When the Timing Doesn't Seem Right

Friends, this is a picture of my backyard taken just moments ago after a blustery snowsquall on this final day of March.  Seriously.

You know what they say about this month, right?  In like a lion, out like a lion.

I'll state the obvious: snow on the last day of March feels wrong.  I want to smell earth, walk throughout my yard, and discover emerging crocus, daffodils, and tulips.  The kids itch to break free from the confines of the house.  We're ready to fling open the windows, usher in a fresh breeze, and put an end to this weather that keeps us bundled indoors.

At best, the timing of this late-March flurry seems off.  At worst, it seems like a direct assault against all that is good and right and hopeful.

While folding laundry this afternoon, I thought about how it should be time to swap out the girls' winter clothes for their warm-weather wardrobes -- a process that normally takes an afternoon as I clean out closets, sort outgrown items into bins or donation piles, and wash the incoming clothes.

It should be time, but the current weather makes the task unnecessary. 

And in that singular realization, I pause and think that perhaps this timing might be helping me.  I'm swamped this week -- heavy grading, extra work meetings, parent-teacher conferences for my kids, and school cancelations for the upcoming Easter holiday.  Adding another task that I feel I should be doing -- like transitioning our closets from winter to spring -- might be the very thing that pushes me over the edge.

Perhaps this snow is a gift.  Perhaps it's a hurdle preventing me from taking on more than I'm currently capable of taking on.

When good things in life appear to be stalling -- an opportunity, a new venture, a promotion, or even the arrival of spring -- especially if there seems to be no good earthly reason for the delay, perhaps I'd be wise to pause before getting frustrated or discouraged.

Maybe there's meaning behind the delay.  Maybe those seemingly good turns of events, those goals and dreams I aspire to and long for, could end up being more than I could currently handle if I took them on now.  Maybe my goals and dreams are perfectly valid and right, but the timing isn't.  At least not yet.

Spring is coming.  I'm convinced of this, and I'd be foolish to let another minor setback like this late March snowfall shake that conviction.  In the same way, when life seems to be stalling or holding me back from good things, I can stand my ground and wait, growing and maturing in the process so I'll be ready when the right time comes. 

Even if we can't see it, spring is still coming.  Its temporary delay might be exactly what we need.

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Pinch the Sleeve First

Earlier this week, on the third day of spring, my youngest daughter (a child who balked at wearing anything but short sleeves all frigid winter long) said, "I don't think long sleeves are that bad anymore."

The child finally yields.  It's never too late.

Just yesterday I watched as she tried to pull a winter jacket over her long sleeved dress.  The sleeves of the dress kept riding up.  No matter how she struggled underneath the jacket, she simply couldn't tug the ends of the dress' sleeves down to her wrists.  Frustration mounted in that desperate I-knew-long-sleeves-wouldn't-be-worth-it way, leaving her in tears.

I sat on the linoleum beside her as she sniffed.  "Let me show you something."

She wiped her nose and looked at me.  I showed her how to pinch her sleeve with her thumb and index finger, hold the pinch tightly while slipping her arm into the jacket, and then release the pinched fabric when her hand emerged. 

She practiced with her other arm, talking herself through the steps, until her jacket was on and -- most importantly -- her dress sleeves were perfectly un-bunched underneath.

A small victory, really, but last night I went to bed with the satisfaction that I had taught her something valuable.

If only it would always be this easy to help them with their problems.

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Carry On, Weary One. Carry On.

Last night I tossed in bed well past a respectable time to fall asleep, unable to quiet my darting thoughts.  Those same thoughts replayed the moment I woke this morning, lodging themselves into my early morning consciousness.  Later in the afternoon when I squeezed in a run before dinner, it hits me that I'm weary.  Runs normally invigorate me, body and soul, but with each step I felt increasingly worn out.

As I ran, my eyes were drawn upward to a mountain ridge ahead.  That's when new words cut through the weighty soundtrack of my cares and concerns.  I lift up my eyes to the hills; where does my help come from?  My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.

The strength that I need daily -- the strength to parent, to teach, to maintain our home, to handle challenges and disruptions and disappointments, to live in a manner that's pleasing to God -- never was meant to originate from within me, as if I can just do more or try harder.

No, grace isn't like that.  Grace is a God who takes our weaknesses and junk -- our mistakes and doubts, our frailties and imperfections, our dysfunction and sin -- bears it on himself, and in turn, gives us his righteousness so we can stand before him confidently. 

It's a remarkable exchange.

I'm always turning my head to look for mountains, to lift my eyes to the hills, to remind myself that my help comes from the Lord, no matter my circumstances.

So, carry on, weary one.  Carry on.  Our help comes from the Lord.  When we measure a day according to our strength, we get it wrong.  It's not the degree of our strength that matters when we're upheld by God's.

Image compliments of Ian Turton.

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Spring Break Felt Like Summer

This is an obligatory picture of my sandy feet on a beach to show you that last week, after driving from Pennsylvania to Florida where my parents are snowbirding, my family reached our Spring Break destination.

At four years old, my youngest daughter struggled to grasp how we jumped from winter into summer when we haven't yet experienced spring.  And there's the magic: you can (and we did) experience a 70 degree temperature shift in two days.

We just had to drive south for a mere nineteen hours to achieve it.

Florida is a different world than Pennsylvania.  When my husband and I went out on our morning runs, I was on the lookout for alligators instead of black ice on the running path.  When my children played, they made forts by shoveling sand instead of shoveling snow.

We breathed the scents of salty ocean air and coconut sunscreen.  We saw actual grass.  We tasted fresh mango and remembered what sunshine feels like on exposed skin.

Regardless of the many differences between the two locations, I should note that even while in Florida, my family retains its characteristic inability to capture a picture with everyone looking at the camera, just like when we're in Pennsylvania.

Some things cannot be changed.

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Because Memories Might Be Even Better Than the Thing Itself

My most vivid childhood birthday memories involve Jiffy cake.  Every year my mom baked the same version: golden yellow cake with fudge frosting.  My brother and I would lick the frosting from the mixer beaters as my mom iced the cake and wrote Happy Birthday! in cursive with Cake Mate gel.  We'd store leftovers in a old metal cake box that had a picture of a bowl of fruit on its side.

As a child, Jiffy cake was a delicacy.  It tasted even better the next day when the frosting had slightly hardened.

Jiffy cake hasn't been the easiest product to find in grocery stores, but after several Jiffy-less years, I recently discovered the blue boxes on the lowest shelf in the baking aisle. 

The afternoon that I frosted the cake, my girls licked the beater mixers until they were clean.  As we ate, my husband remarked, not unkindly, that the cake's consistency reminded him of cornbread.  I had to admit that the frosting, which is formed by mixing powder with two tablespoons of boiling water, has a distinct, if subtle, grittiness.

After eating Jiffy cake as an adult, I'm pretty sure that my memory of it is better than the cake itself.  And that's okay. 

Jiffy cake tastes like childhood, and nobody can argue with that. 

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Glass Gems + Nail Polish = Kid-Friendly Refrigerator Magnets

If I were to chronicle this winter season in a journal, this would be today's brief and desperate entry: Day 75 of winter -- I forget what grass looks like.

We're worn thin with indoor activities.  My girls have colored, painted, Play-Dohed, puzzled, and board-gamed themselves into the ground.  Still, winter hasn't let up, and we need fresh activities to keep ourselves occupied during the long hours indoors.  If you're in a similar situation, let me share a craft that should occupy your kids for an hour or two.

First, buy a pack of mosaic glass gems at a craft store.

Second, sort through your old nail polishes.  Consider this a fabulous opportunity to purge any polish that's on the verge of clumping.

Third, lay down paper to protect your work surface and let your children paint the flat side of the gems.  Be creative with your approaches -- layer sparkly shades underneath opaque colors.  Use a Sharpie marker to draw designs before covering the gems with paint.

Finally, let your gems dry and then glue a magnet to the back.  (As you can see, we've made just a few recently.)

My children call them "dragon eyes."  I use them to hang copious amounts of kid artwork on our refrigerator because, as I've mentioned, this winter hasn't released us from its clutches yet.  These kids of mine have cranked out coloring pages like it's their job.

If you're feeling stuck inside, give these kid-friendly refrigerator magnets a shot.  Enjoy!

First time visiting Robin Kramer Writes? I'm so glad you're here. This blog is all about humor, faith, practical parenting, and daily life.  Plus, at least one reader (who isn't even related to me!) has insisted that it's wildly entertaining.  Go on, take a moment to visit my Popular Posts page or follow my Facebook page.  (Do it. Do it. You know you want to. All the cool kids are doing it.  This is subliminal message, of course.  You can tell because it's placed in parenthesis, like I'm whispering to your subconscious. But subtly, of course.)

Thanks for joining me!


Seasonal Contrast

Title: Seasonal Contrast

Subtitle: When desire and actuality collide.

It's Not So Urgent Anymore

I'm already dressed and ready to leave the house this morning when I notice a text message on my phone.  After an overnight ice storm, the university has issued a two-hour delay.  This isn't common.  Our local school system doles out delays and snow cancellations with frustrating  frequency, but the university is known for being hardcore.  It's like Wal-Mart.  It's always open.

But for two hours this morning, it's closed.  I email my two classes and propose a new schedule for the rest of the week.  Suddenly, all the morning's plans that had seemed important, like returning exams and moving ahead with the new assignments, don't seem as important.

I've already downgraded to yoga pants.  I have no intentions of facing icy sidewalks today.  It's a forced slow-down, and I'm accepting it.  That schedule in my head?  It's not so urgent anymore.
Image compliments of Seth Anderson (flick.com)

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On Running a Timed Mile for Purposes Other Than Gym Class

I'm relatively positive that every American, if they're not personally doing so, knows somebody in their 30's or 40's who is training for some sort of race.  Whether the distance ranges from a 5K to a full marathon, running seems to be a new version of the early-to-mid life crisis, just healthier.

Races are common.  Races are normal.

But at the start of each indoor track meet at the university where I teach, there's an opportunity for members of the local running club -- people who appear otherwise perfectly rational -- to run a timed mile.  This isn't exactly a race.  It's a track meet.  It's filled with college athletes in their university-sanctioned uniforms who resemble gazelles as they run casual warm-up laps at paces faster than some people can sprint.

A few weeks ago I joined this scene and put myself on the line quite literally.  Yes, as an almost 37-year-old mother of three, I stepped up to the starting line to run my first ever timed mile at a college track meet.

When you're poised at the starting line there's not much time to think before the gun sounds.  This is good because it doesn't allow you to question how you reached this strange place in life.  I  remember venturing a slight wave to my daughters as they sat on the front row of the bleachers, then steeling my gaze ahead as the race official called the runners to our marks.

In retrospect, there's not much time to think after the gun sounds, either, because you're too occupied trying not to die.

As soon as I started to run, I lost track of peripheral sights and sounds besides the stampeding pound of racers' feet on the track.  I only recall fragments, like noticing my acute thirst by the third of eight laps, as if I had instantaneously dehydrated.  I vaguely heard one of my daughters calling Go Mommy!  My last fully-formed thought was that I probably should have given more consideration as to how to pace myself.  I was met with more numbness than relief when I crossed the finish line.

It wasn't particularly pretty.  I didn't run exceptionally fast.  But here's the deal: I did it.  I ran at a track meet in an indoor Big 10 facility in front of my daughters.

I'm starting to realize that life is enriched by cobbling together these odd experiences -- these experiences that push me, that stretch me, that eventually make for a good story, no matter how they turn out.

When in doubt, run the race.

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