Oregon Caves

30 10 2013

Inside Formations

Inside Formations

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One scary Stalagtite

One scary Stalactite

 

Outside Beauty

Outside Beauty

 

 

 

 

 

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Date Night

28 10 2013

Or Not

Spritzing on the body spray, I take one last look in the full-length mirror. Oh, forgot earrings. Back a few steps and locate the perfect pair to complement my outfit.

Dressing up for a night on the town happens rather rarely in the life of this lady. After 25 years of marriage, what’s the point?

First of all, I like to dress up and go out. Yes, even if it’s just dinner and a movie, I’ll still put on something special and dedicate extra attention to my hair and makeup.

Rewind 30 years. What was all the hype about dates back then? If you say it was about catching a guy, I’m sad for you.

It was an opportunity to get to know each other. Maybe we just wanted to have fun.

In my mind, those dates were an opportunity for a guy to show me that I was valued. He spent time deciding where to go, maybe making reservations. Over dinner, conversation about mutual interests flowed (or if it was all about him, there was no second date).

On the flip side, I showed my appreciation for his efforts by complimenting him. Nerves and expectations juxtaposed to make every moment like skating on thin ice. Who knows what will make it crack? The freeze follows.

I suppose the men don’t want to date us once we’re married because they don’t want the hassle. They ask what we want to do and we say, “Whatever you want is fine with me.”

Thin ice.

I know my husband values me. He washes and vacuums my car and makes sure it’s in perfect running condition. Planning a date night – not so much.

I think we should take the pressure off.  How? Get rid of expectations.

Recently, my husband took me to dinner at a restaurant about 30 minutes from home. I spent 30 minutes or so choosing an outfit, flat-ironing my hair and putting on makeup. Yes, I even added a spritz – or four – of Heavenly and a pair of corresponding earrings.

He threw out two options. I told him to choose. I didn’t bring up the subject again. No expectations. How can he make the wrong choice? Of course, if either of the options were less than appealing, I should have made the decision. If I leave it up to him, I have no recourse. Translation: sit down and shut up.

I suggested a walk around the mall across the street after dinner. It was mostly deserted. We bought two things. The dinner was three times as much as the mall purchases.

After driving home, I threw my sweats on and we watched a movie in our bonus room. I say it was a successful date night. Why? Because we relaxed our expectations for the good of the outing.

We’ve been married for too long for him to have experienced any nervousness. He probably didn’t even consider a good night kiss. Until he was next to me in bed, that is.

Are you a proponent of date nights for committed couples? What suggestions do you have to make them more effortless (without seeming devalued)?





Keeping up with The Joneses: Not worth the Price

25 10 2013

 

American companies bombard us with messages compelling us to buy a new car, a bigger home, sparkling jewelry and fashionable clothes. Even sit-coms of “typical” families show people with incredible homes wearing designer clothing.

Capitalism has become synonymous with commercialism. So much for freedom; life in this “buy more to be better” world becomes a competition. Rather than choosing to save for a vacation or give to charity, this mental terrorism pushes us to spend and overspend.

In her blog, Karen Schelhaas noted: “The initial buzz of a new shirt or a sparkly pair of shoes is indeed that – a buzz. Like a good cocktail, it makes us feel warm and fuzzy and noticeable. But in the end, it loses its thrill and needs refilling, which can get expensive for the soul as well as the pocketbook.”

Did you notice how buying is like a drug? We get a temporary sense of fulfillment but then we see our neighbor drive up in a 2014 Lexus 400h (my dream car, insert yours to make it more meaningful) and the buzz is gone.

Image courtesy of Edmunds.com

Can we truly blame the media for our compulsion to spend money on things we don’t really need?

I try not to play the blame game. Sure, we can point our fingers at advertisements and materialistic celebrities, but the truth lies in the other direction. Self.

We must take responsibility for our own priorities in life. If money is all-important, we need to ask ourselves why. If public opinion matters more than private contentment, time for self-evaluation is long overdue.

Why do we want a new car when our friends buy one? Why does that million dollar home seem more appealing than the one we live in now? (Ever stop to think what the property tax bill would be on that home? How long would it take to clean such a monster?)

Our focus gets jaded by the constant sensory input from the world around us. We hear the wealthy man is unhappy but we’re sure if we had all that money, we would finally arrive at happiness.

The grass is always greener on the other side of the street. Of course, green grass needs to be mowed more frequently. What’s under the surface? It could be a septic drain field.

Contentment is the key to ignoring the race of one-upmanship defining so much of society. The American Dream defined by having every material possession you can imagine and plenty of money in the bank to assure the same tomorrow translates into a nightmare.

There is never enough stuff. We must seek our peace of mind and definition of success in another venue. I say look inside the house instead of at the driveway and landscaped yard.

Do we have supportive relationships in our home? Open communication and freedom to be who we are with our spouse offers more happiness than any new car we could drive.

Look to our children. Are we nurturing them or driving them to seek contentment in materialism? They see us. They hear our conversations. If renting movies and baking pizza at home on Friday night builds a tradition of togetherness, they will understand family isn’t about how much money we spend.

Life is about relationships. Money will never buy a happy, lasting relationship. What sort of family life resides in that million dollar home? We don’t need to know. What we need to do is find contentment where we live now.

If we can relish life in a cramped two-bedroom apartment with cardboard boxes for chairs while sleeping on a mattress on the floor, we can make it anywhere.

Have contentment. Will travel.





Yellowstone Vistas

23 10 2013

Lake Yellowstone

Lake Yellowstone

DSC_0054_507





Successful Parenting Outcomes

21 10 2013

Daddy and newborn son

Daddy and newborn son

Recently, four women sat around discussing childbirth. Once you’ve experienced that moment (or those long, arduous hours), there is no going back to the forgetful bliss of beforehand.

Not one of us would willingly exchange our children to avoid the pain. Little did we know, the delivery suite adventure was not the peak of our pain. It was only the beginning.

The real work begins when you have a dependent bundle of tears, wails and excrement that relies on you for everything. A deep sigh of relief doesn’t come when they can finally walk and feed themselves. No, there is more they need to learn. And you are the teacher.

I would have never made it past the first three years of my sons’ lives without the wisdom of my sister. She was a walking talking parenting manual. Later, I would be thankful that my husband had the patience to teach our Velcro-reliant son to tie his shoes and both of those boys to drive (yeah, I gasp and grip the door handle when my husband’s driving so I didn’t have the capacity for that stress).

Only now am I fully able to look at my sons and reflect upon my parenting successes. In the midst of it, the failures immediately announce themselves. We hustle to adjust and change our strategy. If it doesn’t seem to fall apart, perhaps we’re heading our children in the right direction.

Hours of Labor - All Grown Up

Hours of Labor – All Grown Up

The truth of this desire to see our children succeed in more than athletics and scholarship became apparent to me recently.

First, I read this great article by Karen Schelhaas, who restricted unnecessary spending for one year. “The unexpected highlight of the experiment came when I offered to buy my 12-year-old daughter a black shirt at a store, and she responded with “Mom, I already have a black shirt. I don’t need another one.”   That’s right, babe. You don’t.”

My eldest son graduated college but has only landed a couple interviews which netted no job offers. I realize that our emphasis on education placed him in this position, but the ugly state of the economy keeps him from shining forth.

Did we fail him? I don’t think so. Life is ugly at times. We can make all the right choices and still end up unemployed.

Our opportunities to teach don’t end once our kids graduate and move away. Our example,  a megaphone, announces our ideals and convictions.

Hard work pays off. Keep working to find a job and eventually you will land one. Don’t expect your first job to be your dream job; see how many jobs Dad and I have had?

How do you judge the success of your parenting? Is it even right to have a barometer in this arena? Maybe you think it puts too much pressure on the kids. Let’s talk about it.





Ladies Retreat

18 10 2013

Seven Women in Seaside

Seven Women in Seaside

Last August, I asked the question “what is a retreat?” in hopes of generating a glut of comments on my blog.

I hoped for five. I netted one (which was actually a pingback to my own blog). What did I do wrong?

I think I asked the wrong question. In any case, I decided to share my retreat experiences in this forum one more time (yeah, if you believe this will be the last time, I have some swampland in Columbia County).

It began in May when our small group of women at church decided we didn’t have the manpower woman-power necessary to host the annual state-wide ladies’ retreat at Crystal Springs campground.

It would be nice for our core group of women to spend some quality time together. We talked and shared. One woman notified the campground that we wouldn’t be able to host. Bummer.

Enter my mother. She asked if we thought a Monday through Wednesday early in October would work in our schedules. Sure. Why not?

She called her timeshare reservations department and booked two three-bedroom condos. The next week, she announced to all of us that a place had been secured, these are the dates and we better start planning it.

Sometimes, we need just that sort of foot in our hinder parts to get us started in the right direction.

Image from puzzlepuzzles.com

Bad news for me: Everyone looked at me and asked, “Can you prepare a program?” You see, the whole idea to host the retreat in the first place had been mine.

“Uh, sure,” I respond. Internal conversation: “Please, God, you’ve got to help me with this. I have no clue what we should do.”

God is good. By August, I knew the lessons would be about encouragement and I knew our activity would involve writing cards to each other.

The week before I headed off to Hawaii, I sat down with my Bible, concordance and a spiral notebook and begin outlining the lessons.  I wrote out a proposed schedule for the three days.

You know what happens when you make a plan, right? It’s like a double-dare to the Devil. He jumps in and tries to make a mess of the whole thing.

We got rooms on different floors. The resort is worse than a rat maze without cheese. People over a certain age either don’t carry cell phones or don’t answer the phones they carry (I was going to say perhaps they can’t hear them ring, but I’m probably in enough trouble already).

None of it mattered in the end. The lessons seemed to encourage everyone. (Awesome! Since it was an Encouraging Escapade, anything less would be a bummer.)

Schedules work more as a guideline. All four lessons were shared and the prayer partner rotation eventually made its rounds.

Shopping and beach combing found its way into the mix. Some of us even got to put mud on our faces followed by anti-aging products galore. Ah, youth reclaimed!

In the end, we all decided we wanted a repeat. Well, we wanted all the ladies from our church to join us, so it wouldn’t be an exact duplicate. We felt refreshed (even though we were yawning), relaxed and closer together than ever.

Do you think you can experience the same rejuvenating and uniting effects without leaving home? How can we find a “retreat” amidst the demands of daily life?





Proud to be an American

16 10 2013

Reflecting Pool

Reflecting Pool

U.S. Capitol

U.S. Capitol








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