Friday, June 24, 2016

The Outsiders: On the Fringes of Family, Friends, and Faith Community

These are the tulips I was given to bring home
during teacher appreciation week at RMS.
(Of course, I couldn't resist taking photos.)
It’s actually been nice to hear that we’ve been missed.  Kevin and I were more isolated than usual beginning last September for a variety of reasons expanded upon below.  However, in recent weeks, we’ve reconnected with some family members and friends we hadn’t seen in months.  I must say, it’s refreshing to know people haven’t forgotten about or stopped inviting us to get together even when we were too tired and rundown to accept many offers for fellowship, food, or fun.  I don’t know why, but Kevin and I are both  pleasantly surprised when others remember us fondly and express an interest in spending quality time, one of my primary love languages.  In the past couple months, we’ve broken out of our survival mode. 

Here are some of the signs we have started to return to civilization:       

We’ve met two different couples who are close friends of ours out for dinner.  I’ve seen all of my family members who live in town more than once in the same 30-day period. I went with my sister and nephew to a park I'd never been to before.  I met a friend from our spiritual direction institute class for a picnic and long walk in a beautiful park.  Kevin and I went to a movie theater to watch a popular film (Captain America Civil War).  I went to the oldest of the three silly sisters’ Kindergarten end-of-the-year concert performance and classroom awards.  Last weekend, I had a mini 10-year since I made my Cursillo reunion luncheon with our rectora and a handful of babe chicks from my weekend.  This evening we enjoyed a spur-of-the-moment birthday party for our friend Jeff at Red Robin.  Though Kevin's still working full-time and has classes three nights a week, and my schedule for summer camps at school is quite varied, there's hope on the horizon that we will continue to reach out, reconnect, and resume some more social activities.   

These Are the Main Reasons Why Kevin and I Were so Disconnected from:

Each Other

Kevin and I have been disconnected from pretty much everyone, often including each other, over the past several months.  During one sixth-month period, we were both working full-time on opposite sides of town, and he had classes three nights a week.  Some days we rarely saw each other because our schedules were so different, and many weeks we never had a day off together.  I worked Monday through Friday; he worked all through the weekend and typically had his day or two off during the week. 
Cursillo Community

Usually, Cursillo gatherings called Ultreyas are held two Friday evenings a month.  In years past, they’ve been a good way for Kevin and me to stay connected to that community. Unfortunately, we haven’t been up to going in a while.  By the time Friday rolls around, we are usually both thoroughly exhausted and just wanted to rest.  This past January, I stepped down from my position as the Newsletter Editor I’d held for many years when two very capable individuals proved ready and eager to revamp and run with it.    

Spiritual Direction

There were several months when we didn’t manage to get together with the couple who are dear friends and spiritual companions for Kevin and me.  The monthly classes we had for our Spiritual Direction Institute course were one staple that kept us both connected to a community of believers with whom we could pray, talk about our faith, and share our lives.  However, May was our last retreat and the completion of that two-year program.

Our Peeps at the Parish

Because Kevin often has to work Saturday and Sunday, he is typically tired by Sunday afternoon, so we haven’t been going to our usual parish for Mass.  Even when we were stretched too thin to commit to any ministries at St. Michael, it was nice to see so many familiar faces.  Lately, we’ve been going to 5pm Mass at St. Bridget’s.  It’s closer to where we live and allows Kevin to avoid yet another trip out to the West End, but we don’t know very many people and still feel like visitors there because we are.  

Not the Nanny and a Six-Month Stint Somewhere Over the Rainbow

When I’m nannying for a family, I have often felt like I am part of it.  Much of the time, I’ve been included in events like Christenings, Baptisms, and some other gatherings of family and friends.  There’s a level of intimacy and familiarity when you’re helping to take care of someone’s children in their home.  It’s been a couple years since I’ve nannied now. 

Since I was gone from the school where I’ve worked part-time over the past eight years (for a grueling six-month stint at a place I would not recommend for children of any age), I’m not really as close to any of the kids, their families, or the co-workers I’m friends with as I would have been if there for the entire 2015-16 school year.  (The reasons I worked elsewhere for six months will have to be in another blog post.) 

My In Town Family

I’m not as close with my mom or my sisters as I used to be.  Frequently, my sisters and I go for days or even weeks without talking, texting, e-mailing, or seeing each other.  Our three-year-old nephew asked my sister if Kevin and I were on a trip or something it had been so long since he’d last seen us.  All of us keep in touch with my mom regularly, and my other sisters see her usually at least a few times a week.   

My sisters and I have been around my mom’s place a bit more often lately since my mom became a foster parent.  Our new youngest sister Jeneba has brought us together.  Well, most of us.  Kevin doesn’t always come with me for family dinners, holidays, and such.  When beat up physically and exhausted, he has often elected to stay at home.  I know all-too-well what it feels like to be ready to collapse, so I rarely push him into joining us when he isn’t up to it. 

The Rochester Relatives

Most of Kevin’s family lives up in Rochester, New York, and they rarely travel to or through Virginia.  This has meant that we only get to see them maybe once a year if and when we are able to go up there in the summer.  With such a great geographical distance from Kevin’s sisters and their families, we don’t have a whole lot of contact with them.  We catch up every couple months over the phone and see what a few of the Facebook-savvy members are up to, but that’s about it.  When we’re up there, they are excited to spend time with us, and we enjoy the gatherings that always seem to include food, laughter, and some great stories.  Last summer, we couldn’t afford to go up there, and we aren’t sure we’ll get to go this year, either.    

There’s No Place Like Home

Kevin and I have lived in the same two-bedroom apartment for the past eleven and a half years we’ve been married.  Almost all of our furniture is second-hand.  Our place isn’t super-neat or nicely decorated.  Generally, we’ve only had one or two people over at a time, and those have been family members or our closest friends.  We don’t have a nice balcony, deck, a big dining room, or large seating area where we could entertain people.  Though we’re perfectly content gathering with friends in a limited amount of space that isn’t extremely organized or you-could-eat-off-the-floor clean, our place is rarely straightened up enough that Kevin is comfortable having people over.  We’ve never hosted our family for a holiday or even had everyone over for a meal at our place.
So there you have some semblance of an explanation as to why we were absent from most gatherings of family, friends, ministry, etc. for months.  The good news is we're coming around. There are some additional things in the works that could prove very beneficial for continuing increased levels of connectivity.  More details will be forthcoming when we have them.    
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