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Friday, September 28, 2012

Turn it off!

It’s important to spend time with your spouse but how do we find the time? Here’s a suggestion, turn it off. What is “it” that I am referring to? Anything that comes in between you or interrupts, or has the potential to interrupt, your time together. If you are in the car, even for a few minutes, turn off the radio. Don’t force a conversation but sincerely ask your spouse what they are thinking about or how they are feeling. If they don’t feel like just opening up immediately (which may often be the case) that’s okay. Leave the radio off and wait. Most likely nine times out of ten they’ll open up and begin talking. And WHAMMO! you have a conversation.

Another suggestion is to turn off your cell phones or take the landline off the hook. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been out to dinner with my wife or simply at home watching a movie and snuggling and the phone will ring. Sometimes I suspect that the world is conspiring against us because we’ll be in the middle of a great conversation or just got comfortable in front of the television and RING! So turn it off.

Close your laptop or put away your iPad or smartphone. How many times I have seen couples together that are miles apart. Each of them surfing the internet looking at different things every few minutes saying “huh” and the other goes “what?” and then they share and both go back to being apart. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this but if the goal is to spend time together this isn’t the way.

The next time you and your spouse are trying to spend time together, consider turning “it” off, whatever “it” is. You’ll actually get to spend time with each other, mentally as well as physically.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Doing the Dishes and Other Things

I was speaking with a friend yesterday about his workplace and he shared some of the conversations that go on there on a regular basis. The one that intrigued me the most was about two of his co-workers, both married, and their conversations about marriage. The younger individual hasn’t been married for very long and seeks the advice of the other because he has been married for several years. My friend related that he often overhears the advice that is given to this newly wed which at times makes him cringe. This got me thinking about marriage advice in general and how abysmal much of it is. After six years of marriage (which I recognize does not make me an expert) the best advice I have is two-fold: make sure your priorities are correct and remember the small and simple things.

The hierarchy of priorities in one’s life should be first, their relationship with God; second, their relationship with their spouse; third, their relationship with their children; fourth, providing for and taking care of their family; then everything else. When our relationships are arranged in this order we will be able to receive direction from God that helps us show love for our spouse and family and care for them. God will bless our relationships and efforts and our capacity to love and accomplish will be enhanced.

Remembering the small and simple things is critical to finding and maintaining happiness in our lives and marriages. Expressing gratitude, carrying out random acts of kindness, saying “l love you,” spending time with those we love, doing the dishes and other household chores; these are the kinds of things that are simple to do but make all the difference in our lives. The more we do these things the happier we will be and the more satisfying our relationships, including marriage, will be. It’s simple, do the small things often.

That’s my advice: keep your priorities straight and do the small and simple things. While that sounds simple doing it takes effort, constant effort, but it’s worth it.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

What an Endeavor

My wife and I have a young family. With three children under the age of five most days are quite hectic. My sweet wife also began babysitting another child, two years old, recently to provide our family with a few additional dollars each month. Let’s just say that some days are hard. Sometimes she feels like she is at the breaking point.

Being a young father trying to establish my career, provide for my family, and give back to the community my days aren’t always simple and fun either. Sometimes I feel like I am at the breaking point. 

Yesterday was one of those days for both of us. I came home for lunch frustrated and tired to an exhausted and stressed wife. I vented, then she vented, then we told the children they had to stay in the front room and we went back to our bedroom to talk through it. She teared up, I listened and comforted. I complained and she encouraged. By the end of it (slightly over my allotted hour for lunch) we felt better. We were smiling and laughing. Yet, nothing in our lives had changed.

As I reflected on this throughout the afternoon and evening I realized that life is easier, and just plain better, when we smile and laugh. Laughter seems to lessen life’s burdens and provides me strength. It diffuses tension and stress. Interestingly, some time after we were married, an older lady whom we consider a friend and who also happened to have been married for 15+ years told us that she didn’t worry about our marriage succeeding because we know how to laugh together. Families who laugh together stay together.

I am grateful that I can laugh. I am grateful that my wife can laugh. I am most grateful that we can laugh together. As long as we are laughing I know we’ll make it.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Marketing, Apple, and Marriage

Marketing has always been a weakness of mine. I look at people around me who seem to be good at marketing and sales and they appear to be self-confident, smart, exciting, maybe even a bit flashy. They know how to work a crowd and feel at home with strangers and friends alike. I, however, have never enjoyed being around strangers and do not feel “flashy” at all. I believe that I am self-confident and smart but that just doesn’t seem to be enough. I really struggled with this in high school because my best friend was definitely a salesman. All of the girls paid attention to him; sometimes I was even worried that my girlfriend liked him more than me. He was a huge flirt. 

Some of these concerns about whether I was exciting enough or “flashy” carried over into college. I tried to overcome this and be someone I wasn’t but it didn’t feel right. I was afraid that I might not have a chance with the girls because of it. What I learned, however, was that marketing is less about groups of people and more about one person. You don’t need a group of people to know who you are when you’re in the “dating game,” rather, you need each person in the group to know who you are. Marketing is about relationships, one-on-one relationships. That’s how I won over my wife. I was introduced to a group of young ladies, began to get to know them individually, and picked my wife from their midst. 

We can learn a lot about this from Apple. Just look what has been happening with the iPhone 5 the last few days. They have made it to the individual level. I bet you, like me, can think of someone who mentioned the iPhone 5 to you today.

Individuals, it’s what marketing is all about. How about helping me market this post? Go on, share it with your friends. Let’s pretend it’s the iPhone 5.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The World Famous San Diego Zoo

Last month I traveled with my family to San Diego to attend my little sister’s wedding. It was wonderful to spend a few days with family and get caught up with some old friends whose home we were able to stay at. We also got to go to the world famous San Diego Zoo. It was a ton of fun. My sons loved seeing all of the animals and I found myself getting caught up in their excitement, running from animal to animal and telling them all about each one. However, as the day wore on, I found my energy beginning to run low but realizing that we still had a lot to see. After another hour or two in the hot sun I found myself getting irritated by little things those around did or did not do, things that normally wouldn’t bother me at all. Finally, my wife and I had a little disagreement over whether one of the boys was too old to ride in the stroller and I snapped. I ended the discussion like a child and just walked away. Well, of course she was tired too and so she let me walk away (in fact she was probably thinking something like “what a little baby” as I walked away). It took me about five minutes to realize I had just disrespected the person that I care most about in the world and had walked away from her. Then, to top it all off, I was forced to accept that I was wrong and she was right and I now needed to apologize to her to make things right again. After that realization it was probably another five minutes before I mustered the courage to swallow my pride and walk back over to her and grovel for forgiveness. Thankfully she is a much better person than I am and she did not make me grovel, but she did agree with me that I was wrong. And I was.

This is one of the things that I love most about my relationship with my wife. We trust one another and we want to ensure that nothing damages that trust. We are quick to ask and extend forgiveness when it is needed. That takes humility and trust. Forgiveness, both asking for it and giving it, is necessary to enjoying uplifting love.

(The zoo was wonderful, by the way. If you ever get the chance to go, do)
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