Women Worth Knowing: Meet Martha

Ten years ago, I started reading a little column on MSN.com by Martha Brockenbrough.  The Mommy Chronicles followed her on her journey as a new mother, and from the first read I was a fan.  You see, in the very first article I read Martha’s baby had lost her shoes as they were walking.  Worried about the baby’s tiny feet, Martha contemplated stopping in a bakery to buy warm rolls that would pass for shoes until they got home.  It was exactly the sort of thing my mother would have done.  I was in love.

Soon after, the column turned into a blog and then the blog turned into a book (which I gave to my mother for Mother’s Day one year), and Martha’s fight against bad grammar (through The Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar) took up arms with another Brockenbrough penned book.  She currently writes for MSN.com’s, Mom’s Homeroom, for Cozi.com’s, Maybe Means Probably Not, and the Chinook Update.  This means it is easy to get a Martha fix.

Full disclosure:  I don’t know Martha Brockenbrough.  I feel like I do, since I’ve been reading about her life for a decade, but she doesn’t know me from Stalker Stan.  What I know of her, I learned through her writing.  Her writing is warm and witty, kind, practical, and honest like a razor cut.  Do you know what I mean?  It is honesty that cuts right to the heart of the matter, and you laugh for a couple of seconds before saying, “Ouch!  I need to address that!”  In other words, the best kind of honesty.  She is exactly the kind of person I would choose for a friend.

Martha’s writing had a great influence on how I viewed my own pregnancy, and her sense of humor about motherhood and her children have had an impact on my experience.  Sadly, even though I am a member of SPOGG, I still haven’t tamed my comma usage.  I will keep reading her, and hopefully one day I will learn not to write exactly the way I speak.

Meet Martha.

Name: Martha Brockenbrough
Age Range: 40s
Preferred Job Title: writer
Industry: publishing

Describe your family: I have a husband, two daughters, and a dog.

What does the first hour of your day look like?

I’m up each day, usually by 5 a.m. Actually, I’m usually up before then. But when I hear the birds start chirping at 5, I give myself permission to get out of bed and start writing. I put on my grandma robe and a pair of fluffy socks and bask in the unhealthy glow of a computer screen. Truly, though, I love this first hour of the day because there is nothing but potential ahead of me. I am not yet a failure! Yes! And if I have a good writing morning, I can savor that the rest of the day, and possibly lord it over other people that I was working when they were drooling into their pillows. Three mornings a week, I hit an early yoga class after my writing hour. That puts the pressure on, but it also releases it. Isn’t that Zen? (Actually, I don’t really know. I just happen to function better when there is a clock running.)

The last hour?

This is when I read in bed or watch TV next to my husband. When I remember, I also like to put coconut body butter on my heels so that I can fight off joining the tribe of the Lizard People for one more day. Honestly, it’s usually a fight to stay awake, but I do want to have the illusion that some part of my day is purely given to relaxation and/or wondering when Mr. Schuster’s finally gonna get some on Glee. Also, I don’t want to follow a kindergartner’s sleep schedule.

What makes you feel successful?

When I see my kids are happy, when I see that they’re kind to other people, and when I see that they feel some responsibility for the world, I feel successful. And by world, I mean the rain forest, homeless kittens, and other such things. If I defined my sense of success on whether they’d made their beds or done their homework carefully, I would start abusing dark chocolate. Also, it’s also nice to be able to pay the bills on time. I’m proud that I’m able to do that as a writer. If I had a nickel for everyone who told me I wouldn’t be able to, I would also be able to pay my bills on time. That’s a win-win, right?

What brings you joy?

There are so many things. I of course get joy from crafting the perfect sentence. But there’s a lot of baggage that goes with that, too–mostly the fear that the rest of my sentences don’t measure up. So I actually probably get more joy out of little things…watching my kids crack each other up, that feeling you get when you’re eating dinner outside on a perfect summer evening, the satisfaction of tossing the dirty towels into the laundry chute without missing…it’s when stuff is going smoothly that I’m happy. God, I really am turning 40, aren’t I?

What women do you admire?

I actually don’t keep a list of famous women I admire. Magazines do that for us, (Hi, Oprah! Call me!) I find myself admiring my friends quite a bit, though. I have a large group of supportive, loving pals, and each one of them juggles many responsibilities, faces challenges–some huge–and keeps getting out of bed every day to be present in the world no matter what, without making special demands or whining. I find it beautiful to watch.

What do you like best about your closest friend?

She has a really nice ass. Oh, but I kid. I mean she does. But honestly, it’s her ability to make me laugh and call me on my baloney.

What do you like best about yourself?

On most days, I’d say it’s my endurance and capacity for hard work. I really don’t give up on things, and it’s nice knowing that I don’t have to be afraid of failure. There’s always another shot. Which is good, because I generally need one.

What advice would you give boys about girls?

If you want to get something done in life, ask a girl to work with you. If you want to be happy, be kind to girls. If you want to be able to respect yourself, respect girls. And if you do anything bad to one of my daughters, I will hunt you down and make you pay.

How do you overcome adversity?

I look at adversity as the thing that will make me better. In other words, it’s not something to overcome. It’s an ally. I ask what I can learn from things that didn’t go as well as I’d hoped. I let go of things that aren’t working for me. And I try to make sure I’m not my own source of adversity–either through self-doubt or procrastination, or any other number of static-creating practices. The truth is, there will always be adversity and each one of us is going to lose the final battle of life. So it’s all about using what we can as leverage to venture as far as our hearts want us to go.

How do you want to be remembered?

As someone you could count on, no matter what.

13 responses to “Women Worth Knowing: Meet Martha”

  1. Lane, thank you so much for this! I’m honored.

  2. You got her, Lane! And as someone lucky enough to get be one of Martha’s local friends, I can tell you she really is someone we can all count on, no matter what. And knowing her has made us all better people and better friends.

  3. 3 cheers for morning people!

    I honestly don’t understand how so many people go through life never knowing the quiet hopeful joy of the morning.

    The birds have it right.


  4. I am one of those lucky enough to know Martha personally, and I can feel her shining through every question and response in your interview. Nice!

  5. I have admired Martha and her service on the behalf of others to Western Washington’s SCBWI for years. Thanks for this lovely interview. I wish I could say I was a morning person, too, but that would be a lie. OTOH, my children are adults now, so I have the luxury of being able to write without regard to their schedules. There are a FEW benefits to growing older!

  6. This was lovely – I’m so glad to get to know a little bit more about Martha. Thank you both for the interview. Interesting questions, and honest and thought-provoking answers.
    Great stuff.

  7. “Warm and witty, kind, practical, and honest like a razor cut.” That is exactly Martha! The very best kind of friend. (And I was a stalker first, too!) Lovely interview.

  8. I really loved this. So well put from both of you. I am a very big fan of Martha and presume to call her my friend. She is one very incredible woman who has been especially inspiring to me as a writer and person. And as an almost parent, I yearn for even half her sense of humor about it all. Martha possesses a wicked wit indeed but it is deeply rooted in an unshakeable love of life, family, and herself. Even if she doesn’t always admit that last one. And that to me is truly beautiful. Thank you for sharing this.

  9. Oh, so many have said it all so well. I’ve always hoped the friends I choose are ones that make me strive to do better and be better (in all areas of life). Martha is certainly a friend who does just that. She is one amazing woman and friend! What a great interveiw.

  10. It’s all true – Martha is a treasure!

  11. my tea has gotten cold while trying to come up with the perfect words to add to those already written on our super friend martha. so instead of perfect words, i offer a simple truth. since martha walked into my life, i feel richer, and i don’t think it’s all those nickels.

  12. I am crushed. . crushed that Martha didn’t mention she stole my hairstyle. But otherwise, this was an great peek into the mind of one truly amazing and generous woman. All you have to do is look at her daughters to know what kind of maniac-genius-mom Martha is.

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