Sunday, June 25, 2017

You Be You and I'll Be Me

I've had a ton of stuff on my mind to write about.  Usually I just push it aside and figure it's not worth my effort, knowing I'm never going to read my own stuff with an unobstructed lens and not many others are going to read it and get anything from it.  However, I think a certain clarity can possibly be gained from having to process thoughts enough to write a coherent piece.

One thing I've been honed in on lately is how much people like to judge other people.  Holy smokes, it's out of control!  I think the entire country just needs to take a 3-month hiatus from having electric and running water.  Maybe if we had to work our rear ends off for mere survival, we'd have less time to be jerks.

While I'm on the subject of people being all judgy, I've been doing a ton of thinking about religion and what makes that whole mess go around.  I don't come into contact with a very wide variety of religious backgrounds/belief systems.  I suppose that's a blessing, but I think it also discourages any kind of self-evaluation in regards to personal beliefs and, consequently, behaviors toward those with opposing, or even just different, beliefs.

Not to pick at any particular religious group, but since the vast majority of people with whom I have come into contact are either Christian or Agnostic with a sprinkling of Atheism and Jehova Witnesses strewn about, I have only had these groups to observe.  I consider myself to be a Christian, but with that said, I get incredibly hung up on others of the same group who are constantly bashing other groups of people whether it be for a differing religious belief system, lifestyle, family structure, race, political views, etc. My personal belief is that it's my job to go about my business and do the best that I can to treat others kindly and be a good example.   Beyond that, I'll believe what I believe and everyone else can believe what they believe. It's not my place to judge or engage in name-calling.  Also, I have enough to keep me busy without taking on the futile effort of trying to convince anyone else to adopt my way of thinking.   I'm constantly perplexed as to why people can't just accept other people for who they are rather than pick each other apart over differences.

Our culture is very determined to categorize people and slap a label on them.  As for the rural area in which I live, we have 2 categories:  People that fit in and people that don't.  There are a whole lot of us who love to rake the misfits over the coals.  It seems an astonishing number of people from a background similar to mine take the position that anyone who is "different" is also "wrong" by default.  I'm slightly curious whether this is the case everywhere, but I suspect it depends upon how much and for how long a given geographical area has been exposed to "different."

I feel lucky to have grown up in a beautiful rural setting.  I see trees, hills, wildflowers, farm fields, and the unobstructed sky every single day.  I can be driving on a rarely-used gravel road within two minutes of leaving my driveway.  Heck, I HAVE a driveway!  It recently occurred to me that if a person lives in a downtown area of a huge bustling city, he or she rarely sees grass in the course of a normal day.  That person probably only sees the same four or five trees most of the time and probably doesn't get to see a very large patch of sky.  Where I live, most folks can't even imagine not being surrounded by nature.

Obviously, however, metropolitan living has other advantages, such as easy accessibility to goods & services.  It also provides opportunities to experience a wide variety of "different" people, cultures, religions, and lifestyles.  This truth, in my opinion, makes the city folk generally more accepting and therefore perhaps less judgmental.  It's a trade-off.

I have not been a regular church-goer since around the fall of 2013. When I gave that up, it wasn't for the superficial reasons that others probably assumed.  It went way deeper than that.  I started feeling a judgmental atmosphere coming from just a couple of other members.   It was by no means intentional or malicious, and it was not even directed toward me.  I just can't handle the way things like that make me feel.  I'm way too sensitive and empathetic and it only serves to make me uncomfortable and anxious.  So I bailed out.  It's just easier for me to do my thinking on my own and disengage from group activities as a general rule.

After that is when I started really noticing how we fall into belief patterns based on where we live and with whom we surround ourselves.  And really, almost every shred is something devised by other people.  There's absolutely no divine directive guiding the majority of these prescribed worship practices.  Some things are just downright silly and likely invented by a guy 300 years ago just so he could feel like he had control of his congregation.  From there, people just mindlessly adopted these practices and successors have continued them for generations.  All those years and not one person has seen fit to question the origins or whether they are of any real value to their faith!    How much thought and care are really being put into it if entire congregations are just going through the same motions week after week?  Just seems a bit insincere to follow a script of motions to go through every Sunday. That's not what's going to bust any of us through the pearly gates.

Those are my tidbits of truth for today. 

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Eagle Scout Part 2: What My Son and I Got from BSA

Today I heard a few personalities on my favorite national radio morning show briefly discuss the Boy Scouts of America Eagle Scout Award.  This conversation stayed on my mind all day and I really felt the need to tell people about what it is, the tremendous amount of work involved in earning the award and what it does for a young man as a person.   Since I tend to write what I know, I am going to use my son's experience as the source of what you are about to read. 

First, a legal disclaimer:  This is only one Scout's results.  Results may or may not be typical.  I really can't tell you that every young man who starts out as a boy on the path to becoming an Eagle Scout will have fantastic results.  I am, however, pretty confident that chances of a boy becoming a better man improve exponentially WITH an experience in scouting as opposed to not having that experience. 

Here is the story of my son:

When my son was 6 and in the first grade, he came to my classroom after school with the standard "Join Cub Scouts, it'll be the best fun you every had" flyer.  Of course, he was all gung-ho to join with all of his little first grade buddies.  So I thought, "Sure, why not?"  I was naïve and thought "Good activity for his dad and him." "Quality time for the boys." And I'm not going to lie, I also thought "I can get some papers graded while they are off doing Cub Scout crap." 

Well, it didn't quite turn out that way.  Although my husband is a pretty good dad, he just wasn't one to go do organized activity stuff.  So I took my son (Cody) to his first meeting.  OH. MY. GOODNESS!!!  So many rambunctious little first grade boys RUNNING around the meeting room!  (GASP!)  Now, at the time, I was a second-grade teacher, and very familiar with the typical behavior of little boys.  However, I was unaccustomed to seeing my son really cut loose with all these other little fellers with wild abandon.  I tried as quickly as I could to get what information I needed and get out of there.  Finally, I couldn't stand it.   I decided if Cody was going to act like he was acting right now, this may have been a horrible idea.  I started to get him and bolt for the door. 

Then, something happened that changed both of our lives and I will never forget it.  The guy in charge very sweetly told me Cody was acting perfectly fine and asked us to please stay.  I often think back to that very second in time and realize how much different raising my son would have been if I had decided to walk out at that moment.   I am so thankful to that man for stopping me. 

So Cody became a Tiger Cub on that fateful September evening in 2000.   There were the usual outings, field trips to local state parks, family camp-outs (for us, that meant Mom & Cody camp outs), a few fundraisers, and finally a week of cub camp in late July.  Cub camp was a day camp, and we fortunately just happen to live very near a beautiful BSA Camp.  Cub camp was held there, and on the fourth day of camp, we were allowed to spend the night. 

A little fun side-story about cub camp:  Cody and I happened to wake up very early in the morning and decided to venture out for a little walk.  All the tents were packed together into a shady grove.  As we were trying to sneak through all those tents, we heard various snores coming from a tent here and a tent there, back and forth.  We were both trying so hard not to laugh at the see-saw sound of the snores produced by our camping friends.  It's just a wonderful memory that I have and was probably the first time I realized that Cody's sense of humor was similar to my own. 

So, we did the Cub Scout thing for the next four and one-half years.  This period of time is when my son established friendships that remain strong and solid to this very day.  The boys with which Cody became close during his Cub Scout experiences remain his closest friends even now that they are out of school and working full-time jobs or in college.  These lifelong friends are the guys you will find sitting on a bench outside a small local donut shop on any given Friday evening.  They aren't out looking for stuff to steal or drugs to do.  They are content to just hang out together and catch up with each other.  These friendships were formed when these boys were 6, 7, and 8 years old.  These boys had parents who were willing to spend time with them in a worthwhile activity.  Most of what they have in common can be traced back to Cub Scouts.  They learned and grew together and forged a mighty strong bond.  So the first thing my son gained from Scouting, was a solid foundation for a network of good, reliable friends.  A kind of support system. 

Well, those boys grew a little older, as boys tend to do.  They became middle-school students, and also shortly thereafter, Boy Scouts.  They started going to summer camp where they stayed an entire week, nights and all. Various parents took turns hanging out in camp to assist their Scoutmaster.  While there, they had the opportunity to earn merit badges at stations, they got to go swimming, fishing, canoeing, and performed skits together for other troops who were also at camp during their designated week.  They gained a little more independence each year during their scouting experiences.  We were incredibly blessed with a Scoutmaster who truly took an interest in helping each boy to learn about all sorts of things from astronomy to woodcraft to just being a good person in general.  He insisted on good behavior and for the most part, those boys were more than happy to deliver what he expected because they knew he cared about them and they respected him for it.  How many guys would use their week of vacation to go and camp several miles from any real civilization with a group of pre-teen boys and no electric, no comforts of home, in early July???  Those boys could never, ever deny that their Scoutmaster cared about them and truly wanted to help them learn.  So the next thing my son gained from Scouting was confidence in himself, an ability to problem-solve on his own and to be self-sufficient.  In addition, he learned from his Scoutmaster's example that giving of one's time and knowledge to help others is one of the best blessings a person can bestow upon another.

Finally, those boys made it to high school and were very busy trying to make sure they were getting requirements completed in order to reach the next rank, with the ultimate goal being Eagle Scout.  Their little troop consisted of maybe 6 or 7 boys at this point.   There were lots more campouts, a few more fundraisers, and planning for next summer's camp.  The Scoutmaster would meet individually with each boy as he prepared to move up in rank.  The group did a 50-mile kayak trip over a period of 5 days.  they participated in several organized hikes being conducted at some of the nearby state parks.  They watched older members become Eagle Scouts and began to think of their own possibilities of attaining the coveted rank.  They each began to think about what they could do for their own community service project and began to do some serious planning while finishing up their merit badge requirements.  It was during this period of time in the Boy Scouts that my son learned to take on more responsibility for himself.  He learned to work as a team with his fellow Scouts to help each of them achieve a common, yet individual goal.   This was the period of time when Cody really seemed to put down deep, deep roots in his community.  Maybe it was from all of the community service projects in which he participated, or maybe from meeting so many community leaders as a result of those projects,  Likely a combination of the two.  This is where networking for him really began, in my opinion.  Networking that would help him in the future as far as figuring out a career path, deciding whether and where to attend college, and this networking that would ultimately help him in finding a good, stable job.  That's a pretty huge benefit that you can't even fathom when your son is 6 years old and wants to join Cub Scouts!  You don't even consider that they are going to meet people and learn to do things that are going to carry them through life and help them to become respectable men.   When they're 6, you're kind of just hoping you can be a good parent and the kid will idolize you for having a good time with him.   At that point, a parent can't even envision  that this tiny person is going to grow up and not need constant supervision.   As a parent of a 21 year-old, I'm here to tell you this:  they ARE going to grow up someday, 

Finally, Cody made it to the Eagle Scout project:    The crowning achievement in a Boy Scout's career.  For Cody's project, he decided to map and catalog a nearby cemetery, organize the information into a spreadsheet with an index and a digital copy for the local genealogical society.  He went through all of the steps that I listed in Part One of my Eagle Scout blog posts.  This project took the better part of a year.  During that year, he learned to contact a stranger in order to begin the process,  he learned to present himself in a professional manner, he learned to "sell" an idea to another person and to put some serious thought into planning a project from start to finish.  He learned to find people to help him and to manage those people.  He learned that sometimes it's tough to get a group of people to be available at the same time.  He learned what it is to commit to something and follow through on it, and he also learned that sometimes its tough to stick with a commitment, but it's always worth it in the end. 

This isn't my most eloquent writing, but it's perhaps my most important because I want other people to know what my family gained from Scouting.  There is so much more than what you see on the surface.  I was far from a perfect parent.  I had no idea what I was doing.  But I am eternally grateful to the guidance that the activities in which my son participated as a Cub Scout and Boy Scout gave to both him and me.  I made very good friends and established a wonderful support system through Scouting, just as much as Cody did. 

As I look at my hard-working Eagle Scout son today, I am both tremendously proud and humbled.  His dad and I cannot take full credit for the responsible adult that he has become.  I owe a huge debt of gratitude that I can never repay to the his Scoutmaster and Mrs. Scoutmaster and his Cubmaster, in addition to the other parents who had boys in Troop 39 with Cody.   The best I can do is to honor them by sharing this story of what the process of becoming a Cub Scout, Boy Scout and finally, Eagle Scout involves and what it really does for boys on their way to adulthood. 

Here is an awesome link with some interesting little factoids about Scouts: Scouting Statistics

Eagle Scout Part 1: Nuts & Bolts

I'm always amazed when the urge to write something that the rest of the world "just has to know about" strikes me.  It just grabs hold and I have got to stop what I am doing and get it off my chest.  Today, such an urge has stricken me and here I am, typing away, about to impart some great tidbit of knowledge.  Is it going to be more than potential readers care to know?  You bet.  That's ok.  Read it or not.  I still have to write it regardless of what the readers decide to do with it.

On my favorite morning radio show today, the topic of Eagle Scouts was discussed.  To make a long story short, it seemed that there was just some general curiosity amongst the panel of radio personalities as to what being an Eagle Scout actually means and how much of a big deal it is to have earned this prestigious award.   

I can tell you from personal experience, it is a VERY big deal.  And, of course, I'm going to tell you why.  After I tell you why, I am going to share with you a little about my own son's experience with the Boy Scouts of America and his journey to becoming an Eagle Scout.

Cub Scouts start out usually around age 6.  Sure, it's pretty much fun and games at this point.  They do field trips, fun activities, maybe a campout with parents here and there.  But guess what?  They are also learning.  They are learning about being part of a group, taking pride in their uniforms, working as a team to accomplish goals.  These rambunctious little boys are building friendships, some of which they will carry with them throughout their lives.  As these boys grow older, they are given more challenging tasks, and they begin to learn about what their next steps will be toward becoming a Boy Scout.  Parental involvement is crucial.  This isn't the kind of organization where you can just dump your kid off so you can go home and have a free hour to mow the yard or whatever.

Finally, when these Cub Scouts complete their requirements to become Boy Scouts they are usually around 11 years old.  They will have a "crossing over" ceremony.  At this point, the Scouts begin earning merit badges.  A common misconception is that merit badges are earned just by doing fun little activities.  Sure, part of the activities should be fun.  However, earning them requires way more work on the part of the scout.  Each badge has items that the scout must be able to perform successfully in relation to the badge, along with demonstrating the knowledge he has acquired during his work toward earning the merit badge.  Each merit badge must be taught by a certified merit badge counselor who will also verify that the scout has met the requirements for that particular merit badge. 

If I were to try to list an example of the requirements for just one merit badge, you probably would not continue reading.  However, here is a link that you may use to take a look at all the different merit badges and what the requirements would be for each one: 
BSA Merit Badges and Their Requirements

It's important to know that many of the merit badges are electives that the scout may choose based upon his own personal interests.  However, in working toward becoming an Eagle Scout, there are some merit badges that a Boy Scout is REQUIRED to complete.  Some of these required merit badges are camping, cooking, family life, personal management, environmental science or sustainability, communications, personal fitness, first aid, and emergency preparedness, just to name a few.  To apply for Eagle Scout status, a scout must have earned 21 merit badges.  He will need to have earned these between the time he became a Boy Scout at around age 11 and before he turns 18.  That probably doesn't sound like much unless you go to that link above and just look at the requirements for just one of those merit badges. I assure you, most merit badges require intensive work and learning. 

Now comes something bigger:  The Boy Scout must plan, organize and execute a community service project.  He must find a non Scouting-affiliated organization within his community that will allow him to provide some sort of service.  The project should be something that will leave a legacy.  In other words, something that is a long-lasting improvement for the organization for whom he has chosen to dedicate his time and effort.   He must meet with a contact person within that organization to "pitch" his project idea.  He must submit a written plan to that contact person and get approval signatures from the organization contact person, the local Eagle Scout Committee Chairperson, and his Scoutmaster a.k.a "Troop Leader."    He must find and organize volunteers to help him complete the project - volunteers are REQUIRED;  the scout cannot simply take on a task and do all the work himself.  He must find donors to provide or sponsor necessary materials.  He must document all expenditures and volunteer hours.  He must manage other people in executing the project.  He is in complete charge of the entire project. He is responsible for seeing it through to the end and ensuring that it is done correctly, in a timely manner.   He must recognize his volunteers, donors, sponsors and any other people who have helped him with letters of thanks. 
Keep in mind, he is younger than 18 years of age as he is working on this project. 

Finally, after he has completed his community service project and a variety of folks in high places have signed off on its successful completion, the prospective Eagle Scout must meet with his troop leader and make sure he has met all requirements in order to proceed with his application to become an Eagle Scout.   Here is a link where you can see the requirements that he must meet before he will be considered for "Scouting's Highest Honor":

After all of that work is complete, the prospective Eagle Scout must be interviewed by a committee who will ultimately determine whether he has completed all requirements in a satisfactory fashion in order to receive the prestigious rank.  It is possible even at this stage that he will not be approved and will need to repeat or make corrections to some part of his requirements.  Prior to the interview, the scout has obtained letters of reference from at least 3 people he knows.  These letters of reference are mailed directly to the head of the committee and the scout has no idea what the letters of reference contain.  The committee reviews these letters prior to the interview with the Scout. 
At last, during the interview, he must demonstrate that he has internalized the standards of the Boy Scouts of America.  He must answer questions about his strengths and weaknesses, he will be challenged to share his ideas about how he would improve his own troop, he will share stories of good and bad experiences he has had during his time as a Boy Scout.  This interview is not merely a "formality." 

If the committee is convinced that the young man is worthy of the rank of Eagle Scout, they will sign off on his application which will then be sent to the Boy Scouts of America Local Council for final approval.  The Scout cannot be awarded the rank of Eagle Scout until notification of approval is received back from the BSA Local Council. 

Ok, so this blog post has been a little dry.  I'd be surprised if anyone has actually managed to read my "in a nutshell" version of what goes into being awarded "Scouting's Highest Honor." 
Therefore, I've decided to write a separate blog post in order to share with you my own personal experience during my son's Eagle Scout Journey.  I'm pretty sure that's going to be a bit more interesting and hopefully help the average person get a picture of what it really is all about and to understand why in the world a teenage boy would spend so much time and effort toward becoming an Eagle Scout.  

To be continued . . .

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Mud Boggin' on Foot

     In my quest to become more active, I've been seeking out a variety of places to walk and hike.  Today's adventure took me to a local state park.  I found one abandoned road that turned out to be fairly short and it had a few obstructions with downed trees.  I went through and around the obstructions, hoping that the path would continue far enough to satisfy my curiosity about where it ended up.  I was disappointed to find, after trekking around the largest obstacle, that it merely dead-ended in a clearing.  Still, I was proud of myself for not letting the obstacles stop me.  I found a way through and around and now I know that particular path is not a good one.  
     So I turned around and went back.  Something I LOATHE having to do.  I want things to have an outcome without repeating what I already did.  But I sucked it up and went  to another path.  The next path went about 20 steps in before heading up an enormous hill. I know my limits pretty well and so I placed this path in the "maybe later" mental file, turned around AGAIN, and sought out my next conquest.  
     By now, I had stumbled upon a posted trail map or two and knew what trail I was gunning for.   However, I have a penchant for finding what I think are unique ways of getting to places. The whole "Road less traveled" thing rules. This is what always gets me into trouble, and I know it.   Yet I insist on doing it anyway, because you never know, it might be more fun. 
     I decided, instead of following the nice, easy, asphalt-paved road with its perfect yellow and white stripes, I would follow the path around the perimeter of the small lake.  And it was good until I got to the part where the path was closely sandwiched between the surrounding hill and mist-blanketed lake.  That's where the mud was hanging out.  Not wanting to go back (remember my loathing of such a course of action?), I decided to get through the first patch as best I could and it would probably not be so bad on down the line.  Big miscalculation.  I kept going, and the mud patches just seemed to get wider and deeper.  However, by now, I had come through so much that I really, really hated to turn around and face the same mud through which I had already slogged my way.  
     All this muddy trekking resulted in one shoe full of mud and the other mostly just muddy on the outside.  I started thinking about shoes, and realized that my opposition to owning more than a few pair may need some adjustment.  I'm not one of those people that needs an entire walk-in closet just for my shoes or a line in my budget labeled "shoes."  I've always figured 3 pair are plenty:  sneakers for cold weather, flip-flops for warm weather and a neutral pair of dress shoes for the occasional funeral. 
    The mud bog hike got me to thinking that perhaps my life is in a different place now and I need to invest in a pair of shoes for the occasions in which I might find myself in messier terrain.  I know I'm not going to stop exploring paths less traveled to simply avoid a little mud.  The cold-weather sneakers simply don't fit the bill for hiking unknown paths. 
     So today's tidbit of truth is this:  Paths in our lives lead us to sometimes feel the need to expand our "shoe collection,"  as each season of our lives brings different responsibilities and different roles.  Often those responsibilities and roles come without much choice in accepting them, so we as well gear up for them and forget about turning back.  

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Taking Stock

It's been over 2 years since I've been a classroom teacher.  That causes me to ponder quite a bit how much my life has changed since the incident that kicked it all off.   If you are new to my blog, the explanation of that ugliness can be found in several posts beginning in July 2013.  

For one thing, my dad finally "gets it."  The "it" being why I could never continue a career that was no longer what it was intended to be initially.  I no longer have to feel like I somehow robbed him of a source of pride.  He's probably more proud of me now that he realizes I wouldn't go back even if I weren't afflicted with an illness, simply because I refuse to be part of something that (in my opinion) seeks to destroy childrens' lives. Maybe that's being overly-dramatic, but we'll see in about 15-20 years. 

Another thing, I have not had daily headaches and nausea as I did when I was working.  Whether that was a psychosomatic thing or actual toxicity within my work environment, I'll never be 100% certain.  I don't really care.  Sick is sick, and I'm thankful that stuff has gone.  
Nobody thinks of schools as being "toxic" environments.  That is, unless they've worked in one and had the opportunity to really learn the dynamics of how things get done and how things work and how it all has to proceed.    

I suppose I should be happy as well that  I managed to get out alive and land somewhat on my feet.  But I haven't reached that point yet.  I hope I can someday forgive the way I was treated and not have this simmering anger just below the surface all the time.  Unfortunately, it's still there and just as potent as it was in the days and months immediately following my exit.  It's just going to have to fade because I see no other way.   

One thing I don't have anymore is daily interaction, with kids, adults, really anybody or anything except my pets.  Maybe that makes me a crazy cat lady, but so what?  Animals are easier anyway.   Truth be told, though, I do miss the kids. And some of the adults.  But this is just the way it has to be and I'm pretty content with solitude.  

I've acquired many new skills.  I can perform slightly-more-than-minor car repairs, I can crochet, I'm more exposed to what's on television, I have no idea what is happening in the news, I've learned to play the mountain dulcimer, I have way more legal smarts than I should, I can do a few household appliance repairs and some carpentry, and I've picked up some caregiver skills. I've made a couple new friends along the way as well.  

So, it's not all bad, and the journey continues . . .

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Open Season

      Well, we've made it through December and the most magical week of the entire year in southern Ohio has already come and gone:   Deer season.  Thousands of camouflage-clad men and boys from parts unknown converge upon our little tight-knit communities in droves.  Supposedly, these guys are search of the elusive whitetail deer.  
Here's how it works:  They hitch the dilapidated 1970s camper to their late-model shiny show pickup and hit the road, bound for a place in which they would never otherwise willingly visit.  It's all just a ploy to escape their lives and wives for a solid week and enjoy the company of their drinking buddies without being nagged to take out the trash.  Or to take a shower.  
       This year, I decided it was time to turn the tables.  Through the magic of the cell phone camera, the hunters became the hunted.  I decided to capture a few of these creatures foraging for food and beverage in the local Wal-Mart one evening and provide a commentary of what I witnessed.  
     This was the picture that launched the whole idea. When I first spotted this vehicle on the highway, I was just sure it was headed to a gas station or the local Walmart to re-stock the ice & beer in that green cooler.  I was wrong.  Much to my dismay, they blew right past every opportunity to load up, which told me they were late arrivals headed to the nearby campground.  Probably stopped off at a motel the night before and spent the first day of deer gun season in a casino.  And why not?  Shooting a deer wasn't really the goal anyway. 

     This one is a bit blurry, but I assure you that guy had on his camouflage regalia and was making a beeline for the beer aisle.  I was trying to find the most discreet way to snap some candid shots without arousing suspicion. 

     This guy was fun.  He seemed to be the social butterfly of his party.  And he has a cool hat.  While capturing this shot, I overheard him conversing with a random shopper.  This is how I learned his crew was from West Virginia.  

     This is the same guy, just moments later in the beer aisle.  I know you can't see it because the picture is lousy, but he still has his fun hat on and has a six-pack tucked under one arm and is going for another one.  Stay thirsty, my friend.  

      This gentleman has brought his son along and they are selecting lunch meat. I thought it was nice he was including his son in his week away from the womenfolk. Also, I thought it was nice of him to get some sammich-making supplies, rather than insisting upon self-sufficiency and playing Survivorman.  Gotta respect a guy who knows his limits. 

     Yes, you need a couple Lunchables for tomorrow, Dude.  It's a long climb down from that tree stand when the hunger strikes.  

     These guys (above) were not together, yet they are simultaneously using technological resources to aid in supplying their respective groups for the hunt.  I'm guessing they drew the short straw for the beer & beef jerky run.  They share the Synchronized Shopping Award. 

     These fellas were on a mission.  At first I thought they were barreling through for the beer aisle. . . .maybe. . . .

        . . .  nope, just grabbing some dew & coke. 

     They then ventured away from the grocery section, and I needed fabric softener, so I decided they were worth tracking a bit further.  

     The trail for this herd ended in the video section.  Here they are discussing the plot of various action films :

     If I were choosing a group to hang out with around the campfire, it would be this one.  Just 3 mild-mannered guys sharing a week in the great outdoors . . . and WalMart.  Since  they were the most interesting ones I found during my hunt, they win the Trophy Buck award.  I wish them well.  

     The guys in the picture below are also on a mission.  If there had been a fence or a hunter orange "caution-wet floor" safety cone in their way, I'm certain they would have leaped right over it.  Since they are headed toward the pharmacy area, I'm thinking maybe they need Rolaids.  

     The gentleman above gets the Efficient Checkout Award.  He spent considerable time weighing his checkout options.  After much analysis and evaluation, he selects checkout #1.  He seems satisfied with his decision.  Way to go, Efficient Checkout Guy!

  The photos that follow represent the departure of our annual visitors.  This photo was harvested the day after the conclusion of deer gun season.  Apparently a stop at WalMart is in order to provide snacks for the debriefing that will occur during the journey back to their native lands.

    Notice there are no deer strapped to the vehicle to herald their success.   Very sad. 

     There were plenty of deer to be had, however.  This one stood by the side of the road so long, I had time to snap several photos.  I'm convinced she would've let me approach her if I had tried.  I have a hard time thinking of these creatures as "elusive."  You just have to know where to look.  The most popular hangout seems to be anyplace near a roadway. 

     For the grand finale, I captured this image the following week.  Someone's makeshift recreational vehicle is for sale.  It truly is the piéce de résistance because the proud creator has thought of everything.  It's mobile.  It has the camouflage, so the occupants can use it as a blind as well as living quarters.  And yes, indeed, that is a snorkel on the right side of the cab.  This is truly a work of engineering genius.  

     I'll never know whether any of the hunters featured here were successful in bagging any deer.  But I know I was successful in nabbing my prey.  
     See you fellas next year.  

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Been awhile . . .

     It has been quite awhile since my last post.  Honestly, I just haven't had a whole lot to say and, believe it or not, I've been busy.  I simply decided not to force myself to write a bunch of meaningless garbage just for the sake of posting on a semi-regular basis.  
     Summertime has come and gone since I last wrote anything, and I'm glad.  The second school year without me has begun, and the world hasn't stopped spinning due to my absence.
     Yesterday I set foot inside a school building (NOT Xyz School, btw).  It was for a non-school gathering.  Being as this was my first venture into an elementary school in well over a year, it dredged up some things I never expected.  
     First, let me say, I'm so glad that I went to this event.   For one thing, I got to hang with my 2 best friends, the ones who have been there through everything.  And for another thing, it involved bingo and bingo makes me remember good times at my grandparents' home.  My grandma had a dollar store bingo game and, for a younger me, playing bingo with grandma was the greatest thing ever.  Don't underestimate the impact that everyday, seemingly insignificant things have on your children and grandchildren.  It's amazing what sticks with a person.  
     Anyway, I had a great time.  But when I returned home from this gathering, I just felt really strange, almost uneasy.  I couldn't put my finger on it for a few hours.    Finally, it came to me:  I had gone into a setting exactly like the one in which I had lived and breathed and worked for such a long time.  I was forced to face a small chunk of my 21-year failure.  Turns out, that's kind of a big deal.  
     However, I survived and I got over the inexplicable uncomfortable feeling and was just fine.  The next morning, I got the best text from one of my friends who attended the gathering.  That text meant so much to me.  The sender will never know how much.  It's just nice to know there are still a few people with whom I can chat. 
      So, 24 hours later, I'm still kind of hashing it all out in my mind, wondering why in the world was I so upset after having such a good time seeing my best friends.  
     I think leaving a job, for any reason, is almost like you have ceased to exist for everyone that you knew and with which you had constant contact during that period in your life.  It's like being dead, and yet there you are, still walking around invisible and seeing that everything just goes on without you.  I'm ok with that. It's just an incredibly surreal feeling at times when I am forced to confront it.
I'm thankful I don't think about it that much anymore.
    So, that's where I am now.  As I look back at all the huge changes that have come in the past 21 months (see July 2013 posts),  I realize I just never know what I'm going to think or how I'm going to feel from one day to the next.  I see different facets every time I'm forced to analyze.   At this point, I've become what I wanted to be when the whole thing started:  a ghost.  But now that I've finally achieved that, I'm looking to the next goal and simply learning to be content with where I am until I evolve into it.   
      I'm also figuring out along the way, that it really will never be over for me.  Despite my best efforts, I can never get back what was taken from me.  But, really, do any of us ever get our former selves back after a life-altering event?  I'm inclined to think not, and have therefore ceased trying.  
     Turns out that's kind of a big deal, too.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

You Can't Go Home Again

   I used to think the quote "You can't go home again" was just utterly ridiculous.  I have heard this at various times and places and would always think to myself "Nonsense!!  Of course you can go home again!!"
     Well, I finally get it and let me be the one to tell you the cold, hard truth:   You really can't go home again.  It isn't there anymore.  Even if you never left "home," it still isn't there. 
     Home is generally what we think of as the place where we (a) grew up or (b) spent a period of time when we were most comfortable or had the most awesome experiences of our lives.   If you are in that sweet spot right now, you don't know it and you aren't going to realize it until it is over, and by then, the moment is lost forever.  Later, when it's too late to scramble back, and when things aren't so swell, you're going to think "Gosh, that was the best time of my life, I really had it made then!"  
     Think about it for a few minutes.  Pinpoint the best time of your life.  The period that you wouldn't mind repeating if you were given the opportunity.  . . . . . got one?  Now, ask yourself, "Did I realize how awesome that period was when I was busy living it?"  Obviously you did not, because you moved on.  But now, looking back, you wonder what ever possessed you to go on to the next phase.  Right about now, you are probably realizing, with complete horror, that you were batshit crazy to have ever moved on to the next part of your life when you had it so good.
      You can also apply this quote in the most literal sense, as in the place where you grew up.  If you were a lucky kid, home was safe and comfy.  Often, as adults overburdened with countless responsibilities, or as we move into old age, we long to return to that safe, comfy place.  We have an image in our mind of what it was like and we expect that if we could just return, it would be exactly the same as when we left it.  
       Let me be the one to destroy your yearning for the past:  "Home" is not going to be the same.  People have changed, scenery probably has too.  Old buildings are gone, new ones are in their places, neighborhoods become dilapidated or rejuvenated.  Storms, fires, humans and other forces have removed bits and pieces of the basis for your perfect memory until it's just no longer tangible.   The memory is all you have left.   You can't get back to whatever helped form those memories. 
     So, I guess the point here is, try to look around at whatever you may have going on in your life.  Try your hardest to avoid stressing over the inconsequential garbage and savor whatever you can find that is good, happy and comfortable about the here and now.  
      After all, you're going to need those good memories to help you define your new "home" the next time you discover that the old one has vanished and is no longer accessible by any means other than your imagination.  

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Am I There Yet?

Note from Goldie:  I wrote this about a year ago and never published it.  I have no idea why I didn't.   It seems to be a common theme for me this time of year, as the post I've just completed has a similar theme.     

I've been on a long hiatus from writing again.  Just haven't been in the mood to share any thoughts, although there have been plenty floating around in my head.  I've been spending the months since the anniversary date doing anything and everything that doesn't amount to wasting my time thinking about my former life and events that ended it.  Am I there yet?  No.  
     But I am getting closer.  I no longer waste much time and energy thinking about what happened, how I got here, what is going on at XYZ Elementary, and most of all, why things are what they are in general.   No one can tell me I mattered, because I haven't heard a word from anyone in the administration, or school board, and that silence alone speaks volumes.   I have not reached out to anyone either because it's just better this way.  Just way too awkward on both sides. 
     Do people think I'm crazy?  The people who really know me, no.  People who think they know me, maybe.  Anyone else on the outside, probably. Do I really care what anyone thinks?  No.  
     The main thing that pisses me off at this point are the effects with which I am left:  extreme sensitivity to noise and movement being number one right now.  Generally, I can't stand being in a room with more than one other person.  I can't stand sudden loud noises like my husband's over-dramatized sneezing. Or banging cabinet doors and clattering dishes.  Or being hammered with a series of insignificant questions upon either one of us returning to the house. Or conversations between my son & husband going on with the television or radio on at the same time.  Just regular everyday stuff that used to be no problem.  I can get physically ill or reach a point of extreme irritation and rage if I do not remove myself from those situations before it pushes me beyond my limit.  It can take me anywhere from a couple of hours to a couple of days to recover.  I know it's not normal, but neither is the PTSD that has caused it.  I just do what I gotta do, get out of the area, pop in some earplugs and ride it out.  To my knowledge, my husband and son have no idea how I am affected by these things and I'm not telling them, because it's my problem, not theirs.   
     Why am I telling anyone this, or writing about it?  Because I want to raise awareness for other people.  I had no idea that these kinds of side effects were part if the whole PTSD thing.  Now that I know about this one, I wonder what else there might be that I have been lucky enough to have avoided experiencing so far.  I refuse to research it, because I do not wish to give my subconscious any ideas. However, I think I am a much more compassionate person by having an awareness, and maybe if I share it with others, they might choose to be a little more kind toward others as a result.  You really never know what another person may be going through in his or her life, and I don't think it would kill any of us to just try to be a little more patient and less in a hurry to spout off whatever ugliness might be going on in our heads when we are dealing with people who may not meet our expectations.  
       So, there it is.  It's your choice how you choose to react to others.  You can be kind, you can be mean, you can avoid.  Whatever you choose, I hope you'll take the time to consider how your choice may impact those around you.  

Thursday, January 16, 2014

One-Year Anniversary

     Well, I've taken yet another trip around the sun since I was deemed crazy and a threat to others by a bitch who's opinion isn't worth much (see posts from July 2013), and I gotta say, so far, so good.  I haven't managed to hurt anyone yet.  I have learned some things though.  
      For one thing, PTSD isn't the greatest disorder to have.  Most people only associate it with major, large-scale stuff, like war and tragedies like 9/11.  Contrary to popular belief, it can happen from a vast accumulation of little things.  Or from beng traumatized in untraditional ways.  Another thing is, you don't go around wearing a big old sign saying "I have PTSD, please stay out of my personal space."  It's manageable for me, though, and I know thousands of others are much worse off, so I'm not going to waste a lot of blog space complaining.  
     I've learned who I can count on and who I can't and I've learned to be ok both sorts of person, whether they be family, friends, former co-workers and acquaintances.  No one can be everything to everyone they know.  
     I've learned to trust only my family and my very best friends.  Nothing wrong with giving up my stupid urge to see most others through rose-colored glasses.  I'm not perfect, I certainly don't deserve to be seen that way, and therefore there is no need for me to give anyone else a free pass.  You want my trust, you gotta earn it.  And it ain't gonna come easy, if it ever comes at all.  Don't take it personally, though.  It's just my new policy.  
     I've learned a lot of new skills and hobbies.  Too many of those to mention. Some were for fun, some for survival, and others just to keep me busy and teach me to slow down during long periods of waiting.  None of them were goals I ever had.  Most of them I like to keep to myself because it really doesn't pay for others to really know all the capabilities I have.  I had to learn on my own, everyone else can do the same if the need should ever arise and they aren't too lazy and don't waste their time acting helpless.  It isn't that hard. 
     I've learned to wait out every low point, hour-by-hour, minute-by-minute and even second-by-second at the very worst times.  Something better always comes along eventually. 
     I've learned my husband loves me and supports me way more than I could ever imagine or expect.  He didn't sign up to have a crazy wife who would decide to walk away from a stable 20+ year career.  He doesn't understand me, he usually doesn't know how to help, but he has hung in there.  I would never have asked that of him, and he knows it. But he just does it anyway. 
     I've learned to trust my gut instinct when it comes to first impressions.  It is right 99% of the time.  I really think that would be 100% of the time so far, but I probably still have some living to do, and there's always a chance I'll be wrong at some point.  
     I'm still learning to slow down, take my own sweet time and let the rest of the world either wait for me or go on without me.  Maybe I'll catch up, maybe I won't.  In the end, it's really not going to matter. 

Friday, December 20, 2013

Who Cares, Really??

   Duck Dynasty, Phil Robertson.  3 words: I.don'
People voicing opinions on the two topics above:  same 3 words.  Voice it if you want, or not.  Don't care either way.
     The thing is, it's not my place to judge.  Anyone.  For any reason.  Unless I'm placed on jury duty and am asked to evaluate evidence and apply the laws of land.  
I've been called to jury duty a lot.  Six times between the ages of 18-39.  They really liked me.  When I got to liking them and looking forward to my next invitation, they mysteriously quit issuing them to me. Go figure.  
     Anyway, about the Duck Dynasty Debacle:  People get "suspended" from their jobs for a variety of reasons all the time.  I was told to "go home and don't come back for a week and bring documentation from your doctor when you return."  
     Go read the 4 posts beginning in July 2013 for that sordid tale, if you haven't already done so.  It's a real gem.
      How are these two things related?A&E, just like Mrs. Frills, is concerned with its own image.  Understandably so.  Administrators or corporations or television producers are not going to throw themselves under the bus for anyone.  Remember, their livelihood is at stake.  They don't give a rat's ass about anyone beneath them.  They don't have any real "friends."  They want whatever will please the sources of their finances. Period.  That's just the way it is.
     The people who they think are their friends are those who are willing to bow down and be submissive and go along with the program.  In essence, those who will pretend to agree with their edicts on order to protect their own livelihoods.  Usually this is done passively in the world in which most of us live.  The peasant employees just steer clear of the topic and keep everything hush-hush.  If we don't voice our true feelings or beliefs, no one gets hurt.  Or so we think.  We keep our fake friendship with the hand that feeds us and hope that our outward display of neutrality will prevent the "collateral damage" from thinking we don't care about him or her. 
      Here's what I am interested in with the Duck Dynasty crew:  We're about to find out which way the Robertson family will go in this public controversy.  We're going to find out the stuff of which this family is really made.  Will they throw poor Phil under the bus and continue their relationship with A&E?  Or will they display full-on support for their family member and decide that he is more important than the financial gain of maintaining submissiveness to A&E's demands?  Will they attempt to find some other option that will appear to be neutral with the hope that no one will call bullshit?   In the end, it's probably all just a ploy concocted to move the show to another network, probably owned by the parent company of A&E to boost ratings. Who knows?
     Even though I don't watch the show, and I don't have any sort of stake in the outcome, I'm in total suspense waiting to see what path they choose.  For me, it's not an issue of the beliefs expressed in Phil's statements.  Actually, I haven't taken the time to even investigate fully what he said because it's his opinion and I just don't care.  I don't need to know what exactly he said in order to know that the Robertson family finds itself at a crossroads between upholding the values for which they have become well-known yand maintaining the financial gains of their now-public lives.   
     It's quite ironic, really.  A&E loved capitalizing on the Christian values displayed by the Robertsons, but only as long as it was kept politically correct.   The Robertsons loved being in the spotlight, but now the light is going to reveal how true they really are to their beliefs in the importance of family and faith.   Do they have enough faith to refuse to conform to anything other than their own beliefs?   We're about to find out whether the Robertsons have "sold out."
     The suspense is killing me.  And that's a fact, Jack!

Friday, November 15, 2013

How I Learned Faith

    It's finally time to tell the story of how I learned to live by faith.  I have waited over 3 years to share it, never quite knowing how to put it into words.  I still don't really know how I'm going to do that, but that's kind of  the point of the whole story.  We don't always know how we are going to accomplish something, but the Lord will lead us there if we simply follow His direction. 

   In 2009, I was still a teacher.  I had finally got smart about doing continuing education and learned to look for workshops that were not only interesting, and applicable to my work, but that also had additional incentives for completion, like PAY.  In November of that year, I scoured the offerings from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) because at that time, they had many week-long institutes for teachers that offered a stipend to cover travel expenses.

     I love the Appalachian Mountains.  Just love them, but I don't know why.  As I was cruising the internet looking for potential professional development opportunities,  I stumbled upon an institute offered by NEH in Boone, North Carolina that was about the Blue Ridge Parkway.  It was a week long in July 2010.  I applied in late 2009 and waited anxiously until spring 2010, when those who were accepted would be notified. 

     Since there was nothing else to do during this time, except for teaching and holidays and such, I started playing around on  I stumbled upon some interesting information about my paternal grandfather that I never knew.  I learned he was from Meat Camp, North Carolina in Watauga County.  Yep, there really is a place called "Meat Camp."  Anyway, it turns out Boone is also in Watauga County, just a stone's throw away from Meat Camp.  This made the possibility of attending the NEH Blue Ridge Parkway workshop even more exciting.

    While I was waiting over the winter, a very good friend said she would like to go along to camp with me.  I was already planning on taking my son, just to hang out while I wasn't in class.  This trip was shaping up nicely. 

     Sometime in the spring, I received a notice that I was on a waiting list if any of the class attendees should cancel their plans.  In other words, the program was full and I did not make the first cut.  I was disappointed, but didn't give it much more thought.  I figured it was over with. 

     Two days later, I received a phone call from the program director.  One of the potential attendees had to decline and I would be able to attend if I was still interested.  Of course I would not pass up this opportunity!  I accepted and proceeded to finish my school year, anxiously awaiting summer.

     As luck would have it, money was tight in the month prior to the trip.  My vehicle needed a lot of work.  I could pay to have the vehicle repaired, but then would not be able to make the trip.  I decided not to attend.    I had a strong feeling that I was not supposed to give up, yet I didn't know what else to do.  I announced my decision to my husband, but I would need to wait until morning to notify the program director.

     Later that evening, my husband suggested I use his truck for the trip rather than my vehicle.  This sounds like a logical solution to most people, but I would never have even considered using his truck.  I just don't like to drive it because if something goes wrong with it, I don't want to be the one responsible.  He's not weird about it, but I am.  I just don't like to feel like mishaps are my fault. 
But since he offered, and I was really, really feeling like I was supposed to attend this particular workshop for some unknown reason, I accepted and reversed my decision to bail out. 

     Time to attend the workshop came.  Money was still tight.  I still could have bailed out, but something was driving me to go anyway.  My parents each gave me some money to make the trip (the pay from the program wasn't going to be awarded until after the trip).  The money was enough for me to make the drive and pay for my campsite for the week.  My son and I pulled out of our driveway early on a Saturday morning with all of our gear, except for one thing:  We would need to buy a tent somewhere on the way.  And it needed to be cheap yet big enough for us to live in for a week. 

     I had no idea how we were going to buy food or fuel once we got to Boone.  I just knew I had to get there and figure it out day by day.  I should have been scared, but I wasn't.  By this time, I knew I was supposed to be there and that there was a bigger purpose for this trip than simply professional development.

     We got to the campground where we would be spending the week, set up, got dinner and went to bed.  The next day we explored a little and then I had to attend the first class meeting that evening.  When I returned to camp, my friend had arrived and she brought a friend along and a very special travel companion, a dog named "Jenna."

     Money wise, we ended up being ok for Sunday, Monday, & Tuesday. But every night I prayed and prayed.  In my head, going to sleep, I would sing "God Will Take Care of You."  It comforted me and kept me from worrying.  In the back of my mind, though,  I knew Tuesday evening, my husband's truck was going to need fuel.   I still had no idea how I was going to get it.  My 16-year-old son was not as calm as I was about it, but I knew somehow, some way it would be ok.  Still, neither of us talked about it in the presence of our friends.  We just enjoyed each other's company and told stories in the evenings after I returned from class. 

      One of the friends who had joined us randomly gave me money to pay for her part of the camping.  I had no expectation of this.  I was totally just glad to have her join me for this adventure and did not even think about having anyone else pay anything.  But being in the position I was, I accepted and was tremendously thankful, and I had enough money to buy gas for the truck and a few food items for one more day.

    Later that evening,  my son found a $25 gift card for Applebee's in the glove box of the truck.  Apparently,it was from the PTO of the school where I worked at the time.  I know I must have received it for teacher appreciation week at some point in my career, but I honestly only vaguely remembered receiving it a year or two earlier and I certainly had no idea how  it turned up in my husband's truck.  I figured if worst came to worst, we could use that for a meal at some point during the week.  I knew that God was looking out for me by now.  There was no other explanation.

     The next day, the other friend wanted to pay for her part of the camping for the week.  Now, this was really too much.  I certainly didn't expect that either.  But again, I reluctantly accepted and was thankful to have enough gas and groceries to get through the next day, which was Thursday.

     Friday was the last day of class as it turned out.  Originally, the schedule said it was Saturday, but what I didn't realize that the Saturday was just for people staying in the dorms to have a chance to get themselves together and be provided with a shuttle to the nearest major airport in Charlotte. 

     So, we made it to Friday!!!  We had class as normal on Friday.  That evening a final dinner was given for the participants and it was a pretty fancy deal.  I did not realize that our stipend checks would be given at the dinner.  But they were and I was one relieved chick!  Now I had more than enough money to get home and even take a little side trip to Townsend, TN. 

     This is where the story gets really good.

     By now, I was pretty amazed at all the blessings God had bestowed upon me to make this trip happen:  First, I wasn't accepted and then I was.  I had no trip-worthy vehicle, and then I did.  I had enough money to start the week, but not enough to get through the whole thing.  I made the trip on faith and God provided.  This was the only time in my life I had set out knowing fully that I did not have enough resources, yet went anyway and trusted that it would be provided.  And God did not fail me.

     Saturday morning, my son and I packed up and headed for Townsend, TN.  It wouldn't have been that long of a trip, but my son suggested taking the "scenic" route and traveling the Blue Ridge Parkway, stopping off to see Mt. Mitchell and then going through Asheville to get to Interstate 40.  Sounded like a grand plan to me. 

     We drove along.  As we neared Mount Mitchell (which is the highest point in the United States east of the Mississippi), I noticed the truck was not gaining speed or climbing hills well no matter how hard I pushed on the accelerator.  I wanted to panic, but tried to convince myself it was my imagination.  After the third try and losing speed, I had to admit to myself that we had a problem.
     I considered myself lucky to find a pull-off on this particularly winding part of the parkway.  I pulled off, my son told me I'm just not driving it right.  LOL.  He got out, checked under the hood, but of course found no problems.  He decided HE would drive and everything would be ok.  I sarcastically thought to myself "Good, glad I have an expert pickup truck driver with me.  All is well."  So we got back out on the road.  Everything seemed fine for the first mile or so.  Then, we came to more hill-climbing.  At this point, we also reached the entrance to Mount Mitchell State Park.  As soon as we turned onto the road leading to the mountain that is the highest point east of the Mississippi, we had no choice but to pull onto a very narrow patch of grass.  Now my son, the expert pickup truck driver had to admit there is a problem.  He was quietly freaking out. 

     As soon as he realized there was not much cell phone signal, he decided to be a little more verbal with his panic.   He tells me to call his dad.  I'm like "What good is that gonna do?  He's over 400 miles away??"  But I attempt to call anyway.  I was able to tell my husband what was going on and then the call was dropped and the signal did not return long enough to call him back.  We were on our own.

     The boy is continuing to panic.  I had to get mean and tell him "You can't freak out right now because I can't deal with that and the truck problem too, so suck it up!"  At the same time, I thought to myself  "The nearest tow truck is probably 60 miles away, no way they're gonna come up here to get us even if I do manage to get a call out.  No way.  I have no idea what we're gonna do." 

      Suddenly, my son's precious 16-year-old face lit up and he said "I KNOW WHAT'S WRONG WITH IT AND WE HAVE THE PART IN HERE TO FIX IT!!!!"  He said it with such conviction that I wanted really, really badly to believe him.  But seriously, who has spare parts in their vehicle?  And if we did have a spare part, what are the chances that it would be exactly the one that we needed?

      My son proclaimed "It's the fuel filter, I'm telling you.  And we have an extra one in here!"  We looked at each other silently for a few seconds, and then simultaneously jumped out of the truck, trying to avoid oncoming traffic.  We started unpacking ALL of our camping stuff from the backseat, piling it in the grass by the side of the road, trying to not let any of it tumble down the side of the hill.  Finally, at the bottom of the stuff and behind the back seat, my son pulled out the extra fuel filter that he said was there. 

     To make a long story short, he climbed under the truck, took off the old filter, put on the new filter, and the truck started and ran like a champ for the rest of our trip.  It was nothing short of miraculous. 

     The neatest thing about all of this was the location. The photograph at the beginning of this post shows the actual roadway where the big truck breakdown took place.  We couldn't have been any closer to "the heavens" in our part of the country.  We were in a very remote location.  We had the right part.  One of us knew how to replace the part, and it wasn't me.  All of these factors, and probably a few more details I'm forgetting, left me no doubt as to who had taken care of us. 

     And that's the story of how I learned what it is to have real faith.  Personally, I don't believe you really can have faith unless you have been through a situation where there is absolutely nothing else upon which to rely.  Having this experience has given me such a peace through every situation since.  I know that God truly can do everything.  I know that He sees things that I cannot.  I am thankful every day that He allowed me to experience such an incredible test of faith and that He gave me the peace to endure it and  to hold myself together and truly trust that He would provide. 

Saturday, October 26, 2013


 Yesterday I set out on a mission to find a knee walker for my mother.  The way I was presented with that mission is a whole other tale, but the excitement I felt when I realized "mission accomplished" took a bittersweet turn almost immediately.

My mom is going to be unable to walk for 6 months, due to a condition called charcot.  She has a great attitude about it and of course we realize it could be worse.  But acquiring a knee scooter made me think about wheels and the stages of our lives that are marked by the objects to which out wheels are attached.  

First, when a person is a baby, there are wheels on the crib or bassinet.  These wheels are there not for the baby's convenience, but to make life easier for the caregiver.  These wheels are inconsequential to the baby until he or she becomes a grown up caregiver. 

The next set of wheels us humans encounter are found on a stroller.  Baby is getting out more, able to go on adventures outside of the home without being glued to mom or dad's hip. Baby is getting a small taste of freedom within the safe confines of the stroller unit.

Not long after that, the baby is introduced to a whole new experience:  the self-propelled walker, complete with bumpers and, you guessed it, a new set of wheels.  Baby's world just got a whole lot bigger.

Finally, the baby moves on to bigger and better riding toys with wheels, like the trusty Fisher-Price scooter, the Little Tykes car, or other riding toys, and eventually the baby is a toddler. 

That toddler is soon ready for a tricycle. Still self-propelled, and fairly safe.  But independence is taken to a whole new level: the toddler will learn to pedal and also discover that hard surfaces, such as sidewalks and roadways make for much easier locomotion.  Wow, this world is even bigger than the toddler realized.  

Of course, that toddler gets a little older and a lot more coordinated.  He or she quickly outgrows that tricycle.  Soon it is time to graduate up to a bicycle.  But not so fast:  balancing on 2 wheels is quite a huge step.  So, auxiliary wheels are often utilized to assist the young child in learning to balance and pedal at the same time.  Training wheels are the bridge from toddlerhood to childhood.  The missing link can be defined by these gadgets, really.  Bicycles will take the child faster and farther away from home than ever before.  Those training wheels are helpful in reaching this new, wonderful plateau of independence. 

The bicycle phase lasts longer than any other experience with wheels up to this point in the child's life.  For the parents, this can be a magical time.  The child is fairly independent and able to fulfill most of his or her basic needs as long as the materials with which to do it are readily available.  The child is, however, still interacting with, and learning from Mom & Dad.  Total independence is not yet in the picture, but it's sneaking up fast. 

Before Mom & Dad know what has hit them, that child is 16 years old and in need of some "wheels."  The big kahuna:  a car.  A real vehicle to drive on a real street or highway.  Mom & Dad's magical period is ending, and the teenager's is just beginning.  

(Teenager:  These are the best years of your life.  Enjoy them and don't do stupid stuff.  Cherish your freedom, respect your parents for providing you with it.  You will be surprised by how quickly this idyllic period ends and you will want it back.)

So, now we have the ultimate in independence.  A car or truck or motorcycle.  You can go anywhere you want with one of these.   As a matter of fact, these wheels will likely be crucial to working and raising a family.  

See what I mean, teenagers?  That freedom without strings didn't last long.  As you begin this next phase with wheels, you quickly find out that you are now dependent upon these wheels in order to maintain them and thus preserve your ability to get around and to provide for your own family.

Well, what goes up really does come down, and our level of independence is no exception.  As we age, we find out that we are not as invincible as we thought we were when we acquired that first set of "real wheels."  More likely than not, at some point we find that we need a little help getting around.  Time for a different kind of wheels.  

We will fight this stage with everything we have.  We will use almost anything else to avoid giving up our ability to go anywhere we wish.  However, at some point, we find that we need a cane or maybe a walker.  As our upper body strength fails, we may need a walker with wheels, or a knee scooter, or maybe even a wheelchair.  With the acknowledgement of the necessity of wheels to help us perform everyday tasks, we give up a degree of independence. This is an unavoidable sacrifice if we wish to be able to continue to live in our own homes and allow family members to help care for us as opposed to living in a long-term care facility.  The wheels keep us free a little longer. 

So this was the bittersweet realization that swept over me as I accomplished the mission of obtaining a knee walker for my mother.  In trying to help her maintain some independence, I'm also forcing her to acknowledge that she needs some help.  It's a strange paradox and an unavoidable landmark along life's journey.  

At any rate, I'm thankful for the wheels that we have to make life a little easier.