Why is “Knocked Up” So Much Fun to Say?

 

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Before I was Melissa with three big, wacky kids, I was Melissa with two big kids and one in the oven, working through my life here in Japan. I was pedaling my bike until I couldn’t anymore and getting the strangest looks. I was a mom of three, but first two, and one, and before my eldest was born, I was just me, me trying to figure things out in my new home of Tokyo. Me, daily reconciling the differences between my two homes, Florida, America, the family, friends, and sunsets I left behind, and the home I was just getting to know, alongside my husband.

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Obgyn, heck, dentist appointments can be uncomfortable enough in the culture you know, but here, with a different language and forms to fill-out, and a variety of cultural differences and norms? When you’re becoming a mother, you want to feel somewhat capable, like a real adult who can communicate and later advocate for your child and family. You don’t want to feel childish, unable to convey your needs or clearly word your questions. I left some of those appointments in tears. (Picture break-downs and here-and-there success at bookstores, public offices, shops, and train stations).

Writing, through all of these times, has been empowering, and therefore, healing.

So, too, has mothering.

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I’ve come out of all of these experiences a stronger and more confident me. Motherhood is challenging in any scenario, wherever you live, with a great number of supports or especially solo. With writing, I’m finding my voice and connecting with others. As women, as mamas, it’s powerful to know we’re seen, we’re heard, and we’re supported. It’s important to read of bravery in its many forms, of pioneering and making it work.

I can now say that I’m part of a great and splendid project with the expression, “Knocked Up” in the title! Hooray! The book showcases 26 women in 25 countries, all navigating the unique experiences of giving birth abroad and really, daring to make a life with kids.

I’m grateful for having an avenue, a gorgeous book in which my essay, my little baby, found a home. I can’t wait to read the other stories! From my essay and used by the wonderful editor, Lisa Ferland, in our Kickstarter site:

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I ask you to spread the word and share this project. Support, tweet, give, do anything you feel led to do.

Join in, please. I know if I would have had a book like this going into it, I’d have been greatly encouraged. We are never alone, but it can feel that way sometimes. Books, words, stories that connect, all have power.

Come on, don’t you want to say/share/tweet you’ve been, “Knocked Up Again?”

To GIVE click here!

To SHARE click here!

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**Gorgeous black and white photos above by the amazing Mel Willms.

Merci, thanks, and arigato!

 

The Treat of Being Nominated

I could be nominated for a lot of titles–loudest laugher, messiest cook, current carrier of a very round (pregnant belly), person most likely to sing “Wild Horses” or “How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria” at karaoke,…

Presently, I have been bestowed with a Liebster Blogging Award Nomination by the lovely Kristin Wagner. She writes so well about everything! Here is one recent post about her bout with social media (something I cannot identify with, in the least, cough cough).

Her kind nomination, paired with my latest writing rejection, is a gift. A gift, I tell you!

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This awarding of “Liebster”comes from the German, “sweetheart”, “beloved”, or “darling”. It is a way to promote our favorite bloggers who have fewer than 1,000 readers or followers. I’m certainly in that category! Readers and bloggers can meet many more new dear ones, by following the links to nominees.

We also get to answer a string of questions and then forward them to our own beloved bloggers.

Why do you blog?

I blog because I just have so much time on my hands and my husband would much rather that I creatively express myself than do dishes, maintain laundry, or create healthy, delicious meals for our family. Was that funny? Okay, the real reason is that I write to connect. I write to bridge the distance between my own need to figure out the world, express my thoughts, and connect with the writing and reading world, and all friends.

Who is your favorite author, or alternately, what is your favorite book?

How do we answer this? I love Psalms, as in the book of them, largely written by King David. I love the honesty and the call to our souls to look up and take joy.

I love Echo, by Pam Muñoz Ryan. Just read and you’ll see a thousand reasons why.

What is your favorite childhood memory?

In and out of backyard swimming pools every second of summer with my sister. Inevitably, we’d each dive onto a raft and race to the end of the pool and back. I remember the gator and orca whale rafts the most.

Who has been the most influential person in your life and why?

We’ll go with “Who Was My Creative Writing Teacher in 11th and 12th Grade for 200, Alex.” Ms. Duhart showed such interest in my poetry and essays that I had an open, continual invitation to give her my journals, after which she’d hand back to me with the warmth of a hundred open fires, her favorite lines highlighted, and many probing questions and nudges like “Word choice??” written in the margins. Someone wanted to see the inner things, the deep words, and she would not shy away from loving this, all of me. That’s when I felt I was a writer. 

What would an ideal vacation look like?

Tropical paradise with happy kids, bronze husband, music, sun, a wealth of smiles, and tiki cups filled to the brim. Our whole entire family with afternoon corn grilling, and the biggest beach house.

What is one thing you do exceptionally well, but you can’t often talk about it because it would seem like bragging?

I read books to my kids well, with and without accents. 🙂 Sometimes I really get on a roll with a nice Brogue or a French “Madeleine” accent. Southern is also no problem.

What is your favorite food?

All I want is the jumbo cheese ravioli of my childhood, from The Ravioli Factory near our home, soaked in garlic and butter. And Mexican food. And baguette with cheese and nibbles.

Have you ever practiced an acceptance speech in the bathroom mirror, and if so what award was it that you “accepted”?

Good gosh, no. If I did, it would be for getting ready on time, knowing I match and definitely have my keys.

What makes you laugh?

Comedy like any moment in “Parks and Recreation”. I love laughing with our daughter over what her little brother (now, almost 3) says, i.e. “my brows” for “eyebrows”, his inability to make a blend of “s” into another consonant. Snack—> nack. Thanks to him, we all “nuggle” in bed together.

What is something you would like to see happen in your lifetime?

The end of terror. The beginning of a real reign of Love where parents and children do not need to worry.

If that seems too pie in the sky, because it is, after all, still earth, then I would love to see cancer rooted out.

If that is also too unlikely, then let’s go with all food being organic and free of pesticide. Or, perhaps, my own lifetime subscription to a free, amazing cheese of the month club. And better English books in our Japanese library. (There was the time they proudly ordered a copy of Go the F— to Sleep for the Eng Kids’ Section).

And now, to cast my own nominations!!

Lisa Sadikman of Flingo, for words that get you in the heart. About mothering, about being brave, and being ourselves. She is, also, so stylish, you know.

Dana Schwartz of Writing at the Table for how she writes of the complexities of grief and motherhood. For her fearless take, penned with words.

Rudri Patel of Being Rudri for her rich take on culture, motherhood, and well, being Rudri. Love all of the essays she publishes on The Washington Post.

Merete of Nurturance, a comprehensive space where my friend absolutely nails the balance between authentic, heart-filled experiences as a mother and teacher, and the research-based voice she offers as a mentor and leader.

Leah Moskowitz, my own sister, and the masterful Live Love Lipstick  beauty blogger! She is all glamour and tons of humor. Honestly, she makes my own beauty regimen look like I’m a mud farmer. I need her in my life. You, too.

So, bloggerinas, here are my questions for you…

  1. Why do you blog?
  2. Who is your favorite author, or alternately, what is your favorite book?
  3. What is your favorite childhood memory?
  4. Who has been the most influential person in your life and why?
  5. What would an ideal vacation/get away look like?
  6. What is one thing you do exceptionally well, but you can’t often talk about it because it would seem like bragging? (I am very calm around bees, mentioned this once and the other person felt I was judging her for panicking around bees. I don’t tell people about this skill often because of this!)
  7. What is your favorite food?
  8. Have you ever practiced an acceptance speech in the bathroom mirror, and if so what award was it that you “accepted”?
  9. What makes you laugh?
  10. What is something you would like to see happen in your lifetime?

PS Published

PS I never put it on here, but Literary Mama published my words and prompt this month.

Find it here, dears.

I wrote about how, in tenth grade, I felt like the coolest girl in school, in print and design class with all boys.

And it was cool, not like when my parents allowed/coached me to/ aided in my girl-power-humiliation by supporting

my being the only girl on the Coral Springs basketball team. (Those boys were mean and schmucky, only passing the ball when their conscience won-out and logic fell out of their brains like fifth grade Gatorade sweat).

In that tenth grade print shop, I pressed and carved, slid paint across screens and created stuff. I would have kept with it subsequent years, if not for moving to every high school in the tri-county area. Yep.

Years and laugh lines later, in Tokyo, as a mom and writer, scribbling on the train, I see that my writing is carving out time, carving out what I want to see in my life.

I think of the title, Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour.

“Do you know what I was smiling at? You wrote down that you were a writer by profession. It sounded to me like the loveliest euphemism I had ever heard. When was writing ever your profession? It’s never been anything but your religion.”

I am so full of memories. I like that I can track all of them down on paper and skip tattoos. I get to call myself some kind of poet or writer, just cause I guess I am by this point. And because when people you adore see craft in you, well, that’s kinda it. You are. And I think my Grandfather was my biggest fan. Nothing left to do but keep doing it. Keep remembering details and points and jot it all down.

So thank you, Literary Mama, for publishing these recent words. May they inspire or spark something in another writer, in another mother bubbling majestically through her day.

With love and a parade of tears to the man who encouraged my pen,

M

Is a Blog Hop Like a Sock Hop?

What the heck is a blog hop? How did I end up here, in this bloggy stream of verrrry accomplished novelists & bloggers? It could be a bit of an awkward tween dance, save the fact that I am in my own home on a laptop. So…this is a blog hop…

Suzanne Kamata, writer & novelist extraordinaire, passed the mic to me on this, my 1st ever blog hop! Do, please, check out her writing & her blogI am already knee-deep in her new YA novel, Screaming Divas, & it only arrived yesterday. Here are my words. Ehemm.

1) What am I writing or working on?
Blogging/journaling— In between teaching, nursing, & shuttling my kids through Tokyo’s narrow side-streets on errands, I am working on daily/weekly writing that is fairly memoir-like in spirit. I recount moments of the day and let them ping around in my mind as they bang into and touch upon former experiences and memories. This is a fun part of writing–nothing is off-limits, or has to be! (Of course, I try to practice wisdom on what I publish and what is, at this stage, just for me).
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Interviewing–I’m just starting to interview authors! What rewards in hearing more about a favorite author, their thoughts and personal writing life! I’m eager to take part in more! Stay tuned for my interview with Suzanne Kamata, appearing in an upcoming Literary Mama. “Whooo-ah.” (spoken in your best Al Pacino voice).
Food writing/editing–
One dream is to be like Ruth Reichl & write spectacular food reviews for The Times or for the late, great Gourmet. But then, I realize nobody would really hire me to do such grand work when for starters, there is the whole litany of what I don’t eat. You can’t be a food reviewer who has to quiz the kitchen about whether it is 100% beef or if some pork may have gotten in. You can’t cover summer at the Cod when clams are a no-no. I could, however, cover most Happy Hours or All Nippon Airways’ kosher meal. (Hint: you get your meal before ANYONE, but then they won’t give you Haagen Dazs).
I’ve been fortunate to write & edit food & travel reviews to the extent I do!! Plus, I work at passing on this love to my students. The young people I teach are fairly incredible. I’m currently teaching lots of sensory detail. My students are incorporating sounds, memory, and every kind of lingering, gooey detail you could possibly think of.
2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I guess I come at it like many teachers who fell in love with poetry at a young age. Other than that, I am a Jewish American expat married into a fabulous Japanese, faith-filled family, raising our supremely awesome kids in Tokyo. I teach. I mom. I miss my family in the US. I write. I love my husband. I garden. I snap pics of my kiddo with spaghetti on his head. I eat cases of ice cream. I write a little more. I pray with my kids. We have dance parties. I often over-think, but I’m always honest. Dunno how it differs, but it’s me.
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3) Why do I write what I do?
I write to record life–all the growth and stretching and letting go. I write because I have to, like many say. I am happier if I get some of the gravely thoughts out of the way & make sense of sadness, or communicate a specific joy. It is all like a prayer & an unravelling & a weaving together. It happens & you are stronger.
I tend to forget details, to forget my kids’ first words, just how small their heads looked when they first were born. I write because one day I might not remember much at all! I write because I want records, I desire that my great-grandchildren know their inheritance, the value of memoir and faith. I wish I had records of who my great-grandparents were/are! I am creating what I don’t have, in a way. I remember feeling such strength when laboring at my husband’s reminder that every woman in my family, every woman leading up to me, had done this (no meds, too). They had the strength and it turns out, so did I.
Writing, is for me, a chance to record LIFE, in the nitty-gritty, sometimes frustrating, often dazzling moments that otherwise, might slip by.
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4) How does my writing process work?
If I can grab time–even & especially night-time, when all is quiet & I am the last one standing, that works. Sometimes it’s standing elbows squashed on the train. I scrawl in my journal, think on funny moments while walking the kids to school, whatever. I scrawl then type later.
Sometimes I write & post directly from my phone. It’s one-stop blogging.
If I am fortunate to have some real carved-out time, I’ll edit & think on particular words. Usually, I am hasty and some weeks later, I’ll notice major goofs or my husband will say, “Um, you may want to edit this”.
Look next week for these three writers:
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Wendy Flemons–sincere essays and honest, funny moments on her blog, Momfullness. Follow this wife, mother, & storyteller. I’m so glad I met her through an online writing course, Motherhood & Words. She draws extensively from her experience as a mother and pours this into her preferred forms, essay and memoir. She has traveled expansively, most recently spending time with her family doing humanitarian work and visiting, in Ethiopia, where two of her five children were born. Wendy has published essays locally with the Alexandra Writers Centre, as well as in the anthology, “Freshwater Pearls”, and globally in “Adoptive Families” magazine. Currently she is working on expanding her essays into a manuscript. Very exciting, you’ll see!
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Miwa from Cranes and Clovers–She is a very talented 1/3 of the sister trio, Cranes and Clovers, 
bilingual writing from Japan and New York. How awesome is that?
Miwa was born in Japan and raised in Connecticut by dedicated parents who managed to raise their four kids to be bilingual and bicultural. (Something Miwa and her C & C sisters are trying to do with as they, themselves are now mothers). Miwa is a freelance translator who loves to travel and take pictures. I think this blog is effortlessly chic and extraordinary in their ability to inspire bilingualism. You’ll see. They rock it in NY & Tokyo.
Yes, I am supposed to have one more.
I think I don’t have enough writing friends, or perhaps I don’t reach out enough.
Come back to see if I am able to pull some bloggers out of the air & onto my blog. Then we’ll have a real hopping hop.
Until then,
Melissa

My Writing Course

In the wee morning hours, my course is officially finished. I raced the deadline to the shore of middle of the night and turned in my pages. It feels like a laboring and delivery, but backwards.

I fall into bed abuzz, light and comparatively wide awake next to my snoring boy next to my snoring husband. My son’s foot is extended sideways so that to fit in bed, I must wear my arm cramped, bent, leaned up against his fleshy warm foot. I am writing of life, death, and birth— all the heat of chemical change. I am wide awake from telling with my heart and eyes, seeing with my pen.

It is good that it is spring. There is much I want to do. But first, to sleep.

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