why amy poehler & I are kindreds.

IMG_4247

I was giddy with excitement when I discovered Santa heard my wished-for prayers and brought me Amy Poehler’s new book for Christmas.

“Santa, you shouldn’t have!” I said to the handsome black man not-so dressed in a red suit and white beard standing to my right, snapping pictures.

“How did you ever know?”

Old Saint Nick proceeded to roll his twinkly chocolate browns and instead instructed me to help our two-year-old open his next gift.  Fleeting as the moment was, I knew the bookworm within would be declaring Kindred Spirit at some point with the woman best known as Leslie Knope.

And indeed, it happened.  Between the crass and the funny, the wit and the intelligence, a smirk remained permanently on my face (for the first half of the book, at least – I wasn’t as big a fan in later chapters).  I figured I’d find this camaraderie through a snarky aside comment, the kind I too marvel at when my brain is fully engaged and on.  Or maybe it’d happen after declaring a hearty Yes Yes Yes to all the successful late 80’s and early 90’s pop culture references.  Finally, a woman after my own Doogie Howser heart.

But, no.  She and I struck a chord when, near the end of the book, she wrote this about her children:

“When your children arrive, the best you can hope for is that they break open everything about you.  Your mind floods with oxygen.  Your heart becomes a room with wide-open windows.  You laugh hard every day.  You think about the future and read about global warming.  You realize how nice it feels to care about someone else more than yourself.  And gradually, thought this heart-heavy openness and these fresh eyes, you start to see the world a little more.  Maybe you start to care a teeny tiny bit more about what happens to everyone in it” (303).

Because, yes.  There’s something magical that happens when you become a part of Club Mama (and I’d venture to guess that it happens in the Daddy Brigade as well).

You hear a newborn wailing in the cereal aisle of Target, and while you first breath a sigh of relief that the cries are not of your own, you catch that mama’s eyes and your hazels whisper a silent I’ve been there.

You see the dad attempting to wrestle his two year old into the stroller, child’s arms flailing and legs kicking.  You hear the unmistakable hyena-like screams emanating from his unbelievably strong lungs.  Just for a second you make eye contact, and you hope he hears what your wrinkled brows are saying: I get it. You’re doing a good job, Dada.

Because these little buggers are our hearts made flesh.  They bring out the gooiest, mushiest parts of us, the parts that can’t help but kiss their milk-stained skin just one time more while we’re standing in line at the post office.  They frustrate us and they anger us, and we marvel at our own need to take a “space,” while silently repeating the mantra, I will not be defeated by a toddler, I will not be defeated by a toddler…  

Or maybe it’s just me.

But a deep to protect and the fiercest of loves rises from within. We will do anything to defend and shield and provide for our cubs.  Simultaneously, one glance at their pudgy face and we slowly melt, insides first, then outsides – eyes widen, head tilts, lips part.  And this all in a matter of 2.5 seconds.

As if on cue, unprompted mouths utter, “I love you sooooooo much,” and we smother their sticky cheeks with kisses.  We squeeze their baby-bodies as if all Life depended on it.

So that’s why Amy Poehler and I are kindreds.  This mushy, muddled, magnificent thing called parenthood has knit us together in the most glorious of ways.  So to her – and to many of you, I suppose – I raise my right hand, slapping the air in her general direction, air-five our salute.

2013 Vanity Fair Oscar Party Hosted By Graydon Carter - Arrivals

And Yes Please, Yes Please, Yes Pleasegive me more of this messy thing called Love.

What about you?  How has entering Club Mama or the Daddy Brigade changed you?  If you’re not a parent, what “club” do you pridefully take membership in?   And Poehler’s book: have you read it?

*Post includes Amazon Affiliate links.

a very brilliant christmas letter, from me to you.

FullSizeRender

Dearest friends and family,

Well, it’s been another normal year of amazingness here in the Meredith mansion.  We’ve enjoyed near-perfect 80 degree weather every single day of the year.  This, of course, is an anomaly for fog-filled Pacifica, but the sun seems to favor our household, shining its light directly upon our residence, and our residence alone.  Sometimes we feel bad for the other 38,602 residents of the town, but if the star of the solar system chooses you, you willingly oblige. And can you blame it?

“Cancan” is nearly two and a half years old and scintillating in every way.  He’s been accepted early-admission to Harvard, and is debating as to whether or not he’ll major in Political Science and become the first youngest, mixed-race, hottest President of the United States ever (at four years of age), or if he’ll just do a once-over and successfully major in one of every subject.  Either way, we predict he’ll take over the world, so do vote for Cancan in 2016!  He also has dreams of “football! football!” both from Santa Claus and of the NFL; we hope this can happen after his presidency, as it’d be nice for him to rest his mind a bit after the eight years in office.

“Frodo” (as our dazzling older offspring calls him) is almost four months old and quite the lady killer.  We’ve started charging admission to meet our kin, for his presence alone slays the masses.  Patrons of the little saint wind the block for the chance to breathe his milky air, with upwards of 1.2 million already raised.  We hope to reach an additional 2 mil by the end of the week, so if you haven’t had the chance to squeeze his Buddha belly, buy your ticket now!  When he’s not meeting various kings and queens, princes and princesses and Greek and Roman gods of this world, Frodo enjoys narrowing down his choices for a dowry-bride, practicing his American Idol vocal techniques and partying like a rockstar at three in the morning.

The HBH (Hot Black Husband) continues to practice his nightly dance skills, leading the world in YouTube’s #1 dance-at-home video series, “Don’tcha Wish Your Dancing was Hot Like Me?”  We’ve all enjoyed its reigning 38-week success, and James is currently in negotiations with Sony, Sundance, Universal and Pixar for the best offer.  We’d hoped he’d be able to star in the videos, but it looks like Denzel is going to play him again.  In his spare time, he enjoys documenting our family’s every move (much to the chagrin of the photography team at National Geographic, whom he continues to turn down), and the blessed nine hours of sleep he gets every night.  [Did I mention Frodo started sleeping through the night at two days of age?  When you’re as amazing as us, it happens.]

Finally, Cara, the humble and awe-inspiring writer of this Christmas letter, continues to dazzle the world with her words.  When she opens her mouth, it’s like effervescent butterflies fly out, anointing the ears of all who listen; when her fingers touch the keys [be it computer or piano], a magical mixture of Dickens and Beethoven pour forth.  She just can’t stop the brilliance!  Since we also have a maid, a butler, a wet-nurse, a full-time nanny and a masseuse on hand at all times, Cara enjoys eating bonbons and watching soaps all the live long day.

Well friends, we do hope your normal lives, although minor in comparison to our utter radiance, shine in their own small way this holiday season.

Merry Christmas!

The Meredith Clan

for the love of leather leggings.

A month or two ago, an advertisement that looked something like this kept filtering through my Facebook page every couple of days:

stretch-high-waist-faux-leather-look-tight-leggings-bee6

And after seeing the lithe, size-0 models stretch their leather-clad hammies day after day, I had to make known to the world that not all who boast an XX chromosome choose to rock the high waist faux leather leggings.

So I shared the picture, with the following caption:

“Just in case you’re wondering, I WILL NEVER SPORT these “look at me, I’m Sandra Dee,” high waist faux leather leggings. That would rank high on the list of Cara’s worst fashion decisions ever, right next to the sailor dress I scotch-taped six inches higher in the 7th grade to pull off a look reminiscent of DJ Tanner. But you? Be my guest.”

But for the omniscient trolls of Facebook, that decision was an obvious mistake – because I am now seeing my leather-bound friends every tiresome time I log in, as evidenced by this status update:

“Just in case you’re wondering about High Waist Faux Leather Leggings, the second you share the picture saying YOU’LL NEVER, EVER WEAR THOSE IN YOUR WHOLE SANDRA DEE LIFE, you’ll continue to see this advertisement for the rest of your Facebook days. True story.”

The originator herself, rocking those leather leggings.
The originator herself, rocking those leather leggings.

I know, first-world problems.

Now, don’t get me wrong: there’s a part of me that secretly wants to rock the leather leggings.  It sits on the shelf next to the Me who’d also like to win America’s Got Talent, and the Me who sing-songs “I wanna be a supermodel!” begging for a second chance, and the Me who wants the Writer Life handed to her on a silver platter, without her having to do a lick about it.  You mean I actually need to practice the craft of writing, and WRITE regularly in order to someday publish a book?  Ugh.  

But then I look down at my lyrca-clad yoga-pants wearing legs, and if I squint my eyes just enough, the similarities are remarkable.  High waist? Check. Thigh-tight? Done. Black? Bam. And – bonus! – I own a sports bra. Hand me my four-inch stilettos and matching crop top now – mama’s gonna rock this joint!

I hope they let me into the club.

Until next time,

Cara “I really, really hope Santa gets me these babies for Christmas” Meredith.

What about you?  Is there a trend that haunts you?  But, more importantly, how much would you pay to see me in a pair of these?  Let’s start a campaign!

Mama’s Losin’ It

i wanna be a supermodel.

It’s the spring of ’92.  I’m in the 7th grade, and I look something like this:

Ain't no thang but a chicken wing.
Ain’t no thang but a chicken wing.

I get a call from Church Lady: would I be interested in being a model for the upcoming Mother-Daughter Tea?  Me, a supermodel?  I mean, I couldn’t, I shouldn’t, I shan’t – okay, fine, I’ll do it.  Mom takes me to get a stylin’ new outfit from J.C. Penney, and I get a free perm from one of the sponsors.  I’ve got a spring in my step, and more than a spiral bounce in my hair; I borrow Madonna’s I’m Breathless from my friend, Kristin, and I turn the volume on my boom box up when “Vogue” finally hits the speakers.  I create a path in my bedroom and I walk from one corner of the room to the other, head down and slightly tilted to the right, lips pouted the best way my pubescent face knows how.  I’m gonna rock this joint, I think to myself.

And then the big day comes, and I show up early to the church basement; the Mary Kay lady does my make-up, and she even tells me my colors, although it’s not going to make that much of a difference because all I wear is pale Wet N Wild frosted pink, just like my friend Sarah.  We don’t even have to do that much to my locks, because The Permanent took quite well – and then, hair done, make-up ready, outfit in place, it’s time to strut what Madonna’s been helping me practice.  I check my lip gloss, and then I walk through the curtains, to the front of the room and back again, just like I practiced in my bedroom.  Even though Amy Grant’s Heart in Motion blasts through the sound system speakers, I strike a pose, there’s nothing to it.

Vogue, vogue, vogue!

I worked it.  I strutted the church basement runway, and God said that it was good.  But friends lest you be dismayed that modeling was just a 7th-grade one hit wonder, it happened again today.  I became a supermodel, just for a couple of hours.  

Because, as you may recall, this happened a couple months’ ago:

I bought a bike.
I bought a bike.

Soon thereafter, I then started receiving emails from Public Bikes, and saw the following headline: Bike Models Needed.  I listed all the reasons in my head why I shouldn’t send back a head shot, including but not limited to the following: I still, (I always) need to lose 15 pounds, along with the baby gut I’ve affectionately named Little Buddha.  I’m not certainly not cool and hipster enough for a San Francisco-based company, and what if I get all sweaty and they use me to feature a pit-stained, out-of-breath, “this won’t be you if you ride our bikes picture” of me?

Then I realized that if they’re looking for models through their own email marketing campaign, then maybe regular ol’ me is what they’re looking for – so I submitted a picture of Baby and me, and braced myself for rejection.

But then an acceptance email arrived, eliciting a response something like this: bwahahahahahahaha, which in Cara-speak is laughter of the deepest, gut-level sort.

In other words, What the hell was I thinking?!

Regardless, I hired a sitter for the two hours I’d be Being a Supermodel, and I picked out my non-stripey, non-graphic tee, non-black and white outfit, as instructed.  And although I didn’t bust out “Vogue” on Pandora, I did practice a couple of these faces in the mirror:

Zoolander.  (Photo cred: BBQ Films).
Zoolander. (Photo cred: BBQ Films).

Public Bikes wanted to film a commercial and photo shoot highlighting their new line of e-bikes, so today a crew of employees and photographers and filmmakers descended upon Haight and Buena Vista, and invited us to be a part of it.  So there we were, piles of bicycles and camera equipment and personal bags crowding a corner of the park’s sidewalk.  A nearby homeless-friendly drum circle with a hovering cloud of, uh, Mary Jane provided us with the necessary background music, along with the occasional Homeless Man cat call of, “Come on, girl, work it!”  

Had they been drumming “Vogue” and I not realized it?

Regardless, round one of filming began, and they paired me with a bearded gentlemen my age dressed in suit coat and bow tie, “…normal everyday 4th grade teacher attire,” he’d said.  Fancy!” I replied, while really Yeah right, Overachiever, ran through my head.  We were instructed to pedal our electric bikes up the hill, laughing and making conversation and generally having a good time as we magically navigated normal San Francisco terrain.  The camera guy sat in the trunk of the SUV in front of us, filming as I asked my partner question after question, take after take.  It was generally seamless, and we each received a high-five of as a reward for following instructions and catching a couple great shots.

Model Mission Accomplished. 

And then it was time for round two: “You know what would be a GREAT idea,” the producer said, “would be to have a couple people ride regular bikes up the hill, and then have the electric bikes pass them up and cut them off!”

I nod my head: that is a brilliant idea!  After all, I’ve mastered the electric bike, and it will only look natural for me to continue in this realm.

But no.

I’m picked to ride a regular, non-electric bike up a SAN FRANCISCO-SIZED HILL, in 80 degree heat with mustard jeans and green clogs on.  I mean, now it’s just plain mean – because my hopes and dreams of looking something like this…

Supermodel on a bike, naturally.
Supermodel on a bike, naturally.

Now look something like this…

Wah-wahhhhh.
Wah-wahhhhh.

I start pedaling up the hill.  The transients are now yelling, “Come on, girl – step on it! Come on, come on!” because I can’t seem to get it out of eighth gear to even begin to get the pedals moving forward.  The wanderer dogs have joined in the chorus as well, howling and barking and growling, and meanwhile, I’m wondering if the wafts of smoke are really a good thing for my upward ascension.  I finally make it up to the top, but there is no high-five from the camera guy this time.

“Yeah, you went to the left side of the street, but our car wasn’t able to go around you.  You needed to go to the left of the right of the street.”

I didn’t follow directions.  

So we did the take again.

And again.

By this point, I’ve gotten my work out in for the week, and I’ve also realized that my dreams of being America’s Next Top Model have been thrown out the window.  Because are they going to use the picture of the merry, laughing couple joyfully climbing the hills on their easy, breezy electric bikes?

No.  My red-faced and sweaty, what the H-E-double-hockey-sticks is going on? face will instead certainly be gracing the billboards of our grand city.

And I can’t wait.  I’ll keep you posted.

Now signing autographs,

Cara I wanna be a supermodel Meredith.

So, your thoughts?  Otherwise, how have you been living life LARGE this week?  Do share!

5 that just might change your life.

We interrupt the normal flow of heart-rendering, faith-pumping, absolutely, positively hilarious creative Cara-writing to bring you be, mama. be’s 5 that just might change your life.  Without further adieu, might I present…

1. This book: The Perks of Being a Wallflower.  

I love the expression captured on this week’s vlog; it’s rather Whatchu talkin’ ’bout Willis? meets Oh really now meets Wahhh-wahhhhh.  

2. Coconut chocolate chip oatmeal cookies.  You’re welcome.  Original recipe here.

Minus: rice syrup, barley malt and orange extract.

Plus: applesauce (in lieu of above syrup & malt), and solely for health purposes, chocolate chips.

3.  These pants that I just bought on a whim from a private CAbi event – actually, let me clarify: I showed up to the CAbi-fllled house 12 hours after the party actually happened, so I didn’t exactly get an invitation.   Instead, I intended to enter into a day with my Lectio Divina girls, but instead found retail therapy a necessary distraction from the week’s break-in festivities.  Friends, they fit like buttah, just sayin’.  And I suppose they kind of look like it, too.

CAbi Gold Ruby Jean
CAbi Gold Ruby Jean

4.  Grout scrubber.  I know, first a CAbi party, and now grout scrubber.  I really am old.  But when you’ve wondered how many renters the grime in between the cracks of the bathroom floor have represented, and after you’ve chosen to hire a babysitter instead of a housekeeper, these things happen.  And the best part about said grout scrub?  It was passed down to me by a little old lady from church, only after she’d come to our house for lunch.  No further comment, your honor.

5.  This video, in its brilliant and brave embrace of sadness in the age of our can’t-live-without smartphones:

I couldn’t agree more.  Louis C.K., I know I’m just now now meeting you, but I’m a fan.

That’s it! So, don’t be a lurker: what’s changing your life?  Which of these five might you grab and hold onto for dear life?  

the beast & the beautiful ordinary.

Photo cred: SheKnows.
Photo cred: SheKnows.

My hair is a beast.

There’s no two ways around it: I used to have dreamy and lust-filled auburn hair, if I do say so myself.  When I actually took the time to do my hair, (which Math Majors, is generally never), my head was the envy of hair stylists everywhere.

And then pregnancy and birth happened, and all of the sudden my hair became its own zip code, home to a vibrant and unruly monster.  There’s new growth – everywhere – and the little curls around my hairline that were just darling in the 7th grade are now just freakishly frightening as a 34-year-old.  Hair products that worked two years ago yield utter greasiness now, or they just stop working altogether, and my half-curly, half-straight mane can’t make up its mind.  I’m ever, always on the search for my coiffure’s perfect catch, scouring Yelp and asking friends and begging strangers for their hairdresser’s information.

And then finally, when I think I’ve found The One, I faithfully save pictures of cute, savvy bobs on Pinterest and my desktop and iphone alike, begging for a shorter ‘do.  It worked when I was 22 – why can’t it work now?  And with great ease and gentleness the reply is always the same: um, I don’t think that will exactly work for your hair.  The words “mushroom” and “volume” and “oh, no, Honey Bunny, no,” are usually uttered, and I’m left defeated, mane home to its usual shoulder-length bore.

But I’m accepting this first-world problem in all its drab glory, for Jill the Brit made up for it on Saturday afternoon.

Nothing was out of the ordinary: she told me that my dream of sporting a bob was not an option today, or ever, and as she washed and conditioned my hair, I closed my eyes, realizing the peace and quiet and perfection of a toddler-less hour.  She talked when I wanted to talk, and her pits didn’t reek of onions and leeks, and she worked around my very important need to read the latest issues of People and Star magazines.  Does Beyonce ever wear pants?  When will Prince Harry marry Cressida?

I mean, pressure must be on with Will and Kate.

She let me sip my English Breakfast tea in its entirety, and she only left my side to chat with a customer once.  [I’ve visited some overdetermined, multi-tasking stylists, who cut my curls with one hand while applying color to the next chair over, and then find it their duty to trample the receptionist in an eager effort to answer to answer every phone call and enthusiastically greet each new patron who walks through the door.  Bueller …Bueller?]

But Jill the Brit got it.

And finally, with mere minutes to go, after I’d woken up from the scalp massage, and read through my magazines and sipped my hot, hairless tea, we began chatting.  And she told me how she wanted to be a stylist from the time she was a pre-teen, practicing on her girlfriends back home – and how she feels so, so lucky that this is her job.  This is what she gets to do.

And I began to picture our little waddling, toddling man and his Dada back home: he was probably crawling up on the coffee table that very minute, remnants from the garbage can caking his fingers (because digging through the trash is his new favorite hobby).  College football is playing in the background, and he’s babbling to the screen and to his father, throwing balls and zooming cars and eating crusty bits of Cheerios and banana off the floor.

“Yeah, me too,” I said softly.  And I actually believed it.

I do feel so, so lucky that this is my job, that this is what I get to do.  I get to be with our boy, and then I get to dabble in a bit of writing and speaking and blogging on the side.  Proclaiming Truth and Beauty and Hope has become part and parcel of my daily job.  And while I struggle, hourly it seems, with the Comparison Game, and with wanting to be so very extraordinary instead of mere Ordinary, I realize that what I so often see as “drudgery is another person’s delight.”  I am reminded of Seth Godin’s short article about this very topic last week, exhorting that “The privilege to do our work, to be in control of the promises we make and the things we build, is something worth cherishing.”

Yes.  Yes.  

I needed Godin’s reminder, and I needed Jill the Brit’s reminder.  I needed the reminder  that the Ordinary is beautiful, and that this life I get to enter into really is wonder-filled and extraordinary in and of itself.

And that, if you ask me, is far from ordinary.

What about you?  Does Ordinary sometimes trip you up?  How is your ordinary actually, really and truly, extraordinary?