On Eating and Life: I Know You Understand

March 16, 2018 in Beth, But Seriously, Food, Special Needs by Beth Woolsey

I’ve been a little radio silent around here for a bit. Mostly because I’ve been eating. Or thinking about eating. Or planning the eating.

To be fair, this is the case for me All the Time. I like food. But in my defense at this particular time, my friend Maggie and I just held our first ever Food and Wine Retreat, so All the Thinking About Food = LEGIT.

I cannot adequately express how very much I needed the time away at the Oregon Coast to just hang out and relax.

It’s been a month, friends. One of those sort of Stunning, Beautiful, Brutal MONTHS. Anyone else?

And these pictures from the retreat have nothing to do with the Month I’m about to share, but, perhaps against the backdrop of the Real Life we’ve been living, you can see how grateful I am for Rest and Good Humans and Amazing Food by the Sea.

A friend approached Greg at church a few Sundays ago. She’s kind, and she knows our family, so she thought we’d want to know about the post in a public group on Facebook, describing a teenager on the path near our house who was threatening a young family, aimed at hurting or robbing them. A teenage boy who, when physically described, sounded too much like our oldest boy to ignore. 

Since the post mentioned his service dog, too, we had no doubt, really. I also knew he wasn’t going to hurt or rob anyone. Ian is very much like his Golden Retriever, Zoey; he’s much more likely to lick you to death than do anything to hurt you, ever.

But his disabilities — intellectual, verbal, and developmental — none of which are visible, mean he’s regularly misunderstood. And, if I can be perfectly frank here, our Guatemalan son is no longer seen as an adorable little boy with big brown doe eyes; now that he’s a 5’10”, 190 lb, brown male, people see a threat. I cannot adequately describe how much, over the last 15 years, our eyes have been opened to systematic and entrenched racism and to our own enormous privilege as white people.

So I did what any mommy would do. I joined the Facebook group, read the message about the lurking boy who followed the family, read the comments encouraging police involvement and warning the public to be wary of him, and attempted to defend my kid and dispel the idea that he’s a danger.

I wrote: “Hi. The boy you mentioned is my son, Ian. Ian is significantly intellectually disabled, and the dog, Zoey, is his service dog. As you noticed, Ian’s disability affects him socially, as well, and he is unable to accurately identify how others feel. His speech is also significantly impacted (he’s unable to understand others well or make himself clearly understood) — not sure whether you talked to him or not, but thought I should let you know that, too. I’m so sorry his behavior caused fear and anxiety for you and your kids. The good news is he wasn’t going to rob or hurt you; he cares deeply for others and isn’t violent or dangerous in any way — he’s just awful at understanding social cues. Ian’s only unsupervised activity each day is walking Zoey for 15 minutes on that path. He’s 18 now, so, alongside his therapists and teachers, we’re trying to give him “more responsibility” to do a few things on his own. Taking Zoey for a walk is his one thing right now. We regularly talk to him about the fact that people respond differently to him now that he’s “man sized” than when he was small. He’s very interested in and likes people, so it’s difficult for him to understand that lurking beside people, their kids, their conversations, etc. makes people feel nervous. Please know this is something we’re continuously working on with him and also that we had a long discussion with him about your experience. He said he “didn’t mean make them feel bad.” We’ve emphasized the importance of giving strangers a lot of space so we don’t appear threatening. Wishing you peaceful walks in the future…” 

I hit send, and then I cried for a really long time. 

There’s a grief inherent in raising children who experience disability. I haven’t met a parent yet who hasn’t felt it. But I’ll tell you… the last two years have been extraordinarily hard. Defeating. Exhausting. Relentless. 

We adopted Ian when he was 3, and, until he was 16 or so, we dealt in possibilities. He could possibly drive some day, we thought. Or maybe one day he’ll have his own apartment. While kids his age were earning trophies for their sports teams, we were happy for them… and grieved that Ian will never experience the camaraderie of going to State with water polo or wearing a letterman’s jacket on campus. But still, we thought; he still has potential for Some of the Usual Things. 

Until we didn’t think that anymore.

Until his childhood was over.

Until we arrived at the barriers he cannot climb. 

And then we grieved again, both for the life he cannot have… which we long suspected… but perhaps even more for the end of the possibilities.


Now, please don’t misunderstand me. Ian has a LOT of potential and will learn and change and grow as the years move by. But the goals are different now. The capacity isn’t there to drive and it would be both foolish and dangerous to try. Now the goal is learning public transportation. Similar with independence; he won’t get to go away to college like his sister or live in an apartment unsupervised or handle his own finances. And so we look to what he CAN do… but we grieve, too. There’s a lot of that.

And the grief over the “threatening teenager” was founded in the reality that he will face this sort of thing forever. That he can’t live only inside our family bubble. That he’ll go out into the world for more than 15 minutes at a time, and more people will feel threatened by a man-child who really would love to have a friend. That 15 minutes is all the time it takes for that to happen. 

I mourn that he can’t go into the world like I can and disarm people with words. I mourn that he’s 18 and must still be supervised 23 hrs and 45 minutes a day. I grieve that he will be judged “creepy” or frightening or a danger to women and children. 

It’s impossibly hard to love a child and not be able to give him the world. You know? Impossibly hard.

The community response to my message was beautiful, really. Strangers sending love, letting us know they’re eager to meet and greet Ian on his walks, and telling us about petting Zoey and chatting with Ian. “I’ve met this young man and his beautiful dog, as I walk the trail very often. I also have taken the time to stop and talk to him and Zoey (who he was kind enough to let me pet) I never felt a threat or worry around him, to me he just seemed a little lonely and a friendly hello seemed to really brighten his day. I hope they continue to enjoy the trail.”

I cry again, every time I read that. I needed the reminder that some people are magic and have the power to see past the surface to the precious person within.  

But the whole experience threw me for a loop, especially coming, as it did, on the same day my oldest girl asked us to find her birth mom. I’m a fan of that plan. I’m really excited for her… and also for me, truth be told. I’ve wanted to hug her bio mom for years. To thank her for giving my girl life. To tell her Abby’s been happy and healthy and well loved. To share how proud I am of our girl, hers and Greg’s and mine. But dealing with the emotional aftermath of the Path Situation AND trying to figure out how to hire a private investigator in Vietnam? That was something, friends. Just a teeny, tiny bit overwhelming. 

So it’s been a little radio silent around here. And I think I’ve made the case for Why Food, and Why Retreat, and Why Rest and Respite.

Because life is lifey. Yes?


Life is lifey.

But life can also — at least for a little while — be fixed with fresh pasta and pizza and risotto and local wine…

…with outstanding people and human connection…

…with goofballs and laughter and a frickin’ break from the grind…

…and with the reminder that we’re all in this together.

None of us alone if we’re brave enough to reach for each other.

Signing off for now (and headed to get myself some food, because obviously),




P.S. Retreat season is a busy time for me. Lots of thought, planning and energy go into these events, none of which would be possible without my steady staff,  Maggie and Polly Peterson, who have made my dream of rest and respite built on human connection happen. The retreats are how I’ve met and spent time with many of you, dear readers and friends, and I’m grateful for every minute. (Including the naked on the beach ones.)

P.P.S. We do have two more retreats coming in 2018 — the Magic in the Mess Writing Retreat in May (for new and experienced writers alike) and the Mindfulness Retreat in November. There are still some spaces available at each, and I’d love for you to come. Maggie will be cooking. 😉 You can find all the details here

On Standing for Good When Evil Is Loud

February 28, 2018 in Beth, But Seriously by Beth Woolsey

I wrote my first term paper in the 8th grade. It was on the Holocaust. I rewrote it again in 10th grade and one more time in college, partly because it was easier to build a paper on earlier work and partly because the Holocaust fascinated and horrified me and birthed an intense desire to work out why it happened, how it was possible that people could allow it, and how we might ensure it never happened again.

It was the first time I heard the clarion call of Good versus Evil, and it was the first time I suspected there may come a time in my own life when I would have to choose between championing the outcasts or protecting myself.

Eighth grade is an odd time of self-discovery and trying on new selves to find one that might fit. Rapid growth, of course, ensures nothing, not even our favorite clothes or selves, fit well for long. They get ripped and torn, threadbare, or suddenly too small to contain us anymore, and so we let most clothes and shoes and selves go, picking only a few bits to remain with us always.

In 8th grade, I was kind, and fierce, and funny, and creative, and a liar, and in love with Certain Boys after my friends and I had divided them amongst ourselves, careful to allot crushes the same way we divided treats, as equitably as possible. My hair was permed and feathered, my teeth were askew, my legs were perpetually covered in bug bites and scabs from scratching, and I longed to be pretty more than Just About Anything. Studying the Holocaust didn’t change that, but it added a depth, perhaps; a dimension I didn’t previously understand with only 13 years under my belt.

I waited during my teen years for the Crisis of Our Age to come. It would be war, I thought. Or the persecution of Christians, which the Church promised me was inevitable. I watched, and I waited.

I thought it had arrived when we went to war in Iraq in the early 90’s. I sat in my little Toyota Tercel hatchback, and I heard the announcement on the radio. But, as is true for so many of us without close family and friends in the military, it affected me very little.

And then the Twin Towers were hit on 9/11. I was a mommy by then, and I watched the second tower fall while my toddler slept in the next room. This is it, surely, I thought. But again, I wasn’t directly affected, and, well, life proceeded as life does. No gas lines. No rationing. No concentration camps. I mean, I don’t like taking my shoes off at the airport, but all things considered, no real change for me and mine or, I dare say, the majority of my countrymen and women.

I thought I would recognize it when it came — the Time I Would Have to Stand Up for What Is Right at Great Cost to Myself — but it came slowly, and I didn’t see it while I raised my babies, and went to the grocery store, and fought with and loved my husband, and went to church, and volunteered, and started writing. I didn’t see it, and I don’t blame myself much, because I’ve learned as I’ve aged how subtly Evil moves. How quietly. How insidiously. How it masks itself as Rules and Righteousness and Right Thinking. How it plays on our need for Belonging, afraid, as we are, of being Cast Out. How it cows the Questioners and shuns Those Who Will Not or Cannot Subscribe or Conform. How it creates Tribalism and Exclusion and Fear of the Other, lest we be infected or destroyed by the Them.

But here we are.

Here we are, living in a world where Evil has arrived. Where we turn away widows and orphans and refugees at our borders. Where we steal healthcare from the sick. Where we mock our young as immature and entitled while we steal their educational and financial future, and they beg us not to keep letting them die at school. We live in a world where our churches truly believe that their 20th century interpretation of the Bible is the One Correct Reading of Scripture and use that to excommunicate people who love God and love their neighbors as themselves, because that last is, somehow, no longer the litmus test, no matter what Jesus said.

Here we are, friends. And I’ve heard it said that people who compare this current time to the Holocaust are overreacting. Being dramatic. Being hysterical. While we let the world’s largest refugee crisis continue, millions suffering and dying. While we refuse to listen to our children. While we stand stalwart behind the closed doors of our churches and use Jesus to justify our rampant nationalism, our goal of self-preservation, our hoarding of weapons, and our lying leaders.

Here we are, and I can’t help but feel that the world right now is covered in a shroud, like the alien planet in A Wrinkle in Time. We’re covered. The heartbeat of Evil is loud, and many have believed Evil’s lie that it is Good or that it is Necessary or that it is the Best Way Forward. It feels… opaque right now, like trying to see through ash and move through mud. No wonder we’re exhausted. No wonder we’re sad. No wonder we’re groping about in the dark, trying to find our people, tentatively, by feel. We’re living in the darkness we all suspected may come.

The time has arrived. Our Crisis is upon us. Millions are dying — our refugee neighbors, our minority neighbors, our LGBTQ+ neighbors, our children in school — physically and emotionally, literally and spiritually, we’re dying.

It seems horrific, which it is, and hopeless, which it’s not. Evil is winning, as Evil does, but Evil doesn’t win forever, and I keep coming back to this one thing: we know that it is dark. We’re living under the shroud right now, and it’s oppressive and disheartening, but there are many of us who can see it. Who know that it is Not OK. Whose eyes are wide open to see that this is Wrong. Who are resisting. Who are fighting the crawl of Complacency and Compliance. Whose hearts still beat to their own wild rhythms which echo the image of God and who listen for the heartbeats of others, which is the way of Love.

Oh, friends, it’s hard right now. Just… hard to be under cover of darkness with only pinpricks of flickering light in the sky. It’s hard to be Betwixt and Between and to wonder when — when, dear God — the dawn will arrive. It’s hard not to feel helpless tumbling in the tidal wave, trying to stop its destruction. It’s hard not to give in to its power and be swept away. It’s hard, always, when the old is passing and the new is not yet come.

But this is our time. This is the one. This is when we Stand for Good or Fall for Evil. And the world needs us even though it’s hard. The world needs us especially because it’s hard. The world needs us to see through our fear stricken societies and find new ways of living. To lead the charge. To keep reaching out for each other.

All of which is an incredibly long way to say, I’m waving to you in the dark, friends. I see it. I see the dark. And I see you, too. Together, we’ll beckon the dawn.

With love,




P.S. In case this post is too heavy for you, here are some pictures of our latest foster puppy. Her name is Nikki, she’s 4 months old, has survived parvovirus and pneumonia in her short tenure on earth, and she’s partially blind, but the darkness doesn’t stop her. Not ever.

P.P.S. And this…

A Letter to the Youth of Today Who Deserve to be Heard

February 21, 2018 in Beth, But Seriously by Beth Woolsey

Young friends, there are things you need to know. Things that must be said. Things you’ve hopefully heard, but just in case… just in case…

You’ve heard it said that you’re the leaders of the future, friends. But I need you to know that’s a lie. You are NOT the leaders of the future. You are the leaders of NOW. Your time is NOT still to come; it has ARRIVED. You already know this, or you sense it inside. You are ready to join the ranks of the resistance. You already have. You are its soul. You are ready to persist, and you will. You are fierce and on fire, and you have a perspective our world desperately needs. 

There are those who will tell you to slow down in the days ahead. They’ll tell you that change takes time. They’ll tell you there are more polite ways to protest. They’ll tell you to use your nice words and to be content. They’ll tell you it could be worse and they’ll ask why you can’t just be happy with what you have. Guess what? They told Martin Luther King, Jr. the same thing. And Sojourner Truth. And Malala Yousafzai. And Adam Rippon. Every great Change Maker has heard the same message. And every great Change Maker ignored it in favor of Justice and Equality and the Wild Call to be more Fully Free. 

There are those who will tell you you’re simply pawns, that you don’t know your own minds, that you’re patsies and proxies and being used for causes you can’t possibly understand. They’re wrong. They’re attempting to quiet you. They’re afraid of your voice. They’re eager to undermine your senses of agency and  conviction. Know why? Because you are POWERFUL, and when your generation speaks together, you will CHANGE OUR WORLD. You’re changing it already. 

There are people who will try to belittle you. They will try to undermine your confidence. They will try to shame you. Dare to speak anyway.

They’ll say you’re reacting out of trauma instead of truth, as though trauma isn’t an author of understanding. They’ll say you’re being manipulated. They’ll tell you your political opinions are worthless because you’re too young to know better. They’re wrong. Dare to speak anyway, friends.

They’ll say you’re undeveloped and immature. They’ll say you’re responding to strong emotions as though strong emotions don’t tell us Important Things. They will do whatever it takes to maintain a power structure that benefits them. Dare anyway. Dare and dare and dare again.

You will face hard things in the days and weeks and months ahead, and you are up for the task. You can do hard things. People will be mean. Ugly words will be hurled at your entire generation. They will be wrong, but you will feel discouraged at times. Dare anyway. Your world needs you to.

You will lose people in this fight. There will be those who cannot stand to let you speak. But there will also be those who encourage you. Those who champion you. Like Mr. Rogers said, “When things are bad, look for the helpers.” Look for the helpers. We’ll be here, daring with you.

You will make mistakes along the way. Hooray for mistakes! Mistakes — failure, even — means you’re in the arena. You’re trying. And it’s only by striving for positive change that it’s ever happened. This is the meaning of persistence. We try. We fail. We try. We make mistakes. We try. We LEARN. We make smarter mistakes next time. And then we succeed. We succeed because we DARED to persist. We dared to stay in the arena and damn the booing crowd.

Here’s what you must do — TRUST YOURSELF. You feel it in your gut, the things that are Right. Listen to that voice. Question what you’re taught and what you’ve been told; the things that are Truth can always withstand the questions. Always. 

Listen. I will follow you. I will follow your lead when you say enough is enough. I will sign my own youth and children out of class when you say it’s time to take to the streets. I will back you with my words, my money, my time, and my actions. 

I will believe you. When you say you’re being harmed, I believe you. When you say our schools aren’t safe — physically or emotionally— I believe you. When you sound the rallying cry, I will amplify your voice. And when you tell me it’s time for boots on the ground, I’ll cinch up my laces. 

And I am not the only one. Those of us who BELIEVE IN YOU are legion. In the thousands. In the millions. Look for us. We’re your support troops.

You know things we no longer know. You hear the Polar Express bell, and we’ve grown immune. Hardened. We need you to hear the clarion call. We need your passion, your energy. Your knowledge of right and wrong. Your clarity. Your wisdom. Your strength. 

You, friends, are of deepest worth. You are worthy of our respect. You deserve to be heard. 


With love,



I Accepted on Behalf of All of Us. Also, I’m Going to Need a Trophy Case.

February 1, 2018 in Beth, Funny by Beth Woolsey

There’s always a fine line to walk between celebrating one’s success among friends and tooting one’s own horn. I’m going to go ahead and call this the former as I tell you I WON A LOT OF AWARDS THIS WEEK. 

A lot, a lot, friends. 

But I want you to know, as I accepted these and had my moment behind the podium* to speak to the masses**, I made sure the crowd understood I was accepting them on behalf of ALL of us. All of us mamas. And all of us parents. And all of us HUMANS who somehow ENDURE and BEAR WITNESS to each other again and again.

I was nominated*** in myriad categories, and I won a bunch of them, but I’m only going to give you a quick tour of my favorite hardware from the ceremony because I don’t want to brag too, too much. I’ll save the rest for another time.



Lots of humans have smothered zero people with a pillow, and I am one of them! Huzzah! I accepted this award with a lengthy speech to itemize All the Things for which I COULD HAVE Smothered People but DIDN’T. It was very passionate. Also, loud. Also-also, some of the crowd put on headphones and Stopped Listening, and there were a few who Rolled Their Eyes****, but I don’t feel like any of that undermines the fact that I both earned and deserve this trophy which so beautifully memorializes my excellent Self-Control. 


Award #2: TOOK MY MEDS

It’s true! I did. 




Sixty minutes, friends. Sixty WHOLE MINUTES injury-free around here. I’ll be honest, we almost didn’t qualify, but somehow, at the last minute, we pulled it off. 



Awarded for all kinds of Ha Ha Just Kidding situations, this trophy only symbolically says Made the Bed, which is obviously not a thing that happens around here because science, thank God, has put the kibosh on bed-making. I mean, I was given this trophy for Making the Bed (Ha Ha Just Kidding), but I also qualified for other categories of Ha Ha Just Kidding, including Showered Today, Found Clean Panties on the First Try, and Drank My Coffee While It Was Still Hot.


In conclusion, I’m going to need a really big trophy case, because there are more***** where these came from******, and I’m bound to keep winning and winning. 

With love,




*Podium: aka, the kitchen table.
**The Masses: Several children, all apparently mine, some sans pants, two muddy dogs, and Greg.
***I Was Nominated: with special thanks to Me for nominating myself.
****A Few Who Rolled Their Eyes: Greg Woolsey.
*****There Are More: OF COURSE there are more. There are more already made, AND there are more to come. For example, I am currently reading Bonk: the Curious Coupling of Science and Sex by Mary Roach and have decided my next trophy ought to be for Not Coercing Greg into Having Sex in Front of a Medical Audience for the Purposes of 4D Research like Mary, my hero, did her husband, Ed. I mean, YES I made Greg believe we were getting a miniature horse, and YES, I’m blessing him with a house full of Golden Retrievers, but it turns out I HAVE NEVER, EVER FLOWN HIM TO ENGLAND TO PARTICIPATE IN SEX STUDIES. I am a Paragon of Virtue. Now to make that concise enough to go on a trophy. I’m open to suggestions.
******Where These Came From: My friend, Shelley, who, for reasons I don’t understand, was getting rid of trophies, instead of awarding them to herself. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Also from our local trophy store where the receptionist was very, very confused and troubled by how I intended to repurpose these. On the bright side, I think that lady prayed for me when I left.



I know what to do now! All is not lost.

January 23, 2018 in Beth by Beth Woolsey

Sometimes Greg asks me weird questions. I mean, I think he means well. He’s just not always logical. 

Like, when I told him we were getting a free piano last week, Greg said, “Where are we going to put it?” Which is also what our kids said. I can only assume it’s Greg’s influence on them.

I think a more appropriate response is, “Oh my gosh; YAY! How did you manage to snag a free piano, Beth? Are you made out of MAGIC?” Or, “That is the BEST NEWS EVER. How soon can we pick it up?” 

Instead, I got, “Where are we going to put it?” Followed by, “And who exactly do you think is picking it up?” Followed by eye rolling and sighing and what basically amounts to All the Cues of Grave Reluctance. 


It’s OK, though. Greg I have been married a Very Long Time now, so I know he responds this way to Good News. He just needs time to realize my plans are the Best Ever. 

Last month, just in time for Christmas, I told him, “I Know What to Do Now.” And, “All Our Problems Are Solved!” And, “Even Though Our World Is Absurd and Sad Right Now, I HAVE A PLAN FOR UNLIMITED JOY.”

Did you know the Golden Retriever Rescue organization in Oregon
(Well, they might have limits, but, still…

Greg said, “Hooray!”

Except minus the word hooray and plus the word no. 


Then he looked at me disdainfully for a while. 

Then he sighed for a couple weeks.

Then he said, “Fine. You have to pick up all the poop.”


So our free piano is lovely…

… and we’re on foster dog #2, the handsomest, sweetest, funniest, hugest, FARTIEST Golden Retriever in the world. (Food transitions are hard, man.)

In conclusion, I know what to do now. Or, at least, a teeny, TINY bit of what to do, which, mathematically speaking is INFINITY TIMES more than what I knew before. I mean, YES, our world is all effed up. And YES, the news is discouraging Every Single Day; devastating on the days it’s not discouraging. And YES, sometimes it’s really, super extra hard to put on clothes and to know how to exist in a world like this. BUT WE CAN FILL OUR HOUSE WITH GOLDEN DOGS, SO ALL IS NOT LOST. All is not lost when we spread compassion wherever we can.

With love to you, friends, and extra dog hairs if anyone needs some,




P.S. What are you doing that brings you joy these days? ‘Cause I could use a longer list. 

P.P.S. The gigantic baby above — a 90 lb. bag of awesome — is moving to his new home on Friday which means ANOTHER GOLDEN IS ON THE WAY TO OUR HOUSE SOON. YIPPEE!

P.P.P.S. This is pretty much Greg and me, where Greg plays the role of Karen:




I Got Dressed Today (and I Don’t Think That Bar Is Particularly Low)

January 17, 2018 in Beth, But Seriously by Beth Woolsey

I don’t want to brag, but I’m a big goal setter, and I usually accomplish my goals, too. Last night, for example, I thought about what I really wanted for myself today (it’s important to plan ahead, you know), and I decided I’d set a goal to Get Dressed. Friends, I DID IT. I got dressed today! All the way dressed, including panties and shoes, because when I do goals, I do thorough goals.

I realize this sounds like a Setting the Bar Low piece, and it is, I guess, but it also isn’t. It’s been hard lately to get up while it’s still morning, to wash my face, to brush my teeth, to shower more than once/week, and, frankly, even that often feels like a chore. I mean, I like being clean, it’s just that that’s becoming more of a memory or an ideal at this point and not so much a reality. 

I’m not worried, yet, about depression rearing its head. To be clear, that’s exactly what it’s doing, but I’m still winning, and this is just part of it. A new skirmish in an ongoing war, but I have depression outgunned for now.

Last night, I just wanted to lay on my couch, face down in smashed Cheerio shards and wispy dog hair, prone and unmoving, breathing through the corners of my mouth. I managed to make it through yesterday, but barely, and I wanted today to be better.

Now, if I had my druthers, I’d wave my magic wand and be All the Way Better, Right Now. Like the magician who reappears after her trick in a puff of smoke, a slinky sequined dress, and stilletos, hair perfectly coiffed and hand upraised. TA DA! Sadly, though, my wand is on the fritz, so I have to try for better the old fashioned way. Incrementally, which is a real bummer. 

So I set a goal. One thing about today that I wanted to be different than yesterday. I picked Wearing Clothes. I wanted to pick wearing clothes, grocery shopping, writing, actually responding to emails instead of reading them and intending to respond, showering, scheduling, budgeting, and cleaning my room, but I know better. One thing at a time, Beth, for sustainable change. One thing at a time for a lot longer than I would wish. One thing at a time because, in a shocking twist, Something Sometimes is often healthier than the All or Nothing I prefer

In conclusion, I got dressed today, friends. I planned it, I prepared diligently, and I achieved my goal. Rejoice with me! And feel proud of yourself, too, please. Sometimes, reaching for the goals that seem small to others are, in fact, making a choice to live. 

With love,

On the New Year, Choosing a Word, and Being Wilder on Purpose

January 2, 2018 in Beth by Beth Woolsey

I’ve never picked a personal Word for the Year, even though I’m pretty sure all the popular kids do it.

I assume I don’t pick one because I’m lazy.

Or maybe because I’m busy.

Or, more honestly, probably because I’m too invested in making sure I don’t have time alone with myself to actually sit and be quiet and think about what I want, who I want to be, and how best to love this broken, shaky, beautiful world around me.

So, instead of sussing a Word for the Year, I’ve spent the last week trying new Instant Pot recipes, baking No Knead Crusty Dutch Oven Bread, and researching whether or not it’s possible to dry the starter for Amish Friendship Bread, like this, so I can eat it whenever I want without needing Actual Friends to pass it along to me. (Answer: I STILL DON’T KNOW AND THIS BOTHERS ME). 

My friends come up with cool words every year like BRAVE and LET IT GO and LOVE BIGGER, and you know what? They do it. They Pay Attention to their words. They let themselves be challenged. They try and they fail and then they keep trying which is success as far as I’m concerned, and so they change themselves in important and profound ways. 

I want to be like them.

But I’m not.

I’m more… muddled, I guess. Murky. A maze of both Magic and Mess. And also, I don’t know what to make of Things Lately. Like 2017. I don’t know what to make of that. Cluster Fuck seems too mild, and Dumpster Fire is downright adorable now, from Good Old Days of 2016. Remember that? When the fire was still contained in the dumpster? THAT WAS SO FANTASTIC, friends! I feel like we should apologize to the dumpster, you know? Like we maligned the dumpster without cause.

So, while I love seeing my friends’ words like Hope, and Thrive, and BE, and Listen, I can’t quite wrap my brain or my heart around just the joyful, contemplative goals right now. They feel… important, but also… incomplete. I’m happy for the New Year, I’m grateful for a symbolic fresh start, but I’m also mourning all the things that died last year, and I’m not sure my Expectations and Mirages are done dying yet. I still hear the death throes, so brushing off my hands and declaring Mourning Over feels premature. But I can’t choose Mourn as my word, either, because I don’t want to only lament what’s lost. I’m too grateful for that. Too glad to have my people. Too thrilled with this utterly strange, wild life. 

Is there a space, I wonder, between positive and negative? Between darkness and light? And, if so, how do I choose Dusk or Dawn, where light and dark converge, instead of Midnight or High Noon? What’s the word for that one? Where I’m content and confused, mixed and a little mangled, heavy-hearted and hopeful, but OK with all that? Where’s the quantum magic that takes us more than one place at once? Lost and found at the same time and somehow more free because of it?

Where do we get to be complex? Fully human with all the grand, gory bits that entails, and still made in the very Image of God? In the Image of Love? In the Image of all that is Divine and perfect? 

Where is that place, and how do I find it in 2018? Remember it in a word? 

I sat on the couch tonight, my back and brain aching from Doing All the Things this holiday season; my heart on cruise control because sometimes I Just Cannot Deal with all the Heart Things; my mouth running to remind kids of chores and chastising them for “not remembering” their work, as though that’s not simply part of the Human Condition.

I sat on the couch tonight, and I thought about the complexity of the year gone by and the undoubted challenges in the year ahead.

I sat on the couch tonight, and I thought about the joy and grief of wandering in the wilderness, which is where we’ve found ourselves in this season. I thought about how glad I am discard the false idol of safety and to release the pressure to conform in favor of being free to love my neighbor as myself.

I thought about what it is to be wild like the earth shakers and game changers.

I thought about what it might be to be wilder than I allow right now.

I thought about what it would look like to acknowledge I’m complex. 

To be fierce and a little feral.

To welcome both strength and weakness. To rest in either one. To fight neither.

I thought about what it might mean to allow myself to be intense without apology; to stop listening to the voices that tell me I’m too much; to give free rein to fervent kindness, bold joy, deep grief, and love which never fails. Even when they arrive in rapid succession. Even when they overlap and make things messier.

I thought about being wild.

I thought about what it might mean to be wilder. To be more free. To be more me, as I was made to be. As though I’m worth pursuing, even in the tangle and chaos of the wild. Especially there. 

So I picked my word. 

Be wilder.

Which is, of course, also bewilder. 

Because I want to remind myself that it’s good and right to become ever more free. And it’s also OK that there’s going to be some confusion. Some consternation. Some complexity. Some muck and some mess.

Welcome, Wild Ones. Come and be free.

With love,