Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Balancing Act

Last weekend we did an activity with a group of 5th and 6th graders at our church.  In the activity there was a plate that was passed around a circle of students.  Each child was asked to share something they were required to do this past week and then add a plastic cup to the plate.  The object of the activity was to stack/balance as many cups on the plate as possible without any of them falling. The kids said things like: walk the dog, go to camp, take the trash out….one set of siblings said: do mission work in Bolivia- (fair enough, they didn’t really have a choice in that.)  Each student cautiously stacked one cup at a time.  My husband was visibly surprised when the plate made it completely around the circle.

Unfortunately, when the cups started to fall, they didn’t fly off the plate in a dramatic explosion…. they simply stacked quietly, one on top of another. 

The obvious message: When there is too much on your plate, things that are important will be neglected or eliminated.  In this case:  your prayer life, praise for God, being in community with others.  Truth statement:  Everyone is over scheduled, sadly, even some 12 year olds. 

The activity was entirely too ironic.  At the beginning of the summer, another woman stepped down from teaching because her schedule was becoming consumed by the activities of her daughters.  I finally volunteered to teach at church.  I had resisted for years (seven years to be exact.)  I had staked out that hour and a half of quiet time as mine. Mine mine mine. However, when this opportunity arose this summer, I thought I was ready and I added that cup to my plate.

Immediately, things started to stack up.   I was tired.  I was resentful.  I was desperate for quiet time. Caring for two young kids full time this summer was an exhausting transition.  Now the hour and a half of quiet time was trumped yet again by needing to do something for someone else.  I thought I could handle it, but it was too much.  I needed to be alone.  Alone with God, alone to people watch, alone to stare off into space…just alone.

Even more ironic, I had prayed about my decision to teach at church during this time and God told me nothing.  Even though I had no response to my requests for guidance, I decided teaching at church wasn’t right for me.   I emailed the head of children’s ministries.  I needed quiet time with God back on my plate.  She understood. In her response she said “God knows and provides.”  Ironically, teaching children about God was the thing to purge.  The next morning, God sent me this activity to teach the children.  He does know.  Message received.

You choose to put things on your plate.

It is not my intention to construct a deep and reflective post with suggestions of how to juggle it all. What I am suggesting, is put things on your plate that you honestly WANT to spend time balancing and purge the rest.  Stop lamenting that there are too many things on your plate and start throwing shit out! I am worth it and so are you!

Don't be this guy!
Lets honor what we want to balance on our plate.  You want to make space on your plate to write blog posts? Do it.  You want to have family time from 5:30-8:30? Do it. 

I balance my marriage, my young children, my friends and family, my job, my need to exercise slowly for 30 minutes a day, my blog and my quiet time. I purged teaching at church. It was a selfish decision and I don’t regret it.  I already feel more at ease.  Come fall, I will spend an hour and a half in church, in quiet reflection and prayer.  What are you going to purge to make room on your plate for the things that bring you balance?

Saturday, July 19, 2014


Today my co-workers gathered to celebrate the life of our friend, Ed, who died earlier this year.  He was 48.  (One of the many reasons why January and February sucked-ass this year.)

This past week was Ed's birthday and it was decided that we should gather today to be with his wife and daughter.  The weather was forgiving: partly cloudy and warm.  Co-workers discussed their summer adventures, some lamenting that only a month remained. Kids shared toys willingly.  Adults sipped iced coffee while passing babies.

ONE of Ed's favorite sayings was: "Whatever."  (Emphasize the Boston-ish/Southern NH accent: so "Whateva" but say it as you exhale.)  In fact, this saying was so well known that it was on his obituary card.

Ride home from BBQ:
-Why did we go to the BBQ today?

Well, my friend died and moved to heaven. So today we were getting together with his friends and family so we can be together. (It was his birthday this week and that must suck.)

-Why did he move to heaven?

Because he got very sick, very fast and his heart stopped working. (Heart attack)


I'm not sure. 

-Maybe he should get a new heart.

Gut Punch. (Please anyone change the subject)...

....Because sometimes it's not as simple as whatever.  Sometimes, its admiting that the way he lived his life was an example to us all.  He was kind- and for him it was effortless to serve others.  He helped others in their precise moment of need.  Precision is a crucial component to kindness.  I think that's what I learned from his time on Earth....because if you offer to help when it's too late, that's not helpful.

I know if he were to read this he would make fun of me and call me a something slightly offensive.  So I'll stop now.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Special Snowflakes

Throw-back to fall of 2005.  I was a 22 year old, first year teacher.  I had a classroom of my own.  I had on my uniform: high heels, big earrings and a structured blazer. I was teaching ninth grade science and I was going to change the world!  I shifted back and forth on my Payless pumps.  I cautiously took attendance in a room full of students whose names, I had practiced several times the night before, but still didn’t get right.

During attendance, I met a lively young fellow named Nicholas, who, when asked if he had a nickname he preferred, he said, “why yes, can you call me snowflake?” (Insert sheer terror and profuse sweating due to irony that he wasn’t Caucasian and God forbid I have an unscripted interaction)  In that pivotal moment, I cursed my educational philosophy teachers and my mentor, but I still made the best professional decision ever:

I methodically sassed his ass.

I addressed him with a creepy monotone voice: “Nicholas, while you will always be a special snowflake to me, I will never call you snowflake, now please get out of my chair or go to the bubbler.

Not a week later we were making metric measurements in the hallway and there he was doing the breaststroke with his chest on the floor and arms and legs flailing.  He was a special snowflake and I identified him as such over a glass of wine to my teacher friends.

Thus coining the term “special snowflake.”  Snowflakes are special.  Nicholas was special.  Special snowflake, special friends, Thomas the tank engine gets a “special” assignment. The other day my son asked me what we were doing today that was special….. and I nearly stopped breathing.  To think that I had produced a child who felt like he was so special that I had to entertain him and orchestrate this ah-mazing day, every day?!  I was unnerved because lately, I have not felt special, or noteworthy or really significant at all. 

All of my superpowers seem stupid.  Like packing, parallel parking, cutting up an avocado or talking about asexual/sexual reproduction using the correct terminology and then fielding follow up questions for days (true.story.).  Well nothing spurs a good thinking sesh like a few hours in an airport.  I was sitting in Reykjavik and I finally came to the realization that it was ok that I was special for simple, seemingly unremarkable things.

I literally had to fly across the Atlantic to realize: That everyone was special to someone. The value is only in the eye of the beholder.  Whether they know who thinks they are special or have yet to meet them. Things don’t have to be fucking Earth-Shattering.  My special, spiritual, God given gifts might be quiet and understated and if they bring me joy and others joy then that will be enough.

I looked around the airport and I tried to imagine everybody’s special traits .  I assigned them stories and gifts.  Patience.  Love.  Compassion. Self control.  A mother and her four pre-teen children playing a board game while waiting and NONE of them were brooding to use a mobile device (that deserves a Nobel Prize.)

Nicholas was special.  I am not sure where he ended up.  I know he bounced in and out of foster homes during his time in high school and he was troubled and angry.  He had a foul mouth and a wild streak.   His grades would peak and valley.  But no matter how much of a jackass he was, he always stopped by to visit, sit in my chair and made sure to tell me the good things.

Saturday, July 12, 2014


Having been home now for two weeks with my kids we have been out and about quite a bit. 

*climbs up on my soapbox*  
People: “What is up with this subset of adults that feel like incessant chatter/praise/narrating to their children is necessary in public places?! “ Ugh. Could we be a little bit quieter?

Lily, do you see the slide? The blue, slippery twisty, shiny symmetrical slide?  Do you think it’s hot? How can we find out?Lily throws her body downs the slide ignoring mother.  “Ohhh thank youuuuu so much for coming down the slide feet first.  I really appreciate it.  Oh no Lily, please don’t eat wood chips. No, not healthy, no thank youuuu.

Why the chatter? Is it to subconsciously prove to others that you have ah-mazing parenting skills?  Because FYI: You can have ah-mazing parenting strategies, but your kids can still be little sassy assholes when you are out in public.  Maybe, your kid just wants to play and explore, maybe they want to do this in peace.

Is it the working parent guilt morphing into verbal vomit?  Are you trying to cram “teachable moments” into every freakin’ second of the day? Did you not get the memo? It’s my summer vacation and I crave silence as much as possible.  So please take the narration station to the far side of the playground.

Is it that you are craving adult conversation and only have your toddler around? You should make a list of talking points for when you call your bestie during nap-time.  I’ve done it. It’s life.  My kids don’t care about my smart, color blocked, cocktail dress.

I want to observe my surroundings.  I want to be reflective.  I want to be curious.  I want to have space in the air for the silence to rest so I can process all of Earth’s stuff.  So if this means quietly standing by the swings as I watch a deer prance by in the early morning sunshine, so be it.  We’ll talk about it in a few minutes.

So let’s review…Verbal re-directs for less than ideal behavior when necessary? Fine.   Praise when son is playing side by side with daughter peacefully for the first time all day?  Yes.  A mention if there is an active construction site coming up? You bet.  Answering your child when they say “mama!” ten thousand times? Lovingly respond only 5 thousand times (to build character).

But please, the hovering, smothering, redirecting, narrating, saturated with praise chatter….it’s exhausting.  If I am tired of it, I am sure your own offspring are tired of it as well, so please be quiet.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Precipitation: A Haiku Revisited

It's not me, it's you.
My sweat can't evaporate,
Please precipitate

Obviously if it was raining, I would grab my husband and go outside and make out immediately.

annnnd only 4 months ago the original Precipitation Haiku was penned.  New Hampshire weather is insane annnd the inside of my house is 84 degrees. Bolf (be on the lookout for) dehydration and grumpiness.