The draw of comfort: either be comfortable and die or get dirty and live

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Comfort is the nemesis of adventure. Life should be lived with your toes hanging over the edge— otherwise it’s just dying in a slow, boring way.

Toes over the edge

Remember toddlers? They ONLY have a sense of adventure. They don’t want to sit and they don’t want to wait and they don’t want to bother with silly social norms like spoons for applesauce.

But it changes by adulthood, doesn’t it? I have recently seen the alarming truth that by middle school comfort over adventure is already deeply ingrained. You see, we went on a field trip.

They took 5th graders to a farm and I was a chaperone. We got to see a whole ecosystem of life. There were cows and horses, ducks and sheep, fields and a fire pit. Now, I’m no stranger to the farm scene so maybe that’s why I smiled deep down into my soul when I stepped off the bus. There’s new life and provision and loving care and nature and bounty on a farm. I know it to be a magical place that we should all revere at least a little. Hey, if there were no farms there would be no McDonald’s. (Although some may debate that McDonald’s is almost purely chemical at this point. You get my gist anyway.)

horses on a farm

I was not a little horrified when I turned my contented face around to look at the kids throughout the trip. Some had their faces screwed up in disgust and covered their faces with their shirts or hands. Several had personal bags they carried with them full of a variety of snacks, electronics, hand sanitizer, and beauty products. Some complained about the amount of walking. At each new animal stall inevitably the same scenario played out again and again. Someone would be standing near the fence and something would happen (i.e. the animal would turn over, the wind would shift or something similarly benign) and someone would scream, “Ewww!” and would pull away in disgust. It even happened with the bunnies. A kid really screamed “Ewww” because of a bunny.

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This handsome kid jumped in and offered his thumb for the newborn calf, just days old, to suck on. Yes, it was slimy and gross. Yes, it was worth the experience. Yes, it was my kid.

These kids who missed the adventure because of the lack of comfort were not mine. But they are the future that my children will run the world with. Now it’s my turn to say “Ewww.” These kids all go to a good school that displays Christian values. I’ve known most of them for many years and they are really good kids. How could so many have turned to the blinding nature of comfort so easily and early?

 

 


I recently talked to a mom about the upcoming summer vacation. She told me that her daughter is expecting to spend the entire summer plugged in to some device and the mother was grieved because she knows it’s not good for a kid. I told her that we plan on spending several weeks and most every weekend at our cabin which has no service for TV, internet, or phone. When we’re there we are 100% unreachable unless we go into the library in town. There was a flicker of longing in this mom’s eye. She saw the adventure. She saw the pure unadulterated life that could be lived at such a place where you stay entertained with pitcher plants and frogs, mud and leaves, hammocks in the sunshine and a gentle breeze.

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We cooked up some foraged food last time we visited that magical place. Spring is great for treats growing in the woods.

“That would be great.” She said with almost a whisper. It seemed too impossible to ever hope for. We saw her daughter and the mom told her, “You should hear what they have planned for this summer.” I told her and her immediate response was:

“That sounds like the most horrible place ever!”

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Are you familiar with Fruit Ninja? Well, the kids used a hand-carved sword and some watermelon rind to make the live game. Very ninja-esk moves going on.

 

 

 

 


My own kids are not immune to the comfort creep. My own middle-schooler is starting to push back against our biking to school. “It’s too cold.” “I’m too tired.” “It takes too long.”

It is true that driving provides great climate control, minimal effort and in a shorter amount of time. But to every adult that feels the void left after becoming an adult to only focus on life we are told we should live—one with nice cars and drive-thrus and a high ratio of pre-made dinners—those adults know that throwing caution to the wind and riding a bike with the sun glaring down into your eyes and muscles aching from conquering “the hill” and wind whipping your hair around is life. Those feelings, those mean you are alive. It means that you can do and that you did do. We think that time is gone and we ache for our kids because they are seeming to miss those times you remember so distantly but fondly.

We all knew it as toddlers.

We lost it by middle school.

We miss what we’ve lost by adulthood.

abandoned skates

BUT NO MORE!!!!!!

Quit the comfort excuses and go out and do it. Walk in the woods with your kids and when you see a rotting log dig in it with your bare hands and see what you can find. It is not written anywhere that as an adult you are just destined to die as slowly as you can. We feel like we are told: “Don’t take risks, be cautious of every stranger, stay clear of germs.” Well don’t listen to ‘them.’ Germs build our immune system, 99% of strangers could be potential friends, and risks are what move us forward.

Jump into a pool even if you think it’ll be too cold. Better yet, jump in with your clothes still on. Have a food fight. Unplug the TV. Try to cut your own hair (you can always pay someone to fix it if you need to. First have an adventure with it.) What else do toddlers do? Stop in your tracks and admire every strange animal you come across, even if it’s an ugly, mean looking dog. Dance in the grocery store when that song you like comes on. Catch snowflakes or raindrops on your tongue. Stop and smell every flower. While you’re squatted down there, inspect the ants and disrupt their path and see how they react. Answer the phone with a British accent. Color outside the lines and in unconventional colors.

messy painting

Those are just the LITTLE things. Since we are now adults we can also do things like: Skydive. Buy an old-run down car and use YouTube to figure out how to fix it yourself. Bike to the store to buy three gallons of milk and then figure out how to get them home. When you’re driving home from church one day blow past the house and keep driving with no plan except to call into work for Monday. Think you have a chance to be the best in something and then go for it. Order the weirdest looking thing on the menu and then eat it—well, at least some of it—then tip the waiter 50%, just because this is life and life is meant to be lived. We can’t be the people we were created to be if we don’t ever do anything. So be generous, take risks on things and people, be willing, have your hands deep down in this life all the way up past your elbows in any and every way you feel even slightly inspired.

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Adventure means stepping out and getting dirty and stretching yourself to be more of who you were meant to be. We should not atrophy into a shadow form of our abilities.

 

 

 


I once said that I didn’t need special bike shorts to get outside and bike. Someone responded, “Those shorts are a necessity for me if I’m riding any length of time.” I get the point she was trying to make but, a fear of chaffing should not cripple your life. It’s just an example of a way we can let the desire to be comfortable creep in to steal away our lives. By all means, ride your bike with whatever clothes you have on and suffer the consequences of being adventurous. Chaffed. Dirty. Sore. Tired. Accomplished. Alive.

We naturally find ourselves finding our way to a more and more comfortable life. I implore you, do whatever you can to fight it.

Sombrero lady

Be weird

 

10 ways to answer that question

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The short answer is wanderlust. The long answer is a little more poetic.

Wait. Did I skip the question? Sorry. The question is there because we can’t keep from GOING. Every time I try to write a post, it ends up half written about the most recent trip. One was about a business trip where we tagged along with Mr. WW. Another was about spending weekends up at our cabin. Then there’s the most recent trip to two different countries in Africa. All while hauling around the kids. So after the realization that I have problems with finishing writing projects, I guess the question is– why?

Why don’t we sit and binge on a Netflix series like normal people?

Plus, aren’t we supposed to be frugal weirdos? (To take a name from the Frugalwoods.) How we do we justify spending the money it takes to always be going?

The long answer is this: We want to teach our kids life.

To not accept mediocrity. We need to realize that life has so much more to offer outside of our comfy couches.

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Real is always better than a screen.

To embrace the unknown with reckless abandon and by so doing breaking apart fears, stereotypes and anything holding you back.

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Mr. WW took a risk. Of course he bruised his tailbone a bit when he didn’t make it far enough but it was still worth it. Did you hear me? It was worth it. It’s okay if you get bruised along the way. Bruises heal but memories last a lifetime.

To realize that our freedom is to be cherished.

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When you regularly find yourself surrounded by people wanting to hear what you’ve experienced because they are not able to experience it yourself it gives you perspective.

To be okay without a set schedule. Life constantly does not go as you expect and that’s okay because we know how to go with the flow.

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At any moment adventure could knock on our door. Are you willing to make it work? One last minute adventure left me pushing my computer battery to it’s limit so I could work in the pool room several states away from my regular office.

To know that most of the time, “no” does not in fact mean “can’t.”

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You could find a lot of reasons to say “no” to going halfway around the world. People blame disease, cost, comfort, etc. to never travel anywhere more different than a park with costumed people wandering around in it. Sometimes you can ignore that “no” and get to meet gobs of boys and girls that all deserve to be princes and princesses.

To learn that pressing forward against the “no’s” in life is what brings growth. We’re talkin’ character. Knowledge. Experience. Respect even.

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It may not seem normal to talk to some people. Children are regularly told not to talk to adults, especially strangers. Sometimes it is highly edifying to let people with differing ages or backgrounds learn from each other. What better way to learn than to talk to strangers now and again?

To appreciate everything— from the fact that water lilies bloom after the pond lilies to the incredible blessing of being able to turn a tap and get water.

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How many living organisms do you think you could find in one square foot of a forest floor?

To learn how little we really need to do anything. We don’t need many changes of clothes. We don’t need a plan. We don’t need electronics. We make do with what we have when we get there.

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Bed? Who needs a bed?

To use the “make do with what we have” to build ingenuity. The ability to think around a problem is grossly underdeveloped these days. To always rely on the known to get through life is very boring.

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This go-kart wasn’t working. That’s okay! With a little people power things are still thumbs up!

To get dirty and know that dirt is okay.

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This jawbone lying in the woods may not be clean but how can you examine it properly if you don’t pick it up?

All of these things are learned by going out and doing.

All of the pictures I posted today are from our own adventures (and I have many more.) In trying to teach our kids about life, we’ve learned so much ourselves.

We have SO MUCH opportunity in life. Every day you could go and walk down your street and meet any number of people with compelling stories. Every day you can lay in the grass on your stomach in your very yard and contemplate the tiny ant or turn over and contemplate the cosmos. No matter your situation, no matter how many “no’s” you hear from others and from your own head, you can have grand adventures. EVERY DAY.

However, there is a catch. If you take these opportunities on your street it doesn’t take long for that to turn into a desire to meet people and ants outside of your street, your town, your country. Before long you’re hauling your kids to secluded waterfalls in the mountains.

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Sitting in a waterfall may not be common but it is much better than standing behind a guardrail because it is a location that is so popular. Thinking out of the box leads to more opportunities.

To villages where no one speaks your language (but everyone understands the universal language of a ball.)

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This village was not a scheduled stop but there were so many willing faces to meet. We stopped and there they were.

And pretty soon they learn to have the confidence to speak to and even teach those older than themselves.

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This is our son’s first time using an interpreter to communicate with an audience. He is leading a craft time. It was his idea to lead it himself. 

This is what it’s like to have wanderlust and I will not apologize. It is a wonderful thing to have. Next time I’ll post about the finances involved in having such a serious case of wanderlust– you may be surprised– if you are still sitting around to read it by the time it comes out.

Go. Have an adventure.

How to hug a friend– sometimes without touching them

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I was never much of a hugger when I was younger. I thought of physical touch as an invasion of personal space.

But I remember when the tide turned. It was after I was married and I was working at the Credit Union. I don’t remember who it was or why, but someone broke the touch barrier. I remember them putting their hand on my shoulder as they leaned from behind to help me with something. I remember thinking, “Wow, they’re touching me and it feels kinda nice. Like they are comfortable with me. And you know what? I’m comfortable with them too.”

welcome hug

(Note: There was the one guy who was infamous for his back rubs of the single ladies– it wasn’t him. I do remember that he wore great cologne. Really. Great. Cologne.  Note that single guys. Skip the Axe and buy good cologne– and don’t be weird and give back rubs to acquaintances.)

I’ve since learned how to kindly break that touch barrier myself. I’ve many times repeated the hand on the shoulder touch. I’ve perfected the “I’m trying to scoot around you and there’s not much space so I’ll touch my fingertips to your back to let you know I’m here.” I’ve jump hugged friends in their ecstasy and I’ve held friends while they sobbed in pain.

hug

But one of my very favorite hugs is the “you’re sick” hug. No, it’s not that I’m rejoicing in someone being ill. I’m also not talking about the supportive, “you found out you have cancer” or “you have a migraine” hug. I’m talking about a good ‘ole “you’re contagious” hug.

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Right. That’s why I love them. Because of your reaction right there.

No one gives “you’re contagious” hugs. But that’s the whole point.

When you’re sick you’re not feeling very lovable. You’re nose is red and/or your face is pale. You don’t feel like doing your hair or makeup and you wear only your comfiest clothes. You feel “blah” and “ick” and ugly on top of it. And then everyone avoids you. It adds insult to injury.

Everybody’s okay with it though. They understand how germs work and they don’t want to get their friends sick. I am the same way when I’m sick, but not when I’m healthy and a friend is ill.

I hug ‘em.

Call me weird, but I am willing to risk catching their germs in order to show that I’m supportive of them. I know that I may get sick. But I’m healthy and not afraid of the consequences. I know that germs will come (if not from this friend, from some random door knob or something) and I know that I may suffer for a time but I will conquer them because I’m a healthy person. I may as well catch the germs from supporting a person I love.

And because it’s so unexpected and at such a down time, it means so much more than a normal hug.

That’s what’s good about being healthy. It’s also what’s good about being financially healthy.

When you are at all financially healthy, you can take the risk and jump in bravely to risky situations. You can back your neighbor kid’s first foray into business by buying his lemonade supplies for him. You can lend your sister with no credit history the rest of the money to buy her first car. You can even buy the groceries of the old lady in front of you at the grocery store.

Will you lose money? Possibly. But it is good for you to take those risks.

Sure it’s good for that neighbor kid, that sister trying to get her first job that requires a car, that old lady on a fixed income, and that friend who’s achy with a horrible case of the sniffles. But it’s also good for you! The loss of income or the ability to breathe through your own nose for a time is a small price to pay for the feeling of human connection.

And then you build up immunity. Just as your body gets practice whippin’ those germs, you get practice on handling surprise expenses. You learn how to roll with the punches (to take a YNAB term) and you learn how to deal with the unplanned loss.

So if you’re not at a place where you are financially healthy right now, do what you can to get there! Open a savings for emergencies. Pay down that credit card. Cancel that cable. Drink that Vitamin C or do those sit ups.

When you are healthy you can do so much more—and you should!

Lifting hug

See, even if you’re not a hugger we can get that human connection. We can support and encourage others and it’s good for everyone involved to allow ourselves to suffer a little bit. We grow and improve and we do it together. So open yourself up. A little voluntary exposure ends up a win/win. Unless you’re a weird guy who gives back rubs. Um, no.

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/14915934@N07/5489480385″>Civil – Débora & Matías</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/34199510@N00/7400646728″>Hug</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/34176077@N02/6711933651″>BAM!</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/7284700@N06/2881031710″>Sick Me, Right Now</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

Do…n’t

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Have you ever thought about the perceptions of people these days? On one hand, it’s all the rage to be healthy. In order to be healthy the way the world tells you to today, you follow a list of don’ts. Don’t drink sugary drinks, don’t consume artificial sweeteners, don’t take in too much caffeine, don’t drink alcohol. Don’t, don’t, don’t. (And that’s just the drinks.)

Another popular perception is this “You Only Live Once” culture. It seems like they’d be opposite of the “don’t” crowd but somehow “do’s” are still not very popular among them. In this YOLO culture, apparently having only one life means that you should shell out money left and right in order for things to be done for you– but somehow you don’t actually “do” it.

  • Give someone else money for them to mix and bring you a drink. Or a meal. Or both. Over and over again day in and day out.
  • Give someone else money so you can sit and have your butt carted around on heated leather. (I think anyone wanting to have heated leather seats should first test drive a cow.)
  • Give someone else money so they can run around in front of you so you can feel alive yet sitting the whole time yourself. Only rising to your feet if they do something particularly exciting or to yell at the referee if he makes a call against the team you went in on paying for. “I paid to watch this team play because they entertain me and yet you were not nice to them! Why are you making my existence so miserable ref?! I only live once and I want my entertainers to be the best at everything and CERTAINLY not on the short end of the stick when other people show their humanness and make a mistake. Argh! How dare you!”

And after all that, how’s your one life? Let me tell you. It’s poor. It’s dependent on money and when the money is gone you can’t “live.” It’s also full of the opposite of “do.”

Do you know what “do” is the opposite of? Of course “don’t” but it’s also the opposite of “sit.” These YOLOers sit and don’t do anything but pay all their money for things to be done for them.

And the health nuts? They often shell out money too to “don’t.” For example, they “don’t” have gluten. Have you seen what the price for gluten free bread is?!

This is important. I am not against the health nut or the YOLO crowds. I just think they need a little dab of “do” ya.

An important synonym of “do” is “try.” Do enough “try’s” and you get some good solid “do’s”

Did you know you can be healthy just by following some do’s? It’s true! They are not as nearly as popular as the don’ts (don’t carbs, don’t fats, don’t meats, don’t cooks… don’t taste apparently) but they are there.

Did you know you can be very alive by doing? It’s also true! You’re bound to get some strange looks but I dare say that you can effectively gauge how well you are living life by the strange looks you get.

Here are some do’s to try:

  • Make ketchup. From scratch. Be lazy and leave in the seeds and skins. It. Is. Delicious.
  • Race your friend around the block. Laugh when you’re boot comes untied and you have to hop/tie for several feet so you don’t kill yourself. Give your friend a hard time about losing anyway when you beat them to the finish line.
  • Tell the sprouts growing on your kitchen counter how proud you are of them for growing so well and watch how true it is that talking to your plants makes them healthier.
  • Take the dare from your brother to go into the grocery store with a tie tied around your forehead like a ninja and ask the produce manager where the starfruits are so you can make yourself weapons.
  • Discover how edible those dandelions really are that are taking over your yard. The internet is always telling us. Try it out.
  • Go on a romantic bike ride with your significant other. In the rain. (I’ve done it. It was a blast.)
  • Play “Chopped” and, using only the ingredients found in your cabinets, make a gourmet meal. (My friend does this all the time and her children come up with great gluten free recipes. Yes, you read that right. Even kids can “do” without having to buy gluten “don’t” bread.)
  • Read. Read. Read. Reading covers all the “do”ing until you can actually get around to “do”ing it. You learn and you can live in just your brain. It’s awesome.
  • Raise chickens. (Eggstra points if you thank your chickens for how eggselent your omelets are every morning.)
  • Write personal thank you notes to everyone in your address book. By hand. Just for being your friends and family. You may think that for this one the advantage would be in their favor and not yours. You would be wrong.
  • Teach the neighbor kids how to garden.
  • Dance. In the shower. You can’t do many spins or kicks but everyone has their own unique “scrubbing away the dandruff” dance. Find yours.

That is a long list and I could go on and on and on and on. These things are free or nearly free yet all payout big time. They pay out in health and they pay out in life. Don’t be a “don’ter” be a “doer.”Golden energy
For the guy or gal
Whose had a hard hard day
Golden energy
To help you meet the demands
Of an energetic mate
Or a red hot date
Golden energy dripping down on you
Golden energy
Natural aphrodisiac
Golden energy
Working hard to keep yo...


And one more “do.” “Do” forgive me for all of the quotation marks and apostrophes. It looks like I pulled out all my eyelashes in a fit and threw them all over the screen. I’m sure they’re not all right either. Oh well, YOLO. I’m not gonna let it get me down. Now off to the produce section for some starfruit.

How did we get here? Part 2

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This is part 2 of a series. Find the first and second parts here and here (yeah I see I can’t count, you’ll see why when you visit those posts.) It is highly recommended that you read those parts first so you understand what’s up here.

The situation

After an encouraging time of exponential growth in his career, Mr. WW found that the plant that responsible for the growth was shutting down. We lived in Michigan and this was a plant that made auto parts and the automotive industry was in crisis. Remember that? If you live in Michigan you do. It crippled the entire state for a while.

It was not as discouraging a situation to us as it was to many of the other employees. Thankfully Mr. WW had good relationships with his superiors and had received many glowing letters of recommendation.

Not only is he great at many things, he is also confident and extremly handsome even when dressing goofy. When dared to out like this-- he did!

Not only is he great at many things, he is also confident and extremly handsome even when dressing goofy. When dared to out like this, he did– including steel toe work boots!

Yay! We have good options and this one is great for us!

His potential was further encouraged by the fact that the company was going to take a handful of employees on at their corporate office. We were not against moving the four hours south for such a job and we were told by both the plant manager and the HR rep that they had listed Mr. WW in the top of their recommendation list.

When the first person who went in for the interview for this job, he walked out of the meeting room with a big grin. The news quickly spread that the new plant was offering positions with much higher pay rates.

We waited expectantly for Mr. WW’s interview and were excited at the opportunity for the change as Mr. WW saw one after another the people coming from their interviews smiling.

But then the flow of people stopped. He curiously went to HR and asked if his interview would be soon. The response was not encouraging. “Um, yeah. I guess we can do that.” The interview itself was even more discouraging. The people interviewing for the new plant were totally disengaged. The interview was over with, “I’ll let you know” but sadly we had a good guess at what the outcome would be.

We found out later that the corporate office plant had strictly chosen the five with the most seniority and did not consider anything else. Mr. WW would not be asked to work for the corporate office plant.

That's cold corporate. Cold.

That’s cold corporate. Cold.

We have good options and something will come through!

Thankfully we had many other irons in the fire. Unfortunately there were not any jobs closer to us but the world was our oyster. Mr. WW used our newly acquired internet connection to our benefit and we carefully filled out applications and sent resumes waited to see where we would be accepted.

But we weren’t. One by one, even after promising phone interviews, we were not chosen. Time moved on and it came closer and closer to the final door closing date.

We can do this, maybe? Or no. Let’s go with no.

We had one other option. It made the LEAST sense. Many other people were jumping on this option because it was a good deal but it scared us. Due to some political moves that had been made, employees displaced by the plant closing could choose to get a paid two year degree and extended unemployment benefits for those two years.

It was not a good deal for Mr. WW because he did not have a good track record with school. It was bad enough that memories of school were full of bullies, there were also some serious shortcomings in the grades department.  He NEVER did well in school. Most of the years were spent in a special education class and he still struggled. Then after 6th grade he was supposed to do his learning at home but he made very little progress.

Going back to school was not something he wanted to do. He hadn’t been in a classroom environment in 10 years and when he was he was not good at it.

But we had little choice. I reassured him that I would help him with homework. I pointed out that we at least needed to try. That, although each phone interview went well, he obviously needed a little push to make him a more desirable employee.

“No, no, no!”… I guess “yes” it is?

So he headed to the community college and stood in line for a few hours with our two year old to register. Since it was a community college they did provide a basic test that showed he would have to take some remedial classes first, but he was signed up for the CAD/CAM program. So when the day came, he put on his backpack with his highlighters and #2 pencils and headed out for the hour and ten minute drive to the closest college.

What happened the next two years was jaw dropping.

For all except some basic re-typing, Mr. WW refused my help. He translated that drive and passion to school and he took it very seriously. He NEEDED to do it all himself and somehow he kept coming home with A’s. A papers turned into A tests, A tests let to A midterms and A finals and all of that turned into A final grades. He took hard classes and he aced them. Not only did he get his Associates in Applied Science he also got a certificate in manufacturing technology and another in advanced CAD/CAM and he even made huge strides toward becoming certified in welding as well. When all was said and done, his GPA was 3.98, he graduated the top of his class, was voted as most likely to succeed, and was respected by instructors and students alike.

It was an amazing thing to witness.

I shamefully admit that even I, his wife, never expected that outcome.

Not surprisingly, Mr. WW was a much more desirable candidate after the schooling. In less than a week out of college, Mr. WW had a job.

So what does it all mean?

So what’s the moral of this story? Probably something clichéy like, “don’t judge a book by its cover.” The interesting thing is that everyone who meets Mr. WW notices that he is special. But we had a hard time seeing it when it came to education. I told you that he was not good in (or even IN) regular school much of the time. As a kid he was perceived as dumb by many. Even now he still has terrible spelling.

In fact, how much did those years of school really help his value as an employee? Mr. WW did learn a lot during his college years but he didn’t learn much that he has used that he couldn’t have easily learned on the job later on. The more and more we see of the traditional education path the more we’re learning to doubt it.

If one of those hiring managers had given him a chance two years earlier without the degree, they could have had a good employee that much earlier. (Interestingly, this is what the last job had done, did you read part one yet?)

How about this: Mr. WW didn’t even stay at that job long. (That’s another great story but for another day.) When he moved on he became an engineer.

Signing the job offer-- yes, please company!

Signing the job offer– yes, please company!

He is an applications engineer and his job is to go to companies and, knowing the product inside and out, train employees how to use the machines to their company’s highest benefit. He now walks into many factories in North America and is immediately respected as the most knowledgeable guy for the process and efficiency of whatever they’re building.

This guy that they respect and trust with their company’s manufacturing power went from a 6th grade education level to engineer in just four years. Let that sink in.

This should be encouraging to everyone. Your potential is not as limited as you would think. (I crossed it out simply because it’s so important that I wanted you to go back and process it again. See, while you were wondering why it was crossed out, I tricked you to read it again. Gotcha! Here it is yet again: your potential is not as limited as you would think.)

We are currently finding this especially encouraging to us. Our son is a sweet kid with a kind heart and a desire to learn… and a learning process that is quite difficult. We often find ourselves getting discouraged by poor grades, by spelling tests that are failed, and handwriting that is often totally incomprehensible.

But then we sit back and realize that these are the same things that Mr. WW struggled with when he went to grade school.

He thought he was dumb back them.

Our son has an amazing amount of potential.

DSC00833

Also interesting to note: Apparently all 5 of the guys who were accepted by the corporate office were let go within a year and found themselves back in the unemployement line– but without the benefit option of the schooling. I don’t know what was up with that company but I like to think that they’re just stupid. Yep, who’s the dumb one now? ; )

How did we get here? Part 1b

Standard

It may surprise some people to know that we were NOT sitting so pretty a decade ago.

Our introductory post lists some things that make us wondrously weird; but those things were not just handed to us. We have some built in characteristics that have helped us. We have had some desires and thoughts that have worked for us. We’ve kept a Biblical view of our lives which has helped us a lot. We still had to go through a lot to get here.

Ten years ago we were two years into our marriage and still working out the kinks. We did know that we wanted to follow Biblical principals; and that meant that the responsibility for the family fell to Mr. Wondrously Weird and that the support of Mr. Wondrously Weird fell to Mrs. Wondrously Weird… me.

The Woman

I was 22 at the time and doing my best to be a supportive wife. I cleaned the house and did the laundry and made sure the house was stocked with edible things (even if I didn’t cook very well that that point.) Our budget had gotten pretty fancy. I had really learned to love Excel and had a spreadsheet that doubled as both registers for the accounts as well as a budget.

While Mr. WW worked second shift at a factory, I worked at the Credit Union helping others to dig out of debt by providing more debt. We rarely saw each other. I would sleep on the couch until Mr. WW got home from work but then we’d head to bed and I be up and gone in the morning before he ever woke up. But things wouldn’t be lasting that way for long.

Once you’ve been together two years, there’s lots of pressure from all around to have kids. And everyone knows the traditional family way: once you have kids the mom stays at home with them.

So I was working at socking away as much money as I could, while I could.

The situation

We had decided that we would try to have kids three years in. We had it carefully planned. At two years and 11 months my body had its own plan and got pregnant early. I got to tell Mr. WW that I was expecting the very day he had been rehearsing at work what to say to me to convince me that we should wait longer.

Those next few years were some of the craziest.

Mr. WW decided to start a huge remodeling project (since apparently a three bedroom home wasn’t big enough to house three people.)

He also, in an amazing feat of trust and perseverance, changed jobs to one that was more sustainable for raising a family. (If you haven’t read How did we get here Part 1—the first version—you really must. It’s Mr. WW’s version of events. It’s amazing.)

And I just practiced my “yes, dear”’s. Nothing made sense while we were going through it but I knew that my job was to be supportive and to grow a baby. So that’s what I did.

Don't I look SOOO happy?! Nothing says confidence like posting bad pictures of yourself on your blog for the whole world to see.

Don’t I look SOOO happy?! Nothing says confidence like posting bad pictures of yourself on your blog for the whole world to see.

The truth

I was getting ready to adjust to being a mother and a stay at home one at that. I don’t think I fully realized how hard things would be.

Sure, I knew that taking care of the baby would be hard work but I had no clue how hard it would be to be at home all day and not have the purpose that paid work gives you. No challenging mental tasks. No paycheck. No friends. No anywhere else but home.

Mr. WW was often working 16 hour days. I was home with the baby and (supposed to be) loving it.

You and me both brother, I mean, son.

You and me both brother, I mean, son.

But the baby had colic and on top of it he didn’t even like to be held. He screamed and screamed and I felt like a total failure. Mr. WW had seemed to figure out the path that he was supposed to be on and was making great strides and I was treading water like Leonardo DiCaprio in Titanic.

Let that sink in. (Bah-dum-bum. Wow, am I hilarious.)

So I took on a job. It wasn’t much, just a few nights a week I made pizzas and subs at the local deli.

It was quite opposite of my husband. I wasn’t driven. I was just bored and did what I was told. My truth was not so amazing as having a drive and a passion. I found purpose in faithfulness and reliability.

You see, I remained faithful and reliable to Mr. WW and his purpose. I did my best to not complain about his schedule. I asked him nightly about work and was genuinely interested in his stories.

I remained faithful and reliable to our son. If he needed something, I was there. I learned how to wait out the crying spells. I learned how to rock him while touching him as little as possible. Sure he smiled and laughed at the dog and at his toys, but not at me; but no matter how discouraging things were, I was there.

06-8-19Andrew and Spike cropped

I did the same at work. Was it a huge job? No. But I did it. I always made sure I went to work when scheduled and always went in if they were short when I could. And I didn’t do it for the paycheck. I didn’t do it because I was afraid that I’d lose my job if I didn’t. I just did it and did it as well as I could because I said I would.

It’s not all that sexy, does not seem all that amazing, but there are benefits. Let me tell you. Those benefits came in handy soon enough.

The change

Two years in Mr. WW discovered that his plant was closing. It was a huge problem and change for us (seriously, if you haven’t read the first part yet, you really should.)

All of the sudden it looked like I would be providing the sole income for the family. It’s not possible to support a family on a deli girl’s 2 day a week paycheck.

But don’t forget: we skipped two years there.

You see, after the first year of simply being faithful reliable I was asked if I could manage the deli. Then, after the second year I was asked if I could manage the finances of both the deli and the convenience store.

When the time came, I could easily work full time hours. In fact, my hours had already been bumped up with hours from work that I brought home.

I brought my work home because I did not stop doing everything I could to be reliable and faithful to our son. I was home as often as I could be even though I had a son that clearly was not all that interested in me anyway.

This picture was taken in front of my workplace. A huge group of riders was passing through and I was able to take our son to enjoy the horses.

This picture was taken in front of my workplace. A huge group of riders was passing through and I was able to take our son to enjoy the horses.

But I so clearly remember the day it happened. He was about 18 months old and we were building with blocks. I had been used to giving him space. I stayed on the outside and built towers on my own that he would come and knock down when he was ready. I was stacking blocks when all the sudden he came up behind me and gave me a hug.

It was quick. It returned to normal in a flash. But I will never forget the day my eldest finally decided to trust me with his love.

07-6-21 Mom and Andrew at home

And here was Mr. WW in a time of major transition. He had learned what it was like to use drive and passion to move forward but now there was nowhere forward to move on the current track. It had run out. The brakes had to be thrown and it was time to re-evaluate.

So I did what I always did. I supported him faithfully and reliably. I would not freak out. I would not demand that he go out there and do anything he wasn’t ready to do. So I sat and trusted him to make the right decision all the while letting him know in all the little ways I could that I would be behind the decision faithfully.

Was a scared? (Of course.) Did I think that it was possible that Mr. WW could make the wrong decision with what was really best for our lives? (It was 80% likely he’d make the wrong decision.) But no matter my feelings, I used my learned truth and just supported. He could do whatever he felt we needed to do and I would faithfully and reliably raise our son, work, and squeeze every last penny out of our budget with no complaints.

When it looked like college would be our only option (it takes out the possibility of making the wrong decision if there is only one option) I reassured him. I’d help. He would be fine and I would help him in any way I could.

We had both learned a lot along the way to get here and we were ready; but it looked like the next few years were going to be the scariest ones yet.

To be continued…

And it was continued here.

*Let it be known that our eldest son is now THE MOST touchy-feely “let-it-be-known,-I-love-you” boy I have ever known. He tells me he loves me at least twice a day. I know if he comes into the room because when he does he is rubbing my back. I have no clue what happened but that boy shows love, let me tell you. Interestingly he does not like anyone else to touch him (even a hand on a shoulder from a teacher is weird for him) but with me he no longer shies away from affection. In fact I have to bump up my natural affection levels just to keep up with him!

How did we get here? Part 1

Standard

I may surprise some people to know that we were NOT sitting so pretty a decade ago.

Our introductory post lists some things that make us wondrously weird; but those things were not just handed to us. We have some built in characteristics that have helped us. We have had some desires and thoughts that have worked for us. We’ve kept a Biblical view of our lives which has helped us a lot. We still had to go through a lot to get here.

Ten years ago we were two years into our marriage and still working out the kinks. We did know that we wanted to follow Biblical principals; and that meant that the responsibility for the family fell to Mr. Wondrously Weird.

The man

Mr. WW is a super handsome man with a beautiful tone deaf voice*, a confident presence, and a crazy amazing work ethic like no other… if I do say so myself. ; )

Bending over

He knows how to work!

*I found out later that as Mr. WW was reading this portion of my post he was singing along to my guitar playing. He got a little self-conscious… and then moved on thank goodness! I love when he sings!

Mr. WW worked second shift at a factory doing boring physical labor. (While I worked at the Credit Union helping others to dig out of debt by providing more debt. *sigh*) We rarely saw each other and, being together two years, we were getting the pressure from all around to have kids.

The situation

We had decided that we would try to have kids three years in. We had it carefully planned. At two years and 11 months my body had its own plan and got pregnant early. I got to tell Mr. WW that I was expecting the very day he had been rehearsing at work what to say to me to convince me that we should wait longer.

Those next nine months were some of the craziest months because it brought a few things to light.

Mr. WW decided that a three bedroom home wasn’t big enough to house three people. He tore apart the front of the house to make for ourselves another bedroom.

Demolishing the porch 6-15-04

This was obviously a testosterone driven desire to adequately house the family; but there was also the manly desire to adequately provide everything else for the family. It’s a good thing, but in our situation it left Mr. WW reeling.

You see, his job was one of the best paid jobs he could ever hope to have—and it was killing his body. The repetition of the job that he was doing wears out the wrists. It had gotten to the point where it hurt for him to drive his stick shift car (in his early twenties!) Whenever he used his hands to work on the house his wrists screamed in pain. A scream that said, “this is not a sustainable way of life.”

And we had a baby on the way.

I begged him to quit and get a job in fast food if that was what it would take. We’d live on love or some such nonsense. Let me tell you again: Mr. WW is one of the most devoted and hard-working men you will ever meet. He does NOT let up. When he is struggling to tie his shoes without crying in pain, you will say anything to make it stop.

So, in the midst of a tumultuous time of life, Mr. WW did the unthinkable. He applied for any job that he could that met two criteria, #1 It didn’t hurt his wrists, #2 It paid at least as much as what he was already making.

Why is this unthinkable? I already told you. He was already making as much as he could ever hope to make.

You see, Mr. WW didn’t even graduate high school. He had a homeschooling diploma but he had never done any schoolwork that surpassed about 7th grade. Also working against him was the fact that he could not spell. He could read adequately enough but if he ever had to put anything on paper it would immediately give away his lack of education. And we could not afford for him to go back to school for however long to get him caught up. We needed an income.

So in this situation it seemed that he was eternally destined to work a job that caused debilitating pain.

But he applied. He applied for jobs that required more seniority (Remember: small town. Most all of the jobs that paid anything decent where tied up in the area factory.) He applied for jobs that required college degrees. He applied for jobs that were way beyond what he was doing. And we prayed.

A job in maintenance, his best shot, was given to someone with less seniority than he had. Another job didn’t even bother calling Mr. WW for an interview. The job in CNC programming that was most unlikely because it required an associate’s degree and more seniority, led to an interview with a guy with one raised eyebrow. Later, we were to find out that that guy conducting the interview said that he put his job on the line in order to hire Mr. WW. But he did hire Mr. WW, with a short leash, and we were ecstatic and terrified at this opportunity.

It was then that our eyes were opened to an open but somehow hidden truth: Your life is not dependent on your circumstances. It is dependent on your drive and passion.

The truth

That situation revealed it for us. Suddenly NOTHING was out of reach. Mr. WW had that drive and passion. He struggled and worried the first few weeks. He would come home not knowing if he could ever adequately do the job but he’d go back to work the next day and try some more. Day after day. Push forward after push forward.

Then one day it didn’t seem so hard anymore. But is that the end of the story? NO! Because Mr. WW had learned that truth and he still had more drive and passion. He started learning about the next machine. Not because his boss said to. Not because it got him more money at the end of the week. He just had the drive and passion to do better.

And it didn’t stop with just work things either. There was a man who worked at this shop that was deaf. The people who worked with him naturally kept interactions with him to a minimal because it was difficult to communicate. Not Mr. WW.

I still can’t figure out to this day how that friendship worked. Mr. WW couldn’t sign and this man couldn’t speak or read lips– and neither man could spell!

But they became good friends with their odd form of charades and slips of paper not decipherable by any other human being. Although I knew some sign language and could spell, if this man ever came to the house I was dependent on Mr. WW to translate for me. Odd stuff right there.

This friendship led to Mr. WW as the obvious choice to learn his friend’s machine and be back-up for vacations and sick days. One after the other Mr. WW worked his way around the shop learning anything he could learn in the CNC business.

The next obvious choice should not have been a surprise but it was to us. The plant manager came up to him with a wink and a smile, “Keep an eye on the job posting board and apply for whatever you see there.”

In a few days a posting appeared looking for a floor supervisor. We were excited. This position came with a pay raise and was a perfect fit.

Mr. WW brought a copy of the posting home so I could help him put together a good resume and cover letter. Imagine his surprise when he went back to work to find the posting removed when all job postings were to be up for 7 days.

He went to the plant manager. “Sorry, no job openings right now. I can’t talk about it.”

We waited. No job postings. We waited some more. There was one posting: Mandatory plant-wide meeting.

The change

Mr. WW purposefully positioned himself in the back of the room during that meeting. He looked over the faces of his co-workers. Grown men were crying. This job was more than they could ask for too. But when a plant closes too many people are unemployed to have much hope. Plus, where else was there to go anyway in this small town?

All middle management positions were immediately done. (For example, if someone was the floor supervisor, he would no longer have a job.) The rest of the positions would work for about a year and then the doors would close for good.

There were so many emotions for the WW household. We were scared. We were confused. We were okay. It had been less than 2 years since our lesson. We hadn’t forgotten. Our life was not dependent on these circumstances, no matter how grim. We’d be fine. We had no idea what we’d do, but we’d be fine.

There were options.

  • #1 Go back to original plant that killed the wrists (um, no.)
  • #2 Take another different job in town (most likely would pay much less and I couldn’t stay home with our son.)
  • #3 Be picked by corporate to move downstate and work at the company’s main plant. (It meant moving but was a good job and Mr. WW was told by several people in management that when they were asked who should be taken, Mr. WW was high on the recommendation list.)
  • #4 Find a job elsewhere (also required moving as well as a whole new company.)
  • #5 Use the period of unemployment to go to college (um, have you been following along? How would college work if you’ve never been to high school?)

We prayed hard. Mr. WW prayed that God would shut the doors that He didn’t want us to pursue. That’s when things got even scarier. Opportunities seemed to evaporate before our eyes. Promising interviews called to cancel. No one from the corporate office ever even bothered to take a second look at Mr. WW. No matter the recommendations, they simply took the handful of people with the most seniority.

As the time eked closer and closer to the spigot being turned off for good with were left with one option—college.

A government program allowed those affected by the plant closing to get a two year degree with extended unemployment benefits. If no jobs became available, it appeared that we would be led down this very new and terrifyingly foreign option.

To be continued…

…And continued it was! Find my version of the above story here and the next part of Mr. WW’s story here.