands, but I do know that I will teach her everything I know and believe, whether it’s that adverbs are the enemy of good writing or that respect doesn’t have to be earned but it can be lost.  (You don’t disrespect people until they “earn” your respect.)

I’ve striven so much to give her a magical childhood through imagination and storytelling.  (Children’s author, Nancy Tillman, is a master at this.)  Nearly every night, since my mom passed from this earth, I ask my daughter to tell Grandma “good-night” and “I love you” and to blow her a kiss.  And then I seemingly catch that kiss in midair, letting her open my hand and take it; sometimes I place my palm on the crown of her head–a blessing from Heaven.

Of course, I don’t really know how things work up there, but part of parenting, for me, has always been teaching truths with just a pinch of magic.

C.S. Lewis did that very thing with his Narnia series, just as I will someday do with mine.

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Poem-a-Day April 2019 Writer’s Digest Challenge #18. Theme: Little (Blank) #aprpad

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Little Memories

It was last night
that I read the last work
that would be published
in my alma mater’s literary journal.
Brian and Hannah had joined me–
along with my dad and grandmother
who we call Bernadean
because she’s not all “grammy-like.”
My English and Communications friends were there,
my old college newspaper friends–
except for the ones who’d graduated and moved on–
were there to cover the event
in the room where my daughter saw
trapezoids and triangles in the ceiling.
I’d worn my new little black dress—
well, let’s be real,
not little—
but it showed the shoulders
I had been expected to cover
in my past life as a Mormon.
My daughter was showing off or rather,
I was showing off my daughter in her new bob
that makes her look like Scout Finch
and white dress with the red ribbon straps
that kept slipping down.
Still better her have a wardrobe malfunction than me.
My dad and grandmother were late
but just in time to see one of the artists’ photographs
of his topless girlfriend projected on the screen
and for Dad to hear one of the poets use the f-word,
which I knew he would complain about later.
I break out in hives all over my chest when I read,
but I chose to ignore them,
for that was better than sweating profusely.
Hives don’t give you B.O.
There were “decadent desserts”
with all different toppings;
I wasn’t fooled,
for they were all brownie bites
but “elevated” as the TV chefs would say.
I was asked for a quote by the kid
who only wanted to write reviews
because he just enjoys writing his opinions.
Yes, I tell him, I really am obsessed with Mother Goose
(and, off the record, ablaut reduplication).
Hannah got to watch and listen to one of the artists play his guitar.
Everyone was so kind.
The event was held in a room off the art gallery on campus,
and we saw a man’s bust made of pennies,
which made me think that Mike Brady’s head
wouldn’t have shattered had it been made of change.
I still had to make cornbread
(hoecakes were too much work–
I couldn’t just shove them in the oven
and forget about them for a half hour)
for a “Cooking on a Dime” event at work tomorrow—
the college where I work because I loved it so much,
I didn’t want to leave.
We got our Easter ham,
and then Dad wanted to take us out
for half-priced milkshakes after 8 at Sonic.
Tons of kids were there for the same reason.
I had to lend Hannah my white sweater wrap
and make her look like an old lady in a shawl.
I got chocolate
but without malt,
what good is it?
I gave Hannah my cherry,
and Dad gave me his.
We joked about how Mom
who doesn’t live on Earth anymore
would embarrass my brother
by asking for “thick shakes” and “hot fries”
because damn it,
she was paying good money for this crap.
It’s nice to be able to talk about her without crying.
And then we go to our homes,
me to mine,
where I read Green Eggs and Ham,
and I told this little girl with the big blue eyes
that until I met her dad,
mushrooms had been my Green Eggs and Ham
when he fried them like we do everything here.
Right then and wherever there was,
I fell in love with fungi candy.
And I write all this now
while it’s still fresh
because new memories are constantly being made,
and I don’t want to lose this one.

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https://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/poetic-asides/2019-april-pad-challenge-day-18

Poem-a-Day April 2019 Writer’s Digest Challenge #2. Theme: Good Case and/or Bad Case #aprpad

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Bad Apple

According to the kids in Miss Jewels’ kindergarten class,
the children had a bad case of the sillies,
rather than a good case of the giggles.
To regain control of her mischievous, rambunctious classroom,
Miss Jewels passed out “hash”tag conversation hearts,
gave them standardized tests,
& put herself on a screen,
turning them into the zombies
& she,
into their babysitter.

https://www.writersdigest.com/whats-new/2019-april-pad-challenge-day-2

Writer’s Digest Wednesday Poetry Prompt #468: Note

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Taking Dictation

She had spent her middle school years passing notes
on wide-ruled paper with the fringe that came
from being ripped out of a Lisa Frank notebook,
her girlish cursive in shades of pink
that she liked to call her invisible ink–
strategically chosen to impair
Mrs. Sikeston with her 20/100 vision.

There were the notes she took in high school
on unlined, “open-ended” printer paper–
filled from corner to corner
with concrete poetry and spirograph designs
that she wheat-pasted to the walls of her room.

There were the notes she left for her mom on the kitchen counter
where she would see them,
letting her know where she was and with whom.

There were the notes she wrote in everyone’s yearbook
that year of 1999 at William J. Woodham High School,
telling them that if they ever came across the name
of Lauranne Huntington,
they would know that she had made it as an author,
for she believed that Lauranne–
not Laura–
was destined for literary greatness.

There were the notes she took in college–
of biology and anthropology,
and every other -ology–
her streams of consciousness sometimes
drowning out the drone of the professors
who taught in the physical and biological sciences department.

There were the notes she took when she
interviewed faculty and students
and covered events for the college newspaper,
with bold circles wherever there was a
Who, What, Where, When, Why, How,
for every question had to start with one of these.

There were the Post-It notes she left all over the house
when she was practicing her Spanish,
the magnetized letters on the refrigerator that spelled “Want Sex”
(which was more of a warning than anything).

The pink had deepened into red by then,
even as she had deepened into whom was meant to become;
just as her haikus–
once so abstract and emo–
had deepened into the personal narratives
that were as concrete and real as she was.

There were the rejection slips
that she tacked over the old poetry
in her childhood room
where the walls and furniture were as white
as the curtains and bedspread were pink–
this place where she would still come to write
while her mom and dad watched her girls.
The notes she took at the monthly board meetings
helped her learn to listen while writing–
to listen more and better.

The notes she took to remind herself how to do something
helped the next person not have to learn the hard way,
for every position she left,
she left behind an account of everything that she had learned
and everything that she knew they would need to know.

The notes her daughters brought home from school
let her know the things she should notice
but didn’t always have the time to;
and then there were the notes she took,
reminding herself to take the time to notice.

There were the notes she wrote in the Christmas cards
she made out of scrapbooking scraps and brown paper bags.
The messages in the numerous thank you notes she wrote–
both on the job and off–
they were all her handwriting and her handiwork.

She never became Lauranne Huntington,
but rather the Laura Hunt
that people felt they knew–
the Laura Hunt they wanted to know.

But the notes that truly captured the essence of who Laura Sawyer (nee Hunt)
were not these,
but were the music notes that the man she loved placed together
in memory of her.

https://www.writersdigest.com/whats-new/wednesday-poetry-prompts-468

#Fiction Friday: #Micropoetry from the Book

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Mother would not give him marriage,
but she would give him sex & love.
She would not give him children,
but she would give him hers.

His thoughts were my thoughts,
his ways, my ways,
& I believed this was so—
only because he’d come first.

She was wrapped up in the Church—
just like a gift someone did not want
its intended to see.

My father, Patrick, was alive.
With one sentence,
Mother had resurrected the dead.

Mother was his full-length dark mink,
I, his white mink stole;
Caitlin was a leotard with ballerina slippers,
the only innocent one of us all.

Writer’s Digest Wednesday Poetry Prompt #461: Picking Up

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Picking Up Toys

Raggedy Anne is looking rather ragged.
You’ve made a hat out of stickers for her;
you’ve pulled her yarn hair apart
so it looks like she has a bad perm.
She is not yet missing an eye
(only because it’s made of thread),
but if you needled her to death
like Mama used to do to her “friends,”
she’d be real sorry.
You’ve turned Baby Aimee into a double amputee.
I thought only woodland creatures
chewed off their own foot
when it was caught in a trap.
Mickey’s hands look like they were caught
in a stump grinder;
poor Frederick the Poet Mouse
looks like he’s been on a starvation diet.
And Quackers?
Well, he’s hanging on (or together)
by a thread,
for mastication is your instantaneous gratification.

https://www.writersdigest.com/whats-new/wednesday-poetry-prompts-461

Poem-a-Day November 2018 Writer’s Digest Challenge #30. Theme: One More (Blank)

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One More Memory

If I had just one more memory–
one more moment stretched into years
(with light years between the seconds)–
I would have so much to show-and-tell you.
Does that not sound like a little child?

Your presence
hovers
in the absence
of space and time
as you observe Hannah’s progression,
listen to my stories,
and see this, your daughter,
in the collegiate green cap and gown,
having remade herself into the ungraven image
she’s always wanted to be.

We share memories of you at the table;
I like to imagine you hear us
every time we speak your name.
We have no complaints.

Dad still carries your driver’s license in his wallet;
there are never enough pictures.
We say, “That’s a Mom joke!”
(when the joke is truly terrible)
or “Remember when Mom ..?”

Dad still calls you Mom;
I call you Grandma.
“Say ‘Good-night, Grandma,’”
I tell my daughter,
“blow her a kiss to heaven.”
It’s a kiss strong enough
to shatter
plaster
ceilings,
to defy
gravity.
I catch the one you send back
and plant it on her cheek.

We call you what our children call you.
You wanted Dad to call you Betty more.
Your mother always called you Betty Ann.
You liked the names Carolyn and Elise.
You dug up the roots of the family tree
to give me mine.

She is…she was…
it is just “Grandpa’s house” now,
but the contact still reads “Mom and Dad’s”
in my phone.
I will never change it.

We remember your goulash–
the only thing you knew how to make–
even though we weren’t even Hungarian.
Still aren’t.

We just are.

http://www.writersdigest.com/whats-new/2018-november-pad-chapbook-challenge-day-30