Sunday, October 15, 2023

When you can't see the potholes for the shadows... Part 1

I live in a small town. Well, it's actually the outskirts of the outskirts of a small town. Most of the drivers of the other vehicles on the road wave in acknowledgment when they see you, people blow their horns at you when you're out in your yard as they pass by, and several people stop to offer a hand if you are a stranded motorist. And there are kaboodles of back roads.

One of the back roads connects us to the interstate, and is a detour when the interstate becomes a parking lot. This road is lined with magnificent groves of oak, elm, and pecan trees adjoined by fields and creek beds. The road isn't as beautiful as the flora and fauna surrounding it. There are pot holes. Deep and flat-tire-beckoning pot holes. And when you're driving a few hours after sunup until a few hours before sundown, there are shadows from those gorgeous trees that completely hide the looming death of vehicle tires that lie within the potholes.

I'm reminded of the ancient epic (Was it the Illiad or the Odyssey?) that had the mysterious Sirens whose beauty and songs beckoned sailors and ships to their deaths against the craggy banks and cliffs. The pot holes don't look like shadows. They are hidden by them.

My husband drives this back road every day to work, unless it is icy. He has every pothole memorized, so he effortlessly darts and dodges them. All I see are shadows as I'm holding on for dear life, because he does that road at a speed not tested by Consumer Reports Magazine. It looks reckless to the outsider to see lots of vehicles all day long doing a verifiable slalom course on a country road.

My dad isn't one of those drivers. He drives sooo slowly that he can go in and out of the potholes like he's playing the game "Operation". Buuuuuzz! He hits the sides, but at least he is making minimal impact.

And I try to drive a few miles under the speed limit, think I see a pothole inside a shadow, dodge it, and hit the actual pothole. 

We all have different approaches navigating the same obstacles. It's similar to the way we process things around us. My husband won't buy anything over $40 without researching it, and then he knows what he knows. He'll remember the stats because he is detail-oriented. Pothole evasive maneuvers are a breeze for him because of how he is wired.

My dad is never in a hurry. Never. So he'll always "cross that bridge when he comes to it". And he'll ease through problems by not zooming through them. He may face a lot of rough spots, but his methodical approach always sees him through. 

And then here I am overanalyzing, overthinking, and getting to the nuts and bolts of issues-- and not always getting it right.

Who is to say what the actual right way is to navigate obstacles, because we're all individuals, right?  And how does this relate to my hopes and dreams?  More on this later.

Friday, October 13, 2023

Are Opportunities Really Missed, or Just Delayed? What If We Run Out of Time?

What do you do when you feel you are running out of time, and yet there are still things on your bucket list. There are still dreams waiting to be fulfilled. It is not through procrastination and laziness that you haven't done those things. It may not be that your goals were possibly even unrealistic. Perhaps pursuit of your dreams have been put on hold because of reasons out of your control. 

There are lots of reasons a dream floats out of reach:  death of someone who may have been involved in helping reach a goal, an injury, lack of physiological function, or illness that has sidelined physical ability, loss of income, or even "aging out" of a particular goal. 

I have begun to make Plans A, B, and C for my dreams in case my original plans for achieving them doesn't work out. Plan A didn't work out for my dream of building my new home two years ago. The price of lumber went out of my desired range. It could not be avoided nor controlled on my end. My Plan B didn't work either. It was to build a metal building and go from there. A more-than skirmish over in Europe moved metal prices up the ladder and away from 100% affordability the way I envisioned it. So Plan C was to wait. It had to be the default setting for my dream, and I didn't like it one bit. Did I know that it would happen? I looked over my house plan design a million times (I didn't count, but I bet it's a good guesstimate). I tried to redraw it smaller than what I wanted, but then I wouldn't have everything in it the way I wanted. I was honestly beginning to think I would have no choice but to finance the construction of the house of my dreams. But in the end, waiting was my option.

But what if it wouldn't have happened? Would I really have financed even though I was dead set against it? Nothing wrong with financing if that's your thing, but it wasn't mine. At all. 

There is another dream I have, and have had for a long time. Some of my Youtube viewers know that I have a charity with many functions, and my husband and I work with other charities and charitable foundations regularly.  I mention it in passing every now and again when people are interviewing me or in livestream chats if it happens to come up in conversation. But this dream is called "Hope Pregnancy Center". It is to be a peer counseling, medical pregnancy center offering quality, confidential, and free services to couples, men (they are a 50% part of a pregnancy happening), and women facing unexpected news of a pregnancy. I won't go into greater detail, because unless you plan to help me fund it, my business plan is inconsequential to you at this time. The point is, there is a lot that has to go into a dream like Hope Pregnancy Center.  And the longer this dream simmers, the less likely I see it happening the way I originally intended. 

I mentioned in my last post about grieving the loss of a delayed dream, but a part of me is beginning to grieve the loss of a dream I've lived with for a longer time, and may I have to live without ever fulfilling it. I grieve for the people I may not get to help. I grieve for the people I may not get to meet. I feel a lot of sorrow watching the calendar pages flip, because with every passing week, the limitations to achievement begin to build.

While some of my dreams do have expiration dates, perhaps if I am willing to pass them on to someone else, the joy in seeing them live will overshadow the sorrow of me not being able to do it myself. Every day, I am building components of this dream, and the preparation stage may outlive my ability to do more. 

This is where I find myself with this particular dream, and maybe you are also in a similar place with a few of your own. Instead of starting it up all at once, perhaps the dream has to come in phases.  For me, it may be peer counseling and training first while I work on finding medical equipment and already exhausted medical professionals willing to donate their time. 

Did I mention that I had a Plan D for my home design? It was to build it one phase at a time. I already had phases for my homestead planned out. Phase 1 was the building of the house. Phase 2, the basement and screened porch atop the basement. Phase 3, the three car garage and a new building for the horses. And so forth and so on. Plan D would've seen us building just a third of the house at a time. The plumbing would have been a nightmare the way we already had it set up underneath the concrete slab, but we'd have made it work. 

And that's really all we could do, right? Make it work or pass as much of it along as we can to the next person to finish? 

Time is the greatest ally, not enemy, of a dream.

Wednesday, October 11, 2023

The Land of Missed Opportunities

Sometimes, it seems people really do "luck into" their destinies. Great opportunities just seem to fall into their laps. Part of that is true. But the other part is that they don't just watch the opportunity drop. They grab onto it. They take advantage of it. How exactly?

Brian Tracy, author of some great self-development books, says, "Decide what you want, and then act on it like you cannot fail." And that's a great place to begin, right? 

How do we even know an experience is really an opportunity until it passes us by? How do we know that person we just introduced ourselves to at that party will become the person who introduces us to our spouse in two years? How do we know that company on the penny stocks profile we just invested in will become huge and give us back 3000% in profit within two months? 

What about the meeting at work you are about to blow off? How do you know if following through will determine where you are going to live, where your kids will go to school, or what vehicle you will drive?

And what about our goals and plans? Our dreams? Which opportunities do we take advantage of so that these things happen for us? We really don't have to have tunnel vision, but rather, we need to shift our focus.

I didn't know when I took this photo of the tunnel on I-40 near Knoxville, Tennessee some years ago, that I'd use it while discussing the pursuit of dreams and goals.

Since you never know when opportunities will present themselves, being prepared for them is indeed the next step you should take. In a post about making room a few days ago, one of the things I thought about was how many times I said I was ready for something to happen, but I really wasn't. Maybe mentally, I was, but I left little room for some of the things I needed for my dreams to become realities. 

For instance, do you see your dream job taking you to international destinations? Well, do you have a passport? If you have one, has it been renewed? Are your affairs in order to receive a work visa from whichever countries you desire to visit for work? Do you know the language(s)and customs of the people who will be living and working around you? Do you have an international plan on your mobile phone account?

Is your dream to hobnob with celebrities? If you live in Butte, Montana, you probably won't see any of your future high-profile friends at the local Starbucks.  

Want to open a mobile pet grooming parlor? If it exceeds 26,000 lbs in the U.S., you will need a Commercial Driver's License (CDL) and a health certificate added to your license, or an employee in mind who already possesses these qualifications.

In order to accomplish these things we dream of doing, we have to actually want them enough to take the next steps. Sometimes our desires are louder than our motivation. Maybe we don't have the money to do any of the things on our bucket list, so instead of searching for funding opportunities (you have access to the internet, apparently), you just sit back and watch time go by and your dreams fading into the mediocrity of life.

Do dreams have expiration dates? If you miss an opportunity for something great that would help get your dream onto its footing, will another chance come along?

Sometimes timing is everything. More on this soon.

Monday, October 9, 2023

It's Almost Regifting Season!

If you are walking into stores and smelling cinnamon and being accosted by glitter, you're not alone.  The Christmas season seems to be among us early this year.  For those of you who love getting all the ornament/tree/wrapping paper shopping out of the way before Halloween, this is truly a season of glee.  However, for those of you who are still recovering from astronomical electrical bills amassed during the summer's record breaking heat, the season of joy means finding money to buy gifts for everyone on your list. Again. Thanksgiving dinner, for those who celebrate the holiday with food, will come with the challenges of rising food prices, rising fuel costs for travel, and because the cost of living has gone up, some are also living with relatives they did not live with last year. 

This kamikaze of change is enough to make anyone forget what they have to offer that money cannot buy. I'd like to add that some people use what they have to make a living.  I'm talking about natural gifts. The talents you were born with.  What you were uniquely given to share with the world to make it a better place. 

Have you found your gift? What are you giving to the world?  

I'm not really saying I've got the answer to what your specific purpose for being alive is, nor am I saying I know the meaning of life.  But I do know that every person is gifted with something to give to the world.

I can play piano. I've been doing it since I was in 2nd grade. I cannot, however, play piano by ear. I am completely lost without sheet music. Playing piano, for me, is a talent. It is learned. Any person can learn a talent or certain skill set.  But those who play by ear have a gift. Their brains remember where the sounds came from, their fingers remember where to go to bring that sound out of the keys without them making a conscious effort to memorize it. Both piano player types may practice, but the one who can play by ear has something the other type doesn't.

Playing by ear and only being able to be able to play what you can read is the distance between gift and talent.  They are not the same, yet people mistakenly interchange the two. 

I can sing.  I've always been able to, since I was a toddler. On pitch. In key. Keeping tempo. Until the place of worship I attend now, I've auditioned and been added to every praise and worship team that existed. People have made room for me. I've sang backup on albums and worked with accompaniment track producers. Done worship sets for street revivals. I've also sang with the jazz band in which I also played piano.  Singing is one of my gifts.  

There are a lot of people who sing. People take voice lessons, even those who are singers by nature. But if singing isn't their gift, no matter how many lessons they take, they will not sing like those whose gift is singing. 

Singing and piano may not be your gifts.  But what do you do so well that you're practically known for it, that you can do with zero effort?  What do other people tell you that you're good at, but you just shrug off because you've been doing it all your life and it's not that big of a deal?

Do you get lost in writing, whether it's your blog or poetry or stories?  Does chatting up strangers in the coffee shop line come as easy to you as breathing? What characteristics are you drawn to in others?  Usually we're attracted to what we have  or what we want to see within ourselves.

How well do you know yourself anyway?  There are oodles and gobs of personality tests out there. I am a fan of 16Personalities for personality testing because of how accurate their algorithm has been. A personality test doesn't necessarily tell you what your gift is, but it tells you more of what you are comfortable with doing, and that can help you set yourself up for your own contributions to the world.  

Once you know what it is, and it could be many things, that you expressly offer to the world, go out there and give it. And give it your all.

Saturday, October 7, 2023

Making Room

Some of my Youtube viewers (and a few family members) know that we've been building a house with no mortgage. It's been a series of ups and downs. Imagine having cash in hand on Monday and then on Thursday the price of lumber ascends to the heavens-- and stays there for two years!
We didn't want to pay a million dollars for a house only worth $100K. So we waited. And waited. And waited
At first, it was difficult to not be bitter. Okay, angry. I went through all the stages of grief. I knew I was going to build this house, but if I was going to do it on my own terms, I'd have to invoke patience.
And so I grieved, not the loss of the dream but the delay. 
It was settled, though. I was adamant about not taking out a mortgage, and also certainly not going to pay more than I had to. 
What was I going to do while I waited for the costs associated with building to go down? I decided to wait constructively. To act while not advancing. To not be stagnant.
So while I was stalled, I decided to do everything else --brushing up on framing walls, working the newest Ramset tools, hanging sheetrock-- all via Youtube videos, books, and articles.
And the garden still needed tending, so that was another thing that was added to the busyness list. 
I'd already drawn up my future structures plans for the homestead, so I decided to map out walking paths. Then still more projects presented themselves when one of the lawn guys accidentally weedate (Is that a word? It feels weird to say 'weedeatered') the incoming water pipe against the foundation. Sawed that thing right off! 
As the "to do while waiting" list grew longer, the price of lumber was growing lower.
What I didn't quite realize until a few days ago is that while not stressing about what I couldn't change, and working on things I could change, I wasn't merely making do with what was left. I was making room in my life for future growth. 
If I'd given in way back when and gotten a home loan, I would not have met some of the wonderful people I know now. I didn't have room in my heart or time to cultivate relationships with them at that time. I wouldn't even have one of the dogs I have now, Elodie, because by the time she came along, there would have been livestock guardian dogs who wouldn't have gotten along with her and I wouldn't have wanted the extra stress of integrating a nonworking dog into the pack.
I have met contractors that I didn't know then also, and they have all become like my own family to me. I also wouldn't have had extra room on my calendar to serve my community with the many outreach programs I'm a part of.
So now I look at all the time I have redeemed, and am sure to tell others that when it seems like the best option is to "make do," now I let them know it's easier instead to make room.

Thursday, October 5, 2023

The True Test of Friendship

I was standing at the sales counter at Dark-Thirty this morning, waiting for the lumber company shed to open, and decided to flip through the magazine rack. One of the magazine covers had in large, red writing the beckoning header, "ARE YOU A REAL FRIEND? TAKE OUR QUIZ!" Like, you can pay ten dollars and figure out just how awesome you are to your buddies. I didn't buy it, buy it still made me think. 
My last post mentioned my circle of friends. What catapults a person beyond mere acquaintance into the friendship category? And, for that matter, what makes a person a best friend. How can a person have ten besties? The social media app, Snapchat, has my daughter listed as one of my best friends. We chat via Snapchat at least a few times a week. Is constant communication the only thing on the list that divides the friendship tier into "Almost A Has Been" and "La Creme de la Creme"? If so, then my lawn guy is my best friend too. He and I chat about as often as my daughter and I do, albeit instead of talking about our dogs' bowel movements and whether or not we need to buy more Pop Tarts, Rickey The Lawn Guy and I discuss Johnson grass and dandelions. That is hardly enough to press against the threshold of bestie territory. But if Snapchat says so...

I'd like to think the true test of friendship has to do more with whether or not a person is around through the different seasons of your life. And there is a difference between Ginny, the work friend you take your coffee breaks with and send memes to during work hours and Carol, your former college roommate who held your hair back as you puked out Fifty Cent Margaritas and churros for three hours after your brutal breakup with WhatsHisFace McGie. Both Ginny and Carol are your Facebook friends. Both Ginny and Carol "hearted" your new wallpaper photos on Instagram, but which of the two would pick up the phone at 4 a.m. because you had an awful dream and don't want to feel alone? 
I would wake up for my former college roomie, and I haven't seen her actual face in 30 years! Work wife Ginny? She'll get a callback after I've blown through a pot of coffee. 
I think tests of friendship are actual tests and not whether the both of you like the same band and wear matching pajamas.

Tuesday, October 3, 2023

"Is Your Name Really Ernie?"

 I get the question pretty much every time I'm introduced to someone new: "Is that really your name? REALLY?"  Well, actually, yes. I mean, that's the name I've gone by since childhood.  Sometimes my dad called me "John Henry" because of my infamous stubbornness, which I'd like to be known more of as fortitude of will.  I haven't pulled any steam engines up any mountains with my bare hands recently, but I've been known to drag out a conversation until it drops with a thud of finality without ever giving up whatever answer a person has desired. Only my dad calls me John Henry, though.  

My given government name is just as foreign to me. I can pretty much tell you in which era you met me just by the moniker you use for me. I can tell where I met you if you use other names. And I have a few.

What did my parents desire to call me? What did they want to write down on my birth certificate? And what's in a name?

No, none of that Romeo and Juliet philosophical stuff here. I'm genuinely pondering the significance of why I didn't receive the name my mom wanted to give me at first-- Annette.  I mean, that's a good name and all. I know an Annette, and she's pretty cool.  But I don't look like an Annette. I don't feel like an Annette, assuming I know what an Annette would feel like. Would my life have turned out differently if I'd have received the name my mom fought for during the first 3 weeks of my life?

See, I was born during that time when parents didn't have to immediately decide what to call a baby before leaving the birthing facility.  How old am I? 🤦🏾‍♀️That's a story for another day.

My mom wanted me named after one of her nieces, who is named loosely after my mother's mother. My dad wanted me named after his mother.  Who's gonna get the honor of having me carry on the weight of her name? A three week battle where I'm being called two names, and no one willing to give... How did it end? Well, clearly my name isn't Annette, but if it was, I'd probably be going by Little Ann, after the heroine in one of my favorite childhood books, Where The Red Fern Grows.  And then as I grew older (perhaps the age I am now), "Little Ann" would sound more like a gangster or something.  Or maybe I could convince people of how innocent and wholesome and good I am with a name like that.  

"Nope. Not a gangster. Not a goody two shoes. A dog. Yep. And she died in that book, too."

Would Annette have led as colorful and full a life as Ernie has? Would Annette have landed in the middle of the same circle of friends? Who am I kidding? Annette would probably be a lot friendlier, and her circle would probably be a lot larger.  

But Ernie has met Ed.  Ed used to be really weird about my name because he didn't want to be introduced to someone and then say, "...and this is my wife, Ernie." People definitely get curious or weird, with no in between.  The ones who are thinking it anyway, I usually floor with, "I used to be a man."  It's a joke. It was a bit funnier before it became a frequent possibility, but this day and age is what it is. 

It's usually made worse because I also am blessed with diarrhea of the mouth, when I feel like being social. That too is another story for another day.

But the bottom line for my name? It's up there 👆🏾...somewhere.

Monday, October 2, 2023

The Golden Rule? Really?

Treat people as they want to be treated, not necessarily as I want to be treated.

We are not all the same. We’re not. There. I said it. There are so many things I like that my friends and family don’t like, and I’m sure, that you won’t like either. 

I’d rather have a good kale shake instead of steak and eggs, for instance.  I drink more turmeric and ginger while some prefer good, old-fashioned sweet tea.  I like a dash of pepper on my tomato, while some may prefer it with a sprinkle of salt.  I give lots of praise and verbal appreciation to people because I like verbal assurances that I’m doing the job right, but maybe you don’t need so much affirmation.  You may like your behind blackened and blued while goofing off with friends, while I may prefer something a little less, um, impactful.

Since we are the sum of our lives’ experiences, we arrive with different sets of baggage—and they have to be carried and unpacked differently. 

So while it works well in theory—and we still should be respectful of everyone in general, we need to consider the less common and smaller nuances people have that create differences of personality, e.g., desires, thoughts, expectations. 

If you’ve been living by the other Golden Rule, it’s not that big of a stretch to simply try to understand another human being.  Since the human being I have most knowledge of is me, I’ll start there. Being an empath, it’s easier for me to see myself in a person, or rather, how I relate to what they are going through, and giving them what I would want. People tell me I’m a great listener, and I don’t give unsolicited advice.  When I have a problem, I may vent for a minute (or several), but then I’ll write my problems down in one of my many notebooks, and move on.  But lots of people I encounter are not like that.  They want to talk (and talk and talk and talk) over the same problem until it’s become much larger than it would be if I were facing the same one.  And that’s their truth.  It’s the way they tackle issues. Telling that person to write it down probably won’t help them much.  Empathy is a great place to begin in understanding someone else, but it needs to grow from there into connection on their level.

I tell people not to try to understand me (if they don’t already), because it’s just easier to accept me and go from that point. I know I’m a bit of an odd duck, and I’m not everyone’s cup of tea.  Try learning what is important to me, and why.  The best way to do this is to simply ask. 

So how do you get people to treat you the way you want instead of the way they want?  Keeping in mind this is my personal opinion, I believe the adage, “We teach people how to treat us by what we will allow.”  We grow up being trained, being taught how to treat others by watching how those around us treat other people.  Don’t berate yourself, and don’t allow others to do it.  I’m not saying you have to go to the mat with every person that says something off to you—you'll be at war all the time!  But the BLOCK links are probably close at hand for people online.  You have the option to not engage negativity you encounter as well.  But you have to respect yourself.  And how you treat others is a way to either gain respect, or lose it.  With me, it’s so much easier to lose my respect with how you approach me or how I see you approach others. 

I pay attention on social media to the people who troll others’ writings, who are always attacking others’ photos, videos, and blogs, who post spam links in groups, who pepper every photo on a person’s page with cut-and-paste flatteries.  And I also see, as I’m sure you do as well, those who are positive and always kind with words and “loves”.

I believe in Karma, albeit by another name, (the law of sowing and reaping) and I do believe people will receive what they put out eventually.  Don’t think for a moment I wouldn’t try to rush a person’s day of reckoning if they step out of line with me, especially in person.  But I give at least a moment to try to understand where they’re coming from.  Sure, some people are coming from a place of pure stupid, and those are cut off instantly.  It’s just another way I treat people the way they ask to be treated. I prefer the positive, but I sincerely believe in matching energy, even if it means I have to take off my earrings and shoes to do it.

Sunday, October 1, 2023

Changes are coming...

It's been a while since I have updated this blog. The summer garden is going downhill, but our Roma tomato patch and everything growing at the arched cattle panels simply refuse to succumb to my urge to start the Fall garden.

Sooo...what has Ernie been up to? Those who follow me on Youtube can see I have begun the gradual end-of-summer growing season descent into varied content. I'm showing more of the outdoor camera footage, and even some of our family group's livestock footage.

Some things will be changing on my Youtube channel. Those of you who happen to peek onto this page will get the news first. Like, Sunday Shoutouts will go from three channels a week to just one. And you know those giveaways I do? There'll be even more, including the random ones that I just wake up in the morning and do a random comment picker on the last video I published.

I will also do a few vlogs every now and again. A dear friend, Matthias Lenardt (also on Youtube under that moniker),has suggested I put my loosely-marbled mind out in front of a lens occasionally. I'm taking him up on that one.

I will also announce giveaways on this blog that I will not announce on Youtube. Entrants will receive a code word or phrase to enter in the comments of a specific video on Youtube. It's not an incentive to read a blog I rarely keep updated, but more a "thank you".

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