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Posts Tagged ‘family’

I won a book yesterday.

It’s called Confessions of a Part-time Sorceress: A Girl’s Guide to the D&D Game by Shelly Mazzanoble.  I don’t play D&D, or any other pen and paper role playing games, but my husband and some of the kids do.

Don’t get me wrong, I am glad to be a nerd.  In fact, I am proud to be part of a Geek Family.  My daughter is blossoming and proud to be a geek as well, even choosing “geek” as one of her spelling words.

We went to the library yesterday for an introduction to Dungeons and Dragons.  Partially to try to win tickets to GenCon-loved it last year- and partially to see if there were some other kids to help my stepson or my daughter to get a gaming group together.

Someone had sent a nasty letter to the editor, regarding residual misconceptions from the ’80s.  D&D doesn’t promote Satanism, anymore than playing Mario Brothers will make you think that you can float around in bubbles, or drive funny little cars.

The best part of D&D is the face-to-face socialization of friends in the same tribe.

Everyone is looking for ways to connect with one another.  Women make up excuses to get together under the guise of selling plastic ware, kitchen gadgets, or makeup.  Men schedule tee times and poker nights.  Do women really want to buy a bunch of junk and do men really want to chase a ball around a field and sand traps?

Nah, it’s not about that.

It’s about building community.

That’s what gaming does for my husband and his friends.

It used to be, that people would get together to share in the labor of harvest, building, preserving, etc.  During that time, folks would build community, learn to trust one another, and create close friendships.

Now that most of those activities have been streamlined or hired out, games give us an excuse to come together, solve problems, and bond.

I don’t play role playing games, mostly because they continue from week-to-week, and take a good chunk of time in one sitting-time I never feel like I have (I have issues with time passage-but that’s another post).

I do, however, love board and card games.

Jeremy is poking the eye of the Beholder at GenCon 2010.

My husband loves them too.  He has been playing all kinds of games for years and years, and I am but a novice.  I got really frustrated at the beginning of our relationship because he beat me at every game we played.  I never had a chance against his skill.  I wanted to play, but I got frustrated.  He is not one to throw a game just to make you feel better.  In fact, he smirks when he is winning and I want to wipe that smirk right off his face.

Then we started playing backgammon before bed.  It was a game that he was just learning.  At first, he won more games than me, but now we are evenly matched.  I win about the same amount as he does.

Game playing feels intimate.  Playing games together helps to fill up my love tank, and relax from my stressful day at school.  That’s because it’s time spent together, laughing, talking, and “grrr”ing when he sends my backgammon guy to the bar…again.

Since Christmas we’ve been playing a card game called, Dominion.  I didn’t want anything to do with it because it looked confusing, and hard.  You have to build decks of cards that will get you the victory points for the win.  I played my first round at GenCon, thought it was kind of fun.  At Christmas we cracked it out, got all of the expansions, and have since been playing 1-3 games a night after the kids go to bed.  It’s a great way to relax, spend time together, solve problems, and bond.

Last night we tried a new game, Race for the Galaxy.  I liked the game, lost all of the four games we played, and then I ranted on and on for about an hour about how I hated the icons and trying to keep them straight while I played.  Jeremy listened patiently while I ranted.  I listened, without patience while he explained the virtues of the game.

Our addiction to games has done one positive thing for us.  We very seldom spend our evenings anymore, looking up the latest LOLcats and clicking on Reddit.  We’re spending time together filling up one another’s love tanks with time well spent.

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wonderfully geeky and fun hubby

Last night my husband Jeremy and I went to the bar for karaoke for a friend’s birthday.  There was a man there that I think just sort of randomly sat at our table and we began to talk about how he ended up in the Land of Goshen.  He mentioned that he didn’t really like it here because it was hard for him to find non-tradional women to date.  That’s when I jumped up on my soapbox and preached it to the brother.

“You should totally try online dating!  It’s great,” says I, the shy girl that doesn’t talk to strangers or engage in conversation at bars.

After my ex and I separated, I tried online dating.  I lived in a rural community of very nice people, but I am a teacher in that same place, and didn’t want to end up dating the uncle, father, or ex-convict neighbor of any of my high school students.  So it was Match and Chemistry.com for me.

My original intent was not to find a husband.  Quite the opposite actually.  I was going to become a spinster.  At first I joined just to see what the playing field might be like for a thirty-something that was definitely more mom-like than model-like.  I spent the first six weeks or so, just scoping things out and sending a few emails back and forth.  I talked on the phone with a few people, and even met a few of the men for coffee and conversation.  They were all very nice people, in fact, I’m sure if we had met at work or church or something, we may have dated.  But, after meeting in person, not feeling a “you’re my soul mate sort of connection,” we parted ways and basically forgot that one another existed.

Beautiful.  It is such a great concept.  I am convinced that too many people end up marrying someone they went out with because they felt obligated.  Their mom fixed them up, they met at work and were friendly, or they had been friends so long that it was the next step to go ahead and get hitched.  Nice people have a hard time saying “no”.

If your gut tells you that you should say no, then you should do it.  But, if the guy in the office is nice, how do you reject him without hurting him?  If your long-term boyfriend doesn’t really float your boat, but he is a decent guy, how do you say sianara? The beauty of online dating is the ease in saying “no”.

If someone says no to you, it may feel like rejection, but really only for a moment, because you can always sum it up to, “Well, they never knew me anyway.”

I have a secret.  I am weird.  My husband is weird.  And we found each other based on a magic formula on Chemistry.com.  When I got his profile in my mailbox, I thought his photo was dorky, and I thought he probably spent too much time playing video games.  But, I liked his basic philosophy, he didn’t live too far away, and he sounded like he might be smart.  When I expressed interest, it took him nearly a week to respond back. (I later learned that he was debating whether or not to pony up the money for a subscription). In that first day, we emailed back and forth all afternoon.  With each email, I realized we had more and more in common.

After our first phone conversation that lasted about 3 hours, I hung up feeling like I had just caught up with my long lost best friend.  He hated swimming and scary movies, voted for Obama, and listened to They Might Be Giants in high school too.  Weird, right?

Our circles of friends actually skimmed one another barely touching.  His favorite hang out was the bar my friends took me to the night before I asked for my divorce.  My facebook friends were friends with his facebook friends, but neither one of us had mutual friends.

I don’t know what it would have taken to meet him without the computer.

I was striken with bronchitis on our first date, which is probably a good thing.  He was so much cuter in person than his photo, I wanted to jump across the table and kiss him.  (I did it in my head, remember I’m shy and don’t talk to strangers.)  He agreed to a second date, even though I left my bronchitis germs in his passenger seat.  It didn’t take long to realize that he was my long lost best friend, and I had found him.

There were no pity dates for us.  No one coerced us to go out.  We were able to say “yes!” to each other because we were right for one another, not because we couldn’t think of a reason to not say yes,  A subtle difference, but very important.

To anyone contemplating online dating.  I say go for it. The person that fits you in all of the quirky ways is out there.  In fact there are probably lots of people, just as weird as you, wanting to meet you.

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unless you put them to work for you

Today, in my Environmental Class we talked about values.  That doesn’t sound all that sciency does it? Really though, evaluating our values is essential to identifying and solving our problems, including environmental problems.

I started class by asking students to define the term “values”.  What are values?  I left it intentionally vague so that I would get a variety of answers for us to discuss.  The students answered with the typical, “What we cherish”, “What is important to us,” and “having high standards”, whatever that means.

My favorite answer by a student today was, “Values are what make things important to us”.  Exactly.

That’s what I’ve been thinking about for a couple of years now, and have not been able to sum up so eloquently.  Values ultimately guide our life.  At least they should.  Values should show us how to spend our time, what we should buy or not buy, who we should be hanging out with, and how we should raise our children.

The value itself is meaningless.  Valuing friendship, or thriftiness, or family time mean nothing if we never call up our friends, buy a bunch of junk, or put personal time before time with our children.  Our values can bring meaning to the people, things, and activities in our lives.   Values can only bring that meaning, if we use them to guide the decisions in our lives.

I’m beginning to better understand how values are at work in my life.  In my former life, I used to think that people walked around with a set of values, and as long as most of those values the same, then we were on the same page.  What I have learned over time is that while many of us would say we have the same values, we are really coming from very different places because of the way these values are prioritized.

I may share the values of thriftiness and the environment with another person.  However, if we have prioritized our values differently, we will make different decisions.  If the environment is my number one priority, and my friend values thriftiness, we would make different purchasing decisions when having to decide between cost and ecological footprint.

If I value family time over career advancement, I might bow out of a business dinner to spend time with my family, knowing that I might be jeopardizing any opportunity for advancement.  And vice versa.  One that values career advancement over family time would make sure to get to that dinner.

Anybody bristling up yet?

Most folks would say that they value family time over career advancement.  With our daily choices and opportunities, we are constantly exhibiting what we truly value.

Of course there are times when our values will flop around on the priority list.  If someone is out of work, thriftiness and career advancement would probably move up on the list.  A new mom might forgo time with friends to spend time with the baby, because in that moment, that’s the value of bonding with the baby is what that mom wants to move to the top.

I tell my students all the time, that it doesn’t really matter to me how their values are stacked in the priority list.  What IS important is that they truly understand what their priorities REALLY are.  Don’t fool yourself into believing that the value of beauty isn’t important to you if you get you budget most of your disposal income to that purpose.  If that brings you joy, then admit that it is a value of yours, and start using it to guide your decisions.

What I have found is that I am happiest when I am making my decisions based on my personal set of prioritized values.  I start getting a bit depressed and anxious when I am not able to make decisions that are in line with my values.  Usually this happens because of earlier choices that I made that were not in line with the values that I hold dear and I feel a bit stuck.

In combining two families, we made the decision to buy a house that was bigger and cost more than we would have spent had we been one intact family.  We considered the value of a fresh start in a new home, personal space for every kid, keeping the children in the same school district and as close to each of their other parents as logistically possible.  It was a good decision for that time.  As we settle into our routines as a slowly combobulating family, the values of self-sufficiency, family time, simplification, and being present for our children are coming in conflict with the value of space for all.

So how do we balance our values, our budget, our careers, and the rest of our children’s family?  By prioritizing our values, and letting them guide our plans.

Whatever that means.

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When I was eight, I wanted to be Amish.  I spent my early years growing up near Fort Wayne, where there is a large Amish population.  There was something magical about the idea of riding in a horse drawn buggy, giving up my phone, and burning lanterns while reading books before bed.   I was addicted to “Little House on the Prairie” at that time.  In my mind, being Amish would be like stepping back in time, and I would get to be Laura for a while.


Today I live in an even bigger Amish community.  Many of my neighbors are Amish, Conservative Mennonites, and Apostolics.  I guess I never really realized how many levels of “plain” there are until a Conservative Mennonite girl in a calico dress, finishing up her 8th and final year of school, was telling me that one of her classmates came from a “really plain” family.


Today, as a slightly older than my husband 30-something mom of one, and step-mom to three, I still find myself wanting to be plain.  But now I see the advantages differently than I did when I was eight.  I see the advantage of having home-cooked unadulterated meals, taking time to hang the wash on the line, going to bed more or less with the sun, and getting up when the light is still beautiful in the morning, living close to all of your family, and having friends to around to visit with and help one another with the seasons of life.  I see the benefit of community, the benefit to staying out of debt, the benefit of having someone home to be there for the children, and the slower pace in which the outside world sucks you in and drains your blood.


Throughout the last 30+ years, I have always felt kind of weird about wanting to be plainer than the rest of the world.  I never cared about designer clothes, or hair and makeup.  For a short time, I wanted a fancy job, but that quickly passed.  I’ve tried on a variety of careers, areas of study, and even a handful of entrepreneurial endeavors that led to disappointment.  And now I teach high school students how to be well adjusted adults through the context of environmental science.  


My husband I are striving to simplify our lives.  We grow a lot of our own food, even canning and freezing the excess for winter, we compost and recycle, and have given up T.V. (except for the occasional Cosby Show DVD).  But life still feels hectic, like the outside world is reaching in a trying to suck us in.  As a stepfamily, we have opportunities and speed bumps that keep us from making choices to simplify AND keep everyone sane.  


Luckily, I am married to a man that loves conversation, scheming, and possibilities as much as I do. I am excited about this journey of simplification. We won’t become Amish anytime soon.  They probably wouldn’t take us anyway.  But on the plainness scale, I’d like to move down (or is it up?) toward the plain side of things a bit more.  At this point, I have very little idea of what these realities mean, and where this journey will lead.  


Possibility is fantastic.

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