Teachable moments


This weekend’s not-so-fun activity involved a morning trip to the Laundromat. After his last camping trip, W announced that his winter sleeping bag was “developing a personality” and needed to be washed. I don’t know about you, but when a 15 year-old announces that his sleeping bag is “developing a personality,” I sit up and take notice. And since his next camping trip is coming up quickly—next weekend, in fact—it was pretty much this weekend or after the upcoming trip.

But a winter sleeping bag is one of those items that cannot be washed at our home in our normal-sized washing machine. It has to be washed in a large capacity, front-loading machine, hence the trip to the Laundromat. Since we were heading there anyway, I decided to bring the comforter from my bed—another item that I have to launder outside of the house.

Of course, there was the need for tennis balls. I have never used tennis balls in the dryer with my comforter because I typically go to the Laundromat on a very windy day and I dry my comforter at home, outside. However, January is not such a friendly time for drying a heavy comforter outside, wind or no. So a stop at Target was necessary.

We picked up two containers of yellow tennis balls and took them to the checkout, where a gaggle of teenage workers was congregating, socializing. As we stepped up to the checkout, one of the teens broke away from the group to take her place at the register and ring in our three-dollar purchase. She thanked us and went back to her “social” group. As W and I walked by the group to exit the store, one of the teens announced to her friends, “I think I’m going to get a different job.”

Well then. There were so many things I could have said in that moment, but I walked past as if I hadn’t heard.

We were not even out the door before I turned to W. “You know what you don’t do?” I posed.

“Talk about how much you don’t like your job while you’re at your job?” he responded without a split second delay. Ah! He, too, had heard the young woman as we walked by. “I noticed that,” he commented.

“That is so not a good idea,” I told him, though from his quick response, I was certain he knew better. “It’s fine to want a new job. Not so much to announce it while you’re at your current job. And while you are standing around doing nothing….”

“Yeah,” he said. “I get that.” Some things are best left for when you are in the privacy of your own home, and perhaps complaining about your job is one of them. Then again, if you complain in public, I may just use it as a teachable moment.

{image credit: Freeimages.com/Ben C}

The Things that are Missing…


At that university where I work, I meet with student writers from all walks and backgrounds. I mainly meet with undergraduate writers, but I also work with students who are professionals in the midst of careers—returning to school for professional development or to get a degree. And then there are the graduate students who range in age from 22 to 92.

Recently, I met with a woman who was an acquaintance of mine in a former iteration of my life—years ago when I was single and worked a different job. She is in a demanding graduate program, she works full time, and she deals with the every day stresses and curve-balls of life that we all deal with.

She was struggling. Her professor had told her that her final essay could end her participation in the program; she was under more pressure than usual, and she was taking it out on herself. Briefly, she let me in on the frustrations she had with the class—the only class in which she had struggled in the program thus far. Now, she felt the need to put exactly the right words on the page, which is never good for the writing process; she was over-editing because she felt under-confident.

I asked her how many classes she had completed in the program. Seven. And then I reminded her that she had seen me two years earlier—when she had first started her program—feeling almost exactly the same way. And I reminded her that she hadn’t seen me since. “What is it about these two classes that stripped you of your confidence?” I asked her.

Her response had nothing to do with school. She mentioned the loss of a loved one several years earlier; the holiday season without that person; the stresses of her work; a birthday celebration that needed to happen in the midst of everything else. And the pressure to finish this one last paper.

Often at this time of the year, we are too able to focus on what’s missing. The longing for what is missing blurs the present and what we have. And sometimes, we don’t even consciously recognize that we are struggling with loss or stress or the need to be everything to everyone.

And so I say this: be gentle with yourself, not just at this time of year, but always. You are not alone. We are all in this together. Chances are, if you are willing to say, “You know what? I am struggling today,” someone will step in to offer support and to lift you up.

My Soundtrack


Today’s blog prompt asks, what would be on a mix tape of my life? And so I thought about it. Long and hard, I thought.

I thought about my life: Single mother with three kids, two jobs, three cats. Running all the time just to keep up with everything that needs to be done, picking up everything that needs to be put back in place. Catching the things that fall before they land. Stocking the fridge so no one complains, there’s nothing to eat! Sweeping the dust, drying the tears, pulling the weight. Juggling all the balls that are in the air, even when someone tosses in a new one. Remembering the details before someone else forgets them. Always on my toes. Chaotic.

And then it dawned on me. Of course, my life soundtrack would be completely instrumental. Because there are no words to describe my life. Truly, there are no words.

Reflections on what’s left….


This evening, I was shopping in the craft store when I ran into a public figure. Now, I know what you are thinking. What is this woman doing in the craft store, AGAIN?? And I am happy to say I was there to pick up some items for an event that we are holding at work on Wednesday. But that doesn’t matter because this post is not about my addiction to craft supplies; it’s about the challenges that come with being a public figure.

As I turned down one of the aisles, I saw her, and I caught her eye. In a split second, she sensed I recognized her, and she quickly looked away. My mind was clicking through context clues to help me figure out if this was really the person I thought it was or if she was a mother with whom I had occasional contact. Her daughter—who was with her—was only a bit younger than my own, so it could be that I knew her from the community.

She carried on a conversation with her daughter about an item that was being placed into their cart. The voice was familiar as it reached my ears, bringing me back to recent political advertisements. I glanced her way, and she was looking at me. Again, she turned away, but I knew that the face matched the expectation I had for that voice, but what was she doing in the glitter aisle of the local craft store? Shouldn’t she be somewhere less… well, mundane?

But no, she could be wherever she wanted. However, it seemed she was not comfortable, knowing that people might recognize her. While she had chosen a life in the public arena, she certainly did not choose the rather public “firing” that she had recently received.

Politicians… they must understand that being “fired” by being voted out of office is a huge risk that comes with the territory. But I’d never really thought about how devastating that loss might be until this woman would not hold my gaze or smile. Instead, she chose to look away lest I recognize her enough to say something to her. And then I started to wonder what people might say to her when they figure out who she is. Because not everyone agrees with her.

As this woman exited the glitter aisle with her daughter, my boyfriend spoke to her. He is the type of person who will be on your side in any situation, advocating for you and supporting you. He complimented her, and thanked her for her willingness to serve the people of the country. In her response, I heard a hint of relief.

And I started to wonder about what her future might hold. She is now free to move on, to take her experiences and construct something new. Re-examine the life that she had and make it into the life that she now wants, however uncomfortable she may be in public situations for awhile.

In truth, sometimes things unravel for all of us, even if we are not public figures. And when that happens, we take the pile of what’s left and make something new and fresh and (hopefully) wonderful.

Christmas Lights

img_2667It’s nearly winter where I live. The shortest day of the year is less than three weeks away, and the past few days have been particularly dark and dreary with heavy clouds, drenching rain, and murky fog. The rain has offered some needed relief from the months’ long drought, and while it may seem as though I am complaining, I am not. In fact, I find rainy days offer an opportunity for introspection.

But sometimes dreariness lingers, as it has recently. So with the shorter days, I am doubly glad I put up my Christmas tree this week. I am a huge fan of LOTS of lights One small tree (well, it’s a bit taller than I am…), 520 colored lights. (Yep, I like the colored ones). It bathes my living room in a pinkish glow of cozy warmth.

I am intrigued by the fact that so many winter traditions include festivals of lights. Even the early people knew that lighting the deepening darkness was a good thing that might make them happy. As I sit beside my tree in my living room, I am grateful for the thoughtfulness of their traditions.

For the past couple days, I have been seeking refuge in this welcoming light—both early in the morning, as I drink my coffee, and late in the day, when the daily activity of my house is winding down. Over the next month, I will continue to find moments and create excuses to sit by the tree and think and hopefully, write. My blog challenge in November didn’t go as well as I would have liked, so I have downloaded two lists of prompts for December. If my creativity is not sparked by one list, perhaps it will be sparked by the other. And perhaps I will produce extra blog posts this month.

Because … hope. It “springs eternal,” whatever that means. And for this month, at least, I will sit in the light of my Christmas tree as if I am soaking up the vitamin D infused rays of the sun. And I will quietly wait for inspiration to land here with me in this space.



Yesterday’s November blog challenge prompt was supposed to be “20 facts about me,” but I wrote something different. Today, I give you Fact #1:

When I was growing up, my father owned a business that was housed in what was once the town fire house and opera house. It was an interesting combination, to say the least, and I’m not exactly sure how that worked. If there was a fire in town, did the show stop while the firemen and trucks clanked out of the building, sirens screaming? I really have no idea, and that is not really the point of this story.

The point is that the building had a working fire pole from the second floor to the first. By “working,” I mean that it was still standing and connected on both ends. And it was sturdy. And since I was a regular visitor to this defunct firehouse, I was presented with the opportunity to take up a career in pole dancing… way before pole dancing became vogue.

However, the phrase “Do not play on the pole” was part of the vernacular of my house. But I have to say, it was sooooo tempting! What kid wouldn’t want to slide down a fire pole? Every time I went down the front stairs (which wasn’t often because the stairs by the stage were the ones we typically used), my eyes would lock on the pole, and I would long to slide down it. Or try to climb up it. Just once.

But I didn’t. The words, “Do not play on the pole,” rang in my head every time I reached my arm out, brushing the cool metal with my fingertips as I walked by. And I know it really wasn’t because they thought I might become an exotic dancer.

Looking back, I realize that this was one of the anomalies of my childhood narrative. Not many people can say that their parents regularly warned them about a fire pole. So I got to wondering… what are some of the anomalies from your childhood narrative?



Some days (many lately), I am overcome by the pressures of life and the expectations put on me by so many people. I struggle with the need to be all things to all people. I think some people are more prone to this fight than others in our way too high-pressure, you-must-do-it-all society. I believe single parents have an extra tough challenge as they not only have to be all things to their children, they sometimes succumb to a need to make up for what is lacking in their children’s lives.

I am no stranger to the pressure to measure up and fit in with outside expectations. I grew up in a small town—the type of place that most people would see as idyllic. But if you have experience with small town life, you know that there is just as much drama in a small town as there is in a large one. There are just fewer people to carry the weight.

Growing up, I fell victim to the playground girl-drama. Nothing about me was ever quite right, and after awhile, I knew I was never going to be enough. My clothes were wrong. I was not pretty enough. My hair never fell flat and straight and perfect. I was not tall enough or talented enough. I was not athletic (…at all, never mind enough). I was not social enough. And despite graduating near the top of my class, I never seemed to be smart enough. There were always people around who were willing to make me feel inadequate because somehow, they were more than enough. Looking back, I thank God I did not grow up in the days of social media.

In an attempt to run away, to escape from the drama, I threw myself into solitary activities in which I could be myself without the pressure from others. I took up the clarinet and later added the flute, the oboe, the piano, and the guitar. From my earliest days, I spent hours lost in the worlds hidden in the pages of the books that lined the shelves of the local library and bookstore. I would become so lost that when I had to stop reading for dinner… or homework… or because the book ended, I would be slightly disoriented as the real world of my home came rushing back into my consciousness. Hadn’t I just been on a grand adventure with Laura or Pippi or Pollyanna? Certainly, here—in the pages of a book—was a place where I never felt the pressure to measure up.

As I grew older, I delved into art and writing. I began to run—initially because I was preparing to coach a high school cross-country team. But the more I ran, the more meaning I found in the rhythm of my steps and the wanderings of my mind. I was soothed and inspired as my muse would often come to play while I was pounding out the miles on the road. It seemed my interests were beginning to blend in ways I hadn’t known they might. And so, the solitary pursuits continued.

Through losing myself in solitude, I found myself in truth. My state of mind began to shift to encompass and accept my enoughness. I became an artist, a writer, a runner. I discovered that even though I might not live up to other people’s standards, I was enough. I had always been enough. The best of me, the me I put out in the world every day, would always be enough. And being enough is a powerful place to be.

But when life gets busy and hectic, I sometimes slip into old patterns of thought. When things aren’t coming together and I can’t please everyone and the people around me are letting me know I am not meeting their needs, my enoughness begins to fade. With a lot of work, a little struggle, and a push to refocus on my needs, I can usually return to enough.

And being enough is important. For all of us. We are all enough.