Thursday, August 22, 2013

State of the Hood - Year in Review (vol 1)

{Ruby is officially taller than Calvin. We'd rather not talk about it.}

{Nervous feet.}

My biggish little people have been in school for over two weeks now. It is insane to me.

Exactly one year ago we were sending them off to a new school, unsure of almost everything except for the fact that it would all be fine. We were right about that, and there’s more.

It's been a fantastic year.

A hard year, in many ways. A stretching year. A humbling year.

A really fun year.

Our family has had front-row seats to life at its fullest, the wrenching and the magnificent and the beautiful  mundane. From where I sit right now, I can tell you for sure that none of my 35 years up to this one has come close in terms of complexity or drama.

{We like our porch furniture sturdy and blue.}

We stepped into a life that often feels much too big for us. Some nights the lights go out and we wonder what we’ve done, we doubt we can do it. But the sun always rises and for every hard night there’s a fistful of goodness.

So we’ve changed the way we frame success. All we hope for at the end of another long week is that we’re all still here, preferably upright and, with any measure of grace, wearing a smile. We hope for a slight tilt of the scales, in our favor. That’s all. And when we’re no better than even, when the bad days win, we believe in full that this is still where we’re meant to be.

So let’s start with the bad news. (To soften the blow, I'll keep throwing in photos from our neighborhood, because they make me really happy.)

* There was a homicide/suicide mid-way down our street. It happened at 8 a.m. on the sidewalk, just a block down from Silas’s pre-school. A month or so later, a drive-by shooting at a house that border’s the property of the elementary school. We heard the shots at 10 pm from our couch and wondered why people were shooting fireworks in the dead of winter.

* The day after the drive-by, fewer than half of the students showed up to school because some idiot had scrawled a threat on a bathroom stall somewhere and most parents across the county chose to react in fear. We opted to never breathe a word about it to Calvin and Ruby, then read them the David and Goliath story and sent them off to school, confident that the same God who made them was sovereign over all their days, school and otherwise. (They thought they won the school lottery that day and it was so endearing to hear their explanations.)

* There was a rash of nasty graffiti vandalism, culminating in the destruction of this amazing mural, which is directly across the street from the school. It made me sick to my stomach when we rolled in and saw it. I drove by mid-day and saw a city worker trying to scrub was covered. At 2:45, I pulled in to pick up the kids -- and it was perfect again! So holla! for protective coatings. Whew. A sad story with a happy ending.

 {One of our neighbors hand-wires every limb of every tree with these silk flowers. Just - dear.}

* I attended my first public city hearing because two properties belonging to our infamous local slum lord had burn to the ground and he refused to remove the rubble for, oh, 3 or 4 months. I spoke into the microphone with shaking knees (I don’t know) and he looked like a sad old man, not at all the villain I had imagined. Still, dude. Clean your mess up. And stop being so jerky.

 {Any takers? We could be neighbors!}

* Cory had a few hundred dollars of power tools stolen from his wonky Pontiac Sunfire while we slept. Ironically, we would have been better off if they had placed the tools on our drive-way and taken the car instead. For two kids born and raised in the country without locks on the front doors, accustomed to leaving the keys in the ignition overnight, it was bound to happen. But the theft serves as a good reminder, and we keep trying to learn.

{May every house in Heaven have an awning.}

* Finally, perhaps the lowest moment of all: the day my super-rad neighbor finally accepted a ride from me into town for the first time ever, after multiple offers:

Super-rad neighbor: They didn’t accept our offer on the house. (Editor’s note: house is in our neighborhood and was listed at $22k.) My uncle is making his last offer today but that’ll be it. He can’t go any higher.

Me: I’ve been praying all weekend and I’m not going to stop now.

SRN: I’m just so nervous. I don’t want to get my hopes up. Josh (her son) said maybe good things just weren’t meant to happen to us… We’ve had so much disappointment.

Me: (Engaging turn signal, turning into CVS parking lot) Trust me, I have a very good feeling. Today’s going to be a good day.


And she screamed. And then she cried a little and pulled up pictures of her kids’ 4-H bunnies while I apologized profusely and Silas yelled from the back of the van, “We need to take that bunny to the doctor so they can fix him!”

I couldn’t, I wouldn’t make this stuff up.

In case you wondered, she did forgive me and if anything, the tragedy bonded us for life.

My point is, we’ve met our share of heartburns and heartaches this year. It hasn’t been simple, not at all. We’ve faced the tragic death of loved ones. Our oldest son was sent to prison. Our middlest son was very sick. We’ve pressed into the lives around us, the ones that need us, the ones that have loved us for a long time, the ones with the sad eyes rimmed extra-dark. We’ve shared their pain to the point that it threatened to wreck us.

In the process, we became family; a griping, arguing, worn-out, crazy-loud, complicated, messy, laugh-til-you-pee, hungry-all-the-flipping-time kinship of brokenness and gratitude. There’s nothing Hallmark or Walton about us, and I wouldn’t dare try to gild this scruff. 

But every day is a new one, each carting around the possibility that it may be just the one to tip the scales in our favor and send us to bed with a song.

Speaking of bed, it’s not even 9 and I’m flat done. I'm sorry this was so long-winded and even sorrier that I don't have it in me to continue. This world-traveler gig isn’t for the faint of heart and it turns out I’m eight shades past faint.

But come back tomorrow and I’ll share the good news from the year. I'll warn you now, the post will be even longer.