The Stove Has a Name, I Took Better Pics, and I Need Your Opinions Again (Where You Tell Me How to Improve My House: Part 3)

Apr 29 2016

Back to Important Things instead of that detour we took yesterday to talk about feelings, and doing the Right Thing, and Making Mistakes, and working, always, on Listening and Loving Well . Back to Important Work on the Kitchen Remodel now. Because PRIORITIES, FRIENDS. Priorities.

We have results from our recent poll on What to Do With the Stove and How to Approach the Remodel. And, of course, we have New Decisions to make. 

But first, I have received a few emails like this:

Dear Beth,

I say this in love.

You are an adorable, sweet, darling woman, and I care for you deeply, but you CANNOT ask us to make INFORMED design decisions with crappy photos. You’re going to need to give us better pictures so we know what in the world we’re talking about.

You asked for help and WE ARE HERE FOR YOU; give us what we need so we can do our damn job, lady. 

The Designers Among Us

So, fine. I get it. As Carrie Fisher said in When Harry Met Sally when Sally told Carrie the married man she was dating was never going to leave his wife, not ever,  “You’re right. You’re right. I know you’re right.”

You’re right, friends. You’re right. know you’re right. I can’t expect you to give me the Very Best Advice while I’m providing you with Substandard Tools. And, since the Whole Point of asking you for help is to AVOID the Substandard, I have done the unthinkable and cleaned my kitchen and walked all the way upstairs to get the good camera and took these new and improved pics for you.

The Whole Kitchen
taken from the living room perspective:IMG_9466-001

The Affected Corner of the Kitchen:IMG_9467

The Stove Area:IMG_9469-002

Better, yes?


Now we can see what we’re working with.

Unfortunately, I have also just proven we Woolseys can technically clean up after ourselves if we would just get our butts in gear. That’s sad, but we shall ignore that bit of news like we’ve been doing for years and move swiftly on.

Here are our results.


  1. We are overwhelmingly pro-window. I have tallied Team Beth’s opinions on Options 1 and 2, as follows: 73% of us chose Option #1 (keep the window and put the oven and range hood in front of it), 14% of us chose Option #2 (remove the window and construct a wall in its place with smaller windows on either side so the hood isn’t awkwardly in front of the window), and 13% of us chose Option #3 (both of the options suck, so can we please find any other way to keep the window and not obstruct it??)
  2. As a result, we have made ONE IMPORTANT DECISION, based on 86% of the vote. We will NOT be getting rid of the window. 
  3. HOWEVER, we have not decided it’s best to obstruct the window, either. There was Very Much Concern over this, so we must discuss.


  1. The 1950’s stove was the most awesome idea ever. Yes! Yes, she was! And thank you!
  2. She should have a name, though.
  3. Jessie suggested we name her Betty, and since a) Betty was my grandmother’s name (until she named herself after me), and b) my grandmother had an abiding fancy streak and zero budget, and c) “a Betty” is synonymous with a gorgeous, super hot lady, we agree with Jessie. Betty is perfect. Problem solved. Case closed. Betty is our stove’s name.
  4. Can we just not install a range hood? Leave it off entirely? Maybe install just the stove in front of the window and no silly hood, thus solving the window obstruction issue? The answer, friends, sadly, is no. Oregon law requires an exhaust system, not just ventilation, so we must have a hood. I know, I know; boo.
  5. If we must have a hood, is there anywhere else we can put Betty so she’s not blocking the window? Blocking the window will drive us CRAZY. The answer is… actually, maybe we can. Maybe we can put Betty against a wall and not the window. Let’s chat. 

Which bring us to…


The Decision, Round 2, is where we operate within the parameters already decided, which are 1) we’re keeping Betty, 2) we’re keeping the window as is.

That leaves us with either of the following:

ONE: A NEW idea… we put Betty against the same wall as the fridge, sort of like this:


You may have to zoom in on the photo to see where Betty, the hood, the dishwasher and cabinets might go.

This is the more expensive of the two options because we would have to restub the gas line, move the dishwasher to the right of the sink, and do a fairly extensive cabinet remodel.

Please note: our neighbors just had their gas line moved, and they say it’s not too expensive. However, these same neighbors keep their house clean and purchase certain items like clothes and shoes and the occasional electronic device motivated by Investing Wisely in Things That Will Bring Pleasure for the Long Term and NOT motivated by DEAR GOD OF COURSE I HAVE TO HAVE THAT BECAUSE IT COSTS $0, so they’re not exactly reliable sources of “not too expensive.” They BUY THINGS, you guys. With MONEY. Like some things are Worth Paying For! I’m just saying we should take their advice with a grain of salt, you know?

On the other hand, if we bite the bullet and swallow the expense, Betty would be closer to the fridge and sink, which is far more convenient for cooking, and would have cabinets above, which I’ve missed, actually, quite a lot since we’ve lived in this house.

For another view of Option #1, here’s where the dishwasher would move and how cabinets would be positioned in the former stove location:IMG_9469-002

TWO: Or, Option 2, we put Betty in nearly the same location as the current stove and suck it up on window obstruction, kind of like this:IMG_9469-001

This option is clearly MUCH cheaper than the first option because it would require very little remodeling of cabinets, no restubbing of the gas line, and no moving the dishwasher. The reason I haven’t shown it centered in the window is because many of you pointed out it would be too close to the sink to be practical, and my friend, Emily came over and verified. We could move it to the right a little, but we run into a similar issue with being too close to the door. Centering it between the sink and the door seems to be the best place if we choose this option.

So, friends? Considering these newest developments what’s your verdict?

Option #1 (Betty goes against the wall) or Option #2 (Betty goes in front of the window)? I’ll tally every opinion and give you the results soon!

Also, GOD BLESS YOU for not making me do this alone.

With love,





P.S. Here’s the Pinterest Board Rachel put together for us. WOOHOO, RACHEL! She has titled it “Beth’s ‘We aren’t being cheap like Greg anymore’ House Idea Board,” so we can rest assured she gets us.

P.P.S. If we decide on Option #1, which is the way I’m leaning, we need to think of creative ways to explain the added expense to Greg. I’m thinking maybe popping naked out of a cake. Thoughts and suggestions appreciated.

I Let My Kid Quit Mid-Season and I Would Do It Again

Apr 28 2016

We had a Situation last week.

One of those Situations that arise in parenting from time to time.

One of those Situations that seem Very Simple and Very Straight Forward with a Correct Path all lined out.

WOOHOO, in other words. A Situation with a Solution!

That is AWESOME. It’s the Best Kind of Situation to have! I mean, I’ve been doing this parenting gig a while now, and it’s Not Always that we’re handed the Right Thing to Do simultaneously with the Problem, you know?

So we had a Situation, AND I KNEW WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT, so we moved quickly forward. Doing the Right Thing! Banner held high! Nobly pursuing our parenting goals!

Except I kept getting this squirmy feeling in my gut because every time I reminded myself that the Solution was clear and obvious, my heart said, “Yeah, but…”

It’s OK, though. DO NOT PANIC, friends. I shut those feelings down.

I obeyed the Right Way.



Until I didn’t.


Here’s what happened:

My kid is 9, and he’s asked all year to play lacrosse. We, being good and involved parents, managed not to miss the sign-up deadline like we did with soccer and swimming, so he was assigned a team. #ForTheParentingWin!

We bought All the Equipment as inexpensively as possible which still cost a few hundred dollars and made me want to gag. Still, the child was all padded up and was going to run around a field and whack other kids with a stick, so it felt kind of worth it. I come from the Scottish people, after all, inventors of golf and caber tossing and bar brawls, so the idea of a sport that combines chasing a small, white ball around a field while carrying a stick for hitting your opponents makes strange, beautiful sense to me.

We paid the the sign-up fees and the jersey fees, the registration fees and the official “U.S. Lacrosse” fees. We paid the We Forgot to Make Dinner in Time So Now We Have to Drive Through and Get You Crappy Food Before Practice fees, and we attended the practices and the jamborees and the clinics and the games.

Unfortunately, by week two, this child of mine started not wanting to attend practice or games, after all. I assumed he was bored or it was hard and uncomfortable, like learning any sport, so I said the Things You Say to Children Who Want to Give Up but Need to Learn the Importance of Follow-Through.

Buck upI said.

And you made a commitment.

And you know what we Woolseys do? WE FOLLOW THROUGH. Which isn’t necessarily true but feels like an essential fiction to sell my children, like “we clean up after ourselves” and “there are no stupid questions.” Lies, but good ones, you know?

I made him keep playing and ignored the uneasiness I felt.


On Saturday, I made him leave a birthday party early to attend his game. He was not happy with me, of course, but he lived, just as I predicted, and then, in the car on the way home, he said again, “I do not want to play lacrosse anymore, Mom. Please, please, please don’t make me go back.”

I don’t know what was different that time. I’m not really sure I can fully explain. I just felt like maybe I should shush on the Follow-Through Lecture and the Team Sports Are Good for You Diatribe and maybe, I dunno, listen to my kid. So I sat still and I said, “Why? Can you tell me why you don’t want to play the sport you really wanted to play a few weeks ago?”

Which is when he burst into tears, and so did his brother who’s on the same team, and I glanced and them in the rear view mirror, and they looked at each other like Do You Want to Tell Her, or Should I? and I thought, Uh oh. And then my kid told me he’s tired of being called stupid by another kid on the team, and tired of having that kid secretly push him when the coach isn’t looking, and tired of being told he’s the worst player ever, and he sucks and is also ugly and dumb and to shut up and get off the damn field.

Oh, I thought.



And his brother told me that was, in fact, what had happened. He corroborated the stories. He’d witnessed the small physical attacks and the large emotional and verbal ones. He’d told the kid to stop, a number of times, as had the kid who’d experienced them, and they were both just tired of handling it.



Over struggling with it.

I said all the right things. I swear. Like Thank You for Telling Me. And You Can ALWAYS Tell Me These Things. And I Will Talk to Your Coach.

And when my child begged again not to go back, I said We Will See What We Can Do. And We Don’t Just Let the Bullies Win. And This Isn’t a Reason to Quit Necessarily. And There Are Steps We Must Take. And You Will Learn Essential Life Lessons by Seeing This Through.

But my heart response kept getting louder.

Louder than my head response.

And I started to wonder why I was so invested in my boy continuing to play.

I went over all the conventional Head Reasons:

  1. We have to teach our kids follow-through.
  2. We have to teach our kids never to quit.
  3. Everyone knows team sports are THE KEY to learning cooperation and camaraderie and working together.
  4. WORK ETHIC. Hello!
  5. Get back on the horse, kid! There will always be bullies. Always. We cannot let them dictate our moves.
  6. If our kids don’t learn these lessons now, when the pressures are relatively small and short lived, they will think they can quit anything uncomfortable, for the rest of their lives, and their entire adulthood will be ruined.

Then I told those reasons to take a back seat for a minute so I could listen to the heart, which is, of course, when it all fell apart, because Oh, the Heart, friends. She had Things to Say. Things like:

  1. You tell your kids they can tell you anything, any time, and bring their hurts to you to hold gently and carefully, but do you to plan to honor what they say by listening deep and long and hard without pre-drawn conclusions?
  2. You tell your kids they are brilliant, and they can solve problems. Do you plan to insist on your solutions? Or consider theirs?
  3. Are you going to build trust with your kid and teach him that we are here for each other in this family? Or are you going to sell him the usual cultural lie that Being Independent and Following Through and Never Quitting and are more important than Community and Grace and the Reality that we all Try and Quit and Somehow, Eventually, Miraculously Try Again which is the Magic in this Mess and the Miracle, always.
  4. You tell your kids that Kindness and Goodness, Gentleness and Faithfulness, and Loving Their Neighbors as Themselves are more important than Anything Else, including Achievement and Popularity and Winning and Grades — because if you have Success but have failed to Love, what is the worth in any of your “achievements?” — but you’re kind of worshiping at the Altar of Athletics on this one, Beth, and at the Altar of Bucking Up. Is that where you were hoping to go with this?
  5. And even though team sports are a fantastic way to learn to cooperate and work together, do you really think that a kid who has 4 siblings and who navigates playgrounds and school and church and has no other opportunities to learn them?
  6. He’s nine. Nine, Mama. Nine years old. Give him a break.

I spent some time considering.

I weighed the Head and the Heart.

I contacted the coach – thanking him for his volunteer service because no teacher or coach who gives and gives and gives to our kids deserves to have his ass handed to him — and recognized that Handling Bullying is a real bummer part of the job, but noting he needed to know anyway.

And then I laid it all out for the boys. All of it. What I thought I was supposed to say, and why I was uncomfortable with that simplistic answer. What the Head said, and what the Heart said. And I asked them to collaborate with me. To experiment — because it’s always a grand experiment anyway — in Listening and Loving each other well.

They heard me out.

I heard them out.

They still wanted to quit.

And I decided to respect their choice to no longer subject themselves to that situation.

To respect their senses of self and boundaries, and, well, camaraderie, working together, and follow-through on quitting the heck out of lacrosse.

The Head is somewhat bewildered by this whole decision.

The Heart, though, is glad.

The boys listened to a Brand New Lecture: “Do not get too excited, gentlemen. Sometimes we are going Make a Parenting Call You DO NOT LIKE, you know. This is INEVITABLE. What’s more, is we’re going to Make a Parenting Call You Do Not Like AND sometimes we are going to be Very Wrong AND you will still have to Abide by It. That is going to SUCK. But we will try to Listen First and Love Well, OK? That is our promise to you. Our commitment. Listen. Love. And get it Right. And Fail Utterly. And Try Again. Eventually. Which is Magic and Mess and Grace and Grime and Weird and Wild and aren’t we lucky we get to live it? Aren’t we the luckiest to live this human, divine life together?”

Am I confident I made the right decision? I AM NOT. Complete confidence in parenting — or in life — is for people who are delusional. But I am confident I’ve made the best decision I know how to make in this situation with the information I have right now. With the well-being of my child at heart. With the utmost I can do for his spirit in both the short and long terms. And that, my friends, is all any of us can honestly do. Listen and Love. Succeed and Fail. And Try Again, Always. Eventually. But Always. Which is the Miracle.

With love,


The First Decision (Where You Tell Me How to Improve My House: Part 2)

Apr 27 2016

If you haven’t read Part 1, please go there first. None of this will make sense without it. Particularly when you wonder why I don’t just Pay Money and Make My Own Decisions like a Normal Person without needing the Internets to Assist. Part 1 will help explain. I swear.


FIRST OF ALL, thank you for your responses both here and on the Face Book. Clearly, we are a team, and we shall prevail, and Greg doesn’t stand a chance, although we adore his sweet, cheap heart to pieces.

SECOND OF ALL, I apologize that I had to put my children to bed and couldn’t Reveal to You What I Have Already Done so you can Congratulate Me on my Fine Thinking. It hurt me more than it hurt you, and may the Lord sincerely bless you for not mentioning to me that it didn’t, in fact, hurt you at all, and you don’t give a flying fig what I do with my kitchen as long as I clean it so you don’t have to report me to Child Protective Services for Filth and Squalor. You’re the sweetest.

THIRD OF ALL, here’s the current state of the kitchen. I DID think about cleaning and decluttering it before I took these blurry, poorly lit pics on my phone, but, since we all know it’s the Thought That Counts and not the Actual Doing of the Thing, it’s in exactly the same state as I found it AND I still get credit for the thinking. #winning

IMG_9441IMG_9444IMG_9445(If you’ve ever wondered why this isn’t a photography blog,
these pics should clear that confusion right up.)

FOURTH, in case I haven’t made it clear already, our first project is, officially, A Stove I Don’t Have to Start With an Ice Pick.

FIFTH, I should never have started numbering these paragraphs because I can’t keep up with that kind of commitment. It’s too much, and I’m going to stop now. And this should serve as a helpful reminder, Team, for how quickly I give up. We can let me give up on the numbering, but we should be very cautious moving forward about letting me give up on Big Ideas and Making Quality Choices. I promise you, I will try at some point to give those things up. I will grow weary and I will attempt to Half-Ass the Things. WE CANNOT LET ME DO THIS, because this will be how Team Greg wins in the end. He is counting on it. Let’s not let this happen. OK? OK.

Moving on.

Clearly, the stove was not ever positioned well in this house. It’s off center from the window and, to put it bluntly, weird.


At the time we designed the kitchen, my primary thoughts were a) IT MUST BE CHEAP and b) I’d like to see my children playing peacefully in the backyard while I cook nutritious meals they will love and remember. These included, in my mind, chicken pot pie and whole wheat bread and creamy vegetable lasagna. Now I realize that playing in the backyard is more pummeling than peaceful and that my children really only want to eat chicken nuggets. I DID, however, succeed in my first goal, which was to buy a cheap stove. It crapped out about 8 years later, and we’ve been hobbling by, using the ice pick to start the oven for the last 6.

THE PROBLEM with replacing it is this: that stove runs on gas, which I love, and has a downdraft, which I hate. To replace it with something similar is a minimum $1,800. Which, in a word, HAHAHAHAHAHA! And, in another word, NO. No. Nope. No. I am NOT, in fact, going to pony up $1,800 for the base model of something I don’t like and never worked well and is in a bizarre spot so it can crap out in another 8 years.

A regular gas stove is cheaper than $1,800. An electric downdraft stove is cheaper than $1,800. It’s the combo that gets us.

CONCLUSION: We have to Do Something Else.

THE NEXT PROBLEM is this: Since I’m not giving up the gas part, Doing Something Else means an option OTHER than a downdraft.

And THE NEXT PROBLEM: Which means we have to install a range hood.

And THE NEXT PROBLEM: Which means the current window/stove configuration — off center and poorly aligned — isn’t going to work. I mean, it worked fine while Cheap was my only method of analysis, but now that I have Big Ideas like Not Crap and Kind of Pretty and Also Functional, we have a problem.

As I said in the previous post, I have made one key decision without you.

Which I’m about to show you.

Please understand that we are keeping this, so your response can be a) THAT IS THE MOST AWESOME IDEA EVER because you feel that’s true, or b) THAT IS THE MOST AWESOME IDEA EVER because you hate it and feel it’s going to fail miserably and Why, Oh WHY, Beth Would You Get an EVEN OLDER Thing to Replace the Broken Newer Thing… but you recognize that There Is No Moving Me on This, and so you will smile and lie.

Do you have your response ready?


Here it is:



Yes, I did.


She has lovely white enamel tops that aren’t pictured, but you get the idea, right?

Here’s what happened: I got to thinking. My stove sucks. It’s New and Cheap and Crap. But you know what didn’t suck? Things Made in the Olden Days, that’s what! And then I thought it’s too bad we can’t buy a brand new 1950’s stove these days. THAT would work. THAT would be rad. No bells and whistles. Just a stove that works. And a stove that works for decades. And a stove that’s white enamel and Not an Eye Sore. I did some research, and, sure enough, these stoves work forever. On the down side, a refurbished 1950’s stove can run — *ahem* — $3,000 and up, up, UP.

IMG_9439But then guess what? GUESS WHAT, YOU GUYS?

I found this pretty, pretty baby on Craigslist.



Apparently, upon learning her husband was going to relocate their family in 1956 from Ohio to Oregon, a young woman ordered it from the Sears catalog to be delivered to her new home… where she discovered the house didn’t have gas hook-ups. And so it sat, covered in her garage, for the past 60 years.

With all of its parts.

And its original manual.

And her kids found it recently while cleaning out the house. And they put it up on Craigslist for $1,200… or best offer. And I contact them in secret so Greg would not know I had lost my mind, and I offered $700. Not because I don’t think it’s worth more, but because I felt like that’s all I can afford right now. And I said, “I TOTALLY understand if you can’t sell it for that,” and “I COMPLETELY get it that you have to take a higher offer if you get it,” and “but if you sell it to me, I will LOVE it and ADORE it and SING IT TO SLEEP every night with soft lullabies, I swear.”


I cannot even TELL you how ECSTATIC I was. And how much I was DREADING telling Greg he was going to have to drive to another state to pick up an ancient stove he hadn’t approved that would cost $700 we didn’t really have and would Solve All Our Stove Problems except for Martial Communication, which, let’s be honest, is not going to be solved in our lifetime anyway.


And Greg, in fact, did NOT believe what I’d found. Or believe he was going to drive with my dad for a full day round-trip to get it. Or believe that we were shelling out $700 for it. Or understand that, when you find the perfect thingmeasurements are not important.

“You know that it’s 36″ wide, right?” he said.

“YES, I KNOW. Bigger for our family! WITH AN EXTRA BURNER.” Which is not technically needed to make our 6 billionth pot of macaroni and cheese, but who cares? We are American! Bigger and More = Always BETTER.

“And you know that we do not currently have a 36″ opening in our kitchen, right?”


“And that we will have to put in a range hood.”


“And that these things will cost even more money.”


“And that this will destroy our counter tops, so we will need to replace them, too.”


And that’s when Greg collapsed and died. Minus the collapsing and dying. Physically. But plus the collapsing and dying emotionally and spiritually. In other words, WORTH IT.

So we have the stove, and she is awesome and perfect, and we’ve had her officially examined and tuned up by the Certified, Old Appliances guy, and that’s why she’s sitting on a dolly in our garage where I caress her and love her and tell her her time to shine is almost upon us.

Which brings me to the ENTIRE POINT of this post:

How are we going to remodel that area to allow for the stove and the range hood?

Listen; I am NOT making ANY further decisions without you, so I’m going to need you to speak up here and share your opinions. Everything to the right of the sink is fair game, and the way I see it, we have two choices at this stage, as follows:

ONE: We can center our 1956 oven range under the middle of the window, and install a ceiling-mount range hood in front of the window. It might look something like this:

RangeHoodInFrontOfWindowPhoto Source: I have no idea, but happy to link if someone can find it.

I mean, it might look something like that if my house was clean and if we had pretty subway tiles running to the ceiling (I’m in) with lovely molding (we will talk about this) and contrasting drawer pulls (yes, please) and counter tops that coordinate (gonna need SERIOUS help for figuring that out). We already have a dark wood floor I like, so I *think* we could get this type of look in a fairly straight-forward manner.

It’s important to note that the new oven is only a few inches wider than the one that’s there now, so centering it under the window will not make it too close to the sink. There will still be some counter space between the sink and range in that scenario, with a longer counter space to the right.

The major benefit of this scenario is the fact that we would not need to redo a wall or window, thus keeping the cost WAY down. HOWEVER, I do NOT want to cheap out and do it that way if you think it’s NOT a good (or pretty) long term solution.

Which brings us to option #2…

TWO: We can remove the window in that back wall and create a space for the oven with a wall above it, a wall-mount range, and two smaller windows on either side. Perhaps something like this:

dn-CharmeanNeithartInteriorsKitchen002Photo Source: Charmean Neithart Interiors

This scenario will cost SIGNIFICANTLY more money with window and construction costs, but must be considered if it’s the only way to make the remodel look like an Authentically Pretty Solution rather than Readjusted Crappiness.

Because I’m me and I come from a lifelong bent toward LESS EXPENSIVE = BETTER, I lean toward Option #1. However, because I’m me and choose things like orange counters, I think we’re all clear that I’m Not to Be Trusted, which is where you come in.

SO — I need your thoughts, friends. Please tell me:

  1. How incredibly rad and worth it the new stove is, AND
  2. Which of the two above options is best, all things considered, OR
  3. If you have a third option I should consider.


With love,





P.S. We’re also going to need to figure out how to include this bottle opener in our design, because, even though I asked for it for my birthday and Christmas, and it costs $39.99 plus shipping, and no one bought it for me, I’m sure someone will soon and it’s only a matter of time. It’s by Planet Dork on Etsy, and we’re going to need to talk about how to mount it on a kitchen wall. Clearly.


P.P.S. This is JUST a post script to the person out there who’s been thinking about coming to the Magic in the Mess Writing Retreat or the Grace in the Grime Spiritual Formation Retreat with me in June but has been afraid and nervous but keeps thinking about taking the HUGE RISK of going someplace with strangers because What If It Changes Everything? You know who you are. Email me. We need to talk. The rest of you can ignore this and have a lovely day!


Where You Tell Me How to Improve My House: Part 1 (Alternately Titled: Maybe I Don’t Want to Start My Stove With an Ice Pick Anymore)

Apr 26 2016

Listen. Here’s what you have to understand to make sense of this post and the posts that will have to follow it:

  1. Historically speaking, Greg and I are frugal people.
  2. The only thing that’s better than cheap is free, and the only thing better than free is free plus poorly made and/or ugly.
  3. I don’t know why this is true, but if you look at our choices in counter tops (orange laminate) and flooring (plastic or vinyl or thin, austere carpet) and cars (Pontiac, guys! — and this one was MY choice which I DESPERATELY WANTED and STILL LOVE, and I had to BROWBEAT Greg into accepting that WE WERE BUYING IT BECAUSE I NEED THE PONTIAC) and clothes (second hand, man), you will have to accept it. It’s not pretty; it’s just true.
  4. When Greg and I chose our first apartment (dark and ugly and CHEAP, HOORAY!) and then moved after 6 months to someplace pretty and airy and slightly-less-cheap, thereby berating ourselves for Wasting Money ($50 more/month) for No Better Reason than it made us feel Happy (the shame), my mom-in-law sighed a HUGE sigh of relief and told me she was SO GLAD we’d moved out of that Nightmare and encouraged me to Go Buy a New Couch to celebrate.
  5. I bought the couch.
  6. It was cheap and uncomfortable.
  7. We kept it for 10 years.
  8. Lately, though, while Greg has stayed True to His Cheap Core Self, a man of Conviction and Principle, I have started to think Radical and Scary Things like Maybe I Don’t Want to Start My Stove With an Ice Pick Anymore, and Perhaps We Should Repaint the Front Door Rather Than Using The Destroyed Surface as a Chalkboard, and Maybe the Stairs Which Are Carpeted and Stained With Ketchup and Nefarious, Permanent Kid Goo Could Be Recovered With Wood or Something Lovely and Wipeable.
  9. BIG IDEAS, in other words. I AM HAVING THEM. And I can’t seem to quit, no matter how much Greg looks like he wants to ralph every time I mention things like Stair Reflooring Bids and New Stoves and Enormous Gallons of Paint and even, possibly, maybe Patching Holes in Our Walls.

So you understand our paradigm here now, yes? And what we’re working with? And that There Are Things We Must Do with This House? And that Greg and I are At Odds? And that, no matter where I take this post, we are on the Same Team? By which I mean, You and I are on the same team, and Greg is on a Different Team — the Ruin Beth’s Dreams Team — and we are working in concert against him but that’s OK because, hello!, Big Ideas?

But we also understand that, given my background (reference orange laminate, please — and note that I picked it and paid real, live money for it, and it’s a rusty orange and not even a good orange), I can’t be left to my own devices, right? We all get that? And we know that I don’t have a) Taste or b) a Pinterest Board or c) Good Judgement or d) an Inclination to Acquire Any of Those Things, and given all that accumulative knowledge, we understand we Absolutely CANNOT, Under Any Circumstances, Leave Me to My Own Devices?

Yes? We’re clear? All on the same page?

OK, then. OK, good.

Get your Taste and Boards and Excellent Judgement ready, because we’re going to Do Things around my house. Which means we have to Make a Few Decisions. Which we cannot do with Greg because Greg’s Decision will be No, and, frankly, that’s not going to work for us.

And I hate to lead you on like this and not get to the good stuff, but it’s bedtime and Greg thinks I Should Help Put Kids to Bed. Which shows what a Party Pooper Greg is and why I had to come to you in the first place. But which also keeps me from writing All the Things I’m going to need us to consider moving forward.

So, in lieu of Telling You More Right Now, which I assure I would much rather do than bedtime, I will leave you with these two visual aids, which is where we shall start:


IMG_9448^That’s where the ice pick goes.^
In the holes ’til the oven turns on.

Jam that sucker in there ’til the oven lights up.
I don’t know what else to say about that.

That’s the tip of the ice berg.

The impetus for change.

The first domino.

Because with that going down, we have some Choices Ahead that will involve Design and Construction and Finding Greg a Giant Brown Paper Bag for Hyperventilating.

And I will leave you with a Confession: I know I jumped the gun here, but I HAVE ALREADY PURCHASED A REPLACEMENT OVEN, and IT’S REALLY, REALLY WEIRD, and IT DOESN’T FIT, and I ADORE IT TO THE MOON, and so WE ARE STUCK WITH IT not unlike Greg is stuck with the Pontiac, but I hereby swear not to make any further decisions without your input.

I feel like that’s fair.





P.S. If you know of some sort of cheap (read: free and possibly poorly made ;)) design software where we can do some layouts together, that would be good.

P.P.S. Also, if you want to set up our Pinterest Board for us, I’m not opposed. I’m pretty sure I can’t be trusted with that, but I’m equally sure out there is a Pinterest GENIUS who can hook us up.


The Magical Cleaning Fairies Are Threatening to Sue

Apr 25 2016

Dear Friends,

Sad, disquieting news from the Cleaning Fairies ahead.

A couple days ago, I mentioned to you that the Magical Cleaning Fairies still haven’t cleaned the kitchen or the bathrooms or finished mining the myriad mountains of laundry because those damn fairies never ever show up even though I ask and ask, and I think we should talk to the Better Business Bureau about them because I hear I’m not the ONLY one with this problem and, frankly, I’m tired of their slacker ways.”

Unfortunately, the Cleaning Fairies (one of whom might be my father, who resided in our home with a few of our wily, wild children while we were on vacation) have officially, and in writing, objected to my statement.

Yesterday, I received the following Pre-Grievance Notification:

Fairies Brotherhood International
Oregon Local 97000
April 24, 2016

Ms. Beth Woolsey


Ms. Woolsey:

This shall serve to advise you that under the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) dated October 13, 1973 (revised January 14, 1995) between the Fairies Brotherhood International (FBI) and Beth Woolsey (successor of Elizabeth McDonough) Section 4.B Professional Conduct our member(s) employed at Your House, Oregon allege defamation under the above referenced section, to wit:

You did knowingly, and with intent to defame, publish in a public media venue on or about April 23, 2016, the following:

 …still haven’t cleaned the kitchen or the bathrooms or finished mining the myriad mountains of laundry because those damn fairies never ever show up…

Our members, the Magical Cleaning Fairies, have provided sworn testimony that between the dates April 8, 2016 and April 18, 2016 (inclusive) two (2) bathrooms, one (1) bedroom, the laundry room, and the kitchen of their assigned place of employment, i.e. Your House, Oregon, were in fact clean, neatly arranged, and “mountain free.” Our members further testify that any degradation of these circumstances is entirely the due to the actions (or failure to act) on the part of the Employer, i.e. Beth Woolsey.

Under Section 23.C.4.c of the CBA Pre-grievances, you are afforded ten (10) business days to resolve the foregoing issues raised under Section 4.B Professional Conduct to the satisfaction of our member(s) or this violation will be formally filed with the System Board of Adjustment.


Thugly N. Forsser, Esq.
Contract Administrator and Legal Counsel
Fairies Brotherhood International
Oregon Local 97000

Here’s the thing, folks. The Magical Cleaning Fairies claim to have left several areas of my home “clean, neatly arranged, and ‘mountain free,'” and blame me — ME! —  for the “degradation of these circumstances.” As though *I* have failed to keep my house clean instead of relying, as I should be able to, on supernatural creatures to magically appear and enchant my house into the perpetual, preternatural state of cleanliness to which it and I am entitled. I know. I’m finding their missive hard to swallow, too.

Now I know the internet is full of too much misplaced outrage these days, and I swear to you I’m not trying to add to it. Occasionally, though, there are some stands we must make and some banners we must take up to protect both ourselves and others who have been insidiously silenced, and, let’s be honest; there are many of us, numbering into the millions who have NOT had the kind of cleaning service from the fairies — or, hell, even Snow White’s or Cinderella’s woodland creatures — that we deserve. Which is why I didn’t bury the letter above and why I’m speaking out now.

So the question becomes, how do we move past our collective outrage, because obviously we’re all outraged, and move toward fundamental, necessary change? I mean, I could point out that the Magical Cleaning Fairies have no proof that they ever cleaned my house, particularly considering the state it’s in right now. And I could point out that, although they claimed in the subsequent phone call I made to discuss the Pre-Grievance Notification to have “witnesses,” said witnesses are historically unreliable. I could point out a number of things, but what I’d rather do is discuss Meaningful Change.

Thus I turn to you. If you have any ideas for how to handle this kind of unfair, baseless communique from the Magical Cleaning Fairies — any similar experiences you can share — please let me know. The time for change is now. And we will not be intimidated.

For us all,





P.S. For the few of you who may feel sympathetic to the Magical Cleaning Fairies’ missive, I offer these photographs, most of which were taken yesterday, and ask you whether it’s likely these areas were truly “clean, neatly arranged, and mountain free” a mere 6 days prior:


IMG_7741 - Copy

You can see more of our linen closet here.

IMG_7740 - Copy

And you can see more of our entry-way lockers here,
which, frankly, are supposed to work better than this.

IMG_7742 - Copy

You see my point.

AND — P.P.S. There are still a few spots left at TWO upcoming retreats in June. I would LOVE to hang out with you there. If you’ve been thinking about it, or if you have any questions, or if you want me to talk you into coming, email me at These retreats are my Favorite Things EVER because they breathe life into my weary, waiting soul, and I want to share that with you.

The Magic in the Mess Writing Retreat makes space for writers to explore their creative voices, discover a supportive writing community, and give shape to the messy but beautiful stories we each carry with us.


The Grace and the Grime Spiritual Formation Retreat exists to create space to deepen our experience with God in an authentic, encouraging environment. In addition to the grounded and the graceful, we welcome those who are weary, wary or unsure, and we believe we’re all wildly worthy of love and grace.

Alrighty Then

Apr 23 2016


I’m back.

I mean, I’ve been back, but now I’m back in this space, too, and I’ve missed you.

Greg and I are back from our lengthy vacation, and I meant to write to you days and days ago, immediately on my return, except life got extra lifey so instead of writing you I’ve had a migraine for days, and my kid needs Ear Surgery #4, and there are bills and bills to open and presumably pay, and the Magical Cleaning Fairies still haven’t cleaned the kitchen or the bathrooms or finished mining the myriad mountains of laundry because those damn fairies never ever show up even though I ask and ask, and I think we should talk to the Better Business Bureau about them because I hear I’m not the ONLY one with this problem and, frankly, I’m tired of their slacker ways.

In other words, it’s general Upheaval and Chaos and Mayhem around here, like usual, so I don’t have a particularly good excuse for not writing, but you, my friends, are typically unreasonably kind so you have only yourselves to blame for me feeling as though you’ll forgive me and welcome me back anyway. It’s what we do here, after all; welcome each other even, or especially, when we’re lagging, and behind, and slower than we intended, and limping kind of dramatically along life’s trail, or just quitting for a while altogether. We welcome each other anyway to the muck and the madness and the grime where we look for magic and grace and sometimes find it.

Vacation was wonderful — sea, sun, sleep, sex — and would have been perfect if I didn’t have to bring myself everywhere I go, but, alas, I’m stuck with me and with my brain, and so most of most days were good, except some of some days when my heart beat too fast, and I couldn’t quite catch my breath, and I had to skip going with Greg to a beach I’d Very Much wanted to go to when I was planning the trip with my Calm, Anticipatory Brain instead of navigating the trip with my Wonky, Panicky Brain. All in all, though, we accomplished the goal of vacation which is to vacate, so Good Job, Us!

Also, I did NOT Completely Freak Out and Scream and Cry and Lose My Ever-Loving Shit because I was Certain My Children Would Perish in My Absence, which is far, FAR better than some of the trips we took when my mental health was, well, less well managed than it is now. And so, HOORAY!

Also-also I finished the Book Proposal in its first full draft which is now with the literary agent who shall send it back with Recommendations for Revision so I can hack away at Round Two. WOOHOO!

Also-also-also, I really like the book proposal — like, really like it ( <– brilliant phrases like this are why I’m a writer, man) — and can’t wait to get moving on it so we can experience it together because I’ve never been good at waiting to share Good Things. I want us to have them all RIGHT NOW. Still, HOORAY!

All of which is to say, it was good and right to go away, and great to be back in the mess. More soon, friends.





Mexico1P.S. There are still a few spots left at TWO upcoming retreats in June. I would LOVE to hang out with you there. If you’ve been thinking about it, or if you have any questions, or if you want me to talk you into coming, email me at These retreats are my Favorite Things EVER because they breathe life into my weary, waiting soul, and I want to share that with you.


The Magic in the Mess Writing Retreat makes space for writers to explore their creative voices, discover a supportive writing community, and give shape to the messy but beautiful stories we each carry with us.



The Grace and the Grime Spiritual Formation Retreat exists to create space to deepen our experience with God in an authentic, encouraging environment. In addition to the grounded and the graceful, we welcome those who are weary, wary or unsure, and we believe we’re all wildly worthy of love and grace.

A Blog in Which We’re Concerned with Me and God and Telling the Whole Truth and Nothing but the Truth: An Authenticity Project Guest Post by Nate Macy

Apr 18 2016


Dearest Friends,

From April 7-20, I’ve asked some friends whose hearts I trust to participate in The Authenticity Project. The goal? To share something true. I gave these folks very loose parameters — no word count, no guidelines, no rules to follow — and I asked them to be free with what’s real for them these days, whether that reality is thoughtful or funny or poignant or ridiculous. I hope you enjoy meeting these people as much as I enjoy counting them among my friends.

With love,





A Blog in Which We’re Concerned with Me and God and Telling the Whole Truth and Nothing but the Truth
An Authenticity Project guest post by Nate Macy

I like to think of myself as a forthright person, even if that’s not entirely true. I suppose being forth right doesn’t mean always saying everything that’s on your mind, but sometimes, in close relationships, it feels like a lack of authenticity to not be entirely known. Is there a difference between being without guile and being stupidly vulnerable? I wonder about God and why it says that God likes people without guile. I’m not entirely sure I like guileless people, that friend who feels free to say whatever critical-but-at-least-partially-accurate thing uninvited, or the person who speaks just a little too candidly about their problems, I find that strange and off putting at times. I’m not sure I even like my guileless self, it feels naked and stupid and scary. As George Bernard Shaw said “it’s dangerous to be sincere, unless you’re also stupid”.

But I also wonder if my defenses and cynicism keep me less safe than I suppose, less wise than I perceive, and more alone than I intend. Not being authentic with those who know and love us best means faking it, it means never getting to live in reality. Of course it feels vulnerable and scary, because it is.

When it comes to the Divine, that’s even harder. Being open and honest and vulnerable with an abstract all powerful being ranges from feeling psychotic to life threatening. In the faith tradition I come from, we believe that God wants intimate relationship, to really know us, and we call this “good news”.

Frederick Buechner says “What is both good and new about the good news is the mad insistence that Jesus lives on among us not just as another haunting memory but as the outlandish, holy, and invisible power of God working not just through the sacraments, but in countless hidden ways to make even slobs like us loving and whole beyond anything we could conceivably pull off by ourselves.

Thus the gospel is not only good and new but, if you take it seriously, a holy terror. Jesus never claimed that the process of being changed from a slob into a human being was going to be a Sunday school picnic. On the contrary. Childbirth may occasionally be painless, but rebirth, never. Part of what it means to be a slob is to hang on for dear life to our slobbery.”

Maybe that’s why we’re so afraid to be authentic, that the people around us, or that God will see that we’re all of us slobs and cynics and scared to death that anybody will really know us and see us for the complex mess that we are. But truth be told, most of us aren’t fooling anybody much, people can see the mess through the windows even while we hold the door closed. So here’s to trying to be real, as John Wesley would say, warts and all, and to finding that living the truth openly leads to freedom.


Screen Shot 2016-04-05 at 2.36.39 PM

Nate Macy, though typically smarter than this, occasionally makes questionable life choices like leaving his bio up to Beth Woolsey who OF COURSE sources info from All Nate’s Friends on the Book of Faces. 

Although he may be most well known as King of the Coveted Coconut Monkey, Nate Macy is also deeply passionate about the Bible, theology, music, guitars, sound gear, football, bikes, history, beer, and fancy footwear. Widely acknowledged as the World’s Best Dance Party DJ for his stunning work playing tunes, running light trees, and creating a fun, fab atmosphere with bubble and smoke machines at the Woolsey home whenever Beth loses her poo about the state of the church and just has to dance it out, man, Nate did recently admit to a troubling addiction to bubbles after he correctly identified a commercial bubble machine that is used in Christian concerts. He and his family are in our thoughts and prayers.

Nate Macy is the founder of the Boston Honey Bear Museum and continues his ministry of finding strangers in the Alps, rescuing small children from baboons, and teaching people important lessons about not leaving their email accounts open where he can send messages on their behalf. He once guest starred on “The Voice, The View, and The Vatican,” a late 2014 reality TV show that unfortunately never made it to air. Former poet laureate of Freedonia, Nate taught graduate courses in ice carving for the Royal Uruguayan Institute of Fine Arts before his placement in Oregon through the Witness Protection Program, where he became a Quaker worship pastor and learned he’s a 3 on the Enneagram. Nate has jammed with Ziggy Stardust, Cher and Fog Hat. It was also rumored he was a guest artist for Snoop Dog. Only a few of those things are true, but that’s hardly the point.

In truth, Nate is insanely creative, passionate about making and listening to a broad range of music, deeply loyal in friendships, so willing to think outside the box that there are times we’re not sure he knows there is a box, is deeply, deeply in love with his family, is incredibly appreciative and honoring of women who have contributed to growth in his life, loves participating with others in creating meaningful spaces of worship, and is an ongoing danger to all small, fury creatures when out in the forest with his 20 lb. compound bow and arrows, but he’s usually tromping around, so they have plenty of warning time.

Most importantly, Nate Macy is a fan of the muppets, knows how to make an indelible impression with a bowl of M&M’s, writes rad guest blog posts on authenticity, and hates the texture of many vegetables, which, although a moral weakness for sure, is endearing and makes this Man Among Men more relatable to the Rest of Us.

P.S. You can watch him debut as Ludacris at minute 2:18 in this video.