Friday, April 6, 2018

Ice Cream for Dinner

Photo by Samantha Sophia
Yesterday was a tough day.  I spent seven hours trying to get 6th and 8th graders to sit down quietly and take their Science tests.  After substitute teaching, I ran to the post office and then came home for my second shift as a mom.  My son, age 6, was testing the limits and ignored me multiple times when I asked him to do things.  He also talked back and was very rude to this momma.  When our normal clip chart of discipline failed, I sent him to the downstairs table to eat, set my daughter up with food on her high chair and went into the kitchen.   After a long day, I was done.

I very quietly opened up the bottom drawer to the freezer.  I snuck out an ice cream bar.   I knew that if my daughter saw it, she would want one, and I REALLY didn't want her to have chocolate before my son's soccer practice.  So I hid.  I sank down behind the kitchen counter and sat there eating my ice cream.  Whenever my daughter asked what I was doing, I replied, "Nothing" and kept eating. 

When I finished the ice cream, I very quickly snuck the wrapper into the trash and went back to being a mom.  It was a "terrrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.  Some days are like that, even in _______."  (Fill in the name of your town!)  A little reference there to one of my favorite children's books by Judith Viorst.

Some days are tough.  Some days you run out of energy, patience and steam.  Some days you just need to take a little mommy time and get back to life a few minutes later.  Since time outs generally follow a child's age, could I please get a 38 minute time out?  Just saying...

Take time out for yourself if you need it.  Things will get better in time.  Have ice cream for dinner if that makes you happy.  After all, it was a Skinny Cow ice cream bar, so it's pretty much the same thing as vegetables, right? 

If you are new to Pancakes and Perseverance, welcome!  I'm a mom of two, freelance writer/editor, teacher and a fifteen-year veteran of youth and preteen ministry.  I love Jesus, ice cream and encouraging my fellow humans to find joy in the everyday.  If you'd like to subscribe, fill in your email on the right side of the page.  I generally post once a week or so.  Let's walk this journey together.  It's better with sprinkles on top. 


Saturday, March 24, 2018

Olympic-Sized Disappointments

Photo by Liam Simpson

I don't know about you, but I had high hopes for the Olympics this year.  The 2016 Olympics, with Michael Phelps, the Final Five, and Usain Bolt, however, was a hard act to follow.  Considering all of the recent national and world events, I was ready to be uplifted by Olympians reaching for their dreams.  (See my post at the start of the games last month: ) 

We did get to witness our share of awesome Olympic moments-Chloe Kim, Michaela Shiffron, the U.S. Curling Team (Who'd have thought!), and my favorite of the year, Shaun White.  I have enjoyed watching athletes like Shaun over the years as they rose to victory, fell to defeat, and rose again to an even sweeter victory.  I love that.  The victories that come from valleys are the best ones to watch, because it is in the struggle that greatness is birthed.

The Olympics this year were also a bit disappointing.  As a U.S. Figure Skating enthusiast, I can attest to this.  As I mentioned in my earlier post, I watched the entire Grand Prix series and the U.S. championships in preparation for the Olympics.  I was so ready for Nathan Chen to take home the gold.  His first two skates were so sad to watch, as he fell so many times.  I was yelling "NOOO!!!" at the TV, so sad and disappointed for him.  He is such a good skater, and had the potential for so much more.

These disappointments, though on a grander scale, represent those in our everyday lives.  We work so hard for our dreams.   Some spend years in school or training.  Others put in years on the job, hoping for advancement.  For others, it is years put into a relationship.  Many of these aspirations lead to huge disappointments and pain.  Career and personal goals are shattered as people let us down and jobs don't live up to what they promised to be.  Even hobbies can let us down as we no longer have time for them amidst the daily grind.

Everyone faces disappointment in their lives. Maybe we didn't fall on a quad jump, but something happened to us that made us question our dreams.  We all face disappointment, but the question is, what will we do with it?  Will we let our disappointments hold us back in fear from dreaming new dreams?

One thing I've learned from watching the Olympics is that much of it is a mental game.  Many times you can tell if a skater will skate a bad program just by looking at their face beforehand.

Olympians live life on a grand scale.  Every waking moment is put into training for their sport and then it all comes down to those seconds or minutes that really count.  Olympians face great disappointment.  It's what they do with it that matters most.

After two imperfect performances, Nathan Chen picked himself up, dusted himself off, and gave a record-breaking performance in the free skate.  He performed 6 quad jumps--more than any man in the world has ever attempted.  I found myself screaming at the TV again, only this time it was "YES! YES!  YES!"  It was awesome.

The world waited to see if he could pull himself up from 16th place to medal contention.  He came close, but in the end, he ended up in 5th.  As we learn from Nathan, there will always be those "What if?" moments in life.  "What if I hadn't fallen, would I have taken home the gold?"  Life has a funny way of reminding us that we can't go back.  What we can do is take those disappointments, put them behind us, and move forward.  We begin again on the first day of practice, with four years on the clock.  We start a new job, begin a new relationship, start a new hobby.  We determine our next dream and go for it with all we've got, not letting fear hold us back.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Pray Boldly

Yesterday, I walked into our local high school as a substitute teacher, and for the first time, felt fear.

After last week's school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Florida, I have started to think differently as I enter the doors of a school.  I look at the layout, check the lock-down codes and the teacher handbook for the emergency procedures and say a prayer for safety.  A friend posted recently on social media that she just put her kid "on a bus to a potential war zone."  Some days it feels that way.

On Sunday, tears streamed down my face as I grieved the loss of 17 students and teachers that I didn't even know.  Our pastor's sermon reminded us that they were real teenagers, ones who probably had fights with their mom before getting in their cars to go to school.  People with so many things un-said, so many things left to do with their lives.  He reminded us that prayer is not a political thing, it is what we do in times of crisis.  We pray.

We pray and we pray boldly.  So many people offer their "thoughts and prayers" in times of crisis.  I think we are saying this to others because we just don't know what else to do or how else to help.  If you say this and you don't pray, it may be better not to say it at all, but if you do say it, say it and then pray boldly.  Prayers are powerful and effective.  They can change things.

When my mom passed away a year ago, I was offered so many "thoughts and prayers."  At first it felt a bit trite, something that everyone was saying.  But, after awhile, it became like a mantra.  "Thoughts and prayers, thoughts and prayers." And then the mantra stuck to my soul and became a buoy to hold onto on the hardest days.  I would repeat it over and over. "Thoughts and prayers, thoughts and prayers."  It reminded me that my tribe was lifting me in prayer, even when they couldn't be right there next to me.

When tragedies strike, I am often moved deep down in my soul to go and help.  In September, I wanted so badly to go to Houston and help hurricane victims.  Sadly, real life circumstances prevented me from going.  But, I still had one thing, the power to pray.  After last week's shooting and the powerful sermon on Sunday, I was once again moved to go and do something.  I spent fifteen years as a youth director, so teenagers are close to my heart.  I thought, maybe I can just go down to Florida and listen to people who need to talk.  Maybe I could help out youth directors in the area.  My husband, ever the realist, reminded me that maybe that wouldn't be too helpful.  I felt helpless once again in midst of tragedy.

One thing I can do is pray and pray boldly.  May you join me with bold prayers, and may they lead to bold action and bold healing.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

One True Love

Photo by Anna Kolosyok
I truly have a love-hate relationship with Valentine's Day, as you may remember from last year's post:

Love has been a tough thing for me over the years, often elusive and leading to jealousy and other negative emotions.  In the midst of the pain that love has caused, there has been one constant in my life.  One true love. 

Jeremiah 31:3  says it best:  "I have loved you with a love that lasts forever.  I have kept on loving you with a kindness that never fails."  My Savior, My God, has been loving me since the beginning of time with a love that lasts forever.  He has kept on loving me when others have failed. 

Verse 4 continues with "I will build you up again."  I have consistently seen God's love in my life through this phrase.  When my first love and I broke up after a tragic prom, and I realized he wouldn't be my true love after all, God reminded me:  "I will build you up again."  When I was crying in an airport, leaving a relationship behind, he whispered in my ear: "I will build you up again."  When I was incredibly hurt by God's people, he held me in his arms and sang to me, "I will build you up again." 

God is into rebuilding hearts.  He's kind of like the spiritual HGTV.  (The Property Trinity?)
You see, before I met my husband, he was in the deepest, darkest place of his life, having been through great loss.  In his pain, he shouted to God, "What good can come from this?"  Several days later, he met me. 

God repairs, he heals, he duct-tapes things together.  Other times, he asks us to wait.  I have a very sweet friend who has been waiting a very long time for love.  She has prayed and waited and watched so patiently, but God is still whispering "Wait."  I don't understand his timing in this, I want my sweet friend to experience what she longs for, but I see God working in her life in the waiting.  He has used her to help and encourage so many people and she loves deeply through her friendships. 

Love looks different for each person.  One thing that unites us is the love of our Creator.  Listen quietly for his whisper:  "I have kept on loving you with a kindness that never fails."  Whatever you may need today, whether it is a heart-fixer-upper, a friend, or someone to love you unconditionally, listen closely. 

Your true love is whispering your name. 

Friday, February 9, 2018

Olympic-Sized Dreams

Photo by: Nathan Dumlao
I have to admit that when the Olympic song plays for the first time every four years,  I get chills.  I love the Olympics.  You could say I'm a bit obsessed with them.  I think my Olympic fascination began as a young girl when my Grandma took me to my first "Ice Capades,"  where I saw Olympic ice skaters like Scott Hamilton live on the ice.  I felt like I was in a magical place for those two hours. 

Sadly, at 38, I am realizing that my dream of being an Olympic ice skater probably will never come true.  These days it's more like an Olympic-sized pile of laundry that I am tackling.  Thinking about this induces a bit of a mid-life crisis, but I'll deal with that in another blog...

What I love about the Olympics is the way it causes us all to dream Olympic-size dreams and to cheer on those who have had them their entire lives.  I am in awe of our Olympians who have trained for so many years for four minutes of competition.  This year, my favorite is Nathan Chen.  I've been watching him for the last couple of years in the U. S. Figure Skating Competition, the world championships, and the Grand Prix series this Fall.  A young skater who has risen to the top as the "Quad King" of men's figure skating, he is amazing to watch.  I love the jumps, but I also love that he is trained in ballet, so his movements are deliberate and graceful. 

Looking forward to the Olympics, I pictured him taking home a gold medal or two.  Last night, he debuted on Olympic ice.  I was so sad to see him fall and not complete another jump.  His nerves got the best of him.  He was so close to his dream that it scared him.  Thankfully, he still has the men's competition coming up next week, so we'll see if he can turn things around.

I was also sad for Ashley Wagner, who didn't make it onto this year's team.  What I love about her is her fierce determination.  I know she will come back and fight for another journey to the the top. 
These Olympians prove to me the invaluable power of dreams.  If we aren't reaching for something, then we are stagnant, going nowhere. At the moment, I'm in between dreams.  (Jack Johnson plays in my head...)  I've achieved many of my dreams for my life, and I'm at the point where I need some new ones.  One of my dreams is so huge that it feels out of reach.  But, I will pour my energy into it, because what is life if you don't have Olympic-sized dreams? 

Tonight, we'll watch as the Opening Ceremonies take us in and wow us with the power of thousands of dreams coming true. 

Who knows, maybe Olympic curling could be in my future.  I'll practice with my laundry baskets...

Friday, February 2, 2018

Self-Portrait in Metaphor

Photo by Steven Wang
I am cotton

I am blue
calm like ocean waves
yet searching for contentment

I am a snickerdoodle
sweet and fattening

I am jazz
smooth, yet syncopated

I am a cat
tip-toeing around
enjoying her sleep

I am a whisper
barely heard

I am fresh-baked bread

I am a bucket list
filled with dreams

I am a bear
wanting to hibernate

I am raindrops on a pond
making small ripples on the water.

~A. Laska 2018

Friday, January 26, 2018

Keep dancing!

Photo by Brevite

Wednesday night I left my kids in the care of my husband and headed to the city.  I listened to my own music on the way there.  I sat at a restaurant and ate a nice quiet dinner, during which I didn't have to pop every three minutes to get something for someone.  In other words, it was heaven. 

After dinner, I went to see the dance company of one of my favorite choreographers.  It was my first time seeing them.  Although I could only afford a balcony seat at the National Theatre, which feels a bit like you may fall at any time, I was thrilled to be there. 

I debate with my husband all the time about the power of dance.  He sees it as a bunch of people jumping around the stage flailing their arms about.  (Pretty much his exact words.)  I sigh and try to explain the years and years of training the body that is required to do that one move that looks incredibly simple but is in fact extremely hard.  I also spent twenty minutes discussing what choreography means to the choreographer and to the dancer and to the audience.  The intended meaning and the meanings we take away.

He was still lost. 

For me, though, Wednesday night was thrilling.  The training of the dancers, the costumes, the concept, the props...there were all so, so good.  The partner work and the intensely creative choreography left me in awe.  There were many moments in the piece when I just wanted to scream, "Keep dancing, keep dancing!"  I could have died and gone to heaven right then and my life would be complete.  Well, not really, but it felt like it in the moment.

Great art lifts us out of the everyday.  It takes us to a different place for awhile.  It draws us in to their world and transforms us while we are there.  We leave changed, inspired, uplifted. 

We leave wanting to dance.