Fat Fridays: Tennis Shoes and Dogs

I had a thought this week as I was getting dressed. What shoes am I going to put on? I’ve got three pairs of shoes that I regularly wear. My tennis shoes, my sandals, and my flipflops. Tennis shoes means I am ready to move and ready to work. I’m ready to take a quick walk around the block when there’s a lull in the day or I’m feeling the stress build up. I’m ready to run up the stairs to get something I need, I’m ready to clean, go to the store, do a workout…whatever. Tennis shoes=movement. Then there’s my sandals. They are very practical but prettier. I wear those when I know I’m going out: to appointments, the store, visit someone, whatever. And then flipflops. Unless I’m heading to the lake, wearing flip flops means I’m having a “Non-day” as I call it. I have no plans to accomplish anything. I plan on moving in slow motion. Lounging around a lot. Settling on a couch with a book. 

So, it occured to me that in my job (staying home, taking care of a giant house filled with nine children) tennis shoes are really the best bet. If I already have tennis shoes on, I’m a lot more likely to make my 10,000 steps a day. I’m a lot more likely to engage in spontaneous running around. I’m a lot more likely to accomplish my goals. And yet, here I am, writing this, wearing my flipflops. Cause I’m tired and feeling lazy and wanting to start this day off slowly. I’ve promised myself that once I’m fully awake, I’ll put my tennis shoes on. It’s an interesting mind game I play with myself. 

Note to self: get up and put on your tennis shoes every morning. It will make the day better. 

In other news, I went running yesterday with my dog. That was an interesting experience. My trainer had put down to run two miles and then walk two miles. And I thought, hmm, it would be nice to find a trail where I could just run two miles down the trail and then walk back. I know these trails exist in my city, but I usually just go to the park down the road from me cause I like to stay close to home. So, I was heading out to my car to drive to the park and one of my kids said, Oh, I thought you were going to run to the park. And I had this lightbulb moment. Oh, yeah. That actually makes sense since the park is about two miles from my house. I have never run in my nieghborhood, probably the main reason being that I don’t look very impressive when I run and I’d rather not show off that image to all my neighbors. But, there is also safety to consider. I generally don’t head out into my nieghborhood solo. I always have my dog or a herd of children with me. And while I feel like I’ve got a lot of good nieghbors, we do have an unsavory element that drives around in this area. So, I didn’t feel comfortable just trotting off by myself. 

My husband suggested taking the dog with me. Hmm. Ok. I guess we could TRY it. My dog does not have a lot of training (not the dog’s fault). He’s well-behaved, knows a couple basic commands, which is all we need. But, he’s not the best when we go out walking. He pulls on the leash and wants to stop and sniff EVERYTHING. I didn’t know how he would do when I required him to keep moving, WITHOUT smelling the roses. 

At the beginning he did pretty well. The first half mile he seemed to be saying, FINALLY! You’re going at my pace! He trotted along cheerfully and I only had to pull him a couple times when he got sidetracked. But, as we continued, he got more and more interested in his surroundings and several times he yanked me off my stride because he had come to a full-stop to inspect something. But, he did better than I thought he would. And actually, I made my best time yet for two miles! Almost two minutes faster than my previous run! So, I’m hoping to do this more. 

Here’s to Tennis Shoes and Running Dogs!

More Tragedy

This past Monday our community, school, family walked through yet another tragedy in a year that has been full of them. My daughters’ highschool had an “officer involved shooting” in the school. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigations wanted to make it clear that this was not a “school shooting” where someone has brought a gun to the school with the intent of hurting people at the school, but was rather the result of a police officer engaging a student who was suspected of having a gun, and gunfire was exchanged. A police officer was injured, but is recovering, and the student is dead. 

For our family, we had an entire hour, from the moment the highschool was put in lockdown at the end of the school day, until we managed to get everyone home, that we had no idea what was going on. All we knew was that there was danger, a really big situation, and my daughter was in the building where all this danger was happening. 

The school district did not communicate with the parents during the whole thing which made the fear worse. Monday night I wrote the school district, voicing my complaints about the lack of communication with parents, and they personally called me the next day to apologize and say that this was an area they were going to improve in. 

My elementary school kids were also put in lockdown, (the school is relatively close to the high school) moments before they were to be dismissed. The teachers at the elementary school did not know what was happening, just that they were in a hard lockdown. They presumed there was imminent danger, and their fear and stress leaked over to the kids they were watching. My 1st and 2nd grader were crying when they finally were released to come get in my car. They told me later that they thought they were about to be shot by a bad guy. 

After I finally had all my elementary kids in my car, we then had to maneuver through police barricades until we finally found an access point where we could get to my daughter who was waiting at the high school for me. And during all of this there was a police helicopter swooping overhead making us all feel that we were in a war zone. 

When we got home I wouldn’t let the kids play outside because the helicopter was still present, making circles over our house (we live close to the highschool) and I had no idea if the helicopter was actively looking for someone in our neighborhood. So the kids huddled inside, looking out the windows, waiting for the danger to pass. And I sat, scanning all the social media and news sites I could find, trying to get information on what was happening. 

My husband came home early and I walked into his embrace and as he held me, I felt everything going black in my head, and was sure, for a moment, that I was going to faint. Rumors were flying and we heard that our principal, a man I admire, might have been shot. Was the office staff all wounded? How many people were dead? At one point in time I just hid in my kitchen and cried. Trying to avoid the kids, not wanting to increase their stress by having a complete breakdown myself. 

It took quite a while for all the details to come out. And now, On Wednesday, we still have not heard the name of the student who has died. And my daughter is supposedly supposed to return to school tomorrow, but I have a million questions, and none of them have been answered yet. 

Yesterday I gathered up all the kids, emailed all the elementary teachers telling them my kids would not be in school, and we left town and spent the day with my parents. 

Yesterday I would say that my stress level was at ninety-five out of a hundred. This morning I think I’ve got it down to maybe a forty? 

Yesterday morning I was feeling pretty horrible. Angry, agitated. I sat down and found myself rocking back and forth. Good grief. I was also feeling a lot of condemnation. Look at you! Where is your faith and your peace? And I had to stop and speak some truth to myself. You have just gone through a very stressful situation and your body and emotions are responding to that. You have to give yourself permission to recover from this. And, God is still good, and still in control, so we are going to cling to that and give ourselves some time to decompress and recover. 

So, Wednesday morning, I’m doing better than yesterday, but still feeling a bit shell-shocked. 

I haven’t even started processing the situation at our school, but I feel like I at least got the rocking boat of our family back onto calmer waters. 

Please Pray

It’s late Monday night. The younger children are asleep, the older ones are quiet in their rooms. Throughout the evening I’ve been hearing random gunshots in our neighborhood. After hearing five different shots, I called it into the police. They said they would send someone to check things out. But, the gunshots have continued through the evening. 

My highschoolers have been put on RED this week, doing virtual school instead of in-person school. Except, this time, it’s not for weather or covid, but because of a death. This past Friday, a sixteen year old boy was leaving our highschool and was struck by a stray bullet shot very close to the school. He did not survive. 

One of my daughter’s teachers sent out a schedule for tomorrow and it is basically going to be grief counseling all day long. 

Very recently my own daughter was walking home from school and had someone firing off a gun half a block behind her. And I’m crying in relief. It wasn’t my daughter that got hit by a stray bullet. And I’m angry. WHY ON EARTH are our kids having to deal with bullets on their way home from school!! And I wonder how on earth to make it stop. And I think about the anger and gut wrenching grief of this young man’s family.  And I think about all the kids showing up to their online classes tomorrow, angry, mourning, scared it might be them the next time. 

I am so angry. And I am weeping at the pain of losing a child so young. 

And I want to know how on earth our family can be an agent of help in this community. It seems so impossible. The problems too big. Our influence too small. 

My husband and I were driving in the countryside yesterday. We have always longed to live in the country. We talk about farms and cabins in the woods. We toss around ideas of how we could make it happen. 

Yesterday, as we drove through the beautiful scenery, my husband asked, again, Why aren’t we living out here?? 

I didn’t answer right away, because we’ve had this conversation over and over again. But finally I spoke up. 

Cause God put us in the city and for some reason he seems to want us to stay there. 

Oh yeah. That’s why. We actually feel like God had a plan when we moved here. And we haven’t felt like it’s time to move on yet. 

But, on days like today, nights like tonight, I feel a bit of despair. 

Please pray for our high school as the kids come together for the first time tomorrow. Pray for safety for our children. Pray the family of this young man. And pray for change to come. 

It’s Been Rough on the Kids

One of my little kids just came inside and told us that she heard gunshots. THREE SHOTS! REALLY FAST! I looked at my husband, he said, tell the kids to come inside. I called everyone in. They didn’t want to come in. The gunshots were far away! They weren’t close! Yeah, well, what if the person shooting the gun is in a car and he drives this way? Lets, just come inside for a while. They were disappointed, but came in, and within minutes were distracted by some new game they were playing. 

Such is life in our neighborhood.

Tomorrow the kids won’t go to school because our entire district has gone “RED” due to covid numbers, and so we will have a week of virtual school before Christmas break starts. My kids were not happy about this news. My daughter’s best friend in her class does not have internet in her home. They are an immigrant family, the little girl in my daughter’s class has been diligently learning English this year, and it’s possible that she speaks the best English in her family. Our district is offering help for families to get internet, but some extenuating reason is keeping this family from getting connected to help. My daughter cried and cried because virtual school means she doesn’t see her friend any more. 

Such is life in one of the poorest schools in town. 

We walked down to the park this past Friday afternoon since the weather was nice. There is a Children’s Museum at the park that we used to have a membership to. Covid shut the Muse down and then when they finally opened it was with so many restrictions and weird hoops to jump through, that I decided to not renew our membership until it gets easier. One of my kids saw the Muse, Can we go there???!! No sweetie. Not right now. WHY??? Covid. It’s just made things too difficult. But, we’ll go again as soon as things get easier. 

Such is life with a pandemic.

My three year old informed another sibling that he had friends. What’s their names? I don’t know. But I have friends! He is remembering last year when we were at a homeschooling co-op once a week and he would play with kids his age. I decided to not do the co-op this year, mostly because I didn’t know how Covid was going to affect my public school kids and how often we would be home or in quarantine. Fortunately, my elementary kids have had a good run, no quarantines, been in school all semester till now. But, we didn’t know that in the beginning of the semester, and we have been pretty isolated this year. My three year old is blessed to have lots of siblings who play with him, but he doesn’t see many other children. 

Such is life with social distancing.

It’s been a rough year for our kids. I’ve had a couple kids who have been struggling with depression, anger, frustration that life is not going like it’s supposed to. And it’s really hard to see my kids struggle. It weighs me down. I feel like I’m working overtime to keep my head above water, keep my outlook positive, focus on the good, not the bad, and I finally get into a kinda-good place and then my kids start falling apart, and I start the mentally strenous journey of trying to help them see the good in life, help them focus on the positive, help them get to a kinda-good place…You know, we are supposed to preach the Gospel to our children, well, I would say this has been my most prolific preaching year yet. God’s in control. We need to count our blessings. Let’s talk about the good things that have happened. Let’s pray about it. God has promised to help us. One day at a time. 

We’ve got Christmas coming up, typically a stressful time of year as we try to add celebration preparations to all the other things we have to get done every day. We, as parents, are already running on empty. And with kids being off of school for the holidays, needing time and attention, I am trying to remind myself just how much grace my kids need. 

I have decided that I am not going to take this next week of virtual school too seriously. Sure, we’ll give it our best shot, but if we miss something, or accidentally skip something, or get really confused about something, I’m not going to give it a lot of weight. Oh well. Let’s move on. I’m also not going to try and be super strict about anything this Christmas. You want to watch tv? Sure. Go ahead. We’ll still do our regular chores, and I hope I can keep the kids interested in playing outside, reading books, playing games etc, but if everyone is in meltdown mode? Well, I might pull out some candy canes, or just turn the tv on for several hours. This is not the time for rigid rules or really high standards. We are all mentally exhausted, including our kids. Let’s be as kind as possible to each other.