A Tribute to 1’s — on 1/1/11

Happy 1/11/11!

Now, I’m not going to jump on the “1” bandwagon and tell you that I’ve always loooooved the number 1, that I always chose it for my number in sports and that I’ve tattooed it on my lower back (along with the yin-yang symbol and the adage “Mama said don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys”). Nope, that is actually the number 2. But considering I can’t guarantee I’ll still be blogging on 2/22/22, I’m going ahead and giving it up for 1, a worthy number in its own right. (But it’s still no 2.)

In honor of the number 1, that gutsy integer that says, “Hey, I ride alone, pal,” I share a few of my favorite 1’s.

“Little 1” by Ann & Paul Rand. I just discovered this book, which was published in 1962, and gave it to my nephew for Christmas. I love the illustrations by graphic designer Paul Rand, and the text by his wife Ann is so perfect.

“Little 1 looked like a stick.
From the front he was medium thick,
but from the side he was so thin
he could have been
a line.”

I found the book locally at my favorite shop Ephemera, but you can also find it on Chronicle Books’ website.

“One” by U2. (Husband would argue Metallica’s “One” should come first, but that song just makes me think of a very uncomfortable lesson I had to lead as a student teacher that involved the book “Johnny Got His Gun” and the “m” word that ends in “bation.” I still have nightmares.) Plus I saw U2 in concert right after this song came out — it was a-MAZ-ing!

Pier 1. It’s no Target, but it’s still a store I love browsing through. My favorite finds are a wicker chair and a humongo wrought iron spoon that hangs on the wall. But I’ve drooled over lots and lots more that I couldn’t justify purchasing yet.

Hawks. Okay, I realize this entry doesn’t include the number 1, but to me hawks represent the number because you always see them sitting on a sign alongside the highway, and they’re always alone. Pay attention next time you’re driving (or next time you’re riding so you don’t cause an accident) and see if I’m right. My mom first pointed this out to my sisters and I when we asked her why she waved every time she saw a hawk. “They always look lonely,” she said. Which is what I now tell my kids when they ask me why I wave when I spot one in a tree or on the speed limit marker. I figure hawks must be really comfortable in their own skin (or feathers) if they can spend so much time by themselves, which is something I really admire.

Hope you enjoyed your day of 1’s. But don’t feel let down that it’s almost over. There’s more to look forward to. Just think: the next 8 days are Palindrome Days! Let the festivities begin!


Young Love: The Dichotomy Between Kindergarten and Middle School

Having a 7th grader on one end of the spectrum and a kindergartner on the other provides for some interesting insights.

Take love, for example.

On one hand, I have an almost-teenager who has to log on to Facebook numerous times a day just to keep up with his ever-changing “relationship status.” (I try to keep a straight face.) This wouldn’t make me quite so leery if it weren’t for the “dating” habits of today’s youth.

A few weeks ago a woman “in the know” blew my happy-to-be-naive-thank-you mind when she initiated a frank conversation with Boy #1 and me. The topic? Sexting, and girls sending inappropriate pictures of themselves to boys they like. She said it’s happening right now IN HIS SCHOOL. These are SIXTH and SEVENTH graders, people.

Sorry, I just threw up in my mouth a little.

Oh, and she also mentioned that boys in our city have been charged with trafficking of a minor for forwarding said photos to their friends.

What happened to class rings and letter jackets?! Sock hops, anyone? Those could become cool again, right? Right?!

I’m so not ready for this.

So while one day I’m reading Boy #1’s sent text messages for evidence of “foul play,” the next day I’m having conversations like this one with Boy #3.

Boy #3: Mom, I have a girlfriend.

Me: You do?

Boy #3: Yeah, but she doesn’t know I’m her girlfriend.

Me: (Holding in my giggles) That’s okay. She doesn’t need to know.

Me again: So why do you like her?

Me once again: (Because I am apparently the shallowest person alive) Is she cute?

Boy #3: (Looking at me like has no idea what I’m smokin’) No.

Me: (Trying to recover from being the shallowest person alive) Why do you like her then?

Boy #3: Because — I like the way she draws.

And right then a 6-year-old put me in my place, without even trying to.

Now, if I could just magically transform the middle school dating scene to be so innocent. But I’m pretty sure that would require hormone manipulation, and I didn’t take that class in college. I don’t think “British Literature and Art in the 1890s” is gonna be much help here, either.

I can only hope and pray that this philosophy on love comes full circle and someday when Boy #1 is thinking about who he wants to spend the rest of his life with, he remembers his little brother’s standards.

And that Boy #3 remembers his own standards when HE is 12-going-on-35.

Yeah, right…

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It’s a Small World (After All)

Is the world getting smaller — or is it just me?

I’ve begun to notice that people who have been doing cool things lately have somehow crossed my path before, which doesn’t really mean anything but seems a little weird (but in a good way) nonetheless. Now if it would only be me doing the cool things . . .

Case in point #1: Sarah Brown Wessling, National Teacher of the Year

Last week it was announced that Sarah expanded her Teacher of the Year reign to include not only Iowa but the entire nation. Yeah. Not too shabby. So how do I know Sarah? Well, she not only taught with my husband for 7 years, but she also lived directly across the street from us for 5 years. During that time we got to know her and her husband (this was pre-kiddos for them) and hung out with them from time to time. As a former English teacher myself, Sarah always amazed me with her passion for her students, love of literature, and insatiable desire to keep learning. I’m so excited for her as she embarks on a year of incredible opportunities. If there is a Northern Hemisphere Teacher of the Year, I’m sure she’ll snag that one too!

Case in point #2: Gretchen Skellenger, high school student whose book report made it to late-night television

Today Husband asked me if I’d read the article by Kyle Munson in the Des Moines Register. Kyle is the Iowa columnist at the Des Moines Register who just stepped in some big shoes when he took over for John Carlson and before him Chuck Offenberger. In other words, around these here parts, he’s a celeb. Okay, so bear with me. Kyle’s article was about a high school senior from Lake Mills, Iowa, who wrote a book report on a book by her TV idol Craig Ferguson. She didn’t just copy someone else’s book report off the Internet, either. Nope. She actually called Craig Ferguson’s office and asked for an interview — and got it! This led to him talking about her in his opening monologue on “The Late Late Show” as well as meeting her backstage after a performance in April. Just read the story here. It’s really good. (Kyle tells it much better than I.)

So what does this have to do with me? Well, Lake Mills, which is a small town, is where we lived right after graduating from college. And for three years I taught high school English there. And I know Mrs. Ham, the current English teacher who assigned the book report. I’ve even watched a movie or two in the theater Kyle describes.

Not that I think I’m Kevin Bacon or anything, but it does make you think about how connected we all really are.

Oh, and Kyle Munson, the columnist who wrote the story? Yeah, I went to college with him. We were in the same English classes. And I did manage to beat him out for the English department’s writing award as a senior.

And look at us now.

It appears that Kyle may have the last laugh . . .

It’s a small, small world.*

*Neither Paula nor boogersandburps.com as an entity is responsible for any mental anguish experienced by the song “It’s a Small World” becoming stuck in readers’ heads or from the sudden and unexpected reliving of a frightening experience that occurred while riding on the “It’s a Small World” attraction at DisneyWorld.

Image courtesy flaivoloka

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Things I’m Wondering Today

Has it really been a week since I’ve blogged?

Why am I choosing to watch Dora the Explorer when I am the only one home?

Why have I allowed a stray puppy the size of a small grizzly to stay in my home for the past two weeks?

And is it really possible for one puppy to pee THAT much? (If you’re wondering if he’s house-trained, I think you’ve just found your answer.)

Does any other mother struggle every morning just finding clean underwear for her kids?

Does any other mother struggle every morning wrestling dirty underwear away from her dog?

Is it possible for me to lose weight while eating only M&Ms?

Could I possibly be a BIGGER procrastinator?

These are things I’m wondering today. And now I’m also wondering if I’m going to get these stories done I need to edit. Because I’ve been thinking about things I’m wondering about today instead.

More to come soon…

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The Blessing of Humiliation (Oh, the Irony!)

Last week I found myself humbled in big ways.

And not the “good” humbled, like “I’m so humbled that you chose me for this prestigious writing award!” or “I’m so humbled that you model your parenting after my example!” (Obviously, I’m speaking in hyperboles here.)

No, the kind of humbled that makes you think “I can’t believe this is happening to me . . .” or “Wow, I must be a serious loser!”

I wasn’t just humbled in one area of my life, either. Nope, it was a double-punch. Maybe even a triple-punch depending on how you look at it. (I’m not sure if that’s really possible because technically I think that would require three hands, but I’m going to ask you to have pity on me today and just suspend your disbelief on my little metaphor. Thanks.) Job. Kids. Home. They were all affected, and it wasn’t pretty.

But when the smoke cleared, the shock wore off, and the hyperventilating stopped (You can go ahead and pretend like I’m kidding about that last one; thanks again.), I tried to gain some perspective. So I picked up my Bible. And I read. And I thought. And I prayed.

And when I tried to articulate how I was feeling, what was in my heart, one word stood out: humbled. I was taken down a notch or two, made to feel like I wasn’t the center of the universe or as smart or important as I’d like to think I am sometimes, whether I admit it or not.

I started to hear it in the songs I listened to and see it in the scriptures I read. The word presented itself to me over and over again. And it made me remember—It’s not about me. It’s about Him.

My job title, what people think of my parenting skills, whether or not the supper dishes make it into the dishwasher—none of that matters if I’m focused on Him. My pride was making me blind to what was happening: He was (and is) working in me.

According to my savvy detective skills, the word “humble” is found in the Bible (NIV) 71 times; “humility” another 15 times. If God uses a word that many times, I’m pretty sure it’s because he wants us to GET IT. It’s important, VERY important. (There’s no such thing as redundancy when it comes to God’s Word.) And the more I read and thought and prayed, the more I understood: This is a blessing.

I should be “humbled” (in the good way) that God has “humbled” me (in a not-so-good way).

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. (1 Peter 5:6)

Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth. (Numbers 12:3)

For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. (Matthew 23:12)

No matter how humble I feel, that’s nothing to how God humbled himself by coming down to Earth and living among us sinners.

And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:8)

I won’t list the 70+ other scriptures for you; they’re in there if you want to look for yourself. If I can just remind myself (and actually accept) that these humbling situations get me one step closer to being like Jesus, which is God’s goal for all of us, I hope I can start celebrating this time in my life.

2Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:1-4)

It’s so ironic that by humbling (and sometimes lovingly humiliating) us, God gives us everything. But that doesn’t mean it’s always easy. Because we are, after all, human. We like to feel good about ourselves. We’re taught to be proud of what we accomplish and who we are.

So as I start this new week, even if it seems that life is unraveling and I panic because I don’t know how to knit (or even sew a button), I will remind myself that I don’t have to know how to put it all back together.

Because it’s not about me.

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No More Words

There are times when my words are on my side, offering themselves to me at just the right moment in a proud, sacrificial gesture.

Then there are times when my words run away, turning around only to stick out their tongues.

A few of the more rebellious ones even give me the finger.

And across the haze I see Anxiety, my sworn enemy, looking all smug as the words line up, one by one, behind her. A few of the gentler words peek out at me sheepishly, looking a bit ashamed at their newfound allegiance. But I know it’s not really their fault. I don’t blame them.

I know I drove them to her.

It’s times like these that I sit, my heart ready to burst with emotions and ideas and stories . . .

But no words with which to share them.

Happy (Snowy) Valentine’s Day

The snow is falling once again. And despite the fact that we’ve seen in excess of 50 inches of snow since the first of December, it really is beautiful this morning. Big, fluffy flakes dancing in the sky before blending in with the mounds already covering the ground.

Some flakes almost make it to the ground before, perhaps caught in a draft, they shoot back up for one last chance to twirl, spin, and fly.

As I watch the snowflakes pour from the heavens, bobbing and weaving, circling and do-se-do’ing, I am struck with the scientific fact that no two snowflakes are alike. And as much snow as I’ve seen in my nearly 38 years of living in the Midwest, and as much snow as I’ve shoveled this winter alone, and as much snow as I see accumulating on the drifts on my porch this very morning—I cannot fathom that so many different combinations exist of these white flakes whose only ingredient is water.

And it makes me think about how else I can find beauty and awe in the everyday.

Like the clean smell of the boys freshly showered (Did I say “everyday?” Yeah...).

Or the sound of “I love you, Mommy!” as I walk into my room and see the covers stripped off my bed, which has transformed into a wrestling mat.

Or the rare brush of my middle-schooler’s lips on my cheek  before I leave for 5 days.

Or the look on my second-grader’s face as he shows me a card trick and I feign surprise, even though I’ve now seen it 37 times.

Or the flush of my husband’s cheeks after he comes inside after shoveling the end of the driveway so we don’t get stuck trying to pull the car in (AGAIN).

Or the wag of my dog’s tail when he sees me enter the house, his eyes begging the question, “Toy? Toy? Wanna throw my toy?

Or that first sip of coffee in the morning.

Or the crinkle of the pages of my Quest Study Bible as I turn each hallowed page.

Although I may become weary of snow, I am reminded of the wonders of creation if I stop seeing the piles that have been pushed along the curbs by the snow plow and zoom in on the magic and unique composition of each individual flake. And even though lately I seem to tire easily of the challenges of the daily grind, I am refreshed when I can focus on the magic of each moment I’m given with this family of mine.

Happy Valentine’s Day to you and yours!

Photo copyright wind27gis.
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