7.24.17 I Shall Cannonball

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I am an imperfect parent. Did I ever mention that? I’m pretty sure that I have, because as much as I love the picture-perfect-moments I might capture for Instagram, I in NO way, EVER want people to think that these snapshots of my life mean we don’t struggle. We do. I do. All the time.

Yesterday was a beautiful day through and through. My family’s only plan was to be together. I made chocolate-chip pancakes. We got coffee. We went to a trampoline arena. We ate out at a favorite restaurant. We got caught in the rain and quite literally danced in it. Splashing and sloshing and carrying on. Then we took bubble baths. We watched a new movie. We had our cake and ate it too … literally! It was awesome.

But then Monday happened. My husband went to work. I started prepping my classroom and got more nervous than if I would’ve just left it alone. I was instantly overwhelmed at all I needed to accomplish that I didn’t have time for. Then, I had a few stressful phone calls, and a few more stressful texts. My son had a momentary melt-down, (he never melts-down) my daughter snapped, (she never snaps). I got so sick of the mess in the living room that no one but me cleans up that I threw a tiny stuffed animal across the room and it (of course) hit my son’s milk cup which poured all over him. Did I mention he had just gotten out of the shower and had on the cleanest of clean clothes? Sometimes days kinda suck, and as important as it is to acknowledge the amazing days, is as necessary as it is to admit – NO – today wasn’t the best, thank you very much!

I was at the pool with my kids, headed to the bathroom alone, when a random kid stopped me. “Hey!” he said brightly.

“Hey,” I smiled back.

“Have you gone down the blue slide yet? Because if you haven’t you should and then curl up into a ball at the end and you’ll go in like a cannon ball,” he said in a totally serious dish of vital information.

“Well okay. Thank you for that tip!” I replied.

Can I say that I loved every second of that one minute conversation? Because apparently, I still look like the kind of adult who will plummet down a slide without my children just for the fun of it. I loved his faith in me that I would, and sometime before the summer is over – I will. I must!

So the truth is, we are fickle beings. The melancholy way we humans bounce between emotions is much akin to pinballs lighting up the different bands of color. Happy, happy, frustrated, sad, angry, happy, frustrated, happy, tired, tired, happy. I don’t necessarily anticipate that these whims or “pings” will change, because as life happens, so will moods. Toby Mac once said, “The only one that can truly satisfy the human heart is the one that made it.” So, in this life, at least, we will bounce between dispositions fluidly. It’s okay. You’re imperfect. I’m even more so! But, for today at least, I will hold true to the fact that yesterday, we danced, and someday very soon, I shall cannonball off of a bright blue slide.

Go jump in,

Elle

6.26.17 It’s a Good Thing I Don’t Believe in a Bad Summer Day

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“Dear Life, when I asked if my day could get any worse, it was a rhetorical question, not a challenge.” -someecards.com

So, I am a fan of the belief that every day has a silver lining. There is always a bright side. And that nothing is ever as awful as it seems. But some days still kinda suck. It’s summer, so I know that this cannot be, because the sun is shining and the sky is blue, the wind is tickling the leaves and making them dance. I don’t believe in a bad summer day. And yet, here I am … a list of “are you kidding me” moments making up my morning, and afternoon. It is late now, and if this day wants to redeem itself, it sure better hurry up and change quickly, because the sun is well past halfway to setting.

It started off with waking up … feeling cramps … and going back to bed. Waking up for real a short while later, I discovered that the laundry fairy didn’t come (though I dreamed and wished for her to) and began to sort the precarious, leaning tower of doom. I emptied the kitty box (because my husband DIDN’T even though we agreed I’d give the cat her medicine if he would do the litter), only to walk out to our garbage and see that  a raccoon had torn into our bins the night before, scattering God knows what all over! Then, my dog decided to loot this treasure and display its remnants all over my yard! I hobbled over (still in my pjs) put on some gloves and dug in. Sometimes I think I’d like to ignore dirty messes and pretend I don’t see them so one of the other members of my family will do it but then I know (from past experience of having tried) that they will just shout to me when they do find it.

After the garbage with the garbage, my kids and I took a trip to Hades, I mean, the post office (which I’m pretty sure is the same thing). I must tell you that I loathe the post office, not because of the office itself, so much as the instant downfall of my children the moment we enter. It’s like the second we go in, some magnetic pull from the automatic door messes with their moral compass, making it spin haywire, simultaneously turning their usual, awesome composure and manners to wild monkey status! He began with spinning the card display, and the red-faced, white-haired postal clerk asked him to stop. I, of course, looked like a negligent mother, blowing hair out of my face to look up as I hog-wrestled packaging tape and a box to the ground. He later got yelled at by the other postal clerk for writing on the desk tablet. “What on earth?” I looked at him with dagger eyes.

“I didn’t know I wasn’t supposed to,” he replied.

“Really? You didn’t know you weren’t supposed to write on a desk? Do you write on a desk at school?”

“No.”

“Well then what the heaven!?!”

“I don’t know why I did it.”

Wrath.

Some cute old man came in, and I could see him smile at both of my kids as I flustered about with another box and more packaging tape. (I think that if there were video footage of my box packaging, I could send it in to the professional wrestling organization and instantly make the team.) Usually, I would stop, and chat with someone like this cute old man, I’d take all the time in the world to make a connection, but just as I thought about doing so, my daughter needed a kleenex. I didn’t have a kleenex. She began to drip. I took the edge of her sleeve and … well … you can paint the rest of that picture yourself. Needless to say, I was feeling pretty judged by said old man, and he shuffled off with a look.

When I got to the counter, I mailed a package to Pennsylvania, and the clerk said that because it was three pounds, I needed to either pay $35.00 or it would take four weeks to get there! In four weeks I could walk to Pennsylvania and deliver the box myself! I mailed a package to Georgia. “That’s not the right zip code.”

“Are you sure?” I asked.

“Oh wait, it is. But what does the address say?”

“Busbee.”

“Is that a place?”

“I guess so?” I said, showing her the address slip.

“Oh, yeah,” more typing into her computer, “I guess it is.”

“I hope so.”

$59.50 for TWO BOXES that weighed less than five pounds together!

More wrath.

Later:

My sister and I finally stop playing phone tag – the doorbell rang.

I had a meeting with a house repair man – my dog jumped on him.

I was trying to have a professional conversation – my allergies flared and I couldn’t stop sneezing.

I made my kids lunch  – my son shoved his elbow in the peanut butter.

I told my daughter not to do something – she cried.

I was feeling super bloated and gross –so  I ate more!

I have a no solicitous number – Honda called asking me to trade in my Kia!

The dryer buzzed – all the clothes were as wet as when I threw them in!

I told the kids to play outside – they hit balls over the fence.

I told my daughter to look before crossing the street – she said, “Wait both ways?”

I have a tummy ache.

I am tired.

And though we’ve only been home for two hours, it is now time to leave again.

Suffice it to say … it’s a good thing I don’t believe in a bad summer day – otherwise I’m pretty sure I’m having one.

So here’s to the moments you will laugh over later (probably, okay maybe not even then). I hope your summer day is everything a summer day should be, and nothing at all like mine.

Elle

12.10.16 Nothing a Little Audrey Hepburn Can’t Fix

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The last two weeks have been a little rough.  From strep throat to my husband being on two business trips … it’s a bit of a challenging season so far. Yet I’d say none could compare to my morning three days ago.

So, where I live, it is absolutely imperative that we leave exactly on time.  The road I take to work is beastly, and a matter of minutes can make all the difference.  Three minutes past the best time to leave for our morning commute, my daughter was still perched on the floor with no coat and shoe laces undone.  Another minute later, and my son shouts that he needs to go poo.

“Why didn’t you go before? ” I ask flabbergasted.

“I didn’t have to obviously,” he casually replied.

Trudging agonizingly slowly up the now traffic-filled road, we made our way in a series of halting brake lights and exasperated sighs.  When we finally pulled into the school parking lot, my daughter said, “Mom! You’re bleeding!”

“What? Where?” I asked.

“There,” she pointed.

Sure enough. I had a giant splotch blooming through my favorite cream colored (go figure) dress pants. “Shoot!” I exclaimed, parking and immediately hiking up my pant leg to keep the scrape on my knee from making more of a mess than it already had! Did I mention I had heels on?  That might present itself with its own set of challenges on any given day, but that day, with pants hiked up and it being about twenty-degrees outside, it was even more so of a bad choice of footwear.  On top of it all, it was band day … and on band day, my son and his dumb drum plod and clump up the stairs nearly tipping backwards.  So, already walking like a half-dead zombie from the Thriller video, bent in half holding my own bags and now dragging a drum, we made our way to the office.

Immediately, I scavenged the last baby wipe I grabbed from my car, (they’re magic, never leave home without them) and I set to scrubbing my pants vigorously as the sweet secretary started looking up home remedies to getting blood out of pants.  As she was doing this, there were about four more people who came into the office, one of which was one of my student’s parents.  It was not my most professional moment, I might add, sitting on the ground with my pants up scrubbing like I had some sort of accident.

“You can use cola,” the secretary said.

“Um … probably will make my pants look worse don’t you think?” I replied.

“Club soda?” she tried.

“Man, didn’t pack that in my lunch today,” I said, trying my best to still be grateful for the suggestions.

“Salt water,” she shouted out.

“I can get you that,” the chemistry teacher said, waltzing into the conversation.

And about three minutes later, there he was with a little vial of salt water.  I’d hobbled up to my classroom by then, and scrubbed as fast and as hard as I could, arriving, miraculously, with nothing worse for the wear than wet pants and a funny laugh to share  at my morning meeting.

Audrey Hepburn once said, “Remember, if you ever need a helping hand, it’s at the end of your arm, as you get older, remember you have another hand: the first is to help yourself, the second is to help others.”

That night, I should have been working on the laundry that’s taking over every room in my house.  I should have been writing Christmas cards or picking up the endless trail of toys that litter our floor like autumn leaves scattered about by a strong wind. I should have been sweeping the pet hair, doing the dishes, or organizing the endless projects I begin and never finish. But I didn’t.  Instead, I took Aubrey’s advice and helped myself up, by curling up to a classic movie of hers, and laughing myself to sleep.

Sometimes that’s all it takes to get me back on track.  A bit of smiles and not taking myself too seriously.  So I embarrassed myself again … nothing new there.  I assume it’ll only happen another thousand or so times in this life of mine.

Here’s looking forward to telling you about the next one,

Elle

 

10.29.16 Effervescence and Men’s Deodorant

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So recently, I started to wear men’s deodorant.  Classy, I know.  But you know what!?!  It works!  I’ve tried around five different brands of women’s in the past, and felt like I needed to “reapply” like four times a day.  Mens?  Just once thank you very much!  It really struck me though, and kind of disturbed me, to tell  you the truth, that I … a five foot three inch woman who isn’t typically a “sweater” would need it.  I couldn’t understand, that is, until I did a little anthropological experiment of my typical day. 

On Wednesday, of this past week, I took a small slip of paper and kept a tally of all the times someone asked me a question.  As a teacher, and mother, and wife … you might imagine it was quite a few.  But would you believe that between 6:30 in the morning, and 5:30 at night, I was asked one hundred and thirty-two different questions!?!  No joke!  It is no wonder I’m often so fragmented.  I realized that questions often come in the form of interruptions … and therefore, I usually have an air of distracted, disjointed, and well … just plain lostness about me.  

My favorite thing, is when people tell you to relax.  “Just breathe and take it slow,” they suggest.  I suggest a reality check … because how can a person form a logical thought in their head with one hundred and thirty-two interferences?  Sometimes I wish that I could begin my day like Ronald Regan began one of his presidential speeches, “Before I refuse to take your questions, I have an opening statement.”  Genius!  Only life doesn’t work like that does it?  We are often going to need to answer the questions of children or adults who act like children (depending on where you work). It is just a part of the human experience I’m afraid. 

One thing I have learned in all of this, is that people really do respond to the way that questions are answered.  I’m certainly not perfect at this.  Sometimes an answer from me is “Mad as a hatter” off topic.  Sometimes it’s wise with split infinitives like Yoda.  Sometimes … as much as I hate to admit it … it’s a sarcastic eye-roll.  A lot of cliche lovers like to say, “There’s no such thing as a dumb question.”  I say, why lie to kids?  Some questions are dumb!  Regardless of the intelligence of the question (or the person asking it for that matter) I do believe in giving people the honor of time.  I’m really convinced that there are times, after all, that someone is only asking a question to build a bit of conversation, or to gain a moment of attention. 

Yesterday I introduced my husband to a new acquaintance of mine who said to him, “Wow.  This one’s got a ton of energy.  How do you keep up?”  My husband laughed and said he tries his best.  The gentleman went on to say, “She and I had a great conversation, and we’re all talked out.” To which my husband replied, 

“Yeah, but then she comes home and keeps on talking!  She’s never all talked-out.”  

He was appropriately glared at, but then I realized that my bubbly, enthusiastic nature and “talk-all-day” personality  (which rightly so annoys some people) is something that makes me useful.  God gives us what we can handle, and apparently, he intends that I handle those one hundred and thirty two questions a day.  I may come back kind or cranky, sweet, or snarky … but with me, I suppose at least you’re always guaranteed an answer.  I’ll keep praying for patience, but until then, I guess I’ll just keep being me – filled with effervescence, and of course … men’s deodorant. 

Talk on, 

Elle

10.21.16 Yellow Spiders

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If you open my back door right now, this is the sight you’ll see.  A huge yellow spider crawling in its much-too-well-established web.  When my son saw it, he immediately ran for a broom to knock the strands apart.  I was literally five seconds away from the potential demolition, but I caught him in time, and made him stop.  I’m sure that seeing this Halloween beastie you’d think I’m crazy, but yellow spiders and I have a long history, and a memory I couldn’t possibly hold against them.  

Rewind back to my Freshman year of college.  It was October, and I was homesick.  I was overwhelmed.  And to top off the misery, our dorm had this curious infestation of yellow spiders and they were everywhere.  The showers.  The hallways.  The walls.  Each place you looked there’d be two or three to spot.  Their mustard-color impossible to miss.  While the resident advisor swore it was being taken care of, I remember nearly losing it when trying to fall asleep on my lofted bed to discover not two, not three, but four yellow spiders on my ceiling. 

In desperation of a new perspective, I called the one friend I knew would always be there to offer it to me.  The person I’d been friends with since sixth grade.  The one I’d gone through all of my awkward stages with.  The one I couldn’t ever scare away.  My favorite thing about him was that he never tried to fix things, he never tried to change them … he just always helped me accept whatever was, looking at it in a light I’d never have been able to see without his vantage point.  

I can’t honestly remember what he said about the spiders that night, but I do remember that he talked to me until I fell asleep on the phone … it was still clutched tightly in my hand the next morning. 

Tonight, hundreds of rotations around the sun later, I felt homesick.  I felt overwhelmed.  Life in its busyness took hold of my “keep-it-together” attitude and  rocked me.  I’m not the kind of girl who yells, but I yelled.  And I’m not the kind of girl who cries … but I cried.  I was inconsolable, belligerent and illogical.  I heard my rant about being tired, and tired rolled into unaccomplished, and unaccomplished rolled into aging, until all of my old demons of self-doubt and deprecation came out to play.  But in that moment of too many commitments and not enough time, of too many jobs and not enough hours, I recognized my desperation for a new perspective, and called that same friend I knew would be there to offer it to me. 

He answered.  He listened.  He understood, and then helped me do the same.  He let me laugh.  He let me cry.  Then he gave me the honor of sharing his struggles too.  He didn’t try to fix things, he didn’t try to change things … and once again I found peace in the assurance of having someone so genuine in my corner.  

J.K. Rowling once said, “We all have magic inside of us,” but I guess I’d like to think that some people, have just a little bit more.  Because I know that someone who is able to turn yellow spiders into reminiscent smiles – someone who can make the worst of the worst seem not-that-bad.  If you have magic like that in your life, embrace it … make time for it … and never let too much time pass before you tell that person just how valuable they really are. 

The newest member of the yellow-spider-protectorate,

Elle 

10.6.16 Even Trapped Farts in Tiny Cars

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Having taught for over ten years now, I’ve come to find that anything, and I mean anything can become a teachable moment.  I’m constantly finding connections to things and ways to integrate them into both my curriculum and my parenting, but I’ve found that God is no different, and he uses moments, unexpected and unconventional as they may be, to do the same for us.  There are hardly any “unusable” situations or scenarios that cannot bring us back to a sense of understanding the deeper connection to our lives as a whole.  Even, I would argue … trapped farts in tiny cars. 

This morning, as you might well imagine from my apt description … this was my scenario.  My children and I were on our way to school, as usual, and as usual we were stuck between unpredictable, chaotic traffic patterns that had us spending way too much close-time to one another in my Mini Cooper. As if there wasn’t already an edge in the air, as the minutes unforgivingly ticked by, categorizing our arrival time into “by-some-miracle-only,” standing, my son decides that he can no longer possibly hold in his gas, and passes it – loudly.  His sister, less than a foot away from him in the backseat, immediately shields herself from the inevitable, pungent onslaught about to overwhelm the five feet of squared space we share.  

“You did that on purpose!” she accused, shirt pulled up over her mouth in a makeshift gas mask. 

“I did not, I swear, I couldn’t hold it!” he defended, giggling like … well – a boy. 

“Yes you did,” she insisted, “and now you owe us a quarter.  It’s a family rule!” 

Really laughing now, he replied, “I didn’t mean to trap us in my fart, and now you’re making me laugh and I’m gonna have to fart again!” 

“Fifty cents!” she cried indignantly as another wave let loose.

Stuck with nothing but open windows of a slow-crawling car, and a full-blast vent that seemed to circulate more that eradicate, the day started with difficulty, to say the least.  In that moment there was really nothing to do but sit in it, and slowly wait for the air to clear, and the opportunity to keep inching forward. 

Though I didn’t realize it at the time, (possibly from oxygen deprivation) I really think that experience metaphorically paralleled the rest of my day.  There were unforeseen technology glitches,  attitude adjustments, and calendar conflicts to deal with.  Nothing was easy or error-free … and more than once I wondered if my brain was stuck on some pre-set slow motion setting.  There were tons of questions, emails, meetings, and expectations that, well – stunk to say the least!  I was stretched a little thinner on time and energy than I had.  But in it all, I caught myself laughing, realizing that just like in the car, there was nothing to do but sit in it, slowly wait for the air to clear, and find every opportunity to keep inching forward.  

So thank you God for autocorrect, for five more minutes, and drive through Starbucks.  Thank you for dishwashers that work, puppy kisses when I don’t deserve them, and scrambled egg dinners.  Thank you for functioning dysfunctional families and students who think I’m hilarious (whether I’m trying to be or not).  Thank you for phone calls from mothers, texts from brothers, and giving me a husband as exhausted as I am to live in this whirlwind with me. Thank you God, for little boys in tiny cars, fifty cents, in mason jars, and all the perspective they bring. 

Praying for your tomorrow, and frankly mine as well. Find a way to laugh through it. 

Much love, 

Elle

9.15.16 Black Sunshine

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American business man Frank Lane once said, “If you want to see the sunshine, you have to weather the storm.” Well, today, I think I was the storm.  Exhausted after another seemingly endless day, I dragged myself and the kiddos to the grocery store, pretty much letting them buy whatever they asked to throw into the cart because I was too tired to say no.  So what did we end up with?  A whole lot of food with impossible-to-pronounce, genetically-engineered crap for ingredients!  That’s what!

You see, starting a new school year, a new job, and a new slough of practice schedules while trying to maintain a house, and writing ambitions isn’t going so well. I’ve got about ten baskets of laundry I’m notoriously hiding under my bed, and an overweight Bernese Mountain Dog in need of more than a quick walk around the block.  To top it off … my awesome husband has found a perfect time for himself to work out daily, and has come home from work refreshed and fit, as his office has a built-in gym. Needless to say – if he tells me about one more “great workout” he’s had, he’ll be sleeping alone. I can’t seem to find thirty minutes to call my own, let alone three miles worth!

So today, after grocery shopping, and starting laundry, and taking care of the pets, and making dinner … I was feeling a little feisty.  As soon as my husband got home, I threw on the first clothes I could find and announced, that I needed to go workout before I, “lost it.”  Looking at me as if I already had, my husband grinned, reading the t-shirt I had on, “You are my sunshine.” Laughing at the irony of my stormy personality, he said, “Aww, you’re my little black sunshine.”

And you know what … it is okay. Today I am a little black sunshine.  I am happy, but in a bit of a thunder-cloud mood.  I’m ready to joke around, but am also ready to misinterpret or read into comments at will.  I am at peace with the fact that peaceful is not the way I feel … and if I had to define myself in one word at the moment … spitfire might be the one I’d choose.

There are plenty of things I don’t love about myself in this very moment: my new blemish (aka: zit), my cramped muscles, my straw-like hair, my nicked nail polish, my pile of to do’s, but that’s alright. Because I’ve decided, that just for today, I’d like to agree with Marilyn Monroe when she said, “Imperfection is beauty, madness is genius, and it’s better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring.” So I’m going to focus on what I do like about me right now instead.

I like my witchy-purple nail polish that’s just a shade too dark.

I like that my broodiest moods still involve lots of laughter, a bit of glitter, and “I forgive you’s.”

I like that while putting away groceries, my husband and I turned up  rap songs and danced in the kitchen until our kids came in from the yard and we ran to push, “mute!”

I like that even on a school-night (as a teacher) I let my kids stay up until way too late because it was the first time my daughter requested to watch Star Wars.

I like that half of my dinner tonight consisted of spoonfuls of peanut butter, and sea-salt chocolate caramels.

I like that my sister and I took a few minutes on our long-distance phone call to pretend that we lived closer, and even planned out what movie we’d watch if she were here.

I like that even on a day like this … when I’m an absolute troll, my mom texted me, “Goodnight beautiful.”

I like that tomorrow is another day … and I know it’ll be even brighter.

And I like that I should be sleeping, but instead am up typing to you … whoever you are … in the hopes that you relate, and find a likable list about yourselves too.

Carry on my little black sunshines – carry on.

Elle