Please Use the Grass Pathway

Well, isn't this a most delightful request?

Don't mind if I do.

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Four Good Things: Unexpectedness, Honey, Pick Ups, Endings

Not heeding the draining power of 80 degree heat, yesterday I decided to make up the long training run that I had skipped over the weekend.  It began inauspiciously when I tripped and fell on gravel a third of a mile into the run, and it ended badly 10 miles later when, parched and exhausted, I reached my car and realized that my keys were locked inside, taunting me.

Come to think of it, that entire middle section of the run was pretty rough, too.

Some days, your success isn't that you ran well, but that you ran, period.  Yesterday was such a day.  Even so, I can often find something good about a run, even if that something is "it ended."  Yesterday, I found four good "somethings."

First, I came across this fireplace and chimney built into a rocky hill.  There's no rhyme or reason for it, which made it curiously unexpected.  Who built a fireplace along a path?  Why?  What an odd mystery.  I love odd mysteries!

Second, I turned onto an entirely new route, ran past a small farm, and discovered a local honey kiosk on the side of the road.  It's rare to come across a drop-your-money-here "self serve" setup, and it made me feel remarkably pleased with my little community.

Third, my cell phone battery lasted long enough for me to call my husband at the end of my run and tell him about my I-just-ran-10-miles-and-now-I'm-stuck-in-a-paking-lot predicament.  Fifteen minutes later, like a knight in a semi-shining Camry, he pulled up, unlocked the car door, and handed me a cold Gatorade.  (He's thoughtful like that.)

And that fourth good thing about yesterday's run?  It ended.


The One Folder Everyone Should Keep

At the end of the semester when all parties, students and professors alike, feel overburdened, I find myself advancing through each day like a doctor in triage.  I constantly assess my to-do list, judging what surely will die if I don't attend to it immediately and hoping that everything else survives in the meantime.  (There are always a few casualties.  Right now my sleep schedule, for example, could use resuscitation.  Paddles!  Bring me the paddles!  Stat!)

It's frenetic and weary, which is a horrible combination, like being asked to sprint through sludge.  You know that you should be progressing at a good clip, but you can't make your legs move at the right speed.

Yesterday, in the midst of this tiredness, I opened an email from a student in one of my public speaking classes.

I want to thank you so much for taking the extra mile for your students.   I held off taking this class for 7 semesters, and I have to say that having you as the professor was worth the wait.  Thanks for making this class as painless as possible for someone who hates public speaking, and even more, for making it enjoyable.  I had a rough semester but no matter how bad of a day I was having, starting my Tuesday and Thursday mornings with your welcoming aura really helped, and I truly appreciate it. 

Every time I receive a message like this from a student, whether a handwritten card or an email, I file it into a folder labeled ENCOURAGEMENT.  These are important folders.

When I scroll through the notes that I've compiled over the years, some names are familiar.  Others no longer are.  But the words are life-giving.  They serve as reminders to keep moving, to keep putting one foot in front of the other, to keep pouring out and building up and standing firm and offering the most consistent, fair, thoughtful instruction and evaluation that I can muster.

Everyone should keep an encouragement folder.

And I'm convinced that everyone, when possible, should contribute to someone else's encouragement folder.  You never know when you brief gesture of encouragement will be the words that keep someone afloat.

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This To-Do List Starts Off Innocently Enough....

I found a to-do list written by seven-year-old sitting on our kitchen counter.  You need to read it.   Seriously, take it all in, every glorious and spelling-mistake-riddled line, starting with innocent goal of opening a lemonade stand with cookies after the highly practical concession of getting "supplies."

It's official.  From this day forward, I will never end another to-do list with anything less than "take over the world."

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Let's Chat: It's April. It's snowing. And other ongoing life events.

I woke up this morning to a blanket of snow covering our lawn, which, while surprisingly beautiful, was certainly not something I wished to see in the second week of April.  It makes me want to curl up on the couch with a mug of hot tea, though, which invites me to envision you, dear reader, sitting beside me for a chat.   Of course, our chat would unfold systematically in bullet-pointed categories.  (Obviously!)

Essays.  Last Wednesday I collected final essays of the semester, and I set a goal to grade five of them that very day.  Remarkably, I reached that goal.  To put this in better context, this is 5 more essays than I normally grade on the day that I collect essays.  (I typically spend the day crying softly to myself.)

Even better, like a boss I've maintained that goal of grading 5 per day since then.  Just 22 more to go...

No Shortage of Confidence in the Kramer Household.  Sometimes during dinner we play Would You Rather?  Recently I posed this prompt: "Would you rather be able to sing remarkably well or be ridiculously smart?"  My one daughter's answer was quick: "I'd rather sing remarkably well. I'm already ridiculously smart."

A Fresh Coat of Paint.  Because not enough was going on (see "essays" above), I decided that it was time to paint my daughters' bedroom this weekend.  Last night I tackled the first coat, this morning I painted the second, and just fifteen minutes ago I pulled the painter's tape off the trim and basked in the results.  The room is a mature and soothing gray-blue hue called Silver Blue Pearl.  When my daughters' balked at its grayness, I simply renamed the color Unicorn Mist.  They've been on board ever since.

Oh, the power of a name.

Is Sherwin Williams Hiring?  Come to think of it, I really would like to be the person responsible for naming paint colors, until we get to the beige section, of course.  That would grow tedious, and I'd probably end up getting snarky: Beige.  Slightly Less-Beigey-Beige.  Brown Paper Bag Beige.  Manila Envelope Beige.  Muted Meh Beige.  The Beige that Looks Like All the Other Beiges.

Refill?  Dear reader, Is your tea nearly finished?  Would you like a refill?  Is it snowing where you live, too?  There are so many questions I could ask!  I hope your weekend is unfolding in the best possible way.  Until next time, thanks for chatting with me!

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Indecisive? This Tip Will Help.

In a moment of desperation, yesterday evening I texted a friend who's a professor at another university.  My message: "Well, it's 6:45 and I've graded 0 minutes today.  Fail."

Moments later she wrote back, "Also 0 minutes.  Aaaaahhhhhhh!"

In my defense, I changed the sheets on all the beds in our house, which has to count for at least one check in the day's productivity column.  In her defense, she cleaned her sink of dirty dishes and watched three episodes of Downton Abbey on Netflicks.

Sometimes a human simply cannot function beyond this on a Sunday.

As we fired texts back and forth debating the cost-benefit analysis of starting to work versus throwing in the towel for the remainder of the night, she sent this gem of a text:

"I should decide one way or the other and live freely in that decision rather than sit in this purgatory I'm in now."

That simple one-liner stopped me in my tracks because it offered something that had eluded me: the permission to make a firm decision.  I could choose to work.  I could choose to not work.  I didn't have to hover in that painful middle realm where I continually thought about grading without actually grading, which doubly fails because I neither make progress on work nor gain rest from it.

Decide one way or the other.  Live freely in that decision.

That might be the best advice for getting unstuck that I've ever received.

As for her suggestion that I, too, should start watching Downton Abbey?  Well, that might be the best advice for how I can get stuck more often in the first place.

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When You're Looking for an Adult... and Realize that It's You

Friends, multiple times this past week I looked for the adult in the room -- you know, sweeping the premises to find the person in charge who could take care of things -- and realized that it was me.

It's always a terribly sobering realization. 

It reminds me of an incident years ago when we hosted a recent college graduate for a few days at our house.  She had a headache one evening and turned into bed early before my children were tucked in for the night.  The next day, she shared an epiphany, "You know, I just realized something.  When you're a parent, you can't just go to bed if you're not feeling well."

I nodded, holding back a smile, as she continued, "I mean, even if you're sick, you still have your kids.  They're still there."

It was like watching her head explode.  In the best possible way, of course.

At any rate, this week I've felt like this young woman: mystified that I, as an adult, must shoulder legitimate responsibilities even when I'm feeling unwell and weary.  This week I haven't wanted suck it up and forge ahead; I've wanted to cover up with a blanket, take a nap, and binge-watch television while eating ungodly quantities of comfort food.

To be really honest, I still feel this way today.  When I look at my adult to-do list, I want to throw in the towel.  Raise a flag of surrender.  Cry uncle.

But perhaps this is beneficial.  This feeling of being overwhelmed, awful as it is, causes me to look for the adult in the room, to search for someone more equipped who can carry me though.  When I don't feel disciplined or even competent, I can't draw from my own merit.  The day has more demands than I have strength.

That's okay to accept.  It draws me to scriptures like this: "Come to me, you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest."

What a mysterious contradiction it seems to be: Remembering that I'm a child of God seems to be the key to being a capable and strong adult, especially on days like today when I feel so very far from adulthood.

Image adapted from Mats Lindh.

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