On Chalk, Unexpected Compliments, and Exercise

Blog Pause Day 6:  This is it!  The final day of 2013!  We're reviewing three additional posts from the Pink Dryer Lint archives today.  We start with a look back to summer with a humorous take on a summer parenting staple: outdoor sidewalk chalk.  Then, we move to a post that I had forgotten about, one that reminds us that a kind word can carry more weight than we even realize.  Finally, we wrap up with some motivation to be good to ourselves by exercising.  (Something I often need to remind myself!)

Enjoy, and here's to a great New Year!

To Humor You: On Chalk: A Dissertation (minus the research)

Even as an adult, I find myself oddly drawn to chalk.  For example, I once brainstormed other occupations that I could see myself doing besides writing and teaching college students.  Among them: professional closet organizer, namer of paint or nail polish colors, and person who transcribes the daily specials on the chalkboard in restaurants.

See?  Chalk not only permeates the landscape of my childhood memories, but also appears in my career aspirations. 

Continue reading "On Chalk: A Dissertation (minus the research)"

To Remind Us to Pay It Forward: The Unexpected Compliment

Last week, someone paid me an unexpected compliment.  We sat across a desk from one another, immersed in reviewing a paper.  Out of the blue, she zinged me with such kind words that I stopped momentarily.  I silently took them in, turning them over in my head and committing them to memory so I'd be able to remind myself of them later.

Her words were that good.  Simple, quick, and exactly what I needed to hear.  I hadn't even known that I needed them.

Perhaps the key to anyone's heart -- woman or man, child or adult -- is encouragement.  It's life-giving.  It's why I've kept cards from friends, notes from students, and pictures that my kids have drawn tucked away in a shoe box or my desk drawer.  On the days when I'm doing a terrible job, those tangibles show me that all hope is not lost.

Continue reading "The Unexpected Compliment"

To Get Motivated: Exercising With Kids, In Spite of Kids

The most frequently-recurring thought I have while exercising is that I really need to vacuum.  Distractions abound when you're doing push-ups on your family room floor but noticing the ground-in Goldfish cracker crumbs and the balled-up socks that were abandoned by a child and stuffed underneath the couch.

While I'd love to think that devoting time to exercise would provide tranquil moments, it's not entirely true.  I exercise at home, with three kids, and it looks very little like this:

and much more often like this:

I'm not especially coordinated.  I'm not exceptionally fast.  I'm not overwhelmingly skilled at any one athletic endeavor.  But, I am a proponent of living an active lifestyle and making time to exercise regularly.  This is because I've had many seasons when I haven't exercised regularly.  When life gets uncomfortably busy, I've unwisely skimped on sleep and cut out exercise -- ironically, the very things that make me more productive and balanced.

Continue reading "Exercising With Kids, In Spite of Kids"

Whether 2013 has been full of wonders or hardships, my prayer is that you will abide in the peace that surpasses all understanding in 2014, knowing how deeply God loves you. 

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Running, Messes of Our Own Doing, and Controlling Emotions

Blog Pause Day 5: If you're like me, you might feel a bit nostalgic as we come to the close of another calendar year.  Reviewing my posts from 2013 has reminded me of many moments that I otherwise would have forgotten, and today's post highlights three additional entries from the year.  We start with a recent post about running, move to encouragement for those moments when we get stuck in our own messes, and finally share some practical tips for helping kids (and ourselves!) to control emotions. 

Thanks for joining me during this Annual Blog Pause! 

To Humor You: My Relationship with Running: An Adolescent Romance

If you love running, this post is for you.  If you hate running, this post is for you.  Much like an adolescent romance, my own relationship with running is somewhat complex, marked by on-again, off-again inconsistency and periodic swells of great affection.

Continue reading "My Relationship with Running: An Adolescent Romance"

To Encourage You: Messes of Our Own Doing

I volunteer in my church nursery one Sunday each month.  This past week there were a few babies in the nursery (disclaimer: I love holding babies because it's an easy way to get my baby fix without actually having a baby), but most were toddlers who will turn three and graduate to the classroom across the hallway soon.

These toddlers walk and talk and ask me to read books to them.  They interact with each other and eat Goldfish crackers.  Some are potty trained, like one sweet little girl with soulful brown eyes and lush eyelashes that practically fan her face when she blinks.

"I have to go to the potty," she told me right as the service was about to finish.

We almost made it.  (Which really means that we didn't make it.)

Continue reading "Messes of Our Own Doing"

To Help Your Kids (and you): Teaching Kids How to Control Their Emotions

"I want to tell you something." My husband pulls my daughter aside in the other room.  She's in a huff, a frothing mixture of frustrations and tears and hiccups, over something that her sister has done.

He waits until she simmers down to speak.  His tone is gentle, but it carries weight.  "I know that you're mad, but you control your own response."

It's a simple message that we're trying to instill in our children: they are the ones who control their reactions to whatever circumstances they encounter.  They control if they get mad, if they lose their cool, if they throw a tantrum.  Not anyone else.

Continue reading "Teaching Kids How to Control Their Emotions"

See you tomorrow for the final post of 2013! 

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The Swan Family, Cutting Grass, and Leftovers

Blog Pause Day 4: The countdown continues!  It's time to review another selection of posts from 2013 as we're headed to the new year.  We start with a fun tale of the candor that only can come from a child in "The Swan Family," move to a heartwarming story in "You Always Feel Better After Cutting the Grass," and wrap up with the good news of new chances in "Leftovers and New Mercies."  Enjoy!

To Humor You: The Swan Family

There once was a family of swans who was happy and loved to swim in a tiny pond on top of my kitchen table.  The dainty baby swan was flanked on either side by the daddy and mommy swan, always kept close and safe.

Continue reading "The Swan Family"

To Make You Happy: You Always Feel Better After Cutting the Grass

This evening I cut the grass until the setting sun dictated that I needed to stop.  There's something about a freshly mown lawn that conjures a deep sense of peace within me.  In fact, if everyone on my street manages to have their grass cut at the same time, I find myself transported to a nearly euphoric state of OCD bliss.  All is right with the world.

Perhaps it's the smell of fresh clippings and gasoline, the perfect lines criss-crossing the yard, or the methodical sense of progress.  Perhaps it's how the drone of the engine drowns out all other distractions, including my own thoughts.

Tonight as I raced the sunset, I remembered one summer afternoon when I was twenty.  I was grappling with a complex young adult issue (a.k.a., boy troubles) and had hoped to speak with a friend.  She wasn't there when I arrived, so I got back in my car to return home.

On the trip back, I noticed an elderly woman cutting her grass.  Her gait was slow; her yard was large.  I still vividly can remember how a green leaf was stuck in her white hair, as if she just had a tussle with her apple tree.

I stopped, feeling slightly foolish, and asked if I could help.

Continue reading "You Always Feel Better After Cutting the Grass"

To Give You Permission to Call It Quits on a Rough Day: Leftovers and New Mercies

For dinner last night, I served leftover Chinese takeout and pizza from the weekend.  It was one of those meals when I microwaved individual plates, added grapes to the menu as an afterthought, and scarfed down my food before we rushed out the door to soccer practice.  A flurry of reminders (grab your shin guards) and warnings (just-get-in-the-van-NOW) must have lingered in the air even after I slammed the door shut behind us.

Continue reading "Leftovers and New Mercies"

See you back tomorrow for Day Five of the 2013 Blog Pause!

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Injustices, Tray Tables, and Scary Endings

Blog Pause Day 3: I'm bringing you another sampling of posts from the 2013 archives for today's blog pause entry.  We start with a relatively recent post -- one I happen to love -- about shopping and siblings and extortion.  The next post showcases a DIY project when I painted a set of forlorn, unused tray tables.  (They're now happily displayed throughout our house.)  The final post reminds us that even when we don't know how a difficult situation will end, we still can have peace in the midst of it.

To Humor You: The Injustice of Justice

I still recall the first time I entered Justice.  After gaining my bearings amidst the proliferation of peace signs, glitter, and neon, I had one thought cross my mind: I'm not ready for this stage of parenting.  A second thought came close on its heels: this store makes my teeth hurt.  The animal prints, the conflicting patterns, the music, the slogan-strewn shirts, the overwhelming saturation of pinks and purples -- the entire store, in fact -- seems calculatedly fabricated to incite dizziness, cloud judgment, and dull reasoning until you're deluded into thinking, "Oh, a storewide 40% off sale... that's a novel thing..."

But there was something so genuine about my daughter's request.  She had saved up her own money, after all, ferreting away loose change and the occasional dollar bills that had been tucked into cards from grandparents and relatives.  So, we went.

Continue Reading "The Injustice of Justice"

To Share a Project: The Painting Continues: Tray Table Edition

I've had a few tray tables gathering dust in our basement, but then I stumbled upon this tutorial at DIY Inspired and immediately thought, I can do that.  Because I'm idealistically confident that way.

The result?  Tray tables that once looked like this:

now look like this:

Continue Reading "The Painting Continues: Tray Table Edition"

To Bolster Your Faith: It's Only Scary When You Don't Know How It Ends

I overhear my children talk as they're watching a video.  It's one they've seen before, and they're coming to a suspenseful scene.

My five-year-old grows nervous.  "I don't want to watch.  This is scary."

"It's only scary when you don't know how it ends," my eight-year-old responds, matter-of-factly.  "You know that everything works out, so you don't need to be scared."

I'm sweeping the kitchen floor as she says this, and I mull over her words: "It's only scary when you don't know how it ends."

I've been fearful lately.  I have friends who are wrestling with profound problems and hurts: personal challenges, relational difficulties, financial setbacks, emotional struggles, and health issues.  My heart aches for them.  I face mountains of my own that drain my hope and energy, leaving me discouraged and weary.

Continue Reading "It's Only Scary When You Don't Know How It Ends"

See you tomorrow for Day Four of the 2013 Blog Pause!  Thanks for reading!

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The Ladybug, Heavy or Light Burdens, and Faking It

Blog Pause Day 2: We're back for the second installment of revisited posts from 2013 as we count down the days until the new year.  We start with an open letter of apology to the ladybug who entered my house (poor thing), move to a lesson I learned from my daughter's light tote bag, and end with how I applied a principle that I teach to my college students to my own parenting.  Enjoy!

To Humor You: To the Ladybug Who Entered My House

Because we haven't seen the likes of your kind for quite some time, you created quite an uproar with our children yesterday.  I'm uncertain about your specific anatomical workings, but if your antenna are even remotely sensitive, you likely heard that uproar.

From the seven-year-old: "Mom, mom, mom, mom, mom -- there's a ladybug!  A ladybug!  It's a ladybug!"

From the four-year-old: "Come here, you little ladybug.  You're so cute!  I'll hold you."

From the two-year-old: "Bug.  Bug.  Bug.  Bug!  BUG!"

Your delicate ladybug wings momentarily fluttered, as if you were poised to dart toward freedom, yet you held your ground.

This was a tactical error.

To Strengthen You: Whether Your Burden Be Heavy or Light
This is my work bag. When I set it on the passenger seat as I'm driving to campus, it triggers the fasten seatbelt light. It bursts at the seams with my binder, books, and paperwork. Rarely can I zipper it closed.

If my bathroom scale is accurate, it weighs 16.7 pounds.

This is my three-year-old's tote bag. On Tuesday and Thursday mornings, she carries it to pre-school. It typically contains two or three pieces of paper. (Four on a rigorous coloring day.)

Each time I pick her up, I ask if she'd like me to carry her bag for her.

To Forge Ahead In Parenting: Fake It Until You BECOME It

This week I tried an experiment.  What if I applied this principle to my parenting?  What if I took one day and acted like I have energy, even when I don't?  What if I brought outward enthusiasm to every task, no matter how ordinary?

Continue reading "Fake It Until You Become It"

See you tomorrow for Day Three of the 2013 Blog Pause.  As always, thank you for reading!

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Bunk Beds, Painting Lessons, and Frittering

Blog Pause Day 1:  At the end of each calendar year, I like to reflect on the events from the past twelve months.  In this light, for the next several days I'll be scrolling through the Pink Dryer Lint archives, and each day I'll provide a sampling of favorite posts from 2012.

Feel free to catch up on posts that you missed or revisit these favorites again! 

To Humor You: On Bunk Beds

Recently we rearranged the girls' bedrooms to accommodate for a new piece of furniture in our house: bunk beds.  Before I continue, I must ask: Do you consider "bunk beds" to be singular or plural? 

As in, is my opening sentence grammatically incorrect?  Should I have written "new pieces of furniture" even though it's one entity that happens to hold two beds?  Have you ever looked at a sentence so long that it not only looks ungrammatical, but it also looks as if it's no longer written in your primary language?  I'm hitting that point.

Continue reading "On Bunk Beds"

To Encourage You in Your Parenting: What They Really Love

We sit at the kitchen table together, side-by-side.  Brushes are scattered across the tabletop and our fingers are marked with errant splatters of paint.

"You know what I love?" my daughter asks.  Her answer could go in a million directions. 

Continue reading "What They Really Love"

To Motivate You: What Could I Accomplish If I Didn't Fritter?

I've been thinking about my habits.  It's safe to estimate that I spend an hour each day on maintenance and shuffling -- namely, picking up stuff and putting it back in its place, then picking up more stuff and putting it back in its place, and then noticing even more out-of-place stuff that needs to be picked up and returned to its rightful place.

It's a never-ending cycle, one that fritters away both time and energy.

See you tomorrow for Day Two of the 2012 Blog Pause!

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Hurtling Toward the Holidays

Do you ever feel as if you're being propelled toward the holidays instead of leisurely approaching them?  This year, I purposed to pay attention to these days leading up to Christmas, to notice their rhythms and nuances, to appreciate their excitement and sweetness.

Realistically speaking, my gifts are still unwrapped, I haven't yet planned my holiday menus, I never hung the outside garland, my family is arriving in town later today, and my kids' eyes are perpetually glazed over while visions of sugarplums dance in their heads and all that.

I'm hurtling toward the holidays, dashing all the way.  Fa-la-la-la-la.

Yesterday, though, I had a few special Christmas moments.  To preface this, I must first let you know that I'm kind of a sap.  I think that the song "Christmastime is Here" is more melancholy than wistfully childlike.  I think that "Christmas Shoes" is downright depressing.  (Have you ever heard this song?  Gah.)

But sometimes I enjoy the influx of emotion, that swell in the back of my throat and the sting in my eyes.  Such was the case yesterday when I saw this commercial from Eat n' Park.  I haven't seen the commercial in years, but yesterday I caught a glimpse of it from the television mounted in the ceiling of the pizza shop where I was picking up dinner.  I stopped in my tracks to watch the ending.  From my earliest childhood days as a girl growing up in Pittsburgh where Eat 'n Park restaurants abounded, I remember cheering on that little star.

Go, little Christmas star, go.

What got me the most, though, was when I gathered my two younger daughters on my lap yesterday afternoon to read O. Henry's "The Gift of the Magi" from this amazing Saturday Evening Post Christmas Book that my father used to read to me.

I've kept this slim volume on a bookshelf for years, but yesterday marked the first time I actually opened it with my kids.  As a child, I remember how my heart broke when Della cut her hair only to open the beautiful tortoise shell combs that Jim had bought to adorn those very tresses.  I remember how the broken pieces of my heart lurched within my little chest when Jim revealed that he had sold his watch to pay for the combs, rendering the platinum fob watch chain that Della had purchased with the money earned from her shorn locks useless.

It was the saddest thing I ever had heard.

Even so, I opened to that very story and read it aloud as my girls rested their heads on my shoulders.  They're too young to grasp its underlying sorrow and beauty, too young to understand why I wiped my eyes, too young to process its perfect infusion of words like imputation and mendicancy and meretricious.

I cried sad, happy tears at the reckless extravagance of it all: the giving of your very best, regardless of its cost, to bless the one you love the most.

And for the moment, I wasn't hurtling toward Christmas at all.  I was remembering Emmanuel: literally, God with us.  How God gave His very best, regardless of its cost, to bless the ones He loves the most.

And God so loved the world that he gave his only and only Son, that whoever believes in him might not perish but have everlasting life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

John 3:16-17

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Bread Baked with Daughter for 3rd Grade School Project

Title: Bread Baked with Daughter for 3rd Grade School Project.

Subtitle: Nailed It.

You Don't Have to Be Good At Everything

Recently, I tried to upload final grades for my college classes, but I faced one glitch: I couldn't find the secure ID token needed to login to the university's system.  Now, I've kept that token in the same place for nine years -- a small, securely zippered pocket in my work bag -- and I've returned that token to the pocket every single time I've submitted my grades.

Friends, I scoured that work bag and examined every crevice.  I overturned my work space at home and searched every conceivable hiding spot in my office on campus. 


Conceding defeat, I sheepishly contacted my department's staff assistant to request a new token.  I filled out the necessary paperwork, returned to my office, unzipped my work bag's secure pocket, dropped in the new token, and then looked -- and looked again -- at the bottom of the pocket where the old token was sitting.

I don't know what was more embarrassing: admitting that I lost the token in the first place, or admitting that I really hadn't lost the token, after all, and that I simply have exceptionally poor seeking skills.

You see, I like to think that I'm an organized person.  I pride myself on being punctual, knowing where things are, staying on top of paperwork and correspondence, crossing my t's, and dotting my i's.

But I don't always have my act together.  Even mostly organized people have moments of disorganization, and even thoughtful people have moments of forgetfulness.

The list goes on.  Generous people have moments of selfishness.  Smart people have moments of idiocy.  Kind people have moments of unkindness.  Good parents have moments of bad parenting.  We're not always good at everything.

Let me repeat in a slightly different way: You don't have to be good at everything. 

You do realize this, right?

As I age, I'm learning to view my failures and shortcomings and mishaps with less self-criticism and more self-awareness.  This hasn't necessarily been easy, but my imperfections highlight that only One is perfect.  My failures humble me.  They reinforce that I don't need to earn God's approval by some arbitrary standard of my own performance.

No, I don't have to be good at everything.  I'm loved, forgiven, and known by Jesus.  It is His performance and righteousness -- not mine -- that secures my good standing.

Friends, there are many things that I'm not good at.  Take gift wrapping, for instance:

The sad part is that I tried to be neat and precise.  I really did.  I come by this paper-folding incompetence naturally.

My identity is secure, which is more than I can say for that wrapping paper.  I'm a child of God, and I don't have to be good at everything.

Neither do you.

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

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I Thought You Might Like This

I'm still wrapping up the end-of-the-semester grading, and I have a confession: I've watched too many YouTube videos this past week.  Oh, Facebook and YouTube, you time-sucking vortexes, you.

I smiled throughout this witty interview with a 100-year old woman about her secret to long life and marriage, and I loved this video about Christmas wishes becoming realities.  (Lesson learned: if you ever are asked what you really want for Christmas, go big.  None of this socks-and-underwear stuff.)

Today's Facebook dawdling unearthed this gem, an advertisement from Coca Cola that's entirely worth a minute of your time.  Enjoy!

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Snow and Grading. Grading and Snow.

For the past 12 hours, my life has been consumed by two things: grading and snow.

In terms of grading, this past week I concluded my classes and parted ways with my students, and I'm now facing the weighty task of evaluating final projects and assigning final grades.  In terms of snow, today we were wallopped with a mighty storm, the type of storm that invites you to forego the unplowed roads and cuddle up on the couch instead.  (Unless you're grading, in which case you feel invited to cuddle up at the computer.)

At any rate, what I really wanted to share with you today is a few pictures.  Last night marked the Christmas banquet for my husband's campus ministry, and I baked several dozen cookies in preparation.  Get a good look at the little one's reaction.

That's my girl.

I also hoped against hope that we could secure one smashing family photo, but alas, we've demonstrated, once again, that we're incapable of simultaneously looking in the direction of the camera. 

Please tell me that your children do this, too.

I did feel pretty good about rocking this red dress and some killer heels, though.  And I felt really good about those cookies, and the candlelight Christmas caroling, and the wonderful time with the students and staff as we celebrated the near-completion of another semester together.

Plus, who knows?  Maybe next year we'll witness the Christmas miracle of an entirely focused family photo.

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Prepare My Home. Preparing My Heart.

I don't remember much about Christmas last year.  It had been a difficult fall semester for me, a season marked by some personal hardships, stress, and tiredness.  When Christmas followed close on the heels of the semester's close, I barely had prepared for its approach.  Sure, the tree was decorated and presents were wrapped, but my heart wasn't invested.

I've vowed not to miss Christmas this year.

At one point last week my five-year-old melted down because there were still over twenty days until Christmas -- a figure which seemed cruelly insurmountable in light of her eagerness, like I had been mistakenly counting in dog years.  A day is like a week to a kid who's waiting for Christmas, after all.

To aid the countdown and ease her emotional duress, I hung a simple paper chain in our kitchen.

Each day we ceremoniously tear off a link. 

Little did I know that this simple ritual would be as rewarding for me as it is for the girls.  Another fall semester draws to a close, and once again, work flurries about me.  There are final speeches to observe, final projects to evaluate, and final grades to upload, yet I each day I pause and regard that simple paper chain.

We're making time each day to sit together on the couch -- all five of us -- and read Christmas books or watch a Christmas video.  It's become my favorite spot in the house, a cozy space where I can enjoy the view of snow-covered hills behind our home, a space where I can steal a moment with my favorite people.

This year, I've not only prepared my home, but also my heart.

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Race Day Results: Thirteen point one miles -- done!

When I woke yesterday morning, the first thing I checked was the online weather report.  I'm not sure why.  I knew it was slated to be a cold day, after all, but somehow I thought I'd feel better knowing the specifics.

Turns out, knowing the specifics didn't make me feel much better.  It did further solidify my plan to dress in excessive layers for my half marathon, however.  To clarify, I don't play poker -- nor do I strip -- but had I been playing strip poker yesterday morning, I would have remained downright modest after a half dozen bad hands.

Here's what I looked like before leaving the house, donning one final layer, and adding a hat, ear warmers, and gloves for good measure.  I thought that the all-black motif was a nice touch, like I was a ninja runner.

Because, obviously, ninjas are known for their distance running.

Nervousness began to descend during the drive to the race site.  Not only do I question every bodily function before a race, but I also doubt my time management.  Am I going to be late?  Will I have time to register?  Have I drunk enough water?  Have I drunk too much water?  Am I wearing enough clothes?

I was on time for registration, but apparently I dawdled getting in line for the women's restroom, which resulted in my fearless use of the men's restroom after shouting an all clear? inquiry from the door.  (Ninjas are bold this way.)  Then, because it was a mere minute before the gun sounding, I had to jog to the starting line, which seemed excessive. 

Running just to get to the race?  Overkill. 

Still, I reached the back of the pack, and if you look closely, you'll see that I'm smiling in the picture below.  (I'm the one in black, remember?)  The smile stems from two reasons: one, it was taken early in the race when great hope still abounds, and two, I unexpectedly bumped into a friend from our campus group who had graduated several years ago.  She had returned to run the event with her father, and being relatively evenly paced, we opted to run together. 

Catching up on several years while running is harder than you'd imagine.  We talked for the first few miles freely, but eventually our conversation deteriorated to periodically slurred one-liners like you-still-doing-okay? and occasional high fives when we crested a hill.

We paced ourselves well by starting slowly and picking up speed throughout the race.  Physically and mentally, I've found that it's vastly better to pass other runners than to be passed.

The last stretch -- a rigorous uphill climb that spans an entire mile -- is preceded by one final water station and an enthusiastic group of supporters who boost morale by cheering and offering Dixie cups of beer for racers.  (Knowing what still lay ahead almost drove me to drink, but I refrained.)

I don't have vivid recollections of that last mile, except for the fact that I despaired my decision to enter the race and realized that my face had frozen into a contorted grimace, but lo and behold, the finish line gloriously surfaced, a bottled water found its way into my hand, my face thawed so I once again was able to speak and smile, I congratulated (and was congratulated by) several other racers I knew, and a sensation of all being right with the world settled. 

A verifiable runner's high after 13.1 miles, not even counting my preliminary dash to the starting line.

Once home, the rest of the day unfolded as usual: folding laundry, unloading the dishwasher, grading a few more speeches, reading books and playing games with the kids, yet all day long I felt warm -- not merely from being inside after the morning's frigid run, but primarily from the glow of accomplishing what I set out to do.


The Day Before the Race (Just Half Crazy)

Friends, tomorrow marks the day of my third half marathon. 

If we're being technical, tomorrow marks be the third half marathon that I've started.  The goal is for it to become the second half marathon that I've finished, considering that my first experience resulted in me hitting the pavement and waking up hooked to an IV in a paramedic tent somewhere between mile 11 and 12 on the side of a street in Philadelphia.  (Low blood sugar is a doozy.  It'll drop a girl.)

If you've watched any weather or news report recently, you might have noticed that a large storm is currently sweeping across the nation.  I'm bracing myself for the predicted cold, wind, and flurries.  In fact, I very well might end up wearing so many layers that I resemble Ralphie's kid brother in A Christmas Story. 

I must confess that I'm not feeling as prepared as I'd like.  For the past two months, I've completed the long runs that my training guide suggested for each weekend, but I haven't managed to uphold the full running schedule throughout the week itself.

Who knows, though?  Maybe fewer training miles means fresher legs, right?  (Right?)

Check back soon for results!  I'll keep you posted!


A Gift for Moms This Holiday Season

Holiday shopping just got easier!  Do you know a new mom or a mom-to-be?  Are you looking for a perfect gift for a friend with young children?  Are you searching for a humorous, uplifting, and candid read for yourself?  Then check out Then I Became a Mother, a perfect way to bless the moms in your life this holiday season! 
Here's what readers are saying:

Hysterical and spot on!  Robin Kramer has the uncanny ability to use the written word to mentor a mother's heart.  A must read!

- Jennifer Mullen, Mosaic of Moms
I would absolutely recommend this book to ANY mother.  If you are an expectant mother, you should read it and take notes.  If you are a new mother, you should read it and take comfort.  If you are a 'seasoned' mother, you should read it, take a walk down memory lane and, then, take action to help other mothers you encounter.

- Lisa Witherspoon, The Golden Spoons
I got so caught up in it, I couldn’t put it down.  Robin’s words captured the experience of new motherhood in a way I’ve never been able to convey – either in spoken or written words.

- Stacie Nelson, Motherhood on a Dime
Give the gift of humor, candor, and encouragement today!  Available in both Kindle and paperback editions.
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The Road Ahead

The fog obscures the road ahead of me as I drive to campus this morning.  Even this familiar route, one that I travel daily, seems unfamiliar.  I only can discern what's immediately ahead: the tail lights from the car directly in front of me, the traffic signal just a moment before I pass underneath.

I'm able to reach my destination this way, but it's not as comfortable as when there's a spacious view of the open road.  I tread cautiously.  I pay more attention to every turn, every straightaway, every moment.

Sometimes our routes are obscured not only on the road, but also in life.  We all have moments when we don't know how to proceed, moments when we can't see the end from the beginning, moments when we can only glimpse an inch ahead.  During these moments, we have to trust that our paths will be illuminated, even if that illumination is only enough to see the singular step that we must take next, no more.

I remember the wisdom of Psalm 119:105, stating that God's word is a lamp for our feet, a light on our path. 

If you're feeling engulfed by fog right now, remember that we'll never be left in the dark when we ask for direction.

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It's Always During the Night

I'm not sure how or why it happens, but based on my nearly nine years of parenting, I've observed that my children always come down with the stomach bug during the night.  Apparently, we're not raising daytime vomiters.

Perhaps it's best this way, considering that I react to vomiting with inappropriate nervous laughter and an immediate desire to spray my child with Lysol rather than to hold her hair away from her face as she heaves into the toilet.  The cloak of night seems to cover my squeamishness, allowing me to move on autopilot in a haze of semi-delirious grogginess, scrubbing carpets and changing sheets and starting laundry without (much) flinching.

When the stomach bug strikes in the night, the crisis is over by the break of dawn, as if the episode was a bad dream, nothing more, which certainly works for me.

What about you? What's your parenting Kryptonite, the one thing you can't deal with gracefully? 

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When You Realize It's December and You Need Some Sunshine. Or Some Tomatoes.

It's officially December.  On Sunday I turned the final page of the 2013 calendar on our refrigerator with a hint of disbelief.  How have we arrived here already?  Didn't the fall just start? 

But the fall didn't just start, and the crunchy snow that still lingers in the shady sections of our yard indicates that we've lost our opportunity to cut the grass one final time.  This realization saddens me.  I feel somewhat adrift when loose ends aren't tied up.

Still, I have to tell you about one final moment of fall that I stole early last month, one that I haven't yet shared.  As I was turning over our garden in early November, I realized that our tomato plant still had a small bounty of unripe tomatoes on the vine.

Then I realized that it was time to fry these green tomatoes, because that's what you do with green tomatoes.  Or so I've heard.

I've never made fried green tomatoes before, but the premise seemed simple.  First, slice the tomatoes and lightly salt them.

Then dip the slices in buttermilk and dredge them through a mixture of flour, bread crumbs, and corn meal.  (Isn't dredge a terrific word?)

Then fry those bad boys up right.

I have to tell you, just looking at this dish, this northern girl was feeling her (nonexistent) southern roots.  I poured myself a glass of sweet tea (because this is what you do when you're feeling southern), piled the fried tomatoes high on a plate, carried them to the table, and was instantly reminded that I'm the only person in my family who likes tomatoes.

There's nearly thirty slices of fried tomatoes, and I'm the only available eater.  Beyond that, I only marginally like tomatoes.  It's a take-'em-or-leave-'em kind of relationship, one where I'm delighted to chop them up for fresh salsa with cilantro, or mildly happy to add a slice on my sandwich at lunch.  But I'm also just as content not to add a slice.

All told, my first venture with friend green tomatoes likely will be my last.  At the very least, the experience gave me one final touch of summer in the midst of fall.  One last bite of warmth and sunshine during the descending chill.

Now if this snow would just melt, maybe it's not too late to cut the grass one final time, after all.

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When Traditions Are New

It started nearly ten years ago with my husband's family, this tradition that we now affectionately call Thanksmas.  Since we don't get to visit each other in December, we devote the Friday after Thanksgiving to celebrating Christmas.

Essentially, we segue from turkey and fixings on Thursday to leftover turkey and fixings on Friday, plus our gift exchange.   It's seamless.  It's festive.  It's fun.  It's convenient.  It's a true holiday mash-up.

And it completely messes with my internal calendar.  I return to work after Thanksgiving wearing a new sweater, receive a compliment, and want to say, "Thanks, I got it for Christmas," forgetting that Christmas was eleven months ago to everyone else.  I'm ready to wish people a happy New Year. 

I've been thrown for a holiday loop.

I've wondered what effect Thanksmas would have on our kids.  I once broached the subject with Joel, asking whether he thought they'd find it strange that we celebrate Christmas twice.  He looked at me as if I had grown another head.  Strange?  What kid wouldn't love two Christmases?

He had a good point.

But what about waiting eagerly for Christmas morning?  What about the anticipation when you went to bed on Christmas Eve as a child, knowing that Christmas was just one night's sleep away?  What about sneaking downstairs and hiding behind the couch while your parents, who knew you were there all along, went along with the game?  What about the tradition of rushing into your sibling's room the morning of Christmas, running down the steps together, and then dashing back upstairs to dive into your parents' bed while they burrowed under the covers just a moment longer and mumbled something about needing coffee? 

What about all that?

My friend once noted, "Your kids won't have your holiday traditions.  They'll have their own."

She's right.  All my recollections of Christmas Eve and Christmas morning -- how my brother and I collided down the narrow stairs of our Pittsburgh home every Christmas morning, how my father started the coffee, how my mom curled up on the side of the couch in her fuzzy robe -- make up the backdrop of my childhood holiday memories. 

In the same fashion, Reese, Brooke, and Kerrington are developing memories from the traditions that we're setting up now.  They're different memories from how I experienced Christmas, but ones that are just as special, ones that are uniquely theirs.

Many years from now when my girls are grown and have husbands and kids of their own, it's quite likely that they'll revert to celebrating only one Christmas.  They might call each other and ask, "Do you think our kids will find it strange that we just have one Christmas?"

Hopefully, one of them will supply the others with the same good insight I was given.  Just because it's different, doesn't make it any less significant.

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


Thanksgiving Post

It seems obligatory, this post on Thanksgiving Day about thankfulness, but it's anything but trite.  In fact, I'm so thankful for so many things -- for these three tangle-haired kids who woke up a half hour before I dragged my way out of bed this morning, for my husband who slept beside me last night, for my other family members -- both near and far -- who are constant in my life.  For my friends, for my freedoms, for the food on my table, for my health, for my comforts.

I'm thankful for it all.  And now I'm going to sign off, spend the day with my family, and eat regrettable amounts of turkey, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, and pumpkin pie.  And apple pie.  And cherry pie.

What can I say?  I got carried away with baking last night.

Wishing you a wonderful day with your loved ones!

Image compliments of Madison Faith (flickr.com)

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