Willingly out of work

Snuggied up at EDS, 2008

Since I began tutoring a boy in our neighborhood at the age of 13, I’ve been employed. I tried my hand at the fast food industry, bussed tables at a fish house, scooped ice cream at a small town diner, and handled deposits and light accounting work for McDonald’s. In college, I found other part-time jobs to bring in enough income to gas up my car for frequent road trips and fund my concert t-shirt fund. I worked in a church nursery, managed a room full of babies in  a daycare, taught gymnastics, hosted birthday parties, and led a youth group. After college, I moved on to full-time employment, and worked full-time without more than a week off at a time until I began working part-time last fall. I’ve lived my life taking complete care of myself (and others along the way). So this week, it feels a little like jumping off a fast-moving train, trying to adjust to the pace of walking beside the tracks.

With the Weaver munchkins at Weaver Family Medicine, 2011

This is my last week as an employed person for at least six months. I’ve never NOT worked for six months. It feels a little strange. What if we don’t have enough income to make this work? What if I get incredibly bored? What if I feel like I’m mooching off my husband?

Despite these fears that flit in and out of my thoughts, I’m mostly filled with gratitude. Were it not for the support of my husband, I’d have to continue working full-time for the rest of my life and leave my baby in the hands of others to raise. If it weren’t for our conscious decisions to live way below our means, we wouldn’t be in the financial position to make my unemployment feasible. Being off work for the next six months will allow me to nearly finish my Master’s degree without as many distractions and with considerably less stress. It will also give me the opportunity to clean the house obsessively in preparation for our baby’s arrival and to help out with multiple home renovations.

I’ve always hoped that if I had children, I could do it the way I wanted to do it. I knew I wanted to stay at home with them, at least for the first few years. I knew I wanted to give them as much of myself as possible. I just didn’t know if I’d be able to. I’m so grateful I am.

 

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Surrounded by love

I’ve always believed that you can determine your true friends based on who surrounds you at your best and worst moments. Some friends are great at supporting me in a crisis; that’s wonderful, because I’ve certainly had some, and I need those people in my life. Others are exceptional at celebrating the good times with me, and I need them just as much because joy multiplies when it’s shared.

But the best friends, and the longest lasting friends I have, are those who’ve consistently supported and loved me through my ugliest moments and the most beautiful ones as well. Last night our friends Nancy and Jordan (along with some help from other great friends) threw us a belated wedding reception. The amount of work they put into the planning and decorating and cooking was overwhelming! Yet they took the task on gladly and did it all out of love for us and gave us the chance to share our joy with everyone who attended.

I hope I’ll be able to give back as much constant love and support to the people who’ve given it to me. I’m grateful for the chance to wake up today, say thank you, and return the favor to those around me.

Best Father’s Day yet

Today, I saw a picture on Facebook (re-posted by a friend) in honor of Father’s Day. The caption read something along the lines of, “Thanks for always being there for me, Dad.” The picture was of a baby, held up to a window, and on the other side of the glass was his father in prison.

This might have been funny to me, in a “That’s sad, but it’s still funny” kind of way, at other points in my life.

But with my dad sitting in a federal prison now himself, it seems to have lost its wit.

Roses I received from my dad in 2009 during a sober period

There will always be part of me that feels a bit cynical regarding Father’s Day, and other mushy references toward fathers, at least when I reflect on my own father. He wasn’t there for me, or for any of my eight siblings for that matter. He has an addiction, and he has been unable to find (or stay on) the road to recovery, unfortunately.

Me & my stepdad at my wedding, April 2012

Thankfully, though, God provided me with a great stepdad who provided for our family financially and created a sense of normalcy in our lives. In our younger years, he wasn’t as touchy-feely as he is now, since most men soften with age, but he has always been consistent, reliable, and responsible. He also probably appreciated my somewhat tomboyish nature since there were no little boys in our family, and he taught me some essential skills for life, like fishing, riding a bike, and belching with vigor.

This year on Father’s Day, I think my focus might be more easily shifted away from what I could choose to dwell upon, which would inevitably put a damper on the day. Since we’re expecting the arrival of our baby in November, this will be James’ first Father’s Day as a father himself.

James teaching our nephew how to make cookies

And what a father he is. He’s already planning and preparing for the arrival of our baby and working diligently to ensure that we have what we need to provide the best home possible. He is spiritually grounded, morally sound, and emotionally rock-solid.

Everything I have missed out on in my relationship with my father, our child will get back ten-fold, thanks to the best dad in the world. Our child will be able to say, and never doubt, “My dad is my hero.”

He’s mine, too.

Reasons to celebrate

I’d vaguely heard of “reveal parties” for pregnant women and couples who want to reveal the sex of the baby to loved ones. Pink or blue balloons in boxes. Pink or blue cupcakes. Pink or blue flowers. Even a duck with a colored bow tie waddling in, revealing the news.

I’d never considered doing this myself because most of the time, I’m a pretty practical person. And having a reveal party sounded like a chore, more work to be done, more hassle and mess, and more time spent on something other than what I need to be spending time on–studying.

Then I started thinking, why not? Why not celebrate every little joyous thing that comes my way? Why not make the best of the good moments since life will certainly throw plenty of bad ones our way?

A few days ago, my mother-in-law said that she loves celebrating every holiday, and she loves to make a party out of the smallest thing. What a great attitude to have.

It doesn’t have to be elaborate, expensive, or time-consuming; taking a few moments to pause and give thanks and spread joy around never hurt anybody, though.

 

Finding the funny

Yesterday, as I wandered about the dim kitchen, attempting to tidy things up minus electricity in the middle of a thunderstorm, I heard a solid knock at the back door. I jumped and wondered who it could be since I wasn’t expecting any company. I glanced around the corner and saw my father-in-law, who I like to call Big Jim, standing on the back porch, investigating our tomato plants.

I let him in and took a break from cleaning for a while as we sat in the semi-dark living room talking. He’d stopped by to deliver a half-gallon bucket full of freshly picked blackberries, which he’d spontaneously decided to gather while fishing on the White River. Our conversation meandered around the weather, small-mouth bass, berry picking, stories from the weekend, and church and religion. I’m not sure how we arrived, but somehow we landed at the Vietnam War.

“You know, you hear all these guys who’ve been to Iraq and Afghanistan talking about how bad it was, but I guess I just don’t think of it that way,” he said.

“What do you mean?” I asked. I was waiting for a joke of some kind to slip out since Big Jim is notorious for his pranks and wise cracks.

Big Jim hamming it up on Independence Day 2011

“Well, sure, when I was in Vietnam, I saw some bad stuff, and some bad stuff happened. But I guess I just don’t think about that stuff. I think about the funny things that happened. There’s humor in every situation. Even in a war, when guys are shooting at you, some funny stuff happens, so that’s what I like to think about instead,” he explained.

He then proceeded to tell me a somewhat off-color but hilarious story about some of his wartime buddies. The story was set in the middle of a battle, while digging foxholes on the beach in Vietnam. Amidst all that, what he remembers and likes to tell people about is the bit of funny he found while hunkered down for the night, dodging bullets.

I gained more than just blackberries for my first-ever homemade blackberry pie yesterday. I gained a greater understanding of who Big Jim really is and a deeper respect for him as well. And I was reminded that in every situation, we ultimately choose our focus. I need to find the funny more often.

Just wheat

King of the Hill didn’t change my life, but I will admit that last night when James and I joined our small Methodist church in our tiny little town, I caught a fleeting glimpse of Hank Hill passing through my mind. I’m sure Hank Hill’s eulogy would highlight his love for Ladybird (his dog), his complete devotion to propane and propane accessories, and his devout Methodism.

Hank Hill cracks me up, but he didn’t really have anything to do with my decision to join the Methodist church last night.

That came about as a result of discovering that I no longer fit well into my former denominational mold, years of developing my own private relationship with God, and after experiencing the love and support of both James and our fellow church members.

Having been raised primarily in a very conservative, and at times fundamentalist denomination, I gained some wonderful spiritual…

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Pair-ables

*Special thanks to Debra Dickey-Liang for stepping in as today’s guest writer.*

Speaking in Pair-ables  

(aka, the Perpetual state of “we”)

Photo courtesy of Phoopla Photography

I do! I speak in ‘pair-ables’!  I have become aware that when writing, thinking or speaking about my life experiences and my life journeys, I most often use the pronoun “we.” It just comes out automatically!  From childhood, I do not remember a time when I have not been a part of a “we,” and in that one respect, I am very lucky!  But also since childhood, I cannot remember a time that I was not expected to be, or when I chose to be, responsible for or in charge of, another human or creature other than myself — a “we” situation!  I have no recollection of ever feeling as if I were an “I.”

Being the oldest child, and growing up on a farm, responsibility was as natural as breathing! In my life, I realize with unadulterated gratitude, what fortunate circumstances I grew up in.  We were not well off by any stretch of the imagination, but I had a Mom and a Dad who made it their business to see that we were a family.  We ate at the table together, we worked in the field together, we did chores together – we cared about each other.  Our family was always all about “we” — an inherent and remarkable part of my being, solidifying and defining who I am.

Would I have chosen a different direction if given the opportunity?  Would I have struck out to catapult myself into the life of an “I?”  I’ll never know, because becoming a Mom established me forever as a “we.”  More “we” (sometimes ‘wheee!’) than you could ever imagine, but I wouldn’t have it any other way!  I have realized that I have no comprehension of a different kind of life, or a cognizance of a life that does not include a sidekick or two, whether they be human or creature.  “We!”  And forever on my journeys and in my life, I think in terms of my roots, and I realize that my actions and reactions continue to be invariably colored by the knowledge that I instinctively consider and take into account a responsibility for the safety and well-being of those lives that are given me by God to care for and watch over, and my stories expand proportionately with telling to involve all participants in order to embrace the invaluable contributions that they make in my life.

So for better or worse, I am in the habit of talking in plurals. I am a “pair” with whoever is tagging along at the moment, even if it is just walking the dog!  I think that is comical.  We!  In Matthew 28:20, even the Word of the Lord assures us . . . ‘Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.’  We!  Isn’t it grand?