party playlist

Confession.
I get invited to a lot of little kid birthday parties. And I almost always go, present in hand.Because my kids love them. And I love my friends. And who doesn’t like cupcakes.
But, parts of me despise these parties.
Really. I’d rather go to WalMart with both kids than to a toddler birthday party on a Saturday.

And today’s party wasn’t so bad. It was a close friends which meant I knew a lot of people there so I had plenty of people to talk to instead of having to pretend to text the whole time. I even raced one of them on the bounce house obstacle course and possibly threw out my back. The teenage worker was also prepared to lecture me for not wearing socks and taking out a small child on the way.

But, normally little kid parties are full of all kinds of landmines…
1. Chuck E Cheese. --- I don’t think I need to say anything else about that.
2. Awkward small talk with moms I don’t know. This is my least favorite part. And I often volunteer to take pictures just to avoid as much of it as possible.
3. I have two kids. I can’t watch them both at once. 90% of the time I’m gonna keep my eye on the little one which may mean my older one is running around crazy. And he probably is. Don’t judge.
4. And often those other moms at the party. They totally judge.
5. My little one, even when I am watching her will probably take her clothes off at least once.
6. She will also ask to go potty at least 5 times. She might go one out of the 5 times. but the one time I don't take her she will wet her pants out of spite.
7. She will also steal someone’s cupcake.
8. I might even steal someone’s cupcake.
9. Any craft involving paint. (neatness is not a skill either of my kids…or their mom have).
10. Any game involving listening. (listening is not a skill either of my kids…or their mom have).
11. The teenagers running the party and telling me and my kid what to do, there is a good chance I have taught one of them. It is hard to look them in the eye after they have scolded me on the bounce house or seen me sporting a Scooby Doo mask.
12. Party favors. Really. Please don’t give us any more junk. We have enough in our house already. Save your money and don’t send us home with any more crap. Extra cupcakes and balloons however, are always appreciated.
13. I take back what I said about balloons. If they actually make it into the car without being popped or accidentally set free, my kids like to let them go in the house and cry until I climb on the counter or a chair and almost bust my face trying to get it down.
14. Sugar coma on the way home. About half the time ends in a nap (fantastic)…the other half ends is absolute meltdown. Sometimes my kids even meltdown too.

And if you are reading this and I’ve been to one of your kid’s parties in the last few years….please don’t scratch us from the invitation list. Don’t punish my kids for their mom’s whiny behavior. It may give me a rash but my two love nothing more than a giant talking rat, bounce houses, and goody bags full of tattoos and candy and dollar store toys.

Although, I think that maybe after today I may no longer be welcome back to Pump It Up. I, also fully recognize that I am the biggest hypocrite and have forced at least 90% of the above listed complaints onto my own friends for my kids’ parties. And that maybe having a petting zoo in the backyard for your son’s 2 year old birthday party is a little over the top. What can I say. They only get one a year. The grown ups can suffer. And I promise to always have plenty of cupcakes.

And good tunes. Although this list doesn't promise to be toddler appropriate....and is so not my normal folky list. pure pop party songs only :)

is there a category for you?



Back in late September I went to Portland. By myself. To a conference put on my Donald Miller. I was going to go to a writing/blogging conference in the Spring but instead put my money and limited days off into Portland. The conference was about creating a better story. The kind you live, not necessarily the kind you  write down.

And I wrote about it. Kind of. I wrote about traveling alone. And someone I met there. But have yet to really tackle the content. Because to be honest, I never really did my homework. Just this week some friends asked me about it. Again. And I figured it was time. So last night,  I pulled out my binder and my notebook filled with 23 pages of notes and 5 blank reflective assignments. And am finally going to start processing a little. In my usual way. By typing it out.

And to be honest I think people expected a little too much of me when I got home.  Or maybe I expected a little too much from being there. Actually I did try and write about it back then. I just never got very far, never hit publish and this is what I found rotting in my drafts folder:
So I feel like I might be a little bit of a let down. I went to this amazing conference a few weeks ago, that my husband sacrificed money and frequent flier miles for me to attend. He bought me the ticket. Booked the flight and hotel and pushed me to go. Some of my friends gave me buckets of encouragement. Promised to take head shots and be first in line to buy my book.
And I came home just the same girl.
I’m afraid some of you were expecting me to come home with an, “I’m going to become this big writer action plan”. But my plan is just to keep writing. To keep getting better. And more importantly to try and live better. Because I can’t write good stories if I don’t experience them. I don’t have any new special connections. I don’t have any book deals or query letters or 5 year plans. Every day I’m just going to wake up and “keep putting something on the plot.” (And no, I’m not suddenly writing fiction. That is just Donald Miller talk for the work that goes into creating.) I had hoped that this conference would be a big giant push or spark to move me to the next step. But I still don’t know what the next step is. If I’m honest, I am pretty sure there is a book in me. But right now, I just don’t know what it is about.

And that is all still pretty true.
But people kept bugging me and asking. So last night when I opened my notebook.
The first thing I had written down was this.

“Is there a category for you? I doubt it.”

And this was probably only about 10 minutes into my weekend. And that sometimes who we are and what we are good at isn’t always something you can major in. Or a box you can check on career options. But that shouldn’t deter you from pursuing or becoming even if you can’t get a degree in it or usually see it printed on a business card or fit it into a genre.

And I guess I like that thought. Because often I feel like I don’t fit neatly into any category. When people ask what I write. I get all flustered. I tell them I ramble. Which doesn't really get you very far in the literary world I assure you.

And in the blogging world. I don’t really follow those rules either. And there are very specific rules.
Comment. Follow. Link up. Lots of pictures. Ask questions. Talk about things like last nights episode of Glee or potty training or especially breast feeding. That people like light and funny and kitchy. And learn to take really  good pictures. Post every day. More pictures. Throw in some recipes. Write lists. Chose your labels and categories carefully to maximize  searches. More comments. More linkys. And if you talk about Jesus. Fine. Use lots of verses. Don’t ask questions and especially don’t cuss. Be sure to mention Ann’s newest book (ok, I really can’t wait to read it…and yes Tina that is a direct hint to bring me my copy).

 And most importantly. Pick your category. And stick to it. 
And there are plenty to choose from: food blogs, mommy blogs, photography blogs, devotional style blogs, school blogs, book blogs and funny sarcastic blogs.

And I am not making fun. I read them all. My google reader is completely out of control.

But I’m not really sure where I fit. Because mostly I don’t. And I don’t have an impressive amount of followers. Although it always surprises me that anyone besides me and my husband actually read this at all. Sometimes I go weeks without checking my stats. Sometimes I do it a dozen times a day. Sometimes, even though it is painful, I have to hit "mark all as read" on my google reader. I rarely link up. I don’t comment nearly as often as I should on other people’s blogs. Mostly because I never know what to say. And I absolutely will not follow someone just so they will follow me. And I have kids, and love them the best, but I only occasionally write about them. This isn’t exactly a mommy blog. I am a teacher and often talk about work, but you will never finding me posting lesson plans here.  I use too many four letter words for this to be categorized as an inspirational blog.  In person I am funny and ridiculous (at least I think I am). But here, not so much…so it isn’t really a funny sarcastic blog either.  I have one of those fancy cameras but hardly know how to use it. I like to cook, but never write down recipes and rarely follow them.  I am not a fan of breast feeding or homeschooling (and am pretty sure that sentence will have my blog black listed…and yes I did the first one with both kids and do the other for a living so don’t hate). Which scraps some of the other categories too. 

In other words. I don’t think there is a category for me.  Don’t ask me what kind of stuff I write. I don’t know. Pretty much just whatever comes out. Which is sometimes about relationships. Sometimes about poverty. Sometimes about Jesus. Sometimes about my kids. Sometimes about music. Sometimes it is a funny rant. Sometimes it is about books I've read or conversations I've had. And I'm sure I'm leaving some topics out.

And guess what. That is ok. Maybe even better.
There doesn’t have to be a category for everything.
Because it turns out, we don’t have to fit ourselves into genres or labels or business cards. 
That sometimes all fitting in does is limit you.

getting bigger.

"How is that hardly any major religion has looked at science and concluded, 'This is much better than we thoguht! The universe is much bigger than our prophets said, grander, more subtle, more elegant?' Instead they say,'No, no, no! My god is little god and I want him to stay that way.' A religion old or new, that stressed the magnificance of the Universe as revealed by modern science might be able to draw forth reserves of reverence and awe hardly tapped by the conventional faiths."The Big Blue Dot - Carl Sagan.

I am teacher. I’ve brought that up plenty on here. But still usually people that don’t know me get confused. They assume that I am an English teacher. Which is laughable to me because I am not a good speller. Am queen of the fragment (see that was one) and use more than my share of be verbs ( a big writing no no).Turns out I teach science. I even have a Masters degree in it.

And I have sat through all the classes where the biology professors belittle Christianity. Sometimes subtlely and sometimes outright. And it has made me squirm in my seat a little. Ask myself some hard questions and read the few books out there than mix science and faith well. And I’ll be honest. There aren’t many. Because usually when scientists try to write about faith and when preachers try to write about science they are both out of their element and get plenty wrong. And I’ve heard some preachers I really respect sound really stupid when they start trying to teach me about my bad science. And inevitebly there is always a student, armed with questions and paraphinalia from their youth director all to ready to tell me that I am going to hell if I bring up the E word. (which I of course do).
And I’ve never gotten the controversy. The either/or – pick one sentiment that seems to be out there. I have never thought they were in opposition. The whole idea that Galileo was charged with heresy put in prison for supporting Copernicus’s idea of the Earth rotating around the sun ( rather than the popular so called biblical view of the Sun moving around the Earth) was ludicrous to me. I didn’t understand how this was any kind of threat to someone's faith.

And that was hundreds of years ago. But I still don’t get it. The idea that science and discovery are some threat to God.And I guess if you believe in Genesis as six literal 24 hour days and a God creating all the species in the world, fixed and unchanging made their way on to and off of the ark, then a Biology book can really put a kink in things.

In science, we try to avoid the word “proof” and “truth” because things are actually really hard to prove. But really easy to disprove. Technically you can't prove your hypothesis, you can only disprove it. It only takes one little exception to disprove a theory or law or throw out a otherwise fantastic theory. It can be true in 1001 situations, and it just takes one to throw it out. To change the rules. To re-write the science books.

And if build a narrow, rulesly God that we think has to fit our exact constraints and views and literal translations– then it would only takes one really good question or set of data to bring it all crumbling down. And what do we do with that. Does that make everything else invalid too? There is no re-writing the Bible.

But what if our God was bigger than that. Bigger than our interpretations. Bigger than our questions and occasionally wrong answers. Then instead of faith crumbling when faced with a question or idea that maybe we had gotten wrong it could grow and stretch and hold it all.

And I've started reading a book, that to be honest I was kind of afraid of, The God Delusion,by Richard Dawkins. A friend's son gave it to me after having his entire faith rocked after sitting the same Biology lecture hall I sat in 15 or so years ago. And he is coming at me hard with all kinds of questions and arguments. And this book scares me because I know that he is going to use some really good sceince to try and disprove my God. That I already have more than my share of questions and wasn't sure I could handle any more.
And so far I'm on page 67. And he has made some good points. And some questionable ones. But, I won't be losing any sleep tonight over what I've read. And that maybe there was nothing to be afraid of after all.
Because my faith isn't a hypothesis.
And my bible isn't a textbook.
It is a love story.
And I'm pretty sure that my God has grown at least a little bit bigger.

the weekend playlist...and a little whining.

My weekend has been less than stellar.
Currently I am not a fan of my sinuses, snot in general, Sundays without naps, the fact that we don’t have any Kleenex in the house, the mess that is my living room, 2 year old temper tantrums, how cold it is outside and the fact that WalMart has less that ¼ of it’s lanes open at any given time.

But since I just don’t want to whine – a few things that I do like about my weekend: the 9 hours of uninterrupted sleep I got last night thanks to some Nyquil and a really nice husband, the dance party I had with my kids instead of cleaning my bathroom, the soup I made for dinner last night……….and all these songs.



and this girl isn't on grooveshark...but i love her too.

a mustard tree

The prosperity gospel has always made me a little sick to my stomach.

Not that I don’t like the idea that if I ask God for a Cadillac, or big screen TV or new wardrobe and keep asking and have enough faith. That God will deliver.
Trust me, I like stuff. A lot. It is kind of a problem for me. And for most Americans.
But. I don’t think God particularly wants to give me a big check or TV or new car just because I believed enough that he would.

Because what happens when he doesn’t come through.
What if the check doesn’t come.
Or the test results are negative.
Or when the phone rings in the middle of the night.
Where does that leave my faith or my God.
Is it big enough to still believe after that?

And because I think there are plenty of people out there with way more faith than me.
Living with way less. Praying really important prayers. That aren’t always answered the way we wish. And that it has absolutely NOTHING to do with faith. But mostly about a really big God whose timing and goodness I don’t always get to see all at once.

One time. Not so many months ago I was sitting on one of my favorite couches and talking with friend who was in crisis mode. She wondered aloud that maybe if she just believed enough. That God would come through for her. That she just needed more faith. And to trust. And to maybe start going to church again. That those magic three ingredients would guarantee what we were all praying for.
And what do you say to that.
“Yes. Exactly. Just have more faith and everything will be ok.”
I couldn’t say that because I didn’t know. And because sometimes it isn’t ok.
And I was going through my own season of questions and sad and rifts. And I was in no capacity to be a cheerleader or spew out nonsense about having more faith. There wasn't any extra in my pocket to hand out. But I did know that it wasn’t a matter of faith. Or trust. Or sin. Or reading her bible or going to church or doing good things. All I could do was pray. And sit on the couch. And hope.

One time, mid-lecture on forgiveness, Jesus’s apostles asked him for more faith.
“Increase our faith” they asked boldly. (Luke 17:5 NIV). And who better to ask than Jesus. And faith is a good thing, surely he would give them more if they asked for it. It is kind of like my kid asking for another serving of vegetables. Of course I'd give them more. But, I’m not so sure why they even needed more faith in the first place. They were hanging out every day with the son of God. They had seen him heal the sick, cast out demons, turn water into wine, feed thousands with a few loaves and all kinds of other mind boggling stuff. If faith is “being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1). They had seen. They were there. I’m not sure why they really felt the need to ask Jesus for more of it.

Unless of course they wanted to be able to do more of the things Jesus did.
Like forgive.
And walk on water.
Or even move mountains.

And Jesus didn’t reach in his pocket and start handing out more faith when his best friends asked for it. Or lay hands on them. Or pray for them. He didn't tell them to have more quiet times or study the scripture or start a new bible study or even go volunteer in the church nursery. He didn’t mention the prayer of Jabez. I’m pretty sure his answer shocked them.

He told them they didn’t really need much.
That they only needed a mustard seed worth.
That a tiny bit was enough. For almost anything.

And so this idea that we need more faith is false.
We only need a smidge.
To uproot trees or move mountains.
To pray for our friends. And to show up. 
To thank God when he answers those prayers with a beautiful sweet and perfect baby girl. When seasons pass. When questions are answered and when they aren't.
Or to keep believing anyways when we don’t get the answer we want.

And most importantly to grow.
Because seeds are supposed to become trees.



 
 
 
photocredits: seed: http://happylotus.com/2009/10/08/mustard-money-and-fear-what-is-going-on/
                        tree: http://canfaithandmoneymix.com/applications/WebBlogManager/inc_webblogmanager.asp

messy



I went to visit a good friend this weekend. When I walked into her town house, the Christmas tree was still up. The laundry piled on a chair in the basement where I was sleeping and toys scattered the floor.
When I asked for a broom (as a prop, not for cleaning purposes), she told me she didn’t have one. To which her husband replied. Yes we do. Beside the fridge.
It was just like my house. But neater.

The other day I had some friends over unexpectedly and we had to make our way through dolls and toys and legos just to put our purses down. And I didn't even flinch.
Because they know me. It wasn't the first time they have seen laundry baskets in my living room, dog hair in the corners and dirty dishes in the sink. They know my mess. And came in anyways.

Most of my favorite friends don't require knocking, much less picking up first. Or makeup. Or even getting out of my pjs.

Sometimes me and another friend send pictures back and forth to see whose house is messier. And I shockingly, I don't always win.
Or some pictures of ourselves that would make me cry if they ever made it to facebook.
And for some reason.
The messy makes me like them even more.
Because.
Seeing someone’s mess, makes me feel better about my own.
(and that statement alone should tell you that I have issues!)
And I don’t mean so much my dirty laundry or my greasy hair.
But mostly my not so together cluttered heart.
I’m tired of hiding it. Of trying to pick up. Of not letting people in my car because they might never find their way through all the coffee cups and juice boxes.
Of showing them the picked up ready for company version of me.
Instead. Seeing someone’s mess. Means it is ok to show them mine.
The dirty dishes. The junk drawer. Those habits that I still can’t break. My questions. That I can sometimes be mean or jealous or insecure. Because what I’m afraid of most isn’t that telling you that I can’t remember the last time I changed my son’s sheets. Or that I haven’t plugged in the vaccum in over a month. That I actually prefer to wear dirty jeans. But that not only are my closets a mess, but that so is the rest of me.
And lets be honest.
Most of us are. Atleast parts of us.
So, show me yours and I’ll show you mine.

open seat

A nudge. That I ignored. A small voice in my head that told me to find the teenage mom I had seen on the plane and buy her lunch. Instead I convinced myself she was fine. If she could buy a plane ticket. Surely she could buy lunch. So I ordered my green tea, found my book, plugged in my ipod and read until they could find us another plane. And I was totally wrong.

After hours delayed, they finally let us reboard. And I kind of hate Southwest’s policy of choosing your own seats. Usually I look for a someone with a book out, so I know that I will be uninterrupted for the majority of my flight.
I got a few rows back. And saw her again. The one I didn’t buy lunch. And thought, even though her baby screamed the whole way here, that I have a pretty high screaming tolerance. My kids have done their share. And that maybe I’d be a little more understanding than most. That maybe the kid would just take a nap this flight. Both of them.

Instead I got a little more than I bargained for.
Within minutes the mom had asked me to be her facebook friend and told me when she lost her virginity.
I happily asked to hold the baby and got her through take off without too many screams by getting her to take a bottle. Eventually she took a nap, and mom stowed her below the seat. Right next to my backback. I tried not to say anything and read my book. I even got out my headphones. But, mom kept talking. She wanted to open the window (ON THE PLANE), she wanted to tell me about the party she went to the night before, about her new tattoo, about her plans to go back to school, about her boyfriend, how much she loved her daughter, about her c-section, about how much she was unsure of.

And I listened. And did my best not to judge. Which took some effort. And picked the baby up off the floor. And we giggled. The baby. The mom and me. And we talked about music and teething and if she had a ride or a coat and how cute her little girl was.

And I tried to sneak in a few nuggets. Like that smoking (anything) is bad for her asthma. And the baby. The marijuana is in fact illegal. That her baby might have pink eye and need some drops. That she has a tooth coming in. That gum will help her ears pop (the mom not the baby). That my tattoo is about Jesus. That we all screw up. But that when you have kids you have to stop being one and that is hard no matter how old you are. That you should take help any where you can get it. From nice guys on airplanes who are willing to rock your screaming baby up and down the aisle while you chat in the back. From ex-boyfriends mom’s who buy you plane tickets and hamburgers and give you a place to sleep. And from a girl, who eventually shoves her book back in her backpack. Who does her best to just listen. Who writes back.

And it would have been easy to sit somewhere else. Far away from screaming and needy. Or it would have been easy to turn up my headphones. Or to judge. Or to lecture. Or to preach. To not hear her story or hold her baby or to wipe the spitup off my shirt.

And when my friend came to pick me up. I was waiting at baggage claim, rocking this sweet little thing. While mom charged her cell phone in the bathroom.

And her mom needed a little help. Not a lecture. To be listened to and not judged. Which is most likely the case no matter who you are sitting next to.

an ordinary wednesday night

Right now my son and husband are on the floor matching socks. It just might take them all night.

Earlier while I was on the treadmill at the gym, my daughter chunked a snowglobe, a big glass one, at her older brother. Thankfully she missed.

We all ate our weight in queso at dinner (and yes we had more than just queso for dinner, but I’m counting salsa as a vegetable tonight). And I'm thinking that the queso and the treadmill kind of cancel each other out.

I think Owen snuck some soap into the dishwasher tonight because just a few minutes after turning it on foam poured all over kitchen floor. It looked like something from I love Lucy. Shaun got frustrated because I laughed and wanted to take a picture rather than actually turn the thing off and try to clean it up.

Tess is always in my makeup. Usually she just paints her face up ridiculously. Tonight she got my foundation and rubbed ALL of it into the carpet.


Not long after the snow globe incident, Tess and her brother snuggled in a laundry basket and played some kind of made up game involving pretending to be dogs.

And speaking of the dog, she is sick. We had this dog long before we had kids. And tonight, we are giving her just a little bit of the attention she used to get back then. At 2 am however, my patience and attention factor will be waning if she coughs all night like she did last. I thought she just had a hairball (do dogs even get those?), Shaun thought it was pneumonia. 150$ later and the vet just tells us to go buy some Robitussin.

Shaun measured Tess on the doorframe tonight. She has grown 2 inches in the last 2 months. I think this has to be a mistake, but it’s probably not.

I should have had Tess in bed an hour ago.

As I type, me and Shaun are watching some TV. This is rare. And I'm a good multitasker. So I'm not even going to try and blame the fact that I am watching TV and blogging at the same time as an excuse for such a boring and random post.

That was a list of a slew of ordinary boring nothing moments. Ones I’d be hard pressed to tell you about next week or maybe even tomorrow. Because I wouldn't remember them.
Ones that maybe don’t belong in any blog post or mean anything to anyone but me.
But I’m going to write them down anyways.
Because they are mine.
And my families.
And I want to keep as many of them as I can.
Because sometimes the ordinary moments are just as important as the big ones.

hard.

Some days my job is really hard.
And it isn’t the days where I have a zillion papers to grade.
Or where a student calls me a bitch.
Or another tries to argue me out of points on a test.
When they lose my restroom pass or their book. Again.
When they break another test tube or steal my last pen.
When they ask me to repeat what I just spent the last hour explaining because they were asleep.
Or when the copy machine is broken or I forgot the quiz I stayed up late writing at home.
Not when I have meeting after meeting or even mind numbing training that I will never use.
Not even when I have angry parent phone messages that make me sweat.
Or when I have a screaming headache and still need to teach the 150+ kids how to calculate specific heat.
Not even when I have ridiculous paperwork to fill out, TAKS tests or hall duty.
Not when half my class is falling asleep and I’m tempted to let them or even when APs pop in unannounced.
Those days are easy compared to the few have had recently.

Days spent visiting kids in the hospital, or hugging them after they have lost almost everything in a fire, or are afraid to go home.

Because that is part of my job too.
Loving them.
Letting my heart break for them.
And not knowing what the hell to do or how to make it better.
But trying anyways.

Sitting on hard church pews when their dad commits suicide.
Or their brother is hit by a car.
Trying to ignore they fact that they are wearing the same clothes they wore yesterday. And the day before that.
Sending them a note when they go to rehab. Trying to catch them up when they get back.
Hoping that they have lunch money or a place to sleep.
Overdoses. Car wrecks. Suicide attempts. Cuts. Bruises. Bloodshot eyes.

And don’t get me wrong.
There are plenty of boring lectures.
And normal teenage drama.
And even lots and lots of laughing and jokes and even an occasional thank you.
There are lots of good days.
And normal cranky-tired-spilled-coffee kind of days.
But the hard days.
The ones where their eyes spill over.
And mine do too.
Are my absolute least favorite.
But I’m starting to think that maybe they matter the most.


(and since that was super depressing, watch the cutest thing I have seen all week...and what NPR had to say about it here.

weekend playlist: bad weather dance party

It has been a long week.
my own kids sick, hard at school, broken car, washing machine and toilet. and of course some additional drama.
And outside is even worse. Cold, rain, snow and overall yuck.
Which means there is only one thing to do. Get on your jammies and dance it out in the living room.



I'm a ___________, but I want to be a ______________.

That was the question posed on Jon Acuff’s blog about a week ago.

And I thought about emailing him my answer.
But wasn’t 100% sure what the answer was.

I clearly remember sitting on my roommate’s squishy tan couch, almost exactly ten years ago, filling out job applications with my feet propped up on the coffee table while chewing on my pen.
I was moving and getting married and needed a teaching job in my new town.
I only applied for three districts. All of which I've worked in over the last decade.

But one application ended with this question;
“If you could do anything you wanted for a living what would it be?”
Which sounds a lot like Jon’s question.
And kind of caught me off guard.
I mean I had a degree in science and education and already had a year under my belt. That is what I was applying for.
And something I really liked and was even pretty passionate about.
Why the heck are they asking me about my dreams?

And I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to write.
If the safe answer was to tell that that if I could do anything at all that I do exactly what I was applying for. To be a highschool teacher.
But that wasn’t really true.
And before I could even really talk myself out of it I jotted down in neat black ink the first thing that came to my mind.
A professional soccer player or a writer.

Maybe it was a trick question. I didn’t even get an interview.

And the soccer player part. Well, who has never wanted to be a professional athlete at least once in their life? Paid to play a game. And the best at something. And I love playing soccer. I’m not all that great at it, but that has never stopped me from playing. And keep in mind I was only 22 at the time and Mia Hamm and Julie Foudy and Kristen Lily were bringing in gold metals, world cup titles and Nike and Gatorade endorsements hand over fist. I know it was kind of a silly answer, but it did say if you could be anything... And honestly, I am still a little envious of their perfect ponytails and ability to run 90 minutes nonstop (and gold metals).

But a writer.
I’m not even sure why I wrote that.
I was a math and science girl.
Sure I liked to read. And more often than not kept some kind of journal.
But I only took one English class in college and one technical writing class.
My English grades were ok. But no professor or teacher ever pulled me aside and suggested maybe I spend less time in the anatomy lab and try writing some poetry or an article for the school paper instead. I got a solid B and moved on to organic chemistry the next semester. And never thought about it again.
Until I was filling out that damn application that dared to ask me about my dreams.

And I've thought about it alot since then.
It comes up often enough. And it always makes me a little uncomfortable.
Because I occasionally think maybe I should be doing a little more to pursue it.
Or that I’m settling or biding time or just plain afraid.

But when I read it that question last week I didn’t have quite the same response.
I didn’t want to answer his question
“I’m a _teacher_ , but I want to be a _writer_.
(yes, I’ve long abandoned my dream of being the next mia hamm)

Instead, I wanted to re-write the question.
Not make it so either/or.
Something more along the lines of
“I’m a teacher, but I am also a writer” (and a mom, and a wife and friend and a runner and an occasional soccer player for that matter).

So the first half of my answer may not be me living my dream, but it is me doing something that I do love, that pays some of my bills and is never boring. It has a healthcare plan and a retirement plan and plenty of days off. For all that other stuff.
And whose to say we have to choose.
Why do we have to have a one word answer to what we do?

I just finished Brene Brown’s book, and there is a chapter on finding meaningful work and struggling how to define who we are in an honest way. And she suggests we use a lot of slashes or commas when someone asks about our job.
That we are all teachers/writers.
Or accountants/chefs
Or engineers/builders/designers
Or stay-at-home moms/photographers.

And I like that.
And wish that more people answered with slashes or alsos or commas.
Even though it is a little bit hard sometimes to say those second parts out loud.
Your dreams and your passions and hopes instead of just where the paycheck comes from.

And maybe you are lucky enough to not need a slash or an also or a comma.
But most of us do.
And next time someone asks me what I do.
I hope they have a minute.
Because they might just get a really long answer.
One with slashes and commas.
And most importantly dreams.

thebword

One time I did this bible study where they passed out a circle with about 8 wedges. Perfectly and evenly divided. And each represented some category of our life: faith, family, fun, fitness. Etc. I don’t think they all started with f, but they might as well have.  You had to start at the center of the circle and draw an arc for each wedge at where you were. The middle being a 0, the outer edge being ideal at 10.  I went around drawing in my arcs for each category and I was all over the board.  Some lines were near the edge, others closer to the center. 

And then the kicker. 
The speaker said that this represented a wheel.

And then asked us how bumpy our ride was.
And let’s just say my ride wouldn’t roll.  But that 10s in every category shouldn’t be the goal. That some areas need to be moved up a notch and others moved down and eventually everything will go smoothly.

I loved this picture. Mainly because I was tired of feeling like I could never reach those 10s. But I could make some minor adjustments and I was ready to feel balanced.
And in control. And be better at it.

I liked it so much, I even copied those handouts and taught that same lesson to another group of women a few months later.
But it was all a bunch of crap.  Or at least partly. Because there is no magic formula on how to get it right or make it easy. And yes, I am always need of adjustment. But seeking balance was giving me a lot to juggle all at once. And some false hope that there was some magic combination of my energy that would be perfect and easy and the version of me where I have it all together and don’t forget the snack at soccer practice, or have a messy living room or fall asleep trying to pray, again. That all I needed to do was keep shuffling my wedges.
This lesson was probably about six years ago. And it is a new year, so yesterday in the middle of a really good sermon, I cracked out my blank notebook and broke my life into categories and made goals for each one. They weren’t wedges in a pie but they might as well have been. And they were all good lofty things to be seeking (and I won’t be listing them hear b/c thankfully accountability didn’t make my list!)….but again, they were some magic formula to get to some new and improved better version of me.

Eventually, I put my notebook away and started listening. And the guy was saying some really good stuff. And I almost missed it, because I was too busy smoothing out my ride to pay attention to what I really needed to hear.
And last night I tried to get some work done and go to bed early because my rest and productivity wedges needed a little upgrading. But then my daughter spiked a fever and threw up (on me). And suddenly she was the only piece of pie that mattered.

And I’m still pursuing better, but at 2 am there is no balance. And life is bumpy. And instead of trying to even things out maybe I need to focus on whatever is right in front of me. Rather than the other 7 pies that I seem to keep dropping.

Because things are much easier to carry one at time.

(and I'd love to steal the credit for that great title, but it is a chapter in a book I love love love by Nancy Ortberg called Looking for God: an unexpected journey through tattoos,tofu and pronouns, where she says pretty much the same things I just did, but of course....better.)

resolutions

Last year I don’t think I made any formal resolutions at all.

The year before we did it as a family.
When I was in high school I wrote pages and pages of them every year.
And this year I’m still a little unsure..
I mean, they are pretty much just a repeat of the last ten years.
Lose weight, pray more, spend less money, budget my time better, don’t leave wet clothes in the washing machine for a week, listen more, parent better, actually plug in the vacuum.
You get the idea.
And they are always the same.
Which makes me beg the question, what is the point?
If I am resolving the same things every year. If I didn’t get it right in 2005, what makes me think that this will be my year.

And don’t worry, I’ve never had to add don’t be so cynical to my list.
But this year I am going to be a little more realistic.
I have no expectations that in 2011 I am finally going to get it together.
That I’m going to have clean baseboards and graded papers and fit back into my skinny jeans.
But, I might. at least for a little while.
and
Better is still worth pursuing.
I’ll take fresh starts and clean slates anyway you want to present them.
On the 1st day of the year.
Or the 8th after I’ve already screwed up.
Or some random Tuesday in July.

It is one of my favorite things about my job.
Every new school year is a clean start.
And I have never done it exactly the same way twice. Every year I tweak and try new policies and labs and even rearrange my desks. Sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t. But every year I try to do it better. And I should probably retire when I just do everything the same.

And I’m still not going to give anyone a formal list of new year’s resolutions (although I have a few in my head). But I am going to pursue better. And this is the easiest time of year to do it because everyone else is. Even if it is just for the next month or few days. And next January I can try again.
Or next week.
Or some random Tuesday in July.