Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Confessions of a World Class Yeller

I grew up in a house with yelling.

My mom was a yeller. When she was mad at my father, which seemed to be a daily occurrence, she yelled. It didn't matter if he was in the same room, or on the other side of our apartment, or out in the yard. If she was unhappy, everyone knew about it. The same went for us kids. If someone was upstairs, once we moved to our house, she would look at the ceiling and yell, as if she could see through the floor to who her anger was directed at.

My father was not a yeller. In fact, he was a very quiet man. Mostly he ignored my mother when she was mad at him, aside from the times that he would answer her back with snarky comments. All of the above just made my mother more upset. When she was done yelling, she would resort to stomping. Her stomping was accompanied by ranting. She would stomp around, ranting out loud at no one in particular until she felt she was finished, or she went to bed, but we all know who her rants were directed at. Mostly we just tried to stay out of her way.

The Boy™ grew up in a house with no yelling.

His parents not only didn't yell, they didn't fight in front of the children. "My parents never fought," was what he told me one day when we were having a heated disagreement and I threw out that married people fought and he was just going to have to get over it. The look on my face must've said everything because he stared at me for a good few minutes after that not saying anything. So he grew up, not only without yelling, but without learning how people resolved disagreements in a more healthy way.

Then we got married.

You always vow when you are growing up that you will not turn out to be like your parents, or do ________ (fill in whatever terrible thing they did here), but in the end, we are products of our environment and we learn what we know.

I became a yeller. I can't say that I am proud of that, but it is what it is. In my mind, I felt perfectly justified with my yelling. I yelled because I felt whatever I was yelling about was important. That because I had reached a level of frustration with whoever I was dealing with, and clearly they weren't listening to me, that I had to yell to get my point across. That if I didn't feel so passionately about whatever it was, I wouldn't have to yell, but I did, so it was OK.

It was not OK. I couldn't see it then, because I was too caught up in my own selfcenteredness to notice.

Just in the past few months, The Boy™ yelled at me for the first time, ever. After I got over the shock of it, because he is not a yeller (he doesn't even raise his voice when he's upset, which is hardly ever), I had a startling realization.

Being  yelled at feels lousy.

You would have thought that I would have remembered that from my childhood. You would have thought that years of having been yelled at myself, and knowing how rotten it makes you feel would have stayed with me into adulthood. You would have thought that as a result of that, I wouldn't be a yeller. You would have thought wrong.

Until that day, I had somehow forgotten what it was like to be on the receiving end. How small and awful it makes you feel when someone raises their voice at you. How disrespected and unloved you feel in that moment and the ones that follow. It was a very sobering experience.

I had already made a decision before that day that I needed to do less yelling. That it wasn't benefiting anyone, myself included. One day I yelled at Corey out of frustration and when I apologized for it he replied, "It's OK, I deserved it." I said to him in reply, "Your actions are frustrating me, but that doesn't mean you deserve to be yelled at." I realized that I had come a long way, but I still had a way to go. I don't think I have yelled since that day. I try to make a conscious effort to keep my voice level calm when I am feeling extremely frustrated, and if I feel like I am going to really lose it, I walk away for a while and take a break.

My hope is that I can teach my kids that there are better ways to handle your frustration then yelling. I pray that it's not too late.

Monday, July 29, 2013

As We Reach the End of July

I have always thought of July as the month that defines summer. We spend most of June in school, and August is spent getting ready to go back to school and finds us back before the month is over. July though, July is a whole glorious month free of school from start to finish. 31 entire days to relish in all there is to love about summer.

This July has been particularly fantastic, in my opinion. The weather has been hot and summer-like, as opposed to the cool rainy weather we have had in some years past. The sun has shone more days that it has not and it has been like a healing balm for my burdened soul. There has been a lot of complaining about the heat and the humidity, but not once did any such words come from my mouth. We have such a long, miserable cold season, that I truly relish an honest to goodness summer.

This year I have had the privilege of being able to be home and not work at the Blueberry Farm as I have in summers past. It came about due to a job I applied for back during the last week of June, which I just finally interviewed for last week. They are deciding about it after the last interviews are finished tomorrow and I'll know come Wednesday. It's a year round job in our district, and I would be starting 3 weeks from today. The process ended up taking a lot longer than was originally expected, which was how I came to not be working this summer. It was decided that I probably needed some time off anyhow, and it would be nice to spend some time with Corey before he heads off to college later on next month, so here I am. I have a little bit of guilt about where the money could be going to instead, but I'm really enjoying the break.

I have been reading, working in my gardens, writing, napping in our new hammock, working on my scrapbooks, knitting for tiny babies that are due in the fall, and enjoying my children. I have been running and taking walks after dinner and we went camping one weekend and to the beach early in the month and had a sweet 16 party for Ms. Thang and her friend who's birthdays are one day apart. I am trying to get back to a place where I feel better about life and my relationship and me. It's a slow process and I'm taking one day at a time. Some days are better than others. Most of the month I haven't been sleeping very well, and some stuff has come up in the last week and a half that has turned my world upside down, but I'm getting through it, and know that in the end all things work together for the good of those who are called according to His purpose. I have to keep reminding myself of that, it's HIS purpose, not what I want, or where I want to be. One day at a time, one foot in front of the other. I plan to make the most of the next 3 weeks, no matter where I might be going when I get to the end of them.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Mill at the End of the Street

Early Troy was a farming community, surrounded by forests with a river running through it. The forests led to small mills that manufactured wooden ware such as pails, clothes pins, bowls, wooden boxes and handles. At one time a potter and a brickyard thrived in town, and with the benefit of running water, came the establishment of a carding and fulling mill, and woolen and cotton fabric makers. In 1851, Thomas Goodall came to Troy with a big idea. He would open a mill that would manufacture fitted blankets for horses. In 1857 he opened what would later be called Troy Blanket Mills, right next to the river. In 1865, Barrett Ripley and others acquired the mill, and the Ripley family owned the mill until they declared bankruptcy in 2001. In it's early days they made horse blankets and employed 300 people. In their heyday they were making Troy Robes and linings for clothing such as Carhart and Levi Denim jackets. They employed 500 people around 1960 and began manufacturing items for the automobile industry. Due to declining markets and other financial troubles, Troy Mills declared bankruptcy in 2001. *info found here

We moved into our house over Labor Day weekend in 2001. Every weekday morning, at 7:15am  a whistle would blow from somewhere that I could hear from inside my house. I inquired about, as I already had the Town Hall next door, with it's hourly clock chimes, and emergency horn to contend with. I learned that the whistle came from the mill, and it alerted the workers that they were late to work. The whistle blew every morning until sometime in 2002, when it was silenced. Over the years several small companies have operated out of the empty mill building, and in 2008 plans were put into place to renovate the structure into a retirement community. There used to be a website found here, that gave information about what that would look like, and how the plans were coming along, but it has since been taken down. The building was gutted, the EPA came in and did a massive clean up, and then things went bad. Rumor has it there were some shady dealing between the contractor and the select-board that was in charge at the time, and presently there is a citizens group looking into this. Right now, the giant mill stands empty, save the pigeons that perch on it's many rooftops.

While I was researching the history of the mill, I stumbled across a link to 'Troy Robes' on eBay. Curious as to what those could be, I went and had a look. I wasn't sold on the fact that they were authentic Troy blankets, made at our mill, because I couldn't find one that had a tag that said Troy, NH on it anywhere. Then I discovered a seller who had an advertisement from sometime in the 50's that showed the blankets, and referred to them as Troy Robes. Awesome I thought, and I found a blanket in excellent condition for $38 that had just been listed with a 'buy it now' feature and scooped it up. Today I gave it a wash, and it's hanging outside in the shade of the maple trees in the backyard drying, less than a mile away from where it started it's life.

Monday, July 15, 2013

If I had 10,000 Hours

If you have never read Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell, I can't recommend it enough. A friend of mine asked if I  had read it, and I replied that no I hadn't, but I had read The Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon as a humorous retort being they both have very similar titles. She offered that she would read my book if I read hers and I readily agreed. I hit Google and read the review for Outliers and thought for sure she got the better deal. In fact, I was so sure, that I got my copy of The Outlander off the shelf and began reading it again for the 5th or 6th time.

Outliers is a book about the most brilliant, famous and successful people and what makes them so different. I'm about half way through and what I have read so far is fascinating. One thing that I found particularly interesting is the theory that it takes 10,000 hours of practice at any thing to become a master of it. That's roughly 416.6 days, if you were to go at whatever the thing was  you were doing non-stop. Let's consider that you have 3 hours a day to devote to whatever your passion is. I base this estimate on the number of hours I would love to devote to knitting in a perfect world. You might think, surely you could find 3 hours in any given day, and perhaps if I managed some of my time better, and the kids weren't involved with so many things, this could be a reality, but mostly, unless it's the dead of winter, or a vacation, it's not the case. If I devoted 3 hours to knitting every day, it would take me 3,333.3 days to reach 10,000 hours. That's 9 years and some odd number of weeks that I can't work out because I don't do math during summer break. 9 years to become a master at my craft. I have been knitting for 10 years, so if you consider that some days I have knit for more than 3 hours, and some days I have knit for 0 hours, maybe it has all evened out, and it could be said that I am a master knitter? I don't know.

So then I thought about the notion that if money were no object (have you seen this video, it's fantastic), I would stay home and write. I would renovate this little room that used to be a playroom for my children into the most comfortable kind of home office, and I would write. If I wrote for 5 hours a day, because let's be realistic, a lot of time spent writing is also time spent thinking, it would take 2,000 days to get to 10,000 hours. That's almost 5.5 years. I don't find that ridiculous to think about at all. Yet, if I were a bad writer, after 5.5 years of writing for 5 hours every single day, would I still be considered a master writer, or would I be a fool who's mastered the art of writing?

Monday, July 08, 2013

I've Lost Myself or Most of Me

I don't know who I am anymore.

I stood in the bathroom after my shower, staring at the reflection in the mirror. I took stock of the white hair that is gradually replacing the deep brown. I observed the creases that flank the edges of my tired eyes, and wondered when the last time was that I really smiled. I've never considered myself to be pretty, yet I considered what others see when they look at me now. Do they notice the sadness? Does my unhappiness wear like an accessory for the whole world to see?

These past few years have been full of struggle, and challenge. Heartache has met me at every turn, and I have fought to keep my head above water. Through it all, I have tried to focus on what was good. To still count my blessings and not get completely buried under the weight of everything that was broken and falling apart.

Or so I thought.

As I was preparing my lunch the other day, he turned from the family room, his voice raised and said, "Why are you so unhappy all the time?" He sat down in the chair, his back to me, slumped down, and pulled out his phone. I stood there, staring at the back of his head, speechless. Later, when I tried to give an answer, that had something to do with how little time he had spent with me over his days off and how we hadn't talked hardly at all, he answered back with, "I'm sorry you can't find anything to be happy about."

That wasn't true. I had plenty of things to be happy about. The sun had been out for a week or more. I've been able to spend some quality time with my son who's leaving for college in the fall lately. I've started running again. I took a nap in our new hammock the other evening. I had just about finished knitting a tiny sweater for a friend's new grand-baby. What was he talking about?

I've asked myself that question a lot over the past few days. Why AM I so unhappy? I could list a dozen things or more that are making me feel unhappy. All of them are things you have heard here before, so I won't list them again. What I didn't realize, was that I had fallen into a state of entitlement. Somehow, over all this time, I decided that I was entitled to be unhappy. Instead of really focusing on what was good, and enjoying life, I was dwelling on what was broken, and letting it consume me.

Proverbs 21:19 says, "It is better to dwell in the wilderness, than with a contentious and an angry woman." Yet, over the past year and a half, that is exactly what I have started to become. I spent so many years pretending that everything was fine, when it wasn't, that somehow I got this notion that I had to let it be known when things weren't OK. Instead of talking about it, however, which isn't his strong suit, and is often an exercise in frustration, I have been showing it.

Who wants to spend time with someone who appears to be miserable all the time? What do my kids think about their old mom, or the state of our relationship? These are the questions that haunt me at 2:30am when I can't sleep. I spent years watching my own mother walk around miserable and unhappy because my father didn't pay any attention to her, and I vowed I'd never be like her. Yet, here I am. It was a sobering realization.

I can't change him. It's not my job nor do I want it to be. What I can change is me. How I react to life, and to him. I can change my attitude and my outlook. I am a blessed daughter of the King, who has a lot to be thankful and happy about. I can be the best wife I know how, even if I'm feeling neglected and lonely. I can show my kids what a healthy relationship should look like so they don't fall into the same patterns I thought I never would. I can do the best that I can every day, and maybe, just maybe, begin to find myself again.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

On Surprises and the Unknown

I don't like surprises.

I am not the girl who's going to be happy to walk into a room and have her closest friends and family members jump out and yell surprise. You already know how I feel about large social gatherings. My mother-in-law was so upset that I didn't have a party to celebrate turning 30 that she went and told everyone that I was upset about the age and everyone shied away from even wishing me a happy birthday. I didn't have a problem turning 30. I just didn't want to have a party, because a party is not my idea of a good time. I would rather get together with a few of my closest friends and have lunch, or take a hike, or anything else that is not a party. Now imagine how I would feel if I was thrust into a party I didn't know about ahead of time. I have spent the last 2 years reminding my family that next year when I turn 40, they better not throw me a party, and I'm not even kidding.

For this same reason, I don't like amusement park rides either. I don't like not knowing what's coming around the next bend, or what's going to be lurking around the corner. I don't like when things on the side of the ride jump out and startle you, especially if it's in a dark enclosed place. I don't like fast, spinny rides either, or anything that swings or turns you upside down. So really, amusement parks are not my idea of a good time at all. What I loved about Disney was that there were so many non-thrill rides and activities to do in the parks. Disney understands that we are not all in it for the thrill, and sometimes people need to know what's around the river bend. For years I was convinced I never wanted to go, because it was just a really over priced amusement park, and I was glad to be proven wrong. I am not a thrill seeker.

Not knowing what is going to be happening job-wise in the fall, has had this same kind of effect on me. Well meaning friends tell me that everything is going to be fine, and it will all work out the way that it's meant to. I know all of that. I have complete faith that just as everything else in my life has worked out the way that it was supposed to, not the way that I wanted it to, this will as well. It's the unknown that I hate. Not sure of what I'll be doing, and who I will be working with. Unsure of how I will get there and having to depend on someone else to do so. I hate the whole idea of that the most. I'm trying to trust that it will all be OK, and not spend too much time and energy worrying about it, but it's not always easy. It's kind of just like a surprise, and I hate surprises.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Thoughts on Being Social

During the weeks leading up to a social gathering at my house, I clean like a mad woman. It’s not that my house is in a state of disarray, and needs a thorough cleaning, because I have a fairly involved weekly cleaning regimen. Cleaning gives me an outlet for all the nervous energy I have surrounding people being in my space. I wash walls and wipe baseboards while I think about all of the conversations I will have to be involved in. I vacuum rugs and sweep wood floors while I contemplate what sort of drama will erupt among various family members. I wash down the furniture, dust the knickknacks and organize the rest of it all while I stress about the weather, and if we will have to move our summer cookout indoors and what that means for my gluten free house.

If it’s not just a family gathering, my friend C arrives first, long before everyone else is scheduled to show up. She comes to catch up on how I've been, and fill me in on what’s going on in her life. She knows that I am going to be busy getting ready, and offers her help, even though she knows I am going to tell her that I don’t need any. She’s really there to sit on the stool in my kitchen and distract me. To ease me into the social interactions that are going to be taking place all afternoon that I will have to be a part of. It’s not that I don’t enjoy social interactions with people. I do, just on a small scale. I am perfectly happy to sit and talk with you for hours on the porch, or out in the backyard while we watch the birds play in the trees, or cars drive up and down the road. I may listen to you talk for a while, and not have anything to say, but that is because I need a break from all the talking.

 In a large group, I’m happy to just sit and listen. Small talk doesn't appeal to me, and I don’t really understand people who thrive on it. My SIL is a fantastic conversationalist. She asks the right questions that carry the conversation along, and draws people out and into discussion. Talking with her is a joy because I don’t feel like I have to do so much and it’s not as exhausting when it’s over. In my backyard, on the day of a summer cookout, there is too much going on. Too many conversations, and good natured bantering, and I don’t really want to be part of it. So often, I retreat to the company of my nieces. We play in the kiddie pool, or with summer toys, or I sit on my tree swing with one of them on my lap, and just swing and enjoy their company. They don’t demand anything more from me than to love them and to listen to their stories. Perfect, if you ask me.

When it all gets to be too much, I retreat into my kitchen under the guise of having to clean up. I realize that this breaks about 20 of Miss Manner’s rules of social etiquette, and I’m OK with that. In my own kitchen, alone with the dishes and my own thoughts, I can regroup and recharge so that I can go back out again in good time and rejoin the merrymaking. I still may not join in, but I can sit, and listen, and enjoy the company of my friends and family.