Can we be honest about the kids' birthday party thing?

Bouncy House Birthday Confessions, #365StrongStories by Marisa GoudyIt is possible to be deeply grateful, even as you the shudder shakes your spine. You realize that all little girls have the same ear-splitting screech and your daughter is not the only one who could break glass with her heedless enthusiasm. That's something consider as you cling to the corners of the joyful, germ-infested pit of a childhood birthday party venue. Even if the noise is making your vision blur (funny how the senses seem to get so muddled in the midst of extreme stress), you can also pray that your kid will be so funned-out after the party that she'll be happy to go home and color. Or stare at the wall. Silently.

If it's an especially good day, you can find another parent who looks equally as sick and terrified. You can sidle over and - using hand gestures and exaggerated frowny-faces, if necessary - express that you too understand the birthday party obligation to be worse than 28 hours of labor. You may understand each other well enough to stick to walls of the next celebratory obligation like a small colony of anxious barnacles.

I admit I am this mom. And though I am a little worried about seeming like an anti-social ingrate, I kinda hope it will mean that we'll get fewer invitations.

Except today, we went to one of the loudest, germiest spots of all, and I am still smiling. Even though I briefly lost my two-year-old and I had to bellow like a belligerent foghorn to get my older daughter to get her shoes on, I am still smiling.

In truth, I am a bit concerned. Have children finally broken me? Am I going to be the mom in the bouncy house at the next shindig?

Oh, wait, those spine-quaking shudders just began again. Eek... What if I actually become the mom that learns how to play?

This morning of motherly mayhem seems anything but productive, but it proves that you can use your experiences and craft them into stories that help you connect with your prospective clients. Learn more about how to do this at the free Story Triangle webinar coming up Tuesday, April 5.

Save my seat!


Conversations With an Empty Chair, #365StrongStories 53

imageOne Friday, my Mom and I spent the day in the kitchen talking about a revolution.  Well, we were whispering about the stuff that eventually leads to revolution. We were talking about the state of the world and daring to examine our fears and entertain all the “what ifs?” What happens when we all find out that Al Gore has been right about the climate?  What happens when people really start to run out of water? How many links in the chain have to break before our global network of food distribution is disrupted? In what part of the psyche and the spirit should stories like Cormac McCarthy’s The Road reside?

It has been six years since my mother and I had the luxury of marinating on our 3 a.m. worries together. We lavished so much attention on hypothetical global crises and never spared a thought for the private tragedies that could be so much harder to bear.

We had no idea then that mom had a few hundred thousand minutes left to live. She’d be dead of a sudden heart attack by mid-summer and she’d never know if any our great big global fears would change our comfortable American lives.

Now that I sit alone at the same kitchen in 2016, I don’t have any clarity more clarity about the fate of western civilization. I’m not even sure have any more perspective on the unbearably brief and precious nature of an individual life. I still wish away time as I long for spring and pray that the tougher phases of childhood will pass quickly.

But then I dive deep into this line from Natalie Goldberg: “Give everything while you can.”

I think it’s easy to misread this as “do more!” After all, we live in a “lean in” and “manifest 6 figures in 30 days” kind of world. But I guess I have learned enough about mortality and personal tragedy to reframe these words into those that heal rather than strain.

That winter day in 2010, my mother and I didn’t leave the kitchen. We didn’t solve a single problem or even take the dog for a walk. We snuggled my new baby girl and we loved one another and we dared to be vulnerable and speak our truths. Though I cry as I type these words, it’s just because I am overcome with gratitude for knowing that on that particular day, we gave each other everything while we could.

Viewing the Super Bowl through an Innocence Filter, #365StrongStories 39

Watching football through the Innocence Filter, #365StrongStories by Marisa Goudy We’re a football family, but I feel there should be an asterisk beside our names. At our house, there’s a love for the game and even for the hype. But there is also a whole lot of ambivalence.

If not for my husband, I probably would never watch. That said, I admit to being completely obnoxious when my team is on the field.

We love losing ourselves in the drama of 4th and inches and we’re suckers for a good Hail Mary pass. Because the kids aren’t old enough for many movies that capture parental interest, we rely on 300 pound men to entertain us and help pass cold winter Sunday.

And yet, we’ve programmed our six year-old daughter to avert her eyes whenever a “bad” commercial comes on.

I've laughed when my husband says to me “It’s not television, it’s football!”  But how can I blame him for saying something so silly when I'll let the girls sit on the couch with him, exposed to the kind violence and sexism and commercial idiocy that I usually protect them from? (Such is the price of some time to myself!)

Feeling like a hypocrite is never fun, but last night’s Super Bowl freed me from that stress. I was able to see that we’ve struck a balance that works for who we are and what’s important to us.

You couldn’t miss that it was the “Pepsi Halftime Show.” When I asked my daughter if she new what Pepsi was she looked at me with wide-eyed certainty: “It’s a beer with lots of Pep and See in it.”

Clearly, football ads are not responsible for soda addiction in children.

And during Beyonce’s Formation on the 50 yard line, our toddler stared up at her and asked “Riverdance?” We rushed everyone up to bed before there was a full scale tantrum over the fact that the show did not include Irish step dancing.

The tides of mainstream commercialism are fast and insistent, but we seem to have created a little raft for our family that allows us to safely navigate those waters and have fun on our own terms.

What about you - can you make peace with the football menace and all the madness that surrounds it? (Yes, I know I am opening Pandora’s box considering all the ugly behavior of the players, but that’s not the sort of stuff that my kids see when they’re watching the ball make it down the field so it’s not part of this particular equation for me.)

How to Evolve Like a Freaking Mother Goddess, #365StrongStories 27

How to evolve like a mother goddess, #365StrongStories by Marisa Goudy The modern world likes its goddesses to look and act a certain way. Gorgeous nymphs in gauzy gowns. Abundantly bosomed beings who offer wealth and well being. Great mothers who nurture their beatific babes.

Once upon a time, I used to agree. Six years ago this January, when I was leaving my first daughter to return to my J-O-B, I wrote this:

Want a surefire, foolproof, 100% guaranteed way to become a goddess on earth?  Follow these steps:

  • Be born a woman.
  • Make love at your most fertile moment.
  • Act as a hospitable vessel for nine glorious months.
  • Love the little creature that you have created with all your body, heart, and soul.
  • Leave aforementioned angel child with a trusted caregiver after she has been lavished with two and a half months of dedicated attachment parenting.
  • Return within four hours to a child with eyelids slightly purpled and swollen from much weeping.
  • Hold her in your arms and offer her that sweetest mother’s milk.
  • When this child falls back in a delighted coma of sleepiest nourishment, witness the rapture on that flushed face.

That’s lovely, but I’m revising what it means to be a goddess. The sweet innocence of a milk dripping deity is great, but there’s another way to earn your place in the pantheon.

I’m nearing the end of my breastfeeding journey with my second child. My boobs can still soothe a crying kid, but I’m less amazed by my alchemical powers. (Wow! I eat food and it ends us as someone else’s poop!)

Now, as I endure the two a.m. screaming that I can feel in my teeth simply because I will not submit to being treated like a human chew toy, I discover I have another superhuman skill: the firm but gentle “no.”

Every mother who resists the desire to devour her young - even when they seem hell bent on swallowing their mother whole - yeah, she’s a goddess.

There is something divine about cradling an infant and pledging a lifetime of nourishing devotion. The refusal to turn into Kali in the darkest hour before dawn? That’s the love that creates the world.

Ladybugs Give the Best Parenting Advice

Ladybugs Give the Best Parenting Advice, #365SovereignStories by Marisa Goudy“Roots down. Down into the belly of mother earth.” Brows drawn low. Mouth folded into a perfect prune of indignation. I long to push aside her tangled hair and smooth those deep grooves in her her forehead, but I don’t dare. Those lines etch my own face. It’s agony to see them taking shape on a six year-old.

“Again,” I say, stunned by the calm in my voice. “Again. We do roots down. And we reach into the belly of the earth where all the quiet energy is.”

It seems to take several lifetimes to get her to rise and plant her feet into bathroom tiles.

(This is why I do all this healing training. This is what all that damn meditation is for. This time, I swear to myself, I will not lose my shit.)

“Now, branches up.” At this point, little sister has joined the fun. At least someone is reaching their arms to the sky with me! “Come on, big girl. Reach up to the stars and ask the angels to help you.”

We get there. It happens. She reaches up her arms and she’s almost ready to smile.

It’s time to find all the love in her acorn heart when…

I’m not even sure what happened next. This was only yesterday, and I all remember was a second flash flood of tears washed away our carefully planted tree. It doesn’t matter. The Moira tree was back on the floor and I was wondering if it was ethical to give her a blanket and let her cry herself to sleep curled up next to the bathtub.

But then I remembered what all this spiritual practice is really for. It’s for helping you spot miracles when you’re ready to spit nails.

A ladybug. A ladybug on the sole of my slipper.

Through her tears, Moira noticed it. She smiled at the sweet summer spirit that was taking refuge with us through the long winter.

Legend has it that ladybugs were sent by Mother Mary to save the fields from plagues of aphids. At our house, ladybugs are sent by my mother who passed in 2010.

For at least a few moments every day, I mourn that I don't have a mom to help me figure out how to mother. The grace comes in the moments when I see how wrong I am. Helping my daughter navigate all those big feelings... it's not all up to me. There is literally support coming out of the woodwork.