Archive for November, 2009

The Rev Interview

Caryn: So when I started on my new “career” as a speaker and starting hitting up the church-women circuit, on more than one occasion I had people tell me I reminded them of this Elisabeth Corcoran woman. I’m not sure that it’s complimentary to her, but I took it as one since I’d heard Elisabeth speak and enjoyed her writing. But honestly, I think it’s just because we both have long, blonde hair. And truth be told, although we blondes get mocked for being stupid, the rest of the world seems to think all us long-blonde-haired types look alike. Now, who’s stupid….?

All this to say, Elisabeth and I have become dear Facebook friends, and have tried to connect for lunch, but I just keep dropping the ball because of this darned mommy-writing thing I have going on (she’s free as a bird with kids in school all day!). And Elisabeth just wrote a new book called He IS Just That Into You, which is fun and real and funny and deep and all the things we love at here at the Mommy Revolution.

Since a major theme of her book is on God’s faithfulness, I asked her a couple questions about that:

Caryn: What are three (or whatever) of the craziest ways you’ve seen God show up in your life?

Elisabeth: He told me actual directions to get to a home décor store once.  Seriously.  (It’s in the book.)

One time when I was away on a retreat alone, I felt him show up to bring me huge, deep healing after a long stretch of sadness.  (In the book.)

Almost every moment that I can recall from my times in Africa.  (In the book. 😉 

Caryn: We’re all about expectation and myth-busting. How has God’s faithfulness to you helped you live out motherhood in a more “true-to-you and true-to-God” fashion (fashion meaning, way, I’m not talking about your home decoration store stuff here)?

E: I really desire to have a daily and moment-to-moment relationship with God that influences my life, not just a Sunday thing, and not just a quiet time thing, and not just an all-talk thing.  I remember a very clear time when God showed me how much He cared about my daughter by using the Spirit to nudge me to pick her up early from a sleepover.  I didn’t listen.  I choose not to listen.  She called a few hours later saying they were watching a really scary and inappropriate movie.  I told her I was sorry and that I would listen in the future when the Spirit was nudging.  (In the book.  I’m noticing a trend here…)  😉

C: How do you communicate God’s faithfulness to your kids?

E: I pray for them and with them.  I ask others to pray for them.  A very recent (not in the book!) example is that my son is having some issues adjusting to middle school – who wouldn’t?  Just two days I asked a few friends and my mom to pray for him.  He came home that day saying he had a much better day and even his homework time went ridiculously more smoothly.  Though I didn’t tell him that I told all my friends to pray for him so he wouldn’t be embarrassed, I did say, “I bet I know why it was a better day…Grammy was praying for you all day today.”  He’s able to connect that praying actually works in his daily life.  Love when that happens.

C: Is there anything you’re currently waiting for God to be faithful on? How has your past experience with his showing up affected your patience or perserverance?

E: I have a relationship in my life that is consistently difficult.  I’m no longer waiting on God to change my circumstances like I used to be; now I’m waiting on God to keep my buoyed up in the harder moments.  And he has been and does.  I’ve seen him get me through really huge hard things without me completely losing it, so I know I can get through this with him walking me through it.

For more about the book or Elisabeth, visit her website or watch the fancy little book trailer.

Watch Me!

Carla: I was at the playground with the kiddles this afternoon (side note: playgrounds suck the energy out of me. I don’t know why) and as I listened to the constant stream of  “watch me” calls from my children (which may or may not be related to my feelings about playgrounds), I thought about that need children have to be noticed, to have someone pay attention to their various feats of strength and daring and creativity and silliness. And I thought about how that need never really goes away. At least not for me.

Now I might be a total fame whore here and none of you will resonate with this, but I think one of the reasons parenting is a challenge for me is that no one really notices it. Of course people will certainly let you know when you aren’t doing it the way they think you should, but for the most part, our feats of strength and daring and creativity and silliness are unseen.

When my kids say, “Watch me!” I (eventually) respond with my full attention and give them high praise for whatever they just did: “That was really cool!” “You are so strong!” “I can’t believe you can hang upside-down!” I wonder what our days would be like if we had an appreciative audience offering behavior-specific praise. It would be nice to hear someone say, “Carla, I like the way you woke up from a dead sleep at 3:00 this morning when your 4-year-old appeared at your bedside telling you she threw up.” Or “You are so good at appearing to listen as your daughter moves into minute 34 of her daily middle-school update.” Or “Nice work feeding the kids, hauling everyone to the soccer game, cheering on your son without getting too much mud on your nice shoes, then getting yourself to a meeting with three minutes to spare.”  Or even, “The way you resisted breaking down in tears when you dropped that gallon of milk and it spilled down the front steps was really impressive.”

I don’t find motherhood to be thankless–my family is pretty good at thanking me for the work I do to keep their lives chugging along. It’s that I have never worked at anything with the intensity and focus with which I parent. I have never cared so much and tried so hard. And for the most part, that effort is invisible. I had coffee with a friend of mine a few weeks ago and she told me about a woman she met who said those very words about motherhood: “I feel invisible.”

So what do we–or at least I–do about this?

Caryn: Get over your fame whore-ness, is what you do, missy. As one woman once told me, “This isn’t about you; it’s about the kids. There’ll be time for you later.” So, what did I do with her little words of wisdom, totally trashed her in my book, thank you very much! Because I, too, am a fame whore. (I think this is one of the things that first bonded us, Carla. All those years ago….)

Anyway, I am also with you that I don’t think motherhood is “thankless.” That’s never been one of my gripes. Not even societally. I think people actually go annoyingly overboard in hyping the importance of moms (part of Carla’s whole “Cult of the Family” bit). And my own family is pretty good with the thanks. For the mom stuff.

The hard part is the stuff that’s invisible because we can’t use it or do it or get it made public enough. It’s the stuff of who we are, what we love to do, what we think is funny or sad or insulting or aggrevating. I mean, Facebook helps, but in our day-to-day lives as moms surrounded by little wonderful creatures who need us in big, actual, important ways (I’m in the middle of White Oleander—and finding it hard to read about motherless children and ignore the weight of our roles), it can be not only difficult to indulge in things worth watching or having people notice, but we feel like fools calling attention to ourselves. At least that’s my issue.

But we gotta get over that. I think we need to bring our moxie out of the realm of Facebook and blogs and into real, actual life. Say who we are. Do what we love. And yell, “Watch me!” every now and again. But not too often. Nobody likes a showoff.

P.S. Can we introduce “fameho” to the Rev lexicon? With motherjudger? As in, Don’t motherjudge the fameho. Or is it better two words?

Carla: I think two.

This is part of why working was good for my soul. It was nice to have someone say, “You turned this piece around–nice work” or “That’s a fantastic idea! Let’s run with it.” What can I say, I’m a girl who needs feedback.

So Revolutionaries, what do you wish someone watched you do today? What feat of strength and daring did you pull off that we need to know about?

Good Grief or Bad Grief?

Caryn: WARNING! DEPRESSING POST AHEAD! Our dog died on Friday. He was old (for a rottweiler) and ended up dying the way I’d been dreading. Well, I actually don’t know the way he died because I didn’t see it, but he died in the place I’d been dreading: on our kichen floor. Sprawled out stiff. Right in the middle of everything.

I don’t share this to depress any dog lovers or to gross anyone out (I actually left out the grossest details!), but because I think his death has some Revolutionary “application.” Obviously (at least to you dog-loving people), having a dog die rocks a family. We’ve lost a member, someone who’s normally here with us, ready to eat our pizza crusts, to nose our balloons, to (sometimes) greet us when we get home, to bark at us when he’s hungry. He went camping with us, he tromped in the backyard with the kids, and we walked together. All over the neighborhood. So now that he’s gone, life feels a bit wrong. We all get that.

But one of the things I know we don’t all “get” or agree on is the way we cope and deal with death and grief. When I got up on Friday morning, and saw Bladey lying still, at first I told my kids to stay where they were. If he were dying, I didn’t want them to come near. A sick dog—no matter how good a dog—can be a bitey thing.

But as soon as I realized he was already dead, I invited them over and broke the news. We woke up Rafi (my husband) and then all knelt around Blade’s body, petting him, kissing him, talking about death and what it means.

We cried together an talked about the role of spirit—and how our bodies aren’t really “us” as much we think. Then, hours later when the vet opened, we laughed together through some tears as Rafi and I carried our 100-lb-friend out to the car (if it weren’t so sad and gross, it would’ve been hilarious to see).

All this to say, it was a moment for our preaching the importance of frankness and honesty came into practice. I know a lot of familes who choose to shield their kids from the harshness of death and dead bodies and sorrow, but I don’t think it’s the right way to go. I’m not saying I take my kids on field trips to the morgue or have the watch gruesome documentaries, but as life happens—and ends—around us, we’ve always chosen to share that with the kids. For good and bad. And I think it helps them understand. At least I hope.

I know I did go overboard when they asked what we did with his body. I probably could’ve fibbed a bit and not gone into the whole cremation thing (now my 2-year-old keeps asking about the “big fire” and wanting to see it). That was a little hard for them to hear. But what else could I say? Lie? Tell them we were burying him? Instead, I told them we cremated dogs so they could become “compost”‘ (my kids are all really green) and that he’d fertilize the pet cemetary lawn and live on that way. Until we see him again in heaven, of course.

So sorry that this was so depressing. I just had to process this bit of family-ness. Comments?

Carla: I have found that my biggest issue when it comes to talking to my kids about these kinds of things is that they react in such different ways–different from me, different from each other, different from what I expect. I never know which one will be weepy and which one will be stoic. I don’t know who will want details and who will chafe at knowing too much. Like everything else in parenthood, it’s a total crapshoot.

Which is why I think dealing with grief is, like everything else in parenthood, a gut instinct. You just know that your kids need to see and touch their dog in order to process his death. You know that they need to hear what happens next so they don’t get lost imagining something terrifying. I think that’s good parenting.

At the same time, there are probably other parents who know their kids can’t handle the image of the stiff dog on the kitchen floor–we had our cat put to sleep when he was dying because we didn’t want the kids to come home from school one day and find him dead in the back of a closet (which is a whole different set of circumstances that you had, of course). So they figure out how to talk about the loss in a way that makes sense for them. At least I sure hope they talk about it.

Caryn: So true—about the crapshoot part. It’s why being in tune with who we are—as individuals, as moms, and as a family—is so important, I think. So we sort of know what to do in those random, unexpected moments. Good and bad. I don’t know. Anybody else?


What We Leave Behind

Carla: Last night my husband and I, along with my parents, saw Dave Brubeck in concert. The man is 88 years old and is arguably the greatest jazz musician alive. As I sat there with my parents, I thought about the incredible gift they have given me in instilling a love and appreciation for this legendary artist.

My parents are big jazz fans and we always had jazz music playing in the house. Every chance they had to see one of their favorites in concert, they bought tickets for all of us and we went. Mind you, I grew up in a small town and attending these concerts usually involved a 2-hour drive and often an overnight stay. Even when I was in high school, my parents would haul me along to shows by greats like Sarah Vaughan and Dizzy Gillespie and a much younger Dave Brubeck. I was often the only child in an audience of adults and I loved it. I loved the time with my parents, I loved the music, and I loved being in the presence of these great performers.

Last night, listening to music I’ve known for most of my life, sitting with the people who taught me to love it, got me thinking about the gifts I am giving my children. I wonder what treasures I am passing on to them. I don’t just mean the big-picture things like faith and love. I mean these little things that are part of our lives that the kids might not even notice right now but will thank us for one day. I wonder how they’ll fill in this blank: “My parents taught me to appreciate ______”

Maybe it will be “the woods.” My sweet husband was not outdoorsy when we met, but he has discovered a love for camping and has made camping with our kids a priority. So every summer, we hit the road at least twice to sleep on the ground and eat food with dirt in it. Our hope is not that our kids become expert campers, but that they learn to see the beauty of creation, that they find the same peace and contentment in the woods that we do.

Maybe it will be “community.” We have people in our house all the time. Sometimes they live here, sometimes they are here for dinner, sometimes they just pop in when they are out walking their dogs. Regardless of why they come or how long they stay, our friends–and their friends and so on and so on–make our lives better. We hope our kids pick up on the beauty of community, the joys and challenges that come from truly sharing life with other people.

Of course it’s just as likely it will be “show tunes.”

So much of what I learned from my parents happened simply because they included me in what they were interested in–theater, music, good food, books, Monty Python. They weren’t intentionally trying to teach me anything, just being themselves and inviting me into their lives.

Caryn: Oh, I love this topic (show tunes, the woods, yes!!). And I must tell this story. The other day I was looking through my son’s “take home folder” and sifting through his worksheets, etc. and I came across his Bible quiz (he goes to a Christian school, remember. No, our public schools don’t teach Bible here). Here was the question:

Jonah disobeyed God. Draw a picture or write about what happened to Jonah when he disobeyed.

My son’s answer: He got slurped up by a big fish.

SLURPED! I nearly squealed. My son—who is an incredible artist, so I’m surprised that he didn’t draw a picture—chose the word “slurped.” His word-loving teacher wrote “interesting word choice!” and put a smiley face next to it.

Darn tootin’ (in words my mom passed down to me) it’s an interesting word choice! But beyond that, I felt like such a roaring (another passed on word) success as a mom because one thing I’ve tried to pass on is a love of words. In English. In Spanish. Big ones. Little ones. Real ones. Made up ones. And here my son writes that Jonah got slurped. I’m still smiling.

Now, who knows what my son will do in life. But if he does it with wise word choices, I’m happy.

I think that’s what makes families so cool—that God plunks these kids into our lives and it’s our job to pass things on. Maybe they’ll grow up sharing our loves—our family’s love of debating issues, questioning, of politics and reading, of God, of animals—or maybe they’ll grow up rejecting some of it. But just that they’ve been exposed to our loves and loved during the “exposing” is so awesome. It’s sort of a branding for families. What makes us special, unique.

Which brings me back to slurped. Note: On that same quiz, my son was also able to list two prophets God used to speak to Israel, which king was 7 when he was crowned and which one was told to destroy Ahab’s family and the Baals. But I’m less impressed. Anyone can know that (except I didn’t). But word choice is an art. Maybe even a family thing.

Carla: I love me a good word choice.

I was talking about this with my husband today and he thinks our kids are picking up goofiness from us. Considering I met him when he was playing the Church Lady in a skit, the chances are pretty good they will indeed learn a little bit about goofiness.

So Revs, how do you think your kids will answer the question: “My parents taught me to appreciate ______”?