And Then It Happens

The decline of a relationship is perhaps one of the saddest events you may ever endure for a variety of reasons, even more so than death.  At least with death, there is a definite end that happens during the passage of time.  Sometimes, I’m sure one could argue that the same is true for relationships, and in some cases, there is an actual event that directly leads to a dissolution.  But more often than not I think that the end of a relationship comes in little micro deaths.  Small pieces of romance, passion, and respect die along the way.  It is almost like a starving animal.  You search for sustenance to replace the nutrients you have lost.  Maybe you take up a new hobby or try to exercise to fill the void.  Perhaps you both realize it is happening and seek counseling or some other outside help. I’m sure there are couples who have had some success in treating the starving relationship, both of them nourishing it until it bounces back maybe even stronger than before.  I envy those people, I’m a little jealous that they are able to succeed, don;t get me wrong, I’m happy for them, but a little piece of me wonders why I don’t have what it takes to fix the dying beast. So I’m not talking about the success stories, they have their place, but this is not it.

I’m talking about recognizing that moment, the moment that begins the disease.  Was it a conversation, a glance, what was it exactly? Perhaps that actual moment is something that we don’t even perceive and as it slowly dies, you begin to realize that something is amiss.  Maybe you notice little tiny facial expressions that don;t match the words you hear.  Maybe it is just absolute contempt staring you in the face. Or, maybe it is somewhere in between. Every relationship that dies has its own symptoms. A couple things I know that are facts:  It takes generally two people to make or break any relationship and one person cannot fix it on their own no matter how hard they try.

I’ve had a struggling relationship for years.  We ebb and flow through the motions of matrimony but I have sensed the starving animal for some time and no matter how hard I feel I have tried, it would appear that we are grasping our final breaths ready to slip into the abyss that has been looming for so very long.  There have been many moments along the way but the quintessential dagger for me was a look I happened to catch at a time when she didn;t think I was looking or could see.  It was one of those looks that laid out the entire truth.  It is something that I cannot unsee, ever. It struck me to my core and I knew that at that very moment…there was no coming back. People show their true colors in the shadows where they think no one is looking, but sometimes the contemptuousness is so dark and forceful that nothing can hide it.  And that is what I saw.  A deep seeded disgust and disdain that will be burned in my mind forever.  That was the moment, I knew we weren’t coming back.  Ever.

We never start relationships with the intention of them ending.  We have high hopes, aspirations of continuing passion, and the belief that your relationship is stronger, better, more enduring, than all other relationships and you think, “We can never fail!”  And yet years down the road, you see that look that sums up the final shovel of dirt covering the coffin.  And the end is so sad.  All of your good intentions and positive outlooks have been dashed on the rocky shores.  Something good that you once had is gone, time has passed and you find yourself at another beginning. You think, “This time will be different.”  Maybe it will be.

Patience. Tolerance. Acceptance. Forgiveness.

Aside

Patience.  Tolerance.  Acceptance.  Forgiveness.

These things are essential in our society and in all human relationships;  friend to friend, parent to child, and spouse to spouse.  However, all too often these elements that are so essential in productive human interact ions, are lost, forgotten, or just plain ignored.

He that can have Patience, can have what he will” ~Benjamin Franklin

We are in such a hurry these days.  We honk if someone doesn’t  take off from the light like Jeff Gordon at Talladega.  Why?  Does that 2-3 second wait impact your life or even your day, heck does it really impact your d rive to wherever you happen to be driving?

Perhaps there is a cosmic reason for the delay.  Perhaps fate is telling you that if you didn’t have that 2-3 second delay you would drive right into the path of someone running a stop sign.  I like to think that there is a higher power looking out for us from time to time.  Patience.  It is a virtue for a reason, exercise it.

Tolerance is giving to every other human being every right that you claim for yourself.” ~ Robert Green Ingersoll

Everyone was raised differently.  Even siblings had a different upbringing based on their own unique qualities.   We live in a society and a country founded on different beliefs. Why is  this relevant?  Because we need to be tolerant of others especially in matters of insignificance.  Intolerance breeds hatred and violence. To be  tolerant of others’ quirks is to rise above your own world view and to be respectful of theirs.  It’s not always easy, but the rewards are worth it.

Happiness can exist only in acceptance.” ~George Orwell

We get angry because we expect people to behave the way we want them to.  People usually don’t.  So angry it is.  When we accept that people will not always, if ever, see things our way.  then  that behavior will be a little easier to swallow.  Now we’re not talking about illegal, violent, immoral conduct.  We’re talking about someone talking to the cashier at the store while you are waiting or being overly cautious making that left turn.  Once we accept we can find a peace that leads  to happiness.  And isn’t that the goal?

We achieve inner health only through forgiveness – the forgiveness not only of others but also of ourselves” ~Joshua Loth Liebman

No matter how enlightened we become  there will be  times when the actions of others will get to us and in our moment of weakness we will get angry and perhaps say some things we may regret.   these are the time when we have to reach for a most powerful weapon.  Forgiveness.  both for them and for us.  Once we truly forgive we can move on and put the past behind us.   This is so important.  We are never truly happy if we continue to harbor resentment for wrongs perceived against us.  In the end we are better for forgiving others as well as ourselves.  Put things into perspective and look at the bigger picture of life and what is really important.  Love, friendship, community.

Peace to you and yours.

Dealing with Difficult People – A Rant

I get along with most anyone. Seriously, whether I like them or not, I can get along with almost anyone. I seem to have that personality where people (most, not all) feel comfortable and actually enjoy my company.

However, I have noticed that there are a few people who don’t have warm and fuzzy feelings for me. I don;t have a problem with that usually, but there is a certain type of person that I have a very difficult time handling. This type of person looks to always blame others and is hyper-critical of almost every decision someone else makes. Even the ones that have no bearing on that person. So this is the type of person that I have a hard time dealing with. Perhaps it is because I don’t seat the small stuff or maybe it is because I am more concerned about being true to myself and my own belief of what it means to be a good person, parent, and steward of fellowship.

Reason doesn’t work, nor logic, or even flattery. They just want to be mad and there is very little you can do about it. Some people just want to find fault and criticize.

So what can you do? Remember that you do not have the power to change someone else and you are responsible for your own actions or reactions as the case may be.

There are difficult people in the world and I’m sure in your own life. Do not make their difficulty your own. They need to own it not you.

What are your thoughts?

Sense of Accomplishment (and it feels good)

A few months ago I posted an early new years resolution about some projects I wanted to do over the course of 2013.  The projects included building a chicken coop and beehive as well as some other landscaping jobs.  However, at the end of January I got laid off from my job as an HR Manager for a construction company and thought that it would put a crimp in my ability to afford the projects.  Before I get to my status on the work let me say that losing a job is hard.  Not just financially, but mentally as well.  In the last few years I’ve lost three jobs due to circumstances beyond my control.  It seems to be getting harder and harder to cope.  On this last round, I’ve been off for going on two months now and I’ve had three pretty solid interviews.  One I didn’t get and the other two I’m waiting to hear back for a second round.  I am diligent about applying for jobs every day.  My first task every morning is to review the job boards and apply for all the jobs for which I am qualified.  But after I get that done, I sink into this funk where I don’t want to do anything.  Not motivated at all.  It hasn’t helped that it is winter and a long one at that.  But I could literally sit on the couch all day watching TV and not accomplish a darn thing.  I have books to read, little household tasks I could work on, and of course cleaning.  But mostly I sit there in this funk.

Now on to the good news.  The weather has finally gotten warm enough to get outside and start moving.  Since I have had a financial setback from the lay off I decided to make the chicken coop out of pallets.  I researched and researched different designs for weeks and finally came up with a plan that would house 8-12 chicken comfortably.  My youngest son and I scavenged a truck load of pallets and began to de-nail them.  De-constructing pallets is cathartic.  It is Zen meditation in pure form – see nail remove nail repeat.  Once we broke down what we needed, I set up a dry run to layout the measurements of the coop based on the pallets I have.  Now when you are constructing small domiciles with scrap wood, conventional construction methods need to be altered a bit.  So I set up the basic structure and then developed a plan.  I came to the conclusion that I needed to raise the floor off the ground to preserve my untreated wood from the elements.  I live in Michigan and we have some cold winters and quite a bit of freeze thaw cycles in spring winter and fall.  Based on the “design” of the pallets I am using for the floor I realized that I need to sink nine posts to which I will attach 4x4s for the sole plate.  However, I am undecided whether I want the walls to rest on the pallets or build the walls on the frame so I can remove/replace the pallet flooring if needed.  Decisions, decisions.  I will keep you posted on that.  In case you haven’t noticed, I am a novice builder to say the least.  I am also debating on whether I should make this structure temporary or permanent as I have a more permanent design for a shed/coop/greenhouse off the side of my garage.  But I digress.  As I said the weather has been warm enough to get outside and start doing stuff.  So have called “Miss Dig”  which in MI is the number you call to have your utilities (electric, cable, phone, gas) marked before you dig.  Public Service Announcement:  Always do this before you dig.  It just could save your life if not the unpleasant realization that you just cut yourself off from the outside world by slicing through your cable line while installing your dog’s invisible electric fence (yes I did this).  So call before you dig.

While waiting for the lines to be marked I was able to build the brooder for my soon to be added peeps. Made solely out of scavenged pallets.  I burned some branches from a tree I removed last fall and cleaned out the garage.  Fixed a shelf in my kids’ room and finished installing the toe kick in my kitchen.  Accomplishing these things in the span of 2-3 days made me feel good.  I mean really good.  I was a little sore from the bending, stooping, and lifting and my hands were tired.  But I got stuff done and it was great.  It gave me a new perspective on the layoff.  I renewed my vigor in applying for jobs and am planning my next project which is to build my beehive with my kids today.

Chicken coop, beehive all on schedule.  All is right and the future is wide open to possibilities and because I made the choice to get my tookus off the couch and DO something.  Once I started it was easy.  It was a choice and I made it.  I will keep you posted on my progress.  I am excited to share.

What accomplishments have you been procrastinating?  Please share!

Role Models

As he walks into the room and sits along the wall, the old familiar smell of sweat and disinfectant flood him with memories of hard work, determination, failure, victory, and challenge.  He digs through his bag to find his shoes.  The toes are worn, the leather shiny from sliding along the mat.  He loosens up the laces and slides the shoes on.  It is a ritual, tighten the laces, straighten the tongue, tie the knot.  He’s done this a thousand or more times, if he’s done it once.  With the shoes on, he rises and steps on the mat.  It is quiet.  The team hasn’t shown up yet so he loosens up and gets the kinks out of his muscles.  He’s not young anymore and practices are getting harder and harder on his body.  It has been 25 years since he competed.  An average wrestler in his day, maybe a little better than average if he was to be honest with himself. He won a few medals, never was a champion.  Inconsistent and always had a tinge of regret that he didn’t begin the sport sooner.  Perhaps he would have done better had he more experience, but it doesn’t matter now.  He coaches now and reflects on his failures and what he learned from them and now strives to teach these young men the wonders of the sport as well as helping them avoid the mistakes he made so long ago and to develop their character in the pursuit of being gentleman that will be able to seize their future with zeal and passion.  Understanding that life just like in a wrestling match, that in one moment, they may be on top and winning with ease, but with one tiny mistake, one lapse in focus, the tables can turn and they find themselves on their back struggling to survive.

He started coaching when he was 16.  A family friend was the coach of his sister’s T-Ball Team.  He was eight years her senior so there was a significant enough age difference to where the kids still looked up to him because he was in high school.  He coached as an assistant for a few years and learned early on that coaching others was a delicate relationship that came with a great deal of influence and a huge amount of power.  And to quote Peter Parker’s Uncle, “With great power comes great responsibility.”  He made mistakes.  One mistake in particular that has stuck with him is during one of the games, a player approached him and said he had to go to the bathroom.  He was on deck at the moment and was about to bat, so he told the kid to wait.  When the kid stepped up to the plate, he stood there and started crying and that’s when the coach noticed a giant pee stain on his pants.  If the coach remembers that 30 some years later, it is quite likely that the kid remembers it too.  Lesson:  when an 8 year old says he has to pee.  He has to do it now.  Let him pee. T-Ball will wait.  The bigger lesson is to listen to kids, they all have something they fear and they will remember the guy that helped them face that fear and conquer it.

The kids start coming in, 7th and 8th graders.  It is a great age.  They are goofy.  They’re hyper.  But they are also little sponges craving information and at that tender age where they could go either way.  He has this belief that part of the responsibility falls on him to help them choose the right path.  He is their coach.  Their mentor.  They look to him for guidance.  He uses wrestling metaphors to explain challenges they will have in life.  He uses practice to teach about discipline, character, respect.  Perseverance.  Wrestling is a tough sport.  You are on a team but you are alone at the same time.  You step on the mat with an opponent.  One on one.  There is no one to help you.  Win or lose you do it alone.  You will lose.  It is a fact.  One that is true in life as well.  Realistically, only a few of these kids will wrestle beyond high school.  So knowing this, what is the important lesson?  After pondering it is not whether they will win or lose, they will do both.  But rather how they win or lose.  So we work hard.  Have fun and teach that we win with grace and lose with dignity.  Sportsmanship is key.

That’s why he comes to practice with a room full of smelly kids who laugh uncontrollably at an errant fart.  To be there for them.  To guide them.  To answer their silly questions.  But most importantly to teach them about life and to be their role model.  And to use the great sport of wrestling to do it and maybe…just maybe become decent grapplers as well.

Do you have a memorable coach in your life?  Leave a comment about the impact they had on you.

Dealing with Disappointment

Marriage. Careers.  Parenting.  Life.

These are some of the things that can bring some of the greatest joys and happiest times in our lives.  They also have the potential for some of the most stressful times as well.

Nobody gets married thinking about divorce, people don’t have kids worrying about their attitude in the teen years, we take jobs expecting to work for that company until we decide to leave.  The reality is for everything good that comes our way, there is also something equally bad that may also happen.

I have made my share of poor choices in the course of my life, some worse than others and in some cases my choices have had a negative impact on both myself and others.  I have also made good choices that have helped others and been truly rewarding to myself.  I’m not sure if karma has come into play or not, but I seem to be having a rough go over the past few years.  I’ve had more trials and tribulations that positive uplifting events.  Most recently, I was laid off from a good job in a struggling company.  Totally outside my control.  At the same time I got wind of a great opportunity and even had someone on the inside that recommended to the leadership team.  However, even though I nailed the first two interviews, somewhere along the line I did not make it to the final cut.  It was disappointing and took the wind out of my sails.  I really wanted this job for a myriad of reasons.  It was a great career move, the commute was close, and I currently do not have a job.

When you desire something with a passion out of both necessity and opportunity, it is hard to think that it may not happen.  My first thought when I got the call was, I shouldn’t have gotten my hopes up.  But after I was able to reflect on the moment for awhile after I got over the initial shock.  I realized that I would rather put my heart and soul into working towards a goal than to limit myself by being cautious.  Dream big, live big. Even though the fall is harder, when I do nail that opportunity, I do it by being the best that I can be.

I strive to live my life with zest and vigor, soaking up the most raw experience possible, leaving nothing behind, win or lose. Disappointment is going to happen.  It is how you deal with it that shows your quality.  I will continue to seek opportunities with passion and I will accept my failures with grace.  My head will stay up and I will persevere.

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan “press on” has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race”

 Calvin Coolidge

Courage and Perseverance

Life is hard sometimes.  Other times, easy.  It is full of ups and down, trials and tribulations, rewards and praises.  We travel from a zenith where all is bright and clear down to an abyss, dark and murky and back up again.  We can flow through our lives as water in a river moving around obstacles, slowly wearing them down through constant motion or we can sit stagnant like the water in the swamp, growing murky, never moving, never going anywhere.  And if all this isn’t enough to manage for ourselves, once we become parents we have to watch our children face those same ne plus ultra and the nadir through which everyone must endure.

The past couple weeks have been fraught with trials for my family and I.  From a custody battle to an unexpected job loss and season ending injuries, we have endured the path from apex to bottom and yet we have approached these glitches like rocks in the river, they block our path and yet we move around them, leaving them behind.  Bad things will happen, that is a guarantee of the lives we lead.  Yet without those bad, unpleasant, and testing times, we would have little appreciation for the good things that we make happen.  For love, victory, happiness.  These are the things that make this life of ours worth living.

We can wallow in self pity when things do not go our way, when loved ones pass, marriages end, and when we have failures.  Or we can take these tragedies and misgivings in stride and rise above any pain, remembering the good times, learning from failures in marriage, careers, parenting.

We will win and lose in life, this is certain.  It is not a matter of if these things will happen but when. And whether we win or lose is not as important on how we do them.

Win with grace, lose with dignity.  Persevere and have courage to face life and get all we can from it, for it is so short and meant to be lived with vigor, hope, and zest.

An Early 2013 Resolution…

Aside

I don’t post nearly as often as I would like.  I’m not going to make any excuses.  I just don’t dedicate the time necessary to write as much as I could.  It’s probably more laziness than anything else.  With work, household, kids, and I’ll admit.  I like to watch TV.  But I do think about writing almost every day and I can say I write some pretty good stuff in my head.  Somehow though it never seems to come out the same when I start banging it out on the keyboard.

I have a lot of projects in my mind that I want to accomplish, but I think sometimes I enjoy the thought of projects more than the actual project itself.  I like to research and learn about new skills and I have the desire to do all these things myself, but seem to lack the ambition.  Yes, yes I know that is a choice.  However I am geeked about a slew of things that I want to accomplish in the spring, summer, fall of 2013…an early resolution list if you will.

So here is the list:

  • Build 1-2 Kenyan Top Bar beehives.  I would like to harvest my own honey and maybe make some mead.  Hopefully I’ll have some left over to give as gifts to friends and family.
  • Build an outdoor clay oven, permanent structure, with built in wood storage.  I just know this is the key to making great bread and pizza.
  • Keeping with the food theme, Build a smoker, I’d like to be able to smoke pork, and cheese.  So a dual purpose cold/hot smoker.  I’m still researching plans for this.
  • A chicken coop.  There is nothing better than farm fresh eggs.  I grew up tending chickens and would like to have a small flock.  Eggs and great garden manure.
  • Add to my garden a couple of 4×8 raised beds.  I think potatoes, carrots, beets, rutabaga (can you say pasty?) would thrive well there.  I’d also like to add a 10×25 patch of wheat, y’know for the bread.
  • A shed for my lawn tractor, bicycles, and garden tools.  I need to get them out of my garage so I can have a better shop.
  • Fix and expand my deck.

I think that about does it for the project list.  I know it seems aggressive, but it is all part of my overall plan to be more productive and start working toward a more sustainable lifestyle.  I want to rely less on store bought food and grow more of my own stuff and put it up for the winter months.  This fall I put up 11 pints of salsa, 6 stewed tomatoes, and 6 spaghetti sauces.  Not a lot but it was a start.  I was going to put up some hot pepper relish however, an early frost knocked out my peppers.  I think a good goal is to have 3 months of food in store just in case.  My wife or I could lose a job and having a store of food would help defray grocery costs.  A lot of people think that prepping for bad things is a little paranoid, but I’ve lost a job before and it gets tight real quick.  Power goes out, tornadoes hit.  It’s good to be prepared and have an action plan.

The bees, well I think bees are cool and I like honey, if nothing else I’ll give a swarm of bees a place to land and pollinate plants, if I get a little honey, that’s great, if I get a lot of honey, my Christmas expenses just got smaller.  Clay oven?  Power goes out, I can still cook.  I’ve had pizza in a stone oven before and it is tasty.  The smoker, well if you’ve ever had smoked pulled pork, then you know what I mean.  It is awesome.  Not only will these projects get my family ones step closer to self sufficiency, it will also teach my boys (and me) some skills in building, masonry, gardening, etc.  It will bee good quality time spent doing something productive together rather than playing video games and watching TV.

I plan to spend the winter months planning the projects, doing research and developing the schedule.  As soon as the weather breaks, I want to get started.  Hopefully by putting this out in a public forum, people will ask me how it’s going and that will help motivate me to actually do it.

I might even keep a blog journal on the progress on the projects and include some pictures and hopefully inspire someone else to do the same thing.

Peace