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Call to Action

September 7th, 2017 . by maria

A friend shared an article about hate groups, and someone asked her what she’s doing about it. She answered that she’s praying about it. But she doesn’t have time in her life to go fight every battle.

Another friend shares Facebook posts against dog abuse. But these are only seen by her friends – who already agree with her. She does rescue and rehome dogs, but she’d like to get others to do more.

My employer started a new initiative about the Opioid Epidemic. They are focused on education, de-stigmatization, and on donating to sources that fund awareness campaigns. But this information will be directed mainly towards employees and their families.  Employees of our company, while not immune to this stuff, do already live a privileged life.

Awareness. Education. Engagement. A Voice. Rallies. An environment. Support. Conversation. A Cause. Petitions. De-stigmatization. Spreading information. Fundraisers. Donations. Bracelets and flags and bumper stickers.

All these things are great for reaching people in functioning families with reasonable and responsible lifestyles. People who watch TV, go to work, read flyers at the grocery store. And it does help some people. But the people who suffer the most, and the most often, don’t come from those backgrounds, or have been removed from them by death, divorce, disease, etc. They are in foster homes, abusive relationships, shelters, or just bouncing around. These people are so busy surviving – seriously, just figuring out when they’ll eat next, where to sleep, and how not to get beaten up. They are the ones most at risk for everything, but they aren’t in any position to hear what you’re spreading. And if they are engaging in risky activity, it’s most likely because everything in their life is at risk right now, and this thing – this thing that seems so bad to you – made one moment in their life easier. They fell into it because they finally felt accepted, or protected, or relieved.

If you are among the privileged group that has time in your life to complain, post, petition, etc. then please do more. Volunteer, donate, rescue, give, show up. Even $5. Even 30 minutes. Don’t just TALK about the problems – do something. Pick ONE thing that you CAN do something about and DO it. We can’t all fix everything, but we can all do something.  I know it’s easy to say that, so I put my money where my mouth is…not to brag, but to give some examples and go beyond talk. Below is a list of things I actually do. These may not be your favorites; you might even have criticisms about them. But these are the things I have chosen for me. You do you! But do something!

What I do (currently):

  • Protect Animals – Adopt from Shelters & Rescues, and Foster. None of our pets have been gotten from stores or breeders. We’ve fostered and rehomed a few pets over the years. We rescued and rehabilitated an abandoned and sick dog. Vet bills for rescues can get expensive, but it was the right thing to do.
  • Visit the Sick – Because I have a dog with lots of training, we got certified for Pet Therapy. We go to a local long-term care facility 30 minutes twice a week. The residents there miss their own pets, and love to see my dog. The Pet Therapy training was important to keep my dog safe, and I highly recommend it – there are a surprising number of hidden dangers in pet therapy.
  • Fight Homelessness – I have given diapers to Halifax Urban Ministries ($12), volunteered feeding the homeless (60 minutes on Sat afternoon), and even invited a homeless friend to live with us. (I wouldn’t necessarily make that offer to a homeless stranger, and even taking in a friend/family might be a stretch for some people, or even at some points in your life. But we were in a position where we could do it.)
  • Donate When Needed – Don’t just “Pray for X” when X happens. Research and find a charity that you believe operates with the values and integrity you require. Then, when something happens, donate to THAT charity. For me, this is Samaritan’s Purse (www.samaritanspurse.org). (Not getting into how or why to choose here – just choose one!) So now, when something happens, I don’t just post “Pray for X” on Facebook, I click the donate button and give what I can! Even if it is $5, or $15, or $50, it is something. And if I had $5 for every “Pray for X” I had ever seen…wow, I’d be SO rich.
  • Raise Responsible Children – that’s a whole series of essays right there, but it may be the MOST important thing you do…and the most rewarding. If you can give the world ONE LESS person who is addicted, or homeless, or mean…and instead ONE MORE person who is kind and safe and giving…that’s powerful!
  • Make it a Habit – We ALWAYS give Shoeboxes to Operation Christmas Child EVERY year. It’s become so much a part of the holiday tradition that it is celebratory to give this way.

There are SO many ways to volunteer, give, and share. And if you are reading this, guess what? You are better off than SO many people, and you have a RESPONSIBILITY to share.  But here’s something even better…God is asking you to share. It is more important to him than Not Sinning. Yes, really.  But don’t take my word for it. Read Matthew 25:31-46. Then, if you think that’s a fluke, look at all those postscripts in the verse – the ones that point to other verses – and read those. Even the Old Testament ones. It’s pretty consistent. Go. Do it. Give.

 

 

Sharing Fear on Facebook

June 5th, 2017 . by maria

Preface: I’m putting this over here on the blog instead of answering these posts directly on FaceBook because I have tried that before, and I don’t want those friends thinking I am picking on them constantly. But I need to get this off my chest:

GOD DOES NOT WANT US PARANOID AND AFRAID. He does not want us spending all our time looking for the boogeyman, checking under the bed, and leaving a light on in the closet. When you share or forward warnings, you THINK you are saving your friends. But if those warnings are outdated or false, you are planting fear where it doesn’t need to be. There are enough things to fear in this world, and we certainly should be fighting against all the ugliness and evil. But if you are spending more time, and more fb posts, on the negative, you are only amplifying the voice of fear!

2 Tim 1:7

So, what should I do when I want to share a warning on FaceBook ? I would like you to consider these key thoughts:

  1. Is it my calling to share this?
  2. Is it true?
  3. What do I ask of my audience?
  4. Can I make this positive instead?

You are thinking: “But wait – this sounds like a lot of work!” Informing people is a great responsibility, and it should only be undertaken if you are willing to do the work to be sure that what you are sharing is TRUTH. Because if it is not truth, what is it? So, let’s dig into these ideas and hopefully you’ll see that they are actually reasonable expectations.

Is it my calling to share this?

Don’t just think “people should know”, but ask if YOU specifically have a calling around this topic and a voice of authority in this area. Example: When my dog trainer shares an article about how flexy leashes are dangerous, I can trust that she has read it and understands the issues. She isn’t just trusting the headline. She has some knowledge and experience to back this up. On the flip side, she is not a computer expert, and would not be the best person to decide if the latest virus warning deserves my attention. (It might, or she could be wasting my time…I’d rather hear about malware from Bruce Schneier, because he’s only going to address the bad ones that my antivirus can’t stop, which are the only ones I need to worry about.)

Is it true?

Some internet warnings started out life based on a joke, a satirical article, a single incident from 5 years ago, or a personal vendetta – and have long since outlived their usefulness. Some are based on half-truths, or on something that is true only for X brand of product, or only an issue for people with Y condition. These are important things to note! Example: “fidget spinners can kill your child” is completely different than “some toys have lead in them”. Your friend whose child has benefitted from the spinner will be glad to know they don’t have to give them up completely, and all parents – even those who could care less about fidget spinners – need to be aware of lead poisoning potential in any toys from China.

It is helpful to do a web search on the key phrase from a warning, such as “gas pumps hiv needles”. See if a website you trust for news has covered the topic, and look for the important take-away on the subject. (That one was a hoax in June of 2000, but it is still in circulation.) Look for scientific research, personal experience stories (more than just one), etc.

Also check sites that specifically debunk articles. They often declare something a hoax long before it hits the media – if it ever does. Yes, many of these sites have particular political leanings. Even if the site’s editors are biased, if they include links to outside sources to prove/refute a claim, those sources can be valuable for getting more information.

So check news, hoax sites, and research-based articles. The more data you get, the more variety in your sources, the more accurate your conclusion will be. (Remember: one occurrence is not data, it’s an anecdote/anomaly.)

What do I ask of my audience?

Yes, you have an audience! And that should change the way you think about sharing stuff! Who is your audience on FaceBook? All your friends/followers.  Example: If you have toddlers, and most of your friends have kids that age, then “toddler parents” are your audience. So, it is easy to decide to share a post about defective sippy cups. And buying a different sippy cup isn’t much to ask. But it can be trickier to decide if you should share about hunger in Uganda. Yes, it’s happening…But what, exactly, do you want your friends to do about it, when they are trying to feed their own children? Is it something you have done? Is it realistic to expect your friends to pray/donate/protest/change their habits about ALL the things they see on FaceBook each week? Wouldn’t more focus create more impact?

Can I make this positive instead?

Knowledge about a problem is good, but knowledge about a solution is better. Sharing about a study showing that X creates autisim? Why not share a study that shows that Y is an effective learning tool for kids with autism. Don’t just share the “supplement is bad” headline article – tell your friends how easy it has been for YOU to grow the herb, and why that’s better than the supplement. If you want to call attention to a cause, you can’t just do it with negative information.

The constant negative posts only make it seem like a huge problem that can’t be solved. Eventually, your friends will think there’s no way THEY can make an impact, and begin to see your posts as paranoid and negative. But sharing positive research, realistic calls to action, and your OWN active involvement in the problem, helps to cultivate your authority on a subject. And that’s something your friends will listen to.

SUMMARY

If the claim passes ALL those tests, choose the most reliable and informed source and share that ALONG WITH your thoughts and actions on the subject. Sharing a NEW link is better than sharing the original facebook post, because your friends likely saw that one, and adding this one shows them there are multiple sources warning about this. They are more likely to pay attention. Adding your thoughts shows that you put some effort into the post, which should touch the heart of your friends. But if you can show them an action you have taken, they will see it as an action THEY could take as well, and THAT’s a way to share IMPACT, and not fear.

 

 

P.S. Debunking site links:

Below are some links to ‘debunking’ websites. Some of these sites have more of a tech focus (viruses and scam emails), some more of an urban legend focus (spider bites and slender man), and some have particular political leanings, so “pick your poison” as they say. But political bias is not a reason to rule out all fact checking. (i.e. “snopes has ties to…” does NOT equal “all fact checking is bad”) Having more information on a topic allows you to have more authority to prove or refute a claim.

Use the search function on one of these sites to find what you’re looking for. Also, check the homepage to see if the site is still being updated. (Some good hoax sites go dormant after a few years, when the editor burns out.)

Hoax-slayer.net, straightdope.com, truthorfiction.com, hoaxorfact.com, factcheck.org, urbanlegendsonline.com, thoughtco.com, and the ever-unpopular ‘because it is run by liberals nothing on it could possibly be accurate’ snopes.com .

 

The Fall of Rome

August 20th, 2013 . by maria

But, we love to think we’re secure. We love to believe that, no matter what, there will always be a safety net. We love to think that we deserve time off – we who spend hours a day on our computers or televisions or games or hobbies – we deserve a break from all this. But the truth is, no matter what plans and promises have been made, nothing is guaranteed, and the things you depend on will eventually fail. (You know this is true…you know people who have lost jobs, houses, marriages…) So, exercise your independence and ingenuity now, as much as you can, no matter what your situation. Be your own strength, and turn to God for the strength you lack. Enjoy your life, but don’t be lulled into thinking it can’t change; work to improve and sustain it daily.

Inspired by this quote:

“In the end, more than they wanted freedom, they wanted security. They wanted a comfortable life and they lost it all – security, comfort and freedom. When the Athenians finally wanted not to give to society, but for society to give to them; when the freedom they wished for most was the freedom from responsibility, then the Athenians ceased to be free.” – Edward Gibbon, Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire

Defending your Faith conference notes

March 15th, 2013 . by maria

A couple weeks ago we had a great conference at our church called “Defending Your Faith”. My oldest son and I were excited about it because the speaker (Ray Ciervo) had visited the church previously and spoken on Sunday, and we really enjoyed it. The conference was spread over 3 days, and included several break out sessions where you could choose which topic you wanted to learn about. I geeked out and took my netbook, so I could take copious notes. My son has since asked for a copy of my notes, and a friend of his wants a copy as well, so I decided to post them here. Actually I am going to post 3 things:

1. Teaser bullet points from my notes from Ray Ciervo’s original visit:

  1. Refute and Demolish strongholds & arguments
  2. Reason and Present Evidence (Acts 17:2-4)
  3. Adjust to your Audience: know what they beleive (Acts 17:23-30)
  4. Content: fight for our Faith (Jude 1:3)
  5. Always be Ready to Give a Defense (1 Peter 3:15)
  6. Certainty: So that you may knwo the exact truth (Luke 1:1, Acts 1:3)
  7. Pillar and Support of Truth (1 Timothy 3:15)
  8. Apologetics (2 Corinthians 10:3-5)

2. Full pdf of my notes from all 3 days – organized and made all pretty. I even pulled in the full text of each quoted Bible verse, and put these in a special font. I also looked up the full and correct name and spelling of each book and author. Book recommendations for each section are also called out in a box. Where I wasn’t sure on something, I noted it. Where something was my own thought, I noted that and changed the font, so you can tell. Enjoy! DefendingYourFaith-ECC-20130301

3. Link to the ministries’ website where you can listen/download/app the podcast/mp3s of all the sessions, including the breakouts we didn’t choose so they aren’t in my notes. In case other things have been posted after, and you don’t see them at the top, You are looking for the items on 3/1, 3/2, and 3/3/2013 or titled “Apologetics Conference 2013”:
http://www.harvestnetinc.com/446185.ihtml

breaking stagnancy

January 24th, 2010 . by maria

I’ve had a certain phrase on my mind for the last few days: “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good”. (I picked it up from Gretchen, at The Happiness Project.) This phrase has helped get me moving in a variety of areas.

At work, there was a project our group has wanted to do for years. We never did on it, because we felt it had to be done a certain way. Recently, we had an urgent need to create something similar, so we included an ‘imperfect’ version of our idea as well. Now, something that SHOULD have been done years ago will be done. It won’t be perfect, but it will be a lot better than it was…when it wasn’t done at all.

Since moving to PA, I’ve been … inconsistent…about attending church. The problem, I always said, was that none of the churches I visited felt like home. Applying the “don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good” rule, my kids and I picked one of these imperfect churches and went this morning. Sure, it wasn’t ‘like home’, but at least we went. The kids agreed it wasn’t so bad, even a little fun, and we’re planning on going every Sunday from now on.

Scrapbooking. I have several years worth of pictures waiting to go into scrapbooks. I have tons of scrapbook materials, and received a bunch of albums for Christmas. The problem is…I can’t afford to print all those pictures yet. So, I printed pages with thumbnails of all the pictures (Windows Picture and Fax Viewer). Using these to guide me as to what pages I need, I am making the albums without the pictures. I will get a few pictures printed at a time and go back and fill in the albums as I can. They won’t be done right away, but it is more progress than I would make by waiting until I can get all the pictures printed…and it gives me an incentive to get them printed!

Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. (Or: better done good, than not done perfectly.) It is a phrase that is breaking me through stagnation in a number of areas. It pops into my head all the time now, and I’m sure it will continue to be a phrase of growth for me. It might even get me to blog more often!

nature poetry

January 19th, 2010 . by maria

I don’t know if it was the reappearance of the sun, or the slightly warmer day, but on my drive to work this morning, I wrote two poems:

Haiku:

two metal towers:
our local economy…
found in corn silos

Free form:

Tan fields of corn stalks cut down for winter
Brown hills dotted with white homes and churches
Purple mountains, low but majestic
Pink and gray clouds scuttling along the bottom of a bright blue sky
This is the landscape I see on my way to work

Avatar the movie

December 31st, 2009 . by maria

We saw the movie Avatar last night. Let me get the obligatory things out of the way:
1. If you go to the movies over the holidays, expect it to be BUSY. We arrived early, and still couldn’t get 4 seats together. I’ve never seen it so full!
2. The graphics were AMAZING. It was impossible to tell what was real/costume/CGI. (Except that obviously floating moutains aren’t real, so they must be CGI.)
3. We saw it in 2D. No funky glasses. It was so beautiful, I can only imagine that the 3D would have actually detracted from the experience.

Yes, there was a little bit of a message about protecting the environment, but the story didn’t revolve around that. The indiginous people are portrayed in a slightly stereotyped way. If you’ve ever watched NatGeo, you’ll recognize some of the ‘tribal wear’, some portions of their ceremonies, etc. But I believe that was the filmmaker’s shortcut to explaining their culture, and none of it was negative or derogatory or made them look stupid. And, of course, there was plenty of sci-fi tech and graphical eye candy and beautiful scenery and a love story – a little bit of something for everyone.

The movie made an impression on every member of our family. We all had the sense that we weren’t ready for it to end…we wanted to crawl back into the story and explore the place some more. We wanted more time to process it…there was so much beauty, so many messages.

The turning point in the movie is when Jake’s digital diary reveals to the other main characters what he has discovered about their prospect of bargaining with the Na’vi. He says “There isn’t anything of ours they want, or need.” And it is true, for the Na’vi have a direct pipeline to God. Their needs are provided for, they live in balance, they respect each other and their world, and they communicate with God. (They don’t have medicine and roads and technology and committees and science, but they don’t need them.) Jake experiences this as he lives with them, joins them in it, and even prays and has his prayer answered. The message here, at least the one that has struck me, is more about the Na’vi’s experience of God. It is the very picture of how our church should be – in direct contact with God, treasuring that contact, appealing to it, respecting it. And the result is that anyone who spends any time with the Na’vi, comes to want what the Na’vi have. This is the effect our church should have. Jake is told he is special and chosen. He is paired with a mentor. The mentor takes time to understand who Jake really is, and what his gifts are. He is taught their way of living by experiencing it, is tested, and is invited when he is ready to join. Eventually, he comes to be a leader. Is this the experience people have joining your church?

When people look at you, at your church, do they have the sense that you have everything you could need or want…and does it make them want to have what you have?

mixed feelings

December 10th, 2007 . by maria

This time of year is always full of mixed feelings. Don’t get me wrong – I am about the most Christmas-spirited person there is. I love decorating. I love singing ye olde carols. I love crafting gifts, buying gifts – the whole process of really thinking about someone and trying to come up with something (you can afford) which will tickle their fancy. I love visiting with people. I love the time off work. I even love preparing for company and having a cookie party. The mixed feelings come in because of the pressures – pressure to get things done, to fit in extra activities, to spend money, to have the house more presentable than usual, etc.

Cards: I have a huge extended family on my mother’s side. She was one of six children. I love every one of them. I don’t want to leave anyone out. But I decided a few years ago that the cutoff had to be three generations. (ie I give to my grandparents, parents/aunts/uncles, and cousins. I don’t give to my cousin’s children, grandma’s aunt, etc.) Once I add in my husband’s family, a few friends, and my coworkers, I end up with about 50 people to make cards for. Plus, Alex has about 75 customers. That’s a lot of cards, whether you buy them or make them. I like making them, and on years when the budget is low – like this year – I make them.

Cookies & Birthdays: My DH asked me last night why I insist on having a cookie party. It started a few years ago when I discovered his mother’s aunt had a December birthday the day before mine, and that neither of us had had a birthday party in, like, years. So I decided that if no one would throw us a party, I’d throw a party. And since I love making cookies this time of year to give as gifts, but have trouble finding time to make them, I’d make it a cookie-baking party. It’s a fun time for women of all ages to squeeze into my little kitchen/dining room for a few hours of chatter and emerge with cookies to justify their time. I’m there making the cookies anyway. I might as well have someone to talk to, which is really what every woman wants most.

Work: It’s also a tough time at work. It’s a time when a lot of projects get finished up. That’s awesome. But it’s also a time when anything that can’t be wrapped up before the holiday gets pushed aside. That’s a bummer. The closer you get to the holidays, the emptier the work plate becomes. I’ve just completed a rollout of a DEMO of Instant Messaging for my employer. (Lotus Sametime running with our other Domino/Lotus Notes servers. It’s awesome. We’re loving it. For the users, it was like “set your password and away you go”. There was more prep work on my end than that, but overall not too bad. A little more than, say, the email-to-fax or enabling ldap or something. ) However, there are a handful of things that are making no progress whatsoever, and that’s too bad.

UPDATE: It looks like I’m not the only one who has projects get pushed off until after the holidays:

Atlantis to Launch No Earlier Than Sunday
Dec 07, 2007 05:00:00 GMT
Targeted launch time is 3:21 p.m. EST.

Atlantis to Launch Sunday
Dec 08, 2007 05:00:00 GMT
Shuttle will take the European Columbus lab to the space station.

NASA Postpones Shuttle Atlantis Launch
Dec 09, 2007 05:00:00 GMT
NASA delayed Sunday’s scheduled launch of space shuttle Atlantis after a failure occurred in a fuel sensor system.

NASA Targets Space Shuttle Atlantis Launch on Jan. 2
Dec 09, 2007 05:00:00 GMT
Space shuttle Atlantis’ STS-122 mission to the ISS now is targeted to launch no earlier than Jan. 2 from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.

Gifts: Like I said, I LOVE giving gifts. But, you always wish you had a little more time or money so you could give the “perfect” thing. I’ve got a few people who will probably get their ‘perfect thing’ next year, and their ‘good but not perfect’ thing this year, because of budgetary constraints…and time constraints. I’m a very thrifty shopper and a creative thinker and a crafter. I have to think that makes budgeting easier. But it makes actual gifting more challenging! I know someone who can give a really cute set of tea towels or really nice expensive wool socks, and be happy with that. Not me. If I gave tea towels, I’d have to embroider them myself with your name or your favorite animal/symbol/saying, and wrap them on a tea tray with a pretty mug and bags of your favorite tea. If I give wool socks, it’ll probably be because I learned how to knit, or because they’re in a gift basket with a foot massager and lotion – but only because if said your feet were really bothering you lately, or because they were on your list.

But don’t go thinking that my perfectionist tendencies are the problem. I’ve learned from Flylady.net that I have to accept “done good enough” sometimes over “not done because it wasn’t good enough”. If you can’t tell that from the above, you should know that there are tons of other things I’d like to do around Christmas that I don’t. I’d like to be in a choir again, like I was in school. I’d like to take the kids caroling from the back of a hay truck. (They’d hate it.) I’d like to put on a Christmas pageant. I’d like to have something really awesome to give to my DH, who is getting to that stage of fatherhood where he says not to get him anything because if he needed it, he’d buy it himself. And I’d like to do something really special to acknowledge or help so many others… And that’s just the list of things I think that I actually COULD pull off, if I really had my act together. In my dream world, there’s also plenty of time and money to give something modest but special to the mailman and my coworkers and DH’s customers. I’d like to make really awesome quilts to give as presents. Plus spend time sipping cocoa in front of the woodstove with a good book while snow falls with a feeling of peace because everything got done. Ummm…that would be nice. But it’ll have to wait until January.

little crystal asterisks

December 7th, 2007 . by maria

I’m so glad I went out at lunchtime.

I called and checked in with my husband. He said “You know it’s snowing really bad right now. It’ll probably be slippery.” But, I had to go down to the thrift store to see if I could pick up some (undisclosed supplies) so I can work on the (undisclosed gifts) I am hoping to finish up this weekend. Besides, it was all main roads with 25mph speed limits between here and there, so I knew I’d be Ok – and I was fine. I found the things which I think will work, plus a few other things. But here’s why I’m glad I ventured out over my lunch hour:

* A snowflake landed on my eyelash before I could get into the car.

* Big fluffy flakes that make everything seem silent and peaceful.

* Stopping at a stop light, I looked at a big brick building and saw the white fluffy flakes silhoutted against the brick. Why do they seem random, yet patterned, at the same time? And they were so big and slow that you could watch an individual flake go from the top of the building to the ground.

* Driving along, the big flakes coming towards my windshield seemed like perfect miniatures of the paper ones we made as children.

* At the next light, I focused my eyes on my windshield, and was treated to hundreds of little crystal asterisks appearing and then melting.

I know why people complain about the cold and ice and such. But I’m SO glad I was able to appreciate the beauty of today’s snow.

The Rules of Marriage

November 19th, 2007 . by maria

In response to some recent articles I’ve seen, and thinking about some people around us who might could use some advice now and in the future, I present the rules of marriage.

Life isn’t fair. This isn’t the 1950s with the woman as a slave/homemaker getting the man’s slippers. But, if you subscribe to the modernist thought that things are 50/50 you’re bound to be disappointed. You’ll be keeping score and constantly coming up short – and so will your partner. That’s because to me, running the vacuum is an awful chore that rates at least a -10, but to my husband the least I could do is run the vacuum and it rates about -1. I’m willing to do cat litter and laundry every day if I can get someone else to vacuum. On the other hand, when it comes time to remodel, I’ll paint every surface of the house, and my husband can’t stand painting. Neither of us like to balance checkbooks and pay bills, but I’m the least likely to freak out while doing so, so it became my job. The first year (or 7) of your marriage will be spent figuring out what ranks highest on each other’s “pain scale”, and dividing up the chore list in a way that works. Don’t get it into your head that things will be fair. Instead, work out a balance that you can both live with.
Decide what is important to you. Do you plan on having children? Dogs? Living in the city or country? Driving new or used cars? What kinds of vacations and how often and with whom. What to do with your free time. (Do you like to spend time at home, or will you fill every evening coaching little league, playing bball with the guys, and stopping a tthe bar on your way home?) What you are, and are not, willing to do to finance all these plans. I’m not talking dreams about your life, but what scenarios would NOT work for you? It is unlikely everything will go according to your plan. However, if you know what you REALLY want, you can take steps to work towards it. And what you really DON’T want, you can take evasive action. But, more importantly, if you find out that your fondest plan is your spouse’s worst nightmare, you can draft a new plan that you both can live with. You wouldn’t want to find that out AFTER you bought the dog/crib/condo, right?
Use your own yardstick. Don’t measure your relationship against someone else’s. What works for you, works. Don’t worry if it is not what works for someone else. My MIL and FIL are joined at the hip. They have even been known to dress alike. While I think that’s all cute, and sometimes I think I’d like that, I admit that I’d lose some respect for my DH if he allowed me to dress him. And that he’d drive me crazy if we spent EVERY night in each other’s company. It doesn’t mean that our relationship isn’t as good as theirs. We’re just different. The same goes for cleaning, finances, yardwork, children, etc.Familes have their own culture. I’ve heard that in certain cultures, pointing your index finger at someone is similar to what we mean when we point our middle finger in the air. It’s a cultural difference that you better learn if you don’t want to look like a jerk. Similarly, families have “cultures” of their own. Your wife’s family had a certain way they celebrated Christmas when she was growing up, certain things they did on Sunday afternoons, certain “inside jokes”, and even certain blind spots to certain family member’s problems. Your family has their fair share of these things too. Some of these will be obvious, and others won’t. Try to figure out what are the important traditions and touchy hotspots, and treat them appropriately. Even if you don’t know going into things what these are, if you know to look for them, you’re better off. It’s kind of like if you forget what fork to use at a fancy dinner, so you watch to see what everyone else does. If you’re ever confused, or offended by something, look to your spouse as an interpreter. Treat times with your wife’s family like that, and you won’t go wrong.

It is NOT all about you. Your husband’s bad mood might be a sugar low, or an argument with a friend. Your wife is supposed to spend 99.9% of her time with the new baby.When your wife visits her family, it is not to take a vacation with you. Your kids are supposed to get all the presents at Christmas and birthdays, and you’re lucky if they remember yours. On days that you resent these changes, remember that your spouse feels the same way. Do what you can to change it, and someday they’ll return the favor.

It IS all about you (plural). Gone are the days when what you did only affected you, and only reflected on you. If you leave dirty socks on your bedroom floor, you’ve essentially just tossed a dirty sock onto your wife’s bedroom floor. You wouldn’t have done that when you were dating, would you? If you fail to open the door for your wife, you aren’t just being lazy, you’re showing her friends that she has a thoughtless husband. Likewise, wives, if he goes to work dressed badly because you didn’t have the laundry done, it reflects poorly on both of you. Did you ever work one of those jobs where they said “remember that when you’re wearing our uniform, you’re representing our company”? Well, 24/7 you are representing your family, so don’t do anything that wouldn’t represent well. But more importantly, remember that what you do or say reflects how you feel about your spouse.

Be honest, but be flexible. Tell your spouse when something bothers you. But be able to get over the little things. Recognize the things that are important to his heart, his sanity, his self esteem. Find ways to allow him to have those things without crushing yours. Find ways to let him know what’s bothering you that acknowledge the fact that YOU are the one feeling insecure/inadequate.

And Finally…

The grass is not greener elsewhere – you just aren’t seeing it as closely. It’s so easy when you’re having trouble making things work to think that things would be better with someone else, or even by yourself. But it isn’t true. Here are some reasons why:

If there were things you didn’t know about your spouse that now make you dislike him, don’t you think the same might be true of others? Even if you make sure you don’t have the SAME blind spot, you’ll probably find out you overlooked something else.
Separation is just adding to the problems, not subtracting from them. Once you are married (and especially if you have children), you will always have a relationship with that person. If you separate and take up with someone else, you now have TWO relationships/families to deal with. NOT easier. Just different problems. Are you SURE the problems you are having now are bad enough that you want to make your life that much more complicated? Remember, you’ll still have to deal with your “X”, you just won’t have to live with him/her, and the bargaining chips will be different. Even if you separate just to be “by yourself” for a while, and end up back together, it will always be a sore spot between you. Better to spend the time hashing things out, if possible.
It takes two people to have an argument. You were one of those people, and no matter where you go you will still be you. Take a good look at yourself and see if perhaps you aren’t the problem – or at least part of it.
You’ve gotten this far. There are already a lot of things you’ve found out, worked out, shared, and worked through. Do you really want to throw all that away? Do you really want to go through all that again with someone else?

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