How My Toddler Taught Me To Shoplift

photo 1-2The cutest klepto you’ve ever met.

I’ve stolen more stuff as a Mother than in my short stint of teenage debauchery. Yesterday, Zoe brought home a pamphlet from the grocery store. Upon closer inspection, it was not a pamphlet at all.

“Where did she get this?” I shot at my husband. I pointed to the steaming pumpkin pie cover.

“From the store.” He said. “I figured it was one of those free things they give you.”

In a little box on the cover it said $4.99.

“Umm, babe. This” I pointed at the book, “Is definitely not free.”

“Oh” My husband said, and returned to munching his Honey Nut Cheerios. “Oops.” The cover of the thin recipe book said “Fall Favorites: Baking Pies. ”  Zoe sat on the couch flipping through it like Martha Stewart preparing to go on-air.  Which was appropriate, considering Martha was a jail-bird.

“We are the worst.”  I told my husband.

“This is my favorite!” Zoe pointed to a pumpkin tart with chunky cream-cheese in the middle. It looked like a froofy fall Pinterest project. It also looked delicious.Here is a list of objects, things, paraphernalia, ridiculousness we’ve stolen just in the past year.My toddler shoplifted:

1. A Lonely White Onion:

When you have five diaper bags in hand and a infant car seat rocking precariously in the cart, things slips by. In this case, it was a white onion in green cellophane under the Chicco. We were catapaulting over the concrete, before I realized my mistake.  I cheerfully handed the bulb back to the cart-person. He straddled fifty carts and looked confused. There was not a “cart” protocol for this onion.There was a moment where he looked down at the root in hand. Then we stared at one another for a second too long. I realized nothing I said would make sense.

“I stole it.” I told him. “Now I’m giving it back.”

2. Three Packs of Magnet-Backings: Staples, circa 2013. Zoe put several in our bags on the way out. We didn’t find them until I unearthed them on the kitchen floor. “What the heck?” I yelled at Chris. “Did you buy these MAGNETS?” They weren’t even pretty magnets. They were the BACKS of magnets, with sticky-stuff for attaching a save-the-date picture or whatever. Now we have 88 black 2X2 inch square  magnets sitting somewhere in a storage room. We could put them in a tile arrangement on our stainless steel fridge—except it isn’t magnetic. Why can’t my daughter steal useful things?

3.Strawberries at Trader Joes

Scene: Two screaming children, one maxed out credit card, one woman pleading with her husband via phone. Two anxious Trader Joe employees in the background. A three-way phone call between the bank, the husband, and the woman.  The bank rep. repeats: IT IS GOING TO BE OKAY. Unconvincingly.

The woman yells into her phone: But I have toddlers and you don’t understand! You. Don’t. Understand. *Sob* The husband instructs her to hang up and back away from the scene of crime. A grocery cart full of groceries is quietly taken to the back. The remains of a few munched-on strawberries fall between the metal wires in the Baking Aisle. End of scene: the woman lurches toward the door with two wailing toddlers in tow like a quarterback going for the end zone. Tally: 5 samples of red pasta, 2 toddler sips of sample juice, a sip of Pinot Noir,  6 headless strawberries, paid $0. Overall, a budgetary success.

And cut.

4. Actually Free Stuff

My daughter steals evangelism materials from the  church where she attends Pre-K. You know,  “How to Accept Jesus materials?” This is sort-of fine with me. Perusing tracts in her carseat might eventually bring her to Jesus. Who am I to know? She isn’t a Christian yet, so she is the prime audience. Unfortunately, she’s not perfect. She often gets rid of them by tossing them onto my Ford Focus floor. At least she’s getting an early start on her theological training. I’m sure the pastor of Cary Alliance thinks 155 people have come to Christ since that’s about how many pamphlets she’s read. (It would help if these tracts didn’t have NEMO on the cover! I mean people, c’mon? What’s a toddler supposed to do?! It’s like candy!)

End Note: For all of you who might reprimand me re: stealing stuff. If I could find the magnets, I would attempt to return them. I think. I’m not sure. I’m really not the best at this. I wish I was. If Jesus asks, I’ll blame my toddler.

 

Am I the only one who has klepto toddler? Have you ‘accidentally’ stolen anything from the store before?

An Umbrella Taught Me About Motherhood

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As a rule, I do not use umbrellas. Umbrellas are  for gorgeous people straddling the white lines in the parking lot. I do not use umbrellas also because I can never find an umbrella. Never. Never have I ever looked down in the car and seen one on the floormat. This just does not happen to me. Until today.

Umbrellas are like socks. I cannot find a pair of matching toddler socks anywhere in the house. Matching socks are an endangered species. Like Noah’s animals walking two-by-two onto the ship. The little one’s are picked off like meercats prancing around the Sahara. We have a lot of interethnic marriage going on between spots and stripes. Which is great. I’m all for it.

But I digress. It was raining today. It was raining and the car battery went out ten minutes before Pre-K.

Sometimes you wake up and you know life is just not going to go your way. You know exactly what I mean, parents.

This morning I turned over and groaned. I realized I drank two beers last night and berated myself. Upstairs, Zoe was feeding Kaiden the remains of the pumpkin muffins we made last night. I forgot it was trash day and didn’t push the black can out to the end of the driveway before 5 am. The fruit flies nesting in our kitchen sinkflew up like a cloud of dust.

The car stuttered and wouldn’t start.

Chris had to drive back from work. He popped the lid. He began charging the battery in the rain. I sat in the car, where it was dry. I might be his sidekick, but I know when to let a man handle something. Am I right? I know I am.

I sat in the dry car and sipped my lukewarm coffee slowly. This is literally the best moment in my entire day, so it is guarded jealously. Zoe played on the Kindle fire in the back, and Kaiden screamed. Typical day. Except for the rain, which was beginning to come down in torrents. My dear, sweet, husband looked pretty hot out there in the rain changing the battery. He looked like a wet wrestler.

But back to the umbrella. As Kaiden and I peeled out from Zoe’s pre-school, I looked down and saw THE UMBRELLA. The umbrella that never appears. It was magically lying on the car floor. Like a sign. It dawned on me. I was supposed to use the umbrella. That’s what I was supposed to do. Everything would be easier if I just got with the program: organization, umbrellas, matching socks.

 Sweet, docile wife.

 This was the answer I had been waiting for. This was the missing key. You can do this, Briana! I pumped myself up.

We arrived at the YMCA. I painstakingly opened the umbrella outside the door. The rain poured in through the cracks around the umbrella. My thigh got wet. But I was still good. I opened the umbrella as wide as possible and waited for that nice “click.”

It didn’t happen. I pushed the umbrella harder. I thwacked it open. I pushed it gently open. The dumb umbrella refused to open. It laid limp like a wet cat. Now I was wet. Drenched. Angry. Mad. I pushed the umbrella and forced it to stay open with one hand. I grabbed my bag. I maneuvered Kaiden out.

I kid you not. The umbrella snapped us inside of it’s jaws. Out in the rain.

My bag was falling. Kaiden was half in my arms, half dangling towards the pavement. We were covered with wet, angry umbrella. It was like it was trying to eat us.

But all was not lost, because I realized something, standing there in the dripping rain. The people who use umbrellas and have matching socks and describe parenthood as combination of Disneyland slash Instagram slash cuddly- teddy bears popping out of a cake Do Not Exist. They just don’t and they never have. They’ve only ever existed in my mind. My nemesis—the overwhelmed Briana—keeps telling me that there are people who open umbrellas and don’t get snapped. Ever.

I have created this person who opens umbrellas perfectly. She is in my mind. She is beautiful and doesn’t have fruit flies in her sink.

My friends are opening umbrellas and getting snapped inside of them. They are losing socks. They are scrubbing poop off the walls.

They are carrying on. We are parents, and it is a rough, pre-historic, umbrella-snapping world.

The rainy day always arrives before the sun spikes through the clouds in splendor. A broken umbrella can be fixed. A wet parent with a toddler walks into the YMCA and receives the cuddliest cuddle from her baby koala. The wet rain feels good on a hot neck. The sound of rain thundering is beautiful as I watch with other mamas from the cozy window in the YMCA.

Keep opening those broken umbrellas.

You’re doing a fantastic job.

 

A Guide To Relationships in Your Twenties

Hi everyone, I’m thrilled to be over at Bedlam today with a post. “A Guide To Relationships In Your Twenties.” By no means am I an expert, but I’m happy to have a chance to share  a bit of insight. Have a great weekend, everyone.

Thanks for stopping by!

Ya know, just me and my twenty-something homies.

Ya know, just me and my twenty-something homies.

A Guide To Relationships In Your Twenties

You’ve graduated college. You’ve thrown a tasseled hat into a crowd and arrived at the bottom of the corporate totem pole. Then you’re left standing there at the intersection of life. What’s next?

Your twenties are a confusing mix of options and decisions. To make it more difficult, you’re making choices without an instruction manual or blueprint. Annie Dillard once said, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” Let’s spend them well.

Here are a few lessons we should strive to learn in our twenties:

It’s Not About You
In his book,  A Million Miles in A Thousand Years, Donald Miller realized that it is better to believe you are a part of a big forest than to see your life as an individual tree. Believing it’s about you leads to loneliness and thwarted relationships. “I was a tree in a story about a forest, “ he writes, “ …the story of the forest is better than the story of the tree.” By expanding our vision to include those around us, we learn that life is more meaningful when we are a part of a bigger story.

Read the rest at Bedlam Magazine.

Second Simplicity: Infant Baptism and Holy Longing

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Guest Post at Amy Peterson’s Blog

Amy is a fantastic writer and we have this in common: a love for Thailand. She is in the process of writing her memoir about faith and her time as a missionary there. She also writes about pop culture, church, and books; about food, intercultural communication, mothering, and education; and about what it might mean that God is making all things new. When I first found Amy’s blog, I about flipped out. She is smart, funny, and serious about her faith. I can’t believe it took me so long to get to her corner of the web. I’m thankful to be guest posting at her site now.

I once heard Li-Young Lee on NPR as he talked about his childhood. A famous poet with an eye for the beautiful and particular, he weaves his father’s faith in and out of his work with regularity that insinuates that that well runs deep. He repeatedly returns to his father, who was a minister, even as Lee professes that he doesn’t consider Christianity his religion. In “The Gift,” he writes:

I can’t remember the tale,
but hear his voice still, a well
of dark water, a prayer.

I couldn’t put my finger on it before I read this excerpt. What is it about my pre-adult faith that I miss so deeply? Why does it feel that I’ve left something behind in my childhood—that it now seems a distant well of dark water, a long prayer?

 I’m not at all sure what Lee means by this excerpt of his poem. Faith might be a peripheral force in the poem. I know he is addressing mystery. Childhood. The way we see things as a child and then re-see and re-hear them as an adult. I’m hijacking his poem, but it is and always will be about faith for me.

Read the rest of the post here.

Why I Won’t Instagram This Moment

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Yesterday I was sitting in bed with Chris thinking about how I am a failure at Instagram. I told him: Babe. I don’t Instagram enough. I don’t Tweet enough. I don’t celebrate Facebook occasions like people having birthdays and 3-year anniversaries enough. I’m behind. I’m losing. People don’t like me.


Chris told me that I was being ridiculous. But I wasn’t so sure.

My life is not instagramm-able. If you saw my house, you’d understand why. The one time I cleaned the entire house from top-to-bottom, I took a bazillion pictures of it and ran around like our cat spazzes out when she is freaking out because a stranger is over. She loops up and down the stairs and jumps a foot into the air while diving around. I did that. With a camera.

Chris was like, “Umm. Babe. What are you doing? Who are you doing this for?”

I said, “Uhhhh. Don’t you get it!? This is important. This is so folks know we are real people. People who decorate a house and clean it. Obviously.”

Sometimes Chris is just behind the times.

That was me, trying to take pictures of our clean house. Because. Because I figured there would be a moment where I’d want to blog about our house, and the “real” pictures of our bedroom—which should really be called our “laundry room” (I can’t even tell which piles are dirty and which smell like “Gain” anymore) would not DO.

So there’s that. Then there’s the panic that occurs when I think about Instagram. Sometimes I notice that my friends have Instagrammed and I think “I should do that too!” Especially when I see the adorable pictures my friend Chelsea has of her two model children, or my friend Ashley, who has an eye for the interesting in the ordinary. And then there are the professionals: Asharae and Taylor and Whitney. It scares the crap out of me to go up against these people. They are like the geniuses of beautiful moments. It’s like Michael Phelps and I taking laps in front of people.

In the end I know it’s not about that. I know that they take pictures because they are artists. They are doing the creative work, just like a writer wraps words into gifts.

But Instagram is also a reminder for me that I better catch the moment, now! The mini-hyperventilation starts. I think about how I am not doing a fraction of all the things I should be doing to connect. To have friends. To be a real person in this technologically-savvy world.

This week, Chris said this:

What was one special moment you had with Kaiden today?

I told him about how Kaiden and I had had a little time to ourselves while Zoe was asleep. How he giggled and ran away from me and I just. Savored. His. Wobbly. Yummy. Legs.

Then he asked me about Zoe. I told him about how she is a Complete Crank Pot after her nap. About how she wakes up like Lazarus from the tomb—completely disoriented and wandering into walls. I told him it was hard to be patient with her, but then for a few minutes I wrapped her in a hug and swayed with her on the rocking chair. My hair was a pile of weeds and she had that wild-animal look like the possum we caught in our backyard the other day. But we rocked in that chair, and it was seven kinds of beautiful. I snuggled into her and into motherhood.

I had a realization: This moment was key in my Instagram-failure life.

That moment with Zoe wasn’t Instagrammable. It wasn’t even close. It would have looked like a wild mother with her possibly-rabies-infected cub; sort of cute, but nobody would really understand what the picture said. They wouldn’t understand how Zoe is a psycho-person after her nap, or that she rarely climbs up onto my lap and presses her sweaty face into my arms. There was this whole story behind it. If I did Instagram it, I would lose that whole story. It was, to hijack a Momastery word: Brutiful.

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But brutiful just doesn’t instagram well. Beautiful does. But brutiful (Brutal + Beautiful) doesn’t.

I want to connect with people. I want to say “This is my daughter Zoe and she is cuddling, and she never cuddles. She is super cranky. Do you see the tears in her eyes? That’s because she wakes up like a zombie and starts screaming and crying—like I’ve woken her from 500 years of sleep and she doesn’t recognize the modern world.”

But I can’t tell you all of that with an Instagram.

I don’t know if I’m just not good enough at this Instagram thing, but whenever I to TRY to instagram these moments I am wildly caught up in whether people comment and like my Instagram. I consider the instagram before me, with it’s mouth-watering pea soup that is right out of a Real Simple magazine and I feel like I’m. not. enough. I feel all the not-enough things.

That brutiful rocking chair moment belonged to me and my Zoe and my Kaiden. By sending it off into the interweb, I lose bits and pieces of our story. The big picture. The big picture that is larger-than-any-Instagram. The awareness that I’m in the right place at the right time doing messy-hard things.

When I take that snap, it’s like it takes a teeny tiny bit off of of the brutifulness of it. I’m throwing coins in a wishing well and waiting to receive a few pretty “hearts” back in exchange. I’m not strong enough to hold the moment close with all of it’s messy, runny, drooly, gorey realness AND try to take a gorgeous picture.

This is why I’m not going to instagram this moment. Instead, I’m going to hold on to it like a sweet but crazy cat that is scratching me in the face. I’m going to look at it and revel in the privacy of something that isn’t explanable or Instagrammable.

And that’s okay. I believe this is important work: savoring imperfect moments.

So, that’s why I’m not able to Instagram today.

I’m living the wonderful craziness of the brutiful life.

Seven Kinds of People You Meet In Church

I’m over at ChurchPop.com today with a fun article.

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If you’re a regular church attender, you know that there are a few people you see at church often.

These are the “regulars.” We all know what it means to be the chronically late person to church–it’s happened to each of us once in a while. But have you ever met been in the seat of the young married couple? Have you ever watched the new mom almost fall asleep in her chair?

Here are the seven kinds of people you’re likely to meet in the pews this Sunday.

1) The Chronically Late Person

This person tries to creak open the large doors about 10 minutes after the service has started. Usually during prayer. Just as the pastor says that there is someone in the hospital awaiting surgery, you’ll hear the “creek, creek” of the door. Watching them maneuver the door open is entertaining—which is why yours isn’t the only head crooked toward the back.

Sometimes these negligent church-goers have a baby crooked in one arm. Alternatively, they are families of five with a crew of duckling children looking penitent for their refusal to get ready on time. Every once in a while, it’s a college student that can’t get out of bed until ten minutes before service. What? It’s 9:50 already? Church starts at 10!

2) The Family Who Looks Dazed

These are the people with 2-6 children. The mother sits in the middle while one child attempts to thwack the other over their mother’s lap. You’ll hear the sound “Shhhh” at least five times before children are let out for children’s church. Sometimes these parents are literally covered, like a pretzel covered in chocolate and sprinkles. You can’t even see their bodies. They have one arm linked a child’s arm like a sausage chain, another crawling on their back, and a third pulling on their legs. It’s hard to tell where one person begins and ends.

This family is also likely to fall under #1. They are also likely to be the Pastor’s Family…

Read the rest at ChurchPop.com

What I’m Into: Nashville, Grass, and Mocha Everything

This is the September Edition of What I’m Into. Linking up with Leigh Kramer.

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Black Liquid Eyeliner – Everywhere

I carry black liquid eyeliner with me in my car and in my house, and beside my bed.I find it under the seats to my car.  It is my constant companion. Like my liquid sidekick.

Because I’ve realized that if I am going to show up, I might as well slap some eyeliner on myself. I have no idea why it took me so long to do this.  My console has now become my dressing room, and I take as much time as I puleeeassse while my kids are yelling “MOMMMMMYYY MOVE THE CARRRR” in the back.

It’s the easiest way to feel better about yourself when you have kids. I may be dressed in a ratty ponytail and white T, but I will have some thick liquid eyeliner on. I will look like a HOT woman, from the nose up. It’s working — at least, my eyes are very come-hither.

Also, my kids are strapped into the back seats, so I don’t have to be worried about being the bad mom when my kids trip over one another and bang their heads on the walls while carrying broomsticks–all while I’m patiently applying makeup LIKE MY APPEARANCE IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN THEIR SAFETY.

Safety first, kids.

For more makeup tips: check out Hollywood Housewife’s Post Today on Her Five-Minute Makeup Routine.

Starbucks Salted Caramel Mochas

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Note: If your name is Chris, stop reading here.

Is it the salt-lickin’ goodness combines with the sweet sugar crunch? Is it the deliciously decadent chocolate mocha sweetness? IT IS ALL OF THE ABOVE. I have guzzled more gallons of these than my car has drank gas. AND I DON’T REGRET IT. Once upon a time, I was the girl who felt guilty for buying Starbucks. I have learned in my mid-twenties that GUILT DOES NOT WORK FOR ME. I am one of those classic-ly rebellious types. The more guilty I feel, the more downhill I run. In this case, downhill is my nearby starbucks housed in a grocery store.

So. That said, I will drink as many salted caramel mochas as it takes to remain sane while my kids are streering the Harris Teeter cart into the kiosk like they are in The Fast and the Furious XX.

And I will pray that my husband doesn’t take my AMEX card away.

Nashville & The Goodwife

My friend Jacqueline told me about Nashville and I was like “yeah, yeah, okay, I’ll look it up sometime.”

Well, I finally got around to watching the first few episodes (I know, ya’ll have already seen it, but just humor me). It is awesome. I’m loving how multi-sided the characters are. I feel like I’m rooting for them all–even the ones who drive me crazy. So, there’s that.The-Good-Wife-Wallpaper-the-good-wife-24455135-1280-1024

The Good Wife is back. And if you’ve been reading my blog at all, you know that I am a HUGE FAN. If I ever meet Alicia (The main character) in person, I’m going to scream, faint like a character in a Jane Austen film, and need to be picked up by a nice EMS man to check my blood pressure in an ambulance.

Last Spring, I met one of the writers of the Good Wife–a tall, handsome man with dark hair, and I almost cried in front of him describing my love for one particular scene. Then when I walked away, I realized I AM THAT person. The crazy fan person. But I didn’t care, because the adrenaline was pumping and I was close to someone who had been close to ALICIA–THE ALICIA.

Grass

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Chris and I are trying to re-do the grass on our lawn. You would never know HOW HARD THIS IS if you haven’t tried it yourself. It involves fertilizer, weed killer, a hose, grass seeds, more grass seeds, a weed whacker, pine needles, three trips to Home Depot, a shovel and three Saturdays in a row laid down on the altar of a 4×4 patch of scraggly grass.

After starting our grass project, I read about how grass is going out of style, and I was like, WHY DIDN’T YOU TELL ME THIS BEFORE I BOUGHT A HOUSE WITH A LOT OF GRASS?!!!

The only tips I have for you are this: There are a lot of GRASS videos on Youtube. Watch them. Do EVERYTHING THEY TELL YOU TO DO. Even if it means literally sitting there and watching the grass grow.

Now I know where that saying came from: I’ve been doing it for two weeks. Watching the grass grow is my life.

BUT. GUESS WHAT? WE HAVE BABY SEEDLINGS!!! I  feel like grass is my third child.

Mary Oliver Poetry

Just listen to this (scroll down to the bottom of the page). I promise, it’s awesome.

 

Image source: The Good Wife

No, David: Why Motherhood is Like A Children’s Book

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I’ve been struggling with my kids, and I find myself repeating “I’m so frustrated!” over and over again as I place Kaiden in his crib, or try to wrangle a screaming Zoe into her car-seat.

The word around here is “No.” these days. We all say it. Zoe screams no. I yell Noooooo!

Kaiden just turns around and runs the opposite direction.Which is his way of saying, like the rest of us, NO.

No. No. No.No.

It reminds me of one of my favorite children’s books: No, David. The whole book is a repetition of those two words. You never see the mother in the story. Instead you see David–writing on the wall, running naked down the street, overflowing the bathtub. Out of the corner of the picture comes those same words: No, David. No, David!

No, David, No!

I said, NO David!

Kids find this book absolutely hilarious. It resonates with them. I used to read it to my kids when I taught first grade. They loved it, and would scream the words throughout the book: No, David! They would yell, and convulse into hysterical giggles.

But I think for adults, the book has a different sort of resonance.

I think it says something that we don’t see the mother in the book at all. You never see her face, but you do see her words catapulting across the page. She exists as a sort of non-existence.

I sometimes feel that way too.

As a child, I feel like I rarely ever SAW my mother. She was in the background, creating my life with her bare hands, painstakingly molding a piece of clay into something real. And all I knew was that she kept saying no. All I knew was that she looked tired a lot.

It says something that the mother isn’t in that bookhp-017_1z

She is just a voice calling out from the corner.

She doesn’t feel seen–and sometimes we don’t feel seen. We feel like we are just doing the same repetition–wake up, work, sleep, wake up, work, eat, sleep. All from the margins of our lives. We feel like we are screaming the word No, and having that word screamed back at us.

Sometimes we wonder if we are even in the right pages. Are we even a character in the book at all?

The span of my days feels like one big lesson in the word No and in being invisible.

We feel this way when we aren’t sure that we are part of the story.

Sometimes it creeps into the way we think about God.

I think He is one big N.O. in the sky, made out of clouds by an airliner disappearing into the blue.

Have you ever felt like you just keep hearing someone saying No to you? You are running from here to there and there is that insistent voice saying, No.

I feel guilty as I tuck Zoe into bed and ignore her screaming “I DON’T WANT TO TAKE A NAP. NOOOO! No, Mommy, No!” and I feel as if I am constantly doing something wrong.

Yesterday Chris and I went to Mellow Mushroom for pizza–we had Bayou Blue Pizza with big chunks of spicy sausage and chunks of blue cheese. I know, sounds weird, but it was amazing. Chris sat with Zoe, and Zoe peered over the edge of the booth and laughed at passerby’s.

And I found myself in the middle of this lovely pizza place, with Kaiden jumping up and down in the booth beside me, and Zoe giggling. I found myself thinking about how badly I felt that there was something wrong with me, that I was just one big NO.

My friend Rachel used to say to me about God: “Briana, you have to remember He is looking at your Heart.”  What she meant by this was that God’s answer to us is a resounding Yes.

Rachel reminded me of this in the years that we walked next to one another over long conversations. She said this when one of us called the other and said that they were struggling. She kept saying it : “It’s all about your heart, Briana. God loves and sees your heart.”

And in the space where it seems like I am not getting anything right, it seems like a good place to return to. A place of solid ground. Like a clearing in the forest, where I can focus on only those words that bring life.

Perhaps it’s time I teach myself to hear the word Yes, as our kids hear the word yes when we pull them in tight.

Yes, you are loved.

Yes, you are forgiven.

Yes, you are good.

Yes, you are mine.

 

photo credit: Book Worm

Freakin’ Awesome Links For Your Week

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This week and last week have been awesome weeks for internet content. From volunteer photographers assisting bereaved families, to the personality of your spouse effecting your career advancement, these are Tuesday’s great links:

Post-pregnant women’s bodies are booty-ful and it’s time we commemorate it with some tear-inducing pics of mother-body-baby love.

Your spouse’s “conscientousness” is a predictor of your career success. Feels like we should already know this…

This video will make you cry and consider becoming a photographer.

A super-smart and sassy newsletter that compiles the latest news for easy-access while you’re burping that baby, riding the El, or waiting for a meeting? The Skimm was started by two 26-year old women. Maybe that’s why I’m sold.

What’s more interesting than an article on Jill Duggar in conjunction with the Facebook overshare we are complicit in? Self-incriminating.

If I can make my life less chaotic with beautiful planners, then so be it. Let the Zen begin.

Short girls make the ideal 1940′s flight attendants. I knew I was born in the wrong era (minus the overt sexism and low, low wage). Oh, and the hokey uniforms are halloween-worthy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let’s Talk About Happiness and the Good Life

If these last few years in publishing have had a theme, it might be: happiness.

The Happiness Project is a book by Gretchin Rubin (that sucked me in for a few hours because it is such an easy read) about, yup, you guessed it, being happy. But there are plenty of other books on happiness, and more than a few TEDTalks. Everyone is on the happiness bandwagon. All you have to do is search Amazon for “happiness”.  You’ll see that happy thoughts are all over the virtual Amazon shelves (from what I could tell, there are 7,759 books on happiness in self-help)

The Happiness Project, the book, chronicles a whole year of lifestyle changes that Rubin underwent to create a happier lifestyle. I’m not going to lie, I really enjoyed some of the things she tried, and I’ve noticed that when I get more sleep, I am happier. Or, when I get out of the house and go to the park with my kids, I’m noticeably more upbeat the rest of the day.

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It’s entertaining to listen to Gretchin’s thoughts, which mirror our own lives and our attempts to: declutter, laugh more, read good books, and overall  succeed at incremental increases in happiness. It’s definitely worth a (light) read.

At the end though, I had this feeling like, Is that it? Now what?

‘Boosting’ Our Happiness

So I did some research. There are a few ways to boost “happiness”: try taking your mom to lunch. Tell  people you love them. The more connections and friendships you have, the happier you are. Remember those girls in college who had a latte & scone date at the local coffee shop every day? Probably pretty darn happy. Figures.

I have always had a pretty tight (read:small)  circle of friends. Does being an introvert make me less happy?

In the midst of considering all of these existential questions, I found this gem of a quote through one of my favorite blogs, A Cup of Jo.

This quote gives permission to put the issue of “happiness” on cruise control. I could hear myself visibly sigh when I read it:

I actually attack the concept of happiness. The idea that—I don’t mind people being happy—but the idea that everything we do is part of the pursuit of happiness seems to me a really dangerous idea and has led to a contemporary disease in Western society, which is fear of sadness. It’s a really odd thing that we’re now seeing people saying “write down three things that made you happy today before you go to sleep” and “cheer up” and “happiness is our birthright” and so on. We’re kind of teaching our kids that happiness is the default position. It’s rubbish. Wholeness is what we ought to be striving for and part of that is sadness, disappointment, frustration, failure; all of those things which make us who we are. Happiness and victory and fulfillment are nice little things that also happen to us, but they don’t teach us much. Everyone says we grow through pain and then as soon as they experience pain they say, “Quick! Move on! Cheer up!” I’d like just for a year to have a moratorium on the word “happiness” and to replace it with the word “wholeness.” Ask yourself, “Is this contributing to my wholeness?” and if you’re having a bad day, it is.

Hugh MacKay, author of The Good Life

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Happiness As Our Default Position

Am I teaching my kids that happiness is the default position? That hit home HARD.

Heck, do I think that happiness should be my default position?

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The idea of WHOLENESS is a thousand times better (wholeness, for me, can be found in my Christian faith)

Think about the range of emotions that we experience on a daily basis. If we consider how we are making ourselves “whole” in our daily activities, we allow for bad days and GREAT days, and a million in-between days.

Like today.

 

photo credit: Camdiluv ♥ via photopin cc

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For more on happiness, I’d suggest researching another alternative to happiness, proposed by C.S. Lewis : Joy.

“I sometimes wonder whether all pleasures are not substitutes for Joy.”
C.S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life