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.


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