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The Mother Poems Book Launch – May 21, 2014

May 4, 2014


The Viking Queen in Her Boat

The Viking Queen in Her Boat

On May 21, 2014 at 5:30 pm at Indy Reads Bookstore, in Indianapolis IN, I will be launching my new book of poems, The Mother Poems – A Memoir:The Warrior Queen Novelist and Her Poet Daughter, published by Chatter House Press.  I never planned on writing any poems about my mother, let alone an entire book of them.  In fact, at the beginning, I wanted to write anything but poems about my mother. Now that the book has been written, it feels to me like the book needed me to write it from the day my mother told me what a writer was, when I was no more than 4 years old and could not read a word.

The first of these poems (which is now in the middle of the book) came, when – in the midst of writer’s block during and after my divorce – I found myself writing about the scar on my mother’s hand caused by a cooking-accident grease burn. I struggled with that poem for several months.  Later, after a visit with her, when I watched her hobbling around with a cane, impatient with everyone who wouldn’t slow down for her, I decided to write about the ways I remembered her moving through the world when younger. For most of her life she was impatient with everyone for being too slow and I was the child hurrying to keep up with her.

I imagined maybe 5 or 6 poems, a short series, and then I could move on to other material.  I wrote about my first memory, following her to the pear tree in the pasture beside the first house I lived in. I wrote about hurrying to catch up with her as she charged through the mall when I was a teen.  I wrote about her teaching me to brave the monsters in the basement by singing a battle hymn as I marched down the steps.  I wrote about how she walked outside to survey the damage minutes after a tornado felled trees in our yard.  Before I knew it, images and memories of her in times in between what I had already written also began to speak their way into poems.  I found myself filling in the gaps chronologically, piecing a story together that was not only a story about her, but a story about me and ultimately, the story of our relationship.

The first poem about the scar ripped its way out of me in the summer of 2006.  In the summer of 2008 I had begun writing about how my mother moved through the world and by the summer of 2009 I had accepted that this writing was going to require me to write about our entire lives, the whole story, from my first memory to her death, which I sensed was approaching faster than she wanted to admit.  I did not imagine that the poems would be published. I needed to write them privately, for their own sake.  I did not plan on sharing any of them with her.  I needed to be as honest as possible, from within my perspective, no matter how painful.

By the summer of 2012, most of the poems had been written and along the way much more than poetry had been created.  Unexpectedly, through the writing, I had done a life review of our relationship, and I had discovered my own lifelong love for this woman who could not let herself be loved. I had found forgiveness for her.  And gratitude for what she had given me, especially for the love of writing which she passed on to me.  In the fall of 2012, I decided to publish The Mother Poems while my mother was still alive and to ask her to write her own response which could be also included in the book.  Impatient as ever, her “response” was a brief email to let me know she had read them, found some of them strong, and that she would start writing a response. Then, a few days later, she died, hurrying on to the next adventures of the Warrior Queen.

After her death, I needed to write several more poems.  I wrote about her death. I wrote about other memories from childhood that popped up. I realized that I will be remembering and writing poems about her for the rest of my life.  But I also knew that I needed to give The Mother Poems to readers now, even though there will be more mother poems for me to write.  I have found that every time I have shared a poem from the book, the response is immediate.  Women especially have told me that they want to write about their own mothers and that my poems have given them the courage to start doing so.  I hope to begin scheduling readings and workshops using The Mother Poems as catalyst to encourage other women – and men – to write about their own complex, unique, challenging, and numinous relationships with their mothers.

I don’t have a preconceived agenda for how and where I am going to do these readings and workshops.  I sense that, like the poems themselves, these opportunities will emerge organically.  The poems will touch people, invitations will emerge, the poems will continue to take me beyond where I imagine going, and giving much, much more than I expect to receive, tapping for myself and everyone whom they inspire to write about their own mothers, the mythic mother-load of story, memory, creativity, and healing.

If you’ve read this post and would like a Mother Poem  reading and workshop, please contact me! I look forward to meeting you on this journey.


Sharing the Presence of Clear Mind, Wild Heart

March 15, 2014

Clear Mind, Wild Heart , Sounds True

Yesterday, I drove to work listening to David Whyte’s recording, Clear Mind ,Wild Heart (Sounds True ). I can listen all day to his speaking of poetry, his encouragement to live at the frontier of self, and have listened to him on other drives all the way from home to parking space.  But I didn’t yesterday. In the year since my mother’s death, I have been clearing space in my own mind, my own wild heart.  And somehow, in the past month, I have found myself reentering my life, my poetry, my imperfect self, in a way that astonishes me.  And so, yesterday, as I drove, after hearing Whyte’s poem of dropping into the deep well of his work, I turned off the CD and drove in quiet into the city to a day of my own work.

It was a blustery day, so even the weather added to the feeling of space being cleared, old leaves and winter’s debris being moved away so that green shoots can appear. After all the many ways I have told myself that the specific realities of my personality, my way of being in the world, my houses and jobs and choices are not good enough, in the past year I began to experiment with telling myself the opposite:  that all the imperfect details of my existence are so specifically mine that they are exactly the life I am meant to live.  And as I drove to work yesterday, I felt joyfully at peace in my life.

I parked in the parking garage across the street from a complex of hospitals in downtown Indianapolis and wheeled my harp through the pedestrian walkway over Michigan Street.  As I walked, I took a moment to look through the windows of the walkway at an old building built in 1927 as Coleman Hospital for Women.  In 1962, I was born in that building. Now, it is no longer used as a hospital.  But I have occassionally felt a wordless awe that life led me back to this spot and that here, in the same city block where I was born, I am doing what feels like the most meaningful work of my life.  Most days, I rush through the walkway and into the Simon Cancer Center where I play therapeutic harp, hurried, not even thinking.  But yesterday, I decided that from now on, I will try to remember to pause and reconnect myself to this birth place as part of my spiritual preparation for my day’s work.

Once inside the building, I put my coat and purse in my locker, my phone in my pocket and clipped my name tag on my collar and then I called the social worker who gives me referrals for those patients who are actively dying.  I hadn’t heard from her for several weeks, and with the long, hard, very cold, very snowy winter we had this year, during which the first anniversary of my mother’s death was contained, I found myself not wanting to sit in the presence of those actively dying. In January and February, I have instead focused on playing the harp for patients who had not been placed on hospice care.  Yesterday morning though, intuition told me to call the hospice social worker and she sent me to offer harp to a patient on the third floor.

When I reached the room, the social worker, two nurses and the patient’s daughter were in the room. The social worker introduced me and the daughter agreed her mother would like the harp.  I sat down and began to play and the nurses finished their work in the room and lingered for a little while, but soon everyone left, giving space for the daughter to be with her mother as I played the harp.  Before leaving, one of the nurses asked the daughter about a necklace her mother was wearing and the daughter explained she had given it to her mother and that its wishbone pendant symbolized the small ritual they had shared every year at Thanksgiving.

The daughter was younger than me. I placed her as being only in her early 30’s.  In the first few minutes of my playing her phone rang and she talked to someone about how she and her mom were doing.  Later, she got a few text messages and her phone made a soft birdlike sound to let her know.  But most of the time, she sat silently attending to her mother, holding her hand, leaning her head down on the bed, resting there with her.  I watched the wishbone pendant rise and fall on the mother’s chest as she breathed, slowly, deeply.  Sometimes the mother’s face seemed to respond to the daughter’s touch.  I sensed that the harp was comfort to both and I played for at least an hour, losing track of time.

I have come to know that every death is different, and I found myself thinking about how blessed this mother and daughter were to be sharing such peace in this moment.  How lucky they were that their relationship was such that they could share in this way.  I thought about my own mother’s death and how alone she needed to be in it, how alone she made me in relationship to her. I thought about how I hope that I can keep finding my way to  gentle and connected places with my daughter as I grow old, as I die.  Gradually, as sometimes happens when I play for those dying, a simple melody began to come to me and I improvised until the melody began to flow and repeat, change and return. When I left the room, the daughter was breathing slowly and deeply, with her head lying on her mother’s bed, holding her mother’s hand.  The daughter did not lift her head, or stir as I quietly left the room and so I closed the door hoping that she had relaxed into sleep as she listened to the harp.  Touched by this beautiful sharing, this mother and daughter taking care of each other in this way, my eyes welled with tears as I put the harp in its case.

I was too emotionally stirred to go straight from that harp session into another patient’s room.  So I chose instead to go down stairs and play my harp in the open area of the infusion pods.  In the first pod, I was greeted by a couple patients who have been “regulars” for the past year. Playing music for these survivors, who, despite living with chronic illness, have found their zest for living is still abundant,  felt like the right place to be next.  I played the improvised melody that was the mother and daughter’s song, and then merged it into the mix of familiar and Irish tunes I play when in the infusion pods.  The emotions of the morning filled the harp music with an extra layer of expression that carried life into the music.

I took a break for lunch, then played for the second infusion pod. I set up my chair in the open area in the center of the pod, where nursing staff and patients all can hear. Shortly after I started to play two patients who I did not know came over, wheeling their iv poles and sitting in the comfy chairs near a fireplace next to where I sat.  The immediacy with which the harp drew them to sit with me was quite touching. As I played, one of them talked to a nurse about her treatment and I gathered that she was new to treatment and had been in a difficult place the day before. I heard her say, “But I got some sleep and a shower and now she is playing the harp for me, so today is going to be much better.” I felt again how much a lifeline the harp is for people in the hospital and was glad again that I can provide it for others.

As I played, I felt how the feelings of peace and clarity with which the morning began had only continued to deepen throughout my work that day.  I am here, I thought as I played, in my life, being just myself, nothing more, nothing less, doing what I have learned to do, sharing.

I thought back to David Whyte’s encouragement to live at the frontier of our lives and understood that everyone I had interacted with at the cancer hospital that day was doing just that and that when I play the harp for them, I bring myself to the same frontier.  It is not a solitary place, that frontier, but a place that we all share.  And we get there, as David Whyte says, by letting of our old selves and stepping bravely into the unknown.  Yet somehow, when we do just that, we come home to ourselves, we come back to ourselves, we become ourselves as we have been meant to be since our origin, since birth.

This touched me yesterday in ways I am only just entering into.  I wanted to write here about it to begin to express it in some imperfect but explorative way.

Where I’ve Been for the Past Year

February 7, 2014
me with two of my best friends.

me with two of my best friends.

Its been a long time since I posted anything to this blog.  The last time I was here was about a year ago after my mother’s death.  My head was in a fog for several months and at the same time, I had more work than ever before in my life, all while trying to stay healthy and pursue some creativity and self-care.  And so a year has flow by and there just wasn’t time or energy for this blog.

But I am back now and I hope to try to post something here around once a month.  I feel like a different person than I was a year ago. Part of that is the internal changes that come from turning 50 and then experiencing my mother’s death.  I am much more keenly aware of my own mortality.  There will not be enough time in life to pursue all the dreams I’ve already dreamed, let alone the new interests that will emerge in the coming years.  I feel a need to prioritize like never before.  I need to make time for what I truly love.

In response to this new prioritizing, I have changed the name of this post to reflect what I am living most connected to personally and professionally.  I completed my training as a certified clinical musician in 2013.  During my training, I began playing harp at the bedsides of hospice patients, adding that to the harp music I was already providing for cancer patients in outpatient infusion and inpatient treatment settings. I had expected that I would play the harp for my mother, who planned to move back to Indianapolis this year, but she was, as usual, in a hurry and didn’t stick around long enough for me to share the bedside harp experience with her.  It was shortly after her death that I played for my first hospice patient.  So, from the beginning of 2013, I have been learning about death and how each person’s dying is utterly unique. It has been a profound learning.

Part of why I hesitated all last year to add to this blog is because I did not have the words to speak about these experiences of dying.  I still don’t. I have just given myself permission to say things imperfectly or not at all.  To say what I can, however it comes out.

Becoming a clinical musician has been a deeply, deeply rewarding process. I feel as if I am finally coming into the fullness of my calling.  After years of believing I wasn’t a musician, I have, as Rumi says, “fallen into the place where everything is music.”

And now that I am hear, I am thrilled to also be called to mentor other harpists taking the same journey, as part of the team of mentors in the Harp for Healing program.  Since starting to play the harp at IU Simon Cancer Center, three people I’ve met there have purchased Harpsicle Harps like mine, so I feel I’ve already been a mentor in this way and I am looking forward to continuing to help others who love the harp.

Stories Made of World

Stories Made of World

I have also continued to deep my love of poetry. My chapbook, Stories Made of World, was published last October by Finishing line press. (  I am really proud of this chapbook and the eco-poetic voice with which these poems speak is something I hope to be able to connect with for the rest of my life. Speaking of that desire, I have taken the day off today, to spend some time with poetry and self-care.  So, I am going to finish this post for now. I will return later.

The Healing Connection: Poetry, Intuition, and Dreams

February 16, 2013
Reading at Tome on the Range, Las Vegas, NM

Reading at Tome on the Range, Las Vegas, NM

About five years ago, I began writing poetry about my mother.  I did not want to write poetry about my mother.  I wanted to write about nature, spirituality, the universe, love.  But I couldn’t write about these things. Instead, I found myself writing about a scar on my mother’s hand.  And then, after an argument about her health, my intuition answered, “Five more years” when I wondered how long she might live.  She could barely walk, used a cane but would not use a walker, and insisted that she did not need a hip replacement. She had come to this after all her years of impatience, of rushing past people who were too slow for her, mentally or physically. Write,” my intuition then insisted, “about how you remember her moving through the world.”

And so I began. My very first memory is of hurrying after her as she took me to a pear tree that grew in a pasture next to our first house. Age two. And then a flood of memories followed.  I pieced them together chronologically, although they didn’t come in that order.  Within the first year I had 70 pages of poems, enough for a book, although I knew that I had not yet gone deeply enough into the difficult years, the decades of my adult life in which it felt like she left me, abdicating the role of mother too soon, and too eagerly.

After this initial flood of writing, I worked my way more slowly into the poems.  And I found that because each memory came through my perspective, the poems were not simply about my mother moving through the world.  T hey were also about myself moving through the world with or without her.  They were about how we moved through the world together.  And how we moved through the world in separation.  They were about our dance. Its moments of harmony and disharmony.  Easy concordance and painful discordance.  I also found that writing about our togetherness and separation, our harmony and disharmony, our concordance and discordance, was healing for me.  I found myself understanding her a bit more. I found myself forgiving her. I found how much I had always loved her and how much I still do.

During the past 5 years, I also had dreams about my mother.  Dreams in which she was getting in a boat and floating slowly away.  In which she was going somewhere that I could not go. I watched for memories to surface and for dreams to come.  They seem to come from the same place and in much the same way.  Bobbing up to the surface.  Too easily forgotten if you aren’t paying attention. Writing them down helps keep them alive.

Last year, in June of 2012, shortly after the publication of Under My Skin, my first book of poems, I visited my mother in Las Vegas, New Mexico where she lived.  She had just self-published another novel.  From the time I was born, she instilled in me a love of reading and of writing.  Sharing our literary love was the way we most easily danced together. And realizing that we had not yet done together a mother-daughter reading of our own work, when she suggested she could set one up at her local bookstore, Tome on the Range, I gladly agreed. She talked to a few friends and pulled a writer’s panel together, myself as poet, Mom as fiction writer, and her friend Edwina, a non-fiction writer.  At the event, we each spoke about our writing process.  And I shared that I had written over  70 pages of poetry about my mother.

While writing these mother poems, I assured myself that I would never give them to her. I feared they would be too painful for her and I wanted also the freedom to say my own perspectives, to be as honest as possible, without fear of hurting her.  But this fall, as I worked with new poems about our summer interactions, and kept reworking and polishing the earlier poems, I realized two things.  I wanted to publish these poems while she was still alive. And the poems as a whole were one poem – an epic poem – an epic love poem.  An urgency, an insistence came with these realizations.  My intuition was insisting, “It is time.  Share them now.”

A friend who knows I am working on these poems and that my mother is also a writer, suggested that I include my mother in the book in some way. Perhaps, my friend suggested, my mother could also write something for the book. With this suggestion, my urgency grew.  I phoned my mother and asked her if she would be willing to read the poems and write a response.  She said she would very much like to do so.

After that, a few weeks hurried past.  I had “send poems to Mom”  on my  ever-expanding to-do list.  But it happens in our modern, hectic lives that with every day, more pressing but less important demands take our time and energy, and the needs which our intuition is calling for get postponed and ignored. In fact, there seems to be some internal and external sabotaging force which makes following our intuition doubly hard.  Finally in mid November, I emailed the poems to my mother. And she emailed back to say her computer couldn’t open the poems in the format I sent them.  She needed me to resend them as a pdf document. I put “send pdf to Mom” on my to-do list. And then Thanksgiving, my December 7th birthday, and Christmas preparations diverted my attention.  I sent her the pdf on Christmas Eve. We spoke on the phone on Christmas Day and Mom said she was reading the poems.

Between Thanksgiving and my birthday, I had two dreams.  In the first, I was in my mother’s apartment, alone, suddenly aware that my mother was dead and that I was to live the rest of my life without a mother.  In the second, a large face of a cosmic mother was receding gradually into the stars, while Hermione  (from Harry Potter, a young witch, symbolic of wise, creative woman, and a character both my mother and myself identify with) was saying good bye and boarding a space ship for her own journey.  “You are precious to me,” she said to the retreating face.

On December 29th, my mother emailed to say, “There is some strong writing here.  I remember some things differently. I will write my own poems in response.”  On the night of January 1st, I went to bed and was woken by a phone call just after midnight.  It was my sister, calling to say that my mother’s apartment neighbor had found her struggling to breath, called 911 and on the way to the hospital, her heart stopped. Mom was dead.

Looking back, I regret that I dawdled so much in getting these poems to her. If I had gotten them to her sooner, she might have had time to write her response.  As it is, will never know what she might have said.  I am glad, however, that I got the poems to her in the nick of time.  The second to the last poem spoke of my wanting her to die in the way she wanted.  To slip away one night and join the spirits of the brown bears and ravens and the infinite stars.  I am sure that reading the poems was both painful and healing for her. That she saw me coming to understand her in them.  That she found the expressions of love in them.  And that she heard, in this second to last poem, me giving her permission to take her exit in the way and the time she needed to.

I am left with a feeling that, once she recognized that death’s door was opening, she decided not to hesitate, and chose instead to rush through, impatiently, not wanting to slow down long enough to allow us time to gather at her bedside to say goodbye.  Eager instead to find out what was around the corner, the next adventure.

And I am grateful for the powerful link – which I can’t explain or describe – between poetry and intuition.  Writing poetry has made me a more intuitive person.  Being an intuitive person, I have always been drawn to poetry. Poetry is the language closest to the voice of intuition.  These years spent writing the mother poems, the dreams sent by intuition, the events of the past year, and the inner urgency to get the poems to my mother, give me now a sense of awe about the poetry-intuition connection.  Intuition as the mother of poetry. Poetry as the child of intuition.  I will be exploring this link for the rest of my life.

And in the end, I have found that by writing the mother poems, I did write about nature, spirituality, the universe, love.  The wild sacred mother.  The source of all intuition, all dreams, all poetry.  The source of all.

Upcoming Poetry Readings

March 15, 2012

I will be reading from my new book of poems, Under My Skin (Wordtech Editions), at the following locations in March and April:

May 17, 2012:     2:00 pm    Bookmamas, inc., 9 S. Johnson Avenue, Indianapolis, IN 46219

April 10, 2012:     7:oopm    Hussey-Mayfield Public Library, 250 N. 5th Street, Zionsville, IN 46077 (as a guest of The        Village Poets)

April 23, 2012:  12:00 noon    Indianapolis Artsgarden, 110 West Washington Street, Indianapolis, IN 46204

Under My Skin – Poems of a Woman’s Longing

February 22, 2012


The books are here!  UPS just dropped off a box of them on my doorstep. After over 25 years of writing and relationships, and 6 years spent bringing the manuscript through various stages, Under My Skin  is complete!

The poems in Under My Skin speak of mothering, marriage, sex, divorce, crossing city-streets, and sharing grocery lines with strangers. Through these various interactions, the conflict-filled tension between a woman’s need to love others and to tend her inner life is expressed.  And while the relationships, people, and places within the poems are complex yet ordinary, the primary relationship explored within every poem of Under My Skinis a woman’s relationship to her own persistent and unremitting longing which she must hear, acknowledge and answer – not to silence or subdue this longing – but to learn to feel at home within it.

Copies of Under My Skin can be purchased through Amazon, and more information and sample poems are available on the publishers website:

 The book release reading will be on 3-17-2012 at 2pm at Bookmamas, inc. in Irvington. Norbert Krapf, former Indiana Poet Laurete, will be  reading some of his poems with me that day.

9 S. Johnson Avenue
Indianapolis, IN 46219

Information/Inquiries Email:

Telephone:  (317) 375-3715


Lawrence Art Center Classes

August 31, 2011

My art therapy studio is now located in the new Lawrence Art Center !!!!!

4437 N. Franklin Rd. Indianapolis, IN, 46226

As one of the teaching artists for the new art center, I will be offering classes on Monday evenings and Saturday afternoons this fall. You can read descriptions of all of my upcoming classes below, and can register for these very affordable classes and also learn about many others offered by different artists by visiting: 

October’s Classes

Monday, October 10, 6-8pm:  Introduction to Art Therapy  

Students will learn ways in which art making can be used for personal growth and healing and will practice several art activities that can be used for self-reflection.

Saturday, October 15, 3-5pm:  Find Your Creative Fire Through Intuition, Mindfulness and Play (*)

Students will learn how to trust the creative process and let go of attachment to making a “good” finished product.  We will practice simple and fun ways to be more spontaneous and “in the moment” as we create.   This class is for anyone who wants to become free from what blocks or inhibits her/his creativity.

Monday,  Oct 17, 6-8 pm: An Altered Book for an Altered Life (*)

 Students will learn how to turn an old book into an image journal and a work of art.  Through the process of altering a book, students will find ways to document their own life-journeys and to creatively express feelings, thoughts, and experiences of growth.   (After you register, Liza will contact you with suggestions of personal supplies you can bring to this class.)

Monday, Oct 24, 6-8pm: An Altered Book for an Altered Life for Teens (*)

Students will learn how to turn an old book into an image journal and a work of art.  Through the process of altering a book, students will find ways to document their own life-journeys and to creatively express feelings, thoughts, and experiences of growth.   (After you register, Liza will contact you with suggestions of personal supplies you can bring to this class.)

November’s Classes

Sat Nov 12, 3-5pm: Find Your Creative Fire Through Intuition, Mindfulness, Play (*)

Students will learn how to trust the creative process and let go of attachment to making a “good” finished product.  We will practice simple and fun ways to be more spontaneous and “in the moment” as we create.   This class is for anyone who wants to become free from what blocks or inhibits her/his creativity.

Monday, Nov 14, 6-8pm: Introduction to Art Therapy

Students will learn ways in which art making can be used for personal growth and healing and will practice several art activities that can be used for self-reflection.

Monday Nov 28: An Altered Book for an Altered Life for Adults and Teens (*)

 Students will learn how to turn an old book into an image journal and a work of art.  Through the process of altering a book, students will find ways to document their own life-journeys and to creatively express feelings, thoughts, and experiences of growth.   (After you register, Liza will contact you with suggestions of personal supplies you can bring to this class.)

 December’s Classes

Saturday, Dec 10, 3-5pm: Creating a God Box or Personal Altar

 Students will begin decorating a box or small altar space that can be used to deepen their personal relationship with the sacred.  This is a class for anyone who wants to focus on the spiritual, rather than the material, in both this holiday season and in the coming year.

Monday,  Dec 12, 6-8pm: End of Year Reflections through Art Journaling

 In the midst of holiday bustle and stress, this class offers participants two quiet hours in which to write and create meditatively in order to honor the past year’s growth and welcome the coming year.

Monday, Dec 19, 6-8 pm: Gathering Family Stories through Creative Writing and Storytelling

Students in this class will learn to interview family members and gather family stories that can be written or told aloud as part of a family  tradition.

*  Classes with stars can be taken once or more than once.  Consider these classes a regular opportunity to reflect and to stoke your creative fire.