Monday, April 30, 2012

Confessions of a Workaholic

I swear I may never retire.


Not because I won't have the moolah to retire, but mostly because I won't want to not work.

I have a full-time job and two young children, and I still get a twinge of regret that I can't hold down a "fun" job to generate extra cash flow.

For instance, I was sitting at Sonic at 9:30 p.m. tonight to get half-price milkshakes on my way from working late filing papers at school (symptom of a workaholic?  or only that of a procrastinator?  or both?), and I notice that there's a sign on the door announcing that they are hiring, and telling applicants when to come for interviews with the manager.

The conversation has already taken place in my mind.  I tell the manager that yes, I'm way overqualified for this job, but I actually want to work it.  I tell him that I'll be more reliable than a teenager, and wow him with my bright smile and brilliant work ethic.

Yes, this conversation took place in my head.  It was quickly followed by a mental montage of me being the best carhop ever, not forgetting to give mints (maybe even giving an extra or two), having an apron stocked with napkins and straws,  getting tips and recognition from management and customers who notice that I'm doing an exceptional job at customer service.  I imagined what it would be like to run into my students when they came to patronize the establishment (totally not awkward in my fantasy) and own my work, and not be embarrassed to be working outside of school (unlike my geography teacher from my high school who worked at the Warner Brothers store in Hulen Mall during Christmas and summers).

In real life, the carhop brings me my milkshakes and I head home, exhausted, ready to consume the milky froth and pass out (or write this blog entry).

The sad thing is, this is not the first time in the last week that I've had this twinge.  The math teacher on my hall is working the front desk at a hotel this summer and I'm jealous.  The social studies teacher is going back to his job in the Dillard's men's department for the summer and replenishing his wardrobe at a discount.  I want a new wardrobe!  One of them is married.  Neither of them have children of their own.  What am I planning to do this summer?  Well, if it pans out, teach a couple of days of summer school, and then stay home.  I know I'm going to enjoy it (or at least I'll keep telling myself that), but right now the only feeling I have inside is dread.

There's a little sneaky part of me that can't wait until the kids are older so I can get a job waiting tables somewhere a couple of nights a week--a dream of mine.  But even then I know I would have been better at it pre-children, back when I still had extra brain cells and was not as forgetful.  Geez, do I forget so many little things.

I'm restless right now.  This is the first time in a long time, that I've only had one paying job.  No tutoring, no nothing.  As soon as I was legally able to get a job, I got one.  In college, the only time I had fewer than two jobs was the year that I worked as a resident assistant and it was mandated.  Then I graduated from college, moved to Austin, and worked 2+ jobs again.

Historically, when I don't have another job, I fill my time with activities.  Volunteer work.  Clubs. Hanging out with friends.  Bible studies.

Now, I fill my time with cleaning up poop, spills, and other messes; tuning out the crying and screaming; and trying and failing to keep up with the feeding of the hungry family and the cleaning of our abode.

<Sigh.>  Not quite the work I ever envisioned myself doing, but perhaps the most important work of all.

Please pray for patience and the bounty of God's grace in this season of my life.


Tuesday, April 17, 2012


The irony has not been lost on me:  We are not two weeks out of the Easter season, a time when I am reminded ever so clearly what Christ has done for me through his love and sacrifice, and I'm beating up on myself, not willing to forgive myself.  Not willing to be Forgiven this morning.  Feeling like my Daily Bread is not going to make a difference in the weight on my heart.  I'm such a sinner, and my recurring sin pattern is self-sufficiency--living my life like I don't need Him (though I know I do), living my life in such a legalistic/perfectionist way as to get to where I don't need Him anymore (didn't realize I was doing this until recently).  When the toddler is out of control in crazy tantrum mode, dangit, I can HANDLE it!

But I can't.  Not by myself.  And last night that was ever so clear.

A few months ago (could it even have been over a year ago?  yes, maybe), I was sitting in Sunday school/Bible study/something church-y, and this question was raised:  What is the look on God's face when he looks at you, your life, what you do and have done?

Of course, the first thing that came to my mind was that He couldn't be anything but disappointed.  I imagined what my face must look like when I'm reprimanding my students, and transferred that to the Holy of Holies.  It was a ridiculous thing to do, because the answer to the question is only one thing:

God looks at me with the loving look of a Father upon a newborn babe, with smiling, twinkling eyes, and love radiating from His face.  He's looking at me through Jesus-colored glasses, as it were.  Jesus died for my sins so that I could be saved;  I am covered by His blood.  Through Him, I am whole and perfect in the sight of the Lord, even when I'm feeling broken and imperfect.  If you don't understand that to be True, then you don't understand the Gospel.  Or you've forgotten it in the wake of your sins like I did.

I woke up this morning praising God for this Truth, because I am so, so ugly inside right now.  My heart is aching thinking about how terribly imperfect I really am.  I'm a selfish, childish mirror of my toddler, which is scary.

When I was in late elementary school or middle school (we lived in Germany at the time) is the last time I ever remember feeling the way I feel right now.  Mom had gone back to work and my sister and I came home to an empty house for about thirty minutes to an hour every day before Mom made it home.  We would usually use the time to fight.  Physical, no holds barred.  Chasing each other around the apartment: kicking, punching, screaming, hitting, biting, clawing, pushing, shoving, beating.  It was wide open.  Raw.  And it was two-way aggression.  I don't know that either of us was the instigator more than the other.  I don't remember what brought it on.  I just remember that feeling that was left in my heart: satisfaction, remorse, confusion, self-pity, a mix of dread and anticipation.  I don't believe that we ever left any physical bruises or marks, but perhaps there was emotional bruising.  I do know that a glass panel in a door was victim to these after school fight club sessions, and even though I wasn't the one who pounded on it to the point of shattering it, I was the one who got in trouble.  Funny how the memory doesn't forget such trivialities.

I don't remember when the fighting stopped.  Possibly when we moved?  Because I only associate this with the apartment on base, with middle school.  I don't remember when I learned to walk away, just that it got easier to walk away as I grew older.

And now I have a toddler who is bringing up these feelings again.  This time, I'm an adult.  And I'm the responsible party.  And I don't understand how something so small can cause a reaction in me that is so big.

Last night at bedtime (Eli was at his Coast Guard meeting), she screamed at me for over an hour, waking up Oscar, causing him to scream at me, too.  She was overtired because she refused to go to sleep when she first was sleepy.  And the littlest things made her scream and cry and carry on (I don't want a sheet on my bed!  I want water!  No, don't put the pillow case on!  Not that cup!  I want to rock!)  She was in hysterics--maxing out her voice box, hitting, spitting, clawing, kicking.  Efforts (both physical and verbal) to quell this behavior were unsuccessful.   I had to leave the upstairs.  I closed the gate and I went outside, where the sounds of screaming were sound-proofed.  And I sat on my front stoop at 9:30 at night and I cried.  Loud, heaving sobs.  I'm surprised the neighbors didn't turn on their outside lights to investigate.  I was sure that I was having an asthma attack.  Once I was calm and my breathing was semi-regulated, I opened the front door and the screaming hit me in the face, my blood pressure sky-rocketed, my chest constricted.  So what did I do? I went up the stairs and I mirrored my child's throat-cracking wail.  And then I cried some more on the floor of their bedroom.  And they got quiet.  Confused.  (I'm sure they were thinking Is she laughing or crying?).  Oscar got back in bed and laid down, with his eyes wide open.  Elsie eventually got back in bed but kept crying (but, thankfully, not screaming).  And by the time Eli got home, I was ready to pass out from a mixture of not breathing well, self-loathing, and exhaustion.  But, of course, the sheets were in the dryer and the bed was covered with laundry so it took a whole lot more effort to put this incident to bed for the night.  Eli went in there and they went to sleep almost immediately.  I might be a bit jealous and a lot thankful.

My heart was still heavy when I woke up this morning.  And so I prayed.  And was reminded of God's love for me, the adult version of the tantrum-throwing toddler.  Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.

Will you please pray for me as I work through this ugliness that has reared its head?  And go ahead and throw in a prayer for all parents of toddlers, because I know I'm not in this alone, in more ways than one.  Thank you, Lord.

Romans 4:7-8 ESV “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; (8) blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.”

Thursday, April 12, 2012


Today, Oscar is 20 months old. So, on that note, I'm going to talk about Elsie.

She has recently decided that she's afraid of the dark. I don't know where she learned that's an option. The child's not afraid of much (can't honestly think of anything off the top of my head). I mean, she would sit in the dark and sing, talk, carry on for hours with no problems.  A few times in the last couple of weeks, she's started screaming when we turn the lights off at bedtime.  The other night she told Eli that she was afraid of the dark.  Last night I went in there and rocked with her, talked about her memory verse from Sunday school ("When I am afraid, I will trust in [God]."  Psalm 56:3) and then we sang the Steve Green song of the same theme.  She calmed, and then went back to bed.  A little while later, she woke up screaming again, and this time Eli went in there, and I went to sleep.

This morning, I asked her why she was afraid of the dark, what she was afraid of.



"He's watching me!"

I had to laugh to myself, and then explain to her that when Jesus watches us, it is a good thing.

"He's watching me on the potty!"


And then tonight after bath time, I had Oscar in my lap in the rocking chair.  He is a willing recipient of the fingernail clipping.  Elsie came in and had this look of horror and pain on her face and started screaming at me to stop.  She was so funny--it was a very extreme fingernails-on-chalkboard reaction to such a benign behavior.  But she has never let me clip her "finger tails".  I had just been sneaking into her room about an hour after she went to sleep and clipping her fingernails while she slept.

After seeing Oscar get his nails clipped, she announced that she also wanted her finger tails clipped, and when she sat down on my lap, just squealed and pulled her hand away.  I tossed the clips over to Eli, and looked at her fingers.  They're all short.  She bites her nails.  My two-year-old bites her nails.  Not to the point of bleeding, but to the point of shortness.

I looked at her toenails and saw one that was longer, and tried to get a closer look, but she started screaming and crying and twisting.  So I let her go.  She sat on her bed and cried, then calmed, and then announced that she wanted to do that again.

She's so weird.  Love her.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Flower Beds Anew

I don't know if anyone has ever told you this, but having a toddler is stressful. Having two toddlers? Just plain infuriating at times. My child brings out the worst in me. I don't know how she does it, but she does. And it makes me mad that she can push my buttons. She responds to Eli in ways that she doesn't respond to me. He tells her to stop something and she stops. If for some reason she doesn't, she gets a spanking and the behavior ceases. I tell her to stop something and she continues to do it, screaming, even after getting a spanking and being redirected. Agh! And the youngest is getting in some early practice for the terrible twos. Nice.

Add the stress of toddlers to the stress of my job. This is a particularly anxiety-inducing (but not to the point of medication) time in my work. State testing. Contract renewal and tenure (or non-renewal and job search). The long wait for an overdue spring break. Progress reports and grading to be done.

What do you get when you put all that together? One tired mama who is sick of being the wound-up monster that has taken over her personality. A mama who is afraid that this may not be temporary. A mama who needs to go outside.

And I've been doing just that whenever I can.

Last summer, I had the best time tending to the flower beds while children screamed themselves to sleep inside. I would spend a little time outside weeding and listening to the Dave Ramsey Show and when I came back inside, children were quiet and asleep. Once school started, however, I didn't spend any time outside. The last of my garden grew wild, and my flowerbeds were overgrown with grass and weeds. The last mow of the season by a teenager with no common sense ended with flower beds full of grass cuttings that had blown out the side of the lawnmower chute, deliver seeds of nastiness into my precious flowers. I was too overwhelmed to do anything about it.

The other morning, just when I was feeling like spring break should hurry up and get here, I was leaving for work and I saw a piece of purple trash in my flowerbed! I was about to be livid, but upon closer inspection, it was...gasp...a flower! My irises had started blooming! They didn't bloom at all last year, so I hadn't known what to expect. These things are huge.

If you remember, last year, my flower beds looked like the pictures on this post.

Now this is what the front bed looks like, with all those irises in bloom.

Doesn't it look so full? Next year I will probably have to thin it out and give flowers away. Anyway, escaping to the outdoors and spending time weeding my flower bed is very peaceful for me. Pulling weeks, admiring flowers, counting the flower shoots that are sprouting (the lilies are getting ready to bloom!).

I'm looking forward to summer time when I can get close to the Creator through His plant creations, and maybe through that I will learn how to cope with His small human creations.


Sunday, April 1, 2012

April 2012, Debt Update

We made some progress this March, but not as much as I would have liked.

First 10K Chunk, started 10/1/11

fundraising ideas

Fundraising Thermometer

With a little bit of hard work, we will pay off the rest of this thermometer this month, and it will have taken us seven months to complete. Not too shabby. Faster than originally was scheduled.

March was a bust overall. We violated the cardinal sin of budgeting: we didn't make one. (We were March fools, if you will.)

Yeah, don't do that. It's important to decide on a budget, on paper (or spreadsheet as the case may be), before the month begins.

Otherwise you'll remember what life before budgeting was like: you have no idea where your money went at the end of the month. I mean, all the bill got paid, yes. But then we debit carded ourselves to death on groceries and toiletries and stuff. I missed having the cash and knowing what exactly was available.

We made some big purchase with cash this month. We got a real lawnmower to replace the reel lawnmower, using tax refund monies. Home-ownership comes with expenses that you wouldn't even consider, by the way, and it's this simple reason that Dave Ramsey suggests getting out of debt before buying a house. We must have forgotten about that little bit when we got bit by the house bug in March 2010.

We also had been saving up to participate in our local community supported agriculture (CSA) program, particularly the summer vegetable share, and that sinking fund was fully funded, so it was time to bite the bullet and participate. It will go from April to August (5 months, approximately, depending on the growing season) and we will receive a share of produce once a week. There actually was an early pick-up this last week which included a dozen farm fresh eggs and a gallon of strawberries. Yum. Future shares will include a variety of fruits and vegetables, and sometimes will include flowers! The farm that grows all these items is the big pick-your-own blueberry place during the summer, and each week during blueberry season we'll get to pick a gallon of blueberries (so, about 10 gallons over the summer).

And now we are looking to purchase a freezer, chest or upright, wherever we can get the best deal. We've been saving up for this for a long time, too, and it's just the right time to get one since our side-by-side freezer is stuffed to the gills with deer meat from hunting season and strawberries from a fundraiser at the Methodist church (before we started the CSA program). There's no room to store frozen vegetables just in case we are over-loaded with veggies this summer, and no place to put our 10 gallons of blueberries once we get them!

We already have a budget for April, so no April fools here.