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

 

Heartfelt and Sort of Horrible but Also Honest Prayers for America and Her People, Some of Whom Are Undeniable Assholes, Sadly on Both Sides

Nov 11 2016

A Prayer for America Knowing She’s Hurt and Hoping She’ll Heal but Not Being Sure of Much of Anything Right Now (and Because We Believe You, Oh God, Always Hear the Cries of Our Hearts Even When We Don’t Know Exactly Which Words to Use), We Pray in Earnest Devotion: Well, fuck.

Lord, hear our prayer.

A Prayer for the Marginalized and Vulnerable and Disenfranchised, Including Those Who Are LGBTQ, Refugees, Immigrants, People of Color, Women, Unemployed, Without Education: We beseech you, oh God, to be with those who are suffering, today and every day. Help us be on the lookout for those who need a champion, a defender and a friend. May we lend our hands and hearts to raise others’ voices up to a mighty chorus that sings and signals justice and mercy at hand, and may our neighbors in danger find refuge and sanctuary, equity and equality, safety and sustenance.

Lord, hear our prayer.

A Prayer for We Liberals Who Are Losing Our Everloving Minds: Dear God, we are running around like our hair is on fire. We are full — filled to the brim — with histrionics, angst and dismay. We are trying to channel our freak out into actual, practical, Real Loving Things to Do and Ways to Help the folks for whom we just prayed ^^^up there^^^, but, to be honest, we are not done panicking quite yet. When our neighbors are in danger, panicking is part of it. It’s OK. Panic, Help People, Panic, Breathe, Repeat; this appears to be the way of things when we’re made out of human and in the image of the Divine at the same time. Do help us Breathe, though, Lord Jesus, and, even more than that, help us to Conspire, which I just learned means Breathe Together. From the Latin con (with) and spirare (breathe), help us become Grand Conspirators; people who lead breathing exercises for a nation that needs to breathe Love in and breathe Love out. Breathe Love in and Breathe Love out. A Love Conspiracy all around. Also, help us to be a tiny bit less condescending and superior and insufferable even though we are correct in all of our thinking and all of our policies as You Yourself are aware. We confess we can occasionally be a teeeeeensy bit haughty, and our outrage isn’t always that much fun at parties, and we might, with your help, try listening better to our conservative friends and being less, well, dickish at times.

Lord, hear our prayer.

 

A Prayer for Our Conservative Friends Who Think We’re Sad Because Our Candidate Lost Which Isn’t the Crux of It at All But Seems to Be the Story Going Around Anyway: God protect them. Keep them safe from the red laser beams shooting from our loving liberal eyes. Lord, we know there are many, many Conservative Friends Who Mean Well, and Who Have the Very Best Intentions, and Beautiful Hearts (Really), and Who Genuinely, Deeply, Truly Believe They Are Saving Unborn Lives and the Economy and Vanquishing the Very Devil and Draining the Swamp and Heralding Hope; they do not want refugee lives lost, or people of color profiled, or disabled children huddling in fear of being beaten and shamed and mocked and ridiculed and called retarded at school, even though those things are Actually Happening. We suspect we may have more in common with our conservative neighbors than not, and that we hope for the same things, even though, God, just between us, we all know there are some who are Bigoted, Heartless Assholes. Sadly, the Conservatives do not have a corner on the Prejudice Market, or on Dogma, or on Intolerance, and, God, this sucks. It really, really bites, as we would Very Much Like to dump this all upon their doorstep. It’s our preference, we confess; BLAME THE CONSERVATIVES. And so, reluctantly, we ask you for Clarity, Patience, Kindness, Gentleness, and the worst and most hopeless one of them all, Self-Control, that we might hear each others’ hearts and find our common ground and turn down our laser beam strength from Death Ray to Stun, or even, because you are a God of miracles, turn them off entirely so we can keep our eyes open and on the lookout for the Image-of-Godness in all people, even the conservative and liberal Assholes. Eventually.

Lord, hear our prayer.

A Prayer for Forgiveness and Loving Our Neighbors as Ourselves Which is, Like, Totally Impossible but We’re Asking Anyway: Oh, God, who is capable of Forgiving All Things, even the Most Heinous Ones, in Others and Ourselves, hard though we find that to believe, teach us your ways. Your vast, endless, bottomless and mysterious ways called Love Our Neighbors as Ourselves, and Love Our Enemies, and that Everyone is actually Our Neighbor by Your definition, even though that goal is, like, impossible and we’ll never fully arrive there. Teach us, Lord, in your Infinite Wisdom and Grace, two of the things we lack most often, to suss out humbly and truly where we have wronged our neighbors and to say those words I detested when my mother, a complicated saint, made me say them to my horrible brother even though he Maligned me and Mocked me and Punched My Thigh and was Always Completely Wrong while I did Nothing and was Totally Right, “Please forgive me.” Ugh.

Lord, hear our prayer.

And, Finally, a Prayer That We May Someday, for Real, Form a More Perfect Union Where We Gather Huddled Masses Longing to be Free and Hold These Truths to be Self-Evident — That All People Are Created Equal; That They Are Endowed by Their Creator with Certain Unalienable Rights; and That Among These are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness: Pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty please, Jesus? Please?

Lord, hear our prayer.

Amen

If You’re Afraid and Don’t Know What to Do: #YouAreSafeWithMe

Nov 9 2016

Originally Shared on Facebook on Election Night:

It looks very much like Trump will win the White House, and my stomach is flip-flopping, alternating between butterflies and nausea, controlled as it is at the moment by the amygdala part of the brain, or Reptilian Brain — “FEAR and SURVIVAL, Beth,” it keeps repeating, “RUN. Or at least start digging the bunker! WHY HAVEN’T YOU STARTED ON THE BUNKER YET?”

Reptilian Brain is, to put it kindly, a freaking freaker who freaks.

I’d like to wallow a little, even though I promised not to. To grieve. To be sad. To rage.

But there isn’t time, friends.

Let me repeat: THERE IS NOT TIME TO INDULGE THE FULL WALLOW.

Listen. Reptilian Brain wants us to keep freaking the hell out. Reptilian Brain NEEDS us to do this. Reptilian Brain LIVES for this shit. But Reptilian Brain also (literally) shuts down our ability to do higher thinking. And, interestingly, higher thinking is required in order for kindness, gentleness and love to flourish. Higher thinking is required for us to think outside of ourselves.

Please understand — if it was up to me and Reptilian Brain over here, we would RELISH the opportunity to FREAK OUT and keep right on freaking. Wallowers R Us, friends. For real. Also, Reptilian Brain enjoys bourbon, and the two of us would like nothing more than a large glass of that stuff right now.

Reptilian Brain: WALLOW NOW. Gentleness and kindness another time.
Me: SOLD, Reptilian Brain. You so totally get me.

But I’m not kidding when I say there isn’t time.

There isn’t time because, while people like me who are white, cisgender, college educated, English speaking, suburban, dual income American citizens who have never once worried about whether my children will go to bed hungry… or whether I will be shunned or beaten or killed for my sexual or gender identity… or whether I will be summarily accused and sentenced for the color of my skin… or a whole host of other things…, there are millions of people in our country tonight who are worried not just for their livelihoods but for their lives.

The privileged people like me can take time to rage.

The privileged people like me can take time to analyze.

The privileged people like me can take time to wonder and wallow.

>>But there isn’t time because there are immigrant families tonight who are afraid they’ll be separated, and children who cling to mothers they fear they’ll lose.

>>There are refugees in desperate need of a safe place to land who will be turned away because there’s about to be less room in the American inn.

>>There are LGBTQ teens who have long suspected there is no place for them in this country who will believe this proves it and who will harm themselves.

>>There are Islamic families who will feel they have to hide and keep their heads down and who won’t know how to protect their kids as they walk to and from school.

>>There are precious people who live with disability, like two of my own kids, who are bewildered about how it’s possible they can be mocked and bullied by a man who is then handed the reins to the presidency.

These people needs us right now, friends; we do not have time to indulge our Reptilian Brains. Maybe later. We can set a date and throw our amygdalas a right rager of a party.

Right now, though, our friends need us. And, make no mistake, the marginalized and belittled and disenfranchised ARE the friends of all who believe in loving our neighbors as ourselves and that EVERYONE is our neighbor, like Jesus and Mr. Rogers said.

{{Our friends need to know where the safe spaces are.}}

We have to send the message loud and clear before we indulge our own outrage, so the disenfranchised will know where they can turn.

I’ll go first: You are safe with me, friends. I will guard your hearts. I will champion your place in this world and this country. I will work for your physical protection. I will not stand silently while you are harmed. You are safe with me, and I will fight for more safe places for you, too.

{{You do not go it alone.}} #YouAreSafeWithMe

I stand by what I said about how my family and I will be reacting to this election: We are going to be kind. We are going to look for ways to Invite People In. We are going to be people who hope. And we will work together to make a bright future a reality, putting our energy toward creating the country we wish we had, rather than lamenting its loss.

But first I need you to know, you are safe here, friends.

#YouAreSafeWithMe

With my whole heart,
Beth

P.S. Whether you share this post or the #YouAreSafeWithMe hashtag or express yourself another way, please find a way to send a message of safety and solidarity to those who need to hear this now.

P.P.S. I usually allow for a rather wide diversity of thought on this page and on my blog. On this post and those to come, I will allow for a diversity of kindness only. Meaning I’ll shut anything else right down. This is my online living room, and those who are kind are welcome in it. <3

How to Prepare for Election Day

Nov 4 2016

Friends, this was supposed to be a post rating last month’s Escapist Book Club book, Leviathan, which I planned to have to you 5 days ago and is now, sadly, overdue.

Also, this was supposed to be a post introducing our November Escapist Book Club book, The Girl Who Drank the Moon, which I planned to have to you 4 days ago and is officially overdue, as well.

Also-also, I just realized I never named the winners of the August giveaway of several St. Jude (Patron Saint of Chaos and Impossible Causes) charms, which are still in my wallet. On the bright side, I told you I’d give them away eventually, so I anticipated my own failure to finish things in a reasonable timeframe, and this one is not, therefore, technically overdue. #WINNING

Speaking of Chaos and Impossible Causes, I need to do all these things plus 467 more, but I’ve decided to be gentle with myself, instead, because these are Strange Times we’re living in. Strange Times full of verbal civil war here in the U.S., and in our churches and families, as we fight for Who’s In and Who’s Out, Who’s Right and Who’s Wrong, who deserves a place at the table and what the definition of “place” and “table” are, anyway.

It’s easy to get caught up in the rhetoric. It’s easy to turn to defending my positions which are the Right Positions, and Well Thought Out, and are, obviously, the positions that Love and Defend People Best. It’s easy to be cocky and believe the articles and pundits and theologians who support what I already believed. Self-congratulation and confirmation of my own brilliance are very sweet, after all.

Please understand I’m not suggesting there aren’t things worth fighting for or people in desperate need of defending. We will, with our words and our actions and our votes and our hearts, determine the course of the future together. The future I want for my children and the children of my momrades around the globe is crystal clear; physical safety, freedom of thought, freedom of religion, education, food, shelter, clothes, equality, an end to discrimination, and doors wide open to the marginalized and disenfranchised to give them sanctuary and succor; a table defined as the Whole Planet and a place at that table overflowing with bounty for every single one. I will absolutely continue to champion these ends with all the tools at my disposal.

But…

But…

But…

I’m also working hard to keep my ears and eyes wide open, and my hands cupped loosely to receive communion — the breaking of bread and sharing of wine with the people of grace and of grime, who are all of us, in remembrance of sacrifice and redemption and the fact that we don’t do this work alone. I’m working hard to keep ears and eyes and heart as wide open as the door that leads to my table where I maintain there’s always — always — room for one more, like the wardrobe that leads to Narnia or Mary Poppins’ carpet bag, which, though they appear to be finite, have magical room and infinite space inside.

I’m working hard to listen to the arguments and the underlying pain and the deep-seated fears of those with whom I disagree, and I am striving to understand the convictions of my friends who think differently than me. This is the Hardest Work I’m doing these days — this listening to understand rather than listening to defend — this choice to be kind — because my base nature, of course, would rather Defend My Territory than hold it humbly and gently. I am fierce, you see; it’s in my nature. I am fierce and determined and articulate and stubborn. I have a strong sense of What’s Right and What’s Wrong, and I long for Justice and Mercy in equal measure, and for Love Incarnate to be made known to all people. Unfortunately, I can also be Wrong or Misunderstand or Only Have Part of Someone’s Story, which has been one of the more tragic lessons of adulthood. A real bummer, I tell you, but a lesson I’m trying to absorb, that I don’t know everything and must become a lifelong learner and a friend, rather than one who charges in with accusations and diatribes.

So here’s what we’re going to do to prepare for this Election Day, those of us who are uneasy with our Facebook feeds and who hope for a better conversation to begin in our nation, in our world, in our churches, in our families, and in the secret places of our hearts.

img_2165First, we are going to make a giant vat of chicken soup. We need healing, friends, and chicken soup, in every culture, is the beginning. You can add noodles. You can pop open a can of Campbell’s. You can throw in rice and ginger and garlic and salt. You can use a spoon or slurp it straight from the bowl. If you’re vegan, you can substitute veggie stock, but I’m telling you, we’re all having soup at the table. Soup all around to fortify us and soothe us and remind us we seek health and restoration one to another.

Then, after chicken soup, we are going to practice love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. 

Chicken soup.
Then we pursue goodness.
That’s the order.

We will succeed. We will be so good at this, friends.

And then we will fail.

And then we will try again, on repeat, and succeed and fail because we are made out of human, and we are made in God’s own image — human and divine, magic and mess, grace and grime, mixed and mingled together.

Self-control will be the worst; I’m just saying this now so we all have clear expectations. I, for example, keep waking up to find piles of candy wrappers on my nightstand; my goal to eat zero Halloween candy isn’t going well. Also, I keep researching every Horrible Thing shared on Facebook about Hillary Clinton and finding the Snopes.com articles to refute them. <– This is not actually helpful, FYI, and it will Change No One’s Mind. It does, however, reinforce that I Think All the Very Best Things and also Am Right and also Am Doing Stuff to SAVE THE WORLD from CERTAIN DISASTER like Posting My Fab Thoughts on the Facebook. Which is to say, I assuage my fears, which are legion when I let them take the reins, and my anger by calling out the fact that the Other Side is Mired in Fear and Anger, and I ignore my own hypocrisy. It’s FUN, friends; everyone is doing it.

Still, self-control; I’m going to work on practicing it. And I will also practice being gentle with others and myself when we fail spectacularly at it. And I’ll work on being kind and good when I’d rather feed my fear. And at being patient with the fact these things will take, literally, forever + divine intervention.

Here is how we are going to prepare for Election Day:

We are going to make the soup.

We are going to eat the soup.

We are going to be the people of love.

We are going to be the people of joy.

We are going to be the people who work relentlessly for peace.

We are gong to be the people who champion our neighbors which begins by listening to them, which is horrible and difficult but still true.

We are going to be the people who will move through the next week bravely and boldly and compassionately, and our light will not be extinguished by alarmist, fearful rhetoric which seeks to steal our joy.

OK? OK.

Sending love, friends,

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P.S. Wishing us all the best.

A Follow Up on the Time Traveler’s Wife (and a Book Suggestion for Those More Emotionally Mature Than Me… Which Is, Like, All Y’all)

Oct 29 2016

OK. We’ve made an important decision about The Time Traveler’s Wife which is that I am not emotionally mature enough to read it. It’s like spending days and days in art museums or limiting screen time for my children; I wish I was that kind of person, but I’m not.

I probably should have also told you that I have a Long History with tragic, triumphant stories, and it’s not pretty. I read The Chamber by John Grisham, for example, in 1995 a few months after Greg and I got married. Sitting with me on our horribly uncomfortable but very practical and strangely durable navy couch the day I finished, Greg learned the hard truth that his new wife hurls tragic books across the room and into the fireplace after holding them above her head, brandishing them like a Scottish broadsword wielded by William Wallace on his way to battle the British, and shrieking unintelligible war cries with tears tracking down her face. For a man who was raised by calm parents, it was something of a shock, and I’m not sure he ever quite recovered. On the bright side, though, Greg’s wife is adorable, guys. And none of this comes even close to the phone calls I had to make to my friend, Melissa, the times I decided to watch Legends of the Fall and The Notebook while home alone. I don’t remember all the details, but I do know the situation involved sobbing, a fetal position, and Melissa hollering through the phone, “TURN IT OFF, BETH; it does NOT get better. STOP RIGHT NOW!”

So, you know. Not gonna finish The Time Traveler’s Wife or ever find out how it ends, even though that’s what a reasonable person would do. This way, I can leave Henry and Claire blissfully suspended in their 20’s, desperately in love, happy, and having lots of sex. I expect a thank you note from them any day now.

Unfortunately, my friend Heidi is now concerned she has broken me and that I’ll never be friends with her again. To set the record straight, a) I was broken WAY before the Time Traveler’s Wife, b) I am reading extremely smutty vampire books to make up for the terror and angst TTW has caused so will be fully recovered shortly, and c) I never give this kind of crap to people unless I adore them. Crap-giving and laying blame are my love languages. And also cheese. And fresh salsa with paper thin corn chips. So we’re good, Heidi, et al. Swearsies.

With love,

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P.S. For those of you who are fans of tragedy and triumph, however, I do have an actual REAL suggestion, which is The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell. I read The Sparrow before I discovered I’m not emotionally mature enough to read tragedy and triumph. Kind of like how Dumbo flew before he discovered the feather wasn’t actually magic. It’s not an exaggeration to say that The Sparrow is the book, next to the Bible, that has had the most spiritual impact on me in that it gave me words and images to express disenchantment and disillusionment with theology and the church — and a way to restructure my thinking about both — at a time when that was critical to my faith journey. The Sparrow is fictional. It’s sci fi (but only ostensibly). And it’s deep and complex and enthralling and magical and terrible and true. I commend Father Emilio Sandoz to your care should you choose to bring him to life by reading this book; be gentle with him, and kind. He’s my friend, and he deserves our great compassion when we bear witness to his story.

“A visionary work that combines speculative fiction with deep philosophical inquiry, The Sparrow tells the story of a charismatic Jesuit priest and linguist, Emilio Sandoz, who leads a scientific mission entrusted with a profound task: to make first contact with intelligent extraterrestrial life. The mission begins in faith, hope, and beauty, but a series of small misunderstandings brings it to a catastrophic end.” <– Sounds fun, right??

P.P.S. Thanks for letting me fly my broken, weirdo flag in front of you all… aka, my “I’m Made out of Human” flag. You’re the greatest.

 

Have you read The Time Traveler’s Wife? If yes, HELP.

Oct 28 2016

I keep waiting to write you until I have time to write something helpful or important or, at the very least, thoughtful, but that’s not happening this week, so I’m going to write to you to be needy. That’s what I seem to have right now. They always say, “Write what you know.” Well, being needy, friends; that’s what I know, so here we go.

I’m having a minor crisis at the moment, and it’s your fault. Not that I’m all about placing blame, but, seriously, you’re going to have to take responsibility for this one. ALSO, while my personal crisis may be minor, you’ve created a major crisis for someone else, and I thought you should know. Two someone elses, actually, and since it’s not OK to let major crises fester when you have the power to alleviate the harm you’ve (albeit unintentionally) caused, I say you get right on this situation. STAT.

Yes?

Yes. I’m glad we agree.

Here’s the situation:

You told me to read the Time Traveler’s Wife.

That’s the whole situation.

Let’s recap:

I TOLD you I can’t read things that are dark, tragic, sad, thoughtful or, God forbid, triumphant, and then you told me to read the Time Traveler’s Wife ANYWAY.

Trust us, you said.

You’ll be glad, you said.

I would not say it’s triumphant, Katie said.

You can do it; you are a Brave Girl, said Heidi.

But I am pretty sure I can NOT do it, and I am NOT a Brave Girl.

I’m pretty sure because I’ve sort of tried.

I bought the book, and then I read half of it. A WHOLE HALF of the Time Traveler’s Wife, and I’m starting to suspect it’s tragic and triumphant. There’s an orchard and a father and brother with guns, and a Henry who tells young Claire not to worry, and a later SIGNIFICANT LOOK between the men around the dinner table. GAH! It’s like a glowing neon sign at the 50% mark, flashing DANGER! DANGER! GO BACK!

I wrote to Katie and Heidi, and also Sarah who agreed with them, and I said, “The Time Traveler’s Wife was totally engaging. And then I quit halfway through, overcome with dread at the foreshadowing of Something Terrible to Come. You guys. Seriously. I AM BROKEN. Complete anxiety. I love the characters so I’ve left them suspended half way through the book LEST SOMETHING HORRIBLE OVERTAKE THEM. I wish I could just read the end of a book when I become fearful, but then, of course, the Awful Thing Still Befalls Them, and I can’t take that risk. Have you ever read the Sesame Street book The Monster at the End of the Book where Grover selflessly does everything in his power to prevent the end of the book from coming? I AM GROVER. I am tying and gluing and locking ALL THE PAGES together. And sticking my fingers in my ears singing LALALA. I just thought you should know…”

So here we are, in the middle of my minor crisis and Henry and Claire’s VERY MAJOR crisis; we are, all three, STUCK in the middle of this book, and there are people who might DIE. I can’t, you guys. And please do not try to tell me that Henry and Claire’s crisis doesn’t count simply because they’re fictional. Characters are only fictional until they become real. Anyone who’s read The Velveteen Rabbit knows that’s so. And Henry and Claire became real when you forcibly held me down, propped my eyes open with toothpicks, and compelled me to begin reading, thus caring about what happens to them.

Frankly, you were not all that helpful in your responses.

“My unsolicited advice is to leave it groverized until you are in need of a good, fugly cry. I could barely read the words through the tears and snooger bubbles. AND THEN it had the nerve to follow me around for a week-long emotional hangover. (But, really, it’s great),” wrote Jaime. <– NO. No. THESE THINGS DO NOT MATCH, JAIME. It’s like you think I’m a NORMAL HUMAN who feels feelings and doesn’t try to alternately shove them deep, deep down inside where they will rot and eventually explode or eat enormous amounts of sugar and salt to numb myself. Are you even American, Jaime? I suspect not.

And Sarah wrote, “YOU HAVE TO FINISH!! It is beautifully tragic and hopeful all at the same time! It’s seriously not all terrible.” I’m sorry, but WHAT? WHAT, Sarah? Beautifully tragic and hopeful is ALL OF LIFE. It is not, however, reading we do for FUN. No, no, no, no, no, no, no.

So I’m throwing this out there to ALL of you who’ve read The Time Traveler’s Wife with this one question:

Should I keep reading The Time Traveler’s Wife??

‘Cause I’m willing to allow for the teeny, tiny, remote possibility that you’re right and I’m wrong and that I might also be a freaking freaker who should calm the hell down and finish the damn book already. It’s just… I’m scared.

Leave me your recommendation — to read or not to read — in the comments, but no spoilers please, in case I do summon heretofore unknown reserves of reading courage.

Yours truly (and anxiously),

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P.S. I sort of misled you with my opening paragraph. I do, actually, have time to write one thing that may be helpful. My bathroom, as you may know, smells like boy humans use it. This week, I tried to mask the smell with a mulberry candle, and it worked, folks. It WORKED. Now instead of my bathroom smelling like pee, it smells like mulberry candle and pee, proving once again that we do not live a life of Either/Or, friends, but of Both/And. Both mulberry candle AND pee. #SmellsLikeLife #ForTheWin

P.P.S. I just realized the cover of the Time Traveler’s Wife says, “A soaring celebration of the victory of love over time.” OH MY WORD, you guys. That’s, like, textbook triumphant.

Repeat After Me… We Don’t Suck

Oct 19 2016

My neighbor stopped me in the driveway a couple weeks ago to ask how life was going.

Socially speaking, I should’ve said, “Fine!” or “Great!” followed by asking her how she was. After all, based on the Perpetual Weights and Measurements Scale of Whose Life Is Harder, she wins. Her dad died last year. She took over her mother’s finances, in desperate need of an overhaul, handled the snarling creditors, sold the mama’s house, and moved her mom closer. She’s a wife. She’s a mom to a precocious, leadershippy girl-child under 10. And, just for giggles, she topped it all off by having a heart attack a few months ago. When THAT friend asks you how things are going, you don’t dwell on your own tiny problems or burden your friend with them. That’s not How Things Are Done.

Unfortunately for her, she’s been one of my besties for more than twenty years, and also she’s one of those foolish people who ask how people are and expects a real answer. Add to that the fact that I’m horrible at social niceties, and I told the truth. Even though I was already late for work (again), I told her the truth.

“Oh my word!” I said. “OH MY WORD. I suck at all the things right now. I SUCK. At ALL the things. I was supposed to finish the book proposal 6 months ago. SIX MONTHS AGO, which would make sense if I needed, you know, six months to work on it, but I only need 2 hours. TWO OF THEM. Like, 120 minutes, and I would be done with it. Also, I have no idea what my kids are doing at school because I’ve read zero of their backpack materials. Also-also, I’m trying to transition well out of my job where “transition well” means “let people down because I don’t have enough hours to spend there.” Also-also-also, we have exactly one vegetable in our house; it’s a moldy green pepper, and I can’t throw it away because then I will have to admit we have zero vegetables in our house, and, even though that’s totally normal, I can’t bring myself to admit that level of nutritional failure out loud. AND I haven’t said hello to my husband for four days, and “hello” is no euphemism; I literally haven’t said words to my husband because we are ships passing in the night. Every minute of every day is full of activity. EVERY MINUTE I am doing something, and I am still not keeping up. You know what productive people do? I DON’T KNOW EITHER, BECAUSE I AM NOT ONE OF THEM. GAAAaaaahhhhhHHHH. I suck. I suckity suck suck suck.”

She slapped me and yelled, “SNAP OUT OF IT, BETH.”

Except she didn’t slap me.

That would be mean.

But she did tell me to snap out of it.

“You know what?” she said. “Words matter, and you have to stop telling yourself you suck now.”

I know. It’s hard for me to like her, too. People are most annoying when they’re right.

It’s just that I’m still working out how to be a good friend to myself, and I have a lot left to learn.

Quakers have a practice when they worship together. They sit in the silence and wait and listen for God, whom I call Love which is God’s other name, to speak to them. It sounds all woo-woo and crazytown, and it’s beautiful and messy like magic and Love usually are. The Quakers practice this kind of corporate meditation and learn to discern what is Love and what isn’t, and which messages are for the individual and which messages must be shared with the rest of the gathered group, which is, after all, the whole point of sitting in the grace and grime together. Listening for Love and whispering Love’s words to each other over and over and over and over.

I’m a terrible Quaker.

My mind is loud.

I fidget when I sit in silence.

My pants are suddenly too tight, and I remember every single thing I need to buy at the grocery store.

I pick at my nails.

I wonder if I’m doing it all wrong, and then I stop wondering because I’m certain I’m doing it all wrong.

But every once in a while, Quaker practice catches up with me despite myself, and I realize I have a message that must be shared.

Such was a message I received today from Paul, one of my pastors.

I wrote him yesterday, past the deadline to register my family for our church retreat, and said, “Sorry we suck and didn’t do it earlier. :/ We’re so far behind in everything. Grarg. Thanks for your grace.”

Paul wrote back.

Except, as soon as I read it, I knew it wasn’t just a message for me. This is a message for all of us.

Here it is:

Grace abounds.  Glad you’ll be joining us.

Oh…and you don’t suck.

Please repeat.  We don’t suck.  We don’t suck. We don’t suck.  We don’t suck. We don’t suck.  We don’t suck. We don’t suck.  We don’t suck. We don’t suck.  We don’t suck. We don’t suck.  We don’t suck. We don’t suck.  We don’t suck. We don’t suck.  We don’t suck. We don’t suck.  We don’t suck. We don’t suck.  We don’t suck. We don’t suck.  We don’t suck. We don’t suck.  We don’t suck. We don’t suck.  We don’t suck. We don’t suck.  We don’t suck. We don’t suck.  We don’t suck. We don’t suck.  We don’t suck. We don’t suck.  We don’t suck. We don’t suck.  We don’t suck. We don’t suck.  We don’t suck. We don’t suck.  We don’t suck. We don’t suck.  We don’t suck. We don’t suck.  We don’t suck. We don’t suck.  We don’t suck. We don’t suck.  We don’t suck. We don’t suck.  We don’t suck. We don’t suck.  We don’t suck. We don’t suck.  We don’t suck. We don’t suck.  We don’t suck. We don’t suck.  We don’t suck. We don’t suck.  We don’t suck. We don’t suck.  We don’t suck. 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Okay…now do you suck?  I don’t think so.

PJB

In conclusion, take heart, friends. Be confident and courageous. Grace abounds. And also, we don’t suck.

With love,

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P.S. There’s still room at the early November Grace and Grime Spiritual Formation Retreat. Open to ALL types of people from ALL the faith/nonfaith backgrounds; even people who mistakenly think they suck. 🙂 Click here for more information… although the rooming list isn’t actually up to date because DID I MENTION I’M BEHIND ON ALL THE THINGS?? I sure would love to hang out with you, though. Come play with me. And sit in the grace and the grime.