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 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.

I Have a Kid Home From College: Here’s What I’ve Learned the First 3 Days

Dec 19 2016

I have a kid home from college for the very first time. It’s been 3 days. Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

1. The Freshman Fifteen is a real thing. Unfortunately, there’s a little known Freshman Fifteen sub-clause which states that if the freshman neglects to gain it herself, her mother has to do it for her, which I have dutifully done. (NOTE: She and I are not finished discussing the importance of her doing her own work in the future.)

2. Be grateful for ANY AND ALL COMMUNICATION, no matter how pathetic. Listen; she’s been away and on her own for several months. She’s used to doing what she wants when she wants to do it. She’s been putting up with your constant, helpful texts, reminding her, for example, NEVER TO DO CRACK. Now’s your chance to pay her back for her patience by not losing your ever-loving crap when you ask her for information and she says “unknown.”

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3. Set clear, but reasonable rules like NO DYING and NO GOING MISSING. 

 

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She will agree because you are being reasonable, and then — BONUS — you get to punish her if she ever does die or goes missing.

4. Admit when you’re being a freaking freaker who freaks. Like when you wake up gasping and sweating at 1:15am and wondering where the hell your kid — who told you she would be at “unknown” with “unknown” — is.

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5. Do not correct her grammar, even when she uses your instead of you’re. It’s petty and not worth it, and she’s a grown-up and can use the wrong form if she wants. Besides, 20 years from now, your and you’re will be interchangeable. Language is evolutionary, after all; it’s supposed to shift, and this is how it happens. IT’S OK.

6. Be open to learning new things; even if the new things are things you maybe should have known all along.

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And 7. When your kid ultimately responds with the inevitable, disdainful OMG, retaliate with that grammar thing.

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Sure, it’s totally immature, but it FEELS SO GOOD, and, as Debby Boone always says, it can’t be wrong when it feels so right. (That kid, though; she lights up my life.)

Sincerely yours,

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P.S. I COULD HAVE BEEN TRACKING HER ALL ALONG. Why is there no one guiding me through this mom thing?? I am clearly ill equipped to be making this up on my own. :/

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For America With Love: A Burrito Baby Photo Shoot

Nov 14 2016

 

I’m not pregnant.img_2364

Not even a little. No babies in my belly these days.

Nor do I have a belly tumor, so fear not, dear ones.

What I do have are three things:

  1. A love of burritos (where “burrito” = all the food)
  2. A special talent for pushing my belly wall to the max
  3. The knowledge that all of us — even me — are worthy of Deep, Abiding Love, exactly as we already are. Beloved. Valued. And Beautiful. ← This is a true a truth as I know.

That why I’m making the announcement today that I am having a burrito, friends. And, as we women do for all the momentous events in our lives, I had a very special maternity photo shoot to commemorate the occasion — a photo shoot we’re calling:

Not a Baby
(Just a Burrito)

I’m giving these pics to you, America and the world, because I’m pretty sure burrito babies can help make our world a better place, and Dear God in Heaven, we need the world to be a better place right about now. 

img_2359The truth is, a few months ago, things were hard at our house. They’ve been hard before — we don’t live an uncomplicated life, after all, what with the five children and myriad special needs and we parents who are stunningly imperfect — and they’ll undoubtedly be hard again. But this time, my kid was falling wildly apart, psychiatrically speaking, which is, so far, my Very Least Favorite kind of falling-apart when it comes to our children. Mental illness is a deep, deep darkness — I would know — and it’s hard sometimes to remember to wave in the dark to the others who are waiting for dawn, as well, so we can recall we never wait alone.

It’s been a tough season, and it’s not over, but we’re on an upswing lately, and we’ve triumphed the way triumph happens in real life; by taking the next right step amidst many missteps, by breaking all the way down and cobbling ourselves partly back together, by circling back to our humans, by practicing radical self care in tiny ways, by trying to get good sleep, by reading escapist novels and a few trashy ones, and by being kind and cruel and then kind again to ourselves and our people. And, of course, by eating all the french fries, which, though completely unsustainable in the long run, is one of the best damn short-term strategies I know.image-1img_2378Listen, though: Let’s acknowledge that we do not come out of tragedy or loss or grief or even a shift of expectations unchanged. We do not come out of eating all the burritos unchanged, either. Right now, I’m wearing the past season of life in my skin.

In my skin.

In my body.

I grieved. I worked hard for my kid. I ate All the Things.

And also, I am lovely.

AND ALSO, we are lovely.

Not “but we are lovely” or “nevertheless we are lovely” or “somedayif we’re very lucky and never, ever touch a burrito again we’ll be lovely.” No. Not those things at all. We come out of tragedy and grief transformed — sometimes utterly — AND ALSO we are lovely. Little and big bellies and all; we are stunning. And we are, every single one of us, worthy of deep love and celebration. From others. From ourselves.

When we know that’s true, we can learn to laugh and love a lot, and enjoy the hell out of our lovely, stunning selves.

Including during the burrito seasons.

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In conclusion, I don’t know how long the burrito belly will last. It waxes and wanes like the moon. But I’m sure going to celebrate it while it’s here.

With abiding love,

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P.S. Thanks to the crew, aka the Lovelies who attended the Grace and the Grime Spiritual Formation Retreat and got roped into helping with a Burrito Baby photo shoot. Y’all are good sports.

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Photo Direction:
Kim McDonough

 

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Photography:
Emily Chlumak

 

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Make-up:
Crystal Kuttner Wolf

 

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Bra and Burrito Holders:
Carrie Zelnar Hutchinson
Angelina Littrell

 

This Is My Brain on Parenting

Sep 4 2016

Listen; this doesn’t make me proud. It’s just true.

Here’s what you need to know, where “need to know” is used in the loosest possible sense along with my discretion and sense of decorum:

I just peed part way — like, a smattering — and then I stopped peeing and got up to do other things.

I was seriously standing up, buttoning my pants, before I realized I hadn’t actually finished. Like, I was in such a hurry that I ran into the bathroom, tossed a teeny, tiny bit of urine into the potty like I was throwing a fastball from a pitcher’s mound, my Subconscious said, “GOOD ENOUGH FOR NOW, BETH; NOW OFF TO DO OTHER ESSENTIAL THINGS — GO! GO! GO!,” and I listened and obeyed her.

Allow me to note… this is not OK, friends.

This is NOT RIGHT.

But this rushing and doing and never finishing is so deeply embedded in the mama brain that she runs to the restroom, pulls down her pants, pees halfway, clenches, stands, and is flushing and buttoning before she realizes she has the inalienable right to pee all the way.

DEAR SWEET JESUS ON A POGO STICK, friends.

I was Pants-Pulled-Up and Button-Fastened before I realized I should not only finish what I went to the bathroom for, but that it’s OK to use the additional 5 seconds it would take to fully empty my bladder. Like, I’m allowed to take that time. Pee Completion is an appropriate and wise use of the precious and few minutes in a day.

I realize there are people who say the internet is a wasteland of potty stories and people who share TMI, but THIS IS HOW FRENETIC THE LIFE OF A MOTHER IS, friends, and I don’t know a better way to illustrate the insanity than this.

 

This Life of a Parent thing? It is ridiculous. Also, it is an excellent excuse for being TOTALLY NUTS.

Solidarity, fellow parents. And fellow nut jobs. And fellow humans, because, let’s be honest, we’re all weird weirdos who are weird,

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P.S. I AM, however, totally rocking parenting on other fronts! I was feeling frazzled and frenetic making breakfast for my children without having had my morning cup of coffee. I was trying, man; I swear. But I was vacant-eyed and sluggish and said, “What? What?” forty-five times every time my children tried to talk to me because sans-coffee I cannot possibly be expected to understand words. Finally, one of the nine-year-olds, said, “Mom? MOM. Mom mom mom mom mom,” and I said, “What?” and he said, “LOOK ME IN THE EYES, MOM. ARE YOU LISTENING? This. Is Very. Important. HAVE YOU HAD COFFEE?” “NO, I HAVE NOT,” I said, and, “I AM DYING OVER HERE,” I said, and he replied very slowly, “MOM. HAVE YOU LEARNED NOTHING?? PUT ON YOUR OWN OXYGEN MASK BEFORE ASSISTING OTHERS.” Which is when I realized I am the Best Parent in the History of the World because I am raising a child who sees the needs of others and speaks Love into their lives. I WIN PARENTING!

P.P.S. Full disclosure, though: after I had coffee, the same child told me he watched a YouTube video on how to make tiny drinking glasses out of strawberries and fill them with jello shots. “Naturally, we’ll need a lot of vodka,” he said. So feel free to add or deduct Parenting Points as you will.

IMPORTANT DISCOVERY: YOU *ARE* PREPARED! FOR ALL THE THINGS! Unless you’re actually ready for them, in which case you’re not prepared at all.

Aug 30 2016

School starts in 7 days.

We have nothing ready.

Nothing.

NO things, to be exact, unless you count the grubby, holey clothes my children already own, in which I fully intend to send them to school.

This is OK with me.

This is fine.

I’m over new school clothes and over new school shoes. Statistically, only 1 out of every 5 Woolsey children gives a poop about wearing clean, new clothes to school, and that one is already away at college and therefore theoretically capable of worrying about her own damn clothes this year. The rest of the minions? All of my efforts are lost on them. ALL OF THEM. EVERY EFFORT = LOST. They do not care, friends. And so, because I have neither the time nor the funds to artificially care on their behalf in order to meet a social standard for dressing and shodding children in overpriced gear so I can hold my head up in the mommy circles, I also do not care.

But people seem to want me to care. And to be prepared.

Are You Prepared for Back-to-School? <— I keep seeing articles with titles like this. And every time I think, “Hahahaha! NO. No, I’m not prepared. I didn’t have time to wash myself today; OF COURSE I’M NOT PREPARED FOR NEXT WEEK. What kind of a dumbass question is ARE YOU PREPARED?”

But then I started to wonder what prepared means, exactly.

Prepared.

Prepared.

Pared before.

What’s pared and why to I want to be before that?

And so, because I love words, I looked up the etymology of prepare. The history. The original meaning. And you know what I learned, guys? THIS IS SO GREAT. For reals. SO, SO great…

Ready?…

IMG_1430Prepared is derived from two Latin words: prae which means before and parare which means make ready.

Literally, the word prepare means before making ready.

Guys! Guys. Guys. To be prepared does not mean we are making ready. It means we are before making ready.

If we are prepared — if we are preparing — we are prior to making ready. We not yet making ready. We are not arrived at making ready.

Which means I AM SO PREPARED, y’all.

Next time people ask me, “Are you prepared for school to start?” I can say, “YES! I TOTALLY AM!” I am COMPLETELY before making ready. No school supplies in sight. No schedules or lists. No carpool arrangements. No clothes. No shoes. NOTHING. Nada. Zilch. Zippo. I AM COMPLETELY PREPARED.

THIS IS WHY LANGUAGE IS IMPORTANT, FRIENDS; it helps you EXPLAIN THINGS.

So, in case you’re in the same boat as me with school about to start or already started and you have not made ready, then YOU ARE PREPARED. Unless you’ve made ready, in which care you’re not prepared at all, and we feel sad for you.

With love and GREAT PREPAREDNESS,

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Mother/Daughter Look-a-Likes: Can’t Tell Them Apart!

Jun 28 2016

Everywhere my daughter and I go, people can’t tell us apart. That’s why we have a history of taking twinsy pics; to blow people’s minds that we’re actually mother/daughter.

We took some yesterday, in fact, just for you. See if you can figure out who’s who!

Good luck, friends.

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You’re never going to believe this, but we’re 25 years apart in age. FOR REALS.

I know, right??

Minds. Blown.

You’re welcome, The Internets! It’s like the blue dress all over again.

With love,

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P.S. If you’re not done being shocked and amazed, here are some of our other Twinsie Pics…

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P.P.S. In unrelated news, MY KID IS THE BEST SPORT EVER. The End.