Five Ways My Mom is Ordinary

Mothers DayMy mom is really ordinary.

No, seriously. She is!

A middle class lady who grew up in Wisconsin, she eventually married an introvert from Georgia (my dad) and had five kids. We grew up in East Tennessee (one of the lovelier places in the country) living our ordinary lives. Now that I have children of my own, I can clearly assert that my mom is extraordinarily ordinary. Let me give five examples.

5. She Did Not Murder Me in My Sleep

Most mothers don’t murder their children so my mom is very normal to have not murdered me as a teenager. Despite my efforts to be a bull-headed and argumentative child, I never once feared for my life. You may say that failing to kill your eldest son is easy, but I beg to differ. She had many an opportunity to take a look at the arrogant boy in front of her and wonder what terrible mistake she had made in bringing me into the world.

Instead, she loved me. She discussed and talked and pushed and cared through many difficult years. She tolerated my lack of respect and laziness and foolishness patiently. She loved me well.

4. She Sacrificed Working to Stay at Home with Us

Mom chose the life of an ordinary house-wife. Life would have been easier for her had she worked and sent us off to school. The pressure through the 80s and 90s was constantly valuing the working woman and demeaning the homemaker. But mom stood firm in her ordinary-ness. She stayed home with us and ignored the fad of the day that said women must work.

3. She Pursued an Education for Us

My mom homeschooled us. We were one of the earlier families in our area to be homeschooled but certainly not the first. She had that very ordinary notion that her children should be educated and she worked to make that happen. She dealt with the ordinary pressures felt by the homeschooling community of the day such as the heavily over-blown notion that we would be unsocialized. By the time I graduated High School there was a thriving homeschool community in East Tennessee.

I have a particularly fond memory of going to Roane State Community College with my mom to start my first classes. I had no idea how this college thing worked and mom went with me and talked to the staff and basically held my hand through it. I wonder if she hadn’t been there that day how differently my life would be today. But, you know, this is ordinary mom stuff.

2. She Worked Hard for a Strong Marriage with My Dad

Mom and Dad have been married for almost 35 years now. They haven’t had the perfect marriage, but a sweet one. They are very dedicated and sweet with each other. Their marriage isn’t flashy. You won’t see Dad get up on a stage and sing some Sinatra to my mom. It is just a steady, kind relationship. Very ordinary.

Of course, half of marriages don’t make it at all in the first five years, so you could argue that 35 years is an accomplishment. You could even remind me that even those couples that “make it,” some of them don’t like each other. Mom and Dad clearly like each other. But I’ve never known anything different from this so I will confidently assert that their marriage is also quite ordinary.

1. She Showed Us Jesus

We attended church throughout my childhood. This is not an easy thing to do with three young children as I am discovering when I bring my four young children to church. We regularly listened to the music of Steve Green, Michael Card, Keith Green, and Patch the Pirate. The music in our home dripped with mentions of Jesus, grace, forgiveness, and the cross. All of these things were not unusual for a homeschooling family growing up in East Tennessee.

There is a particular song that has stuck with me named Answer the Call by Steve Green. As I look back on this song, it is the journey of my adult life.

I answer the call, I take my stand
I choose to live my days on Earth a faithful man
And to that end, I give my all
And in the strength and grace of God, I answer the call
The call to dedicate our lives to nurture our children and love our wives
A call to guard our heart and eyes, to press toward the goal
To win the prize!

Far from living up to these words, I see my own strange and difficult journey. A journey I may never have started but for reminders like this song.

As I look back at a childhood of a million ordinary things my mom did for us, I still know they are ordinary. There will never be a news broadcast saying that a mother fed her children dinner every day for twenty years, but just because a thing is ordinary does not mean it is not a very hard thing, even a commendable sacrifice.

The fact is that a million ordinary things over many years adds up to an extraordinary sacrifice that will pay off for myself and my siblings The debt that the generations of will owe my mom will grow to become incalculable in the decades and centuries to come.

So today I don’t Thank God for the several extraordinary things my mom did because those things had more impact in the moment, but less in the long run. Far more powerful is the endless tide of ordinary things. The legacy of my mom’s life cannot be adequately described by simply hanging onto the flashiness of the extraordinary but in the real power or a lifetime of hard, steady, and ordinary things.

I love you mom. Thank you for the ordinary things.

-Chip

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How to Write a Great Mother’s Day Blog Post

4588373098_13a274e509_bI have the best mom in the world. Nothing makes me happier than to write a nice blog post discussing how wonderful she is. Yet many a blogger will spend the next week wondering, pondering, and agonizing over this difficult question: What do I write for Mother’s Day? One of the most precious and nuanced holidays of them all.

And nuanced is not really a blogger’s thing.

You see, we like flashy and attention getting. You don’t get followers for being right, but for being interesting. Keeping things interesting on Mother’s Day is a challenge.

The cynical approach is very flashy. Lambast motherhood as an institution and hang out all of the dirty laundry from your childhood. Tell all those things that your mom failed you in and then exaggerate (we are blogging after all) the impact. By the end of that post the UN will be voting on human rights violations against your mother. I hope she likes the Hague.

While this approach may get you followers, it presents the very real difficulty that your own mother probably reads your blog occasionally. She will certainly read it when reporters start calling her about her recent human rights violations. Let’s face it, your life gets pretty rough after your mom sees that blog post.

So you decide to go with the more sentimental approach. Besides, you like your mom and unless you write a recipe blog, she cooks better than you do. Yes, you will write the sweetest, sappiest, lovey-dovey blog post ever.

But you run into trouble right from the start. First, you realize that you became a blogger because you are a cynical malcontent and this temperament does not lend itself to sweetness. Second, because of your previous work, everyone will know that this sappy post is simply an attempt to remain invited to Thanksgiving (this charge is difficult to resist because it is true). Third, you are still a cynical malcontent. Fourth, all of the arts that lend themselves to happy feelings like poetry and music are not generally practiced by bloggers. Fifth, you actually are more interested in the upcoming Godzilla movie than you are in Mother’s Day.

Thus, your dilemma. What should you say? Never fear, my friend.

First, let us reverse engineer Mother’s Day. Stop asking what your mother wants out of Mother’s Day and ask what it is YOU want out of Mother’s Day. Let’s be real, you want to maintain your relationship with your mom. The process of maintenance was going just fine until a day with these….expectations…arrived. Suddenly, you know she wants special treatment. So to maintain your relationship with her means putting extra effort into that day.

But you would have become a reporter or an author if you wanted to actually WORK HARD on writing. No, you want to put the minimum effort in. The trick lies in finding an appropriate tone for your blog post that doesn’t feel insincere and yet allows you to say something nice to your mom. Remember, Thanksgiving may be on the line.

The post will need to be sufficiently long. People (and by people, I mean your mom) often feel that length means you put more effort in and thus, have made a more meaningful post for her. You can probably fill that length with the usual meaningless banter that you fill most other blog posts with, just make a reference to motherhood every few sentences. She probably doesn’t like your blog anyway so hopefully she will skim.

Remember that she will read the opening sentence, so be careful that it is appropriately sweet (I know it’s hard, just do it). Try to avoid references throughout to plagues, death, terrorism, wars, and your hygiene habits. It is difficult to even pretend you have a sweet blog post for your mother with content like that.

Finally, the most important part. Work hard to make the last line count. It is safer to keep it generic, but not too generic. For this, I think you will need to know your mom and tailor the final line specifically for her. Remember that for the effort you are putting into this post, you can avoid spending actual money on something for your mom. You’re a blogger so you are cheap, poor, or both. Think of this as a chance to save serious money and then you can write a whole post later about those wimps that covered their lack of sentiment up with an enormous amount of flowers. What losers!

And that is all you need. Keep it simple. Keep it cynical. Keep your ending good.

Thanks Mom! I love you and I’m so glad you’re my mom!

-Chip

P.S. All joking aside. I do love my mom very much and remain hopeful that I am still invited to Thanksgiving.