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These past, few months have been “unusual” for me. For the first time in many years, I had to prepare myself to seek employment. It was my goal to have a new job before the lay-off became effective.


My work as a risk manager for my current employer will end on June 24th. My work for my new employer will start on June 28th.


What is interesting to note is that I thought that I bombed at the interview and who knows; maybe the strength of my resume off-set my weak interview. I will never know, but suffice it to say that I was able to secure employment without a gap in my work history. At least, I saved our state and my soon-to-be former employer unemployment benefits.


When I received word that an offer for a new job was being extended, my wife and I were at a local casino. We were there to play the slots. After I spoke with a representative for my potential, new employer, I put some money into a penny slot and hit a $200 jackpot. Not a bad return on a five dollar investment.


My good fortune continued onto the golf course the next night when our team defeated the other first place team in our golf league. Then, on Saturday; my wife and I played in a couples’ tourney and I won the longest drive. SHE won at cards afterwards.


It would appear that I am in a cycle of momentum that I hope continues for some time.


I find it strange and very perplexing that we can overcome our own self-doubts when it comes to dispensing advice to others. Think about all of the twists and turns in our own lives that have tugged at our self-confidence and self-control. Is there strength of character that is called upon to settle our doubts? If not, then how can we in good conscience offer advice to others who are faced with similar circumstances? How is it done without giving rise to hypocrisy?


I have a very small support network where it comes to my personal life. Granted; I have a large circle of professional colleagues that I can prevail upon to move my careers in the right direction, but where it comes to personal decisions, I have to trust my wife and my gut. I stopped being the sole arbiter over my life on the day that I was married. “Me” became “we” and the simple became a little more complex.


I can point to the previous paragraph as one of the reasons that my wife and I will celebrate 35 years of marriage this year. It hasn’t been a “story book” marriage. We had to put some hard work into being a good couple, good parents and good citizens. As with everything in my life, dating back to when I was a young boy, it didn’t come easy for me. It was no longer just MY self-destructive ways; it would have a collateral effect on my mate, if it were to continue. So, that had to change. I had to realize that the effects of any of my decisions went beyond just me.


To complicate matters, my lazy side has struggled with that whole “hard work is its own reward” thing and then, I think about the GARDENS!


That’s right; gardens. Vegetable gardens. HUGE plots that required the attention of everyone in our family, which was TEN of us. We were all going to benefit from the garden, so we were expected to help with the garden.


Dad; I hate beets. Do I have to help weed the beets even though I won’t eat them?


Dad: YES!


In previous blogs, I revealed that I grew up just north of the poverty line. Dad and I shot game to put food on the table and fished for the same reason. Now; it wouldn’t have been much of a meal without something to complement the wild game. In our house, it was vegetables that were grown in our garden and canned by my mom.


Note: for those of you who are unfamiliar with the term “canning”, I would suggest that you Google it. “Canning” vegetables or fruits for that matter takes a lot of skill and is very labor intensive. Mom made the BEST applesauce that I have ever eaten. Bar none! She also made grape juice, jellies and jams. Wow!


To describe our garden as a local tourist attraction would not do it justice. It was a true testament to the human spirit and my dad’s obsession with having the biggest and the best looking garden in town. There would be no weeds in HIS garden. He would not stand for foxtails and other broadleaf weeds of robbing his hard work of the water and nutrients and deny his veggies to reach their full potential; not when it was feeding TEN mouths.


So; we would spend evenings after Dad got home from working in the scrapyard and weekends in the early morning hours pulling weeds and carrying buckets of water to water our corn, potatoes, green beans, carrots, radishes, onions, peppers, eggplant, squash, beets, turnips, peas, tomatoes, cucumbers, okra, lettuce and lima beans. The water was available from a well to a hand pump that was next to our garden. No hoses hooked to sprinklers. It was buckets and water can sprinklers for us.


Throughout the summer, vegetables would come into season and they would be heartily consumed fresh out of the garden. I must confess that, back then, I wasn’t exactly thrilled with vegetables, with but one, clear exception…potatoes. I loved them. I could eat them raw with a  sprinkle of salt. And now? Hah; I would pay extra for that freshness if I could find it in the grocery store. Come to think of it; we DO pay extra, because now they call it “organically” grown.


Then, Mom would spend a week or more canning everything up. She would use pint and quart jars that she had saved (usually mayonnaise jars with Ball lids, rings and gaskets) and would can corn, beets, green beans, peas, tomatoes (juice, stewed and whole pealed) to a soup combining potatoes, corn, green beans, lima beans, peas, tomatoes, carrots and onions.


I remember that our vegetables were also used as currency in some instances. Dad would need something and instead of paying money, he would be told to bring vegetables as payment. He would also take fish to friends who would return the kindness in some other way. I didn’t understand the concept when I was young, but it is very clear now.


It seems like when I reach a crossroad, I get nostalgic. I don’t think I’m right in the head, because I remember how much I detested going to that garden, working in a blistering sun and giving up sandlot baseball just to eat vegetables that I wasn’t very fond of but now realizing that I would give anything to go back there again. In my own way, the little vegetable garden that I have in my backyard serves as a reminder. And yes; I will not have weeds in my garden either. I AM my dad when I’m in that garden.


And just like my dad, when a door closes, you cannot be afraid to walk through another that opens.


All of those times growing up when I found my butt on the end of Dad’s boot or Mom’s paddle- both figuratively and literally; all of the lectures, time-outs with no TV and moments spent in the solitude of my room have caused me to appreciate the effectiveness of my parents parenting skills, whether is was by design or by trial and error; it worked!


In my lifetime, my father had THREE jobs plus his part-time cop gig. If conditions had been right, he would have stayed at the scrap yard until he retired. That “scrap yard” is still in business today. He gave up job number two because it was second shift and with 8 kids in school, Dad was missing out big time, so he went to his third and last job from where he retired. I bought the gold watch and had it inscribed so that Dad would think that the company gave it to him upon his retirement. He was so thrilled and so proud of that watch. He wore bib over-alls a lot and prominently displayed the watch in a front pocket. He would not pass up an opportunity to tell someone that he got the watch from his company. He never knew any different and now, I have the watch.


The moral of this story is that, whenever you find yourself going down a different path, take your mind to familiar territory to erase the fear and the doubt. When you remember those events that called upon your courage; even at a very young age, the task or the event doesn’t seem as daunting.


Growing up, I couldn’t wait to “grow up”. I couldn’t leave my childhood behind me fast enough. I thought I wanted to forget a lot of things that happened to me when I was a kid.


Now; I struggle to remember, but I WANT to remember, because what I thought were the worst of times now occupies my thoughts with the realization that they were, in fact, some of the BEST days of my life.


I will take those thoughts to my new job. And even though my childhood and my parents are gone; both will serve to help me to succeed.




The views and opinions expressed are those of the author, Art Goodrich, who also writes under the name ChiefReason.  They do not reflect the views and opinions of, Fire Engineering Magazine, PennWell Corporation or his dog, Chopper. Articles written by the author are protected by federal copyright and cannot be reproduced in any form.

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Comment by Jon D Marsh on June 22, 2011 at 9:12am
Thanks for the memories Chief ! Those days of weeding alongside siblings, parents,  and neighbors, produced not only veggies for canning, but many life lessons, stories, and adventures that will never leave us. Our family, although financially strapped was loaded with the riches of life's extras throughout our upbringing. There were eight brothers and sisters in our abode-the house of hand me downs from grandma, grandpa and on down the line.Like you, we too were taught to never-ever say "can't", always visualize your dreams, believe and have faith in the Lord. Above all, be thankful for what you have ! Good luck in your new job, and God Bless !!!

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