Wednesday, June 5, 2019

My Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Yes, it is true.  I am growing younger.  I know you are waiting for the punchline, but there is none.  I am growing younger.

5. I used to enjoy watching adult movies and stories.

4. Then I got bored of the same old John Wayne or Tom Cruise, who basically beat the shit out of everyone and saved the day.  Tired of this ridiculous story over and over again.

3. So, I started to read middle school novels, and in them I found groups of kids working together to accomplish goals and figure out life together.  And, I still like reading these sorts of stories because relationships are so much more real than John Wayne and Tom Cruise characters.

2. Then we had our daughter, and I began reading children's books.  The complexity of the imagination, storytelling, and artwork in these books has taken hold of me.  Sometimes I hear other parents talk about their boredom over reading a book for the twenty-fifth time to their kid, and I can certainly understand that!  No judgment here.  However, for whatever reason, I never seem to get bored.  I read them over and over again to my daughter and to me, and it takes a long time for me to get bored.

1. I think I am getting a glimpse into the vast world of complexity, wonder, and beauty that Fred Rogers saw in the world of make-believe and the children who live in that space.  I told you - I am growing younger, but unlike Benjamin Button, my growing younger is real.  I will swim in childhood stories for the rest of my life, or at least I hope to.

For a quick glimpse into the deep emotional world of a child, watch "Stick Man" on Netflix.  30 minutes of deep, child-like, full-bodied emotional connection.  

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Birthday Books for Kids

Kids love their birthdays, so anticipation is half the fun.  What better way to emotionally connect with our kid's anticipation than to read birthday books to them, leading up to the big day?

My daughter's fourth birthday is in three weeks, so I decided to search the library catalog for preschool-aged birthday books.  If you don't happen to feel all that comfortable with library catalog searches, then visit your children's librarian and they can help you.  Here are the birthday books I just borrowed from the library:

  • Big Brown Bear's Birthday Surprise by McPhail, David
  • A Birthday for Cow! by Thomas, Jan
  • Birthday Mice! by Roberts, Bethany
  • Carl's Birthday by Day, Alexandra
  • Happy Birthday, Bertie! by Pfister, Marcus
  • I Want Two Birthdays! by Ross, Tony
  • The Secret Birthday Message by Carle, Eric
  • Happy Birthday to You! by Seuss

As you can see, we read a lot of books in our house, but more importantly, reading these birthday books during the weeks leading up to a birthday can create a tradition and relational bond that can be emotionally felt for a lifetime.

Photo by Lidya Nada on Unsplash

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Valentine's Day Traditions

Who said decorating is for Christmas alone?  A couple weeks ago, I stopped at Target and picked up a three dollar "Special Delivery" Valentine Mailbox.  A family can put handwritten notes in the box until Valentine's Day, and then open them all up.  

The heart and the garland were a buck-a-piece at Dollar Tree, and the chain links and drawings were free with use of our own construction paper.

Next year, the plan is to make more runs to the dollar store for more decorations over time.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Choosing Family Over Money (Literally "Buying Time")

Best selling author Brene Brown recounts a time* when she and her husband wrote down all of their goals for the upcoming year.  Many of their goals required more money and more work.  Then they decided to write down their deeper desires for family and relationships, discovering that many of their relational desires were in conflict with more money and more work.  In fact, they decided they needed to work less, meaning more time for family but less money for their original goal list.

Brown's story remained tucked away in the back of my mind for several years.  The pressure to make more money in order to have the things our family wants runs parallel with our deeper desires to have more time with one another, outside friends, and more rest.  I certainly can identify with the tension between money and time that Brown and her husband experience.

This past summer, Sara and I took the risk to work less, cultivating more time for family, friends, and rest.  I had been offered to teach two classes at one college and two classes at another college, thus totaling four classes.  The commute time was going to take away a lot of desires for family, friends, and rest.  We decided it would be best for me to teach only three classes at one college instead of four classes at two colleges.  This reduced commute time considerably, opening up an additional ten or more hours per week.

In the past, I would have seen this move as a loss of money, which is certainly true in a technical sense.  However, as I pondered our decision, I realized that I was literally using my money to "buy time".  Abstractly, money is a form of power, and we can use our power to buy "products" or "services", or we can use our power to "buy time".  While "loosing money" can feel dis-empowering, "buying time" can feel empowering, stimulating a sense of ownership, power, and decision making.

Of course, because of my position as a college instructor, I have a certain privilege of making a decent amount of money per class that others might not have in the jobs that they have.  I am completely aware of this privilege.  Nevertheless, whatever our situation in life, if we do have the opportunity to "buy time" for our family, friends, and rest, we can opt to "buy time" instead of "goods" and "services".**

Our budget is very tight right now, but I am thankful for the time we have bought by giving up a class, figuring things out financially along the way.

Photo by Sonja Langford on Unsplash

*I can't remember which book or podcast this came from, but it was probably The Gifts of Imperfection or Daring Greatly.

**For those who are in a completely difficult financial situation, working three minimum wage paying jobs, my course of action might not be possible, and I never want anyone to feel shame or condemnation for things that are sometimes out of their control.  Maybe there are only little things that can be done in some situations.  For more help with budgeting, Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University might be helpful.  Be aware that it does have a Christian flavor to the course, which might not be your thing, but the budgeting principles and debt reduction techniques are very powerful.