Dec 152014

Chaos and Kindness

Originally published in 2010 & excerpted from the New York Times Bestseller Carry On, Warrior.


I’m at Target yesterday with Tish and Amma. We’ve made it through the shopping part and we’re in the check- out line. I can see the Promised Land, which is: We’re Done Shopping, Let’s Go Back Home.

I watch Amma notice a pack of gummi worms. Her eyes widen. I brace for chaos. She grabs the worms, shows them to me with tears already in her eyes and says, “I need dese worms!” I say, “Uh-huh. That’s the curse of Target. It makes me think I need all this junk, too. The Target curse is why you’re not going to college, baby. No gummi worms. Put them down.”

Now. You know I try my hardest to describe my ridiculous little life to you. But there is no way to convey to you the drama that crashed down on poor unsuspecting Target immediately following the word “No.”

Amma threw herself down on the filthy Target floor and screamed like a person who maybe just found out that her entire family had died. Amma’s particular tantrum style is that she chooses one phrase to repeat seven million times at seven million decibels until everyone around her seriously considers homicide or suicide. Yesterday she chose, I SO HUNGWY! I SO FIRSTY! (SKULL SPLITTING SCREAM.) I SO HUNGWY ! I SO FIRSTY! (SKULL SPLITTING SCREAM.)

This was a long, crowded line. And every time the line scootched up I had to grab Amma’s hood and drag her forward a few feet while she kicked and screamed, like I do with my luggage in the security lines at the airport. And then Tish started crying because it was all so ridiculous. And so I gritted my teeth and made my scariest face at Tish and growled STOP at her like some kind of movie monster, and this sort of thing does not tend to calm a child down. So she cried harder. People started moving away from us and shoppers were actually stopping by our aisle to stare. I was sweating like I was in a sauna, and wishing the “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” song that was on replay would just end. With the kids jinglebelling and everyone telling you, be of good cheer! Riiiight. My experience exactly.

Up until this point, I kept my head down, but it seemed time to offer my best beleaguered, apologetic, what are you gonna do? looks to the other shoppers, in hopes of receiving some sympathetic looks in return.

But here’s the thing. When I finally looked up, I realized with mounting discomfort that there weren’t gonna be any sympathetic looks. Everyone was staring at me. Every. One. One elderly couple looked so disturbed that the grandmother had her hand over her mouth and was holding tight to her husband’s arm. At first it appeared to be an effort to shield herself from my rabid animals. And I thought, I hear ya lady, they scare me, too. But then I realized that she wasn’t looking disapprovingly at them, she was looking disapprovingly at me. I locked eyes with her and without subtlety, she looked down at my clothes, then to my cart, and then away.

So I did the same thing. Down at myself, then to the cart. Oooooooohhhh, I thought. Shoot.

My stupid Lyme is back, and I’ve been sick for a little while now. Yesterday was a bad Lymie day, and so was Wednesday, so I may have forgotten to shower or brush my hair. For 48 hours. And also, when I looked down I noticed that I still had on my pajama top. Which apparently I had tucked in to my ripped jeans. Like seventh grade. I looked bad. Not like a little bad, like offensively, aggressively bad. And also, here is what was in my cart: 6 large bottles of wine and curtain rods. It appeared as if perhaps I was planning to build a wine bong. Which wouldn’t have been so bad if my smallest child would have stopped screaming: “I SO HUNGWY, I SO FIRSTY!”

And since I was so tired and in such a state of self pity – I couldn’t even bring myself to feign sympathy towards my starving, parched child on the floor. Because I wasn’t sympathetic, not even a little bit. I definitely remembered feeding her the previous day. Faker.

But based on all of these things, I decided to forgive the frowny, judgmental lady. I had really left her no other choice.

I resigned myself to suffer through. I stopped trying to help the girls at all. Just left Amma there on the floor screaming and Tish beside her crying and prayed the line would move faster. I am sure there were a lot of people praying that the line would move faster.

All of a sudden, a uniformed police officer started walking toward us. At first I was alarmed and defensive. But he stopped in front of me, smiled warmly and winked at me.

He looked down at the girls and said, “May I?”

I was not sure what he was asking exactly, but I allowed myself to hope that maybe he had a paddy wagon and was planning to take them away. And so I nodded at him.

The police officer patted Amma on the head gently. She looked up at him and stopped mid-scream. She stood up. Tish fell silent and grabbed Amma’s hand. All of a sudden they became a pair of grubby little soldiers. At attention, eyes shining, terrified.

The police officer said, “Hello girls. Have you two ever heard of “disturbing the peace?”

They shook their little heads no.

He smiled and continued, “Well, that means that your mama and all of these people are trying to shop in peace, and you are disturbing them, and you’re not allowed to. Can you try to be more peaceful?”

They nodded their little heads yes.

The officer stood back up and smiled at me. I tried really hard to smile back to show my gratitude.

I noticed that the girls grabbed each other in a bear hug and held on for dear life. It appeared they had lived to die another day.

He said, “Being a parent. It’s a tough gig sometimes.”

For some reason, I became desperate to be perceived by him as something other than a struggling mom, so I blurted out, “I’m also a writer.”

He looked genuinely interested and said, “Really? What do you write?”

“Lots of things. Mostly a blog.”

“What’s it about?”

“Parenting, I guess.”

His eyes twinkled and he grinned and said teasingly, “Oh. Does anybody read it?”

And I said, “A few. Mostly for laughs, though. Not for . . . well, advice. Obviously.”

I miraculously found the energy and ability and space and breath to giggle.

And my officer smiled and said the following:

“You know, my wife and I raised six kids, and I think that’s actually the only parenting advice worth a damn. Just try to keep laughing. Try to keep laughing. It’s good advice. You’re doing good, mom.”

Then he tipped his hat to me and my girls, and walked away.

In the end, only kindness matters. Thank you, Officer Superhero. Merry Christmas.

The girls were silent until half way home from Target when Tish announced loudly, “I can’t believe we almost went to jail. We better not tell daddy.”

And I said, “No way. We have to tell him. What if we don’t and then he sees the report on the news tonight?”

More silence.

Joy to the World.

Originally published in 2010 & excerpted from the New York Times Bestseller Carry On, Warrior.

Carry On, Warrior
Author of the New York Times Bestselling Memoir CARRY ON, WARRIOR
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Dec 122014

Beauty and Hope

This article was originally published in the December 2014 issue of Family Circle magazine.

It was the first Christmas our broken family would be spending in two homes instead of one. We were in pain from the separation, but desperately determined to fake holiday cheer for the children. That’s why my husband, Craig, showed up one night carrying a tree.

It was the ugliest Christmas tree I’d ever seen—half dead, droopy, with brittle needles that hit our tile floor like a steady rain. I wondered if he’d chosen what had to be the worst tree in the lot on purpose. Still, Craig made hopeful noises while arranging the frail branches and I allowed my silence to speak for itself. Then I left the room because witnessing this awkward scene hurt too much. Even the Christmas music playing in the background sounded hollow and desperate.

As I kissed the kids good night, there was a crash. I ran back to the living room to find the tree had fallen and Craig standing there frozen, sweat streaming down his face. Ornaments were scattered and shattered. I melted into the wreckage, picking up the smashed keepsakes I’d assumed would be passed down to my grandchildren. I begged Craig to find the superglue while I desperately tried to piece random glass shards into something recognizable. My 10-year-old son, Chase, walked in and his eyes widened and filled with tears. I wiped my own tears, plastered on a smile and said, “Everything’s fine! Everything’s just fine!”

And with that—with that “everything’s just fine”—something shifted and I was able to see clearly what I was doing on the floor and to my family. I was trying to un-break broken things. I was trying to force my family and my life backward. Back into the “perfect family” box that I’d built of Christmas Card Families and holiday commercial homes. But we couldn’t move backward and we didn’t fit in that box anymore. Instead we were stuck. And the only way to get us unstuck was for me to let us be what we were: a little busted-up but still a family.

People change and relationships change and that means that families change, homes change and holidays change. When we hold tight to what once was, when we refuse to make new traditions and instead try to un-break broken things, we miss out on both the beauty of what is and the hope of what might one day be.

I handed a broom to Craig and a dustpan to Chase and we swept up the shards. Then Chase and I drove to the drugstore to buy boxed cookies and two-dollar tinsel. We giggled on the way, a little bit thrilled to be out past bedtime in our jammies. When we got home, Craig and the girls were waiting—sleepy, curious and snuggling on the couch. We turned up the music and redecorated our ugly tree together. Everyone seemed happy.

After we were done, we curled up on the couch and let our tree be lovely in its own way. And I decided to let my far-from-perfect family be lovely in its own way too. Maybe my kids didn’t need perfect. Maybe they just needed Craig and me to keep showing up and proving to them that there is always beauty to be found in the messes of family and home.

This holiday we will be under one roof again. We’ve been pieced back together with the superglue of hope and stubbornness and luck. But though we’re reunited, nothing will be perfect. We’ll admire our tree and family with different burdens on our shoulders. And this is more than okay. That year taught us that there is no Perfect Christmas. It also taught us that middle-of-the-night cookies and ugly-tree decorating might be a tradition worth keeping—forever.

Click here to read the full article on the Family Circle magazine website.

Carry On, Warrior
Author of the New York Times Bestselling Memoir CARRY ON, WARRIOR
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Dec 112014

Me and JonAll Jon wants for Christmas is me.

So. Amy and Sister and I had an emergency meeting yesterday to discuss the buzz that in January, Facebook will be making changes that may make it difficult for you to see Momastery posts — they may begin requiring people like me to pay to get content and messages out to you.

After an hour of discussion, we came to these conclusions:  1. Who knows if all that’s true? 2. It is a PROBLEM for Momastery and Together Rising that we depend so entirely on Facebook to get our content to you. All Facebook has to do is change a few policies, and this community could be disbanded just like that. To say that this stresses me out is to say that I have always found Jon Bon Jovi to be “mildly attractive.” MASSIVE understatements.

Right now I feel like I have this best friend on whom I depend every single day to make me laugh and cry and feel and I don’t even know her phone number. I have these amazing people I am DOING LIFE with- and I’m basically asking Facebook’s permission to speak with them each day. This is making me slightly nuts. I am sure Mr. Zuckerberg is just lovely – but I still don’t want him to come between us.

Help me with this situation, please. Would you do these simple things? They will take you TEN SECONDS.

  1. PLEASE SIGN UP to have G-LOVE delivered to your inbox by putting your email address in the box below. I am so excited about this newsletter. This platform has gotten so BIG and I’m craving the intimate family feel of the past.  I’ll write the G-Love Family letters filled with never-before-seen stories and pictures and I’ll tell you what shows, books, ideas and quotes are making me think, laugh, and cry. And there will be plenty of GIVEWAYS, like free books and Love Wins T-shirts and other fancy things I can’t tell you about here. And any information about future Love Flash Mobs and Momastery events will go out to the G-LOVE Family before it goes out to anyone else.  Sign up NOW and get your first G-Love email NOW.

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  1. PLEASE FOLLOW ME ON INSTAGRAM. You guys need to come join our little IG family. We are having a BLAST over there. Last weekend we spent hours discussing every scene and every character from Almost Famous. It was epic. It’s ALL HAPPENING over there. And our IG family is one TENTH the size of our FB family- so it’s super easy to ask me questions and interact with each other and get personal. There’s a lot of beautiful intimacy and a lot of FUNNY going on over there. IG is simple, clean, and easy with about %49 million fewer posts about politics. I LOVE IG and plan to spend more of my online time there. I need you to come so I stop feeling like I’m cheating on my FB readers when I’m sharing there. COME OVER!
  1. PLEASE FOLLOW ME ON TWITTER I don’t know what to say about Twitter. I honestly haven’t figured it out yet. I keep re-tweeting my own tweets and accidentally tagging deodorant companies when I mean to tag my Sister. I make no promises about what I can offer you there. Comic Relief? I don’t know- just come follow me, ok? Be merciful. Tweet Tweet!

Okay. Those three things. Can you do them? Can you help me sleep better at night by giving me ways to connect with you other than through Facebook? The show and the Love must go on. Right?



*If anyone can help me think of another name for our newsletter family other than G-Love PLEASE DO SO. But also know that it could have been worse: My high school newspaper column was called, “Nothin’ But a G-Thing.” I know. I cannot even.

Carry On, Warrior
Author of the New York Times Bestselling Memoir CARRY ON, WARRIOR
Join the Momastery community on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram & Pinterest

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