Jun 17, 2012

Dream Daddies and Narcissists

It's Father's Day, a day that has long been a source of pain for me.

When you are small, your father is like Superman to you.  Regardless of who or what he really is, Daddy is the strongest, handsomest, most powerful man in your world.  

My father left me when I was 8 years old, after years of being a wayward husband with a long suffering and increasingly desperate wife.  At that age I had already learned the subtle art of picking up what went unsaid, or reading looks that adults thought passed above my head.  I can remember being in a pharmacy and having a young woman remark that I had to be my father's daughter.  I can remember the way my mother's body stiffened as she affirmed it and then rushed me out of the store and acted like it hadn't happened.  I can remember feeling guilty and ashamed and having no idea what to do about it.  I felt I had done something wrong, even though I knew I hadn't.  This feeling had become the constant background of my life.

For years I nurtured the belief that he would come back for me.  Occasionally, he did, accompanied by a new girlfriend who often turned out to be his next wife and always had kids of her own.  

I've had 6 step-mothers.  

So far.

I had a lot of wonderful family to fill the gaps, but I let the absence of him color my picture of myself, and I always came up wanting, lonely, abandoned and lacking.  This has been my biggest challenge to overcome.

By the time I left home my longing for the Daddy of my dreams had been replaced by a justifiable anger at his absence.  Despite the presence of a wonderful step-father the shame and anger had made a hole in my soul that I could not seem to fill.

Out in the world I made my own way and learned again the lesson that I thought I already knew: men could not be trusted.  It had become a self-fulfilling prophecy for me.  My father's behavior over those years erased the dream Daddy I had believed in and cold hard facts left me with disappointment and shame big enough to fill an ocean.  That's what it felt like, anyway.  Eventually I realized that both the dream and the reality were just small facts in my life, and I was the only one to whom they were huge, neon-lit, glaring objects.  It was a big relief.  Luckily I have always been a girl who was not afraid to take the bull by the horns.

When I found myself pregnant with my first child and finally quit letting his absence shadow the whole rest of my life, guess who showed up again?  With another new wife, (stepmother number 4) promises of having found God (again) pleas for forgiveness and begging me to let him be a grandfather, he roared away from my door on his motorcycle with another chance.

I still loved him. Can we ever stop?  I cautiously chose to believe, yet again, because I wanted, at most, a grandfather for my baby and, at least, not a gaping whole where one should be.

During the next few years we slowly built a connection.  It wasn't until my 5th stepmother came along that I actually was able to believe again without expecting it all to end at any moment.  She was the only stepmother I'd ever had that I considered normal.  She remains to this day one of the strongest Christians I've ever been blessed to know and is the last living person on my side of the "family" that my children call Grandma. 

He left her too, of course.  I can't say it came as a surprise, but I can say that it was the last time he ever hurt me.  I kept her.  For 13 years she had been a grandmother to my children and they did not remember a time without her in their lives.  Family really is who comes and never leaves your side.

As my children got older, I had to find a way to explain their grandfather's life to them.  In order to do this I had to take my own emotions out of it.  By then, taking my emotions out of it was pretty easy to do.  

The fact is that some people never grow up.  Some people, and I am not even saying that it is their fault, can only think of themselves.  Some people cannot get out of bed without their own needs and wants being met.  Some people will sacrifice everything else in their lives for this to be their reality.  They have gaping holes in their souls and can only look to outside forces to fill them.  They will leave their children, their job, their parents and siblings, unpaid bills, their churches that have accepted them back, AGAIN, all for someone or something that makes them feel good, even if it's only for a day.  

This is called narcissism:  Narcissistic Personality Disorder involves arrogant behavior, a lack of empathy for other people, and a need for admiration-all of which must be consistently evident at work and in relationships.  People who are narcissistic are frequently described as cocky, self-centered, manipulative, and demanding.But that is only after you've known them for awhile.  When you meet them they seem self-confident, smart, funny and charming.)  Narcissists may concentrate on unlikely personal outcomes (e.g., fame) and may be convinced that they deserve special treatment.  They often get it, too, and the minute they don't they are back to looking for it.

The trick is not to get sucked into the cycle.  We can't control who our parents are, and we are not responsible for our parent's actions.

My father has a wonderful family, and we all had our hearts broken together, repeatedly.  We all have 'crazy' people in our lives, and there is nothing we can do about that.  What we can do, what I chose to do, is limit the amount of 'crazy' that I invited to come in my own front door.  This decision, while painful, was less painful than the alternative.

The time came where I chose to get off the merry-go-round and never look back.  I had seen it all before, multiple times, and the hard truth is that choices have consequences.  You can run, but you cannot hide from these consequences, at the end of the day you simply have to accept them.  The day he left us he made a choice.  Unfortunately it was a choice he would repeat more times than I care to remember.  I simply got to the point where I no longer believed he would change, and that was all right.  I felt like it was out of my hands, but it had never been in my hands in the first place.

For all the heartbroken children out there:
know that there will come a time of peace within yourself where you will not be hurt again, even if the only reason is that there is a scar where the hurt used to be.

Pray for those who hurt you.  It will be hard at first, but you will reach a point where you can do it automatically.  At this point you will know you are making progress.  I promise you, you will be better for it.

Believe that is does not have anything to do with you, because most times, it doesn't.  It is not your fault, you did not make the problem, and you cannot fix it.

Do not let it color the life you make for yourself, that would truly be a sin.  Listen to your heart, it's where God speaks to you.  

Your life is your own, and can be anything you want.  

Let it be beautiful.

Just let it be.


Jun 11, 2012

Changing Roles....For My Daughter's 20th Birthday

I don't know if The Beautiful Redhead had any idea what she was starting when she offered to babysit for her friend's newborn daughter, I don't think any of us did, then.

I basically took her on initially as a project.  I thought I could be a good mentor to her, it would not cost me a dime, and it was a way for me to be able to give something back.  Since then I have grown to love her like a daughter and also as a dear friend, not to mention that I got a pretend grand child out of the deal.  I would not have missed this for the world.

This odd relationship has enriched all of our lives and I do not believe any of us would change a thing about it, all things considered.  In it I have been able to glimpse what my relationship with my own dear daughter will eventually be able to be, even though at the time this all started she was still in the phase of a teenager who mostly rolled her eyes at her mother.  It got me through some rough spots, I freely admit.  In addition, it has given my daughter a person who is just like an older sister, someone she can go to for advice and a guardian angel to watch out for her when I cannot.

My relationship with my bonus daughter was free from the constraints of my own children who were still in the years of believing their mother needed to be protected from the truth.  Truth be told, all most parent/child relationships need is absolute brutal honesty, which is asking a lot on both sides.

Sometimes I play the role of mother, sometimes friend with my bonus daughter.  Since we are both mothers, we usually come down on the same side of things, and this is a great comfort to me.

The other day my dear Abigail came to visit me.  We made blueberry pancakes wearing our aprons, then we went and fed some carrots to some horses.  Nothing big, but time together spent doing whatever we wanted.  She does not seem to know that The Beautiful Redhead is my daughter, and when I say she is, the pretend Grand Baby steadfastly insists "I am your child......" and I do not correct her.  She is most certainly the child of my heart, and too young to understand that love is the eternal spring that never runs dry.  There is more than enough to go around for all.  I let her have this truth, and am glad to do so.  The Beautiful Redhead, on the other hand, I think sometimes feels a little jealous.  I am ashamed to admit that this warms my heart because it proves to me that she still loves me.  She has just turned 20 and we are almost at the point where we can be equals in the emotional world of our hearts.  At last!  I rejoice for this, have worked and waited for this.

I recently picked up the phone for a conversation with my bonus daughter.  She was making dinner for my daughter, who makes Abigail mind, and Abigail says she is mean.  My bonus daughter has come to depend on my daughter to sometimes be the disciplinarian when she can't get Abigail to mind.  Just like real sisters!

At the beginning of the conversation we were talking as friends.  She was asking me what The Beautiful Redhead would eat, so I took on the role of mother.  At some point my daughter arrives and in the background I can hear her and Abigail having an animated conversation.  We keep talking.  In the background I can hear an escalation of noise.  All of a sudden my bonus daughter's voice becomes stressed and she says "I have to go now, The Beautiful Redhead and Abigail are fighting." And just like that, we were both mothers again.  I got off the phone laughing, grateful for the fact that while our roles all keep changing, they are also staying the same, and in the end the mothers are always in charge.

My Beautiful Redhead, Mackenzie Grace, this is to show you in case you ever feel alone, that you never are.  You will always have a friend, and a mother, and we will always love you no matter what you do.  When you are proud of yourself, when you are ashamed of yourself, when you don't know where to turn, come home to us.  We will never think less of you. We will defend you like dragons when you need it.  We have done it all before, and we will carry you and uphold you even when you cannot do that for yourself. 

I am so very proud of the person you have and continue to become.  You shine with bravery, grace and love.  You are smart, you know your own mind and you do not have a problem with speaking it.  I doubt that you realize how far ahead of the game you are.  You make up your mind and do not stray from your values.   You are true to yourself.  You have a beauty that will never fade because it originates in your soul.  The rest is just window dressing, and quite beautiful window dressing at that.  I don't know if you realize how beautiful you are, from the inside out.

For the days when you don't, here is proof.  I am so very blessed to have been lucky enough to be your mother.  My love for you has grown with you over the years.  The day you were born I thought I could never love you more, but I was so very wrong.  This love will keep growing, and every person you touch along the way will only multiply that love by however many people are lucky enough to know you.

I would not have missed these past 20 years for all the money or sleep in the world.  Never forget that.  I love you sweetie.  Here's to the next 120 years.  I will still be loving you then.


Jun 10, 2012

4 In The Morning.....

I have been haunted by the hour of 4 in the morning all my life.

I was born at 4 in the morning, locking eyes with my mother for the first time after hours of labor on both our parts, promising unspoken love and commitment, come what may.

As a young adult freed from the constraints of a curfew, 4 in the morning was when the birds started their first rustlings and tentative peeps.  This was the hour that I knew it was time to get to bed with the certain knowledge that I would be able to sleep well.  It was the hour that released me from the ceaseless energy and questing for I knew not what of youth.

It was 4 in the morning when I woke up resenting a tree frog's song, heavily pregnant with what would be my only daughter.  Thirty minutes later I was sure enough that it was the twinges of labor and not the song of the frog that had roused me.  It was the last hour that I would hold her privately within myself, the only one aware of her movements and musings.

Throughout my life it has always been 4 in the morning that I would wake up and be unable to go back to sleep.  I resented and cursed the hour for many years.  I trained myself never to look at the clock, foolish enough to think I could fool my soul into drifting back to sleep.  What folly!  As if a clock could ever possibly influence a soul!

It has always been futile.

I have reached the age where I no longer resent it.

4 in the morning is an hour well known to farmers and bakers alike.  It is the hour that holds the last of full darkness in the summer time.  It is the hour where, if you get up, you can have several hours of peace and quiet and time for contemplation.  It is the hour where you can pray without distraction, see your path clearly without justification or condemnation.  It is the hour where you can hold yourself accountable and forgive yourself the selfishness that seems to rule us all.  It is the hour you can take responsibility for your sins and believe that you can do better in the coming day.  You can watch the stars wheeling around in their predictable, eternal path, faithfully secure that the world will continue to turn despite our human meddling.

At 4 in the morning there is no one to see you.  You are able to see both past and future without judgement, just as facts.  The past seems farther away and the future stretches ahead of you absent of fear.  Anything at all is possible at 4 in the morning.

I have ruminated on this hour and why I have been haunted by it all my life.  It seems to me only fitting and proper that this will be the hour of my death.  It is an hour in which a person can slip away to glory, knowing their loved ones will have a few more precious hours of obliviousness before their world's will be changed forever.

In summer it is the last hour of cool quiet.  In winter it is the hour of absolute dead of night.

It has become my favorite hour, an old friend who never fails to show up on time.  It keeps me and comforts me now.  I have grown accustomed to it's faithfulness, and now appreciate the time to prepare myself for whatever a day will bring.

Hope can grow at 4 in the morning, before the glaring sun reveals all the imperfections in ourselves and this world.  

Jun 6, 2012

The Healing Prayer

Time for another prayer.  Can there ever be enough?  

The other night I was enraged by an adult who told my child they were going to kill his dog.  I purposely did not confront this so-called adult that night because I didn't want to go all crazy mom on her.  I try to limit that to my own children or pets.  

By that evening I had planned to give her a call and simply ask her how it would make her feel if I came up to her child and told that little girl that I was going to kill her pet. I did not think she had thought her actions all the way through.  I still don't think she did.  Some people never grow up.  I feel sorry for their parents and their children equally.  My child responded in a respectful manner to her and as apparently the 14 year old was the only "adult" in the conversation. I am very proud of him for that.  "And a little child shall lead them".  Needless to say, I went to bed upset and prayed further about it.

At 1 am I received a call from one of my best friends who had been informed that she had what the Dr. thought was a malignant tumor in her lung.  

This brought everything into perspective and made all the small stuff fly right out the window of my brain.  Frankly, I found it a relief.  

In the end, I know that I cannot control anything but myself, and even that is a battle I do not always win.  I have taught my children to always be respectful of adults, whether the adults deserve it or not, and that much has stuck with them.  My mission has been accomplished.  Others' behavior is on them.  May God help them.

I spent the next day praying hard for my friend and mulling over how much we all need healing.  Whether you need physical or spiritual healing I think this prayer is good.  I hope you enjoy it.

The Healing Prayer 
By Wayne V
(New Orleans)

Lord I know that I am not worthy of you.  Thank you Jesus for dying on the cross for me and I plead the blood of Jesus for the repentance of my sins.  I ask that the blood of Jesus cleanses and heals me of any disease and sin.

I have faith and trust that it is by your stripes I am healed, by your blood I am cleansed and by your sacrificed body I am made whole. I pray for the restoration of my body, soul, mind and spirit and I ask to be forgiven of my trespasses. 

I ask that a hedge of protection be over me and pray that the blood Jesus has shed on the cross be spread over that hedge to protect me from any of the enemies' toils and snares. 

Let no weapon formed against me prosper and may the light of God shine though me that I may be given to bring deliverance, and healing to all in Jesus' name. 

God, I am your vessel please use me as you see fit. Help me to discern right from wrong, good from bad, righteousness from evilness, goodness from sin, and the virtuous from the evildoers. 

Let my faith increase and my prayers be as a beautiful melody to your ears. Thank you for saving my soul and for taking care of me. I love and honor you for you are my savior, my Lord, my God, my all in all. 


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Jun 3, 2012

Crazy Mom Strikes Again

I am still saving to get enough wire to electrify the fence.  While the dogs have been very happy in the house, they are not so happy tied up.  They have betrayed me too many times for me to trust them again, but the boys are a little more gullible.

I got home Friday night and the dogs had been untied in the back yard all day and not gotten out.  I figured they must be happy to be free and able to watch the boys as they roofed. I even had the thought that maybe they had learned their lesson, although my luck does not tend to run that way.

On Saturday morning I was fool enough to trust them when I put them out in the morning.  It wasn't 20 minutes before I heard the chain link rattling, looked out the window and saw them making a break for it.  I was sorry to wake up the entire neighborhood at 7 am by yelling in my scariest voice, but I did.  Sincere apologies to anyone who was still asleep.  

Down the street they came running about 30 miles an hour, hell bent for leather, grinning at each other with their  soft ears flying in the wind.  They came back to me, and were promptly put back on their chains.

A few hours later I noted that my Youngest Baby let them off the chains.  I let this go, thinking that they would stay in the yard as long as they could see the boys.  Also, I must admit, and you don't have to believe it if you don't want to, but with the grown man there they seem to mind better.  This holds true for dogs and boys, and I cannot tell you why but I have just come to accept and even depend on it.  Is it the low voice?  The fact that men act rather than speak?  I don't know why, I just know that men seem to have some authority that women with all our nurturing do not.

In the afternoon I had to take the barricades off one of the fences so I could get the wheelbarrow to the back yard.  Like a fool, I just latched it back so that I would be able to get the wheelbarrow back and forth.

It wasn't 30 minutes until I heard the chain link rattle.  I had my head under some bushes picking up shingle riff-raff, and by the time I got straightened up I caught Shadow trying to squeeze under the gate.  I whopped her on the back with the rake a few times and she cowered right down and got back to where she knew she belonged.  The boys heard the commotion from the roof and asked what was going on.  I just asked them if they could see Jack from their superior vantage point.  They could.

The angel happened to be in the front yard and Jack went right to him.  I came around the house with a face like thunder and a voice to match, telling Jack to get back in the yard NOW.  He decided he would not do as I asked.  What a mistake that was.  He went into the garage, where I grabbed his collar, took off one of my gloves, and beat him about the head and shoulders about 15 times, telling him all the while that if he EVER did that to me AGAIN I would BEAT him half TO DEATH and NOT with a GLOVE either because he had HAD IT with him getting OUT OF THE FENCE and if he got SHOT he would have HAD IT COMING!!!!

Or something to that effect.  When I lose it, which I try not to do, I have no clear memory of the exact words I use, and often no clear memory of what my exact actions were during my fit of rage.  I call it morphing into Crazy Mom.  All I remember is a blank.  I can tell you the general feeling behind what I did, but that is about all.  I never do it unless provoked and I never do it unless I have tried everything else I can think of to teach the lesson.  Sometimes I just snap.  That's just the way it is.  The good thing is that I don't have to do it more than once with anybody who has even half a brain.  It's a great time saver that way.

I want to assure you that Jack was not hurt physically by a soft glove coming down however hard on his head.  His feeling were hurt very badly, though, as they should have been.  And should PETA try to come down on me, I will tell those worthless, money wasting, idiotic people the same thing I would tell DFS if they dared to show up at my door and question my authority as a parent.

 It takes discipline to raise responsible adults. And no, I do not need your "help", if that is what you insist on calling it. My definition of help differs quite markedly from governmental agencies.  There is more to raising kids than checking boxes off a list.  Those checklists are ruining our country and have been for at least 35 years that I can testify to personally.  I am responsible for their lives and their actions up to a certain age.  It would help if grown adults would quit looking the other way and enabling children to do things that they are in no way ready to do.

Just one example of this, and there are many, is allowing children have babies and think they won't have to worry because the government will give them money.  It does not take much money to raise kids, but it DOES take discipline.  Every single day and night.  You have to take a look at the big picture, and kids are simply not capable of seeing the big picture.  Believe it or not, there are rules in the world.  I try to make sure they know 1) what the rules are and 2) better than to break them.  If you think you are helping a child by not making them mind the rules, never mind the law, I would have to ask exactly what kind of "help" that is going to be for that child. Look at the big picture.  Adults are supposed to be capable of that. I'm not saying they can't come out of it, I'm just saying they are going to have to work twice as hard to do it because they didn't learn the rules in the first place.

Anyway, I got Jack back into the yard, and when I turned around the angel had a big smile on his face.  I heard laughter drifting down from up the street, where several neighbors could not POSSIBLY have missed the whole scene.  The angel took it all in stride, saying "Well, Melinda, you throw quite a little tizzy fit when you need to."  He said it with approval in his voice.  I just grabbed a kleenex.  For some reason it makes my nose run when I give a beat down, and said "At least this time it happened immediately enough for him to put the two incidents together."  Get out of fence=get a beat down.  This is surely clear enough for even a dog to understand.

I was telling my favorite ex-step mother the story this morning and she laughed and said I was the same way with the kids.  I would ask several times in a nice voice, and then Crazy Mom would appear and everybody in the room would start paying attention real fast.

All I can say is that eventually I learned with the kids to just ask once and then get up.  Kids and dogs are remarkably similar in that you can talk and talk and wonder how much they are taking in, or you can just get up and get their attention real fast.

Actions speak louder than words.  Even when kids or dogs do not understand your words they know exactly what your actions mean.  You know this is true, right?

There is a Crazy Mom in all of us, or at least there should be.  Crazy Mom can take many forms, but nobody argues with Crazy Mom.  As embarrassing as it was for me to have done that for the whole neighborhood to see, in the end I do not care.  It was worth it.  I have very good neighbors and I think part of that is the fact that they know I will make my kids/dogs mind, even if that means giving them a beat down in the front yard. I don't like to do it; I will do everything in my power to keep from doing it, but I have my limits and when you breach them, hellfire will be  loosed upon your head and body until you understand just exactly what is simply unacceptable.  Right is still right, and that is something that is never going to change.  At least not in my house, and not in the world either if I can possibly help it.

It worked with kids a lot better than it has worked with the dogs, but I think getting shocked will take care of that.  My kids know to listen with respect and take people seriously because Crazy Mom can come out of nowhere, strike with impunity, and leave an impression that you will never forget even if you are in the nursing home with Alzheimer's.

I am actually proud of this, and I have learned that the sooner they learn this, the easier all of our lives will be.  I consider it a vital part of their education, and if done right, parenting is much easier from the ages of 2 to about 14.  The teenage years bring about a lot of challenges, but the memory of Crazy Mom will only work in your favor.  In fact, teenagers will do almost anything to avoid Crazy Mom making an appearance, at least in the front yard.  She may have to make a house call now and then, but that's ok.  Crazy Mom keeps the world within your house running like a train on time.

The one good thing about it is that when the dogs get shocked, I am not going to feel sorry for them.  Mothers have to guard against their soft hearts in order to raise good people.   It is hard to punish the ones we love.  But it's much easier when you know that your punishment will not hurt them nearly as much as what will happen if they continue in their bad habits out in the world.  Their lives will be at stake then, and you will probably not be there to protect them.

And now it is supposed to rain.  We are all thankful for the rest and will be taking naps this afternoon.  I think the boys have already learned to appreciate time off, not to mention naps.

Mission accomplished, at least for today.......tomorrow will be a new one.  I, for one, am ready.

The Healing Prayer

A New Roof

We have almost completed the new roof.  The angel agreed to do it and offered to pay the twins to help him.  The twins were thrilled at the idea of earning money, but had no idea how hard they would have to work to earn it.  I had a good idea how hard they would have to work but was thrilled for them to get the chance to learn a life skill from the very best.  They are almost 15 and as big as full grown men.

They started Friday morning and worked till dark.  By the end of the night they were so tired they could hardly lift their arms and had a hard time getting the energy to even take a shower and go to bed.  The third time I told my Oldest baby he better get to bed because he had another day ahead of him, he barely moved his lips, mumbling "I know, Mom, you don't have to keep telling me."

I said "You're right.  You did the work of a full grown man today, so that means you get to start making some of your own decisions."  It wasn't 5 minutes before he hauled himself up from the floor and headed to the bathroom, but I thought I detected a little swagger in his walk that hadn't been there before.

Saturday morning started early, and neither of the boys showed much energy or enthusiasm.  The angel showed no mercy, and kept them  moving, moving, moving.  The nice thing about doing a roof is that you can look at any moment and judge your progress.

I worked at picking up the stuff on the ground, moving it onto tarps, which the boys would then gather up, drag to the dump truck, take up a ladder about 10 feet in the air, and then dump into the truck.  This was the job they did when they were "caught up".  I tried to avoid them, as they tend to give me mournful looks that seem to say "I'm about to die, mom!"  When you take care of yourself and your property and do it right, you will spend days thinking this, but you have to just keep going.  You won't die unless God decides it's your time, this is one thing I have never doubted.

When it came time for them to carry the shingles onto the roof up the ladder, I made myself go to the other side of the house.  I can talk the tough talk very well.  Actually watching them do this tends to give me heart palpitations, though, to I just didn't watch.  I don't want to say it was harder on me than it was on them, because I know it wasn't.  It's just that it is painful for any mother to watch her children doing anything so hard and dangerous without worrying about falls.  Real men scoff at danger.  That's what I told myself.  They made it just fine, and ended the day just as tired as they were the first day, although with better tans and considerably more muscle tone.

During a break we were all sitting around, the twins hanging onto every word the angel spoke as usual.  At one point we were talking about how he had gotten to where he is in the world.  I told the boys that I wanted them to look at him, at his house (which is beautiful and maintained to excellence), at what he had (everything in proper working order and several rental houses), and think about where he had gotten in life.  Then I told him to tell them how he grew up.

This is a true American story.  He grew up on welfare, without even a loving family around him.  By the time he was 14 he was digging graves and maintaining cemeteries for money.  He learned how to feed himself, protect himself, and he learned that his reputation may be all he had, but that a good reputation was enough to ensure a sterling life if he was willing to put in the work.

He worked on the railroad for years, which was good money but had a cost because it took him away from his family.  He learned how to be a carpenter, plumb, wire, put in windows, everything it takes to maintain a house, and bought rental properties.  He kept his marriage together, missing only two weekends at home during the railroad years, no matter how far he had to drive to get home.  He is blessed with a wife who is a true partner and always willing to work with him, as opposed to a wife who contented herself with spending money to keep up with the Jones', if you know what I mean.

35 years later they have a family and a life where they do not have to worry overly much about debt or disaster, because they can take care of themselves.

He also told the boys that the reason he is so picky is because there are a lot of people out there who don't know what they are doing.  Added into that was the fact that when you are working for yourself you are well advised to make sure you do it right, because if you get a bad reputation you are sunk.  Not that you can't redeem a bad reputation, but it takes a long time and even extra work.  All the advertising in the world cannot bring in as much money as one good testimonial repeated 3 times.  If you do good work, word gets around.  That was why after working 14 hours he made them clean up their mess before they quit.  You can put it off, but it will just make more work in the end.

We are ready to put down shingles on the third day.  If you are not impressed by the fact that one 56 year old man and two 14 year old boys accomplished that in 2 days, I would lay money that you have never put on a new roof.

At the age the twins are now, I am so thankful that they have this guiding light in their lives.  It is hard to trust anyone with your children when you are a mother.  Even if it's someone who is like a brother to you and who you would trust with their lives.  Ironically, their father basically abandoning them has actually worked out for the best, thanks to a little help from my friends.  Well, a lot of help.  Help that I could not offer them, being a woman.  

Again I urge you to go outside, look around, and pick one of the children that you will undoubtedly find wandering around doing nothing, and get to know them.  Teach them what you can.  Listen to them.  Look into their eyes and get to know them.  Don't judge them by anything you think you might know about them, let them show you what they can be.  We can save the world this way, and you can never have too many kids who respect you.  Kids grow into adults very quickly, and we all have a stake in how they turn out.

Everybody starts out with a good reputation.  It's up to every individual to keep it.  Simple as that.