Fire the Judge-Hire the Witness

I may be able to do anything, but I can't do everything.

Dish Washing Lessons — November 18, 2018

Dish Washing Lessons

I’m a little embarrassed to admit this, but this week a bargain brand dish washing liquid made me have one of those stop-me-in-my-tracks, whoa-wait-a-minute, mind-blowing experiences this week.  Yes, folks, Ajax, the so-called conquerors of all things grease, gave me an epiphany. 

How, you ask?  How could a dish washing liquid perform such a feat?

Let me explain.  Once upon a time, two and half months ago, we had a family barbecue.  This barbecue also featured games and a 25 foot slip-n-slide.  Well, we all know that gravity and wet plastic make a fine slide, but add a little dish soap, and you’ve got a mega-fun, slippery, good time. 

So, when the sole purpose is to lubricate a slip-n-slide, and when one is at the grocery store, standing in front of all the dish soap choices,
one does not invest in premium liquids like Dawn or Palmolive (No thanks, Madge). And you get an internet high-five from me if you know who Madge is!  No, one buys from the cheapo bottom shelf.  And nothing was cheaper than Ajax.

Let’s be fair to Ajax.  It did its job with the slip-n-slide.  The children flew down the plastic at a higher rate of speed and everyone lived happily ever after that day.  Thank you, Ajax.

Fast forward about a month, and it is now the beginning of October.  It is dish washing time, and the last sapphire blue drop has been squeezed from the Dawn dish soap bottle.  The only soap in the house is the left over bottle of Ajax.  So Ajax takes its place on the sink, to the right of the dish sprayer.   And the Reign of Terror has begun.

Every time we did the dishes, we thought we were getting the dishes clean.  Until it was time to put them away.  Then we noticed the pans still had a white film of grease.  The forks still had bits of food stuck on them.  And plastic containers.  The bane of any dish soap?  It’s like they had only gone through the rinse cycle.  With cold water.

But what did we do?  What was our response to this nonsense? We noticed.  We rewashed.  We wiped out the grease.  We lamented with our hands resting across our foreheads in full damsel-in-distress style, “Why, oh why, Ajax?  Why cannot you not be like Dawn?  Whatever are we to do about our dishes?”

This lasted six weeks.  Six full weeks.  That’s 42 days, people.  42 days we washed dishes with sub-par liquid. It was like the Lent of the dish washing year. 

But Easter came yesterday.  Easter came when I finally used the remaining remnants of the bottle of Ajax.  I squeezed every drop out and declared independence. “Finally order will be restored!  Finally we are free from this wretched Ajax!  Finally we can now get some Dawn in this house!”

Actual photo of the real life, used up, thank-God-it’s gone, bottle of Ajax.

And then I heard a little voice whisper, in full Glenda the Good Witch style, “You know you could have all along.” 

Shut.the.front.door.  Wait one-Dawn-deprived minute.  All along, I could have just simply bought a new bottle of Dawn.  All along I could have decided that if the Ajax wasn’t working, I didn’t have to keep using it?  All along, because I am a grown up woman, and the boss of my dish washing decisions, I could have decided that it was okay to forfeit the $1.19 that I invested in the Ajax, and spend $2.44 and get the dish soap that I coveted and I DIDN’T HAVE TO WAIT TO USE ALL OF THE AJAX FIRST?????


But here’s the thing.  My dear, sweet, washes-dishes-even-more-than-I-do husband, didn’t think about cutting bait on the Ajax either.  It’s like we both signed in our own blood a legal document that we would sacrifice our souls if we didn’t finish that bottle of Ajax before we bought another.  It’s like there was a sign above our door, “Welcome to our home.  Even if it’s lame shit, we’ll use it because we bought it, and damn it, we’re not wasting our money.”

Which leads me to the other thing.  That’s the generation my husband and I are from.  We use what we buy.  If we don’t use it, we feel guilty.  Let me tell you, it’s painful when it’s garbage day and it’s time to check the fridge for food  that’s crossed over the Expiration Bridge.  And when we do finish a loaf of bread, or gallon of milk or A BAG OF POTATOES BEFORE THEY’VE SPROUTED WHITISH GREEN DIGITS, it’s like a party up in here.  “Honey!  We finished the potatoes!  Before they went bad!”  That’s some real grown-up adulting going on.

So when we do make a monetary commitment to something that won’t “go bad” or expire or grow fuzz, it feels like a Must-Do to finish it.  Even if it sucks beyond measure. There is no alternative.  There is no escape.

I have to admit it though.  It was so liberating when I realized that all along we could have cut bait on the Ajax, but we didn’t.  Realizing that there was a power there, but that power wasn’t used, wasn’t even considered, is surreal.  We could have easily added Dawn to our weekly grocery list and let it take its rightful place next to the sprayer.  We could have even spared Ajax from the trash and just demoted it to cabinet under the sink, to be used in dish washing emergencies.  But we didn’t.  Yes, we needed better, we deserved better, but we used what we had.  It’s a little thing, but it’s not.  For it is in the little things that we learn big lessons.

So, to Ajax, I thank you.  You might be the crappiest, most ineffective, poor excuse for dish washing liquid on the planet, but you were the tool to teach me a lesson.  I guess you’re kind of powerful after all.

Southern Charm — November 12, 2018

Southern Charm

Since returning to the weekly blog scene, the topics have been little heavy lately.  It’s time to soften the mood a bit.  Here’s a light-hearted topic that has been rolling around my brain:

Word Art

Southern Colloquialism:  Y’all, I’m in love with the southern way of speaking.  I’ve got a thing for speaking in different regional and foreign accents anyway.  Spend a little time with me and you’ll know that to be true.  I love busting out a crisp British accent, or an Irish brogue, or a thick Jersey style.  My all-time favorite phrases are, “The chraffic in New York is bumpa da bumpa,” “The dingoes ateya baby” and “Put the ca in pock”.  (Excuse my attempts to spell the accents.)

I’ve also always loved the Southern drawl.  I know it varies by region and in the region that we live now, I think it’s especially charming.  But it’s not just the drawl.  It’s the colloquialism too.  All those words and phrases that add a layer of history and charm and a level of complexity when conversing in the South.  Here are my top favorite phrases I’ve heard since moving here.

“It’s been a minute.”    I believe the meaning of this phrases is ACTUALLY the opposite of what is stated.  I think the meaning behind the phrase is “it’s been a while”.  Let me show you:

ME:  Lisa, can you show me how to upload something to this website?

LISA:  Yes.  (Pauses).  Hold on, it’s been a minute since I’ve done this.

Now, I’ve done a little research on the interweb and this example is NOT included on the top 20 Southern phrases.  Mind you, I only looked at three sites and then gave up, but I consider searching three different sites to be conclusive enough.  And we all know that if you can’t find it on the Internet, it must not exist.  It surprises me that it’s not on any of the lists that I consulted because I’ve heard the phrase used multiple times, in multiple settings.  I can tell you though, that I have not once heard, “I declare” or “I reckon,” and those are in the top 5.

I can also tell you I’m kind of in love with the phrase.  It’s oddly comforting to me for some reason.  It’s like it saying,  “I know it.  It’s familiar to me. It just might take me a moment.”

“I tell you what.”  I love this one too.  It’s another phrase that didn’t make The List, but I hear it all the time.  There is no other meaning behind it; it’s for emphasis.   I especially paid attention to it when my youngest son started to work it into his speaking patterns.  Just four days ago, he was recounting what happened on the morning bus ride, when he used it.

Tommy:  And Mom, it smelled so bad, I tell you what, we had to put our sweatshirts over our noses!

Now, I’ll tell you what.  When I heard Tommy say that,  I thought it was cute and endearing. Not about the smell.  About how easily he had adopted that phrase.  I considered it a sign that he’s not only listening to people he’s encountering, but he’s listening in a way that is open and accepting.

“Fixin’ To.”  This one IS on The List.  It’s as common as y’all, which I’ll get to in a minute.  Not a Southern “in a minute” but an actual minute.

Fixin’ to is Southern for “about to” or “getting ready to.”  For me, the most commonly heard use of fixin’ to is when someone is preparing to leave a location.  “We were just fixin’ to leave.”

But other applications occur often as well.  In that same bus story mentioned above, Tommy was telling about a girl on his bus who was about to get sick.

“Mom, she drank coffee this morning.  She did NOT look good at all.  So all the kids were yelling, ‘Mr. Sam, Violet’s fixin’ to get sick!  And then, ‘Mr. Sam, Violet got sick!  It smelled so bad, I tell you what.”

I tell you what, I love fixin’ to, too.  I’m fixin’ to use that phrase all on my own.

“Y’all.” I have to admit it.  Y’all has already crossed over into my conversational vernacular. I know there is no need to explain its meaning or its use.   I remember the first time I used it.  I was pulling into the Dollar General parking lot before school one morning and couldn’t read their store hour signs without getting out of my car.  A DG worker was sitting on the bench outside, having a smoke break, and I yelled out to her, “Are y’all open?”  As soon as I yelled it, I thought, Well there it is.  I’ve arrived.  This was more proof than my Tennessee driver’s license.  I was now a resident.

But I also know some Michiganese will forever be a part of me.  A diet Coke will always be a pop.  A buggy will always be a shopping cart.  It will always be a fridge.  A crayon will always be a cran.  And the question will always be “Didja eat?” All in all, I’m fixin’ to embrace this dialectally delightful blend of Midwest and Middle Tennessee.


Try #12 — November 4, 2018

Try #12

I have a confession.  I have started this post 12 different times.  I have proof.  I started keeping track and we’re on Try #12.  Look, I even took its picture.


For Try #12, I’m establishing some rules for completion.  I cannot have a Try #13.  Try #12 has to be The One.

So, here are the rules for Try #12:

  1.  I cannot erase.  I’m second guessing every thought I write and then erasing it.  This is not helpful.  This is Backspace Key abuse.   I recently read something that Jen Hatmaker, one of my writing heroes, quoted from Jodi Picoult.  “I can edit a bad page.  I can’t edit a blank page.”  So no more erasing.  Pardon me for the rambles, the terrible ideas, or any other writing catastrophes I’m about to commit, but it’s time to quit quitting.  And let’s not pigeonhole this piece of advice into just the act of writing.  You can’t edit anything you don’t try start.  Sometimes the bravest, hardest, scariest thing we do is start.  And in a close second for being Brave/Hard/Scary is to keep trying when it gets difficult.
  2.  I may strike through to remove or adjust a thought.
  3. I’m giving myself a time limit.  It’s already 12:04, Central Time, and I’m about 2 hours later than I like to be for a Sunday morning post.  Not to mention that I had an extra hour today.  So Rule #3 is that I will be done by 1:15 1:30.
  4. No more Facebook or refrigerator breaks.  Sorry FB, I cannot be your friend right now.  As much as I enjoy seeing all the “Daylight Savings Time Ending” memes mixed in with the political opinions, I have to leave it alone until I’m done.
  5. No more refrigerator breaks.  I am not hungry.  I am NOT hungry. I’m just procrastinating.  Or, to be completely honest, I’m just shoving food in my pie hole to soothe my self-doubt.  That is not the answer.  Facing my self-doubt is.  Here’s the thing.  I have a gigantic case of “You’re-Not-Good-Enough-Nobody-Likes-Your-Writing-You-Should-Just-Quit-itis” right now.  I’ve noticed that in the last few posts, the reaction hasn’t been the same.  There hasn’t been the same amount of comments.  My views have gone from about 200 per post to 40.  So I took the disappointment from the last few weeks and So the Judge takes that information and uses it as a weapon to tell me to quit.  And when I don’t quit, he doesn’t either.  He makes me doubt every word I write.  “That’s not good enough.  You sound whiny.  No one cares.  You’re going to push even more people away if you write that.”  All those words are whispered in my ear as I write.  So I try to deflect them by eating. So far it’s been a Reese’s cup, miniature Almond Joy, a snack bag of Cheetos, a snack bag of Chili Cheese Fritos, and 5 6 7 8 strawberry bonbons.    Here’s the proof:writingfood
  6. Refer to Rule #1 regarding Rule #5.  Do not erase it even though it’s long and rambles.  Leave it.  Embrace the imperfections.
  7. Share your plan to improve your blog.  Here’s the next thing.  Everyone has something they want to improve on b.  The self-doubt isn’t going to go away unless there is a plan to get rid of it.  A solid plan.  A plan that has parameters and guidelines attached.  An action plan.  I wrote it down before I started Try #12.  Here it is:writingrules
  8. Invite your readers to share their thoughts with you.  Ask them to share their goals for themselves with you.  Offer the solemn promise to support and encourage them as they pursue their dreams.
  9. Ask your readers to share their thoughts with you and give feedback about your writing.  Maybe there is a disconnect that happened.  Maybe there is something that is missing or gone.  Be brave enough to ask with the genuine promise to hear their feedback and use it.  Thank them for their gift of reading and offering suggestions.  The only thing worse than not writing, is not having an audience.


Thank you for reading my crazy ramblings in this post.  I truly appreciate each response, each view, each share.

And to Try #13, sorry, NOT SORRY, you will never be.

Dear Tired Teacher 2.0 — October 28, 2018

Dear Tired Teacher 2.0

Almost two years ago, I wrote this post, Dear Tired Teacher, but I wrote it from the administrator point of view.

Almost two years later, my roles have flipped and I’m on the other side.  I AM the Tired Teacher.  I am the one who feels everything that I saw as a principal, and included in that post.  I am the one who can experience in the same day, often the SAME HOUR the agony of defeat and the joy of success.

I am the one who will only take a microsecond to celebrate that something got crossed off my To-Do list because there are 17 other things on it.

I am the one who will fight back tears at work, and sometimes lose, because I just don’t know how I can keep doing it all.

I am the one who sees the stack of papers to grade, the data binder that needs to be updated, and the desks that need to be rearranged, but I am the one that walks out of my classroom to go home anyway, because I’ve already spent nine hours at work and I have the most important loved ones at home who need me and I need them.

I am the one who lies awake at night trying to figure out how to help my most hurting, neediest, uncooperative students.  The explosive ones.  The quiet ones.  The ones who try their hardest and still fail.  The ones who are done in 10 minutes and want to know what  else to do.  The ones who have parents that don’t have a voicemail set up and there are no other numbers to contact them.  The ones who yell at you that they hate school and they hate you and you know there is something deeper inside causing their pain.

I am the one who stopped dead in my tracks when my colleague shared a story with me.  She said that someone had given her the Dove Chocolate wrapper that had some advice written inside.  The wrapper said, “I may be able to do anything.  But I can’t do everything.”


True that.

I can’t do everything.  I CANNOT.  So I’m going to choose what my anythings are.  My anythings are going to be the tasks that help my students succeed.  My anythings are going to be the policies I put in place that help my kids feel safe, and successful, and confident, while also respecting me.  My anythings are going to be the things that also allow me to turn off school for a while to be present for myself, for my family, for my friends, and I’m going to repeat it in the same sentence, FOR MYSELF.

We have got to stop asking ourselves to be EVERY THING for EVERY BODY.  It’s not physically possible.  It’s not mentally possible.  It’s not emotionally possible.  And at the end of the day, it’s exhausting to lay in bed and think about all the things you didn’t do.

So I’m going to end this with the invitation to please read the Dear Tired Teacher post and know, my dear tired teacher friends, everywhere, I still see you.  I see myself.  And I want you to give yourself permission to not be everything.  I know there is an intense amount of pressure with testing, and evaluations, and public scrutiny.

Instead I want to emphasize that the teachers I have worked with, and the teachers I work with now, choose the right things.  Thank you colleagues, past and present.  Thank you.  Now please do yourself a favor.  Go to a mirror and tell yourself that you see yourself.  You are choosing the right things.  You can do ANYTHING but you don’t have to be EVERYTHING.

True Colors — October 21, 2018

True Colors

Is there something in nature that you have a spiritual kinship to?  Something that when you gaze upon it, it seems to connect to your soul?  Something that brings a sense of calm, a sense of inner peace, a sense that you have an unexplainable, but deeply rooted, connection to it?

For me, I have discovered over the last several years, that I have a strong connection to trees.  I love them so much, that I have a wall of art dedicated to trees in our dining room.


My Tree Wall


I love them so much, I have a timer set on my phone to take a picture of the view of the valley of trees every day, so I can capture the progression of fall.

The Valley View

I love them so much that I can lost in the view of a single tree, or a forest of trees, for hours and it doesn’t seem like any time has gone by at all.

To be specific though it’s not all trees that I adore.  To be precise, I prefer deciduous trees.  Maple, to be even more exact. (Shout out to my second grade teacher, Mrs. Clark, for teaching me the difference between deciduous and coniferous!)

I love every aspect about a glorious maple tree.  It is amazing to me that a maple tree  has the gift of being able to be dormant and bare and vulnerable for months and then with a bit of nurturing and light, it bursts with new growth every spring.  Then, with a little more light and rain, those leaves and branches flourish, until they have stretched to their limits for the season. Finally, they are given the gift to enjoy the sun and the wind and the rain.

But that’s not the end.  Then there is autumn.  During autumn, the maple tree gets to do some regrouping.  It gets to slow down.  It allows the chlorophyll that has been in charge of its wardrobe for five or six month to go into summer storage and let the fall wardrobe out.  For it’s the fall colors that are the leaf’s true colors. 

I’m going to repeat that.  A leaf’s true color is the shade of yellow, or orange, or crimson that it turns to in the fall.  (Virtual high-five if Cyndi Lauper’s “True Colors” popped into your head as you read that.)

Isn’t that amazing?  Think about how every spring a leaf is born, and grows, and becomes strong, but it is not necessarily its true self.  What’s true about the leaf is what happens after the growth.  After the busy-ness of the long days of sunshine, the leaves get a chance to catch their breath.  The leaves get to slow down and take a look at what is underneath.

And that is one of the reasons why I love trees so much. Their leaves’ yearly transformation speaks to me.

What lies beneath my chlorophyll coat of  green? What do I want to uncover as my true color?  Not the green coat that matches every body else.  Not the coat that says I am Super Woman, even though I have the unrealistic expectation for myself that I have to be.  Not the coat that is shoved in my face by advertising and Facebook and Pinterest and anything else that says this is how you can be all.

Because I can’t.  I can’t be all.  Some days, I can’t be anything.  Some days I can only be.  That’s it.  The only color I can be is mine.  Not Facebook’s.  Not Pinterest’s.  Not Instagram’s.  Not anything I see on TV.

Just my own true, beautiful, vibrant, one-of-a-kind, Crayola-doesn’t-even-have-a-name-for-this-crayon, color.  The color that God and Mother Nature and the Universe gave me naturally and, more importantly, the color I allow myself to show.  After the growing season.  After the stretching towards the sun. After the rain and wind.  After the light and the harshness of heat.  What is left is my true color.

And that color, is my favorite color.

But don’t just take my word for it.  Let Cyndi ‘splain it to you too…

Landmarks — October 10, 2018


Three and half months ago, my family and I moved from Michigan to Tennessee.  To say there  are a lot of annoying, stressful things about moving is an understatement.  (Insert “I love moving,” said No One Ever meme).  One stressful thing about moving happens after the move is officially over.  After the U-haul truck is unloaded.  After all the boxes have been lugged to their appropriate rooms and the furniture has been pivoted into place.  (Silent salute to Ross Geller and his epic “Pivot!” order).

When the moving stress is over, a new stress kicks in:  learning your new location.  Learning where the Walmart and Lowe’s and Bank of America is.  Learning which lane to get into when turning right onto College Avenue.  Learning that there is a shortcut to Lowe’s so you can bi-pass a huge section of the always busy Madison Street.  Learning that Wilma Rudolph Boulevard is a nightmare on Saturday afternoon.

In the last eight years I’ve moved four times and whether it was 5 miles, 50 miles, or 500 miles, there’s always something to be learned when it comes to moving to a new area.  And one of the things that I have solidified for myself is how I navigate a new area.   I am a tried-and-true Landmark Navigator.  Tell me to go 5 miles west and then turn south and I’ll respond with a deer in a headlights look.  Tell me to go until you pass Kroger and then turn left, and you’ll see me waving in the rear view mirror.

I know I’m not the only one.  In fact, I’d place some heavy bets that there are more drivers like me, rather than the Compass Rose Captains.  I rely on landmarks so much that even when I have Google Maps up on my phone with specific turn-by-turn directions, I find myself noticing the landmarks posted on the screen instead.  “Okay, turn left at the Dairy Queen,” is much more comfortable and stress-free than, “In 100 feet turn left at Heritage Place.”

I suppose that’s what makes the location by landmarks my preferred method–it’s comfortable.  Because let’s face it, navigating is what makes learning a new location stressful.  That’s why we turn the radio down.  That’s why one of the first mainstream tools of technology was a GPS device.  That’s one of the reasons why, I’m positive, road rage occurs.  Because when you’re trying to get somewhere and you don’t know exactly when and where you’re going to be there,  your stress level accelerates.

Life gives us figurative landmarks too.  Touch points to seek out when we’re stressed and anxiety has gone from 0 to 60 in six seconds.  The trick is knowing when to turn on the internal GPS if we start feeling lost or scared or anxious.  Knowing which tool is the right one to guide us into a state of comfort and enable us to pull into the correct lane and make the right turn.  Knowing that we’re on the right path or need to recalculate for some reason.

Landmarks can also pop up out of nowhere with the message that everything is okay.  The path is still safe.  My sweet husband seems to always know when to send the “I hope you’re having a good day. I love you.” text.  My BFF Cassie  sends me cards with genuine handwritten messages that encourage and inspire.   And I swear my daily devotions are often written just for me.  All of these landmarks remind me who I am, inspire me, and encourage me to keep going on my path, despite the difficulty.

Two of the first landmarks I used after we moved were emotional landmarks.  It’s not easy to make the decision to move away from what is comfortable and known.  There are still things we are figuring out every day.  But there are two landmarks that bring me comfort.  They are both road signs, Southgate Lane and Ball Road, that are for crossroads that I go by on my drive from our country home into town.   It’s more than a coincidence to me that in the last year we changed our location from Southgate and I traded my maiden name, Ball, for my married name Lay.   Those are my crossroad landmarks.     I salute those landmarks when I go by as I keep my eyes forward on my new path.



I’m All Done With — October 22, 2017

I’m All Done With


Now that I have a seven-year-old boy, I feel confident in declaring Things I’m All Done With.  I’m making these declarations as a Mom who wants to preserve her sanity, and support the Cause for Common Sense that seems to be severely lacking these days, and ultimately regain control.

My list of Things I’m All Done With:

  1.  Slime.  I don’t care if it’s of the homemade variety or one that comes in a can trying to be all Playdohey, I’m All Done with slime.  There is no good kind.  Don’t be fooled by anything that claims it won’t make a mess.  I really wonder who decided that enticing children with fluorescent pots of oozy, sticky concoctions was a good idea.  More importantly, WHY DID I EVER ALLOW IT TO ENTER MY HOUSE?  Why did I ever buy the promise of “I WON’T MAKE A MESS”?  Impossible.  Parents, everywhere, we need to band together and stop this slime nonsense.   There is no valid reason for slime’s existence.  We need to shut that shit down and make it stay down.
  2. Bunch Ems, Orbeez, Aquabeads and any of their distant relatives.  I blame Nickelodeon for this one.  Tommy had no clue about these “creative toys,” until he started watching a channel that had commercials.  I’m sad to say that my son is a marketer’s dream.  He buys all of the false advertising that products like Bunch Ems and Orbeez promise. What’s the real truth about what these products offer?  15 minutes of novelty that quickly morphs into a big fat mess.  Bunch Ems are the velcro third cousins of Legos.  Orbeez and Aquabeads are at least 600 tiny little balls, that just end up everywhere other than in the creation that they were intended.  And you can never get rid of all of them.  They’re like glitter and Easter basket grass.  Just when you think you’ve captured every last piece, and you’re finally rid of them, one rolls out from the couch.  For these reasons, I’m All Done with itty-bitty piece creative toy kits.
  3. Birthday Party Favors Parents, can we just make a pact?  Can we all come to a collective agreement?  If you invite my child to your child’s birthday party, I am happy to buy your child a present and have my child attend.  I hope you feel the same.  But can we put an end to a social formality that really is just a pain-in-the-ass in disguise?  You won’t break my heart if you don’t offer my child a party favor.  In fact, I confess that there have been times that I’ve “accidentally” left the favor cup behind. I understand that this is how Party City makes their bread and butter–with all the different character cups, mini erasers, mini kazoos, sunglasses, and bulk candy choices.  But let’s be honest about what happens with the favor bags or favor cups or whatever favor vessel is used to house the tiny “thank you for coming” trinkets.  The recipient immediately opens the vessel.  The recipient excitedly pulls out each item and reports what it is.  The recipient sets each item aside unless it’s a favored piece of candy, and then it is immediately consumed, and then the wrapper is the only evidence.  All of the favor items remain in the backseat of the car, waiting for their ultimate demise of the car wash or gas station trash can.  So, parents, can we all just save our hard earned money, as well as some time, and just end this practice.  Party favors, I’m All Done With You.
  4. McDonald’s Happy Meal Toys  Do I really have to say anything more?  I’m All Done with Happy Meal Toys.  And I’ve decided that that age 7 is the expiration age for Happy Meals.
  5. Crap Prizes from Chuck E. Cheese, Stevie B’s, Zap Zone, etc.  I am so, so, so tired of shelling out $20 for my kid to play games for 10 minutes for tickets that regurgitate from a machine which are traded for a 10 cent smiley face eraser.  All done.  I’d rather buy a $5 Hot-N-Ready and go shopping at Dollar Tree.  “Here kid, here’s $5, Knock yourself out!”  At least I’d feel like he was getting his money’s worth.

Maybe I’m just getting old.  Maybe I’m just grumpy.   Back in my day all we had were Legos and Barbie shoes to torment our parents with.  I’m sure there are tales my mother could tell about the things she was all done with, but they can’t be near to what we’re battling.  Modern toy technology, social media, a bazillion TV channels and YouTube have brainwashed the kids of today into believing that what is out there is what is important.  It’s time to reclaim our control.  It’s not what’s OUT there.  It’s what we allow IN.  Don’t forget parents, WE are the BOSS.  WE get to decide.  We can say No.  We get to say what we’re all done with.  And we can use the best parent line ever to justify ourselves.

We get to say, “Because I said so.”

Please Press Play — September 17, 2017

Please Press Play

FullSizeRenderI’ve been MIA on this blog for a while.   Some might say I pressed “Pause” and forgot to resume.   Although I want to say it is for a variety of valid excuses, there’s really only one.

I listened to The Judge.

You see, I could have said that for the following reasons, I wasn’t able to write.  My life changed quite a lot in the last few months.  I found my gardener, (see The Garden of Hope) and we decided to combine our gardens together.  That happened over the summer.  Along with a kitchen renovation, and a few weekend getaways.  Combine that with moving and blending two families, life got pretty hectic. And routines changed, including my usual Saturday night writing routine, and I didn’t discipline myself to make a new one.

But more importantly, not only did my routine and life change, I listened to the Judge.  The Judge was telling me over and over that I have nothing to write about.  I have no new ideas to share.  My viewpoint, my perspective, my outlook seemed dried up.  Writing ideas used to pop up out of nowhere and scream in my head until I was able to capture them and write them down and all of a sudden they vanished.  And the Judge seized that opportunity to convince me that my writing days were over.

And I listened.

And the longer I listened, the longer I stayed away from my keyboard, the more I believed the Judge’s lies.

It makes me think of how I’ve done with other strong starts in my life but failed to persevere when Life gets in the way.  I used to be a committed runner.   I have had so many ups and downs with weight loss and weight gain.  At times I strive in my career, and then I get into a funk that makes me want to be a Wal-mart greeter (trust me, I’ve actually looked at the possibility).  Even now, as I write this I feel like I am revolving around in a chaotic stream of thought that if anyone reads this they would think I am batshit crazy and they’d never look at me the same way again.

Thank you, Judge.  You’ve done a number on me.

And so I have to slowly unravel my way out.  I have to find all the positive things that counteract the Judge and remind me that he is a liar and not worth listening to.  I have to crawl my way back from the self-doubt.

It’s not easy.  Because in that self-doubt there’s also self-loathing.  There’s the disappointment in myself that I didn’t make the time to try to fight the Judge and his lies.  As I think back now, when I wrote often, there were weeks when I didn’t know what to write, but I gave it a shot anyway and something came out of it.  When I disciplined myself, I found a way.  When I listened to the Judge,  it was easy to make an excuse and then believe the excuse.

It makes me think of a quote that one my favorite priests of all-time (he was the GOAT as all the kids are saying now) said in one of his prolific homilies.  He stated, “What we take seriously, we discipline.”

It’s not always easy to do what I love and have a passion for.  Sometimes, especially if it makes me vulnerable to the opinions of others, I stop.  Or sometimes I let the Judge use the Obstacles of Life to convince me to stop.  Or at least press Pause.  The problem with that, is I tend not to press Play again.

Not this time.  Not for me.  I found myself when I wrote.  I found things hidden that I didn’t know existed.  Self-reflection is a powerful thing.  It’s also scary…to the Judge.  Because self-reflection is a powerful armor against him.  Self-reflection allows the lies to be revealed.  Self-reflection allows a new game plan to form, one that doesn’t rely on self-doubt and self-loathing.

So I’m going to press “Play” once more.  It’s not going to be easy.  Nothing worthwhile ever is.  But staying in this paused state of mind doesn’t work either.  It’s time to play.


The Woman Formerly Known as Shippy — July 17, 2017

The Woman Formerly Known as Shippy

When I was a teacher, one of my favorite writing assignments that I gave my 5th-grade students was to write their name story.  It was like a little research project–ask your parents how they decided on the name they were given and then tell that story.Every Name Has a Story Tshirt

Personally, my mother always told me she chose the name “Andrea” because it meant “precious,” which she affectionately called me when I was a girl.  She also made it very clear as a young girl that my name should never be shortened to Andi because I was a girl and that was a masculine nickname.

Then I entered middle school, and one of my new best friends began calling me Andi.  As pre teen girls do, I rebelled against my mother’s wishes and wholeheartedly adopted Andi as my new teenage identity.  Reluctantly, my parents didn’t fight it, and I was Andi, formerly known as Andrea.

Fast forward 15 years when I traded my maiden name, Ball, for my married surname, Schiappacasse.  Not only was this 13 letter monstrosity difficult to spell, it was awful for people to pronounce.  My in-laws had already addressed this problem and had an abbreviated nickname, Shippy.  I adopted this as well, and for my colleagues and students, I became Mrs. Shippy.  As time when on, the moniker shifted and I became Shippy.  I used to joke that I was like Cher and Madonna with my one-word name.  (Using those celebrities eventually showed how I old I was, so I switched to Adele and Rihanna).  I was comfortable with this.  I often thought I brought more to the Schiappacasse name than SoonToBe.

Then came the time during my divorce preparation to decide if I wanted to keep the Schiappacasse name or return to my maiden name.  At first, for my son’s sake and for the sake of ease, I decided to keep the name.

And that was the wrong decision, for me.  Keeping that name was like keeping a part of my past that was an anchor, dragging me down and preventing me from moving forward.  If I had done all the work to remove SoonToBe from my life, if I was choosing to go through the steps of purging the toxic parts, if I was pruning every little bit of dead wood, why would I hold on to something as defining as a name?  Looking at my original reasons, I found flaws.

First, I thought keeping Schiappacasse would be easier for my son, Tommy.  I had an outdated belief that a mother’s last name and a child’s last name should be the same.  But as a principal, I know all too well how common it is for a child and a parent to have different last names and it’s not a big deal.  Not in this day and age.  It’s an antiquated reason and it doesn’t hold water.

The second reason?  I claimed that I was keeping it because it’s easier.  Well, that too depends on how I define easy.  Is it easy to hold on to old baggage?  Is it easy to continue to associate my name, my persona, my being with 18 years of hardship and pain?  Is that really easier?

Or is it easier to go through the process of mentally and legally purging every document and account associated to me?  Once the process is done, then it’s one more step of closing the door.  It’s one more step of reclaiming who I was and who I truly am.  It’s one more step in becoming Andrea again.  Or Andi.  I’m feminine enough to handle a masculine nickname. But one thing is for sure.  I’ll never be known as Shippy again.


When I decided to leave SoonToBe, I also made the unconscious choice to leave all things associated, including that moniker, behind.  Even if it meant telling my lawyer that I had changed my mind.  And that wasn’t easy for me.  It wasn’t easy to tell my lawyer to please do a little more work because I wasn’t firm and decisive originally.  But in the end, I’m paying him, and he was more than willing to oblige.

Next week, it will finally be final.  My legal name, Andrea Marie Ball, will catch up to my personal journey that I began 2 years ago.  And it can’t happen fast enough.  I’m excited to have my Name Story personify the journey.



The Arrow of Consolation — June 28, 2017

The Arrow of Consolation

I’m a quote person.  I love reading illustrated quotes on Facebook and Pinterest.  I underline and highlight in books I own when I come across something that makes me pause and ponder.  Sometimes a quote will stop me dead in my tracks and I’ll think, “Yes!”

This week I had a stop me in my tracks quote reading moment.  It occurred while I was reading the daily excerpt from the book Every Day With Saint Francis De Sales, a gift from my step-father, Gene.  The quote read, “It seems to me that instead of being discouraged by our imperfections, we should be consoled.  If we know about them, we can do something about them.”

Friends, the phrase, “we should be consoled” brought me to my knees.  Can you imagine being consoled by acknowledging our imperfections?  I don’t know about you, but that’s not the way I think.  Imperfections are something I battle.  Imperfections are something I use to admonish myself.  Imperfections are The Judge’s best weapons against me.

After reading that quote I asked myself, why?  Why should I let my imperfections hurt me?  Who in this world expects me to be perfect?  But I knew the answer.  Somehow I expect myself to be perfect.  Somehow I set an imperfect standard to be the perfect mom, the perfect friend, the perfect colleague, the perfect boss, the perfect girlfriend, the perfect me.  And when I fall short, I am at the front of the lash-wielding line.

It also doesn’t help that we are bombarded in the media to be perfect.  How many morning news segments are devoted to getting the perfect body, the perfect smile, the perfect holiday table, the perfect vacation, the perfect make-up, the perfect relationship?  Not to mention that the pathway to perfection often includes “5 easy steps.”  What another terrible message.  Not only should you have the perfect whatever, but it’s easy to get it.  So then, when you fail at perfection, you also failed at something that was apparently easy to achieve.  No wonder The Judge has such a hold on people’s thoughts and emotions.

So what’s the answer?  Turn off the TV?  Delete all social media accounts?  Perhaps.  But does that truly battle the quest for perfection?  Let’s go back to the quote, “we should be consoled.”  How does one console?  For this idea, I lean to one of my favorite girls, Glennon Doyle Melton, and the advice she gave when I attended her talk a few years ago.  In her speech, she talked about pain and how it wasn’t something to fight.  Pain could also be used as an arrow, an arrow that points to a target.  She stated, “Life is not a quest to avoid pain. Pain is a teacher but we are like caterpillars within a cocoon, waiting to jump out and become butterflies.”  Pain and discomfort are part of the path to deeper self-awareness.  And to achieve this self-awareness there must be a moment that we allow ourselves to be consoled by our imperfections.  Instead of looking at perfections and the 5 easy steps to achieve it, the arrow should be pointed at the imperfections and the consolation that they exist.  They are real.  They are a part of us.  They are not wrong.  They just are.

And the next step?  Glennon recommends to Be Still.  Be Still.  Sit within the imperfection.  Don’t fight it.  Don’t avoid it.  Don’t use any tactic to hide from it.  Be Still and let the discomfort point the direction to correction.  Perhaps the direction is the acceptance that maybe you don’t have the perfect smile, but that you have a reason to smile.  Or not that you have the perfect holiday table, but a table to share on the holiday.  Or that the muffin top that causes you to search for the 5 easy exercises to fight the belly bulge or consume the “miracle belly fat burning drink”, is really just a belly.  I repeat, it’s just a belly.


Being Still allows us to stop and say imperfections exist, but they do not define who I am.  Being Still takes the power from the imperfection and puts the power in the correction.  It’s a way to listen to the trigger that makes an imperfection seems stressful because we want it fixed and we want it fixed now and we want it to be fixed easily.  That doesn’t happen.  Anything worth correcting takes time, takes self-awareness, takes work.  However, when we allow the imperfection to console us, the time,  self-awareness, and work necessary don’t seem so difficult.  The target is identified.  The path becomes clear and focused. The arrow becomes easier to follow.

The other outcome that occurs when we are still is that we take the power away from The Judge.  The Judge is at his best when we were are stressed and want an imperfection fixed quickly.  The Judge takes the arrow and redirects it from the target to all the reasons that an imperfection makes us wrong and unworthy and unfixable.  And the more we listen to The Judge, the louder and stronger he gets.  But when we are still, The Judge loses power.  When we take a breath and give ourselves permission to be consoled by our imperfection, The Judge’s attack weakens and ultimately retreats.  The focus returns to the path of consolation, acceptance, and correction.

I don’t know about you, but that’s a path that I want to follow.