Just As Flawed and Human As Us

In the dark hours of night, sometimes I lay awake thinking about the many things I want to impart to my kids. They're in middle and high school, which aren't the easiest times. The simpler struggles of childhood, which demand a parent's physical energy, have been replaced with complex adolescent struggles. The adage is true: little kids, littler problems. Bigger kids, bigger problems. The stakes are higher, the hurts are deeper, and as a parent, it's painfully apparent that while you can do a great deal to help, you can't perfectly protect your kids.

You can't always protect them from getting hurt or having their hearts broken. You can't always protect them from battling their own struggles, grappling with their own insecurities, or fighting their own battles. You can't protect them from the consequences of their actions. And while you can instill values, model behaviors, and teach important principles, you can't always prevent them from making bad choices or hurting others.

Because these kids of ours? They're just as flawed and human as we are. And these lives of theirs? They have to learn lessons that emerge directly from pain and personal experience, not just advice. I'd love for my kids to learn from past mistakes — preferably someone else's. The reality, though, is we're all thick-headed enough that learning often comes most powerfully from our own lived mistakes.

This is ridiculously hard to watch.

I spend a lot of time on my knees for my children, talking to God with all my messy impatience and brokenness. And I spend time on my knees in silence punctuated by tears when the rawness is too much for words. God can handle this honesty. Daresay, He wants this honesty.

Even when my heart is heavy, I'm confident in this: God loves my children more than I do. And if you have kids, God loves your children more than you do. Our flaws aren't too much for God to handle, and neither are our children's. Just like our hurts aren't too deep for God to heal, neither are theirs. Just like our problems aren't too convoluted for God to untangle, neither are theirs.

It's hard to watch and wait in the wilderness phases, especially if its our kids who are out there wandering, but God is with them. God is there.


What Paint Can Do: Waking Up a Tired Bench

Years ago, I bought a wooden piano bench at a garage sale for a few dollars. Although its paint was chipping, the bench itself was solid. I brought it home, painted it pale blue-green, and placed it in my bedroom as a place to sit when I put on my shoes.


After a while, the bench's familiarity rendered it nearly invisible. It was something that was there, but not noticed. Plus, during the height of the pandemic, for nearly a year I didn't leave the house often, so who needs a bench to sit on when putting on shoes when you no longer wear shoes?

But recently, for whatever reason, I looked at the bench and actually saw it. I appreciated its compact sturdiness with fresh eyes, but the color, although pretty, receded tiredly into the walls. I didn't want to change the bench significantly; I simply wanted to brighten it. To do this, I painted three stripes in complimentary colors to hug the side and back.

I already had two colors on hand from other projects, but I bought a sample of soft blush paint from Lowes for the third accent color. (Paint samples offer the perfect amount of paint for small projects, can be tinted to any color, and cost only a few dollars.) Thick painters tape ensured crisp lines and equally-spaced stripes. Honestly, the most time-consuming part of the project was letting each coat dry completely before taping the next section for subsequent stripes.

The process was quick and easy, and I love the end result:

The stripes add just enough extra detail to make the bench worthy of notice. Do you have a piece of furniture that's become invisible to you? Take a look at it with fresh eyes. The simplest touch-up might make all the difference to bring it back to life!

Bench color: Delancey Green (Sherwin Williams)
Outer stripe: Green Water (HGTV Home by Valspar)
Middle stripe: Romance (Valspar)
Inner stripe: Belle Grove Sorbet (Valspar)


Winter: A Roller Coaster of Blah

Every so often, Facebook likes to remind me of a memory that happened  on this particular date from years past. Apparently, ten years ago today when my children were watching cartoons, I overheard a line spoken by the narrator on Curious George that amused me:

"Winter. It was like a roller coaster of blah."

Even a decade later, I have to give credit. That's a fantastic line.

Generally speaking, I don't dread winter, but I'm less enthralled with it when we reach February, blandly deadened to it during March, and downright huffy when it lingers into April (which its been known to do in Pennsylvania). By then, I want color and warmth and Vitamin D. I want open windows and short sleeved shirts and not to have my garage floor encrusted with a layer of salty winter sludge.

But for now, we simply ride out the cold and trudge ahead through February, knowing that this month, which is simultaneously the shortest and longest one of the year, is just that: a trudge.

Occasionally, when I'm feeling impatient, I chip at the ice crusted along my driveway with the snow shovel, trying to help nature along. Out of habit, I bundle up when walking on campus, remembering the adage that there's no bad weather, only bad clothing. And each evening when I'm settling down for the day, I'll enjoy the cozy comfort of my steaming mug of hot tea and appreciate the merits of reading a good book while curled up under a blanket. This is how you get through February. One day at a time. Bundling up. Hunkering down.

In about a month, we'll turn the clocks back and immediately the idea of spring will be less foreign, more tangible. Until then, though, we ride this roller coaster to its end.


Just Add Free Time

Anyone can do any amount of work, provided it isn't the work he is supposed to be doing at that moment.  — Robert Benchley

I'm teaching fewer classes this semester than I taught last semester. In fact, due to a unique scheduling situation, I'm currently teaching fewer classes than I've ever taught during any semester in my seventeen years of college teaching.

In short: I have more free time than I've had in nearly two decades. It. Is. Amazing.

Of course, work always finds a way to take the available time you have to complete it. It's fluid. It reminds me of the "cats are liquid" theory where any cat can conform its body to fit any vessel.

That's how work works. Give it an hour, it'll take a hour. Give it a day, it'll take a day.

For example, when I left campus yesterday, I had four hours of grading to complete. Four hours later, I still had four hours of grading to complete, except that I now had more knowledge about pre-diabetes since I had Googled the condition after reflecting on how much sugar I consume, and I had spent twenty minutes wandering Rural King to admire their baby chicks and eat their free popcorn, and I realized that the last time I had completed an entry in the wedding anniversary book my mother-in-law gave me as bridal shower present was when we celebrated 13 years of marriage. That was in 2014.

Just in case you were curious, my anniversary is in August -- and to point out the obvious, it's February, so nothing significant triggered me to look at book commemorating my wedding anniversaries. I just happened to be sitting cross-legged on my office floor in front of my bookshelves, surrounded by various piles (read! re-read! who-are-you-kidding-you're-never-going-to-read-this), and I stumbled upon the anniversary book, right next to my wedding scrapbook and our old high school yearbooks. (Fun fact: in addition to soccer and track, yesterday I also rediscovered that I had been in student government as the treasurer of my junior class.)

Of course, even though I can't remember exactly what I did last week, much less last year, it became top priority for me to remedy those blank pages and document our last seven years of marriage.

And I told you all of that so I could now tell you this:

Today I completed four hours of grading.

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