A Favor

Greg left home for a few days, so, as is our time-honored tradition, I had to decide which trouble to get into first. Options included a) using the three gallons of paint I bought to try to cover up the goo and grime somewhere (ANYWHERE) in my house, b) moving all the furniture in all the house and creating general havoc and upheaval from which it will take weeks to recover, c) getting the torso tattoo I’ve been plotting for years, and/or d) bringing home an English Springer Spaniel puppy.

The tattoo was out almost instantly because I would have had to make a phone call to make that happen, and, as everyone who’s tried to call me for the past month can attest, I’m not doing phone-talking right now. I don’t know why talking out loud using words feels patently impossible, but it does, so there goes that idea.

As much as I want the puppy, I decided against getting one while Greg is away, mostly because that simply isn’t how we make decisions in our marriage. Instead, I spend months — sometimes years — emotionally and psychologically torturing Greg with the concept of a puppy (or puppies, or, you know, an entire horse), resentfully enduring his pessimism and disdain, before eventually wearing him down to a mere shadow of his former self; a shadow that finally, in defeat, cedes to my wishes because a) the shadow is too tired and demoralized to divorce me, and b) I put out. I’m just totally doctrinally opposed to getting a puppy without Greg dying a thousand small deaths first; and, since I’m a person of conviction and tenacity, I need to follow my heart here, friends.

That left me with using 3 gallons of paint and moving all the furniture in all the house.

With the oldest boy away at camp this week (cross your fingers and say all the prayers), I decided to paint, clean and redecorate his room. He’s nearly 17, after all, and has been stuck with adorable cartoon airplanes on his walls for the past 10 years, which was rad when he was tiny and is less rad in his gargantuan, man-child state. “You know what would be cool?” I thought, “You know what would help this child see how very loved and valued he is?” If I spend time giving him a new space! A GROWN UP space. A space he can be proud to bring his friends. A space washed and vacuumed and painted and smelling less like hormones and feet. A space that’s ORGANIZED. And so I’ve cleaned and vacuumed and moved three beds from two rooms, and discarded broken chairs and broken toys, and created a going-to-the-dump pile, and removed twelve metric tons of trash, and found the computer bag that’s been missing for months, and done five hundred thousand loads of laundry, and run all those loads a second time but with bleach hoping that would eliminate the persistent smell of rotten cheese, and primed and trimmed and painted and painted and painted until the room looks and smells (!) clean and fresh and new.

And then it occurred to me when all the work was nearly complete that my kid, who relies on routine and known quantities is about to come home from camp to a totally reworked room that’s not at all familiar and smells different because, “SURPRISE! See how much Mommy love you??” So… that’s going to be awesome. Clearly. I mean, WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG?


I sat in the room last night and had a teeny, tiny panic attack.

Then I panicked more, because even though people will tell you panic and worry have never accomplished anything, I have panicked and worried A LOT and then most of the things I’ve panicked and worried about DO NOT COME TO PASS, which is clearly cause-and-effect and means panic and worry do, too, work, so HA! Joke’s on all you suckers who DON’T panic and worry.

IMG_1146Then Zoey and I brainstormed about what to do, and we decided, in addition to panicking and worrying, we would add one more decorative touch to Ian’s room.

See, Ian’s a guy whose love language is words of encouragement. He’s a sponge for kindness. And, as I looked at his new, blank walls, I remembered all of your tremendous kindness to him when he shared his own panic and worry with you. I wondered what it would be like to cover those walls with kind words.

Tonight, Zoey and I will begin writing on those new, clean walls with permanent markers. We’ll start with our own words — like we love you to the MOON — and we’ll move to yours, like “Thank you for being so brave, Ian” and “Thank you for sharing your real lives with others, it is a beautiful gift.”

The goal? That even though Ian will come home to a surprise new room, which may be hard and disconcerting at first, he will also arrive to walls of kindness and love. The kind of walls we ought to be building, you know?

So Zoey and I have a favor to ask. If you have words for the wall — your own or a quote or a poem or a song or a verse — that exude kindness and remind this kid of his tremendous value, would you put them below? I’d love it if we could collaborate on being his Village together.

With love, friends, and appreciation for you,





P.S. Zoey says pretty please.


ABOUT BETH WOOLSEY I'm a writer. And a mess. And mouthy, brave, and strong. I believe we all belong to each other. I believe in the long way 'round. And I believe, always, in grace in the grime and wonder in the wild of a life lived off course from what was, once, a perfectly good plan.
  1. You rock!!

  2. Good timber does not grow with ease:
    The stronger wind, the stronger trees;
    The further sky, the greater length;
    The more the storm, the more the strength.
    By sun and cold, by rain and snow,
    In trees and men good timbers grow.

    From “Good Timber” by Douglas Malloch

  3. Know that you are seen, heard, and valued.

  4. Lovely. I’ll proffer up a mashup of three of my favorite quotes from three of my favorite books…

    Ian, you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think… and once you become Real, it is for always… you are unique in all the world. <3


  5. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
    1 Corinthians 13:4-7

  6. God created you to be you! And the YOU that He created is PERFECT!

  7. I think your own writing on the Magic in the Mess would be great. Your voice is powerful for your kid(s). His own voice is powerful too.

    I LOVE this idea!

  8. “I’ll love you forever,
    I’ll like you for always,
    As long as I’m living,
    My baby you’ll be.”
    – Robert Munsch
    Might be best in a secret spot for private reassurance. 🙂

    And that is just about the prettiest “please” I’ve seen, Zoey. Good girl!

  9. “if you think you are too small to make a difference you have never tried to sleep with a mosquito in the room”

  10. Be Bold
    Be Brave
    Be Strong
    Be Happy
    Be Free
    Be Silly
    Be Original
    Be Whole
    Be You

  11. “So I love you because the entire universe conspired to help me find you.”
    Paulo Coelho
    The Alchemist

  12. “I love you much (most beautiful darling) more than anyone on the earth, and I like you better than everything in the sky.”-EE Cummings

  13. This is a bit long but maybe you could choose what parts resonate with you the most 🙂

    “You are loved.

    The infinite and eternal Creator of light and life knows you! He is mindful of you.

    Yes, God loves you this very day and always.

    He is not waiting to love you until you have overcome your weaknesses and bad habits. He loves you today with a full understanding of your struggles. He is aware that you reach up to Him in heartfelt and hopeful prayer. He knows of the times you have held onto the fading light and believed—even in the midst of growing darkness. He knows of your sufferings. He knows of your remorse for the times you have fallen short or failed. And still He loves you.

    And God knows of your successes; though they may seem small to you, He acknowledges and cherishes each one of them. He loves you for extending yourself to others. He loves you for reaching out and helping others bear their heavy burdens—even when you are struggling with your own.

    He knows everything about you. He sees you clearly—He knows you as you really are. And He loves you—today and always!” – Dieter F. Uchtdorf

  14. Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny- C.S.Lewis

    Challenges are what make life interesting. Overcoming them is what makes life meaningful.

    Optimist: Someone who figures that taking a step backwards after a step forward is not failure; it’s a cha-cha.- Robert Brault

    Just a few I’ve used with my 19 year old daughter when she was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma two weeks ago…..

    So proud of Ian! Waving to you all in the dark ❤️

    1. Blessings to you. She is blessed to be going through this journey with a mama with such a great attitude.

  15. “Just be patient. God is not finished with you yet.” (Paraphrased, unknown author)

  16. “Each morning when I open my eyes I say to myself: I, not events, have the power to make me happy or unhappy today. I can choose which it shall be. Yesterday is dead, tomorrow hasn’t arrived yet. I have just one day, today, and I’m going to be happy in it.” ~ Groucho Marx

    “I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.” -Jimmy Dean

    “A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.” -Christopher Reeves

    “It’s not the disability that defines you, it’s how you deal with the challenges the disability presents you with. We have an obligation to the abilities we DO have, not the disability.” ~ Jim Abbott

  17. Lesli chose my Favorite saying also, so I’m thinking that’s a Keeper for sure. I Love this idea. He truly has the Best family.

  18. Fox! Thank you so much for sharing your home and family and Zoe and your rawk-awesome quesadillas. We are so glad we got to know you!

  19. Dear Ian,

    Charles Schultz, the man who created Charlie Brown and Snoopy, once said, “Happiness is a warm puppy.” I hope that your beautiful Zoey has brought you much happiness, because I can tell by looking in her eyes that you have made her happy. I believe that dogs can see into the souls of humans. When Zoey looks into your soul, she sees pure goodness and love. What dog wouldn’t want to belong to an awesome human like you?

    A friend you’ve never met who thinks you’re wicked cool

  20. My 3yo likes to say this, from Daniel Tiger: “I like you just the way you are.”

  21. I love this reminder for myself. Maybe it will help Ian too… “Courage does not always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying I will try again tomorrow.”. Thank you for sharing with us, You are a good momma!

  22. I think you will need to add two more rooms for Ian to have enough space for all those words.
    I think leaving some space for himself might be good too though
    or just start with post it notes or posters and copy only those that he likes?
    I think he is awesome
    Just like you and Zoey are
    Hugs and waving to you – been a long time, I know: water is deep and endless, mud is sticky…
    PS “Chocolate” is always reassuring – though some would prefer “donuts” or “pizza”, right?

  23. What a beautiful idea….my favourite quotes….the first by a wonderful Irish writer John O’Donoghue

    “May there be kindness in you gaze when you look within”

    And two by Oscar Wilde

    “We are all in the gutter but some of us are looking at the stars”


    “Be yourself….everyone else is taken”

  24. “If nothing changes, nothing changes”

  25. What I tell my kids
    “God created you just the way you are cause that’s what the world needed.”

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