Tuesday, August 25, 2015

we are going to be okay



















Two weeks ago we found out that the small private school all our boys have
attended since kindergarten would be closing.
We would need to find a new school for Will and Addie.
This resulted in a great amount of anxiety and tears.
And that was just me.
We loved that school and those teachers like family.
We are missing them like crazy.
We have been praying that every teacher would find a job
and that every child would find the perfect school for them.

It is strange kind of grief...losing the familiar and being flung in a new direction.
We held the boys as they wept and shared their fears with us.
About not knowing anyone and wondering if their new teachers would let them be funny.
Funny is important around here.
Then we prayed for peace and direction and I went looking for chocolate.
Because chocolate can soothe the soul at times.

In an amazing door that only God could open,
we found that the school Jack would be attending for high school
had space in their middle and elementary school.
And that we had about 5 days to get ready for the first day of school.
New friends. New teachers. New routines.
And a half hour drive to school.

On our drive that first day of school, Scott was talking up a storm
pumping up the boys, encouraging them.
And I was quiet.
Because I was reliving all my first day at a new school moments
in my own mind.

I was remembering the thumping of my heart
 that I was sure everyone could see through my shirt.
The prick of tears in the corners of my eyes as I watched my mom walk away.
And the great hope that I would find a friend to eat lunch with.
I changed schools about 6 times from kindergarten to high school.

In fifth grade when I changed from private to public school,
I was so excited I could hardly stand it. I wanted to go to a big school.
I had begged my parents to let me go there.
And when I got there I was so anxious it made me throw up.
I have some over active nerves, folks.
The shift from a sheltered Christian environment
to a school where the 6th graders were as big as college students
and cussed when they got out at 4 square was a shock to the system.

After about a week of being sent home in the afternoon with stomach issues,
my teacher, Mrs. Cox, took me into the bathroom.
There was not one thing that I didn't like about Mrs. Cox.
I loved being in her class. Her kindness. Her love of books.
The no nonsense way that she ran her class and the way that she let us learn math
at our own speed.
I especially liked that she spoke to us like we mattered.
I don't know how she ascertained what was stressing me out
but she was one of those teachers who looked at each of us like we were individuals.
She cared about us.
She cared about me and my weird stomach.

I could tell when she pointed to the cuss words written
on the bathroom wall and then covered them with her hand.
She told me,
"I don't like these words either. But you? You are going to be okay."
And she was right. I was.
Soon the stomach cramps stopped and the light began to shine.
It was going to be okay. I was going to be okay.
I knew it to be true. Mostly, because Mrs. Cox said so.
And 5th grade was hands down my favorite year of school. Ever.

I told this to Mrs. Cox when we met up and went out to coffee last year.
I told her the story of the cuss words on the bathroom wall and she laughed.
"I don't remember that at all."

But the thing is...I did. And I do.
That 2 minute pep talk in the stinky bathroom of Vine Hill Elementary
grounded me in hope.
And that is the place I am planting my feet this week.
In hope.
For good things. And great teachers. And new friends for my boys.

The first week has been a little rough.
The boys are tired and a little more than stressed out.
Dressing down for PE is enough to crush the strongest young spirit.
The tears have not subsided yet.
There have been upset stomachs (yep, I passed on the anxious gene)
and angry outbursts and on Sunday Addison asked me,
"Mom, can you home school me?" (Not an option.)

But I know this.
Nothing ever stays the same.
Life is about change.
Good things are almost always hard.
And sometimes being launched in another direction can open us up to
a new way of trusting Jesus.
(As in, "Sweet Jesus, Help Us NOW!)

And then there is that deep school bathroom truth that I keep reminding
myself of when I see the uncertainty written on my boys faces.
It may be a little wild and unsettling right now but it won't always be that way.
They are going to be okay.
We are going to be okay.
Mrs. Cox says so.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

i could be an elf

























I have been subbing this summer at my boys old preschool.
I love being around little kids.
I love the joy that bubbles out of them and the funny things they say.
I do have some difficulty remembering their names.
I tend to refer to them as "sunshine", "buddy" and "friend".
They go with it.
The children have some trouble with my name, too.
I have been called:

Teacher Shoe
Teacher Shoes
Teacher Zeus
Teacher Suess
and my personal favorite...
Teacher Zoo

One of the children said to me,
"You know, being around you is kind of like being at the Zoo."
I told him, "My husband would agree with you."

But my favorite exchange this summer happened yesterday.
One of the little 5 year old girls came up to me and said,
"Your ears are super pointy...like an elf."
She is right.
My ears do narrow quite a bit at the top.
My brother referred to me as "Mr. Spock" when we were kids.
But I have come to terms with my elfin ears.
They add character.
My hair was pulled back in a pony tail to reveal them in their full pointed glory.

I said,"Maybe I am an elf."
She said, "What if you are one of Santa's elves?"
I said, "What if I am?"
She got serious.
"Then I think you should come here every day so that you can tell Santa
if we should be on the naughty or nice list."
I laughed.
"Wouldn't that be fun?"

As I walked away, I could see she was still studying my ears.
I didn't say I was an elf.
But I am not saying I'm not one either.
Just so you know, I think you all should be really nice to me.
It is in your best interest.
I could have an in with Santa.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

you are lovely






















The thought came to me this week as I was trying on dresses for my niece, Claire's, wedding,
that I could sure do with some of the muscle tone I had almost twenty years ago
when I got married.
It came to me with some other thoughts like,
If I am holding in my stomach, why doesn't it look like I am holding in my stomach?
and
Why is the skin on the top of my knee trying to fold over on itself?
Stay where you are, knee skin...STAY. WHERE.YOU.ARE.
Let's be real. The lighting in Ross is so harsh.
SO.HARSH.
.
Things have been shifting the last year or so.

I told my doctor I think I have skin cancer and a hormone imbalance
and I am possibly going blind....
I have dark spots showing up on my skin, I have to fight to fit into my own pants
and my eyes are so dry that my eyelids want to stick to my eyeballs..
She laughed and said, "You are fine. Those are age spots and you are just getting older."

I kind of wanted to hit her.
But she is super nice and I thought she might not see me again if I took to violence.
So I have been putting on cream that says it defies age which is a lot to expect from any cream,
counting calories and wearing glasses.

And here I am left with my age spots and my feelings.
And I have been talking to myself. (Another sign of aging?????)
Because I am not a twenty year old girl any more.
I don't have to plunge into self doubt because my pants are tight.
I am a woman who knows some things.
I have been speaking some deep truths to my own soul.

1. That feelings are feelings...and they can change.
And they will change.  As a woman, I reserve the right to change how I feel
about anything...at any moment...any day of the week.
2. I am getting older and this is a good thing...
the other option is going to heaven...which I would like to put off for a while.
3. This body has done some good hard work in the last 20 years
birthing people, planting churches, chasing kids and getting me places in general...
I should be singing its praises...
"Good job, body parts!"
"Way to keep doing what you are doing!"

Here is the thing...I think it is important to feel good about yourself.
I am not knocking a new dress and a strong pair of spanks. (Thank you, Lycra.)
Let's keep everything looking good and where it supposed to be.
Let's keep exercising and eating Greek yogurt and lotion-ing up.
It is good stewardship...taking care of these amazing bodies we have been blessed with.

But the truth is....at some point, say in our mid-80's,
we will realize there is NO CREAM that can truly defy age. (Sorry, Oil of Olay.)

Here is the other thing.... 
regardless of age, thigh circumference, and nose size?

Beautiful is what we are.

Whether we believe it or not.
With our various ages, unique faces and different shapes and wide varieties of hair types,
we, as women, are beautiful.
Truly.

When we are brought low by the thickness of our ankles or our overly large ears,
the deep truth that needs to wedge itself in our hearts is that
the One who created us made us in his image.
His glorious...unfathomable...beautiful image.
He likes what He made. He took great delight in the details of
shaping our high foreheads and sturdy legs and strong hands.
And he loves us.
He thinks us...love-ly.
He thinks you are lovely.
He thinks I am lovely.

So I telling myself that, too.

4. I am lovely.

Because it is the truth. Not a feeling.

I want how I see myself  and how I feel about myself to be tethered to what He thinks of me...
instead of how I fit into my pants.
How I fit into my pants is changeable. Apparently, from week to week.
How He feels about me is not.
How He feels about you is not.
He loves us completely...wholly....with his entire being...no matter what.

And that....is beautiful.

.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

sometimes the Holy Spirit teaches me lessons because of the tv...really, He does.





















Our television died the day before yesterday.
Or as our children would say....their only reason for living is gone.
We are deep mourning over here.
One minute the Disney channel was on...the next?
Eternal blackness.

There have been real tears shed.
NO TV?
What. In. The. World.
What is this world coming to?
Where is the love?
Does Love = Hours spent in front of a screen?
If it does...the love is gone.

I am a little sad myself.
All of my So You Think You Can Dance inspired hip hop routines
are going to have to be put on hold. (So sorry, Nappy Tabs....)
But it's okay.
This is real life over here, people.
The boys are learning hard lessons.
Grown Up People lessons.
And we all have to learn them sometime.

The immediate question was, "When can we buy a new TV?"
To which we said, "Since no one has been able to find the magic money tree....
we will not be getting a new TV any time soon."
More tears. (Some of them may or may not have been Scott's....)
1st Lesson: You can't buy a new TV when you don't have money for a new TV.

The next question was, "Can we not eat any more food so that we can buy a new TV?"
This coming from the child who has been known to eat an entire pound of cheese
in one sitting.
2nd Lesson: Food is more important than TV.

It may not feel like it but it is.
A 3 week fast for preteen and teenage boys is not really an option.
I haven't even seen a 3 hour fast happen in the last year for that matter.

One of the boys came in my room last night with a look on his face that was distressing.
Such unhappiness. I really thought something horrible had happened.
I asked him, "What's wrong, buddy? Are you okay?"
There was a hint of tears glittering in his eyes.
I thought maybe one of his brothers had hauled off and punched him in the nether regions...
because that happens around here quite a bit.
Instead he whispered, "No TV."

Being the loving and caring mom that I am, I said something like,
"No. I don't think so. We are done with this. We are all disappointed but
you don't get to pout endlessly about not having a TV.
We are not crying over not having a TV."
I was even a little angry.
I almost went off a mini rant.
Because we have every single thing that we need, don't we?
We have food, clothes, shelter, and each other.
We have even had more than the usual amount of ice cream this summer!
And doesn't he know that his Dad and I do EVERY SINGLE THING we can
to provide him and his brothers with everything they need?
Doesn't he?

I could feel the righteous anger building in my chest.
I was going to lay into this kid and let him know what was up.
And right before I got ready to open my mouth to remind him about all the children
ALL OVER THE WORLD WHO DON'T HAVE ANYTHING...
ANYTHING....LET ALONE A TV!
I felt the Holy Spirit give me a little poke and say,
"Man, he sure sounds a whole lot like you when you were talking to me this morning
about what you need...
almost like you don't think I have given you enough...
almost like you are not thankful for the gagillion blessings I have lavished on you.
And by the way, 
don't you know that your Heavenly Father does EVERY SINGLE THING
He can to provide you with everything you need?
Don't you?"
Sometimes the Holy Spirit is sarcastic.
I think He does it for effect.

And so I kept my mouth shut.
About all the children in the world.
Because apparently, I have a giant redwood sticking out of my eye while
I am so concerned about the TV sized speck in my son's eye.
3rd Lesson: Keep your mouth shut when the Holy Spirit tells you the truth about
Yourself.

So today...I am focusing on the great mercy that my Heavenly Father affords me.
That He didn't flick me off of the planet yesterday for being ungrateful and on top of that,
judging someone else for being ungrateful.

And I am thankful that He is so gracious as to use my own children to point out
my shortcomings so that we can both learn this important Grown Up People lesson
at the same time...
even though I am 30 years older than they are and should have already learned this lesson.

And I am saying these things out loud today ...
with a fresh, clean, un-complaining, non-whining voice...
God is so good.
He is so loving.
He is so faithful.
He is so kind.
He never fails us.
Not ever.
And that is way better than TV.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

i still want more things






















Hi, My name is Susanna...and I am a coveter.
And lately, I have been coveting a lot of things.
Like houses and new shoes.
A better salary and more kid workers for our church's kids program.
I want more likes on my facebook page and more time to relax.
I want more miles so I can fly and see my parents in Colorado
and I want more dates with Scott.
I am an out and out coveter on all fronts.
And the worst part?
The wants? They don't go away.
Every time a want is fulfilled? A new want arises in its place.

Case in point?
We have two very old cars.
One of them decided to finally die.
So we made the leap and bought another used car.
But it is a beautiful used car that is only 5 years old...instead of 15 years old.
So now we refer to our cars as the "new car" and the "ugly car".
Not one of us wants to ride in the ugly car.
It smells like 6 year old milk.
In fact, we all want to ditch the ugly car entirely and get another new car.
See what I mean? The wants? They keep coming.

Getting more doesn't seem to make us want less.

It is hard to sift through the wants that are good and healthy
and the wants that are just filling me with discontentment.
I think there is a reason that coveting is listed in The Ten Commandments.
Thou shalt not covet.
I think it is because the wants seem to empty you of all gratitude.
They suck the joy right out of your day and you forget to thank Jesus for the things
He has given you like the ability to breathe and move and live, in general.
I think that is why the Holy Spirit keeps bringing it to my attention
each time I want to veer into the Ross parking lot
and see how many cute shirts I can get for $20.
He is saying,

You think that this is what you want....but it isn't.
What you really want...is me.
What you need to look for...is me.
What you need to focus on...is me.
If you are chasing me...everything else will fall in place.
(p.s. you don't need 7 shirts from Ross...even if they are on sale.)

There is a verse that He has recently brought to mind....
Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness
And all these things shall be added unto to you.

It's funny.
Somehow it always comes back to Him.
His deliverance.
His mercy.
His grace.
If I take care of putting Jesus first.....
He takes care of everything else.
And if I am being honest?
That is all that I really...want.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

dreams can be fun

A while ago,  I started plotting about how I could marry two things that I love:
kids and writing
writing and kids
I came up with the idea of Camp Long Story Short.
A week long creative writing camp where you use play and interactive lessons
to teach the important themes of writing..
like developing character....charting the hero's journey...perspective...the writer's voice, etc.
I thought about it. Talked to friends about it. Mulled it over.
And two years later...it is finally happening.
Sometimes dreams take a while to marinate.


















The night before camp started I set up centers in our patio room and backyard.
A book corner.
An area for author posters.
A tiny camp tucked away in the garden to inspire young minds.
Jack had manufactured two gallons of bubbles for our bubble making area.
Along with filling a baby pool with bubble solution, a hula hoop and a stool so that each
young writer could experience what it was like to be encased in a giant bubble.
I got their baskets ready with their camp mug, composition books and pencils,
a blank book for their story and bubbles...everyone can use some bubbles.
I prepped our boys, "Okay, you guys, I am going to need all of your help for this to work."
Scott was my back up adult in case of emergencies. Jack was my co-teacher.
Will was a junior helper and Addie was a participant.
They said they were in. Even though Will and Addie could care less about writing stories.
Even though Scott had sermon prep and webinars in the works.
They were willing to do what had to be done to help me out.
Sometimes dreams take an all hands on deck approach.

And I prayed. Three important prayers.
"God, let us have some fun...let us learn something....and don't let anyone die."
The last one was especially important. No one wants to die at camp.
Sometimes dreams need a little prayer covering.
Okay...dreams always need a little prayer covering.

And then it happened.
Camp Long Story Short.






















7 campers. 2 helpers. 5 days. 15 hours. 25 activities. Lots of snacks.
We had fun. We laughed. We bubbled.


























We explored.


























We molded.


























We raced.



























We dreamed. We wrote. We created.



























And no one died. Thank you, Jesus.
On Friday our young authors read their stories to a proud
audience of parents and grandparents.

















and then celebrated with home made ice cream.
Because sometimes...dreams are a whole lot of fun.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

river dancing to kill bugs is a thing























I have this thing with bugs.
I don't actually like them.
But if they promise to keep their distance and not to touch me,
I will let them live their little buggy lives in peace and I will live mine.
Unfortunately, they keep trying to make friends.
Especially, the ones with wings.
Some of you who have been reading here for a long time remember the
Cicada Incident of 2003....most of you probably do not...but here is the thing....
bugs should not be allowed to fly.
I get it. They need to get places.
It just that I don't want to be their destination of choice.
Just the other day, Scott said to me casually, "Oh, there is a bug starting to go down your shirt."
That is not something that you just say to a person.
First of all...JUST GET THE BUG OFF OF ME BEFORE IT GOES DOWN MY SHIRT.
Because I come from a line of people who are willing to shed clothes when
critters are trying to go up or down them.
I distinctly remember my very modest Grandma Blakeley telling me once that
she had a lizard go up her pant leg while picking almonds in the orchard and
she said if she hadn't been able to shake it out, her pants were the next things to go.
It seems reasonable to me.
There can be no restrictions in place when trying to rid yourself of said critter.
Scott's statement resulted in a wide variety of movement from me.
Shaking. Jumping. Arm flailing. And screams of:
"Where is it?" and "Is it gone?" and "Why aren't you helping me?"
And he just stood there taking it all in and laughed.
It's not that funny. I have had one too many bug run-ins
I have had:
1. a grasshopper fly into my hair during an outdoor wedding resulting in the undoing
of a very pompadour-ish hairstyle,
2. several cicadas dive bomb me and land on my person,
3. a praying mantis (at my children's school) take up residence first,
on my right leg and then as a result of a very high cheerleader kick, land on my left leg,
4. some kind of flying bug land on my lips during a Bible Study which
resulted in a lot of raspberry sounds mid-exegesis,
5. don't even get me started on how many moths have tried to beat their felt-y wings
against my forehead, (sidenote: why are moths gross and butterflies cute? I don't know...)
and these are just a few examples.
The bugs? They love me.
The other night a junebug flew into our kitchen and started flying towards me.
First of all, don't junebugs live in Arizona? Or New Mexico?
And secondly, don't we pay a gagillion dollars to live in the Bay Area to NOT
have flying bugs in the summer?
If we are going to start having bugs, I want my rent lowered.
And thirdly, just don't fly into my kitchen, junebug. Just don't do it.
It took a pass at my head and then landed at my feet where upon I proceeded
to a do a river dance of stomping and high stepping to try and kill it.
I was getting some height and lift on those high kicks, kids, I really was.
Which caused Scott to say, "Sue, you are going to throw your back out again."
And then Addie said, "Where did it go?"
So at that point I had pulled an upper thigh muscle and had a flying bug on the loose
in the house.
I retired to my bedroom and closed the door. I was done for the night.
No, thank you, junebug.
And then this morning a wasp flew straight at my face when I was out watering the plants.
Don't even get me started on bugs that inflict injury.
They are clearly a result of the fall.
A clear menace and blight upon all the goodness that this world has to offer.
I am pretty sure I woke up the neighbors with my screams and the Maori slap dance
that I performed in my backyard.
The sad news is that I feel like the bugs are ramping up.
There has been an increase in bug activities and sightings in our yard.
They just don't give up.
So..where does that leave me?
Mostly, it leaves me thinking I need to do more stretching to limber myself up.
If the bugs want to try to dance with this partner?
It will be their last dance.
I will be BRINGING. IT. Have no doubt.
I will high kick, jazz hands, river dance,
and stomp my way through this entire summer if I have to.
If you are in the area, feel free to stop by.
It could be quite a show.