Friday, December 4, 2009

All in the Timing

Our weeks here at seminary this semester have been flying by. I regret that I haven't had (or at least haven't taken) time to record the things we've experienced, especially the blessings, but here are a few:

At the beginning of November, I got to attend the Pan-Orthodox Clergy Wives' Retreat at Antiochian Village, held in memory of Kh. Joanne Abdullah. The guest speakers were Mother Christophora, of The Monastery of the Transfiguration in Ellwood City, PA (otherwise known as the holy land :) ), and Mat. Juliana Schmemman. The topic for the weekend was "How to Be a Clergy Wife and Still Go to Heaven." It was a blessing to be there among so many clergy wives who have endured for many years, and, of course to hear the speakers.

Around that time, the store in which I work finally got a new manager, after having had first an absentee one and then no manager from the time I arrived. There had been a lot of chaos there as a result of that lack of leadership and the staffing issues that were already present before the previous manager resigned, so it was such a blessing to have a good, solid leader come in and start to help things take shape.

I've really struggled with maintaining my 4:30 - 8:30 a.m. shift during the weekdays, but it was still better than working all afternoon and evening, which I had been doing before; I kept wanting to quit the job because of various reasons, which I won't enumerate here (but you can ask me if you really want to know), not the last of which was: I wanted to enjoy this short experience of being a seminary family living in an Orthodox community. It took a long time for me to go over the edge and actually quit because I didn't want to leave for the wrong reasons, I didn't want to give up the steady income, even if it wasn't a lot, and I didn't want to leave the people I worked with even more understaffed than they already were. It took my getting very sick in mid-November and spending two weeks getting well again to make me realize that maybe working 17-hour days (between the store, babysitting the child of another Seminary family, doing work around the house, and cutting hair) is not what I've been called to do. Physical stamina and a high energy level are neither one gifts I've been given. I have to do the best I can with the gifts I have been blessed with.

The day I decided, in the middle of my illness, to quit for sure, we received an unexpected check in the mail; maybe I'm just being silly, but that encouraged me to go ahead and let go of the job. It reminded me that I am not in control. Since that time, we've been told by three families that they are going to start supporting us every month, which, as long as they are faithful, will almost make up for what we'll lose from my paycheck. Now if only someone would promise to send us coffee for free... ( :) ) My last day at Starbucks will be December 11th, if all goes as planned.

Another blessing, related to the wonderful community here, is that my 4-year-old has been able to take ballet and art classes for free as part of our homeschool co-op; in addition, she gets to go to church school every week and have Kids' Cafe after Liturgy every Sunday (a snack time with presentations from the priest who led the liturgy that day and a Q & A time with him).

I can't say enough good things about both the formal Spouses' Program here at St. Vlad's (which has brought us speakers like Metropolitan Jonah and introduced topics like Clergy Taxation Laws) and the more informal Women's Group, in which we've recently learned such things as how to make knots for prayer ropes and how to bake prosphora bread and how it is used. I never cease to be amazed at the truly wonderful things I'm getting to learn about and hear just by virtue of being here.

The Women's Choir, of which I am a member, also had its debut at Vespers on November 21st. I'm told there should be an article about it, with audio clips of the choir and photos, on the website soon. It certainly was a challenge to prepare for, but I'm told we sounded "angelic." Of course, that's nothing if we did not help to draw souls heavenward, which I pray that we did.

Finally, just this evening about 22 of the women on campus had a lenten recipe swap and movie night. I'll try to let you know how the new recipes are as I try them. Even in that, it's a blessing to know that I'm not the only one who struggles to find fast-friendly meals that taste good and are filling, inexpensive, and easy to make. In the words of another wife here on campus, "Sometimes you just need a little help from your friends!"

Monday, November 30, 2009

A Trip to the City

We had visitors (my mother-in-law and aunt-in-law) during Thanksgiving week and decided, in the midst of the debate about whether or not to try to attend the Macy's parade on Thanksgiving, that it might be better to go into Manhattan on Wednesday and see what there was to see. Restaurant reservations were accordingly made for an early lunch at said aunt's favorite restaurant (over a month in advance, I might add). So I got off work at 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday morning and began the rounds to pick everyone up. I picked up my husband at home - check. I picked up our stroller from the patio - check. I picked up my mother-in-law and my children from the hotel - check. Coats to combat the cold, windy day - not checked.

Then we headed to the Crestwood train station, naively thinking that there would be some solution for parking a car there the whole day while a person traipsed into the city. Should I have known better? Probably. I'm know I've heard people talk about going to certain stations to park all day, but the information didn't stick with me until I experienced myself that nowhere at or even on a side street near the train station is there a spot where a person can pay to park for more than four hours at a time. No problem - surely there's a paid garage, right? Let's ask the GPS unit to find us a parking garage. We did, and it led us to a very nice house (which was definitely not a parking garage) right near seminary. So we went with plan D, which was to park at the seminary and walk back to the train station. This caused us to arrive at the station after all the closer-together morning trains had already departed, so we had to wait 45 minutes for the next train. Still, once it came, we got on and rode into Grand Central Terminal with no problem.

Thank God that, once we arrived at Grand Central, my mother-in-law had the brilliant idea to feed the children something before we launched out to find the restaurant, which, according to my printed schedule, should only take us about 15-20 minutes to get to. Our first mistake after that was to not ask anyone which way to go while we were still inside the Terminal. If we had, they likely would have directed us to (a) BUY A METRO CARD DAY PASS, which gets you access to buses and subways for the entire day and is the only way you can pay to ride these and (b) not go outside and wander around like idiots for an hour when we could take a shuttle and a subway and be there in a few minutes.

As it was, we exited Grand Central on the wrong side of the building, had to march around it in the freezing wind with no coats on, wait for our bus, which we then could not ride because we did not have MetroCards, wait in the freezing wind some more for my husband to go buy said cards, get on the bus and ride for 15 minutes in what turned out to be the wrong direction, get off (because it was at the end of the line), and wait for the exact same bus and driver to pick us up and take us the other direction. We got off the bus and started trying to figure out how to make our next connection. We must have had dazed, lost looks on our faces, because a kind New Yorker asked if we needed help and then helped us figure out that our connection was to a subway train and how to get into the station. We rode that subway to the closest spot we could find to our destination, and then had to run (you guessed it, in the freezing wind again) a few blocks to try to make it to the restaurant before they closed between lunch and supper. All told it had taken us from 9 a.m., when I picked up the hotel-dwellers until after 1:30 p.m. to get to the restaurant, which is less than a 30-minute drive from where we started.

You might think that by then we would have been humble enough to just ask how to get where we were going next, but I really did try to be self-sufficient one more time, as I spent about 5 minute studying the subway map in my travel guide before giving up and asking the coat-check attendant how to get to Times Square. It's a good thing that I did, because I was totally off.

After that, it was smooth sailing (because we asked people how to get where we wanted to go!) The only other hitch is that we almost missed our train home (and would have had to wait another half hour) because we assumed that we had to conver the off-peak tickets we bought earlier to peak tickets before we could get on the train. As it turns out, you can pay the ticket-taker on the train for this difference in fares (which we would have known if we had asked someone!)

So, if you're planning a trip to Manhattan, especially if you plan to use public transportation (which you should probably do, since parking is atrocious - been there, done that) these are the lessons you should take away from our experience: 1. Buy a Metro Card for each person over age 5 that you're traveling with. It's your key to an amazing world of "free" transportation; 2. Bring a coat, even if you think you won't need one; and, most importantly, 3. If you don't know where you're going or how to get there, or even if you think you do (because you have a map, guidebook, or pre-printed directions from the MTA website) - JUST ASK!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Belated Thanksgiving Post

I suppose that one way in which I can be sure to pick "just the right words" is to use someone else's. So I give you here the Thanksgiving homily of Father Alexander Schmemann, delivered just before his death in 1983. This is read as the homily in the Thanksgiving Liturgy each year at St. Vladimir's (and in other parishes as well, I hear):

Everyone capable of thanksgiving is capable of salvation and eternal joy.

Thank You, O Lord, for having accepted this Eucharist, which we offered to the Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and which filled our hearts with the joy, peace and righteousness of the Holy Spirit.

Thank You, O Lord, for having revealed Yourself unto us and given us the foretaste of Your Kingdom.

Thank You, O Lord, for having united us to one another in serving You and Your Holy Church.

Thank You, O Lord, for having helped us to overcome all difficulties, tensions, passions, temptations and restored peace, mutual love and joy in sharing the communion of the Holy Spirit.

Thank You, O Lord, for the sufferings You bestowed upon us, for they are purifying us from selfishness and reminding us of the “one thing needed”: Your eternal Kingdom.

Thank You, O Lord, for having given us this country where we are free to Worship You.

Thank You, O Lord, for this school, where the name of God is proclaimed.

Thank You, O Lord, for our families: husbands, wives and, especially, children who teach us how to celebrate Your holy Name in joy, movement and holy noise.

Thank You, O Lord, for everyone and everything.

Great are You, O Lord, and marvelous are Your deeds, and no word is sufficient to celebrate Your miracles.

Lord, it is good to be here! Amen.

These were the words of a dying man. O Lord, teach us all to be so thankful for whatever You bring to us.

(If you would like to read excellent commentary on this topic, I refer you to Fr. Stephen Freeman's blog, Glory to God for All Things, in his Thanksgiving Post for this year.)

Friday, October 30, 2009

Thanks Be to God

I just paid our bills this morning, and while bill-paying isn't usually something we think of as a cause for thanksgiving, I was so thankful to be able to pay our bills. I am first thankful to God (glory to Him for all things), but I wanted to extend that thank you to those of you who have supported us this month and at previous times as well.

In a way, it is a kind of blessing to not know from month to month who God is going to move to help us so that we can do things like buy groceries or pay our car note. God would still be wonderful if He did not do it. Our friends would still be dear to us if they did not give. Our family would still be cherished even if they did not help at all. We can only look a few days or weeks into the future knowing how things will go, financially and otherwise. After that, it's a fog - unpredictable, hiding what we cannot see, leading us in directions we cannot now imagine. It's the way I often idealize and say that life should be, but unless I'm forced into it, as I am now, I rarely choose to not know what my next step should be.

On a different note, would you please pray for our friend, Tami? She is expecting their fourth child and has strep throat. Her husband is a student here as well, and they are dealing with the double dilemma of her sickness and not wanting any of their children, who all stay at home with Tami, to get sick. Lord have mercy.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Kids in the Church

A couple of Mondays ago, all married students with children were required to attend a meeting on campus safety issues that the seminary both wants to hold and is required by their insurance company to hold. The main safety/security issues were addressed by Father Chad Hatfield. In addition to that, we were treated to the opportunity to hear Dr. Al Rossi speak a little bit about child development and discipline and Fr. Steven Belonick speak on children in church.

I was really nervous about having someone address us on the latter topic, because I have had my fair share of people telling me how I ought to be dealing with my kids in church; I figured that if it was going to be that kind of talk, at least I would not be the lone victim of such an attack, being in the good company of all the other students with children of their own. Father Steven must have anticipated that we would all be holding our collective breath, waiting to hear what complaints he would have for how we deal with our kids in church, because the first thing he said was that he wasn't going to be getting on to us and he knows how sensitive people can be about that topic. I was relieved to hear this, but then I wondered, what in the world is he going to talk about, if not that?

The answer is something that has really changed my life, in the least cliched and most practical sense of the phrase. Father Steven talked about how our primary responsibility, with regards to handling our children in church, is not keeping them quiet. (WHAT?) It is involving them in the services and teaching them, and this means that you must sacrifice your own desire to quietly, prayerfully participate in the services in the way that a childless adult can do for several years of your child's life.

He went on to give some other practical tips and items, but that first point of his is what I keep coming back to. Our parish priest back home in Texas always told us that having kids means that you don't get to attend to the services and pray as you might like to, but if he went on to say that what you should be doing while you're paying attention to your children is constantly working with them and engaging them in the services, I missed it. What Father Steven said was a news flash to me!

Let me tell you that, after having tried it for a week and a half, it is a lot more work to involve my children in the services than it was to just keep them quiet. My two-year-old, K., is more receptive to my attentions in that regard, so when I just have her (because my husband has H., the four-year-old), I hold her and whisper things to her like "Who's coming out of the doors now? (the deacon) "What does he have?" (a censer) "What's coming out of the censer?" (smoke) "What should we do?" (move up, then cross ourselves and bow when he passes by), and so on. H., being older and having become accustomed to being pretty well left alone during church services as long as she was quiet and not bothering anyone, seems to resent my new insistence that she pay attention and answer questions about what is going on. Most of her answers are, "I don't know." I think she'll come around, though. The hardest is when I have both of them in service because my husband is singing in the choir. I feel like the proverbial one-legged-man as I run back and forth between children, making sure that each is doing what she should be for the level she is at (standing at appropriate times, saying/singing the words to prayers she knows, watching what is going on, as well as generally being quiet and not bothering other people). I'm worn out after just a 45-minute vespers service!

One thing that this experience, along with singing in the women's choir, has revealed to me is that I am pretty clueless about the order of services. Maybe I've spent too much time being distracted by keeping my babies and children quiet to follow the services! I've been attending Orthodox services for 8 1/2 years now, so you'd think I would have picked up a little better on the various parts, but somehow, I haven't. I'm going to have to work on that. I think my friend in Texas was on to something when she was talking about making a book for her kids with photos of the major parts of the Divine Liturgy. I could use a book like that for myself (I mean, to show to my kids, of course :) ).

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Doing Well & Doing Good

Having just returned from my first confession since we came to New York, I've had opportunity in the past 24 hours for some reflection on our time here.

One thing we're enjoying in New York that we never could in Texas (for more than a day or so each year, anyway) is the changing of the leaves into their fall colors. Last Sunday we took a walk down the Bronx River Parkway Bike Path and really enjoyed the fall scenery. The girls collected acorns that were so thick in places that the grass appeared to be paved from a distance, and we got a look at some Canadian geese resting on their trip to sunnier climes.

The weather here has been in the low 40s, barely changing from midnight to noon for the past several days, just in time for me to start working openings at Starbucks. This means that it's not only pitch black when I get up at 3:30 a.m. to get ready for work, but it's soooo cold! I'm so thankful for the change in schedule, other than that, though, because it means that I get my work hours out of the way before the girls really get going for the day, and then I get to be with them all day and evening. Some mornings my husband wakes them and gets them ready for Matins at 7:30, while others he lets them sleep in if he can (if he's not required to sing then).

My poor K. is sick again, this time with a stomach bug AND a respiratory affliction, and one of them is giving her a slight fever. She's behaving beautifully in spite of being sick, except at meal times, when she proceeds to smear whatever tasty dish I've prepared all over her hands or the table. She just won't eat much of anything except at breakfast. We're trying to keep her hydrated and hope that this too shall pass quickly. She certainly hasn't let it stop her potty-training efforts. After we first arrived in New York, I had put her back into diapers because she was having more accidents than not, and the amount of laundry and the cost to do it was overwhelming me. This past week, I decided to tackle the potty training full-force once again, and I think she must have been more ready than the first time, because she's doing great.

One thing I've been so excited about is that I finally found a nearby grocery store that sells more than just food (it has a pharmacy, etc.), and at decent prices. It's about a mile and a half from seminary, but I never would have found it unless someone had told me it was there, because it isn't visible from the road. It's in a shopping center behind another shopping center. Who knew? I went there today, having forgotten what I've been warned about trying to grocery shop on a Saturday, and drove around for about 10 minutes trying to find any parking spot at all. Yonkers' shopping centers look on Saturdays like anyplace else's look like on the day after Thanksgiving. It's crazy.

H. has had a development in her sense of humor just in the past week. She's started laughing at things just because they strike her as funny (not because they're silly or someone's tickling her, etc.). For example, tonight, K. was playing with some foam Disney princess accessories, and thought she had grabbed one with two birds from the Cinderella movie. She was singing to it, "You can't fly anymore," when H. noticed that the piece she had was not the two birds, but was instead Lumiere, the candelabra, from Beauty and the Beast. This struck H. as so funny that she laughed that great little kid laugh, the best kind of laugh in the world. It's impossible not to laugh myself when she does that!

K. has taken to requesting a censer of her own while we're in church, lately. We have taken various attachments off of our diaper bag to make her a pretend censer that she can swing around. This is not so amazing, because kids usually imitate what they see others doing, and the deacon walks past us swinging a censer twice during each daily vespers service. However, what is a little bit more impressive to me is that the girls trade the censer back and forth, and when they do, the one who takes it will kiss the other's hand. This is also something the priest and deacon do at church, but it's not close to where we stand and is a much subtler action. It makes me wonder what other little things they notice that I think they don't.

I'd like to include more here about a recent talk we attended by Fr. Steven Belonick about kids in church, but I think it will have to wait until next time. I've been awake 19 hours and it's time to go to bed.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Change is in the Wind

So it's now been three weeks of "business as usual" for my being back at work at Starbucks and having an extra child during the day, and for two of those weeks I've been homeschooling the two older ones. We're really enjoying the school part of things, although the four-year-olds are really struggling to be kind and gentle to one another. I guess that's part of school, too! Here's a picture of the two of them playing dress-up to go along with our lesson on "Things People Do" (aka jobs in the community).

This week I worked over 30 hours at Starbucks, not because I requested it, but because I had to. Now, at the end of the week, I feel exhausted, robbed of all energy, creative or otherwise.

I also feel constantly torn about working because it makes it so that I miss so many church services (either because I'm working during them or so tired from working the night before that, say, a 7 a.m. Divine Liturgy just doesn't seem possible) I also miss out on events and activities on campus, most of which are scheduled during my work hours, since my work hours are scheduled around my husband's class schedule. It isn't clear to me based on these reasons that I definitely should not work. I know that monastics sometimes are assigned tasks that mean that they often miss church services. They keep their cell rule of prayer and do their assignment, whether that's tending sheep and goats or attending services. It's about what that particular person is supposed to do to be obedient to God.

Things are not going smoothly with the child-swap arrangement either, so I think that change is in the wind with that. More to come, I'm sure. I would love to be able to stay home with the kids and be more of a support to my husband by freeing him up to concentrate on his studies, but we need to make up that little bit of income somehow. If the family I'm currently providing childcare for decides to keep their son with us and pays me for it, I could cut back my hours. If another family we've talked with chooses me as the childcare provider for their daughter, then I could see my way clear to stop working off campus. Nevertheless, not my will... Please pray for us to all be guided in the right path for us (and if you want to donate some money to help us along, or send some diapers or non-perishable foods, that would be great, too!)

In addition, in the past week we've had both kids get sick, and now I seem to have some variation on the same sickness (or a different one, who knows?); my youngest daughter's glasses snap in two (currently being held together with foam and tape); and someone hit our van while it was parked in the metered parking at the Scarsdale train station where I work. I happened to go out to the van during my meal break around 5:00 p.m. and noticed the damage. Otherwise I would not have gone out there until after 9:00, when it would have been too dark to see it. So I lost about 20 minutes of work/pay to wait for a police officer to come and file an accident report in case we decide to involve the insurance company.

It's been strange this weekend to see the locals acting so festive over a holiday that doesn't register on my radar: Yom Kippur. It starts tonight at sundown, but I'm not sure that there are so many Jews in Westchester County that the holiday itself is a cause for frivolity. It's probably more that everyone has off work on Monday on account of the holiday, including the public school students. I worked a 7 1/2 hour shift at Starbucks on Saturday, and there were very few moments during that time where there was no line. It was truly remarkable, especially when you consider that most of the store's business revolves around commuters who take the train, so Saturdays are usually pretty dead.

The girls got winter boots in the mail from their Gammie (my mother-in-law) this week. They were very excited and have been reluctant to take them off even to sleep since then. Leaves have been falling off the trees since we got here in August (I think they must always be doing that here), but with the cooler weather, I saw my first yellowing trees yesterday. Also, I'm not sure if this has to do with the weather, but I've had a couple of up-close encounters with wildlife that were less than welcome, particularly the raccoon that was inside a trash can that I opened up to throw a bag of trash in. I think we scared each other equally!

On Monday, I got to go to my first women's choir rehearsal. We sang one particularly beautiful arrangement that was written for women's voices. Otherwise, it appears I'm singing tenor. Whether that's because of this chest congestion or because my voice has gotten that low, only time will tell. After that, we had the Spouses' Program class offered by St. Vlad's for the spouses of students. This week we were treated to hear a guest speaker, Sister Veronica, who is a native of California but a nun in Greece. She talked to us mostly about prayer and had some really encouraging things to say.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

We're Not in Kansas Anymore

I've had plenty of opportunities to be reminded myself that I'm not from around here (getting lost frequently, as previously mentioned; having to ask customers to repeat themselves because I don't understand their accent or they are talking too quickly; not being able to find core menu items like Ro-Tel and chili beans at the grocery store; etc.), but I think I just had my first moment where someone else realized that I was not from around here on Monday.

K. and I took a trip to the bi-level Wal-Mart in White Plains. We parked in the parking garage, got a cart, and approached the elevators to go into Wal-Mart. An elevator came and we headed towards it along with a middle-aged man who was using a cane to help him walk. The person who had called the elevator got in and let the doors close without waiting for either of the other parties trying to make it to the door to get on. As the doors closed, I said to K., "I can't believe she didn't wait for us!" The gentleman with the cane apparently thought I was addressing him and said, "You really expected her to?" with an air of incredulity, looking at me is if I were crazy. I said, "Well, I'm from the south. We're polite like that."

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Getting into a Routine

I've worked out an arrangement with another mom here on campus where I watch/homeschool her four-year-old son during the day so that she can go to work, and then she takes the girls and her son home with her in the early evening hours so that my husband can get some studying done while I go to work.

So far it's working out well. H. gets a buddy to play with/conspire against me with :), and it's helping us establish a routine, since my friend's son is here during the same hours every day.

I'm using the Sonlight PreK 4-5 curriculum, with the addition of a handwriting program called Handwriting Without Tears (HWT). I really like the HWT materials so far. They really break down the process of making letters, and make a big deal over how each letter is made. If I didn't like it so much, I might not keep it because it is pretty expensive, especially for homeschooling. The book and teacher's guides weren't too bad, but then I started reading the teacher's guide and saw all the extra, specialized materials that it refers to. I ordered only what I thought was absolutely essential and that I couldn't make myself somehow.

We're going to start just the Sonlight part of it tomorrow, since I won't have both kids on Monday. I'm only watching the other child on days when the seminarians are in class. Normally this means Monday through Thursday, but next week, they have Monday off of classes for the Exaltation of the Cross.

Work here is going okay. I'm getting used to a two-person-at-a-time team of employees and to having people order things like "an iced twall twoffee nut." I'm also trying to humble myself and realize that working at someplace like Starbucks is really all that I'm going to be able to do right now while I'm only available in the evenings.

I'm still getting lost all the time. As recently as last night I had to call my husband from the car and ask him to look up where I was on Google maps and figure out how to get me home. We did finally get a power cord (auto charger) for the GPS unit that our friends loaned us, though, so maybe that part will get better. Last week I got lost in the Bronx - that was really scary! There are so many confusing or missing road signs here that it seems impossible for a newcomer not to get lost. It feels a little bit like a miracle everytime I return home safe and sound, especially if I do so without having gotten lost.

Grocery shopping is interesting here. The shop that's closest to us is open 24 hours and is the cheapest of the groceries I've found so far, but it doesn't have a great selection on some things. My husband and I were left scratching our heads at a lack of chili beans and RO-TEL, which are staples for us. I've since found RO-TEL at Target and another, more expensive grocery, but chili beans are apparently unheard of around here and are not as common as I once believed them to be, judging by the reactions of people I've asked. Between childcare and homeschooling during the day, working in the afternoons and evenings, church services, church school, and trying to do normal housework, I don't have time to go to two or three grocery stores a week, which is what it seems like most people do in these parts, so we're going to have to figure out how to stock up on what we can't find at our close, inexpesive shop at the places where we can find them or something.

We had a namesday party for H. last Saturday, to which we were late because we ended up taking a marathon trip to IKEA and got stuck in construction-related traffic for over an hour. However, despite the fact that we came home almost three hours later than planned, and I didn't get to make the brownies I promised H. we could have, a plate of leftover Starbucks goodies saved the day and all the kids had fun anyway. We just prayed the troparia for St. Elizabeth and offered treats and juice on the playground for a little while. Hope was so excited about this that she told a random customer in IKEA that it was her namesday. The lady looked at me with a puzzled expression and said, "She's so excited that is her... namesday?" so I had to explain. Ahhh, 4-year-old evangelism.

We still haven't made it into the city, but at the very latest, I'm sure we'll do so when my in-laws come to visit for Thanksgiving, unless someone offers to take us before then. I can't see our getting up the gumption to ride the train and the subway with the girls by ourselves just for the sake of seeing the city, but I do want to go. Right now I work in the train station, but have never been on a train here. The funny thing is, if you hear a sound like a train in Texas and it isn't accompanied by a train whistle, it's usually a tornado, so every time the train arrives, I think for a split second that it's a tornado!

Sunday, August 30, 2009


I left a new spouse's meeting tonight feeling very overwhelmed and teary (which usually go together in my case), my head spinning with options and choices and things to do. I came home and heard my husband getting the girls out of the bathtub and into their pajamas, but I couldn't handle anyone needing me at the moment, so I lay down on the loveseat and tried to gather my thoughts. I realized that what I was finding so upsetting was that I had been unable or unwilling (or something) to state what I really wanted - what was my ideal - as far as my job and the care of the children were concerned.

What is it about the institution of motherhood that is so intertwined with guilt? We feel guilty if we work and send our kids to school or daycare for not spending as much time with them as we could. We feel guilty if we keep them at home and don't contribute monetarily to the family. We feel guilty for doing things differently than our parents or maybe our friends. Whatever it is, we feel we could have done more or done it better.

We talked tonight at our meeting about how life in community requires one to set boundaries - for school time, play time, family time, date time, sleep time, study time, social time, etc. If you let them, your neighbors (or at least their kids) might be in your apartment all day or at times when you have other plans, so we each have to learn how to set and enforce boundaries. I realized that I also needed to set internal boundaries that I'm not going to let other people (intentionally or unintentionally) make me change or feel guilty for. I need to decide where I stand and draw a line there.

When I sat down to ponder it, and this definitely involved talking to my husband, I realized that what I've always really wanted is to stay home with my children. It's not clear cut. I feel torn about that decision when I realize that (a) we would be doing so much better financially if I took a full-time professional position, (b) I love being a librarian, and (c) the longer I go without using my degree, the less it is worth. However, I believe that my staying at home during the day is the best thing for my family right now. Considering other options makes me feel uneasy, and I think I should listen to that feeling.

There are other things that are still dependent upon outside factors and need telephone calls and outings to various offices to determine, but I have decided what would be my highest preference, and we can work around other details for that. I don't know much about boundaries, but I do know that you can only set them for yourself. You can't control what other people do, but you can decide how you respond to them. So here's to boundaries...

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

What a Week

When I arrived at our apartment a week ago tomorrow, there was barely what you could call a path into each of the rooms. My husband had focused his efforts on the girls' room, for which I was grateful, so that they would have a place to sleep and play. However, the "living room" was completely full of boxes, stacked at least as high as my shoulders, if not higher, and I couldn't even see my bed or get to the bathroom easily. Our sofa was still in the hallway because it wouldn't fit through the front door. It was an overwhelming sight, to be sure. It didn't feel like we'd ever have a livable space, much less something that resembled a home.

When you add to that the presence of our children, who really couldn't be kept in the apartment as it was and had to be watched (by me, of course), I felt like I was having one of those dreams where something terrible is coming at you, but you can't run or even move.

In the week's time that has passed, things have gotten better. A new friend gave us some suggestions and took is to IKEA (cue the angelic singing). We've figured out nooks and crannies (OUTSIDE of our 450 sq. ft. apartment, the smallest on campus) in which to store our extra items that somehow, six weeks ago, we felt we couldn't live without. It's still far from organized, clean, easy, or (needless to say) perfect. The living room still looks like a tornado hit it, which it didn't, but it did get somewhat flooded during heavy rains on Saturday.

Very little is as I expected it to be. We're in the middle of the woods instead of the middle of a city. The way things run around here seems a little unorganized and chaotic to me. I'm not going to be able to walk or ride a bicycle to work because of the very narrow streets and/or parkway that are between me and it. I'm going to have to pay to park at work or ride the train there, which also costs money.

One thing that is as great as I hoped is the community of students here. We mostly know people in our dorm and the building. We see them on the playground, in the laundry room, and at spontaneous tea parties like we had this morning :).

God is faithful, and perhaps in time I will let Him teach me to give thanks in everything.

Friday, August 14, 2009

On the Road

We've had a tumultuous and very stressful week, although nothing like the family I just heard of who had moved in at St. Vlad's, and now are being told to leave and go to Holy Cross by Met. Philip, while the wife is due any day to have a baby. Lord, have mercy on the Mathewes.

The girls have been off their routines big time, being shuttled back and forth between our old house and the house of B.'s aunt and uncle who were letting us borrow it while they were on vacation. Last night, K. didn't want to be left in the crib and kept crying, "I want to go home!" I didn't know what to say. We don't have a home at the moment! I told her that we weren't going home, we were going to New York, but that was no good. Finally, I told her that I wasn't going home, I was going to stay where we were. Didn't she want to stay with me? She did, but I still had to repeat it a couple of more times when she'd start in on, "I want to go home" again.

We couldn't have made it here, to Forrest City, Arkansas, without the help of so many people, most recently 7 men from our church who worked so hard in the blazing heat to load up our furniture and boxes onto the Penske truck. Thank God for them and God bless them.

Friday, August 7, 2009

A Major Snag in the Plan

I found out at the pediatrician's office today that my health insurance through Starbucks was terminated as of July 31, 2009. I was flabbergasted, having heard nothing of this from Starbucks or Aetna. I called Starbucks Partner Benefits and found out that last quarter, I only worked 237 hours instead of the 240 required to maintain benefits eligiblity, so my insurance was cancelled. Because of 3 hours.

The only option we apparently have is to secure COBRA coverage until November, when I'll be elligible again to re-enroll. If we sign up for COBRA, that means that pretty much my whole paycheck will go towards the premiums and we'll have nothing left to live on.

Lord, have mercy.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Updates for the Week

We had an appraisal on very short notice yesterday. As with the showing that led to the contract on the house, there were boxes everywhere, etc. We really hope that, despite all of that, the appraiser will value the house at at least the amount the buyers have offered us so that their lender will approve the loan.

Please keep me in your prayers. My spirits have been very low for a couple of days and I am dealing with pain in my back and pain/numbness in my limbs. I've tried shoe inserts with some success, but not total. It's becoming clear to me that I'm not going to last too long trying to work full time at Starbucks if the position in New York is as physically demanding as the one I have here.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Moving On: Catalyst, Catastrophe, and Curveball

So much has happened in the past month that I feel overwhelmed by the task of trying to chronicle it, but I can at least sum up how the ball got rolling and what has happened with our house since we made that decision on June 25.

It felt for months and months like nothing was going our way. Then at the end of June, we had to tell St. Vlad's if we were coming and Fort Worth ISD if B. was not coming back. B. had said all along that if we were supposed to go to seminary this fall, the house would sell. I felt differently, but I figured I was probably wrong. Finally, as the deadline drew near, I told B. that I thought maybe it wasn't our job to decide what God was and wasn't going to do, that we had to just be obedient (and go to seminary).

Along those lines, I suggested that we should ask B.'s mom if she would rent our house from us until it sold. He did, and she was willing, so we were off. The very next day, my store manager e-mailed four store managers in New York, asking if they would need any employees in September and recommending me to them. We didn't hear back and didn't hear back. He even tried two more that were a little further away (none being more than three miles from campus, though, New York being what it is!). Still nothing. So Brian (store manager) suggested that I start calling the stores, just being persistent and professional.

I was dreading doing that because I know how difficult it can be for people who don't work there to get ahold of OUR store manager, but after a week and a half of no response to his e-mails, I had to take his advice. I called three stores that day, and the first two sounded positive about the job prospects, but at the third one that I called, the manager told me to stop calling stores because she wanted to hire me. I called my manager and told him, and he said they would work out the details. That was on a Tuesday.

The following Saturday my mom was here and B.'s mom had come over to help us pack. Around 11 a.m., I got an e-mail from Centralized Showings Service about a showing between 2:30 and 3:30, which I accepted. So we stopped packing and started cleaning. We got the girls down for their naps, and then we sat down to wait for the people to show up. While we were waiting, there was another call for a showing between 3:30 and 4:30. When the later showing's agent and clients showed up, I realized that the 2:30 people never came, but sometimes that happens.

After the 3:30 people left, we went back to work, doing laundry and packing boxes like crazy. We went to bed late, and left the house a huge mess on Sunday morning. We came home after church, got the girls down for their naps, and sat down to relax for a few minutes. We were expecting some people to come pick up K.'s crib, which they were purchasing, but the knock on the door at 2:30 was not them. It was a realtor and two clients (couple). The realtor said they had an appointment between 2:30 and 3:30. It was only then that I realized that I hadn't noted the DAY of the 2:30 appointment. Oops.

For some reason, I didn't freak out about the house being a mess, etc. I just told them we were in the middle of packing and the house was a mess, but if they didn't mind, they could come on in. We even thought they weren't even going to be able to see the girls' room because they were sleeping in there, but they woke up partway through the showing. So everything that could have been wrong with that showing was:
  • the house was totally cluttered
  • it was also dirty (like, H.'s wet clothes from an accident were still on the floor)
  • and half of us did not leave the house because B. had to go get the girls when they woke up
Needless to say, we were shocked when the woman client old B. she felt that there was "a peace" here. She asked him if we already had a contract on the house and seemed relieved when he told her we didn't. She told each of us that they were going to make an offer on it, which they did. We were apprehensive, based on the low amounts of our previous offers, but on Monday, we got an offer that was our full asking price minus only $100 of their closing costs. The same day I found out that my transfer to the NY Starbucks went through, so I spent the whole day walking around saying, "I cannot believe it!" (yes, for those of you who are moms, just like Quincy from Little Einsteins :) ).

Many of our friends and family members have made much of the fact that B. and I stepped out and said we were going and that is when the house sold. I obviously think it was important for us to commit to doing what we felt God was calling us to, but I think the bigger lesson here is that we were (and are) not in control. We couldn't pick the time or the people or the way the house looked or how it would all go. When it was supposed to happen, it did, despite the fact that we weren't able to try hard to make a good impression, etc. And even if the house contract falls through and things continue to go in ways we hadn't forseseen, we will still be okay.

Like anything, there have been hitches and hiccups along the way, but despite the fact that I hate crowds, have no desire to live in New York, we don't know what our apartment will be like, and we're leaving behind everyone we know and love here in Texas to go to a place where we have no family or friends, I feel peaceful about moving there. I think Hope actually put it best when B.'s Aunt T. asked H. if she wouldn't rather stay here in Fort Worth with her, Gammie, Grandpa, and everyone. H. said, "That would be nice, but I have to go." I think it will be okay.

Just The Right Words

I've never wanted to start a blog before, because I didn't really think I had anything worth saying for just anyone to read. I have a hard enough time keeping my mouth shut without having another outlet for my chatter.

Recently, however, I've succumbed to the pressure of friends who want to hear about our adventures in New York at seminary, so I decided to revive this old blog that I did as a requirement for a class on children's poetry at TWU. I named it "Just the Right Words," because that reflects what I think good poetry is. It should be concise, containing only exactly the right words needed to create the image or idea in the mind of the reader. I've decided to keep this name in light of the struggle I mentioned above that I have with talking too much.

Using the just the right words, only the right words, is what I long to be in the habit of, so I pick my title in much the same way many of us converts to Orthodoxy picked our saints. We looked for someone we would like to be like, not necessarily someone we were alreadylike, trusting that that saint would pray for us that we would be obedient as they were. So here you have it: Just the Right Words, or Our Adventures in Seminaryland.