How To Give A Wonderful Birthday

I had a great birthday this year!  I know, it seems like bragging.  I wanted to let you, my several faithful readers, know what my incredible family did.  Maybe what they did, the plans they pulled off, will inspire you to give a great day to someone special you love.

My celebration started the night before, on Saturday.  The Beach Boys 50th Anniversary

English: Exterior of the Saratoga Performing A...

Tour was coming to Saratoga Performing Arts Center.  Bob got lawn tickets for us, and found a buy one/get one deal.  We had an early supper, got sodas for the cooler, grabbed lawn chairs and a blanket and headed north about 40 miles from home.

The concert was amazing!  The Beach Boys have lost none of what made them so

Español: The Beach Boys en concierto en el 2008.

fantastic.  Our spot on the lawn was high on the hill, where we could see the stage, though the performers looked like ants.  Bob got us shirts, fries and a frozen drink in a cool collectible cup.  Everyone around us was friendly and nice, and all 20,000 of us got up to dance and sing a lot, especially when they did classic favorites toward the end.  It was a while getting out of the arena area and then back to the highway, but no one seemed to mind, and everyone was nice about it.

Sunday (my birthday) we struggled to get up after our late night and went to church.  Son David got there ahead of us, and told everyone, so I got a lot of birthday wishes during the time of peace.  After church, Bob brought daughter Beth, son-in-law Tom and our grandchildren over for lunch and a swim.  The kids were funny and entertaining, and I got some cute photos.

After Tom, Beth and the kids left, Bob, David and I went to the mall.  David and I have a tradition from when he was small of going to the latest Disney movie together for my birthday.  I used to take him but since he got his first job, he’s taken me every year, and then out for whatever dinner his budget could afford.  Bob tagged along and we went to see “Brave.”  David also got us popcorn, soda and candy.  After the movie, we went to a restaurant where they had a 3 course special.  My leftovers became lunch at work Monday.

My Facebook wall was filled Saturday night and all day Sunday with messages from friends and family.  It was so touching and fun to read all the kind words from everyone!

Monday, I found my work cubicle decorated with streamers at the door, a banner across the middle that said “Happy Birthday” in pink with princessy stuff, balloons taped all over the place, a hat on my keyboard, and a picture of a cupcake with a candle in it on one of my monitors!  I had a place mat that said “Happy Birthday, ” with notes on it from my coworkers.  On it was a gift card from a local coffee shop chain.  I returned from a break and found someone had left a dark chocolate candy bar on my keyboard!  I found out at lunchtime a coworker’s birthday was Sunday and no one knew, so I shared the pink banner and 1/2 my balloons with her.  It was fun, to share the joy.

I’ve had birthdays that weren’t great in the past.  This one was fabulous!  From Saturday evening to Monday morning, it was almost non-stop continuous fun and excitement.  This wasn’t even a ‘big’ birthday.  It was an ordinary one.  What made it special was the kindnesses, the thoughtfulness, the unexpected pleasures and the sheer delights of surprises the people who care about me took the time to consider and execute. 

That’s my whole point of sharing this.  It doesn’t matter what you do for your someone special.  It doesn’t matter how much it costs.  What matters is that they know you were thinking of them and taking the time and trouble to consider what they would like, what would bring them pleasure and joy.  Because that’s what the people around me did for me this year that made this birthday so special, so memorable, so wonderful.  They took that time out for me . . .

Happy Birthday

The Politics Of “The Greater Good”

English: NASA astronaut image of Diego Garcia ...

Diego Garcia

In 1965, the British government purchased the Chagos Archipelago, including the island of Diego Garcia, from its owners, their self-governing colony of Mauritius.  In 1966, the U.S. and British governments concluded a treaty allowing the U.S. military to have rights to the area for the next 50 years, with a 20 year option.  In 1971, the indigenous populations were evicted, in the name of U.S. military interests in the region.  History books say it was done for the greater good.  The indigenous people disagree, and continue to fight their expulsion in World Court.

The "Baker" explosion, part of Opera...

Bikini Atoll is part of the Marshall Islands.  The indigenous population was removed in late 1945, so in June of 1946, the U.S. government could begin atomic weapons testing there.  The islands continued to be used for this purpose until 1958.  In 1964, the U.S. government tried to bring back the people, but had to remove them again, because of unsafely high radiation levels in their bodies.  History books say the use of Bikini Atoll was done for the greater good.

These are two examples in the history of governments doing things against their basic tenets, all in the interests of what those in power rationalize as being in the greater good.  But at what point do we leave the good, making what we are contemplating wrong?  Is it only through the eyes of history that we see the compromises and slippery slopes that lead from bad decisions into worse consequences?

It happens in economics.  It seems right to many for the government to take care of the poor and elderly.  Someone has to do it.  But a look at U.S. history shows it wasn’t the government who did it before the Civil War.  It was families, churches and charities.  No one had to tell them to

Benefit Security Card .. HALF of the U.S live ...

Benefit Security Card

do it.  They did it from love and a spirit of generosity and compassion.

But when it became sponsored by the government during the Great Depression because private institutions were overwhelmed by the size of the need, compassion became pity.  Pity is a sad way to run charity.  It forces from the giver and expects no gratitude from the recipient.  It leaves no room for individuality of need or giving.  It does not encourage leaving the system.  It wipes out the humanity of the process.  It is something we are told being done for the greater good that harms the very people it intends to help, and the population.

The TARP bailouts by the U.S. government between 2008 and 2010 are another example.  This looked like a good idea to save American businesses and thus jobs that were declining and threatening to fail in the post-2008 crash.  However, there was no oversight in the funds, and some companies that were rescued still failed.  Others wasted the money on luxuries for their corporate leaders.  The government spent money it didn’t have on something it didn’t belong doing, mortgaging the future of our grandchildren on the debacle.  Another project done for the greater good failed because of short-sighted thinking and a lack of accountability.

Cover of "Star Trek: Insurrection"

Cover of Star Trek: Insurrection

In the movie “Star Trek: Insurrection,” there is a moving scene in which the Captain confronts his superiors, who want to move a small population away from their home, a move that will kill the people.  It would benefit the civilization the leaders represent.  The move is against everything they stand for as a culture.  As they rationalize to him, the Captain says, “How many are enough, sir?  300?  500?  1000?  1,000,000?”  His superiors stop him before he can go father, but we can get his point.

When a politician stands up and says they is going to fix something by throwing money at it or do something “in the interests of the greater good,” I pay closer attention.  Because the money that politician is about to spend isn’t theirs; it’s mine and yours.  The thing they may want to do may look good in the short-term, but could have unseen long-term consequences no one wants to visit on future generations.  The good the politician is promoting may or may not be my good, or your good.  It could be the good of someone else, and a “good” that causes a harm to you or me in some way.   This harm would at least be to take away some of my freedoms if it taxed my money to do it.  I don’t know anyone who likes more taxes, no matter the cause.

Portrait of William Pitt the Younger as Prime ...

Portrait of William Pitt the Younger as Prime Minister of Great Britain

Just because politicians say it’s “good,” doesn’t mean it’s always good.  Political office doesn’t convey godlike powers.  It never has and never will.  We have to look closer, at long-term and big picture consequences, particularly as we endure this season of U.S. presidential rhetoric and electioneering politics at every level.  In December of 1783, William Pitt the Younger told the British Parlaiment,

 “Necessity was the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It was the argument of tyrants; it was the creed of slaves.”

It has been said the good of the many outweighs the good of the few, or the one.  When it comes to governmental choices, however, the good of the one is the only choice promoting freedom we have available.  

(My great thanks to mentor David Phillips and husband Bob.  A conversation with them on a June afternoon prompted this post, formerly called ‘Diego Garcia, Bikini Atoll And The Politics Of “The Greater Good”‘.)

On Being Married 32 Years (And Counting)

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, 2012, is our 32nd 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.

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.

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.

We both think strawberries are the world’s best fruit.  We both love asparagus.

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 4 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.

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 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.

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!

Wee Thoughts — Welcome To Our World!

It is astonishing to me that I have faithful readers and followers.  I find it remarkable you want to know what I have to say on stuff.  Additionally, you actually expect me to update them on what is going on in my life.  To say the very least, I am greatly appreciative to all of you!!

Those of you who do read here often know I am a wife, mother and grandmother.  I want to introduce you to my grandchildren, as a way of welcoming our third, born today.  Their parents are our daughter Beth and her husband Tom.

The eldest, Keyna, is 3 1/2.   She is bright, engaging and verbal.  She likes “Dora The Explorer, ” Elmo and cats.  Her favorite color is pink.  Her favorite stuffed toy is the Yankee Bear Pillow Pet I wrote about in “Pink Diaper Bags and Yankee Bears.”  She likes to play with puzzles and cook pretend food in her toy kitchen.  “Let’s Pretend” is her favorite game.  Keyna loves the slides at the park!  She is afraid of loud noises, blow dryers, our swimming pool and hair spray.  Keyna’s favorite food (and our favorite bribery tool!) is strawberries.  She is somewhat reluctant to try new foods, like her father.  Keyna has to wear sneakers during the week for preschool, and loves nothing better than to escape into cowboy boots or sandals on the weekends.  Keyna is very proud of being in potty training.  Keyna also loves books and music, and is learning her letters and numbers.

Ariel is 1 1/2.  She is learning to talk, and will sometimes say proper words and phrases.  She likes classical music and cats.  Her favorite color is purple.  Her favorite stuffed toy is an Elmo.  Ariel likes to play with dominoes, and have Papa (my husband) make rows of them for her to knock down.  She loves to laugh. She is stubborn, and like her mother before her, appears to be entering her two’s, with all their defiance and willful stubbornness early.  She loves bouncing on willing knees!  Ariel loves the swings at the park!  Ariel, like her mother at that age, does not seem to be afraid of much of anything.  Ariel’s favorite food is yogurt smoothies, though she will eat about anything.  Ariel is still in diapers at this point.  Ariel loves to listen to story books.

Today we welcome to our family a new member.  His name is Tommy, and he is Keyna and Ariel’s little brother.  He made his appearance at 4:45pm.  He arrived at 7 pounds, 7 ounces, and 19 1/4 inches long.  We were able to visit and see him in the nursery, at a distance, and not to take photos today.  Daddy was, and his photo is below.

We don’t know what Tommy will like, or his favorite color, or what will make him laugh.  We don’t know what stuffed toy will become his favorite, what will make him fearful or what he will like to eat.  Tommy’s world is a blank slate, as is the world of all newborns.  It is ready to be shaped by his parents, us as his grandparents, his sisters, his schooling and his life.  Today, baby Tommy begins a journey of discovery we all began at birth, and which we still hopefully will continue until our deaths.

So, welcome to our world, baby Tommy.  We’re glad you’re here.  Welcome to our family.  We’re glad God chose you for us.  And in a world of hatreds and prejudices, welcome to the only race in the world that counts — the human race.

Ariel and Keyna January 2012

Tommy , born 6/4/12