Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The Unplanned Day Off

On Monday my oldest daughter explains how a false fire alarm at her middle school caused students to be evacuated to the parking lot and relocated to the elementary school across the street.

On Tuesday she sends us a text from school: "There's an early dismissal today."

I arrange to leave campus immediately so I can be home for the girls' earlier arrival, and I respond to her text in jest, "Yesterday a fire dismissal, today a snow dismissal.  What's tomorrow?  A hurricane?"

My husband offers the briefest response and texts us both a volcano emoji, which certainly would warrant a day off from school.  But since volcanoes aren't prevalent in central Pennsylvanian topography, I feel like we're safe.  On a scale of 1 to 100, I'm 100 percent certain that school on Wednesday won't be cancelled because of a volcanic eruption.

I didn't think about ice, though.

But that's what did it.  Ice was the culprit that led the school superintendent to leave us a cheerful message early this Wednesday morning about "being safe," and "staying warm" and "getting extra rest," which is code for "Parents, proceed to scramble and figure out the logistics of your now more complicated day."

I hadn't planned on having my three children with me today, you see.  I had planned on teaching my morning classes and having the afternoon to write recommendation letters and review new student rosters.  I had banked on having time to do First Week of Classes Stuff so I could navigate these opening days smoothly.

But ice storms can, and do, unsettle the best laid plans of mice, men, and college lecturers.

So today, instead of writing recommendation letters and planning ahead, I'm making Chex Mix, referring squabbles between children, folding laundry, and sweeping my kitchen floor.  It's an unexpected way to spend a Wednesday afternoon, but ice storms happen.

At least it wasn't a volcano. 

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Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Getting Life In Better Order

The morning after Christmas my husband flew to California for work.  He returned late last night.  I'm not sure why this happens, but I adopt a nocturnal lifestyle when he travels.  After the girls went to bed each evening while he was away, I spent my wakeful nighttime hours on one task: cleaning.  (Okay, on two tasks; I also watched more episodes of Downton Abbey.)

But let me tell you about the cleaning.  Friends, I cleaned All The Things.

I organized my kitchen pantry, rearranged shelves in my garage, purged my closet, sorted my kids' clothes, tossed out miscellaneous plastic toys, earmarked items for our next garage sale, and streamlined medicine cabinets.

I trashed dried-out markers, sharpened dull pencils, filed recipes that I had clipped and hastily stashed, managed my address book, mended a few garments, reunited Tupperware bottoms with their tops, and threw out clumpy nail polishes.  I cleaned nasty soap scum off my shower curtain.  I rid my fridge and freezer of suspicious leftovers.  I kept on top of laundry.  I always remembered to empty the dishwasher.  I put away Christmas decorations.

All the while, my heart sang happy songs about organization and decluttering.  By the time we reached New Year's Day, my house had lost a few pounds, like it was an overachiever ahead of the game in terms of its New Year's Resolutions.

When I couple these housecleaning accomplishments with the productive hours I spent setting up my course websites and syllabi yesterday, I feel like I'm on top of 2017.  Granted, I'm only four days deep, but I'm currently killing it. 

It's good to get life in better order.  It's good to simplify and streamline, to take inventory and plan ahead, because there will be days (and weeks) when life will be complicated and messy, and I'll feel terribly behind, and my kids will badger me to serve nachos for dinner and I'll comply because I won't have any fight in me.

None of us know what the upcoming year holds, but today, this fourth day in January, I'm hopeful.

January is a month to reset.  It invites us to consider both where we've come from and where we're going.  In January, I always have a newfound resolution to not just tidy up the externals, but also to freshly seek God and His wisdom for my life, which He gives freely to all who ask.

The home is in better order, and my heart is falling into better order, too.  Welcome 2017.

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Saturday, December 31, 2016

Blog Pause Day 4: The Lie That We Should Be Like the Other Girls

Blog Pause Day 4: This is it!  Today is the final day of 2016!  To wrap up the year, I'm sharing my absolute favorite post from the 2016 Robin Kramer archives, one that shares a message about self-worth, belonging, and purpose.  I hope you read it and enjoy.

As always, thank you for your readership this year!  See you in 2017!

The Lie That We Should Be Like the Other Girls | originally posted January 25, 2016

My seven-year-old buries her face into her pillow.  I sit beside her on the edge of her bed, unsure how to coax out what's troubling her.  When she finally opens up, her voice is pained.  "I'm not like the other girls.  I'm not popular like them.  I want to be more like them."

She's never talked this way before.  I listen quietly until all her words and tears are poured out, then I sit in silence.  In sadness.  This is my precious and wonderful girl, who, for some reason -- maybe a snub on the playground or a comment on the bus -- doesn't believe that she's enough, that she's right.  This is my girl who's clever and artistic, tenderhearted and compassionate, imaginative and kind.

This is the girl who once said, "I think it's time for me to start wearing clothes that match," and then, a mere two days later, dazzled the world in this outfit.

This is the seven-year-old girl who is delightful just the way she is.

My sadness fades, and in the depths of my heart, it's replaced with anger.  Something inside of me snaps -- some I-will-storm-heaven-on-this-child's-behalf gene that rises up in parents -- and, after composing myself a moment longer, I speak.

Child, that feeling that you'd be better off if you were someone else, not yourself?  That feeling that you don't measure up?  That you're not enough?  That others are somehow ahead of you?  Those feelings that seem so real in your heart and those thoughts that shout so loudly in your head?

(Keep reading here.)

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Friday, December 30, 2016

Blog Pause Day 3: Indecision, Online Shopping, and the Election

Blog Pause Day 3:  Today's posts from the 2016 archives of Robin Kramer Writes might seem disjointed on the surface, but they all deal with the theme of decision making.  The first post shares the simplest (and wisest) advice I've ever heard about overcoming indecision.  Today's second post, which is one of my favorite humor pieces from the year, recounts why I never should be trusted with online shopping.  The day's final post touches on the election, the largest decision our country collectively made this year, and how we can move forward in light of disunity.

Enjoy, and thanks again for joining me here this year!

1) Indecisive? This Tip Will Help | originally posted April 4, 2016

In a moment of desperation, yesterday evening I texted a friend who's a professor at another university.  My message: "Well, it's 6:45 and I've graded 0 minutes today.  Fail."

Moments later she wrote back, "Also 0 minutes.  Aaaaahhhhhhh!"

In my defense, I changed the sheets on all the beds in our house, which has to count for at least one check in the day's productivity column.  In her defense, she cleaned her sink of dirty dishes and watched three episodes of Downton Abbey on Netflicks.

Sometimes a human simply cannot function beyond this on a Sunday.

As we fired texts back and forth debating the cost-benefit analysis of starting to work versus throwing in the towel for the remainder of the night, she sent this gem of a text: (Keep reading here.)

2) Chronicles of an Indecisive Online Shopper | originally posted July 9, 2016

Once, while I was in the hospital, a nurse asked how severe my pain was on a scale of 1-10.  My brain nearly exploded.  I wasn't dying (at least, I didn't think I was), and I could probably tolerate more pain without dying (although I didn't want to), and I was coherent enough to understand what she was after (which indicates some presence of mind), but the question was enough to push me over the edge.

What if I answered too low and they offered to give me a measly Tylenol?  What if I answered too high and revealed a laughably low pain threshold?  What in the world did these numbers correlate with, anyway?  Was 4 even worthy of being in the hospital?  Would 10 indicate that I was actively being mauled by a bear?  Could I offer a fraction of a number, like 7 and 3/4 degrees of pain, because 7 just didn't seem to cut it, but ratings of 8 and above seemed like they should be reserved for childbirth or broken femurs?  Was it permissible to answer, "Stop pelting me with questions! Just help me!"

If, like me, your mind responds in this fashion when a nurse prompts you with a standard question, you're probably an over-thinker.  It's doubly troublesome if you're indecisive and waver in your response by answering the question with another question -- 6, no wait, maybe it's actually a 7?

I've noticed that the combination of over-thinking and indecision is particularly troubling when you're attempting to buy something, anything, online.   (Keep reading here.)

3) Heal the Land | originally posted November 13, 2016

Like millions of fellow Americans, I watched election results and listened to commentary until the early morning hours last Wednesday.  In the days that have followed, I've had many conversations with friends, family, neighbors, colleagues, and students.  I've read dozens of articles by authors with multiple perspectives.

Only one thing is remarkably clear: our country needs healing.

This weekend, my head hurt from thinking about all the things that are grossly wrong in America: the racism, the discord, the aggression, the pride, the unproductive methods of problem-solving, the inability to listen, the entitlement, the divisiveness.  Collectively, we're not doing too well.  (Keep reading here.)

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Thursday, December 29, 2016

Blog Pause Day 2: Feeding Ducks, More Did and Less Didn't, and One Folder We All Should Keep

Blog Pause Day 2: While looking over this year's blog entries, these three posts stood out.  The first entry, the "duck feeding" post, wouldn't have been possible without my youngest daughter's perfect expressions; I still think she -- and how the entire duck-feeding situation goes downhill -- is hilarious.  The second post shows a shift in perspective that we all could use -- namely, celebrating more of what we did accomplish, rather than beating ourselves up for what we didn't.  Today's final entry reminds me that an encouraging word can go a long way.

Enjoy, and thank you for visiting Robin Kramer Writes!

1) Child Feeding Ducks (a progression of reactions) | originally posted September 30, 2016

Stage One: Utter Delight.  Wow!  There are ducks!  And I have bread!  And ducks eat bread!  What a fortunate combination!  I can't believe that you took me to the duck park, Mom!

(Keep reading here.)

2) Don't Forget the DID in DIDN'T | originally posted February 8, 2016

Right now, I'm sitting at the desk in our office, nursing a headache and feeling slightly overwhelmed.  Though it's only Monday, I already feel behind.  The weekend catapulted me into the week without much warning.  I didn't get the house in order, I didn't make a significant dent in the papers I need to grade, and I didn't finish the two recommendation letters students asked me to write last week.

I could list a dozen more didn'ts -- things I didn't do, didn't finish, or in some cases, didn't even start.  I'm good at noticing the didn'ts.  (Keep reading here.)

3) The One Folder Everyone Should Keep | originally posted April 4, 2016

At the end of the semester when all parties, students and professors alike, feel overburdened, I find myself advancing through each day like a doctor in triage.  I constantly assess my to-do list, judging what surely will die if I don't attend to it immediately and hoping that everything else survives in the meantime.  (There are always a few casualties.  Right now my sleep schedule, for example, could use resuscitation.  Paddles!  Bring me the paddles!  Stat!)

It's frenetic and weary, which is a horrible combination, like being asked to sprint through sludge.  You know that you should be progressing at a good clip, but you can't make your legs move at the right speed.

Yesterday, in the midst of this tiredness, I opened an email from a student in one of my public speaking classes.  (Keep reading here.)

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