Monday, June 24, 2013


When He was a a young boy, and as a teenager, His father used to take Him along on community service projects. One He remembers with both fondness and loathing was helping out at the community pig farm that serviced under privileged families. Their service consisted of mucking out the styes. He still remembers the stench that could not be washed off His skin. He hated it. And yet, He loved it because He was with His dad. At the time He dreaded His father volunteering His services at the pig farm. There was nothing fun about it. It was difficult, dirty, and thankless work. However, in retrospect the memories of working alongside His father are priceless. He now understands that His father was teaching Him how to work and to serve others.

One of the joys of parenthood is that we get to inflict the same "cruel" activities on our children as our parents inflicted on us. It is however in wisdom that we understand the work was never intended as either cruel or meaningless. Rather, they often were trying to teach us valuable attributes that would help us grow into useful, empathetic, and conscientious members of society. This is how He sees the imposed service now. He has in fact taken our boys to help at the same pig farm, and they HATED it. They complained, they moaned, they pretended illness and injury, and used every excuse they could think of. Like His father, He teaches His sons the meaning of work, the importance of community service, and the forms of compensation that comes from both. He teaches them that community service has innumerable rewards that usually are not publicly recognized, but are richly rewarded internally. He teaches them that an honest days work is compensated by a paycheck, and that the size of the paycheck does not denote the work's worthiness. He believes all honest work contributes to a heathy and functioning society.

I realized how much His example impacted our son's lives a few years ago when my eldest son was living a  few states away from us. I received a letter in the mail from a woman who said she had met my son. She asked my son for my address so she could write to me. In the letter she explained how she came to meet my son. He was walking along the street one day when he saw two middle aged women moving into a home. They were unloading a moving van all by themselves. My son and his friend stopped and asked if they could help them. The writer expressed what a blessing my son was to them. They not only spent the whole day unloading the van, they returned early the next morning to finish helping the women move in. She told me how impressed she was with my son. She said that it was unusual that a young 20 year old man would stop what he was doing to help a perfect stranger. She thanked me for raising such a thoughtful, helpful, and courteous young man. She was especially impressed by what a hard worker he was. Although the letter and its contents were addressed to me, He is the one who set the example of hard work.

He serves alongside... more reason I love Him.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Father's Day

He has always wanted to be a father. I guess I should clarify that. Ever since we got married He has been very vocal about wanting to become a father and build a family. It is difficult to place ourselves in the mind of the other gender. From birth we grow from a combination of biologically gendered traits, social suggestions, and cultural conditioning. It is trite to say I have always wanted to be a mother. I believe I have gendered characteristics which have driven me to procreate, but also to nurture and love a child. I also believe that my culture has endorsed these gender driven roles as being desirable. So when I say He has always wanted to be a father, I wonder what kind of pull He has felt beyond the physical.  I don't think He deconstructs His feelings and urges in the same way that I do. I really don't think He cares why He wanted to become a father and have a family, a wife, a job, a mortgage. But I know that it is deeper than cultural conditioning.

His generation was the first in modern history who left their families, wives, children, and responsibilities at a greater rate than stayed with them. And whatever excuse is given, (some admittedly legitimate), the overwhelming reason is selfishness. Children mean sacrifice. It is impossible to bear, raise, nurture, teach, and support a family without sacrifice. It necessitates putting someone else's needs before your own. It often means going without things that society identifies as admirable. Did He think this through when He declared His desire for children? (I know I didn't). But it doesn't really matter if He thought it through, it matters that He sticks it out. It also matters that He wanted it in the first place.
I don't believe He was just supporting my desire for a family. He talked about having kids before we were engaged. He was the one who wanted a second one, (we'll just leave the third and fourth one out of it for this conversation). It is easy to want a baby, they are cute, and sweet and they don't talk back. They also don't damage your computer or wreck your car. However, they interrupt your sleep, deprive you of lazy Saturday mornings, derail romantic evenings, and generally drain your rainy day funds dry. So to choose a second one after you have experienced the reality of the first one means that you are serious about building a family. Even then you can find that things have snowballed and you suddenly find yourself wanting a break from it all. Whatever He has felt, He has never even hinted that He has wanted a break from His children, maybe a break from what they do, but never them. He misses them when He is away, and can't wait to see them. They make Him happy. They know He loves them and they feel wanted.

He embraces fatherhood... more reason I love Him  

Monday, June 10, 2013


Food is a big part of our family's rituals. Not just special occasions like holidays and birthdays, but also  ordinary days. A lot of effort goes into planning and preparing meals. I have always felt time spent has been justified by the time that we sit at the table and talk. We talk while cooking, we talk while eating, then we talk some more after we have finished our meal, and then the talk continues while doing the dishes. The conversation has evolved over the years. It has usually been dictated by the stages our children were in. When they were babies, we talked about them. When they were toddlers we were often amused by their chatter during our meals. When they were in grade school we discussed what was happening in school. When they were in high school the talk usually was an information panel on who was doing what and when. As our children are slowly moving on and out, talk now consists of keeping informed of their lives. However, as they have matured, mealtime topics have also become a place to discuss social issues, politics, religion, and usually everything besides what is deemed polite conversation.

These rituals have followed the pattern that I was raised in. His family was never as vocal at meal time, or sat around the table as long as mine did. When we were first married He was a little scared of my family dinner time rituals, as they often became a cacophony of various voices that all had strong opinions, and wanted to be heard. We talked over, around, and through each other, but everyone felt heard. Even though there are theoretically opposing arguments, no one's opinion is ever discounted. He has come to love this style of family mealtime, and the rituals revolving around it. We have assimilated this style of mealtime in our own home.

With so many diverse schedules of an older family, mealtimes that include everyone become further and further apart. Early Saturday morning is usually the only time when most of us are home at the same time. I need a break from my weekly grind sometimes, and Saturday is my day off from cooking. When the kids were little this often meant cereal, (which they thought was a treat). But as they have grown older Saturday breakfast has become His way of keeping our family mealtime ritual going. He gets up Saturday mornings and makes a full breakfast. This often has meant waking up some not so happy participants. However, they do it for Him. He will try to schedule breakfast time according to the first one who has to leave for the day, (this means some return to bed after they eat). I don't think it's the food he craves so much, as it is the company and conversation of His family that He seeks.

He nurtures the conversation... more reason I love Him.

Monday, June 3, 2013


We had a spring storm. The winds blew for two days and made a filthy mess with scattered tree leaves and blossoms. The storm subsided by early Saturday evening. We spend most Sunday afternoons on our patio just relaxing. When I looked out the patio doors I knew that unless it was cleaned up there would be no relaxing for me. As we had been gone all day I felt an extra weariness wash over me anticipating that one extra thing to do before I went to bed.

I like things tidied up before I go to bed. His attitude is that it can wait until morning. My theory about why we approach the now or later debate from opposite sides is because in the morning He is gone to work, and whatever chore was left from the night before rests solely on my shoulders. So in actuality, He doesn't have to do it the next day, while I do. So for me it is really a question of do I want to wake up to a waiting chore, or do I want to start the day with a clean slate? I prefer a clean slate. In this particular instance there was the added dilemma of the next morning being the Sabbath. This is not a day we do chores at our house. Therefore, If we wanted to spend the day outside, it would have to be amid the mess caused by the aftermath of the storm. I am sure it seems petty to some people, but I can not relax in this atmosphere. I know it seemed petty to Him, because we had this very conversation staring out the patio doors. I told Him that it bothered me enough that I would take care of it, and I meant it. We both had a few things we needed to do that evening so we went about our respective tasks.

A little while later as I was in the house finishing my chores I heard the leaf blower outside. I looked outside and there He was blowing the debris off the patio. After He bagged the leaves, He swept up what was left over and rearranged the patio furniture. As I recount this I know it doesn't sound like very much, but knowing how tired we both were that evening, and how much we were anticipating getting in bed after a long day, I felt it was a very grand gesture disguised as a simple token. I was anticipating finishing the last task of cleaning up the patio, but He took that chore upon Himself and relieved me of it. He did something very simple - not because it was necessary - Rather, He did it just to please me.

He did it for me... more reason I love Him.