What Tangled Webs We Weave

About eight rows into a new knitting project the yarn skein got so tangled I almost gave up. I should have rolled it into a ball, but was in a hurry as usual. I took a deep breath and began untangling an inch at a time, rolling the yarn into a ball as I went. After an hour I was so glad I didn’t give up and waste the quality yarn I had ordered online.

So much of my life has been tangled. My way of dealing singularities was to  rush to ‘fix’ it, which only made more of a mess. Over the last few years I have tried to take more time to unravel situations that went south, but but know that I can easily lapse into the old pattern of hurrying through chaos to only end up deeper in it.

This evening’s yarn snafu was a valuable reminder to slow down…take it one step at a time…no need to hurry…all will be well. Now, maybe I can take take on my clothes closet in the morning!

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Filed under 12-Steps, Aggrevations, Character Defects, Knitting, Retirement

Empathy….Takes One to Know One

Several of my friends have bad backs. And a few are dealing with pain everyday that I cannot imagine. And because I can’t imagine chronic pain, I really don’t understand what it is like. I can’t truly empathize with something I don’t experience. Sure, I can say I do, and in some ways I can sympathize by trying to feel what it must be like. I try to remember what a brief period of physical pain felt like, then project what it would be like to have that pain all of the time.

The truth is that even that exercise cannot come close to helping me “feel” my friends’ life with pain. The last two days I have been in pretty severe back pain. Frankly, I don’t even feel like writing this post. It is times like this I think I can come close to understanding my friends’ pain. The difference is I will get better when it heals up after a period of rest, cold and hot packs, and lots of Ibupropen. Their pain will continue until they meet their Maker.

It strikes me that the same is true for folks trying to empathize with those who are persecuted or oppressed and/or powerless or devalued; women, people of color, those living in poverty, lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgendered folks, people with disabilities or mental illness, and more. We can try our best to imagine their experience, but we simply cannot feel it honestly unless we are one of them.

Which begs the question, what can we really do to help them all have equal rights, genuine respect, and the same opportunities the privileged poses? Simply believe what they have to say to us about their experience. My opinion about something I do not experience is irrelevant.

Next time one of my friends in constant pain tells me how awful their day has been, I’m not going to minimize it by substituting my own trivial experience with a few days of back pain. I’m going to believe them, sympathize as best I can, and just listen, support and love them.

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Filed under Disabilities, Health, Helping Others, Homophobia, L/G/B/T, Love, Politics, Racism, Relationships, Sexism, Women's rights

A Scarf Screw-Up

The last thing I thought I’d be doing in retirement is knitting, but here I am with 3/4 of a sweater done, 1/3 of a vest, 1 scarf completed, and another underway. Surprisingly, I’m not so bad at it! I think what I like is the ability to get creative, although I have more to learn before I can design a pattern.

Another thing I like is keeping my hands busy. I’m a figity guy and if I don’t use them I start picking at them…bad habit developed many years ago. I also like making gifts for others. Unfortunately, projects take so long it’s hard to get to everybody I want as soon as I would like. So I’m also learning patience.

Speaking of patience…so many mistakes…constant tinking, or unknitting back to the mistake and starting again. Sometimes I can’t figure out what I did wrong, but am getting pretty good at fixing the mistakes.

I’m currently knitting a scarf for my sister’s birthday in early August. Today I found an ugly error several rows back. Try as I may I couldn’t figure out the problem. After spending an hour tinking and knitting to the point I had been when I discovered the error, there was that damn gap again. All of that time wasted. I simply couldn’t face going back again, so went on hoping it wouldn’t be noticed by the untrained eye. Well, a four year old can see this mistake!

But here’s what I figure…that gaf makes the gift unique. No machine would ever make that error! No one will have anything like it. And besides, it reflects who I am. My patterns of living are pretty consistent, much of my life is orderly and even-handed. But occasionally there’s a gap, a mistake, a problem that I simply can’t fix. But I go on, hoping it doesn’t show on me too much…ruin the overall image…putting people off too much.

My sister, hopefully, will look at that uneven spot on the otherwise perfect pattern and will remember that is what makes her scarf different from everybody else’s scarf. Just like her brothers flaws do for him.

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Filed under 12-Steps, Aggrevations, Character Defects, Knitting, Retirement

A Perfect Day…Almost

When David and I are jointly assembling something new out of a box, or watering the flyers, or most any task that takes for hands, we get a bit testy. I think it’s because we both have the need to control most activities in which we are involved.

This afternoon we had a breakthrough. The task was to paint an entire patio set of wrought iron furniture with lots and lots of detail. We used oil based paint and special little brushes, and had to sit on the concrete porch with cardboard. Much could have gone wrong.

We had a few small mishaps: paint on the forehead and hair, the wind blowing the plastic tarp onto the finished product…little stuff like that. But overall, we worked together great…no squabbling, no snipping or controlling behavior. So I wondered…what is different?

The day was beautiful; low seventies, sunny, low humidity, birds singing. Classical music played in the background, and both of us are excited about the new puppy arriving in a couple of days. Maybe things just lined up right in that moment. A productive peace prevailed. All I know is, I enjoyed it and we now have a brand new porch furniture!

So rather than over-analyze it, I’ll just sit back and enjoy it.

David just brought my can of Diet Rite in, laid it down on the end table coaster with a thud, “You shouldn’t sit this sort of thing on the wood furniture.” I had set it down on the bedroom dresser while I changed clothes.

“I didn’t realize I did,” I said as he marched away. With his back to me he responded, “Well, you did.”

Shoot…I almost had a no-hitter going! Actually, it’s good that little exchange just happened. Days too perfect make me suspicious. And I love my life just the way it is.

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Filed under 12-Steps, Aggrevations, Character Defects, Love, Relationships, Retirement

Getting Ready For the Boy!

With the decision made we are allowing ourselves to get excited about our new family addition. The nameless pup will find a loving home with all the ingredients for spoiling already in place. Pet Smart stocks went up today after our visit yesterday. Pup has a new bed, fancy treats, the most expensive puppy food I’ve seen, some new fangled super duper gentle guide collar, an over-priced regular collar, a peanut butter Kong, and an array of safe chew toys. We have already scheduled the vet appointment and initial puppy trainer consultation. I’ve read all about puppy biting eradication techniques (this cutie’ s main challenge, we hear), so I’m ready to give Mr. Knawer his first lesson, after he gets to kiss us and nibble us a whole bunch.

Then there’s the name decision…Oh my. It’s like picking a name for the royal baby around here! Folks aren’t responding much to my Facebook contest. I probably wouldn’t either. However, the one name offered we like very much, so maybe Tobias (Toby). ‘God is love’ not a bad sentiment to be calling or yelling a thousand times a day!

Did you know that you can Google ‘baby bear names’? Yep! Pup looks like a miniature bear. David hates Ozzie (Osborne means bear strength in German). I thought Rockney was nice…but it’s a restaurant in Akron and that just seemed wrong. We’ll keep knocking names around until we see him Saturday morning. Then we’ll know.

I suggested we have a baby shower so we can get lots of gifts, or rather the nameless one can get gifts, but David just rolled his eyes. It seems to me everybody else has showers for new arrivals, why not us? Oh well, he won’t need much I guess.

It’s just important to me that folks understand that this is the closest to having a child of my own that I can get…so yeah, it’s real important! I know my dog and cat loving friends understand. The rest of you will just have to tolerate the hundreds of pictures soon to come (after all, he is the most adorable thing), and all the babbling this proud papa will be spewing.

Now I have to get on with knitting his first winter scarf…later!

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Filed under Family, L/G/B/T, Love, Pets, Retirement, Spirituality

Throwing Caution to the Wind (of the Spirit)

It’s been about eight months since we lost our beloved Meegie, a very special Cairn Terrier, to cancer. Grieving has been intense, especially for David. I haven’t pushed for a new rescued family member for a couple of reasons. First, David hasn’t been ready at all. And also, because it’s been really nice not having to worry about taking off in the car whenever we want for as many days as we want. Kenneling is expensive and we never enjoy sending our dog to a cage for a week, no matter how large it is. I’ve enjoyed the lack of vet bills, kenneling bills, food bills, and all of the accessories required for spoiling a dog.

But the more important truth is that there has been a hole in our lives as a couple and as individuals. And now it is time. We have agreed to that. Deciding to not go frantically looking for a rescue, we would wait until he/she came to us.

You see, that’s how we ended up meeting each other. Neither of us was looking for a partner at the time. Far from it! Both of us had been wounded. But it happened anyway. As David is fond of saying, ” God brought you to my door.” Strangely, that had been David’s prayer at that time… “God, I’m not entering another relationship until you bring him to the door.”

And you guessed it. My first seminary mentor, David’s roommate, took me to his door for an informal gathering of friends and the door had been locked and the mentor was keyless. So we had to knock to get in. David came to the door to see this stranger standing there. The rest is history.

That’s why we decided to let God do God’s thing once again regarding a new canine member of the family. Two days ago I received a Facebook message from someone who knew we might be in the market. It seems a woman in Bedford, Ohio has an adult son who was walking his girlfriend home from a date late one night four weeks ago, when this adorable Shih Tzu mix puppy came running up to them wanting kissed and hugged.

They couldn’t find anyone nearby who had lost it, so they took it to mom’s house, who they knew had a soft spot for dogs. She took vacation days from work to pass out flyers, call vets, and the local shelter and no one has claimed the little cutie. It appears some asshat had dumped him off. She cannot keep him because her Jack Russell has, shall we say, distaste for the little guy, who wants nothing more than to play with Jack.

The woman then contacted a rescue service online several counties away, who has a volunteer who is a cousin of a Facebook friend of mine, who sends me the pic and the plea. It felt like love at first sight. It felt like God had brought him to our door.

However, there are the usual puppy problems. He’s not sure yet where to pee and poop, his playful kisses turn quickly into nibbles and then bites, and he doesn’t like to be more than a foot away from his foster mom without crying and barking.

Thus, our dilemma. Here are too old guys, wanting to give him a home, but questioning our ability and stamina to train a six month old puppy full of piss and vinegar. We’ve talked about it of course, and friends have offered all kinds of opinions, positive and negative, for which we are grateful.

But in the end, it is our decision and choice whether or not to take on the little bugger. Should we have sense and sensibility? Or should we throw caution to the wind? Well, we weren’t very sensible that night I showed up on David’s doorstep, and we certainly did throw caution to the wind a year later when I left my career to attend seminary full time and move into David’s home a block from the seminary.

So why be sensible now? I rather enjoy throwing caution to the Wind (of the Spirit)!

(Update to follow)

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Filed under Family, Fear, Hope, Love, Pets, Prayer, Relationships, Spirituality

There’s Always the Tink!

Never did I think I would become a knitter. My granny tried to teach me once, but I simply couldn’t get it. I suddenly had for thumbs. Then recently, my friend Pam took a whole bunch of time and a whole lot of patience to teach me basic knitting. She uses the sink or swim method. My first project is a sweater…forget the potholders and dishrags! Of course the sweater isn’t finished, as I need to make the the three hour trip to get her help with the next milestone. Right now sweater is laid out on the guest bed…sleeves unattached until we go to Dayton next time.

But here’s the surprise. I am enjoying the process; even the simpler scarves I’ve been doing all by myself. That’s been real important for my growth as a knitter. An unexpected gift from knitting is the life lesson metaphors that contains to present themselves.

The term ‘tink’, which is ‘knit’ backwards, means to ‘unknit’ the stitches you have just done to get back to the mistake so it can be corrected. Sometimes I find a goof many rows back so I have to spend some time tinking to make things right. As frustrating as it can be, once I’ve made the correction I feel so much better and the piece becomes what it was meant to be.

So goes my life, when I’m vigilant about my character defects; when I permit the Source of as all to help me tink back to correct those mistakes I’ve made…like hurting others or neglecting folks I love, or self-loathing abuse. When  I tink back to mistake, and do what I can with God’s help to repair it, I feel so much stronger and get one step closer to being the person I was meant to be.

As I continue to knit and purl the pattern of my life, it’s so comforting and empowering to know that I can always tink back to the problem and do my best to make things right.

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Filed under 12-Steps, Character Defects, Hope, Knitting, Love, Spirituality

Thank God For Life-Jackets!

Cruising down the Ohio River last evening the world passed by so smoothly and silently. I recalled the days David and I stayed on the same river many times at a special bed and breakfast with a wonderful front porch just a few feet from the following mass of water.

Each time I sat in a rocker on that porch I would enter that quiet, soothing world and would regret having to leave to return home. The River. There is something magical on that hushed turbulence. It wasn’t until I spent time sitting next to it on the bank below the porch, that I recognized the power and turbulence just underneath its glistening surface.

One year following a historic storm we witnessed the aftermath racing down the river…huge trees, barrels, parts of buildings…stuff unimaginable. It all moved by us rapidly, in a solid mass of junk. We wondered where it all would end up; what impact it would have on folks later on many miles down the river.

Last night on that same river, as the sun slipped away behind brewing storm clouds, as the world passed by silently and quickly, I realized how much life is like the river. My life has often passed by so swiftly and yet quietly. When turbulent times come, the resulting carnage affects so many others downstream…especially those I love most.

The challenge is that I get fooled by the surface of my life. It appears to be flowing smoothly and purposefully, but underneath rages a power of potential havoc if I’m not vigilant about the choices I make, the people with whom I surround myself, and how much I stay connected to the Source of it all.

During the event on the boat last night, as I was thinking about all of this I glanced up and saw life-jackets tucked up in the ceiling of the galley. Gratitude overwhelmed me that I had my own life-jackets in the form of good friends, family and my God. So let the river flow…I’m equipped to deal with any storm.

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Laying Down One’s Life For a Friend

My mind drifts to friendship more often these days. Turning sixty-five last January is one reason, I’m certain. Another reason is that we have moved away from a bunch of folks I consider friends when David and I built our retirement home to be near my aging parents. They gave us land to accomplish that, so why wouldn’t we?  But there is a social cost for making that decision.

The more time that passes, the more friendships seems to wane. I suppose that can be expected, but I wonder what it says about the depth of those particular friendships. Facebook keeps me in touch with many of them, but I can’t help but notice that those few intimate friends I had before Facebook or those who don’t use social media tools have drifted away as well

Perhaps it’s my imagination, but it appears to me that even some of my faithful Facebook friends ‘comment’ or ‘like’ as a matter of routine or obligation. Now before you think I’m having a moment of severe depression or paranoid self-pity, I’m merely starting an observation about the depth and duration of intimate friendships.

Here’s the point. I’ve come to realize it’s about me as much as it is them. My part in the vulnerability of friendships is that I allow geographic distance to get in the way. I let my busy new life consume my time. my energy, and my heart. I expect them to contact me more than I am willing to contact them beyond a click of a ‘like’ button.

Why? I have no idea. Laziness, perhaps? Self-indulgence? Lack of sincere interest?  I hope not. Maybe it’s because friendships, like any other heart-connected relationship, need more direct one-on-one interaction to remain vital. I mean, think about it. How many long distance love relationships really work? If intimate partners have difficulty making such coupling last, why would friendship be any easier?

So I own my complicity in letting meaningful friendships melt away. And I give them the same excuse. How can they help but lose some interest in a relationship that is not fulfilling their immediate needs?

One other reason for withering friendships is of more concern to me. Sometimes my friend connections are of a different variety; the kind that have a specific reason for existing. For instance, friends that result from a shared hobby, or a mutual recovery group, or a book club, often limit their conversation range to the reason they gather. In the case of recovery groups, the focus of conversation is intentionally kept to the reason for gathering.

I have noticed that as soon as one opens up more about who he is and what he personally believes and stands for, some folks become less committed to the relationship. Thus, the reason some groups keep discussions away from personal views either by design our by natural inclusion. They realize how personal views on politics, religion, social issues can poison friendships, especially in this time of intense divisiveness.

I have yet to decide how all of this sorts out for me and my friends, but the more isolated I become geographically, and the more I expose myself via social media, like this blog, the more I realize how vulnerable some friendships are. And I suspect it also suggests I need to re-evaluate how I and they define friendship., or at least alter our expectations.

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Filed under 12-Steps, Homophobia, Love, Uncategorized

FOX News Syndrome

David and I often remark how amazed we are that so many folks watch FOX news. I’m not sure why we’re surprised when we both have to admit we enjoy an occasional reality TV show. And that of course is why so many folks like FOX News…it’s pure entertainment (for those who hang out on the ‘right’side of the political and social continuum…those on the ‘left’ side have MSNBC).

But I’ll bet few have ever seen MSNBC on a waiting room television. This morning’s visit to my physical therapist is a case in point. FOX is always on that TV. In fact, most medical and car repair waiting rooms have FOX News blaring. I can only assume that’s because folks who sit in waiting rooms prefer it, at least in these parts.

This morning’s drivel was about so-called Obamacare. I could barely stand to hear the propaganda filling the room that temporally housed sore and aching shoulders, knees and hips. As expected, many of my comrades in physical pain were glued to the screen, soaking in every silly world.

Then it struck me…I would do the same thing if MSNBC were on. We all have our entertainment needs, even when it comes to local, national and world news. Just take a look at local morning news shows to get an idea how entertainment seems to be the goal. So the issue is which kind of entertainment we desire; conservative, liberal, reactionary, progressive, mindless or intellectual. There’s a network or station for all of us, for our every mood.

What I object to is being forced to listen to blaring propaganda of any kind in a public facility. And when I make my discomfort known, the staff person always looks at me as if I’m unAmericam or off my rocker and usually ignores my request to change the channel.

But I’ve found a solution that works sometimes. I simply stroll up to the little window and ask if they would mind tuning to the Weather Channel because I have a special need to see the weather situation across the country. They don’t always respond positively, but do most of the time.

Of course, it’s important to keep staring at the TV whether or not your interested in the weather, or the eagle-eye person behind the glass will switch it back! After all, she probably lives for hearing that President Obama has made yet another decision that will destroy our very world! Maybe even put all white, straight, gun-toting Christians in concentration camps!

Oh, sorry, I sat a half hour this morning in front of FOX News…

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Filed under Aggrevations, Homophobia, Politics, TV, Uncategorized