Category Archives: Healthy Relationships

The Problem With Happiness

It’s a funny thing about amusement parks. They should be just about the happiest places on earth.

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But, as anyone who’s ever gone to Disneyland or Disney World, or Great Adventure, or LegoLand, or any other amusement park, there are gallons of tears shed by little tykes at these places.

Why?

I think it has to do with expectations.

Never mind that just being able to get through the entrance gates is a gift: a huge sacrifice for most middle-income parents or grandparents or from whomever is paying the entrance fee. (We shelled out 500 dollars the other day for Bruce and I, our daughter, and our two granddaughters. Not including parking fees and food and souvenirs.)

But kids don’t consider that kind of thing. They’re looking forward to rides and rides and rides, and snacks, and prizes and souvenirs and toys, and on and on.

So  the child enters through those noisy, crowded gates, heart aflutter, stomach buzzing, feet twitching to get to the first ride, any ride, jes-gimme-a-ride ride.

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The line is long for that first ride. It’s not the best ride, but at least it’s the nearest one to the entrance gate. All the other parents are thinking the same thing. So we inch along, slower than the proverbial snail.

At last the moment comes. We crawl into the kid-sized seats and pull the lap bar down firm against our middle-aged paunches.

The ride lasts about ten seconds. I see the look of surprised disappointment on my granddaughter’s face. That’s it? That’s what we waited half an hour for. One loop around, one scream, one dip, and we’re done?

Next, we head for the merry-go-round. That line is pretty long, too. I don’t go on this ride because I want to grab a few photos of the kids as they round the bend. The photos don’t come out too well, but at least the kids enjoyed the three go arounds.

Now they’re asking for a snack, so we head on over to the Asian food. We pay way too much, and the kids hardly touch their food. This is where I hear a kid whining about not being able to ride the roller coaster. A younger child is wailing because he didn’t get whatever. I didn’t want to eavesdrop.

We wait in the long line—there’s always a line— at the rest room. As we exit, I hear two other young kids crying.

My granddaughter is nervous about our next ride. It looks scary. I tell her “no worries ’cause we’re all strapped in and it doesn’t even go that high.”

The line for that ride wasn’t too awfully long maybe because one had to be at least three feet tall to ride. And we didn’t even have to go all the way to the top if we didn’t want to because we are the ones controlling the rope attached to the gears. Why didn’t we go higher up? my granddaughter asks afterward. Because you kept telling me to stop pulling us higher. You don’t like heights. But, after not getting killed on this particular ride, she’s a bit disappointed we didn’t risk going all the way to the top.

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I saw one dad try to get into a particular ride with a way-too-small child. After waiting for half an hour, he got turned away. But I didn’t feel too sorry for him. There was this bar at the entrance that said your child had to be at least this tall, but he must have thought the rule didn’t apply for him and for his child.

The weather is warm and this seems to make kids tired and cranky.

The smaller kids who still need to be wheeled around in strollers are complaining about being strapped into a hot seat. About ninety percent of them—the ones who aren’t asleep—are screaming for freedom.

The mothers have that harassed look you see when they’re about ten seconds away from going postal. They’re annoyed with the dads who aren’t helping with the screamer, even though the dads are carrying the camera, the diaper bag, with one kid on their shoulders and one in tow. (Is everybody happy?)

 

The ride workers have their instruction voices down cold. They’ve said their lines at least 16 billion times this season. They have smile lines etched into their faces like marionettes. I find myself simultaneously laughing and smarting at the thought of their daily grind. They remind me of the elves in Santa’s line in the movies, The Christmas Story.

What a happy place!

Mostly, Bruce and I enjoyed our seven hours of wait-lines and short rides and hot sun and cranky kids. Actually, our grandkids did amazingly well, considering the crowds and lines and exorbitant prices in the stores. I didn’t hear complaints. And I’m pleased with them. I hope they mature to the point that they don’t take the gift of attending an expensive amusement park for granted. I hope they got home and remembered to thank Mom and Dad for giving them such a great vacation instead of simply assuming it’s their due.

I thought a lot about this during those seven hours. How visiting an amusement park illustrates our human condition. We want to be happy, and happy all the time. We have expectations of pleasing ourselves 100 percent of the time. We forget about all the good things we’re getting or have gotten because of that one thing we didn’t get.

Why do we do that? I do that, and I hate than about myself. Each day I need to remind myself that life is not an amusement park. It may have amusement park moments, but these moments are only a part of our individual time-lines.

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I think the happy experience of the amusement park is happiest for those whose daily lives teach them that the expectation of constant happiness is simply not realistic, or even healthy. That this particular happy moment is a gift from God, a joyful handing over to His child a slice in time as a delectable and rare treat to be savored. And then, pleasing God by turning around and saying, “Wow, thanks, Lord. That was fun.”

 

 

 

Lessons From a Paraglider

Bruce and I went for a hike last Saturday at the Blanchard. Forest Block. I really enjoy this hike. It’s about seven miles round trip: just right for a morning’s outing. The trail starts out like this.

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I love how the trees stretch and lean toward each other like they’re whispering secrets about the hikers who pass underneath.

Even though this hike is a there and back type—I usually like loops because I don’t like seeing the same thing twice on a hike—this one has a delightful reward: the Sound and the San Juan Islands.

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At the overlook, Bruce and I snacked on trail mix and I snapped a few photos. Right about when we had decided to head on back, a guy and a gal showed up with some colorful cloths bundles and began to unroll it on a gravelly pad just below where we sat.

Aha, they’re going to paraglide. I got my camera ready to grab their images as they floated off.

But, my gosh, they took the longest time preparing for their flight. A couple of other folks showed up, and by their questions to the flying duo, I could tell they knew something about the sport, themselves.

The young man unrolled the kite-like cloth, smoothed it, checked it. Talked. Answered questions. Studied the area, studied the wind conditions. (Barely a breeze.) I wondered how in the world they could get their gliders up in the air with so little wind.

I couldn’t see the woman. She was hidden from view by some bushes. But the guy stood near the precipice, studying, examining, checking his equipment.

Finally, he suited up: harness, helmet. Checking, checking again. And he seemed to enjoy instructing the onlookers about the sport.

I stood there for a full fifteen minutes, holding my camera up, waiting.

The guy was extraordinarily deliberate and methodical. Like a good thriller, his actions made me tingle with anticipation, whetting my appetite, holding me in suspense. Any second, now. Any second.

I’m sure he had no idea I was watching from uphill, practically jumping up and down in my impatience to see him take off.

He raised his arms, like a frigate bird drying its wings. Yes! Get ready…

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And then…and then…

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Lift off!

Immediately afterward, the guy disappeared from view, and I was concerned he’d  plummeted to the sea.

But a couple of seconds later, he re-emerged:

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Beautiful. Almost makes me want to paraglide.

Almost.

Some takeaways from my fifteen minute observation of the paraglider:

  1. The guy was experienced. He didn’t just think he could paraglide. By his conversation and by the way he handled his equipment, he had done this thing many times.
  2. He took his time, which I think is the mark of a seasoned sportsman.
  3. He was gracious to the people who asked him questions. He had a calm, almost humble, attitude, and he was willing to take the time to explain his method.
  4. He patiently waited to take off until his female partner, with her paragliding stuff, was also ready to take off.

Some good questions for me in my writing life or for you and whatever you aspire to:

  • Am I doing all I can to gain experience and continue building my skills, like this paraglider?
  • Am I kind, and am I able to explain my methods to others?
  • Do I take the time to ensure I’m producing a well-thought out, superior product?
  • Can I work well with others, showing consideration and respect for their individual needs and preferences?

I am so glad I stayed to watch this paragliding man. My photos will remind me to imitate a paraglider whenever I work on another writing project.

 

Cactus Underwear or Cascade Mountain Lake?

 

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A very wise man, Dennis Prager, has said that the most grateful people are the happiest people.

And even though Dennis Prager is not a Christian (he is Jewish), he adheres to the biblical theology that people are made in God’s image, made for His purposes, to reflect Him in all we say and do.

The Bible is filled with accounts of God’s people singing, dancing, playing on lovely and loud instruments, verbalizing their praises in both speech and song to God.

Praise Him, all ye little Children

Because gratitude, rightly understood, involves thanking someone outside of ourselves, it lifts our minds and hearts away from our poor, poor selves, and focuses it on someone else, on the giver of the gift, even if temporarily.

Gratitude is an outpouring of faith. Without faith, it is almost impossible to thank God for hard times. Because faith says: “God, I don’t understand, but whatever comes my way I will trust you, because I know you are in control and you are working out a greater plan for my life than I can imagine. Thank You.”

I’m a pretty thankful person, most of the time. Probably because, growing up, I didn’t have too much, I very much appreciated what I received. My parents weren’t wealthy, and I was well aware of their struggle to provide for us kids.

In my church and in my community I know both grateful and ungrateful people, and let me tell you, there is a huge difference between them. People who only focus on the negative things that happened to them in their day aren’t too pleasant to be around. These are often the same people who complain whenever something isn’t exactly what they want. Their attitude is ruled each day by what they did not get, what other people aren’t doing to please them, or how the weather or traffic conspired to cause them grief.

Do you know people like that? I do. Sometimes that person is me, temporarily.

But I try to get out of that attitude quickly, because it’s not a pleasant place to stay. It’s like living in cactus underwear. Prickly, scratchy, get-me-out-of-this! And who wants to be too near a cactus?

And, being an old woman now, I’ve come to know that my best days are the days when I’ve taken the time to get my eyes off myself, to look around and list the wonderful things I’ve been blessed with. I call days like this, “Cascade Mountain lake days.” Could anything be more lovely and inviting?

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I recently purchased a sweet little journal called, “A Life of Gratitude.” The book, by Lori Roberts, takes you through daily written exercises where you list blessings, or positive thoughts, or beautiful things, etc. It’s not necessarily a Christian book, but since I am a Christian I prefer to do these exercises while lifting to God in gratitude each thought that I write down. After all:

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” (James1:7, NIB Bible)

 

Here’s what I’m thankful for today: Jazz music woofs from the speakers down on the lowest level of the house. Because my loving husband is actually home this week, working in his office. He usually travels, but today he’s around. I’m thankful for him.

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It was cold this morning. I slipped warm socks on my feet and marveled at how God constructed my size 6, double E width feet. How they take a daily pounding under my 125 pound frame, but they’re still ready to carry me on the next 10-mile hike.

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It only takes seconds to notice something God has provided you, then utter an awed prayer of thanks to Him.

It’s a great habit to cultivate. And I mean to keep cultivating it each day.

“And whatever you do, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” (Col 3:17 NIV Bible)

I Miss My Grandparents

My grandmother was born in 1900, and grew up on a farm outside the very tiny town of Anita, Iowa.

Her mother had died when she was a girl. Her father needed a wife to take care of the domestic duties and to mind the six children, so he advertised and married a woman “in name only.”

This new wife, in time, became much beloved by the children, and eventually Grandmommy’s daddy, too. Soon, their marriage became a real love story.

Grandmommy watched her brothers travel to Berkeley, California to study at the University. Since she was anxious to escape the farm environment that held her a prisoner (Oh, she wanted excitement and glamour), she followed them to UC Berkeley to get her college degree…and a husband. My grandmother was a beautiful woman and many guys wanted to marry her. But she sensibly chose my grandfather, Jay Reed, a man with good moral character, a strong work ethic (he, too, had grown up on a farm), and business ambition.

(That’s my grandmother, in the center of the photo, with her siblings. Still good-looking even at the age of fifty!)

Granddaddy eventually became the CEO of a successful import/export firm in San Francisco, and a few years before World War II broke out he bought a lovely home in an exclusive district in the city.

But the farm ethic was strong in both of them.

In one corner of the garage, they had an old wash and rinse tub with a wringer overhanging the tub. On Mondays, the two of them would dunk their laundry in the steaming tub and wait while the old machine slowly churned. Granddaddy always made us stay well away of the tub and the wringer. He was super cautious about everything that could possibly endanger us. They put the laundry items through the wringer, then the rinse, then the ringer again. Even years after Granddaddy died, my grandmother kept that old washing machine.

After the wringer,everything got hung on a wire that Granddaddy had strung down the length of the garage. Grandmommy had a contraption call a mangle. Some of you older people know what that is. Her sheets and table cloths and napkins had been heavily starched, and then they would go through the mangle for pressing.

A coal man used to deliver coal and set it in a bin in their garage. On cold days, Granddaddy would tote a big lump upstairs for their fireplace.

Granddaddy worked in the financial district of San Francisco right at the bottom of all those impossible hills that cable cars climb. He rode the street cars there and back, and when he arrived home, Grandmommy would have his favorite bourbon and soda and some little appetizers ready for him. They’d sit in the lanai (a kind of sun room) and talk for about an hour while Granddaddy’s favorite chicken was baking in the oven.

Their life was predictable and organized, quiet, and unemotional. They had rules, which we followed without question. One did not question people of that generation.

No running in the house. No yelling. No “unglamorous frowns.”

Put your wraps in the closet immediately. In fact, everything in its place.

No feet on furniture.

Do not touch Grandmommy’s international dolls in the linen closet.

And especially…do not sit in Mr. Howell’s chair. Ever. Grandmommy had explained who Mr. Howell was, but that memory had become buried or lost by early childhood mental pruning We didn’t dare ask for a re-telling of the story of Mr. Howell and the reason for my grandparent’s devotion to his memory.  Still, we never touched Mr. Howell’s chair, even though the man had long since passed away.

My grandparents had lived a long time, and even though they didn’t tell too many stories from the old days, we knew their brain’s mental archives had shelved a wealth of them.

Granddaddy played the piano sometimes, usually at the end of a dinner party. He especially liked to play 1920 era pop duets with my uncle Harold. I loved the funny old lyrics. Granddaddy put his heart into his playing, which was about the only time he let emotion show.

I loved my grandparents and respected them. I loved their rules, even the ones that didn’t make sense, because I knew their wisdom far exceeded mine.

I miss the days of respect for older people. For the old memories and stories, the lovely rules of etiquette, the way men tipped their hats and held doors and carried packages for women,  the culture that makes no sense to the younger generation, the civility, the expectation of good behavior, and the censure of wrong speech and actions.

Do you feel sad, too, for the loss of that generation?

 

 

 

Above My Pay-Grade

“I gotta tell you, I’m not techy.” Imagine me screaming these words and you get the picture…or the audio.

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My publisher wants me to build my newsletter list. Simple for her. Not so simple for me.

My stomach is in knots, my head hurts, and my eyes are starting to blur.

I’m getting used to an email distribution system. The system instructions say:

“Type the recipient name here.”

Okay, but what about all the other names?”

“Drag this block over here…or wherever you want it.”

But it won’t stay where I put it.

“Upload a photo.” Ugh, it’s too big. How do I resize it?

“You have some text that needs to be removed.”

I go to remove it. “Are you sure you want to delete this text?”

“Cause once you do it, you’ll never ever, ever, ever, ever get it back. So ARE YOU SURE?”

Okay, it’s my first newsletter, so I hope my recipients are going to be understanding, even though I probably put the wrong names at the top of the letter.

Forgive me. I’ll do better next time.

This experience reminds me to show people grace. Just as I would want others to overlook my mistakes and perhaps give me an encouraging word. I’m trying to improve, and I’ll bet you are, too.

It’s good to learn new things. It teaches us humility!