Being in Poverty: Post 2

J had cautiously “moved in”. I don’t think he trusted that we were willing to let him have the room because it was just weird. His culture, his background was so different from ours. Why would we do that? That is exactly what he asked me one night when we invited him to share our meal. “How do  you love people so much?”

I hate being caught off guard by questions like that. I kind of know why I do what I do, but I’m never sure if that’s the most helpful answer. It’s not just because I can offer help, but because something stirs my heart and mind to do it. I know I’ve prayed to feel the right kind of love for people I encounter (because, frankly, I don’t have it, yet) so when I’m given an opportunity to act, I take it as an answer to that prayer. I’m being taught. I think what J wanted to hear was that I had a personal interest in him, not that I was in God’s classroom.

He’s been desperately short of cash ever since he came and there have been several instances where he has asked for $10, $15, etc… for food or to put gas in the car. He’s always waiting for the check from work to show up and for some reason it gets lost and has to be reissued. It’s never timely. When it does come, we don’t really know how much it is or where it goes. Because he’s been injured on the job and is on “light duty” with frequent time off for doctor and therapy appointments, it’s probably not much.

We three, me and my cousin and his wife, were in the car ready to back out of the garage. I was taking them to the airport for their flight north and had plans to drive on to North Carolina, alone, to visit my daughter. Goodbyes were said, and to my surprise J asked me to come back in the house for a moment. My cousin said “He’s going to ask you for money”. Very possible, I thought. But when I went in, J simply gave me a hug and said “I love you.” That was it. It was a very good send off and I’ve thought about it a lot since.

The tables have been turned and I’m questioning “How can he love people like me so much?” Class is in session. More to come…

One Last Place

20160219_104942.jpg

 

Rather than gliding smoothly

It won’t budge even though it’s pulled

Forward, backward until fingers ache from the effortl

It doesn’t look that bad

From the outside where the teeth

Are shiny and black and only a small bit of paint –

It flakes off with the wiggling, a sign of the greater problem.

 

It was in a bad place

Where the humidity and who knows what else

Sat on it for too long a time and it began to change inside

Looking closely, there

There it is along the edges…

Dusty, irregular, misshapen line of gray

The metal of one

Grows into the metal of the other

In a weld of fusion and confusion that renders it immobile, stuck.

 

Scraping it away

Looking for true strength beneath

There are so many places where the corrosion sits

But, there has to be

One last place, that when it is freed

It moves and becomes, once again, what it was meant to be.

 

 

S. Dietz 2016

 

Anniversary Thoughts

January 14, 2016, 43 years since I married the husband.  What have I learned in all this time?

There are always new things to discover in a relationship, new ways to look at old things.  

It is better to work on familiar problems with a person you know and trust, than to start over from zero with someone you don’t know.

The husband and I are both persons before God first, then we are a couple.   

Praying for my husband gives me a whole new reason to be interested in his growth.

Praying with my husband, before God, is the safest way to be vulnerable.

Letting the culture tell me what to expect from marriage is a big mistake. Every couple I’ve known is unique.

If I have to have things done my way, just do them and be glad.

If I want help I must be willing to let him help in his way and be glad.

We were not brought together because of the things we have in common but because of our complementary differences.

Bad feelings change over time.

Good feelings change over time.

Being in trouble together brings us closer, thankfully.

Nothing makes it easier to forgive than needing to be forgiven, but don’t keep score.

It is okay to take care of myself and avoid the martyr complex.  I am more fun when I’m having fun.

Asking kindly for things works really well. 

I say I have learned these things, but actually, I’m still working on many of them and seeing progress.  God has given me marriage and family as a school.  There are “treasures” of learning as a result of keeping covenant over time – I am humbled and blessed to be in a safe and loving relationship that allows me to learn and grow spiritually.  Thank you, Dennis, for being a faithful man who has never held me back, never “lorded” it over me, never intentionally been unkind.  I would marry you all over again.

Love, the wife.

ourwedding
Once upon a time, a long time ago…

 

Second Verse, Same as the First…

Four generations of sons

Today, walking around in the yard, I met a jet black cat with one long white tooth visible on one side of his closed mouth.  I had seen him other times and to this point he had always made himself scarce when he saw me noticing him.  Today I stretched out my hand and spoke softly and he immediately turned and approached me.

Years ago, as I remember it, our neighbor who was doing yard work, came to us to report finding a batch of feral kittens.  He knew there were die-hard animal loving children in our household and figured we would help solve his problem. He was right, of course.  We raised this batch and my daughters named them after famous people.  One that became a favorite of Julie, my oldest, was Hamlet, Prince of Denmark.  He was Hammy, for short, and continues to live with her today.  His unique characteristics are that he is small and compact for a male cat, has a sociable nature in a cat-like way, and is mostly black with a few crazy white marks.

In shape, size and nature today’s kitty was a match for Hammy and I wondered what genes they might share and if they had both started life in this same neighborhood.  The tooth was a little unnerving but other than that this little guy was fun to pet.  I think we have a bond going and I am calling him Snaggletooth.

The theme continued later this morning as Mom and I were conversing about our family relationships and how they also do replays.  My dad often told stories of his early years at home and the influence his dad had on him.  Even as he married and went out on his own, his dad was always involved in some way, giving feedback and support.  Interestingly, my dad also has a very similar relationship with one of his sons.  And taking it one step further, that son has a very close, remarkable similar relationship with his only son.  And by now, it is almost beyond surprising, that this third generation son is very much the same with his fourth generation son.  The sons may not have always agreed with the fathers (how rare, right?) or the fathers with the sons but there developed a high degree of compassion and appreciation in each case.  After a few generations of repetition these things start to jump out and be noticed.

Further on in our talk Mom’s early childhood came up.  She had a younger brother who was born last in the family and spent a lot of time with her.  They were often together as children and she would pass the time making up stories to tell him.  Their mother died when they were still young adults which added another layer of closeness to their brother – sister relationship.  As she talked about it, I noticed how much it sounded like the way I feel about my youngest brother.  Another comforting familial replay…

I’m not sure what all of this means, except that awareness of family influence and nurture might cause us to think more carefully about our parent – child interactions.  Seeing patterns over such a long time period might give new meaning and strength to biblical references about blessings or cursings that last to the third and fourth generation, or longer.  Just saying, it is interesting and food for thought.

Okay, I have scared a few people…

This has nothing to do with Halloween, or playing “chicken” on the highway.  I’ve been waiting patiently for the last week for something I wanted to write, and then something popped up.  An online survey by a friend was investigating the complaint by some women, 55 and older, that younger women just don’t seem to “see” them anymore.  And this is what started me thinking about being scary.  Obvious connection, right?

I can remember being younger.  I can remember being in the middle.  I am older now and I will tell you that everyone suffers a bit from feeling that others don’t “see” them.  We are all overtaken at times with the feeling that we are invisible,that others are rushing past us to talk to someone else. I think I’ve figured out why it happens.  It’s because conversation, talking to people, is hard work.  It not only takes a degree of self-awareness, it  takes being interested in and curious about others.

Age difference is an element (here’s the part where I scare people.)  Once when I was the mother of teen girls, a boy came to the door of my house wanting to see one of my daughters.  I think I asked him some pretty relevant questions, like “who are you?” and “tell me a little about yourself”.  The fact that I was direct and wanted a minute of conversation was frightening to him.  He told my daughter she had a scary mom.  He told me also, later, after we knew each other better.

I do find age differences and status differences intimidating.  I remember thinking older women were more experienced at their jobs, or their child rearing, or homemaking. They were doing things so much more important than I was.  Now I find myself thinking that younger people are so much smarter, quicker and tech savvy. They’ve been writing computer programs since first grade probably.  I’m afraid everybody else is too busy to engage.  I’m worried about looking and sounding stupid or boring. And although I’m sorry to admit it I’m often more comfortable with my “devices” than I am with the people I’m supposedly connecting with.  Uh oh.

However, I do have strategies, because I do LOVE TO CONNECT with others, younger or older.  Sometimes I crave the company of my young friends and love that they come over unannounced and interrupt me.  I want to tell them that they are more important than anything else I’m doing.  And that’s my strategy – I tell them.  And if it’s you I’m talking about and you haven’t been over for a while, please don’t be afraid to show up.

Other things that work well are telling people they are doing something really cool (if they are), or that they look really good (if they do). Do this to strangers that you find interesting and they will most likely be glad to talk about themselves. This is hard for me when I don’t feel like I’m interesting to others, but often this feeling of being uninteresting is just a feeling, and a false one at that.  I can make myself get over it (almost all the time).

One more strategy, and it’s one I’m still working at remembering.  This one is what I should use with people I know well when we have deeper conversations that involve stronger emotions (think mother/daughter, wife/husband) .  It is always good not to look scary.  Sometimes I look scary and I don’t even know it, or my body language is intimidating or disrespectful.  Fortunately, those who love me, tell me.  Hey, get your intense face on and go look in the mirror.  Would you find that an invitation to connect?

Be scared, be very scared....
Be scared, be very scared….

My main point is that we all have valuable things to say to each other.  We need to find out why we don’t always say those things and why we don’t always foster helpful, supportive relationships – and then it would be good if we did something to turn that around.  What turn around strategies do you have?

Beep, beep, boop?

What?  Who did this? To those of you reading who are not also bloggers, I will explain.  One of the latest updates to WordPress, my blog host, includes a cute little “beep, beep, boop” message wiggling around in the center of a blank screen for a few seconds after certain commands are instituted.  It’s a thing to look at while you’re waiting.  Evidently someone thought that us bloggers would lose interest and wander off if we didn’t have something new to look at for three seconds while our post is being published.  I’d like to meet the originator of this idea and try to figure them out. I’m always amazed at the things people will think to do.  Actually, sometimes I’m also amazed at the things people don’t think to do – the old rule, never say never,  applies equally to never say always. Both good things to remember.

This last week, every time I sat down at the computer I lost interest and wandered off.  One day I didn’t even turn the thing on.  But that’s ok.  A week of inactivity online doesn’t bother me much and gives me the opportunity to write about what I have been into while I haven’t been writing.

– Equate extra strength Headache Relief,  for the headache that doesn’t seem to want to quit.  Although I’m probably not doing my stomach any favors, I’m grateful for the four or five hours of relief and super wakefulness that I get from swallowing a couple pills.

Hello headache, my old friend...
Hello headache, my old friend…

– Intraocular injections (shot in the eyeball), for the eye problem that was dramatically improved, in the doctor’s own words.  I’m grateful that it’s working and that I don’t have to get another one for five weeks, although I am getting used to everything about them (except the cost…)

the back of my eye
the back of my eye

– Childcare, for several of my yòoung friends who I realize I’ve been missing.  How come you guys can grow up in what seems like no time at all? Gracie, Lydia, Josh, Zeke, Shiloh – grateful for time spent with you that makes me feel younger even while I marvel at you getting older.  I’m troubled by the fact that I’ve never played X-box.  Is that weird?

Childcare for her, adult care for me...
Childcare for her, adult care for me…

– Old letters and old files, for the urge to purge and to organize. Lots of stuff has been burned or shredded, but lots else has been rediscovered and readied for the next project, memoir writing.  I’ve always been alarmed by my lack of memory for details of the past.  Not only did I forget all those details, but I forgot that I’d written them down in letters to others.  This morning, reading letters written to my mother ten years ago, all I could think was “Really, I did that?” and “Did some other person’s life sneak into my letters?”  Grateful for the written record of the past.

I'm more prolific than I remembered.
I’m more prolific than I remembered.

– Appliance shopping, because the washer and dryer that have wanted to leave my house for years, finally broke free.  Grateful that within hours of starting to shop for replacements I came across a used set that is probableyten years younger.  After only one session with the furniture dolly, the truck, the hoses, wrenches and plumbing tape, they are installed in my laundry room and functioning almost correctly.  The printed message under the temp dial that says “all rinses are cold only” really means they are scalding hot only.  I think I know how we can fix that.

the Laundry twins, Hi and Dri
the Laundry twins, Hi and Dri

– Air travel websites, for the supposed improvement of doing it yourself.  Instead of calling a knowledgeable person and telling them when and where I want to travel I can now spend hours online hunting for the best connection at the best price.  And American Express Delta Frequent Flyer card, how dare you revoke the companion ticket feature without telling me.  Planning my revenge…

Did. Not. Happen.
Did. Not. Happen.

– the garden that was, the heat that is, that yard that will be.  Grateful for the healing work that takes place in me when I’m outdoors.  Grateful for green things, if they’re plants – not, if they’re worms.

Good green
Good green
Bad green
Bad green

 

– Face time, with friends and family who care.  I am realizing that the purpose and value of life is all in the relationships I find and nurture.  Realizing also that God is that friend and that family member who makes it all possible.  Having less work away from home has given me more time to nurture the relationship with him and I am so grateful for that.  Gives me some precious times of discovery, comfort, peace and excitement. Arlette and I took a lovely walk yesterday and talked of all these things.

Nature walk with my friends Arlette and God.
Nature walk with my friends Arlette and God.

 

My friend Arlette (and maybe God too, on her left)
My friend Arlette (and maybe God too, on her left)

Things Men Talk About

a man to man discussion
a man to man discussion

This morning  I asked my dad to tell me some things about his dad, my grandfather.  I had been thinking about how much I remembered my grandmother smiling, talking, laughing, working, but very little about my grandfather.  I wanted to know what his sense of humor was like, what his frustrations were, what mattered to him.  Strangely, my dad could not think of anything specific to tell me, but he was willing to think about it and get back to me.

As I retreated to a chair in the corner to empty my inbox (groan, 3000 emails 20 at a time…) dad and my husband started talking.  This has happened before because the two of them have some things in common that they like to discuss.  Of course I am not saying that these are the only things men talk about – I am not privy to much of that, nor do I want to be.  Here are some things that they love to talk about:

– it starts with my husbands plans to fix my daughter’s situation getting hay for her horses, talk turns to trailers to haul things

– machinery, specifically things that have been used in the past and abandoned out in machinery graveyard

– machinery, how it was transported to far away farms

– machinery, at what age they learned to use it

– machinery, near accidents that people had with it

– hay, machinery used to make it

– hay, how much faster it could be made as machinery improved

– combines (as if you could not guess, a combine is a machine)

– straw, and what they used it for

– machinery, how a tractor was made from a truck and what it was used for

– rocks (?) and how you get them out of fields, presumably with a machine

This conversation lasted at least an hour and they both enjoyed having a chance to talk and share stories.  And I realized as I listened from my hidden vantage point that I was witnessing something important about men, and their differences from women.  I’m not sure exactly what that was but it has something to do with machines… just sayin’.

To Travel Well…

There is definitely an art to traveling well.  On this trip I am trying to get a good report card, one that has “travels well with others” checked.  I know how to get along with myself in the car – that has never been a problem. In fact, I love getting behind the wheel and just going until the urge comes to stop and see something, or maybe just to keep going until the car runs out of gas.  But as in life, so in travel when there is more than just me. Time to adjust to another.

Do you travel fast, leave early, still going late? Do you travel cheap or first class? What are your feelings about fast food?  How big is your bladder?  All these questions are areas in which differences can pop up, and they will (and they have).  But in my 40 years of studying the husband and his changing preferences I have a pretty good idea of how we differ and I am determined that he will enjoy this road trip with me.  I might have pushed the envelope a little this morning when my phone alarm went off at 5 (which I cannot figure out since I have never set it for 5 on a Sunday morning).  I couldn’t sleep any more so I got up and turned on one small light at a time and read, showered and started packing up. I figured the gradual, incremental waking up activity would make it easier for him as opposed to jerking the covers off, screaming and shaking.  He did wake up and we are almost ready to go at 7 am.  This is an improvement over yesterday when it was more like 9.  Our 30 hour trip is on it’s second day.  We are still alive, well and in fairly good spirits.  So far, so good, Just sayin’, I’m going to make this a good trip, Lord willing.

 

we found one for $40 and there were no bed bugs
we found one for $40 and there were no bed bugs

Till Death Do Us Part

Forty-one years ago we said those words, the husband and I.  I think we had a better than average understanding of what that meant, and here we are, still not parted by death or anything else. I cannot speak for both of us, but for myself, I have learned many useful things about marriage. And about men. And about the husband in particular.  

The most interesting thing is that we are still changing, and there is more new stuff to learn as that happens.  For our anniversary we are going to start a program called Prepare/Enrich (prepare-enrich.com) and our first task is to answer online questions about ourselves.  After all these years of living with the husband there are still things about his early years that I probably don’t know. And there are things about my early years that have formed my ways and views that I might not be aware of either. I am warned that there are about two hours worth of this questioning to wade through before we start the next part of the program. 

The next part is called “dating”, something we haven’t done regularly since being married.  Actually, it’s going to be double dating with a mentoring couple, and it’s supposed to be fun.  This whole concept is intriguing to me because it sounds very personal and potentially helpful.  It’s not a roomful of people at a marriage conference where no one knows what you’re thinking, it’s just the husband and I with two other people kind of like us but capable of objectivity and insight into our natures (because they get to see our two hours worth of answers from the online portion). We’ve never worked on our relationship intentionally like this before (yeah, it’s about time…) but like I said, forty-one years and we still haven’t killed each other.  Isn’t that what it means when you say until death do us part? 

Image

Cleaners and Neaters

For me, one of the nicest things about travel is that eventually I get to come home. Home, after two weeks away, is almost like someplace I’ve never been. It is a familiar, but still strange sort of place.

I get to use a full size tube of tooth paste.

My friends and family say they missed me.

There is an abundance of meaningful work to do.

I don’t have to wear dirty clothes unless I want to.

And oddly enough, instead of responding to unusual circumstances that present themselves only on rare occasions, I have to think about and be who I need to be for the long haul, the majority of day to day living. More about that later.

As I reacquaint myself with the house where I live with the husband, I am suddenly able to figure something out that I have wondered about for years.  We are different, the husband and I, and that’s good and serves a purpose. Here is my newest definition of a particular difference.

Some people are neat and tidy but not necessarily cleaners.

Other people makes lots of messes when they work but they are cleaners when it’s done.

Neaters and cleaners, that’s it.  I can think of so many examples of how this works out – like our paperwork and files.  Everything is stacked or filed (kept) meticulously, but usually it is only one of us who cleans and throws out the outdated and unnecessary.  Bathroom stuff is on its shelf or drawer, but only one of us wipes out the drawer and cleans the shelf. The dishwasher is loaded and run, but only one of us clears and cleans the counters and puts stuff away.  

Now unless you begin to think that the cleaner is in some way superior to the neater, let me say that it’s not true.  I am the cleaner (in case you haven’t figured it out) and I am capable of what I call “creative mess” at any moment.  I am following a trail and can’t be bothered with neatness along the way. Besides, I know I’m going to have to clean it up eventually, so I get to choose when. There is evidence of my creative side all over the house but the husband doesn’t often mind (or notice) as long as his stuff is in the pile where he put it (neatly). We were meant to coexist.

Those of us who love our homes will probably admit that the cleaning and organizing that we do is part of the “love”.  The satisfaction of making a difference, even if it’s only to clean a counter or rearrange a corner of the living room, is like getting to catch up with an old friend.  Yep, that’s what I’m doing today and it’s good to be home… I’m just sayin’.