Photo taken by Amberleigh Muehlebach
I snuggled in to my spot on the couch, my office on Saturdays with my little dog children packed in tight around me snoozing. My happy place. Today is a business call, but it doesn’t feel like that. Its two friends catching up really. Dominique is in her office in North Dakota at the other end of a video chat. As a mother of 3 boys, 8,6 and 20 months old, I can tell she is hoping for an hour to herself. Dominique and I have known each other for 8 years. We met when we were stationed in Germany, as our husbands worked together. I remember our first meeting clearly at my house where I met Royce, her first baby for the first time. He was so tiny and new, only 3 months old. Our reason for our business call is pretty incredible. Dominique has written a book and is getting it published! We decided, as we both are starting our writing journey at the same time, that helping each other was the most organic next move. An author interview!
I really felt blown away we have known each other for 8 years. “We all hit it off right away. Our husbands bonded first. “Yours makes mine talk and embarrasses the crap out of him,” Dominique said laughing. We reminisced about our time in Germany. I used to drive over to Dom’s house frequently to spend a few hours hanging out. We both were stay at home moms, and leaned on each other about our struggles in this season of our lives as mothers. I remember sitting on the floor in her living room folding her laundry as she wrestled Royce, who was happily bouncing on the couch and his mom and singing songs. I remembered those days with my own children, and wished that I had had someone to help fold my laundry at that time.
Dominique: It must have been hard for you too, with two littles.
Amber: It was. But my kids were a little older. *shrugs* Different challenges.
Amber: Were you writing at that time?
Dominique: I have written before, but I was too stressed at the time, with two littles in the house to do anything. It would have helped me though, I think, if I could have written. It helps center me, like your art does for you.
Amber: For me its gardening right now. I get to plant seeds! I've been waiting for this moment.
Dominique: What is it about gardening?
Amber: It’s the process of starting a life from a seed, and putting your love and energy into it. Eventually when it has come to the end of its life cycle, it gives that love and energy back to you in the form of food.
Dominique: It’s like seeing the whole thing from start to finish.
Amber: Yes. It's also getting to enjoy all of the different varieties that you can’t get at the store. Like tomatoes. There is so many different varieties of tomatoes, and new ones that are bred every year. Each tomato has a different flavor, color, texture and use. I love the adventure of trying new produce. It gets me excited to try new recipes and to provide my family the experience as well. Did you know that there is a variety of tomato that when fully ripe it is the size of a pea? They call them spoon tomatoes. We are really excited about trying growing those this year.
Dominique: That’s Amazing.
One of the boys bounds in to Dominique's office and interrupts the call. We rant about our kids and the struggle to just get a few minutes alone.
Amber: When did you start writing poetry? To have a whole book, that must have taken a really long time.
Dominique: I actually started writing poetry really young. Probably when I was like 9 or 10, I remember sitting on someone's deck wrapped in a blanket rhyming my heart out.
Amber: I love that. I actually wrote poetry as well when I was a teenager. I am glad I did that because it covers a lot of stuff growing up that I don't remember. It's great to have those memories. That's actually part of the reason why we're doing the blog, so my kids can read it when they're older and my grandkids and they can remember and know us.
Dominique: that's a great idea. I love that. I wrote through high school too.
Amber: Did you keep them?
Dominique: Yeah, they are all in the musty book boxes from Germany.
When Dominique lived in Germany her home had a mold issue. She was always sick when she lived there and had trouble breathing. As it turns out, she was highly allergic to this mold. They did not find this out until they had moved back to the United States. So now all of her books, all of her work from before is held hostage by mold. So, they sit, packed away, like a time capsule that is too dangerous for her to open.
Amber: With your poems that I've seen, and the cover art, are your children the inspiration for your poems?
Dominique: Having children is the inspiration. I had a lot of angst, and a lot of adjustments to make.
Amber: It was just a kind of a way for you to sort your feelings?
Dominique: Yes exactly! But I didn’t do it at the same time. I couldn’t write in the moment. I ended up processing all this when the then youngest was three and a half, four. And then one six-month period, I just had poems. I would sit down at the keyboard and type. Sometimes I’d be ugly crying. It was very cathartic and healing.
Amber: When did you decide you wanted to turn your poems into a book? And what is it about?
Dominique: Well, you know, I was praying because I’ve wanted to publish a book for a long time but never felt like I had anything to say. Anyways, I was complaining to God that I didn't have anything to say yet, and he directed me to my poems. They’re about finding yourself again in the middle of motherhood. Maybe finding out who you truly are through motherhood. They’re an expression of the loss and love and confusion and grace all mixed up in motherhood and I hope they’re healing for people.
Amber: That’s incredible. Seems like it's’ all meant to be. It all just lined up for it. I’m so proud of you buddy. How has your life changed? As far as work life balance? Are there new demands?
Dominque: Crazy busy. I’ve only been signed a month and we decided to go for a quick release for Mother’s Day, so there’s all this stuff to do. Like get a blog up and running and a website and figure out who I want to spam with copies of my book so maybe they’ll review it. But I’m enjoying having a project again.
Amber: It’s difficult to keep up with everything. I’m also trying to get all that same stuff set up. All the platforms speak to each other. And you can pull all these audiences to where you need them to be. There are ways you can set them up to do timed posts—scheduled posts. You have to post a couple times a week to stay relevant and it’s a lot of work.
Dominique: We’re in the same place
Amber: I take one day of the weekend to do writing day and a business day. I have all these ideas of expansion and side projects and stuff and have them all connect somehow.
[Bryan interjects inappropriate comment and we all start giggling.]
Amber: Literally we’re doing the same thing at the same time. Our paths are always going together. We moved and we were back together and now we’re together even though we’re apart. [referring to meeting in Germany, and then Dominique and Carl moved to Minot and Amber and Bryan followed, and now Dominique and Amber are both setting up their writing platforms at the same time]
Dominique: And the surprise thing is that you took the cover photo for this book! You were doing a newborn session for us. Tell me about it.
Amber: That picture wasn’t a posed picture. It was when you were changing him. It was so spur of the moment shot and it ended up being your favorite and my favorite out of the whole thing.
Dominique: People think it’s out of some database but I’m so excited that I know the photographer.
Amber: I’m so happy because it just embodies your love for your baby.
Dominique: It does capture what the book is about.
Amber: And who knew that picture would be so important later on in life. Who knew the connections would be so important. I just love the connections.
Dominique: [The book of poetry] is about the mom finding a connection with herself while she’s finding a connection with her children. And how that connection with her children changes her. And what kind of person emerges.
[Dominique’s 20-month-old begins screaming in the background. It takes ten minutes for Dominique to get him settled down—he wakes up from naps pretty angry. Then they resume.]
Dominique: So, tell me about your Blog. Why did you decide to start it?
Amber: I want it to be our story. So, this time next year we can look back at where we started and how far we have come. I want it to be something our children look back on and their children can go to and see the story... of us.
Dominique: It’s so symbolic that you have your little seeds over there and you and I are just starting out.
Amber: [Amber smiles and nods] Your memory fades but pictures are forever. Words too.
Dominique: It’s trying to find hope in the middle of the hard things. That’s what we are doing.
Amber: Yeah, we really are able to show that there is hope. Like our homestead is a dream come true and we had to work for it a long time. Your book was a long time in coming. I like that. There is hope.
Amber: Thanks for chatting today. I hear your baby and my baby [dog] wants some loves.
Dominique: Well, thank you for having me today. We must talk again.
The next day Dominique surprised me with a poem she has from a dream. She told me, “It just feels like it belongs to you.” I cried after reading it. Somehow, our connection as friends is on another level. Or maybe its God speaking through Dominique to give me this message. I had not told Dominique that, at this time, I had just gotten the news that my grandfather has only months left to live. This poem, helped to break down my emotional walls and heal me. When it comes to loss, ever since I lost my grandmother, I put up walls around my emotions and try to stay strong. Her poem, opened the floodgates for me, and I think I am able now to process my grief in a healthy way. Her poem does not yet have a title. Do you have any ideas for a title? Comment below. Here is my gift, from my dear friend.
Old hands rough with years and worry
Sitting idle, wishing for fingers clasped
Long and thin, thick and chubby—but
Hands that have since aged and faded
With the rise and fall of wanting,
Thumbs thick with dirt reaching into
The bowels of deep brown secrets
Of growing things and future hopes,
Now shudder thick with ache and yearning.
Oh, winter cold, oh twilight years
This slow descent into sunset,
Into geese honking over lakes
Flying ahead of the winter storm,
He sits, with blankets draped
Or perhaps memories wrapped—
And waits in solitude, longing
For moonlit nights and dewy sunrise
For fat sticky giggles, and long, low
Luxurious humming as she sews
Or sets the table, and that gaze—
Eyes clear with wintry blue.
Hands sit slow and quiet, lingering—
Remaining steadfast in remembrance.
And then those hand reach
for that tomato sandwich
Cold and fresh
Like every summer past.
This is part 1 of our interview. Stay tuned for Part 2 to see the cover art and more!
If you want to keep up to date with Dominique you can follow her on FB, IG, Twitter, tiktok and LinkedIn @dmsnedeker
Her website will be live on Valentines Day 2022 Website dmsnedeker.com