Motherhood & Words

Some of you who have been faithfully reading this blog for years might remember my post a few years ago about the orchid I inherited from dear Mimi, the woman with whom Donny and I lived for three years just after we got married. (We lived in an apartment attached to her house and did household chores and errands in exchange for rent.) Mimi died in 2004, and at the memorial service I asked her daughter-in-law (through my sobs—I loved Mimi) if I could have one of Mimi’s orchids. (I had spent countless hours in her greenhouse, caring for her plants, and I felt that having one of those orchids would keep me connected to Mimi.)

I chose the Vanda Rothschildiana, one of my favorites (and Mimi’s, as well). But for years it didn’t bloom, and I assumed that our house wasn’t humid enough. Then, five years later, it burst into color. You can see photos and read about that here.

Over the last year and a half, though, the Vanda has been struggling. It began to lose its leaves, so I re-potted it. I sprayed its roots every morning. I re-potted it again. It perked up for a while, and I thought I had saved it. Then the rest of the leaves yellowed and fell to the ground.

During this same period, I was struggling, as well, dealing with stressful trademark issues. Each day I carefully sprayed the Vanda’s roots (even though it no longer had even one sad leaf.) Each day I fretted about the dispute (though fretting did me no good.)

I knew—had known for a while—that I needed to let both go. Mimi’s spirit did not reside in that orchid just as my work did not reside in the name I’d been using. Letting the orchid go wouldn’t affect how much I loved Mimi. Letting the name go wouldn’t affect the passion I felt for my work. So I stopped watering the plant, and I rebranded.

Rebranding has been great. But I missed my Vanda hanging there in the dining room. I missed that shock of green near the ceiling. I missed the possibility of its lavender blossoms.

Today is my 40th birthday—a milestone to be sure. And a few weeks ago I decided that as a present I’d like a new Vanda, one that I chose with Mimi and new beginnings in mind. It’s been a challenging year for me with lots of loss (my grandpa, a friend, the son of a friend). But it’s also been an incredible year (the book, the job, presentations and new opportunities). And I’m ready to celebrate how far I’ve come, how hard I’ve worked, and how grateful I am for this life I’m living.

Last night, my mom drove me out to Orchids Limited, where she bought me a new Vanda. My Vanda.  I’m told the blossoms will be lavender. (I’ll post photos as soon as it blooms.)

Cheers, friends! Thank you for being part of my life.

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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. Sara on June 13, 2012 at 8:10 pm

    Happy 40th! You’re a day ahead of me! Hope our 40s are fabulous!

    • Kate on June 14, 2012 at 9:25 am

      Happy birthday, Sara!!

  2. Julie Stevens on June 13, 2012 at 9:46 pm

    I love the symbolism of new and just for you as you open the door to your fabulous forties Kate! Happy Birthday!

    • Kate on June 14, 2012 at 9:24 am

      Thank you, Julie!! I look forward to seeing you soon. A drink this summer?

  3. KayK on June 13, 2012 at 10:49 pm

    Yes – life and parenting seem to be constant exercises in the art of letting go even when you want nothing more than to hold on tight. Happy Birthday Kate!
    Ilook forward to clinking cheers to new beginnings with you very soon my friend!

    • Kate on June 14, 2012 at 9:24 am

      Thank you, my dear!!

  4. 6512 and growing on June 14, 2012 at 9:17 pm

    Happy birthday, Kate! I love seeing the schedule of your book tour reaching the West Coast!

    • Kate on June 19, 2012 at 9:42 am

      Thank you, Rachel, fellow Gemini!

      So excited for the trip!

  5. Andria on June 15, 2012 at 8:27 am

    Kate — Happy birthday!

    I just saw that your book tour is coming to CA and I almost passed out. I can make it to Book Passages! We will BE THERE!!!!!! I am so excited by this news I can’t even tell you. Honestly, this is the most fun news I could have gotten all week.

    (But I will tone it down for the book signing, I promise. I won’t make a peep. I’ll need a bullet to bite on to stop from shouting “Raise the Roof, Y’all!!” when you come out.)

    Hope your day was wonderful on Wednesday. And I hope your Zoe is feeling better! 2 broken arms by age 4…she’s a firecracker, huh?! I’m truly sorry she broke her arm, but I do love hearing about her spirit.

  6. Andria on June 15, 2012 at 8:28 am

    OK, I just saw that the thing at Book Passages is a workshop, but we’ll make it to one of the CA readings for sure. Sorry, I was so excited I didn’t read closely enough. 🙂

    • Kate on June 19, 2012 at 9:44 am

      Thank you, Andria! I woudl LOVE to see you guys!


  7. Ines on June 20, 2012 at 6:28 am

    A beautiful story, Kate. I remember about your Vanda because when you mentioned it before I told you about my own not-blooming plant story (given to me by adored aunt Adriana when we moved to this house). I am sorry your first Vanda is not there, I am very glad you got a new one, your own one. I also really like your new ‘brand,’

  8. Hallie Sawyer on June 29, 2012 at 10:43 am

    Happy belated birthday, Kate! I think getting yourself a new orchid was a great way to commemorate yourself and reflect on how fantastic 40 is! (I turned this year, too!)

    Hope your summer is going…swimmingly? What else can we do in 103 degrees? 🙂

    • Kate on June 29, 2012 at 11:20 am

      Thank you, Hallie!! Happy 40 to you, as well!