The Many Colors Of A Relationship

Terry and Karen

Everyone over 40 knows the answer to the riddle: What’s black and white and red all over? Why, it’s a newspaper of course.  Millennials and everyone else born after them have a new riddle:  What can have  multitudes of colors but is red all over?  Why, it’s a computer screen of course.  The former is decreasing in popularity while the latter’s readership is lining many computer geek’s pockets green. (For you grammar geeks I know red, in this context, should be spelled read but spelling it the correct way would spoil the riddle.)

Why do I bring this up?  Because no matter who’s generation you’re talking about, spending too much time with either medium has caused many people to feel ‘blue’.  Blue over having to compete with children, husbands and wives for their attention.

Both mediums have value for gathering information, education and entertainment but too much of any good thing can turn bad.  Take white sugar for example.  In moderation, sugar transforms boring desserts into sweet delicacies while too much will cause our pink bellies to bloat and diseased limbs to turn purple.  There is one exception to this rule — building strong relationships need time for them to flourish.

Strong relationships are more valuable than gold.  Gold must go through a refining process to make it pure.  Relationships need time to go through their own refining process to bring out their full beauty.

Early in Karen’s and my marriage, I had a daily routine when I came home from work.  I stopped at the newspaper box at the end of our driveway and pulled out the newspaper delivered during the day.  Karen received a hug and kiss from me, then I was off into the living room.  Having plopped onto my favorite chair, I opened the newspaper to the sports section first and worked my way through every page until Karen called me to dinner.  After dinner, my attention was turned back to the paper until I finished reading every line.

Karen would complain, saying she looked forward to spending time with me everyday but felt neglected when I came home.  My response to her was that after a long day of work, I needed to relax and decompress for awhile.

One morning as I got up for work at 5am I noticed that I forgot to get the newspaper the previous night.  I ran down the driveway, fetched the paper and brought it back to the house.  As I sat to eat breakfast I opened the paper to the sports page.  As I began to read, something about the appearance of the front page seemed different.  A meticulously handwritten message appeared between the typed print.  It went something like this:

“Dear Hubby.  Please come and talk to your wife.  I miss you and want to spend time with you.”

I couldn’t help but smile as I entered our bedroom, sat down on the bed and woke Karen up.  She wasn’t too happy about being woken so early until I showed her the newspaper she had written on.  I took the hint though and we both read a book about marriage which stated how important the first 10-15 minutes are to a marriage when a couple meets up after working all day.  That time together determines whether the mood of the evening will be cast in hues of gray or shine through in brilliant yellow.

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“I Do” and I’m glad I Did!!!

Forty-one years ago, on September 2, I married my high school sweetheart and best friend, Terry Carlson.  We dated for five years and couldn’t wait to begin our life together as husband and wife. Terry was 20 and I was 19 years old…but we were both very mature…haha!

Planning the wedding was a blast!   I really didn’t know what style I liked or what colors I wanted so I picked out the first material I saw at the fabric store and my mother-in-law sewed most of the bridesmaid’s dresses.  Back then there were no smart phones or a computers but with pen and paper I checked off each item on the list of all that needed to get done before our big day

*Order wedding cake from Scandia Bakery.               *Ask my cousin, Kathy and our friend, Mich to sing.
*Ask our high school English teacher to play the organ.
*Order wedding invites.
*Order flowers.
*Ask friends to be bridesmaids and groomsmen.
*Ask my nephews and nieces to be flower girl,   ringbearer, Jr. bridesmaid and Jr. groomsmen.
*Buy wedding dress.
*Reserve church and Son’s of Norway for reception.
*Choose songs to be sung during ceremony.
*Find photographer.

Everything checked off and our day finally arrived!  As I waited anxiously in the cry room, guests took their seats in the nearby sanctuary.  Organ music softly  played through the walls of the cry room.  This was the moment Terry and I had dreamed about, talked about, planned for and saved for.

The music paused and I heard Mich and Kathy begin to sing our song, Baby, by John Denver.  I was overcome with emotion and began to cry.  We changed a few of the words to make it a wedding song.  The lyrics of the chorus goes like this:

“And the wind will whisper your name to me
Little birds will sing along in time
Leaves will bow down when you walk by
And morning bells will chime.”

We changed morning bells to wedding bells will chime. ( I know…the lyrics seem cheesy today but 41 years ago  it was romantic.)

You can hear the orginal song if you click here:

https://www.bing.com/search?q=john+denver+song+baby&form=EDGTCT&qs=PF&cvid=e15f1b8bd5504d78b8de78042b100dc8&refig=f51aa0cb61994ff7e47a98afa63fa6d3&cc=US&setlang=en-US

I could not stop crying. I didn’t wear any make up, and it’s a good thing because it would have all come off.  I’m not saying a few tears were shed…I’m saying I was full on UGLY, cannot stop, crying.

After all my bridesmaids arrived at the altar, I anxiously took my Dad’s arm.  The “old traditional”, Here Comes The Bride began and all the guests stood.  I tried to quit crying but, oh no, there was no stopping it.  Terry took my trembling hands as we stood in front of the pastor.  He repeated his vows and then it was my turn…I could barely breathe.  I began to repeat my vows, took a breath which burst into a loud snort!! Our ringbearer and flower girl began to cry…Years later I found out they cried because they thought weddings were sad.  Several guests were in tears, too. We made heartfelt vows of “I Do” before God for better or worse, for richer or poor, in sickness and in health…til death us do part.  And we lived happily ever after….ha ha!!!

Terry and I didn’t know Jesus personally when we got married but He knew us!!! God’s Hand was on us. He knew the plans He had for us and we would accept His gift of grace and salvation five years later by acknowledging our need for Him and proclaim Him as Lord and Savior.

Have we lived “happily ever after”?  Some days…sure. But honestly, no, not really. Would I marry Terry all over again?….YES, YES, YES!!!  But in real life we walked through seasons of good and bad. Seasons of great times and seasons of hard times and losses. I used to think love was a feeling and if you lose that feeling…uh oh.  Love is oh, soooo much more than that.

I’m so thankful to God for Terry.  Is he a perfect husband?  Uh…noooo!  But he’s the perfect husband for me.  Does he ever irritate me…Uh, yessss!  Does he have some habits that truly annoy me…Oh yeah!!  Oh, please quit fidgeting and flush the toilet even when it’s just yellow!!!!

We are experts at pushing each other’s hot buttons. Some days we don’t like each other at all.  We are two imperfect persons God continues to change and grow and love on…not sure we will ever reach perfection… haha!  One verse God keeps bringing to mind when I feel like being snitty…“A gentle answer turns away wrath but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Proverbs 15:1.  It actually works, if I choose to apply it.

Looking back, 41 years ago!!  Wow!!!  We didn’t even know the meaning of love, but we humbly continue to learn from God through the Bible how to love, honor, trust, respect and stay committed to each other even when times aren’t great.

The Lord has allowed very tough things to come our way in our forty-one years of marriage.  As John Denver’s song said, I’ll walk in the rain by your side.  Boy, that was more than prophetic. We lost our family home and most of our possessions in the flood of 1990.  We tore the remains of our home down to the studs and began to rebuild.  For thirteen months our family weathered that storm together and faithfully walked in the rain by each other’s side.  We made a flood video of the year documenting the faith filled journey God took us on. We laugh now at the end of that video when we all decided to celebrate by rapping a grand finale song.

Terry and I were blessed with three beautiful children:  Katie, Jaymi and Michael.  Terry walked by my side in the season of being a mother of preschoolers.  I thought everything would come naturally to me, but it didn’t.  By God’s grace, through His Word in church, Bible study and MOPS, He blessed us as parents. Now we enjoy our ten grandchildren and are very excited to meet #11 this February.

Through years of chronic illness and chronic pain, Terry has been by my side. He’s been my tour guide on many expensive, painful dental vacations…we both would have preferred Hawaii or the Bahamas. He has loved me through:

*Eleven painful root canals.                                 *Mercury toxicity.                                                        *Chronic fatigue syndrome.                                       *Eleven teeth extracted because of the root canals. *Years of horrific tmj pain.                                      *Kidney infections.                                                     *Chronic neck pain.                                                               *All teeth extracted.                                                  *Adrenal fatigue.                                                  *Depression.                                                                *Surgeries for bone grafts and dental implants.

Through it all, Terry is still loving me despite me having no teeth, failing bone grafts, failing implants and another bout with heavy metal toxicity. I look like Grandma Pitypoo, but Terry sees my beauty. (I think his eyes must be going bad!) I know his hearing is…we play Scrabble quite often with each other and we each drew our letters to see who goes first.

Terry got up and told me, “I got the letter C and I have to go pee.”

I drew my letter and yelled to him, ” I got the letter T.”

He said,”What?”

I repeated loudly, “I got the letter T!”

His response was, “Well use the other bathroom then.”

He has hearing aids but doesn’t wear them around me…hmmm!

I once told Terry he should have looked into my mouth before he married me. He may have changed his mind when he saw my teeth. He said, “You never look a gift horse in the mouth…and you are a gift to me.” AWWW!! So Sweet!!!

I’ve walked by his side through:                               *Many painful job transitions.                                 *Two kidney stones.                                                           *A heart surgery, stroke, and a botched stent surgery.

But, by God’s grace, today we love each other even more and remain best friends. He will finish my sentences before I do. I will finish his thoughts before he speaks them. I couldn’t have picked a better Daddy for our kids. I wouldn’t want to be an Ama/Grandma with anyone else…what a joy it is to enjoy grandchildren together. I wouldn’t have wanted to go through or grow through life with anyone else by my side, than you, Terry.  I love you!!!  Happy 41st Anniversary to you!! And I thank you Jesus for giving us the strength and power to walk through each storm you permit in our lives. We could not do it without you!!! I pray you will bless us with many more years together!!!

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The Incredible Case Of The Flying Bologne Sandwich.

Do you ever tell little white lies?  While driving school bus a few years ago, whenever I caught kids misbehaving, most would pull the politician card and deny any wrong doing.  On rare occasions some children would surprise me.

One morning, a sandwich whizzed past my right ear and stuck to the front windshield.  I looked up at the student mirror and saw numerous fingers pointing toward a third-grader named Tyler sitting about six rows behind me.  I liked this boy.  He was polite, respectful, and had a good sense of humor.

I pulled the bus over to the side of the road, pointed toward the sandwich still stuck to the windshield and asked the boy if he did indeed throw that sandwich at me.

He stood and said, “No, Mr. Carlson, I wasn’t throwing my sandwich at you.  I was trying to throw it at the kid sitting right behind you.”

While trying not to laugh, I explained how it was my job to get them all to school safely and that having a sandwich thrown past me was very distracting.  I gave him a verbal warning and I thought that would be the end of it.

The next morning, I just happened to look in my student mirror just in time to see Tyler throw another sandwich at the same kid sitting behind me.  His accuracy was much improved and the boy caught the sandwich.  I pulled the bus over once more to the side of the road.

“Tyler!” I yelled.  “We had this discussion yesterday morning about how dangerous it is to distract me while I’m driving.  This will be two days in a row that you’ve lost your lunch.”

Again, he stood and grimly said, “I’m sorry Mr. Carlson.  I keep telling my Mom that I don’t like bologna sandwiches but she keeps putting them in my lunch.”  He grinned then added, “But it’s okay,  because Austin caught it this time.”

I’ll always remember this story not because it was so funny…well, maybe I will remember it for that, but I’ll also remember it because Tyler was so refreshingly honest.  We live in a world where lying has become so commonplace that I was pleasantly caught off guard by this little boys honest confession.  Let me now share with you my own confession as a lesson to what can happen when we don’t tell the truth.

I have an addiction to soda pop, especially Mountain Dew.  For years Karen has been after me to quit.  After an annual wellness check-up a few years ago, my doctor told me to loose weight and to my dismay strongly suggested I quit drinking pop….especially Mountain Dew.

It was very difficult but I was able to quit the habit….at home.  While away at work  I still drank one or two bottles a day.  Whenever Karen would ask me how I was doing I would lie and tell her how victorious I was over my addition with carbonated, flavored, sugar water.

One day, Karen asked if I drank any pop that day at work.  I said, “No.”  She asked again and I responded with annoyance in my voice, “For the second time….no.”  When she asked a third time, I lost it and won’t repeat what I angrily said back to her.  She pulled a slip of paper out of her pocket and threw it at my feet.  It was the receipt for the two bottles of Mountain Dew I had bought that day.

“Oh!  What a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.”  (1)

After a few minutes of self-reflection (or was it self-flagellation) I went to Karen with my tail between my legs and apologized.  I don’t think this lie fell under the “little white” category and the nuclear fallout I experienced from Karen validated this conclusion.  I resided in her dog house for quite awhile before I could gain back her trust.   The perceived nagging I assumed I could dodge by lying was definitely not worth the pain I caused Karen.

As Paul Harvey would say, “And now for the rest of the story….”

I had to give Tyler a written warning, which also meant a phone call from me to his mother, after dropping her son off at school.  I explained to her what had happened the previous two mornings and she told me she would also have a talk with him.

The following morning I picked up Tyler at his bus stop and he cheerfully bounded up the steps and stopped before me.  He opened up his lunch and excitedly pulled out a sandwich.

With a big grin on his face he held out the sandwich and exclaimed, “It’s peanut butter and jelly!”

(1) An excerpt from a poem written by Sir Walter Scott. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marmion_(poem)

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Communication Is The Key To Prevent Your Marriage Train From Derailing

 

As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, I enjoy driving for Lyft and Uber.  I enjoy the freedom of scheduling my own hours, listening to music and sports radio all day long (without driving Karen crazy) and talking with my rider’s.  Being able to hear and understand some of my customers though was difficult at times because I’m completely deaf in my right ear.  Karen may call my disability, “Selective Hearing Disorder” but I really have a hard time hearing people who talk to me from the right of me, especially in the car.  All the road noise will pummel my good left ear while drowning out the words spoken by anyone in the passenger seat.

I finally decided to bite the bullet and buy hearing aids.  They aren’t normal hearing aids though.  Sound coming from my right side is captured by a transmitter in my right ear and transmitted over to a hearing aid in my left ear by a wireless signal.  Hallelujah, the deaf can hear…at least that’s what I thought until this morning.

Most mornings, Karen and I have been getting up at 7:00 to go swimming in our community pool before I take off driving for Uber and Lyft.  This morning I woke up a little before seven.  Karen was sound asleep so I decided to let her rest while I powered up the computer, opened up EveryDollar (our monthly budgeting tool) https://www.everydollar.com/ and did some much needed tweaking.

Karen joined me at the computer around 8:30.  She was disappointed I hadn’t woken her at seven to go swimming.  She asked what I had been doing so I told her I was working on our budget.  The following is the short version of the conversation that ensued.

DISCLAIMER…The following conversation is presented to only state the facts, not as a vehicle to pass judgement or take sides.

Terry:  I was working on EveryDollar.

Karen:  When are you planning on actually doing it?

SIDE NOTE:  I had actually began EveryDollar in February but temporarily stopped in May because of all the craziness from the move to our new home.  I had told Karen numerous times I would resume the budget beginning June 1st.

Terry:  I’ve told you numerous times I’d start June 1st.

Karen:  I don’t remember you telling me that.

Terry, while vigorously scratching his head in frustration:  I’ve told you at least five times.

Karen:  When I’m in this much pain from my neck you know I don’t retain things.

Terry:  You seem very irritable this morning.

Karen:  It’s not just the pain I’m trying to deal with today.  Yesterday was four years since Mom died, I’m adjusting to living here without a car and….

Terry:  What does that have to do with EveryDollar?

Karen answers with tears welling up in her eyes:  Sometimes you need hearing aids for your heart instead of your ears.

Our marriage is like a powerful train chugging down tracks laid by our communication to each other.  Once in a while, like this morning, those tracks we lay are full of defects and our train derails.  When that happens, we both have to dig deep into our tool chests to begin repairing the damage done to our relationship.

What tools do you ask?  That’s a good question.  Let me tell you.  Our tool chest is the Bible and every tool needed to repair a damaged relationship can be found inside.

1.   The first tool is actually a lubricant for the prevention of a breakdown and is found in Ephesians 4:29.  “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs that it may benefit those who listen.”

2.   The second tool is listening.  We don’t listen when we concentrate on a snarky rebuttal or interrupt.  Proverbs 18:13 says, “He who answers before listening — that is his folly and his shame.”

3.   The next tool is to share a response which is sincere and proper.  I may have heard what Karen said, but my heart had tuned her out.  I ignored the advice of Galatians 6:2.  “Share in each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ.”  Romans 12:15 gives further insight.  “Be happy with those who are happy and weep with those who weep.”

4.    The final tool is a sincere apology.  James 5:16 says to, “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.”  And don’t wait to make amends.  “Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry and give the devil a foothold.”  Ephesians 4:26-27

So the next time your marriage train begins to wobble on poorly laid tracks of communication, grab your Bible and take out these tools before your locomotive derails.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Have You Been Learning Lately?

Have you ever prayed, Lord if you want us to move, please move us swiftly? I don’t recommend it unless you are up for the challenge. Wowza! These last four months have been a whirlwind. When Terry and I thought about selling our house I prayed that very prayer. I regretted praying it a few times but mostly I am thankful for the journey God has us on.

Sorry I have not blogged for quite a while, but we are living out of our suitcases, temporarily residing at our daughter and son-in-law’s home in Florida with our five precious grandchildren. As I’m typing this, the house is filled with five loud, competing voices and numerous interruptions…I’m not used to this level of chaos any more. Oh my goodness, I never thought I would forget how busy a mother of preschoolers is. It’s non-stop. It’s all good, but exhausting. Thankful to be making memories with the grandkids but we are looking forward to moving into our own home and having more control over the noise level.

I thought I would write this blog and update you on the journey this far…if I can concentrate long enough between the interruptions…

December 22 was the closing date on our home. Our house needed to be cleaned out and cleaned up by that date. The weeks before were crazy and surreal. We had a moving/garage sale, Terry put our Christmas tree up before Thanksgiving and celebrated Christmas early with our son and daughter-in-law and grandkids from Arizona. We then helped put on a surprise party for my mother-in-law’s 80th birthday on Thanksgiving, celebrated Christmas again with our daughter Jaymi and her family by preparing another turkey dinner and all of the trimmings. I sold items on Buy, Sell & Swap, said goodbye to lifetime friends, cousins and family…and the list goes on and on. We couldn’t have done it without help: some of our sweet church ladies, my sister and brother-in -law, who helped pack up my kitchen, the day of the move, Terry’s brother, Garry, came over and helped him take a mountain of unwanted items to the dump. My mother-in-law helped me do one final mopping of a bedroom and living room that I hadn’t had time to get to. Jaymi, our daughter was a life saver and helped me organize my creative chaos. I purged 39 years of living into one moving POD. We stuffed our suitcases and personal items into our Camry, leaving only enough room for our sweet senior golden retriever, Molly…and said goodbye to Stanwood.
When I had some alone time, I took a few minutes the day of the move and reflected back on some of the memories and life we had experienced in our home. I think I was too exhausted to cry. I mostly reflected back on God’s faithfulness to us and I walked throughout each room singing Great Is Thy Faithfulness. Praising God for all of the life and blessings He bestowed upon us in the past 39 years and looking forward to what He had in store for us.

The first night of our journey began by staying with Terry’s sister and brother-in-law in the Castle Rock area. We loved visiting with them and seeing their beautiful, newly built
home. We were loved on and spoiled with their hospitality. Medford, Oregon was our destination for the next day. Fresno, California was next and we stayed two nights there because of Christmas. Our next stop: Surprise, Arizona where our dear friends, Marilu and Norm, invited us to stay with them. They also spoiled us with yummy homecooked meals and fun fellowship. Terry came down with a bad sinus infection and needed more rest more before driving on, so we stayed three nights at their home. I felt bad Terry was sick, but I sure enjoyed the extra time with Norm & Marilu.

Next we drove to Fort Stockton, Texas. When we arrived, I felt feverish, achy and had a sore throat. The next day, I felt sicker and went to a walk-in. My diagnosis—type A influenza. The doctor told me to go home and stay in bed. We drove to San Antonio and stayed a few days because influenza was not something I wanted to share with Katie, Jason and their family. The rest of the road trip was sort of a blur–Terry listened to a book on tape and I tried to ignore it–it was about lobotomies, of all things. My head felt like it just went through a lobotomy.

We arrived at Katie’s on Jason’s birthday on January 4. We were greeted with five happy grandkids throwing indoor snowballs at us.

So, what have I learned since leaving our home in Stanwood, Washington? Let me name a few very random things…

Our possessions are just temporary things. I dare you to purge your possessions into one 8 X 16 foot storage pod. It’s quite fun…NOT!!!

When, our golden retriever, Molly was intensely panting in the backseat of our car–she wasn’t going to die–it’s her way of calming her body down.

When driving in Florida, if your husband suddenly pulls in front of a large truck, do not wind down your window to listen to what the truck driver has to say.

When you have lived all of your life in one place and you are directionally challenged–do not expect to know North from South and East from West when you move.

I’ve also learned that when Terry gets too hot, he gets crabby. When I get too hot, I get easily annoyed. Not a great combo…And this is only winter time in Florida. The best is yet to come.

I’m learning that God never ceases to amaze me…the first Sunday we were in Florida, we attended our son-in-law’s church he is the pastor of, one of first hymns we sung was Great Is Thy Faithfulness.

Mostly, I’m thankful to God for this journey we are on. Thankful for family. Everyday we learn something new. I’m learning more of God’s Word and His love and grace for me.

What are you learning these days?

Until Next Time—I’m Chewsing To Trust the Lord!!! Hope you are too!

CHEWS JESUS–Taste and see that the Lord is good!.

It’s Been A Remarkable 40 Years!!!

1977….Wow!  A lot of things happened 40 years ago:

  1. Elvis Presley performed in his last concert in June and died in his home in Memphis, two months later.
  2. Jimmy Carter was inaugurated as the 39th President.
  3. Fleetwood Mac released their Rumours album.
  4. Led Zeppelin played in their last USA concert.
  5. Rocky won an Oscar for best picture.
  6. Karen Lund and Terry Carlson got married.

Many more things happened over the next 40 years:

  1. In 1980, not only did Mt. Saint Helens erupt but my beautiful bride also erupted, giving birth to our first child…Katie Lee.
  2. Dianna wasn’t the only princess to capture the hearts of millions around the world when she married Prince Charles in 1981.  Jaymi Marie was born capturing the hearts of both her parents.
  3. In 1982 the Epcot theme park opens in Disney World and Karen and I open our heart to receive Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.
  4. M*A*S*H* the T.V. series ends in 1983 after 11 seasons and 251 episodes.  Karen is instrumental in bringing the MOPS (Mothers Of Preschoolers) program to Camano Chapel which has successfully lasted for 34 years & counting.  MOPS has encouraged and inspired tens of thousands of mothers around the world with Godly insight.
  5. In 1984, Michael Jackson moonwalked for the first time at the MTV music awards.  That was nothing compared to the entrance our son, Michael Keith, made as he burst onto the scene in September of that year.
  6. March 18, 1990 – The largest art theft in U.S. history occurs in Boston, Massachusetts, when two thieves posing as policemen abscond twelve paintings worth an estimated $100-200 million from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.  In November of 1990 a hundred-year flood swallowed up our home.  We didn’t return to our home until December of 1991.  Our kids thought it was a big adventure and still, to this day, remember that year as having the best memories of their childhood.
  7. Bill Clinton became President in 1992 and Karen became very sick.  After many tests, a dentist discovers she has mercury poisoning.  She has to quit her ministry with MOPS and begins a long and painful journey down the road of dental procedures and chronic pain.
  8. Between 1989 and 2002, Nintendo begins selling the Gameboy, U.S. retail giant Montgomery Ward announces it is going out of business after 128 years and Charles M. Schultz, the creator of the Peanuts comic strip passed away.  Also during that time, Karen and I coach and attend many basketball, baseball, volleyball, tennis games and matches and school plays; participate in and plan many field trips, birthday parties, sleep-overs and Camano Chapel youth group functions.  We cry as we  watch Katie, Jaymi and Michael graduate from High School and begin college.
  9. Between 2002 and 2017, the final episode of Friends appears on NBC, BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Disaster in the gulf of Mexico leaves gulf beaches / fishing and the shellfish industry reeling, and Donald Trump becomes the 45th President of the United States.  Also, Katie, Jaymi and Michael marry Jason, Matt and Signe.  Our grandkids: Logan, Caleb, Jacob, Maya, Jonathan, Brooklyn, Joshua, Esther, Hannah and Daniel are born.  Karen and I both publish two books and today Karen and I celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary.

Thank you Karen for 40 wonderful years of marriage.  Your the best!

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What Is A Dental Vacation? Well, Let Me Tell You All About It.

Terry and Karen

For the past two weeks Karen and I have been in Bountiful Utah.  No, this isn’t one of Utah’s beautiful ski resorts.  We weren’t there to watch Gonzaga sweep all their games in the first round of the NCAA tournament in Salt Lake City.  We didn’t stay there as a pit stop on the way to visit our kids who live in Arizona or Florida.  We went to Bountiful on a dental vacation (and I use the term vacation very loosely).

As many of you know, Karen has struggled with dental issues for many years.  In the early 1990’s she became ill.  She had no energy, was tired all the time, ached all over and was depressed.  Her doctors had no clue what was happening.  Also during this time, she endured ten root canals.  Before going through an eleventh, her dentist suggested she go to see a specialist in Colorado.  They discovered she had high levels of mercury in her system from this poisonous metal leaching into her system from leaking amalgam fillings in her teeth.

She had all but one of her molars pulled and underwent a detox program to flush the mercury out of her system.  Her health improved but for the next twenty-years she went from dentist to dentist trying to find one who could make partials which would give her a good bite and not cause pain in her mouth and neck.

The problem is that she is allergic to all metals, and partials are made with metal to give it strength and to help keep its shape.  Dentists had to make partials out of a plastic which wore down easily and often broke.  Over the years, this lack of a consistent bite contributed to chronic pain in her jaw and neck.

After many years of experimenting, her local dentist said there was nothing else he could do but recommended a specialist in Utah who might be able to help.  We traveled to this dentist over a year ago and he pulled the rest of Karen’s teeth which were all full of infection and in the process of rotting in her mouth.

Now instead of partials, Karen was given a full set of dentures.  For a year, the dentures caused continual sores to form in her mouth; sometimes five or six large canker like sores at a time would line up in a row on her gums causing her great pain.  The dentures also didn’t relieve the pain she was experiencing in her jaw and neck; it only got worse.

Our dentists, Dr. Wall and Dr. Baker, in Utah came up with another plan to help her.  He could embed ceramic posts in her upper and lower jaw for her dentures to clip onto.  This would keep the dentures from rocking in her mouth thus eliminating the cause of sores to form on her gums.  At the same time, they would find out the best position for the dentures to rest to help stabilize her jaw muscles.  Hopefully this will help relieve some of her neck and jaw pain.

So we arrived in Bountiful on March 15th full of hope, that at last we could see the light at the end of that long tunnel of pain Karen has endured for the past twenty-two years.  After days of bone scans and consultations, she had oral surgery.  The dentist placed four ceramic implants in her lower jaw.  It was discovered from the bone scans, that she didn’t have enough bone on her upper jaw for the implants.  They removed bone from her lower jaw and mixed it with a compound.  The dentist peeled back her upper gums and inserted this compound into her upper jaw, similar to applying putty to repair holes in a wall.

Now the fun began.  She couldn’t wear her dentures for a week to help her mouth to begin healing.  For the next two months, she can’t eat any solid food.  Pretty much smoothies, soup, mashed potatoes and yogurt.  Both Karen and I will be losing some weight.

On Monday, March 27th we planned to fly out of Utah, but the dentist thought it best to wait until Thursday to take the stitches out.  There was also a concern about flying so soon after this surgery.  No problem; I called to change our flight but found out they would charge an extra $900 because it was spring break.  Yikes!

We rented a car to get around in Bountiful.  I called to check the cost of using the rental to drive back to Seattle.  Only $1000 more.  Yikes and double yikes!  For only a hundred dollars more I made the executive decision to drive back.  It would be more comfortable for Karen than to experience the sinus pain from the high altitude of flying.

So on Thursday we left Utah.  We made reservations in Boise to spend the night there.  The weather had been terrific the whole time while we were in Bountiful, breaking records for that time of year.  It was overcast but warm when we drove out of the city heading north.  We turned on the radio and heard the hosts talking about snow angels and building snow men.

About an hour into our drive the car thermometer began to take a nose dive.  From 60 degrees, to 50, to 40, to 35.  At least we hadn’t hit any moisture.  Suddenly, down the road, a giant white curtain was pulled down from the sky.  Tail lights flashed as I drove into a blizzard.

For the final three hours, I could barely see three or four car lengths in front of me.  Then the wind began to howl.  My windshield wipers were almost useless as they battled the snow and wind.

What should have been an easy five-hour drive, took us almost eight.  We arrived at our hotel at 7pm tired and ready to relax before the next days longer drive home.  Because of the warm and welcoming staff and extra touches they provided, we chose the same hotel chain we used in Bountiful.  They provided a never ending supply of chocolate chip cookies, ice cold lemon water, and 24 hours of smiling faces from its work force.

We walked into the Country Inn and Suites and realized right away we weren’t in Bountiful anymore.  The gal behind the desk was talking to a co-worker for five minutes before she even acknowledged us.  After finally checking us in, I looked around for some cookies.  No cookies and no ice-cold lemon water.  Oh well, we couldn’t wait to get into our room and take a dip in their pool.

When we entered our room, the air felt heavy.  I was recovering from a sinus infection and was having a hard time breathing anyway so I just chalked it up to that.  After ten minutes, Karen said that her sinuses were bothering her and she was getting a sore throat.  She knelt down on the carpet to open up her suitcase.  When she stood, both her knees were wet.

Someone had just recently (very recently) shampooed the carpet and it was still wet and smelled like chemicals.  Now my sinuses were plugging up even more and I started to cough.  Karen went down to the front desk.  They were sorry but they were full and couldn’t move us to another room.  To say I wasn’t very happy was an understatement.

Karen called around to other hotels close by while I repacked everything and brought it back out to our rental car.  We checked into another hotel after 9pm.  We were both cranky and exhausted.  At least the carpet was dry and the bed was amazing.

The next day we awoke to sunshine.  We drove to SeaTac airport, picked up our car and listened to a CD I had bought of Hank Williams all the way home.

So what’s the moral of this story?  Heck if I know.  Sometimes you just have to play the hand that’s dealt you, whether it’s a mouthful of bad teeth or a stressful day driving through a snowstorm only to find out you have been booked into a room with a wet carpet.

These are the times it’s comforting to know you are in the hands of a loving God who looks out for us even when life seems out of control.

“Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.”   James 1:12

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Telling The Genesis Story…Or How I Met My Wife

I love to hear stories about how couples first met.  Karen and I hosted a table at a celebration of marriage event, at our church, last Saturday evening.  We were supposed to ask “ice breaker” questions.  I asked the couples around our table how each of them met.

One couple met on a blind date.  I asked the wife if she was nervous leading up to the date.  She said, “No…I was excited to see who God wanted me to meet.”

If we really think about it, didn’t God set us all up on a blind date to find our spouse? 

I wasn’t a Christian when I first met Karen.  I didn’t have a girlfriend at the time.  As a matter of fact, I had never dated before I met Karen.  Oh…I had a few crushes on a few girls in school including an attractive, young math teacher in 8th grade.  But I never had the guts to ask any of them out.  I mean, what if they said “NO!”  My delicate psyche couldn’t handle the rejection.

My first taste of being shunned by a person of the opposite sex happened while in elementary school.  A group of cute girls were playing square ball at recess.  I asked if I could join them but they bluntly replied that they didn’t play with boys.  I was okay with that.  When I played basketball at recess the guys didn’t let any girls play with us either.  But when the same girls let the most popular boy in 3rd grade play square ball with them just a few minutes later, I drowned my sorrow by drinking a second pint of milk for lunch.  Needless to say, my ability to bond with girls took a big hit.

Fast forward to early in my Sophomore year of high school.  While many of my male friends were experiencing the dating roller coaster ride, I was enjoying my freedom.  I didn’t have to worry about writing love letters, taking up valuable time talking on the phone and spending my hard-earned money on girls.  I was free to come home after school and watch all my favorite shows on T.V. like my favorite horror soap opera, Dark Shadows or the cool new science fiction show, Star Trek. 

I also didn’t have to worry about some girl being jealous about the true love of my life…Basketball.  I caressed my basketball the same way some of my friends caressed their girlfriend’s br….oh, you know what I mean.

On December 3rd, 1973 I played in my first varsity basketball game.  I was beyond excited when during the game I made my first varsity basket on a free throw.  I didn’t even care that I missed my second free throw…My destiny was set.  I knew I would go on to play for the Washington Huskies and then the Seattle Supersonics.

After the game, my best friend suggested we celebrate my achievement by attending the high school dance in the cafeteria.  I declined with a hearty “No Way!  Steve, are you joking?  And miss tonight’s episode of Star Trek.”

Well being the stubborn Norwegian he was, he wasn’t taking “no” for an answer.  He and another friend literally dragged me to the dance.

As I entered the dark room my senses were assaulted by blinding strobe lights pulsating to the rhythm of the local bands drummer.  The lingering aroma of todays sloppy joes and surprise casserole now reeked of testosterone and musk cologne.  I dodged sweating bodies bouncing off each other as I weaved my way to the darkest corner of the cafeteria.  Once I had arrived, I thought I could hide out until a slow dance and then sneak out undetected.

To my surprise, a skinny girl in glasses stepped on my foot as she walked past me.  She didn’t turn to apologize but I noticed a cute girl with long jet-black hair giggling beside the foot stomper.  I stared at the shapely, giggling girl hoping to shame her into a solemn state of somberness.  It didn’t work.

Eventually  I returned my focus on escaping this dungeon of depravity.  To my utter amazement, the same skinny girl walked back in front of me and stomped on my foot…again!  Did she apologize this time?  No…and this time the girl with the beautiful eyes was practically rolling on the floor with laughter.

I had it!  I walked straight up to the girl who was making fun of me, the one with the stunning smile and asked her if she wanted to dance.  I didn’t realize what I had done until I was holding the prettiest girl in the room close to me while we slow danced.

We danced every dance together until the band quite playing and we said good-night.  I was walking on air when I found my Mom’s car.  My aunt was sitting in the front seat next to my Mom.  When I got into the back seat of the car, my aunt asked me if I had met the girl of my dreams.   I remember saying, “I don’t know…maybe.”

Later, Karen shared with me that as she got into her mother’s car, her aunt was in the front seat.  She asked Karen if she had met her future husband.

We dated all through high school and two years of  community college before we got married on September 2, 1977.  After almost forty-years of marriage, her hair isn’t long and it isn’t jet black.  It’s the most beautiful shade of gray I can imagine.  Her eyes still sparkle and her smile is still stunning.  She still laughs at me occasionally and when she does, whatever dark corner of my mind I’ve hidden away to suddenly fills with the most wonderful light I can think of.

Do you see the light of Jesus radiating from your spouse?

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How To Make Parenting A Top Priority In Your Life…Part 1

Ama rocking Joshua
Ama rocking Joshua
Papa and Hannah
Papa and Hannah

I hope you all had a wonderful day last Thursday.  I hope you were with friends and family, eating a tasty meal, and finding many things to be thankful for.  If you read my Thanksgiving blog post, you probably know that family and friends are high on my “thankful for” list.  God is at the top of that list with my family close behind.

For the past few weeks, I’ve shared how important it is for mothers and fathers to make parenting a top priority in their lives; those who desire to be a hero to their children:         http://desiretoinspire.life/attitudeparental-job-description/   http://desiretoinspire.life/parental-heart-divided-priority/

Did you know though, that a mom or dad can truly believe they make parenting a top priority in their lives but can still not provide what’s best?  How can a parent “miss the mark” when they make it a top priority?  Well, it depends on the perspective of who is answering this question.

Today, I’m going to address this question from the perspective of parents with infants who want to be great parents.  In next weeks blog post I’ll cover this topic from the perspective of parents with elementary school aged children.

For the above mentioned mothers and fathers, we know their perspective; they believe they are doing what is necessary to make their children their top priority:

  1. The parents decide to bottle feed so both the mother and father can bond with their baby.
  2. They buy only the most expensive diapers on the market.  Those provide the greatest comfort for their baby when they can’t change her right away.
  3. It isn’t realistic to be expected to hold their baby every time he fusses.  These parents provide a pacifier so their infant won’t wear himself out crying.
  4. They provide their child with plenty of brain stimulation by letting her watch educational shows such as Baby Einstein and Sesame Street.
  5. The parents sing and talk often to their baby.

So from accomplishing even most of the things on this list, can a parent feel assured that he or she is making their children a top priority?  What if you asked their child?  What would he or she say?

Infants, of course, won’t be able to voice their opinion on this topic…or can they?  Babies are experts at expressing their needs.  Every time they cry and every time they coo and smile, they are letting you know how they feel.

Every baby is an individual.  As they grow, each will develop their unique personalities based on genetic and environmental factors.  The genetic factors are out of a parent’s control.  Parents though can have a very big impact on many of the environmental factors which play a pivotal role in their infants development.

While everything on the above list is good, the biggest positive impact a parent can have on their child’s early development is through the act of physical contact and by providing plenty of it.  There have been countless studies on the effect of human touch with infants.

Dr. Allen Green, is a prominent pediatrician, who has authored two books on the care of infants and has appeared on various nationally syndicated programs such as: the TODAY Show, Good Morning America, and the Dr. Oz Show.  In an article he wrote titled: Touch is as Important to Infant Health as Eating and Sleeping, he says, “Still question whether touch is as important as eating and sleeping? Consider one more landmark study.

In the 1960s, Dr. Harry Harlow separated infant monkeys from their mothers at six to twelve hours after birth and substituted “surrogate” mothers made either of heavy wire mesh or of wood covered with cloth. Both mothers were the same size, but the wire mother had no soft surfaces and was equipped with a bottle from which the baby could “nurse” while the other mother was cuddly, covered with foam rubber and soft terry cloth, but had no food. Despite the fact that only one surrogate mother could feed them, the infants still spent more time cuddling with the cloth mother. (They also found that the monkeys“raised” by wire mesh moms were very aggressive as adults.) These results led researchers to believe closeness and affection are as imperative to healthy development as food.

In today’s busy world, it’s all-too-common for parents to give a child a pacifier or put them in front of a video screen to keep them calm and quiet. But, those convenient moments of calm may be having subtle impacts on your child’s development. Take time to slow down. Take time to touch. Take time to cuddle. They aren’t babies for long and your investment of time and touch is a priceless investment in their health and well-being.”

You can read his entire article at: http://www.drgreene.com/touch-is-as-important-to-infant-health-as-eating-and-sleeping/

While there are many positive things you can do for your infant, don’t underestimate the act which will provide the biggest impact on the development of your child or grandchild…physical touch and better yet skin to skin contact.  Your children may not be able to say, “Thank you,” yet, but because of the loving contact you give them now and throughout their lives, they will have plenty of time to say “Thank you” for the rest of your life.

There’s nothing so rewarding and peaceful than rocking a baby to sleep.

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Is Your Parental Heart Divided? Maybe Your DVR Is Recording The Wrong Message.

[ninja_form id=4]the-heart-and-mind-are-often-in-conflict-with-each-other

My beautiful wife, Karen and I
My beautiful wife, Karen and I

I love going to church on Sunday mornings and worshipping my God.  I also love watching my Seattle Seahawks play football.  Because of those two loves, I’m overjoyed and thankful for the invention of the DVR.

Back in the stone age, before the DVR was invented, I often had a difficult decision to make.  The television broadcast of all the Seahawk home games start shortly after 1pm Pacific Standard Time (unless they play on Monday or Thursday night….then it’s usually 5:30pm).  But when they play on the road, games can start as early as 10am.  I found myself in a pickle regarding these early, Sunday morning games.  Would I be spiritual, go to church, and miss the beginning of the Seahawk game?  Or would I be like the heathens, stay home, and miss out on worshipping God with my fellow believers?

Then one glorious day, Karen and I saw the light.  We switched watching television from an antennae feed to receiving it via satellite.   From that point on, I no longer had to choose between my two loves.  I could now ease my burden of guilt and attend church on Sunday mornings with the knowledge that, because of my DVR machine, I would never again miss a single pass, interception or bone-crunching hit.  I could even skip through all the commercials….hallelujah!!!

In reality, all the DVR did was give me the opportunity to avoid making a commitment.  I now didn’t have to choose what part of my life I would make a bigger priority….worshipping God, together with my church family, or cheering on Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks from the comfort of my favorite recliner.

As parents and grandparents, we face a similar dilemma.  Most of us know in our hearts what is most important….our family.  The brain though works quite differently from our heart both functionally and figuratively.  The three pounds of gray matter between our ears is really a super computer and as we know, computers deal with problems logically.

So our heart and our mind are often in conflict with each other.  As parents, these types of conflict show up regularly. For example, many men have their egos and self-esteem directly tied to their careers.  Therefore a father’s (and sometimes even a mother’s) career appear to be a higher priority than their family.  In this instance a parent who comes home after a long day at work may find himself confronted by an angry spouse and children who need their father.  To avoid making a commitment, he will find something to shift the focus away from having to make a choice.

  1. He may barricade himself in his shop to work on projects.
  2. He says he needs some space, so he crawls into his man-cave and hibernates all evening in front of the television.
  3. To be able to unwind, he spends much of his free time hunting, fishing or playing golf with his buddies.

Another example of a parent who struggles with prioritizing  is a person battling addiction.  A woman trying to cope with alcoholism and being a nurturing, responsible mother is in constant conflict.  Her heart breaks when she drinks too much and misses her child’s ball game, forgets to pick up her son at school, or constantly argues with her husband, about her addiction, in front of their children.  Her mind will come up with many reasons to avoid having to choose between her family and her addiction.

In an interview with People Magazine, Elizabeth Vargas, the ABC 20/20 journalist talks about the inner fight raging inside her.  She admits to dropping the ball as she attempts to juggle her priorities of being a wife, mother and an alcoholic.

“Rehab isn’t what finally got me sober.  It was nearly losing everything and finally seeing that whatever benefit I thought alcohol gave me was outweighed by what it would cost me.”

She recalls celebrating her son’s 8th birthday after a separation from her husband.  While her intention was to have a fun evening making her son feeling special, the evening ended up with her in a detox center.

“(Alcoholism) is not a matter of self-discipline.  It’s not even a character flaw.  I would not hesitate for a nanosecond to step in front of a bullet, to do anything to give my life for my children,” she said, “I would kill for my children.  And I couldn’t stop drinking for my children.”

Whether it is a parent who works long hours; a parent who struggles with alcoholism; or a father trying to be a good role model but chooses to stay home on Sunday mornings to watch a football game over going to church; this world offers many distractions which can cause us to lose focus on how we prioritize our life.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not here to condemn someone who has to work long hours to pay their bills.  I’m not judging a person who has an addictive disease.  I will never stop cheering for my Seahawks.  But what I am saying is this: Is there something in your life which is interfering with your ability to be the best parent and spouse you can be?  If so, do you acknowledge this is a problem which needs to be dealt with?  Or do you have a “DVR” in your mind, recording the ways to rationalize away the need to make your family the highest priority behind your relationship with God?

When you allow something else to gain equal access to your family, your heart is divided.  As you try to serve both your family and your other desire, one will eventually rule over the other.

Matthew 6:24 says, “No one can serve two masters.  Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other….”

The key is making God your highest priority.  Once that is in place, the rest of your life will begin to line up like a row of dominos.  God doesn’t expect us to be perfect though. At times we will clumsily knock over a domino.  The trick is to bring this action to God and together you can stop the one domino from starting a chain-reaction and knocking away all the progress you have made.

Psalm 103: 13-14 says, “As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear (show reverence to) Him; for He knows how we are formed.  He remembers that we are dust.

We all struggle from time to time choosing to make the right decisions regarding the priorities in our lives.  Let’s remember what our most valuable treasures are.  On earth it is our family but God, like an umbrella, needs to cover every aspect of our lives.

Wherever your treasure is, there your heart and thoughts will also  be.”  Luke 12: 34