My Family Through Someone Else's Eyes

There is nothing in the world that will make you appreciate your own family, and your own life, like seeing those from someone else's point of view.

Our son's friend is coming to visit. He's a nice kid and they've been friends since they were little. He has always enjoyed spending time with us; he is very polite, appreciates everything, and makes me sound like the best cook ever to walk the earth.

This nice boy has a home life that is a disaster. No details are necessary, but I can see why he likes it so much to spend time with us. We are a nice, solid family. He isn't torn between one parent's utter apathy and the other parent's neurotic need to control. At our home, he is treated like our own children: expected to be polite, to get dirty, to eat, to laugh, to clean up after himself somewhat, be nice to the animals and help if the opportunity arises.

I used to wonder if my children realize how fortunate they are, in so many ways. They have two parents (and they both have the same two parents), who are still married and still like eachother and them, too. They get to go to bed each night in a warm bed, in a nice house, with a full tummy and no fear. Mom and Dad will still be there when they wake up, and they will even be sober.

Their parents don't always agree, but they seldom fight, and never with violence. Our children had clean clothes to wear, a school to go to, friends to hang out with and places to go. They have an older generation of relatives to show them there are two kinds of wisdom: their parent's working-for-a-living kind, and a mellower, more patient, more amused older kind of wisdom. Those are both very valuable to who those children will become in their lives.

My children grew up in a way that taught them many important lessons. They know about gardens, livestock, pets, chores, work, building, cars, prayers, birth and death and life and love. Being young, the truth of those lessons will change some with the passing years. What they learned about prayers is one thing today. The same lesson will have new meaning in years to come.

I used to wonder if they really knew. Now, our older son is grown and gone. He knows. He is in a barracks with a bunch of guys who did not have the same blessings, and who did not learn the same lessons. He even told me that he deeply appreciated the gift we gave him: the tools he needed to step into life, ready and able to be a man.

Our younger son's friend, having never enjoyed those things except as a guest in our home, will have to make the gift for himself. His parents don't have it themselves and so, are unable to pass it on. Will seeing the possibility be enough? Will he make for himself the tools he needs to step into life, ready and able to be a man?

Rainy Days and Fridays

It's raining! It started raining yesterday afternoon and has been raining ever since. Sometimes it really pours, sometimes it's just a drizzle, but I love it all.

Maybe you have to live in the southwest to completely appreciate rain. I've had messages all day from, for instance, someone who said she just sat by the window all evening and watched the rain. In some parts of the world you can probably be committed to an asylum for behavior like that. Here, if you say that, you get a sigh of recognition and envy. Ah, yes. To just sit and watch the rain.

One of the things that makes my home region so special is the fact of four mild seasons. Summer is hot, but not unbearably so. In winter we get snow, but not so much that it really brings life to a halt. We have an honest-to-goodness autumn, which I love. The angle of the sunlight is especially beautiful in the fall. I love the whisper of coolness in the air, and the changing colors. Spring is lovely too, of course. We have a lot of varieties of flowering trees that are popular for landscaping around here. Pale pink and purple blossoms softened the view and sweeten the air.

Naturally, today I am thinking about rain. A nice, dreary day is a huge treat here. It would be the perfect day, were I home to enjoy it. Rainy summer days are the days I like to open the windows, get the house shining, and start baking. They aren't the best for making meringue pies, but anyone who lives in a humid climate might wonder why I even note that. Here, it is a rare day that is too humid for meringue. That's a little blessing of its own! The altitude is low enough that eclairs and cream puffs and other egg-risen pastry rise just fine. It is usually dry enough for meringue and warm enough for yeast rising. I think I'm getting hungry. :0)

Outside of the way the dogs smell on a rainy day, I love nearly everything else about it. My hair gets pretty fuzzy, but I can live with that. Lying in bed at night and listening to the falling rain is bliss. Even the way sound carries differently in the rain is a nice change. Having rain on a Friday is nice, too. Fridays are days of anticipation. They are a day to be cheerful and rain on a Friday makes it a softer day.

So, just in case God was feeling a little unappreciated today, I wanted to send the thought out there. Thank you for the rain. It's more than just needed moisture; it's a little summer cooling treat. Good call!

Marriage Vows, Part 2

I have this great notion of how to be the best wife ever. I just wish I could be better at actually doing it.

My guys just love hamburgers. Not me. I could live my whole life and never eat another one. Would you care to guess just how often hamburgers appear on the menu at our house? Yeah, exactly. I come by it honestly, I guess. My mother hated green peas, so if they hadn't served them at school, I would have reached adulthood without ever tasting one. :-)

I married an adrenaline junkie. Yes I did. And I don't even like to stand on a chair. You can well imagine this has led to some rifts. He got me to go on a rollercoaster a couple of years ago. That was the first time for that. I am trying to keep it the last, but he has other ideas. Plus, he wants to skydive. ???? I just can't even wrap my mind around that one.

So I wish I were more adventurous, for him. For myself I don't care. My ideas of adventure are much tamer than his. He likes speed and dizzying heights and thrills. Where can I buy some of that? Maybe just a touch of it? I would like to be able to surprise him with some wild thing to do. To tell the truth, my mind doesn't even imagine in that direction.

All I can say is, that testosterone....it's powerful stuff.

Marriage Vows

I’m one of those abstruse "old-fashioned and yet modern" women. I’m old enough to remember when they still called it “women’s lib”. I work full time in a professional office, and I still bake and sew and clean. My husband is the leader in our home, but I am the one who voted him into office. He is the president of our little domain. I am the cabinet, congress and house of representatives.

Part of that is my upbringing, and part of it is just good common sense. Every team needs a leader and my husband is a natural leader. Besides which, he is intelligent and wise, too. He makes good decisions. Those are good qualities in a leader. I wish we could find a president like that. But that is another subject.

Our wedding vows included promises to love, honor and obey. Yep. We even said “obey”. I guess we are modern enough to have a newer spin on “obey”. In our house, it is more a matter of mutual concession than commands. Whatever it is, it works for us. If he feels uncomfortable with something, I can respect that. On the same note, there are things which may not be inherently wrong but which bother me, so he refrains. That’s a form of obedience.

I talked about honor already, but love...now love is different. When we were first married, I thought I knew about love. I had been watching my parents and I thought that what they had is what love looked like.

Now I know better. Love is a chameleon, and looks different to every pair of eyes. The love my parents had suited them perfectly, but it was theirs and theirs alone. My love for my husband looks different, as does his for me.

One of the things that let me know I was a grown-up in the real world was the day I realized that giving him the demonstrations of love I wanted for myself, well that was not very loving of me. It was like buying him a new sewing machine for his birthday. Gee, thanks. Showing him I loved him would have to be in the language that meant love to him.

Lucky for me, my husband is good about showing his love for me on my terms, as well. I know darn good and well he would really like me to be up having coffee with him at 7:00 on Saturday mornings. Sometimes I do. But when I don’t, he fights the urge to go jump on the bed and ask me if I’m going to sleep all day. I must admit, he is not always able to resist the urge when it hits him, but he tries.

Another thing, and I am not sure if it fits into love or honor, is about not trying to change a person. My mother gave me only two pieces of marital advice. One was: if I was marrying him with the notion of trying to change him, then don’t get married. She said if he was going to change, that was his own growth, his own prerogative and had very little to do with me.

I knew he was an outdoorsman before we married. Even when I would really prefer he stayed home, it isn’t fair for me to try to change the rules after the game has started. Sometimes things I would have like to have done were put off because of some outdoorsy thing he was doing. Most of the time, I just have to remember he was involved in his stuff long before I thought of something else to do. With the exception of the time he was going to go fishing in Mexico when I was 8 months pregnant. There has to be SOME give and take, right?

Like any relationship between two people who are (hopefully) growing and learning, we have to revisit what it means to love, honor and obey from time to time. That's part of the fun. If it was always the same old boring thing, there would be no adventure in it.

Questions for God

About 20 years ago, I heard a sermon which has been making me think ever since. The priest was talking about heaven.

To be truthful, I had only half-listened to a lot of the sermon. I was younger then, and apt to daydream (although I was old enough to know better!) Then he said something that cut through the haze and resonated with me. He said that one of the things that happens when you reach heaven is that you finally have answers to your questions.

That day, I started thinking about what I wanted to ask God. Serious questions, perplexing ones, scientific questions and theological questions. Oh, do I have questions!
  • I get hay fever. Why did You put something that runs like that, upside-down over my mouth?
  • How is it that I should have wrinkles AND zits? Where is the justice in that?
  • Why do You give children to horrible parents, and withhold them from people who would be wonderful parents?
  • Do we really NEED mosquitoes?
  • Why do the very best people seem to have the very worst luck?
  • Do You make teenagers such a trial so that it will be easier to let them go?
  • I never did understand chemistry. Could You explain it, please?
  • And my big question: Does any church out there really have it right? Or do they all have some of the truth? Is anybody completely in the dark?

I probably should start keeping a list. But how would I take it with me?

Other People's Problems

Sometimes, learning about other people's problems can make you hold a magnifying glass to your own life. If you're lucky, maybe looking that close will show you just how blessed you really are.

We all know people who think the grass is greener in someone else's yard. That notion hit home for me when I learned, recently, about someone who went to have a roll in someone else's grass. It looks to me like her own yard is plenty pretty, but she had to go look around.

Happily, I can report that when I look at other people's yards, it only makes my own grass look greener. The choices made by other people encourage me to look at my own choices. And their actions sometimes make me think again about what I promised, before God, close to 24 years ago.

One of those promises was to honor my husband. What does that mean? I thought I knew when I made the promise, but I have since learned that it is more complicated than I first thought.

There's the basic idea of honoring someone: to treat them with respect, to be polite and considerate. Isn't it more than that? I think it is to show my respect and admiration for him, even when he isn't there and certainly when he is. I think it is also to honor him with my time and attention. Some people don't really merit the effort of my attention, truthfully, but my husband always does.

So what does it mean? It means I stop what I'm doing and help him when he asks. I stop the meanderings of my mind and focus my attention on him when he talks to me (no easy feat, that!). It also means I don't button the collar button on his shirt when I hang up his clothes. Momma taught me to button the shirt. He thinks it's a pain to take the hanger down and unbutton the shirt. So I silence my Mom's voice in my head and leave it loose.

I also think about the ways in which my husband honors me. I try to notice what he does for me, man things that women might not pay attention to. He checks the air in my tires, for one thing. He puts the things that I want done higher on his to-do list than what he really thinks they merit. He doesn't tell me how to do things, even though he would like to, unless I really do need help. He only speaks well of me behind my back, and doesn't (usually) join in with the banter about wives.

Maybe, some other day, I'll focus on the things we do for love.

Do Blessings Have Thorns?

A very dear friend of mine is looking for a job today. We met because we both worked for the same company. Things started to change a year ago, and my job was in a vulnerable position. So when I was offered something better, I jumped. Her job, however, should never have been in a vulnerable position. She herself should certainly not have been! She is brilliant, hardworking, productive, a team player and a lot of other valuable things.

Of course I KNOW that this will turn out to be a blessing in disguise for my friend. Still, it hurts now. A single mom with a lot of responsibilites, it must be frightening for her to be unemployed. A great job with awesome pay and opportunities up the wahoo is surely waiting for her. So it's a blessing.

But sometimes, those blessings can really hit hard. What feels like a sledgehammer can turn out to be a blessing. So what do I tell my friend? How do I make the sledgehammer hurt less and let the hidden blessing easier to see?

I don't expect answer to the age-old question. But I sure think about it a lot.

Listening to myself

I am trying very hard to learn to listen to myself a little better--in a lot of ways. To rest when I am tired, and eat when I am hungry...(OK, I don't have much trouble with that one)...or to even just go to the restroom when I need to and not make one last call or finish one last task first.

There's more than that to it, though. I am trying to pay attention to what I am saying, both out loud and to myself, and to keep it positive and constructive. I suppose I am trying to turn off the cynical, sarcastic voice in my head that talks so 'fresh'. Good words and good thoughts can only have a good effect on everything else, right?

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Life as a Dessert Tray

You know those restaurants where someone walks around with a tray of desserts, to tempt you even more than the menu does? Sometimes I think my life is like that.

I wake up in the morning and decide which of the many sweet treats that make up my life are going to be my indulgence that day. I have a lot to choose from. A terrific husband, a grown son and one still at home. A job I like, plus a small business, too. A home that needs me, two dogs, a pot of sweet basil. Oh, and books. Books waiting to be read and a few waiting to be written--one in particular. Friends that know me well, and love me anyway (warts and all). There are recipes waiting to be tried, and foods yet to be tasted.

To be fair, there isn't always much actual choice involved. Sometimes, one thing simply must get all the attention for a time. But even within the scope of my job, I often have great autonomy about which things I will tackle on any given day.

I can decide to cook, or not cook. Write or read or watch TV. Clean or draw pictures in the dust. My choices with my husband are varied. Most of them....well....most of them are nobody's business. :-) Let me just say that we enjoy talking to eachother, and sitting together in silence. We enjoy going places, and staying in. And we just generally enjoy eachother.

If my choices were all negatives...."Oh, let me see. Shall I go have a root canal today, or should I go for a colonoscopy instead?" My outlook would surely be different. I am very blessed. All of my choices are temptations instead of chores.

I am blessed in another way, too. I have just enough thorns on the roses to remind me that roses come at a price. If everything was easy, where would the fun in that be?