I Painted My Fingers Red

Feb 23 2015

I sat in the sun yesterday and painted my fingernails fire engine red, which I didn’t have time to do.

It’s an early spring here, and we Oregonians feel both elated to see the sun and guilty our American neighbors to the east remain buried under yards of snow. 

We had another puker Friday night at our house. Kid number 4 out of 5 with this bug. Ten days and counting for our family. Twelve hours straight of vomiting Friday night, from 3pm until 3am Saturday, but he’s eight years old now, so he hit the bucket every time which feels like a miracle and a blessing. Parenting changes you, is what I’m saying. Pre-parenting, I can’t imagine I would’ve considered it a win to be up all night with a puker even if he did sink every basket – SWOOSH – no rim! Now I know sick happens, and we can do hard things, especially together, and it’s a Strange Joy to rub my baby’s back and brush the hair off his forehead and know he’s comforted by my squishy body in bed next to him, on the mend in the end thanks, in part, to me. 

I spent Friday night awake with my kid and the wee hours of Saturday morning sacked out; ostensibly sleeping in, but really trying to make a dent in my overall sleep deficit. I woke up feeling lazy and embarrassed I’d slept ’til 11am, as though, despite the sick kid and the work I’d done to comfort and protect him through the night, I should’ve conjured stamina where none was left so I could rise with the sun and be Diligent and Work Harder and Work Longer and Do More and, therefore, ultimately, Be More.

Which is where we often find ourselves, isn’t it? Inside this pressure cooker, self-imposed and otherwise, to Be More. To Do More so that we ARE More. To quiet the demons of Not Enough

Except.

Except.

Except. 

Except there’s always something left undone. Just always. Always weeds to pull. Always a child who needs more attention. Always something sticky on the couch and gummy in the window sills and dusty under the beds. There are always chores I haven’t attended to. Always dishes to find in the house and in the yard and in the car with lids and solid milk that smells like the week-old dead. Always a dog who needs a bath, and a kid, and me, too. Me, too, needing a bath, but I’m last on the list most days because Work Harder, Work Longer, Do More, Be More.

Yesterday, the list was long. Endless, really, full of Shoulds and Belateds and Not Yets, but the sun was out and I sat down, accidentally, on my front steps. I sat and I rested. I sat, and I watched. While the dog ran roughshod through the yard and the kids ran roughshoddier, I sat and let the sun warm me and painted my nails fire engine red. And you what? I was Enough.

 

Going Around Again

Feb 20 2015

I’ve been Missing In Action around here for days and days (and days and days) because my family’s been ralphing. Puking. Vomiting up their guts. Hurling. Upchucking. Barfing. GAG.

I haven’t joined my family in illness, though, because a) I’ve decided never to get sick again (<— this is, of course, useless but it makes me feel proactive, so whatever), and b) I’ve been hiding out at work (you’re welcome, work friends!). Now, I THOUGHT I was coming down with it on Tuesday what with the overwhelming nausea that attacked that morning, but after I left home and could no longer hear the vociferous rumbling — the cacophonous thundering — of my husband and my teenage son praying to the porcelain god, I felt markedly better. Totally well, in fact, so, in addition to never getting sick again, I’ve also decided never to listen to anyone else do so, either; I have five kids, so that should work out well.

This week has been … a week. Busy and Messy. Like life, where it’s tricky, sometimes, to see the Beauty in the Busy and the Magic in the Mess. Sometimes, we just… can’t. Sometimes we’re just… tired. Sometimes it’s all Busy and Mess and we forget to even keep an eye out for More and Deeper and Brighter and Bigger and Lighter and Freer, you know? Which is why we need each other. To sit in the mud together, yes. To just lay down in the mess and look at the clouds and rest together, yes. But also to point out the Beauty. To whisper, “Psst… I see a little Magic over there.”  And, “I’ll share the Magic I have so you can have some, too.”

That’s what my friend, Kim, did for me this week. My friend, Kim, who lost two family members in the last 6 months. My friend, Kim, who’s grieving the loss of her dad and the loss of her brother-in-law and trying to help her family grieve and remember and love each other well in the process. My friend, Kim, who has every reason to see the Mess right now and miss the Magic and the Mystery and the Magnificent. My friend, Kim, who saw Magic and Mystery and Magnificent anyway and shared them with me.

Kim sent me the message below after being with my eight-year-old kid at church on Ash Wednesday. Kim runs the church programs for our kids and had events planned for them this Wednesday like she does every week. The grown-ups, though, were participating in an Ash Wednesday service — a time for our small church family to prepare for Easter, to pray, to reflect, and to walk the Prayer Labyrinth together. To be clear, I was at a brew pub, drinking vanilla porter with my cousins, so I don’t count as “one of the grown-ups” in the last sentence, but preparation, prayer, reflection, and being together as a community come in different forms, so I’m OK with that. 

It’s just that this story was a gift to me. A gift of Magic and Mystery. A gift of Magnificence. A gift of reflection. And no matter what you think about church (why, hello, HUGE Mess and Profound Magic) or about Faith and Doubt or about Jesus, I think there’s something here for all of us. Something valuable. Something precious. Something familiar. Something deeply essential to the way we live life and See each other and learn to listen to Love.

Enjoy, friends. And know I’m thinking of you and me and us, as we go around again.

With love,

Signature

 

 

 

NorthValleyFriendsLabyrinth1

Going Around Again
by Kim Boyd

He is Eight. He is a fiercely loyal, intelligent, kind Eight and as far as I know has been this way from the beginning. He wonders well with questions that rival the best of them, and he is patient beyond his years in waiting for the answer.

At least, this is what I know of him from being a part of his community. Recently I have had the honor to call him one of my People. He shows up, ready to be present in whatever is happening: play, worship, friendship, waiting.

Tonight the kids were doing their thing and playing in the gym. He found me next to the labyrinth, which was set up indoors for our Ash Wednesday gathered meeting. It was early and preparations for the service were happening around us.

“What is this for?”

“Why is it set up for today?”

“What is Ash Wednesday?”

“What is the ash part of Ash Wednesday?”

“Are we going to do the ash part tonight?”

“Can I do it too?”

Some were easy to answer. We crowd-sourced the room of pastors for the others. With certainty, he asked to skip kid programming for the night and join the adults for the service. “I like singing and quiet, too, so I think I’ll stay here.”

And he did.

I gave him plenty of outs, in case he felt trapped. He confidently answered, “No, I want to stay here” to each offer. There was singing and facilitated words, then the room quieted to give folks space to center and arrive to the queries. Those who wanted to took off their shoes to walk the labyrinth.

His shoes were already off. He was ready.

With confidence he joined the other travelers while they each walked their personal journey to the center, together. Some were many in years, one with a new babe, professionals, singles, tall, short, all in a messy mass going around the maze in prayerful contemplation.

Let me tell you how he walked.

He walked with certainty. He walked with kindness. He walked alongside.

He stepped out of the way. He bowed when others passed. He came up right behind and matched the steps of the one in front of him.

He made it to the center and paused, but not long, and then gracefully journeyed back out again and sat next to me.

I admit my face was wet with weeping. I want to walk like him, with certainty and kindness and alongside.

I want to bravely get so close to the one just ahead of me on the journey and watch their steps and copy them exactly. I want to be watching out for the ones heading the other direction and bow as I step aside to let them pass. I want to be confident in the process, in my steps and in those traveling alongside me.

The gift of his journey was not over, though. Just moments after he sat down, he got up and walked right over to begin it all over again.

He didn’t know that We Don’t Do That. We don’t start over a journey we already finished. We don’t do a worship exercise a second time. We don’t for all the reasons years and experience have taught us we don’t. It’s just that he didn’t know all that.

The music was still playing. Adults were still on the path. His shoes were still off. So he started again, and he walked with the same certainty, kindness, bowing, and matching.

But this time, there was more. In his barefoot steps there was a dance.

It was a subtle, non-distracting, reverent dance and the joy in the step could not be missed. He twirled a turn on a toe. He skipped this step, and then that step. His second journey around the crowded, messy maze was a dance.

I know that I am not ready yet, but someday, I want to walk the way this Eight walked: strong, kind, dancing.

NorthValleyFriendsLabyrinth1Photo Credit: Darryl Brown

In Defense of Teenagers Who Are Entitled and Not Entitled and Wild and Weird and Wonderful… As Though They’re Humans, Too

Feb 11 2015

Hey. Fun game! Want to know what makes people angry? Like, really angry? Like, Send A Stranger Multiple Messages To Tell Her How Much She Sucks kind of angry?

Posting a car on Craigslist and telling the truth about why you’re selling it. 

Letting the Real You hang out, without a lengthy explanation, on the Internets.

Letting folks know you’re Not Perfect and Finding Your Own Imperfections Amusing in a public forum.

Works like a charm! Makes people CRAZY. 

True story.

Four days ago, I put an ad on Craigslist. I’ve posted it below because, even though it doesn’t violate Craigslist’s Terms of Use, the Angry People flagged it until it triggered an automatic removal. (See? Told you this was fun!) 

You can just skip the boring parts of the ad and move down to the loooonnnggg paragraph in which I tell you {SPOILER} I’m everything that’s wrong with parents these days.

2006 Nissan Sentra
Manual 5-speed Transmission
79,000 miles
Silver – really more of a warm silver – very light bronze, maybe? But Craigslist doesn’t give that as an option, so “silver” it is.
4-Door Sedan
4-Cyl, 1.8 ltr Engine
FWD
Air-Conditioning
AM/FM Radio and CD Player
Dual Front Airbags
Cloth Interior
Manual Windows
Manual Locks
32 MPG on the highway / 24 MPG city

What’s wrong with it? It has a small dent in the front bumper (see photo), a small dent in the driver’s side passenger door (see photo), a squeaky idler pulley, and it’s missing 2 hubcaps. We plan to get these things fixed and repost on Craigslist at a higher price, but we thought someone might want it “as is” for cheaper. We would! We do less work + you get a car for cheaper = win/win as far as we can tell.

Why are we selling it? We bought this car this summer from the previous, long-time owner. It’s been as advertised – great commuter car, reliable, low miles, blah, blah, blah. But we bought it for our 16-year-old teenage daughter without asking her first. DON’T DO THAT, parents. Unless, you know, you’re actually prepared to put the kibosh on the complaining factor; and, by “put the kibosh on the complaining factor,” I mean more than saying, over and over (and over and over), “Seriously? SERIOUSLY. We bought you A CAR. Or we bought US a car you’re allowed to use because – hahahaha! we’re SO not buying you a car to keep — but STILL, Child; BE GRATEFUL for A CAR you get to USE,” because we’ve tried that technique, and, frankly, it’s useless. Just… totally useless. As much as we’ve tried to deny it, current evidence suggests we’re those new-fangled, permissive parents who raise entitled children; we are, after all, selling this car because our daughter doesn’t like it. She doesn’t like that it’s silver. She doesn’t like that it’s a manual (too bad, kid – guess what we’re getting you next? ANOTHER MANUAL because LIFE SKILLS, baby girl). She doesn’t like that it doesn’t have power windows and locks. In other words, she never would’ve survived the 90′s. Never, ever. Look; I’m not proud of us, either, selling a perfectly good car to buy something our kid will like better, but it’s the truth. Plus, her friend just got in a car accident in a Volvo – a bad accident with flipping and flying and all those things you do NOT want to be in a car while it’s doing – and survived, so our daughter began a campaign for a car with more metal, even though the Nissan has a good safety rating, and it worked. Wearing us down with whining + having one, actual, legitimate point that capitalizes on unreasonable, illogical parental fear? <<< She’s not entirely without Life Skills, after all.

In other words… pffffttttttt. Anyone want to buy a perfectly good car?

You can pray for us,
Beth

P.S. My husband just read this and wants you to know *I’m* the permissive parent and he is certainly not. If it was up to him, she’d have this car forever and damn the complaining. That’s true. Fine. Whatever. 

That’s the ad.

It was intended to tell the truth — the whole truth — about the car and why we’re selling it since, it’s, you know, a Car Ad. In the ad, I chose to simultaneously poke fun at myself as a parent. Gentle fun. Silly fun. Tongue-in-cheek fun. 

IMG_2475Lots of people did NOT find it funny, though, judging by the myriad messages I’ve received decrying the state of parenting in this world, lamenting entitled teenagers, and denouncing today’s youth, so I’m taking this opportunity to say, publicly, the ad was not intended to tell the whole truth about my daughter or the whole truth about my parenting or the whole truth about our youth today, because, see, it’s not a Daughter Ad or a Parenting Ad or a Teenagers Are Awful Ad.

In addition to the delightful text I received pictured to the right, among others like it, I have an inbox full of emails from people with similar messages including choice tidbits like, 

I just saw your add [sic] and would like to say as Christians, we will NOT be praying for you as it is your own fault…teach your bratty spoiled rotten child a lesson!!

and 

How long will her marriage last if she manipulates like this?
How will she keep a real job?

Which, WHOA. You know? Those are Soooome Messages, like Wilbur was Soooome Pig; those are Something Else, man. Just… Something. 

Now, are my feelings hurt by these messages? Yep. Sure. You betcha.

There is, after all, nothing I want to get right more than parenting. Nothing. Bar none. If I had to choose Just One Thing to Get Right in this life it would be Parent Well, which means there’s no faster way to cut to my heart than to tell me I’m screwing it up; no place my skin is thinner.

There’s also nothing I’m more certain I’m doing wrong than parenting. I do something wrong every day. Every hour. Every minute. Every breath. And no matter how well adjusted I am — no matter how enlightened I become or how much therapy I have or how many times I say shush and forgive yourself – I will always be certain I could’ve, should’ve, done more as a mom. It’s the nature of momming, I think.

As much as I mess up, though, I’m also ROCKING it, and that’s closer to the Whole Truth about my parenting. Because I’m not either Awful OR Awesome, as though I have to pick just one box to check; I’m both Awful AND Awesome. Both/And, friends. I’m sucking it up AND I’m fantastic at this parenting gig. I’m a screw-up AND I’m a deeply engaged mama with a laser focus on raising complex humans with complex needs and complex abilities in a complex world.

I have a feeling that’s not unusual for parents. To be both Awful and Awesome. I have a feeling I’m not alone in this territory. 

And, speaking of Both/And, in case you’re curious what I’m teaching my daughter about entitlement, here it is, Both/And Style, in two parts: 

  1. Sometimes in life, we have to live with things we don’t like. Like the fact that you’re the only kid in this house without a bedroom and you’re stuck sleeping in the reconfigured den. Sorry, Kid. That’s the way it is. I know you want one of the bedrooms with luxuries like a closet and a door that locks and some privacy from the living room where you siblings are up early EVERY MORNING being LOUD, but we can’t do that right now. There are a limited number of rooms in this house — five kids is a lot of kids, girlfriend, and we’ve got ‘em doubled up — and even though it’s not your fault you’re one of five, you’re the one who’s stuck with the den.
    AND…
  2. Sometimes in life, we get to fix things we don’t like. Like that car you hate. It’s a perfectly good car. It’s completely silly to trade it out. But it’s an easy fix. It’s something I can do for you, so I will. Because you know what? What you want always matters to me. Even though I can’t and won’t fix everything for you, what you want always matters, and sometimes I get to demonstrate that.

It’s Both/And, friends. In the Adult World and I hope — I hope – in the world of our kids, too. Both, “Too Bad, Kid — Sometimes We Gotta Live With What We Don’t Like,” and also, “I’m ALWAYS Here, On Your Team, And We Can Work Together To Change Things.” Both “I Won’t Fix Everything for You,” and also, “Sometimes, When I Can, I Will Be Extravagantly Kind.” 

Does my daughter act like she’s entitled? Yeah, sometimes she does. You know what? So do most people I know. Including me. Including the people who felt entitled to send unkind messages to a stranger. {{shrugs}} 

My daughter, though, also acts the opposite of entitled. She shares her parents’ time with four other siblings, two of whom have special needs and require a great deal of our time and attention. At sixteen, my daughter successfully attends two different high schools (one of the reasons we have a car for her to use) and manages all of her own scheduling, responsibly getting herself to and from both schools, her jobs, her extracurriculars, shopping for her own needs, and often runs siblings to and from their appointments, as well.

My daughter is, frankly, a rock star who manages far more than most sixteen year olds I know, and she does it gracefully, responsibly, and proactively. AND she occasionally whines about things like hating the car we’ve bought for her to use. 

Now, I want to be really clear about one other thing, given the fact that, in the
Car Ad, I apparently caused confusion about Who My Daughter Is and Who Teenagers Are in general. Without intending to (thinking, as I did, that I was writing a message mocking myself), I provided an anecdote for those who subscribe to the Teenagers Are Horrible and Selfish and Entitled and the Future of Humanity Is Ruined and Let’s All Wring Our Hands and Gnash Our Teeth and Rend Our Garments mantra. 

To set the record straight, teenagers are AWESOME. And awful. But mostly AWESOME. 

Teenagers are WONDERFUL and wild and weird, especially the ones who, like the rest of us, are made out of human.  

Teenagers are complex and creative. Fun and funny. Exuberant and exhilarating. Irritating and irrational. Logical and loving. And deeply worthy of our love and respect. 

Like all of us.

Even me. 

Even you.

Except not the Angry People, because they suck.

Except probably them, too, which is the worst

Pfftttt.

The End

P.S. Someone give me extra points for not posting that guy’s phone number. K? Points? Someone? ‘Cause extra jewels in my heavenly crown aren’t going to do it for me on this one. I NEED CREDIT, friends. 

 

A Dog Named Bullsh*t

Feb 8 2015

Once upon a time, my daughter was two.

Now that she’s 16, she looks like this:

photo 1 (69)

But when she was 2, she looked like this:

standing grin

 

And when she looked like that, with chubby cheeks and overalls, wispy hair and a funny run, she couldn’t talk.

I mean, she tried to talk, and she had all the usual words like “mama” and “birdie,” “look” and “MINE,” but she had a hard time with bigger words. 

Some kids talk and talk and talk and talk. From the womb, nearly, they put together complex sentences and until age 15, when they stop communicating in anything other than histrionics, they bless their parents with a running commentary on All of Life. The world. The weather. Their wants. Their will. The wild. The weird. The wonder. These are the people who, well, don’t quit until they become bloggers and impose their thoughts on others.

Then there are kids like Abby who are slower to speak. Quieter and, OK, calmer, Abby didn’t seem to have a huge need to use words. When she wanted food, she toddled to the refrigerator. When she wanted me to read a book, she brought me one. When she was frustrated with the other kids in the Sunday School nursery, she lifted the heaviest thing she could find and clocked the other kids over the head with it — THUD! They cried and quit bugging her, and – bonus - her mommy stopped leaving her there. She’s always been a problem solver, that kid.

But there comes a day, sooner or later, in all our lives when words are our only hope to communicate our heart’s desire. And so came such a day with Abby.

She was strapped into her highchair, busy eating Spaghetti-O’s – by which I mean merrily flinging those not already in her hair, down her shirt and glued to her face, onto the floor and to the walls and into the curtains. In other words, it was a veritable tornado of Spaghetti-O’s, and I, parent of one child at the time (psst… one kid is a lot of kids, too!), hadn’t yet learned to ban red sauce from my lunch repertoire. Attempting to distract her from redecorating the house, I said, “Let’s put on a video! You like to watch videos!”

And Abby, bless her heart, clapped her wet hands, spraying sauce in her face, smiled and enthusiastically said, “BULLSHIT!”

Kid you not.

Clear as a bell.

And then she reiterated. “Bullshit, Mama! Bullshit!” Grinning all the way.

Well, obviously she wasn’t saying bullshit. I mean, she was TWO and she wasn’t good with words so even though it was technically within the realm of possibility that I’d said it in front of her, the likelihood of her picking it up was low. 

I set about finding out what she really meant.

“Push it, Abby?” I inquired. “Do you want me to push the video in? Push it?”

“NO, Mama,” she replied. “BULLSHIT.”

Okaaay, then.

“Smoosh it, Abby? Are you smooshing your lunch?”

“NO, Mama. BULLSHIT.” Her smile was faltering a little. Clearly, I wasn’t getting it. She balled her fists and smacked them on her highchair tray. “BULLSHIT, Mama. BULLSHIT.” 

“Punch it, Abby?” I asked. “Are you punching your Spaghetti-O’s?”

“NO, Mama. BULLSHIT,” she cried. 

And I, in desperation and not with a little bit of dread, said, “Are you saying… bullshit, sweetheart?” Thinking, maybe she IS saying bullshit. Maybe I DID teach it to her. UGH.

She burst into tears of frustration, whimpering, “NO, Mama! Bullshit, Mama. Bullshit!

Which… THANK GOD, you know? I’m NOT the mommy who taught her baby girl to say bullshit! PHEW! and HOORAY! and WHAT A RELIEF! I mean, I eventually became the mommy who taught her kids to say, “you have got to be fucking kidding me,” but this was my FIRST TIME AS A MOMMY, guys; I wasn’t ready yet to abandon every standard, and the idea of teaching my baby to swear was GHASTLY. 

So, at a loss for how to continue, I stuck a video in the machine.

Abby calmed down.

I relaxed and chalked it up as one of those things, fairly certain it was a quirk of learning to speak and that was the end of it.

That was not the end of it.

Over the next several weeks, Abby continued to say bullshit, and at the oddest times.

While watching TV.

Before bed.

At the public library. 

And when we were alone, I continued to question her. Trying, trying, trying to figure out what she was saying.

Every time it was the same. 

I’d guess what she meant. She’d cry, “NO, Mama. BULLSHIT!” And eventually we’d both exhaust ourselves, and I’d quit and plug in a video or read a book.

Until the day we went to the mall.

Abby, me, and her stroller.

We went to the mall to kill time. To pine away at the cute Baby Gap clothes we couldn’t afford. To eat at the food court. To wander through the book store. To make it to the car by naptime. The usual distractions with a toddler to entertain.

This time, though, we arrived at the food cart and Abby went rigid in her stroller. All her muscles tensed at once, ’til she was standing on the foot rest and pushing her body back into her chair. Totally still. Totally attentive. Totally focused. Slowly, she raised her arm in front of her, pointed straight ahead, and, like an army commander ready to give the signal to FIRE — to CHARGE THE ENEMY — in the middle of the food cart full of mommies and babies and impressionable children, Abby bellowed, “BULLLLSHIIIIIIIT!”

She turned her head to be sure I was paying attention, then faced forward again with pointer finger aimed true, and yelled, “BULLLLSHIIIIIIIT, MAMA! BULLLLSHIIIIIIIT!” 

I, after weeks and weeks of my baby saying bullshit realized that maybe, just maybe, we might be able to CATCH this bullshit if we hurried. So I, like a properly prepared army cadet, ready to follow my commanding officer into battle and the hell beyond, yelled, “WHERE, ABBY? WHERE IS IT?” and started to drive that stroller like a tank with single-minded determination to PURSUE OUR TARGET wherever my officer led.

We ran through the whole food court. Abby with rapid fire BULLSHITs and me with staccato WHEREs on repeat and at high volume.

“BULLSHIT!”

“WHERE?”

“BULLSHIT!”

“WHERE?”

Until we arrived at our usual bookstore. 

The one flanking the food court.

The one with the big children’s section.

The one with giant cut-outs from beloved children’s books decorating the walls.

The one with Clifford the Big Red Dog smiling and waving at us, which is where we stopped. In front of Clifford, with my daughter pointing to his face, and cheerfully yelling, “BULLSHIT, Mama! See?? BULLSHIT!”

Clifford, honey?” I said.

And she sagged in relief. “Yes, Mama. Yes. Bullshit.”

Which makes no sense at all because Clifford sounds nothing like Bullshit, but it’s what she’d been trying to say all along. 

And that’s why, at our house, we call him Bullshit, the Big, Red Dog.

……….

In Case You’re Sitting in the Dark…

Feb 4 2015

It’s been a day, friends. It’s been a… day. A good day. A long day. A quiet day. A loud one. My babies are all asleep now, and it’s dark outside, after midnight. Deep dark; the kind that beckons me to reflect and to be content and to listen to the silence and also to panic because, GAH! IT’S DARK, and I forget sometimes in the deep dark that dawn is coming.

Here’s a list of the things I’m behind on doing:

1. ALL THE THINGS
2. Everything Else

And it’s dark, so IT’S TIME TO PANIC about All the Things left undone.

That’s OK, though, because I know this finally: I am not alone in the dark. I’m not. And you aren’t, either. We’re here together — we’re behind on All the Things, yes — but we are here, in this Murky Life, waiting for the dawn together, which looks a lot like Love.

We’re waiting for the dawn together, momrades (and dad-rads, and human-rads). We’re waiting for the dawn together, and we irrationally believe it’s coming just because it always does.

Many of us, anyway. Many of us stubbornly believe dawn is coming. Just around the corner. Breaking on the horizon. Good things on the way. Aslan on the move.

Let’s be honest, though; there are people waiting in the dark with us who’ve given up on the Light. Who’ve given up on dawn’s arrival. They are sitting in the dark with us, and they have given up. They are tired. They are spent. They have kept the vigil, waiting for the dawn and for Love to Win, and both are taking way too long.

These are the mamas and the dads who are up long nights with the babies who never sleep.

They’re the parents who’ve worked and worked (and worked and worked) to make a better life for their kids and got laid off anyway.

They’re the friend who fought cancer and beat the SNOT out of it and just found out it’s back.

The sister who lost her brother to that horrible accident.

The one who loved and lost and is pretty sure it’s better not to have loved at all, no matter what they say. 

The ones who’ve been hurt.

The ones who’ve been wrecked.

The ones who feel alone or afraid or unsure of their welcome.

The ones who know the Deep Dark.  

And I don’t mean to tell you how to feel about all these people sitting near us in the dark, mucking up our cheerful wait-in-the-darkness vibe and putting a real downer on our ridiculous, resilient hope, but here’s how we feel about the people who’ve lost faith that dawn is coming: we love them, friends.

We love them.

We sit in the dark next to them, and we listen, and we love, and we keep doing those things even after we realize none of those things – not one – can force our friends into a blissful state of optimistic expectation or anticipatory hope.

I know what you’re thinking if you have small control issues like me; WHAT’S THE POINT OF ALL THE SITTING and LISTENING and LOVING IF WE CAN’T FORCE CHANGE? I mean, LET’S MAKE THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE, ALREADY. CHINS UP, EVERYONE. And I feel your pain here; I do.

But the truth is, we sit and listen and love them because there are times in all our lives when we just can’t stand Stupid Hope anymore. We can’t stand to wait for the dawn. We can’t stand to believe Love and Light are on the way

I don’t have a cute ending here or a neat way to wrap this up. I’m just sitting here in the dark tonight with the rest of you, waiting on the dawn. But I guess I want you to know, if you’re in the Deep Dark right now, and you’re tired of waiting on Hope — it’s OK. It’s OK. It’s OK and you’re OK. It’s OK to lay down for a minute. It’s OK to rest here. We can keep vigil for you for a while. We can take the next watch. 

And know this: whether or not you believe the Light is coming, you have friends here in the dark.

Waving in the Dark to You… and reaching out a hand to hold,

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P.S. The dawn is coming.

 

The Day I Pooped My Closet

Jan 30 2015

 

Dear the Internets,

This is a true story.

This is my true story.

I lay down my dignity for you, because I love you very much.

Sincerely,
Beth

 

Once upon a time, I pooped my closet. 

I was pregnant.

With twins.

Approximately 100 years pregnant with twins, judging by my size, but really only 7 months or so, which made me roughly larger than a semi-truck and smaller than the Empire State building. Big, in other words, especially since I started the pregnancy “fluffy” according to a nurse who was kind and wonderful and didn’t call me chubby to my face for which I will always love her something fierce.

Fluffy to begin, I was, and then I got, well, fluffier. Growing two babies does a number on the body, and mine popped out in all sorts of delightful places not limited to my belly. No; I’m pretty sure my hind end, my thighs and my breasts were growing sympathetically in proportion to my middle, good girlfriends that they were, not wanting my belly to feel alone in all the fluff. 

Now I didn’t spend much time feeling badly about my weight because I’d lost 3 babies to miscarriage years ago, and now my body was making two of them, so HOT DAMN, Fluffy Body; you ROCK, you know?

Still, every time my mama walked into my house, she’d catch sight of my largess and her eyes would pop and her face would pale and she’d say, “Honey, you’re as big as a barn” and “You know you’re going to have those babies early, right? Because YOU CANNOT GET ANY BIGGER, Child; THERE’S NO WHERE ELSE FOR THOSE BABIES TO GO except OUT OF YOU” which I think was her prayer or an exorcism of sorts: IN JESUS’ PRECIOUS NAME, I COMMAND YOU TO GET OUT, Babies! 

So I was big, is what I’m saying. Or Enormous if one wants the technical, scientific description. And that meant it was hard to move, particularly if I was sitting or laying down or anything other than already in motion per Newton’s First Law of Motion which I’m sure he discovered whilst watching someone pregnant.

And I was tired all the time because a) growing two babies is hard work, man, and b) lugging the three of us around was tantamount to getting a cruise liner in and out of port; slow, tedious, a real nail-biter in close quarters.

On the day of the incident, I laid myself down in bed and took a nap. A nap! Which, in case you don’t have kids, I’ll tell you is a miracle both in scope and in frequency because naps are precious and rare, friends. If I ever get to nominate anything for sainthood — anything to sit at the right hand of God the Father in Glorious Heaven — it will be naps. People will be like, What about Mother Teresa who selflessly cared for the destitute and dying? And I will be all, MOVE OVER, TERESA because NAPS. 

So I was taking a nap in my nightie sans panties because I could no longer figure out how to lasso those things around my ankles much less wrestle them all the way up my legs, but I was awakened by an urge to go potty. I ignored it, of course, because NAP and exhaustion and the impractical nature of moving the ship out of port, and I fell back asleep, only to be awakened again and again.

Le sigh.

The age old decision of Go Potty vs. Stay in Bed compounded by Pregnancy. It’s a doozy, I tell you, but I finally decided to wrestle myself from the bed and make the trek through our master closet to the en suite bathroom and relieve myself.

Only, on the way, I farted.

Except it wasn’t just an air poopy like I thought.

It was a poopy poopy.

Followed by another poopy poopy.

Followed by another poopy poopy.

Poopies in rapid succession making good their escape and rushing to freedom. 

And, as I was sans panties, each soft poopy slid to the closet floor with little puh-looping sounds and sat there like brownie batter, soaking into the carpet. 

I, of course, was no longer in the proper physical condition to get my carcass down on the floor to clean it up, but I was also full of abject humiliation and paralyzed at the thought of a) telling my husband I’d just pooped our closet, and b) asking him to clean it. 

So I did what anyone in my situation would do: I stood in a sea of poopies and cried.

And cried.

And cried.

Which is where Greg found me. In my nightie. Standing in a field of daisies minus the daisies and plus my feces. Sobbing.

He tried to bundle me off to bed so he could scrub the carpet, but I wasn’t then and am not now a woman who appreciates being bundled, so, through my hiccuppy sobs, I asked the man to lower me to the closet floor, bring me a scrub brush and carpet cleaner and let me clean up my own mess in privacy. Complete privacy please, I begged, “You go AWAY, Greg. Go FAR, FAR AWAY and try to FORGET THIS EVER HAPPENED. I know we vowed for better or worse, in sickness and health, but THAT WAS A CROCK, MAN. I meant for better or worse FINANCIALLY, and in sickness and health WITH NURSES TO CLEAN OUR BOTTOMS. I did not agree to THIS. To Poop Fest 2006. So I need you to go AWAY and breathe peppermint and imagine me back when I wasn’t a closet pooper. PLEASE, man; I BEG YOU. GO AWAY.” 

And so he did. He brought me supplies. He lowered me to the floor. He went away. 

But I should’ve agreed to the bundling, because I spent the next half hour sitting crisscross in the closet trying to reach past my babies to scrub the carpet, and you guys… you guys… every time I shifted, I touched poop. To the left, my knee hit poop. To the right, my thigh nudged poop. Like St. Patrick’s prayer, except instead of Christ behind me, before me, beneath me, above me, to my left and to my right, where I sit and where I lie, it was POOP. I mean, Jesus was there, too, but mostly POOP.

Due to belly size, I didn’t have the leverage to clean. So instead of cleaning, I smeared. And when I freaked out that I was smearing – I am smearing poop in my closet. OH MY WORD. I AM SMEARING POOP IN MY CLOSET. – I smeared some more. OCD poop cleaning, except without any actual ability to clean. Obsessive compulsive poop smearing. I’m pretty sure that’s a diagnosable psychiatric condition. 

Well, eventually, I quit. Wisdom is the better part of valor, after all, and although I admittedly like to exhaust valor before I let wisdom through the door, I could admit I’d tried and was defeated and needed Greg to finish.

I went to get him. 

I mean, I tried to go get him, but that’s when I discovered my legs were asleep after being trapped under the belly all that time. 

I pulled on the dead weight of my legs to get them out from under me, sticking them straight out from my belly — and into the wasteland — to revive them, but no feeling came back. Minutes and minutes of leaving my legs in poop and just no feeling at all because they were still beneath my belly, even sticking out, and the belly was still good at cutting off blood. 

So I laid down.

In the closet.

In smeared poop. 

And Greg came back a half hour later to find me there, with poop on my hands and poop on my legs, lying in the poop I’d smushed into the carpet. 

In conclusion, I once pooped the closet.

And also, being married to me is THE BEST. 

So listen, friend. You might be having a down day. You might be going through a rough patch. You might wonder if you’re the only one sitting in a giant, figurative pile of poo. But I am here to tell you, if you are not sitting in a giant, literal pile of poo, you’re doing better than you know. Better than you know, friends, and better than me that day. 

Sending love to you,

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I Want to Be Free and a Half

Jan 26 2015

IMG_2294This is Oliver.

 

IIMG_2293 met him in Australia last week, and I’ve decided to be him when I grow up.

 

IMG_2415Oliver is three and a half, and he’s got some things figured out I haven’t yet.

 

Yes, Oliver is three and a half, except Oliver can’t say the “th” sound yet, so Oliver says he’s “free and a half.”

 

Free and a half.

 

IMG_2416And he says it like he means it.

 

IMG_2292FREE AND A HALF!

 

I think that’s more truthful anyway than a mere recitation of his age, because I watched Oliver eat an ice cream cone, and he knows there’s magic to be found in the mess and to dive headfirst into the sweet even though it’s sticky there.

 

I’d even be willing to bet Oliver likes the sweet more because it’s sticky there, which is a level of freedom I’ve rarely obtained, grumping as I do about about the muck and the mess and wishing for a life that’s more clean than cluttered, more joyful than jumbled — more pristine and perfect and orderly and organized than the life I have.

 

I’ve heard a lot about freedom in my 40 years and I’ve tried to listen to the rules so I can live a life without chains, but it turns out I know more about what it is to feel stuck. Stuck in the darkness. Stuck in my brain. Stuck in my faith. Stuck, well, rather loathing myself

 

But in recent years, I’m learning to look for the lights that lead the way to freedom. To abandon the isolation of the Shoulds and the Oughts in favor of the community of Wild Grace and Messy Mamaraderie. To tell you the truth of who I am in the hope you will tell me, too. And to discover that Love really does set us free.

 

I’m learning to look for the joy in the madness, but not rule out the madness as joy.

 

I’m learning to look for the sweet in the sticky, but rejoice in the sticky, too. 

 

I’m learning to find the magic in the mess. Because it turns out the life I have is sticky and sweet, magical and mundane, steady and unstable, and more chaotic and crazy and fabulous than I ever planned. I have a funny feeling that’s the path to freedom.

 

And to finding our way to Free and a Half.

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