May 2014

When did the internet get so bossy?  It’s been crass and unpredictable. It’s uplifting as well as downright damning. It’s cunning. It’s creepy. It’s motivating. It’s annoying.  But now it’s getting bossy, and I hate, hate, hate bossy beings.

There’s a plethora (One of my top ten favorite words to say is plethora. Another favorite is exacerbate because I sound both smart and dirty at the same time when I use it.) of articles out there with must in the title.

When did we get so downright demanding of our friends and readers and start telling them all the stuff they need to change, quit or improve?  I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of the Must Train, and I’m jumping off.  Actually, being the stubborn, stiff necked woman I am, I never jumped on it, so I’ll just settle to walk alongside and yell at the rest of you to take the plunge. Just googling the words you must I discovered I needed a certain 10 things in my home before 30. There’s a list to accomplish before I have children, know about Medicare, breaking up, buying a used car or traveling to Belize…or Tokyo.

According the know-it-alls on the www, I’m far behind on the things I must do before I die. I’m sorry to be so snarky, but if we are going to be grammatically correct the only thing I must do before I die is be born because living is the only necessary thing that must occur before dying.  Am I right or am I right?

Who are these self described experts, and why are they telling me what I must do? If these know-it-alls can throw the word must around like the existence of the human race depends on their commands, then so can I. So, here’s my list of musts – not because I’m bossy but because semantics matters, and the word must needs to be respected more by both writers and readers.

  1. You must brush your teeth.  Thinking about it – no you don’t. It’s a wise choice, but it’s not part of the The Ten Commandments or the Code of Hammurabi now is it?  So is it really a must?
  2. You must check/change the oil in your car. I’m not going to argue that you shouldn’t check/change your oil. But my friend Lory received a Mustang convertible for her 16th birthday and failed to read the manual leaving her somewhere on the side of the road  around her 10,000th mile because she failed to do either. However, was she jailed for this oversight? No. Strike that one from the must list.
  3. You must excuse yourself from the dinner table when the use of facilities is needed.   Steve Martin, aka Ruprick in Dirty, Rotten, Scoundrels, didn’t, and it makes for one of the funniest movie scenes ever…and that says a lot coming from me because usually potty humor doesn’t make me laugh.
  4. You must always double check your speling and gramer.  Who are we kidding?  I just canceled my subscription to the local paper because I learned one doesn’t need to know how to write correctly to be considered a journalist anymore, and I just grew more depressed by the day as I took my red pen and made all the necessary corrections. (Don’t tell me I must get a life.  Grammar is all I have so you can’t take it from me.) These people’s LIVELIHOODS depend on spelling and grammar, and they don’t seem to care, so I guess it’s no longer a must.
  5. You must post endless pictures of your fabulous kids, life, family, vacations, etc on FB, but never mention the crappy day,the failed relationship, the kid who will never make honor roll no matter how hard he or she works or the struggles you have working out  your faith.
  6. You must call your mother (if she is still living, and you are still talking) on Mother’s Day.
  7. You must kiss in the rain.  No, as a matter of fact, you must not – I don’t care how much Nicholas Sparks encourages this dangerous behavior. And, if you bothered to call your mother on Mother’s Day, she’d tell you the exact same thing because you will catch a cold among other things which could lead to pneumonia and a weakened immune system, and then you’d die…proving your mother right.
  8. You must avoid grains at all costs. Please take the time to travel around Asia and notice all the obese diabetics eating rice three times a day.
  9. You must wear nice underwear in case you end up in an ambulance or ER.  My brother is an ER doc, and I know EMTs and firemen, and believe me, your delicates are the least of their concerns when they are firing up the ol’ AED. (Sorry, Mom, this is not a must.)
  10. You must learn to swim. I’m leaving this one. It IS a must. This weekend I learned the number of kids who aren’t learning how to swim is once again creeping up in this country, and drowning IS avoidable in so many instances.  I have had the good pleasure of teaching adults who are terrified of water to get to a place where they are jumping off the diving board in the deep end and swimming safely to the side of the pool. In light of the upcoming summer, I’m asking you what you are waiting for if you or your kids or grandkids don’t know how to swim?  Contact your local Y or parks department. Nothing gratifies swim instructors more than helping others in this endeavor.

I know there are more musts about which you poor schlubs must be educated, but according to the internet, 10 is the magic number when it comes to edicts so I’m stopping, but please feel free to share yours in the comment section below…if you must. (Twin B, when you read this blog post, -as I know you do since you must know if I mentioned you – you must clean out the kitty litter box when you come home.)


Happy Camper

by Priscilla on May 21, 2014

This past month has given me many opportunities to take stock in my life and evaluate, learn, stretch, grow and move forward…a lot of words and actions that I really take no delight in doing, but such is the stuff of human existence. (When Lifetime comes knocking asking to make the movie, all I ask is that Diane Lane play the role of TIS.)

The one question I keep coming back to is What happened to the girl who once was. The girl who wore bright red lipstick unabashedly and dyed her hair platinum and plopped very bad berets on top of it; she’d laugh until she’d cry with her girlfriends and stay up late under the light of a bed lamp reading until the wee hours or writing poetry.  Oh, and music, she’d listen to all kinds of music… and daydream.

That girl grew up to take off the very bad berets and put on other hats – Army wife hat, youth worker hat, teacher hat, volunteer hat, coach hat, mother hat, researcher hat.  Somehow one bad beret turned into the 500 Hats of Batholomew Cubbins The red lipstick morphed into something more flesh tone. She stopped with the bright headbands and jangly bracelets. She quit creating her own fashion trends like jeans with bright fabrics sewed and laced into them. Yes, looking back they  were  really quite horrible, but she created them and wore them with that attitude that said I really don’t care what you think. I love ’em.  She traded those jeans in for mom jeans and even more cliche, yoga pants. Her music disappeared into the words of NPR and talk radio. Her hair grew out and grayed, and before she knew it, she was sensible. Daydreaming?  Who had time for that anymore.

Sensible is a very good thing especially when it comes to mothering.  That girl should be sensible. She should be responsible, but every once in a while she needs to get out that tube of lipstick and cut up a pair of jeans.

There’s a place in this world I cherish – a place I share with my late father. It was a place where I wasn’t so and so’s little sister. I wasn’t judged by a GPA or a school record. My hair color was never an issue nor my choice of lipstick.

That place was camp.

At camp I found I could just let go on Pirate Day because kids love you when you act a big crazy mess just for them.

Camp 1 001

I shared with girls that while slow dancing with their camp crush could be magical, the thing they’d really remember is hanging on the cabin rafters with their fellow cabin mates.

I learned to throw myself into ever skit, every campfire, every drama class, every dining hall cheer…and I did it while making friends with some extraordinary people.

I discovered for the first time something I loved. Something I was really good at….kids.

Camp 4 001

I observed that building a bigger fire is universally on top of every man’s list whether he is American or Australian.

camp5 001

I recognized that God speaks His truth to me as much through His glorious creation as He does His Word.

camp 6 001

His truth these past weeks has been an overwhelming sense of I’ve got your back, kid, and I’m going to prove it.

Camp has approached me 25 years after my first summer job there. They need some extra help this summer. They know I’m passionate about kids and connecting with people and making the place I shared with my dad the best place possible for other families, and they said, Come here with your daughters this summer. We need your help.

God didn’t just have my back. He had my whole freaking being. He covered me in love the way I never even dreamed. He surprised me with joy.

So, I’m going back to the place I love.  I won’t be hanging off rafters or dressing up as a pirate, but I will be mentoring the college kids who do. I get to pour into them the love that so many of you have poured into me over the years. I’m going to grow exhausted and overwhelmed. I will feel weary and  dirty and sweaty and smell of lake for,  but I am going to be pretty darn awesome thanks to all of you and your outpouring of support.

In the mean time Mr. TIS has said he wants to reconcile. I do too, but not before I get my summer at camp. Not before I reconnect with the girl with platinum hair and the patched up jeans. Not before I find the girl he fell in love with and dared to pursue. Not before I allow my heart and soul time to heal. Not before I find that tube of red lipstick, smack it on and take in a few camp fires.

I need camp as much as camp needs me, and I serve a God who thinks finding the chutzpah to slap on that red lipstick can be a big step for a 40 something lady who used to be a 18 something girl….and He’s going to help me find it, and when I do, I’m introducing the girl who wore it well to my daughters.





National Lunch Heroes Day

by Priscilla on May 3, 2014

May 2 came and went with little ado. Thanks to my FB pals, I was alerted to the fact that May  2 is National School Lunch Hero Day.  I don’t know who came up with this national observance, or if, like the National Day of Prayer or Thanksgiving,  it has received the congressional seal of approval. All I know is I got nothing. Nada. Zip.  Zero. Nothin’. The principal didn’t make an announcement over the speaker system.  (That’s okay, the lunchroom is so noisy that whenever the principal comes over the speaker system is sounds like Charlie Brown’s teacher giving math pointers anyway. ) Kids didn’t skip in with flowers and chocolates and teachers just did their normal “Drop the Kids off and Run” routine with nary a whisper of thanks. (An aside to all you teachers out there – stop dropping your classes off early and picking them up late. You make sure your contracts have breaks negotiated into them, and God forbid when you don’t get those breaks, but when it comes to respecting the Lunch Lady’s time, you ignore it completely. We’ve got to line up and watch 150 students and keep them from injuring one another whilst waiting for you, wipe down all the tables, take out all the trash, change out the sanitized buckets, mop up messes all within five minute window, and your lack of mindfulness when it comes to telling time isn’t helping.)

I did have the honor of checking the broccoli to make sure it wasn’t outdated. A few weeks ago when the first classes arrived at the cafeteria, they moved through the linch line, scooping up their meat-n-three meals, sat down and commenced to opening the Mrs. Obama approved broccoli packets. This is where the scene out of a movie  began. The entire cafeteria began to suspiciously smell like my childhood friend’s dairy barn. Actually, it smelled like one giant flatulent act. I don’t know if you’ve been around 3rd and 6th graders when a flatulent act  is discovered, but it’s not the most academic of discussions.  Eeeewww, who farted?  Lunch Lady, can I move? The smeller’s the feller! Accompanied by finger pointing – lots and lots of finger pointing…and nose holding.

Then the real culprit was discovered – over ripe broccoli. After the entire lunch room smelled like a camp latrine in August, it was discovered that the broccoli was past its prime, and my coworkers and I maneuvered our wheeled trash cans at lightning speed snatching the green flowerets out of the hands of gagging nine year olds, replacing them with oxygen masks. In the back my coworkers were dumping plastic bags filled with the stuff faster than than the NBA dropped Don Sterling.

Thankfully, this scene wasn’t repeated on National Lunch Heroes Day.

I did convince five kindergartners to try the lasagna. At least five second graders were mad that I made them finish their apples before running up for seconds.  (I made sure they got their seconds, but boy they were sweating it when they saw the seconds supply depleting quickly.  They shoved those apple slices in their mouths like refugees snatching up UN food supplies.)  I removed four basketballs and three soccer balls from the premise all while opening milk containers, handing out paper towels for kids to clean up their own messes and explaining to small children that someone not smiling at them is does not reach the standard definition of bullying, and they need to toughen up.

I’m happy to announce that my National Lunch Heroes Day experience was Vomit free.  (Yeah!) Fight free (Woohoo!)  Trip to the Office Dragging Seven First Grade Boys Who Insist on Throwing Tomatoes free (Alright!) and But I Hate Where I Sit! free (Yessss!) These all beat chocolates any day. I also received my daily dose of hugs and high fives from small children who passed me in the hallway.  There was one, excited, I saw you driving your car yesterday! and a Hey, we are wearing the same shirt, from a sixth grade girl. This was particularly kind as I told said sixth grade girl that most kids aren’t excited to match the Lunch Lady and that she made my day with her nice observation.

All kidding and sniping aside, I’m also thankful that on this day I didn’t hear, Well, my dad’s in jail….or Today’s my last day. We have to move because we couldn’t make rent….or The police were at our house last night. These are all things children confide to me more than I’d like to hear. All I can do is hug them and tell them I’m glad they feel like they can share these things with me and that I care. One day after hearing such a thing I took a girl by her face, looked into her eyes and told her You are bigger than this situation. It doesn’t define you. It doesn’t determine your future. Do you understand? She smiled a huge smile back. All she wanted was to be heard.

I’m not going to lie – every day I leave wanting to throw in the towel.  A lot of these kids are rude, disrespectful and sometimes downright naughty, but The Still Small Voice reminds me that while the lunchroom can on some days feel like a war zone, each voice represents the least of these. Each is an Image Bearer. Each longs for the Love that will not let him or her go, and for reasons unbeknownst to me, for now the lunchroom is my mission field, and my job is to bring a tiny  bit of the kingdom of heaven to this small and somewhat messy place on earth.