Monday: Kitchen floor chats with Jenny
I’ve been pondering the way it is to live with family, and the sorts of places you all find yourself inadvertently hanging out. When I was very young we all hung out in the corner where the furnace spat heat into the room. As teenagers, when the older siblings began to move away (temporarily, as it turns out), there was always an empty bedroom upstairs where we’d keep the VCR. We’d all seem to end up hanging out there. Not the parents; it was like a living room, but just for the kids. The way basements are, sometimes, in places where basements exist.
But when we all became adults, we started hanging out almost exclusively in the kitchen.
Sometimes this annoyed me, particularly in that Covid year when we all lived together again. I wanted to grab tea without talking to anyone. I hated it when we all were trying to make ourselves lunch at the same time, bumping elbows and getting annoyed when someone else was using the frying pan that we wanted.
But then, there was something nice about hanging out with my family in the kitchen: complaining about the dumb things people commented on Facebook, discussing Jenny’s grad school plans, and…I can’t think of any other specific examples, but I just asked Jenny and she said “everything under the sun.”
I’ve found that since we’ve moved, Jenny and I still hang out in the kitchen. She’ll come home from school and start cooking, and I’ll sit on the floor and hear about her day. This is not a particularly convenient setup, as our kitchen is “too tiny for your hiney,” as I like to say, since Jenny has to scoot sideways to fit between the stove and the fridge.
One day I sat on the floor and Jenny got annoyed because she had to step over me to get from the stove to the sink. “Well where can I sit in this tiny kitchen?” I asked.
She pointed to a spot in front of the door. It hadn’t occurred to me to take up that particular section of floor, since it blocked the door, but no one else was going to come in so it was fine.
That’s where I sat on Monday. Jenny talked about her day and I talked about my weekend. I was grateful.
Tuesday: The Bus
For a while I walked everywhere, but now that it’s colder I’ve started riding the bus a lot. We live right on main street and can dash out the door and catch the bus every fifteen minutes or so. And it’s free. You just hop on and go.
There are a number of things that I always find enchanting because I read about them in books as a kid but never experienced them. Like going to the movies, or riding a Ferris wheel, or having next-door neighbors. Riding the bus is one of those things. You just hop on with a bunch of strangers, zhoomp around the town, and then hop off.
When I was 24 I used to ride the bus around Junction City and Eugene, and I always met fascinating people on it. The people on the Blacksburg bus are not nearly as interesting. But I still enjoy my bus rides and I’m grateful that it’s so handy.
Wednesday: The New Diary
Every year or so I encounter the same conundrum: I need a new diary. I’m a little weird about diary-keeping, and I “write like I need it to survive,” so most diaries don’t work for me because they’re, frankly, tiny. And I don’t want to pick up a standard 5-subject notebook because, in my experience, they start to fall apart long before you’ve completely filled their pages.
Looking for a large notebook is a frustrating experience. Sometimes I’ll magically find the perfect notebook at Target or Ross, but that’s pretty rare. Ross used to constantly frustrate me with beautiful notebooks that turned out to be wide ruled. The horror! Walmart has typically been my best bet, but even that is no guarantee. I’ve wasted hours and hours trying to find a decent notebook online. (Just today I saw an Instagram ad for a perfect-looking notebook, but when I clicked, I realized it cost $80.)
Tuesday I discovered that I was on the last page of my diary, and since I was leaving for a trip Friday, I needed a new one ASAP. So I prayed for one, and I asked specifically that it would look cool. For the last few years I’ve just been using random notebooks people have given me–which, I mean it’s been super nice that people have gifted me large notebooks, but I had a hankering to pick out my own for once.
Now, here is my confession: part of the reason I prayed this was because I knew that when God answered my prayer I could use it as a “thing I was grateful for” and stick it in my blog. Which sounds super un-spiritual, I know. But on the other hand, I 100% believed that God would come through for me and give me a cool affordable notebook, so…at least I had faith, right?
Jenny thought I shouldn’t post this story because it made me sound un-spiritual, but I can’t help posting it because I didn’t even think about how weird it was until after I’d done it, and I was like, wait…I probably wouldn’t have even thought to pray about something so small if it wasn’t for this dumb blog series I’m doing. And then I thought it might inspire people to share all their wants and needs and feelings with their Heavenly Father, even if it felt small, and not be like me and wait until they’re doing a blog series. So I stuck it in after all.
Anyway. I got my notebook.
Tuesday I rode the bus to Goodwill, where there was no stationary whatsoever, and then walked to a downtown stationary shop, where the only large “notebooks” turned out to be sketchbooks or planners. Sigh.
So Wednesday I set out for Walmart. I wasn’t sure if they’d have anything, because last time I looked I’d found nothing, but it seemed my best hope. However I daydreamed and zoned out and got off at the wrong street, and since Ross was right there I went into Ross instead. And there I found a nice large notebook for four dollars.
College ruled and everything.
Now, it didn’t seem super special at first glance, but I wondered if I could spruce it up. It looked a bit like outer space. I remembered that Jenny had given me a painted rock of a jellyfish swimming through outer space, and I thought it was really cool. I love the idea of mixing up the sea and space, because they’re sort-of similar, all mystical and floaty and dark.
So I bought the notebook and then searched through my box of magazine pictures trying to find a jellyfish. There was no jellyfish. I glued a shark on instead.
However, if you happen to have a picture of a jellyfish you want to send me I’ll write you a letter in return. (Not like a picture printed off the computer, as that will bleed when I glue it on. I mean a proper magazine picture.)
Thursday: The Connection
I went to a Bible study on Thursday, hoping to make some connections in town, and I began to suspect that one woman there may be Kenyan. Her accent sounded familiar. She mentioned Swahili. Of course there are multiple countries that speak Swahili, but she wore a bracelet with the Kenyan flag colors. So afterwards I introduced myself and asked where she was from.
“Kenya,” she said.
I got really excited and told her about how I was going to Kenya in a week. “Can I buy you some tea or anything?” I asked. And then she got excited and said her favorite tea is Kericho Gold. Which is also my favorite tea. It was wonderful.
Friday: The Eclipse
My Uncle Fred sent me a text asking if I was going to watch the eclipse. I had no idea there was any sort of eclipse happening. But at 3:15 am the next morning, as Jenny and I drove to the Charlotte airport, I said, “Jenny what does the moon look like?”
“It’s a crescent,” said Jenny, “which is really weird because just the other day it was basically full.” Then she paused a bit. “Wait…is there an eclipse tonight?”
“I think so,” I said.
Since I was driving, I was only able to steal glances at the eclipsed moon. But I was still able to see the whole thing from start to finish and it was eerie and lovely. And what perfect timing that we just happened to get up at 2:37 am to drive to the airport on the exact night there was a lunar eclipse!
Saturday: The Wedding
Saturday was my cousin Alison’s wedding. In such a big event, it’s hard to pinpoint one specific thing to be grateful for. I was grateful, of course, that she seems to be marrying a good man. I was grateful that they served hot tea as well as coffee. I was grateful to be in a Mennonite service again, which surprised me a little, as I didn’t realize that was something I’d get nostalgic for.
I get overwhelmed by big Mennonite events but there’s something wonderful about them too. All the people, and trying to figure out where they fit in. Folks saying “hi” to you but you can’t quite remember how you know them. (I mentioned this to Ben, though, and he said he rarely experiences this. “I think I’m the forgotten Smucker sibling,” he said, and when my face fell in pity, he said, “oh no! I love it!”)
Sunday: The Family Dinner
Since Alison’s wedding was held over the mountains in Madras, we decided to get a vacation home and spend the whole weekend in the high desert. We even brought Thanksgiving Dinner and ate together on Sunday. Unfortunately neither Amy nor Steven could be there.
I know it’s cliché to say you’re thankful for your family but I’m thankful for my family. That’s all.
We’re not doing a traditional Thanksgiving-on-Thanksgiving because 1/3 of us will be prepping for our Kenya trip. Yay! But I’ll slip in one more gratefulness update before we go.
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