The Show Must Go On

The show must go on, they say. And it did, all weekend, all over the country, despite Friday’s shooting in Connecticut, and Thursday’s fire here in our small town, and Tuesday’s shooting in Oregon, and a week that laid us flat on our backs. I felt emotionally bankrupt by Saturday, friends. No room left for Happy or Sad. Like someone accidentally tipped over my Grief Bucket and the Joy spilled out alongside it.

But it’s OK to be empty sometimes. And it’s OK to have to right the bucket. It’s OK, even, to refill it knowing Grief will seep back in with the Joy. Both/And, friends. This is Both/And living. We are complex creatures who fly back and forth between empty and full and happy and sad and grateful and oh-dear-God-my-family-is-driving-me-nuts.

I always find it disconcerting after a tragedy that my kids are still intermittently annoying, and I am still imperfect, fallible me. I can’t help but feel tragedy should somehow make me only grateful and only cherish them and only delighted. And so I must remind myself that this is what it means to be human, and being human is OK.

Joy did trickle into my bucket this weekend in fits and starts and not always where I expected it to come. Each tiny event was like a gift, the gift that tragedy always brings, which is the opening of my eyes to see and to notice and to appreciate. To not take for granted, just for a moment, before I go back to taking for granted which is inevitable and, truly, its own priceless gift.

I’m going to share some of my moments of joy this weekend, because I believe Light is coming, friends, and, in fact, Light is already among us. At the end of this post, I’m  going to ask you if you’ll do the same because I can’t imagine a better way to Light this world than to share our stories.

My kids were in shows this weekend, my oldest dancing and tumbling beautifully in her dance studio’s performance of the Nutcracker, and my three youngest forgetting nearly every line in the church Christmas pageant. Here are my…

Moments of Joy

1. I laughed too loud at the Christmas pageant last night when Mary #2 dropped Baby Jesus on his head.

I couldn’t help but think of all the times I’ve dropped my own metaphorical Jesus on his head, friends, because my theology slipped again, and I was uncertain whether I’d broken Jesus for good. And I’ll admit, I cried a little when our 4-year-old Mary #2 cheerfully shouted “WHOOPS!” and picked poor, mangled Jesus up by his plastic legs to try again. It was like God was sitting in the pew behind me and leaned over to whisper in my ear, “That’s it exactly, Beth. That’s how faith works.”

2. Our rag tag group of kiddos performed our annual, imperfect, endearing Christmas pageant, but my favorite people present at Jesus’ birth this year weren’t the super heroes or my raspy, laringitis angel or the two Marys or my twin shepherds or even the sheep who fell on his face. Nope. My favorite person present at the birth of Christ was

my friend, Webb,

the daddy who donned the sheep head helmet and sat up front because the little lamb in the red dress needed him in order to go on.

3. I took two 6-year-old boys to the Nutcracker.

“Mom,” one said, not at all in a whisper. “Their panties keep showing!”

“They know, Cai Cai. Now, shhhhhh.”

“And they’re so embarrassed, right, Mom?”

“Well, no, Cai. Not exactly. Those are leotards, not panties. And it’s part of their costume, so it’s OK.”

He thought about that for a quiet minute and then hollered, “OH! We can show our underwear to people if we call them leotards and costumes. I get it! Thanks, Mom.”

You’re welcome, world. You’re welcome.

4. I watched these lovely ladies dance in grand company,

and these little boys sleep in grand company, too.

5. And I hugged this teenager too, too tight.

FYI, teenagers LOVE it when their parents force-hug them and then prolong it out of their own sense of neediness. They pretend like they don’t love it by being stiff and unyielding and eye-rolly and saying things like “WHY, Mom?” and “You can stop anytime” but they secretly, deep down inside — like, deep deep down — think it’s awesome.

And so our weekend went. Moments of joy. Moments of grief. Filled to the brim with loving each other and driving each other completely nuts.

If I can ask, and if you would, share a moment of your own? Every story is a light, friends. A candle in the darkness. Whether the story is hopeful or funny or sad. Stories help us to see. To see and to be seen. And I can’t imagine a better way to light the world right now than to be authentically together.

Here’s to the Light.


ABOUT BETH WOOLSEY I'm a writer. And a mess. And mouthy, brave, and strong. I believe we all belong to each other. I believe in the long way 'round. And I believe, always, in grace in the grime and wonder in the wild of a life lived off course from what was, once, a perfectly good plan.
  1. Oh!!!!! I’ve got a couple doozies!!!
    To begin with, my 5 kids were late coming home from school on Friday!!!! Talk about panic! They eventually showed up with their father, who didn’t think a thing of it because he had not seen the news all day. When they walked in the door, my 8 year old son was the first one in and he took one look at me and said, “Mom, you look like you have been waiting for some love.” And then gave me the best hug ever. Melt, melt, melt.
    Then, the same son gave me the gift of laughter at our church’s Christmas program. I attend a church of about 10,000 members, give or take 5,000 every weekend so the program was LARGE! My son got placed on the end of the row of risers, right at the top. While all the other kids were doing their prescribed hand gestures to the songs and swaying back and forth, my son was channeling Michael Jackson up there and had the room to do it since he was on the end and had no other body to impede his dancing prowess. I am sure he was making a “joyful noise” and had some “joyful moves” to go along with it!!! It was so distracting that I heard other people around me talking about him and pointing him out saying, “Are you watching that kid?! He’s great!!!” I just had to turn around and say, “yeah, he is great … he’s all mine!!!” Love, love love the Light!

  2. My baby boy turned 1 on Sunday and we celebrated in style with an over the top mustache bash. My parents flew to us in Seattle from St Louis and we invited over family and some close friends for homemade soups, bread, treats and good fun. I can’t believe the baby boy (who is lying on my lap in a post-nursing milk coma) is already 1. This morning he greeted me by crawling into the bedroom excitedly, pulled himself up to a stand next to the bed then indicating he wanted up. I pulled him into bed where he proceeded to maul me with hugs and kisses. Sigh, I’m a lucky mom.

  3. “I couldn’t help but think of all the times I’ve dropped my own metaphorical Jesus on his head, friends, because my theology slipped again, and I was uncertain whether I’d broken Jesus for good. And I’ll admit, I cried a little when our 4-year-old Mary #2 cheerfully shouted “WHOOPS!” and picked poor, mangled Jesus up by his plastic legs to try again. It was like God was sitting in the pew behind me and leaned over to whisper in my ear, “That’s it exactly, Beth. That’s how faith works.”

  4. So yesterday my class and I were in the van coming back from our first dress rehearsal for our Christmas program. Everyone was tired, and the ride only took about 8 minutes, but one of my students (K) decided she needed to tell me how tired she was.
    “Mrs. Baker, I’m tired!”
    Tired myself, I responded with the first thing that came to mind.
    “Hello, Tired, I’m Mrs. Baker.”
    K sat back in silence. A few seconds later, the girl next to her started giggling. “OOOHHH, I get it,” she laughed. “Do you get it? You’re Tired, and she’s Mrs. Baker!” She kept giggling. “Do you get it?!” She turned around and started prodding the students behind her, still laughing. “Do you get it? She’s Mrs. Baker!”
    That girl found joy in a place I didn’t even think I had left it. My mom used to pull that line on me and I would just roll my eyes. “Whatever, Mom,” I would think. But this girl, her smiles and giggles were infectious, and soon I was giggling right along with her. Joy is contagious, and often it comes from where we least expect it.

  5. Well, my partner had to work all weekend and my eldest (17yo) was in Philly, so it was just me and my two littlest – 2yo tomorrow (gasp!) and 6yo. I was settled into the sofa with two snuggly boys, a bowl of apple slices to share, and a DVR full of holiday cartoons/specials. I was trying to leave the events of the week behind by immersing myself in cuddles and nostalgia…when my 6yo said, “Can we watch Dr. Who?” We were mid-Rudolph so my first internal reaction was “no way” but the (almost) 2yo started jumping on the sofa with excitement, singing, “Dr. Who-oo, HEY! The TARDIS!”

    So, we Wii’d ourselves into the Netflix abyss. What else could I do? We’re geeks.

  6. My weekend has been filled with ups and downs. Downs when I watch the news or close my eyes or am lost in my thoughts while cleaning. My son is 6 and in grade 1 and has recently told me a week before the shooting if he ever came across a bad guy with a gun he would just punch him in the face simple. So it scares me to even think how he would have really reacted. Then my thoughts go to the children or the parents. It makes me want to be an awesome mom and make every moment count, and then I catch myself yelling at them to please stop fighting with eachother! But then, although today was a snowday (we live in northern Ontario near Timmins), I didn’t think at any moment I wish they were at school so I didn’t have to listen to them fight! Then my husband and I took the 3 kids ice skating. It was Logan our 3 yr olds first time, he loved it! That was my happy moment. Watching the joy on my 3 kids faces! And ofcourse the xtra snuggles I’ve snuck in at every possible chance!

  7. We were blessed this week with the birth of our son. I was laboring in the bathtub at the hospital when my sweet labor coach gasped at the news of the mall shooting. After he was born that evening we turned on the news and saw for ourselves what was happening. Then in our sleep deprived state we heard the news of the pet store…then Connecticut. It was such a surreal week–absolute joy of holding new life in my arms while my tears fell on his precious head as I remembered the parents who could no longer do what I was doing at that moment. Joy in the midst of sorrow. The light in the dark. And oh, so thankful for the time I have to hold my baby in my arms.

  8. This is perfect, yet again. I’ve done some good crying, and some weird punishing myself for not grieving right, and some painful why am I not a better warmer mother arguing with myself. Buckets of grief and joy…yes.

    And yes Cai, of course you can show off your underwear. I’m not sure why your mom hadn’t told you that already. Make doubly sure everyone sees them if they have Superheros on them. There is so much joy in this post. Can I just love the Daddy sheep? Precious.

    For us, we busted out some secret decoding spy markers and had a scavenger hunt that led to a game of painful for me indoor basketball.

    Thanks again for this reminder. Much much love and gratitude coming from New England.

  9. We are in a Gangham Style phase here. My 7-year-old’s hockey team plays it as part of the team warmup in the dressing room. (My 3-year-old dances along, and sorry, I’ve no video at this time 😉 Last night at an away game, the timekeeper played music between plays and at the end of the game. Little did they know that Gangham Style right at the end of the game (when the kids are supposed to cheer each other and shake hands), would lead to an on-ice dance party. Of 7 year olds. In full hockey gear. Surrounding a few helpless coaches attempting to preserve order. Parents could not get out their iPhones quick enough to capture this spontaneous moment, so it will just have to get burned into our memories!

  10. Beth,
    I had my tonsils out on Thursday, so all the news kinda went in one ear and out the other this week between prep, surgery and recovery. I am happy to report that I am recovering faster than normal. Close friends and family are taking care of me, my substitute teacher is running the show brilliantly at school and I don’t feel as empty and sad as most. I think there is something to being in a drugged state during this time. I wasn’t allowed to give a lot of attention to the pain, mainly the facts and the heroes. Glad to hear all is going well with you. Light is coming back to the world!

  11. My husband took our oldest on a date “to the park and window shopping.” It was a lie, a ruse! We had bought tickets for the show “Wicked” at The Fabulous Fox Theater here in St. Louis. One the got to the will call window and our dear daughter realized what was happening the screaming and jumping commenced. I received a text from my hubby about 10 min. later informing me that the screaming had not stopped. I was an awesome surprise and she was truly grateful and happy. We are blessed to have kids that show and feel gratitude for the big, and little, things in life.

  12. Friday hit us hard…we have a little one and my partner teaches kids who in many ways, resemble the young man who made Friday what it was. The weekend seemed a blur of errands and cleaning and cooking and blah. But on Saturday night, we joined friends and their crazy fun kids for a tour of Christmas lights (one of the neighborhoods in our city goes all out). We froze our asses off, slipped and slid in the snow and ice, and exchanged kind, happy words with some teens standing outside a church along the way. These kids stood out there in the cold with smiles on their faces and called people over to warm up with big vats of free hot chocolate they’d made. Then today (not the weekend, but totally funny), my toddler came into a public bathroom with me, protesting all the way that she didn’t need to pee (“I know, but mommy does, so let’s go!`), and the minute I got my pants down and perched on the seat, she, at the top of her considerable lungs, said “kay Mommy, now push those poopers out”. Child left me speechless and stammering.

  13. I love this too. I love to see those pictures of sweet faces showing forth light and joy. I love all their goofy antics. I am glad to share their lives through your blog and photos, when tremors preclude my presence and make me feel isolated. I receive Light in those dear ones’ hilarious, beautiful Christmas programs. Janae’s program also was light when our sweet shepherd girl needed to help out the wise man with his gift. When I’m alone at home flat on my back I receive joy from Jesus’ Light. I receive light from people who call and people who pray and people who write. I am aware of so many in the darkness who need our encouragement especially now! Thank you for sharing Light!

  14. […] 2. Share a moment of joy. It may feel awkward to hold grief and joy together. It’s not at all helpful to punish ourselves for not grieving “appropriately” and it’s so important to find light in darkness. I invite you to Beth’s blog to do just that. […]

  15. My hubby and I celebrated our 33rd wedding anniversary this weekend. We didn’t do anything over the top, but we had the best day. We saw a movie, we had a little spree of shopping at Ikea, and we had dinner out, where the server had multiple catastrophes and we just laughed. But my favorite moment, was after dinner on the sidewalk in the parking lot outside the Cheesecake Factory. We could hear music playing, and as cars passed us we danced on the sidewalk. It was glorious!

  16. We’ve been following our “family activity” advent calendar this year. On Friday evening we picked out our Christmas tree. Saturday we had FIL help decorate the tree, and on Sunday we baked ALL DAY to give cookies to our neighbors. Granted, a bit of the baking was done today to finish up, so the delivering of said cookies will not happen until tomorrow. Lots of joy, and more to come. Hooray for light! 🙂

  17. Because I KNOW how much you in particular will enjoy this:
    Mauri and Sherry 12-16-12


    So when I get weepy, when my heart aches a little too much, when my moods shift with teh hyper-changing cloud cover, I envision Miss Duck Face and how much she will LOVE this being added to the family’s Bad Church Directory pictures. 🙂

    1. Child after my own heart. Child OWNS my heart. LOVE.

  18. We managed to go grocery shopping, drop laundry off, get new fish for the aquarium, and half clean the house all before lunch on Saturday. ALL without any whining or tears. My 3 year old let me sleep in until 9 yesterday morning, then crawled in bed with me and snuggled for a few minutes before we got up to face the day. Last night I sent in 2 resumes and received an email this morning requesting an interview. THEN, I got a call this morning from the Oregon State Massage Board asking if I am available Wednesday (as in day-after-tomorrow-Wednesday) to come in and take my Board Exam. So I’m going to do it. And I’m going to NAIL IT!!!

    1. YOU ARE! Sending prayers and love and much success! Go, Melissa!

  19. Funny you should ask. My moment was generously brought to me by you.
    I was crushed by everything that happened this week… crushed. My job is being the fixer, the one that corrects wrongs done by others, the one that lift people up and I was paralyzed because I couldn’t fix anything. Your blog post about the fire ended up on my Facebook page. I loved your style and continued to read on. When I read “My Penis Is Not Okay” I started laughing so hard I could hardly breath and then the tears came. Happy and sad ones. It felt good, really good. Lucky for me, I was home alone because I am sure that I looked like a crazy person: Laughing, crying, choking, and trying to breath…repeat.
    I ran into you at the Nutcracker and I wanted to say thank you but I knew that I would cry again. But since you asked I’ll say it now. Thank you.
    BTY– Your daughter was wonderful!

    1. Oh, this made me so happy, Denise. Thank you for taking the time to tell me.

      Also? I’m a big Denise Bacon fan. Not JUST because you were super mature and didn’t run the “A Vote for Denise is a Vote for Bacon” campaign (though I would’ve bought the t-shirt in a hot minute)… BUT ALSO because I love the things for which you stand. Would love to meet you in person at some point.

      1. Anytime!
        I ran into you in the bathroom line at the Nutcracker… not the time I usually get into meaningful conversations. I am very awkward and shy despite my career choice. I recognized you right away because you look shockingly like my one of my daughter-in-laws.
        Also…don’t give me too much credit for not using people’s love of BACON as a staple in my campaign. It was my husband that reined that in (his last name is Moore and he wasn’t amused because he wanted me to change my name and HATES to be called Mr. Bacon). Look for my next campaign—Aren’t you sorry you didn’t get Moore-Bacon!!

  20. Thank you. I have not been dealing with this latest tragedy well at all- being a parent of a Kindergartener and a Director of a Preschool, it has hit me double. It took every ounce of my being to not go and pick him up from school Friday morning. I was on edge until he got off the bus and was safely ensconced in my arms. I felt out of sorts when my husband took him and our dog to PetSmart Saturday afternoon. But I had moments of Joy this weekend as well. We ate pizza. In our PJ’s. At 7 pm! (Dinnertime is 5:30 pm usually.) I snuggled with my oldest on the couch and let him stay up an hour past his bedtime, just so I could snuggle more. The fights between my almost-6 year old and my 2 year old had me saying “it’s ok” and not “BOYS! KNOCK IT OFF!” I had Joy grieving at church yesterday with other moms of Kinder and 1st graders, as well as fellow friends and educators. I had Joy when my oldest helped me bake yesterday and was listening to my husband playing with our 2 year old to keep him out of the kitchen. Joy is there always. We don’t always see the simple Joys because life gets in the way. It’s sad that a tragedy had to happen for us to see these little Joys. Thank you for sharing your Joys with us. 🙂

    1. I totally get this. Two six-year-olds in my house. x’s and o’s to you, Krista. Joy IS there always.

  21. Love this post, Beth. Such an important reminder of light in our world. And, besides not grading any essays all weekend (considerable joy!), I spent lots of time with the boys at basketball games and watching movies and going to Tae Kwon Do testing. And this: Ben has been agitating all year about seeing The Nutcracker. Last week, I bought tickets for my parents to take him Saturday night–to see the one your daughters danced in–but when he saw a picture in the paper about The Nutcracker, he said “Wait. There’s ballet involved?” Umm, yeah. That’s what The Nutcracker is. He went anyway, out of kindness to his grandparents, and apparently enjoyed the performance, though he wished there had been more play, less dancing.

    1. Baha! I’m so glad for his sake that there was a super cool swordfighting/tumbling scene to break up the dancing madness. 😉

  22. I was lying in bed with my three year old on Friday night (which also happened to be my birthday), just hugging him and loving on him. I said, “Do you know how much I love you?”
    “How much?” he asked.
    “I love you the most,” I said.
    “I love you the most, too,” he countered. “We can both love each other the most.”
    And I melted.

  23. We have the Festival of Lights here, replete with an exotic safari. On Friday, I picked up my twin boys (2 1/2)and we went for haircuts, followed by pizza & then the Festival. I was unaware of the “safari” & ill-prepared, i.e., no cash. Joseph wanted to ride the ponies (real ones, no betting here). I promised him we would come back and he could ride. I promised all the way home, while changing him into pajamas, while snuggled in my bed watching a movie & while tucking the boys into bed. I promised all day on Saturday, everyone he asked “you’ll let me ride the pony, Mama?”. Not “I want” or “I need”, but “you’ll let me”. So he did. 4 times in fact. Every pony there so he could experience each one. And all the while, his brother Eric, stood watching him with a big smile on his face. Eric had said he didn’t want to ride. Last night, at bedtime, my Eric said to me “you’lllet me ride the pony Mama?” & I said, I promise. The beautiful simple joy they got out of each other & those ponies was my shining, blazing, gleaming, pure light this weekend.

    1. This is so sweet, Michele, and brought back wonderful memories of my own toddler twin boys. Thanks. xo

  24. Friday night I was the “bad parent” at basketball practice because my son wasn’t in his uniform (yippee for running late and giving choices). But he had a great practice and we had our every friday movie/pizza/snuggles night afterward!
    Saturday I managed to save the world from a major meltdown when bio-dad missed nearly all of Tae Kwon Do belt testing. But we showed our stuff, got our new rank, and step-dad was there for the whole thing!!! (I even managed to squeeze in a date with the wonderful man while my littles where with bio dad for a christmas party). By snuggle in time, we were down a pre-teen girl to a social life of slumber partying, the two littlest littles were home again, and everything was mostly right with the world.
    Sunday after church was mom’s “day of rest”. Somehow, my four wonderful littles and my amazing man cleaned the house AND let me nap!! I woke up to a clean house, smiling kiddos, and a trip up the mountain for family dinner! At dinner my biggest little man almost lost an ear. :'( Catastrophy struck in the form of his first dog bite! Stiches were not required, just lots of hugs with the team of Aunt/Mom/Nana/Stepdad all huddles in the bathroom cleaning and dressing a wound. The ear will be kept, he will not (Contrary to his deepest wishes) turn into a dog like the dad in Shaggy Dog did, AND we got a whole hour of “just us” time this Monday morning waiting for his doctor’s appointment.
    I may live in perpectual chaos… but I do it with the best family a girl could ask for! <3 (And a pretty darn good set of friends and co-mommies as well!)

    1. “I may live in perpectual chaos… but I do it with the best family.” Hear, hear!

      Tell your little dog bite sufferer that it happens to the best of us. 😉 I’m missing part of my nose, for example, and I turned out OK.

  25. Oh, I love this. Thank you xxx

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