Balance: Good memories and Bad

In my last post, I mentioned some difficult times growing up. I loved my mother, though not initially. One of the things my mother would say was that “you kids only remember the bad things, never the good.” and things of this nature. I grew up believing that most parents have said this, or variations of this at one time or another. I’ve also seen people turn against parents that I thought were wonderful. I’ve been surprised so many times, when people I felt had a great childhood, ended up vilifying their families, years after they moved out.

My childhood was very challenging. My marriage has highlighted numerous deficits in my being that I wasn’t aware of for 45+ years. One of these was that I found that I couldn’t touch appropriately. I learned that I had gotten along (not super, mind you), by mimicking the emotions called for in a particular setting, and, by understanding the responses girlfriends, and others, were looking for, and displaying them as needed. I also learned that I was an asshole. When I viewed a person as a threat, and the threat could be of a very innocuous nature, I payed a great deal of attention to that person, in that setting, and then, when that person was no longer viewed as a threat, I ignored them. So… this caused confusion. As I say, the threat could be silly by other peoples standards, so, they wouldn’t necessarily ever understand my focus, on the one hand, and then my lack of focus on the other.

One aspect of my being an asshole was that I didn’t really care about other people, myself, situations, or things, in the same manner that most people do. I don’t form attachments in the same way most people around me do. I thought that this made me a bad medic, and so I wanted nothing to do with it, and, for this reason I didn’t go active duty and shied away from a career as a nurse, first responder, paramedic, etc. Years later I discovered that this was, in fact, a great asset.

Before I continue on this convoluted line, let me go back to people who call out their parents, and families, when there seems to be no justification for it.

Some of my siblings might share some of my memories, but, I don’t think the youngest do at all, in fact, my mother became a good friend to my sisters, with one sister deeply mourning her passage and confiding that she considered our mother her best friend. My mother had ALOT of great strengths. Does that change anything for me? No. I have discovered that people like me are made, and not born. Once created, we cannot be uncreated.

In the touch aspect. My wife is blind, and, while I can mimic emotions on many levels, including facial and body, I cannot create convincing touch. I basically sought to find what she liked and duplicated it in response to signals she was giving me. Big mistake! She was communicating, and seeking communication from me, on a level that I simply didn’t have access to, and, for years I was utterly confused, and she was becoming frustrated and distraught. The signals I was responding to turned out to be irrelevant, just white noise. I actually can do better now, but, in part this is because she has explored who I was, and what I was able to offer, and, has come to recognize the part of me that tries, and forgives the failures, and seeks now, to reach me where I am. I also don’t try to pretend so much with her.

So yes. Situations that seem ideal from the outside are not necessarily so, and, sometimes the kids are simply stupid, spoiled, or not aware of how good they have it. For a long time, I thought that my parents hated me, and must have had reasons for doing so, so you end up thinking that they must be right and you really are worthy of peoples hate and scorn.

 

So where is the balance? Where are the good memories?

There are, in fact, not a lot of what I would call good memories. There are not even a lot of bad memories. Remembering is very emotionally charged, and, in remembering I still feel threatened, feeling the fight mechanism kicking in. Not the flight. I never ran, and it never comes to mind, in pretty much any situation, though, isolation, and avoidance of conflict are high priorities, however, once in conflict… I love it. This was one aspect of computer gaming that really grabbed me. I could play for endless hours just killing monsters, etc, and, when pvping, I would come back time and time again, long after team mates had quit in frustration. Though I wasn’t very good at it.

My memories were fairly neutral. It was just the way it was. Not necessarily good or bad, simply here was physical violence. There was yelling. There threats, their humiliation, and here gentleness, calmness, firmness, some caring. My mother, ultimately, was a practical woman who gave in to her rage and frustration, and, my father… Oy.

I had the opportunity to get to know my father when I was an adult, and I took it, several times. My mother used me as her confessor after I moved out. She wasn’t interested in my responses, or my opinions, she would just walk with me and tell me things. Nothing that had to do with “me”, or our relationship, just her life, her children, and her husband, and I wasn’t included in that “children” section.

In getting to know my father I realized that my mother chose a man who was very distant and self centered. It was simply who he was. It was there in her stories, and, in spending hours and hours with him, over a period of months, on three separated occasions, I saw what she was talking of. Is it “bad” to be self centered and distant? No more than its bad to be whatever I am, or what my mother was. What is bad are the choices we make, not who we are. I don’t see myself as bad, nor my mother, nor my father.

Being an asshole was something that was pointed out to me, and it was driven home by the change that I affected in some people around me.

I was working a barn conversion job, for a friend of mine. His crew was great. I really liked them, they were fun, talented, and close. One day, I was unnerved by their behavior, and, woken from my “dream” world. I asked Gunny why the crew no longer liked me, why they changed, and he said “Well… you are an asshole.” very matter of factly, then he brightened up and added “But you make the guys strong!” I decided I didn’t want to be an asshole, and, set about trying to discover what I was doing, and how to change it. 15 years later I’m not quite there yet, but I’m not as bad as I was.

These last 7 years I’ve tried to be a good husband. That’s been a journey and a half. My mom struggled to be a good mother. I know that at least one sister felt she achieved that with flying colors, and that was shared by others. She had particular problems with me, but I believe I am missing large pieces of the puzzle in understanding her anger towards me, and then her view of me as an adult, where I wasn’t really seen as her son, but something different. It was a view that was somewhat shared by my estranged father, who, liked me, some years ago, before he got remarried, but, when talking of “his children”, I wasn’t one of those either, in fact, with him, I often felt like I had to take the role of father, myself, or friend, or stranger, depending on the situation. I’m not sure about son, though I think he related to me as that on occasion as well, though he had difficulty connecting with my brother as well, so he may simply not have related well with his boys.

I don’t talk much here of scripture, but it has been a very big deal in my understanding my role in society. Family I am still working on. Though I am learning that everyone’s family is complicated. Ridiculously so, sometimes.

God Bless

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The Experiment

It has been just over two weeks since I quit playing video games. In terms of an addiction you might say that is very little, and not even an addiction at all, that it is more of a habit a time waster and a cash sink. Certainly it is all of that. For myself I would have also looked at all the “benefits” it has provided me over the years, that it ended years of nightmares, that it brought calmness, and soothing, and that it occupied me, and made me easier to live with. How much of that is true, and how much is justification?

I liked playing video games. I had some incredible online times, but the detriments have been great as well. A conversation I had with a brother in law helped to reinforce one side of a long waged, internal war, within me, that video games were very destructive. In that conversation he said that he had seen lives destroyed by these games. Destroyed. He didn’t mince words, and I respected him. I saw in him a path not taken, and we had similar enough, early life experiences (or unique psychological makeups) to see where I would have been had I taken that path, and, I was able to let go of some long held regrets.

I have served the Holy Spirit since I was very young, and, I have been there for others during some very dire circumstances, enduring years of abuse. I have been motivated by love even though I have long felt I didn’t truly understand what Love was. I have done a portion of hurt, and harm, and unintentional good. So I find myself in a similar end / mid game position to where I see my brother in law. My view. And I take his words, and I see our lives diverge. I have something in my life that needs to be gone. Family is chaotic, no matter what. We can be a good example, do our best to teach, etc but THEY can’t make US be what they want us to be anymore that the converse is true. What can we affect? Ourselves. Video games are a glaring weakness in my character. They do hold me back. How?

What would I do if I did not play video games?

In these last two weeks I have tended my garden almost every day, I have spent far more time with my wife, I have read my Bible almost every day, I have begun attending Church again, and I have spent more time sleeping, stretching, and otherwise helping my body recover from the brutal physical work I have subjected it to five days a week, 5 – 8 hours a day. During this time I have often felt the urge to play very often, and I resist. In the beginning it was far easier to resist, now, the pulls come stronger, but I have created more options, more things to do, an ongoing list of priorities, of things I actually WANT to do, that I wouldn’t be able to do if I were spending that time playing, and I have had the realization that the appetite to play is insatiable, that playing an hour a day, or a session, would never be enough. I’ve gone that route, of setting up a schedule and of pretending to keep it, and then… And then at some point I invent rewards, or rationals, that allow me to play whenever I wish and I find myself consumed once more. I can now say with certainty that I have a problem with this, that it isn’t like anything else I do in my life and I have played… ALOT.

I watch the urge to play, almost from afar. In quiet moments, I find scenes from past games laid upon my mind, I hear the siren song of a life with purpose. I am very susceptible to the offering of purpose, and games give you purpose by the numbers, endless purpose. As I say, as far as addictions go it is small, but, I can say that my brother in law is right, it is destructive. Period. For me, with my personality, and the responsibilities, and opportunities I have in my life, at this time, playing games means choosing between those things which I truly Want, and something which gives almost nothing, and, takes away much. I am highly competitive, and, giving in, even a little, means giving in to something utterly consuming, with no real reward, just the illusion of reward.

As I re-awaken to the world around me, I see that I must choose between the things that I want to do. The fiction that I lived in before was that gaming filled an emptiness, a void, that I was waiting, that when the time came to act, I would know it, but that, in the meantime, I was in a holding pattern and, since I enjoyed gaming, why not partake, it was as “real” as anything else, since everything was ephemeral anyways. I don’t have a void in my life. I never did. The truth is that I created a void in order to fill it with what I craved. Another truth is that life is not ephemeral, that sitting in my yard, with a cup of coffee, and a bowl of cereal, listening to the wind in the trees, judging the ripeness of the hanging fruits around me, and cataloging the work left to be done, and the trees I wish to plant, and the site of future additions, is far, far, superior, and valuable, than sitting in front of the computer in search of some orange weapon, or one more level, etc, etc. They are in no wise comparable, even should I pack everything up tomorrow and move on. One is a real world, and one is not. Climbing a rope in my back yard makes me stronger, running 10K in a game world and blowing up baddies to save the day actually harms me physically, isolates me, and saps me of motivation, among other things.

I once had 47 acres, and a beautiful house, friends, a community, a career, and a recognizable name, and it all went away. After this, after being lost, after drifting on the wind, it is easy to say “why bother?”. Everything I build I could lose. For years I told myself that the difference between life and games is that in games you at least knew it was temporary, but in life you believed the illusion that everything you did had some permanence. I think, though, that what it comes down to is character, and discipline, and the belief in God. And God is not a generality, able to be replaced with “something you deeply believe in”. I am a follower of the God of Abraham, Issac and Jacob, and the Father of Jesus. That is a statement. That is me. I am not out to convert the world, the world can do exactly as it wishes. My God even says this, if you want to go off and do your own thing, then do it. He won’t help you if you do but… hey, it is called free will for a reason. So if my God doesn’t feel the need to twist arms, then I certainly don’t, but I’d like others to know who I serve.

When I was a child, I was beaten a lot by my mother, pretty much every day, sometimes a great many times a day, with lots of other non physical crap thrown in. I was very lucky in that I blacked out just as the blows came, just before they landed, so I don’t have the memories of the beatings themselves, just of fists, or hands before my face, or, as a small child, of flying through the air, and of having a raging giant towering over me, bellowing. This continued until I was about eleven years old, after which she wasn’t able to hit my. I never struck her back, that I know of, but, when I was eleven I recall being there, not blacking out, as she backed me into a corner with a couple of stairs right behind me, and repeatedly kicked at me, over and over again, swinging leg after leg at me, and failing to connect. I was dodging her, and watching it all very dispassionately. I wasn’t afraid, or anxious, or anything. It was simply what was happening.

At one point she finally lost her balance and landed, hard, on her ass. And cried, loudly! Getting up, angrier than before she laid into me verbally, calling me a coward for not running away from home, telling me that I didn’t have the balls to even try to commit suicide, that after she was raped, the first time, as a child, she had at least tried to commit suicide by slashing her wrists and that I needed to remember to cut lengthwise, and not crosswise. After which she went to her chair and cried and cried, and cried saying, over and over that she was sorry, and I watched, still where I had been, with my back to those stairs, in our living room, watching her, and, knowing, that in awhile, the angry, hateful her would be back, that this tearful person in front of me was just another version of my mother, less powerful and more temporary than the angry one. And I was right.

What does all of this have to do with games, etc?

I did some good by taking those beatings, but I didn’t do it intentionally. Years later my brother would tell me, after my mother’s death, after  a strong denial that any of this happened, at all, that not only had it all happened, but that when my mother would go on her rampage, he, and my other 4, younger sisters (6 children in 7 years) would run and hide, mostly outside, and that I would remain behind and block the way, and he would hear the screaming, and the hitting, and that would happened pretty much every time.

When the hitting stopped, it became other types of abuse, and I was a pariah in my own family. When I finally moved out I was very thing, under 110 pounds at 5’8″ tall, and very messed up. I lived in places that were very violent, of my own accord, places that were very comfortable to me. To this day I prefer ex cons and gang bangers to “normal” people, though I know that, in those settings, violence is right around the corner, but, there, often, respect is far more intentional, and, there is little to no casual disrespect as there is in non violent settings, I feel that this is because disrespect is a very clear signal of intention, and that signal is one of impending violence.

In normal society, casual disrespect is the norm and it is about posturing, all this alpha and beta male bullshit that exists because people take for granted that violence is something they control, and dish out, as they deem fit, enforced by outside agencies such as police, and bosses, and lawyers, and their ability to lie, and dominate the theater of public opinion, and to violate the social lubricant we call politeness, and convention, gives them the right to act as they wish, without real repercussions. Violence is a real repercussion, in most of the world. It is currently suppressed, in America, to an extraordinary degree, with physical violence supplanted by public humiliation, and labeling. It is as though we live in an abusive household, run by a domineering woman. It is no more healthy that living in a household run by a drunk, wife, child beathing man, who relies on his physical stature to control his environment.

How does this relate to gaming?

Gaming was my self medication. And I over did it. I am an adult, which means that I can choose. Do I wish to live in the past? Do I wish to live in a virtual reality that has no real bearing on my life? Do I wish to squander my life? Or do I wish to embrace the love that I have, and to nurture it, and to recognize the Love my God has for me, and to see where He has put me, and to tend those things I care about, and to begin to recognize the opportunities that exist, and, to nurture hope, something I was long lacking.

The reason I say that we cannot do anything about our family is that I see in Genesis a lesson on parenting.

The Lord raised Adam and Eve. He provided them with the best environment possible. Paradise. He provided them with the best parent anyone could have. Himself. He gave them the best role model possible. Himself. And, he showed that, in every thing, a bit of evil must creep, and, in all of that, the children face that evil themselves. In this case, they failed, and, rather than punishment, they faced the natural consequences of their actions. He drove them from the garden, not to teach them a lesson, but because of what they would inevitably do. To prevent another wrong. He was a good parent to them. He had the ability to block their initial choice, but he didn’t. He had the ability to excise evil from the garden, but He didn’t. We can’t.

Next he gave his creations total free reign. No rules. Again, He allowed them to know Him, and He walked amoung them, and some excelled, but, the greater majority had such black hearts that He records His only regret (That He created them at all), and destroys all but one family with a flood.

Then He raises a people and, teaches them His ways, and gives them lessons and laws and has them spend 40 years wandering in the desert getting them to bend their necks to His statuettes and commandments. Still, they have problems, but we see some progress.

Lastly He sends His Son, and we enter a new phase. We have the Son as a mediator, and we have the Holy Spirit as a guide, as well as the teachings and the prophets, and we embark on a very personal relationship with our Master, in this life. We can choose to have a willing, or an unwilling partnership.

So I say, I look to my life, games are a barrier to where I want to be, they are a barrier to the love my wife has for me, to the opportunities present, but also a snare. At a very minimum, deep in my own desires, I cannot see the beauty around me. At a minimum, when I allow myself to be consumed by things unhealthy, I live in a fiction of my own making, that allows my to continue to justify my own destruction, and that impacts anyone who interacts with me. Especially those who love me, and those I love, in turn.

God Bless

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Hand Work

Here I am, a metal worker. Miller Dynasties, Miller Synchrowaves, $10,000 band saws,  30’+ weldments and machines everywhere and what do we do for days on end? grind, bevel, and painstakingly stitch welds one bead at a time. The faster MiG guns sit silently, it is just the Tig torches talking. As I was planning the brake patterns that would form the stainless steel drawers that would fill my new pelican case, it dawned on me that we are very much similar to modern day cabinet makers, building every thing by hand, and everything in steel.

We deal in 1000’s of an inch. We take warps and bends out with heat, or dollies and hammers, or, as in the case of some 10′ x 10′ steel doors, we throw them in the press, apply a fair amount of pressure, and run shrinkers with an oxy acetylene torch and rapidly cool with streams of air laden with water, till all is cool to the touch, and… viola! its straight again.

You block everything up, aluminum everywhere, and plan out your welds just so, and watch your heat like a hawk, but when layers of steel stack upon layers and layers, with angle iron, tubes, and sheets in the mix, all of varying thickness, the metal sometimes goes where it wants to go, and then you have to know how to make it all flat again. After all, some of this stuff is getting pressure tested, and other stuff is getting helium tested, and it all has to pass.

and then comes the grinding. Today was my first day actually grinding to a number. 64. 63, actually. 63 or below. RA (Rythmic Average). Its a gauge for surface texture and it is measureable. I hit an average of 29. 63 feels very smooth, 29 smoother still, and 8 (the lowest our gauge can register) feels like glass. Its not so bad, in fact, it was alot of fun, and I was vowing to (and succeeding!) in making my next frame even smoother, and in less time to boot. It was fascinating to discover how to make things smooth, quickly and efficiently. But, as I said, its all hand work. And it reminded me of planing, or of sanding timbers, and I keep thinking that if my current industry can thrive on the absolutely immense amount of handwork we do, why can’t the old wood trades?

We don’t actually charge alot for our work. Right now I make things for some big industries, and they pay some hefty fees for what we do, and if they didn’t pay us, they would, and do, pay others. There are alot of shops like ours out there, in fact, there are thousands and thousands of welders across this country, serving most of the current industries, either directly or indirectly, and some of the small, mom and pop operations do quite well. Like traditional timber framing, the capital investment doesn’t have to be huge: A decent bandsaw, maybe a cold saw or two, a good welder for each welder, a good set of benches, we have a variety of heavy top aluminum benches mixed with quite a few acorns, and alot of steel saw horses. Beyond that you need your grinders, consumables (like gas, grind products, welding rod / wire, gloves, etc.), an overhead crane, or rolling gantry, and possibly a fork truck or two (though its not mandatory for most of the smaller fab shops), and a brake press increases your versatility enormously.

Knowledge and skill, and ingenuity are your biggest assets, just as in the traditional crafts, and a willingness to work. Lately the realization that what I am doing now, is not, in fact that different than what I have done for most of my adult life has been inspiring me. And I have a wife now. Craft is far from dead in the country, and a great many people have made a good living doing it, and there is hope in that.

God bless, crazy world.

Timberbee

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Return to Anarchy Online

Today is a milestone for me. It is not because I am starting a new game, that today is different, special. It is an occasion because I am writing. I have had the desire to write since I was a young boy. Back then I wrote a great deal. I filled notebook, after notebook with stories. None of them very good, but most of them staying with me all these many decades later.

Two weeks ago I began something new. Instead of waking up at 4 am, to play video games for an hour before work, I woke up at 3, and wrote for 2 1/2 hours instead. For some, to be able to just sit and write, when ever the feeling strikes them is something which works, and, for such a long period of time, I thought it was what I needed to do. After all. I am simply sitting in front of my computer and writing, right now! And I will publish this post. There is very little question of that. 

Writing fiction, writing poetry is so different for me than writing, what is essentially, a journal entry. For fiction and poetry I need an image to blossom within me, and then I record what I see, and, tweak it a great deal. Writing guides, and responses, and journal entries is simply a matter of sitting down and typing, and, it often involves very little editing.

So, two weeks ago I discovered that my fiction writing responds very well to schedules and discipline. Though I cannot effectively write after I’ve worked all day. I need to write before I’ve done anything else, or, I need to dedicate all my time to writing.

For me, work is necessary. I wouldn’t do what I’m doing if not to pay the bills, if not to put food on my wife’s plate, and a roof over her head. My own food and shelter is not quite as important. Rather, it is more precise to say that doing well by my wife is an enormous motivation, and a much lesser motivation when it is just taking care of myself. 

Where I want to get with this is that we all have God, given talents. Of this I believe to my core. I once believed my talent was  as a timber framer, a hewer, a designer, and, it may well have been. But now I go to work and my soul screams, and, I play huge hours of video games to numb myself, and, that began while I was working as a timber framer, and it didn’t stop when I became a welder. And I enjoy welding. Pretty much just welding. I don’t really like many of the other tasks that come with welder / fabricator, but some of that dislike is just from a lack of familiarity. I am constantly learning so many new things, and, its always a stretch. 

I am learning to operate a press brake, use Auto Cad (not that bad), determine where to locate my bends, set up brake lines, keep things utterly flat, control my heat and manipulate my puddle, as well as piping (extremely challenging), and a few other things. 

Where the soul crushing comes in is that more and more, a part of me is wanting to write, and, up until recently, I have fought tooth and nail to keep it from doing just that. But last week, following the success of the week before, I took two days off to see what it would be like if I lived like a writer. How would that impact my relationship with my wife? How would that feel? Would this start to satisfy me, or would it be same old?

It was wonderful. 

I discovered that I love to write for my wife. Even though the story comes from its own place, and, I am true to the images I see, I love to read her what I’ve written, and, I love to describe things to her. I love to paint a picture in her mind, and, that is exactly what I need for myself as well. I need someone else to see what I see, to want to see in their mind, the same images that sprang forth in mine. And she does. She giggles like a girl when a scene pops, when the imagery is there her body reacts, and I can see her becoming drawn in. And she reads all the time. She is a great listener, and, she is not at all afraid to tell me what she thinks!

I am sick, but I like it. She shrieked at me the other day. We had a fight, and I lost my anger seconds after she left the room, and I couldn’t suppress a smile. I was only embarrassed that the neighbors may have heard us, but I like that my woman has gumption. Though I don’t want to encourage the yelling 🙂 None the less, I said, “Lord. I am a sick puppy.”

Then when I read my chapter to her, I saw one reason for that. She tells it like it is, good or bad, and I can take it. In fact, I want to her it. From her. So when I see her delighted, when I hear her say “yes!” I know she is reacting to what I’ve written, and, when I see her just sit there, or lay there, I know shes not being grabbed. and if she grumbles, something is going to come out. She reacts, and I found that that is… wonderful.

So we had a great weekend. We had a big blowup, followed by small seismic events, then, I wrote for two days, punctuated by walks, going out to eat, and late night drives. If it had been an utterly perfect, calm four days it wouldn’t have told me as much as it did. What it told me was that I can write well, even when things don’t seem to be going great, and, that we make a good team. 

My motivation isn’t that my wife doesn’t get upset. Its not that the boat doesn’t get rocked, that nothing distressing comes into my life. That no one stands three inches from my face and screams at the top of their lungs 🙂 I want to share something with her, more than simply paying the bills. I want to cultivate our lives all the time, not be away for 11 1/2 hours a day, 5 days a week, and come home tired and beaten, and drag myself off to my cave so I can do it again. 15 years of that, one. Stinking. Day. At. A. Time.

What I want is to become a writer. It won’t happen over night, but, if I give in, if I write 3 – 4 mornings a week (we go to a home church on Friday evenings, and, don’t really get done until about 2:30 am, at which time I take a few hours of shut eye, and then drive home), and if I make a post on this blog one evening a week, and I start to migrate towards lifting weights, or something physical, I am hoping to end the soul crushing aspect of my work and get on with life.

I feel like Jonah, and, I’m finally jumping in the water. I believe this is my God given talent, and, I’ve always counseled others to pursue their talents (not so much dreams), and have said that they wouldn’t truly have peace until they did that, so what about me?

It feels good.

Oh, and I have returned to Anarchy Online.

Timberbee 

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Metal or Wood

Today we chased down 1/16th of an inch. We were hanging one of four sheets, each roughly five feet by fourteen feet, 11 gauge stainless steel. Ceiling panels. The tolerances are tight — 10,000ths of an inch. Two beard hairs. Truly. A sheet of paper is roughly 3,000ths of an inch, and, my beard hairs are 5,000ths. Does it matter? In wood we often chased down a quarter, or an eighth of an inch, in layout. I’ve heard other wood workers brag about working in 64ths, but a 64th is pretty much nothing in something that checks and swells and shrinks, on a regular basis. Heck, honestly, an inch can disappear in wood. You might not think so, but in a large frame it might not be that big of a deal. Sheetrock, stone, wattle and daub, brick, wood paneling, the list is almost endless, and, all of those materials can be, and likely will be, made to fit whatever is going on in the structure. They are malleable.

I got tired of working to standards that only had meaning in the eye of the beholder, where very little was real, and most was posturing of one sort or another. Truth be told I was drifting, or, I would have cleaved to what mattered rather than cleaving to what didn’t. The posturing didn’t matter. There are people doing real things out there, beautiful things. In wood. In plaster. In stone, and in metal. In so many venues. I am in awe, often times, when I see some of what they are doing.

So this 1/16th of an inch we were chasing today, did it really matter? Yes. Metal is… very interesting. There is no room in this “ceiling”. The next sheet is a hair big, and its not a flat sheet. And it has holes in it that have to hit other holes, and, make other holes with the remaining ceiling panels, and, if we try and cram a sheet that is to big into a space that is just a little bit to small, without the ability to really bar it and control it as its being welded, then… well. Its going to go wild anyway. Poor design, I’m told. And I can see that. It is a pain from start to finish, but we are getting there, and, it will be ok when its done.

At 48, I’m almost the youngest guy on the crew, and, at the bottom regarding experience. some of these men have been doing this since I was 4 years old. Of each of these men, every single one of them says this is the worst design they’ve ever seen. But. But they can make it happen, and, when its completed, those who designed it, and contracted with us to have it built will see their dream made real and undoubtedly congratulate themselves, and perhaps even go on to have more of these built. As is. Its simply what happens no matter what field you are in.

I am almost happy. For me this structure is a God send, for its making my mentors dig deep, and I am learning how they solve problems! What I am learning, more than anything else is the practice of good welding, over simply producing a good bead. Heat control is so vital. As is getting things where you want them, and, where you NEED them to go. We have spent weeks positioning these sheets, tacking each one in place, getting each one right to allow the next one to be where it needs to be, and soon, we will start the seam welding, and that will take very little time. If we did everything correctly. If we didn’t, it will require a lot of straightening, and, if we didn’t, it will be a mess. As simple as that. So we chase down the 1/16th, and set to shear the next sheet.

Meanwhile. I had found the site of some friends in Plymouth, and found, rekindled, a fire that hadn’t quite died. Inside me smoke from peg shavings, the rough feel of wood chips below my feet, the feel of an axe in my hand, the press of a hewn face on my left hip. Its gentle in those memories, and those feelings.

I want a place of my own again. This time a metal shop and a forge. Scribe buildings, hewn from the round, plenty of wayne. I want those in my catalogue as well. And hills and trees and smoke in my life. We already cook by fire in the backyard. Plum and Apple and Russian Olive and some Catalpa. I want God there as well. I was ok, sometimes, but its not enough, living for yourself, or, occasionally doing something “nice” for others. In my Creator I find peace that I didn’t have before. I am a better worker, a better husband, and better to myself, as a result. I find that I want to do right by my wife. She deserves that, and, when things go south between us, I call on Him, and, that’s no small thing. We are so fical as human beings.

Where is this going?

There is an image that is forming. In that image is a house, land, quiet days, green days. The sound of an axe, or a hammer, laughter, the image of a smile, my wife! Love kindles in my heart, bursts into small, warming flames, fed by this gentleness. People with skilled hands, and human, soft, human hearts, around. Blue sky, doted with white, fluffy clouds, chill in the air. But it is ok. No skyscrapers, no corner offices, no endless processions of… whatever. All this chasing a better job, a bigger house, a cooler car, and squirting children out into the world with fevered dreams of procuring all of the above. What is wrong with a child wanting to be home, to do what their father did, or working beside a forge, or in a field, or surrounded by family of their own, for all the days of their lives? The wind is content to blow, the tree to wave, and the land to breathe. Lord, let me be the same.

Creation, or the world of man. The voice of the wind, the sighing, and the creak of the forest and the smell of the earth, or the beeping of cars, the smell of fumes and the endless crush of people. There is never enough in the city. Never.

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Got it!

Thank you, Father!
Its crazy. Three weeks of looking that amounted to wowing each lead welder I tested for, but failing to budge any of the hiring managers whatsoever, and I send out one resume in a flurry of three in response to a wife who is becoming over stressed but who was more frustrated at my own wavering, and, less than three hours later I have an interview. It is crazy. Its a good company. Every single person I dealt with today knows a heck of a lot more about welding than I do, including the General Manager, which, to me, is entirely as it should be.
The interview folded right into a full pen, 2G test on 1/2″ stainless (308), inspected every step of the way and soon off to be x-rayed, but they hired me. It was pretty much like a done deal even before I walked through the door. My weld seemed to come out like they expected, and I was straight up, and so were they and they wanted me. Plain and simple. Where every single other shop was divided, this one was unified, and oddly enough it was the single, best shop I tested for.

6G in three months. Do that and get a raise, and, they think it will be no issue for me, and they will help me get there, they even have a job starting Monday that will help fold me into the shop. Dang.

I finish my interview (The General manager also wanted to speak with me, a woman! Nice. I like to see women in this industry. I liked it in timber framing, and there were never enough. I not only have no problem with working with women, I think it often helps really temper a work place, and provide different insights. What is life without women?) So, I finish up my interview, and my test, talk with the Supervisor, and we are both straight forward with one another, and I really like that. Calm place, but so much skill. wow. I call up my recruiter and head over to his office. While I am there one of the associates comes over and shakes my hand and congratulates me. I tell him that the desire seems to be there but nothing is set yet. He gives me an odd look and departs. Meanwhile my recruiter is making a funny sound and says,
“well, um, I guess I didn’t tell you, they are just trying to come up with a dollar figure.” lol!
They were on the phone while I was driving over.

Shortly after I get home (I had to drop the car back off to the mechanics so they could finish putting it together. It had been in the shop but wasn’t finished in time for the interview so they hurried up and made it drivable). Well, my phone died on the way home (I NEED my Gps, and thankfully it died just as it was telling me that some miles ahead I needed to watch for an exit on the right. The rest of it I had to do myself and I did it! Didn’t get lost! lol )

By the time I got home and charged up my phone they had come up with a figure, which I accepted, then we hammered out a starting time and date. Monday! Its going to be a nice church service on Monday. Everyone was praying for us. Its nice to be able to deliver good news.
Thank you, Lord!
God bless, all
Tim

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Dawn

Craigs Colorado Sunset
Photo by Craig Boynton of MA

The Dawn is hours away. It was a sleepless night, but restful. We fall asleep to First John, and wake to Revelations. Revelations was never so peaceful. We were candlesticks, upon waking. It is a job interview this morning. It was to be a standard interview, with a skilled trade placement agency. I had done work for them before and they were so tickled to see my resume that they simply checked out the latest reference and sent it on with a strong recommendation. It was to be, but the young man was so bubbly. The turn around was almost instantaneous.
“Can we see him?”
“When?”
“Whenever, anytime except lunch.”
We planned. How long would the agency screening take. What would traffic be like. How long the drive between offices.
It is good to plan, it is good to talk.
This all came about because I was waiting, and I was tired of waiting because bills were mounting. Already. In just two weeks. It was a reminder that the pay from the company I had just left wasn’t going to cut it. The stress on my wife was building and I was trying to hear the Lord’s voice in all of this. It is as I told my wife. We were not in trouble. This was nothing. At the worst it would be a few weeks, maybe a month, we just have little margin before things get very tight, but compared to many we were still ok. Really seeking to listen and to follow now was a learning. An opportunity to know before any real test. When things are really bad, when it is life and death, when the choices before you seem insane and you have to lead people, or they die, then, then you want to KNOW. How can you lead if you yourself aren’t sure. If you don’t know. For if its false surety, you lead in circles at best.
I sent out three resumes. One came back in twenty minutes. This young man, and here he was, so tickled that within thirty minutes he got a strong response from this company, and here he was planning with me, and almost giggling, he was so happy. He had a good relationship with them, with the one I was to meet.
“You’ll like him.” he said. “I really enjoy talking to him.”

“Dang.” I say
“What’s wrong?” my wife asks.
“This company. They do pressure vessels, and 6G TIG.” I say, staring at the companies website.
“Is that bad?” she asks, concerned.
“No. Its exactly what I was looking for. Its just that I thought they were a run of the mill production facility.”
“Oh.” she laughs. I love that throaty, contented laugh. Its one of the things I live for. She had been so stressed when I spoke of doing whatever it took to pay the bills. Stressed as she had been she didn’t want to see me doing just anything, and getting “sidetracked”.

When I wake I have an idea for this story, so I go to my phone to take a picture, only, there is a message on my phone. How did I miss that? I had been so attentive of that phone lately. I who never answer it, use it only to take pictures of welds, wife and home, and to text her. It is off when I come home, except of late. And here is a message from a company I have been wanting to get into for the last two years. They want to talk with me. Fine. But I am ready to let them go. I had been asking the Lord, how can I know your voice. All my life I was led wordlessly. It is a knowing that is only six inches ahead of you. I had met those who hear, and, lately, I wanted that. I wasn’t as afraid any longer. Afraid I would be sent to some far off land, and live with spiders in some hole, or deep swamp. Why do we have these fears. I had lived worse.
Wherever I had gone, lately, Christians had abounded, and, there was always work to do. People to talk to. Ethics to adhere to. And, people to listen to. Bolstering others we ourselves are bolstered, but it has also been a journey of putting oneself out there. What do I believe, and then, being stripped bare. Do I live it? How much is crap, just words, and, there is always more to learn, but we aren’t disciples of one another. We are fellow travelers. Yes, I have my beliefs, and they are often in great conflict with other Christians, but, in general, I have less of a problem with them than they have with me, but, usually, their own love smooth’s the way. Rarely have I been utterly rejected and thrown to the curb because they cannot tolerate me. I lean heavily towards messianic (which is not apocalyptic, at all), and I view the Holy Spirit as absolutely essential. Scripture and Spirit, not one or the other.
It is like politics. Once you scrape aside the dogma, and get to the real person, with their own, unique story. Story. Life story. Scrap abortion, scrap gay marriage, and whatever current catch words are the flavor of the month, you get to their personal connection to those topics, and it will not, and cannot be the talking points. It will be names, and memories, and faces and occurrences. This is life. How can we hear the Lord’s voice if we cannot even touch the reality of our own experiences.
That is where I want to meet people.
So now I get ready. In an hour, now, I have been given another opportunity to go before someone and sell my services. I ask the Lord to help me make that sale, but also to use this as an opportunity to hear Him. One job or another, years from now the money will be spent, friends made, and lost, and work done and it will likely not have mattered all that much, other than those moment to moment events that exist no matter what, but connecting to your Maker… that matters to me, that will carry the day, make me a better husband, son and friend. That matters.
So now, it is Dawn.
Let us see what the day brings.
Thank you, Father.

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