Put on some lipstick & pull yourself together

“I don’t want to do this, it’s too hard.”

“I’m triggered.”

“Why did you smack him?”
“I thought he took my pencil.”
“Where is the pencil?”
“I found it in my pocket…”

These are direct quotes from my students, middle schoolers who are hormonal and dramatic and lazy. They refuse to learn some days and, in an ironic twist, will go out of their way and work really hard to avoid working. This isn’t a post about “kids these days,” (though I could write a book.)

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Change out the words a little and see if it hits closer to home.

“No one will contribute to my GoFundMe, it’s not fair.”

“I need a ‘safe space’.”

“Why are you rioting?”
“My candidate didn’t win.”
“Did you vote?”
“Well…no…”

Scary isn’t it?

I’ve thought long and hard about this topic and I think I have an answer, inasmuch as you can solve a problem with a broad generalization. So here’s my advice, take it for what it’s worth:

Grow up.

555f03953cbfdf521b85936cb33166ffThat’s it. Grow up. Get up, get over yourself, and go do something. If you don’t have the life you want, it’s probably because you aren’t making it happen, or you are and you need to be patient. The life of a Pinterest board, the life your parents have, the life you’ve always wanted comes after years of hard work, effort, humility, and perseverance. Don’t expect anyone to give you anything. Earn that nonsense.

Stop talking about how people don’t understand your mission or your meaning or your purpose. Borrowing from Picasso: Your meaning in life is to find your gift. Your purpose in life is to give it away. To act justly love mercy, and walk humbly with your God. Period. (That last part was from Micah.)

In the meantime – your purpose is to contribute, in a real way. Stop with the made up niche markets and feeling victimized when people just don’t get you. Stop acting like this broken and imperfect world owes you anything. ANYTHING.

If you find yourself in the same predicament over an over, maybe it’s because you’re doing something wrong. Everything happens for a reason, but often that reason is that you made a bad choice and are dealing with the consequences. These aren’t growing pains, you aren’t misunderstood.

It would be easy to think that I’m calling out the millennials, or the people who are paving a new road, working hard to affect change. But no. Entitlement isn’t generation specific but it is a rampant pandemic. So knock it off.

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The Glories of Chores

I’m a firm believer that children who don’t do chores grow up to be adults who don’t know how to care for themselves. 

It’s all well and good to assign chores to your children, but without consistency, motivation, and/or consequences, chore time turns into a game of frustration and nagging.

Enter, the chore chart.

Seriously, guys. If you have more than one kid (or roommate for that matter) chore charts are the best. It may seem daunting at first, but setting it up is really no biggie.

Step 1: List your chores and frequency

20161206_155441.jpgNot every chore needs to be done everyday, but some desperately do (or multiple times per day). For us, emptying the dishwasher, feeding the dogs, and setting the table are daily chores. Other things like washing the windows, vacuuming, and cleaning the bathrooms are weekly tasks. Make a list and prioritize so that it’s easier to assign tasks later. 

Step 2: Consider your audience

Flipflops and MacGyver are 13 and 11 respectively and are responsible for their own laundry. Little one is 8 and Swiffers the front hall.

When doling out chores, consider the ages, abilities, and preferences of your brood. One kid may like to vacuum (or doesn’t mind) while another would rather scrub toilets than clean carpets. Older children can probably handle laundry, while little ones might turn all their whites pink. Continue reading

Doing (almost) everything wrong: instant motherhood.

William Shakespeare once wrote:

be-not-afraid-of-greatness-some-are-born-great-some-achieve-greatness-and-some-have-greatness-thrust-upon-them

Substitute greatness with “motherhood” and I fall into that third category. I wasn’t born a mom (because…that would be weird) and I didn’t achieve motherhood. Instead, I had motherhood thrust upon me. Not with an infant (or two) that I could bond with, nurture, and mold, my kids are fully grown little people with opinions and personalities and eternal souls that I’ve been given the amazing privilege of helping to raise.

And I’ve discovered the secret of motherhood. Seriously, I cracked the code.

None of us have any clue what we’re doing. 

Oh sure, there are books and blogs and recommendation. I’ve done research on blended families, on step-parenting. I’ve adjusted my expectations and made several (dozen) lists. I’ve learned so much along the way. An absurd and ridiculous amount. So much that I often forget the things I learned before and make the same mistakes 6 or 8 dozen times.

For example: did you know that you don’t actually have to engage with your child when they are being ridiculous? So when you send them to straighten up their room and they insist that nerf guns spread out across the entire floor is”good enough” because they need an arsenal, even though we’ve been over and over what counts as a clean room all summer. Apparently you don’t have to get into an unending “No it isn’t,” “Yes, it is!” battle of wills with an 8-year-old. You can just say, “you know the expectations,” and WALK AWAY. Magic!

Anyway, there are days when I feel like the absolute worst person, like I shouldn’t even be allowed around children. When they are mad at me, I feel like I’ve been punched in the gut and when they are hurting, you better step back.

But then there are these moments, beautiful and glorious. The moment when Little One didn’t throw a fit when he sat next to me instead of J at dinner, when Flipflops asks me for help with his summer reading. A random, unprovoked hug or a thank you or an I love you.

I’m pretty sure I’m doing almost everything wrong. Maybe, just maybe, though, I’m doing something right.

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Get it together: Handling finances like a grownup

*Note: This is NOT a sponsored post. I’m receiving no compensation for the opinions expressed.*

So…raise your hand if you have a budget.

*moderately impressed*

Keep your hand up if you actually use your budget.

*mmhmm*

You’re not alone, my friends. A lot of us seem to be under the impression that we don’t really need a budget. Perhaps you have rough numbers so you make sure you end up in the black each month. But do we really have control of our finances? Or, if we have money to cover all of our bills, do we just call it good enough?

It can be intimidating and uncomfortable to start budgeting. Whether you’re single or have a large family, budgeting can make your life a lot easier and less stressful. I’m a huge fan of Dave Ramsey and have gone through Financial Peace University. One of his mantras is: If you don’t tell your money where to go, you’ll wonder where it went.

Dave advocates the envelope system in which you keep physical cash in envelopes so that you can cut frivolous spending. The idea is that you can’t physically spend money that isn’t in the envelope. I understand what he’s saying, but since I pretty much pay all of my bills online, the cash system is more of a hassle than anything else. Plus, it might just be me, but I spend cash so much faster than if I have to use my debit card. In my head cash is free money, because I’ve already “spent” it out of my checking account. Maybe a generational thing? Or another step on my ever-increasing psychosis…meh.

Anyway. Cash envelopes aren’t practical for me. Enter: GoodBudget.

An app with accompanying online interface, GoodBudget allows you to track expenses and create virtual envelopes so you can put all of your money to good use. It’s free to use, but does come with a premium upgrade option (still only $5 per month or $45 for a whole year.)

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Set up takes a little time, as you have to create your budget and allocate your money into envelopes. There are tutorials that help you out, though. I recommend doing your setup online and then logging in with your mobile device. Once you get going, though, it’s super user-friendly and intuitive. You can even set up recurring expenses or income so you don’t have to reenter your regular paycheck or your mortgage every month. The app doesn’t connect to your bank account, so you don’t have to worry about security. It also is an easy way to reconcile your bank account as you go, since you can compare your balance on the app and in your account. I may or may not have been known to go hunting through my expenses to find the missing $0.07 so my balances matched. Just saying.

You fill your envelopes at the beginning of each month, even if you get paid sporadically, or bi-monthly (like I do). That way you can keep track of month’s expenses at a time. There is a reports feature to see your spending habits at a glance.

FillDebtEnv

The app also provides support and advice for debt management. I’m staring down the barrel at a mountain of student loans, but having a plan of action for early payoff makes it a bit less stressful.

I’ve been using the app for about 4 months now and I can honestly say that I’ve been spending less, paying off more of my debt, and much less stressed out about money. Adulting means being responsible (bleh) and GoodBudget makes it a little easier to control your funds.

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Chub Chub No Rub Rub

We need to talk about something serious.

Chub Rub.

If you’re a thigh-gapped freak who isn’t familiar with this phenomenon (sometimes called inner thigh chaffing) then Chub Rub is the unpleasant sensation of wearing a skirt or shorts in the summer only to have your thighs rub together in a way that convinces you that you are riding a bicycle on the surface of the sun.

It isn’t pretty.

1af251a911cb1919854f96c6cdad03aaIn my skinniest days, I have still never escaped the tyranny bestowed upon me by chub rub. I have great legs, don’t get me wrong, but I’m much closer to becoming a mermaid than a flamingo.

There are a number of home-grown solutions to this epidemic including baby powder to absorb moisture and lace, garter-like thigh protectors you can purchase. I’ve even been known to don Spanx in order to avoid the burn. Frightening commercials about the potentially cancerous ramifications of getting talcum powder anywhere near my lady bits have left me a little gun-shy of the white stuff and you can’t wear Spanx every day.

So I thought I was doomed to a life of painful rashes, bumps, and walking like a cowboy. But then I observed J getting ready for a half marathon. Before putting on his socks, he rubbed down the tops of his toes, his heels, and anywhere else on his body that might chaff with Glide.

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Hold the freaking phone.

This stuff has changed my life. Runners and other athletes have apparently known about this stuff for years, but I think it’s basically awesome. No more chub rub, bra line chaffing, or heel blisters. Ladies! Wear your maxi skirts proudly and with confidence, the reign of terror is over!

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PS: This isn’t a sponsored post. I just think this stuff is really cool. That’s why there are no links to a purchase site. Ask the almighty Google or check at your local drug store or sporting goods store.

Stand by Your Man | How to help when there’s nothing you can do

“Sweetheart, I’m exhausted.”

His voice on the phone broke my heart a little. God, how do I make this better? I feel so helpless.

When J is in pain, I’m in pain. It’s as simple as that. Whether it’s physical pain, like his hurt shoulder from a weekend of snow shoveling, or the weight of his responsibilities, I yearn to bear some of the burden. When I can’t make it better, I feel useless. After much consideration (and feedback that makes me feel like this stuff really works) I present 5 things you can do when you can’t do anything for your man. Or, you know, some much shorter, catchier title. Meh.

Pray for him

Get on your knees and plead for him. Pray that he would be strengthened, that God would protect his mind and heart, that he would not be tempted by sin in his time of weakness. Pray that you would have wise and encouraging things to say. Pray that God would use this hardship to bring himself glory. I think often we see prayer as a last resort, but it should really be a first response.

Listen to him

He may not want to vent; be ready to listen if he does. You will likely feel helpless as you are unable to do anything to ease his pain, but listening and standing by him as he walks through the valley are far more influential than you realize. Lend him strength by sharing his struggle; be sure he knows that you are always available to lend an ear.

Woman hugging a manRemind him that you are solid

During a stressful time in your man’s life, the last thing he needs is to worry that you are going to get fed up and walk away. Even if you feel like he “should know” how you feel, make a point to remind him that you are in it for the long haul and you aren’t going anywhere. He’ll know that whatever else may come his way, you’re always in his corner.

Tell him why you respect him

Women need love, men need respect. Make a list of the things you respect about him. It doesn’t have to be long, just a few things will go a long way to restoring his soul. Is he a great provider? Does he work hard? Does he take physical fitness seriously? Is he emotionally available to you? Is he a godly man?

When is that last time you told him how much those qualities mean to you, how much you respect him for all he does?

Be silly with him

No one can be serious all the time. He may be struggling through physical pain or emotional trial, but you can go a long way to lighten his mood. Send him a quick text with a funny meme, share an inside joke, or send him a selfie of a silly face. You’ll bring a smile to his face and remind him that you’re thinking of him in one fell swoop.

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Just a Trim | Cutting out the dead ends

Last week I got a haircut.

This isn’t a major event, though, embarrassingly, I haven’t had my hair cut since last May. I told my stylist/friend Lindsey that I wanted to trim away the dead ends. Nothing drastic – a good, healthy shape up. As she washed, combed, snipped, and styled, we chatted away about our lives.

12522994_10103468522584801_2390564703336504702_nWhen she was done, I felt like a new woman. There was nothing significantly different about the style – a little shorter, but not much – but as I ran my fingers through my locks, I could all but feel the freedom of trimming away the dead portions. Plus she’s basically a hair wizard.

Oh, the metaphor.

I started thinking about other areas of my life where “dead ends” are lurking. Why, for example, do I still have the contact information and full text message transcripts of the last four guys I dated (including the jerk who broke my heart) saved in my phone? Delete. Why am I holding on to a Save The Date for a wedding I’m no longer invited to attend? Throw it away. Why do I allow the shame of past mistakes to make me fear the future? Confess it and move on.

Oh, friends, how freeing it is to let go of the things that are weighing you down. What are you holding onto? What are the dead ends in your life?

Maybe it’s time to cut them off.

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The End of the Road | Internship Recap

So here we are, friends.

its-no-use-going-back-to-yesterday-because-i-was-a-different-person-then-quote-111 classes, 275 students, and 79 batches of GAK later, and I’m finally staring down the last week of my student teaching experience. After the first week, I wrote some tips for survival. They were all true and exceedingly helpful. But oh, how much I’ve learned in the last few months. I feel as though I’m a completely different person than the one who bounded into my first placement like an eager puppy back in August. So I bring you five more things I’ve gathered:

Learn names

Nothing builds rapport with your students faster than learning their names. Make a seating chart and study it. Force yourself to pass back papers. Stand at the door and greet each student by name as they come into class. Sure, it will take a while to learn all of them (especially at the second placement) but your students will appreciate your effort. I may never remember which twin is Kasey and which one is Kelly, but they know I’m trying, and they cut me some slack. Plus, I Kasey has the curly hair…ee25687bdad83ffb2d74923e46d4ad7e

Take advice…with a grain of salt

Everyone has an opinion and everyone has advice on how the classroom should function. Warm ups or no, read the objective or have students read it, individual vs. group work, the list goes on and on. As a student teacher, you are in a position to glean all the best advice from the people around you, but you are free to ignore the advice that doesn’t apply/doesn’t work. Be gracious, say thank you, and go your own way. In your cooperating teacher’s classroom, you need to be respectful of their rules and procedures, but once you’re on your own, it’s your show.

Steal everything. Everything.

Handouts, lecture notes, PowerPoint slides. Ask your mentor or content partner for their best work and more than likely, they’ll tell you to plug in a jump drive and take it all. Teachers are generous. As long as it isn’t licensed material (don’t be that person) take anything they offer. You don’t have to use everything, but it’s great to have a bank of ideas. Your county or school server is also probably rich with strategies.

Try not be offended

It’s going to happen; someone will forget about you. There won’t be enough handouts at the staff meeting or no one will tell you that you can wear jeans on Friday. It isn’t personal, but the team isn’t used to the extra body and sometimes, they’ll forget to include you. Or, they’ll forget that you don’t get department-wide emails and that you have to be told information in person. It’s easy to get your feathers ruffled – get over yourself. Assuming your team is generally good-willed, believe in the power of the honest mistake and don’t throw a fit when you feel left out.

Every once in a while, you might even be surprised that they remembered you. Like when your Testing Coordinator printed out a copy of the data-access instructions because he knew you couldn’t get to the server, or when a group of teachers throws you a going away lunch on your last day. Relish those moments and let the other ones go.

Be kind to yourself

This works a couple ways. You’ll have days that you blew it; not enough copies, your pacing was all wrong, and you snapped at a kid because you told him to stop rocking in his chair for the 573rd time. Try not to carry over the feelings of inadequacy and regret into the next day. More than likely, your students won’t remember and the only person you’re punishing is yourself. Be reflective, but give yourself a break. You’re still learning, you will absolutely make mistakes.

Which leads to the second part: take care of your body and soul. Student teaching is a lot of work, but you’re no good to anyone if you are sick and worn down all the time. Take time to sleep, exercise, see friends, or hang out with your boyfriend. Balance is key; better to start setting boundaries at the beginning, than when you’re already drowning.

Have fun

It sounds cliche, but honestly, these can be some of the best times of your life. Enjoy the ride, learn all you can, and take time to appreciate the whirlwind experience. Before you know it, it will be over and you’ll be thrust terrifyingly into first year teaching.

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Drink the coffee and do the things | Leaving your baggage at the door

One morning, I hit a deer on my way to work. Understandably, I was a bit scattered when I walked in the front door of my school. A student immediately cornered me for help on his Atoms and Period Table study guide for the test I’m giving on Wednesday while another student tried to explain why he didn’t have his project to turn in, even after he had all last week in class to work on it.

And I hadn’t even set down my bag yet.

Two of the girls in my home base check in with me before heading off to various early morning commitments (overachievers). In my frazzled state, I was unusually dismissive and shooed the girls off to their activities without taking time for my regular cheery small-talk.  One of the girls, who we’ll call…Melissa (names have been changed so I don’t lose my job) called my bluff. This conversation followed:

“Ms. Alger! That is not how we start our morning! Where is your coffee?”
“Um…on my desk?”
“Drink it! We’ll try this again later.”

Bossy thing, isn’t she? But she was right. I let my frantic rushing about and crammed schedule impact my relationships with my students. They look to me to be consistent and positive. Sure, everyone has bad days, but how often do we use a bad day as an excuse to be snarky or negative to the people around us?

Drink your coffee and start your day again. And watch out for deer.

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Even Jesus said No | An Ode to the Over-Committed

This morning, I walked up to my pastor and said, “Find me some help in Children’s Church, or I quit.” Whoa, friend. Let me start from the beginning.

I need to be needed. desperately want to be the person who swoops in a saves the day. I crave the kind of recognition that makes your ears turn pink with glee because someone noticed and appreciated the work you did. And so, I say yes — to everything. I say yes before I even really understand what is being asked of me. I dive in, head first, and hope that I’ll figure it out along the way.

This kind of self-imposed martyrdom gets a reputation and before you realize, you’ve committed to taking care of everyone but yourself. What was supposed to be a short-term commitment to the children’s ministry has turned into 18 months of exhaustive work. For a season, I was capable and willing to step in to meet this need, but I slowly lost my support and began shouldering more of the load. When I walked into church this morning, a half-dozen people asked me if I was alright. They told me I looked exhausted (thanks, by the way), that I looked upset, that I looked like a hot mess (direct quote). That was the wake up call I needed. I have been so focused on serving, feeling selfish for wanting some time to be fed, to be spiritually nourished, that I forgot that even Jesus needed alone time.

In Matthew 14, after the feeding of the 5,000, Jesus sends the disciples on ahead of him while he gets the crowd to go home. He then retreats up the mountain to pray, by himself. In Luke 5 we’re told that he often “withdrew to lonely places” to commune with his father. Mark 6 tells of a trip to Tyre where Jesus didn’t even want anyone to know he was around because he needed time off from the constant ministry.

If you, like me, are feeling the strain of burnout from over-commitment, start saying, “no”. No need to drop everything all at once and leave everyone else in a lurch, but start pulling back. There is guilt, of course, but such sweet freedom. I promise you, it is important. You aren’t good to anyone if you reach your breaking point. God calls us to work, to do what we can for the kingdom and for those around us. He does not call us to sacrifice our health, sanity, or families with overwhelming burdens and commitments.

It’s okay to say no, and mean it.

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