Blog Pause Day 4: The Lie That We Should Be Like the Other Girls

Blog Pause Day 4: This is it!  Today is the final day of 2016!  To wrap up the year, I'm sharing my absolute favorite post from the 2016 Robin Kramer archives, one that shares a message about self-worth, belonging, and purpose.  I hope you read it and enjoy.

As always, thank you for your readership this year!  See you in 2017!

The Lie That We Should Be Like the Other Girls | originally posted January 25, 2016

My seven-year-old buries her face into her pillow.  I sit beside her on the edge of her bed, unsure how to coax out what's troubling her.  When she finally opens up, her voice is pained.  "I'm not like the other girls.  I'm not popular like them.  I want to be more like them."

She's never talked this way before.  I listen quietly until all her words and tears are poured out, then I sit in silence.  In sadness.  This is my precious and wonderful girl, who, for some reason -- maybe a snub on the playground or a comment on the bus -- doesn't believe that she's enough, that she's right.  This is my girl who's clever and artistic, tenderhearted and compassionate, imaginative and kind.

This is the girl who once said, "I think it's time for me to start wearing clothes that match," and then, a mere two days later, dazzled the world in this outfit.

This is the seven-year-old girl who is delightful just the way she is.

My sadness fades, and in the depths of my heart, it's replaced with anger.  Something inside of me snaps -- some I-will-storm-heaven-on-this-child's-behalf gene that rises up in parents -- and, after composing myself a moment longer, I speak.

Child, that feeling that you'd be better off if you were someone else, not yourself?  That feeling that you don't measure up?  That you're not enough?  That others are somehow ahead of you?  Those feelings that seem so real in your heart and those thoughts that shout so loudly in your head?

(Keep reading here.)


Blog Pause Day 3: Indecision, Online Shopping, and the Election

Blog Pause Day 3:  Today's posts from the 2016 archives of Robin Kramer Writes might seem disjointed on the surface, but they all deal with the theme of decision making.  The first post shares the simplest (and wisest) advice I've ever heard about overcoming indecision.  Today's second post, which is one of my favorite humor pieces from the year, recounts why I never should be trusted with online shopping.  The day's final post touches on the election, the largest decision our country collectively made this year, and how we can move forward in light of disunity.

Enjoy, and thanks again for joining me here this year!

1) Indecisive? This Tip Will Help | originally posted April 4, 2016

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: (Keep reading here.)

2) Chronicles of an Indecisive Online Shopper | originally posted July 9, 2016

Once, while I was in the hospital, a nurse asked how severe my pain was on a scale of 1-10.  My brain nearly exploded.  I wasn't dying (at least, I didn't think I was), and I could probably tolerate more pain without dying (although I didn't want to), and I was coherent enough to understand what she was after (which indicates some presence of mind), but the question was enough to push me over the edge.

What if I answered too low and they offered to give me a measly Tylenol?  What if I answered too high and revealed a laughably low pain threshold?  What in the world did these numbers correlate with, anyway?  Was 4 even worthy of being in the hospital?  Would 10 indicate that I was actively being mauled by a bear?  Could I offer a fraction of a number, like 7 and 3/4 degrees of pain, because 7 just didn't seem to cut it, but ratings of 8 and above seemed like they should be reserved for childbirth or broken femurs?  Was it permissible to answer, "Stop pelting me with questions! Just help me!"

If, like me, your mind responds in this fashion when a nurse prompts you with a standard question, you're probably an over-thinker.  It's doubly troublesome if you're indecisive and waver in your response by answering the question with another question -- 6, no wait, maybe it's actually a 7?

I've noticed that the combination of over-thinking and indecision is particularly troubling when you're attempting to buy something, anything, online.   (Keep reading here.)

3) Heal the Land | originally posted November 13, 2016

Like millions of fellow Americans, I watched election results and listened to commentary until the early morning hours last Wednesday.  In the days that have followed, I've had many conversations with friends, family, neighbors, colleagues, and students.  I've read dozens of articles by authors with multiple perspectives.

Only one thing is remarkably clear: our country needs healing.

This weekend, my head hurt from thinking about all the things that are grossly wrong in America: the racism, the discord, the aggression, the pride, the unproductive methods of problem-solving, the inability to listen, the entitlement, the divisiveness.  Collectively, we're not doing too well.  (Keep reading here.)


Blog Pause Day 2: Feeding Ducks, More Did and Less Didn't, and One Folder We All Should Keep

Blog Pause Day 2: While looking over this year's blog entries, these three posts stood out.  The first entry, the "duck feeding" post, wouldn't have been possible without my youngest daughter's perfect expressions; I still think she -- and how the entire duck-feeding situation goes downhill -- is hilarious.  The second post shows a shift in perspective that we all could use -- namely, celebrating more of what we did accomplish, rather than beating ourselves up for what we didn't.  Today's final entry reminds me that an encouraging word can go a long way.

Enjoy, and thank you for visiting Robin Kramer Writes!

1) Child Feeding Ducks (a progression of reactions) | originally posted September 30, 2016

Stage One: Utter Delight.  Wow!  There are ducks!  And I have bread!  And ducks eat bread!  What a fortunate combination!  I can't believe that you took me to the duck park, Mom!

(Keep reading here.)

2) Don't Forget the DID in DIDN'T | originally posted February 8, 2016

Right now, I'm sitting at the desk in our office, nursing a headache and feeling slightly overwhelmed.  Though it's only Monday, I already feel behind.  The weekend catapulted me into the week without much warning.  I didn't get the house in order, I didn't make a significant dent in the papers I need to grade, and I didn't finish the two recommendation letters students asked me to write last week.

I could list a dozen more didn'ts -- things I didn't do, didn't finish, or in some cases, didn't even start.  I'm good at noticing the didn'ts.  (Keep reading here.)

3) The One Folder Everyone Should Keep | originally posted April 4, 2016

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.  (Keep reading here.)


Blog Pause Day 1: Good Neighbors, Good Teachers, Good Running

Blog Pause Day 1: I enjoy anticipating the pending New Year by first looking back over the past one.  For these final days of 2016, I'll select favorite posts from the past year and share a few each day, starting with these three about good neighbors, good teachers, and good running.  

Enjoy -- and thank you for joining me at Robin Kramer Writes this year!
1) On Having Good Neighbors | originally posted September 16, 2016

"The people next door play a substantial role in our lives.  Yet we seldom choose them."  - from the essay "Next Six Stories" by Robert Fulghum.  

I'm not sure if many people can claim the statement I'm about to make, although I wish everyone could.  I have good neighbors.  Exceptional ones, really.  (Keep reading here.) 

2) Dear Teachers of My Children | originally posted May 1, 2016

Dear Teachers of My Children,

This past week alone, I've seen evidence of the impact you make on the lives of my kids.  I see it when I open my inbox or their Friday folders (a task that always happens late on Sunday evenings... and certain Monday mornings) and read your weekly recaps.  I see the papers that are checked, the stickers that are awarded, and the notes that are written.

What I don't see, of course, is the hundreds of moments that comprise any given school day.  I can only imagine those.  I imagine an elementary classroom full of students all needing something from you at the exact same time, much like when my own children seem to conspire and simultaneously request for me to play a game, prepare a snack, read a book, help with a homework problem, glue something that's broken, find them a band-aid, and answer a mind-numbingly obscure question.

The difference is that I have three children.  You have a classroom full of them.  (Keep reading here.)

3) Lessons from Running  (13.1 of them) | originally posted March 16, 2016

On Saturday I ran my fifth half marathon, which is evidence that either a) this running hobby is genuinely sticking, or b) when signing up for new races, I have selective memory that glosses over the pain and effort involved.  (I'm not sure which.)  Still, over the years I've learned valuable lessons from running -- many of which are also applicable to general life -- that I'd like to share...  (Keep reading here.)


When You Know It's a Good Gift

I don't remember ever crying while receiving a gift before, but on Christmas morning I teared up when I ripped into the wrapping paper and saw a Magnolia Market box underneath.  I love Fixer Upper.  I joke about visiting Waco despite its extraordinary distance from where we live.  Still, I've never considered actually buying something from their shop online.

Cue my husband, Joel, who knows all of this about me.  He observes how I stop everything on Tuesday evenings to watch new episodes, how I admire Joanna's design, and despite all of this, how I'd never purchase anything for myself.

That's precisely why he did it for me.

When I opened that box, tears filled my eyes because I hadn't even known that I wanted a little touch of Magnolia Market, but somehow, Joel had.  That's the sign of a good gift.

This whole Christmas season, I've thought about the gifts in my life: my family, my dear friends, our church, our home, our health.  I've thought about God himself, the greatest treasure, the greatest prize, the fulfillment of my greatest needs.  When I was 15 I came to the realization that I needed Jesus, and during the 23 years since then, I daily come to the greater realization that I want him involved in every aspect of my life.

God's gift of Jesus, which we celebrate on Christmas, is the full package of grace, forgiveness, love, and wisdom.  I hadn't known that I wanted these things before I knew Jesus.  But when I received them -- when I experienced Jesus himself -- I learned that He was everything I wanted and needed and more.

And that, my friends, is the sign of the best gift: it's something more than you could ask or imagine.

My prayer is that you receive it, too, and that you experience how God's love for you is deep and wide, and beyond comprehension, and lavished despite your performance, and perfectly unrelenting.

Join me daily during these remaining days of 2016 as I share my favorite posts from the year.  Thank you for visiting and reading, as always!


Getting to a Place of Christmas Cheer

I learned something important yesterday: both Trader Joe's English Toffee and PBS's Downton Abbey are highly addictive, and when they're combined, it makes for a blissfully indulgent day.  Add into the mix that I'm feeling healthy after a week of sickness, my semester is successfully finished, and my children are in school for two more days before their break begins.  After fifteen weeks of hustle, this is perfect.  I'm getting to settle into Christmas before Christmas actually arrives.

(Necessary aside regarding Downton Abbey: I know I'm late to arrive at this party, but I finally heeded the recommendation of multiple friends and took the plunge by watching ten episodes in the span of three days.  There's no turning back.  I'm personally invested in the characters' lives.  The theme song is permanently seared into my brain.  It's so good.)

Yesterday as I tinkered and enjoyed the uncommon openness of the day, I realized that I'm happy.  Really happy.  I've spent time preparing my home by making some fun Christmas decorations, like this canvas with ornaments:

and these JOY letters painted white, accented with silver spray-painted snowflakes,

and then hung simply over our regular pictures with ribbon.

The Christmas cheer has seeped into my bones, and I think it's due, in large part, to the fact that I've finally slowed down.  Often, I regard rest as a luxury I can't afford or an indulgence I shouldn't take, but after two days of decompression, I remember that rest is necessary.  A frenetic Christmas, just like a frenetic life, isn't entirely enjoyable.

Yes, Trader Joe's toffee, and obnoxious quantities of a long-awaited TV show, and a few festive decorative touches are just right these days.  Just right for Christmas cheer, indeed.


Help and Hope While You're Healing

Earlier this week I submitted final grades for the four classes I teach.  It's been an excellent semester, yet the end is always coupled with exhaustion and, too often, an immune system collapse.  Somehow, blessedly, my body holds out for fifteen straight weeks during the semester as students cough on me and hand me papers while announcing that they have bronchitis, and pink eye, and might be coming down with mono. 

But then we reach finals week and, traditionally, my body says, "Enough.  You've done enough.  I'll be shutting down now."  This year has been no different.  For the past several days I've slumped around my house wearing sweats, wrapped in a blanket, carrying a box of Kleenex, evaluating final projects, and warily checking my email in case any students are distressed over final grades.

I'd much rather be healthy.  I'd much rather be preparing for Christmas or proactively working on my spring syllabi.  I'd much rather have clarity of mind and the ability to breathe through my nose.

But, in another way, my current state is also perfect to write about what I want to share today, which is a book written by Christine Carter, my online friend, called Help and Hope While You're Healing.

Although I've never met Christine in person, we connected several years ago through blogging.  I've always been struck by how her writing, whether a personal email message or a comment on Facebook, exudes enthusiasm and encouragement.  Simply put, Christine Carter is someone you want in your corner, and her book, Help and Hope While You're Healing, is specifically written to be in your corner when you're going through the hardest of times.

While I wish this weren't the case, Christine was able to write this book with such credibility because her own health resume is marked with multiple challenges, among them a lumpectomy of a parotid tumor, a double mastectomy, and multiple painful foot and ankle surgeries.  In spite of it all, Chris retains her larger-than-life humor and positive outlook.

As a person who's muttered a bit about my bad cold this week (and, if I'm being entirely forthright, on more than one past occasion, I've been convinced that I was dying while in the throes of the stomach flu, that Jesus was seriously coming for me), I've been intrigued with Christine's graceful way of coping with circumstances that aren't graceful at all, circumstances that could bring out the worst, not the best, in someone.

And that's what Help and Hope While You're Healing does.  In its brief format with personal examples and practical strategies, this book offers perhaps the biggest encouragement that anyone who's suffering most needs to cling to: you're going to get through this.  She writes, "Some things need to be broken, opened, and taken apart to let light in."

If you know any woman who feel like their health has been broken, opened, and taken apart (or if this speaks to your own circumstances), I hope you'll consider having Christine's words shine some light and hope into that void.

Check out Christine's book on Amazon or visit her blog The Mom Cafe.  Above all, be well!

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