Love that boy,
like a rabbit loves to run …
Love to call him in the morning
love to call him
“Hey there son!”


He got long roads to walk down
before the setting sun.
I said he got a long, long road to walk down
before the setting sun.
He’ll be a long stride walker
And a good man before he’s done.

— excerpt from Love that Boy, by Walter Dean Myers



Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
and sorry I could not travel both
and be one traveler, long I stood
and looked down one as far as I could
to where it bent in the undergrowth..

and both that morning equally lay
in leaves no step had trodden black.
oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

— excerpt from The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost



Toddler to-do: Climb on top of princess car. Check.


I tend to view life in terms of to-do lists. Today: drop-off daughter with grandma, deposit check at bank, pick up prescription at Safeway, work on website design. Then, as time allows: laundry, dishes, straighten up living room, clean stovetop, scrub floors, straighten up and dust bookshelves.

I also have my toddler with me all day, as I do every day. So many of these things will be left undone, as they usually are. And even if I finished all of these tasks, there would soon be five more chores to take their place. The work of a mother is never-ending.

My mom’s magenta Honda Civic used to have a bumper sticker that said, “Every mother is a working mother.” I didn’t appreciate that bumper sticker at the time. I was in high school and frequently used that car to drive to social events. So I covered it up with two other bumper stickers, “Free Tibet,” and “Maybe if we ignore the environment it will just go away.”

Now I know the truth – every mother is a working mother, and it’s just as important of a message as the other bumper stickers. “Free Tibet” stayed on the Honda for years after the car was officially passed on to me, and received a few mild reactions. Waiting in line at the Canadian border crossing, someone yelled out “Didn’t you know Tibet is free now!” (It’s not.) Or, when I worked at a private Christian high school a co-worker commented on how the “Free Tibet” car was mysteriously in the parking lot again, as if it couldn’t belong to someone who worked there. (It did.)

Today I found an old notebook with to-do lists and notes from different times in my life. The first page has my honeymoon flight itinerary, a phone number for a travel agent and notes about our rehearsal dinner. Later I find job references, a stream-of-consciousness writing exercise, sermon notes, and a workout schedule that was never followed. I find notes about many jobs I applied to unsuccessfully, as well as notes Spencer and I made before his interview with the first professional job he landed. A to-do list from a mystery Tuesday: underwear, mattress pad, painting hooks, money back? C & B, B & B, golf practice, Mollalla job application, call Bob, Bible study, wedding photos, laundry.

Apparently this notebook was lost in boxes or spare bedrooms but resurfaced recently as it has notes from 2006 and then 2015. I find To-Do Before Baby: organize bedroom, set-up chair, return used items to Toys R Us, set up swing, bolt Marie’s dresser to the wall, childproof sharp corners, childproof sliding door?, maternity photos?, doula?, baby shower?, register w/ hospital, tour maternity ward, spare key for my parents, taxes, teaching class, Marie b-day gift.

It makes me happy to think of life in terms of to-do lists. To be able to see the tasks that need to be done, and slowly work my way through them. I feel I’m making progress; I have a vision for how I want things to be and I’m taking the steps to get there. Some people call this “adulting.” Sometimes all the dishes and laundry and diaper changes, the bills and vacuuming, feel monotonous and relentless. But I’ve come to see that God is with me just as much in these every day, ordinary moments as He was with me in Africa or in the births of my children.

The extraordinary is present in the ordinary.


P.S. Do you have a favorite bumper sticker?



I was blessed to spend much of Mother’s Day weekend in the company of my mom, attending several events she organized as part of the 5th Northwest Women Writers Symposium. On Friday night we listened to  Reyna Grande speak about her experiences with crossing borders — the border between the U.S. and Mexico, which she risked her life to cross illegally at age 9, as well as the borders of culture and language that she continued to cross after arriving in Los Angeles. (I highly recommend her excellent memoir The Distance Between Us for insight into the Mexican immigrant experience). Ironically, Reyna’s speech coincided with Donald Trump’s appearance about a mile away.

On Saturday I attended a memoir workshop taught by Oakland-based writer and former Portlander Ariel Gore. Ariel is the founder of the parenting zine Hip Mama, as well as the author of several books including her recent memoir, The End of Eve, about caring for her mother at the end of her life. Or, as Ariel described her book, “it’s a comedy about domestic violence.” The End of Eve is also excellent; a compelling read that is both heartbreaking and funny. I was thrilled to attend Ariel’s workshop and enjoyed exploring the difference between external and internal narratives.

I’d meant to bring my new copy of The Essential Hip Mama for Ariel to sign, but I was cleaning up my child’s diarrhea right before leaving the house and ended up rushing out the door sans book. A lot of my time is spent cleaning up other people’s shit. I guess that’s motherhood for you.

Speaking of Hip Mama, I have a pretty hip mama myself. Not only does she organize this fabulous women writer’s symposium every year, she once rode all the way from Indiana to Oregon on the back of a motorcycle. She traveled all over the world while working for an international adoption agency – to Cambodia, South Korea, China, Romania, and the Ukraine. She now works for a feminist research center at the UO. But most importantly, she babysits Marie on Fridays so that I can get work done. Thank you mom, for all that you do as a mom and grandmother, and also for being one of my most loyal readers🙂

I’m thankful to be living in close proximity to my mom, and it’s been special these past few years to have my grandmother as a neighbor as well. In an age of unrootedness and disconnected families, it feels counter-cultural to choose to be deeply rooted in my family and community.

I’m all over the place tonight..must get some sleep.

What are some things you love about your mom? And if you are a mom, I hope your day was a special one.



My parents with Paul in Newport.

Exactly four years ago tonight I was in a hospital room in Portland, hooked up to an external fetal monitor, waiting for my life to change. I had the same feeling I get when I’m about to go on a trip somewhere – the excitement and anxiety of a new adventure waiting to unfold.

And it has been an adventure indeed. The process of becoming a mom was a bit like entering an alternate universe where the idea of an unbroken 9 hour night of sleep was the stuff of fantasy. A world where my body didn’t really belong to me. Now, with a son who’s just turned 1, I’ve been either pregnant or breastfeeding for the past 4 years and 9 months.

I’m not sure if these past four years have gone by in a flash or if they’ve crept by incredibly slowly. But I do know that I remember the time before motherhood now as if it were a dream.

Happy Birthday tomorrow to my sweet daughter. You are a fierce, playful, quick-witted, resilient bringer of joy. I can’t imagine life without you Marie. Last week we just finished our first chapter book read-aloud – C.S. Lewis’ The Silver Chair. This evening as we walked down the hill to visit my grandmother, you ran through the cherry blossoms and shouted, “It’s raining cherry blossoms!”

And to dear little Paul who just turned 1 on Easter: We love you and are so thankful you joined our family. Paul with the gap-toothed grin and the curly red-gold hair. At this age you are like a little caveman wandering about our apartment, communicating by pointing. You know the signs for “more,” “all done,” and “please.” When you get mad, your fair skin turns bright red, and you also like to throw yourself down on the floor and cry. On your birthday we sat around my parent’s dining room table and everyone said something we appreciate about you. Except Marie, who said, “No, I don’t want to talk about Paul. I want to talk about Jesus, because it’s Easter.”

But I know the truth – she loves you. I’m in love with you both, and am looking forward to getting to know you more in the years to come. I’m praying that God will bless you both deeply, that you will be far from harm’s way, that you will be filled with a deep peace and love that overflow into those around you.



“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord. “Plans to prosper you, and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11




My wedding day, almost 10 years ago. Photo credit: TJ Cameron

Spencer and I have been going to a marriage class through our church for the past couple weeks, and it has caused me to reflect on some of the ways we are different. It’s even helped me understand some differences that I wasn’t aware of before.

Take the “nothing box” for example. Our pastor said, “Some people keep their thoughts in boxes. At work, they’re in the work box. Sometimes, they’re in the nothing box. They’re just thinking about nothing.”

As Jerry said on an episode of Seinfeld, “Men are just walking around, looking around.” Spencer has told me that he has a nothing box and prefers to spend as much of his time there as he can.

In contrast, some people have all their thoughts connected and are always thinking about lots of different things. That’s me. I’m always writing a blog post in my head, thinking about any approaching deadlines, and wondering when I’ll find time to get together with that friend I’ve been wanting to see. My internal monologue can be loud and annoying. But I do try to allow myself to clear my mind and think about nothing while I’m doing something that doesn’t require concentration, like washing dishes or going for a jog.

This is not to say that all men fit into one category and all women fit into the other. Today I came across a Science article about a 2015 study showing that male and female brains don’t fit neatly into categories. (I’d love to hear from you in the comments below about where you see yourself on that spectrum of interconnected vs. more focused thinking.)

Another point of difference between myself and my husband came up when I read an article about how we experience time. I realized that I’m very focused on the future and Spencer is much more focused on the present. I’m also very scheduled and Spencer is less so.

This can be a point of conflict, but it also means we complement each other well. It’s helpful to have a planner (like me) around who is proactive, gets things done before the deadline, and has a strong vision for the future. But I can also have a hard time being spontaneous and being present in the moment.

We need to plan and prepare for the future, but the present is where we live.

My husband and my kids are good at helping me be more present in the moment. They also help lower my stress level…sometimes.

Spencer and I have other differences too — he’s really good at putting together Ikea furniture, and the visual directions leave me completely confused. I’d rather express my feelings in writing; he’d much rather talk. He likes football; I prefer ballet.

We have some important things in common – we like ethnic food, hiking, and the color blue. We like taking our kids to church every Sunday at 9 am, and we’re committed to staying out of debt. We listen to NPR, and Jim Gaffigan is our favorite comedian.

So are we really opposites? Yes and no. We can embrace our similarities while also valuing the balance that our differences bring to our life together.

How about you? Are all your thoughts connected or are you mostly focused on one thought at a time? And are you more focused on the future or the present? Scheduled or spontaneous? If you’re married, do you feel like you and your spouse are opposites? How so?




I was reading a post by author Sarah Thebarge a few months ago about working in a medical clinic in west Africa. It was a grueling experience. She lost more patients in one week than she’d lost in the past decade of working in the U.S. She said she felt a bit like Sisyphus, eternally pushing a boulder up a hill. Futile.

I have spent time in west Africa, too. It’s stuck with me – the open sewers, the diesel fumes, the trash piles. The leper begging on the roadside. The inability to call home because our phone could only receive incoming calls, and that only sporadically. Getting the last flight out on Ghana Air before London’s Heathrow airport grounded the plane for safety concerns.

The. Last. Flight.

It changed me to experience those things. I had entered a new country, and the world would never again be the safe, sanitary place I had known.

But there were other things too. Sitting on a tropical beach, looking up at the full moon. Tasting a fresh mango. Swimming in a warm rainstorm. Seeing the smiling faces of children.


Ghanaian children playing in the street. (Photo credit: Ursula Crawford).

In her post, Sarah went on to say that several commentators – Kafka and Camus – imagined Sisyphus to be happy. Happy because he was in love with the work.

I entered another new country about four years ago. A country where my body and my time are not my own. The culture shock was brutal, and this time there was no return flight home.


He claps his hands with joy on his 10-month birthday.

Over the years I have learned to love the work of motherhood. I think that’s one of the big keys to happiness – you have to fall in love with your work, whatever it is. Sometimes this just looks like reframing our perspective, and looking for the good in our situation.

My 3-year-old can be frustrating. Here’s a typical exchange:

“Sweetie, please put your shoes on so we can go to school.”

Marie hides under her blanket. 30 seconds pass.

“Put your shoes on.”


“Please put your shoes on!” Pause. “1, 2….3.”

Marie continues hiding under her blanket. I see that she is about to be late for school. I put her shoes on for her.

The battles over every little thing are difficult. The interrupted sleep is difficult. The constant neediness is draining. I was recently diagnosed with hypothyroidism, so now I know I’ve been battling an extra layer of fatigue plus frequent dizziness that is beyond normal.

I don’t want the physical, mental, and emotional fatigue to steal my joy. I need to remember self-care. And I need to remember that yes, motherhood really is hard work.

But I can be in love with the work.

Can you relate to doing hard work and loving it? Tell me about it in the comments below. I’m off to change a diaper…



Today marks the beginning of Lent, the 40 days (not including Sundays) leading up to Easter. This year, Easter happens to fall on my son’s 1-year-birthday.

I’ve been telling myself for awhile now that Lent is my favorite season of the liturgical calendar. This should be a hint as to what a fun person I am! Did you enjoy overeating and racking up debt during Advent? Well, I love giving up desserts in order to practice solidarity with Christ’s suffering on the cross. Cheers!

Haha. But seriously, I do observe Lent, and I enjoy the fact that it is somewhat counter-cultural. In the U.S., we live in a culture of excess. I recently read that 70% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck, meaning they don’t have enough savings to pay their bills if their paycheck was delayed by just one week. Also, I think it’s safe to say that as a whole our society has big problems with food, alcohol, drugs, and pornography. Lent is all about practicing self-control, and that is not something that we do very well.

This season, I’m planning to focus on two things: cleaning/decluttering our apartment and organizing our finances. This means I’m going to be in a bad mood for awhile! But hopefully by the time Easter rolls around, I’ll be feeling better than before I started these projects. I’m currently reading Dave Ramsey’s Complete Guide to Money and I have Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up on deck.

To help me with cleaning, I’ve started a housekeeping calendar on a whiteboard on our refrigerator. I’m trying to keep my daily expectations low, since it’s hard to get a lot done with my very active 10-month-old and preschooler around. As I write this, Marie is at preschool and Paul is pulling books and DVDs off our bookshelf. Time to move him into the pack-and-play. I actually started the housekeeping calendar last week; already I haven’t been able to keep up with the laundry schedule I created, but have done okay with the rest of it.

I also want to go through and declutter little sections of our apartment at a time. I’ve already gone through a lot of old papers and filled up several bags of recycling. I got an accordion folder and filed away important papers so that I can find them when I need them. This cuts down on clutter and stress.

My goal in this endeavor is making our apartment a nicer place to be. I don’t know how much longer we’ll be in this apartment, but I might as well make it as nice as I can while we’re here. Plus, if I declutter, it will make it easier when we do move.

For the finance part of this, my husband and I are taking Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University through our church. We are very blessed to not have any debt, but I want to get a better grasp on budgeting, saving, and a lens for making big financial decisions. This is especially important since we are living on just one income for now. Dave Ramsey talks about using cash envelopes for certain budget areas, like groceries and entertainment, to help prevent you from overspending. I’m planning to try this during Lent and see how it goes.

To be honest, thinking about my finances and decluttering my space fills me with anxiety, fear, and shame. It’s much harder than my usual Lenten sacrifice of forgoing ice cream. I’m reclaiming the things God has already given me.

When this season is over, I’m looking ahead to celebrating. We’ll be kicking up our heels over Easter and Paul’s first birthday, with Marie’s fourth birthday following a few weeks later. I’ll be celebrating finding beauty in the things we already have and joy in opening my eyes to the blessings around me.


Celebrating good times on Marie’s first trip to the roller rink.



Are you observing Lent this year? What are you giving up or taking on? What’s something you’re looking forward to celebrating?