Archive for November 2009

On the move again: Chapter One

Friday, November 27, 2009

I've always loved surprises. I love surprise parties. I love the anticipation of hearing "It's a boy or It's a girl!" from the delivery room. I like to think of myself as being able to adjust to the unexpected and embrace a "change in plans". However, after the latest surprise I think I'm ready to add a disclaimer to that statement.

Two short months ago we sold our home and moved into a rental. Our plan was to downsize, simplify and stay put for the next 6 months while we sought God's direction for our family. Read the story here. When we signed the lease, part of our agreement with the owners was--for a reduction in rent--to allow them to leave the house for sale. No open houses would be required but showing it would be expected. They had been unsuccessful at trying to sell it for the past two years (even had it staged for 4 months) but weren't willing to take the house off the market. We thought it was overpriced for a 1981 split level and assumed most potential buyers would feel the same. However, if they did sell while we were in occupancy, we would have 60 days from the date an offer was accepted to move out.

Four weeks after we settled in I got a phone call from a realtor: "Can I show the house this afternoon at 1:30?" My heart skipped a beat and my stomach did a somersault. I just knew. It was a done deal. I heard nothing for the next three days. Maybe Trey was right. Perhaps I was overreacting. I can get ahead of myself. No news is good news, right? Then I ran into our landlord at the grocery store.

Landlord: "I'm glad I saw you. I wanted to let you know that we have an offer on the house. But don't start packing boxes yet. We've been down this road before and once they do an inspection and we won't fix anything then they go away. I'll keep you posted."

Me: "Uh. OK. Yeah. Just let us know." (freaking out inside, trying to act calm, blood pressure rising)

Another three days pass and I start to think we might be in the clear. My cell phone rings with an unfamiliar number. It's the listing agent. She wanted to call and let me know that the inspection was taking place in the morning and the appraisal would be the following Monday. I started thinking maybe I should get out those boxes I didn't need to start packing. One doesn't order or pay for these services unless one is 99.9% sure one is buying the house. As I sat here watching the inspector I prayed fervently for faulty wiring, excessive mold, anything. The house is almost 30 years old. There had to be something major. Something? No. Nothing.

Again, another three days with no word from anybody when the doorbell rings. It's the owner personally delivering our official 60-day notice.

To be continued......


This is what I'm thankful for

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Your kid's basketball schedule? Of all the blessings to be thankful for this holiday season, and you pick this? No. Look closer. Closer. Move your eyes to the bottom of the page. That's right. The coach wrote "Christmas Vacation". Not "Winter Break" or "Winter Solstice" but good ol' Christmas. I was so shocked when I saw the words that I had to take a picture of it. A public school teacher actually uttering these words? Most of them don't know that this is notan illegal act subject to job suspension and a court hearingl. But I won't disclose the teacher's name for his own protection. Something tells me that he wouldn't care anyway.

Thank you, coach!! Happy Thanksgiving!


Dangerous Surrender Chapter Two: Coffee

Friday, November 20, 2009

A while back I posted about a particular book that was challenging me: Dangerous Surrender by Kay Warren. I often get excited about what I'm reading but, more often than not, I end up finishing it and setting it on the bookshelf. Not with this one. I passed it on to one of my BFF's who passed it on to her friend, who read it in a day and so on and so on and so on........
Which then resulted in a "book club/study group/coffee klatch" on Wednesday mornings.
After the four of us finished discussing the first chapter, one of the BFF's shared with us about a particular family she knows who lives on very little--by choice. They have three small children, live in a 2 bedroom house, own one car, the dad bikes to work in spite of the weather and they make a small pittance stretch for their monthly food budget. I can't even bring myself to write the amount as you would be astounded--and quite possibly ashamed. My friend made a suggestion that would be a small sacrifice to us but a huge blessing to this family: when dropping off outgrown clothes at our local kids' consignment store, apply our donations to this mom's account instead of our own. What a wonderful surprise she would have on her next clothes shopping visit. Done.
The following week I showed up with my Starbucks in hand ready to tackle Chapter 2. As we dive in, our same friend had another idea: Instead of us all stopping to get our fancy java, bring the money we would have spent on a latte and drink her fresh-brewed Folgers instead. At the end of our 11 weeks we'd ask God what to do with the accumulated cash. I was nominated to get out my glue stick and magazines and find my inner 17-year-old creativity. Here's the result:

I still haven't fallen in love with "that other coffee" but I am excited to see how many "fishes and loaves" are multipied from this very simple sacrifice.


First day of school--again

Friday, November 13, 2009

At the risk of being pegged a "middle school peaker" who is living vicariously through her 12 year old, this is my last post on the fire. Well, at least this week. My enthusiasm really does not come from a long standing need to repeat those adolescent years. (Although I am one of the rare adults who does look back fondly on sixth through eighth grade.) I just continue to be touched and moved by the overflow of kindness of this community and want to share it with everyone I know.

The above video is from yesterday morning. The seventh grade class arrived at their new home: another middle school across town. To witness the way these students greeted the newcomers will bring tears to your eyes.

Be warned that you might want to turn down the volume. These are teenagers after all and the shrill is a little overpowering. But I couldn't mute it either because the effect of the decibels only adds to the experience. I hope it makes you feel like you were there.


Beauty from Ashes

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Five short days ago my son's seventh grade life came to a standstill when his middle school went up in flames. For the next 24 hours we heard rumor after rumor about the fate of 580 students and staff. The only sure thing we knew was that classes were canceled for the next 48 hours. I've never experienced being displaced by a catastrophe of this sort and, to be honest, I had little faith in a government entity to concoct a viable solution. I just didn't see how they could reach an agreement much less one that would actually benefit the student body and their families. After last night I have to say I am beyond impressed with this team of administrators and teachers.

When I watched 9/11 unfold from the comfort of my living room I sat in awe of the way people whose lives would typically never cross could come together in the face of a crisis. People are really able to put aside their differences and normal barriers for the common good. It's the "human spirit", isn't it? The aftermath of this fire has proven that time and time again. Within 24 hours of the tragedy we received an email from the school announcing their interim plan to get the kids back to school by Thursday. Unfortunately they would not all remain together but they were able to keep them in their respective grades at three separate schools. We were to attend a meeting for parents and students at the high school to have our questions answered. in simply entering the auditorium, the love and support was palpable. Standing room only. Tears flowing. Hugs offered freely. I thought: "now this is community." Each school official spoke one by one and explained the different facets of the plan from transportation to replacing personal property to the hope of rebuilding the 106 year old structure. When the school's principal took a breath and said "I can get through this" followed by a cracking voice and then tears it became obvious that this wasn't just a job to any of them. They were invested in this community and these children. They had been working tirelessly to devise a plan. One that would retain the school spirit and unity in spite of being separated. One that would insure each and every child felt welcome in their new surroundings. They left no stone unturned and no question unanswered.

I left there knowing it was all going to be OK and that God really does relish creating "beauty from ashes". As I heard story after story, and learned of upcoming fundraisers, I would love to share some of the highlights these last few days have held for our community.
  • The night of the fire my son's social studies teacher called every one of his students to see how they were doing. Called them personally!! He assured them that he and the other three teachers would do everything they could to keep their teams together.
  • We received an email from the principal asking us to assure our son that everything was going to be fine.
  • Three girls stood outside the school all day Sunday with a sign asking for donations to replace the teachers' lost supplies.
  • A seventh grade student organized a bake sale fundraiser for this Saturday at his mom's yarn store with all proceeds going to replace supplies.
  • Three sixth grade girls stood outside a local grocery store in the wind and rain yesterday and collected close to $1000 for the teachers.
  • On Veteran's Day (which is a school holiday) the local indoor sportsplex is donating their building for 2 hours. During this time the community is invited to bring supplies and monetary donations for re-stocking classrooms.
  • The PTSA was able to give each teacher a check last night from the overflow of donations they had already accepted in the past 5 days.
  • The YMCA and Boys' and Girls' club opened their doors to the students for free swimming and gym time.
  • The high school--where the eighth graders will be attending--already had a wing dedicated to the kids, classrooms set up and columns and signs replicating the front of the middle school building. They had even painted the walls with "Wildcat Wing" and a big sign saying "Welcome to your new home!"
Needless to say I want to shout it from the rooftops that we live in an amazing place. Oh, wait there is no roof. So for now this blog post will have to do. May it inspire you to invest in the community where you call home.

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I think God might be trying to tell me something

Friday, November 6, 2009

On Monday morning my husband told me "I feel like I have a hangover from life." I couldn't agree with him more. These past 60 days have held more activity and stress than I'd care to repeat. Some of it our doing. Some of it just a result of having boys' in sports, ahusband coaching and adapting to a new job, three kids in two schools and moving. Oh and let's not forget two bouts with the swine flu and three separate relapses of it. In the 9 weeks since school started, there has not been a full five days without a child home, an early dismissal, a family member's birthday or other commitments. Even when I've purposed to have an empty calendar, it hasn't happened.

As we trudged through September and October, I set my sights on November 3rd. This would be mark a week's beginning that held no practices, no games. We might even be able to spend all five nights at the dinner table together. Monday arrived. Oh, that's right, an end-of-season football party. Tuesday: "Mom can I please sub for the indoor soccer game at 5?" and "I thought we were going to get haircuts today." Wednesday: parent info meeting regarding the March mountain school trip. In my lovely, selfish PMS state, I whined "Will I ever get to be alone??" At 5:15 a.m. on Thursday morning it was determined: probably never.

As I awoke from my groggy state and lifted the phone to my ear, a recording on the other end informed me that classes were canceled at the middle school due to a fire. I stumbled to the computer and clicked on the local newspaper's website. It was a typical windy November night so I assumed a tree probably hit a circuit breaker and the building lost power. One day without school. No big deal. Wrong. This wasn't just a little fire in the basement. It was a full blown inferno. And it had been burning since 1 a.m. And 100 firefighters were on the scene.

So now as the district scrambles to relocate 600 middle schoolers, they also announced that the earliest students would return to school would be next Thursday the 12th. I do feel sad about this. It's where my son spends most of his life outside of home. He was having a fabulous 7th grade year. So many unanswered questions about his future schooling. But then I just have to laugh at the reality of it all. They'll eventually head back to class and then early dismissal for conferences the following two weeks. Then Thanksgiving. Then Christmas. I'm ready to just write this school year off. Might as well homeschool at this point. (I better be careful with that comment or it might come back to bite me.)

Last night I sat here thinking of my agenda again, I couldn't help but wonder if God might be actually saving me from myself. Hmmmm. Maybe He knows that--left to my own devices--I would become even more selfish than I already am. What if I did have an empty house and an empty calendar from 8:30-2:30 Monday through Friday? Would I use that time wisely or slowly fill it with meaningless activities? Would I look for ways to give or would my focus turn to getting instead? I think I know the answer already.

If you're interested in some pictures from the fire, here are a few that my "lookie-loo" husband snapped. Yes, he drove down there--with Quinn in tow, as soon as he heard the news.


Happy Halloween

Sunday, November 1, 2009

There are a few stories behind this picture. Ben is "Achmed the Dead Terrorist without his turban. If you've ever seen the Jeff Dunham YouTube video then you know that Achmed is covered in black bomb residue. An 8 year old boy is more excited about fake blood. The turban was on initially but it got in the way of collecting as much candy in the shortest amount of time. I borrowed some 70's outfits from a girlfriend and added the wig, false eyelashes and earrings. Several people told me I actually resembled a 60's housewife--in particular Tom Hanks' wife in "Apollo 13" . I never saw the movie so I'm going to believe it was a compliment. (The cigarette was only for effect. I think my kids would have freaked out if I lit it up. And I would have choked to death.) Quinn is a geek/nerd. This was at 9:30 so the bowtie had seen better days. A slew of 12 year old boys got in the way of my annual group photo.

The intention was a garden gnome and everyone told him he looked the "Travelocity gnome".

He actually dressed like this for school on Friday. Classic.

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