Oh Coffee, My Coffee

Today I went to the Daily Grind, a local coffeehouse, for the last time ever. I may be back for coffee, but it will have a different name, a different owner, a different feel. I’m sure it will be good. But it won’t be the same.

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I was 24, single, and new to Elkhart when I started working at the Grind. I had spent the previous 2 years living alone in a rural area 600 miles from home, friends, and family. I was lonely and a little lost, wondering what would come next in my life. I applied to work at the coffee shop because it seemed “fun,” which is common. I was a little disappointed when they asked me to interview at their 2nd location, affectionately called the “Baby Grind.” I wanted to work at the artsy downtown location. The Baby Grind was a little more suburban – a place where moms and high school students stopped for lattes before school, and smoothies between evening activities. But I took the job anyway, and it turned out to be one of the most pivotal decisions I’ve ever made.

The owner, Tanya, is such a beautiful person. She made everyone who walked through the doors feel like family. The driving force of her life is to love people, and she does so with every fiber of her being. She and I share the same birthday. She’s a few years older than me though, and she became like a big sister to me. When I was just starting out in the world of step-parenting she had already had some experience, and some advice and wisdom to offer. I will never forget her support and her care.

Joan, the manager, was like a mother to the staff there. She loved her job and she loved us. She was a listening ear and a kind and caring soul. She taught me so much about food. She introduced me to foods I’d never had before like potato leek soup (sounds basic I know, but I had never heard of leeks). And she got me to like fish, which was no small feat. I hated fish all my life until I tried her salmon cakes. She was a true food artist, and I credit her for anything I successfully cook now. Though I don’t see her much anymore, I think of her often.

One of my co-workers invited me to visit his church. I was reluctant. Tired of the same-old-same-old I had found in many churches, I was taking a break from church and hadn’t been to any in about a year. But I did go. And 12 years later, I’m still going. I met my husband there as well as my best friends and some of my favorite people. If it weren’t for my job at the Grind, my life might be so completely different right now.

The Grind, and the people I met there – Tanya, Joan, and many others – saw me through a time of great transition in my life. From being single and alone to making friends, finding a place in the community, finding a church family, to getting married, becoming a step-mom, a mom, and then eventually a stay-at-home mom. After my second (biological) daughter was born I cut back to working only Saturdays, and then only every other Saturday for the last few months. After almost 6 years of serving coffee to the community I decided to stay home full time with my young family. But I never stopped being part of the Daily Grind family. The Baby Grind closed. Different people came and went from the staff. But I could never drink any other coffee again. For the last eight years I have done my best to support the Grind, even though it wasn’t much. I couldn’t afford to buy lunch and lattes or even cups of coffee every day, but I have never stopped buying bulk coffee beans from them so I could enjoy Daily Grind coffee every morning from home.

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Grande Caramel Vanilla Latte with an extra shot of Love

I’m so excited for Tanya and what her future has in store. I’m sad to see such a special place disappearing from the community. But most of all I’m so very thankful for the Grind, for the place it had in my life, and for the people I met while working there.

Fragile: Racism in America

11148497_10206527852292414_6206580601277889476_nMartin Luther King Jr. was an inspiration – a civil rights activist, a believer in non-violent solutions to political and social problems. I sometimes wonder where I would have stood if I had been an adult during that time. I like to think I would have been marching along with him. Not many people today would argue that he was wrong, but the fact that he was leading marches and protests shows that a LOT of people in that day disagreed with him and his ideas. Racial segregation was the norm in the south, even a full hundred years post-slavery. Jim Crow was the law of the land.

Thankfully, things have changed – a lot – for the better. But just as the Emancipation Proclamation did not suddenly make life a piece of cake for former slaves, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 did not end racism altogether. Changing laws is one thing. Changing attitudes and deeply rooted beliefs is another, and it is those attitudes and mindsets that take work and time to truly make lasting change within society.

Recently we have seen a rash of protests in cities across the nation. Specifically, people are protesting the unlawful deaths of young black men, many of whom are unarmed, at the hands of police.

Have you ever had a fight with someone and the thing you’re fighting about isn’t REALLY the thing you’re fighting about? Do you know what I mean? Something has been bugging you for ages, and you’re trying not to pick a fight, you’re trying to be civilized and peaceful, but after a while it just builds and builds, and one day something happens that just sends you over the edge and you explode? And the specific thing you’re upset about is really just the tip of the iceberg? I really believe that is what is happening here. The Black community is upset over what they perceive as unnecessary police brutality, but they are upset about so much more than just the deaths of a handful of people. Police supporters are defending their position by pointing out that those men were criminals anyway; if they hadn’t broken the law they wouldn’t have been in that position; etc. While those things may or may not be true depending on the specific instance, we need to realize that the issue is deeper and more complex than it seems on the surface.

Everyone wants to be heard, to be understood. We all have an opinion, and by nature, we believe our own opinion is the correct one. So when someone doesn’t agree with us, we feel the need to defend ourselves and to argue our reasons for holding that opinion. This is normal and natural. But you can’t solve problems by defending yourself to the bitter end without taking a minute to try to see the other point of view. If you take this route, there will indeed BE a bitter end.

In a marriage, if you have a disagreement, you won’t solve it if both partners are so busy defending themselves and arguing their own points that they fail to really hear, listen, and understand the other person. In a fight with a spouse it’s sometimes important, and even a relief, to air the grievances. But when we do, feelings tend to get hurt and we get defensive. But in the end, we don’t really solve anything until we shift our focus off of ourselves and onto the other person. We listen to what they have to say about how they are feeling. We ask them what they want to see happen to resolve the problem. Maybe both partners have some ideas on how to solve the problem, and maybe compromises have to be made.

America, we have reached that point in this fragile state of affairs. Unless we want to see this come to a bitter end, it’s time to stop defending and start listening. It’s time for all parties to stop pointing fingers, stop distracting from the heart of the issue, and get down to the business of solving this problem. Admit that mistakes have been made on both sides. Be willing to listen to grievances objectively, and rather than trying to tell THEM how THEY need to change. Ask the question, “what can I do to make this better?” And then do it.

This has been part of the 1 Word Blog Challenge. The word of the week is Fragile.

Hosted by Lisa at The Golden Spoons, Janine at Confessions of a Mommyholic, and Marcia at Blogitudes

1 Word Linkup

Tampon, Locked Bathroom, Bloody Nose, Cheetos…

{Update: I wrote this LAST week, but this week’s One Word is RIDICULOUS. Which is completely fitting for this post, so I’m using it}

This is supposed to be the One Word Blog Challenge day, but I have a story I need to share. This happened earlier today, all in just 45 RIDICULOUS minutes.

What do a Tampon, a Locked Bathroom, a Bloody Nose, and a Cheeto all have in common? They all helped to make 45 minutes of my life just a little more exciting. The Eubanks: Unplugged: S1:E11

S(9)’s dance class started at 7pm. That’s normally the boys’ bedtime, but since hubby wasn’t home and oldest sister was at work, I had to take all 4 of the littles with me. J(8) had homework to do, so she sat at a table and worked while the boys played. After a few minutes I glanced over at J(5) and saw something blue in his hand with a string hanging from it. It looked like a tampon, but I thought no way, it couldn’t be. I said “what do you have?” He said “A toy.” I said “give it to me.” He did. It was a tampon APPLICATOR. No tampon inside. I pray to God Almighty that it wasn’t used, it just somehow came out of its wrapper and lost its cotton. Probably some other little boy got into his mom’s stash. That’s what I’m going with. I don’t even know where he got it. He probably picked it up in the parking lot. I looked around and there was no trash in sight, so I tossed it on a nearby table. Yep, I did. Sorry, I couldn’t deal.

Another few minutes later J(8) finished her homework. There is a park nearby, and the kids wanted to go play for a bit. First we made a potty stop. The three of them all went to the bathroom, and T(5), the last to go, somehow managed to lock the bathroom door on his way out. It was a onesie, and as far as I know the only bathroom in the building. So now, thanks to my kid, nobody else can use the bathroom. Awesome.

So we went to the park. It was a nice 5-minute walk. A few minutes after arriving, J(5) started crying. I couldn’t see him on the play structure, so I walked around until I found him. He was laying on the platform babbling incoherently, his nose bleeding. I got out of him that some boy knocked him down as he ran past. His nose bleeds fairly easily, but later I noticed he had the start of a fat lip, so he must have gotten knocked pretty hard. We’re at the park, 5 minutes away from my car, and I had no napkins or tissues or anything useful. But it wasn’t bleeding too heavily, and he wanted to keep playing. Right about that time the other boy and his family were leaving. How convenient.

About 3 minutes later, J(8) said she saw T(5) put something in his mouth. Well I have to say it’s not unusual for him to put random nasty things in his mouth. I told him to spit it out about 5 times before he spit out a tiny bit of something brown-ish. Then he opened his mouth and I saw a lot more of it in there. I tried to get him to spit as much of it out as I could, and asked him what it was. He sheepishly pointed to a stray Cheeto lying on the ground. Now, besides the fact that it’s just disgusting to pick up random food from the ground at the playground and put it in your mouth, this particular boy isn’t allowed to have much of anything processed, sweetened, or made from wheat. It makes him a million times harder to deal with. So not only was it gross, but it was also processed wheat, which probably means he’ll be heaps of fun tomorrow.

That was it for me, I’d had it. I said, “We’re done,” and got up and started walking towards the car. The kids all followed. And as we were walking, J(5)’s nose blood smeared on his face, hands and arms, I started thinking about how we don’t have any tissues in the car, and the bathroom door is locked, and how I could really use a tampon right about now (for the bloody nose).

Tuesday Ten: 10 Random Facts

Yes, it’s Wednesday. I wrote my Tuesday Ten list yesterday, but didn’t finish it. Now it’s finished, but I’m late. But I’m posting anyway.

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Tuesday Ten is hosted by Lisa at The Golden Spoons and Rabia at The Liebers.

This week’s list is Ten Random Facts About Me. Here it is:

10 random facts about me:

  1. I love canoeing. I haven’t been able to since having kids, but it used to be my all-time favorite outdoor activity, followed closely by hiking and camping.
  2. I can’t stand when people use my bath towel. For one thing, I hate when it’s wet when I go to use it. But mostly it’s because it feels the same to me as someone using my toothbrush.
  3. I live by the WWCD motto: What Would Caroline (Ingalls) Do? (not with everything, but in tough situations).
  4. I have 2 younger brothers. They’re both super awesome and talented, and I miss them.
  5. I always wanted to have at least 8 kids, mostly boys. Until I had 5, and the last 2 were boys.
  6. Working at summer camp through high school and college had the biggest impact on me of anything in my life besides my immediate family.
  7. I love reading the Classics to my kids at bedtime. We’ve been reading the Anne of Green Gables series for a couple years. It’s a lot of books.
  8. When we retire, my husband and I want to buy an RV and travel the country.
  9. I have a love-hate relationship with exercise. I really hate to do it, but I love how I feel afterwards. Unless it’s canoeing or hiking J
  10. I have a fairly black thumb. My husband is the one who is really good with plants. I LOVE plants of all kinds, but I need the kind that do a good job of taking care of themselves.

What’s a random fact about you? I’d love to learn something new.

Sunday Reflections: Oh, How He Loves Us

Today is Easter, the day we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. I’ve never been a big celebrator of “holy week” or Good Friday. I’m not opposed to it, I just haven’t done it. But there is a lot on the internet, and I’ve read a few things this week and I’ve been reflecting. This article in particular hit me pretty hard, as well as this one and this one. 

Today in church we were singing the song “How He Loves Us” by David Crowder. It’s a popular song in Christian/worship music. It’s one of my favorites. I feel it deep in my soul every time we sing it. In fact, I heard it on Pandora yesterday, and I hoped we would sing it in church today. I thought it seemed fitting for Easter.

Sometimes when I’m singing in church, especially when I’m on stage, the songs bring images to my mind. Sometimes I feel like sharing what I see. I’m not sure if it’s only for me, or maybe for others too. Today’s vision was fairly simple, and maybe it won’t be a big deal to anybody else. This song had me thinking about the story of the woman who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. All four gospels tell a similar story, but there are enough variables in each of the stories that it makes you wonder if it’s actually several different accounts, or if the writers got some of the details mixed up. Anyway, it doesn’t matter much. There was a woman. She was a “sinner,” in one account. We’re all sinners though, aren’t we? In other accounts she was a close friend of Jesus. In one story she pours expensive oil on Jesus’ head. In others the oil is poured on his feet. She cries, her tears fall on Jesus’ feet, and she wipes them off with her hair. It’s a strange story, one I can’t quite grasp. The people around her are upset that she is “wasting” expensive perfume. They say it could have been sold and the money given to the poor. Not a bad idea. I can see myself in that thought process. But Jesus rebukes them, saying the woman had done a beautiful thing for him. Nobody really could understand why she did it. But Jesus did. He saw it as an act of worship from her heart to his.

This morning in my vision, as I sang the words,

Yeah, He loves us,

Oh how he loves us,

Oh how he loves us,

Oh how he loves.

and

Oh….

How he loves us so,

Oh, how he loves us

How he loves us so

I was the woman. And Jesus was gazing tenderly into my eyes, into my soul, telling me how much he loves me. My sins don’t matter. The judgments of others don’t matter. The cost, the objects, the perfumes, the tears, none of it matters. The only thing that matters is that Jesus loves me.

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A Eulogy

I friend of mine passed away two weeks ago. She attended my church off and on over the past few years, and though nobody knew her extremely well, as she was quite introverted, I wanted to honor her life and her participation in our church body by saying a few words at the end of yesterday’s service. 

I met Sara sometime around 1987. My family started attending the church that her family went to in Minnesota. I was in 4th grade, she was in 6th. Over the years my parents became very close friends with her parents. They were even in a small Bible study group together for several years. Sara was the oldest of 4 sisters. Two of her sisters are the same age as my two younger brothers. They were also close friends growing up. Even though Sara and I were in youth group together, our families were close, and we attended the same junior high and high school, we were not all that close. She was two years older than me, and at that age, two years matters a lot more than it does now. We were not close, but we were more than mere acquaintances. I would definitely say that we were friends. I liked her.

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1992 youth backpacking trip in Northern MN. A few of us got up early to watch the sunrise. Sara is the blonde on the left, standing in front of me.

She graduated from high school in 1994, and we lost track of each other. In those days there was no social media and the internet was relatively new. Fast forward about 15 years. I graduated, went to college, moved to Indiana, got married, started a family.

By the fall of 2009 Facebook had burst on the scene, and I had reconnected with many of my friends from high school, including Sara. We were all experiencing the aftermath of the housing crash, and the “Great Recession” was well underway. As many of us were, Sara was unemployed. She was also recently divorced, and living in Virginia. Her lease was running out, and she posted on Facebook that she was going to need a place to stay.

At the time we owned a duplex. We lived in the larger half and rented out the smaller apartment, but it had been empty for about a year. I half-jokingly responded to her plea for housing, saying, “I have an apartment available, but you’d have to move to Indiana.” *Ha-ha*. Little did I expect her to take me up on it. It turns out she had another friend in Elkhart, who coincidentally was also a friend of ours. The timing seemed to be perfect for all of us. We agreed to let her stay there for free for a few months. Give her some time to find a job and get settled, as long as she could pay the utilities.

She lived in our house for four and a half years, right up until we moved out last June. I saw her almost every day, coming and going to work, when she was working. My kids adored her. She would occasionally babysit them. Whenever they saw her outside they would run out, yelling “HI SARA!” They would talk her ear off with the kinds of silly stories children tell. I was embarrassed at how often she probably heard me lose my temper and scream at my kids, through the thin walls. She probably knew me better than I realized.

Sara was a true artist and a talented musician. You may remember that she played the piano and the bass guitar on our worship team from time to time. Her illnesses prevented her from being able to participate more, but her mother told me that she really appreciated the times she got to be part of it. I remember her, as a teenager, playing Great Balls of Fire on the piano. Her mom says she learned to play it by ear. She had a very eclectic style, as many artists do. She had a gorgeous collection of pottery, unique art, trinkets from friends and souvenirs from her travels.

She was the kind of person who held others at arm’s length. There were very few people she truly let in and get to know her closely. She was a quiet tenant, didn’t party or have a lot of company. She never complained. We had her over for dinner sometimes, and on rare occasions she and I would talk outside on the porch, but most of the time she kept to herself.

Sara had a lot of struggles, both internal and external. She wasn’t the type to ask for help, or to go seeking charity or government assistance. She wanted to appear strong, and I think she wanted to BE strong. She WAS strong, for a long time.

Jesus said in John 16:33, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Sara had the kind of trouble that many, perhaps most of us will probably never be able to comprehend. And now, those of us who knew her and cared about her are facing trouble as well.

Jesus also said, in Matthew 11:28, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

Sara is now experiencing ultimate rest for her soul, in Jesus. While we wait out our days here on earth, though we have many troubles, Jesus implores us to take heart, and he invites us to come to him and find rest.

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A more recent photo of Sara, circa 2014. She loved her cats.

#OneWord Blog Challenge: Wonderful (and Confused)

This week’s One Word Blog Challenge words were Wonderful and Confused. When I sat down to write, both of them made their way into my story.

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In just a few short months, my last child will be going to Kindergarten. I have conflicting emotions about it. Mostly I’m ecstatic. My two boys (the youngest) were… can we just say… a handful during the toddler years. You know how toddlers are – getting into things ten times faster than you can keep up with them and their shenanigans. Emptying shampoo bottles and tubes of toothpaste, eating the dog’s food, finding a scissors that you were sure was hidden away and cutting up important papers, coloring in permanent marker on walls. It’s relatively easy (though still exhausting) to keep the house toddler proofed when your oldest child is the toddler. But when it’s the youngest of five children, it’s one hundred percent impossible. The older children are kids themselves, and though they have a much better sense of boundaries and knowing not to smear Vaseline all over the living room, they do NOT very well know that they should not leave their backpacks, uneaten food, precious toys, craft supplies, and other valuables laying around where toddler hands can reach them. My dad used to say the house “Looks like a hurricane hit!” I thought he was being hyperbolic, but now I know he wasn’t. Being surrounded by children who make one mess after another, all day, at the speed of light, I felt like I was in the middle of a hurricane. It is insane. It is completely exhausting. It is even defeating. When you’ve been cleaning up messes all day, and the house is still a complete disaster, you wonder why you bother.

This, my friends, is why Kindergarten is wonderful. Preschool is actually kind of wonderful too. The crazy toddler years are behind us, and I’m thankful. Looking back now those memories are full of funny stories. But they weren’t so funny in the moment. This year, with my youngest in preschool, I have about 10 hours a week of kid-free time, which is WONDERFUL. But I still find that my days are full, even with most of the kids at school. Starting in August I will have FORTY HOURS a week of kid-free time. That is a HUGE difference. And it’s strange that though I’ve been looking forward to this for a long time, now that it is approaching I’m feeling confused about it.

I’ve heard of moms at this stage of life going through a kind of identity crisis. I’ve been out of the “work force” for a full decade. I’ve tried to stay connected to some hobbies, to give myself a sense of being an individual – my own person – something other than mom, housekeeper, chef, chauffeur. I find myself feeling a little like I felt at the end of high school, wondering “what am I going to do with the rest of my life?” What are my interests, my skills? Of course, I still have a family to raise. My neighbor next door has two teenagers and one grown and gone. She went back to work full-time when her kids started school, and she advised me not to do that. She said that if she could, she would rather be home, to be there for her kids as they go through the school and teen years. I do feel that if I had the school day to do the “stuff” – the grocery shopping, house cleaning, food making, bill paying – then I would have the time and energy to attend to my kids’ needs in the evenings and on weekends. It would be very difficult to work full time AND do all the stuff, AND take care of the kids. Part time work seems like it might be a good compromise. But where? What? Who hires almost-40 year old moms? Am I really almost 40? Now I’m having another crisis.

I’m not complaining. I’m thankful that I even have choices. Single parents usually have no choice but to work full time AND take care of the kids and all the stuff. Many families need two incomes just to make ends meet. Though to be fair, my circumstances are unique too – My husband works unconventional hours, so I’m often alone with FIVE kids (though my oldest is starting college next year, I think she’s planning on staying at home), trying to juggle homework, chores, making dinner, sports and activities, bedtimes, friends, etc.

I’m in a transition place. Trying to decide on the next step. I might just take the first week and binge watch a bunch of Netflix.

This post is part of the One Word Blog Challenge hosted by:

Lisa of The Golden Spoons

Janine of Confessions of a Mommyholic

Marcia of Blogitudes

1 Word Linkup

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