Tag Archives: Disability

Furniture, Factories, and Me: Repurposing Comes to Life

I’ve always repurposed objects, but this week I’m celebrating repurposing from a new perspective.  As I repurposed sod in our backyard this week to cover hole my dog had dug, I realized I’m also in the process of repurposing the interests, skills and gifts from my years as a pastor, parent, writer and organizer into new outlets in my current circumstances.  We not only re-use or re-purpose objects, we repurpose our life skills.

Over the years, I’ve repurposed

  • Furniture from one room to another, and given some items a completely new home with other people who will found a good purpose for them;
  • Used old envelopes as paper for grocery lists;
  • Turned pitchers and jars into vases and lace table runners into framed art;
  • Used old tires as boat bumpers and sleds;
  • Changed trees that blew down in our yard during a recent windstorm into firewood;
  • Moved sod from one part of the yard to another both to make room for a vegetable garden and to cover a hole where our dog was digging to the center of the earth.

When I re-use objects this ways, I feel thrifty and creative.  But it wasn’t until I was covering up the dog’s project with sod on Monday, that I realized this same creativity is involved in repurposing ourselves and that this repurposing is part of the wisdom that comprises a good life.

Repurposing doesn’t move something forward without changing it in some way.  It’s the process of building on what now exists to create something new.  Now I use my writing skills in blogging and editing instead of preaching.  Instead of preparing sermons, attending meetings, and helping churches and organizations change, I use the same mental skills to learn about computers and clouds, gardening and cooking, and to brush up on the rules of English grammar.

An article in the Wall Street Journal on January 13, 2012 featured a traditional old textile company in South Carolina that didn’t of go out-of-business like most of its U.S. competitors when textile production moved overseas.  After trying unsuccessfully to fight the flight of production, its management realized the best way forward was to develop new products that built upon the company’s knowledge of fabrics and chemicals.  Today, Milliken & Co. makes “the fabric that reinforces duct tape, the additives that make refrigerator food containers clear and children’s art markers washable, the products that make mattresses fire resistant, countertops antimicrobial, windmills lighter, and combat gear protective….Milliken boasts that we come in contact with its many products almost 50 times a day” (John Bussey, “The Anti-Kodak: How a U.S. Firm Innovates”).  Their willingness to change made them different and is producing the best economic performance the company has ever had.  They repurposed their depth of knowledge in textiles and chemicals to innovate and creat new products.

A friend who is a retired educator, active church member and committed to teaching children the Christian faith was diagnosed with cancer.  Her treatments kept her at home, just when she had arranged to begin a youth program for teen girls in her church.  Instead of giving up on her plans, she reorganized them, and had the girls come to her house.  She taught them to pick raspberries and to make apple pie, how to set a table properly and how to make tea.  They made pies, cakes, jam and macaroons to give to church members who were lonely.  As they worked, they talked about life, faith, boys, and parents. They read some scripture and prayed.  The girls delivered the goodies as promised, and my friend went back to bed to rest.  She repurposed her gifts and skills such that even in the throes of cancer treatment, she brought new life to a group of girls and is having a longterm impact.

If I can change a dilemma or difficulty in my life into an adventure and an opportunity for creativity, I feel energized and challenged by the circumstances.  Changing an old object into something usable or beautiful is energizing.  Repurposing my skills and gifts for this new chapter of life might be even more so.

I’m glad for the insight that came while trimming sod this week, but I’m still not happy with Troy’s digging in the yard.  Now if I could repurpose her digging into something helpful……

The Never Enough Syndrome

Last week I wrote that thinking about times of scarcity and abundance in our life improves our attitude, and gives both peace and hope.  A friend asked me what I meant by “scarcity” and “abundance.”

 “Right now, you wish you had more money, your foot felt better, and you had a buyer for your house,” I said. “I understand that.  It feels like you don’t have what you want.  You’re feeling ‘scarcity.’  At the same time, you can pay your bills, your foot’s healing, and you have a house that’s paid for.  You could call that … ‘abundance.’  That’s what I mean.”

“You’re right,” he said, smiling.  “I want more, but I have what I need.  In fact, I have a lot.  That’s pretty good.  Thanks.  You made my day.”

No matter what we have, it’s easy to feel that we don’t have enough (scarcity).  We want more, better, bigger.  The advertising that bombards us each day tries to increase these feelings of scarcity and desire, so that we’ll want things we don’t need.  For example, a five-year-old car and one-year-old cell phone really don’t need to be replaced with the newest versions, unless they’ve been badly damaged.

Sometimes, however, not having enough is more than a feeling, it is reality.  Our life has a hole in it (job, money, friends, family, health, stability) that can’t be washed away with a new attitude.     

Imagined scarcity can be eliminated.  Actual scarcity can be made more livable and less destructive.  One way to do this is to balance our scarcity with an awareness of the abundance we have in our life.  There are good reasons why people have, for centuries, turned their minds away from their troubles and towards the “blessings” and abundance in their life: Doing so calms the heart rate, reduces stress hormones and pain, and sets the mind free to be creative about both current stuff and future directions.  We discover gratitude.

Here’s an example from my life.  Many years ago, my family lived in the wild blueberry country of northeastern New York.  Never having eaten wild blueberries, I remembered my mother’s stories about the tasty wild blueberries of her childhood.  So my family went on a quest to collect the Holy Grail of blueberries:  tiny wild blueberries from the slopes of the Berkshire Mountains.  Mom was right.  I’d never tasted anything like this before.  We took buckets of fruit home.

I’d waited all my life for these little berries.  Each time a berry slipped down the drain as I was washing them, I pushed my handed into the garbage disposal to get it back.  I was intense.

Once as I reached in the drain, I felt a wall collapse in my brain.  I suddenly realized that I’d been feeling and behaving as if I’d never get enough blueberries, when all around me were buckets of them.  I hadn’t realized my abundance.  Within minutes, I stopped obsessing and relaxed.  Life got a lot better.

Twenty years later, I can still picture myself standing there with blueberry-stained hands, and feel the tension leave my body.  My smile returns.  My heart calms.  The tension leaves my shoulders once again.

The most well-known prayer of the Christian faith is The Lord’s Prayer, also known as The Common Prayer and The Our FatherOne of its sentences holds an antidote to the Never Enough Syndrome.  In it, Jesus tells his followers to pray, “Give us this day, our daily bread” (emphasis added). 

Followers are not instructed to ask for a feast or even a full refrigerator.  They’re told to ask for enough ordinary bread to supply that day’s living.  When I keep that as my focus, I’m much more likely to be grateful for my daily bread and for the jam I’m fortunate to put on it.

My Flight Pattern: Zoom-P-P-P-P-P-Zoom

I feel like a balsa airplane whose rubber band releases too soon.  I keep going p-p-p-p-p instead of z-o-o-m.

Balsa planes are low-tech—no engines, batteries, or even glue.  They have two pieces of wood for the body and wings, a plastic propeller, and a rubber band for power.   I used to play with these for hours.

images103U11YFTo make them fly, you hold the plane with one hand and rotate the propeller with the other until the rubber band is wound as tightly as possible.  If you do it right, the plane can zoom above trees and land in a neighboring yard.

If your finger slips off the propeller too soon, however, the rubber band unwinds and you have to start over.  The plane goes p-p-p-p-p.  It sits forlornly in your hand or plops to the ground.

Right now, I feel like I’m more p-p-p-p-p than zoom.  I get motivated and wind my rubber band for the next flight.  Then I lose momentum and go plop. 

One year ago, I looked for a new direction in life by starting this blog.  I was passionate about my new direction, my learning curve, and my writing.  I started to fly.  In January, my health went down the drain and I took a break from the blog.  Then I wound up the rubber band and got myself flying again.

By late spring, I realized that getting strong enough to enjoy my son’s wedding and manage the 500 details related to it would take all the energy I had, so I again set aside my blog.  Afterwards, I focused on recovery.  Done, done, and done.  Zoom in life, p-p-p-p on the blog!

Now I’m winding up the rubber band again.  Half the time, though, my drive goes p-p-p-p-p instead of zoom.  It’s hard to get restarted.

Thinking about balsa airplanes helps me get going again.  I remember that: 

  • No matter how many times you successfully fly the plane, your finger will slip off the propeller from time to time and the rubber band unwind.
  • After every successful flight, you have to wind up the propeller again.
  • The thrill of the flight is worth the effort, no matter how many times you have to start over.

Learning:  Pick up your plane and start again.  Flying feels great.