Monday, September 30, 2013

Ah, the Freedom of Unstuffing

In the past couple weeks I have taken five van-loads of stuff to the Goodwill donation store down the street – and I have another box waiting to go. Included in these loads were items like a work bench . . . curtain rods . . . an old computer monitor . . . four or five sets of bedsheets . . . fourteen picture frames . . . twelve tablecloths (twelve!! and yes, I kept a few still) . . . lots and lots of stuff.

I've also given a few boxes to my youngest daughter's school – some office supplies, some books and quite a few craft supplies to the art teacher. What she couldn't use, she recommended I see if a nursing home would be interested in. That hadn't even occurred to me. Turns out, they were thrilled to have my yarn, fabric scraps, and a few bags of polyfil.

And I have a couple boxes of homeschool supplies that I need to find a home for still. I'm not sharing all this to toot my own horn. I'm actually kind of embarrassed that I had this much stuff sitting around my house needlessly.

But I can't tell you how good this personal Clean Sweep has felt. I've been wanting to do this for so long. When we were considering the move to Panama, I started getting rid of things then. But the real impetus for all this came earlier, when my sister gave me a book for Christmas a couple years ago: Unstuff, by Hayley and Michael DiMarco. It was able to articulate the feeling I'd been having for a while.

The feeling that each unnecessary item we had stored away in the house was becoming a heavy burden. Even when I didn't use it. Even though we had room to keep it. Even when I didn't look at it for months or years on end. They weighed on me. I don't know why, but they did.

Downsizing into our new house has been remarkably freeing. Now, if I could just convince our packrat daughter of how good it feels. The six trashbags full of stuffed animals in the attic could really be put to better use in someone else's home – or many someone else's homes. And we haven't even started on the seven or so big boxes of random little items from the shelves in her bedroom.

Maybe we can charge her for the storage. Yeah . . . yeah, that's the ticket.

Friday, September 27, 2013

The Need for Community

Here in San Antonio, we run into a lot more beggars on the streets than we did in Sioux City.  My girls have realized for a long time, as a result of homeschool trips we took while living on the east coast, that big cities have more beggars. My youngest asked me yesterday why that is.

I assume there's probably a very simple, logical, "duh" answer to that question, but I couldn't come up with it at that moment.  We talked about how big cities just have more people overall -- how people who need work will come to big cities where there is more work and stay if they don't find any -- she was satisfied for the moment, but I kept wondering.

I started trying to picture a panhandler in my husband's hometown.  Lindsborg, Kansas: a cute, little,
artsy Swedish community in central Kansas, where some of my in-laws still live.  Population of about 3,500.  If a haggard-looking man showed up downtown holding a sign saying, "Homeless and Hungry . . . Please Help", how would the people there react?

I'm not sure, of course.  A lot of people would probably react like there do here -- either ignore him or quietly slip him a five and walk on.  But from my experience in Lindsborg, I suspect that it wouldn't be too long before somebody like my father-in-law would stop and engage him in conversation. Hey, buddy.  Where you from?  What's your story? What can we do to help you? Or a business-owner might call a police officer to come have that conversation with him.  Eventually, he'd get connected to whatever local agency there was to help him out (probably TACOL, The Associated Churches Of Lindsborg).

But I don't imagine the locals would just allow somebody to continue begging on their streets. Whether from right motive or no, people would have the attitude that this just isn't done in our town. If someone is homeless and hungry in our town, they get taken care of.

Anonymity is required for street-begging to work. That's probably why there are more beggars in big cities -- it's easy to be anonymous. In a small, tight-knit community, you are known and something gets done for you.

The reading that I've done on poverty talks a lot about the effects of community life on long-standing poverty. I suspect that the generational poor in our country would benefit more from genuine community being established with them than from more money being thrown at them.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Obamacare

I did something dumb yesterday – I posted something political on Facebook that I had heard in passing and didn't have the source for and couldn't prove was true. I got called on it and retracted. At least I got a little credit for a graceful retraction.

But as the topic was Obamacare, and as I had followed my retraction by reiterating my opinion that Obamacare is not all about insuring the uninsured, I was asked to explain what I think Obamacare is about. And because I opened Pandora's box here and put my foot in my mouth already (how about all those mixed metaphors), I feel like I need to give them an answer now, even though I regret bringing up my opinion at all because it's not a topic I am thoroughly informed on.

So, I'll preface this with the hopefully very clear statement that I am NOT thoroughly informed on this topic, and that this IS just my opinion. But I still think my opinion has some validity.

And I base my opinion on the comments – some of them really nasty – that I got from friends back when Obamacare was first being debated and I voiced my opposition. From the remarks my friends made to me and their insinuations about me, my motives, my attitudes toward poor and rich people, etc. (and remember, these were my friends, people who should have known me better), I surmised that a good number of people believe that the problems in the nation's healthcare system all boil down to greed. There are rich, greedy people running the various parts of the healthcare system who care more about making money than they do about the welfare of the sick in the country – particularly the sick and poor.

And I'm not even going to argue that there isn't an element of truth to that. I don't doubt that greed is a factor. But I will argue, as I did then, that I don't think it's the whole story. I'm not even convinced it's the biggest part of the story. 

More than that, though, my friends seemed to believe that the only solution, or at least the best solution, was to take healthcare out of the hands of greedy, rich people and put it in the hands of the government. And that I disagree with whole-heartedly. First of all, I don't think we have the money to pay for everyone's healthcare. Second, even if we had the money, I don't believe the government can deliver healthcare effectively. And third, even if it could, I think that is a over-reach of what the government should be doing.

And this, I think, is the heart of the difference in my thinking and that of my Obamacare-supporting friends: they trust the government more than they trust business; as for me, I don't trust either of them. But “big business” is at least controlled by the market, to a great degree, and by government regulation where the natural workings of the market aren't enough. However, goverment taking over here will quickly get too big to be controlled well by anything, I fear.

So, what do I think is the “real” purpose behind Obamacare? I don't think it's just to get healthcare to those with no access; there are other ways to do that (although the Republican opponents at the time were quite negligent in bringing out any good alternatives). I think it is to give the government control over a part of the economy that people think is too important to leave to the “neutral” control of natural market forces. And while I understand how people want somebody trustworthy to have that control, I am quite certain the government is not that trustworthy somebody.

I think the whole national conversation might have a chance of getting somewhere if liberals truly understood and acknowledged that conservatives are not trying to support Corrupt Big Business, but are trying to prevent more Corrupt Big Government.  (And they're certainly not trying to oppress the Innocent Poor, either.)

And now I'm bracing myself for the attacks. Be kind, friends. I have a miserable cold still – and you are supposed to be my friends, after all. ;)

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Lingering Sting of Failure

I heard a commercial the other day about TCBY.  Does anyone else remember them?  The frozen yogurt place?  One of the first ones.  I haven't heard anything about TCBY for years; I assumed they didn't exist anymore, but this commercial said they are the largest frogurt chain in the world. 

I remember TCBY quite well.  I worked there -- for about two weeks the summer after I graduated.

I was psyched to get this job.  I mean, frozen yogurt!  My family has a long history of ice cream obsession, so this was perfect for me.  I started out working all evening hours, and I was always under the direction of one of two girls who were both a couple years older than me and had worked there for maybe a year or so.  College-age, but they weren't going to college; they just lived life and served frozen yogurt.

The fun part of the job was serving the customers.  That was easy and pleasant.  But the part that did me in was the behind the scenes stuff.  They had a Master List posted in the back of all the little jobs that needed to be done before closing down and leaving for the night.  Basically, our evening's work consisted of serving customers and checking items off this List.

I still don't know why I couldn't get the hang of this List. None of the jobs were difficult: cleaning the bathrooms, washing the glass on the front door, restocking certain items, etc.  My "supervisor" would tell me when we had free time to pick something off the List to do. So, I would pick something . . . and inevitably, she would say, "No, don't do that yet," and choose something else for me. 

So, I stopped picking things for myself and asked her what she wanted me to do.  Then she would get annoyed that she had to micromanage me and I couldn't just pick something and do it.  So, I would pick something -- and she would tell me not to do that yet.  It became a really aggravating cycle for both of us. And this was the case with both of the girls I worked with (although one was more kind about it than the other).

I wasn't stupid, so I realized that there must be some information here I was missing.  I tried to have each of them explain to me the reasoning behind why certain jobs on the List needed to be done at later or earlier times.  Because it seemed to me that EVERY job needed to wait until we closed down -- I mean, a last minute customer could come in and smudge that glass door and I'd have to do it over again, yes?  That's why they stopped me from doing it last night, yes? But we never seemed to be able to communicate.

Finally, the day came when the owner called me in and told me that this clearly wasn't working out. The final straw was my accidentally allowing the yogurt in one of the machines to go bad overnight.  The switch I had to flip went from "on" to "off" to "stand-by", the overnight setting . . . and I didn't get it flipped all the way over.  So, I lost that summer job after two weeks.

I'll tell you, it was devastating to me.  Not that I missed working there -- by that time, I kind of hated the job and that Cursed List. But it was the first genuine failure I think I'd experienced in life.  Something I had really tried hard at . . . something I should have been able to do, I thought . . . but I failed.  Even now, looking back, I can't figure out why I couldn't figure this out.

But I suppose it's good for all of us to have a major failure once in a while. Keeps us humble, right? But I don't know if I could step into a TCBY for a cup of frozen yogurt again. It still stings a little.  Sigh.

Friday, September 20, 2013

My Three Big Pet Peeves in the Theater

My youngest's first rehearsal for her current play brought to mind my three big pet peeves in theater. (Yes, that's because one of these was an issue – I'll let you guess which.)
  1. Wasted rehearsal time. Sometimes, this is unavoidable – particularly when you get to the last week or so and you're polishing up details. Everyone needs to be present, even if they're spending a lot of time just sitting waiting. But at the beginning of the process, when you're doing the blocking, or even at the middle, when you know you're going to be focusing on a particular scene or two, there is no need to have extra people there hanging around needlessly.
    Especially when you are working with kids. Kids are already squirrely – the last thing you need is to get them in the habit of messing around, not focusing, during rehearsal time. You'll never get them back.  When I directed the homeschool plays, I always put out a schedule of what scenes I was rehearsing when and let parents know their kids didn't need to be there if they weren't in the scenes being rehearsed – in fact, I encouraged them not to come. And when it was unavoidable to have kids sitting around, I tried to have other stuff for them to do. Like, one of my assistants would take them in another room to run lines, or try on costumes, or something. Dead time is your enemy when working with with children!
    But even when working with adults, it shows a real lack of respect for people's time if you are well aware that you're not likely to get to any scene they are in but require them to be present for a two-hour rehearsal anyway. Get yourself organized as the director and treat your people right.
  2. Long, boring scene changes. The pacing of a show is so important. When the audience ends up staring at a curtain or a blackout for even just sixty seconds, it breaks the pace and annoys everyone. Ugh. I hate it.
    I  usually write my plays with small scenes during the set changes, scenes that could be done to the side or in front of a curtain (although I never had the luxury of working on a stage with a curtain). We've even done musical interludes with random characters crossing the stage interacting in mime – a great way to increase the stage time of some of your minor characters and still keep the audience's attention and interest.
    And by all means, rehearse your set changes!! They are critical to the show. They need to be as smooth and perfected as possible.
  3. Backstage chatter. This one may be a personal issue. I think I have some hearing problems (they run in the family). When I'm backstage and people are talking, even if they're only whispering, I have a very hard time hearing what is going on on-stage. Then I'm liable to miss cues and such -- and it's pretty certain I'll get really snitty. It only took a couple homeschool plays to learn that I needed to exile myself from backstage if I was going to continue to have positive feelings toward my actors.
    But even without my hearing problems, talking backstage is just plain rude. All too often, actors have no idea how loud they actually are and that they can be heard by the audience. How very disrespectful to steal the audience's attention during the scenes their fellow castmates have been working so hard on.
So there you go. How to do a play with Mrs. K and keep her happy. :)  Break a leg, all.
 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

How I Ended Up Crying in an Empty Church Parking Lot

I knew I needed to get a Texas driver's license. I figured there was no point until we had a permanent address to put on it. Not until I was signing papers to close on the house and the lady making a copy of my license said, “Do you know that your license has expired?” did I realize that I needed to get a move on.

Of course, right after the closing we had our hectic several days moving from apartment to house. I stopped by the DPS office soon after (because I couldn't get anyone there to answer the phone) and asked what all I would need to have with me to get this process done. Turned out, I needed to have my vehicle registered in Texas before getting a license. And turned out, I needed to have the vehicle inspected before I could get it registered.

And turned out, I needed to replace the tires and update the insurance before I could get it inspected. (They also said I needed a current and valid photo ID – I was about to panic about that Catch-22, but thank God, the inspection guy didn't say boo about my expired license.) While he was out of town the first week we were in the house, hubby worked on getting our insurance taken care of and finding the best price on tires. So, I got the tires replaced . . . got the inspection done . . . got the van registered . . . and finally, yesterday made it to the DPS office again with all my required paperwork in hand.
Or so I thought. After waiting to see an agent (a short wait, I'll admit) and waiting while she checked over everything and signed various items, she suddenly asked where my marriage license was. Uh . . . nobody told me I needed my marriage license. Turned out, I did. So, I drove home, got it, drove back, and waited to see an agent again.
Waited through the paperwork again. Did the computer touch-screen driver's exam (86.6%, thank you very much). Scheduled a road test for 2:20pm yesterday afternoon. (No, I did not know going in that I was going to need to take a road test – but whatever.) Then I went home for lunch and a short nap. (Did I mention that I am still lousy sick? Yeah . . . )
So, I drove my third trip of the day back to the DPS office for my road test . . . only to be informed by my tester (after he'd already started paperwork and looked over my brake lights and all) that he couldn't give me my test because I didn't have my Texas tags on the van yet. I showed him I had them in the car with me – I just got them yesterday! No go.
I tried to smile. I went in and scheduled another road test – the earliest opening was Thursday morning. Then I drove to the empty church parking lot next door to the DPS office, sat in my car, and cried for a while.
Now, I realize it is ridiculous that this should bring me to tears. I have friends in the hospital right now. I have friends with seriously ill children. Friends with teenagers on drugs. I have friends who have lost their jobs . . . friends whose marriages are on the rocks . . . even in light of the trials our own family has gone through for the past couple years, this is minimal.  I know all that.
But you know, maybe it's a woman thing. I just needed to cry. As I've said before, sometimes, for a woman, crying is like sweating. It's a release of tension. I just had to get it out. Then I pulled myself together, stopped for a pack of Twinkies (don't judge me) and went to pick up my daughter.
And yes, I drove with my expired Iowa license.  Lord help the cop who stops me -- he'll get an earful.

Monday, September 16, 2013

What's Good About Being Sick

I'm sick. Lousy sick. I starting feeling the beginning of a sore throat Friday evening. By morning, it was the real thing, and by lunch time I was feeling all the muscles in my body shutting down. Just a bad cold, and still only in the beginning stages, but it's a doozie.

Gotta love how body issues affect your brain. I was lying on the sofa resting, a time when my brain usually would be going a mile a minute on a million different subjects. Instead, my mind was singularly focused on one thing: my throat. The exact points where it hurt. How my breathing was affecting the sensations in my throat. How and where my saliva was collecting and whether it helped or hurt when I swallowed (it did both). For that thirty minutes or so, nothing existed outside of the region of my mouth and neck.
If I had intentionally attempted such focused meditation, I would never have succeeded.
Sometimes I suspect God allows me to get sick because it requires behavior of me that I should be doing more of anyway. Focused meditation. Limiting my food intake. And just rest in general – resting my body and my mind.
The other benefit of being sick is how it re-orders my priorities. My mind has been a whirr of activity for several weeks now. I have hardly sit still in my new house for longer than 10 minutes, it seems, because there is always something to do here. Another box to dig through. More stuff to decide a place for. More items to box up for Goodwill. More to take up to the attic. But this weekend, I found that with my body monopolizing the bulk of my energy in its fight against germs, what little energy I had left had to be devoted to one priority: speaking kindly to my family.
Surely I'm not the only one who find easy easy to snap at little things when I'm sick. How the heck do I know where your shoes are? No, I haven't a clue what's for dinner tonight. Leave me alone! Rawr!
But it's not their fault I feel miserable, and making them feel more miserable doesn't help anything. So, I'm pulling up my tiny reserves of energy to speak slowly, calmly, and peacefully to everyone in my house, as best I can. And of course, in the end, it takes less energy to be kind than to snap at everyone anyway. Funny how what seems to come naturally to us in a moment is not always the best thing for us. And funny how we understand that so well in some situations of our life and completely lose that fact in others.  We are such a stupid race of beings.  

Friday, September 13, 2013

Be Ye Transformed


Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Rom 12:2
Sometimes I have to write to think. And sometimes that writing/thinking is a bit rambly. Allow me to ramble a bit on those two words . . . “conform” and “transform”.
“Form” means to shape, and the “con-” prefix means together. “Conform” means to become similar in form or shape to something – to become like something else. We conform when we change how we look or act in order to fit in with the group. Conforming is an external process.
In “transform”, however, the “trans-” prefix means across . . . like being here and then being there . . . being this and then being that. Transforming means changing in composition or structure. Transformation is internal.
One is changing how you look from the outside; the other is changing who you are on the inside. Notice also that “conform” is an active verb and “transform” is passive. Conforming is something that we do to ourselves, while transforming is something that is done to us.

Vocabulary and grammar are good things. They can shed light on our spiritual walk.
Let's say Jimmy has always been a good person, and he knows he's not supposed to lie. So, he tries to tell the truth most of the time. Sometimes it's painful – so painful that he doesn't succeed as often as he probably should. But nobody knows that, so it doesn't bother him much. He looks the part of an honest man; he has successfully conformed to the image of what society expects of him.
But then the day comes when Jimmy becomes a follower of Christ. Now when he lies (which still happens once in a while) he is genuinely grieved in his spirit – not because he's afraid he's going to go to hell, but because he has come to value truth, just for itself. He gets better at being honest and genuine all the time, and it's important to him in a way that it never was before. Not only that, it satisfies his soul in a way it never did before. He is becoming more like Christ. He is being transformed, from the inside.
The goal here is transformation, not conformity. (In fact, if you find yourself looking and acting too much like everyone in your church around you, you might want to check and be sure that you're not just wearing a mask to fit in. Real transformation by God will never result in cookie cutter Christians. Our God is a God of variety.)
All this to say: if I find that I'm am upset by the prohibition of a sin in my life, I am merely conforming. If I find that I am upset by the presence of a sin in my life, I am being transformed.
And, again, the goal here is transformation.
Thanks for the ramble.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Where Does the Hot Glue Gun Go?

I've been racking my brain this morning trying to think of something brilliant to write about, but my brain is full of unpacking.  I've been unpacking for a week now.  The pile of broken-down boxes on the front porch shows how much I've accomplished, yet the house is still a mess.

I started out basically opening boxes and figuring out what's inside (the labels the movers wrote on the outsides are not all that helpful, really) . . . and then moving them to the correct room.  It seemed like they were asking me where to put almost every single thing they brought in the door, but apparently they slipped some stuff in without questioning me and just made educated guesses -- usually incorrect ones.

Then I started pulling out and putting away stuff that was essential to our daily life: kitchen items, clothes, bathroom stuff, school supplies, etc.  I tried to organize the main living spaces and bedrooms to some degree so we could feel a little more comfortable and at home in at least those parts of the house.

I set aside boxes with nonessentials to be dealt with later: decorative items, old toys, and my piles and piles of books.  Frankly, it's pretty amazing how many nonessentials we have.  I also haven't touched the garage items, because the garage is hubby's territory and I'll let him organize it when he's done traveling (although I did, unsuccessfully, try to maneuver things around so we could fit both cars in the garage -- not happening yet).

But I've kind of come to a lull in the progress. Now I'm dealing with that middle mass of stuff -- things that are not essential for daily survival right now but that we do want easy access to.  Like, where do I store the cleaning supplies?  Where do I put our "office" files?  How about the cooking items I don't use as often?  The board games (we have tons of those, too)?  The last house had more built-in storage in the main living areas.  Now I have to create storage or put things in less accessible places . . . or get rid of stuff.

And I'm actually doing that.  Pat me on the back.  I have a couple boxes set aside to put things in that I'm intending to take to the Goodwill drop-off just down the road.  Eventually.

I really do like this process, the organizing of our lives.  It's just a long and slow process when we have to continue to live life in the meantime.  Anyone want to make a bet on when the last box is unpacked and broken down?  I think I'll be lucky if it's by Christmas.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Thinking . . .

We visited yet another church yesterday -- yet another that I think we're not interested in.  But the sermon on the rich young ruler did prompt some interesting thought and discussion over lunch . . .

. . . on sacrificing.  Jesus asked that man to give up all his wealth.  He didn't ask every rich person he met to give up all his wealth.  But this young man apparently needed to do so because his wealth was what was standing in the way of his following Jesus.  And he went away sad, because he wasn't willing to give it up.  So, if I met Jesus face to face and asked him what I needed to do to inherit eternal life, what would he tell me to give up?  What's the thing standing in my way?
 

. . . on our real desires.  The man came to Jesus asking how to inherit eternal life -- he was looking in the right direction.  He had kept the laws all his life -- he was a good man, as his religious society would define it.  We often think of this dude as arrogant and full of himself, but if he was that arrogant and casual about his religion, he wouldn't have come to Jesus asking for more information.  I think he was sincere in his desire to know and do the right thing.  He just didn't like the answer he was given and wouldn't accept it.  His desire for his own way, a way he liked, was stronger than his desire for righteousness.  His desire for a simple program to follow was stronger than his desire for God.


. . . on forgiveness.  Something in our discussion prompted my eldest to remark, "I don't get it.  People say that when you do awful stuff, you can be forgiven -- it's not going to stand in the way of your getting into heaven.  But then people say that if you continue to sin, you won't get into heaven.  Which is it?"  Good question.  I replied that it's a matter of the heart.

There's Person A, who loves God and believes Jesus' death was on her behalf and is grateful for God's forgiveness.  She accepts Christ as her Lord and genuinely strives to do what He wants her to do.  She messes up sometimes, as we all do, and it grieves her when she does because she wants to please her Lord.  And as she grows in her relationship with God, she also grows in holiness.

Then there's Person B, who loves God and believes Jesus' death was on her behalf and is grateful for God's forgiveness.  In fact, she's very grateful, because she sins all the time and doesn't really want to stop sinning.  Her sin doesn't grieve her; she's more grieved at the idea of having to give up the stuff that she enjoys so much.  Deep down, she doesn't really believe that what God has in mind for her is better than this, so she never really trusts Him enough to let go.  So, she doesn't ever really grow in her relationship with God, but she certainly grows in her hypocrisy.

Person A is forgiven.  Person B might not be. Person B is still her own lord.


. . . on knowing what God wants.  As the discussion continues, my eldest got to the question of, "How are we supposed to know what God wants us to do in every situation?"  A timely question -- one hubby and I have dealt with all summer long with all the little decisions we had to make in the course of this move. 

So I shared with her the conviction I had this summer.  The fact is, there are scads of things that we know perfectly well that God wants us to do.  God wants us to pray.  God wants us to know his Word.  God wants us to forgive those who wrong us.  God wants us to actively love our neighbor.  God wants us to help the poor.  God wants us to be actively involved in a church body.  God wants us to rejoice in Him always. And how many of these things are we doing on a regular basis?  How many of these basic, undeniable things are we blowing off, presuming on God's forgiveness?  And then we're annoyed that He doesn't come through in some mighty way to show us His will about what college to go to, or what house to buy?  I think if we would follow through on the basics -- the stuff we KNOW to do -- then our relationship will be solid enough to hear His voice clearly on the rest.

It's kind of like the dad who is willing to buy his daughter whatever expensive, fancy car she wants -- what car does she want him to buy?  Just say the word!  When really, the daughter couldn't care less about a car.  She wants him to sit and talk to her once in a while. 


As I said.  Interesting thought and discussion.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

And More Updates

So, I think it's time for some updates on the Kandt family's progress here in San Antonio.

  • As of yesterday, we are officially moved into our new house. Hallelujah! We thought we were moving in last Friday, but the movers couldn't make it by then. We had to be out of the apartment by noon Friday, so we were in a hotel room over the weekend. I have spent a lot of time the last several days carrying our family's necessaries up and down stairs, between apartment, hotel room, and house. I should have lost weight. But I bet I haven't.
  • As of last Wednesday, we weren't going to have internet, cable or phone at the new house until the 13th. That was almost worthy of a big cry. That's a week and a half in our house without things that have become much too necessary in our lives. But I've been checking with AT&T a few times a day, hoping for cancellations in their installation schedule . . . and my persistence paid off! They're coming to install this Friday! Another hallelujah!
  • As the movers were unloading yesterday morning, my husband left town for a week-long business trip. That really stinks. It was sad being here in our new house last night without him. I miss him a lot.
  • I already wrote about my youngest's cross country experience. But the afternoon of that first meet, she also auditioned for “A Christmas Carol” at a local youth theater. We got word Monday evening that she was cast as the Ghost of Christmas Present! A pretty significant role for her first play there – and probably as big of a role as she could get as a female in that show. Her audition there was different than we've experienced anywhere else. They took each kid into a room behind the stage where they listened to their memorized one-minute monologue (my daughter did an excerpt from the book: Scrooge's fiancĂ©e releasing him) and had them do a short reading from the play. Nobody saw anyone else's audition. Not sure what I think of that. But I'll say this: while I was waiting for her to come out, I was thinking, If I were casting this play, I'd cast her as the Ghost of Christmas Present. So, of course, I assume this director is brilliant. :)
  • The oldest is plugging along in school. It is definitely more academically challenging than Sioux City East was. She was assigned a C.S. Lewis essay to read and answer questions about, and even I found it pretty difficult. Next week, they have a required overnight retreat for the juniors and seniors that she doesn't want to go to. She doesn't like being away from home anyway, and she doesn't know too many people at school very well yet. I'm hoping it ends up being a good experience for her. She also can't get over the strict uniform guidelines (only black hair ties?  No bracelets or necklaces?). But I think she looks darn cute in her uniform, actually.
  • The youngest is enjoying school. She even comes home anxious to do homework. We'll see how long that lasts!
  • I'm unpacking. And I'm really tired. But it's a good tired. I love my new house, and I'm enjoying making it our own. But I do wish my husband was here. And the internet was on. And the cable TV.  Okay, I'll stop whining now. 

Monday, September 2, 2013

Perseverance

When my youngest said she wanted to sign up for her school's first cross country team this fall, I had mixed feelings.  I thought this would be very good for her; she needed the exercise, and running -- you know -- that's pretty basic, something she could do for the rest of her life. 

On the other hand, I knew she was very out of shape, and she was going to be running in the new-to-us overwhelming Texas heat.  Practices in the afternoon at the highest temps of the day -- high 90s to 100s.  I didn't know if she could keep it up, and I also didn't know if she had the self-awareness to know when she was pushing herself too hard.

Her first practice just confirmed my reservations.  When I picked her up, she fell into tears in the car.  It was horrible, she said.  She felt sick the whole time.  She was far behind everyone else.  She was going to pull the team down and they would never win anything because of her and nobody would like her, etc.  And this was a morning practice, before school started.

But she persevered.  She set goals for herself to increase her running time every day -- goals that I thought were really too ambitious, but she met them.  She dreaded practices all day, but she kept going.  (One mom told me, "Your daughter said this was a good practice because she went longer before she started to feel sick.  Now that's a good attitude!")  The day when she went out to run with me and jogged for twenty minutes straight without stopping, I was stunned and so proud.  On our first attempt, she had hardly lasted three minutes.

Last Saturday was her first meet.  Again, she was dreading it.  Even though she knew she had improved, she also knew she was still the slowest on the team.  "Their easy pace is my moderate pace," she told me.  Just the warm-up wore her out.  When she was standing at the starting line red-faced and sweaty from the get-go, I was more than a little afraid for how this was going to turn out.

It was SCA's first meet with its first cross country team; only three of our girls were competing.  I stood with the moms at the finish line, watching and cheering for the other two girls on the team as they crossed.  Then I watched for my girl.  And watched and watched.  Everyone else was done.  I started to worry that something had happened to her.

Then I saw her turn the corner, headed for the finish line -- and someone was running beside her!  Oh, thank God, I thought, someone else is at the end of the pack with her.  But then I saw that girl run off the track to the side and stop.  What happened?  Did she give up?

No, I found out later this was a high school runner -- we don't know her name, we don't know what school she went to.  She saw my daughter running by herself at the tail end of the pack and stepped out on the track to run with her, almost the whole mile.  She talked to her, encouraged her, had her hand on my daughter's back.  I could kiss this young lady.  If I see her at another meet, I may very well do so.

Another mom from our school also ran with her for a little ways.  My husband ran with her for a little ways.  Older runners from the earlier races that were lining the track cheered her on.  And when she rounded that corner and picked up speed to cross the finish line, everyone cheered her there, too. 

My husband and I both almost cried.

She came in last.  I don't care.  She cut a whole three minutes off of her best time at practice. She could quit cross country today and I would deem the whole thing a success.

But she won't.  And that's why I'm proud.