Friday, June 11, 2010

Looking back...

I've reached a pinnacle in my life and the view from here is, well...somedays pretty nice and some days I look back in the valley that I just climbed out of.  I go through a myriad of emotions when I look back.  When I look back here is a small some of what I see:

Days spent in the hot summer sun, floating in a pool or climbing trees.  Climbing one branch higher just so I could peak over the edge of a nest to see the baby robins and laugh when they screamed out for food.  I also see standing barefoot in the middle of a creek and enjoying the feel of slick sand and smooth pebbles under my feet as the cool water ran over them.  I see hours spent riding motorcycles and camping out while in the company of good friends...almost to the point they were like family.  I also see riding in a canoe in a mountain stream and thinking it was the most wonderful thing in the world and how lucky I was to get to ride in it.  I didn't have to paddle-that was great in itself.  I see visiting national parks from the mountains to the coast and learning about all sorts of fantastic things out of doors.  I see picnics eaten at tables set up on the side of the road and getting to share in a bucket of KFC-I wonder if it's just me but I remember KFC tasting so much better back then.  Hot dogs and ice slushies from Kearney's hot dog stand and bread burgers from Jimmy's BBQ.  Chicken pie suppers (yes-there was alot of good food down in the valley I'm seeing now!) and food cooked on the grill.  Trips to the airport where Dad would buy us each a bottled Coke and a 3 Muskateers bar before taking us "around the pattern" once or twice. 

These are a smidgen-just a few of the things I remember and can see when I look back in that valley.  I know I shouldn't be so preoccupied with the way things were...I should be looking ahead-there's obviously more mountain to climb.  I know I can't turn around and go back into the valley...I've got to keep climbing.  I'm hoping someday I'll look back when I reach that next pinnacle and look back to see things in this valley that make me feel as happy as those that came before.


Sunday, June 6, 2010

"I Don't Owe You a Thing"

I added a new friend today on Facebook.  He is someone that is related to someone that I actually know (haha).  I debated adding him at first but after inspecting his wall I relented and confirmed him.  I haven't even met the kid but after reading a few of his comments that he had posted on his FB wall, I could sense that he was a bit angry with someone or some people, maybe life or heck, maybe even the universe.  His comments sparked a great deal of thought on my part and those that know me will admit that getting my wheel spinning can be a dangerous thing.  So I'll try and share my wicked train of thought with you all though sometimes it's like chasing a rabbit through thick brush.

We don't owe that kid a thing.  I remember hearing my mom (yes, I'm talking about you again mom) saying "I don't you owe you anything".  Now that I'm a parent and I think about this, I once again shake my head and realize her wisdom and can admit that she wasn't as full of it as I once thought she was.  And I'd like to expand as a parent a little on what she said...

True, I brought you into this world, and I've fed you, and clothed you and sheltered you.  I've even nursed you when you were sick and corrected you when you were wrong and more still I've even punished when you went against me.  But I've also praised you when you did right and I've tried to celebrate when you've accomplished.  I've even gone so far as to try and entertain you-i.e.- any time I've heard "I'm bored...there's nothing to do".  I've tried to give you a leg up when I could...and God knows I wanted to give you a bigger leg up than I could.  God wanted me to do all that.  Because that's what he programmed good parents to do.  But when you really get down to brass tacks, beyond all that, as your parent, I don't owe you a thing. 

As parents that's got to be one of the toughest lessons to teach our kids because we spend all this time-years and years and years-giving to our children.  Toys and ball games and education.  Movies and pool trips and vacations.  Candy treats, soda pops and junk food.  Nutritious meals and cooking lessons and how to get the best deal at the grocery store.  Let's face it, in the animal kingdom we seem to have written the book on how to take the longest to bring your offspring to maturity.  So when they reach that golden age when we suddenly stop giving or at the very least when the well begins to dry up a bit, they're left standing there almost hyperventilating.  Thinking about this made my thoughts jump track and head in a different direction-follow me...I promise it's related.

My neighbors son is 15.  He wants a job.  He wants to LEGALLY earn some money.  He's looked around and tried to find something local that he would/could be allowed to do and nobody will hire him because he isn't 16 and/or he can't drive.  I recall that you can get a job when you're 15, you just have to get a work permit (at least that's what I was allowed to do when I was that age...the law may have changed, heck, that was when Pluto used to be a planet).  Anyhow, try as he might he can't seem to find a job. 

I got to thinking further about this and I realized something-well, two things actually but here's the first one-a hundred years ago kids were EXPECTED to help on the family farm or in the mill or at the local grocer's by doing whatever was necessary to help the family.  It was a team effort. 

If little Johnny wanted to eat come winter time, his rear end would be busy pulling up weeds in the garden, plowin' the back forty or shoveling horse excrement from the stalls. 

 Little Sally would be in the kitchen snapping beans, shucking corn or helping mama put up the veggies Little Johnny helped grow.  The littlest Sally and Johnny would be set to work picking rocks out of the garden or setting the table. 

They'd also help feed the old nag in the stall or help herd the goats.  Point is-it was a team effort-and it worked.  It worked, because everybody worked.  If you were big enough to get around, you had a job-however big or small it might be.  When kids reached adulthood they'd already know what it meant to work their fannies off and to know that when they did, they would see results.  It was never a question of when or if they would work-they always worked.  So I imagine Pa and Ma didn't hear quite so much whining about having to work as modern parents hear.

Okay, next point-my neighbors son that wants to work is prohibited in a roundabout way by legal restrictions designed to protect his health and to prevent employers from overworking or abusing our youth in some way.  That's all fine, well and good.  

Our youth aren't allowed to drive farm equipment because it's too dangerous (and I agree with that law), or lift things that are too heavy, or spend too much time planting and working tobacco because it's too hot outside.  We haven't made them work as they've grown and the result is we've ended up raising soft kids.  We've also made it so unpalpable for employers to hire kids that they no longer want to fool with it.  They tell the kids to come back when they're sixteen and have a license-they tell them this because it's a pat answer and they a) don't want to be the ones to give the kids their first job because that requires them to hold their hands and/or b) know that if they wait, someone older will eventually come along and be willing to do the work. 

As for the whole farming thing-they know that they can hire migrant laborers-here either legally or not-that most likely won't complain about having to work long, hot hours and are jumping at the chance to work because they're desperate.  They need to feed families or send the money back home.  They also won't complain when they hurt their backs from having lifted something too heavy or straining something...they won't file complaints with anyone or try to get workers comp.  They don't require any amount of paperwork.  It's like hiring a ghost that busts his transparent butt to get the job done.  Once they're done-you pay them and they're disappear like vapor.

Okay, are you still with me?  This is the part of my blog where I try to tie it all together and sum it up.  Modern Little Johnny-from way back up at the top of the blog, bless his little heart, is still mad at the world.  He's soft because our society makes him that way. 

Sorry Lil' Johnny.  In our societies attempts to make the workplace safer for you, we've over-loved you.  

As parents we forgot to tell you each time that we gave you something that we really don't owe you a thing.  When we let you stay inside on hot days to play games we thought we were being kind but we weren't.  When we fed you, sheltered you and gave you an allowance without making you earn your keep, we were doing what's called enabling. We've made you what you are.

As I write this my oldest son is walking around outside in the yard as his father mows the lawn.  I sent him there to pick things up and move them out of the way for his dad.  He's probably cursing me to the firey pits of hell. 

You see, I didn't allow him to go with the neighbors to their pool-he started to argue about the unfairness of it but the mushroom cloud you may see on the horizon is me as I blew up at him.  I tried like the crazy at first to modulate my voice and explain things to him in such a way as to make him understand.  He's a teen now, without the ability to process the things I say.  But I don't want to raise him to be soft.  And I want him to hear me and hopefully he'll retain the same words of wisdom my mom tried to impart to me-she didn't owe me a thing-and I don't owe him a thing.

P.S.-If you're a parent reading this-remember we have to work harder to make our kids understand.  Even if they seemingly ignore what we say when we say it-they retain a bit of it.  Hey, if I could remember it, anyone can.

P.P.S.-If you're a lawmaker and you're reading this-help parents help their kids-let's try and think of a way to change things.  Is there any way to make it so we can raise our kids right-so they aren't quite so soft?  Is there any way we can make our kids as eager to get out in the heat to earn a few bucks as the migrant workers seem to be? 

P.P.P.S.-If you're a kid reading this-nobody OWEs you anything.  You gotta work for what you get in this world.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Deep Thoughts with Gail

Today's strange topic that I'd like to touch on is issues.  (My horoscope deigned to suggest that I have some deep issues inside me-pulease!  I scoff.)  All people have issues!  As I see it, people fall into two categories.  The first-those that are breathing.  The folks that are breathing, well, you've got issues.  The second-those that are not breathing.  If you're not breathing either you've got BIG issues or you HAD issues. 

Having issues doesn't define us.  The issues themselves don't make us who we are.  It's how we handle them that determines our worth. 

For example, a millionaire might have issues with an ex-wife, alimony, child-support, stock portfolios and how well the man who cleans his car does his job. 

On the other end of the spectrum, a camel herder might have issues with a pregnant camel whose baby is breach or perhaps his son has lost the last camel leash and he can't afford to buy a new one.  Maybe he can't trade his camel because it has a bad back or a sprained ankle.  Let's face it, no one wants to get a lemon-right?

Now, if we compare the troubles of the millionaire with those of the camel herder, who has bigger issues?  If you said neither, bing, bing,'re today's winner.  The problems the millionaire is facing are just important to him as the problems the camel-herder has.  It's the ability to stop and see the issues, for Christians it's important to pray for guidance about them and then the amount of grace we use to handle our issues, that's how we're defined.  The millionaire can smile as he signs his alimony and child-support checks and he can take five minutes to chat with his car cleaner and set things straight.  The camel herder can do his best to save the baby camel or he can leave it be because a camel with a bad back or a sprained ankle isn't all that likely to run off.  If the camel passes on, he can open a desert side restaurant and sell camel steaks cooked hibachi style.  Then he could use the money made from that to invest in a new camel.

As long as we face them head on and accept the challenges we face with grace, we can overcome the issues.  This is something that I have to remind myself of quite frequently.  I'll need to remember that especially today since my horoscope warned me of my deep issues.  But hey, at least I recognize that I have them.  Oh, and by the way, if you think you don't have issues-here's a newsflash-you've got bigger issues than the rest of us.