The Seven Plagues of Jane
Lessons Learned From a Friend
Know What You Are Getting Into. My friend Jane, her Rose Hulman Graduated engineer of a husband and her oboe playing son, Riley bought a house last Fall. Jane had been a hairdresser in one of the nicer suburbs of Indianapolis and had grown up in the great metropolis of Terre Haute. For those of you old enough to remember, that is where Buffy and Jodi were from. They pronounced it wrong. Apparently Jane's family heard the cows and corn rows calling them to country life. They even have a pig named Arnold.
This past winter was a doozy here in Indiana. Jane, Riley and The Engineer were stuck. Nothing could dig them out of their home on the prairie. Even snow plows and back hoes were useless in attempting to reach these isolated former city dwellers. See you next spring, Jane.
Finally, it warmed, the snow melted and we got some rain. The roads flooded. At least they were able to swim to the store to get bread and milk. They did survive tornado season unscathed, except for the coyotes who howled at 2 in the morning, disturbing their slumber and scaring the bejeezers out of the dog.
I learned long ago that before moving into a new neighborhood, it is best to drive through after dark. Places change once night falls. Now I know before buying a house in the boondocks to check it out in the winter.
Fall is back again and last I saw Jane she was riding high on her tractor and loving it. Unfortunately, hurricane season is here. We live in the Midwest, but on Jane's farm, you never know.
If You Text, Don't Cut Your Thumbnail Too Short.
Some Statements Are Made For the Sole Purpose of Inflaming Emotions. Beware and be careful. These are easy traps to fall into and difficult arguments to get out of.
Lessons Learned the Hard Way
Never, Ever Forget to Pick Up Your Daughter from Kindergarten or Religious Education Classes. You won't stop hearing about it until the day you die.
If a Young Lady asks you to a dance, especially prom, take her. Of course if you are 54 and she is 18, it might be a little inappropriate, but otherwise graciously accept and show her a good time. This rule especially applies if you might someday marry the woman. You won't hear the end of this one either.
Live Bands Is Code. When someone is asked what they like to do on weekends and they answer "watch live bands'" this often is code for hang out in bars. Where do most local live bands play, after all? In clubs, pubs, honky tonks or other alcohol serving establishments. I have met people who can name a dozen area bands and where they usually play. They have spent a lot of time in bars. Hanging out at a bar and having a few drinks is fun now and then. I love to do The electric slide. Beware, though, of those who "love to listen to live music."
Not Knowing Can Be Good. Damn, I hate not knowing!
Lessons for Love
I Made a Woman Cry Last Night. Again. I have a way about me that makes women cry. I often find myself in situations where women are pouring their hearts out to me and crying. Recently, I have had ladies talk to me about their recently deceased husband, recently deceased pet and a childhood cancer. They speak of relatives in the hospital and family members in trouble with the law.
It is a curse.
The other night, I was one of the last players to leave our weekly card game, so I walked a young lady to her car. It was eleven p.m. after and this is what a gentleman does. The next thing I know we are standing in the parking lot talking about abusive relationships and what nightmares men can be. I didn't get home until 12:30.
Of course this curse is really a gift given to me.
It is an honor that people are comfortable enough with me to share their stories. Sometimes these are things that they have never spoken of before. It is important to be a friend.
Be Able to Look Your Kids in the Eye and say "I never cheated on your mother."
Be Comfortable with Silence. There is a rule in the sales business, "The first one who speaks loses." Silence can be a great tool and it can be a great comfort. Silence allows people to collect their thoughts. It conveys a sense of companionship. And yes it makes others uneasy.
When I worked with teens and children and facilitated many group discussions, being comfortable with silence was so very important to being a good leader. I could let a question hang and eventually one of the kids would speak. Voila! Communication! For whatever reason, most people are uncomfortable with pauses. If you are not, you have a huge advantage in the art of conversation. Stop talking and don't fill in the void. Be patient. Wait. Someone will speak. Maybe you will learn something to boot.
Shakespeare Is Only Quoted in the Movies. I have known some really well educated and very intelligent people in my lifetime and I have never had anyone give me a verse from Shakespeare or any of the classic works of literature. Movie lines? Plenty. Song lyrics I have heard. even President Obama, a Harvard Law Graduate, Quotes singer and songwriter Al Greene when speaking.
If you want to impress your friends or an audience, have some Dylan or Lennon at the ready. Know some lines from The Lion King or Jerry McGuire. This is the poetry of our day and it can be useful to know some of it.
When you wake up in the morning, if the first thing you think about is singing, then you are a singer.— Sister Act, Two
Tell Stories. I was in Muncie picking my daughter, Mary, up from The Indiana Academy where she attended her junior and senior years of high school. She was coming home for the weekend. Mary and some friends were waiting in the lobby when I arrived. She introduced us. Some of the Academy kids have a tendency to be a bit eccentric and loved to show it off. One of Mary's male friends came up and gave me a big hug. As we were walking away, my daughter turned to her friend and said, "You think that freaked him out, but it didn't." If she had not made that remark, it is an incident I probably never would have remembered.
This is one of my favorite stories to tell. I have hundreds. My kids have as many and so does their mother. We tell tales. We talk of bumps, bruises, emergency room visits and surgeries. Each child knows a story surrounding his or her birth. We remember people and places from our past. If we mention "The Big House" or "Red Fred" we all know to what we are referring. There are stories of sports, music, Scrabble on summer nights and first boyfriends and girlfriends. The best part is that my kids are now retelling the memories themselves.
These stories are not just fun and entertaining, although there is a lot of laughter involved. There is a kind of Spirituality about them. They enlighten us, reinforce our values and make our journeys holy in a way that they would not be if not for us making them epic parts of our lives.
I am sure that my daughters and my son will be recalling these events for years. They have their own stories now originating with weddings, graduations, my grandchildren and life loves. This holy travel will be told and retold for years and generations and I hope that our tradition of story telling will go on into the ages. We write our holy books in this oral tradition we call family.
Who Are You?
See the Beauty
Be Who You Are. When I was a full time Youth Ministry Coordinator, it wasn't just what I did, it was who I was. In fact, I think we were the Youth Ministry Family. It was a part of my marriage and my children. We identified with it and lived it. We didn't just do it.
Some of us aren't fortunate enough to make a living at something we are so passionate about. Still, all of us are more than what we do. I used to run an exercise with the kids where they simply had to finish a simple sentence 10 times.
I no longer work with teens and children, but I am many things. I am dad, a grandfather and a brother. I am funny. I am a bit outrageous. I am aware. I am a writer.
These are things that I am, not just things that I do. I must be true to myself and true to my soul and even the world by being these. The only person who can be me is me.
Always Keep something Beautiful In Sight. Someone gave me this advice soon after I graduated from college and got my own place. I didn't appreciate it then, but I have grown to understand that what I see effects how I feel. My environment has an impression on me. There are many aspects of my world that I can control, but I am able to keep a single flower on my counter. I can hang pictures. I can even have a silly cartoon character pasted to the dashboard in my car. We all need a little beauty in our lives, so lets make sure we bring some.
Remember the Good Stuff. There are people in our lives who seem to often remember the bad events. Some have the tendency to ingrain even the smallest of slights and have trouble letting it go. I know someone who brings up comments or incidents that I would not have recalled at all had it not been brought up. This only causes stress.
I once sent out an email asking my friends to tell about a memorable compliment that they had received. I got little response. It is so much easier for us to share our critics than our praisers. Don't be one of these. Compliments are more important than put downs.
When You Drop an Ice Cube, kick it under the fridge.
Coach. Some of my best memories and times with my kids were when I coached their sports teams. I know not all of us have jobs that allow us to coach a team, but get involved, somehow. And when you coach, teach. The kids need to know the game. They may want to coach their own children, someday.
Whatever you do in life will be insignificant, but its important that you do it.— Ghandi
Pink duct Tape is Better Than Grey.
Sing. Belt out those songs in your living room and have fun.
Dance In the Grocery Store Aisles.
Know When to Walk Away. Sometimes we must stick up for what is right and just. sometimes we should walk away. Knowing the difference is the hard part.
Leave the Fireworks to the Professionals.
Most Importantly, Wear a Red Bra On Your Head When You Vacuum.
Of Key Chains and Dinner Guests
Key Chains make me happy. Or rather happy key chains please me.
I figure I fumble with my keys at least five times a day. some days I touch them more than I do my wife. I go out to the car, drive, turn off the engine, put them in my pocket. Then I do it again to get home where I use them to get in my front door. Half a dozen turns of a key is a slow day.
Since These magical pieces of metal, which can get me into the places I want (and am allowed) to go are such a large part of my life, why not make them a happy part of my life? My rule is to switch the object attached to my keys at least every three months. It depends on how much I enjoy the one presently involved.
Key chains are cheap. No need for a designer accessory this bundle. Many businesses give them away. These usually aren't very interesting however. I prefer Disney or Warner Brothers character. At the moment I have Peppermint Patty on my keys. She bends, too.
It is important, though, that the chain is not too large or too long. Too large and it is not comfortable in my pocket. Too long and it brushes my leg when I drive. I find that very annoying.
Don't Worry Until It Is Time to Worry
My wife and I made a dinner date not long ago. A couple we know were to come over for evening meal 10 days hence. I was full of anticipation. My spouse was full of anxiety.
Right away Erica started talking about menu, floral arrangements, straightening the house and I am sure other things I ignored. I finally told her that I was not talking about the event any longer and would not speak r think of it until 36 hours before their arrival. That was plenty of time to plan, shop and make sure that the ambience was just right.
This was difficult. Twice I had to walk away when she started talking to me about our friends' visit. I decided that worrying about the details would detract from the fun.
In fact, on Monday morning, I started thinking and planning for our dinner the next night. We then had a very pleasant meal, conversation and some laughs to boot. It worked. So born was my new mantra...Don't worry until it is time to worry.