for anyone who has snubbed small towns

Yesterday, I met one of my piano students at my little studio so we could video her audition for a summer music camp.

My husband brought the kids over when we were done.  Shoot!  I should have gotten everyone out of the house earlier, and we could have visited Discovery Place Kids directly across the street.  They closed at 5 yesterday.

Instead, we walked to a arcade/bounce house play place caddy-corner from my studio.  The owner was having to shut down due to a family emergency.  No problem. We walked back to the van, grabbed a stroller, and headed to the library, which was about a block away.

A close family friend honked and waved as she passed us.

We checked out books, and the librarian media specialist, who knew me by name, and I chatted about the details of my upcoming student recital to be held in a side room at the library.  She invited me to bring my youngest to a weekly story time and encouraged me to organize some summer concerts with other local musicians.  There’s a nice baby grand that only gets used once a year in that little side room.  I’m on it!

Hm, now we needed a pack of crackers and some ponytail holders.  Ah, yes – to the grocery store next to the bounce house place.  Easy.

Back at the piano studio, which is just a front room in a much larger dance studio, my daughter changed for ballet, and the boys and I walked half a block to a mom-and-pops restaurant for a meeting we had to attend.

And that’s my short defense for why I love a small town.

chalk heart

(Oops.  I put that meeting on the wrong date in Google Calendar, and mom-and-pops aren’t usually open on Tuesday nights.  A three minute drive put us at McDonald’s, because they’re all fancy with a recent renovation and now have an indoor playground.)

“Defend? What’s to defend?” you ask.

I’ve heard more than I want to from folks who can only see what my small town is lacking.  At times, I’ve allowed myself to feel inferior because of these tunnel vision kinds of remarks. I’ve even made them myself, especially as a teenager.

I think I’d love living in a larger city, too.  Sure there is more, but wherever I live, I choose to grab hold of whatever good there is to appreciate.  

It was during that bit of walking that I thought about this neighborhood that was being built in Chapel Hill during my last year or two there.  It was deemed “innovative” and “progressive.”  It was designed to be a small village in which you shouldn’t have to leave for much and you should be able to walk to get everywhere.  Authentic community would develop.

Authentic community develops wherever people decide that it’s valuable.  It happens in little country churches.  It happens in university dorms.  It happens online.  It happens in MOPS groups in Dallas and AA meetings in Mayberry. (Maybe Otis Campbell and the Darling daddy would have hit it off?)

Knowing your neighbor and connecting in meaningful ways is not the exclusive privilege of small towns, and having plenty to appreciate and enjoy doesn’t need to be seen as the exclusive privilege of a metropolis.

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rookie teacher mistake #279

thestandoffThat’s a rookie teacher me (almost 10 years ago) in the shorter hair.  That’s one of my students with the longer hair and inexplicably short forearms, seated at her desk.  We had a standoff in just this position for 12 minutes, because a published expert told me it would work.  I’d followed this expert’s instructions for weeks, and this prescribed posture was the last step.  I’m not kidding.  What can I say?  I was a rookie, and I had a minimum of 19 voices in my head telling me how to manage my classroom.  This particular expert was being pushed by the school system in my beginning teacher seminars, and some of us had even been required to read his book in grad school.

[Are you so impressed with my 45 second drawing?  Did I mention I was a music major?]

For those excruciating twelve minutes, I silently stared into my student’s eyes, willing her to back down from her need to control the classroom with a loud voice and outrageous stunts.  For the first 90 seconds, the other 20+ kids looked on silently, too.  And then, they became a tornado around us.  The bell finally rang, and I don’t even remember what happened besides the other kids leaving.  Maybe I “wrote her up” and sent her to the principal.  Maybe I let her go out of shame.  It doesn’t really matter now, because I lost her and that entire class of kids.

Dear, sweet people, let love lead.  A sense of humor, a hug, and a simple “here’s the deal” conversation outside the classroom would have been so much more effective in that moment.  Don’t lose your sense of humor.  It’s usually followed by a growth of ugly pride, and you may become the punchline of someone else’s joke.

lessons from riding a bike

riding

My husband is a cyclist.  I am not a cyclist.

Let’s try that again.

I am not yet a cyclist.

Today I rode just under 3 miles, and I was really proud of that.  You’d think I’d be embarrassed to Instagram about a 2.75 mile ride when a 20-mile ride is an “easy day” for my husband and his riding buddy.

Embarrassed?  Nope.  I’m really thrilled, because I improved from my last few rides of 2 miles.  My success is about making progress, not about matching someone else’s achievement.

Sometimes my legs really started to hurt on a hill.  Pedaling harder felt better!  Tough times make you want to back off, but relief comes quicker when you press in.

I really didn’t want to go today, but even more, I didn’t want my husband and our friend to tease me for only riding once this week.  I don’t even have to tell you how glad I am that I went.  When have you ever heard someone say, “Boy, I really regret exercising”?  One of the most powerful tools in turning I-know-I-should into I’m-glad-I-did is effective accountability.  For me, accountability is most effective when 1) I greatly value the opinion of the person holding me accountable, 2) there is a good balance of praise for growth and challenge to complacency, and 3) I’m guaranteed to have frequent contact with the person or group.

I bought my own helmet last week, and today my husband told me I have to get my own helmet mirror and saddle bag.  I must be moving up!  Either that, or he’s annoyed at having his mirror fall off because I can’t reattach it properly.  I’m going with moving up.

no regrets, no problems?

I used to live in a house with 6 other college girls.  Three of them were named Erin.  It was awesome.  And yes, they did sing their names as a chord, arpeggiating the triad from the bottom up.  Wait, did that really happen?!  That is too awesome for words.

All three Erins emailed after my last post to say “that sucks” and “I’m praying.”  One Erin sent me a link to another blog talking about how that trite phrase God won’t give you more than you can handle is a load of crap.  I couldn’t agree more.  If you don’t believe me, you should read the other post.  He said it better than I could have anyway.

You know what else I think is a sad, misleading idea that gets tossed around a lot?  “Live life with no regrets.”  Yes, I think it’s a fabulous idea to live the best life you can and go after good things that might seem intimidating or difficult to attain.  Unfortunately, when you take a big idea that needs clarification and boil it down to a cute sentence that fits neatly on a facebook meme, people tend to drag that idea off into various dark corners.

“No regrets” should not mean:

  • As long as I meant it in the moment, it’s okay.  Authenticity trumps all, including compassion and wisdom.
  • Whatever bad has happened in my past made me who I am today, and I should like everything about me.  Therefore, everything bad is good.  I’d choose it again.
  • Apology?  What’s that?

How do I know people take a seemingly well-intentioned phrase and extrapolate such nightmarish conclusions?  Because my freshman students said all of the above in a conversation we had yesterday.  Are they sitting in an alternative school as a result of these attitudes?  Do many people have these ideas running through their heads?  Were they taught this explicitly by family or culture-at-large?   I’d really love to know.

To my way of thinking, the worst outcome of this approach to “no regrets” is that ultimately, it tells me I can do no wrong.  Sin doesn’t really exist for me, and there is no need for me to feel anguish over hurting someone else.

“So, you’ve never said something to your mom and felt bad later that you hurt her feelings?”  I asked them.

“No, because I meant it in the moment, so it is what it is,” replied one of my kids.

Pretty much all of the responses ran in that vein.  I had to remind myself that most of them talk out both sides of their mouths as a general rule, but…

Does that scare you?  It kind of did me.

update: {new normal} how it feels to be me

31days new normalThis post is for any gracious person who read this series last October.

It’s been a year since my first brain scan, and I thought I’d celebrate by having another one done later this month.  Ain’t no party like a Lauren Lutz party…

But seriously, y’all.  This party could happily stop with a diagnosis, and I’m encouraged that it could soon.  I’m almost through with another round of tests that have included about 2 gallons of bloodwork and a skin punch biopsy.

The results for the biopsy will be in at the end of this week, and I expect it to show damage to the network of small fiber nerves.  (I think I said that right.)  While that will technically give a diagnosis, it’s really only like a sub-diagnosis under the Big Question Mark.  I’ve been working jigsaw and crossword puzzles this week, and I’m appreciative of every piece that pops into place in health matters, too!

puzzle perspective

In other happy news, it has been thoroughly proven that I do not have Diabetes, and for that I am very thankful.  My grandfather is a severely brittle diabetic (I think I said that right) and I’ve seen enough to know that them’s tough cookies.  {*Comic Relief Alert*} During one of the bloodwork days, I was having 13 vials of blood drawn after about 8 vials drawn 3 days prior.  I was about 2 seconds from passing out when I started vomiting.  A second nurse ran to help us and boy, was she was overjoyed to hold my barf bag!  Me an’ my raging stomach virus rescued her from having to stick the head of the Board of Directors for the hospital.  You’re welcome, Nervous Nurse Nelly.

My joint and muscle pain continues, but recently I’ve recognized that at least some of the pains are recurring in the same spots.  The weird new pains feel like bee stings (infrequent, but annoying!) and an instant locking up of a joint.  Me hopping through the local discount store on one good knee audibly cracks me up, even as I’m wincing holding the “cramping” knee.

My vertigo came back for a few weeks, but I think it’s leaving again. *jumps & clicks heels together* It is so embarrassing when you look like you’re drunk and you’re not.  Numbness has become a problem from time to time in my limbs.  That makes it surprisingly hard to sleep sometimes!

I had one vision change where I couldn’t focus on the face I was looking at.  That only lasted for 3-5 seconds, and then I was fine.  Very odd, and really hoping that one never happens again.

The most frustrating symptoms for me right now are barely noticeable to anyone else.  I can tell that sometimes I’m not pronouncing things the way I want to, and I’m dropping smaller objects more than what I think is normal for me.  Those two seem a little scary.

Am I crazy to post this on the internet for the world to see?  Perhaps a career coach may say I’m ruining my chances at future employment. Maybe friends or family will exclude me from activities or opportunities because they’ll assume I can’t or shouldn’t participate.

Displaying my weaknesses is worth those risks to me if it helps you see those around you a little more compassionately.  Invisible illnesses are in front of you at the cash register, beside you at the baseball game, above you in the company hierarchy, and behind you in the generations to come.  What harm could it do to assume that everybody needs a little grace?

Displaying my weaknesses is worth those risks to me if it helps you hear one more time that God is worthy of your trust.  I don’t worry that whatever is wrong with me will make me ineligible for life.  God has a place and a way for me to do my thang, and is perfectly capable of using my strengths and weaknesses.  I trust that he’ll do that.

what i learned this week #4

1. In order to pop a 6 in the game of Trouble, one should “talk smack in your head,” according to my daughter.  “It didn’t work,” I said.  “Welllp, it works for me on my journey,” said my oh-so-wise 7 year old.

2. Clear, hanging shoe organizers are the answer.  I’ve had a clean countertop all week!organized

3. “Super Duper Pooper” is even funnier performed in a spot-on cockney accent by my oh-so-wise 7 year old.

4.  I really long to celebrate Easter in a much bigger, completely uncheesy way.  The Easter Bunny didn’t come to our house, and my eldest noticed.  “It must have been the rain.”  And that’s a story too long for this type post.

4. Among the many, often short-lived, usually unwanted nicknames that I have received in 3 decades, “Bag Lady” should have been one of them.  In my dejunking (let’s not fool ourselves here with the word “clutter”) frenzy, I went through 4 large tote bags full of teaching stuff.  Each one was like a time capsule.  My favorite was apparently from 2005-2006.  Here are some of the more remarkable items I rescued trashed.dejunking1. My husband’s license that expired in 2006.  Pardon the mustaches to protect his identity.  I prefer them not on his face.  2. Eight-year-old lip gloss anyone?  3.  Cassette tapes!!  YES!  I showed them to my kids and they were like “Wha?”  4.  A birthday card for Megan.  I hope I called.  5. Phone cards and a NetZero CD.  Doesn’t that seem ancient?!  6. Two of the three hole punches I found.  No need to trash those!  7. My husband’s lanyard ID for summer camp when he was a youth pastor.  8. These are still cool, right?  No, they didn’t work.  9. A mini cassette! I guess I love all forms of media.