Tuesday, May 31, 2016

My Wife is Hot! (or Conjugal Relations, Part II)

     Deanne is sexy, gorgeous, beautiful, fun, alive, and loving. At least I think so.
     Not that I always think that way. Other times I think she acts lazy, sloppy, argumentative, irritating, and demanding. I try not to dwell on such thoughts.
     We've been married eighteen years and the passion I feel for her is still there alive and intense, so for a fifty-four year old, I'm better than okay, I think.
     (Through the years, I've talked to so many people who've confessed, complained about, or let be known their ongoing celibacies, so that I get the impression huge swaths of marriages go without or with very little or with much less than at least one of the pair would prefer. Although such celibacy may not be the main cause of the steep fifty percent divorce rate, it is certainly symptomatic of widespread marital discontent, for doubtless happy couples will tend to seek to express their loves through occasional to frequent acts of sexual intimacy up to and including “all the way”, age-, health-, and emotional-related and other such limitations notwithstanding.)
     Deanne, ever since she got a full-time office job late last year, has been more attentive to her appearances—the clothes she wears, make up (always tastefully minimalist; she's a natural beauty), meal portion control, and occasional exercise. She's blessed because when she makes even minor efforts, the positive results show huge: her curves become oh-so-righter in all the right places, her complexion improves, and she looks ten years younger than her already youthful-looking forty-five.
     Speaking of which, forty-five used to be (and still may be?) the cut-off age of a woman for me at which I will refuse to gaze at her with eager, searching eyes no matter how much she flirts, bends over, or whatever (Deanne excepted). This mental block (or whatever it is) dates back over a decade, though the cut-off age has risen over time. (When I was an early teen, anyone in their twenties was ancient—bleah! How times change...)
     We've mellowed some with age, so some of our fiery tempest drag-out fights have cooled and shortened some, which has helped with our marital felicity. Even more positive, due to our years together:
     We now trust each other better.
     Know each other better.
     Are less prone to beat up on each other.
     Do more kind-hearted things for each other because we want to.
     Not that we're perfect. We do petty, selfish, and hurtful things far too often. But these are largely offset by the small things that count most. We know what we are really like and the things that make us go “click” when we share them in good will. These include:
     Watching a sunset on a beach.
     Sharing a simple meal of home made comfort food.
     Going for a walk with pleasant conversation.
     Asking nicely by saying, “Please.”
     Being appreciative and saying, “Thank you.”
     Lavishing compliments freely.
     Holding hands, hugging, kissing, or whatever it is the other likes with a giving, generous heart.
     Saying, “I love you.”
     Praying aloud for each other for hurts that need mending; joy restored at work or church; family ties that need healing; God's peace, joy, and rest.
     Helping out around the house.
     Disciplining the kids.
     Playing with the kids.
     Discussing how the day went.
     Valuing the other more than anyone else.
     Are these things really so difficult? If yes, no wonder so many struggle with undesired celibacy, which really is a cry for greater intimacy. I suppose our marriage would be that way, too, if we didn't enjoy doing these few “minimums.”
     Really, we're not trying to build a Great Wall of China, discover Einstein's grand unification theory, or establish world peace—those would be difficult. All we're trying to do is live decent, respectful lives. And it's not like we're even that successful. When things are hitting one hundred percent—that's rare! It's more like we try. Sometimes we do better than others. Meanwhile, tiny victories add up to big rewards. Wash dishes? Bing! Hang laundry? Bing! Say, “Good Morning”? Bing! Before we know it, we're both starting to feel pretty good (and maybe even a little frisky. Not that this even happens that often. But ample enough at our ages. After all, it's the quality, not the quantity, that counts.)

Monday, May 23, 2016


     Allow me to rephrase that: Wow! Braden, now sixteen, for the first time ever did something that needed to be done without being told.
     Granted, he did do things for himself on his own initiative before this but a few days ago while hanging out in the kitchen bored (a favorite visiting place for such times), he grabbed a box of Cheerios and refilled our plastic cereal dispenser! And it wasn't even empty with nothing but a half-inch layer of cereal dust left—it was still a quarter-full!
     I didn't say a word—not because I didn't want to jinx him but because often when I compliment him he acts up. (One child care “expert”—Dr. Spock or John Rosemund—said to compliment sparingly because it takes the bluster out of their sails or makes them uncomfortable so that they have to act up to feel comfortable again. When I was a kid I didn't like my parents taking credit for my positive deed—as if I did it for them—by complimenting me. I did it for myself because I wanted to, same as Braden, I suppose.)
     I wondered if his thoughtful act was a fluke or an unintentional oversight or perhaps something Deanne told him to do a day or two ago?, but then two days later it happened again.
     We have a hamper and laundry basket that we keep in a common area inside. These fill up fast and only empty fully on laundry weekends. The emptied hamper sits inside the emptied basket and only after the hamper fills does the basket sit atop the stuffed hamper. The thing is, the hamper keeps overflowing onto the floor until Deanne or I tells someone to “Fix the hamper.” This assignment goes to whomever is nearest when it happens to be noticed, or Jaren, who has the least chores.
     Well, Braden after bathing this red-letter night, dumped his clothes on the already overflowing hamper; picked up all the clothes, towels, and dish cloths on the floor nearby; stuffed them on top; shoved the contents down tight; then lifted the hamper out of the basket and placed the basket on top. It ended up all just the way we like it, nice and neat, with the hamper and basket backed against the wall. It was remarkable that he did the chore on his own initiative but even more so that he did a fine job of it—no laggard clothes left on the floor, no slanting basket on top, and no sleeves, plant legs, or towels dangling out from between the basket and hamper.
     And I didn't dare breathe a word or even smile or show that I noticed. (If it ain't broke, then don't fix it!—so said one bright dude who wasn't even a child care expert.)
     This was very assuring for me that Braden may be finally “getting it”—that life's not all about him. That living for others is important. That helping out voluntarily feels good. That looking for ways to help and doing them without first seeking approval or recognition is a very big deal. I believe it's why God says to tithe blindly and give without show—because he sees it all and that's enough.
     Praise God!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016


     When I was a youth, my dad was a deliberate decision maker, especially when it came to investing or spending hard earned dollars. He'd stew and mull things over, plan, tentatively decide, change his mind, research, and plan some more until something triggered a decision which would then be final.
     For awhile, it was whether to buy a new VW Rabbit (this in the late 1970's), which would be his first brand new car, or a used low-mileage early 1970's VW, Toyota, or Datsun (i.e. Nissan)—which would be comparable to all his prior automobile purchases: reasonably priced, reliable, and an overall good value. The Rabbit would be over twice the price of a used car, but would it afford twice the value? Probably not. Twice the fun or joy from owning brand new for once? Perhaps. (He didn't say these things but his stressed looks and excitement as he read brochures and Consumer Reports Magazine said it all. He wanted the VW but with Joan in college and Grant and me headed there, could he justify its cost? Probably not.)
     We were watching the excellent Cosmos PBS TV series when astronomer Carl Saga narrated a video showing a child at play on the front lawn of a suburban home when the camera pulled away into the sky, revealing the child's house, then the neighborhood, the city, clouds, lakes, rivers, oceans, continents, the entire globe, the Moon, Mars, asteroids, Venus, all the planets, the Sun, interstellar space, galaxy clusters, more interstellar space, and on and on until the entire universe with its billions and billions of stars were revealed from billions of light years away. At the end of the show we all felt puny and insignificant, as well we might compared to the Universe's unimaginable vastness.
     Dad said with a jocular smile, “You know what? Let's get the Rabbit—can afford!”
     Mom said, “Good, that's the way to say it! You only live once!”
     I, a lifetime penny-pinching saver felt bemused that it took a wonder-inducing science show rather than careful pro/con financial analyses to tilt Dad's decision to what he truly wanted. It was after all an emotional decision.
     For me, I find over an over again that when stressors build, accumulating to almost unbearable levels, that it's usually because I'm too zeroed-in on the itty-bitty details without considering the big picture. Sure Braden may act rude and disrespectful at times, but overall he's a good, responsible, and reliable kid. Sure I may not agree with my boss's priorities and his bossy management style, but overall, I haven't found a better alternative workplace that I'd want to go to at this moment. Sure Deanne and the kids aren't perfect, but neither am I. Yet, we're overall still a loving, respectful, and supportive family. And God has been with us and kind to us with blessings countless and profound.
     The main thing, however, was something I got from writer Pearl Buck's memoir of her pastor father. Though she herself was not a Christian, she did see her father—especially as he approached death—as becoming more and more angelic, even more spirit than human-this as his body faded, ever weaker and more slight. At the end, she said, he was with God, something even she, a nonbeliever, could see.
     Must we wait for death to be with God? I don't think so. He's here always, it's only us who aren't with him. But once I remember, realize, and sense he is with me, and I can and do surrender even my life to him, then the itty-bitty things are less than dust by comparison to the entirety that he is (the “biggest picture”—eternity, existence, love, everything that matters—there is.)
     And he always finds solutions to all our itty-bitty problems—even if it means giving us a healthy dose of repentance, forgiveness, or humility. And that's the best perspective of all!

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Aloha 'Aina

     The title of this essay means (loosely translated) to love and care for the environment.
     My friend Norm decades ago listed the three worst things a person can do to the environment: have kids, eat beef, and drive a car—this from a man who has two kids, eats gobs of meat (including beef), and has owned and driven only pick-up trucks and SUVs for decades. He wasn't being hypocritical or ironic, his point was that it's difficult living an environmentally friendly lifestyle. He tries to do his part (compensate?) by eating organic, recycling, reusing (especially cloth bags for purchased groceries as far back as the 1990s), donating stuff he no longer wants, growing some of his own produce, and even using cloth diapers for all his (now adult) kids.
     I liked his list and thought it credible. To clarify, having kids per se isn't so much a problem as living modern lifestyles is (which kids are wont to do). An animated cartoon on TV I saw decades ago illustrated this by showing a lifetime's worth of junk a typical American accumulates and discards: multiple cars, appliances, furniture, and equipment; oodles of clothes, bags, and hobby items; tons of paper and plastic, etc., etc., etc. and it created a mountainous heap, a veritable dump site in and of itself—an alarming eye opener to think I'd leave so much junk behind!
     What makes beef so bad is its huge demand on resources whereby one pound of it can require up to 2,000 gallons of water (mostly to water crops that are eventually fed to the steer over its lifetime). Cows also poop and pass gas prodigiously. One can add upwards of 36 tons of e-coli laden feces to streams and rivers and 360 pounds of methane to the atmosphere-comparable to daily use of a car for three years.
     The environmental costs of driving a petroleum-based car (the only ones available at the time of our discussion) are pretty well known so I won't elaborate further.
     I felt good for awhile about owning only one car, driving it only ~3,500 miles per year, and limiting my meat consumption (which has increased since marrying; Deanne's a “carnivore” as she puts it in jest and does all the cooking because she's so good at it), but we did end up having three kids and yes, we did use disposable diapers all the way (tsk! tsk!)
     Norm decades later changed his mind and said the number one personal environmental disaster is people living outsized lives in enormous mansions, owning multiple humongous SUVs, trading them in for new ones every other year, buying second homes to vacation in for a few weeks, and so forth—this from a single guy that for years lived in a sizable house (> 1000 square feet) and owned a grand piano (his deceased mom's, granted) that no one played (but that he felt compelled to keep). I felt good that we've always lived in modest-sized dwellings—enough to get by in and not filled with unused wasted space that attracts the accumulation of extra junk.
     Now that merchants in Hawaii no longer issue disposable plastic bags for purchases, we no longer bag our household trash in such bags—which helps in a minor way. And we're mostly conscientious about bringing our own reusable bags shopping so we won't feel tempted to accept the paper or heavy reusable plastic ones offered (which we already have too many of).
     Which makes me wonder, how many shoppers immediately discard those heavy reusable plastic bags after one use? One of them has got to be far worse for the environment than one of the old flimsy disposable ones from before. Has the law banning distribution of disposable plastic bags by businesses thereby worsened the environment?
     I told Norm unless we as a society revert to agrarianism, get off the power grid, and live off the land, we're bound to leave the environment far worse than before. (My mom always taught me to leave a place better off than when I arrived, but I confess I'm doing a horrible job of that in respect to the environment). “How much land does it take to be able to live that way?” I asked. He didn't know. Obviously it depends on where the land is and the viable crops/livestock it'll support. I give subsistence farmers/hunters/gatherers a world of credit where ever they are. I doubt I'd survive much more than a year (or two, if I were extra lucky or blessed.)

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Sensitive Jaren

     Jaren's friend Ian at school recently got hurt playing soccer during recess and an ambulance was sent for. Jaren wasn't there when it happened but ran across the yard to see if Ian was okay, then ran back to report to the yard monitor the situation.
     The next day at school, Ian wasn't there. Jaren said he was in the hospital.
     I said, That's unusual. He probably needs surgery.
     Jaren made wild guesses as to what it might be (he had a broken elbow once that healed nicely with just a cast) but I said it's impossible to say.
     The next day, Jaren said Ian is still in the hospital.
     I said that it must be he had or is going to have surgery. It must be serious. (Jaren looked concerned.) He'll be fine, I said, kids heal fast. They might need to put in screws until it heals—I don't know how they do it these days.
     The next day Jaren said, Ian is still in the hospital. He has pins in his leg.
     I said, “Yeah, sometimes they use those. They hold them in place like screws. I don't know if they're permanent or they take them out after awhile.” Later that night before bedtime, Jaren was still talking about Ian and his injuries so I asked, “Would you like me to pray for him?” He nodded, so I hugged him close and prayed aloud, “In the name of Jesus, Ian be healed, all well and better with no more injuries or pain. All broken bones, damaged ligaments, nerves, tendons, or anything else be fully healed and recovered. Please comfort Ian and his family, his classmates and teachers and everyone else in school. May he come back to school real soon and be his usual happy, joyful self. In Jesus' name I pray all things. Amen.”
     Even before I concluded, I could tell that Jaren was touched, weeping silently in catching breaths. And as I recited my usual bedtime prayers for him immediately after, he tried to stifle his emotions, but it was obvious (not that I minded—it's how God made him.)
     (Note: I was taught about this “direct” style of healing prayer about a decade ago. Most such prayers are supplications, “Lord, please help heal...” Nothing's wrong with those, they can work just as well, but they're never used in the Bible. All (or virtually all?) healing prayers in the bible are direct—in essence commanding the healing to take place in Jesus' name. I pray healing prayers both ways. I like the direct style because it seems to initiate greater faith on my part—always a good thing, I think.)
     A weekend and a school day later, Ian was finally back in school with two casts on his right leg, walking on crutches. He'll have the casts for four and five weeks each, Jaren said.
     “Did you run over the first thing you saw him?” I asked.
     “No. There was already a crowd of people around him. I talked to him later when I ran into him. The first thing I saw him, though, I was so happy, I almost cried.”
     “That's sweet. Did you tell him you missed him?”
     “No. I told him, 'Welcome back. I hope you're as happy to see us as we're happy to see you.'”
     “That was great and awful nice of you.” Sometimes he says the most grown-up things—things I'd wish I'd thought of myself. “What did he say”
     “He said that he wasn't crying when he got hurt, he was just fussing.”
     “But you saw him crying when you ran over?”
     “Nothing's wrong with crying when you have serious injuries like that. It hurts like anything. Maybe you can invite him over for a sleep-over to cheer him up when he gets better. Would you like that?”
     He nodded.
     Now what did I get myself into?