Think About It

My earliest memory of math is the homemade flashcards my mom made out of index cards to help me get faster with my addition and subtraction skills, and later my multiplication skills. Remember those sheets you would get in school that you had to try to get done in like five seconds or something dumb? I was slow and my mom wanted to help me get faster.

I hated those damn flashcards.

A few years later came fractions. If I thought I hated those flashcards, then fractions were straight up devil’s work.

Looking back, I blame the way math was taught, but that’s a whole different post. The fact was that math was hard for me, but I didn’t want to fail.  And my parents didn’t want me to either.

Fast-forward to nightly math homework starting in middle school with all the equations and fractions. I remember sitting at the kitchen table with my head in my hands. Whoever had those textbooks in the years after me will probably find small wrinkled spots throughout the pages where my frustrated tears landed.

My mom, while naturally a numbers person (she’s an accountant), is more of a number organizer than a math person. My dad, on the other hand, has worked with fractions his whole life. He worked for Herman Miller–an office furniture giant–as a model maker. He and his team made the first prototypes (and following models) of what the designers dreamed up. Fractions were pretty much second-nature to him.

But he didn’t attempt to re-teach me fractions. Instead, he re-read the math problem with me. Thought about it and then said to me, “Think about it, Kate. Think about it.”

He wasn’t trying to get out of helping me, but he wanted me to really try before I gave up. He knew that I read the problem, got overwhelmed, and shut down. He wanted me to try to get it before declaring it impossible. Ninety-five percent of the time, that phrase was all it took for me to at least understand what the question was asking me. Often I still needed his help for how to set up the equation (especially if it involved fractions), but that simple phrase, “think about it,” was really telling me, “you can do this. I know you can, Kate.”

*************

This past fall, while discussing the accomplishments of my brothers and I in high school, college, and career, my dad said, “You weren’t the most naturally gifted of the three of you, but you were the hardest working.”

I smiled and nodded. All three of us did quite well for ourselves academically. Their stories are not mine to tell, but I can say we all graduated high school with decent to excellent grades and GPAs, and we all got into the universities of our choice.

What we did to get there, stay there (some of us), and beyond wasn’t so much a reflection on who was the smartest, my dad pointed out. And success wasn’t determined by anything other than what you wanted to do with your life and whether you worked to achieve it.

You weren’t the most naturally gifted of the three of you, but you were the hardest working.

I spent a few days pondering these words.

It’s not really fun to be called “not the most naturally talented” even if you know that what the speaker was saying wasn’t meant to be a put-down.

I knew my dad was trying to compliment me, but I kept turning the words over in my head for another week until the night of my dad’s retirement celebration and dinner.

2014-12-11 20.22.36

 

I’m going to confess something here. Even though my dad was retiring after 40+ years of working for the same company, I never thought about how this event was a big deal. The thing is, my dad is probably one of the most humble people to walk this earth. He just says “thanks” or shrugs it off if you tell him he did something amazing. So because he didn’t make a big deal about the event, I guess I forgot to too.

Then people he worked with started getting up and talking about how hardworking he is. They said phrases like, “Tom would say ‘yes’ to anything and then figure out how to make it work,” “Tom taught me that with hard work, you can do anything,” and “Tom is probably the hardest working person I have ever worked with.”

It’s one thing to know your dad believes in hard work, it’s another to listen to people talk about it and gush about how much they have learned from working with him.

That night I realized that my dad taught me about hard work too, and when he told me I was the hardest working of all three of his kids, it was one of the biggest compliments he could give. I didn’t just rely on my natural abilities (of which I had few), I decided I wanted to do well, and I did it.

“Think about it, Kate,” became my motto to myself through college when my dad wasn’t there to stand over my shoulder while I did homework or had to make a choice about going to class or sleeping in.

It became ingrained in my problem-solving and trouble-shooting when lesson planning, figuring out behavior plans, writing grad school papers, and even deciding what is the next best step for my career.

My dad’s words made a much bigger impact than just figuring out fractions, which if we are being honest here, I still have problems with, those words became how I navigate life.

*************

Happy 65th birthday, Dad. I love you and I hope I can teach Eddie, Charlie, and Alice all to “think about it.”

a gift

My dad works with his hands.

His job, for a very large office furniture company (Herman Miller), is Model Maker.  Simply put, the designers create new visions of chairs and desks and partitions and other office furniture things and my dad makes work models.  He takes their vision and makes them into something tangible.

From there, he works with the designers to get out the “bugs” before anything can go to production.

My dad has always worked with his hands.

Not only can he–in my mind–fix anything, but he can create things too.

When he had children, he made us blocks.

When my parents finally replaced their 1970’s TV which had it’s own metal, rolling stand to hold it, my dad created cabinets out of oak for the new TV and for my mom’s stereo.

When my brother was being potty trained, he built him a bathroom stool.

When I decided in elementary school that I wanted to paint little wooden animals, he made me some.

When my mom wanted a shelf in the bathroom for her nicknacks, he made it and hung it.

When my brothers needed big boy beds, my dad designed and built them bunk beds.

And there has been more.

That is why, when it was time for Eddie to move out of the nursery and into a Big Boy bed, I asked my dad if he would mind making bunk beds for my boys.

I knew it was a big thing to ask.

Yes, he has made them before, but it’s not something you just whip up on a free weekend.  It takes a LONG time.  Especially since my dad is a perfectionist.

But he said yes.

And proceeded to cut down the tree for the type of wood he wanted to use.

That’s right, he didn’t go to the lumber yard or to Lowes for wood, he chopped it down and dried it himself.

I told you, he’s a perfectionist.

He started the whole process this past fall.  Last Sunday after months of work, most of which was recounted step by step to my mother, he was done..  My patient wonderful mother.

The past few months were filled with measurement double-checks and stain choices…until finally we got the big reveal.

fuzzy because I had a toddler moving me around.

He came over and put together one of the bunks for the bunk beds.  Of course, we only need one right now.

But he had a surprise for us.

After all those months of asking questions and buying new tools and machines just for the bed-making, he managed to add a little something.

Yup, my dad did that.

Cort saw it first as my dad was putting the bed together.

“Oh wow,” he uttered softly.

I was like, “what??”

And then I saw it.

And then the tears burned in my eyes.

My dad kept working at putting the bed together without saying much.

After they left, I ran my fingers over the letters.

I thought about how my kids sleep in the beds he made for my brothers when they stay at grandpa and grandma’s house.  And someday, God willing, when Eddie and Charlie’s kids stay at our house, they can sleep in beds with their dads’ names on them.

My dad isn’t just making beds.  He is making family heirlooms.

Something that we will have for always even when we are all gone.  Something for my boys to have.  And their kids.

bed made by my dad, quilt and matching pillows made by Cort's grandma Sluiter

My dad isn’t finished with Charlie’s bunk yet, and I told him  he could take some time off since we have a while.

He said, “Oh, I was planning to.  I have other things on my To Do list for a bit.”  Then he chuckled.

Because he’s awesome like that.

He takes the duty of “Grandpa” to his three grandsons very seriously.

Well, not too seriously.  He was the one, after all, who taught me nothing in life should be taken too seriously.

Thank you, dad.  For this gift you have created with your hands.

It is beautiful.

all creatures

My dad is a hunter.

Not just a couple times a year with his gun out to find Bambi kind of hunter, but a serious lover of nature and animals and being in the woods.

My brother is also a hunter.

My other brother also dabbles in the hunting.

My grandfather and uncles hunt.

This time of year has always meant a lack of “man” around our family.  I never thought it was strange though.  It’s just how it was in my family.

In fact, I always sort of looked forward to the weekend my dad would take my brothers and go up north to the “huntin’ cabin” with my grandpa.  It was just me and my mom.

When I was very young, I used to question my dad about killing animals.  He seemed to love them so much and marvel at them, I didn’t get how he could murder them.

My dad used to go back to the Bible, to the book of Genesis, and tell me about how God made these beautiful animals for humans to enjoy–which included clothing us and feeding us and loving us.

Animals are part of how God provides for our needs.

He also used to tell me that God trusts humans to also take care of animals.  It is our job to use them appropriately, but to also make sure that we do not abuse them or cause them to suffer.

This is how my dad explained why we eat animals and why we can also have pets.

They are our gifts from God.

My dad is a hunter.

He sees all of nature as a beautiful creation by the Great Artist.  As a gift for him to enjoy.

My dad travels the country to enjoy this gift.

And he hunts.

He shoots deer mostly, but he has also hunted bigger game (including bear) with either gun or bow/arrow.

He kills animals.

But he does it in the way he believes God intended.

While he might show us pictures of the animal to show the beauty and strength, he does not  take gory pictures of himself covered in the blood of the animal to prove his manliness over the beast.  And then post it all over facebook.

ahem.

He takes special care to use every piece of the animal, and what he knows our family won’t eat he gives away to others in the form of steaks, burger, and jerky.

Recently my dad shot a spike (a young male deer with only spikes for antlers yet) because it was limping from a wound.  He didn’t do it because the deer was an easy shot–in fact, young deer are not usually the “prize” shot because they don’t have as much meat.

No, my dad did it out of compassion.  That deer would have suffered a terrible death otherwise.

In fact, when he “cleaned it,” he found that the deer had almost no muscle-tone or fat.  It had been already suffering.

He did the right thing.

This fall my dad also went out west to Wyoming.  While there, he and a buddy went for a drive to see the beauty of their natural surroundings.  On this drive they spotted a mountain lion.  Plenty of their friends has seen them, but this was the first time my dad saw one.

He told me the story with awe in his voice.  The cat, he said, was just like my house cat, Louis, but bigger.  more powerful.  and it was staring right at them.

“Shoot him,” my dad’s friend told him.

But my dad didn’t do it.  He wasn’t there to hunt mountain lions.  Their meat is virtually no good and there is no real use for them.  Shooting the cat would be “just because it’s there,” and that is not my dad’s style.

He hunts the animals he does because of the sport and the respect that go with it.

He has talked many times about responsibility and compassion and respect when it comes to being a hunter.

It is because of these talks and his stories that I have learned to have an appreciation for the outdoors.  I have never been much of a “nature girl,” but growing up in the woods with an outdoors-man for a father has been an education in awe and respect.

I wish all hunters felt the same way as my dad does about animals.  It disgusts me to see pictures on facebook of people with bloody arms and hands in the foreground of a picture with a mangled deer in the background.  I hide those who show themselves or their friends dragging a carcass around behind vehicles as in jest.

It makes me sad the complete disrespect some people have.

If you are out to hunt just to prove your something about how tough you are with a gun or bow/arrow, I wish you wouldn’t hunt.

Something tells me these people have other issues that should be dealt with before they start taking them out on something (or someone) other than animals.

Now…does anyone have a burger they want to share?  For some reason I am totally hungry all of a sudden.

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