MiniPost: Just a Little Fairy Dust

Apr 28 2017

I made it across the Pacific Ocean without dying in a fiery crash. A miracle, every time. Greg insists it’s the physics of aerodynamics, and I believe him, but only mostly. You know; like, I believe him, but only with my head and with logic. Not with my heart. You’ll never convince me there isn’t also fairy dust involved in air travel. Or a whole host off angels rolling their eyes as they hoist yet another tin can full of reckless humans on their backs and take them where they’re bid, grumbling all the while at the Lord Most High, “Oh, my GOD. If you would just LET THEM ALL TUMBLE INTO THE SEA FOR ONE DAY ONLY, they wouldn’t pull stupid crap like this EVER AGAIN.” But no. Nope. God keeps letting us do what’s crazy.

I made it. All the way here to Hawaii where my kid is finishing up her first year of college. We dropped her off 8 months ago, taught her how to use the bus, and bought Every Single Thing at Target and Bed, Bath and Beyond. I spent 300% of my budget, I told her she didn’t have to stay, and that college was overrated, and that I was pretty sure she ought to give up on her dreams and move back home with her mommy FOREVER, because who doesn’t want that?? She said no, and told me I was going to be OK. She said I’d be fine, and I could do this, and I knew she was right, but I cried on the way home, anyway.

Now here we are, only a few months later. Hardly any time at all, but this time this is Her Place, and now, for the first time, I’m the visitor in a world she’s created for herself. She took me to her favorite beach and let me play Twinsies in the water with her, where we take pics of our stunning dance prowess and have people try to guess who’s who. She took me to her favorite restaurant with her friends — the one that’s open ’til 2am with the vegan peanut butter shakes and the cartoons playing from a projector onto the concrete wall. And, in the grand tradition of college students everywhere, she let me buy her groceries, but then she said thank you, because she knows now that food costs money, and money has to be earned, and that, while we’re glad to give it, it’s still a gift worth acknowledgement and gratitude.

Eight months is all.

A blink, really, and she’s grown.

Which we knew would happen, but only mostly. In our heads and with logic, you know? Because it’s part of the physics of becoming.

So of course she’s grown. It’s inevitable. But you’ll also never convince me there isn’t fairy dust involved in helping her fly.

Sending love, friends,

 

 

 

32 Things: A Day in the Life of, Like, EVERY PARENT I KNOW

Mar 26 2017

Just a quick review of the day, friends, in a list of 32 things. Honest to God, as much as I want to think today was unusual, honesty compels me to admit this is just like every day for, like, EVERY PARENT I KNOW.

  1. OK. I went to church this morning, but I couldn’t find my travel mug for coffee. My 4th grader suggested I use my whiskey flask. I was seriously tempted because whiskey flask + church makes me happy the same way profane embroidery + church makes me happy, BUT, contrary to public opinion, I do occasionally behave in socially appropriate ways, so I did NOT drink my coffee from a flask in church. I was simply late — as always — because I obviously couldn’t go until I found my travel mug.
  2. It was in the car.
  3. There was solidified milk in it.
  4. I didn’t gag when I cleaned it out — and it fell in one heinous, gelatinous, fetid mass into the disposal — because that’s apparently one of my super powers now.
  5. I was leaving the house with my clean, filled travel mug when I discovered the dog chewing on a glass ball she stole from the Christmas tree.
  6. Yes, the Christmas tree is still up and it’s the tail end of March.
  7. Yes, of course the ball was already in shards.
  8. Yes, of course I checked her mouth.
  9. Yes, of course it was full of glass. I pulled it all out. Piece by piece. She’s fine. No cuts. Sad dog, though, that I took away her toy.
  10. Yes, I got glass and dog slobber all over myself.
  11. No, I didn’t change my clothes. I’m not a rookie. If I changed my clothes every time I was encased in things like slobber and glass, I’d never do anything but change my clothes.
  12. I wiped off the slobber as best I could with someone’s sock, discarded for, I imagine, just that helpful purpose next to the door.
  13. I made it to church with coffee and without a trip to the emergency weekend vet, so goal accomplished.
  14. I came home.
  15. I made homemade stock. You know why? BECAUSE I’M A BOSS, and that’s what bosses do. BOOM.
  16. “Mom?” asked my kid, peering into the pot. “Is that a mole you’re making into soup?” 
  17. He didn’t mean mole sauce.
  18. He meant mole, the animal.
  19. It’s not a mole. It’s a piece of smoked pig. But I saw no reason to say so.
  20. “Yes,” I said. “Yes. We’re having mole soup for dinner. I caught a mole, I marinated it, and I threw it in the stock pot. Should be DELICIOUS.”
  21. “Huh,” said the child. “Am I allowed to add cheese?”
  22. “Yes,” I said. “You may add cheese. Cheese is, in fact, the traditional garnish used with any type of rodent soup.”
  23. “K,” he said, and he ran off to watch a video.
  24. I, in other words, have lowered standards SO FAR that my son thought a soup made from dirt-dwelling rodent flesh, albeit smothered in cheese, sounded acceptable.
  25. I have officially won parenting.
  26. I have not won dog-sitting.
  27. In fact, I had to come to terms this very afternoon with my dog, Zoey, leading sweet baby Hazel, a lovely baby Golden Retriever I’m watching this week for my cousin, astray.
  28. Unlike for mere slobber and glass, I DO strip down to wash muddy dogs.
  29. My kid videoed that bit, Internets. You’re welcome. Now you get to watch me sit in the bathtub in my granny bra and lecture the baby dog. “IF ALL THE OTHER DOGS JUMP OFF A CLIFF, HAZEL, YOU DO NOT JUMP, TOO.”
  30. I suspect this lecture will turn out to be as effective for the puppy as it is for my children. Which is to say, I suspect she’ll become a cliff diver any minute.

Sincerely,

 

 

 

P.S. Poor Hazel…

It Was a Cat in Heat. Or a Baby Crying. One or the Other.

Mar 24 2017

I rushed out of the house, wearing just my nightie, at 6:30am a couple days ago and peered over the front porch railing, looking and listening. I waited, silently, looking and listening more before I tiptoed down the front stairs and around the sides of the house to repeat.

No cat, though.

No baby, either.

The sound was totally gone.

I’d been laying in bed, dozing off and on for 30 minutes, listening to what I assumed was a cat in heat, yowling, then silence, then yowling some more when it occurred to me it might not be a cat. It might be a baby. Like, a human baby someone abandoned. And left on our porch. For me to find. Which I was not doing because my bed was very warm and the baby inadvertently sounded like a cat. Listen, we have discussed Lizard Brain and the fact that I have it, and once it occurred to me that it could be a baby — even though it really, really sounded like a cat holding a seance and trying to open a portal to the Netherworld — there was no way Lizard Brain was going to allow me to sleep. We can put this on the list of Things Lizard Brain Cannot Live With — FINDING OUT LATER THAT THE ABANDONED INFANT DIED BECAUSE YOU WERE TOO LAZY TO GET YOUR ASS OUT OF BED, BETH.

So, fine, Lizard Brain.

Got it.

I hauled said ass out of bed, draped inadequately in an obscenely short nightgown which is fine for running around inside the house but less socially appropriate for, say, running around outside the house, and, with the sun poking over the horizon and plenty of daylight for all my neighbors to see me, I went traipsing around our property in my best imitation of Chubby, Barely-Clad Suburban Mommy-Turned-Spy-Ninja. Stealthy. Sexy. Focused on my mission. Not to brag, but it was some of my finest work to date.

I stayed out there for 15 minutes. Twenty, maybe. Barefoot on gravel. Looking under the porch. Sneaking around corners.

No cat, though.

And no baby, either.

The sound was totally gone, and, fortunately, after a quarter hour of frozen performance art for the neighbors, Lizard Brain was gone, too.

I headed inside and made my way back to bed.

Laid my head on my pillow.

AND HEARD IT AGAIN EXACTLY LIKE BEFORE.

Which is when I realized it wasn’t a cat in heat at all. Nor was it an abandoned baby. It was just Greg, breathing. Wheezing on the inhale. Like a cat in heat. Or a crying mini-human.

All of which is to say, Greg and one of the 10-year-olds left for Mexico yesterday to help build houses for people in need. They’ll be away for 10 days. I will miss them terribly. But not, you know, completely. 

#BEDtoMYSELF #SLEEPINGALONE #PRAISEJESUSandALLTHESAINTS

Sincerely,

 

My Kid Experiences Disability. He’s Potentially a Very Rad Human. Right Now, Though, He’s an ASS.

Mar 22 2017

Look. There are certain things that are harder to write than others. Mine tend to get a little flip flopped. Writing about the church? Ugh. HARD. Writing about pooping my closet? Surprisingly easy. So I’m not necessarily like everyone else when it comes to which subjects are agonizing and which are delightful, but, on this one, I suspect I’m like everyone else. Writing about my kid who experiences disability = hard. One of the hardest. Partly because I want to protect as much of his story as possible. And partly because there’s a sort of unspoken Hippocratic Oath among those of us who parent children who experience disability; we want, above all, to do no harm to these kiddos who already have enough challenges without their mommies making it worse by speaking out. You know? And so there’s an almost-covenant; if we DO tell our kids’ stories, we tell OUR PART ONLY. We tell the bits that help other mamas and dads like us know they’re NOT ALONE. We speak of our children in the BEST POSSIBLE LIGHT, always with sympathy, always with understanding. The world is already judging them, after all, more harshly than the world judges me or you, and we’ve made HUGE STRIDES over the last 5 or 10 years in helping the world SEE our kids as HUMANS FIRST and not CHALLENGES FIRST.

Disabilities of all kinds are less maligned than they used to be. We ARE making progress, at least among those of us who are kind and seek a diverse human experience. I see a new campaign every day to break down barriers. To increase understanding. To educate the public on how to treat each other. But, as a society, we still seem to need those who experience disability to be sweet and nice. To be cherubic. To be, if they experience difficulty, TRIUMPHANT about it, damn it. OVERCOMING their difficulties. And we’d like to hear about those difficulties after they’ve been solved, please. Never in the middle of them. Never, EVER. And so we rob those who experience disability of part of their humanity. Their ability to be fully, messily human when we insist they only have MAGIC and never mess. We make them caricatures of people so we can understand them in as few dimensions as possible; we steal their complexity and, in the end, part of their story, after all.

We’ve gotten to the part where we parents can admit raising kids — ANY kind of raising kids — and also raising kids who experience disability is HARD WORK. THANK GOD we’ve arrived there and parents are reaching out to each other to form networks and advocacy programs and person-centered decision making. THANK GOD and all the people who have made this happen.

We have not gotten to the part where we can share the full truth of what we experience.

But, friends.

Friends.

Friends.

I need to tell you a piece of that full truth now, because we Woolseys are in the MUCK and the MIRE right now, and we are NOT seeing the magic in the mess. We might someday. We cling to that as our future and carry that hope for our child who cannot carry it for himself right now. But today is not that day. Today is MESS, following days and days and months and months of more mess.

My kid — my kid with GREAT potential, who is beautiful and sensitive and had a HORRIBLE, HARD START in life and, since then, EVERY medical, psychological, mental and developmental reason for the very real challenges he faces every single day — is also an ASS right now.

Like, my kid is REALLY a jerk.

And it’s not Oppositional Defiant Disorder. There’s not some unearthed diagnosis here. We KNOW what this is — a large part is, in fact, medical — and we know WHY he does it, AND ALSO, he’s currently a big bully and his behavior is not OK. ALL OF THOSE THINGS ARE TRUE at the same time. He has good reasons to be a jerk, AND IT’S NOT OK. Both/And, friends. Both/And.

My kid used to be kind. Truly, deeply kind, and he looked out for others. Lately, 95% of the time, he’s not kind. Not to his family. And, more and more lately, not to his peers, either. Nearly all of the words he uses these days around our house are intended to maximize rudeness, hurt others, or, if he accomplishes all of his goals in one fell swoop, both.

He punched his 10-year-old brother in the stomach a few weeks ago.

He told a kid at school he was going to kill him. “I didn’t mean it, Mom” and rolling his eyes didn’t go over as well as he hoped.

He uses his man-sized body to block people littler than him or stand imposingly over them while refusing to move — nonverbal threats of force.

He’s been banned by XBox Live for inappropriate (read: threatening) chats.

His Gmail count has been deleted — by Google, in an official decision — for the same. We have responded at this point by removing all access to everything online for the foreseeable future. Which, you know, makes him ECSTATIC.

These are not, in other words, cute misbehaviors or understandable one-off scenarios. These are consistent. Disheartening. Discouraging. Sad. And this is a child on the cusp of adulthood — knocking on the door of age 18 — so I often have to pull myself back from the brink of going Full Lizard Brain, all “FREAKING OUT RIGHT NOW IS THE ONLY REASONABLE SOLUTION,” and assuming this is going to all end in a firefight with the police. The facts that he’s only ever at school or at home don’t seem to matter to Mommy Lizard Brain. She exists to call up the worst possible scenario, bless her catastrophizing heart.

Please understand, I am not unsympathetic to his behavior, nor do I blame the man child entirely. There are good reasons for this kid in particular to be a total raging asshole right now. In addition to intellectual disability, he is developmentally somewhere between an immature age 4 and age 6, with all of the impulse control that entails, while trying to navigate a 17-year-old body with hormones; he has expressive and receptive language disorders which keep him locked inside his head without the ability to talk things out the way you and I do, making for quite the pressure cooker of emotions and frustration; he suffers from anxiety and PTSD which he keeps on a tight leash at school and, therefore, unleashes entirely when he gets home; and, he is the perfect storm of social awareness — aware that he is different and desperately wanting to be cool with no real ability to navigate peer relationships in a socially normative way.

It is, in other words, a total cluster. Just an utter mess. This is a kid — a young man — who is trying to find his power and his purpose, and he’s found it very powerful to use his body and his words as weapons. To a person who feels otherwise out of control, having ANY amount of power is extremely seductive; he simply doesn’t have the developmental or intellectual ability to combat that right now. The problem is, we don’t know if he ever will.

I like to think, when Lizard Brain isn’t in control, that this is a phase.

I remind myself that many teenagers — myself at that age absolutely included — go through a raging asshole stage.

I remind myself of all the help we’re getting — from his school, from doctors, from specialist, from eating programs and emotional regulation, from my parents who are working tirelessly on his behalf to get him the additional services he needs.

I remind myself that my child who experiences disability is FULLY HUMAN, and all of this simply proves it.

I remind myself that he is also FULLY DIVINE, made in God’s own image, even if I want to drop kick him over the back fence right now and see if any of that damn divinity will shake loose so I can SEE SOME.

And, because I, too, am fully human, I succeed at those things some days, and I don’t succeed others.

So.

Why am I telling you all of this?

Because my kid, like every person on this planet, is real. He’s complex. He suffers. He makes good choices. He makes terrible ones. He is not cherubic at the moment. He’s being rather awful, in fact. Part of being real, though, means being ALL MESS sometimes. ALL MESS with magic buried deep down inside.

Waving in the dark, friends,

 

 

 

 

 

My Parents Gave Me Syphilis for Christmas

Feb 3 2017

My parents gave me one of those automatic vacuum cleaners for Christmas.

My sister-in-law got a membership to a wine club.

My brother got $50,000. (Or $50 plus books. Whatever. Same same.)

Greg got a 3D printer.

I got a cleaning implement.

My brother was jealous. He’s a younger brother. It’s what they do best. “SURE,” he said. “I get a money and books, and BETH gets the COOLEST VACUUM EVER. So what do I have to do to get a gift like that? JUST NOT CLEAN MY HOUSE FOR 12 YEARS, LIKE HER?”

Yes, Jeff.

Yes; that’s exactly what you have to do. Not clean your house for 12 years. And in retrospect? TOTALLY WORTH IT. Look at me, planning ahead!

So we have an automatic vacuum cleaner running around our house these days.

Greg named him Sisyphus, after the Greek mythological King of Corinth. As the tale goes, Sisyphus was punished for his self-aggrandizing craftiness and deceitfulness by being forced to roll an immense boulder up a hill, only to watch it come back to hit him, on repeat, forever.

We don’t know what our vacuum robot did in a previous life to have to be reincarnated as the object that tries to clean our house, the ultimate act of futility, but it must have been BAD, friends. Very, VERY bad.

Some of our kids, though, can’t remember how to pronounce Sisyphus.

They call him Syphilis.

As in, “Syphilis got stuck under our couch again.” And, “Mom, have you ever noticed Syphilis seems to be EVERYWHERE in this house?” And, “Mom, I like to play with Syphilis and see if I can outrun it.” And, “MOM! Syphilis got me again!”

You know, we try really hard not to have secrets in this house. We’re much more of the Live Life Out Loud Even Though We’re Weird kind of family. And BE BOLDLY US. And LET’S TALK ABOUT ALL THE THINGS. I feel, though, like Syphilis should be the exception that proves the rule.

In conclusion, my children are not allowed — EVER — to talk about our vacuum robot at school. Syphilis just became our family secret. I mean, what could go wrong??

Sincerely,

 

 

 

P.S. Thanks, Mom and Dad, for giving me Syphilis for Christmas. I like it very much.

P.P.S. I’m supposed to write a post about the February book for our Escapist Book Club, but people at my house are still barfing, and it was easier to write about Syphilis. Sorry. Here’s the February book, though, in case you’d like to get started:

More soon, I hope, about January’s book which I thought was RAD.

On the New Year, Autism, and Thanks, Anyway

Dec 31 2016

I gave my nephew, KG, a frog book for Christmas. He did not want a frog book. I knew in advance he didn’t want a frog book. I gave him the frog book anyway (though it was supplementary to another gift I gave him I knew he’d want, so I’m not a total monster).

KG is in second grade, has autism, and also has 100,000 allergies to All the Things, so he’s our bubble boy. He’s not like the kid who gets a tummy ache from dairy. He’s the kid who ends up in the ambulance and the hospital and sometimes the Pediatric ICU because he stops breathing, even though we have a strict NO NOT-BREATHING ALLOWED rule in our family. He’s the kid we wildly celebrate because he’s a survivor and that status can’t be taken for granted for him like we do with the rest of our kids.

We love KG for lots of reasons. Obviously. And I sort of feel like I’m supposed to say we love him in spite of his autism, except I feel like the truth is we love him in part because of it. We love his brain. We love his quirks. We love that he’s inspirationally truthful. We feel on a deep level there are lessons we can learn from him about authenticity, and self-advocacy, and eschewing our collective cultural bullshit, and unapologetic honesty.

KG opened his frog book present at Christmas, and his shoulders slumped in defeat. “NOT A FROG BOOK,” he said, because he detested it.

His daddy, my brother, said, “Nope, KG. What do we say when we get a gift?”

“Oh, yeah,” said KG, as he looked at me with sorrowful eyes, “Thanks, anyway, Auntie Beth.”

Total Eeyore voice. Absolute melancholy. Working to be grateful anyway.

“Thanks, anyway, Auntie Beth.”

I would like to only give gifts to people with autism in the future, please, or to people who have learned from them, because they’re my favorite. They can learn to be polite when necessary, but they’re also not going to pretend a situation, even one requiring gratitude for the sake of social nicety, is OK. Frog books suck. Let’s not pretend otherwise. But thanks, anyway.

This is exactly how I feel about 2016.

2016 sucked, collectively if not personally. Let’s not pretend otherwise. But thanks, anyway.

Thanks, anyway, for the horrible frog book, 2016.

My sister-in-law, KG’s mama, told this story earlier this year when he was on steroids following another spell of Not Breathing:

When a small person is on this amount of steroids, it means more of EVERYTHING.

The day following anaphylaxis, KG and I stopped to get gas on our way to see the doctor, and had the car turned off with the windows down. While we were fueling up, a Beekeeper, wearing full beekeeping gear including the hat/mask, pulled up in the lane right next to us.

Seizing the teaching opportunity, I point out our fuel companion to KG. “Buddy, look over there! A beekeeper! Check it out! Look at the gear he wears to work with bees!” My announcement was met with total silence (which can be a side effect from the massive amounts of medications). Undeterred, I tried again– “KG, did you see? Look over on your side– a beekeeper!”

My inquiry was met with yelling, through the open window, with the power of a thousand fiery suns. “I hate you! I hate YOU! I hate you, BEEKEEPER! I! HATE! YOUUUUU, BEEKEEPER! You steal from BEES! You STEAL! From BEES! THIEF! THIEFFFFFFFFFF! Beekeeper, I. HATE. YOU!!!!!!”

Despite my direct commands to knock off the yelling, it continued. Until the tank was full. (This felt like an eternity, but was likely a minute or two.) Driving away, with the windows safely secured in the upright position, I asked KG what in the world happened back at the gas station. He shared a righteous anger that a person in a position of power would take advantage of the smaller, lesser creature, that the beekeeper would selfishly steal all the hard work of the bees, and explained how this was a justice issue that concerns everyone.

I explained to KG how Beekeepers are actually the biggest advocates and defenders of bees, how bees are rapidly going extinct, and how the efforts of beekeepers are what sustain the bee population. We discussed how the beekeeping/bee relationship is symbiotic, especially considering protections needed/offered during winter and from predators.

He took in all of this new information. Completely unaffected (and unashamed), he replied “Oh. I was not aware of this.”

These adventures brought to you by Autism on steroids.

I don’t know about you, but 2016 has me feeling a little strung out. A little like yelling out the window and lashing out. A little relieved we get to drive away now from 2016 which was a THIEFFFFFFFFFF for so many millions who lost their homes, their countries, their babies, their lives. And from 2016 which may have been good in some ways I’m not yet ready to acknowledge.

May we learn a lesson from my nephew, though, as we head into the New Year; to champion important causes, to understand WE are one of the important causes, to be honest, to be grateful even if we have to do it reluctantly, to give no time to things that don’t matter (like stupid frog books), to be open to new information when we can listen again, and to be unashamed because we are, after all, wildly, wonderfully, weirdly, perfectly made.

Wishing you and yours a wonderful New Year,

 

 

P.S. I DID give KG his real gift later — Pokemon plushies — which met with his enthusiastic approval. May 2017 learn THAT’S how it’s done. 😉

(This is the niece and nephews posing with the things I got them that they actually liked. Notice there’s not a frog book to be found. Hehehe. KG is the one pointing to Evie.)
(Also, yes. Yes, I did get that hideous golden lion necklace thing for my oldest nephew. He wanted it, and I’m a sucker.)

 P.S.S.My mom left her computer open HAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

Cai

On Kids, Who Are Horrible and Holy, and Who Have Much to Teach Us in This Season

Dec 9 2016

Kids. They’re made out of SO MUCH HUMAN, friends. Horrible and holy. Awkward and awesome. Wild and weird and wonderful and ragged and radiant and full of rage and fire.

Yimg_2685eimg_2690simg_2682teimg_2683rdaimg_2680y was a snow day which is rare in our neck of the Oregon woods. I, of course, take these things completely in stride where “in stride” is defined as using ALL CAPS all over the Facebook to let everyone know the SNOW IS COMING and we should BE PREPARED with ALL THE TUBS OF CHEAP, PROCESSED COCOA MIX and that MY KIDS ARE TAKING A SNOW DAY whether the school district gives them one or not.

Snow days are my favorite. They’re a forced change from the bustle of winter. No sports. No events. No meetings. No homework. Nothing other than staying home and hunkering down and making a fantastic mess of the house and the floors and ruining the pristine blanket of white outside with muddy footprints and snow angels made from 47% snow and 53% gravel.

My 10 year olds were too excited to sleep the night before snow arrived, and too excited to stay asleep, and therefore only caught their zzzzzzs between 11pm-3am. Which means I only caught mine between 11pm-3am. 😳🙄

Nevertheless, we did All the Things.

  • We woke up too early. I complained about waking up too early.
  • We waited for snow because in Oregon we have snow days before snow actually arrives.
  • WE YELLED WHEN SNOW ARRIVED.
  • We insisted on the Facebook that we did, too, have snow, and we argued with our friends from Alaska, Idaho and Colorado about What Counts as Snow.
  • We wrapped the children in plastic bags and duct tape because there’s no way I’m buying snow gear for 5 children every year when we may get no snow at all and the snow we do get is likely to last 4 hours.
  • We made hot chocolate.
  • We spilled hot chocolate.
  • We made more hot chocolate.
  • We made snow cones out of SNOW.
  • We made popcorn.
  • We got the duct tape off the kid’s waist BEFORE he pooped his grandmother’s borrowed ski pants. FOR THE WIN!
  • We dealt with Major Meltdowns from children who got no sleep and played hard fueled mostly by adrenaline and sugar.
  • We were GRATEFUL FOR TEACHERS AND SCHOOL AND HOPE IT’S NOT FROZEN IN THE MORNING.
  • That last one was mostly me.
  • Also, I didn’t make dinner.
  • Also-also, I spent the rest of the evening hiding in the tub hoping no one could find me.

All in all, it was Snow Day perfection, surrounded by muck and mayhem, joy and delight, occasional bouts of rage and tears at snowballs packed too tight before they smashed into the faces of their intended targets, and children who are stunning and gorgeous and homely and wise and fragile and kind and cruel, all wrapped up together.

I intended to get Lots of Things done. To clean the kitchen between batches of warm beverages and crying, happy kids. To write. To bake. To bask in the bliss of silent snowfall. To finish the 17 piles of laundry. To not lose my poo, not even secretly on the inside. To wrap presents. To sing too loud to Pandora’s Pentatonix holiday station. But I managed none of those things. Not one.

And it was still perfect. By which I mean utterly imperfect and exactly right. Kids, friends. They are SO MUCH OF EVERYTHING, and they ended up around my table wiping their noses on their sleeves, bickering about how many rocks, exactly, were in the snowball, and who threw it in whose face on PURPOSE — full of “did not” and “did TOO” and “did NOT” and “I SAW YOU” — all while dripping giant puddles of snowmelt on the floor, shoving popcorn in each other’s faces, and making plans for an Even More Epic Snowball Battle to start in 5 minutes. I reminded them the Next Battle was likely to end in tears, same as the first, and they looked at each other like I was crazy. Not wrong, just crazy. “We know,” they said, with duh in their voices, “but it’s SO WORTH IT.” As though there are some things in life worth taking a rock to the face and worth the fighting and tears.

I have a feeling they’re right and that they know more about the cost of joy than I do.

This is a strange season we’re in. A season full of weird politics. A season of questioning where we belong, what we’ll cling to, and what we’ll discard. A season of joy. A season of taking rocks to the face. A season of full of “did not” and “did TOO” and “did NOT” and “I SAW YOU,” which happens in my kitchen and all over the Facebook. A season of remembering the refugee. A season of having a ragtag crew around the table and considering how to both invite people to that table AND take a less privileged seat at it. A season of considering who’s left out in the cold and how, exactly, to welcome people to the magic inside, knowing there’s a muddy, mangled mess here, too.

These days, I’m finding I’m only learning one thing at a time and that I can’t see the whole pathway forward. I can only barely make out the next step of learning to love my neighbor as myself and learning that everyone is my neighbor. But my one thing right now is to look to my kids and learn from their example. Because kids. They’re made out of SO MUCH HUMAN, friends. And so much of the divine. Horrible and holy. Awkward and awesome. Wild and weird and wonderful and ragged and radiant and full of rage and fire. Angry at taking rocks to the face. Eager to fight for justice. Willing to keep finding joy anyway.

And so, amen.

Sending love, friends, and wishes for snow days to come,

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P.S. For those of you southwest of Portland, Oregon — or who want to come from afar — I’m hosting Whiskey and Worship this Tuesday, December 13th. You can find all the details here. This is the first of what I hope will become a monthly event. Our goal is to create a safe and sacred space that is open, welcoming and affirming of all comers, focused only on corporately loving God no matter our definition of the Divine, loving each other, and loving our neighbors as ourselves. This is a space free of coercion and attempts at conversion, because gross. And, especially, this is a place to bring our whole selves — perfect, imperfect, messy, magical — understanding we are made in the very image of a God whose love for us, exactly as we already are, is endless.

The tavern is solely reserved for our group and use. Come at 7 to grab your drink and food and say hello. Nate Macy and Shawna Gordon will lead us in worshiping the Jesus we know and love starting at 7:30. I get not all y’all are Jesusy people — that’s, frankly, one of my favorite things about this space — but for those of you who are, and for those of you who are weary of the way the church has been acting more as gatekeeper than welcomer, this event is for you.