This C. S. Lewis Quote Saved My Parenting Sanity


When Zach was fairly new, I was miserable. Not seriously, not dangerously, just kind of…normally…miserable. It’s hard. Babies are hard. And, look, I had the easiest pregnancies, births, and babies in the world, and it was too, too much. I can’t even imagine if I’d had difficulties on top of the normal.

Babies are all the time. If you do get a break, it’s not relaxing, because you know at any second you could be needed again. Finally ready for Netflix at the end of the night? Too bad. Go do another 45 minutes upstairs. Exhausted beyond measure? Don’t go to bed, because then tomorrow will come ALL THE SOONER. Did you just spend a week so sad that every time you smiled at your baby you were faking it? BAD MOM YOU DIDN’T CHERISH EVERY MOMENT.

Ahem. Where was I? I remember one night in particular upstairs, nursing Zach to sleep, just in the middle of the Hard of It All. And I thought, everyone’s right. I’ll be much happier if I stop having kids. These two will get older and I can do more for me as soon as that happens. I can relax. I can have fun. I can write, and teach, and act, or whatever it is I used to do when I was a person. I matter too. I should be happy.

And then C. S. Lewis’ voice popped into my head. Or rather Anthony Hopkins, because it was the version of Lewis from the movie Shadowlands. And he said, “I don’t think God particularly wants us to be happy. I think he wants us to love, and be loved.”

What, dude?

I mean, that’s kind of dicky, God doesn’t care if we’re happy. I mean, Follow Your Bliss, right? Live Your Dreams.

But the weird thing was, as soon as this quote popped into my head, I felt free. I could breathe. I didn’t have to feel happy this minute. I didn’t have to feel happy this week. Having a hard time didn’t prove I was living the wrong life. In fact, I’d been thinking about “happy” all wrong. I’d been thinking, if only life were easier, I’d be happy. But my life had been easier. Before I had kids. Before I married Andrew. But I wasn’t happier. I wouldn’t choose that life over the one I have now for anything in the world.

Babies are hard.

Everything worth doing is hard.

“I think he wants us to love, and be loved.” When God talks about “love,” he’s not talking about the warm fuzzies you have for someone that make you feel good. He’s talking about all those little (and big) sacrifices you make for the good of someone else.

Look, I’m not advocating being a living martyr and never doing anything for yourself. If I wasn’t alone at a coffee shop right now, people would be dead. Audrey spent the morning at the top of the stairs, crying, “I WANT TO COME DOWNSTAIRS!” while I yelled back, “THEN WHY AREN’T YOU????” Over and over again.

Oh, man, this. So many days.

Yet something happened a couple of weeks ago that surprised me. I was in the middle of some general insanity I can’t even remember, small people yelling at me, trashing the house, who knows. And I started to pray. This isn’t normal; I rarely think to do something so constructive. And I was ready to beg God for the calm and peace to not duct tape my children to the walls. But that’s not what came out. Instead I heard myself blurting out weepy thanks for my kids, and the chance to live this beautiful life with them and my husband, and that if I could have anything in the world, it would be more of this sacred insanity.

Screw easy. Let’s do love.


posted under Audrey, faith story, God, Zachary | Comments Off on This C. S. Lewis Quote Saved My Parenting Sanity

Faith the Third


Here are Part One and Part Two of this tale.

So, Jesus and everything: I believed it, but couldn’t believe I believed it. I knew how I looked at people like me and I couldn’t stop judging myself, while also trying to explain myself to myself. I’m not that kind of Christian, I’d say to the imaginary people looking at me like I was an idiot. I’m so enlightened. No, I don’t believe all that stuff those other guys do. Shoooooot.

So I had a kid. Kids force you to examine your beliefs. On unbeliefs. Even the agnostics and atheists have to figure out what they’re going to say to their kids, and I don’t think anyone gets off easy. So you have to leave the part of you that lets the Big Questions slide with a meh and figure out what you’re going to say. Oh, my. You think religious concepts can be hard to grasp? Try explaining them to a two-year-old. Let me tell you, my whole faith structure would come crashing down every time Audrey asked me something like, “Jesus come play blocks with me?” Shiiiit. I mean, well, that’s actually adorable and I’m glad she cares. But how do you explain this? I felt like a fraud.

(Sometimes when Christianity seems absurd, I think about the last documentary I watched where some physicist tries to explain current ideas about the world, and then nothing about God seems weird. In fact, it seems to fit.)

I was getting restless in my church. I got so much out of it, brain-wise, but I was missing some feels. I was surprised to find I most looked forward to Ash Wednesday every year, of all things, because the service had ritual and liturgy and…I don’t know, gravitas? Sunday services, while beautiful, had started to feel like attending a good concert and self-help lecture. It was great, but it didn’t feel like worship.

Well, we Protestants, when we don’t fit perfectly in a faith community, we often pick another one. We have roughly 40,000 denominations to pick from, so we can pretty easily find a church with the beliefs that don’t challenge us, or with the prettiest music, or with the best doughnuts. We can be comfortable.

I started having an emotional hankering for Catholicism. Ritual. Physical worship. Our bodies and souls are connected, but we sometimes forget that. So I’m an actor, and a director once told me I pretty much suck for the majority of the rehearsal period, but he stopped worrying about it because I come through by the time we perform. That’s me spiritually in a nutshell. It’s hard for me to get somewhere mentally all under my own steam. Put me in a costume, on a set, and it clicks.

And then theologically: well, look, I couldn’t buy all of Catholic belief or anything, but I recognized the value in having some kind of standard. How do I grow when the message I hear is I’m fine just as I am? What do I aim for? Again, not that I could really get behind Catholic teaching, but you know, maybe I could come for the candles and sort of just tolerate the hard teachings. I mean, I’ve seen the polls. Don’t most Catholics do that anyway?

By the time I was contemplating this, I was pregnant with Zachary and we had started attending a different service at our church. I was still feeling wishy-washy about Catholicism but I started reading a little. I picked up Catholicism for Dummies. I’d actually read it a few years before, but this time something new struck me. There’s this teaching that basically says you can’t do a wrong thing for a right reason. The end does not justify the means. For example, you can’t take one life even to save a thousand. I started swishing this around in my brain. I hadn’t really considered this concept ever. It sat badly with me at first. Really? We can’t compromise ourselves a tiny bit to serve the greater good? Doesn’t a lot of good outweigh a little bad? And then I got it. This rule removes us from the position of making these decisions. Of being God. It sounds great to do a little wrong thing to make the world a better place. But it’s awfully easy to start rationalizing away more and more horrible actions in the name of the Greater Good. I think we can all call to mind awful examples of this in history. And I started thinking of the wrong things I was okay with because I thought of them as “necessary evils.” Suddenly my own phrase sounded really messed up. If I thought something was evil, did I really have sufficient criteria for calling it “necessary”?

This little section of Catholicism for Dummies started haunting me, re-configuring my brain. It was the beginning of what would become a pattern. I would come across a plain crazy Catholic doctrine, I would learn the actual teaching and worldview behind it, and it would make sense. Just beautiful, painful sense.

Next time: More things learned while making that second kid.

posted under Audrey, faith story, God | Comments Off on Faith the Third

Faith Part Deux


After reading about religion for 13 years, it occurred to me I might not come up with all the answers in my lifetime. You know, since, for thousands upon thousands of years, people much smarter than me had been working on this without an obvious consensus. I mean, what chance did I have? So I figured I might as well not wait for perfect enlightenment to get to do that whole Practicing Religion thing, but hitch up to a faith community for the journey. I had tried just NOT doing religion, but that hadn’t worked for me. I didn’t believe enough that direction either. If I hadn’t taken it on, I just would have continued reading and wrestling and obsessing till I died. And don’t get me wrong, I still do all those things! Just, you know, WITH my religion.

My church was the best place to start. It was as open-minded as open-minded can get. I didn’t have to believe anything. Not about Jesus or morality or dogma or squat. And that might sound kind of airy-fairy pointless but it wasn’t. Because there was a total passion for Jesus and the Bible and Christian tradition. The people there reintroduced me to all of that, and made it fascinating. I was learning all the time, especially about the ancient world and some context for all those troubling parts of the Bible. And yes, that thing is troubling. And gorgeous! And horrifying. And exciting. Let’s just say, there’s a lot going on.

Meanwhile, I was marrying Andy. I loved that any couple could get married at my church. Then I found myself weirdly disappointed that any couple could get married at my church. As in, Andy and I didn’t have to deal with any premarital counseling. We didn’t have to prove to anyone we were prepared for marriage. It wasn’t of concern. Now, look, I was marrying the best, easiest, wonderfulest person on the planet anyone could possibly marry and we were grown-ass adults. Why on earth did I so desperately want to be interrogated for months before I could do it? I could not explain it. And why did I feel awkward that I had to ask for a fidelity clause to be included in the vows? Weird, old-fashioned personality quirk, I guessed.

Do you know how hard it is to find a Biblical passage to read at your wedding? Let’s see, Adam and Eve, a couple of Proverbs about a good wife that probably wouldn’t apply to me (“…prudent wife…noble character…”). Some stuff about submission: mutual, yes, but still not great wedding material. Then Jesus says just don’t get divorced, people, and then Paul says, heck, get married if you HAVE to, I mean, so you’re not distracted by all your LUST, you know, and there. That’s the Bible on marriage.  I should have gone with Deuteronomy 24:5 –

“If a man has recently married, he must not be sent to war or have any other duty laid on him. For one year he is to be free to stay at home and bring happiness to the wife he has married.”

Aw, yeah. But on the whole, it did make me wonder where all the Christian Family Value talk came from. The Bible has a bunch of rules for marriages that would be illegal (not to mention immoral) today and then a few dudes talking about how nice it would be if more people could just be celibate. I mean, seriously! Where were all the conservatives getting this?

Well, dear reader, I married him, and life went on.

I would go to Bible studies and other classes and continue reading at home and it was all grand. It’s kind of awesome when it turns out that everything that always bugged you about Christianity doesn’t have a solid theological basis and God actually agrees with everything you thought about life in the first place! And, yes, I could see what I was doing there, creating God in my own image and all that. In fact, I’d done it many times over the years when trying to work out how the world works, so don’t go and blame my church. But, man, I could back it up with some good arguments. Don’t you understand that homosexual activity in the ancient world is a completely different thing than what we’re talking about now? Do you realize how little is said about hell, and that they’re really talking about the local child-sacrifice-turned-garbage-dump valley? You get that there are several different genres of writing in the Bible, and it doesn’t present itself as an Instruction Manual for All Time, right?

And, well, I still essentially stand by that, but…I was a bit self-righteous. Well, wouldn’t you be if you were more enlightened than the ignorant masses? Sigh. Thankfully, at the same time, church was the one moment in the week where I was reminded I wasn’t the center of the world. I’d sit down in that lovely sanctuary and be taken down a couple of notches, in the best way. It’s still working on me. I have a long way to go. But it helped.


One day in Bible study, one of the pastors asked us if it mattered whether the resurrection literally physically happened or not. I was dumbfounded. I may not have had the most solid belief, but I wanted my church to! Or at least recognize that even if you think it’s unknowable, that it would in fact make a huge difference if Jesus managed to come back from the dead, as opposed to just leaving a nice, fuzzy legacy that made people feel like he was still with them. I think it would have mattered to the disciples too. I mean, let’s think this through. You’re a bunch of uneducated, sometimes dense, sometimes cowardly dudes who have given up everything to follow this guy, and then he goes and gets executed in the most brutal, humiliating way possible and you are laying the fuck low so the same does not happen to you. Now, it’s entirely possible that after the crazy shit dies down, and you’ve still got a dead friend, you talk amongst yourselves and say, “That guy had some really insightful stuff to say about life. We should remember it and share it with everyone, because the world would be a better place if people acted like he said they should.” I can buy that. But they didn’t. These terrified and broken men started shouting from the rooftops: “Holy fuck, you guys! He came back from the dead! Fix your lives, cause this is a game changer!!!” And then they went and told as many people as possible, establishing churches in their wake, until they were killed for it.

That’s the part I can’t make sense of if the guy was still dead. Nobody’s that confused. Not en masse.

(Now, we could just call into question the veracity of the gospel accounts in the first place, but this last part is the generally historically accepted view of how the church started: dudes running around claiming Jesus’ resurrection and church planting. I understand questioning the claims of the gospels, but I think logic would eliminate us tossing the whole thing aside as some first century dudes’ Fiction That We’re Totally Making Up To Oppress People With Even Though It Will Take Us a Few Centuries Of Being Totally Oppressed Ourselves Before We Can Go Do All That Oppressing We Really Want To.)

So basically, I was having the surreal experience of being a raging liberal having strange conservative flashes in my church.

Next up, probably: I continue to confuse myself.

posted under faith story, God, husband | Comments Off on Faith Part Deux



Last month, Audrey started reading some three-letter words, and it was the biggest high of our short homeschooling life. I felt so lucky to be a part of that moment.

Sometimes I go back and forth over whether and how long we’ll homeschool in the years to come but GAH. I got to be there for that. I got to share it with her. I’m selfish and jealous. I want to be the one who does these things with her.


Oy. She’s been talking about death. Asking questions. Incorporating it into play. Working things out in her head. Wow, that’s not easy to talk about, is it? Some things are hard enough to grasp as an adult, but I have to convey the Big Things to a 3-year-old!

And it’s only after I finish one of these conversations that I realize I got off easy. Well, relatively. The questions are only going to get harder. And – deep breath – that’s one of those things I get to share with her too.

Kids! I thought they were just cute little people you got to dress up and snuggle.




posted under Audrey, homeschool | Comments Off on Schooled

Faith Story



Some of you may know I’ve been cheating on my progressive church with the capital “C” Catholic Church. Most of you are probably a little confounded by this. Or a lot. I’d like to dip my toes in the water of Explaining This. I’m nervous about it. I think I’ll do a bad job. But. I’m going to take it slow. If you have questions, I will be super happy to attempt to answer them as I tell this story. Any question is cool, as long as it’s a real question. So “How can you believe such stupid bullshit?” isn’t a real question because it’s secretly a statement. However, “That whole being against contraception thing seems like stupid bullshit to me; what’s your take on that?” works for me.


The story kind of starts with Andrew. Although I don’t know if he really wants the blame for it! When I met him, I was kind of religiously nothing. I was always interested in religion. I had spent the last decade or so reading – Judaism, a little paganism, and finally back around to Christianity – but I kept it pretty intellectually removed from life. (Actually, I’m still good at that.) So while I was coming around to the idea that Christianity wasn’t complete made-up bullshit after all and actually had some amazing, insightful, philosophically sound qualities, I started showing up for Sunday morning services at Ye Olde Progressive Dogma-Free Church about once every six months. I’d feel the tug, go, and then be done for half a year.

My moral compass was a bit damaged, especially relationship-wise, but before I met Andy I had finally decided that marriage and family were also not a big bullshit con that I didn’t deserve anyway, but rather something of value, something I wanted. I learned that love was not the warm fuzzies I felt (all about me) but an action toward another (all about them). (Don’t get me wrong: I’m still really selfish. But at least I know better.) When I met Andy, the complete opposite of my past choices, I immediately recognized a Good Man.

(Also a cute one. And there were still warm fuzzies. But that’s not what this post is about. Ahem.)

I once saw this interview on The Daily Show. I swear it happened, though I can’t find the video. Jon Stewart was interviewing Gene Simmons. Gene was talking about his wife, but also his many other women, and giving Jon crap for being married monogamously. Jon, utterly unfazed, smiled and said, “It’s the difference between pleasure and joy, my friend.”


Yeah. I was starting to get that distinction. Eventually, I would be able to see it in more categories of my life. I mean, that’s kind of what Christianity is selling: it seems like a rulebook to kill all pleasure, but it’s actually in order to replace it with joy.

Somewhere at about a year of dating Andy, I knew we’d be getting engaged before long, and I started going to church regularly. And Bible study. I know, it’s hard to explain. Funny thing is, before that, I could have given you plenty of historical or scientific or philosophical reasons to take Christianity seriously, but that’s not what got me through the door. There was something in me, that when I thought about having a family – family – made me seek a place to mark those milestones. What I told Andy after we were engaged, when trying to decide what kind of wedding we’d have, was that I didn’t know what I believed about God, but I knew this was sacred.

And that’s how it started. Family turned me to God. Family is where I saw God. Family is where a lot of abstract theological concepts started to make gritty, real-life sense to me. Sacrificial love? Got it. The interplay between justice and mercy? Totally, we’ve got kids. Good and Evil and Love and Free Will as very real things and not meaningless terms we attach to biological impulses or whatever? Uh, hell yeah. All that is grand and cosmic is also right here in my house.

So. That’s the beginning.


posted under faith story, God, husband | Comments Off on Faith Story

Audrey Contemplates the Nature of Family


“Does everyone have a Mom and Dad?

She asks this a lot. Short answer, yes. Biologically. Long answer…whew…baby steps on that one. I heard her talking about dead parents while she was playing yesterday. Dammit, Frozen. Also, we have covered adoption. Well, we continue to cover it, as I’m sure it’s not easy to grasp.

“Are there two kinds of Mommies?”

Okay, I think she’s asking about adoption, so I’m going to talk about adoption again. There’s a Mommy who grows a baby in her belly and a Mommy who takes care of that baby forever.

“Do I have two kinds of Mommies?”

Nope. Just one. Just me. I did both those things.

“Is Grandma your mom?”

Asked with a bit of humor, because she knows Grammy is my mom. But she also knows Grams is Daddy’s mom, so…Okay. Here we go. Grandma is Daddy’s Stepmother. See, Grandpa is Daddy’s Daddy. And Grandma is married to Grandpa. That’s how she’s a Grandma. Does that make sense?

“It doesn’t make sense, but it’s kind of sense-y!”


I’m sure the questions will never get harder than this…

posted under Audrey, wisdom | Comments Off on Audrey Contemplates the Nature of Family

Facebook, You Suck


I undertook a Facebook fast over a month ago. I was making myself miserable with that thing: obsessively reading everyone’s opinion on every damn thing; not having the strength of character to avoid engaging people on their awful different points of view; ignoring my family, the natural world and God because I had so many worthless articles queued up to read, unable to be alone with myself. There’s more but I’m getting stressed listing it all.

You guys, I’ve been so happy. It’s been so peaceful. When I read about all those Supreme Court rulings, it was so not anxiety-producing. I could just read the news! That was it! I’ve been spending so much time getting offended at people’s offendedness and this whole time I didn’t have to live that way!

I read books. Actual books! Even made of paper! Suddenly the physical world has more appeal. It’s like that’s where existence is or something.

I was a hardcore FB ascetic for a while but I’ve cheated a little bit. I’ve checked in on a couple of friends, I’ve sold some diapers and bought some math books, I’ve gone a few inches down my feed and “liked” whatever good stuff I found at the top. I posted about my baby’s birthday and that was lovely.

I know you normal people can do moderation and maybe I can to, I don’t know. But I found myself commenting on someone’s post today, then going back ten minutes later and deleting it because of the anxiety it left in the pit of my stomach. I’m always fighting that compulsion to comment on controversy, and then waiting scared for someone to get mad at me. It’s messed up. I don’t have the constitution for this.

So. For now, I guess I’ll keep doing little drive-by lurks. Make sure I don’t miss any new babies, that kind of thing. But I’ve got to be careful.

I’ve really liked being happy.

Zachary’s First Birthday


My little bitty baby that I just had…

250 (768x1024)

…is one year old.


He drives cars now.


We made him a cake. This is Andrew hammering some hard candy for my sugar sculpture (I’m making that sound fancier than it is.)


We made jokes about playing Candy Crush. Mostly me. Andrew mostly didn’t laugh. Cause I’m not funny.

This was the cake. (All the pics from here on out are my dad’s. He’s awesome.)


It’s a campfire! Cause it was a cowboy birthday. (This is totally what cowboys do, right?)


Sure they do.

This is me awkwardly reading a blessing (off my phone) for my beautiful child. I wasn’t so much awkward in real life as awkward in my head cause I feel like I’ll never get used to acting like a religious person out loud. If that makes sense.


But these babies made the sacred all obvious in my life, so that’s what I do now.


I’m all full of sloppy emotion over this boy. My sister-in-law was all, “It was hard when my last baby turned one too,” and I said, “Last?!?!? Oh, no, if I thought about it that way, I’d be much worse. I haven’t given up hope yet!!!!






Love you, baby boy. May you enjoy many, many more happy trips around the sun.





It’s Pictures Again


Since we last talked…

Fourth of July.






Zachary had his first Zoo train ride that he could really appreciate.


Audrey learned how to do this.


Zachary learned how to do this.




And tomorrow he’s one year old.

I have a lot to say but have lost the urge to talk quite so much. Well, type so much. I still talk a lot. Maybe soon. Got to go watch The Jim Gaffigan Show. I’m very excited about that.

posted under Audrey, husband, TV, Zachary | Comments Off on It’s Pictures Again

Adorable Pictures, Part 428


Continuing the long on pictures/short on content blog series (apparently), here: we splashed in the kiddie pool this week.







Admit it, that’s more interesting than my thoughts on the Supreme Court, right?

posted under Audrey, Zachary | Comments Off on Adorable Pictures, Part 428
« Older Entries