Category Archives: Life as we know it

On Being Out There

With his seminary graduation on the distant yet rapidly looming spring horizon, Aaron is officially “out there” in the sense of looking for a pastoral position. He finished his ministerial profile in September–a document answering a number of questions about his values, style, strengths, beliefs, and so on. It’s much more detailed than your typical resume. It’s in depth. It’s personal.

And when he sent it to that first church, it suddenly felt very . . . exposing. You try to put the essence of who you are as a leader and a Christ follower, a preacher and a person, into 15 pages, then wait for strangers to read it and decide whether they like you enough to want to talk to you.

Aaron’s very likable–who doesn’t like him? No one!–but the reality is that a lot of churches won’t even consider someone taking their “first ordained call,” even if they have other ministry and life experience. I’ve been on the other side of this as well, on a church search committee, and I think it’s sometimes unrealistic on churches’ part (most experienced pastors aren’t looking for a more difficult, lesser paying situation) and often unfair to good candidates. Sure, a few situations clearly need experience at the helm, but most of the time, how can you just rule them all out without even considering them? I am positive that when churches talk to Aaron, they are not going to see him as a naive new grad. They’re going to see a guy who loves God, Scripture, the church, and people; who’s thoughtful, passionate, and wise; who knows how to lead and knows how to love. Someone’s going to see a great pastor in waiting.

But it wasn’t the first church. It might not be the second, or the third, or the twenty-seventh.

We just pray God keeps granting us enough affirmation to ward off discouragement while we walk on.

And when necessary, we sing some Adele!

Never mind, I’ll find someone like you
I wish nothing but the best for you too
Don’t forget me, I beg
I remember you said,
Sometimes it lasts in love but sometimes it hurts instead
Sometimes it lasts in love but sometimes it hurts instead

Yes…

  • we are still here (Tuliptown)
  • AJ loves school, of course
  • Aaron, not so much, since he is buried in 17 credits
  • we anticipate busy days ahead for my dept. at work
  • I’m going to be an aunt again
  • my grandma’s not doing well
  • AJ started up speech therapy again but will probably be done soon because she’s doing so well
  • Aaron has his ministerial profile done, so technically he is looking for a job (not that he has time for such pursuits right now)
  • how about dem LIONS?!
  • commuting and braiding hair are the story of my life
  • I’m thankful my husband picks up AJ and starts/makes dinner every day, or we’d be done for!
  • only 10 weeks till Christmas break!

My name is Wendy. I live in a neighborhood.

In college I took a writing  for media class in which we wrote and produced audio pieces. I can still hear in my mind the voice of one of my classmates opening and closing a piece about her neighborhood: “My name is Christine. I live in a neighborhood.”

My name is Wendy, and I live in someone else’s neighborhood. I sit on this porch that is not mine and watch someone else’s community go by. For I am in the neighborhood but not of it, feeling its heartbeat but not part of its lifeblood, present but not incarnate.

I thought I would–wanted to–feel more connected than I do, living here this summer, but it feels like we are not here long enough. Or perhaps I’m not present enough, emotionally. I find myself alternating between wanting to go home, where my things are my things and my neighbors are my neighbors, and wanting to grasp our own little piece of soil our roots can dig down into. Really dig. Not play-dig.

Our pastor talked a couple weeks ago in his sermon about how he is a country boy planted in the city for God’s purposes, and he was very convincing–boy, the country sounds great! Let’s go there! I’m a country girl myself. But I don’t know if I’m ever going back. An urban setting is probably a better fit for Aaron, for us.

So can I do it? Can I be a neighborhood girl? A shared-fences, street parking, locked doors girl? A car stereos and sirens, sidewalks and strangers girl?

We are getting to the point of dreaming and scheming for what comes next year when seminary is done, not only as far as what kind of job Aaron might take but also on the assumption (based on the currently-sucky job market even for pastors) that we’ll have some in-between time before that. It makes no sense to stay in Tuliptown, so we’ll likely look to rent in GR.

Do we come back here by the church?

Would we stay here, or someplace very like it, for the long haul if possible, if called?

Could we go someplace “worse”? Could we be satisfied someplace “better”–someplace more comfortable–too comfortable?

Can I buy a house that won’t appreciate in a district everyone who can is fleeing–and handle it when no one understands why?

For seven weeks we’ve been playing “If we lived here…” both for the fun of imaginary home ownership and the spiritual exercise of imagining. We’re learning the discipline of dreaming aright, the work of turning “What if we…?” into “What if God calls us to…?

Could God be calling us someplace like this?

If he is, I think we have learned, our answer must be yes.

My name is Wendy. I’m looking for my neighborhood.

Lord, you have been our dwelling place
throughout all generations. . . .

The length of our days is seventy years—
or eighty, if we have the strength. . . .

Teach us to number our days aright,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom. . . .

Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love,
that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days. . . .

May the favor of the Lord our God rest upon us;
establish the work of our hands for us—
yes, establish the work of our hands.

Psalm 90:1, 10, 12, 14, 17

Dispatch from the Porch

We spent a nice hot Memorial Day with old friends. AJ ate hot dogs three days in a row at three different cookouts–once a second hot dog as a side to a dish of ice cream–and requested them again (“No!”). The ice cream truck makes its rounds. The sprinkler has been played in. We’ve made popsicles. We’ve gone to the farmer’s market. We knock off work early on Fridays. It is officially summer.

I am in love with this house’s porch. Its closets, not so much. But oh, the porch. In the future I must have a porch. Does heaven have a porch? (Am I on it right now?)

Although the porch and I instantly bonded, the first little while in this borrowed house was a little shaky. It is just weird being in someone else’s house no matter what. Our things aren’t where they usually are, we didn’t know where they keep things, our routines were off, we were bumping into each other all the time–we just felt unsettled. The first week I also flooded the basement, broke the door blind, and knocked off the bathroom towel rack just barely one time short of a homicide. I mean, the thing was making me PSYCHO. Aaron got so scared he actually fixed it.

Thankfully all these things have been restored to proper working order and we’ve all sort of found our rhythm again, I think. Aaron also preached the first weekend we were here, so he was also jumping right in under some pressure, but he is finding a groove with his internship and sermon prep. He is making himself prepare a sermon every week even if not preaching, to learn to do it in less time.

Walking to church is divine!

AJ is enjoying her days with “the nanny” aka “Crazy Aunt” Chatterbox, who is for her part enjoying when the neighbor girls come over to play with AJ. In her off hours she has read approximately 87 books. This week.

My favorite part is my twelve-minute commute. Ahhhh. Going back to 45 is going to stink!

We have made a couple trips back to Tuliptown, on one weekend and for me a couple weekdays to take AJ to speech. I also visited a couple preschools and found one I like for her to be at all day five days, although I still have not found the elusive buried treasure we will need to pay for it. I’m telling myself all this extreme commuting and child care will be for less than one more year! Then I’m finding myself a nice porch from which I can watch her board the public school bus before I zip off on my twelve-minute commute.

Summer in the City

House. Internship. Nanny. Short commute. Walk to church. Walk to friends.

THIS IS GONNA BE THE BEST SUMMER EVER!

Or pretty good, anyway, we hope.

Aaron explored a few different opportunities in Tuliptown and GR for his 10-week full-time internship this summer. His preference was to do it at our church, and they finally worked out a plan. Two days later one of his classmates asked without knowing this, “Since we’re going to be gone for our internship this summer, do you want to stay in our house that is a block and a half from church?” Oh heck yes we would! It was going to be brutal for two of us to drive 30-45 minutes each way at $4+/gal. My commute–which I am so, so over–should now be 15 minutes tops. Church–two-minute walk. And FunnyWriterMommy’s family lives only 5 houses down. Summer of love, baby!

Since AJ’s child care in Tuliptime wouldn’t make sense with us in GR, well, if you can’t bring the kid to daycare, you bring the daycare to the kid. Or something. Enter . . . Nanny McChatterbox! I swear I didn’t sabotage her other job apps so I could keep her all to myself, although don’t put it past me next summer–already she has created a star chart, made cookies, and increased AJ’s tolerance love of carrots tenfold. And most beautiful of all, most days I don’t have to get AJ up at the crack of dawn and take her with me, which means I can get out of the house more easily and with the shorter commute get to work much earlier. Without daycare pickup issues and the long drive home I can stay later and still get home earlier, and Supernanny will have dinner prep started. How am I ever going to go back from this?

Bonus: Chatterbox also likes watching The West Wing with me. We have a secret plan to fight inflation.

Meanwhile, as all this has been brewing, Aaron finished up his semester in good style and watched another group of friends graduate. We have welcomed summer with a first bonfire and spent lots of time watching the kids go back and forth on the sidewalk on each other’s bikes. AJ is going to miss another of her playground besties, and so are we. May is the best of times, the worst of times on campus…

…and Tulip Time is the best/worst time to live in Tuliptown: walking to elephant ears, good. Driving anywhere, bad. Last weekend was the big parade, which we ended up missing because it was raining anywat and Aaron had a Classis thing all day while I did AJ’s hair and packed up some things to take to the city house. Then we met up for a wedding celebration with many old and new friends and much probably ill-advised but fun dancing.

Sunday after church we had the memorial for Tim, despite it being quite cold and intermittently rainy. I remember so clearly how heartbreakingly sunny, warm, and beautiful the day was when we stood together ten years ago.

AJ broke the spell of reflectiveness by peeing her pants as we got in the car. I guess life changes.

Then we went home and packed up our stuff, emptied the fridge, and turned around and came back to GR, to stay. Although by 9:00 p.m. the lighting and storage situations had me taking back everything nice I ever said about old houses, it’s fun to be somewhere different and free of eternally beige walls. The McD kids have already been over three times in 24 hours, so AJ’s happy (except when it’s time to part). Just don’t ask me how to work the dishwasher. That’s the nanny’s job!

Viva la city, viva la summer!

Time Marches (and Aprils) On

Okay, so, I kind of skipped March. Would you buy that I gave up writing words for Lent?

Shortly after my whining about hair-related issues, what ever should I happen upon but a natural hair meetup in GR! Yes, it was a mixture of awkward and hilarious for my pale, straight-haired self to walk in, but I carried photographic proof of the natural hair in question, and everyone was awesome nice and encouraging. What did I learn? Well, that I actually know quite a lot about natural black hair, but there is a whole ‘nother hair world that remains a great mystery to me… And to remember to get my lazy white butt out of my cultural comfort zone more often… I also met a stylist! She trimmed AJ’s hair the next week. Super score.

We had AJ’s speech tested by the public school early education program. She has no problem putting together long sentences and the like (yeah, no kidding…I think one lasted a half hour today), but her intelligibility/understandability is not where it should/could be. So they wrote up an IEP and last week she started a half hour a week of speech with Miss C. I think she will respond to this really well since she already adores Miss C. and everything about the idea of going to “school.” Back in Oregon when she was two and still preferred the Marcel Marceau school of communication, we got her one-on-one early intervention, which did help. I am all about using the programs my tax dollars have already paid for now so I hopefully don’t have to use more expensive ones later.

Next up is to figure out preschool/daycare for the fall. We qualify for the free public preschool (same place as speech) but there’s the issue of getting her to and from four mornings a week. I’m doubtful we can work this out, so I’m thinking a preschool with all-day daycare as well. Catch me when I faint from sticker shock. We’ll see.

Ummm . . . other Marchy things happened that I can’t remember. Wow. Seriously. I guess we were so busy that it caused a glitch in the Matrix.

Oh! I remember part of the crazy: Aaron preached 3 times in 2 weeks. The first Sunday he did morning pulpit supply at one church and evening pulpit supply at a different church. Which I would not really recommend, even if you use the same sermon. Then the next week he preached at our church.

Part of this preaching was to help him figure out where he might do his summer internship–both new churches were possibilities. I’ll dedicate a separate post to our summer plans soon (the short answer is: GR).

Preachaboy had earned a vacation, so we took a few days of spring break in Chicago! We hung out with my cousin L who lives mere blocks from our hotel, did the Shedd aquarium and Lincoln Park Zoo, rode in a taxi, walked to pizza, ate hotel waffles, missed turns while driving, read books, peed the bed (ahem AJ), stopped at outlet stores, spent a lot of money (tax return FTW!), and generally enjoyed being away for a few days.

Unfortunately we both had tons of work waiting when we came back. My work has been so busy that I really shouldn’t have gone away then–but if you think that way, you never go away. I’ll catch up in, oh, a month. Or two. If I stop getting any more work than I presently have. Riiiiight.

This week my brother, sis-in-law, and nephew were here for a few days. I did take one day off to take AJ to the butterfly gardens with them, but it didn’t feel like much time. We are planning some all-family fun time up north this summer when they come.

If summer ever comes. It is going to SNOW tonight. I am so over it.

Aaron is entering his last two full weeks of the semester. That means it’s time for someone to injure themselves he’s really busy with several large papers and projects. Then for summer . . . well, that’s my teaser. If this thing’s still on (anybody? anybody? Beuller?) I’ll write on that soon(er or later er than you’d think).

The Girl Who Cried No Brakes and Other January Tales

The very instant I clicked “new post” to start writing, AJ woke from her nap. No parent doubts the truth of this. But at least I got a few other neglected tasks done first.

We’re 30 days into this year, two weeks through the semester. Back on the 5th Aaron left for his seminary intercultural immersion trip/class. On the 6th I was this guy:

The boy who cried no brakes

Except I wasn’t playing. The truck brake line broke on my way home from work, causing the pedal to go all the way to the floor before braking, so I slid into the repair shop in the snow just before they closed. A good way to start off ten days on my own with AJ. It was okay, but ten days is definitely long. Don’t take this the wrong way, but usually I don’t miss my husband when he’s gone–by that I mean in the past he’s gone to Young Life camp or the like and it’s been fine; a week at most, and I knew he was doing something he wants to do and will enjoy. Working and parenting ten days while not really knowing what he was doing but knowing he didn’t want to be doing it was . . . LONG.

His trip was in many ways better than he expected it to be, though (not that that’s saying much). They went to the Tuscon, AZ/Nogales, Mex area and learned about border issues largely by visiting ministries and talking to people on both sides of the border. (I knew they were in Mexico the day of the shootings in Tuscon, so no real worry about that, and I did get to talk to him a few times.)

Then Aaron’s new semester started only two days after he got back. His classes this semester are getting a bit more pastoring-focused, like counseling and a preaching class. He did decide to drop a class that seemed to have 4 credits’ worth of work for 1.5 credits. It always takes a few weeks to get into the flow of a new schedule.

I should be quite busy at work for the next couple of months with a heavy editing load (for me and our whole department). It’s been an interesting few months. Hopefully it will continue to be. (“I solemnly swear that I am up to no good…”) As for commuting in the snow, yeah, the thrill is gone, though my fantastic new Bogs boots at least kept my feet the warmest part of me during our recent subzero spell. Only four six eight weeks a couple months till spring…

As of this weekend, my Christmas decorations are down and I have completed a blog post. Wow. There you have it: January, accomplished.

Where to Begin?

Catch-up post? It’s gotta be bullets, baby.

Meanwhile, in our missing month(s)…

  • Fall semester was busy, busy, busy for Aaron of course. Papers rather than exams this time, but still lots of memorizing for Hebrew and reading for everything. He is still an intern at our church and preached once this fall. We are loving our small group there too. He finished his semester last Friday.
  • We took Chatterbox to see Harry Potter 7.1 and while Aaron may have left depressed, we came home so hyped up on HP that we both chattered all night weekend. Narnia next!
  • We had Thanksgiving dinner with my parents, my grandma, and my aunt. The food and hangout time was good. The Lions were not.
  • That Sunday afternoon I fell down the steps so spectacularly that I flipped/rolled around the corner–and sprained my ankle. It hurt so bad after small group that I went to the ER because I thought I’d broken a bone in my foot. And because it’s not Thanksgiving weekend until somebody goes to the ER. It did rapidly improve so I could drive again by Tuesday, thankfully.
  • We killed a Christmas tree.
  • We got 15 inches of snow in 36 hours. Five miles away they had almost zero. Lake effect is for realz, y’all. I stayed home and watched the snow fall and listened to the Christmas tree dying.
  • AJ had a birthday! FORE–look out, she’s four! Our celebrations were low key, but I did manage a kitty cake, and she scored plenty of gifts. She is all about the girlyness right now; accordingly, the number of sequins and dolls in our house has increased by a factor of ten in the last two weeks.
  • I got my first ever tooth filling–for the record NOT for lack of (near obsessive) teeth brushing but started from a cracked tooth. Considering my history of difficulty staying conscious in the presence of needles…it could have been much worse.
  • Christmas came early! My brother, sister-in-law, and two-going-on-tenured-professor-of-palentology-and-vocabulary nephew visited last weekend. We all gathered at my parents’ house for the time honored traditions of stockings, cookie decorating, too many gifts (mom), too much food (me), trying to teach old people new technology, and family photo fails. It was so nice to just hang out, although I wasn’t feeling great with a cough/cold and it was way too short.
  • We also got to see my cousin from California, finally meet her husband, and share in the miracle of watching the Lions winning a road game. Come to think of it, the last time that happened was the last time I saw my cousin…2007! We’d better get together more often.

That’s it? I know. I was expecting more too.

But you never know what a few days off and a new year will bring. Blog resurrection? Well, maybe a couple photo posts, anyway.

Merry pre-Christmas week!

Buying Time with Bullets

  • Aaron’s semester is halfway over, with a 2-day break from class.
  • Work is good. We finished a huge project–huge like the equivalent of spending an hour a day for a full year of my life huge.
  • Saturday my two cousins (from CA and Chicago), my aunt, and my grandparents gathered at my parents’ farm to celebrate Grandma’s 87th birthday next week.
  • My mom surprised my grandpa with spiral bound copies of the stories he had written out in a journal of his time on a PT boat in WWII. I helped her learn the fine art of not typing every written page in a separate document (no we will not ever let you live this down, Mom). I think he was very pleased at the surprise. We all got autographed copies.
  • Michigan fall is gorgeous right now. Saturday at the farm we cousins went for a long walk in the woods and down the country road. That is a hint of heaven.
  • AJ is more than ready for Halloween. I will keep her costume a surprise for now, but I must say it is Practically Perfect in Every Way!