jen groeber: mama art

4 kids in 3 years: reflections on motherhood, art and life.

Long Time No Write


woodcut and collage

Long time no write. Actually, it’s not that I haven’t written in a long time, and certainly it’s not that I haven’t thought the thoughts, it’s just that they’re all so hard to gather together. And it’s not that they’re hard to gather together because they are especially sad, although sometimes they are, funerals and grand disappointments and so on, but really, it’s just… so much.

Today I took my children on a run even though it was 90° and there was an obscene amount of humidity. They rode their bikes, one on a scooter, shooting on ahead of me. That Mumford & Sons song came on my one earphone tucked in my ear,  I Will Wait For You.

And I thought about how I used to always have to wait for them during these runs. At first pushing them in strollers or on those little scooter bikes with the big handle in back, eventually pushing them up the great big hill, my hands on their lower backs, one on each side as I huffed up the great hill, them on their small wheeled bicycles with or without the training wheels. And now finally they are so big and ride so fast that they have to work to stay back near me, barely keeping me in earshot as I yell warnings about cars. Only my youngest stays by my side.

girl field hockey

Filed hockey girls
June 2018

It has been a big few months. No bigger than normal. But normal time here flies when you have four children and two aging parents constantly marking the passing of time.

I’ve been making art. In fact a friend said that my daughter described my husband as someone who works very hard at work each day and sometimes in the summer when he gets a chance he can be a painter, and her mommy is a stay-at-home mom who is an artist. Just like that, something it’s taken me decades to say about myself my daughter says with ease. Her mother is an artist.

I brought them to the art show this summer where my piece, Waiting,  won best in show for printmaking. Because I want them to see that you can be a stay-at-home mom and also be someone with aspirations and hopes, skills and gifts. Just last week I hung a new show, along with an amazing group of women who inspire me to keep making art all the time. And I look forward to a solo show in the fall at a local library, a show with my Newburyport gallery, and yet another show with that inspirational group of women. So yes, art.

And also, words. I have been writing words. Or at least editing words. One of those inspirational artist women I art with is also working on a book. So I’m telling you, the world, that we both promise to finish our books by December 31. Yup, 2018. Hold me (us!) to it. I need people to hold me to it.

Because there are children with things happening. And sometimes I am exhausted by my responsibilities and all this. Sitting down this morning with them all and having a long discussion about kindness and meanness and how we can be better. One of my children has been working with the Zones (of Regulation), which means you assign your emotions (without judgement!) a color.

I pointed out that we all need to work on our zones. When mom is in the blue zone, tired or bummed out, and then someone comes in to me in the yellow zone, frustrated or excited, what comes out is not green (although every art teacher will tell you so.) Green is a happy place. But in the addition of zones, what comes out is invariably red. And red goes without explaining. It’s RED. (Not that we assign negative value to any zone but c’mon. Red.)

So we’re all set up working on our zones. But the trick is, these zones are not my zones the way they used to be. Nothing about anything is solely mine like it used to be. Surely, not with my children. Because they’ve mostly become their own children. And I watch them do things that warm my heart in a way that only a child who once grew in your belly or cried in your arms every day can let your heart be warmed. I watched my daughters play field hockey this summer. I watched my boys and girls run 3 miles. Can you stand it? My youngest turned eight this summer. And she still wants to have a sushi party. Sushi. Can you stand it?

girl in water

Swimming away
August 2018

But they are long-legged and long-haired. They have ideas. And opinions. They have things that they are beginning to understand, things they are weak at. It breaks my heart.  (Breaks my heart.) But they also have things that they understand that they are good at. And it makes my heart soar. Also, they try to kill each other all day long. All. Day. Long.

So maybe that would make around twenty blog posts. But who has the time? What with all the hurting and zoning and running.

And because it’s summer there is still the ocean. There is always the ocean, the place where time slips by in a layer of sunscreen and sunsets and the slow imperceptible but always significant rising of the tide.

I find myself when given the opportunity diving out into the water and swimming as far as I can, out of the cove around the farthest buoys and then back in again. Last week my oldest son joined me. He swam all the way out where the waves were bigger, and I couldn’t help but wonder if there were actually sharks in this water but I didn’t say anything. (Are there sharks in Maine water in summer?) And then we swam in together.

girls floating

My girls, floating
August 2018

Before we had returned to where we could stand, I said, I need to float. And he said he didn’t like to float, but he still floated with me anyway. So we both floated on our backs, and we held hands. In that moment with the sun sparkling about us and the clouds scuttling across the sky and the voices of children on the beach, I couldn’t help but picture us as seen from above, two white starfish bodies spread out across the water floating, but barely, spinning slowly, hearts pumping, skin tingling, hands held. Adrift but secured, pulsing with cold but in the warmth of the sun, with no sense of time or place, but a visceral knowledge of where we are right now.

That has been our summer. That is what my life has become. An altered version of what it used to be, both more and less within my control. Both easier and harder. But always, some sort of crazy, ugly beautiful.

And those are the words I have for today. Those are the words.

29 comments on “Long Time No Write

  1. Kelly L McKenzie
    August 11, 2018

    ‘Waiting’ is a masterpiece. I can feel not only the wait but the weight.

    • jgroeber
      August 26, 2018

      Oh, thank you for those kind words. It is the wait and the weight, you are right. (As always, wise one.) xo

  2. Neighbor Nancy
    August 12, 2018

    Jen, beautifully said, as always. you rock…and roll….and laugh and cry .. and express the beauty of living and of your family so beautifully!

    • jgroeber
      August 26, 2018

      So glad you got a chance to see this wild, crazy life we live yourself, all sunscreen and cold, cold ocean water. xo

  3. Jesska
    August 12, 2018

    And those are very good words..


    Whoooooo!!! 🙂 🙂 🙂 So happy to see you in my reader – I’ve missed your writing.. Even though I never know how you manage to fit it in round all the other things you do – I feel exhausted just reading about it.

    Well done for the exhibitions (and for winning – it’s a super piece – , but mostly for carving out time for you, regardless of the outcome) and good luck (or good staying power, or good determination, or whatever it is you need) with the next shows, and with your writing.

    You are inspiring and awesome and so many good things. And your kids seem to be taking after you. 🙂

    Have you heard of Frank Turner? He has a song about being kinder, and one on getting better and I was reminded of him while I was reading. His other stuff is pretty good too.

    Enjoy the rest of your summer 🙂

    • jgroeber
      August 27, 2018

      What a lovely comment. Clearly the thing I don’t get to consistently or well is replying to comments. But I read them and they fortify me. So thank you. Listening to Frank Turner right now. Thank you for sharing. It sounds exactly like I feel, like floating in saltwater with your sister, or watching your child do it. He is now added to my Spotify list. Happy (remaining days of) summer!

  4. Kristin
    August 12, 2018

    Beautiful. Just so beautiful. ❤️

    Sent from my iPad


    • jgroeber
      August 27, 2018

      Thank you for reading and getting it. xo

  5. Burns the Fire
    August 12, 2018

    So very good to read you, J. Breathing it all in. And out. Holding you to your words. Can’t wait to read the book. xoxo

    • jgroeber
      August 27, 2018

      Holding me to my words. I like the sound of that. Please do. Sometimes it’s the ‘holding to’ by those we respect that keeps us moving. xoxo

  6. Martha Lerner
    August 12, 2018

    Beautiful words. Thanks for the inspiration, my words have been stuck for awhile, my son (7) requiring all if the free time. Thank you for this.

    • jgroeber
      August 27, 2018

      Sometimes I try to remind myself that I am teaching them how to be a better and happier grown-up when I ignore them a tiny bit in favor of doing something important for me or someone else. Because I want them to do that someday, too. Plus, as much as I hold tightly because I know they will all take flight before I know it, I also try to remember that this means I ought to keep my own expressive muscles fit so that I can take flight again, too.
      This too shall pass, either way, right? Wishing you luck in finding your words.

  7. Deborah
    August 12, 2018

    It is good to hear from you again, jen groeber mama art!

    • jgroeber
      August 27, 2018

      Aw, thanks. I bury my head in the sand sometimes, but hopefully never too deeply or for too long! xo

  8. Ash West
    August 12, 2018

    i hope to finish a book in december, too. Let’s have a book-finishing party–sushi or otherwise. Or we could just party be floating in the salty water, even with sharks at bay. xo

    • jgroeber
      August 27, 2018

      I would love to have a book finishing party with you!! Ocean or otherwise. It’s a date now, Splash. January we swim, weather metaphorically or otherwise (brrrrrrrrr.) xoxo

  9. Weze Shorts Harrigan
    August 13, 2018

    this is so refreshing and honest. I feel the same way. Why am I rushing when I will soon look back and long for what I have exactly right now? We all get caught up in the whirlwind of young children and trying to just simply fit it all in. You rock, and if anyone is curious, this Mom has summer so laid out, so well planned and so inspiring. have a wonderful day, week and rest of the month. – Weze

    • jgroeber
      August 27, 2018

      Ha! Least inspiring parenting running. I forget what totally stupid parent thing my sweet husband did the other day but I replied, “Finally! You’re in the running for Parent of the Year! Welcome.” It’s all hit or miss and a bit slippery, the pushmi-pullyu (push-me-pull-you, a two-headed animal from Dr. Dolittle) aspect of this whole parenting thing. Hoping your summer was filled with not so much rushing and mostly laughing and cuddling. xo

  10. Kathy
    August 13, 2018

    Have you read much by Ray Bradbury? You’re writing style and voice remind me of some of my favorite works by him: The Halloween Tree and Dandelion Wine. Especially Dandelion wine. This was a great post. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, so poignantly expressed. 🙂

    • jgroeber
      August 27, 2018

      Now I have things to add to my must-read list. I don’t think I’ve read Bradbury since the early 90’s so it’s lost in a sea of Updike/Irving/Douglas/Morrison/Woolf soup.
      Thank you for the thoughtful comment and for your recommendations. I love knowing that there are other people out there who maybe get it too, whatever it is, especially writers like you.

  11. lafriday
    August 13, 2018

    Oh, Jen! I just “happened” here as I am catching my breath from too much life and work myself and wondered what you were up to. First of all, “Waiting” is BEAUTIFUL. I have been pinning linocuts and woodcuts for months and, just last week, unboxed new supplies–you have now inspired me to DO something with it all. And then… can you hear me applauding all of your achievements from the Idaho panhandle? As always, I am transported in the whirl of “those” words and emotions that you use to paint the agony and ecstasy of motherhood. My Kate turns 28 this coming Saturday. I still feel the twists and turns of holding on (to the memories of when she actually needed me) and letting go as she so capably lassos the world and leaves me (okay: left me) in her wondrous wake. Your writing always breaks my heart with its beauty and the golden threads that tie you to your children–holding hands with your son, legitimizing yourself as an artist through your daughter’s knowing eyes. You are a marvel. I can’t wait to read your book. I hope you illustrate the cover.

    • jgroeber
      August 27, 2018

      I love that thought of illustrating the cover of my book! Although my protagonist is a photographer and I’m a crap photographer. But I can picture what it would look like.
      It’s wild to imagine my children at 28. But it just keeps going on if we’re doing it right, doesn’t it?
      I can’t wait to see what linocuts or woodcuts you might be doing. Are you on Instagram? If not, do it. I just started, and it’s an inspiration. So much art happening out there in the world. And sometimes the lack of words (and links!) is a bit of a relief.
      Thank you, as always, for reading and commenting so thoughtfully. And all the way from Idaho! I feel as if I should get extra credit for that. Or you should. So extra credit to us both! xoxo

      • lafriday
        August 28, 2018


  12. Stacy di Anna Pollard
    August 14, 2018

    Congratulations on “Waiting”, it’s just beautiful. And here’s to the beauty, health and enjoyment of your human works of art as well! xo

    • jgroeber
      August 27, 2018

      Thank you so much. It’s hard to juggle it all. Words and images, marriage and mothering. But all so very worth it. Cheers to all us jugglers!

  13. Margie Sweeney
    August 18, 2018

    So nice to read your blog, again and am looking forward to your book. Sounds like you found your sweet spot, so happy for you!

    • jgroeber
      August 27, 2018

      Thank you for popping back in to say hello. So nice to feel the words tumble out. It’s not always so. And even nicer to hear from readers, so thank you for the kind comment!

  14. Anne
    August 19, 2018

    Thank you. You reflect so much of what my life is like right now. This is so helpful and so inspiring. Anne.

    • jgroeber
      August 27, 2018

      What a very lovely comment that it’s taken me too shamefully long to reply to. Hoping you’ve found your groove, whether with words or images or dance or song or whatever that thing that gets you going is. It’s a sloppy endeavor at best, juggling all these things, but worth it. Best wishes to you, Anne.

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This entry was posted on August 11, 2018 by in Memory, The Children, This One Contains Art, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , .

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