Eight (day 8)

I will keep writing these eight minute memoirs.

I remember the day I got baptized, a few days after turning eight. We had a family party afterward at our house, all of my extended family crowded in the backyard. A late summer evening bathed in soft blue light as the sun set through a tangle of oak trees along the fence.

I loved that house. I loved the gully in the backyard, filled with  mysterious pathways and assorted kid memorabilia- half-buried "treasure" and forts and turf wars fought by children with dirty knees.

I've been thinking about this little memoir, "eight," for a few weeks now. Each time I'm a time traveler, looking back at the world through adult eyes. I see my great-grandparents again, still so alive and vibrant, the way they were when I was eight. For just a moment, they are not the tired bodies left behind when they died. I can almost feel them, and I almost long for an afterlife just to hear those voices again in the blue evening air.

I see my mom- by the time she was my age now she had four children. She was so young, with long dark hair and usually dressed in jeans and white t-shirts. She braided my hair into a crown for the baptism. I wore a white dress embroidered with colorful flowers. How did my mom know that all my white dresses would always need just a little color? (My wedding dress was a soft gold beneath ivory lace.)

Folding chairs arranged along the patio, cousins swinging on the play-set in their church clothes. My grandpa has dark hair. The concrete still warm from the sun, french doors leading into the kitchen with white linoleum counters. A sandstone fireplace. Home. Eight.

This is where I travel at night, when I remember eight.

(Sometimes I drive by the old house on my way home. One late evening I snuck into the backyard when the lights in the house were dark. I still love that house, but time made the gully small.)


Finish (day 7)

This is that thing.

These are the things that are not finished:

The dishes
The laundry
My baby, for the night (she still wakes up and eats pretty regularly through the night. Bless her)
This memoir challenge (I'm so behind)
A bag of skittles (self-restraint!)
My marriage

These are things that are finished

Worrying about my pre-pregnancy jeans.
Convincing myself to catch-up with "Empire"
Any illusions about the degree of control I have over the universe or the playroom downstairs.
My uterus' (come at me grammar fiends, I'm not sure on that one) baby making capacities
All the diet coke
Brad and Angelina's marriage


Games (day 6)

This is a memoir writing project created by Ann Dee Ellis. We write 8 minute memoirs based on her prompts. All the cool kids are doing it. Today's prompt: Games.

I've noticed there are games we play as mothers. Or rather, a game. The Best Mother Game. I know it will sound simple and reductive to blame patriarchy, but patriarchy is the team captain of the games- where we run at each other and beat each other senseless just to prove that our way is the right way.

Last week I participated in the strangest discussion. First the woman argued that any mother who put their career in front of their family was a bad parent.

People pushed back- very, very few mothers put their careers before their families. Rather, the career is a means of supporting the children they love.  If they are lucky and privileged, they support their families doing something they love. (This goes for Dads too.)

The game changed. The woman argued that FINE, working moms were okay, but not those who worked while they had young children at home.

The defensive pushed back.

OK FINE. You can work with young children, but not LITTLE BABIES. It's child abuse to leave a six-week-old in daycare!

(I left a six- week- old in daycare.)

Later, I read an article about how stay at home moms are happier. I thought about that. I don't think there is a lot of support for working moms, except maybe  in mythical Scandinavian countries or if you work at Facebook.

Whenever I've been unhappy with work/life balance, it's because I felt unsupported in one way or another. I don't think the answer is for women to stay home (unless they want to, in which case, YOU GO LADY,) but to make sure mothers (and all parents) are supported in creating strong families and strong communities and strong workforces. 

That's not an exciting game. And patriarchy-the rabid fan egging on the mothers as they slam in to each other head-first-won't be very entertained.

I don't want to play the game. Despite the occasional doubts and worries hauntings from Julie B. Beck, I know that I'm doing the right thing for my family. I don't need to knock anyone else down. 


Little Things (day 5)

Ya'll know what this is by now. 

I am good at the little things.

Big things are untrustworthy. Institutions, churches, heroes, dreams- all those can be crushed. Fragile big things.

But small things, I love. 

When I was a freshman in college one of my history professors took us to the special collections section of the Marriott Library. It was my Early Civilizations class, and we were going to see the cuneiform tablets from Sumer.

I was so excited. I couldn't believe that my school kept artifacts from earth's earliest civilization in their library. It was so thrilling, to see these tiny tablets that started it all.

I came home and told my Dad. I was shaking with excitement, and my Dad worried I had a manic disorder, but my love of small things isn't a mental illness- it is the thing that keeps me sane.

Throughout college, I did the majority of my studying in the Marriott Library, near the special collections room. I knew the tablets were buried in there somewhere, and so I stayed near them. I spent hours pacing white tiled floors with their gold specks, pacing as I re-read my notes. 

Small things. The way books feel in my hands, the way a sharp pencil sounds against good paper, the light at the beginning of fall mornings and at the end of summer evenings. My baby curled against my shoulder. The smell inside museums, the first snow, wedding rings, freckles. All of them better and brighter and more sure than any big thing I've ever loved.


Adventure (day 4)

This is a memoir writing project created by Ann Dee Ellis. We write 8 minute memoirs based on her prompts. All the cool kids are doing it. Today's prompt: Adventure.

I put off writing this because the prompt made me angry. Adventure. I feel like there's a lot of pressure to be adventurous these days. All the Pinterest girls and their "Let's be Adventurers" prints. Let's be Adventurers. 

Let's just go to bed early and pay our mortgage and listen to podcasts while we fold laundry. 

Can someone make me a "let's just survive this next thing" print? In that fancy casual cursive calligraphy everyone knows how to do all of the sudden? 

For the record, I felt the same way about Gretchen Rubin's The Happiness Project. Which I never read because I didn't want to feel guilty about not finishing a project. I'm happiest not reading books on how I failed at being happy.

I'm most adventurous when I don't feel pressure to be something I'm not. 

I guess that's something. The best adventures of my life usually happen after I decide to be myself and not who I should be.

You shouldn't marry someone you barely know.

You shouldn't leave the church.

You shouldn't say that. 

You shouldn't quit your very stable, very reliable, very convenient job to try something new. 

But I've done all those things. (The last one I did today! I just got the letter from my school district accepting the resignation letter I wrote with a red grading pen because my printer was broken.) 

It's been an adventure. 


Billboards (day 3)

This is a memoir writing project created by Ann Dee Ellis. We write 8 minute memoirs based on her prompts. All the cool kids are doing it. Today's prompt:Billboards

What the fuck do I know about billboards?

The only billboards I can picture are the ones speckled along the freeway on the way down to Provo.There are three kinds of billboards as you drive down to Provo:

1. An ad for some type of plastic surgery.

2. An ad for some type of modest clothing

3. An ad for some type of MLM company.

I remember someone noting that the billboards on the way to Provo reinforce our cultural belief that women should have lots of babies, (as Modest Mormon Women) but never LOOK like they've had lots of babies (As Modest Mormon Women with Perfect Boobs.)

A friend of mine died getting a boob job. She had three girls.

But I am not against boob jobs. Your body, your choice.

But I am against that universal monolith of perfect Mormon femaleness.

The MLMs of course, are a reminder that perfect (righteous) people can get rich quick.

I remember driving down to Provo to visit BYU after I'd been accepted as a senior in High School. I really wanted to go to BYU. For the same reason I wanted a perfect body, and a perfect spirit and a perfectly neat organized life. BYU is so clean and sterile and I was (am) obsessed with perfection. 

If I went to BYU, I'd tame the wildness inside me and be happy.

Three weeks before school started, I decided to go to the U instead.

My life has been a tangled, wild, non-perfect mess ever since. 

I am happy.

This is the first time I've ever typed fuck on my blog. 


I Don't Rememember (day 2)

This is a memoir writing project created by Ann Dee Ellis. We write 8 minute memoirs based on her prompts. All the cool kids are doing it. Today's prompt: I don't remember...

I don't remember when the ache in my hands first started. I remember being very small, maybe four or five, and wandering around my basement with aching hands. I was looking for construction paper, because I very badly needed to construct something. I didn't know what. 

I spent my childhood constructing things, making things, painting things. Tiny clay princesses, dollhouse furniture, paintings, melting crayons into new crayons, origami. All I wanted for Christmas was "crafts."

I sketched and drew religiously until I was 22. 

Sometimes I still find myself walking with my hands open, hoping something will fall into them and I can take that thing and mold it, craft it, shape it, into something else.

When I was 20, my Mom bought me a sewing machine. "Why did you do that? She'll never use it." said my Dad.

I use it almost every day. I love my sewing machine. Her name is Joan.

When I was 22 I got my first teaching job. It was hard. The ache in my hands went away. One night, I was reading a book of poems by Mary Oliver. I read that Mary Oliver taught high school English (just like me!)

But she quit. She knew she would never write anything of her own if she kept teaching.

I'm 30 now. My hands ache.