Tag Archives: memory

Mary Jo Doig Reviews: Wisdom Has a Voice: Every Daughter’s Memories of Mother

Wisdom Has a Voice: Every Daughter’s Memories of Mother
edited by Kate Farrell

Unlimited Publishing LLC, 2011. ISBN 978-1-588-32217-3.
Reviewed by Mary Jo Doig
Posted on 01/28/2012 at http://www.storycirclebookreviews.org Story Circle Book Reviews. Reprinted with permission by the author.

Nonfiction: Memoir; Nonfiction: Life Lessons

In this lovely collection of stories, twenty-five daughters have penned unique and very diverse stories about their mothers. Divided into two sections, Wisdom Has a Voice: Every Daughter’s Memories of Mother is about both Mother Love and Mother Loss, stories that will stay in your heart long after you have tenderly closed the book’s back cover.

I will not soon forget Shelly Chase Muniz’ words in “Even Then” about her gentle, caring mother who—rejected as an ethnic outsider in her own childhood community—taught her daughters to have respect and compassion for all people, not excluding the homeless alcoholic who arrived each day at their family-operated store, hopeful for a gift of food. “Mom had a sandwich ready for him and a cup of coffee to comfort his jittery nerves. She never asked Ben for money, but often he would take her broom and sweep the sloped entry to the store as payment.”

Muniz continues, “All my life, I never heard my mother raise her voice. I never heard her yell at my father, nor he at her…. Their tenderness transferred to us, three girls who never had an occasion to learn how to fight.”

In “Quiet Morsels with My Mum,” Rebecca Milford scribes how her mother, after having tried every possible way she could think of to help her daughter cease her anorexic behavior, quietly and gracefully began an approach that powerfully conveyed her love and acceptance of her daughter and ultimately became the pathway to Milford’s healing.

Yet mother hunger and loss are also pervasive in our society. Many who have suffered this deep loss are easily visible; they are the “bad girls,” as Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg describes them: the girls who have a “propensity for drugs, drinking, sexual activity, and little tolerance for school….”

These stories also evoke powerful emotions. Laura McHale Holland, youngest of three daughters, exquisitely tells her story of profound loss, when her mother decided to end her life when Holland was just two years old. Holland grew to struggle with her own darkness for many years and skillfully takes us with her through her childhood and adolescent shadows as she determines not to remain in the void that claimed her mother.

The depth of the role model she became for her own daughter was not fully clear to her until the day her middle-schooler, assigned “to sum up what she’d learned from her mother,” wrote “…that life is a gift and you should enjoy each and every day.”

“I was stunned,” Holland said. “I had never said this to her. I was focused on messages like always do your best and you can do anything you put your mind to. But my daughter dug deeper and found wisdom I demonstrated in my daily actions but was not consciously aware of, wisdom that was hard earned. And what better message could I, a daughter of suicide, give my own daughter and the generations of daughters and sons who may follow?”

Holland then concludes, “The sorrow fused with my mother’s choice to end her life when mine had barely begun still resides deep within me, a silent companion. But her legacy is nevertheless rich, not in the few facts my mother-memories contain, but in the way her actions forced me to live with darkness and find joy in life anyway.”

In all, the voices of these diverse and compelling writers lead the reader through sunlight, shadows, shifting sands, and sometimes even a tidal wave in her mother relationship, yet each arrives into an ultimately peace-filled place where pain can still sometimes be a visitor, but where sunshine is a primary resident. This remarkable little book is filled with an uncommon grace and wisdom.

Listen to the authors read their stories.

The editor of this collection, Kate Farrell, earned her masters at UC Berkeley. She has been a language arts classroom teacher, author, librarian, university lecturer, and storyteller in Northern California since 1966. She founded the Word Weaving Storytelling Project to encourage educators to learn and enjoy the art. Now Kate sees a new tradition of storytelling among women, that between daughter and mother. What was mother really trying to tell us? Sometimes she spoke in actions and not words. With this anthology Kate hopes to find out and share the wisdom of our mothers and the meaning daughters bring to this unique and deeply bonded relationship—through memoir. Visit her website.

Authors/Publicists: For promotion purposes, you may quote excerpts of up to 200 words from our reviews, with a link to the page on which the review is posted. ©Copyright to the review is held by the writer (posted date above). If you wish to reprint the full review, you may do so ONLY with her written permission, and with a link to http://www.storycirclebookreviews.org. Contact our Book Review Editor (bookreviews@storycirclebookreviews.org) with your request and she will forward it to the appropriate person.

Please visit Story Circle Network.

Advertisements

Comments Off on Mary Jo Doig Reviews: Wisdom Has a Voice: Every Daughter’s Memories of Mother

Filed under Memoir

How to Keep a Journal

First, let’s establish some guidelines:

1) Natalie Goldberg says to get a fast writing pen because your thoughts are always much faster than your pen.

2) Everyone says a cheap notebook is a better choice than a beautiful blank book. Why? You’re going to feel compelled to write something good in that fancy journal—and if you can’t think of anything, you’re not going to write. I currently have 16 beautiful blank books of varying sizes in a drawer. And how many started, messed up, ink blotted, crossed out and never finished because they’re spoiled? And size does matter. That tiny pocket-sized notebook is probably too small for the big thoughts you’re going to have.

3) Julie Cameron says write three pages first thing every morning. Ruth, my meditation teacher says meditate first. I say, have a cup of coffee before you do anything and pick a time and place that is comfortable for you—after all, we’re grownups, aren’t we? Just write in your notebook every day!

I write in a wide ruled, 100 sheet, Composition Book—three pages, thirty minutes with my cup of coffee (well, that’s two cups) every day except Sunday.
I follow Natalie Goldberg’s rules presented in chapter one of Writing Down the Bones:
1. Keep your hand moving
2. Don’t cross out (I’m not very good at following directions—I do cross out)
3. Don’t worry about spelling, punctuation and grammar (I’m getting better at this)
4. Lose control (Local author, Janell Moon in her book, Stirring the Waters—Writing to find your Spirit, says Through the process of letting go of control we become more a part of things.)
5. Don’t think, don’t get logical
6. Go for the jugular

Natalie says, It’s important to adhere to them because the aim is to burn through to first thoughts, to the place where energy is unobstructed by social politeness or the internal censor, to the place where you are writing what your mind actually sees and feels, not what it thinks it should see or feel…. Give the paper the colorful coleslaw of your consciousness.

But does this mean you only free write and can’t use a prompt? Heck no! I’m all for prompts. Currently, I’m exploring my relationship with my sister in my journal. I want to explore its evolution, come to terms with it, write about it, and perhaps find it within my heart to forgive. My prompt was a comment made in a class about how memory can throw us right back into the mental and physical states of the event remembered.

My first thoughts:
Time marches (cliché!), slides, glides, walks, runs, ticks, slips, inches, passes on inexorably—a man-made concept…to guilt trip us when we haven’t done what we think we should…Time, that yoke, that feckless lover, that raptor flying ever forward into the mythical land of yet to come. Maybe my peace is here now and now and now and—walking my path with me. Maybe in this moment I can forgive those who have trespassed against me. Maybe my sister doesn’t matter, or maybe she is the lesson in letting go that I must learn anew in each moment. It’s the grasping, the saying: I am naught unless you say so, the: I have naught unless I have your blessing. This grasping is the pain that dogs my heels, a village cur, half-wolf, half-dog, lapping up scraps from my middens. He nips at my ankles, my outstretched fingers, and growls—how his tiny sharp teeth gleam in the dull morning light as he jealously guards his prize. And me? I cajole him, entice him with scraps of food; I open my heart and say never leave me.
I hear the pack howl in the distance.

Was I remembering an event? I don’t think so. Did I get to something meaningful for me? Yes. Have I made a step toward my goal of deeper understanding of my relationship with my sister? You bet. And I have images I can use later in a poem, a memoir, or even a novel. How lucky is that?

Class Prompt: from Room to Write by Bonnie Goldberg: Memory is Imagination

Begin with the phrase “I remember” and start writing. It doesn’t matter whether you stick with one memory or list several. You can retrieve memories from as far back as childhood (or past lives!) to as recently as yesterday. If you get stuck just keep repeating the phrase “I remember,” in writing, until something else forms in your consciousness. Don’t even be concerned with authenticity of memory. Just record whatever comes to you. Don’t stop until you have filled [your] pages.

Class assignment:

Look over your list of memories. Which ones stand out? Which ones give you a sense of energy or excitement? Those are the memories to consider for expansion. Pick the memory that resonates the most deeply and expand it into a story with a beginning, middle and end. Your story may be fiction or creative non-fiction, a narrative poem, or you may shape your memory into a scene for your novel.

Comments Off on How to Keep a Journal

Filed under The Writing Practice