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 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.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Back Handsprings and Sugar

Summer. While not my favorite season because, well, hot, it's a favorite season. I love summer because there's no school. No lunches to pack. No homework to fret over. No real bedtime rules and no rules around showering. OK, there are rules because well, summer. It's hot, ya'll.

With a relaxed schedule, we can take a break from rigorous meal planning. I love a meal plan and during the school year we spend Sundays planning meals for the week. In the summer, we plan but the schedule isn't built around school events or practices, it's constructed around swimming and badminton.

(We have a badminton net in our back yard and try as we might, our rallies are not as inspiring or jaw dropping as the Olympics version of the racquet and birdie. We cheer when a serve is returned.)

(It always starts out as fun with some laughter and encouraging words of 'oh almost' and then quickly turns to 'get it' and 'come on.')

(I usually walk inside when it gets too intense.)

When we are outside after it cools off . . . to around 90 degrees rather than 452 degrees . . . we play badminton and Camille starts flipping. She pulls out the practice beam and mats so she can practice. She has drive and determination. She will try and try and try and try to get a skill. We have to tell her to stop and come inside. We can see when she gets tired. But she continues. I mean, the persistence.

Outside during the summer in the evenings is a good fourth part. We are together. We are having fun. We have endless time. Remember, no homework or bedtime requirements.

Oh, wait. We have gymnastics each morning. We do get to sleep in a bit longer and this summer we do have carpool. (I love writing that. I've never had a carpool.)

Three families meet each morning at the CVS close to our house. Then, we all meet up again in the afternoon for pick up. We've had a few days of hang out and play after practice -- swimming, ice cream and juice bar are some of the outings the girls enjoyed. Camille comes home and takes a nap. Caroline rests, too.

When I've had vacation this summer, the afternoon nap time has been so pleasurable. Quiet. Everyone then gets up and goes for the rest of the day refreshed.

Getting up in the morning for gymnastics is a different pace for us. Camille wakes up on her own and gets dressed. I make her breakfast, we do devotion and I pull back her hair. Each evening, we pack her backpack with a lunch and water bottle. We get it done quickly because we like to then sit in a fourth part.

A couple of evenings this summer, there have been tears, though. Camille has struggled with one of her skills. Really struggled. She cried a few times and was just sad and quiet at other moments. We encouraged her and assured her the coach wouldn't ask her to do something she wasn't capable of taking on. After a few days, we decided to email the coach. Wow, the insight. The coach responded that this was the first skill Camille had struggled through and just didn't get right away. She had to build up to the ability of completing a back handspring on the high beam.

(I cannot imagine even doing a back handspring on the floor, much less a low or high beam.)

The coach talked with her and her attitude changed overnight. She understood some of the skills will take pushing through. She will have to struggle and work. Good thing she is persistent. She will not give up.

I wish I had persistence like Camille when it came to eliminating processed sugar from my diet. All summer, I have had a daily goal of no sugar. And, most days, I've had sugar. Some days it's only a bite of ice cream or a handful of Skittles. Other days, I'm eating a couple of brownies or Oreos. Why oh why can I not stop the sugar? It does not do a body good. It affects my skin and isn't helpful in the weight loss arena.

I rationalize that bite of deliciousness in the evening by telling myself I worked out and ate good all day. Boy, I struggle. Ideally, I'd eliminate all sugar in my house. Uh, I've two littles and a husband who can eat the sugar and not be bothered a bit. Sure, that isn't the best type of food to have on hand, but hey, it's summer.

(Caroline just shoved a powdered sugar doughnut hole in her mouth right now as I'm typing this. I don't even like them, but it sure looked good.)

(I haven't had sugar today . . . do you think I will make it through the evening. Does rose wine count?)

These struggles Camille and I face are not monumental. They are our struggles. I have friends who have had tremendous struggles this summer. Some have persisted and pushed through them, others are still sitting in them. Some have turned to medication. Some have cried and cried.

No matter the drive you have sometimes we have to struggle through things.

Makes me want some sugar.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Beach Chairs and Carpool

I go on a girls trip tomorrow. I will be at the beach. I only have to think about bathing suits and sun screen and towels and snacks for myself. I can eat Cheetos all day.

To go on the girls trip, I've had very little fourth part over the past couple of weeks.

Our summer has been chock full of no, not nuts, but activities. Mostly fun. Some, eh.

Camille has gymnastics every single day. We were off for a few days the first weekend and Monday in June after school was out. And, we were off July 4. Shoot off a firework for that. Now, she loves it. She's up every morning on her own getting dressed. She's tired at breakfast but she has not complained one time. Not one time. We had a few days of tears because she was putting pressure on herself to be able to complete a skill -- a back handspring on the high beam. (Y'all know I don't know kips and casts and tucks and all that. Oh, now there's a fly away and a grand.) We couldn't figure it out. We kept telling her to do her best and that her coach would not expect her to do something if she wasn't ready.

After a few days, the athletic coach in our house said to email Camille's coach.

(Y'all also know we don't question coaches around here. OK, I questioned the coach when Chris played for the coach who lives in this house. That never went over well. The response usually included a phrase such as 'you don't see the whole game' and 'you are only watching offense.' Yeah, alright.)

Her coach responded with the point that this was Camille's first real struggle to learn a skill. You see, it has come very naturally to our little Simone Biles. She can spend 30 minutes to an hour in the backyard trying something over and over and over again and she will get it. Seriously. She's driven and persistent. But this back handspring on the high beam required work and building up to it. She could do it on the floor, the fat beam (yeah, that's a thing) and the low beam. She had to persist and keep at it on the high beam. Once the coach told us that and she had a couple of conversations with Camille, she was a new child.

Oh, I hate the struggle. I hate to watch my children go through those tough times. I hate to struggle. I am absolutely a mom who helps and tries to back away, but sometimes comes through with ideas. According to so much I read and learn from all my 'friends' on the internet, I'm not supposed to do that. They are supposed to learn on their own. Yeah, well, sometimes, they don't know where to even start. Oh, well the internet tells me they have to figure it out. Yeah, I'm not 100 percent on that train (or beam).

While I now let Chris struggle through things on his own, I still sometimes jump in and help.

(OK, not all the time. If he calls for my thoughts on how to write a speech, I'm helping. I mean speech. It's my thing. Don't get me started on how I let him struggle through writing. If struggling means helping him put thoughts together in an organized manner and coaching him through the process, I let him struggle. I don't write his papers, and I even avoid editing. Boy, that's tough. I'm learning. I'm struggling through it, too.)

Currently, he's trying to find a place to live. His lease is up -- hold your breath -- Friday. This Friday. At noon. He has to be moved out. And, he has no place to live. (I can feel the anxiety and worry bubbling up in me. God cares for the lilies of the field, the birds. Say it over and over, Jill.) He's been diligently looking the last few days. I keep praying something comes through.

And, I know he has to figure it out. I can't help him. He's in Lubbock. I'm in San Antonio. I've been knocking out gymnastics carpool and traveling for work and coordinating our schedules with Gervais' coaching school and shopping the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale. Oh, and I've been getting ready for vacation -- have you tried to find a bathing suit at the end of July. (Praise Yahweh for Dillard's. Sale and selection.)

So, no fourth parts except today, the day before I go on vacation. I can take a breath. I can pause and write.  I've found two other places to submit pieces so I've felt behind on writing. That technically means it isn't a fourth part, as that would be work, but writing is not a struggle for me. (Avoiding the use of adverbs remains a struggle and tenses continue to muck up my words, but overall, writing is not a struggle.)

I have so many topics and so many thoughts on what to write sometimes I struggle to get started, but once I get going, I go. The topics to write on have presented over and over again this summer as I've tried to find those fourth parts. The girls and I have our bucket list and we've been finding time for our fun. Bravo continues to provide quality television. The Handmaid's Tale kept me entertained until the second week in August. (When does House of Cards start sans Kevin Spacey?)

I also have written lists and to dos and even entered into bullet/dot journaling. Blog post and other articles have migrated to different days for about three weeks now. Today, though, the writing is going down.

One list I had was this week's schedule. Each day, G and I mapped out the carpool schedule, the babysitter schedule, the coaches school meetings and my getting ready for my vacation. It was a list to be proud of and overwhelmed of all at the same time. It was truly satisfying to mark off the tasks each day so far this week. We've had some game time decisions and had to make changes, but having the base list helped. (Those of you who bullet or dot journal, this should have been in my journal, but G doesn't see that and he needed to see this list.)

This probably was a week where we should have asked for a different carpool week. There were two times we had to schedule another parent during our official week. They understood and jumped right in. They didn't let me struggle. They helped. We've never had an official carpool before. Yes, we call on friends and family to help do drop offs and pick ups from time to time, but it's ad hoc or as needed. Carpool is fantastic. Plus, three giggling little gymnasts in your back seat is precious entertainment.

For my week in my bullet journal, I had other tasks specific to me. From meeting a group of coaches wives for dinner to finding bathing suits, I had to squeeze errands into every minute. I'm flying to the vacation destination, but some of my girlfriends are driving from San Antonio. I had to drop off beach chairs to the driver earlier this week and fortunately, I found a time in the morning to take care of it -- on the way to leaving Caroline at my parents' house and before I went on a work trip. In that moment, I was so proud of myself. I love when a plan comes together.

I do not struggle through planning and list writing. The bullet journal process works for me as it is a single place to list out all to dos and notes and goals.

Yeah, it was our busiest week of the summer and there were lists and tasks written on every available piece of paper. But it wasn't a struggle. I recently heard from a co-worker that we shouldn't say things are hard. We should say tough things take effort.

Camille learned that this summer. Chris is learning it right now. My schedule this week was evidence of putting effort into something tough.

I guess it is OK to struggle. I'm lucky to have people help me out so I won't ever not help my kids. And, that's what a carpool is, right? Help. It's getting through a struggle and figuring out a tough schedule.

One of the sites I'm going to start writing for is named Friday Night Wives. It's for football coaches wives to share thoughts and challenges. I'll contribute essays as well as respond to posts, even make posts, on the Facebook page. I've read through some of their challenges. Man, some of them struggle. Between children who have challenges and husbands who coach in a different city, there are real struggles. You know what the Friday Night Wives do? We help. We share recipes, we talk through what's worked for us when the football team kids need posters for their lockers and we pray for each other.

We all struggle. The struggle is real. We can all watch people struggle or we can jump in and help.

I prefer helping where I can. The praying hands emoji is an easy start. Throw some my way as I get ready to travel and wait for Chris to find a place to live.

Let's not struggle alone. Let's help.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Clear Bags and Broken Zippers

I 'went out' two nights in a row this weekend. Yeah, me. Now don't get too excited. I didn't buy a new sparkly dress, get my nails done or get a blow out, but I did have two evening events. Fun ones.

Neither event was planned way in advance. One came from a series of texts a few days in advance. The second usually happens this time of year, but there was no real notice. (OK, there was notice, but I plain ol' forgot until G Adams said we were leaving in 20 minutes. I was supposed to bring something. Oops. Coaches are forgiving.) 

My kind of gatherings. Easy, show up and laugh with some cocktails in hand.

After one year on the job with Frost, I moved downtown to work in Retail Administration. I wasn't quite sure what that meant, but I knew I needed a bus pass because I couldn't afford the gas and parking working downtown required. I didn't know a soul who worked downtown. It was the middle school cafeteria all over again -- where would I go for lunch, who would I sit with, who would I talk to? And, I didn't have any idea what banking was about and why there was a need for an administration of retail. I did know I chose a Monday to Friday job over a role that required working on Saturdays. I had my limits.

After a few weeks on the job, I found my people. Y'all. I mean. Funny. Fun. Hilarious. Sincere. Genuine. Really great people. We all worked in the giant lobby of our downtown location -- just in different corners. And, we did work. We had our jobs, but always found time to chat. I think there were times we stood in the middle of the hallway by the elevator bays to catch up and laugh. 

Friday night, we had one of our too-rare gatherings. We started at 6 p.m. and went until about 10 p.m. Laughed the entire time. My cheeks hurt. I was reminded of the countless nicknames bestowed on so many co-workers by one of my friends. (George Washington, Curly Fries and Ficus are among the best of them.) I heard the re-telling of familiar stories by another. We talked about transition lenses, how to handle insurance claims and our next gathering requiring Tarka. And, we laughed.  

While we didn't discuss a name for our group, I think we need one. Maybe The Lobbyists? We all have much different jobs now -- two of my friends are practically running the bank now and three others have moved to other companies -- but we all have those stories that bring us back to the lobby. I mean, I can never, ever forget the polka dot dress.

Yes, we really dressed up back then. The dress code was strict. Skirt suits with jackets and hose. We shopped at Solo Serve across the street from the bank. We shopped at Stein Mart and Marshalls from the clearance rack. I remember when we got fancy and started shopping at Ann Taylor and bought our Nine West shoes. Before our Friday night gathering, I ran into Nordstrom Rack -- still looking for a deal, but a bit of a different kind of store than Solo Serve. I was looking for raw-edge hem jeans and denim shorts. I should be going to a thrift store to cut off jeans, but I thought I could find some at the store. For $60? Yeah, denim shorts for $60. Uh, no. I mean I'll pay $60 for lots of things that some would consider ridiculous, but not denim shorts. They fit really well, but I just couldn't do it. I couldn't find jeans and I'm really needing a couple of pairs. 

We can wear jeans to work now if we go to our new campus. It's still work so the jeans need to be on the nicer side. I'm needing jeans because one of my go-to pair of jeans has a broken zipper. I wish it happened while I was laughing while listening to a story from one of my Lobbyist friends, but I think it was just worn out. I have it sitting out to take to the tailor, but I'm thinking he may charge me too much. So I'll find a new pair of jeans that cost more than the repair. Go with me on this math. Remember, I don't really do banking, I coach people. I don't do numbers. The friend with the polka dot dress from back in the day would say my math is just right. Our husbands don't really get it, but we do. Sunk costs is another topic we frequently visit.

I'm also on the hunt for a clear tote bag. Next year, our school district is requiring clear bags at stadiums and sporting events. I really like the Jon Hart clear stadium bag, but I cannot pay over $100 for a piece of plastic. Remember, I have my limits. It's so cute though.

Two of the coaches wives and I are in a group text that has covered topics from the very sad to very funny. We laugh when we are together, but we have also most recently cried. Our texts are randomly sent, but always on topic. We are trying to figure out our clear bag situation now. One has a brand new baby so 12x12 won't really cut it, but she's trying. I'm most distraught about not bringing in snacks and water. I mean, who is paying $3 for a bottle of water at a high school football game. Not me. Yeah, I'll pay $100 for jeans, but not $3 for water. Limits.

So one of my friends found a gingham edged tote that is cute. It's red and white -- our team colors -- and can get a monogram on it. I might get it, but then I also need a green one because Baylor will probably move to clear bags, too. Oh, that Jon Hart would be perfect for Baylor games. I just can't. Maybe with a pair of $60 denim cut-off shorts?

The clear tote bag didn't come up at my Saturday event. It should have. It was the end-of-year coaches party. I hadn't planned dinner and was not wanting to go out to eat -- saving money (maybe for the shorts!?!). Fortunately, G Adams gave the 20-minute warning and we were out the door. We enjoyed ribs and I really enjoyed this black bean salad dip thing. Sat right by it most of the night and used those clever Tostito cup-shaped chips to scoop it up all night.

It was also a chance to catch up with wives and coaches I don't see as much as I would want. Stories told and retold and lots of laughs. My two coaches wives from the group text didn't come. I missed them and would have really wanted to cover some clear tote bag ground, but the reasons were necessary and completely understandable. One with a new baby and toddler (busy) and the other with some sadness that wasn't ready for a party.

One of the coaches brought his new baby. She was precious. I don't know if she understood any of our stories, but she smiled and laughed as if she did. There are a few other families who are expecting children (or recently had babies) in this group of coaches. I remember when I was that wife with the new babies. I shared my thoughts on the girls' sleep (or lack of) pattern and my concerns of keeping up with Chris and his schedule. I remember packing my Lands' End totes full of baby supplies that I had vetted with online reviews and friend perspectives. Those totes were big and heavy. They weren't clear.

When I started in that downtown lobby 20 something years ago, I had thoughts, but was so new I didn't need to share them. When I was a new coaches wife, I had no clue the schedule and life of which I was a part. When I had the girls, I was this new mom again and was introduced to so many new products and gizmos that my thoughts seemed archaic.

I'm an old banker now. I can re-tell tales of the old days. I'm a mom of a college senior and soon to be finished with third grade and on to fourth grade girls. I can go places and sit and not chase after toddlers or bottle feed babies. I can find babysitters easily because caring for 9-year-olds is a breeze as compared to littles. 

I can also always find and re-find my people. I can find good laughs and a great dip at a table. I can find time for that.

I just can't find a clear tote bag and a tailor that won't overcharge me for a broken zipper.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Floor Music and Harps

The planning of a birthday party is fun. The first discussion on a theme leads to the first list of friends to invite and ideas for food. Searches in Pinterest result in pins to a board titled with the year or the theme of the party. Amazon baskets fill up and Etsy conversations begin.

The planning of a birthday party is fun.

It's fun.

Remember, it's fun.

It's supposed to be fun.

Why doesn't Michael's have unicorn sticker-only packages? And, why is The Greatest Showman the greatest movie going right now and there are no The Greatest Showman party supplies? I mean, red and white striped anything should not be hard to find. Really, where is the gold glitter -- all unicorns need gold glitter. We are going to make unicorn and ringmaster headbands. We will blend these two themes into one magical greatest show.

It's supposed to be fun.

Remember, it's fun.

It's fun.

The planning of a birthday party is fun.

We've designed the invitation and sent it off to a professional designer I found on Etsy. Turn-around time within the week and then I'll print and mail. The party isn't until the end of the month so I have nothing but time.

The food stuff will come together easily -- because while I'm starting with unicorn party mix, Greatest Showman party mix, marshmallow 'barbells', cotton candy, fairy bread rolls, unicorn dip, unicorn parfaits, unicorn cupcakes and circus animal cookie cupcakes -- we will end up with well, not all that. Maybe we will. Right now, I'm thinking this is tres facile and all I have to do is bake and frost cupcakes, lay out the makings of unicorn parfaits, dip marshmallows in chocolate and place them on the end of red and white striped straws (which where in the world can you find them?!?), mix up the party mix (have to buy circus peanuts, baby pretzels, pastel colored mini-marshmallows, pastel colored mini-M&Ms and bugles), and roll up the bread rolls that will have rainbow sprinkled cream cheese or frosting (who will really eat those?!?!).

It's supposed to be fun.

Remember, it's fun.

It's fun.

The planning of a birthday party is fun.

I really do enjoy planning and pulling off a good birthday party. I've even partnered with my dear friend, Tammy, to have her daughter be the slime maker and provider the day of the party.

Will we make the unicorn stained-glass hanging pieces of art? Will we play a hula hoop toss with pastel colored hula hoops and a spray painted traffic cone? Will we make the headbands?

Not sure, but it will be a fun party with a house full of squealing 8, 9 and 10-year-old girls (the invite list is sitting at 26 -- two classrooms, gymnastics teammates and other friends) making slime and hopefully, eating unicorn bacon (rainbow striped candy -- from the Pinterest board).

So, when you have a weekend that isn't full of activities, you can drive around to begin the shopping for the party. And, you can get your pedicure with the gift card you won (paid way too much for) at the school festival silent auction. And, you can run into Trader Joe's to buy the fun groceries.

You can also fit in a visit to the library where it's Symphony Day. The San Antonio Symphony sends musicians out to the libraries to introduce the patrons to different instruments. This occurs about once a quarter at our library. This weekend was the first time we were able to make it over. The principal harpist played about seven pieces for the audience. She shared with us how she came to play the instrument -- started as a pianist -- and how much a harp weighs and costs (70 to 80 pounds and about $20,000).

I had left my phone at home, accidentally. Don't think I was doing some non-electronic, no technology weekend. I truly forgot it at home and had some heart palpitations for minute, but then, relaxed to sit and listen to the harp.

It was nice. I wasn't distracted by looking up unicorn headband-making supplies or creating a shopping list. I wasn't creating the party timeline and food prep schedule. I listened. I even heard an Irish song that might work as Camille's floor music.

Yes, we are having to select a piece for Camille's floor routine for next season. When you enter into Optionals (and please, no one have me explain what that really means because I only can say, more money) you don't compete on the floor with the same routine and same music as everyone else. I still have the level 3 Compulsory (see there's a difference) floor music burned into my memory.

It's exciting to choose a piece, right? Except we, the Adams, have no idea what to select. I was told by some of the very informed gymnastics parents to go to youtube and search for floor music. The requirements are simple -- instrumental, no song so recognizable that someone could sing along with it and have a build-up component (think they run and do all the flips down one diagonal of the floor).

When we did our search at home, we found loads of hip hop instrumentals -- Snoop Dog, Run DMC and even Eminem. We loved it all. Our coach, not so much.

She ended up recommending four pieces to Camille. She picked one. It's violins, I think. No harp. We don't know the words. I don't think there are words.

Oh, well, we can use words at The Greatest Showman Unicorn birthday party. We will have karaoke and by karaoke, I mean, we will be playing the soundtrack from the movie and the girls will be signing along to it. We won't go invest in some fancy machine or even quite figure out how to hook up a mic to the outdoor television.

We will have fun. It's a birthday party for two soon to be 9-year-old girls who still love to play with Barbies and American Girl dolls. They think anything we come up with for the party is fun. They will wear t-shirts custom made for them -- one with lyrics to This is Me, the other with a unicorn. They will have fun with their friends playing and with their favorite high school friend making slime. It may be the last home birthday party we have. It may be the last time we have a theme.

For that, there are no words.

But, it will be fun.