Generosity

I’ve been thinking about this lately.  You really can never outdo God in generosity.  My kids (ages 34-9), none of whom are “wealthy” are all generous.   I think they kind of picked this up from my husband and I.  (Again, I take no credit for excellent parenting, we just followed the lead God showed us.)  When we “gave”, we usually tried not to let the receiver know, of possible.  So we’d do things like give our parish priest $400 to give to the single mom whose washer broke so she could buy a  new one.  I’d tell my husband about a friend who had a grandchild they had never seen because they couldn’t afford an airplane ticket ($300).  Without batting an eye, he’d say, “Buy it for her.”   (Or get the money to her to buy it.)  The kids saw these kinds of things.

And just one way this has turned around and come back to us is in their generosity.  The other day my 22 yo son bought his dad a new top of the line chain saw because we really needed another one (we had two older ones that were pretty well used), and because he felt he wanted to give us something for some of the shenanigans he pulled over the last year or so.

My 30 yo daughter bought her brother an airline ticket to come home to see his wife and kids when he couldn’t afford it.  This same daughter amazed us all last Christmas with an amazing gift.    In mid-December our mini-van was totaled (no injuries).   No collision on the vehicle.    We had several thousand in other vehicle repair bills as well as a few other financial crunch items pop up.    Money was tight, we were having a cash flow problem.  My husband was stressing over the loss of the mini-van.

So Christmas rolls around.  My daughter (this one, the 30 yo) gave her dad $100, but had it in all kinds of forms, rolls of quarters, dollars bills, a few $20s, all wrapped up separate.  He thought that was nice, generous, and funny.   Then she gives him another gift as a kind of “afterthought”.  He opens it and it’s the title to a new (used) mini-van!  She rallied her siblings and they bought him (us) a car.  (I must be honest and say that 95% of the gift was from our daughter.)   We were floored and stunned.  Amazing generosity!  (She knew it was one he wanted because it was a van our mechanic had and my husband had plans to buy it from him after the New Year).

Anyway, you can never outdo God in generosity.  Give and give generously.  Give of your time, talent and treasure.  And the more you have, the more you can give.

 

Thoughts on Married Life- 36 years today

PRAISE THE LORD

36 years ago today, I wed the man I loved.  I can reflect on lessons learned, what works for us.    I realize some have troubled marriages, I pray for them.  These are reflections on what we’ve learned, what’s important to us, what has helped us persevere for 36 years.

I just watched a video from a liberal (but wonderful) friend who actually teaches flirting (she’s a hoot).    She talks about seduction, says every married couple should be seducing each other (and gives a few suggestions, detailed, but not TOO detailed).  Made my husband watch the video.  Also, she was at one of the conferences we were at and gave him an “assignment” to do with me (had to do with hugging or something).  He hasn’t done it (this was like last summer!).  Okay, so I’d like a hubby who is “seductive”.  Mine isn’t, in the unusual sense of the word.  So be it.  I accept that.  Which kind of brings me to my first point (these aren’t in any order of importance…)

My husband is who he is.  I accept that.   I didn’t always.  30 years ago if he had wanted to wear that silly yellow and black tie, I would have had a hissy fit.  (Side note… I had an on-line discussion with about 200 moms, posted a picture of John’s new tie.  It is a hideous yellow and black striped thing, looks like a road construction warning.  None of them thought it was good, a very few thought okay. It was from a thrift store, so he only paid a few bucks for it.)    Now, I let him clearly know I think it’s terrible, and makes HIM look stupid/foolish, but I can easily accept him even if he wears it.  I love HIM, occasional bad taste in ties and all.

My husband is NOT me, he’s his own person.  We complement each other.  Took me a long time to realize that what other people thought of HIM is what they think of HIM, not ME.  And if he wants to present that image, that’s up to him.  As his loving wife, I can make him aware of how he comes across sometimes, but he can act how he wants.  So I can say that if he wears that tie, most people will think he’s pretty dorky (this is something he does not, obviously, realize on his own).  Or when he talks a certain way, he offends a lot of people and they think he’s arrogant and uninformed (he can sometimes seem kind of boorish).  He, as a man in general, does not notice people’s reactions.  So I just help him be aware of how he looks to others, and ask him if that is that what he WANTS to look like, is that the image he wants to present?   Now, how he or I look to others is NOT important to either of us, EXCEPT in so much as it is our obligation to help others get to Heaven.  If by our dress, attitude, words, whatever, we come across certain ways, that will probably not be a good example to others.  Also, and this was a big thing for me, is to realize that if people think John is a fool or dork or anything else, that is what they think about HIM, NOT me.  When they see him with that tie, they judge HIM, not me.  Except perhaps they might think I married a real loser for marrying him (and I’m not, I’m one of the luckiest women out there).  It reflects about 99% on HIM, not me.  And if that’s what he wants (or doesn’t care), I don’t let it bother me.  Now this is not to say I’m not proud of him, I am.  And generally he respects my opinion and if I ask him not to wear that tie to our Valentine’s dance, he won’t.  He’ll dress up sharp and look like a million bucks.  But he WILL probably still wear the tie to Toastmasters (where he goes without me).

Took me a long time to realize my husband is NOT perfect.  I think he is wonderful in many ways (but like all of us, does have faults).  But he’s not perfect.  He will, sooner or later, in big and/or small ways, sometimes disappoint me or let me down (unintentionally).  That’s what really took me a long time, to realize that it’s okay for him to let me down sometimes.  More than the fact that he’s not perfect.    I need to forgive that (and I can).  I don’t like it (neither does he), but it’s going to happen.  Live with it, don’t hang on to those times.

Life will have ups and downs, good times and bad.  Enjoy them all.

Okay, just a bit here.  We learned NFP (Natural Family Planning) when we were engaged.  The only time we practiced it to avoid pregnancy was when we were working as missionaries in Venezuela for 2 ½ years.  My opinion (John would agree): it’s a whole lot more fun to forget charts, temps and all that and just let nature take its course! Laugh!  But it’s true!  (11 pregnancies later…..)

Communicate.  Talk.  Share.  If you have a man (like many) who aren’t used to that, teach him.  They can learn.  (Maybe slowly, and you need to repeat frequently, but they’ll get it.)

Give 100%.  Marriage is not 50/50.  It’s 100/100.

Pray.   Without God, you might as well hang it up.  If only one of you has faith, then you will have to make that enough to get you by (until he gets some as well..)  For us, with the many things we’ve lived through, without out God, we would have crumbled about 25 years ago.  HE will sustain you when you cannot….

John and I committed to each other on Sept. 24, 1976.  Committed.  No matter what.  So when the going gets tough, remember your commitment.  Life hasn’t always even a bed of roses for us, or between us, but we have remained committed to each other.  No matter what.  (I think it has been much worse for him than me.. I went through some years of …uh….. pretty intense PMS stuff… not a very loving wife or person for a while…)

Support one another. Particularly in the roles of husband and wife, man and woman.  Submission is another whole topic, but it IS a good thing, and works, and makes a marriage, and both partners stronger.

Your husband is more important than your kids.  For many years, and many times, the needs of your children may outweigh the needs of your husband,.  That is fine, meet the needs of your children.  But NOT at the expense of your marriage.    Meeting needs (or the level of needs) is not the same as importance.  Rosemary may have greater needs than my other children, that doesn’t mean she any more important than they are.  One of the very best things a child can have/get is parents with a solid marriage.

You cannot change your spouse.  I can encourage, and do lots of things to help.  But for him to change, he has to 1) see there is a problem, 2) admit he has control (some or all) over it, 3) WANT to change. (This is  a HUGE one, I think.  My husbnad needs to lose weight,. He knows it, he admits he has control, he doesn’t WANT to change that much.  He SAYS he does, but his actions do not bear that out.)  And if 1, 2 and 3 are met, it will probably still take a long time, with slips and back pedaling.

You CAN change you.  You can change your attitude, your thinking, all kinds of things.  I’m NOT suggesting anyone become a door mat or something God is not calling them to be.  Just to realize you control YOU control you- your actions, and can choose them, and change the way you act/think.  You can’t control/change your spouse.

LAUGH together!  FLIRT with each other!  Have FUN together.

Be not afraid.  Don’t be afraid of the hard things.  They WILL come.  Face them head on together.    Many of you have heard this story, but it illustrates my point.  I’m in a hospital bed in mayo clinic facing major surgery the next morning (unexpected).  I was scared.  John asked of what and why.  He proceeded to explain (correctly and it was just what I needed to hear) that the only thing to fear is dying and going to hell.  “You just had the Anointing of the Sick, so that’s not going to happen.  Anything else we can deal with.”  And he meant it.  Anything else (even my death or his) we/he/I can deal with.  Be not afraid (expect of dying and going to hell, and if you’re worried about that, do something NOW about it- get RIGHT with God.)  be not afraid.

Our priorities (and I’ll admit that there are times when both of us fail to live up to them) are: God, each other, family (kids), and then others.  Set your priorities (talk about them, discuss this) and keep them in front of you.  We help keep each other on the straight and narrow (or try).  Admittedly, often this is not “fun”.  If I remind John that he hasn’t exercised all week, he may not like that.  If he sees a candy wrapper in the car and says something to me, I may not like that.  We both know it’s for the other’s good, and we try to help each other in positive ways, but sometimes it’s not fun to give or get such “reminders”.  When I am ticked at my husband for something like that, I try to remember he’s doing it because he loves me and wants to help me get to Heaven.

One of the very best things we can do for each other is indirect compliments.  If I overhear John on the phone bragging about me to some customer or supplier, that makes my day.  And if I give this to him to read (I did) and he sees the part about where I say he’ll look like a million bucks, it will boost him (not that this particular man’s ego needs much boosting, but it is still very nice to hear).  Direct compliments are also very nice.

You don’t need to compare yourself to others.  John is not the type to write love letters to me.  That’s okay.  Getting a love letter would be wonderful.  But he can show his love in other ways (and does).  I’d like it if he were more romantic in certain ways.  (And me being a woman and him a … shall I say… typically dense?….. man I have explained EXACTLY what I mean by that.)  And if he can do that, or do it sometimes, fine.  If not, that’s okay.  Like I said, I can’t change him.

FIND THE POSITIVE.  Be encouraging.  Okay, I’ve got this husband with this ridiculous tie.  I can kid him about it, and so on.  And I have been.  BUT, the same qualities that “allow” him to be able to wear that thing in public are the same ones I admire I so many ways. They are the qualities that allow him to start evangelizing with a complete stranger about the faith.  So I can lament that he doesn’t care what people think about him, or I can rejoice that he doesn’t care.  On the one hand it means the tie, on the other it means saving souls.  Saving souls is more important.  That’s just an example of focusing on the positive.

Lately, I have been realizing how important a good marriage is to help your CHILDREN prepare for married life.  If they do not grow up with mom and dad happily married, it is so much harder for them to learn how to be a good spouse.

Walk away

I could label this post: Another Success Story!

He’s getting it!

And we can all learn a lesson from my 22 yo son, Michael.  Michael is an amazing person, very wonderful, smart and musically talented.  He’s also made some mistakes in life and is learning and growing (like all of us).

But he’s really getting it and I’m proud.  The other day (yet again), someone he lives with was pointing out his faults/ mistakes.  Michael just looked at him, said, “I prefer to surround myself with positive people,” and walked away.

AWESOME!  WAY TO GO!  Instead of being drawn into defensiveness or argument, or just staying and taking the “abuse”, he let it slide off his back and walked away.  What a great response!

PS: The other day he came out to help cut trees for firewood for winter.  When you cut a  lot of trees (which we do) your chainsaws take a beating.  We really needed a new one.  And this son (who within the last year has paid us off over a $4000 debt!) gave his dad a gift of a new really nice (like $400+) chain saw a as gift.  Totally unexpected.  He said it was for “some of the crap” he’s pulled on us the last year or so.  My husband and I thought he had already made adequate “restitution” for some of his mistakes that affected us, but he felt like he wanted (not needed) to do more.  Very thoughtful and generous.

Describe Describe Describe

I was thinking about this.  The other day, someone told me they “liked” a story I had written.  That was nice to hear.  And someone said the chicken was “good.”  I have heard others say (not about me or my talents in this area), that the person’s living room looked “nice.”  All good.

But how much better if we describe what we see/ hear/ experience!   Describing gives constructive feedback, and allows the person to form their OWN judgment, and begin to learn to rely less on the judgments of others.

For example:

Your story drew me in right away- I immediately began to wonder about the characters, what would happen to them, why they acted the way they did.  Your description of the marketplace scene was so vivid I could easily imagine myself right there.  I can picture the people in your story in my mind perfectly.

That chicken last night had just the right blend of something hot and spicy (curry, maybe?).  It was well done, tender, and fell off the bone.

The way your living room is decorated makes me feel perfectly at home and comfortable.  That single picture over the couch draws the eye as soon as you enter the room.  And the colors are warm and soothing.

In these examples, the person can think about what is being said, then decide, “Yes, I am a ‘good’ story writer/ cook/ interior decorator.”   It is a much more effective way of sharing than saying, “That was good.  I liked it.”

The other corollary to this is that it requires you to PAY attention to detail.  So often we rush through things, the world passes us by without our noticing much.  We eat, enjoying the food, but not really savoring the tastes and nuances.  We like being in a room, but never thought about why.  The story interests us, but we never think about what we like about it.

It is good and rewarding to enjoy the creation we are surrounded with, to not just let it slide by.

Success stories- Peter and Anne

A couple success stories.  You don’t have to “follow the crowd/ fit the mold”.

Two of my kids.  They’re not yet “done” (are any of us?), but well on their way!

We have Peter, 20.  Let’s see, in the last month he has gone away for a week to a 4H program where he and 30 other young adults (16-20) learned and rehearsed a show.  Came home for a week, tehn went back to the State fair for 14 days to perform this show 3-4 times daily.  He didn’t get paid for this, but all his expenses for both trips (food, lodging, a “night out on the town” ) were all paid for — I think, maybe they had to chip in something like $100.  And spent some awesome time with terrific young people- winners!

He came home from fair, slept about 2 days.  Then stopped in at McDonald’s where he used to work.  First thing they said was, “Do you want your job back?”  He liked working there, but when he said he wanted a higher wage (like $11/hour) they said they couldn’t do it.  The managers and owners wanted to, but “corporate policy” wouldn’t allow it.  So Peter said, “It’s been fun, but so long.”  He called another old boss and will be working construction for a month, then he will head off to a monastery for discernment about becoming a brother.

All his jobs (except the “traditional” one at McDonald’s have allowed him to work as he desires.  So he’s had time to  do things like take a week plus and “work” as manager of the 4H food stand at the fair (more for fun than income).

Peter has had lots of people tell him he needs a “real” job, he needs to go to college, etc.  (Mom and Dad do NOT say this- we see Peter as quite successful.)  Peter looks at them and thinks: I have no debt, I have about $4000 in savings, I have about 5 people who’d hire me in a second if I asked them to, I can do what I want when I want (like go to the monastery), I’m happy.  WHY do I need “college” and a “real” job?

We have Anne, 18.  She’s in her 2nd year of college.  She just posted on facebook that’s he got a raise at her “favorite” job (she has 3 jobs, by choice.)   She gets $10/hour to work at Community Education at a rock climbing gym (she belays), and to take people out canoeing, kayaking and sometimes geocaching.  When things are slow, she sits in the sunshine and reads her book.    All of her jobs are also ones where she can work pretty much when she wants.  So this summer she went to New York with her choir and sang at Lincoln Center (mostly paid for by school), took another trip with a friend to Tennessee.  She’s also in demand as an employee.  And has no debt (nor is acquiring school debt- college is free as she is still considered a high school senior and the state pays for it all), and more than a few thousand in savings.   She knows who she is, what she believes, and how to stand up for herself.   Yeah, right, she needs a “real” job, like Peter!

Some folks go the “traditional route” and that’s fine.  But you can be happy and a success without doing that, if you want.  Just as important as any academic skills are good character traits like dependability, integrity, MANNERS (amazing how many people lack plain simple manners), and more.

How and why did my kids end up like this?  I certainly am not taking credit, but do think my husband and I may have had some influence.  John has worked his own business for over 35 years.  While I wouldn’t call us wealthy, he has been able to support a wife and 7 children over those decades.  We get what we want and need, including what a lot might consider “extras” (like a trip to Hawaii, family cruise vacation, and more).  I’ve never had to work outside the home.  We’re debt free, including out home and 5 acres.

John works hard, but also has freedom to do as he likes.  If he and I take two weeks to go to Hawaii, we can.  He has no boss besides himself.  He’s home 95% of the time.  So the kids see dad providing well for his family, yet not being tied into an “employer” and someone else telling him what he has to do and when.   We’ve always encouraged the kids to work hard, but do what THEY want to do.

We’ve home schooled all of them from K-12 and been careful who/ what they were exposed to.  We’ve never told them they had to get “real” jobs, we’ve encouraged all kinds of alternatives (though there is nothing wrong with a  “real” job if you want it).

My point is not to brag, as I said, I’m not taking credit.  My point is to illustrate that kids/ young adults can do well outside the “system” and thrive.  Give them a  chance, encourage that if you can.

When is “unhealthy eating” okay?

Most of us would agree that some amount of “unhealthy food” is okay. In moderation. How you define that really depends on your knowledge, your health and more. What, and how much is not the focus of this thread. More the “when”.
When is it okay to have “junk food/ unhealthy things”?
MY answer to the question is that it is okay WHEN IT IS PLANNED.
Examples:
I will have a small piece of cake at the birthday party.
I will have a reasonable sized dessert on Sundays.
We will stop at a fast food place once a week on our way home from soccer practice.
Each day I will allow myself _____ (one can of pop, one small piece of candy, one small bowl of Doritos, whatever).
I will only eat desserts when we go out to eat at sit-down restaurants.

The key to me is to decide for yourself what is reasonable, PLAN it, then stick to your plan (or, if you don’t feel like it, omit something- skip the can of pop.)
But so often, our unhealthy eating is the result of unplanned impulses (= temptation).
Examples:
One small bag (mini-bag) of M & Ms is no big deal.
One small cookie won’t make any difference.
Everyone is tired and hungry and I have no supper ready at home, let’s stop at McD’s.
I’ll count the chips as my “grain/bread” serving.

When “bad” eating is planned, it ceases to become “bad” eating, I think. I can enjoy the birthday cake without guilt. (Now if I gave in to temptation and ate a huge amount of cake batter as i made it and licked a ton of the frosting, say equivalent to 3 large pieces of cake, then I will NOT be able to enjoy the ONE piece of “planned” birthday cake.)

What’s your answer?