Avoiding The Summer Vacation Blues: Part 1

DSC_0057Summer is finally here!  Your kids are free from the structure of school.  No more helping them with homework, no more shuttling the crew from baseball practice, to spring football practice, and attending all the year-end school activities like:

  • Volunteering to help with your elementary school aged child’s field trips.
  • Tearing the house apart looking for that biology book you will pay for if not turned in by the last day of school.
  • Attending baccalaureate and graduation services.
  • Planning your child’s graduation party and attending all his/her friend’s graduation parties.
  • Cleaning up after the graduation party.

Whew….now you can put on that suntan lotion, grab that novel you’ve been dying to read for the past nine months and relax by the kid’s pool with a cold ice tea.

But after a week or two you realize:

  • Your older kids need a summer job.
  • The younger ones are bored already.
  • There are two more months with teenagers collecting dust on your hammock by the pool with cell phones glued to their ears.
  • The younger ones expect you to be their slaves.

So much for that novel.  Before you spike that iced tea, wish you had remembered to fill out that registration form for Camp Faraway and tell them to go find something to do for the umpteenth time, let me tell you a cautionary tale or two from my childhood summer vacations.

My friend and I rode our bicycles to his cousin’s house one summer day.   We quickly ran out of things to do. We thought it might be fun to climb over a barb wired fence, gather some rocks and chuck them at their muscle-bound, bull in the center of this huge field.

Of course safety was our #1 objective (wink-wink), so we didn’t get too close. My friends first few throws fell far short of the target.  They encouraged me to get just a little closer so I did.  The rock I heaved hit the once docile animal square in the head.  The enraged beast charged.

Being closest to the fence, the cousin was first to quickly climbed over.  My best friend was ten yards in front of me and dove headfirst under the prickly wire. The earth shook from the approaching bull when I dove under the barb wired fence.  As I stood to face the snorting bull, I noticed blood pouring out of two, four-inch long tears in my blue jeans.  I still carry those scars as a reminder of my stupidity.

Another lazy summer day, while on a date with Karen at my parent’s house, (she was fourteen and I was fifteen at the time) my cousin’s family came to visit from Seattle.  Not long after the introductions, things got a little awkward.  That is until my cousins snuck their new bow and arrows out of their car.

We decided just looking at them was too lame.  No, we had to try them out.  Someone thought it would be a hoot for all of us to stand close to the shooter and scramble like mad, with our hands covering our heads while screaming like lunatics, as an arrow was shot straight up and disappeared into the sky.  Fortunately know one became a human shish kabob and we all lived another day.

I tell these two stories to remind you that not all childhood activities, when left up to the imaginations of kids, are safe. We live in a different world than the one I grew up in during the ’60s & early ’70s.  At the age of eleven I was riding my three-speed all over a six to seven mile radius without supervision.  Most of my friends did the same.  Many of the  parents I know keep their children on a much shorter leash now.

In my next post, I’ll share some ideas on how to build a legacy of stress free summer fun with your kids while still being able to read that novel in peace.

Please share some of your favorite ideas for enjoying the summer months with your kids or grandkids.

Also….please share about some of the misadventures and close calls you had while passing the time away during your childhood summer vacations.

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One of Those Days

Have you ever had, ‘one of those days’?  Well, yesterday was a ‘one of those days’ kind of day.

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For the past four days, I’ve had computer issues which have kept me from blogging.  Now in the world of technology, I’m a dinosaur among computer geeks.  I despise calling for tech support.  First I always have to pray that I get a person who speaks English as their first language.  I have a hard enough time hearing as it is without having to translate as well.  Next, I have to explain that I am a dinosaur and they will have to dumb down their vocabulary.  Then when they still use language not understood in the Jurassic age I have to remind them, that while I may be on the endangered species list, I am not extinct.

So Monday after spending three hours on the phone with a geek, she threw up her hands and had me reset my computer to its original manufacturer’s settings.  Tuesday I woke up excited to write.  My computer said, “Not so fast, buddy.”  Three more hours on the phone and another eleven hour reset.

Okay….so I won’t be blogging today.  I know; I’ll put up those picture shelves Karen has wanted up forever and which I have been conveniently forgetting to do.  As you know, my blogs are about encouraging people to use their gifts.  Putting up level shelving is not my gift so I had been encouraging myself not to do it.  I mean really, how hard can it be?  After two hours, I had managed to make one wall in our bedroom resemble a giant slice of Swiss cheese.  But I finally was able to maneuver the shelves around enough to cover most of the holes.  Karen wanted two shelves up in the kitchen next but after six holes, she thanked me for trying and had me move a grandmother picture quilt over to cover the holes.

While Karen was vacuuming up the mountain of drywall dust on the bedroom floor I had created, she accidentally sucked up a sock I  thought our dryer had eaten.  We tried everything we could think of, short of performing a C-section on the vacuum hose, to get that sock out…. but to no avail.  So we bought a ‘not on the budget but it’s an emergency cheapo vacuum’ at Walmart.

To top off the day, I forgot to buy lettuce and tomatoes for the taco dinner Karen made.  (Tacos without lettuce and tomatoes is like French fries without ketchup or tarter sauce).  Then of course the Seattle Mariners lost again.

I was in a very sour mood when Karen suggested we pray.  And so to continue with the allegory theme: Praying when in a sour mood is like going to church with a hangover; you know you need it but it doesn’t feel right until you do it.  So we prayed.

So did our prayers fix everything….no, but I woke up to birds chirping to the morning sun.  If Karen moves a vase just a little to the right, it will cover up one of the holes.  We can vacuum the floors once more.  We aren’t having tacos tonight so it doesn’t matter that we don’t have lettuce and tomatoes.  Its another day for the Mariners and I am able to write this to you today.

Tell me when you had ‘One Of Those Days’ and what was the outcome.

Maya’s surprise for her Mom

DSC_0718As I wrote on my previous post, Karen and I had a fun with Logan, Maya and Brooklyn the other day.  During a water balloon fight Jaymi came to pick up the kids to take them home.  This picture collage portrays the sequence of events after Maya noticed her mother was turning into the driveway.

 

Grandparents Most Valuable Gift….

Out of all the memories I have of my grandparents, what do I recall with the most fondness?

Roller Coaster Santa

As a child, each year could be described as a roller coaster with many ups and downs.  The anticipation leading up to Christmas Eve was like the slow climb up the final, steep incline on that roller coaster.  Just thinking about spending the next few days at both sets of grandparents playing with long-distance cousins, eating all the cookies, pie and candy I wanted, hoping for snow, and opening presents was almost more than I could handle.

The reality was that my siblings and I would end up fighting with our cousins, I always ended up with a stomach ache from eating too many sweets, it never snowed, and a few days after Christmas I was bored with my new presents. I know my grandparents put a lot of energy (and money) into making the holidays great but looking back I don’t remember spending any alone time with them.  They were too busy being good hosts, while taking care of everyone’s needs, to play with me.

The same could be said about my grandparents organizing trips to the zoo, family reunions and birthday parties.  While all these things were fun times with my grandparents, family photos are the only way I remember any details regarding those events; so what do I remember about my grandparents in which don’t need old photographs to flood my mind with vivid details of emotions.

I remember my grandfather giving me his Swiss Army knife, pouring me a glass of Pepsi, and showing me how to whittle a car out of a block of wood so I could compete in the local Cub Scout’s Pinewood Derby race.  I remember taking my grandmother by the hand and leading her down into the basement I was too afraid to go to by myself.  She would open up the mysterious closet door and pull out musty smelling books and games, which had belonged to my father and his brothers, and play with me for hours.  I remember the smell of salt water and the sound of my grandparent’s laughter as my grandfather had to hold onto my pant’s belt so I wouldn’t fall overboard as I struggled to reel in my first salmon.

On Thursday mornings, Karen and I watch three of our grandkids for an hour until their mother gets off work.  Yesterday, Karen asked me if we could give our daughter a break and watch the kids all afternoon.  In my mind I rattled off a list of things I needed (desired) to accomplish that day like:

  • Assemble our new barbeque which came with a million parts.
  • Go to the dentist for my broken filling.
  • Call Costco’s concierge service over a computer glitz because I don’t know what I’m doing when it comes to computer problems.
  • Take an afternoon nap.
  • And figure out what I would write for my next blog post.

Instead of accomplishing anything on that list, except for a glorious trip to the dentist, we decided to invest the best gift you can give to your grandkids (or kids); the gift of our undivided attention.  We played basketball, jumped rope, threw water balloons, built a fort, hurled magnetic darts at a felt baseball diamond, and engaged in a games of checkers and Blokus.  And while I didn’t get my afternoon nap, the youngest granddaughter did.

What are your favorite memories with your parents or grandparents?  What can you do to make unforgettable memories with your loved ones?

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Make it an “AMA”zing Day!!!

I mud puddle girlwas reminded of this journal entry from June of 2010.  Had fun playing with Caleb & Jakey today.  I look for the simple things in playing with them; like turning a lawnmower box into a boat.  We ate popsicles in the boat and enjoyed the sunshine.  Didn’t think much about it until our neighbor drove by–I don’t think they could see Caleb or Jakey.  Just this crazy “AMA” sitting in a lawnmower box in my driveway eating a popsicle!  Oh well–who cares what the neighbors think!!  Don’t just have a good day!  Have a Great Day and it might end up being “AMA”zing!!!

If God Exists, Why Is There Suffering?

At the time of me writing this, 50 lives have been lost, 53 lives have beenWhy suffer Image physically injured and too many lives will bare emotional scars over losing a son, a daughter, a friend or a lover at that gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida early Sunday morning at the hands of a killer.  What a horrible tragedy!  How could this have been prevented?  Who or what is to blame?  Was this another act of Jihad carried out by a Muslim extremist or a hate crime against the LGBT community?  Do we need to have tougher gun laws or do we need to build more prisons and have tougher penalties for people who use guns in a crime?  How can a loving, all-powerful God allow evil to exist?  Why doesn’t He intervene to prevent these bad things from happening?

These are the questions people around the country are asking themselves today.  The first two questions will be figured out during the ongoing investigation conducted by the FBI and the local police.  The following two questions are political footballs which will be punted all over the field leading up to the upcoming Presidential election.  The final two questions though are questions Christians and non-Christians alike have grappled with since the beginning.

For centuries, non-believers have used the great tragedies of their time to pose these questions to believers as some sort of proof of their stance that because evil exists, God is either weak, doesn’t care or doesn’t exist.  For centuries Christians have defended their faith by pointing out the story of Job.  God allowed Job to be tortured by Satan.  Job’s family, his wealth and even his health was destroyed.  While Job suffered much at the hand of Satan, he never cursed God.  Instead he said, “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?  The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.”

How do we respond during the darkest times in our lives?  How do we respond when circumstances just don’t go our way?  Following Job’s advise is not easy especially when tragic events unfold like the horror at the nightclub.  What was Job’s secret?  God Himself said about Job that, “he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.”  To fear God is to know Him.  Job had a relationship with God which drove him to acting in a way which pleased God.  It is only by building a relationship with God (or with anyone) which allows trust to form and without trust, Job would have buckled under the weight of suffering he was enduring.

So how do we build that relationship with God?  It’s like with any relationship: We must spend time with the person we want to get to know better.  And what would a relationship be without talking to one another?  God communicates through His love letters to us….the Bible.  We talk to Him with our prayers.

So get to know the Creator of the universe.  He wants you to get to know Him.  And pray for the many hurting souls in Orlando.  God loves them all.

P.S.   My wife, Karen wrote a fantastic little story about trusting God in her book Trust Me My Child.  You can learn more about this book under the Our Books tab.

IN SICKNESS AND IN HEALTH….”I WILL!”

DSC_0693During a marriage ceremony, couples perform three primary acts: verbally pledge their love and support before God through the reciting of the wedding vows, promise their fidelity to each other by the exchanging of the rings and seal the deal with a kiss.  On this happiest of days, most couples are more concerned about not forgetting the words to the vows they have to repeat than the responsibility behind what they are promising.

Over thirty-eight years ago, I declared the following words to my best friend: “For better or for worse; for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health; to love and to cherish from this day forward until death do us part.”  As I looked into my brides beautiful blue eyes, moist with tears of joy, all I could envision for us was the better, the richer and in health words and for good reason.  The best of “the better” occurred a few years into our marriage.  We accepted God’s gift of salvation and became “born again” on our pastor’s living room couch.  We have never been materially rich but we are blessed with our family in which we are rich beyond our wildest dreams.

No marriage though is spared from hardship.  In November of 1990 seven feet of water rushed through our neighborhood.  We lost everything in our home that day, including the use of our home for thirteen months.  That was hard but we trusted God and with the help of our church family we rebuilt and pulled through.

The biggest test of our marriage began when Karen became very sick and was diagnosed with mercury poisoning at the age of thirty-five.   We went to Colorado to a specialist.  She had all her molars removed and underwent extensive detoxification to remove the mercury from her body.  This took care of the poisoning but, because she was allergic to most dental materials, she had to settle for partials made out of a plastic.  These broke down frequently and never allowed her to maintain a good “bite”.  Over time she developed TMJ, cervical dystonia (a movement disorder in which a person’s muscles contract uncontrollably) and arthritis of the vertebrae in her neck.

This brings me back to my wedding vows.  “For better or for worse; for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health; to love and to cherish from this day forward until death do us part.”  I’m not going to speak for any man other than for myself.  Living with a spouse in chronic pain is not easy. Saying our wedding vows before God doesn’t guarantee an easy life; they are a promise to commit ourselves to authentic love.  1 Corinthians 13 describes this tangible love this way: “Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs….It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails.”

I am far from a perfect husband but from God’s own words come the target for which I constantly aim for in my relationship with Karen.  So even with my imperfection I will:

  • Be patient when my wife needs me most.
  • Be kind even when kindness may not be returned.
  • Not be envious of couples whose lives are free of chronic pain. (Every marriage goes through times of difficulty in one form or another)
  • Not be easily angered. (One of the shortcomings I’m working on)
  • Not keep record of wrongs whether real or perceived.

Keeping the above vows takes a lot of work on both our parts.  For me, to always protect, hope and persevere does not.  I will always cherish my relationship with my wife because my love for her will never fail.

 

 

Is It Good? No, It’s Great!!

mud puddle girlTerry and I are blessed with nine grandchildren.  Today is our grandson, Caleb’s 9th birthday.  He is the firstborn of five siblings in their family.  There are many things I love about Caleb, but one thing that I especially love is his laughter.  He is also a big tease–like his daddy.  Since they live in Florida and we live in Washington, I cherish the time we have when we get together.  When we are together, they love this AMA to make chocolate milkshakes.  It’s become a tradition.  I ask the boys, if it’s good and usually they say yes, but this one time, Caleb said, “No!” Then he smiled at me and said, “It’s great”!  His youngest brother, Joshie, thought that was pretty fun and said, “ask me, Ama, is it good?” I asked him, and he said “No”!  Then smiled and said, it’s great!”  So now when I am on the telephone with my daughter, Katie, Joshie wants to talk with me every time.  I love it!  I ask him, if he’s good and he says “I’M GREAT!”       I hope you all not just have a good day, but a GREAT DAY!! DSC_0462

COMPROMISE VS HAPPINESS

DSC_0688It’s a fact: Opposites do attract.  My wife and I are living proof of that.

  • Karen loves to talk while I prefer to listen.
  • She wants to take swing dancDSC_0687e lessons.  I’d rather swing a golf club.
  • Sappy romance movies make her cry but I cry from boredom.
  • She craves spontaneity.  I enjoy routine.
  • The outdoors energizes her but it only makes me sneeze.
  • Karen + garage sales = HAPPINESS        
  • Terry  + garage sales = COMPROMISE

Compromise doesn’t have to be a four letter word (actually it’s a 10 letter word).  To make any good relationship work, there has to be give and take.  Finding ways to embrace compromise is the key.  For example:  I love my wife to pieces and enjoy spending time with her but today Karen and I are going to a swap meet in Tulalip.  Now a swap meet is a fancy way of saying a gigantic garage sale.  Does putting gigantic in front of garage sale make it any more palatable to me?  No, not really but you don’t have to endure bee stings to enjoy your honey.

Men are born hunters; even for someone like me who loathes the idea of shooting Bambi’s mother.  Inside of me, and I bet most men, is the ancient instinct to hunt. Instead of blindly following Karen from one house to another, watching her shuffle through other peoples junk, I can turn this mind numbing experience into an adventure.  If I harness this new mindset toward finding one thing in particular, I will transform myself. Instead of being the overweight, khaki wearing husband who sleep walks through a maze of children’s clothes, cassette tapes, worn out furniture and grannies’ knickknacks any husband can turn into Elmer Fudd on steroids, who will not stop hunting until he finds that one-of-a-kind Bugs Bunny stuffed animal his wife can’t live without.  As long as I have a goal in mind, I now enjoy the process of achieving that goal with my best friend.  If I can’t find what I’m looking for, I’m like that fisherman who is skunked one day, goes back to camp, changes his bait and tries a different location the next day.

So make your wife’s life (and yours) a lot happier.  Embrace your differences by being creative in the manner in which you tackle compromise.  Now I have to go.  I’m hunting for a heart shaped vase today.

 

 

Share Your Talents

I am not a professional photographer.  I am someone who loves toDSC_0640 experiment with photography.  Years ago I bought a 35mm SLR camera which came with a telephoto lens and a nifty photography book. My brother is a middle school geometry and algebra teacher; I am not. So when it came time to calculate the mathematics of f/stop aperture numbers, I skipped those pages in the book and concentrated on the chapters focusing on being creative.  I bought a wide variety of filters and had a blast playing mad scientist with all the bells and whistles my old point and shoot camera couldn’t provide.  Learning to look for interesting angles, patterns, symmetry, textures and lines made taking pictures an exercise in artistry and fed my creative nature.

I now own a fancy digital SLR camera (at least it’s fancy to me).  Without having to buy film and pay for developing, playing mad scientist isn’t as expensive.  My theory is if you take enough pictures some are bound to be bad, some will be good enough to display as a rotating collage on my laptop, but a few will take me by surprise and be worthy to display in the arts and crafts exhDSC_0610ibit at our community fair.

The whole point in this article is to look for ways to bless people by sharing your talents with others.  Recently, a niece and nephew each got married.  Of course they hired professional photographers to capture the moments of their magical day.  I brought my camera to each wedding and looked for opportunities to take pictures from angles and locations the professionals missed.  Some pictures I deleted immediately, others I kept on my laptop’s hard drive but a few I felt great about sharing on Facebook.  My relatives loved the variety of pictures and they will be available to them free of charge at any time.

So don’t be afraid to make your gifts and talents available to bless others.  God gave them to you use not to hide under a bushel.DSC_0626DSC_0559DSC_0609