At the End of Thanksgiving Weekend, This Is for You…

Nov 30 2013

It’s the end of Thanksgiving weekend, and I don’t know about you but I’m sad it’s over because this holiday is one of my very favorites, and also WHEW; we made it! Hooray!

So this is for the moms who made the menus, and prepared the pies, and stood at the stoves, and stirred the sauces, and remembered the rolls, and greeted the guests, and welcomed the weirdos, and relaxed the routines, and laid down the law, and hugged the hooligans, and looked less than lovely, and stayed in their slippers, and never did rest.

And this is for the dads who guarded the grills, and carved the carcasses, and stood at the sinks, and did the dishes, and mopped up the messes, and tackled the teens, and bounced the babies, and never did rest.

This is for the grandparents who championed the children, and savored their stories, and sipped the Scotch, and loved the littles, and bolstered the bigs, and sat on the sofas, and, still, never did rest.

This is for the people who traveled with tots, and drove the distance, and slept in strange beds, and did things differently, all for family, and never did rest.

This is for the kids who shared their spaces, and took turns with their toys, and were kind to their cousins, and freaked the freak out, and threw the twelve tantrums, and came back around, and tried again, and never did rest.

This is for those who wished for wonder, and longed for less lonely, and hoped for more happy, and lived with less, and never did rest.

This is for all of us humans and heroes, wonderful weirdos, and messy magicians, and this is for Love, which never does rest.

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I Spy: A Thanksgiving Game (UPDATED With Drawing Winners)

Nov 27 2013

Happy Thanksgiving Eve, friends. And if you’re not from the U.S., Happy Thanksgiving Eve, anyway; I promise to eat extra helpings of all my favorite foods for you over the next few days. It’s part of the international service we like provide here at the 5 Kids blog. You’re welcome.

Late last night, Greg moved our couch to make room for the long Thanksgiving table. 

This is what we found:

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Yes, we did.

Please note that this pie is in my oven right now, though:

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Which makes us All the Things. Both/And, friends; BOTH living in couch filth and squalor AND making rustic chic pies. 

When I posted this on Facebook this morning, to share our Happy Schadenfreude moment with you all, 

photo 3 (5)

…Shauna Wagner, a friend of this blog, commented that it looks like an I Spy game. 

BRILLIANT, Shauna!

So now that’s what it is.

Welcome to
I Spy: A Thanksgiving Game

I’m going to share 2 pictures of the stunning mess that was under our couch, and you’re invited to identify one thing by making an I Spy comment in the comment section below, like this, “I Spy a pink M&M, left over from last Easter, perhaps?” Or, “I Spy a tiny, brown, wrinkled, petrified Satsuma orange. Since those only come out at Christmas time, I can only guess when that rolled under the couch.”

From any comments that correctly identify something in the Pile of Awesomeness, I will randomly draw 5 winners to receive an original, printed-on-our-only-works-sometimes-printer postcard of something else in our house with a note thanking you for being part of our weird, wonky, wonderful community. The postcard could be pretty. It could be gross. It’s anyone’s guess, really.

Entries for the drawing can be submitted until 10:00 p.m., Wednesday, November 27th, Pacific Standard Time. So, you know, today. Comments, as always, welcome anytime.

OK, then. Ready?

Here we go.

photo 1 (5) photo 2 (5)

What do you spy? 

You know, besides a mama who’s lost her ever-loving mind.

UPDATE!

Thanks to all of you who played I Spy. Your answers were AWESOME, and I feel like I’m in very, very good company now. Still laughing at how well you GET IT. I drew winners for the postcards using a random number generator, and I included all of you who entered after the deadline, because I’m a rule-breaker and it gets worse the older I get. Rules Schmules. Here are our 5 drawing winners:

Micki
Lori Ricard
Katrina Collins

Almira
Stacie

Congrats!

Send your address to me at FiveKidsIsALotOfKids@gmail.com and I’ll pop those in the mail! They might include a picture of my bathroom mirror which has a note in lipstick from my daughter that reads “Happy Mother’s Day!” Yep – from last May. ‘Cause cleaning bathroom mirrors is a bottom-of-list task around here. With, um, a lot of other tasks.

Happy Thanksgiving!

……….

P.S. It’s OK if you needed to dry-heave a little after seeing those pics. Me, too.

P.P.S. No need to put your address in the comments section. I’ll email winners and you can send me your address privately. Also, this is totally open to international participants. Play on!

 

 

Welcome to Our New Home!

Nov 26 2013

Welcome to our new home, friends! Our new website. Our new place to throw ourselves on the couch in our comfy jammy pants and old, ugly t-shirts and big, puffy socks and put our feet on the furniture because we’re home

I’m so glad you’re here.

So, SO glad.

Because we’re together and the move is OVER. Or mostly done, minus All the Unpacking and the Things I Forgot and the Things That Are Lost and the Myriad Details Left to Do, but nevermind that for now.

This is the housewarming party. Except not the kind with invitations or matching glassware or nicely folded, embroidered hand towels by the bathroom sink.

Nope. This is the real housewarming party; the impromptu one that happens right after the very last box has been moved into the house and the rental truck is on its way back to the yard and your very best, battered friends have collapsed in heaps of grit and grime on the floor and on the boxes and on your grandmother’s antique buffet table because that’s what available, and someone says, “let’s order pizza!” And someone else says, “The beer’s in the cooler in my car.” And the children run around like squirrels, stopping and starting unpredictably, shivering with excitement and nerves, rushing to shove things in corners and closets and store their treasures before winter, while the grown-ups do whatever they can to stay as still as possible after the frenzy of the last few days.

This is that party, the one where I can confess I thought we might not get it done. And where I tell you I am SO PROUD OF MYSELF for keeping my crap together the ENTIRE TIME we were pulling late nights and getting little sleep, except for last night when I didn’t keep my crap together at all, but whatever. It’s all part of it. The crap-keeping and the crap-losing. And now we can sit around on the clean-for-now kitchen floor and laugh about our mess and our humanity which are, as always, the best and funniest parts of the story.

You might be wondering, though, what does this move mean for you? What do you have to do? On the surface, the answer is nothing. Of course, you’ll notice we’re at a whole new address — www.BethWoolsey.com — picked for streamlining and the hope that a book may someday be a reality. But if you forget and show up at the old place, we’ll redirect you here, so no worries, friends; we’re watching out for you. And if you’re signed up to get the emails or the RSS feed, you’ll still get them, the same as before. We think. We hope. If we’ve done our job the way we think we have. If we haven’t, or something is out of place or not quite right, I do hope you’ll let us know so we can fix it for you. 

Underneath the surface, though, I will ask for your help. Just for a bit of hand holding. Because even though I know this place is bigger and prettier and has more room for us all, I’m going to miss our old place with its grubby exterior and homemade design and amazing memories and muddy footprints and urinal cakes and those of you who met me at the door as stranger, but took a risk and came inside and sat with me in the magic and the mess, where we became friends. 

We’ll make new magic and new messes together, I’m sure of it. Until then, I’ve brought all our old things along — every post and comment — and you’re invited to make yourself at home.

Open the cupboards, get yourself a drink, pull up a chair, and stay a while.

Welcome home.

Signature

 

 

 

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And Now for the House Tour!

I hope we’ve made some things easier to find.

On Your Left, you’ll see our social media and subscription buttons under the photo, followed by lists of some of our favorite blog posts categorized for easy browsing.

Along the Top, all of the pages — About Us, Advertising, and Frequently Asked Questions — have been updated or have brand new content.

On Your Right, friends of this blog are advertising their writing, businesses, homemade goods, and services. 

And just in case you, like me, are ever curious about how things work behind the scenes — who’s putting together these sites, what vendors are they using, and how do they make it work? — we’ve assembled a list of people who are rad. (Psst… none of these people are paying or compensating us for saying nice things. They don’t even know we’re saying them.)

People Who Are Rad

Nathan Rhoads is the owner and artist behind Studio 513, specializing in graphic design and contemporary art. From step one, Nathan was easy to work with, listened well, valued my time, stayed within budget, and delivered beyond my hopes. Greg adds, “Digital designs and original files built with the web in mind, that scale from full-page for printing to browser tab icons, are not easy.  I know from long experience. Studio 513 delivered excellent quality, creative designs, and most importantly to me, files I didn’t have to rework to fit into our site. I just resized them and combined the pieces as needed, no fine tuning required.” Thank you, Nathan!

Aaron Blew is the owner of Blew Tech and, we are thrilled to announce, our new site host. Unlike our previous fiasco with a big box hosting site, Aaron offers only one level of support – Level AWESOME. Competitively priced and over-the-top service. On a weekend. Before a holiday. While he put a toddler down for a nap. Mad skills! And a big thank you to Jen Blew, Aaron’s wife and 5 Kids blog reader, who contacted me during that big box fiasco to let us know Aaron could help. She was exactly right.

Joel Bock is the owner of Joel Bock Photography. Thank you, Joel, for making headshots Not Awful, for taking pictures of me standing in chicken poo and for wiping mud all over my face. You’re one of my favorites.

Jean-Sebastien Morisset wrote the NextGEN Facebook Open Graph+ Wordpress plugin which helps blogs interface with Facebook. Greg writes, “I contacted Jean-Sebastien over the weekend, wondering if he might consider adding a feature to his plugin. He responded hours later, added the feature to the free version, and wrote custom code for us to use it, including documentation. Of course, we then bought the Pro version because that’s how the Internet works in Geek Nirvana – you find a problem “interesting,” solve it, and people pay you out of appreciation. Saved me a week of late nights, and made me Beth’s hero. Everyone’s a winner!”

Greg would also like to thank Coke Zero: “I don’t do coffee. That sound you just heard? That was the entire Pacific Northwest gasping as they prepare to disown me. My caffeine delivery method of choice is cold and carbonated. Without it, I would not have made it through the weekend (or Monday).”  

And I would like to thank Greg Woolsey who spends a truly ridiculous amount of time solving all of my technological crises and without whom I would not have made it through the weekend. Or Monday. Or this very strange and wonderful life. 

……….

 

Easy Peasy One-Pan Sausage Cashew Stuffing

Nov 21 2013

Turkey Day for us Yanks is one week away, and counting. For some of you, that means fine-tuning your menu, grabbing a few last-minute items at grocery store, and spending the weekend blissfully rolling pie crusts on your immaculate marble slabs (they keep the butter colder, I hear) while your children decorate the house with all the leaves you so diligently gathered and pressed in October when they were at the peak of their fall colors and not, you know, rotting brown goo like the leaves in my gutter. All of you who are living that dream, please say so; I mean it very sincerely when I say I want to live vicariously through you, because there’s no way my weekend’s gonna go down like that.

Instead, I sat down last night and wrote an email to my family, fine-tuning (read: correcting) the menu my cousin sent us last week. It’s not that Leslie didn’t mean well. She was thoughtful and organized, helpful and funny, and she remembered almost everything. But she’s – and I know those of you with families can probably identify with family members like this – broken.

Is that harsh?

I don’t mean it that way.

It’s just I think sometimes we need to be willing to speak out about what’s OK and what’s Not OK so certain behaviors don’t perpetuate themselves and so we don’t silently condone things that Aren’t Right.

Things like not including any desserts in the Thanksgiving menu, Leslie.

Seriously.

I’ll let that sink in for a moment.

She didn’t include any desserts in the Thanksgiving menu.

None.

Zero.

Zilch.

She didn’t even think about desserts.

Because she doesn’t like desserts, and so desserts don’t occur to her.

Ever.

And, even though Leslie is one of my very best friends, I think it’s time to publicly acknowledge that there are limits to our friendship and there always will be until she can overcome this blind spot.

Also, she didn’t assign anyone to be in charge of beer.

🙁

I know. It makes me sad, too.

So thank goodness I corrected the menu, right?? I put myself in charge of beer, so please don’t worry about our Thanksgiving; we’re going to be fine. And then I assigned Cake and Pies and Fudge to family members. And then Extra Fudge to my mom who wrote me back suggesting she also bring Extra Extra Fudge, because she’s worried we won’t have enough after she’s done “straightening all the edges” in the pan.

So here we sit, with Turkey Day almost upon us, and I plan to spend the weekend scrambling and scrubbing and buying and baking and getting only 63% of All That Must Be Done done. And that’s OK. That’s fine. That’s part of it. Because it turns out that when I’ve stopped and when I’ve sighed and when I’ve succumbed to my humanity, grace will come and fill the other 37%, and that’s when giving thanks, the kind that comes from the heart, will truly begin.

But just in case you, like me, are trying to cram Too Much AWESOME into Too Little Time, I thought I would offer you another Easy Peasy recipe, like our Easy Peasy Homemade Cinnamon Rolls and our Two Ingredient Fudge, which offer ALL of the deliciousness and cut the work time in half. Or quarters. Or eighths when we’re really lucky.

Today’s recipe is:

photo 1 (3)

Easy Peasy One-Pan Sausage Cashew Stuffing
Or Sausage Cashew Dressing since we’re not stuffing it anywhere.
Although you certainly may stuff it anywhere you like.

Alrighty then.

Sausage Cashew Stuffing!

I love this recipe because it’s delicious, EASY, doesn’t dirty more than 1 pan, and it requires a maximum 20 minutes of hands-on time + another 20 minutes in the oven. For me, that equals a Thanksgiving WIN, bigtime.

Here’s what you need:

photo 1

  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 teaspoon each of thyme, sage and garlic salt
  • 1 pound breakfast sausage (make sure it’s spiced as breakfast sausage… I know this seems weird, but I’m telling you, it’s a major reason this recipe works)
  • 1 small loaf of bread, cut in 1-inch chunks, or a baguette cut in rounds, which my grocery store calls “party bread” ’cause WOOHOO! PARTY BREAD!
  • 1/2 cup roasted, salted cashews
  • 2/3 cup broth

And here’s what you do:

Step One: Preheat your oven to 375F.

Step Two: Pan fry veggies, spices and sausage.

photo 4In a pan that’s safe for stove-top and oven, add 1 Tablespoon olive oil, diced onion and celery, all spices and breakfast sausage. Cook over medium-high heat on the stove-top until the sausage is cooked through and the ingredients are starting to brown.

Preferably, like all my recipes, you will do this in an ugly nightshirt, or, alternatively, with skinny jeans that are entirely too skinny which you found on your bathroom floor and threw on for “just a minute” in the morning underneath your nightie so you might be more appropriately clothed to run downstairs and tell the wild banshees God gave you for children to STOP SCREECHING LIKE THAT and OH MY WORD and SERIOUSLY, YOU GUYS? and then, as always, ended up wearing the rest of the day. Hypothetically speaking.

photo 3For the pan, you might want to use a beautiful, enameled cast iron number like this one that sits on your shelf gathering dust. OR you can use the trusty 12″ cast iron skillet you got from your grandfather because, even though it doesn’t make for the prettiest website pictures, it makes you happy.

…..

Step Three: Add bread, broth, and mix it all together. Sprinkle cashews.

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Once your veggies, sausage and spices are all nicely browned (or, like me, they’re a tiny bit brown and you’re too impatient to wait for them to be really brown ’cause it’s going to finish cooking in the oven anyway and you can always cheat by hitting it with the broiler at the end), add the bread and the broth and mix it together well.

Psst… I know those little croutons are more popular to use for this than bread is, but I don’t like how they fall apart into mush. Not a fan. I like chunks of bread that are big enough to soak up all the pan juices and flavors without falling apart, making it more like a hot panzanella, or Thanksgiving-flavored Italian bread salad, than traditional Thanksgiving stuffing. You can always add more broth for more of a bread pudding consistency or less broth for a crispier result.

Finally, sprinkle those cashews over the top, drizzle it with the remaining 1 Tablespoon of olive oil, and taste test to be sure you don’t need to add any more salt. 

Step Four: Bake in the oven at 375F for 20 minutes.

And then, if you like yours crispy on top and warm and soft in the middle, put it under the broiler for 3 minutes.

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Step Five: Eat.

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Mmmm.

Serve it with a salad, and this makes a fantastic stand-alone meal, as well. I might have recently had it for breakfast, lunch and dinner, for example. In my nightie. With skinny jeans.

The End

……….

Fellow Americans, what are you doing for Thanksgiving?
What’s your favorite Thanksgiving food?
Folks From Other Countries, do you just wish we’d shut up already about this holiday? (I’m not sure I’m done talking about it, so say no!)
And what is your favorite holiday food?

Also, if you have an Easy Peasy, delicious, time saving, go-to recipe, I want to hear it, STAT. Feel free to link us up!

And you can find all the Five Kids recipes here.

……….

 

 

 

 

Website Redesign Coming Soon (Here’s a Sneak Peek!)

Nov 20 2013

I don’t think there’s anything more terrible than calling a photographer for headshots. Not hunger. Not violence. Not war. NOTHING is worse. Or lots of things are seriously WAY worse, and a lightening bolt is headed my way, but I’m the one writing here, so, until the sparks fly and I pay the price in spontaneous combustion, NOTHING IS WORSE, I say.

The main problem with calling a photographer for headshots is you have to say things like, “Hello, my name is Beth Woolsey, and I’d like to book a photoshoot.”

And then, “No, not for my family.”

And then, “No, not for senior pictures.”

And then, “No, no wedding.”

And then, “HA! NO! NO NEW BABIES!”

And then, “Nope. No kind of celebration of any kind.”

And finally, “I just want some pictures of me. I’mmmm… booking an entire photoshoot for myself. ‘Cause I’d like some pictures. Of me. And my face. And also of my head, please. For professional use, though,” because professional use makes it OK, right? But then, “… No, nope; not a model. I’m kind of 5’3″ if I stand on my tiptoes and also lie about that last inch and a half, and I’m a big fan of carbs – HUGE FAN of carbs – so HAHAHAHAHA, I’ve never been accused of being a model before! … Ha… ha… ha? … Ooookay. See, I’m a writer… and… I… write… things… and I need pictures of me becausssse…”

And I HAVE NO ENDING TO THAT TRAIN WRECK.

Which is why I have that picture right there to your right, at the top of this blog, of me in a too-tight Mickey Mouse shirt with Greg and his binoculars (through which he may have tried to get a close-up of Mickey), snapped on a family vacation in Alaska. Because it has been totally, completely, 100% worth it to have that photo be my headshot for years and therefore not have to have headshots done.

But I’m doing a whole website redesign, and I’ve been working on it for months and months, and by “working on it” I mean writing bad checks to my rad graphic designer friend and then having to apologize for screwing up my bank account and then rewriting the checks except this time with additional pinky-swears and mostly empty promises that they’re cashable, so it’s been exhausting, you know? Exhausting. And terrifying to think about having to make that call. To a photographer. For headshots. GAH.

In the midst of all this hard, HARD work, on a dry, autumn Saturday afternoon while my kids were distracted by the Wii enhanced by screaming at each other, I grabbed hold of my swiftly fleeing courage, tackled it to the ground, sat on its head and texted my photographer friend, Joel, to ask if he had time RIGHT THAT MOMENT to do headshots for me. Since he didn’t know about that whole check fiasco, he said YES. I grabbed a curling iron, did something to my hair, and left all the rest of me – clothes, jewelry, make-up and mess – as is, because a) I care about authenticity (just not Hair Authenticity, I guess), b) who has the time for make-up and wardrobe? <– NOT ME.

My courage and I showed up, and I was fine, but my courage was shocky and skittish and I didn’t know how she would do. I kept catching her trying mess with my posture and make me hunch in on myself because she can be kind of a jerk when she’s all wigged out.

Fortunately, I’ve known Joel for a LONG time. And he has Mad Skills. And he also has a 6 year old son whom he loaned me for free (although the Kid charged me a dollar) so the Kid could grin at me from behind his dad the whole time, and I didn’t have to look into the lens. Best dollar I ever spent.

Also, the kid locked me and my courage in a cage so we couldn’t escape.

beth-equals-boss-026

Worked like a charm.

So I can’t show you the headshot I’m actually going to use in the website redesign. Mostly because I would’ve had to plan ahead to know which one it is. But I can show you some of our work together. Which was surprisingly Not Awful and maybe even Fun.

PLUS we invented some rad new poses which – MODELS, LISTEN UP! – you’re welcome to borrow for your own photoshoots.

Poses like:

The Zombies Are Coming!

beth-equals-boss-022

…..

and,

The Laying Casually on a Trampoline in the Leaves Number
(I do this ALL THE TIME.)
(Never. I do this never.)

beth-equals-boss-030

…..

and,

The Endorse Sinning Boldly Pose
(with special bonus material I like to call “Never Mind the Belly Pooch Because This Is What I Get for Stupidly Insisting Joel Not Airbrush Anything”)

beth-equals-boss-049

…..

and, of course,

The Joel Painted My Face With Mud Shot

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Which was AWESOME.

Because HELLO, WARRIOR MAMA.

beth-equals-boss-061

 Right?

beth-equals-boss-064

Right.

Which was sassy and so led naturally to the
“I’m Sorry, WHAT Did You Just Say to Me?” Face

beth-equals-boss-063

“You don’t know how to unload the dishwasher? I’m sorry, what did you just say to me?”

beth-equals-boss-063

“You can’t remember if you hit your brother two seconds ago? I’m sorry, what did you just say to me?”

beth-equals-boss-063

“You’re tired of doing all the work around here and no one else does anything? I’m sorry, what did you just say to me?”

beth-equals-boss-063

Yeah. That’s what I thought.

Also, SOMEONE GET ME OUT OF HERE!

beth-equals-boss-023

…..

In short (too late), the whole thing worked out splendidly, because now, instead of me being afraid of headshots,

beth-equals-boss-069

HEADSHOTS ARE AFRAID OF ME.

The End

Except for this anouncement…

I’M NOW OFFERING AD SPACE
with discounts for writers, artists and home-based businesses

I’m rolling out a Five Kids is a Lot of Kids website redesign soon — like, SOON soon — which isn’t big news to you, I know, but I’m EXCITED to show it to you anyway. I’ve worked with close friends who GET US, and I think it embodies our community and spirit while being fresh and clean, and, if my bathrooms can’t be those things, then I’m glad our online space CAN.

Part of the redesign includes reworking the way I think about ads and my desire to offer something that benefits the PEOPLE who frequent the Five Kids blog (i.e. YOU) and not just the corporations who have the most ad money to spend. I’m not anti-corporation. Not even a little. I just care more about making ad space accessible to those of us who might find it more challenging to afford, you know? And as a mama who brought in a whopping $70 last month, I get it; there’s just not a lot of options out there for me to promote what I do in a way that makes sense for my family financially.

So, to celebrate the imminent Five Kids blog redesign, I’m offering a limited-time 25% discount from regular ad prices, with further discounts for writers, artists and home-based businesses.

25% Off Ad Prices for Businesses:
Text-based ads = $15/month (regularly $20/month)
Graphic ads = $30/month (regularly $40/month)

33% Off Ad Prices for Writers/Artists/Home-Based Businesses:
Text-based ads = $10/month (regularly $15/month)
Graphic ads = $20/month (regularly $30/month)

If you know someone who might want a reduced rate to advertise on a site where a harried mom of five, well, talks about pee a lot (BECAUSE WHO WOULDN’T WANT AN AD NEXT TO PEE? AMIRITE?), please send this to them, STAT.

For more details, site statistics, or to purchase a discounted ad to debut with the new site*, please email me at FiveKidsIsALotOfKids@gmail.com with “Ad Query” in subject line.

*To guarantee that your ad will debut with the site redesign, and to receive premium, above-the-fold placement, I’ll need your ad and payment by Friday night, November 22nd, Pacific Time. After that, we’ll do our best to accommodate!

 

Community Question: What Do You Do When You Want Faith and Can’t Find It?

Nov 19 2013

I wasn’t going to write another serious piece today, because I wrote about the Ladder out of Depression yesterday, and who really needs to read another lyrical, sappy, heartfelt post so soon? NO ONE. No one is who. But then you all RUINED EVERYTHING. And by “everything,” I mean you ruined my plan to write about the One Main Difficulty in Sharing a Hotel Room With Friends, which, specifically, is Farting, because When? and How? and Windows That Don’t Open! And, frankly, I could’ve used the advice, folks, because I cannot for the life of me figure this one out, but nnnooooo…

You had to RUIN EVERYTHING by being the Very Best Momrades EVER to our friend Marian last night, sitting with her wherever you were and holding out your hands to her and helping All of Us feel Less Alone which completely DISTRACTED me from our planned discussion about natural gas and got me thinking about Loving Each Other, instead, and especially about a letter I received recently from a friend of this blog whom I shall call Not Nadia, in our tradition of Not Evan and Not Rebecca and Not Brooke and their questions about Joy and Inferiority and Failure… and now, Faith.

You have only yourselves to blame is what I’m saying, so buckle up.

Every once in a while, I get a letter from a friend of this blog that touches a tender place in my heart. Usually a place that’s been well worn or is still a little sore or takes me back to the desolation that was there before the consolation. This is one.

Dear Beth,

I have been reading your blog for about a year now, and it’s really impacted how I see a lot of things, but mostly how I think about faith and God.

I’ve been angry with God for a very long time, probably most of my life. At some point it just became easier to not believe at all, than reconcile all the awful things that happen every day with a loving and all powerful maker. But I can’t seem to have faith in anything anymore, and I’m so tired of feeling angry and helpless. I’ve made myself unlikeable and bitter because I can’t let go of how unfair it all seems.

When you write about faith, I can see that there is something more to it than a fairy tale to dampen the fear of death and justify the evils of the world. I want to believe that too, but I’m stuck in this cycle of disappointment and failure. I know I have to stop being so angry and trust that there is a much bigger game being played than what I can see, but I am scared of changing basically my whole worldview, even though my current view is dark and lonely.

Will you pray for me? I don’t even know where to begin, I just admire your faith and I would like to find something that makes me want to get up in the morning and take on challenges instead of constantly feeling angry and alone. I know you have a very full life, but I would very much appreciate if you could take a few seconds to ask for God to start to work in my life so I can be a better, happier person.

Thank you very much for reading,

Not Nadia

And yes. Yes, of course I’ll pray for you, Not Nadia, except that I’m very bad at prayer, or very good at prayer, depending on how you look at it, because as much as I love words – adore words, am enamored with words, am captivated by words – I most often pray without them, so I feel we should set our Prayer Expectations to YES, PRAYER, ABSOLUTELY, but Not Very Much “Dear Jesus, Help Not Nadia.”

Instead, Not Nadia, as the Quakers say, I will hold you in the Light, which, to be totally honest, is going to make some of my non-Quaker Christian friends want to vomit because saying I’ll “hold you in the Light” instead of  I’ll “pray for you in the name of Jesus Christ” sounds squidgy and scary and what’s this liberal, gooey Light nonsense, anyway?

Well, I’ll tell you; this Light Nonsense is the same thing to me as the Love Nonsense, which I keep blathering on about, both of which give me words for the core of God and of Jesus when the words “God” and “Jesus” are co-opted by petty politics or tiny theologies or asshat arguments. Light and Love* bring me back to the center – to the soul of my faith – when I’m lost in the stranglehold of weariness.

Here’s my main problem with my faith: I would like Jesus to be a Magic Wand for waving over the things of this world that trouble me – hatred, disease, disasters, poverty, the way my boobs keep sliding lower and lower through the years – and Jesus just never, ever is willing to play to my Magic Wand fantasies. Like, EVER. Which is SO ANNOYING because I’m pretty sure I could do LOADS of Good with a Magic Wand, Jesus, and, no offense, but your usual shtick about Learning to Love Our Neighbors and figuring out that Everyone is Our Neighbor takes too long and doesn’t always work all that well, in case you hadn’t noticed.

But when I discard my Magic Wand expectations – when I see that Jesus never promised to be one, and, in fact, reminds us over and over that that was hardly his point – and when I fall back into the reality that faith is Learning Love, I am less destitute. Less despairing. Less disappointed and disillusioned. Because in this life, Learning Love is all that’s asked of me.

Does this mean I’m not angry or afraid? Sadly, no. Or in less need of anti-depressants and therapy? Nope; ’cause there’s no Magic Wand, damn it!

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But clinging to Light and to Love does mean that when I’m sad or lonely or have a friend, Not Nadia, who’s suffering, I can stand in the deep, dark forest of my fear or my failure or my frustration, without any words at all, and cup that feeling or friend in my hands and hold us in Light which streams into the darkest places, and is even more brilliant to behold while the dust and the dirt still swirl around us.

And so I sit at my dusty desk on a misty, cold, gray day in Oregon, friend, and I hold you in the Light of Love. The Light of Love which is already at work in you, because you’re made in its very image.

xoxo,
Beth

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So, friends, what do you say to Not Nadia?

Community Question:
What do you do when you want faith but can’t find it? 

I know you already know this, but as this community grows, I wanted to remind us that we’re not here to try to convince Not Nadia to either have faith or to abandon it, nor to insist that our conclusions for ourselves must become Not Nadia’s conclusions. We are here to tell our own wild, weird and wonderful stories and, always, to LOVE each other, which are more powerful acts than we sometimes know. Like April wrote on our Facebook page just yesterday: “Honestly, ever since I heard from some of you amazing fellow mommas, I have been feeling so much better. Above water and even breathing 🙂 my whole family is grateful I’m sure; if nothing else, I know I am! I felt so loved and that seems so strange to receive that through blog comment-ers, but I love it :)”

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Sunrays in the Forest image credit dan via freedigitalimages.net

*Jesus is Light – John 8:12, God is Love – 1 John 4:8

Special thanks to my friends, Quaker and otherwise, who helped me source info on holding folks in the Light. This means you, Monica, Jere, Paula, Carol, Meghan, Phyllis, Julie, Nate, and Linda.

The Ladder Up

Nov 18 2013

Hey, guess what?
GREAT NEWS!
I found the Ladder out of Depression!
The LITERAL ladder.

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^^^ Bad news is, it looks like this. ^^^

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Several months ago, I found myself back in the Depression Hole, which was an enormous surprise given the fact that I wasn’t sad. An occasional teeny, tiny raging bitch, perhaps. Nearly beside myself with anxiety anytime I left my children, sure. More and more reclusive, absolutely. And having a terrible time breathing through it all. But not “depressed,” per se. Evidence mounted, though, that I had a Big Problem and that the only way out was to start climbing. Again. Which felt very pppffffftttt. And blerg. And OOF. And it’s been slow going, this determined walk toward slow hope, which seems kind of sucky except when I remember that “slow going” and “slow hope” include the words going and hope which are enough for now because they’re progress, and progress is better than being stuck.

Great news, though!

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I found the Ladder out of Depression last week!

The LITERAL ladder.

Or, OK, to be specific, literal ladder which is the path up to Arizona Hot Springs from the Black Canyon portion of the Colorado River, but pretty much exactly like the Ladder out of Depression in that it’s long, high, slippery and kind of intimidating, and also more securely mounted and with a reward at the top that’s more blissful and worth it than I think it can possibly be while I’m still at the bottom looking up.

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On the down side, the ladder is as hard to get to, as remote and secluded, as we all suspected, in a deep canyon with sheer rock walls. And there’s just no way to discover it other than deliberately. On purpose. With planning and forethought and friends who’ve marked the way. One-Foot-in-Front-of-the-Other Style, and with help, which is a bummer for the part of me who prefers to be entirely self-sufficient — an I WILL OVERCOME kind of person!… A POWER THROUGH IT kind of person!… an ALL MY BYSELF kind of person! — and a triumph for the wiser part of me who knows I’m just a person person, the human kind who is both stronger and weaker than I ever imagined and who needs help to overcome.

On the bright side, that Ladder out of Depression? It’s not impossible to find, or hiding like I thought it was, or a moving target like I’ve long accused it of being.

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There are maps, friends! And more than one right path to the ladder! And people who’ve gone before! And encouragers along the way!

There are even guides who will walk with you and show you where to put your feet and say things like, “Follow me,” and “Almost there,” and “Wait ’til you get a load of what’s at the top; it’s AMAZING!” Which is good and important and very, very necessary, it turns out, because sometimes my faith in what is unseen isn’t enough to get me up the ladder, and I need to rely on the vision of others for a while. For just a little span of time.

Until I can catch a glimpse of the Light myself.

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And follow it home.

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photo 1 (65)Many thanks to Helen of Desert River Outfitters (highly recommend!), John of the Just Finding Our Way blog, and Kathy of Kindness Itself for your companionship, hospitality and expert guidance on a truly WOW day in the Black Canyon on the Colorado River. For specifics on our day trip, launching from the base of Hoover Dam (pretty dam incredible!) and more pictures of our adventure, check out John’s report here.

Disclaimer: no promotional consideration or blah-blah-blah was paid for this post. I just think Helen, John, Kathy and my cousin Leslie, who joined me, are rad.

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P.S. I suppose what I really want to say here is this: if you’re wondering whether there’s a ladder or a path forward or a way out, there is. And if you’re wondering if the Light is coming, it’s on its way. And if you’re looking for a companion in the dark, I’m waving to you, friend. And if you’re too tired to take steps right now, it’s OK – it is – we’ll just sit on the path together for as long as it takes and send love back and forth.