10 minutes in the life of a toddler.

In order to illustrate the concept of change for an upcoming talk this weekend, I decided to record everything that happened in the life of our toddler in the span of ten minutes.  If you’ve ever been around a two-year-old, or parented a two-year-old, or been a two-year-old yourself, you might be able to relate to his shenanigans.  Enjoy!

"Gentle, gentle... That is not gentle!"

“Gentle, gentle… That is not gentle!”

5:45 pm: Cancan stomps five times on the floor, runs over to the baby bouncer halfway across the room and bounces in said bouncer. He lays down on the floor and rolls around on Baby Brother’s play mat.

5:46 pm: He says to the play mat, and/or to whoever happens to be listening, “No go on it, no go underneath,” and pops down underneath the fabric play mat.

5:47 pm: Cancan discovers that he knows the word “underneath,” and proceeds to say the word “underneath” 15 times in the next 30 seconds, while simultaneously going under baby’s play mat, again and again and again. He then hurls himself toward the Bumbo in the corner, grabs the Bumbo and tackles it to ground.

5:48 pm: He comes up on couch, to where Baby Brother and I are sitting and proceeds to jump on the couch. He responds to mama’s request, “No jump on couch, Cancan” by jumping three times on the couch. He proceeds to sit down on the couch, out of breath from all the illegal jumping.

5:49 pm: Cancan goes to the corner to take “a space.” He sits on floor quietly for about eight seconds and then he sees his shoes two feet away.

5:50 pm: He says mine [about the shoes] in a scary ghoulish voice. He comes back up to the couch. He jumps off the couch and goes over to the large, empty Amazon box on the floor.

5:51 pm: Cancan sits down in the box. He lays down in the box. He gets out of the box. He goes over to the bouncer and bounces it violently. He lays down in the baby’s bouncer.

5:52 pm: He gets back in the empty Amazon box. He says “hi mama,” twice, and he sits down on floor. He picks up his Batman book, and begins singing one word of the Batman theme song that he knows, over and over again: “Batmaannnn! Batmaannnn!”

5:53 pm: Cancan fake falls on floor and says, “I fall down.” He comes over to Mama and Baby, and says, “Hi baby brother, hi baby brother, hi baby brother,” three times.

5:54 pm: He leans backwards over side of couch. He says hi to baby again. I put the phone down, for obvious reasons.

So, wanna to come over and play?  

xoxo, c.  

my inner a cappella…

Today, because it’s raining…

and because I’ve got some words to write for a guest speaking gig this Sunday…

and because my inner a cappella just can’t wait, might I present to you THE PART II MOVIE I JUST CAN’T WAIT TO SEE:

 

So, who were you in high school? And, were you to attend a secret identity party, what “inner” self would you dress up as?

A cappella all the way,

Cara “Song and White Girl Dance” Meredith

the little things: 10 second countdown (corrie farbstein).

Guest post Tuesday, guest post Tuesday!  Oh friends, I have nothing but sparkly kindness to say about today’s writer, Corrie.  She is a friend to all.  She is a creative genius.  And she is one of those glittery, magnetic humans that others are drawn to like white on rice.  So please, take a minute and be captured by her story on a soccer field today.  

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10. 9. 8. 7.

It felt like a movie.

6. 5. 4.

The inevitability of the clock was excruciating.

3. 2. 1….. 

And just like that it was over.

The space between my throat and my chest felt hollow, and a silent scream seemed to inhabit my skin as my mouth dropped and my eyes widened. A sudden sensation of yearning overcame my bones as I slowly put my hands on my head in dismay.

Loss.

People around me gathered their stuff and emptied out of the stands with a resilience I was nowhere near ready to feel. I sat there stunned—unable to cry but fixated on the teary eyed young men in front of me on that field. A slow, prolonged embrace erupted amongst them as the players wiped eyes and wandered over to each other. Some of them just sat. Others sprawled out on the field, covering their faces with their jerseys. The game was a grueling battle; they had fought hard and well, but 3…2…1… their season was over. For Cody, the particular fellow that my heart is tied up with, his entire soccer career was over.

The term feels insufficient, but Cody is my boyfriend—what matters to him matters to me. He has played soccer all his life. Years of pep talks, victories, teammates, the grind of practice after practice, games in the rain, games in deadly heat, losses, the sweat, the tears, the smiles, the passion—these moments; he is entangled in them, they have shaped him. So in that final 10-second countdown, it felt as if these moments were shouting, pleading: “Don’t let me be in vain!”

See, the whole school buzzed with excitement as this season took off, because this year was the year. Westmont Men’s Soccer had struggled during the four years of Cody’s time on the team, but this year felt different. The team practiced well together, and their preseason was victorious. Through hours and hours of practice, they had achieved a cohesive, invigorating team dynamic during games and great hope sizzled in the air each time we gathered in the Santa Barbara sun to cheer them on. No one expected the team to lose in the first round of playoffs. No expected it to be over just.. like.. that.

This moment may sound trivial in relation to the grand scheme of things, but it struck a powerful chord in me. True loss, I began to confront, is unrealized potential. It is hopes and dreams that never come to be, and likely never will. True loss is an irrevocable break up, or divorce—the injury that destroys your dance career and lands you in a cubicle. It doesn’t have a happy ending, and there’s no cherry on top. It is the slow 10-second countdown that ends in… nothing.

My American socialized self loves to indulge in stories of triumph through trial. I love the blood, sweat and tears and I love seeing them be worth it as they culminate into that final redemptive scene. But loss. This kind of loss isn’t that. It is an endless plot that stays cyclically bound to the struggle. It is the excruciating moment of 3..2..1.. over. No happy ending.

Loss.

Where do we find meaning it it? If no moment of restoration and fulfillment ever happens to legitimize the perseverance, was it all still worth it? My gut says yes. What does yours say?

IMG_4264Corrie is a NorCal native, living in Santa Barbara, trying to finish her fifth year of undergrad. She is an ex-dance major at CalArts who never thought academics were her thing, barely having read a book in her life, until she unexpectedly found herself at Westmont College studying (and loving) strange words like rhetoric and pathos as a Communication Studies major. She thinks that God is strange and sublime, that life is corky and raw, and she drinks coffee more than her A.D.D. thinks she should. Graduating is the big plan of this year, and she is enthusiastic/terrified of what comes next.  So, yeah.  Are you not blown away by the delightfully articulate Corrie?  Encourage her below by answering one of the questions she posed, or come up with the perfect enthusiastically terrifying “what comes next” plan for her life.

on being a seven & stopping the hunt.

You may recall this post a couple weeks ago, when I told you about how I get reading done.  And after I’d written it and received feedback and applause and accolades, I pretty much looked at myself in the mirror, and haughtily whispered:

Cara, why are you so amazing?

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And I gave my tired eyes – those blood-shot hazels that boast two-day old mascara and remnants of a 2:30 am feeding party – a wink and a smile, and went on my merry diaper-changing ways.

But as luck would have it, as soon as I’d clicked the “Publish” button, the perfect storm hit: the HBH (Hot Black Husband) started his new job and we found ourselves navigating the raw impact of an over-the-bridge commute.  And determined to stick to my Input-Only promise to myself (and to you), I remained stubborn to not produce anything in the month of October – but two speaking engagements in the first week and a half of November meant that I’d fallen prone to procrastination.  Again.

With my head buried in theology books, my fingers tapped away furiously at the keys when Baby Brother didn’t beckon and when Big Brother didn’t need his hands pried free from his favorite new toy, the plunger.  So when my brain needed a break and Gilmore Girls wasn’t cutting it anymore, I allowed myself one book: Richard Rohr’s The Enneagram.  

Because finding out what you’re made of – those deep, dark pitfalls of your natural character type – is just fascinating to me.  And it wasn’t until I’d underlined and starred nearly every other sentence in the Type Seven chapter that I came across this short paragraph:

“Amid the hunt for possibilities sevens now and then feel the longing for a happiness without external props: for simply lying on the beach and enjoying the sun.  They ought to try that, instead of dragging with them the usual pair of books, Walkman, notepad and maybe even their laptop computer, in order to leave all possibilities open” (160).

Because sevens are always on the hunt for more: overachievers at heart, our deadly sin is gluttony, so we continue the search for more possibilities and more opportunities, more happiness and more fun.  And while that particular intersection of a week didn’t lend me opportunity to crack open my usual six or seven books at a time, I did realize that too often I fill up every ounce of space and miss the little moments.

I stare at my Kindle but forget to see the baby boy smiling his first smiles on my lap or hear the two-year old singing a special song all his own to his little brother.

I listen to another book on Audible but neglect to relish in the moment of peace in the laundry room.

I mindlessly turn the pages of a paperback but shy away from the beauty of snuggling close to my love and brainlessly watching a show on television. (Scandal, if you must know).

So I decided to do something about it: and friends, I have not finished a book yet this month.  Instead, when I’d normally fill the void, I have tried to practice stillness and quietness and just enter into the moment.  I have listened to those voices in my head, the ones that speedily say It goes by so fast, and I’ve tried to taste it, to savor those nuggets of kairos in my chronos-filled life.  I have tried to just BE.

Really, I’m just a broken record player of self.

But sometimes we read something or we hear something or we hear something, and we know it’s meant just for us.  We know it’s meant to be heeded.

And so we do.

Because we don’t, not for one second, want to miss a moment of the Beauty that’s right in front of us.

xo, c.

What about you?  If you’ve taken the Enneagram test, what type are you?  And if you’re a seven, TEACH ME THY WAYS!  How do you let go of the need for more-more-more?

I also doubt this is going to be the last Enneagram post, so here’s a thought: If you’re interested in learning more about your type, buy The Enneagram book.  Or, better yet, schedule a meeting with my favorite Enneagram enthusiast and consultant, Leigh Kramer.  (Leigh did not prompt or pay me to say this, I promise). 

the little things: she called out to me (andrea miles).

Man, Guest Post Tuesday strikes again! Join with me as we welcome Andrea, a real-live writer-friend (of the novel Trespassers), who captures a memory of “the little things” so beautifully.  You too will beg to be stopped at an intersection …and beg to join in with the Beauty found in one brief interaction.  Thank you, Andrea!

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“Dearie, are you going across the street? Dearie, do you think you could help me cross the street?”

I turned to the woman who’d called out for help. She wore a red striped scarf wrapped around her head, only a thatch of white hair at her forehead visible. The collar of her black fur coat, knee-length and quite shaggy, was buttoned and hid her neck from the blustery Chicago wind. She was standing on the corner, holding onto the blue mailbox with one hand and clutching a cane with the other. I had intended to hurry past her as I mentally reviewed my recent ups and downs as a college student. “Of course,” I said, stepping over to her and putting my arm though hers, preparing us to walk down the aisle painted like a crosswalk.

WALK

“It’s clear. We can walk,” I said and thus we began our painstaking journey.  For the two steps it took an average person to get from the mailbox to the curb, it took us at least ten more. By the time we reached the curb, “Walk” had flashed and then changed.

DON’T WALK

Jean apologized for delaying me.

“Does it hurt very much?” I asked, watching as she closed her eyes and scrunched up her lips in a pucker of pain.

“Arthritis,” she said. “And yes, it hurts a bit.”

WALK

Jean and I moved forward, inch-by-inch, baby-stepping our way onto Clark Street. We’d managed to get to the yellow stripe running down the middle of the road before the sign changed.

DON’T WALK

We kept going. Inch by inch. And the Chicago traffic piled up and horns began to sound and we kept moving at a snail’s pace. Eventually, we made it to the curb, but the traffic had been forced to sit through two lights. As I helped her into the grocery store, she told me of how her husband had been a Baptist preacher and how he used to tell her that once he felt his work was done, he knew it’d then be time to see God. And then one day, he came to her and told her he felt his work was indeed done. “It was not long after that,” she said, her voice clear, giving no indication of her feelings, “that my husband and I were in an awful car accident and he died.”

It was only when I looked into her eyes, those wonderful expressive eyes, did I see her sadness, her pain, her love. “Oh, Jean,” I breathed, squeezing her hand. “I’m so sorry.”

She met my eyes. “Bless you child.”

She allowed me to get her a cart, which helped her walk as she made her way around the store. Together, we passed along the aisles, neither of us picking out much. The main reason she’d come to the store was for her cat Golden Boy, so named for his golden eyes. So with three cans of Fancy Feast, one roll of Scot Tissue toilet paper and a box of Dove ice cream bars (milk chocolate with vanilla ice cream), her shopping was complete.

“This is all you need?” It seemed crazy to me, to go through so much to get so little.

She smiled. “Sometimes the simplest things can bring the most joy.”

We paid for our groceries. A cab seemed to be the best idea for her return trip home. She hugged me good-bye and kissed my cheek before whispering in my ear, “God was watching over me today when he sent you to help me.” She patted my hand. “I hope I haven’t delayed you.”

As I watched the cab drive off, I was reminded of the story she’d told me of being in Europe with her husband and thirty orphans wished to come home with them. Easy to understand since I, as an adult, wished I could’ve gone home with her, too.

And I couldn’t help but think if she hadn’t called out to me, I would’ve hurried past her, oblivious to all but my self-indulgent thoughts. By taking her arm, I believed that I was helping her, but in that one courageous moment of a stranger asking for help, she helped me. This strong, loving woman touched my life and taught me that finding joy in the simplest things can be worth the effort.

___

AMiles author photo COLORAndrea Miles currently lives in Birmingham, AL with her husband of 11 years and their three sons, ages 8, 7 and 4. When she’s not homeschooling or refereeing sibling fights, she’s staring in the freezer and wondering what she can make for dinner. She recently celebrated the publication of her first novel Trespassers. Visit her online at www.andreamiles.comOtherwise, how did Andrea’s words strike you and haunt you and change you?  Leave a comment for her below!

i’m a babysitting advocate.

It’s been a little quiet in these here parts, and for good reason: I had two speaking gigs last week. (PREACH!)  And I have a newborn.  And a toddler.  And I need to eat and shower occasionally and watch Scandal, cozied next to the man I love. So while I finish up a couple of posts for the coming week, check out the following Q & A that appeared on my friend Emily’s blog featuring yours truly, The Babysitting Advocate.    

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Why do you write/blog?

I write because I have a story to tell. I write because the process in and of itself is healing and therapeutic to my head and heart. And I write because I’d start going a quick-crazy were I not to take this time to put pen to paper (or, fingers to keyboard, as is more often the case).

How long have you been writing/blogging?

Ever since I could form letters and let my imagination come to life on the page, writing has always been a form of soul food to me. In high school, college and graduate school, I preferred the process of writing essays and research papers to standard test taking; vocationally, I taught high school English for four years, and then worked for a non-profit outreach ministry for eight years. In both environments, writing was part (but certainly not the whole) of my job, and as I look back on it now, often one of my favorite aspects. In that way, I sporadically started blogging in 2006, but it wasn’t until officially leaving the work force to pursue writing and speaking that I began blogging and writing with intention.

How has your current season of life impacted your writing/blogging?

Well, for starters, it’s definitely given me material! Parenting a young child is my current season of life, and because I left my (paid) job to both take care of our son and pursue my dream, I find that there’s a balance and a dance and a juggling act that take place everyday. For instance, I’ve finally come to understand that I cannot care for my son and write at the same time; I am not the brilliant multi-tasker I’d like to call myself, and frankly, my son doesn’t want Mama paying more attention to the lap top than to him! I must be creative then with when and how I write, and with a second little one set to arrive within the month, we’ll soon be finding an entirely new balance.

How has this season of life changed your writing habits?

I used to have the luxury of writing any time I felt like it, within reason of course. Writing now has often become the luxury I choose when I have free time – so if I ever find myself complaining about not having enough time to fill-in-the-blank whatever, I remind myself that this is the choice I’ve made. This is how I’ve chosen and am choosing to spend my free time. In that way, I primarily write during nap time, after our son has gone to sleep, and during the day when we hire babysitters (of which I am a HUGE advocate!).

Click here to read the rest of the post, and be sure to cheer Emily on as well.  She pursues the intentional life WELL!  Otherwise, if you claim motherhood and writing, how do you find a balance?  

the little things: three small words (mary loebig giles).

Oh friends, you are in for a treat today.  (Do I say that every week?  Probably.  But it’s really, really true today).  Mary is a writer-friend and mama-friend and an encourager to the nth degree …so let her words capture your heart and spur you to action, as I know they will.  Enter in and enjoy! 

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My younger brother is in jail. It’s not the first time and will probably not be the last. Mom sent out an email alert, telling us about the charges (fraud), the tragedy (his pregnant girlfriend’s unexpected death) and his new county jail address where he is only allowed postcards.

He and I are estranged. I feel guilty when I say it. Our 10-year age gap and the currents of our lives meant we just kind of drifted away from each other. There was never any ill will. No argument or words we wished we could retract. Just a slow ebbing away. He was still little when I went away to college. I married. Moved away. Had kids. He dropped out of high school. Got a girl pregnant. Then there was another girl. And another baby. He worked as a nightclub manager, a cook, a marketing manager for a family bar. His Facebook page says he studied at the New England Culinary Institute. I never knew that. My sisters are the ones who told me he moved to Florida to look for his birth parents. That’s where he was arrested.

I remember the day we adopted him. I was almost 11. His head was misshapen, which was the first thing I asked about. I can’t remember if my mom told me then or later, but his foster parents had left him in a crib with his bottle attached to the side rail. He was rarely held or moved. It was like baby jail. His head was as flat as his mattress on the side where he lay, nestled next to the bottle.

“Why would they do that?” I asked.

Mom, who was a nurse, shook her head sadly,

“I just don’t know, honey. I don’t know why anyone would treat a baby that way. But he’s with us now and we’re gonna love him.”

It didn’t take long for his head shape to return to normal, because once he learned to crawl he never stayed still. He was making up for lost time. He excelled in almost every sport he tried, although he struggled in school. Reading was hard. Discipline was hard. My brother didn’t take direction well. I remember the time we went skiing as a family and took group ski lessons. My little brother, who was about five or six at the time, was the only one who refused to listen to the instructor, because he insisted,

“I don’t need lessons. I can ski. Watch me!” But he just took one tumble after another, wanting to move faster than wisdom would carry him.

Then came another email with a link to his public arrest file.  I almost didn’t open it. One click and I was staring at his mug shot. His beautiful brown eyes, wide open, staring at me.  And the only thing I could think as I looked at him was that he looked like the suffering Christ. Those same soulful eyes.

And I lost it. I cried and cried and cried. For the loss of his girlfriend and unborn child. For the loneliness and pain written on his face. And for shame that I felt. I never made much of an effort to connect with him after I married. To check in. Let him know I cared and that I loved him. I stupidly recall letting myself off the hook.  We’re both busy. He knows where he can reach me. We’re good.

So when I sat there, face wet with tears, looking into his mug-shot eyes, I wondered what I could possibly do after having done nothing for so long.

Well, I can write, I thought. I can speak the words that have lain unspoken for too long. I can sit with him in this terrible place of waiting and sorrow. It was a beginning.

He could only receive post cards. So, post cards it would be. I bought five with brightly colored artistic scenes of New York: the trees in Central Park, the coin-operated binoculars on top of the Empire State Building, the signs at Times Square, the Brooklyn Bridge, Lady Liberty.

What does one say to a brother one barely knows? The message on each card was different: sympathy, Scripture, encouragement, reminders of what is true. And yet the same: I love you. I love you. I love you. I numbered them and then mailed them, one by one, over several weeks.

The truth is some things are small. So small we can talk ourselves out of them. So small they don’t seem worth the effort. Like a phone call. Or a 34¢ postcard.

Like three small words. 

andy warholish picMary is an urban mama, freelance book editor and avid distance cyclist. It’s been an interesting year in moving their family from SF to NYC, considering a life beyond homeschooling, and asking God all kinds of question about her career, call and future. She’s been told this might be a good time to rest and dream a little. Go figure.  Have you picked your jaw up off the floor yet?  I mean, was this story of the little things just GORGEOUS or what?  Leave a comment for Mary below, and encourage her today!