Colorful Book Spines

Focus in the Fog

You're doing great.

My kid does that too!

No...that's not crazy.

This season will pass.

You are loved.

You have no idea how talented you are.

These are some simple words of encouragement.  

Maybe, like most of us, a little bit of encouragement helps you keep going.  You can find that here.


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Before we had kids, Ryan and I often watched shows like American Idol or Top Chef. They’re the type of shows where you can enjoy one episode, but it’s much more fun to watch the whole process and recognize the competitors at various stages in the contest. Last year, during lock-down, we decided to watch the current season of American Idol with the kids. We were pretty far behind, so we had to binge the episodes in a couple of days in order to be able to vote in real time for the finale. As you can imagine, the kids had a blast. They loved all the hype and excitement involved in a singing contest like that.

Fast forward to this year. School, dance, and sports kept us from being able to keep up with the long, weekly episodes, so we binged a little over the weekend. Hours into the binge, one of the contestants was telling her sad story and I sort of yelled at the TV, “Shut up and just sing.” My kids were like, “Mommy! She was taking about her sick baby! Do you have no heart?”

It gave me pause. Do I have a heart? I mean, why didn’t I care? Obviously, this is a producer-driven show and they need us to connect with the players so we’ll continue it tune in, so that can feel a little put on after a few episodes. And there’s the former director in me that knows it’s good to use your pain to help your performance but inappropriate to try to use it to help your chances. I know those things are true, but I was still shocked by my emotional numbness toward the crying mother on the screen. I thought about social media and how, recently, I’d read something a friend is going through and instead of engaging like I typically would, I’d just continue scrolling.

As I write this, I hear certain voices in my head:

“Social media isn’t a natural connection, so the fact that I’m checking out isn’t a big deal.”

“It’s actually probably healthy to not be so engaged online.”

“It’s too much to connect with every story and you have to choose where to spend your emotional energy.”

This numbness feels like a “check engine light” for my heart.

I’m what’s called a highly sensitive person. If you’re an HSP like me, you know we don’t just feel more than others, our empathy acts like a sponge. We take on the emotions of others when we interact. We love time with a good friend, but if our friend is struggling with something, we feel drained after time with them because we don’t know how to not absorb their stress.

If you’re not an HSP, you might be thinking, “Jeez. A little emotional numbness must be a welcomed change for you, right?” Sort of. I looked up causes of emotional numbness, and I wasn’t surprised. It can be caused by trauma, depression, anxiety, or substance abuse. From that list, the one I circled was trauma. Whether we are the ones suffering the most or not, we all must come to grips with the fact that this year has been marked with trauma. We will all carry scars from this year for a long time. Some longer than others.

When I’m on facebook, and I see a link which includes a picture of someone, I automatically assume it’s an obituary. I don’t know how many times someone has received some sort of award or gotten a new job, but at first glance I assumed they were dead. That’s sad, but in the midst of a pandemic, most of the time it’s not a new job or award. The link is often an obituary. Over time, I’ve become desensitized by the constant storm of sadness and instead of feeling with the person, I’ve started to feel numb.

I know my trauma means I can’t take on everyone’s hurt and in a way the numbness is acting as a buffer, but I don’t feel like myself and that’s unsettling.

Here's what's working.

The fact that my kids are back to doing outdoor sports means sideline time with some of my favorite people. One of the perks of having my husband as the league president of lacrosse is he makes the teams, so we get to pick who we hang out with. In the past few weeks, that actual face time with a friend has been chipping away at that emotional numbness. Real connection is real and I believe it has the power to heal my emotional numbness. Social media is fine. It’s great that family members who live far away know my kids from pictures and stories I post. I like connecting with old friends and I love a good meme. But something this year has taught me is that there’s no substitute for time with a friend in person. Even if it’s tiring, it’s real and that realness makes me feel more like myself.

I trust that God will not only bring me out of this, He’ll use this trauma for his glory. And in time, I’ll feel less numb. Maybe I’ll still be annoyed with the sob stories on American Idol, but I probably won’t yell mean things to crying women on TV. I’m not making any promises, but probably not.

How have you been coping with the trauma of this past year? I was reminded in church this weekend that it’s not healthy to ignore it or let it define us, that we need to deal with it and move past it. What things are working for you? I’d love to hear your thoughts in comments. We can heal, but we can never do it alone. Please don’t keep trying to do it alone.



I came down to the kitchen last week because my daughter was squealing. It's a sound I’m familiar with, so I knew she wasn’t hurt or in danger. In fact, I knew immediately that her older brother was doing something to annoy her. The cycle goes something like this: Hudson does something that he knows will bug only Nora and she then squeals. I ask what’s going on and he defends himself which causes her to squeal. He’s mad because she cut him off during his defense, so he becomes more impassioned and she…you guessed it. She squeals.

In these situations, I feel like I’m being pulled in like a referee watching a replay to make a call, but the question I should be asking isn’t what happened that made her squeal, but what bigger thing is going on that’s causing this cycle in the first place.

I’m not saying they always need a reason. I sometimes wake up ready for a fight, so I won’t assume they aren’t the same. However, when we’re stuck in the squeal/defense cycle, there’s usually something going on.

Last week, there was no mystery as to what was causing this behavior. After eight months of hybrid learning with two days in school and three working from home, our school district transitioned back to a five day in-school week. We keep using the word “transition” because it makes us feel better, but really it was like ripping off a bandaid. Also, notice I was careful not to call it a “normal” week because, let’s be real, it’s not normal. Nothing is.

When I stopped to consider how flexible and adaptable kids have been throughout this ordeal, it occurred to me that they deserve a trophy for the way they’ve dealt with the last year. I’ve certainly received trophies for much less. If we don’t give them a trophy, let’s at least cut them some slack.

I remember a time, years ago, when my brother was low-key making fun of his wife and my sister said, “Hey. Give her hugs. Not hard times.” We laughed it off, but I’ve often recalled that little nugget of wisdom when dealing with others. Unfortunately though, there were many times this week when I forgot it. Times when the kids were defiant or whiny or emotional and I gave them a hard time. Yelling at them for making us late or not getting to bed on time when what they really needed was a hug. They needed space to express their feelings and do things at their own pace so they could feel a little bit of control during a week when so much had been out of their control.

If you have kids, take a minute to consider all they’ve endured this year. They took in the same information we did about a scary virus that no one was safe from and stayed home. They watched us panic and do all kids of research. They were kept away from school, church, friends, and playgrounds. They lost sports seasons and opening nights, holiday meals, graduations, and proms.

Then, many of us sent them back for what was the weirdest school year they’ve ever had. Masks, social distancing, assigned lunch tables, and teachers on screens from home on the other days. All the while, we kept saying, “Thank goodness kids are so flexible.” But what I know about materials that are flexible is that, at some point, they break.

Last week, as we transitioned back to a five-day week, mine broke a little. We had lots of tears and nerves, a panic attack and of course my favorite squeal/defense cycles on repeat.

I heard an older adult complaining about students in general saying, “It’s not like they’ve never had a five day week before.” That felt like one of those “back in my day” type tone-deaf statements about how kids today are soft or something. But, in my district, they’ve been in school two days a week for eight months. How long does it take to make a habit? I’d say less than eight months. Again, LET'S GIVE THEM A TROPHY.

When I was a teacher, I often had to caution myself not to hold my students to a higher standard than I held myself or other adults to. I remember many days when I left something at home and had to call my husband and ask if he could drop it by on his way to work. And yet, when a student left something at home, I’d be like, “What do you mean you left it at home?”

This has been an incredibly tough year for kids. We can talk all day about the good that’s come out of a year where we slowed down a little and that’s all true, but it’s also important to mourn what our kids have lost in the past year. We need to listen to them and when we’re temped to give them a hard time, we should give hugs. Big bear hugs that maybe go on too long. They might think we're being weird, but when you feel them release their inhibitions and really fall into the hug, you'll know it worked. Remember, hugs not hard times. You got this.



It’s Holy Week. I don’t know what that means to you. Does it conjure memories from childhood of going to church services? I remember a lot of services during holy week as a kid. Some were meaningful, some went over my head or scared me. I also remember being excited for the end of Lent -always looking forward to eating chocolate again or watching TV or something. As a parent I’m looking for things to put in my kids’ Easter baskets and hoping stores aren’t out of our favorite brand of jelly beans.

It’s easy to get caught up in the stuff of this week. The good or bad memories of being in church. The things we gave up. The things we buy. It’s weird though, none of those things really have anything to do with why we celebrate Easter.

Easter is this beautiful celebration of a risen Jesus, but we can’t get there without understanding Holy Week -the events that led to Jesus dying on a cross. When I think of things that have happened in culture during my lifetime, like September 11th or the Challenger explosion, I can recall the fear and confusion I felt. Imagine being in the crowd when Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey. They couldn’t get enough of him. But then, they turned on a dime and their enthusiasm changed to scorn. I imagine people hearing the news and going, “Wait, that guy who tells us to love one another and healed my neighbor? Why has he been arrested?” It’s surprising.

But Jesus was never surprised. He was coming to the endgame of a plan that was made long before he ever came to earth as a baby. First, he celebrated passover with his disciples knowing that one sitting with him has already sold him out. He used bread and wine to remind them that he will ultimately die and it’s for the forgiveness of sins. He washed the disciples’ feet. Then, he went to the garden to pray and wait to be taken. Judas arrived and gave him a kiss and he was apprehended.

The authorities didn’t want to touch this. They knew they don’t have any reason to punish Jesus, but the crowd was adamant. Pilot wanted to pardon him, but the crowd begged for him to pardon Barabas (an actual criminal) instead and Pilot gave in. Jesus was beaten within an inch of death, forced to carry a cross, nails were driven through his hands and ankles and he hung on the cross until he suffocated -all the while enduring taunting from the soldiers and the crowd.

I have no idea what happened to Jesus’ spirit in the time between his death and his resurrection, but we know that he payed for our sins, so he was definitely tormented.

It’s easy to skip from the Hosanna parade to the empty grave, but that’s not the story. Resurrection can’t happen without death and Jesus chose to die an unimaginable death in my place. If we don’t observe Holy Week, we can miss the significance of what happened between the Sundays.

What do you plan to do this week to remember his great sacrifice? Will you read the story? Talk to someone? Fast or pray? If it doesn’t grieve you a little to think about what Jesus endured, it’s time to do some more research. Don’t go from the parade to the the empty grave.





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