Friday, September 30, 2016

Bless Us O Lord, and These Thy Gifts, Which You are About to Grade...

What would you do if you could NOT fail?

Absolutely NOT fail.



When my students and I study history, we're studying what happened - mistakes, humans, innovation, power grabs, glory, false pride and unbearable arrogance; then again: virtue, peace, honor, loyalty and adventure. There is plenty of failure in history - failure to understand, failure to compromise, failure to integrate, failure to say "enough"... we study history so as to not repeat the failures, hopefully, among other better reasons.

Then, I'm out of the classroom and I'm just Mom. I'm fixing dinner and fixing hair.

That's life; there is no failure possible. There is no timeline, there is only now. If there is any failure, it's failure to love - failure to be kind, failure to be patient. Lately, while I have not been blogging, I've been meal planning (my new sport), re-arranging our house, massively purging, too much laundry, and backing out of over-commitments. It's been very refreshing. I've also been bowing out of time commitments, including being editor in chief of Ignitum Today. It just was not a good outlet for me, and life is too short to overcommit. I'll keep writing and editing a few people, but I'm lowering my expectations of output into the world. I'm taking a break from graduate school; some days I wonder if I should even be there. My home base matters the most.

I'm not the boss of my house. I don't run my house like a company, and I certainly lack the organization to even claim non-profit status. Ever since Laura dumped out all our Very Important Papers (shame on me for leaving the lid unlocked one day), I'm re-arranging and re-organzing everything. I like it. It's a slow process, and I like learning how I like things as I go along.

I was telling my dad how I almost signed up for a painting class. As I embrace my avocation as an artist, and start to branch out more regularly into my art, a class seemed like a natural next step. Then I laughed. The girls are in swim lessons right now, and I'm still in the beginning of the school year. I need to let myself wait for another season, and just play around with my paints and ideas for now.

It's natural to want to master something, and everything. Have the right opinions, know everything already. Maybe that is why I like being a teacher - you realize that there is always something to learn. There is nothing wrong with being a novice, perhaps perpetually. It's that learning curve we're all chasing.

Well, I'm done running. After life, at least. The greatest advice I ever got (thanks Meg!) was to jump off the hamster wheel, because when you have a child with special needs, everything changes. Mostly,  hard-earned joy. I love having a reason to say NOPE WE'RE DOING IT OUR WAY. Because of Grace? Sure. And Laura, Stephen, Will and me too. We all have different needs, and that's how we direct our family. As we reach the end of residency, I cannot dismiss the life Will and I lead before he gets a "real" job. Our life isn't defined by his employment. Our worth isn't wrapped up success. We love each other because we belong to each other, as a family.

So no, I can't fail at being a mom. I might be running late or ignoring the pile of boxes from Amazon or [fill in the blank], but IT HAPPENS. Will overcooked the spinach ravioli and we both rolled with it. Grace refused to eat her birthday dinner but devoured her birthday cake. Laura wrecks the house again? Doesn't mean I did not just clean it. Stephen gets up multiple time during the night so I'm yawning in class? Yep. Who knows what is next, or even the plan this weekend? Not this girl. That is a win in my book.


I've heard from a lot of friends that they are "failing"... but to fail in my history classes, you don't show up to class and you don't do the work. No matter your vocation in life, few people do neither. Way to go, you! God only asks what is possible.


"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28).


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Thursday, September 15, 2016

Happy Life, Messy Wife

A few nights ago, I felt upset. It's hard to distinguish, sometimes, between burn-out, postpartum depression and exasperation. Our babysitter cancelled, Will was half-awake after a night shift and dinner was not made. Laura dumped out all our shoes again. I had cleaned the whole house earlier and felt so good... Then the girls did not nap; then no relief; then no time to prep for the next day's lesson; then up too late. I was falling down and only a zillion chocolate chip cookies (which we had none) would numb the pain. But then Will said something and, as uninspired as it was, it was the kick that told me: messes come and go. You matter. Messes don't.

I'm listening to The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin on Audible. I like it so much that I sent it home and told my Dad that the family should read this together. The Apple blurb says,
Gretchen Rubin had an epiphany one rainy afternoon in the unlikeliest of places: a city bus. “The days are long, but the years are short,” she realized. “Time is passing, and I’m not focusing enough on the things that really matter.” In that moment, she decided to dedicate a year to her happiness project. 
In this lively and compelling account—now updated with new material by the author—Rubin chronicles her adventures during the twelve months she spent test-driving the wisdom of the ages, current scientific research, and lessons from popular culture about how to be happier. Among other things, she found that novelty and challenge are powerful sources of happiness; that money can help buy happiness, when spent wisely; that outer order contributes to inner calm; and that the very smallest of changes can make the biggest difference. 
The biggest part about happiness is the necessity of growth and pushing one's self outside our personal comfort zone and accept failure (and embrace the fun of failure!) as a necessary part of living. Building habits, asking for help and scale back on obligations. All of these experiences she discussed came with a head nod... yes, mm, yes. But action is harder.

I am (also/still) listening to a podcast my art history teacher recommended to me. (Pro tip: stay in touch with your favorite professors/ teachers. They will continue to enrich your life with their love, wit and wisdom!) It's called Magic Lessons by Elizabeth Gilbert, and it is all about the creative life and the creative process.

I miss my creative process. I miss the ability to stay up late and write and re-write and laugh and talk and color and write letters to friends and re-write... my creative process has been replaced by a need to re-organize my house and regulate toys and re-arrange our schedule and meal plan and lesson plan and

no wonder.

no wonder I am just so tired when the evening hits that I don't finish post after post after post.

I am a creative soul, and my cup is dry.

But my heart is hopeful.

I bought acrylic paints and canvases a few months ago because I saw them on sale.

I thought, I took Studio I-III and Mixed Media in high school!

I thought, It's been too long.

I thought, I'm scared to open them.

I thought, I'm ready. 


In the meantime - here's to more messes.

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