Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Each Day is a Gift

A couple of weeks ago a dear friend of our family passed away very suddenly. I watched as her husband and two daughters grieved their loss. It really made me think about the reality that we are not guaranteed tomorrow. All too often I think I and probably others assume there is always tomorrow to make things right or to say I love you.

The other night my daughter and I were having a conversation about this. I shared with her that what happened to this family is exactly why I think it is important that no matter what has gone on between us that our family parts for the day on a good note. It would be a pretty hard pill to swallow if my last words to my child or my spouse were harsh ones.

As 2009 is knocking at my door, I am thinking about the things I want to focus on in the new year. One thing for sure is making certain that I don't take for granted the time I have with my family and the opportunity I have to make every goodbye or good night count.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

What Not to Buy Your Wife for Christmas

This is the time of year when many husbands break out in a cold sweat trying to figure out just the right gift to give their wife so they won’t end up in the doghouse. To help you men out a bit, I conducted an informal survey asking women what their husbands should NOT give them for Christmas. Some of the items mentioned were: a vacuum cleaner, an ice crusher, tools, a low-calorie cookbook, anything that plugs in, air conditioner vents and dish towels.

The clock is ticking and Christmas will be here before you know it. Now that you know a few of the things you should not purchase, how do you know what would be a great gift?

Be a good understudy to your wife. Listen carefully to what she says. Pay attention to the things she enjoys and the way she spends her time. Does she like to cook, garden, sew, read, knit, go to the movies, or ride bikes? You might even try asking her to give you a list of things she would like for Christmas. (NOTE: Wives, if your husband asks you to make a list of things you would like for Christmas, please do it. Don’t respond with, “If you don’t know what to buy me for Christmas, I am certainly not going to tell you.”) Men, with a little investigative work you can uncover some helpful hints that will guide you in your gift buying.

When asked what they would like for Christmas from their husbands, here are some of the things the wives said:

Women like to be pampered, so consider a gift certificate for a massage or a pedicure.

It is nice to have a break from cooking every so often. What about either making plans to take the children out to dinner one evening allowing your wife to stay at home in peace and quite and/or purchasing a gift certificate and taking her on a date to her favorite restaurant or on a romantic getaway?

Does your wife have a hobby? For instance, if she enjoys cooking and trying new recipes you might buy her a gift certificate to a cooking class – they even offer couples cooking classes.

A rule of thumb that you might want to consider is, if it is practical, don’t buy it. It isn’t something that should be given as a gift.

If all else fails and you are still at a loss it isn’t against the rules to ask her to accompany you on a shopping spree to find the perfect gift.

For more holiday survival tips visit firstthings.org

Monday, December 15, 2008

Leaving a Legacy

This weekend we traveled to Maryville, Tennessee to attend the funeral of my husband's uncle. While it was definitely a celebration of his life, it was clearly a sad day for family and friends alike. Curtis was an amazing man who never met a stranger. In fact, if you knew him you were considered family and treated that way.

As I was sitting at the funeral I was thinking about how difficult this Christmas will be for his two girls, their spouses and the grandkids. My heart was heavy as I watched them mourning. Curtis and his wife, Martha Ann, gave this family a wonderful legacy and MANY great memories.

I know we are all probably pretty busy with Christmas preparations, but I pray that none of us forget that one of the greatest gifts we can give our kids is our constant presence in their lives and something to live up to after we are gone.

While speaking at the funeral, my husband charged the grandkids to pay attention to the way Curtis lived his life and to understand that part of living out his legacy is learning how to pass it on.

It made me think about the legacy I hope we are passing on to our daughter - one of giving to others, being authentic, loving each other well....even on the bad days and making others feel like family to name a few. Maybe I will ask her and see what she says.....

What is the legacy you hope to pass on to your kids and grandkids?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Serving Military Families

I have several friends who have a spouse in the military. It has made me think about how appreciative I am that they are willing to serve, but it makes me very sad that these families will celebrate Christmas without their mom, dad, wife or husband. As I was talking with one of my friends, I asked her what we could do to be supportive. I thought I would pass along a few of the suggestions she gave me.

  • Take the children for a few hours to give respite to the parent.
  • Say thank you. These families make a significant sacrifice on behalf of our country. To acknowledge this to the families is huge.
  • Include the sons of deployed dads in your father/son activities - they get tired of being stuck with just the girls. Same thing for daughters if the Mom is the military member.
  • Organize meals just like you would for a new baby - set one night a week aside to deliver food to the family.
  • Have your whole block show tie yellow ribbons around trees to help everyone remember their deployed neighbor.
  • Check on the family regularly. The spouse left behind needs to know that another grown up is around even if they don't need anything.
  • Invite the family along on outings with your family even if it's just for a quick ice cream.

  • Think about chores dads do - help with the garbage cans each week or offer to change the oil in the car. Help with the window air conditioners or just getting the Christmas tree into the house.
  • Write letters to the deployed soldier letting him/her know you are watching over their family.

This is a great time of year to make a commitment to year round service to military families.

What will you and your family do to make this Christmas and 2009 a better year for a military family you know?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

A House Divided

I am struck by the fact that more than one million children, young and older, each year find themselves in the precarious situation, after their parents’ divorce, of feeling like they have to choose one parent over the other. While many anticipate the holidays as a time of celebration, being together as a family, exchanging gifts and creating wonderful memories, children of divorce often have bittersweet feelings as this time of year seems to magnify the reality of their situation.
Elizabeth Einstein, National Stepfamily Educator and author of Strengthening Your Stepfamily, says there are no easy answers, but there are some things adult children of divorce can do to make the holidays easier.

Plan ahead – This is key to getting the holidays off to the right start. There are no rules that say you must visit everyone in the same day. Consider rotating holidays with each family or celebrating on a day other than the designated holiday. Planning in advance also gives family members time to deal with the change.

Have realistic expectations – Expecting the holidays to be as they once were is unrealistic. Temper your dreams with reality. Remember, you can’t please everyone all the time and there are no perfect families. If you try to do everything, the potential for exhaustion, resentment and hurt feelings is high.

Create your own holiday traditions – Create your own way of celebrating the holidays. Maybe you could host an annual get together with friends or attend a special worship service.

Boundaries – Everybody wants some of your time. It is up to you to set boundaries. Be clear about what you will and won’t do.

Ask for support from friends during this time – Find someone in a similar situation who can empathize with you and help you find some creative ways to celebrate.

Be nice to yourself - Make time for a walk, a leisurely gift wrapping session, and doing things you wouldn’t normally do. Where the whole season is about rush, rush, rush, make yours about calm, calm, calm.

For those who feel their loyalty must be divided around the holidays, focusing on the true meaning of the holiday can make it more meaningful. The season is not about presents or rushing around to different houses. It is about love, remembering the good times you’ve had in the past, and creating new memories with the ones you care about. The stress may not always disappear, but it can be more manageable if you have a plan you can execute with confidence and creativity.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Families on the Run

This past Saturday First Things First held Families on the Run. When I got up at 4:30 in the morning I could tell it was cold outside - and then I went outside. Oh Boy! Cold would be an understatement. We had right at 500 people registered to run. When we got to the starting line - clearly people had either decided the warm bed was just too good to get out of or they waited until the very last minute to come out which meant we started a little late. In spite of the cold we still had 300 people including lots of families participate. We got the 5k, 10k and Santa Stroll going and then the fun really started. It was so cold our timing machines kept freezing up. When we got them thawed out and working again the ink in the the machine froze. As a back up we were writing out times as people crossed the finish line - the ink in the pen froze. Did I mention it was COLD outside. The race officials said this was the coldest race they had ever done. What a distinction!

The good news is people loved the event and families spent time together, which is exactly what we were hoping for especially at this time of year.

Hope you are getting some good quality time with your family! When it comes to what really counts, this is at the top of the list.

I am interested in knowing creative ways you spend time together as a family.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Marriage Champions

I have just returned from spending 4 days with Marriage Champions from across the country. WOW!!! What an amazing time. We learned about new technology that is going to be available to couples in the coming year along with exciting new marriage strengthening tools.

In the midst of everything I hear on the news and the marriages that I see falling apart around me, I admit there are days when I ask myself....are we really making a difference? Are we loosing the battle? I know in my heart that there is no question we are making a difference, but sometimes it just gets discouraging when it is like pulling teeth to get people to do simple things that would make such a dramatic difference in their marriage relationship. It's like they have time for everything else, except taking care of their marriage.

I wish everybody could have spent this week engaged in conversation with these Marriage Champions. Talk about uplifting and hope filled! Whew!!!!! From the research to the "in the trenches" testimonies of folks working with people all over this nation, people clearly, in fact, I would say desperately, want marriage. Unfortunately, there are a lot of folks who see marriage as out of their reach for various reasons and others who are scared silly when it comes to the idea of trying to make a marriage work.

Once again I was reminded that it is easy to get caught up in your own work and your own marriage and operate in a silo. However, as all of us spent time together this week we were encouraging and reminding each other of the difference we are making in the lives of many marriages and children. I think we all left rejuvenated and ready to fight the good fight!!

There are so many great things happening across our country and right here in Chattanooga to help people build strong marriages and families. That is a very good thing!!!!!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Black Friday

Did you get lured to the stores for the after Thanksgiving sales like I did? We were up and out at 5:30 am. Crazy huh?! Based on everything in the news about the economy, I really wondered if people would come out. Maybe it was a little lighter than last year, but there were plenty of people and they were definitely spending.

But here is what struck me while I was at the mall....I really don't NEED anything. I saw a ton of stuff I would love to have, but when the rubber meets the road, what I need the most and what I think other people want the most, money can't buy. You can't buy my friendship or my love. Money can't buy me happiness or family.

So I think I have decided to go a different route this Christmas. I love it when I find the perfect gift that someone will really enjoy, but I think for the most part I am not going to find those gifts in a store. I think it has more to do with my time and talent.

Here are a few things I have thought of that I can do for others that require very little money:

homemade goodies for my friends
having some friends over for coffee and conversation
taking care of a friend's child so they can have a date night

Okay - so I'm still working on my list. Any suggestions?????