Sunday, September 18, 2011

Bumps in the Road

Life in our house right now can be seen in two ways. Getting through the day or working toward a goal. Right now they are one and the same.
The goal: Get my husband through his associates degree while maintaining the standard of a high profile gospel singing ministry.
Getting through the day: keeping the house neat, helping him with philosophy, trigonometry, history, or biology; keeping my daughter's cold from going into upper respiratory infection, and finding time for me and writing and the website I have been contracted to create and maintain by the deadline.
All these things need to be handled every day. Just maintaining in a day is enough to wear you out, but then there are the bumps in the daily road that set you off schedule.
Yesterday was one of those days.
Practice was already scheduled for 5 pm. Not really a good time to have a houseful of company if you want to eat dinner before 8. But that was when everyone was available.
The first bump in the road was a dear friend who called soon after I woke up. Major crisis in her life that needed to be vented and talked through. Three hours later, no resolution to the problem, but she at least knows someone is there to listen.
Second bump in the road: my desk. It was a disaster area. Stacks of books and papers that made it impossible to work or stay on track. Solution: get a rolling file cart and organize and eliminate the clutter. Done. Still have to file the papers I put into the "to be filed" file, but at least I can work on my desk and they have a central location.
Third bump in the road: meltdown of another friend during and after practice. Had to be talked out and worked through, but it will get better. The hardest part of some situations in life is the fact that there is not a quick resolution or answer. In this one, it may take several months to get the answers, and then they may never come. In the other situation, the answers are there, feelings are hurt, truth is not important to some involved and it will result in something good going away because humans are by their very nature selfish and egotistical.
Isn't that the way we always see things? The other people are the selfish ones, it can never be us. But there are times that that is true. And sadly, in this case, the good intentions and protections of a friend in their love for the others are being twisted to look like she is the bad guy, all because they can't face the truth about themselves. A truth that has been pointed out to them previously, not accepted then either. A truth that many around them have seen and therefore moved away from them. The status symbols have become more important to them than what they know about people they have known many years. In other words, they have become lovers of self, not others.
The saying that "a leopard never changes its spots" is true in many cases. Probably most. It doesn't have so much to do with actions or behaviors as it does attitude. What that person thinks of themselves or others. Those things are formed early in life and most will carry that around for their life. They approach others with those attitudes, and they approach their image of themselves with it.
Fact is, people are selfish. It is a choice to put others above themselves. Our society no longer says "You are responsible for your own actions." Now it is "It isn't your fault." My childhood and teenage years had their share of angst that was outside the "Father Knows Best" norm, but that doesn't mean it is a good excuse for me to choose to project that onto others. I still know what is right and what is wrong and I still have to choose to embrace the decisions I make.
It is time for people to stop using the excuses man is giving them, and to start making themselves responsible for the choices in their lives.

Thursday, September 15, 2011


I am deathly afraid of tornadoes. Don't ask me why, especially since I am not sure I would know one even if it were coming right at me. But as long as I can remember I have had an obsession about them.
When I was about 6, living in Monticello, Iowa, there was a night when we had three, one right after another. My sister and I had these cute little kids rocking chairs that we could sit in and watch t.v with our parents. Made us feel so special.
This particular night, though, the station kept getting interrupted with tornado information. So when they said there was a warning for our town, my parents got up and looked out the front window. Now before you say, how foolish, remember that parents don't always do the right thing 100% of the time. I was hysterical with fear. "Mommy, if there are tornadoes, we need to hide. Hurry, let's go to the basement." I said while tugging her away from the window. Kids, no matter what, don't interrupt your parents tornado watching. I kept screaming, and was showing obvious signs of being hysterical, so my mom slapped me in an effort to calm me down. Shocked me to silence is what it did.
My sister, age 3 1/2, was quietly and furiously rocking her little chair. "I'm not scared, Mommy. See!" and stood up. Her knees buckled from the fear she was trying to hold in. At about the same time, the town's tornado sirens went off, so the four of us trudged downstairs to the basement. We sat there for what seemed like a long time, listening to the muffled sirens, hearing the wind blow. While the basement was concrete (nothing like the root cellars some people had) it wasn't a very inviting place, especially when the lights went out. Suddenly the sirens stopped, the lights came back on, and the signal for the all clear was sounded (they had that in those days, too). We hadn't gotten halfway up the stairs, when the tornado warning siren went off again. Back down we go into the dark abyss, listening and waiting like before. All clear sounded again. So we trudged back up those wooden stairs. Then it happened again, before we could reach the door, the tornado siren blew one more time. The wind was harder this time, and we could hear the rain, tree branches, and maybe even debris from someone's house pelting ours. This time I wanted Mom to get my bird. "No can do." was her shaky reply. So we sat there, quite a bit longer this time, hearing the siren in the distance.
Suddenly, there was a loud crack. Instinctually we all looked up, expecting the house to lift off the foundations and to be sucked into the vortex that was obviously above our heads. Nothing. A few short minutes later, the all clear sounded again and we made it up the stairs this time.
Nothing was moved, nothing was changed. Paul and Mom went to investigate the outside of the house and try to figure out what the loud crack was. Debris lay all over the street and yard from tree limbs, but it wasn't bad.
The loud crack? The tornado had split a tree in our backyard, ten feet from the house into two pieces. That was the only damage for us that night. Through the grapevine we heard that some of our friends homes and farms on the other side of town had sustained damage and some streets were impassable, but our close call was just that. Close.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Iowa memories

Recent discussions on a facebook group, revived memories of a special time in my life. My earliest memory is of the JFK assassination. Not the act specifically, I was too young for that, but the impact on my mother. I will blog about this in the future, because today the memories of three years spent in northeast Iowa are foremost in my mind.
The thing about these particular memories is that what I experienced then has an impact on my life now. Then-exposure to the country music industry, now-heavily involved in gospel music industry locally. The exposure to the work-a-day life of a local musician then seems to make it possible for me to understand the work side of our weekend warrior status.
My memories are so much more than this, though. My parents divorced when I was five. My mom remarried soon after and with her new husband we moved to Iowa. Our first house was in Cedar Rapids. I have vague memories of the highway running in front of the house, several houses in a row. I don't remember a yard per se, but I do remember my school was across the street. Then one night, my parents packed up, and we moved to a cute little house in Monticello. It was early winter.
I loved kindergarten in Montecello. One morning I woke up to a ton of snow. Since I walked to school, and Mom didn't listen to the radio in the mornings, I bopped on out the door, ready for a great day of school. Halfway there, a neighbor called to me. "Where you going?" she asked. "To school" was my reply. "I'm sorry sweetie, there is not school today. Too much snow." I ran home crying, I wanted to go to school! My mom made it up to me by letting me do the dishes for her that day! It didn't take long for me to figure out that it wasn't a privilege!
That same year I got my first real pet, a parakeet named Lady. Since my step father was a bass player in a local country band, my younger sister and I had a babysitter every Friday and Saturday night. One Saturday we got into trouble for miscreant behavior the night before. Since the babysitter had promised not to tell our mom, it was a shock that Mom knew what we did. When I asked her how she knew, she said "A little birdie told me." Mom says that she caught me giving Lady an earful later that day. I took her literally. I just knew the bird had a big mouth!
Monticello was such a small town then, you could go just about anywhere by walking. One day, Mom chewed us out again for something we did when the sitter was there. So I decided we were going to run away. So Donna and I piled our favorite baby dolls and their clothes into our doll carriages. Right on top we each put a change of underwear and went on our way. The most important things in life. We went to the babysitter's house, but she wasn't there. She was at the swimming pool. So off we went.
Apparently our mom didn't believe us at first when we stated our intentions. A couple of hours later she realized we meant business and headed out looking for us. As we were crossing an alley headed to the pool, she pulled up in the car and caught us. Needless to say, we didn't sit really well for several days, and didn't see much of the out of doors either.
Monticello was where I got my first bike. Monticello was where we lived when three tornadoes came through town. Monticello is where we lived when there was a total eclipse. And Monticello was where we lived when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon.
I don't know what things are like there now, over forty years later. But it was a great place to be a kid.

Monday, September 12, 2011

New House, Old House

Six years ago today we moved into our current house. We closed the loan on the fifth anniversary of 9-11, but our eyes were looking forward not backward. To say that it was our dream home at that point would be a lie, but the stars in our eyes told us it could be.
Excellent location, good price for the times, it was something to build on. Some would say we were moving from the projects, although we didn't think so. No one would have guessed, however, that we moved to the PROJECT!
You would think that a house with all that this one has to offer would be an owner's dream. NOT! The large livingroom got smaller really fast once we realized we had to work around the fireplace that sticks out into the livingroom. It is a beautiful setting for it, rock wall behind it with little shelf ledges, big black fireplace that looks like an old time stove. Sliding glass door AND large picture window. Off of that is a diningroom with built in bookshelves and wainscotting. From both the diningroom and the entryway you can enter the kitchen. Small with little cabinet or counter space, it isn't bad for a family that is supposed to be diminishing in size as children move out. (BTW parents, this does not happen). Three small bedrooms, a hallway, one and a half baths. Can get to the half bath through the master bedroom or through the laundry area off the kitchen. Huge recreation room off the kitchen. Used to be the outdoor covered patio 'til someone got the idea to enclose it. Detached garage, storage building big enough for an office. Oh, yeah, and ceramic tile floor in all areas except where carpeted. Sounds like a dream? Only if you didn't look deep, and we didn't.
First thing we found out after moving in-no central air. So go grab a bunch of window units from what is left in mid-September and hope for the best. Then we found out the wiring wasn't great. 1960's house is 1960's wiring. (As I write, hubby is changing a breaker). Then we found out there were major gas line leaks and it wasn't up to code. So no hot water. $1000 to fix. Took a month to get that fixed, so baths only with water heated on the stove.
Then we found out the garage door on the detached garage was wired on the same breaker as the entire kitchen in the house. You want the garage door shut? Don't be cooking or running the dishwasher. Then the garbage truck hit the fence, down it came.
One day we got the brilliant idea to take down the bar that took up a bunch of space in the back room. Like I said, it was put up around the covered patio that had been there. Wellll, when we moved the bar (using all four boys to lift the thing as it was literally constructed of heavy tile) we found the acorns and leaves from fall days gone by underneath. But at least the bar was gone. Then the heavy rains came.
Rain in Texas in the fall can range anywhere from a trickle to a monsoon. That year, it was a monsoon. And we found the leaks in the back room. That led to the discovery that instead of siding the previous owners used stucco for the walls. In other words, concrete. They didn't support the weight of the walls to the roof, so now we are dealing with a room that is falling away from the house.
So many other things, the wiring to the dryer was really a household extension cord buried under ground (barely), both toilets leaked, and the crash of 2008 caused the company with the foundation warranty to go out of business.
But we soldier on. We have painted our daughters room, made it more a girl's room, fixing the closet to fit her. Too bad we can't sound proof it from her "practicing". I painted the room that is off the dining room, the one that was going to be my office, but is now my grown son's room. And our latest project-the livingroom, kitchen, hallway, entryway and dining room. Once those are painted, we will stop for awhile. At least until we can get the rest of the back room cleared out and get it torn down. Then I will have my outdoor patio, at the expense of my office and sewing room. But one day...we will start on that new project of building that room again, just doing it right this time.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Making Old Things New

Painting. I hate it. I used to love picking colors and making the house look new again. Not anymore. It is PAINFUL. But I am getting older, and not in great shape. But when I look at the almost complete hallway (only the trim is left) and the livingroom that has new to us furniture, new paint on the walls and see how well it is shaping up, I like that. So it is worth every ache and pain that is coming our way. Dining room and kitchen are still on the agenda and I can't wait to get those done as well. Because then, something old will be new again.
We, too, can make ourselves new again. Each day is a beginning. We all have many beginnings in our lives. When we are born, it is the beginning of life. When we go to school for the first time, it is the beginning of independence, when we become Christians, we are new all over again.
There are also the beginnings that come from major unexpected changes. Chris was laid off from his job, but instead of it being an end, a same old thing, it became a new beginning. Starting school and creating a goal to complete an education that will serve as a new beginning again.
This will be a tough few months for him, there is no doubt. But then that first step, probably the biggest one will be complete. Then another beginning, and another ending that is really a beginning. Many things in life end, that is true, but those same things are beginnings if we choose to make them such.