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Posts from the ‘Mary’ Category

Mary: Portals of Discovery

Nobody’s perfect, and I’m no exception.

Still, I hope, in my vain, rose-colored-glasses kind of way, to step up and be as good a person as I can be. Sometimes it’s easy.

Sometimes it’s a little tricky.

I think of all the things I could be doing as a mother, for example. And all the endless possible reactions I might have to things my children do, things that I might possibly be letting go, blurring out, things that happen right in front of me. Jack, for example, making his sister a flower out of a pipe cleaner, a button, and some felt letters. Adding a small piece of paper for the card, and drawing a kitty on it. And, what do I say?

“It’s too early in the morning for this!” “Can’t you do this later?” “Make sure you clean up that mess.” And so on.

Meanwhile, I’m completely neglecting the obvious. Which is, my boy is the sweetest on earth for making this small gift for his sister — who was sad because at a festival we went to yesterday, he got a sword and she didn’t get anything. He got right up and made her this thing. This gift from the center of his heart. And all his Mum could say is, “Not now! Clean it up! It’s too early!” (Insert frownie face here).

Now, I know that I might be somewhat harsh on myself, but there are times at the end of the day, when I look back and see what might have been.

Mommy, will you read to me?

Mommy, look! Look at what I made!

Mommy, will help me with this puzzle?

Mommy, will you sing with me?”

Mommy, I’m going to make you some basil eggplant soup!

Mommy, look at me!

Mommy, look at me!

Mommy, look!


“Mm hm.”

“That’s nice.”


“Not now, I’m really busy.”

“Can’t it wait until later?”

In the meantime, these moments, these precious little segments that make up life, are passing me by quicker than I can spin around. Maybe I’m distracted. Maybe I’m preoccupied. Maybe I’m just plain misguided.

Because, really, how important are the dishes? Who cares if the bathroom doesn’t get cleaned until later this afternoon? And, do I really need to get the query letter out this morning? (Oh, yes. Yes, that, too. And, actually — I do).

In the end, I suppose we all need to forgive ourselves for the imperfection. Without embracing our mistakes and foibles, stumbles and slips, we would never learn about life at all, and perhaps go through our days thinking all is peachy keen and rosy. Our outlook on ourselves would be, at best, imprudent. At worst, perilous.

I need my mistakes, need to cozy up to them on the couch and talk, need to put my head on their shoulder, my arms around their neck, and give them a squeeze. After all, my mistakes are my allies in disguise. They guide me, and help me get one step closer to that state of enlightenment, which is achieved by my acknowledgment, acceptance, and my letting go of that which has been put upon me by something external — something immaterial.

When I let go, I can jump right into the mud puddle that is true life and nature, and splosh around and get really dirty with the spirit and exhilaration of a child. I can be re-introduced to myself, and then shyly take my own hand, leading myself to something better — to a better person, a better me — the me that is already there, the me that can come out at any time. The very pinnacle of my potential. (Try saying that five times fast).

Yes, I’ll make mistakes again. Quite possibly the same ones I’ve made before, actually. But if I’m careful, if I keep my eyes open, someday I can turn it around and reach a new place in my life, where I catch a glimpse of love and righteousness before it gets squashed down by some dadblasted little mistake. Where the ripple in the water outshines the grossly populated highway. Where a little felt flower never goes unnoticed.

Cross-posted from Ophelia Rising.

Mary: Rejection as a lifestyle

I’ve had my fair share of rejection in my life. I used to traipse around the Boston area, auditioning here and there for parts. Probably, I was a little out of my league. In fact, in the words of the Magic Eight Ball, it is decidedly so. Fresh out of college, quite “green,” no experience in the professional theatre (as an actress), and with many stars, and a stray eyelash or two, in my eyes, I picked my audition pieces with the aplomb and insight of a politician dealing crack.

Still, I hoped for the best, and bravely strode to the doors of one such audition, piece in hand (or in my head, actually). It was Emily’s last monologue in Our Town, a role I did not ever play, and although I did play Mrs. Webb in my high school production, that mere fact does not mean that I was capable of producing an efficient rendering of the scene. In retrospect, let’s just say I was a little ill-prepared.

But it was a serious monologue, and I produced it poignantly, I imagined, PAR cans in my face, to the faceless souls out there watching. I finished. They said, “Thank you.” I turned and pushed open the double doors, and as they swung closed behind me, I heard them burst into laughter.

Yes. Laughter.

Oooh, that killed me. I think that might have been the proverbial straw, although I should have brushed myself off and kept going. But I think, at that moment, I somehow felt that I just didn’t have it in me. I couldn’t do it anymore. It felt personal.

Of course, being a writer, one faces rejection all the time. Every day. It is an aspect of the writing life that is reliable, like an old coat, like that pair of “go-to” jeans. Some people even sort of thrive on it. Or at least, make it into a joke.

My old college professor, and mentor, of sorts, told us he used to wallpaper his room with all the rejection letters he received. They almost became sort of badges of honor for him. All those rejections. All those submissions.

I’m not sure why I don’t submit more. I have many articles and essays that, if only fleshed out and worked up, might amount to something. It’s always the last thing on my to-do list, the editing and researching and sending out of material. I sometimes wonder if maybe I have a fear of rejection. Or fear of success, which is even more puzzling. Maybe I have a fear of rejectful succession. I think that’s probably the case.

Pseudo-self-analysis aside, I think sometimes rejection is our greatest friend, as writers. It can really give us a fresh look to our writing — it can give us Perspective and Objectivism. It can also give us a major migraine, but that can easily be solved by a good sound nap and the formulation of a long heated letter stating why said rejecter is talking out of his or her ass. (Shredded right afterwards, of course).

I do think rejection can be constructive, especially if the criticism is given that way. I am reminded of a graduate writing class I took, where one of my fellow students declared, “I don’t like your story, and I don’t know why.” (Believe me, HE got an very heated, unsent letter later on that evening). Some criticism is not helpful, nor is it necessary. I mean, what am I supposed to do with that?

I don’t expect much in the way of personal feedback from magazines, journals, publishers, etc., who have rejected me. I mean, these hard-working people have their share of relentless reading to do – much of it crap, in all likelihood. So I don’t expect a small novelette in response, for goodness sake.

Still, it is difficult not to take it personally, at times. Writers — and all artists, I think — must have the ability to shake off negativity, and keep heads up and egos in place. At times, writers must appear to have monstrous, in-your-face, stocking-up-at-the-all-you-can-eat-counter-and-then-going-for-seconds types of egos, that continually need to be fed; that need the affirmation, the nod, the, “Yes, you’re doing great! Yes, you are GOING places!” In actuality, I think writers are some of the most insecure people around, needing the boost that comes with encouragement and positive feedback.

I’m not sure I’m insecure. I might be so insecure that I am secure in it. Or that I just don’t see it, because I’m so deluded. Hopefully it’s neither one, and I happen to be someone who is developing a secure sense of self (but if delusion is the case, than how would I know)? I’ll tell you, no matter what state of self-possession I might be in, I surely need to get back to it, and start sending stuff out again.

I’m adding in here a letter I found in an old box of my childhood writings, which I must have received when I was eight years old. It appears that I had sent in a poem to the publishing company Ramapo House, and they were kind enough to send me a rejection letter back, which my parents astutely kept. It’s my first one. * sniff *

Dear Mary:

Thank you very much for your wonderful poem. We have hung it up in my office and everyone who visits my office will read it.

You are a very good poetess. You should save a copy of all your poems and perhaps someday a publisher will print them in a book with your name under them. When I see lovely poems like this I am sorry that our company only publishes textbooks for schools!

Thank you again.

Thanks, Ramapo. Maybe someday a publisher WILL print them in a book. With my name under them, and everything. I can only hope.

Mary: December Thoughts

I should be writing Christmas cards, but frankly I’d much rather be here in my darkened study, whiling away the time spinning words around. It was a long, sort of difficult day, with my six-year-old boy having a bad cough, and so not being able to romp around in the snow outside.

It kept us quite house-bound. We did a lot of playing, some arguing, some movie-watching, some running around like crazy people, and generally climbed the walls until bedtime.

Now I relax here in this comfortable seat and relish the silence. Funny how such life, such energy and immersion can be so stimulating and exhausting at once. I love these small people so dearly, and yet breathe a small sigh of relief once the house is quiet for the evening, and I can once again write in peace, with no interruptions, with no noise, no questions or incessant tappings on the shoulder.

I think about the new year coming, and hope that I can get some good work done – that this new year brings a snap of newly starched sheets to my rather burdensome creation, this book, this relentlessly unmade, rumpled bed of a project.

I know I speak harshly of it, for which I do apologize, book. I do love thee. But you are becoming heavy on my back — although I suppose that is my perception of you, and not at all a reflection of you personally. I think, actually, I’m putting all these feelings on myself.

For one thing, it is NOT good practice to give myself deadlines. It just makes me feel all the more despondent when I don’t meet them. For example, I was bragging talking to my friends and acquaintances about how I thought it would be completed by the end of this year. HA.

(Isn’t it funny how life always deals out a blow after one has been bragging? “Oh, yeah? Take that!” says Life, as it fills up your glass with a dose of humility, plopping in a tablet of irony, for good measure. And you are sorely humbled. And also sort of embarrassed. And wanting to just slink away home with a blanket over your head, for a nice cup of tea and some good old fashioned self-pity. What? You don’t do that? Ah. Well. ANYWAY).

In essence, I hope the new year brings all good things – a hope, I suppose, all people around the world have. But, what of this new year? What if it doesn’t deliver? What if I simply don’t have the time to finish? What if I am constantly bombarded with interruptions, with parenting, with the day-to-day happenings that constitute a bustling and living household?

If I am to make any headway on this project, I fear I must schedule — a thing I really hesitate doing, because it’s another sort of added pressure. But if I don’t, if I just let the whole thing go where it wants to, I’m afraid that I won’t get enough done. So, here is a tentative schedule, tied up with a nice red ribbon, just in time for Christmas:

Writing times:

6:30 a.m.: I can get in about a half an hour to 45 minutes, if I start this early. It might be worth it. If I could just get out of bed.

1:00 p.m.: When Liv naps, I write. ON THE BOOK. Write for one hour, or until she wakes up.

8:00 p.m. -10:00 p.m.: After everyone is in bed, write – blogs, book, whatever I am inspired to do.

Of course, there are always those days when I’ll have more time, and also some days less. But this might be a good, basic plan for those “regular” days, when we are all running on our daily rhythm, and buzzing about knowing where we are going, and when we are getting there.

It seems like it might work out. It’s worth a try.

D’ya hear that, book? I’m with you on this. I’m on your side. I want you to be whole, complete, happy, read, loved. I am your partner, your hand to hold, your wooer, your teammate — your mother, for God’s sake. Don’t abandon me, not yet. Stick with me through this frisky, wild-eyed new year.

Let’s make it a good one.

Mary: Revitalize, Renew, Recreate

Before he died, my father told me that he thought I should keep writing. “Don’t stop,” he said. “You have so much to give to the world. Keep it up.”

I thought it odd that he told me all this, as if it was his way of somehow saying good-bye. He is saying good-bye, I thought with a plunging heart. I hung up and burst into tears.

It was the last conversation I had with him.

His death hit me hard, naturally, but I managed to power through the first few months, mainly because I had a small child who wouldn’t have understood the concept of death or loss, and who merely wanted to play with his stuffed animals, make “cookies” out of old buttons and a handful of pizza dough, and happily socialize with all of the friends and relatives who drifted in and out during that time.


A few months after that, I sat down and began to write my book. Oh, slowly at first, with intentions of a short story, but it began to take its own shape, and soon I had 2,000 words, than 3,000, than 5,000, then 20,000, and it kept going, on and on. I had never intended to write my first book for children. I had never intended to write a book at all.

But the words tumbled out, arising after a long, horrendous bout of writer’s block (about which I am wont to mention; I will only say that it was a supremely hellish time, all around). The words came, and I breathed an “ahhhhhh!” as if I had been in a stuffy, stinky room for ages, and had suddenly opened the door to a clean, dazzlingly clear sky.

This book. This book. It poured out. It split open and was torrential, I couldn’t keep my fingers from moving, my mind whizzed like snappy clockwork. I wrote at social events. I wrote while driving. I wrote at the dinner table. I wrote at night, begging for release from the insomnia. And I couldn’t always get it physically down on paper. The sheer frustration from this was driving me to want to kick walls. I think I may actually have kicked one or two. And perhaps even a car door. (Or, at least a tire. Is that so wrong)?


But, for all of this, I was happy, so dad-blamed ecstatic. For here was the moment, when I became free of whatever was binding me before. Free of The Block. Start the celebration. Insert party here.

The startling thing to contemplate is that it started with my father’s death. He, in his ultimate yielding to fate, life, nature, whatever name you’d like to give it, had left me a superlative gift of self-discovery and renewal. In the very suffering I felt from his falling away from all of us, I found a voice.

And it is in this voice that I began to create a story. Not a contemporary, adult story, full of nuance, sophistication, and cynical-yet-kicky phrases — but in a story for kids. A fairy tale, no less. Which I might not have summoned up, had it not been for the fact that I am, or was, a daughter of a brilliant man.

And also, I might mention, I am a mother.

My children provide a certain sense of renewal for me, as I am sure many children to for their mothers. Sometimes I feel as if every day is Christmas.

I have the sensation of being able to click on and off a button that imparts the vision of a child’s mind on life and the world, presented to this older person’s eye. That street corner over there is just a street corner, and then — oh, my, there it is — not just a street corner, but an interesting, alive place, full of wonder and depth, a suitable backdrop for a musical, or a place of magic and potential for all things glorious and shiny. The way a child sees things — or at least how I saw everything when I was a child.


I must admit, this way of seeing the world can sometimes be altogether disconcerting for a cranky adult, but it makes me so happy when I can get into their world. So I suppose it really shouldn’t be any big surprise that the first book I attempt is one for kids. These little ones have amplified me to a point where I am getting inside their heads, imagining, pretending with them, and this book is a physical testament to the natural progression of my life as it is.

I am assured by this renewal that all things are growing how they need to grow, now. I am slowly, slowly heading in a direction where I am comfortable. One knows that a thing in one’s life is good and real, when the boundaries and restrictions seem to fall away, and a flowing sort of path presents itself.

How superb is it, when a battle full of spurts and stops suddenly concedes and lets in something that, at times, feels like it’s not even being created by me, but by another thing, an entity outside of myself?

That entity outside myself might be starting from me, or might be starting from somewhere else, but it’s stretching way up to the sky somewhere. It’s my dad. It’s my children. It’s the particular way that this humanity has woven itself through my center and threaded in these generations so much a part of myself — as they always have been, and always will be. I’m humbled and honored by this. And hoping — even believing — that it might last awhile longer.

Mary Germanotta Duquette

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