Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Price an Artist Must Pay

We're past Thanksgiving,yet my one daughter cannot get enough of drawing turkeys.  She traces her hand again and again, creating different color combinations.


Just yesterday, she illustrated a small storybook with six pieces of paper stapled together.  Each page presented a new turkey in a new scenario, except for the page that showcased her drawing of a stick-figured dog in an open field.  Why put a dog in a book about turkeys? I had asked.

Because I didn't know how to draw a hyena, she had replied.

Of course.

For the past week, the contours of her hand have been stained with marker.


It's the price that an artist must pay.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

"Mom Blogs Are Transforming Everything"

Recently, I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Vicki Bates from the Social Media Club about my experiences as a mom blogger. 

The article opens with the astonishing fact that there are 3.9 million mothers who blog in the United States alone.  Incidentally, after doing just a bit of math, I calculated that 3.9 million reflects nearly the exact number of minutes that I've been a mother, being that I came on the job seven-and-a-half years ago.

Coincidence?

Probably.

But to look at this figure in another way, if we considered each individual American mom blogger as an equal unit of time (one minute flat), my story would represent just 60 seconds out of a seven-and-a-half year narrative of motherhood blogging.

At this point, you might be scratching head and thinking, It's good you don't teach math.  I'd agree.

Still, given the myriad of voices who represent the mom blog genre, I feel honored to have been asked to share my perspective.

Let me voice my thanks to Vicki Bates and the Social Media Club for the opportunity, and please feel free to read the full interview here.

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Monday, November 26, 2012

Totally Like Whatever, You Know?

I showed this clip in my public speaking classes the other week.



He speaks truth, you know?

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Saturday, November 24, 2012

A Black Friday of the Soul

I went shopping on Black Friday.  I left the house at 8:30 in the morning, visited one store, bought socks, and returned home.

If you're a hardcore Black Friday shopper, you're shaking your head, sighing, and thinking, "Honey, that's not real shopping.  By 8:30 in the morning on Black Friday, I already had eaten lunch."

To which I would reply, you're a much more ambitious woman than I am.  I applaud you, and if I knew you in person, I'd invite you to sit down and tell me all about the awesome deals that you scored.

Right now, though, I'm feeling quite pleased with my new socks.

I've been contemplative lately.  My thoughts have been spilling into my daily activities much like the background music that is subtly piped through the airwaves at the shopping mall.  I hear them, but just like background music, sometimes I don't stop to listen.

Recently, I've slowed down a little.  In doing so, I've pinpointed the soundtrack that has been circling in my head and heart:

It's okay to live a small life.


Friends, I live a very small life.  I live in a small town where I love my husband, raise my family, and participate in a community.  Sometimes I wonder if my contributions matter.  I want them to matter, though, so I strive and hustle and work like I'm always chasing something, but I'm not entirely sure what that something is.

But right now, I sense that God is calling me to rest and enjoy this small life that I'm living.  Small lives, mind you, still are important lives.

Our little lives and actions matter.  That sweeping of the floor, those story hours, those full crock pots, that blanket tucked under the chin just right.  That back rubbing, those lullabies, those nighttime prayers.  Those packed lunches, that trip to the grocery store to pick up the forgotten milk, those patiently-endured knock-knock jokes during the car ride, that smile to the cashier in the check-out line.

The unremarkable, very ordinary routines that wind themselves through the fabric of our daily lives might seem small to us.  On hard days, the walls of our house might taunt us with the suspicion that important things are happening outside, not within, them.

Perhaps even harder to bear, our unmet goals, our unrealized dreams, and our failures all might clamor to accuse us that despite all we do, we're somehow not enough.

And feeling like you're not enough is painful, indeed.

As I shopped on Black Friday, I was bombarded with so many things that I could want.  New things, shiny things, sparkly things.  Until I laid eyes on them, I hadn't even known that some of these things existed, and yet, there I was, wanting them. 

I want what my eyes see.  I always have.  I'm human; this is what we do.

How powerfully this reminded me that I need to train my eyes to focus on what matters -- not in shopping, but in life.  When I begin to long for a larger or more successful life, it's easy to miss the very life that I'm living.  When I look "out there" and fixate on what I don't have, I overlook all that I do.

But, when I look to my Creator, the one who designed me and knows how I tick, this small life of mine makes sense.  When I meditate on the fact that I'm loved and known by God, I'm blown away by the simplicity and magnitude of it all.

Sometimes, contentment comes from the simplest of realizations.

Sometimes, all I really need is socks.

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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Make Your Own Wreath (burning yourself on the glue gun is optional)

Several weeks ago I hung garland on my front porch to celebrate the fall, my favorite season.  Days after this decorative endeavor, each strand of garland had succumbed to the outdoor elements and dangled forlornly like used crepe paper after a birthday party.

They just don't make outdoor garland like they used to.  Not that I actually have knowledge about the durability and quality of outdoor garland in the past, but it makes you sound seasoned to utter a statement like that. 


Instead of letting all those leaves go to waste, I pulled out the safety scissors and put the older two girls to work.  They snipped off all of the leaves, I borrowed a glue gun, and I found a straw wreath on sale for 50 cents.  (Thank you, Christmas merchandise, for crowding the shelves and precipitating large price reductions on anything even remotely fall-related.)


The process is simple.  I simply glued the leaves to the wreath.


I also accidentally glued straw to my hands, but that's another story, one that starts with me disregarding the warning label on the glue gun and ends with me burning my thumb.

I never said that I was coordinated.


But, I did make a nice wreath.  Coordination, thankfully, is not necessary for wreath-making.  Now, wreath-tossing?  That requires a lot of coordination.  Do you know how many times it took me to ring that doorknob?  You thought I just hung in there, didn't you?

There's no challenge in that.

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Monday, November 19, 2012

A Week of Rest

Over the past several days I took a break from the computer.  I didn't know that I needed to do this until I did it.  It's not unusual for me to check my email upwards of a dozen times daily -- and this is coming from a woman who doesn't own a smartphone.  Based on my email outbox, this semester alone I've sent over 600 emails to students and coworkers.  I've read even more.

So, when we reached Thanksgiving break, I temporarily unplugged.  It's been brilliant.

This is a week of rest for me, and I am thankful.

Even over the course of this past weekend, I've done so many things that I haven't had the time to do.  I've cleaned closets.  (You might groan, but a well-organized closet is therapy for me.)  I've raked leaves and helped to prepare the gardens for winter.  I've wiped down my marred and splattered kitchen cabinets with a damp cloth and diluted Murphy's Oil Soap, breathing in the smell of cleanliness.  I've played more than one round of Candy Land while lying on the family room floor with the kids.

Side note:  Am I the only person who fears that I'll be trapped in the one round in the history of Candy-Land-playing that never finishes?  What if the deck is shuffled in a manner that prevents anyone from ever winning?  What if I'm three squares from the Gingerbread House and I pick up the candy hearts card again?  What if I'm reduced to reminding a four-year-old that it's her turn in two-minute increments for the rest of my life?

Candy Land is the longest hour of the day.  Except for Chutes and Ladders hour.

I digress.

The beauty is that during a week of rest, you have time for digressions.

Unplugging for a long weekend disconnected me from the world "out there," but I'm feeling more connected to the world where I actually live, right down to my newly-washed cabinets.

I'm thankful.

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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Behind the Scenes of TIBAM

Several months ago I thought that it would be fun to create a video trailer for the release of Then I Became a Mother.  Ah, young idealism.


Within days, I had drafted a script and contacted a local videographer, a young man whose previous gig had been to film an alligator hunting expedition in the Everglades for a television station devoted to outdoor sportsmanship.  I'm sure that he entered my house convinced that filming three children in their natural habitat would be easier than filming carnivorous reptiles in a humid, mosquito-infected swamp.

Ah, young idealism.

Roughly a half hour into the shoot my oldest daughter began to speak in jibberish, which, like a good mother, I attempted to ignore.  Finally, I made out a garbled, cryptic claim: "Mob, my lib felbs fubby."

What?  She repeated herself slowly.  "My lib.  It felbs fubby."

I did a double-take.  For no discernable reason, her bottom lip had swollen to double its normal size like she had been overdosing on collagen injections.

The videographer opened his mouth, closed it, and scratched his head.  "Maybe we'll film her from behind."

We were just getting warmed up.  The longer the filming continued, the goofier my four-year-old got.  The room was too hot; she wanted to strip off her clothing.  Walking was so boring; she wanted to roll across the floor. 

Dusk began to settle.  We rigged additional lighting sources to illuminate our set, which means that I unearthed the two photography lamps that my husband had snagged at a garage sale for $2 a piece this summer -- the two lamps whose purchase I had railed against.  "Why photography lamps?" I had questioned.  "When will ever we need mega-watt lighting?"

As I plugged in one lamp, I was momentarily blinded by its center-of-the-sun intensity.  Yes, this would work.  I alternatively contemplated how my husband was right (again) and how I might have retina damage until I was interrupted by the videographer.  He pointed to my two-year-old.  "Um, you might not want her to be doing that."

His statement was an accurate one.  The child was dipping a plastic bowl into the toilet and drinking toilet water.

Of course she was.

I had wanted a real-life video to capture the essence of motherhood, but this was a little too real.

It's safe to say that a lot of editing has been done.



And since I was shell-shocked and partially blinded by the entire experience, thus impairing my reasoning skills, I kept rolling with the chaos and created a second Then I Became a Mother video trailer.

Here it is for your viewing pleasure:



Enjoy, and by all means, spread the word!
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Visit the Then I Became a Mother website to read a sample chapter and discover FREE resources for moms.  You'll find activities for kids, ice breakers and activities for mom groups, and discussion guides for the book!

Email Subscribers: follow these links to view video one and video two.

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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Consider this to be an invitation

What do the following seven statements have in common?

Pressing question here: Why is there only one word for thesaurus?

My daughter is planning her birthday party menu.  Her birthday isn't for another seven months.  I don't know what we're having for dinner tonight.  It's in 30 minutes.

You know you're a parent when electrical outlets without safety plugs appear unattractive and just a bit menacing. 

If only children could be as easily programmed as clocks to fall back one extra hour.

Had a brief phone conversation with another mother of three children today. Our conversation resembled a hall of mirrors for the ears: an infinite projection of chaotic background noise.

Futile: (adj.) incapable of producing any results, ineffective.   Alternate Definition: teaching a two-year-old not to double-dip.

Every so often, a person gives a gift to your child that makes you pause and think, "They really must be against me." 

Give up?

They're all updates from Pink Dryer Lint's Facebook page.  

If you haven't yet liked Pink Dryer Lint on Facebook, please consider this as your personal invitation to join the party!  Trust me, it's funny party where you'll actually enjoy the people.  No awkward lurking and shuffling, I promise.  Just a hearty serving of fun status updates and links to new blog posts.

Now, with all that said, it's likely that Facebook won't stream every new Pink Dryer Lint update into your news feed.  (Those cryptic algorithms...)   This is a shame because I'd love for you to see as many of the updates as possible.  So, whether you're a new member or a long-time fan, I also invite you to follow these quick and simple steps (60 seconds, tops!) to maximize your views:

1) Go to the Pink Dryer Lint Facebook page.

2) Then, click on the drop-down menu (highlighted by the red arrow in the screenshot), and add Pink Dryer Lint as an "Interest List."


3) What follows is simple.  Start a "New List."  On the "Create New List" page, click "next." Then, simply "name" your list like I've done below in the screenshot:


For obvious reasons, I named it Pink Dryer Lint.  You might do the same, or perhaps you might file it under "awesomeness" or "fabulous" or "I can't get enough of this blog."  Your call. 

And that's it.  Those simple steps will increase the likelihood that you'll regularly see Pink Dryer Lint updates in your news feed so you can enjoy and share them.

What are you waiting for?  Stop by today.  I'd love to meet you there!

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Thursday, November 8, 2012

To the Woman Who Is Trying to Do It All


Dear Woman Who Is Trying to Do It All:

Please stop.

I could end my letter at this point, but I fear that two words wouldn't be enough to convince you.  I know this because I'm one of you.  I'm a feet-hit-the-floor-already-running, head-hit-the-pillow-still-thinking kind of a girl.

It's hard to slow down when so much needs to be done, and "so much" needs to be done too much of the time.  To-do lists taunt you, full email inboxes glare at you, full laundry baskets call to you, and full dishwashers irritate you.  You sweep the floors, pay the bills, make the beds, change the diapers, pick up the toys, fix the meals, sign the permission forms, schedule the appointments, take the conference calls, say yes to the committees, and meet the deadlines.  You grade the papers, balance the spreadsheets, sew the patterns, watch the neighbor's kids, and teach the classes. 

You don't bother to sit down when you eat lunch.

When you've found your stride and have all cylinders firing, you think to yourself, I'm a machine.  When you're floundering, you simply sleep less, try harder, and pull yourself up by your bootstraps because it's what you do.

You keep afloat.  You always have.

But, one more thing always can be added to already-full schedules, and one more thing often is added.  When there isn't a moment to spare in your overflowing days, the unexpected phone call feels like a burden.  The unplanned inconvenience escalates to a crisis.  The child who wants you to read another book suddenly becomes a hurdle to overcome in a long string of duties.  If you allow yourself even one moment to reflect, you acutely feel the hollowness of such a full, yet empty, existence. 

You might not know whether to snap or to cry or to lie despondently on the couch eating Oreos, but you do know one thing: you can't sustain this pace.

Dear, dear woman who tries to do it all, may I please share something that I'm slowly and painfully learning?  You never were intended to do it all.

We are human beings, not human doers.  We desperately need time to be.  Just be.

There never will be an end to work; we always can do more.  (At least, we too often convince ourselves that we can.)  In light of this, let's not waste our greatest strength on tasks that matter the least.  Let's not let seemingly urgent demands yank our attention away from the things, and especially the people, who are most important.  Unanswered emails and unwashed dishes in the sink sometimes can wait.  Unhugged children cannot.

So, dear woman who's trying to do it all: please stop

Not forever.  Just for as long as you need to hear your own thoughts, loosen your tense shoulders, and find the surprising pleasures that arise from even unproductive days.  Stop long enough to be still and know that you are not God.  Stop long enough to admit that although you can do a great deal, you never were intended to do it all.

Warmly,

Robin Kramer
A Woman Who's Learning To Accept That She Can't (and doesn't want to) Do It All
________________________________________________________

Enjoy Then I Became a Mother: a healthy dose of humor, hope, and encouragement for moms.  Available in both Kindle and paperback editions!

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Sunday, November 4, 2012

Pondering the Deep Things (you know, Barbie movie plots)

I've been thinking about a serious issue lately.  Are there any potential plot lines still left unexplored in Barbie movies?  I mean, if I were listening to an executive Barbie think tank as they sat around the conference table and conceptualized the next movie, what would that conversation sound like?


Executive 1:  "I'm thinking fairies.... you know, an entire world filled with fairies."

Executive 2: "We did that with Fairytopia, remember?  Even so, it's a valid idea.  We might be able to modify it.  Perhaps we could insert fairies into the regular human world and design an alternate fairy reality that surrounds the humans."

Executive 3:  "But that was our angle with A Fairy Secret."

Thoughtful nods around the table.

Executive 1: "Still, fairies are so versatile!  Think how much they added to Barbie Princess Charm School."

Executive 3: "There's no denying that."

Executive 2: "Now the princess theme -- especially when the princess doesn't actually know that she's a princess -- that's an idea worth exploring more in depth.  We haven't yet scratched the surface there."

Executive 3: "Plus, we've only managed to milk the mermaid concept for two movies.  I'm sensing that this avenue is more nuanced and richer than we first imagined."

Executive 2: "Especially since it integrates with the princess theme so seamlessly.  Aquatic royalty!  That's golden!"

Executive 1: "Do you know what else is golden?  Fairies.  Fairies are gold for Barbie movies.  Do you think it's possible to merge fairies with mermaids?  Would the water compromise their ability to fly?"

Executive 2: "You know, you're onto something here."
_______________________________________________________________

Disclaimer: If Barbie Underwater Fairy Surprise Princess Adventure ever is released straight to DVD, I'm fighting for a share of the royalties.

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Friday, November 2, 2012

Aren't We Beyond This?

Mothers have a sixth sense that can pinpoint when their kids need to get out of the house.  You intuitively know when you cross the line between it would be nice to leave the house and venture into the territory of leaving the house is the only way that we'll survive the remainder of this day.

Last night, we were in the latter camp.  I announced that we'd be heading to the library after dinner.

Two of the three children cheered; the remaining child spontaneously combusted into a tantrum that left her lying on top of the kitchen table and choking out irrational fragments of seven-year-old reasoning along the lines of "you're torturing me!" and "this is the worst day anyone in the whole world ever has had, ever!"

In a circumstance like this, sometimes a mom falls into a self-protective shell and plods through these outbursts because other things are vying for her attention as she's trying to get out the door -- like, the little one who's crying because she's put her shoes on the wrong feet, or the middle child who's yelling because she "accidentally" undressed herself in the bathroom and lathered her entire bare stomach with hand soap.

Even so, this particular outburst got to me.  Aren't we beyond temper tantrums?  Did she really just make a comparison between the visiting the library and torture?  Torture!  Torture?  Are you serious?

Like quicksand, my thoughts sucked me lower and lower.  My frustration wasn't just about her; it was about meHaven't we taught her better to realize that the world doesn't revolve around her?  Does she possess even one ounce of sensitivity to actual human suffering?  What have I done wrong here?


Long after we should have been on the road, all three girls were finally buckled into the back of the van, the little one clad with shoes on the correct feet, the middle one dried and clothed, and the oldest one still tear-stained but calm.

I felt a nudge in my spirit as I drove.  Sometimes, I don't feel like I'm making progress with my children.  I think that my kids, especially my oldest, should be past the stage of misbehaving, but the truth is that I haven't entirely stopped misbehaving -- and I'm thirty-four.

I forget that progress is slow.  My daughter's kitchen table tantrum, while explosive, had been relatively short-lived.  That's a vast improvement from the tantrums of yesteryear. 

An hour later I asked the girls to clean up their toys and gather their books for check-out.  My oldest sighed. "But I'm having so much fun here."

Clearly, she has not mastered the skill of not leaving an immensely wide-open door.  I couldn't resist pointing out the irony of how twenty minutes had been wasted in hysterics and poorly-constructed metaphors.  "I knew that you'd have fun when you got here, just like you always do.  You've got to trust me.  I sometimes know what I'm talking about."

She stacked her books and nodded.  "You often know what you're talking about, Mom."

That kid stopped me cold.  All I could do was wrap my arm around her and kiss the top of her head.  All is not lost.

I'm convinced that we'll have more tantrums in our household.  I can write this with assurance because I'll probably be one of the people throwing them.  But thank God for those little reminders that progress is being made.

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