Math problem:

3  boys are going back to school. They are 13, 10 and 8 years old. 

2 go to 1 school and 1 goes to another school. 

Each boy holds their own personality, disposition, temperament and gifts. 

They have a mom and a dad, and other family nearby. They have been mostly with their family this summer, and occasionally friends. 

If you add 1 teacher and 24 students to each of the younger two boys, and 7 teachers, 4 coaches, and 150 students to the oldest boy, can you predict what kind of school year each boy will have?

Show your work.

This is what story problems looked like to me when I was in my school years. Once you got to a certain grade, math went from practice pages full of equations and times tests to one page with four “story problems” and a bonus question.

Math has never been even close to easy for me. I would gladly spend hours with books, art supplies, pencils, papers thesauruses and workbooks (yes really). Math left me with an upset stomach, anxiety to spare and the lingering feeling that has followed me into adulthood that I wasn’t smart.

If something comes easy to you, it’s because it is literally natural, you are built to do that thing, whatever it is. We can see that most clearly demonstrated in sports, there are people for whom sprinting or passing or dribbling just makes sense. It is an extension of their very being. You know it when you see it. 

There  are others, too,  who may have the passion for a sport but little to no natural talent. They may work and dream for countless hours hoping to perform at a high skill level, but the accumulative waterfall of time and attention without results can quickly douse any flame.

Brain research has surged in recent years, be we aren’t quite yet able to take a look into someones brain to see where it lights up, how fluidly the neurons travel, what synapses are strongest and diagnose, treat, prescribe quick answers.

Add the complexity of thoughts, feelings, behavior, nutrition, living situation,well, if you are looking to unlock any one individual’s potential, you have a very long night of homework ahead of you.

It is all of these things I think about in the beginning of the year. I pray for and deeply desire my boys to have years that build them and do not ruin them. So every fall, I always want the first day of school to be the way I think it needs to be to help them start off on the right foot.

But that would mean that I had spent the past week prepping; cleaning up the halls and stairway and homework desk area; packed up backpacks and organized lunch ideas; purchased the perfect back to school cards for my boys; sarcastic for Haden, cute but slightly inappropriate for Liam and silly/cute/deep for Finn. 

I would have reread all the articles and blog posts and info-graphs I pinned about Meyers-Briggs and kids and birth order and love languages and not to mention first day of school signs to hold up for Instagram perfect pictures. 

I would have made a detailed list and shopped for ingredients for their after-school snacks and a first day of school healthy dinner that everyone would devour while they traded first day of school stories.

There would be nerves, and I would have already done the self-care preparation I needed to do so that I could be truly present for my boys, and I would say exactly what they needed to hear in the best tone of voice for each of them. 

I would glide into school with them, calmly settle them with their respective teachers, deliver a punny teacher gift, and have a sweet hug goodbye and then end up at Starbucks with a crowd of other like-minded moms from the school for a short treat for myself before heading back home to finish up the last few household chores I had left before prepping for their triumphant return.

So when I say that isn’t exactly how it always goes, or how it ended up this year, you are not surprised. 

Even I’m not surprised at the result, only surprised that I expect things and myself to be somehow so idealized. 

I want to be that me I dreamed up I would be, but reality is, that no matter how much I want it, the proof is in my already completed work.

There is this “new math”, as we like to call it in my state, which I can describe to you quite simply:  It attempts to build a solid foundation in the how math works, so that any higher math will make sense.

Also most parents can’t help with their kids math homework; not because of a fault of the schools, just a pendulum swing in teaching theory that means how I learned math growing up is on the entire opposite end of what my children are learning. I can’t think of what angle I would be using to illustrate this.

Lucky for me, my husband is infinitely better at the matics of math than me, teaches high school math, and through generous genetic gifting my boys grasp math without much extra effort. In fact, they claim math as one of their favorite subjects (that is, if forced to give an answer beyond A. Lunch, B. Recess, C. PE.)

So this year, as in years past, my three will almost assuredly fly through the equations that are written for them to decipher, and given they need help, I can call in Mr. Math to assist. Because I really am interested in what my kids are learning, undoubtedly I’ll continue to learn more about numbers the way that might have made math easier for me to keep, instead of throw away.

But what about them, the three boys, 13, 10 and 8 years of age? 

All unique arrangements of DNA, learning with other children who carry their own array of genetics, together with teachers and other adults, most of who really care about teaching kids, for nine months?

It’s always the question on the back of the math problems worksheet that stumps me, the bonus question. I can look at it and think on it, but there never appears to be a definitive answer. 

It stumps me because mostly, it scares me. 

To take my three pieces of my heart and let go of their hands (or wave to the back of the oldest), takes a large whithdrawl on my lifetime courage savings account. 

But I do it. Knowing that teachers are human, other children come from better or harder home environs, and school climate, while not perhaps the perfect incubator for growing minds, can become a community where kids learn how to function in a society of differences.

And really, this problem has some holes, it’s a bit of a trick question. It’s way beyond numbers and isn’t something that can be worked down to a single answer. It’s my worst math nightmare. The one that you scribble an answer that you hope is close to what it really is, and wait anxiously for your grade.

What I didn’t know when I was working endlessly frustrating math worksheets was that there would be somethings in adult life (which looked so appealing) that would challenge me, defeat me, surprise me, grow me (but all grown-ups have it together, right?) and flat out wreck me.

Life in the past month has provided more than enough material for me. It has subtracted where I though I was going to have addition. It has multiplied issues that I had expected to be divided and conquered. And then taken some situations down to a fraction of what I had estimated. 

I didn’t like math. Not even a little. I find it difficult, frustrating and a drag on my soul and time now. 

But part of what parenting has driven me to see is that, I can’t avoid the hard things. 

If I truly want to show my boys love, and even more, how to live love, then I have to let them see me dislike things, make mistakes, (even confess some of the huge ones), and still do them as best I can, and when I fail, to do what must be done (and it’s usually really uncomfortable) to walk through the mess to find another way, a better way.

So, enough procrastinating, I have to finish this homework and get back to my home-work (bleh). The only real way I know how to answer what I can do to ensure a healthy year for my boys is this:

1. Keep re-reading the question for understanding. 

2.Call on help and ask for answers when zero things make sense. 

3.Don’t get stuck trying to graph invisible, what-if problems on a chart. 

4. When tangents and undefined slopes appear,  do not ever think you don’t have what it takes to conquer them.

All of this plus a necessary sense of humor, and the sum is found simply in the circumference of your heart.

do you have the time?

Sometimes I choose a movie to wach because it’s popular.  Sometimes because I’m in the mood for it. A few times because I’m up for anything and it’s the only one availble that I can stomach.  Most of the time, though, it’s because I feel like it.  My instinct rarely steers me wrong, except when I doubt it and don’t listen to it and try to be only logical, and do what would seem right to everyone else while ignorning all of my instincts screaming at me.

Yes, it does sound like a slightly intense way of picking a movie.  But, it works for me.  That’s how I ended up watching Dan in the Real Life this morning. On instinct, I hit the order button on my DirectTV remote and enjoyed. In the comfort of my super soft blanket.

Oh, there have been long, long segments of my life when I would have shuddered at the thought of still being in my pajamas, lying in bed and watching a movie in the (gasp) mid morning hours.  

So not what you are supposed to do with your time, right?!

Well, I did it.  And it was awesome.

I’ve actually been doing things a lot differently than you are supposed to lately.

I made and had Apple Pie Crisp with REAL home made whip cream the other night, for dinner.  I’ve been having real whipped cream every night, truth be told, on whatever I want, for a month or so.

I bought (three) abstract shape coloring books from Whiz Kids and new markers, all for myself.  Then I colored.  For a long time.  When there were a million other things that could have been accomplished.

I let the floors in my house sit for another week, making it a month since they’d been cleaned, while I worked on a song that had been sitting on the page, on my piano, waiting for a melody. Both turned out with immensely satisfying results.  I listened to myself about the when.  

Timing is, as they say, everything.  

We all have that inner clock.  Our inner mechanism finely strung and set into motion the millisecond we leave the world of creation for this one of backwards growing.

The Apple Watch debuted earlier this week, and sold out.  I haven’t worn a wrist watch for about a dozen years or more. I used to, and I loved my watches.  More as a fashion asscessory at times.  My favorites, the Swatches, the Fossils, they all kept time artfully while simultaenously fulfilling my needs as a very meticulous watcher of time. I suppose only time will tell if or when I may sport an Apple watch of my own.

You can guess how I tell time now.  My I-phone has to be charged, or the microwave time has to actually be set.  Or I can turn on DirectTV to check it, too.  My kiddos were tutored in number and time keeping skills first simply by living in our twenty-first century digitally run home.

And then they’ve learned to tell time the ‘old fashioned’ way at school, but I also keep a “real” clock with ticking hands in each community room of our home.  I love items that have come before me, machines that existed before my children, and pieces that have been held over generations.  They all give me, give us, a sense of time.  A very real soundtrack to the passing of our days.

Looking through my Twitter feed, I discovered happily, has been a non-waster of time.  I jumped in with my handle this winter (@holliejoyjoy) and have found more interesting communities, links, stories, events, information and people than I have on any other platform to date. 

All social media sites can be time-wasting, energy-destroying, soul-sucking places to dwell.  And once you have been on any or all of these places, you find this truth, in your own way, your own time. Then, you decide what you can tolerate, and live with, and proceed with caution.  I like so much of what can be done, what does occur, and the incredible potential of our digital wi-fi connected lives.

I also equally hate what can be done, what does occur and the devesating potential of our digital wi-fi connected lives.  I’ve made peace with that fact that this is life in the age we live in.  So, I choose to travel the faster than light -speed world made of units of time that I have yet to grasp; on my terms, and on the surfboard of my creation.

That is how I came across a tweet about the 26th (an odd even-year celebration) anniversary of Say Anything.  It’s a movie that often gets overlooked in the epoch of epic Gen X (1961-1981ish) coming of age stories; Pretty in Pink, The Breakfast Club, St. Elmo’s Fire, Flashdance, Footloose, to name quite a few.  The movies that late Baby Boomers and early Millenials along with Generation Xers watched most likely on the big screen when the movie came out, or on a VHS in a VCR, rented most likely from a video store, which meant that to see either, you would have to drive and spend some cash (for real) to watch.  

There are maybe a handful or two movies that I can rewatch, and last night I realized that while watching even the badly cut/edited for commercial TV bleeped-over and free version of Say Anything, that there was a reason I still held a fondness for this particular flick.

Not only is it a smart, remarkably still current screenplay with some pretty memorable lines, it’s set in Seattle and surrounding environs, and the boom box scene is one for the rom-com ages. And Lloyd Dobler (Jon Cusack) undeniably stands among the best of all-time male romatic leads who forever give us unrealistic romantic relationship expectations.

Speaking of _ _ _ _ : (four letter word, has to do with “gets away from you when invovled in a deeply creative process”); I just noticed that the bus was going to be delivering my sweet Kindergardner any literal minute.  So, I threw on my prettiest running capris and adorable Zella top (insert prideful remark about how I got these for an amazing deal at Nordstrom Rack), left my hair to nature to do it’s best, grabbed the most organic, raw, bagged snack I could and walk/ran to the corner.

We have had some of the most gorgeous warm and cool, clouded and sunny spring days in Eastern Washington that I can remember.  I’ve been frustrated that I haven’t been able to fully be out and enjoying them all the past month.  As I soaked some of that sun in a few minutes ago I noted that the calendar reads the 16th today, which means ten days until the Race for the Cure Spokane run.  

I’m not a major nor even minor fundraiser, usually due to my time management skills. (That is not my favorite topic.) So, I run in support of and with my church’s women’s group (Whitworth Church), and of and with many cancer survivors and families and friends who’ve survived, but lost their loved one. 

There’s no way I’d miss this race, despite my out of running shape body, not just because my oldest son and motivator has ran with me for the four years I’ve participated with this hopeful event, but because people who have lost everything, who have lost the very battle with time, are there, doing whatever they can to buy time, for others.

It didn’t take long this morning, into Dan In Real Life, to realize that I indeed had watched it before.  It just had been about seven years ago.  Watching it with fresh eyes, I caught so much more than I had in my first sleep deprvied distracted viewing.  There is much to like about this movie; the soundtrack, the kids, the setting, Steve Carrell as Dan, the story.  At it’s heart, is really a story about the pulsing dance of timing and love and life.  And how much of the time, waiting is an act of love.

Because there is simply no way to stop time, is there.  If there was, we would have all used up our alloted minutes on our time-hold plans to grab back that one conversation, to spend just one more mintue holding that one person, to say the words you have been wishing you’d said in that one moment.

As with all things we cannot control or fully understand or truly define, we spend alot of time insisting that we can tame this elusive unknown, while it insists just as strongly that we do not own the valuable currency that it is. Nor do we know how to spend, save or invest it effectively enough.

I’m hopeful though. The days like today, the moments I mentioned earlier, the time I spend just enjoying what I’m doing, who I’m with, they, in effect, make up for lost time.  Or what seemed at the time lost-like. However. I’ve seen time change everything; memories, directions, hearts and minds.

Time in real life isn’t tethered to an ever repeating circle of space, it’s free and flexible and limitless, wound and repaired in the hands of the Time Keeper. 

And that means that there are endless possibilities for how our days, years, lives add up. We’ve got plenty of time.

Time Warped-interesting thoughts on time perception.




I was sick to my stomach.  Barely holding it together as I walked into the bakery, my two-year old in tow, holding my shaking hand.  I was sure of my decision, just wildly nervous about the ripple effects.  Before I could even sip my coffee, I spilled out to my business partner that I was done. That it had been a wild ride for five years, but the reality was I couldn’t split myself in half any longer. The way my family worked and lived, it was time to make the hard choice, so I gave up one part of my life, part of me, to save the other.

We all have spaces in our life where we are compelled, by one force or another, to work with, play with, live with others. Some of us are built solid to withstand all sorts of this social stimuli; personalities, conversations, dramas, outside of our box thinking: just as naturally as breathing. They have skin that deflects all but the most meaningful messages.  Transitions can be easily absorbed, completed fairly effortlessly.   All impressive traits, more like a gift of temperament.  They are, in a word, unflappable.

On the far side of the spectrum, there are those of us who are molded like sponges.  When we walk into a room, we can immediately take in the atmosphere, the mood, the social structure, the personalities, all in one deep breath.  Navigating groups of one to millions can be beautiful one day, soul draining another. These qualities are complex, to be gifted in such a sensing way makes for strongly emotional people, more likely to go through the entire range of human emotions in a day than their uniquely focused counterparts.  Whether you know it or not, and probably being an extreme of one of the above groups means that you do know, every time you interact with another, these dynamics are set in motion.  I’m no physicist, but this applies to people too: for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

Much of the time in our worlds, we spend our hours bouncing off of each other like a crazy game of, like, bouncing balls off each other. Maybe I’m thinking of dodgeball,  which interestingly, is a hot button issue and is banned in some school districts, while alternately being offered as an adult excercise class in many cities.  It is true that in all these human dodgeball games there are multitudes of distinctions and differences, bits and pieces of parts of spectrums in each and every designed DNA.  The human body is vastly complex; I suspect there are functions that will still not be scientifically understood for millennial to come.  There are scores of orphan diseases to cure, brain processes to decode, and then there are still those pesky “miracles” that haven’t been scientifically proven and published in JAMA.  Wef truly are “fearfully and wonderfully made”.

Regardless of how you are constructed, inevitably, there will be a time for you to move on.  I knew it then, that spring that I had to leave my business.  That otherworldly pulling, the thoughts that kept coming back, the peace of knowing the path to take, that was all there.  Being of a complex disposition means that for me, transitions of any kind are less than smooth. For a girl who craves movement, change, new, excitement, etc., I am continually taken by surprise at how catastrophic a switch can be for me.  When I made the choice to cut the rope that held me to the “outside” world, I lost much.  At first, it was a relief to be able to wholly focus on my kids, my marriage, my home. What I had not anticipated was how much I would miss the connections with people.

You grow close to people who you’ve walked through storm and beauty with.  I had learned so much about the capacity of human heart from many of the people I had been blessed to come to know, and who had gifted me with true friendship.  Their words and the good (and hard) memories stored away from that time of my life still come back to me, just when I need them. Nonetheless, tearing myself away from the fabric of hard-fought work left me wondering who I was, what defined me, and at my shaken core, what was my worth?

That season of change, it was clear that I had to prune back some area of my life, stat, to allow other areas to grow.  Now I’m facing a reversal of that; I’m feeling the familiar tugging of needing to do-something.  There is something more missing. God has been so good in the ways He has redeemed the desert years for my family, and for me. He has brought healing in ways I could never have imagined, restored relationships, and has given me sweet time and broad spaces to carefully remove the tourniquet I’d tied over the gaping wound of my heart.  I know He is always at work in me and through me.  This, though? This is a different, larger campaign.

I believe our Creator gives us times of refreshing, maybe not when we would have chosen to take a break, sabbatical from what we think we are supposed to be doing, using detours to redirect our motion toward discovering the unique way He created me, and you, and all of the billions of us inhabiting His world, to work as pieces of a whole. When we do find a place and community and work for our hands, because this is a broken world, people are deeply imperfect, and relationships are messy, the results may often not look like much at all to the naked eye.

But here’s the deal, God has good reason to not be surprised at our imperfect efforts.  He already knows us, we cannot hide from Him.  There is no need to build an impressive resume, to be ‘successful’ in the way the world defines, or to fashion a glossy magazine worthy spread of home and family. He has always looked at the heart.  Our hearts, beating with his freeing blood.

This time around I may have no idea “what I am supposed to be doing”.  I may never.  If there is one thing I am sure of, it is that whatever our temperament, whoever we work side by side with, wherever the situation may be; He views us with a massive love, seeing us not as we see with human eyes, but through the lens of grace, and love; in a word, Jesus.