Monday, December 19, 2011

Where I am

  I was to a funeral today for a man I didn't know.  If that sounds strange to you, you're not from around here.  To say I didn't know him may be a little misleading.  He's lived 8 miles from me my whole life, and we've probably only ever said 10 words to each other.  But I know him because I know his son and his son's family.  The church was full, much to the chagrin of the deceased I'm sure.  Everyone was there for the family, and if you would've gone downtown to run your errands, you might've had to wait extra long, because the person who works where you do business was probably at the funeral, and the boss let them go without cutting their pay.  But you waited, because that's what you do where I'm from.  The funeral procession was led by a shiny red and chrome Peterbuilt.  And everybody thought it was perfect.    The church parking was full, around the block, and a lot of them were four wheel drive pickups.  Because that's how it is where I come from.
  Where I come from, you either wave first, or you wave back, to every car or truck you meet on the road, whether you know them or not.  You say please and thank you to the cashier, the waitress, the kids in the band, on the team or in the play, and the soldiers.  You nod a hello with a smile when you meet someone on the street, not because they're your friend or even because you've met them before, but because they're your neighbor.  You might get stuck at the grocery store holding the door for the next 10 people, just because you held it for the person behind you.  And where I come from, we still say Merry Christmas.
  Stockings, Santa, shopping, and fa la la's are for Xmas. Silent Night's, Away in a Manger's, and candle lit services are for Christmas.  Not getting through your church choir's anthem because you're overwhelmed by the congregation praising a baby is for Christmas.  Being with your family, presents and a huge meal or not, is for Christmas.  Somebody asked the other day, in a crowded room, "what's Christmas without snow?", and the whole room, as if on cue, said, "Christmas".  Where I'm from, don't worry so much about xmas, but Christmas is everyone's favorite time of year.
  Where I'm from, you're friends with the first girl you ask out.  Probably because you've gone to the same school and sat in the same classes and played on the same playground all your life.  And you can't take her out for food or a movie without everybody in town knowing that you're dating.  The other people in the restaurant will make sure of that.  And there rarely comes a time when you have to meet her parents.  Chances are, they've known you all your life, and your mothers have already talked at length about you.
  People around here plan their schedules around important events.  Not the usual important events.  I'm talking about things like the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life.  My hometown is consistently at the top of the nation in money collected per capita.  Because we all know somebody who is fighting the good fight, or has lost the battle, with the sunnovabitch that is cancer.  It's a big deal to raise money all year, and come together on one day  in the summer to raise more, so that research can be done by people way smarter than we are.
  There's 7 churches near where I live.  And on Sunday's, the restaurants in town are often poorly patronized.  Most people are at somebody else's church, eating a fundraiser dinner.  Lots of kids have gone to camp, lots of food put on the food pantry shelf, and lots of kids in country's I can't even spell have been helped because a church and a community came together just to eat a meal at the same table.  Same goes for the fire hall.  Many pancake feeds have put out a lot of fires in my county.
  People often move away.  As well they should.  The kids raised around here have a job to do in this world, and this place isn't big enough to hold them.  But they take with them all of the values that make this place the one they tell people, "that's where I come from".  And I'm proud to say, it's not just where I come from, it's where I am.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

You think you're better than me?

  Don't you want your kids to be better off than you were?  That seems to be the question that people use to measure their success.  My answer to that question is heck no!  If you ask me, I had it too darn easy.  I never went hungry.  I was never cold at night.  I always had shoes on my feet and a coat on my back.  Beyond that, I never had to worry about much.  I knew my parents loved me, and that didn't mean that they bought me endless piles of junk to try to keep me entertained.  One of the most common phrases I can remember whining, like most kids growing up, was "I'm booorrrreeeddd".  To which my mom's response was always, "Find something to do.  You don't need to be entertained every minute of the day". 
  Having everything a kid wants isn't good for them anyway.  There comes a point when it's a waste to buy another toy, another video game, another set of clothes, and on and on and on.  When a person is given more than they need on a wasteful scale, they become lazy at least, greedy at worst.  Why would I want to do that to my kids?  This is also true for our family when it comes to t.v. watching in my house.  Too much sitting, staring blindly at what is rarely a redeeming program leads to a lack of attention span and attitude problems. 
  Having more than they need and not having to earn anything is not what I consider better than I had it.  How many times do we hear troubled kids blame their parents for the way they've turned out?  To quote Jeff Foxworthy, "Just once I wanna hear a kid say, 'My mom was great, my dad was great, I'm just a shit head.'"
  So how do I want my kids to turn out compared to me?  Watching my oldest son is like taking a walk with the ghost of Christmas past to see myself at 7.  Why was I so loud?  Why did I talk first and think last, if ever?  I want my kids to learn to be still.  To not seek out attention.  And to look around themselves and listen first and then be thoughtful in their response to others.
  I want them to be confident.  I don't want them to shy away from opportunities to make the world around them better because they think they are lacking some magical talent that the rest of the world possesses but somehow skipped them.  I want them to learn to walk with their heads high, not hide from the chance to right a wrong, to fix an injustice that makes them angry.
  I also want them to learn that hard work, and smart work, for that matter, is what makes a job worth doing.  And that whether that job was a success or not is measured by how many people it helped.
  I don't want my kids to have more than I did.  I don't want them to have it better than I did.  I don't even care if they are more successful than I am.  I just want them to be better than me.

Saturday, November 5, 2011


  I was filling out an online poll the other day, and I came to the part where it asks you to check the box for your occupation.  After reading through the usual choices (accounting, finance, law, medicine, mechanic, teacher, etc.), I came to the last box.  Other.  And of course, there was a blank to fill in what "other" is.  My first thought was, "I am a Jedi, like my father before me."  Then I thought, no, that would skew the results of the poll.
  So I began to think about what would best describe "other".  Last week, for instance, I was a veterinarian.  Today, I was a demolitionist.  Someday soon, and I'm dreading this, I'll be a mechanic.  Next week, I plan on being a trucker for awhile.  When all else fails, I'm a groundskeeper.
  Some days I'm a welder, but before I can be that I must be an engineer.  And often times engineering leads to construction as well, not to mention concrete pourer.  And when I get the bill for that, I become an accountant.  And through everything, I end up being a secretary and communications expert as well, relying on technology to keep tabs on prices, supplies, and orders.
  As is often the case in my line of work, I must become a politician, if I want policy to be steered in a way that's beneficial to those in my line of work.  And in doing so, I have to be a teacher also, so those making policy understand the ups and downs of what folks like myself deal with every day. 
  Some days I cowboy up.  Now we're getting closer.  If I'm being honest, this is where I probably lack the most, even though it's the most enjoyable part of my job.  In fact, if it weren't for cowboying, I probably wouldn't be any of the rest of those things.  Being outside, relying on nature for my welfare, and trying to improve on the results of generations of hard work keeps me challenged and focused.
  I usually just answer the occupation question with "farmer".  For awhile, I used the term "beef producer", but that sounds rather industrial in my opinion.  I'm not just a rancher, though, because I also spend an enormous amount of time in the field, tilling, planting, mowing, baling, harvesting, and hauling.  Not to mention feeding and caring for a multitude of livestock.
  I'm sure I've missed countless things that thousands upon thousands like me, before me, and after me, would list as their daily duties.  Truth be told, it's nearly impossible to accomplish all that needs to be done in a day.  But there's no overtime pay, no time and a half, and no paid vacations.  Much like a postal worker, even more effort is put in during the rain, sleet, and dark of night.  Because there can be no end to the caring for the gift given to all of us to use for the good of our neighbors as well as ourselves.  The land, the animals, and the plants that make it possible for all of us to thrive need to be protected by those of us who have been doing so for an eternity.
  I guess they need to make a box that I can mark for steward.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Full Of It

  Maybe this should've been my first post.  After all, it's kind of the whole crux of this blogging thing.  Why in the world would anybody read this?
  What is it that makes us think that we know enough about something to write about it, expect it to be read, and expect somebody to respect it?  I don't think it's ego, or even self confidence.  I think we just all want to be heard.  And what's more, our opinion does matter, it is important, and it should be respected.
  And yet, we seem to value some opinions over others.  Why does celebrity status mean that we automatically voice our thoughts, and people also seem to automatically listen and debate that opinion.  Tell me why being a good actor means you know any more about politics than myself, my wife, my neighbor, or anybody else?  Just because a guy can throw touchdowns does not mean he fills the criteria to be a congressman.  And while I'm on the subject, being able to read the news from a teleprompter and ask good questions during an interview does not make you smarter than anybody else when it comes to federal fiscal policy.
  So the way I see it is, we all need to take any of these statements and opinions from those in the media, television, movies, and professional sports with as much thought and concern as we would that of a neighbor over our backyard fence.  Stop looking to somebody who has a platform to make a statement to form your opinions for you, and educate yourselves on the facts from both sides.  Most of the time, there are gains to be made by those voicing their opinions (and they are usually opinions, not facts).  Or at the very least, they have an ax to grind.
  And so as I decide what to write in further blogs, I'm going to make those decisions the way I hope others with louder voices than I have arrive at their decisions.  I'm going to continue to read, learn, listen, and ponder the things that are important to me.  I've got to believe that the things that matter to me are important to others, too, and at the very least maybe I'll learn from somebody else along the way.  The fact that you've made it this far into this post means that you're at least a little interested in what I have to say.  And I hope that I'm not coming off sounding like the noisy pundits of the world, because that's when I'll know that I'm just full of it.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

What If? or Regret

  I think it's human nature to often wonder, "what if?".  It's probably one of the most common human conditions to wonder how a situation could have been altered by one or two small changes in past occurences.  Simple things, like, "If I hadn't turned down that street to avoid traffic", or, "If he had brought my food on time so I wouldn't have been late."  More often, it's complicated events like, "If I hadn't chose that major", or, "If I hadn't married this person."  Usually, it's pretty harmless day dreaming that doesn't really mean anything.  Regret, on the other hand, well that can be an awfully tough thing to deal with.
  Regret, I think, often comes with unhappiness.  Or at the very least, an unsatisfying situation.  It means that something happened, either planned or unplanned, to  lead to this moment that is so far from what was intended that a person wishes they could go back and change it.  The problem is, even if you could change that one thing, it would lead to so many other things being different that the result would be unrecognizable.  What makes it hard to deal with is that usually regret comes from a decision that the "regretter" caused themselves.
  A self aware person will typically recognize that, I suppose, and say to themselves, "Well, I have only my self to blame."  But a person who has regrets is probably the same kind of person who looks to things that happened to them and places blame there.  As the saying goes, your attitude is controlled 10% by what happens to you, and 90% by how you react to it.  Why would I regret something I cannot control?  And so, I think regret also goes hand in hand with a persons need to forgive themselves for a reaction to something that steered them to the place they are.
  I have a hard time saying that I regret something.  But then again, the things that matter most to me I find to be blessings that all at once keep me happy, content, sane, hopeful, busy, sympathetic and empathetic, healthy, entertained, and probably most importantly, thankful.  So, why would I regret?  Because if I regret anything, then all of that could just as easily have never been part of who I am.  Even if I continue to wonder, "what if?", it's just a harmless daydream that has nothing to do with right now, nothing to do with where I am, and nothing to do with the way my attitude is turned into actions that bring me to the next place and the next time something comes up that may cause me at best dissatisfaction or discomfort, or at worst misery, I can simply smile at the thought that it could all be very, very different, and go on trying to make it better.