Family life, Paleo-ish eating and Coping with Chronic Illness

Posts tagged ‘Back to School’

Feeling Small, Living Big

Uhgg.  My brain is dead.  My brain is dried out. Crispy. If you grabbed my brain with your hand right now, it  would disintegrate; a thousand brain crumbs would fall from your palm to the ground.  There’s no juice there, people.  I’ve got no flow.

I think it’s this back to school business.

You’d think that someone with no flow would have the good sense to stop writing.  Well, I don’t care if I’ve got nothing to say.  I’m going to say it anyway.

Where do you suppose you’re going to find wisdom like what I just said there, if I quit writing?


What’s that?  You think I’m kind of like a public servant, and you admire my bravery for writing even when I got nothin’?

Woah. Do me a favor. Don’t repeat that.  I’m shy about getting attention, and more than a little modest.  I’m appalled by the thought of making up pretend conversations in a blog to flatter myself.  That’s sick stuff.

On the last day of summer, my head was brimming with ideas, inspiration and enthusiasm.  I actually wrote out a few of my thoughts,  and saved them for when I had time to write.

Where did all the enthusiasm go?

Do you remember I told you that I was meeting with a group of women this summer?  We read the book, “How to Choose Joy When Happiness isn’t Enough”, by Kay Warren.  We finished our book club at breakfast on the last day of summer.   I was inspired by this book, and I think the other women were too.

Isn’t it funny?  And, by “funny”, I mean super irritating.  Within a week of finishing this book, and feeling like I understand how to access real joy and contentment,  I find myself struggling to remember what I learned.

Maybe if I tell you what I learned, it will help me remember:

There is practical wisdom in this book, I couldn’t begin to remember everything I thought was useful.  I’m definitely keeping this book to refer to later.

 I’m going to just tell you two ideas that impacted me the most.  The first idea is probably something you already know: Joy can NOT exist in the absence of gratitude.  Here’s something interesting about the group of women who read this book.  We all seemed to agree that the older we get, the mores successful we have become at seeing small stuff.  Is that just across the board, a true fact about aging?  Or, was our group unique?

Here’s how it works for me: I thank God for how soft my sweater feels against my skin, for the thick cream in my coffee, and for SURE, I thank him for this huge tree I walk by almost every day at lunch. I see that tree. I stop for a few moments to just take the tree in with my eyes.  I thank God for being so kind to make that tree, and for the power he has to create something as big, and beautiful as that tree.  Seeing that tree elevates my mood.

I know.  I’m well on my way to being a crazy ol’ lady.  We learned that joy grows more easily in a heart fertile with gratitude.  It’s easy to be grateful, if we start breaking life down to all the details.

tree picture

The other important part of this book was what I would call the author’s overarching theme.  If you walk away from reading this book without understanding this part of the author’s message, then you may want to consider a reread.   This is it. This is what Kay Warren is trying to say God has impressed upon her heart to share: Joy is a choice.  

The author stated this in a hundred different ways.  But, I understood her to say that I am an active participant in my ability to obtain joy and contentment in a life guaranteed to be filled with its share of sadness and pain.  The author didn’t just tell us it was our choice, and leave at that though. She gave us tools and insight on how to go about choosing joy.

One of the women in our group has a tremendous challenge in her life.  She didn’t ask for the challenge, it was given to her.  In one of our first meetings, this woman said something like, “Oh, choose Joy.  That sounds simple.  I’ve got to wake up tomorrow and face complicated and grueling decisions and tasks, but I’ll just start singing “Amazing Grace”, and choose joy, and then I’ll be all zippedy doo da…life is sure grand.”

I paraphrased what my friend said, but you get the idea.  I thought my friend made a GREAT point.  When she said that,  I was really hoping Kay Warren had something profound to share.  Because anything I said, I’d be whipping right out of my big, fat hiney.

I had squat on that huge life question.  All’s I really had was the dumb idea to have the book club.  That’s where my ideas ended.

Whew!  Kay Warren DID have her sister’s back.  She had some good ideas that were practical, useful and inspiring.  By the end of the book, we all felt like we had learned some things to take along with us in our lives.  It was a good book.  I recommend it.

Here’s the brave book club.  Our numbers started bigger than this, but do you remember how busy summer is?  Brutal.  I was grateful to have even one other person, besides me, by the end of the summer.

book club

I have had more on my mind than choosing joy.  I have been thinking about living big.  At least, I was, before back to school crushed the thinking out of me.

This lady I like shared this passage from Corinthians on Instagram the other day:

Dear, dear Corinthians, I can’t tell you how much I long for you to enter this wide-open, spacious life.
We didn’t fence you in. The smallness you feel comes from within you. Your lives aren’t small, but you’re living them in a small way.  I’m speaking as plainly as I can and with great affection. Open up your lives. Live openly and expansively!

This passage speaks to me.  The smallness I feel comes from within me, but I’m not meant to live a small life.  God is asking me with great affection to live a BIG LIFE.  

Am I reading that right?  I hope I am.

I think what I’m hearing is that I’m NOT to live in obedience to my insecurities, or focus on my shortcomings.  I’m not to withdraw, or hold back, or create a facade to hide me.  All that is small.

For me, living a big life is measured in terms of my investment in people; encouraging, serving, loving the people I was dropped in next to on Earth.  Does it get bigger than that?  I can’t let my smallness stop me from living a big life.  How thrilling that I don’t have to.  A big life sounds super fun. I like fun.

I did this first book club/Bible study feeling very, very small.  I am small.  I know it.  I’m not a good book/Bible study leader.  That’s not false modesty.  I promise I hold this belief with every ounce of my soul.  There are times I laughed at my ineptitude.  I had to laugh, because the other option is feeling crummy about what I lack.  I don’t like feeling crummy.

I’m so glad I’m not letting the reality of my smallness stop me from living big.  God says, don’t do it, Mik!  He calls me, Mik. We’re just like that.  It’s an inside joke.

If you’re a woman, I’m inviting you to live big with me.  We’re doing another book club/Bible study this fall.  We’re meeting every other Sunday evening at 5pm.  Location tbd. Somewhere around Prairie du Sac.

 If you live in Pakistan, India or Switzerland, and you read my blog, may God bless you like mad.  Wow.  How did that happen?  I so wish you could join us, so we could ask you about Pakistan and stuff.  Perhaps you could live big, and start your own study where you live, and we can do this in tandem?

We’re shooting for a start date of Oct 4th.  We have not made a final decision on the book yet, but it will definitely be a book written to inspire us, and to help us grow in our Christian faith.  If you’re sort of iffy on the Christian stuff and church, but you’re intrigued, I wouldn’t let that stop you.  I’m not much for feeling like people all have to agree on everything to help each other grow.

If you start, and decide it’s not for you, I don’t get hurt feelings. It’s a gift.

I’m excited to live big.

You in?


Back to School Menus and Self Pity

Back to school.  They don’t ease you into it.  Like many other families,  our family is sprinting.  If we run fast enough, we MIGHT be able to keep up with all the stuff.   I’m not a fast runner.

This week I was proactive.  I told myself on Sunday that this week wouldn’t beat me.  I wrote our menu down on Sunday afternoon.  I made my menu selections based on what was already in the fridge.  I’m really very  clever.  Here is what I chose:

Monday – Chicken Tacos/lettuce/tomatoes/re-fried beans

Tuesday – Chicken Enchiladas (with leftover chicken – presumably) lettuce, tomatoes

Wednesday – Spaghetti with rice noodles/salad

Thursday – Egg and sausage muffins/broccoli/yogurt w/fruit

Friday – Homemade Pizza (grain free crust)/salad


I wish I could have tasted those meals.  I bet they would have been good.  Here’s what we ate instead:


Monday – Don’t know.  Worked late.

Tuesday – Don’t know. Worked late. (Culver’s drive through for me).

Wednesday – Broasted Chicken from Costco.  I think I told the kids to grab a handful of raw carrots for their veggie.

Thursday – Chicken wins again.  This time I made it.  I also sauteed vegetables.  I made  this meal after the football game.  It was done by 9pm.   When it was finished, everybody was too tired to eat.

Friday – Thursday’s chicken for Scott and me.  McDonald’s for the kids.

I know.  Just all together impressive.  Feel free to print off a copy of this menu for your family.

In terms of being busy, this week was not exactly typical.  This was a burn the candle at both ends type of week.  I’m not good at burning the candle at both ends.  I’m going to own that fact right now.  If I was your surgeon, and you needed emergency surgery that lasted all night, that would be bad for you.  There’s a good chance you would die.  I would look around at all the nurses and medical people at 5pm, and I’d be like, “I’d love to keep working on this guy, but has anyone seen the clock?   It’s quitting time.   Besides,  this guy’s insides seem good enough to me.  He’ll be okay for the night.  Let’s pick this up again at 8:00 A.M. tomorrow.  I might grab some coffee on my way in, so maybe more like 8:15.”

Did you see that funny saying that goes, “I don’t want to work hard/play hard.  I want to work medium and play my DVR.”  Sometimes those sayings just really make me emotional.  They so capture my deepest yearnings.

I am NOT feeling sorry for myself because I had a crazy week.  I hope you don’t think that. I wouldn’t do that to you.  I love that someone thinks I’m worthy of being employed.  I love that I have money in my wallet to buy Culver’s and Broasted chicken when there are no minutes to make dinner.  I love that there’s food in the refrigerator for my family to find and eat when no one makes them dinner.

I never realized until lately what strong feelings I have about the act of feeling sorry for yourself.  It’s just a thing I really hate.  And, I know hate’s a bad word.   I think it might be the right word to use here.   Now that I’ve discovered this thing I hate, I hope I don’t go overboard.  I don’t want to ruin my kids.

Generally, I’m pretty soft on my kids.  They’ve even told me they wished I’d throw down the hammer a little harder, especially on their siblings. I’m more likely to throw down a cotton ball.

I’m not really a tough love parent, but then, maybe I am.  I can’t listen to my people feel sorry for themselves.  I’m pretty hard on anyone in my house who does that.

Teenagers have plenty of things that don’t go their way: Dads  ride them about getting their homework done and making plans for their lives, they sprain their ankles, they make the “B” team, they don’t get the solos (even though they try out every single year). I’m just pulling from a random pile here.  Totally unrelated to anything going on in our house (just go with it).

When my kids are sad, I’m sad.  I want them to be happy.  But, have you ever seen someone round that corner from sad to self pity?  That right there is what I won’t have.  I just tell my kids, “Stay where you are.  Don’t go around that corner.  It’s dark around that corner.  You won’t find any solutions there.”

Sometimes, I’m surprised to find that I feel a little harsh.

I think maybe I’d be more sympathetic, but instead I want to be happy.  I want my kids to know how to be happy too.  Happiness doesn’t materialize without warning.   You don’t win happiness like you win the lottery.  You have to learn HOW to be happy.  Happiness is a skill.  You choose happiness.  The more you choose happiness, the easier it is to be happy.   Happiness is powerless to show itself in the presence of self pity.

I want to believe my kids see this.  I think they do.  Before school, Olivia was telling me that at practice she was almost certain she was going to learn she made the “B” team…again.  I kissed her forehead and put her sweet face between my hands.

I said, “Honey, I know that will sting a little.  Remember to ask yourself if what is making you sad is a real problem. Does this troubling thing have something to do with poverty, hunger, war or abuse (probably not an exhaustive list…but for the sake of my point)?  If it doesn’t, then there’s a good chance it’s not a real problem.  It’s a disappointment or an obstacle.  It’s an opportunity.  Embrace it.  You have just been given a chance to become stronger, learn new things or meet someone new.”

Olivia said, “I know, Mom.”  Then, she smiled.  I am SO relieved she knows.


self pity

Blatant Nepotism and Back to School

I took Olivia to get her sport’s physical this week.  We waited an hour to see the Doctor.  Apparently, waiting until the week before school to get your kids’ physicals is what all the cool moms are doing.  The clinic was running a little (a lot) behind.

I didn’t mind.  I liked talking to my girl.  When we were sitting in the lobby, Olivia gave me some career advice.  She said that I should open an office up right at our house and become a “Christian Organic Doctor who sells wellness”.  I’m like, I have no idea what that is, but I am TOTALLY in, Olivia.

She said that when she’s older she’d be my partner.  But, then she said she isn’t actually interested in any of that stuff, so she thinks she’d rather just watch my patient’s kids.  I love it when your children figure your life out for you.

I’m sad again.  I’m sad every single start of every single school year since I’ve had a school age child.  Zeke pointed out that going back to school does not really change my schedule at all, so there’s no reason for me to be sad.  I know that is true, but I’m sad any way.

Good byes have always made me sad.  Every fall I know we are saying good bye to another piece of our kids’ childhood.  It won’t be long before the last pieces are gone.

It’s going to be messy when all these kids go for real.  I know it.  I’ll be sad. I know one person for sure who will be sadder.  The kids have this one BFF who plays with them all the time.  This guy wants the kids to spend all their free time with him.  The other day the kids were gone, and this guy told me he felt so sad and lonely.  He didn’t know what to do with himself.

I said, “Scott.  I think you need to find some friends your own age.  These kids aren’t meant to live with us forever.”

He had a lonely look on his face.  He said, “I know.”

This is the down side of marrying a guy who has no interest in rubbing elbows with the movers and the shakers at the country club.  The guy who, if I’m remembering right, has never had a single “guys night out” in 22 years.

Guys like that  take their kids growing up pretty hard.

I’ve got a few years to figure out how to find some kind of life for Scott and me by ourselves, without kids.   I might get him into some pottery or paper mache classes.  Perhaps, interpretive dance?  If I keep this up, he for sure is going to ask the kids if he can live with them in their dorms.

Olivia has enjoyed her summer. She has sweet friends.  They have been busy filming and editing videos for their Youtube channel.  Is there anything at all about modern day child hood that looks like our own?  I recognize none of it.  I thought you were supposed to snap beans and wait for “Love Boat” reruns in the summer.

I was watching the girls’ videos and I thought they were funny and cute.  I’m not one bit biased, either.  I told the girls that the videos were awesome.  I said most of them were so long, that really only their Mother’s would have it in them to stick with it until the end.

I told the girls that if they made a short little video, I would love to put it on my blog.  Because, really?  just how long can people listen to me blather?  There’s gotta be something more interesting than that.  Like, a middle school girl’s fashion video.

Happy Back to School to all the wonderful families out there.  Blessings on you and your sweet children.  I am rooting for you!



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