Monday, February 12, 2018

A Letter to My Younger Self

Dear 1991 Casey,

I'm writing to you specifically as opposed to, say, 1985 Casey, or Y2K Casey, because you sit at the brink of adulthood.

This is the year you graduated from high school.  You'll head off to college.  I know you have reservations about your college choice.  That tiny school of less than 600 students in that little hamlet in central Kansas is going to expand your world in ways you can't even dream are possible.  You're making the right decision.

Remember that over the next twenty years, because it's going to take you twice as long as you think to pay back those student loans you're about to take out.  :)

 It's all getting ready to unfold.  So here's a little bit of advice, since hindsight is 20/20:

I know you've struggled your whole life with fitting in and feeling good enough.  Hang in there.   You're getting ready to meet great people.

I will tell you that you're not going to meet your tribe for another 5 years or so,  (and it will take you another 20 after that to finally feel like you're good enough and stop wondering why they let you in in the first place) but that's okay.  You're not ready yet.  There's still some work to do to make you the kind of life-long friend they need.

One of those great people will one day ask you if you want to spend the rest of your lives together.  I know.  You're shocked  to hear someone will want to marry you and terrified that it will end in divorce.  Although I don't have a crystal ball to see into the future, I will tell you that at 23 years, it's still going the distance.  He'll be the most significant and influential example of unconditional love, grace, and mercy that you will experience.  He'll be the string that your balloon needs.  Your marriage won't be perfect.  He won't be.  You won't be.  Some years will be great.  Some will be terrible. But you'll grow up together and he will become your very best friend.

Let's chat about your college major for a minute.  I know you picked elementary education because you think you aren't really smart enough to do anything else.  I'm here to tell you from personal experience that teaching takes a level of intelligence that far exceeds that which you think you have.  If you still choose this path, you will have the privilege of working with some of the smartest, most caring, and sacrificial people you will ever meet.  You'll even have the honor of calling some of them "friends."  It's going to be difficult and thankless a lot of the time.  And at  age 45, you will still struggle with imposter syndrome and wonder when people are going to finally figure out that you have absolutely no idea what you are doing.

You are going to spend your 20's, 30's and into your 40's struggling with the burden of perfection and self-worth.   It's going an obsession.  And not a healthy one.   I know that mental health issues terrify you.  Well meaning people whom you love and love you will say to you and within your earshot that there isn't a need for Christians to seek care from a mental health professional.  They'll tell you that all a person needs is an authentic faith in Jesus and a flourishing prayer life.  Other people well tell you that you just need to eat better and exercise more.   You'll think deep down inside that going to therapy means you're crazy.

May I give you a piece of advice?  Ignore. that. crap.  Get a therapist.  Take medication.  Work through the stuff.  Start now.

By 2018 everyone will have a therapist.  You can be a trend setter.

There are four future humans and a pretty great guy that could really benefit from you addressing some of this sooner rather than later.

Yep.  You'll be a parent.  Sooner than you think or you plan for.   It's going to be the hardest and most rewarding thing you ever do.

Let me tell you this:  You will never.  Never.  Be a better parent than you are right now at this moment when you have no children, so savor and enjoy your wisdom.  As soon as that beautiful girl is placed in your arms for the very first time, you'll begin a journey of having absolutely no earthly idea what you are doing.

You will love those children fiercely.  But you won't get it all right.  You won't get a lot of it right.  They'll have issues.  Some of their issues will be your fault, so start saving for their therapy now.  Some of their issues will be entirely theirs.  You will look at each one of them with awe that you got to call them yours for a short time.  You'll be amazed, humbled, and so very proud of the people they turn out to be.

As you walk through the same seasons of life your own parents walked through, your judgement of them will soften.  You'll find yourself understanding their choices, frustrations, challenges, and even making some of their same mistakes.  You'll see their gifts.  You'll wish that you had some of their qualities.  You'll tell them you're sorry for the harshness with which you judged them when you were in your teens, twenties, and thirties.

You will aspire to be like them.  Their thoughts and opinions will come, over the next twenty years, to mean the world to you.

Over the years as you slowly become me, you'll look back on windows of your life.  You'll wonder how you could have believed that.  Thought that.  Reacted in that way.  Done that.  Said that (Oh, the number of times you will wonder HOW you could have said THAT).  You'll want do-overs.  You'll be embarrassed.

Be kind to yourself, please.  Becoming an adult is a process.  Your black/white, either/or, all/nothing personality will soften.  It will serve its purpose in your twenties by giving you a foundation for growth, but it will expand.  I can tell you that at age 45, you still won't have it all figured out, but it will get better.

This life upon which you are about to embark?

It's a good one.  There will be beautiful moments.  Funny moments.  Mundane moments.  Tragic moments.  Moments you regret, and moments you'd willingly relive if only that were possible.   Enjoy every minute of it.  It's going to go by very fast.

So let me leave you with just a couple of pieces of advice, if I can:

When in doubt, choose kindness.  So much is made better by just being kind.
Just because you think it doesn't mean others need or want to hear it.  Many times the kindest thing is just to say, "Oh, Man.  I am so sorry."  Talk less.  Listen more.

Oh, and finally:

Those acid washed, tapered jeans with the high waist and zippers all over that you found in the back of your closet while you were packing for college the other day?  Save those.  Your sixteen-year-old daughter will show you a pair just like them when you're shopping in 2018.

California.  You might start considering California.

2018 Casey

Sunday, February 4, 2018

An Egg Metaphor (No. Not That One)

First--for those of you wondering how my 18 for 2018 is going--Well.

Blogging weekly is the first item on the list.  And yet.  

I have one blog post from January and this one for February.  Perhaps I should edit "weekly" to "monthly."

Anyhow--back to the post at hand:
If you were a child of the 80s, this is definitely stored somewhere in your long-term memory.

This is not the egg metaphor to which I am referring.

 I am not a cook.  And I'm not a foodie.  But I know enough cooks and foodies to have some good tools, some great recipes, and enough information to be dangerous.  And Better Half and I are on the tail-end of another Whole30, so there's been a lot of cooking in my house-- at least more than normal.

Breakfast for the past 30 days has been a LOT of eggs and Whole30 compliant bacon.  And because I have "good" tools in my kitchen, I've turned up my nose at the non-stick number from Target lurking in my cabinet and have been determined instead to master the art of frying eggs in a stainless steel skillet.

For me, the success of it seems to be the perfect cocktail of a properly prepped pan surface, the temperature of the pan, and the temperature of the fat used, and that perfect amount of cooking time.

I nail it a couple of times a week.  Eggs slide out of the skillet like the thing has an invisible Teflon coating.  It's easy.  I feel like I could be on a cooking show.

The rest of the time, not so much.  Either my pan was too hot/not hot enough, my fat was not cold enough, I got distracted and forgot the eggs were cooking,  I got impatient and tried to turn them too early, ad nauseum.  It can quickly become (no pun intended) a hot mess!

Good thing all is not completely lost when this happens, or eggs would quickly cease to be a cheap protein source in our home.

Usually, with a lot of patience and a fantastic stainless steel spatula, the eggs can be removed from the pan without mutilation and only they and I know the challenge involved in getting them plated.

Yesterday was one of those days.  As I was gently and carefully using my spatula to remove our breakfast from its stronghold in the pan, I thought about the 26 humans who share my first grade classroom with me every school day.

It's the same for them.  For all of us, really.   Some days, we arrive with perfectly prepped pans, perfect temperatures, and just the right amount of fat and cooking time.  We slide through the school day with ease and I should have a teaching blog!  :)  Those days are a beautiful gift.

Other days, their pans are too hot or too cold.  Cook time is off; ratios are off.  I'm off.  On those days, if I'm not careful, they're in danger of being over-cooked or worse: their delicate yolks are in danger of being damaged and spilling out everywhere.

And that's when it's time for a whole lot of patience,  a whole lot of precision, and the really good tools.  :)

And when, at the end the day, we've been successfully salvaged from calamity, that's a beautiful gift, too.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Every Week in 2018. Take One: Reading Lamp

I set a 2018 goal to blog weekly.  It's January 7 and I haven't written anything yet.  So today's the day.  Whether I like it or not, today is the day.

Here's the problem:  I cannot think of a single thing to write about.  Not a single thing.  I'm out of the habit.  And it's 8:37 pm.  Seven minutes past my bedtime.

So here comes a random prompt from Juicy Pens Thirsty Paper: Gifting the World with Your Words and Stories.  I'm not sure about world.  At this point, I'd settle for my family.

And the winning prompt is...
Reading Lamp

Confession:  Until recently my reading lamp hasn't been getting a lot of action.  It's been gathering dust next to the pile of reading material that keeps growing.   It's a sickness, really.  The titles keep enticing me.  The one-click ordering and two-day shipping on Amazon make it easier to use than the public library.  So the envelopes and boxes with that iconic smile keep coming.  

And yet I cannot seem to find time to read.    

I blame my relationships with Netflix and Teachers Pay Teachers.  Slowly and methodically they are edging out my longstanding friendship with the printed page.  And social media is the matchmaker in this toxic tug-of-war.  

I have books that have been sitting unread for years.  Years.  I have a copy of Daring Greatly by Brene Brown.  Who doesn't?  Mine still has the dust jacket and the spine cracks when you open it.  Because it was a gift to me in 2013 and I HAVE YET TO READ IT.  

This isn't me.  The me of ten years ago, or even five, wouldn't let any book sit around unread for five years--especially one on the New York Times bestseller list.  I'd guiltily ignore my family while I  did nothing but read until the book was completed.  

I don't like this new me.  I don't think my reading lamp does, either.  So I'm going to attempt to gain some balance.  More reading.  Less of the other stuff.  

It's time to stop working 14-16 hour days and then numbing the effects of that by binge-watching season after season of TV shows.  

It's time to dust off that reading lamp and put it to good use.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

My Eighteen for Two Thousand-Eighteen

Over the past year or so I've started to dive into the world of podcasts.  I'm a bit obsessed with them.  And while I am a morning person, I'm a "wake up early, have a cup of coffee, and do what I want to do for a couple of hours" morning person.  This is probably leftover from my years as a SAHM.  I don't at all dig the "getting ready for work" dance.  Podcasts make it much more bearable.  

One of my favorites is "Happier with Gretchen Rubin" and the "Happier in Hollywood" spinoff that her sister, Elizabeth, cohosts.  Gretchen and Elizabeth issued an "18 for 2018" challenge.  Choose 18 things that you want to accomplish in 2018.  Write them down and post them in a prominent location somewhere.  

Here's what I came up with:
  1. Post here at least weekly.  
  2. Get all of the documentation together to clear my teaching credential in California.
  3. Finish painting the kitchen cabinets.
  4. Call my parents, siblings, and Mikaela weekly.
  5. Establish a bedtime routine that includes face care, teeth care, a shiny kitchen sink, and perform it every night before bed.
  6. Limit coffee out to established coffee dates with friends.
  7. Find a lipstick I like.
  8. Give Brian a "birthday week."--something special each day of his birthday.
  9. Visit Death Valley with Andy and Amanda and their family.
  10. Learn to play either the ukulele or the guitar.
  11. Focus on "a room every two months" to clean, organize, and decorate.
  12. Read Scripture daily.
  13. Connect with Beth.
  14. Find a workout regimen that I like and do it at least three times a week.
  15. Do the Happier Instagram challenge for January and begin a gratitude practice.
  16. Volunteer once a month.
  17. Get Google Educator certified.
  18. Find a therapist.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

I'm Having a Moment

Perhaps it's stress.  I'm going back to a brick and mortar classroom full-time for the first time in twenty years.

Perhaps it's lack of sleep.  See above.

I'm not sure what it is.

While waiting for my Instant Pot to magically make dinner, I was scrolling through Facebook.

It's that time of year.  My feed is 90% "first day of school pictures, 9% dropping my kid off at college for the first time posts, and 1% ads for icon pee-proof underwear (what the WHAT, Facebook??).

Perhaps it's seeing the faces of people with whom I attended elementary school, junior high, or high school on the bodies of children--some happily, some grudgingly--sporting backpacks and "first day of school signs.  Give Hermione Granger's time-turner a few spins and it could be the 80s.  Those could be the exact same faces that were headed off to Santa Fe Trail, Milburn Junior High, Antioch Middle School, or Shawnee Mission North High School.

Perhaps it's seeing many of the amazing people that Better Half and I had the privilege of doing life with post pictures of sending their kids off to college for the first time and knowing that I'll be doing the same thing in a little over a week.

Perhaps it's seeing the children of my former colleagues.  They're all growing up entirely too fast--serving to remind me of the fact that we've been gone from Kansas for a long time.

Perhaps it's the fact that there seems to be a disproportionate number of high school freshman, seniors, and college freshman this year.  Those milestones tug at my mommy heart.

Perhaps it's watching fellow stay-at-home moms return to the classroom because their children are older and no longer need them home 24/7.  It feels like the end of an era.

I started crying.

This journey--this life--it's just going by really fast.

And while I'm excited for what's ahead and I'd never want to go back, I'd love it if it could slow down a bit.  Just a little.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Dear Nelson...

This was written for senior Barak night back in June.  But on this, your nineteenth birthday, just a few short weeks away from your departure for APU, it seemed so very appropriate to dig it out and pray it for you again.

Happy birthday!

June 4, 2016


Biblically and historically, a person’s name has held great significance.  Names describe who we are, link us to those who have come before us, and give us identity.  

We spent many hours before you were born discussing and sometimes even arguing about your perfect name. As you know, the name Nelson means “Son of the Champion.”   From the very beginning, that has been a perfect phrase to describe you.  You are tenacious, passionate, assertive, tender, and caring--qualities that describe the best of champions.  

You do nothing half-way.  You never have.  You’ve always immersed yourself completely into your interests, whether it was watching every VeggieTales movie ever made, or trying to find a space for you to sleep on your bed in the midst of all of  your Toy Story characters. Yes.  Even the army men.  And even at the age of three and four, your passion and interests were contagious.  You’d get excited about something and it wouldn’t be long before the entire group of your friends was equally interested.   

Over the years we’ve watched your interests grow as you have.  Moving from Veggie Tales and Rescue Heroes to Legos and Star Wars to NASCAR and baseball.  

And while all of your interests have brought joy and pleasure and enrichment to our lives, none compare to the passion and love you have for Christ--for living for Him and for sharing His Good News with those around you both by word and by example.  You use every opportunity given to you--whether in the gymnasium at FCA, or on the baseball field at Senior Recognition Day, or when summing up the season at the end of the year banquet--to speak God’s truth and how it is real in your life.

We are inspired by you every day.

As you begin this exciting next stage of your life, you will  be exposed to many views and interpretations of the truth from peers and professors that may challenge what you know or what believe to be true.  

There will be times when God will use others to expose a view you currently hold that may not be correct. The key is to continually pray for discernment and the ability to hear what God is teaching--especially if it appears to contradict something you currently hold to be true.  

Listen to what God has to teach you, whether through prayer, His written Word, or through what others have to say; pray for discernment in knowing what is true; acknowledge it when you learn something new or when you discover that a current view you hold is incorrect; and then share with grace and love what the Lord has revealed to you through teaching or quietly by the way you live your life.  

God will continually reveal new truths to you and to others throughout your life, so never stop listening, learning, growing, and graciously allowing others the opportunity to do the same.

Knowledge and conviction are good and noble things, however one of our fervent prayers for you is that you never let them become obstacles to genuine relationship with God or with people.

Nelson, it is difficult to put into words the privilege and joy that it is to be your parents--to witness your growth from that sweet, curious, passionate little boy into the man you are today.

As you eagerly anticipate all that this next stage of early adulthood has to offer, we begin the bittersweet task of letting you go--placing you firmly back in the hands of the One who first placed you in ours.  You are more than ready.

In this next season:
  • We promise to faithfully pray for God’s call on your life.  For His provision, protection, and wisdom in all that you are called to do.
  • We promise to celebrate with joy, praise, and thanksgiving the good times and good things that come your way.
  • We promise to support you, mourn with you, and pray for you during the valleys--knowing that we are told we will encounter trials and that those trials help us grow to be more like Christ.
  • We promise to release you completely to discern and follow God’s calling on your life, no matter what it is or where it takes you.

It has been an honor to call you son.  

It’s an even greater one to call you friend.

“May the Lord bless you and keep you.  May He make his face shine upon you and be gracious unto you.  May He look upon you with favor and grant you peace.”  Numbers 6:24-26

Much love,

Mom and Dad

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

I Believe the Time Has Come

to blog again.

You are likely asking, "Why now?"  (Or better yet, you're saying,  "She's got a blog?"  I had no idea!)

The answer to "Why now?" is this:

(spoiler alert!! It's NOT the fact that the last entry was in February.  That's beside the point.)
I have a "to do" list of tasks to finish before Friday that is three pages long. I'm not kidding.  There is no better way to avoid something than digging out a blog that's been gathering dust for nearly six months.

I also realized that I am running out of time.

See, this girl
First picture of her I ever posted on my blog.  Summer, 2007

is now this girl.

She is going to be a freshman in high school in a month's time.  My caboose.  My finale.  My youngest child.  

I have four years left of this daily parenting gig before I'm an empty-nester.  Four years.  

It's going to fly by.  

I know this because those four years of high school flew by for my oldest two, and they're jetting past at lightning speed for my third child.

I think I've logged two blog posts in the past year.  Two.  I didn't get many more than that the year before.  If I continue with that pattern, that means there are eight--maybe ten-- posts left before it's done.  Before I lose the gift of sharing a house with most of my blog inspiration, and the last little birdie flies the nest to live her life with some amount of privacy and probably a little bit of therapy.  

I want a record of the last 1,491 days of this crazy and amazing ride.