Thursday, September 3, 2015

Back From the Dead

Hello, all. We've been through the ringer around here. It's been a rather long, grueling move, but we are living in the little house at Red RobinFarm, and one little step at a time, it's feeling a tiny bit like home. Today we have internet/wireless again at last, and I can catch you up on our lives.

A few people have stopped by to visit and they're always struck by how spacious the house feels, since it's only 1100 square feet. The ceilings are over 10 feet high, I've decided. It makes all the difference. I don't have anything hung on the walls yet, but most of the furniture is in the house and generally in its right spot. Adam is eager to paint walls soon.

Julia's schooling seems finally to have settled down too. She was thoroughly miserable taking both college algebra and chemistry -- too much work, and too hard. She could do it, but it was overwhelming. Finally we decided to drop the chemistry (and she'll take it next semester), and in order to get her schedule to work out, to drop the English comp class, adding it in October as something called a B-term --a condensed class that packs a full semester into a couple of months. The comp class was easy for her, so it'll be okay. And instead of the chemistry course she'll pick up a late-start American history course next week. Sounds complicated, but I think she will be content, and we've learned our lesson that she does have limits to how much work she can carry.

Anna is still waitressing and doing fine. The tourist season is tapering down and she may look elsewhere for more work. She's still hoping to go overseas, possible early next year. She's applied with the Peace Corps and is excited about hopefully going with them.

My job at HeartWorks is quite challenging and rewarding. I think it's growing on me. By the time 6:00 rolls around, I am exhausted, but I realize this is such an important ministry for these families, and that it offers the children benefits and advantages that they need and deserve. I heard an NPR report recently on low-income children (less than 25K/year) and how they actually have less surface area on their brains than children from high-income families (over 150K/year). There are exceptions, of course, and many children fall in the middle income level between those two. But low-income kids need enrichment and encouragement, the advantages that wealthier parents are able to give their kids. I hope we can offer a bit of that rich nurturing educational atmosphere each day. And the staff I work with are just great -- can't praise them enough for their dedication and hard work.

Adam's work has been quite challenging. One of our church families is struggling right now with the impending loss of a precious family member. Death is such a struggle for families. And we are losing a dearly-loved saint in this sweet lady. Moving has been quite exhausting. Basically, Adam carried everything we own on his own shoulders from one house to another. I helped carry some things, and we were loaned a truck (what a blessing!), but he really did it alone, and I'm so proud of his hard work, but it has been a struggle. He is worn down. He needs rest and refreshment, and more than anything else, encouragement. Today he took some time to rake the grass in the field that was cut and put it around his beehives. He enjoyed a little farm work. He lost a beehive in transit, and he was unable to drive the Jaguar too the farm and needed a tow, so there have been discouragements.

We're starting a new phase of life somehow. We didn't really plan it, but it feels that way. Adam has a farm to work in his spare time. I have a new job. Julia is starting college. It may take me a while to figure out what this new life is, precisely. I feel as if God has handed it to me, and I'm holding it, puzzling it out.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Goofballs by the River

We went to Lou Mac Park for Adam's astronomy class, to watch the rising moon. A thick cloud bank prevented that, but I asked these two sillies for a picture or two. Julia complied. She even hugged her daddy, but she didn't think she wanted a kiss on the head ...

They are quite fond of each other. 16 year olds aren't all bad!
Our move to the farm is nearly done. Go check it out, if you haven't done so recently.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

How the Week Is Going

Right now? It's gully-washing outside. So much rain. This makes us nervous because our contractor repaired the bad spots in the ceiling at the farmhouse, but we don't think he's repaired the roof yet. Seems a backwards way to do things, unless he put some buckets in the attic, which he may have done. If the roofer he chose didn't show up, he said he'd do it himself. Maybe he did and we didn't notice? Hmm. Getting a house worked on is nervous business.

It's Thursday. We must, must, must be out of this house by Monday evening, and somehow -- how? -- be "living" in the farmhouse by then. It seems nearly impossible. I shifted around all the stuff (boxes, bags, junk, etc.) in the storage building so that Anna's bed can fit in there, so she'll have a clean, private place to sleep. We'll move the futon from the front bedroom to the office for Julia, and vacuum/dust the office for her. It has a thin layer of drywall dust on everything. Then only Adam and I need a place to sleep. I think we'll throw our mattress on the floor in the front bedroom. It's rather frightful in there -- more drywall dust from the sheetrock work in the living and dining rooms. The contractor said he would do a good clean-up. Here's hoping so! We told him our deadline. I hope he understands that starting Tuesday morning, his worksite will have a family of four with two dogs, living in it.

My new job is going okay. Monday was average. Tuesday was good. Yesterday was a bit stressful. It helps that I've worked with middle schoolers before for years, and worked with troubled kids. In a group of 20 kids, you're certain to have some who've had bad days (or bad lives), sadness at home, are bullies, are whiners, are struggling academically. It's a juggling act, and managing 6th graders is a bit like herding cats. I expect it to smooth out with time. It is a challenge to find activities for them that they enjoy and are enriching, and to fit it all into the bigger schedule.

Julia had a slightly better week with her math class, thanks mostly to her brother Peter who has been tirelessly Skyping her most evenings, walking her through it. But honestly, that's not a doable situation for him for the whole semester. And she's been doing that at a friend's house where she really enjoys being in the evenings -- a house a bit calmer than ours right now. We have minimal furniture left in the house, no pictures on the walls, hardly any food in the frig -- typical emptying house scenario, but it adds to her stress, which is high. She needs the comfort of home to cope with the coursework, and right now home isn't very comforting.

Adam is managing. He has so many balls to juggle in the air -- hefting furniture, working with the contractor, taking care of a dying congregant and her family, helping drive Julia to New Bern, trying to get his Jaguar running so he can drive it to the farm, comforting me as I start a new job, cooking dinners for us, managing his own stress. It's a little overwhelming right now.

Anna flits in and out. She has only a mattress on her floor, poor thing! She works long hours waiting tables and rests much of the remainder of her time, when she's not helping us tote stuff to the farm. She's been losing weight because she's on her feet so much, they don't feed her at the restaurant, and we have minimal meals here right now, in the middle of our chaos. I'm hoping, so hoping, that things will settle back into a normal routine soon. We are all quite weary with the weight of the constant state of discomfort.

But -- we have much to be thankful for, and I don't want to forget that! I'm working to adjust Julia's class load so she can manage it herself. The farmhouse is coming along. We seem to have moved adequate amounts of furniture thus far. I don't hate my new job - haha! (Some people do find themselves in that situation!) Life is manageable, as long as we don't have to do it like this too much longer. As Julia said last night, she realized at one point that her whole life had somehow changed, and she didn't know exactly how that happened, and she doesn't like it.

I understand. Sometime in early June life started to unravel for us, and we have not found ourselves able to knit it back together into the happy state we had. Too many stressors have occurred simultaneously for all of us, so we can't support each other well, although we try. Have you ever had a time in life that became dark and scary, when the thunderstorms rolled in, the sky became black and gloomy, and you wondered where the sunshine went? August is my least favorite month, and I think this August is my least favorite of all the 52 Augusts I've known.

Okay, enough whining! By this time next week, I hope to tell you that we are living on the farm. Exactly what that will look like, remains to be seen. I hope we're not eating our meals under a film of drywall dust.

Monday, August 24, 2015

First Day!

With great fear and trembling, this afternoon I entered a classroom again (after about five years' absence), this time with sixth graders. This is HeartWorks! My colleague and I have 23 kids on our roster, but today only about 15 came. Here's our classroom:
The building is an old car dealership, so the classroom area is one LARGE space (where they worked on the cars), now separated by partitions. So the space is rather noisy at times.
We had a nice snack, drew some zentangles, listened to a read-aloud of Hatchet by Gary Paulsen (chapter one), talked a bit about setting and characters, played outside, learned a couple of games (rather half-heartedly), and eagerly went home. This was the kids' first day of school (before coming to our program in the afternoon), so they were pretty exhausted. Most days we'll spend time on their homework, but they had none on this their first school day.

It's a hard line to walk -- making the environment enriching and supportive of their academics without making it just three more hours of school, after a long day of school already. We don't want that. But we want far more than babysitting. I feel if I get in something substantial each day that contributes to their education, I've done well. And I'm a big fan  of unstructured play time, which they get for about 30 minutes outside each day.

It's strange to be working again, but I'm sure I'll get used to it. It's odd getting off at 6:00 and home at 6:30. That's late!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Slowing Down to Breakneck Speed

I haven't been posting very often lately, partly because I'm posting a lot over at the Red Robin Farm blog (click on over to read the latest). There's lots going on at the farm. But mostly because we are all exhausted and utterly spent from all that's going on in life right now.

1. We must be out of our current house before Sept. 1. Repairs on the house are progressing, but we will likely be living in a total construction zone. Sigh. Adam has done huge work on the out-building. (He is exhausted.) We must cram ourselves into two bedrooms. Most of our stuff will be squeezed into the out-building.We are moving ourselves using our mini-van, which is doable, but will keep us zipping back and forth for the next ten days. The house is full of sheetrock and huge power tools, and they haven't started on the roof and ceilings yet.

2. I just started a part-time job, yes, I did! It seemed like a good time -- Julia's only homeschooling one class this year (French II) with me. I have more time. We can use the money. So ... right in the middle of our repairing and moving, I did two full days of training yesterday and today, and on Monday I start working, 2:30-6:00 M-F. I'm a tutor/teacher at a non-profit afterschool program here in our county called HeartWorks. I was so nervous and stressed about this job that earlier this week my nerves were giving me a tummy ache, 24/7. But the training has gone so well, and the people there are so wonderful, that I'm not nervous anymore. My two days there have been a real joy, and a little bit of escape from the other stressors of life.
Our team at in-service did a great job of using cards to build a tall tower.
We folded the cards - -clever!

3. So much is going on at our church. One of our precious elderly members is in hospice and in her final days. Also, there are other difficulties right now that have caused both of us to be on the very edge of our ability to cope. All pastors and their wives out there will smile sadly and understand.

4. Julia has finished her first week of classes at the community college in New Bern. This is 30 minutes away from the new house, so one of us must drive her and wait for her to be done. She is fine in her English comp. class, but the math class (Pre-Calc Algebra) has thoroughly done her in. Her stress level is much, much higher than mine right now (and that's sayin' something!). It's been a terrible struggle, with many tears and hours of trying to help her do assignments online. We still don't know how this will resolve -- coping with the class (seems unlikely), changing to another course (complicated), or withdrawing and attending the local high school (not a great option). Adam and I have tried to be helpful, but we can barely handle our own issues right now, much less Julia's. Home life has been wearying.

So ... there's an honest assessment of life recently! If any of these situations would just resolve and be done, it would be so helpful! Prayers are appreciated. Hopefully, in a couple of weeks life will have settled into a bit less chaos and crying. For you teachers out there, today I even cried in front of total strangers in our in-service training, just because some of the activities touched a little too close to home. I don't usually do that, and felt ridiculous although everybody was very sweet.

We all just want some NORMAL again. I hate waking up each morning, and two seconds later remembering: "Oh, ugh. I have to face all that again. I liked my dream better. Can I just go back there and skip this life?" Do you ever feel that way? I know you do. Do you ever have the huge knot in your stomach that makes you feel sick, keeps you from eating, and hurts? Yep. Mine is finally going away slowly. Julia's is still there, poor thing.
Julia tolerated one photograph on her first day of school.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Boat Names in Oriental

It's been a while since I shared boat names with you. These names generally come from Sailcraft, but some may have been spotted elsewhere.
Kokopelli, if you can't make it out
Not knowing what Kokopelli meant, I typed it into Google and discovered it's a Native American fertility god. It's also the name of a trail in Colorado, so I think I'll go with that one!
Many boat names reference the night sky. I think boaters are particularly aware of the stars and night sky in general. Makes sense.
Boats are feminine, you know, and quite romantic.

I'm not familiar with this name either; some boaters pick rather obscure words for names. Apparently there's a people group called the Wuji, and it's a concept in Chinese philosophy.
Calculation ... math? figuring out your location when you're lost? I mean, why choose that word above all other words as you boat name? I'm sure they had a reason. I'd love to know.
Many boats have sweet names like Angel's Wing.
Ocean Wanderer

The punny ones are my favorite :) The sails are sheets, for you landlubbers out there.
Again ... back to the night sky.
This boat is waiting for her perfect name -- the old one scraped away, the new one in someone's mind somewhere.

Friday, August 14, 2015

The Red Robin Farm Blog!

Hi, y'all! Guess what? I'm starting a new blog for our new adventure, Red Robin Farm. I'll put a few links to the first few posts here, so you can click over and see if you want to follow that blog. It will keep the news about the farm tidily in one place, and allow us to direct that enterprise toward an eventual business, and keep its information from cluttering up this personal blog too much. I'll also have a permanent link here at "Through a Glass" so that you can just click over there when you want to.

Hooray for our new homestead!

Links to Red Robin Farm:
Welcome to the Farm!
First Day on the Farm
Cleaning without Water