I hate the pool.

I bought our family pool pass today, effectively committing all of our summer free time to the considerably chlorinated concrete concavity of clamorous congregation. While this delights my children, it leaves me apprehensive. On the scale of rural activities that most resemble ancient and forbidden methods of  introvert torture, I would place going to the pool somewhere between quarter auctions and the summer reading program at the library.

Allow me to explain:

1. Noise. Quiet is my default. As is my environment, so goes my thoughts, meaning: if the setting is chaotic, so are my brain waves. I can’t think while surrounded by all the boisterous  pandemonium characteristic of the pool.

2. Toes. My toes are naked and un-manicured. Also, they are kind of hairy (if I am being honest). I like to keep those suckers hidden so I am not required to maintain them. Unfortunately, closed toed shoes are not conducive to the pool.

3. Bodies. People come in all sorts of beautiful shapes and sizes, each created by God. If you got it, flaunt it. If you don’t got it, flaunt it anyway. Personally, I like to park mine in a lounge chair and attempt to read a book. My issue is not with appearance. It’s the number of those beautiful bodies occupying one small area. I need space the pool doesn’t afford.

Also, the lounge chair to body ratio is woefully inadequate. Often I am left sitting on the concrete.

4. Concrete. Scorching concrete. Everywhere. EVERYWHERE… Burning everything that touches it.

5. Logistics. Given that my skinny pale ginger is pretty easy to locate,  all my children should ideally stay next to him at all times. Problem solved. They would be so easy to find. But, that is no fun, they say. I relent and succumb to the constant neck craning and stretching to verify the status of their well-being and accommodate their wanderings.

6. Cancer. My people are pale.  Looking out a window will make them turn pink. Each break, we apply sunscreen like a NASCAR pit crew, seeing how fast we can finish all three while still being precise and making sure all exposed skin is lathered in SPF 50 before the whistle blows. Lord forbid they miss one second of swim time for the sake of cancer prevention.

Yet, I can never seem to adequately apply sunscreen to myself. Inevitably, I burn in the most awkward ways . I forget one of my feet or my armpits or the back of a leg, or trust the five-year old to adequately spray the SPF on my back.

7. Paraphernalia: Suits. Cover-ups. Sunglasses. Flip-flops. Snack money. Water bottles. Towels. Sunscreens. Books. Floaties. Hair ties. Goggles. A bag to put it all in. Why does it take so much to go to the pool? Then there are the after pool activities (dance, library, volunteering, play dates) requiring their own special and separate impedimenta.

I’ll stop there. You get the idea. I am not a fan of the pool.

Yet, I forked over a small fortune to buy a season pass for our family.

I know.

Here is the thing: we are weirdos who homeschool year round. We spend all day together, every day, all year long. The kids need space. They need to burn energy. They need to see their old friends and make some new ones. They need to laugh and play with people who get them. They need good summer memories.

Okay. And I need something to motivate them to finish school each day while everyone else is enjoying summer vacation.

How do you spend your summer days? Do you love the pool? Do you hate it? Did I leave something off my list? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

The February Rut

There is this place in homeschool where motivation is lost. Simple tasks morph into daunting challenges. Nothing is as it seems. That place is called February.

Sharpening a pencil becomes wood shavings and lead smears all over the table because no one wants to get up to sharpen said pencil over the trash can so now I am going to have to spend two minutes (that I do not have) wiping up a mess that could have been avoided had individual decided to follow my instructions and sharpen the @#$% pencil over the trash can. Followed by the immediate disposal of all kid-operated manual pencil sharpeners. (Seriously, I threw them all away.)

The cumbersome history curriculum finds itself abandoned on the bottom shelf of the homeschool bookcase breeding dust bunnies and befriending toilet paper tubes I swore would someday be needed for something. Instead, I had the children watch all the free documentaries on Amazon Prime about Ancient Egypt. I don’t even make them narrate the episode because it is just one more thing I to grade.

I started trading DVR’d episodes of Doctor Who for completed school work.

No one warned me. Nowhere, in the billion conversations regarding homeschooling, did anyone mention the tedious grind of February. (Maybe I wasn’t listening.) My plans, motivation, and self-control were waylaid by February’s ambition vacuum. The remaining aroma of stale initiative sustained my obligations, but only just. It was like I woke up one day overwhelmed, and never recovered until the temperature finally peaked above seventy degrees. My drive was hibernating.

Roused by the necessity to plan another year before school resumes in July, I am finding the way out of my den of apathy, albeit slowly. We survived the first year of homeschooling, if only on tears and prayer. I am thankful for the new year and the fresh start. I gained valued perspective, and I am eager to implement new ideas while embracing the challenge of kindergarten.

Mostly, I am meticulously planning, and backing up my back ups. When examining the reasons behind my dormancy, I see a pattern of poor planning. Partly because I had no idea what I was doing, and partly because I am really poor at planning. A couple of things (or five)  lead me to this conclusion:

  1. I winged it. I read some stuff on Pinterest. I tried a few planning websites that I abandoned because they were cumbersome. At the end of the day, I just slapped some stuff in a spread sheet and called it good.
  2. I changed my mind, a lot. Not only did I keep changing the program used for the master plan, but I also kept changing the curriculum, or the daily schedules, or anything else that I thought I could tweak to get things to run more efficiently. Nothing was consistent. ( I experiment chronically.)
  3. I only started with half a plan. We school year round, with a six-week break in the winter. I thought I was being smart by leaving the second half of the year undone. I thought it was wise to allow for all the changes that I knew I would inevitably make. I thought it was prudent to be flexible. I learned there is a big difference between “flexible” and “unplanned”.
  4. I am lazy. Really.
  5. My computer crashed and I didn’t have a back up. I am that person. I lost what little I had. I salvaged some and  managed to piecemeal it into a Frankenstein-esque plan. There is a chance it could have been successful, but I just conceded the game. The loss of my files saw the loss of my last inventive spark. I was defeated. We adopted the “do whatever is next” plan.

The undeniable truth is that I came of age in the Navy. I am a Nuke at heart. I thrive on plans, procedures, and protocols. Without those, I drift in uncertainty. I waffle in indecision. I settle into apathetic dormancy.

I hate to admit it, but I need operating strategies.

Wizened by experience, I am back to that  same planning stage. The stale history (and science)(and spelling) curriculum went the way of the pencil sharpeners. New books have arrived. Spreadsheets have been created and color coded, and a full year of kindergarten is planned, printed, and backed up. Fourth and Fifth grades are well on their way to completion.

I pray that being armed with a solid plan will help me stay on task when the next rut hits. I also pray it will help me navigate out of imminent February rut before the following June…

Love can taste a lot like judgement.

I feel like church is a giant petri dish where differences fester and grow for scrutinization. Some facilitate this growth for intellectual pursuits believing something can be learned from different perspectives. Others facilitate this growth to search for a remedy seeking to eradicate this disease of different thinking before it spreads.

On the whole, I think most people just overlook my differences. They say things I am questioning aren’t salvation issues and toss them aside as matters of opinion. However, there are members of the body, of the Church, whose interpretations and upbringing don’t allow them to share that philosophy. They see me making allowances that they interpret as slippery slopes leading to moral compromise. Because they love the church and me so fervently, they fervently strive to prevent this perceived slip. They grasp at and cling to me trying to steady my feet and prevent my fall. These would be rescuers are in a massive tug of war with the forces of evil. My vacillating soul is the rope.

This is an act of love. Wholly and truly.

The problem is: I am not really vacillating. I disagree. I am different. But I fervently love the church, too. I fervently want a safe place to intellectually discuss what I am thinking and questioning. I want legitimate answers about doctrine and honest admission of what isn’t known. I want room to breathe in the Spirit and freedom to go where I feel led and space to explore ideas.

I am not being contrary just for the sake of being contrary. I am not trying to cause division.

Predominately, my questions are answered with a contemptuous brush off. While frustrating, that is the best of the worst. But there are times when well meaning people look through their dogmatic colored lenses and see my protective levee crumbling under a flood of false teachings or shaky beliefs. They fling scripture like sandbags in a desperate attempt to stop a breach. Again, it is good loving intent.

But I don’t see their intent. I see their action. Then I make my own assumptions about their scheme because I wear my very own pair of dogmatic colored lenses.

I view their attempt at sandbagging as an effort to bury my questions. I recognize their clinging and flailing as suffocating and choking. I mistake their ardent pleas to get me to see their point of view for judgement.

Do you see the cycle I create? In my stubbornness and pride, I drive the wedge even deeper.

Why does everyone taste discord and division when I present them with an alternative interpretation? Could taste buds be distorted by perceptions or interpretations? Is that the same reason I taste judgement in their acts of love?

Of course, there are always people who are judgmental. I am one of them. But mostly, church is full of people who are just trying to do what they believe is best. We all have different ideas based on nuances in our interpretations of God’s word. If we spend all of our time trying to convince people that we are right, we are doing it wrong (on both sides).

If I expect the grace to question things or disagree, should I not extend grace to cover the ones threatened by my disagreement?

I want people to believe the best in me, so why not believe the best in people and trust that in their earnest attempt to love me, they said something to keep me safe and away from what they perceived to be harm? Because that is what love does.

Hiding is the opposite of courage.

Originally posted at Hello, Darling. (Thanks!)

I was ranting again. I can’t even say about what, because it was so slight and unmemorable. However, I can positively say I was rabid with indignation. In the middle of my verbal tirade, my friend paused and said, “You really hold some vicious grudges.”

I was completely taken aback. Long after the conversation ended, those words echoed in my mind.  I began to think about all the people who are no longer a part of my life. The ones I have sworn off, or closed doors of friendship in their faces. The ones I burnt the bridges between us so they could never reach me again. The number of discarded people I hoped I would never see again dumbfounded me.

Why are countless names scratched off my heart? Why are things always definitively over? Why is there never room for reconciliation and redemption? The answer kept floating around me in two bitter words: vicious grudges. Those words were a battering ram, slamming against my hard heart. As it weakened, I realized my friend had nailed it. I do hold vicious grudges. No, I don’t just hold them. I cling to them for dear life, because I feel like that is what is at stake – my life.

From the most insignificant slight, to the brutal life changing lacerations, I turn each and every one into a brick, which comprise the walls of my fortress. I tuck my heart away in there, and not really so it can’t be broken again, but so you can’t break it in the first place. I hide myself away.

Hiding is the opposite of bravery. Withholding is the opposite of authenticity.

Courage is required to let people in. Courage is required to let things go. Courage is required to put yourself out there and trust someone will cherish you even if only for a moment. Human nature dictates we will always have disappointments; however, instead of holding on to my grudges (or making new ones), I have to firmly trust and believe it isn’t because of bad people that hate me and don’t want to be my friend. It is simply because they are human, just like me.

Disappointment and let down is going to happen, but I don’t have to hide myself away because of it. Instead of cowardly turning my upsets into barriers, I want the courage to authentically express my hurt, so hearts can be mended and relationships can be restored.

I want to be brave.


Tanya, not Polly


Image from The Graphics Fairy

From conception, my life has been rooted in defiance, as if I was created from equal measure of contradiction and spite. Instead of head down, I was breech. Instead of a boy, I was a girl. Instead of being too small, I was very large. Instead of an amiable Paulina Francis, my mom brought home a ornery Tanya Sue, and that was all within 72 hours of my first breath.

Mom was pregnant with twins, actually, which left her miserable and physically sick, requiring multiple doctor visits each week to check her nutrition and our growth. Although a few weeks early, labor provided blessed hope and impending relief.  Yet, in spite of her body’s insistence that the time had come, the professionals insisted we were too small and it was too dangerous to bring us into the world. Her labor was cruelly stopped.

After that, my mother eagerly counted down the days until we were due, watching the anticipated date come and go with consternation. Two weeks after our due date, my mom was still remarkably feeble with no telltale signs of labor to give comfort. My Uncle Jesse, tired of his big sister’s lamenting, decided it was time. Legend has it, he chauffeured my mother through a dusty Arkansas pasture in his aging and ailing pick up. That bumpy ride was all it took.

Except it wasn’t because one of us had to be difficult. My sister was fully cooperative and ready to go. I was the once causing complications. Not only was I breech, but they also could not find my heart beat. When it was finally found, it was beating exceedingly fast; therefore, it was determined with much certainty that I would be a boy.

A c-section was performed. Much to everyone’s surprise, mom gave birth to two baby girls. Both weighed over seven pounds; actually, we were both closer to eight.

It is safest to say that Mom and Dad were on the outs by the time we were born; however, they were civil enough to work out naming arrangement in advance.  Since there were two of us, mom would name the girl, and dad would name the boy. If we were both the same, mom would name the first-born, and Dad would get the leftover. The twin formally known as “A” was immediately christened Cynthia Kay. To me, it is angelic. It resonates like Christmas hymns played on wine glasses in a gothic cathedral for the sweet Baby Jesus himself. It is delicate and eloquent. The opposite of me.

The task of naming me fell to my father. He is a man who believes in the importance of a name, and he regards the task with unparalleled fervor. It was an act that would forge an irrevocable bond between us, unaffected by his absence and nonchalance.

After days of rumination and deliberation, he dubbed me Tanya.


Tan: like the skin cancer precursor. Ya: slang for you (and if you are completely redneck, like: Girl, I’ma gunner tan ya hide if’n ya don’t stop ya racket!). I was named after Tanya Tucker, the nicest looking (not the term my father used) woman (also not the term my father used) alive when I was born.

My middle name was provided courtesy of the best coon dog this side of the Mississippi. You read that right. I was named after a dog. (It’s okay because it’s my middle name…) There wasn’t a raccoon alive this notorious canine couldn’t sniff out and tree. My Dad felt obligated to bestow special honor upon his prestigious pet.

The best way to memorialize a hound is to name your second born child after it, apparently…

Put them together and you get me, Tanya Sue. As a name, it is bulky and cumbersome; something to be said in the fashion of Auntie Em, screaming for Dorothy from the porch while the twister decimated the adjacent countryside.

Years (YEARS) later, it occurred to me to ask what my mom would have named me, had the choice been hers. “Just an old family name…” she replied. When I pressed harder, she relented:  Paulina (paul-aye-na) Francis. I was going to be a Polly.*

Tanya suddenly didn’t seem so bad.

*No offense to the Pollys out there.