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Posts tagged ‘friendship’

Brittany Writes a Book

britmirandacropEditor’s note: Brittany and I have been friends for more than a decade. Our friendship started through this very blog and then transitioned to the holy grail of IRL. I’ve read enough of Brittany’s writing over the years to know that I love her work. So when I saw that she’d self-published a narrative chapbook of poetry, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a copy. Brittany graciously fulfilled my request for a signed edition and mailed it to me post-haste.

It’s always an interesting experience, reading the work of a friend. I’m a writer and editor by trade and have worked in the professional world of words for nearly 30 years. As a creativity coach, I enthusiastically applaud every passionate, whole-hearted foray into creative work—but that doesn’t mean I admire the work itself. As many of my creative friends will attest, I’m unable to say, “Wow, this is brilliant,” when I’m not of that opinion. I’m preternaturally allergic to even little white lies of artful affirmation. I don’t want to give or receive disingenuous compliments about creative work. With that nugget of context, here’s what I wrote to Brittany after receiving Courtesan

Courtesan

“Brittany, your book arrived on Monday (or was it Tuesday?) and after a ridiculous work day that capped off a 55-client-hour work week, I crawled into bed with it. Granted, I was a little punchy on account of chronic fatigue, but in the dozen pages I read that night, I laughed out loud and—I know this is going to sound like I’m blowing smoke up your poopchute but it’s the truth—I wept with happiness. Some of these poems are So. Damn. Good. At one point I had to explain to Liam (11 years old, who still sleeps with me when he’s home and my man isn’t) why I was making such a racket (‘persnickety douchebaggery’ set me off). I’m bursting with pride for you, Brittany. I truly am.”

Courtesan is an anthem to the contemplative divorcée. This slim volume will delight you, hit you in all the right spots, and leave you wanting a bit more—just as an experienced courtesan should do. These poems confront you with the pain and loneliness of being married to a person who (you are ultimately forced to concede) will never be able to love you in the ways you most want to be loved, even if one day he does stop screaming and throwing shit and raving like the asshole he is. (Apparently you’ll also find a dose of catharsis between the lines.) Despite what hurts, Courtesan is also a tale of hope—and finding oneself, and love, again. Highly recommended.


Brittany

It’s amazing how much can change in 11 years. In the spring of 2008, Miranda discovered my blog Re-Writing Motherhood and plucked me from total obscurity to ask me to become a Studio Mothers contributor. The Studio Mothers blog was still in its infancy, as was my life as a (theoretically) stay-at-home-mom and full-time novelist. That time marks one of the most prolific creative periods of my life. But considering that I’m *still* working on the novel I started that year, it’s clear that creativity waxes and wanes, too. Now in 2019, I’m in another creative period. In addition to the 900 craft projects I have going on, I recently self-published a poetry chapbook titled Courtesan.

Courtesan is a diary told through poetry. It’s an eye-opening, no-holds-barred exploration of social and sexual re-awakening post-divorce. This is the book I never had any intention of writing. Generally speaking, I’m fun-loving, free-spirited, and unabashedly whimsical. Dark, brooding, erotic stories that would cause my southern Baptist relatives to have a collective pearl-clutching stroke were never part of my repertoire. But as I state in the book, there comes a point when the last thread of I-would-nevers snaps, and you become someone who would.

I became someone who would when I got divorced in 2015, after 13 years of marriage, eight of which I’d spent as a stay-at-home mom. There is a reason stay-at-home moms don’t just up and get divorced and abruptly go from full-time mom, to full-time working/part-time mom. It is traumatic on every level, and something I don’t think you can ever be prepared for. I was completely unprepared for the cold, hard smack of reality that awaited me.

And I did this alone. I was in Upstate New York, which was a 14-hour drive from my family in North Carolina, and across the country from my mom in Idaho. Not that my family was supportive. No one could understand why I was willing to give up such a seemingly comfortable life to go back to work and become a part-time parent. They acted like I had selfishly decided on a whim that getting divorced, re-entering the workforce after a 10-year absence, and parenting my children only half time would be a fun thing to do.

Brittany_bouquetI sunk into a horrible depression, a depression deeper and more pervasive than the depression I had already felt in the last year of my marriage, a nasty black pit I couldn’t seem to dig myself out of. For the first time in my life, I experienced panic attacks and constant anxiety. I’d always been an introverted loner, and suddenly, I couldn’t be alone anymore. I would beg my friends to let me come over and sit huddled on their couches, just to hear the noise in their households and feel like I belonged somewhere again. I cried constantly. My relationship with my children suffered. They were angry that I’d left them. My relationship with my ex further deteriorated. My family was as unsympathetic and unsupportive as it was possible to be. And overnight I became a third wheel among my married friends. Suddenly, I had not very much in common with them anymore.

I liken it to throwing a grenade on my entire life and watching it blow up around me. And into this stew of existentialist crisis, I thought it was a good idea to jump headlong into dating again.

Fresh from a bad marriage, I lived in a fantasy land where post-divorce dating was like an island of misfit toys. Divorcées would arrive broken and battered, having seen better days as a result of living with the wrong partners, and there they would magically find a more suitable person and live happily ever after. But my little fantasy couldn’t have been further from reality. Dating post-divorce is an, as yet, unexplored layer of Dantean hell and I realized that for most men, I was merely a commodity. Interchangeable with every woman out there. The transactional aspect of these relationships left me feeling very much like a courtesan, or more colloquially, a whore.

Brittany_mermaidI wasn’t sure how to process any of this, but I started a diary and wrote down snippets, dialogue, things people said to me that angered or inspired me, and all the observations I made, to process it, make sense of it, and ultimately learn from it. I pulled the diary out periodically to add to it, but was mostly preoccupied with other things, like paying the bills and buying groceries.

The worst part of that period was the complete lack of creative spark inside me. For the longest time, I was barely functioning. And when my creativity started to trickle back, it only came in fits and starts. I knew for my own sanity, I needed a creative outlet, so I took a painting class. And a jewelry-making class. I started to dabble at doll-making and embroidery again in my spare time. My friends knew I was their go-to girl if they saw something on pinterest they wanted to try and we started having semi-regular craft nights. I felt better when I was crafting, so I crafted. I felt better when I was painting, so I painted. I wasn’t able to write anything for the longest time, but eventually, poems started forming in my head again. I wrote them down on whatever piece of paper was handy. If they were good, I stashed them away and saved them. They were shoved inside books and drawers, and sometimes fished out of the dryer lint tray.

Fast-forward three years. My life was entirely altered. In the past, I’d thought of myself as a writer, and only a writer. But during my post-divorce journey, I became an artist, too. And after three years, I was more artist than writer.

Brittany_carI bought myself a little green bungalow and painted the walls bold turquoise and coral and purple. I painted the furniture and decorated the walls with my artwork. The dining room table was always covered in hot glue, paint smears, and glitter from the numerous projects I had in progress. I was always creating something, and as a result, I was happier than I had ever been at any other time in my life. My happiness changed the trajectory of my relationships and three years post-divorce, I was living with the man who would become my husband. In clearing away my clutter to make space for him in my house, I started to rediscover the writing and poetry I had been stashing in all manner of strange spots for three years. He encouraged me to do something with them, rather than re-stashing them somewhere new. But what was I going to do with a bunch of mostly unhappy autobiographical poems about my days as a single divorcée?

Brittany_bouquet2One day as I was driving (a time when great ideas seem to arise), and it occurred to me that if I collected all those poems and added the love poems I’d started writing more recently, I had a story there. I imagined calling it Courtesan, as a nod to my former single life and the way dating had made me feel. I mulled the idea in the back of my mind for some time. It continued to grow on me.

This winter I put it all together and self-published my chapbook. People ask me why I didn’t go the traditional publishing route. I self-published because I figured my “weird little book” didn’t have mass appeal. I wasn’t really sure how you’d market a diary that was poetry. And I thought it would only appeal to women of a certain age who’d experienced a traumatic mid-life divorce. Plus, to be brutally honest, I wasn’t particularly confident in my writing. I liked my writing. I had written it for myself, but I wasn’t sure at all if it would resonate with anyone else and I didn’t want to alter it in any way.

Since I published Courtesan, I have been shocked to my core by the feedback I’ve received. Women who are single, and never been married, have written to tell me how much they related to and enjoyed it. I don’t know whether to feel pleased or saddened that so many women can relate to so much darkness and despair.

Brittany_wandsI think that in most stories, and Courtesan is no exception, the main narrative is that a woman’s life turns around when she experiences true love. But the story functions on two levels. While on the surface, Courtesan is the story of the darkest time of my life and how I fell in love with my husband, there’s also the secret story hidden in the pages, about my love of the creative process, how it brought me back to life, gave me purpose, and fueled the creation of the diary in the first place. Ultimately, I rediscovered myself through the act of creation. And I continue to be amazed at what I can do, and how much joy I get from the doing.

 


See more of Brittany’s artistic projects at her current blog.
Order Courtesan at amazon

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Creative Medicine

In my personal life and my work as a creativity coach, I use a broad brush in defining “creative.” Creativity is about using your mind and your body to make something that speaks to who you are — and perhaps speaks to others as well. That might be an exquisite painting, but it might also be a garden bed, an inspired business plan, a system for organizing your files, a lovingly prepared stew, or refinishing a bureau. The pure act of creating can apply to most anything that gets you in the zone, helps make sense of this crazy thing called life, and expresses something that might otherwise not be articulated.

My endearing friend Jane is a highly creative person. Her home, her lifestyle, the choices she makes for her family — each step seems grounded in the purposeful creation of a life. Careful readers of this blog’s Monday Post will remember “immunity kit” appearing on jlcm’s weekly goals list over recent months. I was a very lucky recipient of one of these immunity kits. The contents are so precious that I wanted to horde them for when I was really in need. Some of this medicine takes six weeks to brew — and the ingredients aren’t always easy for Jane to get — so when might I ever be able to get my hands on a refill? And then the Stomach Bug came to our house. Like taking the plastic furniture covers off of the “good” furniture in preparation for a visit from royalty, it was time to open the immunity kit.

Whether it was Jane’s Elderberry Rosehip Syrup, her Echinacea Tincture, or her artisan herbal teas, I don’t know — but I do know that I didn’t get the Stomach Bug. I did get a milder version of the sinus congestion that my family is sharing right now, but when I take a few doses of Jane’s medicine along with a big mug of her Nourish Tea (made in the French press, which works so well with loose tea), I feel like a million bucks. Seriously, this is the best herbal tea I have ever tasted, and — as you can see above — it’s a feast for the eyes. With her own creativity, Jane is not only keeping me healthier, but she’s helping me to be more creative by maintaining my bandwidth!

I raise my mug to you, Jane, in honor of your creativity, your generous heart, and your beautiful gift.

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Miranda (and Brittany): If these walls could talk….

Last month the lovely Brittany Vandeputte and her husband Tom stopped in for a visit on their way from Salem, Massachusetts, back home to the vicinity of Albany, New York.

Before she left, Brittany wrote all over my wall. Not a display of bad manners, mind you — I asked her to do it. Some of you may remember my half-bath makeover that included a wall of blank “frames.” This wall is a pretty happening place, I have to say. Here, with her permission, is the poetry that Brittany left behind. (Click on the image for a larger view if needed. The frame that Brittany chose was tucked beside the wall cabinet, so I was unable to get a straight-on shot.)

Yeah. I thought you’d like that.

 

Miranda: Life, art, and friendship–the sequel

In August 2009, I had the pleasure of hosting two of this blog’s writers, Cathy Coley and Mary Duquette, at my home in Massachusetts. We posted photos and a re-cap of 2009 here. Last week, Cathy made her annual trek north again, and we had another reunion, which hopefully will become an annual event. We were joined by Jenn Rivers, who has also posted a dozen times at Studio Mothers.

Left to right: Mary, Cathy with Baby C (aka Toots), Miranda, and Jenn

For some reason I thought that this time around, with all of our children being a year older, we’d have *more* time to sit and chat and relax. What was I thinking?? This year was even more manic than last, and I can’t remember getting more than two sentences out of my mouth in any coherent order. What I most remember is Cathy and Mary discovering that some kind of animal had decided to use our sandbox as a litter box, and quite thoughtfully taking the littlest kids into the house to wash hands. Yes, I’m afraid that feral cat poop and our usual discussion of allergies sort of dominated the afternoon. Not exactly the inspiring conversation about creativity and life design that I’d had in mind, but it was wonderful to see the faces of my dear friends and hear the excited voices of the children as they ran around like true hooligans and enjoyed themselves fully.

Until next year, friends. And with any luck, maybe we can lure Brittany over to visit with us too. I’m already planning for a more satisfying conversation — and less cat poop. Everyone in?

Miranda: Life, art, and friendship — in the flesh

On Friday, I had the pleasure of hanging out with Cathy Coley and Mary Duquette for the afternoon. Cathy’s husband and a boisterous selection of all of our children rounded out the group. We had such fun, despite the difficulty of completing a sentence with five small children running around.

We didn’t get our posed shot until the visit’s end, at which point Cathy’s Baby C and Mary’s daughter were BOTH exhausted and in tears. In these pictures, the little girls are both screaming in stereo. (OK, so that just made us laugh.)

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My connection with Cathy and Mary demonstrates the power of the internet — blogging and social networking. Cathy and I went to college together, but we didn’t know each other that well and we never would have become friends as “grown ups” without this blog. And I likely would have never met Mary without this blog (although it turns out we have several “real-life” connections and perhaps would have met anyway, as it seems we were intended to develop a friendship).

In our rambling discussions of life and art, I spent a fair amount of time bemoaning my current state of affairs — work work work — and trying to figure out how to change things. Cathy said something that really stuck with me. She explained that at this point in her life she no longer does things that she doesn’t want to do. Wherever possible, she chooses to do what she wants, in life and domesticity. That doesn’t mean that she never has to do the dishes, of course, but the point was that she filters out whatever she can, if it doesn’t make the grade.

I started thinking about what I might be able to excise from the considerable list of things that I really don’t want to do anymore. The first step is to look at the list of “things I have to do” and really look at which things are mandatory and which things might be just masquerading as mandatory.

I’m working on that right now. Thanks, Cathy.

Brittany: Meeting Kelly and Other Old Friends

One of the best things about Creative Construction is that it’s begun to feel like a family. I feel like I have friends all over the world. As it happened, Kelly’s house was the halfway point between home and our cruise that left from Miami, so we decided to get together while we were in the neighborhood.

We had a wonderful time. I can’t say enough nice things about our evening. Kelly and her husband prepared us a delicious meal, and Sam fell completely and instantly in love with Kelly’s girls (who are, indeed, magical). Within minutes he was running circles with them in their backyard like they were old friends. I felt the same way about Kelly. We weren’t making small talk in her kitchen–we talked like we’d known each other for years, even though we’d never actually met in person.

That is the beauty of a community like this one, where we are all on a similar journey.

Meeting Kelly was an odd juxtaposition after spending the week with my best friend, Nicole, who I hadn’t seen since 1994. She is Australian, and lived with us as an exchange student during the 1992-1993 school year when we were both sophomores in high school. We had an immediate connection, were the kind of soul-matish friends that only happen once in any lifetime, and after a year together had to return to lives on two continents worlds apart. When I was a senior in high school, she came back to the US for a visit, and that was the last time I saw her. Until the internet became widespread, we fell hopelessly out of touch. We missed each others’ college years, weddings, pregnancies, and only reunited in cyberspace after our children were born. It was as if no time at all had passed, though, and now we e-mail almost daily.

When I found out that she and her family were planning to spend two months in the US, I couldn’t wait to see her again, in real time. We reunited on a week-long cruise this past week, and might have fallen into an easy rhythm again (our husbands even got along well), had it not been for the fact that after 13 years, we now traveled with husbands, children, and parents. It was disappointing to see each other so little, and also sad to see the ways motherhood and wifehood could impact a strong female friendship. We were both running hither and yon, managing our families, trying to get from point A to point B in the sanest way possible. I was so exhausted from looking after my family’s collective needs that the week flew by with only a dull twinge of regret that she and I hadn’t yet been able to reconnect in any meaningful way. She and her family will be here at our house from the 10th through the 25th, but I am readjusting my expectations about her visit and the actual time we’ll get to spend together. This year has been the one where motherhood has forced me to readjust all my expectations, and I’m only now beginning to grieve over what I didn’t realize I’d already lost.

Then, I returned home and checked my e-mail. I had a message from Micaela, who I haven’t seen since 1996. She and I were exchange students together in Hungary, and had many adventures together as we tried to navigate life in that crazy country. I’ve missed her and tried to track her down many times. Michaela is the only other person that witnessed that pivotal year of my  life. Whenever I feel nostalgic for Hungary, it’s her I want to talk to. Several years ago, I went so far as to email her mother’s work address, asking her to help us get in touch, but got no response. I had no idea where she was or what she was doing, but hen, a few weeks ago, I found Micaela on Facebook and sent her a message. Finally, she responded.

She wrote a bit about our shared experiences and then added, Congratulations on having KIDS! I hear that changes everything…

I read that and felt a little like throwing up. After the week I’d just had, it seemed so painfully true. Everything has changed. Everything continues to change. And as motherhood molds and shapes me, I continue to change, as well. I hope my friendships will weather the changes, too.

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