Archive for October, 2018

Work and Love

October 19, 2018

Yesterday I hit “Send” on an email, putting in a bid for a program evaluation for an NGO here. My prospective co-evaluator M sat next to me, taking deep breaths and then a cigarette to calm her nerves, but I felt serene.

It didn’t start out that way though.

When my husband sent me the call for proposals, I read through it, thought “that’s do-able,” and then had to do some serious introspection to figure out how I really felt about it. What was my body telling me? I read the Terms of Reference and felt nausea as I scanned through the standard formatting – the list of acronyms, objectives, deliverables – just the language of it took me back to March when I was beyond miserable working on another evaluation for an NGO in Albania. During that awful time I thought about leaving my husband; we all got sick, it was just the worst.

But then I thought, this one could be different. And maybe I should give it a chance to be a different experience.

So… I decided to go for it. On Sunday, my husband took the kids to church and lunch and park while I worked for about 4 hours on the proposal, and after a bit of frustrated venting via text about just some of the idiocies of the nonprofit industry (seed grants that are somehow supposed to magically transform into “sustainable” sources of funding? It just doesn’t work that way) things kind of started to flow.

When I look at my CV, I even impress myself, so why do I always look at myself through this lens of deficit? You know what, I was taught to look at myself this way. My favorite teacher in high school once said in a church meeting, “Oh, but I love worm theology” (the idea that sinful humans are lowly as worms, to God be the glory, we deserve hell, we owe eternal life and salvation to Jesus, etc.). I have a hard time remembering that this belief is something I learned, but that doesn’t mean it’s true.

Anyway, with the job, the timing is awkward – I’ll be at a conference + visiting my sister for a 10-day period in the middle of the data collection phase – but I feel good about my colleague, and she badly wants the work.

And that was definitely a factor in deciding to go for it – I don’t need this, and in some ways I’d be a little relieved if we don’t get it – but if in doing this project I can help out a friend, I’m in.


The other story – on a completely different note – happened yesterday, too.

So a few weeks ago I took Illyria to a hospital here for a brain MRI. It was kind of traumatic for her, she had to have oxygen and to feel my hand on her leg to get through it. It was incredibly loud and strange. (I’m happy to tell you more about what we learned via e-mail – e.phantzi at yahoo if you want to write me.) So yesterday when the kids were playing with their leopard family stuffies I pricked my ears up as a parallel scenario developed there, with one of the leopard children.

The mother leopard, Lea, couldn’t figure out why rainbows would flash into existence whenever she hugged or cuddled Leopardy, who is also the only one of her children that is pink and purple. The parents each have elemental powers that combine differently in their children, but Leopardy had never shown signs of any of the expected powers – like lighting speed, or being able to produce endless heat. So she called the doctor for a house visit, and the doctor referred them to a scientist who could tell them more. Lea took Leopardy to the lab, where the scientist (a fawn) examined him and showed the results on a giant screen.

[I was holding my breath – what would the results be?? I just felt like this was going to tell me something crucial about how Illyria sees herself and the MRI experience.]

“Your son has a very unique structure,” the fawn told Lea. “It’s something I’ve never seen before. Every cell of his body is filled with and made of love.”



October 8, 2018

I’ve been binge-listening to Harry Potter and the Sacred Text podcast, it is THE BEST.

(Thank you, Tara)

There is a great story during the live show recording for Book Three, Chapter 17 – (Prisoner of Azkaban, “Cat, Rat, and Dog”) told by guest Scott Perlo, which you can listen to here starting at 40:11. It brought me to tears with the idea of whatever it is you do, do with all your heart and do it with joy and love, even if it’s being a thief.

I was re-telling it to my husband, about how I was hearing this message while my hands were at work mixing oatmeal with honey and dried berries and lots of other stuff for granola bars, and I wondered if this was it; this is the thing I’m meant to be pouring my energy into. This work of child-rearing. I don’t think it is the whole of the thing. But it is a good part of the thing.

When we think of vocation, do we think of One Thing?

When I was a teenager, I never thought of my life in terms of a career. I think now that that’s in part due to my evangelical upbringing, where as a girl I was never encouraged to think of myself as a future professional in some field. I was encouraged to go to college, but nudged only towards being a high school English teacher or a missionary (maybe to Russia! That was what my dad wanted). I was encouraged to envision my future as supporter and helper of my husband.

And that’s actually a good percentage of what I’m doing now. Some tiny part of my feels a little bit of relief, that just maybe in case everything I was taught as a child turns out to be true after all (it’s a very tiny bit of me that thinks this) then I’m safe, then I’m doing the right thing. Cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, homework help, doctor’s appointments, haircuts, organizing the carpool and after-school activities… so that my husband can work 3 jobs and financially support us while making the world a better place… and most of the time it actually feels really good. I feel like I’m doing the right thing.

But is this my vocation? I also never saw myself as being solely a “homemaker.” I’ve always felt a strong sense of having a role to play in, well, making this world a better place, somehow. And not just by raising kids but more directly. This was my guiding light through years of doing community development, non-profit, and social service work. Even my PhD work had this notion of influencing people to think differently about immigrants and refugees, to deepen our understanding of what welcome means, what incorporation means. So now I have hours of unstructured time at home, because the work of raising the kids does not take all day, and I don’t have a job. They go to school, and I have help with the housework. So I’ve been writing. But I haven’t been diving in with the same full abandon with which I’ve given myself to work I’ve done in the past. It feels… tentative. And I’m not sure what that means.