The best way to celebrate

Leaves in autumn color
Leaves in autumn color
Photo by Anthony Lee on Unsplash

I’m sitting at the kitchen table, sipping tea and writing, my sister-in-law, our kids, and I having just returned from a short hike to a waterfall, my three-year-old nephew’s first.

The first waterfall I remember seeing was Niagara Falls, though I probably went to one or two before it. I was twenty when my then boyfriend, now husband, and I decided to go for a drive, maybe bring some clothes along just in case we didn’t come back that night. We left in his white Chevrolet Celebrity, deciding to get out of Georgia and head to Williamsburg, Virginia, a place neither of us had ever (and still have never) been. …

What a break in tradition is teaching me about friendship

Ten hands placed alongside each other up a tree trunk
Ten hands placed alongside each other up a tree trunk
Photo by Shane Rounce on Unsplash

“There’s nothing better,” I once heard a man in a restaurant say, “than sharing a bottle of wine with friends.”

Wine with friends, wine with friends tumbled in my head like clothes in a dryer.

Canada’s Athabasca River flows a cloudy blue that would probably look clear if it would just hold still. It moves on though carrying rafters below the Falls, carrying itself towards the Arctic Ocean.

Driving next to it, I keep looking in the side mirror, trying to see what I’m missing, what I’ve left behind.

“It’s not going to feel like Thanksgiving,” my 11-year-old daughter says.

I agreed. Ours is usually a gathering of friends at our house, but last December, after years of planning, my husband, kids, and I got rid of almost everything we owned and rented out our house in order to spend this year traveling. …

How my husband and I divide in order to unite

A red rope knotted around a tree branch into a heart shape
A red rope knotted around a tree branch into a heart shape
Photo by Will O on Unsplash

When asked what’s kept her 50+ year marriage going, Dolly Parton responds, “I always say ‘Stay gone!’ and there’s a lot of truth to that.”

We’re on an extended trip outside the country from which my husband is to leave a month before our kids and I.

In bed a few days before he goes, I’m lying with my head on his chest when a surge of knowing comes: This will be the last time we do this. Startled, I hope to add, for awhile or here.

It’s the day of his departure and he and I walk to the town square. He buys a bus ticket. We sit on a park bench until it arrives. …

Clearing anxiety through early-morning expression

A piece of paper with writing on it, a calligraphy pen and flowers next to it
A piece of paper with writing on it, a calligraphy pen and flowers next to it
Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash

It’s 5am and my chest is tight, breathing shallow. I sense upcoming changes that break my heart, terrify and invigorate me, and I haven’t written to completion in almost two weeks.

While it’s been an unusually slow reading year for me, lately I’ve been reading a lot. Non-fiction mostly, much of the information contained within unknowingly burrowing into my brain to pop up later as needed.

A life of the mind is incompatible with full-time mothering. Why are the two things I want most seemingly at odds with one another?

Maybe instead of writing for public consumption, I ought to be journaling. Allow my chest to expand, breathing to deepen, fear and the belief in this “at odds-ness” to shake themselves loose. It’s therapeutic and meditative, isn’t it? …

Where politics, education, and family converge

Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Kristel Hayes on Unsplash

In the waiting, that’s where I am, we are. Seven-something on Wednesday morning, the day after the U.S. presidential election. No winner yet declared. My kids still in bed after a late night of results watching.

We can do that, stay up late and sleep in late, because we homeschool. Because we’re privileged with the means and I have the drive to do so.

Technically, we’re unschoolers. No curriculum; life-led learning instead. My kids gorge themselves on it, their understanding of current events, science, society, and geography far exceeding my own at their ages (9 and 11). …

Spoiler: It’s not my children

Two tulips in the rain
Two tulips in the rain
Photo by michael podger on Unsplash

I once was a raging mother who thought death preferable to the interior hell I was in. In that hell, I didn’t exist — there was no room for me. Having never learned that my needs mattered — really mattered — I gave to my two children far beyond my capacity, leaving me in physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual debt to myself.

As mothers, our top concern is supposed to be our children, right? That’s what society tells us; that’s what we tell us. It makes sense, considering they’re helpless at first, completely dependent on adult care. From there, their physical needs of us may decrease, but their emotional ones don’t. Besides it’s our job plain and simple, isn’t it? …

A small-town girl fishes rivers that aren’t rivers

A young child fishing
A young child fishing
Photo by Ben Wilkins on Unsplash

I’m seven and we live beside the Belfast River. This river, like many others on the coast of Georgia, isn’t a real river draining the interior of the land. Instead, it’s a dark tidal creek that swells and falls twice daily, the moon its conductor.

We have a dock, and from it, my dad teaches me to fish. We use shrimp as bait and a rod and reel. Sometimes we catch eels. He chops them up and hooks a chunk onto the line. We toss it out again. If we’re lucky we’ll catch a shark, a small one, no more than two feet probably. My dad will clean it and my mom will cook it. It will taste like chicken. …

What’s the point of remembering?

A stick figure human hangs from the bottom of a heart
A stick figure human hangs from the bottom of a heart
Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash
  1. Brent. 8th grade. We had every class together, sat near or next to each other in all of them, were science lab partners for half the year. He played the bass, basketball, football, was super smart. Drew pictures of me, spoof-y, non-sexual, badass ones based on a nickname he and his friend assigned me that year: Whips ‘n Chains. He grabbed my hand for a second or three as our class moved through a crowd outside the Lincoln Memorial.
  2. Steve. Freshman year of college. A poultry science major who roomed with a high school classmate of mine. The energy of us formed the moment said roommate/classmate made the introductions. I kept calling; he kept answering. Eventually I began to wonder, Why doesn’t he call me? and stopped. The last I heard of him I was at the movies with two friends. They were outside the bathroom; I was in it. He passed by, asked what had happened to Ashley. “What happened to you?” …

An argument for relationship-first parenting

A massive tree with sunlight shining through its leaves and branches
A massive tree with sunlight shining through its leaves and branches
Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

As mothers, we’re all concerned with being good ones. Moms who meet their kids needs, who ensure they’re fed, clean, and educated, whose minds, hearts, and bodies are developed to their full potential.

Successful mothering, as we know it, is performance. Acting a certain way, dressing a certain way, dressing your kids a certain way, having an organized house. Appearing like you’ve got it together, or like you’re messily together, hiding the hardest parts.

It’s making sure your kids are well behaved, do their homework, get good grades, go to college—a good college. Ensuring they get to play sports, play an instrument, take art classes, socialize an appropriate amount, don’t stay out too late, aren’t late to school or work or anywhere. Brush their teeth, get enough sleep, don’t spend too much time in front of screens, and listen to their teachers. Share as toddlers, don’t interrupt, have nice table manners, don’t embarrass you. Do their chores, work hard, don’t talk to strangers, do as they’re told, don’t have moods or dirty fingernails. …

A philosophy, a vision, a revolution

A small metal door with heart-shaped window and a candle glowing on the other side of it
A small metal door with heart-shaped window and a candle glowing on the other side of it
Photo by Cathal Mac an Bheatha on Unsplash

My kids asked recently what “radical” means; they’ve heard it a lot in political advertisements. I suggested that it’s holding beliefs or taking actions that are outside the norm and that often, though not always, come from a place of concern for others. I also told them that the word can be used to invalidate, through insistence that it equates with “extreme.”

It made me think though, what if we reclaimed “radical” from those who wield it as a weapon and embraced it for its positive qualities? Then paired it with “motherhood,” an experience that’s stereotyped as the pinnacle of love and caretaking? …


Ashley M. Kim

Writer. Wilderness lover. Worldschooling mother. Certified coach helping moms manage anger.

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