Archive for July 2008

A new book, a new blog…

Mama, PhD is just starting to make its way out in the world, and yet my attention is split between that and my new book project, Learning to Eat, which I’m co-editing with Mama, PhD contributor Lisa Harper.

As the book proposal makes the rounds, we’re blogging about feeding our kids. Right now, our summer travels have us writing about learning to eat in Hawaii, in Paris, and on airplanes, but eventually, we’ll get back to where it all started: the kitchen, the playground, the dinner table.

Come join the conversation!


It was good to get home yesterday, after a long and emotional day (two airplane rides, Evan Kamida’s beautiful memorial service, and one big earthquake), to find that all my guys had remembered Tony’s and my anniversary.

Perhaps it doesn’t make sense to get anniversary cards from one’s children, but they just like to celebrate. Perhaps, even more, it doesn’t make sense to get a card in the shape of a famously sunken ship, but the boys just like boats right now (if you’re having trouble telling the two boats apart, just remember that the Queen Mary has 3 smoke stacks, the Titanic has four. I did not know this at the beginning of the summer).

A Titanic love, is how I’m thinking of it.

Mama, PhD on The Debutante Ball

Months ago, the lovely and talented Gail Konop Baker, a former Literary Mama columnist, invited Elrena and me to guest blog at The Debutante Ball, a group blog for writers publishing their first book. It was a fun post to write — and I hope a fun post to read! Here’s an excerpt from “3,000 Miles, Two Writers, One Book:”

Meet over email. Of course; you live, after all, 3,000 miles apart, but it helps our relationship get into writing right away. We are literally words on a page (screen) to each other for the first year of our collaboration (we don’t even talk on the phone!) It doesn’t hurt that we meet via Elrena’s submission to the section of Literary Mama that Caroline is editing at the time.

Meet when one of you is pregnant. This helps get the conversation personal, pronto, as Caroline cautions Elrena that she might not get back to her very promptly with edits.

Don’t always stick to the point. We know we are both writers, and mothers, and if we’d stayed on topic it might have stayed at that. Instead, we digress into breastfeeding and parenting and graduate school and ivory tower life — and friendship. And then, ultimately, a book.

Click on over to The Debutante Ball to read the rest!

Literary Mama Columns

We’ve published three terrific new columns this week. I’m particularly grateful for the sensitive, sadly timely Me and My House:

As I nurse my son, I think about women as priests, as deacons, and I think about women who lay no claim to such titles, but whose lives show forth the same devotion. Women who gladly give of themselves in the service of others. For the past few weeks I haven’t needed to venture outside of my house to find a community of people to care for me; women have brought the Body of Christ to me.

Click on over to Literary Mama to read more.


Evan David Kamida
July 30, 2000 – July 24, 2008

I learned yesterday that Literary Mama columnist Vicki Forman‘s son Evan died suddenly, and I have not been able to think of anything else since.

Vicki and I have never met in person, though we’ve exchanged writing and music and were looking forward to doing a reading together next month. I never met Evan, or his big sister, or Vicki’s husband, but I got to know them all a little bit through Vicki’s gorgeous writing. Now, somehow, Evan is gone and the writing is all that’s left. It’s a wonderful tribute to her strong and spirited son, but oh, Vicki. . . I wish you still had your boy.

I’ve posted a note at Literary Mama, where readers can send a note to Vicki and contribute to a memorial fund in Evan’s name.

Automatic Pilot

Years ago, when I was studying for my PhD exams and thus doing a lot of procrastinatory reading, I indulged in one of those fabulously long New Yorker articles about something you don’t particularly think you’re interested in, but the writing draws you in despite the topic (I lost the better part of a week in college to a 3-part piece about interstate trucking).

This happened to be a piece about pilots, and how airline pilots learn to fly, how difficult it is to get the hours in the air required for a commercial pilot’s license unless you’re in the military first (or independently wealthy). And while I was absorbed in the piece, I mentioned it to a friend, whose dad was a commercial pilot at the time, and he said that while of course there’s a lot of complicated work involved in flying a plane, in some ways, once you’ve got that big bird up in the air, it’s kind of like driving a bus. And I found that so comforting, somehow. I’ve never been terribly afraid of flying, but it always used to make me feel a bit anxious, like I needed to concentrate very hard to keep the plane aloft. But now, after the take-off is accomplished and the plane’s leveled off, I tend to relax and think, “Automatic pilot. Like driving a bus.”

Having spent 11 hours on planes yesterday, and today feeling the effects of the 10-hour time difference I crossed, I’ve been thinking a lot about automatic pilot, and how much I wish I could engage it right now. Of course, pilots don’t use it when they are tired, but to avoid getting tired. They can set the course and relax a bit, knowing that they don’t have to concentrate for five or ten solid hours on each little adjustment required to keep a plane in the air. Now I’m not saying that my life here at home is quite like keeping a plane flying, and I’m not responsible for 300 people in this house, but the two people I do share responsibility for are reacting to their jet lag with an astonishing relentlessness, requiring continual food and drink and books and thoughtful responses to incessant “why” questions (Eli will not be brushed off with “Because” right now) and tape and markers and help with lego creations. They are very happy, and very energetic, and –unlike most days when they will go off and play by themselves for a little while and even (Eli anyway) nap for a couple hours in the middle of it–requiring a lot of participation and witnessing to their play, while I just want to curl up in a ball and nap. Why don’t they? That’s my why question for the day.

I guess the auto-pilot system for parenting is called a babysitter. With all the plans I made for this trip, that’s one that slipped through the cracks. Next time.


We’re on the verge of leaving town, but this post by MomBrain inspired me to stop packing and puttering and organizing for a minute and just take a bloggy little snapshot of my desk. Here’s what it holds:

A tube of hand cream and some lip stuff, because a girl can’t write if she’s distracted by chapped lips and dry hands

A lumpy black rock that fits perfectly in the palm of my hand, from a beach near Seattle

A green resin bracelet made by my late father-in-law (clanks the keyboard too much to write with it on)

A box of tissues

A box of ginger altoids

An empty box of ginger altoids filled with paperclips (and yes, I do reach for the wrong one all the time, and yet I don’t feel the need to mark them in any way. It’s my little daily surprise.)

A Venetian glass quill pen and a tiny bottle of blue ink, a birthday present from friends when it looked like I was going to make a go of this writing thing

2 pink ribbons with red, heart-shaped Cancer Is A Bitch dog tags on them, plus an early copy of the book, my friend Gail Konop Baker’s amazing memoir

A parking ticket

A list of things I can’t forget to do before we leave town: grab the boys’ loveys from their beds; take the garage door opener out of the car and leave it for the woman who is house sitting; turn off the computers and printers; pack airplane snacks…

Encouraging notes from my guys: a picture of the sun from Tony, 3 colorful splotches from Eli, and “I hope you feel better!” from Ben

Review copies of The Dinner Diaries by Betsy Block and Opting In: Having a Child Without Losing Yourself by Amy Richards, books on subjects near and dear to my heart

A red clay heart that Ben made for me in preschool

A copy of my book proposal; a copy of a friend’s book proposal; a copy of an essay I’m trying to write

An empty glass of water. Come to think of it, I’m thirsty!