Just Sew the Monkey's Arm Back On Already.

Ever face a task that you can't seem to buckle down and do?  You might think about it, or try not to think about it, or hate the fact that you're still thinking about it even though you've determined not to think about it. 

It saps your energy.  Like a dark cloud, it infiltrates and dampens otherwise good moments with its looming presence.

This can happen to me when I'm faced with a daunting amount of grading.  While my gut reaction might be paralysis or dismay, I've discovered something: Facing the task directly is rarely as painful as worrying about the task.  (Nike was onto something when it advised Just Do It.)

This weekend, I finally completed a chore that I had been avoiding: stitching the arm back on my daughter's stuffed monkey.  As far as stuffed animals go, this monkey isn't anything special.  It's cheap.  Nobody can recall its origins.  It's never even been given a name.  It's like a third string quarterback who doesn't get much play time.

That being said, do you know how much time it takes to sew an arm back on a stuffed monkey?  Under three minutes, from start to finish.  Do you know how long it took me to sew that arm back on this particular stuffed monkey?  About three months. 

Yes, for three months I kept that monkey in one of my bedroom drawers next to its detached stuffed monkey arm, waiting for some elusive day when I'd have "plenty" of time to pull out a thread and needle and nothing else on my agenda.

Those elusive days never come.  Instead, every time I opened that drawer and saw that monkey, I had just sighed.  Better get to that sometime....

Sometimes, you simply must make that "sometime" today.  Right now.  No, I can't do anything else at this exact moment.  No, I'm not going to take a detour and use the restroom first.  I've got an armless monkey to fix, so -- seriously -- don't get in my way.

I might be behind in a multitude of other things, but at least the monkey has two arms.  Odd as this might seem, this counts for something in my book today.

Have you been avoiding some task?  Are you feeling its pressure on your shoulders?  Just sew that monkey's arm back on already. 

Facing the task directly is rarely as painful as worrying about it.

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Spring Cleaning and Dreaming

I've piloted the route hundreds of times before, but while driving to campus yesterday morning I forgot to exit the highway and only realized my mistake when I was a mile down the road and headed far, far away from the parking garage where I needed to be.

Alas, I think this was my subconscious telling me that I'd rather go to Target and browse through its home goods section than report to my own 8 a.m. class.

The work-life balance has been elusive recently, with the pendulum swinging much more frequently toward work than toward life.  Thankfully, after reaching the bottom of a stack of essays at the end of a challenging week, I sense that a respite -- even if a brief one -- is coming, and I'd like to use that respite to lift my weary head from my papers and pay attention to my home.

Something about spring makes me want to beautify my environment -- to air out the house, to sweep the garage floors, to empty the van, to clean out the closets, to trash all the clutter.  Oh, how I love the prospect of a good spring cleaning!

Beyond the prospect of taming the mess that's resulted from a long winter indoors, spring also is when house project ideas begin to brew in my mind.  I can feel the itch surfacing: I want to create and arrange and get my hands on some paint.  (Not to be confused with getting some paint on my hands, which I try to avoid.) 

Last summer, I crammed a multitude of house projects, like the refinished tray tables and the computer desk and modesty panel, into those lazy, hazy, sweaty days.  Now, I just daydream about the possibilities and blissfully sink into a preoccupied trance whenever I can spare a moment.  You know, like when I'm driving to work in the morning.

A refinished end table?  Painting on canvases?  There's so much potential!

What are you most looking forward to this these days?  Are you itching to plot your garden?  Care for your yard?  Take walks in the evening?  Stow away your cumbersome winter clothes and wear some cute flats? 

What puts a spring in your step in spring?

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Welcome to Robin Kramer Writes!

It's official: Robin Kramer Writes is live!  While this might sound odd, given that a blog exists purely in virtual form, I've come to see my blog as a place -- a place to share and connect with you, my dear readers.  Today, this place has been freshened up!

I'd love for us to stroll together on a brief tour so I can explain the new site.  I hope you love it as much as I do!

(For those of you reading on a mobile device, I welcome you to temporarily change from "mobile version" to "web version" so you can see the new design in full, too.  Simply scroll to the bottom of the blog and look for a link to easily toggle between these two views.)

New header and tagline.  Intermingled with traditional blog elements, you'll see a more streamlined layout, focused tagline, and colorful palate.

New social media icons.  In the right column, you'll find ways to connect with me on Facebook, Pinterest, TwitterGoogle Plus, and email. Please feel free to like, follow, and get in touch!

Condensed blog categories.  If you scroll further down the right column and find the header labeled "What I Write About," you'll notice a list of the common themes covered in my posts.

Upcoming URL adjustments.  Quite soon, I will redirect my old URL (www.pinkdryerlint.com) to my new URL (www.robinkramerwrites.com) so you'll be able to access the blog easily.  Confession: the technical aspect, while necessary, is my least favorite part of blogging.  When I face a task like this, you can imagine me sitting at the keyboard with the same trepidation as a person handling a live bomb.  Do I cut the red wire or the green wire?  I don't know!  Either detonation or catastrophe is imminent!

Long story short: if the blog is briefly unavailable for an hour while this redirection is underway, please come back again soon.  I'm just trying not to blow things up.

Email Subscribers: If you subscribe to the blog via email and have my posts delivered to your inbox, please be aware that you might be called upon to re-confirm your subscription in the coming days.

I'm sure that a few additional minor kinks will be discovered and ironed out throughout the week, but that's the scoop for now, folks.  I'll keep you apprised of any other important news if it surfaces.

Thank you for checking out the new website!  Let me know if you have any thoughts; I welcome your feedback!

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Beyond Pink Dryer Lint: Introducing Robin Kramer Writes

This is my 700th blog post.  When I started Pink Dryer Lint nearly four years ago, I had no idea where it would take me.  I was merely trying to keep my head above water and make sense of life while mothering three children, who then had freshly turned five, two, and one month old.

While a literal occurrence in a house with three girls of such a young age, the blog's title -- Pink Dryer Lint -- had been meant to conjure more than just an image of the fluffy stuff.  Rather, the title served as metaphor of how I wanted to observe the most inconsequential and ordinary matters in my life -- in this case, even the color of lint -- with hopes to find something greater.  I've blogged to extract faith, find humor, and grasp contentment during the average days of life, which happen to make up the bulk of our existence.

It's been a remarkable journey.

Today also marks the first day of spring, which signals freshness and growth.  With these two occasions aligning -- 700 blog posts and the commencement of a new season -- I sense that it's an opportune time to announce my important news: namely, that while this is not the end of my blogging, this will be the final post I write at Pink Dryer Lint

As my children and I grow, I want my blog not only to accurately reflect where I am now, but also to accommodate where I envision myself being in the future.  I've pondered what title would be timeless enough to encompass this, and the recurring theme that surfaced is that I write.  Writing is how I make sense of the world.  It's how I process my emotions.  It's how I remember to buy milk at the grocery store.

I write things down.  Always have, always will.

To be fair, there are a multitude of other things that I habitually do.  I eat sandwiches.  I get wet when I'm rained on.  I find myself consumed with unessential OCD tasks that are time-sucking vortexes, like cleaning my house even though we still live in it.  I wear shoes.  I misjudge the distance from my bed to the bathroom during the night and accumulate bruises from bumping into pieces of furniture that have been stationary for years.

Surprisingly, none of these actions rose to the surface as potential blog themes.

But the habitual act of writing?  Yes, that sticks.  God wired me to write, and through my writing, I feel his pleasure. 

What do I do?  Robin Kramer Writes.

Given my temperament as a person who generally is resistant to extreme change, yet who also is disproportionately excited by minor aesthetic tweaks and organizational upgrades, let me assure you that the same blogging goodness you're accustomed to will continue, only better.

Friends, Pink Dryer Lint is about to grow up.  Would you join me?  Please consider this to be an invitation to visit on Sunday, March 23 and discover the new blog design, which temporarily will be hosted here at Pink Dryer Lint (www.pinkdryerlint.com) until I redirect these archives to the new domain.

Here's to 700 more posts... and beyond!

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The Scoop on Spring Break: When Summer Invades Your Winter

When you are immersed in one season, it's hard to acknowledge -- daresay, even to imagine -- the existence of an opposite season.  While dipping my feet in the ocean last week, I couldn't imagine the mounds of snow that had been plowed to the edges of parking lots as mountainous testaments to the bitter northern winter, just like I couldn't accurately reinvent the simple pleasure of watching a swaying palm tree against a crystal clear blue sky as I walked to class this morning with my hands shoved deeply into my jacket pockets.

Oh, Florida in March, I am a fan.

But let me backtrack to the beginning of our trip, when we surprised the kids with news that we'd be taking them to Disney for two days.  Now that was a good moment. 

The kids rode out this euphoria for several hours into our journey, and the trip, which we divided into two days, was as smooth as possible.  (I will not divulge how many videos we let them watch during the ride.  Sometimes you parent for survival.  A sixteen hour road trip is one of those times.)

I could share a myriad of stories about Disney -- how Reese talked about her ride on Space Mountain for over an hour after it finished, or how Brooke professed her undying devotion to Cinderella as her "very favorite" princess, or how Kerrington was momentarily lost in the shuffle as we made our way into one of the rides.  (We found her.  My heartbeat has resumed its normal pace.)

I could share how fun it was to watch the girls' wonderment and to witness how their bond of sisterhood is just as strong -- and, apparently, just as irksome -- in Disney as it is everywhere else.

But what I really want to tell you about is an encounter we had with an employee named Maddy, a sweet college intern who happened to be the person that Joel pulled aside to ask where would be a good place to station ourselves for the evening's parade and fireworks.  Once she advised us, we thanked her and went on our way.

I thought that was the end of that story.

An hour later as we were standing where Maddy had recommended, however, she approached and motioned toward us.  "I'm so glad I found you!  Come with me," she smiled.  "I've got something special for you."

We then followed her to a secluded roped-off section with benches and a perfect view of all the festivities.  "You can sit here tonight.  This is our VIP section."

Let me just say, I hugged that girl.

There's no real rhyme or reason for her actions.  She had been having an especially rough day, she told us, and we were first people who had been kind to her.  This was her "small" token of thanks.

Still happily dazed, I situated the girls, prepared for the parade to begin, and then glanced toward the next bench to see who was sharing our VIP status. 

Here would be a good point to interject that I've always dreamed of hosting my own HGTV show about organizing tight spaces.  (Organize your space; organize your life!  You can envision me delivering this catch phrase, can't you?)  Or, to mention that I've dreamed about having HGTV designers stage my living room and kitchen.  Or to acknowledge that, apparently, I experience high levels of social awkwardness when I encounter a celebrity.

Because the person sitting directly beside me -- or more aptly, the person sitting directly beside my five-year-old whose Starbucks tea was almost knocked over from its perch on the bench's arm as a result of her five-year-old untethered enthusiasm -- was Vern Yip

Now, I could have been normal.  I could have gathered my thoughts, leaned over ever-so-slightly, and politely said, "I really admire your work, and I loved the spread of photos showcasing how you designed your kids' rooms.  Enjoy your stay at Disney."

Instead, I texted my mother-in-law ("I'm sitting next to Vern Yip!") and covertly tried to capture his profile in one of the pictures that I took of the parade.

I'm smooth like that.

Yes, there I sat -- on the night of my 36th birthday, nonetheless -- in VIP seats next to Vern Yip watching Disney's Electric Light Parade and the fireworks as they burst over the castle, in awe of God's favor and goodness to our very ordinary family.

I haven't shared this with my children, but I've decided that I can never return to Disney.  You can't top this.

From Orlando, we drove three additional hours south to Naples to visit my parents, where we ate fresh mango from a farmer's market, swam in the Gulf of Mexico, and visited the botanical gardens, where, incidentally, I bumped into a student of mine.  (I hugged her, too.  You show this kind of open emotion when you're in Florida.  People are naturally happy there.)  She and I finished our conversation, astounded, with, "Well, see you on Tuesday morning!"

Friends, I wore flip flops and had sand between my toes as I walked along the pier and dolphin-sighted.  In March!

I swung in a hammock -- albeit briefly and uncoordinatedly, as any swinging in a hammock is bound to be -- under these palm trees.  In March!

I collected shells and lathered on sunscreen and entertained thoughts about tan lines.  In March!

It was a trip for the record books, indeed, even the lengthy, tired drive home.  We were together, and that was the best part.

And Vern, if you'd ever like to visit my house and work your magic, consider this an open invitation.  You'd be more than welcome.  I'll even treat you to a Starbucks, unspilled. 

Last post I teased you with the announcement that I had pending news -- BIG news!  Seriously, I can't wait to tell you, but I've kept you here long enough already today.  Next post, I promise.  Stay tuned!

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I'm back! (And this is where I've been.)

It's been ten days since I've written, my friends, and for good reason.  As I noted in the previous post, the university where I teach had its Spring Break last week, and for the first time my husband was able to stay with our family instead of traveling for work.  Given this, we decided to actually do something during the break, something big.

Oh, the girls had concocted several fun plans to fill the week.  They thought that we might eat breakfast out one morning, or go to the library, or visit Chuck E. Cheese to play games and eat pizza, or perhaps even swim at the local YMCA's indoor pool to simulate some element of "spring."

We didn't do any of those fun things, though.  Instead, we picked up the two older girls from school last Friday and announced this instead:

I'm still basking in the afterglow.

There is much more to share about the experience: fabulous details about our two days at Disney's Magic Kingdom in Orlando (parades! princesses! an unexpected celebrity sighting! rides! momentarily losing a child! more princesses!); wonderful observations about our three-day visit with my parents in Naples (sunshine! swimming! sand in all the nooks and crannies!); and delirious reflections about our collective 34 hours of driving there and back (we survived!).

Rest assured, these details will come in the next post, but for now, I'm still unpacking, catching up on laundry, and finding my bearings at work, because as we know, all vacations must come to an end at some point and real life must commence again.

But while you're here, beyond telling you about our vacation, this week I also have BIG news to share with you as we head into spring.  Oh, it's exciting news indeed, and I'm simply chomping at the bit to tell you!  Stay tuned!

If I could bottle warmth and sunshine, know that I'd be sending it your way today.

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Spring Break Is In the Air

Spring may not be in the air (at least, not yet, given that it's only 25 degrees here), but I'm delighted to report that Spring Break is!  Today marks the last day of classes before our University's week-long respite.  A celebratory vibe permeates campus; the promise of rest and relaxation is right around the corner.

My excitement runs even deeper, though.  For the past eleven years, my husband, Joel, has led students on a Spring Break mission trip for his job as a campus minister, but this year he's transferred the reigns to younger campus staff members and he'll spend the week with us, instead.

It gets better: my birthday always falls during Spring Break, so this year Joel will be with me in person to celebrate.  (The last time he was with my on my birthday, I turned 24.  Just one of the many reasons why I'm perpetually youthful in his eyes: for over a decade, he's never officially seen me age!)

In years past during Spring Break, my children have simultaneously combusted into kids-who-have-the-stomach-flu-and-must-be-followed-with-a-can-of-Lysol.  We've survived all-night vomiting episodes and epic amounts of soiled sheets and laundry.  I'm making a bold declaration, proclaiming from the rooftops: not this year

In years past during Spring Break, we've spent our days bouncing off the walls and shoveling the driveway as one final aggressive snowstorm made its mark and dropped unwelcome inches.  Shout it out with me: not this year!

In most regards, during years past Spring Break has been neither spring-y or break-ish.  But this stops now.  This year, we'll be together and we've got plans.

In light of this, I want to share that I'll temporarily be going off the grid -- no blogging or emailing for the week.  I have ten days to spend with the people most precious to me, and I'm going to make the most of every one of them, sans screen time.  (It's good to unplug every once in a while, eh?)

In the interim, enjoy the extra daylight and be blessed.  May spring be in the air for you!

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Life Will Continue Even If You Don't Get an "A"

Life will continue even if you don't get an "A."  About once every semester, I find myself having a conversation with a student to assure him or her of this truth, which for some, can be an exceptionally hard lesson to swallow.  I teach some amazing students -- gifted thinkers, eloquent writers, astute researchers, engaging speakers.  And yet, even with these talents and abilities, sometimes a student doesn't get an "A" on a particular assignment.

It happens.  Not everything is our best work.  Not everyday is our best day.  Sometimes we try hard and fall short.

These conversations always have a come-down-from-the-ledge undercurrent on my behalf, a calmness that comes from being separated by many years from my college GPA and a wisdom that realizes that future life plans are rarely as dependent on one singular item as we sometimes think.

Of course, the reason I can be calm is because I've moved past that point.  Grades no longer bother me because I'm no longer graded.

But there are days, if I were being graded, that I'd have red marks all over my papers.  I'd get a "C" in keeping the house in order.  There would be a glaring "D" in the upper margins of having patience with my kids, or a foreboding message to "see me after class" from someone, somewhere, who was evaluating my performance and finding it lacking.

It happens.  Not everything is our best work.  Not everyday is our best day.  Sometimes we try hard and fall short.

On those days we need a person -- someone who's lived more years and can provide wise perspective -- to pull us aside and encourage us with the message that life will continue.  Yes, even if we don't get an "A" in whatever subject or task is at hand, life certainly will continue.

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When You're Tired

When we pulled our van into the garage after an evening out, one glance over my shoulder revealed that the little one had fallen asleep in her car seat.  Oh, it was a glorious, head-tilted, mouth-puckered, angel-faced sleep. 

That little girl was just so tired.

My husband scooped her up and carried her into the house.  As I watched his gentle care, I remembered how safe and loving a father's arms can be when you're weary.

I don't know how you're feeling today, but I'm tired.  For a moment this weekend, I had the sensation that I was drowning.  During worship in church on Sunday morning, we sang songs that weren't just songs; they were the cry of my heart.

You call me out upon the waters,
The great unknown, where feet may fail.
And there I find you in the mystery,
In oceans deep, my faith will stand.
And I will call upon your name,
And keep my eyes above the waves.
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in your embrace,
For I am Yours, and You are mine.

Friends, to be honest, tonight I'm still tired.  There's still a lot on my mind and a lot on my plate, but my heart is lifted.  Even if I feel like I'm drowning, I can keep my eyes above the waves.  Even when I'm tired, I can remember how safe and loving a Father's arms can be.

These waters aren't too deep.

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Don't Forget to "Date" Your Kids

As a child, I recall having a metaphysical moment while sitting at the kitchen table and looking at a yellow plastic pitcher that my family had owned for years.  I had stirred innumerable Kool-Aid packets and cups of sugar in that pitcher.  I had poured myself a drink from it countless times.  Its presence in our refrigerator was a given.

But it wasn't until that particular day that I actually saw that pitcher.

That day, I noticed its dented white lid with two spouts: one spout opened wide, the other for straining liquids for a slower flow.  I noticed the Berry Blast and Wild Cherry red stains ringing the inside.  Even though that pitcher had been in plain sight every day of my childhood, that day I viewed it as if I had never seen it before.

Odd as it might sound, I sometimes have this same epiphany with my kids.  I'm surrounded by these kids.  I'm feeding them, cleaning up after them, breaking up their arguments, answering their questions, and engaging with them ALL. THE. TIME.  Ironically, I'm still able to push past an entire day (or more) without really seeing them.

Oh, I'll talk with them and exchange information about homework, manners, chores, or bedtime -- a continue stream of chatter.  I'll drive the oldest to dance practice and help the middle child find her misplaced library books and pitch in while the youngest puts away her blocks.  These conversations and actions and continue movement can fill up a day.

But some days, I need to step back and really see them.  In the past few weeks, I've taken each daughter out on an individual date without siblings, agenda, and distractions.  My oldest and I watched a musical at our community theatre, my middle and I stopped at a cafĂ© to drink hot chocolate from real mugs, and my youngest and I sat side by side at the local library doing puzzles.

I need to date my kids more often.  It reminds me to slow down and see them in detail, not just view them in peripheral vision as they orbit around me and become living additions to my seemingly never-ending list of things to do.

Too often, I miss things that are directly in front of me.  I don't want to make that mistake with my children.


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

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