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  • Writer's pictureDarlene Dennis

Conversation Starters . . . .

It all started out as a survival tactic.

I was in the midst of our tsunami .. crazy disruptions .. and nothing was 'normal' per se anymore. I was struggling to keep my new family intact and at a loss of how to recreate fun family time when all of us now were so disengaged and confused and not much fun to be around. When we did manage a meal together it would segway into the negative of what each was facing or the challenges or just the 'ick' of where we were .. and we were starting to avoid any meaningful conversation and even worse dreading our time together.

On a mentally fog filled and lonely night I was doing what most people do to numb out reality .. Pinterest - haha. . and a friend of a friend had pinned this snapshot of a jar filled with plain strips of paper but with questions. Interesting I thought. Maybe this would work .. or NOT .. but nothing lost in giving it a shot. I was lazy. I googled some more and saw this thing called a Chat Pack. Easy enough. Ordered it and boom it showed up in two days.

I cooked a good homecooked meal and the girls' dread entered in as usual .. the attitude of get through the meal .. and where they would take turns on who could ask first to be excused .. BUT I told them tonight would be a bit different .. I showed them my little box of hope .. and they rolled their eyes. I got them their plates, we sat down, prayed .. and then we opened the little lucite box and one of the bigs pulled the first card reluctantly with a condescending eye roll to pair it with .. and we all did a round, then two, then three and imagine that - we managed to get through a meal, and ENJOY the food but more importantly have CONVERSATION of more bigger scale dreams, thoughts and memories .. and ENJOY each other. It was all so good.

I learned from this tenfold. I learned that my daughters, even while they were engulfed in negative drama and grief, had hope and positive thoughts. I learned that my youngest had her own little perspective that was bigger and better than ours at five years old. (humbling) I learned that we had all become so mired in our circumstance that we forgot how to ASK one another about their heart and their dreams and their intentions .. and so this became our go to at mealtime and so it also began the journey of asking questions of people outside our circle. All of us do now. We inquire. We ask and we react. . . to fill a need.. to help with hope. I've probably run off a few of the older girls' suitors with this tactic and I know I was grateful to lean on this when I've had a date join for dinner and the conversation of awkwardness could be tackled to where we all had some risk on both sides to opening up.

That first Chat pack was a game changer. We have had several forms of this practice since then. Now at the dinner table you can't shut them up and I pull it out just to get peace and order (and to practice respectable manners). Now we subject our outside dinner guests to this process and we learn even more than what our assumptions would have us at. The girls rush to grab it and start and before you know it the kitchen is filled with noise and chatter and laughter.... and perspective. I have used it as an icebreaker when doing art projects with girls from a childrens' home .. to gain trust and insight.

The art of conversation .. being intentional .. and learning .. it is a great place to start when you are just trying to even survive .. and then to continue so that in the process so you now can THRIVE in the aftermath ..

soooooooooooo.. what are you most proud of right now? what is a typical day like for you? what can make you cry easy? what do you use everyday that you can't imagine being without? If you could be someone for a day who would that be? why is their life so different from yours? In what ways this past year have you changed for the better? what is something you wish you could do everyday?

LOL .. so you can see .. we invite crazy to dine with us at this point .. because it becomes nonstop. . . but really .. what would YOU answer? :)

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