what i’m into :: august 2014.

Y’all: Love you, love your show.  I’m making this quick for obvious baby-was-due-four-days-ago reasons.  Check back for the inevitable birth of our second son!  But otherwise, if you’re new here on a “What I’m Into” monthly check-up, I link up with the Lovely Leigh for a recap of the past month.  Who am I kidding?  It’s mostly about the books I’ve read and the two-year-old kid I already think is pretty cute, as I’m not the best about recording everything else.  Enjoy!  

38.5 weeks pregnant (i.e.: two weeks ago).  What's the little bugger going to look like?!
38.5 weeks pregnant (i.e.: two weeks ago). What’s the little bugger going to look like?!

I read…

Devil in the Details (Traig, 4/5) – I mean, how can you go wrong with a memoir involving OCD and Judaism?  Bam.

Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road? (McLaren, 4/5) – While I would have preferred something meatier, I think this is a necessary read for people of the Christian faith.

We Need New Names (Bulawayo, 3/5) – this African writer explores super tough issues in a coming-of-age novel. Definitely hard to digest at times.

The Bible’s Yes to Same-Sex Marriage (Achtemeier, 2/5) – I don’t give it a low rating because of the content per say, but more so because of the way he went about exploring the topic.

A Wedding Transpires on Mackinac Island (Putman, 2/5) – I just needed a brainless Kindle read during those insomniac nights. Mission accomplished.

Raising An Emotionally Intelligent Child (Gottman, 4/5) – A definite must-read for parents.

Big Little Lies (Moriarty, 5/5) – Friends, this is the PERFECT summer beach read. Moriarty’s best one yet!

Reclaiming Eve (Burden, 3/5) – I am so proud of my friend Suzanne’s words and simply have some other theologically-minded pro-women books at the top of my list.

Life After Life (Atkinson, 3/5) – K. I’m not sure if pregnancy brain just SUPER set in upon reading this book, but it took me a good while to feel like I actually understood the plot line. If you loved this book, tell me more, tell me more!

A Prayer for Owen Meany (Irving, 5/5) – Do not do as I did, and that is for YEARS judge a book by its title. Instead, head to your local bookstore and pick it up ASAP. This is one of the best fictional books I’ve read in years.  Also, click here to join in the discussion on She Loves magazine, as it’s this month’s Red Couch book club pick!

Animal Farm (Orwell, 3/5) – I’m a sucker for 99-cent deals on Audible …what can I say? And, considering I’ve known all about this book, but hadn’t actually read the book, I needed an excuse to read it. Done.

I’m reading… The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective; The Preaching Life; Crossing to Safety; The Circle.  

I wore… big, stretchy womb-filled clothes.  Not a whole lot to write home about, folks.

I wrote… Oh friends, I edited and revised and revamped and rewrote last month’s “three more chapters.”  The book writing process never ends, I say!  It was also fun to write for Jen Pollock Michael and Suzanne Burden, fellow Redbuds, and to pour my heart into an article for an upcoming digest, Theology of Ferguson.  

I ate… lots of heartburn-filled food.  (This baby must be rather hairy with all the heartburn he’s giving me come 9 pm each night!)

Le bebe?  Check back here for details – he’s arriving soon, soon, soon!

And otherwise…

My kid and one of his besties.
My kid and one of his besties.
My love and a celebration of life together …although we didn’t go out the night of, we did make it out of the house, kid-free three nights later!

Finally, I laughed a hearty belly-laugh at this… awkward parenting story from our girl, Glennon Doyle Melton.  LUB.  

Much love!

Knocked-up mama and soon-to-be baby

What about you?  What have you read and digested and seen and done this past month?  What put a HUGE smile on your face?  What left you disgruntled?  Do share!

some thoughts on the ice bucket challenge.

It was the summer of 2001.  I had just graduated from college, and found myself working at camp for the summer, singing and acting and dancing, leading and laughing and loving from 7 in the morning until well after 10 at night.  My hair was cropped short, and my feet were a constant brown-dirt “tan”; I went by the camp name “Kujo,” and next to the man above, the microphone was my best friend.

Kujo and Woofy. I still have the hat.

At twenty-two years old, I was a bundle of flirt-filled energy who thought she ran the place.

And, at times, I did.

Along with my program partner-in-crime, Woofy, one of our responsibilities involved helping to raise funds for like-minded camps overseas.  At the end of the week, microphones in hand, we’d beg and plead the campers to save just a few cents – “maybe even a dollar!” – from their snack fund and instead drop their pennies in our bucket.

“Come on, y’all: you can do without your afternoon Nerds/Charleston Chew/Sarsparilla Root Beer…”  They’d stare at us dumbfounded.  No we can’t.  

I mean, they were twelve and thirteen year old ego-centric young adolescents.  Who were we to beg and plead them for money when their daily sugar needs ranked so much higher than some kids on the other side of the WORLD whom they’d never meet?

Week after week, we’d raise fifty, sixty bucks, which meant that out of a camp of two hundred plus campers, we were lucky to get a quarter from their stash of hard-earned cash.

Finally we had an idea: what if we gave the kids an incentive to give?  Woofy would shave his legs, or his head – I can’t remember.  Kujo would kiss the camp pig.  And we’d do this that night at campfire if only we raised two hundred dollars.

This time, as the last night of camp rolled around, we acted as auctioneers, not begging kids to give generously anymore, but instead facilitating a free-will giving roller coaster.  Kids ran up to the stage, stuffing dollar bills into the jar, outbidding their cabin mates, intent on raising the necessary funds towards head-shaving and pig-kissing.  We didn’t merely double our funds, but we exceeded our goal, raising hundreds of dollars for strangers halfway around the globe.

The strategy continued for a couple of weeks until the real big-wigs asked us to stop.

“Why?” we asked.  “We’ve raised more money in the last two weeks than we have in the past couple of summers combined?”

“Because we want them to give for the right reasons.”

Matt Lauer getting the ice bucket.
Matt Lauer getting the ice bucket.

I tell this story, because if you haven’t noticed, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has raised thirty-four times the amount of money in the past month than it did a year ago.  Bringing in a record $88.5 million, they’ve brilliantly exceeded 2013’s now-meager looking $2.6 million.  They’ve made a name for themselves in the non-profit sector, towering over other NPO’s donations received, all in an effort to help in the fight against Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

But it comes with a cost.

Critics report that the ice bucket challenge is just another empty social media example of narcissistic “slactivism.”  Others, especially in my drought-ridden state of California, estimate that the average American household uses 320 gallons of water per day, which means that nearly 19,000 homes’ daily water usage has already been wasted.  But, despite the funds that continue to be raised, the good the exceeding generosity of these millions raised will certainly do in the name of ALS research, I can’t help but wonder if we’ve missed the point altogether.

Are we focusing too much on the donor instead of on the organization?

Have we neglected the heart and soul of the not-for-profit world, at the cost of fame and wasted water?  Will this only further perpetuate “giving opportunities” within various NPO’s around the world, making donor incentives a requirement instead of a by-product of their generosity?

But, then again, how responsible are we for the hearts that give?  Is it even our business?

Truthfully, I’m torn.  Having worked in the non-profit sector for eight years, I see and I hear both sides of the argument.  Fiscally responsible for funds raised, we took pride in the relationships cultivated with donors.  At times we wined and dined, or we dropped off Christmas poinsettias or Thanksgiving pumpkin pies on doorsteps, but mostly we just tried to know them.  Poignantly, I remember one donor finally saying to me, “Cara, I appreciate the time you take in writing me a thank you card, but please don’t.  I don’t want a card.  I don’t want another free blanket.  I don’t want you to spend money on thanking me – that’s not why I give.  I give because I want to give.”  So I never spent another 46 cents on him again.

Because here’s the truth: we write checks because our hearts are prompted to give.  We punch in numbers into online giving sites because we believe in values and mission statements of the organizations we support.  And ultimately, hopefully, we build relationships with these ministries and churches and not-for-profits not because we want to get something out of it, but because we want to see those they serve get something out of it.

But are thousands of millions of buckets of ice really a bad thing?

Obviously, I go back and forth on this issue.  What about you?  I can’t WAIT to hear what you think!  (PS: No baby yet …but soon!)

the little things: a big (little) thing (hannah vanderpool).

Guest post Tuesday, guest post Tuesday! Today’s writer is a new internet friend of mine, but truly, I love her way with words. So friends, get ready to be enthralled with the writing of Hannah Vanderpool, because she is the real deal …and personally, I think the way she weaves a story is sure to touch each one of us!


I’m undone and this is a new thing. I look fine on the outside, of course, because it’s not like I’m dying. I dress like the Americans do only I wear a few more clothes, maybe. I’ve cut my hair into Peter Pan chunks, the look I had before I lived overseas. Women stop me in the supermarket to tell me that they love it, that it’s chic. I check for any little ping of pleasure at their praise. It isn’t there. In another life I would have raised a hand to the back of my head, riffling the layers, and smiled. I’d have said something about my wonderful stylist, mentioned that I’ve always been a short-haired girl. Now I mutter ‘thank-you’ and wonder why I’d been so quick to cut off my India self.

I am a stranger in my own town these days. I watch as my children adjust again to life after Asia. They love the ubiquitous air conditioning and all-you-can-drink soda fountains they’ve found here. I do not begrudge them this happiness even as I fear they’ll lose all that our life away had given us. I catch my reflection in a store window and I see my kids skipping behind me. They look normal.

I am ambivalent. India tired me in a way nothing ever has, but it also implanted itself into my psyche, thriving like a virus with a long incubation stage. I cannot forget it. I don’t want to. I don’t know what I want.

That’s not true. I want a puppy.

Dogs are hang-down-your-head creatures in India. I suppose there are the spoiled few who live in flats with their well-off owners, but those were not the ones I saw. The dogs in our village were ribs-under-skin thin, the texture of starvation. I watched the mothers with their engorged teats and bulging bellies as they nosed around for trash piles in which to give birth. Those dogs were painful metaphors, post-it notes I couldn’t crumple.

Once a dog at the train station in Delhi approached my daughter and me. His tail hung low and his head swayed, foam forming around his open mouth. Some children hit him with sticks from behind, sending him into fits of rage. He whipped around and lunged at them, but only long enough to send them shrieking backward for a moment. Then he returned his gaze to us. I sweated and prayed as I gripped my daughter’s hand and inched us toward the far wall. I was sure he’d punish us for the sins of the others but he swerved and lumbered away.

I want a puppy. I want to rescue it. Aloe Vera for my sunburned heart, this will help me, I think. My husband looks online and he finds a picture of scruffy hint of a dog. He is twelve weeks old, a mutt, and no one wants him. Suddenly I’m afraid someone will want him–more than I do at this moment. We call the number on the website and it’s true. Lots of people want him. But if we get in the car right now and drive for an hour they will try to hold the others off. If we don’t make it in time they can’t be responsible, but they will try all the same. The man on the phone has a smile in his voice.

We arrive at the pet store that is acting as a meeting place for all these strays. The cages are arranged in such a way that each dog is visible. I see my puppy at once. I nudge my husband and he sees him too. The kids make a minor fuss about the intolerable level of cuteness in one building but I bat them away like flies. I’m waiting for the man to come and open the cage so that I can feel the weight of this dog in my arms. The man tells us that my puppy has a brother, a black and white mix who’s just as cute as the One I Want. My husband says we’ll hold both, if no one minds, and decide in a moment. Then man nods and gives one puppy to my husband and the other, the brindle scrub brush, to me.

We tell the kids to go look at the other dogs if they’re bored. My husband and I stand facing one another. We know we’re ridiculous, two adults with our arms full of puppies, sending the kids to explore. But we’ve seen things we can’t unsee, our blood pumping through enlarged hearts. We wonder about the safety of our friends far away. Will we see them again? Will we go back someday? Will we ever be OK here?

I lift my puppy to my face and I breathe his fur smell. We decide that we cannot take both dogs, and I suggest that we choose the one who licks us first. That can be our sign, I say. My husband rolls his eyes but he smiles. We both know that my puppy is the licky one.

I am in the front seat of the same minivan we had before we sold everything and moved across the ocean. It still drives OK. It smells the same as it did before. The kids sit in the back seats, energized and electric. I hold our puppy on the long drive home and he does not wiggle. He lets his full weight sink into my arms and he rests his head on my wrist.

He is a little thing but I can see that he is already helping to put me back together.

d86431ba72f37ab246bf2e4051ff8d18Married to her college sweetheart, Hannah Vanderpool is a Jesus-follower, mom of three interesting kids, writer, and world-traveler.  She can’t imagine a world without sisters and books.  You’ll find her at her blog, on Twitter, or at Google Plus.  Because, I mean, come on – did she make you feel all the feels or WHAT?!  Leave a kind word for our new friend below …and in the meantime, if you’re new to the blog, encourage Cara by following her via email or on her Facebook page today!

reclaiming eve.

I suppose the concept of “nesting” looks different for each one of us, but for me, it seems to be a mix of writing a bunch of last-minute articles and scrubbing the kitchen tile grout.  GLAMOROUS, people, glamorous.  Enjoy today’s post, written for friend and author Suzanne Burden’s book, Reclaiming Eve.  And hey, Happy Due Date Day to all the mamas out there due today!

St. Anne's Chapel, Melvern.  Photo cred: Flickr Creative Commons, Granpic.
St. Anne’s Chapel, Melvern. Photo cred: Flickr Creative Commons, Granpic.

Maybe you can relate to this: as I grew older, my relationship with Eve grew more and more tangled.

I started out believing there was nothing “funny” about women. The church of my youth held a rather esteemed (and I now realize, exceptional in the evangelical world) view of the role of women, so much so that I wasn’t aware of the argument over women in ministry that marked theological conversations of the 80s and 90s. Females served in every capacity of my church: as preachers and worship leaders, as elders and on the deaconate board, as baby holders and spaghetti sauce-stirrers for Wednesday night dinners. I remember with disdained fondness when one associate pastor (who just-so-happened to carry around an XX chromosome), pulled me aside after delivering her Sunday sermon, and said, “Cara, you know you could do this someday. You should be a pastor.”

I stared back at her, my thirteen-year-old self simultaneously repulsed by the prospective nerdiness I perceived in her role as Professional Christian, while secretly overjoyed that she would see me capable of such an esteemed role.

Nodding politely, I wrinkled my eyebrows in disdain, likely providing her with a dismissive “thanks, but no thanks”of a reply until her words came predictively true fifteen years later. I entered full-time ministry, although church walls didn’t bind my own pastoral role, but instead freed me to work alongside the church, as a director within a Christian outreach organization.

Because the ministry wasn’t connected to any one denomination, it remained free to believe what it wanted to believe about the roles of women. And women, its leadership esteemed, were just as capable and qualified as men to serve in any capacity.

Hallelujah, as it should be.

But proclamations from the pulpit and actual, transpiring events were not always of the same accord.

Click here to visit Suzanne’s blog and read the rest of my story; and, if you’re looking for another perspective of Eve, the biblical figure, consider purchasing Suzanne’s book!  Otherwise, what did this story strike in you thus far?  Regardless of whether or not you find yourself a part of the church, has your relationship with Eve ever been tangled?

the little things: pink sunrise (kristin wolven).

Today’s writer is someone I’ve called Friend for over fifteen years now, back when I called her Willoughby and she called me Kujo.  I’ve always been glad that our paths continue to intertwine and cross when and where they do, so welcome with me someone who GETS IT.  She truly is someone who gets that the little things really are the big things. Welcome to the blog, Kristin!


What’s crazier than being addicted to reality TV? Working in reality TV. 

I have to admit though, I love working in reality television. It involves a lot of my favorite things, like writing, and people, and TV. It moves fast. It’s fun. I thrive in production.

At the same time, it consumes my thoughts and takes over my life. Since I work twelve-hour days, six days a week, I miss out on spontaneous dinners with friends, evening runs, and taking a weekly ballet class. It’s hard to live a balanced life.

How long can I do this? But I need a job. Is this is the job I really want to do? Yes. I have to keep moving. Moving up. Moving forward.

How will I live a full life if all I do is work? Literally. All the time. Where is the joy in that?

Last December, I was nearing the end of a four-month shoot on a home design show. It was a Saturday, and I had to leave at 6:30am. I jumped in my car and headed towards the 210 Freeway. I turned the corner, when suddenly I was gazing at the most beautiful sunrise I had ever seen. The sky was bright pink. Massive, horizontal, purple clouds were resting against the San Gabriel Mountains in the distance. It was amazing. I stopped singing, turned down the music, and craned my neck to get a final glimpse as I headed down the onramp.

It occurred to me that I was experiencing something nice. The view was spectacular. I was alone in my car. It was silent. I had some time to drive and enjoy just being. I had found a tiny moment of joy.

In February, I was still sorting through these “quality of life” questions, when I was given the opportunity to work on a reality show in New York. Although I hoped it would be this grand and glorious adventure and every conversation for the next year would begin with, “Well, when I lived in New York…” It didn’t quite turn out like that. The job was hard. I was homesick. I missed California. I missed my car. And I drive a 2000 silver Saturn sedan. With no power steering. And no power windows.

Granted, it was still fun. I loved, loved, loved the people I worked with every day. It was a stretching experience. I learned a lot, but these questions still plagued my mind. Is this the life I want?

I tried to find that moment of joy I had experienced in my car that early morning back in December. But it’s hard to find the pink sunrise when there are tall buildings everywhere. I mean everywhere.

And then finally, I discovered my tiny moment of morning joy.

At 8am each day, I would step out of the 59th St. subway station onto Lexington Ave. and gaze down the busy street at the Chrysler Building. It’s my favorite building in New York. It’s stunning.

Then again, each evening, I would pause to stare at it glowing brightly against the night sky. Believe it or not, those fleeting moments staring at a building in the distance made the long days easier. It was a small thing, but it made a big difference.

I’ve learned that when your mind is consumed with big questions, you might need to shift your focus. Find a new moment. Find a little joy. I found the Chrysler Building. I found a pink sky. And the San Gabriel Mountains.

IMG_1717Kristin Wolven loves movies, TV, coffee, and living life with her roommates in Pasadena, California. She has a passion for writing and acting. Kristin recently co-produced and appeared in the independent feature film, CAMP. She is a former elementary school teacher, who now spends her days as a freelance associate producer in reality television. You can follow Kristin and her roommates, Katie and Emily, as they chronicle their daily adventures on their blog In the Meantime.  So, I don’t know about you, but I’m going to remember to open my eyes and LOOK for that little pink sunrise and sunset.  Thank you for your words, Kristin!  In the meantime, encourage our friend by leaving a comment below …and if you’re new to the blog, encourage Cara by following her words today!

on faith: the gray that saves.

“I’m joining the synchroblog for the release of A Christian Survival Guide: A Lifeline to Faith and Growth by answering this prompt: ‘What saved your faith?’”

Flickr Creative Commons: Maria Gemma June.
Flickr Creative Commons: Maria Gemma June.

Embracing the gray saved my faith.

Maybe it all stemmed from the little Baptist church I grew up in, for there existed a certain amount of certitude that came from the simple act of believing. Doubting was not a part of our vocabulary, nor was questioning the directives of Pastor Jack or Mama or Dada – but instead, we stuck our arms out in front of us, like miniature mummies, playing a valiant game of Follow the Leader. Because how could the leader ever lead us astray?

Perhaps it came from Oldest Child Syndrome, from clinging mercilessly to Black and White, to Right and Wrong, to Good and Bad. You either believed or you didn’t believe. You were either a good student or a bad student. There was no middle line of demarcation, but each one of us stood on one side or the other, sometimes jumping back and forth but never straddling the precarious unknown.

So I clung to this certitude, humming the tune we’d sung over and over again at church camp:

     Oh, you can’t get to heaven (oh, you can’t get to heaven)
     In a Kleenex box (in a Kleenex box).
     Oh, you can’t get to heaven (oh, you can’t get to heaven)
     In a Kleenex bo-o-o-o-ox!
     Oh, you can’t get to heaven in a Kleenex box, ‘cause God don’t like them little snots.
     All my sins are washed away, I’ve been redeemed …by the blood of the Lamb!

And so the verses continued, because let’s face it: I wanted my ticket to heaven, for I believed this the end goal of the Christian faith. I read my picture bible and I sat obediently in Sunday School; I listened, without question, to instruction from my elders, but mostly, I just believed. Because like the song proved, adhering to the Christian faith granted either an “in” or “out” status – and as for me, I wanted in, no questions asked.  

The fog-filled gray began to roll in sometime in my early twenties.

In college, disillusionment surrounding church culture met my own unmet needs when I realized the place and the people I’d called home for the previous three years weren’t the right fit anymore. When I left, they called me Jezebel, labeling me with the only villainously biblical female name they could think of; this when I didn’t show up to their place of worship on Saturday night, when I instead spent my evenings waywardly meandering campus smoking cloves.

But in a way, their name-calling provided me room to think and to question, and to mourn the loss of Always-Knowing and Ever-Understanding.

A year or two later, with college behind me, I wore the hat of Teacher by day and Friend by night. Sitting with one of my best friends in a cramped and tiny booth in a vegan restaurant on the west side of town, we finally pushed passed cordialities to the heart of the matter.

“Cara,” he said, his mouth full of Soy Chick’n Nuggets, “I’m gay.” He stared at me, eyes never dropping my perplexed, caught-off-guard gaze.

“No you’re not,” I replied him assuredly, “you can’t be gay.” I may have even laughed at his admission, I’m not sure.

“Um, I am.”

And so our argument went back and forth for the next minute or two: me doubting his sexual orientation while he held firm to the belief, that yes, indeed, he actually was attracted to males. But this doesn’t make sense! I wanted to scream. You love Jesus more than anyone I’ve ever met. How can you be Christian and gay at the same time?

His words blindsided me that evening. Because everything I’d known and believed and professed up until that point didn’t now fit together. In a sense, as the gray fog of faith rolled in just a little bit more that evening, I yearned for certainty and I craved the assuredness I’d unwaveringly trusted in in my youth. But I also began to grab hold of the God who resides in the gray.

Were we to sit down to tea today, bags steeping in metal spoons beside oversized ceramic mugs, I’d probably tell you that most of the time my life feels like there’s more gray than black and white.

But this isn’t, I’d say, a bad thing, not at all. I’d remember with fondness a conversation with my friend Lori, as we walked down Sloat Avenue toward the ocean, slate skies of San Francisco mirroring her words.

“Oh, but gray is good!” she’d exclaim, clutching her latte tighter, smiling her infectious, believe-you-me grin. Because when The Gray emerges, when it overwhelms and frightens and clouds our stories, it also sometimes forces us to huddle under cozy blankets and stare out cloudy windows and just be. We become lost in a tangle of unknowing and we question God, hurling insults at him and raising questions towards him, one after another after another, like the ball pitching machine in the batting cages. Whoosh! Whoosh! Whoosh! Our hands lob and they sling and they fire fastballs towards the Great One, wondering if this’ll be the last time he’ll lend ear to our third-degree queries.

For somehow, in this insult-throwing, not-knowing, time-of-questioning period of gray, I’ve felt the most certitude.

Because I’ve been able to just been me, even if I don’t have all the answers, even if I don’t seem to understand. And it’s then – in the most eventual of ways – that I come around, because I realize that it’s not actually about me. It’s not even about my faith, and how much I believe or disbelieve, or about how certain I am that I’ll make it past those pearly gates. But it’s simply about him. It’s solely about the God who sees, and right then, right there, he sees me.

And I remember that gray is good.

So, what did this spark in you?  If you’re a person of faith, what’s saved you?  And if you’re interested in reading or submitting your own story to the discussion, check out my friend Ed’s blog here.  Also, you can download a copy of his new book, A Christian Survival Guide, for free TODAY, and on extreme discount this whole week.  Check it out!  

food moaners anonymous.

There’s a whole lot of grief going on in the world today: #Ferguson, following the death of Mike Brown.  ISIS.  Robin Williams and (much-needed) sparked conversations surrounding suicide and depression.  And these examples are only the tip of the iceberg – because truthfully, there are a whole lot of people saying a whole lot of things about these topics and more, so please, go and understand and take a minute to educate yourself.

But for our purposes here, be it because of my run-from-pain Enneagram seven self or simple human need to not entirely be consumed by the dreary and depressive, Cara proudly presents Incredibly Important, Life-Changing Thoughts.


And this week’s topic of conversation?  Food moaners.  

Listen carefully: you might just hear a food-moan.

In an attempt to get our kid to eat more than fruit and yogurt, yogurt and fruit, repeat, a friend of ours suggested he be given four food options at meals – perhaps two from Mama and Dada’s choice of grub, and two from his extensive two-food repertoire.  So we began to put salad and chicken, beans and bread on his plate at dinner time, but in order to show him how delightfully AMAZING a chow-filled plate can be, we started moaning along with our meals:





Soon these words and phrases marked the extend of dinner conversation, but much to our chagrin, it actually worked!  For the most part, Little Man began eating (or at least attempting to eat) like a champ …and in the meantime has become a full-fledged food moaner himself.  I need not prompt him to try a bite of P-dub’s delectable tomato soup, because before the bowl is even placed in front of him, he’s off and moaning.  

And it makes me wonder: have we birthed a food moaner?  

I mean, don’t get me wrong, his moans have the power to make me feel pretty good about myself, whether I’ve actually stood up for thirty minutes straight and cooked a meal, or whether I’ve just taken a piece of string cheese out of its plastic wrap cover.  (Mmmm, chee!  chee!  Mama, yum!  I know, Baby: I do what I can).


But is this forever?

Back in the day, before marriage and babies, when it was still just me and Mr. Darcy (my long-ago pup), I lived with a family of food moaners.  Most of the time my “cooking” consisted of the Trader Joe’s frozen food aisle, but for those rare nights when I’d bust out one of two meals I knew how to cook: taco soup and TRB (tofu, rice, broccoli, Santa Cruz-style).  So one night, although we each had our own living spaces, we decided to do dinner together; I went to the store and purchased ground turkey, taco spice and yellow onion; tomatoes, tortilla chips and cheese; avocados, black beans and chicken broth.  And I went to taco soup town.

When the five of us finally sat down to dinner, the result couldn’t have been more satisfying – in fact, it was actually quite a bit like meal time “conversations” with Cancan as of late:





I was about to drop my day job and go full-time into the taco soup-making business when we had another meal a week or two later – complete with grilled hotdogs, oven-heated buns, ketchup and mustard on their part – and I realized this: no matter the meal, they were bonafide, real-life food moaners.  It didn’t matter whether we were eating processed meat trimmings and fat, or a slaved-after, soupy meal of Mexican goodness, they’d moan.  They’d moan and they’d groan, and they’d make any preparer of food feel like a million bucks.

And I’m okay with that, I suppose, because what’s a world without orgasmically-inducing meal times?

But if this is going to be a part of the dinner time conversation for the next eighteen years, I’d better prepare myself.


What about you?  Are you a food moaner?  Have you ever been around food moaners, and what did it elicit in you?  Should we all try our mouths at food-moaning today?  Do share the results with us!  

the little things: little heart (ashlee thomas).

Today’s writer is sure to put a smile on your face and gently remind you that the way we interact with children DOES matter.  Ashlee is an old friend from Auburn, Washington, whom I’ve been privileged to see grow up over the course of the last nine years.  And friends, I LOVE all she has to say today.  Enjoy!  

Photo cred: Flickr Creative Commons, Hadeaki Hamada.
Photo cred: Flickr Creative Commons, Hadeaki Hamada.

In high school I took a class where I went to a third grade class and hung out with kids twice a week. Since then I’ve been working with kids in some capacity ever since. The funny thing about kids is they say whatever is on their minds. On a normal day I get asked and told things like, “Why are your toes are brown?” and “Do you have mommy milk in your breasts?” “Ashlee, I didn’t fall down today” or “You are too old to get married but you’re not old enough to die”.

Most of my days are spent giggling about the things that my kids say. My favorite thing about these little hearts I get to teach are they aren’t yet afraid of what people think. They live life with such a beautiful freedom. I’ve always loved the saying “If a child calls you fat, then you’re fat”. Good or bad kids will tell you the truth. As a preschool teacher it’s hard to decide if what’s being said to me in that moment is important or not.

But one day Jerry* came barreling towards me tears rolling down his cheek. He had been yelling at a friend, for the millionth time. I could feel my patience running thin. It wasn’t the first time that I had to talk to him about the importance of talking to others kindly. For some reason though, this time I decided to ask him why he was yelling at everyone, including me. This sweet, snuggly little guy looked at me and said, “Everyone yells at me, my mom, dad, and other teachers”. My heart sunk and tears welled up in my eyes. Seriously, how does one even respond to that? I still don’t really know. What I did do was sit on the floor with him. I met him in that moment. I asked him gently if he felt like I ever yelled at him. To my relief he said no.

Although I know I am no perfect person, this little heart changed the way I interact with children. I take more time to listen and understand; even when the stories never seem to end, or don’t actually make sense. That day I decided that I would always make sure to meet these little hearts where they are. It’s easy as an adult to get caught up in the chaos of the day and forget to really listen. But to take the time and let the children we interact with every day that they are worth listening to. I am a better teacher because I opened my heart and ears to a little chubby faced boy on a glooming fall day.

Facebook-20140521-022344Ashlee resides in Seattle. She is a preschool teacher to the world’s cutest four and five year olds. She fancies herself an adventurer and recently a world traveler. She’s currently working on getting her BS in early childhood education.  So what can you say to encourage her today?  I know this reminds me to be present with my son and truly listen to all that’s going on in his little heart.  What about you?  


*Names have been changed.

i’ve wanted it all (found wanting).

Today a piece of my writing appears on author Jen Pollock Michel’s blog – and hey, that makes me excited!  Jen’s new bookTeach Us to Want, was named one of the 25 Best Books from the First Half of 2014 by the Englewood Review of Books, so if you need something to read, consider picking up a copy!  Otherwise, read my essay on the theme, “Found Wanting,” and check out the other writers as well.   

Photo cred: Flickr Creative Commons, insane photoholic.
Photo cred: Flickr Creative Commons, insane photoholic.

I’ve wanted it all – and I’ve felt entitled that I deserve it all.

I’ve held an inflated sense of self. Like a caged lion desperately devouring his meal of bones and blood, I’ve greedily eaten affirmations of self-promotion. Fed to me from the earliest elementary years, I’ve taken and applied these words of invincibility to heart: You can do anything you set your mind to! “Can’t” is just a four-letter word! Be all that you can be! On and on the exclamation points continued, pounding into every pore of my being, infesting every part of my soul.

While such inspirational phrases never meant harm, naturally, the shouts of entitlement found their way in to my life of faith – because why wouldn’t My Big Genie Above grant me the desires of my heart? So I’d whisper the psalmist’s words heavenward, making David’s thoughts my own: God, I delight in you – so give me the desires of my heart as you say you will. With an indulgent nod of the head, I’d punch a conclusive “Amen!” onto the end of that day’s expectant request.

Really, my directives seemed to work well for a while – until I left full-time ministry and struggled to understand my identity apart from a vocational definition of self. Until a season of wandering in the wilderness arrived, and walking through a vast, unmarked desert found me helpless to even know what to utter to the One I’d apparently known so well, only months before. Until a month of darkness clouded over me, when unheard cries were met with mute silence did I later begin to understand that Something New was perhaps emerging in me and with me.

Click here to read the rest – and don’t forget to pick up a copy of Jen’s book, Teach Us to Want!  Otherwise, have you ever wanted …and felt like you deserved it all?  

(Disclosure: Amazon Affiliate links included in this post.  If you click through to Amazonany purchase you make supports this site). 

the intersection of competency & powerlessness.

Monday was just one of those days – as in, just another manic Monday, the best of times and the worst of times (and on and on the phrases go).  Because, as it turned out, that night happened to house the ultimate intersection of complete competency and ultimate powerlessness.

On the one hand, 647 miles away, at the American Legion Hall in Beaverton, Oregon, a dinner for 95 of the Navy’s Wounded Warriors training at Nike Headquarters for the week was happening:

Some of the warriors and coaches.
A table of warriors and coaches gettin’ their fill.  All photo cred: Ashley Rogers.

I bring it up because it was a family affair: my parents smoked all the ribs on their backyard Traeger (and lined up various volunteer cooks and food donations), my sister rallied the troops the night of and solicited volunteers for the event, my nephew practiced cuteness, and my brother-in-law dominated as one of the athletes:

Top of the morning to you, family.
Top of the morning to you, family.

And from what I’ve heard, it was a pretty flawless evening of home-cooked southern BBQ, Oregon-style …with smiles all around:

Again, some of the warriors, coaches and volunteer staff pictured afterwards.
Some of the warriors, coaches, volunteers and staff pictured afterwards.

My contribution to the night came in organizing the event – because for me, this was something I could actually do from hundreds of miles away.  Just as my parents are really, really good at smoking ribs for nearly a hundred in their backyard, I’m really, really good at thinking through and organizing the details of an event.  It’s not a point of hubris, it’s just something I learned to do as a teacher and a non-profit director.  So together, we each worked in our giftedness and pulled off a fantastic night …even if I wasn’t able to be there because Baby Boy is expected to hatch within the next couple of weeks.

I say this because this event was an example of competency.  This was me doing what I do, with Mom and Dad and Sister and the American Legion and the warriors and coaches and all the other varied pieces of the puzzle doing what they do, each falling together as they should.  But as I think so often happens in life, this competency was juxtaposed next to powerlessness.  Because in our little slice of Bay Area pie, something like this was happening…

Screaming, temper-tantruming, “What happened to my sweet and precious baby?!” child:

Not my kid, but pretty close.  Photo cred: Jill Greenburg.
Not my kid, but pretty close. Photo cred: Jill Greenberg.

Meets the wide, wide world of Target:

Photo cred: NPR.
Photo cred: NPR.

Meets Toddler’s newfound ability to crawl out of grocery carts and begin his Olympic training practice (with a coach who can’t keep up, mind you):

best-mens-running-shoeTo call the hellacious trip to the store memorable would be an understatement; to instead call the 13.5 minute visit to Target THE WORST TRIP TO THE STORE IN THE HISTORY OF SHOPPING EVENTS would be a little closer to the truth.  Because after three cycles of scream – climb out of cart – climb under cart – roll to the ground – run like a banshee fifty feet ahead of waddling mama – finally be captured and placed back in cart …repeat, both Mama and Cancan were in tears.  All I wanted was a canister of oatmeal.  All he wanted was his hard-earned freedom.  And together that meant we were not seeing eye to eye.

Little old ladies stopped us in the aisles, attempting their best grandma-magic solutions.

Teenagers absentmindedly glanced up from their phones to witness the real-life, non-Facebook commotion happening right in front of them.

Other young parents nodded sympathetically, in an I’m with you sort of way.

All other shoppers quickly got the hell out of our way.


By the time we got to the queue of registers, with Cancan in arms, shrieking, refusing the cart all together, my uterus was fighting Braxton Hicks contractions and my eyes frustrated pregnancy tears.  Finally, we got in line, behind another mama who took one look at us, and in broken English said to me, “Go ahead of us, please.”  

I could only nod my head in thanks.  It was the least I could do to not burst into tears right there, sobbing in line at the red and white, feeling completely incompetent as a mother in every sense of the word.  God bless you, God bless you, God bless you, my mind whispered, hoping she subliminally caught my words of thankfulness.

By the time the HBH (Hot Black Husband) got home, I was done (and Cancan, meanwhile was suddenly in an angelically perfect mood).  And that’s when it hit me: this is life.  This is the intersection we each deal with on a daily basis, because it’s where messy and beautiful meet.  It’s where we feel completely on top of the world one minute, and positively powerless the next.

And it’s okay.

Because it’s normal and real and hard and good, all at the same time.  It humbles us and it  provides solidarity with those around us, because we realize we’re not alone.  But each one of us – each messy, imperfect human being is in this beautiful world and thing called LIFE together.

Glancing heavenward, I utter another subliminal thank you, thank you, thank you and beg for another day to rally and try all over again.

Because this is what we do.

In this with you, c.

What about you?  Where and how have the intersection of competency and powerlessness met in your life?  Share a story ..and/or feel free to offer your babysitting services to parents of young children around the world STAT.

Also, the Wounded Warrior Project is a fantastic organization; to make a donation and help those who have been wounded in action, click here.