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...

what she said

a few random conversations lately..

at Pappadeux while trying to convince Tess to put her shoes back on that she had kicked off under the table, while she was arguing that she wanted the purple ones with the flower on them..
Me: Tess, those shoes are at the house.
Tess: No! They are at MY house.
Me: My house IS your house.
Tess: Well, my house is messy then.
Me: Yes it is. Now, put your flip flops back on!

still at Pappadeux
Waiter to Shaun: Can I get you another Shiner?
Owen: Nope, I'm good. (with a slight head nod).
Me: (spit my entire mouthful of iced tea into my Greek salad)

while recouping on the couch after surgery last week, Owen comes comes strolling in the living room carrying a bottle of beer.
Owen: Mom, is this the yummy drink I was sharing with Annie (my mom) last weekend?
Me: I sure hope not! ...(got off the couch, rummaged in fridge until I found an IBC creme soda)...Is this it??
Owen: Oh, yes.
Me: good! and I only knew because you said Annie, not PawPaw

in class
student A to student B: you can turn it in now or next class.
student C: That's what she said!
Me: Really! if you are going to be innapropriate....atleast have it make sense!
student C: No, that is literally what you just said.
Me: oh. well, now it's funny.



and because I'm wishing i was at the House of Blues tonight listening to this guy...