Blessings

This day…today…amazed me.

I am left sitting here typing this an aching, emotionally drained, physically exhausted pile of whine.

So pooped that actual wine doesn’t even sound good to me.

I KNOW!

Anyway, let me go back….

You all know that Cort’s sister and brother-in-law are in the process of adopting from Ethiopia, yes?  If by chance you don’t know what I am talking about, you REALLY should go to their blog, Stepping Stones, and read about their journey.  It’s lovely.  Go ahead.  You can go read now.  I’ll wait….

tappity….tappity…tappity…oh, you’re back.  Ok…

So, they are adopting from Ethiopia and we REALLY wanted to help out.  It all started months ago when they asked if I could contribute something crafty to their online auction.  I didn’t have the time or the supplies, but I SOOO wanted to help.

Fastforward to me volunteering to do a garage sale to get rid of our stuff.  And then asking for donations.  It got huge, people.  I am telling you…it took over our basement and part of our garage.

This is only part of it.  We had started moving things to the garage already at this point.  See?

On Thursday MacKenzie (my sis-in-law), our friend Trisha, and I organized everything into categories in the garage and then priced it all.  Friday, more stuff was dropped off, so I went through all that:  sorting and pricing.  Oh, and it was about 1000 degrees with 100% humidity.  It was like organizing in a sauna.

Friday night to celebrate this fundraiser and to get a little taste of what Ethiopia is like, MacKenzie and Dave took us to GoJo in East Town (Grand Rapids). GoJo is family owned and the owner, Sam, waited on us and chatted it up with Kenz and Dave–they are regulars now!

Many families who are in the process of adopting from Ethiopia or who have adopted come to eat here.  It’s amazing the sense of community there is even with only one other table of diners in there besides us.  I just felt that this was a familiar place for people to come.

Pictures of children who have found their families lined the windows and Sam knew right where his customers were in their own processes.  He even mentioned to Dave and Kenz that he heard they had waiting list numbers now!

The experience was super unique to anything I have had before–the only thing I can compare it to is digging in to and appetizer, but it was the table’s meal.

The food is family style and the diners get NO utensils or plates.  You simply grab your Ethiopian flatbread and dig in to the lamb, beef, chicken, collards, salads, and lentils.  The platter we ordered was pretty darn spicy, but it can be milder.  The flavor?  Was SO worth the “after burn” in my mouth.  Even though I knew I would get a fire mouth?  I kept going for more!

Even Eddie liked some of the milder tastes!  I can definitely say we will be back!  Such a great experience!

So armed with Ethiopian food in our bellies, we met Saturday morning with determination to make some cash at the garage sale!

In fact, I was hanging signs at 7:15am (the sale started at 8am), and a couple stalked me down in their minivan to ask me if we would open early.  Garage Salers?  Are serious.

The night before I made all these cute little business cards with the Stepping Stones blog address on them to give to people as they bought or donated so they could follow the adoption journey.  It was definitely a hit!

So we waited for the crowds.  We got a few in the first hour, but by 9:30 I was all panicky that people weren’t going to come.  Shouldn’t we have had a morning rush?

So I called my mom and asked her if she was coming.  My mom?  said she wasn’t “planning on it”.  I begged her to come so that we wouldn’t have NO one here…even if she didn’t buy anything, she could play with Eddie.

Apparently that call was the trick!  After that, we were steady until around noon!  My mom even ended up buying a little bike for Eddie!  Hooray for Grandma!  And Granny showed up too and bought Eddie some books!  Yay!  Grandmas are the BEST!

My favorite thing of the day, though, was when Kenzie’s BFF, Alicia was here with her two kids, Ruthie and Lewis.  Lewis spotted a soccer ball he wanted and Alicia tried to tell him they had one at home already.  Needless to say, Lewis REALLY wanted the soccer ball.

Then Alicia said, that soccer ball?  Was one she has donated to the sale.  Luckily, HER mom was there and bought the ball back for Lewis.

Again, Grandmas for the win!

We worked hard today.  Cortney and I met a LOT of our neighbors (in fact, we met the guy Cort has secretly been calling Mr. Jones and trying to keep up with…get it?  His real name is Steve and his wife bought a ton.).

We also learned that many of our neighbors have also adopted.

In fact, one?  Is in the process of adopting from Ethiopia too!  We heard many lovely stories of adoption and God’s love for all children.  It made the day pretty emotional.

Cort’s dad once told me how glad he was to have me in the family.  I have NEVER forgotten that.  He was glad to have me.

And today, even though so many people told me it was great that Cort and I were helping, I really didn’t feel like we were doing anything special.

I felt like the people who donated and who were shopping were doing the special things.

Kenz and Dave are doing something special for children they don’t even know yet, but already love more than life.

Not us.  Not me.  But I remembered what my father-in-law said. He welcomed me in even though I wasn’t technically his own.  He felt I was good for something.

Today, I felt I was living up to what he meant.  I don’t need thanks.  I really don’t want it.  I just want him to be proud.  And I want Kenz and Dave to look at their children and be glad. 

And it made Cort and I VERY glad to give them the $500 that was earned at the garage sale!  Never once did it cross our minds that that money could be ours.  Never.  In fact, someone said we should get a receipt at Good Will for the rest of the stuff, but you know what?  Most of that stuff was donated.  It wasn’t ours.  We don’t feel right getting a receipt for it.  So it will just be another donation.  It’s the least we can do for all the blessings that continue to come our way.

I cannot WAIT to meet my niece, nephew, or both!  I can’t.  I love being an aunt.  Love it.  Almost…ALMOST as much as I love being a mom!

Still Growing Up

Wonder Woman.  Barbie.  Belinda Carlise (after she was a Gogo when she had her solo career).  Madonna.  Joan Jett.

What in the world do any of those things have to do with each other?  Well clearly they were all things I pretended to be at some point in my childhood.  They were the answer to my inner question of what kinds of things interested me enough to want to BE that thing/person.

Once school started I answered that question with anything from a telephone operator (because I like to push buttons), to a lawyer (I talk a lot and so do lawyers, right?), or maybe a best-selling author, although I could be an actress too.  By the end of my senior year I just didn’t know WHAT I wanted to do.

One day, during fifth period British Literature senior year we were discussing the novel 1984 by George Orwell.  Right in the middle of a particularly great conversation, I paused, looked at my teacher and said,

“THIS. This right here.”

him: “what?  what are you talking about?”

me: “This is what I want to do.  I want to read, talk about the books I read, and get paid to do it.  What is that?  What job is that?”

him:  “Um, my job.  Apparently you just decided to be an English teacher.  Can we finish talking about Winston, now?”

me:  “oh.  right.  yeah.”

And that was it.  I applied to Western Michigan University, one of the top teacher education schools in the US, and the rest is history.

I’d love to tie a neat little bow on that and call that the end, but it’s really not.  I look back on all those things that made up what I loved to pretend to be and what I thought I wanted to do.  They all have qualities that I value that I think are still shaping what I will be “when I grow up.”

Wonder Woman, Barbie, Belinda Carlise, Madonna, and Joan Jett were all women who were individual who did things that they wanted to do.  And people who didn’t agree with what they did?  Well they got the middle finger.  Even Barbie broke gender barriers and became a doctor back in the 80’s!

The professions I thought I wanted make sense with this too.  Even a telephone operator.  Let’s face it, I spend a LOT of my day pushing buttons.  I mean even right now…tappity tappity!  And to me, lawyers and actresses really aren’t that different.  They need to put on shows that will win something for someone even if it’s just winning someone’s attention for 90 minutes.  I do that now as a teacher, but as a writer here, I have to sing and dance and use my words to make you want to come back for more.

And a best-selling author?  While I might not be making any money (in fact, I SPEND money to do this), I am selling.  I’m selling myself and my story to you.  For comments.  Let’s face it.  If no one responded to this little old blog?  I probably would have quit long ago.

So I teach.  I write.  And I am still growing up.  And I still think Joan Jett is totally bad ass.

This post was written in response to the Bloggy Moms July Blog challenge:  Childhood Ambitions.  To read more entries in this challenge, please go here.

I Saw the Sign…and It Opened Up My Eyes…

A storm is rolling in.

I can see the clouds to the west growing darker and darker.  It must be a slow moving storm because it’s been growing darker and muggier for about and hour now.  Small rolls of thunder remind us that soon?  There will be rain.  And wind.  And louder thunder.  It might get scary.

But the weather assures us it will be short-lived.  There will be sun again after.  Even though more storms will come after that.  Those they are not as sure about.  Just that there will be more storms.

Sigh….

Is it a coincidence that as I have been searching ALL DAY to write about paying attention to signs, the signs of a storm have been growing and growing outside?

I read in my O magazine (and heard Oprah say it on her show) millions of times that the universe is full of signs.  That there are no such things as coincidences.  My friend, Missy loves this idea.  My faith (which in my mind is always my mom’s voice) follows this idea too only it is called a Plan.  Those signs? I think I am starting to believe.  Oprah, Missy, my mom?  They might be right.

It starts with little subtle signs–like the storm outside, there was a barely perceptible rise in the dew point (it’s been so damn muggy around here lately, how in the crap could we tell?).

Then, if you don’t act on those signs, they get bigger and a bit more pushy.  The thunder has been increasing around here.  And Cort just had to switch on the lights because it has gotten so dark.  It moved us to DO something about the signs.  Nothing huge, mind you.  We are still going about our normal Sunday, but because of the storm?  We had to move away from what we are doing to turn on the lights.

After that, if the Universe isn’t happy with the “action” that you may or may not have taken, the signs get even more aggressive and all up in your business.  This storm?  It’s coming.  We should probably close the garage door and pick up any toys that are outside since now the wind is blowing pretty hard.  We should probably bring in anything that is out drying that we don’t want to get all wet and blown into the neighbors yard.

And so on and so forth until the Universe MAKES you see the signs and take the path you are supposed to take.

The Sluiters know the signs of a storm.  We have weathered quite a few.  But this one that is rolling in and out of our life right now?  It has different signs–at least for me.

At some point during this current storm of unemployment and job scares, some sort of new wind blew at me.  First it had me question the state of education in my state.  Do I really have what it takes to deal with this broken machine?  Do I even want to?  I love teaching, but I don’t love the machine.  The political broken machine.

Then I started writing.  And you started reading.  And commenting.  It reminded me of my love of the written word.  So I wrote more.  Some of you sent freelance opportunities my way. Some of these opportunities I have pursued. Some have accepted me!  Lots of you have asked me to guest post lately.  I am all sorts of in love with writing.  The Universe seems to be telling me that someone likes my writing.

But I am too humble stupid faithless to believe that this could be true.  I read what I consider great writing.  There are some of you who fill me up with inspiration while at the same time make me feel like small potatoes with my own talent (not because you are jerks, but because you are WONDERFUL).

So I keep writing here.  And wondering.  And dreaming.

I caught myself remembering how authors/writers were rock stars to me as a kid…and really as an adult.  I don’t think I could ever write fiction.  (could I?), but maybe a memoir.  But would anyone want to read that?  What would that be?  Sluiter Nation in a binding?  Who cares about our zoo visits or my cat’s vet appointments?  But I guess there is other stuff…but I just don’t feel that it is book material.  But what is it?  What am I supposed to be doing with this new found love?  Is it just a hobby?

As a kid, writing was a dream.  You couldn’t really DO that as a profession.  That was for talented people like Judy Blume and Beverly Cleary (who’d going to see Ramona and Beezus with me, by the way?).  People with mad skills like Jen Lancaster and Anne Lamont get to write about their lives and have people coming back for more.  There are people out in the blogging world even who are way better than me who aren’t even thinking about publishing.  What do I have to offer?

And are you supposed to admit that you want to be a writer?  Or is that just opening yourself up for snarky comments about how you should “stick to your day job.”

I don’t know.

Right now, on this Sunday afternoon, I am dreaming as I watch the storm.  When the sun comes out…will I be in the same exact place, just bracing for another storm?  Hoping this one doesn’t do any more damage?  Will I ignore the signs and stick with what is “safe” (ha!  right!) and very clichely just wait for the other shoe to drop?

Or will I recognize the signs, step out of my crappy storm shelter, and face the rain with hope and desire?

I don’t know.  I really don’t.  Oh…here comes the sun.  That storm is over.  For now.

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