Thursday

Techno-Rant by a Techno-Snob

With my husband looking for work, and precious little of it to be found in our fair town, there is a strong possibility that our family will end up relocating at some point in the next 6-12 months. With relocation, comes starting over with schools, church, doctors, hairdressers, vets, the whole of living.

Here is something I have realized: if you are a church or school in 2010 and your website doesn't reflect that it's 2010, do not expect my family to give you an opportunity to meet our needs otherwise.

And, being a further snob, I'll tell you (as a church) you NEED our family in your midst, oh, yes, you do. Okay, a school does, too, but school families who will be involved are a dime a dozen. Church families who will be involved... not so much. Evidently, they are all too busy being involved at school. Troy is a great administrator in things he gets involved in at church, gorgeous voice for singing, I take my turn teaching Sunday school, and my kids will make your youth ministry look good. They are leaders among their peers and sweet kids, befriending kids of all shapes and sizes. And... yeah, you want to know... of course we give on a regular basis. We are your model church family.

But if I move to my new (undetermined) town and am scouting out churches and pull up your website and it has (only) an article by the preacher, pictures of the staff, and service times and location... pass. That is a 2003 website.

I started thinking about this when a Facebook friend also recently relocated and mentioned that she had placed membership at The Happy Sunshine Church (*not actual name of congregation). Since my friend had relocated in North America, and we will probably relocate somewhere in North America, I thought I would scope out The Happy Sunshine Church. One can never be too prepared.

Um... yeah. Won't be going there. Pulled up the 'youth' page: a gray box with the word: 'testing' in the middle of it. Pulled up the youth calendar: same gray 'testing box'. They did have a super-secret, password-only member-only section, but I wasn't invited into that... My part was gray and 'testing'... And I was becoming 'testy'... Their WORDS said, "We would LOVE to have you visit us and you can find us at this location." Their website said, "You aren't worth the effort."

Yes, I do Facebook and Twitter, too, but I'm not being adamant about that. By the year 2000, once we all figured out that the lights were going to stay on after the Y2K scare, your church should have figured out, "Hey! I think this internet thing is going to stick around. We may need us a world wide internet address for our church."

Granted, MOST churches have seen the need for a website... but that is all. It's time to move past the year 2000, and let your website be an active place of outreach for your congregation, as well as a place to communicate with your members. If you'll notice, people now have the internet on their phone, at their kitchen table, at McDonald's and Starbuck's... they may be wondering where they are going to church on Sunday, and if the children's ministry is any more than coloring pages and 'testing'. What is your church communicating?

I think the church where I worship does a fairly good job of this (and in about 2 more weeks we will be unveiling a new, improved site that will be even better -- SO EXCITED!) I was blessed to work with the team that helped create the new site, and spent some time scouting out other church sites. I saw entirely too many church calendars set at October, 2006, or some other such random date when the website was created. If it isn't current, it's useless.

I think another local church has an awesome website as well.

If you are reading this and nodding and wishing your church had something like this, let me direct you to The Marketing Twins, Randy and Donny Vaughn. Troy and I were in school with Randy and Donny and they could totally hook you up with a website.

I mentioned schools, but I will say that since we are currently a public school family, most school districts do a GREAT job of communicating online, keeping calendars current, having a place to check grades, etc. If we move to a place where I feel that private schools are our best option, the website will be a key indicator as to the academic and technological capability of the school.

So... that is my techno-rant for today. Do you have website peeves? Would love to hear them.

Wednesday

Your Child's Village

originally in Abilene Families

As the initial school bells pealed this year, parents had varying emotions and approached the year with different attitudes, in different vehicles, and from various neighborhoods. However, as the paperwork filtered home, one thing bound us all together in a united brotherhood drowning in felled forestry: our loathing of the forms.

As a former educator, I recognize that (some of) the forms are a necessary evil that must be waded through. I believe that I even read somewhere that this year an effort was made to reduce the number of forms, but once I filled the same one out for athletics, band, drama, chemistry club, and my cashier at the grocery store, the effort was really lost on me.

Some of the questions on the forms stumped me, too. Questions that I know were meant to be easy: “Is Yiddish your primary language at home?” I mutter. I rant. I speak in half sentences. Whatever language that the children answer in, claim that one. I don’t know.

“Is your home a temporary living arrangement?” Well, that’s just a can of worms, isn’t it? First, we have high hopes that these people that require piles and piles of forms will move out and fill out their own forms some day. So, yes, this arrangement is temporary, Lord willin’.

Also, occasionally in church I sing a song about this earth not being my home, I’m just a-passin’ through, though I don’t believe having a heavenly home as a permanent dwelling is what the form is asking. I doubt there is even government assistance for that.

This year there was a new one that really stumped me. Next to all of the student’s contacts, you were to check a box next to the contact name if he or she was a “responsible party”. Hmmmmm. We sometimes eat popcorn for dinner and I have been known to leave my children at school forgetting it was my week for carpool. Can you really call me responsible? I checked my husband’s box.

Then, there were the blanks that make me freeze up every year. You know the ones - especially you military families that move frequently. Those dreaded “Emergency Contacts”. Not having family in town, my mind is as blank as the form before me as I consider who would drop everything to help my child were he or she to need it.

Sometimes I play Russian roulette with my cell phone and land on my dentist and my pizza place and call it good. Giving it a little more thought, I begin to realize how blessed I am.

An African proverb accurately states “It takes a village to raise a child”. While our villages today have more brick and mortar and drive-thru windows, the premise still holds true.

I consider the village that loves my family and have been our extended family here. People who have driven, housed, fed, partied, entertained, hugged, and loved my children are all on standby willing to be emergency contacts.

As a young person, I prided myself on being “fiercely independent”. Now as a not-so-young person, I realize what a handicap independence can be. Seeing myself as a member of my village I recognize the astounding value in the community that surrounds me: people and families each a different puzzle piece to complete the overall picture of my family.

Now the hard part is deciding which one to use as an emergency contact. While I do that, I shall be icing my carpal tunnel syndrome from filling out all those forms.

Tuesday

He's Still The Daddy

I wrote this a few years ago. A little over 3 years ago, it seems, as my girl will soon turn 15 (yes, those were my gray hairs "sproing-ing" straight up as I said that):

Our Ashley is adult-sized. She is not adult shaped, and, at barely 11, isn't an adult, but she is adult sized. Over 5' tall and in ladies clothes that do not fit because she isn't shaped like a lady yet, but the girl that she still is. She is still getting used to those long legs and ginormous feet that she inherited from her mother.

Last night, due to events we will never understand other than the earth's gravity, Ashley's feet came completely out from under her while she was walking into the kitchen. She had both hands full, so the entirity of her adult-sized body landed on her tailbone on our tile floor. As Troy and I stood over her trying to help her and determine what happened it quickly became obvious that even if there WERE something you could do for an injured tailbone, we didn't know what it was, and watching her cry and writhe in pain was heartbreaking.

So Troy squatted down and, without even audibly groaning, scooped up her adult-sized body as if she were still 3 or 4 and carried her to a more comfortable spot
-because she's his baby girl
-because she needed him
-because he's the daddy.


It still kind of makes me cry... because our opportunities to take care of our babies are so few these days. But Troy had one more opportunity to take care of his girl, somewhat like this, a few days ago. I wasn't around, I'm not even sure of the circumstances, but I know they left for a 'I need to be looking somewhat nice' occasion and promptly returned home with her having scraped up knees, and mud all over, due to a difficult to see slick spot in a parking lot. It was so very very sad. I appreciated so much that he knew that to an almost-15 year old girl, he could not say, "Just go rinse off in the bathroom." No, this called for wardrobe and make-up and momma, and they came home. We got her cleaned up and back on track, not too much worse for the wear.

Because he's the daddy. And a darn good one, at that. We are so very very blessed.

Monday

Is There A Reason For This?

Last night at small group, someone asked about difficult life situations, mentioning specifically our current unsettled time of unemployment. The man who asked is also in an uncertain time and said that he is trying to figure out the meaning behind it... is there a reason for his struggle?

I, of course, had a little mini-sermon in reply. (If you know me at all this will not surprise you). I think it even had three points, the way a scriptural sermon should.

Let me say that I, to this point, have lived an amazingly blessed life, and would never deem to compare my time of uncertainty to whatever hardship you may be in the midst of. But my thoughts on whether or not a current trial has meaning were this:

a) I am BEYOND hard-headed (again, if you know me at all this will not surprise you). Whether I believe my current situation to be from Satan or discipline from the Lord (I have been in circumstances where it was CLEAR to see which was which, or times like now, I have no idea), I will dig in my heels and say, "I'm in this thing, Lord!" I jokingly said I have been known to be like Captain Dan in Forrest Gump -- remember when he got MAD at God and crawled up on the mast, screaming at the Lord, saying, "Is that the best you've got???" Yeah... I've been through times like that. My determination (nice way to say "hard head"), as well as my own life testimony of God's faithfulness through such times, is what keeps me walking toward the Lord when times get tough.

b) The only reason I will ever claim for why something may have happened in my life I find in John 9:1-3:

As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. (emphasis mine)

I gave up a LONG time ago trying to figure out why things have happened in my life -- I have learned that trials may not be for me. They may be for Troy, or for my kids, even for my next door neighbor, or the little boy who lives down the lane. I will never know. But I know that the work of God may always be displayed in my life by the way I walk through the trials, if I will surrender my will to the Spirit during those times. If I miss letting the work of God be displayed in my life, I have missed the only reason FOR SURE that I know of for that trial being in my life. May I not miss it.

c) A story (summarized that I read from a Chicken Soup for the Soul... I think...): a guy is watching his kid's little cocoon on a stick in the jar. There is violent shaking, blood drops... awful struggle. He watches the struggle for a while and thinks he'll help the little butterfly. He takes a pen knife and makes a tiny slit in cocoon. The wings finally emerge from the slit in the cocoon, and the butterfly walks around on the stick for the rest of the afternoon, but never takes flight.

Guy calls his scientist friend and asks why the butterfly isn't going to fly. When scientist-dude hears the whole story, he replies, "Oh... that's the problem. It is in the struggle to get out of the cocoon that the wings become strong enough to fly."

Again... I will never know why I go through some of the things that I do, but each trial allows my wings opportunity to grow stronger so that I can fly higher with each trial, and you can bet that I will be doing all that I can that the work of God may be displayed in my life.

Is it important for you to have reason in your struggle? How do you get through them?

Saturday

My Running Community -- and Still Keepin' It Real

Last weekend was one of my long runs -- 10 miles. It was awesome. Seriously. I felt SO great the whole time. Cool weather, and was fueled properly. Just good. (I'm about a month out from my next half marathon).

Today was a shorter "long run" (long runs are on Saturday -- in my head, if they are over 6 miles, they are a long long run, 6 or less is a short long run). Today was 6. And it was awful.

Woke up to GLORIOUS rain, so I slept in, knowing that I was either going to have to wait out the rain or run on the treadmill anyway. When I finally got around to running (about noon) I had only had a bowl of cereal because my stomach was kind of 'iffy'. I waited around to see if the rain would clear up -- nope --.Then I finally took some medicine for my stomach and headed to run (at the gym on the treadmill).

When my meds finally kicked in and my stomach settled, I was STARVING. In a runner, starving = no fuel and I didn't have a protein bar with me. I ran/walked for a while on the treadmill, was BEYOND mad that it didn't have the decency to rain not one little drop on the puddle in the gym parking lot (seriously Troy couldn't believe how mad I was -- but I REALLY hate running on the treadmill. REALLY).

Since it wasn't going to rain I thought I might have a better run outside. Nope. I couldn't really get going, not properly fueled, my stomach still not right, just all the way around not good.

My trainer, Ruthie, reminds me that running is like life: you have good days and bad days. Learn from the bad days, and go on. Before I had a trainer, or even a running community of friends, I would try to be a runner, but after a run like today, I would tell myself, "this just isn't for you. You're a loser at this. I don't know why you think you can do this. You should just give up." And I would.

Now I have a running community. Granted, the majority of it is virtual and online, but I see that people have bad runs... but they keep running. It started as I really got into reading Ruthie's blog. I guess she knew about grace to herself and determination -- or maybe she just liked running more than I did right away -- but I saw that Ruthie kept plugging away after illness and injury.

My running -- or attempts at running -- have been my secret before this year. I basically knew I would fail at some point and didn't want to have to 'fess up when it happened. But having a community has cheered me on and allowed me to see other people stumble, yet start over and succeed. It let me watch how successful runners are successful: by starting over when they have a bad day. "Back in the saddle" or however you want to call it -- it has kept me going.

This really isn't a running post -- it's a community post. I had to be intentional about surrounding myself with people who had the same goals that I did, people that I could see how they handled setbacks and how they achieved goals. That is true for any goal I would want to achieve -- including getting to heaven.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Hebrews 12:1

Friday

A Peeve

Ya know, I try to be Suzy Sunshine over here, which is annoying beyond all comprehension I'm sure.

But I read this today and decided to keep it real and share with you one of my peeves. I think I've even decided that the phrase "pet peeve" is one of my peeves, too, so I'm not going to call it that, either. (Seriously -- you have GOT to read that link! FAR more valuable than anything I will put over here!)

So. Facebook affords me far more insight into human nature than I need or want, though I simply cannot. tear. myself. away. (My addiction to social media can be YOUR peeve. I'm totally good with it.)

One thing that I have noticed is someone's proclamation of good news:

"I have awesome concert tickets!"

"Finally booked my cruise!"

"Sitting with my college roomie on the patio of a great restaurant!"

"Vacation starts now!"

Whatever it is - good news! Yay! Invariably, someone will comment with "No fair!" That simply crawls all over me.

One in particular that got me was a young, hard-working mom who got to go on a trip because of her husband's work. When she mentioned she was looking into some tickets for theater productions there, another "friend" of hers pouted in the comments, "No fair!" Pouty friend and her family could buy that trip and tickets to any show twelve times over -- this would likely be the first woman's only opportunity for such a trip. How is that not fair?

Denise mentioned something about leaving for her cruise. A friend I don't know pouted, "No fair!" Denise and her husband both have a job, Denise had been saving her dollars for the trip -- how is that not fair? Because she has something good and you don't? That is life, sister friend. Occasionally friends get good things. Get your happy britches on about it.

"I was jus' kiddin'!" those of you prone to pout "No fair!" may protest. Well, that is part of my peeve, I suppose. As a writer and a "word person", words mean something, and have weight. If you are truly happy for the person, say so. If you aren't, keep it to yourself.

As far as words having weight, while I'm bein' all open and honest here, I'll confess that just one hour ago, I let one little casually tossed phrase in my home hurt someone I love deeply. I didn't intend it the way it was taken, I have (and will continue to) apologize -- but it is impossible to unring that bell. Words have weight. "Oh be careful little mouth what you say."

"Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone." Romans 12: 15,18

So. That is my Friday evening confessions. Feel free to share your own peeve or three. I don't want to feel alone over here in my peeves.

Wednesday

Rainy Wednesday

Hurricane Hermine (does ANYONE really know how to pronounce that??? I have heard it 3 different ways...) has brought some rain all the way out here to our desert and it has been nice, though I understand that some of my Central Texas friends got way too much rain. Hate that, 'cause I don't like the whole flooding stuff. Been there, done that, still have mud on some of my furniture to prove it.

The rain has made it be a great inside day. This week Troy and I have formed "Team Stirman" for job searching and that has been a blessing. I do some of the tedious -- and I mean horrifically tedious -- job searching of the online search engines. Since Troy's previous job was helping students locate jobs, he's pretty good at knowing where to look and where to go, but you still have to wade through every posting to see requirements, skills, experience, etc. That stuff I can do to weed out what he's qualified for, send those on to him, then he can apply or not, make contacts, etc. It's great to work together to tackle the tough stuff.

Obviously, I've been major AWOL from blogland -- but love having a daughter in high school. Except the homework! Wow. She and I are really slogging our way through biology and I am REACHING for my geometry knowledge (little known fact about me: I was a math major for 4 semesters). But she is having so much fun in marching band, and finding out just what 5A athletics is like (ouch, by the way).

I wasn't able to see her march in her first ever game (still grieving.... long story... still bitter) but did see her this weekend at an 11 a.m. game that I am now peeling off large portions of my epidermis from viewing. But she is the cutest marcher out of all 200 of them, even though I could barely pick her out, she's adorable. I love it so much. And, I did learn... if the sun, your allergies, your hormones, and weather are all threatening to give you a migraine... do NOT, under any circumstances, go wait on her with the band. They play the fight song several times there at the end. Ouch again. Love watching my kids do stuff! Ooooh... this Saturday? A PARADE!! She's marching in a PARADE!! I love a parade!! Don't you?? I think it will even be less than a zillion degrees, which is so rare! (West Texas Fair and Rodeo Parade)

Then, that afternoon, the Riley-man plays some soccer (I think he's also thinking about running cross country that morning just for grins. Gah!). And Monday will be his first football game as a 7th grader! I am IN my element when I am watching my kids have their fun on fields and such. (And for the record, I didn't make my kids do all of those activities -- they know how I feel about spreading too thin. This is our time to see "what fits" and what doesn't. We are busy -- but truly having some good times along the way.)

Just wanted to do a fast check-in. I've got to get dinner on the table. I miss this ol' blog. I keep wanting to resurrect it. But all of that life keeps edging it out of the way.
 
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