Tuesday, November 29, 2011


ONE-DAY INTENSIVE: Saturday, February 11th, 9:00 a.m. -2:00 p.m.
EIGHT-WEEK SERIES: Saturday mornings, March 3 - April 21, 10:00 a.m. -12:00 p.m.
Has motherhood been a profound or complex journey for you?
Do you long for time to write and digest your experiences?
Whether you are a beginning or experienced writer, a new or longtime mom, these workshops are designed for you!
In a small group setting, we will gather to explore our diverse, individual experiences as mothers. Each week we will free-write from a series of prompts that explore themes such as: joy and intimacy; isolation and community; shifting identities; cultural myths and taboos; longing, change, and letting go.
Participants will be encouraged to share from their writing in a supportive, non-judgmental environment. Together we will aim to go beyond labeling our writing as “good” or “bad,” and to let go of our internal editors so we can access the place where our writing reveals new insights. Each week, we will also read quotes and essays from mother-writers such as Rachel Cusk, Anne Lamott, Naomi Wolf, and Hope Edelman, which we will discuss and use to jump-start our own writing.*
By the end of our time together, you will have generated pages of new writing, connected with a community of mother-writers, and emerge with a stronger sense of what motherhood means to you.
* The one-day workshop will not include readings, and instead will focus on free-writing and sharing aloud. The themes will be similar, but condensed.
Sign-up early for a discounted rate! Details below.
Limited partial scholarships available. 
All workshops held at the Good Shepard Center in Wallingford: 4649 Sunnyside Ave N. Seattle, WA 98103.
One-Day Intensive:
Saturday, February 11, 2012        
9:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
Max.# of students: 10. Register below.

Payment Options

Eight-Week Series:

Saturdays, March 3 – April 21, 2012
10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Max. # of students: 10. Register below.

Payment Options

Online Registration Information

1) PayPal encourages people to register and establish an account. When you click on the PayPal link during registration the page will prompt you for a PayPal user ID and password. Please note it is NOT necessary to have an account with PayPal to register for a workshop. Below the question "Don't have a PayPal account?" you will see the word "CONTINUE," click on this and you will be able to finish paying for your registration by credit card without setting up an account.
2) If the workshop is already full and this information has not yet been posted on this page, I will notify you and issue a refund to your credit card. If the classes do not fill to the minimum (5 students), I will do the same.
3) You will receive e-mail confirmation of your payment from PayPal AND an email from me. If you do NOT receive this confirmation it may mean your registration has not been received. Please email Anne at: alkellor@gmail.com
4) I will send a group email out to the class a couple weeks prior with room information and any other instructions. Thanks!

Scholarship Information

If you are interested in attending either workshop but cannot afford the tuition, you are welcome to apply for a partial scholarship. Please send me an email (alkellor@gmail.com) letting me know what your financial situation is, why you wish to take the course, and how much of the tuition you can contribute. Requests are due for the one-day intensive by 1/11, and for the 8-week series by 2/3. I will then let you know within two weeks of the scholarship application deadline whether your request can be granted.
About the Instructor
Anne Liu Kellor holds a MFA in creative nonfiction, and is a Hedgebrook and Jack Straw alum. Her essays have appeared in the anthology Waking Up American (Seal Press), The Los Angeles Review, and other publications. Anne has read her work from coast-to-coast and led writing workshops in community centers, senior centers, schools, prisons, colleges, and living rooms. She has written a collection of memoirs, Searching for the Heart Radical, and blogs on motherhood and writing. 

Questions? E-mail Anne at: alkellor@gmail.com

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Gratitude: A List of Things I Love

  1. Coffee. I still can’t have it all the time or Cedar’s tummy gets upset, but I have it enough to know how much it can help me through a day.

  1. Cheese. Ditto on the above, can’t have it all the time, but when I do, let me tell you, I enjoy it! The best was the cheese plate at the overpriced wine bar with its miniature slices. But did I care? No! The size of those slices was perfect for me and mirrored my savoring-every-small-bite approach. Speaking of which….

  1. The wine at said wine bar was damn good, too. Thank God I haven’t had to cut out wine from my diet. Enough said.

  1. Okay, on to less oral delights… I love…. the way my husband lets me sleep in on Saturday mornings. The feeling of sinking back into a deep, uninterrupted sleep for three hours, and the ability to sprawl my limbs across the wide expanse of the flannel sheet-covered mattress is downright heavenly. With the aid of the white noise machine and earplugs, all outside noises of small children are blocked out, and although I emerge from this dream-laced stupor feeling groggy and out of sorts, this ability to catch up on my sleep on the weekend has felt physically necessary, what keeps me from getting sick, what keeps me sane in the midst of going on 20-some months of continually interrupted and inadequate sleep.

  1. What else? I love… my son’s silliness. The way he cracks up in hysterics when we blow on his tummy, or the way he copies us and blows on mine. The way he says his new word “no?” like a question. Running my hands through the curls on the back of his head. The way he likes to kick and stomp his feet, and turn in circles when he “dances”. The way he chases our cat through the house, screaming “Mao, mao, mao…”, cat in Chinese. Witnessing him absorb language, new words left and right. His recent obsession with candles—requesting (more like demanding) that I light a "ka da" whenever we are sitting at the table. There are worse things for a toddler to demand. Like…. “Elmo! Elmo! Elmo!” Okay… too much Elmo may get annoying, but those folks at Sesame Street sure are clever—ever seen Feist’s “1, 2, 3, 4…” song or Adam Sandler’s song about Elmo? How about India Arie’s alphabet song or that British guy singing Elmo a “lullaby” with a pounding punk guitar? Uh, huh. I’ve watched these video clips on You Tube many, many times, and more often than not, I’ve got one stuck in my head. One more, you say? Okay, baby. And another? Why not. Half an hour’s worth? Well, alright, just this once...or twice. Then mama can wake up and drink her coffee.

  1. Obviously I could fill this entire list with things about my son. After all, he’s the center of my universe right now. The center of my universe forever? Perhaps. So let me just pick one more thing I love about him, then move on. I love…the way he runs around the house with a plastic stir stick meant for my husband’s beer brewing. I also don’t like the fact that this has become his new favorite toy, pushing it in front of him on the wood floor like a vacuum, but I do love how this current excitement of his speaks to how children can find enjoyment in the oddest of things. He likes this plastic stick too much for me to err with my cautious side and take it away from him (lest he trip and it jabs him, or it trips him). Whatever. It’s not sharp and pokey. There are worse things for him to attach to. So of all things to love, I pick the stick. Really, I just love watching him discover the world, I love his incessant curiosity. I love (and sigh about) how he wants to hold and copy every last thing that we hold or do. Nothing  escapes his notice. He makes me see the world of mundane objects anew.

  1. What else? I love… watching him connect with his grandparents. Watching him play hide-and-seek with my mom. Watching my mom run down the hall or army crawl behind the dining room table—my serious, often grumpy, yet wonderful mom, morphing into the silly, delightful child that she also is. I love the fact that Cedar has so many people who love him, so many people with whom he can feel safe with, so many people he knows. I love seeing him lift his arms up to a new friend to be held, I love seeing the delight in their faces as they feel chosen by him, having passed the energetic test: you are safe, you are kind.

  1. I love my family, love my friends, love my community, even if I often miss them because they are far away or busy. Oh, so busy. Everyone’s so busy. But still, even though I haven't yet, I love the knowledge that I can take the train down to Portland with Cedar some day to visit two of my oldest soul sisters (our own little adventure), and I love the morning weekend drives that I've made with my husband to Olympia en route to visit Grandma and family. I love that my sister now lives only a few miles away, and I love the fact that we have a small growing nucleus of families with babies next door, families that we will no doubt BBQ and have playdates and drinks with all the more. I love how I have been trading childcare with my neighbor—once a week I watch her daughter for a few hours, in exchange for the same. This is how it is done! That whole village thing. It really matters. We are all so tired, we don’t have the energy to drive across town once we’re cozy in our homes. But we do have the energy to walk next door! And often the morning goes faster caring for two than for one, when suddenly all the old toys become interesting again.

  1. Okay, I lied. Back to Cedar. I love watching him interact with other babies and kids. Whether it’s his 16-month-old buddy Cecilia next door (who adores “C” as she calls him), or the 19 other kids at toddler co-op preschool who we spot more and more around town at library storytime or at the park. I love how he is forming his own little community, and I love trying to imagine what it feels like for him to realize that the world is  populated with little people just like him! I love showing up at school every Friday morning and seeing the new (to us) imaginative toys and activities set up in the room, and watching him roam around at will, every so often calling out, “Mama, mama!” and running into my arms for a hug, before darting off again to explore some new corner. I love knowing that he feels safe to explore the outer limits of his environment, yet also knows to come back and check in and get some loving. I love loving this little boy. He is so full of love. I inhale his whole being into my heart when we embrace, drawing as close as I can to his essence.

  1. I should wrap things up here or this list will get unwieldy! So here goes… I love… my husband. My dear, poor husband, who often feels picked on, neglected, nagged. Yes, dear, I have my gripes, but never forget how much I love you passionately. I love your fish smoking and beer brewing ways. I love how you embody my favorite season, fall—building a warm fire, chopping wood in a flannel shirt, baking apple pies, sitting at your table under the lamp tying flies. Yes, we are different. You don’t like to read, and I like things a lot tidier, but somehow those things are not so important when it comes down to what we enjoy most out of each other and life. Like our ability to just sit on the couch and listen to music and talk (or NOT talk!) for hours. And if I haven’t said this recently, let me tell you again how much I love watching you with Cedar. I love the throaty growl with which he’s decided to intone your name (Baba!), and I love the mischievous light in his eyes and yours as you chase him through the house, running to dive onto the bed, collapsing into tickles and laughter. I love your gentle and patient, yet firm ways. I know we will be good partners in compassionate discipline. I know we see eye to eye on parenting, and this is not something to be taken for granted. What else do I love about you? I love… your deep sensitivity to nature and to life’s evolving flow. I love your ability to stay calm in the midst of chaos and change; I love your ability to stay open to inner growth and always on the lookout for taking on new opportunities that scare the shit out of you, but that you know will be good for you. I love your humility, your down-to-earthness, your country bumpkin redneck hippy meets urban commuter technological music fiend. I love you, honey. I love our life, as much as I like to complain about it. I love our story, our past, and I love dreaming together of our future. I love this life, this breath, the eternally unfolding expanding and contracting mystery embodied in this moment.

This moment. I love the unknown possibilities inherent, ripening, ripened: waiting for us to show up and take hold.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Baby Lust— Or Not

I used to always think that I would probably have two kids. Two parents and two kids seemed like the “perfect” family unit, balanced and lively yet manageable, without necessarily requiring the purchase of a minivan. I grew up with a sister, and although we fought a lot (we are a year and a half apart, and many of our spats ended in fear-inspiring threats like, “You can’t wear any of my clothes anymore, ever!”), we also had lots of fun together.  We understand each other on an intrinsic level because we grew up in the same environment under the care of the same people.  Being an only child always seemed so… lonely. Only children might grow up to be more… self-centered, or demanding, or possessive of their things. Well, even if these aren’t true (in fact, siblings might feel more of a need to establish their personal territory), I still always felt that two was better than one.

But now that I’m the parent of a toddler, I see things a little differently. It’s true that I still see families of four (or five- but five’s the limit) eating crepes, drinking coffee, and reading the paper and picture books together on Sunday mornings at the café, and think how great that would be to be able to go on family outings someday where everyone will be entertained. But then, during the week, I see mothers pushing their toddlers in a stroller, while also carrying a baby in an Ergo and walking the family dog, and I feel a kind of empathy for them. Or is it pity, born of thankfulness that, no matter how tired I am, at least I’m not them? I’m sure that they treasure their family and that this may very well be the cozy family unit that they’ve always dreamt of, and yet, no one can deny that these full-time mothers shoulder a heavy load.

Mostly, I have embraced my initiation into motherhood over this last year and a half, and I have been grateful for my ability to stay at home with Cedar while he is so young. And yet. I have also acutely missed my loss of time—namely, to write and pursue my career. Because so much of the work that is involved in being a writer is unpaid, we cannot afford to hire a regular sitter so that I can go sit in a café and write. Instead, I depend on the two afternoons a week of childcare that my mom provides, or my weekend morning respites care of my husband—and inevitably, half of “my” time also gets funneled into the mound of dishes, laundry, emails, or chores that I haven’t been able to get done while I’m with Cedar.

Recently, as my son has grown older, I’ve slowly started to claim back little pockets of time to write, not to mention to begin to consider pursuits like teaching and publishing again. And despite what can feel like painstakingly sloooww progress, chipping away at a long list of goals, it has also been hugely satisfying to begin to inhabit the larger spectrum of my creative and professional identity again, even as I remain a “stay-at-home” mom. Don’t get me wrong, I have only the fullest respect for stay-at-home moms—I know how hard they work (for no pay, for often under-expressed thanks from their partners, and for a sliver of respect from society), and I also know what a joy this occupation can be. But I resent feeling like I am “just” a stay-at-home mom in the eyes of others, I resent the distinct ‘demotion’ that this role occupies in our society, and the way that it’s demands usurp all other aspects of my identity.

And so of course I am excited for each new stage of independence that my son moves into—whether this was his ability to be away from the breast for longer periods, or, his ability to go to preschool for several mornings a week in the not-so-distant-future, during which I can dive into my projects all the more. Even if we’ll have to find the money for these additional school hours, this spending will feel more ‘justified’ since it’s good for Cedar to be exposed to other children and creative environments. This investment will be “for Cedar” and not just me, even if I will reap just as much—if not more-- satisfaction out of this new routine.

So with this new phase of motherhood on the horizon, it’s hard for me to feel eager to get pregnant again and to plunge all over again into that altered, caring-for-a-newborn state of mind-- only this time with a toddler to chase after simultaneously. If I’m so tired and desperate for more time with just one, how on earth will I be able to do anything else but care for my children if I have two? Of course, I realize that eventually when they go to school you gain some of your time back. But I don’t think I can handle waiting the four or five more years that that it would take (if say, I got pregnant today) to come back to the state of equilibrium that I’m only just reclaiming now.

Right now, I’m thinking that having just one might be good enough. He can play with his neighbors, cousins, and friends. He can be assured of always having plenty of attention from mom and dad. And he can more easily be schlepped off to the grandparents or brought with us on airplanes when mom and dad regain their ability to go out more and travel (even if this feels like a distant fantasy). Also, having just one will help my husband and I regain some of our own time together, something we desperately need, as opposed to taking away even more.

Maybe if we were rich, some of these factors wouldn’t be quite so relevant. We could hire a nanny, go on regular date nights, both feel intellectually engaged by our work, and still have energy left over to shower on our kids. But we aren’t rich, and when one half of the family income comes from a writer, we probably never will be. So although a lack of money alone wouldn’t stop me from having another kid if I wanted one at all costs, in our case, it’s definitely a factor worth considering. With just one we aren’t quite as pressed to tackle the expensive remodel that our humble cabin requires if my husband and I ever hope to have our own bedroom again.  And with just one, doing something drastic (however unlikely) like moving the family for a year to live in China feels slightly more within reach, whereas everything feels that much more daunting with just one more child’s future to worry about.

There’s something to be said for making life a little easier. I know that some people say that with two they can entertain each other, but mostly what I hear from the buzz on Facebook and the like is that having two young kids is definitely harder. Perhaps it’s a selective memory of the early years (not to mention an intense love) that leads one to proclaim that more is easier. I don’t know.

I do realize, of course, that in another year or two I might take all this back as I’m seized by an irrational desire to have another baby. Even now, as I encounter the newborns of friends, I have small flutters of longing to hold and remember the essence of one of those mystical beings. Those first months are such a blur of hormones, anxiety, and sleepless nights that it’s already hard to recall what it felt like to be privy to care for such a being, but I know that, once again, our selective memories can help us to block out the hardships and to instead pine for the fleeting, yet nonetheless very real moments of joy that come with caring for a baby.

And yet, I fear getting sucked even deeper into the maternal world of diapers, playdates, doctor’s appointments, online shopping, and conversations centered around breastfeeding and sleep.  I fear getting sucked in so deep that it will feel insurmountably hard to reemerge into the adult, work world. And this is in part because I am acutely aware of how much work it took me to get to where I am—and I’m not even satisfied yet; I still have greater goals. And the longer you set those goals aside, the harder it is to dig back into them. Not impossible, never impossible. But hard.

Baby lust. I know it might still hit me. I know some of you out there might be thinking to yourself, yeah, I remember feeling that way… just you wait another year or so, and I concede that I’m still hanging on to those bins of baby clothes up in the attic, just in case.  Yes, there is a part of me that would be excited again to go through the ripening journey towards birth again, with the ultimate climax that comes from meeting the new mystery that life has sent for you.  But I have also not yet forgotten just how hard this first year and a half has been. These last twenty months have shown me how strong I am, how much I can shoulder when called upon, at the same time that they have shown me my limits and where I need to set the boundaries when it comes to my own needs.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Writing Motherhood: 2012 Workshops

I haven't written much lately, but I have been busy making plans. I feel an energy to step out of my comfort zone again, an energy that is buzzing and rising inside of me, an energy that can sometimes manifest as fear, but mostly as a necessary hunger. A hunger to connect with other adults, a hunger to engage my mind and to feed my spirit, a hunger to see what else I can add into the fold of motherhood, to see how much I can take on, little by little, without becoming overwhelmed.

First off, I am planning to teach a couple workshops-- a one-day intensive on February 11th and an eight-week, Saturday morning series starting on March 3rd. Writing Motherhood. Each week, 5-10 women, incidentally mothers, will gather to write from a series of prompts. I will provide readings culled from  memoirs and essays on motherhood, passages and chapters that make me excited, that make me go "Yes!", or make me go hmm...what do I think about this? What do I have to add to this collection of smart voices? What parts of this crazy journey have I been most affected by? What aspects do I most need to spend time with and digest?

I can't wait to share these readings with others and to see how they spark each of us differently. I can't wait to gather a group of women together with the shared intention to explore this vast and complicated, humbling and overwhelming, awesome and mundane terrain called motherhood. I can't wait to learn from other mothers and their writing, however new or far along they are on their mothering and writing paths.

It's been almost two years since I've led a workshop, not counting a short, free one I gave about a year ago. This is not surprising given the fact that my son is 19 months old, and it's been a slow, evolving process of learning how to carve out more time for myself to write, to read, to sleep(!), and to pursue my publishing- and teaching-related goals. 

In the early months, it was enough-- or all I could hope for-- just to scribble out a mad journal entry during Cedar's naps. Then slowly, I began to give more to this blog. Then less again, as other things in life easily took over to crowd out my narrow windows of time to write, be it chores, illnesses, or my parents (i.e. my childcare) going on vacation.

Now, I finally feel like I have enough energy and time (though it's never really enough, of course; we're talking about altered expectations here), to even consider giving a little bit of my writing time away to teach. Don't get me wrong, I love teaching, and the communication and community that can come from facilitating a group feeds me in exhilarating ways that writing alone cannot. But if I have to choose between the two, writing will always win. After all, how can I teach writing if I am not actively writing? How would I have the confidence and embodied love to teach, if I were feeling deprived or depressed or unmotivated ? I would feel like a hypocrite. It's not that I need to be in a prolific period to teach; chances are I'm not. But I do need to feel connected to that essential pulse of excitement and love for the process and craft. 

I sense a new phase of motherhood coming on. One in which I am still exhausted and pining for more time to myself, but also one in which I am actively claiming back my commitment to my passions. One in which I am surfacing from an almost dreamlike immersion, and remembering that I am so many things, that I've lived so many lives, and that I have so much more still to learn and create.

How about you? Are you ready for something new?

Workshops will be held at the Good Shepard Center in Wallingford. 
One-day Intensive: Saturday, February 11, 9 a.m. - 2 p.m.
Eight-week series: Saturdays, 10 a.m.- 12 p.m., March 3 - April 21, 2012

Registration details to come!


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