When I was little we had a subscription to National Geographic.  These magazines served many purposes in our house–from inspiration for school assignments to fodder for art projects–each issue was dog eared and poured over by each of us.  One of my favorites featured an essay about life in Mongolia.  I was fascinated by the descriptions of yurts and a trip to Mongolia became a prominent part of my childhood bucket list.  While I have very little desire to go to Mongolia nowadays…I still retain my fascination with yurts.

So, today, I did it.  I booked a solo retreat in a yurt in Northern Minnesota.  For 3 nights I will be sleeping alone (no wife and no child!) within the round roomed den that will be home away from home.  Apart from my return to Maui for my mother’s memorial service (a trip that I also took alone) this will be my first time alone in over 2 and a half years (the Maui trip did not actually contain any “alone” time).  I can’t wait.

But, I’m a little nervous.

What will I do…by myself.

Guess that’s part of the point!


Nogo Mama

I wear a uniform when I work.  Black polyester shirt in a relatively unattractive cut (I could probably sew similar with my fledgling sewing skills), no darts, no attempt at a waist.  A black suit skirt or slacks are clipped from their hanger and comfortable yet dressy black shoes are set next to me as I dress.  I tuck in the fabric that billows a bit too much, an effort to give shape to the shapeless, and then a dash of color in the form of a pair of earrings.  At the last, I snap the plastic collar I wear into place.

It is this collar that causes the tears.  Because, when I am in the collar–my role as priest supersedes that of my role as mama.   “Nogooo Mama, Nogooo!”  A swift hug and a kiss, “sweetie, I have to go, the people are expecting me.  Mommy will stay with you while I am at work”

We have learned, the hard way, that my wife and son cannot worship when I am celebrating.  As a supply priest my Sundays are spent in the various Episcopal churches in the area.  I go where I am called, to sub for a Sunday or two for the various clergy in the area.  The last time we tried to bring my son to a church where I led on a Sunday, the screams of “Mama” that accompanied the opening acclamation threatened to drown out the congregation’s response.   They left, my wife and son, swiftly–for his comfort and mine.

I am sure that eventually he will be able to sit through a service that I lead.  But, I feel that this eventuality is a long way off.  Right now, having me there but not there for him is far too difficult of an abstraction for anyone of the age of 2 and a half to understand.

And, as much as it is difficult for my son, these forays back into my other calling as priest keep me connected to the something that is bigger than me and bigger than us. While we have prioritized having a parent at home (me) I relish the reminders of what I hope to return to and what I still am capable of as a person outside of my role as Mama.  Preaching and celebrating allow me to continue as priest when I am for the time being a stay at home mom.

And, I think that this notion of dual identity (or many identities) is one that is important for those of us who have claimed (or had thrust upon us!) the identity of parent.  We are each many things, and have many roles.  And, while the necessity of time or age or phase or happenstance may call us to operate primarily in one arena–this does not mean that those other arenas are empty.

So, who are you?  What uniform do you assume in your callings (metaphorically, or literally as the case may be)?  Beyond the calling of parent what summon the fullness of you?

And, do please remember I mean the plural of callings here…because there can be so many and I truly believe that having a calling is not exclusive to having other callings!

Heady stuff.  But, sometimes Mama does, in fact, have to go.

(So, if you clicked through to the link I posted above, you will know that the collar I talk about is really just an inch (give or take) of plastic which encircles the neck.  It’s not particularly comfie and I keep ruining collars by leaving them in my glove box in the summer–I tend to take my collars off as soon as possible when it’s hot.)

Hiking With the Baby Bear

This labor day weekend we had the opportunity to spend two glorious days outside, hiking.  Our 2 year old rides in a kelty pack on my back for most of the walking, but as he’s gotten older we’ve allowed/encouraged him to do more of the walking himself.  This means we’ve lowered our standards for what constitutes a “hike” and it also means that when I am being present and patient I am able to enjoy what amounts to a relatively meditative walk in the woods.

Interesting sticks, pine cones, leaves, ants, butterflies and ohhhh, a garter snake!  Rocks and acorns become treasures and every little hillock becomes a slide.

When I am being the agenda driven, impatient and distracted parent, these hikes feel like slowwww torture.  “C’mon, leave that rock”.  “No honey, that’s not a slide, get up and walk.” I begin to feel like my brains are oozing out of my ears just by virtue of boredom and I get frustrated and aggravated by the constant need to look at, and touch, everything.  And, to top it off, I grow irritated that I am not “getting” any exercise.


But, this weekend was the amazing conflation of actual hiking (and the bonus weight training of 28 pounds of squirming toddler on my back!) and toddler discoveries.  We “hunted” for bears and butterflies, we played in the dusky glen, we kicked pine cones and let the mud ooze between our toes.

And, by turn, our son pretended to be a baby bear, a cheetah, a bald eagle and a horse.  I love that his sense of self is established enough that he can pretend to be something else.  It is amazing to me to watch this developmental growth, this magical metamorphosis of boy into beast and back into boy.

If I’d rushed him along, he’d have become the recalcitrant toddler and I the irritated mama.  But, by staying in the moment, the entirety of creation became ours.  Shape shifting family enjoying a pretend nibble of zebra to top off a lunch of hummus and crackers.

Life is truly good (except for when it’s not, but in retrospect I find that it usually still is)…

Shallow water + mud + boy = basking turtle