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Monthly Archives: May 2016

 

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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?

 

 

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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.

 

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My parents with Paul in Newport.