Not-so-random connections

I’m going to show you two pictures and then tell you how they collided with each other in my heart today while I was pulling into the Walmart parking lot. You ready?

Picture #1: (This was a photo of our new-to-us Honda Odyssey)

What you see before you is the result of our major transportation need, 1.5 days of Craig’s life, and a new monthly addition to our required budget plan. We haven’t had a car payment in years and frankly, I don’t like having one now, but I DO like having a van that doesn’t break down every time I pull up to a stop light. This van is 5 years old and it’s awesome. We’re grateful.

Picture #2: (this was a photo of foster parent paperwork)

What you see now was started in May and finished four months later. Foster care paperwork. I just finished filling it all out, got it all signed and ready, and will drop it off tomorrow morning.

So now then, the burning questions are 1)What stopped me from finishing this task in May? 2)What made me pick up the folder today and fill it out as though my life depended on it?

When I went to the 8308 Conference on foster parenting in the spring, the only thing I could think about for weeks and weeks was starting the foster care process and having a baby to take care of by the first of fall. Really, though, I think we want two. Or at least we want to be able to have two if needed. I started praying in the spring that somehow we would end up with a vehicle that seats eight so that we could take two children if needed. I did not know at that time that our van would cease to be drivable by the end of September. I also did not know at that time that my mom would be diagnosed with ALS.

Neither of those things prevented me from filling out the paperwork, but as I was filling it out that night in May, I got stuck on one question. Really, I got lazy on one question. It required more thought than I was prepared to give at that moment in time, so I flung it over to Craig and asked him to finish filling it out. Only he really never had time this summer. We kept saying we’d finish it together on ________ and then ________ would never happen, so we never finished the paperwork. And, honestly, my emotional capacity was pretty spent this summer. I’m not sure I really had it in me to follow through with anything of major importance during those months.

And then I started seeing various Oklahoma City Foster Parent All-Stars around town and I’d know that they knew that we started the process and I’d avoid making eye contact with them when possible so as not to have to answer the “So how’s your foster care process coming?” question. In truth, they weren’t heaping guilt on me, but I felt it nonetheless.

And gradually the sense of urgency just faded. I misplaced the paperwork and people would ask me about it and I’d just shrug and say, “Oh, you know, we got busy and…”

But today. Today we bought a new van. This van seats eight. All the other vehicles we considered this week seat seven and I’d just resigned myself to the fact that we simply couldn’t afford to get a vehicle that seats eight. But then Craig found this one and you know, I asked how many people would fit in it and he told me and I was glad, but I couldn’t remember why.

I. Couldn’t. Remember. Why.

This afternoon, some three hours after dubbing the van Ollie the Odyssey and signing our names in blood on the contract, I was headed to Walmart. I’m working on another donation drive for kids and needed to go get some supplies for it today. While I was pulling into the Walmart parking lot I thought of the kids we’re gathering donations for. I then thought of all the kids in foster care again. I then looked around me at the new-to-us van I was driving. And I remembered why I was glad the van seated eight.

It was right there in the parking lot I felt the very voice of God say, “Tap, tap, tap, is this thing on? Megan? Remember why you wanted an eight-seater van? Remember that stack of foster care paperwork you started back in May? You now own an eight-seater van! What in the world are you waiting on?”

It was like being blind-sided by a truth so pressing I almost didn’t even go into Walmart. I almost went home right away to finish what I’d started back in May. But I pulled into the parking spot anyway, sent Craig a text about feeling this NEED to finish the paperwork today now that we have transportation for the kids we’re hoping to help, did my shopping, went home, and spent the rest of the afternoon working on all the tough questions – the ones that were so difficult I wanted Craig to take care of. We went somewhere this evening, but when we got back I went straight back to the stack – I needed Craig’s signature on a lot of things and, by golly, I was going to get it. Tonight.

And you know what? Those hard questions I was nervous to answer by myself really weren’t that hard. I think it took me less than an hour to fill out the short answer “thinking” portion of the application. And after finishing the job I shook my head at myself and wondered why I didn’t feel I could do that in May.

We may never really know, but I have to believe the timing of everything here isn’t coincidental. I don’t believe for a second that God hasn’t called us to care for orphans in some capacity. I do believe that perhaps our original timeline wasn’t exactly right, but now is.

Sometimes truth backs right up into you in the Walmart parking lot and leaves a dent so noticeable you can’t help but be changed by it.

Just hanging it all out there

Trust me when I say this: What you see before you wasn’t intentional. I never set out to become “greener” by kicking the dryer in the name of the environment and hanging our clothes out to dry. In fact, when I moved that first unfortunate load from the washer to the dryer yesterday and discovered that our dryer was no longer interested in drying things, I started crying. Yep. Like a child who didn’t get her way. Again. I walked in to the room where Craig was sitting, calmly informed him the dryer was no longer working, started crying again, then headed straight to Walmart for some hooks, clothes pins, and clothes line.

It’s not the end of the world, is it? People have hung their laundry out for centuries. And I’ve been in the reverse situation where I’ve had a defunct washing machine, but a working dryer. I will take a working washer over a working dryer ANY day.

But my perspective at the moment of discovery wasn’t so clear. In the interest of hanging all of our laundry out on the line for everyone to see, I thought I’d give you a more detailed peek. No, not of the embarrassing underwear that also got hung out there (my kids were mortified), but the events leading up to this moment that made me cry when the dryer didn’t work.

A few years ago, when we were still in St. Louis and never planning to move again (ahem) we took advantage of the “new home buyer” housing loan which would be paid back over time out of our tax refunds. When we moved last summer, we forced an early pay-back on that loan – payment in full – we didn’t realize just exactly how that was going to play out until last month when we found out we owe the Federal Government around $7,000 by mid-October this year. #Ouchie

Speaking of moving, did you know it’s expensive? We popped quite a few things that summer on our credit card and in typical Dave Ramsey sob story fashion, those things kept piling up. So we have a bit of a credit card bill to pay off now.

Not all of the things on that bill were necessarily our fault. Many of them were, though. It gets pretty easy to justify paying for school books and uniforms and just about anything else on a credit card when you are convinced your kids MUST HAVE THEM NOW. In truth, many of those expenses could have waited.

We don’t have traditional medical insurance anymore, but instead are part of a health care cost share group. What this means, practically, is that big things like Craig’s kidney stone surgery earlier this year and Millie’s ER visit this summer get paid for by the other members of this group. But things like well child visits, physicals, ear infections, wart removals, UFRs (unidentified flaming rashes), and dental/orthodontist visits to get Invisalign don’t get covered at all. Guess how many of those kinds of things I just popped right on the credit card over the past year? Let’s see, about 4 well child visits/physicals, 1 ear infection, 2 wart removals, 1 UFR, and 6 trips to the Twin Leaf Dentistry where they took a full round of x-rays on all of us because it had been a while since we’d been seen. That was fun. And expensive.

I’m pretty sure that card is also holding a $900 van repair bill from the summer as well as an $850 plumber bill, also from the summer.

Last fall we had a guy from the energy company come out and do an energy conservation study for us. During this process all of our heating units were examined and we were informed that the one that heats the upstairs, though it works, has a major issue in which the pilot light has burned through the thing it’s not supposed to burn through and we could burn the whole house down if we use that one. I saw it on the little video camera he snaked in there. It was freaky. So we didn’t have heat upstairs all last winter, but that wasn’t such a big deal. We had heat downstairs and we bought three space heaters to use upstairs and we made it through a very mild Oklahoma winter just fine. Fast forward to February of this year – both of the downstairs heating units decided to quit. Awesome. Again, though, it was February and we had space heaters and sweaters. And we live in Oklahoma. We were fine. But we are now looking ahead to a new winter season soon with no working heating units in our house. We had an estimate this week to get them replaced. A mere $25,000. Again, Awesome.

Our van has had an overheating problem for more than a year. We’ve been nursing it along by dumping anti-freeze into it every 6 weeks or so and that’s been doing the trick. Two weeks ago the van overheated on me and stalled on one of the busiest roads in Oklahoma City during one of the busiest times of day. I pulled over to dump more anti-freeze into it (I keep an emergency jug of it in the back) only to find it was full. Drat. So our temporary solution is now over. Now the van overheats within 20 seconds of idling every time you sit there idling. So stop lights are bad. Busy backed-up interstates are worse. I actually prefer to drive Craig’s unairconditioned car now because I’m not afraid of stalling on the highway when I drive it. So guess who needs a new vehicle? The same people who need new heaters. The same people who need to pay off some credit card debt. The same people who owe the Federal Government $7,000.

So now maybe you can see why, after letting all of these things simmer for a few weeks, when I walked in to switch the laundry and the dryer didn’t work, I just broke down crying.

Earlier this month Craig and I had another come-to-Jesus conversation in which everything was laid out on the table and I realized how much of a mess we’re in and how much of it really is my mishandling of things. No, I didn’t knock the heaters out or kill the van. But I did make most of the credit card decisions and while they all seemed like justifiable decisions at the time they were made, are now just a big fat weight.

So one of my assignments this year is to go through the whole Dave Ramsey course again on the days the girls are in school. And one of my first assignments of that is to, you know, come up with $1,000 for an emergency fund. So far I’ve saved $825 for our emergency fund. After this I’m supposed to begin funneling all extra money into the credit card pay-off. After that I’m supposed to build the emergency fund up to about three months’ worth of living expenses. That doesn’t even seem possible at this point in time, but that’s a post for another day. At any rate, I’m trying.

But when the dryer went out on Sunday, the LAST thing I wanted to do was to take that whole emergency fund I’ve worked so hard to build and hand it over to the Maytag Man.

So we’re hanging it all out on the line. Six lines, to be exact. And I’m thinking of stringing a few inside the house in the weird long hallway we have between the kitchen and the back room so we can still dry clothes on the cold/wet/etc. days to come. The girls actually think it’s fun and beg to be the ones to pin the clothes up on the line and take them down again when they are dry. I don’t know how long this phase will last with them, but I’m milking it while it’s here. And, shocker, the clothes really do dry faster outside, so we’re actually caught up on laundry right now. The girls were lamenting earlier today that we had no more dirty laundry to wash and I laughed. Wait an hour and that will be taken care of. Maddie just had one request: Can we please not have the laundry hanging out when we have people over. I promised her that I wouldn’t embarrass her with the laundry when people are over. I didn’t promise to not hang towels and such, though. *grin*

So here we are. I find myself tempted to despair and yet every time I do I find my thoughts turn to that prayer that Jan Karon so eloquently calls the prayer that never fails: Thy will be done. Yes, I’d love a miracle. Yes, I’d love for God to trust me not to make a big fat mess out of whatever solution He deems appropriate for us. Yes, I’d love to win the drawing from the Oklahoma State Fair for the jazzy little sports car or $50K, your choice (I’d take the money and run…to the bank). But that may very well not be the plan God has for us. I may be dreaming of a new dryer when he wants me to hang six lines in the backyard.

I am on the front end of getting a bit more serious about finding meaningful work I can do on the two days my kids are in school. I’ve considered applying at various local retail places, but I balk at the low hourly rate. I’m full of pride. I guess I feel like my time is worth more. Perhaps it’s time I reevaluate my worth.

It’s a tricky dynamic – trust God, try to find a job, pray that thing about God supplying all of our needs, clip coupons and serve more beans, breathe the words, “Thy will be done,” while making a list of what that will should look like.

Oh, I believe, Lord, help my unbelief.

I post the easy

It’s Thursday night. The house is silent. I am alone with five others. They are sleeping. I am glad.

What did one introvert say to the other? Nothing.

*groan*

I am a jobless writer. That which I want to say I can’t. Or I don’t. Or I won’t.

So I post thoughts about a plethora of things that don’t matter.

Because I like to write. Except when I have to think about really hard stuff. And then I don’t like to write.

Katie drew the dancer on the driveway. I didn’t even see her do it.

And now it’s raining and she will disappear.

The dancer, not Katie.

And the rain, we’ve needed it for so long. So long.

But the disappearing dancer makes me sad.

And I can’t really say exactly why. Or I don’t. Or I won’t.

Instead I post the easy.

It seemed easier to write about stuff with the kids were younger.

Anecdotal stuff. The stuff of life.

They are growing up. We hurt each other with our words, with our actions.

And the stuff of life now is that we sin. We forgive and we love. We cry.

It’s not so easy writing about that.

I respect my kids’ privacy.

And so the things I used to say I really can’t anymore. Or I don’t. Or I won’t.

Instead I post the easy.

And my mom, with her ALS.

I don’t like to think about it. It hurts too. stinking. much.

So I run. I really, literally run. I run so I don’t have to feel pain or endure the chaos for 45 minutes because all I can think about for those 45 minutes is how much I hate running.

And yet I love running because it makes me forget everything else.

And I can’t really talk about that here. Or I don’t. Or I won’t.

Instead…I post the easy.

Some True Stories

I really dislike dieting. *cough, sputter* I know. Surprising, right? I usually last about 3 weeks on any given hard life-style change endeavor and then I go right back to what’s easy and comfortable. There was a point around 2007 where I stuck with a weight loss program for about 3 months and lost about 18 pounds or so. And then came the fall (in both senses of the word) – fall cookies, cider, parties, Halloween, birthdays, Thanksgiving, Christmas, EVERYTHING. I didn’t gain those 18 pounds back by the end of that year, but eventually I did gain them back and I added an additional 16.

That’s where I found myself at the beginning of this summer – frustrated and heavy in both heart and clothes.

So now here I am, just a few days shy of the 3 month mark since beginning the Shaklee Cinch Program. I’ve lost 18 pounds. And…I’m tired of trying.

Also, I just officially finished Week 10, Day 3 of the 9 Week Couch-to-5K program. When I finished the program with three weeks left until my 5K, a friend suggested I go back to week 7 and do 7, 8, and 9 again. She’s a runner and I trusted her opinion, so that’s what I’m doing. Today I did 2.77 miles at a 12:36 minute/mile pace. But…I’m tired of trying.

This week we launched our Night and Day Retreats for our Rhetoric School and Logic School students. I’m in charge of the food, but it’s all campy, so we’re talking grilled hot dogs, chips, grapes, and S’mores plus a whole plethora of goodies the kids are bringing with them from home. We just finished the first retreat (for the Rhetoric School) yesterday and we start the second one (for the Logic School) tonight. I’m telling you that to tell you this: I did not do well during the first retreat. I can say no to preparing the stuff and I can say no to bringing it into my house. BUT – if it’s right there in front of me and I’m handling it for several hours, I really REALLY have a hard time saying no. Grilled hot dogs? yes. S’mores? yes. Cider? yes. Chocolate Covered Krispy Kreme Donuts? yes. (yes. and yes.)

So let’s just say that my weight loss has stalled a bit since Friday. It’s right HERE where I want to just give up, give in, and embrace the easy.

But then I look at the photo above and I remember how good hard feels after you’ve done it. What you see in the photo above is a 45-foot tall climbing apparatus with a zip line attached. You see my 8yo, my 10 yo, my husband, and myself all at the top of this thing. Climbing it was NOT EASY. Not for me, at least. I was wearing sandals which is so not protocol. I’m no wilderness staff, but even I know enough to know that. But up I went anyway. I followed my 8yo who motored her way up like she’d been practicing in our backyard for years. She chanted to herself, “It’s just a ladder. It’s just a ladder.” After her went my 10yo who was super freaked out by it and really almost came back down. To the side, some 25 high school kids stood cheering her on, telling her she could do it. And she did. Then me. Shaking on the inside. And on the outside.

So it was hard. But it was good. And we were so proud of ourselves and each other for having done it after we did it.

Then this morning I stepped on the scale and faced my hot-dog and Krispy Kreme-induced reality. It was right at that moment I had a choice to make. 3 months, 18 pounds, fall is here. I’ve been here before. I know what it means. And every ounce of my being was screaming NO while I laced up my tennis shoes. And every bit of me was telling me I had too much to do today (true) and was too tired from the first retreat (also true) and that I deserved one more donut and a lazy morning in bed…Not. True.

I went outside and did the hard thing. And here’s what’s funny: In spite of my weight loss stall (slight gain), apparently I’ve still been losing in the inch department. After doing the 5 minute walk portion, I started to jog. And the yoga pants I’ve been wearing all summer started falling down. Silly, right? I thought I just hadn’t tied them up, so I tried to do that while jogging and holding my phone (I don’t recommend that move…) – I did what I thought was tighten the strings and tied them up again. I continued to jog and my pants continued to fall down. I ended up completing a 1 mile loop around my block with one hand on the waistband of my pants to keep me from flashing the neighbors, dashing back inside the house, changing into another pair of pants, and then completing the program.

When I came back in, I remeasured myself and realized I’ve lost an additional 5.75 inches since I last measured.

My resolve is back. I can climb the pole. I can say no to S’mores. I can keep jogging even when I REALLY don’t feel like it. Because I remember what it feels like after I did the hard thing and stepped off the platform – I did it. It was awesome. And knowing what I knew at the end, I’d totally go back and do it again.

 

Remember the "Oldies?"

By Chloe Dunham

Did your kids used to watch shows like Clifford, Mr. Rogers, Blue’s Clues, The Bear in the Big Blue House (one of my personal favorites), or anything else like that? Well I used to watch those shows, and I loved them. I keep wondering why they switched out those shows with different ones. They were awesome! Sure, they tried bringing back some of them, but the shows are always by new people, and are way different. I  was just watching some old clips The Bear in the Big Blue House, and Jay Jay the Jet Plane and it was funny to see just how much Maddie and I remembered. We could still sing the theme song to The Bear in the Big Blue House, and we remembered all the characters from Blue’s Clues. If those were still playing on T.V., I would wake up early just to watch them. With shows like Mr. Rogers you actually learned something every time you watched. With the new shows, it is mainly for entertainment. Well, I am going to bring back some of those old shows to my younger sisters and see if they remember any of them.

Thanks for reading my first attempt at writing a blog post!

Note: I’m starting to encourage my kids to contribute here at the Half-Pint House. After all, there would be no Half-Pint House if it weren’t for the half-pints who make up this house! The above post was written by  Chloe.