Thursday, February 25, 2016

Deciding Factors, Part 2

So, in order to get the point of "Part 2", you may want to reference Part 1. Or not. You be you. But...its pretty dramatic. Just saying.

After the Break-In Drama (or BID from now on. Just kidding. I probably won't call it that again) I was ready to move out. Move out of our urban and high crime neighborhood. And no one would blame me - I know this because they told me so. Family and friends told me so. My feelings to these comments were mixed.

Because, *sigh*, in the days following the BID (welp, looks like I lied, good thing you were paying attention), a flurry of thoughts, conversations, high falootin' comments and judgey snobbery all rose in my memory as a difficult circumstance stirred up the dross of my heart. And it was so obviously the gentle Show And Tell of God, letting me hear myself and see myself in tender retrospect. Letting me choose my words again and take back any posture or glance that....frankly, stunk.

So like I said back in Part 1, it was values choosing time. Rewind to years earlier: there was a day when John and I were so poor that we looked at (ironically, in this case) the better job and pay available through teaching in the local and urban public school. We said "this will be really hard, and not very rewarding, but if we see it as a mission field or a calling then we may survive and possibly do some good. It will meet our needs but also be about something bigger than just us."

St. Louis City has in its history distress and abandonment. If cities can have emotional baggage, this one is orphaned. Past legislature and shifting economics have sent a message to the City, "you are too much of a mess, we're leaving you."

After the BID I had some praying to do. And I began to dream of an abandoned little 2 year old girl up for adoption. She was young and sweet, so I said yes. And then when the little girl began to show the more difficult behaviors associated with 2 year olds I remember thinking in my dream, "oh right, this will be harder than I thought. Am I up for this? I hope I made the right choice."

Hm. What if we adopted our city? (its a metaphor)

So, I began to see the BID as a moment to re-up or move on. We stayed. 



Addendum

So, here's an incriminating comment from my email:

 "I felt like I had to explain to [the kids], though, "this never happened to Daddy or I when we were your age." Its like I want to explain what's normal because maybe they don't know."

Normal.

Why do we even use this word anymore? All 'normal' means is 'that with which I am most accustomed'. I mean it has the root word "CUSTOM" in it, which in its nature is an incredibly fluid concept!! Was I implying that my experience riding bikes and growing up in the suburbs was normal? What happened to our house wasn't normal for me, but was normal for the families in our neighborhood. 

This was only one of the the first doors (and in retrospect a more gentle one) we have had to walk through in our journey to deconstruct and re-establish our values as we do our best to follow The Lamb. Don't worry - white messiah complex is a door, my personal race awareness is a door, addressing the American Dream is a door, looking down my nose at Public Education is a door, and others that were equally humbling. So, so humbling. 

Friday, October 24, 2014

Deciding Factors, Part 1

The following is an email I sent out as an update to ALL 9 MILLION of my family members (read: 11). The situation I share about below was emotionally charged and intense and became a decision point in my life. While admittedly email isn't a great way to update the ones I love with something as sensitive as this...it is TERRIBLY efficient.

There's just SO MANY of them. *winky face*

This is called: Deciding Factors, Part 1

-------------------------
12/1/11

So someone tried to break into our house today - while the kids and I were inside.

I was in the kitchen facing away from the back door when I heard two really loud whacks on the back kitchen door (which surprisingly didn't break). I screamed really loudly; had those super fast thoughts of "was that John fooling around?" and then "no way, he doesn't want to break the door!". 

After I screamed the person ran off the back porch into the yard. I ran to the door, flung it open and yelled "HEY!" and some other equally fruitless things like "get outta here!" and "you'd BETTER run". He looked like a kid, shorter than me and he ran FAST into the alley and then down to the street. 

I called John first (luckily he was just back from a field trip and was able to take my call though he wasn't off yet) and almost didn't call the police because I thought there was such a slim chance they'd catch him. But reason got the better of me. I called it in, gave a description and they sent a guy over. The police guy searched the neighborhood a bit before he came by and was very kind and reassuring.

I hadn't walked around the outside of the house or backyard until I was showing the police around. Safety-wise, there were a couple things that, when fixed, will be a stronger deterrent to this happening in the future (as per the police and I agree). A chunk of our back fence was knocked over in a summer storm and we hadn't nailed it back in place. Its how the kid got in and out of our yard. Our back porch door had been left wide open (Justy and Scouty later confessed that they had done that earlier. Justy went outside and couldn't get it closed and Scout said it was too cold to go help him. We've changed the emphasis to ALWAYS shut the door, no matter the weather). We'll also install a more formidable lock on that door. And it ends up that the stupid middle school sized burglar used our child's shovel (about 3 1/2 feet tall) to take the whacks at our door. The door is missing a chunk of wood about the width of my finger. Thank God the dummy missed the glass and happened to hit the smaller panel of wood in between the glass.

So, Scouty and Justy seem ok and not frightened at all. The baby didn't even cry when I screamed. That's gracious. I felt like I had to explain to them, though, "this never happened to Daddy or I when we were your age." Its like I want to explain what's normal because maybe they don't know. Nonetheless, they seem graciously calm about it.

This is the first time I've thought "how much would an apartment cost somewhere else?"  I'm not making any plans just yet, but....I guess the needle on my gauge shifted a little after today. I mean, someone trying to break into your house while you're in it? That's LUDICROUS! I don't live in freaking PETEN [back when we lived in Guate, Petén was frequently terrorized by guerilla groups, very unsafe]! (I think I'm past denial and into the anger stage). I mean, that's missionary stuff!

I haven't cried, but you know me; it'll all go into a little "cry" tank that will be tipped over a week from now when I find that cheese isn't on sale and then I'll collapse into tears.

You heard it here first.

---------------------------------------

This situation made me rethink my values. My values are directly related to my faith. I took a hard look at certain elements of my faith. What do I believe is true? What is unshakable about God? What is shakeable in my values and why?

I had a lot of thinking and praying to do.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Blinds Perspective (get it?)

I'm in the middle of another adventure. This one is called "Moving" and finds me 106 days later still living in my parent's basement.

Outwardly it is relatively calm. I send my children to school, I keep after the little ones still at home, our dinner table is a little bigger and I have a few more hands to hold the baby while I make dinner or listen to stories from the school day. So much about this is Gracious; captial "G", Christmas-wish-for-a-family, lottery win level Gracious. Any turmoil thus far is hard fought in the dark arena of my mind and emotions. And there has been a notable struggle. This has been much longer than I expected and there is no relief on the horizon.

But my stories from this present tense of my life are a little stranger than I expected and it seems we will have quite a few that will begin, "When we were living at my parent's...." I want to remember this one about perspective.

I went to open the blinds on our bedroom window and the twisty rod that tilts the slats open and shut was...missing. Just a little empty plastic nub near the top of the blinds with no rod attached. It was classic slapstick comedy. I reached without thinking to... an empty spot in the air. Frown. Pause to look at my hand in empty space. Slow pan up to the empty nub where the wooden rod should be attached.

"Ah."
This has happened before, I recall, in the room my 3 children share (ages 12, 9 and 4 sharing one room, bless 'em). It seems the boys get a little "energetic" and pull too hard on the rod that twists open their blinds and when I am finally made aware of this (though my own discovery and not because they told me, heavens no!) my eyes subsequently fall the the floor and surrounding area beneath the window to hunt a dropped, thin, wooden rod.

And that's where I go wrong. It always takes me a second. Because then it dawns on me: these are boys we're talking about. I shouldn't be looking for a wooden rod, I should be looking for the last place I saw my boys dangerously wielding a thin wooden sword, or light saber or walking stick, etc.. And today I recalled a half-memory (the automatic mechanism of remembering what your children were doing nearby while you were actually trying to work) from the same morning when my 4 yr old son asked if he could stir his oatmeal with the tip of a comically long, thin, wooden stick.

Who am I and what is my life that it didn't even occur to me at that moment in the morning to ask myself, "where did he get this stick?"

Eureka! Easily recovered in our teeny shelf/fridge/table area of the basement. The exact wooden stick with the empty slot on the end waiting to be reunited with the plastic nub that attaches to the mechanism that opens my blinds.

See? Perspective Shift saves the day (and the cost of repairing my parent's blinds). There's a lesson in this story, I'm sure, I'm just too tired to find it right now.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Proverbs 24:16

"Though a righteous man falls seven times, he will get up, but the wicked fall into ruin"

Proverbs 24:16

Thinking today about how even the smallest promises of God are simply fulfilled in the grace to get back up again and again.

I want to be thankful for every promise. I want to train my children that grace is available to get back up again and again, through God's power.

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Last Sass

Here is a short story in honor of one of my 100 (literally) sisters. Ok, that's a lie, I have 5. No wait, WE are 5 girls total so I have... 4 sisters.  !MATH!

But as an appetizer to this story:

.....

I love Sundays after church. For the most part, whatever family is in town on a Sunday afternoon will eventually make it over to my parents rambling, space-filled home for copious amounts of food, talk, laughter and sitting around the kitchen table. Lots of sitting and eating.

And that's just the adults. And, as adults, we are not the ones who need rambling space (which makes it sound like cattle and tumbleweed are included - which I think is just fun to imagine!). We need all that space for our children. And there are plenty of children in my family. The most recent young crop being a passel of boys that are a puppy pile of elbows, dirt clouds and wrestling. They are precious. As long as there is rambling space for them to tumble within. Downstairs.

.....

So, here you have it, Sister (whom I will not name because I'm not 100% sure how you feel about internet privacy).

My sister, her husband and I had, oddly enough, moved away from the table to sit in the living room and stretch our legs and pregnant bellies on the couches (my sister and I, not the husband, though its fun to imagine!).
(OH! and sorry to break the No Back To Back Parenthesis rule, like I'm not already murdering parenthesis rules, but this is too wild. 3 of the 5 sisters are pregnant! Its the 3 youngest which isn't too weird except that there are 10 years between the 3 of us. We're having fun with it but its still pretty wild. All due within 5 months of each other.)

We were letting our food digest and swapping the more interesting stories from the week. And I don't know if we're just all a bit dramatic or if its simply a numbers game but there is ALWAYS something going on, some story to tell, some news to brief everyone on. I LOVE MY BIG FAMILY!

Today we were sharing the moments that had just happened in the car on the way that warranted explicit threats of discipline once we arrived at Mimi and Poppy's. Our car had experienced some roughhousing that had gone too far and Daddy had to walk 2 of them into a "private space" right away to "emphasize the point" about personal respect, as it were. And she shared that there had been a Daddy led walk of shame from her car as well, with the infraction being more along the lines of sass and disrespect directed toward Mommy, which Daddy promptly took it upon himself to remedy.

*Shiver*

I instantly remembered a vivid memory from my childhood when I had disrespected my mom in front of my dad. I don't know why I did it. Maybe it was the negative influences of TV and bad company corrupting my good morals. I know it wasn't the Smurfs or HeMan because we weren't allowed to watch that stuff. But it could have been something I picked up from a Sweet Valley High book I read at a friend's house. One of those twins was trouble!

I don't even remember what I said. But my dad turned to me and said:

"Don't ever talk to my wife like that again."

You know in those movies when there's this tunneling effect and everything gets farther away? If I knew that was a visual option, I would have embedded that bit of flair to my memory to forever be recalled. By his simple choice of words, I was instantly a stranger on the outside of the family; a smart-mouthed punk dishonoring the good name of his (who was much bigger than me) wife.

Upside: I'm a tender little rule follower and that was all it took to reinforce to me that before I came into this world and long after I move out, they will still be like a formidable tag team wrestling duo. And they will not take my sass.

And also, it makes a great story and its fun to imagine!


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

When I Put My Daughter on The Bus.

This week I put my daughter on The Bus for the first time. Its a school thing, she's been on a bus before, stop being so literal.

We stood at the bus stop waiting for...any bus to stop (I forgot to check the paperwork for the number - classic). We got there pretty early so we waited quite a while. We chatted. She was very cool and calm. Eventually, too soon, the bus got there and she hurried on. And then without event it pulled away and around the corner.

And that was it. A year of anticipating this new school experience and that was the grand send off. It wasn't grand. It was over. And she was alone now. Facing it all by herself. All the firsts. All at once. All by herself.

Yep, I cried a little. But I hate crying so I took a few big breaths, blinked a few times and starting walking home. And I thought and thought (its kind of a long walk to the bus stop). I wasn't scared for her. That wasn't it. She probably wasn't scared. She probably didn't even feel alone. She has been looking forward to this for a long time. She was probably just soaking it all in. She has a strong curiosity and that would be louder to her than any negative emotion.

But I was melancholy. Was I scared for her? Did I think she wouldn't be emotionally safe? I wasn't worried about "contamination" and I knew it was the right move for right now.

It wasn't all that. It wasn't necessarily about her being gone. I realized I was sad at the hard line that was just drawn in the timeline of our life. This phase of child:girl was over. I'm guessing these cathartic moments happen differently for everyone, but this was ours.

We had been homeschooling together thus far. And, since she is social and chatty, not even a math lesson went by without some question turning into a wandering discussion about values or hygiene or why we don't say that word but her friends do.

.....

Don't tell anyone but on really special mornings we would have coffee together while we started school. Her's was half milk and mostly creamer. It was our way of making school something much more personal and ours. 

.....

In a way I feel like I've taken one stop closer to the day she gets married and I hand her off to some relative stranger in whom I do not have all the confidence I would like to have. Its that trusting. Its the handing off to God and fate. Its letting go. I hate it.

Maybe later I'll talk about why we made the decision. It was a big one for us. Its a good story. Its about God and having a calling and an assignment. We talk a lot about Daniel and Samuel. We prayed into it and gave it to God and here's where we are. Its a good story I'd like to tell you one day. But the rest of my time this week belongs to Scout and all the first stories she'll need to tell. She's extroverted, after all, which in my book means "life doesn't happen unless I say it out loud".



Monday, August 12, 2013

I Heart Disclaimers

The idea is rolling around in my head to start every blog with: "Do you want to know what I think?"

Because 1: it sets the tone that the following are only my thoughts and while they *may* work just fine for me, results not typical.
And 2: it gives the random reader/stranger a heads up. If you do not want to know what I think then you can say no to ingesting my thoughts and move on. And by all means, if your intestinal fortitude and emotional readiness is not up for a steady stream of personal experience based truth and opinion then I encourage you to move on. 

I am not a doctor or counselor or other licensed professional and as such any assertions I make should  automatically fall under the category of "shady". Not because I consider myself a shady person, but because (and here's the point)...

If you don't know me personally, I don't recommend you listen to me.

That's probably a strong way to put it but its just how I feel and its how I feel about the blogs I read which ironically I've limited my exposure to considerably for this very reason. Because I don't know you. And, yes, any fool can have an opinion. 

.....

I SO WISH there could be some kind of Life License which would automatically make me an expert at all things life (money, parenting, cleaning and getting out stains, nutrition, pet care, appropriate humor and manners). Then I wouldn't second guess myself all the time!

The fact that I wish this actually came to me the other day and before I noticed that my thoughts were sprinting away I had already gone down a weird checklist of why that wouldn't work, practically. You heard me. Practically. As if logic hadn't already been long abandoned. By the time I caught myself, I was just shocked for a moment at the whole mental exchange and that it had gone so far!

P.S. I'm pregnant. It does something to your brains. (as my hand casually waves away your concerned look)

.....

And I must really, really mean it because at second glance, I wrote all these things a year and a half ago under the title Preachy McPreacherson. I give you two options here, scream plagiarism or high five me for that title! *upheld hand waiting*

*crickets*
So my advice is don't take my advice. *blank stare* (ok, I see what I did there)