Lessons & Memories 2017

The last couple months of 2017 have been difficult ones for my family, but there are many great memories of 2017 along with some lessons to learn. I may as well admit what’s obvious to everyone who knows me: I’m excessively moody. I don’t mean to be and I’m ashamed of it, but there is no denying it so I may as well face facts and try to fix it.

Women have things like PMS, menopause, Post Pardon Depression, hormones, etc. to blame for their mood swings, but as a man I can’t claim these. I can claim PMS, but that stands for poor me syndrome instead of premenstrual. Either way, I can be every bit as moody as women, but my mood swings last longer. I bring this up because the primary lesson I need to learn from this year is to work on getting better control of my emotions.

There are several things that trigger my emotions and start me on a downward spiral.

  • Improper rest
  • Fixating on failures
  • Critical people (disappointing others)
  • Finances
  • Worrying about EVERYTHING

I also have several coping mechanisms.

  • Exercise
  • Music (listening, playing, writing, or just messing around)
  • Writing
  • Talking with people who won’t just criticize me
  • Walks, preferably in nature
  • Grace, my granddaughter
  • Being around people who can love me in spite of all my flaws.
  • Thinking about good times

There are so many of my triggers that I don’t seem to have much control over. I’ve never been able to sleep well and when I wake up I may as well get up because if I don’t that is when the worrying starts and dark thoughts become overwhelming. I’ve tried medication, meditation, and anything else suggested, but sleep is a big problem. I’ve also noticed that many of my coping mechanisms are not being used.

With this in mind, I would like to reflect on some of the precious memories I have from 2017

  • I have worked with a lot of great kids this year. In December many of the girls I was close to left the home to go to more permanent placements. But new ones come and each touches your heart in a special way. Of all the people I have met over the years, I don’t think anybody I have ever known could cheer me up as much as Anna and Grace (the two girls below). I have so many good memories with these two kiddoes. They both make me feel blessed to know them. There are so many other as well and I don’t mean to overshadow others who mean the world to me but these two really stand out. Both of them are everything I am not, but I really wish I could be. They are happy, goofy, funny and into everything. Grace turned two this year, and I have been so blessed in the time I have had her. Anna got into some trouble and I’m not sure where she is anymore, but I’m hoping our paths will cross again.
  • I have written several songs this past year which I think are pretty good including: Crusty Tea, Aunt Edna, Don’t Poo Poo in Your Pants in your Bible Class, Come out to play, and most recently Poo Poo Britches. Yes there has been a lot of poo poo 💩 this year. I have started learning a bunch of kids songs, because the little ones really like to sing and listen to me play. They may be the only ones.
  • I have been able to go places this year that I have been wanting to go to for many years. My son and I went out west to see the Grand Canyon. My wife and I went out east to Washington D.C. I have also been able to visit some wonderful places within just a couple hours of my home. I have walked a lot of trails and seen the beauty of God’s creation in so many ways. Many of my travels are the subject of several blog post.
  • I don’t want to go on too long, but one of the greatest things we’ve been able to achieve in the midst of the turmoil is that now my wife and I live in the same town with both our children. I’m not yet sure of how I feel about working all the way over in Fort Smith yet, but who knows what the future holds. We are all in the same town, and my children both paying on their own houses while in their early 20’s.

I’ll share this YouTube video once again from the pictures on Facebook. Lots of good memories.

2017 Memories

What are some of your lessons and memories or 2017? I’d love to hear from some readers.

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Life: The Endless Rollercoaster Ride

My wife is petrified of anything resembling a rollercoaster. Even when we were young and in that phase of our relationship when each of us tried to do what the other wanted, it was very hard to coax her on to the scary rides at an amusement park. But when we were on our honeymoon I managed to talk her into the log ride at Silver Dollar City. This wasn’t such a good idea because it wasn’t all that warm, and the ride splashed water on us. Plus, I did not realize at the time the level of fear my new wife had of such rides. I mean some fear is expected, but there is a difference between a fun little ride and a perceived near death experience. To me it’s fun, to her it’s traumatic.

But we were in love and she didn’t want to disappoint me, so against her better judgement she got on the ride with me. She screamed and screamed and even started praying at one point, but I don’t think she got much farther than, “Oh God. . .” When the ride was over the attendant recognized that we were on our honeymoon and before we could move, he said, “you guys can ride again” and pushed the button to send us off for round two. If she had a gun, she probably would have shot the guy, but we survived and that has been a cherished memory ever since. It has also stood as a precursor of how life would go for us. I don’t mind the rides at an amusement park because I know in less than a minute it’s all over. No matter how scary it gets, it won’t last and that can be fun.

Life is a lot like a rollercoaster, but unlike the rides at an amusement park the ups and down and twist and turns are not over in a few seconds, and there is no guarantee when or how the ride will end. What is guaranteed is that we are all going to go through times that scare the hell out of us. But our perception and our reaction is what really makes the difference.

Part of the experience of a rollercoaster ride is standing and listening to all the people in line anticipating what’s ahead. In every line there will people who have ridden the ride before and those who are riding for the first time. There will also be those who really enjoy the ride and those who are riding because they feel pressured to do so. Those who have ridden before have the upper hand and usually try to comfort those who are nervous. It reminds me of those who have gone through a tragedy in life trying to comfort those who haven’t. Sort of like when somebody gets diagnosed with cancer, or when a person experiences the death of loved one.

In once sense, it is very comforting to talk with those who have gone through the experience before. However, there is no way for words to adequately describe an experience nor do people experience things the same way. Either way, standing around listening for what seems like eternity watching people speed by on the little trains screaming and turning pale is quite often worse than the ride itself.

I hate waiting when there is obviously bad news. Like when a doctor calls and request a meeting with you in his office in three weeks to talk about your recent examination, or when your boss tells you he needs to speak with you first thing Monday morning. PLEASE JUST SHOOT ME NOW!!! It may be nothing, but that won’t stop a person like me from worrying about it when it’s time to sleep. Whatever it is let’s just get it over with.

Eventually, if you don’t tuck tail and run, you are going to get strapped in to be terrified, and in life you really don’t get the option of running. On a ride at the amusement park chances are definitely in your favor that things are going to be just fine. Life is a bit less certain. But I must say, those who can convince themselves that things will be fine enjoy the ride much more than those who can’t. Unfortunately, I’ve always been been a “What if. . .?” type of guy. I’m a product of several generations of worriers. Plus, I know from first hand experience that things can and often times do go wrong.

But there is something to say about how people react to the ride that is very beneficial. On every train there will be those who simply grip on with all their might just to get through. Then there are those who enjoy looking about from the heights, who raise their hands going down the steep hills, and they laugh at the sight of danger. This latter group has learned to react differently to fear. They laugh at it. Wow! What a concept. And it does work if you can pull it off.

The idea is to think of something else, but it’s a whole lot easier said than done. Some seem incapable of doing what others can do with seemingly little effort. How is it that one man can stand up in the midst of a barrage of bullets while others are cowering in fear? How can two people go through the same traumatic experience, but one lives as if nothing happened while the other is devastated and hardly able to function.

Our fears can be crippling. It doesn’t matter if they are real or imagined, but how we react to them does matter. You can avoid them, but in the process you give up so much that is valuable. You can hold on for dear life and hope for the best. Or you can try to laugh it off and set your mind on something else like the incredible scenery. I don’t know if it is possible for people like my wife to be able to enjoy rollercoasters the way I can. Nor do I know if I will be able to overcome my own crippling fears. We are all so different. What devastates one is hardly a passing thought for someone else. The main thing I do know is that people who can overcome their fears live much happier lives than those who can’t.

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Welcome to the Neighborhood

It’s been very stressful the last couple days trying to move all our belongings into a new home. We’ve had boxes everywhere and we’ve been running all over the place trying to get things done that need done. Naturally, being new to the neighborhood, we want to make a good impression on those around us. Some of our neighbors have come by to say hi and exchange pleasantries, so when I saw a man walking up to me in the backyard I went over expecting the normal greetings and went over to shake hands and say hi.

But this neighbor was not coming over to be friendly. After shaking his hand, he immediately stated that my pickup truck had hit his mailbox and caused some damage. I was not at all aware of this, but the new dent in my pickup with scratches to match was pretty hard to dispute. But the real problem wasn’t that we hit the mailbox, but that we left without saying anything.

I don’t blame the man for being upset. I have to admit that it is pretty hard to believe a person could hit something and not know it, but I certainly didn’t know it. So either I did it or my wife hit it. Either way, I feel like I’m off to a very rough start in the neighborhood. They guy isn’t buying us not knowing. I find it very hard to believe that my wife would leave after knowing she hit a mailbox and not report it.

The mailbox can and will be repaired, but I’m not so sure our reputation can be.

The man’s response was, “God knows, He’ll take care of this.” I do believe one of hit the mailbox, but I can honestly say that if I hit the mailbox I didn’t know it. But what if I did? Is my crime deserving of eternity spent in never ending torment? Would that be the only thing that could quench this man’s thirst for retribution.

I didn’t do it, but I have done worse. I have tried very hard to live a reputable life, but if the truth be known, I have no claim on self-righteousness. I’m deeply ashamed for many things that just don’t match up to the life that I profess. I’m really hopeful that God’s grace will be enough for me to escape the fires of Hell, but if God is no more forgiving that many of the religious people I see these days, and if that really the outcome for those who don’t measure up, I’m certain I’m gonna burn.

I mentioned that I know it is possible because I have done similar. A few years ago I was fired for backing into a fence with a semi, and one thing I’m certain of is that I didn’t know it. I had made enough mistakes at that job anyway, that I didn’t dispute the termination. I once was driving a forklift too fast on wet and slippery floors which caused me to crash into a door. I’m lucky I didn’t kill somebody. I also pictured a big tote of paint while putting it into a trailer. Both careless accidents that cost a company a lot of money. It also caused some unnecessary work because of my negligence. I’m not proud of it, but I don’t think I should burn for eternity for it.

What disturbs me the most about all this is I don’t see any chance to make things up to the man. Sure I’ll pay for the mailbox, but that won’t repair a reputation or the relationship. Perhaps this shouldn’t bother me, but it does. I think everybody likes the

Serenity Prayer:

God give me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change
The courage to change the things I can
And the wisdom to know the difference.

If I’m to be honest, and i have no reason to be otherwise, I haven’t been very good at accepting those things I can’t change. Serenity has never come easy for me, and I can’t say that God has answered that pray for me. One thing I do believe God has taught me is forgiveness. My reaction to offenses isn’t always the best, but my understanding of how people do some of the things they do, does make me a bit more empathetic and forgiving.

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Moving Sucks

I hate moving, but it seems inevitable for us. This is our eighteenth move since my wife and I married back in 1990 and it’s not like this is going to be a permanent situation either. Actually, I’m not even sure we really live here. We stay here two week and the other two weeks we work at a children’s home about 3 hours a way. We live here during our time off; but at this point, it’s hardly time off. It’s work work work. But life is slowly moving towards some sense of order. My dog really doesn’t know what to think. He’s getting older, he’s almost deaf and blind too so I know it must be confusing. For the two weeks we’ve been gone he stayed with my daughter and her husband. They work all the time and I’m sure he’s lonely. Then he moved to live with my song in an empty house and then we show up back in his life. The first day he kept following me around with that look in his eyes: When are we leaving? But when he saw us moving our stuff in, I think he’s getting the idea now that we’ll be staying a while. Well lots to do. Stress level has been over 110 for the last several months, but I’m hoping it will get better. I just thought I would post something just for the hell of it.

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Reflexions from 2017

It is hard to believe that it is already December. This year has flown by so fast. I guess that’s what happens when you get older. The last couple months have been filled with so many struggles and negative events that many of the great things that took place have been sort of overshadowed. As I took some times to go over the pictures and videos I have on my iPad, I am reminded that this has been an amazing year.

I have been able to go places this year that I have wanted to visit as far back as I can remember. I was finally able to make it to the Grand Canyon with my son and dog. This was so special to me. It was a fast trip but incredibly significant. It was a bonding experience for me and my son which was very special.

Then there was the trip out east. My wife and on an incredible road trip. For many years we have talked about going to the East coast and seeing Washington DC, but it just didn’t seem possible. Well it was possible and it did happen. It was a wonderful time in which we were not only able to see Washington DC, but also many of the other sites along the way. I got to see the home of Joey and Rory (my favorite country artists), I was able to eat at their little restaurant (Marcy Joes). We went to Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. We got to travel along the scenic Skyline Drive and explore the great Smoky Mountains.

My wife and I were able to make it up to Ohio where my father’s side of the family lives. I haven’t been able to get my wife to go up there since our first year of marriage and this was a very special time for me. I also got to visit several sites of significance of our spiritual heritage.

It’s been a year of traveling. But it has also been a year of meeting some incredible people. The children that have come into our lives over the year have been very special to us. It’s sad to see the young people who make poor decisions and end up wrecking a really good thing, but the negative situations will not be remembered as much as the good times.

We had had so many come into out lives, touch our hearts, and then have to move on. I’m grateful for things like Facebook which will allow us to still stay in touch because Paula and I will always remember the special times we had with so many of these people.

Some of my greatest memories have been spending time with Grace, my granddaughter. This little girl has given me more joy than anything else. Grace is such a happy child right now. She loves to dance around without a care in the world. Of all the things I have been blessed with in life she is my greatest right now. It really hurts thinking that we won’t be able to spend as much time in the future. She is growing so fast and soon those precious moments will be gone.

Overall, I feel like I have been richly blessed. The year hasn’t ended like I wish it would have. Sometimes conflict and situations out of our control lead us down a different road. But as the year ends, I am not only able to see all the incredible blessings of the past year, but the potential new memories ahead.

The work we do is sometimes full of heartache. But we are so blessed in the process. It’s a beautiful life and it’s been an incredible year. When the demons of my depression wake and poison my thoughts. I hope I will remember the great times.

I hope everyone enjoys the little video.

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The Church: A Support System for Families

I didn’t grow up in the church. At least I didn’t attend real regularly, nor did I see the purpose in it as a child. My children did grow up in the church. If the doors were open, we were there. For a good portion of their early years, I was the preacher; but even when I wasn’t everybody still went and participated in worship, small group, youth group, service projects etc.

Now my children are grown. They still believe in God, but I don’t think they are real convinced about the incredible value that can be found in the church. Perhaps, like so many, they have been exposed to the hurt that come from churches. It doesn’t exactly make a good impression when children see their parents giving so much in service to the church and the main thing they see is the overly critical members. It makes it worse when their daddy is fired by the church and they experience the heartbreak and emotional hardship caused by that.

The church hurts. Sometimes it can hurt real bad, but that is not the church; that’s people and where ever there are people there is going to be conflict and where ever there is conflict somebody is going to get hurt. When we get hurt, there is the unfortunate tendency to avoid that which hurts us. In the case of the church, that is a tragic mistake.

Today, my daughter called me in panic mode. Her husband’s mother just passed away. It’s a really bad situation involving drugs and so forth. Her husband is one who avoids drugs because of what he has seen them do to his mother. Now she’s dead and there is the guilt and pain that will sometimes accompany death. My wife and I hours away and can’t be much help. They have a little girl and really no one near who they can call on for help. Not to mention, there is no money and not only is there the pain of loss, but the extreme expense that comes along with it. My daughter and son-in-law make the most money of the family, but they barely make enough to provide for their own needs let alone pay for a funeral.

It’s tragedy. But tragedy is nothing new to anyone in the human race. It hits us all sooner or later, and for some, it’s a frequent visitor. This brings me to my point: the church may hurt, but it also supports. In a world were friends are hard to find, it is a great place to find support when tragedy hits.

When people think of church these days, they normally think of Bible classes and boring lectures, etc. But that’s not at all the whole picture. Nor is it just putting in your time and walking out when the “service” is over. The real service comes through the relationships and the relationships need to be developed before everything goes wrong.

Those who grow up in the church sometimes don’t recognize the incredible foundation of their world that get’s taken for granted. So I thought I would go over some my own personal experiences.

  • When I was a young single man in the Marines, my first church really took me in. They invited me home, took me out to eat, studied with me, talked with me for hours, and really listened.
  • When I left for college it was church members that helped me select a college, and drove me to the bus station when I headed for home. Later in college they wrote to me and even sent a little care package.
  • The church is where I met my wife. It’s where we formed our friends. Even though we don’t get to see each other like before. We are hundreds of miles apart now, but when we see each other it’s clear that church has remained a major part in all of our lives.
  • When we were first married, it was our church friends that gave us a pounding to help us get things we needed for a new family. They threw showers when we had children. They celebrated our achievements and shared our pain.
  • As the kids grew, the church was our support system. When there was problems at home, it was church members there ready to hold things together. There was marriage enrichment seminars, there were understanding elders and preacher friends to help us stick it all together. And we did stick together. I sometimes wonder if we would have if we didn’t have the church.
  • The church not only provided our friends, but our children’s friends too. There is no telling just how much influence such people had on their young lives.
  • When our children achieved, there was celebration. There were graduation parties, encouragement as the children faced their fears and did puppets, sang on stage, learned to perform, served communion, etc.
  • There is so much more that I could make this really long, but you get the idea.

Sometimes we don’t know how well something blesses our lives until it’s gone. Perhaps we don’t even know it’s missing, but it very obvious something is.

There’s a whole lot of negative that comes with the positive, but the positive is there. I must admit all the backbiting, judgment, and disputes over doctrinal matters gets me down too, but that is not a complete picture. To borrow from an old cliche: “we don’t want to be guilty of throwing out the baby with the bath water.”

As I work with the children and dysfunctional families that I do, I am more and more convinced of just how valuable the church as a support of the family. I am not trying to say for people to turn to the church just in their hour of need. It doesn’t really work that way. Nobody likes to feel used, and if the only time you think of the church is when you’re in need; it’s not likely that you will received the real help that you are needing. People are happy to help, but it is the relationships that really make the whole thing effective.

So there is an investment process which is necessary if you really want to benefit from the support as intended. For this, the church needs to be made a priority. We must stretch outside of our comfort zone to talk with people we don’t know in order to become part of their lives. Like anything worth while; it takes time and effort, but the benefits make it all worthwhile.

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The New Adventure

Tuesday my wife and I started working at a different children’s home. We are working as relief houseparents this time watching the kids of different households so the regular houseparents can have some time off. This is the fourth children’s home my wife and I have worked for over the years, but this is a completely different gig from what we are used to. We were taking care of teenage girls, in the past we have taken care of the older boys as well. This time we are mainly working with sibling cottages, so the children are much younger and we have both genders.

Luckily, our granddaughter has been in our care enough to remind us about caring for the little ones. Because our first cottage has an infant (9 month old), a two year old, and a three year old. Momma is spitting out baby’s just as fast as she can, and we hear she is pregnant again. We have 6 children from the same mother altogether, but the other three are older. I’m not sure if these are all the children.

I was very fortunate that I didn’t begin a family until I developed a certain level of maturity and was at least willing to start learning to be a responsible husband and father. Unfortunately, some will start having children before they reach the maturity necessary to actually parent a child and I’m not sure if some will ever reach such a level of maturity. I was a troubled child myself. In my other post I write about my background as well as my own struggles with depression, anxiety, and even a bit on my addiction to drugs and alcohol. I’ve walked the wrong road myself and made a bunch of really foolish mistakes. But most of that lifestyle was over before I became a Christian, got married, and became a parent.

It really breaks my heart the way such irresponsible people are spitting out children at an assembly line pace while I have also seen such incredible couples who would be awesome parents but for one reason or another, they can’t have children.

Responsible parents take their decision to have children very seriously and are quite careful to not have more than they can care for, but irresponsible parents treat sex as recreation and have little regard for the young lives they create in the process. Not only is sex a regular recreational activity, but so is drug and alcohol abuse. So many of the children are born with an addiction to drugs before leaving the uterus. There’s plenty of good people willing to take are of such children as infants, but the parents don’t just give up their children. They hang on to them for years which exposes the children to horrible living habits from neglectful parents and quite often physical and sexual abuse.

It’s not a pretty picture. These deeply scarred children become products of the state, and the state isn’t anymore fit to be a parent than the parents it took them away from. A children’s home, even a Christian children’s home, in spite of our best efforts still falls short of providing the structure and family environment we strive for. The percentages are not in our favor. Many don’t get picked up by good families and instead become institutionalized and products of the system. Unless substantial changes in lifestyle are made these children will become irresponsible adults who start having children themselves before they are equipped to care for them. Then the whole process repeats and even multiplies.

I’m reminded of a story about a little girl who was playing on a beech when she noticed a whole bunch of starfish had been washed up on shore. There were thousands of them helplessly washed ashore and dying in the sun. The little girl starts picking them up one by one and throwing them back in the ocean. She was asked, “What are you doing? There’s too many of them; you can’t save them all.” To this the little girl replied, “Maybe not, but I can save this one, and this one, and this one.” As she picked the starfish one at a time and through them back in the ocean.

Quite often, I we never see much of a result for our labor. It sometimes feels like I am trying to empty the ocean one teaspoon at a time; it just feels overwhelming. There’s so many obstacles and so many negative things conquer over the positive. But once in a while, we get to see the children grow to become mature adults. If we can save one young person from the carnage of a life of drugs, crime, and neglect; perhaps its worthwhile.

So as I begin this new venture, I will write about my experiences. Some post will be sad, but I’m hoping many will be upbeat and encouraging. I suspect many will be hilarious because there is so much room for laughter in this work.

I write this blog mainly because it is therapeutic for me. I don’t have many followers. I don’t get very many shares or likes. I suspect there’s hardly anyone who reads it, but as I write, I would love to hear from those who do read. I love dialog and sometimes I just need encouragement too. Therefore, please feel free to comment and even give your own stories and thoughts. All I ask is please be nice. I hope to hear from you. Thanks for reading.

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