Identity Crisis Solved

With the goal of reaching a broader audience with my writing, this weekend I submitted an article to a large website.  Part of the application process required that I include a brief bio (merely 2-4 sentences) that the site could distribute if my post gets published.

People, I labored over those sentences.

How should I present myself?  I only had a few lines to establish my identity and capture the essence of who I am.  I acknowledged my professional life by noting that I was a teaching professor.  I indicated that I was a wife and mother.  I added that I was a DIY enthusiast who's yet to be discovered by HGTV.

All of this is true, but it only scratches the surface.

Next, upon request, I provided links to my blog's social media accounts.  Facebook, the tried-and-true social media platform for older generations, makes sense to me, so I linked to my blog's Facebook page without pause.  Then I added my Twitter account even though I'm the worst tweeter, an irony which belies my namesake because a person named Robin should be able to tweet confidently.  But I'm not confident on Twitter.  I don't think as quickly as Twitter moves.  I habitually forget to share my blog posts there, and I've never mastered the strategic use of hashtags.

#twitterfailure. #thisrobindoesnottweet. #twitterisbeyondme. #help.  

That led to sharing my Instagram, where, under the guidance of my 13-year-old, I created an account months ago, then did nothing else.  Nothing else.  Not one picture has been posted.  Even worse, I couldn't recall my password, which led to another entry on my week's to-do list: "Figure out Instagram."

With each separate platform, I painstakingly mulled over how I should represent myself.  If I strive to reach DIY-loving audiences on some platforms, how does that blend with the parenting theme that permeates many of my blog posts?  What aspect should I emphasize where?  And when can I mention that I'm funny, because, for the love!, with the exception of the unfolding identity crisis that manifested itself during this "submit-a-brief-bio" adventure, I'm a humorist at heart.

(Yep, that clears it up tidily: I am a Christian faith-based wanna-be comedian who primarily blogs about daily life, including parenting, but I really enjoy spray painting things, yet occupationally, I am a professor.  In other words, I'm about as focused as a dog with a chew toy who gets distracted by a squirrel.)

So there I sat, slightly hyperventilating, my fingers tensely poised above the keyboard.  If a 2-4 sentence biography wildly limits how you capture your identity, then the converse is apparent with social media where the possibilities of how to frame your persona are endless.

Therein lies the rub: I'm a person who loves to write, yet I do so across broad themes where humor, faith, and daily life intersect, rather than having a highly-tailored niche.  Plus, I grapple with finite time and limited online capacity because I raise three kids, work a full-time job, have problems remembering my passwords, and suffer from #twitterineptitude, so the idea of establishing a thriving social media presence to promote my blog seems daunting at best, suffocating at worse.

Whose bright idea was it to reach a broader audience with her writing, anyway? 

And that's where I was stuck -- wondering whether I should become a hermit, pondering if it's worth pursuing growth as a blogger, overthinking dramatically -- when I arrived at church yesterday morning.  That's when we sang these lyrics:
Who the Son sets free,
Oh, is free indeed.
I'm a child of God,
Yes I am.

I am chosen, not forsaken.
I am who You say I am.
You are for me, not against me.
I am who You say I am.
I am who You say I am.

These lyrics resonated with every fiber of my being.  Even when writing just a brief bio, I could spend all the time in the world thinking about how to present myself.  I could look inward to my personal traits and characteristics, growing myopic with the self-analysis, or I could look outward to analyze all possible potential audiences and connections online, growing paralyzed with the unending scope.

But clarity comes when I look upward.  What really matters is who God says I am.

And God would say that I'm deeply loved, forgiven, chosen, and favored.  He knows about my teaching and my roles as a wife and mother.  He understand my desire to spray paint anything that doesn't move, and He grasps that a favorite compliment is when someone tells me that I'm funny.  He understands the intricacies of my thoughts and heart better than I understand them myself.  He even follows my blog.

So, in 2-4 sentences, who am I? 

I'm a child of God.  I am who He says I am.


Be Happy that I Didn't Pursue a Career in Medicine

Now that I've popped a few Airborne today to ward off a mid-semester head cold, I should tell you why I would make a terrible nurse or doctor.

It's not just because of the blood, although I do prefer when people keep blood inside their bodies, rather than outside.  It's more about the necessary compassion.  Apparently I'm not good at offering compassionate responses when people physically suffer, like when two of my three children insisted that their throats hurt earlier this fall while getting ready for school.

Children (hoarsely whispering) "My throat hurts."

Me (looking at them):

Nothing.  I had nothing immediately compassionate to say.  No helpful, "Oh, you poor sweeties, let me make you cups of hot tea with honey," and no empathetic, "Sore throats are the worst!"  This doesn't mean that my mind was sluggish, though.  I already had entered overdrive with sundry thoughts about sore throats:

It is TOO EARLY in the school year for this to be happening.  What has it been?  Two weeks?  Immune systems can be compromised in just two weeks?  Wasn't it 90+ degrees outside just days ago?  What tomfoolery is this to come down with a cold now?

Have I recently shared any food with either of these children that will make their sore throats of today my sore throat of tomorrow?
What do you even do to treat a sore throat anyway, besides for riding it out?  Cough drops?  Do we have any cough drops?

They're not going to want go to school today, are they?

And since these thoughts take two or three seconds to fully process, my children must have assumed that I didn't hear their complaints the first time.

Them (hoarse whispers now coupled with pained expressions):  "It hurts. Real bad."

Then they pointed to their necks in case I didn't recall where their throats were located, or perhaps for emphasis.

Me (still looking at them, still calculating who I've most likely shared germs with, still deeply wanting them all to go to school for the day, still trying to muster up the most fitting parental response):  "Um, do you think you have a temperature?"

("Do you think you have a temperature?" is my automatic answer to every health complaint, except for open wounds, which prompt my second default reply: "Do you think you need a band-aid?")

It reminds me of a moment, many years ago, when my friend who studied pre-med at a southern university visited me at my northern university.  She browsed my bookshelves of literature textbooks and rhetoric tomes, then pulled a thick volume of Shakespeare off the shelf.  "I can't believe that you study this."  There wasn't a hint of irony in her tone, just observation, daresay even appreciation for a good liberal arts education.

I sat cross-legged on my dorm floor's five by seven area rug, flabbergasted and like, "But you study anatomy and physiology and organic chemistry!  You're figuring out all that foot-bone's-connected-to-leg-bone stuff, which is a tad more concrete than a metaphysical question about being or not being."

Alas, she probably has better responses for her children when they have sore throats, but maybe, just maybe, she also looks at her own kids when they approach her with an ailment and sometimes says, "Do you have a temperature?  No, well, just go grab a band-aid, okay?"

Image compliments of Pixabay.


There's No Time Like the Semi-Distant Future

"There's no time like the present."
 - first recorded appearance of adage in 1562

There are certain life task that I act upon quickly.  For example, if I'm on a road trip and stop to get gas, I use the restroom even if I don't really have to because I never know when I'll come across another bathroom.  On a more daily basis, it's ingrained in my core to make my bed. There's no waffling, no debating, and no procrastinating; I just make the bed every morning, without fail. 

Even more pointedly, if I see ice cream, I eat ice cream.  (How can you not apply the "there's-no-time like-the-present" adage when you're dealing with a food that literally will melt if it's not consumed in a timely fashion?)

But there's one type of task that always trips me up, one chore that always makes me want to twist the adage (which, when you're especially unmotivated, backfires as relentlessly perky in its proactive urging) and edit it to say, "There's no time like the semi-distant future."

And that task is sewing.  Sewing anything.  If there's a seam to mend, a hole to stitch, a pant leg to hem, or a monkey's arm to attach, I will be slow to do it.  (Ditto for adhering Girl Scout patches onto vests, which technically need to be ironed, not sewn, but it's close enough.)  I am a hesitant sewer.

But not today.  Because today I sewed not one, but two, items of clothing that needed to be mended.

And I feel like a rock star.

Photo by pina messina on Unsplash


Shouldering Adult Responsibility

Over the past two months, I noticed a problem with my right shoulder.  At first it was stiff.  I made minor modifications at the gym, like not fully extending my right arm during the 30 seconds of jumping jacks during warmup.  Then it was sore.  I made additional modifications, like lightening weight for overhead presses.  And then, despite these modifications and the passage of time (which I sincerely believed would solve this problem), the discomfort persisted.

Then, during some phase I can't precisely pinpoint, the discomfort turned a corner to outright pain with certain movements, even waking me several times each night.  (It hasn't reached the "actively being mauled by a bear" level of pain, but I'm progressing up the chart.)

I'm now unable to extend my arm overhead or reach behind me, which is troublesome.  When undressing, I shimmy my shirt down my body, then step out of it because I can't pull clothing over my head without getting locked in a fabric entanglement and calling for someone to pull me out.  (So far, this only has occurred in my closet with my husband as the rescuer.  I imagine it would be significantly more awkward, say, in a fitting room with a stranger.)

More puzzling, I don't know how I arrived at this gimpy state.  Did I injure myself while ziplining during my much-needed weekend getaway without knowing it?  Did exercise exacerbate these tweaked tendons?  Am I just getting old?

I don't know.

What I do know, though, is that I felt foolish for landing here.  I wanted my shoulder to get better on its own, maybe after a night of applying an ice pack or popping a few Advil.  I didn't want to hassle with actual treatment because I'm good at avoidance techniques.

But two things -- daresay, two people -- changed this for me.  One gentle and kind woman at the gym asked me what my plan was to remedy the injury.  After looking at her blankly for a moment, baffled that I never had thought of making a plan on my own, I said, "Well, I guess I need to make an appointment with a doctor, except that I don't have a PCP since mine retired last year."

She smiled and said, "That's a good start.  You definitely can do that."

Emboldened by her assurance in my capabilities as a functional adult who does things like find doctors and schedule appointments, I added, "I'll make this my goal for the month of October."

She said, "How about you make it your goal for this week?"

And you know what?  I did.  That very day I called my doctor's office and secured a new PCP.  Yesterday I went the appointment, got a diagnosis (tendonitis of the rotator cuff), and received a referral for a physical therapist.

Then, on a roll, I did the process once more: I gathered physical therapist recommendations, researched the online, made phone calls, and scheduled my first appointment for next week.

A man from the gym who provided a valuable PT recommendation learned that I had scheduled my initial evaluation.  He texted: "It's great you're taking action as your next step.  Well done!"

I think God placed these two people in my life to provide this nudge toward healing.  When I was in avoidance, the woman encouraged me to make an appointment sooner rather than later.  The man applauded and validated my efforts, making me feel as if I were wise, not weak, for doing so.

How wonderful.  Quite literally, it seems, they've helped me to shoulder this problem.


Let's Chat: It's Officially Fall

My dear readers, it's high time that we sat down and had one of our seasonal chats.  Let's pick a bench outside, admire the early stages of the changing leaves, and catch up.  Do you have a drink to sip?  Maybe a pumpkin spice latte?  Or a Diet Coke with ice?  Sweet tea?  Just some water?  If we were doing this in person, now would be the time for me to tell you that you're having a good hair day.

And since chats happily meander from topic to topic, we'll do the same.

The Weather.  The weather!  We recently endured a stretch of rain, and when I say "stretch of rain" I mean that it rained approximately seven times per day, nine days per week, for a small eternity.  The daily question was not if it would rain, but rather when it would rain.  Soccer practices were upended, grass grew yet was unable to be mowed, and the world appeared drab and gloomy.

But then the sun came out!  We emerged from the tunnel and experienced a few glorious fall days!  I'm grateful.

Turning a Calendar Page.  I'm not sure if this is normal, but I take inordinate pleasure when turning a calendar page.  The new page looks so fresh, so full of potential.  I also enjoy turning a page of my syllabus course schedule, and on a smaller scale, crossing off individual days on a calendar.  I don't know if this signifies productivity and healthy closure, or if it's become some strange and visible ritual where I scratch out my life.

Meal Planning.  You know those people who have a knack for introducing new meals into their dinner repertoire and always know what they'll eat when?  I'm not one of them.  My family eats, of course, but certain days in the kitchen are characterized by a frenetic, scavenging vibe, rather than advanced foresight.  But for the past two weeks I've been on a kick.  I've written a weekly menu on a post-it note, stuck to the plan, and then packed leftovers each day for lunch.

I am such an adult.

Cleaning My Inbox.  Earlier this week I devoted an hour to cleaning my work inbox, primarily digging through older folders of archived correspondences and resources.  With each click of the delete button, I felt lighter.  Clearly, this is the digital equivalent of cleaning out a closet.

When You Get a New Bag.  Late this summer, I bought two new bags: a professional backpack to carry on campus since the strap on my old work bag had ripped, and a navy Vera Bradley purse that I picked up at a garage sale for three dollars.  I hope I'm not alone in this, but whenever I transfer my belongings to a new bag (especially when I've used the prior one for years), I always experience a confusing period where I have no idea where items truly belong since I haven't yet found their best, most permanent place.  During this phase, I regularly can't find my keys, or my phone, or that chapstick that used to be so readily available, and I am a hot mess of disorganization.

But then it happens: the new bag finally starts to make sense and become second-nature.  I'm happy to tell you that I've reached that point.

The Garage Sale Season is Closing.  I love fall deeply -- the leaves, the cute layers and boots, the crisp air, the mums and pumpkins -- but the arrival of fall means that garage sales, one of my favorite spring and summer activities, is drawing to a close.  I had such a wonderful run of garage saling (yes, it's a verb) this summer.  (In fact, I'll be posting my favorite garage sale finds and corresponding DIY projects in the coming weeks.  Get ready!)

Hands down, the end of garage sale season is the saddest thing about summer ending for me.

The Five Stages of Post-College-Football-Loss Grief.  Oh man.  This past Saturday evening, my team (Penn State) experienced a heartbreaking final-minute loss against a Team Who Shall Not Be Named.  Since my husband serves as Penn State's team chaplain, I get to know many of the players well.

My reaction to the loss was textbook.  First, there was denial.  ("That did not just happen.  It's impossible that the game just ended like that.  There's been some mistake.")  Then came anger.  ("NO!  This is stupid!  Our guys played their hearts out!  Buckeyes, schmuckeyes.  Who names a kid Urban, anyway?")  Close on its heels was bartering.  ("If we could rewind time and call a different play, all of this would just go away.")  Then came the forth stage (depression) where I wallowed in post-game commentary on all forms of social media.  I finally reached the final stage (acceptance), directed my eyes to the next game, and consoled myself that there are still plenty of good bowl game prospects.

I love college football.  There's drama and movement each and every week.

There's Much More to Life than Football.  Praise God.  This is so very true.

And on that note, I'll end our fall chat with this parting quote by Robert Jones Burdette:

"There are two days in the week upon which and about which I never worry.  Two carefree days, kept sacredly free from fear and apprehension.  One of these days is Yesterday... And the other day I do not worry about is Tomorrow."

Yes, my dear readers, may your weather not be overly rainy, your meals be planned, your bags be organized to your exact specifications, your favorite team win (unless they're playing against my favorite team, in which case I hope they're crushed yet you find solace in your own five stages of grief), and of course, may your yesterdays and tomorrows be free from worry.

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