that time i said ‘no way’ and was wrong

I’m not sure how many people heard me say, “No way.”  Some heard variants like “no stinkin’ way” or “not even a possibility” or “ha ha!… no.”  Anyway, I told enough people that I wasn’t returning to full-time work that taking a new full-time position this week has merited an explanation several times a day. 

I just knew I didn’t have the stamina to handle a full day of teaching in a public school.  Maybe if they’d let me bring a cot in and get an extra “planning” period… Then I could do it.  And if they didn’t mind me shambling down the hall like a 90-year-old woman every once in while… Then I could do it. 

I turned the puzzle pieces over in my head until the curvy parts were bending and creasing, but I just couldn’t make things fit right for the coming school year.  Given all our families needs and desires, we knew something would have to be compromised, but I couldn’t figure out what it was.  I prayed for wisdom until God was probably like, “Yo, girl. Anything else you’d like to talk about?”

So then I ran a 5K with my family in June.  And more to the point, I finished in 37:27!


(And yes, my husband pulled both boys in that Radio Flyer the whole way, with the exception of a few sprints by our 4 year old.)

I’ve never run a 5K in any form or era.  I probably couldn’t even have run 2 miles by myself without stopping at that point.  I’m not a natural runner, and I’d only done 5 training workouts with my couch-to-5K app.

And it got me to thinking… How in the world?!  I’m not a runner, and I’m struggling with fatigue every day.  Eventually I realized that when I’m around a lot of people, I can overcome so much that would normally keep me on the couch. 

At first, I felt bad about that.  I thought, it’s such a mental thing!  Why can’t you just do what you need to do?!  But then I realized that God made me to be an extrovert, a people person, a crowd-dweller.  Perhaps one day when my brain is donated to science, they’ll discover I dosed myself outrageous quantities of adrenaline while in the midst of throngs of people.  However it works, it doesn’t make pain go away.  It makes me get past it.

Instead of beating myself up about what’s hard for me, I decided it’s okay to capitalize on what’s natural to me.  And that became a, “Wellllll, maybe I could…”

A few weeks later, I found a doctor who thinks he knows what’s wrong and thinks he can help me.  I go for my second visit Monday, and I have a lot of hope that some things – if not all my symptoms – are going to get better..

In between the 5K and the doctor, even more changes were happening that aren’t really bloggable (read: boring.) 

My final holdout was chlidcare.  We’ve been so blessed to have the younger kids at home or at a wonderful morning preschool, and I really, really didn’t want to put them into daycare.

And God said, “Let there be a good family friend who loves our children, recently retired, considering looking for work” who will help fill the childcare gap.

And that was it.

There was a full-time elementary music position open, and so back I go into the land of small folk!  I’ll have more to say about leaving my alternative school family and joining a new crew in the days to come, but for now, I have to say:

My “no way” has become a “Here am I, Lord.”  It’s clear to me that he has orchestrated this thing in to place, and I’ll serve to the best of my ability. 

Also?  My husband is really pumped that 3 boxes of “school stuff” have a home that is not ours again.  Poor guy.  I thought he’d be happy I only brought home 3 boxes this year!


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.

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.

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.

what i learned this week #2


ikea1. I wouldn’t want to decorate my entire home with Ikea products, but I could surely spend 6 hours and several hundred dollars there!

2.  I do have enough willpower to walk in a really cool store and emerge with nothing.  Take that, all you hipsters in the very, very long lines.

3. Riding a bike is still a lot of fun.

4. My 4 year old may know how to manipulate my phone into doing a back handspring double back tuck with a twist, but he still needs help learning how to capture a picture.


5. I’ve been a bit naive about why many of the students I teach ended up at my school.  I usually imagine that someone pushed a principal’s buttons too many times, got suspended too many times, went off on a teacher, had too many absences… Hearing the word “probation officer” from a middle school student still makes me pause.

freezer6. It feels really, really good to be ahead of the ballgame.  These bad boys are ready to thaw for a day, get dumped in a crockpot, and be consumed by my hungry crew. If you want to learn what preparedness feels like, check this out.

7.  Earbuds are not for wearing while children are awake.  More like, The Eleventh Commandment:  Earbuds shall not appear in thine ear whilst Lutz the Youngest might possibly be inclined to stir.  My 19 month old made it clear that he is The Adventurous One when he was discovered by a neighbor in another neighbor’s yard — and I had no idea that he’d left the house.  I was cooking and listening to Dave Ramsey, the boys were playing in their rooms, and then… There he was.  In muddy socks.  Holding a basketball. 30 yards away from my door.  So now we know that he can hold the storm door open and get over the threshold.  Sliding chain locks will soon be placed up high on both doors.

what i learned this week #1

whatilearnedthisweekI’m hoping to turn this into a weekly post, sometime during the weekend.  Um, don’t mind that it’s Monday, and I forgot to finish editing before today.  Other than the title, I haven’t set any other boundaries on this post, so it may be 50 words, or it may be 900.  Still interested?  Read on.

  1. I should have bought a wax-based eyebrow pencil a long time ago.  It takes me from  15 to adult in about 12 seconds.  (Far off, that is.  Up close in the mirror, it’s quite obvious I’m past 30, cleverly disguised brown marks or not.)
  2. Deciding that your biggest professional moment to date is not all about you becomes a professional
  3. The 20 year-old stories you were told may not very well represent the person standing in front of you.  In fact, they’re more likely to be inaccurate than not.
  4. I love how my husband prioritizes.  Playing in a basketball tournament so he can hang out with people he would like to feel more included takes priority over a long-time dream of running a marathon, even though he’d trained as far as 16 miles this time.  Mr. Point Guard strained his calf muscle twice, ending his dream for this year, and yet he doesn’t regret it.
  5. I need a new toothbrush.  My toddler just walked into the living room with it in his mouth.  And that’s not the first time this week.  Maybe I really need a bathroom door handle that works instead.
  6. When you’re memorizing Jesus’ sermon on the mount, his claim that his “yoke is easy” a few chapters later stands out like an open patch of carpet on my kids’ bedroom floor.  You just want to stand still on it.  You spend a couple of months trying to remember his words intensifying the Law of the Israelites, making it further impossible to keep, and then he says, “For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  And that reminded me…
  7. Jesus is all about grace.
  8. Scripture Typer is my favorite new tool for memorizing.
  9. Jay Bilas is my favorite Dookie, and I want to read his new book Toughness:  Developing True Strength On and Off the Court.
  10. Sixth graders still do not understand my sense of humor, but eighth graders and I are on the same plane.  Sorry, eighth graders.  That’s not good news for you. //an embarassing post//


A few days ago, I upped my nerd points by tweeting Reeve to ask what to do when your toddler sings in a lower key than the one you set.. Yeah, I’m really getting picky here, but please, Popular Kid, don’t abandon me next to the lockers just yet.

We briefly went over vocal development of infants and toddlers in a music ed class I had back in the day.  I remember, because we held that class at Carribou Coffee.  (Dr. Huff, you’re my fave.)  We probably had more than one session on it, but I don’t know, because no coffee.  Children’s voices are a little higher than adult voices.  I start twitching a little when I hear adults leading kids too low, but I’ve already said too much about that.

We frequently hear our son busting out an “ee-yi-ee-yi-yo” from his crib, and all the pitches are in right relationship to each other. In other words, he’s in tune.  When I sing the first line and he responds, sometimes he matches me.  Sometimes, he completely ignores whatever key I’m singing in.  Is this the new rebellion?  Sing in F-sharp when Mom is in G?  For real?

So I set out to make a video to capture this phenomenon to show Reeve, whom I’ve never met in person.  My nerd points just lifted the roof off the gym.  (I fully intend to get to one of her shows and you should, too.  March 15th, maybe?)

Please note that I am not auditioning for Y’all Got Talent via this video.  This is my “singing with kids” voice.  My “singing for other people” voice may or may not be different.

Clearly, this is not what I was going for, but I knew someone would appreciate the uber-cuteness of my son.  AND – did you catch that?! It’s like he knew I told people he sang lower than me and decided to overshoot on purpose.  Pray for me.  My child is extra-rebellious.

Bottom line: Should you worry about how in tune your toddler is?  No.  Just sing.

Gymnasium roof, you may now return to your rightful place.

i have everything i need

I haven’t posted in at least a week, but I’ve thought about it every day.  I haven’t exercised in at least a week, but I’ve thought about exercising every day.  I even watched the CrossFit games on ESPN.  One time I heard that your muscles make tiny movements as you watch dancers, so imagine the benefits of watching women smaller than me push cars and houses and elephants 3 miles down the road and deadlift ponies 45 times in a row.

I haven’t done a lot of things that I need to do to keep the machine running smoothly, because I’ve been tired and in pain.  Much of this year, I’ve been experiencing odd symptoms which have yet to be fully explained by a doctor.  If I gave you the details, you might change the address in your browser or offer up another “have you thought about this?” diagnosis, and I don’t really want either of those.  What I’d really like is to share with you the encouragement that was passed on to me in the last 48 hours.

Yesterday, the hubs preached about being satisfied.  Not complacent — satisfied.  As in:

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

(I love typing that from memory.  Again, I say, get your memorize on, y’all!  It brings about unexpected blessings.)

Then this morning, I seewhile I’m waiting for my preschooler.  I look it up and find

and I think, “Yes.”

I have all that I need, even though fatigue has had me coming up short in so many areas.  When my lesson plans stink, grace is what I need.  When I’m raking piles of crumbs off the bottom of my feet every time I cross the hardwoods, I need grace even more than a broom.  When I’m hissing empty threats through my gritted teeth at a preschooler, I most desperately need grace.  And grace abounds.  I know, because I feel it.  I see it in action.

I’m too tired to make the words come together for every example, but here’s one:  Any teacher can tell you that a good lesson plan is the crux of the classroom, so walking in every day with a flimsy plan is asking for disaster.  You should also expect the superintendent to come in on those days.  I should have counted how many times in the last month I’ve heard, “Those who fail to plan plan to fail.”  There have been days when it was all I could do to get together a pitiful outline, but my classes have gone remarkably well, despite the fact that I won’t be receiving instruments or resources for a few more weeks when our funding comes in.  Somehow I still have everything I need to serve my purpose well, and I’m strangely satisfied in a non-complacent way.  (Lord, I look forward to serving this purpose in more consistent excellence and with great energy!  *Ahem.*  Amen.)

If you don’t know Jesus in a personal way, what I’m saying might sound like crazy magic. It sort of feels like that sometimes.  It probably felt like magic to his disciples during that whole (fish+loaves)÷multitudes=abundance episode, too.  How did that end anyway?

And they all ate and were satisfied.


Have you seen God’s grace in your life lately?  Please share.  I love those stories.

more happy dance & how a tearjerker song made me grin

And today, purple paper made me do my happy dance.go purple paper, go purple paper–

I learned several years ago that having a signature paper color for important documents and handouts is a smooth move for a teacher.

  1. It sometimes never gets lost in bookbags.
  2. Parents are impressed that the local school system is rich enough to buy color paper. {Shhhh…. They need not know who purchases the pigmented parchment.}
  3. It turns the back aisle of an office supply store into a disco.  —go purple paper, go purple paper–

Lime green, teal, and now “Planetary Purple” from the Astrobrights line by Wausau Paper hath made me dance.  Thank you, trees.  Thank you, dye.

You know what else made me smile?  This conversation:

Me:  Gab, you wanna check my memory on these verses?

G:  Yeah!

Me:  “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”

B:  Now do the one about outerspace treasure!!


G:  You mean…?

 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Me:  (woah)

Thank you, Jesus for your toe-stomping words, and thank you, Lara Williams for your challenge to memorize those words.

And for my final trick, I will tell you how the saddest song I can think of at the moment also brought me joy this week.

My new (larger!!) roster of recruits students showed up yesterday morning.  They were cautious, not sure what they’d gotten themselves into.  After an hour, I felt I had them posed to jump on board.  Then one girl said, “Well, you should sing for us.”  So I preached a little more about how even I still get nervous doing this sometimes, and I promise I’ll never make you do something I won’t do myself.

Two, three… four song titles, and I’m not feeling even one of them.  Someone says, “Do you know Tank?” Um, no.  Shoot.

One of them mutters something about how I Can’t Make You Love Me is her jam.  (Non-teenager people:  That means she loves that song.)

WHAT?!  Does Tank sing that?  Kids, Bonnie Raitt is my hero.  Well, one of the many.  And yes, I know that song. It’s my jam, y’all. Done and done.

For the first few lines, one of the kids is kind of uncomfortable that I’m singing, and she’s being silly to cover it.  I decide not to give my don’t talk while others sing speech.  I start to realize how hard it is to sing over the air conditioners and get worried that I sound dumb.  What a professional I am. Then, before I get to the chorus, I hear two girls whisper to each other, “She can sing.”  “She sho’ can sang.”

SCORE!!!!!!  I think I hooked ’em.

Thank you, Bonnie Raitt and your ridiculously sad song.

new shoes, a dream, & a happy dance

These shoes are one of my favorite things today.  B feels infinitely cool in them, refers to them as his ‘rockstar’ shoes, and informed and proved to us that they’re fast.  A new pair of stellar shoes, like a fresh haircut, is like a new lease on life to me.  Going shoe shopping the first school night of the year is a new one for me, but we have all learned to be pretty flexible considering the number of meetings, lessons, and rehearsals that must be attended by either Mom or Dad most nights of the week.

Tomorrow, I think I may get a real roster.  By real, I mean more than 5 students in each class.  That’s the hope, anyway!  The poor guidance counselor practically lives at the school, so if he decides to eat dinner at home tonight instead of changing schedules at 7 PM, I’ll get over it.

Some teachers look at me with crazy eyes when I say I want more students, but would you want to try to lead a choir with 3 people in it?  We aren’t the Andrews Sisters, people.  Although one time, I did have 5 freshman girls who sang SSA music, and I kind of felt like B in his shoes.  (Non-Musician timeout:  SSA means soprano-[2nd]soprano-alto.  In other words, they sang 3-part harmony.)  It’s my dream for this school to have a choir that represents them well in the community.  I’d love to hear people saying things like, “They’re small, but they’re good!”  “Did you know 12 kids could sound like that?!”  “I thought those kids were too bad to be out in public, but they were great today.”

Another favorite thing today?  Calling my husband on the way home from work and being able to say that I executed a certain teaching strategy better than ever before.  The assignment that used to get practically no results actually got kids thinking and talking today.  —doing my little celebration dance–  

Why was it more successful?  Because I broke it down further than I ever have before.  Itty bitty, teeny tiny baby steps help people who have previously been unsuccessful feel that success is possible.  {REMEMBER THAT, ME!}  Teachers call it scaffolding.  Parents call it raising kids.