A Recalcitrant Wife and Mother Tells All

Category: faith (Page 1 of 3)

The Picture That Cost Me 1.3 Million Dollars

They say a picture is worth a thousand words.

Sometimes a picture is actually worth a lot more than that.

Thirteen years ago this month, I quit a good job to stay home with my two-year-old son, Vincent.

We had moved from California to North Carolina—not for my husband’s job as most people assume when they hear we relocated cross-country, but for mine.

My husband agreed to temporarily leave work and do the stay-at-home dad thing while I brought home the bacon as a training manager for a technology company. I was pretty good at it (at first), and with my bonuses I was on target to earn about $100,000 that year. Well, I would have earned that much… had I lasted more than 9 months there.

But I didn’t.

Because in the fall of 2001, my sweet little Vincent came home from preschool with his first school pictures and everything changed. 

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Desperately seeking signs of beauty

When I could no longer hide the tears from my family yesterday, I found myself alone in the yard, feeling helpless, and desperately seeking signs of beauty in this world.

It wasn’t easy.

It was cold, and gray, and damp. And my heart was so very heavy.

But I was determined.

Desperately seeking signs of beauty by the Bearded Iris 2

Normally not a fan of dandelions, I couldn’t help but now see this lone puff ball through the eyes of a joyous 6-year-old. I made a wish and scattered the seeds. (I can’t tell you my wish or it won’t come true.)

desperately seeking signs of beauty by The Bearded Iris

Looking up, in spite of the gray sky, or maybe because of it, the buds on the Bradford Pear trees hold the promise of spring.

Turning the corner, I noticed one last green leaf still clinging to one of my favorite Forsythia bushes, amidst numerous golden buds.

The words appeared in my mind as if on cue: strength, resilience, promise, hope.

There is still beauty in this world. We just have to work a lot harder to find it right now.

Sending strength hope and love to the people of Newtown Connecticut from The Bearded Iris

Please look for it. Love others. Spread seeds of joy and promise everywhere you go. The people of Newtown and beyond need that from us right now.

For more strength, love, and promise, please join me and my dear friend Lerner In The Powder Room today as “we carry each other out of the hurt.”

With love and hope,

An apology to my non-Catholic neighbors

I should have a bumper sticker that says “Catholics do it longer.”

What? I’m talking about celebrating Christmas!

Come and hang with me In the Powder Room today as I apologize to all my neighbors for my tacky (and still proudly displayed) Christmas decorations.

See you over there!



PS – just in case you are having problems commenting at In the Powder Room (I know they are working really hard to fix their technical issues!), I’ll open the comments here as a back up measure. Thanks and sorry for the inconvenience! I love your comments!

Mary, your baby is 42 pounds. And he’s giggling.

Last night was the Live Nativity at our church. We participate in it as a family every year and it is always the highlight of our holiday season.

In a nutshell, we set up 8 outdoor scenes depicting Mary and Joseph’s journey to the manger and we guide groups of visitors through the scenes, singing Christmas carols and telling the story as we go. All the actors are children and we bring in live animals for most of the scenes. It’s epic, and I don’t use that word lightly.

I wrote about our first experience with it a few years ago. Frankly, I’m surprised we ever went back for more after Mini-Me’s traumatic accident during practice and then the whole donkey poop issue.

But the kids love doing it, so we sign up again every year.

For our first three years, Mini-Me played an angel. It was not a speaking role. All she had to do was look cute and sing. Piece of cake.

Mini-Me and Donkey our first year in the Live Nativity, 2008. She was 6 years old.

We had so much fun, Mini-Me’s big brother Nature Boy decided to join the cast as a shepherd the following year (2009).

Nature Boy (10) as a shepherd and Mini-Me (7) as an angel with animals in the stable, 2009.

The last two years, he has wanted to be a Magi with his BFF. They have an alpaca in their scene. They love the alpaca.

I’m always a shepherd. It’s the only day of the year the neighbors aren’t wondering why I’m outside in my bathrobe with a curtain on my head.

Iris, Nature Boy, and an alpaca butt.

This year, Mini-Me decided she wanted to be THE Virgin Mary in the climactic final scene…

Why yes, that IS a rooster on a leash.

…the super-pregnant Virgin Mary who has just lined a manger with fresh hay so she has a place to put the newborn baby Messiah she’s expecting any minute.

It’s a major speaking role.


I was fine with that. She’s got a dramatic flair, as you know.

But I didn’t realize the exact depth of her storytelling skills until I overheard a conversation she was having with her little brother, Bucket Head.

“Now you hide under my gown and when I give you the signal, you POP out and cry like a newborn baby. Okay?”

“Should I be naked?”


Naturally, I put the kibosh on it when they went to get the ketchup.

“Guys, stick to the script please. Mary doesn’t actually give birth during the show, sorry to disappoint you. Jesus isn’t born until Christmas day,” I scolded (trying not to laugh).

I had visions of Bucket Head’s curly mopped impish face crowning betwixt Mary’s white gown folds reminiscent of Jack Nicholson in The Shining: “Heeeeeeere’s JESUS!”

I was also more than a little nervous about Mini-Me thinking it would be glamorous to be an unwed pregnant teen someday so I made sure to drop a few phrases like “ring of fire” and “incontinence” when she asked me if wearing a pillow is what it feels like to be pregnant.

“Aw Mom. We’re just kidding. But that would be a funny Christmas card for next year, wouldn’t it?” Mini-Me suggested.

(Cue the shock and awe.)

So I got my Christmas miracle early this year: the Live Nativity went off without a single hitch. Everyone had a blast and rocked their parts. And yes, they all stuck to the script. (Just to be on the safe side, we sent Bucket Head to his Nonni’s house for the majority of the show.)

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a goodnight.


© Copyright 2011, The Bearded Iris. All rights reserved. Support your local perineum.

What “Are you ready for Christmas?” might really mean.

The first time I heard it this year was on December 8th: “Are you ready for Christmas?”

I effing hate that question.

It makes me bristle every time with anxiety about all the items not yet checked off my mile-long To Do List.

So when a friend cheerfully asked me this a few nights ago at the nursing home where we took our scout troop caroling, I turned to her and snapped, “Ugh! Why do people ask that?”


The look on her face!

She was visibly deflated by my sharp, growling reply.

“Gosh, I don’t know. Just making conversation, I guess,” she answered.

“Well, no. I’m not ready for Christmas. In fact, I have so much to do that I feel like my head is going to explode. My cards haven’t arrived yet. I haven’t wrapped or mailed a single gift. My husband keeps asking when I’m going to start baking and every time he asks I want to stab him in the eye.” I ranted.

“Oh. That’s totally not what I meant,” she sighed. Her shoulders were suddenly slumped.

I did that to her.

Desperately, “It’s not? What did you mean?”

“Well, it’s just that I love Christmas. Preparing to celebrate the birth of Jesus is my favorite time of year! I just get really excited! And so I was wondering if you are as excited about it as I am.”

“So, you’re not trying to make me feel inadequate or guilty or more overwhelmed?”

“Oh my gosh, NO. Why would anyone do that?”

“For sport?”

“Girl, you need to get your Christmas spirit on. Forget the To Do List. Think about God’s incredible gift to us: his Son.”


I was missing it. That’s so like me, to focus all my energy on the wrong thing.

We gathered up our girls and entered the nursing home. Most of the residents were already in the social hall, eagerly awaiting our arrival.

This was going to be a tough night.

And not just because old people scare me.

Our scout leader handed all the girls song packets and instructed each of them to share with one of the elderly residents. We spread out around the social hall.

A few minutes later, the room was filled with song.

It was going really well until I looked to my left and noticed this:

The meaning of Christmas by The Bearded Iris

This sweet woman was gently patting her new friend on the back and then hugging her with her one arm. It was truly precious to behold.

I felt a lump slowly rising in my throat, making it really hard to sing. I didn’t want to cry. I wanted to be strong for the girls.

But I couldn’t help it. I was holding back a river. My lip was starting to quiver and my voice was cracking.

Thinking fast, I moved to another part of the room, pretending to go help one of the girls.

Bad move.

That is where I met Ginny Mae:

Ginny Mae had already made friends with one of our scouts, a beautiful 11 year old girl named Anna.

Ginny Mae was holding Anna’s hand and telling her “Thank you for coming here tonight. This is the best Christmas ever. I love you,” over and over. She was radiating love and light.

I could see that Anna was about to cry. And just like that, my tears spilled over. I turned away and rummaged through my purse for tissues.

Anna’s mom sensed that something was wrong and quickly crossed the room to check on her daughter. When she saw that we were both crying, she started to cry too. We were a pretty pathetic little bunch. One of the nurses came over and asked if we were all okay. All of this was happening during a rousing rendition of Up on the Housetop. 

That’s when this lady turned around and signaled me over.

I tenderly leaned down to hear what she wanted to tell me, emotionally bracing myself for another heartbreak.

That’s when she quickly grabbed my arm with her bony hand like a scene from a Stephen King novel and hissed “Would you tell that lady [Ginny Mae] to shut up?! I can’t hear the God damn music!” 

Alrighty then! Even in the nursing home, I thought to myself, haters gonna hate.

Then it dawned on me, like the proverbial lightbulb turning on over my head, I don’t want to be like her. I want to be like Ginny Mae. 

Creeeeeeaaaak. I could feel my Grinchy little heart actually growing two sizes.

A few minutes later, one of our scout leaders asked for a handful of us to go with her to sing to Isabelle, a resident who could no longer get out of bed. My daughter Mini-Me volunteered. She grabbed my hand and said, “Come with me Mom.” How could I say no?

There were photos all over the walls of Isabelle’s room. One immediately drew me in…it was a beautiful, buxom young woman, probably taken in the 1940s or 50s. It was definitely Isabelle, but the change over time in Isabelle’s appearance was startling.

She couldn’t talk to us, only smile. She was so tiny and fragile, her hair white and sparse.

We sang Jingle Bells and We Wish You a Merry Christmas. She smiled.

But as we sang Silent Night, a single tear rolled down her cheek onto her pillow.

I was a goner.

Looking around, I could see that everyone else in the room was silently crying now too. Even the nurse. It took my breath away.

Silent night, holy night.
All is calm, all is bright.
Round yon Virgin, Mother and Child.
Holy infant so tender and mild,
Sleep in heavenly peace,
Sleep in heavenly peace.

It was a transformative evening, no question about it. Thanks be to God.

And now, even though I still have a To Do List a mile long, I’m totally ready for Christmas. Go ahead, ask me.

joyously and with childlike anticipation,


© Copyright 2011, The Bearded Iris. All rights reserved. Love each other.

WTF Wednesday – Struggle to the Snuggle

My friend Mama Cloud has a 3rd grade son who is not very cuddly. Every time she wants some sugar from that kid, it’s like wrestling with a greased pig. Eventually she tires him out and he consents to a few minutes of love. She named this phenomenon “the struggle to the snuggle.”

That phrase pretty much summarizes my relationship with God. 

Don’t tell my parents, because it would probably break their hearts, but I often find myself pretty damn unloveable.

Shhhhh. Don’t say a word.

This is between me and me.

So I keep busy. I declutter things. I take up new hobbies like running, and glass fusion, and wheat grinding, and over-sharing on the Internet. And of course, I drink a little.

All these things are marvelous distractions from achieving real goals and fixing broken relationships.

“Comedy is an escape, not from truth but from despair; a narrow escape into faith.”  ~Christopher Fry

But I think God’s unwavering desire to love me, the real me, “warts and all,” even when I can’t love myself, must be wearing me down a bit. I’m starting to let God put His/Her arms around me for a few minutes at a time. And I like it.

I’m in this kick-ass book study group I like to call the Renegade Catholic Priestesses. This is a group of about 20 amazing women I’ve come to know over the past few years, mainly through my church. We range in age from our 30s to our 70s and we come from a variety of backgrounds. These women make me laugh, think, and cry on a regular basis.

Yesterday we were discussing an idea from Fr. Richard Rohr’s book Everything Belongs. I was visibly wrestling with a concept in chapter 4:

“…sometimes we don’t do God or the Gospel a service by spending our life comparing ourselves to others’ gifts and calls.”


“The most courageous thing we will ever do is to bear humbly the mystery of our own reality.”

Oh crap.

I felt myself on the verge of an emotional outburst. It started with a heavy sigh and our fearless leader Marian jumped on it like a duck on a June Bug. Before my brain could stop my mouth, I heard myself lamenting out loud about my daughter Mini-Me and her struggles at school. “How can we not compare our gifts and calls to others’ when society obviously rewards very specific gifts! For instance, my daughter. I worry that she’ll never fit in; she’ll never succeed. She simply can’t behave like little girls are expected to act and as a result, she suffers. It’s so hard to watch.”

The group swooped in to protect their fallen baby bird.

“You’re a great mother!” “She’s an awesome kid!” “Don’t make her conform. Celebrate her!” “Is there any more pumpkin bread?” (Fine, that last one was me.)

But Marian smelled a rat.

She knows me too well and sensed that what I said was obviously code for my deepest fears: I’ll never fit in; I’ll never succeed; I don’t belong.

But everything belongs. Even a hairy, foul-mouthed, half-breed, Cafeteria Catholic like me.

Everything belongs.

Apparently, according to Marian, and my Renegade Catholic Priestess friends, and Fr. Richard Rohr, God thinks I’m awesome. I just have a hard time always seeing myself the way God sees me. But I’m trying. The good news about God and the struggle to the snuggle? This greased pig is no match against unconditional love.

I write about this today on WTF Wednesday because “WTF” isn’t necessarily a negative thing. Sure, we can use “WTF!” to express horror or shock or disdain for the crazy things people do, like this, or this, or this. But it can also be a question that leads to further exploration. As in: “I criticize my daughter constantly. WTF? What is it about her that reminds me of what I don’t like about myself?” (Uh, everything. You don’t call her Mini-Me for nothing. Der.)

And that simple question might be all we need to take the next step toward that next right thing.

“If God can receive me, who am I to not receive myself – warts and all?” ~ Fr. Richard Rohr

Everything belongs. 

Hey, guess what? God sends me love notes sometimes. Marian is one of his official transcribers.

“Someday, with God’s love,  you might find some more room in your heart for you.” ~ Marian

I hope you have a Marian of your own. If you don’t, I’ll share mine.

authentically yours, with slightly reduced self-loathing,


© Copyright 2011, The Bearded Iris. All rights reserved.

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