Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Built To Last

In early summer Dad committed to do something that would clean up our homestead: He agreed to tear down the white garage that was part of the property when they bought it in 1978. We believe the garage was built right around 1955 - built to last, in fact. But in the more recent years the white garage has deteriorated. It no longer houses Dad's time and attention. His shop has moved to the farm. The cars are  now parked in the infamous Red Barn. The garage now held recyclables, trash cans, old tools and a few bird feeders hanging from the rafters. It had become an eyesore. It was time. 

We spent a few hours each week this spring cleaning it out, finding gems like the essay I blogged about, a lot of aluminum cans and really, just a lot of junk. In one day we aligned our tools, patience and manpower and brought the (finally empty) white garage to the ground. 

Please excuse my annoying voice while I held my nephew. 

That day I focused on taking out the old metal tracks of the overhead garage doors. After spending some time trying to remove a rafter from the line of sight to a bolt, I broke down and asked for help from my brother-in-law, Scott. He climbed up on the ladder. He finagled and he spent some time on it, too. For as poor of shape as the garage seemed to be, there were parts of the interior that were completely in tact. Then Scott said something that I jotted down in my phone as soon as I was relieved of ladder-holding duties. 

He commented as he worked about the trouble we were having getting the hardware out of the main beams of the building. Moments passed, he continued to work. 

"I guess on the day this garage was built the builder wasn't thinking about 
how tough it would be for us to tear it down, huh?"

I agreed with him; he was right. When someone is pouring their heart and soul - and sweat and money - into building something, under no circumstances do they think about the effort it will take someone else to tear it down. 

I wonder what it took Don C. Merchanthouse to build that white garage. Tools, time, organization, planning, labor, patience, money, lumber, hardware and more. 

And it took us a several hours of labor and horsepower to tear it to the ground, easy as that. A few strong forces combined and we had a burn pile that attracted all sorts of attention...but that is a blog for another day. 

As much as I hate to give her any more attention, here it goes...

For whatever reason I thought of Scott's quote when watching a Youtube version of Miley Cyrus' VMA's performance. I didn't even know the awards show was on until dozens of comments about the performance threw up all over my Facebook feed the next day. Sadly, I had to see for myself. 

Sad, indeed; I thought back to Scott's quote: 

"But I guess on the day this garage was built the builder wasn't thinking about 
how tough it would be for us to tear it down, huh?"

His thoughts can be directly correlated to the complete downfall of a kid with so much promise. What happened to her? The white garage analogy explains it well: Forces combined and the frame wasn't strong enough to support what was built. 

Think about the work that goes into building a family. You work hard to communicate your feelings and emotions (even the tough ones), to respect one another's opinions, even when you think a pizza without onions isn't worthy of being called a pizza at all. To put their needs and wants ahead of your own (this goes along with the pizza situation).  You work hard to raise a child to be a respectable, respectful, hard-working adult. Hopefully one that has the roots to desire to visit home but one that has wings strong enough that they don't live in your basement past a certain age.

The tools used in building a strong family bond - or relationship - are (not limited to) patience, kindness, work ethic, selflessness, humility, accountability and discipline. 

But like the old, yet steady, rafters in the white garage, a few strong forces combined can tear that bond to the ground. And today those forces are easily accessible and aplenty. And they aren't just accessible to Miley and every other star; you and I encounter each daily

Modern media

Each things that can take a really strong frame, like the promise of a well-guided child, and tear it to the ground. 

You see, I believe if Miley had those components - those rafters - in her life to stabilize her acquired fame, the downfall of her decentcy wouldn't have been so easily done by the few tools that were used: fame, money, pressure and lack of accountability. I understand this didn't happen overnight for her; it just became painfully public on Sunday. 

In your relationships with others - your responsibility as a parent, an uncle or a friend - are you focusing on the rafters? Are you thinking clearly about the forces that surround each of us that could lead us - or those dear to us - astray? 

Unlike the builder of the old white garage, I encourage you to think about what could tear down the things you're focusing so much time and energy to build up. Can you disconnect? Get to work? Listen more? Simplify?  Eliminate temptation? Be more supportive? Courageously speak your honest opinion?

Nows the time. You never know who needs certain strengths from you to continue to be strong or positive in their own life. As you build, consider the future. Make sure it's built to last. 

Because let's be serious. If that was your little sister on stage Sunday night, there is a really great chance there would be one less sibling at family Christmas this December. And no more teddy bears or foam fingers purchased in your household, ever

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Ten Years and One Day

Ten years - and one day - ago my parents loaded up the Ford and moved me to Purdue on my 19th birthday. That day, I got a roommate named Krista with whom I became lifelong friends. Because of her, it was a year of change and excitement that I'll never forget. 

Ten days - and one day - ago I got another kind of roommate. 
A little less temporary.
A little more forever type of deal. 

I didn't know it ten years ago, but Krista would go on to teach me more about life skills than anything I saw on a powerpoint in Lilly Hall. In fact, many lessons that she taught me I think I can go on to apply to this new "roommate" I've (thankfully) acquired. 
I think. 
We're only eleven days into this deal and the honeymoon ended two days ago. 

I'll try, anyhow.

Roommate Lessons, Ten Years Later:

1. Accept Others' Passions and Time Involved: 
We all come from different backgrounds, different lifestyles and different ideas of fun. I never understood how Krista could spend entire weekends watching loud tractors pull weights on a county fair dirt track. Likewise, she never understood how at home I felt when I saw the green shavings of the N.A.I.L.E. and smelled final bloom. She didn't ask questions; I didn't either. We just went with it and assumed the other would be back to the dorm in time for class Monday morning. 

2. Choice In Music Is Important:
I can't imagine living with someone who didn't appreciate Merle or Waylon. Lucky for me, Krista basically had their lyrics memorized before she knew the Pledge of Allegiance. I know for a fact that other gals on our floor thought we were straight outta the hills of West Virginia.  Ten years later, Cody and I's second dance (yep, we had two) was Waylon's "Good Hearted Woman In Love With A Good Timin' Man". It's just us. Through the laughter of that dance, I knew my first roommate would be proud. 

3. Avoid Buffets:
Krista and I learned this one the hard way. We took full advantage of the all-you-can-eat buffets that Purdue's dining halls offered, especially after a late Saturday night. But buffets are sneaky. You spend less than an hour there, then work several hours trying to undo what you just did. And while they seem like a great idea at the time, they stick around to haunt. Where it counts. 

This is going to be a hard lesson to adhere to with Cody, as his former judging team students report that he consistently has a keen eye out for a good Pizza Hut buffet. I will try hard. But my diet tends to start the day after tomorrow

4. Telling The Truth:
Krista and I also learned this one the hard way. And this goes right along with the buffet idea. It takes a  special kind of roommate to try to console/lie to you when things don't go your way. 
Like jeans. 
And how they fit.  
I remember well asking Krista if my jeans looked too tight before I headed to my math class.  She (acted as though she) looked and told me they looked fine. They felt weird after seven straight buffet Sundays? 
I didn't make it to the top floor of the Class of '50 building before I heard the loudest RIIIPPPPP of my life. 
From then on, lesson learned. Honesty in the dorm room accounted double for humility in public. 

This can be tricky with a husband, and I'll leave it to his best - like, very best - judgement. 

5. Laundry: 
Sometimes it is best to do your own. My dear friend Krista thought she was helping me out by washing the sequined (dry clean only) top laying in the middle of our 3' x 3' dorm room. And looking back at photos, I guess she was. I never had the opportunity to wear that deal again. Thanks for trying to save my fashion reputation, K!

The night Cody and I got home from our honeymoon, I was trying to be a W.I.T. and threw a load of Cody's clothes into the washer. 
I used bleach. 
I learned. 
Story over. 

Really, it doesn't matter if you're 19 or 29 - living with someone new can teach you a lot about yourself, and them - all while testing your boundaries. But embrace it. 
You learn. 
You adjust. 
You grow. 
Unfortunately sometimes, even in the waistline. 

Let us go back to roommate lesson #3. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Gone Honeymoonin'

We got married Saturday, so Jean's Boots is taking a week off!

Check back next week. 
As always, thanks for reading!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Dear Jeany

Dear Jeany,  

Sometimes friends have a painfully hard time being outright honest with you. Some of us just don't have it in us. And when I say "in us", I mean that it's especially tough for me because I lack both a tongue and voice box. But it has always been my presence, not my words, that have gotten you through the last 28 (quite close to 29, but who is counting?) years. 

And while I'm only a silent bystander, as an old tree that you've begged your Dad not to chop down, I have watched your family take over this farm and make it what it is today. I have watched you every single year, moving generations of cattle in and out of "my" pasture; perhaps I'm a bit protective of the land I keep watch over every day. 

You've changed a lot in twenty years - - you've changed even more in the last five. 

But your change has allowed me to observe a few things, and as an old constant in your life, I've taken several of notes over the years. Things I've never had the opportunity to say. Until now. 

My hope in writing this letter to you, in the most pivotal week of your entire life, is that you'll pass it on. To others. To friends. To your daughter or son. Maybe even to strangers. 

I've waited a long time to write this letter to you. And, the letter actually beings now...

Dear Jeany, 

At 8: I know it isn't funny now, but "Thunder Thighs" - as your family so affectionally calls you - is actually a term of endearment. They're just not really good at thinking through family jokes. While we're on that subject: You were not adopted. 

At 12: If I could tell you anything right now, it would be this: Everything is going to be okay. You aren't the most beautiful girl at school, but who is? You don't see this now, but everyone in your class (and one above and one below) is completely awkward. I'm serious. One day you'll look back at that volleyball photo and realize that there were more grids on your team mates' teeth than there were on the volleyball net in the background. It's okay: Orthodontics pay off.  

At 16: I lost you. You're busy with the things you believe to be important in your life. And maybe right now they are. But do not forget that in this life, no matter the age, people matter the most. 
Go have lunch with the Original and your Granddad. Trust me. 
Take the time to talk to that painfully shy guy in your small engines class. Trust me. 
And by the way, don't spend anymore time day dreaming about long-term plans with that kid from Northeastern. Trust me. 
Your life hasn't even started.

At 20: LISTEN TO ME!! Pay attention in that InDesign class. You'll need it later. Don't pay any mind to the guy who quit calling you back last week after several dates, all of which you thought went well. One day you'll you call him the "long waste of time" while he sits around with his buddies and references you as the "one who got away" - Trust me, You win. 

At 24: There are so many things I want to tell you right now! But your visits are few and far between. So, let's start here:

I know that you're in a pile of debt after buying a house on your own. You can afford it. You learn to adjust your budget. You don't need those two dresses you are dying to buy from Kohl' me. You have no where to wear them, anyhow. 

You worry that you left Washington, DC long before you should have. You probably did. But that move afforded you opportunities you wouldn't have had otherwise. You are exactly where you need to be. Trust me. 

Do not waste your time at the Melaleuca party. Do not buy $199 in Thirty-One products - the "free" gift is NOT worth it. In fact, it's still sitting in your spare bedroom closet wrapped in plastic. But make sure you show up to every party Uncle Steve throws in the office. You won't meet "him" there, but those nights will build you.

Most importantly, a few things I want to tell you as you search for a husband. 
Because, #2: As you read this, you should know that in less than 4 days days you'll marry the man that you've prayed for.

Yes, I'm serious. 
Breathe in. 
Now, out. 
He does exist. 
And he does show up. 
In a place 1,150 miles from home. 

I'll tell you this: You will meet "him" and you will have no idea that he is the one. And that is the best part of your story; your story with him. The relationship builds over a short time but it moves like wildfire. I guess that is a perk of slowing down at 28. You know exactly who you are and what you want. 

One final thought in this letter to you: Slow down. I don't see you much anymore because you're so "busy" - but busy is what you make it. Life happens when people are too busy to enjoy it. And remember that if something is important to you, you make time for it. 

For instance, you took an hour out of your day last week to have some stranger lady scrub your face in a dark room. Not necessary. 

Enjoy these days. Enjoy the people. Visit old friends. Live your life.

Friends forever,

The Growing Tree