Tag Archives: change

Change is good, unless it happens

https://i1.wp.com/thumbs.dreamstime.com/z/plowed-field-5045265.jpg

Nice little quote, that one. Several years ago it appeared in various locations around our church which was, coincidentally, going through some serious changes.  Now, several years later, the church is again going through some major changes as our pastor of 22 years is retiring and going into a new ministry.

But this post isn’t really about change at our church.

Kate started college today. No, she didn’t move away from home to one of the universities she was accepted into. And no, she isn’t going to school full time. Just taking a freshman English class and a Western Civ class at the local community college. But, for her, it’s a big deal packed full of change, most of it uncomfortable. My gut tells me that she will come home in a few minutes, grinning like the proverbial donkey in the briar patch, and wondering what all the fuss was about. She’s becoming her own person, and needing us less and less as each day passes. Which is, after all, how it’s supposed to be.

Wubby is still living life on the edge, learning lessons the hard way, but learning them none the less. At least I hope he is. The only thing I can do for him at this point is pray, early and often. He takes baby steps in the right direction, and then gets sidetracked for a while. (And yes, I can hear you comment on my use of the phrase ‘right direction’. Comment away; I know what I’m talking about.)

Which leaves us, Hubby and me. We’ve been thinking about this for a while. About what it is, exactly that is keeping us here, at this geographical location we’ve called home for 27 years. You know what? I’ve never lived this long at one place in my life, ever. You know what else? I’m getting restless. Hubby’s job has been hanging by a thread for several years know, and that thread could break on any give day. We’ve laughed and dreamed about moving somewhere else: mountains maybe, beach more likely.

I think I’ve hit the mid-life crisis wall, dead on, at 120 mph. And it hurts. Actually it’s not the speed that hurts as much as it is that sudden stop. My thoughts are all tied up in knots about how much time I have left, and all the things I still have, and want, to do. About how many mistakes I’ve made so far and what on earth was I thinking when I made them….or what on earth I wasn’t thinking, etc. Where do I belong? Do I belong here, there…anywhere? I heard someone on the radio this week talking about how to plow a field in straight rows with a tractor. His advice went like this: look across the field to the place where you want your row to end, focus on that point, don’t look down at the ground as you drive the tractor over it. Keep looking at the goal, and when you get there, look back at the row you just plowed and be amazed at how straight it is.

Does it really work like that? I haven’t driven a tractor since I was about 12, and my grandfather was “helping”. Who’s helping now? and what am I focusing on at the end of the row? I wish I knew.

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relationships, part 2

Kate, "Big" Sister, "Little" Sister, Cielo

Remember this post?

There’s an ugly sequel. Right before Christmas, one of the girls “ran away from home” in a figurative sense. She’s still here, but not. The details aren’t important; actually they’re quite trivial in and of themselves. I think it was the cumulative effect of actions and reactions occurring over a period of years that finally broke the ties. One of them has been re-established, but it’s a slip knot, and the least amount of tugging on that thread will cause it to unravel again.

Big Sister is gone from our house. Kate and Little pulled away from Big after they dared to stand up to her, and were rewarded by a smack on their noses with a rolled up newspaper. Actually, it was more like a concrete pipe, but you get the general idea. Kate and Little have remained close throughout, leaning on each other, helping each other fill the hole that Big left when she bolted. Big and Little reconnected in early January, but that connection is the slip knot. Kate has known Big for over 10 years; her wounds go deeper.

Hubby and I have been Big Sister’s only effective parents since she was about 8, and our parenting evidently hasn’t been all that effective. We are still connected in FB world. Big has been pushing the envelope a bit out there, and has the potential of putting herself in danger of losing her job, among other things. This week she posted something that was inappropriate from a language standpoint: “I’m gonna cuss like a drunken sailor, for all the world to see, because I can. [my translation]” Hubby suggested that she tone it down, citing statistics of employers and prospective employers who regularly check their employees’ social networking sites. Her walls went up. Hubby had “made her feel bad about herself.” (No, sweetheart, you did that yourself.)  A distant relative of Big’s backed Hubby up, saying that Hubby was really trying to look out for her because he cares for her. She said, “Sometimes the people who will tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear, are the ones who care the most about you.” This went back and forth a while, until Big asked the question, “What’s the big deal?”

This morning I found myself writing a message to Big, and I learned something about myself. Yeah, I already knew it, but sometimes we need to remind ourselves exactly who we are, how we got where we are, and most importantly, that we don’t have to stay where we are:

It’s a big deal because, obviously, there are people in your life who love you. Unless you’re omnipotent, you can’t know that anything you say or do is “not offensive to anyone.” Maybe something is offensive to someone, but they don’t tell you because they’re afraid of how you will react. This entire thread is evidence of that.

You’re looking for an “amen corner.” You want everyone to agree with you, all the time, and if they don’t then you interpret that disagreement as disapproval of you as a person. Kate tried to help you, and you struck at her, which caused her to strike at you in self-defense. She is still in self-defense mode. Look at the situation honestly and think about what has happened in the past, every time Kate has disagreed with you over the tiniest thing.

You have been raised as an only child. I know about that. I am an only child; I recognize the behavior patterns in you because I’ve LIVED THEM and continue to try to rise above them, and I’m 51 years old. This is a life-long learning process, and we’ll never get it right. The point is to TRY to listen to the people who truly love you and maybe let a word or two of what they’re saying get into your head and start rolling around. I don’t think I really learned this until I was 40, and it was my mom who pointed it out to me.

I know that, if you do read this, you won’t respond. At some point a decision has to be made, by all of us. I can’t stop loving you, even though I know that you probably wish I could, and would, do just that. I can’t stop loving you any more than I could stop loving Hubby, or Wubby (even though he has gone off in search of his own amen corner), or Kate. I’m sorry that your mom and dad and step-mom have failed you as parents, and they have. I can take some of that pain, help you look at it and understand it until you take a step toward putting it down. But you have to want to look at it honestly and try to understand it. Until you take that first step out of your comfort zone, no one who really loves you will be able to help you. And those folks who are still in your “amen” corner….are the ones who will trap you there, and they don’t even know they’re doing it. You think you have control over them; when you tell them to jump, they say “sure, how high and how far?” But they’re controlling you, because your subsequent behavior is a direct response to their action. Did they jump? Was it high enough, or far enough? Or, heaven forbid, did one of them say, “I don’t feel like jumping today.” Out comes the rolled up newspaper for that one.

I can guarantee you this: you can stay in the corner as long as you want, but eventually the folks that are in the corner with you will get tired of being there and they will move on.

And your corner will be empty, except for you. That, my darling girl, is NOT life. It is closer to death. I’m speaking from experience here, and it’s ugly, damned ugly. If you stay there long enough, death will start looking pretty good. And those thoughts are NOT acceptable in the eyes of God and the Universe and the people who continue to love you in spite of yourself and your actions toward them.

As I think about what I’m writing, I realize that I’m not talking to you at all; I’m talking to ME. I have my own thinking and accepting and moving out of the corner to do.

Someone said, “Unless you’ve had your heart broken, you don’t really know about love.” There’s truth in that statement.

I love you.

And my heart is broken for you.

Glory Days

I was never a Bruce Springsteen fan. However, I continue to find the song “Glory Days” to be very relevant in a number of ways to a number of people, including myself.

For example, there’s the mysterious fairy-tale writer who keeps telling the same story over and over and over and over and….is very entertaining because, for some reason unknown to me, said writer actually believes in the credibility of his/her writing. Go figure.

Then there’s this guy I know. Don’t know him very well, but he entered my life as the product of decisions made by another member of my family. He’s a bit older than me, sports one helluva mullet-looking hairdo, and is so stuck in the past, and in such denial about it, that it’s actually funny.

In a very sad sort of way.

For example, he loves to drop names of “famous” people he hung out with back in the day, while simultaneously ragging on people who drop names. Hello? (Hey, guess what? I met Bob Barker in 1978. Aren’t you impressed? I know you are. Heh.) Evidently he was, and perhaps still is, a talented technician. He worked for about 20 years as a technician, says he was pulling in a six figure income, which is hard to do as a technician in these parts. The northeast corridor, we are NOT.  The problem: those glory days weren’t spent being a technician, they were spent in a commune, being an “artist”, basking in the glow of a very famous, now deceased, artist whose name he loves to drop while waxing poetic about how obnoxious name-droppers are.

Funny story: way back in the 90s there was a weekly summer concert series around here, every Wednesday at noon. Hubby and I both worked downtown and would meet at the park for lunch and whatever entertainment happened to show up. Sometimes it was great: Matt Kendrick. (If you’re from around here and know anything about the local jazz scene, then you know Matt.) Other times, well, not so much. One Wednesday we got a student from the local arts college. It was surreal, kinda beatnik. He would strum non-chords on an un-tuned guitar while reciting poetry that went something like this: “I am an art-TIST. I go to professional art SCHOOL. I am totally COOL, because I’m an art-TIST.” It was hilarious, great satire.

But I digress.

So, back to the future, here’s this guy, with a family, living on unemployment because the Lord says he’s really an artist, not a technician, going around saying stuff like “I’m so stoked about the gig tonight”. I’m telling you, Bob Barker NEVER said that! I had a chance to observe him practicing his art, and while I can’t work in his preferred medium, I can recognize talent. Or lack thereof, if you get my drift. And he gets a lot of sympathy from a lot of people because his talent isn’t recognized, dare I say, perhaps because it isn’t there? The problem is that there is no sympathy from the one person he’s really looking for sympathy from: dear old dad.

I sit back and observe this ongoing drama, and drama it most certainly is, and I wonder: if you’re a good technician, and you believe that God made you what you are, might it perhaps be true that God made you to be a GREAT TECHNICIAN? Just a thought.

But, what do I know? I’m just a frustrated artist who used to be a great technician, who is now neither one. Who is now, essentially, not much of anything. If Obamacare were fully implemented, I’d probably be on the short list for “end of life counseling” because hey, let’s face it, I’m not a contributing member of society. (In other words, I’m not contributing to the country’s revenue. That’s not 100% accurate because I am a tax-paying citizen, just not paying my fair share right now. Or is that, “I’m not doing my patriotic duty”? I forget what the proper verbiage is these days, and it’s always changing so who cares, right?)

As some character in one of my favorite movies EVER (If You Could See What I Hear) said: Well, who really gives a DAMN? (That was his way of saying “Wassup?”)

I wish I could say that the answer to that question is: me. I give a damn. I want to, I really do. For all its annoying politics, boring meetings, long hours, trying to do the impossible and sometimes succeeding, but mostly not, I miss being a technician. I was good. I was efficient. I could explain technical issues in non-technical terms to people who needed to hear technical issues explained in non-technical terms.  But, like the “late to the party pony”, my tack just got too heavy and now I’m a swayback pony, mostly good for being a companion pony to some other pony who needs a companion.

Lucky for me, I do have a companion pony. Actually, I have several companion ponies, but only one that lives in my pasture. (NO, no THAT kind of companion pony in someone else’s pasture…shame on you!) This week my pony learned that the workload at his barn is drying up, and some of the ponies have been sold, and unless something changes, he might be headed to the stockyard for auction as well.

So, where do we got from here? Can a swayback pony be rehabilitated? After you’ve been a dressage pony for 20 years, very precise, very controlled, able to change course at the tiniest signal from my rider, can I learn to be a western pony and sort of lope around? Sounds easy, but old habits are hard to break. Is it hard to teach a smart pony dumb tricks? Beats me, I’ve never tried it until now. But, if I take my observations of mullet-guy and apply them to myself, then it is more than likely true that God made me to be a technician too, not an artist. And if I could adapt to change before, than isn’t it possible that I can adapt again? I have to believe that if it weren’t possible, then the time and money I’m spending on retraining myself from dressage to western is a wasted effort.

I do know this: I don’t wanna grow a mullet and sit around musing about the good old days, before I was a technician myself, wishing I could go back and re-capture something I never really had to begin with: real talent. Skill, yes. Talent, not so much. I don’t want to be a mediocre artist who complains because my talent is not recognized. Who recognizes mediocre anyway?

But, oh how I miss being a mediocre artist as well as being a great technician.

And so, here I am, sporting my mullet and musing over the glory days that really weren’t so glorious after all.

Here’s to talent….two pieces that I played, with mediocrity, in recital–played here with genius:

Sigh.

What does it mean when you want to be, NEED to be, just mediocre at something? At ANYTHING?

Sand and Water

Dear Daddy,

Remember when we all went to Fancy Gap for a pig-picking after David’s wedding? You and Ray were sitting at a picnic table, reminiscing about how fast David had grown up, and about where the tine had gone. I heard you tell Ray, “You know, I’ll be fifty this year, but I  don’t feel it inside. I look in the mirror and see myself and say ‘Yep, you sure do look like fifty’, but I don’t FEEL it. I feel 18.” I remember thinking about how ridiculous that sounded, and that of course you had to “feel” your age.

Well Daddy, you were a wise man.I always thought, even after you got sick, that we’d have more time, that you’d be here to see Wubby grow up. He is so like me, which means we are like oil and water together. But he’s also so like you, kind and gentle to a fault, never met an enemy, always looking for ways to make other people feel better. I wish you could see that.

I wish you could see your granddaughter and her horse. They have come so far from those little shows we used to have at the barn. Remember that “pokey kid” who took first place from those other riders whose coach stood and the rail and yelled at her students, “Pass that pokey kid!”? Well, she’s not pokey now. She’s fearless on a horse. They are amazing together. I wish you could have seen that.

But here’s the real thing, Daddy. I turned 50 this year, and I’m starting to get what you told Ray all those years ago. I don’t feel 50, but I don’t feel 18 either. Right now I just don’t feel. Anything. Except the pain that never goes away, my constant companion fibro. And maybe anger. I’m angry that our little family is alone in the world. The family ties don’t really bind all that much anymore. The kids miss their grandparents, ALL of them. And we miss our parents, ALL of them. Hubby misses his sister and his brothers, who are now spread out all over the place and busy with their own lives. Isolation could be a good thing if the conditions were right, but these aren’t optimal conditions for living the self-sustaining lifestyle.

I wish you were still here. I need to talk to you. I need to know some things. I need to know that I’m doing at least one thing right, that my life hasn’t been an entire screw-up, or if it has, I guess I need to know that too so I can maybe fix some things before it’s too late.

Please talk to me, Daddy. Somehow, some way, I need to hear your voice just once more. Tell me it’s going to be ok, that there’s nothing to be afraid of, that there’s still time to make a difference in this world, knowing full well that I could never come close to what you did.

When I was little you let me sit in your lap while you watch Walter Cronkite, and it was the safest place in the world. I need a safe place. Please tell me where to find one. Show me the way home.

All my love,

Your baby girl.

what the heck happened?

Captain Phil Harris said, and I quote (edited for PG audience, that is): “Sometimes you make things happen; sometimes you watch things happen; and sometimes you wonder what the heck happened!”

I think I’m in the middle of all three phases with Wubby. I wish I knew where he is, metaphorically speaking that is. I know where he is…I think. I think he’s between classes on the next to last day of what looks to be the divorce of Wubby from college.

It’s absolutely pouring rain right now, which is appropriate. If I can’t cry, then at least the sky can do it for me.

The rain comes in waves. One minute it pours; the next minute it quits. Then it drizzles like it can’t make up its mind about what to do with itself.

That’s Wubby. When he started college he was 25 miles away, living on campus. He was also seriously involved with his much younger girlfriend, spent as much time here at home as he did at school, and it lasted one semester.

Then he came home, signed up at the local community college, continued with the girlfriend and bombed that semester as well. He took last summer off, came back to it last fall and produced a 4.0 average.

This semester has been a roller coaster. Started out high. Then the break-up with the girl. He got a job right before the holidays and has continued working, picking up a second job recently. He found some old friends from high school and earlier and has been spending time with them. Lots of time. As in coming home in the wee hours the night before an 8:00 AM class. Doesn’t work.

I asked him recently if he’d been doing his best this semester. No. Agreed. I asked him why. Interesting answer, something about the freedom of not having girlfriend, combined with lack of motivation because his dad and I told him to get his act together, find an art school or some other appropriate institution, and get busy because we were through with paying for failing grades at community college. In other words, it’s our fault. It’s my fault.

I’m wondering why it matters so much to me, when it doesn’t appear to matter to Wubby. Maybe it will matter to Wubby in time; he just needs to come to the realization himself that he is almost 21 and needs to become self-sufficient.

All I know is that I look at my baby boy, marvel at the artistic and musical talent God gave him, watch him struggle, and turn on the tape recorder inside my head that repeats “It’s your fault. You are the one who is failing him. You are the one who has failed, again. You were not good enough for him. Not good enough. Not good enough.”

I don’t know what to say to Wubby. We’ve told both of our kids that, no matter what the problem is, the best course of action is to tell us what’s going on and not to hide it. I know it’s counter-intuitive to the nature of a teenager, but still. I’d rather hear it from the horse’s mouth instead of from the gossip vine at the racetrack.

This semester ends Wednesday. Saturday we are leaving for a week at the beach, which was scheduled to coincide with the week between semesters. Guess that wasn’t all that important after all. But we all need a break from the grind.

Proverbs 22:6, from the Message: “Point your kids in the right direction—when they’re old they won’t be lost.”

OK then.

my friend, the house

(Yes, the girls are home. Yes, the girls had fun. Yes, there will be blogging about the trip when the road stops rushing by.)

Someone new found my blog while I was out with the girls. She read the “what is a house” post and made a very nice comment, and I remembered that I haven’t finished the story.

We sold the house to the guy who made the offer, the first-and-only-showing guy. Only we didn’t close on June 30. As often happens, things didn’t go quite as smoothly with the sale of his house as had been anticipated, so closing was delayed until July 20. Three extra weeks of nail-chewing.

Within the first week, all of the remaining landscaping, with the exception of two trees, one hydrangea bush, and a few hostas, was gone.

The old basement door and front door were replaced.

The porch and deck have since been rebuilt.

He’s started a retaining wall at the end of the driveway.

Everything is very pretty now, as opposed to the remaining shabbiness we left behind.

I still drive through the neighborhood on a fairly regular basis, picking up and delivering kids for riding lessons and church.

In one way, I feel like I’m looking at Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree, after Linus says, “All it needed was a little love.”, wraps his blanket around it, and proceeds to decorate it with the lights from Snoopy’s doghouse.

And I feel guilty about how I treated my friend, the house.

(Darned tears…makes it hard to see the computer.)

But then, I remembered.

The new owner of my friend, the house, had to sell his old friend, his house, because of a divorce. I don’t know if he has children or not, but suspect that may be the case because of his desire to find a house with three bedrooms in the same area. His old house was only a mile away, in the opposite direction from the house we live in now.

He may very well be hurting, badly, separated from the children he loves. So, he loves the house instead.

And we loved it too. It might not have showed as much on the outside as it should have. But it was there, on the inside.

And we brought it here.

so, anyway

As of yesterday we’re a home school. Little girl has hated high school since she started last year. As summer started winding down and 10th grade loomed imminent, her mood started tanking. So we downloaded the official form, gave our home school a very pretentious-sounding name, dug up my college transcript to prove I grad-yee-ated 6th grade just like Jethro Bodine, and mailed everything off. It took less than a week to get it back. Amazed. It usually takes any government agency, federal, state or local, a month of Sundays to do anything. Heck, I’ve had Medicare as a secondary insurer for almost 2 years and they still haven’t paid any co-pays they’re supposed to, so don’t talk to me about how everyone who has Medicare loves it. Everyone I know who has Medicare thinks a bit less highly of it than I do.

But I digress.

Yesterday we dropped by the high school to officially withdraw and thumb our nose at it, just a little, then grabbed a celebratory McGriddle (not me, just her) and headed off to the local used bookstores in search of stuff. We found some stuff and brought it home. She had one homework assignment to complete, and voila! we’re done. Her homework was to write something. Anything. Without thinking about rules, grammar, spelling, whatever. Just write.

Physician, heal thyself.

——————————

My mom sent me this email yesterday. Doesn’t matter if it’s a true story or not; the principle is dead on as far as I’m concerned.

Effort and Reward

An economics professor at a local college made a statement that he had never failed a single student before but had once failed an entire class.

That class had insisted that Obama’s socialism worked and that no one would be poor and no one would be rich, a great equalizer.

The professor then said, “OK, we will have an experiment in this class on Obama’s plan”. All grades would be veraged and everyone would receive the same grade so no one would fail and no one would receive an A.

After the first test, the grades were averaged and everyone got a B.

The students who studied hard were upset and the students who studied little were happy.

As the second test rolled around, the students who studied little had studied even less and the ones who studied hard decided they wanted a free ride too so they studied little.

The second test average was a D! No one was happy.

When the 3rd test rolled around, the average was an F.

The scores never increased as bickering, blame and name-calling all resulted in hard feelings and no one would study for the benefit of anyone else.

All failed, to their great surprise, and the professor told them that socialism would also ultimately fail because when the reward is great, the effort to succeed is great but when government takes all the reward away, no one will try or want to succeed.

Could not be any simpler than that.

Do I believe there’s a professor somewhere who never failed a single student? Maybe, maybe not.

Whoever wrote this used Obama’s name, but in my estimation it’s not a criticism aimed directly at President Obama; it’s a criticism of the fundamental flaw inherent in socialism. It’s a wonderful concept; there’s just one problem with it: pesky human nature.

It’s the same problem I always had in school, and at work, with group projects. I wound up doing the work because I was not willing to take the lower grade, or create a less than acceptable product, because of everyone else’s lack of participation.

Pesky human nature.