Purpose

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Some of my best writing usually comes from some uncontrollable feelings that I need to just get out on paper. Other great pieces have come from something that I felt was really interesting. I miss writing. I miss having a purpose to my ramblings.

It used to be that I used my opinion column to connect with readers. I’m often socially awkward and slightly introverted so writing helped me express all the things I was afraid to tell people. It helped me grow out of my awkwardness because a reader would  often comment on something I wrote and that would be the opener to a more in depth conversation than, say, the ever changing the weather.

I keep looking at the newspaper, the one I used to write for. I wish I could just leave it alone. I wish I didn’t care so I would not see the things I started, the things I designed, get picked up by someone else. The community I poured myself into get less than they deserve.

I started a photo column when I worked there. It was all about the county the newspaper served. I would travel around the county and photograph random scenes, animals, people, and write about what I saw or how it made me feel. Abandoned houses often caught my attention. I liked to imagine what kind of life those houses sheltered and what brought them to their state of disrepair. One time my musings about a photo of a friendly looking abandoned home led to a reader sending me a letter about the life she shared with her husband early in their marriage. She told me about their son they raised there and the good times they had. She shared how she was lost since her husband died. Her husband died on the very day my youngest was born. A coincidence, perhaps, but she was touched by my recognizing the house as a happy place and I was humbled by her letter.

Another reader had lived in that house and shared a photo when it was at its best with fresh white paint an inviting front porch and an large old tree in the front yard. I took the old photo back to the old house and photographed it next to the house as it is today. I then had it developed and mailed it to the lady who shared her experience with me. That kind of connection is what I loved most and miss dearly. It gave my writing purpose.

Sometimes I feel like I let someone rob me of something that was part of me. When I left the paper I left for my health; for my sanity. But the further away I get from the events that led to severing ties to that place the more bitter I become about it all.

These energy vampires, why are they allowed to walk around and affect so many lives in a negative way and they remain seemingly unscathed? It hardly seems fair.

Sometimes I feel like the abandoned homes I’m so fascinated with. Which is hard for the people I love to understand. I should be more fulfilled, right? I have nothing to complain about. Life really is good. I know this. So, I redirect my focus to the people close to me, meanwhile I look for ways to reach out through writing, music, something — anything — because talent shouldn’t sit idle, it needs somewhere to go. Artists need an audience, musicians need someone to listen, writers need readers, and we all need a purpose.

 

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Little country store

Kentucky, like many rural places, is peppered with country stores. They were once hopping with business as travelers on their way to work, the next town or, the next state, would stop and get their fuel or fill their belly with a fried bologna and tomato sandwich.

I deterred from my normal stop at a modern gas station with it’s pay-at-the-pump impersonal convenience. With my gas gauge teetering on empty I was certain I wouldn’t make it the 8 miles to town. So I pulled into our neighborhood country store with their marginally higher fuel prices.

An older man with a white and gray beard came out to meet me at the pump. He was dressed in his work clothes complete with his stitched and worn name tag; his ball cap bill, slick with oil from countless adjustments.

“How much?” he asked.

“Twenty, please.”

I went inside with my youngest boy, his brothers already off to school for the day, he was sure to get a morning treat. A pack of donuts, maybe more.

We picked our drinks and he held his donuts like a prize and we walked to the counter. With each step the uneven wood floor creaked, worn by thousands of steps. As we waited on my sausage biscuit to warm up, my little guy struck up a conversation with the gentleman who pumped our gas.

“What’s your name?” Little guy said.

“My name? My name is Mark,” the man said.

He told the man his name and the man told us how he shared a first name with my son. He told us that he was named after his grandfather and also a famous writer. After our conversation we made our way back to my car and down the road to Nana’s house.

That encounter made our day a little more rich with humanity, something a a modern pay-at-the-pump convenience store cannot do. I will be stopping at more country stores and mom-n-pop restaurants in my travels because I enjoy getting to know the people who make these places unique. Do you have a favorite little stop? Have you ever been surprised by stopping somewhere you weren’t sure about at first?

Observing human behavior from my porch

Go ahead have a laugh at my crumby yard sale sign. I am.

Yard Sale. That’s what I’m doing this weekend. It’s a lot of hard work getting everything out and displaying my junk goods in such a way as to make people want to buy them. When I have a yard sale my main objective is to get rid of crap stuff and eliminate clutter, freeing up some much needed space so I can bring in more stuff so that space can be utilized to it’s full potential.

I’ve always liked to observe people and their behavior. It gives me much entertainment something to think about. So here is a compilation of the sort of people that you will see at a yard sale.

There’s deal hounds, they sniff out every deal, they look it over, pick it up, walk around it and if it suits their fancy they ask for a lower price. If you don’t oblige they walk away. There are those that act like they are getting away with stealing. They hold their goods in the crook of their arm, come to you to pay and the whole time they’re looking around like they are going to get caught. There’s people who can’t decide if they really want something. They dance around the item, they’ll even pick it up and walk around with it looking at other stuff. Sometimes these types make a purchase only to have yard sale remorse as they drive away realizing they didn’t need it after all. Sometimes they simply figure out they really don’t want/need the item before they leave and put it back making sure you didn’t see them (this used to be me, but I’m getting better). There are ones that are embarrassed to be seen at a yard sale and are continually dodging behind large furniture and trees or ducking under tables and hanging clothes when a car drives by. They make a quick exit when someone else arrives. I think these are also the drive by yard salers, see below.

There are ones that pull in your driveway look from the car, if nothing catches their eye they leave. Because they really want to make sure they didn’t miss something they are backing up still looking for something to make them stay and get out of the car, only to back over your carefully planted, fertilized, pruned and absolutely stunning rose bush that is now a stub, quickly speeding off before the angry yard sale lady comes running.

There are ones that get some sort of high from looking through your stuff and getting good deals, you could practically see their eyes dilate from the excitement when the pick up an item that’s priced well. They will then rush around the tables like they are on speed grasping at all sorts of things with no real regard as to what they are grabbing.

There are people that get competitive at yard sales too. They eye their opponents and carefully size them up as they walk toward the stuff. They are constantly looking over their shoulder to see what others are looking at and quickly grab up the semi-good item just so others can’t get it. I suspect that these people would be the ones that look and leave if there was nobody else around at the time.

The drive by yard saler will drive by slowly, turn around down the road somewhere and drive back by even slower but won’t stop because nothing catches their eye. I think these people really can’t stop unless there is a large piece of furniture calling to them or they could be the embarrassed ones as stated above.

You have the people who you can clearly see pick up an item read the sticker then turn to you and ask “How much for this?” You tell them what you thought the price was only to receive this exact reply: “That’s not what the sticker says!” Seriously? Also the ones that, I think, come just to see what kind of stuff you have with no intentions on making any purchases. This is especially true of neighbors.

My personal favorite, the die hard deal getter. They will haggle to the bitter end trying to talk you down. They absolutely cannot pay asking price for ANYTHING. To them paying asking price is a sin and they will be tortured for days thinking they could have gotten something for a better price. For example: an item is .25¢,  die hard deal getter asks “Will you take any less?” What?!? Are you flippin’ kidding me? They don’t even make stickers with lesser amounts printed on them anymore! But I have one for you, deal getter, the stuff you are giving me money for—no matter how much you talked me down—was destined for the mission store anyway. Ha ha ha ha who has the last laugh now, yeah, that’s what I’m talking about!

I like the older folks that come to yard sales. They are friendly, they take their time, they ask how you’re doing and always tell you to have a good day. I’ve just said good bye to one of these types, a nun, who sat on our front porch rocking chair and talked with me and the boys like she knew us for years and left saying God bless to our whole family, and God bless our adventure in building a house.

PS if there’s typos and grammar issues, I apologize. I’ve read this thing 15 times and quite honestly I’m tired. Not to mention it is darn near impossible to proofread your own writing.