We’ve forgotten how to use our hands

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My father’s hands were always calloused – filthy from the day’s work. His meal ticket wasn’t a college degree but back-breaking labor. In all of my life, I have never seen anyone work harder.

Which is why he readily accepts projects during visits to our home. This past December he removed rotten wood and adhesive from our front steps and completely replaced our laundry room flooring. In the process, he ruined a well-used long-sleeved T-shirt with Virginia Tech, my alma mater, written across it.

My father’s four-year plan ended prematurely, and he didn’t finish college.

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Happy Trails

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The week after my freshman year of college, my first love broke my heart. He ripped it out, used it as target practice, and urinated on the tiny fragments of my innocence.

So I agreed to an overnight camping adventure with my childhood friends. Tears were shed, alcohol was consumed, and a battle of the sexes resulted in toilet paper and Pop-Tarts being burned beyond recognition. I needed to remember how to laugh again.

Most vivid, however, was my endless night in a poorly pitched tent. I tossed. I turned. Despite my best efforts, I could not escape a jagged rock beneath the nylon.

Yet, somehow, I found healing in the midst of my life’s first mental crisis. And – just before sunrise – the mountains closed their arms around me.

You are home.

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Date Night, within Reach

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“We’ll go on a date night.”

It’s a lie we tell ourselves over and over and over again. The truth is, when our parents are in town, we get a little selfish. We, too, want attention – to be taken care of.

When you are raising your children several hours from your closest blood relative, it feels like all the hard decisions are yours to make:

Who will care for my child while I work?

Can we really afford what our family needs?

And how will I make it through the day without a backup quarterback?

In my own mothering, I have reached the danger zone: I want to give up.

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Fathers: A Millennial Sketch

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What will your children write about you when they’re grown?

If you have little ones, it is likely that they will enter college in less than two decades. And, if you are anything like me, you consider that milestone to be light years away. (I hear that it all moves too quickly, so I am trying to prepare myself for the blitz of adolescence.)

But I teach first-year writing, and I am offered a glimpse into new life beyond the nest. And I can tell you with confidence that nothing, and I mean nothing, emerges more often in my students’ personal writing than their relationships with their fathers.

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It Rained Upon a New Fedora

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“You’re so hipster.”

If you are a mother who prides herself on being countercultural, this statement stings a little. I proceeded to shoot my husband the look.

“Well, you are wearing a fedora.”

Truth. Earlier that day, I had purchased my very first non-winter – dare I say fashionable – hat. It seemed like the perfect item to hide my exhaustion long enough to survive an evening of carnival fun in my hometown.

Only I didn’t plan for the rain.

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The Two-Career Conundrum

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In Matthew Chapter 6*, Jesus discusses a person’s inability to serve two masters, but I would have to respectfully disagree – that is, if we are to consider the two-career conundrum that mothers who wish to work outside of the home face. Mothers, of course, seek or return to an external occupation for various reasons, but the emotional, psychological, and, often, physical ties to their children never diminish. If a woman is to contribute to the world vocationally, she must bear the weight of an additional career and somehow find a balance between the two.

For myself, this looks an awful lot like a hangover. Continue reading “The Two-Career Conundrum”

The Bus That Leads Home

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When I shared with my father that I, a 20-year-old graduate student, would be volunteering in Nicaragua during spring break 2007, his response was, in a word, strong. I explained that I would be working with orphans. No give. I emphasized the poverty that the children faced. No give. I told him that I was ready to see the world. No give.

I couldn’t see it then, but his anger and painful disapproval originated from a place of love.

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