Family meetings in my house are not for the faint of heart, nor is dinner around the table. No topic is off-limits when everyone sits around the table in no particular order. Last night, the 13-year-old was at the head of the table; there's no rank here.
An imaginary bell dings and erratic conversation starts flowing while pork chops, jell-o and potatoes are passed around the table with surprising ease. My family has a history with the concept of passing dishes in an orderly counter-clockwise fashion.
From my perch at the corner of the table, my head swung back and forth between participants as Daniel argued that the Commonwealth of Kentucky is actually an eastern state and not mid-west as Mom was calling it. There was actually an element of heatedness in that conversation before the topic changed to vomiting on roller-coasters and starting a business of renting out inflatable bouncy houses. And the creep factor of them.
I stay mostly silent because when I begin to contribute with my story and it starts out with, "Hey guys, so this one time I was riding a roller-coaster and it was so dark," everyone's 15-second attention span distracts them and my story goes unfinished. It's alright to tell a story at the dinner table - just gotta do it in 15 seconds or less. Unless you're exceptionally funny and admittedly, I'm not the funniest person at the table.
If Daniel were to start a story with a prepositional phrase, we would listen until the story was over because we know we're guaranteed a laugh.
Mom can get away with lengthy narratives. There's a level of deference she's granted as the matriarch of the family.
While I've been known to bust out a one-liner that rocks the table with laughter, I typically shine the brightest in family meetings.
Ah, family meetings. The only things we're missing are an agenda packet, a sign-in sheet and catered food. We need a talking stick (shocking, I know).
Anyone in the family can call a family meeting at any time. They're generally open meetings, but their purpose is to talk about things we don't want to discuss around the dinner table, which aren't many. They're also a time and place for us to check in on each other, find out how we are and how we're holding up, what can be done differently or the same to make sure that everyone's needs (in every sense) are being met. If we have issues with someone we bring those up here.
It's also a time to retreat from the small picture and take a look at the big one together with everyone's perspectives.
Our last family meeting was held last week sometime and contained a variety of topics. When one member of my family had the talking stick, I was hearing so much discouragement in their voice. I was taken back and told that person, "I'm so sorry; I didn't realize you were dealing with this much frustration."
I took the talking stick and began. What I told them is what I want to tell you.
Seven months ago we were dumped for the second time by the same man. The man who I trusted to take care of my mother and my family walked away unceremoniously and left us to financially and emotionally fend for ourselves in a mostly-deserted West Texas town.
And six months later, here we are.
We sleep in a house we've provided for ourselves. We watch football and the Biggest Loser on cable we pay for. Access to the Internet is compliments of us and if Thanksgiving dinner's running two hours late and we eat it on paper plates in the living room, nobody cares. I buy wood to fix the fence and spend Saturdays doing it. If we want a gate at the end of the driveway, Daniel puts it up.
It's not without a struggle, but we have what we need. We've even been able to fulfill some 'wants' too. We've gained emotional and spiritual healing - all of us. We live in a town we want to live in and we work at jobs we want to work at.
There's stress, yes. Moments of "are we gonna make it?" and then a sigh of relief when it all falls into place in a God-way.
Our lives are blessed, family. And we have so much to celebrate.
Then they told me what a great speech I made and our family meeting carried on.