I'M AN EXPERT...IN MY OWN MIND

I am an expert at, well, everything. At least that’s what my wife and kids tell me. On so many occasions throughout the year, I’ve had to straighten them out on a multitude of issues. Those whom I love so much
have been misguided souls at times, and it was my duty to enlighten them and show them the error of their ways. I’ve reached beyond family boundaries and shared my expertise with others who didn’t even know that they were in need of it.

During my dear daughter’s teen years, my wealth of knowledge came in discussions of ancient history. I found myself lecturing Lacey on the fall of past civilizations for their failure to overcome personal wants and needs. For the longest time, she held her tongue, but at some point I must have begun repeating myself. She looked at me with wide eyes, attempted to smother a snicker, and then burst into laughter. “Daddy, it’s just a thumb ring!” The poor child just couldn’t see the connection between that piece of jewelry and the crumpling of an entire society.

Poor Dallas suffered through years of my coaching him in baseball. It was necessary to school the boy in the proper methods of fielding, hitting, and pitching. All of this came from my vast knowledge of the sport. Forget the fact that I was stuck in right field, the place for the worst player, throughout my child. I forced him to practice endlessly to develop skills I never had.

When he began driving, I instructed him on the proper way to drive a straight-shift vehicle. With just a minimal amount of training, I figured my son could be the next great driver. What happened instead was that he bowed his back and, in his passive-aggressive may, put an end to my goals for him by not studying for the driver’s exam. He failed the test, but I was much more disappointed than he was.

Amy has listened to my tirades on so many subjects. They’ve included finances, business decisions, and child-rearing strategies. Most of the time she’s listen, but on occasion she has cocked one eyebrow and dropped a sarcastic “Really” on me.

My greatest expertise came on the subject of child rearing. Oh, I knew what all kids needed and when they needed it. I’d taught school forever, so I was an authority on children, or so I thought. My pronouncements about parenting came with a thunderous voice. The only trouble was that I’d roared so much and so often that Amy knew it was all bluff, and she ignored my demands. In spite of my actions, Lacey and Dallas appear to be well-adjusted individuals who aren’t too scarred by my great knowledge.

I’ve also voiced my opinions in groups, at work, and with friends over the years. I might have couched it with the phrase, “If it were me, I’d…,” and then I would tell the truth of all things according to my perception of the situation. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I kept thinking, if folks would do as I tell them, their lives would be much better. More accurately, I was saying that folks who follow my lead and do as I do would be happy.

Most of the time, I’ve expressed my opinion and then sat down unaware that absolutely no one in my family heeded an iota of the wisdom that was offered. My friends politely pretend to listen to my sage advice. Then they call me a dirty name and ignore all my wisdom.

In recent years, the fact that I wasn’t always right has become apparent. I can see how my expertise on all subjects has been little more than my personal opinion, and we all know what opinions are like and what they resemble in smell. Maybe the greatest tidbit of wisdom that I’ve discovered from my years on this planet is that I’m nowhere near as right as I once thought.


For those of you whom I have approached with unwanted information and suggestions, I apologize for my ignorance. Also, thank you for remaining my friends and loving family, even though doing so has been a difficult task.

A SIMPLER LANDSCAPING WAY

I don’t want to jinx anything, but it does looks as if spring might make an appearance on time. Most of us are weary from all the snow and frigid temperatures that have assaulted us this winter. So, with a few days of warm weather, we’re ready to arise from our hibernation and begin those chores outside.
These days, yard work has become a much too in-depth process. I admit that to being as guilty as anyone of going to extremes in taking care of my yard, but even my efforts pale in comparison to some folks.
The process begins at the end of February or early March. Men roll out their spreaders and fill them with “weed and feed.” The price per bag of this stuff runs anywhere from $11-$35, and most of the time, the job requires multiple bags. If that weren’t enough, a second defense of concentrated weed-be-gone is applied with a water hose and special container. Still, there’s no guarantee that unwanted plants won’t pop up anyway.
I used to go all out in applying this stuff to the yard, but the fact remains that it will work only if all the rest of the neighbors attack their weed infestations. That doesn’t happen in our community since we have yards, big, open spaces instead of postage stamp-sized lots that many subdivisions have. Now, I make a couple of attempts to kill the most stubborn and aggressive weeds and leave the rest of them alone. As the old saying goes, “it’s all looks green when it’s mowed!”
The next step is fertilizing and over-seeding. I get the idea of giving a kick-start to grass, but not going overboard. My father-in-law once urged me years ago to apply ammonium-nitrate to my new yard. I could hear the grass growing at night and mowed twice a week to keep it from overtaking the house. As for over-seeding, I thought that grass had a root system that would cause it to spread and grow. My experience is that throwing out extra seeds is a waste of money since the wind and birds take most of it.
Then there’s the mulching of areas. I take my trailer and get two scoops per visit and then spend hours shoveling, spreading and raking this concoction that is a mixture of ground wood and manure. Yes, it does make the place look nice, but mulch lasts only so long before it must be reapplied, and none of the stuff smells pleasant.
In years gone by, I remember the yard work we boys did around the house. Our older brother Dal mowed because Daddy feared that Jim and I would cut off our feet. So, we each received sets of hand clippers and were instructed to cut the weeds around the house and all flower beds. For hours we’d squeeze those clippers until our hands cramped. That job is what a weed-eater performs today.
Mother had flowerbeds everywhere. However, she didn’t line them with pavers or other stackable borders products. She dug up rocks from the yard and lined her beds with them. Then she’d fill the ground with plants and ground cover that made mulch unnecessary.
The earlier generation made do with what they had more than we do. They recycled most anything. Rarely did they go out and spend a wad of cash on pots for plants. Nope, they scrounged around until they came up with the perfect plant containers: used tires. Homeowners would apply a coat of whitewash to the rounds, set them in the yard, and fill them with dirt and a little manure. Then they’d stick in plants, give them a drink of water, and leave them alone. I know for a fact that the plants grew healthy all summer.
Today, we invest fortunes in pots and baskets and raised growing beds, but our flowers aren’t any prettier that the ones our parents had. I much prefer a natural looking yard to a perfectly sculpted one. Something “human” is part of a landscape that’s a little cockeyed or that is lusher in some places than in others. The old yards had bare spots as well, and I’ll bet they were caused by kids playing there.

Maybe we’d all be happier if we returned to white painted tire planters and a few bare spots to remind us of our children’s presence. Many folks would definitely be less fatigued from all the work.

BACK RUBS

Feeling low? Feeling lost? Feeling left out? All of us hit bottom several times in our lives. It’s during those blue periods that we most crave something to soothe the soul, to find a healing balm for the pain. I’m pretty sure that’s just what a back rub is. No, I’m not talking about the back rub that a masseur gives as he works to knead muscles in order to bring on relaxation and take away pain. The kind that I have in mind is gentler and comes from the hands of those we love.

When I was a kid, my temper too often got the best of me. It had something to do with being called “Round Man” because of my excessive weight and “Bucky” because of a terrible overbite that kept my top teeth protruding through my lips. I’d explode over some small thing, and Mother would make me sit at the kitchen table until I could regain my composure.

The best medicine for those times when the world could go to hell for all I cared was my Mother’s hand rubbing my back. Her hands weren’t soft; too many hours of yard work kept them rough and calloused. Still, she’d sit silently and rub back and forth across my shoulders. It made things somehow okay. Just knowing that she had taken time out of a schedule filled with too many tasks and duties helped to calm the anger that came over the sometimes cruel things that others said or did.

Years later, it was my time to be the one to give comfort to my children. I loved to hold them when they were around the age of 3-5. Then, they would sit beside me or on my lap, and I rubbed their backs and talk to them. Their skin was smooth, and it surely was one of God’s most wonderful blessings to this parent. If they were crying, the back rub helped to calm the hurt from a scrape or ear ache, and if they were fussy because of being tired, it relaxed them until they fell asleep and leaned heavily on me.


At other times, I tried to console my children when they tasted defeat. A loss of an important ball game or the failure to make a team or be accepted into an organization might have booted them in the behinds. While I wanted to rage against those who denied them, I knew doing so would change nothing. So, instead I just stood there, quiet for one of the few times in my life, and rubbed my hand across their backs. I hoped it would help in some way to take away some of the sting of disappointment.

Sometimes those back rubs have come in times of grief. So many wonderful people have wrapped an arm around us to offer condolences over the losses of loved ones. At some point during the conversation, they gently rubbed their hands across backs as they reassure us of their help in getting through the worst of the pain. Those hands moved across shoulders as if doing so could somehow erase the pain and emptiness that came from the loss.

Through a lifetime of marriage, I have
, on occasion, offered a back rub to my wife. She’s faced plenty of rough times. Some came with the passing of family; others came when our children left home; still, others occurred when evil people committed a wrong against her. I’m a man, so I want to “fix” things, but too often that isn’t possible. That’s when the best I can do is offer a gentle back rub as she cries or despairs or rages. I hope it does help.

This life can throw us plenty of pain. Most of it affects our emotional health. No prescription from a doctor can heal that kind of hurt, but just placing a hand on another’s back and rubbing seems to offer some comfort. I believe that no better medicine exists.


DIDN'T YOUR PARENTS "RAISE" YOU ANY BETTER?

She arrived after several other customers on that Sunday. The vet’s office didn’t open until 5:00 p.m., and all of us were there to pick up our pets. This young woman jumped out of her car, and as soon as the door opened, she rushed to the counter without any regard to others who had beaten her there.
As my family will testify, some things push my buttons to the point that my temper gets the best of me. It’s not something about which I’m proud; it just the plain truth. Maybe others can identify with me on some of the issues.
I hate stacked up messes. For a while I can tolerate them, but eventually, piles of junk all over the place get my goat. That’s when the cleaning binge hits. With enough energy to tidy up the largest of houses, I tackled “stuff” and decide which items survive and which ones end up in the trash. I could blame my aversion to clutter to an OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder), but that’s not quite true. After a place is straightened up and junk is purged, I allow a new round of piling up to begin. The real truth is that I flip over other people’s messes, not mine. Yeah, I know that’s being a jerk.
Another thing that bugs me is lying. I try my best to tell the truth at all times. In times past, I’ve colored the
facts to lessen the punishment that was to come from my parents, but as the years have passed, lying takes too much effort and energy. Besides, I’ve never been able to keep a story sprinkled with lies straight. The result is that I blow a fuse when others lie to me. Even if that truth stings my ego or causes a loss, I’d rather have it than a bunch of bull. At some point, the truth comes out.
Rude drivers are another thing I detest. Most of us obey the rules of the road and manage to reach our destinations. However, some inconsiderate individuals think they don’t have to abide by the same standards because they are special or more important. The prime example of this is when an accident on the highway causes traffic to funnel into one lane. Many motorists race to scene of the wreck and then jam themselves into the front of others who have patiently waited their turns. It’s the same as people who cut line at the grocery store or other business. When they do jump in front, these folks act as if nothing has happened and take offense when I call them out and ask them to go to the end of the line.
The thing that infuriates me most is tardiness. I’ve always been prompt; in fact, I arrive early at every event that I attend. It gives me time to take care of any unexpected problems. Now, many persons feel that it is perfectly acceptable to be tardy. Some say it’s being “fashionably late.” Others declare that arriving a few minutes past the deadline is no big deal since things never start on time. I beg to differ. Nothing boils my blood like having people climb over me to a seat after a movie or game has started. If I can be early, don’t I have the right to expect others to simply be on time?
Becoming hostile over things that vex me isn’t an admirable trait. It is, however, the way I’m wired. Friends tell me to relax and not allow such things to set me off. I counter that others should be aware and thoughtful enough not to do things that cause a problem. I’d like to ask them,
“Did your parents teach you to be so rude and inconsiderate of others’ feelings?”

Yep, such a comment might just lead to physical injury, either mine or someone else’s.