05 May 2016

the phases of motherhood

mother's day was started by a woman who was never a mother.she was a woman who had a vision. celebrating her mother. 

have you ever looked up the definition of mother? go do it. i'll wait. once you get through the more obvious words, you come to this: a woman in authority. and if you keep reading you get to: something that is an extreme example of its kind especially in terms of scale <see the mother of all construction projects>.

so today let's talk about construction. the construction of a mother. or as in my case perhaps the deconstruction as i gingerly negotiate writing censorship <mine> and the request to write less honestly <boys i live with>. i wish i was more like nora ephron whose boys remember her always saying, "everything is copy" meaning anything that happens is fodder to be retold in print. unapologetically. maybe i will someday. but until then, i type ever so gingerly. i tread lightly on the writing.

speaking of treading lightly. nearly 17 years ago, my life took a turn down a path that i don't know if i'll ever clearly understand or fully grasp the rigors it brings (present tense). i've written about it here <see censorship comment>. aired my dirty laundry. expounded on the triumphs and the trials. mostly, i am still that incredulous person wondering when am i going to set sail onto calmer waters in respect to life and specifically mothering. but y'all. it's not happening. and based on the conversations i collect with older mothers, i am beginning to realize that calmer waters are a myth. 

i can only venture to guess that it has something to do with the fact that i am trying my best to wrangle some pretty fierce and often ferocious people who i hope will be fierce and ferocious grown ups someday. in all the best ways of course. ferocious for good and for justice and for mercy. fierce for truth and perseverance and grit and courage. those are my hopes. for these souls that have been set in my life to watch and learn from and enjoy and to try REALLY try to instill with bits and pieces of wisdom. 

but also to be humbled by these boys of mine who remind me that i've worked really hard to make them independent and then they go and be INDEPENDENT! sometimes in good ways. sometimes not. 

the bigger the kid, the bigger their, ahem, let's call them situations.the stakes just get bigger and bolder and grander and potentially more fantastic, right? 

this year, i've been stunned by mine and their situations. i've been bowled over by them and heartbroken and clearly as you can tell by my lack of writing, silenced. all in good ways. mostly. 

That time your son was recognized by the College of American Pathologist and you stood in the wings and watched.

That time you were checking your phone and looked up to see...

That time you heard a voice overhead-and this time is was a real. 

That time your youngest wrote you a note.

That time you watched from your front porch as your boy ran by on his way to his cross country meet. 

That time your kids decided to entertain the neighbors with a little FIRE works show.

That one time the coast was clear so you sat to flip through stacks of magazines. 


The time your kid asked you to give him some ink. 

He tried. So did she. 

That time a boy wondered what he would look like with bolder eyebrows. 

Middle school p.e. uniforms. Enough.Said.


That time you sold stuff from a parking lot to raise money for these boys' school. 

That time your boy decided he wanted to try a new hobby. 
Snoop Dog just cause.
so i continue to tread lightly as i wrestle through writing and parenting. and wondering how i can do both with honesty. i would love to hear from you bloggers who have older kids. how do you do it?

but before i go, i leave you with this, one of my favorite photos with one of my favorite reminders...

happy mother's day to all of you cause we all have mothers to thank for our lives. may all of us strive to be the mother of all...you fill in the blank.

and if you have an hour to spare, listen to this podcast. i was the mother's day guest. we chat bono,jeans and b-12 shots just to name a few. 


02 March 2016

doxology and dichotomy: whiskey in church

as i write, i have a sick kid in bed with me and am listening to my latest crush, the newsroom. it's streaming on netflix. check it out. and since i am like 4 years late to every party, it's so much fun watching the last election with as much excitement as if i wasn't there the first time. 

talking about my latest online crush {more tele less otherwise}, had me thinking about last sunday and last sunday reminded me of church and church reminded me of my most favorite childhood story. and well a favorite childhood story begs to be told so here goes...

i grew up in a small town in tennessee. to keep the story short, i'll just say my family found our way into a rather large baptist church where we warmed the pews every sunday for a good 4ish years. 

i loved this church. i loved the pastor. so much so that i found myself sitting with this precious man every sunday. what the heehaw i was thinking i do not know. but every sunday i would make my 10 year old self to the FRONT row where I WOULD SIT BY MYSELF with the pastor. i write that in all caps for dramatic effect. now i may have been accompanied by my friend kim, but for the sake of argument, let's pretend i was doing this all on my own, because let's face it that's how i rolled.
Speaking of how I roll, Zoe from Nurse Jackie cause she's pretty much all that and pink track suit. 

well, part of the story that needs mentioning was this. i was the youngest of 5 children. i was the youngest by like a lot. that needs to be stated because i had a much older brother who liked to partake in the crown royal. and his pesky littlest sister thought that the purple bag the crown royal came in was damn near, well royal. like "something a princess would carry". do you know where this story is headed? yeah. 

so after the bottle of the crown royal was enjoyed {or maybe to shush the littlest sister}, my brother gave me, the littlest, the said legendary bag that once came with the bottle of whiskey. and you know what i did with it? 

well, i used it as a pocketbook like any self respecting, {ignorant} southern baptist girl would do. i would carefully tuck my bible with my name emblazoned in gold, a myriad of highlighters, as well as a fresh pack of velamints and my tithe money in that purple velvet tote with the gold embroidery. and then i would march down the aisle. all.the.way.to.the.front. of the church where i would take my place on the front row, beside the pastor. of the baptist church. with my contraband accessory. only, and this is the greatest part, i had no clue anything i was doing was at all worthy of speculative banter. like, o, i don't know, "where did that little girl get THAT bag?" {my brother} or "what kind of family drinks whiskey?" {MINE} or "does she not know that this is the house of the Lord?" {yes, and...} so i share this most favorite childhood story with you because it is pretty much still who i am 35 years later. it was what those in the literary world would call a foreshadowing. 

i am still that little girl sitting very reverently {and irreverently} on the front row of a church. the only difference is now i am sitting with boys, not a pastor.

i am the mother of boys who can pull the biggest pranks whilst enjoying the view from the front of church. and you know what? for the most part, i just let it go. 

when one of my boys brings his soccer ball and tries to volley during the sermon, i admonish him for reasons of safety-mostly. when another wishes to sit and chat with his friend the entire time, i quiet him with a "it's rude to talk while someone else is speaking". and when another pulls out a snack of a hotdog and proceeds to enjoy the snack whilst sitting up front-well, i say, "this is NOT a baseball game. cool it with the snacks". and throw in, "you're making everyone else hungry".
Passing notes in church cause goodness, quiet down already!

my point is my poor parents had to watch in horror as i walked down the center aisle every sunday in a small town baptist church toting our family secret which as it turns out wasn't the biggest family secret we had. and i am here to shout, "if you can't let your secrets slip out in church, then where can you?" or that's the way it should be. and that's the way it is where i sit.

to be fair, i am sure this crown royal situation happened exactly one time before my panicked mother and father took away my pretty, little purse and replaced it with something, ahem, more appropriate. but baby, i will always have my crown royal bag at church-and if you know me, you know what i am saying, right? cause i am a little rowdy like that. kid on the front row and all. 

so here i am rambling about whiskey in church. and yeah, that's about right. that's how i see it. children in church. acting up and acting just about perfect cause let's face it when i see kids at my church running around or dancing up front or crying out LOUD or singing the doxology at the top of their lungs, i can't help but feel like THIS is what jesus meant and means for all of us. whiskey in church. irreverent plays nicely with the reverent cause we are all both. hopeful and hopeless. doxology and dichotomy. and hopefully letting our secrets slip out in the best ways. 


Okay so this was a wedding reception, but you see what I mean, right?

21 February 2016

If you build it, they will come

Settle in. This is sure to be a lengthy piece. It's been so long since I've written here that I forgot how to log on. Excuse the absence. Life has been wrought with a lot of, well with a lot. I'll leave it at that. Add to it, one of son's friends found my little writing spot and unearthed his anonymity and you have the making of a blog lock down, or take down might be more like it. 

But here I am. I am back. Hopefully, to write more consistently. The opinions here are expressly mine. And I will take full responsibility for my inconsistencies, hypocrisies and otherwise lack of professionalism. But hear this. I am writing from a place of nothing but love in hopes of bringing about better stewardship. Today's topic: EDUCATION. 

What's more divisive than politics and religion? You gots it. The big "E".  So without further adieu...

{Let me preface this letter with an introduction. I am Tracy Utley, a long time lover of education, a once upon a time teacher, a homeschool mom who straddles between homeschooling our youngest child and sending middle and high schoolers to public schools. In the words of Bono, this is not a rebel song. It's meant to encourage us to do what we do best as parents, be builders. It's meant to maybe begin a dialogue which I hope can be productive and illuminating. And more than anything, encourage community, peace and love. As Abraham Lincoln once reminded, "A house divided cannot stand." I see this as true in my neighborhood. A neighborhood divided cannot stand. Unanimous agreement is incongruent with being human. But one thing I hope we can all agree on as families is this, seeing the role in education as primarily the parent's mandate. And for that reason we understand that if we don't build something, it might not come.}


Dear Education Dissonance, 

You are the elephant in the room right now, actually not in the room, but in our neighborhood. We all talk about you in sketchy, unclear terms, but it's hard to grapple with the spirit of something so let me be clear. This is about choosing to dig in and dig deep into keeping our neighborhood schools thriving rather than letting something else move us to send our kids someplace else for school. 

My mother always told me if you are not part of the solution, you are part of problem. The way I see this situation playing out is either you leave our community, or we are going to be forced to take you down one choosing parent at a time. Dissonance, you have no place here. 

We see you sweep in and scare and weaken the stalwart. That is not cool, Dissonance. You leave your mark in social circles that are peppered with gossip and buttressed with secrecy. Instead of bringing unity, instead of reminding us that we are all for the same thing, a strengthening economy of academic excellence, you make us feel that we are only out for number one, ourselves, our kid. But we know better because fear is a liar.

You see fear not only lies, but it fractures relationships and breaks the harmony that is the cornerstone to building community. And when these quaking and intimidated families bail on their neighborhood schools, they take with them the monies that won't make their way into their neighborhood schools, the land where kids can play with their school classmates. Dissonance, you call that "yesteryear", a passing fancy that no longer is attainable. And it becomes a vicious cycle because once the money leaves the building (neighborhood school), the long sought for classes and teachers and extracurriculars are taken. And this keeps parents from choosing the neighborhood school. See how manipulative you are?

Dissonance, you make mountains out of mole hills and mole hills into mountains. You create obstacles where there should be none. You remove sincere families who are the builders and turn them into consumers. You needle into the fiber of family involvement by insisting that the grass is greener on the other side of town where the other schools are. And just when we are to the very brink of personal and familial exhaustion, you give one final blow. You show us that the school that we ran from, the one that is in our neighborhood, the one where our kids could have gone and flourished if we had shown up ready to build, was really the better choice. 

Damn you, Dissonance. 


Do you understand the letter? How can we be the change we want to see? 

I do not have the answers. I am only and I mean only a parent who really, really wants the kids on my street and up the street and those who have parents who don't have the time to invest, to have a place to call school and for that school to be in their neighborhood. Mine included. 
Bonus: Having your kid run by your house en route to his cross country meet.