Thursday, August 28, 2014

One Simple Way to Really Enjoy the Last Few Days of Summer

I did something today that I hardly ever do.

I ate lunch.

What I mean is, I actually sat down and deliberately enjoyed my lunch.

I’m sure you know what I mean. Most days I rush around—you know you do it too—running errands, cleaning up messes, throwing in loads of laundry, doing those usual tasks that consume my days so that I don’t usually take time to sit down and properly eat lunch.

It’s kind of crazy, really. The French seem to have figured out how to do lunch very well—fresh cheese on a warm baguette or a slice of quiche with salad. Oh my! Even the British have figured out that some warm form of meat and potatoes wrapped in pastry constitutes a suitable lunch, even if held in one’s hand and eaten on the run.

But we Americans rarely take the time. We’re too busy.

Most days I’ll grab a piece of fruit and very possibly a cookie while rushing around my house. Sometimes I’ll eat it in the car on my way to the cleaners or to the grocery store where I’ll get more food that will not be lunch. The closest thing to a “hot lunch” that I ever get is cheese and crackers warmed in the microwave.

When I’m at work, I do try to grab a salad in the dining hall, but I’ll always eat it at my desk.

Today, though. Oh, today is beautiful. Today is warmish-late-August-just-verging-on-cooler-less-humid-September, and it’s oh-so-sweet.

So after I worked in the library for a bit this morning, I decided that I’d treat myself to lunch at my favorite little cafĂ©, but rather than eat there (I despise eating alone in a restaurant) I would take my lunch to a park.

I sat under a perfectly blue sky and read an article next to a peacefully trickling fountain.

I listened to cicadas singing and the rhythmic squeek-squeek-squeek of a swing at a nearby school.

I fully tasted the sweet dates in my quinoa salad (sublime) and the tangy tomato chutney on my grilled cheese sandwich.

I watched a young couple holding hands as they walked side by side.

And I embraced thirty minutes of peace in the middle of my day.

Before I know it the weather will turn colder and my days will be busy and I’ll forget to each lunch again, but for now, it’s almost September and these days aren’t meant to be hurried.

September days are meant for lunch.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

First Day

Today is my first day of school. I've had LOTS of first days of school over the years, and I have to say that I always love the first day. There's something so magical about it--the new students (or new teachers), the new assignments, the smell of new pencils.

All of it pretty much makes me smile.

Today in my classes I will give my students a little first day presentation. It's meant in fun, but there are some things I'd like them to know about our class.

My presentation actually ran as a blog post here a couple of years ago, so, in honor of Day One, I thought I'd run it again. I hope you enjoy your day as much as I surely will!


Top 10 Words of Warning Advice I may or may not tell my students on the first day of class

School starts for me next week, and believe it or not, I’m strangely excited about it. I have always, always, even when I was in middle school, loved the first day of school. What happens after the first day may be another story, but there has always been something magical about the first day for me.

That’s probably why I’m a teacher today. It's all about the first day.

So as I’ve been working on my syllabus for this semester, working through new textbooks and thinking about my past classes, I thought of some things my students might want to know ahead of time. These pieces of advice come from 21 years of teaching experience. Boy, could I tell stories!

Oh, I guess I have.

Now, understand, I hope and pray that none of my students EVER find my blog (ha!), but just in case you know a college student who would benefit from these words of advice, feel free to share.

1. I am not your mother. I do not want to know that you stayed up until 3:30 in the morning and couldn’t get out of bed for class. I will not call you to make sure you get up. I will not text you to see where you were. Just come to class. On time.

2. I like paper. Call me a murderer of trees, but I like to read your paper on, well, paper. I like to scribble and make squiggly lines on your paper. I like to write long notes at the end of your work—I think this is one of the best ways you learn how to get better at your craft. I don’t want you to send me your paper via email (although lots of great professors do), and I certainly don’t want you to hand me a disk that I’ll have to put in my own computer and which could possibly give my computer a virus of some sort. Nope. Just gimme the paper.

3. Your phone is not invited to class. If something is more important than my class, go handle it outside of class. Take an absence if you want, but just don’t bring it into my sanctuary.

4. And speaking of absences . . . yes, they do exist in college. I may not look like I’m taking attendance in front of the class, but I’m doing it in my mind. And, yes, your presence in our class matters—to me and to your classmates.

5. Sniffing. I hate sniffing. Get a tissue.

6. I’m not blind—I see stuff. I see your phone under the desk (put it away!). I see you doing homework for another class (it’s pretty obvious when you should be taking notes and when you don’t need to be writing anything). I see that smug look on your face that says, “I could be teaching this class right now.” That’s the one I really wish I could remove from the classroom.

7. I’m not as self-assured as I might seem. When you give me that smug face, it actually does hurt a little bit, even though I don’t want to give you the benefit of thinking so. Remember that your professor is a human being and treat me as such.

8. Which reminds me to tell you that I have a life outside of this classroom. Last night I probably ran my daughter to piano lessons, made dinner, vacuumed the living room, worked on a writing project, cleaned up dog puke, and graded papers until my head felt like it was going to explode. My life gets to me sometimes just like school gets to you. Grace, please.

9. You are not God’s gift to the English language. (And neither am I.) You are in my class because you have at least one thing to learn, so figure out what that is, practice it like crazy, and feel like you’ve accomplished something by the end of the semester. A big head about your abilities will get you exactly . . . nowhere.

10. I like you. I have no preconceived ideas about you based on where you’re from, what positions you take, or especially (goodness no!) how well you write. I come into the semester thinking that we’re going to have fun in class and that I’m going to learn something from you. I assume that you are a decent, interesting, likeable human being. Try not to prove me wrong.

So here we go. The semester is here. It’s going to be crazy-busy, a writing whirlwind—a typing typhoon if you will. You’ll want to shoot me at times, and you’ll probably want to cuss me out at other times. But hopefully, in the end, you’ll see that I cared about you and wanted to help you learn something.

Let’s get to work!

How about you? What words of advice would YOU give my students? Did you like the first day of school?

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Good Reads

I haven't done this in a while, but I've read some great stuff lately that I thought you might like. What have been some of your favorite posts?

A Love Letter to All the Daughters Everywhere :: by Jennifer Dukes Lee (guest posting on Lisa Jo Baker)

Before They Go to School . . . Have This Conversation :: Lysa TerKeurst

Why Courtship is Fundamentally Flawed :: Thomas Umstaddt, Jr.

Your Wedding is Still Something Worth Wanting :: Desiring God blog

Dear Single Dudes: It's Time to Man Up :: Matt Walsh (I am pretty sure that not one single dude is reading my blog, but just in case you know one, you might want to share this with him.)

A Bit of Instruction on How to Live a Good Life :: Ann Voskamp (I put this here as a reminder to myself: Pay attention!!!)

Enjoy your Sunday!

Friday, August 8, 2014

Why I Let My Daughter Go To Camp for Seven Weeks

Today I get my girl back.

For seven long weeks Julia has been at camp, serving on a work crew. She has learned how to feed hundreds of hungry kids at a time. She has learned how to clean a toilet. She has learned how to pack up food for overnight camping trips. And she has served the community by cleaning up a 24-mile biking path.

Seven long weeks.

She’s not the first of my three to have chosen a summer away. In fact, all three of my girls have had extended stays at camp at one time or another. And over the years lots of people have asked me how on earth I could let them go away for a whole summer.

Here’s a little mommy secret for you: it’s never easy on me. Never.

I spend a good amount of time thinking about them, praying for them, and even worrying a little about them. If you know anything about my story, you know that camp is just about the last place I’d like to send my daughter for the summer.

And yet, I do it.

Here’s why.

Because it really does take a village. No matter what you think of Hillary Clinton, I think she was right when she reinforced the idea that many people can and do influence our kids. Personally, I’d hate to be the only influence on my kids’ lives—they would be sad, sorry, one-dimensional people if I were the only one pouring truth into them. The key, of course, is making sure the RIGHT people are influencing our kids. At camp our daughters have been influenced by wonderful Christian college students, amazing adults, and even younger kids who have all had a hand in shaping their thoughts and values.

Because they need to unplug. At the camp our girls have attended, electronics are not allowed. At all. Ever. Even the counselors are not allowed iPods or computers or cell phones (except when they are off duty), so the entire camp is completely present. Completely in the moment. And completely unplugged. I don’t know about you, but I really believe that in this day and age, a kid who knows how to unplug is a great kid in my book. Unplugging teaches kids something valuable about the art of great conversation.

Because they need their freedom. As my girls have grown older they have earned varying degrees of freedom, and a summer away at camp is just one step along that path. I’m sure this freedom is fun at first (hey, let’s see how late we can stay up tonight!), but it also includes making sure she gets enough sleep so that she will have energy to serve the next day. Or being allowed to go into town to do her laundry. Yep, with freedom comes responsibility.

Because they need to work. (And to get dirty. And to not wear makeup.) I hope I’ve already laid the groundwork here, and I hope that before my daughter set foot on camp grounds she already knew how to clean a toilet. But there’s something about having an 8-5 “job” that’s good for her. She’s tired at the end of a day. And something translates to what her dad does every day. Something about when Mom goes to work starts to make sense. She’s learning that there is value in a good day’s work.

Because God has something to teach them there that they can’t learn at home. I don’t know what that lesson is, and I may never know, but I can tell you that my daughters are different people when they come home from a summer away. Somehow it seems that being immersed in nature and being unplugged allows you to really hear from God in a way that just doesn’t happen here in suburbia. It could also be that the big lessons God wants to teach them take time. Seven weeks, perhaps?

For all these reasons, and probably many others, I sent Julia to camp this summer. 

But here’s one reason I did NOT send Julia to camp: because I wanted her out of my hair.

I think it’s pretty obvious that we have fun together and that we enjoy each other’s company. I have a great teenager (I’ve had three great teenagers!), and I’d love to have her around all summer. In fact, it would be easier and a lot less expensive to keep her at home.

But I am confident that God has used this summer in Julia’s life to shape her into the woman He wants her to be. As much as my heart longed to be with her, I trust that God had better things for her at camp than He had for her here at home.


Today I get her back.

I will throw my arms around her and hold her tightly. I will load her things into my car and listen to her stories all the way home (or until she falls asleep). I will help her do her stinky laundry and cook her a couple of great meals until she settles into a new routine at home.

And as the school year starts and talk of camp becomes less and less a part of our everyday conversation, I will watch her—this new, grownup version of her—and I will know that I made the hardest right decision of my life.

Monday, August 4, 2014

16,375 Miles of Fun

You know how sometimes you’re sitting in church and your mind wanders just a little? 

Mine did that last Sunday. Even though I was listening to a great sermon, I still found myself, after spending the day before in the car driving home from vacation, wondering just how many miles I had traveled since the end of school last May.

As work-intensive as last summer was, this summer has been travel-intensive and I have loved every minute of it.

As a professor it’s hard to get away during the school year. In fact, it’s nearly impossible. When your class meets only three days a week for sixteen weeks (that’s 48 class sessions for those of you who, like me, are math challenged) you pretty much have to be there.

I can’t complain, though. We have generous breaks. I have my summers. Heck, most weeks I even have Tuesdays and Thursdays.

But during the semester I can’t leave.

So when my husband goes on the rare business trip and asks me to come along, I usually have to say no. And this makes me sad because he goes to some pretty cool places. This May, however, one of his trips fell after the semester had ended, after my grades had been turned in, and after our daughter’s graduation. Plus, it wasn’t bad that the trip was to Napa, CA.

He didn’t have to ask twice.

My summer of travel started as soon as school got out and pretty much hasn’t stopped.


So there I was, sitting in church, just thinking about the drive home from WI the day before and all of the other amazing places I had been all summer, realizing that I’ve been trotting the globe like a crazy woman, when a thought came to me: “How many miles have I actually traveled this summer?”

Of course I went home, fired up Google Maps, and figured it out.

Here’s what I came up with:

Chicago to Napa, CA and back: 4300 miles.

Chicago to London: 4000 miles.

London to Oxford: 60 miles.

Oxford to Edinburgh: 370 miles.

Edinburgh to London: 415 miles.

London to Chicago: 4000 miles.

Chicago to Dallas and back: 1830 miles.

(This is my darling niece, Kira, and her beautiful mom, my sister, Jennifer. 
Kira's getting married, so we went to Dallas for a bridal shower for her.)

(And this is the beautiful park in downtown Dallas where Kira will be getting married in September. Isn't it gorgeous?!)

Chicago to Eagle River, WI and back: 700 miles.

(Two weeks of ahhhhhhh.)

And finally, a second trip to Eagle River this week to pick up Julia from camp: 700 miles.

I think that brings me to a grand total of 16,375 miles.

Am I tired? Yeah, a bit. But I am so glad I’ve done it. I’m heading into the new school year with a heart full of memories of time spent with all the people I love most in this world. I’ve seen some amazing places and have had some incredible adventures.

I’d say I’ve had 16,375 miles of fun.