I teach high school. Which means that sometimes I am stuck in this never ending loop of homecomings, report cards, pep rallies and prom kings.
Names, music and fashions change, but year after year so much is the same.

One of the dress up days last week was college day, I played country music on Western day, a lot of Madonna and Micheal Jackson on 80s day….so on college day I figured I should play music I listened to in college.
All day I spent a lot of time thinking about who I was in college.
And frustrated that so much of me was exactly the same. Give or take 25 lbs.
The same issues I had in my twenties is the exact same baggage I carry around today.
I am too much.
I have boundary issues.
I am oh so easily distracted.
I hate limits and budgets and rules.
I suck at driving.
I like cute boys and beer and things that are not always good for me.
I play my music too loud.
I talk too loud.
I still wear pajama pants and flip flops every chance I get.  Even in public.
If I am wearing actual pants...chances are good that they are not clean.
I can not be trusted with a credit card.
I lose my keys at least once a day.

I could keep going with this list of the comical, yet negative self-talk that filled my head for a good portion of the day while Dave Matthews and Sarah McLaughlin sang on my computer.
I was not proud of this lack of progress in my life. I mean, I thought I would have a few more things figured out by the time I made it this far. Or at least used my iron or vacuum cleaner a little more regularly.

And then I had to go and read this.

Oh…how I love Don Miller.
And the truth is I loved the old Don too. (the whole post is here.)
Blue Like Jazz and Searching for God Knows What rocked my world.

And in some ways I have a love/hate relationship with the old me.
The 10 year ago me is older than the college me….but it made me think about who she was.

I always tell people that 26 is the perfect age.
Not so broke. Not so new professionally, but still free to be young and stupid.
The only thing I had to think about when I wanted to go on a last minute weekend trip was who would keep my dog.
I had a house.
The same house I have now.
I had 5-6 great friends.
They are still some of my favorite friends.
A cute husband who I could count on.
The same one who did all the laundry and cooked dinner yesterday.
And he is still cute.
Some things are worth keeping.
For decades. Or forevers.

Many days I envy that 26 year old.
Especially the one that shouldn’t be on cholesterol medicine, anti-seizure meds and has trouble staying awake past 10 o’clock.
But you couldn’t pay me to go back. I might still be able to recognize the 26 year old me….but the changes have not just been bigger pant sizes, booster seats and better health insurance.

I have grown comfortable with questions and doubts and laying it all on the table.
I do lots of things that I am afraid of that a decade ago I wouldn't have dreamed of.  I’ve even kind of grown a little fond of that nervous petrified feeling.  I am teensy bit better at discerning when to hold on and when to let go.
I can cook things I couldn’t even pronounce a decade ago.
I can change a diaper, pack a lunch in less than a minute and have managed to figure out the pick up line. Two entire human beings have grown inside me and I have managed to somehow keep them alive for the better part of this decade.
I even occasionally think before I speak. (clearly there is still some room for improvement here).

My issues are still my issues.
On most days my socks still don’t match.
I still make a mean mix tape.
And talk to people that I talked to a decade ago. And I’m so glad for it.
Heck, some of my t-shirts are even more than 10 years old.

But there is a lot of new too.
My passport has a few more stamps. 
My contact list, my resume and my driving record have all gotten longer. My hair has changed shades at least a dozen times. 
And my heart has stretched and broken and been put back together more times than I can count.
I haven’t arrived.
I haven’t figured it out.
And I hope to God that I won’t be able to say that I have in another ten years.
Or hundred years.
I never want to get there. 
I just want to go.
And I’m not so sure that I even want to forget where I have been. Even the really hard ugly parts that I am not so proud of. I want to be different. But not so different that you can't recognize me. Some of my best parts are pieces I picked up when I was 16. And 26. And a month ago.
Growth doesn’t necessarily mean we become someone else.
It doesn’t mean we figure it out or arrive.
It just means we are heading somewhere.
Maybe it is knowing what to keep, what to loosen my grip on and what to keep struggling with.

Maybe in the next decade I will master the vacuum.

(for the record...I still have that sweater....and those people...and plan on keeping all three around as long as possible.)

pennies and sparrows

More often than not if my change is only a few cents, I don’t wait around long enough for the cashier to hand me my pennies.
If change falls out of my pocket or purse, I occasionally don’t bother to bend over to pick it up. Especially if it is just the copper variety.

I know that they add up, but I still don’t think that pennies are usually worth my time or effort to keep up with. I’ve heard rumors for a while now that the US Mint is going to stop making them. That we will have to start rounding up or down when paying in cash. This does not sound like any kind of loss to me.  The reason, besides taking up all kinds of space at the bottom of my purse, turning green in my car's cup holder and the fact that you can’t even use them in a vending machine….is that it actually costs 2.41 cents to make a penny.

In other words, they cost more than they are they say they are worth.
A penny costs more than a penny.

Their worth is whatever someone decides to print right on the back, opposite Abe Lincoln.
Their cost, however isn't decided.  It is determined by what they are made of.
Pennies used to be made almost entirely of copper, until copper got too expensive. Now they are made with cheaper metals with just a thin copper plating. The world tends to look on the outside for worth, rather than what is inside. It is easy to cover up the cheaper stuff with a thin varnish of what we really want others to see. What we try to sell others is the outside instagrammed image through our most flattering filters, but what determines value goes a little deeper than that.

I have never been the kind of girl to balance a checkbook and have been known to raid my son’s piggybank for change (or twenties). I have bounced a few checks, lost more debit cards than I can count, forgotten to pay the water bill and blown more than my share of pennies on things I do not really need.
I am bad with money.
But I am especially bad with the concept of worth.
Particularly my own.

I know what should be the truth. I know what the people I care about most would say. What the Bible says. What all the other books say. But knowing something is true and feeling it aren't always the same.
More often than not I use the wrong standards and particularly the wrong internal dialogues. 

If a penny can be worth more than a penny…well maybe I have been getting my own worth confused as well. 
The other day after a long afternoon of meetings I drove straight to the tattoo parlor.
In service will do that to a girl. 
I asked an intimidating man who was covered in his own ink and piercings to draw two tiny little sparrows just below my collarbone.  His tattoos took up most of the skin I could see and I'm sure he laughed at my chaste request and mom jeans. Angry music played in the background as the needle hummed and I gritted my teeth.

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”  Matthew 10:29-31  NIV

Another verse in Luke says almost the exact same thing. 

In other words….we have been getting it wrong. We have been looking in the wrong places for other people to tell us what things are worth. And of course when I use the word we, I mostly mean me.
Things that seem worthless are not lost in the eyes of our Father. 
It is not numbers of likes or bank accounts or pant sizes or GPAs or friends requests that determine value. It is not what people have told us. It is not, thankfully, even what we believe about ourselves.
Like a penny it is what we are made out of.  More importantly it comes from WHO made us. And made with such care that He takes the time to number every single hair on our head (and quite possibly even the ones that end up in my shower drain).

This seemingly worthless thing,  is not worthless.
It is valued. 
It is counted.
It is cared for.
It is worth more than we think.
Even a penny is worth more than a penny.

Isn’t that what most of us want? Wouldn’t that be enough? 
My God rarely stops at enough.
There is a reminder just below my collar bone that is even more than that.

You are worth more than many sparrows.
You are worth more.

growing pains

Earlier this week Tess lost another tooth.
And there is something about gaps in my kid’s smile that tug at my heart.  A gap that will be filled with a tooth slightly too big for their five year old face. Adult teeth look so funny on a little kid and it takes years to grow into them. When I say Tess lost her tooth, I do not mean she wiggled it out and tucked it snugly beneath her pillow for the tooth fairy to trade out with a dollar bill. I mean she lost it at the bottom of the swimming pool.  She was excited about the tooth, but sad that she had nothing to show for it. I assured her that the tooth fairy would be just as happy to take a drawing of her tooth. That the exchange rate for real and drawn teeth were exactly the same.  She was not so sure and drew 3 teeth just in case. Or was possibly hoping for 3X the payout.

I remember snooping through my parents drawers as a kid and finding a few baby teeth. These baby teeth both fascinated and disgusted me. Even more gross than holding on to baby teeth, I had a friend growing up whose mother saved her umbilical cord after it fell off.  Those cords are smelly and scabby and I couldn’t wait for my own babies to lose theirs and have it replaced with a perfect little outie belly button. I do, however, understand the concept of holding on to things that should have long been let go.
Like baby teeth and things that tether us, we are meant to lose them so that we can grow. 
New teeth and new ties.

Like my daughter, I love to grow but I struggle to let go. 
She asks me at least once a week to measure her against the door frame. In the summer I read almost a book a day. My brain grows, but mysteriously my pants seem to shrink.
Sometimes at night my daughter wakes up crying and saying that her legs hurt. I rub them, beg her to get back to sleep and just tell her that she must be growing.
And that sometimes growing hurts.

The summer is coming to an end and I am finally getting around to cleaning out closets. The shorts and swimsuits my kids have worn this season will not fit again next summer so I add them to the give away pile. My son hardly notices, but Tess pulls out some of her favorite items saying that she loves the dress with the horses on it and that I can NOT give away her favorite dress. I tell her that the only way she can wear that dress now is as a shirt.  Sometimes growing means letting go of the things that used to fit you. But don’t anymore. As far as I know I have never woken up with aching legs. The only kind of growing pains I remember starred Kirk Cameron, but I know the kind that feel more like an ache in your chest. Or a fear so big you have to remind yourself to breathe.

I cleaned out my own closet this week as well and it is the same but for different reasons. Things that used to fit. But don’t. And sometimes even coming to terms with the fact that I will likely never ever fit into those jeans again and it is time to let them go. And of course it isn’t just my pants. There are people and habits that don’t fit anymore that I have held on to for far too long. Things I keep holding on to because they are easy and comfortable and I somehow convinced myself that it was a part of me. That these less than flattering traits were just who I am.  Not something I need to yank out and toss.  Partly because I don't have the patience to work at it or I worry a bit about the gap that they will leave. Habits and unhealthy relationships, like teeth are rarely easily lost. My daughter has wiggled and worked that tooth for weeks now until it was so loose she didn’t even notice when it finally slipped out and fell to the bottom of the pool. 
Like my daughter’s baby teeth. And her aching legs. 
Growth sometimes hurts, takes work and can leave a bit of an empty space until something more mature takes its place.

I am reminded how quickly she grows when I see a gap in her smile. Or pants that suddenly look more like capris. Or even when I am woken up at 2 am to rub her legs. Again.
And it will remind me to do the same.
To lose something.
To do the work.
To let go. 
To clean out more than just my closet.

Now, if only I could get someone to leave money under my pillows….

(This is my favorite band of the moment. listen. love.)


It is July, which means an inevitable camp post. I can close my eyes and hear the Loma Linda screen doors slam.  I can smell the river water mixed with vinegar ear drops.  I can feel the cut of the grate of the catwalk on my bare feet and the uncomfortable way the sheet always slips off in the night and you wake up stuck to your mattress.  These days I am way too old for camp but apparently it has found some way to infiltrate all my senses and my heart. Permanently.

I could not wait to send my kids.

I want him to have the same crazy memories and nicknames and stories about scraped knees, bathing suits ripped on the rapids, raccoons eating contraband snacks but mostly feeling like the summer was mine.  For three weeks in July I left my parent’s world behind for an unairconditioned dorm, sub par food and not nearly enough showers for the number of girls who needed them. In return I had thirty new roommates, inside jokes, new tan lines, a fully packed caboodle and a sense of who I was on my own.  Even more memorable than my summers spent as a camper were the ones where I donned a staff shirt.  All the fun of camp, except this time I got nights off, to ride the truck up the hill and break into the dining hall when I needed a midnight snack. 

Those summers drained me the way only loving well can.  I took my job seriously. Sort of.  I mean I loved my campers and didn’t want any of them to sneak out, get hurt or do anything illegal.  Mostly my goal was to show them a good time. To throw dance parties in the alcove, to ambush other dorms with water guns and toilet paper. To run things that didn’t quite belong up the flag pole and occasionally share my heart in the circle of girls at devotionals that almost ended with someone playing a song and no less than a half a dozen girls in Micheal W. Smith tears. As I grew a little older, I focused just a more on the heart than the fun.  I shared my doubts and my faith and loved them as best I could….and then I turned the lobby into a slip and slide or helped short sheet someone’s bed.  

Maturity has never been my biggest attribute.

This past week, I drug my own footlocker out of the attic. Emptied it of all the mixed tapes, letters and beanie babies and started filling it with athletic shorts, t-shirts and swimsuits.  I had fought with my husband for years to send my son to camp and he finally caved. Just one week at a camp relatively close by.  My husband worried about his asthma, his swimming abilities, his introvertedness, how small he is and I just worried that he might never change into any of these clean pairs of tiny little boxers I was folding neatly into his trunk.

Yesterday we drove east to drop him off.  Counselors were ready, cheering and welcoming at the gates. My son was nervous in the back seat. Tess spied and horse and immediately starting asking if she could stay too.

And suddenly it got real.

We unloaded his footlocker. Dropped off packages and inhalers and nailed the swim test. It was like some scene from Lord of the Flies. Boys were flying on giant swings, playing gaga ball, putt putt and basketball.  The parking lot was clearing out, Owen wanted to try out the swing and it was clearly getting time for anyone over the age of 21 to disappear.  And suddenly my memories of being a camper and a counselor were drowned out by the fact that now I am a mom.  The girl who helped us unload our footlocker told Owen his counselor’s name was Mullet.  I spied him on the basketball court and very uncooly interrupted the game to introduce my son. I quickly mentioned his inhaler and that it was his first time here.What I really wanted to say was..... This is my son.  My kid. Guard him. Protect him. He might get scared at night. Don’t let the other kids tease him. He is sometimes hesitant to try new things, but if you are patient and push him a little he will do it.  He is funny and smart but if he has been in the grass he will need to take a shower at night or he won’t be able to breathe.  Like him.  Pretend to be interested in Pokeman. Compliment him. Laugh at his jokes even when they don’t make sense. Remind him to brush his teeth and please please just keep him alive until Saturday.

But I didn’t say those things. I hugged him hard. (my son, not his counselor) and walked back to the car and drove the two hours back home in an unusual quiet convincing myself that Mullet sounded like a perfectly responsible name.

About midnight I was wishing for a full bottle of Xanex. And I am not usually an anxious girl. But I pictured all kind of horrible scenarios. I prayed and hoped he was having an amazing time because I was not sure I’d survive the week.  And if you know me that is crazy talk. I usually don’t worry ENOUGH about my kids, I hardly recognized this girl tossing and turning all night.  I wondered if parents of my campers had felt the same way when they dropped off their kids.

I thought about the difference I suddenly saw in my students when my son finally went to kindergarten.  You see, I love what I do and my content and take it seriously. I want to teach well.  But, when I packed my sons lunch that first day and sent him on his way I prayed mostly for a teacher who would like him, love on and encourage him more than what she actually taught him. My job and my students suddenly looked different.

As a counselor I wanted my kids to have a memorable summer. As a teacher I wanted my students to learn my content, but as a mom I want my son safe and loved.

People mostly refer to God as a father. And if you force me to pick a pronoun…I usually even use He, but…In my restless state last night….while praying and wondering if it was too late to take another Tylonal PM I thought that maybe God as a mother might be the more powerful image.

I mean no one ever mentions “Papa Bear”…it is the “Momma Bear” you have to look out for. It is a love that is fierce and protective. The momma bears who send their kids out into the world. To kindergarten, or camp or college and lose sleep worrying if they will have someone to eat lunch with. If they can tie their shoes or if they will remember to separate their lights from their darks when they do laundry.
A constant tension between loving them ferociously and still wanting them to be who they are supposed to be and have their own experiences.  

And it is so hard. My son is only 9.
He is tiny. He has bad asthma. He is afraid of the dark.
I want to keep him close and safe and most of all alive.
But I also want him to fly down ziplines, bellyslide through the mud and take a few trail rides.

I’m not sure how God the father would handle this, probably with a little more sleep than I seemed to be getting.   But I think I have a better picture of God the mother. The mother God, who loves ferociously and protectively and still finds a way to let go. A God who gives choice and experience and lets us become whoever it is we are meant to be. And one who loses sleep and pursues us when we start to become who we shouldn’t.

My son is hopefully making his own memories this week. In all my free time not sleeping, I pray that he finds God the father and God the mother in the woods of East Texas.  And also that he doesn’t lose his inhaler and remembers to change his underwear at least once.

for what it's worth

I woke up the day after my birthday and knew.
For months I’ve been wondering what I need to do next, or what to be when I grow up or what happens now. But that morning, with the smile lines and gray hairs showing through, looking every bit of another year older, I knew. 

So before putting on real clothes I began searching for graduate programs.
Which is a little bit silly because I already have a graduate degree.
But I figured everyone now has a Masters, I might as well have 2.

I applied to one school before my kids even got out of bed. I was looking at signing up for the GRE and trying to pick a program. I texted, emailed, called and made appointments with an advisor.

But it wasn’t really what I was looking for.

The next day, I did a little more research and stumbled upon a program that was more me.
Unfortunately it will take a whole lot longer to complete and people would get to call me doctor if I got in. I applied to my second school in as many days. One I have gotten into before but thought that never in a million years would I actually go to. I tried not to think about how much I was dropping in application fees, I sent more emails and asked more questions and seriously wondered if I had lost my mind.

A few told me that I had, but the ones closest to me where not surprised. They were actually relieved that I was looking into the longer rather than shorter paths.

Getting in wasn’t something I worried about. I have a solid resume and get at least a dozen emails a day asking me to apply to some kind of graduate program or another. I figured anyone would be happy to take my money. Until suddenly the director of my dream program emails me back and lets me know that I would be a perfect candidate, but that she should warn me that it is very competitive. That only 45% or so of applicants get in.
In other words, I better bring my A game.

I send my transcripts. I start filling out my application and asking people to be my references and now I am starting to sweat.

“What if I don’t get in?”

And this is no normal application. It requires several writing samples (which by sample they mean several pages each) with original ideas and the ideas of others. And to be sure to site my sources. I am being graded on grammar and citations.
Grammar! This can not end well for me.

Again, I hear the refrain of “What if I don’t get in?”  play through my head.

I download and read a half dozen books that aren’t my usual summer reading. I start watching keynotes and Ted Talks from experts on topics that I am going to write about.  I spend most of my drive to the beach answering the writing sample questions. I type for hours as my husband drives. Pages and pages of reflection while my son asks over and over “when are we going to get there?”

And when I finish I feel really good. Like I usually do when I get my thoughts out.
I feel like I nailed it and they will be stupid not to let me in and I do not crack open my computer the entire rest of the trip.  I can edit when I get home.

So this is a good time to tell you that I do not edit. I usually give something a quick skim and capitalize a few letters. Maybe even drop a few “to be” verbs if I am feeling extra ambitions and hit publish or send.  I love to write. But that is where I stop. Apparently there is a whole lot of work that goes into editing.  Like weeks worth of work and it is a lot more than just cleaning up some bad grammar and correcting the words that I misspelled.  It is all the extra work that takes something good and makes it better. This is the kind of boring effort that I usually don't put into anything. Not just my writing.

Most of my samples were too long. I was working on word/character limits and I needed to make them fit into the neat 1000 word text boxes that I was provided.  They needed a clear thesis and not just some rant where I actually figure out what I am saying 723 words in. I wrote. And rewrote. I emailed it out to English teachers and I made their suggested corrections. I read more. I scoured blogs and watched keynote addresses.  I had friends help me. I sought out people smarter than me. I deleted. I moved things around.  I even watched a boring youtube video on how to correctly do APA citations. And I struggled. Less with the writing and more with myself. The more I looked at my words the less good I felt about them. The more I started to hear,  “What if I don’t get in?” in my head as I trimmed and cited and rearranged.  The more I put in to this, the more I had to lose.

Yesterday afternoon I finally clicked on submit. 
A little text box popped up asking me if I was sure I was finished. That I would not be able to make any changes.
And I hesitantly clicked OK.

I leaned back into the couch and waited for the huge wave of relief and accomplishment to hit me. The cheesy mom voice telling me that I had given it my best and that should feel good about it. No matter what some review committee decides. 

That feeling never came.
Instead I fought some crazy urge to cry. 
Of laying it all out there. Truly my best efforts and having to wait four months for someone to tell me if it is good enough.
If I am good enough.

I sat there on the couch for a long time. Frozen. Watching really bad TV. Trying to convince myself that this isn’t what it is all about. 

In or Out. 
Yes or No.

My validation is not going to ever come in the form of an acceptance letter.
My worth is not going change if I am rejected.
Even if my best is not good enough that I still am.

And part of me thinks I should just type those last 3 lines over and over until they really sink in.

Three years ago I submitted a piece of writing to be published. The topic was on worth. 
That essay is far too private to ever go here. It is honest and raw and I think some of my best work. At first, the publisher loved it. Raved and said was perfect for the collection.  
In the end it was left out.  Rejected.  And I felt like I had been too.
I haven’t submitted a single thing since then to anyone.

I tell my kids all the time to try their best. That I don’t care if they score or win or make perfect grades. That I care more about their effort and not giving up.  And suddenly I wonder if I have been making that sound too easy. Giving our best at anything or to anyone is incredibly vulnerable.  It takes away all excuses and all layers of protection.  It takes away every single bit of control.  

This morning, I am back on my couch. The books and laptops have been put away and I am left with things like trust. Humility. And a handful of verses on where worth really comes from.  There is still a long time to wait.  My application may be finished, but apparently I still have a lot of things to learn.

ready for battle

My son appeared in the doorway decked out in his uniform and shinguards. His hair flopped in his face and asked, “Dad, who am I battling today?”
Me and my husband both laughed a little and I made a mental note to do a better job of limiting his video game time. 
He looked confused and asked another question, “It is a game right?”
My husband finally responded and said, “I don’t know Owen, I haven’t looked a the schedule yet. And this isn’t Pokemon, just ask who you are playing against.”

He was completely satisfied by this answer, however, I was not going to let a moment for complete cheesiness pass me by. I decided to impart a life lesson on my son which he absolutely did not want.

I told him that he was in fact battling someone today. In that really cute almost too big uniform with socks that went well over his knees.
So again he asked who?
I told him he was battling himself.
He looked at me like I was crazy, which by age nine is a look he has had a lot of time perfecting. I can not imagine what the teenage years have in store for me. I told him that regardless of what team he played against, he was trying to be better than he was the week before. He was battling to try his hardest. Play at his best. Keep going when he was tired and to get back up when he is knocked down. (Which is often). I told him that he can not always control the scoreboard, or the calls, or the opponent, but that he can always do his best to win the battle. 
Even if it means losing the game.

My son is the littlest. 
On his team. 
In his grade.
Of his friends.
He isn’t just little. He is tiny. 
Less than the 2nd percentile for height and weight.
In College Station they have a name for fans who don’t stand up at the game. Who try to leave early when the scoreboard doesn’t look promising. They call these fans two percenters.  For my son, he is a different kind of two percenter. One that I have a whole lot more respect for. The kind that has to take twice as many steps to keep up. That is much more easily knocked down. The kind of faces opponents who literally are twice his size.
That kind of two perecenter might feel like he is going into battle every game.
But I watch him game after game….get back up.
Then run over to the sideline and take a puff on his inhaler.

(start praying for his junior high years now...and FYI …urban dictionary has an additional definition for the phrase two percenter… so you might want to be careful how you use it…don’t say you weren’t warned).

My daughter just finished her first year on the soccer field. This past season she scored in every game. Sometimes four or five goals in a game. Her team was undefeated. I cheered and hoped that I remembered to bring snack on my assigned Saturday.
She learned a little bit about the game, and I learned that as girly and prissy as she can be…
that she grit in her after all.
However, she only knows what it feels like to win.
My son’s team lost every single game.  They lost every single game last season too.
Man, I hated to see those kids look defeated every week.
I still cheered from the sidelines, hoped I remembered snack and prayed my husband wouldn’t yell too loudly. And when they scored (which was usually by my son...and still incredibly rare) the sidelines cheered like they had just won the World Cup.
My son learned something incredibly important.
That losing really sucks but it isn’t the worst thing.
Quitting. Not trying. Not showing up. Those are worse things.
We all like to win, but failure is a much better teacher than success.
It still sucks though.

The last few weeks the US has exploded with World Cup fever.  I am an ex soccer player and fan, but am not quite as devoted as my husband who regularly watches games on Telemundo. I’d also rather spend my Saturday mornings running or drinking coffee than getting up early to watch the English Premier League in any language.  For the World Cup, however, I have been happy to force myself to watch all those really hot fit guys sweat it out for 90 minutes on the pitch. You know, just to make my husband happy.  It also helps that they like to take their shirts off. The US team lost while my family watched from the nosebleeds at Cowboys stadium, because Jerry Jones has the biggest TV of anyone that I know. My daughter just wanted popcorn, and pretzels and cupcakes. My son spent the first 80 or so minutes playing a game on my phone.  But he watched in desperation during the second overtime as the US failed to put another one in the net.  When they finally blew the whistle 121 minutes later…he looked up at me asking if they really lost.
Yes. They really lost.
Just look at your father over there crying in the bleachers.
But the battle. That is a different story.

Then again, maybe a girl wearing red and blue face paint is hard to take seriously.

So, who are you battling today??

free fallin

Sometimes when you are loud and obnoxious and wiling to look like a fool on a regular basis people forget that you are still afraid of things. That you are just as insecure as they are. That you still get embarrassed and petrified and your feelings hurt.

I don’t get it. I’ve had multiple people tell me how un-insecure I am. 
How I will say or do anything.
And I have to tell them that I am just as afraid as the next girl. 
And there are plenty of things that make me run away or want to wet my pants. 

Most are facing hard things like emotions, rejection or failure.
But. Let’s start with the easy stuff.

I have a few big fears.
One is snakes  (and bears or anything that could try to eat me or poison me in the woods). And I am 100% serious. And I have run-ins with both snakes and bears almost every year. 
I can hike forever. Despite being super extroverted,  I enjoy the idea of getting lost in the woods alone. I like to spot deer and elk and chipmunks and anything furry that doesn’t eat meat (or at least humans). I convince my husband to pack the gorp and follow me down the trail, but when he starts to venture off on his own, or wants to stop and fish….I insist that I can see him. So he can hear when a mountain lion or bear decides to make me their lunch. And snakes are even worse. My brother briefly had one as a pet. I also  realize that most of the ones I run into will be non venomous. Fear and rational thoughts are not usually found in the same sentence.  My father in law just teasing about a water moccasin at the lake was enough to make me fly out of the water and onto the dock. 
Growing up we’d find copperheads coiled up in the garage or laundry room. One even took up residence on my bike seat. That bike and the copperhead on it both got shot to pieces. And I wasn't even the least bit sad.
I know the chances of me getting eaten by a bear or bitten by a snake are smaller than me using the vacuum this month…slim to none.....but they are still there.
I lace up my hiking boots and swim in the lake anyways.
This year we have traded in the mountains for a long lake weekend.
Meaning, I do not have to worry about bears this year....just the snakes.

My next biggest irrational fear is heights. I think I still have nightmares about the high dive at the racquet club. My husband loves to ski, and I don’t mind snowplowing my way down the mountain…but the ride up petrifies me. There are NO seat belts on a ski lift. And sometimes it stops right in the middle and you sit there and shake in your chair. I’m pretty sure my knees knocking make our particular chair shake even more. I usually pass the time on the lift marking points where if I’d fall from that I’d likely survive or at least places where I’d hopefully die quickly.  At least in the winter the ground and giant rocks are covered in what looks like nice soft white snow….but I have been up these same lifts in the summer and they are even scarier. I am not one to pass up an experience or try something new so I often find myself looking down from such great heights despite my fear. 
I ride roller coasters. I walk across suspension bridges. I zipline. I fly every chance I get. I just sometimes do it with my eyes closed. 

This weekend we were at a national park with a very deep swimming hole and cliff diving. I have jumped off cliffs in Mexico and as soon as I saw the kids lining up to jump I figured I’d end up there as well.  My stomach was in my throat before I even slipped off my flip flops. 
My kids are not natural risk takers. I don’t want them to be fearless, but I also do not want them to live afraid. I think bravery is something that you have to practice and figured this might be the opportune time to show them that. Plus, did I mention I hate to miss out. I hate letting fear win. I hate the idea of not doing something fun just because I am scared.  My sister-in-law immediately shed her shorts and swam straight over to the cliffs. I tried to get my bearings and check out the rest of the lake. I figured I’d work my way up to it.  She quickly joined the teenage boys and plunged off the top before I’d even gotten my feet wet.

I cussed because now I figured I really had to do it.
One thing I hate more than letting fear win is being outdone.

She gave me a few pointers and I swam out to the rocks. I kept trying to tell myself that this was much lower than the high dive. That I had done scarier things before.  I have jumped off bridges, ropes courses, high dives and cliffs.

Obstacle #1, getting myself onto the rocks.  I have the upper body strength of a kitten. A very weak kitten. I can pull myself out of the swimming pool, but algae covered rocks is a different story.  I knew my family was watching on the other side of the water as I tried and failed to shimmy myself up no less than a half dozen times. It did not help that teenage boy after teenage boy buoyed themselves up with about as much effort as lifting a cotton ball right beside me. After many failed attempts and promises to myself to start doing pushups.....I managed to beach myself onto the slab of rock.

Obstacle #2, getting to the top.  My hometown high dive and the cliffs in Mexico had something these did not. A ladder.  I started to climb the rocks which is no easy task when you have the biceps of a kitten. One that hasn’t been hanging in there for a while. I swear there must have been a direct relationship between how many inches high I went and the amount my knees were shaking.  My feet and hands were still slick and I kept sliding back down. I tried to psyche myself up the whole time. Noting how I had watched at least 20 kids jump and so far not one of them had died or even required a care flight. I tried to tell myself how good it would feel to jump even though I was petrified. I wondered what my in-laws or the rest of the moms would think if I shouted the f-word on my decent. I kept climbing and slipping and shaking.

One of my favorite books (download or order it right now if you haven’t read it or at least read the chapter I am referring to for free on Amazon) is Jesus, My Father, the CIA, and Me: A Memoir...of Sorts by ― Ian Morgan Cron
And he tells a similar story about letting his kids jump off of a similar cliff called “The Forty” . When I think about doing scary things I often remember that chapter.  In it he says this:

“There is a big difference in life between a jump and a fall. A jump is about courage and faith, something the world is in short supply of these days. A fall is, well, a fall.”

(read the whole part here…and it is SO WORTH IT )

That story of the Forty kept running through my head as I made slow slippery progress on the rocks.

And I wanted to jump, because I seem to fall all the time.  But jumping is on purpose. Thinking that chances of landing safely are good, but not guaranteed. Doing it even though it is scary and hard and unsure. Jumping is thrilling, partly because of the risk.  People say they fall in love.
And I doubt them. You don’t fall you jump. At least in most healthy relationships.
Except for maybe Taylor Swift, but at least you can get a good song out of it.
Falling is reckless and stupid. And I have done it over and over again. 
And landed on my ass every. single. time.
Jumping occasionally lands me in the exact same spot but somehow it feels good anyways.
Even the parts that hurt or knock the wind out of you.

I kept climbing.
I kept slipping.
My husband was on the banks waiting with a camera.
I grew more petrified by the second.
I got a few more feet up and started slipping again. Despite the half dozen boys Spiderman-ing it up the cliff I did not think I could go another inch.
The only problem was that I had gotten high enough and the rocks were steep enough that I was not sure how to get back down either. 
I was left with some crappy options.
a) keep going up and jump.
b) potentially slip and fall over the edge. 
c) embarassingly make my way back down on my belly which might also end in option b.

I have spent my life falling. And was not about to fall when I wanted to jump.  I am usually more afraid of looking like a chicken than whatever it is that I am actually afraid of. However this time pride did not win out.
I compromised a bit and went down just a few feet to a slightly lower, less impressive ledge. (possibly the ledge that the girls and kids who hadn’t quite hit puberty were jumping from). There was nothing impressive about my jump.  Teens kept pummeling themselves off rocks well above me as I closed my eyes and threw myself into the cold deep water below. And it still seemed like a long way down. I didn’t yell any obscenities. I am not sure I really even enjoyed the fall. 
But I still jumped. 

Falling isn’t the fun part. 
We think it is because we aren’t in control.
But falling is scary.
Jumping is even more scary because you chose to do it.
The good part is being able to say you jumped.
The fun part is letting yourself feel brave.
There are no bragging rights in a fall.

I emerged gasping out of the water only slightly embarrassed at my abbreviated plunge.
Of course I had thrown myself over the edge so fast my husband had missed the photographic proof.  My adrenaline rush and escalated pulse was more than enough proof enough for me and I felt no need to do it again just for the sake of Instagram.

I let my kids swim for a bit longer and explored the rest of the lake. Before slipping my shoes back on and hiking back to the car, I watched as teenage boy after teenage boy (and yes….pretty much it was only teenage boys) threw themselves over the edge. They jockeyed for the highest points. Some did backflips. Some from my own lower ledge. 
But they all jumped.
I watched fear leap over the edge at least thirty more times before we hiked back up to the car.
And I’d like to think that I left a little of my own fear back on the cliffs as well.

On our way back to the car I was still flying a little high on adrenaline and the beauty of the day. I was busy feeling brave until a long green snake slithered across the road. My son tried to chase it down while I sprinted the rest of the way to to car.