Showing posts with label life in the south. Show all posts
Showing posts with label life in the south. Show all posts

Friday, July 13

Not Quite A Countdown

It's ...

1 day until we enjoy the 4th of July festivities with our wonderful peeps.

10 days until John takes the NREMT. (Please pray he passes on the first try - it's not whether he knows the material, but facing testing, for that one.)

17 days until I get my dancing boy back with all of his stories, laughter, commentary, and debris.

15 days until I get to do one last road trip with one of my best friends here. And Circe. Woohoo!

18 days until I see my honey again. And my boy. (Z will be here to retrieve him from Nashville. But he can do his own countdown.)

21 days until the REAL packing begins and we start eating off paper plates.

37 days until the end of Summer Semester, when I'll have an official Sophomore in college and a second semester Freshman! Wow. Where'd that time go?

About 40 days until I'm a New Mexican again! (We don't have specifics, there, so that's just sort of a vaguely shaded in section of the calendar.) I'm definitely leaving a big part of my heart here in Alabama, but I would be lying if I said I'm not looking forward to green chiles and cool nights, to dry air and dusty trails. Mostly, at this point, I'm looking forward to having Zorak back. Miss that man something fierce!

That would be one decorative, complex paper chain, wouldn't it?

Today we've mowed, packed the linen closet, done some laundry and some school.

The kids learned the word "prosaic" this week, which is a very cool word. It's also delightfully ornate considering it's meaning. That just tickled Jase.

We're nearly done with Dandelion Fire and Lurker at the Threshold. We've caught up with Father Geoff on the Book of Judges. (I'm looking at this reading list and thinking we need to throw in some lighthearted reading ... that's all a bit dark for warm summer afternoons.)

I've got to get more packing done, and shift a box of goodies to Jacob while I'm out today running errands. Don't really want to, but the post office isn't open at two in the morning, when it's cooler out.

What are you looking forward to?

Be encouraged!
~ Dy

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

Saturday, July 7

What Else Has Been Going On?

Once again, we have jettisoned a car with much cheering and applause.

John's Buick started blowing the upper radiator hose. Just out of nowhere it started doing it as if it had picked up a fun new hobby. He took to carrying a full took kit, complete with a magnetic tool retriever (not that it did any good - we lost four screws down there and never were able to retrieve a single one - they just fall down and disappear into another dimension), and a couple gallons of water. It had been having issues for a while, but this is the issue that ended the struggle.

I even got a little frustrated at one point and went down to put the damn hose clamp on, myself. (The Buick Rendezvous is a terrible design. Just a heads up. It's a neat car. Cool idea. Yet clearly designed by someone who hates himself, hates the world, and reserves special hatred for people who work on their own cars. I have never in my life seen such a poorly designed space.) Anyway, although John is really great at spooling up on how to fix known issues, and even though he knows how to put on a hose clamp, it just didn't make sense. I figured the lousy design was just making it harder than it had to be (which it was). But I thought at least I know that I know how to use a hose clamp and how to get a hose on properly. We could put this issue to rest, certainly.

He texted the next time he left the house. It had done it again.

At that point, we agreed it was time to give AAA towing a try. He figured it out, got the thing towed to a mechanic. The mechanic took a look at it, put the hose on, good to go.

Until he left the house again. (Always on his way to something with a defined start time. Always. Blessedly, he's been driving crappy, unreliable cars since he first got his license, so he's really good about leaving "mechanic time" in his schedule.)

This time, there was smoke. 😲

Back to the mechanic. Turned out there was a problem in the engine. Something leaking. Too much pressure. That's why it was blowing the hose. But at this point, it had gotten just warm enough just often enough that the heads had warped. Or whatever. At any rate, it needed a new engine.

Mechanic didn't want to fix it.

I didn't want to pay him to fix it. (Not what it was going to cost to replace the engine on top of the other unrelated things it also needed, like tie rods and so forth.)

James and John are cool with carpooling over the summer.

I'm even cooler with not paying insurance on another car.

So, we junked it, and hopefully the sound body and intact interior will provide some blessed surprise and joy to some other poor soul spending his time working on his Buick Rendezvous. We hope it makes someone's month when they find it there.

We're holding off on replacing it until we get moved. No point in paying registration twice, hauling it across country. Plus, he may not even need a car right off the bat. So although juggling two cars around five schedules isn't ideal, it's a nice set up. We can all ride in either of the cars if something goes awry with the other one, and nobody is getting stuck on the side of the road in the Southern Summer Weather. Win-win-win.

Be encouraged!
~ Dy

Wednesday, June 27


It's Summertime! It's warm! It's sunny! It's been three months since I've written!

We closed on the Forever Home in April and it's now got just the family it needed. I am eight months into living 11 minutes from absolutely everything and still absolutely loving it! Like, you would not believe how wonderful it is for me. Oh, gosh. Yes!

James ended up staying at the house most nights near the end of the spring semester. Not having internet at the RV made getting school work done a little challenging, and as much as he loved the study hall in the honors building, it didn't have food late at night. So he'd come schlepping in around dinner time, eat, study, eat, play video games, eat, talk a bit, then crash on the couch. The boys took to referring to him as "The Hobo", although I'm fairly certain it was a lovingly bestowed nickname. There was a lot of laughter and chattering among them in the kitchen. Bonding over memes and such, I think. I don't know. I just sat here and enjoyed the happy noises.

The end of the semester came and he moved back in for the summer. Him and his stuff. You know how some people are into rescue animals and they are forever bringing home abandoned puppies, kittens, and armadillos? Well, James is into rescuing hardware. "But they were just going to throw them away! I couldn't just leave them there!" It's tech-based dumpster diving. And now my living room is filled with computers, computer parts, and cables. So many cables. I have no idea how he's going to fit back in the RV come fall.

We got John graduated from high school and he's in college full time over the summer, now. He'll have to transfer to a school in New Mexico to finish it, but both schools are accredited and bonafide, so the transition should be fairly smooth. Or not. We're still learning to roll with unexpected changes.

It's very, very weird having college students. I don't feel that old. They vacillate between seeming plenty old and really not possibly old enough. It's just a weird stage, but so far it's fascinating and fun, if confusing and exhausting. Kind of like life, in general, right?

Be encouraged!

Monday, March 12

The Last of the Projects

When Z came out, he picked up our trailer and took it to the Forever Home to load up a few last things. (There were a lot of things ...) It was a good thing he was here, because we discovered the water line had broken where it crossed the creek! Oy!

Fortunately, we'd turned the water off at the main since we weren't down there to turn faucets on and off when the temps dipped low. (Low for here. I know there's a curve - but when your water line is above grade, it doesn't take much!)

So he got that fixed and reinforced. He'd have done it regardless of who was buying the house, but knowing the family he was fixing it for made a difference in his overall cheerfulness level while he stood in the creek and flushed the line.

Then the kitchen drain backed up, so he stayed a couple of extra days to get that flushed and make certain it was good and clean. (We do use a lot of grease in our cooking ...)

I dismantled the fridge and got it clean. Wiped out the oven. Stood looking around. The ceiling fans are clean. The windows are sparkly. I'll go back sometime before we close and sweep/mop the floors. And that'll be it. The last of the projects. The end of an era.

We stood together in the lower drive, hands on hips, looking at the redbuds peeking purple through the grey of winter wood, the daffodils blooming as if it's not going to freeze one more time around the first week of April (which it totally is, but you can't tell the daffodils anything - they've just gotta bloom), and we were struck by the finality of leaving. It was bittersweet. Deeply bittersweet.

I'm glad we'll have the memories and the friendships to take with us. That's what makes it all bearable.

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

Thursday, January 25

A Weird Week of Provision and Panic

James called Sunday morning to say he'd be late for church. He'd blown a tire about a mile away. He was fine, which was all I cared about. The rest, we can handle. (We're all vaguely surprised those tires haven't all imploded before now. I knew they were bad, but I'll admit that I haven't paid attention to the vehicle maintenance. This is the first time I've even looked at our tires outside of the one crazy tire on the Highlander that we had to replace earlier in the month.) Blessedly, we've been budgeting, and I've been able to work, so it wasn't a problem to say we could get a new tire. I had an inkling there was no spare (there wasn't - oy!) so I slipped out of church to pick him up and just go get a new tire. When I arrived it was obvious the rim was also shot. Okay, we've got this, right?

So, this week, I learned that you can't just go to Walmart, or even National Tire & Battery, and buy a wheel on the spot. I could have sworn that I'd seen rims for sale in stores before ... But the world has moved on. This is going to be one of my Old Lady Stories. "When I was a child ..." (*waves cane*) Also, it's a '92, so that meant we had to find a junk yard that was open on Sundays and would have a car we could cannibalize. We found one that's open, but they didn't have a single Volvo on the lot. So, we went back, gathered his things, and he left a note (which I didn't see until Tuesday, when we were able to get back to it). Since it's a crappy car parked in a swanky greenbelt parking lot, this was probably a wise course of action:

We spent Sunday evening looking online for wheels at junk yards. The boys thought it would be kind of awesome to buy one really swanky gold colored alloy wheel, preferably with a spinning component. They thought it would be a delightful bit of absurdity against the stock Volvo caps, the missing trim piece on one door, and the mismatched door handle on another. While I appreciate their sense of aesthetics (and humor), I wasn't going to steal grocery money for lolz. I found one in Birmingham (just a plain Jane, stock steel wheel), and confirmed that they still had it.

(As a side note, if you're looking for a market that needs either data entry skills or could use some kind of useful software, junk yard inventories are notoriously out of sync with what's in the yard. So, if you have a superpower and are looking for a place to use it, give that some thought. You could make millions.)

We kicked Jacob off early at ballet, then realized we still wouldn't make it before they closed, so I called to let them know that I wouldn't be able to make it before they closed for the day and I'd just come in the morning. The guy very graciously said to come on down. He said he'd be there whenever I got there, that it wasn't a problem, wasn't an imposition, just come on down. No, really, he'd wait for us. Okay, then. The Littles and I drove down.

87 miles.

He wasn't there. Nobody was there. Nobody answered the phone. I even tried the lock on the gate. And I laid on the horn.

We took a deep breath, then turned around and drove back. It was an awesome (if somewhat forced) exercise in living out every stupid thing I tell the children -- about extending grace, about looking for the positive, about trusting in God's provision, about how we can choose to make a situation better or worse by how we respond to it. But we did it, and we had a really lovely ride down and back.

The next morning, we did this whole Cirque du Soleil level choreography that involved me leaving at 6:30 in the morning to drive 174 miles round trip, get tires mounted and balanced, and get to the Volvo, while the boys spent the morning switching cars and making a dozen relays with John's car so that everyone could get where they needed to be. I went ahead and got two wheels while I was down there so that he'll have a spare in the future, and we hopefully don't have to make that drive again soon. The kids grabbed clothes for me (we had tickets to see a play that day at noon), James picked up everyone from their respective activities, and we all converged on the parking lot where the Volvo sat, looking sketchy and abandoned.

The boys put the two new tires on. The back end is now raised visibly, and it looks like a custom lift job on a crappy car. It's kind of hilarious, if you can get past the mortification aspect. James saw the new tires in the back of the Highlander and was convinced I'd bought the wrong size. "These will never fit on the Volvo!"

No, Love, it's the same size tire, this is just what it looks like with tread. Jacob asked how that happens (which is a completely sane question). "Well, this is 130K miles on 60K-mile tires. Don't do this. Do better than your father and I do, okay? That's the goal."

Of course, that's kind of the goal of everything. Do better than we do. Be more diligent than we were. Be more engaged that we were. Extend grace more readily than we did. Walk more closely with God than we did. And maintain your cars better than we do. Of course, we don't just stick that out there and leave them to their own devices. They have support, resources, and encouragement. And they're doing it.

I told them all that because of who they are -- their willingness to step into the gap and help out, the fact that they can be trusted to look out for each other, the way they are willing to learn and to engage, they took what could have been a total nightmare situation and turned it into nothing more than a mild inconvenience that was easily surmountable. That's alchemy, right there. They wouldn't high five me in the parking lot, but that totally would have been appropriate.

And so, tomorrow, two more new tires (I'm terrified the front two are going to blow just from the added pressure of having the bigger ones on the back.) Thankfully, the weather is nice, James can bike to work and to school. We can give him a lift if he needs one. So, all is well, and we are slowly attending to all the things that clearly need it, one harrowing (yet encouraging) thing on the list at a time.

Sometimes, when things are overwhelming, they can also be encouraging. And that's a good thing.

Be encouraged! (And check your tires!)

~ Dy

Saturday, January 13

You Beautiful People!

This week has been so encouraging.

A friend is applying for a position that would be practically perfect - both for her, and for the organization. I'm so excited and hopeful for her!

The boys have gushed and gushed about their classes and instructors. I'm so appreciative that they talk to me.

One of the boys has demonstrated that he can, in fact, get his shizzle done when a ride is on the line. I'm, um, so glad he can catch on!

A friend has been on fire lately with thoughtful things and being her typical loving, encouraging self.

People all over the place are helping each other out, sharing what they have, doing good things to skew their worlds for the better. That's very encouraging.

Z is making plow discs in his spare time. I love that he's using his creative energies!

We got snow! It was a lame snow, but it was snow. Didn't stick and the roads are clear, so that's like getting a double bonus of appreciation.

What's been encouraging in your world this week?

Be encouraged (or encouraging)!

~ Dy

Wednesday, January 3

The Nutcracker

Well, THIS was exciting. A year ago, Jacob sat in the farthest row of the highest balcony at the Von Braun Center and watched, mesmerized, as The Nutcracker played out before us. He leaned forward, spellbound, the entire performance, but particularly watching the men's parts - the Nutcracker Prince, the Rat King, the dolls. He was captivated by the power and strength of the dancers. When he asked if he could do that, we had no idea that this December would find him backstage, preparing for his own parts.

All week, he kept whispering at random, "This is what started it all. And I'm here." He was in a bit of a dream world.

He gave his all to every role. As a Party Teen, he was so exuberant and festive. He was so, so great with the little ones on stage. He was a delight to watch.

As a gypsy, he was beautiful and vibrant. I got to watch from the wings one night when he danced that part, and the look on his face as he landed in the final position ... I will carry that image with me to my grave. I've never seen him look so happy, so at home (and this is a kid who is at home in most any setting, so that's saying something).

As half of the dragon, he was entertaining and delightful.

But most of all, he was kind, considerate, and engaged. He even goofed around with me a little bit!

The atmosphere backstage of a Huntsville Ballet Company production is one of the most professional, courteous, and team-driven endeavors I've ever been fortunate enough to witness. (I got to help, too, which was fabulous. Everyone should help backstage at least once, just to appreciate what goes into making the magic happen when the curtain goes up.) I could not have been more proud of him, or more pleased with where he is. They're a good fit, and I'm thankful for that.

For all the things we wish we could go back and do differently, or do better, I really feel like we've hit the sweet spot in encouraging them to pursue excellence, and to work hard at what they love. It's one thing to dream, but it's another to put your effort and hard work into achieving it. That's huge, and I am so thankful that he's doing just that.

Be encouraged!


Tuesday, January 2

On Moving. Again.

So, while John and I were basking in the dry, cool mountain air of New Mexico this past July, Z was at home, clearly panicking at the thought of living here forever. Possibly without me. (The fear of me dying is kind of a constant with him. It was always there, but got markedly worse with the cancer. Single parenting for a month rather exacerbated the whole thing. Understandable.)

So he went off plan and applied for a slew of jobs in New Mexico that month. (The deal has always been Colorado, or we stay here.) When I got back into signal range and read the job postings he'd forwarded to me, I started praying ...

"Lord, please not Alamogordo." (I have NOTHING against Alamogordo, for the record. It's a vibrant, neat little town with a strong Classical education community, and a ballet company. It could be a great place to live. But I have always maintained that if he worked in Alamogordo, I wanted to live in High Rolls or Cloudcroft, both of which just wash my mountain-loving soul in cool air and pine trees. I haven't had cool air and pine trees since 2003. But that would put us right back to living in the country and having to drive into town every. single. day. That thought kind of made me cry. Actually, it totally made me queasy.)

That job fell through. Thank you, Lord!

"Lord, Socorro? Really? This needs to be discussed?" (I've never lived in Socorro, and I'm sure we could make it work. NM Tech is there, and it's fantastic. It's not too far from the Bosque. There's a lot to commend it. But, again with the driving to get the kids to the things they do. And there are no mountains there to soothe the process. Sorry, Socorro, but I was actively praying against that one.)

That job fell through.

"Albuquerque? Well, Lord, you know I'd love it. And you know the kids would love it. We both know Z probably isn't going to love it. He might grow to like it ... I don't know. But, if it's gotta happen, then it's gotta happen. Your call." (It's ALWAYS His call. I know this. But he says to ask for what we want, and I'm taking Him at face value on that.)

So, Albuquerque it is.

We all hate to leave our people here. One of my biggest requests is that we have a home large enough that we can be a destination point for loved ones to come and see the West, stay with us, and allow us to repay the generosity and love they've shared with us.

The older boys may stay. James will, for sure. He's surviving college. He loves his job. He loves our church. He seldom gets lost when he's driving. He'll be 20 this year (oh, gosh, HOW?), so it seems there's not much point for him in uprooting to start over again.

John's measuring his options and seeing what he can see. He's 17. This is a good time to do that.

Jacob would gladly move in with someone from the ballet school to stay here, but since that's not an option, we've given him room to be morose, and then encouragement to embrace what he can about it. He plans to come back, perhaps for his Senior Year, to dance here. I'm okay with leaving that on the table. It'll be here before either of us know it, and who knows what he'll want to do then? But in the meantime, having that on the table gives him hope and frees him up to enjoy dancing in New Mexico without feeling like he's being unfaithful to his beloved HBC. I love his loyal, passionate heart.

Em and Jase are basically holding their breath and not making eye contact. They don't know what to expect. They haven't particularly enjoyed all the change and upheaval to date, and it's not what they would choose, but they're still young enough that if I promise them a good adventure, they'll trust that it's a good adventure. (Jase finds this exciting. I should, however, have chosen a different word for Em - an adventure is the last thing she hopes for. Ever. Oops. Still learning with that one!)

And so, our Alabama adventure appears to be drawing to a close. It's something we've known was coming for the last seven years, but truthfully, it came as a surprise. This is such a wonderful place to live, with so much available, and so many wonderful things in life here. It's hard to imagine another place that has so much to love as North Alabama does. Twelve and a half years of living will do that to a person, though. It's good. It's been good.

And the next chapter of our lives will also be good.

Be encouraged!


Tuesday, October 10

Seven Days

I told you I was like a kid at Christmas!

I'm half planning to load up my bed, a suitcase, a box of bacon and the coffee press, and call it good. If they want anything else, they can come back for it. Oh, and the patio furniture - I do love our patio furniture. That should be plenty, right?

We had a week off from ballet while the school was on fall break. Nearly missed trash day, woke Z up early on a day he didn't have to go to work, and accomplished very little in the way of returning library books that week. Evidently, we can't use a calendar without some kind of external anchor to remind us what day it is. Also, to Jacob's Russian teacher, I apologize. He comes by it honestly.

However, I remembered that I can, in fact, cook quite well when I have the time to do it. So, that's been fun. I'm really looking forward to getting settled and doing more in the kitchen again.

We animal-sat for friends over the long weekend. It was good, and we're glad we were able to help them out, but we are so not cut out for farm life. It probably would have been easier if we didn't live 50 minutes away, and often had to wear the rest of the day whatever we wore to tend the animals. That was kind of gross. Or, if we had any idea what might cause a goat to fall over. That was scary. (The goat is fine, and John rocked the medic training - he devised a carry sling and we let him tell us what to do, so we didn't completely suck at whatever it was we were supposed to be doing.) They'll be back today, and I am so incredibly glad.

Today is John's last day at work. They've been so good to him, and it was a wonderful experience for a first time job. With the move, though, he'd be working to earn the gas money to drive ... to work. Plus, he starts clinicals near the end of this semester, and that will take up a lot of additional time. He picks up another class at the CC on the 21st, as well. He has a plan and he's moving on it. It's neat to stand back and see that play out, see where he wants to go and how he's making it happen.

Today is also the last Harried Tuesday! Hurrah! No more! This time next week, I can drop Jacob at ballet and GO HOME to wait! There shall be scones! (We tweaked a keto bagel recipe and it's like lovely, decadent scones, only with scads of protein and few carbs. So good!)

Be encouraged!


Sunday, September 24

*psst* Hi.

I am not dead. Nor have I killed anyone, run anyone off, or set anything on fire. There should be cupcakes for that. We have, however, firmly identified the point at which we cannot function anymore, and ballet is it. Or rather, ballet, college, work, theater -- all in town, with us living in the country. That's it. That spot, right there.

So, we move into town next month (I'm doing daily countdown announcements like a six-year-old near Christmas!) and we'll be officially putting the Forever Home on the market. Not only will this buy us some breathing space, but it'll be significantly easier to show the place when we don't have seven people's worth of activities and lunch bags drizzled from the front door to the kitchen. (Because that's all we have the energy for when we do get home, limply drop our belongings as we stagger to the fridge.)

It's funny. Some of the kids have mused that we should have bought a house in town when we got here. It's a knee-jerk reaction to agree (because nobody wants to pack everything - that's their real motivation, there), but then I think back on it, and no. No, this was the perfect place to raise our family. Bonfires in the lower meadow, smaller campfires in the upper ... Dinners with friends on the balcony, airsoft in the woods ... Fruit from the trees and minnows from the creek (we ate the fruit, but not the minnows) ... Window frogs and lightning bugs ... Expeditions into the woods to look for new plants or harvest blackberries ... Building projects and Scout projects ... The Pinewood Derby track that lived in the basement, in use, for years ... Riding the wagon down the drive, or trying to get Balto to be a sled dog (didn't work) ... The incredible, amazing friends we've made here ... We have a dozen years of delicious, precious memories firmly rooted in this place, and I wouldn't trade them for anything.

We'll make new memories in new places, yes, but they don't negate that the Forever Home was a pretty darned fantastic home base for over a decade. It just needs to be a fantastic place for someone else, now - someone with little ones who want to garden and play in the creek and really revel in all the delightful surprises this place has to offer.

And I need to live in a place that lets all my people do their thing while still giving Z and I time to do ours.

23 days!! *squee*

Be encouraged!

Sunday, August 13

First Showing, School Books

We showed the house today! It was nerve-wracking and scary and hard, but we did it. I don't know if they liked it or hated it, but they were kind and made it painless. They stayed for two hours, their children played and ran amok all over the property, and we got that dreaded *first* out of the way. If this isn't the house they need, that's OK. It was a good experience, all the way around.

After they left, I took pictures, thinking to put them up online and get the word out. But that's not going to happen yet. All I see in the pictures are things I want to fix, tweak, clean, change. Nope. Not just yet. Or, maybe a few now... and then I can update the album as we go? I don't know. Although I DO know that taking a photo of a room is an excellent way to assess its condition even when you think you already know what it needs! Wow! There's something about a photograph that allows us to step back and look with a critical, unbiased eye, which is pretty cool. I'm not sure at what point we'll have done enough work that it'll warrant calling a realtor to come take over. Who knows? Always be learning, right? Sometimes, we learn the hard way. That's OK, too.

Meanwhile, Jacob and I are working through The Iliad right now. He asked if I'd read a bit aloud tonight. I jumped on it, as I've been wanting us to read together more. Yeah, that was a trap. It was the end of Book 2, where Homer lists all the ships, all the leaders, all the dalliances that brought about the leaders... it's a lot like reading I Chronicles, but with harder names to pronounce. No wonder he didn't get through it during the week. Good to read, but not gripping. Well, unless you're into genealogy. I'm sure it's fascinating to somebody, just not for us. We continued on through Book 3 to make up for it. Now, that was fun!

Now that we've got the first showing out of the way, a lot of the house de-cluttered and an idea what needs to be done next/first/whatever, I feel much less tense about the whole process. We'll just work our way through the photos, right? It's a start, at any rate.

Tomorrow, school! A little work in the foyer and hall. Then dance. Always dance...

Be encouraged, no matter how weird things get, there's good to be found!


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!


Sunday, July 23


I have a den full of boxes and three empty book cases! We gave away one book case, and I hope to give away more this weekend. We learned a few things:

* If you want to get kids to read books, have them take books off a shelf to put in boxes. We got SO much reading done today! Like they discovered a secret library I'd been holding out on. It was hilarious.

* When your 18yo and your 11yo curl up on the couch to look at Rembrandt pictures together, you really can't care that they aren't working. (I already knew this, but it was a beautiful reminder.)

* One book case can hold a LOT of books! Wow, we are richly blessed with books.

* Dust is insidious.

* I'm wondering if white book cases would mitigate some of the room-shrinking effect... but then I wonder how bad it would look when they get dirty... then I spin around in circles like Gayle Waters-Waters preparing for company. So. No actual decisions, and I'm a little dizzy, now.

* Also, I need a vertically-capable roomba. Do those exist? If not, why not? I can't be the only person who's thought of asking Santa to look into this.

* And finally, we really should have gotten a storage shed before we started boxing things up. But, you live and learn. It'll be fine.

The nice part is that nobody minds working inside when it's hot 'n sticky out there! Plus, the Popsicles don't melt so quickly if you're indoors! Win!

Tomorrow's task will be the kitchen. It's already pretty tight, so I'm thinking it will be an easy day. Also, it's only going to be in the high 80's tomorrow! So that's downright doable!

Be encouraged!


Wednesday, June 21

New Schedules, New Days, New Foods

It's only mid-week and already the Littles miss their in-house IT man. 😄 I can fix  you up if you've got a gaping wound, need help deciphering new words, or learning how to cook. If you can't get into the something-admin-something of the something-mod in the something-world of Minecraft, though, you're just going to have to wait for your brother to get home. He seems happy with the new routine, and is stepping into it beautifully.

The rest of us are also getting used to this new schedule. It's weird. The Littles and I are on a solid one-week run of getting to the library (I know, it's a wonder they put up with us), and we may make it through June without any  more late fees if we keep this up. John's missing the Volvo (part is en route!) and would like to be independently mobile again, but he's been fantastic about communicating to make sure everyone's got the wheels they need when they need them to get where they need to be. Jacob seems to be all-in on his schedule, as far as dance goes. Not so much the academics, but it's a process. I hope.

I do think Z really enjoys the carpooling action, though. He hasn't had years of that daily commute time with the kids, so this is a nice treat for him to have some regular one-on-one time with James. No clue what they talk about, but they both seem content.

Our gear is arriving! My puffy jacket arrived! It fits! It's so warm! It's so exciting! I hope it's chilly enough to need it while we're there - that would be the best birthday surprise!

Also, I received my Pili Nuts order today. (Pronounced /pee'-lee/.) Before they'd arrived, I'd have told you that the customer service was really something special. The folks at Hunter-Gatherer Foods are a delight to do business with, and I was quite looking forward to checking out the Pili Nuts. Now that I've opened the bags and tried some of their product (the turmeric and black pepper, the raw cocao, and the coconut oil and salt), I will tell you that if you order some (and you should), get the bigger bags. You won't be sorry! I have found my new go-to trail snack, on-the-go snack, and "emergency" food. This is the kind of thing I'm absolutely asking Santa for at Christmas. I also think I'll need to order more before we leave. These four bags won't make it to departure day! (I am not making anything off this - this is just me, telling you about something I found that's pretty fantastic!)

John and I had our physicals today. We both appear healthy enough to the average physician and have the all-clear to head to Philmont! My pulse was a little high - as soon as the nurse called my name, my heart started doing jello-shots of adrenaline like it was ladies' night, and I could not calm down. Z laughed and said it's probably a wee bit of PTSD. I laughed, too, because it's absurd and he's probably right. But there's nothing I can do about it except roll with it. Maybe one day I can get to the point where a nurse can call me back without my body yelling, "Cops! Hide!" Or maybe it'll just be how I respond from now on. Who knows? I'm new at this, and probably bad at this, but thankful to have the opportunity to try, at any rate.

And on that note, I am going to grab a book and head to bed. We've got storms coming in off the tropical depression. We're safe here (just damp), but you all in the path of the storm, be careful, look out for one another, and check in when you can!

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Friday, June 16

No Big News

Or, rather, scads of Big News, just not the news I thought I'd have to share.

Z had applied for a position in Colorado. It would have been a fantastic fit for him - doing GOOD work, doing something he loves (problem solving), and right where he wants to be. We had a lot of optimism about this one. However, someone with years experience doing *that* exact job (which Z, although a quick study, did not have), who is already spooled up and in the game, also applied. That guy was an objectively better fit for the position. Plus, his position where he currently is was about to be eliminated. So we can't begrudge him the award. But I do hope he really, really enjoys it for us.

Meanwhile, we're all trying to suck it up and brace ourselves for another Alabama summer.


With the job possibility on the horizon, pretty much everything beyond graduation was in limbo: Philmont, Circe, summer school, kids' jobs, kids' colleges, the Universal trip, you name it. Every. single. thing. was on hold. The problem with limbo (other than the absolute mind-fraying inability to plan!) is that deadlines and time don't also get put on hold during that time. So, now that the limbo is lifted and decisions are made, we kind of have to hustle.

John and I head to Philmont in about two weeks. Two and a half? Something like that. He's got the calendar. I'm just an adult with a driver's license. I had excellent intentions of hiking daily, but the double-punch of it being Alabama in June (ugh, the weather is so hot and muggy), and the appealing thought of being able to hike in Colorado, instead... well, I do not have the internal fortitude to fight that powerful combination. So I haven't hiked. We've got a 20-miler tomorrow. I guess we'll see how badly this is going to bite me in the rear, then...

I did break out my beloved old backpack (turns out, when I say "old", it's near-vintage old - 27-years!) and gave it a good scrub. It's still mostly waterproof! WOW! Can't for the life of  me figure out how to adjust the shoulder harness on it. It LOOKS like it should be adjustable, but I can't nail it down and I'm terrified of breaking it in the process of trying. Not really thinking about how much things have changed in almost 30 years, I got online to try and find a video for that. (Go ahead and laugh, I'll wait.) Then I emailed the company to ask for assistance. A very kind rep got back with me quite quickly and admitted that... nobody there now was there that long ago or has any idea what system is on it, but he said he'd try to track someone down and get me sorted. I sent some photos of the harness system, and hope someone is willing to come out of retirement to lend an old lady a hand!

That said, when this puppy gets replaced, it'll be with another Lowe Alpine pack. This one has hiked portions of the AT, meandered around the Blue Ridge Mountains, biked with me all over Vermont and NY, trekked down into the Grand Canyon (several times) and into Havasupai. It's gone on untold shorter 4-day treks over the years, as well. Then I passed it along to James, and it survived his Scouting years (which weren't kind... this isn't his Zen area). Now it's back with me, again, if I can get the harness adjusted. I don't even remember what we paid for it, but I remember my 17y.o. self was in awe of owning something that pricey at the time, and it's been worth every penny. I'm a little giddy at the thought of getting one that weighs less...

So that's been it, here. A lot of breath-holding, a lot of tension, and a lot of bustle in the end. It's all good. I can't wait to see what's next!

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Wednesday, May 31

Fast Arrivals and Sudden Stops

The family has arrived! They pulled in on Sunday evening, and as quickly as they entered, all progress on the house gave way to time enjoying baby giggles and cousin laughter.

Z's taken them fishing and to the water park. He is a larger-than-life figure, and I think he's enjoying it just as much as they are.

Tomorrow, we take a pontoon out on the river for a day of cruising and cove exploration! We've got the menu planned and the route figured out. The nephews will get a chance to pilot a boat beneath the bridge if they're very good. (Probably even if they're not. But they're good kids, so I'd put money on making it happen.)

I didn't go fishing, but got to stay behind and hold the newest addition to the family - a wee baby with scrunchy-faced expressions and laughter that starts in the toes! I also got to visit (in the comfort of climate controlled, upholstered space) with my dear Sister-in-Law for a bit. I've gotta say, my Brother-in-Law married quite a gem. She is just fantastic.

I didn't make it to the water park, either. Jacob needed ferrying from point A to point B, back to point A, and again to point B, and so on... We had inadvertently overbooked this week. He thought he hadn't received the Space Academy scholarship (he hadn't expected to, since he did receive it last year), so he committed to the school sketches at the ballet school, which take place the same week. About a month later, they received more funding and went through the applicants to see who else they could award it to. His application passed the second round. It was a wonderful conundrum - but one that required a good deal of logistics and a wee bit of heckling to make it happen. He made it, though, to all the rehearsals and tonight's performance, and he's thoroughly engaged and having a successful camp experience.

He also napped in the car for about an hour before the show. I don't blame him. You can only go 90 mph for so long before you have to stop.

And rest.

Which is what we've all been doing this week with the family, and it's been nice!

We'll need to muster some spring in our gait before this weekend, though. It's about to get busy!

I hope your last week of May is going beautifully!

Be encouraged!

~ Dy