Here’s an idea I had today while thinking of what happened last night.

If you’ve been a motor vehicle operator for a little while, you may know that the most important thing you can do for your car is to change the oil regularly. Every 3000 miles or so, depending on manufacturer’s recommendations, your level of sales resistance, and your paying attention to the little sticker in the windshield. If you’ve never run a car out of oil, you may not know: Why is this important?

All machines, engines especially, depend on lubrication to function. There are lots of moving parts – all necessary to the mission. There are pistons, which carry the energy of violent and precisely timed explosions to the crankshaft; there are valves and rockers and lifter arms that control the flow of air, fuel, and exhaust. There is the crankshaft itself which transfers energy to the transmission and ultimately to the wheels. All of these need oil – clean oil – to keep working properly.

If you haven’t, you should change the oil in your car yourself at least once. It’s pretty straightforward and inexpensive. There are many tutorials available, so I won’t go into the mechanics for your car. The principle is universal: Drain and discard the old oil and old filter, and replace with new oil and filter. With a little practice, it really only takes 10-20 minutes – but it saves the life of your car.

Oil is so important to machines that in the early years of the industrial age, every machine had an oiler. Locomotives, car factories, power plants, sawmills – one or many people were employed to make sure the machines got their oil. It’s far cheaper to pay someone to squirt oil into a port than to pay for a breakdown – lost production could be far more disastrous than even replacing the machine.

Why is the oil so important?

Friction. That’s the purest answer. Friction happens when materials interact: Wheels on the road, feet on carpet, wings through air. Friction is a fact of life, and it’s a good thing – without it, we couldn’t accomplish much in the physical world. No walking, swimming, writing, sensation of motion or touch – in fact, it ‘s hard to imagine a frictionless life. Friction behaves somewhat predictably, depending on the speed, force, and roughness of the materials in contact. In the case of metal parts of an engine, even though the parts are machined smooth they touch all around and move very fast. This friction would cause enough heat and expansion to make everything seize in a hot second if not for the lubricating, cooling properties of oil. The oil flows between moving parts, providing a cushion of slippery softness that lets the work get done.

Oil breaks down over time and with use. It loses viscosity (becomes weak and runny), and impurities enter the system. A bit of dirt here, a shaving of metal from a rough start one cold morning. These things will scratch the moving parts, get stuck, or create leaks – any of which reduce the power and smoothness of the machine. This natural breakdown is expected; it’s why regular oil changes are recommended. From the lawn mower to the Rolls Royce, every engine needs its oil changed to keep working at its best.

Some people are content to not have things ‘at their best’ – I’ve forgotten an oil change and no apparent damage was done. Apparent is the key word though: Damage is always done by running past the oil’s useful life. Always. It may not be apparent, and it may be insignificant to the overall function – but it’s damage, and it’s cumulative.

In a family, there are many moving parts and differing roles. This is the engine. The roles change over time as people mature and grow, but they never stop moving. There is a baseline you expect of activity and power – going to work, going to school, paying bills, making dinner, enjoying dinner, having some time together, some time alone, a few nice things, taking a vacation, doing dishes and laundry, having a place to sleep and breakfast with coffee in the morning. Your to-do list really makes up your life – and it applies to everyone. I’ve heard it said and it’s turned out true for me: Look at a person’s calendar and checkbook, and you’ll know what’s important to them. All these important and mundane things are carried out in close proximity and timing with family.

Naturally, where there are moving parts in close proximity, there will be friction.

We shouldn’t expect more out of unpredictable and sometimes irrational humans than we do of predictable and stable machines, should we?

Families need oiling and regular oil changes as well.

What’s the oil in this scenario? Communication is the oil. The barest of necessities would be, ‘I need you to be here at this time’ or ‘Dinner is at 6PM’ or ‘Please take out the trash.’ Saying what is needed and wanted is NECESSARY to function. Many families I’ve witnessed have trouble with this. Any communication can be oil – ‘how was your day’ or ‘what do you think of this’ or a shared laugh – a shared sorrow – all of it works to smooth the workings of normal life.

Irritants creep in from all over, and do the same work as they do in a machine. They do damage. Sarcastic comments, rolled eyes, hurtful remarks, promises unkept, rules broken. Sometimes a family member will hoist the middle finger and say ‘Screw you!’ aloud, but often the damage is more subtle.

For me it’s table manners. For some reason, people talking with a full mouth really irritates me. Also dirty dishes: If they can’t be loaded in the dishwasher, then they should at least be rinsed and stacked so as to make half the sink usable and an easy chore for the next dishwasher loader. For others it could be money management, grades, or relationship choices,

Yes, these are first-world problems. But the offenses cause world-war problems!

It doesn’t matter who you are or what your status, there are things that bring you joy and things that irritate you. Those close to you know both, and they have the privilege of being able to push either button.

These irritants are minor and insignificant when measured alone. However, this scratch plus that dent plus that bad cylinder, and you have a problem. They add up. The little things matter.

How to deal with them? Communicate. Have a meeting of the minds. Formal or casual doesn’t matter. Get the facts and the opinions of the facts out in the open.

What if you still disagree? Valid question, one that needs to be addressed. Who is in what role? What’s the work to be done? Are you in a primary or supporting role? The mission determines the answer to this question. If you’re in the business of producing a college graduate, it may or may not be a different answer than one who’s in the business of avoiding jail time.

OK, we’ve addressed the oil. It’s all fresh and new, we’re communicating in strange new ways. What’s left?

Glad you asked, there’s a device called an oil filter that removes most of the gunk so the work can get done between oil changes.

What do we do with that, and how does it relate to the family allegory?

After a certain amount of use, the oil filter is ineffective. It’s clogged and full, unable to fulfill its role anymore. This is when you remove it, discard it, and replace it with a new one.

This is forgiveness. The filter collects and stores irritants and damaging elements. You take those and throw them away. You could count and catalog all the things that could have caused real damage, but instead you change out the filter and CHOOSE to move on without those elements – counting them as if they’d never occurred. That is forgiveness: Acknowledging a debt but choosing not to collect on it. Every so often you need to reconcile. Either collect payment on these accumulated debts or forgive them.

Since they never will be all and fully paid, some or all of these irritants must be forgiven in order to keep the machine in working order.

Forgiveness is necessary to keep your family machine in working order. It’s part of the oil change. And if you change your oil 3-4 times per year, like I do, then your family deserves at least as much attention.

This is a work intended to be published while sober. I published it anyway. Subject to correction disclaimer hereby attached.

Happy 2013!

I was born in an odd year, graduated high school in an odd year, and got married the 2nd time in an odd year. So far that’s working out pretty well for me, here’s hoping this one is even just as good!

Highlights from last year:

  • Celebrated my 3rd wedding anniversary to the best wife ever
  • Flew 130.8 hImageours in 6 different aircraft, earned my High Performance endorsement
  • Started Instrument Ground School (for the 2nd time)
  • Played 48 gigs with Steelwater
  • Played 30 some times with the Wombats (church band)
  • Visited Michigan twice
  • Visited Virginia a buncha times
  • Turned another year older
  • Voted
  • Slung lots of lumber, tile, cabinets, and even some shingles
  • Posted twice in my blog
  • Made some friends

There, now you’re up to date on what’s been going on!

No, for the last time, I’m not having thinking pains.

Although it seems that way sometimes.

ImageI saw a post on Fark today from pet owners lamenting the spike in Christmas gift returns – to animal shelters. This guy posted a picture of his dog with the caption, “Every day he acts like he won the lottery.” I wish to be like that dog.

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Headline: “Homeless man hit by car”

Except that he isn’t just some homeless guy; he is my friend. Also, he isn’t homeless anymore. He had just gotten sober after years of insobriety. He had just secured an apartment and was moving in last weekend. He was working 2 carpentry jobs to pay his way. The sort of fellow that shows up and grabs a reflective vest and says, “Let me help direct traffic” for church downtown. He’s seriously farked up. Hip, femur, arm, various other bones broken. Countless contusions. Another friend said, “I’m praying hard for that guy.” He needs it, so if you’re the praying type, pray for Ron.

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It turns out I don’t like being home alone all that much. In my former life, a night alone would be like vacation. Free rein, sky’s the limit, let’s do stuff we can’t normally do! Except that now with Life 2.0, I find that time alone is rather boring. I enjoy the company of Wife 2.0. and when she’s not around I tend to think of my Dad’s later years, home alone without a companion. Mom was in a nursing home, and Dad found things to occupy some of his time – but there was a lot of leftover time. Oh, the things I could do if I only had time… Turns out I can chew through a buttload of time without much to show for it.

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I do not like stripping the paint off 110 year old doors. Not one bit. It’s a chore from the desk of Hell Middle School’s history teacher. But as I’ve been reminded (repeatedly), I volunteered for that chore.

It still sucks.

Hopefully the weather warms up enough so I can get fresh paint on these doors tomorrow, for they are the devices that keep cats off my head overnight. I’ve missed them being in their places, these sentries against feline invasion.

*****

Tomorrow we’re getting a new driveway. Yay! No more squelching of thick, sticky mud every time Iwant to get in the car. Fresh gravel for all – and maybe a year without having to mow the driveway! It’s entirely likely that I’ll get to drive a Bobcat too. If you haven’t operated a Bobcat, go rent one. They’re hella fun!

There, now I’m only 2 posts overdue.

Happy anniversary to the LOML, Tiff! We’ve been ‘official’ for 3 years now, and it’s been fantastic. Here’s to the next 70 anniversaries being this good!

I got my blog stats for last year from WordPress. Really neat report they provide, with all kinds of stats and graphics. Great big banner across the top with fireworks for each post in the year.

I had one firework. (pip)

Hmm, seems the ol’ blog has been somewhat neglected. It falls in the same category with everything else I intend to do but don’t because I sit down with a cocktail after work and stay pretty much sat for the night. It’s a wonder I manage to eat dinner and wind up in bed with my teeth brushed.

Maple and brown sugar Malt-O-Meal is the breakfast of kings. I can’t find it around here or in Michigan, but did manage to smuggle 4 boxes from California in the luggage.

There was an airplane I was gonna buy, but it got sold to another person who didn’t bother with pesky things like a pre-buy inspection. It’s for the best, I’m sure – I really have no business owning an airplane today. Someday I fully intend to have one, but there are a few things that should take precedence. I guess. These are the things I tell myself.

Happy 2012, I’m off to finish a job that should have been done by Thanksgiving!

I’m not sure about ye Olde English, having just a passing acquaintance through the King James Bible as a yoot. (Actual words I heard from a spinster who was protesting a new version of the Bible: “If King James English was good enough for Jesus, it’s good enough for me.”)

One of the Christmas prezniks requested from my LOML was a post every week. This is the first installment on that request. She’s out picking up the Things so we can celebrate a little Tiny House Christmas together, so this’ll be brief & sneaky.

Much has happened this year, much indeed. So many stories, so I shouldn’t have trouble filling space with just the last few calendar pages even if nothing else occurs this year.

Last week we traveled to one of my favorite places on the planet, Clarksburg CA. My aunt, uncle, and many cousins are there. It’s a very small town, and they’re not even in it. Rural cubed, I’d say. Lots of farmland which is quickly becoming vineyards. My cousin Jeff gave me a couple local vintages as a gift, if you ever have a chance to snag some Bogle (very easy) or Elevation 10 (less easy) wine, do so – it’s fantastic!

Peace and chicken grease to y’all, and to y’all a good night!

Nah, I’m not quitting. I’ve had many a passing thought to write about this or that or the other, but the time it takes (me) to write a post I like exceeds my estimated attention span. Thanks Ron, Kenju, oldfriend, Malach, Greg, and of course Tiff for the encouragement. It’s nice to feel loved.

Freakin’ Facebook. I’ve become accustomed to checking in on friends in 90 seconds, then maybe a cuppa times a week writing a status update that takes all of 10 seconds. It’s made it so easy connect that I almost never do, truly.

On the upside, I did meet a high school friend in Richmond last week thanks to Facebook. I hadn’t seen him in 23 years, so there was plenty to talk about over lunch at Sticky Rice. It was amazing to count the similar yet wildly divergent paths we took since growing up in a very conservative town.

My flight lessons are progressing (too slowly for my preference, I’ve had more cancelled flights than realized ones because of weather), and each is probably worthy of a story. That’s what I’ll do then.

But for now, I must finish the kitchen (finally) for the Mother of Tiff is arriving tonight for the Easter weekend, and it must be ship-shape. I leave you with a picture of Shortcake (my daughter’s gnome). He’s going on adventures before going to be with her, any suggestions?

Someday.

I’ve been known to say that on many an occasion. About lots of things. I am sooooo skilled at procrastination, I’ve convinced some folks that I’m getting right on their issue while totes giving them the blow-off.

Don’t worry, I do it to myself too. Frequently.

Things like going jogging, balancing the checkbook, writing letters, doing paperwork, computing estimates… All things that would benefit mankind in general and me specifically, I can put off with a deft hand and ease of well-excused conscience.

I suspect I’m not alone in procrastinating, but that only aids and abets my lazy-ass ‘manana’ attitude. I wonder, are some people born go-getters and others born come-what-mays? Can it be overcome, like homosexuality?

Mark Twain’s autobiography was published today, 100 years after his death – as prescribed by the author. He sure knew how to sell a book. I might buy it.

I’mma go eat some pizza and swim in the hotel pool. Please comment so I know whether to keep this blog.

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