Pay attention. I am not kidding. Really.

Tag: odd

Odd #18: The Not-Quite-Right Amongst Us

photo of blackened electrical outlet

I promise it will all be made clear. Trust me.

You know how some kids get labeled early on? They’re either so obviously brilliant, they’re hailed as the next discoverer of something, maybe even something as amazing as penicillin. Or it’s the opposite; family members resign themselves to the unpleasant fact that this one might be an embarrassment to the whole clan, not to mention a drag on all of society.

But, of course, sometimes kids get labeled incorrectly. Einstein comes to mind. In fact, you’ve probably heard of or personally know someone who didn’t walk or talk on schedule who still turned out to be successful. Everything was pretty much okay their first few years and when it wasn’t, they decided to speak out about it: THEN they started talking. Or they were born uber-efficient; If others will bring me things, why should I crawl or walk to get them? They didn’t start walking till they wanted something no one would bring them.

An Unfortunate
Labeling Story

This is a true story, just so you know. And for once, I’m not the one learning the lesson the hard way. It’s about a dear friend, who shall remain nameless (his initials are B.O.B.), who did indeed learn a very jolting lesson in the hardest of ways.

When my friend was all of seven, his grandfather decided his grandson was old enough for his own knife and gave his grandson a penknife. Did I mention Grandpa did this without consulting Grandma or the parents of his grandchild to ensure they all agreed he was old enough to do only marginal damage with a small knife? Furthermore, Grandpa’s only instruction was: “Now don’t go sticking this in an electrical socket.”

The next day, after having had 24 hours to recover from his mysterious propulsion across his grandparents’ living room, my friend studied the blackened outlet he’d created. Paying attention to the rest of the room, he discovered there were four more! Would they all produce the same effect, or was it just THAT one, I wonder? Only one way to find out.

After regaining consciousness from his second propulsion across his grandparents’ living room, he overheard Grandpa say to Grandma, “Ruby, that boy AIN’T RIGHT!”

And he wasn’t. He was SO not-right. He was so far above not-right that he is now an eminent immunotoxicologist – one of handful in our nation. Yep. Definitely not your average kiddo. The makings of a beady-eyed, experimenting scientist were already in place at the ripe age of seven.

You’ve been paying attention; it sounds a bit like I’m bragging, doesn’t it? I am. Having no impressive credits of my own, I like to brag about my impressive friends, and I absolutely love throwing out long words like immunotoxicologist just to watch people’s faces. I especially like knowing his humble beginnings.

Is there a pay-attention point
to this bald-faced bragging?

Of course: it’s hard to predict where sticking a knife into an electrical socket or any number of other, not-right behaviors will propel a child. Could be just an embarrassing toss across a room and a lifetime of similarly self-defeating behaviors – OR a preview of the child’s propulsion into an exciting profession that benefits thousands.

You just never know.

So spend a little more time and effort paying attention to and encouraging the young ones around you, ESPECIALLY the not-quite-right ones. If they end up like my friend you, too, could have some fairly impressive bragging rights. Then you can do what I do: exercise your bragging rights to liven things up a bit at dull parties. (This one is one of my best stories, always getting plenty of laughs. Sometimes I reveal my friend’s identity, and sometimes I practice discretion. It’s a judgment call, you know.) 

©2016, Teresa Bennett

red box with white text: ”As he was a late talker, his [Albert Einstein’s] parents were worried. At last, at the supper table one night, he broke his silence to say, 'The soup is too hot.' Greatly relieved, his parents asked why he had never said a word before. Albert replied, 'Because up to now everything was in order.'" – Otto Neugebauer

(Neugebauer is a mathematics historian.)

Odd #17, Part 2: The Gene Pool

photo of indoor pool with "shallow end" clearly marked

Should be, “Danger! Danger! Danger! Danger!

(If you haven’t read
Odd #17, Part 1, do it.
Otherwise, this Part 2 post
won’t make much sense.)

You know how it is. Families get used to the not-quite-right characters in their midst. They doggedly resign themselves to hunkering down and soldiering on through each embarrassing episode. People who marry into said families, though, are seldom forewarned and, thus, totally unprepared for such unflappable hunkering.

In our case, it wasn’t premeditated, as in “Let’s not tell her fiancé about Great Uncle Kenneth.” Really, no one even thought of it, until it was too late. And my unsuspecting fiancé didn’t think to ask as we were dating, “Now, there are no blatant eccentricities in your family, are there?”

Hubby’s
Heartbreaking Plunge

It was our first spring break as newlyweds. My new husband and I had driven 500 miles so that he could get to know my family a little better. Oh my. Neither of us had any idea just how much better he would know us all by the end of that fateful spring break. In fact, even now, after 46-plus years of marriage, he can still get a little peevish when retelling it.

We arrived Saturday night. Sunday dawned, a day for morning worship and then a deliciously long afternoon with no homework, no library research – just a well-earned, delightfully long nap and whatever else we felt like doing. Well, not exactly. The Kenneth-Genevieve Act was about to debut. (See, I said if you skipped Part 1, not much would make sense. You’re already lost, aren’t you? Go read Part 1!)

Now just try to imagine yourself plunked down into the middle of this drama with absolutely no warning.

You hear a car a little distance away on the limestone gravel road, which sounds like it’s slowing down. You watch your new father-in-law propel himself out of his recliner, roaring, “Uncle Kenneth!!!!” You watch, slack-jawed, as this normally soft-spoken and dignified man dashes out the front door, shoving on his slippers, stumbling as he goes.

Your new mother-in-law sprints to the kitchen, sticks her head deep into the freezer, and begins feverishly pawing through frozen packages of who-knows-what.

Your sweet, 11-year-old sister-in-law jerks the toss pillows out from behind your back and plumps them furiously. “Up!” she commands, suddenly becoming very bossy and very intent. The steely look in her eyes convinces you to do as you’re told, even if it is just a little 11-year-old barking the orders; you get up off that couch.

As she moves on to straightening the magazines and newspapers and you stand there in the middle of this flurry, you realize your new wife has raced to the bathroom. Is she ill? You follow. Nope; she’s furiously cleaning, as if The Queen herself is about to make an appearance.

Well, well, you might be prone to think. You lucky bloke! You’ve married into money and didn’t even know it. By now, you’ve decided to join your frenzied in-laws, and you race out to stand beside your new father-in-law and greet the filthy-rich relatives that everyone in the family is working so hard to impress. Hmm. They don’t look rich. Ah, well, most of her relatives who are well off don’t want anyone to know, so maybe these people are cut from the same cloth.

You’re introduced to Great Uncle Kenneth and Great Aunt Genevieve. Something doesn’t seem quite right. You listen. You laugh. You participate in painfully polite conversation, mainly because visions of dollar signs are dancing in your head. You try to figure out what the heck is going on.

As if on cue, your mother-in-law, wife, and little sister-in-law pop up from the sofa and excuse themselves to prepare “a little something” in the kitchen. That leaves you, your father-in-law, and Great Aunt Genevieve as the entire audience for Great Uncle Kenneth’s monologue.

Right before you in the living room is being played out the strangest scene you could’ve imagined. This relative you’ve never heard of is telling the most pitiful jokes which were, no doubt, hilarious – during the vaudeville era. He’s slapping his knee and saying “D’ya see?” after each “joke.” He’s choking on his own laughter just prior to each ancient punch line. And – here’s the really weird part – your very intelligent father-in-law is politely laughing at this demented old man’s excuses for joke-telling. These people must be way more than filthy rich! you might think.

But then your eye is caught by lots of action in the kitchen where (just out of sight of the rest of the theater audience) your new wife, her mother, and sister are all sitting on the kitchen floor. They’re leaning back against the cabinets, holding their sides, and laughing violently – albeit silently. Hey now. Something’s not quite right with all this. Still, it’s conceivable you might continue to think this strange couple is very wealthy, and that’s why they’re being given such royal treatment.

You could.
But you’d be wrong.

Not for another five hours do you learn just how not-right things really are and how very wrong you are. The Kenneth-Genevieve duo exit stage right, and you’re finally told what you should’ve been told long before your recent wedding ceremony. Your father-in-law simply wants to be respectful to his seriously odd uncle, and so he courteously plays the game. Your new wife, mother-in-law, and sister-in-law are courteous, too, but only up to a point. And that point clearly ends when they can watch you tiptoe through the minefield and give way to hilarious laughter, instead of participating in a very drab, very long, very boring theater experience.

  • The Queen did not come to visit.
  • You have not married into money.
  • Your wife will not inherit a bundle from Great Uncle Kenneth.

Instead, you have just wasted a perfectly good Sunday afternoon on your very short college spring break. In addition, you realize you’ve not only married a rather odd little woman; you now know she’s that way for good reason. She inherited it, and now you’re stuck with the whole lot of them and the inevitable musings about future children coming from this woman’s body and gene pool.

Well, we don’t have to imagine that’s what you might think, if pushed with no warning into this pool. We know, because my dear husband has told me so – many times, in fact. He did not take kindly to being so abruptly and cruelly plunged into my gene pool, even if it was at the shallow end.

The Pay-Attention Points
to This Lengthy Twaddle

One is painfully obvious. For those readers already married, it’s too late for you, as you well know. This pay-attention point is only for the unmarried. (If you know some unmarried young people dangerously close to forming permanent alliances, you might want to send them links to Part 1 and Part 2 of Odd #17. They might save your unsuspecting romantics a great deal of angst.)

Here’s the main pay-attention point: ALWAYS ask, as soon as feasible during a romantic relationship, “So now, there’s no craziness in your family, is there?”

If Hubby had thought to ask this vital fact-finding question, he could’ve got himself out of Dodge in just the nick of time, dodging a boatload of oddness. I would’ve learned that I needed to develop some fool-proof methods of sidestepping that awkward question if another guy I might want to marry should ask it.

Here’s the second pay-attention lesson to this melancholy tale.

  • YOU could be the one with a version of Great Uncle Kenneth lurking in your extended-family tribe. If so, BE VAGUE when asked about your gene pool.
  • Or, let’s just face facts, YOU could be the way-weird one in your family for the same reasons that I am: Great Uncle So-and-So’s cursed genetics. You, too, need to BE VAGUE when asked about your gene pool.

Okay, time
for a little seriousness.

It really is a very, very good idea to get to know your guy or gal and the entire family, asking as many questions as you dare, BEFORE you get very serious about him or her.

Don’t be shy. Be a persistent interrogator because your grandmother was right: we do, indeed, marry a family – not just one person. And that family may have produced a certain percent of weirdness in your beloved that can’t be mitigated by a lesser percent of lifestyle attempts to overcome the weirdness factor. I’m just sayin’.

As you’ll see in Part 3, I didn’t know enough to ask the “any craziness?” question, but you can learn from my mistake.

Addendum: None of the names in Odd #17, Parts 1 & 2, have been changed to protect the innocent – because they’re not innocent.

©2015, Teresa Bennett

red box with white text: “Every family has a weird relative. If you don't know who it is, then it's probably you.” – Anonymous

From a cartoon by Australian, Tim Whyatt

Odd #17, Part 1: The Gene Pool

photo of residential swimming pool

Appears harmless, doesn’t it? Don’t be fooled!

You know every family has at least one – the family member who is such an embarrassment no one wants to admit they know him, let alone admit they share the same gene pool. While my mother’s side had so many it was difficult to count them all, things were a good deal simpler on my father’s side of the family.

Way-weird Great Uncle Kenneth

My father’s family had only one: Great Uncle Kenneth. But what a whopper. You know how people sometimes turn weird in their later years? Not Uncle Kenneth. He was born that way and stayed consistently weird as he aged.

My father once told me that even his parents, who were pretty tight-mouthed in their criticism of others, could barely abide Kenneth and his equally weird wife, Genevieve. The story goes that, in an era when 95 percent of women still cooked on wood-burning cook stoves, Aunt Genevieve couldn’t quite get the hang of it and was forever letting the fire go out. Not only did she not have the decency to be embarrassed about this blatant evidence of inept housekeeping skills, she had the gall to go next door to a neighbor – any neighbor – and ask her to come and restart the fire that she, Genevieve, had let die. (An unbelievable faux pas, in those days.)

But fair is fair. Great Aunt Genevieve couldn’t begin to compete with her husband and he, after all, was the blood relative. He was the one with whom we might share, through no fault of our own, the same genes yielding the same idiosyncrasies. She, bless her heart, appeared near-normal when compared with Great Uncle Kenneth.

Of all of Uncle Kenneth’s oddities, his most outstanding was his mistaken conviction that he really belonged on stage as a comedian, instead of on the managerial staff of Eli Lilly. This was by far the trait which caused the most grating of teeth, the most downcast eyes, and the most shuffling off to get another serving of whatever at family reunions. I didn’t mind much, as I was off playing with cousins and wasn’t expected to sit through his monologues.

But then there were those ill-fated Sunday afternoons when he and Great Aunt Genevieve popped in unexpectedly, and THEN I minded. We were all captives then: two adults and two children all sharing the same pain. Having never quite grasped the concept of using a telephone to ensure they were planning to visit at a convenient time, they would simply roar up in a cloud of limestone dust and take us by surprise – almost.

Living on a rock country road as we did, we’d all honed the skill of determining the speed of approaching vehicles and could tell when they were planning to pull into our drive or pass on by. That meant we had, oh say, about three minutes’ notice that way-weird Great Uncle Kenneth and almost-equally-weird Great Aunt Genevieve would be gracing us with their presence that Sunday afternoon.

Our Jobs

We all had our job assignments. My father catapulted himself out of his recliner, slipped on his slippers, and tore out the front door to greet (read: detain) them. Mother flew into the kitchen to tidy up and take a frozen dessert from the freezer to thaw. My very young sister’s job was to straighten the magazines, plump up the toss pillows, and generally tidy up the living room. My job was to clean off the bathroom counter, check the stool, and make sure the towels were just so-so, etc.

Now this sounds like we lived like slobs, when nothing could be further from the truth. I’m quite sure our house always looked ten times better than Great Aunt Genevieve’s ever did. Nevertheless, this was the drill, most likely because my mother kept hoping that if Genevieve were continually presented with a properly kept house, it might rub off. Thus, we could all be spared at least that much of their embarrassing lifestyle. It was a nice sentiment, but overly optimistic.

If my Father had done his job properly, he would have detained them long enough that we’d all completed the drill and were casually lounging in the living room by the time he escorted them into the house.

Showtime!

It wasn’t long before Great Uncle Kenneth launched into his patter of vaudevillian jokes and one-liners. These, I could stand. It was the grating, old-guy voice of “D’ya see?” following each one that began to wear on my nerves rather quickly. Fortunately, my mother’s temperament was about the same. After the seventh or eighth “D’ya see?” she would jump up, offer to prepare some refreshments, and escape to the joke-less reprieve of the kitchen.

I tried to sneak to my room a few times at this same juncture, but was usually hauled back by a lame question from Great Aunt Genevieve. However, once I reached a certain age, I learned I could offer to “help” Mother with the refreshments and was also allowed an escape route. Genevieve must’ve recognized that I was indeed capable of helping. Once I’d reached the helping age, she graciously allowed me to follow my fleeing mother, as we vacated our front row seats in what used to be our living room but was now Great Uncle Kenneth’s theater.

The other irritating thing about these two characters is that they never knew when to leave. I think that’s what caused such groans when we recognized their car. It wasn’t just having to endure banal conversation and really awful jokes. It was knowing that we were sentenced to this drivel for an entire Sunday afternoon. Whatever plans we’d had for a relaxing, nappy, Sunday afternoon were shot to pieces.

And the pay-attention point
would be…?

While you might be the compassionate sort and feel our pain, I know you’re still left wondering. What could possibly be the pay-attention point to such a lengthy bellyaching story?

Good question. This time, there’s only one, and it’s irretrievably tied to the bald fact that none of us get to pick our genes. We inherit them. ALL of them. Scientists used to believe 80 percent of who we are is determined by genetics and 20 percent by lifestyle. Not so long ago, they changed their story. Now, they’re saying it’s the reverse: 20 percent of who we are is determined by genetics and 80 percent by lifestyle. Whew, that’s a welcome switcheroo.

Since scientists keep changing their minds, we don’t really know what the equation is: 80/20, 20/80, 50/50? Who knows? My stark pay-attention tip? Work REALLY, REALLY, REALLY DILIGENTLY on that precious lifestyle percent, whatever it is. Regardless of the percentage, it’s all you’ve got, baby, to protect you from your family’s version of Great Uncle Kenneth.

That’s been my plan all along, as I certainly never wanted to become as odd as Great Uncle Kenneth. Wait: I just realized this isn’t a very encouraging pay-attention point. Since we’re now on my Odd #17 post, with no apparent end in sight, my plan hasn’t worked out very well, has it? But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try, darlin’, and TRY HARD.

As for moi, I’ve tried hard, given up, given in, and pretty much decided, as I’ve said in Odd #1, to get over it. Hubby, with 46-plus years to get over his wife’s alarming, odd-infested gene pool, is over it, too. But in the beginning, it was a shocking plunge for an unsuspecting young husband: read how he fared in Part 2 of this Odd #17 post.

©2015, Teresa Bennett

red box with white text: “A man with a hump-backed uncle mustn't make fun of another man's cross-eyed aunt.” – Mark Twain

Don’t get too smug; you have one, too, y’know.

Odd #14: Quality Control Run Amok

photo of tooled-leather coin purse

I didn’t know how to do this. Didn’t matter.

After seven years of honing my QC skills around our farm and farmhouse, I got my first real chance to show the rest of the world just how it’s done. At the ripe age of 14, I signed up to “judge” crafts at our local 4-H fair. Winning at the local level, I went on to district and then to state, where I won first place.

First place in what, you ask? Why, leather tooling, of course. Small matter that I had never so much as tooled a pocket-sized coin purse, let alone something substantial like, oh, say, a book cover or a chair seat. I didn’t need to since, as you already know, I possessed the innate talent of quality control.

Just to be on the safe side, though, Mother took me to the northernmost edge of our county for two hours of tutelage from a 4-H leader who was an expert leather tooler. Bidding me to pay close attention, she gamely showed me the tools, demonstrated their use, and gave me a leather tooling booklet to read. Having done as she was asked, she sent me on my way, clearly certain of my failure.

Ha! When you’re
a born quality control inspector,
finding the flaws
in others’ work is easy-peasy.

I let her cynicism roll right off. Drawing from my 14-year-old well of wisdom, I knew that not having done something with your own two hands had nothing to do with your ability to judge when that skill has been correctly applied. My father, it turned out, did not agree.

When I came home with blue ribbons hanging off my chest and a big grin on my face, my father – usually my biggest fan – was not his usual supportive self. I caught him quizzing my mother about the whole event, growing increasingly exasperated. From their whispered conversations, I learned he thought some of the “youngsters” who’d actually done leather tooling deserved to win. What that had to do with it, I could not fathom. He even went so far as to commiserate with the poor children: “Tsk, tsk, how disappointed they must be,” etc., etc. Such a mutiny from my biggest fan diminished some of the shine on my shiny blue ribbons – but not much, since my quantity of pride more than compensated for his lack of same.

For several years thereafter, when a conversation turned to “what the experts say,” my Father turned surly. Oh let’s just say it: he exhibited an uncharacteristic, most unflattering, grousing streak. His opinion of “experts” had definitely changed – and not for the better.

We parted company on this topic for most of my youth. I figured if you have a QC talent, you should use it. If you win some honors and are designated “an expert” because of it, so much the better. The poor people who had to do something before they could be an accurate judge of it were just slow learners in my book, and I didn’t feel a bit sorry for them.

By the time he told me the story about my appraisal of his remodeling skills (in Odd #13), he’d found his equilibrium and could laugh about it and this little 4-H story, as well. I had, however, lost mine by then and it took a few more years before I, too, could see the humor.

Is there a pay-attention point to all this jaded carping?

Of course!
Pay close attention,
as it’s a thorny one.

My QC skills, like most natural talents, needed some tactful polishing before being let loose on an innocent public. As an obnoxiously overconfident fourteen-year-old, I had yet to learn this. Hoo boy; now THAT’s an understatement.

So while you’re encouraging those young people around you to deploy their natural talents, it’s advantageous for all concerned if you also do a ra-ra-ree cheerleading routine for that perennial winner, Tact.

Pay attention: you don’t want your pep talks to create an unrealistic “I’m-soooooo-clever” attitude, do you? Any talent unmodified by tact – at the very minimum – turns into a dicey dilemma for most of the parties involved, as you’ve just read. Sometimes it moves well beyond dicey: it starts internecine wars.

red box with white text: “Like apples of gold in settings of silver, so is a word skillfully spoken.” – Prov. 25:11, The NET Bible

This applies to QC and everything else!

Okay, we’re done with that.

Had enough schadenfreude? (I LOVE it when I can find a legitimate use for this German tongue twister.) How about we take a break from these ODD blog posts? I’m sure you’re getting just as tired of them as I am. Besides, they’ve become a good deal more embarrassing than I surmised (see above!). Let’s switch to pay-attention truths that we can learn from stories involving way less of my oddity – preferably none at all, at least for the time being. 

I’ve almost finished gussying up the next blog post. Here’s the tease: it’s about cute little girls (those darlings of the ad world) and titled Letting Go. (If you haven’t already, click the “+ Follow” button at bottom right to be notified when it’s published.)

©2015, Teresa Bennett

Odd #13: Natural Talents

photo of stacked raw oak flooring

What does this have to do with natural talent??

Do you have fond memories of coming home to the delicious aroma of freshly baked cookies? I don’t. Mother wasn’t much of a baker, and my Prevention-reading father didn’t want empty calories lying about.

Cookies-and-milk, the universal kid magnets, did nothing and still do nothing for me. Instead, I wax poetic about the joys of childhood when I get a strong whiff of the heady scents of turpentine and paint thinner. If a little oil-paint undertones are laced into the blend, so much the better. So there you go: one more astounding bit of oddity.

WHAT?
What could account
for such quirky oddity?

When I stepped off the school bus in the quickly fading Indiana winter light and into our home to those scents, I was in my element. Yesss! It was Quality Control Time amidst all those turpentine, paint thinner, and oil-paint fragrances. That’s because, at the tender age of six (or possibly even earlier), I’d accidentally stumbled upon one of my God-given talents – finding the flaws in other people’s work. Because of my parents’ penchant for perennial remodeling, I had plenty of chances to hone my QC skills almost every winter of my childhood.

We’re talking serious remodeling.

By late fall, the crops were safely harvested and winter wheat was quietly growing. Early winter found my father carefully repairing, maintaining, and storing equipment; he wanted it ready for a productive performance the next spring with no unpleasant surprises. With that time-consuming chore completed, the rest of his winter workload consisted mainly of keeping animals fed, birthed, and otherwise happy. That meant, poor soul, that he had “some time to spare” (not to be confused with “leisure time”).

Ever the undeniable progeny of their Puritan and Quaker forebears, my parents undertook a serious remodeling project for what seemed like every winter of my childhood, industriously taking advantage of my father’s “spare time.”

Our Victorian home was built in 1894 by Great Uncle Albert Sinclair. It was graciously allowed to remain in Clan Sinclair for some time but then, like a red-headed stepchild, it was sold with the farm and systematically abused as a rental for many years. My grandfather, ever watchful for a good deal, bought the farm and house back, restoring them to the Sinclair clan, just in time to make his unsuspecting future son-in-law a deal. They would work the farm together while my father made payments to him directly and could eventually own it.

Let me be frank. Grandpa’s deals were rarely deals for anyone but Grandpa. He had his good points; he was the epitome of Yankee ingenuity, though he was a Hoosier and not a Yankee, and he knew how to work hard. But mostly, he knew how to make money. Consequently, there were few men in central Indiana who could outfox him when it came to “deals” and, most probably, the 23-year-old young man who would become my father was simply no match.

On the other hand, my father may have known full well what he was getting but also knew it was his best option as a young man with no great wads of cash in his pockets. He once told me there were gullies large enough to hold a tractor when he bought the farm from Grandpa so when I say it had been abused, I’m not kidding. Yet he had a keen intellect, a strong back, and a stubborn willingness to work hard, so he accepted The Deal.

As it turned out, whipping the acreage into shape was the easy part: that took only ten years. The hard part involved Great Uncle Sinclair’s house. How could my father have known, though? His mother had died during The Great Depression when he was barely sixteen. He had no idea what happens when a woman decides to improve her domicile – and keep on improving it. That part took the next 48 years of his life, and he was a remarkably good sport about his home-improvement gig all 48 years!

The two of them, with Grandma’s help, had cleaned, scrubbed, and painted that house before their wedding day. But it was still an unimproved Victorian house with an outhouse in the back, a detached summer kitchen, and only cold running water. They did have hot water, stored in a tank on the side of the wood-burning cook stove. It just wasn’t running: it was pouring hot water. That first year (1945) they even used oil lamps. (Can you imagine?!)

Pay attention:
here’s where Quality Control
comes into the story.

Before I was born, they’d been very busy as unsupervised, rank amateurs. They had:

  • installed electricity,
  • dug a basement,
  • installed central heating,
  • added hot and cold running water, and
  • converted the summer kitchen into a garage.

All in all, I’d give their pre-QC work an A-. But even after all this improvement, they still had a lot of work ahead of them. That was good news for me because it meant I had roughly ten or twelve years during which I could refine my QC skills, all the while developing an odd attraction to turpentine.

I well remember, during my first-grade year, the momentous conversion of a very large bedroom into a hall, study, and bathroom. A bathroom! We were right up there with city-folk, at last! I have to say they did very well that winter. I don’t remember having to call their attention to a single thing out of order.

The next year, though,
they became careless.

That was the year they remodeled their bedroom. That winter project involved laying new hardwood flooring over the 1890s, five-inch-wide floor boards whose chinking had all but disappeared and covering the original horsehair-and-plaster lath walls with pristine, crack-less drywall.

One afternoon, shortly before I was due to arrive home from school, they had cut holes in the new wood flooring where the coal furnace’s registers would be placed. Over these holes, my father had placed scrap pieces of plywood. Tsk, tsk. What was he thinking?

Enter Little Miss Quality Control Inspector. I checked out the new oak flooring. Hmm. Well joined. Smooth. I inspected the new quarter-round molding. Very nice. Perfectly mitered corners. I walked all around looking for flaws, as a good QC inspector should.

Whoa! What’s this? I felt a decided give in the plywood. Turning to my father with a disapproving scowl on my face, I snapped out reprovingly, “Daddy, this is NOT very sustanshul.” Keep in mind, this was well before Sesame Street and children’s educational TV programs: six-year-olds weren’t supposed to know words like substantial. This was still the See Spot Run era.

Of course, I have no memory of all this. I’m just passing on my father’s story, which he told me years later when I was well into my forties. He thought it was hysterical – a seven-year-old reprimanding her father for what she perceived to be sub-standard contracting work. I didn’t think it was all that funny.

Right about now – if you’re even halfway normal – you’re beginning to think you wouldn’t have cared too much for me in my early years. But wait: I can redeem myself. (And just so you know, I’ve learned to apply a little more tact when offering QC input.)

Pay attention, now.
Here’s the pay-attention gem.

When you have a talent for something, you should use it, regardless of your age. If even a seven-year-old, naturally blessed with the gift of QC, can pay attention and spot a QC issue when she sees it, none of us are ever too young to use our gifts and talents.

The children in your life have natural talents that someone (that would be you) can nurture. Those a little older, say, your younger co-workers or siblings, no doubt have talents, too, which could use some nurturing. Even our peers sometimes need a little prodding and encouragement to use their natural gifts. So whether the talents in question are possessed by the odd or the not-so-odd, the young or the not-so-young, can we all agree to pay attention and nurture straight-from-the-birth-canal talents?

Of course, nurturing inborn talents is seldom as straightforward as we would like. Even such a helpful, natural gift as my quality control can run amok, as you’ll see in Odd #14.

©2015, Teresa Bennett

red box with white text: “The person born with a talent they are meant to use will find their greatest happiness in using it. ”  ― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

But the judicious using of it is the tricky bit.

Odd #1: Have some laughs – at my expense.

photo of young woman laughing hysterically while seated in front of her monitor

It’s okay. Laugh with or AT me. I’m over it.

It’s time for unsparing honesty: I am odd beyond belief. Ask anyone who knows me: they’ll agree. I used to be acutely self-conscious about it. Not anymore. I’m over it. Way over it.

Fortunately for most people who’ve known me, this monumental oddity has afforded a good deal of amusement. For them. At my expense. I’m over that, too.

You may remember vague allusions to my colossal oddness on the Start Here page. In the next who-knows-how-many blog posts, I’ll show how even someone as odd as moi can stumble upon pretty decent pay-attention lessons that work for the rest of you – you who are nowhere-near-as-odd. And just remember as we make this journey together, the ability to laugh insanely at ourselves is probably the sanest way to get through life. (A poor substitute is laughing at others’ oddness. I’m certainly not in any position to throw stones at the other odd ones in my world but occasionally, I can’t help myself, as in Odd #18.)

Odd #2 post is already in place. Check it out. It explains a whole lot and contains a pivotal pay-attention tip.

© 2014, Teresa Bennett

red box with white text: “If I were given the opportunity to present a gift to the next generation, it would be the ability for each individual to learn to laugh at himself.” – Charles M. Schulz

America’s beloved creator of Charlie Brown

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