Monday, November 30, 2015

Bye-Bye, Pegasus

Everything in life is somewhere else, and you get there in a car.
 ~E.B. White

I think my husband is having the same issues about Pegasus as I am about the guest room, but more so and for good reason. Pegasus is the white mini-van that we have had for...well, years and we got her before I began blogging, but I was keeping a journal at the time.

Here is an excerpt from November 28, 2007:
We sold the Panther last week and just got the Pegasus worked on. Tomorrow is the first time we will be driving Pegasus on our Thursday errands. I am actually happier that I will be driving a "beater" and that it is smaller so it is easier handle in parking lots. 

I need to explain what I did not write in my journal. We had a very nice black high top conversion van, the Panther, that I truly enjoyed, but sometime during the summer when Alan had to go on medical leave for the injury from my aunt's horse, I began feeling a strong urge to become very thrifty. We were living on about 60 percent of regular pay considering there was no overtime. Even though he had been back to work for a couple of months, that urgency only seem to be even stronger, so I suggested that we sell the Panther and get a used mini-van that would be better on mileage as gas prices were high at the time. It was not something I particularly wanted to do, but felt we just had to do.

So, we sold the Panther and bought a used 2000 white Dodge mini-van that we named Pegasus and then we realized why God had been urging us to do so.

Another entry from December 3, 2007:
My husband had been working a lot of hours this week, nearly 40 in over time. His boss called today while he was sleeping, but his manager was not his usual self and I felt there was something rather important about the meeting scheduled this morning that my husband had missed--particularly since he did not know what it was about before hand as he usually does. This evening a co-worker brought my husband home because the brakes locked up after he just had them replaced that day. He also had the one and only key to Pegasus because he was going to have another made today, so I could not pick him up even if he had thought of it. After his coworker left, my husband asked if I had a few minutes. Then came the news…Today was his last day at work, economical cutbacks they said. Well, it will be interesting to see how Atlanta runs with just four guys. My husband said they may hire him back, like they did in other cities after firing the experienced personnel, paying them their salaries plus their severance pay at the same time.

I have been of the mindset to cut back as far as we could for the last few weeks. The Lord again preparing my heart for what was to come, I believe. The news left me with odd feelings. I truly feel this is part of the Lord's plan for us and this is the last of the entanglements we built up in our life. (Insert: the entanglements were from a vision I kept seeing of angels untangling and clearing away a large pile of bright colored conduits.) Yet, part of me also believes I should be worried and scared; oddly, I find it a bit scary that I am not as concerned as I should be. What my Lord has in store, I am not sure.

I am concerned about having only one vehicle. If my husband gets a job without a company car, it could mean some real lifestyle changes. My typical Thursday would be pushed over to the weekend, I suppose. But, I am not sure what we would do for the Princess' piano lessons…? I suppose I could continue teach her piano myself for awhile until we could save enough for another car. Thankfully, we have not yet paid the credit card with the money we got from selling the Panther. We may need it for living expenses or another vehicle.

Lord, please let me see clearly the path you have provided for us to walk.

God had it all planned out. The money from the Panther not only paid for Pegasus and a few necessary repairs on her but also paid off our remaining 401K loan, which became due in full immediately after he was terminated. We did not see all that coming, but God did!

My husband did get a job on the last week of his severance pay, but there was no company vehicle and he was making about the same as he did on medical leave nearly a year before. Since he had to fly to most of weeks, the Princess and I would drive with him to the airport on most Monday mornings and pick him up at the airport most Friday nights. When he worked in town, he had Pegasus except on Thursdays; we continued with piano lessons and errands on that day by dropping him off at the office or at the customer's place of business depending on where he was needed that day.

Therefore, Pegasus was our one and only vehicle from December 2007 to February 2011, when my husband started a new job with a different company. At that time we added another white mini-van same model as Pegasus but a 2002 that only had 47,000 miles on it. By the way, it is not that we like white, it is just that these vehicles fit our criteria as to price and mileage, and since my husband had driven this model when he had company cars, we knew they were durable.

We hoped to keep Pegasus another year even though she has tipped over 300,000 miles because she has been such a good reliable van, but then his company signed on to the Runzheimer plan: 30 Days or Else. Before we knew about this, Pegasus just had her timing belt and water pump changed, a $700 job, and book price she is probably worth just that up to $1,200 maybe. She has been sitting in our driveway partially because my husband has not been home to try to sell her, not wanting me to handle it myself, and partially because he is having difficulty with the idea of selling her.

It was not just the eight years, Pegasus has been a symbol to us of how God guided us, protected us, and helped us to prepare and endure some tough years financially. When we watched too many other people around us lose their jobs and then their homes, we were still eeking by. It was not comfortable, but it was doable.

There was the time after we had her for over a year that one of her tires literally disintegrated on its sides as my husband and I with our dog were driving back from picking him up at the airport while the Princess was watching a movie at the church. I was so glad this happened with him being there. The treads were not too bad, it just was the tires were old. My husband changed the tire only to have the spare go flat as we got back on the highway. I do not know why he did not go through the intersection to pull into the gas station, but instead he pulled into the closest lit place, a McDonald's, to try to fix the spare and try to fill it with air with our emergency compressor, which was going to taking lots of time, but I was at peace as I was praying about getting back to our daughter.

Within a minute or two a red pickup pulled up right next to us. The man had an air compressor in the cab of the truck and between the fix-a-flat and the air, we made it back to the church and then home. My husband was worried about the money for new tires all around and I asked how much it would cost. He seemed relieved when I told him that we had it because I factored into my budget that we would need to have money available for repairs and maintenance.

Two weeks later after getting the new tires, we were driving through the remains of a horrible ice storm that blanketed northern Tennessee and on up through all of Ohio. It was not so much that it was slick, but the roads were terribly bumpy from the ice, because it had been too cold for salt to melt the ice completely. We could only go about 45 miles an hour in the best of places to my mother's funeral and it was jarring us all the way. I am so glad we have the new tires before that!

We had moments like that all the time. Pegasus has kind of like our rod and our staff that comforted us; she never parted the sea, but through her God always seem to meet our needs before we knew them and she certainly got us wherever we needed to go without a back up vehicle.

The thrifty side of me would like to sell her for at least the $700 we just put into her, but nothing anyone would pay for her would come close to what she is worth to us, so far more than her book price. After much consideration and prayer, we decided to donate her to a Christian organization that ministers to children, who should be coming for her this morning; the signed title and keys waiting on the table next to me. It just feels right, but in a bittersweet way.

My Lord, I probably do not know all the times You provided for us, but I also know times when it was so obvious to us that You did. Thank you for blessing us with reliable vehicles and taking care of us in preparation for rough times as You have. I ask that You continue to bless our vehicles and us.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Giving Thanks on Thanksgiving Day

For each new morning with its light,
For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food, for love and friends,
For everything Thy goodness sends.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

I woke up this morning with this wonder of what I would be doing today and talking to my Lord about it as well as all the times He has guiding through the tough times. I thirst for His reassurances. I have done this probably much of my life except for those times when my thoughts were taken hostage too immediately by an overpowering gloom left over from the night before...or several nights. It has been many nights, so many that this air has an ancient familiarity, yet also feels awkward.

Today, though, I awoke in a reflective state which I would describe as normal for me as if this is my default mode. So, I am enjoying the golden hour of the morning with a voluminous harvest moon setting in the west  and the dawning sun in the east as the my home planet slowly rotates with a cup of Sweet Harvest Pumpkin tea on my left and the glare of technology in front beckoning me as blank canvases would an artist.

It is such a sweet feeling and I wish to savor it. A sip of tea...savor all there is in this quiet moment.

Today is Thanksgiving Day. I barely had an awareness that we were in November—well, I knew that it was November because the first week of it my husband and the Princess were on the retreat. I mean, for me time stopped from the weekend when the rest of the dominoes fell immediately after the retreat. I was stuck there. The moon and the sun continued their dances across the sky, but for me time had no real impact.

I found myself, more than once or twice the past month, still in my pajamas past noon. Now, I have nothing against people who stay in their pajamas long into the day, but it is not me. I like to dress as soon as I can without disturbing my husband, who might have had a later night than I. Pajamas still seen on me past daylight is often an indication that I am ill or in pain. I have been both, although the pain was in my heart.

My husband is now up and preparing in the kitchen. Thanksgiving is usually his day. Early in the week, I may have made a homemade pie and our Holiday Red Cabbage Cole Slaw, fondly called "the purple stuff" by a friend, but usually the only thing I might have my hand in the kitchen for this day is a sweet potato dish. My husband loves to cook, he loves to plan meals, and I am more than happy let him have this day as cooking is something I appreciate far more when someone else does it. This time around there will only be the three of us and the meal will be simple.

The turkey was in a brine over night and it will be smoked on our grill outside. Sometimes my husband fries the turkey, which is a Southern thing; Southerns fry just about anything they can stick a fork into seems and it is an indication that we have lived in the South a long time, even though originally I was a Yankee and my husband from the West. I have a store brought cherry pie and vanilla ice cream, a breech in protocol for us not to have homemade of both. Sweet potatoes will be baked with butter and brown sugar on hand. A salad and/or a simple vegetable side dish will be plenty.

It is not as fancy as we like but then our house is in a state of repair and remodel inside due to the replacement windows and yet-to-be-completed work on the outside—mostly left is painting the front door and the shutters. Add to that the events of since school started we, are emotionally worn and my husband has been away, except on the weekends, for the past few weeks. We have a way of adapting to the situations of life and we know that leaving some unclaimed space between all this and our limits is the best way to retain our civility...and quite possibly our sanity.

A friend asked us to join their family and in years past, we have shared a few holiday meals together, but with her mother, father-in-law, and two adult nieces living next door now, I felt that would be too much for me. Too many people, too noisy, and too much of all the things that can overwhelm a highly sensitive empath at her best. I have not regained confidence in my emotional stability just yet.

This morning after my daughter joined us for a breakfast of tea and sweet bread, our traditional holiday breakfast, I opened up a discussion I have been wanting to have us all to brainstorm for several months. We have several challenges in our home:

  • The Princess and I both need an art and craft studio area that is functional. She is drawing all the time and writing when not doing that with reading pushed into third place.
  • The Princess has no room in her bedroom making it difficult for her to have a guest sleepover.
  • The Princess' digital piano, our birthday present, is crowding my dining room. (My keyboard is downstairs in the office area and the acoustical piano is in the living room.)
  • For Christmas this year, the family gift is a big gun safe which is going in the basement room under the living room, which is also the room that houses our pantry and art and craft studio and storage currently. (The garage is the same level as the basement so no steps.)
  • We have too much furniture and not enough functional spaces in the basement rooms.

One of the solutions I thought about last spring was to give the Princess both of the bedrooms, one she is using and the guest room. That would be ideal for us all at this stage. She could have the digital piano and even maybe the keyboard on a stacking stand in her study room along with her bookcase and desk.

The downside is we have a lovely honey oak country bedroom set that I really like and do not want to get rid of in the guest room and we do not have the space to store it—back to that later.

My husband has suggested a few times before to move his desk into the art and craft studio area and move all the art stuff into the office area. He also suggested building a wall of shelves on one end of the office area for all our books, which is a significant collection considering that we homeschool and just love books. Lots of incidental things get moved and changed, but these would be the major ones. The main thing that holds me back is the guest room furniture.

Maybe there is such an attachment because the guest room was the first room I redecorated in this house and the first furniture we bought so that friends from where we moved could visit as well as family. Even though there is just walking room at the foot and sides of the queen size bed and the matching armoire is in the Princess' room because it does not fit in with the guest room with the dresser and night stand, it has a old fashion inn quality with its faux painted walls in subtle old rose, peaches, cream with touches of gold, and decorations of roses and angels. It would sell better that way though if there was room for a rocking chair and a reading lamp on a side table with hardwood floors and homemade rugs, but I did what I could with the space that I had.

If we move, the main criteria would be a larger room for the Princess and an art studio area as well as a workout area, a large kitchen, and a mud/utility room with at the very least two usable acres, ten in all would be better but two need to be cleared and relatively flat. The house would be preferably less than 15 years old or remodeled, but with the ability to hide asbestos concerns, I would rather it be a newer home.

So, we are between fixing our house to sell or fixing it to suit ourselves or maybe both? We were hoping to move closer to the school to which the Princess was going, but that is no longer a concern and I have not received a clear word from the Lord yet about trying to move. I wonder if the reason we are to wait is because we would want to move closer to the college our daughter would be attending, if that is God's will for her, in just a few years. However, that puts homesteading off to the point we might not want to start such an endeavor.

All these ideas and yet I still have the walls around the windows to repair and paint, the interior of the windows to paint, the shutters and front door to paint, the dining room and kitchen to finish preparing from removing the wallpaper and to paint, and my bathroom to also paint. And the worse part is most of this would still have to be done even if we would like to move!

I was seeing our house as falling apart, even though we are fixing it up. It just reminded me of how everything rots in this world, everything needs maintenance and repair. However, when my home, that is, my family, began falling apart, that is when my perspective of what is most important focused on what it should be, not the plaster and paint, but the connections of love between my daughter, my husband, my friends, my Lord and me. All of them are my world, the house is just a place where they can find me. Still we have plans to change liabilities into assets in our living spaces because the house should serve our lifestyle not become our lifestyle. So, the Christmas tree we pick tomorrow will be probably be placed in front of a unpainted window with plaster still showing on the wall around it. It will not be perfect (as I so hoped to get it done before this day), but Christmas coming will be what we make it.

Thank you, my Lord. Just thank you for everything.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

When the Train is on the Wrong Track

The wheel of change moves on, and those who were down go up and those who were up go down. ~Jawaharlal Nehru

My seemed that everything was going so good for her, that God was blessing her so abundantly, but she had become unreachable emotionally. Now she is again reachable but she began on a track that was the wrong one and her train just kept rolling on it, seemingly without God as the Engineer. Yes, she has been going on very rough rails and it breaks my heart to watch, but as teenagers become more independent thinkers, they can make some bad choices, which they rationalize to fit their own sense of justification. This often means that very rules we set as parents to protect them (because we have wisdom they have not yet acquired) will get bent and broken in varying degrees. It is a time of learning wisdom for themselves and it can come at some very high prices. Had the Princess used wisdom in respecting our rules and honoring us, she would not have broken the other ones that were set by the church play acting group and she would not have lost her role, the lead role, in the play.

We found out about her losing the part in the play on Sunday, November 8th, after church and that was the second whammy. The first being described in all the detail I felt comfortable to write in a public blog in my last post.

Then came the third! They say these things come in threes so I am very much hoping this is the last...for a very, very, VERY long time. (Three for three!)

This one happened at the school science retreat that she and her father were on the first week of November, because on Monday, November 9th—the day after we were given the news about the play—the mother of my daughter's best friend, a girl, at school and I talked. It was then I that learned about my daughter breaking another rule.

My friend's husband was also a chaperon in the only cabin where the pitiful air conditioner was not working at all in heat and humidity of Florida; the coolest night temperatures were in the 80's. My husband and this man were tentatively planning to have lunch on Monday. He has a similar job in another company so he was about to go out of state to the north and my husband was doing the same although he would be turning eastward after they ate. However, he realized something involving our daughter on the last day of the retreat and did not get to talk to my husband that day as they were preparing to leave. Sunday he thought we all would need to rest, so it could wait until Monday, but the lunch plans changed when we got the news about the play. We felt that we needed to be together as much as possible so my family went out together instead.

Back to Sunday, after the news about the play and being concerned about my daughter's mental/emotional state, I texted the wife to ask if her daughter, my daughter's best friend, could stay over night the coming Saturday as I had suggested a few weeks previously. Unfortunately, they were expecting family to visit so it was not possible, but she also texted that she had some concerns from the hardships and observations at the retreat. Considering her husband was in the cabin with the worse conditions, I figured that was at least one of the main ones, and we made plans to talk after I returned home from lunch on Monday with my husband and daughter.

Within the first few minutes, she told me what her husband had been hoping to tell my husband that day. I found myself moaning "no" and yet believing it completely.

After we completed our conversation that included other things which concerned her regarding the retreat that had nothing to do with my daughter, I called my husband, who almost turned right back around to come home, but instead he worked to make the two day job he was being sent to do done in one day and came back the following day with just two hours of sleep...actually, neither one of us slept well that night.

My husband was unaware of her breaking any rules while at the retreat; no one told him. The boys and girls are kept separate, except for group and team activities during the day, and while my husband was there he was the single chaperon in the cabin of a small group of boys. Due to the subtropical heat and sun, three of his boys became ill the first day, but one in particular had a bad time with the heat the entire week. Also, my husband is a very helpful kind of guy, therefore he was doing above and beyond his assigned duties, like changing the a flat tire for the school leader and such. So, although my husband was right there, he rarely saw our daughter and her chaperon failed to talk to him about the matter, even though she was aware of it...even facilitating what was against the rules on the retreat.

Many of those wonderful blessings God provided for the Princess as opportunities are for now just really sad reminders of what was taken away while she was trying to hide things from the very people who love her the most, could help her the most, and who will forgive her the most.

I have been having the weeping eyes syndrome off and on for about three weeks now. I go through the day with that uniquely exhausted feeling one has after a long gut wrenching cry, even though I have not had one...well, maybe in my spirit I am continually having one? I have been teetering between anger and despair. I can barely even pray because I start talking to my Lord about these things and I just end up ranting, forgetting completely that I was talking to the All Mighty. Peace eludes me or I, it.

After my husband spent much time in prayer and attempting to myself, I agreed with what he felt was God's answer: to remove our daughter from school. I was surprised that I actually feel relieved when he said it. The Princess is in a far better emotional and mental state since we found out about the incomplete school work, even with the lost of her role in the play. She has bad days still, but at least now she is also having good ones. She has been laughing and smiling and teasing like my Princess, the girl who bounces back and makes the very best of where she is with a happy heart. I see her in the cracks.

Perhaps we were not supposed to place her in the Home Study Center at all this year. Before we had paid our enrollment fees last spring, I felt that we should take this year off from the school. It really took a toll on my homeschooling and our relationship last year to get all her assignments and special projects done. I thought I just wanted a break and maybe that I was being selfish, but in retrospect I now think God was telling me not to do it this year.

We waited to tell the Princess of our decision to remove her from school until after her piano recital on Sunday, November 15th, but we prepared her about the possibility that the school could suspend her (although it is in the handbook, we doubted they would). She withheld her emotions during that talk, waiting until her father left for another longer work trip to have it out with me alone today. She told me that she was not happy that we did not "consult" her before making the decision or at least give her the right to choose, because she wanted to continue her classes there. I raised my eyebrows: "You did make that choice. You made it quite clear that you did not really want to be in the school by your choice of actions for the past two months, like not completing your assignments, including the lying you did to hide it." (Ironically, we have been doing devotions for the past two months based on communication and how much more actions and body language and then tone have greater weight than the meaning of words spoken—did I not say that God has been guiding her path and stays steps ahead of her?)

There were many reasons that contributed to the decision to remove her from the school besides what I have written so far and not all the fault of the Princess, at least not directly. One was that it concerned us that she could hand in only half of her work from the very first week of school and on, yet we were not told about this until two months had passed, after I asked her teachers to contact me about it. Since any assigned work handed in a week late only gets 80% credit and 0% after that, I would think that two to three weeks of incomplete assignments would warrant communication from the teacher to the parents.

There is more, but the worst of it all, I hate that I cannot trust my own daughter right now. It has been tearing me apart for weeks. I just want to hug my child with all the love I have for her to love away her self-hating thoughts and these tears that keep seeping out of my broken heart.

My Lord, I feel we are at a pivotal point and You want us to turn sharply in another direction. Please guide us to the right path that You have prepared for us and have prepared us for.