Thursday, September 29, 2011


Question for the day: Tell about a time you did something in secret.

When my son and I were in Wisconsin taking care of my dad's house, we talked with friends about things we needed to do to thank people. I had a huge list of thank you notes that needed to be written, but I thought there might be folks who needed something MORE.

We realized that, while we wanted to thank Dad's friends for taking such great care of him over the last year (taking him to chemo and dr. appointments, visiting him at the house and in the hospital, etc.), they wouldn't let us do much for them.

So, my son and I went to the restaurant where these guys always meet for breakfast every Tuesday. We timed it so we got there early enough to already be eating when they arrived. We said hello, chatted, and then left with the check for their entire group. I wish I could have been there when they asked their server for the check and she told them it was already taken care of.

It was a great feeling!

So, have you ever done anything in secret?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

It's time

Question of the day: Finish this statement - "It's time for me to start_________."

It's time for me to start getting my groove back. Things are piled around my house and I seem to be several steps behind all the time. I'd like to get back to a routine that feels right for us. I'd like to get into a flow where I have time for all the things that make me feel like me - reading, blogging, spending time online and time with family. I want to feel like my life is manageable again.

Now the question for me is how do I get there? I feel like I need a week of doing nothing to get on track (if not ahead). That's not going to happen for awhile.

I probably need to just spend a few days compiling a list of all the things that need to be done and then start scheduling each task. Little by little I can start reclaiming my life. I just have to get started with something.

So, how about you? What is it time for you to start?

Saturday, September 24, 2011

First things

Question for the day: What's the first thing you think of when you wake up? Is that a good thing or something you want to change?

In general, my first thought is "Do I have time to hit the snooze or do I have to get up right now?" It's probably a sign that I need to get more sleep. 

My next thought usually has to do with "How much are my feet going to hurt when I stand up?" Standing in class all day has been killing my feet. I have finally found some shoes that actually feel good on my feet after a normal day, but I still have to undo the damage done those first few weeks.

I guess, all things considered, those are too bad, are they?

So, what do you think of first thing in the morning?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Three Things, part 2

Another journalling prompt asked me to pick three things - this time, three things that make a day better.

Here are my three:
1) Snuggling with my son. It won't be long before he's too big and/or decides he's too old to hang out with Mom. I want to soak up as much time being physically close to him before he outgrows that connection.

2) Reading. Losing myself in a book for awhile makes a day feel "right." I have so many books I want to read - and should read - I also feel some pressure to read and keep up, so the more I read, the better I feel about that.

3) Connecting with people. Tweeting things people connect with, making a comment on a blog or a Facebook post, a fun talk with my husband while we watch TV, lunch out with a friend. All of these things make me feel better about life.

4) Singing. Yeah, I know I was supposed to choose three, but I honestly feel better if I have some time each day to sing a little - really belt something out without worrying about anyone watching or listening.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Doubt and Insecurity

One post in the journalling series was about a new book that talks about doubt and insecurity. So the challenge was to journal about those things. This is what I wrote:

I read a great book by Kevin Lehman (the birth order guy) called What Your Childhood Memories Say About You. In it, he asks readers to finish the statement, "I feel I matter in life when...."

I jotted some ideas in the margin as ways I could answer that, but the one that really clicked was, "I feel I matter in life when I get things right."

My doubts and insecurities are directly related to that core of perfectionism. When I make a mistake, I berate myself, kicking myself over and over about how I goofed. When I'm in a situation where I'm in over my head, I second guess the decisions that led me there. I think longingly of the last place I was where I felt like I knew what I was doing. I hate feeling incompetent.

Several years ago, when I was working daily with recovering addicts who were also mentally ill, I did a session with my clients where I played a Steven Curtis Chapman song called, "Burn the Ships." The chorus and bridge say

Burn the ships, we're here to stay
There's no way we could go back
Now that we've come this far by faith
Burn the ships, we've passed the point of no return
Our life is here
So let the ships burn

Nobody said it would be easy
But the one who brought us here
Is never gonna leave us alone

For addicts, the correlation is clear - they have to leave their old life and old friends behind if they want to be in recovery. This chorus returns to me in those moments of doubt and insecurity. I have to tell myself that I am in the place I'm supposed to be, I will learn what I need to learn, I will build competence in time. I have to close the door on the idea of going back to what was comfortable and embrace the new challenge. Some times that is a lot harder than others!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Nicest Thing

Another journalling question from Cheaper by the Dozen.

What is the nicest thing someone has recently said to you? Why did the compliment matter?

After a day of meetings at my new job, a co-worker popped her head into the library and said, "I appreciate you."

I have no idea what prompted her to say it. I am always self-conscious after events like that one, afraid that I talked too much, feeling a little like an outsider still, wondering where I fit in. 

This is a woman I hold in high regard. She has scads of experience that she offers in a gracious, helpful way. She is a professional, taking her role - but not herself - seriously. She is organized. She follows and enforces the rules. She is classy. And she said she appreciates me.

I don't know if it was prompted by something I did or something I said or if it was just a general word of encouragement, but I really appreciated it.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Three Things

I follow a blogger who was posting journalling questions back in August. Over the next few weeks I'll be posting my responses to some of her questions. I'd love to hear your responses!

What are three things you would change about your life right now and why?

1) Dad would still be alive. I miss calling him and talking to him. He is missing a great chapter in my life and I would love to share it with him.

2) My husband and I would have maintained our healthier Weight Watcher's lifestyle from 5 years ago. I think we would both feel better if we had stayed with that.

3) I would have started my job a month sooner so I would have had more time to prepare and feel really ready. Right now I feel like I am a step or two - or twelve - behind when I'd like to be a step or two ahead.

So, what would you change? Post your list or a link to your list!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Divinely Prepared

I recently heard a "sermon" where the speaker talked about different life experiences that prepared him for other experiences later. When he found himself in a job where he felt under-educated and ill-prepared, a mentor reminded him that he had been divinely prepared along the path where God had led him.

He then went on to show our group where we had been divinely led to where we were. Even though some of us were feeling out of our depth, we were right where we were supposed to be. 

The story, the message, and a subsequent video about praying "BIG," were inspiring. For the last few years, as I have enjoyed building relationships with students and watching them grow into adults, and have developed a passion for children's books, I have wondered where these experiences were leading.

These days I find myself in the middle of great adventure. I'm in a job that is challenging in all the right ways. I am acutely aware of all the things I don't know. Some days I feel completely unprepared and under-qualified for the responsibilities I now hold. But I know my life experiences have led me here. I have been divinely prepared for this place, this opportunity. I will learn the things I still need to learn. I will make mistakes - and hopefully learn from them

As the speaker talked, the image in my head was of Jericho (with vegetables for Israelites, but I digress). God had given the Israelites the land. They just had to keep marching.

The opportunity has been given to me - and it is a gift and a great responsibility. It's my job to keep marching - to show up, to put in the planning time, to learn from those who've walked the road before me, and to keep watching for ways God will prepare me for whatever's next.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Grief Is Like the Ocean

Grief is like the ocean. You wade into the water - you expect this sorrow. Sometimes it barely covers your toes and other times it climbs higher and higher. You acknowledge it. You live with it. It is part of a new "normal."

Waves of grief swell. Sometimes you see the wave coming - an anniversary, a birthday, Christmas or event you thought you'd share. You watch the wave start to build and you brace yourself for it. It jostles you, but you stay standing.

Then sometimes your focus turns back to the beach. You watch other people go on about their business, oblivious to your grief. You watch them wistfully, remembering a distant time when you were a little more carefree. You focus on other aspects of your own life. You start to feel like yourself again.

As your focus is on the beach, you never see the new wave coming. It slams into you. It crashes over the top of you, taking your breath away - taking your feet out from under you. Your butt's in the sand, you're coughing and sputtering, wiping the water from your eyes and wondering where the wave came from.

That is grief.

[written 3.27.10]

Thursday, September 8, 2011


I am convinced that an elementary school cafeteria would be a great location for a psychological/ sociological study. Every day at school, I am fascinated by watching the students in the lunch room. 

Who sits with whom? 
Why are the kids who were inseparable last year now sitting at different tables? 
What is the difference between the sixth grade boys who huddle together day after day and the ones who integrate with the girls? 
How do these students eat when they are at home? 
Do they clean up after themselves at home any better than they do at school?
What do different parents send for school lunches?

I'm telling you, the elementary cafeteria is fascinating! I may not be actively using my psychology degrees, but those corners of my brain are getting a work out nonetheless.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Great Expectations

Awhile back, I had some discussions with a couple planning their wedding - and their marriage. One of the things we talked most about was expectations. 

Expectations, especially unspoken ones, can be the root of a lot of strife in a marriage. Expectations for how to spend the holidays, how to do the grocery shopping, how to share the bathroom, how to divide the chores, etc. are best dealt with up front and out in the open.

The importance of clear and shared expectations was shown to me again a couple weeks ago when my son had some friends spend the night. There were four of them - the most we had ever had for a sleepover. 

Apparently, one boy and my son had shared the story of a Lego "war" they had had at a sleepover earlier in the year. They had had so much fun with it, they wanted to do it again as a group. This seemed like a no-brainer because it had gone so well when the boys did it the first time.

It was soon apparent that we we headed for a different sort of war. The two boys who had played it before wanted it to be like they had had it then. My son, in particular, wanted to pull out all the same pieces and set it up in a very particular way, and he wanted the other boys to wait while he got everything in place. The other two boys just wanted to play. They had their own ideas of what this war might be like. My son's expectations were leading to a lot of "Guys.... guys!" and finally I had to step in. I pulled him aside and tried to convince him that it would be more fun, and less stress, if he went with the flow rather than trying to recreate the war they had the last time.

I tried to explain to him the next day that the four of them came to the "war" with different expectations about what it was going to be like, and because of that, they had trouble actually getting to play what they wanted. I don't know if he "got" it, but I know I sure did. 

In my marriage, I have learned to say things like, "Tell me what you think this weekend is going to look like," or "In your head, how do you have this playing out." It's a really fast way to discover if we are headed for disaster. I've learned to ask my new boss, "Where do you want me," or "What do you see my role being for this event" so hopefully I can be where I am supposed to be, or I can seek clarification or compromise rather than dealing with problems later.

Clarify your expectations. Ask others what their expectations are. Clarity can lead to peace.

Saturday, September 3, 2011


Growing up an only child, my family was like a three-legged stool. For the most part, we balanced. My parents did their thing (golf, Friday nights out), Dad and I were buddies (spending a lot of time together since we were both on a school schedule), and Mom and I had our connections (primarily books and crafts).

When my mom died, Dad and I had to figure out how to get this new two-legged stool to work. And we did. We each found external things to help prop us up. Dad became more involved in the after school activities at his school, and I met my husband and got married. Dad and I found a comfortable way to lean on each other while primarily engaging in our new lives.

That worked and evolved over 20 years. He dated, he retired, he joined a book group, he met weekly with other retirees. I found work I enjoyed, spent time with my husband, obsessively pursued many hobbies and had a baby. Our lives looked different, but our "lean" was what it always had been - strong, encouraging, dependable, available.

Then Dad got sick and things started to change. We talked regularly, but mostly about his illness and treatment. Sometimes a month went by before I told him the latest news. I guess I tried to let him lean a little more and tried to hold up my end on my own. Less than a year later, he was gone.

Now, I feel lopsided. Twenty years is a long time to lean in one particular direction. I feel as though I have been holding up a wall, and that wall is gone. I am precariously perched. The only things keeping me from toppling over are the external connections I've built that helped me keep up my end of the two-legged stool.

That "lean" defined so much of who I am, I feel quite lost sometimes without it. Most days I can keep my balance, but other times I feel like I am about to topple over. I'm having to learn to lean in a whole new way, and some days I am more successful than others.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Out with the Old. In with the New

Sometimes you just need a change of scenery.

I was like a woman obsessed when I came home from my month in Wisconsin early this summer. The compulsion for change had a desperation to it. I didn't weight my decisions or discuss my ideas with my husband. I just acted.

The bedspread I had been tired of for a couple years? Gone.

The shower curtains and bathroom rugs we had had since we moved in 10 years ago? Gone.

The black milk crates in our kitchen, holding puzzles and art supplies? Gone.

New purse. New notebooks. New books. New art for the walls. 

Finally, the frantic-ness abated, and I was able to get back into a more normal flow of life. The new things satisfied a need in me to (a) control something and (b) to make the view of my every-day life as different from "normal" as my emotional life felt. A semblance of peace returned.