Archive for the ‘families’ Category:

Mom’s Gift

Mom brings stories to the next generation.

My mom has always been all about stories. When I was little, she read and read to me: Winnie the Pooh, Ramona the Pest, the Book House books (which, heartbreakingly, were lost in a move.) She was, and is a teacher, and she made sure I became a reader.

But there was another gift she gave: she showed me that stories come from ordinary people–and that it is our birthright to create them. At night, she tucked me in by telling me stories of Cherrybrook, her childhood home in Westfield, Indiana, which, to me, was magical. Then she took a children’s writing class and began writing the stories down, along with the “Kathy-Mary” stories, about me and my best friend. And when I began to name my drawings and tell stories, she put my words on paper (“A Cookie Named Gaggy,” is still preserved somewhere.)

Now, we have come full-circle and, to my delight, Mom is taking my writing class.  She thinks she’s creating Cherrybrook stories for herself, because they sing in her, but really she’s giving me one of the best gifts ever.

For whom do you want to be a storytelling example? To whom will you give your stories? What storyteller could use your affirmation even more than that new iPhone?

I would love to have you AND that person in one of my winter classes., where I get to do what Mom did for me. (And if you pick the one in Seattle, you can meet her!)

Happy holidays!

Katherine

PS Make sure you hurry. The the first classes begin just after New Year and window for registration will close soon.

Wordless Times

DSCF1561

I lost my father in July. Then in August, my husband underwent a high-risk surgery. And then last week, I had surgery to determine whether I have cancer. (It looks like I do not.) Now everything that has always felt certain is entirely up for grabs. We have been so well-loved and supported by friends and family that I am not frantic or filled with dread. In fact, the time feels distilled. But I am wordless.

Usually, if I sit very still, the words for what I believe and experience will slide into place. There’s a “click” and I know that the sounds and meanings I’ve gathered say what I want to say. But now is a time of half-completed phrases, of writing one word and replacing it with three more, none of them right. It’s a time of short, stiff journal entries.

Instead of writing, I am reading: Madeleine L’Engle’s A WIND IN THE DOOR, which I hear from childhood in my Nana’s voice; the stream-of-consciousness poetry of Jorie Graham’s OVERLORD, which made no sense to me ten years ago and now makes me weep without explanation; Mary Doria Russell’s THE SPARROW, which my husband and I read aloud, and are still unpacking. Right now questions are more nourishing than answers.

I think that I am lying fallow—resting and waiting to plant new words: lush and vibrant ones that will emerge when it is time for harvest. Deep underground my hidden story waits. I’m going to trust it to come when it’s ready.

I’d love to see you on Wednesdays, at Bellevue College North Campus, starting September 23 for fall classes: Writing the Hidden Story, The Plot Thickens, and Cultivating Complex Characters. Sign up ASAP to insure a spot.

 

 

 

 

 

Question For My Father, Who Lives Alone

table

 

Dad had a birthday today. “I never thought I’d live to 82,” he said.

“Dad,” I told him, “You’re 85.”

“Oh! So I am!” he said.

We took him for a hamburger. In a couple of weeks there’s some live music we’ll take him to. It’s a stretched-out birthday.

Visits are quiet. After two strokes, Dad doesn’t hold forth like he used to in conversation. He used to have a very long silence-filling “ahhhhhhh.” He used it if he was searching for a word, so that no one could interrupt until he found it. Now if I ask him the right questions, he’ll answer. Then I need to think of another question, and another. Some do not merit answers. Often, it just feels like me prattling. Sometimes I read or sing to him. I’m not sure whether he likes it or not. But when I take him back to the nursing home, kiss the top of his head and tell him I’ll be back next week, he always seems glad I’ve come.

I read this article on Dementia Friends, a movement started in England, and I’m still crying. The tears caught me by surprise.

“When we first started going to the BB we would have to stand and wait until a seat came open. That didn’t last for long. Over time, Dotty’s dementia friends started saving her a seat. As we approached the bar area they would start waving and smiling. Some would yell Dotty, and a few yelled Mom. Dotty’s list of direct dementia friends had grown to more than ten. They were waiting for her.”

I don’t know if Dad would even like having friends. I know he used to like it. Here’s a poem I wrote probably fifteen years ago. It came back to me as I was thinking about this. Despite the ending, it is not really about death, but about life.

Question For My Father, Who Lives Alone

 

What if you and I were walking one day

and you said,

“Can you smell the sap?”

And I did?

 

What if you said,

“The wind is brisk. It has a bite.”

And I said,

“Let’s go inside?”

 

What if you said,

“Sit at this table.

Here are my friends,

Here and here and here.”

And I touched each hand?

 

What if you said,

“I will die now.”

And I said,

“Yes.”

And you closed your eyes?

–from Considering Flight (2006, Brassweight Press)

 

The Sweetness in Fearless Writing

Dad 2004

“Some days I feel the ground shifting beneath me, the revelations bursting like fireworks over my head,” I wrote a few days into inviting the bogeyman of Dad’s mental illness onto my blog.

“I’ve thought that too much introspection was keeping me from my work. But I’m noticing that I’m suddenly finishing things and embarking on new ones: I graded all my papers yesterday, wrote to an editor about some work, took an assignment from another one, nailed down dates for my spring classes, got my open mic poets lined up. It’s as if sending this locked-up part of me into the illusory world of cyberspace has opened me. It’s still terrifying as hell.”

The rest of the post was about a night out with my dad. It’s a favorite of mine because it’s not about mental illness, it’s about us–our yelling, singing, hillbilly, opera-going father-daughter selves. And now that he’s had two strokes and is so much quieter, I miss the sweetness of that.

Read “Opera Night”…

 

Living with Bogeymen

The day after I put my secret blog post together about the Children of Suicide, I got emotional backlash. I had thought I could write about other people’s trauma, throw in some psychobabble, and remain unaffected. But facing the Bogeyman isn’t like that–even if you think you are only doing a research paper on the literary imagery of bogeymen, their varying cultural forms and their psychological implications. We’ve all got a bogeyman. If you are a writer, the question is, “What happens if I let him out? Will it scare up my most important writing or send me into therapy?” (Answer: Both.)

What it did was push me to write more detail on my bogeyman–something I’d been afraid and ashamed to do. And once you’ve written something, you can go the next layer. Just don’t expect to feel no pain. Seven years after writing this, it still makes my stomach hurt. Only you as the writer can decide whether it is worth it to write the thing anyway:

http://gardenofmirth.blogspot.com/2006/01/living-in-your-head.html

 

Children of Suicide Club

Taken at Seattle “Out of the Darkness” Suicide Prevention Walk for AFSP

 

The secret blog entry in the link below was a tentative step toward the chasm. Writing publicly about it felt reckless, wrong and necessary:

 

http://gardenofmirth.blogspot.com/2006/01/children-of-suicide-club.html

OMG! Girl Saves Baby Cougars with Hot Celebrity Lookalike While Trying to Understand the Nature of Death and Find Spiritual Truth

“I am going to say this from right here, right now! The Synopsis of The Summer of No Regrets is SO misleading. It leads a reader to believe that it is a frilly novel with no depth, it leads a reader to believe that it is your average run of the mill contemporary YA novel, with a typical romance and teenage angst. The story that Katherine Grace Bond gives us is none of that.”–Sara, Just Another Story book blog
 

I’ve been itching to talk about this since THE SUMMER OF NO REGRETS came out: Does the outside of the book match the inside?

Many readers are surprised by the story. Some love the surprise; others feel they got more than they bargained for.

Sara’s review went on to show a real understanding of the book, and it seems fair for me to take a stab at addressing her frequently-brought-up opening statement about the synopsis.

I gave my publisher a tough job. THE SUMMER OF NO REGRETS is really hard to describe in a few words.

  • Is it about a girl whose boyfriend may be a secret celebrity? Yes.
  • Is it about a girl who decides to take risks? Yes.
  • Is it about a girl who has lost the two people who knew her best–one to death and the other to abandonment? Yes, again.
  • Is it about a girl looking for spiritual truth? Yes, that, too.

Which of these will probably be of the most immediate interest to readers?

I’m all about meaning and have experienced grief, but I have to admit that what got me writing this book was the celebrity thing–once I got over my fear of being shallow. But because I’m all about meaning, I can never leave a story on the surface. I have to dig. I have to ask questions like: What is fame? What is it to be known? What are we all longing for?

I couldn’t write a book that simply went:

Girl: OMG, are you…?

Guy: I look intriguingly like him, don’t I?

Girl: But this is such a small town!

Guy: It is small. And you are here. And I am exceedingly hot. But mysterious.

Girl: You must be him! Then again, no! You can’t be! But maybe you are!

Guy: Keep guessing, babe. It’s sexy when you do that.

Girl: But wait! I don’t even like the guy you look like.

Guy: This presents a problem. But I am so sexy, you’ll get over it.

Girl: *Sigh* You’re right. My, what big muscles you have!

No, for me, the book had to have more to say…

Guy: Since we’re up in this treehouse in the dark, I may as well tell you I am looking for spiritual truth.

Girl: It’s dark. We’re alone. It’s after midnight.  And you’re talking about religion?!

Wait, that’s not how it went.

Girl: Spiritual things? You are so groovy!

Well, she wouldn’t have said “groovy.”

But as soon as one of the characters says “spiritual” some readers begin to break out in hives, worried they are about to be preached at–worried, in fact, that the book is a cleverly-disguised religious tract. I can say that writing a tract was not my intention, but ultimately only the reader can decide how they feel about spirituality in a YA novel. For some, even the mention of such a thing is a dealbreaker.

And this was just one tough thing my publisher faced when taking a chance on this book. And in figuring out what to put on the back cover.

Guy: Do you have issues with your father? Because I have HUGE issues with mine. And my mum, who I won’t talk to anybody about. I noticed your dad was dancing around in the woods dressed as a cougar. Is this because he misses his parents?

Girl: You are very insightful as well as hot. My dad talks trash about my grandparents–or at least he did until they died. Now he doesn’t talk about them.

Guy: This is deep and tragic.

Girl: You are so sexy.

Guy: People tell me that. I think it’s because I look so much like that guy. The hot one? In the movies?

Girl: Oh, yeah! I’d almost forgotten about him.

Guy: No, you hadn’t.

Girl: Okay, I lied.

Guy: I heard you’re writing a book about all this.

Girl: Yes, but I can’t explain what  it’s about.

Guy: Duh! It’s about me!

Girl: Nice try. It’s really about my personal search for meaning and my recovery from a deep loss.

Guy: Is that what you’re writing on the back cover?

Girl: Something like that. It has to have the word “religion” in it.

Guy: It does?

Girl: Why? Is that a bad idea?

Guy: I don’t know anything about publishing, but you might want to ask your editor.

Girl: “The unbelievably deep story of a girl who wants to find a religion because she needs to understand death after her grandparents die and her father may as well have.”

Guy: Okay, seriously, I do care about your pain. Honestly, I do. But my own incredible cover-worthiness aside, that’s just a tiny bit depressing.

Girl: You think you should be on the cover of the book?

Guy: Well, not all by myself…

Girl: You think we should both be on the cover.

Guy: Hugging.

Girl: Yeah?

Guy: Gazing into each other’s eyes.

Girl: Pink sunset?

Guy: Definitely.

Girl: Hmm.

Guy: About to kiss.

Girl: Yes! I mean…really?

Guy: If it’s okay with you.

Girl: It sounds…

Guy: Fun?

Girl: Um… yeah. Quite, very, extremely fun. *blushes*

Guy: I promise we could talk about religion first.

Girl: On the beach?

Guy: Over fish and chips. I’ll pay. And there’s this lighthouse I want to show you…

Review of FLYAWAY by Helen Landalf

FlyawayFlyaway by Helen Landalf

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

One of the things I loved about this book, besides the winsomeness of its protagonist, Stevie, was that it didn’t present easy answers. Stevie has grown up in an intolerable situation, but she loves her mother despite her mother’s flaws, and is determined to be loyal to her.

Even when I wanted to shake Stevie and say, “You’ve got to get out of there, girl!” I believed it entirely when she continued to cling to her mom’s empty promises.

It was exciting to see Stevie gradually begin to honor her own dreams and let go of blaming herself for her mom’s choices.

I also loved Alan–tough, cynical, wounded and full of possibility. I’d have liked to see Stevie challenge him even more than she did, but I have a feeling that as she gains confidence in herself she will be more and more honest.

This is a book whose characters continue to live and breathe, even after the last page.

View all my reviews

Finding Old Poems I

It’s funny how a poem can capture a particular moment, so that when you read it years later that whole period of life comes back. Here’s one I wrote when my kids (now grown or nearly grown) were little. I’ve never shared it, since I didn’t consider it a “real” poem and probably intended to revise it. Here it is:

Azaleas


I should be
rewriting a children’s story.
It’s due today
and my son has set a buzzer on the stove
for when I have to leave for an afternoon meeting.
Today the yard is bursting rhododendrons
like buttered popcorn.
Bees lift and hover in the pollen cups.
Instead of writing for my deadline
I am thinking about theology
of how God could infuse the yellow azaleas
outside the picture window
and my sleeping dog here on the carpet
and where the telephone pole across the street
fits into all this.
The story
is about bullies and playground power
and I’m wondering how senators cling
to a Jesus I don’t know and quote Ghengis Khan
and call it holy.
I don’t understand much beyond the asphalt
of the schoolyard
and the bees and the azaleas
and my dog.

This morning I heard the Nobel laureate who
discovered the DNA helix. He was talking
about women who may abort their babies
for frivolous reasons like eye color
but said we must use common sense and that most
people weren’t that silly and that we have to allow
silliness in some people.
Maybe he’s right and I’m ridiculous to let the bees outside
when they are trapped behind the picture window
and to call a fetus holy.
I was thinking that I won’t win the Nobel, ever
and, that being the case, what is
my purpose in the world?
I don’t play violin
like Itzhak Perlman and I don’t write
like Annie Dillard and I’m not writing now,
only observing bees and forgetting about
the buzzer on the stove
and the telephone pole
and now my dog is waking.
He looks at me
and winks.

Embarking

coracle

I’m thinking about journeys tonight, as I get ready for a drive to Yellowstone. And I’m thinking about the journeys we take in our relationships. Sometimes, as a parent, my journey has been about saying good-bye and allowing for the journey of one of my children. I ran across this poem as I was planning a lesson on journeys. I wrote it in 2008, but tonight it seems especially applicable.


 

Embarking
You beg for distance,
not angry, but earnest
like a cypress longing for a different river.
When you were small,
we made coracles from words.
Now you ride rapids in a cockleshell,
which carries you, rootless, out to sea.
No book nor prayer charts a map
to the empty horizon.
My troubadour,
My brown-eyed bird.
Where can I go

With my honey faith?

©2008-2011 Katherine Grace Bond