5.29.17 Perhaps

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Perhaps I feel the way I feel because of the season of life we’re in. Or maybe it’s due to the time of the year. (I’m fairly certain it has something to do with the time of the month). But regardless of the specific reason, there are some days that I think we as parents need to celebrate NOT going insane.

This may sound a little crass, but I’m perfectly serious. There are moments, breaking points where I’m pretty sure that our last nerve, the last straw, and the last word are each cast in turn, and it takes every fiber of our being not to snap.

Last weekend my family and I were headed up to my grandmother’s ninety-fifth birthday party. What should have been a smooth, reflection-filled two hour drive, was instead a test of my will and character. There were multiple times on the drive that I wanted to pull over, get out, and walk –ALONE! Mary Francis Winters once said, “Don’t become too preoccupied with what is happening around you. Pay more attention to what is happening within you.” Well, I’d argue that what was happening around me was in direct correlation to what was happening within me!

Perhaps I sound dramatic, but you know what? Some moments ARE dramatic, and if you don’t share them dramatically you’ll be ruining the whole dynamic effect of the story. So here goes … imagine a Kia (because that’s what we have) filled to the popping point with gifts, coloring books, ninety-six markers (with which to color in said coloring books), driving activity cards, an overly-tired nine-year-old boy, a super-chatty seven-year-old girl, and a husband who has NO desire to talk, at all, even if it is our only chance that day to do so.

The boy is tired, and as such – grumpy. His reply to everything is equal parts mischief and sass. The girl’s conversation is a low flying plane set to circling. She is neither discussing anything of import, nor is she running out of gas anytime soon. I was (naively) looking forward to some mellow music and a bit of brainstorming, but either at the exact moment I was able to form a coherent thought or my daughter actually stopped talking, then SOMETHING would inevitably happen to interrupt my thoughts.

            “Where are our snacks?” she asked, starting it all.

            “Didn’t you pack any?” I asked my husband (who’d been in the car first, waiting for me with seemingly nothing to do but honk from the driveway to hurry me up).

           “No,” I retorted. “I was getting gifts together, why didn’t you?”

           “I didn’t think of it,” he said blithely, “and you normally do.”

At this point I could literally feel the blood blush creeping up my cheeks.

           “What about water?” my son asked pathetically. “Did anyone remember to pack us that at least?”

           “No,” I said again. “Why didn’t anyone else grab it.”

            “You usually do,” my kids said together.

So we figured we’d grab some when we stopped to get coffee. Of course that was another debacle. The ever-growing line behind us would just have to wait for him to choose which kind of bread he wanted and her yelling at me to put the whipped cream back on her order because SHE likes it, HE doesn’t, and I needn’t take off her whipped cream just because he doesn’t like it.

         “So …” the guy on the other side of the ordering counter droned on. “Was that whipped cream or no whipped cream then?”

About ten miles down the road, my son piped up with, “Hey, didn’t we get any water?”

     “NO! We didn’t!” I practically shout. “You’ve got a smoothie.”

     “Yeah,” he says unfazed, “but I need water when I’m eating lemon bread.

     “Well you’ll just have to wait.”

     “That’s fine. I need to go to the bathroom anyway – now,” he said with casual urgency.

This is where I’m pretty sure my deodorant started working overtime. Angry and annoyed, we stalked into the gas station to use the bathroom. The girl’s bathroom was “out of order,” and traumatized as I was, I knew we’d never make it to the party if I started letting my germaphobia take over.

About five minutes later, my daughter, who’d been waiting for my son to get out, came to me with indignant tears, telling me that just when he’d finished and it was her turn, he pushed her out again and said, “I’ve gotta poop.” After another ten minutes of wandering around the gas station that didn’t so much as have a birthday card, (which I still needed for the party) my son came out – a self-satisfied smirk on his face, and my daughter, blotchy-eyed, pushed past him. Ten more minutes, and I quietly knocked on the door, asking her if she was alright.

        “I went number two mom, but then I feel like I need to go potty, but not yet, so I’m waiting until I do.”

Now, I actually, physically started to tingle. My heart was drumming inside of my chest with the passing of time … time that was meant to be on the road gaining distance, not taking a museum tour of a dirty gas station while my daughter and son “enjoyed” the facilities.

Finally back on the road, we encountered utility vehicles, Sunday drivers on a Saturday, construction, wrong turns, and a quick stop to purchase candles that said “95” on them. Sweaty and anxious, we dusted off and took a few deep breaths before stepping into the loveliest party I think my grandmother has had to date.

Surrounded by family, friends, and numerous great-grandchildren, her hazel eyes glowed with pride and memories … of which I cannot be sure. The rest of the party was filled with double-slices of cake, cousins reminiscing with bubbling laughter, skipping rocks at the lake, and all the joy that comes with too many kids on a playground.

Perhaps it was the fresh air, or the fresh faces, or the fresh perspective I gained when I  saw the product of a life so-well lived. But the ride home was sweet and calm. He was coloring. She was sleeping. My husband was driving, and all was well enough in the world for me to daydream – and just like that, the balance of life was restored. Another day of keeping my sanity. Thank the Lord for that because, as Scarlett O’Hara says, “Tomorrow is another day.”

Elle

5.21.17 Thursday, Not Wednesday

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Henry David Thoreau once said, “Success comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it.” I sure hope that he was right, because lately I am so busy I don’t know which way is sideways let alone up or down. Every week, my students need to remind me that it is Wednesday, not Thursday, and then the following day, that it is now Thursday, and no longer Wednesday. I’ve decided that this is either a sign of early-onset dementia at thirty-four (which I am semi-convinced I have), or a that I might be just a little too busy.

If you cannot relate to my crazy life … I applaud you; but if you can, well – thank you for being a passenger on this train.

You know you’re too busy if:

  • You set two alarms because you are afraid your comatose exhaustion will not allow you to wake up for the first one.
  • Your “filter” becomes less functional, and you begin to let a little too much honesty leak out into your responses when people ask you how you feel about something.
  • You don’t watch your favorite shows, read your favorite books, or even take a bubble bath, because nothing can compete with the thought of just going to bed.
  • You buy extra loaves of fresh, french bread because you know your kids will eat it plain without toasting or buttering it, thus saving five minutes at breakfast.
  • You have an eight-minute turn around time between coming home from school, letting the dog out, and getting back in the car for soccer practice, usually leaving the dog out, and needing your neighbor to put her back in your house before you return.
  • You and your spouse become functioning roommates, complete with his and hers schedules and task lists.
  • You begin to believe that six hours of sleep is luxurious.
  • Your “healthy lunch” standards begin to slip toward anything that is in a pre-packaged bag and ready to throw into the never-ending lunchbox debacle.
  • You would rather buy the family new underwear than think about washing and folding another load.
  • You double-book appointments, and make it seem like you did it on purpose when two people show up for separate meetings, saying something smooth like, “I really wanted so-and-so’s input on this matter too!”
  • You would donate a kidney to not have to think of what to make for dinner.
  • Your spouse sends you an email invite to have conversations instead of just having them.
  • You don’t answer when your closest friends call because you know you’ll have too much fun talking to them to get off the phone in the five-minute window you’ve left yourself.
  • Your car becomes the hub where all things: personal care, meals, calls, correcting homework at stoplights occurs.
  • You develop random twitches in your arm, your leg, or your eye … your body telling you that it too now is freaking out, thank you very much.
  • You get nervous when you aren’t busy, and are uncomfortable sitting still because you have an underlying panic that you are most definitely forgetting something.
  • You are afraid of summer break, because you think the slower pace will rob you of the marathon lifestyle you’ve set for yourself, and tease you into forgetting how to manage it all!

I guess it’s the phase of life. Or the style of me. Or the pace I’ve attached myself to. Regardless, I am choosing to believe the words of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, “I am always busy, which is perhaps why I am always well.” I do feel better when I’m busy, as a general rule, but sometimes, like every Thursday, NOT Wednesday, I believe I stand corrected.

Wishing you rest!

Elle

2.27.17 “Lucky You” – Lucky Me

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Did I ever mention that I teach in the same school that my children attend? If so, did I ever mention it is a small, private, Christian school where everyone knows everyone? It is my first year there. I came from teaching literature in a public middle school where my class size was around 100 students a year; I now teach fourteen.

It’s different alright, and if I’m being honest, I’m still navigating the halls between “Mrs. Harris” my son and daughter’s mother, to “Mrs. Harris” the teacher. It’s weird to say the least. I get fun comments like, “Hey, Mrs. Harris, remember that time I came over for a playdate, and you and Mr. Harris were dancing in the kitchen and he dropped you?”

Yeah. That happened.

Or, “Mrs. Harris, remember when your hundred-pound dog stepped on my foot?”

Oh, boy do I.

Never a dull moment here at the Harris household, and this weekend was yet more proof of the same. Friday was a mixture of piano lessons we hadn’t finished preparing for, and a vehement argument about raisins.

Me: “Hun, do your piano homework.”

Her: “Ugh.”

Me: “Dolly, eat your raisins.”

Her: “I don’t like them.”

Me: “The good news is, I didn’t ask how you felt about them; I asked you to eat them.”

Her: “Ugh.”

Me: “They’re good for you.”

Her: “What are they anyway?”

Me: “Dried grapes.”

Her (unimpressed): “How many do I have to have?”

Me: “All of them.”

Her (aghast): “ALL of them!!!”

Me: “Yup.”

After eating four of them and gagging on three, she tearfully resumed the conversation.

Her: “How many now?”

Me: “Still all of them.”

The piano teacher came in the midst of it all, probably keeping time to the choking sound of tears and dry heaves. Nothing but professional lessons over here.

Later on, still embarrassed from the failed raisin reasoning, I relented as the kids had playdates for a few hours. My daughter had two friends over to, “prepare for the talent show,” which basically consisted of jumping on the trampoline and screaming and giggling around the house. My son had one friend over and they basically absorbed themselves in Pokemon cards and video games. All was well and good with the world until the three sets of parents came … at the same time.

More fun background information. My husband is now the Vice President of the Parent/Teacher’s Association for the kids’ school. MY school. Thus, we are again, intimately tied to more people in more ways. Well … my husband also wears Lucky Jeans. And at this point you’ll be thinking – so what? What do jeans have to do with anything at all? Oh it relates my friends … trust me. Because as those three parents came into our foyer, all standing together, my husband started to chat with them about an upcoming appeal he is leading for the school to initiate a new program. Right about the time he launched into his campaign for the agenda, was about the time I saw that his fly was wide open.

At this you still may be thinking – okay, I’ll admit that’s bad, but who cares what the name brand was. Well, let me enlighten you. This particular name brand is cute. So cute that its clever branding prints two words on the fly of their guy’s jeans … LUCKY YOU! Lucky me alright! There I stood, trying to seem like a bit of a professional as their children all attend my school, some with older kids in my class even, and my husband is flashing his business WITH advertising no less!

Backing up and turning purple with stifled nervous laughter escaping me, I pointed animatedly to the general groin region, hoping he’d get the point. Instead, I’m pretty sure it looked like I was being inappropriate, giggling and gesturing downward. My husband awkwardly ended his conversation and walked away to zip and return a few moments later.

Are you kidding me!?!

Now, Monday night, another amazing opportunity to feel like a tool. My son, the drummer, was supposed to practice. When he couldn’t find his drum kit he said, “Where do you think it is?”

“No clue buddy. It is your drum set after all.”

“Oh, I remember!” he said. “It’s in my music teacher’s room! We practiced there last Wednesday.”

Translation: “Mom I left my drum in my music teacher’s room for an entire week without anyone, including you, (the one who is supposed to be in charge) noticing. This not only means I’ve not practiced for five straight days, but also that my music teacher knows it!”

Fantastic! What on earth can I do but laugh at this point?

I work for a small school. It’s a lot like a family. They are beginning to know everything about us. The good. The bad. And the embarrassing.

Oh well. ‘Cest la vie … such is life. As an unknown quote says, “I’m the type of girl who will burst out laughing in dead silence because of something that happened yesterday.” LUCKY YOU! Lucky me. I’m still here … laughing.

1.21.17 Memoirs of a Wife Whose Husband Travels

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I take you back, to this … me … “Summer Me.”  Take note of the oversized sun glasses, the relaxed smile, the pool behind me, and the sun, dousing me with a healthy dose of Vitamin D.  One might say, wow – her life is idyllic.  But then comes THE SEASON.  No, I’m not talking about winter, I’m talking about the traveling season, and not a family vacation kind of travel, but my husband’s gone from November to February kind of travel with a few spotted weekends home here and there, (just so I don’t forget I’m married). 

I think it is ironically cruel that his job doesn’t make him travel during the summer months when, “Go play outside,” or, “Let’s go to the pool,” are the most common utterances out of my mouth.  My current pale-faced, dry-skinned, winter version of me also wears over-large sunglasses, but it is mostly to cover the twitch in my eye from lack of sleep, lack of Vitamin D, and – if I’m being honest – lack of sanity.  This is the time of year where we are the most contained.  Where things like indoor soccer, piano lessons, and dance lessons, and gymnastics lessons, rule my schedule and determine that I will have no time to devote to anything aside from a thirty-minute work out so I don’t go postal. 

Most of the time, I’ve totally got it together; and when I don’t, I fake it pretty well.  But this particular season is worse than usual.  You see, my husband has been in places for “work” like: The Caribbean, Trinidad, Tobago, Florida, and soon to be Dubai.  I’m not mad – it’s part of his job, and my life, but I’d love to give him just a little glimpse into what it’s like when he’s gone.  This one’s for you love … yes you, who AGAIN, is not here, and probably deserves to know what goes on without you. 

Memoirs of a Wife Whose Husband Travels:

*When you’re gone, we go out to dinner a few more times than usual.  And by a few I mean whenever I can’t get my work and their practices coordinated … which is pretty freakin often. I think we are on a first name basis with the staff at Chipotle and Jimmy John’s. 

*Idiotically, when you’re gone, I temporarily lose my sense of taste, and drink lots of lemonade. You know I don’t like lemonade, but I know you do … and sometimes (all the time) when you leave me, I order it … suddenly craving the soured-sugary concoction … because, well it’s your favorite. 

*Once in awhile when you’re gone, I let the kids watch marathon episodes of Disney Channel shows –sometimes until the Netflix shamefully asks, “Are you still watching?” I want to tell Netflix to stop judging me … it’s only been four episodes (maybe five) and everyone needs a break sometimes, right? 

*When you’re gone I wear your clothes, a lot.  As soon as I get home, I look at my side of the closet, and then yours, and immediately yours wins.  And I choose the softest long sleeve t-shirt I can find, and sleep in your boxer shorts. 

*Often when you’re gone I frequent Starbucks to get a decaf Caramel Macchiato with light ice at least twice a week. Okay, fair enough … I do that when you’re here too.

*When you’re gone our pets drive me nuts, and I swear that if I hear another bark or meow I’m going to lose it.  But then a wicked little part of me wants to go to the humane society and get another, because you aren’t here to tell me no! 

*At times when when you’re gone I get a little self-conscious. I think about the exotic people you must meet, and in my overactivity imaginative mind they are all young, accomplished, beautiful business women.  And suddenly I feel very dull by comparison. So I search my phone for the best picture of myself I can find, then I use the most forgiving filter to make it even better, and send it to you.  Now you know why. 

*When you’re gone, our pets or children inadvertently make a mess somehow.  A few years ago it was our dog and her explosive diarrhea episode.  This time it was our daughter and her projectile vomit all over our bedroom floor.  Why couldn’t either of these things happened when you were here to lug the power wash vacuum cleaner up from the basement? When I said I liked being independent … this wasn’t what I meant. 

*When you’re gone I don’t sleep well. And I know when you’re here I complain about your hot, heavy leg resting on mine … but without it, I wrestle the sheets and get annoyed at myself for NOT sleeping while I can.  I end up watching romantic comedies or romantic dramas, but sappily skip all but the romantic parts … and then I miss you more. 

*When you’re gone I go out for ice cream with the kids … sometimes before dinner, because why not right?  I know you’d do the same if I ever went anywhere … which I don’t, but if I did – I’ll bet you would. 

*Usually when you’re gone I end up accidentally hurting myself somehow, I whack my arm on the cabinet and get a monster bruise, or I sleep wrong and get a stiff neck.  This time, our son spilled water and didn’t tell me so I slid right into the wall and crunched all my toes!  And it’s no fun complaining to myself how much it hurts. 

*When you’re gone I implement mandatory nap times … though our kids are well beyond the age where they need one.  I need one, and they seem to agree, shutting their doors with a sort of, “Yeah, let’s have mom take twenty.” What smart kids we have! 

*When you’re gone I don’t really make dinner. We eat, but it’s more like a … “Hmmm, that looks like something that I could put together and call a meal.”  Oh, wait!  That’s what I do every day no matter what. Sorry. 

*Sometimes when you’re gone I get a little spiteful, and I might buy a new pair of boots, or an outfit, or a darker shade of lipstick just because.  

*But mostly, when you’re gone, I miss you. Plain and simple. And I think about all the parts of you I love best … especially the part that I know you’ll always come back. That might be the thing I do the most – wait for your return. 

Here’s to all who can relate, and to those of you who can’t, I hope you never take your local worker for granted. 

Elle

“Our journey isn’t perfect, but it’s ours, and I’ll stick with you ’til the end.”                    – Unknown

1.7.17 Signed, Dumb But Happy

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Confession.  Sometimes I think I’m an idiot.  Most of the time I feel fairly intelligent, but then … sometimes – it’s like nothing makes even the slightest bit of sense and I begin to panic that I am going senile at the age of 34.

This feeling has the highest tendency to come over me when I am forced to read directions for some ungodly reason.  I am a teacher, and therefore, I am comfortable giving directions, NOT reading them.  When I am confronted with directions, I feel much the same way I feel when forced to watch sports, review insurance plans, listen to AM radio, or read non-fiction … totally blank and dumb, like I don’t understand English anymore. And suddenly I fear that maybe I never did, and all this time … throughout college and graduate school and twelve years of teaching and writing … I’ve just been a great faker!

Last week I found a math game (oxymoron) in my classroom, and I thought … why not?  About a minute into reading the directions, these are the thoughts that ran through my head:

“Ugh, how long are these?” 

“Wholly crap, there are four pages!” 

“Wait, what was the first sentence again?” 

“It’s not worth it.” 

“I’m hungry.”

“Worst game EVER!” 

“Who would buy something without any pictures!?!” 

“I’m too tired for this … that’s why nothing makes sense. “

“I need coffee!”

“Oh my God! I’m an idiot.” 

“I literally don’t understand a word on this fricking page!”

“Who wrote these? A nuclear-scientist? This is supposed to be a child’s game for crying out loud!”

“I’d rather NOT PLAY than read another sentence!” 

“I need some new jeans.” 

“Maybe I can go shopping after this.” 

“No.  I can’t – because I’ll be here all night … READING these dumb directions!”

“I really need to finish my lesson plans.” 

“What kid wants to play a math game about fractions anyway.” 

“Okay … focus … on to the second sentence.” 

“Screw it! I think I’ve got the hang of it, I don’t really need to read them all.” 

The good news?  I DID actually read the dumb directions, (well, most of them anyway) and I DID play the game with my students, but man, getting to the fun part was pretty rough!  If I’m being honest, there are many times in my life where I’ve agreed with Sean Penn’s mentality after he talked about getting a new camera, “I have no tolerance for the instructions. I’m ready to make some mistakes … until I’ve figured it out for myself.”

So yeah, there it is.  My guilty confession … my fear of idiocy … my aversion to all things mundane and boring!  If you read this and had absolutely no connection to anything I’ve said or gone through, I’ve decided that you are probably smarter than me.  But if smart comes at the cost of directions … I’m out.  So enjoy your focused intelligence as I continue to avoid them.  Here’s to all the brain farts out there!

Signed,

Dumb But Happy

12.18.16 People are the Point After All

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img_1609Yesterday I was gone Christmas shopping from nine o’clock in the morning, until seven o’clock at night.  Anyone who has the gall to tell you that shopping is not hard work is not only a liar … but also an idiot.  If you don’t believe me just think about the fact that: A) it was six degrees where I live B) the smell of the mall is a wicked combination of fruity-perfume, farts, and french fries  C) the first store, and the second may not have what you need, but the third … yeah, it also won’t D) asking where the blush is will somehow translate into, “sit here for this makeover you didn’t ask for or want” E) you won’t have time to do natural things like eat or pee, because you’ve masochistically adopted the mantra, “One more store!” and F) your heart will flutter with anxiety-ridden palpitations as you realize that is the fourteenth time someone asked you if you needed a gift receipt.

Yes, shopping is not for the weak of heart or mind.  Even for us seasoned pros, it is a challenge.  But as I rested my toes in a rose-water bath at the end of the day, greeted not with candles, but my daughter’s array of happy, plastic-toy faces …  the song the twelve days of Christmas rang in my mind, but I was signing to the tune of the memories of the amazing people God gave me the opportunity to meet, and just then, my sore feet were no longer an issue.  Thomas S. Monson once said, “The spirit of Christmas is the spirit of love and of generosity and of goodness.  It illuminates the picture window of the soul, and we look out upon the world’s busy life and become more interested in people than in things.” 

  1. Roz: He was the Indian gas station attendant, who told me I had a pretty smile.  I asked him if he had a family, and he shared with me that his daughter was getting married, and he was also blessed with a son and a beautiful wife.  I told him about my family, and then I told him my name and we shook hands.  Before leaving, he gave me two lollipops for my kids, and asked that God would bless me and my family.  I told him I’d pray for his as well, and we parted … changed.
  2. Bo: The one-year-old, blonde-haired, blue-eyed little buddy that greeted me at Michael’s craft store when his mother and my cart danced around one another.  I must’ve bumped into them four times around those crazy crafting aisles … and each time, I was greeted with an unguarded giggle and chubby hand, waving at me. 
  3. Lisa: The sweet cashier, who shared a little football cheer with me, even though we were in enemy territory.  As I chatted with her, she mentioned that she’d never been in World Market, the store I’d just came from, and so then and there, I made her pinky-promise me that she’d go and explore just for fun.  We giggled like long-time-pals, and she said when she finished at three, it would be her first stop! 
  4. Stefani: The awesome worker at Ulta, who helped me to become un-brainwashed by the product-overload I’d just been wrapped into with one of the tellers.  When I opened my overrun hands, she literally took things I didn’t need away, smiling like we shared a secret, as she took them back to the appropriate aisles so I wouldn’t get trapped again! 
  5. Levi & Kalia: The sweet empty-nesters, who chatted with me about their ambitious college boys, as I showed them proud-as-a-peacock pictures of my kids.  They reminded me how fast it goes, how much boys will eat you out of house and home, and how a line that wraps half-way around the store is nothing if you’re in good company.
  6. Francesca’s Cashiers: The three girls who floated with me around the little boutique to help me find a purse since the one I’d bought there broke, back in September. Though I had no receipt or tags, they looked it up online and traced things back to giving me a full refund, then covered up for my blunder when I put my foot in my mouth, saying how the hideous cat poster was the ugliest thing I’d ever seen, right as the girl beside me was getting it!  Again … laughter covers over a multitude of blunders!
  7. Picture Book Guy: The gentleman who gave a full-tooth smile and gift of, “Thank you sweetheart,” just because I shared a coupon I wasn’t using at Barnes & Noble. 
  8. 37-Year Married Couple: The aged, gray-haired, elbows-linked couple hobbling together as a single entity in the parking lot, who I said I wanted to be just like in a few more years.  Despite the cold, they paused to tell me how long it had been, and congratulate me that I was on the same path, albeit over twenty five years shy of their mark.  
  9. Target Tommy:  This guy was the six-foot-three (yeah, I asked) Target cashier who laughed heartily, and shared that he was the tallest member of his family. I warned him that he might be adopted, and his parents just didn’t know how to tell him. He smiled, red-ears and all, and told me he’d be prepared for the conversation that was coming. 
  10. Game Stop Geeks: Let’s just say when the first and second attempts don’t work … these guys at least have the patience to answer the gaming questions I didn’t even know I should be asking.  Caught somewhere between new-age hipsters and middle school mentalities, they must’ve covered every option for my son’s Christmas gifts, in-between discussing how Nintendo is a corporate pain-in-the-bean bag chair, and what Lego Dimensions are worth my time. 
  11. Best Buy Mike: At my wit’s end, and near a breakdown, this was my last tech-attempt of the night.  I met Mike, and quickly shared with him that my son said he, “Wouldn’t give up on Santa,” though the dumb gaming system he asked for is no longer being made, and costs a fortune!  We sat, arms folded considering  for a good ten minute conversation. It included Mike role-playing a nine-year-old Christmas reenactment.  He laughed, I laughed, and though I still didn’t have everything “done,” I felt alright with the world once more. 
  12. Beth: The smoothie maker at Costco, who asked to show us a demonstration, then when I said we didn’t have time due to going to deliver food to a family in need, stopped us to donate a thirty dollar container of protein mix, for free.  She cried. I cried.  

There were a dozen other miniature moments just like that.  From Michelle, the mother waiting for her college son to make it through the storm in the bookstore, to Dino, the elderly man left alone at a table as his daughter shopped, who accepted the water I gave him with a warm, rough, dry-handshake and smile.  People always say that shopping is a nightmare, but I’d say … if you really take the time to be, “more interested in people than in things,” it’s a way to restore humanity simply because you’re exposed to so many different lives in one day. 

Maybe nine to seven is nuts … certifiable even … but today, I don’t feel exhausted, I feel inspired.  People are the point after all. 

Be blessed, and be a blessing to others simply because you can.

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

10.6.16 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