Simple Traditions: The Pie Crust Cookie

For as long as I can remember throughout my childhood, when my mom made a pie she'd roll extra dough onto a cookie sheet, sprinkle it with cinnamon and sugar, and pop it in the oven to make a delicious pie crust cookie. Decades later, I now do this for my own daughters. (It was our breakfast today, in fact. Rules about sensible eating are nonexistent on holidays.)

When my oldest daughter snagged a piece she asked, "Are these pie crust cookies a thing? I mean, do other people besides us make this?"

When I assumed we couldn't possibly be the only ones, she said, "Well, this is amazing. It should be a thing."

At any rate, it's our thing, and I imagine years down the road when my girls are adults, they'll roll out extra dough, dust on cinnamon and sugar, and serve their own children pie crust cookies for Thanksgiving breakfast, too.

Long life the simple traditions.

Wishing you and yours a very Happy Thanksgiving!


"I've Noticed My Life Is Better When..."

Every semester I reach a point where my job solely consists of grading things. Specifically, for the past two weeks there's been a daily influx of assignments, and the onslaught will continue until the end of this current week when we call a truce and blissfully break for Thanksgiving.

I think I'm primarily to blame for this situation because I'm the professor, but I digress.

Weeks of sustained grading is similar to riding a wave. Every morning I give myself a pep talk (or perhaps a warning) that I have to keep up with the momentum or I'm going to get rolled. Don't let today's grading spill into tomorrow because more is coming tomorrow. Stay on top of this stack! You can do this! Focus, young grasshopper!

And for the most part, with the aid of an embarrassing quantity of Dr Pepper and some grit, I've stayed on top. Assignments have been returned swiftly and with ample feedback. More of the workload is behind than remains ahead.

Now, I said all that to say this:

When I'm in the midst of heavy work weeks, I often forget to tap into the things that make me function well as a human. There's limited room for hobbies and I skimp on connecting with friends under the banner of "limited time!" But enjoyable pursuits and human connections aren't luxuries; they sustain people who otherwise are running on fumes and caffeine.

So this past weekend, in between the nooks and crannies of writing feedback and deliberating on rubrics, I watched college football and got immersed in a book to the point that when I reached the last chapter (bookmarks are for quitters), I blinked hard at my surroundings, including my kids, because I momentarily had forgotten they existed. It was highly satisfying.

Sunday night as we got ready for bed, I told my husband, "I've noticed that my life is better when I'm reading good books."

He wisely replied, "Then keep reading good books."

So I will.


The Post-Talk Update

This is a compilation of pictures taken roughly 15 minutes before I was scheduled to speak about overcoming fear and worry at an INSPIRE Women's Ministry Event this past Saturday morning.

In case you're wondering, yes, I am hiding in a bathroom contemplating whether I should be power-posing. I knew I was prepared to speak. That wasn't the issue. The issue was that I didn't feel capable of mingling beforehand with any human beside myself in the off-chance that engaging in casual conversation would accidentally deplete my reserves of coherence that I had allotted for the talk.

So, for ten minutes or so, I awkwardly lurked-shuffled between the women's restroom and an abandoned conference room, taking weird selfies and sips of water because this is who I am and how I operate.

Now, the wonderful thing about pre-talk awkwardness is that it dissipates. By the time I took the stage, not only did I feel profound relief that people had showed up, but I also felt excited -- really excited -- because I knew the message would be good. In fact, I even had arranged to have the talk recorded so I not only could send it to my parents (they're personal fans), but also share it with you here on the blog.

But there's the rub: much to my chagrin, the recording didn't record. (One job, voice recorder! You had one job!)

Essentially, you'll have to take my word for it. I said things, and those things apparently were quite encouraging because not only did people laugh at my jokes, but they also took notes and nodded frequently. On top of that, more than one woman in the audience cried in that good way when tears signify you're saying exactly what someone needs to hear, not that you're actively ruining her day. I even had a young woman in the audience present me with a beautiful gift: a sketch of me that she had drawn while I spoke.

Laughter, note-taking, nods, appropriate crying, and sketches for the win, I tell you!

I sincerely appreciate every woman who attended and those who helped to plan the INSPIRE event. (If that's you, thank you!)

Readers, if you'd like me to speak to your women's group or church ministry (and, obviously, to awkwardly lurk-shuffle in your venue during the 15 minutes leading up to the actual event), please contact me here. I'd be delighted to talk more about your group's needs!

Not Holding It Together

Years ago when my oldest daughter was in kindergarten, we endured a challenging stretch when she came home from school and melted down daily. We knew she was tired. We knew that attending school five days a week for seven hours each day was a significant jump from attending pre-school for a few hours in the morning twice a week. We knew that more was being demanded of her than ever before.

Even so, one afternoon I remember her flailing on the floor in full-blown meltdown mode, reaching my own breaking point, and demanding, "What in the world is GOING ON with you?"

That's when she said these profoundly mature words:

"I hold it together ALL DAY. When I get home I can't hold it together any more."

I understood exactly what she meant. Whether you're a kindergartner, a teenager, or an adult, there's truth behind her sentiment. Sometimes we hold it together in public as long as we can, and the only place we can safely decompress -- often in irrational, annoying, or ugly ways -- is in our own homes with those who love us the most.

Put another way, our children trust us to still love and accept them when they're the worst versions of themselves, which is beautiful, terrible, and ironic all at once. (Adults do this too. When my dear friend underwent an especially frustrating situation at work, she confessed how she unleashed that stress onto her husband, but then, after pulling it together and apologizing, joked with him, "You know, you should feel privileged because I'd only act this way with someone I entirely trust. It's proof you're in my inner circle.")

I remember her words when my children have rubbed my last nerve raw. I ask for God's intervention: "God, clearly I'm in their inner circle. You put me in this role. I need your help." I urge my children to give each other both grace and space when one of their sisters lashes out, reminding them that we often need the most love and support when we seem to deserve it the least.

And when I feel like this:

I try to remember that advice myself, knowing that I should love deeply because love covers a multitude of sins. Grace and space. Try to give this difficult person grace and space.

The people closest to us might not always be able to hold it together. We might reach our own thresholds where we can't hold it together any longer, either. But thank God that he desires to be our innermost circle, and he invites us to be entirely real and open with our thoughts and feelings when we approach him.

He can handle our worst. And even when we can't, he's capable of holding it all together.

Typical Demands, Random Disruptions, and Mental Loads

Yesterday. Yesterday was a day. If I put it down on paper, it might not seem like much more than typical demands cobbled together with random disruptions. There was a fire alarm that sounded when I started to teach a class, a dentist appointment in the middle of the afternoon (which seemed innocuous when I scheduled it 6 months ago, but felt highly inconvenient when it arrived), and back-and-forth text messages with my husband throughout the morning about adjusting plans for the kids because trick-or-treating had been cancelled due to projected evening storms. There were students who streamed through office hours, one after another after another, so my lunch -- a sad looking sandwich and apple -- still sat untouched on my desk two hours past when I had planned to eat. There were 46 assignments waiting to be graded online, and then there were my corresponding calculations that if each assignment took 5-7 minutes to grade, then I'd have all feedback submitted in a mere 4 to 5 hours.

If I stayed entirely focused.

But I wasn't entirely focused. I was also thinking about how I needed to finalize a teaching observation for a colleague, how I should check in with my friend, how I needed to buckle down and compare prices between providers so I can order new contacts before my dwindling supply runs out, how I still haven't taken the kids to get their flu shots, how I ought to adjust my youngest daughter's annual check-up to account for a scheduling conflict, how paperwork was due next week for my oldest daughter's winter sports physical, and how it's high time I finally ironed patches onto my middle daughter's Girl Scout vest. And groceries. Definitely groceries. Also laundry, because life.

You know, all the things.

Now, your list of things will be different than my list of things, but, man alive, we're juggling all of them, aren't we? Call it what you will (the phrases "adulting" or "mental load" seem particularly apt), but the unrelenting demands on our time -- and the invisible, yet even more consuming, demands on our thoughts -- are legitimate reasons to feel depleted when we finally put our heads down at the end of the day.

You see, I didn't just go to bed last night. I cried uncle, conceded defeat, and tapped out because sometimes the healthiest and most productive thing you can do is sleep. Enough already. Tomorrow is a new day.

In the chance that you're having a day like this -- or a week, a month, or maybe it's felt like a small lifetime -- I want you to hear something. You're not weak because you didn't get it all done, whatever "it" is. You're not undisciplined if today's to-do list still contains some of yesterday's items. You're not delicate if you're tired.

You're human. And humans are oddly capable of working themselves to exhaustion, bypassing that exhaustion, and experiencing burnout. It's not to our credit, mind you, but we know how to push ourselves to breaking points.

To remedy this, we might deliberately subtract extraneous activities, as I recently wrote. We might delegate more, flex our muscles at saying no, or have hard conversations with our bosses, spouses, or children about managing work loads, revising expectations, or needing assistance. We'd be wise to remember that we can't do it all, and that -- at our core -- we're human beings, not human doers. We'd be helpful if we honestly admitted to each other that we don't keep all our plates spinning.

Even more, we can be gentle with ourselves, not harsh taskmasters, because sometimes our worst critic comes from within, not outside. We could talk to ourselves like we talk to our best friends, with humor, encouragement, and empathy.

Self, you'll have days like this!  Do you realize that you not only had 46 assignments to grade, but you also still managed to do two loads of laundry, found and emptied a lunch box before its contents curdled, and helped nearly a dozen students? Do you know that your kids will be fine even though their primary food groups were pizza and mini-sized candy bars? Girl, do you realize that you're amazing? You're doing it. You're going to make it!

Let me whisper in your ear, right to your heart: You're doing so much. Your contributions are valuable. You're going to make it. You're greater than the sum of all the things you still need to accomplish. You're not invisible or alone. (And, by the way, you're having a great hair day. And your outfit is cute, even if you're wearing yoga pants.)

It's tough out there, friends, and there's safety in numbers. We adults need to stick together as we're adulting.


Photo by Abbie Bernet on Unsplash
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