I Feel Stupid at Night. Also Other Times.

Oct 29 2015

I feel stupid at night.

Also, sometimes in the morning.

Also-also, when driving in the car, especially alone.

And sitting on the potty.

And standing in line at the supermarket sans kids.

Pretty much every time I have a chance to stop and think, I feel stupid, and I replay my every fault, real or imagined, on repeat.

“Stupid, stupid, stupid,” I say to me, and, “I CANNOT BELIEVE YOU SAID THAT.” Or DID that. Or WORE that. Or ARE that.

If my brain was a friend of mine — in a separate body and not, you know, in charge of my bodily functions and keeping me semi-upright throughout the day — I’ve have ditched her a while ago as generally toxic and, well, mean. Not to mention the fact that she requires a truly ridiculous amount of caffeine and sometimes makes questionable decisions like spending lots of money on fancy cheese. Unfortunately, my brain sits inside me and so we must navigate these cruelties together and work toward what my father calls a better way, which was infuriating when he was teaching me to load the dishwasher, but is important when considering my relationship with my brain.

The problem with my brain, really, is that she can’t make up her mind. She’s wishy-washy and relentlessly inconsistent.

I feel stupid at night, for example.

But I feel smart during the day.

At least sometimes.

Smart and strong.

Smart and strong and like I CAN CONQUER THE WORLD. Smart and strong like I CAN OVERCOME. Smart and strong like IT DOES NOT EVEN MATTER that I dropped pineapple down my shirt or my dress flew open or I pooped my closet or I, once again, chose that particular granny-panties/slim-skirt combo that cuts my tummy fluff in half exactly so I display two wholly separate tummies on the front of me because two tummies is better than one, friends, and put your best tummy forward. No; sometimes, I feel smart and strong, as though pineapple-scented breasts and public nudity and tummy fluff are irrelevant and don’t define my worth as a person. THAT smart and strong, you guys. THAT smart and strong. And like it’s OK to be me, which is the same thing as being free.

My friend, Webb, wrote me this week in response to an epic missive on my part. I was vacation planning ahead of his wife’s birthday next week and was maybe a tiny bit detailed and a touch leadershippy (as opposed to “bossy” which I totally wasn’t), and a tad overwhelming with the sheer volume of information my brain unleased. Webb wrote back only, “I love the way your mind works: sometimes it’s like a precision-crafted, jewel-movement Swiss watch, and other times it’s like a dumpster fire,” and I thought, “YES. Oh my gosh — YES. Yes, this EXACTLY. This is how I feel about my brain, too!”

So in case, friends, you have a brain that makes you feel stupid, and smart and strong, and also stupid in such rapid succession you can’t quite keep up with its shenanigans — in case, well, your mind is like a precision-crafted, jewel-movement Swiss watch, and other times it’s all, “DUMPSTER FIRE!” and “WHO BROUGHT THE LIGHTER FLUID?” — I want you to know you’re not alone. You’re not alone. And you’re not stupid. And you’re not alone.

Sending love,

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A Quick, Butt Important Question. In Addition to This One… Guess What’s Better Than Pants?

Oct 27 2015

Hey!

I have a quick question for you.

Guess what’s better than pants?

That’s not the question, though. That’s a lead-up to the real question, which is coming. It’s like a prelude to the question. An appetizer question. The processional question as we prepare for the grand entrance of the real question; like the flowergirl of questions, all cute and tiny, toddling down the aisle and lifting her fluffy, tulle dress over her eyes so we see her princess panties while all the guests giggle and her mommy stage whispers Put. Your. Dress. Down.

Still, it’s important so that we set the stage, so I ask you again…

Guess what’s better than pants?

Guess what’s better than pants, friends?

Nope; it’s not yoga pants. Those are still pants.

Nope; not leggings. Uh uh. Those are still sorta pants. Pants-ish, if you will.

You know what’s better than pants, though?

Like, seriously better than pants?

No Pants.

No Pants is what.

I mean, clearly the answer is No Pants.

We all know that, right?

No Pants is superior to Pants.

It was practically a rhetorical question. The answer so obvious it doesn’t require a response.

It’s just that my friend, Melissa Anne, told me she needs new pants because we’re going to Disneyland next week to celebrate a Big Birthday.

“I need new pants,” she wrote. “I have no comfy pants.”

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I suggested, therefore, No Pants. Which I have in writing. Which is important as we prepare for The Real Question I Have.

I suggested No Pants; see?

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In writing.

Like, ELEVEN DAYS AGO in writing WITH A TIME AND DATE STAMP.

And then. Then. Just a few days later, I saw this:

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This mannequin with No Pants.

Listen. Listen, friends. I don’t want to go all Conspiracy Theory or Big Brother on y’all. And I realize — I do — that I am not the first person to invent No Pants.

It’s just…

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…I obviously had copyrighted No Pants (in writing — IN WRITING), and then this guy started sporting No Pants.

Which brings me to my question.

My important question.

Because I live in America.

Should I sue that mannequin for copyright infringement?

I mean, I undoubtedly stood to make loads of money on all the people who bought No Pants from me, but now this guy is trying to edge out my market share.

Please advise.

Love,

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P.S. I realize this could, possibly be a situation like when Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibniz simultaneously invented calculus in the 17th century. I mean, genius can strike at exactly the same time, so I suppose that mannequin and I could’ve discovered No Pants concurrently. But what are the odds? And did Newton or Leibniz think to have time- and date-stamped proof of invention? NO. Because they didn’t plan ahead like yours truly. So who’s the smarty pants now?

P.P.S. ^^^ That P.S. was me blatantly trying to get into my husband’s pants, and has nothing to do with this post. Drop some historical calculus knowledge?? Sure fire way in, folks! On the other hand, if Greg would just take up the No Pants trend, I wouldn’t have to work so hard. Something to think about, Greg.

 

Why Science is Bad for Children

Oct 26 2015

“Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, SHIT.”

That was my 3rd grader, friends, this morning at the front door, prostrate on the threadbare entry rug that desperately needs replacing but won’t get it anytime soon.

“Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, SHIT.”

That was my 3rd grader after the dogs, bless their hearts, knocked him into the wall while rushing past him playing their usual morning games of Bark, Bark, Growl and Bite, Bite, Chase.

“Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, SHIT, SHIT.”

That was my 3rd grader this morning, face down, rocking slightly, and expressing the heck out of himself, which we tend to encourage at our house, but I am a GOOD mama and a CHRISTIAN, damn it, so I told him to “knock it off, man” and, “we do not talk like that around here,” which was a lie, but also, “there’s no reason for language like that,” which I figured was true and therefore canceled the lying portion of my response.

“But I am HURT,” he said, and followed that with, “SHIT, MOM,” for emphasis, and also because he’s a punk.

“Still,” I said with Stern Face, “that’s no excuse.” And for once he didn’t say, “But you say it, Mom,” or, “But I learned it from watching you!”

Nope. He didn’t say any of those things.

Instead, he rolled over, looked me in the eye, and said, “SCIENCE, Mom. This is called SCIENCE. It has been scientifically proven that swearing helps with pain. SCIENTIFICALLY PROVEN. Watch, Mom. Watch this. … … SHiiiiiiiiiiiiT! … … ” and then he sighed with satisfaction and grinned. “You know what, Mom? You know what? I feel totally better. I am HEALED because of SCIENCE.”

And he popped up off that floor and strolled away, every ounce of his 9-year-old body shaking with laughter.

In conclusion, my child is a butt.

Also, science should be banned.

Sincerely yours,

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When You’re Better At Stuff Than Your Kids

Oct 25 2015

It’s hard sometimes being a mama and being, well, better at stuff than your kids. You know? Like, they want to be good at stuff right now, and you don’t want to discourage them, and they say stuff like, “I’m a really good draw-er, right, Mom? As good as you, right?” with their earnest scribbles, and, “I can match my clothes really good, Mom,” with the fuschia socks and the gold shirt and the green plaid skirt, and you can see they’re trying — they’re trying so hard — and they suddenly care about proficiency, and you don’t want to squash that initiative, so you LIE and say stuff back like, “Sure you are,” and, “You’re SO GOOD at that, sweetheart.”

Well, I recently took my oldest on a trip. My oldest who is 17 and a senior in high school and about to abandon me for college, so I’m taking any excuse I can find to force Quality Time upon her.

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We landed at the beach.

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And bless her heart — bless her heart, you guys — but she’s still trying SO HARD on that whole proficiency thing.

The child thinks she’s a dancer.

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She thinks she’s got moves.

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And, ultimately, she wants what I think all of us want, which is to be someday as proficient as our mommies and daddies are at life; that natural comparison of child to parent.

I didn’t want to discourage her, but I also felt like at 17 she’s old enough to understand she’s not good at everything yet, you know? Like at 17, she’s ready for some of life’s harsher truths.

So we did a dance off.

We posed it out.

And, although it’s difficult in some of these to tell us apart, which means she’s almost as proficient as me, if you look closely at Abby (on the left) and me (on the right), you can see she still has some work to do, like in this one:

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And this one:

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And this one:

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In conclusion, Abby has some work to do.

Also, we can pray for her.

With love,

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Just Thought You Should Know

Oct 18 2015

I hollered downstairs yesterday for a kid to put toilet paper in the bathroom AND put it on the dispenser roll.

“HEY!” I said, politely, “PUT TOILET PAPER IN THE BATHROOM. AND PUT IT ON THE THINGY.

And one of them modeled my behavior by gently bellowing back, “WHY? ARE WE HAVING COMPANY OR SOMETHING?”

Which is ridiculous. The fact that my children think we only put toilet paper in the bathroom and put it on the thingy if we’re having company. Goll!

Who is raising these children, anyway? Who is in charge of this mess?

Can you join me in a collective, longsuffering eyeroll, please? PLEASE? Because I NEED YOU, momrades, in this, the strange life I lead.

That is all, friends.

That is all.

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P.S. I should probably mention we were having company over and that is the reason I told them to put the paper on the roll.

P.P.S. Someone hold me.

 

On Momrades and Waving in the Dark: A Birthday Wish

Oct 13 2015

It’s my birthday, friends.

I’m 42 today.

FORTY TWO YEARS OLD! WOOHOO!

My family has responded by a) mocking me, and b) giving me cheese, which are my two main love languages, so I’m marking this birthday in the win column.

This is my favorite of all the cards from my kids:

It reads,

happy birthday
mom I love you
so much and the
things you you do
for us.

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And then it has drawings of all the things I do for them, along with me complaining about doing them, which is apparently how I do All the Things. While whining. Like a whining whiner who whines. Just to make sure I was interpreting my card, correctly, I asked my kid to demonstrate these things for me, so he schlumped his shoulders in defeat, fixed his face with a scowl and said, “UUUUuuuugghhhhh. THE THINGS I DO FOR THIS FAMILY.” So yep. Yep, I was. I was interpreting it pretty darn accurately.

You know what this means, right?

THIS MEANS THEY REALLY ARE PAYING ATTENTION TO ME, GUYS. They ARE!

Not only that, but they know how I feel about All the Things. Deep in my heart. Because I ACTUALLY, LITERALLY FEEL LIKE THIS LADY when I pick up my family’s crap:

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Do you see her? DO you? She is bent in HALF, folks. She looks like she is going to BREAK. I feel like this EVERY DAY.

This card and its free Mommy mocking makes my heart happy.

It’s really all the birthday I need.

It’s really all the birthday I need, but I’m going to ask you for something anyway, momrades, and I think you’ll understand.

See, I’m not the only one who turned 42 this week.

Our momrade, Dominique, turned 42 this week, too.

Perfectly imperfect

I met Dom through this blog, and those of you who’ve been here a while, hanging out in this space, may remember her from her honorable mention entry in our Parenting and Imperfection writing contest last year and her story about the facade of a “perfect marriage,” why she walked away, and what it means to raise kids to embrace authenticity, too.

Headshot.pngWell, here’s the deal. On Saturday, September 19, Dominique was having some issues with her memory. By Wednesday, September 23, she was undergoing an all night brain surgery.

Four days, friends; four days is the time Dom, a single mama of two, had from suspecting something might be wrong to being diagnosed with Grade 4 Glioblastoma, an aggressive brain tumor, and now she’s in the fight of her life.

I don’t even know what to say about that, friends. I don’t understand a world where this happens, even as I’m grateful Dom lives in a place where she has access to healthcare and is surrounded by friends and family who undergo the fight with her. But I did think you’d want to know.

I did think you’d want to know so you can wave in the dark to Dominique with me. For my birthday. For hers. For mamaraderie and community and ComeUnity and because you’re our Village.

Other than cheese and mockery (obviously), I can’t imagine anything I’d like more for my birthday than for us to come together for our momrade in need. Would you join me in waving in the dark to Dominique? You can leave her a note in the comments below or, of course, make a small (or large) donation the GoFundMe site to help with her recovery expenses; we all know the compounded power of working together to share not just resources, but Love.

Sending that Love to each and every one of you, and waving in the dark with the belief that the dawn is coming,

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P.S. If you do make a donation to Dom’s GoFundMe page, will you add in your note something along the lines of “waving” or “waving in the dark” or “praying for you, momrade” or something so we can see that you’re there from this Village? I would adore that.

 

On Flip-Flops, Flailing and Faith

Oct 9 2015

I should’ve known better than to wear flip-flops. Especially the kind with the higher, wedgy heel. It’s just that they were $0.99 at the Goodwill, had never been worn, and were in my size. What’s a girl to do? Still, I should’ve known better, flip-flops not being what they used to be… or my coordination, either. One or the other was to blame.

Either way, though, I tripped. Or, if not exactly “tripped,” what with nothing in my way to actually trip over, I at least managed to stumble, failed to catch myself, flailed wildly out of control, and, in no time at all, found myself face-down in gravel on the side of a winding road with a perfectly gorgeous view of the Pacific Ocean.

I will tell you what; that view of the white sand and the raging waves dashing themselves relentlessly against the rocks, spraying foam into the azure sky is just as pretty whether you’re upright or ass-over-teakettle, friends, so feel free to take it in from any angle. They’re all good.

I was walking with girlfriends on the road with no sidewalk but with a plentiful gravel shoulder, and we’d just finished hanging out at a popular beach to celebrate a 40th birthday, so when I bellyflopped on the ground, I had both plenty of rocks to break my fall and passers-by to witness my rad walking skillz. I managed to embed gravel in my hands and in my knees and press some into my chin, chest and thighs for good measure, because the Bible says if you’re going to do something, you should do it to the best of your ability, and I’m a biblical girl.

I don’t know about you and how you are at doing stupid things in public, but I am, like, an expert at it. An expert who practices and practices and practices and keeps practicing because practice makes perfect, and, not to brag, but I’m getting damn close to being perfect at Stupid Stuff. So not only did I biff it like I meant it – GO BIG, friends! – I also assessed the heck out of the damage to my body once I’d completed my swan dive. With my belly resting on the rocks, my body just a touch bruised and bloody, and my brain a little bit giggly at finding myself spread-eagle in my swimmers, I sat up and checked out every part of me for damage, and, just like a small child who plays at the beach all day and finds sand in all the places later — all, “Oh my gosh!” and “How did this get there?!” and “Mom! CHECK THIS OUT!” — I found gravel down my top and up my inner thighs. WAY up, guys. Way, way up in there. It was amazing, y’all, the places that gravel traveled. That gravel was not kidding around.

Now, my friend Heidi implied I maybe shouldn’t have been looking for all the gravel in all the places in front of all the people walking by, but it wasn’t like I thought about it before I did it. Geez, Heidi. That is NOT how to perfect doing Stupid Stuff, after all; you definitely don’t think first. You just do Stupid Stuff, and it becomes second nature. But Heidi also said when those nice people across the street asked if I was OK, I probably shouldn’t have laughed with delight and hollered across the road, “I’m good! I just have gravel in all my bits! Like, ALL my bits,” while I sat facing them with my legs apart, brushing the rocks off. I mean, no offense to Heidi or anything, but she could use some How to Do Stupid Stuff lessons. Obviously.

It was a little while after the fall and after the assessing of the damage and after brushing off the gravel before I noticed my friends had their hands out, offering help up, but I eventually reached out for them, too, and we hauled me up together and washed me off and moved on, a little more battered and bruised, but in a good way, if that makes sense. In a good way, because I wasn’t sitting alone, after all, and I had a beautiful view while I sat in the mess, but also friends to give me a hand when I was ready to see it and accept it.

I got a message recently from Emma, except Emma isn’t her real name, so we’ll call her Not Emma, instead, like we tend to do around here. When Not Emma wrote, this is what she said:

Hello Beth!

I just saw this post on Humans of New York. They’re telling stories of immigrants from Syria, Iraq, etc. The last sentence is what got me, and made me think of you…

“This is the man who inspired us to begin helping refugees. We met Father Stratis back in 2008, when refugees began arriving on the island from Afghanistan. We ran a minimarket at the time, and every day this priest would come in to buy juice, croissants, and other supplies to hand out. Eventually we began to follow his lead, and soon we were working side by side. I always joke that God punished me for my atheism by sending a priest to be my best friend.  He was always pushing us to do more. The phone never left his hand.  He was always looking for new ways to help.  He died last month, but even in his final days, he was searching for diapers from his hospital bed. His final post on Facebook said: ‘God is love, without asterisks.’” (Lesvos, Greece)

I just… am a little lost. With faith, or lack thereof, and what do I teach these small children that I’m supposed to be in charge of? I wasn’t raised religious, but I want to find my spirituality now, and honestly don’t know how. I love love love the way you approach it, and it opens my heart to the idea of believing in God and having faith. But often when I try to become involved in a religion, I find so much of it makes me uncomfortable and is off-putting. Then I back away again. Where do I start?? Is it too late for me to find faith that God is Real and Love, the kind of faith I would have if I had learned it from the beginning? So if you could just have all the answers for me, that would be great, thanks.

Oh, and one more question. How am I supposed to pray?

Not Emma

Bear with me here, friends, and Not Emma especially, because I know there are people better equipped to answer these questions without starting with a convoluted story about getting gravel in her bits, but you asked me, so you have only yourself to blame.

I’m going to leave your question about prayer for another day, because I’m sitting again by the ocean as I type this, and the day is misty and overcast with the sun peeking through in fits and starts; the breeze is gentle and the temperature mild, so I’m going to risk walking again by the ocean soon, even though I fell the last time, which, I suppose, is one answer for how to pray, after all.

The question that really captured me, though — the one that stopped me in my tracks and slayed me because I I so resonated with the heart of it — was this: “Is it too late for me to find faith that God is Real and Love; the kind of faith I would have if I had learned it from the beginning?” 

I responded, I admit, a little selfishly to your question, because I thought “uh oh,” and “oh no,” because I was raised with faith from the beginning, and I am just a mess, friend. A MESS. Full of faith and doubt and fear and grace, and if you’re looking for more certainty than chaos, I’m not your girl. Not your guru. Not your guide, you know? After all, I, like you, know what it is to ache for “real faith” and wonder if I’ve found it. To think, perhaps, it’s too late, and I’ve missed that boat. To hope that God is Real and God is Love more than I always know it. But I choose it, anyway, over and over; to have faith in the mystery and the magic and the mess. To have faith in the mud and the muck and unreasonable mercy, which are all, in their own way, magnificent.

So I thought I couldn’t answer your questions at first, lacking all the answers as I am, even though I know you were kidding about that part, but then I biffed it on the side of the road, and realized I could answer, after all. It’s just, instead of answering from a place of having faith figured out, I’m going to have to answer spread-eagle in the gravel, a little battered from the fall.

My answer from the gravel-strewn ground is this: it’s not too late, Not Emma.

It’s not too late for faith if by “faith” you mean the kind that’s messy and full of doubt and strange moments of grace.

It’s not too late for faith if by “faith” you mean the pursuit of a Love too deep and wide and high and vast to fit into the boundaries of men.

It’s not too late for faith if by “faith” you mean the kind with questions that lead to answers that lead to far more questions than you thought possible.

It’s not too late for faith if by “faith” you mean a faith that hopes and perseveres, then quits entirely, and hopes and perseveres again.

It’s not too late for faith if by “faith” you mean the kind of thing that isn’t content to exist simply inside of rule books and manuals of conduct, but must spill out to help ease the suffering of others and be with them in their longing and pain, to provide what comfort you can.

It’s not too late for faith if by “faith” you mean a catalyst to mercy and justice for those who are marginalized.

The truth is, I used to expect different things from faith, like for it to be clean, and linear, and never trip me up in my bargain flip-flops. Faith, I thought, was like new sidewalks in safe neighborhoods with manicured lawns, and I had a responsibility to wear my sensible shoes, tightly laced, rather than skirting the rocky shoulder of a winding road with giddy, goofy friends and wobbly steps.

Now I understand that faith is a long road, rockier than I ever knew, full of waypoints, and parts that are tricky to traverse, and the occasional bench for resting, and I don’t always know how my next steps are going to work out. But the view, Not Emma; the view from the rocky shoulder on the winding road! It’s wild out here and rough and raw and beautiful and so worth exploring, even though we don’t have all the answers.

We expect a lot from faith, don’t we? We expect or we seek the near-perfect communities whose ideologies match well with our own, instead of looking for faith among a messy people who think differently than each other and are trying and failing and still trying anyway to love each other well. Listen; we’re not wrong to want our family of faith to already be good at inclusion and kindness and gentleness; our hearts long for belonging, after all, and God knows we each need solace. It’s just that we’re all to some degree each of the people in the story above; at times sitting wounded on the side of the road, at times picking dirt and darkness out of places we didn’t know it had managed to creep, at times needing a hand up and help brushing ourselves off, at times offering it and hollering the “are you OK’s?” from across the street.

You asked, Not Emma, where to start — where to begin looking for faith — and I’m here to tell you, you’ve already begun. You’re already on the road. It’s just that it’s rocky out here, and there’s sometimes flailing and falling involved, but the good news is, you’re not alone.

You asked, Not Emma, what to teach your small children because you want to find your spirituality now and you don’t know how. Oh, girlfriend, I have been there. HOW I have been there. But might I suggest to tell them just that? That you want to teach them? That you don’t know how? And invite them, perhaps, to the gravel road with you, as fellow travelers who are wise and capable of scouting the route alongside their mama? Tell them, maybe, what you told me — that you hope God is Real and God is Love, and that you want to go questing together. What an adventure, Not Emma! Looking for Love together!

I wish I had a tidy conclusion for you here, but I have an ocean to walk beside, so I’m signing off for now. More soon, Not Emma and friends. More soon. But for tonight, know that I’m thinking of you by the ocean shore, and I’m waving in the dark,

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