Sunday, November 27, 2011

Who Knows?

"After two marriages that ended in divorce (Tommy Lee and Richie Sambora), I'm sure Heather knows what it takes to make a relationship work."
Quoted from thestir 

Ummm. . . anybody finding something wrong with that logic?  I'm sure Heather knows a few things that can make a marriage fail, but what evidence do we have that she knows what would make it work?  The logic that says that failure teaches you how to succeed is broken logic.  It simply teaches you how to fail.  Wisdom would tell you how to avoid the same failure again, but can failure alone be guaranteed to bring you to success?  I'm going to go with. . . NO!

So, where does this wisdom for success come from?  If you want to know how to do something right, then ask someone who's doing it right!  Who are you listening to?  Cultural generalization? 

Particularly in the areas of finances and marriage, I see people with similar problems talking to each other and giving advice to each other.  Is this really the best idea?  Why do we think that someone with similar problems will help solve our own?  Perhaps it just makes us feel better about the fact that we have problems.  I would assert that we should be cautious about the people we use for advice and the assumptions we make about what they know.  

You know what 'they' say.  

Do you know who 'they' are?

Well, if you know me, then you know that I'm going to take my advice from the Bible.  It's not always the easiest to apply to everyday life, but that's where the other people come in.  People with life experience that I want to duplicate.  I don't believe we are meant to live our lives alone.  I do, however, believe that we should be selective in choosing whom to emulate.  

Monday, November 21, 2011

Is Marriage Obsolete?

I was talking to a friend of mine recently.  He and his girlfriend live together and, he says, will probably never get married.  He says that they're already committed to each other for the long haul.  Marriage is just the expensive way to break up if it doesn't work out.

Is that really all there is to it?

If that's it, then you must be defining marriage to consist of the legal contract of joint material ownership.  Lots of people sign pre-nuptual agreements, though.  Are they still married if they don't agree that they own everything jointly?  What about common-law?  Not married, just living together.

Now we've gone from husband and wife to partners.  Long term commitment.  Best friends.  Same thing, right?  I mean, most places offer benefits to domestic partners.  Two-income households have no tax benefit from a legal marriage.  From the outside, it looks the same.  No rings--I guess, it's not exactly the same.  Close.  Perhaps that's why we're wondering if marriage has become obsolete.

In my estimation, these friends of mine that are living together are already as close to married as most people ever get--with or without the 'red tape.'  My definition of marriage includes an element of faith--a promise between two people and God.  My friends, however, don't believe in God.  That is the fundamental difference, as far as I can tell.  In the absence of that element of faith, I don't really see a difference.  I see no concrete advantage to telling the state of your intentions.

Is it marriage, or the sanctions of the state that have become obsolete?

Monday, November 14, 2011

'Tis the season. . .

My grandfather once told me, "You can tell a lot about a person by what makes them excited."


If you haven't already, this is the time to be thinking about a Christmas gift for your wife or girlfriend.  I find that lots of guys talk like they never get the right stuff.  Sometimes, they even feel like they've got a little making up do to next time.  I think that's because we, too often, go for the standards.  Mrs O is not identical to any other woman, so some standards just don't work for her.  They don't communicate that I love her.  It's not about the way I communicate, but the way she communicates.

When your girl is excited, what is she excited about?

Mrs O gets excited about quality time.  I discovered a long time ago that taking a surprise day off and making a simple itinerary of fun things to do together was one of the best ways to show Mrs O that I love her and that I know her.  I never would have put that together on my own, but I asked her about it.  I asked her what gifts meant the most to her.  Those are enlightening conversations.


If you find that your man is awkward when it comes to buying gifts, make sure you are vocal about your favorite ones, even if it's not exactly perfect.  Think about the little things he does--or used to do--and tell him how much you appreciated those things.  I remember one day when Mrs O told me that she really appreciated when I send her cards in the mail.  Her admiration meant so much to me.  It made me want to keep doing it!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Saving Daylight

photo courtesy of

Ahhh, this is my favorite morning of the whole year: the boys are awake at 5:30 because their internal clocks don't reset overnight, it'll be dark when I get out of work today, and we're all headed for a sound case of Seasonal Affective Disorder!  Can you hear my sarcasm?  It makes me wonder who ever thought 'daylight savings' was such a great idea in the first place.

I tried to research that a little bit. . . I admit, it wasn't important enough for real solid research, but some cursory web-surfing was in order.  I found it difficult to determine exactly who came up with the idea first.  There were several founding-father types suggested along with several long-obsolete reasons for doing it: Ben Franklin suggests saving whale oil in the street lamps, a meddling brit wants to prevent his neighbors from sleeping away useful daylight hours, but my favorite is the next one.  Wikipedia gives the true credit to an entomologist from New Zealand:

"Modern DST was first proposed by the New Zealand entomologist George Vernon Hudson, whose shift-work job gave him leisure time to collect insects, and led him to value after-hours daylight." 

Does this seem strange to anyone else?  A bug-collector needs light after work to seek out his critters and the whole world changes their clocks to accommodate?  

Oh well.  I guess it's not as bad as I make it out to be.  But, I do wonder why we quit saving daylight in the winter when it is the scarcest.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Couple's Retirement

I can't wait to retire!  I've only got. . . forty years, maybe more if I depend on Social Security to fund it!  I wonder what it will look like.  I remember a man I worked for several years ago.  He was getting ready to retire and we all suspected that he'd be flying his little Cessna quite a bit.  One day, one of my colleagues asked him, "What will your wife think of you being home all day?"

"Well, just because I'm not going to work, doesn't mean I'm going to stay home!" he said.

He was just going to start doing all the things he had always wanted to do, but never had the time.  This isn't really about him, though.  It's about Mrs O and me.  What will retirement look like for us? We're pretty traditional.  I work and earn a paycheck.  She works 24/7 caring for our boys and me: tons of laundry, cart loads of groceries, hundreds of meals.  If she got paid for all she does, she would surely have a six-figure salary!  I'm glad we went the traditional route with our family.  Our boys are reaping many benefits!  It is a ton of work, though.  I see that every time Mrs O goes off and I care for they boys myself!  So, if it's real work, what does real retirement look like?

This is an interesting thing for us to evaluate right now.  After changing jobs, selling a house and relocating to a new area, we are evaluating our new retirement options.  I have to admit, until now I hadn't figured a maid or dining out into my concept of retirement.  It doesn't necessarily have to look like that, perhaps we would just downsize and rent instead of owning a home so that someone else could look after the outside and we could both care for the smaller inside space together.  The point isn't that we have to do it one way or the other, but I do want us to retire together.

In our new, revised retirement plan I want to include Mrs O doing all the things she has always wanted to do, but never had the time.

Note to self: Retire together!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

A Momma's vacation. . .

A couple of days ago, I had a GREAT idea!  It turns out that it would have been even better had I come up with this idea 5 days prior.  Better luck next time!  The good new is, there will be a next time!  Let me explain:

I was on vacation with my family last week.  It was great!  We started out with a weekend celebrating our anniversary.  Then, we took the kids and explored the town we've inhabited for the past five months.  The museum, the Science Center, an orchard--lots of fun options.  Friday morning, I was lounging with the boys and and enjoying the break from my usual Friday work routine.  I realized that Mrs O was up and around doing the same things she always does.  This was not unlike any other Friday for her.  Well, I was home.  So, she was caring for one extra boy all week!  My wife needs a vacation!

I started thinking about all the things I know about Mrs O.  I was thinking about things that we could do that would make it feel like a vacation for her.  I know that she does not love the task of planning meals.  It's an endless mental puzzle to figure out how to make something tasty for grown-ups and tolerable for kids while trying to make sure that everyone gets a balanced diet.  EVERY day.  THREE times per day.  Seven times, really, if you count all the snacks. . . did you ever notice that pre-schoolers are kind of like Hobbits?  Anyway. . . 

. . . so, I decided that we should make a plan to go out to eat more on vacation.  


That really was my first thought.  

Then, I realized that I could do some meal planning and grocery shopping before the vacation and make the meals.  You should have seen the look on her face when I told Mrs O my plan!  Imagine how she would have felt if I had thought of this before our vacation instead of the end when we only had three days left!  

Like I said at the beginning, there WILL be a next time.  And since I have all this time to think about it, it's going to be bigger and better than just a few meals and groceries:

Laundry.  Groceries.  A free day for Momma to go out. . . by herself!

It's beginning to sound like a bit of work, but I think I can do it.  Afterall, this is the stuff she does week in and week out.  And if it is a ton of work, and I am worn out at the end of my vacation, then I can go back to work and rest!

Note to self: Momma needs a vacation--probably more than I do!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Two's company.

Mrs O's anniversary bouquet!

I know, I didn't get that expression quite right.  Or, perhaps they didn't get it quite right--whoever 'they' are.  Three's company, four is a crowd. . . well, sometimes things get crowded in this family of four!  See, this past weekend my parents took the boys for the weekend so we could celebrate our seventh anniversary.  Alone.  Together.  Just the two of us.  We didn't go anywhere. . . well, not far.  We stayed at a little B&B here in town.  We explored the chocolate shops--bourbon truffles!  Tried some new restaurants: Wild Eggs for breakfast, Cafe Mimosa for pot stickers and crab rangoons, and Coco's Chocolate Cafe for more chocolate!

We've recently relocated, and it had been a long time since the two of us had a weekend away.  It was only recently that we got back into the habit of date nights.  It's taking a while to get settled back into a routine.  We'd like to think that it should always be spontaneous, but sometimes life just prevents the spontaneous, so we have to make a plan to stay healthy and enjoy spontaneity when it happens.  An anniversary is the perfect reason to plan a few days away, even if 'away' isn't far.  We billed it as a chance to explore our new town.  It turned out, that we also got to learn a little about each other as well.  New town.  New job.  New surroundings.  Life just changes you, doesn't it?  Sometimes, I don't even realize how I've changed until I start explaining it to Mrs O.  It's amazing what a little conversation can do!

Note to self: Take time to make time.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Time away. . .

Someone told me once that you can tell what's important to a person if you look at where they spend their time and their money.  Time and money management are among the most difficult tasks in my estimation.  Will it ever get easier?  I think so.  

In order to successfully manage my time, I need to align my time management with my priority list.  When I sit down and think about it intentionally, my priority list goes like this:

1. Faith
2. Wife
3. Kids
4. Work
5. Me
6. Other stuff

Why this order?  Well, faith gives me the strength to be a good husband--sometimes, when I allow it to do so.  Mrs O gives me the strength to be a good dad--I couldn't do it without her support.  My boys are a large part of my motivation for being a good employee and working hard to pay for the things of life.  

Then, there's me.  I mean, I do need to stay healthy.  If you are not on your own priority list, you should be.  

You're probably wondering, "So, what did you learn?"  Well, when things got hectic, I didn't always follow my priority list with my time management.  Wanna know which categories dropped off the list?  Wife, kids, Me.  As we prepared to move, I found myself clinging to responsibilities outside the home and making sure my impending absence had minimal impact on the workplace that I was leaving, for example.  The irony of the whole thing was that my extra absence from home was taking a toll on my family.  Mrs O and the boys were short on security, and I was short-tempered.  The negative effects show up quickly in the high-stress relocation scenario.

The reality is that when I announced my plans to go, I needed to begin to allow everyone to make a plan for my absence.  People come and go all the time and it's rarely a catastrophe.  The bigger concern is the health of my family and making sure we are all well prepared to weather the bumpy roads.

Note to self: When I feel like I don't have time for family, I need to double the time I'm giving them.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Baby changes everything. . .

I ran into this article this morning. The article is mainly about balancing a healthy lifestyle with being a good mom, but there is one marriage related issue that I want to point out. At the beginning of the article, the writer states that pre-pregnancy the mom-to-be frequently excercised with her husband. Now, post pregnancy the writer suggests that moms priorities should be: being a good mom, her health and her job--respectively. The writer, also a friend of mom, is offering to go for walks in the park with her to help her get back to her healthy routine.

Ummm. . . wait a minute. Where's Dad? Is the marriage on the priority list? In my opinion, it should be number one--yes, before being a good mom. Parents can keep each other healthy and therefore empower each other to be the best parents. I mean, are we partners or aren't we?

Perhaps the friend could stay home with the baby while mom and dad go for a walk in the park!

Read on:

Stay Fit and Healthy at Any Size: Shape Magazine

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Love Wins . . . in review

I have a theory: if I get to the place where I am unable to read, listen to, or associate with things or persons that challenge my belief system, then I am in a dangerous place.

Strange place to start a post about a book review, you might think.  That is, unless you've heard about Love Wins already.  When I told some that I was reading this book I got responses like, "you're READING it?" or "Oh, I've heard about that one."  I had heard of Love Wins before I read it.  I first heard about it in a review that made it sound like the biggest piece of heresy in several millennia--which is of course, why I had to read it.  Not because I'm looking for heretical writings, but because I have to see for myself.

So, I set to reading it.  I actually got it as a gift from Nina--my mother-in-law.  Thank you, Nina.  I finished most of it on a plane ride, and the rest of it shortly thereafter.  I LOVED it.  I STILL love it.  The thing I love the most is that Rob Bell is encouraging "open, honest inquiry into the things that matter most."  This unapologetic, question-everything philosophy is present throughout this book.  This is less a book that tells you what to think, and more a book that longs for everyone to think. . . something, and to think it on their own.  I love books like that.

Bell has some interesting perspectives, and as far as I can tell, they are all based on biblical principles.  He simply isn't afraid to ask the tough questions.  He tests his faith and his tradition against what the Bible actually says, and he refuses to use tradition as an explanation of his faith.  This book is somewhat of a description of the fundamentals of christianity through the eyes of Rob Bell.  His perspectives are not as outrageous as I expected based on what I had heard and seen. . . I'm beginning to wonder how many people have formed opinions without having read the book themselves.

In his chapter, Here Is The New There, he talks about the concept of heaven on earth.  He suggests that this heaven, this healing, this new life that Jesus promises can start now.  In his chapter called Hell, he talks about hell on earth and addresses the concept of free will.  He says, "it is vital that we acknowledge that love, grace, and humanity can be rejected.  From the most subtle rolling of the eyes to the most violent degradation of another human, we are terrifyingly free to do as we please."

He also talks about the fact that some people just don't like the words sin and hell, but that there are very real physical situations happening in our world right now that require "words to be that intense, loaded, complex, and offensive, because they need to reflect the realities they describe."  In essence, he doesn't write off the person who doesn't like the stuff they've heard.  He doesn't pretend that the uncomfortable stuff doesn't exist.  He offers a perspective that allows us to admit that there are tough issues and uncomfortable questions, and invites us to discover "the good news" by embracing and engaging.  He invites us to believe in God rather than religious tradition.

This leads me to my second theory: I don't have to believe everything I hear or read.  That's why I feel so free to read this book.  Instead of being afraid of a book that may challenge my belief system, I will instead accept the challenges and set out to clarify for myself whether, in fact, my current system of beliefs needs an amendment.

So, do I agree with Rob Bell?

It doesn't matter.  This book has given me new excitement about discovering my faith, challenging the traditions, and getting into the Bible.

That matters.

Other books I recommend:

Sex God by Rob Bell
Soul Cravings by Erwin McManus

Monday, May 9, 2011

Money, Money, Money

Money is one of the big things that couples fight about, right? Yes. I'm right. Admit it. You two argue about money just like everybody else. Anytime we've got two people with finite resources and infinite ways to spend them, we get tension. So, what to do about it?  Make a plan.

Men: in many cases, I think this is your job. There are a lot of women who do the day-to-day financial managing. In a lot of cases, I think they do a better job than their male counterparts! But, what I have noticed during many conversations is that lots of women don't like to come up with the plan--especially during times of transition where perhaps some things need to be cut. So, let's play to our strengths. In my family, this works best when I make a preliminary plan. I make decision about what I think we should cut and I make a plan that works, i.e. a plan that spends 100% of the budget, or less.  Then, Mrs O and I can sit down and talk about it together.

Why is this my job? Mrs O can budget, right? Yes. She does a fine job at it. Making budget cutting decisions is stressful for her, though. I can give her a gift by absorbing that stress. I call it slaying her dragons(with little boys at home, we frequently have a 'knight in shining armor' theme!)  By slaying dragons, I mean that I can respond to the things that cause her tension.  It's not that she can't do it herself, but simply that she feels supported, protected, and secure if I respond to her fears and stressors on her behalf.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

What's in a man?

I had a moment of revelation the other day.  Have you ever had one of those?  One moment I'm pondering this question and the next moment I know the answer--at least, I think I do.  Let's start with the question. 

What makes a man? 

I used to be really worried about this kind of question.  I didn't feel like I fit the mold.  I've never been much of a sports fan.  When I first heard of March Madness, I was in college and I thought it had something to do with Seasonal Affective Disorder!  I know more about cooking crepes and growing roses than I do about cars, basketball, or carpentry and I'm built like a broomstick.  Nonetheless, I eventually became comfortable in my own skin, but then I still wondered: what makes a man?  What is a manly man, anyway?

My moment of revelation came when I started to approach this question like I approach most others.  I started thinking in terms of my faith.  What does the Bible say about men.  What do I think God purposed in me, as a man?  I can't really find many--or any--verses that describe just what a man should be.  The one that comes closest is the one in Ephesians that talks about a husband: Husbands, love your wives as Christ loves the church.  Perplexing.  Profound.  Pointed.

So, what do I think the answer is?  I think I've had it backwards all along--and I'm not talking about March Madness.  I was aiming to become like a man when in reality, I already was a man.  How silly is that?  I should not be aiming to become like other men, but rather aim to be more like Christ in character.  God didn't create me to be a manly man.  He created me to be a godly man. 

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Mother's Day: Bargain on Flowers

If you are still looking for the finishing touches on the Mother's Day celebration, here's a deal for you from FTD and Living Social:

Only one day left to take advantage of it!!  So, hurry!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Small stuff for Mother's Day

Mother's Day is coming right up, dads. If you haven't thought about what to do for mom, there's no time to lose. Start gathering ideas. Here are a few things that always get smiles from Mrs O:

Breakfast in Bed--served by her little boys(in our case)! You might bring her a cup of coffee ahead of time so she'll be ready for the main event.

Plan out the day and present her with an itinerary of fun family activities that mom and dad and kids can all enjoy together. Focus on the things she most likes to do with the kiddos.

Crafty type things with hand prints, foot prints, home-made Mother's Day cards, etc. Browse through the craft stores and see what she might like. Those stores are loaded with plaster cast kits and mugs you--or rather the kids--can decorate.

Make sure to get any laundry sorted and in the washer, take out the garbage and take care of any other chores that are bothersome to her. Make sure she doesn't feel like she has to do household chores on Mother's Day. Get them done for her ahead of time. Keep on top of the dishes. Clear and wipe the table and wipe down the counter after meals.

Does any of that sound silly? It feels silly to write out some of the household chores. I'm writing them out anyway, because I know how much Mrs O appreciates things like a clean counter top. I never would have anticipated that it would make that much of a difference, but it does! Sometimes, I think we--guys--make the celebrations too difficult on ourselves. We want it to be perfect and we think that means breaking the budget, but sometimes I neglect the small things that make all the difference.

Note to self: don't forget the small stuff.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Growing Little Gardeners

“Children are the world’s most valuable resource, and its best hope for the future.”
John Fitzgerald Kennedy
July 25, 1963

When I think about the origins of my gardening addiction, I immediately think of Grammie.  I remember chilly October mornings picking Concord grapes on my grandparents’ farm in New Hampshire.   I can almost feel the plump fruit bursting in my cheeks and filling my mouth with the juice--sweet and tart at the same time.  

I remember walking along the rock wall where the bounty was sheltered by the meandering vines.  I would walk with my grandmother, pick the clusters of wild-growing grapes and bring our harvest to her kitchen.  Crushed, simmered, strained and set, the juice would turn to jelly.  Grammie invested hour after patient hour teaching me, cleaning up after me, and enjoying the fruits of our labor together.  It was not just about food production.  It was personal.

Now having two young boys of my own, I love watching them peruse the garden for the plumpest pods of sweet peas and nibble on basil and parsley leaves as they race each other around our yard.  They seem to love participating in tending the garden as much as they enjoy the harvest.  I have to admit, that my desire for gardening success is sometimes at odds with my desire to pass on gardening principles, especially when seedlings are mistaken for weeds, or when small green tomatoes are mistaken for baseballs.  

This past season, however, I discovered that we all benefit when I dedicate a few minutes to teaching and only teaching.  It was a happy accident, but we came up with a system that works perfectly and I don’t have to suffer any internal turmoil.  Here are a few of my discoveries: 
1. Give the kids their own space.  We made them a 4’x4’ raised bed where they could plant, weed, harvest and play to their hearts’ content.  I didn’t worry about plant spacing, or whether the cucumbers were going to overtake the tomatillos.  I worried about that in my own space and they knew that they had to ask before helping in my gardens.

2. Keep it age appropriate.  Toddlers and pre-schoolers don’t need to help with planting carrots.  They have great fun with the pumpkins and their little fingers can handle the seeds just fine.  

3. Focus on one task at a time.  The first lesson on watering sent soil and seeds floating down the driveway in the deluge.  The second time, I filled a flat with soil, skipped the seeds altogether and we practiced watering with empty soil!  The soil still splashed everywhere until the kids got the hang of the watering can, but I wasn’t counting the number of forfeited seedlings and we all had a great time together!

When the stakes are low and the prized heirloom tomatoes are not at risk, everyone has more fun.  Practice makes perfect and at the end of the season I found myself learning more during our teaching moments than I think my boys did.  Gardening is just as much about teaching the next generation as it is about feeding this one.  The veggies, the boys, and refreshing the memories of cooking with Grammie; it truly was a bountiful harvest.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Soul Cravings . . . In Review

image courtesy of
Soul Cravings
An Exploration of the Human Spirit
by Erwin Raphael McManus

Must Read: Very thought provoking.  As I read the title in the bookstore amongst the myriad non-fiction books available, I am sure this will be an interesting read.  It turns out, however, to be far more than that.  Every essay, every page, every statement resonates with me in some way.  I like when a book does more than deliver information.  This one inspires profound thought.

This book is a collection of short essays divided up into three sections: Intimacy, Destiny, and Meaning.  As I settle into the comfy bookstore chair with my bride beside me and my decaf in my hand, I start with the introduction.  Right from the beginning I connect with everything McManus is saying.  I don't even feel like I'm reading a book; I feel like I'm writing it myself.  It's like a guided tour of my own thoughts and emotions.   

McManus distinguishes between religion and God.  He also articulates the difference between religion and spirituality.  He addresses our need to be loved for an endless list of 'good reasons' and our seeming discomfort with the concept of unconditional love.  He has an artful way of separating and defining things that are intuitively indistinct.   

As the book progresses, McManus explores the need in every human being to be and feel significant.  He explores the effect of our relationships on our belief system and the effect of our belief system on our view of life.  He quotes psychologist Thane Pittman as inadvertently saying, "I'll see it when I believe it."  Overall, a fascinating investigation into the core of humanity.

The best part, though, is that this book does far more than disseminate information.  Instead of pouring new information into who I am, I would rather say that something was drawn out from within me.  Instead of gaining information that I didn't have before, I gained an awareness of the person I've always been.  I just didn't know me before, like I do now.

See all Must Read books I've reviewed.

*I purchased this book and have not received any compensation from anyone whatsoever for reading or reviewing it.  The thoughts expressed above are my own. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Key to Assuming

It's not true what they say about assuming.  At least when you're assuming the best!  Unfortunately, for me, I wasn't assuming the best this morning.  I was in a bit of a rush.  I was looking for my keys.  This is fairly routine.  All else being equal, there's about a 50 percent chance that my keys will be in the pocket of the pants I wore yesterday.  There's about a 20 percent chance they'll be on the hook by the door.  There's about a 20 percent chance they'll be on the little table by my bed, and there's about a 10 percent chance they'll be somewhere else.  At 7:30 this morning, it was time to leave and I was down to the 10 percent chance that my keys were 'somewhere else.'  I just couldn't remember which somewhere else it was.

I hunted.  I hollered, "Mrs O. . . "  I do actually call her Mrs O at home.  ". . . I can't find my keys."  She is not alarmed by the news.  You can hardly call it 'news' at all, in fact.  It happens frequently.  You might even call it part of my morning routine.  I'm now 2 minutes late and counting.  I'm retracing steps. . . I drove us on our date last night. . . Ahhh!  Mrs O took the babysitter home.  I dive into her purse and rummage around.


Oh, wait!  The little secret inside pockets.  I try again. 


I think to myself, "I KNOW [read: assume] you used my keys to take the babysitter home and didn't put them on the hook.  You ALWAYS tell me how I need to put my keys on the hook so I won't lose them and then you take my keys and don't return them to the hook and now I can't find the keys in your purse and I'm almost getting lost in here myself. . ."

Mrs O comes up the stairs and says, "Why don't you just take that set on the hook?" 

"I don't like that set.  Those are yours.  I don't like your dangly cow-girl boot key chain!"  *sigh*  "Oh, alright.  I know I'm being silly, and I'm late."  I turn to open the door. . . I turn back to Mrs O. . .

"You're gonna laugh so hard," I say sheepishly.

"Is the car already running?"  She asks as though she doesn't already know the answer.

"Uhhh, yeah!"  I had started the car while taking the garbage out only minutes before.  I mean, we're talking 3 maybe 4 minutes.  See, I have this short-term memory thing. . . or rather, I wish I did have a short-term memory thing, but there are days when I think I don't have any short-term memory at all.

Note to self: Assume the best--the alternative can be embarrassing!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Slouch more. . . Fight less

When Mrs O was little. . . way back in 'once-upon-a-time' time. . . her parents had a creative solution to sibling squabbles.  When the girls would get fighting, they would make them stand face to face and hug.  At first the girls would be at arms length; their finger tips would barely touch the shoulders of the adversary. 
"Closer!"  The parents would demand.  The girls would inch closer, faces turned away, scowls across their lips. 
"Closer!"  The sisters would begin to crack a smile despite their best efforts.
"Closer!"  Their fingers would now almost touch behind the other's neck, the tension would begin to loosen.
"Closer!"  Now grinning or even laughing, the sisters would be embraced in a proper hug and the fight was over.

Interesting, isn't it.  This came to me the other day when the Mrs and I were. . . not really fighting, but just tense with each other.  It was one of those days when you just know you're going to end up arguing if you don't change the direction of the day.  A take-two works well here, but this time, Mrs O simply said, "I miss my friend."  I had been completely oblivious to the scowl on my face, my crossed arms, and the way I had squared off my stance.

I couldn't help but uncross my arms and cross the room to give her a hug.  As I rested my head on her shoulder, all the tension melted away.  The wisdom of my in-laws suddenly made tangible sense in a new way.  You just can't fight like that. 

The anger management thing isn't as tough as we sometimes make it out to be.  Sometimes you just have to change your 'stance.'  Change the tone of your voice.  Change your posture.  After all, if it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, it's probably a duck.  If you want to be a lover and not a fighter, then walk and talk like a lover and not a fighter. 

Simple, really.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Anger Management: part five

You don't have to take my word for it!

Judy Ringer, an expert on conflict resolution, wrote some interesting thoughts in a newsletter that I received recently.  Since it related so well to the stuff I'd been writing about, I thought I'd include her newsletter here.


(since this is part five, you might want to start with part onepart two, part three, and part four first!)

Monday, March 14, 2011

Take Two

Alas, even with a good plan there will be mistakes.  That's what grace is for.  So, last week I composed a new ending.  At dinner, I asked for a 'take two' which is our version of a do-over.  Little E even snapped his fingers together like one of those black and white things they click on movie sets to announce the beginning of a new take.  I actually described what would have been the appropriate response.  It seemed to be uplifting for Little E to hear that I realized I was mistaken and to outline what I now wish that I had done then.

Part of life is starting over.  It's amazing to see what a little humility will do.  When you mess up, admit it.  Describe what you wish you had done, and ask for a 'take two.'

"Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness."
Lamentations 3:22-23

(since this is part four, you might want to start with part onepart two, and part three first!)

Friday, March 11, 2011

Be a Man

(since this is part three, you might want to start with part one and part two first!)

How do I solve the anger management problem.  I don't want to ignore the problem and I don't want to give in.  I want the problem to go away, and for good.  I'm not satisfied with managing the anger, I want to eliminate it altogether.  Is that possible?

I was ruminating on this subject this afternoon and remembered a discussion I had a couple of years ago.  Mrs. O and I were putting together two raised bed gardens.  I am an avid gardener and I was really excited about the gardens.  I also wanted to include my young son in all of the gardening fun.  We decided to give our then-two-year-old his own space in which to plant, water, dig and weed.  I didn't want to allow him free reign of my gardens for fear that he might mistake heirloom tomatoes for weeds.  As we were setting up the kid garden only feet from my own gardens, I realized that this was no panacea.  I may have isolated space for Little E in theory, but four feet of lawn and an isolating theory are no match for a toddler, right?  What's to say that I'm not going to come home from work one afternoon and find all of my tomatoes in a heap?  What am I going to do if at some later time he turns my gardens into a sandbox or an obstacle suitable for bike jumps or the pole vault?

I think the answer is to 'be a man.'  I think we need to play to our strengths.  Let's be logical.  Let's be the problem solvers we would want to be for our wives if the shoe were on the other foot.  Run through the scenario in your head: think for a moment about your most prized material possession.  How angry would you feel if your spouse or child trashed it. . . on purpose?

Imagine that it happened.

Decide not to be angry.

Decide now how you will respond then.

Imagine that you know for a fact that some day someone will trash that thing that you value so much.  Realize with me that you will still be able to be alive without that thing, and quite happily if you so choose.  Realize with me that the person who trashed it is actually more important to you.  I think these most genuine realizations are the key to the best response.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Unexpecting the expected

(since this is part two, you might want to start with part one if you haven't read it already!)

Finding the answer to the anger management problem isn't easy.  In fact, sometimes I think that finding the problem isn't easy.  What, exactly, is the problem?  The problem is that I'm confused about what the problem is. 

It reminds me of a story I read in a magazine once.  It was about a guy who bought a house and turned his new backyard into an awesome garden with all sorts of cool plants and trees.  The guy had a couple of huge dogs, though.  Now, if you have dogs, you know that they are creatures of habit.  They wear paths through your lawn because they always run around the corner of the house in the same spot.  Well, this gardener and dog lover had a method: he let the dogs loose in the new yard for a couple of weeks.  When he found the paths being worn, he incorporated them into the landscape.  He made pathways where the dogs naturally wanted to walk.  That's a man who knows what the problem is: his ideal.  His expectation.

If I expect everyone to live up to my ideal, then I get frustrated.  People don't live up to my ideal. . . I don't even live up to my ideal.  That's annoying!  I get annoyed and frustrated and then I get confused about the problem.  I get to thinking that the problem is that people aren't living up to my ideal, when the problem is really that I am trying to restrict them to my ideal in the first place.  Even if they're wrong, I can't restrict them to my ideal.  God gave them the freedom to be wrong.  Shouldn't I be at least as lenient as He.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Going Postal

There are several ways that I react to the various curve balls of life.  Being the analytical person that I am, I sometimes deliver the textbook response.  It's intentional.  Devised in advance.  It results in exactly the outcome I've anticipated.  Success!

This afternoon, however, I did not deliver the textbook response.  To make matters worse, I misunderstood.  I was mistaken about the facts of the exchange that was occurring between my two-year-old and my four-year-old.  Had I chosen the high road, it would have been simple to excuse myself and correct everything.  Alas, I did not choose the aforementioned high road.  I chose the response known as 'going postal.'  **Note from the editors: In an effort not to offend the faithful workers who deliver our snail mail in rain and snow, we are considering changing the name of this response to 'going Charlie Sheen.'**

How do I fix the anger problem.  Is it meditation?  Is it periodic trips to the garage where I can smash things to pieces and release the pent up frustration?  I don't really like either of those methods.  You know what I'm afraid of?  I'm afraid that if I just meditate that I'm not really solving the problem.  I'm also afraid that if I just go release the anger that I'm training myself to give in, albeit under 'controlled' circumstances.  I don't want to avoid the problem, and I don't want to give in to my foolish inclinations of the moment.  I want to deal with the problem and make it go away.

But what, exactly, IS the problem?

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Speed of Dark

I have an uncle who is always making up riddles.  He loves to have fun with me and my relatives who also have a background in physics. . . I am the fourth of six physicists in my family!  So, one day, my uncle unveiled his latest riddle: They say that nothing else can travel the speed of light, but what about dark?  What is the speed of dark?  It has to be at least as fast as the speed of light, because as soon as I turn off the light, there's the dark.

Now, he meant this all in fun, but it occurred to me that there could be a profound underlying principle here.  Maybe it's a limitation of our language, but sometimes we confuse our condition with a 'real' thing.  Take my uncle for example.  He is confusing 'the dark' for a physical thing when it is really just a condition.  Light is a thing.  It can travel.  You can measure how much light you have.  Dark, on the other hand, is not a measurable thing that travels.  It is simply the condition you find yourself in when you don't have light.

I began thinking about this when pondering the question of the creation of sin: Why did God create sin in the first place?  Well, if I apply my principle from above, I think it reveals what we all know to be true.  God didn't exactly create sin.  He created people.  He created us with an ability to choose His way, or not.  When we choose His way, we find ourselves in the condition of being blessed, peaceful, fulfilled, etc.  When we don't choose his way, we end up carrying baggage, hurt, stress, and emptiness.  Sin, then, is the stuff that brings this condition of emptiness.

So, God created fulfillment.  Sin is simply a churchy word we apply to the stuff that precludes the condition of fulfillment.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Man of the house: the 50's man and the puppy dog.

(c) 2004, Lexington, KY.  Eric Graf photography.

I've been thinking for a long time about the conflicting thoughts and emotions I have when I think about my role as 'the man of the house.'  I think this is one area--one of many--where traditions, both social and religious, should be called into question.  I have thus far been dissatisfied with what I perceive to be the general consensus in either group.

I think about this a lot.  Every man wants to be 'the man of the house.'  I know that's a general statement, but I believe on some level, it's true.  It won't always look the same, but in some way I think we all want to be 'the man.'  I think that's why I have such a tough time with silly things like pink shirts, purses, matching attire and. . . the aisle.  Now, just to be clear, I do all of those things.  I don't think I've ever even complained about any of them, because I realize they're silly.  That doesn't mean I don't feel silly while I'm holding her purse, and I don't spend any extra time in the aisle.  But, she's never even tried to force any of these issues and for that I'm eternally grateful.  She's never been anything but grateful for the things I do. 

That being said, let's get back to my quandary about roles: there seem to be two major camps.  Most people I see fit one or the other. . . more or less.  I don't like either one.  I have seen both kinds all over the place, and the funny thing is, the happiest husbands--and correspondingly happiest wives--I've seen don't fall into either category.  I call them, the 50's man and the puppy dog.

The 50's man has 51% of the vote.  He of course gets input from everyone, and then HE makes the decision.  He always is employed full time.  His wife may work, but preferably not full-time and she can't make more money than he does.  After all, he is The Provider.  If she does work, she should still not neglect the household chores. 

The contemporary husband is very doting.  He does his best to fulfill the every whim and desire of his beloved.  Everyone knows how he has fallen for her and some might even feel a bit badly about how hard he has to work to keep her perfectly content.  He tends to follow her around like a little puppy dog.  I had one such friend that used to joke, "I'm the man of my house.  My wife said I could be."

So, it seems you can fall into a bit of a ditch on either side of the husbanding continuum.  Where's the middle?  Well, I don't think it's in the middle.  I think it's an entirely different philosophy altogether.  I think the husband and wife are happiest when they are a team.  When he dotes on her and she admires him.  When he responds to the things that undermine her security and when she allows him to be the problem solver that he wants to be.  When there's no hierarchy.  When we don't think of it as one being strong and one being weak, but rather one being strong here and the other being strong there.  When we are each free to give and receive input without judgment.  When we can each be loved as we are: fallible, imperfect, and wonderful.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Man of the house: irrational fears

Real men wear pink, right?  What about carrying a purse?  Pink shirts and purses. . . those are a few of the other things I find that cause even the burliest of men to quiver. 

I do have a pink shirt, and I wear if often.  Mrs. O says she really likes pink on me.  So, I'm stuck. . . not really stuck, but I'm ambivalent.  On the one hand, I want Mrs. O to like what she sees when she sees me.  I want to be attractive to her.  If she likes pink, then I will wear it.  I confess, however, that it took me a long, long time to be comfortable in my pink shirt.  I've almost worn it out and just now I'm at the point where I don't feel like everyone is looking at me all day long when I wear it.  I really did feel that way for a long time.  I was suspicious of every glance. . . surely, they're all thinking, "Can you believe that guy is wearing a pink shirt?"

Or, what about if she asks me to carry her purse?  There have been a few situations where Mrs. O has run to the little girls room and asked me to hold her purse. . . so there I am.  Standing.  Holding a purse.  Once again, the looks.  The glances.  I'm suspicious of all of them.  I feel the desire to defend myself: This isn't mine.  It's hers.  She's just. . .


. . . nevermind.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Valentine's Day: Reminder!

Ok, boys.  Valentine's Day is less than two weeks away.

Don't forget!  Monday, February 14th. . .

. . . do you know what you're going to get her? 

Give her a custom made gift bag:

Box of notecards?

Flowers or chocolate?

Perfume, body splash or shower gel?

Make-up or lipgloss?

Or, you can always think outside the box and make something by hand.  Involve the kids if you have them.

Ladies, chime in with your all-time favorite Valentine's Day gifts!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Man of the house: irrational fears

You know how women sometimes like to have the kids wear matching shirts, or dresses or whatever?  I mean, this is big, right?  It's worth an extra load of laundry to make sure everyone's matching article is clean so we can all wear it at the same's like family photo time, except it's just another day.

This one may not be as universal...I don't really know.  I do know, that if my clothing matches the kids clothing, it makes me feel like a kid.  I don't like it either when I match Mrs. O.  I don't exactly know how to articulate how I feel when that happens...I just know that I don't like it. 

My initial temptation is to ask, "What's the big deal?  Why does she like this so much?" 

But then, I have to ask myself, "What's the big deal?  Why do I dislike this so much?"

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Man of the house: irrational fears

Ok, can we just be honest with each other?  Men have some irrational fears. . .at least, I do.  I'm afraid of 'the aisle.'  I don't even like to think about walking down the aisle.  I know I'm not the only one.  This avoidance is nearly uniform across the male gender.  I know this because I see lots of men in all other areas of the grocery store. . .yeah, the grocery store aisle.  I don't believe I have ever seen another man in this aisle.  Sometimes, I wonder if I'm the only man who has ever ventured there.
I remember the first time I went down that aisle.  I agreed to go.  It seemed like the right thing to do until I got there.  How tough could it be?  Why is it that I step down the aisle and it instantly feels like it's 300 degrees in there.  Ugh, I didn't realize there were so many choices. . . Super Thin?  Extra long?  Ultra Absorbant, Active, Over-nighters with Wings???  I just have to pick something.  If I just keep standing here, someone is going to see me. 

Ahhh, regular!  Here we go.  That must be what I need. . . I mean, I don't need them. . . Nevermind.
What am I so afraid of?  They're not going to hurt me, but just looking at the logo gives me hives. . .

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Top ten in 2010: #1

...and the number one thing I'm thankful for in 2010: my best friend.

Mrs. O is indeed, my best friend.  She is my most faithful fan.  My confidante when I need to tell someone my secrets.  My accountability.  My security blanket when I don't think I'm good enough.  My lover.  My companion when I'm lonely.  My stability in the storms.  My support when I don't think I can keep going.  My quality assurance when I am about to run a red light.  My whimsy when all I can muster is serious.  She is what I want. 

Thank you, Mrs. O for another wonderful year.  I would choose you again, and again.