What makes you beautiful…

Growing up, I had no idea that I had a lazy eye. I never remember anyone mentioning it, or any discussion of any kind. Kids were cruel about so many things- I was bullied often for smelling of cigarettes and for my white skin, but the eye never came up. In fact, I was twelve years old when my foster mom became fixated on helping me improve it (this never worked). As I grew older the eye seemed to develop a personality all its own, resulting in many uncomfortable and hard things. It was easy to hate.

I wish, at my forty-three years of age, I could say that I now embrace my lazy eye as beautiful, but that would not quite be true. I have embraced it, however. It has become one more way to filter out the less than genuine people, the ones I really don’t want around anyhow. I know that if someone loves me, the eye won’t matter. I know that my eye has become a large contributor of my ever growing empathy. I value differences in others. I can think of a hundred ways that I have learned to accept this ugliness about me, and how it has made me a better person.

Has there been anything in your life that makes this relatable?

This world is growing increasingly harder on kids. Recently another child has taken their life because the cruelty of other kids was simply unbearable. Whenever I stumble upon something that can empower children to embrace their differences, I become a major fan. That’s why I am excited to share a new family film with you. Opening this weekend is the movie Uglydolls. (Trailer)

In the adorably different town of Uglyville, weird is celebrated, strange is special and beauty is embraced as more than simply meets the eye. Here, the free-spirited Moxy and her UglyDoll friends live every day in a whirlwind of bliss, letting their freak flags fly in a celebration of life and its endless possibilities. The endearingly unique residents of Uglyville occasionally look to the sky above the town, where a new UglyDoll will appear and be embraced by the community.

Moxy (Kelly Clarkson) loves her square-peg life in this round-hole town, but her curiosity about all things leads her to wonder if there’s something – anything – on the other side of the mountain which nestles Uglyville. Moxy gathers a group of her closest friends and sets off to find what’s on the other side. They discover another world – Perfection – a town where more conventional dolls are trained in protocols before they graduate and are sent to the “real” world to find the love of a child.

In Perfection, Moxy and her crew are subject to the manipulations of Lou (Nick Jonas), the perfect doll in charge of training recruits. Here, the UglyDolls will confront what it means to be different, struggle with their desire to be loved, and ultimately discover that you don’t have to be perfect to be amazing because who you truly are is what matters most.  UGLYDOLLS releases in theaters this Friday, May, 3.

Grace and Forgiveness…

The Easter season has always been a personal time of reflection for me. While I may evaluate my life and own action/choices, I try to focus more on the condition of my heart.

How is my compassion? My empathy? My grace for others? Am I harboring resentments? Sometimes I may not love the answers I find, but as essential as healthy diet, rest and self-care are to our quality of life- heart tune ups are vital too. I don’t often talk about my faith in this space because unfortunately there are Christians who have sullied shared faith with judgement, exclusion and bigotry. I hope that anyone who reads in this space knows my heart is love– Period. In this season of reflection though, I can’t help but consider the final words that Jesus breathed, as he hanged there aching, broken and fading from this life: Father, forgive them, for they known not what they do. (Luke 23:34)

I want to take that loving grace and wrap it snug around myself, Warm, like a freshly scented blanket from the dryer, safe and comforting. Thank you, Jesus, for understanding ME always… Which, isn’t a bad attitude to master, really. I honestly don’t always accept that as reality though, and I certainly struggle giving myself much grace at all. I can reflect on my journey as a wife of 25 years, as an adoptive parent, and as a daughter of broken and damaged people- and I can think of these words there. Within this passage in Luke there is such deep, uncomfortable and hard to grasp truth. They don’t know what they are doing. Hurt people, hurt people. Broken people break. I can’t change how the ones I love the most will react, receive or choose- but I can keep myself in check. When I get wounded by the shards of their moment- can I give them grace? Can I remember that though I FEEL like they should know better, they truly may not?

Men beat, bloodied, relentlessly mocked and then crucified Jesus. Surely they knew it was inhumane and so wrong to take such satisfaction and pleasure from these things, and yet… And yet Jesus himself empathized and showered them with grace and, dare I say it, understanding

Have you been watching the History Channel series “Jesus: His Life”?

“Jesus: His Life” explores the story of Jesus Christ through a unique lens: the people in his life who were closest to him. Each of the eight chapters is told from the perspective of different biblical figures, all of whom played a pivotal role in Jesus’ life including Joseph, John the Baptist, Mary Mother of Jesus, Caiaphas, Judas Iscariot, Pontius Pilate, Mary Magdalene and Peter.

 

Each figure takes a turn guiding viewers through the emotional and epic story of the most famous man in history, through his birth, death and resurrection, all conveyed through a combination of scripted drama and interviews with prominent religious and historical experts. Utilizing some of the world’s most respected Biblical scholars, historians, faith leaders and theologians, the series weaves together the canonical Gospels, historical sources and cultural context to create a complete portrait of Jesus – the man and the Messiah.  The series finale airs this Monday, April 15 on The History Channel at 8pm ET/PT.

Don’t just fly…

When I was a little girl I was enamored by Dumbo. My mother loved this movie, and became a sobbing mess at the Baby Mine scene every single time she watched the VHS.

I too loved it, at first, because she loved it. I love it now for my own reasons, and admittedly I also tear up during the traumatizing melody. I know why this song pin-pricks my heart, and find myself wishing I knew why exactly that it affected hers so much…

She was not a mother, by nature.

What if, like Dumbo and Jumbo, we had lived in the Circus? What role would I play? What role would she?

She would love the animals, true. Anyone who knows her would say that immediately… However, she wouldn’t take care of them at all, really only coddle them for her own emotional fulfillment. That job wouldn’t do. No, I imagine her (though if I could ask her, she would disagree) as something between showgirl and clown. Clown Showgirl? Would that even be a thing? She would be the ever committed guys-girl, ensuing laughter with one outlandishly ridiculous performance after another. Once the night lights were dim, however, she would cast herself as a real guys-girl in other ways… Among the circus family she would be both the most loved and hated woman around.

I know this is all true.

At first I struggled to see myself…

Dirty, neglected child of a performer? Hiding with the animals, where I made friends and found solace? I imagine a childhood of days passing without seeing my mother, and seeing more her flashes of anger and belittling than the joy inducing woman seen by others, in the ring.

I know all of this is true, as well. Strip away the tent, the spotlights and the tigers and I can honestly say I have lived this childhood. A version of it, anyway.

I cannot think of Dumbo and circus life, imagining what role (within the circus) I might play, without considering my mother. It is an emotional DNA impossibility. That being said, one day the little girl would be a grown woman. She would stay with the circus long after her mother was gone because, in ways her mother never did, the girl valued family, even when family did not value her. She would care for the animals and love them as deeply as she could love anyone. She might fall madly in love with a behind the scenes designer and life would be hard, because- well, it is life- but also, circus life is hard, and this life was all she had ever known.

As time passed, she would give of herself, enabling other performers to be their very best. She would dive in and make herself needed, focussing on her ability to create, design and grow the gifts that this show could give to their audience. She would, eyes twinkling, find her most soul filling moments were when she secretly watched the children drink in the magic of human ability, animal and wonder unfolding before them.

Probably this girl would pass away in her sleep one day, an old woman, eternally unappreciated and alone. I’d like to think that it wouldn’t matter though, because she would carry the happiness she helped others find, and that she’d found joy in this too…

(Something nags at me that this post went too dark and too deep, considering it’s about a children’s movie. If you know Dumbo, and the story, it is a deep and often dark telling of so many hard to digest topics. Just like all escapes, we see only what we choose to. It is in the acceptance of the darkest parts that we find the ability to truly love ourselves completely, which is what we’re longing for others to do anyway, isn’t it?)

My birthday is on Thursday, and I will be front and center at the first local showing of Dumbo. I know it will be amazing and I cannot wait. This gift Disney has given to me, (let a girl pretend a little) is the perfect way to usher in a new life year.

Did you ever dream of joining the Circus?

What would you have done?

Are you anticipating this movie too? Here’s the trailer to hold our excitement for a few more days!

 

From Disney and visionary director Tim Burton, “Dumbo” expands on the beloved classic story where differences are celebrated, family is cherished and dreams take flight.   Circus owner Max Medici (Danny DeVito) enlists former star Holt Farrier (Colin Farrell) and his children Milly (Nico Parker) and Joe (Finley Hobbins) to care for a newborn elephant whose oversized ears make him a laughingstock in an already struggling circus. But when they discover that Dumbo can fly, the circus makes an incredible comeback, attracting persuasive entrepreneur V.A. Vandevere (Michael Keaton), who recruits the peculiar pachyderm for his newest, larger-than-life entertainment venture, Dreamland. Dumbo soars to new heights alongside a charming and spectacular aerial artist, Colette Marchant (Eva Green), until Holt learns that beneath its shiny veneer, Dreamland is full of dark secrets.  “Dumbo” soars into theaters on March 29.

 

Website: https://disney.com/dumbo

Melt…

We recently heard the history of St. Valentine and honestly, I feel like this is the ultimate romantic story. How has this not inspired a major motion picture? How is this NOT a story I had heard, ever, in the history of all Valentine’s days, school parties, etc???

I have never been much of a Valentine’s Day lover. I see it as one of those marks towards the top of the long list that represents all of the things we use to tell us we aren’t good enough, are not truly loved, and design completely unrealistic expectations around. This aspect of reality has grown so much with the rise of social media, the idealization of grand gestures, and the obsession with mimicking the entertainment industry.

This is sounding more soapbox than I am intending…

Here’s the thing though, my husband doesn’t believe that he is capable of romance. He is confined by the restrictions of finances, opportunity, and all of the other real life things that prove how attainable a movie life is. I look back at his childhood and cannot fathom where this shaping of “romance” originated, but for twenty-five years the majority of what I hear is that he’s sorry he isn’t more romantic, or sorry that he can’t do more. The truth is, I have never been that girl who longed for the big Hollywood style romance. There are certain fresh flowers I love, and I’ll take being surprised by them any day, (or let’s be real, I’ll buy them myself too!) Beyond that though, the traditional sense of “romantic gestures” isn’t one I identify with. Don’t bring me chocolates, or candy of any kind… BUT, an occasional fancy cupcake might be nice.

My poor husband has never been able to grasp the personalization of an authentic romantic gesture. He has done them countless times, but would never “hashtag” them as romantic. Instead he’s waiting for the hand in hand stroll beside the Eiffel tower at sunset to see himself as romantic, while I’m over here kind of like “Meh, Paris…” Ha!

I wanted to share a few things here, that make up some of the most REAL romantic things I’ve ever heard of- and they happen to be things this man has done for me… (It isn’t for bragging purposes as much as to illustrate the very idea of a “romantic gesture” is personal. What gets my heart melting isn’t likely what works for you.)

  • We were young and stupid. We got engaged, and then broke up. Even then, before Youtube and flash mob proposals, he felt far too much pressure about the importance of that moment. He tried too hard, cloaked in too much pessimism about his abilities, that though I said yes- (I helped pick out the ring, so it was pretty much a formality anyway) the proposal itself was not the basis of a great story. As I mentioned though, we broke up… And then we found ourselves sitting in a pew of the church that I had grown up knowing I would one day get married in, and he held my hand. Then, he let go of my hand to draw my ring on the back of a “connection” card, and wrote a simple “check yes or no” beneath it. MELT…
  • Not long after we were married, drowning in medical debt (yep, I was a big contributor to the awesome stuff like debt, hospital stays and a solid string of health issues, pretty much from the get go.) he irrationally enlisted in the Air Force. The recruiter painted it as the best solution, (it was not) and so he jumped. This was pre-9/11, when there were far too many people enlisted and so Chw got sent home along with lots of others. The first night he was back, he sang the lyrics to our song (We were so on trend… Always, by Bon Jovi) as we slow danced in the dark. He’d been gone several really hard weeks, and he had spent an insane amount of (pre-birth-of-google) time writing out the lyrics and memorizing them. MELT…
  • Fast forward awhile. He’s working at a glass factory. During his lunches he had cut a glass heart out, for me. He bevelled the edges and then frosted the words I Love You into its surface. I have never been a kitschy, knick knack lover but that heart seared itself into mine. (which is good because we no longer have it.) When he gave me this beautiful gift with an equal mix of pride over his creation, fear that I would hate it and doom that it wasn’t good enough. Heartbreaking! But honestly, the most precious thing about this glass heard was that there was so much of himself within it. Seriously, I LOVED it. Major MELT…
  • Sometime later, he was helping a group of kids make homemade playdough, at my parents. He then took a bit of it and carved an amazing rose for me. I kept it for years, until it was so dry it crumbled. I loved that eerie blue flower more than anything he’s ever given me- glass heart aside. MELT…
  • One Christmas, money was really tight and gifts in general were pretty much a negative. In our garage, in stolen moments I never knew about, he made me an ornately carved wooden business card holder. I had a photography business at the time, and it was such a gesture of support. I love it still and it sits on my desk… MELT.
  • I’d had surgery. There was a tumor the size of a nerf football in my uterus. The doctor had taken it, along with an ovary. Once I’d woken up, in recovery, I was miserable. The pain was huge, and my heart was broken. I wanted to be a mother so badly, and if I hadn’t been able to do it with two working ovaries and a non-compromised uterus, how would I possibly do it after this? Shattered, (which felt like a life theme at my twenty-two years of age) and feeling so alone, they wheeled me into my hospital room. The second I caught sight of him there, waiting for me, I felt grounded in gravity, so stable and most importantly: SAFE. This was the very first time in the history of my entire life that I remember distinctly feeling safe. He’d brought me a little figurine that said “You are my sunshine”, and though it was cute and STILL sits on my nightstand (twenty years later), never far from where I lay my head, it is valuable to me because it tethers me to the most amazing moment I have ever had, thanks to my husband… MELT…

The most romantic things that this man has ever done, (and there are others… these are just the ones that come to mind right now) were when he allowed himself to just authentically be, without the pressure or lofty projections of someone/something else. This is true for all of us, I suspect. When we are our most authentic selves, is when we are our most beautiful… St. Valentine was a man, and this was simply his name. He signed a letter, before his death, “your Valentine.” Over 1500 years later the anniversary of his death is recognized as the most romantic day of the year, by the majority of the world. Remember that when the pressure and expectations presented by film, tv, novels and Instagram tell you what things should look like…

The darkness and the spice…

Some months really have the effect of reflecting back over their days and feeling like they themselves lasted a year. This month has been one of those...

Like many, I began the month with goals and plans. I set off January pretty proactively, despite still feeling under the weather. While there were things I put off until I felt better, for the most part I forged forward. One of the lessons that this month held for me what that I am not guaranteed to feel better, no matter how many “right things” I do to ensure it. (thanks, January! You’re a pal.) My list, written in terrible script on my kitchen chalkboard, looked like this…

  • get set up with a trainer and ready to get back into a fitness center routine.
  • reorganize my spice storage.
  • jump back in to The Collective podcast stuff, after a couple of months off.
  • make progress writing on my memoir.
  • learn to do something new.
  • make a pot of homemade soup and a loaf of scratch, crusty bread.
  • establish a weekly evening tradition.
  • continue adjusting to my husband’s non-traveling schedule.

Oh, friends…

Ohhhh, friends…

I could write it a third time, but I still feel like it wouldn’t be enough. There are so many quippy things that one can say about “best laid plans”.

  • I DID! (even feeling crappy!) And it was great, until said trainer had me do an exercise that I felt strongly I should not do. I pulled a muscle, caused major stress to my (bad, seemingly 80-year-old) hip. Good times…
  • I’m sure you’ve seen Marie Kondo’s show on Netflix. While this was already a (desperately needed) goal, her show made me come face to face with the realization that how I had my tiny little cottage kitchen set up was NOT working. I was avoiding it because I felt helpless about how to fix it. Too much stuff/too little space, but try as we might, C and I could not get rid of anything else. We’d downsized so significantly and what remained was essential. It was a bleak 10 day attack. Stress and frustration became my new kitchen decor theme, (shout out to any of you 90’s young homemakers and the need to have a “theme”) and my husband began scripting funny comedy sessions about the ever evolving state of the kitchen. I insta-storied my low moments… It was truly, truly bad. But guess what? My spices are the best their going to get and the entire kitchen really is MUCH better.
  • done and done! We trouble shot some technical things, I connected with other podcasters. We started a Patreon and are REALLY excited about what’s down the road!
  • I did. Not as much as I’d hoped, but I am really proud of what I did put to paper.
  • FAIL. EPIC FAIL.
  • Done. Winter and soup are really the perfect couple. Well, and fresh, crusty bread plays a part, so I guess perhaps the perfect thruple?
  • For the month of January we settled on Fridays and began the routine of unplugging, grabbing carry-out for dinner and renting a movie. We LOVED it… Will it continue? I think so, at least on the Fridays we can.
  • You would be surprised how actually difficult this is…

So, there you go… a little account of my significantly flawed person, in this odd little month.

My truly biggest January lesson/revelation was that while I felt significantly depressed pretty often, I wasn’t alone. I would utter those words to a friend, and hear an emphatic agreement that they too were feeling depressed. This happened several times, and I was surprised, comforted and a little less heavy with each occurrence. It is a little ironic that the very idea of being bravely transparent and then accepting that you aren’t alone is the premise behind my podcast and yet, here I am going WOW! This REALLY works!

This month I read several books, but the book that I really connected with the most was In Pieces, by Sally Field. Truly raw and transparent pages chronicling not only the highest and the darkest moments of her life, but also her own flawed perceptions and reactions. Never soapboxing, Sally simply shares her truths. It was a brave undertaking, and it resonates.

A few things that I unexpectedly fell a little in love with, this month, were the American version of The Masked Singer on Fox, (I am actually pretty good at guessing, and their masks did NOT give me the nightmares I feared, so this is a win!); the film Juliet, Naked, (which I really, really loved and did not expect to even like it!) and this recipe for sheet pan shrimp fajitas. (I thought it would be ok, but we both loved it so much! It was so easy and so delicious!)

The only thing that didn’t really work this month, (other than my continued pursuit of cold medicine, and my waste-of-time new (now ex) physician) was that, in an effort to connect with other women locally, I bought a ticket for a ridiculous book club. The price seemed so extreme ($29) but the original description had made it seem like it came with the book, tapas & beverages at the venue (wine and craft coffee beverages) and so I thought it was worth a try. I received the book in the mail, (not a super great book and seriously the length of a pamphlet) and a little note talking about the food and beverages costing extra. I emailed the organizer to clarify my confusion and it was true, the ticket price simply included the book and (her words) the privilege of coming. Hmmm.

Wasted my time reading the book, wasted my money and decided I simply didn’t want to go waste my time at the actual meeting so I skipped it. You win some, you lose some. This was a definite lose…

How did your January play out? Did it pair nicely with your own goals?

What were your bests? (and equally important, was there something you tried that simply did not work?)