(In my defense, change rhymes with strange, and is therefore a perfectly acceptable topic to write about. And if that isn’t good enough for you, then let me take an even bigger stretch by saying that sometimes, change is strange.) (*groan*)
(Do you hear that sound? It’s the click of a dozen computer mouses- mice?-, deleting me from feed readers. With good reason, I suppose.)
So, we have made some changes in the Sutton household as of January 1. (I like the word “change” instead of the word “resolution” for several reasons, the best one being that there is less pressure to succeed, and less emphasis on “fail”. I am, after all, a HUGE slacker.) Some of the changes have been good, some of them have been excellent, a few resulted in “What were we thinking?”, and some have been abandoned due to lack of effort and/or excitement. Before I hit you with a list of some of those changes (as I’m sure you’re on the edge of your seat with barely-contained excitement), let me preface the following paragraphs by saying that I HATE change. Okay, maybe I don’t *hate* change, but I am perfectly comfortable with the status quo. Almost always. Change takes effort, it takes faith, and there is no guarantee that change will wield results. (Okay, so that isn’t true, either. Change ALWAYS wields results. They just might not be the results I want.) In short, change is uncomfortable, and let’s face it: I am all about the comfort. (Hence, the wardrobe. The hair. The makeup, or lack thereof. The house. Like I said before… SLACKER.)
Here we go.
Not THAT kind of diet (I know better than that!), but, rather, the sorts of food we feed our bodies. Kenny is diabetic. The kind that can be controlled by lifestyle changes – but hasn’t – in the nine years of his diagnosis. One day in December, I was flipping channels and happened to catch the beginning of Oprah (which I NEVER watch), and her show featured Dr. Oz and was dedicated to diabetes. I DVR-ed it and made Kenny watch it, and let me just say, it scared him straight. (Finally.) We knew we needed to make some changes, for the sake of his future.
Knowing I would have an all-out child revolt on my hands if I tossed out the fruit snacks and Christmas candy, I decided that we would make a few gradual changes as a family, and Kenny could make more substantial changes on a personal level. I was committed to serving at least one fresh fruit or vegetable with every meal, I started buying wheat bread (which I think is more like wheat-flavored white bread, but we had to start somewhere), and we have a lovely glass fruit bowl as our table’s centerpiece which is full of clementines, pears, apples and bananas. Surprisingly, I refill it regularly. This is a good change. We are all benefitting, even though Kendra regularly complains about the “healthy” food she’s forced to eat, the poor girl. (Pardon me. Did my sarcasm drip onto your keyboard?)
We also made the switch from regular to diet soda (*shudder*), and while I find it closely resembles what I imagine licking a urinal would taste like, Kenny has convinced himself that it’s “not that bad” (complete with wrinkled up face and squinty eyes). Naturally, we are drinking less of this evil, and when I broke down last week and bought a full-sugar Wild Cherry Pepsi, it tasted less like nectar of the Gods and more like sno-cone syrup. I will grudgingly admit this change is also good, although I feel like pouting and stomping my feet, because while I am happy giving up terrible-tasting diet soda, I seem to have lost my taste for the “good” stuff.
I had to replace these pretty regularly, anyway, because the cup we sat them in was always getting knocked into the garbage, or because some unnamed three-year-old would throw them away in a fit of tantrum or mischief. We also had a lot of toothpaste paintings on the counter, the towels, the wall… and I was tired of brushing up against them. I decided to line the bottom drawer with a towel, and we threw all six toothbrushes and two tubes of toothpaste into it. We solved the toothpaste-as-art problem, and I haven’t had to search the garbage (or the hallway, or the kitchen, or a bedroom) for missing toothbrushes since. The only thing I wonder about is, how long will it take me to get used to opening the bottom drawer, as opposed to the top one that holds all our hairbrushes and combs? Because it’s been over two months now, and I’m still fumbling between drawers.
My parents bought us new silverware for Christmas, in a sophisticated and grown-up pattern. In fact, they bought us TWO sets, so we’d be sure to have enough. (This was prompted, I’m sure, by our last birthday celebration, where I pleaded with everyone to “Save your forks for cake!” and then dug through a sinkful of dishes to rescue the ones that got away so I could wash them by hand before we served dessert.) While they are lovely and oh-so-chic, they feel different than the old silverware, and I noticed that the knives have no serrated edges. Weird. (That’s okay. I’ll just, um, press the crusts off the sandwiches.)
This is a biggie. I really, really, REALLY hate when Kenny changes jobs. I like stability. I like dependability. I like health insurance. However, we knew a change needed to come, as Kenny had become increasingly unhappy at his job. He still loved the selling aspect, but management was becoming abusive and ridiculous in their demands, and so we set out on a virtual job journey.
He had one job in the bag, but after prayerful consideration (and a lot of confusion, too!), we turned it down with no reasonable explanation. Two days later, some part of the engine failed in the van (I forget. Something to do with… cylinders? Hoses? Something?), and the parts manager at Kenny’s job was able to negotiate half of the $800 repair with our expired warranty company, and he wrote off the other half. We ended up paying a whopping $35.95– the cost of an oil change. (Hello, reasonable explanation!) We felt extremely blessed, and decided to stick with the car business. That is, until conditions at work got so bad that the salesmen were routinely berated and belittled in front of customers, to the point where several customers walked out, causing the salesmen to fall victim to profanity-laden tirades for letting perfectly good sales slip away.
The hunt was on again, and a very good job with decent pay but no benefits came into Kenny’s email inbox. We sighed, said it would be perfect if only there were benefits, and tried to forget about it, but the more he tried to talk himself out of it, the more firmly we felt it was the right job for him to take. Which means that for the past month, Kenny has worked for Orbit Medical Response making slightly (slightly!) more than his previous salary, and we will be making COBRA payments for our insurance coverage (gulp!) (which, if you do the math, means we are actually making LESS than before), but he is happy. He loves his bosses, his schedule, his interactions with customers and his advancement opportunities, and we love that there are no night shifts, no weekends and plenty of extra time with the family.
This was a necessary change, and while I thought we did pretty well sticking to the basics before, we are down to bare-bones budgeting now. Due to the lack of funds, we are having an awful lot of “family time” at home, which is a good thing. (Really, it is!) While I do my best to be happy with what we have, I do miss being able to go to Target to spend an extra $20 on “stuff” for holidays or a splurge for me one of my kids. (Uh, yeah. One of them…) I miss renting movies. On the nights I don’t want to cook, I really miss being able to order a pizza or take advantage of a “Kids Eat Free” night. However, I’ve heard somewhere that what doesn’t kill you will make you stronger, and therefore, I am going to be indestructible. (This will require a fabulous nickname. Finally, I will be extraordinary!) (Or not.)
This is perhaps the biggest, most important change, and what leaves me with peace through our struggles. At the end of January, I was fortunate enough to attend a Women’s Conference at our church, and the speaker left me with probably the most important lesson I’ve learned in my adult life:
Abundance comes when we’re content with what the Lord has given us.
Go back and read it again. I’ll wait.
Isn’t that wonderfully profound? Somewhere in the progression from last year to this year, I have found contentment with what I have, and I no longer feel the need to worry about what I am missing. Suddenly, that burden of financial stress and fear is gone. Don’t ask me how it happened, because I’m not sure I could give you specifics. I just know that one day I woke up and felt grateful, which led me to feel happy, which made — and continues to make — life so much better! Sitting in the conference and hearing that sentence made the hair on my arms stand up, and I scrambled for a pencil so I could write it down. I remind myself of it daily.
Being happy is SO much better than being stressed! Being happy means being blessed.
However, sometimes that “abundance” comes in ways you don’t expect. Which leads me to my final change:
No, this is not an announcement… yet. Yes, I realize that the timing couldn’t be worse based on a financial standpoint. Yes, I am 35 years old and significantly overweight and always tired, but for years, I have looked at my not-so-little family and thought that we were missing someone. Or someones. There are times I have resorted to counting heads, and even though I count four kids, I have a hard time remembering that, yes, that is in fact the correct number of Sutton children. It’s quite unsettling, to be honest. But Anthony was such a challenge, I didn’t see how I could possibly handle another baby, and I tried to suppress the someone’s-missing feelings. (In a related change, after turning four, Anthony has become a delightful child. Still mischievous, still stubborn and headstrong, but he has FINALLY moved past the violence and the constant tantrums, and it is a joy to be his mother. Most days.) I succeeded with my suppression, mostly, until Kendra started having baby dreams. (Kendra is my dreamer. For some reason, the veil between heaven and earth is much thinner for her, and she sees things. Lots of things. Fantastical things that become real.)
Kenny and I talked about it, and we tried to convince ourselves that the idea of more children right now was ridiculous. I told him, “You know, it’s been AGES since I felt the need to count heads. We probably missed the boat, and the baby who was waiting for our family went somewhere else. I think I’m okay with that.” (You don’t believe it either, do you?) We went to bed late that Sunday night, and Monday morning, when the kids were all home from school for President’s Day, I was able to sleep in for a bit. When I made my way out to the family room, there were my four — wait, four? One… two… three… four… who’s not here?— children, playing peacefully together. The feeling that someone was missing slammed into me like a football tackle, and all day long, I continued to count heads. All day long, I was sure that someone was unaccounted for. Who had I forgotten?
When Kenny got home from work, he said, “Kemi, we need to talk. All day long I’ve been having this feeling about a baby…” and then we cried, kissed and giggled nervously, because we just knew. So, as fate would have it, I was scheduled for my yearly pap smear and check up the next day, and I asked my doctor to remove my IUD.
So, even though the timing is terrible, and even though I’m going to have to face a C-section, and even though I know that there won’t be just one, but TWO more babies to complete our family, I have faith that everything will work out for the best. (And by best I mean a quick labor, a tiny baby and an accidental VBAC delivery. Oh yeah, and also that we’ll be able to pay our bills and have enough left over for diapers.)
So, yeah. Change. Lots of changes. By the end of my life, I’m going to be like those Twilight vampires: all granite and marble and indestructible. Minus the blinding beauty, of course.