Settling down

        Can you believe it's almost September?  This summer has just been a blur.  I have to admit I'm ready for fall - it's my favorite season, and I suspect that this property will be gorgeous when the leaves turn. 

        Things continue to progress well for us.  We accepted an offer last night on our other house - contingent, but we're hopeful that everything will go smoothly.  (Prayers and positive thoughts appreciated!)   We're slowly finding a place for everything in this house.  It's a little smaller and is laid out quite differently than the last house, so it's kind of like a 3-D puzzle, trying to figure out where things will fit.  The kitchen is fantastic - nice and big, with tons of cupboard and countertop space, which makes me happy.  I'm not fond of cooking, but a big kitchen makes it better!  :-)   Plus hubby got me a Kitchen Aid mixer for my birthday and I LOVE IT!!  I do enjoy baking, but with my arthritis, doing anything that required a lot of mixing or kneading is painful.  The mixer does all the hard work for me, and it's awesome.  (No, not a paid endorsement - I just really like it!)

        My summer was complicated by a lot of medical issues, resulting in a lot of medical bills, which is another reason we're hoping the sale of the other house goes smoothly!  Thankfully nothing serious turned up, but it's been a little scary at times.   I'm starting to feel better now and I know what to keep an eye on, so it's okay.   Luke has also had some problems with illness, but he seems to be doing fine now.  Getting older really isn't for sissies, is it?

        One thing I'm super excited about is the fact that I'm enrolled in a metalworking class this fall!  The Flint Institute of Art offers a variety of classes in different areas, and there is a jewelry metalworking class available.   This is something I've wanted to do for a long time, but could never find classes that were affordable or close enough to be reasonable.  This one's both, so I am really looking forward to it.  I have so many ideas bouncing around in my head that I could just about explode! 

        That's all for now....I'm going to try and organize my beading supplies a bit more.  Those ideas want out!

The ride's still moving

        I remember, when my kids were little and daily life was just total chaos, thinking that life would surely get easier as they grew up...or at least that the pace would slow down a bit.   Yeah, it makes me laugh now too.   How blissfully (willfully?) ignorant I was back then.  

        The biggest twist on the ride of life since February?  Jon got a new job and we moved.  Again.  I know, I know - believe me, I'm ready to stay put for a while too!   This has been nothing but good for all of us, though.  The job Jon had that brought us back to MI very quickly became unpleasant and progressed to downright nightmare.  Without going into detail,  it was bad enough that it was having an impact on Jon's health, not to mention his emotional well-being.  But God did big things.  A former colleague called Jon about an opening with a company that sounded almost too good to be true.   After going through the interview process, we were pretty excited....and they offered the job to another candidate.   However, the guy was apparently so terrible to deal with right off the bat that they rescinded his offer and came back to Jon, hat in hand, to ask if he'd still like the position.   And now?   Now my husband is working for a company that values integrity and ethics, takes care of its people,  and sets realistic goals.  He's the happiest he's been in years, and it shows.  The drive from where we were living (just east of Lansing) was much too far, though, so we relocated to the little town of Ortonville,  and here we are!  

        Our new house is awesome and will be perfect for us long term - main floor master, main floor laundry, etc.  There are two ponds on the property, so we've been watching ducks and turtles and the occasional blue heron.  The fish will follow you as you walk around the pond, because the previous owners fed them.   Jon and the guys shoot baskets most nights after work. There's a huge shop (even has a second floor!) for all our tools and gadgets.  Faith has kittens again.  Are you picking up on the fact that I really like this place?  Because I really, really like this place.  Feel free to come visit!

        I'm planning to sub again this year, hopefully.  There are also a TON of small craft shows and art festivals around that I'd like to get into.   Seth pulled out my torch and supplies for me yesterday and I actually lit Sparky up for the first time in far too long.  It felt really good.   I'm still in the process of getting everything organized, so it will be a little bit, but the beads are calling me.  :-)

        Ferb is ginormous now - he's 9 months and roughly the size of a small horse.  Fortunately he's still a big, sweet dork of a dog.  His favorite thing to do is pick up a toy in his mouth and chase the other dogs around with it.  We were able to fence in a larger area for the pups, so they go outside and run circles to their hearts' content.   Clive is particularly interested in the ducks - I'm not sure if he wants to chase them, or if he's just offended that they're in "his" pond.  

        The one little cloud in our sky right now is that we still need to sell our other house.  Prayers for that would be much appreciated!  Two mortgages is not a good thing.  We just couldn't pass up this place, though, it's so perfect for us. 


Chugging along

        I can't believe it's 2018 - and almost March!  Wow!  It feels like we've been really busy, but I can't say that it's actually been much different from the usual.  I guess with all our different schedules it just seems busy.  Sometimes I wonder if we should install a revolving door, but nobody else seems to be on board with that idea.  :-/

        Subbing is going very well.  I feel much more prepared and less anxious now when I go into a classroom, and I'm working often enough that a number of the kids (and staff) recognize me now.  In fact, I realized some time ago that I actually like my job!  I'm still slightly surprised by that, honestly; my previous work experience didn't leave me with a very optimistic outlook on working.  Yet here I am, answering with an enthusiastic "Love it!" when someone asks me how the job is going.  Stranger still, the junior highers are my favorites, hands down.  Of course some of them are sassy and obnoxious, but the majority are funny and bright and a real hoot to be around.  Crazy, huh?

        Let's see, what else has happened? I just spent a few minutes looking over my, am I behind!   Soooo....we've been a three dog family for quite some time, but Faith and I were getting the puppy itch again.  Jon fought valiantly, but eventually  (some might say inevitably) he broke down and agreed to a fourth dog.  We decided we wanted a larger breed so Clive would have someone his size to play with - he's getting chubby, and he just bowls poor Boris the Boston over.  We searched for at least two  months to find a puppy that we felt would be a good fit for us, that didn't cost an arm and a leg.  Two or three times we thought we'd found one, then something would go south.  Finally one morning Jon found an ad for Lab/mastiff mix puppies about an hour away from us.  He and Faith went that day and brought home a 6-week-old male that we named Ferb.  (I do NOT recommend taking pups away from mom before 8 weeks, which is how old we thought they were.  We didn't want to let him get away, though!)  Ferb majestic
He has been an absolute riot, right from the start.  He has a very sweet personality, LOVES people, and gets along great with the other dogs - in fact, he and Clive are best buddies now.  The one drawback to Ferb is that we may have to get a saddle for him by the time he's full-grown.  This boy is going to be BIG.  At 6 weeks he weighed 6.9 lbs; at 15 weeks, it was 33.4.   His paws are as big as my hands, and his legs are just massive.  Obviously we're working hard on good manners!   He's a smart guy, thankfully, and extremely food motivated, which makes training easier.   It's been fun having a puppy again.

        There's been plenty of other stuff going on, but I'll stop here for now.  Hope everyone is having a good 2018 so far!!



Getting an education

        I'm a few weeks into the "substitute teacher" experience now, and I have to tell you, it has been an education.  (Yes, that's cheesy, but also accurate!)  Here's a sampling of what I've learned so far.

       Teachers do not get paid enough.  They just don't.  There may be some districts out there that are able and willing to adequately compensate their teachers, but I am willing to bet they're mighty few.   My  circle of family and friends holds quite a few teachers, and I've always had a lot of respect for the profession and all it requires, but mercy....these people work their backsides off. 

      Being a substitute is really nothing like being an actual, full-time teacher.  At the end of the day, I walk away.  I don't have papers to grade, parents to contact,  materials to track down (and frequently purchase out of my own pocket), classes to take, nothing.   I don't know how teachers do all that they do and remain sane.  You have to really, really care about your students to be a good teacher, and I've seen lots of people who really, really do.

       That being said, subbing is still kind of stressful.  If you've ever cooked in someone else's kitchen, you know the feeling of everything being in a different place.  It's confusing, and it slows you down because you don't know where all the tools are.  That's how I feel sometimes when I go into a classroom.  I understand the goal, but how to get there isn't always immediately clear.   Thankfully it seems like most teachers leave good lesson plans, and so far all the other teachers and staff have been incredibly helpful and kind. 

      Just as I thought before I started, I've had mostly good days, a couple really good days, and one absolutely horrible day.  Let's just say that if I didn't already have kids, that assignment might have done double duty as long-term birth control.  It was bad.  But I survived (and so did the kids), and I've learned to be a bit pickier about the age groups I accept.  :-/   I've also learned to always have something to eat in my purse, and that water bottles will leak even if they say they won't.   Comfortable shoes are a necessity.  And I need to start hoarding pens. 

      So overall, I'm doing okay.  I have no desire to go back and get a teaching degree, but being in a classroom two or three days a week is working out pretty well.  I learn a little more with each assignment, and I'm meeting some really nice people too.  Going back to work hasn't been quite as scary/awful/depressing as I feared, thankfully!

I think it sold!

           Brace yourselves, people - I have a job!  :-O  I've been hired as a substitute teacher, and my head is spinning.  I've been bouncing back and forth between excitement and panic for days now.  In my calmer moments, I know I can do this, no problem.  Other times?  I'm convinced the kids will shut me in a locker and run, while I scream for help until my voice is gone.  (Hey, I have a vivid imagination!)   I suspect that the reality will be that most days I'm fine, some days I'm great, and some days I'll go home and eat too much ice cream.  In other words, normal life. 

            One side note to my newly employed status is that I really need to update my wardrobe.  I've spent 25 years as a stay-at-home mom, and the dress code for that is pretty darn relaxed.  Now I need to look like a professional, which means my tie-dye t-shirts and baggy sweats aren't going to cut it.  I will freely admit that I like to shop; what I don't like is trying on clothes.  The whole "body positivity" movement hasn't really clicked with me yet, unfortunately.  :-/   Still, I've managed to pull together a few nice outfits that I think will fit the bill, and I didn't even cry when I tried them on! 

            School starts next week around here, so it'll probably be a couple weeks before I get any assignments.  In the meantime, I'll be trying to put together some materials to help me in the classroom.  If anyone has any ideas or suggestions for resources, please share!  Right now I'm available for K - 12, but if I do well I'd eventually like to stay with junior high/high school.  I just really enjoy teens, and I think I'd do well with them. 

            So, I'm going back to school!  Wish me luck, everyone!


How do I sell this?

            I almost don't believe I'm saying this, but here goes.....I'm looking for a job.

        Actually, I don't want to believe I'm saying it.  It does not thrill me even a little.  But hubby's been working his tail off for 25 years so I could stay home with the kids, and now it's time for me to pitch in.  I'm just looking to pay off a couple things and build up the ol' savings a little, that's all, but lawdy does this freak me out! 

        Allow me to share a little secret with you, dear reader: I am scared to death of going to work.  Scared. To. Death.  My (miniscule) work history was pretty negative, and at this point in my life I honestly don't know what sort of job I can even reasonably pursue.  I have chronic back problems that rule out heavy lifting or prolonged standing, so that's limiting.  My degree is 30 years out of date.  I don't have any exceptional skills.  What the heck can I do?

        I am admittedly restricting myself somewhat in other ways - for example, I don't want a job that will force me to miss church.  Nor do I particularly want to babysit or work in a childcare facility.  I've raised my three, and as much as I love them, I do not want to revisit those years with anyone else's kids.  (Grandkids will obviously be the exception someday!)  Still, there are a fair number of jobs out there that I'm capable of doing.  Maybe.

        The real kicker is the "experience" section of the applications.  After being out of work for 25 years, how do I even begin to fill that in?  Oh, sure, I could spin my mom skills lots of ways (experienced crisis mediator, search and rescue, short-order cook), but employers seems to want more verifiable experience.  Telling them to call my kids isn't going to fly.  I honestly don't know how to handle this part of the process.

        Still, I think I need to do this somehow, so I'm plugging away at it.  I've put in several applications this week, and I'm pursuing doing more craft shows.  Hopefully I'll find something soon that I can do without having a nervous breakdown, and we'll start seeing a little more fat in the bank accounts.  Seriously, though, this is really scary for me, so any good thoughts or prayers are much appreciated!

Spring, sprang, sprung

        Ah, spring in Michigan!  The showers, the flowers, the unforeseen snow flurry....kidding!  We're actually enjoying a very nice spring.  We have had a lot of rain - in fact, we wondered if some of the local farmers were going to switch to growing rice and cranberries - but temperatures have been mild and everything is blooming.   When we first moved into this house all the trees were bare, and you could see for quite a distance through the woods.  That is no longer true!  Now when I look out our bathroom window (second floor) it's like I live in a treehouse.  Just beautiful shades of green, everywhere I look. 

        Two things that make me (possibly unreasonably) happy about this place are the wild violets scattered all through the property, and the five - 5! - beautiful lilac bushes around the house.   Wild violets are probably my favorite flower.  They were plentiful around the house in NC, but I'm still happy to see them here.  There's just something about seeing them that makes me smile.  I also love lilacs, which don't do well in the south (too hot).   Crape myrtles are pretty but they don't have much scent.  A blooming lilac outside your open window in the spring is a wonderful thing. 

        Of course, into every beautiful spring a bug must come, and this time it came to see me.  For over a week now I've been enjoying a severe sore throat, sinus pressure and congestion, and ears that are blocked so badly I can't hear the phone when it's right beside my head.  :-/   At first I just assumed it was a normal cold, but after some not-so-normal symptoms I made my way to an urgent care. Diagnosis?  Sinus infection and a double ear infection.  Yay, me!   Antiobiotics ensued and the misery is slowly (slooooowly) decreasing, but WOW do I want to be able to hear again.   This is super frustrating.  Also, I have now reached the stage where for no apparent reason I suddenly begin coughing uncontrollably, to the point that things get - well - embarrassing.  Yeah.  SO not cool.   So I'm really hoping and praying that this goes away.  SOON. 

        Otherwise life is good!  My sister and her hubby finally - after 4 years of searching, bidding, being refused/outbid, etc. - found a house that they love.  Everything has gone incredibly smoothly so far, to the point that it's obviously God moving it along.  Melinda is beyond excited.  It's a big old brick house in the country, with a bed/bath combo on the first floor for Mom, and plenty of room for their antiques business and maybe even a couple little goats.  :-)  I'm super happy for them;  it has been an incredibly frustrating and drawn-out process to get to this point, but it looks like it's been worth the wait.

        So that's what's going on here.  Hope everyone else is seeing some springtime sunshine!      


Third time's the charm!

         I am sitting in our new house, looking at a gorgeous sunset out the living room windows while my Frodo-pup snoozes beside me.  Content?  You betcha.  It feels like home here, and that feels good. 

     We closed March 17th and the truck with all our stuff arrived on the 18th.....and oy, do we have stuff!  It got a little crazy at times, trying to figure out just where everything should go, but all the major things are settled (at least for now) and we're slowly working through the "secondary" boxes.    And if anyone needs any cardboard boxes, let me know!  We have a few to spare (but just a few!).  

     The guys managed to get a great deal on a bunch of used chain-link fencing, complete with posts, etc., and last weekend the dog yard went up.  The dogs are very intrigued by all the different sounds and smells here, as well as the tiny stream that runs through the back yard.  There's a lot of wildlife here too - deer, rabbits, squirrels, chipmunks, raccoons, sandhill cranes - it's been fun to watch for critters in the woods around the house.  

      One of the best things (if not the very best!) is the fact that we can be part of our old church, Ore Creek Community Church.  We love OC3 and it was pure joy to be back with them again.  We've been amazed at how smooth the reintegration has been - it's almost like we never left.  As we get more settled we'll be diving back in and getting re-involved.

        When I was here visiting Jon before we got the house, I was chatting with a friend at church and I mentioned that this is actually our third time moving to Michigan.  Val's answer was "Third time's the charm, right?  You better be staying this time!"   I've learned that it's safer to not make absolute statements about these things, but I sure hope we stay a long, long time.  

The deadline approacheth!

        It's Saturday, March 4th, 2017, and I am a happy camper because by Thursday March 16th we will be in MICHIGAN!!  Yeah!!!  We have a buyer here and everything has gone quite smoothly  (thank You Lord!); we found a great house in MI, where things have also gone smoothly (thanks again); and we are ready to GO.   One of the blessings with this job is a very nice relocation package, which includes someone else doing all the packing and loading/unloading.  That is HUGE.  When professional packers come in, they just pack.  There's no "Oh, that's where that was!"  or "Hey, look what I found" or any of that.  They pack.  Granted, if you don't go through and do some sorting and purging ahead of time then you may find some - ah - interesting  things in your boxes, but they get it done soooooo much faster and more efficiently.  It's a wonderful thing, and it removes so much stress for me.  We can take as long as we want to unpack, but we don't have to worry about this end of it.  I love it. 

        The new house is really cool and quite different from anything else we've ever owned.  For starters, it's a true two-story rather than a story and a half, like this house.  There's a full unfinished basement just begging to be used.  There are front and rear covered porches - the front porch wraps partway around one side of the house, and the back porch is nice and deep.  And there's a tower.   Yes, really!  An adorable two-story Victorian type tower on one corner, which gives the place so much character.   Faith immediately claimed the upstairs tower room for herself, and I don't blame her.  It's a very welcoming house, if that makes sense.  I'm really excited to get in and start decorating and having friends over.   Bonus?  It's less than 10 miles to work for Jon.  Yay!!!  

        The only real downside to the property is that there isn't an outbuilding, but we'll take care of that in time.  We were actually kind of surprised by how few of the places we looked at had decent outbuildings....lots of tumble-down barns, but that was about it.  As always, househunting was quite the experience - we looked at places that we could barely get to through the muddy, potholed roads; houses with rooms that were too tiny to be useful as anything but closets, yet they were listed as living space; and my personal favorite, what could have been a really nice ranch house that was full - FULL - of taxidermy and had apparently been decorated by someone with a bizarre love of Spanish architecture and very poor taste.   There was a stuffed badger with a hand-painted sign over its head that read "Don't give a s***".   Really.  The look on our realtor's face as we went through that one was priceless.  I could tell she was horrified by both the house and the fear that I might actually like the place, and she'd have to pretend it was cool.  I wanted to string her along but I just couldn't keep a straight face.   

        So, in 12 days we'll all be northerners again, and we're very excited.  I'm really eager to see what this move will bring into our lives - there's always something!  Michigan, here we come!

Where I stand

        Our country is in a bit of an uproar these days.  I'm sure you've all noticed the signs and the marching and the angry Facebook posts and Twitter rants and so on and so forth.   It seems that everyone is upset by something, and the only thing to do is yell and fight about it.  Well, I disagree.

      I normally avoid political discussions like I would a hornet's nest, and if you're expecting a statement of my political beliefs here, you're about to be disappointed.  What I have to say has NOTHING to do with political stances, government programs or individual politicians.  This is about me and what I believe, in my heart, about how I should live in this world.

    I believe in kindness and demonstrating love.  I will not be mean or hateful towards anyone because of their skin color, religious beliefs, etc.  If I have the right to hold my Christian beliefs close, then you have the right to your beliefs, period.  I do not expect you to agree with me, nor should you expect me to agree with you in all areas; however, I would very much appreciate it if you would extend a similar level of kindness to me, despite our differing opinions.  The fact that we see things differently is not a reason for animosity between us, it's an opportunity to talk honestly (and kindly!) about what matters to us and learn about each other more.

    I believe that life matters.  All life.  I will do whatever I can to help those who cross my path, whether it's a young pregnant woman or an elderly person or a handicapped person or...oh jeez....a three-legged dog!   I can't help everyone, and I can't "fix" life for anyone, but I can do my best to show love and kindness to those who need it.  I will fail sometimes, and I'm sorry, but I'm human too.  Just know that I care, and if I'm able to help you in some way, all I ask is that you pass that along to someone else.  

    I am convinced that we need to teach our children more about kindness and critical thinking and personal responsibility and how to actually live life, than how to look good or be popular or even get fantastic grades and have impressive college entrance essays.  Teach the kids that other people are just as valuable, that sometimes getting what you want means a lot of hard work, that sometimes no matter how hard you work you don't get what you want.  And sometimes that is not only okay, it's a blessing that you may not understand until years down the road.  Show them how to be responsible for their words and actions, and how to think before they speak or act.   Help them mature, not just grow older.

    It breaks my heart to see the negative view many people have of marriage today.  Marriage is a wondrous thing, a sacred thing, and it should be treasured and cared for and celebrated.   If you care for someone enough to marry them, make it your goal to build them up, not tear them down.   A friend said "Your spouse's name should be safe in your mouth" - meaning your spouse should never have to worry over what you say about them.    Your husband or wife should be your favorite person, period.  Choose them, every day, in every circumstance....choose them again and again and again, and let them see that you do.  And laugh together.  Laughter is a wonderful bonding agent.

    Perfectionism is dangerous and very rarely helpful or positive, whether we turn it on ourselves or others.  We're all living life one day at a time.  Do the best that you know to do and go on.  Want to have someone over for dinner but your house isn't HGTV-worthy?    Go ahead!   I have yet to have dinner with someone because I wanted to assess their home.  If you're not a great cook, order pizza.  The relationship is what matters.  Have you always dreamed of taking a ballroom dance class, but you're worried you aren't coordinated enough?  Do it anyway!  The point is that you're trying something that makes you happy.  If someone else wants to judge you, that's their problem with perfectionism, not yours.   

    So there you have it.  I try to do my best, but sometimes I screw up.  I'm impatient and lazy and grouchy and selfish and all those other things nobody want to admit to being....but I can also be loving and funny and creative and kind and generous.  Just like you.  Again, the question is what do you focus on?  I want to live joy.  I want to know that there are bad things and scary things out there, and some of them will hit far too close to home and some of them will never touch me, but I can still, always, choose how I react.  I want to choose joy and kindness and grace, every time.  I hope you do too.