i pretty brave.

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All the New. (This, 3 blocks from our house. It ain’t all bad).

I’m drowning in newness right now.

New house, new grocery store, new church, new neighbors.  New Target, new freeways, new gas stations, new views.  New Starbucks, new Peet’s, and even a new Philz Coffee set to open at the end of the month, a mere 4.4 miles away.

There’s a whole lot of new in our lives right now, and it can be overwhelming.  It can make me feel like I’m barely staying afloat because everything I’ve known – from shortcuts to street names, from barista faces to checker faces to neighbor faces – has been erased.  I’m living in an Etch-a-Sketch world of my own doing.  

At home, we unearth one box at a time, hoping that with possessions in place we’ll somehow feel more grounded ourselves.  But still, I can’t find the coffee beans.  Still, I wear swim suit bottoms as underwear because I’m not exactly sure what box my unmentionables reside in.  Still, the pain of newness remains.

But then, me and the boys, we lather on the sunblock and we go on a walk.  I hitch Frodo to my chest, and Cancan makes do in the Bob, perched on the front or nestled in the back, watermelon juice dripping down his chin.

“New park, Mama?  New park?”

“Yeah, buddy, we’re going to a new park,” because everything is tinged with the colors of New right now.

When we get to New Park, Cancan becomes a more timid version of himself. He surveys the scene, checking out the equipment, looking around for a pint-sized person his age to race down the slide beside.  This morning he wasn’t too keen on the slides, he just wanted to go higher! higher! on the swings.

So we did.

I pushed him, as he begged for higher, as his giggles skyward bounced from him to Frodo to Mama.  And then, he said it:

“I pretty brave, Mama.  I pretty brave.” 

“Yeah, you are, buddy.  You’re pretty brave.”

Because he’s brave with the New Park and and he’s brave with the New Swing.  He’s brave as he shouts to go higher! higher!, and he’s brave with All This Change.

A few minutes into Bravery, a little girl a year or so older than him, came up to us.  She hoisted herself up on the swing, and turning her face toward my son, she yelled out her name.  Cancan looked at me, and he looked at her, and then he bellowed skyward again:

I’M CANCAN!!!!  

I don’t think she could actually understand his gleeful yell, but that didn’t matter: she smiled and gave him a thumb’s up before jumping off the swing and bounding toward the climbing wall.

And my little buddy looked at me again, and said those same words again:

“I pretty brave, Mama.  I pretty brave.”

Yes you are, buddy. Yes you are

And I melted, right then and there.

Because friends, moving is hard.  All this Newness, as you may well have guessed by now, is hard.  But me and Cancan, Frodo and the HBH, we’re practicing bravery.

We’re learning what it means to be pretty brave, even in and with and by All the New. We’re learning that it’s okay if things are a little scary, and it’s okay if we don’t all the way feel like we belong.  But still, we can be pretty brave.  We do things we never thought we’d be able to do, as we beg to go higher and yell out our names to all our new friends.

Because at the end of the day, we’ve got each other.  We’ve been given Life back, because we can be together as a family again.  So we cling and we hold tight to each other.

We practice being pretty brave together.

So, what about you?  How are you practicing being pretty brave?  How can I cheer on bravery in your life?

rituals: this unprinted calendar (katie mcmullen).

Y’all: Tuesday just came around again, and you know what that means: Guest Post Tuesday!  I am just delighted to introduce to you to today’s writer, a real life mama-friend I’ve seen almost every Wednesday for almost two and a half years now.  Because, you guys, this woman is the one who birthed this phrase: The boring rituals make the story deeper. We owe Tuesdays to her, wouldn’t you say?  Beyond that, Katie is a brilliant and witty leader, gardener, gatherer-of-people, wife and mother.  DO enjoy her words today.  

Flickr Creative Commons: Jacopo Ghisolfi

At the end of October, I plant garlic. Then I go inside for three months and all but forget that I have a garden.

In the cool light of mid-January, my husband and I carry our browning Christmas tree out the back door and toss it off the porch. It falls ten feet to the ground, and takes up most of the space in our small backyard. We’ll have to chop it up soon. I sweep the pine needles out of the living room and walk back outside. I look around. I breathe. In that breath, the season changes.

As January ends, my feet lead me to the back porch. I find myself looking at my backyard again, and again. I can feel it in my bones: spring is coming.

By late February, I have dirt under my fingernails and in the dry cracks of my skin. The days are getting longer and the angle of the sun is changing. I mend fences and build vegetable beds. I stir compost into the dirt as I listen to my mockingbird sing his beautiful and complex song. Does he migrate away from me in the fall and come back in February? Or does he live quietly in my backyard unnoticed all winter long?

In the early spring sunshine, I start to plant. Sweet peas and lettuces, collard greens and potatoes. I push them in the ground. I cover them with dirt, and like magic they start to grow. In the front yard, my plum tree erupts in delicate white flowers. By the Fourth of July there will be more plums than we can eat and give away.

April and May mean planting green beans, tomatoes, and pumpkins. The sunflowers grow taller and taller until finally, in late summer—could be July, could be August, it all depends—they open their yellow eyes to stare at the sun. That’s when the wild blackberries are ripe in the park. I pick bucket after bucket, week after week, and we’ll get tired of blackberries before I’ve made a dent in the brambles.

The garden leads me through the spring and summer the way that holidays mark my fall and winter. I find comfort in the rhythm of this unprinted calendar: sweet peas and plums, then tomatoes; Halloween and Thanksgiving, then Christmas.    

I love rituals: our annual Mother’s Day Camping trip, our first-day-of-school jelly roll, lighting the advent candles at Christmas. These rituals tell the story of my life, and that makes them beautiful.

I also love that rituals celebrate the passing of time. It’s easy to forget that the passing of time is something to celebrate. No one wants to get older, and no one wants to wait for anything. It’s easy to be fooled into thinking that I can control every situation, fulfill every desire on demand, accelerate my efficiency forever.

In the garden I have to wait, like a child waiting for Christmas. My garden rituals remind me that waiting is good, and I can’t control much. Seeds become leaves that put forth flowers that become fruits, which hold seeds. And then it happens again. I watch it, and I get to be a part of it. I like that.

KatiePitchforkKatie McMullen lives in Bayview, San Francisco with her husband and two sons. Look at her cool pitchfork!  Cara again: Did I also mention that Katie is quite the slice of humble pie?  (See also, the above two-sentence bio, for example).  Otherwise, what about Katie’s ritual of tending the land spoke to you today?  Leave a comment & encourage her today!

writing is the healing place and space.

©-laszlolorik-Fotolia.com_-849x565

I stare at her text, eyes filling with tears.

“Writing is the work for you and me,” she writes. “That is the healing place and space.”

I nod my head affirmatively, because she understands, she gets me. She too is a flinger of words, one who thinks and processes best through the medium of writing.

Oftentimes, I won’t know what I really think about something until I give my fingers permission to roam free over the keyboard. Because when The Itch begins, a wiggly, unsettling feeling far beyond explanation’s grasp births within me, I need to write. I must write. It is imperative that I seat myself in front of my laptop so I can be alone with my words. I do this so I can understand what’s behind my anger and my frustration, my short fuse and my impatience.

But it’s work. This work that happens in you and me is workin and of itself.

When it’s time to do the work, my fingers salivate over the keys, desperate for action. Oftentimes, I’ll start with a bang, fingers pummelling and pounding the keys, startled into motion by the starting pistol in my head. Go. Write. Just get something out there. And this is good, because initial words and thoughts and feelings have a way of making their home on my page.

But it’s also merely the beginning of the race. And if wholeness is what I seek, then the act of writing is a rather slow-going process for me.

After a paragraph or two, I’ll go back to those initial thoughts and begin picking apart phrases, comma by comma, word by word. Because, generally speaking, those first words barely scrape the surface of what’s hiding underneath. They oftentimes represent a deeper truth that hasn’t quite been discovered, an unknown understanding that needs permission fly free.

Eventually, The Hover begins.

Want to understand more about The Hover?  Click here to read the rest of the article, today’s feature at The Gift of Writing.  Otherwise, how is writing your healing place and space?  …AND, since today is My National Holiday (otherwise known as the day I was born, otherwise known as my birthday), I’m giving away a copy of one of my favorite cookbooks, Prune, on the be, mama. be Facebook page.  Head on over there, leave a comment and WIN!  Contest ends Monday, 3/23.

my bags are packed…

As you may know, our family is (again) in the midst of this:

file_168205_0_110725-family-packing

Except that it’s not exactly a vacation of sorts, and I’m pretty sure the HBH (Hot Black Husband) has only owned a cowboy hat and a pair of shitkickers in my wildest, most exotic, Pioneer Woman of dreams.

Instead, the reality of packing and sifting, sorting and discarding is here, as we’re moving to Oakland on Saturday.  

Really, we didn’t think we’d be moving again anytime soon.  You may recall this post, written about a year and a half ago: we’d had a big break-in in the city, so we decided to hunker down and move to a quieter, safer neighborhood.  We said good-bye to big city lights (or at least a view of big city lights from our residential pocket of San Francisco), and we eagerly waved a hello to a gated community with views of the Pacific, if you took the time to walk fifty feet to the path on your right.

We’ve gotten to know our neighbors, barbecuing and ordering in sushi, watching football and baseball, drinking chilled wine out of plastic tumblers on the common playground.  We’ve invited people into our messiness, and they’ve invited us into theirs.  I grew a baby here, and we brought that baby into this space (enticing my mother, I might add, to stay for two weeks in our make-shift guest bedroom of a single-car garage – bless you, woman). Cancan has morphed from baby to toddler here, Frodo has spent the entire span of his short life here, and I’ve turned into a Real Live Writer here.

A lot of life has happened here.

But there’s also been a whole lot of Messy Hard.  

As much as I sometimes desire to ignore and flee from and paste a happy smile over the top of these Messy Hards, sometimes we have to jump into the muck feet first and try our hardest to gain footing.

And that’s what we’re doing now.

You see, the HBH started working in Oakland this past fall – and for the first time since I’ve known him, he’s in a job environment that’s healthy, at a company that values him for who he is, that desires to see him succeed and thrive.  But the job has also come with a cost, a cost that has included upwards of a two-and-a-half hour commute everyday.

And deadly commutes are not for the faint of heart …not for those who commute, and not for the families they come home to.  Deadly commutes don’t make for a healthy quality of life, and frankly, they don’t make a fifty-feet-to-the-right ocean view nearly worth it.

So, we’re taking the plunge, again.  We’re packing our bags, excited and delighted and giddy to hunker down in home that’s just over a mile (a mile!) from the HBH’s work.  We’re excited to be in a place brimming with diversity, “…with people who look like both Mama and Dada,” as we tell our boys. We’re excited to be in a house that’s a 92 on the walkability scale, mere blocks from Lake Merritt and Trader Joe’s and independent coffee shops alike .  I can’t wait to string up lights in our backyard, Parenthood-style, and not make my mother sleep in the garage when she visits.

Mostly, though, I can’t wait to have Life back.

Like anything, with gladness comes sadness, too, because we’re leaving behind Our People.  And that, I suppose, is another post for another day, because I don’t think all the newness and the starting over, the rebuilding and the good-byes and the want and desire to be known has quite hit me yet.  Because really, “We do not see thing as they are; we see things as we are” – and the we of our story involves those we have shared in the messiness with, it involves Our People.

So for now, I’ll leave you and I’ll leave me with this picture of our future city, of the place we Really, Truly Can’t Wait to Call Home:

OAKLAND_CA_USA_-_Night_Skyline_with_Bay_Bridge

But until then, I suppose it’s time to get back to packing…

xo, c.

What about you?  What sacrifice have you made for the betterment of you or of your family?  What is moving to you?  And if you have any “must-see’s,” “must-meet,” “must-do” in Oakland, please let me know!

rituals: sleepy good (jennifer neyhart).

Guest post Tuesday ‘atcha again (and did you know that if you try and write “atcha,” WordPress will automatically try and correct it to “attache?” No way, man).  Anyhow, we’ve got the lovely Jennifer here with us today, sharing about a phrase whispered to and from parent to child, from her youth through now.  Enjoy her words, and then hop on over to her site and fill your mind!  
child-sleeping

Cara asked me to write about something related to this phrase: “The boring rituals make the story deeper.”

For some reason, the first thing that came to mind was the bedtime ritual from when I was a child. My mom or my dad would read a Bible story out of our children’s Bible Story books, we would pray together, and the last thing we said each night was, “Night-night, I love you, sleepy-good”. And when we learned how to say goodnight in Spanish class in school, we tacked that onto the end. We knew that “sleepy-good” was not correct grammar and I have no idea how it came to be part of the goodnight phrase, but without fail, every night, that is what we would say to each other.

I remember nights when my dad came home after we had gone to bed, but he knew we probably weren’t asleep yet. He would come into our rooms and whisper, “night-night, I love you, sleepy-good”. Sometimes my brother and I would pretend to be asleep until the last possible moment before he left, and then in a rush we would repeat back, “night-night, I love you, sleepy-good!”

There was something comforting in the ritual of it and also in the daily reminder that I was loved. No matter what the day had been like, good or bad, at the end of the day I knew I was loved. I couldn’t have asked for more than that.

Even now, as an adult, if I talk to my mom on the phone in the evening, there are times when she will still say the old phrase, “night-night, I love you, sleepy good, buenas noches.” And I repeat it back to her, almost without thinking.

I don’t have children of my own, but if I did, you would hear me tell them every night,

“Night-night, I love you, sleepy good, buenas noches.”

Jennifer NeyhartJennifer Neyhart is an aspiring Educator and Scholar of C.S Lewis, Bible, and Theology. She is a seminary student at Asbury Theological Seminary. Her interests include Fantasy and Sci-Fi stories in addition to reading books related to Theology, Philosophy, The Bible, Spirituality, etc. You’ll find her blogging about these interests accordingly here, or tweeting about them here. Cara here again: short, sweet and to the point. Just how I like it!  Do you have a whispered phrase from your childhood, or with your own children?  What in Jennifer’s story to us touched you?  

being our most dangerous selves.

Photo cred: Maria Portas
Photo cred: Maria Portas

I said no this week. 

I said no to a job offer and an opportunity, no to an “in” at an organization that could have been a really good fit. I said no to the comfort of a monthly paycheck and to the chance to put on my Big Girl clothes and break away from my two young boys for twenty hours a week.

But when I penned that final farewell, that good-bye-for-now e-mail, I also said yes.

I said yes to who I am, and I painted a picture of how my gifts and talents and experience might best fit into their world. I said yes, extending to them the invitation to dream big dreams for me and with me. I said yes to clearly communicating how we might make that next conversation a win for both of us.

I said yes to me.

Now, there are certainly times in which we don’t have the freedom to choose. When it comes to employment, sometimes a job that pays the bills is necessary just to put food on the table. But if choice is an option, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve relished in the choice to say yes to what I do best. In this discovery of self, I’ve delighted in finding out who I am, just as I’ve delighted in freeing myself from apologizing for who I am not. I’ve marveled at seeing how those unique threads of life-force have been woven in and out of my story since I was a little girl, how my me-ness most fits a given situation.

I’ve loved discovering what gives me life.

But this doesn’t just apply to the work force. This ability to dive into the essence of who I am and what I was created to do can be applied to friendships and to dating relationships, to marriage and to our fringe hours, to food and to books and to the way we worship. Because you and me, we are each a unique and delectable piece of Creation’s whole.

I liken it to the question of how we like our eggs.

You may recall Runaway Bride, one of a string of romantic comedies starring Julia Roberts and the coming-of-age characters she so effortlessly portrayed. In this particular movie, Maggie” always orders her eggs the way her former partners order their eggs, which for her is void of self, lost of preference. Called on her wayward ways, she has to figure out how she likes her eggs. Poached? Sunny-side up? Scrambled? She finally locks herself in the kitchen, preparing every kind of egg imaginable until she discovers her favorite. (Eggs Benedict, if you must know).

But that simple act of discovery – through a plate of eggs, no less – frees her to be her most authentic self. And might it be the same for us?

Because when I enter in to the Real Me, I become my most dangerous self.

And we become dangerous women and men when we are fiercely, unabashedly, wholeheartedly ourselves.

So when opportunities arise – which they always will – we learn to shout a most holy yes alongside a convicted, hallowed no. We learn to say, Yes, Yes, Yes, freely and unapologetically, because we believe in this vision, this direction, this dream of our most alive selves.

We believe this: This is who I was created to be.

This is how I was created to thrive and to serve, to love and to participate in my small slice of earth.

This is Gloria Dei est vivens homo: The glory of God in fully-alive woman and man. And His glory, as Saint Iraneous suggests, is most electric in me when I cling to and fight for and dangerously free myself to believe in who I am instead of who I am not.

So, let us be dangerous men and women.

Let us be dangerous individuals who seek to know our unique and passionate selves. Let us be dangerous humans who cling to Truth’s whispers. Let us be dangerous beings who fight for ourselves and for each other, trusting the paths laid out before us – even if we’re not quite there yet, even if that “yet” won’t ever be reached.  

Let us be dangerous people most fully alive in His glory.

Runaway Bride, sunny-side up eggs, vocational dreams, St. Iraneous, being our most dangerous selves – there are a lot of different thoughts here.  What resonated with you?  What comment do you have to add?  For more thoughts on this theme, check out She Loves Magazines theme of Dangerous Women this month!

rituals: the routine of togetherness (tim fall).

Backstreet’s back, all right!  And so is Guest Post Tuesday and this year’s theme of Rituals, those not-so-boring parts of our everyday lives that make the story deeper.  So, meet my friend Tim.  Tim is an encourager and a wisdom-filled sage of a man.  He’s funny and witty and I’d probably tack brilliant on to the list if he promised not to get too big of a complex.  But in all seriousness, he’s a gem, so enjoy his daily early morning ritual!

Flickr Creative Commons: Martin R
Flickr Creative Commons: Martin R

My Bedtime Is Earlier Than Most Toddlers I know

I get up early. Like 4:15 in the morning early. It’s so I can do something that – frankly – I could do any time of the day.

But I can’t do it with my wife at any time of the day, so early morning it is.

After all, when else can we pray with one another without the rest of the world interrupting us?

Night Time Turned Into Nighty-Night Time

We tried praying together at bedtime. My wife said my voice put her to sleep.*

But we didn’t need to get up at 4:15 just to carve out time to pray together. It’s not like we spend three hours in prayer before work (although if I had the stamina for that I’d be stoked).

No, it’s fitting it in with all the other things going on in the morning that causes us to go to bed earlier than most toddlers. Someone has to make the bed, so I do it while she gets in some Bible reading. Plus we like to exercise before work, running a few miles or hitting the gym depending on the day. And after that a guy’s got to eat, and my colleagues really appreciate it if I fit in a shower too.

That’s a lot to do, so we get up early.

But the priority in all this is to have time to pray together before we go on to do all those other things like exercise and work.

It’s the commitment to making our prayer time together a priority that makes it a routine. And while it’s a truism that routines can become just that – routine – this routine doesn’t mean we’re in a rut.

For one thing, this is my wife I get to spend time with and I like her company. She’s pretty special.

For another (and even more important than the fact that this is an opportunity to be with my wife every morning) this is time with the God I love, the one who loves me even more than my wife does. And I get to share this time with God with the woman I love.**

The Routine Of Togetherness

When I describe our morning routine to people, they aren’t impressed by a person getting up early to workout. They aren’t all that impressed by me being the one to make the bed either. But people do seem impressed by the fact a couple would get up even earlier just to have time to pray together.

I think that might be a recognition – even if they don’t know it – that some things are even more important than keeping your house neat or your body in good shape. What we do spiritually matters beyond what we can see and feel. It matters for eternity, and it can be part of our daily routine even before I get to experience what eternity really means.

Does that mean I have to pray with my wife in order for God to love me? No, but the reality is that my wife and I love each other better when we join in these routines that are part of a relationship with God.

So just as I make sure there’s time to make the bed and go for a run or get to the gym, I make time before everything else that day to pray with my wife.

It’s a small ritual that is really huge when you stop to think about it.

***

*The soporific quality of my voice is on display in this short video I made on the musical blessings of the kazoo. Truly joyful, and truly sleep-inducing.

**You know that part up there about praying early so people won’t interrupt us? We still get interrupted. Whether it’s someone texting my wife to say they need her to sub for their gym class that morning or a police officer calling me for an emergency protective order or a search warrant, we can still get interrupted even at 4:30 in the morning. Oh well.

***

timTim is a California native who changed his major three times, colleges four times, and took six years to get a Bachelor’s degree in a subject he’s never been called on to use professionally. Married for over 27 years with two grown kids, his family is constant evidence of God’s abundant blessings in his life. He and his wife live in Northern California. He blogs, and can be found on Twitter and Facebook too.  Cara again: I love this glimpse into Tim’s life, don’t you?  What do early mornings look like for you, with your partner, by yourself?  And if you are a person that prays, does your prayer time involve a routine of togetherness like our friend here?  Cheer him on, and leave a comment below!