On Motherhood

From  Karla Perez Scarff – original essay.

On Becoming A Mother

by Karla Perez Scarff

My parents’ deeply dysfunctional marriage culminated in a horrific divorce that spanned two countries and decades filled with wreckage.  I was a child who understood losses incomprehensible: a father, a country, the notion of safety.  As I grew up, I tenaciously fought for a life of stability; I set my eyes on the horizon and followed the most direct path to the life I dreamed of.  I went to college, fell in love, became a teacher, married my love, got a dog and a house.

Believing I had it all after having so little left me chasing my own tail, getting lost in the silences that crept in at our dinner table.  The house seemed too bright by day, exposing all its empty corners and echoes.  At night, I remained awake to hear the sounds of night in the desert.  I would stare down the stars, demanding answers to questions I did not want to pose—Why all the silences and echoes?

For years, I occupied my days with the attainment of experience, wisdom, things.  Round and round I went, until the routine lost its meaning.  My life was so quiet and orderly, I found myself inventing drama between me and my husband—could he be cheating?  Did he think I was fat?  But no matter how hard I tried, I could not catch my own tail.

One fateful night, I awoke to find myself at peace.  I went outside to consult the stars, and for the first time ever, I felt safe in the life I had built, far from those days of lacking so much and making do with so little.  Our first child was born almost exactly nine months later, a perfect little boy who is now two; our beautiful baby girl was born five months ago.

I have been a lonely child, a teenager wanting to belong, a young woman chasing dreams, an adult longing for something beyond dreams, and because of all this, I have grown into a loving mother.  It is indescribably liberating to focus on someone else, at last.  It is with relief that I welcome my toddler’s peanut-buttery kiss and relish the feel of my baby’s gums latching onto my cheek, demanding milk that will not come.  At night, I obsess over developmental milestones— Does “rawrr” count as a word even if only I understand it as “water”?  Is it really sitting up if Nataly is propped up by her own chubby thighs?

The spotlight is gone from myself.  I gather the brightest, best parts of who I have become to light a path for my children.  There came a time when I wondered if life was worth the trouble, I know now that the answer is a resounding “yes” if it means that I can help my children grow into themselves.  Will Nataly learn the recipe to my enchiladas?  Will Nicolas measure the women in his life against me?  I can’t wait to find out, and for this, I am thankful.

July Creative Challenge – Poppies

Our June theme was Poppies.  So many creative people in our collective. 🙂  We had many fantastic submissions in the following genres: photography, traditional and digital painting, illustrated prose and comics!  Thanks to everyone who decided to accept the challenge this month.  Cheers!  Be sure to check everything out and leave comments.  Good luck in August!

From  Catherine, photography:

Artist’s comments: “”Now my beauties, something with poison in it I think…but attractive to the eye and soothing to the smell. Bwahahahaaa! Poppies, poppies, poppies will put them to sleep…sleep…now they’ll sleep.”  ~ Wicked Witch of the West

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From  Jorge, digital art, “Poppy Seeds”:


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From  Kenna, comic, “Poppies”:

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From  Lee, oil pastel, “Dorothy Among The Poppies”.

Artist’s comments: “As a child I was disturbed by the image of Dorothy overpowered by a poppy field.  I knew that opium was derived from poppies, so it seemed more than vaguely menacing  that a young girl would languish, possibly forever, in a symbolic opium den.  My work at a residential treatment center with troubled youth brought to mind this image more than once, as many of the girls I worked with had drug problems that stemmed from childhood.  This image tries to convey those ideas.”

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From  Alisha, poetry, “Georgia’s Garden”:

Georgia’s Garden
by Alisha Geary
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On the road to Richmond,
along highway 91 in May, the grass of
a field loses its toehold.
Poppies blaze through the
high shoots of green like fire.

Prince of Orange,
Pink Pizzicato,
Red Oriental

the wildfire of
Georgia’s soul,

overtaking the old A frame house,
swarming up the pine slats of the run-down shed,
and dotting the field like exclamations,
footprints where I trace
the wandering, burning footfalls
of my great grandmother through
the fields of greening barley.

I see her in my mind,
young, shoulders proudly
thrown back, callused dirt stained
hands, floppy straw hat shading
a freckled face with too much sun.
I see her take the sharp knife,
slitting the pods deftly,
rattling the seeds in their shells.

She stalks out
to the fields,
takes the pods,
and hands outstretched
twirls wildly, letting them fly–
to eventually fall
on the dark loam of soil.

I think I see her sometimes,
on highway 91,
and she looks up suddenly,
smiles that smile
in my rear-view
mirror.

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From  Tyler, photography & manipulation, “Poppy Imposter”:

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From  Stoo, digital painting, “Poppy”:

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From  Lee and  Alisha, photographic series, “The Heroes of Oz”:

To see the entire series, click here.

Credits – Lee: Concept, Costumes, Photography.  Alisha – Costumes, Makeup, Wrangling.  And cookies.

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From  Cyndal, age 12, acrylic on canvas painting, “Poppy Mountain”:

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From  Ginny, original illustrated prose, “Nicholas and the Princess’s Poppy”:

Nicholas and the Princess’s Poppy

by Virginia M. Tilby

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“Mom? Are you sure you didn’t hear anything?”

“Yes sweetie. Nothing at all. It’s just my big man’s brilliant imagination.” Mom giggled, touched the edge of Nicholas’s chin, then bent low to plant a kiss atop his curly blonde head. Tickling his toes along the way, she turned to the door.

Nicholas laughed. Grinning, he watched her close it exactly half way before she disappeared.  He preferred it that way, so the hallway light would perfectly grant him the pleasure of seeing his surroundings. Just enough. One night he caught one of Santa’s elves watching him from the storybook-shelf by the door, but the darkness of the room prevented him from being absolutely sure. Ever since that night, he insisted that his door stay half open at night. Never know what he might miss next.

His eyes fell across the room upon a jar at his windowsill, where they watched ten minutes ago.  Ten minutes before he sat up fast and yelled for Mom and the music stopped.

Nicholas had hoped Mom heard it too. But he sighed and said, “Moms can’t hear magic can they?” He glanced at Ruff. Ruff stared at Nicholas with large plastic eyes that were certain. The old dog knew Nicholas was right. Of course Moms can’t hear magic. Nicholas looked again at the jar, blinking with a start every time the grasshopper jumped. It’s head banged loud against the jar’s ceiling with a tin “thump” over and over. The grasshopper must have a horrid headache. Poor thing had been stuck in there two whole days and a night, but only needed to stay one more night, so Nicholas could bring him for show and tell. He felt guilty for keeping the grasshopper trapped so long. So right after school that day, he decided to find it a present. Mom adored flowers. He knew that a pretty red flower would be a perfect present for the grasshopper. “You like that pretty flower too, don’tcha  grasshopper. I’ve never seen you jump so much ’til I put that in your jar today!” Thump. Thunk. Thump.

From his bed, Nicholas watched the deep red flower a moment longer, softly lit by the moon. “Naw Ruff,” he assured the old stuffed dog which sat on his stomach. “Mom just can’t hear it, that’s all. I know I heard it! I did. And I know it’s magic. That’s gotta be what magic sounds like.” Ruff stared at the jar by the window too. “See? Now you keep watch while I get some sleep.” Nicholas pulled his covers up high, and closed his unsleepy eyes. They soon popped open wide and stared at the flower for a long long time. Just in case. Until he finally fell asleep.
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“Why did you take the Prinzess’s Poppy?!” Nicholas’s eyes burst open and landed on three ladybugs standing on his pillow; their hands on their bug hips.

“Why?” demanded one.

“Yezzz tell uz!”

“We muzzzt know!” buzzed the second and third.

“WHAT?” Nicholas jumped from laying position to his knees and hunched over to see his tiny
accusers. “What are you talking about?!”

“He’zz lying. Pretending to be innozzzzent, zir! Thief!” exclaimed the smallest bug, pointing an ernest finger up at Nicholas. Nicholas resisted the urge to squish it.

“I didn’t steal anything!” Nicholas cried. “I AM innocent! Who– what– who are you?” The three ladybugs hopped into the air and fluttered their wings until they hovered eye level before Nicholas. Each bore down an angry bug-eye.

“Look zir! I will prove thiz boy’zzzz guilt!” The roundest ladybug aimed a grumbley face at Nicholas and suddenly darted quick as a ZIP to his hand. Nicholas felt a tiny prick as the bug slapped his finger tips with it’s prickly insect hands.

“Ow!” Nicholas jerked his hand back quickly, and then he froze like a statue at the sight.

“Zeee Zir?! Guilty! He ztole it!!” Nicholas stared at his fingers which blared a brilliant red glow in the half-darkened room. “Prepare yourzzzelf boy,” the tallest one spoke a low buggish grumble. “Your life izz about to change for the very worzzzzt!”

“Let uz return! The King muzt hear at onczzzz!!” The ladybugs sparked vivid blues and yellows, then DASH! They buzzed through the room to the open window, landing lightly on the jar.

“But–” cried the befuzzled Nicholas. “Wait!”

Nicholas waited his whole life, a very long one, for a moment like this. He knew it would happen late, in the dark of night, when things were not always as one saw them to be. When the world was sleeping and magic was awake. After ten lengthy years, the moment that his own world would leap off the edge of normal into a new had finally arrived. But to where, he did not yet know.

“Wait!” Nicholas jumped off his bed with all the strength in his legs and chased the ladybugs to the jar.

“Liftzzzit!” all three buzzed in unison, lifting the jar out the window. The grasshopper was jumping like firecrackers.

Thump! Thump! THUNK! Tink! Tink! TUNK! 

“That’s my show and tell!” Nicholas exclaimed. He wrapped his hand around the cold jar just before it flew out of reach and hoisted it back inside. The hard floor welcomed his backside with a thud. The jar still in his hand.

Music. He heard it again! Softly. It came from the jar just as before. Beautiful, like distant chimes in a soft summer rain.

The ladybugs grew silent. They slowly descended upon the window sill, where they sat staring down reverently at the boy. The musical flower grew louder in his hand. The grasshopper’s popcorn bursting had ceased, and he stood still inside facing Nicholas through the glass wall, inches from his nose. Nicholas rose to his feet. A warm breeze brushed against the boy’s face, his eyes fixed on the jar. For an instant, Nicholas thought he saw the flower smile at him.

“The Poppy zir,” spoke the smallest bug. “The Prinzess’s Poppy. It’zzzzinging.”

“Yez,” replied the tallest of the three. “The boy. . . . He iz the one.”

“Boy,” spoke the roundest ladybug apologetically. “We are zorry. We did not know.”

Though Nicholas heard them, he did not speak. The only subject in his mind of importance was the music. The red singing poppy. Was it the sound of magic? Why was it coming from this flower? What does it mean? Nearly hypnotized by the sweet chime pulsing gently in his ears, Nicholas slowly twisted the lid, and as the lid departed from the jar’s lip, sweet music flooded the room with rich sounds of a soft twilight symphony. Still in a trance, Nicholas’s hand reached toward the flower. The poppy’s invisible arms reached out and held his cautious hand steady, pulling him closer and closer. His glowing red finger-tips grew warm and tingly. He barely noticed the ladybugs emitting subtle blue and yellow sparks as they humbly watched Nicholas claim his magical fate.

“Wake up mister,” Mom chimed sweetly as she shook Nicholas’s shoulder. “Show and tell today remember?”

Nicholas sat up quick, the sun warming his face from the window. Birds were singing. The poppy casually lie in the jar right where he left it last night before bed. Just a dream! But it felt so real.

“Okay Mom,” he shortly replied, still quite confused. Mom shrugged and left his room.

Nicholas quickly ran to shut his door behind her, then spun around quick, looking sternly at the poppy. “Ruff,” he said, “do you remember what happened last night?” Plastic puppy eyes responded with certainty. Ruff knew. Nicholas marched directly to the jar. The grasshopper stood still and silent, facing him firmly in a soldier stance.

Nicholas stood tall and stared back at the bold little insect, then relaxed as his eyes shifted ever curiously to study the flower.

He knew it. The bright sunlit poppy smiled. Nicholas smiled back.

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(All creations are copyrighted by their creators.  Do not copy, post, or use without express permission.)

May Theme – Music

Here are the submissions for the May Creative Challenge: Music!  We had five participants this month.  Hopefully, just thinking about the trigger word inspired some new creative ideas in all of you, even if you didn’t create something specific to share.  Time to get started on June!  Thanks to those who decided to take up the challenge.  Great Job!

From  Tyler, photo collage:

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From  Alisha, creative writing piece:

Rach of Hope

 Listening to Rachmaninoff is like walking down a hall of mirrored doors. Each note is an opening to an emotion; one’s life caught in neatly staffed lines on a white page of manuscript. When the door is opened a tidal wave of the actual feeling, the love, the loss, the joy, the hope, the despair hits the listener before there is even a chance to breathe. The notes create a deep jungle of our own experience that must be traversed with a machete, a sense of humor, and plenty of snake bite remedy.

On the surface Rachmaninoff’s “Rhapsody on a Theme from Paganini” may seem to be the ardent explosion of love, longing, and lust that accompanies romantic scenes in movie after movie. A frenetic opus to the disquietude of romance it may well be, but to me, when heard in the context of the complete movement, the rhapsody is less about romantic love than the love of survival. The music is the clinging to life, heart pulsing in chest and throat and wrist. Each breath, each beat, each pulse building the bittersweet fragility of life. It is the morning dawn soft and smudged across the dark memory of night:

A glimpse of genius in a life that seems dull and spent,

The cry of a baby,

The blossoming of a rose.

The prayer of longing from one soul to another to be heard and loved,

To be known for who one truly is and not what one seems to be.

The quieting of the inner voices.

The knowing of self.

The shaft of light through the darkening cloud,

The sea of calm surrounded by the maelstrom of hurricane.

The breathing point between one despairing disaster and the next reversal of life.

A flickering candle in a livid tinged nightmare,

The ease of somnolence after a sleepless night,

The transparent, unbelievable moment of casting aside pain,

Rejuvenation after chronic illness.

These moments will never be trite, never melodramatic. As with all of Rachmaninoff’s music, though it holds a promise of respite, it also holds the reality of hardship. This most beloved variation of Paganini’s theme is so beautiful because it occurred to Rachmaninoff to turn the notes upside down on the staff, to invert normalcy and discover the unexpected beauty in a reversal. Each bright note is paired with darker notes. The dark underpinnings of life, the heartbreak, the hurt, the finality of death may be real, but the “Rhapsody” encapsulates

the eternal pulse of life,

of breath,

of hope.    

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From  Kenna, sketch art:

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From  Ginny, original song:

(Note:  Dear Creative Fiends!  Friends too.

I decided to use this month’s theme, MUSIC, as an excuse to write my first song.  🙂  Yay!  Funny thing though.  I worked out a pretty happy tune, with a chosen uplifting topic that floated in words around my head all month, as I prepared to sit down and write.  Very excited!  And then… I had one of “those weeks.”  Feeling low, in a pretty rare (for me) bad mood, I decided to express my feelings through song one night.  So this happened instead.  But ya know what? . . . No regrets.  🙂  Can’t wait to see what you all came up with!  Hope your summer goes well!!
Love, Ginny
P.S.  Now, if anyone knows how to write accompaniment… we might need to get together!)
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Locked Inside Me
By Virginia Marie Tilby
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I wish I was an open door
Could look inside and see
The color of my heart today
And hear the melody
Walk in, sit down, turn pages
Of stories kept inside.
Swim the seas of grayish tears
My eyes couldn’t cry.
I wish I was an open door.
CHORUS:

Instead I’m locked up
Inside me
Outside’s lookin good
Door shut
Chained in 
Dead bolted like it should
Boards up
Nailed down
Thick glue
A pretty sign
That says: 
Ooh
She’s doin fine.
I wish I was a golden key
I’d give myself to you
I wish I wore the secret code
So you could see this too
Stroll through the gallery
Of my life’s history
Pictures display
What makes me me
Why can’t I be an open door
CHORUS
 
BRIDGE:

Had enough
Time to fly
Time to sing
Before I die
Courage sprouts
Grows and grows
Walls break down
And now you know
NEW ENDING CHORUS:

Cuz I’m open
Hello, world! 
The outside’s lookin gray
Door’s open
Chains broken
Locks melted away
Eyes wet
Tears falling
Free
A pretty sign
That says: 
Ooh
She’s doin fine.
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From  Lee, photography and poetry:
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Spring unfolds itself
petal upon petal.

Tulips poke through the snow,
shy displays of color
promising warmer days ahead.

Birds shake frost
from their beaks
to twitter thin threads
of sound.

The sun rolls back
a bank of clouds:
blue sky above.
At last.

Until, all at once,
the trees are draped
in bold hues,
and irises thrust upward,
and dandelions
spread like wildfire,
and the last of winter
is a grey memory,
distant
beyond the song of spring.

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Wonderful work, everyone!  Thanks for joining in.  Good luck on June!