My Most Beautiful Thing (A Blogsplash)

What is beauty?

Don’t we seem obsessed with beauty in all the wrong ways?

When my mother would tell me I was pretty, I didn’t believe her. “You’re my mother. You have to say that.”

Now I’m a mother, and I look at my son and think, “Wow. He’s beautiful.” I don’t know if the rest of the world sees him that way, but his beauty is all I can see.

my son

But all children are beautiful to me. I see how I failed to appreciate this when I was young–how beautiful young people are. We should waste less time worrying about beauty when we are young. Well, when we are any age.

It’s a cliche for a mother to say how beautiful her child is. What is that expression? A face only a mother could love. Perhaps. Though I think there is enough evidence that for some mothers even beauty isn’t enough for love.

My son is beautiful. A few months ago he saw a movie where an orphan boy’s dog died. My son cried. “Mom,” he said. “That dog was all that boy had.” He went over to our oldest dog, then 15, now 16, and hugged him. “We have to let him now we love him,” he said, crying. My son wouldn’t let go of the dog for a long time. I was so upset that I’d stupidly allowed my son to see this movie, but…isn’t it good to see that our children feel? I knew that. I’d seen him feel many times of course. But still, my eight year old felt compassion.

That was beautiful. Don’t you think?

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I’m participating in a My Most Beautiful Thing blogsplash. It seemed like fun. The idea comes from Writing Our Way Home. If you go there, you’ll find other links, other people, worth following. You’ll find other beautiful things.

Kids, Art, and Plums

You may have read this over at writing in the water, but I’m covering all my bases.

My art at The Plum Tree

I’m now Head of Art for Youth-Tube at Plum Tree Books. We’re calling for submissions for art by children under 12.

If you’re interested in knowing more, email me at

marta (at) youth-tube (dot) co (dot) uk

We’d also love for you to visit the site, follow it, tweet it, fb it, or otherwise show your support. Thank you.

Remember, art is cool. And so are kids.

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P.S. Please note the Plum Tree has several other projects in the works–poetry, fiction, music, and photography. Go see for yourself.

The Friendship Obituaries

Some friendships I’ve ended intentionally. Haven’t you?

I was 14 and I sent a note to a friend explaining that I couldn’t be her friend anymore. The reason for this valiant behavior? She’d discovered boys and sneaking out and smoking.

I’d been through that with a cousin, and I knew that if my friend was sneaking out with boys, those boys would be around even when they were allowed to be.

They’d be the kind of boys who encouraged girls to sneak out at night.

I wrote her that I wanted to stay out of trouble and that we were too young for smoking and boys. She never wrote back. She must’ve thought me a prude. But I wanted my life to go a particular way and that way didn’t include being derailed by boys.

She never spoke to me again.

Have you ever purposely ended a childhood friendship?

The Friendship Obituaries

Do you remember the first friendship to die?

We were in the 2nd grade and the murder was accidental. Or at least, I hadn’t considered the consequences of my actions.

In the lunch line I kissed a boy on top of his head. He was short with blue black hair and big blue eyes. I was the tallest kid in the class.

He was horrified.

My best friend, S., was angry. She liked him too, and the two of them were the same height.

S did eventually speak to me again, but the friendship died. I didn’t understand why she was so mad. It wasn’t as if the boy had then suddenly decided he liked me!

The last I remember of S was our sophomore year in high school. We hadn’t spoken in years and I saw in her the hallway. She was pregnant.

We never did speak again.

But in the 2nd grade we were best friends.

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Do you remember your first best friend?

Home as Seen on Television

Florida gets talked about a lot during an election year. It also tends to get mentioned in any article about serial killers.

I’m from Florida. Born and raised in the middle of the state by a single dad from Rhode Island. Out in the boondocks, an only child, it was like growing up in another universe. Florida was out there. I could see it. I walked around it. But somehow, I was never really there.

Or at least when I hear people on TV talk about Florida, I feel I’m not from there at all.

Do you find the portrayals of your home true or describing a place you’ve never seen?

We All Were Children After All

Orangeberry Books

I’ve never understood people who say they don’t like kids. They were once kids after all. Did they like being so easily dismissed by grown ups?

Not to mention I thought we were raised to avoid gross generalizations. There aren’t that many groups left you can publicly and happily state you don’t like. And what is to be gained from dismissing an entire group? You miss out on some interesting individuals that way.

Anyway, recently I met–in a cyberspace sort of way–a woman working on an anthology of stories from childhood. Dr. Niamh Clune is part of a new publishing venture that this week is coming out with their first book: Every Child Is Entitled to Innocence.

The proceeds will go to Child Helpline International, an organization that works to establish global helplines for children.

Perhaps you’d be interested in the book or at least passing this news on. You could friend Orangeberry on Facebook if you like, tweet, or participate in their Light-a-Candle campaign.

Somewhere between the time I was three and a stranger shot our family dog and ten years later when a strange man appeared at my bedroom window, I learned the world isn’t a safe place. We can’t protect children from every heartbreak in life–and if we did how would they learn empathy and develop as full human beings? But too many things children don’t need to experience, and I wish all us grown ups would give more thought to that.

My Miss Havisham

I met Miss Havisham late at night when I was 14 and alone in the house. I lived with my father, and he, as he was wont to do, was out for the night. Perhaps he’d be home at 3am or Sunday afternoon. He never promised any particular time.

from Great Expectations

We lived far from everything, fields around most of the house, a lake in front of the house, a highway in the distance. An only child, I had to find my own way to forget that the neighbors might not actually be close enough to hear screaming.

I’d curl up on the sofa and watch television. We got 5 channels, but two of them required going outside into the dark to turn the antennae, so after a certain hour, we really only had 3 channels.

On one of the channels I met Miss Havisham and fell in love with Charles Dickens. Perhaps you know his 200th birthday was the other day?

I watched the movie Great Expectations, and afterwards couldn’t stop thinking about Miss Havisham and Estella. They seemed to confirm my 14 year old perspective on love, and while I felt I was supposed to feel bad that Estella was being raised impervious to love, I also suspected this was not all together a bad thing. I rather wished I was Estella.

She was not afraid of boys.

But I feared I had far more in common with Miss Havisham–unstable and most likely to be left at the altar. Years later on my wedding day, when I was 27, I walked to the church in my wedding dress, my father at my side, with the slight nagging notion that my soon-to-be husband was going to change his mind.

I didn’t tell anyone Miss Havisham was at my wedding, but she was, quietly sitting in the corner of my mind, rather disappointed I wouldn’t be joining her.

Still, back when I was 14, having watched the movie, I went and read the book. The book was even better, and so I fell for Mr. Dickens.

Yes, he was flawed–seriously so–and not everything he wrote was perfect by any means, but how perfect does a writer need to be?

What if I could write one character that could stay with someone all of her life?

Is there any character like that for you?

Happy Birthday, Charles Dickens. Glad you’re still with us. You know, in the way great story-tellers always are.