Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Re-entry drama and humor, post 2

Why on earth do we not include sales tax in the price that is posted???


I totally get that sales tax is used in many States.  We had value added tax on almost everything we bought in England.  We paid an extra 17.5% tax on everything!  BUT, the price that was on the tag already had the VAT added in.  So, I could look at the tag and know how much cash I needed in hand as I approached the register.


Here I am constantly getting to the register, planning to pay with cash, and then looking at the salesperson like they have three heads because the total they give me is not the total I'm prepared to pay.


It makes me crazy.

But, I'm not alone--because my girls are always saying the same thing.

So, if you work in retail and you happen to have someone like me staring blankly at you when you give the total, please be patient.  Maybe they are adjusting to separate sales tax from price. *sigh*



Warning that the next post in this series is a little more serious or bittersweet.

*sheep picture from www.morguefile.com (svklimkin)
 **The original intro to this series: Coming back to the US after so much time away has led to its own set of drama, and often humorous situations.  A couple of times a month I hope to record some of those times.  Mostly this is for our own sense of remembering later, but it also might help someone else who is encountering a "new-old" situation.

Friday, February 02, 2018

What's Saving Your Life--2018 edition


For the past few years over at The Modern Mrs. Darcy on February 2, which happens to be mid-way through winter, she has hosted a round -up of "What's Saving Your Life" posts.  The title may sound dramatic, but she explains (in lasts year's post):
"The idea comes from Barbara Brown Taylor’s wonderful memoir Leaving Church. Even though most of us can easily articulate what’s killing us, few of us pay attention to what’s giving us life.
Once when Taylor was invited to speak at a gathering, her host told her simply, “Tell us what is saving your life right now.” She says it’s too good a question not to revisit from time to time."
This year, with an international move last September and re-acclimating, and a new church and trying to find new friends and homeschooling a Kindergartner, an eighth grader and a Sophomore, and...well, suffice it to say I need to focus on some things that are saving me, not killing me.  So here are a few of my thoughts!

1. My crockpot
And by my crock pot, I mean this beauty that gets a workout 2-3 times a week so that I don't come up to meal time with the "what are we going to eat before we have to get (insert child's name) to (insert activity)" panic.


And I do not mean, this 'beauty,' that I have loved and carried with me (in an unpacked box because it wouldn't work there) for 5 international moves and finally unpacked because it will work here.  Except, it has lost its lid somewhere along the way. And, my family of tv lovers say I cannot, under any circumstances, plug it in. So, now I need to find another small crock pot, preferably before the SuperBowl on Sunday.

2. Having grandparents nearby. Seriously, we have never had the luxury of grandparent baby sitters. Last weekend when we needed to be able to focus on teens for the weekend, the grandparents took the youngest for two nights. It took so much pressure off, he had a great time and they had a great time (but were glad to sleep after he came home!)

3. Bean and Rice Tuesday
I got this idea from Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World as a way to remind our kids how blessed we are in choice compared to the rest of the world. It is great for me this year because it is a little means of identifying with those on the outskirts my life. It is fun to watch my kids relate to things they see in news or documentaries that affirm how blessed we are. And, it is one day a week I just know what we are having for dinner.

4. Bible Study at my new church
It is giving me a chance to get to know a few other ladies, who I probably would not have met otherwise, and to refresh my spirit.

5. Starbucks salted caramel hot chocolate with marshmallows in my favourite Polish Pottery mug.
Yes it is selfish and a little indulgent, but it picks me up in the afternoons and warms me up on these cold days.


So, what's saving your life right now?

Thursday, February 01, 2018

February Goals and January Revisited



In January I set these goals:

1. Read 4 books that are not school related, set in at least one country that is not UK or US, and that meets at least 3 prompts on my reading challenge.
     I read 13(!) books in January, 8 were related to school so 5 were for me! They were set in Kenya, UK (4), US (2), France and 5 unspecified or referency. I've fulfilled 3 PopSugar prompts.
2. Post on social media 5 times
    I posted 3 blog posts in January and several Instagram posts as I am learning how to do that!  I've written 3 more posts, so they will be seen soon.
3. Finish block 4 on Christmas at Hawk Run Hollow--50%
4. Finish Romania block for Neighbourhood Round Robin--75%
5. Scan Jewel's school workbooks (1/2 box in attic)--did not even take them out of attic
6. No chips for snacks--replace with carrot and cucumber sticks--did great 1st half of month, only missed this a couple of time 2nd half of month
7. Research volunteer opportunities through church or local outreach center--have done some research, and now have a couple of people to follow up with and get their thoughts on 1-2 ministries through which our church works 

So, overall, it was a good month.

February goals (look a lot like January):
1. Read 4 books that are not school related, set in at least one country that is not UK or US, and that meets at least 3 prompts on my reading challenge.
2. Post on social media 5 times
3. Finish block 4 on Christmas at Hawk Run Hollow
4. Finish Romania block for Neighbourhood Round Robin
5. Scan Jewel's school workbooks (1/2 box in attic)
6. No chips for snacks--replace with carrot and cucumber sticks
7. Talk to K & B about volunteer opportunities through church. Be intentional! 

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Re-entry Drama and Humor, post 1

Coming back to the US after so much time away has led to its own set of drama, and often humorous situations.  A couple of times a month I hope to record some of those times.  Mostly this is for our own sense of remembering later, but it also might help someone else who is encountering a "new-old" situation. I'll start with humor.

If you have traveled in Europe you will know that there are no light switches inside bathrooms in Europe (and only shaver plugs, no electric outlets). 


So for sixteen years, I have turned on the light before entering the bathroom.  It is second nature.

Our hall happens to have a light switch for the hall just outside the bathroom door. 

I cannot tell you how many times I have switched on the hall light, walked into the bathroom and wondered why the light was off. At least two or three times a week!  I am not sure I will ever again get used to the idea that I can turn on the light in the bathroom.

Little things that I must re-learn.  And it helps to be able to laugh at myself.  Especially as I stand perplexed in a dark bathroom.


Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Setting Goals for January and Beyond

As always, I am much more apt to meet my goals if I write them down.  So, I've gone back to see how well I did in achieving my 2017 goals.  I am mostly pleased with the results.
Master 2017 list:
Books:  Read 100 books (including those used for school)--YES
             Read books set in at least 30 distinct countries--Only Read 20 Countries
             Complete PopSugar Reading Challenge and Advanced Challenge (52 books)--YES

Cross-Stitch/Quilting:  Complete stitching A Mind Independent and Free--YES



                                      Complete Neighbourhood Round Robin 2--It is at 75%
                                      Complete Bride's Tree Ornament sets--no
                                      Start/Finish Autumn and Spring Garden--no
                                      Participate in Ornament Exchange--YES


                                      Stitch Ornaments for each of the children--YES

                                      Make baby quilt for godson and his wife (June)--YES


                                      Organise and participate in Round Robin with CSC--no
    (plus I stitched and finished 2 pillows for gifts, started Bookshelf cross stitch and quilted a Christmas banner from a previous cross stitch project and framed a large cross stitch project)
  
Other: Eat healthy and lose some weight--Lost 15 pounds, was doing great until move
           Blog 3x per month minimum--not even close
           Memorize 24 verses--only 10
           Decrease paperwork saved in household by 50%--I don't know the percentage but I made great progress on this

So, here are my 2018 goals, many are similar:
Master 2018 list:
Books:  Read 100 books (including those used for school)
             Read books set in at least 40 distinct countries (have actually planned 30 countries already)
             Complete PopSugar Reading Challenge and Advanced Challenge (50 books)

Cross-Stitch/Quilting:  Complete stitching Christmas at Hawk Run Hollow
                                      Complete Neighbourhood Round Robin 2
                                      Complete Bride's Tree Ornament sets
                                      Complete Bookshelf cross stitch
                                      Start/Finish Autumn or Spring Garden
                                      Participate in Ornament Exchange
                                      Stitch Ornaments for each of the children
                                      Organise and participate in Round Robin with CSC or a stitching gathering
                                      Frame another project

Other: Eat healthy and lose some weight
           Post something on social media 4x per month minimum
           Memorize Job 26:5-14
           Decrease paperwork saved in household by 3 boxes in the attic

Personal goals regarding family have been written down and shared with family and will be reviewed at end of year with them.

In order to achieve these goals, here are my January plans:
1. Read 4 books that are not school related, set in at least one country that is not UK or US, and that meets at least 3 prompts on my reading challenge.
2. Post on social media 5 times
3. Finish block 4 on Christmas at Hawk Run Hollow
4. Finish Romania block for Neighbourhood Round Robin
5. Scan Jewel's school workbooks (1/2 box in attic)
6. No chips for snacks--replace with carrot and cucumber sticks
7. Research volunteer opportunities through church or local outreach center

Monday, January 01, 2018

Outskirts

    Behold, these are but the outskirts of his ways,
    and how small a whisper do we hear of him!
    But the thunder of his power who can understand?”
    Job 26:14

The pastor read these words two weeks ago.  He was encouraging us that the goodness we see of God is only the very edges of what God has in store.

And I agreed. There is so much more that God has in store than what our finite minds can understand.

But one word echoed in my head.

Outskirts....outskirts...outskirts....outskirts.

Yes, we are on the outskirts of his ways, of his power, of his goodness.
But we are also on the outskirts of his justice.
And if we are not reaching out to those on the outskirts of society, then how will that justice, that power look when it falls on us?

And, then, some of us feel like we are on the outskirts of the society that gave us birth because it has become....too....much.
And some of us feel like we are on the outskirts of the evangelical church because it has become...dogmatic, closed.
And some of us have come from situations that forced us to the outskirts of who was welcomed. Thus we are drawn to those who are also forced to the outskirts.

Yes, the word has bounced in and around my thoughts for a couple of weeks.  It speaks some of the feelings that have not found words.  It speaks the desires of my heart to be with those who feel marginalized. It reminds me that God is sovereign and that his justice and his power and his love will all come to fruition in his timing and that I should be in awe of that, and working for that, and watching for that. It makes me want to see more than the outskirts of his plan and simultaneously be grateful that I am but on the outskirts of his awesome justice. It moves me to action and drops me to my knees.  

It is a place of  community. It is a place of reflection. It is a place of conviction, and also a place of hope. It is the next step in my journey of less. It takes me to the outskirts of stuff that others may deem as necessary but I feel a need to leave. It causes me to want to identify with others who are finding 'more' in the 'less'. It draws me to groups of people who can encourage me and for whom, hopefully, I can be an encouragement. It is my word of reflection for 2018.

What will it look like at the end of 2018? I don't know.  It will start with memorizing the passage from Job 26. It will continue with looking for places to volunteer or come alongside others on the journey.  It will mean speaking out more and being silent less. I live in a community where there must be Dreamers, and I'd like to know them and understand more the ambiguity in which they find themselves. I live in a University town that must have international students. I'd like to hear their stories. What can I learn of their home countries, of their experiences, of their hopes and their dreams? This journey is about broadening my vision of who feels on the outskirts of society--whether they look like they live on the outskirts or not. This year will be about continuing to read on  difficult topics, and maybe finding a community with whom to discuss those things. It will be about listening to God's whispers and sharing that hope with others.

There may not be a single, tangible thing upon which I can reflect the last week of December 2018. But I know that there will be a change in me if I focus on the outskirts. So that is what I will do.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Reflecting on Less

Last January I wrote,

"... I read Falling Free by Shannan Martin about how they had left their life of abundance for a life that was based on much less but gave them so much more (my description here). I was challenged. I was awe-struck. And that little voice that was telling me that I did not care about 'more' got louder. It was not telling me to sell the house and move somewhere else. It was telling me that maybe I could find "more" in my life by dealing with a lot less.

Various things over the last two months have sung this song.  Reminders that stuff is not what makes anyone happy. Sermons reminding of caring for the least of these. A Bible study of Proverbs that warns about accepting wealth and status quo without balancing it with the wisdom of God. By the middle of November I knew what my word for 2017 was to be, and it was daunting. It was........LESS"

It was a daunting word, and I really did not know what would happen during the year.  But I knew that it was a journey I had to start. Some of the dreams I had materialised. Others did not. Major changes happened that highlighted even more my desire for less. I came away changed, but maybe not as materially changed as I had hoped. Internally I am more minimal, and that is determining decisions and actions. It is a slow journey, but one that I will continue for a long time. Some of my dreams were:

"Less accumulation of paper and materials that are not needed."  I did continue to digitilize a lot of paper and then get rid of it. I finished the early homeschool portfolios. I was not in a head space to deal with the last box of my mother's papers, so it still sits in my attic. My high school pictures are gone except for a few that were actually good or special.  We did move this year, and it was a huge move.  I moved less than it would have been two years before, but we still moved a lot of things that I have no reason to keep.  So this is an ongoing battle.
" Less time spent worrying what others think of the life I am called to live". I gave a lot less head space to worrying about this right up until we moved back to the US. So many people have questioned why we do things, or why I don't want to just do things the 'American way' that I've become paranoid and defensive.  I need to get back to trusting God with the life he called me to lead and ignore the pundits.
"Less time doing things that do not build me up." I have read hard things this year that have made me think and grow. I've not read popular books that would not be good for me. I've stopped watching 'must-see' tv that was not healthy for me. And I've stopped apologizing for that. I'm happy with how this goal has proceeded.
"Less voiced negativity and more thankfulness need to be in my daily conversations." In general, I do believe that some of the negativity has curbed. It has been a tough year.  There is much in the world to be negative about--and finding ways to express disagreement without it only being perceived as negativity is tough. This is especially true when many of those around me do not agree with the stance I feel called to take. I am extremely grateful for the things God has done in our lives this year, for the places he has offered us protection and even for the conviction and dismay that accompanies confrontation of long-held prejudices and traditions. But it has been tough. I've said LESS than I would have liked in order to not be negative, and I'm not sure that has been totally healthy. I'll still work on this goal.
"Less half-hearted rituals and more focus on what God is saying." I cannot give examples of this, but I know that this is pruning that God has definitely started and continues in my life.
"Less unhealthy things entering my life. Whether it is junk food or junk TV or toxic people, I want to be more diligent to let in healthy and exclude the unhealthy." I've cut out almost all TV (except DIY or science shows for noise, and even the DIY shows make me get frustrated about topics of gentrification and privilege so they may go) and I have not missed it at all. For most of the year, junk food was cut out---then a move happened. I will get back to this. Recognizing toxic people has happened, but I am not always very good at protecting myself from their influence.  More of this in 2018.
"Less holding on to people." Oh, this has been hard.  Moving from England after sixteen+ years has been heart-wrenching. I miss my old life, my old friends, my old routines.  But God has taught me immense trust in the last three months. I did not have any clue when I wrote this, how much this one would hurt.

My life in 2017 was filled with much MORE than I ever dreamed when I began a journey to LESS. I'm more content. I'm more self-aware and I'm more other-aware. It is a journey I'm not willing to end. It will continue to feed my focus for 2018. But, more on that later.