New Beginnings

This post was written in mid-December. Sorry for the trip down Snowy Lane, but at Daniel’s request I waited to publish it until now.

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It was a lot easier a little over a week ago when I pushed the “submit order” button to shell out the money for the last two Christmas gifts. Even though I won’t say I placed the order without a second thought, it didn’t weigh heavily on my mind, still optimistic that all would work out seamlessly.

What’s a $30 order? It’s Christmas.

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Today, I sat… and pondered… and calculated… and ate a cookie before I made up my mind… what amount do I write on the check for the “special” offering this Sunday, the offering which is dedicated to not only reducing our church’s building debt, but also to the local food bank and Mennonite Central Committee (MCC).

I thought about the money helping those who have severely! less than I have. Any other year, it would have been easy to fill in the spot with a “hefty” amount. Maybe it’s because my parents modeled generosity my entire life or maybe because I’ve experienced a small bit of life in a third world country, but I don’t view giving money as some dutiful-moral-Christian obligation; instead it is simply a form of caring for the needs of others.

But today, the fact that the money was coming out of a savings account that had no promise of replenishment in the near future was certainly a test of my generosity… and my faith.

Daniel was recently informed he would be laid off. As of 5 o’clock this evening, he will be officially unemployed.

After we were notified of his impending unemployment, I spent a few days denying the fact that we should limit ALL superfluous spending. But the day before Daniel was to become officially unemployed I finally realized… there’s no more money coming in… none. Every check I write or dollar bill I hand out will not be replaced in the foreseeable future. Every bite of food or flip of the light switch is another subtraction from our savings. (I know our situation isn’t dire, but it is certainly a new and very uncertain situation to which I’m trying to adjust.)

Struck with this realization, I turned the heat down 3 degrees. My scarf is now a permanent accessory.

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January’s photography by Ian that fit very nicely for this post.

The kids still run around without socks and dress like it’s June – guess it can’t be too bad.

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Anyone else have a ridiculous number of pictures of your kids’ feet? Again, photography by Ian.

I’m a numbers-gal. I’m in charge of paying the bills and am familiar with the ebb and flow of our finances throughout the year. I know what bills to expect to pay when; I know how to save throughout the year to be able to pay our way through summer and still have enough left for Christmas and savings. But I don’t know how to make this work… how to watch a dwindling bank account balance.

Daniel has red spots on his torso. They’re growing and multiplying. He’s not sleeping well, waking in the early hours and thinking… thinking… thinking.

My man doesn’t get stressed; he doesn’t worry. I’m usually the worrier, sporting hives and mouth ulcers long before he blinks. I guess I should start worrying now, especially because the next employment opportunity which seemed hopeful has also disappeared into the blue…. poof! Just like that.

But hold the brakes on my pity party. Today Alice reminded us of a ritual which we’ve recently forgotten amidst tense dinner conversations about prospective employers (or the lack thereof) and interviews and “what-ifs” and “how much” and “how long”—all in adult code of course so that our kids remain oblivious.

This past summer we began to implement a ritual that at supper time each person states one thing he/she is thankful for from the day. Alice reminded us that it had been a few days (weeks?) since we had remembered our thankfulness ritual.

Ian took Alice’s cue and jumped right in; he was (not shockingly) thankful for Christmas. Then it was Daniel’s turn. My man, who has questioned himself over and over as to whether or not our current circumstances are his fault and questioned even more how it will turn out, didn’t even pause to think.

“I’m thankful for a warm house, clothes, and food to eat,” he firmly declared.

Alice was thankful for something Christmas related too, and then it was my turn.

Up until now, there have been (many) days when I have shamefully wracked my brain trying to come up with something to be thankful for… just one itty-bitty thing. Many days the only thing I could think of was that it was soon bedtime.

But it was in that moment of hearing Daniel’s thankfulness for the “simple” things—warm house, clothes, food to eat— that I realized this is a chance to start over, to remember what really matters, to focus on living simply and to continue to be thankful for what we have.

On that night of total uncertainty for our future, I looked Daniel in the eyes and hope he felt my own hope and trust as I said, “I’m thankful for new beginnings.”

 

Have You Heard the News?

So we’ve stopped listening to the news. National Public Radio used to be our go-to any time between 5pm and 7pm. I would listen as I made supper; Daniel would tune in on his way home from work. Then during supper, he and I would converse about topics from the newscast that struck our fancy or made us think… or made us scared... or sad.

Then Daniel stopped commuting, and I had more than enough ambient noise to deter me from adding another voice to the before-supper-meltdowns. And the news became a discarded ritual—no newspaper, no TV, no radio.

(Nothing against NPR, we still listen to quite a number of its programs on podcasts during car trips. Sometimes we’ll listen to Wait, Wait… Don’t Tell Me as we do housework on Saturday morning. That’s the closest we get to news for the week.)

And you know what? Daniel and I both agree we‘re much happier because of our “newless state.” Seriously—happier, lighter, less burdened, maybe even more optimistic.

When you’re someone who has a deep familial history of depression, you do what you can to avoid adding burdens to heart.

When you’re someone who can easily succumb to high levels of anxiety, you do what you can to avoid adding more anxiety.

Don’t worry though, we still “hear” the news.

Facebook keeps me informed of the next snowstorm.

I hear friends who are concerned about standardized testing for their youngsters and moms who can’t take another snow day.

Images of natural disasters flood my screen within minutes of them occurring.

I read about sex-trafficing during the Super Bowl and learned about CNN’s Freedom Project from another friend.

My heart recently broke from the news of the death of a friend’s nephew serving in Afghanistan.

But there’s a lot of things that I don’t miss. Corrupt politicians and politics in general being one of the main items I currently know very! little about.

I haven’t heard about the next deadly virus which is going to wipe out 2/3s of the world’s population. And if I somehow survive that virusI’m sure I’d be told this year’s flu is crazier ever. In fact, it’s absolutely going to kill my children and all the people I know over 65, either the flu… or whooping cough.

Nor am I subjected to hearing about the acts of violence that occur only a few miles from my house… acts that would make me want to lock up my children…. forever.

But have no fear, because if I manage to avoid those acts of violence committed by perfect strangers, there’s a seemingly harmless principal or guidance counselor waiting to prey upon one of my children… or so the news would have me think.

Daniel and I “recently” watched about seven minutes of the local news broadcast while waiting for the “late-night” olympics edition to begin. After being told about a fire, a shooting, and a fatal car accident in the first seven minutes of the broadcastDaniel turned to me and said, “This is why we don’t listen to the news any more.Yeah, he’s right, I thought and promptly muted the TV for the rest of broadcast.

However, there are times that I am concerned that my lack of formal news-intake has greater reaching effects than I’m aware of. Will there be long lasting negative repercussions in the future from me not watching the “news” of today? (Don’t get me wrong, there are currently plenty of national and world problems Daniel and I care about deeply.)

This age of technology provides us with more information than any other generation before us has had to manage. How do you handle all the information that is available? What do you do to make it reasonable, manageable, and not plunge yourself into a pit of despair while working with it? Do you bury your head in the sand or come out with guns blazing… or somewhere in between? I’d love to hear what works for others.

A Story of the Fashion Impaired

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Sorry men, you’ll most likely be bored by this post. (And yes, I realize this is a first world “problem” of the nth degree… but it was fun to write.)

 

No one told me I should take a support group on my recent shopping trip to find the elusive perfect pair of skinny pants. On second thought, securing a support group and a personal shopper would have been an even better idea. Nor did anyone mention the therapy session needed for the aftermath of said trip… or at the very least, the must-have! ginormous bowl of ice cream.

Seriously people, if you’ve never shopped for skinny pants, take someone with you; this is not a solo event—and definitely not something to attempt to accomplish with children in tow. (Thankfully I was smart enough to go sans kids.)

This past December one of my Christmas-shopping-partners told me he thought I should buy a pair of skinny jeans. Let me restate that—he didn’t just tell me he thought I should buy a pair, he flat out challenged! me (“demanded” is one hair too strong of a word) to purchase a pair of skinny jeans… by April, no less.

My problem is… I like a challenge. If it’s reasonable, I’ll jump.

My second problem is I like the flats and boots that the skinny pants have made overwhelmingly popular (or is it the other way around?). Secretly I’ve been hoping the skinny pants were a quickly passing fad, so I obviously wasn’t quick to jump on that band wagon. But my recent growing fancy for the flats and the boots finally had me (reluctantly) waving my white flag.

However, the skinny pant challenge was way more challenge than I ever dreamt. To be fair, I’m sure my Christmas-shopping-partner had no idea the degree of challenge he served up that fateful afternoon. To put it in perspective, summiting Mount Katahdin was cake compared to finding a pair of skinny pants.

The first whopper of a problem when shopping for skinny pants is choosing a style… ankle, pencil, slim bootcut, stretch, skinny, curvy skinny, super skinny, legging, jegging, etc.. Who has time for this insanity?

After painstakingly sorting through a ridiculous number of styles, I got myself into a dressing room along with six pairs of pants. Putting on that first pair was what I imagine it would be like to put on denim-nylons… almost impossible. The thought that I might need some assistance to get out of them ran through my mind.

After years of my roomy bootcut jeans, my legs complained of this disastrously unnatural state. Afraid of suffocation, my calves were screaming for oxygen. Exactly why are my friends raving about skinny pants? If I wanted to cut off the circulation to my feet, I could easily devise cheaper and less frustrating ways to do so.

In fact, that first pair of pants had me apologizing to the dressing room mirror for the image it had to reflect. I’m not an overweight person, but the thought that dieting may be in order to pull off this look, which I was becoming more and more convinced by the second was no way in heck going to happen, crossed my mind several times as I literally became one with those pants.

Inch by inch, I peeled! the pants off and tried another style, which wasn’t quite as scary, but was still not the glamorous image the women showcased on the store’s advertisements were able to produce. Hhhmmm… maybe a different pair would work? If at first you don’t succeed, try on, try on again… right?

Three stores and 17 pairs of pants later (not joking!), feeling old, fat, and frumpy, I was trying to remember why I was doing this in the first place. The thrill of the challenge had died somewhere around the 10th pair of pants. Then I remembered… it’s all about the shoes.

If you know me, this is NOT a statement you think would ever come from my keyboard (“fashion impaired,” remember?). Shoes-shmoes. But as a semi-taller woman with a shorter husband, the idea of flat shoes (less height in more interesting styles) renewed my determination.

After two and a half hours of shopping (a MAJOR feat in and of itself), I finally found an acceptable pair of skinny pants.

With the new pants in the bag, it was time for that bowl of well-deserved, much-needed ice cream. Shoot! I gave up desserts for Lent. Oh the sheer a.g.o.n.y.! A piece of fruit just ain’t going to cut this two and a half hour load of torture.

But skinny jeans were not the most exciting purchase of the day. In fact, the most satisfying purchase came with a Goodwill-like price tag within five minutes of walking into the first store.

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Enough said.