Jul 17, 2016

Personal Narrative

So this week is my last week of my online classes until September. For my last paper I was required to write a personal narrative. This was harder than I thought it would be. I mean I have a lot of experiences that have happened to me that taught me valuable lessons but when it came right down to writing about them I was surprised that most of them I was reluctant to share. Yeah, me reluctant to share? Be sure to make a note of that somewhere. Believe it or not my teacher had to coax me to add more details and dig deeper into the feelings of the experience I chose to write about. When all was said and done it was not my most favorite paper I have written this year but I am still going to post it ...you know for posterity :)

Ever since I moved into my parent’s home nineteen months ago I have been engaged in a mortal battle with the gate at the top of their driveway. This gate is the only entrance into the 6.3 acres my parents own in Cottage Grove, Oregon. This gate diligently protects 18 years of hard work that has created a Garden of Eden, minus the Adam and Eve. It carefully protects pruned fruit trees, multiple weed free vegetable gardens, perfectly trimmed shrubs, exquisitely edged lawns, many varieties of flowers, carefully laid pathways, rock creek beds, and last but not least strawberries, blueberries, and boysenberries. My parents have done it all by themselves, slowly, day after day, year after year, piece by piece; it is a very peaceful and beautiful sight. The neighborhood deer desperately long to partake of it, which is what brings us back to the gate. This gate is what protects those years of hard work from the tame, very entitled, destructive gang of deer.
This gate is not the kind that opens and closes on its own. This gate is not the kind of gate that you drive up to, push buttons, or name drop, and it magically opens. This gate requires diligence from anyone trying to get through it. It is nothing short of a laborious process to open and close this gate. You drive your car to the top of the driveway and no matter what the weather may be, you have to open the car door, get out, and walk to the gate. Then you need to lift up the latch, and separate the two sides of the gate. One part of the gate you can just let go but the other half needs to be set behind the perfectly placed medium sized rock sitting on the edge of the driveway. It is very important to make sure that the gate is resting behind this rock because nothing is more frustrating than getting back in the car all ready to proceed and realize the gate followed you back to the middle of the driveway and is blocking your way. So once you are sure the gate is staying put walk back to the car and drive through. Wait! You are not done yet, stop the car again and go gather the left side of the gate from its spot behind the rock and bring it back to the middle of the driveway. This is the moment where you must carefully search on the ground to find the small inch wide hole in the driveway. This hole is where the long cylindrical metal part of the gate fits. If it is dark outside do not forget to grab your flashlight when you get out of the car otherwise you will never find that darn hole; it blends in perfectly with the gray, gravel driveway. Sometimes there is gravel stuck in the hole preventing you from securing the gate but no matter the obstacle you must make sure the cylindrical metal piece is secure and happy in that hole. Then go get the other half of the gate, bring it to the middle of the driveway, and slide the latch down on the side that is already in place. Now trudge back to the car over the frustrating, medium sized gravel pieces. It is tiring just to write about it let alone do it every single time you leave the house or come to the house.
Sometimes I have teenagers in the car with me that I ask to get out and open the gate. They hate the process just as much as I do. More than I care to admit it is just too much work to assign one of my daughters to do it so I just do it myself. Other times I tell them reassuringly that someday they will be grateful for the gate and the diligence it is teaching them and I make them get out and open it so I don’t have to learn about diligence.
I really do believe that as our lives go on we will look back and realize over and over again all the lessons this gate is teaching us. I roll this thought around in my mind every time I am begrudgingly getting out of the car to open or close it. Even though I am aware that this gate has so many parallels to life I can still be found murmuring, being frustrated, and declaring my eternal hate for it. Diligence is, “Constant and earnest effort to accomplish what is undertaken, persistent exertion of body or mind.” This gate definitely involves the words constant, earnest, persistent and exertion. One day I learned what happens when you are doing the opposite of diligence which is known as carelessness. The gate finally got me to pay attention to what it had been trying to teach me.
 A few months ago I managed to talk myself into the okay-ness of leaving the gate open after I drove through in the morning. You see on weekdays I leave home at 6:00 in the morning. I am often running late because of my darling teenage daughter who rides with me. So before I knew it I had convinced myself that soon after I left my early rising, routine loving parents surely walked down the driveway to get their Wall Street Journal, and obviously they closed the gate on their way back.  For a few weeks I lived this luscious dream of carelessness. It was so amazing to just open the gate and drive merrily through without having to stop. No one mentioned what was going on so I figured it was all good.
Then came that seemingly innocent Friday morning that started with my usual routine of not closing the gate. It turns out my parents do not get down the driveway as early I thought they did and the deer had finally figured out the time lapse and sauntered right through. They destroyed flowers, ate the lower branches of fruit trees, frolicked in the garden, and snacked on pretty much everything they could for at least an hour, or two. My vigilant mother never even knew that they were in the yard until she saw them lounging, with incredibly full and content bellies on her perfectly manicured lawn without a care in the world. My poor seventy year old mother had to chase those tame, reluctant to obey deer out of her yard. I felt horrible when I heard the news. I had made my parents think I did not care about their hard work and I caused damage to a lot of their yard. I wished I could take it back. But we all know how well taking things back works out.
I had been trying to call both my parents all that Friday morning and was having no luck. Finally I received a text from my mother declaring in a most direct way that the deer had been in the yard and it was my fault. I quickly called her to find out what had happened and we had a very hard conversation that left me crying like I had not cried in years. In my whole 47 years I had never remembered my mother being so frustrated with me. There I was sitting in the parking lot of my Schwab office in Eugene waiting for my 10:00 appointment with Rob to move some investments around, sobbing and sobbing.
For many days after, “Deer-maggeddon” I had lots of questions and berating thoughts. What was wrong with me? Why did I not want to stop and take the time to do something I knew was important? Why do we resent things that take our time? Why was being diligent so hard? I was most definitely a failure at the diligence/enduring thing. I would have never made a good pioneer. Diligence requires being constant, attentive, and persistent- all three words that never seem describe me no matter how much I want them to. It took something very bad happening to get me to change and now I cheerfully open and close that gate a gazillion times a day as I take my kids places, go to work, go to the store, and the church. It is a very small step for diligence in my life. But I feel so much better doing this the right way. I am so aware that if you want something protected, kept special and safe in this day and age you have to be diligent and never let carelessness creep in. Life is always waiting for you to leave your gate open so that you can be taught.

Jul 10, 2016

Before and After

So for book club a few weeks ago we discussed the book Miss Peregrines's Home For Peculiar Children. In the prologue for the book the author writes this seemingly innocent sentence,

"Then a few years later, when I was fifteen, an extraordinary and terrible thing happened, and there was only Before and After."

The reviewer of our book ended our discussion by bringing up this sentence and we discussed it for a little while. Were there before and after's in our lives? Some defining moment? A line? A change?
My mind has been thinking about this question ever since I left book club. What are the before and after events in my life?

There is definitely a before I had Reeses peanut butter cups and an after I had Reeses.
Before I had my first kiss and after my first kiss.
Before I graduated from high school and after.
Before I was friends with certain people and after.
Before I had fresh asparagus and after.
Before the divorce and after.
Before I had kids and after I had kids.
Before I was a school bus driver and after.
Before I found certain things out and after.
Before I grew my own potatoes and after.
Before I knew about M-80 firecrackers and after.
Before I rode in a BMW over 100 mph and after.
Before I had a child stay in the hospital for a week and after.
Before I got my drivers license and after.
Before I watched Star Trek and after.
Before I knew about Airbnb and after.
Before I read Middlemarch and after.
Before I worked at the circulation desk at the library and after (still sad there is an after to this)
Before I sat around a fire on the beach and after.
Before I found out that I make the same mistakes over and over again and after.

So many before's and after's. I seem to not be able to live anything but before and after. These before and after's always change my life, either for the better or the not so better. Sometimes I am not even sure when they happen which way it will go, sometimes it is up to me how they will go. I have been working for the last few months on a silly goal I have made to memorize a poem. It took awhile to find the perfect poem and trust me I did. It is Invictus by William Ernest Henley and I realized as I just told you a few sentences ago that "sometimes it is up to me how they will go" that this poem goes perfectly with that idea....

Out of the night that covers me
Black as the pit from pole to pole
I thank whatever God's may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced or cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
my head is bloody, but unbowed

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the horror of the shade,
and yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.

I am the captain of my soul. I decide. It is a most laborious process to fight some of the circumstances that grab me and try to control what I will become. I have had many chances to be bitter and resentful and angry but I am the captain of my before and after's :) Not near as eloquent as soul huh? :) I am in the process of assimilating and evaluating several brand spanking new before and after's. I now can add to my list;

Before I was enrolled as a BYUI online student and after.
Before I filled out my own FAFSA form and after.
Before I knew I was a "know it all" and after.
Before I no longer had it all together and after.
Before I could admit I was dramatic and after.
Before I realized I was not a priority to someone and after.
Before I was married and after.
Before my kids were affected by a divorce and after.
Before I had a child who I had not talked to for 2 years and....no after yet.
Before I had three children married and after.

Can you imagine life without the words before and after? It is just not possible. I am sure you got the picture and now you are tormenting yourself with your own endless list of before and after's. You can thank me later :)

I googled before and after images to find a cute little picture to jazz up this post and UGH never google before and after.....everyone on the planet who has lost weight or had braces or some sort of surgery are all in images. I was thinking of something more rainbow and unicorns like :) Seriously, now there is before I googled images "before and after" and after :)

Jul 9, 2016

Take A Chance.

What do you know about chances?

If you have kids, or have even been around kids you have definitely heard, "Can I have just one more chance?"

 I am also fairly confident at one point in your life you have declared to someone, "This is your last chance!"

 I have heard people declare, " I am not going to take that chance."

When you have a job interview you have hope that someone will take a chance on you.

So many times I have wished I knew what my chances were when I started something.

Falling in love is all about taking a chance.

Do you know someone who thinks nothing of taking chances? Are you jealous of them? What happens to them? Is it a good life to be a chance taker?

Is it possible to give someone too many chances?

Sometimes you take a chance and good things happen and sometimes you take a chance and bad things happen but the catch is that you will never know if you do not take that chance.

I have been thinking about chances a lot the last few days. I seem to have a talent for giving lots and lots of chances. I basically hand chances out like they are candy.  I have decided that this is a most serious flaw. I think it is a direct result of having way too much hope... way too much of it. I must think that giving chances automatically means people will change. But life is slowly and painfully teaching me that that is not always the case.

Can you just decide not to give chances anymore and stop?

If you stop giving other people chances does that mean they will stop giving you chances? I wonder if that is the reason I keep giving them. Would it not be horrible to not get anymore chances when you know you are doing your best to be better but you fell short yet again? How long do you wait?