Thursday, September 24, 2009

cloning myself = bad idea

why is it so important to us to be the same?
kids are always trying to be the same as their friends. dress the same, do the same things, have the same toys. then when we reach adolescence we try so hard to express our individuality – yet somehow we all look the same while we do it.
those of us who remember the 60’s and the 70’s – all the hippies expressing their feelings against the “establishment” – all did so in the same manner. when punk became popular – thousands of kids – all dressing the same and listening to the same music – again showing how “different” they all were. so many subcultures - goth, rave, emo – cookie cuttered together.

when we grow up, most adults would tell you that they strive to express themselves. to be themselves. to be their own person. ok, sounds great.
think about this: if we prize our individuality so much, why then, when it comes to our marriages, do husbands and wives try so hard to be the same? we attempt, whether we always recognize it or not, to get our spouse to do things the way we do things. to think like we do, to address conflict the same way we do. well, don’t we? we’re thrown off guard when we discover that we have so many dissimilarities. hello?

it is ironic that way back then, we were attracted to our mate because of many of those distinctions. now, our variations can be the very issues that escalate into deal breakers in our marriages.

gunther and i are about as different as you can possibly be. and yes, it was because gunther was so different from me that I fell so hopelessly in love with him, and he with me. little did we know that in the years to come, we would have our work cut out for us.
certain situations seem to trigger our differentness fairly easily. take, for example, travelling.

last weekend, we decided to head down to southern california to visit our son and his family. generally we pack our own gear. gunther has an old army duffle bag that belonged to his dad. it is his favorite “suitcase”. whatever he needs for the trip gets crammed and shoved into that bag. when we reach our destination? you guessed it, in order to unpack, the duffle bag gets upended, usually onto the floor.

i like to use a suitcase. i can fold my clothes in such a way that with a glance i can see what i have with me, and what outfit variations i have available to me. the more choices the better. when we arrive wherever we are going, if i can’t unpack into a dresser or a closet, i can keep everything neat and tidy during our stay.

gunther cannot comprehend why i need so many choices. i don’t see how he can think through the mess.

decision making is another huge divergence in our home. gunther likes to take his time, contemplating every angle, making sure he’s gathered all his facts. even when he thinks out loud, and sounds as though he’s come to a decision, i have learned not to be fooled. there may be a whole lot more thinking that has to take place before he lands. he won’t make a decision until he’s confident that he has examined the issue from all sides.

on most issues, i tend to make fairly quick decisions. i gather what information i think i will need, match that information against any applicable goals, morals, scheduling, whatever, and bam! decision made.

one more example: socially, i think i would’ve been a hermit if i had not married gunther. seriously, i could’ve holed away with a good book for most of my adult life. thanks to my husband’s stretching affect on me, i have learned to extend much farther. i enjoy most social functions, and can hold my own in a crowd. but i am still a wallflower at heart.

gunther adores people, adores social settings, loves to be in the middle of a crowd. he’s always been the people guy. he is as comfortable chatting with a perfect stranger, as he is with his own family.

these are only a few of dozens of examples in our relationship. when we carry these differences into our everyday living - you can imagine all the ways we have to deal with our differentness. i think most of us agree – appreciating and living with someone’s uniqueness can be challenging.

i heard a great story recently that has helped me allow for our distinctions: a man and his wife decide they are going to go to the top of the skyscraper so that they can see the view from the top. they get to the lobby and she sits down to put on her jogging shoes. she wants to take the stairs. no way! he says. he has no intention of climbing all those steps, he wants to take the elevator. so they exasperate themselves and each other struggling to change the other’s mind. the reality is that they both have the same goal – they want to get to the top. so why not embrace their differences and let the other one get there they way he or she wants? they can still enjoy the view together – which was the whole point in the first place.

i’m learning – again – to give my husband space to be himself. truth is, i like that he’s not like me. i like it a lot. he’s not going to do things my way. i’m not going to do things his way. it’s ok. we will live. and we can adapt. we are adults.

sameness = boring. vive la difference!

these are our two youngest grandchildren. ethan (the blondie) wanted his peanuts neatly kept in the drink slot of the cooler. he wanted to eat his snack from his “plate” – alone.
wyatt, wanted to share. he wanted to experience snack eating together with his cousin.
two different styles. you see the conflict it produced? they are not adults.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

the story of sam

meet samuel jon. this is sam at a little over a year of age.

this story is very hard for me to tell, but i felt it was time to share it publicly. my hope is that others can learn what i learned, without having to suffer what i went through in order to learn it.

for the most part, gunther and i have a healthy relationship. yet, we are not without our problems. like most couples, there are those issues that we skirt around: things i bring to his attention that he does not see, areas of weakness in my life that my husband may point out, but I choose to disregard. the popular rationale tends to be that because the criticism comes from our spouse it must not be valid. after all, what does he know? he’s just being crabby, or critical, or it’s really his issue, not mine. right? are you with me? you know what i’m talking about, don’t you?

several years ago, gunther pointed out to me that i was afraid. me. afraid. whatever. i was raised to be a strong, independent, often adventurous woman. and i am. yet from time to time, as a result of something i would say, or do, he would express concern at an undercurrent of fear in my life. as the months progressed he brought this “fear” to my attention – often. it began to become a source of real irritation for me – and one of concern for gunther. i continued to disregard his comments and to insist that he was perhaps not seeing things as clearly as he supposed.

(look at the expression on this little man's face - gives you a clue into his personality!)

one weekend we went to a marriage seminar put on by our church. we like to “tune up” our marriage when we have the chance. bob and carolyn whitaker were the speakers. something bob said that weekend hit me like a ton of bricks: (paraphrased) “we tend to disregard the remarks made about us by our mate – when in fact, because our mate is the closest person to us, it is actually their observations that we should take the most to heart”.

immediately i knew. not that i agreed with what gunther had been telling me, but rather that i at least needed to examine whether there was validity before i just tossed out what he had to say. i remember feeling a little scared (hmm, that’s curious isn’t it?) and i offered up a quick prayer, “Lord, i’m sure my husband’s out to lunch on this one, but just in case, if there is any fear in my life, would You please show me?” subject closed. moved on.

fast forward a couple months. as a regular practice, each summer our entire family spends a week together at the lake. we love water sports and we love each other, and it’s a great time to connect and play and relax. this particular year we went to lake shasta. oh - i love that place. we rented a vacation home at the lake, and the fun began.

we came from all directions, and there were a lot of cars parked on the street in front of the house. one day, a couple days into the week, we were all taking a break after lunch, relaxing before the next wakeboarding run. i thought i would go out front and move some of the vehicles off the street. i wanted to park them more tightly on the driveway so the neighbors would not be upset with us (ask anyone who lives on a street where there are vacation houses – it can be a real pain for the locals).

(sam and his big sissy)

i moved the first couple of cars and was backing the 3rd car into place, driving onto a big pebbled portion of the drive, when i felt a bump. i stopped - curious – hmm – must’ve just been a bigger rock amongst the pebbles – moved again – again a bump.

then i heard the screams.

i could tell they were coming from under the car. i recognized the tiny voice as that of our then youngest grandchild, samuel. he was only 18 mos. old at the time. i opened the car door, my heart in my throat. some of our guys heard the crying and ran to the car – within seconds they had literally lifted up the car and pulled sam out from under it.

somehow samuel had followed me out of the house - unseen. he had been knocked down and scraped up. miraculously, there was a depression in the dirt, and he fell right into it. there was barely enough room between samuel and the undercarriage of the car. centimeters, really. quick examination proved that the tires had missed him – the car had driven over him, but did not drive on him. he was scraped, bruised and terrified, but physically okay.

i, on the other hand, was in hysterics. even as i write this the tears are streaming down my face. the shame. the guilt. the “what ifs”. the reality that i could’ve killed my precious grandson. gunther ran to me and grabbed me as i collapsed in his arms, sobbing. the first thing out of my mouth was tremendously revealing: i gulped through the sobs, “the thing i have feared the most has come upon me”.

and then again i knew. i was afraid. afraid that something might happen to someone i love. afraid of loss. afraid of accidents and peril. afraid of failure. afraid of fear. afraid.

fear is a terrible enemy. to live in fear is to invite all kinds of bondage and paralysis. it opens doors and access points to darkness and evil. that may sound extreme, but think for a moment – you probably know someone whose life is marked with fear. how has it affected them, and their family? the outcome is just no good.

i knew at the time of the accident that i would need help in identifying and routing fear in my life. so without delay, when we returned from vacation i set about immediately to get the assistance i needed. somehow i knew that if i put it off, i might talk myself into not following through. “i can handle this on my own”, “i don’t really want others to know what i did”, or “it’s not all that bad after all.” i am thankful that i was able to get support – and fast. i needed to face the fears, and deal with them - to address the guilt and the shame of having run over sam. i am grateful to those who helped me through the fear. grateful to my family and my children for their mercy toward me.

i am thankful for God’s grace, especially to forgive myself for what happened. you could’ve told me until you were blue in the face that i wasn’t to blame, but i needed to forgive myself nonetheless. i needed to allow myself to receive the mercy offered me so that i could find peace.

and i am thankful for our friend james. james had been housesitting for us in our absence. when he learned of the incident, he was overcome. for two days at the beginning of the week – he was so troubled that he literally could not sleep. he could not shake the feeling in his gut that something awful, something terribly horrible was going to happen to our family. he prayed, and he prayed and he prayed for God to protect us and to avert disaster. he prayed, until, at last, a sense of peace replaced the sense of doom. thank you my friend. thank you for fighting when we weren’t even aware there was a war. your goodness to our entire family has not been forgotten.

is there a moral to all this? maybe several. i still don’t like it when gunther points out my faults or my failures – but if i can’t take it from the one who loves me the most, who can i take it from? God in His divine care, will sometimes allow us to suffer so that He can work more of His character into our lives. and remember, God never sleeps. He’s got your back. no need to fear with a Guardian like that.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

a word to husbands

Recently Vickey and I were able to get away for a little while and enjoy some rest and relaxation. We stayed with some friends at Lake Almanor, near Mt. Lassen. We drunk in the beauty around us, played, and had a great time just being together.

Vickey and I like each other's company, and I realized how grateful I am that we have learned to treat each other with respect - it hasn't always been the case.

I have observed a trend in many households that concerns me. I’m talking about the way in which family members speak to each other: a husband barks at his wife, the mother clips harsh directives to their children, children yelling at their parents...seeds that produce bitter fruit. I want to speak first and primarily to husbands about this. Hey guys, as leaders in our homes - the buck stops with us. What we initiate will trickle down through the rest of the family. It’s too easy to blame the Mrs. for what’s going on in our homes, when, in fact, we can lead by example, and set the tone in our family. Men, take a tip from someone who’s been around long enough to learn at least a couple of things.

Eric Hoffer, author and longshoreman philospher said “Rudeness is a weak imitation of strength”. Being the man of the house doesn’t mean treating your wife with disrespect. Think again about how you address your best girl and remember how you said things when you were convincing her about yourself. If you’re not sure if you are speaking kindly to your Mrs., just ask her. She’ll tell you if your tone gets abrasive, or if her feelings are hurt. It may affect your pride but the wisdom book says “…whoever heeds correction, shows he is wise.”

The way you talk to your wife, will also set the tone with your children. I like this quote: Fred Astaire once said, “The hardest job kids face today is learning good manners without seeing any.” How can we expect our children to treat us with respect, when we do not give respect to each other, or to our kids? Do your children see you blaming your wife, speaking harshly, even contemptuously to her at times? They are going to follow suit and treat her the same way you do.

Just to press the point, I’ll go one step further. I Peter 3:7 states “. . . be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers”. Whoa - your prayers hindered? Like – answers could be delayed – or held up – or not come? Think about that one. This warning is very vivid to us now with ''call waiting'' in which one party abruptly says ''Excuse me while I get this other line!" In context this might refer specifically to the husband’s prayer! This one verse speaks volumes about how important our treatment of our wives is to the Lord. So much so, that He literally will turn a deaf ear to our requests. Been wondering why you aren’t getting the answers you‘ve been asking for? Examine your manners. Could it be that you have treated your wife with less than the respect that is due her?

Your family may be entrenched in some unhealthy practices, but you can change the cycle, and turn this thing around. Be patient, be kind, be polite - - - and just see the affect that it has on your wife, and even your children.

And a note to the wives - if your husband already practices good manners - tell him how much you appreciate the way he treats his family. We can all use the encouragement.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

family can be a good thing

i love it when everyone comes “home”. all the kids, all the grandkids. we eat. we talk. we laugh. during one such weekend the scene looked like this: one grandchild spilled soap bubbles in one bedroom. another grandchild had an accident in the other bedroom. some of the boys shot hoops in the driveway. our granddaughter demonstrated her “kung fu ballet” in the living room. the babies tried to play the piano. one child was either chasing or squeezing one of the dogs. someone else took a nap. nothing earth changing. no great pearls of wisdom to share. but lots of mess, and noise, and activity, . . . something happening in every corner of this big ol’ house.

people comment all the time, what a large, loving family we have. and it’s true, we do have a large, loving family. but there’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes of this affectionate tribe. we get irritated at each other. even angry at times. we inconvenience each other. we step on each other’s toes. we can get in each other’s faces. we are a group of leaders with strong opinions about pretty much everything.

gunther and i have been very intentional about cultivating this family together. there has been one guiding truth that has navigated us through the occasional tiffs and struggles – we choose to love each other, and loving each other is more important to us than being right. if we have to agree to disagree on certain issues, then we will do all we can to make our peace, humble ourselves, and forgive. it is our goal not to stay angry – not to hang on to our hurts. it’s not easy - it can mean confrontation and vulnerability. it takes honesty. it means revealing “hey, that hurt me” and “there’s something between us that needs to be made right”. it can be hard work.

when those situations arise, what helps is remembering that we love each other and are for each other. when you know you’re on the same team, it’s a lot easier to work through the muck.

truth is, we’re not all that unique. we have lots of skeletons in our family closet. our collective background is not all that pretty. i mean issues. but rather than allowing our family history to define us, we’ve chosen to establish our own legacy, and by God’s grace, deal with our stuff.

the payoff? a large, loving family. we have vital growing relationships with each other, and we are priviledged to be a part of one another’s lives.

not there yet? take heart and begin with one member of your family - do all you can to make a connection. this cliche can ring true: “let it begin with me”, or “be a part of the solution, not a part of the problem.” the saying goes “you can pick your friends, but you can’t pick your family”, but consider what could happen if you were to invest in your family, and your relatives were to become your friends too.

here are some photos from our easter weekend together; it was family madness.

the kids enjoying the bounce house.

Gamma enjoyed it too!

we decided to include a little family competition - including a ballooon launching contest, and a pie eating contest.

we were thrilled that our daughter-in-law's parents decided to join us for the easter celebration. here is gunther and gail. at the end of the competition, gunther decided to plant his pie in gail's face. in the true spirit of family - she got him right back!

it was a celebration worth remembering!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

the wedding standard

cameron ingalls recently interviewed us for "the wedding standard".

cameron is an amazingly gifted wedding photographer; someone who has raised the bar in his industry. in a world where the competition is stiff, one of the unique things about cameron’s talent is that he is so willing to give away what he has learned. as a result he has encouraged and inspired scores of other’s to pursue their dreams.

although we are continually impressed at what cameron produces from behind the lens, he has so many other skills and characteristics that are even more outstanding. so that you won't think we are biased simply because he is our son-in-law – you need to know the truth - we actually fell in love with him before anna did.

please check out our interview.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

the beauty of a budget

i hate budgeting. seriously hate it. why do i hate it so much? first of all, it’s a time consuming exercise. time i would rather spend doing just about – well, anything. plus it forces you to really look at where you’ve been spending your money, which can be a painful reality. a budget hits you where it hurts. translation: following a budget can mean not being able to do some things that we really like to do. it can mean sacrifice and restriction.

sometimes the process of setting up a budget produces conflict. one of vickey’s love languages is gift giving. we do not see eye to eye when it comes to allotting a dollar amount to that category. i have a little better handle on the costs involved in maintaining and ultimately replacing a vehicle. this is another area that can bring some disagreement. what about haircuts? entertainment? see the potential for conflict here? it can take some discussion time, and patience, before any compromise, and then agreement can be made.

there’s no denying that for some couples adhering to a budget can be gruelingly painful. establishing a spending plan requires gut-level honesty with each other, sometimes even forgiveness and understanding. most definitely it means a change in spending habits. and there, boys and girls is where the rubber meets the road.

recently we established a new budget. we’ve set up a spending plan before, but in the last few years we have not followed it as closely as we’d like. with global financial developments taking their toll, our household has not been unaffected. so, in the interest of prudence – and in trying to make ends meet – we agreed it was time to visit our “budget” once more, and really make a commitment to stick to it.

we re-did our budget at the end of december. it’s been a month or so and we need to make a few adjustments. we’ll go back to the drawing board to see how we did – some areas we budgeted too high, others too low. we need to take a good look at how we did and if we biffed on the budget - find out why. honesty, forgiveness, trust, understanding. it all comes into play.

the actual following of the budget can, at times, be difficult. sure, there are things we’d like to do, that for now, we just can’t. or rather, we choose not to. saying “no” to yourself is not a popular american practice.

the good news is that we have a mutual goal – we know what we’re trying to achieve financially. and we remind ourselves constantly that sacrifice now, may pay off later. in today’s economy – the goal of many is simple - plain survival: making ends meet in spite of the loss of a job, or increasing fuel prices, or the loss of a home. for others the goal may be a comfortable retirement, college funds, a nice vacation, debt payoff, buying a home or even leaving an inheritance for your children.

any negatives of budgeting are more than balanced by the positives: living within your means, achieving your financial goals, even learning how to work together as a couple is a big plus.

when i say i hate budgeting – i mean it. but it hurts so good, if you know what i mean. as a married couple, we encourage each other and help to keep each other on track. it feels good when we see the plan successfully working. we have setbacks, everybody does. sometimes it’s two steps forward - one step back. when the setbacks come, we strategize again, adjust the figures if need be, or explore together what other options need to be considered.

if you haven’t already budgeted - there are lots of materials out there to help get you started. we recommend any of larry burkett's materials, or dave ramsey's stuff. both of their websites have free downloadable forms to help get you started. you can also explore your library, your local church, and even community professionals for what’s available.

take a deep breath and dive in. if we can do it – anybody can.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

“remember why you signed up”

this week our daughter, sarah, and son-in-law, ryan, celebrate their 14th wedding anniversary. we are proud of both of them, and happy to celebrate another landmark in their life together. life has not always been easy for them and their little family, but like many of us, they are
learning and growing together.
(ryan and sarah on a recent trip to the happiest place on earth, with their youngest - wyatt)

it got us thinking, and reminiscing about where we were at the 14 year mark. a flood of pleasant, and unpleasant, memories came back to us. we had three grade school age children. gunther had been seriously injured and required surgery; out of a job, rehabilitating, financial problems. vickey was working full time to support the family while gunther recovered. out of necessity our kids were latch-key kids for a season. we were in survival mode and . . . life was . . . not enjoyable. as a couple, we were not having fun.

at that time we were caught up in the business of marriage, and being responsible and raising children. our home was not a fun place to visit. we were tired, and in our fatigue, too hard on our kids and too hard on each other.

at some point around that time, our church offered a one-day “marriage seminar”. as we recall it didn’t cost much and included lunch at a nice restaurant. so we went. we didn’t think we were “in trouble”, but we figured any chance for a brush up was a good thing. and then again, the free lunch.

19 years later we don’t remember much about the seminar, but one thing stuck. it was these words of advice – “remember why you signed up in the first place”. the couple teaching told their story and it sounded like a carbon copy of where we were at at that time. they were so wrapped up in the business of being married and being responsible and doing it right, that they forgot why they got married to begin with. forgot what attracted them to each other at the start.

their advice to us all was to pause, and take inventory - take a good hard look at your mate. remember what attracted you to that person. remember what about them you really liked. you loved his sense of humor? you respected her devotion to family? you admired his athletic prowess? her self confidence? his ability to make friends? her brains? his goals in life? her sense of adventure? that person is still there, just buried, like you are, under the pile of life.

(here's gunther - still demonstrating his athletic prowess - wiffle ball with the grandsons.)

yea, taking out the trash is important, but none of us got married to become professional trash-taker-outers. we got married to have fun and enjoy each other, to explore new adventures, and tell each other our best kept secrets, to laugh at our own stupid jokes, and keep each other company, to cheer each other on when the race is hard, and go on romantic dates. . . . . and . . . fill in your own blanks.

from time to time – remember. and sign up again, for all the same reasons.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

33 on the 3rd

i am sitting in my cousin’s living room – looking out the picture window at a mountain full of pine and snow. i’m trying to absorb all the beauty and the wonder with my eyes. typically, we travel to northern california over new year’s to spend some time with our extended family. it’s a great chance to connect with our loved ones, and to get some much needed r & r.

our anniversary is on january 3rd, so our new year’s trip often coincides with our anniversary celebration. being in the mountains makes it even easier to enjoy some peace and solitude.

33 years is a long time, and we are both grateful that our mate stuck it out. there have been many chances over the decades to bail out. there have been times when neither one of us was easy to live with - still we’ve had a wonderful life together. we married really young, so we’ve grown up together, we’ve raised our family, and we’ve faced life’s hardships side by side.

when people find out how long we’ve been together we are often asked for our secret. i think there are several. one is that we chose to "stay”. another is that at some point we began to realize that the whole purpose of marriage isn’t necessarily to make us happy. (what? you say – not get married to be happy?) i think that marriage is designed to make us better. designed to challenge us, to press us, to teach us the meaning of sacrifice and giving and loving beyond ourselves. practicing sacrifice and giving doesn’t always make us happy. many cultures in today’s world believe that commitment is the foundation of love – not the other way around. the more i ponder on that one, the more i am inclined to agree. maybe i’m not ready to subscribe to arranged marriages, but i do think that those who do are on to something. they have a much better grasp of what marriage is for than we do. the statistics prove that those marriages are much more successful.

this year, as we pass the 33 year mark, we look at each other with gratitude. i am so thankful for the gift that gunther has given me. the gift of his lifelong commitment. the gift of faithfulness and fidelity. his gift of friendship. the gift of allowing me to be me, while at the same time we are “us”. we’re not teenagers anymore, but we’ve got a lot of mileage left. and we are both very excited as we look forward to the adventures that still lie ahead. do we “have it down”? – this marriage thing? shah – right! we’ve got a lot to learn. maybe, just maybe, we have learned enough to know that we don’t know it all. and that after all these years, we still need help from time to time.

here are some pictures from our new year’s trip to yosemite. it was a day full of wonder and incredible beauty.

the valley with bridalveil falls in the distance

el capitan new year's day 2009

winter magic

defies description doesn't it?

the halls of the ahwahnee hotel decked for the holidays

gunther loves the snow. even more, he loves it when it is snowing. can you see the glee on this man's face?

happy new year to you! (and happy anniversary to us)

Thursday, January 1, 2009

visions of sugar plums

this year's gingerbread house was finished just in time for christmas!

i have been asked to show some details for other christmas-aholics - so h
ere are a few pictures.

granddaughter kate was very
proud of her snowman.
she rolled and
baked it herself.

after finishing the house, we made a big tree for the little ones. when it came time to eat the gingerbread house (our christmas eve tradition) the bigger kids were going after the house. wyatt saw his opportunity and had the tree all to himself!

check out cameron's blog for some pics of a previous year's house and it's devouring!