Showing posts with label Writing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Writing. Show all posts

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Full Disclosure: On Writing, Mixed Motives, & Redemption





If all goes as planned, I roll out a new blog in six days. I am equal parts terrified and excited.


Remaking what I've had in place for five and half years at a la mode has caused me to reflect {and overthink} on blogging and why I'm still doing it after almost 450 posts. 

I've considered the positives and the pitfalls. I've obsessed far too much about silly things. I've had to repent of messy motives. 

Most of all, I've doubted and despaired that I may never be able to pursue writing with complete purity of heart. 

And that has caused me to wonder whether I should do it at all. 

Then I apply that line of thinking to all of my pursuits. Marriage? Motherhood? The years I spent in school and college teaching and then homeschooling? All of these relationships and endeavors have been and still are a perfect storm of actual giftedness mixed up with selfishness and pride and all sorts of messy motives. Good and bad and everything in between all swirling around together. 

I love this excerpt from A Million Little Ways, a recent book by Emily P. Freeman:


The art I believe I was born to make lingers even in the midst of my inadequacy.        
Just because you can't fully live your life the way you so long to live it doesn't mean you don't fully believe it's possible with all your heart. And it doesn't mean you are forbidden to share what you're learning unless you are living it perfectly.      
Christ is in you and wants to come out through you in a million little ways--through your strength and also your weakness, your abilities and also your lack.      
I call it art, someone else calls it rubbish.      
So what?      
Call it what you will. God calls us his poem. And the job of the poem is to inspire. To sing. To express the full spectrum of the human experience--both the bright hope that comes with victory and the profound loss that accompanies defeat.


So I realize that if I wait to pursue anything--relationships, vocation, service--with only 100% pure motives and with a 100% pure product and with a 100% track record of living perfectly what I believe to be true and right, I'll be waiting until I die.

I've mentioned before that I'm knee-deep in the study of Matthew this year. Getting to know those in Jesus' inner circle has been refreshing, encouraging, and sometimes hilarious. Whenever I'm tempted to think I'm too much of a mess or too unprepared to really be of much good, I'm wise to consider the disciples. They fought over who would sit at Jesus' right hand, wanted to be considered the greatest in his kingdom, tried to send away children instead of allowing them to be blessed by Jesus, and were rebuked for their weak faith. Some even denied the very One who came to give them life. 

Talk about mixed motives. But God used them to change the world anyway. He used their strengths and their sins. He redeemed their pasts and their positions. He used their God-given gifts and their God-allowed inadequacies. Either way, it was all God and all grace. 

Like the disciples, I'm a broken person living in a fallen world. My marriage, my mothering, my writing, my many relationships--they're messy, laced with my good contributions and also many failures. But because of more grace than I can comprehend, they're being redeemed all the time. 

And because of this overwhelming grace and redemption, I can be a-very-much-in-process wife, mom, friend, and writer. 

I can write imperfect posts with honesty and with hope. I can keep putting my art out there with truthfulness and humility all the while acknowledging that there will inevitably be some hypocrisy and pride tainting its edges, whether I'm fully aware of it or not.

I don't write that because I'm fatalistic about my depravity or because I'm light-hearted about it. I write that because I want to be honest and because I have hope.

Hope that God, in his love, will continue to show me my sin and mixed motives. How else can I attain the freedom and joy that only repentance brings? 

Hope because I know I stand loved, forgiven, and redeemed in the messy midst of all the sacred work I do with my life. {And it is all sacred.}

Hope because I can gaze back and see how far I've come, not because of self-effort and boot-strapped righteousness but because God has set his love upon me and is remaking me. 

The remaking, much like pruning a delicate plant, is sometimes painful. It means cutting away things I'd rather keep. It means waiting. It means rest. It means seasons of ugly barrenness in order to give birth to new seasons of fruitful beauty. And this process of cutting away, waiting, ugly, beauty is a cyclical one. I'll never arrive and simply live in a state of blossomed beauty for the rest of my days. Redemptive pruning lasts a lifetime.

So I will keep writing in this remade space, mess and neuroses and all. 

Bear with me as I try to write with humility, honesty, humor, and hope. 

Bear with me as I do this imperfectly and inconsistently. 

Bear with me as hypocrisy, pride, selfish ambition, and fear of man are inevitably thrown in the pot and mixed up with all the good stuff. 

I dream that I might make a difference with the words I write in this space. But I try to let go of any hard and fast visions of what that might look like. 

I hope that I'll have words to write, hope to share, grace to give, and humor to lighten our hearts for many posts to come. But I try not to cling too tightly. I want to be ready to lay it down and walk away should I ever need to. 

Being known and loved perfectly and intimately by the Creator of the universe is an incomprehensible gift. And I want this to matter more than being known and loved by those who read my posts. I don't want this space and the person typing out the words that fill this space to ever become too important. This is hard. Because the things we love most always have a way of becoming the things we love too much.

This is a season of new opportunity. And though I certainly have a few ideas and hopes and dreams, I teeter on the scale of acceptable enthusiasm versus unacceptable ambition. 

I accept that there are good things here: finding gifts in the mess and the mundane, spilling encouragement from the overflow of my own life, writing honest stories of hope out of imperfect marriage and crazy motherhood, and even sharing the magic popcorn recipe. Yet these spiffed-up posts can still have a bit of muck at their core. 

I suppose I write all of this because I need you to know. And because I need to remind myself. 

Something about the shiny new blog that I'm unveiling--this lovely, long-held dream of mine--urges me to pull back the curtain so that you can see me in all of my shaking, sweaty, lounge-pants-wearing, people-pleasing, mixed-motived glory. 

Putting one's art out there is a such a paradoxicial gesture--humility mixed with pride, confidence blended with fear, a longing to encourage followed by a longing to be loved for it. 

Welcome to the neurotic life of a writer. Welcome to the mixed-motives that characterize each one of us, if we're honest. Welcome to a God who's big enough to use it all anyway. Welcome to redemption. 


::


If you're interested in more on this topic of mixed motives, I appreciated this post that Emily wrote a while back: For the Artist Who Worries Her Motives Are Wrong

Thanks for counting down the days with me to the new blog. I can't wait to show you around. I'm hoping and praying that we won't have debilitating glitches but that's always a possibility. I'm so glad my life doesn't depend on a smooth transition. 


If you'd like to weigh in on some of the questions I asked in this post, I'd love that.




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This post first appeared at a la mode: a little scoop for every slice of life.

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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

An Announcement. Aaaaand...I Need Your Help.



Hi friends.

I've been staring at the blinking cursor on the blank screen waiting for meaningful words to show up. They have not. 

So in the absence of a meaningful post I thought it might be time to tell you the thing that currently preoccupies.

Are you ready?

I'm rolling out a new blog. 

Raise your hand if you thought I was going to tell you I'm pregnant and that I need help naming my baby.

Nothing that huge and dramatic, people. But it does feel a little bit like having a baby {minus the sickness, stretch marks, and pain} and I do need some help with a name. But more on that in a minute.

I don't have an exact "delivery date" yet. There will be plenty of wrinkles to iron out first. But after an extremely long gestation period / creative and technical process, she's almost here. 

I'm giddy and terrified. {And will stop with the pregnancy / baby metaphor now.}

Here are some questions you might have:


Scooper, why are you changing things up?

I'm glad you asked. It's something I've wanted to do for a very long time. For lots of reasons, the timing simply hasn't been right until now. I've wanted a name that was less "themey" and more reflective of me and my content. And I wanted a design that felt more reflective of those things too.


Are you switching from Blogger?

Yes, I'm switching to a self-hosted site using a custom Wordpress theme. Blogger is great in that it's very user-friendly and easy to set up. It's lacking, however, in functionality and customization. I also worry about ownership of my content with Blogger. Having a self-hosted site {where one actually owns their web domain} provides more options and makes my content a little bit easier to find. 


Will you tell us your real name after you move?

Yep, I sure will. No more Scooper. Unless of course you really want to call me that. In a way I'll forever be Scooper.


Will you still be writing about the same stuff?

That's the plan. My content will still be "a little scoop for every slice of life." As much as I'd love to be a niche blog, I'm just too random to pin down. There's too many things I love to write about. I've made peace with it.


Will all of your content and comments move with you?

Absolutely. All 400+ posts and comments will be moving with me. {Fingers crossed!}


I subscribe via e-mail to your blog. Will I still get each post delivered to my inbox?

Yes.


You mentioned that you need my help. How?

There are two ways. First, I need some naming help. I've got the name for the blog. It's both very original and not original at all. How's that for vague? But I'm still struggling with the tag-line. I've got long lists of possibilities and while one of them stands above the rest, even it doesn't feel 100% right. As it turns out, naming your blog is harder than naming your baby. At least it is for me. 

I'd love some feedback from you on this. What overall theme or message do you find in my posts? How do you feel after you've read a post? What words describe my content? I've got some ideas on this but I'm obviously not objective. Hearing from you may give me some fresh perspective. 

There's another way you can help. What sort of posts are your favorite? What would you like to see more of? My primary motivation for writing is simple. I write because I'm a writer. I can't not write. It's how I process. It's how I learn. It's how I reinterpret and make meaning of both the epic and the everyday. Some of my writing is private {in journals} and some of it is public here on the blog. But I've also come to see writing as part of my calling, as a way to encourage and inspire, as a way of speaking truth and beauty into the world around me. With that said, what are some of the most encouraging and enjoyable kinds of posts you've read here? What topics would you like to see explored in the future? 

::

I can't wait for you to see the new place. The design is close to done and it's going to be simple and lovely. My friend and fairy blogmother, Kindel {at Willow White Studios}, is the genius and cheerleader behind this whole endeavor. I wouldn't have attempted this without her. 

Stay tuned for more updates but in the meantime, help a sister out and let me know your thoughts. You can reply in the comments or even send me an e-mail: scooperalamode at gmail dot com. 

Thanks a million, friends!

Monday, December 30, 2013

4 Things I Learned in December




It's that time again. The post where I share a few things I've learned or noticed this month. 

It's not an exhaustive list, nor will it change your life. But it's a fun post to write and I'm thankful that Emily over at Chatting at the Sky offers this link-up opportunity at the end of each month. Want to know more of what I'm talking about? Go here.

In no particular order, here are four things I've learned in December.

1. I want high-waisted, layered, ruffly 80s skirts to make a comeback. 

Even though I'm entirely too old to wear one. The acid-wash is more than welcome to remain in the late-80s / early-90s; it's the layery ruffles that are so swoony.

We had a little Christmas party. It's something we started two years ago as a time for our small group to gather and munch and sip and karaoke to "Total Eclipse of the Heart" on Singstar. Anyway, this year I dressed up as the "Ghost of Scooper Past" and I pulled this little number from the wardrobe archives.




Even though it was only partially zippable, it was kind of fab to wear it again. {The belt, socks, and booties are all from my little box of yesteryear wear. Because some things are just worth saving.}


2. Everything is overpriced at Disney {this is not news} except for one thing: silhouettes. 



We went to Disney World during the first part of Christmas break with my husband's family and I stumbled upon a little artists' section in the Magic Kingdom. 

Hidden amid the expected theme-park caricature painters was an unexpected silhouette artist named Anthony. I've always wanted silhouettes of my kids but have never gotten them. Well, Disney World became my happiest place on earth that day because I got sweet silhouettes of each of my kids for just $8 each. Eight dollars. If you've ever looked into getting silhouettes, you know that $8 is a bargain times ten. You can also purchase the oval frames for $7.95 so I said Merry Christmas and told my kids that this was their gift to me.

Here's how my curly-headed youngest's turned out. Spot on.




Instead of sketching or painting, Anthony cut them with scissors. It was amazing to watch. He had these tiny, fine-tip scissors and he finished each one in about four minutes. It was like magic and I think they turned out beautifully.




What's the moral of the story? If you go to Disney, skip the $40 souvenir t-shirts and get the $8 silhouettes. 


3. My daughter is growing up. 

I notice it every day. More and more, my stuff is becoming her stuff. Sweaters and scarves and necklaces are disappearing at an alarming rate and I can usually find them strewn over the hot-pink desk chair in her room or stashed inside her tote bag. 

This makes me happy and sad. A girl grows up entirely too fast. This is truth. But it's also a sweet thing to bond over our kindred love of accessories and slouchy sweaters. I'm thinking the mascara and lip gloss may begin to disappear next.



4. Writing is like running.

I've really struggled with both of these the last two months. I blame the winter and the blahs and the sicknesses and the holidays and how all of these can suck the inspiration and confidence right out of a girl. And while all of this is true, too much time off or just simple inconsistency have a way of turning a running break or writer's block into stagnation and discouragement.

Before long, you don't even want to try because you know it's going to be a struggle. It might even hurt. Perhaps you'll hate yourself a little bit and question if you're ever meant to lace up your running shoes or open your laptop again. 

I've been a runner longer than I've been a writer and any runner will tell you this obvious truth: the more you do it, the easier it becomes. Any writer will tell you the same thing about plucking away at the keyboard. 

If you only lace up or boot up when inspiration strikes, you will most likely feel clunky and exhausted.

I'm looking forward to shaking off the cobwebs on my sneakers and my laptop in the coming weeks...even though it's going to feel awkward and painful and I will curse my haphazard ways. 

Aren't you glad the beginning of the year is right around the corner? A fresh start is always a gift.


::


That's all I've got for December. I'm sure there are many other things I've noticed but they have come and gone in my brain, drowned in the sea of cheese, creamy coffee, and holiday confections that have been my steady diet the last few weeks.

What have you learned in December?  



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Thursday, October 31, 2013

What Daydreaming, Clearance Racks, & Spiral Notebooks Taught Me about Myself & God {a book giveaway}




{This post is my story. Not all or even most of it but, a survey of sorts. Can I be honest? It feels completely awkward and wrong to write this much about myself. Be warned.}

::

Growing up, my mind was often elsewhere. 

Distracted and pensive, I pondered big questions and entertained a thousand thoughts.

I gave pretend speeches in my head to no one in particular.

On trips, I stared out the car window at landscapes and homes and old barns, unfolding stories of people and places and imagining myself in these stories. I dreamed of faraway places. Beautiful places.

I noticed things. Always, the noticing. The earrings she wore with that dress. The mint-green pumps she sported with the diamond cut-outs on the toes. The way shades of purple are breathtaking with green. His furrowed-brow, their fake smiles, her thinly-veiled pain. 

At times my crazy insides had a way of becoming too big for my body to hold. When that happened, I turned to spiral notebooks and loose-leaf pages, spilling my words and my tears and just getting it out. I wasn't consistent but I realized that spilling my soul onto paper was therapeutic. 

My family will tell you I'm the most resourceful one of the bunch. Growing up, I'd stride out the door for school in clearance-rack jeans, an oversized V-neck sweater of my dad's, and a paisley scarf-turned-belt borrowed from my mom's church coat. My friends let me pick out their clothes, fix their hair, and do their make-up. 

I felt more shy than I appeared. I usually had plenty of friends. Finding common ground with most anyone came naturally for me. I wasn't a clown but I made my friends laugh. When we played Truth or Dare, I always picked the dare. 

People came to me with their problems. Sometimes they even scribbled down what I said. Meaningful stuff like exactly what phrases they should use when breaking up with their boyfriends.  





Since the 5th grade I'd planned to go to law school and eventually become a judge. My role model was Sandra Day O'Connor. I had a deep admiration for strong, ground-breaking women of influence. 

With this in mind, I majored in Political Science, Economics, and History. I was student body president of my small-ish university. I accomplished far less than I thought I would in this role. As it turned out, affecting change was harder than it looked. Also, giving speeches was mildly terrifying even though I tried not to show it.

I took the LSAT during my senior year. And then I panicked. I wasn't sure I wanted to go to law school or practice law or decide anyone's cases. By that point I had enough sense to know that being a wife and mom would not be so compatible with the ambitious career goals I'd chosen. I wasn't sure that these goals were really even "me." I wasn't sure who I was but I was willing to wait and find out.

In the waiting, I married a charming young man. Content to be his wife and inspired by all the new wedding cookbooks and saucepans, I made yummy meals in our shoebox apartment while he went to graduate school.





This was partial consolation for my long days at the worst job I ever had, working at a bank. Apparently I am bad at counting money. Like, terrible.  

Restless but inspired, I went back to school a couple of years into marriage. I fell in love with American history and the brilliant scholars who taught me and the most eclectic array of friends I've ever had. Teaching felt as easy as breathing. I loved the world of ideas. I loved making meaning of people, places, and events of the past.  

Though I was okay with research, what I really enjoyed was writing. One of my favorite professors agreed to direct me. He said I had a natural gift with words. 

I didn't believe him. 

His books won some of the most prestigious awards in the field but that didn't matter. I thought of a hundred ways I had inadvertently fooled him. I convinced myself that his opinion of me was a fluke. 

I feared my own desire to be good at this and ran the other way.

Academic life and the liberal arts were a good fit for me, but I often wished for more time to be creative in "artsy" ways. I decorated my house and took study breaks around the Target clearance racks while procrastinating serious research. 

Fast forward through three babies, a teaching career, juggling life as a working-mom, some crazy struggles, becoming a stay-at-home mom and my early days homeschooling my kids.

Though I knew I had much for which to be thankful, somewhere in my mid-thirties I had an "identity crisis." I know, it sounds so clichĂ©. But as I looked back on my life and the seemingly circuitous routes I'd taken, I didn't know who I was. I felt like I was a little bit of everything. 

I longed for a "label" {strange as that sounds} but life wouldn't hand me one. I wanted to know what I could offer the world. 

I wondered how a creative soul like me got mixed up with Political Science and Economics majors. 

Though I finally landed on "History Professor" as a career choice, it still seemed a bit odd to be doing something traditionally reserved for aging white men with bad clothes and questionable social skills. 

I'm still not sure why it took me so long to embrace myself as a writer or to believe someone when they told me I was good at something. Even now, I usually can't bring myself to say, "I'm a writer." Instead I'll say something like, "I enjoy writing." 

I discounted certain gifts like having a knack for putting outfits together out of scraps or seeing beauty in a heap of junk or being able to bargain shop like nobody's business or arranging art on a wall in five minutes.





I didn't think much of the fact that I've always had a diverse group of friends and never found anyone exactly like myself and am sort of a misfit who has a way of bringing people together despite their differences.

But I'm beginning to see a larger picture. 

I'm beginning to have eyes that don't discount anything but that survey the patterns of my past and find clues to who I am, hints at how I was made, and arrows that point toward possibilities for the future. 

The person I've been all along has come out in a million little ways over the past 40 years. 





The girl who daydreamed and pondered big thoughts? She still does. She makes meaning of everything from motherhood to mascara and she writes it down. She's been doing this for years. Her own words teach her things. They point her to perspective. As it turns out, words are part of her worship.

The pretend speeches in her head? They spilled out of her mouth throughout ten years of teaching college students about the beauty and tragedies of our history. They spill out of her mouth even today as she mothers her children and teaches them about everything from God to cooking to getting along with others. {They are an even worse audience than her college students, what with the eye-rolling and tossing a football in the air while she's trying to give a speech.} They spill out over cafĂ© tables and in meetings and through series she writes about issues that are important to her.

She'll never be the Supreme Court Justice she dreamed of but she still has a way of seeing multiple sides of complex issues and persuading others to open their hearts to grace and their minds to new ideas. 

The knack for throwing together clothes and accessories? Well, she's often invited into the closets of friends and asked to tell them what to keep, what to toss, and how to combine pieces they already own. 





She still procrastinates important but "mundane" things like laundry and paying bills because she's too busy hanging pretty things on her walls and rearranging furniture and spray-painting junk from thrift stores and scribbling down errant thoughts. 

Women continue to come to her for things. She offers the words she has with friends, strangers, and strangers-turned-friends via e-mail and blog comments and coffee dates.

She still struggles with toning down her own ambitions for the good of her family. Being a truly-devoted wife and mom hasn't been the most natural thing for her. But she loves the man who calls her wife and the kids who call her mom. Loves them like crazy. She knows this husband and these kids need her and she also knows that she needs them in ways she's only beginning to appreciate. 

Sometimes real life saves us from the things we think we want. And though she doesn't feel wonderfully equipped, she wants the everyday art she lives with her family to be the truest offering of her hands and heart.

As for the noticing, she does this as much as she ever has. The noticing shows up in a million little ways and often finds its way into this space. The art of writing is one of her bravest pursuits. She doubts her words, motives, and abilities. She overthinks everything. She's still shy on the inside and gets sweaty every time she publishes anything. But she does it anyway. She makes her art because she can't not make it. 

Thanks for joining me here, for responding with your own stories and thanks and "me toos." Your kindred words and spirits are gifts to me. 
  


::::


And now for the book giveaway part.

That's some of my story, the many ways that my past intersects with my present and teaches me about my God-given design and hints at how my Creator intends use me in this world.

Let's talk about you, about all of us. 


  • What would happen if we looked back at the patterns and looked within for the gifts and looked forward toward possibility and looked up to the Creator who says, Yes. I made you for this. Go and come alive and let me show you all the ways I can shine through you?
  • What would happen if saw our scars not as baggage but as offering?
  • What would happen if we saw our professions as teachers, bankers, and mothers not as jobs or roles but as "art?"




I'll tell you what would happen. We'd be living as artists in the most beautifully authentic ways and we'd be coming alive in the process. 

Set aside your traditional ideas of artists as painters and poets. Embrace a new definition, one that includes you.

I'd like to give away a book that just might give you the permission you didn't know you were waiting for to make art with your life.




A Million Little Ways: Uncover the Art You Were Made to Live by Emily Freeman 

It's time to uncover the shape of your soul, turn down the voice of the inner critic, and move into the world with the courage to be who you most deeply are. Creating a life of meaning is not about finding that one great thing you were made to do, it's about knowing the one great God you were made to glorify--in a million little ways.

Friends, you know that I'm a reader. I get excited about books. I've recommended many awesome reads over the years. 

But this book? It's a game-changer.

Just writing about it right now, I'm grabbing for the Kleenex. It is the most beautiful, freeing, grace-filled message. I finished the book on a Saturday night, nestled my head deep into the pillow, wiped tears that came from I don't know where, and peacefully drifted off to sleep. 

This book is like a wake-up call and a lullaby. 

I know that sounds crazy but that's what this book is to me. Emily's voice is both sure and gentle, as it always is. She's one of my favorite writers and favorite people.

Most of all, this book is Truth. You may think that a book like this makes the message all about you and your big self, that it's spiritually-cloaked narcissism.

Not at all. 

This book is about God. It's about his glory, not ours.

Every moment is packed with artistic possibility because, as an image bearer with a job to do, there is potential to reveal the glory of God in every circumstance, no matter how I feel, who I'm with, what my hands hold, or what's gone wrong. God with us lives within us. And he will come out through us in a million little ways.

This book is about the body of Christ. 

Everyone has their own unique passions as well as their distinct burdens. We are responsible to pay attention to what moves us and respond in faith. The body of Christ grows when each member gives what they have to give--that applies not only to our gifting but also to our burdens.

This book is about setting us free from fear and pride so that we may glorify God with the uniqueness of our lives, with everything from the soup we stir to the speeches we make. 





Personally, it's come at a time in my life when I feel like I'm beginning to break through some walls of doubt and insecurity. Courage and acceptance inspire me to embrace design and desire instead of denying or running away from these things.

I want to give everyone a copy of this book. I can't exactly do that, but I can give away one. 

And guess what? Emily signed it for you.  

Just leave a comment and be sure to include your e-mail address so I can contact you. Example: scooperalamode{at}gmail{dot}com. 

If you're a real-life friend and you read this on Facebook or if you receive the posts via e-mail, you'll have to click over to the actual blog and leave a comment there.

You can tell me anything: why you'd love to win the book, the "art" in your own life, or your dreams of doing something that is courageously you. Anything. 

I'll announce a winner next Monday. 


................


This post linked up at Emily's Freeman's "We Will Make Art" Post. {She's doing a big giveaway over there so check it out.}

we will make art


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Wednesday, September 4, 2013

How a Waffle House Relapse Saved My Soul. Or at Least My Day.




Today began with a bad, bad morning. So bad that I still do not have the energy or desire to think of a more descriptive adjective than "bad." 

My fancy Keurig broke so I had to resort to the French press, which makes fantastic but very labor-intensive coffee. I do not do labor-intensive anything at 5:15 am. Nonetheless, I knew I had to suck down at least eight ounces of caffeine in order to get out the door and so I made coffee in the French press like a Neanderthal. 

Upon pouring the boiling water from the tea kettle into the carafe, the kettle's lid plopped into the press, splashing grounds and scalding water all over the counter and my fingers. Lovely, I thought. The day has barely begun and I am already cussing, covered in sludge, and nursing burned appendages.

The pre-dawn run with my friend was good and necessary but it was basically downhill from there. I arrived home to find the house and its inhabitants in a state of distress. One child had a single uncompleted math equation and the world as she knew it was surely over. Another child refused to eat the oatmeal because of the "weird, hot, brown, chunks" and yet another admitted that he'd left his lunchbox and water bottle at school. For the second time in a week. My daughter's cheer bag was full of crushed cracker bits and we stressed that the crumbs would become lodged in the polyester weave of the uniform. And we forgot the bow. The child with the forgotten lunch box at school also forgot his binder and math book at home. We realized this 10 minutes after he had left with my neighbor with whom we carpool. Vital math instruction was un-textable from my dear husband at home because of a bad signal at the middle school and said distressed child was dropped off, frenzied and undone at the start of a very long day.

En route to the elementary school to drop off forgotten binder and book {partially my fault because it blended in with the pile of clean laundry adjacent to it}, I called my husband and began listing all the ways that mornings like this can and should be avoided. I bemoaned the chaos and rambled on about how my "poor nerves" simply cannot take it. Oh I was having a Mrs. Bennet moment alright and my dear husband just listened on the other end like kind Mr. Bennet sitting in his office, calming tending to his rare orchids while I prattled on about my weak constitution. 

He gently reminded me that we have just begun, that we are still getting adjusted, that his work schedule calms down after this week, and that we all forget stuff, like math books. And paying the water bill. 

You know, I think I'm relatively organized and prepared. I do. And then on a day like today, I imagine that I'm being ambushed by some masochistic troll who is certainly lurking in the recesses of our home, throwing flaming darts of unexpected, stress-inducing trivialities directly at my "nerves." 

After I delivered the abandoned binder and math book to the school's front desk, I made a quick stop at Wal-Mart to pick up some groceries. That I forgot to purchase yesterday. When I also went to the grocery. Foggy and distracted from the scattered events of the morning, I stopped at the gas station and narrowly avoided the tragedy of filling up my Toyota Sienna with 15 gallons of diesel fuel

It is only 9 freaking 22. This day is surely doomed, I told myself. 

And then, salvation in the form of an iconic yellow and black restaurant sign. Cue the angels singing.

Trembling with hunger, fatigue, anxiety, and guilt, what I really wanted was a stiff drink. I'm not gonna lie. But since it was only 9:30 in the a.m. and that stands in direct opposition to my moral convictions and common sense, I said, What the hell? and settled for grease. 

{When the day has begun this harshly, one does not use substitutionary cuss words like "heck." One says what she says and blames the Evil Ovary.} 

The Waffle House across the street beckoned like a sultry Siren of comfort food and limitless coffee.

You already know what I did. I pulled into parking lot, ravenous and trance-like. Before I exited the van, I knew I need to "get centered." I read Romans 12 on my iPhone's Bible, prayed desperately that Jesus would help me and all my loved ones today, promised not to say any more cuss words or be mean to people, said Amen, walked confidently into the Waffle House, and dared anyone I knew to judge me. 

The waitress asked if it would just be me. I nodded and thought to myself, Yes. Praise Jesus, yes. It will only be me. 

And then she said the magic words: Honey, our All American Breakfast is just $5 today

I didn't think twice about it.

When the buffet o' sodium clinked down on the formica tabletop, I took one look and knew that the calories burned during the three miles I'd run at 0-dark-thirty would not even cover the lake of margarine whose glistening neon-yellow sheen matched my over-medium egg yolks laid by a sub-par chicken in a shameful poultry factory. 

There are worse things, I reasoned.

I smiled and breathed easy for the first time in four-and-a-half hours. A female country crooner blared over the speakers, I'm hell on wheels, Sugar Daddy I'm comin' for you...

Yes, I thought, This is exactly the flavor of sanity and consolation I needed today. Local color, bottomless coffee, grits, Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird sitting adjacent to the extra-crispy bacon, and classic people-watching.




At one point, I looked up from my book to notice an older man who ambled in and made his way to the counter. The whole upper back side of his jeans were soaked through until they resembled damp, one-dimensional silhouettes of watermelons. Bless him, I thought to myself. Here I am thinking I've had a rough morning

And then I noticed that he had ridden in on a tractor, which explained the wet watermelon silhouettes. 

When I was a working mom and then a homeschool mom, I often wondered, rather resentfully at times, what stay-at-home-moms with kids in school did with all of their free time. Now I know. They visit the Waffle House and ponder the back-sides of old men.

I finally arrived home, smelling like cigarette smoke and bacon but feeling like I could do this day after all. I'd shown myself some much-needed kindness and it gave me courage to persevere.

I'll never understand the ironic phenomenon I experience over and over again: I do a better job of coping with the catastrophic than I do coping with the common. 

I've endured days turned months of legitimately rough times. Days that make today look like a Disneyworld. I've experienced crises and trials that could have undone me for good. And during those challenging times, I manage to sort of keep it together. By God's grace, I'm able to deal, to soldier on, to approach terrible circumstances with relative calm and clarity.

It's the everyday drama that gets me. It's the forgotten math book that forces me to subject myself to a grease-induced coma, compliments of the local Waffle House.   

So what's the take-away from this crazy, interruptive post of randomness about diners and diesel fuel near-misses?  

Well, I'll tell you.

Be kind to yourself today. 

Or whatever day the Evil Ovary decides to reign, along with her minions of chaotic inconveniences and first-world stresses. 

Receive a good gift and be nourished. 

Swing through the Starbucks drive-thru before pick-up line or tell your kiddos at home with you to just take a break and watch PBS Kids and not need you for a few minutes because Mama needs a relaxing soak or 30 minutes with a book or just some time to inhale God's love and exhale prayer.

Treat yourself as you'd treat a dear friend who showed up on your doorstep in tears and emotional distress. You would not say, Suck it up, sister. We all have bad days so get over your big self. Think of all the other people in the world who have it worse than you do, those who are starving or imprisoned, for example. See? You don't have it so bad. 

At least I hope you wouldn't say that. 

You'd invite her in, give her a hug, fix a cup of tea, and grab the box of tissues. You'd care for her and make her laugh and feed her soul with warm drink, a bar of chocolate, and perhaps a trip to the nearest Waffle House for the $5 All American breakfast if you're feeling really generous to your friend and apathetic about your own health. You'd both know that it could indeed be worse and you would resolve to be grateful instead of grumpy and you would laugh about the mishaps and missteps. 

And then she would feel better. Why? Because someone was kind to her and she was able to receive enough grace to refuel her empty tank and become functional again.

Treat yourself the way you'd treat her. 

If you're running on empty, take time to refuel {but not with the diesel} and love on yourself so that you can better love on the sweet souls who need you. Kindness to yourself has a way of spilling over into kindness to those around you.

Don't rationalize your rough patch. Don't wallow in guilt that It could be so much worse so why can't I cope? Pick one small thing that is actually one great act of love to yourself and then carry on.

Sometimes that moment {or two hours at the Waffle House} of self-care provides necessary space to think, breathe, banish your headache, practice gratitude, learn how to be nice again, and, in my case, stumble upon a much-needed exercise in creative writing on diner napkins.




So go and do likewise, my weary, hormonal friends. I give you permission. And if you inexplicably find yourself in the Waffle House parking lot, the All American breakfast is just $5 Monday-Friday right now. My sweet waitress told me to tell you. So there you go.  


.............................


Come back tomorrow and tune in for the next installment of the Being Cool About School series. I'd planned to finish it this morning but with all the mishaps and the Waffle House episode, I resolved to wait until tomorrow. 


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