Motherhood & Words

We rang in the New Year up at my mom’s cabin in northern Minnesota as we so often do. It was cozy—just D, the girls, my mom and step-dad and me. We cooked and ate and read and did puzzles (in an obsessive way that was somehow still relaxing). The girls and D skated in circles, playing keep-away on the rectangle of lake we shoveled clean. And we skied loops in the woods, our bodies lengthening as we glided through fresh snow. That is one of my favorite things. I love the way I can feel my body stretching out, my back straightening as I get into the groove of pushing and gliding. I love the way my triceps burn as I struggle up a hill. I love the rustle of wind through dry leaves, the brilliant blue of sky through dark branches, the glint of sun on snow. It’s when I take stock of the year coming to a close and whisper my hopes for the next year.

Some years the transition from one year to the next feels seamless. But sometimes I’m really ready to be done with a year and start something new, fresh. That’s how I feel now. Last year was not an easy one for me. There were joys, of course—plenty of them, really. But there was also the weight of not feeling well, finally deciding on surgery, the subsequent digestive complications. There were many moments last fall when it felt as if I was simply trying to stay afloat in the churning swirl of a mid-life crisis. What did I need? Yoga? God? A kick-ass nutritionist?

I might still be in that mid-life crisis stage, but I sense I’m emerging from it. The kick-ass nutritionist helps, and I’m trying to listen carefully to myself, to my body. I don’t have anything figured out yet, but I’m hopeful.

Over the last few weeks, I have more often bookmarked a webpage to my recipe folder than to my teaching/writing folder. But I’m ready to shift gears again, get back to the novel, to words and sentences and paragraphs. I’m ready to start thinking about retreats and teaching, how to help others find a way into the stories they need to tell. And I’ve decided I’ll be here at this blog each week during the next year. I don’t know what I’ll write about, but I’m hoping it will be a touchstone for me. I hope you’ll join me.

What are your hopes for 2016? I’d love to hear them.

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I have been teaching creative writing for almost twenty years. Reading about other women’s lives and experiences has expanded my world. To be able to walk in someone else’s shoes, whether it’s for a moment or an hour or a few days, is an incredible gift, providing me with insight into the human experience. It takes courage to write your truths, especially if it doesn’t seem as though anyone cares, as though anyone is listening. Let me tell you: your stories matter, I’m listening, and I’m here to help you find the heart of those truths, to get them down on the page, to craft them, and to send them out into the world. Together, we will change the world, one story at a time.


  1. Lindsey on January 4, 2016 at 9:54 am

    I love this. You inspire me that the sense of just trying to stay afloat (which I feel right now) is going to pass eventually. I have an annual nasty time at work and am just heading into it, which is a big part of why I feel the loss of control and the churning waters. I just want to get through now!

    • Kate on January 4, 2016 at 11:49 am

      Oh Lindsey, I so know what you mean. I’ll be thinking of you as you float through those waters. It WILL pass! xo

  2. Heidi Fettig Parton on January 4, 2016 at 10:14 am

    It is a day of transitioning back, isn’t it? This year, I’d like to write more in the evenings. My writer self always wants to shut down when it gets dark outside–so summers tend to be more productive that these dark winter months.

    Instead of resolutions this year, I set some loving intentions over at my new blog that I set up during my break from school. Here are those intentions:

    Glad the nutritionist is working. I think I need a kick-ass nutritionist.

    • Kate on January 4, 2016 at 11:50 am

      Heidi, I am going to email you her name. She’s amazing, and I thought of you right away. I’m heading over to read your intentions now. xo

  3. Rachael on January 4, 2016 at 10:24 am

    I’m excited for you! You really do need to feel the pull of writing in order to do it; I’m glad you’re feeling it now. And I love “the swirl of mid-life crisis” — I hear ya!

    • Kate on January 4, 2016 at 11:52 am

      Thank you, Rachael. Yes, it’s back, and I’m so grateful for that!

  4. K.M. O'Sullivan on January 4, 2016 at 10:59 am

    Mid-life swimming is so damn hard. I feel it for you and with you. Glad to see you looking ahead to more writing. I hope our writing paths cross soon.

    • Kate on January 4, 2016 at 11:53 am

      It IS, isn’t it, Kelly? I, too, hope our paths cross soon!

  5. Kristen on January 4, 2016 at 11:16 am

    Really lovely, Kate. So happy to hear you’ll be trying to blog more regularly. Your words always inspire. xxk

    • Kate on January 4, 2016 at 11:54 am

      Thank you, dear Kristen! xoxo

  6. Sara on January 4, 2016 at 1:01 pm

    Happy you’re planning to be back here regularly.

    Hopes for 2016:
    to continue to thrive with my work—I made a big switch in the later part of 2015 and it feels like the right direction with lots of energy around it

    to write more regularly and get my writing out into the world

    to spend less time online and more time outside, gardening, writing, creating

    • Kate on January 4, 2016 at 1:23 pm

      I love those hopes, Sara, and I’m so glad your switch has been the right one for you. That’s so exciting!

  7. Jenn on January 4, 2016 at 1:06 pm

    My hopes for 2016 are to somehow put all the words swirling around in my head to paper. For so long I’ve denied a desire to write but some things towards the end of 2015 reawoken an old desire. My word for 2016 is Courage because something about writing things down and *gulp* sharing them scares me a lot. A copy of Use Your Words is currently on its way to my mailbox though! I’m excited to read it. I read the first chapter of Ready for Air too and look forward to finishing it. I’m a NICU nurse and I love reading stories from moms. They make me a more understanding and compassionate nurse I hope.

    • Kate on January 4, 2016 at 1:25 pm

      Jenn, thanks so much for stopping by and for reading! I love your word for the year and I love that you’re taking that scary leap to write! That’s wonderful. I look forward to being in touch and I hope Ready for Air resonates!!

  8. patricia on January 4, 2016 at 3:44 pm

    Kate, it sounds like you are ready for a new year! I hope that 2016 is the year you get your health issues resolved so you can focus on your writing and teaching.

    I’m hoping to keep finding my way into my homeschooling memoir. I’ve got a good start and am trying to nail the style and voice. I’m aiming to have two draft chapters together by May so I can submit for feedback at River Teeth. I’m planning to go again, and hope to see you there!

    • Kate on January 4, 2016 at 6:42 pm

      Oh yay, Patricia! I’m so glad you’re planning on it. Voice can be slippery, but you can do it. And I’m so glad we’ll get to see each other again. I’m snagging you for Friday dinner so we don’t let the weekend get away from us again!

  9. Sue LeBreton on January 4, 2016 at 6:31 pm

    Ah yes, the swirl of mid-life crisis. I have elements of that. I moved my desk to a nook in my bedroom so I get more natural light, and do not see the “chores”. I am hoping that helps me stay connected with my writing. I am looking for more vibrancy in 2016, physical, emotional, career-wise. Looking forward to your writing retreat-that will keep me going.

    • Kate on January 4, 2016 at 6:44 pm

      Sue, are you in for sure? That would make me so happy! Vibrancy sounds like the perfect thing. You’ll do it, my friend!

  10. Andria on January 5, 2016 at 7:47 am

    I’ll join you! 🙂

    • Kate on January 5, 2016 at 10:37 am

      Yes, Andria!

  11. Andrea on January 5, 2016 at 1:21 pm

    Happy New Year, Kate! Hope the year brings you a happy tummy. 🙂

    • Kate on January 6, 2016 at 8:05 am

      Thank you, Andrea! And Happy New Year to you!

  12. Lidia Varesco Racoma on January 20, 2016 at 6:51 am

    Hi Kate, nice to reconnect with you here and I look forward to reading your blog! Now that my second has arrived (a lil girl) I plan to start writing our stories…Use Your Words is on my side table again

    • Kate on January 20, 2016 at 7:50 am

      Lidia! Great to hear from you and congrats on your new baby! Happy writing! I look forward to being in touch!