the view from the mirror (FMF)

Once again, today, I’m linking up with a group of online folks who participate in what’s called Five Minute Friday – you write for five minutes only, saying no to the backspace key and editing altogether, and you see what comes out on the other end of your timer.  I kind of like it.  Join in!  

The word: VIEW.

Today Baby and I made our way over to this cute little boutiquey store in the heart of Noe Valley, an area of San Francisco.  Really, it was all Miss Lori’s doing – in a good way, of course, as when I mentioned we were soon heading to the East Coast for a trip and might need a little wardrobe updating, like a cat on a hot tin roof, she jumped at the chance.

And requested to hold Cancan while I tried on dresses – who does that?  Thank you, friend.

But aside from her awesomeness, handfuls of dresses were pulled from the racks.  I need to look East Coast-savvy, you know?  I told the salesladies, vetoing ones that looked too short or cute, and instead opting for the supposed longer and more elegant of cuts.

As I stood in the dressing room, stark-white body in front of the mirror, it didn’t matter whether fluorescent lights hung above: I saw my post-baby body, and shirked back negatively in response.

Nine months on, nine months off…

But more than that, when will I look in the mirror and glow back lovingly towards myself?  When will I see myself as my husband sees me, as Beauty Himself sees me?

DONE.

5-minute-friday-1

What’s your VIEW today?

a mini trip across the bay.

Soon, Cancan and I will head over to the East Bay for a little 24 hour mini-retreat of sorts – granted, I’m not sure if “Cancan” and “retreat” belong in the same sentence, but for now it’ll suffice.

We’ll hole up in one of our favorite friend’s houses, and we’ll sit in the sunshine and listen to the birds; we’ll eat Meyer Lemons fresh from the tree in her backyard, and we’ll slice an heirloom tomato from the local market, slowly, deliberately, and then lightly sprinkle it with sea salt, savoring each bite.

We’ll have conversations when we’re supposed to, and not necessarily because we feel like we need to – which, I think, are the best kind, because they’re felt, not pushed in to fill the empty, wordless space.

And when Baby naps – Dear 8-pounds, 6-ounce baby Jesus, newborn, let me emphasize the when of this sentence – I’ll cozy up and begin reading Madeleine L’Engle’s Walking on Water because I believe in commemorating places with books, because it’s kind of the coolest and most magical thing ever for the two to marry in your mind, forever.  (I also highly recommend reading a book that takes place in the land you’re visiting: Wuthering Heights in England, The Motorcycle Diaries in Costa Rica.  Forever wed, I say).    

Or I might not.  I might just be silent, imagine that.  I might close my eyes and breathe in deeply and relax and remember and be.  Surely, I’ll take in some Jesus, because it’s kind of inevitable that the Spirit will seep and leak into my soul while I’m there.

And even though we’re hopping on a plane soon there after, I think the break will be quite necessary, and may even help me not scare off my fellow mankind when I’m shopping at the red and white.  Ahem.  I’ll come back, giddy like a little school girl to see my forever-crush, and this time I’ll notice the sun peaking through the clouds, a beacon to hope, instead of its dreary, soul-squeezing opposite.

So farewell Internet, good-bye blogosphere.

Here’s to being renewed…

(Do it, I double-dog dare you).

Do you need to get away?  Where can you go that fills you up, even if it’s only for 24 hours?

a story of a Wednesday.

One Wednesday a month I block out a day with my writing partner, Erin; she heads north, or I head south, and each hiring sitters for the day, we then head to the other’s magical writing spots.  I think, secretly, we each hope to glean a charmed basket of excellent-writing-juju from the other person’s Place.  

One lucky morning spot.
One such lucky Wednesday.

We order our coffee in for-here mugs, because we know that we’re going to be holed up in this particular morning spot for a good, long while.  Then we sit down, and with respective laptops, we scrunch our noses in concentration, and we close our eyes, minds searching for the perfect word or phrase.

Erin is writing the next great American YA (young adult) novel, of that I’m sure.   She has this story all mapped out, on paper and in her mind and, of course, in Google docs as well.  And really, it makes sense that this would be her genre, because she has this undying passion for teenagers: she gets them, and they get her, so much so that these girls whom she pours her life into can’t get enough of Mama-Erin’s acceptance of them just as they are.  She invites them into her own messy, imperfect world, which – whether they know it or not – gives them permission to stop putting on the I’ve-got-all-my-sh$%-together face, and be a little messy and imperfect too.

So Mama-Erin thinks about her conversations with these girls, about their verbal and nonverbal forms of communication, and she remembers what it was like when she was their age.  It’s like she magically jumps into her own DeLorean, transporting herself back to the 90’s, when it mattered whether you had Friday night plans, when you glanced at every reflective mirror you passed, checking your lip gloss and mascara, thinking about self-self-self.

And that’s when, after closing her eyes and scrunching her nose deep in thought, she finds the perfect way to say one sentence.  

I love that.

I love that sometimes, even if you end up deleting entire paragraphs and chapters before it, that one sentence makes it all worth it.

I love that writing – like most things in life, really – is a journey, in which we have to actually sit our bums down and let our fingers do the talking.  We have to stop talking about writing, and actually write, even if we think we have nothing to say (because chances are, we just haven’t taken the time to still our minds and listen).

Sometimes when I’m sitting across the table from her, I glance over, and green with envy at the literary perfection she’s already attained, at her confidence that she’s writing exactly what she should be writing, I too begin to think that maybe I should write the next great American YA novel.  I mean, I worked with teenagers professionally for 12 years – aren’t I too, like a Professional Knower of Teenage Culture?

Like, totally.

And then I realize that that’s Erin, and what she’s writing is so completely Mama-Erin-esque.  She’s leaning into the story that her life has begun to write.

But it’s not my story.  And that’s okay.

My story – if we’re going to classify it – is what they call Personal Memoir/Non-Fiction.  I enter into noticing the little things of the every day, and I keep my eyes wide-open to the present, to Beauty around me.  And sometimes these Everyday Stories make me laugh, or they teach me a lesson, or they point me to the one who is Ultimate Beauty to me, Jesus.

But I don’t have the whole story mapped out in front of me, and that’s okay.  I used to do a lot of speaking at summer camps, the invitations and assignments of which would be given and known months in advance.  Inevitably, the months would go by, and the titled “CAMP” document on my Desktop would sit unopened, but for its name.  Like a final paper at the end of a college quarter, the clock would tick-tick-tick, the looming week approaching with each nearing second.

And just when I thought I’d have to call the director and say I quit!  No more!  My mind is out of ideas and brilliant metaphors and funny stories and apparently the Spirit of really-good-ideas, Jesus himself, has altogether left me.  I am done!  …”it” would come.  A tiny little idea would burgeon forth in the back of my mind, and my fingers would begin to give birth to the connections that were already, always there, even though I hadn’t yet known it.

The same exists now – and so I lean into that burgeoning nugget of an idea, and I scrunch my nose in concentration, and I close my eyes, searching.  For it will come.  It always does.

Because this is me.  This is the story my life’s been writing, for a long while now.  And I’m okay with it.

What about you?  If you’re a writer, what’s your process?  What story has your life been writing?

PS: Erin really didn’t pay me to write this post.  She’s just that awesome.

wherein the scary lady strikes at target, again.

I shushed a teenager in Target the other day.

…and then, mortified, I hap-hazardly pushed my bubbling, bouncing Bubs and the bright red cart to aisle 32 where I hoped she and her cell phone didn’t feel like perusing the shelves looking for the best deal on wipes and size 3 diapers.

Since when did I get so grumpy?

And so old?

And so un-understanding of teenagers, whom I love?

Yup.  This is about right.
Yup. This is about right.

I stood there dumb-founded, absently staring at the generic box of sensitive-bum wipes before me, wondering whether or not I should hunt her down and apologize, or hunker down in between the blue and pink and wait it out till morning.  I, of course, chose the latter, instead replaying the could-have’s in my mind:

I could have smiled at her, and then tried to beat her loudness in my own babbles to Canon.

I could have pulled out my own cell phone, and having my own imaginary, really, really loud conversation, beat her at her own obsessively loud game.  OH NO SHE DI-N’T!

And I could have freaking pushed my cart to the next aisle and not gotten so self-obsessed about the 16-year-old who was breaking my peace and quiet in the discount shopping store.  

I mean, the library, I understand.  Nordstrom’s Savvy section?  Absolutely.  But Target?  Oh Cara, shut the front door.

And so we admit our faults.  We say, here in the blogosphere, to the poor, shushed-at teenager: I’m sorry.  I’m sorry I was such a grumpy old lady.  I promise to remember that I was once an obnoxiously loud teenager myself, and that I too sometimes have conversations in public places, probably talking louder into my little electronic device than I realize.  And I promise to go get me some Jesus right about now.

Sometimes little tiny 30-second incidents like this help us realize the bigger picture: I need a break.  I need some rest.  And for me, who needs that spiritual bucket of my soul filled up, I need me some Jesus.

Come to me, all who are weak and weary, and I will give you rest.  

Do you need a rest, a break, some time to close your eyes and breathe in a big inhale, and an even bigger exhale?  

Well friends, grace-grace-grace: sprinkle this gift upon yourselves, receiving the fullness of its embodying do-over self.  Then, think about what you need in order to be filled up again.  Hire a sitter for three hours.  Make a friend meet you for margaritas.  Schedule a night off and hole up with a can’t-put-it-down book.  [I’d recommend Carry On, Warrior for any mamas, and Gone Girl: A Novel for a good fiction read.]  Or go, light a candle and shut the door to your sacred space, away from Facebook and email and Words With Friends, and meditate on the One who gives you life.

Isn’t it about time?

Just bein’ honest.  xoxo.  c.

(PS: Target, why, why is it always you?  I’m gonna get myself kicked out of there if I’m not careful).

on community: a little weight loss and a little town.

Sometimes friendships are born out of pure need – that’s how I think of my friendship with today’s guest post writer, Jeff.  His little church and my little non-profit world needed each other, and so a cheerleading partnership began.  Not only is he charismatic in general, but he’s real-deal, bonafide-awesome with awkward middle school kids and his lovely wife, Jenn.  So, enjoy, and then head on over to Smacking Cheesecake to read more of his thoughts and musings.  

Jeff, Jenn and their fabulous pup, Joey. (Stolen from FB)
Jeff, Jenn and their fabulous pup, Joey. 

A couple of months ago I started a ridiculous venture: a 40 day juice fast.  However, after 20 some days I hit a wall.  You are supposed to drink at least 90oz a day but during a hectic work week I only managed about 30 – 40oz that week.  First my liver, then my entire body shut pretty much shut down.  I contracted a fever that lasted three full weeks and a kidney infection that lasted another two.

Just like most red-blooded male Americans I didn’t tell anyone except my employers and wife… probably in that order.  I mean c’mon, who wants sympathy?  I didn’t want anyone knowing my life was less than perfect.  Of course when everyone started seeing me wither away it was kind of hard to hide.  A pretty funny debate began at the church I work at:

“Does Jeff have cancer?” whispered concerned grandmas.

“I think Jeff is on meth,” the teens said sarcastically.

So what was it?  Meth?  Cancer?  Neither is a laughing matter but you know what is?  A 33 year old man still too proud to tell people he’s sick when his face is as pale and sunken as a New York runway model and his clothes fit looser than MC Hammer parachute pants.

Can't touch this.  (Photo fred: http://ax3battery.com/2012/11/27/trendy-tuesday-parachute-pants/)
Can’t touch this.

After about seven days of fever and weight loss, I was humbled enough to go to the doctor.  Things didn’t really get better.  There was no predicted end in sight, and losing 20 pounds over the course of two weeks kept me from hiding it from anyone any longer.

Suddenly there was a barrage of prayers and well wishes, text messages and phone calls.  People were stopping me, even in my weak and weary state, to talk to me.  My diet and rest pattern hadn’t changed at all but suddenly I actually got better.

Community stepped in when I physically couldn’t do life on my own anymore.

Had community been the source of my healing?  

When I think about community I oftentimes think about a place called Roseto, PA, which became a place known in medical circles as a strange “fountain of youth.”

Dr. Stewart Wolf, a university doctor, had heard about a town that suffered no diagnosis of heart disease even though the country was going through a pandemic from it.  What Dr. Wolf’s team found was stunning.  The Rosetans were more obese than the rest of America.  And while one would rightfully assume that genes or even air and soil quality could have played a part, Dr. Wolf’s team found them to be non-factors.

The only thing that made Rosetans unique was their sense of community.  Many of them lived in houses that ran three generations deep.  The houses were close together and it was normal to spend hours in shared backyards chatting.  They planted things together, built things together, and went to dances together.  And they suffered no heart disease, depression, or a host of other health problems.

Dr. Wolf predicted that Roseto would eventually fall victim to the same problems we all face.  Future generations would become more independent.  They would put up fences, stay at home, and would turn shy to acquaintances.  They would… become more like me I guess.  Sadly, this became true.

It seems every time I have to face a trial of some sort I’m reminded how much easier it is to conquer it with community.  It is my hope to build a little Roseto in my home, workplace, and family.  Build a little place where all are invited and included.

We’ll laugh and talk and we’ll all be healthy… together.

Thank you, Jeff – I love the intersection of your story, and Roseto’s story as well!  Leave a comment for Jeff below, and otherwise, if you haven’t already, cheer Cara on in her writing by becoming a fan of be, mama. be or better yet, by subscribing to receive emails in your inbox!  (Click the “follow” button on the left-hand side).  

you, the extraordinary VSP.

I’ve been absorbed in Desmond Tutu’s No Future Without Forgivenesshis account of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission following the end of Apartheid in South Africa.  And, wow.  Not only has it been eye-opening reading about a piece of history that I seemed to inadvertently skip over, but Tutu’s view on humanity is like the freshest of gulps of water on a hot day.  

Yes.  Yes, yes, yes.
Yes. Yes, yes, yes.

This is his theology – his outlook on God that, in effect, affected and changed thousands upon thousands of lives for the better.

What’s your theology?

Do you think of others – and yourself, most certainly – as extraordinary?  

You are not a VIP, but a VSP …and because of who we are in God, everything is changed.

What about you?  What books are you reading that are changing or have changed you?  What quote are you grabbing onto for dear life right now?

stories & date night & capitalization (thankful thursday)

Who knew something as seemingly insignificant as naps would yield such significant consequence in my little mama-world?  But alas, the Baby Formerly Known As The Incredible Sleeper is now fighting it with all his might, and left to my own accord, it’s easy to then view the world through the evil green lenses of my childhood’s Berenstein Bears’ fame, not seeing the good and the Beauty in the everyday.

But today I do.  Today I choose to see Beauty in the most ordinary of places.

*I’m thankful for learning to taste my way through a meal – I start by chopping an onion, then grabbing my wooden spoon, I feel where the spirit of that night’s dinner is leading me.  Bam.  Grateful for tastebuds.  Who knew?

*I’m thankful that even when the Unknown and the Uncertain (deserving every undeserving proper capitalization, ever) seem to outweigh the known and the certain, that we can still choose to Trust (capital “T”).  We can still choose to view life as The Great & Exciting, Super Daring Adventure – and then fully leaning into that truth, fully live.

*I’m thankful for healing, restorative conversations.

*I’m thankful for Everyday Friends.

*I’m thankful that the rules of grammar and punctuation – like most areas of expertise, I suppose – can and should be broken once we’re grounded in the basics.  Oh, Emily Dickinson, I get you on a whole new level, woman!

*I’m thankful for the HBH (Hot Black Husband) – boy oh boy, am I thankful for that man and for friends who come over and watch Baby sleep, and a Date Night that includes a green-lit Great Gatsby surprise.  

My directions for Date Night: "wear comfy shoes and look hot."  Done.
My directions for Date Night: “wear shoes you can walk and look hot.” Done.

*I’m thankful for stories.  I’m thankful that writing is therapy, and that by learning to sit down and be still, a story that’s been there all along is finally given breathy words.

*I’m thankful for that simple theological truth: there is a Jesus who loves everyone, everywhere, no ifs ands or buts, no questions asked.  He comes and sits on the couch next to me, and it’s not then about how much I love him, but about how much he loves me. And that is enough.

Thank you, Carina Lee, for prompting us to sit down and find those nuggets of thankfulness!  Friends, I double-dog dare you to do the same.  What are you thankful for today?