Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Thinking Out Loud

One of the more popular pastimes in my  household is talking to one's self...or as I call it, thinking out loud.  Technically it is just processing thoughts verbally.  Its a great way to think through things, but if someone is not in your head, hearing just one side of the conversation can get confusing.  My husband is the king of thinking out loud.  There have been times I've walked into the house and heard him in a full on explanation of how to fix something and it sounds like he is explaining it to someone else...and there is no one else there which I only discover after saying,  "Honey, I'm home.  Do we have company?".  Often the response is that I get no answer.  He's so deep into thinking about what he's doing he doesn't even hear me.  So I wander back to where ever he is to find him sitting alone in the midst of something he has torn apart that he is trying to figure out how to fix.  His talking was actually him processing out loud how he plans to fix whatever it is he is working on.  He does this a lot when he works on things and it seems to really help him think through the processes of problem solving so its a good thing.  If he ever gives a name to the other person he's talking to, then I'll worry.
Me and my sweet "can fix anything" husband, Ben
You know the saying that it is ok to talk to yourself as long as you don't answer yourself.  Well, I think in order to properly "think" out loud, sometimes you actually have to answer yourself for the processing to be complete.  I've seen my husband demonstrate this to his advantage more than once.  It seems to solidify the thought.  Before I go any further let me say that it is only mental illness if you think that it is someone else who just answered you and not yourself.  So where was I?  So often I find that the best way for me to work through some tough thoughts or writing is to say things out loud, tell myself that was crazy, or that was good, shout a hallelujah at some revelation...and sometimes when the answer comes, say that out loud that too!  No craziness in that. I know who's doing the talking and I'm only talking to myself.
"This is harder than it looks" thought out loud while trying to take my own picture.
Thinking out loud is fine until someone thinks you are talking about them and takes it personally.  I remember talking to myself about what a dork I am about trying to do something that takes two hands with one...like digging a hole for a plant with a shovel with one hand...a very inefficient method, while holding the plant in the other.  Yes I do actually do this all the time and I have no idea why.  Anyway, I muttered quite loudly some derogatory remark about this annoying habit of mine one day and my husband heard me and asked "Are you talking to me?" as he frowned. We had just had some heated discussion and he seemed to think I was muttering about him.  Oops, not good.  "No Honey, I'm just talking to myself about my stupid habit...etc."  That could have ended badly but fortunately did not.
The ladies in my Bible study as we gab away during a brunch
We women are often put down by men for our need to talk through things when in actuality it is key in helping us to process what we are trying to understand.  Talking helps us unlock understanding as we hear with our ears what we are thinking with our brains.  Don't ask me how this works, I just know it does because I am a woman and a talker.  My husband on the other hand, doesn't get this "need" to talk, at least not my need to talk, ...or at least the need to talk to him or others about something I am trying to process.  Oh he has his own need to talk but it is for a different reason.  He can just hole up and somehow come out fine on the other side without saying one word which makes me crazy sometimes but that is how it is.  Me, I would sooner curl up and die than do that...I need to talk.  After twenty years of marriage I'm finally getting used to these differences which used to make me crazy.  Why was he so different than me and why didn't he understand...he is a man, I am a woman...and that is all there is to it. 
Me and my dear friend Marcy after a long sharing  of our thoughts
There are a couple of friends who I get together with from time to time and all we do is talk.  We sit during lunch or over coffee or after Bible study and talk talk talk.  Often the conversation is light but we have those moments where it gets deep, where you can feel the heart muscles pumping hard as they from the depths of struggle or discouragement...processing, working their way through a dark passage as we others walk along side quietly, or not so quietly, while they search for hand and foot holds of encouragement and stability in their lives.  To let them not talk of their personal struggle would be cruel.  We as women need to process the steps of our lives, our failures and successes, our joys and sorrows and our faith in words...that is how God made us.  We do however need to do this with some discretion as just blabbing to the world all our struggles unwise and a real turn off to sincere friendship.
There are some men who are good at listening...like my good friend Steve here.
So many times in a group of women I will see two or three gathered together while one is pouring out, processing some deep thing or experience while her sisters listen, interjecting thoughts as they help support this processing, lovingly wrapping their hearts around the heart of their sister, encouraging, investing, inspiring, sharing insights.  It is like watching someone climb a rock wall from below while others hold the ropes that support them..."Just above your head!" one sister hollers..."There is a hand hold just above your head".  The one struggling to climb gratefully reaches and grasps the hand hold of truth shared by the one below as she climbs further up the wall.  That is what it is like for us when we listen and talk.
Sweet and strong friends, Nancy and her daughter DeeDee
There are those times when it seems our talk is more like chickens in the barnyard, joyful, clucking, rejoicing in someone sharing their blessings, talking about how good the cookies and coffee are, how lovely the home of our hostess is, and "Did you get your hair done?  It looks nice."  It all seems like chatter to the guys, but we women know it is much much more.  This is us reconnecting with each other, tightening loose threads in our relationships, finally getting to say out loud those things that have been in our hearts to say to our sisters.  Can you imagine if we did not say what had been on our minds about those we are connected to as friends...about how nice we thought someone's home looked when we had been invited to visit.  To offer a true compliment is nothing more than thinking out loud from the heart.  That may sound goofy but think about it.  Have you been thinking about someone, is it time you put those thoughts into action and actually called that person and let them know?  That is thinking out loud in caring and connecting, in action, in loving one another.  How encouraging to get that phone call!  And thank God for phones.
Thoughts spoken carelessly can damage a tender heart
Now to be truthful we don't want to always be saying what we think, that would be absolutely disastrous.  It can make us seem foolish, opinionated and is sometimes thoughtless.   We need to be extra careful especially if we are tempted to offer unsolicited advise...and who of us hasn't been there on both ends.  We find ourselves feeling filled with such wisdom for this person who is downloading and who to take time to hear what is in their hearts as they "process"...and who is not looking at all for advise or what we think!!!  So we need to be careful to not think out loud when it is self serving.  I am so guilty of this sometimes...we all are.  Speak the truth in love, not in self gratification or blind opinion.  Listen to the heart of the one sharing...carefully.  The hand of comfort is often given without one spoken word.

I love how fluid things are during conversation and find one of the funnier things about thinking out loud in the middle of a conversation is when all of a sudden one of person stops the conversation cold by saying something that pops into their heads so they will not forget it or something they meant to tell the other person before they forget to and it has nothing at all to do with the current topic of conversation.  Usually the other person in the conversation is gracious in spite of the interruption of topic, accepting all apologies and conversation resumes.    We honestly don't mean to be rude and change the subject but we are just thinking out loud.  To be sure it can be somewhat of a bad habit and puts a damper on conversations at times so I've gone keeping a little notebook to write these thoughts down instead of thinking them out loud and it helps a lot.  I call my notebook my paper brains...those things I need to be sure and remember or remember to deliver to those I'm conversing with.
Thoughts like our feet take our conversation places
 Thinking out loud is what brings about the fluid path of conversation...those times when we start on one topic and go from one to another to another until we cannot believe all the topics we covered and "Oh look at the time!".  So thinking out loud is a part of our lives in more ways than just talking to ourselves.  It is necessary for processing information and communication.  I suppose writing is a form of thinking out loud too since it is communication...but I've about thought of all I can on this topic for now.  If you have some thinking out loud you would like to do in response to what I've shared I would love to hear your thoughts.

Copyright © 2010 by Patty Hicks

All rights reserved. No part of this blog may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including printing, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system without written permission from the author, except for the inclusion of brief quotations in a review. All reviews must include author's name and a link back to this blog. I love how fluid thought in conversation is.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Tomato Season's End At Tinker's Paradise

It has arrived, the end of tomato season, of growing lush lettuces and cucumbers and other warm weather crops.  The summer here in Oregon was the coolest one on record and made even getting a ripe tomato a challenge.  Thankfully early fall was fairly warm and mild which brought some help though rain brought late blight to many before the tomatoes even ripened.  I'm sure this year will be the one we judge all other trying years by for years to come.
August tomatoes still very green
Not to be thwarted by our cool summer this year, I had my husband put a tent over the top of our plants.
Mr. Ben and the tent poles
 This was the year I determined to work hard to do my tomatoes right, pruning and watching the feeding and watering.  The weather was not going to ruin all that hard work!  Green tomatoes were not what I was looking for, so up went the tent about two months ago.
Got it up just before a very wet week...Whew!
Good thing we did it too as I was picking ripe tomatoes off the plants just last week and earlier this week finished picking the green and partially ripe ones that still remained as freezing weather was looming over the horizon.
I see green tomato chutney in our future

It is a bittersweet thing to pick the last green tomatoes off the plants.  It says we will have no more fresh tomatoes from our gardens once what is ripening on the windowsill is gone.  We will be forced to purchase those less than desirable grocery store varieties which pale in comparison to our lovely home grown toms.  I don't know of anyone who doesn't grumble some at the less than tasty store bought tomato we find ourselves forced to eat in the off season...especially come spring when we are so hungry for a fresh salsa or slice of tomato on a sandwich that actually has some flavor to it.  One thing that I am reminded of though is that any good thing is made better if we do not have it around all the time.  I think this is something we really need to be thankful for especially when it comes to the food we grow.  Seasonal eating becomes a delight as one season's flavors move to take the place of another and much less boring than if we had it our way all the time. .
Tomato plants in the heap that will feed the soil for next year
 As I pulled up the plants and placed them on our compost heap I found myself thankful for the effort I put into the production this year even if the weather brought a less than luxurious harvest.  It was an investment worth making if only for the things I learned.  I challenged myself to get over the fear of the unknown when it came to pruning, I paid attention to the needs of the plants and they rewarded me as best they could and that is all I can ask of them.  Next year I can go into the season with more confidence because I did challenge myself to learn more too.  That was a harvest worth reaping that tastes as good as any tomato ever could.

When you harvest the last of what you love in the garden remember all the lessons learned and the delight you received in the process and be thankful for this season if rest as it affords you time to lay in your garden plans for next year as you dream of future home grown tomatoes.

Copyright © 2010 by Patty Hicks

All rights reserved. No part of this blog may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including printing, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system without written permission from the author, except for the inclusion of brief quotations in a review. All reviews must include author's name and a link back to this blog.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

My Dad the Veteran

At my house growing up all of us kids knew Dad had been a Marine in WWII and his plane was shot down over the Philippines.  We saw the scars on his arm from the flaming fuel of the plane he and his fellow men crashed in.  He could never talk about it.  Too much pain in those memories.  They were too hard, too dark, too deep.

The scars we could not see were far worse than those we could see and had left his heart more guarded, less carefree and truly hurt by others...not just injured by the crash.  His story was never told to us until I was in high school when the Oregonian printed the report on the front page that the downed plane, his plane, was found in the jungles on the island of Mindanao.

As we sat around the dinner table that day we were made aware of the article and I remember my mother saying to my father that it was time to tell us the story of what happened.  I will never forget that day.  I will never forget the quiet tenor of my father's voice as he shared his account with my younger brother and me.  Of how his boots were blown off and he was forced to walk barefoot.  Of how he had to go back in and save a man he didn't even like.  That was my dad...doing what is right...and he never received credit for it which had left a bitterness within him that I don't think he ever let go of.

I remember his sharing how they only had some chewing gum and a Hershey bar between them and that they were stranded in the jungle with no idea how long it would be before they were found, if they were found.  He recounted how they took the chance of entering a village hoping for help to survive, not knowing if the residents would count them as friends or enemies.  They were fortunate and they found friends among these Philippine peoples.

He shared about the odd food they were given, eggs with chicks inside which they ate gratefully even though they seemed gross to them.  And I remember his face as he remembered the kindness of these people.  They had left an indelible mark upon him.  I do not remember his recounting his rescue.  Did he tell us how that happened?  Memories are funny things...the morph and twist and sometimes hide.

One thing I do remember is that my father loved the Philippines enough he always wanted to go back and live there when he retired.  Last year I saw some photos a friend had taken of Mindanao...it is so beautiful there. But I think the real reason my father always wanted to back was because of the kindness of strangers in that strange and beautiful place.  My heart is in a debt of gratitude to them and their kindness towards this band of brothers for without their help these men would have most likely perished and the story on that front page been far different that day.

Thank you Daddy for your sacrifice of service.  I love you and miss you so very much.  I honor you and your brothers in arms today, this Veteran's Day.  You are my hero.