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Tuesday, January 10, 2006

M.I.L.K. Musings

This morning I had M.I.L.K. This group, which stands for Mothers with Infants and Little Kids, has existed for almost a year now. In spite of my best efforts as co-founder and co-leader to sabotage us, we continue to grow.

A year ago last fall, Eleanor approached me and said something about wanting to start a mothers' group, along the lines of MOPS. In an attempt to affirm Eleanor, who is one of the sweetest women I have ever met, I told her I would be happy to help her out.

So we sat down and started brainstorming. We talked about how such a group might be structured and who we would be targeting. It seemed both possible and important. So, we moved ahead with it, and we both found that, being very different kinds of people (she is a soft-spoken, gentle-spirited extrovert; I am a gregarious, outspoken introvert) we brought different skills and vision to the floor. And so we divided the labor, working towards our strengths and experience. And suddenly I went from helper to leader.

I clearly remember our very first meeting. My job responsibilities were, and still are, as follows: devotional leader, craft/activites leader, publicity leader, member database administrator.

I spent HOURS preparing my first "talk." I spent hours designing paperwork and forms and a flyer, and a made a handy notebook to store it all in. I spent hours talking to Eleanor - working out our "vision" and "mission statement." I wrote up a.... compact....? contract....? ( I can't remember the word; it seemed a very important word one year ago; I used it all the time - how could I have forgotten it?). We met with our pastor. We recruited babysitters. At our annual meeting, we appealed to the church congregation to help subsidize the cost. We agonized over the name. I spent hours researching different kinds of crafts we could do....

(CHARTER! That's the word I couldn't remember! I spent hours drafting a CHARTER!)

....

The name M.I.L.K. is nerdy. I admit it. Jeff still smirks every time he says it. "M.I.L.K." with just a bit of a lilt. But, I've gotten used to it, and no longer cringe when I say it.
We have a motto now, too: "The sisterhood of motherhood." I don't think I perjured it from anywhere.


Anyway, our first meeting consisted of only three people: Eleanor, Anne (who, as someone with adult children, we recruited to be our "mentor," a.k.a. our sage), and myself. I played the previously-recorded snippet of music that I had carefully chosen to portray our collective motherly angst. I spent way too much time reading the four meticulously footnoted pages of my talk, my voice probably wavering the whole time. So as to be clearly seen and heard, while reading, I stood behind Pastor Jeff's podium .

When I was done, both ladies patted my back. Anne suggested I do the talk again for the next meeting, when surely there would be some actual attendees.

I could never bring myself to do that. Instead, I tucked that CD away in the front pocket of my carefully organized M.I.L.K. binder, and filed my notes behind Tab #3 of that same binder, where they can both still be found; reminders of a floundering first attempt.

So, here's how I prepared for the M.I.L.K. meeting we had this morning: I cannabalized a craft idea from my writing group friend, Kathryn; I jotted a few notes for a "talk" last night at work, and it wasn't even linear or organized in any particular way. I planned to speak mostly extemporaneously when the time came. I was not organized. I was not (at least in my own mind) particularly leader-ly. I felt guilty for being so half-assed.

This morning, at 10:15, there were only five of us. We started to wonder whether anyone remembered we had a meeting, or if they had finally wised up to our racket.

Five minutes later, there were twelve women.

Okay, now, I know that those numbers aren't staggering in general. Woodstock this was not. But I am staggered. I'll make an admission that I've only ever made to Eleanor so far: sometimes the preparation and effort feel like too much of a bother. I don't know what I'm doing. I'm fumbling my way through it all. I am inadequate. Sometimes I just kind of wish everyone would quit coming so we could say, "Well, gee, it looks like it's not meant to be."

Well, with twelve women, I can't really say that. Especially when two of them have offered to join the "Leadership Team," as I facetiously call it. Hm.

I'm not sure this group is the best fit for everyone. There have women who have come once and never again. But there are more who come once, then twice, then three times, and each time they come they bring a new friend. There has been conversation, deep conversation, exposing at times the most sacred thoughts and fears that women/mothers/wives feel. More than once, I've left thinking, "Wow, I thought I was the only person who thinks that way." We laugh a lot too. We have differences of opinion. We all want a connection.

So, that's M.I.L.K. I'm a little scared, I confess, because I'm seeing that it's not going to go away. It's not like when I learned to play the drums in high school, or when I was a sales person for The Body Shop at Home, or whenever I start a new novel. It's a lot more like parenthood. You bring a child into the world, and then you are responsible for it. Most of the time, being a parent is hard, agonizing, thankless work. But then, you see your baby smile, and say its first word, and take its first step. It gets easier, better, more fun.

There are women responding to the need to feel connected. I feel like God is giving me a bit of a kick, saying, "Come on, you've got work to do." And now, there are more workers.

Time to get my head out of the sand.

Things I've come to realize through doing M.I.L.K.:
* This is something God wants me to do.
* Sometimes I need to do something simply because it needs to be done.
* Being successful doesn't mean always feeling motivated.
* I am not the only neurotic woman in Anchorage.
* My kids are wonderful.
* I am not an idiot.
* No matter how unexcited I am the night before a M.I.L.K. meeting, I always have a great time and leave with an overflowing heart.
* I love public speaking.
* I am not very good at crafts.
* Babysitting really does "make it" or "break it."
* Being a parent is the best thing in the entire world.

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