I had a very uptight, clenchy day at work today.  Most days at work are like that for me.  I come out of work sore, stiff and tired.  I am busy all day, and yet when it is over I can’t decide if my physical discomfort is from sheer exhaustion or from inactivity.  And then today I stepped out the door, out from under the fluorescent lights and into the sunshine, and I knew the answer.  I needed to run.

Some days I have to make myself run.  Some days my body cries out to me to let it run.  This was one of those days.  So when I got home from my commute I suited up and headed outside.  Our babysitter graciously agreed to stay an extra 40 minutes, a priceless gift.

It was hot out today, but there was a nice breeze to take the edge off.  And as I ran, I found myself savoring the little patches of shade along the road that would crop up every now and then, as I passed beneath trees.  It was at least 5 degrees cooler in the shade, and it felt like a treat, every single time.  I found myself slowing my pace a little in the shady parts, just to savor it a moment longer.

It reminded me of something I heard in church a little while back.  We were studying about the desert, and how God provided for the needs of His people in big and small ways, even in the harsh Palestinian desert.  The psalmist wrote in Psalm 121:

“The Lord watches over you–
The Lord is your shade at your right hand.
The sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.”

I have no trouble picturing a big, lusciously shady spot.  My husband bought me a big hammock last week and hung it up in the shadiest part of our yard, slung between our biggest tree and the kid’s swing set.  It is the perfect place because, no matter where the sun is in the sky, it is always cool and protected from the sun’s rays.  This is the sort of place I call to mind when I read Psalm 121.

However, I learned that in the desert lands of the Bible, shade tended to be scarce.  It is more likely that the shade the Psalmist was referring to was a much smaller patch of shade under a broom tree.  A broom tree is more of a shrub than a tree, in fact, but commonly found in Middle Eastern deserts.  So when the Psalmist speaks of the “shade at your right hand”, he is literally saying that the shade is just enough to cover him and his outstretched arm.  Just enough to give him a little break from the harsh desert sun.

Just enough of a reprieve from the harsh fluorescent office lights and the daily grind so I can breathe again.

I remember us talking about how sometimes God uses other people to be shade in our lives.  Sometimes, we get to be someone’s broom tree.  Sometimes a teenage girl watches your kids for 40 minutes, so you can run off the frustrations of your day.  Broom tree.  Sometimes it is a quick chat with a friend who really listens or who makes you laugh.  Broom tree.  Sometimes it is a good book, or a good nap, or a good cup of coffee.  All broom trees.  The thing about broom trees is they aren’t very fancy, or very big, or even very pretty.  But they are there, and they are just enough to meet the need for shade.

I spend a lot time thinking about how I don’t have enough. This is especially true when it comes to time alone.  There are just not enough hours in the day to tend to my personal needs for solitude and self-care, not with a full-time job and a family depending on me.  Can I start thinking of those broom trees in my path as “just enough”, instead of “not enough”?

When I got home, the babysitter and Nate were standing outside, knocking on the door.  Leah had locked them out of the house on purpose, because she was mad.  It would seem my time of solitude and reflection was over.  And…back to the grind. The shade was nice while it lasted.


Ferris Bueller is ruining my birthday

There comes a point in a girl’s life where birthdays just seem to lose their appeal.  The shine wears off after a while, so I have to say that while I am grateful for my health, my family, my many blessings, and another year to enjoy them all, I am just not feeling the birthday joy this year.  My kids get so excited about their birthdays.  They start planning them 6-9+ months in advance.  They talk incessantly about who they will invite, what they will do, what the theme will be, what kind of cake they will have, and on and on.  If someone isn’t nice to them, they threaten to cut them off their invite list.  It is serious stuff.  I personally feel overwhelmed at the mere mention of a kid’s birthday party, so I do my best to squash all the party talk until one or two months before.  I have tried some sneaky things in the past to try to get out of throwing the obligatory birthday parties, like tempting them with a family outing to somewhere fabulous like the local amusement park or a water park, but no, they will have none of it.  Then their birth-day turns into a birth-month, wherein they get to celebrate multiple times with a “friend party” on the chosen birthday party day, an immediate family party on the actual date of birth, a cake and dinner out when the grandparents visit within 3 months of their birthday, and a party at school where we have to bring their classmates some kind of birthday snack.  It’s exhausting, really.  For me.  So much partying, so many sugar-highs with their inevitable aftermath.  Though Nate’s birthday is in July, he made this detailed plan for his birthday party back in March:

The order of activities has changed a little, but he is fully committed to the plan, and the excitement for his first big sleepover party is palpable in our house.  Or is that dread and anxiety I’m palpating?  Just me?  OK, looks like it might just be me.

Anyhow, Nate and I share a birthday month, and my birthday now takes a backseat to his, which is totally fine by me.  We don’t need to make a big deal about my birthday anymore.  I mean, I will happily accept cash gifts and chocolate, but I don’t really need any presents.  Cake is good, I like cake.  I can’t eat wheat, so that makes cake challenging, but we have ways around that now with all the gluten-free stuff.  What I really want for my birthday, what every mom really wants, is just some peace and quiet for heaven’s sake.  (Cue uncontrollable laughter from all mothers, everywhere, because of the improbability of such a thing happening).

The other thing I would really appreciate on my birthday is if Ferris Bueller could please stop torturing me.


Really Ferris?  30 year anniversary?  Dude, you are seriously dragging me down here.  Ferris is getting old and he is taking me with him!!  In my opinion, finding out about the 30th anniversary of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off was more shocking than the the slow spread of grey hairs that have been taking over my head.  Worse than the low back pain that lasts for days after gardening or lifting furniture.  More insulting to me than the notice from my health insurance company that I am now at the age to get yearly mammograms, or all the kids at the grocery checkout who call me “ma’am”.

I was at Subway this one time a few years ago on my way home from work, ordering food for dinner.  There was a teenage boy in front of me, and a teenage girl behind the counter.  She took the boy’s order, then looked past him, at me, and asked if our order was together.  We looked at each other awkwardly, and I made a joke that I’m a little old to be his girlfriend.  “Oh, I thought you were his mom!”  chirped the perky Subway girl, leaving me shocked and appalled that the teenagers around me think that I look old enough to be their mother.  Which, if you do the math, I think is technically true, but still.

This is all Ferris Bueller’s fault.

I was on the cusp of adolescence when that movie came out.  I remember watching it with my friends, over and over.  Ferris made being a teenager look AWESOME.  Way more awesome than it was in real life.  We would pop that tape into the VHS and lose ourselves in his coolness.  He’s a righteous dude.  We would rewind the part where his older sister is startled by the creepy principal sneaking into the house, and she kicks him in the face repeatedly and then runs away screaming.   Remember rewinding?  My kids will never understand rewinding.  Or VCRs for that matter.  Or answering machines with their little tiny mini tapes!  Or the Dewey Decimel system!  Or Boomboxes! Or how if we wanted to tell our friends something, we would have to remember it and tell them the next time we saw them instead of texting!

Ferris Bueller is not doing a good job making his 30-year anniversary look cool.  He is just standing there with his little vest and his pleated pants tapered at the ankles and reminding us all of how incredibly long ago that was.

So just lay off Ferris, OK?  I am trying to rock my early 40’s over here and your highly publicized 30-year anniversary is not helping me to do that.

Here is my very simple birthday wish list this year, in contrast to Nate’s highly anticipated and carefully planned party:

My needs are simple and few.