Love, Grow, & Overflow

My cup overflows. My laundry does too.

Month: April 2012

Mean Girls

Throughout most of my years at our large public high school, my friends and I floated comfortably in the middle echelon of the popularity spectrum.  Due to my middle-school years at private school, I was largely unknown.  I didn’t usually draw attention, positive or negative, and that was OK with me.  So I was caught off-guard one day in sophomore year English class when I felt something pressing into my back.  It was the edge of the empty desk behind me.  Two girls sat at the back of the room, kicking the desk forward into my back, snickering.

As you can guess, it felt lousy.  One of the girls, Chris, was in my homeroom.  She was popular mostly because she had popular friends, and she kept her rank with sharp, cutting wit.  She spent a lot of time in homeroom making jokes about people who weren’t sitting in her corner – including my friends and me.  And now, here we were in English; they were bored, and I was an easy target.

Chris and I both ended up in the same Art History class senior year.  I shared one of the heavy two-person tables with my friend and locker partner.  Chris sat ahead of us with her friend, who dropped the class a couple weeks in.  One day, we decided it was time for paybacks.  We slowly pushed our table forward.  Chris scooted forward a bit.  We leaned on the table more, gradually inching it up until it was pressed against her chair, wedging her between her table and ours.  Chris got frustrated, turned around with an angry sigh and shoved our table back at us.  We were engrossed in the art history slides for a few minutes, and then gradually started pushing it forward again.

At the end of the class, she rushed out.  We felt victorious.  We rode that high for a good part of the day, but as the high wore off, it felt tainted.  Our happiness stemmed from her unhappiness.  Of course, I rationalized that she may have learned how hard it is to be on the receiving end of taunting, but her actions clearly stemmed from insecurity.  Disrespect and cruelty from us certainly didn’t make her more secure.  I don’t think she became a better person that day, but for part of the day, I became a worse person.  A vengeful person.  Someone who took pleasure in the discomfort of others.

Now, as a parent, I want to make sure I remember all of those feelings.  As they grow, I hope to teach my kids that being powerful is not the same as being honorable, that no one grows by stooping, that one person’s revenge is not another’s redemption.  On the other hand, being kind doesn’t always win people over either.  Neither arming my kids with witty retorts or boxing lessons will make people respect them, and no matter how much they want to be liked, not everyone will.  They have choices anyway – a million little chances each day to love louder than the haters hate. To choose to act in ways that make souls stronger, and in doing so, grow stronger themselves.

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. – Romans 12:21

For Samantha

I’d like to tell you a little about this sweet baby and her parents.

Samantha was born beautiful and healthy on March 10, 2011.  At six weeks old, she was diagnosed with Group B strep.  She passed away at four months old.  There is so much more to say about Samantha, but no one could say it better than her family.  Samantha’s mom, Stephanie, has chronicled their story with honesty and poignancy on her personal blog, Blooming Joy, and Samantha’s CaringBridge page (along with some entries from Samantha’s dad Travis and her Aunt Allison).

Travis and Stephanie will tell you that they are not brave and strong, and that they have gotten through this only by the grace of a faithful God.  I believe that.  From my perspective, our faithful God equipped them to be extremely brave and even heroic – during Samantha’s illness, death, and after.  They parented her well when she was healthy.  They parented her well when she was dying.   And now, when Samantha’s free of pain, they continue to be amazing parents.  They treasure the time they had with her.  They’ve gone back to bring donations to the places that helped them so much during Samantha’s illness.  They honor her life.  They look forward to a reunion someday.

They are organizing a 5K to celebrate the life of Samantha.  This is a spiritual journey as well as a physical one.  They’re using the program Run for God, which is a Christian running program designed to strengthen people’s faiths as well as their bodies.  Money raised from the 5K will go to a sponsorship in Samantha’s name at Faith Lutheran School.

While I’m nowhere near Texas, my running buddy and I are running in support of Travis and Stephanie and in honor of Samantha.

Want to run too?

Stephanie’s 5K blog post

Run for God – a Legacy (post at

Starting Somewhere

Photo by Sasha Wolf

I’m running a 5K.

I’m not exactly sure how it happened.  Those of you who’ve known me awhile know that my lack of athleticism borders on legendary.  But a couple friends have mentioned 5K training programs for non-runners, and it piqued my curiosity.  I downloaded an app to check it out, mentioned it to my husband, and recruited my pal to be my running buddy all before I was really sure I wanted to do it.  I’ve never even considered running a 5K before, but here I am.  (I plan to share more about the inspiration for my run in an upcoming post, so stay tuned.)

So… I am 5K training.  I’ve been going to the Y for several months now, but mostly, I do brisk walking on the treadmill.  (I tried an aqua fitness class which could be a blog post in itself – apparently aqua fitness classes appeal to very quirky people, and the fact that I am one of them is not lost on me.)  I love the treadmill, actually, but it feels pretty pointless.  Sometimes, I try to switch it up a little, so I put on Melissa Ethridge’s “I Run for Life” and begun to run.  It is a very dramatic and purposeful and stirring song, and I run very dramatically and purposefully until two minutes in, when I sputter to a walking pace, out of breath. The thought of running an entire capital K seems impossible right now, let alone 5 of them.

I am using a program called Couch to 5K, in nifty app form.  The first workout was hard, but not too hard.  And the next two workouts were just a little less hard.  I’m looking forward to getting in shape, and I’ve already convinced myself that I can see runner’s muscle in my calves and thighs.  But mostly, I am sold on all the perks of 5K training.  The program recommends three work days a week with rest days in between.  Those days when I don’t go to the gym aren’t lazy days anymore.  They are rest days.  I have to make sure my body recovers in between workouts.  It’s very athletic of me, you see.  And I only jog for a short time before going back to walking – not because I’m out-of-shape, but because I am interval-training.

This morning, I went to the Y at 7:30am.  At 7:30am, all the work people are off to work, but the casual-workout folks aren’t out of bed yet, so it’s just me and a bunch of buff old guys.  I walked in and thought to myself, “Hello, old guys.  How are you feeling this morning? I am feeling buff with all this training and athleticism.”  I hopped on my treadmill and did very well until the last run interval, when the plastic book-holder that someone had left on my treadmill clattered to the floor.  I thought one of them might shout “Imposter!” and recognize me as the clutzy gal who made a fool of herself a few months ago, but instead a nice gentleman picked it up and handed it back to me.  I didn’t know what to do with it, so I just held it awkwardly while I finished my run.  But, I finished.

All sixty seconds of it.

Gotta start somewhere, right?

Smallest Inspirations Guest Post

Today I am honored to guest-post over at Smallest Inspirations, a blog by Cathi Brese Doebler.  Cathi is a mom, consultant, small business owner and the author of Ditch the Joneses, Discover Your Family: How to Thrive on Less than Two Incomes!

Units of Survival

I haven’t traveled abroad since my children were born.  Even so, I often struggle when cultures collide.  Today, it’s within the borders of my own home, when my own values conflict with the cultural microcosm of my preschool children.  Wearing pants, for example, is a value that is not shared by the youngest members in this household.  We are constantly debating over what is OK to eat, throw, and climb as I help my children learn to navigate life in our family and the culture at large.  My dream is that someday my adult children will neither eat stray Cheerios from the floor nor stand on top of their dresser: cultural assimilation at its best.

When I was in college, I spent a summer teaching English in China.  One tenet of Chinese culture, we learned, was the idea that the smallest unit of survival is the family unit.  Although I tried to be open-minded, I just couldn’t fully grasp this belief.  As much as I liked my family, I reasoned that it was possible for me to go out on my own and build a lean-to in rural Montana, surviving on bugs and jackrabbits and wild berries.  (Ok, honestly, probably not.   But my lack of survival would be due to the fact that I possess no wilderness skills.  Are jackrabbits even native to Montana?) Anyway, perhaps not me, but surely someone could survive on their own.

My one-year-old son is a great sleeper.  When he’s tired, he finds his favorite things – his blankets, his stuffed owl, and his pacifier – and he snuggles into my shoulder.  It’s bliss.  Sometimes he actually laughs out of happiness as we approach his crib, and he falls asleep without fussing.  But if we’re anywhere but home, he has a terrible time.  He fights sleep with every bit of his tiny being until he succumbs out of sheer exhaustion, hours past his bedtime.  We’ve tried everything we can think of, but it is a very difficult and traumatic experience for him.

While traveling last month, we tried tucking him in the same bed as his three-year-old sister.  He whimpered a little, but we could hear them talking quietly, and eventually they both fell asleep.  A few hours later, he woke up, sobbing and disoriented.  I went in to reassure him; I told him he was safe and he could lay down and go back to sleep.  He saw his sister sleeping soundly and crawled to her end of the bed.  He curled up next to her, so close that their foreheads touched, and fell asleep.

The smallest unit of survival is the family unit.  I get it now.  Sometimes, survival means lean-tos and wild berries.  And sometimes, survival means having a person who shelters you when you are sobbing in the dark.  Sometimes, survival means resting in the warmth of the people who love you, forehead touching forehead, breathing in each other’s breath until, finally, you find rest.

Tea with My Daughter

Photo by left-hand

It’s been a long day.   One of the Roman shades in our living room broke awhile ago.  Every time we opened the shade, the cord rubbed against the ring it was threaded through, sawing back and forth until the string gave way.  Today I felt like that shade, hanging heavy and unthreaded, casting shadows instead of letting in light.

I battled with my daughter all day.  She pushed her brother, she refused to share, she screamed and kicked the back of the passenger seat with furious little three-year-old legs.  I battled myself, fought to keep my own emotions in check, to stay calm and in control, to not take it personally.   I never realized it would be this personal.  When she fails, it feels like I have failed.

I so strongly want her to be a person of integrity, of respect, of empathy and love.  I think of all the lives she will touch, people she will wound or bless, and how my actions as a parent today help to shape her choices in those situations.  It’s a staggering responsibility.  I take it personally; how could I not when her heart once beat inside my body?  I remember listening to the fetal monitor at the hospital, and I knew my life would be forever tied to that beat, the cadence of her life.

Tonight, when I felt like giving up for awhile, throwing on a video or opting for some mandatory quiet time (which is torture for a socialite like my daughter), I fought it.  I got out my daughter’s tiny new porcelain tea set.  We set it up in her bedroom with a couple baby dolls as guests.  We fed them tea with plenty of cream and sugar in flowered teacups with gold rims.  She doted on her guests, told them to drink slowly so they didn’t get tummy aches.

As we played, we fell into a rhythm: pass back and forth, ask and reply, pour and drink.  Our teacups clinked against their platters like chimes.  We emptied ourselves of today, its failures draining away until only drops remained.  We filled each other’s cups and drank in blessings, tea, and light.

Social Media Disconnect Challenge

This is a departure from my normal mushy essays on kids and faith, but I thought I’d share my reflections on my two weeks without social media.  This was originally sent to the folks at at the conclusion of the challenge. 

I spent the last two weeks disengaged from social media.  Well, that’s not true entirely – according to the terms set forth in the Social Media Disconnect Challenge, we could still SMS text and email.   I stayed away from blogs, YouTube, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and Picasa.   And now, I feel like I’m a three-year-old at the beach with a bucket and shovel.  It looks like fun, but there is so much sand, and I’m not sure where to dig in – or how to dig out.

I spend my days at home with my two children, ages three and one.  I rely heavily on social media to keep connected with family, friends, and social groups…and of course, sometimes I spend more time than I need to online.  I thought I would end the challenge with new insights into how my life was richer when the time I spent on social media was replaced with real-life activities.  Instead, what this challenge confirmed for me is that social media isn’t at odds with real-life; it’s a way of doing real life.  Often, it’s the preferable way.

My sister-in-law and I live on opposite sides of the country.  She’s a doting aunt, and we both work hard to make sure that she and my kids aren’t strangers.  We do this through frequent photo updates, Facebook messages, and the occasional video chat.  A few days ago, I got an email from her that said, “This social media/Picasa ban stunt you’re pulling needs to end…SOON. I think I heard a rumor my niece was getting married or something….its been so long since I’ve seen her! But seriously I miss you!! The time change is so hard for me to connect except through social media sometimes.”  It’s true.  By the time she gets off work each day in her time zone, my kids are on their way to bed here.  Social media keeps us connected despite time and space differences.

My local relationships were affected as well.  I get together with a group of moms every other week.  I saw them on the last day of the challenge, and as soon as I walked in, a couple of them said, “We’ve missed you!”  Even though we met as frequently as we always do, my lack of online presence created a distance.  A few other friends also mentioned missing me online.  I change diapers and play with dolls for a living, so the things I share online tend to be mundane.  It’s pleasantly surprising to realize how much value exists there.  Sharing the little details of our day-to-day lives on Facebook enriches our relationships with one another and strengthens community.

Each day in the challenge, I challenged myself to use my extra time in a different way.  One day, I beautified an ugly area of our house.   One day, I volunteered at my friend’s neighborhood association office.  On other days, my challenge topics included physical activity, a road trip, personal interactions, organizing, and visited a new place that has been on my radar for a long time.  These experiences were fulfilling, but their success was due to intentional time management rather than a lack of social media.

There were times when I actually found my life less productive without social media, like when I had to contact people for information that was readily available on Facebook, or when I tried to do my normal shopping routines without the assistance of my favorite deal blogs that list the sales each week.  I actually failed at two of my daily challenges, and they were both simple – reading, and calling people on the phone.  Before I became a mom, I was an avid reader, but now, sitting down uninterrupted is hard to do.  Social media lends itself to multitasking; reading does not.  Also, I detest calling people on the phone.  I guess I figured that if I didn’t have the crutch of social media, I’d be better at keeping in touch via phone, but I wasn’t.

This challenge also made me realize just how deeply social media is ingrained in our society.  I’m in my mid-thirties, so I’m old enough to remember a time before email.  Now, even when I avoided YouTube and Facebook and Twitter, social media was everywhere.  I read news articles, and immediately following each article, I found myself reading comments debating and discussing the article.  I watched reality television, and competitors’ Twitter handles pop up on screen.  I don’t know if it’s possible to use a television or the internet today without being affected by social media.

The Social Media Disconnect Challenge refined my understanding about how social media shapes my life.  I have a greater appreciation for social media’s role in maintaining and enriching my relationships, and an awareness of what I can accomplish both outside of the realm of social media and within it.  As much as I am thankful for the opportunity to learn, it feels great to be back.


Happy Easter, Baby.

Photo by HeroicZach

It hurts a little to share Easter with you.

Not the bamboo baskets and the plastic eggs and the bonnets.  That’s the fun stuff.  But sharing Easter with you, the real Easter, the Easter that would still be there even if the Dollar Store and Target closed – that means sharing Good Friday with you, too.  Letting you take a small, three-year-old step into the story of darkness and sadness and death.  You’re sensitive.  I know your heart will hurt a little at the story.

You’re just beginning to deal with scary dreams and scary stories.  “Tell me two stories,” you asked last week.  “A happy story about a dragon and a scary story about a dragon.”  I like to keep you sheltered.  If you hadn’t asked, I wouldn’t have told the scary one, with the dragon’s fiery breath and big sharp teeth.  But you asked, and I know you need to learn to work through fears in a place where you are safe – a place like my lap.  I want you to know you are brave and capable… that you will sometimes be scared, and that is OK.  So we journeyed together through the dark forest with the dragon at our heels, and at the end of the story, we were alive, safe, OK.

And here we are at Holy Week.  There are people who will tell you that this story was spun in someone’s mind too, but sooner than I’d like to admit, you will find out that the world is full of hurt and sorrow breathing down your neck.  It’s real.  It’s OK to be scared.  I like to keep you sheltered, but the thought of you getting hurt by the awful things in this world – it scares me too.

I need to share this story with you because it is your story.  It helps me to remember that the story’s end was written long before we ever crossed the threshold with you in our arms.  You shine so brightly, but you’ll have some very dark times in life.  I want you to know that even when you are not brave, and even when you are less than capable – because that story has been written, you have Jesus.  You have everything you need.  He did the conquering already, so you can have hope and forgiveness and light and happiness and someday, no more darkness or pain.

We will journey together this week – to Jerusalem, to the garden, and even to the cross.  I’ll hold your hand.  It’s OK if it makes you feel a little funny and sad inside.  It is sad.  There are some dark and scary parts, but what a beautiful story it is.  At the end of the story, Jesus is alive, safe, OK.  We are, too.

Just wait.   I’ll wait with you.  And come Sunday, we will celebrate together.

Happy Easter, baby.


Record Player

Photo by tienvijftien

When I was a child, I had a toy record player.  It came with small, sturdy records that had tiny dots in their grooves.  After winding it up and placing a record on the turntable, the needle would bump over the plastic dots and a simple melody of Camptown Races or The Farmer in the Dell would fill the air.

My children have gotten a lion’s share of toys and gifts in the past few years.  One of my favorites was received when my daughter was a newborn.  It was a gift certificate in her name to, a microfinance lending site.  Kiva takes small loans from people all over the world and pools them together to give loans to people who may not otherwise be able to get a loan.  It is an amazing organization.

While my baby waved her tiny fists and made tiny little newborn noises in my arms, I redeemed the gift certificate and loaned it to a woman in Nicaragua named Lesbia who ran a restaurant.  Her writeup said she would use the money to remodel and expand her restaurant as she worked to build an inheritance for her children, one of whom she held in her arms for the photo.  (Lesbia and I, we are on the same journey.)  Within a year and a half, her loan was repaid.  By the time my daughter was toddling around the living room, the same money had been reinvested in a loan to Angelica in Mexico, a young grandma who needed to fix the house she shared with her husband, which was her children’s patrimony.  After Angelica, it was a group of women running a clothing business in the Dominican Republic, then a teenaged pig farmer in Ecuador.

Last month, the loan was once again repaid.  This time, my daughter helped me pick out Natalya, a farmer in Kyrgyzstan.  While we made the loan, I got to tell her the story of her gift certificate.  We looked at the photos of people across the world whose lives are connected to my daughter’s through that one present given three years ago.  I realize that every person who gives a loan is a dot in the grooves of the entrepreneurs’ lives, adding to their melody.  And these people are bumps in the grooves of my daughter’s life too – small connections that, in succession, play a beautiful song.