Freshman (college) to Freshman (high school) Advice

The college domino affect started a few years ago in our house.

With five kids, we knew it loomed on the horizon since the days when they were little tykes, convinced that swimming in a plastic pool in the front yard was as close to paradise as one could get. Now those early years of making a dollar stretch a mile, making life-altering decisions (like which Mother’s Day Out is “best” – as if), birthday parties, carpools, sports teams, … fill in the blank –  all seem like child’s play as we face daunting. Not only the cost (seriously – what happened?!) but also the huh?!-factor. Huh?, as in – since when did co-ed dorms sound like a good idea, for young adults – who may or may not be at the height of their wise-decision-making ability.

But along with daunting comes exciting. Seriously exciting. These kids are amazing. I’ve thought for years how incredible it will be to put smart, techno-savvy people head to head with some of the worlds most difficult issues. The day is coming and has arrived for many.

As we face new milestones, it’s probably good to look back and remember those “insurmountable”s that seemed so ick in the moment, but were handled and survived – even when the handling was more like bumbling, we still survived.

So – on that note, our Freshman (in college) daughter & I thought about tips to give to her Freshman (in high school) brother, some perspective. Because perspective can inform the mountains that are now no longer in the distance, but close-up and in our personal space.

And, truth be told, her words to him could probably go a long way to inform her new world. Funny how it works that way. I almost always need to hear whatever I’m telling my kids.  And core things haven’t much changed since I was a Freshman in high school or college.

So here you go, Freshman to Freshman:

You can say No to ANYTHING putting you in a position that compromises your morals, your personal standards – or is illegal, even things that seem minor. Really say No. I promise it’s okay. You’ll survive and your integrity is worth SO MUCH MORE than any compromise. And – if you get left out or jeered, then you’ve got proof it wasn’t worth your time anyway. Plus – you never know who else who wanted to say No but was having trouble finding their voice and just needed a hand-up.

You can say No if you don’t want to go to something or need down time. Just because “everyone” else is going, don’t be pressured. “Everyone” isn’t real. Yeah it’s fake. So don’t let it mess with your thoughts.

You can say No to feeling bad about yourself if/when (yes WHEN) you’re not invited or left out of something. Trust me, you’re not the only one. Really terrific people aren’t invited and sit at another table – just open your eyes. Or better yet, start the new table or have people over to our house (it’s not as lame as you think). And, by the way, it’s okay to sit alone – even courageous.

You can say Yes to listening in class. That might sound stupid, but the one thing that helped me more than anything on tests or homework or grades overall – was listening in class. If you can’t hear, be the dork and sit on the front row. Not every teacher is a rock star, but they have something to say that you can learn. It will get you through the Mid-Terms AND Finals.

You can say something nice to people. Saying someone’s name when you talk to them means more than you can imagine. But even if you can’t remember their name, something small-nice can literally make someone’s day. They might even pay it forward. It bounced back to me once on the volleyball court – who knew that would happen, and it sure made me feel good.

You can say something nice to your teacher. They’re people too. And I don’t think they teach for the money. They probably like kids and learning. Regardless, everyone could use a reminder that they’re appreciated. (Listen, I know that I probably talk more than you – but something small will mean even more coming from someone who isn’t super outgoing.) And who cares if people think you’re the teacher’s pet – you know you’re not – it’s okay to sincerely like them.

For sure say something nice to the workers in the cafeteria, at the cross walks, in the halls. Even a small thanks or hi.

You can say No to procrastination. I think that’s probably the hardest thing – next to the moral standard & peer pressure stuff. Try your hardest to not get behind. Staying on top of things actually makes you physically feel better.

Then say YES to enjoying/experiencing rather than just living through. For instance, when you have to read a book, try to forget the obligation part and try to enjoy it, and maybe learn from it. I mean, if you’re going to spend time doing something – don’t let the taskiness of it ruin the good part.

You can say No, but still be friends with people who make different choices than you. Don’t judge others – and this going to sound corny – but care about them. Don’t preach. Actions always speak louder than words. And you never know when you will be the one who might be on the other side of a questionable choice. You are a genuinely nice kid. And the person making questionable choices is likely a nice kid too.

Which leads to the last thing (this is from Mom) you can say NO to anything that tricks you into thinking your identity or self worth is defined by something other than Truth. You are so much more than grades or making a team or being in a certain friend group or getting into a certain college.

Then – have FUN. Don’t forget to enjoy.

Thanks for walking the road with US :)

– Kay

Change – Managing More than Nickels & Dimes

Sure death and taxes are inevitable, but so is change. I don’t about you, but we’ve got a lot going on in this house. New schools (new college, new high school, middle school), new teachers for everyone, Driver’s Ed, teams, hair styles, puberty (‘nuff said!) … seriously the list could go on and on. Some change is fun. Other change – not so much. And, how we meet change, how we handle change can have a major impact on our attitudes, our stress level and our contentment. The thing about change – it’s not just the landscape shift that determines the ripple affects, dormant emotions (of which we may not even be aware) can drive anxieties or reactions that come with change.

Over the summer we had lots of change. One of my favorite friends passed away. It really surprised me at how I couldn’t shake it. For over a month I had trouble sleeping and I felt like I was running in quicksand. The strange thing – we know the faith of that friend, a significant diagnosis should have prepared everyone, suffering ceased – so why the shut-down? Maybe it had something to do with a snowball affect – having experienced four significant losses/deaths in our lives over the last 12 months. Was it the loss? The physicality of it? The simple fact that we love these people and miss them – often? I don’t know, but it nailed me. And that change rolled over into more change – change of plans (including our Cleaning House re-boot here, back-burnering lots of tasks, travel & more), expectations, well-being, … the list goes and affected a lot of folks.

Change in one life not only affects it, but inevitably ripples out to touch many.

Another strangely emotion-laden event was something one of the kids decided to embark upon – a change of scenery: volunteering at Camp Barnabas for a week, doing what the kid loves to do. But a day or two before leaving, major emotional onslaught sneak-attacked and threatened shut-down. It was so unexpected and out of character for the kid – there had to be more to the story, something deeper going on. As we met it head on and tried to process, some old memories and fears surfaced. Who even knew they were hiding back there, waiting to misinform someone’s opportunity as well as identity.

So –  rather than wade through the waters unaware, why not meet change head on and invite insight along for the ride.

One of the things I love most about life is the fact that we don’t ever have to walk the road alone. As it relates to change, as with most things, we’ve all lived & experienced it. And there are likely people walking alongside who have thought deeply about it and have some wisdom to offer. So, when my sister-friend Brenda recently told me about her friend Shannan (isn’t that the way it works? :) and that we should carpool-chat with her about change – why not? Shannan Crawford is a clinical psychologist and popular conference speaker. Her desire is to help people “experience wholeness, purpose, & the knowledge of their great value.”

I had no idea how much her insight would bless me and I hope she will bless you too. Here are a few little nuggets on why change is significant and can sometimes be so hard:

  • We invest our identity in a lot of our roles. So when those change, we get stressed; we get overwhelmed & we don’t know who we are.
  • During transition and change, all of the things working together in our brains get hijacked … giving us less access to the conscious mind.
  • Most times, our stresses that are changes are because something within us is getting stirred up.

… and how can we manage/thrive in the midst:

  • In order to process through transition, trauma & adjustments — a big part of that is pulling back and understanding what we’re going through.
  • You have to work on the conscious level (processing/journaling) as well as the emotional level. Both in combination.

Instead of trying to share it all in writing – for you viewing pleasure we SaySomething Carpool-chatted so you could hear it all – with a promised TBC (to be cont.) – knowing that even then, things might change (see how I did that? give myself a way out? there’s just so many moving parts around here – promises can sometimes get the shaft. But I do promise to try!)

As always, thanks for walking the road (& putting up) with me.



Grief is a funny thing.

Not funny ha-ha. Funny in that though its a concept –  it acts like thing, a person, a force. It inflicts pain like a punch to the gut one minute, then it weighs down as if s a 300 pound gorilla scampered up your back to snag a shoulder-ride the next. Then It morphs into twins so it can grab onto both your legs at the same time like a tantrum-toddler hanging on for dear life, refusing to let go, dragging behind so steps forward feel like trudging through quicksand.

But Hope is a funny thing, too.

And Hope, though a concept, goes so much further than grief. Because unlike grief, Hope IS a person.

Hope gently lifts. It steadily adjusts and brings into focus Truth. It shines light. It holds back the floods & storms so the waters don’t rise over. It blocks the flames so they don’t burn. It shelters. It keeps safe. It protects and sets us up high upon a rock (an unmovable & unshakeable rock) planted upon the firmest foundation. It always sees and always knows and has defeated/defeats/will defeat every foe through which grief finds traction.

And Hope informs all areas of life – including/especially interruptions.

A significant interruption happened in my life (and the lives of many others – see for yourself: Greg Murtha Facebook) last night. It’s the interruption of a friendship caused by a friend’s life-interruption five years ago. Death won a battle last night. But Hope has won the war – and that win gives life, abundant life, joy-filled life where someone who has endured almost 80 rounds of chemo, surgeries, heart attacks and the like could say the words, “I have never felt more alive.”

How? Listen to what Greg has to say below.

In the craziest way, Greg & Tracey Murtha just happened to be in town several days ago and we just happened to have a window where they were game to share their story in a SaySomething carpool chat where one of my partners in crime Brenda Teele just happened to be available to ride along. None of us could have ever guessed that days later Greg would be back home in Nashville in the Vanderbilt ICU fighting to breathe.

If you have the time, take 38 minutes of it to watch, to be encouraged, to be inspired, to get to know Hope.

 But you, LORD, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high. I call out to the LORD, and he answers me from his holy mountain. I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the LORD sustains me. Psalm 3:3-5

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. Romans 5:5

Thanks for walking the road with me.


[note: I haven’t forgotten our Cleaning House boot-camp, it’s just been hard to write and share of late – something I will do first thing next week for anyone who might be interested.]

Never losing sight of dinner’s deeper nutritional value

Cleaning House Boot Camp: Week 1

“Get ready for some good food, Mom,” dinner-kid shouted to me from the kitchen. “I’m such a good cook, I already have my own bakery. It’s called Jack’s bakery.”

“You’re making dinner,” his sister reminded him, shaking her head at the newly minted, possibly excessive confidence. “Bakeries make desserts.

“Well, my food is so good – it tastes like dessert.” Bam!

The fun & laughter wasn’t so much fun & laughs at our family meeting the night before. We kicked off our six-week Cleaning House boot camp of sorts to the sound of moans and groans:


“Why would we do boot-camp’?! We already know this stuff.”

“You’re just trying to get us to do all the work around here.”

And then someone had to throw in, “did you run out of things to write about?”

I’ve heard it all before – but, that comment was a low blow.

Because they, like I, know that none of our little Cleaning House experiment began in an effort to write a book. That would have implied my being a writer – which I wasn’t. I started themoatblog to provide a place for experts to speak into adolescent & teen issues. The entitlement stuff found life on fateful day during a conversation with a budding teenager contemplating out loud what kind of car he would drive at 16. Which like most teenagers (and many mid-lifers) centered on something of the sporty/foreign/luxury variety. I would later learn that the desire wasn’t as much about the make and model of the car, but the fact that such a thing can serve as a symbol that one has “arrived” – the kid just wanted to be okay, to be known, to belong. We pretty much all do.

Still, when I started to realize that the societal trend toward and obsession with entitlement (grooming and partaking) was majorly at play, I got mad. And everyone knows that when Mom is mad, things change. Which they did.

That’s when I looked around the house, made note of the things I was doing that the able bodies walking alongside could do and put loads (some in the form of laundry!) of responsibility on the kids’ plates – because I LOVE them and actually think they can do pretty much anything they put their mind to – on their own, in their own giftedness and purpose and creativity. We both needed to be reminded.

And honestly, it has been great. Not perfect, by any means – not obsessively or legalistically sticking with a prescribed method of doing things. And bucking the entitlement trend – which really involves hands off as often as possibly – has opened our eyes to other societal pressures that are for the birds. But more on that later.

And since we’re very regular and slightly unorganized and very go-with-the-flow, there are a few refreshers that are in order. That’s why a re-boot/boot-camp seems in order. So …

Week 1 – Clutter & Kitchen

Clutter & Kitchen are pretty self-explanatory. I think it will take us a week to go through closets, de-clutter, and get back on beds being made each day.

And we’ve certainly let slide the kids cooking. Mostly because Barton is amazing in the kitchen (something I would NEVER have known if she hadn’t been “forced” to try her hand at cooking.) So, everyone grabbed a night, and we’re off.

Jack (10) stepped up to be 1st on deck. He was three when we started. He’s one of the reasons I wanted to boot-camp. I haven’t been very good about legitimately putting full responsibility on his plate. So – as is usually the case – better now than never.

Who knew how exciting a trip to the grocery story and cooking dinner could be. I know that’s a bold word to use – exciting. I mean really, how can a run to the grocery store be exciting. Especially when, as if on cue (it was like a deja vue – mirror image of a few years ago) the kid in tow is complaining about all the work and whining why me?!

And like a record (baby, right round round round) I said what I’ve come to say countless times, “Listen, you’re going to be glad you know how to _____ (fill in the blank).” Tonight it was cook dinner. I knew what was in store, but had forgotten the feeling. I knew he was about to get a blast of independence. I knew he would love it. And he did. So much. It made me a little sad that I’ve been a tiny bit lazy and let things slide. But no worries.

So here you have it. His meal? A lady at the deli where the kid had ordered meat for his sister, asked.

“You’re cooking dinner? Yourself?”

“Yes ma’am,” at least he’s polite – or maybe being productive actually ignites polite – polite and pride. I think that personal productivity infuses a proper sense of pride, especially when doing something for others, especially when doing something outside of your comfort zone. “I’m cooking dinner for my family,” he told her.

“What are you making,” she winked at me. His tone so was cute.

“I’m making brownies with ice cream.” (yes, he started with dessert!) “But also pizza. Yes – pizza, brownies and some fruit and a salad. I like grapes. And watermelon.”

“Well that sounds like a good dinner to me. I had pizza for dinner yesterday.”

We went on to discuss dough recipes. He told her about where she could get frozen dough that “tastes really good.” Then he caught my eye and gave me a we’re-out-of-here nod while almost simultaneously aiming the same nod her way, but in a good-luck-&-God-speed sort of way. The kid cracks me up.

On this trip to the grocery store, the one who walked in a tiny bit whiny, walked out tall with a skip in his step. Literally. That part of attitude re-set has never ceased to amaze me. Honestly, I’m sure for myself – a little productivity changes my attitude too.

He had learned (not endured, but actually asked questions and took it all in) how to pick a delicious watermelon, how to weigh tomatoes, how to ask for a loaf of bread to be sliced, why items cost different amounts, how to appreciate grapes ($$), and so much more. And he did what I always found the kids doing (even though I still barely believe it) – he went above and beyond. He pushed the basked. He unloaded the basket. Put the basket away – shooing me from doing it in the process. He unloaded the car at home and happily informed everyone that he would be making pizza for dinner.

AND – here’s where the surprise got even better – we walked in the kitchen to find that his sister had cleaned the entire kitchen while we were gone –even taking out the trash (and putting a new bag in) so the kid would be set for success. Since part of our dinner deal is cleaning before and after – she had stepped in without a hint of an ask – because she loves him.

THEN!!! I left the room, because SHE taught him how to roll out the dough, how poke holes so it doesn’t burn, how use the flour to keep it from sticking, …

“I didn’t do it for the chore chart,” she eye-rolled at me later, when I was gushing over her sweetness.

“Of course you didn’t,” I nod. “You did it because it feels good and it’s nice. It’s the wonderful thing about all this stuff – the Greatest Commandment come to life. I think because it actually might be the only thing that genuinely gives life.”

Trite-sounding, but true. That loving others bit has some legs on it.

I’m sure we will get the chance (amidst some whining) to see it play out more. But tonight it was up-front and center-stage making itself known at dinner.

Other sightings notable this week:

  • With teendom comes emotional roller-coasters and stress – sometimes warranted, other times not. A couple of our kids have lots of changes coming next year, not the least of which is a school change. I think one of them is stressed and doubting himself, but he doesn’t say a word. He’s got grit and is going to make it work. But, he still stressed. So when his dinner came around there were a lot of I can’t, why‘s, what does it matter. His meal – some of the best tilapia I have ever tasted (his sister told him a few of her tricks!) – was served to not only the family, but a guest that happened to be at our house. And it did what I could never do on my own – put meat on the bones of all those you-can-do-this words of encouragement. Our guest sought the kid out when he was leaving to say again – “Honestly, that was one of the best meals I’ve eaten in a long time. Did you really make that?!” So cool.
  • Lots of push-back. I’m not sure why this happens. But again, I’m sure I do the same thing. Maybe not as vocal, but in my heart. Great lessons to keep pushing forward and ignore negative background noise.
  • Lots of laughs. Especially when the kid cleaning my office showed my a stack over a 12″ high of thank-you notes I’ve written and haven’t sent (eek!!)

“Do you think the people from this dinner party in 2015 will even remember what they served?!”

Watch your mailboxes people, a note could be headed your way.

Thanks for walking the road with me.

– Kay

just a few pics:

a kind of cute chore-chart :)

Better than a beach view – a happy kid doing something he didn’t want to or think he could do

Made just the way his dad likes it – pesto, chicken, feta, mozzarella & parmesan.

“a perfect circle”

Made just the way the cook likes it.