the REAL Christmas letter....

And the tradition continues.One year me and my friend were talking about annual “Christmas card letter”, which is a dying tradition I might add. I’ve only gotten a couple this year. And for the most part it is a tradition that I’m happy to see die. Although I still like getting real mail for a change, rather than just bills and junk mail.  (here is the first one).

I digress, well, my friend had been having a particularly rough year and we laughed about how people would react if we were to send out REAL letters. Not just the highlights but the lows too.
Today I finally mailed some of my Christmas cards. I say some, because I am positive that I forgot no less than 20 people. I don’t have an address book because I am pretty sure that is what google is for.
And I didn’t include a letter, because lets be honest, a girl who can’t get it together enough to mail her Christmas cards before Christmas certainly can’t be boethered by things like having having printer ink cartridges in her house.
It is hard to believe that another year has already passed. Because at this point they are all starting to blur together. I swear. We just took down the Christmas tree….and then we were putting it up again. (and now it is daunting me again to take it down. And maybe I will. Someday possibly even before Easter).

Last year about this time, I couldn’t quite finish my first 5K of the year without stopping for a walking break. That might have something to do with the fact that I talked way more than I ran, but still. Just last week I ran 13.1. no breaks. And I’m not new to running. But I’ve turned it up a notch. And everyday my legs feel a little bit stronger. And that maybe I can go just a little bit further. And I’m feeling stronger inside too.

This summer me and Shaun celebrated our ten year wedding anniversary. And went to Seattle which I loved. For lots of reasons. First, it was a million degrees here all summer and it was a good 30 degrees cooler there. Second, lots of coffee and seafood and street performers, Third, a spontaneous 8K followed closely by Pirates vs. Clowns parade led by Drew Carey and a husband who rolls with it. And last and most importantly, not a single kids meal or movie with a G rating. Ten years of marriage, 2 kids that look just him and I still can’t figure out where he hides my socks or why he can’t put the lid on the toothpaste and especially how he puts up with me. But I’m hoping for at least another 50 more.

Owen graduated kindergarten and got the same paper certificate that everyone in his grade did to prove it. I couldn’t have been prouder. Except maybe if he knew how to tie his shoes.  He also amped up his soccer game. Somewhere he got the idea that if he scored a goal he could go eat at red lobster. What 5 year old eats lobster. Mine. Although we have convinced him that Joe’s Crab Shack and Pappadeux are much better choices. And that shrimp are just really tiny little lobsters. And a whole heck of a lot cheaper.
Kindergarten was a bit of a struggle for Owen. He could never seem to stand still in line, not talk at lunch and was banned from dancing at show and tell. We made the decision to change schools. Partly because I was afraid they’d make me medicate him if I kept him there and partly because I never quite learned how to maneuver the pick up line. First grade has rocked. He is reading chapter books. Adding and subtracting like a TI-83 and winning citizenship awards. He has the hots for his teacher as well as a few other girls in his class. I’m just glad he is keeping his options open. And in addition to soccer, he has a new extra curricular activity that I initially signed him up for to piss off my husband and entertain myself. Hip Hop. And my boy has moves like Jagger.

Speaking of dancing. Tess has found her calling. Even though I had Owen signed up for little gym and swim lessons and hopped from one activity to another all before he was one, I decided to wait with Tess. Until strangers would stop me in resturaunts and grocery store  (maybe because she was dancing in the aisle) and tell me we HAD TO SIGN HER UP FOR DANCE. STAT. She has more tutus than I have pajama pants and is the most intense tiny dancer I know. Her first public performance turned out to be a surprise solo. I though surely she would chicken out and instead, nailed it. I wept like a baby and she soaked in every ounce of applause.  We wrapped up the terrible twos only to enter the even more terrible threes.  She is still feisty, introverted and butts heads with her daddy like she is already sixteen, ditching classes and stealing his beer. Instead, she is flashing the preacher at Christmas Eve service and covering every known surface in our house, car and her body with marker or pen. I’m sure this girl has a sharpie stash somewhere and maybe I should ditch the whole dancing thing and sign her up for art camp. or maybe let her join one of those gangs that goes around tagging public places.
Tess is still all girl. Loves dresses, shoes, Justin “beaver” and I think knows how to apply make up and paint her toes better than I do. She still however, barely has enough hair for a ponytail and wets the bed. Hopefully by this time next year she will have had her first haircut and be sleeping in big girl panties. Hopefully she will never correctly learn how to say blanket, because my heart melts a little everytime she asks me to get her “blanklet”.

My winter-spring was spent playing practical jokes, eating cupcakes, making new friends, visiting old ones, running really slowly, one more tattoo and drinking too much wine. My summer less jokes, more wine. I picked up the jogging pace a little. Beaches. Mountains and lots of swimming pools and driving kids around. Autumn I wish I could erase from my memory, but so far winter is looking up. I had a pretty crappy fall. And I don’t mean tumble, I mean the entire season. Nothing was especially bad going on, except for a 4 day stay in the relaxing local hospital for some minor organ failure (so long gall bladder and good riddance!). Shaun traveled a TON, marriage, friendships and work all just seemed hard and draining. And even though this is the REAL Christmas letter, I can’t let it end like that. It is barely winter again. The temperatures are dropping, but everything else seems to be looking up. Shaun got a raise and hasn’t traveled in months. And those other things are all getting easier. Plus, there isn’t so much I can’t run out. And if not, we just crank up the tunes in the living room and Owen and Tess show me their new moves. And Shaun laughs, or holds the camcorder or goes and watches Star Wars in the other room.
not enough reality for you....here is last year's letter.

that's what it's all about



“I know what Christmas is REALLY all about.” my firstborn touts proudly while we are piled on the bed waiting for the pediatrician to call back.
“You do? What?”
(and I really think he does)
“Everyone being together he says with a proud grin.”

And I know exactly where he got the answer. In the corny Barbie Christmas special movie preview that we had just watched before the movie started.

“No Owen. It isn’t”
And his face falls and he looks so confused.
Because being together sounded like a really good answer.

“Giving!", he tries again.
And on Sunday when I picked him up from our version of kids church, he was one of the last kids there….b/c maybe I was chatting and lost track of time (surprise). And one of the volunteers ask if I am “Owen’s mom”. I say yes, and another woman rushes over. They both gush and tell me that they have to tell me what my kid did that day. One of them says he made her cry. I’m a little afraid of where this conversation might go. She says she made him get up on stage (and it is a big stage and a big crowd) and I finally think I know which way this is heading and asked if he had been dancing again. Because my kid has some moves and is not afraid to use them in public. She says no and keeps talking. She said they were talking about presents and what everyone wanted for Christmas…and my son says “that he really likes giving presents”. I laugh out loud and say she should see his wishlist! But she says no, that he said he liked giving presents more than getting them so they pulled him up on stage to say this and ask why. And he says because it makes people happy. This really means that he especially liked giving his first grade teacher that he is a little bit hot for flowers on Friday. But I am still pleased. And beam a little because I have been trying to teach my kids over and over that Christmas is not THEIR birthday after all.

But I still say “No. not giving”
Although it is really nice to give. And family is pretty important too.
And he sits there stumped for a minute. I resist the temptation to lecture or answer for him and a few long seconds later he says, “Oh yeah. It’s when Jesus was born”

And I think plenty of us can be talked in to really good reasons for this season.
Like family. And giving. And Christmas cards. And plays. And baking. And parties. And charity. And decorations. And cookies. And Justin Beiber’s version of Santa Claus is coming to town (one of Tess’s favorites).
And somewhere at the bottom of the list and busy and outings and wrapping paper
We say,
“Oh yeah. Jesus”

And I haven’t been the most productive girl this season. My Christmas cards haven’t been mailed. I haven’t wrapped a single present. My kids have seen the pediatrician more than they have Santa. We forgot the advent candle. I did make some sweets for the neighbors but I ate some of it for breakfast instead of delivering it. Our tree is up, but the lights never made it on the roof. We have run from party to recital to event. I am far from attempting the perfect season and all I really want for Christmas is a nap.

I am worn out and just see the list of things I should be doing replay in my head over and over. Wrapping, shopping, baking, mailing, cleaning, watching defensive driving (ok, not exactly Christmas-y but something I need to do) and maybe I have forgotten too.
And I sound just like my six year old after getting it wrong the first few tries.

“Oh yeah. Jesus”
My list can wait until at least New Years.
(which just might be when you get my Christmas card!)


the dance

The music blared.
Like usual. Today it was Christmas music.
An older black man danced near the speaker.
Freely. Like no one was watching. Even though dozens were staring at him like he was crazy.
Most likely because he was actually crazy.
But he just kept smiling and dancing like he was at some party instead of in a park.
A homeless park.
In the cold.

A slower song came on and he acted like he was dancing with a partner. Even though it was still just him.
I watched from the side. Along with the rest of the others.
My friend, said, “if I was braver, I’d go dance with him.”
I’d already had a similar thought I just hadn’t voiced it.
A few seconds later, another volunteer walked up and said the same thing.

 We come here. Once a month or so.
To pass out food and more importantly conversation.
But on Saturday, I did more than hand out food.
I broke bread.
I passed out communion.
I wiped a sweet toddlers runny nose.
I picked up some trash.
I ate with a man named Allan. From Alabama. And I listened to his story.
Not caring how much was true and how much wasn’t.
I mingled and smiled and hugged.
But most importantly,
I danced.

(and I'm having a hard time embedding you tube these days...but click here for one of my favorite christmas ... or just about anytime songs.... http://youtu.be/fbdylEE-0e4)

i'm for sale. (black friday special)



I have a friend that I like a lot. She doesn’t live close and I see her almost never. But she knows I run lots of little races and asked me about a month ago if I wanted to run a half marathon with her.
I said yes with little hesitation.
Partly because there isn’t so much she could ask me to do that I wouldn’t say yes to. And partly because it meant hanging out with her and possibly fitting back into my skinny jeans.
I am not much of a detail girl so the fact that it is a good 10 miles longer than the majority of races I run didn’t really stress me at the time.
One little detail did make me panic.
I had to be part of a team. A team that I agreed to try and raise money for. And even though it was for a ridiculously good cause. This little detail rather than the 13.1 miles with hills (lots of hills!) made me break into a little mini panic attack. Kind of like when someone asks me to go swimming with them. But worse. In other words, I think I’d rather wear my swimsuit in public than ask my friends for money.

 So a while back I made it official. I signed up for the race. I signed up for Team World Vision. I just didn’t ask anyone for money. I thought that maybe I’d ask for that for Christmas. That not getting Christmas presents would be admirable. And I have all kinds of stuff, it’s not like I really need anymore. And I did email my inlaws and my siblings (even though I don’t think we get each other gifts anyways) the website, but when my parents called and asked what I wanted, before I could stop myself I accidentally said an ipad2.

 So then I started to try and think of marketable skills. That maybe I could “earn” the money I was supposed to be raising. And I’m pretty sure that I am too old for a paper route. I am a sucky babysitter. Unless you like your kids watching cartoons, eating happy meals and coloring on the furniture…and then I am at your service. And I might have a masters degree, but not so many practical skills. So I mentally ran through my resume.

 When I was in middle school I cleaned my neighbors house for 20$ a week. I mostly played her cd collection and ran the vacuum across the floor so it left those little marks. Sometimes I didn’t even plug it in. I sprayed plenty of lemon pledge and windex so it would smell clean. But smelling clean and actually dusting aren’t exactly the same thing and I was fired pretty fast.  My parents used to pay me a buck for each Christmas present I wrapped. Which I also did poorly. I even wrapped my own presents which I’m now thinking I should have charged double for. And my dad would also offer to pay me a dollar to run my fingers through his toes. I’m sure that no amount of money I earned for that will ever pay for the therapy I will need later. In high school I occasionally played Christmas carols at banks or the occasional wedding reception. For the bargain price of 20$ a gig. But my violin hasn’t been touched in a while and I think mostly people would pay me not to play at this point. I also worked at Dairy Queen, TJ Maxx and Putt Putt. In other words – I can make a blizzard, fix a jammed batting cage (yes while people were still batting) and do not think I learned any real skill from TJ Maxx. Except that you should never under any circumstance touch money that a large woman pulls out of  her bra.

So back to the drawing board for money making skills. I don’t clean well. I don’t drive well. I can’t paint. I can’t draw. I can’t do your taxes (but both my parents are CPAs if that counts). I can’t decorate cakes or arrange flowers or organize closets. I would be a disaster at selling make up because I barely know how to put it on. If you've seen the inside of my car you wouldn't even consider asking me to wash yours.
This is getting depressing and I think maybe I should focus on the things that I can do:
I can make cool things with modge podge. I can read really fast. I can write long nonsensical emails in way less time it takes someone to read them. I can simplify complex equations. I am good at crosswords. I am a fast shopper. Still. Doubtful that anyone is willing to pay me for any of those things.

But I settled on a few marketable skills that I am willing to do for a donation

1)      I can cook. People never believe this. And assume that this, like most of my domestic skills, is lacking. They are wrong and I’m happy to prove it. Just tell me what you like. I do not, however, bake. That requires following directions which I do not do well. So I mean this. I will cook and deliver dinner (within a 20 mile radius). Just like Pizza Hut, but I’ll need more than 30 minutes notice.

2)      I can take pictures. Now do not for a second think you are getting some cheap photography deal. I am in no way pretending to be a photographer. I do have lots of photographer friends and one of their fancy hand me down cameras. I shoot mostly in auto and don’t know how to use photoshop. But I do edit a little and am free (well, like a car wash is free…) And I’m probably better than the self timer on your camera.

And if you don’t live anywhere near my zipcode….

3)      The other skill I have been well known for since I was a teenager and got a stereo with a double cassette deck is that I make a mean mix tape. And these days it has been upgraded to cd which I can mail anywhere….I’ll also throw in a book. Because I have lots of those laying around. And I don’t mean a book I wrote. I mean a book I probably bought at half price or in the sale section of Mardel or borrowed from a friend and never returned.

So if you are interested in any of those things….or want me to make you a blizzard….
Donate here: http://support.worldvision.org/site/TR?team_id=26640&fr_id=1471&pg=team
And email me here: shaun.michelle@sbcglobal.net and I’ll take care of you.

The race isn’t til February. So you have lots of time to cash in on me. Tell your friends that I’m cheap. (yes, that was a bad joke….notice I didn’t list good joke teller as one of my marketable skills). Until then, I might want to think about how I’m going to run those 13.1 miles without puking. Ok. I will probably puke at least once. I’ll aim for without dying.

peace and quiet and turkey

My parents cook all night and all morning for a ridiculous feast. Usually for atleast 20. And more often than not there is someone around the table (tables to be more accurate) that I have never seen before in my life. Ever.
They may or may not be related to me.
And that hardly matters as long as they are willing to flatter the cook(s) and pour my dad another glass or wine. or bourbon. or slice of pecan pie.
Holidays at my house are a little crazy.
There will be yelling. There will be enough food to feed 40. My dad will tablescape and cook something I can’t pronounce and it will be delicious. Plates are paper and people often fight over leftovers. Prayers are long winded minisermons. There are 8 grandkids all competing for who can be the noisiest. And there is often football in the front lawn or atleast nerf balls being thrown off the balcony. There will be bad words. And at least one person will pass out. From too much turkey. Or wine. Or both.

I have spent the last few days with my husband’s family. I’ve said it several times before. I know my way around this town better than my own. And it is a lot quieter.
No one was up at 5 am cooking.
My mom didn’t set trays of dressing out on the breezeway because there wasn’t anymore room in the fridge, only to have it eaten by neighborhood dogs. (this was classic, and never again was the ping pong table used as food storage regardless of the outside temperature). The plates were real. And we all fit around one table.
It is almost 7 pm and we are all still awake. There was a turkey trot. Numerous games of candy land, checkers, 100 piece puzzles, a little bit of crafting. I’ve read more than one book. The kind without pictures. I’d try to go to a movie, except I don’t think the theatre here is open today. I ate really good food. Cobbler. I can’t recall anyone dropping any f-bombs. Tess has a stomach bug. But other than that it has been a restful, calm, day of too much yummy food. I have spent a great deal of it in yoga pants. I won’t be venturing out in a few hours for black Friday sales. And I hope to still be in bed until I can’t ignore my kids any longer and then I will venture out in my pjs. Pour myself a cup of coffee. Eat some cobbler for breakfast. And watch more TV. Read more books. Play more checkers. And probably go for another run.

And I will go back home tomorrow or the next day a few pounds heavier. Well read. Well rested. Calmer. Like I’ve been doing yoga instead of just laying around on someone else’s couch. I might have even graded all those papers I brought that are still sitting in the truck. And all of those things will be good for me. Except the pounds. But the 20+ miles I’ve ran this week should help balance that out.

And this is going to sound a little nuts….because I love all that. I need it to make it through December (well maybe I could have done without the half dozen jelly cookies I ate. just today) but I miss the loud and the crazy and of course the pie.

...and my favorite holiday movie. ever. and almost makes me feel like I am at home. be warned this isn't rated PG.

PS. Who wants to go to Fajita Jacks????

The Walk of the Unashamed

The other day I had to have a difficult conversation with someone about a difficult situation. It was the kind of conversation that it is best to prep for. To think about and maybe even write down what you want to say. And a conversation that I had been putting off for months….and people kept telling me over and over I needed to have. And I’m not even really sure what it was that was keeping me from it. Until I started talking.
The conversation happened when I was least ready for it with absolutely zero prep time. And I caught myself saying the same phrase over and over...  "i was afraid that..._________(fill in the blank with one of a half dozen things)."

Somehow, over the last few months I have let fear get the best of me in lots of situations. Personal and professional. And I have tried really hard to raise my kids so they never let fear win. However, sometimes fear is a good thing.  For example, I am afraid of snakes and bears and black ski slopes. And steering clear of them might help keep me from breaking my neck or getting eaten. I am afraid of getting in trouble. I am afraid of consequences...and sometimes that is enough to keep me from doing really stupid things. But finding a balance. Between healthy fear and irrational fear….well, I’m not sure I have that figured out. I found this piece on my computer this morning. I wrote it months ago…and never posted it. And, made me think that maybe my six year old has a better grasp on it than I do.

The Walk of Shame

I am not the most patient girl.
I will do almost anything to avoid long lines.
Yesterday someone asked me if I would be hitting the mall on tax free weekend. I said I’d rather have a pelvic exam.
More new In and Out burgers opened up in town and the wait in the drive through is a couple hours.
No fast food hamburger is worth that kind of time (and yes, I’ve had an In and Out burger before. Love the fries. Not a fan of the 1000 island dressing).
It took me three trips to the DMV last time before I finally gave in and waited it out.

So yesterday was my last official day of summer and I’d put it off as long as I could…
I owed my son a date to Hawaiian Falls.
Just me and him.
It was hot and crowded and I like wearing bathing suits in front of people even less than I like waiting in long lines.
Owen put sunscreen on my back (meaning I am super burned except for a few 6 year old hand prints on my back!) and we hit the wave pool. And then I thought we’d see if he ws tall enough for some rides this year.

My favorite waterpark ride is the one that looks like a giant funnel and it happens to be one of the tallest at the park.
He hit the height requirement. But just barely.
And you could ride double so I thought it would be perfect. But there was a really long wait for a double tube. After Owen watched at least dozen people grab single tubes and hop into line ahead of us. Owen announced that he could ride by himself. So we grabbed single tubes and hopped in line.
A really long windy over four story line. That took the better part of the hour. I was a little nervous about how he’d do. But he watched rider after rider and seemed excited rather than his usual scared or cautious. All the way to the top.
And I hate heights and we were pretty high, so when he’d lean against the rail to look out or watch, I’d pull him back. I tried not to think about it or pretend that my stomach wasn’t flipping  a little. It was finally our turn and Owen insisted on going first. He still didn’t seem afraid. He put his tube in the water and I went help him in and he slipped straight through. We tried again and his hands couldn’t reach. He fell through the middle again. He may have met the height requirement but couldn’t fit in or on the tube. The lifeguard tried to suggest laying across but it was too late. The tears were already coming. And they kept coming. I tried to convince him. And usually this is where I give my kids a good shove and make them do it anyways. But I knew, that in this situation that would do more damage than good. So I quickly said it was ok. We grabbed our tubes and head back down. All four flights. Hitting people with our tubes the whole way.

The walk of shame.

Because people kept saying. Did he get scared? Was he too little?
Owen didn’t look up once.
Some even laughed. And I wanted to punch them in the face.
A few were sympathetic and said they were scared the first time too.
I just wanted down fast.
And was afraid maybe we’d have to spend the rest of our afternoon in the lazy river.
Or the toddler play area.

I don’t want my kids to live scared.
But I also want them to be ok saying.
Not doing something until they are ready.
So I told him it was ok and asked what he wanted to do next.

He marched straight over to another slide.
Not quite as high.
No tube required.
And flew down it with a crazy smile on his face.
Then went straight back in line for another slide.
And another.
And another.

(having trouble embedding, so if it doesn't show, click here to "shake it out" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WbN0nX61rIs

dancing with myself

 
I was hesitant to put my daughter in dance.
Partly because I think she is too young, and partly because the whole idea of dance (and dance moms) scare me. That and Tess’s hair is still too short for a bun.

But people kept telling me that I needed to. And she loves to dance. So I signed her up.

Every Wednesday is crazy. I rush out of school earlier than usual, pray that I remembered her dance bag, pick up Tess, squeeze her into tights and a leotard and get her to dance abd then I’m usually right back out the door to pick up her brother, find his soccer gear and then back to dance. Usually just in time to watch the last 20 or so minutes through a one-way window. On my tip toes.

Her class started with 5 littles. One girl with a matching, leotard, dance bag and bow. All with rhinestones. Mom took several pictures of the whole ensemble before walking in the door. Two sisters, possibly twins, who were adorable but would much rather play with each other than actually dance. A little boy who was somehow related to the teacher and I think mostly in the class because she was babysitting that hour. And Tess.

I watched from the one-way window. As the teachers played music, tried to get them to stay on their spots and learn a few simple dances. Tess was serious and intense every class. She watched and tried to repeat the moves. The other kids giggled and played. She made the silliest face and always got stamps for good behavior afterwards.

After week one, I never saw the best dressed girl again. The sister/twins lasted several more times but then stopped coming. The last time it was just Tess and the boy. But she didn’t mind all the one on one attention.

This Saturday was the first little mini recital. At some Junior League Christmas shopping event.
First hesitation – Junior League. Reminds me of my cotillion days which I don’t look back on fondly.
Second hesitation – I don’t have a clue what to do. I walk in to a packed convention center and am lost. I find my way in. Find the stage and head to the room behind it. That is filled with dozens and dozens of girls in black leotards. Then I really start to panic. I don’t know what to do or where to go or who to hand my little bitty 3 year old off to. I find a familiar face who tells me to put on her ballet slippers and then hands her to a teenager.
And. no one has seen the other boy in her class. The main teacher was also out with a death in the family.
Gulp. Tess might be flying solo.

I go to try and find a seat. Which was impossible because apparently you have to get there crazy early for an actual seat, but Shaun and Owen had claimed a bench in the back. Someone near me had a schedule and I found Tess’s number 8th on the list of about 25.

Several little groups come out. Most about Tess’s age or maybe a little bit older. Groups of 5-6 girls at a time. And they are more comical than anything. A few dance in the middle, some do their own thing, some even try to walk off the stage completely. But they are cute. And everyone laughs and claps.

It gets closer to Tess’s turn and I wonder if she is ok back there. And I pray that she won’t have to venture out on that stage alone. Because I know that I’d be scared out of my mind if it was me. And I have a good 30 years on her.

And Tess isn’t exactly Miss Independent. She doesn’t like to sleep by herself. She doesn’t like to color by herself. Or play by herself. Watch movies by herself. She even wants me in the room with her while she poops. All this togetherness wears me out.  And brave is not really an adjective I'd use to describe her either. When we went to the beach, she wasn't interested in the waves. I have to push her down slides. She takes a while to warm up to new people and new situations. And she is afraid of the shower, self flushing toilets and the vacuum cleaner.
So I was panicked about what she would do when she walked out on a big stage and saw all those people. And had to do her dance. By herself. I wondered if she would cry. Or panic. Or if I would. If maybe I should go up on stage with her. And suddenly I wished that I had watched closer through that window rather than texting friends or checking facebook, so that I could do the dance with her. Because I would have.
Just before Tess’s turn I walked to the side stage and found Tess attached to the same teenager’s hip I had left her with 45 minutes earlier. She looked a little unsure. And so I gave her my best pep talk. And almost cried Told her I couldn’t wait to see her dance and how proud I’d be. Then I pulled out the best mom trick in the book. I shamelessly bribed her with the Barbie of her choice afterwards.
Just as I heard the microphone announce her. Just her.

And everyone stopped to look at the cute little in the black leotard that her daddy had accidently put on backwards earlier ( don’t worry, we fixed it before the big show).

The teenager peeled her off. And set her on the stage.
I camped out right in front. Without a seat. Not worrying about blocking anyone’s vision because it’s not like anyone eles’s kid was up there.
Owen gave her a thumbs up. I held my breathe. And she looked a little scared.
But not nearly as scared as I was. About what she would do. Or what I would do.
And the music started and the teachers off to the side started to do the routine.
And then she did the absolute last thing I expected.

She nailed it. The moves. The hand motions. The twirls. She even smiled.

I snapped a quick picture. Hoped Shaun was taping in the back. And noticed a few people beside me, strangers, get out their phones and start taping too.
Because she was that cute. And little. And the girl who refuses to so much as go to the bathroom by herself, completely owned the stage.

Afterwards, when everyone clapped and cheered, this mom blubbered like a baby in the front and wondered what Barbie we would be adding to our collection.

(almost impossible to see b/c Shaun is so far back and she is so tiny...but look close, she is the tiny dot in the middle)

 
(yes, i know billy idol is more appropriate here...but i love this song and especially the T&S version even more....although I have done my share of dancing to some idol)

Guns, Boobs, and Racist Comments

...all from my kids.

My son was talking about someone named Maddy. We have a good friend named Maddy, but we haven’t seen her lately and I know that it is a common name so I was trying to decipher who exactly he was talking about. Our conversation went as follows:
Me:“Owen, is there a Maddy in your classs?”
O:” Yes, but that one is a different color than us.”
Me. (trying not to freak out or make it too big a deal, but slightly concerned and wondering where this conversation was going to go…because I have never heard him mention race or color before)…”hmmm, what does that mean Owen? What color are you?”
O: “Mom!!! (like I am asking the most dumb and obvious question ever). “I’m blonde”


In the car on the way home from dinner, Owen and Tess were entertaining themselves in the backseat. Mostly by Owen pretending that his hand was a gun and was shooting his sister with his fingers. Tess, might be the girliest girl I know….but she can wrestle and play legos and hang with all the boys on our street…took no time at all to get out her “handgun” and start shooting back. With full sound effects. After firing off just a few rounds, She looked at her hand, then at me and says, “Mine’s not working!”


We pulled into the parking lot of a local Mexican restaurant that happens to be one building over from a Hooters. I go to help Owen out of the car and his face is all lit up and he excitedly exclaims,
“Mom! We’re going to Hooters!”
Uhm. No. And we never will.


(and keeping w/ the kid inappropriate theme...two more things they should avoid, but makes for a pretty great song.)

I may run like a tortiose, but this isn't a fable.

With the gift of an extra hour ( I love falling back…just don’t talk to me in March when I have to “spring forward”), I decided to sneak in a short run before church. There aren’t many things out there that clear my head, but running is one of them. And it usually takes at least a few miles until my legs hurt enough or the oxygen is all in my muscles rather than my brain before things start to clear out.

This morning however. That was not the case. The longer I ran. The more muddled my brain became.

And it started to sound a lot like my three year old, asking lots of why questions. Things that haven’t bothered me in a while were sneaking their way back in. And I tried turning up my ipod and running faster. But. neither worked.
So, I decided I need to shut this down fast.
(and please don’t act like you don’t have conversations with yourself. We all do it. It is called self talk. And it can destroy or save you. And frankly, I’m tired of losing. So, I decided this morning that I was gonna win this one).

So, I decided to figure out what I was supposed to be learning from all this.
Because God uses stuff. The ick. And the bad and the hard. To teach us lessons right? I figured the answer is to just learn my lesson and it will all go away. And my feet could go back to running without all this nonsense running through my head. So I asked God what I was supposed to be learning.

And.

This is also going to sound a little crazy. But sometimes God talks back. And not like some thunder or voice or burning bush. Sometimes I am not even really sure it is God. It might just be me. Or what I want to hear. Or maybe I am crazy.

But. This time I heard,
“What makes you think there is a lesson?”
Well, because there is always a lesson. The bible is full of them. And the best way to get through a hard situation is to see the good and try to figure out what I’m supposed to be learning or doing different. Which was partly a lie, because mostly I justed wanted to fix my negative thoughts fast and be done with them. I wanted an answer. A solution.

“How about you just see the good. Stop trying to fix things. No lesson”

I was still confused.
There has to be a lesson.
“Nope”

And I suddenly realized that I had reduced God. And his story. And his bible. And his love to a fable.

With the assumption that hard things or good things and any thing is about teaching me something. And well, I’m a teacher. But I’ve always been a horrible student. I made good grade yes. But I was stubborn. And talked back. And skipped class. And have always had a bit of an authority problem. And apparently I’ve seen God as just a “teacher”. And I’m used to him trying to teach me the same stuff over and over. Because I rarely get it the first time. And plenty of people will tell you that Christ was a really good teacher or rabbi or even just a really good man.
And he was.
But that isn’t the same thing as a savoir or a friend.

I was still stumped on this whole – aren’t you supposed to be teaching me something thing.
So I kept arguing. Which is a pretty dumb thing to do with God. (forementioned authority issues.) And kept thinking, but Jesus taught in parables. Don’t they always have some great moral lesson at the end.

But apparently that is just a fable.

A parable and a fable, although similar, are not the same thing. Fables are short, like a sit com. Cutesy. They usually have talking animals. And tidy little moral lessons at the end. That is clearly spelled out. Just ask the tortoise or the grasshopper.
Jesus taught with parables, not fables. And according to my research ( and google totally counts as research). Parables are always about people. The word parable comes from a Greek word, “parabole” meaning comparison. And are used to show some bigger spiritual truth. And they rarely spell out the lesson at the end. It is implied, but you still have to get there by yourself.

In otherwords, Jesus, used stories to talk about people, with things they could relate to, to help explain some kind of bigger spiritual truth. But they usually end in as many questions as they do answers. And he only rarely explains them. No talking animals. No tidy little lessons. Just questions and challenges and some stories to really screw with our current social constructs. And I do mean current – not 2000 years old. I mean really, I still relate to the older prodigal’s brother, I still sometimes think that the vineyard workers who worked all day got jipped and I even think the guy who buried his talents got a bad rap. It’s not like he gambled them away in Vegas or anything. And so there are truths to be pondered. Questions to be asked. And views to be shifted.
None of them can be wrapped up in a cute little one sentence lesson about an ant, or a fox and grapes, or a lion and a mouse. And as I can remember, none of them had animals that could speak at all. And so it turns out, God is more interested in shaping and changing and becoming. He wants me to ask questions and seek and discover.
Not read a cute little story and learn a lesson.
God doesn’t reduce my struggles to a one sentence piece of advice.

God doesn’t tell fables.
Fables are short and fictional and rarely involve people.
Stories are long. And involved. And personal.
And not so much about a lesson and more about a relationship.
Especially love stories.





(And, yes. I’m well aware that it sounds like maybe I learned something after all. Just don’t expect me to sum it up for you in one sentence.)

daughter. mine. and a band.

There are two kinds of people.

Ones who will drive around the block again to finish a good song. And those who would never even consider it. Let’s just say I’ve made the block many times over.
Don’t have much to say tonight. Even though it was a really good night. But this song, that someone recommended to me today, is worth another loop around.


 

(and this might not have earned another trip around the block, but it did get her two hand stamps....which is the 3 year old equivalent of a 4 star review.

sleep to dream

My bed growing up used to scare me. I don’t mean going to bed. Or nightmares. Or things hiding under my bed. I mean my actual bed.


The headboard reaches the ceiling. It is 2-3X the height of a normal bed and the intricate carvings and designs I thought looked like a gargoyle face. At least they do when you are 6. Which is about how old I was when I inherited my grandparents antique bed. I practically needed a ladder to climb into it and rolling off in the middle of the night would cause me to check for broken bones. It creaked and cracked and occasionally the floor boards would fall out. This made sneaking out of bed tough growing up. And maybe my parents planned it that way.

I knew it wasn’t normal.
My friends had cute little trundle beds that you could pull out for sleepovers.
Or one friend even had a fancy four poster bed with tulle hanging over the top.
And to kids, tweens and teens my bed was just weird.
No amount of Tom Cruise posters or glow in the dark stars on the ceiling could hip it up.
My plain salmon comforter wasn’t doing me any favors either.
There were a few perks. Like it was easy to hide under with plenty of headroom.
I had all kinds of storage space.
And any one over the age of 50 was quick to compliment the antique that dominated my room.

My parents moved out of the house I grew up in over a decade ago.
Most of my things are in the attic.
But I still call the first room on the right upstairs mine. Because it has my bed.
The other upstairs bedroom has the cute little trundle bed I always wanted growing up.
And a bowflex.

Nothing about going home feels constant or static with me.
I know my way around my husband’s hometown and house better than my own.
I know that the coffee shop closes early. I know that if I look too hard in the drawers I might find a Christmas present. From last year. I know that you can’t go to the Coney at noon and expect to get a booth.
My own hometown is always changing. I sometimes get lost when I run. I know where to find ziplock bags and soft drinks and my dad’s candy stash. But I don’t know where to put the dishes or find a hair dryer. Even the highway exits seem to change.
And it’s not the house I grew up in. It isn’t even the house I usually visit. That one is in another town on a lake. And I keep an extra toothbrush, bathing suit and contact solution there.
But in that house I don’t have a room.
I choose. Each time. Between the one with the plaid comforter or the navy one. Both on nice comfortable perfectly normal looking queen size beds.

Last weekend I went home. To my hometown and not the lake. And my mom asked where we were going to sleep. Upstairs or down? And the question is really, temperpedic or antique.
And I usually pick the good mattress. But this time, I hauled my bag upstairs.
By the time I went to sleep – Tess and Owen were already sprawled out across the trundle bed. My husband was downstairs still watching football. And I pulled back the covers and crawled into my old bed.
The one I’ve slept in since I was six.
And everything in that town and house seems different. Newer. Nicer. With fresher paint and new comforters. There were no posters on the wall. No TV in the corner. No neon light up phone with a long cord tangled across my floor covered with clothes.
But my bed still creaked when I climbed (and I do mean climbed) in.
And as I laid there I closed my eyes and could picture my rooms. It was like a scent or a song. I suddenly could see it all perfectly clear. And I remembered a few shorter thinner versions of me laying in the exact same place. I slept in that bed before I could write cursive or multiply. And eventually that bed moved down the hall and into my brother’s old room. I slept in that same place after my first kiss. I read hundreds of books, spent hours on the phone and did my Calculus homework in that bed. And I even remember crawling in that same bed the night before I got married. I watched 90210 and cried and hoped and prayed on those same pillows and after my crappy night’s sleep the other night – probably even the same mattress.

The house is different. The comforter is different. The rest of the furniture isn’t the same. The posters are missing. The light up phone was thrown out years ago. But. The girl. The six year old. The sixteen year old. The 33 year old. In many ways, she is different. Changing sometimes as fast and confusing as my town. But, some things. They always stay the same. The carvings don’t scare me anymore. The old wood still creaks. And now, my kids are the ones hiding underneath. My current house doesn’t have a single antique. Most of my furniture comes from IKEA. The last thing anyone would notice when walking into my room is my bed. They’d notice the green shelves that a friend gave me. Or the carved brightly colored chest I splurged on when I was first married. The fact that my floor is still covered with clothes and occasionally papers and now toys that aren’t my own. But, I can climb into that bed at my parents new house and I know exactly where I am and remember exactly who I was. I know every creak. I know that I always sleep on the right side there (but not other places). I know the fan rattles when it is on high. I know that one blanket isn’t enough and that it is always further down (or up) than you think. I also know that it is way cooler than any boring trundle bed.

the traditional halloween repost

this picture is almost as old as this post....and yes, i still have the dj lance outfit in my closet somewhere....
Tonight is finally Halloween, but I feel like we are always dressed up around here. Owen is usually something from starwars, and Tess is a princess or a fairy or barbie or even occasionally all three. And I will put on pretty much anything to make meykids (or anyone else) laugh.... So far this week Owen has been Jango Fett and Waldo, and Tess Rainbow Brite, Super Woman and Tinkerbell (and if you were wondering, despite my facebook post I did not send her to school on "book character" day as Hester Prynne....although I still think it would have been funny!)

So here is to costumes and my annual Halloween repost from when he was 3 and spiderman:

Owen just scooted out the door for the day dressed as spiderman. His school is having a halloween party......but I am not sure he was supposed to show up ALL day in costume. I also considered the fact that they are serving lasagna for lunch, and the outfit is a one-piecer making "potty time" a nightmare. I thought maybe just taking his costume to put on at party time would be a better idea. However, I could not convince my child of this.Before leaving he asked me a question that has stuck with me ( well maybe because he asked it about a dozen times in a span of 5 minutes).
"Who are you going to be today mommy?"
First I tried responding with something easy......"Owen's mommy". Apparently that was not exciting enough.Then I tried to appeal to the superhero in him with "super woman". Apparently they don't show that cartoon anymore so there is no such thing if you are 3. I started to get desperate and told him I could be "Dora". He considered this a bit longer before declining. He finally agreed with an old classic......."a ghost". He looked around for a sheet.......but settled for a few "boos" before he was out the door for a day filled with future cavities.
I am still in my pjs and don't plan on dressing up as anything.........but it's not a bad question to ask yourself first thing in the morning.....and not just on halloween.


...and the only choice for tonight is of course thriller, and I so many good options to choose from. MJ with the original, the Royal Guard, the OU marching band, Jennifer Garner, fall out by, prison inmates....but I gotta go with Imogen on this cover.


So, Happy Halloween to most of you, but also Happy Birthday to my husband who can turn any old trashcan into a kickin R2D2, given many hours, plenty of paint and almost as much $ as it would take to build an actual robot. But when neighbors asked for their photo taken with it.....it was all worth it :)

pineapples

This is my 12th year teaching. I have about 150 kids a year. Give or take a dozen.

And 150 X 12 is a lot.
And as much as I mean to. I don’t remember them all. I’ve been in four different schools and some of my students have multiple kids, multiple degrees and multiple marriages by now. Many of their faces and names sound familiar, but all too often they blur together.

But.
I remember Virginia who shaved off her eyebrows and drew them in and intimidated me a little. Rumor is she came form Juvy. But she laughed really big and I did everything I could to make her laugh. And it paid off.

I remember Crystal, who, when I was young and new I went around the room and asked what their future goals were, told me she wanted to be a stripper. I quickly picked my jaw up off the floor and told her she better stay in school and learn how to manage all that money first. She didn’t let anyone mess with me. I took her out to eat once and think it was the only time she had been in a restaurant with menus. And I still wonder who she grew up to be.

I remember Sam. Who wasn’t always talked about warmly in the teacher’s lounge. But I didn’t mind his mouth and thought he was smart. And for some reason, when I told him he actually believed me.


I remember Tracy. Who stood up the first day of high school and tried to prove to her classmates that the God that she believed in was true. And I’ve spent hours with her in coffee shops discussing that same faith. And am still trying to find a way to get to Peru so we can continue our conversation. The best way I know how. With actions.

I remember Julie. Who reminded me of me. and gave me mismatched socks and mix cds. And sometimes I still do her math homework.

And Chad who was never sober and gave me absolute hell but I liked anyways. and I told him. And Melanie who had a mouth on her. Who argued with me til she was blue in the face. Until once I told her that I thought maybe she was right. And I meant it. And she never argued again. And Amy who’s dad died. And Tracy whose mom had cancer. And Ron who called me a bitch once but is a teacher now and I play trivia with whenever I get the chance.

And I could go on. and on. Maybe I could tell you 100 or more that I remember. Fondly . And specifically.

But. to be honest. Sometimes I don’t even get my current kids names right.… Sometimes I will see a waitress and know they look familiar. That I was probably their teacher once. But am just not sure.

And sometimes I will see a kid that I adored in Target, and they will avoid eye contact and quickly dart down another aisle. And then I’ll see another that I failed twice or wrote up dozens of times, or even worse, one I barely noticed and they will scream my name half way across the store and go in for a hug. And you just never know. Who is going to actually remember you. And how. If I was nice. Or snide. Or distracted.

And even though I’ve sat in too many funerals. Or seen too many bruises. Or glazed eyes. And hurt for these almost grownups. I especially hate that I spend a year with these kids and sometimes know so little. And that I can forget so quickly.

Once I spoke up at a memorial service. For another student I will never forget. And my night was flooded with old faces. Some more familiar than others. And I remembered hers. And for some reason sent her an email. Or maybe she sent me one. I’m not sure.
And I’m gonna be honest. I don’t remember much of her in my class. She was warm and funny and different from most of her classmates. She had a hard time passing my tests. And she asked me to give her a fruit cup if she did. Which I thought was a pretty odd request. But. one I followed through with. Almost a decade later she remembered me giving her a fruit cup of all things. And I’m sure I adored her at the time. but I forgot quickly. Until I didn’t.

And what ensued was good conversation dirty chai lattes. Or beers (don’t worry she was plenty old enough) and lots of Jesus talk and me trying unsuccessfully to keep up with her in my running shoes and more questions than answers. Once I even bought her a pineapple just because she said she liked them. And figured it was better than a fruit cup. And then she moved several states away. And I almost forgot again.

Until I read her words today:
Let me just express how good God is.
Majority of my friends don’t know Jesus the way I do.They party a lot. They are perverted. They are unfiltered.
I don’t go around talking about Jesus non-stop.
I dont update my twitter/facebook with bible verses or deep saying from some preacher.
In fact.. I really dont do anything.
What I do is love people with the same love Jesus loves me with.
I have had some christian friends tell me there is no fruit in my life and that kind of stuff really discourages me. In a way… I feel like it taints my relationship with Jesus because then I’m trying to do stuff that causes fruit to be “seen”.
I had a co-worker come up to me the other day at work, look me straight in the eyes and say, “I want to be you. Will you teach me the bible?”
Like I said.. I don’t do anything that flaunts that I’m even a Christian.
I just love people unconditionally”

And that friends. Is fruit. Worth a pineapple or a fruit cup any day.
I taught this girl chemistry 8ish years ago. Which I'm sure she has mostly forgotten.
And today she taught me to remember. And to love a little more like that.



(and yes, of course, I remember lots more than that. and changed most of those names. and she isn't the first student to school this teacher)

stuck in the middle


A few nights ago was Game 2 of the World Series I went to bed while St. Louis had the lead. It didn’t look good for the Rangers and call me a 2%er all you want. I leave my house while most of you are still snug in your beds and it was a work day. The next morning, while getting coffee I was shocked to see that Rangers win taking up a full page spread on a newspaper another customer discarded on the table. I went to sleep. And missed it. (and I wish I had slept through Game 3 but that is a different post)


Last night, my average college team took down the #3 team in the nation. And I went to bed at half time. Again I was worn out and exhausted. Even though we were up by several touchdowns I kind of expected them to lose it anyways. And I am totally into my college football (well at least my team, not like my husband who can somehow be into every team). But a rain delay and two trunk or treats with a Jawa and Rainbow Brite on too much candy had done me in. And when my husband came to bed well after midnight he informed me that they held the lead for one of the biggest upsets in school history. And I was asleep. Again.

And sure I can watch the highlights or read about it in the paper. But that isn’t quite the same thing. Reading about it after the fact doesn't make your heart pound and you certainly dont jump off the couch cheering. Knowing how it ends somehow ruins all that.

I read somewhere today that the plot of pretty much every single musical is really simple: Boy meets girl. Boy gets girl. Boy loses girl. Boy gets girl back. (and suddenly I have the urge to watch Grease). And how lame would the story be if we ended it after the first act. Or we left after the break up scene. How different would most books or movies be if we stopped in the middle. Or like me, went to sleep before it was really over.

What if we stopped the most important story at the cross. And neglected to get to the three days later part?

And I’ve read and listened to enough talks about writing to learn that a critical element to any story is conflict.

In other words. The middle.
And I hate that. I want to start at the beginning and skip to the end and avoid the messy, long hard middle.
The part where we have to go to the store. Or the kids are sick. Or the tire is flat. Or I watch the same episode of House for the 10th time. Or we get on each other's nerves. (and I could keep going but don't want to put anyone to sleep because currently there is an exciting game4 going on!)

And how isn’t that true for most things.
The middle isn’t always the most intriguing part of the story.
The beginning tries to hook you and the ending tries to make you cry with either joy or sadness and resolve everything. Those two chapters get all the big scenes and moments and the fanciest words.

But the middle is really where the story is.

And I even used to tell newer friends that some of my past friendships didn’t end well for me. Maybe I was trying to warn them. Maybe I was trying to warn myself. But I need to stop saying it because most of the time that is a lie.
I’m always referring to a small handful of people that I love the best. But the end part is crap. Because most of us are still friends. And in some cases even a better version than we were in the beginning. So really I don’t mean that it ends bad, because it never ended. Rather there is just some sucky part in the middle. And I’m even going to go out on a limb and say that conflict is critical not just to story but also to relationship. Show me a married couple who never fights and I’m willing to bet they never speak.

And 90% of the time we are living in the middle.
In the conflict. Or a boring stretch. Or where a character (the one in the story or even just our own) is being developed.
We long for beginnings and ends. But we can’t have a story without the middle.
And I am not naïve enough to think that they all have happy endings.
Some of those subplots are still going to be tragedies.
The boy might not get the girl back.
Games are lost.
Some middles are really ends that lead to even better beginnings.

But. I’m learning to appreciate the middle. Realizing that it is an important part of the story. Even if it isn’t the one I’m trying to tell. And that if the middle is hard I just need to wait until the next act. Or at least stay awake long enough to see the end of the game.


(and this is a particularly crummy video ...as in no actual video, and the sound kind of stinks. but it is a song I love. and pretty appropriate for the parts in the middle when we are prone to forget. and just be glad I am not playing the Tech fight song or anything from the Grease soundtrack....because I own the soundtracks to both grease 1 and 2 and am totally proud of it)



The three year old test

I’ve learned, the hard way that when I take my kids in for well child check ups that there will be questions. I like to call it the whatever-age-they-are-test. Mostly for the moms.

First come the questions about my kids that I should know, but might not. Like do they alternate their feet when climbing upstairs? I don’t know. She gets up the stairs. Is that all that matters. And I don’t exactly have stairs in my house. So this whole stair observation thing is pretty limited. Besides, she’d much rather take the alligator anyways. Which I clearly know means elevator, but took my husband a while to catch on.

Next are the questions that I know I should lie when asked, but unfortunately sometimes accidentally answer with the truth.
Like when she asks if she eats a balanced diet I respond with do chicken nuggets, fruit snacks, yogurt and cookies count as balanced?
Does she do chores? Uhm. She is 3. Is that too early to use the vacuum and iron. Because if not I am about to be one happy lady.
Does she share and play well with others? I repeat. She is three.
Where does she sleep? In her bed. Until about 3 am. And then with her feet directly in either me or my husband’s face.
Do you eat family dinners around the table? Yes. Well sometimes. The rule is if I cook we eat at the table if we eat leftovers or order out the living room is fair game. And breakfast is often eaten in the car. I do not allow them to eat in my room though. I have learned this the hard way. Snap Crackle and Pop are not guys I like to share my bed with. And I have.
Do you limit her TV time? Yes. It is limited to anytime I am trying to cook dinner, grade papers, check my facebook, and go to the bathroom by myself.
Does she go to time out? Just last week she tried to send her babysitter to her room. I think this girl knows what a time out is.
Do you teach her about stranger danger? Not necessary. This girl gives mean looks that can bore through almost anyone’s skull. And those are to our friends!

And finally the questions that I tried to prep her for. I wasn’t ready for Owen’s three year old questions, so we have been practicing. Colors. Trying to spell her name. Things she likes. Her full name. Her parents real names (you know besides mommy and daddy). That kind of thing.
And problem #1 – I can’t get her to be called anything but Tess. I say you are silly or happy or funny or you fill in the blank. She always answers with “No, I’m Tess”. So I knew the last name would be tough.  But I’ve been working on it. Trying to teach her she has a middle and a last name too. Just like the rest of us. And she keeps insisting that she is Tess. Just Tess. And maybe she will be like Madonna. Or Seal. Or Bono. And I gave up.
So showtime and the doctor asks for her full name. And she gives the standard response “I’m Tess”
Then the doctor asks for her last name. I sigh. Knowing we are going to fail. But Tess suddenly pipes up. I am hopeful until I hear her answer. “Mess”
Tess the Mess. And I nod. True enough.
Then dr asks what my name is. She gets mine right ( we had just practiced on the stairs up to her office …and apparently I should have been watching to see if she alternated her feet rather than working on the family tree). Then for my husband’s. “What is your daddy’s name?"
Firmly and confidently Tess answers “Yes. Sir”.
And I don’t know whether to laugh or cry or clean up my house for when CPS decides to do a surprise visit after the doctor calls. But I’m pretty sure her dad would be proud of that answer and mostly glad it wasn’t “Yes Ma’am” which he often gets.

So after the three year old test we got flu mist up the nose and a shot in the leg.
After which she sobbed and sobbed and cried and begged for that daddy of hers.
Who was in Kansas or I assured her we could be calling Mr. Yes Sir for some back up!
Well at least until she got a sticker and a sucker and calmed down again. I told her she was very brave.
To which she replied, “ No mom. I’m Tess”
And we took the alligator back down stairs.


And the girl's got the Beiber Fever, but also likes the Stones...this is one of her favorites...If musical tastes were on the 3 year old test she would pass it with flying colors! (she also digs Jane's Addiction, Florence and the Machine, Adelle and hates Miley Cyrus. But don't give her too much credit. She also really likes that dumb Barbie Girl song!

18 inches

The other day I got an email from a friend. She was in a bible study and they had to survey a few people with a question about how we view God. I don’t remember the question exactly, but something along the lines of “What do we think we have to do to get God to like us?”
And of course the right answer is “nothing”.
And I mean it. I know that the answer to that is nothing.
Nothing I can say or do makes God love me any less.
I’ve read it. I’ve heard it. I’ve even told other people that.

But really wrapping my heart around that. And living that way. And treating other people like it is true for them. Well. That is harder to do.

So I wrote her two answers.
The true one.
And also with the one that I know isn’t true, but sometimes think anyways.
And I could answer lots and lots of questions like that. With two answers.
The one my head knows is true, but that I struggle to really believe in my heart.


I’ve always read a lot. And so more often than not, I know the right answers to questions. Or at least where to find them. In Sunday school or algebra class or even how to handle a messy situation.

Recently I’ve had some conflict that I wasn’t sure how to respond to. I asked several friends how to react and every person gave me a different answer. But every single one of them said one thing the same. They told me not to listen to the criticism. To not let it get to me. And. it. has.
Because what I should do and what really happens in my heart don't always match up. Even when I want them to.
And so I sat across from one of those friends. And mumbled, but how?
I mean I know it. But how do I make myself feel that.
And there wasn’t really an answer.

I used to get the crazy stare in bible studies, when I asked similar questions. I knew the answers I was supposed to give. But when I asked people how to actually live like that. I mostly heard crickets.

Because apparently most people like to ignore those 18 inches.
The distance between our head and our hearts.
What Psychology Today considers to be the longest distance in the world.

In class I just finished teaching about free fall. And despite what most people believe mass does not affect how fast things fall. Meaning a brick and a penny dropped from the same height should hit at the same time. But my class usually doesn’t believe me when I tell them that. (Projectile motion tends to blow their mind even more, but I'll save the science lecture for another day).  Most of them catch on and realize what they need to be able to tell me to get the right answers on their test whether they think it is really true or not. By the time we are done taking notes, they know the right answers, and can even spit them back out at me. But they don’t believe me until I climb up on a desk and start dropping stuff. Or even better, let them do it.

And I still don’t know how to bridge that gap.
And 18 inches isn’t too terribly far to jump.
Even if it sometimes feels like 1800 miles.
All I know is that sometimes you just have to do it.
Let things fall. And trust that they will hit at the right time.


(and I almost posted the john mayer version of this song...which is so good....and i love a good cover and the acoustic version of pretty much anything...but couldn't do that to Tom!)

swimming


Lately I have felt like I am drowning. And I’m not usually this girl…but I have written about a similar feeling before here. That I am just trying to get through. And as soon as I find my feet. Something else seems to land in my way and push me under again. And I feel ridiculous because theses things aren’t so rough. And I'm mostly fine. It is just that things seem to keep coming. And as soon as I recover from one thing. I get hit by another. I wrote something new about it about a week ago, but didn’t really know how to wrap it up or where to go with it. Or even if I wanted to put it out there. Because I don’t like to be a complainer or have people email me and ask if I’m ok or hint that maybe I should take some meds.

But then this morning I picked up a book that I've already read, and read this. Again.
http://www.shaunaniequist.com/storage/media/learningtoswim_chapter.pdf
It is first chapter in Shauna Niequist’s book Bittersweet. And I heart Shauna. But I almost never read books twice. I’m not even sure why I picked it up. But I did. And she said exactly what I have been thinking lately. But better and without being surly. I even realized I had written one of the exact same lines in an email recently.

And so, below is what I wrote last week or so…..not nearly as good as Shauna and way more whiny:

This morning was a rough Monday morning. Except it wasn’t a Monday.
The husband who usually has morning duty is in another time zone. Which means I am getting my kids up, dressed and fed (no easy feats)…an hour earlier than their usual times. Plus, I have to be out the door at a ridiculous time myself…and I was already late yesterday. This morning was looking even worse.

Owen complained about his stomach, but I offered him a donut and hustled him along.
I dropped Tess in her class room, and sent Owen into another.
Again, not his usual routine at all…but what I have to do when Shaun can’t drop him off at school.
And as I’m about to get in my car, a teacher runs out and tells me that he is throwing up.
I rush back in. And watch him wretch a second time all over the carpet.

This is problematic for multiple reasons and so far the only upside was that someone else was going to be cleaning up the puke.

And I struggled to make decisions about who to call, and what to do. I had meetings and a field trip and it was way too late to be calling in for a sub. And when I did I was told that getting one was really doubtful. And that was enough for me to be done. Maxed out. Stressed. Five seconds away from tears.
And a little perspective. Not such a big deal. People out there are dealing with real stuff. Disease. Foreclosure. Divorce.
I’m just had a sick kid. And a complicated schedule.

But, recently I feel like it has been one thing after another. And my normal half full outlook is being tested. Things in my life that are normally easy. Seem suddenly hard.
Work. Friendships. Marriage. My health. Even just remembering to pay the water bill. Which I also just learned the hard way that they really mean that cut off date. And trust me, nothing is more humbling than walking next door and asking to borrow a pitcher of water.

And it always feels like everything hits all at once.
As soon as I find my way back to my feet.
I trip over something else.
One thing after another.
And I keep thinking it has to end. Things have to turn around. Haven’t I already dealt with enough this week. That I have had my fill and it is someone else’s turn.
And I go back to that old cliché. God never gives you more than you can handle.
Which I think that is baloney.
And that it isn’t at all biblical. And I’m pretty sure if anyone had tried to tell Job that he’d have slapped them in the face (or at least wanted to!)
I have always hated that phrase,
Mostly because it always seems like the little things do me in. And this means that God knows I am a pansy.
It is the harsh comments and locking my keys in my car and hitting all the red lights that seem to break me.
I sweat the small stuff. Especially when the small stuff seems to keep coming.
And so, I’m pretty sure that the opposite of that cliche is true. God pursues us. Continually. Persistently. Without relief. And it isn’t a matter of not being given more than we can handle. And the God I believe in doesn’t test or punish, but he doesn’t waste things either. And he is more than happy to remind me that I am not supposed to be handling it at all. That was never my job. That maybe being given too much is a chance to stop trying to carry it. That drowning is really a chance to swim.
And more importantly that it was never supposed to be about me to begin with. The story is so much bigger than that. 

So back to some Shauna Niequist. You really should go and read the whole chapter. Or just ask me to borrow my book but in case you don't…. Here are some of my favorite snippets:

"I learned about waves when I was little, swimming in Lake Michigan, in navy blue water under a clear sky, and the most important thing I learned was this: if you try to stand and face the wave, it will smash you to bits, but if you trust the water, and let it carry you, there’s nothing sweeter. And a couple decades later, that’s what I’m learning to be true about life, too. If you dig in and fight the change you’re facing, it will indeed smash you to bits.
It will hold you under, drag you across the rough sand, scare and confuse you.. If you dig in and fight the changes, they will smash you to bits. But if you can find it within yourself, in the wildest of seasons, just for a moment, trust in the goodness of God, who made it all and holds it all together, you’ll find yourself drawn along to a whole new place, and there’s truly nothing sweeter. Unclench your fists, unlock your knees and also the door to your heart, take a deep breath, and begin to swim. Begin to let the waves do their work in you."


And that sounds like relief. No matter how many waves keep coming. And so, mid-October may not be swimsuit season for most of us….but after reading that I was ready to stop fighting. Or just getting through it. Or even just trying to talk myself out of the fact that it is hard, because I don't think it stacks up to someone else's hard. And instead to start swimming. Letting the waves carry me rather than keep crashing over me. I’m just hoping that since it is fall, and mostly pants season, I won’t have to actually shave my legs first.

clean sheets and the nursery

When I’m dropping my kids off in the nursery at church, a nice sweet mom used to corner me to ask me where I’d like to serve in the children’s ministry.

And. Just because I have children does not mean you should put me in charge of other people’s.
Little people scare me. Sometimes even my own.

I’m so grateful that there are people with perfect hair and ironed skirts who want to sing songs and change diapers and dole out goldfish. But I’m not really that girl.
Don’t get me wrong, I am more than willing to do my share. As long as it doesn’t involve hand motions.

The last time she asked I said, “I’d really rather feed homeless people than teach Sunday School”. And she laughed like I’d just told her a funny joke.
“No, really, I insisted I mean that. I really like homeless people. And the thought of being left alone with a dozen three year olds makes me want to breathe into a paper bag. But, I’m happy to sub or fill in or whatever you need. Occasionally. Just let me know”.
“Oh.” She said. And never asked again.

And since it was getting me out of toddler duty, I figure I should go when my church heads to the homeless park downtown. The last time I went reluctantly. I had no small talk in me. Whatsoever. For church people or park people. But I went anyways.
The park was crowded and there were only a handful of volunteers. I couldn’t work fast enough and we ran out of food and I couldn’t keep people from talking to me. And not awkward small talk but sit down and pour out their stories kind of talking. No one tried to dry hump me (which has happened). I did get unsolicited advice on my nail polish choice and that I should take better care of my cuticles from a fiftyish toothless man. Another lady asked if I knew where she could get a purse. I immediately went to my car and dumped everything out of mine and brought it to her. Feeling pretty good about myself, except she then declined. Really. A homeless lady who was using a Walmart bag as a purse snubbed her nose at mine. I think I might need to upgrade. Right after I take better care of my cuticles.

My favorite was a man who told me about getting arrested for stealing fifty grand. Then he sat me down to compare tattoos and eventually started to preach to me. Which was a little backwards since I was the church lady there to serve him and he was the one who had served time. He talked about how God spoke to him in prison and was using him on the streets. Told me he’d been clean for two days. But that he planned on doing some heroin after he ate his lunch. I told him maybe he could try for day3. And something about that floored me. The fact that he could be so fired up and so screwed up at the same time. Because I feel like that a lot. And maybe that is why I like going to the homeless park instead of working the church nursery. Why I don’t have a hard time looking people there in the eye. No one is hididng anything. They are just hungry. And I felt that way last time I went to the beach. When I’d run in the morning I saw a few bums sleeping off their drink from the night before. Curled up on the sand with cheap wine laying nearby. I just kept thinking that there wasn’t a lot of difference between them and me. I just had clean sheets.

And I still sometimes feel guilty about my minimal involvement in the children’s ministry at my church. Or the women’s ministry. Or not going to a weekly bible study. Or a billion other things I don’t do. But maybe there are lots of ways to serve and be fed. Like finding Jesus in a guy with a rap sheet and no teeth and praying he makes it to day 3. Wishing he had clean sheets too.

 I also wrote the above weeks ago. Not even intentionally as a blog post, but again kind of forgot about it.  I've been reading...another...book. Interrupted by Jen Hatmaker. And she isn't saying anything I've never heard before. But somehow she is saying it right to my heart. My favorite line I read last night was this...
"We are all poor. Some of us just have more stuff."
 
This song has been messing with my head too...

five minutes

The opposite of talking.
You would think is listening.
Or at least not talking.
But turns out for most of us. Or at least for me. Most of the time. Those aren’t the right answers.
The opposite of talking. Is waiting to talk.

And when I read that, in a coffee shop in Seattle, I cringed inside because I know it is more true than I want it to be.

My husband used to have a symbol to help me out in groups. He would tug on his ear when I needed to turn down the volume or worse when I kept interrupting. And I’d fill everyone else in on the joke. And usually keep going. Because awareness doesn’t always equal change.

And friends who have known me a while have their own way of dealing with my mouth.
One I work with just tries to tell people they just have to talk through me. And my oldest friends know to just ignore and eventually I tone it down and stop.  And might even tell you this if we are out together. And they will be right.

Sometimes this bad habit of mine comes in handy. When people don’t know what to say. I usually just blaze through. I’m not afraid of awkward and eventually after enough words it usually isn’t awkward anymore. But. I don’t really come with volume control. Or an on-off button. And sometimes it is funny and entertaining. And others it is just obnoxious and rude.

I’ve been thinking that maybe my husband shouldn’t have to pull on his ear and my friends shouldn’t have to talk through. Or tell me to let someone else talk for a change.

So recently I’ve decided that I need to learn to listen. That surely it is a skill and something I just need to practice. Like running. Or playing an instrument. Something I can train myself to be better at.

(Confession, I wrote all of the above almost two months ago. And obviously forgot about it. To finish writing it. And certainly to practice it.)

Until this morning. My Sunday school class started a new study…and the first chapter and discussion was about the misconceptions of how we incorporate changes to our behavior. And we also talked about being quiet. And we didn’t do this, but the group study guide suggests starting each session with five minutes of silence. Not prayer or meditation or or breathing deeply or listening to someone else. But just five short minutes of being quiet. Like some odd grown up version of the quiet game that I would surely lose. I’m not the girl that walks in the house and turns on the TV, but I do often have the radio on. In my car turned up. On my ipod when I run. And on my computer when I try to get work done. There is a constant soundtrack going on behind me. Or I’m on the phone. Or writing down all my thoughts. Which is pretty much the same thing as outloud. And that is how I process. I have to talk or write it out. But maybe not all the time.

To answer the question of why waste five minutes by being quiet? Essentially the book said this…We live in a world filled with noise and distraction. It is easy to enter the last conversation while still processing the last one (or in my case, while having 2-3 other ones going on at the same time outoud, on my phone and in my head), In the midst of all this it is hard to hear God much less each other. Silence, is meant in preparation to listen. (the book: The Good and Beautiful God by James Bryan Smith in case you were wondering)

So I got home. And locked myself in the bathroom and figured I’d give it a try. The whole Quaker silence things as always intrigued me. Their worship services are essentially an hour of quiet. Just thinking about it makes me fidgety. My favorite part of yoga is the last five or so minutes laying flat on my back. Just breathing. In and out. Tired. Sweaty and somehow centered in a way I don’t usually get to any other way. But even then, it is directed. Someone is talking. Telling me when to breathe. Telling me to be quiet. And it is one of the rare occasions that I actually am.

I looked at my watch and figured to give it a shot on my own sans all that downward dog and 100° temperatures. (and lets be honest, I have been to yoga in months). Five minutes. Essentially a really long commercial break. So I sat there. And tried to just be quiet to clear my head. And lasted almost a full minute before looking at my watch. I caught myself trying to pray. Or make a shopping list. A to-do list. And each time. I stopped myself. And looked at my watch again.

Two minutes.

I can do quiet ok, it isn't easy for me. but I can. What I couldn't figure out was how to empty out my head. I thought maybe I’d wipe down the counters (and I assure you that is not a normal thought for me), but figured that would be cheating. I paid attention to my breathing because someone had suggested that earlier and it is what we do in yoga anyways. but. it just felt weird sitting there in the bathroom breathing deeply.

Three minutes.

And there was all kinds of crazy going on outside the door. Tess was screaming. Owen was running up and down the hall and Shaun was yelling at the Cowboys on TV. I thought maybe I should cut this a minute short. And deal with all the crazy just a few inches from me. No one was crying. Or bleeding. And that, surely, I could last another two minutes. I even plunged my fingers into my ears for a few seconds.

Four minutes.

And by now I was staring at the second hand on my watch. So, I decided to try a new strategy. To listen and see how much I could hear. And I don’t mean I was listening for God. Because. I think more often than not I am making up what I think he is saying anyways. but just literally to see what I could hear besides the screaming, laughing running.
And I heard the hum of the air-conditioner. And a bird outside. I heard the words my kids were saying rather than just the noise. And there was no super human hearing. I didn’t hear a pin drop the next block over. Or even have any major epiphany. And that last minute, was somehow easier than all the others. There were less mental lists or conversations. Except one.

Where I realized that it took me almost five full minutes of being quiet for me to start actually listening. And that was a lesson well worth my time.

...and I song I could listen to over and over...