No Matter What, We Show Up

Yesterday my daughters' school hosted a Halloween parade.  In single file, the costumed students marched three loops around the playground before their teachers filed them back into their classrooms for an afternoon party and sent them home for the weekend, high on sugar and life.

I was impressed, but it wasn't with the costumes.  It was the fact that so many parents had come.  Some of us had taken time off from work.  Others had rearranged their daily schedule and nap times with younger toddlers and babies.  In the middle of a Friday afternoon when other responsibilities called for our attention, parents showed up.  In droves, we showed up.

I'm still not certain why this struck such a nerve yesterday, but it did.  It still does today.  These parents, my husband and I among them, are far from perfect.  In the past week alone, it probably would be hard to count how many times we've collectively been impatient with our kids, or too permissive, or too strict, or too distracted, or what have you.

But yesterday afternoon, despite it all, we showed up.  We smiled and waved each time our children circled around the playground, taking pictures and offering high fives and giving compliments.

No matter what, we show up.  It's what parents do.

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Bringing the Inside Outside

Last week my husband surprised me with a new piece of patio furniture that he found on end-of-season clearance: an outdoor couch.

Can I tell you that I already love everything about this?  In these final days of October warmth, I've made it my go-to location for reading student papers, which is a nice reprieve from the kitchen table or the desk in my campus office.  It's become the place where Joel and I steal minutes before dinner to catch up on our days before he heads back to campus for the evening. 

It also invites an afternoon nap, don't you think?  I'm waiting to make this reality one day when nothing else demands my attention (whenever that day might come).

It's amazing how something so simple -- a couch placed in a location where a couch typically isn't found -- can bring such pleasure. 

Inside has moved outside, and it's good.

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Sipped and Savored

Sometimes I become disoriented in terms of time -- not just misjudging the hour of day, but also miscalculating how I'm situated within a given month.   I'm shocked by the fact that we've reached the middle of October.  The middle of October!  How has this happened?

In my mind, fall has just begun and the semester has barely started.  In reality, however, leaves already have turned colors and the semester, rather than being in its infancy, is wrapping up its eighth week of classes.  (This faulty internal clock also likely explains why, despite spending 37 years on this planet, I feel like I'm in my 20's and assume that the 90's were just ten years ago.)

But back to October.  I love fall so dearly, yet each year I find myself propelled through the season rather than sipping and savoring its delights as much as I'd like.  For example, while I'd love to spend my time gallivanting through the golden-leafed, blue-skied splendor of a perfect October Saturday afternoon, I'm often curled up at my kitchen table grading a stack of essays or speeches, periodically glancing out the window.

Each year I grapple with this paradox of fall:  It is the best of times.  It is the worst of times.

Each year I relearn how to come to grips with this tension, to learn to live happily within it, and most often, this happens when I get outside -- even if for the slightest diversion, even if I need to go out of my way to create that diversion.  Because, really, how can your soul not be strengthened when you periodically surround yourself views like these?

Some of my best times in the past month have been the simplest outdoor moments: cutting the grass and watching the lawnmower chew the fallen leaves in my path, turning over our garden and smelling the earthy aroma of soil and tomatoes that never quite ripened, trimming back our bushes for the upcoming winter and noticing the crisp air.

Even today when my indoor life threatened to overwhelm -- barrages of emails, another two stacks of assignments collected -- I stumbled upon an unlikely diversion: my annual flu shot.  It forced me to walk off my beaten path across campus where I found this bench.  It beckoned me to sit.

So I did.  Just for a moment, I stopped my hustle to sit on the bench and watch a few errant leaves float their way to the ground.  Life felt a bit easier.  The inbox and the ungraded essays and the newly-submitted assignments lost their power to dictate how I was viewing my day.

This is why I'm writing this post now.  When I grow busy with teaching and parenting and daily demands, I can lose touch with the activities that bring me the most clarity and pleasure, one of which is writing.  I've had so many things I've wanted to write about lately, but haven't.  It felt irresponsible to blog when so much else needed to be done.

But, when I look at it from a different angle, perhaps it's irresponsible not to write.  Perhaps it's irresponsible to squander moments of fulfillment in exchange for perpetual productivity.

Maybe the month of October is meant to relearn this lesson: life is best when sipped and savored.

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Door Handles to a Campus Building

Title: Door Handles to a Campus Building

Subtitle: Just enough disparity to rile the OCD tendencies in us all.

A Mighty Winner!

Thanks to everyone who participated in the recent Might Mug give-away courtesy of Robin Kramer Writes.  We have a winner!  CONGRATULATIONS to Hali Jiang. A $30 gift card to order your own Mighty Mug is on its way!

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Ushering in October

While eating breakfast this morning before the rest of my family woke, I heard an intense rushing, swooping, and pulsating sound from outside.  I lowered my spoon in my cereal bowl and moved toward our sliding glass door.

The sound's origin finally dawned on me as I lifted my gaze upward.  It was birds.  Thousands of birds were flying over our house, streaming ahead in synchronization.

Spellbound by the sight, I watched and wondered when the last birds would pass in this mighty swoop.  For over a minute, they came and came and came -- darting, rushing, filling they sky, and reminding me of Alfred Hitchcock or The Lord of the Rings scene when swarms of birds spied on the fellowship from their aerial view.

Somehow it seemed as if the birds were ushering in the month of October, and with it, the first real taste of fall.  As I walked across campus throughout the day, notably crisp air invited me to bury my hands deeply into my pockets and turn up my collar against the chill.

Welcome, October.  You've officially swooped into our lives.

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