Put Down the Sharpie.

This post is not about office supplies.  I promise.  Although I do love me some Sharpies.  And a new planner.  And a crisp white legal pad.  Or a yellow one, depending upon the day.  Oh, and then there’s highlighters…


But wait. This post is not about office supplies.  Fellow Sharpie lovers, today I am asking you to do the unthinkable: put them back in the drawer.  Today I’m asking you to step back into elementary school simplicity, to grab a #2 (or any number) pencil and–this part is key–a really good eraser.

“I just turned thirty, and I’m finally willing to admit something about life, or at least about my life, and it’s this:  I should have written in pencil.  I should have viewed the trajectory of my life as a mystery or an unknown.  I should have planned lightly, hypothetically, and should have used words like ‘maybe’ and ‘possibly’.  Instead, every chance I got, I wrote in stone and Sharpie.  I stood on my future, on what I knew, on the certainty of what life would hold for me, as though it was rock.  What I know now is that instead of rock, it’s more like a magic carpet, a slippy-slidy-wiggly thing full of equal parts play and terror.  The ground beneath my feet is lurching and breaking, and making way for an entirely new thing every time I look down, surprised once again by a future I couldn’t have predicted.”

{Shauna Niequist, Cold Tangerines}

Oh Shauna, how she reads my mind.  This life she speaks of, this future she couldn’t have predicted, it is our life too; it is our future too.  No one, and I mean no one, knows what tomorrow holds. 

As women, we love to plan.  We love to get out the planner, paint chalkboards on our kitchen walls, and synchronize our e-calendars with our husbands, kids, and anyone else who will deal with our neuroses.  We lay in bed at night planning out the next day.  What we will wear, what our kids will wear, what we are all going to eat, what we will buy at the grocery store, what time we will need to leave the house to get the best spot in the school pick-up line.  Our plans are so laid-out, so thoughtfully considered in our brains, that by the time we need to write them down, it’s no problem picking up the Sharpie. 

Because, after all, writing it down is just for show.  It’s just that last step to convincing ourselves that we’ve got this.

Well friends, we don’t got this.  You can plan until the cows come home, but the truth is this: when our heads hit the pillow at night, we have absolutely no idea what tomorrow holds for us, for our loved ones, for our world.  So today I ask you to dust off the pencils, rev up the pencil sharpener, and take a stab (no pun intended) at using the words maybe and someday and I hope.

Maybe the kids will get up and put on the clothes I laid out for them.  Truth is, they probably won’t.  And when they’re looking for that must-have shirt, they probably won’t put the other clothes back in the drawer where they belong.  Oh, and they are definitely not wearing matching socks.

Someday I will get to check off every item on that to-do list of mine. But today, I’m pretty sure that most every task will be interrupted by making snacks and breaking up fights and driving from point A to point B (seven times) and changing dirty diapers.

I hope that I get to the school before the other moms, so I can get that front row spot and get out of there before chaos breaks loose.  Truth is, I will be dragging not one but two kids out of their beds, putting on seventeen layers of clothes and hats and scarfs and other ridiculousness.

You get the picture. 

It’s time we threw out the Sharpies (figuratively speaking, of course!) and got used to the feel of a pencil in our hand.  Let’s get used to the notion of an eraser, the idea that plans may change and life may not go exactly as we pictured it would.

These past two years, I’ve definitely come to have a close relationship with the eraser in my life.  Two years ago, I was a mom of two and a teacher.  I had three different part-time teaching jobs, and I was always running from here to there, never sure if I liked what I was doing, but at least I had a plan.  Or did I?

Today, I’m a mom of three and work for myself.  At home.  And it is amazing.  The plan is a lot less consistent (as are the paychecks), but this part, my friends, I would never erase.  My jobs are changing, evolving, and it’s happening on my terms.  I use the words maybe and possibly like they are going out of style.  And you know what?  I kind of like it.  It’s scary, and it’s “slippy-slidy” (as Shauna says), but it’s so, so wonderful.

nora donut

So tonight, as your head hits that pillow, and your mind starts to race about the next day at hand, remember this:  we know not what tomorrow holds.  Maybe everything will go as planned.  But maybe it won’t.  Maybe the kids will be grouchy.  Maybe your boss will treat you badly.  Maybe the day’s headlines will make you wonder what this world is coming to.  But no matter what, just don’t forget to make time for those snuggles and tickles and bath-times and story-times, because those are the things you want to be on the list for tomorrow, and every day after that.

If the plans are overwhelming and things aren’t going your way, pull out your eraser and clear out that day’s overly-ambitious agenda.  And then just take a donut date with your littles.  Because that will ALWAYS be a good plan.  In fact, that one you could write in Sharpie.

cold tangerines

**And if you haven’t read “Cold Tangerines” yet, put that on your to-do list today. In big fat Sharpie.**


Sara and her husband Matt (sweethearts since they were just 16) got married in 2007, and since then have welcomed four beautiful children (Sam in 2008, Cooper in 2010, Nora in 2012, and Adam James in December 2015). A born-and-raised Iowan, Sara received both her Bachelor's and Master's Degrees (in Spanish Literature) from the University of Iowa. She's still teaching Spanish wherever and whenever she can, but her true passion is owning Iowa City Moms and building this community alongside her amazing team. Sara is also the Community Engagement Coordinator for City Mom Collective, and the owner of Cowork Collective downtown Iowa City. Common denominator in all of these jobs: community, community, community.


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