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0108 PD: Eternal résumés

Yevet Tenney Published on 21 December 2007

A few weeks ago, I taught my husband’s heavy equipment class of high school students how to write a résumé and cover letter and gave them information to prepare them for an interview with a potential employer. I talked to them about skills, work experience, education and interests. I talked of job portfolios and letters of recommendation.

They listened with passive interest, and I wanted to shake each one of them and say, “Don’t you know the information I am trying to teach you is the key to acceptance in a competitive world!” But I could tell their minds were not on the subject at hand. They were thinking of the loader and the dozer sitting out front waiting for them. They were thinking about the girl of their dreams and the new car they would one day own. A myriad of thoughts race through a teenager’s mind in a discussion of the future – because it is not here and now. It is forever away.

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I remember drawing pictures in my English classes, when the teacher talked about grammar and punctuation. I thought of plots of the stories I was going to write, when I should have been paying attention to the history lesson. I daydreamed about my future husband, that I was going to marry right out of high school, while I was in science class. How could I know back then that I would one day teach history and that grammar and punctuation would become a lifeline as I began my writing career. Who could have possibly known that I would be 38 years old when Prince Charming came into my life? Life is packed with surprises!

In the movie It’s a Wonderful Life, an old man watching a youthful scene between Jimmy Stewart and his girl, lamented, “Youth is wasted on the young!” What an accurate description! Except as I think about it, it is not only the teenagers who miss out on life. Adults throw good years away more times than they care to admit.

Many people meander through life making their way toward retirement, wishing their yesterdays could be relived or their tomorrows would finally get here. They plan grandiose tomorrows, but they never quite step up to the starting line. When retirement finally arrives, they sit down in the “easy chair” and fade away. Not Jocie Tenney, my mother-in-law. She jumped into life with the gusto of a racehorse chomping at the bit and did not stopped for 89 years. At one of her last checkups, the doctor looked at the test results and said, “You have the body of a 60-year-old!” If the doctor could see how much she accomplished in a day, he would say, “I’d be surprised if a 2-year-old can keep up with you!” If there is any woman in the world who truly exemplifies the virtuous woman Solomon spoke of in Proverbs 31 (“Who can find a virtuous woman?”), it’s Jocie. We could put her name in every verse, and it would fit because she has embodied that virtuous woman in every way. She must have used it for her morning prayer.

Jocie was a wonder! She tatted, quilted, knitted and spun her own wool to make hats, scarves and mittens. She sewed everything from wedding dresses to pajamas. She played the piano and sang. She painted pictures and wrote history books. She learned to use the computer in her later years, so she could type her family newsletter that has been a monthly tradition since 1978. Before the computer was invented she typed everybody’s letters on a typewriter and mailed it out to the family members. She wrote nearly 10 personal journals. She made elaborate scrapbooks for each of her eight children. Jocie’s footprints are on the run all through her life. If anyone dares follow her, they better plan to sprint. I wrote a poem for her funeral that sums up her life.

Like a Weaver

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Jocie, like a weaver, went through life
Spinning golden threads to tie up wounded hearts.
She found the wool of wandering sheep
And spun it into gold.

She crocheted lives together in tapestries of love.
Spinning, spinning, spinning
The spindle never still.
Warming those in need with tokens of her love.

Now the spinning wheel is still
And the yarn and wool a pile
Tucked in an empty box,
But the threads of love still linger

Weaving, weaving, weaving.
Tapestries of memory living in our hearts.

My parents were cut from the same fabric. They are workhorses of the first rate. My dad, Jay Crandell, now in his 80s, still works as if he were a “spring chicken” as he calls it. The other day, I went to visit, and both he and my mother were preparing the garden spot for spring planting. They had about 60 bags of fertilizer to spread on a half-acre. They took shovels and covered the entire area. I helped, but I was exhausted when we finished. My sedentary lifestyle as a writer is telling on me, but they worked tirelessly until the manure was spread and the entire place was tilled. I helped with the tilling, but they both beat me with stamina.

These are people who get up at 4 a.m. to drive 30 miles to serve in their church. These are people who bottle a 1,000-plus quarts of vegetables, fruits and meat for the winter and give it away to family members who are working to provide for their families. My mother made over 50 quilts in a year for her children and grandchildren. These were not tied quilts; they were hand-quilted in tiny stitches. These are people who are still cowboys taking care of a herd of range cattle. What an eternal résumé!

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I think of the things that I might add to a résumé if I were going to have an interview with my maker. My parents and Reg’s parents would hand a gold leaf résumé to the Savior. It would be lettered with elegant calligraphy and would spell out deeds of kindness and service a mile long. Their skills would include everything from fence building to community service. Their list of interests would be short and to the point: God, family, country. My poor résumé would be smattered with “Would-have-done-if’s” and “I’ll-get-to-that-tomorrow’s.” My skills would be a crippled list of “I-know-how-to-do, but-I-don’t-have-time.” My résumé would not be very impressive.

It’s hard in a world where there are so many distractions. My parents didn’t grow up with the telephone, the Internet and the television. They didn’t have a car that could travel from one end of the world to the other in a few days. They didn’t have kids that were involved in band, baseball, basketball, Scouting and the list goes on. They were not expected to do everything. They just focused on what was important: family and God. I guess that’s why our society needs so many painkillers and antidepressants. We have lost sight of the simple life. We expect to find rest watching re-runs of violence and murder. We expect to find satisfaction in sending 45 e-mails to friends before the day is gone. We expect to be able to move as fast as our modem or the speed of our Internet connection.

With the new year marching in, leaving an old year in its wake, I can’t help but wonder what I’m going to put on my eternal résumé. Time goes so fast; I’ll be there before I know it. Excuses are not going to do. When it’s over, it’s over!

The solution is obvious. I don’t need a list of more things to do, and a well-written pile of resolutions. I need to slow down and make choices. Life is no longer an issue of good versus bad or right and wrong. It is an issue of to do or not to do. Sometimes we just have to say, “No.” We need to say “no” to things that are not edifying. Say “no” to time wasters. “No” to needless trips in the car or on the Internet. We need to say “yes” to a daily appointment with Deity with prayer and meditation. Say “yes” to family time and long, intimate talks about what matters to our spouse. Say “yes” to developing skills that can be passed from generation to generation. Say “yes” to sleep without the interruption of worry. Say “yes” to a daily walk in nature to sort out and align your life.

If I can follow my own advice, my eternal résumé will look more like those written by my parents and my husband’s parents. PD

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