3 Wise Men and a Virgin Are Coming to My Church; You Should, Too

Dec 18 2014

I’m not saying my church is better than your church, I’m just saying that one pastor at my church (let’s call him “Nate”) recently found another pastor’s email (let’s call him “Paul”) left open and sent a message from Paul to his two adult sons disclosing Paul’s recent breast augmentation surgery.

Which Paul did not have.

Which is why that’s HILARIOUS. 

Gosh, I love my church.

We are weird weirdos who are weird.

And funny.

We are weird weirdos who are weird and funny and not afraid to play.

More churches should try that tack. The whole Be Your Weird Self approach. And Laugh. And Play. Someone should probably elect me President of Church, is what I’m saying. We’d send bizarre emails to each other’s family members. And tuna casserole would be BANNED FOREVER. And the punch would be full strength. And there’d be real half and half for the coffee. And we’d host weekly Beer and Bible Study; heavier on the beer or the Bible, depending on the week. And I’d award bonus points for every person willing to tell an embarrassing story out loud in front of the congregation; it’d be a Regular Sunday Feature like the Offering or Announcements or the Sermon or Prayer… except it would be Embarrassing Story Time and we’d have to provide good quality tissues for laughing ’til we cry, and maybe some inconspicuous absorbent pads on the pews for those of us who laugh ’til pee. And on sunny, warm Sundays, we’d ditch the plan and the building entirely and go lay flat on the lawn, and not care about grass stains or dew or children jumping over our heads, and we’d stare up at the sky and tell wild truths about being both lost and found at the same time, which is grace. 

In addition to being weird weirdos who are weird, though, we have some amazing musicians at my church. Like, professional musicians… recording artists… members of the Portland Symphonic Choir… blah-di-blah-blah blah… and, along with their completely talented musician friends (of whom I’m surprisingly not one), they’ve put together a series of Christmas Concerts which I’m telling you about for two specific reasons.

  1. 3WisemenandaVirginTheir group name is 3 Wise Men and a Virgin** which is, obviously, the VERY BEST name for a 6-person music group EVER. 
  2. 3 Wise Men and a Virgin** are playing in the Portland, Oregon area this weekend, including at my church on Sunday, and I’d love for you to join us for the concert and hang-out time afterwards.

 

**P.S. The group name is technically not 3 Wise Men and a Virgin. That name was proposed and discarded in favor of “Eclectic Christmas,” which may be more accurately descriptive but isn’t nearly as entertaining. Whatever. I’m still calling it 3 Wise Men and a Virgin, and you can, too.

P.P.S. In case you want more details, here’s the scoop: Eclectic Christmas 3 Wise Men and a Virgin is a Christmas concert for all ages, with music from jazz to folk to blues and everywhere in between. The group is comprised of Aaron Pruitt, Frank Verhoorn, Nate Macy, Nathanael Ankeny, MelissaThomas, and Nolan Staples. Desserts to follow the concert on Sunday evening. $10 suggested donation.

Friday, December 19, 7:00pm: West Hills Friends Church
7425 SW 52nd Ave, Portland, Oregon

Saturday, December 20, 7:00pm: Newberg Friends Church
307 S College St, Newberg, Oregon

Sunday, December 21, 7:00pm: North Valley Friends Church
4020 N College St, Newberg, Oregon

(CAUTION: They’re letting Woolseys attend that last one. You’ve been warned.)

P.P.P.S. All the best bands have riders attached to their contracts so their needs are met. Through secret sources, I obtained a copy of the Backstage Rider for 3 Wise Men and a Virgin. 

The following are the expectations of you as the host for Eclectic Christmas 3 Wise Men and a Virgin:
  1. You will provide cash in the following amounts for our merchandise table: 17 $1 bills, 14 $5, 2 $10, 3.5 $20, 7 $50, 32 $2 bills, and 7 quarters. This can be Monopoly money as the merch table is imaginary.
  2. We will sign autographs provided Nate has a minder since he can’t spell his own name.
  3. We do not require food, but there should be a veggie platter. The platter must not include carrots, broccoli, celery, snap peas, peppers, or cherry tomatoes. 
  4. In and Out Burger is our preferred catering institution. Nolan insists on pickles. Aaron will not eat anything that has been in a bag with any pickle products and consequently will not play due to emotional upheaval.
  5. Melissa requires the green room to literally be green and kept at 65.7 degrees.
  6. Frank prefers to be called Jim.
  7. Nathanael’s children often have serious communicable diseases. They will require oxygen tents but need to be in the front row. There are restraining orders against his parents seeing the kids, so they will need to sit behind the organ and have an usher blindfold them. Nate’s uncle has a violent dislike of Nolan’s mother so they will need to be monitored and seated at least 50 yards from each other.
  8. Our sound person, Joel, will only answer to the Spanish pronunciation of his name and is likely to charge anyone wearing red.
  9. All power outlets will need to be 220 volts with a provided 110 watt diffuser.
  10. We require spouses to be checked in with their names written on masking tape and placed on their backs. Spouses will only be released from the care of the meeting with an approved signature.

P.P.P.P.S. I can’t be held responsible for what I or my children will wear to the concert. I’ve got one who plans to wear her dragon wings and tail, one who’s back in love with his kilt which is now a mini-kilt since it’s 4 sizes too small, and I can’t guarantee I won’t have given up on real clothes and be back in my pajamas by 7pm on Sunday. Just saying – you get what you get, friends, and All Hail the Weird Weirdos Who Are Weird!

P.P.P.P.P.S. I hope to see you there. 

 

3WisemenandaVirgin

 

 

 
 

Living Between the Hallelujahs

Dec 15 2014

I’ve been listening to Pandora’s classical Christmas station for two weeks now, which is a mistake for a couple reasons.

First, there are approximately six songs total on Pandora’s classical Christmas station and five hundred thousand different arrangements of the six. Honest to God, if I have to hear another classical arrangement of The Holly and The Ivy or its tied-for-most-mind-numbing-Christmas-song-ever, Here We Come A Wassailing, I can’t be held responsible for my actions. Although, in defense of Here We Come A Wassailing, it’s a song meant to be fueled by booze like One Hundred Bottles of Beer on the Wall or the movie, Dude, Where’s My Car, which are awesome but only after some seriously questionable amounts of imbibing, and I was listening to it stone cold sober, so… my bad.

The second reason Pandora’s classical Christmas is a mistake — and the reason I keep listening to it — is the Hallelujah Chorus.

The Hallelujah Chorus, you guys!

So bold!

So triumphant!

So beautiful and BIG and powerful and filled with joy!

I love the Hallelujah Chorus.

I mean, I love LOVE the Hallelujah Chorus. 

I can hit that high A note, too, so I’m practically obligated to sing along every time it comes on. Which is a lot. A lot, a lot. It’s like every second song on Pandora’s classical Christmas station, and sometimes, when my children are very lucky, it’s every song. Song after song of nothing but the Hallelujah Chorus.

Let me tell you, my kids think the very best part of Christmas is their mama twirling in her nightie and bunny slippers throughout the wreckage that is our house and singing the Hallelujah Chorus full throttle, rockets firing, tearing down that runway and TAKING OFF toward that high A like I mean it. Which I DO. And, sure, they compare my singing to the tragic wails of a dying walrus, but their words belie their hearts which are crying out for more. “MORE SINGING, Mommy!” their little eyes say, filled with hope/dread, “MORE SINGING.” And so I do even though their words say “NO!” and “STOP!” and “I’LL GIVE YOU ALL MY MONEY, MOM!” Their words are just kidding, and our house is filled with joy, so I’ll take it.

I’ll take it.

The mess. The madness. The music. The magic. The mundane. The mystery. The magnificence.

I’ll take it.

I’ll take all of it. 

Except the parts of the mess and the madness I don’t want, of course. 

I’m not quite so eager to accept those with open arms. 

The cute messes, yes; glitter and flour spills; shirts on backwards; the 8-year-old who lets one rip in church during quiet prayer time, fine. And the adorable, quirky madnesses? The middle schooler who believes in unicorns; the kid who washes the same pair of socks every day in a load all by itself; and the 2nd grader who can’t sleep without a separate, second bedtime snack every, single night? Great; I’m in. Whatever.

I’m just… less of a fan of the messes that wind their way to the murky darkness and the madnesses that cut us past our core.

My cousin’s cousin died last week. Overdosed on drugs. I didn’t know him, but I hugged his aunt who’s also my aunt tight on Saturday and whispered, “I’m so sorry” in her ear and she whispered, “me, too” before she squeezed tighter and said, “stupid boys; stupid, stupid boys.” Next month will be 15 years since her own boy died, lost in a maze of depression and confusion, and there was a whole world of grief and love and longing in her voice. We hugged in the middle of a party. A party celebrating a graduation and a milestone for yet another cousin. An enormous accomplishment. A BIG DEAL. A joyful day. My aunt released me but grabbed my arms and locked her eyes with mine and said, fiercely, “But now we celebrate.” And I gripped her back and said, “We party like we mean it.” And she said, “We party because we do mean it.” And I said, “Both/And.” And she said, “Both/And.” And it was magic in the mess.

This is the Season of Light in the Darkness. 

My Jewish friends begin Hanukkah — the Festival of Lights — at sundown tomorrow, and we Christians wait now in our Season of Advent. 

This is the Season of Anticipation. The Season of Hope. The Season of Love Made Flesh. The Season of Light With Us. Of Divinity and Humanity Intertwined. The Season of God, as finite and eternal and fragile and strong as a baby, which is the best miracle I know.

But the darkness persists.

Doesn’t it?

The darkness is resilient, too.

Damn it.

Light walks among us and darkness still exists, and I find in this whole season and all of life, I am so very Both/And. Both deeply content and always unsettled. Both certain of the Light and sitting in darkness. 

‘Tis the Season, friends.

Both/And.

Both Joy and Grief. Both Light and Dark. Both Steady As She Goes! and Brace For Impact! Both Human and Divine. Both Steady and Unstable. 

I got an email last week from a friend who’s recovering from major surgery. He linked to a blog by Fred Smith about Leonard Cohen’s song, Hallelujah, which is so very different from the Hallelujah Chorus I’ve been singing around my house. 

So very different, and yet… the Hallelujah Chorus and the cold and broken Hallelujahs are only as different as two sides of the same coin, I suppose. And so it’s not difficult in the end to consider that both joy and grief — both mess and magic — spill out as Hallelujahs, after all

“This world is full of conflicts and full of things that cannot be reconciled,” Cohen has said, “but there are moments when we can transcend the dualistic system and reconcile and embrace the whole mess, and that’s what I mean by ‘Hallelujah.’ That regardless of what the impossibility of the situation is, there is a moment when you open your mouth and you throw open your arms and you embrace the thing and you just say, ‘Hallelujah! Blessed is the name.’…

“The only moment that you can live here comfortably in these absolutely irreconcilable conflicts is in this moment when you embrace it all and you say, ‘Look, I don’t understand a fucking thing at all – Hallelujah!’

My friend signed his email, “living between the bookends of hallelujah,” and I thought, yes

Yes, this is it, entirely. We are living between the bookends of Hallelujah. A whole, messy life lived inside of Hallelujah.

Because there is a Light shining in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. And through it all, together, somehow, Hallelujah.

Living Between the Bookends of Hallelujah,

Signature 

 

 

P.S. Please, if you feel so inclined, share your Hallelujahs, friends. Whatever kind. I keep meaning to ask you for updates — to inquire how this season is for you — but my season is busy and I haven’t and I miss you. 

I used to worry they’d call Child Protective Services on me. Now I plan to offer the social worker a FREE, All-Inclusive, 7-Night Stay in my home while I wait out the results in Tahiti.

Dec 10 2014

I used to worry the doctor would call Child Protective Services on me. I’d bring my toddler girl — my first kid — to the pediatrician for her well child check-ups, and I’d look at the bruises on her shins and the inevitable goose egg on her forehead, terrified the doctor would be on the phone to social services before I could explain I seriously — like, for reals, Doc! — didn’t beat her.

I imagined the social worker showing up. I imagined taking the lie detector test because my imagination houses a very technologically advanced social services interrogation room. I imagined sweating and worrying and blowing that test all to pieces. I imaged sitting in prison with my head in my hands as a single lightbulb hung by a thin cord overhead and flickered. I imagined it all. The whole nine yards. 

Inevitably, I’d open those early doctor visits by stammering out some sort of explanation at the doctor, “she’s running… there was a coffee table…,” and he’d tsk tsk and shake his head and issue his proclamation. “Looks like you…” he’d say, and pause dramatically, “… are letting her learn to run. You probably even take her outside to play.” And then he’d look at me accusingly for a split second before he’d wink and tell me she looked like every other toddler he sees. The punk. All that good panicking for nothing. Geez.

Well, we’re five kids in, now, and we’ve had All the Injuries over the last 16 years, so whatever. Just whatever. I shrug my shoulders, I toss up a few Hail Mary Full of Grace’s, and I look forward to the plaque they’ll someday put in our local hospital to honor our endowment of the emergency services wing.

And I still consider the fact that Child Protective Services could show up, but I no longer sweat it. Like, AT ALL. 

Like this weekend, when Greg gave our 15-year-old son a real shiner.

FullSizeRender (2)Turns out, two man-sized people barging through one opaque door in opposite directions is a bad combo, man; a bad, CRASH BANG BOOM shiner-inducing combo.

So I sent my kid back to school this morning saying he ran into a door, which, coincidentally, is what people who are beaten say. “I ran into a door.” It’s not even BELIEVABLE, people! Plus, this is my kid with expressive language disorder, and so far, all he’s managed to say by way of explanation is, “Dad hit me with a door.” Which is technically true, so technically worse

Nevertheless, I’m prepared.

Honest to God, when that child welfare worker walks through the door, I’m going to offer him a 7-night stay in my home – FREE OF CHARGE; FOOD, LODGING and BARKY DOG INCLUDED – and see if he can pull off a lower injury rate than we do. I’ll be waiting it out at a resort in Tahiti. 

At the end, I expect they’ll fly in the President of the United States to honor us for valiant services above and beyond the call of duty. We will, of course, accept graciously.

……….

P.S. Far more torturous to this child than being hit with a door and having his eye turned into mush was taking selfies with his mama. Someone should arrest me for trying to make my kid smile. I’m a horrible, horrible person.

FullSizeRender

P.P.S. Tell the truth – have you ever worried someone will call CPS on you??

The Screw Chart Incident

Dec 8 2014

My husband just came to our bedroom to inform me he printed out a Screw Chart.

I asked if that’s like a Special Advent Calendar for grown-ups but Greg looked at me like I was confused and said slowly, “It’s a Screw Chart for the iPhone,” so then I had to remind him we’ve had conversations with our teenager about this kind of thing, and, specifically, about never, ever (EVER) taking those kinds of pictures or videos on one’s phone because HELLO, INTERNET — you just don’t know where that stuff will end up. GEEZ, Greg.

Greg shook his head and used his I’m Very Disappointed in You face, which, coincidentally, is the exact same face he used last night at the dinner table when I taught our children the very best technique for spitting their vegetables into their napkins without getting caught. Until I stepped in with a solution, they just kept complaining and complaining about eating their vegetables, you guys; SOMEONE HAD TO DO SOMETHING, and Greg’s only offering was, “Eat your vegetables” with an occasional “It’s only TWO BITES; just EAT YOUR VEGETABLES” thrown at ‘em for good measure. Listen; I don’t want to imply I’m the more effective parent here, but my method got them to stop complaining about their vegetables and Greg’s, well, didn’t. You be the judge.

The only difference in Greg’s reaction between last night’s Vegetable Debacle and tonight’s Screw Chart Incident is last night’s I’m Very Disappointed in You face made sense because *I* was disappointed in our kids, too. 

I mean, collectively they have 60 years of childhood under their belts; you’d think at least one of them would’ve stumbled on the Wipe Your Mouth and Simultaneously Spit Into Your Napkin technique without having to be given a step-by-step instruction guide, but sometimes our kids aren’t quite as bright as we imagine. Makes even those of us committed to science doubt evolution a little, doesn’t it? 

Now, it’s true that Greg’s I’m Very Disappointed in You face was pointed at me during my selfless Vegetable Heroics last night, but I just assumed his neck was broken/stuck due to the incident earlier in the evening in which he and our son tried to burst through an opaque door at the same time, but headed in opposite directions. Just so you know, that’s a bad combo; I’ll tell you about it later. For now, what’s important to know is Greg’s I’m Very Disappointed in You face was pointed at me last night, but only by accident, I think, and because he neck was stuck.Otherwise, it would obviously have been pointed at the kids where it belonged.

This time, though, during the Screw Chart convo, Greg’s I’m Very Disappointed in You face was directed at me, which is weird because he’s the one who brought the Screw Chart up, and also we were in our ROOM and if you can’t talk openly about Screw Charts in your bedroom with your husband, where CAN you, you know?

Anyway, long story short, Greg says a Screw Chart for the iPhone is a chart that shows you how to assemble and disassemble an iPhone and put all the parts back in the right places when you’re done, but I’m pretty sure that would be called an iPhone Assembly or Disassembly Chart because who would call something like that a Screw Chart? That’s just dumb.

On the other hand, if any of you Pinteresty types are looking for a Christmas project, I have got a GREAT Advent Calendar idea. Just saying.

 

On Michael Brown, Eric Garner, A Loss for Words, and Hope Anyway

Dec 4 2014

I tried to write tonight, but my heart is stuck.

Kind of pffttt.

A little bleh. 

And I know why my heart is stuck; only, I don’t much like thinking about it because it makes me feel helpless and afraid and like I can make no difference at all. ReleaseNeverAfraidBut I have a sign I made this summer which sits on my desk and reads, “I release the belief that I must never be afraid,” so I’ll write anyway, even with a sticky heart full of fears both petty and powerful.

My heart is stuck because of Michael Brown.

My heart is stuck because of Eric Garner.

My heart is stuck because of Trayvon Martin.

Now, my heart isn’t stuck so much because I’ve Picked a Side, but because I straddle the sides and find myself heartbroken for the less and less subtle racial divide in America, heartbroken for the families of these men specifically, and heartbroken for the many dedicated, honorable policemen and policewomen of all races who faithfully serve both law and peace and yet find themselves on public trial.

I find myself in the middle of this mess, and it’s very personal. It affects my family. It affects my children and the way we live our lives. And I’ll bet I’m not alone, here in the middle. Here with my sympathies running wild and to all sides. I’ll bet I’m not alone, and yet I haven’t heard many voices like mine. Saying “racial oppression is very real” and “the system is broken” and “there are people who should be held accountable” and “there are good people trying to do a good job to treat people fairly and enforce the law.” Both/And. I haven’t heard a lot of that.

Mine is not a story of personal racial persecution, of course. Not my story as a white, middle class woman in America. Have I encountered discrimination because of gender bias? Sure; I’ve had my fair share. But it’s my children – my Asian and Latino babies whose hearts I hold – who’ve pulled aside the curtain and let me see into a world different than mine. Despite living in a house together. Despite eating at the same table. Despite all the advocating I do for them and the advantages I try to give them. Despite their educations and upbringing. They live with one foot in a world different than mine.

photo 4 - CopyMy heart is stuck with my son.

Stuck with my son whose brown skin has already changed how some people treat him.

Stuck with my son because, now in his teens, there are people who no longer see his brown doe eyes or his ridiculous long lashes. They see THREAT. Not Tender Heart or Sweet Soul. They see MENACE. 

My heart is stuck with my son because people find his Guatemalan features suspicious. They’ve called him Spic already, and Retard because he has special needs, and both terrible words will happen again. And again. And again. The deck is stacked against him, and the deck embedded in his skin and in his brain… and in the hearts and minds of people he encounters. The deck is stacked against him, and I can’t fix this broken world or the words we call each other. 

Like I said at the beginning: Helpless. Afraid.

I’m afraid someday he’ll be walking in a store with his hands in his pockets.

I’m afraid someday he’ll be walking down the street in the dark.

I’m afraid someday he’ll commit a minor, stupid crime.

And I’m afraid he’ll pay with his life because THREAT.

So I stand peering through the curtain into a world that’s not my own, living, as I do, in a land of privilege, and I watch headlines that read “Trayvon Martin” or “Michael Brown” or “Eric Garner” but I see them as My Son

Perhaps Helpless and Afraid are some of the roles we mommies simply must play in this life. Perhaps they’re just part of it. Bit parts if we’re lucky. Helpless and Afraid as characters in life’s script. They can steal the show, though, sometimes. Sweep it clean away.

I want the story back from Helpless and Afraid. I want to put my spin on it. I want to beef up the roles of Hope and Help. I want to argue with my fellow playwrights to cast Love and Light as our leads. But our collective story is more muddled than that. More muddled and messy and mired in the muck. 

And so my heart is stuck with all those who have to maneuver through lives filled with injustice.

My heart is stuck with my son’s and daughters’ communities of color. My adopted communities. 

My heart is stuck with police officers who preserve and promote peace, who build up communities, who selflessly put others’ needs ahead of their own every day, but who are on trial by the public anyway. 

My heart is stuck with the Us-ness and the Them-ness of it all. And with my inability to be, fully, an Us or a Them. 

And I’m stuck wondering how we, collectively, move forward in ways that make us, truly, a nation of liberty and justice for all. Not blind to our failures. Not unapologetic or defensive. Not full of unrealistic, Pollyanna style bandaids over gushing wounds. But a people of hope. 

A people of hope.

That’s what I wish for us.

And, with that, I suppose I’ve found my words tonight after all, and I’ll end by sharing this, which I wrote originally on day of the Sandy Hook shooting and reminds me that hope is, after all, always on the way… and Light is with us to the marrow of our bones.

The Light and the Dark

We sit in this season of darkness. Cold. Helpless. Lost. Afraid. Consumed, at times, with our despair and our weakness and our lack of control over life and death and the events in between.

It doesn’t seem strange at all that it’s winter. I can’t imagine today without gray.

And yet.

And yet.

There’s a part of me that cries out against it, this soul-sucking sorrow. This agony and angst. There’s a spark, bright inside me, that quietly waits with its hopes and its wishes and its sweetness and its aches.

This is the season of darkness, it’s true. But I believe today more than ever that one of our most profound acts as human beings, and perhaps our most unifying, is our insistence on celebrating the Light at the exact time it appears lost to us.

Do you know that we all do this? This Light Dance? We do. All over the world, across genders and borders and creeds, we do.

We Swedes wreath our eldest daughters in candle crowns at the Festival of St. Lucia. We Dutch hand our children lanterns in honor of Sint Maarten who showed kindness to a stranger. We pagans light bonfires at the winter solstice and dance naked in the snow. We Jews light the Menorah faithfully for eight nights because we believe that somehow, miraculously, Light will find a way to keep shining. We Christians burn the candles of Advent, anticipating that Light will walk among us, at once as frail as baby and as strong as God.

We celebrate Loi Krathong in Thailand. And Diwali in India. And in doing so, we defy the dark and choose hope instead because we trust, despite all evidence to the contrary, that Light is coming. That Light, in fact, is already on the way.

Everywhere in the world, we rejoice in this triumph of Light over darkness as though we believe it will inevitably come to pass. We are ludicrous, ridiculous, irrational, and unreasonable people to do such a thing. And we are gorgeous and stunning and amazing for celebrating the Light as though we’re already victorious. For celebrating Life in the midst of death. For celebrating Peace in the midst of pain.

So come, Light. Come quickly. We’re ready for you. Especially now. Especially today when the darkness edges close. The spark inside us beckons you home, keeping the faith, and it knows your best secret. The spark inside us knows the darkness doesn’t win in the end.

photo 2 (74)

 

……….

“The Light and the Dark” was originally posted on the day of the Sandy Hook school shooting.
December 14, 2012
In loving remembrance.

 

On 5 Year Olds Who Don’t Know How to Open a Book… And the Small Way We Can Help This Holiday Season

Dec 2 2014

I told you yesterday I’m drowning in dropped balls

Tonight I quit. 

With figurative and some literal balls just everywhere, I quit.

I told Greg I was over parenting, and I got in the bathtub and quit.

No booze.

No bubbles.

Just me and a book and hot water and the sound of children screaming in distance.

It was bliss.

You know… blissish, which is as close as we mamas can come some days. It was bliss-enough, though, and bliss-enough is good enough for me. More than.

I pulled my soggy self from the tub eventually, mind refreshed, flesh wrinkled, and all my little cherubs were already in bed, asleep. Except two of the teenaged cherubs who were still awake asking for money, but, like I said, blissish. Good enough.

I pulled myself from the tub thinking about privilege. 

About books and how much I love them. 

About books and the ways they’ve comforted me and set me free. 

About not wondering whether we had enough water for my bath. 

About being hungry because I didn’t eat enough dinner since I was in a rush to take a kid to counseling and about the privileges of having both a dinner to rush through and the money to pay for counseling when my kid needs help.

About the fact that my kids laid in bed tonight reading books, as is our routine before bedtime because we’re proactive, college educated parents who care about our kids’ reading habits… or because reading makes them quieter than average and WE JUST NEED THEM TO SHHHHHH AT BEDTIME, but whatever; let’s not talk about motivation, OK? K. OUR KIDS READ. WOOHOO!

I wrapped a tiny, frayed, threadbare towel around my dripping body because it was within reach, and I’d forgotten, as always, to get a clean, non-raggy, grown-up towel before sinking into the water. I looked at the toilet that needs cleaning and the sink with crusty kid toothpaste fossils and the pile of dirty clothes I won’t wash until the weekend, and I thought about how grateful I am for this messy life.

How grateful I am, even on the nights when I quit.

And I thought about my friend, Korie, who told me a story about her job as a children’s librarian here in our little Oregon town with its rolling hills and evergreens, llamas and good schools… our little Oregon town with its people who care… and also our little Oregon town which is home to children who don’t always have what my family has. Enough food. Hot water. Books.

Several years ago, Korie arrived early to a Kindergarten class for a visit. She does that from time to time to tell the kids about the public library and get them signed up for library cards. 

As she waited, the teacher was finishing up a lesson on How to Open a Book.

Let me just say again: the teacher was teaching school-aged kids how to open books. 

Korie watched, hardly believing a 5 year old would need such a lesson, until she saw one of the boys turn his book around and flip it upside down. He didn’t know how to get the book open. She knew the child sitting next to him — a child who was already reading chapter books. 

Korie wrote me tonight because I asked her to tell me the story again. Fresh from my bath, clad in my faded nightie, by the light of a thin string of colored lights above my desk, I read Korie’s email:
 
The disparity is appalling, she wrote. Children need books in their homes. Infants need to chew on books, play with them, figure out how they open. Toddlers need books all over the house and in the diaper bag. Children need positive interactions with books. They need to see how they work. They need to be read to. Studies have repeatedly shown that children with few or no books in their homes have significantly lower reading levels than their peers. Books in the home remind children and parents of the importance of reading. Because we shouldn’t have stories about five year olds who don’t know how to open a book.

We shouldn’t have 5 year olds who don’t know how to open a book. 

And Korie’s right.

In October, I told you about the A Girl With A Book campaign. It was my birthday in October, and Malala Yousafzi won the Nobel Peace Prize. 

AGirlWithABookGreg woke me up Friday morning with the news that 17-year-old Malala Yousafzai won the Nobel Peace Prize.

Two years ago almost exactly, on October 9, 2012, a Taliban gunman shot Malala in the face, an assassination attempt due to her persistent and outspoken commitment to promote education for girls in the Swat Valley of Pakistan.

Today, Malala is a Nobel laureate – the youngest ever – and, more importantly, she continues to strive for all children and their right to equal access to education. 

“Extremists have shown what frightens them the most: a girl with a book.” ~Malala Yousafzai

Tomorrow’s my birthday. You’d think I already have everything I could want in life: 5 rad kids I want to keep almost all the time, a husband with emergency zombie apocalypse preparedness plans, a nose made out of my ear, and almost 2,000 likes on a Facebook picture of my ass. I mean, there’s not a lot more a woman of 41 can want, you know? But I’m going to ask you for something anyway, and it’s this:

Will you join me in giving $5, $10 or $15 toward A Girl With A Book? 100% of the funds we receive from this GoFundMe campaign will go to purchase books for Kindergarten through 2nd Grade boys and girls from Title 1 (high poverty rate) elementary schools. 

Books have always been some of my best friends, and I can’t think of anything I’d like more for my birthday than to put cherished words into the hands of kids who might otherwise not be able to keep them.

It’s a way to honor Malala’s work. And it’s a way to give back. I hope, if this space has brought you joy and mamaraderie over the years, you’ll join me with a small donation and by sharing the campaign with your friends. 

I meant, of course to wrap up the campaign by the beginning of November. But then kids and another job and LIFE happened, and, well, we’re past apologizing for our imperfections, right? 

So here we are, talking about A Girl With A Book again, which we’ll wrap up by December 7th, instead, which will be in time to give books to the girls (and boys!) before they leave school on Winter Break. 

Will you join me this holiday season in giving a small amount – $5, $10 or $15 – to put a book in the hands of a kid who needs one?

You can read all the details at A Girl With A Book here: http://www.gofundme.com/agirlandabook

And thanks.

You’re the best people on the internets, and I love you to infinity.

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Drowning in Dropped Balls

Dec 1 2014

We stayed at my cousin Jen’s house for four nights last week. Jen’s now down a plate, a bowl and a butter dish. I think two of the pieces of china were from her wedding set. They smashed rather fantastically on her hard wood floors. Only one was during a fight over whipped cream, though, so there’s that. We offered to replace them but Jen said, “No problem. Things break. You’re more important.”

In conclusion, everyone needs a Jen.

P.S. We lost Jen’s cat at least six times. 

P.P.S. Statistically speaking, two out of every four teenagers lose their ever loving poo during Thanksgiving weekend. Their EVER LOVING POO, folks. Crying. Screaming. Histrionics. Poo; just everywhere.

P.P.P.S. Statistically speaking, four out of every five children lose their ever loving poo during Thanksgiving weekend. So that’s 80% of children and only 50% of teenagers. In other words, PARENTING GETS BETTER, man. Better. True truth.

P.P.P.P.S. I still have snot and tears on one of my t-shirts from holding one of those teenagers during a meltdown. Not my teenager. But totally mine, you know? In the way we own each other’s kids? And it was one of my favorite parts of the weekend because I got to be love in the middle of the mess. Turns out, there’s always a mess. Always. No matter what. The mess in this life is the part that’s static – unchanging, except in type and volume – but there’s always a mess. To infuse it with love is where we find the magic. 

P.P.P.P.P.S. Another grown-up was love to my teen in the middle of the mess. Magic and mystery, I’m telling you. Magnificent.

P.P.P.P.P.P.S. Can someone please tell me why we don’t co-parent more often?? Like, why – WHY – do we not all move to a commune and share the parenting and the mess and the magic-making? We would break a lot of dishes – a LOT of dishes – but THE VILLAGE, friends. We’d be smack dab in the middle of broken glass AND THE VILLAGE which is what we call WORTH IT.

P.P.P.P.P.P.P.S. This was supposed to be a real blog post, but then all this post-scripting happened. I don’t know what to say.

P.P.P.P.P.P.P.P.S. Also, I was supposed to write a blurb for my friend Nathalie‘s upcoming book, but I forgot. I told her I’m sorry, and GAH, and I hate being a schmuck. Nathalie said, “DO NOT FEEL BAD. I’ve dropped so many freaking balls this week/month, I’m sucking all over the place.” Then I told Nathalie I’m drowning in dropped balls. 

P.P.P.P.P.P.P.P.P.S. Just FYI, if you, like me, are a visual person, don’t ever use the phrase “drowning in dropped balls.” It won’t end well. 

P.P.P.P.P.P.P.P.P.P.S. In case you’re drowning in dropped balls, I want you to know you’re not alone. You’re not. And, also, want to move to our commune? BECAUSE SERIOUSLY. We can call it the Dropped Balls Commune which might send the wrong message but also means we dropped the ball on naming our commune so it sends the right message. BOTH/AND, baby! Who’s in?