I Had It All Together

December 6, 2017 in Beth, Funny by Beth Woolsey

I had it all together yesterday. I woke up early. I ate breakfast. I drank an entire cup of coffee. I wore clothes that weren’t pajamas. I put on makeup so I didn’t look like the living dead. OK, fine; I had to throw the hair into a bad braid because who has time to do hair after all the above? But still, I had it all together yesterday.

I had it all together yesterday because I had a Place to Be; an Appointment volunteering at the local high school which made me feel magnanimous. I was both dressed and volunteering which qualify me for at least a few hours of super hero status, yes? Yes. I’m glad we agree on the criteria. 

So I had it all together yesterday. I volunteered at a school, and then I had a break, and then — wait for it — I volunteered again

Now, I realize there are parents in this world who volunteer regularly, in all the schools, all the time. They are not super heroes. They are magical, mythical creatures of light and love, imbued with benevolence and grace. They are better than super heroes, is what I’m saying. Still, being a Sometime Super is nothing to sneeze at, and I was super, if only for a day.

I had it all together yesterday. I walked with confident strides and shoulders back and smiled at All the People, as one does when one has it All Together. And so, to celebrate, I took myself to the Fancy Restaurant in town for lunch. Just Me, who had it all together, ordering the Cheapest Thing on the menu so I could sit and soak in the atmosphere, look at the giant, expensive Christmas decorations, and enjoy being pristine a few more minutes before going home where there are rice crispies ground into the couch and our giantest decoration is the tumbleweed of dog hair and spilled sprinkles roaming from room to room.

I had it all together yesterday until I laid my napkin in my lap and thus glanced down at my Super Self… which is when I realized I had my sweater on backwards and also inside out… which is when I hightailed it to the ladies’ room to fix the sweater… which is when I saw the Giant Spot on my pants… which is when I remembered my son “blessing” them with a handful of cupcake frosting… which is when I remembered I’d meant to wash these jeans but had relegated them to the recesses of my mind where all the non-urgent things go. You know, all the non-urgent things that don’t have to do with stopping someone’s bleeding or telling the legions to TURN DOWN THE TV VOLUME OR I’M TURNING IT OFF or running to the store for emergency toilet paper because no one ever puts that on the shopping list.

I had it all together yesterday until my clothes were on backwards and inside out and decorated with a spot that looked like feces but smelled like chocolate frosting. And until, while standing at the Fancy Sink in the Fancy Restroom of the Fancy Restaurant, using their Fancy Cloth Hand Towels to try to scrub the icing from my pants, I glanced in the Fancy Mirror to see that my hair had fallen out of its braid — or rather, half of it had while the other half struggled valiantly but futilely to stay coiffed. Really, by the time I noticed that, I just felt the hair was trying to fit in with its peers. The sweater and the pants had jumped off the cliff, so, by God, the hair was going to jump, too, and damn the consequences. 

But I had it all together yesterday, and even though I didn’t — not really — it felt good while it lasted.

Sincerely,

 

 

 

P.S. We are officially in Christmas Christmas season now, as opposed to Halloween Christmas or Thanksgiving Christmas. This is FULL CHRISTMAS, friends. Thus we begin our Christmas Christmas posts on this blog.

P.P.S. Christmas Christmas posts on this blog are the regular mish-mash of posts that wreak havoc and have no overarching theme other than the usual magic and mess and bizarre, beautiful bits about being both human and divine. 

P.P.P.S. I have things Planned — thoughts on faith, thoughts on politics, easy peasy recipes to share, an Escapist Book Club book for December, a Gorgeous Piece on Authenticity and Grace and Mental Health by my friend Eleanor who is Wise and Beautiful and Amazing, and more. When I listen to my fears, I’m afraid I’m going to give you whiplash, diving as I do from the mundane to the meaningful in rapid succession. When I listen to Love, which drives out fear, I realize this jumble of shallow and deep is simply Real Life, and Real Life is worth sharing. 

 

Quick Reminder, You Glamorous, Glamorous Moms: You’re Not Alone

November 25, 2017 in Beth, Family, Funny by Beth Woolsey

Hey.

So you know how you’re sitting quietly on the couch, minding your own business, next to the Christmas tree with the soft lights all around, and you think to yourself, what a wonderful world?

And you know how you’ve stayed in your short, cotton nightie all day because you have that sniffling, sneezing, stuffy head cold going around, but it doesn’t matter because no one’s going to see you anyway? You’re comfy and the ibuprofen’s working, so who even cares that your legs are prickly, your bra is God knows where, and your make-up is left over from yesterday so you’re sporting that whole strung-out raccoon look? 

And you know how you have a quilt on top of you and a pillow behind your back, and nothing pressing, and the children, praise Jesus, are all busy elsewhere and quiet so they’re probably setting the house on fire but who cares because you have, like, ten whole minutes entirely to yourself?

You’re with me, right?

Yes? 

You know how you got yourself a cup of French pressed coffee with just the right amount of cream, and it’s warm and perfect, and you set it down on the little table next to you, and you’re actually, for once in your life, drinking it before it gets cold?

And then you know how one of those children, bless his heart, decides to get the games down from the very top shelf of the bookcase behind the Christmas tree? And so said child must step over you and onto the arm of the couch and lean over the coffee and hang onto the tree for balance?

And then you know how the child overbalances and the tree tips and the games fall and the coffee crashes to ground and so does the child and most of the ornaments and there’s coffee and game pieces and shards of glass everywhere?

And you’re fine with all of that because the child is OK and you don’t have to go to the emergency room, so you pull the child from the mess and send him to get a towel and a broom and tell him it’s OK and everyone makes messes and I’ll clean this one up because, in our family, we help each other?

And you know how you feel rather kind and very heroic and like you rocked the poop out of motherhood, reacting with grace and compassion even though you’re sick and you could have been a total ass to your kid?

And then, you know how, in an effort to step in neither coffee nor glass, you drape yourself decorously over the couch to clean the mess? With grace and elegance? Pretty much exactly like a 1950s housewife who wears heels and pearls to polish her already pristine home?

And you know how your kid, that little turd, grabs your camera and takes a pic so you get to find it on your phone later and reminisce?

You know?

You know, right?

Well, me, too. And I just want you to know when that happens… you’re not alone, friend.

You are definitely not alone in this glamorous, glamorous life.

With love,

Quick Thanksgiving Tip

November 21, 2017 in Family, Funny by Beth Woolsey

Hey, friends! Super quick Thanksgiving tip for ya…

Here’s the situation: 

This is my son, Ian.

Ian experiences disability. Communication disorder. Intellectual disability. Post-traumatic stress disorder from early-life trauma. And myriad other challenges. His life is harder than mine, in other words. He has to navigate a rerouted brain every minute of every day. It’s unbelievably hard work, and he never gets a break from it. 

So when it’s this kid’s birthday — his 18th, no less — a BIG ONE — I try to actually organize a celebration. Like, plan ahead and everything. Invite friends from his class more than the night before. Prep his preferred foods. Make him feel special and at ease.

Not to brag excessively, but I ROCKED it this year. I invited the friends FIVE DAYS ahead of time. I sent Greg to get the pizzas. And, best of all, I snagged frozen pumpkin pies — his ultimate favorite dessert — ON SALE. Really, this should be a lifestyle blog because I HAVE MY CRAP SO TOGETHER I SHOULD BE TELLING OTHER PEOPLE WHAT TO DO. 

The morning of the party, we found some 4th of July streamers, wrapped them around our Christmas tree and, VOILA!, we were even decorated.

I pulled the pies out of the freezer to thaw and patted myself on the back for thinking ahead and honoring my kid in the way he wanted that was also EASY ON ME. Win/win, folks! Win/win.

Toward the end of the party, I put candles in the pies, and we sang Happy Birthday.

Which is when I saw the candles … leaning …

Like the Tower of Pisa. 

And I noticed the filling was a little… soupy.

And the crust was kind of… doughy.

And that’s the moment I figured out THESE WERE NOT THAW-AND-SERVE PIES, friends.

These were RAW pies that needed to be COOKED.

RAW PIES. At the END OF THE PARTY. 

Which is why I share this teeny, tiny Thanksgiving Tip with you today:

If you buy frozen pies, friend,
CHECK THE BOX to see if those suckers need baking.
And, if they do, I don’t know —
maybe BAKE THEM before serving. 

In conclusion, the Pioneer Woman and I are basically the same person, and you should come here for lifestyle and baking techniques more often. 

With love,

 

 

 

P.S. I did bake those pies. 

P.P.S. They were ready 45 minutes after the party ended.

P.P.P.S. My kid was Not Unhappy because Less Pie for his guests meant More Pie for him. So we may still be working on social skills around here, but in my kid’s book, this was a major win.  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

2018 Retreat Dates are Published! 
Click here for more information.
I’d love to hang out with you next year!

 

Quick Life Tip

November 6, 2017 in Beth, Funny by Beth Woolsey

Dear friends,

Just a teeny, tiny quick tip for you today.

If somebody says, “Hey! You look really nice today,” maybe just say thank you.

Thank you is enough.

Thank you is not as awkward as Other Options.

Thank you is socially appropriate. And, sweet friend, you actually do not need to offer an excuse for looking nice.

Maybe, for example, do not say, “Yeah, I would’ve worn my usual jeans except I put them on last night to go out, and I realized they smell like butt. I suppose I should’ve expected that since I can’t remember the last time I washed them, but it still came as a surprise. I sprayed them with perfume, which, as you might suspect, made them smell like Perfume and Butt. It really wasn’t an improvement over Just Butt, but at least it’s the smell of I Tried, you know? I wore them anyway because I was already running late, but I vowed I would not wear them again until I actually wash them because I have standards. Eventually. I have Eventual Standards. So, because I’ve put on, like, 30 pounds over the last couple years, I only have the one pair of jeans right now, which means the inner thighs are practically see-through and in imminent danger of ripping and presenting a serious social hazard. This dress is the only other thing that fits. So, ¯\_(ツ)_/¯, that’s why I look nice, I guess. My butt-smelling jeans are on the fritz.”

Maybe do not say that, because then the complimentor will look at you, and you will look at the complimentor, and there is no where to go from there.

In conclusion, YOU MAY SQUIRM at compliments. They may make you itchy and uncomfortable. But I assure you — and TAKE THIS FROM SOMEONE WHO KNOWS FROM RECENT EXPERIENCE — it is way, way less awkward to just say thank you.

Repeat after me: JUST SAY THANK YOU.

Your Friend,

 

 

Gun Rights AND Gun Control: What If We ACTUALLY FOLLOWED the Second Amendment?

November 5, 2017 in Beth, But Seriously by Beth Woolsey

I can start this blog post one of two ways: I can either tell you I’m the proud daughter of a Marine who responsibly owns guns, in which case you’ll think I’m a proponent of Gun Rights, or I can tell you I’m a pacifist Quaker married to a conscientious objector, in which case you’ll think I’m a proponent of Gun Control.

You’d be right.

Yes, I am.

I’m also, quite frankly, BAFFLED by the conversation about guns in the United States of America, and if I could just take one minute to Piss Off All the People, I’d  like to propose a solution.

It’s just, I have this idea, after 1,000 conversations with my gun-toting father who floated it first, and after 1,000 more chats with my peacenik friends… that we could do this RADICAL THING in America and ACTUALLY FOLLOW THE SECOND AMENDMENT.

Usually, public conversations on guns go like this, “I HAVE A RIGHT TO MY GUNS BECAUSE THE CONSTITUTION SAYS SO,” and then, “BUT PEOPLE ARE DYING,” and then, “BUT GUN RIGHTS,” and then, “BUT GUN CONTROL,” and I realize I may be being simplistic here, but the Second Amendment LITERALLY ALREADY SOLVED THIS PROBLEM.

Have you read it recently? The Second Amendment? It’s only 27 words long, but I rarely see it quoted in articles debating gun rights and gun control. It goes like this:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

In other words, yes; Americans have the right to keep and bear arms. And yes; that right shall not be infringed. AND ALSO, these rights are to be exercised within the parameters of a well regulated militia. TRAINING, in other words. ORGANIZED. Within a COMMUNITY of people that supervises and monitors the use of said weapons. 

Listen; I get it. I understand that there are Originalists and Textualists constantly debating what Militia means… what well-regulated means… what exactly is “necessary to the security of a free State”… and whether any of those refer to individual rights, community rights, states’ rights or all of the above. But regardless of how you interpret any of those definitions, it remains that our Founders set parameters and presumed some type of coordination, administration and management of our arms-bearing citizens. And it remains that we currently have none.

I’ve heard my friends and I’ve seen the memes that if we did nothing after Sandy Hook, we never will. I’ve felt the same hopelessness watching the innocent die month after month, year after year, and I doubt that today — the day 26 more Americans died in a mass shooting, this time while sitting in church in Texas — will be the reason we finally act. But although I give in to despair for a time, I refuse to dwell there. I refuse to stop talking about it. I refuse to stop pushing for solutions that both protect the fundamental American right to bear arms AND the fundamental human right to basic safety.

Maybe we could start by actually following the Second Amendment. Or maybe that’s far too practical. I’m curious what you think…

Happy Halloween! This post is about Christmas.

October 30, 2017 in Family by Beth Woolsey

Happy Halloween Eve, friends. This post is about Christmas. Obviously. Because who doesn’t write about Christmas for Halloween?

If you’re thinking, “OH, MY GOSH; I HATE IT WHEN STORES PUT UP ALL THEIR CHRISTMAS CRAP BEFORE HALLOWEEN. NOW BETH IS DOING IT. WHY? Dear God in Heaven, WHY??,” I will tell you. It’s because I can only do one holiday, man. ONE. One is the number of holidays I can do. Not one per month, either. Those of you who can do that are totally down with 4 back-to-back holidays in 2 months, BUT I CANNOT. I can do one per year. One only. And I am very, very, very, extra reminded of that fact right now.

My main problem is this: Halloween comes, then Thanksgiving 23 days later, then Christmas, then New Year’s .

THAT IS NOT ENOUGH TIME to plan costumes, buy costumes, inventory costume pieces, manage costumes, buy costume makeup, decorate for Halloween, throw a Halloween party, make gooey, gross Halloween treats, clean up from Halloween, put all the Halloween gear away, plan Thanksgiving, decorate for Thanksgiving, bake and cook for Thanksgiving, put all the Thanksgiving gear away, buy the Christmas tree, get out all the Christmas gear, decorate for Christmas, put up the Christmas lights, plan the gifts for we 7 Woolseys plus extended family, get my butt out the door to actually purchase those gifts, hide the gifts, wrap the gifts, plan the stockings, buy stuff for the stockings, realize one kid has fewer stocking pieces than all the rest, realize we’re out of milk, realize no one bought the oranges for the stockings, make 12 emergency trips to the store, plan the food for Christmas Eve, Christmas breakfast, and Christmas dinner, make Christmas cookies, make fudge, decorate the gingerbread house, and properly herald the New Year.

It’s too much, I tell you. TOO MUCH. And you guys, we are the family that ONLY BUYS 2 PRESENTS FOR OUR KIDS. You’ve heard that idea on how to minimize Christmas gifts for kids who already have too much, right? “Something they want, something they need, something to wear, something to read”? I know loads of people who see that and are all, “THANK GOD FOR A SYSTEM WHERE WE CAN FINALLY PARE DOWN.” But I must be the Weirdest Weirdo EVER, because I see it and go, ARE YOU KIDDING? You know how much FOUR THINGS for each kid costs when you have five kids? I have to buy 20 PRESENTS for Christmas, just for my kids, not counting anything for the nieces and nephews? I mean, that four-thing idea is great for those of you who do it — I don’t begrudge you that in any way — but my kids get 1) something they want, usually negotiated to be smaller and/or cheaper than whatever unreasonable thing they really, really want, and 2) something else I think they might like that was cheap enough for my budget.

In other words, I CANNOT DO ALL THE THINGS, and so I’ve decided I won’t.

Instead, we Woolseys start Christmas today, and we will celebrate four phases of Christmas over the next two months. This is much, much (much, much) easier than trying to cram four separate holidays into a 62-day window.

The Four Phases of Christmas are really rather like the four phases of the moon: new moon, then first quarter moon, then full moon, and, finally, third quarter moon. Except in the Christmas scenario, we have Halloween Christmas (New Christmas), then Thanksgiving Christmas (First Quarter Christmas), then Christmas Christmas (Full Christmas), then New Year’s Christmas (Third Quarter Christmas) which is whatever dregs of Christmas we’ve got left over by then. Got it? Just like the four phases of the moon are all made up of moon, so the four phases of Christmas are all made up of Christmas.

Thus, although some will call today and tomorrow Halloween season, we Woolseys are going to celebrate Halloween Christmas. We’re carving pumpkins while listening to Christmas music, and Greg put up our Halloween Christmas lights, which is what you call Christmas lights that are up for Halloween. Halloween Christmas decorations = DONE. That’s right. You know what I’ve planned for my kids’ costumes? Nothing. I’ve planned zero things. I told the kids to find their own costumes this year because Halloween Christmas means I don’t have to do all the usual Halloween things. That’s the WHOLE POINT. So far, two are using rags to transform themselves into zombies and one is wearing his dad’s white bathrobe so he can go as White Jesus.

He figures this way he can make subtle social commentary on racism in the United States, and, most importantly, he can trick-or-treat everyplace twice — once as Jesus, and then again as the Second Coming of Christ. I wondered for a minute whether this is really appropriate, but then I realized a) it’s not, b) I don’t care, c) it’s hilarious, and d) it’s Halloween Christmas, so way to get into the spirit of the holiday, kid.

For Thanksgiving Christmas, we’re going to have a Thanksgiving Christmas tree. It’s like a regular Christmas tree, except it’s already up at Thanksgiving. And probably Thanksgiving Christmas stockings. And definitely turkey Thanksgiving Christmas dinner with cranberry sauce and stuffing. And twinkly lights in fake fir branches because I will have had TIME to pull those out of their boxes.

Honestly, for the first time in forever, I’m not feeling overwhelmed by the holiday season. We’re going to take it slow. We’re going to let go of the tiny things that don’t matter. And we’re going to rock the heck out of the Four Phases of Christmas.

In conclusion, wishing you a very happy Halloween Christmas, friends, from my family to yours,

 

Me, too. But I didn’t realize it for 25 years.

October 16, 2017 in Beth, But Seriously by Beth Woolsey

Have you seen #MeToo rolling around social media? It goes like this,

Me too.

If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote “me, too” as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem. Copy and paste.

#metoo

So first I want to say, if you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted, you’re not alone. Me, too.

Second, if you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted, you should ONLY copy and paste this as your status if YOU ARE READY TO DO SO. Because not only need we not feel shame for being harassed and assaulted, we also need not feel shame about when we’re ready to talk about it. Some of us are ready. We have processed enough of our stories and/or trauma that we can say it out loud, even to the world wide webs. Some of us haven’t. Some of us aren’t ready. Some of us, by sharing now, would be retraumatizing ourselves and making it worse, not better. Pretty please, dearest friend, share when YOU are ready, not when the world decides you should be. OK? OK. Glad we had this chat.

And third, this is my story.

[Trigger/Content Warning: Sexual Assault]

I didn’t let my teenage daughter have a job in high school. Instead, I paid for dance tuition — usually hundreds of dollars per month we had to scrimp and save — so she could dance 20 hours each week and participate in conventions and competitions that cost hundreds more.

I was alternately embarrassed and relieved by this decision. Embarrassed because we were choosing to live a rather elitist lifestyle, pouring money into our child and not requiring her to earn it. Relieved because she wouldn’t be dry-humped and felt up by her McDonald’s manager in the drive-thru like I was at age 16. 

Oh, sure; dance taught Abby a hard work ethic, physical fitness, goal setting, and time management. It was a fantastic part of her education, and she was grateful, but still; LOTS OF MONEY and rhinestones and my kid graduated high school without ever working a job beyond the occasional babysitting gig. This was not at all how I was raised, nor is it how my husband was, and I couldn’t help but wonder if we were setting her up for a lifetime of entitlement. After all, we hear all the time about today’s teenagers who are “too good” for honest, hard work at less glamorous places like fast food restaurants. But every time I thought she could at least work a fryer during the summer and pursue dance, every time I tried to convince myself that just because it happened to me didn’t mean it was going to happen to her — every time I thought of her alone, closing the restaurant at midnight with a man bigger and older than her, my hands got sweaty, and my heart pumped faster, and I knew I was never going to ask her to apply to grill burgers. Not ever. I couldn’t do it.

Which is how, at age 40ish, I finally realized I was sexually assaulted. 

It wasn’t that I’d dismissed what happened to me working swing shifts at McDonald’s. It wasn’t that I’d forgotten. It was simply — and this has come to be even more terrifying to me than assault amnesia — that I believed my experience was wholly unremarkable. As normal as tripping over a curb or missing my seat in 6th grade math class and crashing to the ground. Which is to say, an experience that is memorable and uncomfortable but not anything out of the ordinary or worth commenting on.

THAT is how ingrained sexual assault is in our culture. THAT is how embedded. THAT is how common and mundane. That 16-year-old me thought having a man push me into a corner and rub his erection on me while trying to grab my boobs was just another, normal, unfortunate work condition. A bummer of a surprise like seeing how much of my paycheck went to taxes. A meh, whatever, shrug-it-off situation. Something we girls bitched about in the work room while we ate our $3.49 of free food per shift. But also something none of us even considered reporting. Not because it wouldn’t do any good, but because clothed sexual assault didn’t seem to rise to the “Must Report” level. Any ejaculate was contained in his pants, after all, and, if we said no and pushed him off enough, if we smiled at him so he wouldn’t be mad, he left us alone for the rest of the shift.

I read that now, and I go, DEAR GOD. I mean, DEAR LORD JESUS IN HEAVEN, WHAT THE HELL? It seems impossible to me now that I didn’t see it then. But it’s still true.

I didn’t tell my parents. The same parents who were always so good about telling me no one has the right to touch me in the bathing suit area and that I could talk to them anytime about anything which was true. I didn’t tell them because it didn’t cross my mind. I didn’t tell them until they, too, wondered why Abby wasn’t doing time at a local burger joint. My dad pumped gas as a teen. My husband washed cars at his dad’s used car dealership. I flipped burgers and worked a cash register. Shouldn’t Abby learn the same way? I didn’t tell them until we were having the conversation in my kitchen, and I answered casually, “I just don’t think I want my kid to be dry-humped by her manager.” I said it casually because I still felt casual about it. But as soon as it fell from my mouth, I did a mental double take. And ever since, I’ve been realizing how very ingrained assault is in our culture, our communities, and our lives as women navigating an unfriendly world.

My story is unbelievably common. Unbelievably normal. Obvious assault and harassment experiences we didn’t see as obvious or as assault because we are subconsciously, insidiously trained not to recognize it. One of my girlfriends posted this yesterday, “I was just about to post how extraordinarily lucky I feel to have never been a victim of assault as a woman. Then I remembered the time I was drugged in a bar and (thank goodness) passed out while still in the bar, spending the night in the hospital. I guess that’s another “me too.””

We are trained not to see it, and we are trained to belittle it when it happens to us.Well, sure; I’ve felt unsafe hundreds of times around men, but it’s not as bad as what happened to ____.” Or “He only felt on top of my clothes so I wouldn’t say it was assault, exactly.” Or “It wasn’t technically rape, so… Or I knew better than to go to his room alone.” We have unlimited excuses and dismissals, really. I know I did. Until I had to decide what was OK for my daughter. It turns out what happened to me is definitely Not OK if it happens to her. Which means it’s Not OK that it happened to me. This particular assault was Not OK, and neither are the other times I was grabbed and groped; neither are the dozens of times I was sexually harassed with words and actions. Who knew? 

I’m telling you this story, friends, for specific reasons, which are these:

1. I refuse to be ashamed or embarrassed about this, and I will absolutely do my part to name the things that are Not OK — the things that Must Change — so our world has to face it and do better.

2. Not everyone can share her story. Not yet. Maybe not ever. And I want you to know, whether or not you are able to declare your “me, too,” I still see you. And so do countless others. We know you’re there. We know that for every person who can share, there are myriad more who can’t. We see you. We’re waving in the dark. You’re not alone.

3. You’re also not alone if you, like me, have suddenly become aware. You’re not alone if you realized belatedly you were assaulted. You’re not alone as you reluctantly claim membership in this club. You’re not alone as you realize how widespread this problem is and how brainwashed you were not to see it earlier. You’re not alone as you grieve your discovery of both your own experiences and of our culture as it actually is, rather than as you thought it was. And you’re not alone as you wonder what in the world we might actually do to change it.

Me, too, friends. Me, too.

With love, always,