Motherhood & Words

It’s been an odd few days. I had a lovely birthday on Saturday—a really perfect day with breakfast in bed (strawberries doused in sugar and a vanilla latté). D and Stella and Zoë all piled onto the bed and I opened presents and the adorable card from Stella and Zoë, “I LOVE MOM” carefully spelled out by Stella. Then my dad took us out to lunch, we went to our nephew’s birthday party—a picnic at a local lake—and then we came home, dressed up, and D and I went out to a wonderful restaurant in St. Paul. The food was amazing, and we sat outside. It couldn’t have been more lovely.

Then Zoë got sick again—fussing, coughing, reversing the slow progress we had been making with weaning. Finally yesterday I took her to the doctor, and we were handed masks as soon as we walked through the door. I didn’t realize that Minneapolis is now a hot spot of the H1N1 pandemic. I also didn’t realize that a 5-year-old girl had died in the connected hospital the day before. I slipped my mask on and tried, unsuccessfully, to keep Zoë’s mask on, as well.

Luckily (luckily?), Zoë only had another ear infection—the second in a month. We left the clinic as fast as possible and picked up a prescription for a big-gun antibiotic. It was only last night after she received her first dose that I read the pamphlet of warnings: RARELY CAUSES TOOTH DISCOLORATION. WTF? I prefer to *stop* worrying once I begin my kids on antibiotics. Instead, I am doing constant teeth checks.

Then this morning, I was at the coffee shop, and when I checked e-mail, I discovered that a short essay I recently submitted to one of my favorite online journals was accepted! Accepted! I turned to the man next to me—another regular—and I was going to tell him my news, but he was intent on his work. So I waited until I got into my car, at which point I let loose, hooting and hollering. And when I walked in the door and told D, he hugged me and we rocked some high fives. I love that guy.

Then I put poor Zoë down for her nap and turned to an essay that one of my former students recently sent me—Sharon Solwitz’s “Abracadabra,” which is about the death of Solwitz’s son to cancer. (Thank you, Marilyn!) Marilyn told me it was amazing, and it is. It SO is. But reading it is like being repeatedly kicked in the stomach. (And of course I mean that as a compliment.) I have never read anything that does grief this well.

(“Abracadabra” has appeared in In the Middle of the Middle West: Literary Nonfiction from the Heartland and more recently in Creating Nonfiction, but you can read it online here. Brace yourself.)

So I guess that’s life—a wonderful birthday and a thrilling acceptance mixed right up with the death of a little girl and the raw grief and brilliant writing of Sharon Solwitz.

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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. Violeta on June 17, 2009 at 12:27 pm

    Belated Happy Birthday! Also, congratulations on the acceptance and thanks for passing along the essay recommendation! Hope Zoe feels better soon!

  2. Kimberly on June 17, 2009 at 1:02 pm

    Congrats! That's terrific about the pub, please let us know where to find it once it is out! I hope your daughter feels better soon.

  3. cath c on June 17, 2009 at 2:41 pm

    happy birthday, congrats on the essay acceptance, so rry about little sickie, and i think i'll have to wait until a less emotioanlly vulnerable day to read abracadabra. …phew! you covered a lot of ground in this little blog!

    (i would have interrupted the other regular's work…but that's me.:))

  4. Elizabeth on June 17, 2009 at 3:24 pm

    Wow. Congratulations on your essay — I can't wait to see it in print!

    As for ear infections and babies and antibiotics — don't know how open you are to these things but osteopathy is excellent for treating chronic sickness/upper respiratory/ear infections, particularly in infants. Both my boys, aged eight and ten, have been treated by osteopaths since birth and have NEVER been on an antibiotic. They've gotten normal childhood illnesses but we never needed the "big guns." I really attribute it to the osteopathy. Let me know if you need any more information.

  5. Elizabeth on June 17, 2009 at 3:24 pm

    Oh, and Happy Birthday!

  6. Melissa on June 17, 2009 at 6:46 pm

    Happy birthday and hooray! Be sure to tell us when the essay is available for our reading pleasure. 🙂

  7. Toby's Mom on June 18, 2009 at 8:53 am

    Happy birthday Kate! And, congrats on the essay! When and where will we be able to read it?

  8. Ines on June 18, 2009 at 9:47 am


  9. Ann S on June 18, 2009 at 9:56 am

    Thanks for posting "Abracadabra"….it was incredible.

    Happy Birthday and let us know where we can read your essay.

  10. Bonnie on June 19, 2009 at 2:21 am

    What a FULL day! I'm going to save Abracadabra for a time when I can bear a few gut kicks. It's too early in the morning… I always love your reading recommendations. Kate, I am SO excited to read your piece when it comes out! Congratulations!!

  11. Andria on June 21, 2009 at 12:12 am

    HAPPY (belated) BIRTHDAY!!!!!

    Congrats on the publication!

  12. kate hopper on June 22, 2009 at 8:49 am

    Thanks everyone!! And I'll let you know when the essay is available. (It won't be for a while, though…)