Mom’ish

I’m not even sure anymore what, indeed, is a ‘traditional mother’. I’ve spent a great deal of time thinking I was too untraditional as a parent of two. School letters lay in a towering pile, unopened, until dust made itself comfortable. Sage wisdom and encouraging words came to me always too late for the needed circumstance; sarcasm and humor usually in its stead. Things I was supposed to discipline seemed immaterial while insignificant things loomed too large in my haphazard disciplinary arsenal. ⠀

“You wouldn’t know how to ground me anymore than I would know how to be grounded.” – a line from the movie ‘Easy A’ and one that my daughter pointed out as all-too-accurate for our relationship.

The older I get, however, the more *typical* I am finding those things to be within the brave community of motherhood. I’ve commiserated with other mamas who also felt the things they did – and didn’t do – seemed out of the realms of ‘norm’. I think untraditional is much more traditional than we know. ⠀

My mother was a 7th grade English teacher. She conjugated verbs and added ‘ly’ in all the appropriate places. A bit of her grammar-nazi thinking was eventually passed down to me as well. For that reason, this book title screamed out to me and within 5 minutes it was in my Amazon cart and soon after, on its way to my door. An early Mother’s Day present from me to me. I’ll circle the many recognized lines within its covers and add it to My Funeral file on my computer. (A desktop icon because they’ll never go digging any deeper than that.) ⠀

Don’t use funeral flower gladiolus unless you buy them from Trader Joe’s. Eliminate all cliches from your heartfelt tribute and by all means, if you use a cutesy, curvy font for my birth-death dates I will haunt you and your unborn children for eternity.

Mothers with a loose grip on your mothering style, do yourself a favor and grab this book. ⠀

There’s plenty of room in the margins for copious notes for your offspring…

PLACEMAKER by Christie Purifoy

I am currently reading this beautiful book by Christie Purifoy, Placemaker: Cultivating Places of Comfort, Beauty and Peace. The book releases in mid-March 2019 and will be a soothing balm for our overly-stressed, multi-tasking souls.

Placemakers is for the home lover. The outdoor admirer. The family gatherer. The story collector. For the past decade I have felt very strongly that one of my biggest roles in life is to create a welcoming home. My regret? That I didn’t embrace this role stronger when my children were young. Perhaps that is a natural occurrence for many of you as well. When your babies are young, there is so much clutter and lack of sleep. As they mature, there seems to be nothing but running and doing. Concerts and sports events. Home tends to be a quick landing spot between the lines of your to do list.

But the older I get, the more I realize the respite that is home. It has been my passion to create a soothing and calm place for Scott to land after a 12-hour day at work. Even in writing that line I am aware of how genteel and old-fashioned it sounds. Perhaps even egotistical. I balk at the pollyanna nature of it, but I know in my heart that it is the mission I have been given. Does this sound anti-feminist? I certainly hope not as I stand here a proud feminist. We too often acquaint progressive women’s rights with doing and becoming. But the true essence of the movement is to create space where women can become anything they wish to become – which does not exclude the role of supporting and encouraging those we love. But it isn’t all done just for my family. Beauty and consistency makes my own soul feel calm and settled.

We plant seeds or saplings in neat rows. We prune limbs, and we tend the soil. We do not make the trees, but we make a place for them.

I did not have a word for the role I play until Purifoy so elegantly termed it: placemaker.

When I was first married and moving into our apartment (my first home ever away from my childhood home and college dorms), I found great pleasure in creating a homey home. I remember one of my friends came over for the first time and as she left she commented: “Your home doesn’t look like you just moved into it. It looks as if you’ve lived here for years.” I considered this a huge compliment – and still one of my favorites.

For friends and family to find a place that evokes feelings of warmth and welcome – that is my greatest joy. I am (…to a fault and the butt of many jokes…) constantly tweaking things around our home. And now, with the California weather, our backyard is merely an extension of our physical house. I am invigorated by dirt and the care of each plant and tree. I grieve when they die and I feel empowered when I can help to save them.

Making and tending good and beautiful places is not a dishonorable retreat. It is a holy pursuit. We were never meant merely to consume the gifts of creation. We were made to collaborate. We were made to participate. This book is an invitation to reconsider your own relationship to the ground beneath your feet and roof over your head.

I expected this book to be a pretty addition to our coffee table. How surprised I’ve been to find the girth of insight and encouragement I’ve found between its pages. A book that I could probably ‘whip out in a day’ has become a slow and methodical read – filled with underlined words and many pauses for reflection. And sometimes shouts of ‘YES!, that’s exactly how I feel!’

You can pre-order the book now. I strongly suggest you rush to your favorite book-selling site to grab one for yourself.

Meanwhile, I continue to read…

THE AMERICAN SPIRIT by David McCullough

I recently finished this collection of speeches by David McCullough.
His love for history is contagious and reignites my own B.A. in History. His many graduation commencement speeches are all laced with the plea for the graduates to continue to study history. Quoting American historian, Daniel Boorstin:

Trying to plan for the future without a sense of the past is like trying to plant cut flowers.

I have often been frustrated with the way history is taught in public schools. History is not a litany of facts and dates. History is merely a series of contiguous and interlacing stories. Beautiful stories of overcoming threatening odds and even stories of abject failure. But all the stories of history feed into the place and time that we find ourselves in today.

‘What is story?’, McCullough asks his crowd.
Essayist, E. M. Forster elaborates:
If I tell you the king died and then the queen died – that’s a sequence of events.
If I tell you the king died and then the queen died of grief – that’s a story.

In light of the contentious political scene today, I needed a reminder that the American spirit surpasses time and presidencies. I was taken aback, however, at this quote from Margaret Chase Smith, the senator who stood up to Joe McCarthy in the 1940/50’s:

“I speak as a Republican,” she said on that memorable day in the Senate. “I speak as a woman. I speak as a United States Senator. I speak as an American. I don’t want to see the Republican Party ride to political victory on the four horsemen of…fear, ignorance, bigotry and smear.”

In this book of speeches, McCullough pulls heavily from many of the excellent books he has written. I recognized many of the references. Of all the McCullough books I have read, his account of the life of John Adams is by far my favorite. McCullough made me fall in love with our second president and increased my admiration for his long-suffering wife, Abigail. Their love story is amazing to watch unfold through the pages of his biography.

The American Spirit will reignite your love for country, American history, and rhetoric. Or at least that was the effect it had on me…

A FINE ROMANCE by Candice Bergen

The original Murphy Brown TV show came out when I was in the throws of motherhood. I loved watching her show (from an old thing called a VCR -ha!) The writing was funny and her persona helped me feel more secure in womanhood. All things were possible.

My mistake, however, was subconsciously assuming Murphy Brown was, in fact, Candice Bergen. Bergen always plays such strong, independent, female roles. I loved her role in the tv show, Boston Legal. Again, unflappable.

So it was particularly interesting to read her memoir, A Fine Romance. Many of my misconceptions of her changed. (sidenote: not for the good or bad. Just different.)

Candice walks her readers through her early career, her marriage to French director, Louis Malle and their daughter, Chloe. A peek inside Candice Bergen as a mother and wife was a complete thrill. She is warm and gracious and her love for their daughter was – to be honest – convicting. She was a truly incredible mother.

Bergen spends time on the Murphy Brown period – which I particularly enjoyed. And talked of her now husband, Marshall Rose. I enjoyed reading about the struggle she went through while adjusting to another person in her life. She was honest and open about things many of us can relate to.

The biggest thing I enjoyed was her honesty about aging. It is tough, this getting older crap. I laughed many times through this part of her story. Oh Candice, I can relate.

Thank God for my friends. Mothers in their 50’s – running to beefy now, the traditional thickening through the middle. We clumpt together in our middle-age camouflage – black pants, long sleeves, more make-up than in years past – compensating with wit, attention, intelligence, experience. Bringing to bear, not the extra 15, 20 pounds we all seemed to be packing, but our confidence in who we were. The sizeable weight and force of our personalities.

I was initially interested to read this memoir about a woman who shaped many of my generation’s views on womanhood. I was pleasantly surprised to find a woman who is all I expected – independent and strong – yet so many other layers of depth were revealed. She is a wonderfully loving woman who seems to have the gift of giving small tokens of love to those she holds dear. She was always, always, always gracious to the subjects she was writing about. This book was written in 2016 and included a line that made me chuckle: “If Sarah Palin had run for president, we would have brought Murphy Brown back on the air.” I guess Donald Trump had as much material to work with as Sarah Palin did!

Cultured, loyal, well-traveled and fluent in French. An affectionate mother and friend. An ever-evolving and relevant woman even now. A thoroughly enjoyable read.

4.5 out of 5 stars

THE GOOD NEIGHBOR by Maxwell King

I finished listening to the audio version of The Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers. It was an in-depth look into his life and built a good foundation as to why Mr. Rogers became the man he was. How fastidious he was behind the scenes with the information he so gently passed on to the children of America. “He was fearless enough to be kind.” This sentence made me stop and think a moment. In today’s societal climate, who is being brave and fearless enough to be kind. Fred Rogers was no pushover and he demanded excellence, but he was above all else, kind. ⠀

There were so many times I couldn’t help but compare his work in the 70’s and 80’s with life in 2018. I remember when my son was young there was controversy over Sesame Street’s constant movement and changing from subject to subject on a dime vs the slow and purposeful movements of Mr. Rogers. ‘He worried about the lack of silence in a noisy world.’ I immediately imagined the tv screen of CNN or any other news program. Streaming news at the bottom of the screen, multiple boxes of people and information – all simultaneously. Intentional and slow living – is it a thing of the past or something we long for in the future?⠀

One of Rogers’ professors in seminary talked about ‘guided drift’ – sticking to your beliefs and goals but staying open to new adventures and opportunities. (Dr. Orr, theology professor at seminary and lifelong friend.) What a beautiful concept for lifetime goals: using drift as a mechanism for new growth and learning. I made a note of the phrase to apply to many areas of my life. ⠀

I recommend this book (⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️) but would warn you that it’s thorough about his history. At times I wondered if it was all necessary but found it was eventually helpful in viewing his depth of commitment and passion for each child’s healthy development.

I think we could all use a slow-moving neighbor with a sweater and tennis shoes who asks inquisitive questions about our life and sincerely tries to learn more about the things that affect our everyday existence. We could use one and we can be one. This book motivates me to try harder to delve deeper into the lives of those that surround me daily. ⠀