Showing posts with label friends. Show all posts
Showing posts with label friends. Show all posts

Wednesday, July 11

Shifting the View

After I spent a wonderful day with a friend, she gently reminded me to be sure to make time for my people. She's right. I know she's right. I completely spaced that Wednesday was Wednesday, so I missed book club. When I saw the text asking if I was coming, the Littles had bread in the oven, I had fat bomb shrapnel all over the counter, and I'd just sent the kids out to bike to the park while I cleaned up. To me, it was just that Wednesday had gotten away from me. It's happened to all of us in book club. It's no big deal. To them, though, it was part of a countdown in the few remaining Wednesdays  we have together.

I've sensed a tension, or a dissonance, lately that I haven't been able to articulate, but I felt that at its core was that I'm not handling something well. So tonight, I sat down with some other Very Insightful Women and asked for help hashing out the disconnect. What am I not coping well with? (Other than calendars. Those are always hard.) Where am I not meeting the people I love in a way that is meaningful for them? And how can I do it without giving up the things I actually, legitimately NEED to be doing right now? Where is this stress coming from?

Of course, the first response is generally, "Why are you still trying to do school?" And that's actually a highly pertinent question. Homeschoolers are notorious for strangling themselves to the point of turning blue as they try to maintain a normal school routine through the most riotous of life's upheavals. "The school crate can just go into the moving van right before it pulls away. Bobby, you make sure to grab the microscope. I'll have hand sanitizer in the car for everyone, so go ahead and finish your dissection while I do the walkthrough and turn in the keys." Yeah, that's a thing.

In this case, however, our schooling is just the Littles right now. And they're getting some much-needed time and attention while the oldest two are no longer my monkeys in this circus, and the third is away for a while. It's also been a total sanity saver for me to have the gentle rhythm of the days. Chasing down two children for history is downright pleasant after the pace of the last few years! Plus, it's a very Charlotte Mason inspired schedule, which is relaxing and legit nourishing. We don't school for long, but we do get that time together. It's been Good. If I have to stop that right now, I might cry. But I did promise that I will ditch school after Circe and before the move. That was a good reality check.

So we talked about that, about life, about expectations and reality. We talked about the importance of accepting help and the importance of people. All good stuff, but no real epiphanies. And then, it hit me. It's the shifting of the lens, and right now it's like we're all wearing glasses that were cobbled together with two different prescription lenses.

Right now, all of the co-ops and field trips and audition planning is happening. NOW is the time to sign up for the fall. This is when the plans are laid. We'll be in NM come the fall, so my planning time is spent in the NM groups right now. Because we're going to be there in September when they do the farm field trip, not here.We need to find resources there, and sign up for events there, and dive into preparing for life there. This is just the nature of the season.

So I'm at the point where there are things I'm looking forward to about the move. (This is lens 1.) I'm looking forward to the family retreat in October, to the horseback riding lessons I've signed the kids up for, to the co-op that I found and willingly joined (I'll tell you more about that later - it's pretty exciting). I'm looking forward to the silhouette shoots with my husband, and hunting in the Gila again, and taking the kids to see the luminarias in Old Town at Christmas. I'm looking forward to signing Em up for snowboarding lessons and Jacob up for ballet. This is my job. I round up the resources and get excited about the plans. It's what I've done for 16 years. At this point, it's almost Pavlovian the way it works. This is just the first time in 13 years that those plans are waiting for us someplace else, but everything else about it feels very familiar.

And for our beautiful, amazing friends, they're not excited about these things. They are still trying to make eye contact with the idea of us leaving. They're mourning. They want to savor the time we have left, and to enjoy these last few weeks of outings and other Lasts with us. It's not that I don't also feel that loss, but that it's weighing more heavily on them right now. (And this is lens 2.) They aren't ready to get excited about whatever New Mexico has to offer us because it's all just reminders that we're leaving.

We are so very fortunate. Our friends here really do comprise that kind of Once In A Lifetime group -- vastly different women from different backgrounds and personalities and perspectives, but all incredibly supportive of one another and loving toward one another. Each one of them is the kind of person you'd consider yourself blessed to have just one of in your life, and we've all managed to find each other! And the kids! Oh, this group of kids! Without fail, every one of them is loved and cherished not only by each other, but by each of the moms in the group. That's a pretty incredible cadre to have in your life. And here we are, breaking up the band. And that's sad. It really is.

So it felt good to get a handle on where the dissonance was stemming from. I'm not looking forward to leaving them, even though there is much that I am looking forward to in the coming months. And they have many things they are looking forward to, but our leaving isn't among them. How to thread that needle is a little tricky, but I feel like I have a better grasp on how to do it now. So that was a relief.

And now, hopefully, I can merge the two lenses so that I don't feel like I'm going to be so dizzy I topple over. And hopefully, too, I can help my precious friends feel supported and loved on in the way the need to be.

Be encouraged!
~ Dy

Monday, July 9

The Loveliest Day

We had just the sweetest day today. It got off to an uncontrolled and awkward start (why is Lily's chocolate so hard to find? I feel like that should be sold in every corner market from here to Bangladesh.) My shower has developed some weird stigmata in the wall, and the hall bath wall appears to be trying to escape toward the commons areas (going to alert the housing office about that in the morning). And this kitchen, tho-- Oh, my word, it's a one-butt kitchen and we're an All Butts On Deck kind of cooking family, so there's a lot of bouncing off one another as we try to work in there.

But we didn't give up. We punted. We made do. We ran with what we had.

And in the end, we still got to spend the day watching an anime marathon and eating snacks with friends. There was a crazy hard thunderstorm that swept over us, so the light was dim and cozy and the storm beat back some of the hot'n'sticky in the air.

We put this on the calendar several weeks ago. I could have (should have? nah) done a dozen things to prepare for moving. But what we really needed was time to just curl up with friends and laugh. That accomplished so much more than any checklist could have, truly.

Be encouraged!
~ Dy

Tuesday, July 3


Me-Tae's father passed away some time ago. It took until recently to get his interment arranged, but it finally happened this month. He was laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery, afforded full honors. It was, hands down, the most beautiful ceremony I've witnessed, and a fitting way to say goodbye and thank you.

James and John couldn't make it because they both had classes during the time we'd be gone. That's a major downside of summer term - you can't afford to miss a class early on in the term because then if you get the plague in July you have to just mask up and slog through. But four of us were there in person, and all seven of us were there in thought. I hope that they felt loved.

The three younger kids and I drove out there for the service. We splurged and stayed two nights -- not only so that we could spend time with Me-Wa and Me-Tae, but because I am OLD and there was no way I was going to be able to drive 12 hours, spend one night, go to the funeral in the morning and then drive 12 hours home. Oh, heck no.

Arlington is pretty impressive, and I just don't have the words (or the photography skills) to capture the enormity of what it represents, or how powerfully it pours over you when you set foot on the property. We were all so quiet as it soaked in what we were looking at, awed and grateful.

We appreciated, too, the chance to say goodbye to John, who was a generous and loving man. We will forever be grateful to have had him in our lives, and forever be sorry that it wasn't for a longer time. We should all strive to leave a legacy like his.

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

Monday, August 14

Be That Friend

Have I mentioned lately just what a blessing a good friend is?

Well, it is. So much so.

In this case, she is. And I am both humbled and appreciative in quantities I cannot express.

You see, I've been absolutely pummeled by Things lately. Not big things. Not bad things. Just things. What's the old saying, nibbled to death by ducks? It's migratory season and I am camped out at the watering hole, people. There are ducks everywhere.

And there are days that I suspect I'm the only one who can see them, which puts me pretty firmly in the Hunter S. Thompson category for a) crazy, and b) really unable to handle the situation.

So when I got paralyzed last week and decided that refinishing furniture was probably my number one priority, that was a big red flag for me. WHOA, Nellie! Why are we painting a nighstand in the basement? (Because it's something I can do. That helps. And has an end point. Unlike every flipping thing else going on in my life. Hand me the sandpaper and stop asking questions.)

And a dear friend asked, "Is there anything I can do to help?"

And my inner idiot said, in a very tiny voice, "No, I'm fine."

And a dear friend said, "Can I come over on a specific date to help with specific things?" (Which, really, is the better question to ask, because when people are stripping hardware in the basement instead of washing walls, they don't really know what kind of help they need. Or what they need, at all. True story.)

And I started to say, in what I intended to be a Big, Strong Brave Voice, "Nah, I've got it." But then I heard the punchline to my favorite joke...

I sent you two boats and a helicopter. What more help did you want?

And since the Holy Spirit seemed to realize that I need pedestrian humor to get me moving, I laughed. And then I said, in a Very Relieved Voice, "Yes, that would be lovely."

Then, she came. And I stood here, in my mess and clutter, with one sock on cockeyed, feeling very, very vulnerable while she did not freak out, grab the children and yell over her shoulder as she ran for the truck, "Who lives like this?!?!" (For which I am forever grateful.)

She made a check list. She pointed us in the right direction. Then (OH! THE GRATITUDE!) she worked with Em to box up all. her. art. All of it. Into bins. And Em didn't cry. She didn't feel stripped of her world. This friend did something that I could not have done with all the Moscow Mules in the world at my disposal: she made packing up fun for Em!

And she cracked the paralysis that had overcome me. I don't know which of the aspects I appreciate the most, but I'm going to do my part by saying, y'all, Be. That. Friend. Be willing to step up alongside your friends when they are stuck. Even if you don't know what they need, just go be present. Lob ideas. Laugh. Visit. Work if there's work to be done. Bring joy. Be encouraging. You have no idea what good it can do a soul! But they will, and it will matter.

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Saturday, July 29

Listing A House

With Z looking for work that will take us closer to his mom, and the boys' activities (work, school, dance) keeping them in town from dawn to dusk, we've decided to sell the Forever Home and move into a rental.

Now to declutter enough that I can stage it and make a comprehensive list of Things To Be Done. Yikes!

Today, we worked in the basement and the foyer. I can't even pretend to have any idea how much headway we made, or what we need to do next. I just need to get some stuff out of the way so I can breathe. We did quite a lot, though, and this evening everyone is sleeping well.

Tonight we attended a going away party for friends. That's always a bittersweet occasion. We're happy for them to have new adventures and explorations, but there will be an empty place for those of us left behind. It was good to hug them one more time tonight, to see the kids all grown (growing?) up... And thank God for technology. We can video chat, keep up to date through social media, and email. So it's almost like we get to go along with them. That makes the distance easier.

Tonight, though, I'm beat, physically and mentally. It's time to kick off my boots and watch something stupid.

Be encouraged!


Monday, June 26

*POOF* Busy weekend!

I thought for sure I'd posted over the weekend, but no. Know what else I didn't do? Sleep. Clearly, I should have thought things through a bit better.

Although, to be honest, I don't know where to cut anything, or how to make it happen in a sane way. It feels like we're holding everything together with surface tension at the moment, and I'm afraid if we poke it, the mess is going to be enormous.

Friday, we ran errands, we cleaned the house, we had a little Come to Jesus about the condition of the house, and we worked on the Volvo some. Normal stuff. The Volvo wasn't yet up and running that evening, so Z stayed up to retrieve one of the boys from his shift at Hamacon.

Saturday was full of trek prep, home repairs, more errands, more Hamacon retrieval, Volvo work, and a show at the VBC (Jacob walked, so that was 4:00-9:30PM, there).

Sunday, we had worship, which was fantastic. And pot luck, which is always restful. I am thankful we can do that. Then I had to be at a casting (nothing glamorous, just helping with sign-in -- although I did get to dance and snuggle with a precious baby for most of it, freeing up her parents to be more productive than I could be - that was a win), and Z took the kids to a birthday celebration for a lovely young woman we know. I headed over after my shift at the casting and passed the keys to John. He left for work. James arrived at some point and...

We all sat. We sat and visited and just did. not. move. It was glorious. We stayed WAY too late, and I feel a little guilty about that; however, it really was glorious to just be among kind people, chatting about hopeful things, listening to kids laugh and talk. Balm for the soul, right there. Also, how can I cut *that* out in exchange for sleep? That was just as rejuvenating as anything else we could have done.

Again, thankful.

There is so much I am thankful for, amidst the exhaustion.

This morning, I tried the Fat Coffee I'd purchased for the trek. (Realized, after a discussion with someone else about how coconut oil just, erm, tears through them, that I ought to try some NOW for the first time, rather than on the trail.) It tastes like 1970's-era instant decaf. So, not exactly something I'll look forward to on the trail, but I'm working up some kind of nostalgic affection for it. We'll see how that goes.

This afternoon I head in for six-month labs at the cancer center. Praying for a clear report. Actually, if you want to be very specific about it, I'm praying for labs that are good enough that we can punt the next scan another six months further down the road. So, if you're up for it, that'd be magnificent! There's more to the day, but that's all I'm focused on at the moment.

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Wednesday, June 7

The Gauntlet Is Run!

Whoa, y'all. That was an insanely busy week. I am not going to bore you with the logistics (there were many, and they are boring), but it was a gauntlet. And we made it! It was a little bittersweet.

Thankfully, it was a gauntlet filled with good fun, great people, and fat little baby legs! Ohhh, that makes everything do-able. (It also highlighted that nobody left in my house has squishable thighs. Also, that it would be weird if I checked.)

My sister-in-law, y'all? She is a Rock Star! I love her so much, and I hope my brother-in-law does, too, because we must keep her forever and ever. (And how very far away we are -  I need her closer.)

While the family was here, we took them fishing one day and to the water park the next. We got a pontoon boat and spent a day on the river, then a day of rambling about in the woods.

(Z got to do most of the fun stuff - I was running a parallel activity plan that involved hauling children to and from Space Camp, ballet performances, and a photo shoot. So I missed some of the fun in my alternative life as an Uber driver*.)

Finally, there was Space Academy graduation and a day exploring the Space and Rocket Center, followed by the graduation weekend - ceremony one day, party the next.

We saw them off on Monday and then sort of liquefied in the living room - it looked like a crime scene in here, with limbs draping off edges and debris all over the floor (it rained the day of the party - three cheers for hard floors that don't care!) We rested and came down from the high of spending time with friends and family.

Tuesday was about all I could handle on the not caring part, though, and so we cleaned. And cleaned. And sighed contentedly.

Now it's time to look ahead. Jacob is at rocketry camp this week, in preparation for joining a competitive rocket team in the fall. He's quite looking forward to that.

James starts work at his internship on Friday, and I can't even begin to tell you how excited he is about that!

John had tooth extractions this week, to prepare him for braces. He's excited about that all being done and is running his own gauntlet this week. But it'll be good soon.

I guess the rest of us should consider a plan for the Fall, and some ideas for Summer. First, though, we'll give thanks -- for opportunities, for fellowship, for savoring the bittersweet of life and time.

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

* Not actually for Uber, but now that I think about it, this is totally going on my application when I apply...

Sunday, April 30

Busy Days and Lazy Days, The Homeschooler's Schedule

A friend commented recently, "I love Almost-May! Everything is next year!" The rest of us laughed and nodded. In the homeschool calendar, that's pretty much it. August is, "Oh. We should probably start soon." September and October are mostly just happy sounds backed by cool weather and fresh books. November is, "Mmm, let's regroup and see what we can finish by December." January is just long, followed by February, which is "Wow, we should have looked more seriously into boarding school." March is another hopeful regrouping, "No, we can do this. Surely by August we'll have ironed out whatever-this-is-that's-tripping-us-up-right-now." (We won't - it's February that tripped us up. It happens every year.) That's followed by April, when everyone takes a deep breath, shoulders down, charge ahead, "We can do this! We're almost done!" Then comes May...

Next year, we're going to use the learning journals more regularly.

Next year, we're going to rock this time management plan I just found in the back of the bookshelf.

Next year, I'm hiring out as much as possible.

Next year, I'm going to do it all in-house, back to basics.

Next year, we're just going to subsist on water and museum memberships. It'll be FUN!

Even when we know better, there's a cathartic, comforting aspect to Next Year. It gets us through to June, which is the pay-off, the re-calibration, the re-centering:

"Huh. This was actually a pretty fantastic year. Look at you go! You learned a lot... I should probably give us all a little more credit next February."

It's good to know the rhythms of your year, lean in, embrace them. Come May, you can indulge in all the changes you're going to make Next Year!

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Friday, February 3

The Best People In The World

Do you know who the best people in the world are? They're the ones who "get" your kid. The ones who believe in her and have high expectations for her, but who step in with grace and affection and love when the kid gets overwhelmed, or makes an honest mistake, or even does something boneheaded.

They're the ones who give you room to laugh and shake your head and remember that we were all once just-barely-grown and trying to figure it all out.

They allow you to shed your frustration and come back to a place of support and encouragement.

They're the ones who point out what they love about your child when your brain is freaking out and you're starting to wonder if the only real options available are homelessness or living in the basement. (Which, they're not. But the brain is a crazy organ with a warped sense of humor.)

They're the ones who willingly write up a letter of recommendation on only 12 hours notice because someone didn't read the application all the way to the end before taking a deep, panicked breath and starting on the essay.

They're the ones who share their own stories with your child -- about missed deadlines, or botched labs, or fender benders, or whatever mishap your own kid is currently beating herself about the head for. (We actually spent about half an hour at book club a couple of weeks ago sharing stories of freak car incidents we'd all experienced, to encourage a young man who'd had One Of Those Days. In the end, he was able to laugh - mostly at us, and our ridiculous stories - and realize that he hadn't doomed himself to being That Kid forever and ever.)

They laugh gently, they cluck sympathetically, they point out that it doesn't mean you're awful, it means you're human.

And humans are fantastic if you give them room to be!

The best way to find these people is to be one of these people. If you have this, feed it regularly and roll around in it - you're all doing good work, and it matters. If you don't have this, fire it up. Roll up your sleeves and go love on some kids. You'll find your people. They tend to create a symbiotic energy, encouraging and loving on each other and each other's children in turn. It's a beautiful gift you can give to yourself, your children, your friends, their children, and so on. It really is.

Be encouraged!
~ Dy

Saturday, January 14

On Encouragement

Encouragement is something we all need. It's something we crave. We don't all necessarily want it in the same way... For example, I have one child who loves some high fives and goofy accolades from friends, acquaintances, strangers on the sidewalk - he's pretty much willing to be encouraged by anything... and another who is much more encouraged by a quiet positive comment that can't be heard beyond the two of you, or by receiving a note or a card, than by anything loud or likely to draw attention her way. Both are receptive to encouragement, but they are not encouraged by the same thing.

I wonder if we sense that aspect of it, but don't quite know how respond to it. I know I struggle with "knowing" how to be encouraging. I hear friends express a desire to be encouraging. It's often accompanied by a semi-apologetic self-deprecating half-laugh. 

It always catches me off guard coming from them, because I hear it from some of the most encouraging, uplifting, strengthening women I know. These are the women who I trust with my most precious things: my children's struggles, my own fears, my worries. I trust them with my hopes, my crazy ideas, my broken nature. They are the ones I know will actually pray when they say they will. They mean it when they say they'll help with anything. They extend good faith and assume the best when there are disagreements.

(And if you're thinking right now, "Wow, Dy, you are one lucky gal!" Well yes. Yes, I am. I don't know how it happened, and I absolutely don't deserve it, but I'm not about to point it out to anyone who could fix it differently.)

I don't claim to know the answer, but I would venture to suggest that being encouraging isn't a thing in itself. I'm starting to believe that just by being in relationship with others -- real relationship, where you share your lives together, and you know each other -- your presence and interaction are, by their very nature, encouraging. 

When you know whether someone feels better by laughing or sitting quietly, and you care about them, you learn to bring that to the table (or, if you're me, at least try to be calm and quiet if that's what they need) when you come to them. But really, the fact that you're *there* is the root of the encouragement. You're traveling along with them, not expecting them to go it alone. It doesn't have to be perfect. You don't have to be perfect. Just be there. Be willing. That is so encouraging.

Be encouraged (and encouraging!)

~ Dy

Sunday, January 1

The Good Things

2016 seemed like a grueling year in so many ways. But it wasn't all bad. In an attempt to archive some of the good (and some of it was Very Good, Indeed), I wanted to pick a highlight from each month to share. Like the habit of finding 3 Good Things to list when life gets difficult, but on steroids.

January - Z was gone a lot this year, and Dad Boxes, sent from on the road, were a highlight for everyone.

February - we finally got around to designing and building a coffee table to go with the sofa! I love it!!

Also, Buddy finally got over his fear of the car. (He now hops in, goes all the way to the third row, and refuses to acknowledge that you're even speaking to him until you've taken him for a spin around the courthouse!)

 March -- John and James were both called out for the Order of the Arrow.

 In April, we biked the Silver Comet, starting at the AL/GA boarder.

 Oh, and took pottery. This was a pretty fantastic month.

John, his best bud, and I volunteered at a Spartan Race. (The plan was to use our credit to race in May, but that fell through. Still, this was a pretty fantastic experience.)

May - prom! Steampunk. Because that's awesome.

And we bought kayaks for the Littles. OH, why did we wait so long? This was huge fun!

And Chemistry. Every week, with two other families. The house is still standing. There were a few explosions. Semi-controlled, and outside. So that was nice. This was hard, and good, and I'm SO glad we did this.

Jacob got to go to Space Camp. He's hooked, he's got his eye on Mars, and is saving to go back for the next level in 2017.

June - James was selected as a model for the Alabama Fashion Alliance. This changed the trajectory of the entire rest of the year. So much to learn, but such an interesting industry. And he loves it.

And back to Colorado! It was hard - very hard - to come back that last time. And did I tell you we hiked the Manitou Incline? I only got 3/4 of the way up before the Littles mutinied, but James and John made it to the top. Also, we got lapped by an octogenarian who clearly runs it daily just because he can, but even that was encouraging.

July -- We tried Durian for the first time. Because how can you not?

And then Jacob's best bud came home and spent a week scrabbling about the rocks with us.

August -- *phew* This one was hard. (That's not me in the pictures - as far as I know, there are no photos of me doing this. But I did it!) For someone who has no depth perception, is uncoordinated and afraid of heights, this was a gigantic feat. Scouting is cool.

September -- James had his first runway show.

And his second...

October -- we were still out in the kayaks every chance we got this Summer. Er, and fall.

And James received the rank of Eagle Scout!

November -- there's been a lot of fiber art action going on, here. I love these little miniature felted critters that Em made.

A visit from friends from out West!

And a birthday outing! (Actually, a lot of the kids turned 18 this year. This has been bittersweet, but the excitement and anticipation win out because they are just. such. great. young men and women.)

December -- we made it. Full lap. Holy cow.

Here's to 2017 bringing us a time of learning, discernment, joy, growth, support (both given and received)...

Be encouraged!

Thursday, December 15

Big News. Ish.

Well, not Big-big News. I'd hopefully come up with a much better title for that. But little-news-that's-exciting-to-me-because-I-hate-using-the-computer-for-reading. ACNA (the Anglican Church in North America) has been working on a Texts for Common Prayer, and it looks like it'll be available in print January 1st. (It's been available in PDF for a while.) We're relatively new to the Anglican Church (it's been about a year and a half), and I do love me some hands-on reading. So I'm quite excited about this.

In other news, it's Alabama-cold. The kids set small cups of water on the porch last night, and were not only disappointed, but quite surprised that the water didn't freeze. They were relatively certain that the ice should have been rock solid and rather impressive. I don't know if we need to move to Minnesota, or just double down on how temperatures work. (Although to be fair, with a low of 24, I thought they'd at least get a little something around the rim. Our pipes freeze up when it hits 27... So maybe I need to study up, too.) Either way, we're loving the warm goodness of wool this week.

Not a lot, really, going on today. Had lunch with a wonderful friend -- we got to talk a bit about what it's like to have a student done with homeschooling... and then (as I'm about to graduate my first, she's about to graduate her last) what it's like to *be* done with homeschooling. Nobody ever blogs about that. Probably because it's just as terrifying as getting started, but with less heads up. You're plugging along, doing your thing, and the next thing you know, there's nobody coming up the ranks... just, done. Weird. Exciting, liberating, wide-open, and not a little unsettling. But I'm excited to see what she's going to do, and I'll be jotting down ideas for when I look up and realize I'm done.

If you're in the thick of it, know this - you're doing good work. Be diligent. Be kind. Be encouraged.


Wednesday, December 14

A Day's Outing

We had three field trips today, starting at 8:30 this morning. That... wasn't the best planning I've done, but it worked out well in the end.

Krispy Kreme tour -- the highlight of this one was getting to mill about and visit with people we adore and see only rarely. Plus, coffee. Because if we have to be anywhere at 8:30, there should be coffee.

Knitting -- a dear friend meets with a knitting group, and she's invited Em to join them. But new people. And learning new skills. And so, polite-but-firm refusal has been Em's MO.

But *today*, we were having our book club at the same place, at overlapping times! So I had to jump on that opportunity, because it might not happen again, and I knew she'd love it once she got there.

And she did. (*whew*) When the knitters left for the day, she joined the rest of the kids for some board games and hang time...

Then we came home and slapped a little learning into the day with history, math, literature and languages.

James is really showing his mettle with this Physics course. I don't think I could do a full year's AP Physics in five months. Eh, strike that, there's No Way I could do it. But he's doing it. It hasn't been easy, and a few of the hurdles he's cleared haven't been gorgeous and sleek (they've been more like when I try to clear actual, physical hurdles), but he has kept on it. Not giving up, that one. And he gets it. He makes sure of that by putting in extra time when he doesn't get it, even if he's got the homework done and turned in -- he keeps at it until he's wrangled it to the ground. The mother in me gets exasperated with his organizational struggles, but the human in me is inspired by his intelligence and tenacity.

Not insinuating that mothers aren't humans. But we have strange lenses. Sometimes we've got to step back and view what our children are accomplishing through the eyes of just being human, doing hard things, and sticking to it. And then we are amazed. And oh, so proud.

Be encouraged!

Tuesday, December 6

It's a Party! With Party Food!

This fall, I've been part of the most amazing book club. It's been a source of humor, support, prayer, encouragement, ideas and insights, thoughtful conversation... You name it. We've also managed to read a couple of books. But that turned out to be the excuse, not the purpose. Tomorrow, we party.

The gift exchange plan is that the adults have drawn names and are to give gifts that we already have lying around, or can make. Wish I'd thought about the potential for this at some point in the last year of purging and wardrobe capsules and decluttering. I'm down to offering up a spare cast iron skillet, or maybe a SCOBY... So, I think we're going to go with making something. (But it's 10:30 and I don't know what. The odds that it will be "something laminated" are increasing as we approach midnight, I'm not gonna lie.) The kids are doing a similar gift plan, but they're planning on doing a Dirty Santa exchange instead of drawing names.

Em crocheted a mermaid while we read today.

I.... I've got nothing like that up my sleeve.

So James and I were thinking homemade treats would be nice. But of the group, we have varying degrees of dietary restrictions: sugar-free, dairy-free, egg-free, wheat-free, peanut-free, Keto, and Paleo. Plus one who can pretty much only eat cotton candy and nuts. (It's not that bad, but if I'm going to feed her, I take a picture of the ingredients, or the label on a product and text her, "Can you eat this?" Because if I guess, I will guess wrong!)

James happily decanted some of his vanilla erythritol, slapped a bow on it, and went back to studying. John grabbed a carabiner, which he hails as "the most useful thing since the pocket knife", wrapped it, and went back to studying. Jacob made a bracelet. Jase found a recipe for mint chocolate cookies that meets ALL of the dietary limitations of the group, so that's what he wants to make in the morning.

I still don't know what I'm going to do for the gift exchange, but in my search for inspiration I found some neat links to random things you can feed people who have special dietary requirements and thought perhaps you would enjoy some of them. (I've been full-on Keto for the last year, and feel amazing. But we don't really eat a lot of treats and sweets and such, so I haven't looked for alternatives. We make our mayo and sriracha and everything else can be killed or grown. Boy, was that search eye-opening! I had NO IDEA how far recipes had come for the dietary-restricted diets! Dang, people, way to get creative with your bad selves!)

First up, I found this recipe for what the author says is a lot like a Jolly Rancher. It's made with xylitol and either LorAnn's candy flavoring or unsweetened Kool-Aid. Oh, and a hot plate. (We do not have a hot plate, or a mug warmer, much to James' sorrow, so we used the coffee pot. It seems to have worked.) I didn't get pictures of the process because I am so far out of that frame of mind you wouldn't believe it. But it's a very low key process. We didn't add enough flavoring, I think. Prototypes are like that. But we also did not napalm anyone in the kitchen, break the coffee pot, or poison the dog. Plus, it's very satisfying to get xylitol to crystallize.

Then I found this mother lode of links for mug cakes. Paleo, low-carb, crazy, rampant cake recipes! I haven't made them, yet, but we did put Meyer lemons on the grocery list. I'm kind of toying with the idea of having batches pre-made and bagged with mugs set out, so guests can just pick their mix, dump it into a mug, and IT'S A PARTY!

If I can get up and out the door early enough tomorrow to buy some Swerve, I really want to make these Butterfinger Bars by Maria Emmerich.

And my sweet friend who has to preview ingredients graciously sent me her own pumpkin "pie" recipe after Thanksgiving... I doubled the egg count, threw in a titch of stevia, and we ate the whole danged thing. So she's getting a ramekin of that with whipped coconut cream tomorrow. In a heart shape, because I love her, and I'm a dork, and it'll make her smile.

Then we'll sit and catch up on each other's lives over the last week. We'll share a few quiet minutes while the kids play The Resistance and yell in the other room. We'll refresh our spirits and bolster ourselves for the coming week. It's good stuff.

Be encouraged!

Saturday, June 25

So, we survived...

PET scan in April showed complete remission. I'm really glad for that. A side effect of chemo I hadn't anticipated was the chemo brain. Suddenly, I was totally incapable of doing the *one* thing I've done for the last 17 years - managing our home. It's taken me about that long to get good at it, and suddenly, *POOF*, gone. I couldn't do it. I couldn't interpret a calendar. I couldn't remember what we were supposed to do. I couldn't formulate complete thoughts that led anywhere. It was like living with the Cheshire Cat in control of all cognitive processes. That pretty well tanked all my good intentions to have blog entries about the chemo process and beating cancer (because I totally had no intention of losing this one). Not that anyone would have known that, had I lost. (Aaaannnd, someone's talking to me, again, in spite of the fact that I'm typing. This is significantly easier to cope with when I have my brain back, but I've gotta tell you, it still makes me feel stabby.)

Anyway, we did it. We survived. And now, we're picking up the pieces. There are more pieces than I'd expected. It's like coming out of an amnesiac state only to find your family has suffered some kind of traumatic event that you don't quite know how to address. But we're working on it.

We're also piecing together the educational train wreck that was our Year of Unintentional Unschooling. Turns out, we're lousy unschoolers in general, but not entirely. The kids have continued to learn, in spite of the bizarre circumstances. And I'd wager that the stress of Educating with Dory was less of a hurdle that trying to maintain an institutional schedule would have been. So, there's that. Hurrah for Unintentional Wins!

You want to know what the best thing is for a family surviving chemo? Good friends. I don't mean well-meaning people who can't quite make eye contact but they feel really badly for you. I mean the kind of friends who will take your kids while you have a bone marrow biopsy. The kind of friends who will take up the slack in your co-op schedule because you can look straight at the syllabus and not be able to say whether you need to prepare for oxidation or molarity next week. Because words are hard when your brain doesn't work. The kind of friends who will still be willing to sit and chat with you about over coffee about normal stuff - the weather, books, the upcoming art festival, books-that-aren't-about-cancer, the last Scout trip, and maybe books. I can't tell you how much that means when you're in the middle of a weird experience that you don't want to be in, that doesn't necessarily have an end point, and that may not have the outcome you'd banked your very life on. Be that friend. Have that friend. We were so, so blessed to have more than one, and I just hope I live long enough to pay it forward, backward, and under the table. Because these people were the real sanity savers.

And that, my friends, is so much more than I could have wished for.

Be encouraged!

Monday, October 27

I Have Learned Something Very Important

We must use the wall calendar. October was absolutely harrowing as far as time management, and I've spent the last week trying to figure out how I dropped ALL THE BALLS in so many ways. It didn't make sense.

This morning I sat down with the boys to go over the calendar and Lo, and Behold - October is blank. We never filled in October's plan, and evidently the mantra, "If it isn't on the calendar, it doesn't happen" is more true than we realized.

Without it, the days zip past in a whirling blur of picking up, rushing out the door, and not having anything ready for dinner until it's way past bedtime. Without the trusty wall calendar, every event is a surprise and preparation fails to happen. I know this now.

Not that October was unpleasant. We had a lovely time.

We've been to museums...

And toured Cathedral Caverns...

Celebrated with friends...

And visited an apple orchard...

We did forensics labs with friends,

Enjoyed Historic Downtown Decatur during the 150th anniversary observance of the Battle for Decatur,

And captured this magnificent ruff at the Renaissance Faire! (James ducked down onto one knee when he requested the honor of taking a photograph with the Queen - I told him I wish I'd known he was going to do that because it was awesome and hilarious and caught me completely off guard so I didn't get a picture. He said he had no idea he was going to do it until he got in front of her and it just seemed like it had to be done. Love impromptu fun!)

So, all in all, it was a wonderful month. But November's calendar is filled in, if for no other reason than that I don't like eating at 9PM.

Kiss those babies!

Tuesday, September 23

Tiny Co-Op

I've avoided using a co-op for ten years. Mostly, we just never found one that would fit what we'd need from an outside source. But this year, we have six students who needed Biology. And labs sound like a lot more fun with friends. So three families got together and put together a Tiny Co-op. It's just Biology. And snacks.

The Littles do their thing during the class period (usually begging food off the host of the week). JakeRabbit works on whatever he needs to wrap up before the next library trip, and wanders in to observe. (He's made it fairly clear that I need to plan on doing something similar when he hits high school.) The high school students do their research independently and the labs in pairs.

They have absolutely blown me away with what they're doing. Not just the way they cover the material, but their willingness to discuss topics in depth. And one of our students does some absolutely fantastic lab drawings! I'll see if she will let me take a picture next week so I can share it. All around, it's been a fun reminder that teens are incredibly capable, funny, insightful, and diligent. (Or they can be, when they have the opportunity.)

We're using High School Biology in Your Home, from Bridget Ardoin. The students are given the topic and questions to answer over the course of the week. They can use whatever material they want to do their resource (so the first week we covered the elements of a trustworthy, reputable source). They learn to cite their sources, follow rabbit trails, and fill in the depth of their knowledge as much as they are motivated to. The labs are fantastic. There are enough typos in the printed material that it's a bit distracting, and I'd love to get my hands on fixing them. But the process is sound, and we'll definitely be using her Chemistry program next year.

I hope everyone else is willing to co-op again!

And just for fun, the boys' Troop had a cook-off at the meeting last night. Each patrol had to prepare a trail meal over a camp stove, and then present its meal to the judges. That was hilarious and fantastic. After the judging, the boys ate the evidence. (I didn't get to the camera in time to snap a shot of the full production.) Once again, kids will blow you away if you give them half a chance.

Kiss those babies!