Defining Motherhood

One Mom's Attempt to Find Meaning in the Madness

Wordy Wednesday

VERDICT: the finding or decision of a jury on the matter submitted to it in trial 

My heart is heavy and I am relieved that today is a day when, as a matter of habit, I rely on the words of others.  In this time when I find myself at a loss for words of my own, I am taking refuge in these words from a Benedictine blessing:

May God bless you with a restless discomfort about easy answers, half-truths and superficial relationships, so that you may seek truth boldly and love deep within your heart.

May God bless you with holy anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that you may tirelessly work for justice, freedom, and peace among all people.

May God bless you with the gift of tears to shed with those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation, or the loss of all that they cherish, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and transform their pain into joy.

May God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you really can make a difference in this world, so that you are able, with God’s grace, to do what others claim cannot be done…

Friday Favorites

FAVORITE: a thing that is liked more than others

A few of the things I came across this week that made me nod, smile and consider:

Honoring the Ambivalence of Motherhood by Sarah Rudell Beach

…Ambivalence is often assumed to mean indifference, or not caring. It’s associated with neutrality, with resignation, with nothingness, with everything we assume mothers should NOT be. But in fact, it’s just the opposite. To be ambivalent means we are conflicted. We have passions that pull us in opposite directions. It is anything but passivity…

The Abundance Within Us and Between Us by Parker J. Palmer

I’m struck by how often we act as if what we need is in scarce supply, making life a grim contest to get our share, or more, of scarce resources… the scarcity assumption leads to all kinds of things that kill the spirit: anxiety, resentment, hoarding, overwork, competition, and an inability to enjoying life…

The Disease of Being Busy by Omid Safi

…“How is your heart doing at this very moment, at this breath?” When I ask, “How are you?” that is really what I want to know. I am not asking how many items are on your to-do list, nor asking how many items are in your inbox. I want to know how your heart is doing, at this very moment. Tell me. Tell me your heart is joyous, tell me your heart is aching, tell me your heart is sad, tell me your heart craves a human touch. Examine your own heart, explore your soul, and then tell me something about your heart and your soul…

Wordy Wednesday

WORDY: using or containing many (usually too many) words

I embrace Wednesdays in my own way. In lieu of a photo, I offer you this random collection of other people’s words that impacted me this week as well as a handful of new words I added to my vocabulary. I acknowledge that I am offering you less than the going exchange rate of 1,000 words per picture. Forgive me.

Other People’s Words

I’ve been plodding my way through Drinking: A Love Story by Caroline Knapp for the past few weeks and finally finished. It was assigned reading for my memoir class. I found the book relentless, but there’s no arguing that Knapp articulates important insights about both alcoholics and alcoholism:

…I’d created two versions of myself: the working version, who sat at the desk and pounded away at the keyboards, and the restaurant version, who sat at the table and pounded away at white wine. In between for five or ten minutes at a stretch, the real version would emerge: the fearful version, tense and dishonest and uncertain. I rarely allowed her to emerge for long. Work – all that productive, effective, focused work – kept her distracted and submerged during the day. And drink – anesthetizing and constant – kept her too numb to feel at night…

Alcohol travels through families like water over a landscape, sometimes in torrents, sometimes in trickles, always shaping the ground it covers in inexorable ways…

As a reprieve from assigned reading, I dove into Sue Monk Kidd’s absorbing novel The Invention of Wings. I was enjoying reading purely for pleasure so much that I failed to mark all the passages I loved. But here’s one:

…I saw then what I hadn’t seen before, that I was very good at despising slavery in the abstract, in the removed and anonymous masses, but in the concrete, intimate flesh of the girl beside me, I’d lost the ability to be repulsed by it. I’d grown comfortable with the particulars of evil. There’s a frightful muteness that wells at the center of all unspeakable things, and I had found my way into it…

Kidd also expanded my vocabulary with the words below.

Words I Had to Ask Webster About

  • Adroitness: skill, cleverness, resourcefulness in handling situations
  • Peccadillo: a small mistake or fault that is not regarded as very bad or serious
  • Supercilious: coolly and patronizingly haughty
  • Vacuous: lacking meaning, importance, or substance


An Email Allergy

ALLERGY: exaggerated or pathological immunological reaction (as by sneezing, difficult breathing, itching, or skin rashes) to substances, situations, or physical states

I appear to be allergic to email.  Specifically emails about contagious afflictions.

As far back as co-op preschool, I noticed that emails about lice in my child’s class made me itch.  For days.  Sometimes weeks.

I thought my email allergy was specific to lice emails, but I’ve recently discovered that it is worse than originally suspected.

This week, I discovered I am also allergic to pinworm emails when I had a severe reaction to this message in my inbox:

There is a case of pinworms in our class…Symptoms include itchy bottom and rectal discomfort — oh, and little white worms coming out of your bottom and laying their eggs.  Sorry for the bad news.

Friday Favorites

FAVORITE: a thing that is liked more than others

Here are three pieces I discovered on the internet this week. One made me think. One made me  laugh.  One made me look over my shoulder to see if the author was following me.

Here’s one for the teachers (and every person who knows a teacher):

The Hard Part by Peter Greene

…all the other hard parts of teaching — the technical issues of instruction and planning and individualization and being our own “administrative assistants” and acquiring materials and designing unit plans and assessment — all of those issues rest solidly on the foundation of Not Enough…

And here’s one for the writers (and every person who follows a writer on Facebook):

Writers You Want to Punch in the Face(book) by Rebecca Makkai

…This is the story of Todd Manly-Krauss, the world’s most irritating writer. He’s a good enough guy in real life (holds his liquor, fun at parties, writes a hell of a short story)—but give the guy a social media account, and the most mild-mannered of his writer friends will turn to blood lust…It’s not that you’re not happy for him. He deserves good things. He’s worked as hard as anyone else. It’s just that sometimes, you kind of wish he’d get a little bit smooshed by a bus…

And here’s one that felt like Dina read my thoughts and edited them into masterful prose:

Stolen Hours by Dina L. Relles

…And here’s what I fear:  that one day, I will look back only to see, in the uncharitable light of retrospect, a mother distracted. Because this writing thing is a double-edged sword. Simultaneously helping me live within the moment, my senses piqued, noticing more—but also removing me from it, stealing me away, transforming me into an outsider looking in. Greedy with my time, unrelenting, always leaving me wanting more…

Casting Shadows

shadow of young family holding hands

SHADOW: an imperfect and faint representation; a source of gloom or unhapiness

You ask us to tell our story. We want to, but stories require scenes and scenes require details to make them come alive.

Our story is a story of shadows. Our memories are only available dimly lit and slightly out of focus.  Even when we squint we can’t see them clearly.  We see outlines – of violence, of tension, of disappointment so deep it forms unbridgeable chasms – but the details never come.  The past won’t (perhaps can’t) reveal itself with clarity.

We’ve learned to rely not on our ability to see the details of the past, but rather our ability to feel the shadows pass over our present. We grope along, trying to notice when the air cools and we are walking through the shade of something that remains from a time we cannot see.  When we observe contrasts – constant vigilance for turmoil despite peaceful surroundings, self-doubt and feelings of unworthiness despite having accomplished all we set out to do – we are the closest to understanding what is hiding in the blur.

It is a strange thing to have a story of shadows.

The blur provides both freedom to improvise and bondage to doubt.

We have begun to fill in the details based on murmured apologies and implied regret, but the details are still filtered, cropped, and edited before they are given to us. And, to be frank, our desire to see the details is waning.

We are reluctant because too many of us with stories in the shadows have begun to cast shadows of our own.

When we tell the stories of their unwarranted anger, we see reflections of our own tempers. When we tell about the promises they didn’t keep, we must acknowledge the times we have failed to follow through.  When we talk about living in the tumultuous wake of booze, it’s hard not to notice several glasses at the table have been topped off multiple times.

We laugh darkly at the craziness we survived, but cringe at the legacy.

The shadows they left still shade our lives and more times than we’d like to admit we’ve cast shadows of our own.

We subscribe in varying degrees, or not at all, to the Bible as truth but there is not one among us who would disagree that the sins of the father are visited upon future generations.

Friday Favorites

FAVORITE: a thing that is liked more than others

To Build (or Crush) a Dream by Hands Free Mama

Then I paused and asked each child, “What is your dream?” Every single child had an answer. There were no hesitations. There were no duplications….One after the other, I heard very specific dreams. I saw sparks of energy fly. I felt ripples of passion spread… These aspirations weren’t just words. They were power. They were possibilities. They were music of the heart.

Raising Children with an Attitude of Gratitude by Diana Kapp

Gratitude works like a muscle.  Take time to recognize good fortune, and feelings of appreciation can increase.

Why Walking Helps Us Think by Ferris Jabr

Perhaps the most profound relationship between walking, thinking, and writing reveals itself at the end of a stroll, back at the desk. There, it becomes apparent that writing and walking are extremely similar feats, equal parts physical and mental. When we choose a path through a city or forest, our brain must survey the surrounding environment, construct a mental map of the world, settle on a way forward, and translate that plan into a series of footsteps. Likewise, writing forces the brain to review its own landscape, plot a course through that mental terrain, and transcribe the resulting trail of thoughts by guiding the hands.


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