Saturday, March 16, 2019

Light Fixtures and Coconut Manna

I need to figure out what it is in my personality that drives me to go on kicks. I get a wild hair and I'm off either organizing, cleaning out, making homemade almond milk or painting a hallway.

When I start, I can't stop. Except oftentimes I become extremely frustrated because I can't find the right paint color or rug or blanched almonds to get started. So, then, I stop. I freeze. I cannot make a decision. I keep looking and looking and looking. I recently scrolled through over 2000 rugs on Wayfair with the filters area rug, thin or medium thickness, blue/gray/yellow/green/cream and under $250. I went through 67 pages. I found a few I liked and popped one into my shopping cart. Guess what? It's still sitting there.

I've also looked at the Target options, the Home Goods choices and even ventured into the aisles of Home Depot to look for rugs.

It's an area rug, not blood needed for a transfusion.

I have 'find new living room rug' on the Spring Break project list. I've scratched out two -- 'fix necklaces' and 'hem batik fabric for table runner.' I have half on two items completed 'new hallway light fixtures' without painting the hallway and 'paint the alcove' without the new light fixture installed. Good news is the alcove will have a new light fixture Monday. So, that item will be completely taken care of and marked off our projects list.

Our list. OK, it's really only mine.

Gervais is helping with one of the big items - new bedroom flooring. He's handling the measurements, the calls, the ordering and scheduling the laying of the new floors. Whew.

With all these projects and home improvements, I become quickly overwhelmed and decide much more needs to be changed which requires much more than is in our bank account. We divvy the projects up according to the budget. I think I'll pay someone to paint the hallway -- too much to tape and too many corners. I think I'll also pay someone to paint some a couple of ceilings in already painted and new light fixtured rooms.

Ikea is now in San Antonio to finding the light fixtures was easy. They are so simple and inexpensive. They match what we are going for in this soon to be looking better home.

The rug. That isn't simple. When I change the living room rug, I need to change the side chair and ottoman. I then need to change the paint color and the bar stools. That leads to changing up the kitchen and knocking down the bar to make one level of lovely butcher block which means I won't need the 30-inch bar stools I would have already ordered. And, then I would need to change the counter tops throughout the kitchen and the back splash will need to be replaced. Oh, and the cabinets.

Let's just write about it and not make any decisions right now. That calms me.

Maybe I'll make some chai. Never mind, I forgot to go to Whole Foods and buy the ingredients to make my own and store it in a mason jar.

I have three cookbooks from the library encouraging me to Whole 30 while going grain free and eating a plant-based diet. I told y'all I go on kicks.

All maintain homemade almond milk and almond butter is the direction I should head.

'Alexa, add blanched almonds to the list.'

I follow a woman on Instagram who I am obsessed with -- kicks, I tell you. Her dad happens to be Mike Singletary -- one of the greatest linebackers ever and he happened to play for Baylor back in the day. I don't follow her for that reason, instead, I follow her because she lives a grain-free, plant-based meal life where she paints and homeschools her littles. That is so me, right?

Well, maybe not the grain-free, plant-based meals and painting as a hobby. But I did develop a homeschool curriculum for the girls when they were little. And, I made homemade baby food.

Let's get real. If I introduced a grain-free, plant-based diet around this house, I would be cooking for one. Nutella, cheese crackers and fish (we've loads of it in the freezer) would be out the door along with my people. We do like to eat healthy-ish (there's a cookbook by that name, too). We also like to go to the candy store and bring home bags of sour gummy bears and Bit-o-Honeys. (For the kids, for the kids.)

I'm on a kick though and really want to change my diet. I know dairy is not my friend so I switched to store-bought almond milk a couple of years ago. I need to embark on the vegan cream cheese and butter (where in the world do you buy that stuff -- what's this Thrive market I keep reading about on all my plant-based diet friends Instastories?). I would like to rely less on processed and focus more on cleaner, less additives, make it at home foods.

A few ingredients are already in stock as I do have a clean smoothie each morning (OK, 80 percent of my mornings). Chia seeds, hemp hearts and flaxseeds, along with spinach and almond butter (store bought, heavens me) are always on hand. That would be in my first chapter of my cookbook titled 'Who am I kidding? From healthy to chocolate cake in a few pages."

Along with blanched almonds, I need to add nutritional yeast and coconut manna to my pantry. Why? Who knows? I read in one of these cookbooks, I need those items so yeah, I'm on a hunt.

'Alexa, add coconut manna to the list.'

Alexa responded with something along the lines of that doesn't match up with some of my other items such as Cheetos.

I think coconut manna is like butter. Oh, wait that's ghee.

'Alexa, add ghee to the list.'

(She's losing her mind right now.)

Maybe it makes my hair shiny or helps my gut. Apparently, our guts are out of whack and they need to be normalized. I know mine is so I drink a cayenne-based kombucha, which I love. I also add turmeric to my smoothies -- keeps inflammation at bay.

Yes, I want shiny hair and clear skin. I want less pounds on my body. I care about the outside way more than my inside, but as I age I need to be thinking about my insides more.

Am I to bathe in coconut manna? I already use coconut oil to remove my make up which could explain some of the clogged pores. It's fat. On my face.

'Alexa, add collagen to the list.'

I read I'm to add collagen to my smoothies, or rub it on my face or take a pill. Anyway, collagen. Yep, that's the secret.

My two kicks I'm on -- changing my diet and changing my house -- seem to be colliding into one heap, right? Figuring out paint and rug colors is like figuring out smoothie ingredients. How will they work in natural light or bathed in light from a bulb hanging from a beautiful new fixture? How will my skin look without an Insta-filter or skin primer?

I read articles about how kids used to play outside in the 70s and they loved it. There was no cable television or internet to distract us. We just rode our bikes and played. We listened to the radio and had to pull the one family phone into the bathroom to have a private conversation. I think we knew about vitamin C because we didn't want scurvy and we drank milk for calcium so we would have strong bones. My mom used Ponds and Oil of Olay.

I'm not going to go back to the 70s, even though I dig the fashion. I find new skin products and treatments fascinating. I am thrilled whenever there's a new discovery that can lead to glowing skin and less brown spots (using Skinceuticals right now for that). I am a researcher at heart, always searching and trying to find information.

The Internet works for me. I love social media and really enjoy following pretty people on Instagram. I enjoy the art of it. I usually don't get the FOMO feeling, but I do get the 'hey, I should try that' feeling.

That's HISTT which almost reads hysteric.

Which rhymes with kick.

It all runs full circle.

Circles, maybe that is the pattern for the rug. That lessens the search to about 157. I like other geometric shapes, too so maybe diamonds? Or stripes?

I think I need a snack. Should have ordered the makings for grain-free granola from HEB.






Sunday, February 24, 2019

Instant Snow and Biscuits

Kindness. When is the last time you felt kindness from someone? And not simply tulips and roses kind of words or a hug or a post-surgery delivered casserole. The type of kindness best served over a breakfast of biscuits where words are honest and truthful. Where questions of interest are sincere. Where a work call is delayed because you don't want to leave the soothing, safe space created by a kind heart.

Urban Dictionary gets it right. (OK, people don't go to Urban Dictionary because you will probably get more than you bargained for, just trust me on this definition.) The definition from that interesting site reads 'one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit. A visible attribute of a true Christian life as found in Galatians 5:22-23. Kindness is doing something and not expecting anything in return. Kindness is respect and helping others without waiting for someone to help one back. It implies kindness no matter what.'

(An entire blog post and book could be written about true Christian life demonstrating kindness. I don't have time for that now. There is a lack though of kindness in our world. Let's all try a bit harder.)

I didn't stop with the Urban Dictionary. I went to another source -- elementary school-aged girls. My 9-year-old twins said kindness means being respectful of others and being selfless. Camille further described kindness as the color green and a big field of grass that calms you but also shows life. Caroline added saying kindness reminds her of the color yellow. She said it is warm and bright like the sun.

I expanded my focus group to include some of Camille's gymnastic teammates. Three continued the color theme. Rory said pink because those things are normally sweet and nice and soft. Rachel saw yellow because it reminds her of happiness. Avery thought of white because it is clean. Avery continued with the idea that kindness also means people don't lie to you and they show you favor.

We were coming fresh off an out-of-town meet and we were enjoying a day in Waco at the Silos with way more people than I thought would be there on a random Friday. Kindness, Jill. Show kindness for other's choices. As a result of just completing a meet, one of the gymnasts, Berlin, said kindness is when you are at the gym and someone is cheering you on.

Kindness is shown me countless times a day. I try to notice each and every one so that I might show gratefulness in some manner. The day of the biscuit-sharing session, I had breakfast with a friend with whom I used to work. We spoke of work, but really spent time talking about being a mom and the desire to continue to learn and grow and contribute. She and I are able to be direct and ask each other tough questions. We also allow for responses that may be more than we want to hear, but need to hear. At one point, after talking for over an hour, she stopped almost mid-sentence in a thought to pause and ask me, 'how are you?' Such a common question, but the way in which she asked, the body language displayed and her focused eyes almost brought me to tears. She wanted to know how I was doing. She cared. She was kind. Even after about two weeks, I can still see her face as she asked the question. Powerful. Not the question in and of itself, but the sincere way in which she asked it and the way in which she waited for the answer.

When you experience true kindness, it's a gift. It's something you want to bottle up or box up and store away to use on a day when kindness is needed. OK, we should show kindness each and every moment each and every day. No doubt. Yet at times, we rush through our day and inadvertently miss opportunities to show kindness.

We can read Bible verses, look at quotes on Instagram, write messages on our mirrors, post notes to remind ourselves to be kind. Why can't we simply be kind all the time? Can kindness be our surrounding environment or habitat? How can we wrap ourselves in kindness and then show kindness?

Kindness is a necessary ingredient for relationships, for humans. There are substitutes, but without the sincerest of kindness, the outcome is not as pure. Imagine substituting kindness with politeness in a recipe for friendship. It would be considerate and respectful, but could it go beyond the surface? Or consider substituting kindness with generousness. Yes, being generous means giving more than expected but does it involve the friendly and considerate factors required in a relationship.

Kindness soothes.Kindness is a balm. Kindness balances the ups and downs in a relationship. There are no substitute ingredients. There are additives.

Caroline and Camille have a slime business. (Yes, that's a thing. Look on Instagram to find all the slimers out there. Or, visit YouTube to watch video after video on slime.) As a part of the slime business, you need supplies. Currently, the girls are trying to keep Instant Snow in stock. This makes cloud slime. The Instant Snow comes in a box the size of instant potato flakes. It's somewhat of a seasonal product, but if you hunt and hunt the shelves of Michael's or go on to Amazon, you can find a box. The 40 percent off coupon at Michael's makes it a real deal.

Without Instant Snow, making cloud slime is not as easy. It's a critical ingredient. There are work-around recipes, but there really isn't a substitute for the box of flakes.

The girls pour out the Instant Snow into a large plastic container and then once the slime is made, it is rolled into the flakes to create the cloud drizzle. The girls knead the slime over and over, allowing the correct amount of Instant Snow to work it's way into the creation.

We don't have another coffee on the books just quite yet, but my former co-worker and now, forever friend, will be getting together soon for a play date with my twin girls and her sweet new baby. We'll show some basic kindness by bringing over food and sending her to her room for some rest. We can talk later.

Over biscuits.



Friday, January 4, 2019

Seat Gaps and Too Many Choices

The gap between the seats in my car is my inaccessible lost and rarely found. Somehow items can be lost in that space and I can find the items because I see them, but they can never be in my hands again.

How do the car keys drop into just the right spot that my hands and fingers cannot reach. Not only do the keys fall into the crack, they settle into a place that up to that point has never been occupied. It's like the first time someone climbed Mr. Everest or set foot on the moon. Uncharted territory that now has a permanent resident.

And, it isn't just keys that find their way into those unreachable spots. My phone, important papers, ear buds, coins and all kinds of trinkets manage to find their way there.

It seems that when I'm needing those times the most, they land in the gap. It opens up at its widest when I'm rushing to get somewhere (in or out of my car). My little valuables seem to leap out of my hand into that land. They act like they are an explorer of old motivated by discovering some place new.

All this leads me to well, crack. I end up with bumps and bruises, scrapes and scratches as I desperately try to retrieve the lost objects. I grab pencils or anything within my reach to try and fish the items out. I start sweating. I start swearing. i become this frenetic, frantic person who has one purpose in life. Get those keys!

Such drive. Such dedication. Such frustration.

So if I slowed down, took a breath and paused would I have more success? Is that the lesson?

My mom used to tell me when I would stub my toe or slam a drawer where my finger was resting, it meant God wanted me to slow down and needed to get my attention. No time to rush is a favorite family saying.

Yet, I rush. And, when I rush, I drop things or forget things or misplace things.

As an avid planner, I typically am on the ball when it comes to having anything and everything I need for anything and everything. I load up my car the night before an outing. I make sure all the gear and items I'm bringing with me into the car have a clever bag or pouch or place. I get this done so I can have a fourth part.

My fourth parts are precious, as you know. I scurry and hustle to get things done before I sit down each evening so I don't have to get up again. Television is calling. There are so many shows available and my list on Netflix is growing faster than I can watch. I know the shows I want to watch and then those sneaky recommendations creep in and I add more to the list.

Amazon Prime also has my attention and again, the recommendations along with the recently added and popular present as I select my show of choice. (Currently, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel has my binge ear and eye. I am loving the parents this season. Rose in Paris and Abe convincing the dean to continue to allow her to audit classes are scenes I could re-watch over and over.)

In my bullet journal, (after a few months, still trying to figure that out) I have a list of shows to watch, which includes movies we can watch on our Fire stick, and new podcasts to play. These podcasts are added on top of the countless episode of about 15 podcasts I follow. I'm currently obsessed with Armchair Expert. And, Dax is coming to SA. I desperately want to go, but how do I fit that in between the Netflix, Amaxon Prime and podcasts.

Too, too many choices.

No wonder when I'm dashing out the door and trying to think of what podcast to listen to, my keys fly out of my hands. Or, the power cord I plug into the car gets tangled beneath the seat.

Too, too much.

When I went to work this morning, I noticed the weight of my work bag. It was heavy. I had three planners and a Brene Brown book (because I'm a fan and just listened to her live Armchair Expert episode so I need to read it right now) along with the usual work sleeve. I was also schlepping my workout bag. Holding my keys in one hand and my phone, still attached to the power cord, in the other, I paused. How do I open the door to my car? How do I hit the garage door opener? How do I get these items into the car without dropping anything or throwing out a shoulder?

Too, too much.

I could hear my mom telling me to slow down. I could also hear my voice as I read today's devotion to Camille. (She and I were the only ones up this morning -- she had gymnastics practice and I had work. We left everyone else sleeping.) It was Day 39 of 5-Word Prayers by Lisa Whittle. Today's prayer was "I reach out for you."

I couldn't physically reach out to Jesus because my hands were not only full, they were overwhelmed. As my mind and spirit go, there are my hands. Overwhelmed and it's only day four of the new year. Overwhelmed and I've had kind of an easy entry back into work.

Too, too much.

The verse in today's prayer was Psalm 143:6: I stretch out my hands to you, my soul thirsts for you like a parched land.

How can my hands stretch out when they are so full? Or when they are occupied digging around in a purse or pouch or an unreachable spot in my car?

Whittle writes that God always responds without fail and because this prayer creates changes, we fight against it. Wait, we cry out to God and reach out to Him, but we resist in our honest reach. It's in desperation that we pray this prayer (I am reaching for these keys that have fallen somewhere in this car so help me!) yet we oftentimes don't do the work to respond to his delivery or His catching us.

So, I'm going to probably continue to drop things into those deep, dark places in my car. I may still try and carry too much. I might try to handle too many choices of quality television programming (OK, maybe 90-day Fiancee isn't your quality). But, I can reach for God and He is there. He can handle whatever I have going on no matter what it looks like.

As I reach for those out-of-reach objects, I'll remember God is always reaching out for me no matter where I'm hiding or stuck.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Brave Heart and Saying No

We've had quite a few meltdowns in our house recently. Yes, during this lovely Christmas season, we have had tears and sobs and hysterics.

The series of meltdowns includes a solid one delivered by me. Not my best moment. In the midst of traveling with it from room to room, I told G (maybe in a really loud voice) I want to be selfish right now.

I guess if you admit it, it's OK. Yeah, nope.

Let me go back a week or two. First, Caroline melted down when I told her she could not get acrylic nails. What started as a cute conversation on wanting a yes day ended in tears because of my response. Since then, we've found these sticker, real polish, $10 a pack nails. (Anyone sell these or would want a 9-year-old test model?)

The next meltdown was Caroline's second in this series. A few days after the nails, we had the grilled cheese event. It started with me arriving home later than I planned so that we could get out the door to go to an evening Christmas market with friends. I had failed to prep the babysitter. I was late. Two strikes so far. When I walked in my house on the phone debriefing the work day with a friend, both the sitter and my daughter wanted my attention. Caroline waved a slice of cheese in my face pleading for a grilled cheese because she couldn't toast one with Snowflake (our elf) sitting on the toaster. (You can't touch these things. They lose magic. Repairing magic is a whole thing with glitter and jingle bells and glow stick juice. We've done it. I can provide notes.)

I'm still on the phone, pulling out the skillet with my sitter sitting, watching me. Hmmmm.

I end the call and the sitter delivers a message that includes words such as 'boyfriend' and 'mono' and 'no symptoms.' In one swoop, I send her quickly out the door and begin Clorox-wiping everything she touched while still making the grilled cheese. Caroline begins to sob because of the grilled cheese which she told me that's all she wanted for the next day.

Stop. Next day? Why the desperate waving of highly-processed orange squares in my face?

As she cried, she also told me it was the worst day of fourth grade because she was asked by the reptile guy at the school assembly if she wanted to hold the snake. (Missed that notice from the school.) When she said not, classmates started to make fun of her for saying no.

Trigger.

What?

Wait, what?

Saying no gets you made fun of?

Not in this house.

I let my sweet, people pleasing Caroline know she can say no whenever, wherever, however and why-ever she wants. No one gets to force her or tease her into saying yes.

Note: Caroline is no longer crying at this point. She now has the facial expression of a child reacting to a mother strongly sharing thoughts on the power of no.

I asked her what the reptile guy said when the children were laughing at her. Nothing.

I asked her if any teachers or adults responded. Again, nothing.

I asked her if friends came to her defense. Yeah, pattern emerging. Nothing.

I wanted to immediately call the school and email the principal and hunt down the reptile guy. (Caroline did want to hold the baby turtle, but snake handling was the only extracurricular offered during this assembly.)

Took a breath, flipped the grilled cheese.

I continued to describe to Caroline the power and importance of now. I shared with her that it is hard to say no at times, but we should always be brave and say no if we want to, or need to or simply should.

We headed out the door to go to our gathering, but traffic. We u-turned and made a decision to honor her brave heart with a Frosty from Wendy's. That always works to soothe hurt.

Remember though, there was another meltdown coming starring me. Vanessa Williams sang it so well with 'save the best for last.' Or in my case, the worst was saved and delivered last.

We had an evening packed with errands and goings-ons. I did text my babysitter this time but yet, things still fell apart in the end. All the usuals were scheduled to take place. Caroline and her help the teacher Wednesday. We had the usual friend ride home with the girls day. We had the usual other friend get dropped off and go to Awanas day. We had the usual both Adams girls get a shower before Awanas day.

Well, Camille didn't get a shower because Caroline stayed later than usual with her teacher. And, we had an addition to the usual Wednesday activities -- Camille had a 5 p.m. haircut. (Prep for vacation people, only time to get it scheduled, I know it doesn't make sense. 5 p.m. on a week night?!)

The sitter met me at the salon, dropped off Camille and took the other three girls to church. I thought Camille will have freshly washed locks so the shower later will be quick. No problem.

Camille left the salon with a beautiful hair cut styled and blown out by my lovely and kind hairdresser. I dropped Camille at church and then I ran to HEB to pick up the makings for a colleague's birthday cake. (Here's where pride is a sin. I raved about my upside pineapple cake making abilities so I was committed to making a homemade cake on a school night!)

I arrive home. Ready for the next day. Get settled with dinner made and flip on the DVR. Decide to make the cake in the morning.

When my mom arrived at the house dropping off the girls from church, I told Camille to stay home and shower while I ran the friends home. Gervais was already home from practice so this was going to be flawlessly executed.

Before I left, Camille was begging Gervais to put the angel topper on the tree. The angel and Camille had been patiently waiting for a couple of weeks. The timing made sense. Plus, it's just a plop on the top of the tree.

As I grabbed my car keys, and as Gervais put the angel up, I started to walk out the door and the angel came tumbling down our 7 1/2-foot Martha Stewart pre-lit Aspen Pine artificial tree. On her way down, the angel took out my most favorite ornament. I saw it happening in slow motion and started crying before it hit the ground. It shattered. I yelled, 'my favorite.' And everyone cringed.

Brave Heart down.

My Christopher Radko special limited edition in honor of the first responders at 9-11 Brave Heart ornament shattered. I had hunted for that. I had looked and looked when it came out. Each year, it prominently held a front and center spot on the tree.

Broken.

I took a deep breath and composed myself. Took the girls home and then talked through with Caroline how it was just an accident and I could always find another ornament. I was really faking it until I could make it.

Walked in the door completely together and Camille was still in the shower. Hmmm. Long time for a quick wash off. She had washed her hair. The beautiful styling gone.

With one Brave Heart gone and now a sweet hair style, I lost it. I spoke very loudly at Camille for washing her hair. Logic?

I yelled as I walked through the house about trying to make everyone else's day better and I just wanted to have my own bad day because I lost my very favorite ornament that you can't replace easily and see when I quickly looked it up on ebay it costs 100s of dollars and we don't have that money right now because vacation and Christmas so why do I have to calm down.

Call me Alexander and the very bad, horrible, no good day.

When I said to Gervais I want to be selfish, he just looked at me as he does and has done for the past 20 plus years and said, it's an ornament.

It's the Brave Heart ornament was my response.

He said, yeah. Brave Heart.

This healthy banter took place for a few more minutes and then it clicked.

Brave Heart. Standing up for what you believe in. Taking action because it's the right thing to do.

My Caroline is having to learn how to say no and then stick to it. I'm still learning how to temper my reactions to things that go wrong.

When things do go horribly wrong, how do we react? Do we stand by what we know to be right and true? Do we overact? Do we over-compensate and end up off the rails?

Christmas is busy. We make it that way. We can opt out. We can say no. We can also say yes. We can be better at planning. We can carve out fourth parts. We choose how and where we spend our time and money.

Saying no isn't easy. Staying true to our beliefs is tough. Reacting appropriately to responses and events around us takes effort and concentration and focus.

So this holiday season, let's stay true to who we are. Let's allow others to say no for beliefs they hold true. Let's listen to each other. Let's find time.

Let's share and show our brave hearts.

Monday, October 22, 2018

PTA and Relay Races

I created two spreadsheets. Not for work. For PTA.

This year, I decided to jump in with both feet and become a member of the PTA executive board. I took the easy route -- class shirts. This was my path into co-chairing the fifth-grade party next year. I had to get in to grab that assignment. I have big plans for the fifth-grade party. DJ, yeah. Donations for give-aways and swag bags, I'm on it. It will be the fifth grade parties of all fifth grade parties.

But, first, class shirts.

Only a few steps to fill out in my POW (that's plan of work for you non-PTA people). I took care of most during the summer -- get a vendor, email lead teachers, update the order form and voila, class shirts. Forgot about the forms being turned in and having to input the student's names by class with their shirt size. There are a lot of kids in this school my girls attend. Also, didn't really think through the various designs and t-shirt colors by teacher by grade. Another spreadsheet.

We are close to the finish line. I've picked up over 700 forms (another detail -- visiting the PTA rolling vertical file to check my folder) and met with the vendor a few times to go over the details. Kinder teachers, names on back, same one color design on front, different colors by teacher. There are five grades, plus kinder, plus pre-k. Oh, and teachers get a free shirt so I need those orders, too.

Friday is the deadline. We'll have stragglers but next week, I'm turning in the order.

Then, delivery. And, scene.

Well, that hopeful spirit came too soon. You know what you have to do before submitting the final count. You have to audit the count. When your PTA president helps with the audit and finds we have 610 paid orders and your spreadsheet only reflects 606 . . . you get to spend the time that was to be a fourth part as a 'looking through each and every order questioning the printing ability of each and every parent who submitted each and every form' part.

Yes, I found the discrepancies and corrected the spreadsheet. Yes, I sent the workbook full of many tabs to the vendor. Yes, I did a review of the vendor's orders to find a couple of misses. Yes, I wrote an email with the words 'approved' on the numbers.

Still not finished.

There's going to be more emails coming from the vendor with the t-shirt design proofs. One includes a number that each and every fifth grader needs to write their name in before we print. (That will be super simple. Will each and every fifth grader be at school the day I need to have the number signed? I'll be forging some fifth-grade signatures that is for sure.)

Will I then be finished? I think, yes.

That finish line is near but there are so many steps to get there. Like when you take off on a race, the finish line is what you see ahead of you. Unless you run hurdles, there are no obstacles. The obstacles are plenty, though. There are your competitors. They want to finish, too. They know they need to go in a straight line toward that ribbon strung across the finish. There are the weather conditions. There are shoelaces that could come untied. There are muscles that can pull. Obstacles you know exist, but in the moment all you see is that finish line.

There's this idea of keeping your eye on the prize. People use visualization techniques to 'watch' themselves finish in the way they've trained. The techniques involve moving through the event as if there were no obstacles.

I did not visualize a successful spreadsheet. All I saw were stacks and stacks of green class shirt order forms on my counters. I saw my feeble attempts at formulas in my spreadsheets knowing there was a way to sum up the grand totals on each page, but dang, I don't know how to do a fancy formula. I'm sure the pivot table thing I've heard of would have helped but I was too busy deciphering unusual names written in undecipherable handwriting to figure out a pivot.

Yeah, I wanted to pivot.

I had to keep my eye on the prize, the finish line -- the fifth grade party.

My girls are working this week on their new finish line. They were picked to be in the fourth grade track meet as members of the 4x100 relay team. Caroline is the second leg and Camille is the anchor. For a couple of weeks, their dad, the coach, has asked if they have practiced baton hand offs. The answer up until tonight has been nope. Cringing from my husband. He even out-loud offered to take the girls up to his high school and teach them proper hand off. The girls answer to that was nope.

Today was the day the girls practiced the passing of the baton. Caroline re-enacted it for us. G had some questions as to steps and timing and style and Caroline responded with 'go' and 'stick.' G now says it is 'your job to stick the baton out' and they get it. 'You need to hit them in stride.'

Caroline just said 'ok, ok.'

(Acceleration and exchange zones were also just discussed. Step counts, too. We might be taking this fourth grade relay race a little too seriously.)

Camille won't stand for being behind someone so having her at anchor will fuel her to catch up with someone if that is the position they are in during the race. She does not like to lose. She will be counting and watching and listening and waiting in proper form while the other girls run.

The proper running form is something children learn if they do indeed become runners. There's a way to swing your arms, lean your body and bend your elbows. The number of steps you take are measured and there's a lot of counting involved.

The science of running is not just about the breathing and the heart rate, it's also about the angles and the number of foot strikes. (Seriously, we are taking this too seriously.)

I learned over the last few months that there is a science to being the person responsible for the class shirts. There are the formulas and calculations. There are the taxes and the income and the budgeted amount. Lots of math.

It's so simple though. It's filling out a form and turning it in. It's writing legibly and providing payment.

Running is so simple, too. One foot in front of the other.

Apparently, there is nothing simple about PTA and there is nothing simple about running. Our perception of what appears to be simple means that the practice, the effort and the execution are all lined up and in perfect sync with the outcome. Eyes are kept on the prize. Work is put into the process so that everything comes out just so and right on time.

I'll be providing next year's class shirt person with a recap of my learnings. I'll share when and how to get started. I'll point out some practices to put into place. I'll even offer up ideas on how to make the process easier.

I'll be passing on that baton. I won't drop it. I'll be right in the exchange zone but will accelerate so fast past the receiver, they won't even know I was there . . . until it is time for the fifth grade party.






Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Rainbows and Tennis Elbow

When it rains it pours.

That sentiment has never been truer in our lives as it is now. OK, maybe we've had other times when one thing after the other seems to be falling all around us or bumping into us or trying to break us.

I know God is faithful. I know God provides.

Right now, it is hard to see the forest for the trees. It's much easier to see the water and the leaks.

It's been raining quite a bit here in San Antonio. I don't just mean our issues, but really that wet stuff coming from the sky. We've had inches upon inches and more inches upon inches. Around here we aren't to complain about the rain because we always seem to need rain. The stories of the aquifer dropping and watering restrictions are ever present. Yet, it never seems to rain just enough. We are either feast or famine. These past few days have been an abundant feast. Our yard looks great.

I'm trying to find a silver lining because along with the rain came the leaks.

We had a puddle of water in our dining room Labor Day evening. Yay for a holiday. Boo for a leak. As I cleaned up the kitchen that evening being ever so thankful for both a holiday from work and gymnastics, I heard a click-like sound and when I flipped on the light in the dining room, I saw a puddle. Ugh.

We have the roofer's name and number so G began a text exchange. I guess roofers never sleep especially when there is a lot of rain because he responded immediately through text and in coming over the next day with a big ol' tarp to go on the roof. Yes, we still have a spot in our roof that needs to be fixed and we have a nice patch of ceiling that will probably need to be replaced.  Silver lining -- we don't have an indoor puddle.

The rain didn't end and neither did our indoor puddles. The puddle moved to our bathroom. Our toilet sprang a leak. I mean, water, water everywhere. But that is water I didn't want to drink. Towels soaked and bonus -- carpet in our closet soaked. That's how I discovered the leak. I walked into the closet and squished around. I looked up so quickly I might have pulled a muscle, but no leak from the ceiling presented. Tracked around the closet and the bathroom and noticed the puddle behind the toilet. Baseboards looking a little warped. Fortunately, my dear friend Sue's boyfriend is quite the handyman and he came to our rescue.

Another puddle issue resolved.

I'd like to blame the rain for all my troubles and my aches, but I just can't, right? Didn't Milli Vanilli blame it on the rain. Well, they blamed something.  Guess what? The nagging pain in my right elbow did not appear when the rain came down, rather it is tennis elbow. FYI -- I haven't played tennis in years, many, many years. I do work out. I lift weights. I do strength training. While I would rest my arm after it seemed to bother me, once it began to feel good again, I'd start working out and well, yeah, it would start hurting again.

When you injure your right elbow and suffer from a fancy worded tendinitis, not only should you not lift weights, you should also not open doors, carry bags or lift anything with that arm. I also write with my right hand. And, I lead my cartwheels with the right arm. (Y'all wonder where Camille got her gymnastics gift from -- look no further. Don't ask Pam, Lara, Tracy or Lizbeth for a cartwheel picture from our beach vacation this summer. I'll deny it was me.)

This right-armed tennis elbow has really thrown me off my game, including my imaginary comeback to tennis game. I've not been working out as regularly as I like. I'm not doing the exercises I like/need. It's even hard to get comfortable sleeping. Holding my book to read at night, or my phone to watch Netflix, becomes painful. I take Aleve PM which worries G because I shouldn't be taking that every night. By day's end, it just hurts. I'm supposed to go buy an elbow band thing from Walgreens. I haven't made my way over there because it seems like an unnecessary expense and we are watching expenses right now. The roof. The toilet. Back to school. All that adds up and I think not spending $10 on something that will relieve pain is a solid savings. (I did buy some pepper-flavored whiskey this week to use for future tailgates. Hmmm, that might help with pain. Fortunately, there hasn't been a need to numb the pain of losing Baylor games, but still the elbow pain. Wait, how can I do Sic 'em Bears? I digress.)

We are a few weeks into the school year and trying to find our routine and our budget. This is the first real full week of activities -- football, practice, gymnastics, work travel, Awanas and a sprinkling of homework -- and it is taking a toll on us. We've been here before. School is something we do. Football is our jam. I travel for work. Chris has beginning of the semester expenses such as books and a big stock of groceries and toiletries. Maybe we are struggling because we had summer which was so nice without a schedule that required lunches and regular bathing. Or it could be we have a rhythm as a family when we are all together and when school starts back up, we get a little off beat. We have programs and assemblies to attend. We have kick-off activities. We have babysitter needs. We have school supply needs. We have needs that require money. We need to spend a bit more.

Other than Camille's gymnastics and G's football, our evenings are like anyone else's evenings, I think. Dinner needs to be made, homework completed, baths (occasionally) given and lunches prepared. I'm super organized, have the calendar and feel like I can keep up with the best of them. I mean, I get fourth parts all the time. They've just been coming too late in the evening They've been starting around 10 p.m. That's supposed to be Jill's in bed time, not sitting down to watch Bravo time.

Oh, yeah, gymnastics. Gymnastics until 8 p.m. three days a week is tough. Camille gets home around 8:30 p.m. and Caroline is starting to get into bed. Camille needs to eat and wrap up homework. It makes for late evenings.

Wednesdays, Camille doesn't have gymnastics. Caroline has Awanas at church. It's a good mid-week break for Camille and Caroline gets an activity all her own. Camille has solo time with the babysitter. Caroline enjoys Wednesday night supper with her grandmother.

This Wednesday, Camille and I had to run over to a kid's clothing resale shop to pick up my whopping $8 I made from selling some of the clothes they've outgrown. Some of you might be wondering, really, Jill, $8. Driving in the rain to get $8? Here's what happens to me when I see the money being spent at a faster pace than it is coming in or going to savings. I begin to process things in a manner that makes zero sense. We could sell the car and I take the bus to work. We can have a garage sale. I make G crazy with this. He reminds me all the time that we are fine, but I tend to overact. (A skill it I hope none of my kids receive from me.)

As Camille and I left the resale shop, $8 in hand, she whispered to me, 'is that a rainbow.' I asked her where a few times because I wasn't looking for anything hopeful. I was thinking of the $8 and the need to pay a few bills and that payday was a couple of days away. I was thinking if I needed to get gas between now and payday. I was blowing everything up to an extraordinary size and not seeing what was right in front of me.

A rainbow.

After all the rain these last few days, after all the house troubles and my elbow pains, after all the beginning of school expenses we had to cover, there right in front of us was a rainbow.

We all know the story of Noah and the ark and the rainbow presenting as a promise. It was a covenant from God that He would never again send another flood to destroy all life on Earth. Genesis 9 reveals that promise. Can you imagine? If you were one on the ark, you've been trapped in a boat for quite awhile with a whole lot of animals and all the sounds and smells that go with that. You trusted Noah who kept telling you God is in charge and in control. You didn't really know the end game. You did know the present -- friends and family, gone -- as you sat on a boat. Your life as you knew it, over. And, the animals, all the animals.

Not only did that rainbow present, God's mercy showed through. He knew each and every person on that ark was scared and unsure of what was coming. I mean, the grace. Now, He didn't say there would never be another storm (right now we are watching the news in our house about Hurricane Florence), but God did say the rainbow will remind us of the everlasting covenant (Genesis 9:16). Think of each and every bit of rain that came after the great flood. Noah and his family probably suffered a bit of PTSD. But the reminder in the form of a rainbow. God doesn't forget. Why do I?

Why do I not rest in his assurances that He will forever care for me? Why do I get all stirred up about things and not place my trust in His promises? (By the way, it hurts to stir, people. How can this tendon be affecting so much in my life?)

I found an online prayer from first5.org that had words I needed to read today. Words I need to repeat now  and over and over again.

'Life is filled with tragedy and pain, yet it's the sun shining through the rain that creates the beauty of a rainbow. So shine through our circumstances and show us Your beauty and glory in the midst of the storm.'

Clasping my hands together in prayer doesn't hurt.

Saying the prayer doesn't hurt.

Responding to that sweet whisper when the rainbow was noticed doesn't hurt.

I promise.


Thursday, August 23, 2018

Beach Tents and Rental Cars

One last summer trip. A visit to Port Aransas. It's not the prettiest beach, but it's the beach I grew up going to and the one I know best.

The girls and I (both my girls and my IR girlfriends) planned a trip back at the beginning of the summer and we all made it happen. There are only a few units available at the IR and fortunately, we found one. We've stayed at other places at the beach, but IR is our home. We know the pool. We know the walk and drive to the beach. We know how to work the outdoor beach shower.

We had such fun. We laughed and played games. We tried to eat through 60 bags of chips (yes, 60) and three loaves of bread. We heard music playing and found a new spot to visit. We drank out of super cute dipped beach cups, We also had a s'mores bonfire on the beach.

We also set up the beach tent and chairs, packed up the beach tent and chairs and washed off the beach tent and chairs without help. I used a bungee cord in the back of Gervais' truck to make sure nothing blew out of the bed on the trip down and back.

Wonder if a bungee cord could have helped the flat tire I got on the drive down.

Nah. And, AAA didn't do a stellar job of helping either.

Seriously, while driving down I37S somewhere around Three Rivers and Oakville, I saw the low tire pressure notification. I turned down the podcast I was listening to and heard a bit of a flapping sound. I pulled over and walked around the truck to see the flat.

Ugh. Time to call AAA. Time of be disappointed in AAA.

The initial call was simple.

'Are you safe?' While I explained to the operator that is a relative term, I said we didn't have a gun to our heads, but we were on the side of the highway where the speed limit is 75 miles per hour and cars oftentimes go much faster than that.

'Where are you? Can you describe your location?' Hmmm. A bit south of a farm to market road. Didn't register with the operator. Close to Oakville. Again, didn't help. I guess AAA operators don't have a map because I had to work at the description of my whereabouts.

'Do you want text updates on your driver's arrival?' Yes, I do.

'The driver will arrive in 1 hour and 45 minutes.' What?

We negotiated and expedited arrival time within 45 minutes. That came and went like the 18-wheelers hauling down the highway past us.

After a few calls, no text updates and two hours, our tow truck driver arrived. He started the jacking, tire changing process, but had to stop because the tools to get the spare down could not be found.

Deep breaths, trying to remain calm, two 9-year-olds were closely watching.

So, the flat tire changing didn't work. Let's go find a tire shop. He asked me where I wanted to go. Let's see, the beach?

We finally found one and the people there were great. Got me in and out.

G asked that we load up the tire in the truck bed -- on top of the tent and beach chairs. No need for bungee cords. He also wanted me to stop at the Discount Tire in Corpus. Yeah, no. I was done with tires.

After the fun beach weekend and the drive home, I realized Chris would have had this flat on his drive to school with his furniture had he gone the week prior. He had already experienced a flat going up to school and a delayed tow and no text updates. (AAA, your service? We're 18-year members!)

Was it better I got a flat? I did share some thoughts with AAA that my girls heard. I did share some opinions with the tow truck driver with the girls listening. I later apologized to them for my behavior. In the moments of frustration, I sometimes lose my cool. Not explosive or out of control, but the words come a flowing.

I did call AAA after a few days of being home and they sent me a check for our membership. Now, that's service. I can use that check to pay for next year's membership because we will be members. We used it twice this year for flat tires and tows.

Make that three times.

Chris planned to go to Lubbock the Monday we got back from the beach. G thought better of that and wanted the tire we bought on our way to the beach to be replaced by the Discount Tire we know. Chris took care of that with intent of going to school Tuesday. After taking care of the tire (and us getting a refund for the one we bought in Three Rivers), Chris changed cars with G. On Chris' drive back home, he decided to try and drive over a large rock on the highway. Not good. He had to pull over and watch the oil pour from the bottom of his car. And, wait for the AAA tow truck.

Come on.

Thankfully, G knew my thin patience with AAA, so he handled the calls. When you put a more calm person on the job, there's little drama. It just works. Might be something to try.

With Chris' car towed, and his taking G's truck to Lubbock, we needed a rental. Part of my errands Monday was to pick up the rental. An old-fashioned, white mini-van. For G. To drive to two-a-days.

Funny, I was also driving a rental to the rental place because I had to take one on an out-of-town trip. Two rentals and a truck. That could be a TV show. Except I don't think our show would have been too funny.

I don't do well with car stuff. I don't know what expectations to have and how the whole estimates and appraisals and repair scheduling works. I do know how to pester and ask questions. G knows how to handle these things. A bit difficult for him to do while he is smack dab in the middle of two-a-days.

With a few days of perspective in place and a fourth part happening, I can think of the things for which I am thankful. The AAA membership, the unfound spare tools because driving on a spare to the beach isn't the smartest, the tire shop with the quick help, insurance, refunds, cell phones. I can also think of the things I could have handled better. My raised voice, the strong words, the impatience of inputting my AAA membership number too many times in a row, the not-so-nice attitude when asked to go pick up the rental because G had practice and couldn't get there in time.

The beach is a restorative place for me. The water, the waves. My IR girlfriends are restorative. The ease in which we fit into each others' lives is a gift. The traditions we've established even as I am a late addition to the group are in place . . .pictures and dance parties just being two of them.

A fourth part restores my sanity. Without a phone call to make, a refund to request or a rental agreement to sign, a fourth part clears my mind.

I believe AAA is meant to provide peace and assurance. And, I suppose it does. It's that insurance policy that if something goes wrong, it is a company that can help. The timing might not be what I want or expect and it does come at a price, but it is there as a safety net.

Isn't the safety net and assurance what we all want and need? As Chris heads up to his senior year at school, I like that he has AAA just in case. I'm glad he has a place to live with kind neighbors who will help out two college boys if needed.

Just like I have my IR girls. Friends who will help without expectation of help in return. Friends who will wash off your beach chairs and watch your girls at the pool while you cook dinner.

Friends who will play a game with your girls even if it doesn't quite make sense. And, friends who welcome you in to a tight knit group even if you don't know all the stories -- because they see the value of making new stories.

That's the best kind of membership to have.