Monday, December 7, 2015

Free at last

Something very exciting is happening this week.

I've been counting down the days and circling this date in red on my calendar.

The waiting and watching and wishing is almost finally over!

Drumroll please...

My six month Boot Camp gym membership expires this Friday!!!!

(Fireworks! Trumpets! A chorus of Hallelujahs!)

If that isn't enough to bust out some Martina McBride and sing Let Freedom Ring at the top of your lungs, I don't know what is.

The relief is palpable.

I want to be clear, a lot of people really like this gym. I liked this gym...at first. I wouldn't want anyone to not check out this gym because of my personal feelings. It's just... I realized after a few months of it, it's simply not for me.

It's not the exercise, don't get me wrong. I have been very committed to exercise in various forms for over two decades. I actually like to be active and feel healthy and fit. I have not stopped exercising since my attendance at this class progressively dwindled down to zero. I have just gone back to methods of working out that I know work better for me. Because you see, this class taught me something very important.

At forty-five-almost-forty-six there are some things I am not willing accept anymore in the name of fitness.

They are, in no particular order:

1. Burpees.

2. Sprinting up hills.

3. Burpees.

4. Push-ups on street corners.

5. Burpees.

6. Running outside.

7. Burpees.

8. Running, period (for any distance beyond the width of a tennis court).

9. Burpees.

10. Being scolded for talking too much to my friend because we are affecting the "focus" of others when the music is at approximately a gazillion decibels and no one can hear anything beyond a two foot radius. (Eye roll).

11. Burpees

I think by now you have picked up on my main hot button issue. Because the truth is, I would have probably stuck with it even with #'s 2, 6, 8 and 10 But #'s 1, 3, 4, 5, 7, 9, and 11 are non-negotiables.

There is really no greater indignity than the physical act of burpees. I will do planks, mountain climbers, push ups (just not on street corners), or squats until the cows come home (which could take a long time since I don't have any cows).

But burpees....shudder. 

Tell me to do 10 burpees in a row and you are risking eliciting something really scary from me. Like an icy stare. Or a dramatic sigh. Or visibly slumped shoulders and tears in my eyes. (I don't have much of a "scary" repertoire. Passive-aggressive is about all I can muster).

Still, it isn't pretty. Nor is me doing burpees.

So, that's it. My burpee days are done. And as God as my witness, I will never perform another burpee as long as I live. Even if I were to join some other class or gym or suddenly enlist in the military... I swear on Buddy the Elf himself that I will simply say, "No", should someone ever again try to tell me to hit the floor and crank out some burpees.

And if I have to, I'll top that off with a, "You can't make me."

'Cause you can't.


Thursday, December 3, 2015

Silent night

I have an issue...

Okay, I have many issues being human and all. But this is a biggie for me, maybe it is for you too?

I have this tendency to get sucked into things that aren't mine to own. Other people's anger, fear, arguments, worries, and even their conflict. It's kind of  my own personal oxymoron because for the most part I studiously avoid conflict, but when confronted with it- even if I DO nothing about it and don't participate in it- it will still eat away at me.

Seriously, an argument between two other people, utterly and completely separate from me, will bother me enough to keep me up at night. And you do not even want to know what I'm like if I was actually involved in anyway...

Yeah, I'm working on it.

Admitting you have a problem is the first step, right?

But this issue is why the verse in my devotional JUMPED OUT AT ME this morning. And honestly, this is a verse I have heard or read literally hundreds of times in my lifetime. Why did I see it in such a different light today? Probably because I needed it so much.

All that changed from the hundreds of times I have read it before was one word.

One overlooked word that made all the difference today.

One little word.

A word that when said in isolation in any elementary classroom will make all of the children giggle.

But.

"But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart." Luke 2:19

But.

That one word suggests Mary made a choice that countered in some way the reactions of those around her.

But.

Instead... Rather than... In contrast... Despite that... Whereas... Even so...

Whatever chaos, or excitement, or confusion, or general hoopla was swirling around her... Mary opted for silence. She chose to be still. She took time to listen to the voice in her heart.

She didn't react, she responded from the deepest, truest part of her soul.

And her response was to be quiet.

It wasn't cowardly inaction. It wasn't a failure to DO SOMETHING.

It was wisdom in its purest form.

And something tells me that what she gained by doing "nothing"...was peace.

Let it be so.

Amen.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Making space

Over Thanksgiving break, Annie and I spent almost every evening before bedtime watching Hallmark Christmas movies on TV. As a result, I'm pretty sure she is under the distinct impression that at some point in her life a distant relative will bequeath her an Inn in some quaint but very removed location, she will become engaged to a wealthy and attractive, but humorless man, until she has a chance encounter with a humble tradesman (also attractive) who teaches her to laugh again and so she will promptly, but gently, dump McScrooge. And finally, she has also learned to be very wary of any sort of corporate mogul (land developers are particularly shady) who wants her to sign anything lest Christmas and all Christmas spirit be placed in immediate jeopardy.

She also still hides under the covers for any and all kissing.

I know it all sounds very cozy and sweet, and believe me, I love it, but it isn't always as comfortable as you might imagine.

These movie watching sessions take place in my bedroom with both of us tucked under the covers of my king size bed. You'd think that leaves plenty of room for the two of us, wouldn't you?

Let me try and paint you a word picture here...

Visualize a large, king size bed. Travel in your mind over to the left side of said bed (I'm a left-sider. I have no idea what that says about me but I'm sure there is a Facebook quiz that could tell me.) No, travel farther over to the left side. Farther. Mentally place yourself in the furthest 12 inches of the left side of the bed, teetering on the right side of your body so you don't fall off the edge. You might want to tuck your right arm under the pillow, grasping the top edge of the bed as leverage. Just a suggestion.

Sound comfy?

This is where I inevitably end up every evening because my daughter is not content for us to lie in close proximity of one another, or even next to one another. No, she prefers some form of cuddling that resembles a twist tie on a loaf of bread (I'm the bag of bread, she's the twist tie). And if I should try to gain even a little breathing room, or shift even slightly, she will immediately wrap tighter so as to eliminate any white space between us.

It is my futile attempts at freedom that cause me to find myself in those final 12 inches of bed space. Every. single. night.

Cozy, is putting it mildly.

But in that space, even as my arm is falling asleep and claustrophobic feelings start to rise in my chest, I hear all of the words that have been waiting to be said. Words that either get lost in the busyness and distractions of the day, or words that feel too vulnerable to be spoken out loud except in the one place you know yourself to be completely safe and unconditionally loved. Words about fears, and dreams, and hurt feelings, and questions, and general wonderings about the world, and God, and her place in it all.

In making space, blessings abound.

Yesterday began the season of Advent which is another opportunity to make space. And, again, we might find ourselves a little uncomfortable in doing so. In a season that demands activity and consumption and never ending to-do lists, it can be hard to say 'no' to one thing so that we can say 'yes' to something else. Yes to making space.

Space to listen.

Space to reflect.

Space to absorb.

Space to remember.

And the biggest challenge is not turning Advent into one more requirement, but instead finding a way to journey through the season honoring its true intentions.

Hope

Peace

Joy

Love

It's impossible to cloister ourselves away for the next 25 days doing nothing but reflecting, praying and fasting (I have trouble fasting for 25 minutes). But I'm determined to make space everyday getting reoriented on what this season means for me and my faith.

Everyone is different and I don't presume to know what makes sense for anyone else, but in case you are looking for some resources, here are some suggestions that have been meaningful for me:

Naptime Diaries Advent Devotional: I purchased the hard copy version of this devotional and it is beautiful. Unfortunately, that is sold out for this year but they have made available a digital version that you could still download. It offers thoughtful reflections, scripture and prompts to inspire your own thoughts and prayers.

She Reads Truth: I used the hard copy devotional from this group last year and loved it. It's so pretty it is really like a keepsake journal (which explains the high price). However, you can follow along for free with their Advent reflections just by going to their website or if you sign up you can have them sent to you via email. Reading the daily SRT scripture and reflection is one of the first things I do each morning.

There are lots of great published Advent devotionals out there, but a few that I have read in the past are Watch For the Light (a collection of well known Christian writers from Bonhoeffer to C.S. Lewis to Philip Yancey), Advent and Christmas Wisdom from Henri J. M. Nouwen  (you can never go wrong with Henri Nouwen), and the Irish Jesuits put out this devotional booklet each year that is really lovely and thought provoking, Sacred Space.

Ideas for celebrating Advent with your children (beyond eating a chocolate treat everyday-not that there's anything wrong with that...):

Story of Christmas ornaments: This is a newer tradition in our family that I have used with Annie (we didn't have them when the boys were young). We have been using these for at least five years now and she still enjoys reading them and putting them on her own little tree in her room each night. The ornaments are mini-books that progressively tell the Nativity story.

Advent Storybook: This is a sweet storybook that successfully walks the line between being fictional while also being true to the essence of the Christian Nativity story and ideals (at least I think it does). A mother bear tells her little cub a story that weaves both fiction, adventure and the true meaning of Christmas. Annie enjoyed this book for many years.

The Jesse Tree: I found this book when looking for something a bit older than the Advent Storybook mentioned above. Annie still enjoys reading a story together each night of Advent, but she was ready for something a little more sophisticated. We have just started this book together but we are already enjoying it.

Jotham's Journey: By now you are probably thinking I didn't do any sort of Advent celebration until Annie came along, but not so! This is the book I read each Advent with my boys for several years. I have not pulled it out with Annie because honestly I think she would find it too scary. It's exciting! And full of adventure! And kinda nerve wracking at times! My boys loved it... Even when Jack thought he was too old for it, he would still always end up listening in as I read it to Timothy. It's almost like a kid's historical fiction novel that then ends up tying into the Nativity story.

And, finally... it nothing else....just consider lighting some Advent candles. Don't get too worried about having some sort of correct candle configuration, the candles are not the point. The point is to take a moment, slow down, breathe, pray,and remember what we are celebrating.

Some faith traditions use purple as the color of Advent, and some use royal blue. Again, it doesn't really matter that much. I decided several years ago to use glassybaby votives as my Advent wreath. It was a bit of a splurge and a gift to myself, but now I have them year after year and they never wear out.



The themes for each week of Advent can vary among faith traditions, but the ones I am most familiar with are:

1st Sunday- Hope (purple)
2nd Sunday- Peace (purple)
3rd Sunday- Joy (pink)
4th Sunday- Love (purple)
Christmas Eve/Christmas candle (white)

Honestly, you could light a simple white candle each night of Advent and call it good. Making space is not about creating new obligations and opportunities to feel guilty. If you only remember to light the candle once a week, then breathe in, breathe out, and be grateful for that one moment of peace in an otherwise hectic time of year.

Just make some space and listen for the words that have been waiting to be said.

Words that you may be hearing for the first time, or words that you have heard so many times you carry them in your soul.

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned...

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given,
and the government will be upon his shoulders.
And he will be called 
Wonderful Counselor,
Mighty God,
Everlasting Father,
Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 9:2-6


Wishing you an abundance of hope, peace, joy and love this Advent season.

(P.S. If you have other Advent resources or traditions, I'd love to hear them!)



Thursday, November 5, 2015

The future is here

When Ben and I bought our charming Magnolia bungalow 24 years ago..

(That's exactly what it was called on the real estate flyer.) (It still makes me laugh.)

....we found ourselves settling into a neighborhood perfectly suited to our personalities.

We had retirees all around us.

Even in our 20's we made good neighbors for old people. You won't hear a peep out of us after 8pm.

One of the oldest old people was our neighbor Alice. I swear she had to have been at least 85 the day we moved in and she was with us for at least another 12 years after that. She was sweet as pie and as we started producing children she was never happier than when she would spot me out with the baby while she was having her daily stroll.

And the thing is, for a woman her age and limited physical strength, her daily strolls were really more like a daily marathon. She would get out with her walker at least once a day, usually twice, and steadily spend the next 30 minutes pushing that contraption up the street and back. It was truly inspirational because it did not look easy.

But Alice always had a smile on her face.

She also always had a parka on. I do not mean a jacket, or a windbreaker, or a sweatshirt, or a raincoat. I mean a parka. This was true whether it was the middle of winter or smack dab in the heart and the heat of summer. In the winter she would don some extra layers with a warm hat, a scarf, gloves and boots, but whatever the temperature the blue parka was a given.

I would stand at the window and watch Alice make her way up the street and marvel at her blue parka and wonder how she was fairing in the 75 degree heat. I was often concerned about her but she never seemed to break a sweat during her jaunts so I had to concede that she must know what made her most comfortable.

One day as I was clucking away about Alice and her parka and whether I should go check on her and do-you-think-one-of-these-days-we-are-going-to-find-her-facedown-on-the-sidewalk... Ben looked up from the television and said simply, "You know that's gonna be you, right?"

I. Was. Speechless.

Well, I never. I mean, honestly. What kind of thing is that for a man to say about his spritely young bride in the prime of her life?!

The man should be a freaking fortune teller.

This was me today.

Now, let's be clear. It wasn't anywhere near 75 degrees out today. In fact, it barely hit 55. But...there were people playing tennis, and children were stripping their sweatshirts off at the playground, and I passed at least one person still wearing running shorts while out for a jog. This is the Pacific Northwest, people. No one takes cold weather seriously until it hits at least the low 40's.

And I was in a parka, a wool headband and mittens. I'm pretty sure it's a slippery slope from here.

Just call me Alice.

And it's true, I did overestimate the chilliness of the temperatures today and I probably could have removed some of my layers after getting warmed up on our walk. But then what would I have done?  I'd have had to carry all that stuff and that just seemed silly when it was easier to just leave it all on.

And, truth be told, I was perfectly comfortable. Cozy, you might say.

I didn't think it was too obvious that I was a bit over-dressed until a cute little boy, wearing nothing more than a long-sleeve t-shirt, approached and asked if he could pet my dog. As I started to say, "of course", I noticed his mom sort of waving him off and trying to hurry him along. Now my hearing isn't what it used to be (are you noticing a pattern?) but I could have sworn I heard that woman mumble something about "not bothering the old lady."

I'm kidding.

I think.

I really can't hear all that well.

So, I hope Ben is feeling pretty smug about his prediction lo those many years ago. Because he's the one who is stuck with me. And if I end up as much like Alice as I seem to be, I'm going to be around a loooong time.

Nice and cozy and warm.

As long as I have my parka.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

What I learned in October


Since we are entering into the seasons of sharing and giving and thankfulness and generosity, I'm going to take it upon myself to steal an idea I've been seeing on some of the blogs I enjoy reading.

See, by stealing their idea I am giving them an opportunity to be generous by sharing it with me. I'm thoughtful that way.

Basically, the idea is that you take a look back at the month you've just traveled through, pause to reflect and see what you've gained in the past thirty days, and then get ready to tackle the next month.

Would anyone like to take bets on how long I can sustain this new endeavor? It would really help if someone could remind me of this plan about 30 days from now. Any takers?

Anywhoooo... here goes...

What I learned in October:

1. Writing everyday is hard.
You may remember that I kicked off October four days late with a plan to write everyday of October. (After having already missed the first four.) If you haven't been checking in regularly, let me spare you the suspense: I did not write everyday of October. I did not even write everyday of October after the first four days that I missed. Counting today, I wrote six days in October. 

But I wrote zero days in September, so...winning!

2. Old friends are awesome.
I feel very fortunate to have quite a lot of friends who would qualify as old friends. Not because we are old, because we are in fact perpetually young, but because I have known them a long time. I have one friend I have known since birth, another since preschool, and another since Kindergarten. Again, I'm not saying we are old but that is starting to add up to a lot of years.

There was a time when college friends didn't necessarily count as old friends because college just wasn't all that long ago. Newsflash: college is officially now "a long time ago." But the funny thing about college friends is when you are in the moment it's hard to know which friends are going to last beyond graduation. And maybe you get so forward focused on everything you want to come next like living independently, a career, new places and experiences, perhaps marriage and a home, you aren't even sure how much those friends from that sliver in time will matter down the road? 

They will matter. And if almost 25 years later you can still gather together and sing silly sorority songs while also hashing out every important and not-so-important detail in your lives today, you will count yourself one of the luckiest people in the world. 

I can't explain what is happening here.
But it makes me smile.


3. Halloween memories are fun. Halloween itself, not so much.
If you know me IRL (that's internet speak for In Real Life, just another public service announcement from me to you), then you know Halloween is not my favorite holiday. There are lots of reasons for this including, but not limited to, the fact that I have been both a full time and substitute teacher and there is no horror that could ever be matched in even the most terrifying haunted house than what it is to work in an elementary school on Halloween. 

That being said, Halloween does make for some sweet memories (Memories-as in, the past. The past tense is really the critical component of any feelings of nostalgia and sweetness). 

Since we are currently still in the present tense, I am counting the minutes until this one is over.



4. There are different degrees of going AWAY to college.
Here's the thing, I'm not discounting in any possible way the momentous occasion of your child going off to college whether he/she stays close to home or goes miles, and miles, and miles away. It is all HUGE because regardless of how often you see your offspring, it is still a transition to the next step in life which is, hopefully, them living completely on their own and away from you. It's big no matter how you slice it.

Buuuuut...... Now that I have my firstborn living two states away rather than just over two hills and a quick jog to the right....yeah...that's different. 

I think the oddest part of the whole thing is how much you get used to it. You stop thinking about it and their absence becomes, well, normal. But then there are the moments that sneak up on you and you catch yourself whispering, "I wish Jack was here." 

Yeah...that.

5. When you work in ministry, Christmas starts in October.
If you've been following along, you know that I already succumbed to listening to some Christmas music (Not 24/7 or anything, people! Just as motivation for some gray, chilly dog walks. And maybe once or twice while cooking dinner....and cleaning the house....and folding laundry...). Frankly, in truth I don't really feel all that apologetic of this behavior, but in further defense of my early Christmas enthusiasm, I have to tell you that when you work in any sort of ministry/church-related field, Christmas begins in October. 

Do you know how many Sundays I have before I have to have all of my little kiddos, ages 2-13, ready to perform a Christmas pageant for the congregation?! SIX! And let's remember, this is not like school where a teacher has her kids five days a week. I have six Sundays to make sure everyone knows their lines, the songs, and where to move. I write the script each year which means that I need to be handing out scripts NEXT WEEK to give everyone time to memorize their lines.

You have no idea. There is not a chance I will be getting out of yoga pants this week until that script is done.

So, mock if you must, but if Christmas music gets the creative juices flowing then I am not going to fight it. 

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

So, that's it.

I wish  I had some great makeup tips or book recommendations or the secret to losing 10 pounds, but I need to save some brilliance for November. 

Hopefully next month will be chalk full of ready-to-use tips with all sorts of practical life application possibilities. 

I'll try.

Just as soon as I get that Christmas pageant script written.

Happy Halloween and bring on November!!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The gift of Christmas

So, I was cruising along through October with barely even a hint of melancholy. I wasn't exactly hosting parties and chatting people up on the phone, but I was totally staying in my lane, doing my thing. Lots of reading, cleaning out closets, giving things away with abandon and glee, and I was even rocking a really solid healthy eating kick. I mean, how often do all of those good habits come together in the same month?!

It was hard not to start feeling a little cocky.

But as the 26th approached, the wheels started to come off.

Sometimes you just have no control over when all the feels are going to start clamoring to be heard. It seems like I should remember they often like to be heard at the end of October...

And then on top of an already significant anniversary, Jack let us know that he wasn't totally sure he was going to be able to come home for Thanksgiving after all. The boy has gotten himself a job and apparently when you get a job your employer actually expects you to work.

(I suggested he have his boss call me, but he didn't seem to think that was a good idea. What?!)

Then Timothy finished up his college applications and after much soul searching determined he was ending his quest to play college soccer. The school he most wants to attend is not recruiting any defenders for next year and he has always said the school was more important to him than getting to play. The schools that are interested in recruiting him aren't schools he wants to go to, so...he is content to hang up his cleats at the end of this year. I'm proud of him. I support him 110%. As always his decisiveness and uncanny sense of himself astound me, but I'd be lying if I didn't admit that this is another ending that makes me a little sad.

And Annie...well, she just keeps growing up and that always means new...STUFF. Mostly good stuff, but stuff that all feels different both for her and for me. She is not one of those little girls dying to get older so I'm watching her struggle a bit against changes she can't control, and it makes me just want to wrap her up in a blankie like a burrito and rock her to sleep - except she's practically as big as I am. But I would totally still do this if I could just get her to stop fighting against my efforts to swaddle her up. It's very hard to swaddle a 10 year old who does not want to be swaddled. Words to live by.

And there it is.

Nothing earth shattering and certainly small potatoes compared to other people's problems. But perspective only takes you so far when it's your heart that's breaking, justified or not.

So, what's a girl to do?

I did the only thing that makes any sense under the circumstances. The one thing guaranteed to lift my spirits and heal my soul.

I think you know what's coming.

Oh, yes I did.

Clutch your pearls and cover the children's eyes, because here it is....

I started listening to Christmas music.

It all happened about a week ago when I really, really, really didn't feel like taking Rooney for a walk. It was kind of gray and I felt tired and blue and uninspired. So, I asked myself, "Self, what would make this more enjoyable for you?" And I kid you not, the answer was immediate and clear.

Christmas music

At first I felt a little sheepish. I mean in spite of my very public confessions of my love for Christmas here and here, even I do not usually resort to Christmas tunes before November.

But then I thought, who will even know? It will be my little secret. Although I swear Rooney kept rolling his eyes and sighing in disgust.

And then I couldn't stop.

And then I made a new Christmas playlist.

And then I perused the Apple Music Christmas playlists and determined right then and there they should hire me to make them some decent Christmas playlists.

For REAL, Apple Music. Puhleeease. Your selections are embarrassing. And boring. And it really pains me to say that about any sort of Christmas music.

(I make the best Christmas playlists. I'm not bragging, it's just true. It could be because I have 275 Christmas songs. That is the actual number of Christmas songs I own.) #sorrynotsorry #proudofit #ineedmore

So, now I'm just not even pretending anymore. I don't care who knows. I'll shout it from the rooftop (or my porch since our roof is really steep). I am already listening to Christmas music and I can't wait to see who comes out with new Christmas music this year. I'm full on IN and if you think I'm going to grow tired of my perpetual Christmas by the 25th of December then you really don't know me at all.

If you see me walking Rooney with a smile on my face, you will know why.

And let me know if you need me to make you a playlist.

I will honor Christmas in my heart,
and try to keep it all the year.
~Charles Dickens

This kid gets it.
He always has.
He's been playing Christmas music since July. 





Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The gift of trying again

Last week, Annie and I were snuggled up at the end of the day watching The Middle and just generally kicking back. She noticed that I was writing something in the notes on my phone and asked me what I was working on.

I enthusiastically launched into a lengthy explanation of how I had been reading this book all about gratitude. I started giving her all of the nitty gritty about the fascinating research that shows how an intentional practice of gratitude leads to greater overall well-being and health. Because I'm a big fan of well-being and heath, I explained that I had instituted a practice of writing down at least three things I was grateful for each day. These could not just be general categories of gratitude, but specific moments from that individual day for which I was thankful. I went so far as to show her the special folder I had created in my notes exclusively for my daily gratitude missives.

God love her that she didn't fall asleep before I was finished.

Being the ever-kind and supportive daughter that she is, she nodded along patiently and gave me an encouraging smile at the end. But then I swear I saw the slightest twinkle in her eye when she patted my arm and said sweetly, "That's great, Mom. So....how long have you been doing this?"

I turned to her and we sat silently staring into each other's eyes for several looong seconds.

Finally, forced to respond, I could barely keep a straight face when I answered flatly,

"Two days."

We both collapsed into a fit of laughter.

It seems even my daughter knows my tendency to start things with great excitement and grand intentions, only to have well over 50% of them fizzle out over time. Sometimes, after not much time at all.

Let's take a trip down memory lane and look at some of the bold and wonderful initiatives of mine that never made it past the starting gate:

Chore charts, calendars, jars...(and any sort of chore management system you can envision)

Meal Planning

Family Nights/Family Devotions

Once-a-week Grocery Shopping (see Meal Planning)

Make-Ahead Freezer Meals (see Meal Planning)

Eating Vegetarian, Vegan, Gluten-Free, Wheat-Free, Dairy Free, Sugar Free

Technology-Free Sundays

I am sorry to say that the list goes and on and on. If my kids were helping to write this I'm sure that each of them could chime in with some brilliant ideas of mine that I've long forgotten.

Remember when Mom thought it would be a great idea if we all got up at 6am every morning and ran around the block 7 times while singing Joshua Fought the Battle of Jericho?!

That did not really happen.

I swear.

But it could have. I've had some questionable moments...

Oh, and how about that recent idea of mine where I thought it would be such a great challenge to myself if I were to write a blog post every single day of October? Yeah....

I've explained before how I've come to understand that I'm a great Initiator, but a selective Sustainer.

I think I have to try things for a bit before I know whether something is truly worth my time and energy. Because for all my flakiness, the truth is, for every half-baked idea I let quietly fade into oblivion, there are at least an equal number of worthwhile endeavors that I have stuck with for the long haul.

So I haven't written every single day of October. But I wrote today.

And I have kept my gratitude practice going for over a week now.

And tonight, I will once again end the day snuggling with my daughter. That is a plan I can guarantee you that I will sustain for as long as she is willing.

Sometimes my ideas and plans and visions work out really, really well. Sometimes they don't.

But I keep trying.

One of my great ideas that actually did turn out really great.
(Whether they will admit it or not).
(Remember when Mom made us climb all the way up to the stupid horse statues....)
Good times.


Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The gift of laziness

It occurred to me that when I shared how I use October as a time to slow down and reflect, it may have sounded a bit noble and self-sacrificing. That in taking time for quiet and relaxation I am taking up the challenge to step out of the busyness and demands of life and boldly make this very counter-cultural choice. As if I am triumphantly taking a stand for simplicity and fighting against the inner compulsion to always do more, be more, and have more. I picture myself throwing off the shackles of ambition and perfectionism and instead daring to venture into the unknown lands of complacency and contentment.

I kind of wish that were true.

In reality, when I give myself permission to do less, seek quiet, read more, and rest, it's less like a personal challenge and more like the mothership is calling me home.

When I hear people say things like, "I prefer to be busy. I don't really know how to just sit and do nothing." I only hear the teacher's voice in Charlie Brown saying, "Waah, waah, waah, waah, waah..."

What is this language you speak? How can one not "know how to sit and do nothing?" I feel as though it is the very thing I was created to do. I can sit and do nothing like a BOSS!

People usually laugh when I tell them I am inherently lazy. I know they think I'm joking, and I understand why. I'll be the first to admit that my life does not have the outward appearance of being managed by a lazy person. I take great pride in that simply because it means that somehow I am managing to go forth most days keeping my slothful ways nicely tucked in and hidden under a veneer of competence and productivity. That feels like a pretty huge victory.

It always feels good when you can move about in public and safely assume your crazy isn't showing.

But seriously, I get it... I might not be lazy in the way most people think because in the end I always get done what needs to be done. I think the thing is that I am lazy but disciplined.

If I set an expectation for myself that my house needs to be tidied up and cleaned, then I will do just that. If I tell myself that some form of daily exercise is a non-negotiable, then I'll squeeze it in somewhere. If I declare that only savages would leave the dinner dishes sitting in the sink overnight, then I will muster the inner strength to restore the kitchen to an appropriate level of civility before retiring for the night.

I do these things out of a sense of discipline and because in spite of my internal desire to spend most of the day lying down, I do not actually want to live in squalor and on a diet of cold cereal and Doritos. (Okay, actually that sounds delicious. But, again, discipline....)

I make lists, lots of lists. And I take enormous pleasure in crossing things off those lists. Because you know what I get to do once everything is crossed off of my list?

Nothing.

And that is when I really shine.

My life mantra.


Monday, October 5, 2015

The gift of not running

This October I am trying to give myself time to do more of those things that bring me joy. Writing is not always easy and there are times it feels as if there is nothing to say, but I am always glad when I take the time to pound out some thoughts on the keyboard. So this month I am trying to write more- whatever that may look like. In keeping with the theme of October as a gift, I will be writing about daily practices, habits or activities that I intentionally choose for myself and others. I think. Hopefully. We will see how this goes...

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

When I turned 40, I gave myself the gift of not running.

Before you spend too much time trying to puzzle out the metaphorical implications of what was surely a deeply symbolic gesture to myself, let me help you out. I mean I literally gave myself the gift of no more running.

I said to myself, "Self, you are 40. God willing you still have at least another 40 years of this life to enjoy and it is time to stop doing things you hate. You do not like running. You may stop. That is my gift to you. Love, Me."

And I have not run for exercise since.

I think it might be the best gift I have ever received.

It's not that I didn't ever get any satisfaction out of running. When I completed my first 10K there was a definite sense of accomplishment. There were days when my run actually bordered on some sort of feeling slightly below torture. And there were periods when running actually helped me to accomplish my aim of losing weight and increasing my overall fitness (which was always the only point).

But I was never a "runner". I never once experienced anything that could be described as a "runner's high". (Honestly, I am convinced that is a myth concocted by athletic companies in their quest to sell shoes.)

I was slow and plodding and pathetic looking in my running endeavors. I never set my sights above a 10K simply because I don't think anyone should spend more time running than it takes to watch a Law and Order episode. A 10K was already pushing the boundaries of that for me (which is why 5K's are so much more civilized) so anything upwards of that time and distance was off limits.

I spent a good chunk of my 20's and 30's attempting various versions of "running" (distance, intervals, HIIT etc...) but for the past five years I have woken up everyday and re-opened my gift to myself by saying, "You may do many, many things today. You will exercise and take care of yourself. But you do not need to run."

And I smile.

My walking buddy.
He gets me out even when it's rainy and wet.
Although, sometimes I think even he questions the sanity of the whole thing.


Sunday, October 4, 2015

The gift of October

Sometimes I'm not sure why October is the month that brings it all back into focus.

Because really, for most of that October, 12 years ago, everything was still possible. Plans were being made. Baby items were being bookmarked and put on wish lists, many of them in twos. The basement was being remodeled to accommodate another bedroom. We talked of buying a bigger car.

For 23 days of October, we still had every reason to dream and plan and organize and imagine. 

But by the time October was over, everything had changed. And yet, in some ways, nothing had changed.

We were still a family of four. We still had plenty of bedrooms for everyone. We didn't need to think about upsizing our car. We were still us. 

And yet something was missing. Something we never really had. 

My favorite college professor (mentioned in the previous post) taught me something once that I have never forgotten. He didn't teach this in a class but rather wrote it to me in a letter when I was struggling with a personal loss. He said that almost all losses fall into one of two categories, they are either the experience of absence or the absence of experience. In a few instances, a loss can be some of both. 

Our loss felt like both. We missed the babies we had. We wanted those babies, specifically. We gave them names. We held them. We missed their physical presence. But at the same time, we never really got to know what it would be like to have them in our home. Who they would have been as people and as personalities, we can only imagine. 

We mourned the loss of our son and daughter, but we also mourned the loss of raising twins, learning their quirks and unique gifts, and being a family of six. We couldn't know what any of that would look like in reality, but it was a dream in which we had invested our hearts and souls. 

We wept over the experience of their absence but we also felt bereft at the absence of experience we were suddenly left with.

I realize this all sounds like I am settling into my annual case of the October blues, but oddly enough, I'm not. 

Actually, I'm kind of loving October right now.

There was a long time when October felt sad, really sad. And then it morphed into something less tangibly sad, but still emotionally heavy. And now, October feels like a gift. 

It is the month I allow myself to slow down, to take stock. I'm a reflective, borderline moody person by nature but most of the time I try to stay in my happy place. In October, I put no such pressure on myself. If I want to sit and read and underline deep thoughts and write down quotes I want to remember and sip my tea...then by golly, I just will. If I want to listen to music that makes me a little weepy, then so be it. If I want to stay in yoga pants all day, then... oh, wait... that one is not really confined to October.

October is my month to love life. It is my month to love the whole story of my life, even the sad parts. 

Maybe November is more traditionally thought of as a time to focus on gratitude, but for me October is the soil where my deep thankfulness takes root. Because there was a time when I thought I could never love October again. 

And I do. So much. 

Because it's when I remember. 



Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The question

It was somewhere around 1989 and I was sitting in the class of my favorite religious studies professor. I took so many of his classes that I can't even remember the name of this particular class but I think it's safe to say it was about religion. And on that day, in the last minutes of class, Dr. P proposed a rather interesting question to his group of raggedy 19 year old scholars.

Imagine you will be asked one question at the gates of Heaven, what do you think that question will be?

The responses came slowly at first and then gained traction. Some were funny, some were personal, and some were deeply theological. I remember Dr. P leaning back against the table he had been lecturing from with a big smile on his face. He was clearly reveling in hearing kids with scarcely two decades of life experience to their names distill the meaning of life down to a single question. I don't remember giving an answer myself, even then I was pretty content living with the unknown and not trying to have all the answers. But I enjoyed the banter and I remember waiting to hear how Dr. P would draw the discussion to a close.

He started to gather his papers which was always the signal that class was wrapping up. You could hear papers shuffling and books closing as students began to follow suit. But before everyone could disperse one brave teenage soldier dared to ask, "But, Dr. P.... what do you think the question will be?"

He stopped. Looked around for a moment. Looked up. Seemed to take a deep breath and then simply said,

Did you know you were loved?

I've thought about that question many, many times over the years. Knowing Dr. P as I did, I always knew the question wasn't about salvation. It wasn't a test. Having been a pastor and university chaplain for decades he was well acquainted with the kinds of life stories that might lead a person to answer that question with a bitter, "no". It wasn't a question designed to wound, but to heal.

Which is why in time I began to hear the question as a redemptive one. I came to hear it as, Did you know you were loved? And then, gently, the next question would be, Do you know it now? 

And that's how I heard it for a long time. But lately I've been hearing that question in a different way.

In the past few weeks as I have left one child (who is not so child-like anymore) two states away, and have been helping another one make decisions about his future and where he might land as he takes off a year from now, that question has taken on a new tone. Suddenly, the question I have carried in my soul for over 20 years has a new voice.

It is the voice of a parent. A father. A mother. It is the voice of the one who has loved you most of all, who has always wanted the best for you, but has sometimes had to stand silently by while you stumbled through heartache, missteps and failure.

Did you know you were loved? 

All those years... When we took turns eating dinner for the first three months of your life because someone had to be bouncing you from 5-8pm every evening to keep you from screaming your little head off...When we made you give up your beloved binky....When we didn't bat an eye about you wearing your pirate costume to the grocery store in the middle of June... When you wore a coat and tie to PreK for three months straight.... When Dad ran around like a crazy person on Saturday mornings trying to coach two soccer teams at the same time... When we drove you to the skatepark hundreds of times... When we went ten rounds over cell phone privileges and responsibility... When we taught you to drive... When we asked you to clear your dishes five thousand times... When you did great things and stupid things and funny things and brave things.... All those years...

Did you know you were loved? 

Do you know how much you still are?

In the end, isn't that the only question that matters?



Friday, July 31, 2015

Detours

There are so many things you can't really prepare for when launching your first child from the nest. You cannot truly prepare for how tedious and stressful the college application process can be. You cannot understand how perplexing it will be to decide on a meal plan package when all you know is that at home they seem to eat constantly. You cannot begin to fathom how much money you will spend on what feels like nothing- hangers, laundry detergent, shampoo, extra sheets...poof! You just spent five...million...dollars... (Okay, not five million. But, you know, a lot).

And you can't prepare for how quiet it feels when they are gone.

But then you get used to things. And, in our case, as I've said before, maybe you get eased into things because they go to school close to home and you continue to see them on a semi-weekly basis for laundry, food, money, and just because. And even though you wonder at times if staying so close to home was such a good idea you finally admit that maybe you were, gulp, wrong because it seems to be going so well. 

Yeah, maybe all that.

What a great story.

The End. Right?

WRONG!

Because do you know what "they" do then?! "They" decide to throw you a curveball in the eleventh hour of summer and tell you that "they" are thinking of transferring schools!! And then "they" actually go through with the application process and get transcripts sent and ask for recommendations and talk on the phone with admissions counselors! (I ask you, where was all this self-motivation and industriousness the FIRST time around?!) And after all that, "they" do in fact get into a new school and decide that, yes, "they" do want to transfer, and so now "they" are leaving in three short weeks for Southern California!

Have you figured out who "they" is yet? Have you picked up on the fact that this may not just be an exercise in fun hypothetical stories?

Uh huh. Because "they" is determined to finally see us lose our ever-lovin minds.

BUT, let's keep our eye on the prize here. Because as head spinning as all of that is- do you know what is really most important?

Do you know the one thing we should not lose sight of in all of this?

With all of the packing and prepping and planning that the next three weeks will entail, do you know what we should all remember above all else.

THAT I WAS RIGHT!!!

Okay, maybe we were both a little bit right. He was right that what he needed was here, for awhile. But I was right that at some point he'd need to stretch his wings a little bit more.

He's always had it in him. Always marched to the beat of his own drummer with a style all his own. Always done things in his own time, in his own way.


So, now, just when we got comfortable. He's shaking things up again.

Gotta love him.

And we do.

So long, Seattle.
Jack has left the building.






Sunday, July 12, 2015

Preparing to Launch v. 2.0

I started writing this blog the summer before Jack's senior year in high school. Our firstborn was poised to leave the nest and suddenly I felt woefully unprepared for such a momentous occasion. Was he ready? Had we taught him enough? Would he remember any of it? Would he get into college? Which college? Will he succeed? Will he ever stop leaving half-full glasses of days-old-nasty-looking-liquids everywhere?

Turns out the answers were: yes, hopefully, most of it, YES, more than one, so far, and...no.

And, let's be honest. His launching wasn't nearly so traumatic as it might have been considering he took a great big running start, leaped into the unknown, aaand landed 2 miles from home. He is currently living at home again as we speak.

So...perhaps I should have dialed it down a notch with all of the wailing and gnashing of teeth three years ago?

But now...here we are again. And for reasons I cannot explain I feel I am even less prepared for this next child's first flight than I was the first one.

 I ask you, does this look like the face of a child who should leave home?!?

I keep catching myself staring at him and thinking, W-w-w-wait a minute. You mean you're leaving too?!

And then I imagine him looking back at me like this:


We have a lot of these imaginary conversations because in real life he's kind of a man of few words. (Except when he's singing and then he has a lot of words. LOUD words. Musical, but loud.)

And most of the time I'm super chill about the whole thing. I'm all it's all gooood, man and hakuna matata and whatevs...

But every once in awhile (okay, every day...at least once...or a dozen times) I go full blown Carrie Underwood and start running around with my hands in the air belting out, JESUS TAKE THE WHEEL because I. cannot. even.


And beyond the odd quiet we will be left with when our Sinatra-singing Mad Man leaves the house, there is also the sense that maybe we are moving toward other changes that I can't yet see.

I'm not a big fan of change. 

Have you noticed?

But for so many years there were ideas and plans and dreams that we tossed out there and the conversation always ended with, Maybe...but not until the boys are out of high school. For sure not until then. Maybe once they've both graduated...

These two? Out of high school? That's a million years away...

And now here we are, one year away from venturing into that mythical land of hypotheticals and possibilities known as Both Boys Are Out of High School. 

What does that land look like? I honestly have no idea.

Of course, we still have this showstopper.



Thank goodness. I think we are all glad I still have 8 years to prepare for her departure. Pray that Carrie Underwood comes up with a new theme song for me by then. 

Until then, welcome to Preparing to Launch v. 2.0.

Because when I wasn't looking, this one grew up, too.

My Mad Man.
Fly to the moon, Son. Play among the stars.
In other words, I love you.





Thursday, April 2, 2015

Broken for you

When I was a teenager, Maundy Thursday was one of the most memorable nights of the church year for me.

As a kid, there was something about those few services during the year when we attended church at night. In other churches and traditions attending at night might be completely commonplace. But in my childhood church home, evening services were quite exotic. As I recall, they only happened three times a year; Ash Wednesday, Maundy Thursday and Christmas Eve.

Now, no adult who saw me at those Maundy Thursday services would have had a clue what an impact they had on me. Keep that in mind when you think all of your efforts to impart tradition and wisdom and memories to your teenagers is having about as much effect as shouting into a hurricane.

No, I did not appear all holy and contemplative in my corduroy skirt and peasant blouse. I'm sure if I bowed my freshly permed head it was mostly to hide the fit of giggles my best friend Karen and I erupted into at least half a dozen times during the somber service.

(Okay, but seriously, we had this male soloist who, I'm sorry, was just a recipe for making immature youth dissolve into shoulder shaking, tears streaming, mom-giving-you-the-evil-eye church giggles. What was the worship committee thinking? The vibrato on that man! And the volume! The volume plus vibrato was positively more than two girls already prone to hysterical laughter could take. It's no wonder our parents didn't care if we sat in the back by ourselves. I'm sure they wanted to disown us and feign utter ignorance to our shenanigans.)

But in between the giggles and the eye rolls and the whispers and all of that other stuff that teenage girls do, seeds of faith were being planted.

Nothing could have told you that something was stirring in me every time I walked into that quiet sanctuary. You wouldn't have known that when the bread was broken and the wine was poured, my heart swelled just a little. All you would have seen was an awkward teenage girl sitting in a dark sanctuary looking for all the world as though she had better places to be.

And maybe it was the darkness that made it all make more sense? Because even as a teenager I seemed to understand that there is both darkness and light in this world. What teenager doesn't? What other time in our lives is more punctuated with the highest highs and the lowest lows?

Sharing a meal with friends. Telling our stories. Saying good bye. The pain of betrayal. The fear of what lies ahead. Left alone. Soul crushing despair. The family and friends who stand by you and the ones who run away. Forgiving. Loving. Faith. And ultimately, hope.

Even as a teenager I could see and hear and understand that this is the story. This is our story.

Nobody wants to be broken.

But we will be. A thousand times over.

The question is, will you reach out and grab hold of that which will make you whole again?


Wednesday, February 4, 2015

February lessons

I'm sick.

It was really only a matter of time since I have been subbing almost daily the past few weeks. That much subbing only means one thing, sick teachers. Sick teachers means sick kids. Sick kids means the classrooms are all thriving petri dishes teeming with all manner of bacteria and viruses. It's like an episode of Magic School Bus where all of the teachers and students become germs and have to do battle against bottles of hand sanitizer (Spoiler alert: The germs win).

Sidenote: How great was Magic School Bus? How awesome was Ms. Frizzle? How unrealistic was it that she had a class of eight kids? Do you know how awesome I would be if I had a class of eight kids? I could surely take my class on some magical adventures full of education and fun, too, with EIGHT kids. 

I digress.

Did I mention I am sick? I feel like I should clarify that again in case this little missive of mine wanders even more than usual. I am quite possibly feverish and hallucinating.

Subbing and the Bacteria Festival I've been cavorting in aside, I'm not surprised February has decided to kick me in the teeth. It's possible I might have ended up here anyway, even without the burning sore throat and aching head. I have a lot to gear up for this month and it's enough to make me tired by 8am even on my best day.

February is always a big month in our little household. Exactly 3 out of 5 birthdays in our family occur this month. Three birthdays in the shortest month of the year, and one of them is mine. That makes February a non-stop party on any given year but this year the birthdays are feeling particularly big. This year we are rolling in some new numbers that I am having a hard time getting my head around.

I almost can't even say it.

Actually, I can't say it.

Let's just say I have one leaving single digits (let me pause to mop off the keyboard from the waterfall of tears), one leaving his teens (I'm glad you can't hear the wailing and gnashing of teeth), and then there's me...officially hitting the middle of my 40's which means after this it's all just one big, not-so-long countdown to 50.

I cannot even.

Obviously my resolve to get out of yoga pants is going to hit some really big snags this month. I'm sure you understand.

These two...my February babies...killin' me.







You get it, right? I mean, you'll understand when I spontaneously start weeping in the produce aisle, right? Please just look away. It's best for both of us.

But in spite of the fact that I'm inclined to be annoyed at February for kicking me when I'm down with this little illness that mimics the Bubonic Plague; I actually think February was trying to teach me something.

Because when our kids get older and we get all sentimental, we start to have memory lapses of what the "little years" were really like. 

Don't get me wrong. I loved the little years. I love little ones, period. That's why I say "yes" every time I'm asked to sub in Kindergarten even though I know I will come home limping and exhausted and won't be able to speak full sentences to my own family, let alone cook them dinner. I just love those little guys. 

But when you reach this point in parenting it is so tempting to look back on those years with nostalgia and start saying grandmotherly things like, "Enjoy it dearie" to poor, sleep-deprived mothers who are trying to run their debit card as fast as possible in the checkout aisle while their toddler is grabbing at candy bars and packs of gum and their newborn is wailing for all she's worth in the Baby Bjorn and you just know that poor mama's milk just letdown as the beads of sweat start pouring down her face in the direction of her clenched teeth.

The little years are not easy. 

And they are especially not easy when Mama is sick. Remember Moms of Older Kids? Remember what it was like to be sick as a dog and still have to nurse a baby or entertain a toddler or cut up grapes or make mac n cheese while praying that he will keep watching Nick Jr. all. day. long? 

Oh, do I remember. 

And I thought of that this morning as my two who are still at home got themselves up, dressed, fed and out the door with almost zero input from me. I thought to myself what a marvel that would be to a young mother; the idea that her children would one day be capable of making their own breakfast, dressing themselves, packing up and getting out the door on time all while she STAYED IN BED.

Being sick is not fun regardless. But it is a heck of a lot more manageable when you only have to take care of yourself. You can take that to the bank and cross-stitch it on a pillow, I'd say.

So, thank you, February. Thank you for reminding me of the many wonderful things that come from having your kids grow up. Truly, the many, many wonderful things. I am going to keep this little lesson close to my heart as we hit each of these milestone birthdays. I will sing their ages loud and proud and, I promise, I will celebrate with a smile.

So....can we nix the whole flu bug thing now? 

Lesson learned. 

Please?

Alrighty then...naptime. 

And I'll be taking this one all by myself. Hallelujah.

P.S. Big, mighty prayers for any moms of little ones who are sick right now. May God send Mary Poppins down from the sky to tend to the children, Alice to cook dinner, and Rosario (Will and Grace) to hang out and watch TV with you. My heart is with you.

P.P.S. This is still killin' me...



Thursday, January 29, 2015

Teach them well

Yesterday was Grandparent's Day at my daughter's school. If you teach in an elementary school you know that any day out of the ordinary is a recipe for craziness. Combine the change in routine with beloved grandparents, aunts, uncles and various other "special friends" coming to visit at the end of the day and you can count on the first four hours of the day being unbridled insanity.

But everyone survived. The program went off beautifully (all credit to our amazingly patient and unflappable music teacher) and the students happily reunited with their precious family members and friends to escort them to their classrooms to show off their best work.

I stood in the hallway and waited for my daughter to finish reading her Oma the short novel she had written. I knew it would take a little while and the classroom was crowded and hovering somewhere right around one thousand degrees so I positioned myself outside the door where it was a mere one hundred degrees. A friend joined me, also waiting for her kids to finish up in their classrooms. As her son raced by, recorder in hand, she shook her head and confessed to me, "I'm the worst Love and Logic mom. He actually forgot his recorder today and I brought it to him." She went on, "I mean...if it had just been an assignment or even his lunch, I wouldn't have come to his rescue. But, it's Grandparent's Day! And he would have had to sit out the performance!" She was obviously struggling over this decision and probably figured the Parenting Police were going to swoop in at any moment and tattoo "Helicopter Mom" on her forehead.

I couldn't help but laugh a little at her distress because she is truly one of the best moms I know and the farthest thing from a Helicopter Parent. Her children are all bright, self-reliant, incredibly sweet and unfailingly polite. The idea that she had violated some indefensible Mom Law and now needed to plead Guilty and send herself off to Mom Jail would mean there was little hope for the rest of us.

But I could see she really felt conflicted over her decision and so I made my own confession, which is that I don't always subscribe to the hardline Love and Logic, "natural consequences" school of parenting. (I'll pause for shocked gasps). I know, I know. The heresy. I get it.  I know it puts me at risk for the Parenting Police knocking on my door, too, but I'll take my chances.

I told her, "I think you absolutely did the right thing. We have to teach our kids consequences and responsibility, but we also have to teach them grace. Where else will they learn about grace and forgiveness and mercy, if not in their family?"

Where else will they learn about grace and forgiveness and mercy, if not in their family?

I mean, here's the thing.

(I love to say that. And it's one of those phrases that is so comical in its meaninglessness. Here's the thing? What thing? And is there only one thing? I digress...)

Seriously, here's the thing. Let's imagine you locked your keys in your car. I know, I know...today's cars make that a lot harder to do but it can be done so let's imagine it. Got it?  Have you conjured up your mental picture? You are stranded in a grocery store parking lot having locked your keys in your car. You know your husband is not far away, is available, and has in his possession a spare set of keys to your car. You call him on the phone and explain your dilemma, and he says this (Cheerfully but sympathetically, I might add, which is another pet peeve of mine of the whole L & L philosophy, the false cheery/sympathy you are advised to adopt.):

Oh, wow, honey. I am so sorry. That is such a bummer. I am so sad for you that this happened. What do you think you are going to do? Would you like to hear some ideas of what other people have done in your situation? I can't wait to find out how you solve this problem. I'm rooting for you!

Can. You. IMAGINE?!?!

Better yet, can you imagine what your response would be?

I am going to advise something completely revolutionary which will mean, again,  I am going to have to be looking over my shoulder for the PP.

I am not an expert on anything. Truth be told, I probably won't even shower today which doesn't really mean anything except to say that I do not think I am the be all and end all of anything. Zilch. In fact, I will be the first to tell you that you should take or leave my advice according to your own inner wisdom.

Disclaimers aside, I'm going to offer some advice.

When your normal, mostly responsible, decently polite, generally even-keeled kid leaves his lunch sitting on the kitchen counter for the first time, or even the second time, or even the third time-but-the-last-time-was-four-months-ago-and-he's-remembered-it-like-sixty-times-since-then....and you are able and willing...take it to him.

When your daughter, who has been struggling and striving and working so hard to master long division comes to you with tears in her eyes because she left her math assignment at school...help her find a solution. Call a friend and see if they can email it to you. Figure out if she could go in early and get it done. LOOK HER IN THE EYES AND TELL HER, "I LOVE YOU. THIS IS NOT THE END OF THE WORLD AND WE ARE IN THIS TOGETHER."

Because we are a family. And in families we help each other.

I'm not talking about entitlement. If you see your kid slipping into a pattern of irresponsibility and an attitude of 'what can the world do for me' then by all means, nip that nonsense in the bud, swiftly and efficiently.

But the idea that if you don't let your kids suffer small consequences now means they will automatically be facing BIG consequences later is silly. Taking your 2nd grader their lunch, or their recorder, or their math assignment a couple of times over the course of a school year does not mean they are on a direct route to prison.

Consequences are a reality. We all come to face to face with them all the time. Yes, kids need to feel the weight of them now and then. But I think we are playing with fire if we don't realize how many consequences kids face on a daily basis that we don't even see. The missed recesses for assignments that weren't finished, or talking in class. The friend who won't play with him now because he didn't play fair yesterday. The coach who made them all run extra laps for goofing off. The class who all got assigned extra homework because of the actions of a few. And any parent who takes their job seriously (which most parents do), knows there are plenty of consequences that happen at home, too.

Don't be afraid to teach them grace.

And when they offer you that sheepish, "thank you", or a hug, or even just a grateful smile, tell them,

We are a family. This is what we do. 

We love.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Dream Medium

Am I the only one getting a little overwhelmed by all of the inspirational New Years posts, quotes, goal lists and otherwise Rah-Rah messages?

ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE!

MAKE THIS YOUR BEST YEAR YET!

LIFE IS NOT A DRESS REHEARSAL! (I particularly love the ones that throw in a dig about my mortality. That's uplifting.)

DREAM BIG!!!!

I am all for living with intention and purpose. I fully support anyone striving for and reaching their goals. I absolutely believe it is always best to set your mind on all that is good, excellent, lovely and wonderful (Philippians 4:8). I would much rather see people go into the New Year with energy and enthusiasm than with dread and dismay.

But...

What if I don't want to dream big?

What if I really just kinda want to dream medium? Or even small? Or even teeny tiny?

Is that so terrible?

First, let's just get out of the way that ANYTHING is not possible. No matter how badly I might want to (and I so badly do NOT want to) I cannot get up out of this chair and go run a marathon. I cannot. No amount of wishing or determination can make it so. I have not trained, prepared or planned to keep these legs moving at an above-walking pace for anywhere close to 26.2 miles. It will not happen. At least not today (or ever, just so we are clear).

I am not going to go to sleep tonight and wake up tomorrow and find that Jack's room has been painted. (Yeah, I'm going to keep beating that dead horse until someone shows up here demanding to paint his bedroom just so I will stop talking about it. Sherwin Williams "Mindful Gray" looks nice. Just in case you were wondering.)

We are not children. We all know that in reality ANYTHING is not possible without adequate planning, preparation, skill, talent, opportunity and good luck. Certainly faith plays a critical role in the realization of any dream, but God gave us each unique gifts for a reason. He doesn't expect a duck to go out and try and be a wolf (thank goodness, because the duck would be eaten immediately). We gotta do the best with what we've been given. We have to be the best gosh darn duck we can be.

I admire the people today and throughout history who have dreamed really big dreams. People who shake up and transform the world. Truly, thank God for the big dreamers.

But I keep hoping that God didn't mean for every single one of us to shake up the world. I mean, if you have too many world shakers wouldn't we all start feeling like we are a bunch of kernels of corn in a bag of Jiffy Pop? Everybody exploding and bouncing into one another with no rhyme or reason until we are just a big pile of ideas and plans and programs with nobody left to simply cook dinner, or teach a Sunday school class, or meet a hurting friend for coffee?

Life is in the small stuff, too.

In fact, I would say most of life is in the small stuff.

I dream that this year my children will continue to succeed and be happy in school.

I dream that the children I teach at church will know that I love them and, more importantly, that God loves them.

I dream that my husband will reap a bountiful harvest from all the seeds of diligence, steadfastness and devotion he has sown.

I dream that we will all laugh a lot this year.

I dream the Seahawks will win the Super Bowl. (C'mon...I had to put that in there!)

I dream that both myself and others will be blessed by my One Word.

I dream that Ben will let me get another dog (what is wrong with me?!)

I dream that through my words and actions I will help to make my corner of the world kinder, safer and more abundantly joyful for everyone.

Those are my medium dreams.

I have this idea that maybe if enough of us dream and pursue and attain a whole bunch of medium dreams, those medium dreams will join together to create one big mega-dream! Don't you think?

I do.

I think that's how we medium dreamers make our own mark on the world. We each tend to our little corners of the world and pretty soon you add 'em all up and we circle the globe. One corner at a time.

Dream medium. I believe in you.