the proprietor

why i am here

News: My essay The Good Fight: Can letting our children roughhouse lead to a better democracy? in Oregon Humanities Journal, Summer 2012 was named a "Notable" in Best American Essays 2013. It's my second year in a row receiving such an honor.

Also, my essay "No Other Gods" is published in the March 2014 anthology from Creative Nonfiction, Southern Sin: True Stories of the sultry south and women behaving badly.

Finally, my essay "Trapped," about sustainable lifestyles and the ethical compromises we all make in our daily lives, was a finalist for Creative Nonfiction's $10,000 Walton Sustainability Solutions Best Creative Nonfiction Essay award. It has been published in issue #51.

. . .

I write this on turning 40, and I am happy.

sarah gilbert photo copyright ethan jewett
photo copyright Ethan Jewett

We tell stories of ourselves and often they are wrong. Or they create sham selves, false fronts, lives that we should not have lived or that we live in the pursuit of things we never really should have wanted.

And if we're lucky, slowly or all at once, we open our eyes and see aright. I once was lost (to my own melancholy). And now I'm found (I see myself through the best of others' eyes).

In the months leading up to my fortieth birthday, I discovered happiness and I can't even tell you what that happiness was in. Not religion, not a new vocation, not a one-true-love. I did most of the same things but did them with more abandon. I knew most of the same people but knew them more deeply.

Maybe it was in giving myself more painfully, more rawly, more impulsively, more fully that I discovered my -- what, my calling? -- maybe we could say it is my light, my flame, my own burning within. I discovered that others could see it. Were seeing it. In their eyes, reflected back to me, I saw my own self made new.

I'm screwing it up every day but I know that the only happiness I can find is in seizing all of myself -- the best, the worst, the in-betweens -- and throwing it up into the air above me and letting it rain down on my messy head.

Who I am: mama to three, writer, evangelist of family bicycling, photographer, cooker of inconvenient food, Portlandian from before that was a thing. Sometime knitter, sometime urban farmer, sometime chicken-keeper. Finance geek. Free idea generator. Here's an idea: a magazine about parenting but not about how to do it. Passions like knitting with my friends, creating community for Portland parents, writing about local foods, keeping chickens, starting quiet revolutions, family bikes.

I don't blog for money and I don't do those things other mother bloggers do (memes, reviews, giveaways). It's not principles, it's time partly, and partly because I blog here not as a brand creator but as a barer of self. I come here with my heart and head and dirty fingernails as if on a platter before you, bloody and ringed with tears or laughter, and you get to examine it. Maybe some of this rings true to you, and if so, every trailing entrail was ever so worth it. I'll find a way to sew 'em all back.

And tell the story again another way.

Email: I can be reached at mama [at] cafemama [dot] com. While I long to respond to every email I receive, I don't. I can only promise to read every email, and to try.

I am the editor of Stealing Time, a literary magazine for parents. I am writing a book about the myth of the waiting wife. I am trying to reclaim my joy. I am available for speaking engagements and interviews; just send me an email.
self portrait after waterstone review reading, november 2011

Oldish news: The piece I wrote for the Water~Stone Review no. 14, "Veteran's Day," bloody and heart-baring as it is, has received a number of accolades. It was named the winner of the 2011 Water~Stone Review Judith Kitchen Creative Nonfiction Prize, was nominated to the Pushcart Prize, and most recently was named one of the "Notable essays" in Best American Essays 2012. It's the centerpiece for a book project examining the experience of a military wife through mythical archetypes. I love the piece desperately, and am so honored that others have loved it too.

More oldish news: I have a new vocation, a new avocation, a dear love finally requited. I am terrified and gobsmacked and heart-beating-buh-bum-buh-bum excited to say that you have funded a Kickstarter campaign to launch a literary magazine for parents. Stealing Time will inspire parents to share and share again. Give, not judgment, not advice, but our stories. Listen not in fear or in competition but in acceptance. Stealing Time is a quarterly journal of quality literary content; fiction, memoir, essay, and poetry; for and by parents. Subscribe to the magazine, make my day.

If you enjoy the essays here, perhaps you'd enjoy these:
The Good Fight: Can letting our children roughhouse lead to a better democracy? (Oregon Humanities Journal, Summer 2012)
Here, Not There: An Army Wife Looks to the Greeks (Oregon Humanities Journal, Fall/Winter 2009)
Photographic Memory: After Polaroid shut down its instant film factories, a motivated subculture of photographers miraculously revived a beloved brand. (Hemispheres Magazine)
Crazy, Magic, Impossible: Polaroid Film is Back (DailyFinance)
The cult of spring: Perspectives on a mama's need for nature (urbanMamas)
Spare the Rod: Does Punishment in the Public School System Really Work? (Oregon Humanities Journal, Spring 2011)
New York City's Next Big Cottage Industry: Beekeeping (DailyFinance)
Childcare issues are an impossible challenge for Army moms and dads (DailyFinance)
How I launched a successful Kickstarter campaign (Get Rich Slowly)
Nobody has it all: Careers we can believe in (Get Rich Slowly)
Parent groups have a cow over campaign pushing chocolate milk as 'health food' (DailyFinance)
Financial PTSD: Facing your money vulnerabilities (again) (WalletPop)
Inconvenient family living: Reduce your trash (WalletPop)
Twitter and the bloggers killed Gourmet, one editor says. We beg to differ (DailyFinance)