Archive for November, 2012


Thanksgiving – Already?

It’s hard to believe that another year is nearly gone, Christmas is almost here again, and Thanksgiving is this week. Where does the time go? It went into all kinds of things, for some of which I’m even grateful! Please note: this list is hardly exhaustive.

  • physical therapy – I started the year with appointments, had several months off, and now I’m back with more
  • bathroom floor – mine needed replacing. It was definitely a learning process, but I’m happy with the result!
  • Jacob graduated from college with honors.
  • Jacob and Elizabeth moved to WA. I’m definitely glad to get that stinky brother of mine further away… not, but I am glad he found a job.
  • Shelah got a new job as one of Salon 124’s stylists. She does good work!
  • Stephanie was inducted to Phi Theta Kappa, just like three of her older siblings.
  • We had a tie-dye party!
  • Rach, Shelah, Stephanie, Carey, and I hung out for a day in the Sisters area. That was a lot of fun!
  • Kimbelry and Kalyn won Awana trophies!
  • Mom got new kitties. They are cute, little stinkers who think inside is great, but given that some of us are allergic to cat hair, and that nobody likes the smell of used litter box, they are having to get used to their originally intended, outdoors lifestyle.
  • Carey started grad school, is getting A’s, passed the licensing tests, and is loving student teaching.
  • Kimberly loves her swing that we put up in an oak tree.
  • Kalyn has been learning the 4H market lamb ropes.
  • The chickens are (mostly) staying in their pen, thanks to a lot of hard work.
  • When I look out of my window, rather than seeing a nasty amalgamation of mud, weeds, trash, and chicken mess (it bore a resemblance to a neglected dump – yuck, yuck), I see Kimberly’s swing, Kalyn’s fort, and a lawn coming up. It’s AMAZING! Not only is it looking good, it feels good, especially because it was a group effort. Let me share just a few examples. Mom and I earned blisters getting Kimberly’s swing up; Kalyn, Stephanie, and I had fun times learning about teamwork while trying to lash together a framework of filbert poles to make a fort; Mom, Shelah, and I got facefulls of things we don’t want think about during the chicken run remodel; Carey’s close encounter with a hornet while helping fill the woodshed I built led to a new dance craze, the Weekly Shriekly (j/k! – she did shriek and dance thanks to the pain, but we ran to help rather than imitate); Rach, who came down and spent several days in order to help, was brilliant and built a device we could drag behind the four wheeler to smooth out the lumps left by tilling; Kimberly kept us all entertained by looking up bagpipe videos on YouTube; and Stephanie did some research to find grass that grows well in shade. It was a great team effort and makes me grateful not only for the beautiful space developing, but also for my family!
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Will You Forgive Me, Please?

I’m going to tell you a story. This story involves one of my sisters, but it’s not about her. It’s really about me. Because I’m the one telling it, and she’s not here to share her side of the story (which undoubtedly differs from mine), please remember that I’m talking from my perspective and how things affected me. I’d leave her out altogether if I could, but I haven’t been able to come up with a clever way to do that while still communicating effectively about what became a profound experience in my life.

I am a pretty competent person. It’s not that I know everything or have some super power that makes me capable of succeeding at whatever I try. It’s has more to do with my dislike of turning out work of poor quality. As Yoda said, “Do or do not. There is no try,” and I’d add that if I’m going to do it, I might as well bother to do it well. I don’t even have to like whatever it is to do a good job of it, and I don’t have to know how to do it. I’ll learn, teaching myself if necessary. I’ve been like this as long as I can remember.

I tend to be right. Some of that is merely accuracy combined with a habit of choosing my words with care. Some of that is conscience. I need to be morally right and try to keep from wrongdoing.  I care about justice in general. Been like that all of my life, too.

I’m not always the most humble or self-effacing person you’ll ever meet, either.  I’d like to think that I’m less arrogant than I used to be, but the truth is that I wasn’t particularly aware of how my pride was affecting me then, and it’s entirely possible I have blind spots aplenty still.

Throw all of that together – competency, conscience, a strong sense of justice coupled with outrage over injustice, and pride – in me, and you get a driven, stubborn, very pigheaded person who would rather drown than give up the ball to the other team. Playing water basketball as a freshman at summer camp did nearly get me drowned. One of the other team felt sorry for me and opted to try picking me up and shaking me. She didn’t get the ball, either. Anyway, get me to the point where I’m convinced I’m right, and I can become intransigent.  I won’t bend, buckle, or back down.

And proud of it.

I suppose you can imagine that this habit of mine occasionally caused problems. My relationship with my sister, who I’ll call P in this post, is a good illustration. P is a little younger than me, so the poor kid got to “enjoy” the same sort of home life I did. It was tough. It was really tough. We all dealt with it differently. I was quite the prig. My dad once called me something like the Pious with all the dark and twisted religious shades to it, and the comment was not completely wrong. P dealt with it in other ways. We butted heads a lot, starting young and continuing into adulthood. My dad leaving the family didn’t magically make everything better. We had all learned bad habits and lessons, and we had to learn new things and norms after he left. Learning, the process of it, is rife with mistakes, yes?

P and I had many, many differences of opinion. There was a lot of conflict, and it frustrated and hurt me. I felt like she was being very unfair to me. It didn’t seem to matter how hard I tried – it was not enough. I couldn’t make her happy with me or what I was doing no matter how nice, tactful, fillintheblank I tried to be. It didn’t improve my attitude or hurt feelings that I thought some of what she did was wrong and/or unlikely to help her get what she’d told me she wanted. I felt as though she twisted my words to use them against me and heard poison where I’d meant only and striven mightily to infuse kindness. I didn’t feel like I could trust her to look out for me. Things were getting pretty sour, and I was getting very tired of what I perceived to be me doing a lot of bending over backwards to avoid giving further offense. I was angry about that.

I had done everything I knew. I had tried to the best of my ability to work things out and improve the relationship. I had failed. It sucked. It was miserable. We were kinda, sorta not really speaking to each other, and I felt grief. She’s my sister. I love her. My guts were twisting into a knot to be on such bad terms with her.

So, in the middle of this confusion of feeling and attitude, I hear something from God that I don’t like . He tells me to show up at her house, ask her for her side of the story, listen humbly, receive, and then ask for her forgiveness. That was actually frightening. It was vulnerable. P hadn’t exactly been the safest person in my life. Her words weren’t safe. I didn’t want to go.

I did, though. I showed up, she was home, and I listened to what she had to say for maybe a couple of hours. I can’t remember for sure. It was a lengthy conversation, though. Somewhere in there, I gave her a simple apology. “I’m sorry. Would you forgive me, please?” No defensiveness, no excuses, no guardedness hidden in justifications, no feedback from me toward her – nothing self-protective. I simply and unreservedly owned the truth that I had hurt her (even if I didn’t mean to do it, even if only through ignorance, I had still caused her pain) and asked her to forgive me.

We parted ways on somewhat better terms, having expressed a desire to have a better relationship with each other. It hasn’t happened yet. Within a year, things had broken down completely, and at her request, I have not spoken to her since.

What was the point? Why did I have to go through all of that? Every once in a while, I roll it over again, and now seems to be the latest once in a while.

Why? What good did that do? I can’t answer that for her. I have no idea if that conversation and my request for forgiveness did anything for her.

I guess the why has a lot to do with why I went. I didn’t go for me. I didn’t go thinking it would make any difference in how my sister and I related. I didn’t even do it for her to “help” her or anything. I went because I believed that was what God was asking me to do. I obeyed and trusted Him with everything I had invested and everything I feared. It may not have helped my relationship with my sister, but it did change some things in how I related to God. It changed me. I might talk about that more in another post, but for now – have a good night.

A Scrap

Hoarse screamed my soul in battle,
Mortal and waged with flame.
Fire and ice fight for dominion
Twisting both triumph and shame.

99%

Don’t be looking for any of Occupy Wall Street’s mantras here. Occupy Portland reportedly cost the city $130,000 in park damages and another $1.29 million for police overtime. To be fair, the movement claims that these figures are inflated. The truth is probably somewhere in between. Nonetheless, even a reduced amount seems like stealing from the taxpayers, as I very much doubt Occupy Portland consulted with those taxpayers and gained their consent before causing damage and expenditure. Not really a fan, am I.

No, the 99% to which I refer came from a conversation with a friend. After a long term relationship, this person and their spouse separated. My friend told me that the spouse has trouble with anger, and that most of the time it’s not a problem, but when it is, things are bad. The spouse can’t understand why it’s such a problem for my friend. The conversation we had went something like this: “99% of the time, life is fine for my spouse,” my friend said. “It’s only 1% of the time that the rage causes problems for my spouse. But for me? I never know when it’s going to show up. Years of marriage and observation, and I still can’t predict what will trigger an episode. It only affects my spouse’s life during that 1% of the time, but for me? It’s 100%. I live with the burden of uncertainty and trying to be right, perfect, and inoffensive all of the time.”

That has certainly given me plenty to ponder.

For one thing, while I knew what my friend meant and could identify the feeling, I’d never put it so clearly or been able to isolate and express it so well. That’s been one of those things I’ve never really been able to explain to somebody who has not experienced it.

Besides that, it’s been a long time since my dad left, and sometimes my memory gets a little fuzzy. I can’t always remember what made it so miserable. Dramatic moments (like having to pull things off the table so that Dad wouldn’t throw them at my brother) stand out, but not the everyday happenings. The drama is what I tend to tell people, probably because it was incontrovertibly bad. People, in my experience, are a lot less likely to argue that bruises and holes in the wall and other concrete proofs of violence are acceptable and seem to have more trouble accepting that the less physically scarring aspects of abuse are also unacceptable. Those parts, invisible like the wind, are just harder to pinpoint and explain.

My friend did a good job of it. See, maybe the aggressive/unpredictable person really is okay most of the time. Something happens – who knows what? – their internal switch flips, and suddenly they’re irrational, menacing, and dangerous to those around them. The storm passes, their steam is released, they feel better, and everything is all right again.

For them.

Until the next time whatever it is causing the aggressor’s internal, personal pressure to build demands release.

For those around them, it may not be okay. If dangerous can’t be predicted, if there is a disconnect between what happens in the aggressor’s environment and their reactions, okay can’t be trusted. Threat of danger still exists, and the people around the aggressor start demonstrating wariness and fear of that threat. The aggressor’s behavior effectively teaches the victims that they should not trust the aggressor. How the heck do you trust somebody who is sometimes just fine and sometimes, with no warning, not?

It makes for a real mess. My friend’s 99% fine spouse can’t understand why that’s not good enough. I don’t think my dad ever understood how much his unpredictable, unreasonable rages affected any of us, how we rewrote ourselves trying to survive.

I suspect, too, that poorly managed, inappropriately expressed, out of control anger isn’t the only unpredictable behavior that causes serious troubles for others. I bet lying would invoke some of the same problems. So might an inability to make and keep schedules and one’s word. It’s also a decent example of how sin in general ruins things for us. So what if I’m awesome 99% of the time? What harm could that 1% of degenerate behavior do?

What harm indeed? Ask my friend. One person’s 1% changed 100% of my friend’s life.

On the flip side, maybe there is also the potential for what is good, pure, and noble in us to have a similar effect, for our moments of good to shine out and touch another.

It’s certainly something to consider and use to evaluate my own life. How am I living? How is it affecting those closest to me? What’s having a greater effect on them – my flaws or my virtues?

May God bless your day.