Wednesday, July 30, 2008

School Shopping

I love school supplies...the stacks of pristine notebooks, blank pages inviting thought. The sharp shininess of new crayons. The fresh stiffness of new lunch boxes. So I would have never thought my back-to-school shopping would have included a CAR.

As a student, I'll be joining the commuting world again, at least a couple of days a week. It's been more than seven years since a drive downtown, at least a half-hour each way, has been a required part of my day. My driving choice reflected a local bias as well as the need for space for six people, a dog and a lot of stuff...a big gold Suburban. It has been a workhorse, solid and dependable. And it lumbers, sucking down the gas.

So, with the kids bigger and not all needing car seats, my husband and I decided to get a new car. That is it, up there, a Nissan Rogue. Cute, not too expensive, fun-to-drive, and it fits the kids and me just fine. I love it. I would just have never thought about a car being a back-to-school purchase! And we kept the Suburban to use when we all go somewhere together, with boils down to Sunday morning or long weekend trips.

So, with that behind me, the next change is my computer. I've settled on a MacBook Pro laptop, but haven't even turned it on because of my old computer giving me problems...does it know it is about to be retired? Anyway, I've never had an Apple, although my college roommate and I spent long hours on her little Macintosh playing the classic Tetris. So I'll be blogging with it soon, and I'll comment on it, let you know how it is going.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Project Runway!! Hooray!!

My favorite reality show on tv is back...Season Five of Project Runway started last Wednesday. I loooooove this show. I like to think I sew a little, which makes it more fun for me, but my husband actually watches this one with me. The combination of innovative challenges, tight time limits, and intense personalities makes for a fun viewing hour. Add Tim Gunn, Heidi Klum, Michael Kors, and Nina Garcia ("of Elle Magazine") and you can't lose.

There are lots of great blogs following the show, including Blogging Project Runway and Project Rungay. It is possible to lose a lot of time following this show!

But all of those guys up there, except one, WILL lose. Last week's episode only produced a couple of standout designs, in my opinion. This might not get really interesting until the end.

Too Much Information

There are four children, a dog, two cats, two birds and two adults who live in this house, not counting friends who are in and out all day long. When they all get going, needing attention, a shoe tied, just needing in general, it makes for a crazy mess in my head. I just found out why!

I'm reading Flow by Mihaly C. (it is unpronouncable and available at the link anyway), in one of the opening parts that discusses how our brains process information. It seems that it takes about 40 bits of information per second to listen to someone speak. Our maximum input is about 126 bits per second. That means only three people can talk at any one time and be understood! And this is LISTENING ONLY...forget trying to referee the cat and dog while cleaning one child's face, listening to two more tell you about the snake in the back yard and also keep dinner from burning.

I feel so much better. I just thought it was me. Turns out it's my BRAIN.


I feel like I'm expecting a baby, and, with four babies already, I should know. I've spent the last few days cleaning and purging and organizing, and I have miles to go. Ideas for super-organization, goals for cleaning, dreams of toys making it back to their bins as if by magic...I know I'm going to crash. And I'm terrified of that.

All of this is because school starts for the kids in two-and-a-half weeks, and for me a week later. It seems as if everything needs to be perfect when school starts so that the days will fly by in a smoothly-running rush. No bumps, no messes, no emergency pizzas or Zaxby's chicken dinners. In other words, I am developing a really bad case of perfectionism.

This is certainly not what I was expecting as I get ready to go back to school. I know that I usually get the blues in August, when freedom comes to an end, but this is different. It has an edge to it, and I'm feeling a little like I'm on a false move and BAM!! Into the great beyond, with no hope of pulling things back together.

Well, I guess I just need to talk myself down from this ledge. I'm trying so, so hard to remember to take each day as it comes, that school is only eight hours a week plus studying. I pray that God can help me remember this, to relax into it and enjoy this journey He's set before me. I also know in my head, but not yet my heart, that I can't get obsessed with my own journey. I need to be as much a part of my family as ever. I can't disengage, because it's not the time for that. So I need God's grace to cover me as I take the next step!
You know, in that picture up there, I really don't look that miserable. It was pretty fun, actually. Maybe leaning into the anxiety is exactly the thing I'm supposed to do. Thanks be to God!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Serendipity or Syncronicity or Something Better?

So, I'm going back to school next month, to get a Master's in Professional Counseling. Over the last year or so I've been pretty confident that this is the path I'm being led down, that God has something planned for me here. But God doesn't issue some kind of blaring continuous siren, and so it has been easy at times to think I just made it up in made head.

I've counted on periodic encouragement or success at each step to be my assurance that this is right...a good GRE score, an interesting set of interviews, my acceptance to school (naturally). But the best encouragements have been in the form of friends, family or even near-strangers offering support.

I've given myself a luxury of sorts this time, the luxury of leaving the program, with no regrets, should this turn out to be not for me. In the past I've been pretty dogmatic about finishing what I've started, which doesn't leave a lot of room for a change of heart or anything else, really. But now I find myself here in the lull between orientation and the actual start of classes, which has given me plenty of time to rethink my decision.

So as I was paying my flooring guy a couple of days ago (who, incidentally, is a real artist in wood) I mentioned how glad I was to have this done before my school started. He asked what I was studying, I told him, and then he proceeded to tell me his story. He had been in rehab for a prescription drug addiction, and he knew that his counselors and psychiatrists had saved his life. He spent more than an hour telling me about the experience. His gratitude to that place, his amazement at his change in circumstance, both into the addiction and then back out, and his enthusiasm for the results that confronting problems head-on and was overwhelming. What an honor for him to share his story with me!

I'm pretty sure that he has no idea what an encouragement he was to me that day. I've thought about the coincidence of his talking to me and I'm pretty sure it wasn't just a coincidence. I am so grateful for these small gifts along my way. That is pretty cool.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Relax! (whether I want to or not)

We are redecorating. Not remodeling, just replacing carpet with hardwoods and painting in the kitchen and family room (which are really just one big space). I didn't think it would be that big a deal, but then the wood guy told me we'd have to be out of the house for a week or so. Man. So we've spent a couple of days at the lake, a few days with my Mom and Dad. Easy, right? I miss my home, my space, my stuff! I haven't been able to send emails or blog for about a week, which is a bummer because I'd gotten much more regular in sending notes to friends, and I've had so many bloggable ideas! (but I've forgotten a lot of those now. *sigh*)

The picture is my house right before we had to leave, a week ago. Now the painting is almost finished and the floors are in, beautiful and much less smelly than two days ago. And now I'm clawing my way through the dust.

I'm starting to matter how minor, how well organized, how awesome the result might be, changing the house is a major pain in the neck. But life is slowly returning to normal, and at some point this will be just a barely-remembered inconvenience. As long as the "barely-remembered" part isn't because of the fumes around here, that is fine.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Creative Pursuits

I have a real interest in developing creativity, both as a personal pursuit and as a therapeutic technique. I know from my own experiences that developing your creativity is all about becoming more of who you really are (that Oprah phrase "your authentic self") I really believe there are tools to use there that can help anyone, whether you want to write a book or a blog or just look at your life with a little different viewpoint.

One of my gurus is Julia Cameron, author of The Artist's Way. The picture above is from a seminar I got to go to in Arizona, where I met her. (That's my girlfriend who came with me, and Julia's in the middle. I'm the tallest one.) Anyway, I came across this article from Scientific American Mind a couple of days ago. When I saw the title I thought, "Well. Wonder how this fits in with Julia's ideas." And lo and behold, she is one of the experts!

The article is worth a read, just to get different takes on what a creative life looks like. And here is one of my favorite questions from Julia's teaching: What would your eighty-year-old self tell the you of today? I'll give some of my answers if anyone else wants to post in the comments.


At Vacation Bible School this week we "walked on water" using the classic cornstarch-and-water mix. It was one really fun, messy morning. I was shocked at the timing to see this post over on Althouse. Check out the slightly creepy video of ooblek dancing on the subwoofer! (I haven't figured out how to embed videos yet...something to work on.)

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Lucchese Love

I believe everyone needs at least one, and preferably two, pair of cowboy boots. Aren't these great? Just enough flair, with gorgeous stitching and a lizard vamp. (How often do you get to say "lizard vamp?") And they are even on sale!!

Highs and Lows

This week is Vacation Bible School at our church, and I'm in charge of telling the Bible stories. I have always loved VBS, especially getting all of the volunteers together. What a privilege to watch people come together to provide a fun week for our children! I directed program for a few years, and the best moment was when the building was humming, right around 10:30 Monday morning. If no one needed me at that time, then I knew I'd done my job and the rest of the week was cruise control. Oh, sure, there would be moments of crisis management, but I knew rotations were going well and everyone understood their jobs if I was in the volunteer breakroom chatting with people. It was the best high! It took weeks of preparation but always ended up being a huge reward.

This week I'm in the VBS trenches. One of the decisions I made regarding going back to school was that I would give up some of my volunteer activities. In the interest of starting to pull back and do less even before school starts I didn't direct VBS this year and just offered to teach the lesson, which actually requires very little in the way of advance preparation, maybe only 30 minutes each day.

And...I miss the high. I really wasn't prepared for that. I'm fine with teaching, perfectly comfortable with my storytelling role, but it just isn't the same. I wonder if I'll find anything like that feeling once I start school, or working with clients.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The Second Half of Summer

My friends and I have been marveling that we are in the downhill slide towards school, and that summer is half over already. Our June passed gloriously unscheduled, for the most part, which is what summer should be about. July started with Vacation Bible School, and we have camps looming towards the end of the month. The kids are so excited, but I know it means that the fall schedule, otherwise known as "real life," draws closer.

And graduate school looms, as well. More on that in a future post.