Overheard: An Unexpectedly Encouraging Confession

Yesterday as I walked across campus between my classrooms, I overheard a brief fragment of conversation between two students.  I knew nothing about the context; I simply caught this:
I'm so far behind, I haven't even started.  I am the most behind person.  I'm more behind than anyone else.
And then they were gone, past earshot, as other students streamed past.

I still don't know the context.  Was this student behind on a project?  Had she not started a draft for a paper?  Had she procrastinated studying for an exam?  I have no idea.

But I do know this:

As I continued to my office, mulling over how I should have more items crossed off my to-do list, I relaxed a little.  I wasn't as behind as I might think.  Because that person I just passed?  She was more behind than anyone else, including me.


Robin Kramer speaks, too.

I'm just going to do it.  I'm going to come out and say it.  I'm going to put myself out there, right after I finish this unnecessarily long series of opening sentences which repeat the same thing.  Here goes:

Since you're reading this blog and have noted its fitting "Robin Kramer Writes" title, you know that I write.  But did you know that I speak, too?  By "speak," I don't simply mean that I let words come out of my mouth when I'm casually conversing with other people.  Rather, I mean that I periodically get the opportunity to let words come out of mouth when I have a microphone and there are people in an actual audience who listen to those words and sometimes even take notes.

It always amazes me.

Over the past few months there's been a slight uptick in the number of speaking opportunities I've had, in fact.  Quite recently, I've spoken at a MOPS group, back-to-back mid-week services at my church, and a weekend women's conference.

I like to speak and, most days, I'm very good at it.  I say "most days" because, as I've discussed with my husband who also speaks regularly, you can't always be perfectly "on."  And sometime circumstances play a factor, like when a sick family member discovers your speaking notes -- notes that had been written quite carefully on the back of Chick-fil-a napkins, mind you -- and then uses those speaking notes as a Kleenex the day before your talk.  (But I'm talking hypothetically, of course. That never actually would happen in my household.)

More pointedly, beyond my personal enjoyment of speaking, I believe that God is nudging me to step into this ability and do more of it.  As a teaching professor of public speaking and rhetoric, my professional life revolves around messages.  This is what I do.  I acknowledge that this ability to teach and help others learn and live successfully is not just my vocation, but also part of my calling with ministry.

So, this is the point where I subtly advertise my services and share this link to my speaking page so you can browse several topics I've covered in the past and read a few testimonials from conference attendees who say extremely nice things, yet are not at all related to me.

Nice things like:
"Robin is excellent.  She shares in such an understandable and relatable way that lets you absorb and apply exactly what she's teaching."
 And other nice things like:
 "I love Robin's humor and transparency!  Each time I hear her speak, I leave feeling encouraged and refreshed."

Robin Kramer writes and speaks.  I can't help it, people: words pour forth from me.  So if you, your church, your women's ministry, or your organization ever has an event where you're looking for a speaker, I'd love for you to contact me.

And if you'd like to listen to a sample message, I uploaded the talk from an Inspiring Women conference I spoke at several years ago.  Enjoy!


Short and Sweet: Fill the Gaps

A lesson on community, in 100 or fewer words:

One evening last week, I received an email asking if anyone could cover classes for a colleague whose son had an accident.  Since I had no obligations during one slot, I immediately replied yes.  Others did the same.  Within no time, her classes were covered.

The next day, a neighbor called with news of her father's failing health.  She'd need to travel abroad to visit him, and we arranged what days I'd watch her daughter during her trip.

Because this is what community does. It finds one aspect of a hard situation and makes it better.  It fills the gaps.


Parenting Survival Guide: We Will Do Better Tomorrow

If there ever was a day to be glad that my family isn't the subject of an ongoing documentary that requires cameras to capture the nuances of our day-to-day interactions, it was yesterday.  (And about a five minute segment this morning, but that's neither here nor there.)

Yesterday did not reflect our finer moments.  Not for my children, who couldn't quite get it together in the manners, common courtesy, respect, and keeping things in perspective categories.  And not for me, who failed to perform in the effective discipline, not-blowing-a-gasket, and avoiding catastrophic lines of reasoning categories.

In other words, we were quite excellent together, if you define excellence as letting every minor annoyance simmer and then explode into intense emotional outbursts.  We had tears and/or near-hyperventilation about our lunch menu, our dinner menu, the lack of a dessert menu, television limits, cell phone limits, a game of Parcheesi, and the fact that an annoying sibling had the audacity to be EXISTING AND SITTING ON THE OPPOSITE COUCH IN THE SAME ROOM as the annoyed sibling.

Gold stars, all around.

While I wish I could tell you that before our heads hit our pillows, we each experienced an epiphany where we saw the errors in our ways, humbly apologized to one another, turned the other cheek, and deferred our preferences for the greater good of the family unit, that's not the case.  Most of us went to bed cranky and peeved.

In fact, bedtime went something like this:

Husband: "The girls are in their rooms.  They're ready for you to say goodnight."

Me (lying in bed underneath my quilt with a magazine and a piece of chocolate, pretending that the world outside doesn't exist, and exhaling a labored and dramatic sigh.)  "Do I have to?"


Me:  "Okay, okay..."  (shuffle down hallway reluctantly)  "Goodnight."

Offspring:  "Night."

Me (shuffle back to my bedroom): "There. Done."

Needless to say, familial warmth was not entirely palpable.

When my head hit the pillow for real, after the magazine was skimmed, the chocolate was eaten, my teeth were brushed, and the lights were turned off, I admitted that this isn't how I want our home to be.  Home is not a place to lace up your gloves and fight; it's a place to let down your guard.  It's a place where we -- kids and parents alike -- should overlook offenses, and daresay, care about others enough that we try to minimize offenses before they even start.

And that wasn't the case yesterday.  Yesterday was a flop.

But one of my last conscious thoughts before drifting to sleep was that we'll do better tomorrow.

We'll do better tomorrow.  Even with the ugliness of today, we still care enough to want to improve and move forward.  Even with the crummy attitudes and comments, we still want to get it right.  Even with the apathy of the evening, we still believe that these relationships matter profoundly.

One bad day doesn't ruin it all.  Tomorrow is coming.  We will fight for our family, and that's more powerful than those bad patches when we fight against them just because they've annoyed us by sitting on the adjacent couch.

We'll do better tomorrow.

Photo by dylan nolte on Unsplash

When the Season Is Not Cooperating

Friends, it's been hot lately.  Uncomfortably hot.  Hot enough that your strength feels sapped, hot enough that you don't want to linger outside too long, and hot enough that our town's non-air-conditioned elementary schools have bussed the children to nearby air-conditioned middle schools for the past several days so teachers can hold classes more comfortably.

Even more than the heat itself, its placement seems wrong.  It's September, which is when the air should be taking on a hint of crispness.  It shouldn't be in the 90's.  I've mentally moved past summer temperatures, wardrobes, and activities.  I'm ready for a tee shirt, a pair of broken-in jeans, and a cute pair of boots.  I'm ready for football weather.

Clearly, the season is not cooperating.  One Facebook friend said it aptly:
"It is too hot.  I can't even, because it is TOO HOT.  All things rescheduled until it isn't today anymore."
Sometimes this is what you do.  You raise the white flag.  You accept that this day and its heat and humidity is no longer working, and you're no longer functioning.  You give yourself permission to flop around languidly.  You don't cook a large dinner; nobody's that hungry, anyway.  You permit yourself to reschedule things until it isn't today anymore.

And then you wait, knowing the weather will break.  It always does.


"I wish there was a way to know you're in the good old days before you've actually left them."

"I wish there was a way to know you're in the good old days before you've actually left them."
- Andy Bernard, played by Ed Helms, in The Office

This past summer, I confronted the swift passage of time in two distinct locations: the pool and the library.  When my girls (now ages 13, 10, and 8) went swimming, I took a look -- a good look -- at the parents who waded with their toddlers in the shallow kiddie splash zone.  I don't recall all specifics from those summers of yesteryear with my own kids, but I do recall leaving the pool exhausted.  The required level of supervision was intense.

At the library children's section, I had a similar experience when I regarded the frenzy surrounding the train table.  I had spent hours at that train table when my girls were young.  It had been a lifeline, a much-needed change of scenery when the monotony within the walls of my house felt oppressive.  Two mothers, one correcting and one comforting, rushed to intervene when one toddler smacked another on the head with a wooden train.  Other parents lugged diaper bags and sippy cups like they were sherpas, weaving their strollers through the narrow racks.

Now, when we go to the library, my girls select a few YA titles and curl up in a bean bag chair to quietly read, and when we go to the pool I spray them with sunscreen, send them on their way, and then sit down on a lounge chair with my own book.

Parenting is so different!  It's much less physical and hawk-eyed in its supervision.  It's much more conversational and intentional in its discussions.

It's still great.  It's still sometimes exhausting.  And it's flying by.

I like to think that my kids are still young.  And they are.  Sort of.  But they're also kind of not.

Even more, I like to think that I'm still young.  And I am.  Sort of.  But I'm also kind of not.  I mean, I'm 40, so theoretically I'm old enough for the college students I teach to be my children.  Also, my ophthalmologist told me that I'm headed toward transitional lenses in the near future.  And I came quite close to buying a pair of sensible loafers the other week, so there's that.

All of this -- from the distinct differences between little kids at the pool and library and my own, to the threat of transitional lenses -- tells me one thing: I'm reaching the "decidedly middle aged" demographic.

I'm cool with this.  There's good in every stage of life, and for the most part I've enjoyed it all.  (With the exception of middle school.  Middle school is just one extended awkward moment.)

Our youth pastor shared a message this summer, urging us to make the most of our time.  He reminded us that life is like a mist that appears for a little while and vanishes (James 4:14), or like a breath and fleeting shadow (Psalm 144:4).  A mist.  A breath.  A fleeting shadow.  Regardless of the metaphor, the sentiment resounds.  These lives of ours?  They move quickly.  I see this now.  I see it at the library, at the pool, and in the mirror.

So I'm going to take a note from The Office.  I'm not going to miss acknowledging the "good old days" when I'm actually living them.  And I'm going to take a note from Psalms.  I'm going to accept that my days are like a mist and live them intentionally. 

One day, years from now, if I stumble upon this blog post while wearing my transitional lenses and sensible loafers, I'll smile and nod and my past self's wisdom.  "Yes," I imagine my future self saying, "Those were good days then.  It was good to enjoy them.  Forty!  You were still a puppy.  But these are good days, too. Very good days."

Because, past, present, or future, God's in these days.  All of them.

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