debacle

I turned the television to watch the election results at about 8:30 p.m. We are in the Eastern time zone, and I was looking forward to watching Hillary Clinton be declared president. An hour later, my gut told me the election was going the other way, and by 10:00, I knew the results were not going to turn out how I expected.

I thought about the people I know. I live in an extremely red town, in a red county, in a red section of a blue state. I thought about how excited many of my neighbors must be; I thought about the people I love who are not straight and white and Christian. My friends whose marriages may come under attack from a White House where the second in command believes in one-man-one-woman marriage, and advocates for electroshock therapy and conversion therapy to fix the gays. I thought about all the teenagers and twenty-somethings I know who are discovering that who they are is quite different from what their parents believe is good and correct. I thought about the Native people protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline, and the sacrifices they are making on a daily basis. I thought about Ana and the rest of the Buffalo 25, who were arrested in an ICE raid in October.

Wednesday morning I woke up, and saw a message from the parent of a Black son who was assaulted on the school bus by other children, because he was Black and because he was not born in this country. Nobody helped. Nobody stood up for this child. All day long, more and more reports of racist-fueled attacks came out via social media. A colleague of mine got a phone call from their children at school, asking to please be picked up because they were being harassed for their family’s politics. I could link every word in this blog post to separate incidents of hate-fueled crime and not run out of examples.

Last weekend I read that 66% of white women voted for Donald Trump. Sixty-six percent of white women think it is better to have a president who speaks with disdain and disrespect about women, and brags about sexually assaulting women, than it is to have a woman president. I don’t understand this, but as the days slip by I realize that the things I don’t understand are many, and that nothing is every only white or only black. I wonder if what we consider to be white is really a million different shades of grey. Or is it an asymptote? Is the path of things just a curved particularity that get closer and closer to its definition, but never quite gets all the way there, even after it exceeds infinity?

Or are things exactly the opposite? Do they begin near their definition, and then follow a trajectory up and out and away, always recreating, doubling down, becoming caricatures of what they originally were?

Two years ago, our President-Elect tweeted, “Are you allowed to impeach a president for gross incompetence?” and now he is the president, and his list of cabinet appointees is a swamp of incompetence. The latest, education secretary Betsy DeVos, has never taught, has no personal experience with public education, and appears to be a Ken Ham-level science denier. But she’s rich and white and Christian, and has fulfilled the Trump Trifecta.

“Just wait! It will work out! Everything will be fine!” Yes. Everything will be fine for the people who are CHRISTIAN, WEALTHY, and WHITE. If you meet the criteria, you could plug your nose and bury your head in the sand and completely ignore the storm that is brewing in Manhattan. You could come up for air right before the next election.

But hear this. The president-elect is already placing limits on freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom of religion, and he’s not even in office yet. He’s going to make America great again by making sure nobody is around to report on his daily activities, by doubling down on the militarization of police, by closing the gap between Church and State, and by trimming the Bill of Rights. Oh, and so what if it costs a million dollars a day for his wife and child to live in Manhattan from now until June? And so what if he is making money by being the landlord to the Secret Service members who are protecting his family? And so what if he is part owner of the Dakota Access Pipeline, and has a vested interest in completing that project?

So no, I’m not going to get over this. And neither is America.

a psalm of praise

It has been so long since I have posted my writing.
Here is my first assignment for the Psalms class I am taking this semester, a psalm of praise.
*****

O God, it is you who I praise.
You are the one who creates,
you reached into the depths and brought forth all that is
You breathed life into my lungs and with that, I sing to you.

What was there, what substance did you find in those depths
that you should see it and think of humanity?
You spoke the sun, moon, and stars into being,
From the inside of nothing you set apart the water and the land.

Again and again you dipped your hands in the deep
and again and again you brought forth all we could ever need—
Food, water, creatures to walk beside us, and soar overhead.
Your every action overflows with love for what you have made.

You placed your hands in the dirt and shaped us
You formed us to be your image-bearers so that every
time we look at one another we see
your face, your love, your gentleness and mercy.

With every breath that crosses my lips, I sing your praises,
My heart overflows with gratitude and amazement
that the beauty I see was created for me.
My great God, it is you who I praise.

diffusing joy

I have been unreasonably crabby today. In a horrible stroke of luck, or –possibly– bad planning, we ran out of heavy cream. See, I don’t play around when it comes to coffee. I know what kind of beans of like, I know how to make my cuppa exactly how I like it, and I like my coffee with heavy cream. No sugar, no half and half, none of that non-dairy powder or milk-like flavour syrup.

So that happened. I’m practically decaffeinated. And to give you a little mental picture of the sort of things happening here, I offer this list of things I have said today.

“Please do not touch him.”

“NE PAS TOUCHER!!!”

“Control your feet, sir.”

“We do not use kicking as a form of communication.”

“Please explain to me how you accidentally kicked him? You do understand that when you thrust your foot away from your body, toward his body, when he’s close to you, that it gives the impression that you intended to kick him?”

“Well if you do not intend to kick someone, you should stop flinging your feet away from your body, and into the body of your brother.”

Yep. It’s like that. I’m combatting the combat with a couple drops of Joy in the diffuser, a bowl of popcorn, and some chocolate.

 

 

 

 

real winter is cold.

Apparently we have been having pretend winters up here in the great white North-ish-but-really-Western-New-York. Snow, thaw, cold, not-so-cold, freeze, snow, thaw. FOR YEARS. Like a decade.

I have been hibernating, happy as an introvert can possibly be, trapped in the house for days on end with four stir-crazy short people and a super-bored cat whose goal in life is to eat the parakeet. We got a LOT of schoolwork done until this week. We are now studying building mechanics and physics and figuring out the velocity and force of impact of an airborne 9 year-old who weighs about 70 pounds, when he leaps from the back of the sofa. (Answer: the force is strong with that one.) Also, we eat a lot of popcorn.

Earlier this week,  Facebook News Service reported that Lake Erie had frozen over (YAY!!!), thereby ending Lake Effect Season. Lake Effect Season happens from the time the lake isn’t frozen and the wind blows magic air over the lake and BIG ENORMOUS SNOW happens, until the time the lake freezes and kills the magic. It is a very ambiguous timeline. The people of Western New York rejoiced! Huzzah!

Alas, our joy was not to be. The Weather Poltergeist has issued a Lake Effect Advisory/Watch/Warning/Thingy, because Canada hasn’t turned off their wind-maker that’s on the north side of the Other Lake, also known as Lake Ontario, or The Lake So Deep It Doesn’t Actually Freeze Because It’s Hateful And Despises Us All.

So now, not only do we have wind chill temperatures that are so low, the only places colder than outside my house are Antarctica, and a tiny village in Siberia, BUT we also are expecting an additional 6-10 inches of snow in the next 12 hours.

New York is awesome. You should all move here.

taking a trip

I’m going to Lebanon in June.

I am part of a team of 15 people from my church who are going to serve in the poor communities surrounding Beirut. About half of the team will be working with a children’s ministry, running a summer-camp-like experience. Some of the team will work on a building project for the Near East Initiative. I will be serving in the refugee community.

There is an enormous refugee situation in Lebanon due to the civil war that rages in Syria. As of March 13, there are said to be near 750,000 refugees in Lebanon. Almost a million displaced people crammed into a country the size of Western New York. Lebanon isn’t the only country receiving refugees, there are refugees in Turkey, Jordan, and Iraq, along with nearly 4 million homeless Syrians who are still in Syria. Nearly a quarter of the Syrian people are displaced.

I have been following the news about Syria for over a year. I read the news every day; I read about children freezing to death because they don’t have even the simplest tent to sleep in at night, because they don’t have clothing that’s warm enough. I read about them starving and contracting typhoid because the only water that is accessible to them is poisoned with sewage. I read about the women; wives, daughters, mothers raped and murdered. I see their photographs, and their wide-eyed faces are the faces of my own babies; the women are my friends, the dead soldiers wear the faces of my husband and brothers.

These people are so very real, and my heart is broken for them.

They have been discarded, thrown away by their corrupt government, murdered by thugs, starved by a hunger for power.

Whatever you do for the least of these, you do for Me.

So I will go, and I will do. Maybe I will serve food, give clothing, hand out clean water, scrub the toilets… I really don’t know what my job will be. Yes, I would be thrilled to not scrub toilets for seventeen days, but if seeing this white American girl scrub poo is what I need to do to show the love of my God to people who have nothing, then so be it.

Part of going on a mission trip is raising money. This trip costs about $4000, not including renewing my passport, all of the immunizations, and other random expenses that will pop up along the way. One of the opportunities the team has is to sell Twice Cleansed organic olive oil soap. It has three ingredients: olive oil, water, and lye. Olive oil soap is wonderful for people who have dry, itchy skin. You can click here to read more about the soap, and to make a purchase. A single bar is $5, and a 4-pack is $20. It takes a whole lot of soap-selling to reach $4000, so I would love if you would share the link with your social media circles.

If you aren’t interested in soap, but would rather just make a donation to support my fundraising efforts, please let me know, and I will provide you with my paypal address or send you one of the fancy donation envelopes that the church provides. (Fancy donation envelope = tax deduction, btw.)

And as much as I appreciate your financial support, I ask you to pray for my team. We are fully aware that we are travelling to a dangerous place, and that there will be enormous demands on our mental and physical abilities. If you are not a pray-er, we’ll take your good thoughts and intentions.

Have questions for me? I’ll do my best to answer them in the comment section, unless it’s something a little too personal to share with all the interwebs, in which case I’ll send you an email.

organize now challege: memorabilia

Oh, the stuff that piles up when you have four children. My word, people, it can get ugly so fast. The papers, the artwork, the random sticks and stones and bottle caps and strings. Add to that moving into a house packed to the brim with a all of the things your husband’s granddad and grandmother owned… Oy.
The Mister and I got married in 2001, months after his grandfather passed away, and we moved into his grandfather’s house. Everything was there. Pots, pans, dishes, silverware, linens, furniture, all.of.the.things. On one hand, it was a huge blessing to have everything provided for us. On the other hand, it was just a lot of stuff. And on the other hand, it was very interesting to sort through all the things with my new mother-in-law. 
Most of my stuff from my childhood and college years was in boxes in the garage and basement, where it stayed for YEARS because a) I had no immediate use for it, and b) there was no place to put it. Last summer I went through most of the boxes and discovered that there was next to nothing in any of the boxes that was even sort of important to me. I filled our big green garbage bin; I filled contractor bags. It was SO.CRAZY.GOOD to have it gone.
One of the first things Jen says in her chapter about memorabilia is to save only what is STILL MEANINGFUL to you, not what was meaningful to you back in the day. I pitched random tchotchkes, all the letters from former boyfriends (I had one that really embraced the idea of the love letter), programs from concerts I performed in college that I didn’t remember. It felt really good to shed all those extra pounds of things I had stopped caring about.
Another idea Jennifer proposes is to organize photos into archival-quality albums. My two oldest children have well-documented albums of their first few years. I don’t have albums of the last two, but I do have thousands upon thousands of digital files of photographs that are organized by month on our computer. And yes, they are backed up. Because seriously people? BACK.UP.YOUR.FILES. It’s so easy I can do it all by myself, and I will not have to perform The Ugly Cry if our hard drive bites the dust.
I do have two clothing items I am saving: my high school jacket (I’m really not sure why I’m keeping it, other than that I’m just not ready to pitch it yet), and my wedding dress and veil. Right after our wedding, I had my dress cleaned and preserved, and it lives in the back of my super-small closet in an enormous box. There are some tiny baby clothes saved from when my people were tiny, and those are wrapped in tissue and stored in our non-hypo-allergenic cedar chest, away from the nasty moths.
Now. If only I could part with yarn and fabric as easily. Hrmph.
Check in to see what the other super-organizers are doing!
House of Grace

organize now challenge: post four – the routine

I may have mentioned once or twice that I’m not really a morning person. Turns out that five out of six Daytons in my house is not a morning person. Those are HORRIBLE ODDS, people, horrible. We thrashed through preschool with the oldest two, and very nearly lost our minds with the third. We sent our oldest to public school, and no matter what we did to make it easier, happier, better, it just wasn’t a good fit. We went to church Every! Sunday! Because! That’s! What! We! Did! It was brutal, and I’m pretty sure that the answer to the cliche “What Would Jesus Do?” was nothing that was actually happening in our home.
So we stopped. We evaluated our options. We slowed down.
And oh, my word, people, the thrashing about and soldiering on fell away. We found our rhythm, one that is a little bit flexible and a little bit scheduled. Some of the short people like to cuddle in our bed in the morning and talk about The Things and The Stuff; another one grabs his school books and joins in the pile. Some days we school at the kitchen table, on others we grab a quilt and head to the back yard (not now, obvs, but in the autumn and spring), sometimes everyone fetches their own quilts and hunkers down on the sofa with assorted school books and novels.
It works for us. 
Even so, there are days when we need to get up and out in short order, namely homeschool group days. The short people each have three classes, and I usually teach one or two fiber arts classes. This semester it’s crochet. 
The first tip in the Organize Your Morning Routine chapter is to have a list for each person’s to-dos, including chores, grooming habits, breakfast, etc. Next, Jen suggests that you estimate how long it takes each person to do each item on the list, and plan a Rise-and-Shine time based on that. The third tip is to pare the list down, and eliminate all the things you can do the night before. Jen also recommends establishing a family “Launch Pad”, a resting place for all the items that will be grabbed on the way out the door.
This is how it works out for us:
The Night Before:
  1. Pack all the supplies I need to teach my classes. This semester, it’s extra crochet hooks, scissors, extra yarn, finished squares for the blanket we’re making.
  2. Pack snacks for after class. Usually I stuff our picnic basket with apples, cheese sticks, yogurt and something salty. And water bottles. Lord help me if I forget the water bottles.
  3. Round up anything each of the short people needs to take to class. This is usually a pretty quick item, but one semester I forgot to double check that a certain girl-child had packed the novel the class was discussing and the notebook… EVERY CLASS. Six times in a row. I earned an F for FORGETTER.
  4. Pack five pairs of shoes, so that when the winter boots come off, shoes can go on. My people are notorious for forgetting shoes (see item 3 and know they come by this honestly).
  5. Take all of the packed things out to the car.
  6. Remove bagels and cream cheese from the fridge so breakfast is easy-peasy.
  7. Load slow cooker with next-day’s dinner. Plug slow cooker into the outlet, otherwise the Ugly Cry is guaranteed at approximately 3:25 the next afternoon.
The Morning Of:
  1. Wake everyone by 7:45. Except Jack, because he’s always already up.
  2. Wake everyone up again at 8:00.
  3. Forcibly remove girl-child from bed no later than 8:10. 
  4. Everybody gets dressed before going downstairs. Except Jack, because he’s already dressed, and has been entertaining himself for an hour.
  5. I toast bagels and spread cream cheese and make coffee for me (and sometimes the girl-child will get a mocha if she’s playing nicely with others; I’m not above a bribe).
  6. Short people put on coats and boots, and when their bagel is wrapped in a napkin, they get in the car.
  7. We need to be driving away from the house no later than 8:45 in good weather, and no later than 8:30 in wretched weather, because we have an hour drive.
Jen’s tips for Organizing the Evening Routine are pretty similar, but also include setting consistent dinner and bed times.
We usually eat dinner between 6 and 6:30, depending on when The Mister gets home from work. The boys are in their pajamas by 7:30, and they snack while The Mister reads to them. They are in bed around 8:30, and then we spend time with Miss O and Elliott; they’re the night owls of the bunch. 
I think the most important question to ask when you’re creating a routine and a daily schedule is, “Is this good for my family?” Parents are so busy paying attention to so many things that it is really easy for us to forget that we are growing the next generation of adults. Doing all of the things all of the time is not always the best lesson to teach our babies. 
Here’s what the other (much more prompt) ladies have to say about their routines:
Bonnie at House of Grace
Jennifer at Mother Thyme
Linda at Tapas Lifestyle

P.S. It sounds like I kicked church to the curb, but that’s not the case. The Mister works at a church with a Saturday night service, so we attend there. And when it doesn’t work out, we put our big kid pants on and pull it together for Sunday morning service.

organize now challenge: post the fifth – papers

Here’s a tip to reduce the number of trees you are killing: take your kid out of public school. 
I KID. Really. I’m joking. Pulling your kid out of school to manage your paper issues is a terrible decision, and if your paper issues are that bad, I’m really sad for you.
Not a joke: We do not have mail delivery on my street. There’s a real live mail delivery lady who lives on our street, but the only time the mail Jeep drives by is when she’s headed to work, or on her way home. We have to go to the Post Office to fetch our mail.  
You might think it’s annoying, but let me tell you what the Post Office has besides mail: RECYCLING BINS. All my junk mail? Stays at the Post Office. Stuff never enters my home unless The Mister happens to be the one to get the mail because he just grabs the stuff and gets in the car. Not me. I open, read, and pitch what is useless. I LOVE HAVING TO GO TO THE POST OFFICE.

Another superty awesome thing I have discovered is that EVERYTHING CAN BE PAID ONLINE, thereby eliminating (almost) all of our outgoing mail. We get the occasional invoice in the mail, and if I’m really on top of things I pay it while I’m at the post office sorting the day’s mail. This also means I don’t keep stamps at my house (translation: I don’t LOSE stamps at my house).

My favourite part of each chapter in Jen’s book is the Stay Organized! list of suggestions. I can institute a new system like a boss, but sticking with it is not my strong suit. She suggests cleaning out your mail basket once a week, and once a month, making sure you’ve addressed all the invites/bills/random letters that are piling up. 

Want to see what the other participants are doing with their papers?
Jennifer Ford-Berry
Linda DeFalco 
Jennifer from Mother Thyme
Michelle McDermott

organize now challenge: post the third

Our mission: TAKE DOWN THE BEDROOM CLOSET.

Well, not exactly a taking down of, more of a sorting out. But I’ll get to that in a minute.
Background info about my house:
  1. half of my house was built in the 1860’s. ish. 
  2. the other half-ish of my house was built in the early-mid 1900’s.
  3. people back in those days did not believe in closets.
When I stand in the doorway of my bedroom closet, I can extend my arm and touch the back of the closet. Without leaning. When I stand just inside my bedroom closet, I can extend my right arm, lean ever-so-slightly, and touch the far wall of the closet. Also, standing just inside my closet, I can stick my left elbow out and touch the left wall of the closet. 
Summary: There is not enough room in my closet to do the Hokey-Pokey. 
Additionally: About a third of my closet is taken up by a rather large box containing my wedding dress. I’m not ready to part with it just yet, and there is literally nowhere else to store it in my house. 
So there’s that.  
In the closet, there’s one bar on which garments can be hung, and a shelf above the bar. I keep my jeans folded nicely in a pile on the shelf, and a stack of bulky sweaters that are not well-suited for hanging in another pile. That’s as useful as I can make the space.
sweaters, jeans, and my corset and chemise.
what, you don’t keep your corset in the closet?
Fortunately, Jen’s first tip for organizing a bedroom closet is to begin by pitching things, starting with the mess. Anything you haven’t worn in over a year, things that are out of style, wrecked by your offspring, and that God-awful sweater your grandma gave you for Christmas this year.  
I had a Truly Horrific Pile on the floor of my closet, comprised mostly of random things I didn’t want to put away. So I picked up the pile, checked to make sure my superty nice woolen socks were not hiding in it, and I pitched the whole thing. I stuffed the lot of it into a contractor bag and took it out to the curb. I didn’t recycle it, I didn’t give it away, I didn’t box it up for the Salvation Army Thrift Store. I am not so good with sorting through things, it takes me forever, I look at every last item and think about it, and I have done this since childhood. In the future, when I’m not swamped with an ugly mess, I will take the time and use the brain power to divide and conquer, but that was just not.going.to.happen.this.week.
Let me tell you: giving myself permission to let go of the stuff, and just straight-up purge it out of my world was really freeing. Really, really, wonderfully freeing. 

inside the closet door: double hook holding the bathrobe
and a hangar with my many scarves
Most of the tips about organizing the clothing inside the closet after emptying it out don’t really apply to us.  I can count on one hand the number of button-down shirts owned by The Mister, and I have a small, but versatile Grown-Up Clothes wardrobe. For the majority of the year, my uniform consists of a long-sleeved t-shirt, layered with various sweaters or knee-length dresses. 
three jackets, six cardigans, two shirts
I think it is very clever of Jen to suggest hanging similar items together by color. I have included a photo of this despite the fact that most of my clothes are black, brown and grey, and the lighting is wretched and everything looks black. Very not exciting. Another tip is to purchase a battery-powered light and stick it to the wall of the closet, and I am seriously considering that.  She also recommends using a shoe rack or over-the-door shoe organizer, and I do that, except mine is in the kitchen, near the front door. If I had to go up to my room to put my shoes away every time I came in the house, my shoes would never end up in my bedroom closet. 
At the end of every weekly assignment in Organize Now! is a short checklist of things to keep the area organized. There’s a once a month list, a 3-6 month list, and a once a year list. Maybe “list” is not the best word to use, it’s more like a couple of bullet points for each time frame. I appreciate this kind of instruction, because it’s the staying organized once I’ve got my act together that I’m really worried about.  
It’s just about February, which means I’ve stuck to my guns for a month already. Now how long do you have to do something before it becomes a habit? Am I close? Are we there yet? Bueller?

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Visit the other bloggers taking the Organize Now! Challenge:
Tapas Lifestyle
Mother Thyme
House of Grace
Michelle Murphy