How to Live Forever and be a Billionaire … Wait, Make That Trillionaire

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Sound a little extreme?  Maybe so.  But have you tried our brand new soup made from powdered unicorn horn, camels milk and babies breath?  Guaranteed success every time.  You will not believe the results.  In fact, if you give the same dedication to this soup regimen that you give to all your other efforts to be healthy and save money, you will absolutely flush another $39.99 down the toilet in less than thirty seconds!  Sign here please…

What is it about the human race that loves extremes so much?  Marketers know all about this proclivity and they capitalize on it in 100% of their advertising.  “This revolutionary laundry soap will remove every single stain your children could possibly inflict upon their clothing and give you a massage!” People involved in movements of some kind use it as well.  Politicians clearly think we’re insane with the claims they make.  “If you vote for me, I’ll make sure education is completely overhauled, that no one is ever hungry again, that platinum health benefits are free to every American, that your dogs will live to be 35 instead of 15.” There is no such thing as a moderate political claim.

I might be slightly exaggerating but seriously, when was the last time you saw an honest ad?  “This pill will help you feel slightly better than before you took it.  So it’s likely a very good idea.”  “I will try not to completely destroy your country while I’m in office and will make every effort to improve on a few things.” “This stain remover will take care of a few of the things that your kid can get into, but won’t even think about touching that bloody grass stain.”  Oh gosh no.  Everything is the end of the world, or the cure for it.  And if you don’t do it, you’ll die. Alone.  Broke and miserable and no one will come to your funeral.

How many people do you know who categorize themselves as OCD?  And how many of them do you know who are actually, clinically OCD?  My answer is like, 200 and honestly, probably 1.  I know one person in all the people who are self diagnosed with OCD who could probably benefit from a medical diagnosis.  Most of us who claim this are just intolerant of imperfection and hard to deal with.  OCD has nothing to do with it, and frankly, calling ourselves OCD is possibly insulting to those with the clinical condition.  We should probably just go ahead and admit that we’re selfish and demanding.  Is there a pill we can take for that?

My mom and dad taught us good words.  Big words that most people don’t learn all their lives, much less when they’re seven.  The first of these good words was discretion.  I didn’t know the full depth of its meaning at the time, but they employed it when they were allowing us to decide how many cookies we should eat, how late we were going to stay up and so forth.  They would say, “use discretion” as we sprinted for the candy bag.  What a brilliant thing to teach a child.  Synonymous with “Think before you put 12 cookies on your plate.  If you stay up til midnight how will you feel for school tomorrow?  Remember that everything you do now has consequences later.”  Use discretion.  Humanity needs this phrase.  It’s a game changer.

While we are inundated with miracle cures, fantastical claims, ego boosting platitudes to reach for the stars … remember to use discretion.  Remember that ordinary is actually a pretty wonderful place to be and it’s reality.  A friend of mine recently sent our study group an article called “The Power of an Ordinary Life”, that you can read if you click here. It was full of beauty and wonderfulness … permission for your life to be ordinary and fabulous.

So, why go with the less extreme and shoot for ordinary?  Such a thought is so counter cultural it almost sounds like heresy. Here are a few reasons to consider moderation:

  1. It is reality.  Most of us aren’t born with the talent to be all stars.  The world isn’t designed that way, and that’s super great for us.  We can calm down and enjoy our lives.  Olympians stand out for a good reason.  Bill Murray tweeted this during the Olympics and it’s almost ridiculous how much I loved it.bill-murray-every-olympic-event-tweetYes.  This. Ordinary is a good place to live.  We don’t all have to swim like Michael Phelps, tumble like Aly Raisman, or run like Hussein Bolt.  We could just be the best versions of ourselves.  I for one, am an excellent omelet maker.  Come by on a Sunday night, and I will prove this non extraordinary claim.
  2. Usually, the one who is actually right, feels no need to scream about it.  Just recently I read two articles giving opposing views about a parenting choice.  One was over the top, obnoxiously omniscient throughout and claimed that if you weren’t making her choice, you supported killing babies.  The other was professional, quiet, made good points and addressed as many concerns as possible in as calm a voice as possible.  Guess which one I put more stock in.  Ignore the extreme claims and believe the non anxious research.  It might not be as eye catching, so it’s probably telling you the truth.  We have neither the time nor the motivation to live our lives in extremes of perfection, so believe in reality and be happy.
  3. There is Biblical precedent for it. Philippians 4:5 says “Let your moderation be known to all men…” Ecclesiastes 7:16 states “It is not good to eat too much honey…” (Unless it is raw, local honey because then it will cure everything bad that has ever happened to you…) There are hundreds of verses teaching the wisdom of contentment, satisfaction with the life God has given you and living in moderation.  God gives promises of peace, joy and fulfillment for those who find their way to approaching life with discretion. Proceed accordingly. And just for the record, I love local, raw honey.
  4. Lastly, if you are prone to believe every screaming voice, no one will give you any attention when you find the things that are truly miraculous or horrific.  I completely believe in miracles of healing, in fantastical bravery, in heroism that defies all logic.  I don’t believe you can drink a protein shake that achieves these things.  I believe that some actual atrocities of humanity are being allowed and perpetuated by society.  Child slavery is a real thing and is probably supported by your buying choices (I’m looking at you Hershey’s chocolate squares).  Sex trafficking happens and is far more prevalent than we like to think.  Abortion kills actual human lives.  Some things are extremely bad, and if we scream about every little thing, no one will listen when we talk about the big ones.
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Four of the people in my life who make it complicated enough without your scare tactics or nonsensical claims!

I’m a mom.  I have enough people yelling at me and giving me guilt trips.  I don’t need an add to claim to get every stain from every article of clothing, I just need ONE that will remove mildew stains.  I don’t need you to claim that every nutritional choice I’m making is killing my children.  I just need to know how much protein is really in that protein bar, or is it just a candy bar wrapped in green and natural brown to trick my brain into thinking it’s healthy (that’s a real thing they do.  Buyer beware).  Turn off your ears to the late night screamer adds and try something for yourself to see if it makes YOU feel better.  Read ingredient labels so you can tell for yourself if you’re drinking lemonade or a cleverly marketed, chemical concoction.  You may be healthier for it.  You will definitely be more informed for it.

Enjoy your delightful, ordinary life … and always use discretion.

If you have an extraordinary, ordinary talent (such as omelet making), please tell me about it in the comments.  Let’s spend a few minutes glorying in the way we were uniquely designed!

Adventures in Cleaning the Fridge

A Step by Step Guide, or a Cautionary Tale Depending On Your Perspective

I wrote this as a helpful guide for my millions of rabid readers out there who have always been wondering how I clean my fridge.  Now you can know, and die happy.  (But please don’t die just because you know this now.  I just mean, you can be fulfilled in your life.  Don’t die.)

Step 1

Make yourself a frappe.  This is my version of a glass of wine to make things more enjoyable and/or bearable.

Blend:

6 cubes of frozen coffee (or really strong cold coffee and ice)

1 Tablespoon of sweetened condensed milk (I used 2 today because … hello!  Cleaning out the fridge …)

1 Tablespoon Nestle’s cocoa powder

1 Tablespoon of protein powder to make this drink good for you

water so that it will blend

Pour into a glass, get a pink straw, sip it and take a deep breath

Step 2

Cue up a good station on your Pandora.  I listen to one entitled, “Hey There Delilah”.  Don’t judge me.

Step 3

Run a sink of hot, soapy water.

As an added bonus, get your game face on.  This is my game face.  I look so confused because I rarely clean my fridge.

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Step 4

Take every single thing out of the fridge and set it on counters.  Have a brief panic attack knowing that you won’t be returning things for at least 45 minutes (you’re not really being realistic there, it’ll be like an hour and a half,) and how many days should you be deducting from your milk’s expiration date by letting it sit out so long?  In the next nano second have a good, hearty belly laugh when you remember that you just bought this milk yesterday, and it will most definitely be gone by tomorrow.

Click here to see what a good belly laugh looks like.

Throw all the bad stuff directly into the trash can and wish that you hadn’t put so many things into containers that you’re unwilling to part with.  Put the disgusting containers in the sink full of soapy water.

Step 5

Pull all the shelves out.  This could take a while if you wait as long as I do to clean out your fridge because your shelves are sticky with something dreadful that someone spilled who knows how long ago.  It has also pooled and congealed at the bottom underneath the crisper drawers.  Suppress your gag reflex when you realize there is also a refrigerated fly stuck in the bottom of the muck.  A fly?  What on earth?!  Spray the empty fridge with Mrs. Meyer’s Lavender Multi Surface Cleaner and close the door.

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Your kitchen now looks like you set a bomb off in it and you can’t imagine it ever looking good again. Take a deep breath, and a sip of your mocha.

Step 6

Wash all the shelves and drawers.  This is problematic if you have a sink as small as mine, because none of them actually fit into the sink all the way, and the parts that stick out shed water onto the counters and the floor.  As a bonus step, you may want to mop up the water on your floor.

Step 7

Open the fridge and realize you forgot to empty the door.  Sigh and empty the door taking a brief moment to ponder why someone who lives in a household with only one person who likes mayo, and even they only use it like twice a year, has so many opened jars of mayo in the door.  The mysteries of life…

Step 8

Wash out the goo on the walls and floor of your fridge.  Feel a brief moment of sadness for the fly who either froze to death, or starved to death stuck in the goo.  Then remember that flies are disgusting little carriers of disease and that this very fly could be the reason you had the stomach bug last week.  Suppress the gag reflex again as you wipe him out and all his legs stay in the sticky mess.  It’s no worse than all the gross food containers you just emptied though.  Get over it quickly.

Step 9

Pat yourself on the back because your fridge is now sparkling clean and ready for the return of your shelves.  Now it is time to try to figure out all the exact spots that they go in, especially the door guards because for some unknown, god-forsaken reason, they are all customized to specific moldings!  Why?  As you work, compose a letter of complaint to the manufacturer:

Dear Director of Operations at the Frigidaire off brand fridge plant,

Why do you hate us?  We are your customers, and the reason you have your job in the first place.  I mean, not me personally.  I was given this fridge by my brother-in-law who found it on Craigslist from a college student who was giving it away, but that’s hardly the point here.  Cleaning out refrigerators is complicated enough without you specializing every single shelf and door guard. (Are those shelf holder thingies in the doors called door guards?  I feel like I just made that up to sound smart.)  Shelves in fridges are fairly straightforward, so just stop with all the custom molding nonsense.  We look into these fridges like 18 times a day and still can’t remember where they all go once they’re taken out.  Help us out here.  Things are tough all over.

Sincerely,

Mom of five who’s barely hanging on by a thread

P.S.  Your CEO probably makes $800,000 a year or something, right?  Despot.

Now that you feel a little better, and hopefully have figured out where all your shelves go, smile.  You’re almost done.

Step 10

Return all your non-spoiled food to the fridge, categorizing things to your heart’s content.  This is actually a fun part.  I put fruit in one drawer and veggies in the other.  I put all the cheese and meat that wasn’t petrified or fossilized into the actual cheese and meat drawer.  All dairy goes in one little section, tortillas in another.  “I will keep it organized like this forever,” I croon softly as I work.  “This shelf will always be where leftovers go. This perfect little customized spot in the door (mentally redact angry letter to Frigidaire conglomerates) will be where jams and jellies are lovingly replaced. And seriously, with all those mayo jars?  For the love of Hellman’s.”

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Step 11

Look around your kitchen and realize you still aren’t finished.  There are nasty containers to be washed and trash that stinks so badly, because the smell is why you cleaned the fridge in the first place.  Heave the trash out to the dumpster and wish your husband was here so you could pretend you can’t lift it and could make him throw it in.  Throw it in like a boss and then rush inside to make an appointment with your chiropractor.

Step 12

Now you’re finished.  Take a picture.  Vow a vow that you will do this more often.  Make a mental list of which shelves you will clean each week so that it never gets in this condition again.  Pretend you don’t hear the fridge chuckling at you as you leave the kitchen, and whispering, “yeah right, Jules.  See you next year.”

Then remember that you were going to clean the freezer out today as well.  Meh, there’s always tomorrow.  After all, it wasn’t the frozen stuff that was stinking. I’m sure the freezer looks awesome.

Also …

I edited out additional steps which included stopping approximately 85 times to make snacks for the little people, and three lectures on the starving little kids in China who would be HAPPY to have half of a recently defrosted cinnamon and raisin bagel for a snack.

You’re welcome.

The Only Love That Works

I should just stay off of Facebook.  Really.  And I would, because it’s definitely what my husband would call a “time suck” but I just CAN’T for some reason.

So, here’s what I learned from Facebook this week, in no particular order: I don’t love Jesus, because I just kept scrolling instead of sharing (really guys?  How can this still be a thing?).  The Patriots are still on trial for murder … or deflating their footballs or whatever.  Shutterfly is offering something wonderful that I should be getting for my kids because I want to make memories and put them on magnets and coffee mugs.  I love my kids more than anyone else in the world loves their kids because I homeschool.

Okay, so here’s an actual comment as close as I can remember it from someone’s Facebook post about school starting.  “Parents in my community are throwing a Back to School party because their kids are going to be ‘out of their hair’ starting next week.  Does anyone else find this heartbreaking?”

There were so many funny comments that I can’t even attempt to describe them all.  Most were appalled that these horrific parents were excited to be “free” of their precious babies who are growing up unloved and unaccepted and blahdy blah.  Some of them were a little more get-a-gripish in nature.  The one that struck me as the most hilarious and disingenuous was the precious mom who wrote “I cherish every moment with my children.  This breaks my heart.”

Wow.  Cherish every moment.

I did not comment because I was being good.  Trying to stay positive and not make enemies with a million strangers. Also my two and a half year old was hitting me on the leg with her sippy cup saying “Mo noke” (more milk) for the seven hundredth time and I had to stop and get her a refill.  All these moments to cherish.

I really like homeschooling, and my children, and keeping house (sometimes) and all the things.  My life is full of awesome.  I want to puke when I hear the word cherish, but there is definitely a lot of love to go around in this household … and then there are those days that the school bus rolls down our street and I want to run after it screaming, “Wait!  Wait!  Take mine too!”

Daddy and Ella love

We are too hard on each other, parents.

There are parents who go to the park with their children and dog their every footstep.  They hover over them, hold out nervous arms as children climb up and down high things, call out advice while they slide down slides … we’ve all seen them, some of us ARE them.  And then there are the ones who go and sit at a picnic table and look at their iPhones as their kids climb, slide, jump and whatever else.

Some parents breastfeed.  Some wrap their babies around their bodies and wear them everywhere, some opt for strollers.  Some homeschool, some pay for private school, some send their kids to public school and then attend parties to celebrate their newfound freedom.  Heathens.

So which of these truly loves their children?  Um … all of them.  I rarely meet a parent who doesn’t love their children.  Also, I’ve NEVER met one who actually “cherishes every moment” with them.  We feel like whatever path we’ve chosen is best for our kids, or we wouldn’t have chosen it, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t other paths.

Helicopter parenting would exhaust me.  It makes me tired just to watch them at the park.  I admit though, I have to shut my eyes and just breathe when my children climb higher than I want them to fall.  I get up to push them on the swings for the last ten minutes of park time.  If they beg me to, I’ll slide down the slide with one of them.  Other than that, I usually stand to the side and observe.  I don’t generally sit with my iPhone, but sometimes I do … because I’m fried, and I brought them to the park so I wouldn’t have to entertain them.

My kind of love is working so far, because they still kiss me goodnight, give me big hugs, want me to sing 20 songs to them before they’ll go to sleep.  My kids love me, and they feel loved … also, if another person was going to get them all out of my hair for a big chunk of the day every day, I might throw a party.  Because then I would have time to go to the post office, address Christmas cards, get a haircut for the second time this year, clean my kitchen. A clean kitchen would make anyone want to throw a party.

kids in the bus

Generation X and Y Raise Children … from our iPhones

Lils

There are distinct advantages to parenting now days.  We have the internet to look stuff up on when our kids are sick.  We have the internet to look stuff up on when we need birthday party ideas.  We have the internet to look stuff up on when we need stocking-stuffer ideas. There are real disadvantages too.  We have the internet to tell us about GMO’s and high-fructose corn syrup.  We have the internet to feed all our children’s symptoms into when they’re sick and find out that they match up with either cancer, ebola or the common cold.  We have the internet so now we have to buy three different softwares just to protect our children from its content.

The bigger disadvantage to raising kids coming from our generation is that the vast majority of us don’t use our heads any more even though we have the bulk of the world’s knowledge on a palm fitting device in our purses. I personally cannot hold one single phone number in my brain.  I don’t even know my husband’s number by heart.  The only number I remember is my friend Jennilyn’s and that’s only because it hasn’t changed since my childhood and it has a very nice rhythm to it that stuck in my head like a commercial jingle.

Also, we’re not good at heeding actual human advice. Since we are children of the eighties and nineties, constantly told that “no one has the right to tell us what to do”,  we now all get on our tablets and get THEM to tell us what to do. Instead of calling our moms to discover how to fix a behavior issue with our children, like our mothers did, we now ask a million strangers in cyberspace what to do.  The good news is we avoid cluing our mothers in on the fact that we are ignorant of something.  The bad news is, we have no human contact and may all shrivel up and die.  But we probably won’t notice, we’ll be looking at cat pictures and arguing with a stranger on the internet up until our last dying breath.

The wealth of info at our fingertips would truly be awesome if it came from fabulous sources, right?  But, how many of our doctors in recent years have heaved enormous sighs when we admitted that we looked up our symptoms on WebMd before we came in … and that’s why it took us so long to come in … and that’s why it has now developed into bronchial pneumonia.  I’m sorry, Dr.  I was afraid you’d tell me I had lung cancer, so I was treating this dreadful cough myself.  Essential oils are a real thing … I swear.  I read it on the internet. (Just kidding, I actually use essential oils with some success).

But I digress.

A disturbing trend I’m seeing in modern parents comes from a mixture of inexperienced moms who write about their lack of experience as if they really know what they’re doing, and equally inexperienced people who “share” these writings on all social networks.  Here are a few recent “gems” the popped up in my newsfeed/twitterfeed, “Why I Didn’t Make My Child Share” – the sage advice of a parent with a three year old who uses 2000 words to explain why her child should never have to share anything they like … because they are the king of the planet and every other child should bow down to them.  “Why I NEVER Tell My Child She is Naughty” – this one was a well-meaning mom trying not to damage their child’s fragile self-image by saying “you are naughty”.  Instead she would affirm her daughter by saying “what you just did was inappropriate.”  I’m sure the subtle nuance totally got through to her toddler.

I have no problem trying out new parenting techniques.  And I certainly have no problem with people sharing blog posts on Facebook.  I learn from them.  I like them.  I HAVE a blog, so I definitely love that it can be shared!  But humans have a weird brain thing when it comes to things we see in print.  Especially things with swirling, beautiful pictures all around them, in professional looking font.  I’m as much of a sucker as anyone.  I read these posts and then wonder, “are my kids scarred for life?  I definitely said Lily WAS naughty the other day instead of saying her actions were inappropriate.  And I made Jack share his toys with his cousins who came over yesterday … and now they’re going to grow up and be ax murderers.”  And then I get a grip.

We’ve got to wake up and see, that the people we are flocking to for this advice are A) people we don’t know. B) more importantly we don’t know their KIDS?  If they aren’t ever taught that they are naughty and they have to share, I’m pretty sure they’re not delightful.  I absolutely don’t want my child to be in their vicinity. And C) they are people whose kids are only 3 and they really have no idea what the results of these ideas will be.

There are a trillion different parenting styles and my kids are still little, so I don’t judge.  What I’m saying is, perhaps, getting all our ideas from a very untested future is not the answer.  I always thought that finding a nice couple at my church, with children who are grown up and lovely and asking for their secrets was the way to go.  Unfortunately, these people usually don’t write blogs.  They either think computers are too “newfangled” or they’re too busy with their grandkids … or the worst one yet:  They have fabulous grown children who are successful and happy and they tell you, “Whatever you do, don’t do what we did.”  “If I had it to do over again, I would never yell at them.”  “If I had it to do over again, I would have prayed more and worried less.”  “I wouldn’t have spanked them … ever!” Wait what?  How is this helpful?  Your kids went to Harvard!  They are confident, brilliant and still manage to be sweet and compassionate.  Why do good parents do this, you wonder?  It’s because of a little thing I like to call, “the grandparent phenomenon”.  They aren’t really the people in those houses raising those currently fabulous people.  All the sudden they are afraid their grandkids will be yelled at, or grounded, or won’t be allowed to play with the new iPad they’re buying them for Christmas.  Now, as Bill Cosby would say, they are just old people trying to get into heaven. We are sunk.

So if we don’t trust the internet’s toddler parent offerings, and every old person tells us to do they opposite of what they did, what ARE we supposed to do?  If we’re smart, aware of the source, and paying attention to the results of our own attempts, then there must be an algorithm we can follow.  For instance, every time my child cries and screams for something and I tell them that they must stop or go take a nap, they stop crying.  Voila!  That worked … at least that time.  The sad truth is, there is no perfect trick to parenting.  Growing up I was taught that there are various promises in the Bible apparently like a magic spell (except magic was a sin,) that if we only lean on them, our children will all be doctors, or missionaries in Ethiopia.  The truth is, God Himself, the perfect father, still allows people their own free will.  Even your little people.

“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it,” is a principle, not a promise.  How could God possibly make a promise about the condition of the human heart when He Himself, refuses to dictate its actions?  My pastor pointed this out a few weeks ago, it’s not my own insight.  But it’s definitely a relief.  God doesn’t let parents off the hook.  We are supposed to train up our children in the way they should go.  But the results are not in our hands, they lie in the hands of free-willed human beings.  And free-willed human beings make mistakes sometimes.  Mistakes that lead to disaster in some cases.  My mom always says not to judge people who are in desperate situations because of their choices.  “We are all just three bad decisions away from disaster at any given time.”  So true.  Sometimes just one decision.

Are our children doomed because we yell occasionally?  I certainly hope not.  If we tell them they’re naughty?  Come on?  Really?  How many times did your mom tell you you were naughty?  You lived.  I’m pretty sure, if your child has any real problems, and any brains later on, a tiny change in syntax will not destroy them.

Jason reading

Maybe if we give them too many hugs.  Tell them we love them too much.  Spend more time with them than is strictly necessary they will do well in life.  My husband is good at stretching time especially when reading to them.  Books that I skim through as quickly as possible, sometimes skipping words for efficiency, he reads slowly, with big voices.  He points out shapes and colors, and spells the words with them.  He is awesome.  I usually can’t get the mound of dishes in the sink off my mind.  To his credit, or perhaps detriment, the dishes don’t come into his mind at all.

To make a short story longer than it should be, the real thing I lean on is love.  You can’t go wrong with love. I don’t mean doting on your children, giving in to every little thing they want and not ever forcing them to do something they don’t like.  I mean true love.  If you look up the definition in a dictionary it will suffice, but I prefer 1 Corinthians 13, because it is beautiful and full of poetic words that sound like music to me.  Love is patient, kind, long-suffering, keeps no record of wrongs … it goes on and on and if we take just this chapter and used it as our guideline for life, and teach our kids to do the same, I think our they will be just fine.  This is tested parenting advice.  It came from my mother, and my grandmother, and her grandmother… and I can’t get a single one of them to write a parenting blog.

Poisoning People for Fun and Profit

 

I have always had a thing for words. Like, since I was old enough to start noticing their usefulness in getting what I wanted.  Especially when this included grating on my older brother and sister’s nerves. It was big fun when, in an argument, Ryan would make some perfectly lucid 6-year-old point, and I would spout back in my three-year-old wisdom, “Well you’re just too preposition to know better!”. He would usually respond to this by running to Mom yelling, “Mom, Julie’s talking weird again!” Argument won.

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Words in pretty much any form are beloved by me.  Listening to a really fabulous speech or sermon took my breath away even when I was much too young for that to be cool.  Speaking them for myself was, of course, fabulous.  Written words … heaven.  You don’t even want to see my “written words” collection.  But just in case you do ever happen upon one of my bookshelves and feel the urge to pull a book out, please put it on the table for re-shelving by the competent maniac librarian who has them all categorized in a very specific order.  The pulling-books-off-the-shelves stage was a very hard moment in my toddlers’ lives.  I say moment, because I pretty muchly lost my mind over it, and they never tried it again.  I mean, really.  Have a little respect for the crazy person and her library.  18-month-olds.  Sheesh.

My problem is that words come too easily, too naturally to me. Just the perfect word to zap someone in their place is usually right on the tip of my tongue. This would be perfect except my Mom ruined it for me.  Imagine if you will the kindest, most considerate person on the planet.  I mean, so nice that it’s actually just ridiculous.  Now double it.  Now imagine they raised you.  Sigh.

65% of the conversations I had with my mother up to the age of like 17, were the following:

Me:  “So then I told them (insert brilliant, just-funny-enough-to-make-everyone-laugh, just-true-enough-to-make-one-person-really-pale comment)”.

Mom with a horrified and disappointed look on her face: “But you didn’t really say that, did you?” She always gave me the benefit of the doubt, knowing my love of words also extended to the ability to embellish details of stories after the fact.

Me: too honest to say no, too embarrassed to admit out loud that I really did say whatever horrible thing I had said.

Mom: (insert various forms of telling your child to go apologize immediately.)

Sad times, friends.  Apologizing for the perfect zinger tends to take the “zing” out.  Brutal for a budding verbal martial artist.

I can’t remember how old I was before I started to realize on my own that my words had the same effect on others that their words had on me. I do remember that I was much older than I should have been for that insight. I will also say that whoever made up that idiotic childhood taunt, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” had probably never been spoken to before. Or more likely, they had been talked to too much, and this fictional phrase was their defense mechanism. Today, I’m sure they would have been assigned a syndrome. Off the point a bit, my favorite version of this saying remains Gilligan’s from “Gilligan’s Island”.  His phrasing was far more accurate in my opinion, “Sticks and stones may break my bones … so please, don’t throw sticks and stones.”

In my childhood verbiage was fun to experiment with. The many sounds words made tickled my brain, sizzled on my tongue. I used them ecstatically, with reckless abandon. The more powerful the word, the better. In my adulthood, I have discovered the truth about them. They can be extremely dangerous in the wrong circumstances. Hitler used them to build his Third Reich, to justify genocide, to work people into a frenzy for his cruel, lustful regime.  When teaching on the Nazis in my World History classes I had many students ask me, “How could he ever get people to do the things they did?” Just with words.  What a frightening prospect.

So here is my happy note (I always enjoy the happy note). Like any powerful thing, language is also wonderful! The right word spoken at the right moment is pure brilliance!

My mom had a quote about kindness that I remind myself of constantly when raising my own kids, “It doesn’t cost anything to be nice.” Really. Kindness is available to your lips 24 hours a day at no expense to you whatsoever. How much does it really cost you to say something healing, instead of corrupting? To be honest, instead of manipulative? To do a little research before posting some preposterous media-cooked-up horror story on your Facebook page?  Good words are just as free as terrible ones.  That is comforting to me.

Jason and I have four beautiful children … that we had in four not always-so-beautiful years.  An interesting phenomenon happens to you when you have more than two children, as anyone with three plus will attest to.  People have a weird idea that they are allowed to say anything whatsoever to you, no matter how personal, even if they don’t know you.

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The pretty lady on my right is my precious mom

It cracks me up the amount of people who ask us if we’re finished, to which I actually respond with a smile and a “We think probably so,” instead of what I’d rather say, “None of your cotton pickin’ business”.  They also feel free to ask us about our sex life.  “You do know what causes that, don’t you?”  to which I want to respond with either “No, can you explain it to me?  I was homeschooled.” or “Yes!  We LOVE doing what causes this.” depending on my mood.  I’ve even been asked on multiple occasions if I’ve finally taken care of that problem – Really?  I could go on a while, but I won’t.  I will say, that today someone spoke the most wonderful words to me when I was out with my four children at a restaurant.

An older couple were sitting beside us while we ate.  When they were getting up to leave, the man grinned at my kids and said, “Are they all yours?” I smiled back and said they were.  He got a little teary eyed and said, “The only thing that could possibly be better than this, would be to add a couple more.”  Love.

 They both smiled and waved at the kids as they left.  My heart just glowed from his sweet words.  The waitress came with the check and asked me as I was paying if they were all mine, and if we were done.  I smiled and said, “We think probably so.”  Nice moments can’t last forever.  That’s okay.  She had to clean up the mess they made, so she’s way more entitled to ask than that random lady in the toilet paper aisle at Walmart.

Because of their incredibleness, I’m fairly certain my love affair with words will continue as long as I live.  I will try to be more cautious though, remembering the impact words have on people.  I’ll keep in mind the next time the anger boils up and I just want to rip someone to shreds that it’s usually not the customer service representative’s fault that my phone bill was double this month.  Niceness will always get me farther than yelling.  I know.  I’ve tried both.

Our friends, children, coworkers, staff are collecting the things that we say and turning it into our legacy with them.  They don’t care how much money we make, or what car we drive or how nice our clothes are.  They only care about how our words make them feel.  So let’s make them feel awesome!  And whatever we do, let’s just please not throw sticks and stones.

Things That Go Bump in Your Life

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Fear has always been a ridiculously big part of my life.  As a kid, I had so many irrational fears that my parents monitored every single movie and tv show I watched, and every book I read.  “Goosebumps”?  Ha!  Forget that!  I could barely read “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” without having nightmares.  I was petrified of the dark, I was obsessed with the idea of a kidnapper coming in the middle of the night and snatching me.  I had nightmares of these two boys at church who were actually quite nice, but in my nightmares about them they had glowing red eyes … which I picked up from the “Care Bears Movie”.  I know, right?  The one movie you’d think would be totally safe for your children to watch and not gain any new phobias.

I was deathly afraid of heights.  Riding roller coasters was completely out of the question.  I went to Six Flags once with our youth group and our youth director MADE me ride one of the rides.  I’ve never quite figured out why it was such a big deal to him, but he forced the issue and I rode it.  It was one of those that goes forwards and upside down a bunch of times and then hits the height of its horribleness and does the whole thing again in reverse.  I nearly threw up on my youth director afterwards, and he stopped insisting I ride things.  I still feel it might have served him right to get puked on.

I’ve learned lots of things about fear over the years.  Some are easily conquered.  I thought I was afraid of bugs until I moved to the country and our house has various, harmless bugs in it all the time.  I’m more afraid of the toxic chemicals filling my kid’s lungs than I am of there being live june bugs around, so I put up with the june bugs.  Also, I have a weird aversion to the crunching sound they make when you kill them.  I still hate scorpions with a passion, and I would never crush one myself until I had kids.  You wouldn’t believe the stuff you can do when you think your child might get hurt if you don’t.  It’s a truly awful sound though.  ((Shudder))

I still squish every spider that I encounter.  Jason assures me that there are only two kinds of spiders in Texas that are dangerous, the black widow and the brown recluse.  So, I squish every spider I encounter just in case its a black widow or a brown recluse.  I mean, if you google images of brown recluse spiders, EVERY brown spider you’ve ever seen comes up!  No joke.  There’s no telling what these monsters look like.  Death to all brown spiders.  As a side note, you should never google “brown recluse spider bite”.  Trust me on that, you don’t want to know.

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I’m pretty sure this isn’t even what they look like. There are six other spiders under this heading that are completely different. One is quite clearly a tarantula. Just sayin’.

The fear of unknowns in the future are always big with me.  I used to fear losing people that I love to death, or that my kids would get sick, or that I would die and leave them with no mom.  My mother reminded me of something very important that has helped me cope with this one.  She reminded me that God gives us just enough grace to be sufficient for what we’re going through right now.  Not the grace to go through the problems others face, or the grace for everything that will happen in our future … just right now.  But, when we need it, that grace will be there.  This has proven to be absolutely true in my life.  An unexplainable peace surrounds me when I’m going through something incredibly painful.  I remind myself of this quite frequently when I’m drawn into fearful speculation about the future.  Don’t rob what is good today just to worry over the future.

Most of my current fears are not that serious, but they can have a hugely negative impact on your calm.  Fear of what others will think of me … or my kids … or my husband.  Just whatever, it is immobilizing.  And kind of silly.  Here’s the deal, you can’t control other people’s minds.  Short of like, hypnosis or something, which my voice is not soothing enough to master, people can think whatever they want.  It’s an American thing.  We can say we don’t care what they think but we do, and sometimes we even should.  Not caring what anyone else thinks of you can get you into trouble.

I strive to have a healthy dose of self-awareness and leave behind the self consciousness.  I want to be presentable, to comb my hair, to not wear pants in public that were clearly meant to be pajamas … those sorts of things.  However, the self-consciousness thing hits me at the worst possible times.  One of my children throwing themselves on the floor and crying … in the doctor’s office waiting room, while two dozen elderly people stare at me like, “In my day, I never would have allowed my children to behave that way in public.”  Yeah, I think, but in your day CPS wasn’t really a thing either.  Instead of saying that, I calmly scrape my child up off the floor, threaten them under my breath and propel them through the door into the doctor’s office.

A little known fact about me is that just when I think I look like a dignified, put together person, I trip.  Literally.  I physically trip over my own feet when I think I’m handling this whole walking thing really well.  So now you know.  If you see me walking down a perfectly straight, completely obstacle free hallway and stumble headlong over thin air, you will know that was a moment I was trying to look cool.

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This is how Lily faces her fears. She may be onto something here.

Facing fears is never simple, but we have to do it, or we’ll just walk around being perfect basket cases all the time.  I push aside my fears of the things I can’t control.  I swallow hard and close my eyes and ignore the sound of that scorpion crunching.  I simply avoid heights at all costs.  That’s a lot easier when you’re an adult.  People can’t force you to ride roller coasters any more when you hit your thirties.  Nice perk.  I actually get a little freaked out still to go grab something from the car when it’s dark outside.  Anything could be lurking in that black void.  You just never know.  As far as what people will think if you fail, no worries.  Edison, Einstein, Walt Disney, J.K. Rowling … all of them faced multiple and brutal failures before their success.  They still thought Edison was nuts even after he succeeded.  And did you know Harry Potter was rejected like 28 times before someone finally published it?  I bet those other jokers are pretty bummed out right about now.  I bet Jo Rowling is pretty glad she kept trying.

Fear is normal.  We all do it.  So dream big, lift your head high after you trip and smile like you did it on purpose, plunge into the darkness to retrieve the phone you left out in the truck … it’ll be okay.  Everyone is still afraid of the dark at 34 years old.  They’re just too cool to admit it.  Also, I’m NOT afraid of thunderstorms or clowns.  I just feel like I should get some credit for that.

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I’m pretty sure this is what an actual brown recluse looks like. See what I mean? Totally different spider than the first picture!

You just went and googled “brown recluse spider bite” didn’t you?  I was right, wasn’t I?  Disgusting.  Told you so.

Plans and Other Futile Attempts at Sanity

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Jason and I when we were just married

 Getting married was a hugely eye opening experience for me.  Not so much from learning how to live with another human every day, I’d been doing that all my life, more from finding out things about me.  Weird, I know.  You’d think it was revelations about HIM that would make the whole business upsetting, but he’s actually remarkably tame.  It’s me we all need to worry about.

So, here’s the thing about me that I never knew until I got married.  I want to be super jovial, go with the flow, happiness is stopping in the middle of your carefully ordered life to smell the roses.  I always thought I was like that and then Jason came along.  And I’m actually not that easy going.  Who knew?

My normal when I’m traveling somewhere is to have a carefully ordered itinerary in mind and charge ahead toward the destinations, plowing over whatever obstacles dare to get in my way.  The reason I always thought I was spontaneous and easy going is that I actually mentally plan normal stuff along the way.  There is a destination in my brain called “lunch” and “rest stop” and “historical marker”.  But don’t add random things in!  Now you’re just messing with my mind!  Jason’s idea of traveling is … well, enjoying the journey.  What?  Who even came up with this idea?  In my defense though, while It sounds great in theory, when the wedding is six hours away and you’re already running late, I’m not a super fan of stopping at every creek and river from Waco to Lubbock to see how the water’s flowing.  This is what I get for marrying a man who kayaked from Maine to Texas.  He just can’t pass water without looking at it.  Sigh.

 

I am a planner.  I love it!  I buy planners, I make my own planners, I make lesson plans that would be the envy of elementary teachers everywhere.  It’s truly something to behold.  I follow through on about 35% of everything I plan to do.  I know.  You all want to be just like me when you grow up.  By sheer volume though, of all the things I write down, 35% still turns out to be a lot.

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These pictures do no justice to how detailed this planner is

If you think I’m uptight when traveling, you should see me at New Years.  I start planning my yearly goals a couple of weeks into December.  This is when I get a planner, or refills, or here lately I make my own.  Those store bought ones just do not have all the things I need.  By the time the ball drops on New Year’s Eve night I have categories and subcategories for every one of the months of the upcoming year.  It’s May right now.  I have no idea where that planner is.

So why am I not president yet, or at least, like, Secretary of State?  I mean, it seemed inevitable at the start of January.

Here’s the deal about my plans and my life.  Life is like the anti-plan.  It is the arch enemy of everything I write down in my carefully organized, personalized, categorized notebook.  I actually feel kind of cool though, having an arch enemy.  It makes me think I’m a little closer to being like Sherlock.  But anyway, back to my point.  You just can’t fit your actual life into those little plastic page protector things.  Trust me, if it was possible, I would have done it.  I love page protectors.  One of my favorite quotes ever is by John Lennon who’s song lyrics state “Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.”  My life in a nutshell.

You should have SEEN my plans at the start of this school year.  Jack should be doing quantum physics right now.  He should speak Spanish fluently and have had a thorough introduction to French and Latin.  A compulsive planner should never read “A Well-Trained Mind”.  It literally makes us crazy.  The other day we learned some stuff about graphing that was pretty fun.  And we played with play doh.

I know there are ways around these disruptions, because planning works for some people.  My friend Susan (name was changed to protect the potentially embarrassed), has a very orderly life and when she plans to get pregnant at a certain time of year so that it coincides with her teaching schedule, that is what happens.  Really, she even gets PREGNANT on a schedule.  It’s just wrong.  Also, using only the natural birth control known as the “Rhythm Method”.  If you’re unfamiliar with birth control, that method is 100% drug and procedure free.  It works beautifully if you want to have four kids in four years. My husband and I employed it with pretty much all of our children. And, it could actually work if you’re Susan.  So yeah, some people’s plans work out.  I’m pretty sure I’m just going to have to learn to deal.

So what do we do about plans that go amiss?  Personally, I take lots of deep breaths.  I remind myself that there is Someone’s plan that IS working out in my life and I don’t have the whole picture yet.  I remind myself that no one’s plans work perfectly, (even Susan’s) and that life is still good anyway.  Sometimes I cry too, and yell at people.  I forgot to mention that.

But be all this as it may, I’m still going to make New Year’s goal charts and add more tabs and page protectors to my planners. I’m still going to buy more curriculum than I could possibly need in all four of my children’s life times and make more attempts at teaching them dead languages!  Some of my plans work out too.  I did write and publish a 400 page novel last year.  That’s not nothing.  Zig Ziglar taught me all growing up (through his tapes, not personally) that you reach 100% of the goals you never set.  So … I guess it’s pretty inevitable that if you do set goals, you won’t reach all of them.  Still, I get more accomplished when I plan to accomplish something.  And then I try super hard not to get too emotionally attached to my checklist.  I remind myself to live the life that is happening to me right now.  Smiling at my kids and so forth.  I write that on my list too sometimes.  I know.  I need therapy… and chocolate.  Oh, and more play doh, if anyone has extra lying around.

 

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Jeremiah 29:11