Catching Up:Work, Soccer, and Fist-Bumping the Holy Spirit

Dear friends, it has been 2 weeks since my last post, and I must say that I have missed the blog. To say that I have been buried is a dramatic understatement, but let me catch you up on the doings of our lives right now. Since we last spoke, I have started transitioning to a new position at work. As a result, I have spent 3 days of my life in outside audits of our program. Don’t get me wrong, my inner nerd loves the analytical, problem-solving work that comes with the audit process, but that whole scenario can be intense!

I believe it was shortly after the audits concluded that I discovered that I had gained back almost all of the 20 pounds of divorce weight that I lost last year. See previous post about Oreo binges for how this transpired. Lucky for me, weight watchers was having a sale, so I’m currently back on the wagon. However, I understand the program much better this time around, and I’m truly going for long-term change. This means small, incremental changes. This looks like me actually trying to get my steps each day, stretching and doing crunches in the morning, and working in a 7 minute high intensity interval workout a couple of times a week . Honestly, getting those things into my schedule was a process of small, incremental changes that feels truly monumental. But, I’m going for life overhaul status here, so it doesn’t really matter how slow or how long it takes as long as it leads to achieving my goals.

Speaking of goals, May Lee has started the soccer season. She had a great first couple of weeks of practices and even scored a goal during her first game. You will not hear about this from her, however, as she prefers to regale others with the tale of the rainbow sno-cone that followed the game. In fact, that was the story she told our team at Relay for Life when we drove to Memphis for the event after her game. It was my 4th Relay and it is such a good time of remembering and honoring the people I have lost to cancer. However, it made for a long day for the both of us. I really wanted to stay for the luminaria ceremony, which didn’t start until after dark. Looking back, the wise decision would have been to have left before the ceremony, as my child was beginning to melt down and the ceremony wasn’t exactly coming together on time. The kicker to the whole affair was learning that they use real candles lit by real fire to illuminate the white, paper bags decorated in remembrance or in honor of those lost to cancer or those who have survived cancer. There is nothing like watching the bag that your 5 year old has lovingly decorated for your departed loved one go up in flames and a stranger quickly and aggressively stomp it out to put a swift end to the party. Might I suggest those battery-powered tea lights for next year?

We drove home that night and got in bed at midnight. We didn’t make it to church that morning, and I spent the day trying to catch up on homework. I should be doing homework right now, but I’ve come to accept that fact that I’m never going to catch up and have settled for consistently being half a week behind. That is what happens when you take a graduate class while working full-time and single-parenting. Making an A is no longer the goal and passing the class is the new gold standard. Hallelujah and Amen.

tiredsoccerThis week has been filled with more excitement. Even though we were still slightly hung over with fatigue from our Memphis trip, we still did work, school, and soccer on Monday. She wasn’t exactly feeling it this practice.

Tuesday began with a rude start. We made it out the door on time that morning as a result of a great of stress and strain. I put May Lee in the car and walked around to my side of the car, only to discover that the gate to the backyard was open. “No, no, no” I mumbled under my breath as I followed the trail of shredded trash into the back yard, evidence that my dog had in fact gotten out and was having a good time. However, he was no longer in the backyard and had no doubt ventured out to find more garbage to enjoy. Reminded that it was trash day, I wheeled the can to the street and looked around. No dog. I let May Lee know what was going on, and she promptly broke into tears. My blood pressure was rising as the threat of being late to work loomed over my head, but I dug deep and found some patience and self-control and explained to my child that our dog was not lost forever and we only needed to look for him.

About this time, I hear yelling across the street at the end of the cove. I quickly walk that direction and soon discover the source of the yelling. It was my poor neighbor trying to get into her car while being joyfully and lovingly mauled by my giant yellow lab. That dog bounces like Tigger on steroids, and he was doing so at the expense of my poor neighbor and her car. I joined my neighbor in her yelling, “Stax! Stax! NOOOOO! GET DOWN!” and he actually turned and ran to me. My neighbor, God bless her, was so kind and understanding.

I returned Stax to the back yard, rejoiced with May Lee that he had been found, and dropped her off to school. Shortly thereafter, I arrive at work 2 minutes late, anxious about the potential penalties of my 2 minute infraction, and exhausted and stressed from a plate too full. Without any provocation, I commenced to throwing the adult version of a temper tantrum, if there is such a thing. Not my finest moment, and I spent the next couple of hours trying to pull myself out of the shame spiral. I said a prayer and my phone rang. It was my therapist’s office calling and offering to work me in for an earlier appointment, that afternoon in fact. I fist-bumped the Holy Spirit for the quick work in the prayer-answering department and headed off to therapy. It seems important to the overall theme of “I am over-extended right now” to let you know that my therapist is an hour and a half away from where I live, so add a 3 hour round trip to the chaos of the week.

The next morning, we struggled to get out the door, and as we exited I remembered that it was school picture day. I looked May Lee up and down, smoothed her hair and decided that we were good on the school picture front. I’m interested to see if I regret that decision when the proofs come back. That night, I started a new bible study that again got us to bed late. I think Thursday we finally got a reprieve in our schedule, but we hit it hard again Friday when I went on-call for work and May Lee’s school had a tail-gate party. We skipped the football game so that we could get home and wash her soccer uniform for today’s game.

Today, like the other days, has been full to the brim, and I’ve only made it half way through my to-do list. I got up at my usual time of 5 a.m. rather than sleeping in, so I would have more time to get things done. I managed to catch up on my reading in the Bible and in The Gift of Imperfection by Brene Brown. Brene really hit me where I live this morning, so I had many thoughts to put down on paper. May Lee woke up and we ate breakfast, laid around in pajamas, and generally relaxed most of the morning. Then work started making my phone ding and ping and generally intrude upon what was going on in that moment with my child, which was really requiring my full attention. May Lee was hungry and insisting on a “snack” and by snack she meant lots of lots of sugar. She was not going for my limits of something healthy to eat and was lying on her back on the dirty kitchen floor in protest. All the while work is dinging my phone in the background. I finally tell May Lee “You can choose to be hungry or you can choose one of the 6 choices I have offered you, but this conversation is done”. She stares at the ceiling, dead pan, and declares, “I…want….to die”. I look at her, she stares at the ceiling. A tiny smile begins to crack at the left corner of her mouth, and I begin to giggle. She breaks into a laugh and I follow. She jumps up, gets a snack, and carries on with her life.

Meanwhile, as I suffer from the resulting high blood pressure and ponder my child’s mental state, the phone actually rings. I spend the next hour and a half working. To paint you a picture, I am on the phone, snapping my fingers and gesturing wildly to my child, and somehow obtain the desired results of a child fully dressed in her soccer uniform. I’m packing shin guards and cleats while on speaker phone with an automated system, which is just an experience filled with delight. I’m juggling 2 cell phones, a Franklin Covey planner, a camping chair, and a bag of May Lee’s soccer stuff as I walk to the soccer field, and I’m sending text messages and e-mails from those 2 phones while my child warms up. I hate that I’m that person, but it is what it is. For now, at least.

The actual game was rather entertaining. May Lee was not into playing today and spent most of the game with a drooped head and slumped shoulders. That was until she began to just let her body fall to the ground. Once on the ground, she commenced to somersaulting. She got in about 6 good somersaults before she actually had to play again. She generally engaged in the game at that point, until she got nailed in the chest with the ball. She ran to the sideline, and we had some snuggles and a motivational chat. I could tell that she was feeling our sideline motivational moment as she stood out on the field with her team and performed the chicken dance. For May Lee, the highlight, again, was the sno-cone. For me, the highlight was the chicken dance and seeing her enjoy her friends.

tyingshoesThe rest of the afternoon has been spent doing laundry, doing homework, and briefly napping. We also began the “learning to tie shoes” experience, and it was a little rocky at first. She triumphed in the end and was feeling pretty proud of herself.

Tomorrow is another full day with another long list of things to do that I can’t possibly get through, and that kicks off another full week with its impossibly long to-do list. But this is just a season, and this too shall pass. In many ways, I’m having some success. In other ways, I’m failing. Such is life. At this point, I just want to be healthy at the end of this and not stroke out from the sharp rises in blood pressure. Even more, I want a happy, healthy, resilient kid that is able to some day look back and see how hard her mother worked to give her a decent life. And on that note, I’m going to retire for the evening, so I can get up and do it again tomorrow. Sleep well, friends

 

 

Girl Culture: Part 1

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This week I found myself in the high heat of a tempering process that culminated in a new and hopefully more mature perspective about women and female culture. The timing of the events that lead to this epiphany can only be by divine design, so let me preface this story with a brief synopsis of what has been stirring in my heart for the last few months.

Well, in actuality, the interest in taking a deeper look into what is going on with the female gender in culture, in church, and in relationships has been stirring in me for years. Giving birth to a daughter will do that, you know, and other things have come up at church or work, but my attitudes and relational styles have essentially remained the same. Over the summer, our church was doing a series on the minor prophets, so I was reading along in my morning quiet time. In fact, I was reading in the prophets and in the gospels at the same time, which was absolutely mind-blowing, and I was happy as a nerdy little clam.

But then an incident occurred that really stirred up some past trauma, and I discussed the incident and its ramifications on my mental and emotional state with my therapist. Being an older and wiser woman, she was able to brilliantly tie in my growing interest in women’s issues with what I was currently going through. She floored me with the undeniable truth of this simple statement “Well, your wounds are really a product of being a woman”. My awareness and perspective was immediately opened up to a higher level that allowed me to see a new and very real truth about the attacks on my life, and over the course of the following weeks some things really started to make sense.

With my interest in all things uniquely female now peaked, I found myself grudgingly leaving behind my nerdy love of those crazy prophets and hopping all over the bible. I started in Genesis, which seems like a logical choice for new beginnings and perspectives, and looked into the creation of Eve, the only being not created from the dust of the earth but from a piece of creation already animated by the breath of life. Eve was the first earthly being to recognize deception, which I found to echo beautifully in the proverbs where the voice of wisdom is the voice of a woman. The voice of the woman appears again as the voice of love in the Song of Solomon, a book that neatly parallels the proverbs. And if you really think about it, it is no mistake that the attribute of wisdom and the attribute of love is given to the same voice, the same being. Speaking truth in love is a theme echoed throughout the bible, because wisdom offered without love goes nowhere, whereas wisdom offered in love goes straight to the heart.

That is no small charge, to be the voice of wisdom and love. As I studied more and more deeply into what the female image of God really means, the responsibility grew heavier and heavier on my heart. Which leads up the events of this week, where in one day I found myself in the dead center of the crucible of female relationships. In the morning, I was rallying with multiple women who are battling in their homes a war that is common to all women. In the afternoon, I find myself in the middle of a group of women rallying against another group of women. I went home that day absolutely reeling from the effects of finding myself in the middle of those 2 extremes. My mind full of questions, I stumbled around in a haze for the next few days trying to figure it all out.

Here is what my eyes have been opened to thus far. As girls, we learn immediately what being in girl culture means. Not one of us passed through the early years unscathed from this battle. You were either “in the sorority” or you were in “the anti-sorority”. I use the word sorority here, because I can think of no other word that captures the idea of a group of women that have banded together as a closed group that allows new members in only after those members have been approved by a certain set of criteria. Anti-sorority refers to the group of women that forms in reaction to that group and the hurt it can cause. They may seem like the “good girls” in the scenario, but that group is often just as closed and just as hurtful with it’s own set of criteria as the sorority. (So not talking about Greek life here, so carry on unoffended, my Greek life friends)

And the truth is, those groups do not form and remain static. As I reflected upon how this dynamic has played out in my own life, I see now that there were seasons of my life where I slid into the sorority-like group and mentality, seasons where I slid into the anti-sorority group and mentality, and seasons when I was somehow able to rise above that dynamic and interact with all groups and all females as individuals without much static. A deeper truth about this dynamic is that it is often so ingrained in female culture that we don’t even recognize that we are sliding into those factions of femininity, or that we are being exclusive or reactionary in response to the dynamic playing out in female culture. We don’t see it and we end up placing blame and responsibility for conflict on people that it doesn’t belong to.

At least, that is how it plays out in youth. As girls, we can’t really see it. We know it’s there, but we really don’t have the first clue about what is going on. As we get a little older, we have a better understanding of the dynamic at play, and the social struggle gets real. As fully-grown women, some of us grow out of it and some of us never do. A great majority of us see it and bemoan it but continue to participate in it on some level because we can’t see a way out of it. Some of us stay bound to it as a result of the lies that our insecurities feed us and thereby blind us to the truth that will set us free from it. I can honestly say, that I have walked through all of those scenarios in my life.

What’s worse, is that the whole ugly thing ends up getting written off as being “just how women are”, and to that grossly false idea I shout a resounding “NO!” I am still sorting through the full impact and meaning of this dynamic at play, the whole idea of female culture, and what can change it to bring it back around to reflecting the female image of God as He intended it, but I do know that right now I am standing firmly on “NO!” I am officially rejecting the sorority and anti-sorority culture in all areas of my life- personally, professionally, socially, and spiritually. Finding a new way of relating and participating in female culture is going to take a place of top priority on my life overhaul to-do list. And you can bet your bottom dollar that I’ll be raising my daughter to recognize the sorority/anti-sorority dynamic, to stay away from it, to release herself from it when she finds herself in it, and to conduct herself in a manner that honors the female image of God. With that being said and publicly declared before my mom and the 3 other people that read these things, I must get busy figuring out how to conduct myself in a manner that honors the female image of God. Rest assured that you will be hearing more from me about this piece of my journey.

A Word About Grief

By trade, I am a therapist- the mental health kind- and I have spent many years studying, observing, and theorizing about human behavior. Since grief is an inevitable part of the human experience, it has been a theme of study and practice throughout my career. Every culture, every group, and every family has its own beliefs, rituals, and traditions surrounding loss, dying, and death, and they serve an important purpose in the survival of that group.

Grief and loss signal to a family or group that it is time to circle the wagons, to move closer together, to conserve and share resources, and to work for the benefit of the entire group. There is a kind of unity inside of grief that is not experienced during any other time. At least, that is what a healthy grieving process looks like. I think about the atmosphere of unity in grief that our country experienced during the days following September 11th with all of the amazing stories of humanity transcending one of its darkest hours with faith, resilience, and bold acts of generosity and kindness. People worked sacrificially to meet each other’s needs, because everyone knew instinctively that it was time to take care of each other. It was time to circle the wagons and people didn’t wait for instructions on what to do or worry about how others may perceive their actions, they simply acted.

September 11th was a trauma to all of us, and we are learning more and more that trauma is inter-generational. That means that even the kiddos that were born years later are subject to the repercussions of the original trauma. We know that in families, the effects of trauma often result in addictive behaviors, even several generations away from the original trauma. The addictive behaviors serve the purpose of avoiding the pain associated with trauma, and it blocks the natural and healthy process of grief and recovery.

When I look at our country today, I see unresolved trauma and a pattern of addiction. The trauma of 9/11 was so great that the stress still runs through our veins. At some point in our collective grieving process, fear was able to weave a destructive web around our hearts and minds. With each new tragedy, large or small, our collective nervous system was overwhelmed and unable to manage the heartache of a new loss. We retreated to whatever soothed us, to whatever temporarily numbed the pain. Then the next tragedy occurred and we again retreated to our self-soothing mechanisms, and this cycle has played out so many times that we don’t even need to retreat any more. At this point in the cycle of our collective addiction, there is no one left in the middle to retreat outward when tragedy strikes. Everyone is now permanently spread out, isolating in their sanctuaries of false security, and attempting to communicate with each other by shouting across the divides.

Friends, what happens when the wagons aren’t circled but are spread far and wide with no form of effective communication? The answer should make your blood run cold, because you know the cost is high and the loss of life is imminent.  If we want to survive, we can no longer allow our first response to tragedy to be debates over policy. Don’t get me wrong, the social activist in me loves a good policy debate, but I truly believe that our retreat behind policy is taking the human element out of the tragedy. It is our drug, numbing the pain and heartache so we don’t have to feel it anymore.

Like everyone else, I don’t have answers or fixes for the senseless tragedies that our country continues to experience week after week, but I do know that collectively we are trauma-weary and coping in an unhealthy way. I also know that without unity we will be devoured, either by our own unhealthy pattern or by an outside force that we are now too unhealthy to defend against. It could be that those first steps toward unity may lie in allowing ourselves to grieve together once again. If we grieve together as one nation, we will not be washed away by the sadness. We will transcend as we draw closer and are able to really hear each other again.

Friends, it is time to circle the wagons.

Eunice Gave Me Some of Her Giddy-Up, and It Has Been Glorious

For a period of several months during my morning quiet time, the itch to get back into writing tickled the back of my mind. God really uses that morning quiet time to put things on my heart, and He’d been pressing the writing issue quite a bit while I, in turn, was faithfully ignoring Him. All the standard objections were levied: I haven’t written in years, I have nothing to say, I don’t have the time…and so on.

In the middle of this cosmic volley of divine requests and pathetic excuses, I received an e-mail invitation to fill out a form and potentially be a part of a book launch team for Sophie Hudson’s new book, Giddy Up Eunice. I was delighted by the thought, because I love her books and it was kind of like a Gideon-and-the-fleece moment for me. “Ok Lord, you say you want me to write, so I’ll know you’re serious if I get selected for this thing.” So, I filled out the form and almost immediately forgot about the launch team, because I fill out lots of these types of forms and I have yet to win any of Dave Ramsey’s money. I did, however, make a mental note of the release date for the book, because I wasn’t missing out on that action.

Let me tell you a little bit about my journey with Sophie Hudson’s books. I cannot remember the where, when, or how of my discovery of A Little Salty to Cut the Sweet, but it was shortly after I relocated from Florida to Arkansas. May Lee and I were living in my parents’ house while recovering from divorce and the insanity that led to the divorce. I was back home but didn’t really know how to be back home. A Little Salty to Cut the Sweet brought wave after nostalgic wave of home and family history, and it really helped break the ice of being back home after a very long ordeal. It also made me laugh until I had to put the book down and wipe the tears from my eyes so that I could see to continue reading. Straight up, uncontrollable belly laughs, my friends.

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If A Little Salty broke the ice around my heart while also turning my giggle box upside down, Home is Where My People Are took the thawing out to the next level. Sophie’s stories felt so familiar to me that they took me back to a time and place before all the heartache and helped me remember what having true friends and family was like, how much I was missing out on by sitting on the sidelines, and how deeply I wanted those kinds of relationships back in my life. It really renewed my motivation to start bringing down some of those emotional walls and try to genuinely engage in relationships again. And like before, Sophie had me crying both tears of laughter and tears of genuine heartfelt emotion.

Then the day arrived that I opened my e-mail and received the notice that I had in fact been chosen for the Giddy Up, Eunice launch team. At this point, God had put a name for a blog on my heart, and now He had responded to my Gideon-esque launch team fleece. So naturally, I immediately obeyed. Just kidding, I have a hard head, so what I really did was take it to my spiritual running partner who tried not to knock me over the head as she kindly stated, “I think you need to write a blog”.

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Eunice arrived at my doorstep soon thereafter, and I read that thing like my life depended on it. I usually read slowly, only reading small sections at a time so that my mind can digest the content. Not so with Eunice. I couldn’t seem to put it down, and when I hit the pages where Sophie hops on her soapbox and demands that we not discount our importance and STAY IN IT, I was ugly crying. Honestly, I’m getting a little misty-eyed right now just telling you about it. Powerful stuff, ladies.

But it didn’t stop there. Oh no, the hits just kept on coming. I came to the pages where Sophie recounts all of her doubts about writing and they happened to be pretty much identical to my own fears: “what if people don’t read it? Or worse, what if people read it?! I feel icky about sharing my feelings!!!” But then Sophie’s wise friend asks her if she believes God gave her the words. When Sophie says yes, the friend lovingly commands her to trust Him with it. “YOU TRUST HIM WITH IT.” Deeply convicted doesn’t even begin to describe my feelings after reading that passage.

If A Little Salty to Cut the Sweet and Home is Where My People Are were gentle icebreakers and sweet reminders of the joys of living life, Giddy Up, Eunice was the swift kick in the rear that I needed to actually get going and make a move. The next day, I started this blog. While reading Eunice, I participated in a women’s walking/running group that ended with a 5K, I started working with my running partner to generate ideas about how to serve the women of this community, and I finally got involved with my church by volunteering in the 2nd grade.

Like all of the other books, Eunice came just when I needed her. I’ve started reading the book again and in small sections so my brain can really digest the content. This time, not only did I get a great reading experience, I got the wonderful fellowship of the ladies on the launch team. It has been a joy, and I am truly grateful for the whole experience. Now, I highly encourage each and every one of you to Giddy Up!

https://www.amazon.com/Giddy-Up-Eunice-Because-Women/dp/1433643111

http://boomama.net

 

 

I Judge You if You Look Good

It’s true. I confess. I judge people by their appearance. You’re shocked, I know, because we never talk about people’s appearance in this culture. And after you wade through the thickness of that sarcasm, I am going to deviate from the usual conversation about media and women and the unhealthy standards that the larger culture throws out there and narrow the conversation down to my little world and my own weird issues. While I’m sure that is super weird to be worried about your appearance because people follow you around with cameras and plaster your picture all over creation, that is not my life and not my weird, so I’m going to stick with what I know.

I’m the type of gal that finds a shirt I like and buys 6 of them in different colors. True story. I’m sure you saw the Steve Jobs story about decision-fatigue and how he wore the same black turtleneck everyday rather than waste valuable brain power on deciding on what clothes to wear. I would like to throw myself and my 6-of-the-same-shirt in with the likes of Steve Jobs, but I really haven’t made that kind of contribution to society so I’ll settle for plain ol’ single-parent decision-fatigue. To be fair, it’s really a type of fatigue that is common to anyone responsible for dressing a small child. Once you’ve spent 30 minutes of your life trying to figure out what shirt your child is referring to when she says “I want to wear my garden shirt”, then abandoning that mission and attempting to sell her on wearing the very on-trend Frozen shirt with Anna and Elsa on the front that is currently clean and easily accessible only to land head first into a very confusing power struggle over pants with belt loops that are not jeans and can only be jeggings or leggings, you understand that sort of fashion-related decision-fatigue.

So, yes, when I see these other moms and single-moms walking around looking like they just stepped out of a magazine, I wonder what planet they came from and how on earth do they have the time and energy to do that. I have a little bit of that egocentric thing  that believes that everyone is “like me”and when faced with the task of putting oneself together for the day in a way that requires any real effort summons their inner Sweet Brown and proclaims “Ain’t nobody got time for that!!!”. But clearly, some of you do have time for that, and I hear rumblings that others of you actually enjoy it. Absolutely fascinating.

Then there is church. Do I really “come as I am” or do I break out the “Sunday best”, and how does one walk that tight-rope of appropriateness when there seems to be so many strong feelings on the subject. I must confess that when the “strong feelings” start coming out, a rebellious streak rises up in me and I want so very badly to show up at that church donning a bed sheet toga. It is, after all, similar to what one might have seen in the first century church. Just keeping it biblical, not to mention incredibly mature. But I have to imagine that in the crowds of 3,000 and 5,000 people that followed Jesus around, there were all kinds of fashion choices represented, and I highly doubt that any of them were thinking about whether or not they were over or under dressed. They were focused on Jesus.

So now that I’ve thrown in a Jesus Juke on top of scaring you with the inner workings of my brain, I have to flip the script a little and tell you about how all of that has changed a little bit over the last few weeks. You see, I have had to come to terms with some self-sabotaging that I was doing in relation to taking care of myself. I mean, who does a 10 week running clinic and gain 10 extra pounds by the end of it? And don’t try to make me feel better by saying it’s all muscle, because I wasn’t pounding weights people, I was running intervals for 30 minutes 2-3 times a week. I was, however, pounding Oreos and cupcakes and leftover chocolate cake from the mess hall at work, so you can see how that might counteract any positive momentum gained by the work in the running clinic.

Oddly enough, this week I’ve found that my new found “hustle” was mostly related to taking care of myself and not so much to finances. When I found myself sliding down the warm, inviting slope of apathy, hustle compelled me to change into workout clothes and do a Jillian Michael’s DVD while May Lee took a nap. Then it had me in the kitchen cooking up some recipes from the Daniel Plan so I wouldn’t encounter any “food emergencies” at work this week. I met up with my running partner and hit the running trail again. I even consistently wore a little bit of make up this week, and that my friends, is a big progress for me in the appearance department.

While I will never be the full make up, full hair, and designer outfit type, there is something to taking care of yourself and being happy with how you look. I’m still feeling the whole thing out and will always fall on the side of believing that you can never fully enjoy a Saturday without indulging in wearing yoga pants and no make up and pulling semi-dirty hair back into a pony tail, but there is something to be said for always giving your best effort and that applies even to the effort you put into yourself.