Sunday, February 24, 2013

Is Development of Determination Detrimental?

Amanda and I watched Zero Dark Thirty a couple weeks ago (2/15), which was a great movie.  I was struck by one particular characteristic of both the main character and the NAVY SEALs.  All of these people have the type of personalities that completely refuse to quit, who are ruthless in their pursuit of a goal, who absolutely do not allow anything short of death to discourage them or dissuade them from conquering their foes or accomplishing their mission.

I've had moments in my life where I felt some small semblance of this, but the tenacity and ruthless persistence that it takes to be a SEAL is a whole nutha level (or 3).  I can't help but wonder though if people are just born with that quality and/or if it's a result of experiences they encountered in their lives.

Recently, I was watching the preview video for UFC157, which featured Ronda Rousey vs. Liz Carmouche as the main event.  Ronda told a story about breaking her toe in Judo class when she was young.  She walked over to her mom crying about it, but her mom (who was a Judo Olympian) didn't want to hear it, saying "You still have nine more.  Come to me when you break nine and only have one left."  Then she made her run laps around the gym with her broken toe.

I don't know if Ronda would have naturally been a good fighter on her own, but there is no doubt that her mom had a significant impact on her mental and physical development as a fighter.  And while her parenting style may be a bit extreme, it left me to ponder further not only whether determination and perseverance are innate or inspired, but also what effect I could have in the development of my kids' character.

I want to figure out what the best way to pursue this is though - to be a dad who is loving and encouraging, while also doing what I think should be a better job of instilling strength, toughness, courage, and determination in my children.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Valentine's Day 2013

While not perfect, this was a pretty successful Valentine's Day.  

I can't help but tilt my head sideways a bit when reading my own words though.  Why "successful", instead of "romantic" or something like that?  To me, the idea of this holiday is to do my best to make Amanda happy - to be romantic and "woo" her.  Ideally, every day would be like that (or perhaps once a month)?  But heck, with life and kids, and work, and stress, and busy-ness, I'll use Valentine's day as motivation to make it at least one day a year.  So this year:

We solidified babysitters for a dinner date to a Thai restaurant called The Banana Leaf (although Amanda picked the restaurant and made the reservation).  

Then I surprised her by putting a dozen red heart balloons (seen in the picture below) in her minivan the night before.  So they were there when she went to take Clara to pre-school.

Next, I bought a dozen red roses to bring home after work (also seen in the picture).

I also bought her an anklet, which I gave to her at dinner.

And finally, I wrote her a poem (below).  The only problem was that I didn't have time to purchase a card to write the poem in.  So I had to improvise and let her read it on my smart phone.
To have this time together now
Is really quite divine
A rare night out with you my love
My only Valentine

To gaze into your moonlit eyes
Upon a midnight clear
Is on the list of things that I
Hold wonderful and dear

Across a table candelit
A rare treat to behold
Touching feet discreetly now
Aware of what's foretold

Finally we are all alone
Away from normalcy
Drag each other further down
Beneath the blanket sea

Then up above sensory heights
Until we reach the shore
Hold you in my arms so tight
Beyond forever more.

Then back to life we go again
Pursuing happiness
Running hand in hand through this
Suburban wilderness

I love you wife.
Happy Valentine’s Day

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Unsolicited Marriage Advice

I originally started compiling these ideas/suggestions for my brother, who is newly married.  I was going to include some or all of them in the "best man toast/speech" at his wedding, but it was just too long and probably too preachy.  But what are big brothers for, if not to give unsolicited advice?  So for Steve or whoever else cares, here are my observations and suggestions from my 12 years (so far) of marriage experience.

The first year of marriage in all likelihood will have more challenges than you anticipated. In fact, it very well may suck. With any big change in your life, there's a recalibrating process to go through. An adjustment to the changes of what is now considered “normal”.  Amanda and I dated for 5 ½ years before we tied the knot. I was plenty mature at 29 years old too.  We were (and still are), more compatible than most other couples I know.  We grew up only about a mile away from each other, had similar senses of humor, moral values, on and on.  Needless to say, we get along great!  But even with all of these factors being in our favor, that first year of marriage was really difficult!  Many other couples I've talked to (although not all) have echoed this same experience too.

When you encounter disputes, be the first to step up and reconcile. Even though it stings your pride (sometimes a lot), think of it like a game, and the first one to apologize and/or humbly start communicating wins. Because really you do.

Give each other grace. Remember that nobody is perfect except for Jesus, and your spouse isn't Him.

When there are ongoing issues or deficiencies that I think exist in the relationship with my spouse, I have found that the problems I am experiencing often directly mirror my relationship with God.  I'll use the most common challenges I've heard from other married people as examples:
  • Problem: My wife is lazy. She doesn't exercise or take care of her body enough.
    Spiritual Parallell:  Well, how much time do you spend on your relationship with God? On taking care of your spirit?  Work on fixing that first.  Combine that with praying for your spouse and see what happens.
  • Problem: My wife isn't interested enough in intimacy.  In fact, most of the time she could care less about it.
    Spiritual Parallell:  How intimate/available are you to God?  Do you pursue Him?  Do you let Him into your heart/spirit/mind?  Think about what this looks like spiritually and try to correct it.  Then combine that with prayer for your spouse and see if it helps your marriage.
  • Problem:  My husband doesn't give me the attention or affection I want, I NEED.
    Spiritual Parallel:  But how much affection or attention are you giving to God?  Are you "dating" Him by spending time alone with Him?  Are you pursuing, praising, and appreciating Him like you want your husband to do with/to yourself?  Start there and also pray for your husband, then see what God does in your marriage.
To summarize this idea, when I focus on improving my relationship with God (based on the issues I have with my spouse), I'm amazed at how God helps to solve the problems in my marriage for me.  So first fix this (point to yourself) and this (point between yourself and to the sky), before you try to fix each other (which will never work anyway).

Periodically ask your spouse, or at least yourself this question – are you everything your spouse desires?  On another level, are you everything your spouse fantasizes about?  This might not be terribly relevant at first, but the longer you're married the more you'll have to fight against complacency (especially with the addition of kids and life's stresses), and the more important these questions become.

And finally, be resolved that divorce is not an option.  Our culture tells us that it is, but I disagree.  Unless there is abuse involved, don't dare even mention "the d word", ever.  If the thought even crosses your mind, rebuke it and instead focus your thoughts on creative ways to reconcile and rebuild.  If necessary, seek counseling from someone you can both agree on (it may take many tries to find the "right" counselor).  You can also try asking for mediation, prayer, or whatever else you have to do to make it work.
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