Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Top ten in 2010: #9

I'm thankful for replaceable things that remind us of the things that aren't.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Dreaming of a white...Black Friday!

Little E. staring at the winter wonderland!

The day after Thanksgiving we all woke up to a thin crust of sleet covering...well, just about everything.  Less than impressive.  Unless you're little E. that is.  Shortly after waking up we heard shouts of joy coming from the living room, "It's Christmas...everybody look: snow!  It's Christmas!" 

We spent our Black Friday in our jammies, put up our Christmas Tree, made some sugar cookies, paper chains and read news stories of all the Black Friday injuries.

Hope you had a SAFE and happy Black Friday!

The last lonely cluster of scallions left in our garden.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Top ten in 2010: #10

It's chilly and gray.  I sometimes want to be grumpy about that, but today I'll think about other things.  In fact, to get me through the darkening days of winter, here begins my top ten things of 2010--in no particular order:

Moments of Reflection

Little E and I spent a wonderful afternoon riding with Mommy around the farm on Grandpa's "jitney."  We paused along the way to toss rocks into the water and to watch the sticks and leaves float under the bridge!  Mommy photographed us along the way.  

I used to have somewhat of a tough time taking a moment to relax.  I felt like I had to always be doing something.  I'm thankful to have these liberating moments, and to have a wife who has taught me that pausing for a moment of fun is "doing something."

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Photos: what a difference a moment makes!

Our boys playing on the slide. . . aren't they cute. . .

. . . moment's later. . .

Monday, November 22, 2010

Sex God . . . In Review

Sex God
Exploring the Endless Connections between Sexuality and Spirituality
by Rob Bell

Must Read: This was such a fantastic book.  I picked it up because I was intrigued by the title.  I turned to the table of contents which produced more questions and still more intrigue.

Introduction: This Is Really About That
One: God Wears Lipstick. . .

. . . Eight: Johnny and June
Nine: Whoopee Forever
Epilogue: More Balloons, Please

See what I mean?  I could tell within a few pages that this would be a paradigm shifting book, and indeed it was.

Rob Bell starts out by introducing the concept of symbolism in our lives.  Material objects that mean more to us than what they are in and of themselves.  They draw their significance from the relationship that they have to something else that has significance to us: the person who made, gave, or used them before us, for example.  Then he begins to talk about us.  Our biology.  Our instincts.  He adds layer upon layer of symbolism until all of a sudden, we're talking about spirituality. . . and it makes sense!

The transition is elegant.  I didn't even realize when it happened, but by the end of the less than two hundred pages, the conversation had shifted.  In the last few chapters, it's a seamless fusion of humanity, biology, relational connection, and spirituality.  He has superimposed the human marriage onto the spiritual connection between man and creator.  The symbolism has never been clearer for me.

Rob Bell has a great writing style! It is unique: a string of vignettes, each building slightly on the last. He handles a delicate subject with skillful sensitivity. He leads the reader down a logical path to support his complex connections in such a fun way that you don't have to feel the weight of the subject matter.  You get to concentrate on the journey.  His thoughts are perfectly articulated and the subject matter is totally relevant. 

Oh, and the epilogue is the icing on the cake!

See all Must Read books I've reviewed

*I borrowed this book from a friend.  I did not receive any compensation whatsoever for reading or reviewing it.

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Perfect Gift--20 questions

One of the things that has been the most helpful in choosing the right gift for Mrs. O. is asking the right questions.  I mentioned in a recent post that it helps me when I don't limit the questions to, "Do you want a blank for Christmas?"  It's much more helpful to ask, "What kind of gift makes you feel treasured, cherished and pursued?"  Think of it like the game Twenty Questions: if you ask the first question and the answer is 'no' then you have only dealt with one gift and you haven't gained any good ideas.  If you ask the second question, it doesn't matter what the answer is.  You'll likely end up with at least a couple of springboard ideas.

I also asked Mrs. O. about the types of gifts she likes for different holidays.  It turns out she likes the gift to match the occasion to some extent.  For example: Birthday--gifts that reflect her love of music, Mother's Day--items that the kids have created or that involve the kids in their use, Anniversary--events enjoyed as a couple, sans kids, and help us remember what it is like to be friends.  Some of them are items, but sometimes an event is fun, too.  If it's an event, she likes me to take care of all the details: reservations, childcare, transportation, parking, etc. 

Every question takes some of the mystery out of buying the perfect gift, and she always appreciates that I'm asking!

Monday, November 15, 2010

The young, the smooth, Mr. O.

I'm doing a lot of reminiscing lately about the early days, when Mrs. O. was not yet Mrs. O.  I was thinking about a funny story of our first 'real' date.  Thank you Mrs. O. for sticking with me!

We had begun spending a lot of time together and had become really good friends.  Inseparable, really.  So, we decided to go out to the Macaroni Grill for a date.  We had not actually been out on a date yet.  It was an interesting experience and we learned a few things on this date. 

First, conversation is more difficult when you're sitting directly across from someone.  I had never really thought about that before.  We usually had such an easy time talking to each other but there was a subtle awkwardness about this evening.  It's way easier if you're sitting on adjacent sides--close enough to talk comfortably, but not staring each other down.

Second, and this is the good one, we learned that our families dine in distinctly different ways.  Not-yet-Mrs. O. grew up in a family that shares every bit of food--no beverages.  I on the other hand grew up in a family that protects our food like Fort Knox protects gold bullion.  I was not offended by the offer of sharing food, but not enticed by it, either!

The nexxus of our dining experience came with dessert.  I don't remember what I got.  My memory of the evening is completely devoted to the events that surround the chocolate cake covered with a conservative splash of ganache.  It was wholly unappetizing to me.  I mean, who would bake a cake and 'forget' the most important part: the butter cream icing.  What is ganache anyway, but a thickened chocolate syrup that belongs on an ice cream sundae.  I digress...so, they bring the dessert and not-yet-Mrs. O. offers up a share of her un-iced (for all intents and purposes) chocolate cake.  To which I replied...are you ready for this?  "If I'd wanted it, I would have ordered it!" 

No, really.  I'm not kidding.  I said that.  Smooth.  Classy.  I do fancy myself something of a lady's man.

I thought she was going to cry.  She was humiliated.  Embarrassed.  I don't even remember whether I smartened up enough to have a piece of the cake, but she was gracious enough not to shove her fork down my throat the next time I opened my mouth! 

Ahhh,  good times!

Note to self: Eat the cake.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Gifts--part two.

Read part one.  

With Halloween behind us the Christmas decorations and advertisements are coming out whether we like it or not!  Every retailer wants to get into our wallets and they’ve got big plans for Black Friday, and some even having sales the Friday before Black Friday.  So, the big question is: Who gets your money?  What are you going to buy...for her?  Tough question, right?  We’ve still got two more months to go, so why think about it so early?
Maybe you just take one holiday at a time.  Maybe you just got over an anniversary and want a break before diving into the next gift buying fiasco.  I hear stuff like this from guys around me all the time.  Guys who are frustrated by the fact that they never seem to get it right.  Guys who are tired of feeling like they are doomed unless they happened to pick up on that one obscure comment way back in February when she mentioned that thing she wants.  What if she never mentions it again?  How is he supposed to know what she wants?  Well, I don’t think it’s as tough as it first appears.
It’s actually really easy, but it takes a long time.  Buying a gift needs to be a process...kind of like buying that big screen TV or your dream car.  You don’t need someone to point it out to you and tell you, “This is the car of your dreams!”  You just know.  You see it and instantly you know.  You know, because you’ve been learning a little bit at a time.  Every time you read a magazine or browse the electronics store you learn a little more about what is available.  You learn a little more about which one is better and why.  
Where do we go wrong?  
We don’t think like girls.  How many of us think jewelry is a waste of money?  How many guys think a bouquet of flowers is a waste of money?  Greeting cards?  Waste of money, right?  Lots of guys tend to be too practical to want to buy that stuff.  We think in terms of what we get from our purchase...$50 bucks for a bouquet that lasts a week?  Hundreds of dollars for a piece of jewelry that you might wear a couple of times each year?  But, it doesn’t matter what we think.  For her, there’s a connection between the relevance of the gift and her value--as a person and as your girl.  She doesn’t think in terms of the market value of a gemstone or a bouquet of roses, she thinks in terms of her value to you.  The gift is a valueless token of a priceless relationship.
We don’t ask enough questions.  When was the last time you asked your wife about her favorite kind of flower or her favorite gemstone?  Do you know how she feels about jewelry?  Do you know about her preferences in clothing, handbags, perfume, chocolate?  If not, ask.  If you were going to buy a giant TV or a hot rod you’d ask the experts, right?  So, before you run off and buy your wife something for Christmas, ask a few questions.  Don’t limit the questions to, “Do you want a blank for Christmas,” but ask, “What kind of a gift makes you feel cherished/treasured or loved?”  AND, be content with whatever she answers!
We don’t think far enough in advance.  Have you seen the number of men out shopping on Christmas Eve?  There are tons of them!  I wonder how many of them thought about their shopping list before the left for the store.  If you haven’t started thinking yet, don’t wait.  There are just over six weeks left.

We don’t practice enough.  One of the most beneficial things for me has been taking some trips to the store strictly for the purpose of learning what Mrs. O. likes.  During trips around the mall you can stroll through different stores and watch what she picks up.  Notice which stores she wants to shop.  Then look around and pick out two or three things you might pick up if you were looking for something she’d like.  Ask her which she likes most, or ask her to rate them each one to ten.  You won’t get all tens--no worries.  You’ll quickly learn a lot!
When you give a gift you’ve chosen intentionally, don’t be afraid to tell her what you’ve noticed about her that made you choose that gift.  She wants to know you and she’ll appreciate knowing the thought process that went into your purchase.