Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Thanks, Dad, for the One Thing Needful!

"My son, hear the instruction of your father,
And do not forsake the law of your mother." 
~ Proverbs 1:8

When I was home for Dad's funeral, and we girls were looking at old pictures to get the boards ready, I realized I don't really have any pictures of Dad.   I mean, I have a few family pictures with him hidden behind all of us kids.   But not really any of just him.  Or very few anyway.   I mentioned to Mom before we left that I'd like to get some.  To which she promptly replied, "Oh, that reminds me.  I found this one you can have."

May 24, 1981

My Dad, Bud/Skip/John Eskew, raised me from when I was six.  As you can see from the photo, he was not a big man.  But when I was young, he seemed very big to me. 

He was a story teller, but not so much to us kids.  I can remember many times when we hosted a house full of company or some-such, he regaled the gathered friends with one or another story of his childhood in the streets of Seattle during the depression, or his days in the Navy.

But when we sisters were talking after he passed away, and during the time immediately preceding that, some of us expressed that we didn't really feel like we knew him well.  Our husbands all seem to know more about him than we do.  It makes me kind of sad that I somehow missed the opportunity to know more about him   His life.  His hopes and dreams, ideals and interests.

As I grew to adulthood, eventually and gradually the relationship with adults shifted from child/adult to adult/adult.  So too in the relationship with parents.  We grow from primarily a relationship of training, to one of a more advisory sort.  I left home when I was a young adult, 18 years old.  After that, I went home for visits, but never really long enough to finish the shift in this particular relationship.  I left when I was young and rebellious, full of pride and self-righteousness.  And that young adult sense that my parents were wrong about much that I knew better about.  That's all far behind me now.  However, as an adult, visiting home in my younger days, Dad was busy working.  And during later visits, I was busy with my kids.  And visiting Mom and my sisters.

Although Dad was a story-teller in larger gatherings, he was mostly a quiet kind of guy around the house.  He and I both enjoyed books, and so free time spent at home could often find the two of us sitting companionably in the same room with our noses in our books.  We'd share an occasional interchange about what each of us were reading at the time. 

Some of us sisters may not feel like we knew Dad that well.  We probably all wish we had asked him more questions or heard one more story.  We may wish we had had more time for sitting quietly and reading together.  Or taken time for more visits home. 

But when I look at this photo that Mom gave me, the one photo I have of Dad and me together, my Confirmation Day, it symbolizes all that is important in how we kids were raised. 
Train up a child in the way he should go, 
and when he is old he will not depart from it.
~ Proverbs 22:6
What this photo acknowledges to me is that our religious training was always the front and center of our upbringing.  Life wasn't perfect.  But we knew about sin and grace.  About God's righteous Law.  And about forgiveness.

I was a rebellious youth.   There were, understandably, difficulties as I grew up.  What child doesn't have a few hard times with parents.   Dad was raised, as he often said, by a combination of a spitfire granny, the Sisters in the Catholic Schools he attended, and the Naval hierarchy.  He was a tough man.  He had high standards.  I was obstinate and opinionated and argumentative with more than a healthy dose of drifty thrown in for good measure. 

But Dad stuck with it.  He brought me up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

That reminds me of a funny story.  One that typifies much of my childhood attitude.  At one point (actually at many points) I was grounded.  Grounded to my room under whatever terms were deemed appropriate.  On this particular occasion, I was ordered to find and make a list of Bible passages about children obeying parents.  I, in my rebellion, decided to instead find all the passages about parents loving children.   And being kind to them.

But guess what I found, ... not a whole lot.  I did find the passage quoted above, and I made full use of it by multiple underlines beneath the first half of the passage.

And you fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath,
but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. 
~Ephesians 4:6

I really, really wanted to stress the part about don't provoke your children to wrath.

But that's all I could find.  Just as my heart was obstinately refusing to be humbled, my notebook page stayed obstinately empty.  I found passages about parents being diligent in the training of their children.  I found many, many passages about children obeying parents. 

But only this one passage about any sort of parental kindness.

That verse, that one verse exhorting fathers to not exasperate their children, it dimmed in import when compared to all the multitude of passages about children obeying parents.

"What's with that?"  I was sure there must be a mistake.  I just wasn't finding them.  But they must be there.  There must be more passages about parents being kind and loving and forgiving to their children.  But search as I might, using my concordance, my catechism, my familiarity with Bible stories, I couldn't find anything.

Now I'm a parent.  Now I understand.  I understand the tenacious nature of sin in our hearts, and our constant need for correction and training.

I also understand the places in Scripture that refer to our Heavenly Father's eternal forgiveness of and compassion toward His children.  And how that example is also for earthly fathers.

Now, as a pastor's wife, and a mother of ten, I understand the over-arching importance of a Christian upbringing.  I appreciate the gift I was given in a faithful Christian upbringing.  Not just the moral training.  But more importantly, the awareness of what to do about our failure, our constant failure, to live up to the standards of that moral training, God's Law. 

"The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin."  
~ I John 1:7

And now, as a grieving daughter, I appreciate anew the eternal value of faith in Jesus; in His sacrificial death, in His righteous life, for us.  To clear our slate before God.  To give us His good works.  To allow us to stand before our Heavenly Father at the time of our death, and to hear Jesus say, 

"Come, you blessed of My Father, 
inherit the kingdom prepared for you 
from the foundation of the world."  
~ Matthew 25:34

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

One of those busy days around here, ...

Highlights of the day:

70 miles into Grand Forks for the girls to take their CNA test.  Yeah!  We have two Certified Nursing Assistants in the family. 

Looked at a few cars, but we decided time was too short for a decision.  Joe had much work to do here at home, and he's the wage earner so he's the one who would have to go to Grand Forks to sign the loan papers.

Decided we had to cancel Elsie's driver's test.  She didn't want to have to take it in the 14-passenger van.  Can't say I blame her. 

Hit a few thrift stores while we were in town, and rushed the 70 miles home to drop off the bigger girls.

The dentist in Fosston was kind enough to re-schedule Sophie's Thurs. appt for the end of his day today.  Drove the 30 miles that direction to find out it was a good thing we got her in before our trip, since she had an abscess behind a filling and had to have that baby tooth pulled.  He said we got it before it got really bad. 

Drove the 30 miles home to have Matt ask, "Can you drive me into Oklee to get antifreeze for my truck?"

Don't tell anyone, but, ... one of the "boons" of living where we do, ... I said to Joe, "Are you comfortable with Elsie going along with him.  He can drive into Oklee and out to where his truck is stopped.  But is it OK with you if she drives the van home with him following along behind?"

Sigh.  I really didn't want another 30 miles tonight. ...

Tomorrow's goals

Matt has Digikey interview in the morning. 

Hopefully, hopefully he'll hear from his fire team leader before we leave, that he's been cleared to miss drill this weekend in the Cities. 

Head to Grand Forks for snow tires, hopefully leaving by noon or before.

Head West!  I do love a road trip!  I always get that tickly excited feeling once we're on the road.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

The long dark tea-time of industrial stereotypes

My mind sometimes goes in strange places.  Yes, if you read my blog often, you probably already know that.  But I thought I'd warn you anyway. 

Joe and I really like the movie Joe vs the Volcano.  I, just because it's fun.  Joe, because he collects pop culture trivia like other people collect vinyl albums s or ceramic chickens.  He loves all the references in Joe vs the Volcano, to the old silent classic, Metropolis.  That's a little bit too academic for my movie viewing habits.  After sitting through many conversations with Joe and consequently also with others about the above movies, I can understand the connections between the two.  But even had I been previously familiar with Metropolis I can't say I would have noticed any of it on my own.

But give me a book and I can often find some strange and unusual connections between one book and another.  Sometimes obviously intentional, other times subtle enough it makes one wonder. 

Several years back, I was totally immersed in the fictional world of Stephanie Plum.  If you've been reading my blog that long, you already know this, too, since I blogged about little ideas, thoughts, excerpts, from those books quite often during that time. 

In the Janet Evanovich book, To the Nines, there is a description of industrial labor that reflects the same themes that the above movies highlight.  That kind of sickly green and gray, sea of industrial despond, lemmings following their company, trapped fatalism kind of mood. 

I have a friend who works for GM.  I don't really know or understand what he does except it has something to do with operating the machines that shape the metal parts for some part of some one or several cars.  But when he talks about his job, he periodically uses words like sheet metal stamping and die casting or trimming, or machine tooling.   Such words always conjure up for me industrial/work-a day wasteland stereotypes such as those in Joe vs. Volcano and Metropolis.

The following sections from To the Nines humorously describe this same mood.  Our heroine, the tenacious bond recovery agent, Stephanie Plum, is investigating the disappearance of Samuel Singh, an employee of TriBro Tech, maker of ... well, ... little things.  In order to get some answers, she fills in as a temporary replacement for Singh at TriBro.
    "I'm not even sure what you make here. "  
    "We make little things. Machine-tooled gears and locks. Singh's job primarily consisted of measuring minutia. Each part we supply must be perfect. The first day onboard you wouldn't be expected to know much." He reached for his phone and his mouth tipped into a small smile. "Let's see how good you are at bluffing. "
      Ten minutes later I was a genuine bogus TriBro employee, following after Andrew, learning about TriBro Tech. The gears and locks that composed the bulk of TriBro's product were made at workstations housed in a large warehouse-type facility adjoining the reception area and offices. The far end of the warehouse was divided off into a long room where the quality control work was done. Windows looked into the interior. In the entire facility there were no windows looking out. The quality control area consisted of a series of cubbies with built-in tables, shelves, and cabinets. The tables held an odd assortment of weights, measures, machine torture devices, and chemicals. A single worker occupied each of the tables. There were seven people in the quality control area. And there was one unoccupied table. Singh's table.
      Andrew introduced me to the area supervisor, Ann Klimmer, and returned to his office. Ann took me table by table and introduced me to the rest of the team. The women were in their thirties and forties. There were two men. One of the men was Asian. Singh would have gravitated to the Asian, I thought. But the women would warm to me faster.
      After the introductions and an overview lecture on the operation, I was partnered with Jane Locarelli. Jane looked like she'd just rolled off an embalming table. She was late forties, rail thin, and drained of color. Even her hair was faded. She spoke in a monotone, never making eye contact, her words slightly slurred as if the effort of speech was too much to manage.
      "I've worked here for thirty-one years, " she said. "I started working for the senior Cones. Right out of high school. "
      No wonder she looked like a walking cadaver. Thirty-one years under fluorescent lights, measuring and torturing little metal doohickeys. Jeez.
      Jane hitched herself up onto a stool and selected a small gear from a huge barrel of small gears. "We do two kinds of testing here. We do random testing of new product. " She sent me an apologetic grimace. "I'm afraid that's a little tedious. " She
displayed the gear she held in her hand. "And we test parts which have failed and been returned. That sort of testing is much more interesting. Unfortunately, today we're testing new product. "
      Jane carefully measured each part of the gear and examined it under a microscope for flaws. When she was done, she reached into the barrel and selected another gear. I had to bite back a groan. Two gears down. Three thousand gears to go.
      "I heard Singh didn't show up for work one day, " I said, going for casual curious. "Was he unhappy with the job?"
      "Not sure, " Jane said, concentrating on the new gear. "He wasn't very talkative. " After extensive measuring, she decided the gear was okay and went on to a third.
      "Would you like to try one?" she asked.
      "Sure. "
      She handed the gear over and showed me how to measure.
      "Looks good to me, " I said after doing the measuring thing.
      "No, " she said, "it's off on one side. See the little burr on the edge of the one cog?" Jane took the gear from me, filed the side, and measured again. "Maybe you should just watch a while longer, " she said.
      I watched Jane do four more gears and my eyes glazed over and some drool oozed from between my lips. I quietly slid from my stool and moved to the next cubicle.
      Dolly Freedman was also testing new gears. Dolly would drink some coffee and measure. Then she'd drink more coffee and perform another test. She was as thin and as pale as Jane, but not as lifeless. She was cranked on coffee. "This is such a b#%!t job, " Dolly said to me. She looked around. "Anyone watching?" she asked. Then she took a handful of gears and dumped them into the perfect gear bucket. "They looked good to me, " she said. Then she drank more coffee. 
After another page or two of questioning the employees, while making her way around the room, we return to Stephanie's Metropolis.
      I drifted over to Edgar's table mid-afternoon. Edgar was dropping acid on a small metal bar with threads at either end. One drop at a time. Drip, wait, and measure. Drip, wait, and measure. Drip, wait, and measure. There had to be a thousand bars waiting to be tortured. Nothing was happening. This job made watching grass grow look exciting.
      "We're testing a new alloy, " Edgar said.
       "This seems more interesting than the gear measuring. "
      "Only for the first two million bars. After that, it's pretty routine. "
I love the imagery.  From my writer's eye, this is great stuff.

start with the basics, ... "Machine-tooled gears and locks."

and this one, ... "Windows looked into the interior. In the entire facility there were no windows looking out."  Do we need to know that.  Nope, but it gets into a reader's brain.  Imagine a Vincent Price type voice, "No windows looking out."

and the description of the tools, ... "The tables held an odd assortment of weights, measures, machine torture devices, and chemicals."  Tools one might find in an interrogation room.  Tools that evoke images of pillory and thumbscrews.

then the description of what such an environment does to someone, "Jane looked like she'd just rolled off an embalming table. She was late forties, rail thin, and drained of color. Even her hair was faded. She spoke in a monotone, never making eye contact, her words slightly slurred as if the effort of speech was too much to manage."  And further, "No wonder she looked like a walking cadaver. Thirty-one years under fluorescent lights, measuring and torturing little metal doohickeys."  Remember the green lights in Joe vs the Volcano?  Forever "suck, suck, suck..." -ing the life out of the employees.

And this one.  This is probably my favorite, "I watched Jane do four more gears and my eyes glazed over and some drool oozed from between my lips. I quietly slid from my stool and moved to the next cubicle."

I know I get excited about strange things, but really, just the word combinations in those sentences.  After the drool oozed from her lips, she slid  from her chair.  When we finish the second sentence, we know she was simply getting up to do her investigating thing.  But at the beginning of the sentence, with the words, "I quietly slid from my chair," we wonder for an instant if Stephanie simply slid into a puddle of gelatinous goo on the floor of the plant, never to be seen or heard from again. 

So anyway, here's to you, Dave (and all who work in repetitious jobs.)  I really, really hope your work is not at all like this. 

I think probably most work is not.  I think any work might be.  But no work ought to be.  The image that life loses all value in the industrial or other repetitious setting is an atheistic fallacy.  A temptation of Satan to lead us to discontent or even despair.

Any God-given task that is repeated daily can feel monotonous, whether it's industrial, academic, agricultural, or maternal.  But all are of intrinsic value.  God places us in our many vocations to serve the people in our lives.  To be of service to them.  Ultimately, to share His Word of Salvation with them.  But more immediately, to help and serve them in whatever way we can. 

... Even when our vocational walls feel green and the fluorescent lights of our daily work seem to be sucking the life out of us.