reluctant advent - hope

I have a confession.
The Christmas decorations that came out before Halloween kind of pissed me off.
And I like Christmas.
And I have little kids that I want to make it special for.
Which would require me to be excited and intentional and probably bake things.

I kept thinking I'd be more into it after Thanksgiving.
But. Still not so much.
I did get Shaun to lug the tree out of the shed.
But we haven't decorated it yet. Despite my son's begging.

Friday night I took my kids and nieces and nephew to look at lights.
And was mostly tired and full and ready for bed.
Although I did manage to spin under my favorite big tree of lights until I was dizzy.
Like I do every year.

I even did a little Christmas shopping today. But mostly I was trying to get it over with. Toys R Us doesn't exactly put me in a spirit of cheer.
And to my sister who sent me home from Thanksgiving with wrapped presents. A big fat thank you and please try explaining to my 2 year old why she can't open them (including her brother's yet!). Total melt down.

My next few weekends are packed with parties and events. And I haven't even thought about cards or Santa or all of the extra calories I will be consuming in the next few weeks.

But this morning at church, they lit the first advent candle.
The one that stands for Hope.
And I loved that.

And I remembered that I really like this season after all.

My tree isn't up. There are no lights on the outside of my house (and their might not ever be). My cards aren't adressed or even ordered. I haven't wrapped a single gift. I don't have Christmas music playing in my car. And I haven't figured out what the heck I'm gonna get my dad or my husband or how we are going to pay for any of it.

But I love advent.
And those other things will get done. And I wasn't going to do any special Advent writing this year. I feel like I did enough of that the last few years and am not so sure I have much more in me. But suddenly I really don't want to ignore this season and anticipation in this space.
And to be honest, for right now I'm too busy and overspent to start from I'll be recyling some old posts on here this week on hope. And next week on peace...and so on.

So for the first installment, a post from back in May....

Lately I’ve had some hard days.

I’ve written about some of it, other things I’ve left out.
Some of my friends keep asking if I’m ok.
And I’m really not.
But I don’t quite have time to let myself not be.

And I hesitate to say that I’m not.
Because none of it is really my grief.
It is all secondhand.
Losing a student is tough. But it is not like losing a son or a brother or a best friend.
Another friend is in the hospital.
She lost a son in August and is pregnant again with some serious complications.
20 weeks along with a little girl named Piper.

And yesterday, after my day job.
I had a play date and got to see a friend of my own that I have missed.
I made dinner for a neighbor who had surgery.
I stopped by the funeral home to give a girl a hug who just lost her twin.
A girl who happened to be Owen’s first baby sitter.
A girl whose grief and loss breaks my heart in so many ways.
And I didn’t go inside or say anything.
I just hugged her on the front steps and wiped away my tears.
And packed up my kids and was off to swim lessons.

And from there I went to see my Beth in the hospital.
And my Beth is easy. Even in a very difficult situation.
Our girls filled her hospital room with their squeals and giggles.
And we talked easily about movies and friends and her cervix.
And that it is all too soon and doesn't look good and there aren't many options.
Excpet to hope for the best.
And afterwards I ate good food with another old friend.
And went home and packed a sack lunch with a note tucked inside and put my own baby to bed.

And as I laid down, I was again consumed by all this grief.
And that I am choosing it.
Because really, let’s be honest.
It would be easier to just send a card. Or even flowers.
But giving grief a hug or driving a long way just to sit in a hospital room and eat craisons is awfully hard on my heart.
And my heart is tired. And I’m not so sure how much more it can take.
But there are still lunches to pack, and papers to grade and banquets and showers and birthday parties and soccer games to get to.

And last night, just before I left the hospital.
My friend’s nurse came in to take her temperature and blood pressure and those kinds of things. And I’m not sure why I asked, but I did anyways.
If she could let us listen to the heartbeat.
And she came back in with her Doppler and jelly.
And we heard the swish of the baby moving. And the quick lub-dub of her heart beating strong despite all the things going against her.

And for the first time in days…
I heard what hope sounds like.

and for the update....this is what it looks like:

skipping thanksgiving

One of my favorite thanksgivings wasn’t even a thanksgiving at all.

I didn’t eat turkey and no one had the day off.
The weather was miserable. Cold and rainy and gloomy.
I never seemed to get warm or dry and slept for a week on a tiny twin bed. With Shaun.
In a flat with about 4 other people I didn’t know at all.
And one I did.

We skipped work for few days, emptied out our bank account, cashed in a few old savings bonds and traded in our dollars for pounds.
And flew across the pond.
And spent the week in London.
And skipped Thanksgiving entirely.
And loved every second of it.

It was a time in my life where at parties the conversation was always steering to breastfeeding and birth control and babies.
Which was odd because we were all married with no kids.
We took  our dogs to dinner parties.
Played ultimate Frisbee on the Kimball lawn every Thursday.
Watched HGTV and decorated our new homes.
We scrapbooked and redecorated and went to late movies.
We packed up and went to the beach on an hours notice.
We stayed up late at friends houses playing mafia (in real life not on facebook) and Catan and drinking wine and beer and talking about how busy and tired we all were.
We had no idea.

And babies were right around the corner. We all knew it. Some of us were aching for it. Already trying.
But Shaun wanted to go to London first.
I had a friend who was living there for a season who graciously offered us her tiny bed while she slept on the couch and played tour guide. (Thanks Susan!)
So I got a passport and a scarf and off we went.
(And it was a good thing because the very next Thanksgiving I had horrible morning sickness).

We kissed in phone booths. Watched the changing of guards at Buckingham Palace. Let the Beef Eaters show us the way around the Tower of London. Climbed the lions in Trafalguar Square. Minded the Gap. Cruised down the Thames. Set my watch to Big Ben. Took in the view from the Eye. Watched a real football game (that is soccer to most of you). Frequented a few pubs (ok, maybe more than a few). Spent hours in museums. Walked across the Wobbly and the Tower Bridge. Rode on top of a double decker bus. Tried to get a guard to crack a smile. Tried to get used to looking the other way when crossing the street. Checked out Churchill’s War Rooms. Rode in one of those cute black cabs. Spent plenty of time Underground. Ice skated outside at Somerset house. Fed the ducks at St. James Park. Strolled down Picadilly Circus. Always kept an eye out for the queen and Hugh Grant. Watched Les Mis at The Palace Theatre. Shopped at Herrods and the markets on Portobello Road. Began my Advent season at a service at Westminster Abbey. And probably a dozen other things I already forgot. I drank hot tea and ale and really bad Dr. Pepper ( apparently they use a different recipe). We ate fish and chips, great chocolates, really good pizza, steaming noodles from Wagamama and chips and salsa at the Texas Embassy. But never turkey.

And we made memories instead of green bean casserole.

90 to nothin

This week I went home for a few days for Thanksgiving.

And going home is always a little bit weird.
I am from a college town which means it is always different. Under construction. Updated. With newer hipper places to eat and shop and drink coffee.
And my parents don’t live in the same house I grew up in, or even on the same side of town. I live close enough, but don’t go home often because we usually do family stuff at the lake. And I’ve reached the age where I don’t really call my old friends the second I get into town. Most of them are elsewhere or we are too busy trying to cram in family stuff and put our toddlers to bed to go out for drinks, wrap houses, climb the band practice stand, steal street signs, sneak into apartment hot tubs or smoke cigars on the football field...not that I’ve ever done any of those things  :) …
Instead I hung out with my family, ate too much, and went for some really long runs.
On Friday, after a few pieces of pie (yes for breakfast) and put on my sneakers. Everyone was bundled up and a cold front was supposed to have rolled in …and I HATE running in the cold so I didn’t expect to go more than a mile.
But cold for College Station isn’t really cold.
And the air was warm and thick and humid and easy to breathe.
And the sidewalks just seem to go on forever.
So I kept running.

Past the local high school. And my ipod kept playing good songs in my ear, so everytime I turned around to go home I decided to keep going in a different direction.
When you are in the middle of a good run you just have to go with it.
So I went past my friend’s old house.
And my sister’s old house.
Down Wellborn.
And even down fraternity row.
And these streets weren’t quite as familiar as they sound.
I got lost more than once which is my favorite way to run.
But my thoughts and memories or high school and friends and our shenanigans were.
So I skipped ahead on my ipod to as many mid-90s tracks as I could find.
To give them their proper soundtrack.
And there weren’t near enough on there….which I’ll have to fix soon.

And even though I felt like I could go a little bit further, I figured I better head back before my husband and dad came looking for me.
And I waltzed in the door, with my music still blaring almost an hour and a half after I left to my mom waiting by the door and my husband pointing to his watch and my dad out searching for me in the car….and it was kind of just like highschool (minus the husband part).
I got myself a drink of water and settled in for my lecture and thought of all the songs I’d have to put on my play list…..

So here goes, and yes, I know I normally only have a dozen or so songs…and this one is completely out of control....just like my run, so just keep scrolling down. I’m sure I left some good ones off. Feel free to let me know in the comments.
Also, keep in mind that some of my friends were really cool listening to the Smiths and sneaking out to shows in Northgate.  I was not. I was blaring Snoop Dog and old 80s music, the Grease soundtrack and even the occasional country song from my black 2 door 88 Grand Am through my country club neighborhood filled with mostly old people who had no idea what Gin and Juice was. Impressive I know. But enjoy the rest of the tunes circa 1992-1996ish.

 (2 things about this photo. first, 90%  sure we were supposed to be in class when it was taken and 100% sure we were not supposed to be in the back of the truck that was our homecoming decorations...and also for the record "lay the cougars" would have been a way better homecoming theme than "crash the cougars"  I said it then and stand by it still.)
(my friend kate on the left. we've been friends since second grade where she not only punched me in the stomach on the playground but also had a matching chili bowl haircut as me. Mrs. Aycox to graduation day)

(who knew precal could be so much fun, my friend shannon on the left who is some super science researcher in the midwest, and in the middle my friend julie who listened to much better music than me and never wore the same outfit in a six weeks)

and since the theme of this blog post is apparently not stopping at the appropriate time...
let me add a few more things.
1) running for over 80 minutes is not my normal. running for about 20 or 30 is. And I am no super runner. Today my left knee is swollen and my right foot feels like there is something terribly wrong. I am paying for every mile over 3 that I ran. And am pretty positive I could still be running right now and still not make a dent in all the calories I consumed over the week.
2) notice the decorated dickies overalls in most of the pics. this wasn't some bad fashion trend of the 90s like Z. Cavarichis, it was just a tradition we stole from a&m b/c when you grow up in a college town you pretty much copy everything. They aslo said senior on the ass, which is downright classy if you ask me.
3) and yes, I know, one day I'll have to learn how to use my scanner and stop taking pictures of picutres. Until then....everyone that I went to highschool, camp and college with will sleep better knowing I won't be scanning any old pics into facebook.
4) and yes, i also know that this is the friday playlist and it's almost sunday. I was tardy a lot in high school too....just ask my first period Enlgish teacher.


I ate my turkey over 6 hours ago. And still fell stuffed and like puking.The head count was over 20 and food covered every available surface.And both of my parents are known for their cooking.They have both had a lot of hobbies and phases while I grew up. They learned to sail, and took country and western dancing, took classical guitar lessons and just recently they took up golfing again. But they have always been able to cook.Really really well.

I blame them for my double digit size pants and for being a food snob. My dad keeps a pad and paper by his recliner to write down recipes while he watches the food network. (I keep trying to tell him about this crazy thing called the internet, but he is old school like that). He cooks crazy fancy things that I have never heard of, follows his recipes to the letter, and spends hours destroying the kitchen. And it is almost always amazing. My mom also knows her way around the kitchen. I rarely see her use a recipe and she sticks to more classic dishes that never disappoint. They are in gourmet clubs and subscribe to food and wine magazines. They can spend hours in William and Sonoma and Sur La Tab, and they have kitchen gadgets that I don’t think they even know what to do with. There are multiple shelves of cookbooks in the living room and I’ve seen them drop more than my car payment on a meal (and I totally cleaned my plate by the way). Even as a kid I didn’t shy away from unusual foods. I know my cheeses and my olives and even ate sushi before it was cool.
So Thanksgiving is kind of a big deal around here. They start cooking days in advance. And this morning I heard the first pots and pans banging before 6 a.m. Some Thanksgivings they make a turducken ( a turkey stuffed with a chicken stuffed with a duck – ala John Madden) and/or a crown roast with sides and pies and a perfectly scaped table. (I think he must have a little bit of Martha Stewart in him!). And the meal is always loud and crowded and we all eat and laugh and refill our plates and glasses until our bellies ache. And then go back for more.

And we don’t have any special traditions of going around the table and saying what we are thankful for. But before we eat, the 20+ of us circle up in the living room (including Tess’s dollie) and hold hands and my dad says a long winded prayer about food and family and gratitude.
And earlier this week, I pulled up to a church just a few blocks from the school I teach at to see a line wrapped around the building. I had shown up to help pass out Thanksgiving baskets to families in need. The line of people all waiting surprised me. I hadn’t driven downtown, but only a few miles down the street. And this need and hunger in my own middle class suburb wasn’t what I was expecting. And I spent a few hours filling carts and loading cars with a simple sack of groceries and turkeys that would become these families Thanksgiving meals. A few people were embarrassed. A few barked orders about not smushing their rolls. But most said “thank you”, and “god bless you” and hugged me long and hard before I closed their trunks. Even though they didn’t even know my name.
And I have a lot to be thankful for. Like my patient husband who doesn’t yell at me when I blow my tire by hitting a curb (the day before we are supposed to drive out of town), or my kids that make me smile and laugh and encourage me to dance instead of pack or grade papers, or friends that make me almost wet my pants laughing everyday, or the ones that somehow love me anyways, and for full plates and full glasses and 4 different kinds of pie. But being thankful for what you are given. Whether it is a huge spread or a single brown bag, that is gratitude.

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For almost a month in July they were mine. A few dozen 15-16 year old girls.

They came from some of the best neighborhoods and private schools to group homes and everything in between.
And somehow, magically, the guards and labels and cars and boyfriends and social status didn’t seem to make it very far past those slamming double screen doors.

And it only took a few nights on those hard bunks hearing each other snore and cry and fart and giggle for everyone to start getting real. And no one put on their make up in the morning. Hair air dried or immediately went up into a ponytail and it was one big community closet.

And during the day we swam, fished, crafted, walked up a lot of hills and stole ice from the ice machines. After lunch they read the newest Harry Potter books on their bunks and passed around the latest Seventeen magazine. Or shaved their legs with spray bottles. Dug through their caboodles. Listened to their Discmans. Wrote their friends or boys and occasionally even their parents. And later we would dance in the alcove, run people’s bras up the flag pole, sneak forbidden snacks and wonder what the night’s activity would be.

(campout dogpile)

And late at night. Those bunks were always at least two deep. And it didn’t matter if we were sticking to plastic mattress covers or laying flat on our backs on the tennis courts looking at the stars, two hours into our scheduled fifteen minute devotional or singing around a campfire, their stories spilled out.

(2 of my favorite girls in my bunk!)

And some of them were really normal.
They weren’t pretty enough.
Or popular enough.
They missed home.
Or their parents were splitting up.
They were jealous.
Or they’d never even kissed a boy.
Or they’d given their last boyfriend too much of themselves.
And some of them broke my heart.
They threw up after every meal.
They were abused and berated.
Their dad was in jail.
Their mom had taken off.
Their parents were addicted.
They were addicted.
They were deep in depression and had contemplated suicide.

And I don’t know that I ever said the right words.
But I listened. And I laid there.
And I told my own stories and insecurities.
And I snuck a few of them out to check email or raid the fridge or walk across the catwalk late at night. To keep having those conversations.
Because I didn’t know how to heal broken hearts, but I knew how to be present.

And at the end of those long hot weeks.
I was spent. And drained. And emotionally exhausted.
I had given them every single piece of me. I was tired and sun burned and out of clean clothes.
And I was completely empty and so ready to get home.
But I knew it mattered. I knew it was important.
Because once. Someone had done it for me. When I had slept, and written my name in sharpie, on those exact same bunks. In the exact same alcove.
Spilling out my own stories and hoping for someone to listen.
And she did. And it changed me.
And I knew that it was my turn to do the same.

And I had taught them some of them how to put in a tampon, and bait their hooks, make a banana boat, how to do a jump serve, how to pray, that doing a belly flop off the dam is a really bad idea, how to tip a canoe, to expect retaliation if they came after me with water balloons, hit a bulls eye, what I think God sounds like, how to properly wrap a bunk with toilet paper, and how to get their sheets to stop slipping off those miserable mattresses.
And they taught me how to love with my whole heart until it was so empty that it was full.

And at the end of July they all went home. Back to their fancy neighborhoods and grouphomes and happy families and horrible ones that I didn’t want to think about.
And I started teaching highschool. I got married the next summer instead of reclaiming my bunk. The good one by the fire escape and a decent breeze.
And there was no facebook or myspace to make keeping up easy.
But a few of us managed. I got letters and emails and mix tapes in the mail.
We caught up over pizza and coffee and ice cream when we happened to be in the same town. And their was a whole table of these girls at my wedding.

And these girls aren’t girls anymore.
They are 26ish.
And wives and mothers and girlfriends.
Some of them are in med school and law school and most of them have real grown up jobs and health insurance.
Some of them live across the country. And some of them have traveled places I’ve only read about.
And at least one of them lives in my own town.
But they are still mine.

And to be honest. For the most part, I’ve lost touch with most of them.
Life kind of does that.
Even with facebook.
But this morning I was logging onto my computer and I saw a facebook post that one of them had just had a baby.
And so I did what you always do on facebook when someone has a birthday or a baby or says something funny or is going through something hard.
I wrote on her wall.
But suddenly that didn’t feel like enough.
And I flashed back to this girl with short hair and sassy at 14 giving me a run for my money in the intermediate dorm.
And later at 16 and beautiful and the stories she told on those bunks.
And the hard that she had lived.
And just a few years earlier I remembered tears quietly slipping down my face as she walked down the aisle. And my son dancing at her reception.
And I knew that facebook wasn’t going to cut it.

And she lives in my town.
But I didn’t know her number or even the hospital.
But that didn’t stop me from literally sprinting out the door.
Without brushing my hair or brushing my teeth. Just like one of those July mornings because suddenly I couldn’t get there fast enough. I drove too fast and called hospitals on the way. And got it on the first try.
Room 207.

And I was the last girl she was expecting to walk in the room.
But her face lit up when I did.
And I almost crawled straight into her hospital bed with her because it would have been just like one of those bunks.
But instead I went immediately to hold her beautiful baby girl, named after her grandmother. The exact same one that used to send her to camp every summer. And I pulled up a chair and let her tell me a few more stories.
Because in some of the most important ways, she is still part of mine.

a picture i love. and 20 intense minutes.

Yesterday a  friend sent me a few pictures from Tess's birthday party...and i loved this one.
And this morning another friend posted this video on her facebook.
and it is kind of long (20 minutes), and pretty intense maybe a little too much for me to swallow early on a tired Saturday morning. But I think she is pretty right on.

almost thanksgiving

I'm not going to lie.
I like Thanksgiving better than Christmas.
I mean, I like the meaning of Christmas the best...but there is so much pressure.
And so much to buy. And lots of parties and places to be.
Thanksgiving is just the food. And the people you love the most and even a few you don't even like gathered around the table.

In a handful of hours I am going to be off for an entire week. And in a few days I'll be heading home. And my family can cook and drink and swear and laugh. Alot. Which is filling and entertaining and occasional uncomfortable. Which makes me want to watch my favorite  disfunctional  holiday
movie of all time.....and there are so many to choose from (the Family stone, 4 christmases, Dan in Real Life...etc)....but Home for the Holidays wins hands down. I mean you just can't go wrong with Robert Downy Jr, Holly Hunter and Claire Daines.  So instead of a playlist....I'm gonna leave a few clips.

and be warned.
there is some language.
and when I say some...maybe I mean alot.  but it is still great.
And it will make your family look so incredibly normal in comparison.
or at the very least you will be able to relate...

the catch

A number I don’t know on my cell.

I should know better than to answer,
But I do anyways.

Some guy from an awards claims center promising me my choice of 500$ cash, a Hawiaan vacation, or a new car.
I immediately looked for my out.
But he did have my name and cell phone number and claimed I registered at a Rangers game.
But I did go to a Rangers game.
And when I was little I used to dream of Ed McMahan showing up at my door with a big giant check and a television crew. With balloons and confetti.
I mean somebody had to win the publishers clearning house. Why couldn’t it be me?
So I kept listening.
Little did I know that during my three minute phone conversation with a poor unfortunate soul in a calling center, that my son was coloring all the drawer knobs black with a sharpie in the kitchen.
And he assured me that one of those glorious prizes was mine.
And I didn’t jump up and down.
My heart didn’t race.
I didn’t go to my door and look for Ed McMahan.
All I did was wait for the catch.

For him to ask me to send him an inordinate amount of money.
Or tell me about some Nigerian prince who just needed my help.
Or ask me to sign over my soul and social security number.
And it didn’t take long.
Only about three minutes.
For him to tell me to come visit his time share resort in the middle of nowhere to claim my guaranteed prize.
And I immediately said, “Sorry buddy. You can keep my car and my dream vacation, I have to go make dinner.”

Because I know how that story ends.
And I will not be duped.
Or tricked into spending hours on a tour of his time share.
Because this is the real world.
And Ed McMahon died 2 Junes ago.
And despite however many magazines I ordered,
No one ever showed up on more door step with a giant check.

We learn real fast not to send money to Nigerian princes.
To question someone trying to give us a free gift.
To wait for the catch.
Because there is always a catch.
Which is why I sometimes have such hard time receiving the ridiculous gift of Christ.

Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It's God's gift from start to finish! We don't play the major role. If we did, we'd probably go around bragging that we'd done the whole thing! No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving. He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing. Ephesians 2:7-10 (The Message)

And there are all kinds of corny anaologies out there about this “gift”.
And plenty of counter argument about faith without works being dead. (thanks to the book of James for jacking with my head). And even some decent commentary from some pretty eloquent skeptics talking about all the strings that are attached.

But it is still a gift.
Free and out right.
Bought and paid for by someone else.
Whether I choose to accept it or do anything with it or to just hang up.

And so today. I hung up on the guy in the call center.
Which I think was a good idea.
Although he did indirectly give me a few new colored-on kitchen knobs.

And as for Christ.
It’s a gift I accepted a long time ago.
But I still have to remind myself to stop looking for the catch.
To not worry about the strings.
To enjoy the gift.
And to keep giving.

(and yes, I think that is actually a smiley face he drew on one of them. I have 4 more not pictured!)

proffesional development

The other day I was in a different city.
At at teaching conference.
Sure I know this city.
And sure I knew plenty of people in town.
And even a few at the conference.
But I found myself with a few empty hours
And I took off.

The conference had me a little panicked.
I used to go to the conference every year.
And came home with all kinds of new ideas, freebies, handouts and especially renewed excitement for what I was teaching.
This time.
It was really really crowded.
The first three workshops I tried to go to were full.
(and no you couldn’t sign up in advance)
I was frustrated and overwhelmed and a little panicked, instead of the excited I had been expecting. So I decided to take off until the next session which didn’t start for hours. Really, I was bolting.

The conference center was in a newly updated really hip part of town.
That usually I would want to explore.
But I kept walking.
For atleast a mile, probably two. Til I didn’t see anyone with obnoxious nametags any more. Taking in the city with every step.

And I found a book store.
And thought I’d found my spot.
But I was hungry and wanted more to eat than a cookie.
And I wasn’t sure I could resist the temptation.
So I kept moving until I saw the classic Starbucks logo.
But this Starbucks was small and dirty and a little sketchy. If that is even possible to imagine. There were bars on the window and I had to ask someone to unlock the bathroom for me. I ordered and spread out my papers to grade. And kept a close eye on my purse.
And looked around.
The man beside me was having long loud and very intense business conversations.
I looked briefly for a Bluetooth only to confirm what I predicted. That he was in fact talking to himself as he scribbled on post it after post and placed them orderly on his table.
I tried to smile and comment on something he had said to himself.
He quickly turned away and started to cover up his postits.
Another guy beside me had his laptop out and was very into his current world of warcraft game.
As in was giving himself an occasional peptalk and the rest of us the play by play.
Another shabbily dressed older man with a cane walked in.
There were some brief words with the barista.
She wasn’t particularly welcoming and asked him to move.
He threw his cane at her and sound some fabulous things that I can’t type here.
(although I guess that has never stopped me from using those words before).
I graded and sipped and listened.
I smiled and made eye contact.
And was finally comfortable.
And worried a little what this said about my life.
That I was happier in the middle of crazy starbucks than surrounded by my peers.
And the next day for lunch.
I had slightly less time and didn’t feel like spending money on coffee.
But I of course needed to escape the crazy that was the conference center.
So I bolted again.
And I found a bench.
A really great bench.
And read a really great book.

But each day I made my way back.
And my conference got better.
Especially the second day.
I did leave with a few new ideas, good handout, websites and some encouragement.
But most of all I came home with the peace of getting to wonder a city for a few hours.
Being alone.
Reading on park benches in the sun.
And a whole lot of fabulous time with some of my favorite people that I love (that is far too big and great and personal to fit into a blog post).
And none of that was in the workshop catalog at all.
But maybe the best thing for my soul.
And even my Monday.

out of office reply playlist

I've been out of town for a few days. I have plenty of things running through my mind, but I'm behind on grading, laundry, snuggles and especially sleep.
No words until I get caught up.
But here are some tunes to hold at least me over...


Yesterday morning my kid crawled into my bed around 5 am.
And that is before you factor in daylight savings time.
I didn’t sleep so good after that.
My brain turned on and I thought about all the things I needed to get done and replayed a few conversations.

Yesterday, I met my old college room mate.
And even though I have hung out with her a half or dozen times since college and it has always been fine.
I had been kind of nervous.
And I often am when I visit old friends.
So I laid awake trying to figure out why.

First, me and this friend were always a little bit shallow. Or at least I was.
We laughed a lot. And drank our share. And occasionally stayed up late talking.
But it was usually about boys and clothes and high school and TV.
And in the end we were struggling a little as friends.
We were both spending more time with different groups of people. We were both about to graduate and getting more serious with our boys.
And most of all I worried that I had misrepresented myself and my God the 3 years we lived together.

I used to be great at keeping up with friends.
Even before facebook…I could write emails in minutes and used my car time to catch up on the phone.
But this friend never was. And it never really bothered me.
And even the parts I used to be good at all went out the window when I had kids.
So we have hung out a few times since.
And it wasn’t as easy as some friends where we could just pick up in the middle of conversations that we left off with years before.
But it has always been easy enough.
But there has always been beer or children to kind of act as a buffer.
And this friend has never been impressed by me.
She hardly knows I have a blog, much less reads it.
She lived with me long enough to know my all my tricks and flaws.
She doesn’t think I am nearly as funny as I do.
And she has seen me at my worst.
And my best and mostly just the me inbetween.

Those people scare me.

Because if our time together sucked.
She was rejecting all of me. Not just the funny obnoxious version most new people get.
Or the part of me that I chose put on line.
But the kind of intimacy you get from living with someone.
From taking out the other person’s trash.
From waking me up for class so I didn’t miss my final.
From hiding my keys.
From leaving my dirty dishes in the sink for days.
From seeing me through breakups and bad ideas.
From seeing my selfish and insensitive and sad.
And from seeing me dance in the living room.
And occasionally share my mac and cheese and scrape the ice off her windsheild.
Freshman to Senior year we lived life across the hall, and in front of the TV and borrowing each others clothes.

And I was little bit afraid that I wouldn’t like her either.
That we wouldn’t have anything in common and we’d just end up talking about potty training or something boring. And I don’t really want to remember her like that.

We were laughing easily within minutes. Probably less.
And we may have not known every detail of each other’s current lives.
But she still knew exactly how I liked my tea.
And not to follow me into the bathroom.
And what kinds of clothes I would want to try on.
And we talked about plenty of nonsense.
And even some potty training.
But we tackled some pretty heavy topics as well.
Like marriage.
And hurt.
And friendship.
And even the God that I was so afraid I had misrepresented.

And when we left we hugged and honestly wished we had more hours together.
Even with out beer.
And we were never really huggers, but we held on just a little bit too long.
And didn’t feel awkward about it for a second.
We won’t send long emails. Or daily texts. Or probably even remember birthdays.
And I’m almost hoping she doesn’t even read this.
But next time I won’t be nervous. Not even a little bit.

more dancing....

missing out

Yesterday I made a list of all the things I wanted to do this weekend.
And none of them were good productive things
Like clean the house, rest, or grade papers.
These were all places I wanted to go, things I had committed to, and people I wanted to see.

And it was a good list.
Friday there was play dates, soccer practice and I had a date with my hubs. A movie. just us. And I can’t remember the last time we saw a movie together.
Today there are soccer games, authors speaking, lunch, friends in town, and other friends I just haven’t spent enough time with lately. And tomorrow is church, more authors (Donald Miller even), bands I want to hear, writers group and of course I hope to squeeze in all that stuff I am actually supposed to do…..along with good quality time with my family.

And well. As much as I try. I can’t do it all.
Or even half of it.
And I do very little of it actually well.
I get sick.
My house is a mess.
And my husband has to pull more than his share of the weight.
And suddenly my kids look bigger and know more things than they did yesterday.
And I missed it.

And so yesterday, I looked at my list and tried to scratch a few things off.
Things that I could be ok missing.
Things that I could say no to.
And it was a struggle.
And didn’t scratch off nearly as much as I wanted to.
Hardly anything at all.

But I woke up early on accident and made even more plans. I thought I’d go up to school and get a few things done before my first event of the morning.
Laying in bed before 7 am, I thought maybe I could even take a kid with me and meet a friend for coffee on the way.
I was thrilled at the thought of being productive, a good friend and a good mom all at the same time. But the truth is none of those things are done well while I am doing something else.

And this isn’t saying much because it is only 10 am.
I never made it to school. Or met anyone for coffee.
But so far I am still in my pjs. Shaun is at the gym.
And I have made breakfast (if captain crunch counts), read stories, survived a 2 year old temper tantrum, snuggled and danced in the living room and watched cartoons.
Coffee is on it’s way. And the first thing I plan to get dressed for today is my kid's soccer game.

These things weren’t on the list.
But maybe they should have been.

(and thanks Tina, for the picture and I love the new website!)

second six weeks playlist

I'm a teacher. I think in time frames of six weeks.
And today is the end of my kid's second six weeks in kindergarten.
(and thankfully, i have one more of mine b/c I haven't graded since progress reports!)

But today my son gets out early and is officially 1/3 of the way finished with his first year in school.
12 weeks ago he struggled to count to twenty. Tonight he fired off to 110.
12 weeks ago and I read the bedtime stories. Tonight he read me one.
12 weeks ago I was nervous about him making friends. Tonight I spent a good portion of the evening on the phone working out his social calendar.
11 weeks ago we had our share of ugly notes home. These days he comes home with a lot more stamps and smiley faces.

He loves school. He is totally hot for his teacher and some girl named Whitney in his class. And he can't wait to do his homework.
Tonight we didn't have any homework, but were planning for tomorrow's show and tell. His jumping beans have stopped jumping and he hasn't lost any teeth yet.
He was a little stumped so I suggested that he resort to what we did the first week when I wasn't sure if he was supposed to bring anything.
Dance.  Because he totally has some new moves (well new old moves like the moonwalk, the runing man, the grocery cart and even the hammer)
He told me that his teacher said you couldn't dance for show and tell.
I'm thinking of scheduling a conference.

(and the husband left the new dance footage at work, so I'll have to upload later....I promise I'll put it up but here is the original show and tell...)

apparently I take requests

Lately it has been cold and yuck and rainy.

Which means I have better luck running at the gym.
I hate running at the gym.

What I really like is to lace up my shoes.
Plug in my headphones and to take off down the driveway.
And not come back for an hour or more.

And although I like to do almost everything with other people.
And will gladly accept any offer for someone to run with me,
It is something I actually prefer to do alone.
At my own pace.

And I don’t run loops or circles or carefully plotted courses.
I like to get lost.
To run down roads I have never been down before.
To try and get as far away as I can.

But there is one problem.
I don’t always remember to leave anything in the tank to get back.
I run until I can’t anymore.
Until I’m a little dizzy or cramping or can’t push myself any further.
(and before you read this and think I am some super runner…keep in mind I max out around 5 miles..and often I’m not talking super far or anything impressive)
But I run without thinking about how I am going to get home.
I just go.

And then I slow down the playlist and walk home.
And sometimes this is my favorite part.
Exhausted. With good music playing in my ear.
And my head clearing with each step.

I know this drives Shaun crazy.
And why he much prefers me to work out at the gym.
Where I never have to worry about how I’m going to get home.

And I wish I lived a little bit more of my life like that, though.
Without holding back.
Without saving anything for the return trip.
But all out. All in.

Instead I save responsibly for my future.
(well I’m trying to at least)
I protect a few corners of my heart.
And I take a lot of naps.
And those are good and healthy things.
And honestly things that I need to be better at.

What if I lived like I trusted in God instead of my bank account.
What if I lived like I didn’t care about people liking me back but just loved anyways the people who didn’t.
What if lived more like a simple carpenter who gave up everything for people who mostly didn’t get it.
A little more recklessly and a whole lot less selfishly.
Without worrying how I’m going to get home.
(so a friend asked for a blog out of me tonight. I really didn't have anything in I asked for a topic. the truth is i  have a whole file of potential topics...just none i really felt up to sorting through and processing tonight. tonight i needed something easy. she picked dolphins. i got even less on dolphins. so i picked the easist thing off my list and hopefully she will just have to settle for a picture)