Thursday, August 21, 2008

Confessions of a School Supply Junkie

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” ~2 Corinthians 5:17

“Neither do men pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.” ~Matthew 9:17

“Organized crime in America takes in over forty billion dollars a year and spends very little on office supplies.” ~Woody Allen

I’ve been comparing notes with some of my teacher friends lately, and many of them, like me, love school supplies. Is there something about the love of college-ruled paper and three-ring binders that predisposes someone to gravitate to an educational setting?

I mean, there is something about the feel of a brand new bottle of Elmer’s glue.

And did you realize construction paper has a smell?

Twenty-four colored pencils are infinitely better than twelve.

And markers … do you keep them in the original carton or sort them neatly into the pencil box? What a quandary!

Spiral notebooks, folders, colored pencils, poster board, crayons … and don’t get me started on scissors!

Every August when I was a kid, I used to set all of my new school supplies on my bed and sort, sort, sort, all the while thinking about what the first day of school would be like. As my friend observed when we were shopping for supplies for our campuses the other day, it was kind of like Christmas! Still is, except now we purchase dry erase markers, manila folders, three-hole punches, copy paper, ink cartridges, and correction fluid. Though I seriously don’t need anything else added to my job description (already well-rounded with “other duties as assigned”), sometimes I envy Sarah, our office-supply-order-and-purchase gal. Some people have all the fun.

So, what does all of this say about me, and others like me?

Well, can you say “type-A?”

I purchased supplies for my own children a couple weeks ago. First, we checked our needs against the school-supply stash I have in the closet. (Those glue sticks and spiral notebooks only go on sale for ten cents once a year, you know!) Then we headed to our local Target. I grew concerned when the kids seemed more interested in everything else, including harassing each other, than they were with the pencils and rulers. After quick stops at Office Max and Wal-Mart to complete our list (now, why couldn’t I find everything in one place, that’s what I want to know), we carried our loot into the house.

“Come here guys … let’s get this stuff together!” I called cheerfully as they disappeared down the hall.


I began to scatter the supplies out and it looked as if Santa’s bundle had exploded in the living room floor. I was anxious to get started. Actually, I was anxious for the kids to be as excited as I was about these crazy pens and binders and backpacks and boxes. “Kids? Who wants to get their school supplies together?”

They really didn’t care.

Alone, I sorted my kids’ school supplies and placed them in their backpacks, ready for the first day of school. They were completely unconcerned that they had just missed an awesome opportunity to sort, sort, sort, as well as catch a glimpse of a peculiar obsession in their mother.

Now that I think about it, I don’t know whether to be disappointed or relieved.

Though also a first born, my husband doesn’t get it either. (He’s much less inclined to type-A-ism than I am.) He doesn’t understand why we can’t just use last year’s crayons. (There are only two missing from the box of twenty-four, after all.) Now, I did salvage what I could (paper, rulers, scissors, a zipper-binder, one of the backpacks, etc.), and my kids (okay, I) would be fine if they only had gently used supplies. But, there is something about the newness of it all that calls to me, its voice persuading me that each year students should start school with a clean slate in more ways than one. New supplies are somehow symbolic of getting off to that fresh, new start.

Hopefully I don’t take scripture out of context when I draw the following parallel, but I’m grateful God feels the same way. What if, when we gave our hearts to God and made Him our Lord, He said, “That’s really cool! Now, do the best you can with what you’ve got. Good luck!”

No! He says, “If anyone trusts in me as his Lord and Savior, he is a new person. The old things are gone and he gets to start over with brand new supplies!”

Bottom line, (other than the risk, hinted at in Woody Allen’s quote, of priming potential future members of organized crime rings) starting a new school year with new or used supplies really wouldn’t matter in the long run. But, we could never make it if God left us to start our new life in Him with the same heart, mind, and spiritual resources we had the day before.

Behold, all things are new.


  1. Okay, you scare me ... because that sounds exactly like ... well ... me. I remember as a kid (my mom has a teaching degree, but subbed when I was in school), we had to look through the sales papers to find the best price ... and Walmart wasn't around. So every drug store & Kmart had to be searched for the cheapest deals.

    I did not check my supply closet before buying this year ... and bought more of things I already had. I mean who can pass up .01 folders even though the kids don't need the ones without brads? And crayons ... I think I have enough for the rest of elementary school (and one of mine is in the 1st grade).

    But scissors ... what ever happens to the other pairs. I buy these every year and know they are returned to me, but never can find them in the house. Maybe they are with the socks making puppets.

    Woody Clowns Ü

  2. I am so with you! I LOVE school supplies. I think it is why I teach. I hit the sales at Walmart this year, too, and bought folders, crayons, markers and pencils for my class. I'm almost out of post-it flags and I can't wait to buy more! Rest assured you are not the only one. Last year my friends threw me a teacher shower and that was the only kind of stuff I got. It was fabulous!

  3. I got my glue (sticks and bottles) for 9 cents each!!!!
    Love school and office supplies.

  4. Nothing beats the smell of new school supplies and new books. Thankfully, I have passed along this love to my children who are school-supplies obsessed. It's a happy day when Mom says, "Who wants to go to Office Depot for school supplies?" and everyone cheers!

  5. WOW! I think I struck a chord! :-) Even elicited a comment from a first-time-commenter! Hey Lyne!!

    Paula, I love your comment about the scissors hanging out with the socks; I assume you mean the ones missing from the laundry. That would solve a great mystery!! :-)

    Paige, a teacher shower? How wonderful!! You have some really awesome friends!

  6. And hey, Genny! (we seem to have commented over each other!) I would say you need to tell me how you got your kids equally obsessed, but then again, I don't know what our resources will be in PNG. Maybe I don't want them to be obsessed? :-)

  7. I totally don't get why someone does not get excited about a new box of crayons. Can't help you here. My kids like to go school supply shopping even the two that hate to shop. John was the first to ask when we were going.
    I too keep a stock on hand of those supper bargain items. I can't pass up free glue even if I don't use it. We all go so we can get the limits. Rebecca got hers for the SS class she teaches!

  8. I'm thrilled that I no longer have to attend classes/seminars, but I must admit I was a little bummed this year that I DON'T have to go shopping for supplies. I too love school supplies and office-supply stores. You know, "a bouquet of freshly-sharpened pencils." Makes me want to head to the store right now!

    And I guess I shouldn't be surprised that you, Paige, Genny, and I all have this obsession. Interesting...

  9. Okay, true confessions......
    I bought school supplies this year. I do not have a child in school. I am not a student. I am not a teacher. I am a JUNKIE. Sick, I know.

  10. OK, Abby. You best us all. I'm impressed! :-)


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