Friday, December 21, 2012

A person of value?

I am writing from the Teen Center.

 It is the evening of our Christmas Party..as I type there are 35+ teens and 3 staff waiting. We wait  as Arnulfo's mom runs home for the rice and cake before the festivities officially begin.  The neighbors donated TONS of tamales. Armando's mom brought the beans.Presents have been donated from various sponsors.

  I am surrounded by the sound of laughter, pool balls, anxious anticipation and kids relieved to be with family. For we are a family here..as the teens often point out to us.

 My first day here a young woman by the name of Lucia looked at me and said Do you have a date with your husband tonight? You should. You need to go out with your husband so then you can come here..to your second family..and you know..raise us. That same evening one of the mom's stopped me, and introduced herself. Then ended with..Welcome to your second family...now you can help raise them. Father Mike from the church that we are housed out of introduces himself..and says..welcome to your new family. I trust you will raise them well.

But here's the thing...we have been surrounded lately by violence..and fear..and threats of more violence. These teens..many...have recently had families deported, or family visits cancelled...or parents losing jobs.  Our "milk and cookie kids", as we like to refer to them, are simply dealing with the violence in their schools and neighborhoods. And the heartbreak..the huge heartbreak..of watching their friends miss their first families...and wonder where they will sleep next week..and all that stuff that comes with urban poverty in the 21st century.

This past month our staff has started running some programs at one of the local highschools. We were asked to work with some at-risk youth..to mentor them in small groups. In a district whose drop-out rate is 60% . The  counselors and social workers at this particular school are scrambling to help them graduate. So my co-workers and I go and agree to partner with this school and the kids they have identified.

 We begin each session with an icebreaker..one of which includes asking members to step forward when something matches their experience.  ?'s like...if you have ever thought something critical of yourself "I'm too fat.short, etc..please take a step forward. or If you have a dream, please take a step forward. This inevitably leads into an exercise and a series of  sessions on respect. Self-respect, disrespect and personal boundaries.We run similar programs with our regular Teen Center kids..so we think we are prepared.

We started with the same ice-breakers with our first group of young men at this highschool. I state...If you see yourself as a valuable person, please take a step. No one moves. These young men have moved on other questions..but this one simply brings silence.

Our second session is a group of about 8 young women. Once again I state...If you see yourself as a valuable person, please take a step. Once again..we meet dead silence..and one girl asks..Miss Nicole...what does that mean? After a brief summary,something along the lines of.. if you have ever felt important, or if you matter, one girl timidly steps forward. The rest remain in their spots.

The next day we meet our next group of boys.I ask the same question. Again Silence. I ask..can anyone tell me what it means to be valuable. In response..one boy says..miss..I have NO IDEA what you are talking about. Once again, no one moves.

My co-workers and I look at eachother from across the room. We have just met 24 teens. 23 of these teens don't see themselves as a person of value? How do you teach a child he or she has value? How do you awaken a beaten down young teen to their personal value, in one hour a week?

It occurs to me, as I watch the horrors of the shootings in Conneticut, and as I watch our Club teens continually be sent home early due to bomb threats, hit lists and men with guns on their campuses that maybe our 23 teens who remained standing are not the only ones who do not know their value. They are not the only ones who don't understand the concept of human value.

I do the only sensible thing to do.

 I cry.

I cry for the 23 teens who don't' understand the concept of their own personal value. I cry for the one who does understand. I cry for the victims of adults who have no concept of personal value. I cry for a society who has so many people with such deep hurts that they forget how to feel at all.

Then? I look at my families..both of them. Like the teens at the Center tonight. I am relieved to be with family. And I am grateful for the value my families bring to my own life.

So for those of you who don't know? I friggin' love my second family! And yes..I am returning to blogging after dinner has been served and presents opened. Here everyone is gathered as we start to serve dinner. Because..as Carlos says..."that's what families do!"




video

Now..for the other important and valuable family in my life. Reiterating here. important. valuable.When I'm not with my second family,I have been at home..hanging with (are you ready for it?)

  The first family. Yes. It's true. I like to refer to myself and my family as the first family. Just humor me..it's Christmas after all. Sheesh!

Levi and I have been painting a dresser for his room.

Here Levi is sanding...












and painting...and painting..and worrying about the mess on his finger.







...and a job well done, if you ask me!



 Then there are the tall children! Everyone came home to celebrate an early Christmas. We ate pasta and chilli, caught up on all sorts of gossip, and played some sort of gender wars board game.

 Here is the awesome girls team..consisting of Cody's girlfriend, Ellie..Brian's fiance, Angee..and me. I think we are discussing something important. Like what the heck is some boat part called. Or what are the pictures of various make-up type brushes for...or what the heck is that thing called that covers a tea-pot. (which Cody knew, by the way)






The men's team..consisting of Austen, Brian, Cody and Levi..and Big B..(who participated from a distance) kept us laughing. This group? Definately not doubting their value. Everytime they answered a question correctly..they would burst into a chorus of  "Men, Men, Men..Men..Men..Men..Men..Men..Men." (from 2 and a half men)

But just for the record? The women won!

Okay..I have gone on WAY. TOO. LONG.

Feliz Navidad, folks.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Grateful.

Grateful for family and friends rich in human connection.


Here A.J. and Levi discuss whether this truck that is being pulled out of ashes is, indeed, dirty.

Meanwhile..uncles discuss politics. My parents catch up with the boys...and Brian and Angee share this link
 http://www.day7photography.com/2012/11/brian-angee-engaged-lady-bird-lake-engagement-session-austin-engagement-photographer/

with all of us..which I then shared on facebook...and here..you know..just in case you didn't catch it on facebook..because..well..I'm a tad excitable that way.

Happy Thanksgiving to All!

Monday, November 19, 2012

From Couch to 1/2 Marathon?

Okay. I admit it. Sometimes I hear things coming out of my face and think...What?! Did an alien just invade my body and say that?

So it should come as no surprise to myself (or anyone who has seen this phenomenon happen around me) that I made a bet with my Odyssey of the Mind teams. A very stupid one.

I was with a group of Teens from the Teen Center (many of whom happened to be on our OM teams) at the San Antonio Rock and Roll Marathon registration. As we spent the day registering one runner after another, I became greatly inspired by all these women who were registering. Some were long time runners...others this was there first marathon. Me? I was filling their forms and drinking my Dr. Pepper while a Babe Ruth in my face.

During our down times the teens and I would discuss these women. We discussed the importance of setting goals and leaving our comfort zones..and then, of course, came the inevitable well how about you ms. nicole? When was the last time you did that?. I mean really?! They are (gasp) not supposed to hold me accountable. Dang kids.

And then it happened..the alien invasion thing. I heard myself saying..I'll tell you what...if BOTH O.M. teams make it to state finals...I'll run the 1/2...1/2 did you hear me 1/2 not whole ..marathon next year.

Fabien..one of our highschool teens offered to up the anty himself with It's a deal! I'll run with you. ..(he's a runner)and I tell you what. If we make it to Worlds 1 team..not 2....I'll run the whole thing! I assured him I would NOT run the whole thing with him. We shook on it..publicly..in front of the whole darn world..or actually..the Colosseum full of runners...and even worse? One of the teens filmed it on his phone.

When I returned home..I thought. No biggie. I've got time. I'll just start practicing now. I ran 1/2 a mile and walked 1/2 a mile. I could not breathe. Big B called me Forest Gump..I made unpleasant gestures to him..and continued huffing and puffing. It is now a week later..and I still. can't. breathe.

So instead I went on facebook and asked if anyone wanted to join me in the Dirty Girls Mud Run in Austin in March (I figured I should start small). And you know what? Some of my college friends from a gazillion (that's the academician in me speaking) years ago are coming to join me. How cool is that?

Now..there is the little problem of breathing. My friend Christy suggested looking at Couch to 5 K. I..think I am going to follow her footsteps and start this on December 1st. Why? Because I like my couch..thankyou very much. I have spent a lot of time on the couch this past weekend...watching Star Trek, and School of Rock..and The Proposal...and Date Night. It's nice and cozy there and I don't want to leave it! Also? I like the frozen pizza and the Dr. Pepper that come with it. Dang aliens..what were they thinking letting my face make such a ridiculous promise!

I checked out the sight...and one of the first things I saw was an article on 8 ways to overcome embarassment of running in public. I thought...wow..how did they know? So...I think if this site is starting with such helpful hints as this? There might be hope after all.

So here I am..holding my breath (what's left of it anyways) and mentally gearing myself to do this couch to 5 K thing. Then..are you ready for it? The 5K to 1/2 marathon thing. I think it can happen. I really do.

And just for the record, that's Nicole talking, not the alien.


Monday, November 12, 2012

November Already?

November has arrived in stealth mode. How did this happen? Big B lit the fireplace this a.m. What are you doing? I asked him. It's going to get hot later.

It's November, he answered. As if that was an explanation in itself. I was about to argue that it wasn't...and then it hit me. Holy Moly..it's November already. October came and went in a blur of business..and now we are settling into Fall/Winter...and the holidays that come with it.

 Tomorrow I drag the Austen boy to work with me to help prepare a Thanksgiving dinner for 300+ people. Next week we get to celebrate Thanksgiving here at home with a handful of family and friends.

I am really looking forward to spending time with family and friends.

I have decided to take a little reprieve from Kairos and most other outside commitments. I way over-committed last month and hit near insanity. I am continuing as a chapel volunteer at the prison every other week. Other than that? Work and home. I am looking forward to the freedom of really engaging in work and family life, not feel pulled in a zillion directions. I want to enjoy the simple pleasures in life.

That said. We are bringing Odyssey of the Mind ( i know..not a simple pleasure..only organized chaos) to the Teen Center. Which reminds me.. I saw this short film today. The Adventures of a Box.

http://vimeo.com/25239728

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

capturing serenity

...amidst utter chaos.

It is 4 oclockish on a Sunday afternoon. I normally turn off electronics on Sunday. But right now I am in work crunch-mode, so I thought I would take some time to play.

So here I sit in my tshirt and jeans, laptop in hand. It is warm- toasty actually.  I am in awe at the sense of peace I feel as I just sit and listen to the rhythm of the locusts in the cyprus trees...interspersed with the sound of distant motorcycles on the highway. The constant hum of the airconditioner serves as a backdrop to all.

 And I watch. There is not even a breeze. No movement in the trees that line the river..but butterflies? Butterflies everywhere. It is a butterfly invasion. It is absolutely beautiful.

 I am reminded of the importance of catching our breath in nature. To center ourselves amidst the chaos.

October is a crazy month, and I have started it not so gracefully. Actually, I started it by sticking my newish cell phone in a cup of coffee. I usually charge my phone on the way home from work. My cord for the charger has been a bit temperamental. So most evenings I wrap the cord around my phone and place the phone in my empty coffee cup where it won't jiggle too much. So I did just that. Upon arriving in Bandera, I pick up the phone to call Big B. (we were supposed to meet for tacos) As I put the phone against my ear I can feel  cold coffee running down my face! Then? A very weak ringtone..I can barely make out my phone singing..I feel so close to you right now...it is Big B.

 I try to answer. My screen goes blank. I say hello, hello...you know, like a crazy person. But there is only silence. The phone sings again..I feel so close to you right now... hello, hello? Again silence. And again. This time I am trying a different tactic. I speak into the silence.. I killed my phone. I can't hear you. Meet me at the taco place. Silence. Then..the ringtone again. I send a text saying my phone is dying a slow death..please meet me for tacos.

 Then I drive to the taco place and sit in the car and try to disassemble my phone and dry it.

Brian meets me for tacos. Cody joins us. Cody attempts to resurect the now deceased phone. (you know..since I kept using it after I soaked it in coffee for over 30 minutes!). The next morning Cody informs me it is a lost cause. He loans me his (which I can use to answer and sendtext messages..but I can't retrieve the voice mail) until my new one arrives.

And that is the type of October I am having..

This week I am actually taking a few days off of work to serve on a Via De Cristo team..and Big B is attending. It is the first time we have been on this type of weekend together. Ever.

 It should be interesting.

Via De Cristo is followed by a week of Halloween prep. The teens are running a haunted house and we are hosting a lock-in on the Friday before Halloween. So..essentially...the staff are moving into the Club for apx. 48 hours. Then? Big B is picking me up and we are off to a short jaunt to the beach to meet some friends!

On our return is a very short breather (like enough to do laundry) then off to Kairos for a week. Only, this time, I am still working..so it is like..drive to work, drive to Kairos, drive to work, drive to Kairos. Austen is serving on the outside team for this Kairos weekend. It will be his first weekend of this sort, also. More interesting;) On the not so cool side..with two of us serving on the team? Austen and I are responsible for baking and bringing 100 dozen cookies! So if anyone wants to bake some cookies? I will be happy to take them off your hands!

In the meantime..I am taking today and tomorrow to enjoy the quiet. Sort-of. Levi seems to have other plans. Like, I don't know. Behaving like a tornado!

He and I have been baking cookies. Yup. Baking cookies with a two-year old. What can I say? In 7 hours we have successfully baked 12 dozen cookies.  We've made lots of interesting concoctions though...and I have been spared a day of Shrek...or even Shrek 2? Why? Because baby bug boy has discovered NASCAR racing!

 Yet another reason I am enjoying this glimpse of temporary serenity. The sounds and scenery of my backyard.

Friday, October 05, 2012

Smart Girls

 Smart Girls...play rock band?

What can I say? I'm becoming hooked on Rock Band!

Smart Girls is  a program we run at the Center. It is meant to be held is small groups where young women can get to really know and support each other through the difficulties of adolescence. And so it is through Smart Girls that I remember many of these skill myself.

So I want to take a moment to talk about my mid-week group. There are 6 young women ages 13-18 in this group. We meet in the Art room or the kitchen..armed with popcorn, lucas and a bulletin board that is filled with pictures of women. Women like Delores Huerta, Indira Ghandi,  Naomi Shihab Nye, Nancy Pelosi, Rosa Parks, Michelle Obama, Audrey Hepburn (that was my choice!)...the list goes on.

And each week we discuss the lives of these women as we discuss various topics for the afternoon. We start with respect. We look at the women on the board and break down components of respect...personal boundaries, compassion, telling our own truth, etc. And we ask..do these women do this? Do we do this?

We discuss beauty. We wear fake mustaches as we discuss what beauty is. We dissolve into giggles when my ringtone (a whistle) whistles in the midst of a deep conversation on beauty. One of the teens looks up and says.."it's my mustache..I know it. No one can resist my beauty in this mustache" ..and then another "But who was it? Who whistled at us?" "It's the fish", I respond. We bust into laughter

They have granted me permission to tell this story and to post their picture in all their beauty.

So now when my phone whistles midweek. The girls in my group glance across the room at each other..they get a sly grin..they sit up a little taller. They are imagining the fish whistling at them as they sit in a circle of peers in their fake mustaches.

Yesterday we cooked spaghetti  as we discussed the importance of self-awareness. We created "I Am" poems. The girls took these poems to heart. They have asked me to print them and frame them so we can hang them on the wall to my room.
They have asked me to post my own poem. So, ladies, here it is.

I am passionate.
I am reckless.
I am a musician.
I am Nicole

I am quiet dis-chord.
with a revolutionary crescendo
Resolving in that singular clear tone
of a pure harmonic.
I am strong.
 

I am easily spooked.
I am often scared.
I am brave.
I am Nicole.

I am a binge reader
..a lazy writer
I am a lousy cook
..a fierce scrabble player.

A daydreamer.
I am intense.
I am loyal.
I am fun.

I am compassionate..
I am learning to trust,
by becoming trustworthy.
I am learning to be 
reliably real.

I am Nicole.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Rosh Hashana in pics

But first..a few words. I am sitting here on my back deck...dressed like a crazy person in my pajama bottoms, tie-dye shirt, leather jacket and fuzzy socks. I am armed with a cup of coffee and my netbook...and I am thinking ..now what?

 I realize my posts have taken a different tone. There was a time when this blog was about the daily craziness of homeschooling and working. Then...more introspection as I finish my final year of a parish ministry training program and I return home for a year or two. But as my children grew..and I returned to work..and the impact of my time volunteering at a local prison became deeper..and I sort through my own mid-life stuff...my posts have become sillier..or just less intense/thought-provoking.

There are reasons for this. As they become young adults, my children are not so thrilled with their private lives being on display. I can truly appreciate that. My work involves a lot of confidentiality. Volunteering..same thing

 As for my own-mid-life stuff? Wow. Does anyone really want to read about my journey through understanding the ?'s in my identity. The journey into a stronger understanding of what my own personal boundaries and value sets are? Probably not. It's not that exciting, really.

So..instead? You get the occasional (think very occasional) thought worth reading (I hope)..and lots of this is what we're up to...and with that said.

Rosh Hashana.

Almost every year, my aunt hosts dinner for Rosh Hashana at her house. Actually? She more than hosts..she pretty much prepares the whole meal. Same for Passover and Hanukkah. The rest of us? We pretty much just show up. What can I say? It works well for me? (oiy..how sad is that!)

Anyway, Rosh Hashana is the Jewish New Year. Among other things it is a time for new beginnings. A time for mercy and forgiveness. A time of reflection and celebration. It is a time to come together with family and recognize the blessings we have.

This particular year, Rosh Hashana happens to fall on the Sunday I am preaching out at the prison. (Still preaching the third Sunday of every month at this unit). I get the privilege of briefly discussing Rosh Hashana with my brothers in white...then..the rest of the afternoon is spent with the English choir.Wow..talk about some amazing musicians!

 My friend Jack (who happened to be my ride that day) and I cut out of prison a little early so I can make it back in time for dinner with the family!

Once again, my aunt served an amazing meal..which we all thoroughly enjoyed.

Here are a handful of pics from this time, together with family and friends.


 My parents..enjoying pre-dinner wine, served with cucumber with salmon, pita chips and hummus. My mom and I? I think we filled up on pre-dinner snacks.

Yup..that's me..heaping too much food on my plate...and that is AFTER stuffing myself with appetizers. What can I say? I was shameless!  Cody reads the "menu" my aunt so graciously posted on her cupboard to determine what the vegetarian options are. My mom and Big B? Also fixing their plates.


 Just visiting over dinner...and finally?








My favorite pic....Grandma with the boys! (minus Brian-Scott) Here is grandma surrounded by Cody holding Levi, Calvin (behind her) and Austen.

Signing off for now. It appears the reality of my life today...being a date with Levi to play "trucks" and loads of laundry..are awaiting.

Monday, September 10, 2012

A quick catch-up.

Wow. Where to start. Every week I think...ooh..this would be great fun to blog about..and then another fun blog...and another insight. And then it is too much and I become overwhelmed..so instead? I just. don't. blog.

So that said. This will pretty much be a blog in pics.

Starting with Cody!!!!  Cody is home.

Here is Cody on the eve of his return. Cody's girlfriend,  Elle, also hung out with us for a few days. We were thrilled to have them home. As you can tell by the look on his face. The feeling is absolutely mutual.

What can I say? I am occasionally the queen of denial.

Truth be told, Cody is busy..going to classes, working and all that important stuff. So we don't really see him much. But it's great to have him home, none-the-less.

Cody, however, is not the only that has come home. Brian and Angee came to visit a few weeks ago. Here is a pic of Big B in complete disbelief..as in the midst of wedding planning and voicing concerns about Austen's math (or lack there-of)..our young adults became immersed in a game of...


pokemon (she says in a whisper)





Yes folks..I said. Pokemon. Here they are intensely focused on creating the perfect deck.





Meanwhile..Austen? Austen..you know the one of great concern? He is napping..then guitar playing..and working. Just for the record..this  Austen kid has been busy working (new/old job at Flying L now that girl-scout camp is over), and volunteering (grilled over 70 hamburgers for the Club),working math problems and filling out scholarship applications, reading books, and playing air-soft. He is strongly contemplating a culinary institute in Arizona (as opposed to c.c. locally)..so he is trying to figure out how to fund this.

Finally we come to Levi. Levi has been busy..hiding in desk cabinets, and kitchen cabinets ..and fireplaces.

When he is not hiding in strange places..Levi has become Big B's alltime helper. He loves to help him "fix" cars, "fix" boats..and help him in the kitchen.





Here Big B makes pizza crusts.

We had a make-your-own pizza night for community dining. Big B was in his element.Yummy stuff.

While the rest of us have learned to stay out of Big B's way when he cooks..Levi? Levi just knows that no pizza dough would be complete without his help.!


So that's it. Work has been crazy for me. We have just signed contracts with one of the bigger school districts in San Antonio to service 120 kids..and are working on a deal with another district to teach a class on their campus. We will return to servicing the kids at one of the local homeless shelters in a week or two..and then, of course, are the regular Club kids. So yeah..a bit on the crazy side. But it's all good.

Striving to find a healthy balance between work, family time and personal time.

 For today? I get to enjoy the simple pleasures of sipping hot tea on my deck in the morning, helping Austen with some scholarship essay stuff, reading books with Levi (I have been reading while starting and stopping this post today), and getting ready for lunch with Big B. Hoping to work on some water-color placemats for Via de Cristo this afternoon.(Gotta tell you..coloring in stripes with watercolors is insanely therapeutic) Looking forward to community dining and guitar practice tonight.

Insane work overload can wait until tomorrow.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

A Tale of Two Rings

..but first. I was going to say that Shrek is out!!!! ...and Lion King is in?

After months and months of watching Shrek...dreaming Shrek..imagining Shrek...it appeared Levi had moved to Lion King! I was wrong. As I type, the kiddo is planted in front of Shrek. For what it's worth?


Big B is enjoying Lion King.  Go figure.

Now onto our tale of two rings. Two years ago (wow..has it really been that long already?). 2 years ago, Big B and I went with some family friends to Port Aransas, Tx. Also known as The Beach! On that trip we replaced our lost and broken wedding rings at a small beach shop. It was quite an adventure..this ring search of ours. I blogged about it at the time, and I'm just too lazy to re-tell the story now.

Fast forward to last month. I had (ahem) lost my ring again. Actually, it came off in the river last summer.   So on a Saturday morning,  Big B and I made another journey to the beach shop. We replaced the ring, tried craw-fish at Crazy Cajun, hung out at the beach. All-in-all a really enjoyable day.

Today was one of my volunteer days at the prison. After going through security, I realized (music in background please?) I did not have my ring! I mentioned to a passing officer that I was pretty sure I had left my ring in the check-in area. (The gates had been closed and locked behind me. There was no way to go back and get it) I figured I was going to have to explain to Big B that I had lost a-n-o-t-h-e-r ring. I was not looking forward to this.

In the middle of chapel, I was called out. The offenders laughed "Nicole..you're in trouble again!" An officer was waiting, walkie-talkie in hand. "Did you happen to lose a ring?" she asked. "Oh thank God." I told her the story. Some of my brothers-in-white were greatly amused and felt happy to share my irresponsibility with rings story with...you know..everyone!

And then I returned to chapel. We spend the day in worship, in prayer, in fellowship. 8 hours later, as I am preparing to leave, the officer reminds me not to forget my ring. She then walkie-talkies another officer. This goes on for a while. As I leave the entrance area...two more officers laugh."It's up there! " They smile..pointing at the officer at the top of the front picket (the big tower).

As I head to the front picket. Another officer is waving. He places my ring on a hook and lowers it to me. "Don't worry, Nicole. We gotcha covered. Now you can go home and tell your husband how you remembered your ring."

But the real ring tale is MUCH MORE INTERESTING. Last week I had mentioned that Brian and Angee had real life things going on. They have informed me that I can, indeed, post that....

Brian and Angee are engaged!

Wedding will be early next summer, sometime following their graduations from UT Austin.

 Now isn't THAT just coolness?!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Switching Gears Yet Again

Summer is coming to a close. It is hard to believe it has come and gone so quickly.

Big B spent most of the summer building his business. Rumor has it he has the busiest shop in town...and looking at the endless line of cars? I believe it.

Brian Scott continued working at the same company he has been working since his graduation from UT Austin last summer. Brian and Angee have just moved to a bigger apartment to accommodate Kevin (Angee's brother) for the returning school year. These two also have some pretty big life events going on..but I promised I wouldn't blog about it. So here I am...not blogging:) But I can say that Brian is finishing his last year in the masters program in e.e. and Angee is finishing her senior year of her undergrad. adventures.

Cody spent the summer with his girlfriend and her family. Cody and Ellie visited us a couple times this summer, but he spent most of the summer lifeguarding  and taking online summer classes at S.A.C. In a week (or two?) Cody is returning home! Yes folks..home..or to our tree-house..or
high rise..as he likes to call it. Where he plans to spend the school-year while commuting to Schreiner to continue his studies in information systems.

And Austen? Well, this summer, Austen returned to Girl Scout Camp. Yes, it's true. My son is a girlscout...err...lifeguard that is. Also? He spent a week in New Orleans with the ELCA National Youth Gathering.

On one of the first nights Austen participated in a game in which you name the states .I understand Austen named a few.

Austen returned from New Orleans with a renewed energy and a renewed interest in studying culinary arts. I know we had rumors last year about Austen starting the culinary arts program at St. Phillips...but for a variety of reasons, we decided to let him finish his full 4 years as a plain old homeschooled/unschooled  highschooler. No dual credits or early entrance. Austen chose, instead, to spend a lot of time this past year (his Jr. year) helping Big B's friends with various work. Welding, rebuilding homes, etc.

So now Austen has returned home, armed with girl scout cookies! He is taking  a few weeks to just hang out..and then Austen and I have agreed that he will spend the school year reading for 2 hours a day (anything of choice), writing an essay each day(anything of choice) and working through one Saxon problem set a day. Study time aside, Austen is spreading  rumors of  hanging out with me at the S.A. Boys and Girls club..and maybe, maybe, working part-time somewhere nearby.

And me? I spent the summer  at the Teen Center and hanging out at the prison every other weekend. Pictured to the right are some of the teens hanging out on the fire-escape. They are waiting for the staff to arrive. Yes, they are waiting at some horrible hour in the morning.

 Our summer program is coming to a close. Last week, the teens and I said goodbye to our clients on our summer Meals On Wheels route. This week, we wrap up miscellaneous projects, go on a lot of field trips and help the kids logistically prepare for the school year. (acquire school supplies ,school uniforms, etc.)

So now we are in that switching gears point. Levi and I ..oh my! How could I forget Levi?! Levi is. Hmm..how shall I put this? Levi is very two!

 He has spent most of the summer with his mom. But we still get to see the kiddo a couple days each week. Levi has spent a lot of time hanging out in the garage with Big B. The kid LOVES the garage, and makes it quite clear that he is not happy when we make him come inside at night.

Today Levi and I are cooking lots of food. Sort of nesting, I guess, for the return of  the two bigger boys. Last week we turned the den into a study, and the morning room back into a little kids cave. Today. We cook!  I haven't done once-a-month cooking in almost a year. I think it's time.

 Levi and I are making king ranch casserole, chicken and broccoli casserole, chicken tetrazinni, lasagnas (both veggie and carnivorous kinds), stuffed spinach manicotti, 15 bean soup,  meat loaf and cheeseburger casserole.  Cooking and watching Shrek for the zillionth time.

I guess the cooking and watching Shrek is a reminder that while we are shifting gears a bit? We are still riding the same, comfy and cozy vehicle, of our lives.


Sunday, July 22, 2012

I'm back???

I'm reclaiming my place in the land of the living.

 Because honestly? I had fallen into a deep, dark emotional abyss. It sort of snuck up on me. I found myself making a series of mistakes...some not so bad..and then some real doozies. And I found myself wondering..how the heck did I get here? I became completely emotionally absent to all the people who I care about. I was in self-preservation mode..and it was not pretty.

I spent some time in therapy, reading, journaling..doing a LOT of self reflection. I pulled a lot of weeds, journaled, obsessed with the life of  Audrey Hepburn..as in read over 5 biographies, etc...I pulled more weeds, journaled,  I watched endless reruns of the old Battlestar Gallatica..I pulled more weeds...and then? Well, I got bored with all of that introspection..(yes..i have a short attention span) .and I have slowly been reclaiming a stronger, more authentic version of myself.

I had to admit that in the realm of bad ideas..running day-care out of the house was one of the biggest bad ideas I have ever had. NOT  a reflection on the kids or their families. Just a bad fit for my overall temperament. I have come to realize that I have a high need for risk-taking, adventure and affection (to have and to give) and that if I don't utilize these needs in a positive way..well...disaster strikes!

And as much as I enjoyed the exploding diaper band..i was going stir crazy.

So..I have returned to working with at-risk youth. I am now working for a Teen Center in S.A...and I  LOVE it! I was accepted to graduate school at O.L.L.U. but am delaying my entrance until Spring due to financial and time constraints.  I continue volunteering at the prison...and am slowly reengaging in living and celebrating the lives of my family and friends.

I am slowly joining the land of the living

..and by the way? I have no idea why some of this is highlighted in white.