5.30.14 Translation



So I’ve been with my husband for thirteen years now; in June we will be married for ten!  I was 21 when we got married, and even now, after having practically grown up together, we’re still trying to get it right.  The other day, what started out as a compliment from my husband somehow turned South and became a brilliant fail.  I can laugh about it today (not two days ago, but now, yes). Some people say that men and women speak different languages, but I don’t think that’s it.  I think we speak the same language … we just hear different things.  Somehow, between the time words leave his mouth and reach my ears, something is lost in translation.  But alas … intentions and expectations are not always running on the same frequencies, and in my experience, I’ve found they never have.

Take middle school relationships for instance – there’s an opportunity to learn from!  I’ll never forget being in sixth grade and having a crush on one particular blue-eyed-boy.  Well … his eyes started out blue, but quickly turned red when (in my awesome display of affection) I knocked his hat off, while simultaneously scratching his cornea.  Yeah.  The best part was having him call me that night to tell me the doctor’s report.  I sobbed apologies for about a half hour while he consoled me and assured me his temporary blurred vision wouldn’t last.  I saw a quote of epic genius to relay this nightmare attempt at dating. It said, “I don’t have to flirt, I will seduce you with my awkwardness.” And awkward it was … is … and might be forever I’m realizing. 

Times change, but humans don’t.  I look around me every day and see the same games of “let me pick on you to show you I like you,” or “how about I talk to so-and-so about you-know-who for you, so you don’t have to talk to them yourself.”  Hilarious.  I like to pretend that I was much more mature and that I was never “like them,” but I totally was.  I know it.  I remember my best friend and I practicing phone calls (back when people called each other), prepping for hours with outfits I would now consider hideous and scribbling names of potential future husbands on everything from notebook pages to shower-steamed mirrors.  My husband once admitted to me that he used to practice kissing oranges (a tip his sister taught him).  What amazes me is that we spend so much time devoting ourselves to communicating with one another and royally, epically crash and burn time and time again; and still … I think it is a problem of translation.

You know how when you speak another language, you sometimes need to change the order of the words, because they don’t quite match up and mean exactly what they would after converting them?  Well … that’s what happens.  A few weeks ago I witnessed it in my classroom.  The students were on their way out the door and the guy said to the girl, “Are you okay? You’re acting quiet.”

To which she said, “I’m fine.”

“Well what’s wrong?” he asked, obviously trying. “Will you text me later?”

“Why can’t you text me?” she asked?

And that’s where I intervened.  I couldn’t help it!  I had to!  It was like watching an unnecessary train-wreck in slow motion … I needed to save the poor kid! “Hun,” I said to the girl, “he is trying.  I know we girls are fickle and we don’t know what we want sometimes, but he’s really giving it everything he’s got here … you’ve gotta help him out.”

“Yeah,” the boy said nodding.

“Sometimes us girls are tough,” I told him.

“Yes,” he said, “sometimes you gotta just live like a dude.”

So there we go again … losing the battle of communication.  Because what on Earth does it mean to “live like a dude?”  Of course I told my husband about it and he “got it.”  Sometimes I think I can get close to “getting it,” I think I’m chill and cool … but if you have to tell yourself you’re cool how cool can you really be?  At heart I’m still that girl who accidentally punched the boy in the eye trying to get his attention.  And like my 13 year-old student listening for the right words, I’m waiting for my husband to say what I’m wanting to hear instead of what he actually says.   Poor guys … poor girls … none of us really have a clue do we?

The good news is, we keep trying, and somehow – it works.  In the case of my husband and I, I like to think that sometimes it isn’t all about the words; I always end up saying too many and waiting for him to say a few more.  We could be miserable with misinterpretations, or unmet expectations, but we aren’t.  Somehow we’re graced instead and vocabulary isn’t too much of an issue (usually).  It is like Shakespeare once said, “When I saw you, I fell in love; and you smiled, because you knew.”

So here’s to all those awkward conversations … the ones that get lost in translation, and the love we find – nevertheless.

Literarily yours,



5.27.14 Sticks and Stones and Scars



“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”  An old English nursery rhyme, this phrase was rumored to have been born somewhere near the early 1860s.  It is a popular phrase we all know well,  meant to act as a shield of sorts against taunts.  But regardless of how many times this chant is repeated, no matter how often it is said, or spread, or promised … it continues to be a boldfaced lie.  Because words can hurt.  They do hurt – someone, somewhere, every day; and today, they hurt me. 

It is funny because I totally didn’t see it coming, this – verbal slap in the face.  But it did.  And it stung.  It’s ironic what a punch a few strung-together letters can pack; enough to make me tear up at least.  The thing is, the words that hit us hardest aren’t necessarily even untrue … just unexpected.  Sometimes (as in my case today) they are too true – something we weren’t ready to face, something we didn’t think anyone noticed, something we were working on that obviously needs more work.  I think it is the truths and not the untruths that cut me the deepest.  I can handle defense when I know what isn’t real, but the pain of acknowledging what you didn’t want someone else to see?  That’s rough.  So yes, I disagree completely with the “sticks and stones” mantra.  Words don’t hurt–they scar.  They dig deep and plant strong roots that are sometimes hard to overcome or forgive ourselves for.  Whether invoked or spoken, deserved or deprecating, words are power personified, and thus must be spoken with care.

A few months ago, when studying the Holocaust, I did an activity with my students to illustrate this.  I asked them to anonymously write down the worst thing that had ever been said to them, crumple it up, and toss the paper into the middle of the circle.  I never ask my kids to do anything I wouldn’t be willing to share myself … I don’t believe in building walls when I am always trying so desperately to tear theirs down.  So, I began the activity by sharing my own word-induced pain.  After, each crumpled piece took its turn reviving the reality that words are dangerous, damaging things indeed.  Whether a threat, or a cuss, a demeaning term or a crushed dream, each small string of letters raked raw their pride, and soon, tears and hugs were the language shared.  It was a very powerful experience, and I’d like to say my own expressions were always so noble … but they are not.

I have to admit, though on the receiving end today, I am not innocent in this war of words.  I too have commenced battle and done more than my share of damage with angry terms spouted in the heat of the moment.  Sometimes, being quick to the draw with a comeback leaves you with more regret than satisfaction.  Like the smoke and sound that follow the shot of a gun, words too have a lasting essence.  They are not so easily dissipated, and though I might try to wave them away as if they don’t matter … they do.  I read that the 13th century Persian poet Rumi once said, “Silence is the language of God.”  If this is true, then silence is divine … and unfortunately, my relationship with words has too often revolved around having the last one.

As awful as it is to be on the receiving end, I think that sometimes it is good to be reminded of this power from the painful side.  When I’m in a battle of wits it is too easy to dismiss the repercussions of my sarcasm, but when words wound … I remember to use them with care.  Author Markus Zusak stated poetically, “I have hated words, and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right.”  So, every time I find myself on the other end of the sparring – every time I gain another verbal scar that leaves me speechless, I am going to try to find an ounce of peace in knowing that maybe, just maybe, it kept me from one more “last word” I won’t have to regret.

Literarily yours,



5.23.14 Snowballs


So, I have found that it isn’t big things that ruin a day … it’s little things.  From something as tiny as a paper cut, or missed email, to a typo or finger pinched in a desk drawer, fractional set-backs tend to pile up into monumental wastes of time, turning a sweet day sour.  I think last week I actually yelled at my stapler on the third jam and said, “You’re ruining my life!” (Not exaggerating at all … it totally was.)


I love the saying, “It’s just a bad start to a good day,” and I have used it many times, but I’m not going to lie when I say that some days are just better when they’re over.  I had one of those recently.  I was on my way to a book signing, running a little late, (as I always am when I straighten my hair) and realized I’d skipped deodorant.  I knew I’d be too nervous if I didn’t have any, so I stopped at the gas station (of course I was almost out of gas too).  As if that wasn’t enough of a set-back, I soon found out that they only had men’s deodorant … so, at the book signing, I kept my elbows tucked close to my sides so as not to smell too much like a man!  You’d think that would be enough, but crummy days just don’t roll like that.  They aren’t tiny snowflakes, harmless and drifting … no.  Days like this one have what’s commonly known as, the snowball-effect.  

Tiny annoyances stick and clump together, as if they’re magnetized.  If I were in charge of the universe, I think I’d work on dolling out gentle sprinkles of unfortunate events – a light dusting we could easily deal with.  But, in the word’s of Annie, “It’s a hard-knock life for us,” and no one leaves certain days unscathed.  You know it’s going to be rough when you’re half-way through your wardrobe, wading in the discarded piles of rejects on your closet floor, only to get to work and have someone say, “You look … different.”  When I asked good or bad, he replied, “just, uh … different.” Great.  Well, embarrassingly enough, “different” could have been code for, “I think something might be inside-out.”  On another day, it might mean, “You may not want to wear striped undergarments with that shade of pants.”  (Note to self to get better closet lighting!)

After work doesn’t necessarily mean things get easier.  Just the other day I picked up my daughter from school to see that she was, regardless of the dirty mulch, wearing slippers on the playground.  True, it was slipper day, but did that really mean daddy didn’t bring shoes!?!  It was a soccer night, so got home only to switch slippers for cleats.  There wasn’t enough time to eat dinner, but there was enough time to cry over the choice of snacks and bend back my nail while my pointer finger became a make-shift shoehorn to wedge my son’s too-fast growing foot in his shoe!  The coach was late, so practice ran long, and when we arrived home (near seven)  of course he wants chicken nuggets and she wants noodles.  So, logically, I got them to agree on pizza.  After it was served, my son said, “Um, mom?  Did you mean to cook hair into my pizza?”  Yup!  

At this point a text buzzes saying, “Sorry I’m late hun.” As if on cue the dog barks and someone shouts,

“Oops! I spilled.”

Not sure whether to laugh or cry  I desperately looked up, imagining not a flake or a snowball, but a full-blown blizzard. 

It’d be cool if times like these came with a warning – a hazard sign, yellow tape or a helmet … something suggesting what we might be in for.  But you know what … days like that, the hard, horrible, “Are you kidding me?” days, make for the greatest stories.  I mean, it is impressive how awful they can be sometimes, but if you can’t beat it, at least brag about it!  All in all, as amazingly talented as I am for producing days like these, I have to agree with Cavett Robert who said, “If you don’t think every day is a good day, just try missing one.”

So I think I’ll stick it out, snowballs … come what may.

Literarily yours,

5.20.14 No Words




It’s not often that I find myself without words.  Typically, I seem to find too many.  My thoughts are easily translated from mind to pen to page, and I feel a release (of sorts) a calm that comes after the storm of disjointed emotions that come together in a paragraph, an anecdote or a memory … but not today.  There are no words for today.

I spent the morning visiting a Holocaust Museum in Skokie, Illinios, the second largest in the nation.  And I thought I knew this story … their story.  I have studied it, read about it, taught it even; but it turns out I only ever knew the portions and pieces I was able to handle.  When it was too much–I stopped.  I closed the book.  I ended the conversation.  I let the past be the past.  But today, the frozen reflections of haunted faces wouldn’t let me.  I was forced to confront the ghosts of angels and demons I preferred not to see.  

The artifacts of a truth too brutal to comprehend washed over my senses until I gave the only gift of solace I had to offer that meant anything at all: my attention, my tears and my acknowledgement that this atrocity was, and still is very real.  Survivor Elie Wisel, author of a life-altering account called Night, said that, “To forget a Holocaust is to kill twice.”  So I will not.

At the end of the tour, I had the great honor and privilege to hear a testimony, a speech personally given by an eighty-one-year-old survivor.  Eleven at the time she was rescued, I began to wonder whether childhood became a warped term to her … some sordid, cruel joke of the experience I know as blessed.  The more I heard, the clearer it became that childhood was a phantom, a luxury that could not be afforded to prisoners of war. 

I remember being shaken by her admittance of not being able to talk about the war after it ended.  But then I realized, what could she say?  What could she possibly relay about what was done to her?  Taken from her?  Lost.  And so it seems I am, maybe–not so surprisingly, at a loss for words.  Because today … they could never be enough.

Please don’t forget,


5.17.14 Really? A Dollar?


Before I begin today, I need to set a little disclaimer that I am a law-abiding goody-two-shoes.  I mean it.  I am.  Ask my family I even won my high school class award for it!  I rarely do anything more significant than occasionally speed (okay, more than occasionally maybe).  But aside from a few heavy-footed tickets, I’m clean. That said, I need to admit that the older I get, the more I think certain rules are just plain stupid … punitive and unnecessary.  
I feel like some laws are made just to be mandates and too often edicts are spoken to exaggerate authority.  I think Emerson had the right idea when he said, “A few strong instincts and a few plain rules suffice us.”  A few!  Not a litany … not a handbook’s worth … a few.  Sadly, in every facet of our lives, we are surrounded by much more than a few.  How we file things, how we make claims, how or when we address whoever or whatever.  There are even rules when we make orders.   
Okay, so maybe I’m a little bit jaded right now.  I just got off the phone with one of my favorite restaurants … Jimmy John’s.  So, that place is supposed to be simple right?  It’s quick, it’s easy–no mess, no worries. Except it’s not apparently.  You see, my daughter doesn’t really like sandwiches, but she will eat a cheese sandwich.  Recently, she’s added cucumber to her short list of sandwich-likes, so you can imagine we were pretty excited to accommodate her small palate.  But can we just add cucumber to a cheese sandwich?  No.  Instead, according to Jimmy John’s, “Policy” you have to order a veggie sub and proceed to order off everything you don’t want on it as opposed to just adding the one thing.  It has been a source of frustration, to say the least, but today was worse.
Today, I called in an order after soccer but before ballet to squeeze in something semi-healthy that wouldn’t ruin my somewhat clean kitchen.  Calling, I ordered “easy cheese” on my sub (Who needs six pieces on one sandwich anyway?) and then added cheese to my son’s (as he only wants turkey and cheese, nothing more or less).  I’ve gotten used to the little notes of, “We’ll have to charge you extra for this,” and “It is an up-charge if you want it like that.”  Whatever.  The annoying thing was, I gave the cashier my credit card number, she said they’d be ready and we hung up.  About two minutes later, she called me back and this is how it went:
Her: “I’m sorry but I need your credit card number again.  I forgot to charge you an extra dollar for the cheese you added to the turkey sandwich.”
Me: “A dollar?”
Her: “Yes.  I am sorry for the mistake.”
Me: “Well, I took off three pieces of the cheese from my other sandwich, can’t you just put one of those on my son’s?”
Her: “No.  Sorry.  It is against our policy.”
Me: “So, even though you forgot, and we’re technically paying for cheese we aren’t going to eat, you can’t move it to my son’s sandwich and you need my credit card number again for a dollar.”
Her: “Yes.  Sorry.”
But you know what?  I don’t really think she was.  I’m not saying that the poor girl didn’t have policies … but I felt like saying, “You’re really calling me over a dollar for your mistake!?!”  I was flabbergasted to say the least and my lettuce-wrapped sandwich tasted just a little bit bitter.  The thing is … it’s not the dollar, it’s the principle–the “policy” that bothers me, because who on earth would sit around and think up something as illogical as not being able to transfer a piece of cheese?  How long is the sandwich-making handbook of amendments to the menu?  
I wonder how many of us are subject to rules like these … little pin-pricks, paper-cut annoyances in our days that make them harder.  Again, it isn’t that I don’t respect policies, procedures and laws, I just wish we’d focus our time on things that matter more!  Don’t chew gum in class, for example, seems a lot less important to me than the bullying, belittling and biases going on.  When looking into schools that where we wanted to send our son, I came across a list of rules longer than my college literature course text book.  One of the billion said, “Male students will retain a hair length no longer than the collar of their shirt.”  Immediately, I knew this was not the school for us, not because his hair was too long, but because that shouldn’t be their concern!  As an educator, there are endless things we have to worry about: test scores, lexile reading levels, new standards, changing curriculum–comparatively speaking, call me crazy, but hair length doesn’t seem too high on the list.  I know that rules are imposed to set order, but if you culture an atmosphere of respect, are that many rules really necessary?  
I guess when I filter my feelings to the source, I just feel like I’ve begun to discover that rules are relative things.  They are important, but humanity, fairness and truth matter more.  If we nurture justice, if we honor that basic code of right and wrong that is within us, I have to wonder if they could be enough?  William Blake once said, “ Jesus was all virtue, and acted on impulse, not rules.”  One more reason His life, is one rule I proudly follow.  What rules rule you?

Literarily yours,

5.14.14 Anything But Normal



Sometimes I am absolutely heartbroken by the students I have who lack motivation.  Not in the, “I’m a teenager and I wish I was sleeping instead of being at school” kids, but the real unmotivated ones – the ones who tell me that they don’t know what they want to do other than make lots of money.  I feel like screaming at them, “Money’s not the point dear!  Life is!”  Though a well known statistic, it still blows my mind to think that most people spend a third of their lives at work.  A third!  If you live to ninety that’s thirty WHOLE years!  And if that’s true, how can you not care what you end up doing?  

There is a great quote from the Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland that says, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.” And I feel like that’s what we do sometimes.  We wander.  We wait.  We wade around in our thoughts and our maybes until we look up and realize we’ve just walked in a complete circle without really having gone anywhere!  I’m not saying we need to have it all figured out, Lord knows I don’t, but we do need to acknowledge that the best place to start is here, and the best time to start is now.  Nothing comes from nothing and you were created to do something!  

Personally, I have enough dreams and ambitions to last me at least three lifetimes.  I’m a little extreme and scattered at times; the roads that I choose to take have many brambles and branches to trip over and slow me down, but I never stop moving.  We can’t grow up and give up and expect to be happy.  Dreams change, but don’t extinguish.  I think sometimes we overwhelm ourselves with the, “How will I get there” questions, and forget completely about faith.  Recording artist Beck once said, “The limitations are limitless,” and they are.  There is never an easy way to get to a place worth going, but if you don’t have the drive to carry on, then the destination won’t be worth a thing when you arrive.

In a recent conversation with my students I reminded them that believing in themselves was the first step toward any ambitions they possessed, and that if they didn’t, they already failed.  You can’t doubt what you’re capable of and then turn around and expect someone else to believe.  Why waste their time if you don’t think you’re worth it.  I don’t say this to be mean, but motivating.  Trust me, I too struggle with self-doubt and “Am I good enough?” moments … who doesn’t.  But you’re only ever going to be able to answer those questions yourself.  No one can prove what you’re capable of but you.

Above and beyond all else, whatever you choose to be or pursue, be anything but normal.  Don’t accept the average state-of-being instead of living.  Like Josie Bisset said, “Dreams come in a size too big so that we may grow into them.” So spread your arms out wide, embrace the world, accept your imaginings … and begin.

Literarily yours,




5.11.14 Digital Detox Part 2



I once heard someone compare teaching children of the digital age how to use technology, akin to standing outside of a fish tank, teaching the fish to swim – and it’s true.  Somewhere between sad and amazing, I’ve seen my own children and students able to do things with technology at a mere fraction of the time it took me to learn how to do the same thing.  I’ll never forget the time that my husband and I purchased a large LED television set, only to have our two-year old go up to the options screen and try to swipe his hand across it like an ipad to get the image to change.  “Digital Natives,” is the correct term for these children … that would make us what?  Digital immigrants?

While I will admit that I’m not completely fluent on all parts of technological literacy, I would also like to argue that I don’t think anyone ever can be.  Things change too quickly.  Apps take place and replace one another before certain programs even have the time to take off.  Where I don’t think new is bad, I also don’t believe that new is always improved.  I think there are some things that are meant to be experienced, not “looked up,” and I think relying too heavily on any tool, technology especially, can be a dangerous and crippling thing.  Think about texting … have you ever read one wrong?  How can you display emotion beyond punctuation marks?  Sometimes they aren’t enough to convey whether an attitude is sweet or sarcastic and that is where the trouble begins.  I talk to my students about this sometimes, pun  though it may be, we need to be willing to realize that reading things out of context is the exact con, to texting!

We “insta” this and “tweet” that, immersing ourselves in total-access, but rarely take the time to give a call, have a visit or, heaven forbid it, spend time alone.  Einstein saw this tech-revolution coming, and said, “I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction.  The world will have a generation of idiots.”  The good news?  I don’t think we’re quite there … yet.  I’ve been close; I remember once, my phone was broken for two whole days.  The first day I was a wreck, I watched the hours pass worrying that no one could get in touch with me–find me.  The second day I recognized the disconnect for what it was … a forced breather.  No one could find me, no one could call me – for just two days, I was free. 

This past week, I took a chance and showed the video “Look Up” to my students. I had them report on how they felt technology has affected them and their life.  It might surprise you as much as it did me, that their journals were filled with pages and pages of frustration.  They shared anecdotes, reflections and connections; they were brutally honest about how social media has handicapped their friendships and broken more than one relationship in their lives.  The amazing thing is, these “Digital Natives” too, are ready for a change.  A first grade teacher, K.G. relayed the truth that, “Yes, kids love technology, but they also love Legos, scented markers, handstands, books and mud puddles.  It’s all about balance.”

Balance.  That’s what we all crave; that’s what we all need.  In terms of technology … I urge you to use it, to love it, but to temporarily go on a “Digital Detox” of sorts.  Have a weekend free of emails, free of Facebook and Twitter.  Call someone.  Visit someone.  Paint a picture.  Read a book.  Take a walk.  Breathe and remember that life is about more than a status update or intriguing post.  Be in the moment, present and focused on things that don’t necessarily demand your attention, but do deserve it.

As always I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Literarily yours,


5.8.14 Digital Detox Part 1



Today I was at a soccer practice for my son.  The two teams in play were scrimmaging against one another but I had trouble focusing on either my son or the game; I was too distracted.  You see, there was a darling little girl (who couldn’t have been more than one and a half) that repeatedly ran out onto the soccer field.  What wowed me about this scenario wasn’t the fact that a toddler had the ability to out-run her mother time and time again, but rather, that the mother might have had a better shot at catching her if she put down her cell phone.  I’m not sure if I’ll ever forget how ludicrous it looked to see a mother chase her daughter across an active soccer field without once removing the cell from her ear.  It seemed logical to me that if you threw down your phone, you might have the ability to run just a little bit faster, but what do I know?

For one thing, I know that things aren’t any different in my daughter’s ballet class, where a nine-year-old boy is constantly coming up to me, just to talk about his day or tell me what he’s reading.  I consistently, week after sad week, glance over at his mom who is either typing on the laptop ever-perched on her knees or texting, nimble-fingered on her blackberry.  I can’t help but wonder if this precious boy would take the time of day for me, if she would only take the time of day for him.  And as much as I enjoy our chats, I wish she would take a second to look up and realize who she’s missing.

Now I want it to be known, as a disclaimer, that I am guilty here.  I am not without my iphone, laptop or ipad for more than a few hours here or there throughout the day.  I glance through emails at stop lights, I text between lunch hours and communicate dates, times and calendar events just to keep my husband in the loop of our life.  I. Am. Guilty.  But I – unlike the digital natives we are desensitizing ourselves to, know it is a problem.

Albert Einstein, widely recognized to be one of the most genius minds ever to walk the Earth, had an opinion on this very topic.  Regardless of the fact that he died over 59 years ago, he is still acknowledged to be an authority on almost all things scientific.  I think it is meaningful, therefore, to take into consideration that within his life, at the very least some sixty-years ago, he said, “It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.” 

Exceeded our humanity.”

Can you fathom those words?  Can you take just a moment to soak in the implication of what that means?  That was how he felt then!  Imagine … just imagine what Einstein would think now, today.  Imagine how he would feel about the soccer mom, or the ballet mom, or any of my students who daily divide their attention from discussion because they have an ipad, a window to endless distraction, right at their fingertips.  How would he feel about tweets? Texts?  Instagramming and reprogramming the way our minds process, digest and respond.  If  you look at the recent studies you will note that children of the digital age have brain wave patterns and connections that are completely different than the patterns seen twenty years ago. 

Now, don’t misunderstand me; I am a huge fan of technology, but as a tool, not a substitute for engaging and meaningful human experiences.  This particular blog post is going to be written in two parts because frankly, I just have too much to say.  On that note,  I was recently asked to watch a video on YouTube that I would like you too, to watch.  It is five minutes that have haunted me, and it is the springboard for the rest of this discussion.  Please take a few moments to watch the link below.  Stay tuned …

Literarily yours,




5.5.14 Standard of Grace



The other day I was a perfect disaster.  Not on the outside, mind you … but in all other places that make you feel unhinged.  In a rush (as always) I realized that it was going to be one of those days, those – better hide the hot mess I really am and keep smiling, kind.  In not wanting to mark my shirt I’d forgotten to put on deodorant!  Half way to where I was going I realized it, so I pulled over to a gas station and … of course … the place I stopped only had men’s!  I went into the bathroom, where I also realized I’d put my underwear on inside out, and walked out even less confident than before – and smelling like a dude.

Not much before, I’d had an experience in the Walmart bathroom with a silver hair.  Silver!  I say silver instead of gray because somehow, silver seems just a bit more dignified with its connotations tied to wisdom instead of age.  Still, I know it is what it is.  The first time I found one of the dreaded beasts I remember having a proper melt-down and, for the first time ever, called a stylist for highlights.  I was somewhat less devastated when she told me how many people she’s seen with near full-coverage by their early twenties let alone my few strands.  Still, I had those “pieces of wisdom” properly taken care of.  My stylist said not to worry.  But how do you not worry, when only a short time ago, the hair you’d thought was blonde turned out to glint in a Walmart mirror, alerting you once again that the horrid little pests had returned?  

I found myself waiting for my daughter to finish up in the stall behind me as I leaned close to the poor, fluorescently-lit mirror, precisely plucking each traitorous strand.  At this point it was a matter of public safety, in my mind.  You never know when the crummy lighting throughout the store would hit a glinting silver strand wrong and blind an oncoming cart-pusher.  Imagine if that person was so distracted they ran into a display of some sort … catastrophic. Though my husband and stylist kindly tell me I’m the only one who notices them, I know the truth – or my version of it at least.

The thing is, I have this expectation of myself to be, well, not perfect but close enough that other people think so.  Wow!  What a horrible thing to admit.  Did you ever realize something when you wrote it that you never would have told yourself if you hadn’t?  I guess I am admitting it to you, but I have the comfort of a computer screen in front of me to pretend I didn’t say it aloud; and I wouldn’t have, if I didn’t think honesty were so important.  But it is.  It is important to realize what we believe about ourselves, even if we don’t want to admit it.  And of myself, I’ve realized I am quite harsh.  

I am totally okay with others making mistakes, I encourage it actually.  I always say that mistakes make you learn, but then hypocritically refuse to let myself make them.  When I do, I pray they’re the kind I can deal with before anyone else figures them out, but sometimes they aren’t.  Working so much with a full time family I feel like they pop up more and more …  I can’t find a shin guard for soccer or forgot to send my daughter’s nap time pillow to school.  I remembered her tutu but forget her tights or put the wrong kind of applesauce in his lunch.  I might miss a newsletter deadline or forget the exact time of a meeting.  And while none of these are earth-shattering, I can’t help but feel like those around me are going to figure it out – I can’t do it all.  More than likely they’ve always known and I’m the one who still has to own up to it.

Being a happy, loved-beyond-deserving wife and mother, I don’t agonize over the reason why.  I don’t know if my insecurities came from childhood or college grades or society and the truth is … it doesn’t matter, they are there regardless.  I’m trying to be gentle with myself and be content with the fact that I am not, and never will be flawless or blameless.  Lately I have tried to focus on the wisdom of Emily Ley who said, “I will hold myself to a standard of grace, not perfection.”  Grace … now there is the key.

I wonder if I’m not alone here.  If other people struggle with associating what they’re worth to what they accomplish?  If you are I would encourage you to love yourself better than that–it is not what God designed us for.  We’re human, whether or not I like to admit it … I am.  I have, I do and I will make mistakes and I need to follow one essential piece of advice–get over it

Elbert Green Hubbard knowingly said, “The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually fearing you will make one.”  So I’m done.  Knowing myself, I’ll still be me, of course–I’ll still try, but I won’t be afraid of what will undoubtedly happen when I balance endless schedules and commitments.  Mistakes, here I come!  

Literarily yours, 


5.2.14 Mental Vacation



I can honestly say that there are numerous times a day I think to myself, If I only had five minutes I could get that done!  The sadder truth is that there are 288 sets of five minutes in a day to choose from (yeah…I’m a secret mathematician)!  You would think that within that amount of time I would be able to steal some to myself, but it is harder than you’d think.  I sometimes have these grand plans for myself like, reading a chapter of a novel during my lunch hour, but then … like today, a few students see that I left my door a crack open and come traipsing in with some half-baked excuse to stay in my classroom instead of going outside for recess.  It goes something like this:
    Me: “Why do you need to stay in?”
    Kid: “I have lots of stuff to do.”
    Me: “By stuff do you mean homework?”
    Kid: “Yeah, that’s it.”
    Me: “Well, homework for my class?”
    Kid: “Pretty much homework for every class.”

And for the first five minutes I think it’ll be okay, and I think he’ll work quietly, but then another student sees him in there and comes in to join him.  At this point I have no argument for why she cannot be in there if he is–so I’m sunk. Instead of getting anything done, I’m trapped between their thirteen-year-old logic of the problems in the world and how they’d solve them.  It goes something like this:
    Kid #1: “I don’t even know what I’m going to do this weekend.”
    Kid #2: “I’m just gonna sleep.  I’m so tired and school just makes me more tired because it’s so boring.”
    Me: “I think only boring people get bored, and you’re not boring.”
    Kid #2: “Actually, I am boring. I never do anything really.”
    Kid #1: “Me either.  Not on the weekend anyway.
    Kid #2: “Yeah, and when teachers tell me that they want to help me care more in school–I actually tend to start caring less.”
    Kid #1: “Totally!”
And this is pretty much where I decide to mentally check-out before I lose it completely.  One thing I am sure of when it comes to myself–I am not boring.  I have quite the active imagination actually … sometimes too much so.  I’ve labeled myself with Over-Active-Imagination Syndrome where I can pretty much let my imagination take me away when I need to.  This was one of those moments.  And just like that … I’m free.  Albert Einstein is one of my personal heroes when it comes to honoring the power of the mind.  He once said, “I am enough of an artist to draw freely upon my imagination.  Imagination is more important than knowledge.  Knowledge is limited.  Imagination encircles the world.”  At the very least, I know it encircles mine.

Aside from when my students steal my lunch hour, I’ve identified a short list of perfect times to pack up my daily issues and take a momentary mental vacation.
1. When your husband tells you he is only running a half-hour late (yeah, there’s only 48 of those in a day, so that’s a lot of time to wave around when someone’s exhausted and waiting for help with dinner, baths and bedtime)
2. When you are in a meeting that seems to only be focused on identifying problems but never solving them
3. Before you start the bills
4. After you finish the bills and realize a mental vacation is the only one you’ll be able to afford for quite a while
5. When your son discovers a new affinity for joke-telling and rents a book from the library that has 101 dog-related jokes
6. When your daughter’s vocal station has been stuck on the same song for the last six months (ironically called “Let it Go” … I wish she would)
7. When someone leaves you a marathon voicemail that you’ve stopped listening to after the first time they got cut off and needed to loop onto another message
8. When you’re trying to match the unmatchable, nightmarish basket of socks that haunt you (or, me)

The funny thing is, the first time I ever really thought about mental vacations was after they were recommended to me in a relaxation and stress-management seminar.  I’d gone off in my imagination plenty of times, but packing up and taking off to another location was new for me.  I’ll never forget, the instructor spoke to us, made us close our eyes and “see” where we would go.  I thought I’d end up on some stretch of endless beach, but I didn’t.  I was surprised to find that what I ended up in, was a memory.  My mental vacation ended up being a time travel instead, taking me to a perfect day I’d spent in Germany with my husband.  

We were visiting an ancient city, walled in and so completely disassociated with the world I know, I felt freer than I ever had before.  The sunlight dappled and danced over the stone wall we sat on holding hands and surrounded by a forest older than time itself.  There is no finding someone at the edge of a place the world practically forgot.  I think that is why I loved it so much.  Oscar Wilde said, “Anyone who lives within their means suffers from a lack of imagination,” but when traveling through my mind, I’ve never seemed at a lack of mental currency;  I am rich in memories at least.

So my hope, when life does what it does and overwhelms … you’ll find yourself packing.  Do me a favor and send me a postcard!  I’d love to know where you’ve been.

Literarily yours,