Hello Mother, Hello Daughter

SEASON TWO, Episode 3: Rubber Bands and Baking with Hands: Doing family as an art and science. A discussion with Dr. Sandra Faulkner.

October 08, 2023 Allison Alford, Michelle Miller-Day, Sandra Faulkner Season 2 Episode 3
Hello Mother, Hello Daughter
SEASON TWO, Episode 3: Rubber Bands and Baking with Hands: Doing family as an art and science. A discussion with Dr. Sandra Faulkner.
Show Notes Transcript

Featuring an open discussion between our host, Dr. Allison Alford, and family
communication expert, Dr. Sandra Faulkner, this episode explores the many ways that
we “do family,” the experiences of adult daughters throughout the COVID-19
pandemic, and leaning into creativity as a means of processing.

Dr. Sandra Faulkner shares her experiences as a professor (Bowling Green State University), encouraging students to employ creative practices when applying theory to better understand their lives. Such art based research is evident in her article “Buttered Nostalgia,”  where Sandra describes using cooking to explore instances of everyday caregiving, acts of daughtering, and interactions between siblings during the pandemic. Sandra describes herself as an adult daughter and mother like a  "rubber band,"  being pulled and stretched towards those who need you: both your parents and your own child and partner.

Allison and Sandra also mention the desire to be “mothered” or “daughtered”
throughout time, sharing personal stories as both mothers and daughters while examining their upbringings and relationships with their own children. Referencing a recent chapter she wrote, "Family Communication as an Art," Sandra encourages listeners to get a sense of their familial relationships through creative outlets such as writing a letter, even if it's never sent!

Tips from our hosts, Drs. Allison Alford and Michelle Miller-Day, to process thoughts
about family relationships:

  1. Imagine you are writing a bumper sticker description of your relationship (like a catchphrase).
  2. Bring a box of art supplies to your next family gathering.
  3. Use poetry or other forms of writing to express one’s feelings and enhance the mind-body connection.
  4. Send funny memes! Laugh a little.  :)
  5. Write a letter to express yourself. Remember, it doesn't have to be mailed.


More on Dr. Sandra Faulkner:
Podcast on collage
https://theautoethnographer.com/new-podcast-how-can-collage-be-utilized-in-autoethnography/

Collage of Mothering poems
https://theautoethnographer.com/collage-and-erasure-poems-baby/

Buttered Nostalgia https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/02654075211012478

Cook’s Corner: A lot of love in this cake: Faulkner family recipe is flexible simple.
https://www.sent-trib.com/2022/11/15/cooks-corner-a-lot-of-love-in-this-cake-faulkner-family-recipe-is-flexible-simple/

TEDxBGSU highlights the meaning of Public Good
https://www.bgsu.edu/news/2022/04/tedxbgsu-highlights-the-meaning-of-public-good.html?fbclid=IwAR13EAm4mQRG_B_JF_z-Yx2Ibx9cLXf_a4RBCJg9vNJRFhR0TD7QT2UdCrk

BG Ideas Podcast Double-Duty Caretaking During COVID-19
https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/double-duty-caretaking-during-covid-19/id
1459394334?i=1000534645245


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ALLISON:

Hello, mother. Hello, daughter. Just

MICHELLE:

like any relationship, the adult mother daughter relationship takes work. I'm your host, Dr. Michelle Miller Day.

ALLISON:

And I'm your host, Dr. Allison Alford.

MICHELLE:

In this podcast, we'll discuss the experience of mothering and daughtering in adulthood. We'll explore the topics that matter most to women using both a scientific perspective and an everyday relational lens.

ALLISON:

Be sure to listen till the end of the podcast to hear our pro tips for both mothers and daughters. Our goal for this podcast is to help women have better relationships and better lives. And of

MICHELLE:

course, don't forget to like and follow us on social media. Welcome back for another discussion of how families communicate. It is an

SANDRA:

art and it is a science.

ALLISON:

Yes. I'm looking forward to today's discussion. It's a good one. You

SANDRA:

know, one of my favorite

MICHELLE:

things is hearing from women and I don't know, learning about the many different ways that people do family. Okay. What do I mean by doing families is that the different ways that people interact together and talk and visit and connect and touch and everything else that, that we do as families, there's just so many different ways to

SANDRA:

do family. And these performances

MICHELLE:

can change over time, not can, they do change over time and context.

ALLISON:

You know, I was very surprised, I think, when I became an academic researcher to realize that the word do and doing family was like a, like a fancy academic term, you know, that the concept of like doing is, is a really important. Way that social scientists look at behaviors and think about how we as women, right, can be active participants with our families. And I interviewed someone today's guest, and she talks about doing family during coven. Okay, so she talks about the things that everyone was doing with their families and what those interactions meant and how they were different during that really important time. Important

MICHELLE:

time. Yes, that was a stressful time. An important time. A very specific time

SANDRA:

and context

MICHELLE:

that brought some families together, but also challenged us. Because we were stuck 24, seven months inside with our family, um, or separated from our family. In my case, actually, my poor mother in law was very, very ill, hospitalized and passed away. And the only time we couldn't fly to see her, right? My lovely sister in law taught her and helped her use a tablet so that we could talk to her near the end. But doing family

SANDRA:

during this particular time

MICHELLE:

changed how we connected, how we interacted, and how we, how we did family. I know you talked with our guests about how she processes her interactions with her family during this period of

ALLISON:

time, right? Well, she has been processing it and many of us are still processing how that time period, you know, what happened with our families during that time period and talking about it out loud and discussing it is really important part of the processing. So, our guest is fascinating. Really? She turned. And that processing into research and in the, in our interview, she shares her research and some tips on how people can get creative doing their own processing with poetry, knitting, baking, even coloring and more. So she uses. Her creative abilities to actually help her process and think about her family, her place in her family, and even make sense of what happened, make sense of herself as a daughter, a mother, a partner, and all of those events that took place. That's

MICHELLE:

really, really interesting, because as you know, I'm really supportive of getting things out of your head. And these creative outlets are another way of doing it is again, the art of family communication. So okay, let's hear this interview. You ready?

ALLISON:

Yes, I am. Okay, but I want

SANDRA:

to do a full introduction to Dr. Sandra Faulkner.

MICHELLE:

She's a professor of media and communication at Bowling Green State University. Her interests include qualitative methodology. I have to say, give a shout out to Sandra. She was actually a student of mine at Penn State University and when I taught qualitative methods.

SANDRA:

Woo! Woo! So, her interesting qualitative

MICHELLE:

methodology, poetic inquiry, and the relationships among culture, identities, and sexualities in close relationships. We've got a lot of links for our audience in the show notes where you can see some of her visual works and even watch a TEDx talk that she's given. Sandra is an all around creative and she brings that to her research, which is of course, a special space in the academic world. She writes mothers, daughters, partners, she bakes, teaches, creates. She's pretty incredible. Let's hear from her

SANDRA:

now.

ALLISON:

Thanks so much for joining me today. And we're going to, we're going to talk all about family communication and how to do family stuff. I'm delighted. So, you are a family communication scholar and also somebody who's just in communication with your own family. Yes. What drew you to being, you know, to doing this as your daily, as your daily work?

SANDRA:

I think it was to understand something about what's going on in my own life. So, I once had A scholar asked me on a job interview, why is it that I research what I research? And that was the, I had a moment. I thought, oh my goodness, this is such a tough question. But then it was things that I don't understand, things that make me angry, right? Things that you're kind of curious about. And that's also how I got into interpersonal communication. When I went to college, I didn't immediately have a major picked out. And I had taken an intro to interpersonal communication class. And I remember sitting in that class and it was just, Oh my goodness, all of these theories, all of these things, like they're, they're helping me understand something about what's going on in my life. And that was just this moment when it was like, Oh, this is what studying and research can be like.

ALLISON:

That's sort of the, the dopamine hit is when you help people with their real life in any way that there's some impact in their real life where they can say, Oh my gosh, that gave me a sense of, you know, what's going on in mind. You know, with my parents and my grandparents or why my siblings and I communicate in that way. And when it really makes a difference in their real life, you're like, Oh, it just feels so good to have made that difference. Yes.

SANDRA:

And when you, when you see that in students, and so I try to design assignments where students will be then looking at something right in their, in their real lives and getting to apply some theories. Of course, we tend to do it from a, a creative perspective. So I often have students do like TikTok videos, or I've had students do paintings, write about uh, family communication, so.

ALLISON:

And that seems to be sort of your specialty or your niche is you really bring a lot of creativity So how is it that you are able to do that? How is it that you're able to bring so much of yourself and this creativity to what you do? You know, I

SANDRA:

think just having some good mentors where the classes where I was really engaged and learned was because the instructors really were in some ways a bit vulnerable, right, themselves, but also shared, you know, many of their talents and But then I just started to discover this idea of art based research and pedagogy where you could include some of that into the classroom, you know, as well as your own scholarship. And then I started to create classes where I would think about what's, you know, have students think about their talents. There's always somebody who, you know, plays the guitar. There's some that write poetry. There's. You know, students who don't even know that they're, they can tell a good story.

ALLISON:

And, you know, I don't think that everybody realizes the things that they have in their life that can be considered art. So for instance, you have a work that came out in the past couple of years. You have an article and it came out in an ad as an academic article, but. Academic journals are not always accessible to everyone, but I believe this article that you have called Buttered Nostalgia is open access. So it's in this academic publication, but you've included in that a lot of images, some collages, you've included poetry. But you also talk about cooking. Yeah.

SANDRA:

And when I talk to students, there's this idea that we're all creative. Like sometimes I think this idea, oh, well, only somebody who calls himself an artist is creative. But if you think about kind of everyday activities, um, we all have that, whether it is cooking. So I also have some students sometimes that, that are into cooking. And so I get really excited because then we, we talk about, you know, things that we're making and. But that also, that's also creative. And yes, in that particular article, the theory and the, all of that's at the end, so you can just read the story and you don't even have to read the theory part

ALLISON:

of it. If you are new to reading academic articles, you can just jump right into the beginning, which starts with a story that you tell. Of the time, right at the beginning of COVID in March of 2020, when you went down to the Atlanta area to be with your parents and care for them.

SANDRA:

Yeah, so that's why I had to incorporate the ideas of cooking, et cetera, because it's also like, Oh yeah, I've got a PhD and I do teaching, but you know, those theories aren't going to really help out, but you know, what kind of everyday caregiving, that's the kind of thing that you can do, right? You cook, you clean. And so that was also why that was incorporated into there and cooking is that language of love and the way that we would talk to one another.

ALLISON:

And, you know, in that article, you describe in so much wonderful complexity, the aspects of being a daughter that are brutal as, as Glennon Doyle would say, which is the parts where you're, you know, here in this one moment, you're annoyed. And in this next moment, you're terrified, right? That you might not see them again. And then this next moment you're satisfied, right? You may describe sort of that first phone call where you're like, what do you need from the grocery store? And you already know. And, you know, your dad is pestering you to go on this ride in the car with him to go do something that you don't want to do. But guess what? You did it. You went and did the thing. And it's just such a wonderful description of some of the things that daughters go through. Yeah. And I think,

SANDRA:

you know, there's, when you think about being a daughter, you know, being an adult daughter is a little bit different and, and then especially, you know, when your parents age in certain ways. And having to navigate some of those different roles, um, you know, so when your parents are kind of, they're used to the ones like taking care of you, et cetera, and then suddenly when they need more care, that, that transition can be a bit difficult.

ALLISON:

Yeah. You know, and, and something else that you described. That I don't think we've, I'm not sure if we've gotten around to on this podcast yet was the interaction with your siblings too. Is that, you know, some, some of the things that you're saying right now are that the daughter role is really wrapped up in all these other roles and it's wrapped up in time and place. Right. So the daughter role changes over time, but it's, and it's, it's different with your mom. It's different with your dad and at their ages, but also you describe in this article constraints based on your brothers.

SANDRA:

Yeah, I think it's very gendered, even if you don't, right, you don't want it to be. And so, you know, I have two brothers. I have an older brother who does not live right close to my folks. And I have a younger brother who lives about 20 minutes right away. And so, and while my younger brother does do quite a bit of things right for my folks. He doesn't do things like a load of laundry when he visits or cook for, you know, or clean up the kitchen. It's, it's, you know, fascinating to me. I don't think he notices, right. And that, that feels very, very gendered. And so it became really clear to me when I was writing that piece as well, that. My parents have different relationships, right, with both of their sons than they do, right, with me. And now that we've been older, it's not often, sometimes all of us will be there at the same time, but it actually overwhelms my, my parents. And so often it's just me hearing about my brothers right from them. So, you're right about... There being, I think, some differences between being a daughter, right, as opposed to a

ALLISON:

son. Another, another interesting piece that stood out to me was how well you articulated or how much you articulated your thought process about their future.

SANDRA:

Yeah. And I still think that there's some guilt. I mean, I don't want to feel guilty, but I do feel guilty that I lived that far away. But yeah, that also, those moments kind of highlight, I think some of the constraints and conflicts we have with different roles. And I think as I had mentioned in there, so single women who are not partnered, um, tend to do a lot more of that care because there's still this expectation, well, if you're married, then partner, the spouse trumps any, you know, even anything with the family. And then if you have a child, well, then you're a bad parent or a bad mother. If you somehow are. Taken away from that. And so there was a lot of conflict that I felt because I was like, well, I should really stay with my parents and take care of them, but at the same time, it's like, but I had this, you know, this young daughter and I have a spouse and I'm also in that sandwich generation where it's often, you know, having a family to take care of at the same time that there are parents who need some care.

ALLISON:

And you gave a great metaphor, which is you described yourself as feeling like a rubber band being pulled and stretched across the space, you know, towards all the people who needed you. And I think that probably applies towards our work lives as well and towards our independence. And, you know, Sandra, I don't know if anyone who's listening or anyone who's closer to their parents would maybe even say to you, being closer might not solve that, you know, that rubber band syndrome, that guilt syndrome that maybe makes the rubber band tighter, thicker, wider, who knows? In this article, you do cite an unpublished book of poems that you have, and one of those poems is a beautiful poem about mothers and what it means to mother. It starts off, I'll read just a little bit of it. Mother is a Verb to Mother Is not biology or sex. Not tied to body parts, but action. And oh, how I want to be mothered now. They said, rest when you become a mother, but there is only touch and holding one another. So touch me like storied silk. So what is that like to hear somebody else read your poem to you? Do you do that a lot?

SANDRA:

I often don't hear people read, read it back, but I think what was so interesting to me about that poem is the idea that we all kind of want to be mothered. I don't need to be parented in the way that You know, I did when I was younger, but even at this age, it's like, there's something about this verb mothering, right? I don't know. Maybe we all need to be mothered a whole year. And I don't know if, you know, that's, does that come from just a biological or family of origin kind of role, or is it, can anyone mother, right? So that, that was what was so interesting to me, thinking about that poem and some things about that piece was. That idea that maybe we all need to be

ALLISON:

mothered. And the compliment to that, you know, as mothers, you, you're a mother and I'm a mother of a daughter. We each have a daughter. I also have a son. I do also, I'm, I'm considering your ideas as you're saying them. So this is a thought in process, but I think about, and I wonder, you know, do we. I am being daughtered as we speak, right? I have a daughter who's daughtering me. And when our daughters grow up and maybe they become independent and they are more distant from us, do we long for their daughtering? Do we ache for more daughtering? Maybe older mothers could tell us about that. Uh, maybe, maybe there's something there where there's a, a desire for, for daughtering in a certain way, or to be Dodd. I don't know. Yeah,

SANDRA:

that, that's interesting. And I think that it does change over time. I'm just going to admit, I did not like the first four years of parenting at all. My daughter, I, I tell her this now, but she was a particularly difficult infant, which I only have one. So I didn't, you know, now I'm like, yeah, she really was difficult. She never slept. She was colicky. But then, You know, somehow after that, it's not that it became easier, but it was different, and she's turning 14 that, you know, in a few weeks. And one of the things that I've tried to do, and I had this good advice from a parent quite a few years ago at some award ceremony, right at the university, and, you know, I was talking about, right, their son and, and the mother had said to me, you know, I've really tried to enjoy my children at every age. And I've thought about that, like, you know, where are they at now? Like what, what are the joys at this moment? Cause you hear all kinds of things like, well, you know, middle school's awful or, um, you know, teenagers are terrible. And you know, those kinds of. That's not very helpful, right, that, but I sometimes try to spin it and think, okay, you know, and I think it's about being, you know, where you're at the moment. So what, what is it that I'm really enjoying about like my daughter right at this moment? Right. And I like that idea of daughtering. And I would argue that, I mean, you're right, I don't think any of that would ever go away. I mean, certainly my relationship with my mother has changed. But one of the things about the way that my, my mother parented is that she was always very, she would never use the thing, well, because I said so, or because I'm the mother. So she wasn't very authoritarian. And she wasn't laissez faire either, but it was, oftentimes things were a conversation. So, okay, you've got this curfew, and I know that you think it's not fair, like, with your brothers, but here's the way the, you know, here's, here's how I think the world is, and this is why I'm doing something. So she would often give me explanations for some of the rules that she had, and You know, I try to do some of that too. So, you know, we have this particular rule, but it's for this, you know, rather than, and I don't know if that's good or bad. That's just something that my mother had done. But then at some point, you know, in my, you know, my mid twenties, it was pretty clear that my mother and I had developed more of a friendly relationship. Now, I don't think you should be friends with your kid. I know, you know, it's like you want to be friends. That's why parenting is so impossible. And so our mothering maybe is so impossible is that, you know, in some ways, yeah, I'd like my, I'm not the favorite in our household. My daughter prefers the father, right. But, um, you know, I think that's because I have pretty clear boundaries and some of the rules and often I have to be the one that's like no fun, but I'm hoping that someday some of that foundation then leads to some kind of respect. So then maybe you can be friends like, you know, for many years, it's like my mother was the first person that I called when I had some good news or bad news or, you know, any kind of news. So then it's like, okay, maybe through that mothering and that daughtering, um, I'm going to start using that as a verb. I really like that. Do that. Good. Um, anyway, I'm hoping I've laid the foundation. So then in the adult year, so we can think about, you know, having a good relationship too. And then when I don't have to be as much as the parent that maybe we can be friends.

ALLISON:

Yeah. You know, I think, I think it just having this conversation, we're identifying some of what, what we've said previously is we don't have enough words for the thing we're trying to describe because we know friends is not quite right, you know? And Michelle and I usually often use the word mutuality, right? Just kind of this idea of like, we want to be, um, We want to have like a similarity of power structure and we want to be liking each other. We want to be respecting each other with our mothers and daughters in midlife. But that midlife sweet spot is so enormously long, you know, it's, it's so many decades that we have that we can be in this, uh, more equitable. Yeah.

SANDRA:

And I think I like to set the word respect. And I think that that sometimes is the hardest thing because now it's like, I see my daughter having maybe some different interests than I have. And it's like, okay, how do I. Like, see who she is and what her interests are and respect and help foster, right, those, those interests. And I think that is, has for me, has been one of the biggest challenges is to really see that. Like, she's on the tennis team. And my immediate reaction, and I'm sorry, if there's any tennis players, I really don't get tennis or, or, um, I mean, she also plays the cello, which is, you know, that's, uh, you know, deep in my heart, um, you know, as someone who was a musician for many years. But yeah, so, so, so that's the thing. Okay. Well, then, okay, let me just embrace that. I think I told her, I don't want to go into your matches because I hate tennis. But you know that I'll go to some match and try to, try to understand, right, understand it. And so I think the thing for me about mothering in some ways is how humbling it is. to really, you really see all your flaws, like they're just out there. And so that's been very humbling to me. But I hope, you know, hopefully can overcome that to then get to that place where it's like, Oh, who, who is this person? And I do have to say that You know, after, after age four, that it's been very interesting to kind of see the development and who, who this, you know, daughter is turning out to be.

ALLISON:

Yes, and I commiserate with you, Sandra, that the baby years were definitely not my favorite and I have found myself to be a much better, you know, older child and teenager mom. And I also, I have a 13 year old daughter. And, uh, find her to be pretty awesome and, um, very, you know, very exciting. And so, you know, it was just a few weeks ago, she went to camp and she didn't call me for four days and they, you know, in this camp, didn't, they wouldn't allow them to take phones. And so. Previously, she's been to camps where there were no phones, but she always found a sponsor and found somebody. And it was, it was because she needed me, you know, she needed a comforting call or she was upset or she, you know, or, or was truly having a hard time and she needed me every day. And this was the first time that she went that long. Not needing me and, and that was that moment of, you know, like you're saying it was, it was, it was everything. I, I wanted to be daughter. I wanted her attention. I wanted her to call me and yet. I was so glad she didn't need me and wasn't in crisis, you know,

SANDRA:

and that's, yes, that's the idea of secure kind of attachment about attachment, which I always used to be like attachment theory, but. I have something, you know, similar to that in that, um, I was on sabbatical in the spring, yay, and My, um, husband was also on sabbatical, but we went to New Orleans for seven weeks without our 13 year old daughter. And there was a, you know, trusted family friend. I mean, she stayed right in Bowling Green where we live and I mean, we talked to her and I mean, that's a long, I think the longest I had been away, maybe I had been away a week or two. I mean, I've, I've, you know, done that. We both did, but, and you know

ALLISON:

what?

SANDRA:

It was just fine. And I just kept thinking, well. You know, she's secure enough to know that, you know, we support her and all of that, but. You know, she was also getting to live her best independent 13 year old life. I mean, she obviously had Karen, but I actually think it was a positive thing, even though in some ways it was, you know, maybe a little strange. And then, you know, we were making jokes when we got back, like, Oh, you know, the bad parents are home, right. But, you know, it was, it was just fine. And so, you know, she was able to do her thing and, and we were able to be away. So I think that. Maybe that's a positive thing. Right? Rather than, um, you know, her and my mom used to joke too. So my mom tells this story. And so maybe it's kind of similar in that, oh, was it, I guess it was probably 7th grade. So I was probably 12, 11 or 12. And we were going, the safety patrols were going to DC on a bus, right? And this is back in the eighties. And my mom says she remembers, and she still tells me the story quite often. That, um, some of the other girls were there and they're like crying, hanging on their moms, like, and we were gone for like, I don't know, four days or something. And my mom says I jumped on the bus. I rolled down the window and I said, bye mom. I'll see you. And that like, that was that. And she was like, Oh, and that moment I thought, Oh, am I an awful mother? Because everyone else was like clinging. And so, you know, we were talking about that. I said, well, no, I don't think so. I think it just meant that, you know, I was. Secure enough to, you know, go and have fun and, um, you know, because even after that, like I had said, you know, my mother, I would often, you know, when I was in school and away from her, I've always talked to her at least once a week, but oftentimes more than that.

ALLISON:

Yeah. You know, we certainly, we need these moments where we can see that our children are independent and yet we, we still wish for their connection dialectical tension. Yes. I do also have a son and we have, we've said for, he's 15 and from about the age of five, we started saying he could move away and go to college. He'd be fine. He's ready to move into his own apartment away from us. He's like, bye folks. I mean, so some kids also just have it in them, you know, so, so, uh, you know, every, every kid is different and we should make sure to say, you know, there's not just one way to be a daughter and there's not one way to present. Daughtering and mothering and, and there are lots of mothers and daughters who are not in constant connection and yet can, I think there's lots of daughters and mothers who may long for the connection, but can't be in connection for various reasons. And so there are lots of ways that we can do family. You talk about that in a chapter that you recently wrote, family communication as an art. And you talk about the ways that you can do family and also you can process your feelings and thoughts about your family. So tell us about the chapter and then we can think about like if you have some tips for us, what you'd recommend any of us trying for ourselves. I think

SANDRA:

the first thing is to Get a sense of what those relationships are like, because we don't often like consciously really think about, you know, what roles, the kinds of communication patterns. And especially, I think if you're still living around your folks, I mean, I think it's easier, like, when you, you are gone and then you might visit, right? If they're not necessary, if you don't see that, I mean, they might be part of your daily life. Like, maybe you text your parents all the time. I mean, my parents don't text, so. You know, they're still old school, they still have a landline. So I think that that would be the first step though, is to think about like what, you know, have some kind of, um, awareness of what's the relationship is like, you know, what, and then start to think about like, you know, what is it that you want it to be? To get there. And we talk about, you know, family that in that particular chapter, trying to use that metaphor of, you know, the families as art, and certainly, you know, one of the things that I've done is through creative writing and poetry. I've written a lot of, uh, poems about family, still writing a lot of poems, write about, about family. That somehow that helps me articulate. The roles and what's going on, but then also kind of where's, you know, what is it that I want it to be? So there's almost like this utopian vision and so, and, and that might mean maybe you don't write poetry, but maybe, maybe you write a letter to your family, even if you don't send it, like, maybe that's a way to kind of get in touch with, Oh, I'm going to write this letter, which I may or may not send right to a family member. And I remember I have this, I have a note that my father, you know, like I said, is 82 and has never really verbally expressed his feelings. He's very nonverbal, right? So he might buy a special gift, right? For you. You know, I don't know that I've ever heard him say, I love you, but right. You would see it in other ways. So, um, you know, he'll buy very thoughtful, still get thoughtful gifts in the mail. Right. You know, even, you know, this, this many years later, but after I had, um, graduated from with my PhD, I think my mom, you know, my dad just isn't very expressive and I think my mom said something to him, like, she was just really like, I can't, you know, you didn't say anything and I had this note and it's only two sentences and I, and I actually keep it in my sock drawer. I don't know if everybody has a special little drawer where you keep like. really special little keepsakes. For me, it's like my sock drawer, right? That, that has like, just the, the really special little notes and things. And, and there's a note from there that's saying, you know, how much he's proud of me. It's really only two sentences. And I've, you know, I never, and I think that's the only like written notes. So you can think about that. So if there was something you really wanted to say to a family member or a daughter or a mother or a father, why don't you write a letter? Because that's often something that I, you know, I might do if, you know, I was trying to come up with a poem or something, and even if you don't send it, right, that's a way to kind of figure some things out. Or maybe you will send it. We also do some exercises like that. So one of the things that I have students do is interview. Some family members. So they always say, you know, you have to interview like at least three and you can define family. It could be a mother, it could be a caregiver, you know, whatever about certain family stories. And so then, you know, students have these family stories and I had them create poems or a series of poems, right? And they can put images with, um, you know, very much like some of what you see in, in buttered nostalgia. And oftentimes I'll say, you know, are you, you know, are you going to share this, you know, they'll come up with, you know, these, these just brilliant things. And so sometimes they do share it. And I imagine that that would be quite a conversation, right? That would be had if you shared some of this work. So. I think that those could be some other strategies. And again, if it's not a poem, I mean, I don't know. You could think about different, different ways that you might do that. You know, some kind of letter, maybe you record like a conversation that you've had in your head. Maybe you actually transcribe it and, or maybe, you know, you interview. Yeah. Family

ALLISON:

member. Yeah. You know, whether you send it or not is about, it can be about whether that's meaningful to you or you're trying to make something meaningful for them, right? So when your father sent you the two lines that you keep, you keep that little note in your sock drawer. That's very meaningful for you, the recipient. And so, so obviously we're glad that he wrote it and sent it. And so, you know, the, you can decide later whether, whether it gets sent or not. And if you're not a writer, then, you know, like I have a kind of a funny story, which is this past Valentine's day. So at Valentine's day. And like Mother's Day and things like that, I always tell my, my people, I don't need gifts. I'd really like a letter or a note. And to be honest with you, sometimes those are on post it notes. Sometimes they come on a note card. Often do not come on like nice, beautiful things. And I don't need it to be purchased from a store. Like it is sometimes like the scrap of paper that they find moments before. It's quote, unquote, due to me, but I got, I got all the nice notes. And then later that day, I got a funny one. I got a funny email because chat GPT was brand new and this year. And so my husband went on chat GPT and had it send me a Valentine. And so he put in just a few details about our relationship and had chat GPT write me a Valentine. And it was like a sweet, funny, sexy valentine, you know, that chat GPT wrote for me. And um, so maybe you're not a writer, but if you can give chat GPT things, you can write something for you that then can become. Meaningful and he, you can, you can read it or you can send it. And I will say when he sent it, he said, chat GPT wrote this, okay. So, but I, I definitely knew that he didn't write it when I got it because it was not on a scrap of paper. So it was obvious to me, but you know, there's just a lot of, um, tools and resources that we have and we can find a lot of ways to do that.

SANDRA:

Absolutely. Or here's a song that reminds me of you. Like, so you're saying if you, if you feel like you don't have the words, you can find them.

ALLISON:

Yeah. Yeah. Send a song. Send the, send the YouTube clip. I mean, we can send memes to each other. In your chapter, you also talk about, you mentioned, Stories, poetry, photo montage. I know in the past you've also done a lot of collage. Uh, sometimes you call that visual poetry and you, we talked about baking and also knitting. And so I'm going to include in the show notes, some of the links to the images that you've done, which I think are really cool. You can take, take a piece of a book. You can take a page out of a book. You can color it up with crayon. You can knit or take a piece of cloth and put that on there. And if it's, if it resonates with you, then, then that's what matters. And yeah, that's, that's art. That's creativity. Yes, absolutely. You don't have to start with a blank canvas and try to be Monet. The goal I think of that family communication as an art and maybe the recommendation that we give because on a podcast we can just recommend whatever we want is to suggest that, you know, you do that processing. Think about what fit, what does family mean to you and what do you want out of your family life? And then you can either go out there and do it and you can communicate with the family or you can just think about it if it's not safe for you to communicate it with your family now, maybe it will be later or with some other people. So, right.

SANDRA:

Like you said, any, any little scraps that you might give, I just was reminded of a, of a story. So, so I, I got all the, my grandmother's old sewing things that were all, all these things were in boxes, like all of that. So as I was looking through it, I found, and my grandmother was a very, she, she knit, she sewed, she was a very big crafter and her sewing stuff was very important to her. And so in one of the sewing books, you know, as I was looking through, there was a letter in there that my mother had written to her when I was. Oh, I must've been like five months old. And it was this letter. So it's tucked away in the sewing book. And this letter and my mother had beautiful handwriting, has beautiful handwriting, was all about how, you know, she was reflecting on motherhood and that she really hoped that she could be as a good of a mother to me, right. As you know, her mother had been to her and it was all these years later. I mean, she had kept it right in this. In the sewing sewing book and the other day I was looking through cookbooks for me, right? I, when I'm bored, I, I, I, I read cookbooks, all the things that I'm going to make. And so I was looking through it and there was a note that my daughter had written to me. I had forgotten about it, like, you know, just on a scrap of paper. And it was like, I had let her do something and she's thanking me, but it's this, this letter, right. That I had tucked away in a, in a cookbook. And so. You know, obviously those, those were very meaningful and kind of important to both of us. So don't think you have to have some kind of grand gesture or, you know, anything like that, but that, that sometimes letting white folks know is important. Yeah.

ALLISON:

Well, Sandra, thank you so much for talking today.

MICHELLE:

I really loved what Sandra had to say about feeling like a rubber band being pulled in different directions. Wow. As women, we stretch.

ALLISON:

But we don't break.

MICHELLE:

It's amazing our capacity for discomfort

ALLISON:

as we hold all this love, responsibility,

MICHELLE:

concern, anger, all of it together at the same time. She really, really described that well.

ALLISON:

She did. And the answer I think to some of that discomfort or the answer that Sandra has found is to use your hands. You know, some, some external processors might. Do a lot of talking, and some folks might do some walking and some might use your hands. So we have a few tips for listeners to try for processing their own thoughts and feelings about their families. Okay,

SANDRA:

so

MICHELLE:

this. First tip I use in a class that I teach is to imagine that you're writing a bumper sticker description of your relationship. So

SANDRA:

really brief. So, so what's a catchphrase

MICHELLE:

that would capture your mother daughter relationship, whatever that saying might be. Me and my mom, we bend but we don't break. Make it into a bumper sticker. Send it off to any of these graphic design places that will make bumper stickers. And give one to your mom or to your daughter. You can both put them on your individual

ALLISON:

cars. Okay, so tip 2 is from me. Now, your family may or may not be crafty. You don't have to feel like you're crafty, uh, inside, but I have found that most people will mess around with markers or paint. And rocks and craft sticks, if you put it in front of them. So the next time that you're headed to a big family gathering, take with you a box of supplies and just put it out on the table and encourage everyone to make. Anything, you know, it might seem counterintuitive, but just go get a couple of these things. The next time you're at the grocery store or wherever, and just take this with you to the gathering. Yeah. I mean,

MICHELLE:

people love to talk while they're getting all crafty. So tip number three is also from my personal experience, I heard Sandra talk about. Writing poetry. Now, I personally enjoy writing plays. I think everyone can be a writer. So grab a beautiful

ALLISON:

notebook and fresh

MICHELLE:

pens. Put it in a place where you can see it all the time, like a spot where you eat lunch or jot down a few words here or there at any time. These words do not have to be sentences, full sentences, or go with any previous day's writing, streams of consciousness. Just put down what you're thinking and what you're feeling. There's just, I don't know, something about the MINDBODY connection that happens

ALLISON:

when you're writing. Right. And you know, for those of us, uh, who may not have that piece of actual paper nearby, I actually like to make notes in my notes app on my phone. Um, sometimes I'm having my deepest thoughts and I am away from my beautiful stationary. Alright, so my tip number four is to send funny memes. Now, I think this might be a creative entry point for a lot of people. It's funny. It's usually, memes are usually some kind of metaphor. Um, you can see a meme about family or relationships or someone you love, and then you can just send it to them. And you'd actually don't have to create it. You could just see it, you know, on social media somewhere, um, or even search it up in your text message, you know, in some way, and then you can just send it to another person and they're going to laugh and that can get you out of a bad headspace really quickly. It can have some solidarity with someone else, and it's just a great way to do some of that fun processing. And one of the last things that Sandra had mentioned, and

MICHELLE:

I'd like to include this as a tip too, is writing a letter. Just write it, getting it out of your head and onto the paper, even if it's not poetry, even if it's not creative, thinking I'm not a crafty person, ah, just write a letter or express yourself to this person. And I really love

SANDRA:

the idea, actually, about putting some

MICHELLE:

content in the chat GBT, right? So, so go ahead and put those things you love about that person

SANDRA:

or the things that you want

ALLISON:

to say and have them

MICHELLE:

write a letter. So, so again, don't feel like you have to be creative, but there is an art to this and it's about expression. It's about expressing you, expressing your feelings and the connection between you and your mother or daughter. So I think that's

SANDRA:

it for today, right?

ALLISON:

That's it. We'll see you next time.