The View From A Slightly Twisted Angle

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Becoming A True Legend

One of my favorite things about Tuesday nights this time of year is watching “Deadliest Catch.”  My husband got me hooked on this show a few years ago.  He loves it because he loves to watch the storms and the seas and all the manly men things that happen on a crab boat in the Bering Sea.  I love it because I am interested in the inter-personal relationships.  (I’m such a GIRL!)  No matter the reason it has become one of our family’s favorite shows. As I was watching last night, I couldn’t help but notice that one of the ship captains, a younger one, kept saying that he wants to be a legend.  He takes risks and pushes hard because he wants to be legendary in the Bering Sea. It got me to pondering…..what makes a legend?

Most people would like to be legends.  Probably because in order to be a legend, one has to be famous. Many of us are  legends in our own minds already anyway, so why not get the perk of being famous too?  Who wouldn’t enjoy having a fan base all of your own?  Who wouldn’t like to have people speak about you with awe in their voice?  Who wouldn’t like to give out autographs?  Who doesn’t want people talking about how incredible you were hundreds of years after you are dead? Isn’t that what being a legend is all about??

 According to trusty old Webster a legend is: a: a story coming down from the past especially one popularly regarded as historical although not verifiable. d: a person or thing that inspires.  A person or thing that inspires.  Now that may be a totally different thing from being famous. 

While famous people can be inspiring,  inspiring people are not always famous.  I ran across this Legends website while researching today.  It is interesting to me that while many of the people on the list are famous, there are still many of them who are not.  Their inventions are.  Their work is. Their names…eh…not so much.  Still they are listed among  “people who changed the way we live.”  They are legends, but many of them didn’t know it. They were just hard-working people. People who woke up every day and gave their best doing what they knew to do.   I might also note that some people who are famous are not very inspiring.  In fact some people are legends because they did the WRONG thing: does the name John Wilkes Booth ring a bell?  Not much of a positive or inspiring person, but he’s a legend!  So if you are only interested in being a legend does it matter? You’d still be famous.

Last night as I listened to the Bering Sea Captain speak about his desire to be a legend a thought popped in my head.  I wonder if people who are truly legends: ones who affect history for the better, ones who have a positive impact on those around them, ones who truly inspire others,  are worried about whether or not they are going to be legends. Or do you suppose they are just working hard at being the best they can be every day?  I’m guessing it’s the latter. To that end, I think it is possible for every person to become a legend: at least in their own circle of influence. 

I hope that is what that captain really meant.  Otherwise….he may just become the wrong kind of “legend.”

   Any guesses as to who this legendary inventor is??

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Therapists Unaware

   Therapeutic: (2) providing or assisting in a cure.  My friends and family have no idea how therapeutic they are. I know this because I had a Facebook discussion this weekend with my father-in-law about what good therapy it is to spend time with them.  He thought that was funny.  He has no idea how serious I was. After a busy week that included the last day of school, award nights and roofers banging overhead for three days, I was at the end of my proverbial rope by Thursday. Thankfully, I had therapists lined up for the weekend. They were just unaware they were therapists.

My first session was Thursday afternoon in the hair salon.  Several months ago the lady who works at the drive-thru at my bank said, “Your hair is so cute. Who is your beauty operator?”  Beauty operator? I had visions of my sweet little grandma going every week to her ‘beauty operator’ have her hair set, styled and shellacked. Shortly after that I asked Holly, my wonderful hair magician, what she prefers to be called: Cosmetologist? Hair Dresser?  She told me I could call her what ever I like.  I call her my “Hair Therapist.”  Seriously on my calendar you will see my appointments written in as “Holly Therapy”.  Think about it: close to two hours of being pampered and in the end you come out looking nice and feeling better about yourself.   It’s therapy. Holly is one of the sweetest women I have ever met and I enjoy the time spent talking with her. She’s always got great things to say and she’s a great listener.  She’s amazing at what she does.  She has no idea that she’s a therapist, but she is!

After working all day Friday, we set off in the evening for my parents-in-law’s home which is about two hours away.  I was tired of people banging on the roof and was quite ready to escape. As we walked into their home, my mother-in-law was pulling chocolate chip cookies out of the oven. NIRVANA! There is nothing quite like a warm cookie that you didn’t bake. There is nothing quite like a home that accepts you lovingly all the time.  There is nothing quite like spending time with people you love and I love my in-laws. Their home is relaxing and inviting and they make room and time for us whenever we show up.  (They even made room for our dog who was also tired of roofers.)  We spent a lovely evening just relaxing and visiting.  Balm for my weary soul. Therapy!

The next morning my husband and I took our oldest daughter to the drop off for her missions trip.  Our younger two children stayed with their grandparents, being spoiled and having fun.  There is nothing like “Grandparent Therapy”: having the total attention of people who think you are the greatest kids on earth.  My in-laws are especially good at grandparent therapy.  My kids are some of the luckiest kids on the planet.   After we dropped off our daughter my husband and I were able to go to lunch with another set of parents.  More therapy.  It was great getting to know these people better: just spending time talking with nothing else more pressing to do.  When we arrived back, my  mother-in-law suggested we take a nap.  (A mother is a mother as long as she lives.)  See? More people who are therapists and have no idea.

That evening, my husband headed to work and I headed out to “the farm” where my parents live.  We are so fortunate that our parents only live about 15 miles from each other.  It makes visiting everyone much easier.  Again, to be lovingly embraced into a home just because you are you is the greatest thing in the world.  We had no agenda, no plans, just the opportunity to spend time together: therapy.  We spent the next day relaxing and playing cards and laughing. I would laugh at my kids laughing at their grandparents.  My parents would laugh because the kids were laughing. More expert grandparent therapy.  More therapy for mom!The following day my siblings and their families came out for a barbecue.  We are a silly bunch when everyone is together. more laughing. More great food (that I didn’t cook!). More therapy from people who have no idea they are therapists.

Driving home last night I reflected on the weekend and how wonderful it had been.  (It was quite enough in the car: my kids were mad we had to come home.) I began thinking of how nice it had been to just be with people who love me. People who accept me for who I am.  People who are always there to listen when I need them to.  People who encourage me when I need it.  It occurred to me that I have more therapists than I realize.   My friend whom I can text, “Can I Vent?” and she always responds “Yes”.  The one who is always ready for a coffee run.  My dear friends who have moved away yet still check on me via text and Facebook message and let me whine. My dear friend who beings me goodies from her garden, takes me out for lunch “because I can” and mothers me because my mother lives somewhere else.  Countless other friends who have been  there in different phases of life to listen and support. I have had some of the best therapists in the world!

Now the challenge to me is this: am I being a therapist in return?  Am I willing to be there for people even when it isn’t convenient? Am I willing to just listen and keep my mouth shut?  Am I willing to accept people for who they are?   I’d like to think so….but I may need to start working on that.  The world needs more good therapists unaware.

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Planning My Memorial (or not!)

Every Memorial Day I think of my mother.  No, she isn’t dead. I think of her because several years ago I was out shopping with her and we passed a display of those plastic flowers they sell every year around this time.  The ones that say “Mother”.  They are lovely if you like them.  Apprently my mom doesn’t. She looked at me and said, “If you EVER put one of those on my grave I’m gonna come up and rip it off of there.”  Ok Mom….real flowers….got it!  There’s an ornery little part of me that would like to one day, many many years from now when she’s gone, buy some and put them on there just to see if she does show up to remove them, but I won’t. I want to respect her wishes and I appreciate the fact that she shared that bit of information with me. Besides knowing her, she’ll figure out a way to do it.

Having worked in a church office for the past 12 years I have been around for several funerals.  Funeral planning is no fun for anyone.  You are forced to think about things you never wanted to think about. You have to decide things at a time when you don’t even want to get off the couch.  Many people have no idea what they are doing or what they want.   After all watching this all these years, I have come to a couple of conclusions: 1 – your family is better off if you’ve made a plan or at least mentioned a few things you would like.  2 – the best funerals are a blend of what the deceased wishes and what will give closure to those they left behind.   Keeping those things in mind, I have over the years mentioned a few things to my husband and children.  Of course I have no control over whether or not they do them but I have mentioned them. (Even I understand that I really can’t control my own funeral.  Sigh.)  At any rate, I thought I’d share a few of those thoughts here. This way it’s all published somewhere and no one can accuse me of not writing them down.

I don’t like people looking at me while I’m alive so I sure don’t want them looking at me after I’m dead.  An open casket funeral would not be the best way to honor me.  I’d much rather people remember me the way I looked before the “make-up artists” do their magic.  I’d rather have a nice airbrushed photo of me in my 20’s  that is recent displayed so that people can remember me that way. In fact, I want to be cremated.  I know a lot of people have a problem with that and you are entitled to your opinion, but I’m thinking this is a good solution for me.  It’s less expensive, it requires less room and there is no way anyone can look at me and say, “Oh doesn’t she just look so pretty?” (shudder).

Now there are a few “rules” attached to my cremation.  I do not want to be kept  in an urn on the mantle because I do not want to be another thing that someone mutters about having to dust.   I’d prefer my ashes be buried or sprinkled.  I’m not picky about either of those options.  (See – I’m not a total control freak.)  A while ago I read an article about a funeral home that will allow families to cremate their loved one in a “natural” way. Basically they put the deceased in a grate type thing and the family can help add wood and start the fire.  I can’t remember where this place was, mostly because I immediately destroyed the article. I don’t want my family to ever find out about it.  I realize that it might be very therapeutic to throw a log and lighter fluid on mom, but the thought of being a bonfire is a little more than I can take.  Knowing my family, they’d bring marshmallows.  In their defense I do love s’mores.  I just don’t know if that is an appropriate funeral snack.  Anyway, I’d really rather stick to traditional methods.

The only other thing that I have ever mentioned to my family is this: I’d prefer that no one sing or play “Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead”  that day. Oh, and I’m with my mom.  Leave the plastic “Mom” flowers at the store.  Other than those little things, my family is  free to say good-bye to me however they wish.  It’s more about closure for them anyway. I really don’t think I am going to care.

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The Mom Game

Our youngest wasn’t feeling well last Sunday so he was resting on the living room couch.  I had just delivered him some toast and was busy in the kitchen when he called me back into the living room. “Do you know where the tv remote is?”  The child was already watching tv, he just wanted to change the channel. “I have no idea where it is.  How did you turn the tv on?” He looked at me trying to look his most pathetic. “I had it then. I can’t find it now.”  Are you kidding me? “Well I didn’t move it. Where did you put it after you used it?” Again, pathetic look, “I don’t know.  I thought you would know.”  He was serious.  While I love the fact that he still believes at some level that I know everything, I was at a loss.  “Is it under your blanket with you?”  The child had been on the couch no more than a half an hour. He seriously lost the remote that fast? “I don’t think so.”  Sigh. “Get up.”  Sure enough. There was the remote, wedged between the cushion and the back of the couch.  He needed me to find that?  Really?  I guess he did or we couldn’t play the Mom Game.

Every mom knows this game.  It starts with the words, “mom have you seen…”  or “mom where are my…”  We moms have such omnipresence in our house that we know where everything is located at all times.  Well…our kids think we do.  It’s all part of the game.   My job is to get up in the middle of the night with the sole purpose of hiding their stuff while they sleep. The game sounds a little like this:

Q: “Mom have you seen my shoes? They were right here last night.”  A: “Oh yes.  When I wore them last night I decided to put them….um…under your bed?”

Q: “Mom do you know where my science report is?  I KNOW I put it in my backpack.” A: “Well I thought we could use a little frantic activity right before school so I pulled it out of that back pack and left it on the computer desk.”

Q: “Mom where is my brush?”  A: “Wild guess: the bathroom drawer?”

I really do wonder if kids honestly believe that we moms purposefully lose their stuff for them. There’s a little truth to their thinking because we moms are usually the ones who have picked said object off of the middle of the table or floor and put it someplace.  Fastest way for my kids to lose something? I put it back where it belongs. Why in the world would they look for their bobby pins in the basket in the bathroom? It makes much more sense to leave them on the dining room table.

Because I am ever diligent at teaching my children to be responsible, somewhere along the way we entered to the “Nagging Mom Round.”  During that round I, the nagging one, call a child back into the room and make him or her pick up whatever thing it is they left laying there.  That child’s duty is to sigh, roll their eyes heavenward as if asking for help, pick up offending object and slump out of the room EVER so wearily. This round got old in a hurry – for everyone involved. Because of this I decided to implement the “Mom box”.  Simple concept.  Anything left in a “family area” after they went to bed was placed in a box. In order for them to secure the return of any item from the Mom box they had to pay a quarter or perform an extra chore.  That worked pretty well.  Now when I have to revert to the Nagging Mom Round more than once in a while I threaten to break out the Mom Box.  That scares them to death. Not really, I’m really not very scary, but they get the message.

Another part of The Mom Game I particularly enjoy is the laundry round.  You may be familiar with this one also.  It starts with, “Mom did you wash my________” (fill in the blank with football pads, volleyball shirt, work uniform, favorite jeans, etc.)   My usual response to that inquiry is, “Did you put them in the laundry?”  It’s a simple concept really: if I can’t see it, I can’t wash it.  I’m not sure why this is such a hard one to grasp..  You get it into downstairs hampers and I’ll wash it.  I’m not part of a search and rescue organization.  Once it is washed and folded you need to pick it up and put it away. I’m not Pizza Hut – I don’t deliver.  That round usually ends with said child stomping off in search of clothes that won’t look NEARLY as good as what isn’t washed or throwing the object in the dryer with a dryer sheet to “freshen” it.  Well – not the football pads. Football players really don’t care if their practice clothes smell bad. They don’t mind missing a laundry day. The rest of us do.

One of these days, just to be ornery, I really am going to sneak into my children’s rooms and hide a whole bunch of their things.  I might as well. They think I do that anyway. If I’m feeling really nice, I might even leave them a map.

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Knowing That You Know

Our daughter leaves this morning on a short-term summer missions trip.  She will be spending a little over a week with a group of kids from Nebraska working at the Dream Center in Los Angeles.  I’m sure it will be quite an eye opening experience for our protected girl who has grown up in small town Nebraska.  (Sorry – midsize town.) She’s very excited. She should be. It’s been a long road to get here.

Every summer the district office (or Nebraska office) of our denomination offers a missions trip to the youth of our state.  Two years ago the trip was to Ireland.  Our daughter and oldest son felt like they were supposed to go on this trip.  The cost per person for that particular year was close to $2,300.  We were looking at that times two. Their father and I gulped, assured them we would support them but wouldn’t be able to pay for them to go and started believing with them that they would be able to raise the funds they needed. It was a hard, emotional and chaotic several months that followed as they worked and tried to fundraise.  Several times it looked as though they weren’t going to make it.  They contemplated dropping out of the trip.  My husband and I tried to help them walk through the process without telling them what to do.  “What do you feel like you are supposed to do?”  I’d ask.  They would both respond, “I know we’re supposed to go.”  “Okay then. Let’s keep moving that direction.”  It was difficult, often frustrating, and often tear filled, but they did manage to get their trips fully funded by the time they were set to leave.  They spent nearly two weeks working with a church in northern Ireland.  They had a great time, learned a great deal about themselves and others and came home different kids.  Their father and I, and I believe the two of them, are so grateful that they got to have the experience together.  It is something I know neither will ever forget.

Last year, the trip was set to return to Ireland again.  Both our son and daughter really wanted to go again.  From the announcement of the trip I had a “check” about it, but kept my mouth shut.  I figured they were both old enough to know if they were supposed to go.  They dove headfirst into fundraising. It didn’t go even as easily as it had the year before, and it hadn’t been easy that time.  Money just wasn’t coming in.  Payment deadlines were passing.  Plane tickets were being ordered.  We weren’t where we had been the year before. Our son who had learned to be a little more practical while dealing with his first year in college decided that he should drop out of the trip before they ordered the tickets.  That way he wouldn’t have to pay a cancel fee and the money he had raised would be held in account for him for future trips. Our daughter decided to soldier on and had them go ahead and order her plane ticket.  About a week later she came to me and said, “Mom.  I don’t think I’m supposed to go now.”  My heart sank.  She couldn’t have decided this BEFORE they ordered her plane ticket?  “You’re sure about this?” I asked.  “I really thought I was supposed to go, but now I just know that I know I’m not. I know I’ll have to lose the cancel fee, but I know I’m not supposed to go.”  I trust my kids, especially this one, to pray things through and listen to what God is saying to them.  How could I argue with that?  She contacted the appropriate people and let them know she was pulling out of the trip.  She was told that there was a young lady who decided after the deadline that she wanted to go but it was too late to order her ticket.  Because our daughter dropped out they would give her ticket to the other young lady and we were spared the cancellation fee.  Seemed to be a good sign.

She sent out letters to or called the people who had sent funds for her trip know she wasn’t going and that the money they’d sent would be held in account for a future trip for her.  She didn’t receive one negative response. That is, she didn’t until the people in our church began to hear about her decision not to go.  My lovely daughter began to be questioned, sometimes a length, about her decision.  People questioned her faith.  Was she just scared and not trusting God to provide the funds to go?  People questioned whether her father and I told her not to go.  People questioned whether she could even hear from God.  Every time she was confronted she’d come home frustrated and say the same thing, “I can’t explain it but I just suddenly knew I wasn’t supposed to go.  How can I make people understand that?”  “You can’t.” I’d tell her. “You just have to be sure in what you know and let others say what they want.”  It wasn’t a fun couple months.

Shortly after the team returned from Ireland, our daughter received a Facebook message from the girl who had taken her ticket.  Seems the trip was a life changing experience for the girl.  She thanked my daughter profusely for listening to God and stepping out of the way allowing her to go on the trip.  As much as we all wanted to say, “SEE?” to those people who had doubted her, our daughter (and the rest of us) kept our mouths shut.  It was enough to know that it had been the correct decision.  She had money in her account and the person who was supposed to go, went.

Last fall they announced the missions trips for this summer.  For the first time that I can remember, they are doing two trips this year.  One international – back to Ireland for a final year – and one domestic – to Los Angeles.  Our daughter already had half the amount needed for the L.A. trip in her account so it really didn’t take her long to decide which trip she wanted to participate in.   She chose L.A., again telling us “I just know.”  Since the trips were announced our daughter, who has had her college and course of study set in her mind since….I don’t know…BIRTH, has come to us and said, “You know, I think I might want to study Social Work.  I think that is what I’m supposed to do.”  Funny how the missions trip in which she chose to participate fits exactly into that field. Funny how God knew what he was doing all along.  Funny how we people try to get in His way sometimes.

As we drop our daughter off this morning  I can’t help but reflect on something I’ve learned through this process:

“When someone knows that they know it’s what they are to do,  let them do it.”

One of my favorite pictures of our oldest two kids in Ireland, July, 2010.

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Who Did I Just Embarrass?

   I will never forget the day I learned the power that the treat of embarrassment had over my children.  We were grocery shopping and I, being the frugal mother of four, was at the check-out price matching some items. I had several ads with me.  Suddenly my then-fifteen year old son said, “Mom! Can you be done doing that???”  Apparently one of his friends from school was in the area and he didn’t want him to see me being “cheap.”  I refrained from pointing out that said friend’s mother probably did the same thing that I was doing.  I just smiled and said, “Almost done.”  He went to a different aisle feigning a sudden interest in batteries.  I suddenly felt giddy over my new found power. 

All I have to do is threaten to do something embarrassing in public and my kids panic.  They’ll do whatever I ask just so that their mother won’t act like a dork.  I don’t blame them really.  I can be an incredible dork when I want to.  What they don’t realize is that I’m not overly interested in embarrassing myself in public either. We do have different definitions of what is embarrassing so that works to my advantage, but I really am shy enough that I don’t ever intentionally draw attention to myself.  I’ve threatened to sing loudly in the mall parking lot, but I would never do it.  I have threatened to be kissy smootchy baby-talking to them or their father in a public place but that probably isn’t going to happen either.  I even threatened to get on a dance game in an arcade one time.  They scattered like cats at a bulldog convention.  Please, I haven’t danced in public since my husband’s senior prom…but they don’t know that. While there are some things that they find embarrassing that I don’t: price matching, using coupons, asking the doctor questions, for the most part I really am not going to do anything that is going to embarrass myself.  On purpose anyway.

Two weeks ago today everyone was home except my husband.  It was a Friday night so everyone was in a pretty good mood. I was planning to bake a pizza and we had a night of hanging out and watching movies planned.  A happy night.  It was a lovely cool evening so we had the windows open in the house.

Everyone was being a bit silly, which is fine (according to teenagers) as long as it is in our house and no one can see us.  My oldest daughter was in an especially silly mood.  Her little sister had posted earlier on Facebook that she had a song stuck in her head.  Of course that prompted several comments suggesting new songs to get stuck in her head.  I was trying to help by singing songs, loudly and as badly as possible. I don’t think she was appreciating my efforts.  Daughter #1 decided it was time to pull out that timeless song that gets stuck in everyone’s head: The Final Countdown. (You’re welcome.)  Instead of just posting a video like a normal person would do, she decided to type out the lyrics.  Except for there aren’t many lyrics to the part that gets stuck in your head.  Her comment looked like this:

 “ITS THE FINAL COUNTDOWN! BUH DA DUH DUUUH. BUH DA DAH DAH DAH. BUH DUH DAH DUH. BUH DA DAT DUH DUH DUH, DUH, DUH DUH DUH. DUH DUH DUH DU DUH DUH DUH DUUUH DUUUUUUUUH DUUUUUUUUUUH”

(You just tried that and it worked – right??)

I saw her comment and I, being me, asked her, “are those the official lyrics?”  “Hey! I worked really hard typing those out while singing it in my head!”  I must have given her a funny look because she said, “I did!  Try it yourself!”  So together we began singing through the buh da duhs – loudly – to the song’s tune.  About halfway through I heard, “Mom.  MOM!” It was our youngest daughter who was in the living room.  “What?” I yelled from the dining room. “You’re throwing off my groove!”  Red faced she walked into the dining room. “There’s someone at the front door.”  OHHHHHH NO!  The front door.  Right outside the open dining room windows. That front door?  Hoping it was a close friend I went to the entry way.  Standing there was a man I didn’t know.  I opened the door, my face now red, and met the gentleman running for the County Board of Commissioners.  He was out meeting his constituents.  I hope I never need him to listen to me on an issue.  I’m pretty sure I’ve blown my credibility.

It’s really tough when dignity dies…..

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Pounding Overhead

Finally, after almost six weeks of waiting, our roof is being done.  We are happy about that…mostly.  Well, we’ll be happy when it’s done.  If you’ve never had your house re-roofed, let me share with you how it works.  Or how it works at our house at least….

Before I start let me say first and foremost that I respect anyone who roofs for a living.  I don’t like to look out our second story windows so I can’t imagine walking around on a roof.  Carrying heavy shingles and using air guns up there – are you kidding? I can’t drive a nail straight standing on the ground.  On our pitched roof I’d be a mess. It’s a hard job on a hot surface.  I respect roofers. That doesn’t mean I enjoy having them around, however.

The stacks of shingles and roofing needs arrived in our driveway. Our excitement began to build.  Well….not our daughter’s excitement.  She couldn’t pull into her side of the garage any more.  Since her car is not yet repaired from the hail damage, I didn’t feel too sorry for her.  Better her car than mine.  The next morning the roll-off arrived. Yay! That must mean they were coming.  They were. Just not until about 3:30 in the afternoon.  Right about the time I get home from work.  At least they hadn’t blocked my garage door yet. They were busy setting out tarps.  I appreciated this because the last roofing crew we had didn’t.  I sill find nails in my flower beds.  I am thankful I haven’t spent a lot of money planting annuals yet this year. They’d have been toast.

There were heavy rainstorms  forecasted so as they began peeling off the old shingles, I couldn’t help but wonder if this was a good idea.  It appeared they intended to pull the whole roof off at once. Now I’m all for working in good order, but…ummm….if it starts raining?  The foreman assured my husband they were just going to do the main part of the roof and come back the next day (today) to finish the rest.  They knew it was supposed to rain.  They were going to get it done before the rain started. Okay.  They do this for a living (I think) so we trusted them.

There is nothing quite like the feeling of having men walking overhead when you are trying to just go about your normal business. It’s kind of sounds like Santa is visiting with his heavy-pulling team of reindeer.  This is probably why I will never be able to live in an apartment. People walking over my head is distracting to me.  Now I know they were on the roof and couldn’t see me, but I was paranoid about even using our bathroom in the master bedroom to change because they were scraping above me. Meanwhile, our dog who lives in the backyard is not at all happy about strange people walking on his people’s roof: bark bark bark.  Nice relaxing thing to come home to after work.  I do have to admit that these guys were quieter than the roofing crew we had six years ago.  Those guys brought their radios to entertain themselves – and the neighborhood – while they were roofing.  This crew just whistles.

As I was finished preparing dinner, I’m fairly sure one of our roofing guys decided he was superman and leaped from one part of the roof to another. Crash, slam.  My antique washboard fell from the wall.  Glad I wasn’t standing next to it in my bare feet.  I eyed my antique spice cabinet and decided that I should probably just remove that from the wall before it too took a dive. After removing anything I thought would break if it fell, we sat down for dinner.  About the same time, the guys got to the section of the roof over the eat-in part of our kitchen.  That certainly added to the ambiance of our meal.  “Please pass the..” BANG BANG “What?”  “I said please pass the…” BANG “Just reach for it.”  Sometime during our meal they started throwing the stuff from the roof onto a tarp on our deck.  Suddenly our oldest daughter gasped. “PLEASE tell me that isn’t an animal!”  “No dear. Insulation.”  “Well LOOK at it!”   Dinner AND entertainment! I have to admit that from the right angle it did look like a squirrel.  By the end of dinner the dog had mostly given up constantly barking and was just barking on occasion to let invaders from above know it is still his yard.  He doesn’t like people in his yard.

We are refinishing an upstairs room for our youngest son, so after dinner we decided  to paint.  The roofers decided it was time to do that part of the roof.  I was starting to wonder if they were following us on purpose.  There is noting quite like painting a slanted wall while someone is knocking on the other side. If there is a “vibrating roller” technique, we mastered it. Halfway through our painting party, it was time for our youngest to go to youth group at church.  Our older daughter had volunteered.  Good thing because by this time my garage door was blocked by ladders.  Now I know I could have moved them, but I hate stranding people on my roof.  Especially with rain coming.

By the time we finished painting and came back downstairs they had the generator and air compressors fired up and were busy nailing. The dog figured no one could hear him anyway, so he just started pacing.  Nailing has a great rhythm to it. Thunk  thunk  thunk thunk.   Then they’d get to a corner. Thunk thunk….pause….thunk thunk. It would almost be relaxing if it were not, you know, a nail gun.  I looked out on the deck and noticed the trash pile had grown quite a lot.  Then I noticed shiny crushed cans among the roof rubble.  “Honey.” I asked. “How many guys are on the roof?”  He looked at me funny. “Three maybe four.” “Oh. okay.” He looked at me funny again. “Why? What are you doing.”  “I’m counting.” I pointed at the stuff on the deck about the time another can came down. “You don’t think they found those cans up there on the roof do you.” He grinned, “Oh they came off the roof alright.”  “Think it was the squirrels?” I asked.  Now I don’t care what the guys on my roof are drinking to stay hydrated, I just wanted to make sure the shingles were going on straight.  Since there were the same number of cans as guys I wasn’t concerned.  I found it quite amusing actually. It isn’t every day one sees beer cans flying off their roof.  Well not at my house anyway.

I get up early in the morning, so I like to go to bed a little earlier at night. I don’t usually make it, but I like to.  It was starting to get a little dark.  One fellow had descended from the roof and started to remove the trash pile from the deck.  He got the cans first. (Maybe they recycle??) He waved at me through the deck door.  Nice guy. I figured they were wrapping up.  They weren’t. Thunk thunk thunk thunk.  Recycle man was still making trips back and forth. Thunk thunk thunk.  It was getting dark.  I was tired.  The dog was tired. Thunk thunk thunk.  My husband looked at me. “They are just trying to get the rest of it covered before they leave.  It’s supposed to rain.”  I realized this, but I was starting to wonder if they could even see what they were nailing up there.  Suddenly the generator shut off.  Silence. Until the dog decided this was his opportunity to make up for all the time he’d been quiet.  Bark bark bark bark. The men wrapped up for the evening (night) and left. The pounding had stopped. Well, not the pounding in my head. My husband went out to take care of the dog for the night.  The dog looked at him like, “Really? Was this your idea??”  He got him calmed down and kenneled and as we were retiring for the evening, the rain started.  Hard.  I’m so thankful we had a crew of guys who could nail in the dark.

The crew is supposed to return today to finish. Shouldn’t take them too long since they did so much last night.  I’m hoping they do that while I’m at work mostly because I don’t want to be home with my kids when they take the satellite down to fix that part of the roof. I’m tired of pounding overhead and the dog barking.  That reminds me.  Where did I put the number for that dog therapist??

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The Start of The Finish

 Today is the last day of school. My kids are excited and looking forward to their summer.  My husband and I are excited also, but for different reasons.  While we enjoy the more relaxed pace of summer we are more excited that we are entering our season of “lasts.”   Today was the last day, ever, I had to deal with the traffic at the Junior High. (This is cause for a victory dance, trust me!) This will be our last summer in this house.  Our oldest daughter is officially entering her last year of high school. (As of 10:30am CST – she’s a senior.)  We’ve purchased our last show choir dress from this school district.  While we are excited for our future and sometimes anxious for it to get here, I have recently realized that there is some melancholy mixed in.

Last Wednesday was the celebration award night for our midweek children’s ministries at church. I stood up with my little class of 1st & 2nd grade girls and presented them with their certificates of achievement.  We’ve had a fun year but it is time for a summer break.  It didn’t really occur to me until we were driving home that night that I had just participated in my final award night.  With our daughter’s senior year and preparing to move I knew I wouldn’t be able to devote the time and energy to teach the class well, so I had informed the ministry leader that I was stepping down at the end of this school year.  It’s the end of the school year.  I have been teaching the same age group of girls every Wednesday night during the school year for the last 11 years.  Girls who I had as 2nd graders the first year I taught graduated from High School this month.  Teaching “my Prims” has become part of who I am and now it is ending.  I know that it is time for this particular season of my life to end, but I am still a little sad.

When we moved to this town we had a 3-5 year plan.  I didn’t want to move here. I was quite content with where we were and IF we were gong to move I wanted to move back to the area where I grew up and my family lives. I was not interested in here.  My husband assured me that this was just the next step in the company he was working for at the time and we would only be here a short period so I grudgingly moved here.  That day was 13 years ago almost to today.  You see: life happens.  Things change.  We ended up staying and somehow this town which I dreaded moving to has become home.  We have friends. Our kids have friends.  We love the house that we rented with the thought of only living here for 5 years at the most. I’m excited to move into a new house, but I’m going to miss this one. Over the last 13 years we’ve turned it into our home.  The place we’ve raised our kids. The place we’ve lived the longest. Even though we don’t actually own it: it’s our house. I’m going to miss it. I going to miss the people I’ve grown to love.  I’m going to miss the familiar feel of the check-out lady at the grocery store knowing my name when she sees me.

I’ve been working on some beginning of summer things at work these past few weeks and it suddenly occurred to me that this will be the last time I do those things to.  I won’t be working here at the beginning of summer next year.  I’ve organized my last set of summer camp registrations.  I’ve typed up my last “Grad Insert” for the bulletin. Printed off my last set of award night certificates.  This job was exactly what I needed at the exact time I needed it.  It’s been a “God thing” from the start.  While it’s had its challenges and frustrations, it’s been the exact perfect job for me. It’s comfortable and familiar. I’ve been working this job for so long that many things happen on “auto-pilot” for me.  It occurred to me recently that I’d better start organizing and writing things down for the person following me.  After 12 years at this desk I just automatically know what needs to be done when and who needs to be reminded what and what to do if this isn’t done on time and where we keep things…all that stuff.  The next person isn’t going to have that benefit unless I write it down for her.  It’s a good reminder.

So often we waste all our energy, used up all our rescources, before we can see the finish line, so we end up stumbling across and collapsing on the other side.  We don’t have enough left for that “last kick” to the finish. I don’t want to do that.  My goal is to cross the finish line on this season of our lives well: leaving nothing behind that we regret and feeling we gave everything we had while we were here.  To finish strong.  After all, we start another race when we leave this one.

 “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” 2 Timothy 4:7

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Parenting Experts

Yesterday I gave my opinion on opinions.  It’s still on my mind today, though in a different form.  Today I’m thinking about opinions that make me want to laugh. Of those, my favorite are the ones on how to parent my children.  I’ll categorize these into three groups of parenting experts: People with no children or babies, People with children younger than mine and people whose children are much older than mine.

I love to listen to people who have not yet had children or have a very young baby expound on their wisdom because they have read a book about parenting.  Sometimes many books. I figured out very early on the problem with parenting from books: The kids haven’t read those books yet.  My toddler was unaware that if he did A and I reacted with B then the result should be C.  Come to think of it, maybe my kids did read those books.  They just figured out how to beat the formula. I’ve also figured out that no two children are the same.  Parenting Formula A  may have worked on my son but not on my daughter. She required Parenting Algorithm B.  I usually cut this category of people some slack because I figure they will eventually figure out they aren’t as expert as they think.  We all have.  The parenting books will then become door stops.

I don’t mind people with older children giving me their opinions  because they’ve been there. In fact I’ve sought out a few of those people asking for advice.  They usually have some good insight. With parents of older kids I look at how their children are doing as adults before I evaluate their opinions:  Some I keep. Some I throw out.  In this group, however, is a sub group of people who have children who are much, much older than my kids.  Again, they have some valuable insight, but, they raised their children in a different era.  While some parenting skills are universal and timeless, some aren’t.  For example: when our youngest son was not quite three one dear older lady was talking to me about the fact that he wasn’t fully potty trained yet.  She was aghast. “I had my kids all trained by the time they were 12 months old.  I put the training potty in my kitchen and every morning I would sit them on it until they went.  I did that every two hours all day every day until they were trained.”   It took a little for me to refrain from voicing the thought that popped into my head: “Sounds to me like they had YOU trained.”  While I appreciated her advice on how to get our little stinker potty trained I also realized that she had no idea that it wouldn’t work for us.  I worked all day.  I didn’t have the option of bringing him to work with his potty chair and making him sit on it next to my desk every two hours.  I do realize that if I was hand washing diapers every day I might have been way more motivated to get the kid trained, but I had the benefit of pull-ups.  My point: different era.  I’m also willing to cut these people some slack because they mean well.

The parents who truly crack me up are the ones with young children who think they have parenting figured out.  I’ve been a parent for almost twenty-one years and I still don’t have it figured out.  I especially love it when these people tell me how to parent my teenagers.  They’ve been parents for six to nine years now, they know how to parent.  There is an evil part of me that hopes I am around when these people’s children become teenagers. I kind of want to see what happens when they find out that the solid theories they have when their kids are five or six may not be work so well when those same kids are fifteen or sixteen.

We have active children: they all have activities that they enjoy participating in.  We’ve strove to keep those under control. In other words, they all get to choose a couple of things that they really enjoy doing and we support them wholeheartedly.  We get them to practice and go to their games and concerts. I’ve recently been told that we are letting our kids do to many things and are running them around too much.  This particular Parenting Expert (P.E. for short) said to me, “We’ve told our children that there are only so many hours in a day and we are not going to spend them all running them around.”    P.E.’s children are in grade school. While I understand that there are parents out there who run their kids to 100 different things so that they can have exposure to everything, my husband and I do not fit into that category.  Each of our kids participate in one or two things at a time.  The issue is that there are three of them still living at home. Do the math: that makes us busy.  Our children are older than this person’s children, so what P.E. doesn’t understand is that many of the activities in which they participate are school related. They are classes during the day which on occasion have activities in the evening.  We go through busy seasons and not so busy seasons. Our thought here is this: this is just a short season in our lives. Our kids are going to grow up and move away and then we’ll have all the time in the world to do what we want. One of them is already gone. It’s amazing how fast that time flew and I do not regret for one moment missing a “grown-up” event so that I could be at one of his football games.  The next in line will be a senior this fall.  I don’t believe that I’m going to be upset that our bedroom isn’t refinished  because I spent the time and money to attend her band competitions.  My jacuzzi tub can wait a little longer.

The most active of our children right now is our oldest daughter.  She is involved in several things.  We’ve given her a little more free rein to choose what she is doing because:  1- she’s proven to us over the years that she is responsible enough to do extra things and keep her grades up. (She’s ranked 5th in her class.) 2 – she drives so we don’t spend time running her around. We go to her performances, but we don’t have to worry about the rest of the stuff.  3 – She’s still living at home and I would rather have her learn now where her limit is while she’s here and has her parents to catch her when she overloads and hits the wall.  Her personality is to think she can do everything.  She’s learning that she can’t.  That was the plan: learn that now while you are 17 and not when you are on medication for stress at 35.   Not long ago I was having a conversation with a P.E. who was concerned that she was too busy.  (Again – thank you for your observation.) I was sharing the aforementioned thoughts when I was interrupted halfway through number three. “Now you know that most women NEVER learn where their limits are.  I haven’t. You haven’t.  As a parent you should control her activities and not let her do too much.”  Couple thoughts here: 1 – I’m sorry this P.E. has never learned her limits.  I have.  I was 40 at the time, but I’ve learned them. 2 – If she’d have let me finish thought number three from above she might have heard me say that our daughter IS learning this now.   3 – This P.E. has young kids and has never actually tried to “control” a seventeen year old girl. I am the parent – yes. She lives in my house and follows our rules – yes.  She’s actually a very respectful and responsible young lady.  We haven’t had any “teenage trouble” with her: probably because I haven’t tried to control her every move.  Maybe because we’ve given her more and more freedom as she has proven she can handle it.  She will be out of my house and out from under my rules in a little over a year. If I have controlled her every move and every activity up until that point of her life, how do you think she is going to do when she is off on her own?  Again, I’d love to be around when this P.E.’s kids are teenagers.  On the other hand, I might be glad we’re moving.

My husband and I frustrate a lot of people because we don’t parent in a way that fits any mold.  People can’t figure us out and it annoys them. We don’t have a master parenting plan for our kids. We mostly take it as it comes with each child.   That isn’t supposed to work according the experts, but, thus far, our children are doing pretty well.  (We have four. We aren’t so crazy as to think we might not have trouble with at least one of them eventually.)    People have asked what we’ve done to raise such good kids. I haven’t a clue.  I can tell you some of the things we did with our children, but I can’t guarantee they will work with yours.  Your kids are different from my kids.  My kids are different from each other.  We have no blanket advice.  The only thing we did was become experts on our own kids. We know them. That makes parenting them much easier.   Nope –  We don’t consider ourselves Parenting Experts as much as we think of ourselves as Parenting Survivors.  We just want to be the last ones on the island.

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My Opinion of Opinions

Opinion: A view, judgement, or appraisal formed in the mind about a particular matter. A belief stronger than impression and less strong than positive knowledge. A generally held view.

I’ve been dealing with a lot of these lately.  Not my own really, but those of others. It’s amazing to me the expertise some people have about other people’s lives.  It’s also amazing that some feel they can share their “expertise” without being asked.  I think most of us are guilty of spewing our “generally held views” at one time or another.  There are just some people who do it more than others. I can honestly say I’m getting rather tired of some people’s judgements and appraisals.   I am learning a few things along the way however.

When it comes to asking for opinions most people truly are only looking for people who agree with them.  I’m guilty of this myself. I’d prefer it if people just “amen” me and move along.  I don’t like it when my thinking is challenged. I particularly don’t like it when I didn’t ask someone to challenge it.  Because of this, I have learned to keep my mouth shut unless someone specifically asks for my opinion. Now even when asked for my view of something I usually ask, “Are you sure you want to know what I think.” before I answer.  I’ve even warned people, “I can tell you what I think but I don’t think you are going to like it.” At least that way I have given them a chance to back away before I annoy them. I will still catch myself letting my appraisal of something fly, but I’ve tried to get better about handing out free opinions.

If something is free chances are that it is flawed. There is truth to the saying “You get what you pay for.”  I haven’t asked for most of the opinions I’ve been getting lately,  they have been freely given. While I respect other’s right to have their own view, I am not overly interested in their view of my life unless I’ve asked for it.  I have a very small circle of people whose opinions I seek.  People with whom I have a close relationship: something I have spent time developing (or paid for – with time).  These are the people whose lives I have watched and in whom I trust.  I put value in their views because I respect them. They have proven to me over time that they are wise and have good thoughts to share.  They also usually don’t give me an opinion unless I ask for it.  I don’t always like what they have to say but I listen because of who it is coming from and because I sought it.

Most people who freely hand out their opinions really are trying to help.  They usually aren’t helping,  but that is what they are trying to do.  I appreciate the heart but I don’t usually appreciate the advice. The free opinions generally come from people who don’t know me well. It’s impossible to have positive knowledge about someone else’s life unless you are that person.  That leaves you with a belief stronger than impression. I’ve learned over the years that my impressions aren’t always accurate until I’ve taken the time to get to know a person.  The problem with some people is they think that they know everyone – immediately. They  either honestly think that everyone thinks like they do or they think that they’ve observed enough people that they are “people experts”. I had one person tell me once that I’m an easy read. Really? I’m a book? (I did refrain from asking, “Hmm…what am I thinking right now??”  That would have been too easy to answer.) At any rate, both types of people believe they know what everyone else is thinking.  The thought of a world with all same thinking people kind of scares me, depending on whose thinking we’re talking about. I honestly believe there are black and white issues. A true right and wrong. I don’t believe there are as many of those solid truths as a lot of people think.  I have nothing against personal convictions. I have my own.  I have a problem with people who turn their personal convictions into bats with which to beat people over the head.

That’s where we are living right now.  Lots of people hitting us with their personal convictions, their personal views formed in their minds. I understand that they are just trying to help.  We are in the midst of a very long and sometimes confusing transition in our lives. At issue here is that I don’t believe there is a solid right or wrong answer. There is only the choice between two scenarios and living with the one we choose. While I appreciate that some people think we are choosing the worse scenario, I haven’t really ask for their opinion about it. I haven’t asked them to, at times, try to manipulate us to do what they think would be better for us. I’m the one who has to walk this out. I seek the judgments, views and appraisals of those I trust when I need them and I’ve done that.  Otherwise there is an old saying: “Opinions are like belly buttons. Everybody has one.”  (I know that’s a slightly different version than you may have heard, but I strive to keep my blog rated “G”.)  I’d personally add to that saying:

“Just because everyone has one doesn’t mean that I’d like to see yours.”

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