Holy Hot Mess | Mary Katherine Backstrom on Why Exposing Our Mess is Essential

holy hot mess with mary katherine backstrom on momcave live

It’s one thing to be a hot mess. Aren’t we all? And it’s an entirely different thing to be a holy hot mess. Jen chats live with author Mary Katherine Backstrom about her new book,Holy Hot Mess: Finding God in the Details of this Weird and Wonderful Life . Whatever your faith, she’ll have you in stitches.

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Holy Hot Mess | Mary Katherine Backstrom & MomCave’s Jen Intimate Chat

Jen:
Hi MomCavers and moms of the internet. I’m Jen from MomCave. And I’m here with one of my online buddies and someone you probably know and love, Mary Katherine Backstrom from Mom Babble. Hey, great to see you. You have some big news to share with everybody about something. I’m going to show a picture. Look at this!

Mary Katherine Backstrom:
That is so fancy.

Jen:
I can do graphics. This is Mary Katherine’s new book. And it… Oh, no, that’s your OLD book.

It’s awesome, her new book. See, you thought.. You’re saying I was fancy with the graphics, but I’m taking a while.

Mary Katherine Backstrom:
It’s okay. That’s okay. Like, the fact that you can even do graphics is really just blowing my mind.

Jen:
We’re moms. Moms on Facebook. Now, the fact that we’re even able to go live. Okay. This is Mary Katherine’s big news! Mary Katherine, what is this?

Mary Katherine’s NEW Book

Mary Katherine Backstrom:
Holy Hot Mess: Finding God in the Details of this Weird and Wonderful Life is the book that was just released, oh, my gosh, literally seven days ago. So we are still technically in the first week of the release of this book. And I am so proud of this project. It’s really like a passion project for me. The messaging behind it is deeply personal. While I do love my first book, Mom Babble, which is a parenting book, that was more like a collection of essays, it’s very bright and happy. So it’s a totally hot mess. But there is more of my heart and my spirituality in this book.

Jen:
Right? Great. So um, “Hot Mess Mama” is like a term that we all use and that we can all identify with. But you put you paired it with “holy?”

Mary Katherine Backstrom:
Yes.

Jen:
What do you mean by “holy?”

What does MK mean by “Holy” Hot Mess?

Mary Katherine Backstrom:
So I, as a person of faith, was raised as a Christian.

I always got the idea that in order to be a good Christian, to be a good person of faith that you really had to have your crap together, right? And then I realized after 20 years of living, I kind of came to the conclusion that I was never gonna have my crap together. And I had a crisis of faith. Like, what does this mean for me? I come to church, and these people there, their lives are just cleaner, pure, better, they’re just better at adulting than I am. So where did that put me as a person of faith?

Well, after a lot of soul-searching and discovery, what I have found is it puts me right where I’m supposed to be. There would be no need for grace if not for mess. And so the fact that I am a hot mess does not exclude God from the picture. If anything, I am a holy hot mess, I am a work in progress, a work in process. And I love the idea that even though we’re living these really messy lives, there’s a holy undercurrent at play. There’s purpose woven through all of the mess. And so that’s kind of the general idea of the book and where my heart was inspired for writing it.

Jen:
I think one of my favorite overall themes of the book is very apropos to what I do on MomCave and why I started MomCave and it’s that in order to truly make friends, and have real relationships, and yes, “get” each other and help each other, you have to share your mess.

Friendships and Community

Mary Katherine Backstrom:
Yes, it’s so important. You can’t have true community if you’re not vulnerable. And I think a big thing that our generation, the people who are so connected on social media, it started out as such a good thing, right? It was just another way to connect. But then what happened is there was this curated imaging of like, my best self going forward on social media. Yeah, and we got into it, right? We bought into it, we bought into the idea that other people’s lives look like their newsfeeds. And then the community it created just wasn’t true. It wasn’t. It wasn’t authentic. And so what I’m trying to do is turn that around, it’s the same thing you’re doing is saying, “Hey, let’s actually talk about the mess. Let’s bring our brokenness to the table.” Because that’s where true community is formed.

Jen:
Definitely, definitely. You know, when they brought in filters….

Mary Katherine Backstrom:
That really screwed us. It did in in the worst possible way. I mean, I loved filters for a hot minute. And then when I took a picture without one I was like, “Oh!” It’s like, you don’t realize that it sneaks up, it sneaks up on your brain, it changes what you expect to see.

And I think that Facebook in general has done that for us like with our news feeds are just highlight reels of the best possible things happening in life, which I don’t fault people for. I mean, when I’m curled up in the fetal position in bed having a bipolar manic depressive episode, my first thought isn’t, “You know what I should do? Snap a picture and share this with my friends.” Like we don’t think to do that. But in true community, those are dialogues that should happen.

Jen:
Right. And so there are the people that do that on social media. And then you know, like, that’s a cry for help or something’s going on.

Mary Katherine Backstrom:
Yeah, yeah. Different than what I’m talking about, like texting your best friend for a hug? You being with somebody.

Jen:
I’m so glad that you brought up mental illness because that was on my list of things to talk about. Yeah, I made a list. I’m so good. Let’s do this. I made lists five minutes ago. Um, but everybody who’s watching, please leave comments, we want this to be interactive. And somebody who leaves the best comment will win an actual signed copy of Holy Hot Mess.

Mary Katherine Backstrom:
An actual signed copy in my hand!

Jen:
Totally by your own hand.

Mary Katherine Backstrom Talks Mental Health

So mental health is a huge thing that has all these stigmas attached?

Mary Katherine Backstrom:
Yes.

Jen:
I’ve dealt with some issues myself, and I know you have since I’ve been following you on social media. And one of the stigmas I find the hardest is medication, like taking them.

Mary Katherine Backstrom:
Yes, for mental health.

Jen:
Have you been able to internally overcome that? And if you have, can you tell me how to?

Mary Katherine Backstrom:
Yes. Well, I just talk about it like it’s the weather and I know that that is shocking to some people. Like, for instance, I think when I first started discussing mental illness, as I had Bipolar 2, OCD, PTSD. I have a lot of different “D’s”, I call them all across the board, when I started talking about them and the treatments that I was, you know, using in order to get better. It embarrassed my family, I was like, “Why? I don’t understand why y’all are embarrassed.”

See, when I had cancer, they were totally fine with me sharing that. And for me, as somebody who’s been through so much physical pain, I’ve donated my kidney, I’ve given birth, I’ve had a mastectomy. The most real pain I’ve ever experienced was through mental illness.

And so I wondered why it was not okay to talk about that? Well, what I found was, the more I talked about it, the more people came back and said, “Hey, thank you. I thought I was alone. I felt like I had to hide this.” And so it was an immediate affirmation that it was the right thing to do. Um, that doesn’t always happen on the internet, right? Sometimes you get some mixed signals, but the community that was formed out of those conversations was just so much louder and stronger than the critics. And so I was fine with it. I’m just not embarrassed anymore. Because if I broke my leg, I would tell you all about it. And so I see no difference at all,

Jen:
You would tell us, you would get treatment, you would-

Mary Katherine Backstrom:
-get empathy. My friends would be worried and ask about me. It should not be different with mental illness, definitely not.

Life Struggles Keep Coming At You

Jen:
You named all of these things that you have gone through. And as a person that has followed you on social media, it’s been like, you’ve had, you’ve had a time of it. The last years.

Mary Katherine Backstrom:
Yeah.

Jen: And I mean, everyone has had struggles and with COVID, and everything happens. And it’s just, sometimes it feels like it’s one thing after another!

Mary Katherine Backstrom: It does kind of build that way, doesn’t it? I mean, I feel like sometimes you get to a place in life where like, getting chipped away at it just feels like it’s, it’s incessant, like, it never stops. And I talked about that a little bit in the book, how we don’t have this, like, heavenly perspective of why these things are happening to us. Because we’re just feeling the pain in the moment, it’s impossible to understand.

But there are examples in the world of these long-term chipping away that ends up for good. For instance, solid stone is just sand and water with a million years going by. And the sand is just feeling this relentless tide, it’s just over and over and over again, it’s kind of just getting formed and impacted. And it has to just feel like constant pressure. Not saying that sand has feelings, but it’s a good example.

I mean, we’re not much different. There is a constant chipping away of who we are. The world is a broken place, based on my faith, that’s something that’s very biblical, is that we’re going to experience suffering here. But that doesn’t have to be the end of the story. If we can find hope in the message that, hey, I’m kind of just a construction site, that there’s always work happening in my life, when we realize that there’s purpose in that it gives us a lot of grace for ourselves for the mess, and it gives us hope. A holy hot mess. Right?

So I think it’s important to like, not just acknowledge that, hey, the world can be hard, and that this can be exhausting. But that also there’s purpose in it that we can also see that like, while we’re not, while we’re not feeling it now we’re like, oh, yeah, don’t tell me in the middle of my breast cancer diagnosis that this is something that God can use. I don’t want to hear that. But several years down the road, I am able to help somebody else walk through that. I see that I can turn and I can make pain purposeful. I’m not saying it–I’m not saying it makes it better. Because, I said the best example there’s, there’s beauty at the end of it.

Mary Katherin Backstrom, author of Holy Hot Mess, after her cancer surgery

Jen:
Yeah, definitely. Um, anybody who’s watching if you want to win a signed copy, comment, comment, tell us what your most hot mess moment was because we’d love to hear!

MK’s Latest “Hot Mess” Moment

Mary Katherine Backstrom:
Gosh, we know, the good news is there are so many that are documented now, thanks to Facebook Live. I share so many. In the last couple of weeks, I think I will just give you one. You know, there’s so many in the book, because hot mess did not just happen in adulthood. I’m a walking disaster person. But I think that’s also relatable to most people.

I had a moment a couple of weeks ago, in a hotel where I was leaving my kids, my kids were staying with a babysitter and my husband was across the hall. I went to go tuck my kids in. But I had my contacts out. And so I was like, just walk across the hall. But as I was walking across the hall blind as a bat because I’m legally blind without my contacts, this group of ladies walks down the hall. And I just looked at it. “Oh my gosh, a puppy!” I was so excited. She was holding her upside-down cowboy hat with a puppy in it. So I asked her if I could pet it. Yeah, “Can I pet your puppy.?” And she goes, “Girl, that’s my wig!”

Jen:
Great. Well, you know, wigs can feel nice…

Mary Katherine Backstrom:
It’s good. Well, it was a hat that had a built-in wig, which I’ve never seen before. But so flipped upside down, it just looked like there was a dog in it. But then again, I probably shouldn’t talk to people when I cannot see them. That was not a good life choice.

Jen:
Hilarious. You know, I used to wear contacts too. And having bad vision actually can cause you a lot of embarrassing moments. Yes, that’s definitely happened.

Mary Katherine Backstrom:
I have a great, the great thing about having an embarrassing moment with that vision is you can’t see the shame… That you cannot see their faces.

Jen:
Or read the micro-expressions!

Mary Katherine Backstrom:
I’m like, “Well, I’m just gonna go back into my blurry world to disappear now.”

Jen:
And the blurry world is like a filter for the wrinkles and stuff!

Mary Katherine Backstrom:
So yes, it is. Right.

Marriage and Family for the Hot Mess

Jen: You talk a lot about your husband and your marriage, which I think is the most adorable thing. And I had a picture to show for that. But of course… Oh, we had a cute picture. I will find it eventually. Anyhow, how do you deal with being a holy hot mess when it’s a direct impact on someone else?

Mary Katherine Backstrom: Yeah. Well, that’s the thing about this. It doesn’t just impact you. It impacts everyone. But the good news is we all have it, right?

What are “Grace Chips?”

And so I talk about “grace chips” sometimes. I don’t think I talk about them in this book. But it’s a concept that I’ve come to kind of fall in love with. I feel like grace chips are something that you exchange back and forth in a healthy relationship. In an unhealthy relationship, you give somebody grace, you give them grace, you give them grace, and like it never comes back to you. And that’s when it’s time to leave.

But in my husband and my marriage, those are things we exchange back and forth. You know, I have a bad day where I forget something important, and it causes our family stress, he gives me a grace chip. He has a bad day where work has made him grouchy. And he comes in and snaps at the kids and I give him a grace chip. And as long as those things continue to get passed back and forth, our marriage is fine. I mean, in fact, it’s like a safe place for us to exist, because we don’t have to be perfect.

Holy Hot Mess author Mary Katherine Backstrom, pregnant at the beach playing with her young child

But um, yeah, I mean, we’re all messes. I think that’s the good thing is once we all realize that, and again, our relationships become more healthy and authentic. And as long as the grace chips keep coming back to you, you’re good, right?

Jen:
As long as it’s a reciprocal thing and I think that’s true for all your relationships.

Mary Katherine Backstrom:
God, yeah, there are some people who just seem to exude grace chips and leave them in their wake. And yes, go. And then there’s some of us that collect them like, Oh, thank you. Yeah, totally, totally.

Jen:
Somebody who comments on this video and tells us their most hot mess moment will win a signed copy.

Mary Katherine Backstrom:
I love that. Let’s hear your hot mess moments. So many hot mess moments.

Will People Who Aren’t Religous Like This Book?

Jen:
Okay, so you’re a person of faith, and this book is about your faith. But do you think that people that aren’t people of faith or are of different faiths would enjoy the book?

Mary Katherine Backstrom:
I think so. It really depends. One of my favorite reviews is from an agnostic mom. And she was like, “Hey, I, you know,” she told me, she said, “This is the least annoying Christian I’ve ever read.” And I thought that was great. It’s the greatest compliment ever.

Jen:
I want to be the least annoying anything!

Mary Katherine Backstrom:
I think that’s how I felt about it. But she actually went on to say that she was like, “You know, I actually picked up a lot of meaning in her, in her messages. And I was able to kind of like, you know, read her thoughts on her faith, but also not feel like I was required to apply them to my life.”

I want people to grab the book and feel like they can take what they can, you know, there’s a lot of messages in there that are, for me, everything secular is inextricably tied to my spirituality. So I feel like the whole book is faith-based, but apparently, from the eyes of people who feel who believe differently for me, there’s a lot there that they can take away without the Christian messaging. And so I hope anybody can feel comfortable reading it. As a person of faith, I’m very inclusive anyways. So there’s not a lot of exclusionary language and that’s not in the book.

Jen:
Right. And whenever people get weird about religion, which I don’t talk about religion very much on MomCave, it’s like one of our “stay away from” things…

Mary Katherine Backstrom:
Fair enough.

Jen:
Funny spot, but we’re doing it today. I’m okay with it. Well, yeah, whenever people get, like, a little prickly about it, I don’t know, my feeling is whatever your religion is, the concepts you were talking about in the book are about just like, the universe in general, and spirituality, in general. And maybe that’s God to you, or maybe that’s karma, or whatever it is, you know, and that it’s all the same thing. So just because someone has one specific interpretation of a thing doesn’t mean you have to have a…

Mary Katherine Backstrom:
Different faiths obviously have different ideas of how we achieve. Like, you know, we have end games in mind. And mine is the Christ and through grace.

But the important thing for me is that I want my table to always have open seats for any divergent perspectives. I think it’s important that we continue to learn from each other and love one another. The world is not going to become a monolith. We’re going to always have different faiths. We’re going to have non-believing people. And the sooner that we can all kind of learn to have space for one another, the better the world’s going to be.

So I kind of hope that my book is in that gentle space that invites others to come to the table. Then if they leave with different ideas that I’m okay with that, you know. I love them, they can love me, we can have love for one another. That’s important. We’re going to have to all figure that out. If the world’s going to improve.

Holy Hot Mess by Mary Katherine Backstrom meme that says "There is something deeply connective about the fact that we are just a little bit MESSY"

Jen:
Definitely, we have to all be able to get together and to…

Mary Katherine Backstrom 16:51
SINGING: “Come together…”

Jen 16:51
I’m not going to sing “Come Together” with you because you can sing and I sound like a dying cow. One of my great failings in life. I love musical theater, and I love to sing. But I’ve taken lessons…

Mary Katherine Backstrom:
Hasn’t done it for you?

Jen:
Nope. You know, opposites attract. I married a musician with perfect pitch. Oh, sad. I know. And so he’s, he’s always giving me the side-eye, like,

Mary Katherine Backstrom:
Yeah. Really? Same. In my marriage, my husband kind of sings like a Muppet. He just can’t. It’s fine. But he makes a joyful noise is what we say. Okay, yeah. Whatever your heart feels like it needs to get out, go at it. You’re good.

Jen:
Yeah. I found my picture of your adorable family.

Mary Katherine Backstrom:
Oh, thank you.

Family of Mary Katherine Backstrom, author of Holy Hot Mess and Mom Babble on MomCave LIVE

Jen:
So sweet. And I don’t know, maybe we can just quickly chat about it. Because it’s so interesting. And topical right now. But yeah, your husband is a doctor?

Mary Katherine Backstrom:
Yes.

Mental Health, Cancer, and THEN Covid!

Jen:
I couldn’t believe it the day I saw on Facebook, that you had COVID. And he had COVID! And you had your two children at home? With Covid, yeah, there’s no calling a sitter or anything. Oh, my God, I was praying for you. Because that’s my nightmare… Tell us how do you deal with two parents with COVID? And kids?

Mary Katherine Backstrom:
I’ve been through a lot in my life. And I would say that may have been the hardest week of my life. Well, yeah, because we got we contracted COVID at the very beginning of the pandemic when very little was known. I mean, there wasn’t a treatment. There was no standard of care in place. So basically, the rules were you avoid everybody, you avoid contact with anybody. And then if you stop breathing, go to the hospital. That’s all the guidance we have there is, if you can’t breathe, go to the hospital.

Jen:
And hope there’s room!

Mary Katherine Backstrom:
And so yeah, we had to parent from our beds. We were in separate rooms. He was across the house and I was in a different room. And our kids at the time were I think four and six. So for a week, they just basically ate out of the pantry.

I could not get out of bed. We had care packages delivered to our door. My son learned to drag them inside and open them up. And I’m a mama’s girl, I’m not even going to lie to you. I have never had to go through any challenging experience without her by my side. Had that not been COVID she would have been there with me every step of the way. But because it was because she was high risk, and she could contract we were left to our own devices.

And so yeah, I mean, unless you’ve ever had to just parent from bed a four and six-year-old for a week at a time. And I just basically asked them to go to sleep and hope they did. I asked them to eat, hope they did. They had to wipe their own butts. I mean, it was bad.

Jen:
Yeah. I bet you had quite a bad situation.

Mary Katherine Backstrom:
It was so bad. But then I also was hospitalized. I got extremely ill and so when I ended up critically ill my husband got himself out of bed. He’s like alright, you know. We’re very pandemic weary because we got hit with it hard at the very beginning. And so I’m like, “Where are we, man? We did the vaccine, we’re doing all the things and hoping that this thing resolves in the next however long.”

Jen:
Yeah, I do all the things. You said you ended up in the hospital and I was awful. I have a funny story about the hospital.

Only a Mom Would Have a “Funny” Hospital Story

Mary Katherine Backstrom 20:16
Oh boy.

Jen 20:17
This was pre-COVID. But I went to the ER once because I was really sick. I was having trouble breathing. I started passing out. Like it was bad.

I go to the ER, and they determined that I have pneumonia. And the doctor that was treating me was obviously young, unmarried with no children. So to like, break the news to me- and I keep passing out from no oxygen and people are running around hooking me up, right? He’s like, “Ma’am, I’m so sorry. I know. You’re not gonna want to hear this. I know, you’re not gonna want to do this. But you’re gonna be in the hospital for a long time. Because you know…”

Mary Katherine Backstrom:
Oh man.

Jen: Yeah, I was like, “Dude, you don’t have any kids, do you? Because if I go back there, I’m not getting better. It’s not gonna happen.”

Mary Katherine Backstrom:That’s true.

Jen:
I was so relieved. Yeah, to have a few days in the hospital. And because I had someone to take care of my kids. It wasn’t COVID.

Mary Katherine Backstrom:
There’s this dark humor of young people with young children who get it. I think if any mom tells you that she hasn’t ever thought, “I’d like to be just sick enough to be hospitalized and not have to parent but not so sick that it’s serious.”

Jen:
Right, but like just sick enough. Right? Have to lay in the bed. People bring you food. You watch the TV.

Mary Katherine Backstrom:
Yeah, not bad. It’s a vacation.

Jen:
Yeah, totally. All right. I’m going to show on Facebook one more time. (shows graphics of MK’s book, Holy Hot Mess)

Mary Katherine Backstrom:
Thanks.

Jen:
Can you tell people where they can get this book?

Where to Get the Book

Mary Katherine Backstrom:
Yes. So, Holy Hot Mess: Finding God in the Details of this Weird and Wonderful Life. You can grab it pretty much anywhere books are sold. I know it’s at Barnes and Noble, Books a Million, several independent booksellers carry the book. You can call them and ask them to order it for you. It’s also obviously on Amazon, Kindle, Audible. I’m the narrator for the audiobook. I think it’s a lot of fun.

Jen:
Cool.

Mary Katherine Backstom: So yeah, you can just grab it anywhere. You can, frankly, Google “Holy Hot Mess” It will show up and you’ll be good to go.

Jen: Oh, wow. Like you’re coming on Google’s front page!

Mary Katherine Backstrom:
Let’s hope so.

Jen:
Yes and somebody who comments on this video, which will stay up. You can tell us your biggest hotness story.

Mary Katherine Backstrom:
Yeah, we’re gonna pick one.

Jen:
We’re gonna laugh. We’re gonna pick one and you’re going to get a book signed by MK.

Mary Katherine Backstrom:
I love it. So great to see you. I thank you so much.

Jen:
Yeah. And I hope you get a vacation that is not in the hospital. Right?

Mary Katherine Backstrom:
Yeah. A non-hospital vacation for all of us. All right. Take care. Thanks for having me.

Listen to this interview as a podcast:

Holy Hot Mess book by Mary Katherine Backstrom photo of MK holding her new book live interview on MomCave MomCaveTV.com

Jen

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