Dear Mom of a Bullied Teen–

I hugged your son today.

With all you’ve been through, I doubt those words even make a dent. But I’ll give it a shot and hope that if I lay bare my heart, something good will come of it.

Two things make this hug kind of remarkable. My years teaching in public school taught me that hugs are a BIG FAT NO NO—never ever touch a child, we were told. Still, I gave absolutely no thought to what was appropriate. I just reacted, I guess. He should know how loved he is and I needed to express the grief I feel—and have often felt—over his situation and others. So sue me.

And then, if I believe what I’m told by those who know and love me best, I’m not a hugger in the first place. Admittedly, I withhold affection when I’m not sure it will be reciprocated. No need for worries in this case—your son is genuine. I’m sure he never turned away a hug. And that, perhaps, is what prompts this post.

I’m sure you feel we haven’t done enough. How can I explain why meanness can’t be prosecuted? How does the teacher address eyes rolling? A snicker? Students use disrespect for humor across the board—they tear down their friends. They tear down their enemies. In one situation, their words are purely for laughs and meant to be harmless. In another, it may be harassment, but it’s not always obvious. It’s hard to sort out what’s teasing and what’s torture in the middle of a lesson.

As I composed this post in my head, I tried to identify what I’m really feeling. I’m just so sad. My heart breaks for him, for you, for your family. But more than that, I feel so helpless. We’ve talked ourselves sick about bullying issues and what to do about it. I applied myself to this situation in particular. It feels completely beyond my control and like a complete personal failure all rolled into one.

apple dictionaryWhen I started teaching years ago, I held to an idealistic view of my role. Struggling students just need encouragement. My words can make a difference. I can do this. I can turn lives around. I’ll just be the best cheerleader they’ve ever seen and love those kids to a better tomorrow.

Maybe that’s just the Kool-Aid of public education talking, and a side order of 20th century psychobabble. I’m more jaded now because I rarely saw changes in those days. The student whose school life was miserable on the first day of school tended to spend the last day in pretty much the same dark hole—or worse.

Now, I know there are exceptions. I’ve read the stories—even one recently about a teacher who adopted one of her students. Teachers do make a difference. I know it’s true.

Sure, I want to be a good teacher. I want history to come alive in my classroom and for previously disengaged students to be rapt by my lectures, hanging on every word, taking long draughts of truth in my presence. That’s the goal for every good teacher, and I sincerely hope I get there. But, in my heart, that’s not the difference I hope to make.

Your son, for so many reasons, represents many children who have passed under my nose in my career—who live with persecution day in and day out. This is the difference I want to make. Real change. Broken hearts healed and guilty hearts repentant. Forgiveness. Reconciliation. All of these truths I am charged with teaching—I want to see it make a difference. Right now. Today. For your son.

As sad as I’ve been this week, I realized that a change has been made, and it isn’t a small one. Your son made the difference. For me he redefines the victim—

That kid has guts. I hadn’t thought about it that way before I met him, but a few of my students over the years were downright courageous. Every day, they came to a school that they hated, pulled themselves together, put smiles on their faces and tried for the umpteenth time to make a connection with other students.

Never once has your son shrunk back in the corner in silence for fear of being criticized. Every single day, he participates. In fact, some days I feel like I’m teaching just to him. So I thought back to others, and yes, it is a pattern I see repeated over the years. I’ve known students who could easily have found some safety crouching in the shadows, but that’s not how they chose to handle their problems. They are talented and creative and consistently made positive contributions to the group—even when the group was unappreciative.

He is warm, genuine, kind, and helpful. This is the thing that is drawing some of those former students to my mind and resurrecting this sorrow for kids I couldn’t rescue. I loved having them in my class. They were the ones who chased me down to tell me a story or just say hello. They were the ones who gave the hugs that the administration warned us about. They were the ones who were worried about me when I had a bad day—and did what they could to turn my day around. Your son lights up the room. Not one of his smiles was wasted on me. Not once.

As I’m wrapping this up, I keep asking myself, “Now what?” For the Christian educator, this should be obvious. I love my students. I love the ones who are broken and the ones who did the breaking—and the gospel is for both. I see more preaching in my future, praying more and more for the Holy Spirit to bring conviction on my school. They will never know how destructive their sin is—and the sure judgment awaiting them—if they aren’t told.

“But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment.”         Matthew 12:36 (NASB)

Then, for all the smiles and joy and life that students like your son bring to our schools, I share the same gospel. They must hear from me—relentlessly–that Christ loves them and they cannot be snatched from His hand. Maybe, with a little work, I can overcome my concerns over boundaries and punctuate the truth of His love with the occasional hug. So sue me.

May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.       Ephesians 3:19 (NLT)

I used to know a little about my worth. Now I’m convinced.

chipmunkHere’s a little disclaimer. I had oral surgery yesterday. My mouth is pretty sore, and I’ve got a big ol’ chipmunk cheek to prove it. Possibly—probably—I shouldn’t attempt to write given the medication that I’ve taken. But I can’t stand it. I’ve got to get this out!!!

It’s been a long time since I gave any thought to my self-worth—how I evaluate it, whether it’s too low or too high, etc. Perhaps I thought I had evolved enough emotionally that this really wasn’t an issue anymore. And then again . . .

I had to go on a junior high retreat to find out otherwise.

What I discovered on retreat was that we all need to work through this. No matter how much we mature, we are always either puffed up or torn down by external factors. I left junior high 30 years ago, so I don’t worry so much about what the cheerleaders think of me nowadays. But I’ve only replaced their evaluation of me with something else—-

I catch myself getting either a little manic or a little depressed depending on how many views I get on this blog. If I could just be funnier, deeper, or get more shares, I’d feel better.

It bothers me—deeply bothers me—if I feel like my students aren’t enjoying my class. Nothing sucks the wind out of the sails of this teacher like a classroom full of complaining students. A teacher said to me once, rather condescendingly as I recall, “I don’t think we have to entertain these kids!” Well, I don’t think I have to, but it’s a whole lot more fun for me if they’re having fun. And when they’re not having fun, I worry that I’m not good enough. If I could just be more organized, take more time to plan, be a little more creative . . .if I could just bring my ‘A game’ every single day without dropping the ball, I’d feel so much better.

As hard as I tried not to worry about keeping up with the Joneses, when we were looking at houses to buy, I could not stop myself from wondering what other people might think of my new house. Now that we’re in the house, I worry about color scheme and furniture and knickknacks. If I could just have the money and the sense of style to put together something impressive, I’d feel better.

Over the last several years, we’ve had enormous changes in our lifestyle. We don’t live and work in the same town anymore. A lot of the spare time I had to run in the evenings has been eaten up by working full-time, commuting, and motherhood. Moving to Arkansas brought other challenges for a non-athlete such as myself. It is so DAD GUM HILLY around here. I’ve battled several injuries that have sidelined me for months at a time. I’m just not able to keep up with workouts like I used to and now I’ve gained weight. I cannot begin to describe how much my weight and body image haunt me. Day in. And day out. For. Years. If I could just have the energy to get back to training, I’d lose the weight, look better, and feel better.

I began dieting in elementary school and by the time Christmas rolled around my sixth grade year, I was seeing a counselor twice a week for self-esteem issues and compulsive dieting. This battle of understanding my worth began more than 30 years ago, but I’ve not mastered it. So, in some ways, maybe I’ve never left junior high.

The speaker at the retreat, Blake Hudspeth, called on the students to recognize who defines them, who gives them their identity, who determines their worth. He used Matthew 16:13-20—Christ builds Peter’s identity when Peter confesses Jesus as the Christ.

I was listening carefully and taking notes, knowing that I would be leading a discussion over the message to a small group of girls afterward. Something nagged at me. I know all this is true. I know my worth is much higher than the amount I typically assign to myself. I can list verses about Christ’s love and how it should be the factor that determines my worth. Ugh. What’s wrong with me?

It’s not that I don’t understand my worth in God’s eyes. I’m not convinced of it. I looked around at the students—especially at the sweet girls in my charge. They will struggle and struggle to overcome the definition of worth that the world forces on them. We cheerlead and we encourage and we compliment and we exhort them to recognize how beautiful they are. Why will they not be convinced?

Becoming convinced begins with a confession. I’ve been locked in a battle with God—sort of indirectly—where my actions imply that His appraisal of my worth isn’t accurate.

I don’t value my life if I’m not

  • skinny
    • pretty,
  • smart
    • talented . . .the list goes on . . .

I depreciate my value if I can’t

  • get published
    • be everyone’s favorite teacher
  • run 30 miles a week
    • be the perfect wife and mother and NEVER DROP THE BALL

I’m insecure if I don’t get enough attention—especially regarding the things above.

So, there’s my confession. I try to talk God out of loving me, His creation. I, in fact, imply that He isn’t doing enough to help me attain all of those things and that’s why I don’t feel as good as I’d like. Forgive me, Jesus. Scrub me clean!

Now, how do I become convinced that what God says about me is true? I admit, Blake Hudspeth, I drifted off for a few minutes while you were teaching. I got lost mulling this over because I’ve been in a holding pattern over self-worth since the 3rd grade. It. Must. Stop.

Then the thought occurred to me, who are the people who can convince me that I’m smart, pretty, or talented? When I was single, if a guy I was attracted to was attracted to me, I felt good. Back in junior high, if the popular girl I so admired complimented my clothes or my hair, I felt good. When an athlete friend of mine told me that I was doing well training for my marathon, I felt good. When Todd Beasley told me he loved me, I was over the moon.

What’s the magic formula that makes these people have so much influence? It is because I value them. When the people on whom we place the most value notice us, recognize our accomplishments, love on us—we allow ourselves to be convinced. We accept the compliments and the praise and the adoration from those we most admire because we want so much for their high opinions of us to be true.

Now, why on earth are we not so convinced by God love and adoration of us? Why would I not want His high opinions of me to be true?

It is because we don’t really know the value—the exceedingly great worth—of our Savior. Not really. If we truly understood how worthy is the Lamb of God, who gave Himself up for us, then we would abandon the pursuit of earthly validation. Part of not knowing His true exceeding worth, is acknowledging the exceeding depth of our sin.

We know what He’s done for us. We know the things that He said about us during His ministry here. God’s Word is full of proclamations of His love. If we are unimpressed by God’s love, perhaps it’s because we don’t know Him all that well. Maybe if we press in and spend some time in His Word, we will more fully see how beautiful and cherished we are, and BE CONVINCED THAT IT’S TRUE BECAUSE WE WILL KNOW HIS WORTH. WE WILL KNOW THAT HE IS FAR MORE VALUABLE THAN ANYONE WHOSE VALIDATION WE SEEK ON EARTH.

God Rays

Maybe we just don’t get how awesome He is and, therefore, don’t realize that it’s a BIG DEAL to be chosen by I AM. What He did was rescue us, clean us up from all that filth, and proudly proclaim us His bride. Now, why is someone’s opinion of my house or my hair more important than the One who put Himself on a cross for me?

What is it that you want changed in order to feel more convinced of your worth? Is it a job? Your appearance? More money? Your children and their success? A man or woman in your life? A different man or woman in your life? Some dream that has gone unfulfilled?

As we grasp the worth of the Lord Jesus, we more readily cast these things down to take up the cross. He told us to follow where He leads, and the things He has for us have exceedingly more worth than what we now pursue.

God, give me eyes to see the depth of my sin and the incomprehensible worth of my Savior.

No Small Miracle

Well. It’s no small miracle that I’m actually writing today. Ever since I went to She Speaks last summer, I’ve been wanting—needing, really—to get time alone to write. But, I returned from the conference and, having not been home in two weeks and staring nine months of teaching in the face, dove into a pile of work and I’ve been at it ever since. If you’ll forgive me a slightly overused metaphor, teaching is a marathon. I’ve been running—looking longingly to each weekend for a break only to find housework and a landfill of laundry that refuses to be ignored. This is why I keep saying that I was made to work part-time. But, God be praised, I love my job. All 40 hours a week of it!

One thing I took from She Speaks had nothing to do with writing and everything to do with teaching. We were treated with presentations from many fine writers, speakers, and publishers. For my life, I can’t remember who this speaker was or what point they hoped to make. The scripture was Acts 3:6-10, where Peter and John encounter a man crippled from birth who asked them for money. “Then Peter said, ‘Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.’”

From the moment she read the verse, I zoned out—went to a completely different place. “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have, I give you . . . Jesus Christ . . .”

enlighted_firm

“Huh,” I thought to myself, “that reminds me so much of a typical day in the classroom.”

Follow me on this, especially if you don’t teach. Educators are bombarded all day long with requests—rather, thinly veiled demands—for what students think they need.

I’ve scheduled a test, but they have a game so, ya know, studying is just a bit inconvenient.

We have a chapter to cover, but they’d prefer to watch a video. And make no secrets of their preferences.

The project is due Tuesday, but couldn’t I just move it to Friday? Pretty please?

What?? A test the Tuesday after spring break? That’s just not fair—even if you have covered all the material and told us exactly what to study! Doesn’t she know we’ll be on vacation? Mission trips? Asleep?

I had a student in Texas who was a master at needling me about this stuff. She was a great student, and we got along famously. She had a nasally quality to her voice, so even though I truly loved her, most of my memories of her are probably her least flattering moments. The child could work a nerve. “Mrs. Beeeee-zzzlyyy!! Five paaaaa-gessss? Couldn’t we just write two? We have a math test tomooooooorrrrrrrowwwwww, can’t we move our quiz to Thurrrrrrrsday? I love your class, Mrs. Beasley, but this stuff is sooooooooooo borrrrrinnngggg!!”

teacha

Hey, teachers, how rich would you be if you had a dollar for every time you wanted to say, “And this is a picnic for me, too, Cupcake, let me tell ya. Now, find someone who cares or tell the wall. Beasley out.”

I have to say—that I rarely unleash the full force of my sarcasm on some poor unsuspecting student is no small miracle. Congratulations. To. Me.

But as this speaker was presenting—and I’m completely missing the point of what she’s trying to say—I saw the connection between the cripple and my students. They think they know what they want. They think they know what they need. But what they’re asking for is a fix. What they want will no more meet the deep needs in their lives than a band-aid will cure cancer. I could make some adjustments to give them ease, to make things more comfortable, but it absolutely will not make them better students and they’ll be further from the goal than the day they first entered my classroom.

So often I can’t give the students what they’re asking for at any rate. They just want things to be easy when I’m supposed to put them through their paces. But I have something they need— and they don’t even know to ask for it. Language arts, history—these are just vehicles that God has provided for me to share with students what their souls truly crave.

I have Jesus, and they need Him.

It’s no small miracle that I so keenly feel their need. I used to approach teaching from the rather entangled, obscured view of my own perfectionism. Never did I feel that I was accomplishing anything. And likely I wasn’t. What a miserable way to spend an otherwise fun and rewarding career. Today I see my life—all of it—through the lens of what Christ did for me, and all the blessings that are mine because of the cross. Now, instead of focusing on my performance and how the students’ performance reflects poorly on me, I’m more concerned about reflecting the glory of my Savior and inviting my students to know and follow Him, deepen their devotion, and abandon the things that compete with their love for Christ. Sometimes in class I can’t wait to get to the biblical principle in my lecture—it’s like a “fire shut up in my bones”. I don’t want to hold it in!

No, students, I can’t reschedule the quiz, move back the deadline, show a video instead of lecturing. What I have, I give you.

I have Jesus. I was blind, but now I see. I was once darkness, but now I am light in the Lord. I was dead, and now I live. It’s. No. Small. Miracle.

darkness and light

 

 

 

 

My new little blog Bible Study…I shall be posting forthwith…

For a long time, a really long time, I’ve been thinking about doing a bible study through my blog. A few years ago, I talked it over with several friends who were enthusiastic about the idea. My vision was for readers to be able to respond and connect through the comments–like a virtual study.

I can’t remember why I shelved the idea before. It wasn’t because I was too busy then. Honestly, I’m really too busy now, but it’s time to get started. My biggest fear lately has been that I would dive in and not be able to keep up because I stay so busy with teaching. But, I’ve decided the only way to right my priorities is to just do it. Every other little thing will always take precedence over study and writing if I don’t do something to make myself reorder my commitments.

The original plan was to start a certain number of days before Easter, and work my way through Matthew so that I would finish with the Resurrection on or about Easter weekend. Most of that plan is now in play, but whether or not I finish by Easter remains to be seen. Right now I’m planning to post three devotionals a week–Sundays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays (we may need to add -ish to the names of those days!) If it looks like I can meet my own deadlines, I will try to move to posting daily, but I have a feeling that’s a little too ambitious! Trying to offer myself a little grace here! I may park on one chapter in Matthew for two or three posts before moving on to the next chapter. I’ll include some questions to think about with each post, but please feel free to pose your own questions for others to respond to.

I hope you will join me in studying Jesus’ life and ministry with Easter approaching. Please comment, question, share, and repost. I’ve prayed for God to give me what He wants me to write and to make it useful.

Here it goes.

The Redemption of Super Mess

There are two quirks in my personality that cause me the most grief. They have the combined effect of turning me into a complete mess.

  • I’m terrified of feeling overwhelmed.
  • I always bite off more than I can chew.

I try. Really, I do. But invariably I get in over my head so that, naturally, I’m overwhelmed. And, oh yeah, since I’m a perfectionist, even if I’m not having to tread water to stay on top of the work load, I find ways to ruin even manageable responsibilities. So…make that three quirks that cause me grief.

That’s why I quit teaching school full-time. And then, because a perfectionist can drown teaching even just part-time, I quit teaching altogether.

“She’s Super Mom!” Eden said to her daddy the other day. And he agreed. Gosh, I love them. These sweet compliments were traded between bites of a meal which I did not prepare. With the addition of my new full-time teaching job, our lives are so crazy that finding a few minutes to buy groceries is a tremendous feat of organization, patience and energy. I have not these gifts. Not having wholesome, healthy meals prepared for my family is fodder for my beat-yourself-up-mercilessly gene. It sure is sweet that my family is not as hard on me as I am on myself.

Like so many summers before, school started even though I wasn’t ready. Honestly, I’ve tried to cut myself a break because it wasn’t entirely my fault that I wasn’t ready. I spent most of the in-service week before school started without a computer. We started a ladies bible study the week I went back to work. (It was awesome.) We had our very first church plant worship service the night before school started. (God is awesome.) The weekend before I actually had students in the chairs, I managed to go for a long run, write lesson plans, put my classroom together, and buy some new clothes so that I wouldn’t disgrace myself wearing the rags in my closet. I continued to not beat myself up as I got up at 3 A.M. on the morning of the second day to get my lesson ready. OK, I was a little irked with myself, but I did have a good week.

Still, I am too busy, and I’m overwhelmed. I sure don’t feel super.

And then God gave me this…

I ran 17 miles today. Don’t ask me how I harangued myself for settling on 17 instead of 18! (I may have had an epiphany this morning, but I’m still a work in progress.) Lately, I’ve been circling downtown Benton for my long run because it’s about the only place around here that somewhat flat.  At various street corners downtown, markers have been placed in the concrete stamped with famous quotes–ostensibly to inspire or maybe bring a smile to your face. Since my regular route is around downtown, I’m sure I’ve read all of them 100 times. Today, on about my 10th lap, I stomped over the following, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.—Abraham Lincoln.”

How nice. Honest Abe and all his wisdom. Makes me so proud to be an American. And even more proud to be a Christian since Jesus actually said it.

Yes, Abe made the speech “A House Divided.” Right. Got that. But when he borrowed the principle from Jesus, his audience most likely read enough of the bible to know who Abe was quoting–unlike the well-meaning person who stamped it in concrete at the corner of Main and South.

I chuckled about this for half a block. Then it occurred to me that I’d run over this little error again and again for the last year and never noticed. A falsehood—a half-truth—has been laid down and preserved. It’s meant for us to take it in—even subconsciously—as we pass over it and glean whatever wisdom it has to offer. But it’s not exactly true—and for a Christian, very often the source determines the validity.

I pass over falsehoods and half-truths repeatedly every day. Lies that say I have to be perfect. Whispers that claim my best doesn’t measure up. Stamped on the very core of my being is a little fib that says even a tiny slip-up is a crushing failure. I walk right over it. I stand on it. It is foundational to the way I view myself and everything that I do.

This morning, though, God made it pretty clear that those things are not true and He isn’t the source of it either. My life is plain ol’ normal—mom, wife, school teacher—nothing super hero-ish about it. There’s nothing spectacular about my background or my education. I do a few things well, and lots of stuff I don’t even attempt–just like anybody else. I’m pretty ordinary.

But I’ve answered an extraordinary call. God has put me in a lot of roles recently that I’ve hardly felt prepared to fill. I agonize over all the details, all the people who are depending on me, whether or not I can live up to the commitments I’ve made. Yet God sustains and strengthens. He loves and fills up and transforms. And for whatever reason, He blesses me to be a part of what He’s doing. I can offer up what I know is a complete mess to God and He makes it useful.

Someone’s life is going to be different because I was here…being a mess…

I’m not sure I can run that 26 miles. Today I confronted a very real fear that my body just isn’t up to it. And yet, I’ve made 63% of my fundraising goal. Someday soon, a cancer patient will have assistance paying their bills because I was a complete mess after my dad died and decided to do something good.  If you have a few extra bucks, you can click on my fundraising page to make a donation and change lives with me! I need $1875 to reach my goal. Small donations are HUGE!

Every day I juggle all the myriad tasks that make up my teaching job. Want to know something really cool? I love those kids. I hardly knew them a week before I wanted to wrap my arms around the whole lot. God put me there to love and disciple those kids. I’ll do it. I’m an absolute mess, but I’ll do it. The lesson plans will be posted late, the copies won’t be printed out, I’ll be pulling my hair out because I just keep dropping the ball when people are depending on me, but someone’s life will change forever because I answered that extraordinary call.

And finally, the proverbial kicker…I am back to working full-time after I swore I wouldn’t. My husband can now answer God’s call to plant a church because my job provides for our financial needs. Lives will change. Mine already has. Thank you, God, for redeeming the mess.

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.         Ephesians 2:10

Little Big Momma Gets Her Back to School Freakshow On

It’s my last day of summer. No, I don’t live in one of those northern, unforgiving environments where it might top off at 60 degrees before blizzard season hits. I live in one of those southern, unforgiving environments where the forecast usually calls for a high around hellish. On a good day, we are treated to mildly hellish with a chance of showers.

Summer is over because I’m a teacher. I feel a little as if this summer signifies the closing of chapter entitled “Rare and Elusive Sanity”, as I’m back to teaching full-time for the first time since May ’06. Realistically though, I’ve always been neurotic, regardless of the work hours, and I frequently teeter on the edge of the abyss. I never exaggerate. And I’m not at all sarcastic, either.

The big question is, am I ready for school to start? I’d love to give a decisive answer, but my brain is a house divided. Periodically in my on/off again teaching career, I’ve mourned the loss of stay-at-home-mom-dom. As anger is part of any grieving process, naturally I get mad at God.

“You’ve robbed me of these precious years with my children!!!!” I would cry, defiant fist held high. “Think of the children!!!”

I imagine this response from the Almighty, elbow resting on the side of the throne, chin in hand, replying tonelessly, “Really? You wanna go there?”

Hmm. Probably not.

First, I can’t say that I’m always the best steward of my time. This summer, I’m juggling time with the girls, a mountain of work to do in preparation for school, and stealing time to write. We’re coming dangerously close to having a leadership team together for our new church, and I will be assisting with a women’s bible study for the next couple of months. Without really thinking about whether I had time or not, I started training for a marathon and fundraising for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. I’ve got stuff to do. And yet, this is how I spent my morning–

In my defense, an open bible was sitting right next to me on the bed the whole time. I did read it...

In my defense, an open bible was sitting right next to me on the bed the whole time. I did read it…

Before we hit the road for Texas a few weeks ago, I attempted to get the house good and clean. “No one wants to come home to a dirty house,” my mom used to say as she handed out assignments for the kids to complete. Ewww…she’s right. We want to enter a clean home after a day in the car.

So I set about accomplishing this task, after a couple (or three…maybe more) monstrous tantrums at Wal-Mart wherein I had to explain to that sweet, well-meaning stock boy that the five year old shrieking on the aisle 5 floor was not lost. She’s just…mine.

And that’s how it’s done in the summer. Spend a few hours at the pool, have your will to live ironically sucked out of you at the mega chain which claims to help you “live better,” and then try to force a chore list onto your cherubic heirs.

I endured a couple more tantrums because my older daughter, who has always been a little OCD about cleanliness, chose that particular day to decide that she no longer likes to clean and most certainly is NOT mommy’s little helper. Well, excuuuuse me. This is the child who got in big trouble–more than once, mind you–for cleaning her sister’s room without permission. Without my permission. Without her sister’s permission–i.e., throwing away things (artwork) that look like trash and any item (toy) that she can’t find a place for because “she doesn’t even use it!” Good heavens, child. I can’t even get away with that.

Then Little Sister makes a good show of her temper, and I was about to cave because, who am I kidding, I can do it better in a fraction of the time. But suddenly, a miracle. She decides that cleaning’s not so bad with frequent costume changes. She scrubbed the bathroom in her finale outfit. It was stunning–the outfit and the bathroom. I wouldn’t have to re-do it. Huzzah!

Pause the drama for a quick pic.

At this, I can finally turn my attention to the kitchen, which has been too long neglected. While I’m holding my nose, digging through a stack of dishes out of a filthy sink, Eden is vacuuming with a machine whose filter has likewise been neglected. It is doing a fine job of sucking dog hair from the floor evermore blowing dust out the back.

I hung my head in shame at the realization that the backseat of my car is cleaner than my house. Maybe after a day in the car we should just…stay in the car. It’s a miracle God trusted me with children, much less staying home with them all day, year-round.

But today, I moved things along by promising a trip to the pool. I finished up the above nonsense on Facebook and turned my attention to my journal, which is really the only way I can pray with the kids in the house. They had continuously interrupted everything all morning and sure didn’t slow down because I was in talks with God. Emma Kate was babbling excitedly when I finally rose from my bed work station. Then she said something kind of garbled–like the teacher in the old Peanuts cartoons–something about mouthwash and Big Momma.

“Did you just call me…Big…Momma?” I asked incredulously. And what are you insinuating about my breath???

She was too happy about swimming to be contrite. She giggled, “Yeees.”

“Let me tell you something. I’m no Big Momma. I’m Appropriately Sized Momma. The bulges are all…proportional…mostly…” She continues to giggle. Disappearing into the closet, I glance around, and given her assessment of my shape (as unfair and inaccurate as it is), I make a decision. “Girls, Momma can’t find her suit. I can’t get in the water. Shucks and darn it.”

Now we’re at the pool. I’m smiling because the girls are getting along, playing together, and wearing themselves completely out. We’ll be glad for that at bedtime. I continue smiling because there’s a woman here having more problems with her two girls than I am with mine. That little one’s shriek rivals EK’s, which is something most people describe using the words “bloody murder.” It’s okay, lady. Remember the steps. Call your sponsor. See you in group.

At night, I’ve been counting down the waning hours of my summer vacation with a phenomenon I’d completely forgotten about since I left teaching full-time.

Stress dreams.

You’ve had them, right? Anyone? Teachers, haven’t you had that dream in the late summer where you’re going over your procedures with a class of 8th graders on the first day of school and suddenly, to your horror, you realize that you’ve got nothing on but your skivvies? No? Just me?

This summer I’ve had some loo-loos, let me tell you, and the one I’m about to relate goes in the record books. I think its accurate interpretation would have something to do with the fact that Katie doesn’t do stress well and has too many irons in the fire. Here it goes…

In this dream we were staying at my friend Laurie’s house, which is less than a mile from where I live. This would, like most things in dreamland, make no sense if it weren’t for the fact that we stayed with Laurie and her family on about five occasions last year while we were making arrangements to move to Arkansas. I was, at that time, very, very stressed. Back to the dream, I’m feeling all this guilt that we are being an imposition to these lovely friends of ours for the umpteenth time. To compensate, I’m wrangling my children, trying to keep the peace and not be such a nuisance. At the same time, I have piles and piles of books with me, which act as an excruciating reminder that I have got to get out of there and go study. But how could I dump my kids on these poor folks when they have done so much for us already?

At this point, the dream merges with a recurring nightmare that I’ve been having since college, in which I’m late for school but no matter what I do, I can’t get out of the house. Ordinary things like breakfast and dressing take hours. Frantically I check the clock again and again. Each time my anxiety grows and grows. Eight thirty. Nine forty-five. Eleven o’clock…

In this version of the dream, I’m panicking over the hours on Laurie’s clock and trying to get my family out of her door. And just when I think the anxiety is more than I can bear, I realize that I simply can NOT leave the house without my…

Wait for it…

Jogbra.

You read that right. The climax to this drama broiling in my subconscious is the confounded absence of the appropriate women’s workout apparel. I’m turning over suitcases, rifling through closets and bureaus (not mine, remember), and running back and forth to each member of both the houses Beasley and Cox, wailing, “I’m LATE!! Where is it??? Where is my BRA????”

Now, Mr. Sandman, I don’t want to sound ungrateful. I’ve had some visits of late from your evil twin, Insomnia, and I’m okay with a bizarre dream here and there. But any latent phobia I may have regarding the availability of undergarments for high impact aerobic activity may stay safely housed in my unconscious. Please and thank you.

People keep asking me, “Are you ready for school to start?” I hardly know what to say.

So tell me, teachers? Are you ready? Feeling pressure? Weird dreams? Let’s hear it!