Wednesday, February 14

Happy Valentine's Day!

Or Ash Wednesday (although it feels wrong to wish someone a "happy" Ash Wednesday). So, just know you're loved.

Em was particularly torn. She has theater! It's Valentine's day! But ... somber. Oy, what to wear? (How is she even my child? God is good. Amusing, but good.)

It's been a crazy couple of weeks. Nothing new added to the mix, but as I told a friend last week, I'm a sprinter, not a marathoner, and I've just hit the half-mile mark. I needed to take a few days to simply vacuum the carpet and stare forlornly at the stains that seem to multiply like Adipose. (Parenthetically, carpet in the dining space of a rental just shouldn't ever be a thing.) Needed to prod the children forward a bit. Needed to not check the calendar to see where to be next. Financially, it hurt, but mentally, it was necessary.

In less stressful news, our sweet church hosted its first-ever Shrove Tuesday Pancake Supper last night. It was a wonderful opportunity to just hang out with everyone. Just visit. No point, no purpose, other than fellowship. I'm glad we did it, and appreciate that we have the kind of congregation that's learning to really live together. Good stuff.

Today's gonna be a little nuts. I've got work this afternoon, so I'm having to skip out on book club (it was that, or I'd have to take my children with me to work, which seemed a bit much). John agreed to haul the children to Ash Wednesday services, and Jacob's gonna have to find his own ride home after rehearsals. Nuts, but good. Everyone is capable of doing what they need to do. Again, I appreciate that. (Whether they will may be another story, but I'm choosing to appreciate what's possible at the moment and just embrace that.)

We hoped to have a visit from Z by now, but so far, no love on travel plans. Thankfully, technology makes distance so much easier to navigate. Jacob was telling me this morning that without Dad here to just talk science and math with, he's losing his mind. "That's why I send him so many links." Aww! Turns out, he's been emailing Z links to news and articles that he finds interesting and wants to talk to someone about. (Although to be fair, he still talks to the rest of us about all manner of stuff. I had no idea he was doing this, but I love it! The rest of us just can't hang with the theoretical math and science.) He texts and calls, as well. This is really no worse than a standard TDY, thanks to technology! I love it!

And now, it's time to prod again.

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Monday, February 5

On Reaching Out

The kids and I talked a lot yesterday about rebuilding our thing, our community. The kids miss it. I miss it. One of the things that's prevented us recently is that we lost a bit of our mojo during the cancer (which, fair enough, it'll knock anyone off their stride for a bit), and then once that was over ... well, we just didn't really get back to it. Inertia is a bear.

Then we moved.

Then Z moved.

Then Nutcracker. Then Christmas. Then Winter. Argh.

And now, here we are.

I think part of our problem is that we don't have the processes down, here, yet. In our old house, we could throw together a cookout for 40 guests with as little as two hours' notice. Easy. In this house, we can't hardly cobble together dinner for the five of us, even with a full day's head start. So that's a little tricky. I suspect we simply have to flail our way through a few gatherings in order to force start the new processes. We'll include apology gifts and flowers for those who get stuck being our first few guests, or something like that. But after that, it should come more naturally.

So the plan we came up with was this: find someone to invite to Sunday dinner and invite them.

What criteria you use doesn't matter. It can be someone you already know and like. It can be someone you'd like to get to know better. It can be someone who has done you a kindness that you'd like to reciprocate. It can be someone who just looks like they'd appreciate being looped in and connected. It can be someone you don't know at all, but you still feel compelled to invite them. It can be someone from work, school, church, a club or class, wherever. There are very few actual limitations on who it can be. Really. Your motivations are your own, and I trust you enough to be good with whatever the Spirit uses to move you. Run with it.

So, we'll see how that goes. It's going to require me to have my shizzle together quite a bit more of a Saturday afternoon, but that's probably something I should keep together as a general rule, anyway, right?

I'd LOVE to hear from you. What motivates you to reach out to someone? And then, how do you do it? Also, how do you keep your shizzle together?

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Sunday, February 4

Building Community Takes Work

But it's worth it. I think we forget that. Yet, when we look back at the things we've loved the most about our lives, it's been about our community. Sitting around a fire (be it a small fire ring or a blazing bonfire), sharing food, sharing stories, building community in a very real sense. Biking to the courthouse to meet friends at the festival, pulling chairs and benches into a circle to share conversation, pitching in in the kitchen to get a meal ready, taking someone's children for a day or to an event that the person can't make, are all simple examples of building community in ways that are rock solid and that will make a difference. 

We've missed that. I'll be honest. We've fallen prey to the god of busyness. Too busy to have people over. Too busy to accept an invitation. Never setting a date on the spot because we "have to check the calendar".

But if I stop and think about it, how much extra effort, really, does it take to ask someone to share a meal you're already going to prepare, already going to eat? How much planning does it require to drag another chair out of the garage and set at the table? How hard is it to say, "It won't be fancy, but we would love to have you over for dinner"? What myopia allows us to think that's a legitimate thing? But we do it. We all do it. 

At Bible study on Tuesday, Father Geoff admonished us to be cautious about several things, one of which is not acting in a spirit of unity. (Or, rather, the author of Hebrews cautioned us -- Father Geoff just pointed out that there's nothing new under the sun, and we're not immune.) 

The verse that struck me hardest (and most beautifully) is Hebrews 10: 24-25:

 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

I thought about our amazing book club, and what a struggle it is for many of us to make time for it. We love it, and we cherish the people in it, but either we feel it's a frivolous way to spend an afternoon, or it's too much (time, gas, juggling, whatever) to get there, or that we "ought" to be doing something more (important? responsible? what?) We love it, but we struggle to make it a priority.

Geoff mentioned that a church family ought to do more than socialize between worship and Sunday School. They ought to hang out together, help each other with their children, their illnesses, their worries, their joys. They ought to be a family. We punt around the word, "family" as if it doesn't have any tangible meaning. It does. It definitely ought to. It's up to us to give it meaning.

And this goes beyond the church walls. Z told me last night about taking an unused fryer base that his brother had lying around, rigging it up to hold a plow disc, and setting up on the back patio to make dinner. They had the fryer going, Pandora playing on someone's phone, dragged chairs out, and just hung out for the evening. It was a great end to the day, and they all really enjoyed it. What Z told his brother is that there's some nourishment that's non-tangibly-nutritive in eating together, in spending time together. It feeds more than just your body. He's right.

After study on Tuesday, a friend said, "We keep saying we want to get together, but if we don't put a date on it, I'm afraid it's not going to happen. Would Saturday work for you guys?"

She's a genius!

Last night, we went to their house and enjoyed an evening with them. They made dinner. We brought dessert. We played a game after dinner. Simple. Easy. We thoroughly enjoyed getting to know them more intimately. The kids really enjoyed spending time with them. I'd been on the go, go, go since early in the morning, so I hit the wall and had to be a party pooper long before anyone else was ready to go, but I'm so glad we went. I'm so glad she put a date on it and made it happen.

And it reminded me that the very thing we've been missing lately is the very thing that WE have failed to do lately: just ask people to come. Feed them. Talk with them. Pull up a chair. It's easy. We love it. We miss it. But we also have the power to get it back. That's something that's been put on us to do: do not neglect to meet together.

So, that's a good tip for making it a priority to build your community. Put a date on it. Just do it. Don't worry about having time to make something special. Don't worry about having time to make it an all day affair. That's not where family lives. Family lives on the back patio at the end of the day, snatching chicken off the plow disc. Family lives around the coffee table, figuring out the rules of a new game. Family, community, lives together, not alone. That's all it takes.

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Thursday, February 1

It's All In How You Look At It

The caliper for the brakes came in Tuesday. Our dear friend, Larry, arranged to meet James here yesterday to help him put it in. It's been a long week, juggling rides and tweaking schedules, but everyone pitched in and it worked. And what fortune, to have good friends!

We pulled in and noticed that his face looked distinctly like he had bad news ... We got out to greet him, and ...

What's that smell? Is that gasoline? Where's it ... Ohhh.

Oh, my.

So, the downside is that the pressurized fuel line is leaking. But it's not the tank - the tank is fine. That's good.

The downside is that while we can learn to repair it, there's more cost, plus a heck of a learning curve, especially in February, with no garage to work in. The upside is that Z's not here, so we don't have to spend the next week squatting in the road, in the cold and the wet, handing him tools. (He can fix anything, and if he can, then he feels he ought. The rest of us are pretty supportive, but we'll cry, "Uncle!" long before he will.)

And the new tire is flat. But hey, at least we don't need to use it!

The downside is that the Volvo is worth significantly less now that it's not functional. The upside is that perhaps there's someone who really needs parts to make their own Volvo safe, and now those parts will be available.

The upside is that James is not alone in a hostile environment, and he has support and help to get where he needs to be.

He doesn't have to walk ten miles each way to get to school or work.

He has a wonderful roommate who is supportive and kind, and offered to carpool whenever their schedules allow.

We didn't discover both the brake failure and the gas leak out on the road ... At the same time! (That makes me queasy just thinking about it.)

He has a bike -- one he can fix, tweak, and fiddle with. He knows how to repair it, maintain it, and generally keep himself mobile with it. He has a helmet. And a bike lock.

He is safe.

I am thankful.

And while I am a little overwhelmed at how on the very edge of disaster we seem to be living these days, I can't help but be a little relieved because the edge is not the crevice. It's not free fall. It's not the end. It's just a very cautious walk with a pretty spectacular view, and although I cannot wait to be firmly back away from the edge, I can't help but be thankful for everything that's going right. God really is in the details -- in the relationships and encouragement, in the kindnesses and the caring gestures. That's it, right there.

It really is all in how you look at it.

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Sunday, January 28

Go For It

Jacob wants to attend a summer program for dance. If you're serious about your dance, this appears to be someone non-negotiable. Okay. We can do that.

Turns out, audition season starts right-the-immediate-hell-after-New-Years. Or, more importantly, hot on the heels of Nutcracker season. So that's like surviving a typhoon only to head straight into tornado country. It's probably not that bad once you already know the rhythm, but if you're new, it's exhausting, confusing, a little stressful, and rather expensive.

Learning about this process is like trying to get a straight answer out of Lindsay Bluth. I don't know how they know these things, or where they learned about them. Other people do seem to know where they want to go; we only know that there are places to go. We've researched and read, we've checked FAQs and found ballet blogs and websites. It's all still clear as mud.

"Where does Jacob want to go?"

"Somewhere that'll take him ... You know, I'm glad you asked. Which programs are good?"

"It depends on the child."

"Uh ... It's Jacob. You've met him. Where would you recommend?"

"It depends on what he wants."

"Okay, he would love to find X,Y,Z."

"It really depends on the program."

"Okay, we'd like A, B, C."

"It'll really depend on the instructor."

Huh? I've put in nearly 100 hours researching this, and I am no closer to having a clue what I'm doing now than I was in December.

Also, I realize it's terribly gauche to talk about money, but I'll be honest, if I had a spare $4K-$9K lying around, we'd be doing something Very Different at the moment than working every spare minute, driving on bald tires. So, in my world, that's a thing. And it's a thing that really must be discussed before commitments can be made. (We found several places that will allow students to apply for scholarships after they've auditioned, been accepted, committed to attending the program, and paid a $500 non-refundable deposit. Clearly, those are not schools that would be a good fit for us. So, I guess I have learned at least something so far.)

He's only been dancing for a year, so he's not highly competitive. We get that. However, you don't get any better if you don't push yourself and try. At least, that seems to be his approach. Bless him. So, there were two auditions this weekend in Atlanta. But I worked all day Saturday, Z is in New Mexico, and the Volvo is still on lockdown because it can't be trusted not to kill people. That leaves one vehicle, which really needed to be with John, at home, in case the Littles blew something up or jumped off the roof, or ... I don't know. I mean, they're actually the least likely to ever do anything dangerous, but I'd rather they have guidance and a ride to the ER on hand and never need it than for them to need it and not have it. So. There we were. A willing and eager student and no way to get to Atlanta.

I ran through the moms-of-boys at the school, and nobody I had contact information for was going. (Which, really, ought to have been a clue that this was going to be a gnarly couple of auditions, but have I mentioned we're new here?) So I started poking the few moms-of-girls I have contact info for. A dear, sweet friend offered him a place to stay in Atlanta and a ride to auditions (or we could have even Ubered), so he only needed to get TO Atlanta. Again, nobody was going.

Then I found one. She and her daughter were leaving that day, right after lunch. Could he make it in time?

Yes, yes he could. (NOW we're in familiar territory! If I know how to make something happen, I can make it happen in record time. That's one of my gifts. Thank you, Lord!) We made a mad dash around town to get his photos printed, snag fresh t-shirts, and switch out a pair of tights. (I'd bought him a replacement pair last week, thinking I was so on the ball -- but no, Body Wrappers tights are sized VERY differently than Capezio. So differently. That was awkward.) Pointe Dancewear, in Madison, however, is the most magnificent place to get dance gear. I am very thankful for them.

Home to pack, and they were off.

He did it. I don't know how he did. I plied him with questions (like I do) and he refused to talk about it until he's eaten and slept (like he does). All he was willing to say was, "Turns out those are the two hardest programs out there." Oh. Oops. I'll probably hear more this week.

Regardless of what the schools thought of him, though, he now has two auditions under his belt. He's not completely new at this. He knows a little better what to expect. He knows what he can do. He knows what they want. He has some better ideas, now, and that's so good.

So now we know a little more than we did before. See? We're learning!

Be encouraged!

~ Dy