On contradictions and bob haircuts

I am more than mid-way through my fourth year of teaching at Small Christian University in the South. In other 4 year installments in life, like high school for example, this would be the time when one would be getting fitted for a gown, sizing up the graduation platform, making plans for the next chapter.

For me, I feel as though I am just getting started. Year four has been very self-actualizing. I am better at teaching what I have to teach. I am better at anticipating questions about what I teach. I am better at knowing what I don’t know about what I teach.

Let me tell you the cool part about improvement: once you’ve improved to a certain degree, you feel like the thing you’re doing is something new. Because it is. In the past, you were doing that other thing, the mediocre thing, the thing that made you feel all bummy and ill-equipped and now you are doing it better which actually changes how you approach, tackle, reflect on that thing. Life is new even though it is basically the same. Except you sleep better and don’t dread everything and you can eat food without having acid reflux and you don’t feel on the brink of tears all the time.

God is pouring a new formula into me. The bottle is better, stronger. The ingredients are of higher quality because they’ve been distilled longer. The label still says Kendra’s Jam. But to me it tastes new and improved.

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In some ways, I am hitting my Finally Stride. Lovey and I can finally go on dates and Little Man does not go mental and thrash about and punish us for days when we leave him with another benign person. I am finally finding a rhythm at work where I can feel good about the work completed and the work yet to complete. We are finally making a dent in our loans. I am finally reading Wild.

Yet, I am also fully aware of how much finality there is in finally. We got Baby Girl’s hair cut the other day. “How are we cutting it, Mom?” asked the hairdresser. She asked how we’re cutting it, like it was a joint effort, her sheers and my master vision. I realized how this might be one of the final times I have any say-so in that cute little bob.

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I realize that in general, we are shifting altogether too rapidly from the phase of dimpled elbows and slurred letters to the full-on independent child phase. It comes in waves, noticing suddenly that their play has become more sophisticated, their desires are more long-term rather than immediate, their cares are no longer whether they got the last pack of fruit snacks but more whether or not their friend who is moving to Arizona will remember them. There is finality in their own little child infinities. Their little ends become our endings, too.

But then there are the whole new epochs of their growing up — the fun and fish ownership and new favorite things. It is all so fleeting and yet it is all so rich. How can something, this parenthood business, be all so ephemeral and yet all so meaningful? Why are the days long and the years fast?

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God, so infinite and so lofty, still continues to make all things new. He makes it all good and perfect in seven days and we burn it and hoard it and waste it and still–He makes all things new. He is in the contradictions. Alpha-ing and Omega-ing all over our final finallies. He lives and works in this busted vessel and calls it a new thing.

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The 5 stages of moving (with kids)

I imagine there are worse things than moving with children. Being buried alive, contracting giardia, getting stuck in spinning class behind the person who ate onions and garlic for dinner last night–these are all worse than moving with children. Moving with children is a special blend of punishment, though, mixing chaos with emotions, pouring it over the ice of having to clean everything, and not being able to find the umbrella for your drink because someone probably packed it with the snorkeling gear.

We are nearly at the end of our move, the second move we have made with children, and I have come to recognize that, mirroring the 5 stages of grief, there are

The 5 stages of moving:

1. The Nostalgic Stage
You spend precious time gathering and then reflecting on the significance of each possession, thinking about the time you bought that grass skirt and coconut bra on your Hawaiian honeymoon. Nevermind that you will never again be the size you were on your honeymoon. This skirt/coconut ensemble is to be an heirloom, treasured by generations to come! It shall be folded and wrapped in tissue paper and placed in a hope chest, layered between memories and rainbows and lucky rabbit feet.

Series of photographs showing the Westchester County Thrift Shop and the many activities conducted ...

2. The Selling Stage
You have set aside a pile of items you believe to be of great value, that will sell high on e-bay or at a premium on craigslist. You are overjoyed to be doing this because you will net so much money, which you will help defray your moving costs! You have staged each Laura Ashley bedspread in a romantic environment with soft lighting and are just waiting for that big offer to come through!

January 9, 1916

3. The Minimalist Stage
You are relishing this newfound simplicity as you prepare for this move. You find it so refreshing to live minimally, with the majority of your belongings now packed away and neatly marked with the name of the room into which they will be unloaded in your new domicile. You are feeling so much lighter! You are practically Thoreau!

Walden Pond Concord MA Thoreau quote

4. The Resistance Stage
Your children are starting to resent all their toys being packed away. All of craigslist is flaking out on you, and Laura Ashley didn’t even get one bid on e-bay!? The more boxes you pack, the more your yet-to-be-packed stuff seems to multiply. You are starting to lose memory of what has been packed and what you haven’t packed and what you actually own or what you gave away through craigslist. You do random headcounts throughout the day just to make sure your children who had taken to playing in boxes aren’t actually sealed in.

Kids with their presents, ca. 1934 / by Sam Hood

5. The ‘I don’t give a flying UHaul’ stage
You are freaking out. It seems Oriental Trading has exploded in every drawer, with useless trash made in China standing in the way of your move. You have taken to just throwing random crap into any box, bag, or Barbie dreamhouse that will contain it. You are convinced your sanity is buried somewhere deep, within the Christmas decorations, perhaps? Or was it with the coconut bra? Your spouse says, We are not moving the crazy with us, so you throw everything away, vowing to recycle for the rest of your life to reduce the huge carbon footprint you have just made on the way to the landfill. In the end, you move. And there you are, in a new place with all your old stuff. Join us next time for “the 5 stages of moving in.” Right now, we’re still on stage 1: denial.

GMC Model KU 5-ton. Developed in OWO 550 at Reliance Plant, ...

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RAH RAH REE, Let me see you M-O-V-E!

We are moving around the corner and the process has felt like a long break-up that keeps trying to backpedal and see if there’s anything vestigial from the relationship that can be saved. Like that tinny song: “She said/What about/’Breakfast at Tiffany’s’.” Remember that one? A mutual affection for an Audrey Hepburn film can’t save us. It is time to pack up and move on to the greener pasture.

Moving has been going on for soooo long now, I have given it a new name. Moving, or as I like to call it, Finding all the loose change in your house that was ever minted. Ever. Oh, and also finding: beads, doll shoes, Legos, stickers with dust and dinosaur bits festering on them, and enough hair rubberbands to keep an entire cheerleading squad suspended in mid-air. I am almost persuaded to believe that while I was out, a cheerleading convention took place in my home and they tried to clean up all the hair rubberbands and beads and stickers but they just couldn’t. Spirit sticks are a mess.

spirit stick

***

At a writer’s conference, a woman I’ve never met turns to me, “Oh my gosh girl, you look great. Even for a writer!” I said, “My stars, you do, too! What’s your secret? You must be a writer!”

Laughter.

Then, simultaneously,
She: “No, but I do like your glasses.”
I: “No, but I do love your hair.”

We look at each other’s nametag. We have the same last name.

I: “Are you married to a Korean?”
She: “No. Chinese.”
I: “Did you write a book about it?”
She: “Haven’t written it about surviving that yet…”
I: “Oh. I have a book for you, then.”
Smiles.

***
I went to this poet nerd camp when I was in high school. There was a tandem cheer camp taking place on the same campus. I remember overhearing the cheerleaders, who marched and cheered going to every meal, “Yeah. The writer kids? Like, all I hear they do the whole time is…write?!”

***

I don’t know what day it is lately except today is a day that I am supposed to be moving. Not just moving houses but moving ideologies. I’ve been sulking lately about my book. Have you ever been working so hard on something, just gutting yourself to make it so excellent and then the gal who has more friends and a way cuter haircut does something similar but it’s still a bit pedestrian? Yet everyone around her is RAH-RAH waving their spirit sticks and you just…Yeah. That’s not a good place to set up camp. You’ve got to move on from that jealous onlooking position and find a place where you can be even more excellent and refined and distinct. But it’s tempting, isn’t it? To just begrudge popular girlfriend of her phenomenal blog audience and multiple book deals, even though most of her sentences appear to be bought at a discount on 1-800-CLICHE.COM? It’s altogether seductive to think that such a career blossoms overnight. I know it doesn’t. I also know that my goal with this book is not stardom. It’s to share a message of humor and hope.

Plus, jealousy has a way of painting some pretty ugly lines on our faces. they don’t fade but grow ever deeper with each jealous brushstroke.

bringiton

And let’s be honest. Book deal or not, no author can really afford the Botox.

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