Posted in family, God, Love, Tolerance

Loving Others When Issues Divide Us

A person in my family will not entertain any conversation about Donald Trump and they have made it clear how they despise even the mention of his name. They, “Can’t stand him.”

This person has not observed any good in Trump. They have not conceded that he has done good for America on any level. Their mind is completely closed.

There is no point in talking to someone of this persuasion as they are not open to any possible insights. We continue to love one another, and do not allow this to cause dissension in our family. We simply don’t go there. There are plenty of other things to talk about.

In other words, we show mutual respect for difference of opinion. Although they know others don’t see things their way, they too are tolerant of differences, if not of discussion.

Mask wearing is another area where our family members’ opinions differ. There is a little more tolerance for discussion with these members so we have talked about the subject. But, once again, there is a line we don’t want to cross. We don’t want to allow a difference of viewpoint to destroy our relationship, so we let the subject drop before it does that. We stop trying to persuade.

Trump is not all bad. He has made some positive changes in America. Masks provide some protection, depending on the material and construction. A challenging exercise is trying to hold two opposing views at the same time, balancing them against each other.

Another topic of dissension is religion. Religion is not all bad. Jewish law teaches us not to lie, steal, kill and commit adultery. Christ taught us what is considered as the Golden Rule, to love our neighbours as ourselves. Members of our family are not accepting of the religion of others, but they still continue to love one another.

When we love others we give them a lot of room. We have to allow them to make mistakes, to be wrong. We might try to help them, but even with good intentions, we will not always do the right thing. It takes humility to admit this.

Love genuinely wants the best for the other person. Unfortunately, there are a few among us who care little about others, but even in these cases, we must be careful not to jump to conclusions. I recently came across this, “Do not assume malice when ignorance could explain the situation.”

Some people shut you out when your views differ from theirs. You become the detestable “other.” I favor Christianity because it does not leave room for this attitude. In fact, it teaches people to “love your enemies” and to “pray for those who persecute you.”

I had a vision this week. I saw the love of God encompassing the world. I can’t really explain it. It was like giant arms, like a cloud, or a vapor, encompassing the earth. I was in prayer and I asked God if he wasn’t angry with the world and all the evil in it. In the Bible I read that God is often angry with the wicked, so I wanted to know. The vision zoomed in to those individual, private moments when people are most vulnerable and I was impressed with the thought that this is what God sees. This is what he does not forget, even when evil tries to obscure it. He looks beyond. This is who he loves.

We need to be a little more like God, loving beyond those things that annoy us. Loving beyond our differences.

We can allow evil to tear us apart or we can choose to love.

There are evil forces at work seeking to destroy what is precious and what is truly precious is our relationships. We must watch that our views do not become the most important thing. What matters is the other person, their needs, their dreams and desires. We can love, even with differences. But it may take some help from the example of Christ, who laid down his life, rather than persisting against resistance. At this special Christmas season, let’s remember, “For God so loved the world….”

I think the source of tolerance is the family. It is where we learn to care deeply. It is where we learn to be tolerant of differences. It is where we learn it is safe to make mistakes and where we learn to forgive. It is so important to guard these early relationships that will follow us all of our lives.

Posted in Coronavirus, COVID-19, dealing with stress, faith, Health, Leadership, stress

Surviving the Pandemic – Family with Covid-19

Snow Globe Jar

Our snow globe broke this week and I was out looking for a replacement and saw this interesting ‘do it yourself’ idea.

Now that I look at the photo I realize the globe has a church, which somehow seems significant. This Christmas I’ve wanted to get a T-shirt that says, “Don’t hate my holiday and I won’t hate yours.”

Has anybody been getting Christmas hate? Last year I was stunned when I was at Michaels and saw a nativity scene where someone had replaced baby Jesus with a pig. My husband tried to explain it away. It was probably kids goofing off. It could also have been staff, I said. The little plastic pig was in a separate department away from the display, so how did those responsible come up with the idea, was my question? It wasn’t just, “Oh, here’s a pig, let’s take baby Jesus out and put it in there.” They had to walk to another area and get the pig.

My girlfriend and I performed Christmas music at seniors’ homes a few years back and mostly we were very well received but there was one location where the coordinator was angry with us for coming to play Christmas music in December during their “Happy Hour.” Some residents wouldn’t come, she told us, even though this had been set up in advance as a Christmas special. She clearly let us know how inappropriate this was.

I grew up in a time when Christmas was a “hallowed” season. Each year schools and churches would re-enact the nativity or have a similar, uplifting play or program that always referenced the birth of Christ.

The truth is I don’t really like Christmas today without the sacred focus. The songs grate on me when I hear them played over and over again in stores that set out their displays way to early. Watching Hallmark movies where people dance to “Silent Night, Holy Night”??? And have you tried finding a Christmas card with any message related to Christ, lately? Impossible.

For awhile I immersed myself in the Hallmark version of the “spirit of Christmas” where the focus is on good things like love and generosity. There is merit to this, but in the end it still rings hollow for me, a season reduced to tinsel and activity and commerce, with a nod to family. Christmas, of all seasons, is about worship–come and worship Christ the King. Without worship, life is empty and void of meaning.

Do you ever feel like your nerves are a bit raw? Well, that’s how I feel. I try and ignore it as I put up more lights in the hope of adding brightness and joy to my part of the world.

But my nerves feel on edge. This past week my mother was hospitalized for Covid-19. The hospital was full and her bed was needed so she was sent home the next day. She had fluid in her lungs and could barely walk, she was so weak. There is a very serious outbreak in her area of Manitoba. People don’t believe the virus is a real thing to be concerned about. It looks like the medical system is collapsing. Nurses did not have time to check on her when we called to ask how she was doing. I admit I was relieved that she could go home.

My sister who cares for my mother was diagnosed with Covid-19 first and she thought she got it from my mother who probably contracted it at the lab where she goes weekly for tests. My sister said it was way worse than any flu she had ever had. She isolated in the basement of her house and is recovering now.

A family member has been checking up daily on my mother. We are aware of the risk, but we cannot leave her uncared for.

At my husband’s parents’ assisted living residence there is a total lockdown, starting this week, because of an outbreak. My father-in-law walks 35 minutes every day, down the halls or outside, weather permitting. He had open heart surgery and he does this for his health but he’s not allowed to walk now.

What I find heartbreaking is that care homes are not getting any better at meeting the needs of their clients more than eight months after the first lockdowns.

And in the middle of this we have the slow motion drama of U.S. election results. Biden talking about healing feels to me like an abuser talking about healing to his victim. After all, it was his party that called Trump voters the “deplorables” and worse. It was his party that spent four years invalidating the Trump administration. It was his party that controlled the media narrative the whole time. And his party is currently talking about reforming Trump voters. How do you heal that?

There is still a God in heaven. I remind myself.

Back to my mother, I’m extremely grateful that she is doing a little better this week.

The anti-dote to the distress we feel is to find beauty and be grateful and take note of the many small blessings we experience every day. I’ve been trying to do that.

I suspect that I may have had the virus, as I was sick for four weeks and now I still feel tightness in my chest, several weeks later. I could not endure the thought of waiting in line with a lot of other sick people for a covid test, so I just monitored myself at home. My husband was sick first but only for a week.

During the time I was sick my sisters took a road trip to visit me. When I told them I was not well, the morning of the day they were to arrive, they turned around and didn’t come. This is really not the time to be travelling and seeing family. Even though I was sad not to see them, I felt relieved.

I was getting better earlier that week, but I re-used my mask without washing it and I think I re-infected myself.

I’m trying to do all the right things to stay healthy and to keep my spirits up but there are difficult days. I find myself lacking in energy, which means I don’t get out as much to exercise. Exercise and movement are so key, as is cooking at least one good meal a day and getting quality sleep. When one area falters there is often a ripple effect. I just tell myself to do my best. Tomorrow will be different.

I mentioned the church at the outset. How is our faith influencing our covid response? I, for one, am praying. I am trying to be supportive of others who are struggling. I am holding on to my firm belief in the goodness of God. However, there is a flip side I am only too aware of. God does not smile on evil and injustice. The pandemic could be a sign of his displeasure. One religious leader has said that if this is so, then there is more to come.

I’ve been reading the book of Proverbs and am impressed by these words, “The fear of the Lord, is the beginning of wisdom.” We need to see more wise leaders in this world.

Rex Murphy writes today: Governments have caused us to lose faith in our pandemic response, “…the inconsistent messaging, the exceptions granted to certain activities and the disparity of its impact on private sector workers compared to those in the public sector have broken the faith citizens had in our overall response. The common spirit that was present at the beginning of the crisis is not here now.”

Covid has magnified the importance of good leadership. The double standard of our leaders is one of the saddest things I’ve seen. Those advocating for lockdowns and penalties are found traveling and attending large gatherings and protests as though they are exempted from regulations. This does not feel like pulling together. In the absence of corporate leadership we will have to assume leadership as individuals.

The truth is that if it were not for the overwhelming of our health care system and the deaths of the vulnerable elderly, we could probably go about our lives as usual, save for the fact that it is now becoming apparent that there can be long term organ damage from covid among those who recover. None of us want to be super-spreaders. Every day nurses and doctors and care workers are falling ill. They don’t have the option of isolating. I read this week that the doctor in a small town who was “assigned” to be the covid doctor just contracted the virus. What happens then? Another doctor is “assigned”?

Is there a silver lining? The saying comes from a “sliver lining” around storm clouds, reassuring us that there is sunshine behind the clouds. I do believe good can and will come out of this.

Posted in Communication, Coronavirus, COVID-19, De-stressing, Home, Love, Marriage & Family

Surviving the Pandemic – 12 Good Things That Have Happened

condo

Good things that have happened because of the coronavirus pandemic and shutdown:

  1. I’ve slowed down to think. I feel like I have more room to think. It’s like the bookends of my life have moved out. They were pressing in on me. I have more space now. I can take my time, and it’s alright. I’ve been forced off the high speed treadmill of my life. I’ve opted out of the rat race–the crazy habit of busy, busy, busy. The “busy” was in my head. My brain has found a lower gear, now, and I like it.  More “frames” have been added to the movie of my life, stretching out the scenes. It’s not flash/flash to the next scene.
  2. I’ve arranged my house the way I like it. Each room and the balcony give me joy.
  3. With my husband being home, he has learned what it is I do as a writer. He has seen my rhythm and grown to appreciate it. It took awhile for me to ignore him and go about my business. But we settled into a groove of sorts.
  4. I’ve reassessed my role with my grandchildren. I’m taking a more long-term approach and planning games and activities that will not only entertain but prepare them for the future once we can be together again. I’m also realizing that there are stories of my past I need to share with them. Most importantly, they will learn by watching how I interact with them and others and how I live my life.
  5. My husband has learned it is possible to “plan” a once a week grocery shopping trip instead of just hopping over to the grocery store when we need something multiple times a week.
  6. I’ve learned to “tame” my compulsion to go out and I now have a greater appreciation for the activities I am able to do outside the home.
  7. We cut out eating cakes and cookies and ice cream, for the most part, and are consuming healthier food on a daily basis.
  8. We prioritize going for daily walks, even if they are short.
  9. I understand my husband better as a result of being together, working on projects and talking. For example, when I was videotaping his children’s music videos I only suggested improvements when it was absolutely necessary. Otherwise I would suppress his artist instinct.
  10. My husband calls his parents more frequently now and they appreciate it. Previously if we called more than once a week they would be surprised and think there was an emergency.
  11. The biggest conflict we’ve had as a couple has been around watching and listening to news and commentary, and talking about reports. My husband has a much lower tolerance level and over the weeks I’ve learned to adjust. Sometimes I watch when he is not around, or even suggest he go for a walk while I watch. I’ve reduced the amount of conversation time around certain subjects. Our children, like me, want to talk, so we’ve had to modify our conversations around their dad.
  12. I’ve consciously tried to add humor to our days and this has made life more fun.
Posted in feminism, Home, Leadership, Love, Marriage & Family, women

What Women Want

Forget what feminists have told you. The male role is to protect and provide.

I have studied the subject of the relationship between men and women for decades. I started out as the independent, self-sufficient feminist. I rebelled against what I saw as a dominant patriarchy.

Over the years, I gradually moved away from my rebellious stance to one of greater understanding. I got married. I became a mother. But I never relinquished my distinctness and my sense of self. I never allowed my “self” to be wrapped up in my husband’s identity. I did not allow him to overshadow my being. I’ve remained my own person because I firmly believe that this is the kind of woman a man will respect and cherish.

In my early twenties I began to see a void in my life. By then I had lived in many places and held many jobs. But I was lonely. I wanted to share my life with someone. Like any woman, I wanted to be loved by a man but I didn’t know if I would ever find “the right person” so I waited. I could have waited forever. A pastor changed my take on finding a marriage partner when he told a group of college-aged adults that in selecting a partner, we would need to look among the people we knew. I determined that I needed to expand my circle. I also looked at all the men I knew and asked myself who would be a most likely candidate for marriage. I realized that my prince would not come riding out to me on a white horse.

A certain man had pursued me for some time, but when I was ready to commit I discovered he had found someone else. That ship had sailed. I saw another possibility, someone I met as I travelled. We had a long distance relationship. For some reason communication ceased. I’ve sometimes wondered if I should have followed up with more intent. But that too ended.

Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice has three different models for marriage. There is the marriage of lust or passion. There is the marriage of convenience. And finally there is the marriage of mutual compatibility and deep love. Of course the latter is what we all want.

As a practical being, I considered the possibility that I might never encounter the deepest kind of love. I would probably need to make some compromises if I wanted to marry. I decided how far I could compromise. This was a big step for me. Looking back, I see that it shifted me out of fantasy and into reality.

From my mother I learned that her life took a similar turn at one point. She experienced deep love in a relationship that ended. She took stock and then looked into her future. She chose a man who she thought would be a kind and reliable person. It sounds a little boring, I know, but given a chance, love does indeed grow, whereas fiery passion wanes. I’m not saying there shouldn’t be sexual attraction but it is not the dominant factor when thinking long term.

I did not marry a man in order to have someone to provide for me. For years I had provided for myself and this was a way of life. When I eventually got married it seemed like an unbelievable luxury to have someone else to help me out financially. I continued to contribute, because I needed to use my strengths. But once children came along, I immediately saw that I would either delegate their care to others or raise them myself. I realized that, more than anything, I wanted to watch our children grow and to be a part of their education. I knew in my heart that I didn’t want to miss this. This decision came with some adjustments, one being that we needed to adapt our lifestyle to having one income and looking at what I was able to bring in as a bonus. 

Suddenly my goals had changed. Along with my decision to devote myself to nurturing our children I accepted the responsibility of taking the primary role in caring for our home. It only made sense since I was spending more time in the home.

The biblical term “help-mate” has been badly maligned and rejected but it is really a very appropriate description of the relationship between two people who are committed to each other for life. We help one another. We work toward a common goal. We try to keep the love flames burning and we mutually seek and long for peace and a sense of security in our home.

Men are admonished in the Bible to provide for their families. It is their assumed role. Historically they were hunters while women remained at camp and cared for children. This was not social conditioning. This was a biological survival tactic.

We all have an obligation to contribute, whether we are male or female. However, we contribute in different ways. Often these are gender specific. The vast gender experiment we have seen in developed countries, in the last century, is not working out and it never will. The reason is that gender roles are hard-wired in the general populace. They are not the result of social conditioning. From early times man has been the bigger, stronger one, the greater risk-taker, the protecter and provider, while the woman has been the one to give birth and nurture children. Either is capable of assuming many of the responsibilities carried out by the other. At the risk of bursting someone’s bubble, I assert that men are actually better at some things than women. However, even if it were possible to equip a man with a womb–perish the thought–that would not change his instinct to protect a woman and to provide for his family. The unique roles of men and women are dictated by our innate survival instinct.

The Bible refers to man as the “head” of the house. I’ve wondered if this was a social construct of that era in time. Perhaps it was. Perhaps someone decided this is how a marriage relationship worked best. I think it is a short-cut. I’ve resisted this teaching, naturally, being an independent-minded woman. I’ve carefully examined various interpretations of scripture by theologians. I simply don’t like the idea of hierarchy and I don’t believe it to be the ultimate sort of relationship between a man and a woman. On top of that, I believe my view is biblically supported. Jesus sometimes elaborated on Old Testament laws and Jewish traditions. On one occasion he said that God did not condone divorce, but it was allowed due to the hardness of people’s hearts. My personal take is that “submission” became a dictate for the same reason. Men and women did not know how to navigate a complex relationship, so the solution was to simplify it. In another passage we read that men and women are to submit to one another, and I believe this is actually the ideal.

I understand the “complimentarian” explanation of this reference and have done considerable research into this view. To me it still smacks of hierarchy and I find myself resisting it. I am not a naturally submissive woman and I believe in the importance of authenticity. I cannot do something on the outside that disagrees with my insides.

I have fought hard for equal rights. One thing I have learned, in the process, is that the evidence is clear–men and women are not equally equipped for every role. We are designed differently and uniquely, which means we work better together if we take this into consideration. Men, for one, are much less intuitive, generally speaking, when it comes to the needs of children and infants. And biologically, men are not designed as well for nurture, since they cannot breast-feed an infant. No amount of outcry from feminists will alter this.

Men are instructed to love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her. A lot of Christian women have given up their “rights” and “submitted” after being convinced that a man has the greater obligation, literally to give up his life for her. I don’t buy this. Even if a man is willing to give up his life for me, in a Christ-like fashion, I still feel like this is a manipulative trade-off. I apologize in advance if down the road I am convinced otherwise, but right now I am not there and part of me doubts that I ever will be. As recently as this past year I heard a very gentle-voiced man explaining the need for women to be submissive in a marriage. I admit I didn’t like it. I didn’t agree or approve. Please don’t manipulate women. We are equal in value to men, and our role is of equal value. We are to lay down our lives, just as well as men, so the application goes both ways.

I have a habit of supplementing my biblical understanding with common sense and biological references. I think this is only reasonable. When we look at nature, for instance, we don’t commonly see a female being submissive to a male, or a male dominating over a female. Humans are much more complex than animals, but this is a starting place to begin to understand our relationship with the opposite sex. Male and female are equally important contributors and we contribute in different ways.

I appreciate that my husband places a very high value on the administrative duties in the home. In fact, early on I decided that we needed some parameters. We were arguing over petty things concerning the home and I decided that he needed to stay out of my domain, mostly, when it came to deciding things about the home. I was better equipped at comprehending what was needed. In this area we did not have equal negotiating power. I had fifty-one percent of the shares. However, when it came to finances, I allowed him to have fifty-one percent. It was not because I was required to do so, but because I saw he was a good financial manager and we needed a way to break a gridlock. Of course I challenged him. This was expected.

We have done a lot of negotiation in our marriage. Sometimes I yield. But I do not submit because I am required to submit, due to some ordinance. I submit because it is important for one of us to submit in order to move forward. And I fully expect him to be able to do the same.

It may seem strange in these times, when we have primarily fallen for feminist dogma, to believe that, generally speaking, the best model for marriage is to consider the man as the one primarily responsible for providing. There are, of course, exceptions. The man can delegate this responsibility to the woman if she is agreeable to this. In some marriages this works out well. What is critical is that each maintains a sense of dignity in their role.

As I said earlier, I am grateful that my husband places a very high value on the care and planning that goes into making a home. So many skills of the home have been farmed out—think of daycares, decorators, cleaners, gardeners, seamstresses, bakers, cooks, cake decorators, teachers, personal assistants, family counselors and caregivers, etc. For one woman to take on all of these roles is phenomenal. If we are blessed with a partner, then we don’t have to do it alone. We can share this responsibility. If we are honest, we need a “helper.” This is why it is so important to learn to negotiate and be agreeable in a committed relationship.

If the man is willing to provide, I find that I am more than willing to oversee the home. When I go out to work I need to delegate the jobs at home to others, whom I in turn pay to do the things I would otherwise do. It is a trade off. Some women would rather do work outside the home and have others care for their families. I get that. Women vary in their level of nurturing skill. But I maintain that there is nothing as rewarding as influencing a person’s life from birth to adulthood.

I highly esteem my husband for carrying out the role of provider but that still does not mean I lower myself and think I have to submit to him. I collaborate with him. Yes, sometimes I yield my body to him, because I want to delight him. I cannot be thinking only about myself in this area or any other area. But I yield only as far as I am comfortable with doing so. I am not property. I am a queen in my home. I rule alongside my king.

There is another illustration in the Bible comparing a marriage to Christ and his church, with the church being the submissive bride. I think we do a disservice to the church and to Christ by taking this view of unquestioning obedience. Christ expects us to wrestle with concepts we don’t understand until we can grasp them and embrace them and make them our own. He doesn’t expect us to sacrifice our God-given intellect. He doesn’t expect us to ignore our hesitation. He expects us to inquire and to wrestle, not with a sense of distrust, but with a sense that he truly wants to reveal his ultimate best to us.

Some can meekly accept and yield, genuinely from the heart. Perhaps they have the insight at the beginning that takes others years to learn. But it’s also OK to take our perceived “truths” and subject them to the refining fire. If they are true and real, they will survive. In fact, they will come out shining and strong.

What women want is to be loved, and that is what men want too. We want to be considered as equals, to be valued and heard. We also want to be good help-mates. We want to work as a team.

Posted in anxiety, COVID-19, De-stressing, faith, Health, Home, Marriage & Family, mental health

Surviving Coronavirus Isolation – Week 3 at Home

stevestonI feel like there is little to write about my personal isolation this week. Life continues much the same, with few changes. Perhaps that is the story.

We hear more bad news south of the Canadian border. Our eastern provinces aren’t doing so well. This week we were able to apply for financial assistance from the government and the process went quite smoothly.

What has been on my mind is how Sweden will do in comparison to the rest of the world, since they have decided to embrace the “herd immunity” approach and not put severe restrictions in place. We will wait and see. It might turn out to be a costly experiment.

I’ve been researching various mask designs. It appears we may soon be required to wear masks for going out or grocery shopping.

This week I ventured out to Walmart. It was a dismal experience. I wanted to replenish our SoftSoap but there was none in stock. I went with a bodywash instead. Liquid soaps were limited to one per customer so I bought a large bottle. The toilet paper we usually buy at Walmart was out of stock as well. So were the bagged oranges I was looking for. We walked out with the bodywash, two cans of cranberry sauce and a gallon of milk.

We cooked a turkey dinner for the two of us yesterday and dropped off a bag of “turkey dinner” for one of our kids and his wife. They came outside and picked it up at the car. When we got home we video-chatted with them while we ate our “Easter Dinner.” Our other kids live across the border. The grandkids are getting bored. I feel for their parents who need to look after them 24/7 without options for distractions outside the home. No organized sports, music lessons, playdates, going to the park, shopping, or even playing with kids in the neighborhood.

My mother has gone for repeated tests in the past weeks. There is always a concern when this happens. I can’t fly to visit her, or my sister who had a cancer diagnosis this week. She is anticipating emergency surgery.

My husband talks frequently with his parents on the phone and they are doing well and adjusting to being restricted to their suites in their seniors’ home. His father made a trip to emergency several times regarding his heart just before the lockdown. Thankfully he hasn’t needed to go again. Their biggest concern right now is both needing a haircut.

My husband and I video-taped another episode of Music with Mr. Sheldon. One school that remains open plans to use the video.

We are going for regular walks and enjoying cherry blossoms and spring flowers in bloom. We were scheduled to go to Victoria for a Chess Tournament this weekend but it was cancelled. Ferries are reduced to essential travel and the hotel we were booked to stay at is closed.

I’m trying to imagine how things will begin to open up again and predict when this might happen. In the meantime I try not to worry about things over which I have no control.

Posted in Children's Music YouTube, Coronavirus, COVID-19, Food Security, Health, Home, sustainability

Surviving Coronavirus Isolation – Week 2 at Home

daffThis week my thoughts and prayers are centered around long term consequences of the coronavirus. These are areas I am concerned about:

  1. Truck drivers. Truck drivers are being affected by closed restaurants and bathroom facilities. With awareness growing, something is being done about this, including having food trucks at stops. Remember that truck drivers are also impacted by the stress of being distant from families who are coping at home.
  2. Farmers and crops. In Europe migrant workers are needed to harvest crops, but countries are currently on lock-down to prevent the spread of the virus. Here in Canada we also rely on migrant workers in our farming industry, particularly fruit farmers in the Okanagan and vegetable farmers in Southern Ontario. Borders to the south are closed to unessential traffic. Opening them to migrant workers is essential, unless we can fill their shoes with local workers. We may have to step up to help in an unprecedented way. We cannot afford to break the supply chain. The result would cause untold suffering and devastation. We don’t need to complicate an already difficult situation, by failing to provide for our future food supply.
  3. Cancelled medical procedures that are urgent and will permanently affect future well-being if they are not carried out in a timely manner. Wisdom and courage is needed on the part of health care professionals to make the best decision in each individual case.
  4. Safety in home situations where violence is an issue. Being isolated in close quarters, under stressful conditions, increases the risk of abuse. It is essential to practice patience, give each other the benefit of the doubt, not instigate conflict by starting subjects that are controversial, and not thinking we have the “right” to vent our feelings with aggression. Physical violence is not acceptable under any circumstance.
  5. Caregivers of children at home. I am always thinking about and praying for parents who are unaccustomed to having to care for their children 24/7. It is challenging to oversee their activities at home, to provide nourishing food daily, without the option of going out, and to help them with emotion regulation. Families are consistently in my thoughts and prayers.

This week has progressed in much the same way as last week in our home, with my husband losing more of his income sources. We are staying inside except for walks and getting groceries and essentials. We discovered a park that has wide sidewalks where we have room to social distance as we go for a walk. We went for a walk in a light drizzle with our married children one afternoon. This was a real boost for my spirits.

Spring flowers are cheering me as well. This week we also completed our third Children’s YouTube Music video with Mr. Sheldon (my husband), hoping to add some joy to the lives of children at home. My father-in-law says he watches the video when he needs a lift. This brought a smile to my face.

Please keep the above concerns in prayer. I know there are many other concerns to add to the list but this is sufficient for today. Blessings!

Posted in Coronavirus, Disciplining Children, Home, parenting

5 Quick Tips on How to Manage With Kids at Home During COVID-19 Crisis

puppets

Nobody said this would be easy.

And on top of that, you don’t have your usual supports–outings of various kinds, kids sports and lessons, playdates, shopping, even daycare–all those amazing parenting helps.

I’m sure I’m not the most qualified person to speak on this subject. I’m not a natural at this parenting thing, as some women seem to be. But I did learn a few things as I home-schooled my children for half their school years and lived with very limited options on a restricted income.

There are so many resources out there for parents today, so what I am going to pass on are some really simple basics that just might help you keep your sanity.

  • You are the Queen. Or the King. In your home. That means you manage your kingdom. You are in charge.

This really works best if your subjects like you. It works best if they buy into your plan. So you have to get them excited about the big picture. For us it was to have a HAPPY FAMILY. Who doesn’t want that? Everything we did was to work towards the final end of having a happy family.

  • Your job description, as the King or Queen of your home is, in practice, very much like that of a Coach in relation to your team.

A coach teaches the team essential winning skills. The coach thinks long term strategy. The coach is the encourager.

  • The King or Queen is also a good Manager. One of the keys to good management is having good systems and structures in place.

Divide the day up into sections. Separate each one with a food break. (Plan and prepare snacks.) See what would work best in each section. Make a list of things to do and fill each section with some significant activity. Don’t have too much structure. Leave room for flexibility and down time. Include regular chores, physical exercise (maybe to a video) and personal/rest/down times. Strategically schedule things to look forward to and enjoy. Have a few back-up activities you can pull out on the spur of the moment. The thing young kids enjoy the most is activities that involve their parents so plan when these will happen.

  • Princes and Princesses can sense their personal value in the kingdom. One day they too will be a King or Queen.

I never actually used this analogy in talking with my children. Parenting is a very personal thing, but there are a few principles that make parenting easier. Ask yourself what you want for your children as adults and what you would like your relationship with them to look like in ten, fifteen or twenty years from now. Keeping this picture before me constantly helped me in the trying times.

  • As a subject to a Heavenly King, we have access to his Throne, to ask for those things of which we are in need. Our Creator knows us better than we know ourselves and we can trust him to Coach us.

Teach your children gratitude. Teach them reverence for God. Teach them faith. When times get tough, we have a place to go to in prayer. When times are good, we have Someone to Praise.

 

 

Posted in Communication, Leadership, Marriage & Family

Getting Ready for Halloween

Image courtesy of digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

We all know that Halloween, just like Valentines and Easter and Christmas, is highly commercialized. Gone are the pillow cases and apples and homemade costumes. Buy your Halloween bucket at Walmart!

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I want to examine present day Halloween festivities without delving into its origins–whether it began as a harvest festival, or as a festival of the dead, whether it has Celtic pagan roots with bizarre rituals, or Christian beginnings–a Hallowed Eve preceding All Saints Day.

When we lived in the Philippines, All Saints Day was a huge holiday and families faithfully placed food on the graves of the deceased. On Halloween children went and sang in front of homes in hopes of receiving a few coins. Even adults did so, sometimes dressed as the twelve disciples, going from home to home singing and collecting money. There were no costumes and of course no pumpkins.

But in North America we are all familiar with the symbols and trappings and activities of the occasion,–candy, costumes, masquerades, pumpkins, pranks, haunted houses, witches, ghosts, etc.

Image courtesy of hin255/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of hin255/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Halloween will mean different things to different people. When I went to the mall with my firstborn in a stroller, wide-eyed, taking in all the hideous displays of the occasion, I wanted to cover his eyes, shield him from all that represents evil in the world. To me Halloween pretty much covered it.

Image courtesy of dan/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of dan/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I was in a store one year and observed a father taunting his five or six year old son as he recoiled in fear when he shoved an ugly Halloween symbol in his face. I remember thinking, this is how we teach intimidation and bullying and how we destroy innocence.

Image courtesy of  Victor Habbick/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Victor Habbick/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Since then, each year during the harvest season I re-evaluated my perspective of Halloween. As the day approached I was so preoccupied that I frequently forgot my father-in-law’s birthday which falls on November 1st.

What is Halloween without the fear factor? Some people crave the adrenalin rush fear incites, as a weird kind of high. Without this there would be no ticket sales to horror flicks, no customers for graphic psycho thrillers.

I walked through the Dollar Store the other day. Halloween displays are out, right along with Christmas, ironically. I saw, among the skeletons and skulls, chocolate eyeballs, and a hacked off, bandaged and bloody foot. I admit I felt a little sick.

What do children think when they see these, I ask myself? What feelings do these images arouse? What is the impact?

As I was a child I remember for a time hanging around kids who told ghosts stories and I could repeat a scary story pretty well myself. It was an abbreviated season in my life but it helped me relate to the thrill of the scare factor. I soon found myself avoiding the unpleasantness.

Image courtesy of digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Here in Vancouver we recently had the Vancouver Zombie Walk. This is the perspective of the organizers:

Though we big kids all see the fun in it, small children may not and if you see any children reacting fearfully, please do not add to their distress. Just move on and let their parents explain. Do NOT accidentally be the douche who gives them nightmares for a week by leering in their face! However, if they’re into it, they’re fair game for fun, like ALL of the living! Vancouver Zombie Walk 2013

Image courtesy of Victor Habbick/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Victor Habbick/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

So is this really all it is, fun and games? Something you enjoy? Is it something you prefer, like you prefer chocolate brownies to cream puffs? Let’s not kid ourselves. We all know that Halloween is an opportunity to glorify what is dark and deadly.

As a child I had a fascination with Halloween. For me it was about black cats, witches on broomsticks, pumpkins, and of course masks and trick or treating. In elementary school we made pictures of these symbols and put them up on the walls and windows of our classroom. I had not training about Halloween from my parents. We did not attend church, so I had no religious teaching back then.

Image courtesy of bandrat/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of bandrat/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

My parents never had a very strong conviction about Halloween and basically let us kids do what we wanted. My aunt took us out trick or treating for the first time when I was seven. I remember that some folks complained that we had no costumes, while others they complimented us and gave us extra candy for not dressing up. In my mind I was absorbing this information and asking myself if it was indeed bad to dress up.

But many churches I have attended since frowned on any Halloween activity and created their own separate “Harvest” event for the children, featuring, of course, lots of candy. I once helped decorate for one of these events and made the mistake of thinking that a black, lace, spider-web table cloth would be nice on the table in the entry, but I was quickly told to remove it.

Black Lace Tablecloth on sale at tias.com
Black Lace Tablecloth on sale at tias.com

Is it possible to enjoy Halloween without the dark scenes and themes, without sinking to the depths of evil–death, mutilation, witchcraft, demonism? Are there elements that we can redeem, things that are fun and beautiful, unspoiled?

The churches I have attended have taken a dim view on Halloween, perhaps understandably, and as a result my husband and I never allowed our children to go trick or treating. Our boys never made a fuss because there was always a fun alternative, but when our son left for BIble College we heard that he and his friends went trick or treating. Recent immigrants in the neighborhood were happy to hand out candy to these silly young adults.

When I was in primary school I asked my friend’s dad if she could go begging. Maybe I should have used the words “trick or treating.” He gruffly told me that his family didn’t go “begging.” An article by a pastor friend of mine essentially says the same thing–Halloween is of the devil and Christians will have nothing to do with it.

One year we visited my husband’s aunt around Halloween and she asked us if we gave out candies, “Or are you too cheap to give candies to little children?” I admit we were influenced by teaching not to participate in Halloween, but we were no longer in a church that dictated what to do. My husband and I talked and decided that it would be a positive thing for us to hand out candy. It was a charitable thing to do, a way to get to know our neighbors and their children. Handing out candy to innocent children felt good, even if we didn’t believe in everything the occasion represented.

halloween-candies

After the kids had come by for candies, we decided to go for a walk in the neighbourhood. It was truly one of the most gorgeous, “magical” nights I had ever seen. The street lights shone off of the red and orange colored maple trees. The leaves rustled beneath our feet as we walked. A few stragglers in costumes were still out, and to our great surprise we ran into a family from our church. The children were “begging” and the father was reverting to his childhood and lighting a few fire crackers in the street. I admit it took my husband and I back to our childhoods when I dressed up like an “Indian” in a fringed gunny sack and his mom dressed him up as an old woman with a curly wig.

Image courtesy of Evgeni Dinev/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Evgeni Dinev/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

After that night my thinking underwent a transformation. I saw the evening as God’s evening–the gorgeous colours, the sweet air, the still night. Even the candles glowing in the pumpkins were beautiful.

Recently I have been introduced to  Liz Curtis Higgs‘ children’s book, The Pumpkin Patch Parable. It makes me realize we can look at pumpkin carving in our own unique way. We can tell our children our own stories about Halloween.

Image courtesy of Liz Curtis Higgs Books
Image courtesy of Liz Curtis Higgs Books
Image courtesy of ammer/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of ammer/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I think Halloween is an unequalled opportunity to teach our children how to respond when faced with the dark side of life. Are they to cloister themselves in churches, or is it alright to hand out candy to neighborhood children?

What about going door to door? What about costumes? When I was young we bought a scary mask or two. It’s what kids love to do. But our parents frowned on masks so we dressed up creatively using make-up and non-threatening costumes.

Image courtesy of Arvind Balaraman/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Arvind Balaraman/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Choosing costumes is a great opportunity for parents to talk to their children about values. For instance, what do skeletons represent and would this be a reason why you might you not want to dress like one? What are the other options? Talk about how your family feels about themes around death. Make your children aware of the dark side of Halloween, but show them they can choose light.

Image courtesy of AKARAKINGDOMS/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of AKARAKINGDOMS/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I refused to go on a local Halloween train ride because the artistic producer told me it would feature mutilated babies. Talk to your children about how they feel inside when they see certain images. Is this a comfortable feeling they want to have again? Would they like to avoid it? How could they do that?

When I was older I wanted to go to a masquerade but never did. Sometimes in large gatherings there can be a lot of peer pressure to do things you are not comfortable doing. I think I realized this.

As Christians we pray, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” As children, and even as adults, there are times when we have to look ahead and plan to avoid temptation.

Some children find it very important to see and experience what their peers are telling them about. Rather than a sharp, “no,” you might want to talk about different scenarios. DIscuss possibilities and prepare them for what could happen. Let them know that you want to be sure they are safe and that they are making wise choices.

Image courtesy of samarttiw/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of samarttiw/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Probably the most scary situation for a child is to find him or herself in a place where they don’t have a choice, or where they feel forced into choosing something they would rather not do. As parents we know that the dark side exists, and that it is dangerous, and it is our responsibility to protect our children, prevent early exposure to situations beyond their understanding and control, and prepare them for eventualities.

Image courtesy of  Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I can understand why many churches refuse to have anything to do with Halloween. They see it as evil, and much of it is. It would be a lot of work to sort out what, if anything, to keep, and what to discard, and then to explain this decision making process to the congregation. As you can imagine, it would be very time consuming. Undoubtedly there would also be a lot of different opinions to consider. So it’s easier to just forbid the lacy spider web table covering, and anything else black or orange, or Halloween-related.

I suggest that when our children are old enough to understand and ask questions, we talk to them about the aspects of Halloween that are playful, fun, maybe even scary, as opposed to those which are vulgar, repulsive, degrading and evil. Teach them to think. Teach them to choose wisely.

It might be a good idea to look at Halloween from the perspective of love. From this vantage point it might not be so bad to turn on the outdoor light and hand out candy to neighborhood children or to allow our children to dress up and go door to door with their friends. We might even decide to decorate for Halloween!

Image courtesy of Apolonia/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Apolonia/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I happen to like the color orange, and I like decorating. I’ve decided it is not an ‘all or nothing’ attitude when it comes to Halloween. There is definitely some sorting out to be done. I incline toward what is life-giving and uplifting and it saddens me to see how evil and the grotesque is paraded and gloated over on Halloween. But, I reiterate, we can teach our children to be discerning, to pray, to understand and explain their choices, to respond lovingly to others and perhaps even have some good clean fun with their friends on Halloween.

Image courtesy of Keattikorn/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Keattikorn/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of sippakorn/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of sippakorn/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Posted in Marriage & Family

Learning to Chill and Grandparent

I am on holidays, trying to relax and regroup. Of course, my writer’s mind never stops and that can be a problem. In the meantime, life goes on around me.

IMG_3326It is a good thing we decided to stay home for our holidays this summer, because this week our second grandchild was born, two and a half weeks early.

In our family we have only boys, and the same is true for my husband’s family, so the arrival of a baby girl is very exciting!

Our daughter-in-law had a water birth, a home delivery, and she “caught” her own baby. Wow! I wasn’t there and I’m trying to imagine what that must be like.

On the home front, I am still attempting to edit my novel, and have started another writing project. I edited the first three chapters of a friend’s work this week. Yes, I forgot I’m on holidays.

What I really should be doing is spending some time reading a few good books. When I have leisure time I read books and articles on writing, marriage, parenting, counselling, leadership–you get the idea. A very well known author told our coaching class at a writer’s conference that reading is part of the job description of a writer and we should never allow anyone to make us feel guilty for reading. But for me, making time to read a novel is a still a great luxury. I think I should follow the example of a friend of mine and read thirty novels this summer. That might break this crazy pattern.

I’ve been thinking lately that I need to learn how to chill. I am definitely a “driven” person, even when I choose a more relaxed lifestyle. Yesterday I was talking to my husband about this and we tried to think of how this started. It may have been a job I took after high school, working for a woman who was extremely driven. I had the opportunity to compare two management styles when I worked for two consecutive owners of a restaurant. The first was laid back and the staff felt like family. When it was busy we worked hard and when it was slow we chatted. The second owner sent us home when it was slow or arranged for us to work split shifts. She found busy work for us to do if she caught us standing around. Every minute had to be gainfully employed.

I think when I still had children at home I was more relaxed. Mothering was a joy for me. My children gave back so much in enjoyment in my life. I look at some mothers who think their children are a “pain” and wonder how I was so blessed.

It’s strange that while I enjoyed my own children so much, I feel kind of like a duck out of water with this grandparenting bit. I never was a very good babysitter and being a grandparent reminds me of babysitting. I always thought that to be a good babysitter you had to be an entertainer, which I am not. But maybe I can learn. This can’t be rocket science.

My first lesson is to figure out how to relax, chill.