Preserving The Magic

Have you ever looked at a child and thought to yourself, “Never grow up! Never lose the innocence and belief I see in your eyes!”

Dear Readers, as you know, I have 4 grandchildren. What you might not know is as of the first weekend of July 2015, they and their parents (our daughter Beth and son-in-law Tom) all live with us. They moved in with their cats for at least a year. So overnight, my interactions with my grandchildren went from an occasional event to a daily normality.

Allow me to indulge myself for a moment and refresh your memory of them, as I do some Nana-bragging on them. (“Nana” is what they call me. “Papa” is my husband.) Keyna is 7, a talkative 2nd-grade drama queen. She loves playing video games and reading. Ariel is 5, and in preschool due to being born 12 days past the deadline to be in kindergarten for our school district this year. She is stubborn and often unintentionally very funny, and loves to take risks and try new things. Tommy is 3 1/2, and in the same preschool as Ariel. He is opinionated and loves all things with wheels, from cars and trucks to trains. Samantha is 1 1/2 and not in school. She likes to be tickled and to have people make faces at her, as well as her “blankie.”

Something happened recently between myself and Keyna that prompted this post. As a 7-year-old, Keyna has begun the process of losing her baby teeth in favor of her permanent ones. Currently, she is losing one about every two weeks or so, and the pediatrician told Tom and Beth this process will continue until she is about 10.

When Beth and her brother David were small, we kept the tradition of the Tooth Fairy alive and well for both of them, rewarding them for every lost tooth. To our pleasure, Tom and Beth continue actively in the tradition. To our complete delight, they have also chosen to involve us whenever possible.

Recently, it was my turn to help out. Keyna’s attention was diverted with breakfast before church. I was heading upstairs to our bedroom to finish dressing. Tom pulled me aside and gave me the tiny envelope they use for the Tooth Fairy’s work. He asked me to put it under Keyna’s pillow and call her upstairs. I did as requested, and called her.

However, when I called Keyna, I decided to dramatize the event for our tiny drama queen. I called her up the stairs telling her I’d heard noises and needed her to come and investigate. I described the noises as, “twinkles and sparkles.” I asked her, “Keyna! Do you know what makes the sound of twinkles and sparkles?!?!?” Keyna replied in all seriousness that stars do.

Smothering back a chuckle, I said, “Well, stars do make those noises, but they’re so far away we can’t hear them. Do you know what else makes the noises of twinkles and sparkles??” Keyna looked puzzled and said she didn’t. I told her it was Faries! I said, “I bet the Tooth Fairy heard you lost a tooth recently, and came to take it! I bet the Tooth Fairy thought we were all downstairs and it would be safe, and I caught it! Go check under your pillow and see if I’m right!”

It was an ecstatically excited 7-year-old who went next racing for her bedroom to find the envelope from her father I’d placed under her pillow. She squealed with excitement and happiness and flew downstairs to show off what she’d found, hollering the story the whole way. Keyna couldn’t stop talking about how Nana caught the Tooth Fairy in the act.

In this day and age when middle schools have to have rules for cell phone use, when clothes in the children’s’ section make little girls look like mature sexy women, when political correctness and fear of sexual harassment run amok, it’s always good to preserve the innocence in a child just a little bit longer. I believe it is the job of parents and grandparents (and other caring adults) to be the adults and to let children be children. We are adults far longer than we are children. This hurry to make them grow up is incomprehensible to me.

So my little adventure with Keyna and the Tooth Fairy is about me striking back at this pervasive attitude in our culture. As I said in the title of this post, it’s about preserving the magic, encouraging the wonder that is Keyna’s childhood, just a little bit longer. 

And you know what? Maybe we adults need a bit of that wonder, mystery, and joy ourselves. Maybe that’s why our culture is so cynical and jaded because we’ve lost so much of it in our headlong rush to be adults. May we all find and enjoy wonder and joy like a child on our journey together.

Peace? With ISIS?!?

hith-eiffel-tower-istock_000016468972largeIn the wake of the dreadful ISIS (to be now called in this blog Daesh, and that link will explain why) terrorist attacks recently in Paris, I was reading about what people thought should be done about the terrorists. There were many different plans advocated. I’d like to address one of them.

I saw some comment about wanting to make peace with these terrorist Daesh. People said as sensible leaders of the free world, the US should take the lead with that. While their sentiments are laudable and workable in most cases, in the case of the terrorists of Daesh, they are both misguided and misplaced.

The leader of terrorist cult Daesh Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has publicly stated he wants to throw us all back to the way it was in the 14th century. He wants to impose Sharia law by conquest. They are working toward a worldwide caliphate for their government. Any Muslim who disagrees with them is executed. Anyone of any other religion is either made to pay a tax (dearly, if they are able) or be enslaved. There are no other options.

Under the caliphate, independent thought, activity and effort are all eradicated. The rights of women and children are non-existent. Safety for anyone other than powerful men does not exist. Slavery, multiple wives and concubines (often forced) is commonplace, as is child rape. Just look at the news reports out of the already conquered territories, if you doubt my what I am saying.

This worldview also disrespects pacifism and peacemaking. Their thought is that peace is made from a position of strength and domination. In this mindset, those who would pacify are signifying their submission and willingness to be subjected to the stronger as conquered. This is important to remember.

The leaders of the terrorists of  Daesh don’t listen to the reason of the West because Western thought and logic are incomprehensible to their mindset. The very ideas and thoughts behind freedom, peace and coexistence are oppositional to their worldview.

Oftentimes, commentators on conservative news sites who are of the liberal and/or atheistic/agnostic bent will accuse Christian commenters of having a narrow mindset. Well, dear readers, the mindset of Christians is broad and deep as it compares to radical followers of Islam, and most particularly the terrorists of Daesh!

Short of a miracle of God spiritually getting their attention one by one (which has happened from time to time lately, and you can read about some of it here and more here), convincing  the terrorists of Daesh to be peaceful by being us peaceful won’t bring us peace with them. In the case of the terrorists of Daesh, all it will do is get us all killed or enslaved.

Are You Laughing With Me, Or At Me?

Did you ever do anything just for the fun of it? You know, just to make others laugh, even if it might be at your own expense?

This year on Halloween, I did exactly that. I deliberately dressed for the fun of it. I dressed to make people smile and laugh along with the fun of my outfit. I wore a tam-o’-shanter (that’s a type of beanie, or hat, for those who don’t know) that looks like a large orange pumpkin (including the green stem out the top), black cat earrings and a white sweatshirt with Jack O’ Lanterns and the words “Trick Or Treat” embroidered on it. It’s my traditional Halloween outfit if it’s not a workday, and the only time of year I wear orange. (It’s not a good color on me!)

The shirt usually doesn’t cause much comment. The hat, however, can only be worn by a person who has what my late mother once described as a generous sense of humor and a hearty dose of chutzpaChutzpa is a Yiddish term which means, “shameless audacity, boldness, temerity, cheek, nerve, and guts,” all of which my mother often said described me!

As a business owner, I don’t often get the chance to break out of my professional mold and do crazy stuff. Halloween is a rare chance to get a little goofy, and invite the world along for my slightly crazy ride. I donned my shirt, hat and earrings with pride, and off I went as if I was dressing for just another normal Saturday of errands.

I got my hair cut, ran errands at 4 stores and finished the night with going to dinner and wandering the mall with my husband. Except for when I had to take if off to get my hair styled, the hat stayed firmly planted atop my head, as if there was nothing abnormal about it, and it wasn’t there at all.

I got looks. Did I ever get looks! Fellow shoppers looked at me. Some stared. Others smiled, and a few chuckled. Some commented they liked it. Even other drivers did double-takes as they passed me in parking lots! As I moved through my day, I looked for reactions. Sometimes, I was disappointed. Most of the time, I was not.

Normally, when I go through my day, I try to brighten it for the people I encounter wherever I go. I tell people I like what it says on their shirts, or that the color is flattering to them, or I like their shoes (women get that one a lot), or how much I appreciate their customer service or helpfulness. Wearing the Halloween shirt and hat wasn’t a rebellion against wearing a costume, as much as it was giving in a little to the spirit of the day while doing it in a way that would brighten others’ days as well. While laughing at myself, I encouraged others to laugh at me and with me, making them happier in the process.

In a deeper sense, it’s also good to remember sometimes we are seen as fools and laughed at, not for celebrating an innocent day with the world, but for going against it with our convictions. I Corinthians 4;10 talks about being made fools of for the sake of Christ. In I Corinthians 1:25, it says,

For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

The world often laughs at and mocks what it cannot understand. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is definitely something the world cannot understand! The world is befuddled and bewildered by it and uses mockery and derision as a defense against what it can neither defend against nor explain away. 

As a Christian, I cannot allow the mockery and derision of the world to cause me to falter or fail in my faith. I must always keep in mind that Jesus was hated by the world, too, and He is my example. As He said in John 15:18,

If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first.

“Hate” is such a strong word, isn’t it? We almost want to modify it to “Ignore” or “tease” or something more innocuous. But in every translation I checked in English, those words of Jesus Himself are translated to “hate.” It’s because often we have to step up to the harsh reality of the world that completely opposes Jesus and decide on which side we’re going to stand. It’s a choice we all have to settle in our minds and hearts once we are clearly confronted with the salvation message and its truths.

Once we settle where we stand, what the world thinks becomes unimportant to the point of insignificance. Settling where I stood took care of knowing where my place was, who my “Daddy” was, my identity as my Heavenly Father’s daughter and my security of belonging to His family in the Church. Settling issues like these freed me emotionally from needing to desperately belong anywhere else, or with anyone else. Wherever His people are, I am home, due to the acceptance found in the knowledge of who I am in Christ.

And when I settle such deep human needs like those, I am then free to satisfy an impulse to indulge my whimsical side, such as I did this Halloween, with a pumpkin tam-o’-shanter to make people who saw me all day smile and laugh. Because when they were laughing at me, I was laughing right along with them!

Simple Pleasures

What do you do in life that brings you simple pleasure? Is there something you own that just makes you smile when you see it? Or is it a past time you enjoy?

We all have stuff we enjoy to differing degrees. For me, writing is one of them, hence this blog. However, this time I want to talk about another one. It might seem a bit silly to some, and a whole lot silly to others. But don’t we all have things in our lives that are that way to others, really?

My simple pleasure is my collection of solar bobble-dolls in my car. I cannot call them bobbleheads because only 2 of them have heads, the turkey, and the scarecrow. The others are flowers (4 of them). They bob up and down in different ways in the sunlight on my dashboard, mostly ignored while I sit daily in my office at work. They are a bright spot of color on dreary days and they never fail to make me smile when I see them. Image result for solar bobble head images

My husband thinks they are completely silly. However, as long as I limit the collection in his van to its current 4 (2 flowers, and a similar turkey and scarecrow), he puts up with them because he loves me. He also allows it because I only buy them at the $1 store and don’t buy all I see. I’m picky in my additions, particularly as the dashboard of my car gets more and more crowded!

I was thinking about them because I was listening on the radio the other day to the K-LOVE Morning Show. The hosts (Craig, Amy, and Kankelfritz) were talking about simple pleasures. They mentioned things that gave them pleasures and invited people to call in. I heard a couple of callers mention theirs. I thought about calling and telling them about my solar bobble-heads. But as I was getting ready to get out of my car at work, they said something that stopped my calling idea cold and prompted this post.

Craig, Amy, and Kankelfritz said our pleasures are good things in life because they are things God has put into us to make us uniquely individual. We all like different things because of our uniqueness. Then they said God has simple pleasures, too. Because God takes pleasure in us.

So many people believe God is an angry judge, ready to slam down on us for real or imagined sins we may or may not have done, or left undone. I used to feel that way. I was convinced every time I did something wrong, there He was, mad at me and ready to punish me. My strict upbringing probably had a lot to do with that feeling. But how I ended up with that feeling is not as important as that I had it.

It was not until I realized the immensity of God’s love, the joy He takes in loving me and in me loving Him and my fumbling efforts to please Him, that I was able to escape this trap. The point was brought home in my Bible when I read

The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty One who will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness; He will quiet you by His love; He will exult over you with loud singing.

Zephaniah 3:17 (ESV)

Do you see what I saw? The God of the universe, the One who put it all together, rejoices and exults over us with gladness and loud singing! God takes so much pleasure in people who love Him, He throws a party over them!! Image result for party images free

I don’t know about you, but I love it when people throw a party for me. I mean, they take time, trouble and usually money and spend it on me. Who’s not going to be appreciative?? It’s the same way with God. He takes pleasure in us so much, He throws a party over every fumbling effort to obey Him, every time we get it right, every time we come back and repent when we’ve blown it. He doesn’t throw a fit when we’ve blown it, like we do. Instead, He throws a celebration when we get it! That sounds about as far from the image of the harsh Judge I used to have as I could get!

So I will continue to take joy in the simple pleasure of my bobble-dolls, secure in the knowledge of God taking even greater pleasure in me. Come along and enjoy God’s pleasure as we enjoy our simple pleasures in life on our journeys together.

Loving Respect

I was recently reading a Fox News Editorial online about spouses disrespecting one another.  Some of the comments just flabbergasted me!!

Some folks tore down marriage in general, saying the institution is messed up and needs to be abolished. Others said they do things differently in their relationships, and are “honest” with one another, even to the point of disrespect. Others spoke of marriage being a contract of mutual ego gratification. Yet another said if a spouse will say, “Yes, Dear,” to everything, all will be well.

The comments reflected a staggering ignorance regarding what a loving Biblical marriage is really like. There were only a refreshing few who started to scratch the surface and address these things.

Finally, I just couldn’t take it any more. I will admit, I likely made my mistake by being there at all, but I was there. Since I’ve learned my life’s purpose is to speak the truth in love whenever and wherever I see untruths perpetuated, I spoke up. I said the following in a couple of different comments, which I’ve combined to make the point of this post:

Part of the problem is our culture is so caught up the the “Love is a Feeling” trap. Well, folks, if love was really a feeling, I wouldn’t be sitting here still married after 35 1/2 years! We would have divorced long ago!

Love is NOT a feeling. Love is a daily decision to ACT, to DO loving things, to SAY loving things and BE a loving person to the one to whom you have committed yourself.

Gratifying your own ego has no place in love. Self-sacrifice does. Being a doormat has no place in love. An equally-yoked partnership, where each brings what they can uniquely offer in gifts and talents, does. Independence has no place in love. Love is interdependent, causing each to become as much a part of the other as one side of a coin is to another.

Why would I treat him with disrespect if I expect him to treat me with respect? And why would he treat me with disrespect if he expects me to treat him with respect? Why would we WANT to treat with disrespect the person we vowed in front of all our families and friends to love, honor and respect??? It makes no sense!!!

The emotions behind our words are expressed. The things that displease or hurt us are voiced, as well as why these things displease or hurt us.

Disrespect comes from the “Love is a Feeling” crowd. It’s easy to disrespect someone when you don’t “feel” loving toward them. But if you are committed to the daily decisions of acting out love, respecting your spouse gets a whole lot simpler. it just becomes part of the package at the point, gang. I won’t tell you it’s easy. But after 35 1/2 years, it’s worth it.

Our Family Portrait, 2008

Our Family Portrait, 2008

All I can add is some recommendations as to how to get your marriage toward that goal. It’s how we did it. Love and Respect by Dr. Emmerson Eggerichs is a book that helped our marriage out during a tough spot. We learned men and women have different needs in marriage, that neither is more valid than the other and both need to be met. The DNA Of Relationships by Gary Smalley was another book that helped us through some very tough places. It showed us what each of our needs and hot buttons are, how we can avoid our spouse’s hot buttons and meet their needs when we interact with one another.

Books like His Needs, Her Needs by William F. Harley, Jr., The Five Love Languages and The Five Languages of Apology, both by Gary Chapman were great resources for helping us in communicating. Through them, we learned we each communicate our needs to be loved and say we’re sorry after we’ve messed up differently, and we have to communicate in ways so our spouse understands the way they hear best, instead of our own.

Personality Plus by Florence Littauer  (or a similar book, Positive Personality Profiles by Dr. Robert Rohm) was invaluable to figure out how each one of us was wired at heart, and how to communicate to our spouse. And believe it or not, Dale Carnegie’s classic How To Win Friends And Influence People helped us both to learn people skills we lacked, to be able to practice on each other. Leadership And Self-Deception and The Anatomy of Peace, both by The Arbinger Institute, taught us volumes on communication and conflict resolution.

All of these resources are available from LIFE Leadership, as is The Marriage Pack of CD’s from LIFE Leadership, another great help for learning communication and how to have a happy marriage.

LIFE Leadership Logo

Not So Fast Food

A lot of comment has been made recently on social media regarding the decision by the New York State Wage Board to recommend a hike of the wages of fast food workers to $15 per hour incrementally over the next 6 years. I have a few comments and questions about it.

First, I want to address it from my personal perspective. Sorry, gang, like everyone else, I’m just a tad selfish, and think of my own interests first at times.

I work at a job that requires a minimum of an Associates Degree and prefers a Bachelor’s Degree. (I actually have about 1/2 of a Master’s Degree, but that’s beside the point.) I work in a business office setting, dealing with peoples’ confidential information. My work requires skills in multiple computer software products (including Lotus Notes, Microsoft Office Suite and work-specific software), high-level typing and data entry skills and dealing with the public. While it is not a professional position, it does require skills I needed to train to acquire to get the job, as well as experience in the field.

My starting salary was less than the Wage Board’s recommended $15 per hour. After almost 10 years with my current employer and multiple raises for high performance, it’s still less than $15 per hour.

Where will it end? I know professional teachers, health care workers, first responders and members of our U.S. Armed Forces who make even less, despite the incredibly higher stress levels of their jobs, let alone the greater physical demands placed on them. These people deserve much higher wages than I make and often make less, and in the case of our military, much less. But where does the “Me, too!” attitude stop??

Something isn’t quite right with a system that demands fast food workers are paid higher wages than employees on jobs that demand higher levels of training and skills. Fast food has always been meant to be an entry level position for a teenager, a stop-gap someone older might get while training to get a better position, or a job a retired person might get to supplement their pension. It was never meant to fund a lifestyle, which is what the demands for a $15 per hour wage really is when you look at it realistically.

I am not meaning in any way to criticize families who are caught in a minimum wage trap through no fault of their own. I know some of them. They are good people, caught in a circumstance beyond their control. They are making the best of their situations, and working to get out. Such folks deserve all the help we can give them. I’m just not sure $15 per hour is the answer. It’s too broad a brush to paint across too many different lives and circumstances.

Many fast food corporations have training programs for ambitious young people to move up within the company, to take on more responsibility and make more money. McDonald’s Mike Andres started as a manager of a family-owned store. and is now its U.S. Corporate President.  McDonald’s Charlie Robeson started as a crew person and is now its U.S. Corporate  Chief Restaurant Operations Officer. Restaurant Brands International’s David Clanachan started as a crew person for Tim Horton’s and is now the Corporate Vice President, as well as President and Chief Operating Office of the Tim Horton’s chain.  (Their bios are easily found on the corporate websites.)  These are just a few of the corporate success stories available.

How are businesses going to afford this? Before you tell me, “Out of their corporate profits,” may I remind you of something? Fast food restaurants are generally operated as franchises. Corporate owned stores are the exception, not the rule, and the corporations tend to try to get these back into the hands of franchise holders as quickly as possible.

This means the corporation offers its name, training, and supplies and leaves management up to the franchisees. The corporate profits of an entity like McDonalds come out of franchise fees and a percentage of the daily take. The rest of the daily take is what the franchisees use to pay their bills for lights, heat, taxes, salaries, supplies, food, losses, improvements, training and whatever else is needed, and eke out a living for themselves and their families. When the employees or managers don’t show up, franchisees have to be ready to fill in. When there is a crisis at a store, the franchisees have to be available to fix it, or arrange for it to be fixed. In other words, franchisees, like all other small business owners, take all the risks, and don’t really net all that much in profit.

Speaking of risks, are you aware of how much it costs to become a franchisee in the first place? A simple internet search yielded some astonishing results! Someone wanting to take such a risk must have a minimum of $100,000 for a smaller franchise with low returns on investment. To buy into McDonald’s, a minimum of $1.1 million is required, and often you need to have extra for the land, and you don’t get to decide where you’re putting it. They do. The returns on investment on one franchise are so low, most own at least 3 to eke out a living wage for themselves and their families.

It is from these people the NY Wage Board wants to take the $15 per hour. Not corporate entities like McDonald’s or Burger King. But the owner of the store down the street, who must raise prices and/or let go staff, and/or find other ways to cut costs to meet these demands.

So where will these wage hikes come from? If these business owners don’t cut staff or otherwise cut costs, then the only pockets these raise hikes will be coming out of will be those of the consumers. Because sure as I am sitting here writing this, prices must go up to accommodate it if nothing else goes down proportionally. This means fewer people will be spending less at fast food places, and more will close for lack of business, causing job loss and business closures, leading to these workers making less money, instead of the more for which they petitioned so vigorously.

Do you want some proof? Here’re a couple of links: Fox News Article and Give Away Pundit Article.

Getting back to my own (perhaps a tad selfish) perspective, with this decision by the NY Wage Board, my already stretched budget just stopped including any fast food place that pays its workers $15 per hour. On my salary, quite frankly, I just cannot afford it. And the problem is, I don’t think a lot of others can, either.

What We Have Here Is A Failure To Communicate!

Have you ever had a complete failure to communicate with someone? What did you do about it? How did you solve your communication problems?

A few years ago, my husband and I were attending a party at a location in a nearby town. We’d never been to the place. We were told it was easy to find, just across from the WalMart. In the rush of getting ready, neither of us thought to look up the location online, so we could find an exact address to program into our GPS.

Instead, we sat in our driveway and asked my iPhone adviser Siri where Youth for Christ was. Siri replied she did not deal with ecclesiastical matters. I rephrased the question. Siri responded she dealt with things silicon, not spiritual! Frustrated, but realizing the humor of the situation, I tried yet again. Siri then asked me if I wanted her to find me a local pastor or another minister with whom to discuss my questions!

It was only then my laughing husband remembered about the WalMart. So I asked Siri where it was. There are 3 nearer to us than that one, and Siri tried to give me the closest. Finally, I thought to add the name of the town to the WalMart and told Siri to give me that one. Siri finally figured out what I wanted!! Our GPS armed with the information, laughing all the way, we finally left the party, somewhat later than we’d planned!

What Siri and I had that day was a failure to communicate. I believed I was clearly stating where I wanted to go. However, Siri’s global database had never heard of where I wanted to go, or her programming only chose certain words (like “Christ”) from what I said to interpret what I wanted. The resulting disconnect both amused and frustrated us. It amused us because her answers were very funny! It frustrated us because it left us clueless about where we were supposed to be going. It was only when we revised our end of the conversation (twice!) that we got the answers we needed.

Failures to communicate happen daily within human relationships in friends and family, and even among strangers. We may think we understand what we are saying, and think they do, but if they aren’t really understanding us, a failure to communicate is inevitable. As LIFE leader Chris Mattis says,

It doesn’t matter what you say. It doesn’t matter what you meant to say. It only matters what they heard.

Failures to communicate can damage relationships, destroy marriages and families and even cause wars in extreme cases. There are some historians who say the War of 1812 was to at least some extent a failure between Great Britain and the United States to communicate.

So how do we deal with this issue? How do we work past these challenges and speak to people so they hear us? 

In a college public speaking class, I learned 4 basic rules by which we were to mold all our speeches. I’ve since heard many public speakers use them, and I have personally found them helpful in my daily living when I use them. They are

Be bright. Be brief. Know your audience. Be gone!

Be Bright. One of the first keys in communication starts with having something to say.  The Bible talks in many places about people who speak endlessly with nothing to contribute, and we’ve all experienced unfortunate episodes with such special individuals personally. LIFE leader Terry Franks defines such one-sided conversations as

the slings and arrows of outlandish gerbilling! Light travels faster than sound, which is why some people appear bright until you hear them speak!

I am always reminding myself not to talk to hear myself speak or because I feel I need to add my voice to a conversation. I want to contribute productively to it. As my father used to say,

Silence is not an indicator of intelligence or its lack. Sometimes, speaking is.

Be Brief. Okay, I will confess this is the one with which I struggle the most. (I know, not a shock!) A mentor of mine is often reminding me to say the most with the least amount of words, and none if at all possible. As St. Francis of Assisi is attributed to saying,

Preach Christ, and if necessary use words.

It was in the area of brevity where Siri and I failed to communicate. I said, “Youth for Christ,” meaning the organization its regional location. Siri heard, “Christ,” and understood I wanted to discuss religious matters, something a computer program isn’t designed to do. I gave the briefest inquiry appropriate. Siri didn’t have the information I wanted.

Know Your Audience. Are they a close family member? A friend? A complete stranger? Is your language their first language, or is there a bigger communication gap than what we’re dealing with here? Are you unintentionally about to push buttons with ill-chosen words?

My conversation with Siri was lacking in this regard, too. I didn’t know, until we hit on the WalMart in the correct town, how to phrase my inquiries in a way so Siri would understand. Siri didn’t understand the nature of my original request, either. Siri didn’t hear or wasn’t programmed to hear the entirety of what I’d said. Siri only caught bits and pieces. And it was in her bits and their lack that our failure to communicate started, and escalated.

When I consider my audience, I have to be aware of certain things. Are they children? I tone down my vocabulary closer to their level and use simpler words and concepts, explaining myself more. Are they professional people? Jargon might be appropriate, or maybe not, depending on the group and situation. I will admit a definite distaste for buzz words!

Two books available from LIFE have truly been helpful to me in understanding people. The first is the classic Personality Plus by Florence Littauer. It speaks of peoples’ different social interaction styles, and how to know which styles you, your friends and family have. Each different style blend requires a different way of speaking to them so they will hear what you are saying. For example, I would not give the same information to my daughter in the same way as I did to my husband if I wanted similar reactions from them, because I know their style blends are polar opposites.

The second book is another classic, Dale Carnegie’s How To Win Friends And Influence People.  Before you think, “Oh, I have lots of friends!” please let me remind you we’re talking about successful communication with everyone. This book goes into volumes more than I can begin to get into in a blog post, and I highly recommend it.

Be Gone. How many times have we yearned to hang up on (or walk away from) a conversation with someone who just refuses to let go? The introductory pleasantries have been dealt with, the subject matter discussed and now it’s time to end the chat, but the other party just won’t let you get on with your day! Unfortunately, this is another sin to which I must lay claim to being guilty. It has taken the loving insistence of my friends to let me know of this bad habit, and to work to curtail it. I have to remember the time of the people with whom I am speaking is just as valuable as mine, and if I want them to value my time highly, I have to do the same for them.

So, rather than going on with a long-winded close, I will Be Gone for now to let you, dear readers, contribute to the conversation. I’d really like to know your thoughts and stories on communication, or its lack. The floor is yours!

On Being Married 35 Years (And Counting)

I originally posted this 3 years ago, for our 32nd anniversary. Well, a few things have changed since then, and I thought it was time for an update and repost. Enjoy!

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How do couples who have been married a long time stay together?  What are the secrets to a happy marriage, and where can we learn them??

Marriage Day

June 7, 2015, is our 35th anniversary.  Here’re a few things we’ve learned about one another along the way:

He can sleep anywhere, under almost any conditions.
I need darkness and quiet.

He makes the bed.
I pull up the covers.

He thinks tools should be kept where he last used them.
I think they belong in the toolbox.

We both agree dirt + mud + hardwood = NO-NO.

He thinks dinner consists of lots of meat. And hot.  Vegetables and Carbohydrates are optional.
I think dinner has all food groups, with meat as a side dish. Salad dinners in the summer are acceptable. Menus should read, “Take it or leave it.” “Silly Suppers” (pancakes/waffles or omelets) are acceptable at the chef’s discretion. Picnics are acceptable. (Update: I think bread, pasta, rice, potatoes and other high carbohydrate items are a no-no. I began a low carbohydrate and high-fat eating program just after Christmas 2014 to get better control of my diabetes and weight. I am having good success with it, and these changes are a big reason why.)

He thinks cooking measurements are done with the spoons one eats with, and the glasses one drinks with.
I think we own multiple sets of measuring spoons and cups for very good reasons.

He thinks ice cream is a food group, and chocolate is a dessert.

It's the picture of Italian ice-cream in a sho...

I think chocolate is a food group, and ice cream is a dessert. (Update: Needless to say, with the new eating plan, I’m not eating a lot of these!)

He thinks cheese is optional.
I think cheese is a necessity, even mandatory.

He thinks toys for our 4 grandchildren belong in the living room, where they play with them when they visit.
I think toys belong in the room where they sleep when they visit, and can be brought down.

He thinks any towel hanging from the stove is acceptable to use on hands, dishes, cookware, or whatever.
I think hand towels are for hands and dish towels are for dishes, and that’s why we have both kinds.

He thinks dirty socks go on floors and the guest bed is an acceptable closet/bureau when unoccupied.
I think all dirty clothes go in the laundry basket, and clean ones should go on my closet door.  (We both have issues with putting stuff away!)

We both agree physical mail is for greeting cards and packages. Whatever can be done online, should be done online.

He thinks ice cream is eaten from the box, in the living room.
I think ice cream is eaten from a bowl, at the table or a soft serve stand. (Update: Needless to say, with the new eating plan, I’m not eating a lot of these!)

We both think strawberries are the world’s best fruit.  We both love asparagus. (Update: I have also become incredibly partial to low carbohydrate blackberries!)

He thinks our backyard needs a cover for our pool filter and a shed for our garden/lawn supplies to be perfect.
I think it also needs a gazebo down to be perfect.

He thinks our 3 cats are enough pets.
I think we need to look for a small-ish dog. And set back up the fish tank.

New Living Room(Not our living room!)

He thinks leather, velvet and modern are best for decorating our house.
I think English Country is best for every area of the house except his office.  He can do what he wants in there.

He thinks a painting with fake water and motion in it would look great in our living room.
I think they make me seasick.  If he wants one, he can keep it in his office.

He has a talent that is a total genius for packing large spaces. Need to move or going on a trip? He’s your guy to pack the moving van or car.
I have a talent for packing small spaces. Need to put away leftovers? Don’t call him. Call me. I know exactly what size container will work for what leftover every time.

We laugh at a lot of it, talk over some, agree to disagree on some, don’t make major decisions until we have come to a conclusion we can both live with and don’t go to bed mad. We understand if we agreed on everything in our marriage, one of us would be unnecessary.  We know compromise is an essential part of living happily together.

We don’t talk over potentially stressful stuff when we’re tired, hungry or distracted. We try to talk to our spouse’s personality and say and do things that show them we love them in their love language.

We both think shouting just makes noise and more upset. No one can talk to someone else if they are busy shouting at them. We both think communication is essential to the survival of any healthy relationship, and most particularly to a healthy marriage. It’s something we’ve been working hard on lately.

We tolerate each other’s families and sympathize when they drive each other nuts. We back each other’s decisions about our kids/grandkids, and we try to talk those decisions over first. If one of us is away, we talk several times daily.

We tolerate each other’s foibles, faults, and failings.  We remember why we fell in love and what we still love about each other and finding new stuff to love about each other at every available opportunity. We look for humor in every disaster, knowing a funny story makes suffering worthwhile in the long run. (Tragedy + Time = Humor, and you get to pick how long the Time part lasts!) We cherish our friendships and accept each other’s friends. We begin and end every day thanking God for each other.

Sometimes, it’s been work. Sometimes, it’s not. It’s always been worth it.  And we’ve learned all of this. How? Ask me about LIFE.  All comments asking for information will be kept confidential.

Oh, and one more thing:

He thinks “Happy wife, happy life.”
I think, “Happy spouse, happy house.”

PS — He not only content-approved this post, he encouraged it!

PPS — Happy 35th Anniversary to Bob Kilpatrick, my loving husband, my Editor in Chief, my business partner, the one who makes me the most nuts, and the one I make the most nuts! Through all the laughter, tears and everything in between, I would do it all again only if I could do it with you! Here’s to another 35 together!!

Charlie, Get OFF My FEET!

Dear Readers, over the years on this blog, I’ve introduced you to various members of my family. There is, of course, the long-suffering Bob, who is not only my dear husband of almost 35 years, but also my editor. He patiently puts up with the life of a husband of someone obsessed with words and getting them down and out of my head before they drive me nuts with their clamor. His thoughtfulness of others gives him the right to edit all my work, suggesting less offensive ways of saying things, as I can tend to be too blunt many times. And he does all this with a gentle and sweet spirit, loving and easy going in his ways. Besides being my husband and editor, Bob is also my business partner and the steadfast emotionally stable rock of our family. He puts up with me when I go off half-cocked on some new wild scheme, and often just watches and enjoys the ride, preparing as needed to help clean up my mess after. (I can’t say enough good about him!)

Our oldest is daughter Beth, married to (acquired-by-said-marriage-son) Tom. Yes, we view Tom as just as much one of our adult kids as the two we birthed. They are, if you will recall, parents of our 4 remarkable grandchildren, Keyna, Ariel, Tommy, and Samantha. Beth and Tom have recently started a business in collaboration with ours, and we are rejoicing in their early successes. We adore the times we get to spend with our grandchildren and know our grandchildren are our rewards as parents for allowing our kids to survive when they were such seemingly impossible beings when we were raising them!

Youngest is our son David. David is in the process of launching into the world and leaving home. He has found a roommate, a job and they are now looking for apartments together. He had some struggles to find his way for a while, trying college and flunking out only one semester before graduation, but he finally seems to have found his niche, and a job he enjoys. We are pleased to see him finally find his feet in life, and now are just hoping a nice girl will catch his eye soon, so he can start giving us a few more grandchildren to spoil . . .

There are a few family members I know I haven’t introduced you to yet. These are our fur babies, 3 cats named Simba, Boots, and Charlie. We adopted them from a local animal shelter a few months after a couple of other of our former cats had died, when the time seemed right to do so. I went in that day with the intent of only getting one, but when I saw the trio in the cage and began to interact with them and saw how well they got along, I just couldn’t stand to break up the set! Poor Bob was at the gym working out that afternoon, and had no clue what I was doing (or how much I was donating to the shelter for them!) until I got home with the 3 borrowed cat carriers in the back seat of my car! He took it all in his usual affable stride, removing the carriers from the car and helping me bring our new acquisitions into the house.

Simba came with the name of “Red” originally, but it just didn’t suit. He’s not red. He’s a caramel and peanut butter colored tabby, with virtually no white. He’s our shy guy and avoids the noisy grandchildren like the plague! He has decided he is my cat, and I am his person, and we’re both content with that arrangement. He’s very playful, and always game for a string chase. He’s young, healthy and athletic though he’s very timid of loud and sudden noises. It took Simba the longest to get used to us, hiding for weeks before we managed to coax him out. Simba likes to sleep at night on our bed, near Bob’s feet.

Boots came with the name he still has. He’s a traditional orange tabby, with a white chest, belly, and feet. Nothing flusters Boots. Grandchildren don’t phase him. He puts up with their fumbling attempts at affection until he’s had enough, and then leaves. Boots prefers comfort above all things and a full belly. He is also young, but not tremendously athletic. Honestly, he’s fat. Really fat. His nickname is “Lard Fur.” Boots likes to sleep at night at Bob’s side.

Charlie is our elder statesman. He’s a few years older than the other two. Charlie is a muted toned dark traditional tabby, with white highlights. He came with the name of “George,” but my father (of the same name) had died within a year or two of his acquisition, and we knew it would freak out both my mother and us to hear us refer to the animal with my father’s name. He got his name the first night home, when he crawled right up on our bed with Bob, purring and cuddling. Bob said he was a Good Time Charlie, and the name has stuck. He is also good with the grandchildren, and mostly very affable and easy going.

However, Charlie has one particular quirk that drives me nuts, and thus the reason for this post. Charlie likes to do what cat experts have termed “cat piling,” meaning he likes to rest against something else for warmth and comfort, preferably another cat, although any warm body will do. He will also snuggle the back of the couch, or a pillow if there are no bodies available.

Charlie’s habit of cat piling with me has led to some memorable skirmishes between he and I over the years. Due to chronic sciatica issues, I sleep with a pillow between or under my legs, depending on my position. Charlie likes my pillow. He likes it so well, it’s his favorite spot to lie down in our room, cat piling next to it as it sits under the covers. When I am not in bed, I’m fine with it. However, I have a bit of a quirk of my own, which runs completely counter to his — I cannot in any way stand to have more weight than the covers and pajamas on or adjacent to my legs or feet when I am trying to sleep. I’ve had cats park themselves on my stomach or chest (one tried my face, but that was a bit much!) while sleeping, and been fine with it. But Charlie and I go through almost nightly battles for dominance of who will be sleeping where when I lie down. These often involve me pushing him away from under the covers, with ever-increasing fervor, using my legs and feet, until he gets the hint I truly mean business yet again. Grumbling at him on my part is another important part of the ritual, whether aloud or silently.

So, why am I telling you all this? It’s not to complain about it. Nor is it to hear from you, dear readers, how horrid I am to Charlie about my own quirky likes and dislikes. It’s because last night, as we battled yet again, something occurred to me. My battles with Charlie over the dominance and position on our bed are remarkably similar to the battles we all face when dealing with faults and failings that so often beset all of us.

The Bible talks about these things, calling them “besetting sins.” Our modern language might refer to them as “nagging issues.” The meaning is the same. Hebrews 12:1 – 2 has quite a bit to say about it

 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the Pioneer and Perfecter of our faith.

We’re surrounded on a daily basis by people who witness our lives. Oh, I don’t just mean the people with whom we interact, and neither did the writer of Hebrews. The writer was talking about a crowd in a Heavenly stand, of those gone in faith before us, who now cheer us on as we run our daily race of life. Yes, the ones we interact with daily are visible, but that doesn’t make the Heavenly ones any less real.

The writer likens it to a runner who has tossed off everything unnecessary to the completion of his race. We’ve all seen Olympic competitions. The runners are seen prior to the race, wearing warm-up suits and often have a towel around their necks, and possibly some other gear to keep warm and dry. But just before the race starts, everything that isn’t his or her minimal uniform and sneakers is shed. The runner doesn’t need the weight or drag on them as he or she moves. Can you imagine trying to run an Olympic sprint wearing weights? It would be impossible! In the same way, we are called to daily toss off those besetting sins to run that day’s race with our best efforts.

There is also the issue of the goal. In an Olympic race, the goal is the finish line and the prize is a gold medal. While as a Christian my eventual eternal goal is Heaven, there is a goal here on earth, too. Evangelist and theologian Charles Finney called it the striving toward personal sanctification in this lifetime. The way the writer of the book of Hebrews puts it is to keep Jesus in our view at all times, seeking to live in His Father’s perfect will moment by moment.

The writer of Hebrews is saying just like Olympic runners shed everything unnecessary to their goals, it’s the same with us. Just as I work nightly to shove Charlie from my legs and feet so I can sleep in peace, I need to examine my life on a daily basis to see what is holding me back, to be aware of what is hindering me, to repent of the sin entangling me, so I can move forward freely in peace with myself, God and others once more.

And just like my nightly battles with Charlie, some sins will take longer to throw off than others. Some will be blind spots, for which I will need the wisdom and grace of a mentor and trusted friend to point out what I cannot see. Some will be deeply ingrained, requiring God’s Holy Spirit to completely renovate my character. And some, though unfortunately very few, might just be as simple a solution as encouraging Charlie to cat pile on Bob . . .

I pray you are able to see your goal, throw off your weights, and come run with me!

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Simba (top left), Boots (bottom left) & Charlie (right) cat piling with my pillow on our bed:

Here’s a cartoon I found, just for fun!

A Girl Worth Fighting For?

What kind of expectations do we place on ourselves? How about what we expect of others? Are they true and real ones, or are they more often based in fantasy or unreality?

I’ve been exploring this topic for myself lately, and I’d like to share a few thoughts about it. While sick with a horrible cold, I decided to take a couple of hours over a few days and watch the charming Disney movies Mulan and Mulan II. There is a song in Mulan that reprises in Mulan II, and it became the subject of my thoughts, and thus this post. Here’s a video link to the song in the first movie: A Girl Worth Fighting For

The song is charming, expressing the longings of men heading into a dangerous situation, who only want to know what they are about to face is worth it for someone back home. They express their hopes and dreams of what each believe is their ideal female, and how much they want the presence of these ladies in their lives when they go home. In the second movie, the song is taken further, by heroes come home who still don’t have the women of their dreams by their sides.

At first, I listened to the music and just enjoyed it. It speaks of what Wild At Heart by John Eldredge details. It says how all men really want is a battle to fight, a beauty to rescue and to be a hero. As a woman, I find these concepts somewhat foreign, but I’ve studied enough on the differences between men and women to understand these compelling needs. After all, as a woman, I find myself often yearning to be the beauty to be rescued, to nurture my hero and guard and care for the helpless, particularly those closest to me.

The problem came as I thought more about the song. Because as I did, I started to change the lyrics. I started to make them personal. Instead of a man wanting a girl worth fighting for, I wanted to be that girl worth fighting for.  I started to think of whether or not I was worth fighting for, if I wasn’t slender enough, pretty enough, smart enough or just enough of whatever. I started to wonder if I was too much of whatever. I started to think the expectations of the lyrics to be a girl worth fighting for were on me.

It was then I realized I was giving in (yet again!) to our culture’s domineering critical nature against women, and my own self-doubts and fears I battle daily. I next realized as a daughter of God, a born-again Blood of Christ covered repentant sinner, I am enough! I am enough in the sight of God, and if HE says I am enough, it ends the matter.

The problem next happened that I started to put it on my poor long-suffering spouse. Now, instead of thinking why I couldn’t be a girl worth fighting for if there wasn’t a problem with him seeing me as a girl worth fighting for. So I started ladling unrealistic expectations on him, instead. I wanted him to be instantly something he is not, instead of who he wonderfully is and allowing him the same process he allows me daily to change and grow.

How often we put unrealistic expectations on ourselves and others, instead of simply realizing we’re all a work in progress and being patient with everyone’s process, including our own!! It’s so subtle and sneaky, too! I thought I had it beaten, but then this darn song went and proved me oh, so wrong, giving me yet another opportunity to repent, change and grow. As I realize what happened and what I did to both of us, I feel so absurd. But then, that’s what unrealistic expectations are, really. They’re absurd, and the sooner we recognize them for what they are, the happier we’ll all be.

Now, I need to go watch another movie and find a new song, so I can get this dratted one out of my head!!