Thursday, June 28, 2012

Summer Schedule in a House with Teenagers

I was looking forward with gratitude to finishing school for the year - and C. and the kids being done, too. What a blessing to be able to start life together without the work and stress that comes from all four of us having long hours and homework. What I did not realize was that the change of seasons would bring a new commitment - and even after C's contribution, one that takes a good 2-3 hours of my time, every day.

Yup. I'm the taxi service. Both kids are working (different) 2-3 hour shifts for the park service (he's a rookie lifeguard, she's a swim instructor). Neither one has a driver's license, though our girl, H., hopes to get hers soon and has friends who bring her back to us each evening. Our boy, D., strives to make swim practice twice a day and the morning practice is clear on the other side of town - unfortunately not so conveniently timed that I can take him there and stick around to enjoy the adjacent coffee shop, or run errands.

There are a few up-sides to all this back and forth. It forces me to stay organized enough to make the most of the windows of work time that remain. And it allows me some low-key, one-on-one time with each of the kids.

As might be expected, attempts to introduce a bit more job-sharing on the cooking and cleaning chores so I can get more of my work done have seen mixed results. I know most of my friends who are "working moms" have been doing this juggling act all along. It's new to me. And only every other week. So what I'm going to try to do is work 50 hours a week when the kids are with their mom, and 30 when they're with us. We'll see how it goes.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Post-Cubicle Life

This old, grey office chair has faithfully supported me since the mid-90s. The same one. I had 10 bosses during that time, but I kept my chair and brought it with me when I left cubicle life behind. It does look a little funny pulled up to the oak table; I'll grant you that. But it makes all the difference in transforming the dining room into my office.

I like being able to spread out my papers and materials. The pressure to clean it all up at the end of the day doesn't hurt either.

The two tall bookshelves with volume after volume of missiology, history, biography, theology? They are an oddity in the dining room but fit right in when it's the "office"!

Perhaps it goes without saying that I'm perfectly comfortable with eating at my desk.

>> Do you think you could work at home? Even without a home office?

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Which one is the believer?

Friends in the Bible belt - if they know anything about my town (and the Northwest as a whole) - may see it as a place of spiritual darkness. Yet mixed in with the bumper crop of godless pagans are quite a few of the equally colorful and vigorously religious.

The two men sitting near me at the downtown coffee shop where I took my laptop and went to work were one of each.

But I had to smile; the dread-locked hippie was the one who sounded like a Christian evangelical.

Clean-cut guy in suspenders? He was the pagan.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Missing Home

I've been in Oregon for almost eight months now and still feel those stabs of homesickness. At least they aren't as severe as they were when I first came. It helps that I like the new house and neighborhood. And I have a husband who is a good friend and will stick with me through thick and thin. I have a few other relationships here now, however new or tentative. Just not "old friends," people with whom I have that comfortable sense of knowing and being known - really, of belonging.

I don't deny what was lacking or lost over the seasons of my life in Colorado. But I miss my friends there, and the favorite haunts where I'd go to walk or work or study or hang out; I miss having colleagues I could get together with or just run into, face to face, and talk shop. I miss the sunny blue skies with big puffy clouds instead of a blanket of grey. I miss being able to see out.

Of course I've lost my place there. My car is here, my roommate has moved away, and somebody else lives in our house. I don't belong anymore. It's not very realistic to think I could just take off and go back to visit any time soon or for very long. C. doesn't get vacation time. He's tied down here with work, and school, and fire department, and kids. (Our kids, now, aren't they? Good kids, and nice to have around! But they are rather accustomed to having others look after them; it still catches me by surprise. They don't behave like the [grownup] housemates I've had in the past.)

Planning a trip back to Colorado may not be in the cards, and I'm not sure how satisfying it might be.  Pressing in, trusting God, counting my blessings, and persistently building a new life here, that's what I've got to do. And it's going to take more time and effort.

What are your best prescriptions - shallow or deep - for homesickness?

>> See also a previous post, Longing for Home.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Wedding Service - Nitty Gritty

It took a long time to get to this point, but when we finally wrote up a detailed order of service for our wedding it made such a difference. Perhaps something in our model would be of use to someone else. At any rate, for posterity - if posterity is watching - here's what we chose to do.

Wedding Service for Chris & Marti’s wedding, 5-26-12 

9:00 Make sure setup tasks are underway or ready to begin
9:30 Start on hair and makeup
10:30 Start on pictures
11:00 Food prep begins; cake arrives
12:30 Prelude music begins
1:00 Wedding
1:30 Reception
3:30 Wrapping up

1. PRELUDE: Play 30-40-minute mix of fun/romantic music from Chris's iPad (Ryan).

2. PARENTS: Begin processional music (Christopher Parkening guitar versions of Bach’s Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring, length 3:17, and God Alone Should Have My Heart, length: 3:18. Can be faded out when ready.)

- Marti’s step-grandparents enter escorted by Bobby.
- Marti’s stepmother enters escorted in by Bobby.
- Chris’s mother enters escorted in by Chris.
- Marti’s mother enters escorted in by Chris S.
- Chris's mother stands when Marti's mother arrives; they go forward to light candles.

3. WEDDING PARTY: Guitar music continues until bride is about to enter.

- Men enter, all together, from side (Chris G., Chris, Darren, Daniel)
- Bridesmaids enter down aisle (first Haley, then Sarah)
- Bride enters with her father. Music change: Trumpet Voluntary (length: 2:12). All stand.
- Dean hands Marti to Chris. Marti hands her bouquet to Sarah.

4. WELCOME: Chris G. welcomes guests, opens service in prayer, and asks guests to be seated.

5. PROMISES: Chris G: Chris, before we get into this, was there something you wanted to give your chief? (Chris hands Randy his fire pager.) Chris G: That’s his pager. Won’t need it on his honeymoon :-)

- Chris, are you ready to solemnly pledge before God and these witnesses that you desire to take Marti as your wife and that you will be faithful to her for the rest of your life?
- Chris responds: I am.
- Chris G: Marti, are you ready to solemnly pledge before God and these witnesses that you desire to take Chris as your husband and that you will be faithful to him for the rest of your life?
- Marti responds: I am.

6. READINGS: Chris G. invites readers to come forward: Gretchen and Greg

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 (NIV) - Gretchen
Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.
Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

1 Peter 4:8-11 (NIV) - Greg
Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality, to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.


8. VOWS (Chris G. reads them line by line, we repeat.)

a. I, Chris, take you, Marti,
to be my wedded wife,
to have and to hold, from this day forward,
for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer,
in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish,
till we part by death.
According to God’s plan and with eyes wide open,
I pledge myself and my love to you.

b. I, Marti, take you, Chris,
to be my wedded husband,
to have and to hold,
from this day forward,
for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer,
in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish,
till we part by death.
According to God’s plan and with eyes wide open,
I pledge myself and my love to you.

9. RINGS: 
Chris G. asks for rings and has Chris put Marti’s rings on her finger and repeat: I give you this ring, as a seal of my commitment, as a symbol of my love, and as a reminder of this day.
Chris G. asks for groom’s ring and has Marti put it on Chris’s finger and repeat: I give you this ring, as a seal of my commitment, as a symbol of my love, and as a reminder of this day.

Chris G.: Marti and Chris would like to begin their marriage by lighting a candle together and a symbol of unity and taking communion (explain significance of each?)
Cue music: Darlene Zschech, Let The Peace of God (Length: 5:13)
Chris and Marti pick up side candles and light unity candle, blowing out side candles, then move to side and take communion, can pray together until song is finished.

Chris G. says something like “Since you have consented together with these promises and vows and have symbolized this by giving and receiving of these rings, I now pronounce you to be husband and wife. In the name of the father, and the son and of the Holy Spirit.”

12. KISS

13. RECESSIONAL: (Music: Perry Como It’s A Good Day, length: 1:42)
Chris and Marti exit, followed by Darin and Sarah, Daniel and Haley.

14. DISMISSAL: Chris G. tells everyone recession will be inside the Parish Hall around the corner. We’ll need to move the chairs in. Coffee, punch and refreshments will be served first, then a little later we’ll have a toast and cut the cake. (Ryan and ushers break down sound system and move it inside.) But first, before we lose anyone, we'd like to take a group picture, so please follow the wedding party out into the park to the play structure behind the swings.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


"It's pheNOMenal!" he often says, and somehow I have a hard time swallowing it. Anything can be a phenomenon. Actually, anything is.

The word just means an observable fact or event, right?

I don't voice my objections to the speaker because he is my friend (and my boss) and because nearly every synonym I can think of for "phenomenal," the way he is using it, has the same strange ambiguity. Even words like "great" may not mean very good, just very big. Or very very - what?

How many words do we use to describe something as good, powerful, or unique that - taken literally - mean nothing of the kind?

This comes in handy when navigating the channel between saying what you think and telling somebody what you think they'd like to hear. "The cake you made was amazing!" (amazingly good or amazingly bad?) "He's really a remarkable young man" (there are all kinds of remarks I might make about him.) And even "You look wonderful!" (and I wonder how you came up with that look?)

Friday, June 08, 2012

Gift Giving - Wedding Gift Edition

I've written here several times about the complex relational wrinkles associated with giving and receiving gifts. Getting married has exposed me to a few I didn't know about before. Wonder if I can blog about this without offending anyone? I'll give it a try. Will it help if I withhold examples? Or will you just wonder if I'm talking about you, when I'm not?

My own family has settled on the make-your-own-wishlist approach to as the best way to navigate the landmines associated with our differing tastes, expectations, and levels of insecurity with shopping, spending, and choosing gifts for one another. I wish there was a better way, though; I don't like having to shop for a million people at Christmas and also try to figure out exactly what I want and where someone can get it. 

Similarly, when it came to the question of wedding presents, I had a hunch that making a detailed wish list would be the best way to make things easy for our guests and allow them to bless us, too. But - can you believe I'm going to raise an objection here?! - the whole "registering" thing was SO hard. We were already late getting the invitations out, and people planning the bridal showers were clamoring for input. I thought: we have to do something, even if we do it poorly. Now, though, we have to deal with the results.

First, we face the consequences of working on the registry separately rather than together. We weren't living in the same house, after all, and I was traveling so much of the time! It was easier just to pick for ourselves. While we've both been pleased over some of the purchases, each of us has perused the list or opened boxes with dismay, wondering why the other would choose this design, or that color. Since we did most of our looking online rather than in person, sometimes we've even been displeased with our own choices, too.  On the other hand, some of the surprises have worked out fine. I might not have chosen this or that thing he thought would be "perfect for us," but they are growing on me.

I confess I saw the conflicts coming and did nothing. I didn't want to confront my fiance with questions about his taste or demands that he give me an honest answer about mine - he really doesn't like to say anything negative, especially when he thinks it might hurt me or get an angry reaction. So we talked about revisiting the registry together (maybe with the kids as well), but life was too busy and it was a delicate thing to negotiate, so we didn't do it. Piles of gifts we hope to return are stashed in the closet and the corner of the dining room as silent witnesses to our careless choices and disunity. And that seems pretty silly, when all our poor guests did was pick things off our registry! When we make the returns and exchanges, I pledge silently, we will do it more slowly... or at least we will do it together. 

I've also made 4-5 trips to the local post office to pick up gifts that arrived postage due. At first I thought it was the department store's fault, but it turns out that requesting gifts be sent to C's parents' house - where we thought there would usually be someone at home to sign for packages or bring them in out of the rain - was not such a hot idea. Since he'd put in a forwarding order on his mail from that address, any (USPS) packages that included his name were redirected to the post office, where policies required we pay the full postage all over again in order to get the boxes. Oops.
Another wrinkle we did not anticipate is that so many of our guests and well wishers would opt not to choose things from our (admittedly, somewhat sparsely populated) registries - or something quite different - but would pick up gift cards to those same two stores. That's really nice, but now it means more work for us on this side, too. I'm not sure we can spend that much. We had enough trouble picking out stuff we might want for the registry! One of the stores is on my go-to list but mostly for clothes, not for household items; the other is generally out of our league, price-wise. Not any more; we have almost $500 in their gift cards.
I'm pretty sure that will turn out OK; the first thing is probably to revisit the list of unpurchased items from the registry and decide if we still (both) like those things and want them. If they are, we'll just spent the additional credit that way. If there's extra... well, these gift cards don't expire.

The main reason we chose those stores was that they would be convenient for our guests, as they live in every part of the country. I still think that's a good impulse. But perhaps it would have been better to choose stores where we shop more regularly. Then we could have used them for groceries, cleaning supplies, the grill we got yesterday, or the camping gear that's probably in our future. As it is, some cash and check gifts and a few cards for places like Target and Fred Meyer will come in most handy.

I now have a greater appreciation for those couples who request "No gifts, please; your presence is present enough." And the pain a frugal person feels on spending money or seeing other people do so, well, I guess it isn't going to kill me, right? I promise not to say anything to the family about starving kids in China. (Perhaps an outdated reference since the one-child policy has produced a generation of "little emperors.")

Sheesh, I can't believe I just wrote a whole post complaining about getting wedding presents. We certainly got some delightful things - things C. chose, things I chose, things we agreed on together or that were chosen by the giver. I won't give examples since I'm not naming the more regrettable choices, either, but suffice it to say there are some things I know I will treasure and/or find very useful! Most will really be nice things to have for our family and those who come into our house.

And when I look at all the cards and think of those who sent them and who sent the gifts, I'm blessed by the outpouring of love and support. As I write 75 or so thank you notes over the next month (or however long it takes) I'll be praying and thanking God for each one of these friends and allies. I'm grateful for them.