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Fruit Snack Helper & Writing What’s In Your Heart

March 19, 2016

Most of the work I do nowadays involves social media and content marketing.

I still do editorial illustration, however, including some very interesting assignments from The Rumpus, which specializes in artist and writer interviews, offbeat topics, and highly personal essays.BlankVertSpace.4pixelsBlankVertSpace.4pixels

I recently illustrated Writing My Context, by Lyz Lenz. The opening paragraph creates some tension:

BlankVertSpace.8pixelsThe flight attendant drops her wings. They ping on the ground as she walks by checking the cabin before our flight. They are brass and feel heavy in my hands. The pin is bent and pricks my palm as I hide it in my lap. I want to keep them. I am a thirty-two-year-old mother of two children. But right now, I am alone on an airplane from Chicago to Portland, with an overwhelming urge to do something completely out of character.BlankVertSpace.4pixelsBlankVertSpace.4pixels

She continues:BlankVertSpace.8pixels

My trip is an escape. I am on my way to a week-long writers conference. It is a chance to slough off the skin of mother and wife for a week. To be seen as an individual, a writer. To be responsible only for myself.

I have no business stealing the wing pin. I don’t really want it. But as the plane takes off and we hover over the land, I want to be, just for a moment, without context.BlankVertSpace.4pixelsBlankVertSpace.4pixelsBlankVertSpace.4pixels

We learn that the writer’s everyday context is motherhood:BlankVertSpace.8pixels

Most of my days are spent in the company of two small children, who demand cheese sticks, games of hide and seek, and always seem to have some remnant of a barely-eaten meal stuck to their cheeks.BlankVertSpace.8pixels

I sit on the plane holding those brass wings. I want to keep them because I know that in my everyday life, I would never steal them. But in this moment, I want to believe that anything is possible. That I am capable of anything.BlankVertSpace.4pixelsBlankVertSpace.4pixels

Finally, the tension is resolved:BlankVertSpace.8pixels

The next time the flight attendant comes by, I hand her the fallen wings.

I am not that person.blank vertical space, 32 pixels high
Woman being dragged up into sky by balloon shaped like airline stewardess wings trying to cut herself free with scissors

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detail image of Woman being dragged up into sky by balloon shaped like airline stewardess wings trying to cut herself free with scissors

blank vertical space, 32 pixels highThe author expands on her everyday context:BlankVertSpace.8pixels

I write in moments that feel like plunging underwater. During naptime, while the baby sings himself to sleep and my daughter plays with her toys…

I write in the afternoons when I turn on the TV, hand out snacks, and put the computer in my lap…

I hand out fruit snack after fruit snack, until they are gone and my daughter hits me in the head with a foam sword.blank vertical space, 32 pixels high

Mom writing on iPad laptop child hitting her with toy sword using sugary fruit snacks to keep baby quietblank vertical space, 16 pixels highblank vertical space, 24 pixels high
detail image of mother writing on iPad laptop child hitting her with toy sword using sugary fruit snacks to keep baby quietblank vertical space, 32 pixels high

blank vertical space, 32 pixels highFurther along in the essay, her words made me think of that old adage that every writer has heard: “Write what you know.”BlankVertSpace.8pixels

Before I was a mother, I was a writer. Before I wrote about my children, I wrote about books, politics, and sex. No one really read that work. It was rejected a lot. I gave essays to my friends for critiques and they politely handed them back telling me, “It has promise.” Later, when I had my daughter, I still wrote about politics, sex, and books, but I also wrote about her. That was the writing that got published…

I once held fast to the feminist narrative that having children wouldn’t define me. But I know that they have. I didn’t want children to change me, but the reality of my new self is inescapable…

Surely we secrete our secret selves through our skin in ways we do not always recognize. For now, writing my children is writing my body. It’s hard to know where one ends and the other begins…

Parenting books tell me that I ought to draw healthy boundaries between myself and my children. But I once read that cells from the fetus stay inside the mother long after the child is born. Scientists don’t know what those cells do to the mother exactly, but they do know they linger forever in her heart and in her head.blank vertical space, 32 pixels high
Freelance writer mother with two children on her mind and in her heart channeling her kids into her writing on laptop computer

blank vertical space, 32 pixels highdetail image of Freelance writer mother with two children on her mind and in her heart channeling her kids into her writing on laptop computer

blank vertical space, 32 pixels highThe concluding lines are both touching and wise:BlankVertSpace.8pixels

I think again of the flight attendant’s wings. I am glad I gave them back. I return home… I hug my children. I am glad for the week. I am glad to be back. I know I do my best work surrounded by the waffles, the dog-eared pages of feminist theory, bright plastic cars, and silver wands.

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    *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Any moms out there? Did any of the above passages strike a chord?

Have you ever been tempted to “steal some wings?” i.e., to do something completely out of character?

Has anyone else used fruit snacks as a sedative?? (Maybe I should keep a few boxes handy for when I’m under pressure to meet a deadline!)

Hope you’ll leave a comment.blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

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14 Comments leave one →
  1. March 19, 2016 10:46 AM

    This post was highly engaging and entertaining and thought-provoking…not provoking, that sounds too much like “antagonistic”…its appeal lies in its breezy (yet multi-layered) depth…thanks for sharing…and, the illustrations feel like wonderful sunshine 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • March 19, 2016 5:01 PM

      And this lovely comment felt like wonderful sunshine on my happy face– in fact, it gave me a beautiful tan! Thank you for all your kind words, and your gracious care in choosing them. I appreciated every single word. Glad you enjoyed the post, and thanks so much for stopping by! : )

      Liked by 1 person

  2. March 19, 2016 1:11 PM

    I think any mother can identify with this character. Surely, I’ve had a moment or two when I wondered whether or not it would be all worth it in the end. I’m still pondering that.
    How does one realize it?
    Is the success of your children a barometer?
    Do we accept what it is to be a mother and never question it?
    The mystery of motherhood.
    I enjoyed this very much Mark. Thank you for posting.
    Isadora 😎


    • March 19, 2016 5:17 PM

      Thank you for that very thoughtful comment, Isadora. I’m sure every mom has experienced great hopes and fears, joy and pain, laughter and tears. The maternal bond is a uniquely intense and emotional one. There are hidden depths, and, as you say, mystery. An essay like this helps us see the wonder in something we tend to take for granted.

      I’m very glad you enjoyed the post, and thanks again for your kind comment! : )

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Margie permalink
    March 19, 2016 1:51 PM

    I think my children learned at a very young age that they didn’t hit mom with anything. I expect they learned it on the playground ’cause it wasn’t something I ever had to teach them…


    • March 19, 2016 5:29 PM

      OK, let me guess: You used to read Hansel and Gretel to your kids, and when you got to the part where the witch is about to put them in the oven, you stopped and looked at your kids, nodded, and said very slowly: “Yes… and that’s exactly what happens to naughty children who dare to hit their mother…”

      Gosh– no wonder your kids were so well behaved!! : )

      OK, just teasing. I know kids learn lots of interesting things at the playground– nice to think some of it might actually be good!! : )

      Great to see you, Margie– thanks as always for your kind support!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Lily permalink
    March 19, 2016 5:33 PM

    I enjoyed all these illustrations but that first one was my favourite. That moment you decide that balloon is not for you and you let go (or in this case, cut the string!)

    To “steal some wings” – to do something you wouldn’t normally do – I get that kind of feeling when I visit a completely new town by myself. But for me, it’s more because the people there don’t know me, so I can be a completely new character if I want to. I use the opportunity to work on little things like small talk and being more open :mrgreen: – things which I end up bringing back home with me, so it’s all in the name of self-improvement 🙂

    I think it’s a way to prove that our everyday life doesn’t completely define who we are 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    • March 21, 2016 2:40 PM

      Ah, my dear Lily–! When it comes to thoughtful comments that take a discussion to a higher level, you really are in a class by yourself. I love your idea of using an unfamiliar setting (with unfamiliar people) to experiment a bit with being more open, more outgoing. I’ve always been rather shy and reserved in social situations myself, so I can appreciate the desire to become more adept at small talk, a bit braver at letting down my guard. Yes, indeed– why not edge out of ye olde comfort zone with people to whom you’re a blank slate?

      Love that last line, especially. It’s very empowering, filled with hope. And I sincerely believe it’s true: We’re not locked in. We’re all evolving, moving along life’s path. We can’t change our personalities, but life’s filled with possibility, and so are we. We have to hold tight to that truth, and give ourselves credit for the progress we’ve made.

      Thanks for your lovely comment, your kindness, and for being such a good influence. 😊

      Liked by 2 people

  5. March 25, 2016 4:08 AM

    I can’t take the image of that boink boink illustration out of my head. It’s so funny 😀 Great article and beautiful illustrations to complement it. Motherhood is one thing that always puzzles me. I look at my sister and wonder how she is juggling everything – college, his school, food and on top of that, perpetual hair pulling. I asked her how and she just said she loves it !


    • March 28, 2016 12:16 PM

      Ha! Any illustration with a “Boink Boink!” in it has a great advantage– as long as you’re trying to make people laugh, anyway… 😊

      The older I get, the more I perceive an element of mystery in just about everything. (And FWIW, I consider that a very good thing.) In the Motherhood category, the biggest mystery to me is how some moms make it look absolutely effortless. The kids are well-groomed, well-behaved, they do well in school, and there’s this very obvious child-parent affection. And all the time the moms have this kind of unhurried serenity. They’ve obviously taken to motherhood like the proverbial duck to water. Not every one is so lucky, of course, but I like to think great moms (like your sister) are like great artists, writers, musicians, athletes, whatever: they establish an ideal of sorts, show what’s possible, give others something to aspire to…

      Speaking of well-groomed, well-behaved, gifted and intelligent artists and writers– you and I come to mind. Yes, my dear Vandy, we set an example for others to follow. It’s the least we can do… : )

      Liked by 1 person

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