Ridding Up Is Hard to Do

In Neil Sedaka’s 1975 hit, “Breaking Up is Hard to Do,” we hear the misery of lost love:

Don’t take your love away from me
Don’t you leave my heart in misery
If you go then I’ll be blue
Cause breaking up is hard to do

Instead of breaking up I wish that we were making up again

I beg of you don’t say goodbye
Can’t we give our love another try?
Come on, baby, let’s start anew
Cause breaking up is hard to do

Instead of breaking up I wish that we were making up again

“Ridding up” is defined as a Midwestern idiom, meaning to get rid of, clean up, to empty. I’ve never done much ridding up. I tend to collect things.

In some ways, for those of us who collect things (a politically correct way of saying hoarders), “ridding up” can feel like lost love. We know we can’t do without that which we are about to throw away. The minute we dispose of it, we’ll need it. Why throw something away which is perfectly good? Etc, etc, etc. And after we finally release that object, with those sticky fingers that just won’t let go, aren’t we tempted to pull it back out of the waste?

Well—you knew this was coming—I’ve been forced into ridding up. We are moving to another house. And I have lived (and collected) in our current house for 28 years. That’s long enough to fall in love with a lot of junk. But some of it has to go. Wow, it’s tough.

As I was working on this thankless task, it hit me that ridding up was actually part of the Plexus Principle. All the junk I never use anymore is actually part of the bonds that tie me to the rack. These objects take up space, require maintenance, use financial resources, and interfere with the plexus that I want to create.

In I Peter 1:13, we are instructed to “gird up the loins of your mind…” Now “gird up your loins” refers to lifting up the long loose tunic and tying it around the waist in preparation for work or battle, turning that dress into shorts. Some translations of I Peter 1:13 refer to “clearing up” the mind, “getting ready for action.”

So, in a sense, ridding up is girding up, preparing ourselves for the important tasks, unencumbered by a long flowing tunic that could drag us down. Snipping the bonds, tying them up into a plexus of our choosing. The problem for me is, I never liked shorts. Of course I don’t wear a dress either. Isn’t there some compromise?

So how about you? What things do you keep that are getting in the way of your plexus? What do you need to rid up?

On Fathers and Father’s Day

I woke early this morning thinking about some problems I was struggling with, and it hit me that today was Father’s Day. I also went immediately into my feelings of disappointment at how I had failed in many ways as a father – the missed ball games, the school programs, not being available to just hang out. I remember times my children told me to get a life.

But I was too busy. I look back now and see that I was on the rack, working to establish my medical practice, doing my hospital duties, etc. etc. Not enough time for my children.

And at times in the past, I’ve felt my relationship with my children was not good, that my influence meant nothing. I had recently begun giving my books to my grandchildren. My children would not be interested in things good old dad wrote, right? Maybe there was hope for better relationships with the next generation. A new start.

But I realized today that I’m very fortunate to have three biologic children (and two stepsons) whom I can be proud of. They are all successful and have wonderful families. I heard from two of them in writing yesterday, and all three of my biological children today on the phone.

I still believe that I made many mistakes as a parent, and wish that I could start over, knowing what I know now. But I no longer believe that I have to skip a generation. I just hope that I will find time to travel and visit family. There may yet be time to have a positive influence on the next generation. Still, I’m not holding my breath that they will want to read my books.

Frustration as Fuel for the Fire

I’m frustrated. I haven’t been here for…way too long. I haven’t been anywhere for way too long. My time has been consumed by moving.

Moving? Yes. After 28 years of living in the same house, and collecting everything (I inherited my pack-rat hoarding ways from my grandfather, Martin Troyer—but that’s another story.) that I ever experimented with, I now have three areas of the house that I’ve used for office space, a mountain of books beside my bed, and two shop areas in the basement. And that doesn’t include a tractor shed full of junk. Yes, I’m hopeless. Just ask my wife.

Anyway, now we’re moving. Ugh! And I must sort out, throw away, organize, and move my treasures to the next house. Fortunately, it is only eight miles away, and I have all summer to accomplish this gigantic task.

Unfortunately, I have to downsize. And the problem is time. All of my free time—what little there is—is now consumed with the moving process. And there is no time left for “creative” pursuits, like writing, blogging, wordturning, landscaping, and inventing. Consequently I am making little progress on my second book.

The first book is finished and off to an editor. It has taken a long and winding journey, being accepted by a small press, forgotten by an agent, back to the small press to be rejected until changes were made that hadn’t been a problem the first time it was accepted, finally accepted by the small press, then delayed for publishing beyond the contract allowance. When I retrieved the copyright, I looked for a new editor to do some polishing. After finding one, the editor retired before my book was finished. Now I’ve found a new editor, and I’m going to the American Christian Fiction Writer’s conference in Nashville in August to begin, again, looking for an agent. I know, too much information – boring.

But the point of the above is FRUSTRATION, both with the process and now my lack of time.

Plus, I should be working on my second novel. Instead, I’m parting with junk, organizing treasures, and moving it all one direction or the other—to the trash or to the next house.

I realized recently that I need to use this extreme frustration productively. I decided that I must take that energy and channel it into determination, determination to find some spare moments to write, to get back to blogging, updating my website, shepherding novel #1 through the publishing process, and getting back to working on novel #2.

Taking lemons and making lemonade.

So, how about you? How have you taken adversity and used that to stiffen your determination to succeed?

Vietnamese Cowboy Coffee

Corey, this brew’s for you.

Before I start, for all of you coffee aficionados, this post is tongue-in-cheek. So take another sip and relax.

My stepson, Corey, gave me a Phin filter (Vietnamese coffee filter set) and some gourmet Vietnamese coffee for Christmas. I like coffee, but I’m no gourmet. I usually drink instant coffee in heated half milk – half water. I know. I can see you laughing and spitting your coffee all over your espresso cup and saucer.

Anyway, I love to experiment. So this was fun. I especially liked the fact that there were no paper filters to mess with, and when you were finished brewing you just rinsed everything in hot water and you were done. Quick. Easy. Neat.

Then it got interesting. I told you I like to experiment. I started thinking about how the old percolators worked. And then I thought about how the cowboys made coffee. Now there was simplicity. Dump the grounds into the pot, put it over the campfire, and wait until it was strong enough for your taste. Add in the fact that I like to heat water in a microwave – quickest, most efficient way – and you have a new “green,” quick, easy-clean-up way to make your brew.

I offer you the Vietnamese Cowboy Coffee method:

Materials:

  • Phin filter
  • you favorite espresso grind gourmet coffee
  • Pyrex or glass measuring cup
  • 1 Tbsp measuring spoon
  • filtered water (or good old hard well water)
  • espresso cup

Technique:

  1. Pour 6 ounces of water into measuring cup
  2. Measure 1 heaping Tbsp of coffee and dump into water
  3. Stir the grounds into water
  4. Heat coffee/water mix in microwave until it boils. Stop and stir. Reheat to boil and stir another one or two times.
  5. Immediately pour the stirred coffee/water mixture through the Phin filter. If it plugs or stops draining, swirl the filter.
  6. When your coffee has finished the filtration process, add sugar or sweetened condensed milk (traditional Vietnamese way) or your favorite sweetener.

Now lean back against your saddle and enjoy the campfire. And don’t forget to extend your little finger while you sip.

In Honor of Grandsons – 2

It’s been way too long.

I’ve been writing short stories lately – two for an anthology by the Houston chapter of the American Christian Fiction Writers. That was a contest, and my two stories were finalists and chosen to be published in the anthology. That should come out in February, 2016.

I also wrote two short stories (and a third on the way) for an anthology by Jodie Renner, to raise money to help rescue children from child labor in Asia.

And then I’ve written two short stories for grandchildren. I’m finding that to be one of the most rewarding of writing experiences. One was written before the last post for Brooklyn. And the other I just finished and delivered within the past week, for Ethan, the newest addition to the grandchildren.

Ethan is the first child of our second son, Brad, and his wife, Jaymie. We visited them earlier this week in Charlotte, North Carolina. Ethan is a handsome little man. He has dark hair, like his mom, and lots of it. While we were there he spent most of his time eating and sleeping. And he likes to be held. So our special time was holding him while he slept. Such a sweetie. He’s only about 4 weeks old, so we are excited to see how he will interact with us when he is older.

We have one other grandson, Leighton. And he just turned three. In fact, Leighton’s and Ethan’s birthdays are 12 days apart. I’ve written about Leighton in a previous post. And he’s changing quickly with each month. Now wearing glasses, he looks like a little professor. When he was younger, he was so quiet. Now he talks constantly. Wow, he’s changing.

So why do granddads get so excited about grandsons?

I came up with the following reasons:

  1. We see them as the future of our family.
  2. They give us hope that we can start them off in the right direction.
  3. We want to help them avoid the mistakes we made.
  4. We want to avoid the mistakes of grandparenting that we made with parenting.
  5. We can enjoy being with them instead of worrying like a new parent.
  6. We see in them a legacy for the future.
  7. We hope that they can achieve that which we failed to achieve.
  8. They make what we worked for, saved, and built worthwhile. Now we can share it with them.
  9. When they’re young, we get to enjoy the age of innocence all over again.
  10. They remind us of when our children were young.
  11. They will actually listen to us, and hopefully learn from us.
  12. They’re not judgmental.
  13. They’re excited about spending time with us.
  14. And yes…we get to spoil them and send them home.

They are a hope for the future. Enjoy them while you can.

In Honor of Granddaughters – 3

Regan Rose. She turned two on July 11. We made it to her birthday party. She and her mom and dad (and future sister) live in northern Ohio. We don’t get to see them enough.

Regan is special, tiny and petite, and always on the go. With blond hair and blue eyes, she is going to be a boy magnet. I hope her dad is ready to watch her like a hawk.

She’s speaking in clear sentences already. All the time she spends with grandmother (babysitting) and other adults is showing up in a very precocious young lady.

She, like Averie, is cautious in opening up to people she is around. And that’s a good thing. Since we don’t visit her enough, it takes awhile for her to warm up to us each new time.

At her party, it was fun to watch her playing with cousins, blowing bubbles, competing for toys, and playing in the wading pool.

We need to find more times to visit Regan and her parents. She is growing up too quickly.

In Honor of Granddaughters -2

In my previous blog, I wrote about Brooklyn, my youngest granddaughter.

This blog is dedicated to Averie. She’s our second youngest. And she just turned one year.

We missed her birthday party because we were traveling to Florida to see Brooklyn. But when we got back we visited Averie for her own private birthday party.

She’s walking now. She’s so cute when she toddles from couch to couch. And she has a special stare she uses until she’s certain that she knows you. It’s a piercing scrutiny, like “I’m not sure who you are or why you are here.” Then when she breaks into the cutest little grin, you know you passed muster.

She was tiny when she was born, and a little slow to get started growing. But she’s making up for that now. She looks like she could end up bigger than her older brother. And she’s growing quickly.

She’s also learning how to defend herself, with slapping from older brother. Of course, she often initiates the slapping match. I think she knows the buttons to push to get him into trouble. She’ll bear watching.

Averie was very quiet in her first few months. I often wondered whether she was hearing okay. And she ended up needing tubes in her ears. Now that she’s been treated, she hears perfectly. And she can be quite vocal.

It will be fun watching her grow up. Living in the local community, we hope to have lots of opportunities to spend time with her and teach her things grandparents teach their grandchildren.

What are the best memories you have of granddaughters? Or of grandparents when you were young?

In Honor of Granddaughters

I promised that my next blog would be about visiting a new granddaughter. And it is.

But before that, an introduction. I googled Granddaughter’s Day. No such national holiday exists (that I could find). Now this is amazing in light of the fact that Hallmark and the flower industry have created a holiday for every possible occasion. And where the market for industry used to be the baby boomer generation, it should now be the baby boomers buying gifts for their grandchildren. So why has no one established Granddaughter’s Day, or even Grandchild’s Day? I don’t know.

Grandparent’s Day, this year, is September 13th. It is the first Sunday after Labor Day. So the date changes each year. In celebration of Grandparent’s Day this year, we’ll discuss grandchildren for the next four posts.

This post is dedicated to Brooklyn. She is our youngest grandchild at three months old. She was born seven weeks preme at 4 lb. 11 oz. She spent five weeks in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Consequently she was in our thoughts and prayers daily. My son was fantastic about keeping us updated on her progress. And our daughter-in-law kept us up to date with pictures of Brooklyn as she progressed though her care in the NICU.

Brooklyn amazed everyone with how well she did as a preme. And we have been delighted to see her progress since she’s been home. Everyday there is a new picture, a new outfit. Yesterday’s picture (swim suit cover, sun hat, and shades) has to be the cutest picture of a granddaughter in Florida…ever.

So you can see that I was in love with my granddaughter even before we went to visit her. Two weeks ago we had the opportunity to spend about four days visiting Brooklyn and her mom and dad. My wife and I don’t like traveling, but the experience with Brooklyn was worth every minute of it. Holding her, feeding her, walking her when she was fussy, baby sitting for Mom and Dad – those are all memories we’ll never forget. And the kisses on that cute little Munchkin’s face. What a sweetie pie!

And hopefully, as she gets older, we’ll have more opportunities to visit and get acquainted, opportunities to influence her, teach her so she doesn’t make mistakes we made, and on and on. All the dreams grandparents have for their grandchildren. I guess we want to make up for the mistakes we made when we raised our own children.

So what dreams do you have for your grandchildren?

And who will be first to propose a National Granddaughter’s Dad and National Grandson’s Day?

What have I been doing?

Wow, it’s been over a month since I put a note up here. Where have I been? What have I been doing?

As I thought back over the past month I realized how busy it has been. I don’t want to list a bunch of excuses that have kept me from blogging, but it has been busy:

  • catching up on firewood because the ground had been so muddy this spring
  • fixing a tractor so I could move logs
  • fixing a mower to mow the trails in the woods
  • dealing with settling my father’s estate and the conflict that goes with that
  • getting ready for travel to Florida to meet a new granddaughter (I’ll write more on that later)
  • writing a children’s story for that granddaughter
  • and finally (where I wanted to end up) writing two short stories for a writing contest

The short stories were for a contest by the American Christian Fiction Writers, the Houston chapter (Writers of the Storm). The deadline is the end of this month. I finished polishing and sent them in today. Last year I was fortunate to be included in their book, and that is the book OUT OF THE STORM mentioned on my book page. It was published in February. Here is a link if you’re interested in purchasing it:

http://www.amazon.com/Out-Storm-Crystal-Barnes-ebook/dp/B00T3AZADA/ref=sr_1_8?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1434933109&sr=1-8&keywords=Out+of+the+Storm

This year’s contest has the theme – dancing. Should be some interesting stories. I wrote a contemporary and a science fiction. We’ll see how they fare in the contest.

Anyway, excuses, excuses.

I look forward to writing again about a first visit to a new granddaughter.

Good Business Advice

Platinum or Fool’s Gold

John 6:26 – Jesus said, “I tell you the truth. You are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs, but because you ate the loaves and had your fill.”

You know the Golden Rule, and you’ve probably heard the Platinum Rule (Treat others the way they want to be treated.)

But have you heard the business advice – give customers more than they expect?

Now, I wonder. Is this actually good advice if what you are “giving” your customers is service? If you are in the service industry, you have probably noticed that when you give someone more than usual, he/she will expect it the next time. And that customer will continue to want more each subsequent time.

My wife taught me years ago (after knocking myself out for years trying to follow the above rules, then noticing the lack of appreciation, even demands for more…and right now…and preferably for free…that it’s not a good idea to start doing something for someone if you don’t want to continue to do it in the future. They will expect it. Then they will resent it when you don’t. That’s human nature. We all have that tendency to become part of the entitlement community. We deserve it.

Even Jesus grew weary in his service. “You’ve only come out here for a magic show and for a free meal.”

So, is the advice on business (give them more) and the Platinum Rule (give them what they want) truly platinum, or is it fool’s gold? If you want to live joyfully and not get mired in resentment, I suggest you decide what is “right” and fair. And learn your boundaries.

Does that word sound familiar? Yes, that’s the title of a book that discusses the Biblical basis for limits. And those limits can keep you from becoming resentful and less than joyful.

I’ve made all those mistakes. And once you start down that road it’s hard to change. So save yourself years of grief. Decide where your boundaries should be, then stick to them…joyfully.

What areas of resentment have you allowed to creep into your life because you were “overgenerous” at some point in the past?