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Before the Window Shuts

Last week during Thanksgiving break, we experienced one especially temperate day. Now, a day in the mid-50's is a special gift during late November in Pennsylvania, so instead of doing what I had planned on doing (indoor work), I did something quite different (outdoor work).

Hours later, no papers were graded, but I admired those aesthetically-pleasing lines in my grass from my final end-of-season lawn-mowing, piles of cleared brush, and the Christmas garland draped on our front railing. The next day temperatures dropped, and since then, we've alternated from basic cold to "wintery mixes," which is the meteorological euphemism for "basic cold + varying degrees of wetness and slipperiness."

If I could kiss my own forehead, I would. I'm so pleased that I completed these outdoor tasks during the window of time when I could.

There's something to be said for seizing the opportunity during its lifetime. I teach about this concept -- a term called kairos -- in one of my rhetoric classes, in fact. In simplest form, kairos is a way of looking at time -- not chronologically, but rather in terms of opportunity. Kairos reflects an opportune time, an advantageous time, a critical time when acting or speaking can make a difference.

Sometimes it's easier to understand kairos by looking at its absence rather than its fulfillment. We've all had moments when we can't think of what to say, only to come up with the perfect words moments later as we're walking away from the situation. But by then we're too late. The words are no longer timely, no longer appropriate. The window of opportunity has shut. We've missed kairos.

But last week, I didn't. I had one day, and I made it count. 

Simple Traditions: The Pie Crust Cookie

For as long as I can remember throughout my childhood, when my mom made a pie she'd roll extra dough onto a cookie sheet, sprinkle it with cinnamon and sugar, and pop it in the oven to make a delicious pie crust cookie. Decades later, I now do this for my own daughters. (It was our breakfast today, in fact. Rules about sensible eating are nonexistent on holidays.)

When my oldest daughter snagged a piece she asked, "Are these pie crust cookies a thing? I mean, do other people besides us make this?"

When I assumed we couldn't possibly be the only ones, she said, "Well, this is amazing. It should be a thing."

At any rate, it's our thing, and I imagine years down the road when my girls are adults, they'll roll out extra dough, dust on cinnamon and sugar, and serve their own children pie crust cookies for Thanksgiving breakfast, too.

Long life the simple traditions.

Wishing you and yours a very Happy Thanksgiving!

"I've Noticed My Life Is Better When..."

Every semester I reach a point where my job solely consists of grading things. Specifically, for the past two weeks there's been a daily influx of assignments, and the onslaught will continue until the end of this current week when we call a truce and blissfully break for Thanksgiving.

I think I'm primarily to blame for this situation because I'm the professor, but I digress.

Weeks of sustained grading is similar to riding a wave. Every morning I give myself a pep talk (or perhaps a warning) that I have to keep up with the momentum or I'm going to get rolled. Don't let today's grading spill into tomorrow because more is coming tomorrow. Stay on top of this stack! You can do this! Focus, young grasshopper!

And for the most part, with the aid of an embarrassing quantity of Dr Pepper and some grit, I've stayed on top. Assignments have been returned swiftly and with ample feedback. More of the workload is behind than remains ahead.

Now, I said all that to say this:

When I'm in the midst of heavy work weeks, I often forget to tap into the things that make me function well as a human. There's limited room for hobbies and I skimp on connecting with friends under the banner of "limited time!" But enjoyable pursuits and human connections aren't luxuries; they sustain people who otherwise are running on fumes and caffeine.

So this past weekend, in between the nooks and crannies of writing feedback and deliberating on rubrics, I watched college football and got immersed in a book to the point that when I reached the last chapter (bookmarks are for quitters), I blinked hard at my surroundings, including my kids, because I momentarily had forgotten they existed. It was highly satisfying.

Sunday night as we got ready for bed, I told my husband, "I've noticed that my life is better when I'm reading good books."

He wisely replied, "Then keep reading good books."

So I will.

The Post-Talk Update

This is a compilation of pictures taken roughly 15 minutes before I was scheduled to speak about overcoming fear and worry at an INSPIRE Women's Ministry Event this past Saturday morning.

In case you're wondering, yes, I am hiding in a bathroom contemplating whether I should be power-posing. I knew I was prepared to speak. That wasn't the issue. The issue was that I didn't feel capable of mingling beforehand with any human beside myself in the off-chance that engaging in casual conversation would accidentally deplete my reserves of coherence that I had allotted for the talk.

So, for ten minutes or so, I awkwardly lurked-shuffled between the women's restroom and an abandoned conference room, taking weird selfies and sips of water because this is who I am and how I operate.

Now, the wonderful thing about pre-talk awkwardness is that it dissipates. By the time I took the stage, not only did I feel profound relief that people had showed up, but I also felt excited -- really excited -- because I knew the message would be good. In fact, I even had arranged to have the talk recorded so I not only could send it to my parents (they're personal fans), but also share it with you here on the blog.

But there's the rub: much to my chagrin, the recording didn't record. (One job, voice recorder! You had one job!)

Essentially, you'll have to take my word for it. I said things, and those things apparently were quite encouraging because not only did people laugh at my jokes, but they also took notes and nodded frequently. On top of that, more than one woman in the audience cried in that good way when tears signify you're saying exactly what someone needs to hear, not that you're actively ruining her day. I even had a young woman in the audience present me with a beautiful gift: a sketch of me that she had drawn while I spoke.

Laughter, note-taking, nods, appropriate crying, and sketches for the win, I tell you!

I sincerely appreciate every woman who attended and those who helped to plan the INSPIRE event. (If that's you, thank you!)

Readers, if you'd like me to speak to your women's group or church ministry (and, obviously, to awkwardly lurk-shuffle in your venue during the 15 minutes leading up to the actual event), please contact me here. I'd be delighted to talk more about your group's needs!
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