Wednesday post #2

And now for the flip-side. The side of this whole ordeal that I am going to muster all the strength within me to focus on, that's also incredibly true and real. 

Yesterday, during the first phase of our Attitude of Gratitude project in my class, eight students, their parents and myself went on a quick "delivery field trip," to drop off all of the nonperishable food items we collected for the family homeless shelter that Community Action of Hillsboro runs for families in Washington County. In total, we collected 389 items in two weeks! It was incredibly humbling to learn of this shelter, to meet some of the families, and see what life is like when you realize you're homeless. We donated things like laundry detergent, dish soap, diapers, wipes, coffee, Thanksgiving food items, hot cocoa, baby clothes, etc., all of which serves to support not only the families at the shelter, but also families in need in Washington County who are without food on the weekends or in case of emergency. Community Action's family shelter food pantry is the only after-hours emergency food pantry in all of Washington County.
We saw the faces of families at the shelter. The children living there. People who it looked like were average families you'd never suspect were homeless. People who completely broke the homeless stereotype and seemed very humbled by what their reality was. But THANK GOODNESS for organizations like Community Action who step in and help families in need, and help to protect the children involved. The shelter we visited was in a very large, old estate home in downtown Hillsboro, which you'd never suspect was a shelter. It was very homey, very clean and very cozy. Families work hard while living at the shelter (they only get a 5 week maximum stay) to work together and keep the place clean and comfortable for each other. However, all family members have to share one bedroom together with all of their belongings, as the house is only about 2000 square feet big. Up to 22 individuals are living under one roof at any given time at the shelter. These families will be spending their Thanksgiving and Christmases there, and not in their own personal home. 

We were only able to give a little bit as a class, but even a little bit helps. I know I was impacted by this organization and these families. By their faces; their humility. By the man who looked like he could have been an employee of a major company; instead, he was quietly sweeping the floor with his young son by his side. By the efforts of coziness and normalcy that the shelter attempts to provide, and by the work of people pitching in together to help each other out.

I am thankful for my tiny apartment with a heater going, blankets, privacy and for having a roof over my head. 

I am thankful for the huge meal I bought and ate with my family tonight for Thanksgiving, and for the company there tonight: for the blessing my grandparents are to me and how they stepped up to be what my sister and I needed after our mom died. For my god-mother, Mary Jane, who embraced me as her own daughter and was the kind of mom I needed after I lost mine. For my husband, who protects me. For my niece and nephew and the joy and vibrancy they bring to my life. For my sister, who is all that I have left from our past and who understands our loss to the same degree that I do; and for Ashley, who is the kind of good friend my sister needs right now while she's sorting her own life out. 

I am thankful that I have so many family members who love me. For the meal with my other-side-of-the-family family on Sunday... Courtney, Sarah, Steve, Taylor, Bret and Ryder (and Ryan, who was working)... for the amazing food, the company, the laughter, the arguing (with Bret of course, but I always enjoy it!); from the understanding that we all have of our new family dynamics, nearly six years later. It's different, but we're still family and it works for us. We've worked hard to make it work-- and thankfully, it has. I'm grateful for that.

I'm thankful for the other-side-of-my-family, the Weiss family, where tradition unites us all as it has remained unchanged for dozens of years. Tradition on this side of my family keeps me grounded in who I am. Routine and predictability is something I desperately need at this point of my life, and the Weiss family provides it. That is something I'm incredibly thankful for. Jeopardy at 7. Thanksgiving at dad's. Black Friday shopping. Christmas morning at grandmas with "A Christmas Story" playing in the background; a breakfast of orange juice, waffles, coffee, eggs and bacon. Christmas afternoon at my dad's (stockings first, of course, with "A Christmas Story" again playing in the background). Leftovers for lunch; ham dinner at night, followed by morning-after bargain hunting on all of that Christmas decor we held out for. Unless God has other plans, this is what will happen, as it has every year the same way since before I can remember. As simple as it sounds, that predictability is part of my foundation. 

I am thankful for a husband who has the same time-off schedule that I do. That we can get coffee, read, hang out in our sweats, and that we do love being together. I really love hanging out with my husband. We fight, we make up, we fight again, we make up again. But we get each other and we love each other, and that's why it works. Not because some law or paper is binding us together, but because God made us for each other and we didn't know that until the timing was right. We are certainly not all stars and roses every day (dare I say the word couch-sleeping on this blog?)... however, the immoveable truth is that in every way shape or form, my husband is my best friend and we get over ourselves pretty quickly because that's what you have to do in marriage. Love, graciousness, patience, sacrifice and humility all take on a completely different form when you're married, and I'm so grateful for that. Marriage has completely changed me as a person, 1736% for the better. (Even if I've slept on the couch a time or three).


I'm thankful that I have a career which gives me time off with my family for the holidays. I will never forget the Thanksgivings and Christmas Eves I had to work retail. I remember the jealousy rising up; the tears stinging my eyes as I saw family after family gathering together over coffee or loading up for the road. I desperately wanted to be with my own coffee; instead, I was grinding beans and mopping floors. If I wasn't closing, I was up at 4am in order to make it to Thanksgiving dinner on time. I am SO thankful I have a job that provides well and provides time off. I will never take that for granted. 

I'm thankful that we have money for Black Friday shopping. That we can afford to buy small gifts for friends and family that we love, because we love the adrenaline and exhaustion that Black Friday brings. It's an excitement (seemingly created by retailers, but who cares?) that cannot be met any other day of the year. And I get to be a part of it. Crazy? Totally. But I'm still thankful for it. 

I'm also thankful that I have an unending support of people in my life who constantly offer me support and encouragement. From colleagues I learn from and who support me as a teacher, to Facebook friends who pop up out of the blue to send me notes that they're thinking of us. From people who have been in my life for 20+ years, to new friends who God brought at times they were needed. 

Although God may have taken away my mom and Chase for reasons I'll never know this side of eternity, one of the biggest blessings He's given me has been all of the people that have come into my life since then. Some have "adopted" me as their own daughter, some have come in to be mentors and supporters, some have been pastors, some have been friends, some have been boyfriends, some have been colleagues, some have been professors, and some have been grad school classmates. They have been exceedingly more than I could have ever expected six years ago. I am so thankful for each and every individual who has encouraged me and supported me in some way during a season in my life which I really needed it. It's something I will always treasure and appreciate.

These are all of the things on my heart and in my life that I am truly grateful for, which is more important than a dumb house, anyway.  ;)

Happy day of giving thanks for all the good things God has blessed us with, from my grateful family to yours.

(and ps. you'd better not beat me to Target tomorrow night!) ;)

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...and still waiting.

Wow. I can't believe it's been a week and a half since I last wrote. Time has flown by incredibly fast since October 1st. I remember being ecstatic about savoring the slow fall season, which is my favorite time of year. Little did I know how much our lives would change a week later. Aside from losing my mom and Chase, I've never been through anything even remotely stressful as this homebuying process has been. I feel like I want to be thankful and angry at the same time. Thankful that we have this opportunity to begin with, and angry (with myself primarily) that I have allowed stress to get the best of me. That I've allowed worry to overtake my thoughts during the day. That I check my email at least fifty times a day waiting to see if we have any word from our lender. That I keep my phone on at all times for the same reason. That I have tried thinking of plan Bs and Cs and Ds in case we don't get approved for our loan. 

I feel like I've missed out on so many things because of emails and phone calls and paperwork and waiting and stress and waiting. waiting. waiting. waiting. and waiting some more. and then still waiting. 

I completely missed October, and finally remembered it on Halloween. That month went fast. Then my birthday snuck up on me out of nowhere, and while I'm thankful that my husband did so many special things for me, I missed out on being fully present because I wondered when we were going to get "the call." And what would happen next in case we didn't get approved. 

I have started every work week with the hopeful anticipation of receiving a call; a word; an encouragement from the lender, but silence has been met on the other end. They don't have a clue as much as we don't, because there is a large back-up at the bank apparently. This has been the case for nearly two weeks. Two. weeks. of. torture. 

I'm mad at myself because I keep getting panicked. We don't have any place to go if we get denied. Two weeks is too short of time to try and secure a loan somewhere else. We had to put in our notice, and don't have plan B figured out. A hotel? Another apartment? My parents? 

I can't listen to music in the car anymore because all I do is pray, and beg, and wait, and pray, and think, and pray some more.  I want this to work out SO bad. We love the home. We love the possibility it holds for us. The neighborhood. The neighbors we've met. We understand that every good and perfect gift comes from God and that if this isn't meant to be, then something better will come around. The thing is, I don't know what to do in the meantime. Losing this house is one thing, but where will we go after that? 

I'm obviously thinking in the worst case scenario spectrum, but the confidence we once had at the beginning of this process has waned because trying to get a mortgage right now after this recession is nothing short of impossible. I am so just fervently praying for some good and speedy news from the bank. Something to help with our progress. We bought appliances... do we keep them? Do we start packing? Do we start looking somewhere else? We just need to know, good or bad. 

So the angry me is mad at myself for letting so many things steal my joy. I almost listed them all here, but I realize I need to just give it over to God. There have been so many people and instances in this process that have proven to be huge and unexpected hurdles, and it's all the strength I can muster to not become frustrated and upset at them, too. It's all so bizzare, that at the end of this, if it doesn't work out, I can only hope God gives me the peace to just look back and say, "this obviously wasn't what you had planned for us, though I'm not sure why you had us go through this."

Otherwise, hopefully we'll get a good-news phone call this week and all will be well. :)

But for those who have asked how the house process is going: still waiting.

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Transparency

This is something that's really important to me. I feel like transparency isn't for everyone; some prefer to be more guarded, some prefer to be more uninhibited. I'm a little bit down the middle. I more feel like I have things I keep private, but some things that I am entirely okay with being open about. 

I'm being transparent in that I'm admitting the reasons why I blog, why I love to write, and what I share what I do {and don't}. This is more specifically directed towards why I haven't had the desire to write on this blog lately... because I haven't been feeling like things are going well, and that's just not a good excuse. 

____________________________

I love blogging because I learn from myself. I am a teacher, but I'm also a learner. And by no means do I feel like people can learn things from my life, but perhaps some of the things I go through {continually, and in the past} can benefit someone else in what they are going through. I feel like at times, I've forged the road because I didn't really have someone's open and honest blog to read when I was going through hard times, nor did I have someone in my life who experienced loss in the way that I did when I experienced that loss. Relateability {is that an actual word?} and authenticity are huge character qualities that I value, and I want to be someone who is relatable, honest and authentic-- with the good, the bad and the ugly. 

Like yesterday. I was certainly not tooting my own horn having made a somewhat rational decision, but it was like, "Oh man. Look at the bullet that was dodged because, thank goodness, I didn't follow my flesh and emotions for once. I could have made a not-so-good situation even worse. Good thing I avoided email response and dealt with it face to face." I hope you all will have the opportunity to do the same, should you ever be in a similar situation. 

Sometimes I'll share on my blog how much I love my husband. Or how much I'm holding onto faith. Or times that we're celebrating together. Things we're excited about. Travel reviews and career developments. You know, things that are easy to talk about. 

So why haven't I been blogging as often lately? Because things haven't been so good, and I don't know what to write about. 

I realized that if I'm going to have an honest blog about how we're navigating through life, I need to be committed to it in the not-so-great times, also. Life isn't made up of great thing after an even better thing, after an amazing thing, after a, "wow, is this my life?!?!!" statement. Some blogs I read include only those times or moments, so I either worry what the heck I'm doing wrong, or am tempted with envy in the fact that, "man, their lives seem to be going so well... I wish mine were like that."
And maybe I am doing something wrong or maybe we're paying for mistakes we've made in some way, or maybe we don't have life completely figured out like other people do. Regardless of what other people choose to share, I am going to be authentic in mine that that means that there's a messy person here with stuff that happens that really stinks. When there are awesome times, I'll write about those. And when there are junk-filled times that I'm not really enjoying, I'll write about those too. 

So here's what we're currently navigating in our lives:

A home that we love, that we've been searching for for sixteen months, that we put an offer on, that was accepted, that we bought appliances for, that we've been scouring Pinterest for design-ideas for, that we applied to House Hunters for, that we visited every single day for the two weeks after offer-acceptance, bringing everyone we know with us. We relished every single first-time-new-home-buyer moment that finding this house involved... until this thing called mortgage+bank approval caught up with us. 

When we looked at this house, we got an estimate on all payment costs associated with the home before we even made an offer. We looked at the bottom line: can we afford the entire mortgage payment on one income? A solid YES. That's what we looked at and the confidence we had when we moved forward. 

We paid off all our debts (minus my student loans; T had a scholarship), we put money into savings, we cut back on travel for this year, we coordinated our lease ending, we own our own cars, we don't have kids yet, we have stable jobs (yes, it is education and yes, we don't make much... but they are career jobs, nonetheless...); we should be the ideal candidates, right?

What wasn't told to us were all of these technical hoops we'd have to jump through in order to get money loaned to us. Words like "mortgage-debt-to-income ratios" and "loan-to-value percentage" and "appraised value vs. selling price" and "5 year mortgage insurance" and "consumer credit vs. mortgage credit" and "well, even though you are not paying this car yourself, since it's in your name and you have 11 payments left until its paid off instead of 10, we can't approve you." Banks vs. mortgage brokers; inspections, appraisals, etc... Fees, fees, fees...

No one prepares you for this stuff. When you go to apply for your loan, you feel like you have a great relationship with your loan officer who knows you, knows your story, knows what you want, and then it goes into underwriting and a person only looks at you as a number and a statistic, not as a human. And then they make a decision about a very personal factor that affects the start of the next step in your life. 

The good news is that we are going through an amazing company right now where our loan is currently in underwriting (fingers crossed!), and they have treated us SO well. (We had a very bad experience prior meeting with this company with a will-remain-unnamed large world bank... NOT the route to go). If you are looking to do anything with mortgage lending or refinancing, I highly recommend Infinity Home Loans.

I feel like we've been on a gigantic emotional roller coaster, and at times I've felt like totally giving up. Timothy has said, "Megan, it's a win-win. We either get the house, or we trust that we've gone through this because God has something better for us. What could be better than His best?" 

It's very humbling when I want to grumble and groan and complain, because man. Look at the "problem" we're facing. We're trying to get a house, for goodness' sakes. It would be great not to waste money on apartment rent anymore, but we could be facing such bigger problems that we're not. God has put people in my life during this home-buying process who have reminded me that every good and perfect thing comes from Him and to keep the faith strong and not give up. I am challenging myself to be excited and optimistic through this instead of discouraged, because a home on Earth is just a temporal thing to begin with. Whatever happens, I know and trust that God has a purpose for it and it's my responsibility to just let go and see what happens. 

So that's where I'm at. Emotions will still be high, disappointment may occur, but elation and excitement could as well. I am just so thankful that we can even be going through this 'stress' right now, and that we're in a place to do so. I have a lot to be grateful for. :) 

So there's transparency for you.



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Slow to speak (for once)

I had an instance today where something happened that really bothered me and hurt my feelings. I felt the need to respond to it, so I drafted an email as a response because I didn't think I'd have time to deal with it face to face. I then got a pit in my stomach that maybe email wasn't the best way to handle it."But it needs to be said," I thought.

So I waited. I minimized the window, but still had full intention of sending it. "Maybe I just need to take a few minutes," I decided.

I walked around, did a couple of errands, and returned to the email. It had the receiver's email address typed in and everything, ready to go. 

I still didn't get a good feeling about sending it, though I felt totally justified. So, I eventually erased it and decided to just talk to them, person to person.

I am SO glad I did. Had I gone with my rash, emotional response, a whole gamut of miscommunication and misinterpretation would probably have ensued. Instead, grace could be shown and sides could be heard with full expression and nonverbal reading. 

I realized that email and Internet can be such a cowardly escape from dealing with personal conflicts, and I am so glad a relationship wasn't damaged because of my own ill-wording and expressionless text. I feel like responding to problems over email or Internet pretty much always makes the problem worse. We were able to resolve the issue quickly, understandingly, and with more honesty than words an an email would have conveyed. 

I'm thankful I went with that gut instinct-also-known-as-wisdom. I'd encourage you to resolve any and all problems face-to-face whenever you possibly can. It's like 158293 times better than email and letters that could (probably would) be misunderstood. Bring the human back to human resolution.
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Attitude of Gratitude

As a middle school teacher, I feel that it's my obligation to teach character and consideration to my students, as well as academics and critical thinking. November and December are always my favorite months because the students and I partner together in a project called "The Attitude of Gratitude." We examine our own lives and beliefs when it comes to "us" and "getting what we want," and then turn around and help out the community through donating to either a shelter, food pantry, or classroom. This year is a big undertaking because the shelter that we're donating to has a big need, but also a lot of my students come from need as well. It's a unique balance that I'm currently praying over how we can partner together and give, yet not burden families at the school who don't have much, either. 

If you would like to partner with us, we'll be supporting Community Action's family homeless shelter in November by donating Thanksgiving meals and other non-perishable food items, and we are trying to donate 1,000 items by November 22nd (we currently have 38)... 

Immediate needs are:
  • Diapers
  • Wipes
  • Bus passes
  • Baby food / formula
  • Nonperishable foods
  • Batteries
  • Coffee
  • Thanksgiving-themed foods

Then, in December, we are partnering with a local Head Start preschool classroom in Hillsboro, which is a federal program designed to provide children from high-need families with a "head start" to school before Kindergarten begins. They are taught nutrition habits, provided lunches, learn basic 

literacy skills at an earlier age and are also taught several other life skills in the program. We will be "adopting" a class of twenty students and surprising them all with new coats and a gift card for the teacher to buy supplies for the classroom. If you feel inclined to buy a new coat, donate money for a new one, or donate a gift card to Fred Meyer, we would SO appreciate your help!

Being a part of a project like this helps keep my focus on what is important-- being appreciative of what I *do* have, and not to focus or dwell on what I think I *don't* have. Please pray for us that we would be able to be a blessing to the Hillsboro community and to families in need this holiday season!

Contact me if you would like to donate or participate. :)

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NaNoWriMo

National Novel Writer's Month. 

Apparently in the writing world, NaNoWriMo is a pretty big deal and I am just now jumping on the bandwagon per the encouragement of a fellow teacher. 

From November 1 - November 30th, writers have to create a minimum-50,000 word short story / novel and once it is submitted, a complete manuscript will be compiled and mailed (winners are also selected as well). 

We all dared each other to do it, and so far I'm loving it. But that's how all "day 1s" are, right?

We're supposed to log our word count totals on our personalized websites each night, and in order to finish on time, we need to write approximately 1,500 - 1,700 a day (roughly 3 - 4 pages). I have never written that much in my life! But, I (unfortunately) challenged my students to the task and to participate in their own NaNoWriMo novel through their youth writing program.

So: my students and I are embarking on a month-long after school through NaNoWriMo, creating our own stories and trying to beat the deadlines infringed upon us by this crazy competition. The first person to beat me gets a $5 gift card to Jamba Juice! (This just puts the pressure on me to finish first!)

My novel is a fictional narrative that is somewhat close to my own personal experiences in life about a girl who grows up through tragedy, like a seed planted on rocky soil. However, I will not spoil the ending for you and instead let you read it when it's finished! My fingers will be sore from typing this novel *and* my blog in the evenings. Let's just say I'm already looking forward to December...

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