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Girl at window, Edvard Munch

Girl at window, Edvard Munch

I haven’t been sleeping lately.

I’d like to think the blame for my latest bout of insomnia can be laid squarely at the tiny feet of my three year old. She knows she belongs with us and that knowledge never seems more certain than at around three each morning. I can always hear her coming. The soft pad of little feet, quick breath sucked through a pacifier and the light drag of her blankie behind her. A push at our door and then she’s at my side of the bed arms outstretched. The rest of night is spent in an earnest demonstration of how much space a little thing can take up in both my bed and my heart. She stretches out and curls in and claims both until I have lost any room I was saving for myself.

I could move her back to her bed after she falls asleep, I suppose. But then I think of how rare this kind of thing will be in her life. The ability to walk through the dark to a place where you are certain arms will reach out and lift you to a softer sphere. I’m not ready to make her wake up in her own bed yet. There’s time for that.

Too much time.

She didn’t come in this morning.

But I still woke up.

3am and listening for little footsteps. As my ears strained, my mind tripped over itself. Anxious and full of the past, present and imagined future. Old slights and new ones and maybe that hurt in my back means something more than a twinged nerve and don’t the kids need to go to the dentist and I’m not trying hard enough and I’ve tried so hard and maybe life really has been as difficult as I perceive and isn’t it a miracle I’ve stayed pasted so well together and maybe it hasn’t been nearly as difficult as I think and isn’t that almost worse? The things I am too rational to think in the light, the things I am too afraid to spend time with in the day, stretched out and clawed in until I lost any room I had been saving for myself.

I’m afraid of this. Afraid of losing control. Afraid that maybe I would be waking up at 3am every morning even if those footsteps had never come down the hall. It occurs to me that perhaps my little girl has been keeping me company rather than the other way around. I like to think I’m stronger than this, but here I am. Apparently, all the intention and strength in the world can’t keep you from gasping awake in the dark.

Somewhere between the misperceived premonitions of oncoming doom and the regret that won’t make any sense around the breakfast table, I heard something in a familiar and soothing voice.

You may not be able to keep 3am at bay. It is not a matter of greater will or better exercised strength. Waking up poorly met by neuroses may become a matter of course. What you can do is decide how you will spend the hours that follow that first jolt of fear.

So I kissed Riley on the cheek and left our room. Looked in on our sleeping girls. Soft cheeks and softer breath. I breathed in and out with them.

Then I walked into the living room, turned on a light and began to write. 

Three Things The Mindy Project Taught Me

By now we've all been accosted by the news that Fox - the brilliant organization behind such gems as Bones! and The Swan! (note my sarcasm) - has canceled The Mindy Project. 

Let's all take a moment to sob. And sob some more. Now hiccup cry. Now breathe deeply. One more sob. 

Onward. 

I guess in some ways the cancellation makes sense. I mean, it was a witty, well-written, often insightful look into the lives of women. There were episodes that made me fist pump alone in my living room. Scenes that made me cry. And moments that made me feel less alone. It was groundbreaking in a way I've been begging female-driven vehicles to be for years. Rather than securing show's future, all these things made the too-soon cancellation of the series practically certain from the first episode. Network TV is an aging behemoth that is sustained by soap operas and reality TV. Are there exceptions to this rule? A few. But they fill an ever-diminishing need. For the most part, anything that challenges or engages or lifts has no place on network tv. Because, like, that's not the point. 

Am I pretty fried that I no longer have a fall date with Mindy's parents and Danny? Yeah, pretty much. Pretty fried. But I am also a little relieved on the behalf of the best show I've seen in the past ten years. Mindy deserves to hang her Wreath Witherspoon in a home that feels lucky to have her. 

I've got good hope that if a situation that is good for cast and crew presents itself, they'll take it. Maybe Hulu, where the show already has a fierce viewership. Or Netflix, the home of #femalesarestrongashell. Or maybe we can all just kickstart and get Mindy Kaling her own damn network already. 

In the meantime, as a way to distract myself from the grief cloud hovering over this house (MORGAN!!!! MORRRRRGANNNNNNNNN!!!!), here are three things I learned from The Mindy Project. 

God rest her soul till we meet again.

1.    I don't have to wear sleeves. This one may not seem like much. Really, Meg? Sleeves? This is worth noting? Hell yes, it is. When I was fifteen, someone told me to avoid sleeveless clothes because, "although you look great, your arms are a bit heavy." I guess I shouldn't have been surprised. I mean, I knew I wasn't waving around Madonna stick pins. But the wording really worked me over. 

My arms were heavy? That description took my upper limbs a step beyond chubby and into the world of practically deformed. My heavy arms that hung heavily by my side while trying to lift light things that were too much weight to add to the heaviness of my already heavy arms. Holy hell, forget sleeveless. It was obvious to me that the best thing I could do for myself, and the pitiable people who had to look upon me, was to cover those weighted monstrosities the hell up. So I did. With ¾ length sleeves on hot days and thin sweaters on cold days. (Cable knit would have amplified the heaviness.) When I did venture out in anything less than full arm coverage, I did so as an act of defiance, "I know I don't deserve to have the sun hit the skin above my elbow, but look me in the eyes and see if I give a damn." 

I was nearly thirty years old before Madcap Mindy showed me how ridiculous I'd been. Mindy isn't my sister in "heavy" arms. I didn't find solidarity in her lack of pin thin appendages. Rather I found inspiration in the easy grace with which she handled her body - arms, legs and all. There was no point being made by her choice of sleeveless blouses or short skirts or va-va-voom dresses. Her clothes were not an act of defiance. (Which was revolutionary in itself.) She wore what the hell she wanted because she was being who the hell she wanted. 

In Mindy's world, a woman who weighs more than a package of stevia could wear something something more fashionable than a sack of flour. That fact wasn't revolutionary...it was simply a matter of course. And that, for me, was freeing as hell. I'll never be able to thank my "best friend I've never met" enough for that fact. She's changed my outlook and consequently, changed the dialogue I have with my own daughters. 

2.    Women don't have to be ashamed of what they want. And they don't have to be angered by what other women want. I'm not delusional. I know that Mindy Kaling is different from Mindy Lahiri. I know that Dr. L's life goals diverge greatly from Grand Dame Kaling's life goals. That being said, Kaling wrote Lahiri, and she did so with a great degree of grace and tolerance. As I watched the show, I didn't feel Kaling judging Lahiri for having different aspirations than her creator. I felt her honoring her, rooting for her, pushing her forward. Oh my goodness, what if we could extend that same respect to the real women in our lives not just the ones we meet on TV? Could you imagine the dialogue that would ensue? The steps we'd take forward? The wounds we'd heal? 

What does Mindy Lahiri want? We know early on in the series that Mindy L. is a professional woman who is also "looking for someone to go apple picking with". She wants marriage and babies and she defines those things as integral to her happy ending. And she isn't ashamed of it. Do you know how refreshing that storyline has been for me? A writer who also has two babies and a husband? A girl who wants her name on the front of a book and wants bubbles and baby laughter in her backyard? The Mindy Project doesn't preach the false hope of "having it all". Mindy has given up plenty of almost dreams for her better parts. (Dammit, San Francisco) But she is unwavering when it comes to her core happiness. To the things she feels she deserves. To the dreams she isn't afraid of dreaming...no matter how outdated they might seem to the people around her. 

Whether your dream includes babies or not, a career or not, a partner or not, compromise or not, Mindy Lahiri's quest for her personal happiness should speak to you. You get to seek what you want without shame. 

3.    And finally, there is communion in the ridiculous. Listen, Mindy Lahiri is a little ridiculous. She spouts off half-baked political assessments, once said recycling makes America seem poor and went seven years without paying her taxes. But as the series went on, I didn't find myself laughing at her, I found myself laughing with her. No one of us is free from elements of the ridiculous. We are all filled with half-baked opinions...the fact that we might keep them to ourselves doesn't mean they don't exist. We are all ignorant until we are not. (And then ignorant some more until we are not again.) We all have literal or figurative un-opened envelopes with contents that are past due. 

Maybe we would all be better off if we stopped assuming ridiculousness was the burden of others and accepted it as the ever-evolving state of all of us. And maybe, just maybe, Mindy Lahiri style, we should just start being honest about it. Who knows? Maybe, like the great Project Herself, we'll learn something about each other and ourselves along the way. (And laugh a little more, too.)

You know, when I heard about the cancellation last night, I wasn't upset for the people in the show. They've proven they can create and sustain a small world and its misfit inhabitants. The actors will go on to movies. The writers will be asked to be a part of the next big thing. Mindy will continue her trajectory to a place in the stars next to Nora Ephron. (And maybe beyond?) They're doing just fine.

Me? I'm queuing up the first season and counting my lucky stars. For a half hour every week, in a little show with little pretension, I found a brand of feminism that spoke to me, rather than above or below me. I found men that loved strong women and strong women that loved men. And I found a world in which my arms were released from the constraints of décor and became beautiful and free simply because they were attached to me. 

Whoa, Nelly.

Fixed

I think we all spend most of our lives looking for answers.

What should I grow up to be? Why am I here? Where are my keys? Is this the right decision? Where should I live? What is coming? What am I missing? What can I do? What should I do? How should I eat? What do I believe? What should I avoid? Will going blonde wash my face out? Is this all there is? 

And on and on. 

Some answers come. (Blonde WILL wash my face out.) Some don't. (I never found that set of keys my sophomore year of college.) I understand that it is  just as well that some questions keep being asked until we lose our breath for the last time. Even if they had been satisfied, others would have reached out and taken their place. 

I don't mind the work of asking. But I hate the quiet that often follows the question.

There are so many answers I've sought, worked for and fallen on my knees on behalf of - because sometimes, it seems, the only way to find what your looking for is to force yourself down while looking up - that still stay apart from me.

Some of the unfound knowns whisper ahead of me in the dark. I can follow the vibrations of their sound, can feel the places that used to be moist with their breath. I know, I know I will catch those answers someday...hold them in my hand and put them in mouth, chewing them up until they've been broken into pieces small enough for me to swallow.

But there are some answers that don't call from the places they've already lived. There are some answers that sit still in a far off place I can't fathom, let alone stumble upon or within. There are some answers whose reality can only be proven by the existence of my question. 

I fell down again yesterday. To the place where my knees scrape against our wood floors and my hands hold onto each other as they seek the touch of something more knowing. I asked without the promise of answer. How will Riley and I survive? How will the children thrive? I asked. To see the dim outline of the future that is eating at our present. To be given peace. To be given something more than an assurance of eventual knowing. I asked. For angels and for eyes that could see the work they do. For transcendence - no matter how brief. I asked. For things I don't deserve. For things I feel are my due. 

And then, once more, I listened through the silence. 

This time, the whisper was closer and didn't run from me before I could make out its message.

There are some things that will move. And there are some things that are set. The ones that move belong to you. The ones that remain fixed belong to me. They can be beautiful. They can be shattering. There is joy in the inevitable even when it breaks the edges of your world. The joy is in the things that are left unbroken - your love for husband, children and God. Hold onto their eyes with your eyes, hold onto their hands with your hands, hold onto their hearts with your heart.

In doing so, you will become immovable and fixed yourself.

And you'll belong to me.

Then, quiet. The words moved ahead of me.

I stretched up, my legs stiff and my heart creaking. I held the answer in my hand for just a moment.

And then, I put it in my mouth and chewed it into pieces small enough to swallow. 

A Woman of Worth

I'm always wishing I could grab every woman I see (and every woman I don't) by the hand and tell them how valuable, full of worth and damn essential they are. I don't think I'm the only girl who understands the worth of a woman. I just think we all need a reminder now and then.

I've thought of all the ways we can reach out to hold each others' hands. I've got some ideas and today, I'm happy to share the first project I've finished with that outreach in mind. 

I joined up with Atly and put together a survey course called Discovering A Woman of Worth. And! Until midnight tonight, you can get the class for 25% off if you use the code WORTHY25.

One of my favorite features? The five exclusive downloads created by Annie Blake.  

Get in there, girl. 


Over the course of this class, we are going to immerse ourselves in the discovery of all that star-shined goodness that resides inside of you. You are going to learn how to define who you are, what you want, what you deserve and how to get it. And we're going to have a hell of a good time doing it.

Instructor Message

It's time. 

It's time you understood that girl you see in the mirror. The one with the half finished dreams and fully realized stretch marks. The one with the three babies and too little time. The one that thought she'd be a mother. The one that is just starting out. The one that is afraid she's finished too soon. It's time you understood that girl. Not just her hopes and dreams. Not just her needs and wants. It's time that you understood the mechanism that moves her is unalloyed and unbending. That she isn't just precious, she is strong. That beneath the worry and the bills and the plus or minus ten pounds is a woman brimming with the kind of worth that is measured in stardust. It's time you took a few hours of a few weeks to discover the things that propel you, the hopes that breathe into you, the environments that energize you. It's time to give yourself permission to reach for the person you always hoped you'd be. It's time you realized the people you love deserve a woman willing to do that for herself. It's time you realized your dreams deserve the time it takes to realize them. It's time to you realized you, beautiful, blessed you, deserve it. 

Easter Basket Boondoggle

I’ve always got these great ideas. Like…I am going to make the moments of my life more meaningful by living intentionally with great deliberation and forethought and by thinking ahead of time with intent that is, ummmm, you know, intentional.

Ahem.

This year Easter fell prey to this tendency to over-commit to meaning. And I guess I should have seen it coming, I mean…Easter is happening on a day of this week. And that's really all it takes to get me riled up. So, you know, it was bound to happen.

I’ve never been super comfortable with the Easter as a gift giving extravaganza. I can’t quite figure out what a bunch of dolls and games and cars and My Little Pony stuffed animals has to do with Easter. I mean…don’t my kids with their warm home and full pantry and good educations and room dedicated to toys have, you know, enough? Shouldn’t we be dedicating the Sunday where we celebrate His eternal life with service or symbolism or maybe, at least, back to back viewings of Ben Hur?

But my kids have talking about waking up to Easter baskets for the past week. And the Easter Bunny. And eggs. And I don’t want to be a total Grinch. (Or whatever the Easter equivalent of that little jerk is…what’s the natural enemy of the bunny? A fox? I don’t want to be a total Fox.)

So, I had a long talk with myself. And I decided that each Easter, the kids would still wake up to a gift. But it would be an offering that reflected an eternal principle or pursuit. Something that united us as a family and expanded their horizons. Something that helped remind them of the rights of their divine heritage and the universal nature of our God’s love. Something that helped them understand the beauty of this mortal and immortal life! A brief and incomplete reflection of one of the things that made them worth something as grand and comprehensive as the Atonement. Yes! That was it! A gift that paid homage to THE gift.

I decided this year we would focus on Creation. How to teach them about the divine gift of creation? Give them the means to create, of course! Baskets full of the makings of many little and big projects. Odds and ends and ribbons and glue and paint and paper and pieces of wood and felt shapes and…other things! And all of it would be accompanied with a card that explained the divine directive to create in words that even a three year old can understand! AND IT WOULD BE BEAUTIFUL AND THE DAY WOULD BE FULL OF DEEP DISCUSSIONS ABOUT THE REVELATIONS WE GAIN BY EMULATING GOD AND REACHING FOR THE TOPS OF OUR SOULS! AND EASTER WOULD NEVER BE THE SAME IN OUR LITTLE TREE COVERED HOUSEHOLD AGAIN!

But no pressure.

I left the house last night to get the supplies for my baskets brimming with creativity. Told the cute husband I would just run to Target and be back in an hour.

It was all going to be so simple. But then…I don’t know. I got there and didn’t know where to start. Should I focus on a project or just creativity in general? Did the baskets call for gem shaped crayons, regular crayons or speckled with different color crayons? I hemmed and hawed over the Great Crayon Decision of 2015 for about 15 minutes. And then I remembered they had like, I don’t know, FOUR HUNDRED crayons…so maybe they didn’t need anymore. Or maybe they just needed the gem ones. Or the speckled ones. Or nothing at all. I mean does anyone really need crayons? No! Unless they just need some more regular ones….

And paper! Who knew paper was so expensive! I mean just the white stuff wasn’t too bad…but the stuff I wanted to get with the patterns! and color! and square cut for kid folda-bility! was nearly ten bucks. I guess I’ll get three…

Would they rather use textile markers on a tote bag? Or a pillow? Or…ooooooh look at those vases they could decorate! And then there’s all the possibilities with the wood crafts…doesn’t every home need a birdhouse…two birdhouses?

Maybe this is a dumb idea? I mean…will they even understand what I am trying to say? Am I really giving them the gift of creativity with a $14 tote bag and some markers? And in truth… WHAT HAVE I GIVEN THEM? IN THE COURSE OF THEIR LIVES? WHAT WILL THEY HAVE IN THEIR HANDS AND HEARTS WHEN THEY LEAVE THIS TIME WITH ME? Are we doing anything well enough…true enough…expansively enough? Forget the stuff…AM I EVEN A GOOD MOTHER? IS THIS ALL A WAY TO MAKE UP FOR THE MORE IMPORTANT PLACES THAT HOLD MY FAILURE????

Maybe that sewing kit would be a better buy?

Three hours later, I finally returned home. Six bags of good intention gone bad and one receipt that came close to approaching our weekly grocery budget.  Riley just laughed. I laughed and then got a little teary-eyed and then laughed again.

Because…this is kind of a pretty damn good little synopsis of the mother my kids have right now. Big ideas and little ability to figure out how to implement them. And all the time between the moments of grand intention are filled with hugs and dance parties and definitely too much TV. And I hope it is enough and that my often ridiculous reaching for big things results in a hunger in them to do the same. Who knows…they might actually end up being effective at the task. Heaven knows, I, most often, am not.

So what am I doing with those six bags? Taking them back today. And then buying some plastic eggs to fill with candy. And two little dresses for two little girls that like to twirl. And calling it good enough.

Because, maybe, right now, it is.  

But seriously...what the heck are you putting in your kids' baskets??? Chat with me on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Click one the links below. 

Illumination

I've got this pinched nerve.

And I'm supposed to be taking a bath to try and loosen it up. The water is running and I'm safe from the rigors of the first fifteen minutes after we put the kids to bed. The up and down for the water, kisses and "if I have to come in here one more time, I'll .... come in here one more time."

I've got bubbles and a book and I should be relaxing, but all I can think about are the women I know and love that are hurting. And the women you know and love that are hurting. And the women reading this who are hurting and the women who'll never stumble across this that are hurting. And I wish I could draw you each a bath, to soak out the pinched hopes and cramping heartaches. I wish I had more to give. I wish I wasn't kept from helping the way I should by the limitations of my own fragmented capacities. I am feeble and my giving is fickle.

Today, while I was out walking I saw the sun shine against a tree with pink blossoms. It bounced against the bark and petals, leaving shadow behind on the places it touched. My pink tree turned black by the light of an eager and giving sun. A message, maybe. The cost of so much illumination has to be a momentary engulfment by so much darkness.

I guess what I am saying - while the kids yell in the hall and I sit in a steamed white room - is this...if you find yourself in shadow tonight, it only means a forceful light has fixed on your form. It is carving you out in greater relief and speeding your growth. The color will return, I promise. Until then, know you are loved. You are known. You are enough. And the rising sun is much gentler than the setting sun. 

Morning isn't far off.

Let's Stop Sharing Photos of our Kid's Crying, Snot-Nosed Meltdowns

I'm still feeling good about sharing photos of their silliness and smiles. And freeze faces.

I'm still feeling good about sharing photos of their silliness and smiles. And freeze faces.

Listen, we’ve all been there.

The house is somehow a disaster even though the kids have only been up for an hour. You can’t seem to find your grip on life, let alone the dishes and your two year old just threw himself to the floor in tears because the peanut butter on his sandwich touched his hand. Or you’ve saved up for a year to take your kids to Disneyland. You’re finally in the happiest place on earth and you’re trying your damnedest to make everything magical and your five year is throwing a fit because you forgot to pack her green sneakers instead of her blue ones and OH MY GOSH, MOM. DON’T YOU KNOW THAT DISNEYLAND ISN’T THE SAME IN THESE STUPID GREEN SHOES? Or it’s just another day. And your three year old is seriously about to lose her mind because the lego fort you build isn’t big enough to hold her teddy bear and basically the world is ending and her screams are the harbinger of the apocalypse and oh my gosh, is it nap time yet?

As parents, we all deal with these meltdowns differently. There are harsh words and soft words, capitulating and grandstanding. Sometimes we are proud of our responses, sometimes not so much. I imagine parents have been reacting to the kid conniption in the same varied ways since Adam and Eve finally decided to put down the parenting books and start, you know, parenting.

Nothing much changed. Until it did.

Now when their kids lose their cool, parents don’t just reach for words of comfort or frustration. They also reach for their cameras on their phones.

We’re all pretty well acquainted with the result - the photo of the sobbing child accompanied by a funny comment and witty hashtag. Heavens, we haven’t just seen those photos, if you’re anything like me, you’ve also posted them. And it isn’t just for the laughs we’d get for sharing the oversized agony about a silly little kid problem.

No, we share them, because parenthood is hard. It is as shockingly difficult as it is shockingly beautiful. We’ve all heard it takes a village to raise a kid. Well, I think it might take a village to keep a parent from going absolutely bleeping crazy. In so many ways, sharing the hard parts of our days – including that kid crying over something small or ridiculous for the hundredth time – is how many of us search for our village.

It’s all well-meant. They are just little kids having big fits over little silly things. They’d laugh, too, if they knew what we knew. There’s no harm intended.

But I think we are hurting our children and ourselves by posting photographs of them in their moments of extremis, even when we know everything is going to be alright.

A few thoughts.

1.  Ridiculous is relative. Yeah, that one time my three year old cried until she threw up because she was so upset her shoe laces were uneven WAS pretty crazy. I mean…what the hell, kid? But somewhere between searching for scissors to even the laces and cleaning up the puke, I took the time to really look at her. Sure, the problem seemed imaginary to me, but her distress was real. She was torn up inside. She doesn’t like crying hysterically. I guarantee she would have bypassed the whole experience if she could have managed to do so. But she couldn’t. Because something about that uneven shoelace upset her perspective or introduced just a little more disorder than her already disordered toddler world could handle. So, she cried. And she screamed. And she gasped in air until she expelled the contents of her stomach. And it was gross.

You know who else freaks out over things that other people could take in stride? Me. When it’s one of those days when I am positive I’m never going to think of another thing to write…ever. Like, not even enough words for a grocery list. Or when my husband is driving and I AM REALLY, REALLY SURE THAT CAR ALMOST HIT US. Or, you know, any of the three days before I start my period. I don’t need people to pander to me when I am being irrational. Heavens, please give me a talking to when I start hiccup crying over the grown up equivalent of uneven shoelaces. We all need help with our perspectives now and then. But I cannot imagine how violated and invalidated I would feel if my husband started taking photos of me mid-breakdown and posted them to Instagram with witty hashtags.

2.   We do not want to teach our children that the internet is the dumping ground for all emotions. I know that when I take that picture of my kid mid-tantrum in Target, I am really trying to express my emotions about HER emotions. But what does she see? She sees me taking a photo of her in a vulnerable moment and posting it online. Kids may be consistently irrational, but they aren’t dumb. They’re watching us. And they are going to take the behavior we model and apply it to themselves. Do we want our daughters exposing their vulnerabilities on Instagram, Facebook or Snapchat? Do we want them to think a screen is the correct receptacle for their heartbreaks or triumphs? Do we want our children to spend more time tagging their experiences than actually, you know, experiencing them?

3.  Parents do need a village, but photos of crying kids isn’t the surest way to build one. Listen, parenting is a hard, messy, lonely, beautiful, peanut butter covered business. We need to be able to share our experiences – not just as an act of edification, but also as a sign of solidarity. Oh, your kid screams in the middle of parking lots sometimes, too? Thank goodness. I thought I was the only one. But the most effective means of communicating both our need and support does not have to come at the cost of our children.

As parents we get to witness the highs and lows of our children’s lives – that’s a privilege that we don’t need to share with everyone that follows us. Let’s acknowledge that and find other ways to communicate the hard, ridiculous, funny ways our kids freak the heck out. Call a friend or walk outside and talk to neighbor. Engage with your community online, by all means. I have found so much solace and support through women on social media. Maybe post about your hard day from your perspective with a picture that doesn’t include your kid’s tears. There is something incredibly intimate about portraiture, even the kind snapped with a cracked iPhone. Those break apart moments belong to them. Even though it’s hard to recognize at times, it’s a privilege that they feel comfortable enough to share them with us. I want my kids to know their irrational, out of control, crying on the floor selves are just as safe with me as their well-behaved selves. Safety doesn’t mean I always tolerate, give into, or encourage freak-outs, but it does mean I respect the kid behind them.

We never completely outgrow an occasional inability to see beyond the moment that holds us. We need to teach our kids how to navigate that reality, not publicly mock their failed attempts to do so. Can we chuckle about puking over shoelaces? Of course, we can. Hell, not just CAN, we SHOULD. Laughter is healing and sometimes, as a parent, a sense of humor is the only thing that gets me through the day. (There are a few instagram accounts that basically feature kids standing proudly next to the incredible messes they've made. These crack me up. Kids: 1 Parents: 0) But let’s be more discerning about what we publish permanently to the internet about our kids. And let’s see what happens when we reach for our kids before we reach for our phones. Who knows?

We just might learn something worth sharing.  

(Hey, guys. We’ve got this. And you’re doing a good job. Past kid crying photos, puke and all. )

Hey! Let's chat! Head over to my FB or Instagram to comment, shoot the breeze and generally engage in enlightening chit chat. Click on the links below! (MWAH!)


Mother and Child

Mother and Child by Mary Cassatt

Mother and Child by Mary Cassatt

As a newborn, the back of Margaret’s neck was rosy with what her pediatrician called a stork bite. Nothing to worry about, he assured me. It was just a blush of blood vessels close to the skin and would most likely fade as she left toddlerhood. The little birth mark never worried me. When she was tiny, I would kiss it and breathe in her baby smell. As she got older, her hair grew down the nape of her neck and that new baby smell went the way of the wind.

I forgot about the stork bite and the promise of its disappearance.

The day before her first foray into preschool I took her for a haircut. When the curls fell away from Margaret’s neck and shoulders, I gasped a little. There peeking out from her little bob was that first blush of babyhood. The temporary birthmark hadn’t gone away. And for just a moment, I could smell that baby smell and feel how she felt in the crook of my arm. It was an odd thing – the ache to hold a different version of a person still within reach.

Last week, I sat in church surrounded by women I know and hope to know. The sister sitting in front of me was what the politically correct call “well advanced in age”.  Her arms were covered in fine lines. Her hair was bright white, a few red strands where the color had forgotten to forget itself. And there, on the nape of her slightly bent neck was a blush of blood vessels close to the skin. A mark that hadn’t managed to fade in her toddlerhood.

And for just a moment, I could see her as a baby and I could breathe in her baby smell. I could feel her mother’s love, a love that remains despite the years and loss.

I could feel that as she is, my daughter’s one day will be. And I rejoiced in their white hair I won’t live to see and the fine lines they’ll gather in the places I won’t get to go. And I marveled at the sameness of our sisterhood.

And the differences.

And I thanked God for the things that stay with us and wept for the things that leave us.

And then I breathed deeply, not for the last time.  

A Girl Like Me

Sometimes I revisit old posts to remember new lessons. This is one of those times. (Happy Friday, loves.)

I think sometimes we keep our eyes shut and our hearts occupied when we are moving towards a destination. I know I have been guilty of this in both the literal and metaphorical journeys of my life. Sometimes I find myself where I hoped to be and feel a bit empty. How did I get here? What were the moments that led to this?

I am working on it.

It took four planes to get me from America to the Dominican Republic last week. Four airports full of people leaving and arriving and hoping and sleeping. I kept my eyes open. I had one layover in the Vegas airport that stretched from its expected "barely tolerable" three hours to a "my goodness this beyond the pale, I don't care how first world that sounds" five hours. I had plenty of time to write little thoughts, eat big sandwiches and watch the people around me.

I settled into my gate with a book and even more food, when a woman with two dogs approached the counter.

She was what polite characters in fiction would call "big boned". Her clothes were wrinkled from travel and her spaghetti straps pressed into her shoulders. She wore white scuffed sneakers and a bit of lace sock peaked above their tops. She held her lips in a tight purse and her eyes were as creased and tired as her clothes. The dogs looked more well rested than their owner. One was large and white. His ears sharps and eyes curious. He rested his nose against her stomach. She held the other under one arm. A little bit of a thing with more fur than flesh. The man at the counter looked at her with confusion and expectation.

She stood defensively before she spoke, each white shoe planted firmly on the stained carpet.

"Hello, sir. These are emotional support dogs. I'm taking them out to Virginia and need to check them to come on the flight with me. I've got all the documentation and before you say anything, know that everyone has been giving me problems all day and in the end, they have all decided I can keep traveling."

He smiled and murmured something before typing into his computer. After a few moments he looked up,

"This airline must have different rules than the other ones you have been traveling with so far. I'm only allowed to let you take one dog with you. Let me call my boss. Until then please take a seat."

Her shoulders slumped and she led the dogs away, sitting them and herself on the floor next to the counter.

Over the next hour and a half, I watched documentation be disputed, phone calls made and superiors called over. The woman was on guard and terse. She was universally frustrated and dismissive with all the agents, even the ones that showed concern. The initial agent that helped her was always kind. The others were not. One employee would walk over every few minutes to ask her supercilious questions and then smirk at the people around him when she answered. Her flight came and went. She called her sister to cry.

"I'm trying to do the right thing. I'm trying to get these out to you, but everyone is being so mean."

I started crying, too.

The dogs were a bit restless. Wandering around her and whimpering when she wouldn't let them walk away. The agent with the smug grin walked over when the white one yelped,

"You are going to have to control those dogs. This isn't a kennel. Ma'am."

"You think I don't know that? I'm doing my best. They are just tired. I am tired, too. You ever been tired?"

A woman sitting behind me had been witness to the dog dilemma as long as I had. She was well dressed and her lipstick was fresh. The gold hoops in her ears swayed as she shook her head and leaned over to her husband,

"Enough with the dog sob story, already. Who is this woman. She is crazy."

He chuckled and circled his hand around hers.

The words to tell her off were tumbling  out of my mouth when I noticed movement out of the corner of my eye.

A woman and her two teenage daughters sat down next to the woman and her dogs. The fifteen year old started petting the big white dog, while the older one let the little dog crawl onto her lap. Their mom put her hand on the woman's shoulder.

"Tell me the names of your dogs."

The four of them talked about the dogs while the agents at the desk continued to call and type and look official. The polished woman with the chuckling husband chuckled about something else. And I sat in the middle of everything and let the lesson I'd just learned seep into my bones.

The passions and plights of our fellow sisters may not always make sense to us. Heaven knows, a lone woman demanding to get on a plane with a dog the size of a miniature horse and one the size of a mouse has the air of the ridiculous about it. But, she was trying to do something that was important to her. And my approval of her situation doesn't really matter one little bit. All that matters is my understanding of her heart. We've all got pursuits, hopes, problems that make no sense to outsiders. All of us will be the "tired woman with the dogs" to the women around us at one point or another. We've got no choice in the matter.

What we can choose is our reaction to our fellow sisters when they find themselves in that place of isolation. Will we shake our heads and laugh knowingly? Or will we get down on the floor next to them and ask them to give us the names of the things they care about?

I plan on spending much of my time on the floor. Want to join me? I'll scooch over a bit. There's plenty of room.

Want more information on the human trafficking sting I did after all these plane rides? Read here and here

A Good Day

I've got two emotional daughters. If we let every circle of tears ruin our day, we'd be in real trouble. So Riley and I have started ending all of our emotional little girl moments with the words, "We can still have a good day." One morning on our trip to California was particularly rough. Zuzu literally WEPT for half of it...for no apparent reason. (Any mom knows that weeping is a little more annoying and a lot more pathetic than your basic crying.) I was getting frustrated and walked away from her before I said something silly or mean. (Because I am often silly and, every once in awhile, mean.) Ten minutes later, she grabbed my hand and gave me this little note. I was happy for the reminder and happier that our words have started to echo in her head. Yes, we can still have a good day. 

(Hey, have a good day.)

Disney's Beauty and The Beast is the same story as Fifty Shades of Grey. (Don't take your 5 year old.)

Hey, Belle. Just take a break from the man game, eh? Maybe go to college! Or move to Paris. Or, you know, get a few roommates and start watching Mindy Project re-runs.

Hey, Belle. Just take a break from the man game, eh? Maybe go to college! Or move to Paris. Or, you know, get a few roommates and start watching Mindy Project re-runs.

Listen, I don’t really know how to use the word “ironic”. I feel like every time I employ it, someone much wiser than me explains that what I am describing is really just coincidental, curious, or merely paradoxical.

So, despite all my semi-literate inclinations, I’m not going to say I thought it was ironic when I saw the same FB friends that screamed outrage over Fifty Shades of Grey, freak out with excitement about the casting news for Beauty and The Beast. But I am going to say I thought it was…odd.

Let’s recap.

The curtain opens. A mysterious man with a dark secret. Something in his past has left him damaged and angry. A young girl imbued with innocence. The man uses abuse, coercion, and fear to maintain control. The girl goes back for more. Ultimately, the mysterious man is redeemed by his association with the young girl. He is transformed from isolated monster to mainstream "man of the house" by the end of the tale. Ah, romance.

And that’s just Beauty and the Beast. I don’t really have to take the time to write a Fifty Shades of Grey synopsis, because it would read exactly the same way. They are the same story. (Sure Christian had an abusive childhood and the Beast is a meanie that had a run in with a sorceress, but, in this case, the devil is not in the details.)

I think through all the talk of sexualization and “DID DAKOTA JOHNSON SHOW, YOU KNOW, IT?” we’ve lost the real terror in this year's blockbuster tale. Forget the Red Room. Fifty Shades of Grey is truly upsetting because one of its longest running story lines is the heroine’s unwillingness to speak up, not just about what she wants, but what she fears. She stays silent because she doesn’t want to lose a man. A man that hurts her to the point of tears. With a belt. Against her will. (The Atlantic has an excellent article on the concept of consent within the trilogy. Guess what? That thing Grey and Steele have? It's not a mutual understanding.)  

Many people continue to talk about Anastasia’s spectacular loss of virginity, I’d like to hear more talk about her spectacular loss of self.

If we rail against Fifty Shades of Grey, but then take our daughters to see Disney’s new Beauty and the Beast, we are sending them a horrific message.

We are telling them that good girls change bad men. That it is their job to change bad men. That it is, in fact, the stuff of fairy tales to change bad men. We are telling them that they are redeemers not partners. We are telling them man’s natural state is brutish and woman’s natural state is meekness. We are telling them that abuse is something a relationship can get over….if the girl is just patient enough. We are telling them that love is a dark and winding path instead of a light that illuminates. We are telling them that a sacrifice of self is a sacrament of love. By being outspoken against Fifty Shades and supportive of Disney's Beauty and the Beast, we are telling them that this is all just fine as long as what we perceive to be illicit sex is not involved.

And in doing so, we are telling our girls that what we call their "virtue" is more important than what God calls their soul.

That is a message I’ll never serve to my girls with a side of popcorn.

They deserve better. 

Let's chat. Leave kind, mean, insightful, funny comments on my Facebook! Can't wait to meet you! Use the links below.


Just Say Yes. (meg on video)

A few months ago, I got to visit with the gang on The Matt Townsend Show and talk about our right, our obligation, our privilege! to "say yes" more often in life. Check out the clip. And have a yes filled weekend. Love ya'll. (Look at that opening screen shot...sooooo flattering.)

Head to my social pages to chat, shoot the breeze and make happy, angry, silly, serious and just plain insightful comments and conversation.

Life as we know it

Our dear friend Justin Hackworth took this photo of the man and I while eating dinner together.

Our dear friend Justin Hackworth took this photo of the man and I while eating dinner together.

Hey there. Well, things have changed a bit around here. New website name, new look, same old me. My new logo is still incoming from a dear friend, so I've thrown something up in the header until she's done. Once she is finished, this whole space will feel so much...well...more alive. Until then, bear with me. Why the change? I'm simplifying everything in my life and a website composed of mostly blank space with a few words scratched across it seemed like it fit right in with what I'm doing in my offline spaces.

I'm still Meg in Progress, I'm just doing all that painful and glorious progressing under my own name now.

Things are going alright around here. Speaking more honestly and listening more intently. And cooking with the kids, especially wee chef Viola. And still forgetting to turn in Zuzu's homework on time. You know, life as we know it.  

How are things with you?

Head to my social pages to chat, shoot the breeze, leave happy, angry, prophetic, silly or just plain dang insightful comments. Can't wait to talk to you there.

The Listening Place

christinas-world-2

christina's world - wyeth

I was at my aunt's house the day she died. Everyone had gathered there to be with her on her last day here. Margaret was just a few months old and I didn't feel much older. I hated to go to that leaving-place empty handed and so spent our grocery money on buckets of fried chicken. The atmosphere in the house was solemn and loving and laughter. I took Margaret to my aunt and that sweet woman held her just hours before she left this world to be born into another.

I was in the kitchen with a few family members when her death began in earnest. I tried to stay light and bright. Laughing and lifting. Suddenly,  I felt a change run through the room. A crashing, enveloping thing. I felt disturbed by it and talked louder through its ripples. A moment later my cousin hurried into the room,

"She's gone."

My thoughts on our  literal spiritual connections to one another are still evolving. I don't know much, but I do know that something told me she'd just left. I talked through that sacred communication because I always seem to think it's my job to talk everyone through everything...including myself. I made a promise that day to never be louder than the things I am meant to hear.

A little less than five years later, I sat in a hospital waiting room with my brother and sisters. My mom was in the hospital room with my dad. I was talking loudly and smiling and teasing. I doubt it did much to help those around me...but I think I was trying to laugh and lift. A nurse walked in and told us my dad had a heart episode - the medical team was working on him. I stopped talking and walked out into the hall by myself...quiet and waiting for the communication I felt certain was moments away. I could nearly feel it...the pull back before an oncoming wave. The nurse came back and met me in the hall.

"He's stabilized."

I went back into the waiting room and told the people that loved him. I tried to talk loudly again, to shout down the ebb I still felt pulling through my veins. A few more minutes and my mom was there in the doorway. It hadn't worked. He was leaving.  As I ran through the hallway to that damn room and that damn goodbye, I tried to keep my footsteps light so that I could hear what I knew was coming.

A few minutes with him in that black wired room and the wave came crashing down.

On Sunday, he had been gone for a year. It was a busy day. Family and obligations and dinner to be made. We went to his grave and left flowers. The girls talked about heaven and Papa's favorite pinto beans. I spent a lot of time giving more volume to my words than they deserved.

But somewhere between loudly talking about how it was "a sacred day, not a bad day" and declarations of peace, I stood still in the center of everything that moves. I breathed deeply and listened closely for the things I'd been too loud to hear.

And they were many. And they were gracious. And they did not stay long enough.

Wordsmith

  NPG x131784; Emmeline Pankhurst addressing a crowd in Trafalgar Square by Unknown photographer, printed by  Central Press

We are all waiting to hear what you have to say. (Emmeline Pankhurst speaking at Trafalgar Square)

I love Facebook. I know, I know. There are all those articles out there about how young people are leaving FB and it's going to be obsolete and it can give you hives...or something. It used to be cool to have facebook profile. Now, when people mention they have one they quickly follow the statement up with,

"But I only check it like maybe once a week."

Which is all well and good. But listen, I've never really been one to care whether I was on trend or not. As was absolutely evidenced by the lack of chevron in my house eight years ago. So, I'll say it again. I love Facebook. I love the articles from the NY Times and Forbes and The Economist that my thoughtful friends post. I love the sharing of various Jimmy Fallon clips. And I love, I love the way I have been able to stay in touch with people that would otherwise have been mostly lost to me.

Last night, I was on my way to bed when I decided to check out the ole' FB. Thank goodness I did.  I was greeted by the loveliest message from a woman I very much admire and very much no longer get to see as she lives in my hometown.

Made me think of you when I was reading this book-- "A Snicker of Magic" by Natalie Lloyd. I think you'd like it too. Quote: "So you keep catching them words, you hear? Pluck them out of the wind. String them together like the finest set of pearls. Line them up on paper. And if it hurts too much to say them, then you sing them, or whisper them, or write them into a story. But don't waste them. Your words matter more than you know. You hear?"

Isn't that lovely? And my goodness, exactly what I needed to read right now. "And if it hurts too much to say them, then you sing them, or whisper them, or write them in a story." Life, my dear friends, has at times seemed too painful for words. But, I suppose that isn't really giving life or words the credit that is due. This quote spoke to me, but I know it should absolutely ring out for you. Because your words, your voice matter more than you know.

We need them more than the finest set of pearls.

Let's sing together now.

That Nationwide Commercial is a Symptom of a Bigger Social Ill (for reals)

rs_300x300-150201164544-600.Nationwide.-jmd-020115

This kid will never get married.

Listen,

I'm a red-blooded American, so yeah, I watched the Super Bowl last night. And ate nachos. And french dip sandwiches with juice that sopped into the crusty bread with cheese on top that was just crunchy enough to make the textural interplay between soft and hard interesting AND delicious. Also ice cream. Also chips and dip. And yeah, I also watched the game and rooted against the Patriots, BECAUSE THAT'S WHAT YOU DO ON SUPER BOWL SUNDAY.

But I was really there for the ads. I teared up when Always successfully unsettled the stereotypes against girls in their old, but still good, Like a Girl commercial. Fighting against anti-girl rhetoric while selling something? Sure, I'm in. (Who says capitalism is bad?) I was confused when Nissan seemed to imply a new car made up for missed childhood. And I was tickled enough to giggle a little when Steve Buscemi decided to kick it with the Bradys for Snickers.

And then in between jokes about screaming animals and Kardashian spots, we had that Nationwide commercial about dead kids. I lost my appetite and had to put down my french dip sandwich long enough for all the crusty bread to become soggy. And then when my appetite DID come back? About a quarter later? I HAD TO MAKE A NEW SANDWICH. The travesty, guys.

But seriously, what a bleepload of a commercial. As a mother, I was not offended merely by it's exploitative nature.  Commercialism by nature IS exploitation. The message of dead babies while families are watching together - many of whom have lost children in the way depicted - was pretty disgusting. Abhorrent once it was followed up with a call to profit in the form of Nationwide's logo. However, that was not, in my opinion, the most nefarious part of the commercial.  No, the worst part was the impossible burden it placed on reality and the families that live within it.

It was a 48 second spot of a dead child talking about the things he'll never be able to do because he died in an accident. This was then followed by images of accidents - a full bathtub, poison under the kitchen sink, A FALLEN TV WITH GLASS SHARDS ALL OVER THE FLOOR. (At this point my five year old looked at me worried, "Mom! Did that kid get crushed by a TV? CAN THE TV KILL US?" Only if you keep trying to watch SpongeBob on it, kid.) The spot closed with the Nationwide logo and a call to Make Safe Happen. As if any accident, any abnormality, any tragedy can only occur because of things you failed to do.

Well, you know what, Nationwide? Your smug certainty isn't needed in my uncertain world.

You're feeding into a narrative that I've heard all too often as I've begun raising my kids. The one that gets parents investigated by the police for letting their kids walk home alone. Everyone is a predator, childhood should be handled and delivered in an air conditioned, controlled environment. The one that leads to measles outbreaks in three states. All you need to do to be healthy is wash your hands. Also, I'm protecting my children from autism. Also, those diseases weren't that bad, they were NATURE! And these vaccinations aren't NATURE. (Damn right, they're not. Thank goodness. Nature can be terrifying.) Also, I'm making safe happen for my child, who cares what happens to yours. The one that has parents handing their kids iPads instead of insisting they go out and climb trees. Sure, all that tree climbing leads to wonder and independence BUT THEY COULD BREAK A LEG! Isn't there a tree climbing app??

The very best piece I've found written on this new phenomenon is The Overprotected Kid. Read it. It's worth your time.

We can't choose between a completely safe world and a world of threats. That choice doesn't exist. We can teach our kids how to navigate a reality chock a block full of danger, but we can't make safe happen. Not really. We can use common sense (don't leave your kid alone in the bath, keep that rat poison in a well guarded place, bolt your TV to the wall, etc). We can try. We can, when we're lucky, succeed in keeping our little charges mostly unbroken. But, we can't make safe happen because we don't live in a safe world. The ad warns about preventable accidents. You know what? Most accidents are considered preventable when viewed in hindsight. That's kind of why they are called "accidents" not "inevitables". But the dangers that lurk aren't products of our failure, they are symptoms of mortality. And no matter how much we try, at the end of the day all we can do is guard against a state of being that will...despite our very best efforts...eventually hurt and take some of our babies. This isn't anyone's fault. Moms and Dads, this isn't your fault.

It's just life.

And it seems to me that an insurance company, of all organizations, should understand that harsh, but standing, truth.

It's a Good Thing

picktherightthing

this girl.

Yesterday. Ahhhhh, yesterday. Do you ever look back on your yesterday and think,

Well, that was a &*%#storm.

No? Probably only because your inside your head language is more elevated than my inside my head language. I bet when you look back on your bad yesterday's you think,

My goodness. That could have ended up much lovelier than it did, couldn't it? Oh, bobbins.

Which is really just "nice" for &*%#storm.

Honestly, without hyperbole? Most of the day was pretty standard. There was even the brief high point where I figured out how to make a chicken curry salad that is supposed to make me skinny. (As long as I only eat it, drink water, and exercise three times a day.)

And then we went to Target.

Zuzu has been saving her money and had two dollars to spend in Target's Dollar Spot. She'd been looking forward to it all day and we headed over there as soon as she was out of school. Here's the thing about my lovely, helpful, smart, imaginative Zuzu. Choice is something she takes very seriously. The thought of somehow choosing wrong - of getting the pulled pork when maybe the chicken tenders are better, selecting just one bedtime story when there are hundreds of book covers calling, picking the $2 art kit when the $2 sticker book might have truly been the one path to transcendence - is completely paralyzing for her. So when I told her she could pick something out with her money, I knew what I was signing up for - 25 minutes of debate, fretting and finally, fearful but resolute decision making.

Only, that wasn't what I got.

We were in those three aisles for nearly an hour. Hemming and hawing and worrying.  You know, this wasn't a matter of her wanting more than her due. She was happy to stick to what she could afford. It was, rather, a moment of her feeling the fear of a wrong choice and the discontent of a lack of the perfect option.I talked kindly, I gently suggested, I calmly reminded her we needed to leave in just a moment over and over and over again. Until it really was time to leave and she still had not been able to settle on any one item.  She cried as we checked out, her sister paying for the $1 treat she had picked within the first two minutes of searching the store. She cried in the parking lot. And she cried on the car ride home. And then she cried in her bedroom. Because,

"You didn't give me enough time! I just need one more last chance! It isn't fair! It was so easy for Viola to choose! Vi is so lucky. I just want to go back! I want to choose again! I'll be faster! MOM! It was just so hard."

I stayed calm in the face of her very real upset and tried to teach through her tears.

"Zuzu, listen. When you're faced with treats you don't like, just keep saving your money for the future. If there are too many things that you like, that's a blessing! Don't feel worried about missing out on the right thing, just pick a good thing and enjoy it! It doesn't become less good because other goodness exists. You can spend your life worried about what you should have done, should have chosen, or you can spend your life engaged in what you're actually doing. And listen, sometimes, your last chance really is your last chance. We get to go back and try this again tomorrow. But that isn't always the case.  I need you to learn to have confidence in your ability to choose and your ability to act. You deserve that."

And, as is so often the case, somewhere between the "Zuzu, listen" and dinner that night, I realized that everything I said to my little girl was something I could say to myself.

Don't worry about missing out on the right thing, pick a good thing and enjoy it.

Your choice doesn't become less good because other goodness exists.

Do not worry about what you could have done. Get engaged in what you are actually doing.

There are not limitless chances for our hopes, our dreams, our obligations. Sometimes, opportunities really do run out. But, on those priceless occasions when you are given another shot - take it and run with it and only look back long enough to wave to us from the places you are going.

We each deserve to have the confidence to act.

After dinner, I pulled Zuzu onto my lap.

"You know that lesson you learned today? Mommy is learning it, too. Wanna work on it together?"

She did. So we will.

Choice. It's a concept that is often on my mind. Other thoughts on its role in female life, here.