Normal & Extraordinary

On the last morning of RADCAMP: A Body Positive Boot Camp for Feminists one of my campers and Rad Fatties, as I lovingly call them, left me a thank you gift and a note on my bed, including this Danielle LaPorte #truthbomb card she pulled specifically for me. I'd actually pulled two similar ones for myself as reminders of using my presence on this earth for challenging, pushing, creating, educating.

I keep this one propped up on a wall near my bed full of tiny pieces of meaningful art - things that are both normal and extraordinary - including a Mexican painted Christmas angel, a gaudy red framed photo of my two daughter when they were toddlers, a rustic wooden heart cut by hand with a saw from old fencing by a high school in my neighborhood raising money for something like football camp, a trio of photos of Romanian circus performers in Burley, Idaho, taken by my friends at Two Bird Studio and a historic panorama photograph from 1914 of the little mountain town of Cascade, Idaho. Together all of these things remind of of things that are important to me, ideals I live by, where I come from, my past, my future.

This week has been filled with normal days with extraordinary mom moments.



    1. conforming to a standard; usual, typical, or expected

Alice, my middle child, submitted three original artworks she'd made this summer from hot glue, fabric, buttons, sticks, beads and her own amazing imagination to the Western Idaho Fair, a family tradition we've had for years (garlic braid ribbon holder right here!). She and I went together to the hot dry fairgrounds and stood in line for about an hour filling out paperwork and looking at the scarecrows and sunflowers and beets and peppers being submitted and talked about winning ribbons and she wished she could volunteer there to set up after watching the big trucks and tractors haul architecture in and around the site.

My baby boy, Arlo, refuses to be called a baby as he's now a "BIG BOY" because last week he decided to suddenly poop on the potty and we all cheered and he's wearing PJ Masks undies and we now carry around a tiny toilet seat in the back of the truck and it's all very VERY exciting and includes a gazillion thumbs-ups and lots of loud clapping and squealing from the bathroom.

My oldest daughter, Lucy, went in for her very first orthodontist appointment in preparation for braces at the age of 13. Dr. Brown and I nervously awaited the total bill for such a procedure and she anxiously awaited to hear how much that spacer will hurt. She also registered for 8th grade and wandered the halls and opened her locker alone and she and I celebrated with boba tea downtown.

She also received her first unsolicited inappropriate photo on Snapchat from a teen boy she knows and sexual harassment from another. This is real and heartbreaking and sad and while we're dealing with it in all the appropriate and necessary ways, Dr. Brown and I are livid.

This week has been filled with (ab)normal days with extraordinary moments.



1. very unusual or remarkable

There are literally thousands of people flooding into Idaho this week to enjoy the total eclipse of the sun on Monday August 21st at around 11am. For just a few minutes our entire little world will be black and upside down, astronomically speaking. The last time this has happened was 1918, astronomically speaking.

I've been asked to give lots of these tourists private tours of historic Boise, both on foot and on giant coach buses navigating our way through tight tiny streets of our town. All week I was in bed more than I was out of it due to a terrible stomach virus but downed some pills and donned a dress and big sunglasses and with sweat rolling down the backs of my knees stood propped up on a seat on a bus in the middle of an aisle with a broken microphone and told a whole crew of stargazers from California a quick and dirty history of Boise and a bit about Idaho.

As a historian and academic whose love of history was born and bred in small town conservative American public schools I'm careful to pick apart what I learned, to seek out alternate viewpoints, to find the stories we haven't been told or that we'd prefer were hidden. Like the fact that pretty much from the beginning in 1863 white Boiseans hated the Chinese immigrants and had xenophobic laws that forbid them from owning land and effectively demolished a thriving Chinatown twice to rid our city of them. And that while we are so lucky to have a wealth of beautiful public parks and green space in Boise, many of them are named for the wives of rich white men who donated the land and helped build our city in so many ways - for better or for worse. And about the controversial murals depicting Native Americans kneeling with nooses around their necks and the history of enacting law in Idaho that remain inside the 1939 Ada County Courthouse. My favorite part of talking about the Idaho State Capitol building is telling folks that the way the stone is carved on the first level was mean to represent logs, paying homage to our pioneer founders and the most modest houses they first built in the grandest house the people built.

When we ended the tour at the Basque Block and I stood outside the bus saying goodbye to my group as they headed towards their outdoor paella dinner one older white woman grabbed me by the arm and whispered in my ear, "Thank you for being so honest about the role rich white men play/played in your community. It was refreshing to hear from a [female] historian and on this tour." American history is hard and messy and difficult and the storyteller is a key player.

Chinese New Year Parade, Chinatown, 7th Street (now Capitol Boulevard), Boise, c. 1905, courtesy  Idaho State Archives & Library

Chinese New Year Parade, Chinatown, 7th Street (now Capitol Boulevard), Boise, c. 1905, courtesy Idaho State Archives & Library

Motherhood is political. History is political. Our bodies are political. White supremacy and racism and patriarchy and misogyny has everything to do with all of it. As I've said before - our skin is the largest visible organ on our bodies and it plays into so much of how we experience life. Body liberation is for all bodies - especially those most marginalized (black bodies, brown bodies, trans bodies, differently-abled bodies, aging bodies, etc). It all starts with personal acceptance freeing us up to own our stories, make change and do important work liberating others.

*I can't recommend enough checking out the links in this blog post. They changed my perspective and helped me process so much of this week and provide some much needed context.