Re-Purposed School Supplies


As long lines, endless forms and other back-to-school pressures weigh heavily on the minds of kids and parents alike, it’s time to start searching for ways to dial it down.

So, in the aisle during one of our multiple trips to Office Depot, amidst eye-rolls, audible sighs and drawn out Maahhmmm!‘s, I tried this week to help my kids (ME!) navigate the escalating stress (one of them is entering the ever-dreaded, supremely important Junior Year) by looking beyond the intended use of their school supplies to more possibilities. With a little re-purposing, those supplies just might add some perspective to chaos.


When reaching for that a straight-edge, remember that rulers measure length, width, height and such – but not one’s life. Life isn’t something that sits nicely on a measuring scale. Lest we be fooled by the lures of BEST or pressures to be PERFECT, no person is or ever will be. So – while measuring line segments, remember to ditch putting your life on a measurable scale. Focus instead on doing your best, not being the best. Then encourage the stressed out person next to you to do the same.


Rather than see the Year in a Glance as spaces in need of filling (busy/more equals better, right?), look at it as a beacon for blank … blank spaces.

And breathe.

Fight for down time. Schedule it. Sure, we almost feel naked without a full list of to-do’s. But down time is critically important, not only to health, but also to success and individualism. How can anyone discover and develop their unique giftedness if pre-set activities and others around them are defining it for them?

Silence, solitude, boredom inevitable accompany life. Schedule and lean into them now lest we negatively self-assess the minute they appear. Then let what happens in those moments happen. Because creativity and problem solving flourishes in moments where boundaries/activities are not defined. You never know what might arrive on the other side.

einstein quote

No 2 Pencil.

Pencil lead breaks. It wears down – always. But broken lead never ruins a paper or test or an assignment. Just like inevitable breaks/bumps along your road don’t make/break or define your life. So when the life’s inevitable breaks occur (broken hearts, broken hopes, broken expectations, …) remember the pencil. And click for more lead. Because, like your pencil, the lead is still there; it just needs to be accessed. Then, stand ready to help a friend who might need to re-purpose their pencil, too.

Locker Mirror

Rather than let a mirror take your thoughts captive and hold them hostage to some  negative self-image, use the reflection as a reminder to consider the light that informs it. Don’t rely on society’s (or your own) ever-changing, fickle interpretation of outward appearance standards – a light that tends to distort and highlight flaws. Instead, allow some light to shine from the inside. And when you reach for one of the gazillion required spiral-notebooks, notice that though they each have different cover colors/designs, the inside is the same. Blank, lined pages waiting for notes. In the same way they will be filled, consider what fills your thoughts – and go positive. (Really, the One who created you doesn’t make mistakes.) And force-land on areas for which to be grateful. Choose to see the immeasurable, incomparable beauty of each human – including the one in the mirror.

Glue Sticks & Calculators

Beyond its designated function to adhere surfaces together, glue serves as a  reminder that we’re in this together. Though you might feel alone – you’re not. In this very strange environment where a comma can define friendship and social standing (1,000 friends, followers, shares, pins, etc.), there is likely a real-live person standing next to you. One who feels the same way. Reach out for the real things and stick there.

Then let your calculator be a reminder the measure of a life’s impact is not about numbers or followers or reposts. Meaningful relationship is measured in authentic and honest interaction with the people traveling next to us.

Here’s hoping that the re-purposed school supplies of a talented artist, a gifted scientist, a quick mathematician, a stud athlete, a … (fill in the blank) will help us all walk alongside rather than against each other, taking to heart the fact that we’re all in it together – students and parents alike.

Thanks for walking the road with me.


So-long Lazy, Hazy… Hello Crazy

Like a blast of arctic air, the end of summer has smacked us in the face – leaving us stunned, feeling like the Bullet Train has literally hit and run. (Can someone get the license plate on that thing?!) Good-bye lazy, hazy days of summer. Hello crazy, tiger-by-the-tail days of I-don’t-know-what-to-call-you.

Those arctic blasts have looked a little something like this from last week (since summer for 3 of our 5 ended last week – of course school can’t start for all of them at the same time, that would be too easy):

Endless Searching (and by endless, I actually mean endless).

“Where are my shoes?” asks child, 10 minutes before needing to be at cross-country practice.

“Your shoes?”

“Yeah – where are they. I’m going to be late. And I can’t wear the ones from last year. They don’t fit!”

Me: “We just bought shoes!” Frantic search begins. “Where in the world did you put them?! … Why didn’t you get them out last night? If you get your stuff together the night before, crazy can be avoided when morning comes!”

Curse you cra-cra!

Alternative Perspective:

  • The shoes were found – eventually. As were siblings’ shoes that went AWOL See? … lost things are found – good to remember in the midst of mad-moments.
  • The closets got a nice cleaning/organizing – even though the cleaning began with a mad frenzy of throwing every item out in order to find shoes.

How did all THAT fit in there?

  • Actually the entire house got a nice cleaning/organizing because shoes were only the tip of the lost-item iceberg in our endless-searching week (Other lost items included: a summer-reading assignment that somehow found its way to the bottom of a paper-stack in a brother’s room, keys, belts, keys, phones, keys, immunization records, keys …)
  • We made new friends during our Week O’ Searching.

When the key to a loaner car (an impaired driver crashed into us resulting in 2 weeks of a super-swank ride while ours is being repaired) decided to hide, Triple-A came to the rescue. You see, my bag – another item for which we mad-searched – had hidden itself under the passenger seat of the car. When the car’s key was no-where to be found, the repair place concluded that it was in the car that had somehow locked itself (swanky cars can do that.) Needless to say, after Triple-A guy John, broke into the car and we, along with all of our neighbors, suffered through blasts of the alarm announcing intruders, we realized that the key was not in my bag. Alarm blasting, a new intensity settled onto our frantic search. Even John combed through every blade of grass in our front yard looking for the key while the rest of us looked through EVERY nook and cranny inside – AGAIN. (Thankfully, with all the cleaning and organizing, it was easy to search.) Finally, the key was found – under the passenger seat of our other car. (Why??!! – I don’t know. At least we found it!)

Not lost – just momentarily forgotten

School number appears on caller i.d. (Uh-huh – it’s back!) “Hello??” I answer the call, afraid of whatever message is coming my way from the other end.


I glance at the clock. Yikes! School is out!

“Mom? … Did you forget to pick me up?”

“Oh my goodness, Honey. I’ll be right there!”

If only it happened only once this very, short week. No. Of the three days at school, the poor child made that phone call three times. Running crazy with a couple of the other arctic blasts – I forgot school was even in session (eek!)

Curse you cra-cra!

Alternate Perspective:

  • Flexibility and character actually flourish in these moments
  • The kid knows I love him and he never complained. He just laughed and told me he loves me … and begged that I don’t do it again.
  • Sister-friends come to the rescue. Because – we are all in this together. Thank you Brenda for grabbing him. And for answering the phone 15 minutes after carpool was over with a frantic “I’m almost there!!” because you were running crazy, too.

Multiple visits to the same place

Office Supply – 5 times last week, more to come this week – yippeee.

Grocery store – 3 times in 30 minutes. One trip was to go back and get my wallet that I had left at the check-out. If my head wasn’t attached, it would be lost by this point.

Uniform store – twice. On one of those trips I actually returned items from last year that we found while forced-cleaning/organizing.

Doctor’s office –  don’t want to count! Forms, forms and more forms. Why? And why can’t all the schools have the same forms? And why do I misplace them?! Am I a glutton for searching punishmentt?!

Curse you cra-cra and all your too-much-on-my-mind-to-keep-it-all-straight frenzy!

Alternate Perspective:

  • Plain and simple gratitude. Truly grateful for all that we have and all of the opportunities that come with big families and back-to-school.


“Did you wear your glasses today?” I ask our youngest as he gets in the car from school. They had been forgotten the day before. Glasses just haven’t been on our radar. It’s easy to get away without them in the summer – but not in a classroom.


“But I put them in your bag,” I protest.

“I couldn’t wear those,” he lamented. “They’re glasses that you would wear. That would be so embarrassing.”

I wasn’t sure what he was talking about until we got home and dug through his backpack to open the case. Sure enough, they weren’t his glasses. I had grabbed a pair off my nightstand, thinking they were his. But they were actually a sister’s very old pair that were found in our mass cleaning. They’re so cute, I’m for sure saving them.


“Oh, honey – you’re right. Those are girl glasses.” Juicy Couture – definitely not boy! “I’m so sorry.”

Followed by countless other apologies:

“I’m sorry he’s been asking your daughter what’s on the board’

“I’m sorry I forgot you – I really won’t do it again.” Next day: “I’m so sorry I did it again!”

“I’m so sorry I missed the interview!” yikes – this fun email:

Screen shot 2015-08-22 at 12.31.28 PM

Thanks so much for hanging with me Carrie and somehow making it work!

“I’m sorry I didn’t get Jack to the party.” So sorry to the host for the rudeness of such action, but also sorry to Jack for having to miss, and sorry to our kids involved in the very pressing matters that claimed that time.

“I’m sorry I’m crying – I don’t mean to be.”

“I’m sorry you’re caught in the wake of our crazy.”

Very real alternate perspective – and the best part of cra-cra arctic blasts – leaning into:

  • Forgiveness
  • Kindness of strangers (Did I really let the tears – a culmination of so many stresses from the week – trickle out of my eyes in front of my adult son and a sweet, unaware UTD advisor? Yes I did – and she met me there. And so did he. Oh my word!! Who would have known? I’m so thankful for those tears.)
  • Friendship (“We missed you”, “I understand”, “How can I help?”, “I’m there for you – ANY TIME”)
  • Together – when we live authentically and honestly, steering clear of blame or shame, the crazy draws our family and friends even closer – as if that could be possible.

I could actually share more – but rather than continue, here’s the deal (b/c I know the crazy is just beginning for some) – staying sane in the midst of crazy centers on perspective. And with adjusted perspective, gratitude pumps oxygen into the air. And with a little extra oxygen we can breathe – and laugh – and encourage those around us who are living the same thing.

This is my friend Catherine’s phone. She used the find-my-phone app to discover it at the end of her block, happily resting in the soft grass where it landed after flying off the roof of her car where she had put it – while racing back into her house to frantically grab a forgotten-something because they were late – and forgotten it. Yes – we’re all in it together :)

cici's phone

Thanks for walking this crazy road with me.

:) K

More on Manna Living: Grace in the Dark by Sandra Stanley

If you don’t follow Sandra Stanley’s blog, I think you’d like it. She and her husband Andy live in Alpharetta, Georgia and dearest of dear friends with my brother and his wife Chris – my childhood best friend (boo-hoo-hoo – you’re Texans for goodness’ sake – why Georgia?!) And the way our family works – once you get one of us, you get all of us. It’s a package deal. So – sweet Sandra, whether she wanted a new friend or not, is now my friend – from afar. Anyway – she posted the following on her blog this weekend and I asked if I could share it here.I told Sandra that what she shared is:

… so beautiful. And fills in some of spaces on a topic we’ve pondered lately – manna living. What your shared seems to reveal a tip of the ginormous iceberg of God’s goodness..

Manna has been on my mind lately b/c we’re clinging to it. Our circumstance isn’t cancer, but it’s a knee-callous-er. So – we literally daily fight to see and to grab hold and to rest in the perfect sustenance of His daily provision that manna represents. Manna may not be outside my door waiting to be gathered, but I think it looks like what you shared today. And you/your friends said it so beautifully.. Thank you for that.

So here you go. Sandra’s post: Grace in the Dark. I hope it fills your sails today. It sure did mine.

GRACE-Sandra StanleyHave you ever felt true awe when watching people you know respond to a serious illness or a season of extreme personal difficulty? I don’t mean you just admire their attitudes. I mean you’re awestruck over their rock-solid faith and trust.

Andy and I watched and prayed for Andrea and Josh Smith and their four beautiful young daughters for nearly two years. They navigated the complexities of a cancer diagnosis, identifying a huge malignant tumor in Andrea’s chest cavity. They trudged along through all of the subsequent treatments, side effects, surgeries, scans, tests, and life disruptions that came along with it. Through the entire ordeal, they “navigated” and “trudged,” filled with unexplainable joy and peace—unexplainable, unless you understand, as they do, the sufficiency of God’s grace.

Here’s something Josh wrote during that time. I hope it speaks to you and encourages you. If you’re walking a dark path right now, I hope you find that the truth of this rocks you to the core and gives you that same unexplainable strength in the midst of your journey.

“There is one little statement from 2 Corinthians 12:9 that has been a continual source of encouragement to us. The Lord simply says, “My grace is sufficient for you.” This is not a prayer request. This is a promise. It is a statement of fact. His grace will always be sufficient. We don’t have to worry about this. His promise is sure. There will never be a moment in which we find ourselves in need of more grace than is available. The struggle is never the sufficiency of God’s grace; the struggle is in believing his promise. So, instead of praying for God’s grace to be sufficient, we must simply pray that God would give us the faith to believe that his grace is sufficient. Faith is defined as “enduring confidence in the promises of God.” So today, we are praying that God would give us enduring confidence in the promise of his sufficient grace. We pray you will do the same.” —Josh Smith

Amazing grace, sufficient grace—exactly what we need, when we need it. Thank you, Andrea and Josh, for modeling this for us.

Yes – And thank you, Sandra.

Just like manna:

  • gather only what you need (we have to participate – Believe)
  • no more-no less
  • perfect sustenance every day –  “what we need, when we need it.”

Jesus – the outpouring and essence of grace – is manna. Grace IS sufficient. Perfect provision.

Thanks for walking the road with me.


The Undeniable Power of a Smile

smile quoteOn Monday, I had such a fun time getting to chat with Chris Fabry on his life radio program from Moody in Chicago. Actually, it has been a privilege throughout the summer to be able to chat with several terrific hosts about the topic of finding contentment in the midst of what seems to be relentless opportunities to compare.

Comparison is one of those shruggable things that is easy to say, glad I don’t do that – feel bad for the folks that do. Which is really where I probably sat before delving into it. Comparison can take happy or sad situations and make them bad or worse. It sneaks its way into almost any given situation and does what T. Roosevelt so aptly put, robs us of joy.

So on Chris’s show, he opened in the most unusual and compelling way. He transparently shared about ways comparison creeps into his life, then he invited folks to call in about their own struggles. I was floored at the raw honesty – and grieved at the ways we are lured to unsettling discontent by comparing ourselves to “expectations,” “image pressures,” “picture perfect ideal of who I should be.” And just so you know, the callers weren’t middle school insecure teens, they were mature adults – men & women.

My heart literally sank as Jay from Akron honestly admitted that the “er”s get him – really get him. In fact he went so far as to use the word “consume.” Seeing, knowing what others have (“bigger home, a better job – to me everyone looks like they have it better”) or do (“retirees – even though I’m not near to retiring”) or “it could be anything – not just possessions, but circumstances.” Then he said, “For some reason I feel inadequate in all ways. And I’m very successful in a lot of ways … but I never feel successful.”

Feelings are powerful. He ended with why he decided to call in, “I don’t know if there are others who are as consumed, I”m sure there are… I hoped I could help by opening up.”

What a powerful way to start a show. Bold statements by regular folks – we‘re not alone. And we spent the next hour talking about ways to call it out and to tame it. One of which is the obvious/should be easy, yet is so challenging, act of gratitude.

Here’s a little from I’m Happy for You on what I learned about gratitude’s role:

Researchers have found that people who regularly write down thing for which they are grateful in “gratitude journals” have increased satisfaction in life, higher energy levels, and improved health. In one study, people who read a letter of appreciation to someone in their lives were measurably happier almost one month later. Performing acts of kindness or altruism boosts moods.

I especially loved this little piece on the simple act of smiling:

Even the simple act of smiling stimulates peace and contentment. According to researchers, “neurotransmitters called endorphins are released when you smile. … Faking a smile or laugh works as well as the real thing – the brain doesn’t differentiate between real or fake as it interprets the positioning of the facial muscles in the same way.”

I’m reminded of my grandmother and her gentle chides: “Smile. You’ll feel better.” And I try to remind my kids that being happy is a choice.”

And here it is in action: Watch what smiling does for the receiver as well as the giver (the latter of which had ample, very real reasons to be waylaid by circumstances):

Want to breathe in the midst of the crazies (especially around back-to-school stuff: who got what teacher, carpools, teams, home-coming dates, … fill in the blank) – be grateful for the good – because it’s there – and SMILE. Help someone else smile. It’s powerful and real. It literally, physically makes us feel better.

Thanks for walking the road with me.


Then … as if on cue, I see Julie Hildebrand’s post today on her blog. She says it so well:

Julie's post

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