how to get folks talking for no reason

I leave the high school chorus room and head straight out into the parking lot, blazer on one arm, clear party glass full of bubbly, golden beverage in my hand. I’m singing to myself, like I do far too often. I stumble in my heels and slosh said beverage all over said blazer.  I try to play it off and keep heading for my car.

Black High HeelsOh, hello couple in the truck 25 feet in front of me probably waiting for your grandson to come out of the locker room.  Thanks for staring. 

Never mind that it was white grape juice and ginger ale for a party to celebrate a retiree.  Never mind that the parking lot is full of rocks, and my middle name isn’t Grace. Never mind that no group of teachers in their right mind would drink on campus.  (Don’t Google that, readers.  You’ll find reports of teachers drinking on the job, and I’ll remind you that they weren’t in their right minds.)

I can tell, sweet couple, by the look on your faces that you think I’m actually that stupid.

Ah, well.

remember3More importantly, it’s a pretty amazing thing to celebrate someone who has served students for 30 years.  Congratulations, Mr. Don Greene… Teacher of 3rd Grade Me, Elementary Choir Genius, Rhythm & Staff Reading Taskmaster, and Encourager of Many.  May you spend all summer in your garden of Eden (I mean, yard) without a single sunburn, and may you never, ever again have to write a lesson plan in yet another new format.

what i learned this week #5 {a family health-related edition}

whatilearnedthisweekIt was after I’d written all these down that I realized they were all about food and exercise.  I may have learned other things this week, but I think I’ll save those for a blog post that will stay trapped in my head for a good two weeks.  Maybe this Summer I’ll be able to write more frequently.

  1. Don’t bake with colored toothpicks.  The dye will come off around the holes where you punctured your newly Pinterested pesto-chicken-roll-up recipe, and while confetti cake is awesome, unintentional confetti chicken is not.
  2. Zumba makes me feel like one of the cool kids.
  3. This stuff should not go in your eye. bugrepellent It’s not the worst thing you can imagine, but it was probably the worst part of my Thursday.  It’s important to make sure that the pump spray is pointed in the right direction.  Oh, you knew that already?
  4. I’m the only one in this family of five who really, really likes kale.
  5. My husband likes golf enough to play during the same week that he breaks down and visits a doctor for a shoulder issue.  Hmm.  This I cannot relate to.
  6. My middle child’s love language decidedly is quality time. 5lovelanguageskidsWe rode our bikes and ran around the block together a couple of times tonight, and twice he looked up and said unprompted, “I love you, Mom.”
  7. Two of my kids are old enough and strong enough to help me train for a 5k.  My oldest can run like crazy, and she shocked herself – and me – with how easy it was for her to run 1.3 miles tonight.  She’s come a long way since February.  Now instead of thinking I can’t exercise because I’m with the kids, I should think I can exercise because I’m with the kids.  Hallelujah!

i looked at my shoes when i might have walked

Sit down.  Sit down!  SIT! DOWN!  But the child didn’t sit down in the buggy.

I’m not doing this today.  But clearly, she was.

I’M GOING TO SLAP YOU!  And thankfully, she didn’t.  At least – not at that moment.

EinkaufswagenThis went on constantly for more than 3 minutes within earshot.  Every harsh sentence made my stomach turn, and I was more than ready to leave that area of the store when the mother finally wheeled her kids somewhere else, still yelling at them.  The worst part was that when I caught a glimpse of the two girls in the cart, the one she was yelling at appeared to be about 12 months old.

I think every parent has been at this breaking point.  I have. It’s that point when Mommy is the one who really needs the time out.  And every parent at some time will say or even threaten things which they wish they could take back.  There’s grace for that, thanks be to God.

But what about me, the fellow shopper?  I really wanted to approach this woman and say, “Look.  I get it.  I’ve been there — even just last week.  Can I carry your baby around and we’ll walk together?  Can I push the girls in another cart behind you?  Can I pray with you here in aisle 19?”  But I didn’t approach her.  I pretended not to notice her, because that seems to be the thing to do.  Just ignore.  Just keep to yourself, because it’s not your business.

But it is my business.  I am in the business of advocating for kids, and I am so tired of intentionally ignoring moms who are clearly struggling with the fundamentals of every day parenting.  Every parent has a bad day, but there are moms out there who are experiencing every day as a rollercoaster that just left the tracks.  Everyone is screaming, and someone’s going to get hurt.  Somewhere in the chaos, they become confused and start pushing everyone out instead of trying to keep everyone on board.  Mom is only fighting for her own survival.

In my work as a public school teacher, I’ve seen the effects of this far more than I ever want to see.

I’m not interested in a blame game.  The reasons that some parents become monster-versions of themselves are vast and varied.  What I’m interested in is finding a way to reach out to people who feel hopeless and say show them, “It can get better.”

In some cases, I think folks need a little experiential education.  Perhaps the mom I described above just hasn’t seen the gentle way someone might pick up a crying toddler and talk to them about everything they’re seeing in the store.  Maybe that mom was only yelled at by her own parents.  Perhaps that mom has been implicitly told that immediate obedience is paramount in bringing up babies and that anything should be done to enforce it from day 1.  (And we hope instead that this just happened to be the one day we caught her outside of her norm.)

But maybe more often, parents become so overwhelmed with the task they’ve been assigned that they’re simply too tired to control themselves any longer.  Insecurity and exhaustion pour gasoline on the normal frustrations of parenthood, and a fiery rage takes over.  (Full front page shout out to the single parents who are getting it done.  I don’t know how you do it.  It overwhelms me just thinking about it.)

I think it sucks that in the name of being polite, we are supposed to pretend this isn’t happening.  What about the kids?

I’m praying about how I can extend a hand without making people feel judged.  Because yes, I do judge that some types of parental behavior are unacceptable, but I don’t judge that having bad days makes you invaluable.  Otherwise, I’d have to count myself out of the game, too.

on forgetting important stuff

A dear friend, who shall remain unnamed in order to protect the guilty, and I were discussing some of our mutual flaws.  Though many elements of our stories are different, we struggle with so many of the same issues – like the monumental, soul-crushing task of changing bedsheets.  We laughed about how long it had been since one of us had last changed the sheets and how the other of us was currently sleeping on top of quilts while clean sheets lay in a laundry basket on the floor.

She laughed again and said something like, “Lauren, when it comes to us, sometimes I feel like it’s the blind leading the blind.”  And I said, “No, we’re sighted.  We just have really poor hand-eye coordination.”

remember3Isn’t this all of us in one place or another, when it comes to how we are versus how we want to be?

We get it.  We can see what should be done.  But somewhere, the connection is lost between what we saw and what we’re doing.  We forget.

This is why New Year’s Resolutions are the target of so many jokes.  We forget the beauty of the goal we’d set with the best of intentions.

This is why reading through parts of the Old Testament sounds like a broken record playing, “Then they served other gods and did evil in the eyes of the Lord.”  The Israelites, like me, forgot what they’d seen God do.

This is why marriage conferences and parenting books will always be in demand.  We forget the ways we want to serve those we love most.

This is why I didn’t complete any of my health goals this week.  I forget in the moment how important this leg of the table is and how many things may fall off if I don’t tighten it up.

This is why you are constantly enduring professional development on the job.  Somebody forgot that a Diet Coke 12-pack doesn’t belong in the freezer, and now you must be reminded of courteous workplace practices.

If I may say, forgetting is a big part of being human.

remember2You’ve probably heard that quote that just begs to be cross-stitched: “A friend is a person who knows the song in your heart and sings it back to you when you’ve forgotten it.”  It’s so true.  (That is, unless the tune you were humming was “Murderous Revenge.”  If someone sings that back to you, get a new song, and get a new friend.)  I need people to remind me of the good things that I know.  Isn’t it weird how we easily remember the bad, but it takes effort to remember the good?

These are some things that help me remember the life-balancing good:

I’m so grateful for my friend who is hopefully sleeping on [clean] sheets tonight.  She helps me remember that despite my frustrations and failures, I’m a good teacher.  She reminds me that too much TV for my kids is stealing too much happiness from our home.  It takes effort to maintain our friendship, but I need it.  I’ll even guess that we both do.

I struggle to take in God’s Word on a daily basis, but if I don’t, I can forget how all the dots connect.  My heart forgets peace.  My hands forget love. (I’m still feebly kickin’ it Hello Mornings style, but that’s another post.)

It’s not easy to get myself and my dancing, hiding, whining, laughing, loud, squirming children to church every week, but there’s a reason that God says in the book of Hebrews: “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see  the Day drawing near.” [emphasis mine]  He made it so that worshiping together makes us remember, too.

In other words, I’ve got to remember to do something to help me remember what it is I’m trying to do.  Need to read that sentence again?  I do, and I wrote it.

And maybe the beauty in forgetting is that we get a chance to experience joy all over again every time we remember.