Tag Archives: wife

Lessons We Learned from Our Kids

Parents teach their children valuable lessons to take with them through life.  Lessons about family and building relationships usually top the list, and countless hours are spent teaching, modelling, and reinforcing those lessons until they become embedded in the child.  Many parents turn to articles and books to guide them through the parenting maze, but even then, raising children is trial and error at best.  Teaching lessons that will carry children to success throughout their lives is not an easy task, but with perseverance, most parents succeed in giving their children the foundation and confidence they need to be successful in life.

However, life lessons are not just for kids.  Kids are quite adept at teaching their parents a few lessons of their own.  The first lesson, which parents are often oblivious to until too late, is kids are always in control.  Parents may think otherwise, but they are only deceiving themselves.  They are under the thumb of their children, and they remain there for a lifetime.  From an early age, kids sell the idea that “kids come first,” and “the world revolves around them.”  Since parents are more eager to please their children than their children are to please them, they buy into the “kids first” mentality hook, line, and sinker.  As a result, they are defenseless against being brainwashed.  They are at the mercy of master manipulators – their children.

My wife and I are no different; we were thoroughly brainwashed, manipulated, and trained by our three children.  They made us unwavering disciples of “our kids come first” and “our world revolves around our kids.”  In our home, there has never been any doubt who “ruled the roost” – the kids!   Our two sons and daughter taught us how to run errands for them at the drop of a hat and cater to their every need.  Their dear old mom slaved over a stove and oven eight hours a day to cook their favorite meals, and what did she get?  Turned up noses and squeals of “Ewww, there’s an onion in my potato salad;” “Gross there’s tomato pieces in the spaghetti sauce;” and “I’m not eating anything green.”  How that poor woman made it through the child bearing years only to be bushwhacked by kids with the palate of a McDonald’s junky, I will never know!  Nevertheless, like most parents, we were and are bound within a system of labor (service to our kids) for a fixed period of time (from birth to forever) in which our lives are exclusively the property of our children.  In fact, we have been named “Indentured Servants” of the year more than once since the births of our children.  However, if you ask my wife, she will tell you we would not have it any other way, especially now that our children are parents.

We are having the time of our lives watching our grandkids wrap our daughter and sons around their sticky little fingers.  Like us, our kids have become “Indentured Servants” to their children – baseball, softball, football, golf, cheerleading, band, show choir, church youth events, sleepovers, cooking their meals with special attention to personal diets and preferences, washing their clothes, money for movies, keys to the car, and waiting to 11:00 a.m. to cut the grass on Saturday morning so as not to interrupt the little darlings’ sleep are just a few of the concessions they along with countless other parents make for their children!  It’s all fun though, and when their children are thirty, our kids will most likely agree as well.  Our kids keep us smiling and young, and my wife and I would not change any of it for any treasure in this world. The good news is we are confident the lessons are not over.  With six grandchildren, we still have a lot to learn, but the grandkids will have to work hard if they expect to top the following list of lessons their parents taught us.

 Lessons We Learned from Our Three Kids

  • It is not wise to jump out of a swing backwards;
  • Dancing can break bones;
  • You really don’t want to know what the odor in your sons’ bedroom is;
  • Towel capes cannot make you fly, but they are good for cleaning up the blood before mom gets home;
  • One daughter is more than a match for two sons;
  • Sharpies will write on anything including floors, walls, and ceilings as well as act as the perfect touch-up paint for everything that does not need painting;
  • A clothes dryer does not make a good hamster’s wheel – RIP Herman;
  • Lost underpants during potty training means ransacking the house to find those underpants;
  • Boiled Easter eggs will spoil if kept under the bed until the following Easter;
  • Parents should be extra suspicious when their children are quite;
  • Do not drink after your kids;
  • “Uh oh” after the toilet flushes means “watch out,” but it is probably too late.

JL

©Jack Linton, April 20, 2017

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The One I Took for Granted

Yesterday, I watched a leaf dressed in orange, red, and yellow let go its hold of the mother tree and spin lazily to the ground.  A leaf,when green, I barely noticed.  Watching its descent, I marveled at the grace frozen in that simple moment.  No struggle, no effort to delay the journey, the leaf simply let go.  The green leaves whispered goodbyes as it danced downward pass them limb to limb before breaking free beneath the canopy.  It spun, dipped, and hovered over color clad siblings waiting in loose piles; piles until now I had barely noticed.  Settling, it lent its color to the harvest hues of others, and there it lay stirred only by the slowly dissipating murmurs of its brothers and sisters turned brown at the edges.  The leaf, when green, I barely noticed – the one I took for granted – closed its eyes and slept.

Today, I chose to stay glued to my cell phone while visiting with family.  There was nothing they were saying we wouldn’t talk about later.  Whatever special memories I might have made today could be made up tomorrow.  My family, I took for granted.  Today, I chose to go fishing with buddies and miss my daughter’s recital.  There would always be another I could go to later.  Whatever special memories I might have made today could be made up tomorrow.  My daughter, I took for granted.  Today, I failed to call my parents just to say I love you.  It was nothing I had not said a million times that I could not say later.  Whatever special memories I might have made today could be made up tomorrow.  My parents, I took for granted.  Today, I chose to be miserable and unthankful.  I felt like wallowing in self-pity; I could be thankful later.  Whatever special memories I might have made today could be made up tomorrow.  My life, I took for granted.  Unlike the leaf sleeping at journey’s end, I chose sleep as my journey.

Life is at its fullest when we live to make memories with those that matter.   When the leaf was green and full of life, I barely noticed it at all.  I missed it budding, the first time it celebrated the warmth of sunlight, its first taste of rain, and the spider that wove its web from its stem to the branch.  I took it for granted.  Not until, by chance, I caught the leaf’s last dance did I understand the finality of waiting for tomorrow – tomorrow can never replace the warmth and joy of the present.  The time to embrace family, friends, and even a leaf is before each becomes a memory.  As sad as it may be, candles often burn out before tomorrow.

JL

©Jack Linton, October 31, 2016

“But, Honey . . . .” and the Off the Grid $300 Chicken Egg

“But, honey, it is so much cheaper if we do it ourselves.”  Those words have sent more good men into bankruptcy, caused them to lose their religion, self-respect, and enthusiasm for life than any words in the history of mankind.  I know; my wife uses those words on me daily!  She is one of those poor souls who believe more than five minutes of idle time is a sin.  Her motor is always running at top speed; whereas, my motor is perpetually disengaged.  I love her, but that does not mean we are compatible.

If we lived on a farm where my wife could work in a garden, raise chickens, make her own soap, milk a cow, and slop a hog, she would be in heaven.  I also like farms, but I like to admire them from a distance.  Farms are hard work!  I have never lived on a farm, but my mama and daddy always had a garden, chickens, and every so often a couple of hogs penned in the back corner of our one acre, so I am acquainted with the constant work required to tend animals and gardens.  It is not that I am lazy, well that may be partly it, but the truth is I am a practical person and for me Corner Market is simply more practical and convenient.  For a fraction of the effort and cost (I’ll get to that later) it takes to be a DIY (do it yourself) person, I can stroll through the local grocery and pick all the peas, tomatoes, cabbage, peppers, and squash I please and not break a sweat.  I dare anyone to do that on a farm or a backyard “wanna be” farm!  At the grocery, I can open the cooler and grab a gallon of milk and never get caught fondling a cow, and I if I want eggs, they are stacked neatly in pastel colored cartons not far from the milk.  Why should I reach under a laying hen to retrieve eggs and get blood pecked out of the back of my hand when it is so much easier and painless to pick up a carton of eggs from the local grocer?

I know, I know, my wife says it daily around our house, “There is nothing better than fresh eggs.”  Although I am convinced it is more a personal preference than a statement of fact, there are apparently a lot of people, including the local grocer, who agree with her.  Right next to the Styrofoam cartons of snow white large, medium, and small eggs are brown cartons stamped with “organic” on the lid as if the word organic implies fresh.  If I remember correctly from my high school science classes, all eggs are organic, so I fail to see how eggs packaged in a brown carton are any more organic than eggs packaged in white, pink, and blue cartons, unless, maybe, they are counting the organic fibers in the extra dollar bills spent to purchase eggs in a brown carton.  Of course, you cannot convince my wife that the only difference between a brown organic egg and the spotless white supposedly non-organic egg is the money you pay and little else.  Personally, I don’t see anything wrong with the egg fetched from a sanitized environment where chickens are fed a controlled diet (at least as sanitized as you can get with a pooping machine like a chicken), but my wife insists the brown store bought organic egg or better yet the homegrown farm or backyard chicken egg is better for you and tastes better.  I have to admit backyard eggs do seem to taste better, but someone will have to educate me as to how an egg uprooted from under a backyard or barnyard chicken that scavenges for bugs and worms it finds under decaying wood and chicken poop can be the healthier choice?  Maybe, it’s a higher protein count – who knows, but I don’t get it!

My wife has yet to satisfactorily explain the organic thing to me, and when I get too hung up on that point, she drops into her sweet, honey, you don’t want to fight me too hard on this, voice (Husbands know that voice as “Back off Buster,” “Are you sure you want to go there,” or the dreaded, “Fine” followed by deafening silence).  When she knows or believes she is right, which is always, she draws a line in the chicken poop and dares me to cross it – I know better.  Nevertheless, along with the heart of a true environmentalist, she always has good intentions.

She wants to raise chickens and make her own soap, so we can get as far “off the grid” as possible.  What is the grid?  From my viewpoint, it is any modern convenience that mankind has spent thousands of years inventing to make life worthwhile such as electricity, pizza, and Girl Scout cookies, all of which my loving wife believes we can do without.  Not once, has she ever asked me if I wanted to get off the grid!  If it costs me money and extra work and means giving up my favorite processed foods, I do not, but I am just a husband, so what do I know.

My wife is consumed with the idea that doing something with your own hands is rewarding.  I have tried to be supportive of her in that area and encourage her to pursue whatever she likes or thinks might be fun.  The only thing I have asked in return is to be left out of her fun.  If I wanted to do something with my own hands, I would take up golf, bowling, origami, or throw away my remote and walk to the television to manually change channels.  I am more into rewarding my hands by allowing them to rest calmly and unstressed at my side, and I can do that best on the grid.

“But, honey, just think, we could have fried chicken with no worries about all the chemicals they feed commercial chickens.”  That is well and good, but not once in all the years that I have chopped down on a drumstick from KFC or Popeye’s have I ever worried about what the chicken ate before I ate it.  Besides, let me give you a quick lesson in raising chickens to put meat on the table – DON’T!  Unless you get a thrill from grabbing a living creature by the neck and twirling it violently until the neck snaps, repeatedly chasing the dog away from the flopping carcass, and consoling the children because you just killed Bitsy, my advice is to buy your grilling or frying chicken already packaged from the local grocer.  Also, never give a name to anything you may eat later, including chickens, pet rabbits, and obnoxious children.

“But honey, we could have fresh free eggs every morning for the rest of our lives.”  Fresh, I will concede.  Free?  Not even close!  From the day, my eldest son surprised his mama with two baby chicks for Easter, until now, seven chickens later, my wallet has been open.  “But honey, just think of all the free eggs we are getting.”  Again, I will concede that when our temperamental chickens decide to lay, we do get eggs, but they are not exactly free.  After building a 10 X 10 chicken house and pen, reinforcing it with new wire three times to keep the opossums and raccoons out, buying a trap for the smarter critters, all the accessories for feeding and drinking, a 50 pound sack of chicken feed every other week, flock blocks, etc., I figure I have, over the past three years, dropped the initial cost of $300.00 per dozen eggs down to about $29.95 per dozen.  Now when I hear, “But honey . . . ,” I weep.

Having chickens is a sacrifice, but it is a sacrifice that keeps my wife smiling.  The chickens are part of her master plan to get us “off the grid.”  She has this grand idea that we can grow our own food and eventually drastically reduce our use of electricity.  A lower food bill and electric bill would be nice.  The money saved would make me feel a little better about giving up satellite television.  I have written about the withdrawals I experienced giving up satellite television in a previous article, but for the sake of the chickens and my marriage, I GAVE ALL or I should say, I GAVE UP ALL!  It turned out she was right.  Other than football season, I have not missed the dozen decent channels, thirty-two shopping channels, cutesy animal channels, badminton channel, the radical conservative network, the conservative liberal network, liberal conservative network, rural farming network, eight romance channels all playing the same godforsaken background music, the Pat Boone channel, twenty channels for kids, at least ten news channels, and fifty music stations.  Not only have I not missed them, but the money I have saved has helped pay my chicken mortgage and pay for the new shoes I am constantly buying because we can’t get the chicken poo smell out of the shoes I bought the previous week.

As if chickens were not enough, my wife decided if we were going off the grid, we still had an obligation to each other to be clean, so she learned to make soap.  Also, she reasoned, eventually, we would need an alternate source of light for the evenings, so she learned how to make candles.  I must admit it was fun helping her research how to do those things.  At first we, she, looked at making old time lye soap by extracting lye from the ashes of burnt wood.  After a little study and watching several YouTube videos on the process, she decided we were not ready to get that deep into soap making, so she buys lye for her soap from the hardware store.  She has since learned the mixing temperatures of essential oils, fragrances, dyes, and goat’s milk to the point that she has soap making down to an art.  Her homemade soy candles are also a work of art; I never knew non-commercial candles would smell so nice.  However, the best part is that she sells some of her soap and candles, which is the part that makes me the happiest.  After all, it takes money to keep her chickens in the lifestyle they have become accustomed.

Happy Easter!

JL

©Jack Linton – March 27, 2016

A Shovel and My Wife: Sometimes it Pays to be Lucky

It is hard to believe it has been two years since I retired after 37 years as an educator. After the initial withdrawal questions that I am sure most retirees experience such as what was I thinking to quit a perfectly good job; what will they do without me; what will I do without the daily interactions with people on the job; how will we pay the bills; and what will I do with all this free time; I finally came to grips with being a “has been” and moved on to being a “whatever I what to be.” It took some time, but I came to realize there is more to life than a “perfectly good job” that requires 12 to 14 hour work days; I learned to accept they, the job, will get along just fine if not better without me; I still miss the job specific interactive discussions that led to disagreements as well as confirmations, and kept me on my toes as a professional educator, but I have not had a single parent or teacher complaint in two years and that makes retirement heaven in of itself; as for “paying the bills,” my wife’s and my careers have provided us with a comfortable retirement with enough to pay the bills, and to occasionally travel and spoil the grandkids, so what more could we ask for or need; and when it comes to “what to do with my time,” the answer is very simple – WHATEVER I WANT TO DO! I sleep late almost every day; I play my guitar and sing along with cats screeching and dogs howling in agony; I write songs so I don’t make a mess of other people’s work; and I write stories, poems, and articles that hopefully are readable attempts at making people smile and think. I have no delusions of literary greatness, so I write what I have always wanted to say with little regard for political correctness, who it offends, or what people might think of me. But, most of all, retirement has given me the freedom to simply lie in my hammock all day with a cold drink in my hand and a smile on my face and be absolutely “sorry” if I so choose.

It goes without saying, “I am lucky,” but I have worked hard my entire life to be “lucky.” However, hard work alone will not make a person happy (I am), wealthy (I am not), comfortable (I am) or even lucky (I most definitely am); the right people, the right situations, and the right opportunities are also factors that determine a person’s worth as well as a person’s success. I have been blessed to have had such people, situations, and opportunities in my life. Looking back over my career, the biggest reasons for any success I had were God, the people I worked with, my father, a shovel and my wife.

I strongly believe the reason I survived as an educator as long as I did was due in no small part to the patience and sense of humor of God and the people I worked with over the years. I am sure I gave both God and the people who supported me, as well as those rearguard mumbling geniuses who were never pleased with anything I did, a good chuckle on more than one occasion. Although I did not always make everyone happy, it was not for lack of trying. I have always prided myself on trying to do the right thing, but doing the right thing as you see it does not always make you the most popular or liked person around. Leadership does not come naturally for most people, and I was certainly no different; I made good decisions and I made some “bone head” decisions, but as a leader I made the final decisions. I always felt the buck stopped with me, so ultimately all decisions rested on my shoulders even when that sometimes meant standing alone. It was during those “stand alone” times that the humor and patience of God and the people who supported me meant the most. They stood by me while I learned – often the hard way – and they provided the wisdom to help me learn to laugh at myself and understand no matter what decision I made, in the end, it all turned out as God planned it.

However, when it came to my father’s contribution to my success, patience and humor were in short supply. He had a sense of humor and could be patient at times, but those were traits he rarely shared with me. Nevertheless, the straight forward work ethic he instilled in me was a major cornerstone of my career. Although I hold three college degrees, including a PhD, I came from a background where graduating high school and getting a job were the expectations. College was not financially a practical option. A man in my family was expected to graduate high school, get a job that paid a decent wage, and stay with that job until retirement or death to ensure a livelihood for his family. Missing work other than for severe personal illness or emergency family illness was not a consideration. Growing up, I was taught if you agreed to take a man’s money for a job, you were to give the man an honest day’s work for his money, and I was taught the time for quibbling over wages was before you agreed to take the job not once you were on the job. These were the expectations handed down by my grandfather who labored for Hercules, Inc. in Hattiesburg, Mississippi for 40 years and by my father who labored there for 38 years. Both men rarely missed a day of work, and because of their influence I am proud to say I missed less than 10 days of work in my 37 years as an educator. The work ethic I was taught growing up helped me as much as anything to have a successful career. I can still hear my father say, “Boy, you will sometimes meet a man who is smarter or more talented than you, but you should never meet a man who can outwork you.” He said the only man he feared was a smart man with a work ethic, and if such a man existed and had common sense to boot, you might as well say, “Yes sir, boss,” and move out of his way. According to my father, knowledge, hard work and common sense were all a man needed to climb a mountain. Looking back on my career, I would have to agree.

The fourth factor that influenced my career was a shovel. In fact, a shovel was the second biggest motivation I had for not following in my grandfather’s and father’s footsteps and going to work for Hercules after I finished high school. Actually, that is exactly what happened; I graduated high school in May 1971 and started to work at Hercules in June 1971. I couldn’t have been happier! I had worked a couple of part time jobs while in high school for about $1.35 per hour, so when Hercules offered me $2.50 per hour for a 40 hour week, I thought I had it made! Making a $100.00 weekly wage was more money than I had ever seen or dreamed of in my life. I would have probably retired from Hercules if not for a girlfriend who was a lot smarter and wiser than I was and a shovel stuck fast in Mississippi red clay.

My first week at Hercules, I spent unloading and stacking 55 gallon steel barrels (Thank God they were empty!). I am not sure how much each of those barrels weighed, but I can tell you rolling those barrels into place and stacking them in rolls a hundred feet or more long and five to six barrels high whipped a skinny 140 pound 17 year old’s butt! I have never been as tired in my life as I was at the end of a day stacking those 55 gallon steel drums. However, that $100 dollar paycheck dangling in front of my sweat blurred eyes kept me motivated. When at 7:00 a.m. Monday of the second week they handed me a shovel and told me and one other rookie to dig a ditch two feet wide by three feet deep around a group of storage tanks near the front of the plant, my motivation began to waver. It took us three days to dig that ditch, and then on the fourth day, the foreman told us to cover the ditch over; there had been a change of plans. Week three, the two of us were taken to the middle of the plant and assigned to dig a three foot wide by four foot deep ditch. We spent a week under the sweltering Mississippi sun with shovels and picks digging that ditch, or I should say, I spent a week digging that ditch since my partner spent the majority of his time leaning on his shovel, singing hymns and praying for deliverance from the trench he had appropriately named “Hell’s Door.” God must have heard his prayers because just before noon Friday of that week my shovel became wedged in a crack in the hardest, driest red clay I had ever seen in my life. I could not force the shovel deeper into the crack nor could I pull it out of the crack, so I grabbed the pick and commenced to hammer on the shovel head and claw at the dry clay to try to free it. About that time, the foreman over the job and an assistant stopped to check our progress. He said something about the heat and then he started choking, sputtering, and pointing to where my shovel was wedged in the clay. His assistant’s face went pale. He yelled something at me that I could not understand and jumped into the hole, grabbed me and literally lifted and threw me out of the ditch. After the two men caught their breath, they angrily scolded the two wide eyed, sweat drenched kids in front of them. It turned out the red clay my shovel was wedged in was not red clay at all. It was red concrete marking a high voltage electrical line just inches below the tip of my shovel. One more good whack with the pick against the shovel, and I most likely would not be here today. My partner quit that afternoon. I made it through the rest of the summer, but shortly after the red clay incident, I followed my girlfriend’s advice and enrolled in college for the fall. Although at the time I had no idea what it might be, I decided there were better ways to make a living. The Mississippi sun and that shovel wedged in red concrete were all the motivation I needed to look for something new.

Everything I have mentioned played a significant part in my career success. However, the biggest reason for any success I have had in my career or life came from the single most important person in my life – my high school sweetheart, my girlfriend, my wife. Without her, I would never have finished my undergraduate degree much less my doctoral degree. Without her belief in me, I would not have survived when so many others doubted me. She gave me the courage and motivation to keep moving forward when it would have been so easy for me to say, “To hell with the world; I quit!” She stood by me when I am sure it would have been easier for her to say, “To hell with you; I quit!” Without her, I would not have had a career, nor would I have had a life of any quality or worth. Without her, I wouldn’t have the three greatest kids a man could have. In fact, without her, I would probably be an old single guy frequenting church socials and local bars looking for love with blue haired ladies wearing pink skirts too short to hide cellulite and varicose veins. Thank the good Lord, my wife saved me from such a life. She helped me grow up, clean up, and rise up to meet life’s many challenges. Anyone who knows me and has also met her will attest to the fact that she is certainly more beautiful, intelligent, and unselfish than I deserve. A buddy once said after meeting her, “Wow! How did you manage that? You are so out of your league.” As I explained to him, it’s called luck, and sometimes it is better to be lucky than good looking, smart, wealthy, or charismatic. I may fall short in all those, but I am LUCKY, and luck has served me well.

JL

©Jack Linton, July 14, 2015