|The storied Route 66 passes near the town where Mary lives, Odell, Illinois.|
Here I am, Peggy Goetz, very late with my interview of fellow poet and contributor, Mary Mansfield. I loved getting to know more about her life and interests. She has loved writing since she was a young girl and blossomed onto the poetry blogosphere several years ago. Her poetry blog can be found here Write Wing Conspiracy (Write Wing Conspiracy: Plotting World Domination One Poem at a Time).
She is one of the prompt contributors at Poetry Jam. Take a look at the Halloween haunt photos of her yard she posted with her monsters prompt October 9.
Although I find we do get to know about each other by reading our poetry, it is fun to find out a bit about the background and everyday life of our fellow Real Toads. So lets get to the interview.
Peggy Goetz: Thank you so much for sharing with me, Mary. Where and when did you grow up and where do you live now?
Mary Mansfield: I grew up in here in central Illinois in a town very typical of most small towns…football games, hanging at the swimming pool, going to the stock car races on Saturday nights. Thankfully growing up in the late 70’s/early 80’s made for a quiet childhood, not a whole lot of danger lurking about on our streets in those days.
Today I still live in the same rural county, just 20 miles away, in another very typical small town, Odell, that happens to sit alongside Route 66, which makes for some very cool sites when the summer cruises roll through town.
Peggy: Tell me about your family.
Mary: My husband Wes and I have been married for 15 years. My eleven year daughter, Emmy, is truly the light of my world. Great kid, very kind-hearted, extremely smart, wickedly funny. She plays basketball and ran in her first all-school election this year for student council secretary, which she won, beating three older kids. She does take after me, quite the little bookworm and a budding writer as well. We also have 4 cats and a neurotic miniature pinscher named Cheech making their home with us.
|Mary's daughter, Emmy, in a quiet moment.|
Peggy: When did you start writing poetry?
Mary: I got started writing poetry in high school after signing up for a creative writing class. I’d always enjoyed writing short stories and such for different classroom assignments, but in that class I discovered I had a talent for it.
And I have been writing ever since. I do enjoy writing - most days at any rate, but I suppose that was pretty obvious
Peggy: What else do you enjoy doing? I know you can sing well, do you do that much? Are you involved in your community?
Mary: Well, let’s see, I'm a huge NASCAR fan and try to watch every race I can. We put up a good-sized haunted yard display for Halloween, so that’s taking up a whole lot of time at the moment.
I don't sing nearly as often as I'd like, even with the husband starting his own karaoke business most of my singing is directed at the steering wheel while I’m running errands. I've been reading Tarot for almost twenty years now as well.
Peggy: Let's first go back to your earlier life. Tell me something about your family growing up.
Mary: I grew up with my mom, dad, and younger sister. We never had a whole lot of money, but thankfully my mom found the perfect way to keep us occupied…the library. I was definitely a bookworm as a kid, it was nothing to read my way through a dozen books a week, every week. Reading was such a great way to expand my horizons and dream of something more.
Peggy: What do you remember about your school years and what did you enjoy? How big were your schools in elementary and high school? (since you said you lived in a small town) Did you go on to college?
Mary: Do you remember that one annoying kid in every class who always knew every answer and completely wrecked the grading curve on every test? That was me, for sure. School was something that came very easily for me, something I truly enjoyed.
Both my elementary and high schools were on the small side, right around 100 kids per grade. Just small enough to make sure you knew all your classmates but large enough to offer a variety of extra curricular activities. I was in choir, band (played alto saxophone), worked on the yearbook one year, competed on the speech team, always something to keep me busy.
I never did make it to college. My financial aid package fell apart on me right before classes were ready to start, and I ended up married to my first husband less than a year after high school graduation. I’ve thought about it a few times over the years, but I’m not sure the timing has been right.
Peggy: You live in a place where the seasons are dramatically different from each other. What is your favorite season and what do you like about it? Do you really dislike any particular time of year?
Mary: Winter has to be my favorite time of the year. Sure, shoveling snow and scraping windows really stink, but I love the shimmer of sunlight on the snow, the brilliant blue of a December sky, a simmering pot of chili on the stove, snuggling under a nice thick comforter.
Summertime, on the other hand, I can definitely do without. I find that as I’ve gotten older my tolerance for hot weather has all but disappeared. Once that mercury starts rising I can generally be found hovering around the nearest air conditioner.
|The land where Mary lives is mostly agricultural but also has wind farms.|
Peggy: I know you are a full-time mom now. What were your work years like? What did you like about working?
Mary: I've been at home full-time for the last six years, not by choice. Since having Emmy I've been plagued with chronic back pain. and it finally progressed to the point where I could no longer work at restaurant management. I still have my good and bad days, although those good days seem to becoming more and more infrequently.
Restaurant management is hectic and tiring. And unpredictable, no two days were ever the same. But I do miss it. Watching those customers come through the doors every day gives you a great glimpse into a wide variety of lives, some of the best people-watching you can find.
Peggy: How did you get into the world of blogging poetry? Does your family read your blogs?
Mary: I think blogging for me came about mostly as a way of answering that call every writer seems to hear at some point to share our work with the world. I've made a few false starts in that area, leaving a several abandoned blogs floating around the internet dying of neglect, but I think I've finally found the determination to keep pressing forward.
I’m a complete coward when it comes to submitting for publication or contests, and putting my poetry up on a blog seemed to be much less risky. It also gives me complete control over how the material is presented, which seems to fit my perfectionist side very well.
Much of my family does read my blog. My husband claims to read everything I post, and I know he has shared many of my poems on his Facebook. For the most part, the family is pretty supportive with my blog, just maybe not so understanding at times with the time I need to put into my writing.
Peggy: Is there anything that especially brings you joy? Is there anything that makes you sad?
Mary: Now that’s a good question. Several years ago I started on a challenge to make a list of 100 things that make me happy…not because I thought they were cool or expected of me, but because they truly give me joy. I ended up abandoning the challenge somewhere in the mid-sixties, but it really made me stop and appreciate some of the smaller pleasures in life. I just might have to give that challenge a try again and see how much things have changed for me, could make for an interesting series of posts on my second blog.
I have moments in every day that are happy and sad, along with every other emotion imaginable. I’ve learned to just accept whatever the emotion of the moment might be and let it flow right through me to make room for the next one, although I would admit to trying to grasp those small bits of bliss for just a little bit longer.
I suppose what makes me happy is not all that different from other people: family, friends, good food, warm hugs, great music. I really don’t have a lot of sadness in my life, which might be surprising considering the tone of many of my poems. The list of things that tick me off, my list of regrets, those would be much, much longer.
Peggy: Talk some more about the town you live in now? Is it basically an agricultural area? What parts of it do you like and what do you dislike?
Mary: Odell, Illinois, is a very small town, just over 1000 people. It’s a very agricultural area, mostly corn and soybeans. The drought this summer was devastating. Watching those fields drying up and dying every day was quite painful to witness, and it will certainly take some time for the area to recover. A couple of years ago a wind farm sprang up that pretty much surrounds the town. The towering windmills are a sight to behold, and the tax revenue has been a tremendous boost to the local schools.
The school is absolutely my favorite part of living here. It’s relatively small - my daughter has 14 kids in her entire grade - but she has blossomed so much since we moved here. We’ve been here for almost two years now, and the change in her is amazing.
Like many small towns, the community tends to be pretty close knit, and it’s taken a while to try and get to know people here, which would be one of the few downfalls to living here. But it’s getting better, and I’m sure it will improve with time.
Peggy: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Mary: I'd just like to say how grateful I am to be a Toad. I've learned so much both from the great variety of writing prompts we have as well as reading the work of all the other incredibly talented participants. This Garden has blossomed into a wonderful community that I love spending time in. Thank you all so much for making me feel welcome!
Peggy: Thank you so much Mary for sharing so much with us at Real Toads. It has been a pleasure putting this together—even though lately I seem to have been more disorganized about it than usual. I am so glad to have met you.