Motherhood & Words

My favorite day of travel is the day I return home. Even the excitement I feel heading out on a trip—to a writing conference, to a workshop—can’t be beat by the day I get to go home, to D, to my girls.

When I arrived in New York on Wednesday, I was filled with melancholy—my hotel room was dark even though it was early afternoon, and I was nervous about diving into interviews for my new writing project. And I thought, oh, I’ve made a mistake. It didn’t help that I’d been away a lot—a trip every month since February—and I was feeling guilty for leaving Stella and Zoë, again.

I knew that lying around the hotel, trying to rest (I’d been up since 3:30 am) wouldn’t help, so I told Robyn I was ready to dive in. She picked me up, and meeting her in person was like seeing an old friend again. We went to get the boys at their day program. I won’t say much about my days with them except to say that I recorded hours and hours of interviews with Robyn and her husband and that I felt honored to be let into their lives the way I was. To witness that love—oh the love.

But Thursday night D called to say that Stella had cut her heel, badly, on our front steps, and then Friday afternoon called to say that they were on their way to urgent care because Stella had had a bike accident just fifty yards from our house. It wasn’t serious, but she had a bump on her forehead and a cut on the back of her head where her bike flipped up and came down on her. (I still can’t quite picture this in my mind.) I talked to her on the phone and I could tell she was trying not to cry. “Why can’t you just be here?” she asked, over and over. And of course my heart broke and I hated myself for not being there. The good news is that she didn’t have a concussion, but she did get two stitches in the back of her head, just below her helmet line—thank God for helmets.

And then Zoë called early Saturday morning, just missing me (though I wouldn’t have guessed that from her monosyllabic answers to my questions on the phone. It was D who told me she really wanted to talk to me because she missed her mama.)

But at least on Saturday I knew I was heading home, I thought, yes, tonight I will tuck my girls into bed. I will sleep in my own bed. I will appreciate every moment with them, their health (knocking on wood, always). I will not take anything for granted.

Gratitude lives just under the surface, always. I work with so many mothers who have lost children or who have had to mourn the loss of their dreams for their children. I read their stories. I listen to their words. But that’s different than immersing myself in their lives—really understanding a life and its beauty and loss because I’m in the thick of it.

And so I headed home, full of hope and love, full of gratitude. At LaGuardia, I began reading Joe Mackall’s The Last Street Before Cleveland. I read it on the short flight to Philadelphia, then as I sipped a glass of wine at the airport, and then again when we finally (we were delayed) took to the air heading home to Minneapolis. I couldn’t put it down, partly because I like and admire Joe so much, and but mostly because it’s a lovely book. And also, because I didn’t realize the darkness that he has struggled with, I read each word filled with compassion, grateful that he made it through the dark times that the book chronicles.

One of my favorite times of day to fly is at sunset. I love flying above the clouds, which are still in full sun while, if you were on the ground, you would be enveloped in shadow. It’s like a gift of light, of time. And oh those thunder clouds, they are planets onto themselves, capturing sun and shadow—full of hope, possibility. I can see why the heavens are seen as something holy, because certainly they are. It’s so vast up there, so complicated.

But to have those clouds there outside my window, to have spent the last three days with such an incredible family, to be reading Joe’s memoir—well, all of those things coalesced in a way that felt nothing short of divine.

Towards the end of The Last Street Before Cleveland, Joe writes: “I’m aware of God’s love everywhere. I see it in the prayerful underbelly of a hawk riding the thermals. I hear it in the sound of my dog lapping water out of her bowl—the small, sacramental splash of a thirst quenched, an elemental need met. I feel it in the touch of a passerby on a clogged street corner. I taste it in the acid-holy moisture of rain on my tongue. I smell it in the freshness of dug-up earth.”

Lovely. Love. Possibility. Gratitude—always.

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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. Autumn on July 30, 2013 at 12:42 pm

    So lovely, Kate. Thank you for sharing your gift of words!

    • Kate on July 30, 2013 at 12:47 pm

      Thank you, Autumn!! xo

  2. Sue LeBreton on July 30, 2013 at 1:05 pm

    I was right there with you on the plane feeling that perfect divine moment fuelled by the connections you made in person, through the book and knowing you were on your way home.

    • Kate on August 1, 2013 at 8:19 am

      Oh thank you, Sue. That was it exactly!

  3. Ann Sundberg on July 30, 2013 at 2:11 pm

    An especially beautiful entry today. And I’ve got Joe’s book coming via amazon. Thank you.

    • Kate on August 1, 2013 at 8:21 am

      Thank you, Ann! And I look forward to hearing what you think!

  4. Janine Kovac on July 30, 2013 at 4:39 pm

    What a beautiful image of sun and clouds, gratitude beneath the surface and the life and love around us.

    • Kate on August 1, 2013 at 8:22 am

      Thank you, Janine! I know you know the feeling!

  5. Alison on July 31, 2013 at 2:22 am

    Kate, I am so grateful for your gift with words, and for your gift with helping me find mine.

    I do hope Stella is right as rain.

    • Kate on August 1, 2013 at 8:25 am

      Thank you, Alison! And I’m so happy that I’ve helped you find your words! You know how much that means to me.

      And Stella IS right as rain. Stitches out yesterday. She can finally wash her hair again!

  6. Nina on August 3, 2013 at 1:44 pm

    I loved this post and all the images. Hope the trip was productive and the Stella is on the mend!

    • Kate on August 26, 2013 at 1:45 pm

      It was, Nina! Thank you!

  7. Angie Mizzell on August 5, 2013 at 8:18 pm

    I needed this tonight. All of it. Thanks for taking us on your trip away from home and back again.

    • Kate on August 26, 2013 at 1:44 pm


  8. Cecilia on August 7, 2013 at 9:39 am

    Nice to hear from you, Kate! I hope you are able to settle down and in these final weeks of summer. I hope Stella is okay too. xo

    • Kate on August 26, 2013 at 1:44 pm

      Thank you, Cecilia!