reading, writing and reasonableness

I am pro-school.

Pro-education.

Pro-academia.

Pro-books, college-rule paper, graph paper, poster board, dictionaries, pink erasers, messy desks, atlases, recesses and fresh bottles of Elmer’s School Glue.

I love history, and hate math, like a normal person. I still grimace at the memory of the Presidential Fitness test, in which the only event I could complete with any confidence was the Shuttle Run. (Only recently did it occur to me President Reagan didn’t wake up, do his Chin-Ups, the Sit & Reach and the Shuttle Run before heading over to the Oval Office to keep “Red Dawn” from happening in real life. If he was making us do the Shuttle Run, he should have been doing it too.)

Like you, I took Home Economics, Drama, Band, Journalism, Speech & Debate, Photography and German. And, like you, it turns out I was terrible at some things and pretty good at other things, which I guess, is one of the coolest parts of our shared human experience.

But now I’m grown and don’t remember any German and as my kids will be quick to tell you, very little Home Ec. I have a high school sophomore and a fourth grader which gives us an uncomfortable front row seat to how much school has changed since the olden days, and how it has also weirdly stayed the same.

I never thought though, when I was actively hating Algebra from my graffiti-ridden classroom desk (only minimal graffiti from me) that I would one day get to re-live it through my kids, and hate it all over again, all the while wondering if I should pretend that I love it and use it all the time. “Just the other day, I was trying to figure out how much wall-to-wall shag carpet I would need, while slicing a pie ten ways, and figuring out how many rulers I can buy with 11 cents.”

Somehow, totally objective black and white math is different, having made way for creative thinking and areas of gray; adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing – the terminology is different, the methods are new.

Apparently my 1984 method of multiplying is the Shuttle Run of Math. I haven’t been excited to learn the new stuff, until this week. When the fourth grader unzipped his backpack, pulled out the red homework folder (the folder of doom), and a workbook sheet, simply entitled, “Reasonableness.”

Reasonableness

His assignment and lesson for the day was… Reasonableness.

Johan is selling baseball cards for $.45 apiece. He is selling 8 cards and says he’ll make $32.40

Now, is that reasonable? No, it’s not. Johan is being ridiculous.

I’ve never been more excited about new math! In fact, I think half of a school year could easily be spent on this one topic. The other half can go to state capitals and quiet reading, but September through mid-January? Reasonableness. In fact, more kids should major in Reasonableness, and shoot for the stars, break the glass ceiling and become Doctors of Reasonableness!

Why stop at Reasonableness?

“What do you have 3rd period?”

“Humility. You?”

“Oh, I have Honor.”

“Honors English?”

“No, just Honor.”

“Oh, right, I hear the teacher’s amazing.”

Generosity. Self-Control. Respect. Perseverance. Humor. Spelling for the Texting Generation. Common Sense.

I’ve started planning the curriculum.

Johan has two hours to get his homework done, do his chores, eat dinner, and enjoy some time spent talking to the family who loves him and wants to hear about his day. Knowing homework takes an hour, chores take 15 minutes, dinner usually a half hour, and that his parents love him very much, how much time should Johan budget for Snapchat? No, Johan, not two hours.

Your mom’s had a long day of… laundry? Looking at your baby pictures? Working? Coming up with stuff to bug you about? (Who knows what moms do all day, am I right?) Anyway, she looks more tired than usual. She is holding a rotisserie chicken from the supermarket and a frozen bag of peas. Is it a good idea to say, “Is that what we’re having for dinner?” No, Johan, it is not.

You use the last of the paper in your shared printer. Do you a) alert somebody b) pretend you did not notice and hurry away c) walk the 10 feet to the storage closet, get a fresh ream of paper, and fill the tray? You fill the dang tray, Johan.

Here, let me give you the answers for the next ten questions.

Hold the door.

Give him his money back.

Don’t say anything to her.

Tell him, but in the kindest way possible.

Put gas in the tank.

Write a thank you note.

Manage your expectations.

Take out the garbage.

Invite her to go with you.

Leave the 20% tip.

And don’t forget about the advanced course everybody should aspire to – Reasonableness with Oneself.

It’s been the longest week ever. Your kid, Johan has been a real handful. You haven’t been to the gym, and it feels like forever since you’ve practiced a Shuttle Run. Everybody else makes it to the gym; why can’t you? Everybody else has it together. Why don’t you? Everybody else knows what they’re doing with their life, why don’t you?

Correct Answer: Nobody has it together all of the time, and don’t worry about what those other people are doing. You got a chicken and a vegetable on the table this week, and kept your cool with Johan, and that’s pretty good. Take a nap, watch some TV, and just like, make yourself a really good to-do list for next week. It’s reasonable to assume that next week, is totally your week.

Thanks for reading. If you’re not too busy trying to figure out new math, follow me on Instagram, @colleenweems

you know more than you think you do (and don’t let those kids tell you otherwise)

FC Note

Most of them probably know better than to say it out loud, but I’m quite certain all of our kids collectively think we are idiots. I may not know how to start, stop, or pause a movie using Playstation controllers (I mean, those things don’t make any sense at all, I don’t even feel bad) So when my 9-year-old patiently holds out his hand for me to hand him whatever it is that doesn’t seem to be working, I have to audibly remind myself, and him, that I really do know quite a lot of stuff.  I’m guessing you do too, my fellow adult. And you know what? A good chunk of the stuff we know, is stuff those kids will never know. I almost feel sorry for them.

I was chatting about this at a graduation party with some savvy, know-a-lot, grown-up-lady friends. As required by the unwritten rules of attending a graduation party, we were lamenting the passage of time, and wondering what happened to those sweet little babies who used to think we were amazing. How can it be nearing the time for us to release them into the world?

I mean, they don’t even know how to properly put on pantyhose.

It’s a lost art. An art, we agreed, that might just disappear when we do. We know to scrunch the pantyhose down, and point our toes, after making sure there is not a jagged finger or toe nail in a five-mile radius. We expertly substitute the word “nylons” whenever we feel like it. I bet those kids don’t even know they can stop a run with clear nail polish.

You know what? If our lives depended on us neatly folding a note with a convenient pull-tab, to pass to a co-worker after the staff meeting, we could do it. I could do it in about 5 seconds, and have written your name and drawn stars all over it, and passed it to you without anybody else noticing.

We can tape a song from the radio onto a cassette. We may get a little bit of the DJ talking over the beginning of the song, but we could do it. Oh you don’t have a cassette player? Allow me to burn you a mix CD.

We can roller skate…backwards… on 8 wheels. If my knees weren’t bad, I would totally show you.

We can use a card catalog. And a Spiegel’s catalog. We could order blazers right now – in crimson AND navy – without ever having to get on a computer.

We can use an encyclopedia and a telephone book and a payphone and a Thomas Guide, and a microfiche machine. I think I have as many microfiche hours under my belt as I do parenting hours.

We know how to use an answering machine, a Walkman, a Discman, a floppy disc, and a fax machine. Granted, fax machines are the worst, but I can fax the heck out of an invoice or an insurance form.

We can fold maps, and we…can…fold…NEWSPAPERS.

FC Newspaper

Here’s my oldest kiddo, actively not knowing how to fold a newspaper.

We know how to make phone calls, and receive phone calls without being weird about it.

We know how to take care of a perm.

We know how to put a roll of film in to, and take it out of, a camera.

We knew how to find whoever was giving us a ride home from school/a concert/a movie with no phone to coordinate. It was practically like Outward Bound, or that show with Bear Grylls where you have to eat like, a pinecone in the wilderness, and look to the stars for guidance. It was almost exactly like that.

We know to program a VCR, and in a twist of fate, we know how to teach a mom how to program a VCR.

And though it’s not a skill, I’m grateful to have known the joy of a Jell-O pudding pop, how gross coffee used to be, and the satisfaction of reaching the end of a perfectly typed line on a typewriter.

And so, to the kids who think we’re idiots: don’t get too comfortable. The stuff you know today is cool, and great, and I would never wish irrelevancy on your burgeoning skills. But your day will come. And by “your day” I mean our day…the day you say, “I need to put on pantyhose/fax this form…..where’s my mom?”

how to bore yourself into having the best summer you will never forget.

FC REading

The Summer we…. read every day in these exact same positions

We’re all supposed to be experts. Especially if we dare write now and then, and then ask people to read it, we should have asserted our expertise in something. I have acquired mastery in a few things – obviously, cream cheese based dips, Disneyland, the long-gone TV shows Alias, and wearing t-shirts. I believe the term we are looking for to describe a person with this specific skillset and knowledge base, is lifestyle expert.

As a lifestyle expert, who, like you, is looking at weeks of summer stretching out ahead, I am anxious to get started filling those long summer days with the exact stuff that will make for great memories. I want this selfishly for me and, more selfishly, for my boys so they will someday reminisce with their own kids about how much fun they had with their amazing parents, and then for those future mystery kids to say, “Wow; Grandma and Grandpa are the best.”

“Well,” you might be saying, “tell us, Lifestyle Expert…tell us how to make a summer that we’ll never forget.”

After 40 summers of in-depth field research, the solution is clear: find something – even a tepid, mildly fun something – and then do it a lot. No! It’s not about manufacturing a new adventure every day! The key is intentionally indulgent repetition.

Look back at your own summers. No matter what cool big stuff you did, I’m guessing those long warm days blur together, and the parts of the blur you remember are: popsicles, water fights, sunburns, lounging around a pool/lake/park/beach with your friends, whatever your 4th of July tradition was, and probably a regular family trip to the mountains/lake/ocean/desert/city/backyard tent.

My kids may only have relatively few summers under their mom-made-us-wear-these belts, but they already start their reminiscing about just last summer with “We always…..” and then fill in the blanks like a couple of weathered older guys sitting on a porch, talking dreamily about their (mandatory) weekly trips to the library and subsequent reading time on the couch; and trudging through the cold San Francisco fog to the damp and dreary playground, and then to the burrito place, the market, and the pet store. Even lucky enough to take a dream vacation around the East Coast, our 9-year-old never fails to bring up how what he loved most were those nights we got back to our hotel room just in time to watch “The Tonight Show.” In 30 years, he may not really remember Paul Revere’s House, but I guarantee you, he’ll remember all of us, exhausted, sore, and punchy, lying there in the hotel air conditioning watching Jimmy Fallon.

I think of my own summers, and I instantly recall running errands with my mom every Monday. We’d zip around town in our giant Chrysler Cordoba, stopping at the bank, the post office, and finally McDonald’s, where I would think about how much paperwork is required to be an adult. It was easily 100 degrees every one of those Mondays, and my skin would sizzle against the car seats, and heaven forbid, the metal seatbelts. I’m sure I was a real peach when it was time to start our weekly Monday adventures, but, little did I know, in 30 years, I would treasure those trips as well as weeknight tennis with my dad. Not Wimbledon, or Palm Springs tennis, just regular old Tuesday night tennis on the old courts by the town’s recycling center.

Happy blurs aren’t just for childhoods. I treasure the summer I discovered the white wine spritzer, and the summer my self-tanner was full of *@&%$# glitter, and those 92 mostly-summer couch dates with my husband watching “Mad Men,” and the summer I listened to the new Franz Ferdinand album over and over, and the pre-drought summer I came home from work most nights to squirt the kids with a hose, (in a very classy sophisticated way before drinking my white wine spritzer).

Let’s look ahead to Summer 2016, and come up with some possibilities for stuff you always used to do in the Summer of 2015.

Remember last summer when we….

  • played Uno on the porch every night?
  • ate all that watermelon?
  • went to the library and checked out every one of Judy Blume’s/Beverly Cleary’s/David Sedaris’/Nora Ephron’s books? (They may not all be excellent choice’s for 9-year-olds.)
  • watched every episode of _____________. I hear they’re making a movie of it. That will be great!/terrible! (The Lifestyle Expert recommends “CHiPs.” It works well, because it is hilarious, and they are making a movie of it.)
  • Ate lunch in the park every weekend?
  • Always rode bikes to get Slurpees? But then we had to drink them in front of the store because we are not skilled enough cyclists to hold our Slurpees and steer our bikes.
  • Got really in to the Giants? (The Lifestyle Expert recommends this. The Giants are the best.)
  • Learned how to do calligraphy? And then we wrote everything with our special pens all summer long, and then school started, so we had to stop and go back to boring cursive, and now I need to re-learn calligraphy.
  • Cooked our way through So-and-So’s cookbook? (The Lifestyle Expert is not an expert in this area.)
  • It doesn’t matter. Put whatever you want here. Put in the bank, the post office, the cracked tennis courts.

Sure, plan a grand adventure here and there, and enjoy every second of it! Big adventures are good for the soul. But, expertly speaking, make a lot of room for the nothing-special stuff too. You just don’t know how special that nothing may turn out to be.

FC Cordoba

Me, my mom, and our Chrysler Cordoba, in the summer.

cups aren’t just for coffee anymore

It was about 36 hours into 2015, when we said our goodbyes to Idaho family and loaded our tired boys into the car so we could embark on a semi-snowy, post-holiday trek home through four states– four western states which are big… not like those mushed together northeastern states, where people commute through four states just to get to work every day.

Our first stop was six minutes later at Dutch Brothers Coffee just outside of Boise.  I’d never been there, but according to my Facebook feed, people love Dutch Brothers, and how photogenic Dutch Brothers cups are in their hands on the way to work. We were warned that the staff were aggressively nice, and would probably be enthusiastic and hell-bent on making our days great. We’re not talking kind-grandma baristas searching our faces for signs of sleep- and hug-deprivation. These were young bearded bros who walked out to the cars to take orders and in addition to being really really pumped about our coffee choices, were curious where we were off to, and where we’d been.  The long line of cars represented dozens of people waiting patiently for their daily affirmation from dudes whose “sneaker games were on point,” this according to the unnamed teen in our backseat.

When we were sent on our way with a warm, “Later!” we saw that Dutch Brothers was still invested in our emotional well-being. The plastic lids covering our drinks read “Whatever you’re gonna be, be a good one,” and “Today is yours. Own it.” (Like fortune cookies, but better, because my fortune cookies are always lame.)

FC cups

“So true!” I thought, “It’s early and I have the whole day ahead of me! I will own it!” Also, what was I gonna be that day? Whatever it was, I better be good at it. My options at that moment were slim. I was very much a passenger, set to be in the front of the seat of the car for the next bazillion hours. I looked at my husband, who that day was the long-haul driver, and just as the cup suggested, he was a good one. He was alert, and cheery, and totally owning the day. I was sitting there, sans steering wheel and pedals, with no official duties as passenger other than handing people tissues, refereeing the backseat shenanigans, and making sure that everybody got out of the car at the gas station to go to the bathroom.

I made conversation, but not too much conversation so as to be a nuisance. I may have dozed off once. I took pictures of street names like Chicken Dinner Road and Potato Road, which sadly were hundreds of miles and two states apart from each other because, if they were together, that would be a highly desirable-to-me neighborhood.

FC chicken dinner  FC potato

Because it takes me forever to drink a regular cup of coffee, I had my cup through Idaho, Oregon and all the way to Winnemucca, Nevada. By the time I replaced it with a less-motivational Taco Time Coke, (so caffeinated, and nowhere to go!) I’d already been staring at the bro’d-out version of an (albeit, disputed) Abraham Lincoln quote, and then stared out into the desert, then back again, all the time wondering what exactly I was, and whether or not I was a good one. I’d thought about this exact thing plenty as of late, but this time I had hours at my disposal, and zero cell reception.

Don’t worry, I won’t turn this into a tome of self-discovery that would be readable only to someone on a bazillion-hour road trip, with no cell service, and who doesn’t get sick while reading in the car, and who is also my mother. I did however, for a few minutes, think maybe I could solve here, what I couldn’t that day staring out into the desert.

What am I, really? Like all parents humans, I’m a lot of things all at the same time. Sure, my list doesn’t currently include a job, but even though I’ve spent the last couple of years trying to be a good stay-at-home mom, whatever that looks like, while rehabbing my brain after that bizarre brain virus, I’ve still kind of thought of myself as a working mom. I just happen to be a working mom who doesn’t have a job.

I mess up all the time; it’s true, ask my kids. I’m also not really leaning in or leaning out, and I don’t think that the debate of how women in particular should be juggling their lives and families, is one where a single viewpoint is ever going to emerge as universally correct. All of our situations are fluid, and confusing, and unique, and sometimes really, really hard. Sure, this is a dated discussion, but it’s not dated if you’re in the middle of it. And I know I can’t be the only person – man or woman, parent or non-parent – to repeatedly wonder if I’m doing the right thing, how long I should do it, and what I should do tomorrow.

Maybe in a few tomorrows, I’ll be a cup lid designer for Dutch Brothers, and my first order of business, will be to merge those lids into one far more helpful lid, “Whatever you are today, own it.”

Happy New Year! Find me on Instagram, @colleenweems.

The Incredible Shrinking Attention Span

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Once your tooth enamel is gone, it’s gone, right? And, aloha, knee cartilage and last year’s tax return. Some days, when I am a particularly awful parent, I may or may not mention to my boys who have each other in headlocks, that I wish my bucket of patience was bottomless, but alas it is not, and they are down to the last precious drops. Only by the grace of God can I ever get more from that bucket, and I usually have to give myself a timeout in my quiet bedroom to find it.

There is something else I’ve been missing for a while: my attention span. I’m hoping to rebuild it and the upper arm strength I had for those few minutes when I was carrying around big giant boy babies and all their stuff.

Maybe I’ve romanticized it, but I’m absolutely positive I used to have a big hardy, healthy attention span that let me start and finish books, craft projects, emails and folding a load of dryer fresh laundry. When I was a kid, I could finish a Sweet Valley High book in one sitting, and I could play any imagination game for hours, stopping only to eat meals as mandated by law.  Sadly, today, I wasn’t able to write this paragraph without taking two snack breaks, loading the dishwasher, and watching three movie trailers, which are basically three tiny movies the exact right length for an equally tiny attention span.

I’ve deduced that my attention span, and maybe yours too, was offed Murder-on-the-Orient-Express style. (Spoiler alert) Demanding Parenthood, Grandpa Internet and spoiled-rotten grandchildren Pinterest and Facebook, co-dependent Smartphone, that skank MTV, sneaky Sleep Deprivation, jealous Work, slothy Sub-par Diet, and that reigning queen bee-word, Just Too Busy, worked together to murder my poor unsuspecting attention span, without even the perk of a cool train ride or a visit from Hercule Poirot.

Long ago, when I had the attention span to sit down and read books about life on the prairie, I learned that the to-do lists of old timey prairie folks put my lists to shame: milk cows; sweep dirt floors; pack lunch buckets; darn socks, bonnets and those long johns with the bottom flaps; churn butter; tend gardens; raise babies; stoke fires; ride two days to town in a wagon, and then when all of that is done, sit down at like, 6:00 pm to read books, tell stories, and thank God for the glory of another day on the prairie. I would close these books exhausted, and thank God for the blessing of another day not spent on the prairie.

Our generation didn’t invent laundry, kids, jobs, homemade meals, soccer or even pianos. As much as we forget, our parents had stuff to do, too. Once upon a time, we were the kids with homework, music lessons, and Girl Scouts.  My mom was known to careen around town in our huge Chrysler Cordoba, while wearing suntan nylons and heels, delivering forgotten lunches, shuttling me to birthday parties, chaperoning field trips, combing my hair to make sure my ears didn’t show, teaching Sunday School, and ironing every piece of material in the house, before racing back to her job. She didn’t even have anywhere to post her blog called “1980’s Problems, Am I Right?” She just got up and did it all again the next day. And today she graciously helps me, listens sympathetically when I am overwhelmed, and never once tells me to just get a grip already, though perhaps she should.

I’m afraid we’ve taken perfectly good things like sports, cooking, and volunteering, and in an effort to improve on them, somehow screwed them up, just a little. We have picked lots of very worthy things to do and worry about, and we’ve tried to be amazing at all of them. And if it turns out we were terrible, we have even found the need to make our terribleness amazing because that’s authentic, and vulnerable and a show of solidarity with all the other mothers who deprived their kids of a Pinterest-worthy 31-day Halloween experience.

We have spun ourselves to the edge and I have the attention span to prove it. I’d like to be amazing and fix it.

If you’re looking for tips on increasing your attention span, the last place you should go is the rabbit hole that is the Internet, which is exactly what I did. One second I’m reading on-topic tips, the next I’m reading about fall’s hot new nail colors, and recipes for cauliflower soup.

When I did get back to reading, I realized after many how-to articles, that the recipe for improving your attention span is the same as it is for improving your skin and overall health: plenty of sleep, a healthy diet rich in omega-3s, turn off the TV and computer (and phone!) way before bedtime, and limit caffeine. For your skin, drink more water and wear sunscreen. For your attention span, try setting an alarm, and don’t change tasks until the alarm sounds, giving yourself longer and longer goals, until you are so well trained, you will drop whatever you doing and change tasks at the sound of any bell.

I think I’ll start with crossing something off my list without actually having done it (It will feel so bad, but so good), putting away my phone, going to bed, and telling my mom how much I appreciate her. I’ll let you know how it goes.

It’s no secret that attention span problems plague our youth in very serious ways, with concerning consequences, and a bevy of controversial remedies.  I worry about my kids, and all the kids who at much younger ages are dealing with the same societal factors that have to be slowly but surely chipping away at the patience, attention spans, and sanity that are tucked away in our fully formed adult brains. We’re not equipped to help them cope, if we can’t cope either.

A Puzzling Dilemma as in a dilemma about puzzles

Image I certainly wasn’t going to let the boys sit around during the first week of summer and play video games. No sir. I had big plans: walk the new neighborhood discovering the treasures outside our back door and establishing ourselves as regulars at the library and the playground around the corner. Take a picnic to Golden Gate Park. Frequent the local museums. Become a family who cooks together and whimsically creates goodies like sweet potato chips, and kale chips, and banana chips.

It was a chilly, foggy San Francisco summer day – the first of many, I’m sure. The boys had already raced through the comic books they insisted on checking out from the library, and nobody felt like slipping off the mist covered playground equipment around the corner. Our pantry was also suffering from a disappointing lack of kale, sweet potatoes and bananas.

I stood in the middle of the room considering our now limited entertainment options while the boys’ fingers slyly walked themselves to the Playstation controllers, like Thing in “The Addams Family.”

Aha!

“A puzzle! Puzzles, are fun, and I have a perfect puzzle for us.”

I dug around the cabinet, to find it pristine and unopened, even after two moves. Mickey Mouse in all his glory. Not just any Mickey Mouse, but a mosaic Mickey, in which his diminutive frame is constructed of tiny little scenes from Disney classic movie scenes from “Aladdin,” “Peter Pan,” “Lion King,” and “101 Dalmations.”

The puzzle prep began –  a cleared spot on the floor, a giant plastic lid for the portable puzzle building surface, comfy clothes, and snacks. The 7-year-old took his place next to me and helped rip the plastic film from the box. The almost 13-year-old stretched his lanky frame across the couch above us, typing into his phone what I guessed was a text that read something like, “Sorry friends, I will be unavailable for a bit. I’ll be building a cool puzzle with my cool mom and adorable little brother. It will take a couple of hours, but it will be awesome, then we can start texting again about how much we love our parents and reading.”

“Remember, first we look for the edge pieces, so we can build the frame,” I said as we pulled off the lid. “We’ll knock this thing out before dinner.”

“There must be a mistake, is this two puzzles?”  Inside the seemingly bottomless box, were the tiniest puzzle pieces I had ever seen, with only about three colors of the rainbow represented.

I looked at the lid. 1000 pieces. One thousand.

Jake peered down to us from his perch in a way that made it clear Zach and I were on our own.

Do we back down in the face of a challenge? No, of course not. I ignored the voice in the back of my head that plead for me to abandon ship, and find some Play-Do.

“More like a thousand pieces of fun!” we decided and dove in.

“Is this an edge, Mom?”

“No sweetie.”

“How about this?”

“Close, but no. See, it has to be totally straight on one side.”

“Is this an edge?”

“No, sorry.”

“This one’s red, where does it go?”

“I’m not sure. We’re just looking for edges right now, don’t worry about the color yet.”

“Is this an edge?”

“Yes! Yes, it is! Great find!”

“I did it! Aren’t you happy I found that for you, Mom? I need to go to my room for a second.”

You can see where this is going. It wasn’t for a second.

The fate of this puzzle rested with me.

Over the din of the video games that were eventually turned on, the boys threw me an occasional, “Mom, you are so good at puzzles. It’s really shaping up. Look at you go! I can kinda see the picture. Did you forget that we need to eat breakfast/lunch/dinner?”

The floor suddenly was uncomfortable. All the pieces looked the same.  I was missing two edges. I had other stuff to do. All this squinting at the tiny pictures of Mufasa were going to give me crow’s feet. I wanted to quit.  The boys were right there, occasionally paying attention, though. What would my quitting teach them? Anyway, they would probably want to help when it started to come together, and when they saw how much fun I was having.

Over the course of the next three days, my mind raced over the doldrums of methodically scanning the example picture for the location of the tiny Princess Jasmine who was looking slightly down and to the left, as opposed to the right-facing Jasmine, or the Jasmine glancing over her shoulder. Wait, is this helping my healing brain, or making it worse? I should give up. No, it makes much more sense for a grown woman to obsess over a Mickey Mouse puzzle for three days, than to give up just to do “laundry” and “clean the bathroom.”

It was a silly puzzle, but I learned a few things.

I can now pick out, from a mile away, all of the gradations in the red and blue color families.

Putting tiny dalmations in a puzzle is just mean.

There are always moments in the course of a puzzle, where you are certain at least three key pieces fell on the floor of the puzzle factory, and were never included in your box.

“Good job Mom,” even when being delivered between pitches of an MLB Playstation game, makes you feel good.

The boys are surprisingly self-sufficient. And they were interested in helping after all. When I had 980 pieces put together, they decided to jump in for the assist, and have subsequently, and repeatedly reminded me of their contributions. In a moment of weakness, I allowed myself to participate in a kerfuffle with the youngest about who would have the honor of putting in the final piece. It was me. I put it in. And it was wonderful.

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upheaval: deciding is half the battle

ImageNot one box has been packed, and no progress has been made in eating our way through the eleven cans of tomato soup in the cupboard – eleven cans I will not want to pack when the time comes. Just the deciding part of our latest venture has taken a lot of talking time, and thinking time, and meeting time, and even research time. Then there’s the TV time that is required to bring sweet relief from all of that thinking, and talking and deciding.

Even the mere decision to change your life and up heave the lives of the little ones who depend on you to not do something crazy – like up heave their lives – takes more time, and energy, and emotion than I remember. And we’re not even to the actual upheaval.

We are a pastor’s family, and the job of pastor, like many other jobs out there, usually involves a move or two, and leaving a church and a community that you love, because you get an inexplicable nudge that becomes impossible to ignore. That move can easily require thousands of miles, and new license plates. For us, it’s a few miles, a few zip code digits, and a new dentist.

But it’s still a world away.

We’re leaving our quiet cul-de-sac where we slow down for deer, squirrels, and wild turkeys, and we’re crossing the bridge back to San Francisco, the city where John and I started as fresh-faced newlyweds with bus passes and a poorly insulated apartment. We’re leaving a beautiful, wonderful, supportive church on a suburban hill, for another beautiful, wonderful, already supportive church on an urban hill.

The life-changing  jobs we’ve had for the better part of a decade come to a close this week, and the goodbyes are well under way – a not-so-easy process for a notoriously long goodbyer, who hails from an impressive line of long goodbyers. My family is a stand-on-the-porch-and-wave-until-the-car-is-out-of-sight bunch of goodbyers. We are “just one more thing before we hang up!” goodbyers. And I absolutely, positively, will not allow any air of finality when I bid someone adieu. You could tell me you are really excited to get started on your 200-year cryogenic hyper sleep project, and I will tell you that I will, for sure, talk to you soon.

I’ve probably hugged some people 45 times already. I’ve cried at inopportune moments, which stinks because I’m an ugly crier. Other moments, I’m giddy with excitement about the possibilities, and the newness, and the guaranteed proximity to dim sum. The kids’ friends think a move to the city is cool, and not really a big deal because their parents go to work there, like every… single… day.

We haven’t nailed down a new home address, and I don’t know quite yet know what I will do for a living, but I’ve been around the block, and trust that we’ll figure that part out.

So that’s where I’ve been, and where I will be for a few more weeks. And one day, some day, I’ll be sitting in my yet-to-be identified living room (too presumptuous to hope our new place in the city will fit a couch?) lazily taking iPhone pictures of the cat and tinkering with a blog post about cakes, or the bus, or bugs, having (fingers crossed!) gloriously shaken out the writing cobwebs. Maybe for a moment I’ll miss the excitement, the nervous stomach and eye twitch that accompanied months of a not-knowing limbo defined by this narrative: “should we really do this….I mean seriously, should we?” which was capped off with the answer. “Yep. We’re doing this. It feels like we’re really supposed to do this.”

Wait! One more thing….I will for sure talk to you soon.

soup