Alrighty Then

Apr 23 2016

Back!

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.

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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 fivekidsisalotofkids@gmail.com. These retreats are my Favorite Things EVER because they breathe life into my weary, waiting soul, and I want to share that with you.

1. THE MAGIC IN THE MESS WRITING RETREATJUNE 12-15, 2016

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.

AND/OR…

2. THE GRACE IN THE GRIME SPIRITUAL FORMATION RETREATJUNE 16-19, 2016

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

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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,

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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.

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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.

 

Mascara, Mystery, Mess and Me: An Authenticity Project Guest Post by Jen Foster

Apr 17 2016

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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,

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Mascara, Mystery, Mess and Me
An Authenticity Project guest post by Jen Foster

“Okay, this time without blinking!” she says, her laughter hiding just the tiniest hint of frustration. Pulling out yet another Q-tip, she cleans up the black smears of mascara under my left eye, retouching the concealer she’s carefully applied half a dozen times. My friend seems to have the cosmetic equivalent of a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser in her arsenal, but even her careful layering of tinted moisturizer, concealer, and some sort of enchanted unicorn powder can’t hide my dark under-eye circles. Apparently they have joined the smile wrinkles and double chin among my permanent, not-to-be-disguised features. It feels like we’ve been at this for hours, her applying my makeup, me blinking, mascara smearing everywhere.  How most women do this every morning before breakfast remains a mystery to me.

Handing me the mascara wand, she tells me to try it myself, that maybe that I can stop the incessant blinking and resulting smearing. I laugh too, hiding just the tiniest bit of my own frustration. I know that I am totally incapable of applying anything in a way that would meet her standards. This friend is a beauty pro. In college, she worked at a department store cosmetic counter. Now she sells high end skincare and makeup in her spare time between raising children, toning up at barre class, and looking effortlessly gorgeous and classy. This is a woman who, in the throes of postpartum exhaustion, somehow managed put on full face makeup every single day. Meanwhile, I spent those new baby days in a sleep-deprived stupor, never quite sure how long it had been since I had brushed my teeth. How we have remained friends is a mystery to us both.

I don’t do makeup. My skincare regimen consists of sunscreen and self acceptance.

It’s not that I never learned how to put makeup on. My mom’s bottle of Maybelline foundation and pots of taupe eyeshadow sat on the bathroom vanity beside her tub of Noxzema.  Each evening she’d religiously wash off the layers she’d put on that morning. She tried to teach me the value of a good base foundation, and I’m sure she’d have taught me how to use the medieval torture device eyelash curler if I wasn’t scared to death of pinching myself. But when all of my preteen friends were begging their moms for the chance to wear lip gloss or applying contraband eyeshadow on the school bus, I just wasn’t interested.

It’s not that I’m opposed to the idea of looking pretty, though my inner feminist tells me that if men don’t need it, neither do I. If each of us is created in the image of God, I’m not sure why that image needs a little more blush on the cheeks or sheen on the lips.

The reason I don’t wear makeup is that it feels phony, like I’m trying to look like someone I’m not. It feels like I’m pretending to be prettier than I am, disguising the real, very average me in favor of some costumed, painted version of myself.  It’s not that I mind trying on a new look. My favorite activity as a kid was dressing up as a princess in hand-me-down bridesmaid dresses; I still love that Halloween allows me to try on a new character for an evening. But those are days when it’s clear that I’m pretending to be someone else. Applying makeup feels like playing dress up, and doing that every day feels inauthentic.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not opposed to beauty treatments that make a gal look better. I shave my legs. (Oh, shut up, husband, I can hear you laughing. I do shave the bottom half of my legs on occasion.) I straighten my hair, and I’ve had it colored a time or two. I get pedicures with purple sparkly polish, and nothing could be further from my authentic toes than purple sparkle. Heck, last Sunday I squeezed myself into Spanx to smooth out the rolls that three pregnancies have bestowed on my abdomen. If wedging yourself into that kind of misery to look skinny at church isn’t putting on airs, I don’t know what is. Somehow, none of those feel like I’m being inauthentic. Why putting on eyeliner feels wrong and sparkly toes feel perfectly fine I cannot explain. But that doesn’t make it any less true in my mind.

I look back in the mirror, glancing over my shoulder at my friend whose patient smile shows me that she’s willing to clean up my mistakes as many times as it takes. “It’s a big night,” she says. “You want to look your best. You can do this.” I do want to look my best. But I don’t think I can do this.

I bring the wand toward my face, hand shaking a bit, which, let’s face it, really should have been a sign. If my friend, who’s actually been paid to do makeup for others, couldn’t achieve mascara victory, surely my own inexperienced, shaky-handed attempt was going to be far less successful. Slowly, I bring the mascara right to my lashes, close enough to touch but not quite there. I think about putting in contact lenses each morning, the times I’ve actually touched my eyeball without blinking. “You got it,” my friend reminds me. “Just a gentle swish across the lashes, a zig zag as you pull it away.” I touch the brush to my lashes, darkening the tips with just the tiniest bit of mascara.

I don’t blink.

Score!

I go for the other eye. This one is trickier – as a right hander, I have to reach across my face to get to the other eye, partially blocking my view of the mirror. Do I turn the direction of the wand? Change the angle of my wrist? Again, I bring the bristles close to my lashes without touching them. I go in for the kill, gently zig zagging as I drag the wand away. This time, I’m not just hitting the tips. I’m all in, baby. I’m getting all the lash plumping and lengthening and thickening that this little green tube can give.

Another score!

The left eye looks great. Stunning. Lashes out of a magazine ad. Poor right eye, who only got a glancing blow across her lash tips, looks forgotten and weak.

I get cocky.

I go for another layer. Bringing the wand back up to my right eye, I don’t even pause. Holding my eyes open wide, I touch the wand straight to my lashes, doing the zig zag pull, exactly as instructed.

BLINK. A hard blink. Mascara dots and smears are everywhere: on my lid, under my brow, like an arrow pointing right at those those under-eye circles yet again.

I laugh hysterically, trying desperately not to cry and ruin what bit of makeup might be salvageable. My friend pulls the q-tip container back out, her tube of concealer at the ready. She carefully begins to clean up the mess that my overconfidence created.  As she puts on the finishing touches, finally getting the mascara just right, I look at myself in the mirror. I look pretty good, better than usual, actually. I don’t look painted up like someone else, just a better version of me. The real, authentic me.

All those times that I tried to wear makeup, felt phony, and vowed to never touch eyeliner again?  The idea that makeup made me feel inauthentic? The feelings were sincere. But as I look at myself in her perfectly lit magnifying mirror, I start to think that maybe I could be genuine while adding a little color to highlight my cheekbones.

The real reason I still don’t wear makeup?

Ain’t nobody got time for that.

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IMG_2542_edJen Foster is a North Carolina native currently living in the 1950’s era house she grew up in.  She’s a mom to three adorable but exhausting kids and spends large portions of her days searching for lost shoes.  She spent 14 years in higher education, helping helicopter parents let go of their college kids and serving as a bonus mom to hundreds of college students.  All those years of advising 18 year olds on what to be when they grow up have left her wondering what she might want to do in the event she ever grows up.  For now, she’ll stick with being a full-time mom with the option of becoming a writer/photographer/professional Pinterester down the road. She blogs at jenmcleanfoster.com.

On Cheering Each Other On: An Authenticity Project Guest Post by Stephanie Gates

Apr 16 2016

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Dearest Friends,

From April 8-20, 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,

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On Cheering Each Other On
An Authenticity Project guest post by Stephanie Gates

96 days ago, my mom died.

I am a single mom. I have four kids who fall every odd year between 3 and 9. I’m doing my best to resurrect a career after 10 years at home. And I live far from family. Which is to say, I was burning all cylinders just to keep us afloat BEFORE my mom died.

No matter, 96 days ago today, my family lost my sweet, spontaneous mom. Suddenly. Unexpectedly. At age 60. With lots of little grandkids and a husband who was devoted to her and a life she loved. Just like that, she was gone.

But I don’t want to tell you about that. I want to tell you what happened next.

We did all the things you do – flew home, planned a funeral, saw hundreds of people I knew as a kid in my small southern hometown, sat in the sunroom with my dad and stared at one another, silent but together, then flew back. I walked in the door with my overtired, overstimulated kids, and just stared. Stared at the crumbs and dog hair and unfinished homework and piles of laundry and ninja turtles and baby dolls tossed into every corner in the house, at the routines I would need to re-establish, the deadlines I had missed, the dishes that had been used moments before her death, and never quite made it into the dishwasher … I took it all in, sat down, and cried.

Even if you haven’t lost your mom, you’ve probably experienced that moment. It felt the same – the EXACT same – as the moment you bring a baby home. Not the elation and beauty, not the first pictures and impossibly soft cheeks, but the other one, the one where it dawns on you that you have to actually keep a human being alive now.

In the weeks following the birth of every one of my children, I sat down at my kitchen table, covered my face, and cried. God, or Life, or the Universe, or Whoever it is that doles out babies and funerals, was wrong. I was, in fact, NOT capable of mothering this child. What were They thinking, entrusting me with this level of responsibility? ME, the woman who never makes her bed, whose filing system is basically just stacking all the mail on the counter until it topples over and I throw the whole mess away? ME, who has never, in thirty something years, figured out how to consistently keep her car clean? Whose life motto is “Good Enough”? What in the world made God, or Life, or the Universe, hand ME this precious tiny life and believe I could somehow lead it into conscious, whole adulthood?

I would cry, and tell Life that She had made a serious error in judgement. Then I would usually send a text to my best mom friend and say something like, “In the weeds. Pretty sure I can’t do this. Send coffee.” Then I would stand up, wash my face, and get back to work. Usually because by that time a baby was crying or a toddler was playing in the faucet.

I had the exact same moment after my mom died.

What was God – or Life, or the Universe, or Whoever makes the call – thinking? There was no way I could do this. I simply was not capable of creating the life in front of me. A life without my mom, where now I know all of the fundamental pieces of our lives can just … fade away. A life where my children would not know the woman who had shaped my very soul. It just wasn’t possible. There was no way I could pull this off. Whoever thought I could was just. flat. wrong.

From that place I emailed a new friend, an online friend who had lived through her own tragedy a few years earlier. I don’t remember exactly what the email said, but it went something like: “Dude. In the weeds. No way I can pull this off.”

And she did something that changed my life. Rather, that helped me begin to live out this new life, the one without my mom.

She didn’t promise to pray for me. She didn’t send Scripture. She didn’t offer the frozen silence I have learned to interpret as, “I really care about you and I’m so sad you have to go through this but I also have NO IDEA what to say or how you need me to respond.” She did none of that.

Instead, she cheered me on.

“You are doing the hardest part right now,” she said. “And you’re doing it! You’re already actively doing it. You got out of bed, you put kids on the bus, you put something that came out of a box in front of them for dinner. You know you can do this because you already are! You are so much more of a bad ass than you can see in this moment. But I can see it. You’re strong and capable and you’ve got this! Look at you go!”

Her words echoed like the cheers from the sideline of a race. I didn’t need advice, I didn’t need pity, I didn’t need the silence laden with concern. I needed a cheerleader. Her encouragement gave me the energy to stand up, wash my face, and get back to work. Pretty soon I had some momentum again, and it wasn’t quite so hard to imagine how we were going to get through the day.

So often, when our friends are staring down a life they did not choose, we don’t know how to respond. Once the cake is eaten, the casserole delivered, the funeral over, what do we do next? There are moments for all of it. Moments for prayers, moments for Scripture, moments for writing a check to help with unplanned expenses, moments even for silence laden with concern. But there’s also a moment when what we need most in all the world is someone to cheer us on. Some days, it’s the only thing that helps us stand up, wash our faces, and get back to work. Because maybe God, or Life, or the Universe, wasn’t so crazy after all.

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StephanieStephanie Gates writes, edits, and mothers a bunch of little kids in Denver, Colorado. If you have ever abandoned religion in search of faith, ever had to leave your hometown to find your home, or ever climbed to the very tip-top of a jungle gym to rescue an overzealous toddler, come sit by me.  We’ll talk.

You can follow my story at A Wide Mercy or follow along on Facebook.

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Is My Bulimia Showing? An Authenticity Project Guest Post by Nathalie Hardy

Apr 15 2016

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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,

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Is My Bulimia Showing?
An Authenticity Project guest post by Nathalie Hardy

This girl, twenty years ago:

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Is feeling so uncomfortable in these senior pictures.

The caption might read: Is my bulimia showing?

I ache sometimes to see old pictures and read old journal entries because I’ve blocked so much out, and yet carry much of it with me still.

Some of this is coming up due to floods of memories coming back as my high school reunion just came and went.

I would’ve loved to go but there were too many other things to budget for and I couldn’t make it work. But just thinking about connecting with people who knew me (to the extent that was possible) two decades ago, brought up some …. stuff. Good stuff. And also, not so good things.

After nearly two decades though I look back on this girl with more kindness and tenderness than anger and anguish. I see now that it was just all part of the plan, maybe not my plan, but …

There is so much I’d say to her to perhaps ease the journey. But then, it would be someone else’s story and if nothing else I have learned to own my story. All of the parts. And to be willing to be vulnerable, to tell the truth and to allow another to feel less alone. Or, perhaps to give insight into a loved one that baffles them. I don’t know the why, exactly only that I feel called and compelled to do so by something larger than my ego. Which, by the way, prefers I keep it a little less real up in here.

So, in no particular order and in a totally disjointed fashion I send these words to me, 20 years ago. And to you, and whoever else might need to hear them.

(Really? Twenty years?!)

I would tell her she is so not fat. And that even if she is, because she will be, the number on the scale is just information. A gauge by which to measure how she’s feeling on the inside. (I am not saying that’s true for everyone, just know that it was for me. And by was I mean is.)

I would ask her: What makes you feel good? Do more of that.

Also I would tell her to be honest with herself, especially with herself. And, if you’re telling the truth binge eating actually does not make you feel good. Ever. It just makes you feel empty instead of full of feelings you can’t digest. And that will feel like a relief.

Until you bloat again with all the big stuff you can’t handle and then need to binge them away again.

But they don’t go away. And you can’t eat the big, scary stuff away and you can’t barf it out of your system either.

You have to deal with them.

Yeah. I know, I would tell her. Sucks, huh?

Except it doesn’t.

Dealing with feelings, the actual messy part, is not so fun. But it beats avoiding them every single time.

People will tell you it’s not pretty to cry. They will say it’s not okay to be angry over something so stupid. They will tell you you’re making a big deal of nothing. They will tell you you’re being too emotional.

That, dear girl, is code for they can’t handle your feelings. But you? You’ve got this. Keep going. The anger will turn into sadness which will turn into acceptance and you will do things with that acceptance. You will “get” people. You will know without knowing. You will be okay with other people’s big, messy feelings and the world needs that.

You will learn to stand in the presence of hard feelings and let them be, yours or those of others. And you will learn to breathe through them. You will help other people feelokay. And that will mean something to you. It will mean everything to you.

You will learn what belongs to you and what does not. And you will learn to stand in the space of someone else’s disappointment in you and  be okay. For real.

I wish you got there faster, but you’re here now, and that’s all that exists anyway. Just, right now.

It will take you till you’re running out of thirties but it will happen.

And p.s. that stuff you think you can’t handle? You totally can. Not all at once, but you’re not alone and you never have been.

It felt like it because you didn’t trust other people to be there for you. You didn’t tell them what you really needed. Because you didn’t know.

If you only help others without ever letting them return the favor, you’re not being gracious and you’re not letting people love you back. Do that sooner.

I would tell her if you have to smoke to get a break at work, get a different job. Those quick cigarette breaks between bussing tables turn into 12 yeas of smoking a pack a day. Which, if you were being honest, you’d have to admit didn’t make you feel good either.

I would tell her you will never be “popular” until you stop caring about being popular. This will baffle you until you realize that no one ever really feels “in.” Ever. Even in the in crowd someone doesn’t get the memo that collars are being turned up today, but you won’t know that because on the outside looking in it seemed pretty perfect at that table. Later you’ll remember just as fondly the fun you had with your friends eating lunch on the floor by the band room (but will wonder why there?) And by lunch I mean hot pockets, Diet Coke and Sprees. Every day. For a year. It will be a long time before you stop trying to punish yourself for being born. And you’ll wish you did it sooner.

But now you know. And, again, now is all we have.

Oh, also: He won’t call you back unless you don’t care if he calls you back.

And, you’ll do better in the interview if you don’t care if you get the job, by which I mean if you don’t seem all nervous and desperate because you know you’ll be okay either way. Nothing truly important ever hinges on one thing outside of your control. Nothing. Ever.

Those are all lessons in irony. Also, non-attachment. That’s a thing. This will be one of your life lessons, at least from this vantage point there doesn’t appear to be an end in sight. You will come to loathe the expression: “You just can’t get attached to the outcome.” Because you will. And then you’ll let go. And then magic happens. Every. Single. Time.

You’ll know this because you kept a journal and there is proof that this pattern is a Thing.

I would tell her to skip the glamour shots, you’re just not that girl. A ponytail with a pen in your hair is how you roll.

Someday, after a lot of therapy, you will decide you might, after all, be a good enough mother. And you will have kids even when it starts to seem impossible. And those kids will actually form a habit of looking for something to write with and then come to you to bend down so they can pluck your pen out of your hair. And this will make you oddly proud.

Take notes, on everything. You’ll never regret that. Even when looking back makes you cry and cringe. Even when your mom reads it, even when your best friend reads it and even when your boyfriend finds it. You might consider getting better at hiding it. Just sayin’.

Those notes are how you will remember where you’ve come from and lay track for where you’re going.

Because, you see, right now turns into yesterday in a blink. And yesterday informs today but without your notes it’s easy to forget the story of how you got to here.

Right now.

……….

Nathalie Hardy is a national award-winning columnist and reporter who majored in journalism when she realized she could make a living talking to strangers.

Since becoming a mother she manages to keep writing in the margins as she strives to be more Zen, less banshee. This book is a collection of some of those notes. Hardy has published freelance articles for numerous local, regional and national publications including Poets & Writers magazine. She facilitates journal writing workshops in person and at BigPictureClasses.com.
Hardy was a nerd before it was cool. She graduated with a journalism degree from Western Washington University in Bellingham.

On Wrinkles, Parenting, and Drawing on Napkins: An Authenticity Project Guest Post by Kristi Campbell

Apr 14 2016

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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,

Signature

 

 

 

On Wrinkles, Parenting, and Drawing on Napkins
An Authenticity Project guest post by Kristi Campbell

As we sat around the dinner table tonight, I paused and looked at my little boy, who is – in his mind, a big boy – but remains little in mine because being six can’t yet be big. I also see that he’s no longer little-little. As I watched him open the straw for his juice box and insert it into the tiny foil hole at the top, I almost started crying.

This is a post about crying over nothing, and on wrinkles, parenting, and drawing on napkins.

“I love you, buddy. You’re such a big boy,” I said, thinking about how quickly and slowly life’s moments happen. I felt pride because he can open the straw for a juice box when once I wondered when he’d be able to do so. I watch him and cannot believe that we’re here. That he’s six, and talking and having conversations when once I wondered whether I’d ever understand some of his actions and words. Understand him. His progress. His him-ness. His growth is breaking and filling my heart every single day.

He’s both big and little. His closeness to me and his independence stretch and recede. I am constantly full of pride and exploding love. I am constantly missing the before-hims. I already miss now-hims as they happen and are gone, just like that.

I walk behind his chair and stroke his hair, remembering when he wasn’t yet able to hold up his little bald head.

***

I watched the sunset from my front porch and thought “Tomorrow, you’re not gonna be one of the little kids anymore.” It was the night before my sixth birthday. I walked to school alone each day, although my mom could see my commute from her kitchen window. She drew pictures on my lunchbox napkins. Most of the time, I looked to see what was on it before getting to school. I was a big girl. I was so young.

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***

Today, I met my son as he got off the school bus. He’d told a friend and her brother about Strike, his new pet guinea pig. He’d invited them to come over to meet her. As their mom and I walked, my boy and his friend walked separately, and crossed the street without me. “They must have looked both ways first,” I thought. I only felt a little panic. After he asked whether they wanted to “see the hamster dead,” they said yes, and he pulled Lightning’s box from the freezer. I think they regretted it, because the look on his six-year-old’s friend face? But their mom laughed, and I think it was okay. Okay enough, anyway.

His friends left, and I emptied my son’s lunchbox and tossed the napkin I drew on that morning. I wonder when my mom stopped drawing on my napkins. When I will.

***

“You’re gonna let us take him home? Just like that?” I said. “You check the carseat and we can just leave?” My son was a newborn, and I couldn’t believe that the guy in an Army uniform at the hospital said that we could go home because the carseat was acceptable. While part of me wanted to argue with him and say “but we don’t know what to do.” Another part whispered “let’s go” thinking that we’d better go home before they knew we weren’t actually qualified to care for an infant. I felt like a grownup. And like a child who needed her parents.

***

I look into the mirror. “When did I stop looking good?” I wonder. I think about how much better I looked 15 years ago. I can see the skin beneath my eyes become thinner and more papery by the month. I imagine myself in 15 years, and know that I’ll think about how much better I looked today than I will then.

I hope to be here in 15 years, worrying over my papery lines and folds. My son will be 21. He’ll be an adult. He’ll probably have abs and feel like he knows everything the way that I once did. The way that 21 year olds do. They’re so grown up. They are so young.

***

Back when I knew everything, I thought that by this point in my life, I’d be more organized, more legally prepared, more life-prepared.

Today, I know how little I know, and realize that with each year comes growth and power and more me-ness. That it gets easier and harder to forget how old we are.

There’s a me who lives inside, one without papery skin beneath her eyes. She feels like the same girl who stood on her porch the night before her sixth birthday. She feels like she did at 17 in love for the first time.

She feels the way she did in the hospital, the day she took her infant son home.

And yet, she also knows that she’s lived with enough intent during the important moments so that they are now a part of a wiser, more-papery-eyed her.

She’s finally old enough to know what she doesn’t know. I think she and I are okay with that.

Together though, we’ll continue the search for perfect eye cream because no age means that seeing papery wrinkles in the mirror is the same as seeing ourselves. Except for when it is, because we’re each all of the people we’ve been and will become. Some of them, especially the ones in our futures, have wrinkles.

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……….

KristiKristi Rieger Campbell’s passion is writing and drawing stupid-looking pictures for her blog, Finding Ninee. It began with a memoir about her special-needs son Tucker, abandoned when she read that a publisher would rather shave a cat than read another memoir. Kristi writes for a variety of parenting websites including Huffington Post Parents, has been published in several popular anthologies, received 2014 BlogHer’s Voice of the Year People’s Choice Award, and was a proud cast member of the DC Listen to Your Mother show. Find her on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.

 

Letting Myself Go: An Authenticity Project Guest Post by Gregg Koskela

Apr 12 2016

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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,

Signature

 

 

 

Letting Myself Go
An Authenticity Project guest post by Gregg Koskela

I’m not sure I ever allowed myself to speak the words at the time, but I was burnt out. I kept going through the motions, but my ability to feel was severely compromised. Compromised in part because there were just too many hurts I was holding with other people, and in part because when I did feel, when I did let it out, there was usually someone who told me to tuck that in and take care of it and get myself together.

Get it together.

But I couldn’t, so I asked for a sabbatical. And on the very first day of that strange release from work, I took the long way on a drive to visit my parents, out I-84 alongside the Columbia River. I drove past The Dalles Dam, reminded of the cheap hydroelectric power this seemingly still water is generating. Dam after dam along this river brings safety from flooding as well as clean electricity, and has tamed this mighty river into the placid sameness I now watched slip past my windows.

Somewhere on that road, my phone randomly spit out a song by the David Crowder Band. The lyrics did not describe who I was at that moment. No, like the river I was driving beside, I presented a monotonous flatness; whatever churning there once was had been invisibly buried by slow, creeping, engulfing waters. But the lyrics called to my deep places, reminding me who I had once been:

And He set me on fire
I am coming undone
with His breath in my lungs
I am coming undone…
And I cannot hold it in
remain
composed.
Love has taken over me
so I 
propose:
Letting myself go.

 

My sabbatical’s purpose hung in the air of my car, pulsating from the speakers, calling to me from this song. The dams, the dams on my soul that had promised to bring such good; the dams that had contained me, that had kept the flooding from washing me away, that had powered me…those dams had done damage.

It was time to let myself go.

Could I do it? Could I blow up the well-constructed dams, the ones that kept my words safe, my emotions in check? Could I really handle the chaos of my real emotions? I had gotten good at keeping things under control, like the dam on the river. I had gotten good at never losing it, at harnessing the chaos and creating power that was for the good of others. But I wanted to feel vibrancy of life again. I wanted fire and love that knew no bounds and letting myself go. Is this what this sabbatical was going to be about? Something inside me on that very first day said yes.

Pastors can be amateur psychologists, and I’m no exception. When I look at my own life and try to make sense of who I am, I see a tension at work inside me: discipline and passion are constantly at war. I usually present responsible me, the first-born, expectation-laden, conscientious side of me. But there’s another “me” buried under there, too, the me who led cheers in front of the student section at my high school’s basketball games, the me who was once called “The Silly Man” by my daughter’s preschool friends. The passionate side, the fun side, the emotional side often gets buried by living into the expectations of others.

The hard part is, I don’t always recognize when that side is getting smothered. It’s a repeating pattern in my life, this keep-it-together-don’t-mess-up-do-the-right-thing life swallowing me up, and then slowly giving way to a comfortable freedom to express myself. But when some life change occurs, it’s lather-rinse-repeat, and I’m back to the smother. I can trace the pattern really far back.

Like Kindergarten. I was so excited to be there, so excited to learn. Every time Miss Teel would ask a question, my hand would be up and bouncing and my eyes dancing as I wanted to be the one to answer. When she called on someone else, and they got the answer wrong, well, I was perfectly comfortable rolling my eyes and letting a huge sigh of condescension explode from my lips. Miss Teel and my mom were right to work all year on trying to get me to not be such a butthead…yet it did squelch that excited learner a bit.

Our family moved to Oregon right before I started 8th grade. I mean right before. We left Scotts Valley, the (then) sleepy town close to Santa Cruz California, left with my surf-inspired OP beachwear and Levi’s cords lovingly brought along. On the first day of 8th grade, my dad drove me from my aunt and uncle’s house in Portland out to Dale Ickes Jr. High in the suburb of Clackamas. I took the bus at the end of the day to our new home, where the moving truck was unloading our furniture.

It had been a horrible first day. My mom says she saw it on my body from the window, saw it in the way I slowly walked up our long driveway from where the bus dropped me off. I hadn’t looked like any one else–no one wore corduroy, everyone had Lawman jeans and San Francisco Riding Gear. I talked like the guys from the movie “Fast Times at Ridgemont High”–but that movie wouldn’t come out for another two years so everybody just thought I talked weird. I stuck out like those Emperor’s Guard Stormtroopers; you know, in Star Wars, those ones in the red uniforms amid the sea of white.

I hated sticking out. I just wanted to disappear, to get swallowed up, to be normal. I didn’t like being different. I didn’t like being myself.

So began, “Operation: Meet Expectations”. My first thought was to use my brain to impress people and win friends. If I succeeded academically, if I played that role to perfection, maybe then people would like me. But instead I got called nerd, and the new glasses I had to wear for the first time reinforced that image.

The next attempt was to throw myself into the sport I loved, baseball. In California, I’d been a Little League All Star and successful, known for my ability to field a ground ball well in the infield. But in Oregon I was a pudgy late-comer to puberty, and besides, everybody knew Bo Venerdi was the All Star shortstop, so why don’t you just go try center field for awhile? Academics, failure one. Athletics, failure two. What part should I try out for next?

Maybe if I had a girlfriend. Maybe that would make people accept me. I remember being so petrified to be honest, so afraid that if I showed who I was, no girl would want me. Eighth grade life was telling me at every turn that who I was wasn’t accepted, so I just kept trying new things, new roles, new masks to see if I could fit in.

There was that awkward first kiss after school by the lockers. I could see it was coming, and I was scared out of my mind. “Uh, I guess, huh, I guess wow? We haven’t even kissed yet?” I tried to make it seem like I was used to this, like I’d kissed people dozens of times and how weird it was that we hadn’t kissed yet, when on the inside I didn’t even know what in the world I was supposed to do. You should know that I didn’t even know what a french kiss was, so, uhh, that was a shocker.

It wasn’t that having a girlfriend “worked”, as in, that was the “in” that finally gave me friends. If I would have realized it, I would have seen that friendships take time and by the end of that year, enough time and experience had forged some. But I didn’t realize it. Instead, I took home the lesson that you have to keep trying on roles, you have to keep doing the expected thing to get by in life. You can’t break from the mold, you can’t be honest, you can’t be yourself. If you do that, you’ll be the guy saying “gnarly” in a little, pre-MTV town in Oregon where they’ve never heard the word and will look at you like you are a freak.

I’ve had so many epiphanies, so many moments of clarity where I have seen through all that. High school friends who told me they had freedom to be themselves because they didn’t build their self-image on achievements or what others thought of them, but rather that their value as a person rested on the unchanging truth that God created them. The solo time during college, sitting in silence on a mountainside, journalling eloquently about the masks I had worn in life and how I wanted to set them aside and be the real me. A retreat during grad school, reading a history of the year 1968 (the year I was born), and being caught up with the passion and turmoil and idealism of that time, and wanting our class, our group to “rise, like a phoenix from the ashes of the 60’s, to change the world!” (I actually wrote that in my journal. With the exclamation point! No lie.)

I’ve had these moments of wisdom where I have seen through the pressure of expectation and how it squelches life. Trying to please others looks so calm and right on the surface, and it gains such approval from others; but it comes with a price. At times I’ve seen the damage done from stuffing what I really feel, who I really am, to take up a role that others would like me to play. But I’ve also sometimes lost myself. I’ve just sort of glazed over, become a walking automaton expertly achieving what’s expected of me.

Oh, the damage. The passion lost and buried. The nagging voice that says, “If they really knew who you were, they wouldn’t accept you.” The secrets. The shame. The hiding. The image management.

I see it all again now as I write, see it in hi-definition 4K clarity. Do you see it? Do you see the benefits that come from building dams, the illusion of safety it brings? The way it stops the torrents and floods, the way it contains, the way it smoothes the relentless force of a mighty river into a smooth lake, always the same, never changing, making its predictable way. The way it channels and harnesses power for others. Our culture loves a dam, loves how it siphons power from the world and tames it for our use, how it calms the unpredictability of drought and flood, feast and famine.

My family and Ickes Junior High and American Culture all taught me dam building. Don’t step out of line, don’t risk, don’t stand out.

Part of my sabbatical was researching my grandpa’s life. He spent a lifetime trying to build dams that would contain the chaos in his life, and at the end, that illusion of control broke. The cracks in the dam, the symptoms were the alcoholism and the Alzheimers. It’s a cautionary tale for my buttoned-up, first-born, mask-wearing self. Yes, the uncertainty of the raw river of emotions is scary.

But the honesty and community and interdependence found with living in that reality is far healthier and longer lasting than building the dams of expectation and control.

And He set me on fire
I am coming undone
with His breath in my lungs
I am coming undone…
And I cannot hold it in
remain
composed.
Love has taken over me
so I 
propose:
Letting myself go.

 

……….

 

GreggI’m Gregg Koskela. I’ve been married to Elaine for almost 26 years, and we share the roller coaster journey of parenting three girls: Aubrey (13), Hayley (19) and Natalie (21). Stories and words fascinate me, in person and on a page. I serve as pastor of Newberg Friends Church, a community that has shaped me for almost 30 years.

You can find me on my blog, Out of Doubt, and on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram