Scraping the Slush – A Special Tribute on Father’s Day

 

Hi, sweet readers!  I have been absent from the blogging world for far too long.  And for my first post back, I didn’t even do a majority of the writing—my husband did!  I’m SO lame!  In all seriousness though, I asked my husband to write something special for Father’s Day.

Here’s a little background first:

So, I have the most amazing father-in-law, Roger Bond, who I’ve actually known since I was born.  Our families were great friends and attended church together.  Sadly, I never knew him as my father-in-law though because he passed away three years before Randy and I dated and married.  He was diagnosed with liver cancer in December of 2000 and died in March of 2001.  I was in college at the time and remember the phone call from my mom telling me that Roger had passed.  I sat in my dorm room and just sobbed at my desk.  I now often think about how unfair it is that he never got to know me as his daughter-in-law.  My children never got to meet him.  And we have to do this whole family thing without him.  His legacy certainly lives on though.  My husband was raised right by him, and we try to raise our kids how Roger would.

So for this Father’s Day, I wanted to honor my late father-in-law, Roger Bond.  I asked my husband to write about him for me.  I wish he could share with you all about him, but you’d be reading for days.  To keep it brief, he chose to share about the day his dad died, and a heartwarming childhood memory from him.  It’s one of unconditional love that we can all learn from.  Enjoy {but also grab a tissue}.

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By Randy: 

My dad died in March of 2001, and I remember it like it was yesterday.

I had started my first teaching job as a vocal music teacher just a few months before my dad was diagnosed with liver cancer. We were in the middle of rehearsals for the musical South Pacific when I got a call from my mom saying, “If you want to say goodbye, you’d better come see your father tonight.

It’s weird because I actually had some hesitation and a mental “discussion” with myself.

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My father-in-law Roger (left) and husband Randy (right) at his college graduation party.

I knew if I went to see him, he would scold me for missing my rehearsal and my responsibilities with my high school students.

But of course I went.

I left my students with the accompanist to rehearse with her and headed to my parents’ house.

I remember seeing him there on the hospital bed they moved into the living room (he was no longer able to climb the stairs to get to his room on the second floor).  I thought, “This isn’t the man I grew up with.” He was pale, frail, and yellow from the liver cancer that had overtaken him.

He was resting, but mom told me to wake him as he’d be disappointed if he found out I’d visited and hadn’t talked to him. I touched his shoulder and got my face close to his and said, “Dad, it’s Randy, I’m here.”

He roused, grunted a little bit, then his eyes caught mine. He smiled and said, “Hi, Sonny.” (his frequent term of endearment for me).

I smiled back and touched his forehead … then his smile went away, and he said, “Shouldn’t you be at rehearsal with your students?” I smiled again and told him that I would go up to rehearsal after our visit.

At this point in his brief battle, he barely had the strength to keep his eyes open, but we shared a short conversation, I kissed him on the forehead, and he told me, “Go back to your kids and your rehearsal. They need you more than I do.”

I left and returned to the high school, which was about an hour drive from his house. One of my students, Chris, was waiting for a ride as I pulled in to the parking lot.

“Rehearsal over already?” I asked.

He made a witty comment about how the accompanist wasn’t a drill sergeant like me.  At this point, a police officer pulled into the parking lot, drove up to us and asked if I was “Randall Bond.”  My student and I both looked at each other—knowing what this must mean. Chris gave me a hug and said, “I’m sorry Mr. Bond” and walked to his mother’s car.

The officer informed me that my mom had been trying to call the high school and finally decided to call the police to try and get a hold of me (I did not have a cell phone at the time—ridiculous to think now, huh?).  I went into the school and called my mom, and she told me that Dad had passed shortly after I had left.

I don’t remember crying as I drove back to my mom’s house. All my siblings were there.  We weren’t allowed into the living room as they removed his body, so we were all stationed in the kitchen, which in my mind made sense as that was really the “hub” of our house growing up anyway.

Hundreds showed up for his funeral and viewing—many of whom I had never seen in my life. People from work, his many missions trips, friends, and distant family members. A similar message was uttered over and over and over, “Your dad was such a good man.” “You’re dad always talked about you and your family.” “Your dad was such a godly man, who always talked about his faith.” And on it went. I remember thinking, “I will never be the man my dad was.”

Now, my dad was not perfect. I know, sometimes, we tend to really put people on a pedestal after they have passed, but my dad had many flaws. He did, however, do one thing exceptionally well, and that was to show love, compassion, and mercy. I didn’t often see the last two in my younger years … but if you knew me then, you’d know how crazy I drove my Dad (and teachers . . . and pastors . . . and family members . . .), so I’m not so sure it was fully deserved.

I was talking to a friend on the phone a few years after my dad passed, and she asked a unique question, “Have you ever experienced unconditional love?”

This memory of my dad is what popped into my head to share with her:

I remember one winter when my dad took my two younger brothers and me ice skating. We hiked to a small pond above our house with skates tied together and slung over our shoulders. When we made it to the pond, we boys wanted to run right out on the ice, but Dad stopped us, pulled out a hatchet, and began chopping through the frozen surface.

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My father-in-law, Roger, carrying my husband, Randy, and his little brother, Bob, up the stairs.

He explained that he wouldn’t let us skate unless it was at least six inches thick.  He cut a small hole and measured.  I have no idea how thick it was, only that he said we could go.

Dad was actually quite a good skater. Us boys? Not so much. In fact, I can confidently say, we were horrible. Things weren’t made easier by the fact that the sun was out—warming up the ice so there was a layer of slush on top of that pond.

Over the next four hours my dad took the runner sled we brought with us, turned it sideways, and scraped the slush off the top of that pond for us so we could skate a little better. Four hours he did not skate or do anything but watch us . . . and scrape off that slush.

It was such an odd thing to remember. At the time I really didn’t think much of it at all (what young boy would, really?). But now, as an adult with children of my own, I realized what a great lesson in love that was.

I often remember that story.  It’s typically when I’m teaching, or frustrated with someone, or dealing with my own children. Because, sometimes, if you want the best for someone, you have scrape off a little “slush.”  Maybe it’s showing love. Maybe it’s being quiet and listening. Maybe it’s providing discipline.  That day, it was literally scraping off the slush from a small pond so his boys can enjoy a few hours of skating.

I miss my dad; it’s amplified on Father’s Day. Selfishly I wish he was here to see what I’m doing with my life and so I could brag about my five children to him.

I still wonder if I’ll ever be the man my dad was … in the mean time, I’ll just keep pushing slush.

Love you, Dad.

Randy

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Happy Father’s Day, readers.

Love,

Courtney.

 

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Why Every American Should Take My High School English Class

In the early hours of of November 9th, 2016, our country started to spin into chaos.  This election was about as close as it could get, and it’s becoming more and more obvious just how polarized we are.  My social media feed blew up with comments full of hate, boasting, fear, name-calling, shaming, intolerance, entitlement, belittling, prejudice, apathy, assumptions, blaming, racism, swearing, stat-skewing, and whining from both my liberal and conservative friends.

I saw few calls for hope, prayer, or understanding.

I teach language arts at a diverse high school in northeast Kansas.  It’s known as the “rich” school in the area, but that’s a bunch of B.S.  It’s true that I have students who live in the most expensive homes in the county, but I also have students who have been evicted from their trailer park home.  In my 13-year career there, I’ve had approximately 2,000 students walk through my door and sit in one of my desks for a 47 minute class period. Among them have been kids who are Jewish, transgender, Muslim, homeless, Mexican, gay, Asian, homophobic, Catholic, immigrants, African American, orphans, Hindu, pregnant, Mormon, atheist, Wiccan, in foster care, National Merit Scholars, and drop-outs.

It’s about as a diverse as my collection of friends on Facebook.

Our school had a mock election on November 7th.  The results:

  • Trump – 44.87%
  • Clinton – 38.95%
  • Johnson – 9.96%
  • Stein – 1.87%

A school divided.

On November 9th, there were students flying Trump flags from their pickup trucks—high-fiving each other before the 8:00 AM bell.  There were others who wore black as a sign of mourning and were in a slump all day.

It was like watching a little microcosm of our nation right before my eyes—millennial style.

In this situation, what do you do with approximately 160 young, impressionable minds who come from all walks of life, who disagree, and don’t understand each other?

We didn’t talk about the election that day—I forbade it.  Instead, I did what I always do—I used the strongest weapon against ignorance.

Literature.

When students have me for a teacher, you can bet they’re going to learn where to place a semicolon, and they sure as hell are going to learn the difference between how and when to use good vs. well {come on, one’s an adjective and one’s an adverb—gah!}.

But literature is the heart and soul of the class.  It’s why English teachers become English teachers.  There isn’t another subject in school more powerful.  We don’t read literature because it’s fun, entertaining, or cute.  It teaches us about life, about others, and about ourselves. Through literature we also learn history, philosophy, and psychology.   And we don’t just read.  We discuss.  We listen.  Socrates believed that one truly gains understanding through dialogue, observations, and questioning.  When a class of 28 diverse students share their perspectives, new light bulbs go off, and the paradigm slightly starts to shift.

So, in my class . . .

We read Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” to learn about the perils of blindly following traditions.  Hmm . . . this is kind of like how it can be dangerous to only cast a party-line vote instead of researching each candidate.

We read Orwell’s Animal Farm and discuss the pros and cons of capitalism and socialism. We also study propaganda so that we are not easily fooled by the media or candidates.

We watch Lisa Gossels’ documentary My So-Called Enemy about six Palestinian and Israeli girls who work through their differences and actually become friends.  Seriously now, if these girls whose families have been taught to hate each other for thousands of years can build a bridge, surely Trump and Clinton supporters can, right?

We read Ursula K. Le Guin’s “The Wife’s Story” to make us realize that sometimes we are considered someone else’s enemy, and we don’t even realize it.  We also discuss how it is difficult to empathize with others who are different from ourselves.  So, when those minorities from the cities and the blue-collared rural citizens tell you they’re scared, hurting, or frustrated—they are.  And they have a right to be.  Don’t discredit one just because you can’t relate.

We read excerpts of Reading Lolita in Tehran and Persepolis 2:  The Story of  a Return to understand the oppression women face in the Middle East, which leads us into a discussion on Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs.”  Why would someone care about bettering themselves or their community when they have no sense of safety?  Now do you get why people who aren’t like you might be protesting?

We read Romeo and Juliet—not from the perspective that it is the greatest love story of all time {because it’s so not};  we read it to understand the detrimental harm of prejudices, stereotypes, and learned hatred.

We study the life of Gandhi.  We analyze Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech and his “Letter from Birmingham Jail.”  Take note, kids, these men were real leaders who changed the world without violence.  Peaceful protests work, and there is a time/place for civil disobedience.

We then read Robert Kennedy’s eulogy for MLK and soon realize the power of words. Kennedy urged the crowd that night not to riot in response to King’s assassination because that would go against everything he stood for. As a result, Indianapolis was the only major city in America that didn’t.

We study the case of “Texas v. Johnson” from 1989 and the paradoxical idea that our First Amendment rights permits the burning of the American flag.  Is it okay the burn the flag? Do you understand why some people would want to?  Do you understand why it can be offensive to veterans if you do?

We learn through Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird that “Folks are folks.”  Thank you, Scout. You’re like, six, and wiser than all of us.  Through her wisdom we realize that when you take away the labels, we’re all way more alike than different.  We all just want to be heard, feel loved, and be accepted.

We read the poem “Without Title” by Diane Glancy and discuss the difficulty of having your heritage stripped away from you.  Is it okay to impose your “progressive change” on others who don’t agree with you?  Is it okay to require immigrants to adopt our “American ways”?  Do you understand the issue with a certain pipeline right now? 

We read Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 to recognize the dangers of censorship and the manipulation of information.  This isn’t just a creative dystopian sci-fi novel; this is a book that allows us to look into the future of what our world could be if we don’t do something first. Heck, half of the plot has already come true!

Most importantly, we study “The Allegory of the Cave” from Plato’s The Republic.  We all live in a “cave”—some are deeper than others—but it’s essential to get out as far as possible, kids, because knowledge is power.  Travel. Read.  Talk to people who are different than you. Learn everything you possibly can.  Let the “light” hurt your eyes and recognize the shadows around you.  Don’t be comfortable in your ignorance, and don’t be hostile when others point it out to you. And when you get out of the cave, don’t neglect your duty to go back in, and pull the others out, too.

So if it’s of any encouragement to you, please take heart knowing that while it seems the world around us has gone mad, scores of 15 and 16 year olds in my English classes are having deep, life-altering lessons and discussions through the power of the written word. We don’t decide who is right or wrong.  We ask ourselves if we are right or wrong.  We learn how to think, not what to think.  We try to see life from different perspectives, and we try to value other opinions.

It’s not just my class.  I have no doubt my colleagues and other English teachers around the country are doing the same.  I’m not implying that we’re changing the world, but we’re at least attempting a stamp out a bit of ignorance and encourage understanding.

So, to the rest of America, let’s stop acting like we’ve lost our ever-loving minds.  Let’s not preach fear, name-calling, or bigotry. Pause. Breathe.  Shut out all the media and dig into an eye-opening book instead that’s going to challenge you—then talk to your family about it around the Thanksgiving table.

Oh, and if you’d like to join in on one of my classes, I have a few open desks.

 

Love,

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“You should never read just for ‘enjoyment.’ Read to make yourself smarter! Less judgmental. More apt to understand your friends’ insane behavior, or better yet, your own. Pick ‘hard books.’ Ones you have to concentrate on while reading. And for god’s sake, don’t let me ever hear you say, ‘I can’t read fiction. I only have time for the truth.’ Fiction is the truth, fool! Ever hear of ‘literature’? That means fiction, too, stupid.”
― John Waters, Role Models

“When I look back, I am so impressed again with the life-giving power of literature. If I were a young person today, trying to gain a sense of myself in the world, I would do that again by reading, just as I did when I was young.”
― Maya Angelou

“The books transported her into new worlds and introduced her to amazing people who lived exciting lives. She went on olden-day sailing ships with Joseph Conrad. She went to Africa with Ernest Hemingway and to India with Rudyard Kipling. She traveled all over the world while sitting in her little room in an English village.”
― Roald Dahl, Matilda

 

 

7 Everythings I’ve Learned from a Traumatic Event

Happy Valentine’s Day!  On this day I wanted to share a story from one of the most inspirational young couples I’ve ever met.

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Cameron and Bailey before the accident

Meet Cameron and Bailey.

Even though I’ve known Cameron’s mom for several years, and have known of Cameron, I didn’t meet this engaged couple until this past summer when we started attending the same Sunday School class at church.  They were instantly intriguing to me, and I knew I’d want to know more about their story.

Cameron was in a life-threatening car accident a little over a year ago in which he lost his left arm {along with many other injuries that Bailey will explain below}.  He fought for his life for many months in the hospital afterwards.

What I adore about this couple is how they’ve allowed God to take this hellish event to transform their entire lives with such maturity.  As soon as he was healthy enough, Cameron and Bailey started attending church on the regular.  Instead of sitting around feeling sorry for himself, Cameron has decided to give back to his community and is a contributing member of the community.  For example, he helps adults and children with workouts four nights a week, and he regularly volunteers with the kids at our church.

It also seems to me that God specifically hand-picked Bailey just for Cameron. I find it fascinating that she has worked with amputees and knew exactly how to help him adjust {coincidence? um. no.} She has been faithful to her commitment to him through this entire situation {talk about “for better or for worse”}.  While many would be scared to face such a tragic event, Bailey has embraced it.  I asked her one time if she ever felt insecure about Cameron’s physical condition after the accident, and she immediately said, “Absolutely not!”

Even though she is about a decade younger than me, she exudes wisdom, I knew I had to have them share their story for my 7 Everythings I’ve Learned series.  This one is specifically from Bailey and what she has learned through this traumatic event.

Enjoy:

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My name is Bailey and I am 23 years old. I have a wonderful fiancé whom I’ve been dating for eight years, and eventually I will become Mrs. Cameron Renfro. People used to give me a questioning look when I told them the fun fact that I’ve dated someone for that long and I’m only 23 years old; now I often see a jaw drop when I tell them my fiancé was in a terrible car accident with multiple traumatic injuries, and now lives as an amputee . . . that word still doesn’t roll off the tongue, but I’m not sure it ever will. Then again, at one point in my life prayers didn’t “roll off the tongue” either, and now they come easily.

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Cameron’s car after the wreck

Just over a year ago Cameron was in a car accident and suffered multiple life threatening injuries. The doctors told us he had a 10% chance of survival and then followed with not expecting him to “make it.” His life was saved at Stormont-Vail Hospital where the first of his miracles were performed. His liver had been severed, he lost his left arm at the scene, broke his femur, hip, and several facial bones. Stormont-Vail stopped the bleeding in his liver which initially saved his life. God placed several amazing surgeons and nurses in the right place at the right time, and we are forever grateful. They were able to get him stable enough to fly to KU Medical where he spent 30 days in the ICU—followed by a month on different floors of the hospital and inpatient rehab before returning home 64 days later. Once home we continued to travel to Kansas City three times a week for outpatient therapy until April, at which point he continued therapy closer to home.

So where are we today? Cam is healthy and well and working his tail off to make the most of the life God has gifted him. If you haven’t been through a totally life changing event that flipped you upside down and sideways—changing everything you know about life, I am so happy for you. If you have, I hope you have learned from that experience and been able to grow from it. I pray that when hardship hits, you find the energy to look for the positives, strength to carry on, and your love for God, your family, and friends grows tremendously.

When Courtney asked me to write about “7 Everything’s I’ve Learned” I started making a list. And that is what is wonderful about all of this—I have learned SO MUCH through this experience that I actually have to narrow it down. I want you to know this is from my perspective, and what I have learned is from my own two eyes, heart, and soul. I’m not saying Cam wouldn’t feel the same way I do, but I have a feeling his blog entry would be a tad different 😉

Now I’m going to seem a little contradictory here, but that’s because it’s not a smooth journey. Learning life lessons and learning about yourself are very difficult things to do. You don’t see the process while it’s ongoing. You only see the current hardship, the obstacles, the world turning its back against you, flipping and spinning you round and round . . . until it stops and you can breathe for a second before the next whirlwind of events. But it’s rounds 3, 4, 9, 10, 20 that you realize you learned something. After a while you are able to look back at where you were and recognize your growth. You develop a new understanding of obstacles, challenges, and adversity and know that in the end, you will survive.

And with that lengthy yet vague introduction I would like to share with you the 7 {most important} Everything’s I have learned.

1. Breaking down actually builds you back up. At the time you feel the weakest, like you can’t hold onto your emotions any longer or you will explode – do! Let it go. Ugly cry, smear your make-up, let your nose run, and let it all out. Also, I suggest you pray. Talk to God and get whatever you need off your chest. You will feel incredibly relieved once this moment has past. The tears will eventually stop, make-up wipes off, and when you are somewhat presentable to the world again, you will most likely feel a huge weight lifted off your shoulders. The hard part is that it takes a while to get to this point – days, weeks, maybe even months. But once you let go without holding back, it’s like it all washes away.

2. You are stronger than you know. It’s true. You see other people go through all kinds of experiences and wonder how they do it. When it’s your turn, you probably won’t see it in yourself, but odds are someone is admiring how you are handling the situation. Strength is a funny concept; there are so many ways to be strong and everyone is in their own unique way.

3. There is no room for “what if’s.” When going through the loops and swoops and chaos of life, don’t get caught up in these questions:  “What if ____ had happened?” “What if I had done_____ instead?” When things get scary and you don’t know what is going on, turn to God, but try not to ask such questions. It can tear you apart. God has a plan for everything and while we might not understand or even agree with it, you cannot change what has happened in the past. You can hope to influence the future in one way or another, you have a choice of how to deal with your cards, but there is no answer to the question, “what if?” While that might seem frustrating, just trust in God and know He will take care of you because that is really all you can do about the past.

4. Plant your own green grass. Making the best of a situation doesn’t come easily. Complaining does. But how far does that get you? You cannot compare your life experience to others’, or be resentful of what they have NOT had to deal with. That kind of attitude gets you nowhere. Some people would love to have your green grass, so take care of it, love it, and grow with it.

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Bailey with Cameron during physical therapy after the accident.

 

5. The bad days are going to happen. It’s all a part of the healing process. Being as strong as a superhero is hard to do 100% of the time and that is okay. Bad days are going to drag on, things might get worse before they get better, and occasionally your attitude makes you compatible to a walking grenade that could explode at any second. Unfortunately, stress creates more of these days than we would like, but they make you appreciate the good days . . . and how much better a good attitude feels than a bad one. Go to bed at night, say your prayers, and get ready for a better day ahead.

6. Tragedy only lasts as long as you allow it. I am not saying the heartbreaks will stop completely or as long as you have a positive attitude things will go your way. But I am saying that when reflecting there is ALWAYS something to be thankful for. I never would have guessed the positives that would follow our “tragedy,” but once I look for them, I lose count of all the blessings we’ve received.

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Embracing the change

7. Prayer works. I saved the best for last. I mentioned earlier that I haven’t always prayed a lot, and I still don’t pray as often as I should, but what I have learned is that prayer works. God heals in many ways, and when it feels like there is no hope left, pray about it. There is always hope. God is always there for you when it feels no one else understands. He listens, He forgives, He answers, and He is always present. A woman we met when Cam was at KU Med said over and over again, “The more prayers that go up, the more blessings come down,” and that is one of my very favorite sayings. I have witnessed and received physical, emotional, and spiritual healing – sometimes all in one day. I am very thankful that I have had the opportunity to witness the power of prayer, and I am excited to keep learning more about it.

 

You might be able to gather that our journey has been a long one; but I also hope you recognize the positive tone that goes along with it. These were not easy lessons to learn, but I am thankful that I have. A positive mindset, support of loved ones, and trusting in God will get you through anything . . . and that now means everything to me.

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Our culture is obsessed with “love,” but what is depicted in various forms of media is based on warm fuzzies and lust.  True love stands firm when the storms of adversity try to knock you down.  I hope on this Valentine’s Day that you can see what love should look like through Cameron and Bailey and her life lessons will be of encouragement to you no matter what you’re going through.

Love,

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What Happened When I Wore the Same Outfit for Three Weeks

The past has no power over the present

I love clothes.

No.  I mean I really love clothes.

When I started making my own money in high school, I probably could have supported a small army with the amount I spent on clothing.  In fact, in high school, I had three closets stuffed full.

I also cared about what I wore.

A lot.

You guys, I even had a journal where I kept track of what clothes I wore to make sure I didn’t have any repeats within a month.

Vanity much?

In 2012, a dear friend of mine introduced me to the book 7 by Jen Hatmaker.  This book completely changed my life.  You can read Jen Hatmaker’s synopsis of her book here.  In a nutshell, though, she describes 7 as “[a] seven-month experimental mutiny against excess, tackling seven areas of overconsumption in the spirit of a fast; a fast from greed, irresponsibility, apathy, and insatiability. Each area boiled down to just seven choices for a month:

Food.

Clothes.

Possessions.

Media.

Waste.

Spending.

Stress.”

This book had such an impact on me that I wanted to share its message with others.  From January to July of 2013, I led a small group at our church where we read through the book and did our own monthly experiments by fasting and purging the very things that steal our time, money, and health (among other things).  Each month focused solely on one of the categories above.  Our goals were to simplify our lives by eradicating the excess and thus, making more room for God.

Meeting Jen Hatmaker, author of 7.  I love her.

Meeting Jen Hatmaker, author of 7. I love her.

Because of my obsession, I was dreading the clothes month.  During that time I had to come clean to my group.  I encouraged everyone to count all their clothes and shoes.  I discovered that I had:

  • 377 items of clothing {not including any accessories or undergarments}
  • 41 pairs of shoes.

For my fast that month, I:

  • gave away 100 items of clothing from my closet,
  • vowed not to go shopping for new clothes for six months {torture, I tell ya},
  • vowed to give away something old for every new item I bought for my wardrobe {forever}, and
  • only wore ten items of clothing (not counting undergarments) for 30 days.  That included: one pair of grey pants, one pair of khaki pants, one pair of jeans, one black top, one cream sweater, one green turtleneck sweater, one pink sweater, one KU t-shirt, one pair of yoga pants for home, and one fleece sweatshirt.  I did not wear any jewelry except my wedding rings, but I did allow myself to wear unlimited scarves and several pairs of different shoes.
The 100 items I gave away during my 7 Challenge in 2013.

The 100 items I gave away during my 7 Challenge in 2013.

It was so, so hard at first, but ended up being so, so freeing.  In those thirty days, only one of my 150 students said anything to me.  It was a little freshman girl who finally asked, “Mrs. B., do you really like that turtleneck?  You seem to wear it a lot.”  Even my student aide, who knew I was doing this clothing fast, admitted she didn’t even notice while it was going on.

That experiment really intrigued me.  I was so self-conscious about wearing the same ten articles of clothing to work for a month . . . and no one even seemed to notice.  Hmmmm.

Fast Forward to Summer School 2015.

I teach summer school every summer to make extra money.  This past school year, I worked an average of 60-70 hours a week because we’re desperately trying to pay off our debt.  The thought of four more weeks of early mornings and dress clothes seemed particularly daunting this summer.  Plus, to be honest, I’ve gained enough weight that only a couple of my dress pants comfortably fit me at the moment.  Dressing up—something that was practically a hobby of mine—had now become something I loathed.

Seriously though.  I spend SO.MUCH.TIME. just thinking about what I’m going to wear.  I bet on average, I stare at my closet for about five minutes in the morning before picking something out. I have 190 contractual work days during the school year.  If I do that every morning, that means in just one school year I’m wasting 950 minutes contemplating my outfit.  That boils down to almost 16 hours.

I thought to my fatigued self, “I really wish I could only wear those two khaki pants {the ones that actually fit me} for the duration of summer school.”

Then I had a better thought, “Uh . . . why don’t you just do it?”

As a semi-joke I threw out this idea on Facebook:

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So many of my friends urged and dared me to do it.  I’m not one to run in the face of awkward situations, and I certainly love social experiments, so of course I made it happen.

My main goal was to see if anyone would notice my wardrobe or not, so I decided to go with a very simple outfit (as seen in the picture above):

  • BLACK TOP {I rotated five different black tops – some short sleeved, some long sleeved, but all solid black}.
  • KHAKI PANTS {I rotated between two different pairs}.
  • SAME SHOES {knock-off Birkenstocks}.
  • SCARVES {I wore different scarves for variety—rotating between about five different ones}.
  • EARRINGS {I also wore different earrings for variety—rotating between about seven different ones},

HOW SUMMER SCHOOL WORKS

It’s important for you to know that summer school is atypical compared to a regular school day.

Students meet from 8:30-11:30 AM for a four-week period.  This year, I had 16 students {ranging from 9th-11th graders} in my English class who were with me that entire three-hour block. They independently worked on a virtual course, so my role was more of a facilitator; therefore, I did a lot of monitoring from my computer and worked with students one-on-one.  I was not up in front of the class teaching a curriculum.

Once students finish their virtual course, they may check out of summer school.  I have some students who check out the first week and some who stay until the very last second.

WHAT I DID

The first week, I wore the same kind of outfit {khakis, white top, different cardigans, and different scarves}.  I decided that wasn’t extreme enough, so I went with the outfit previously described.  I wore just the khakis and black tops for the last three full weeks of summer school.

WHO NOTICED

I already knew many of these students prior to summer school, so I fully expected one who was already comfortable with me to say, “Um . . . didn’t you just wear that yesterday?!?!?”

That never happened.

Some of my friends argued that a student would never say such a thing to a teacher, but you would be shocked what kids utter to their authorities—even about their wardrobe.  See my comment about the clothes fast I did in 2013.

It finally became evident that I would need to be proactive.  I waited to ask students who stayed until the last week {there were seven} if they noticed anything about my outfit.  I only surveyed them since they saw me for the full three weeks in virtually identical outfits.

This is how I approached it.  As kids finished their course, I pulled them aside in the hallway and asked, “Hey, did you happen to notice anything unusual about what I wore each day?”  I asked them individually so the other students couldn’t hear or be influenced by others’ responses.

I also asked the three other summer school teachers, the secretary, and the principal—all of whom saw me pretty much every day.

Out of the twelve people I asked, only two students said they noticed I wore the same outfit and one fellow teacher said she just noticed I wore khaki pants every day.

Everyone else was perplexed by the question.  I got a lot of responses like:

  • “You did???”
  • “No you didn’t.  I would have noticed that!”
  • “Are you serious?”
  • “What?  You wore that for the past three weeks?  No way!”

For the two who did notice, I asked: “When did you notice I was wearing the same thing every day?  Did it bother you?  Did you think it was weird?  Did you think something was wrong with me?  Did you and any other student talk about my outfits?”

Both students’ responses were quite similar.  They each said they noticed around the third week but didn’t really think anything of it. They never discussed it with anyone else.

WHAT THIS TAUGHT ME

I’m sure in a more traditional setting at school, my recurring outfit would be more obvious to students and co-workers. But gracious, I am still shocked by the results of these two experiments.

Above all else, the results have taught me this:

No one cares about you more than you.

{I think we all need to read that last line one more time.}

We spend so much time, money, and effort on our appearances and no one really gives a flip.  I care way more about how I look than anyone else ever will.

I am certainly not advocating that you dress inappropriately, like a slob, and for the love, please don’t abandon your good hygiene practices.  But stop caring so much about what others think. Chances are they aren’t thinking about you all that much anyway.  I laugh at my high-school-self who thought someone might actually notice if I wore the same outfit within 30 days.

Puh-lease.

Consider how much you pay attention to others.  Do you really care about other people’s appearance?  Do you care if someone wears expensive name brand clothing or not?  If they’re trendy or not?  If they wear the same outfit often or not?

If you do care, ask yourself why.  Why does it seriously matter?  In what way does someone else’s wardrobe affect me in any way?

If your friends care and judge you because you aren’t wearing Banana Republic from head to toe and a Coach purse on your shoulder . . . I’d say it’s time to find some new friends and grow up. And ask yourself why you care that they care.

OTHER EFFECTS

I was surprised to discover how wearing the same outfit every day had positive effects on me that I didn’t anticipate.  I didn’t feel stressed or anxious in the mornings.  I didn’t have to spend time worrying about my outfit. This resulted in me getting to sleep in a little later and thus feeling more refreshed throughout the entire day.  In addition, I was comfortable since I wore clothes that I knew fit well.  Who knew that the daily outfit could have such a major effect on someone?

We as humans sure like to over-complicate life when it really could be so simple. I mean, clothes’ original intention was to cover our privates and keep us warm.  We now overwhelm ourselves with thousands of options.  For what?  To be trendy, attractive, more popular?

I don’t know, friends.  I still love me a cute outfit, but I’m kind of over it.

SO . . .

After telling people about this little journey of mine, turns out, this idea wasn’t so original—wearing the same thing every day is becoming more and more popular and so are capsule wardrobes.

I am seriously considering wearing the same basic outfit every day for this entire upcoming school year—the experience was that fabulous.

I said before that I am all about social, awkward experiences.  Do I have any dares from my readers?  Stay tuned for May 2016 . . . you may just see a similar post from me after a nine-month experiment. {wink}.

Love,

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Have any of you tried a capsule wardrobe or something similar?  I’d love to hear from you in the comments.