24 July, 2014

A Preacher's Grandson

I didn't grow up as a Minister's kid, I grew up as a Minister's Grandson.  As a kid I didn't truly appreciate the relationship I had with my Grandfather.  To me, he wasn't a Methodist minister, he was just Grandpa.  Grandpa was, to me, really far away during my first twelve or so years.  Of course, once I grew up and had a better grasp on the world, I realized Grandpa and Grandma were never more than a couple of hours away.  Still, as a kid, I didn't see him more than a few times a year.  About fifth grade, Grandpa and Grandma moved to "my town" and I got to see them quite often.  Again, I didn't appreciate the fact they were so close, but I did get to see them more often.  As I aged I learned that Grandpa had taught me many, many lessons.  Yet again, my youth prevented me from realizing how important he was to me.  I never had the chance to have any conversations with Grandpa as an adult.  He died when I was 17.  Much too soon.

I was forced to attend church when I was young and I hated it.  Chalk it up to youthful rebellion I guess.  I've always wondered if I may have liked going to church if it had been voluntary.  When Grandpa and Grandma moved to town, Grandpa took a position at my (more on that later) church as, if I'm remembering correctly, Pastor of Visitation.  He was essentially retired but being a minister was his calling and he intended to do it until he could no more.  He started his life as a minister in small country churches so there was a good dose of evangelical preacher in him.  He was so very good with people and had such a calming feeling about him.  He had a smile that wouldn't be forgotten, he wouldn't hesitate to take off his jacket, roll up his sleeves and help someone fix their lawn tractor (he was a farm boy at heart) and, basically, just be a good person.  I witnessed actions such as these quite often but had no clue that he was showing me how to be a good person.  I helped him deliver firewood to a lady who needed to heat her house, I helped him make wooden crosses for church functions, I went golfing with him where he taught me how to interact with strange people, also while golfing with him I learned that I could not expect people to pay for things all the time and I would have to earn my own way, he taught me that giving is better than receiving, he also taught me to be gracious when someone gave to me.  I had no clue that this was going on.  Forget for a minute that he was a minister.  To me he was just Grandpa.  In a mix of his day job and his family life, he married my parents and an aunt and uncle, he baptized me, all of my siblings and most of my cousins.  He also married my sister.  Then, as now, I didn't separate his day job as a minister to his role as my Grandpa.  Grandpa was a minister.  Period.  If he had remained a farmer he still would have had the same influence upon me.  As a minister he shared his lessons with an awful lot of people.  And I miss him dearly.

Some other things that further intertwine Grandpa's life and mine are related to our family history.  Grandpa's family had moved to my Dad's little village where Grandpa was minister of the Methodist church.  It's how my Mom and Dad met.  My immediate family has always had a fondness for this little village as it's a quaint little place where the sidewalks are rolled up at sundown, everyone knows everyone else and things are simple.  My Mom once told me that this village was special to her, not only because it's where she met my Dad, but because it was the longest her side of the family had stayed in one place.  From this village my Dad went off to the Navy and my Mom went off to college.  After this little village, Grandpa and Grandma (and my Aunt and Uncle) moved to what is now my hometown.  Grandpa presided over a Methodist church that no longer exists (sad, really.  It was located at what is now an useless parking lot) but supervised the building of the "new" Methodist church.  Grandpa and Grandma served at three other Methodist churches in the state before coming back to "my" church.  The one Grandpa had built.  I didn't, as usual, appreciate the significance of this event until it was too late.  The story of my life.  Regardless, Grandpa and Grandma were close and a big part of my life.

Even though Grandpa was a man of the cloth, I don't recall even one time where he forced religion on me.  Sure, there were quotes from the Bible at times, but they were reactionary to whatever situation seemed to apply.  Mostly it was woodworking, golfing, steam engine gatherings and the like.  When Grandpa came back to what I like to call "his" church, he had a secondary roll.  He knew it and the other members of the parish staff knew it.  Nobody ever pretended otherwise.  My confirmation classes (similar to catechism for you Catholics out there) were handled by another minister, himself a good man and good "preacher".  Though Grandpa had no direct input as to my confirmation proceedings, he was present during the final ceremony and that meant the world to me.  In those days even simple things such as confirmation were important enough to warrant professional photographers which, no surprise, resulted in very nice "class" photographs.  It warms my heart to look at my confirmation "class photo" and see my Grandpa there, familiar smile and all, with me.  Grandpa married my sister a few years later, but my confirmation was the only religious event pertaining to me, other than my baptism, that Grandpa was part of.  He was gone long before I even considered marriage, so I look back at my confirmation as something very dear to me because Grandpa was there.  Then things took a turn for the worse.

When I was 16/17 Grandpa came down with a cold he just couldn't shake.  I remember seeing him in his basement, which he remodelled all by himself by the way, on the couch, under a blanket and near the wood stove he liked so much.  Not long after that he was diagnosed as having a brain tumor.  The tumor was removed and he returned home to convalesce.  Basically, he returned home to die.  I recall it as being less than a year before he was gone.  Still, in his terminal state, he was teaching me lessons.  He showed me that not having any hair, having people help you out of bed to change bed pans etc. was nothing to be ashamed of.  Truly a marvelous and dignified man to the end.  Even as he was dying, he was showing me that it was possible to maintain ones dignity.

I remember the gray day that we buried Grandpa.  I don't recall the service but I remember the burial.  I didn't cry.  I did the crying much later in life when I had begun to realize how important he was to me.  It may seem callous, but I think he knew that I wouldn't have a complete grasp on what was happening.  He probably knew I was a dumb 17 year old.  What I'm left wondering is if he knew how his death would destroy what little religion I had.  It's sad that the one big issue I had with religion, couldn't be discussed with the one person who could have provided me with a solution.  Years after Grandpa's death I began to question faith and God.  I asked to no one in particular, "How could God take a man so dearly loved by not only his family, but his congregations; a man who devoted 40 years of his life to God, from us?"  The rubber stamp answer of "It's God's plan." didn't hold any weight and, in fact, every time I heard that statement I only became more angry.  I couldn't see why it was more important for God to call Grandpa "home" when he was needed by his family and his congregation so much.  It didn't add up and I was pissed off.  If a holy man would be snatched away for "God's plan" when he was needed among the living, I figured that the rest of us didn't amount to shit.  When these thoughts entered my conscience and I had time to process those thoughts, that's when I realized I was agnostic.  It was a revelation.

Realizing that I was an agnostic was like being released from a mental prison.  It was also a slight curse.  You see, Christians tend to equate agnostic with atheist.  That tended to drive me even further away from religion.  If a "Christian" couldn't take the time to even learn the definition of "agnostic", I had no time for them.  The very people who claimed to be Christians were showing that they didn't grasp the core values of what it means to be a Christian by not accepting someone like me as an agnostic.  Basically speaking, the only real difference between me, as an agnostic, and them as Christians is faith.  A good chunk of Christians believe what they're taught and that's the final word.  Me, I have faith in a higher power but I believe that such a thing cannot be proved in this plane of existence.  For me the only way to prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that there is a Heaven and Hell, is to die.  And I'm in no hurry to find out.  Christians have faith in an afterlife.  I, as an agnostic, have hope that there's an afterlife.  Big difference.  I do sincerely hope that there's an afterlife.  There's a lot of people who I didn't get much time with in this world that I would like to see when my time is up.  I would be told that I'm going straight to hell by some "Christians" because I haven't live by their favorite version of Christianity.  To be fair, I have seriously broken some of the Ten Commandments, but nobody is "pure".  When my time to die comes I may be face to face with St. Peter.  Or not.  Nobody can say for sure.  If I do see St. Peter at the Pearly Gates I hope to hear him give a favorable review of my life.  I'm sure he would wince at some points, but I think he would see that I've been living a good life as a good person.  My Grandpa taught me how.

21 July, 2014

Why I Don't Have Kids

I'm in my 40s, alone and have no children.  Society would seem to think that I'm weird.  Not so.  There are a few reasons that there aren't any "mini mes" in the world.  First, I'm too selfish.  Second, I there is nothing more irritating to me than the screams of a baby.  Lastly, I'm dysfunctional as a human.  Oh, and if I had a daughter, I would spoil her so much that any male she met would never compare to "Daddy".  Much to the detriment of any potential suitors. 

Though I don't have any offspring, I love my two nieces and four nephews to death.  I would do anything for them.  Specifically my youngest niece and nephew, who are brother and sister.  I don't favor those two for any specific reason other than I've become a better person during their, up to now, lifetimes.  My youngest niece, Gwen, mentioned to my Mom that she would like to have a certain doll cabinet from the American Girl catalog.  Well, Uncle Sling, being a woodworker, said "Heck, I can make that for you.  It will last a lot longer too!"  So I built Gwen a doll cabinet exactly as she wanted.  Well, almost.  She wanted it to be all pink and I couldn't bring myself to do that.  I went full-bore into that project and the joy I saw in Gwen's eyes was all the payment I needed.  Then her brother, Owen, made some mention of his interest in some of my woodworking.  Again, I went overboard and made something for him.  My intention was to build a toolbox and have the family purchase some tools to put in that toolbox.  A group Christmas present if you will.  That plan mostly came to fruition.  I built the toolbox and put some basic tools into it.  Owen is a rather reserved person and didn't exactly jump for joy when I presented him with his toolbox.  I knew that going in.  That was almost two years ago.  His Dad, my brother, has been living out of state for some years pursuing his goal of a decent pension for his family.  Therefore, Owen has taken on some responsibilities as "man of the house".  When my Mom moved into her current home I tasked Owen with lawn mowing duties.  I don't think he was too thrilled with the idea, but he took it as his duty.  I had over twenty years of lawn mowing duty.  It was time to pass it on.  Owen even gets paid for it.  I'm proud of him for that but what really impressed me was something he did this summer.  I heard from my Mom that Owen had taken his toolbox out to the yard to "fix the shed".  I have no clue what he did but I'm proud of him for doing what he though needed to be done.  And with the toolbox and tools I gave to him as a Christmas gift.  It makes me swell up with pride.  Owen and his Brother, Chad (I'll talk about Chad later) have have taken on responsibility of "men of the house" and have excelled at it.  I'm not being sexist mind you, it's just how it is.  I'm going to have a toolbox filled with tools for every one of my nieces and nephews.  The plan is to present them with their toolboxes (except for Owen who already has his) when they get their first home.  In the (hopefully) unlikely event that I expire before they have their first homes, I'll already have those toolboxes made and filled.  It's a bit morose perhaps, but I'm being realistic. 

Though I'm a different person now than I was twenty years ago, I don't regret my decision to not have children.  One of me is enough.  I'm chock full of bad habits and anxiety that I don't think should be continued.  If you're a regular reader of this blog, you'll have noticed that I'm not exactly capable of the simple act of maintaining a relationship with a woman.  I would, these days at least, like to think that I could be a good father, but I'm much too old.  It wouldn't be fair to the child to have such a short time with their father.  Although I would make the most of my time with them and, as previously mentioned, spoil the hell out of a daughter.  There's a hint of regret but, overall, I still feel I've made the right choice. 

13 July, 2014

What Is Attractive?

The insanely attractive Dr. Lucy Worsley

One thing I've learned as I've grown older is that the defintion of "attractive" has changed drastically.  When we're young, appearance is paramount to choosing our mates.  What we don't understand in those early years is that appearance is temporary.  Beauty is but a flash in the pan (bonus points if you know where that phrase originated) and fades rapidly as age increases.  Time will have its way with every single one of us regardless of how good plastic surgery is.  Sure, you can delay the aging process, but when you reach retirement age, that prior plastic surgery will make you look like a circus freak.  So why bother?  Plastic surgery certainly has its place when it comes to helping burn victims, those with birth defects and such.  But why waste the time and money simply to defer what is going to happen anyway?  There is, however a more important thing to consider.  Have you noticed what I've left out?

A relationship based on appearance alone is doomed to failure.  I guarantee it.  If you and your mate progress into the years where your appearance starts to fade, what do you have as a basis for your relationship?  Do you have common interests?  Are you able to have an intelligent conversation?  If you have neither, you're fucked.  You may as well start looking for a good divorce lawyer right now.  You don't necessarily need to have the exact same interests but you should be able to understand and appreciate your mate's passions.  You should be able to patiently listen as your mate talks about the miniscule things that get them excited.  Even if you don't understand what your mate is saying, you should, at least, acknowledge their passion for the subject.  Whatever they're talking about is important to them and you should acknowledge it. 

As an example I present Dr. Lucy Worsley.  She's smart, she's beautiful and that makes her, to me, insanely attractive.  She knows her subject matter inside-out and backwards.  I think that's hot.  She's the kind of woman I would love to converse with.  I may not be able to comprehend the subject matter, but I would most certainly be able to understand her passion for it.  She's the kind of woman I would want to spend the rest of my life with.  The best part is that things would work just fine the other way 'round.  She might have to listen to me as I blather on about the advantages of an N14 engine over an ISX engine. 

A person's appearance is our first attraction but it's only temporary.  People need to understand that fact or they're doomed to failure.

05 July, 2014

Tool Box Project: Measured Drawing and Materials List

Above is the measured drawing for the tool box project I have going on over at my Vimeo page which can be found here.  I don't have any CAD software nor do I have the desire to acquire some.  This drawing was done the old fashioned way, on a drafting board with pencil and paper.  Don't be critical as I only have a junior high drafting class to draw from.  That class was in the mid '80s so I, obviously, don't remember very much.  This drawing is not to scale, but it's close enough for what you need to know.  I am able to read the measurements just fine on my computer but if you are having a hard time seeing them, here are some general tips that should be fairly common to most browsers.  Right click the image and select "view image" from the pop-up menu which should display only the drawing.  Another tip is to press and hold the CTRL key then tap the + key to zoom in.  CTRL and - will zoom out.  Last tip is to save the image to  your computer and use the image viewing program of your choice.  I left out unnecessary things such as the hinges, handle, latches and the sledge feet.  Those details can be seen in the videos.

Some notes.  The tool box from the Woodwright's Shop is only 7" in depth and the front and back panels are 1/2" thick.  I changed some dimensions so as to not violate any copyrights.  The tool box we're building is considerably deeper and is made from 3/4" thick stock, which makes it quite heavy.  You may want to make a mock-up out of cardboard to get an idea of the finished size.  If you would like a less deep tool box simply purchase a 1"x8" or 1"x6" board instead of the 1"x10" called for in the materials list.  If you can find 1/2" thick stock for the front and back panels, go that route.  Stick with pine.  You may use hardwood if you wish, but it will add unnecessary weight to an already heavy tool box.  The box stores in my area don't sell 1/2" thick material in large enough pieces that can be used for this toolbox.  Obviously, if you have the tools and skills to thickness your own stock that is your choice.  The goal of this project is to show new woodworkers what can be made with a small kit of tools and "off the rack" materials.  I haven't built the tray which will fit inside the tool box as I haven't made up my mind how to go about it.  I have a few ideas but need to try them out before releasing a video of it. I am not including materials for the tray in the materials list.

Permissions.  You may use the above drawing for non-commercial (i.e. you don't make these toolboxes for sale or sell the drawing) uses.  School shops, non-profit organizations, woodworking forums, Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts etc. may replicate my drawing as much as they wish.  I simply ask that you do not profit from it and that credit is given to me.  It's a simple drawing but it took some time and effort to create it.  I also ask that a link to this blog post, or a print of this post, is made available with the drawing (I want people to see the additional notes I have written above). 

Materials List
  • 1 - 1"x12"x8' board (nominal)
  • 1 - 1"x10"x8' board (nominal)
  • Wood glue
  • 1- box 6d common nails (about 1 1/4" long.  Don't get finish nails, you need something with a head on it)
  • 2 - non-removable pin butt hinges (don't get hinges that are too small or too large)
  • 1 - metal handle
  • 2 - catches to hold the lid shut
  • 2 - 1/4"x 1 1/4" carriage bolts (to attach the handle.  Adjust bolt length to your handle)
  • 2 - 1/4" nuts (use lock nuts if you prefer them.  I dislike lock nuts)
  • Paint, polyurethane, lacquer, shellac or other finish of your choice.
  • 220 grit sandpaper.