the 10 most memorable posts of 2013.

I am slowly emerging from that magical, sparkly time called Christmas + a perfectly timed bout with food poisoning + a soulful social media rest …and although I don’t generally believe in looking at stats, I couldn’t help but peek at the top ten posts of this past year:

Let’s see what you remember:

10.  The happiness is a birthday list, in which I reminded you that I cuss, AND I really, really like Jesus.  It happens.

9.  Writing about leaving the big, sexy city for a move five miles south to the beachy ‘burbs.  The honeymoon ended, friendlies.  9355467

8.  When I got all Rage Against the Machine at the Target lady on the phone, and then apologized.  Ugh.  For the love of the red and white!

7.  A letter to my 24-year-old self.  Question is: will I say much of the same to my 34-year-old self in another 10 years?  Ack.

6.  A story of a Wednesday, with all the love directed toward one of my writing buddies, Mama Erin (who, again, will write the Next Great YA novel).  img_1794

5.  That time I linked up with Addie Zierman, and wrote about my On Fire years – Maybe we’d even let them in…

4.  And then – and perhaps one of my favorite stories of the year – that time I tried my hardest to be a supermodel.  Where are all all the modeling jobs now, yo?

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3.  After reading the book, Momma Zen, I wrote about truth in the nighttime.

2.  Okay, and apparently there must be an ongoing search for “crazy Target lady,” because the second most read post this year?  “Wherein the crazy Target lady strikes again.”

And, finally (and this was a big surprise), the #1 post for this year, which included minimal “I’m a writer, hear me ROAR” actual writing was the following:

1.  That time you voted for our annual Christmas card, via the fabulous skills of our friend, Peter Thomsen.  Do you remember what won, at least in our we-need-to-giggle hearts?

peace!

 

If I can sum up the stats, this means that I need to head to Target upon the hour, always be on the lookout for uphill, red-faced modeling opportunities, and promote various friends’ incredible skills more often.  Oh, and be honest and truthful and soul-clinging, and maybe, just maybe, be the best me I can be.

xo, c.

What about you?  What post here on be, mama. be did you find most memorable this past year?  

 

peace – indeed, indeed.

peace!

Merry Christmas, friendlies.

Thank you for being a part of all the wonder of the past year – we’ll be laying low for the next week or two here at be, mama. be, because we need to make soups and roast garlic and devour cookies and sip bubbly cocktails.  Oh, and sing the praises of the Baby-King, and love our family and friends well, and hang out in our pj’s all day until we realize it’s closer to that night’s bedtime than the one before …so why change now?

So, I’ll keep this short and sweet, and instead, let the words of this 16th century German hymn send us home:

Lo, how a Rose e’er blooming 
from tender stem hath sprung!
Of Jesse’s lineage coming,
as men of old have sung.
It came, a floweret bright,
amid the cold of winter,
When half spent was the night.

Might you see and sense and be enveloped by the Floweret Bright.

Peace (indeed, indeed),

chm.

9 last-minute, do-good gifts

I have this friend whose name is, uh, Zara.  And although Christmas is only five days away, she realizes she probably needs to get on the holiday shopping – but she doesn’t just want to give her loved ones more stuff.  In the spirit of giving, she desires to double her giving quotient and help someone in need; therefore, she’s jumping on the giving do-good wagon.

In case you, too, are in need of some last-minute, do-good gifts, consider supporting the goods of these organizations:

1.  A bracelet from Starfish: The Starfish Project helps to support exploited women in Asia.

Starfish supports exploited women in Asia.
The Blake wooden stretch bracelet, Starfish Project.

2. A necklace from TOM’S.  K, I’m stoked – the company that kick-started the movement has added “Marketplace” to their website; now, you can browse by Cause, Region or Brand.  This necklace, for instance, is multi-region, and helps in nutrition efforts for children.  Brilliant!

The Citrine Balboa Necklace, Tom's.
The Citrine Balboa Necklace, Tom’s.

3.  Give a goat.  I’ve long loved the idea of giving a goat, of buying a buck, of Christmas-ing a cow – you get the idea.  Check out Heifer International’s famous guide, “The Most Important Gift Catalog in the World.”  (World Vision does the same).  

4.  Give the gift of KIVA – this is for that someone who really doesn’t need another coffee table book.  Why not instead give a loan to someone around the world in need, through their name?

5.  Get your Noonday on and help a family adopt their little one – Noonday Collection supports artisans around the world, and various independent ambassadors also receive a portion of the profit.  So, in buying (for instance) a pair of Annie’s Feathered Earrings, not only will you help a woman like Sidhama, but you’ll also help Katie and Mike bring home their little one.  Win-win, I say!

Noonday Collection.
Noonday Collection.

6.  Give a year-end gift (…or two, or three) to your favorite organization.  This time of year is crucial for the non-profit community, so help send a kid to camp, or help in the empowerment of women who need it most.  And, like KIVA, this is a fabulous idea to give in someone else’s name.

7. Be hiip!  K, y’all: this is one of my favorites, because hiip’s founder, Nicole, is one of my favorites!  By buying a hiip little fanny pack, a second pack, filled with essentials for the homeless, is given to our friends on the streets of San Francisco.  And, you automatically can look as cool as this:

Screen Shot 2013-12-20 at 9.03.17 AM
Pacific Heights, hiip.

8.  Help fight human trafficking – While there are so many organizations now doing incredible world in the fight against human trafficking, IJM and Not for Sale are two of the forerunners.  Give a gift in someone else’s name, and help change a life!   

9. Wear a hat!  Finally, Krochet Kids seeks to help empower people to rise above poverty.  And from their website, “We desire holistic freedom for our people to grow and enrich their lives physically, emotionally, and spiritually.”  Yes, yes, yes!  So, don your kid’s head in hoots of hilariousness with this hat:

the hoot, Krochet Kids.
the hoot, Krochet Kids.

Well, I think we’ve officially given Zara some good ideas of gifts that give back.  I know I’m encouraged!

Love Always, Cara “Who’s Zara?” Meredith*

What about you?  What organizations that give back would you add to the list?  And otherwise, how in LOVE with those feathered earrings are you?  Ugh.  

*None of these organizations paid me to promote their products.  I just think they’re great.  And there’s also no guarantee the lovely gifts will reach doorsteps by December 25th – but tis the season for a week-long Christmas celebration!

when christmas isn’t all glitter & tinsel.

Photo cred: My Little Norway.
Photo cred: My Little Norway.

It happened again: the dustpan contained a mixture of dust and dirt and pine needles, about 92 cheerios, and a healthy dose of glitter sprinkled throughout.

It was the prettiest garbage I’d ever seen.  

Because when Cara the Optimist looks at the pile, she sees sparkles of glitter peeking through the grime.  I’m reminded of the magic of the Christmas season, and the merriment that can be found in the littlest of sweeping details.  A smile comes to my face, and I start singing along loudly to Whitney’s “Do You Hear What I Hear?”  I hear, I hear!  My voice carries over the countertop divide to the HBH across the room: Do you hear too, Love?  Hear it, hear it!  

I am full of Christmas cheer.  Nothing’s gonna stop me now.

If you and I were to sit down over a cup of coffee, with the results of the Enneagram personality test before us, you’d come to understand that I’m a 7.  Known as The Enthusiast, 7’s are, well, enthusiastic; our basic desire in life is to be satisfied and fulfilled, so with bold and vivacious personalities, we tend to approach life with chutzpah! 

We’re like kids in a candy store, exuberantly wide-eyed and bushy-tailed in our approach to others and to life in general.  We tend to see beauty in the most unlikely of places.  We see the sparkles of glitter shining through the messy garbage pile.

And really, that’s a good and necessary trait we can offer the world.

But seeing and sensing and leaning into Beauty always stands juxtaposed next to the filth and the grime and the muck.  The dirt can’t be ignored.  Because for a 7, our greatest fear is that we might experience pain.  At our unhealthiest, we run from hurt and sorrow and sadness, choosing only focus on the sparkle and the glitter and the tinsel of the holiday season.

But Christmas isn’t all glitter and tinsel.  

And today, as I sit with this realization, I choose to see the dirt.

This year, death looms around us: another baby lost, another young man with “so much potential” taken.  We see the pain caused by the loss of relationship, the loneliness and heartache; we hear the cries of lost health and its subsequent companion, freedom.  We scream WHY?!, not just with a question mark at the end of the sentence, but with an exclamation point, too.

Because we don’t get it.  We don’t understand why Death always seems to stand next to Life, why the cycle of Life and Death, Life and Death, Life and Death spins repetitively in the washing machine.   

We want our mouths to perfectly formulate the right words to say, but void of any Christian accolade, barren of formulaic consolations.

Because these deaths, this pain, this sorrow, didn’t happen for a reason. It isn’t my place to pithily insert, God won’t give you anything you can’t handle – especially when I don’t really know what to say, when I’m just saying it because I think these the right words to utter.

But it is my place to be there.  

It is my place to mourn with those who mourn, and to rejoice with those who rejoice.  Is it my place to be real and present, to enter into the reality of the here and now with those who sit beside me.  It is my place to take courage and take heart, resting and sitting and breathing in the God who is here with us, to the One who will make everything wrong right again.

And perhaps that’s right where we’re supposed to sit.

So we take it one day at a time.

We see the sparkles and the glitter and the tinsel, but we take a good, hard look at the dirt and the grime and the muck, too.

We embrace the reality of Light and Darkness, Death and Life, Good and Hard that swims up and down, in and out, day in, day out.  And we recognize that it’s especially hard for some of us, for some of our Loved Ones this year.

And we say, we’re here.  We’re here with you.  We stand with you and we sit by you; we love you and we embrace every part of you.

Really, really.

We hope in the shall to come: we rejoice that haloes of joy will encircle their heads, that they will be welcomed home with gifts of gladness, that all sorrow and signs will scurry into the night.* 

Even if the “will” isn’t felt today.  Even if the hope and the promise and the embrace is for tomorrow.

You are not alone.

Hugs, all.

What about you?  How do you embrace the good and the hard of the holidays?  And how can I be a friend to you today?

*Isaiah 35:10.

blessed be the name of the caramel corn (a recipe).

Growing up, we ate dessert every single night.

Yes, you heard me: every single night of the week.  The dessert options varied: ice cream was always in abundance in the freezer (with mint chocolate chip my reigning favorite), and jello was a wiggly weekly option.  And then, come Saturday night, right before A Parent Trap (starring Haley Mills and Haley Mills) or A Christmas Story came on, we’d hear the whirring of the electric popcorn machine.

We’d prop our chins on the other side of the kitchen counter, where bar stools occasionally sat, and we’d place bets on what kind of popcorn we were about to eat.

“I bet we’re having Movie Popcorn, with lots and lots of butter!” Sister would shout.  Exclamation point, exclamation point!  I mean, does it get much more exciting than your very own bowl of Movie Popcorn, with family movie night to boot?

But when Mom reached for the brown paper grocery bag, we knew we were in for a treat.  When she brought the butter and brown sugar and Karo syrup to a boil on the stove, our mouths salivated in anticipation.

Because this meant it was a caramel corn sort of night.  Thank you, Baby Jesus. 

Is it time, is it time?  We wrestled with the pain of waiting, with the anticipation that seems to eat you alive, especially when you’re only nine and three-quarters years old.

Mom would add a few more ingredients to the simmering sauce, and then she’d ask for our assistance in the kitchen.  Racing around the corner, we kids fought over the grease-stained bag, whose insides boasted popcorn with a gooey caramel coating.

Shake, shake, shake!  she’d say, her eyes glistening.  We’d shake the bag furiously, and then stare at the microwave clock as the minute and a half ticked down the seconds.

Shake, shake, shake!  Is it done yet?  Is it ready?  Is it time?  We’d let the microwave zap it just a minute more.

Shake, shake, shake!  And just like that, it was done.  The caramel corn was a new creation: drippy and gooey and perfectly coated in a homemade sort of way, we gave the bag room to breathe, dying another slow, final death in wait for the final product.

Whatever the reason, I woke up in want and in need of The Blessed Caramel Corn I ate as I child.  My inner-80’s self craved the buttery sweetness, and the magical memory of the greasy paper bag and the shake shake shake that invites your whole body wiggle and squirm and smile with glee.

And let’s just be honest: I’m not sure how or why I took a 20-year hiatus from this glorious, gooey goodness.

So do yourself a favor – run – don’t walk! – to your nearest cupboard or to your neighbor’s front door or to your grocery store of choice, and fling said ingredients off the shelves.  You won’t be disappointed, I promise.

What can I say?  You’re welcome, forever and ever, amen,

Cara “Blessed be the name of the Caramel Corn” Meredith

You can thank me later.  Or now.
You can thank me later. Or now.

The Blessed Caramel Corn, courtesy of Creative and Easy: Microwave, 1977.  

Ingredients: 

2 1/2 poppers of popped corn*
1 c. brown sugar
1 cube margarine (or ahem, butter)
1/2 c. light Karo syrup
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. baking soda
1 t vanilla

Pop corn and pour the corn into a large brown grocery bag. The popcorn should be about 6″ deep.

Bring the next three ingredients to a boil, and continue to boil for two minutes. Add the salt, baking soda and vanilla, and pour over the corn in the bag. Shake, shake, shake. Microwave the corn in the bag for 1 1/2 minutes, shake, shake, shake, and cook another 1 1/2 minutes. Shake, shake, shake, open the bag and let stand open to dry off, shaking the bag occasionally to break popcorn apart. When dry, EAT to your caramel corn heart’s content (and/or seal in an air-tight container).

What about you?  Has there been an old recipe you’ve resurrected and called your own?  And, more importantly, when are you going to get off your hiney and make this blessed caramel corn?  

help come near (advent).

Photo cred: Tiny Prints.
Photo cred: Tiny Prints.

As a child, soon after the orange and brown fall decorations came down, I gleefully began anticipating the Christmas season.  The questions catapulted towards our parents, one after another: “Is it time to get a tree yet, is it time?” and “Mom, when are you going to buy us eggnog?” and “Do you have a stamp so I can mail my letter to Santa?”

With baited breath, we looked forward to the glitter and the magic of the holidays; while commercialism reminiscent of the North Pole certainly took its toll, we also held tightly to Christ’s birth.  Though elementary in understanding, we got the Real Reason for the Season – we held sacred the carols “Silent Night” and “What Child is This?” and our hearts breathed hallowed holiness when candle after candle lit up the old sanctuary in hushed glow.

In Advent, we celebrate the God who is with us, the god-man who lived and breathed here on this earth, entering into the fullness of life through human body.  Were you to ask me what that meant as a child, I would have rightly answered Jesus came to earth as a little baby, “just like me!”  But what strikes me today is not necessarily the how of Christ’s birth, but the why of his humanity: He, the Salvation Pioneer, became fully human in order to help us.  Jesus didn’t do this for the angels, but he did it for people just like us.  He entered into every detail of human life, experiencing the ups and the downs, the good and the ugly, so he might “…be able to help where help was needed,” as Eugene Peterson phrases it in The Message translation.

Now that is a mind-blower!  He who is bright with Eden’s dawn light becomes one of us, experiencing the fullness of every detail of what it means to be human, all in an effort to comfort and help us more.  Perhaps this is what Mary so astutely understood when her soul exaltedly sang of the God near her and with her, alive and kicking in her very belly.  She braved mockery and ridicule, and she clung to God, knowing that he would not leave her in her time of need.  Her Hope had become her Help, doing for her then just as he does for us now.

Might we all rest in this Help come near.*

What about you?  How do you merge the magic and the holiness of the holiday season?  How do you embrace Help Come Near?  

*This article originally appeared in the DPC Advent Booklet, 2013.

the great unknown adventure.

We bought our first tree on Saturday – as in, for the first time in my life, we forked over the money for a Douglas Fir shipped south from the forests of Oregon.

Because call me a cheap Scot, or simply practical (although that label is generally reserved for my man…), there’s actually a need for a Christmas tree in our living room. We’re not traveling this year: I’m not making the sometimes-woeful trek by car or pulling out all stops to entertain a toddler on an hour and a half plane ride.

Instead, we’re staying put.  We’re now the ones waving good-bye to most of our friends who are still traveling for the holidays, and in anticipatory glee, we’re dreaming of our first Christmas together apart from extended family.

And truthfully, it makes me giddy and unsure and delighted, all at the same time.  At 34 years old, I’ve never spent the 25th of December apart from my parents.  I’ve never not known what it’s like to eat crab on Christmas Eve, or chop down the tree from Palmer’s Tree Farm in Keizer.  I’ve only known shopping for stocking stuffers the day before Christmas – boys for girls, and girls for boys – and cinnamon rolls, fresh out of the oven, on Christmas morning.

Our little family of three is embarking on its own rite of passage.

And isn’t a necessary part of the journey?

Maybe saying yes to the Great Unknown Adventure is a bit like traveling to a new country for the first time: you finally land in Roma, and squealing, you absorb the shouts and sounds and smells that make up this new land.  You hail a cab, but in your very broken “I swear I listened to three Learn Italian! CD’s found in the discount bin at Barnes & Noble,” you wonder if you actually know enough to make it on your own.  Because you haven’t done this before, so even though you’re a little scared you’ll land in a ditch far from the Audrey Hepburn Roman Holiday encounter of a trip you dreamed of, you begin to trust in the moment.  You trust that you are strong enough and brave enough and smart enough, too, and that what you have and who you are right here, right now is enough.  

And I suppose, in a tiny sort of way, this encompasses the adventure we’re embarking on for Christmas this year – and we are elated thus far.  

gettin' our Holiday on.
Gettin’ our holiday on.

Because sometimes when you’re on the Great Unknown Adventure, you drive an hour south in search of the perfect tree farm, but despite your best navigational efforts, you never find the place.  Instead, you see a goat farm, and you think to yourself, Well, we are on an adventure, aren’t we?  So you pull into the Harley Dairy Goat Farm, and much to your heart’s delight, the chèvre samples are plentiful, and a dear friend has landed there too, and, well, what do you know?  Goat farms just happen to sell Christmas trees.  So the tall man straps a tree to your car with twine, and you begin praying to eight-pound, six-ounce little baby Jesus that he knows what he’s doing.  Might this tree stay put and not go flying like Santa’s reindeer onto the great Highway 1 abyss, pretty pretty please.

And then you get home, and you and the HBH [Hot Black Husband] eat sushi and split a red velvet cupcake; you don your red and green hats, and with John Legend’s epic O Holy Night playing in the background, you decorate your first tree.

Who knows what next year will bring – whether a goat farm and sushi and cupcakes will be formally deemed Tradition – but you just know that you’ve participated fully in the Great Unknown Adventure.

And that, my friend, is exactly what you’re supposed to do.

xo, c.

What about you?  What Great Unknown Adventure are you embarking on this year?  And, if you’ve jumped into celebrating a holiday “on your own,” what new traditions have come your way?