Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Kirby’s

Last week we visited TX for the first time and I had the honor and privilege of meeting Weldon and Margie Kirby. The Kirby’s are members of the Church of Christ and was instrumental in helping Jared fund medical school. It’s interesting how the Lord works and blesses you for your good works when you least expect it. Way back when…sometime in the 1970’s, Jared’s parents were in the U.S. Texas to be exact. Jared’s mom was a young medical practitioner and his dad was attending preaching school as a budding preacher. They met Margie and at that time she was married to her 1st husband who was an invalid. She had to care for him and Jared’s mom helped her changed his IVs and provided emotional and medical support. They did not expect anything in return…They helped out of the kindness of their hearts and because that’s what Christians are supposed to do.

Margie’s first husband died, and she later married Weldon Kirby. Originally, they owned a cattle farm but lost everything during a downturn in the economy in the 1980s. Almost instantly they were bankrupt! Can you imagine going from riches to poverty overnight? I’m not exactly sure how the story goes, but someone came and visited the Kirby’s and pointed out the stone in their yard. Little did they know they were sitting on hidden treasure…The bankrupt farm turned into Kirby’s Stone Company! And from there poverty turned to riches almost overnight!? Isn’t God awesome!

Sadly, Weldon was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1991. Please read his story on Michael J. Fox’s website. Scroll down to his name: http://www.michaeljfox.org/living_FacesOfParkinsons.cfm.

But even with his diagnosis, Weldon fought on…and lived on…He continued to faithfully serve God, his family, and helped others. We owe it to the Kirby’s for where we are today…And we owe it to Jared’s parents for being the kindhearted and loving people they are…because through their kindness their son was blessed. You reap what you sow…and they sewed good seeds…A lesson for us all.

Without the Kirby’s Jared might not have been able to attend medical school! There is nothing we did to deserve this favor. But they gave, out of the kindness of their heart…they gave…And we are where we are today because they gave.

So what a privilege to meet this fantastic couple! Weldon’s illness had progressed so we made it a priority to visit with them. This was my first trip to TX and I was excited to meet them! Little did I know what a profound impact they would have on me! My time with them was emotionally overwhelming, encouraging, tear jerking, and spiritually uplifting. When I was with Margie, I felt I was in the presence of Jesus. SERIOUSLY!!! In ways I have not seen before, I saw a devoted wife with demonstrated humility. With wide open arms, and high spirit energy she welcomed us into her home.

Over the summer the hard decision was made to place Weldon in an assisted living home. This was extremely difficult for Margie but she could no longer care for him on her own. The place was impressive to say the least! Clean, comfortable, professional and friendly! As I watched Margie’s interaction with Weldon my heart melted. She rubbed his arms and legs as he struggled to make a logical sentence (a side effect of the illness). It was hard to see him like this…Sometimes it was difficult to understand what he said as his words were mumbled. But never once did she have a frustrated or tired look on her face…Instead, she knelt by his chair, held his hand, and patiently asked him what he said…At times she would try to help him get his thoughts together by asking if he was referring to this or that. Other times she jumped in his bed and rubbed his leg as she listened attentively. When the nurses would ask her if she wanted him to eat now, she would immediately turn and ask him if he wanted to eat now. What this taught me is that she treated him like a whole person despite his illness…She did not make decisions on behalf of him (though that would have been easier). Instead, every decision from where to eat, if to eat, where to sit etc. was made by him because she took the time to ask him…Even if he was slow to respond or struggled to respond, she just waited patiently and looked attentively. Even if he responds, “whatever you think is best,” she looks at him and say, “no hon, what do you what?”

The day we visited he was having a bad day (he caught a bug and was sick all night) she asked him if he wanted her to stay with him…and so she spent the night. She affectingly told him, “you are my boyfriend!” and rubbed his leg as his hands and leg shook uncontrollably from the Parkinson’s… (I could cry!) Her devotion to him, her care for him, her love for him was AMAZING…I want to be half the wife she is…A couple times a week she would take him to their home and have him spend the day at home with her…other times she would spend the night with him. Of every love story I have watched…this is best one I have seen…And I can’t stop crying every time I think about it. I told Jared this is like a love story that does not have a happy ending…because he’s going to die…*sobs* Jared told me that no love story has a happy ending because we all die at some point…But it’s so unfair for him to die! And in this way!!

Mr. Kirby was happy to see Jared. His countenance lit up and he smiled. It had been 7 years since Jared was last in TX…Jared’s dad however, continues to be a regular visitor during his multiple trips to the US every year. At one time when he was speaking to Jared he seemed to have lost his trail of thought and struggled to say what he wanted to say…And then he said, “I hate being like this.” OH, my heart broke! I was fighting the tears!!! Every single day I was there I was fighting the tears! Then, Jared told him that he spoke with his parents and Mr. Kirby smiled…And then he said, “Tell them…tell them…thank you.” By this point I couldn’t stop the tears. NO, you are sick and dying, I thought to myself…and we should be the ones saying thank you…for all that you have done…not only for Jared and helping him through med school but also for helping Jared’s dad raise funds for the Jamaica School of Preaching…NO Mr. Kirby, THANK YOU!

Please pray for Margie’s strength…She is giving a lot of herself to care for her husband and needs all the prayers we can afford. This beautiful couple has touched so many lives and I am just honored to know them. When the bible talks about the older women teaching the younger women about how to take care of their husbands, this is what it was talking about! My prayer is that my heart would listen, and I would strive continuously, daily, to be the wife God calls me to be…I pray that our hearts would be as generous as the Kirby’s and like they have blessed us, we too would bless others.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Bucket List

New Adventures for 2010

This year I didn’t make a new years resolution. Instead I developed a theme, a theme to live life to the fullest while I have it. I decided to take care of me, so I could take care of you. You see, sometimes we get so busy with life, that we lose sight of things that are important. When we lose sight of those things we get stressed, when we get stressed our inner core breaks down…And when that happens, we retreat…We retreat not to take care of ourselves, but to get away from others…to get away from stress. Then, we repeat the cycle, of never truly living life to the fullest, while never giving others their fair share. So, I decided that I have spent so much of my life sacrificing, and denying myself of things I want, that I am going to step out and go for it. I work 40 hours a week, and I think I deserve to feel the benefits of my job. A part of our budget is for personal spending and entertainment. Now, I am going to use that money and not deny myself of opportunities to see and experience the world. I started off the year with the hope that every month I would do something “special.” I am writing this to remind myself of my new year’s theme and not lose sight of what I started.

January – We went to our first new year’s party. We spent Christmas 2009 in Jamaica and I wanted to do something different. At $50 a pop we decided to go a party. A real party with music and dancing. We went, ate, had a couple drinks and people watched . Then that weekend we went to with my husband’s brother and wife to the beach. I am such a beach bomb so I couldn’t ask for anything better! We climbed Dunn’s River Falls and ate well at the hotel. It was a great start of 2010.

February – We saw our first Tyler Perry play. For so long I have always wanted to go…But for some reason I denied myself because someone didn’t want to go. This year, I don’t care who wants to go or not. My husband is always willing to indulge me and I will not take that for granted anymore. So the girls don’t want to go…who cares! I laughed so much a and had such a BLAST!

March – My first Alicia Keys concert!! I think I can go on record to say that Alicia is one of my favourite singers! And when she came in my area last year I didn’t go. Why? Because I thought the ticket prices were too expensive! HELLO! This year, since I made my new year’s theme, I decided that at $150 my husband and I can enjoy the Key’s concert. This was my very first concert in the US…And I had a great time. NOW, I will go to whoever concert I want to go to…

April – Jared and I visited Tammy and Kevin in St. Louis! And who is Tammy and Kevin, only the most adorable couple in the world! This was another strategic plan and part of my new years theme. I said to myself that I cannot let money stop me from visiting my most loved ones. If we waited until we have money, then we are waiting too long. My promise to them and myself is that I will make a trip to see them at least once a year. We did some sight-seeing in STL and walked into a Casino for the first time. St. Louis has lots of casinos so I thought, why not!? Went in, checked out the lights, watched people play some slots and left. I was told that the key to playing is to go in with just $20 with the idea that you are going to “throw away” $20 and expect nothing in return. Basically, just for fun…We thought about and would have done so if I had $20 cash…hmmm, didn’t want to pay the $4 ATM fee…that would be throwing away $24…no thank you. LOL! We did the St. Louis Arch, the butterfly house, and an interesting bowling alley…It was different because it seemed like an “adult” bowling alley with a full scale bar. Probably turns into a club…ah well, we went for the bowling. We had such a great time with my sis and her husband and would do it again in a heart beat!

For my birthday we went to a comedy show in Raleigh. OMG, I laughed so much!!! This was my first comedy show and was definitely on my list of things to do for 2010. I am glad I was able to do it. Afterwards we tried a new restaurant called Cuban Revolution. At that hour it was one of the few restaurants open that hour. My strawberry daiquiri was delicious, and so was my food. Jared said he didn’t like his food. The next day we made a quick trip to DC and saw a Grenadian play. (Was this the DC trip I bought 6 bottles of wine?) Had dinner with my high school friend from Trinidad and back to Durham!

Sometime in April I had the opportunity to walk with the Dreamers! They represent immigration issues I feel strongly about. You can read more about them at http://www.trail2010.org/about/ http://www.trail2010.org/about/. But this was another first for me…To participate in a walk, in NC, of my own doing…not for a class, or assignment or grade…but because I wanted to. Because I wanted to stand up for the thousands of immigrants in this country who do so much to make America what it is today. I walked, and walked, and walked, and then walked some more!

May – The Color Purple. Another play I always wanted to see. And for the same reason like the Key’s concert or the Tyler Perry play, I had not made it. But this year I made it my business to see the play! We had a great time!

June – Jared went to Jamaica for a month. I think before he left we did something for his birthday. I believe we played mini golf at Frankies Fun Park and had dinner. My high school friend Krystalle came to visit me from DC for the first time. We had a great time and tried two new restaurants – Zydeko a new Orleans styled restaurant with a nice jazz band with a lead singer (Crystal) who could not sing! Their jambalaya rice was really good! So much so, that I looked up some jambalaya recipes and added jambalaya rice and jambalaya pasta to my repertoire. The next restaurant was Nantucket Grill. They have large portion desserts but their food wasn’t all that. I tried it again with Jared and still wasn’t impressed with the food. Will go for dessert though. The one first is that we were not together for our anniversary since Jared was in Jamaica.

 July- This was a big month for us. We travelled to Trinidad for the Caribbean Lectureship. This was special for us because this is where we met, 12 years ago! In 1998 the Caribbean Lectureship was held in Trinidad and our paths crossed. Two years later we went to the same lectureship that was held in St. Lucia and really started talking. I visited for Christmas and he visited for Jamaica and one year later we decided to start dating and the rest is history! This time we were back as presenters! Well more so Jared…I was the trusty assistant. One of Jared’s greatest passions is to work with parents in a way that would help them to be better parents, thus bringing up better kids. Jared has spent the past year researching various parenting programs and I thought what better way to introduce his research and passion to the church, that to present at lectureship! We worked together on his presentation before we left, and I assisted with the group presentations. The workshop was well received and I was very proud of my husband for taking his research and translating it into something good for the church. I am happy that I am able to be part of this “Growing up process” of us. I envision that one day we would be the dynamic couple who can present information on parenting and marriage (my favorite topic) at conferences, workshops and more importantly churches.


After the 4 day lectureship we travelled to Tobago for the rest of the week. Remember I said that I am a beach bum. Well we were in walking distance of the beach! This was our first time going Tobago by ourselves. We met up with some friends (Marsha and her family) and had a blast! As I journeyed through Tobago I could not help but think what a beautiful country I have. I never realized how scenic Tobago was until then. We trinis don’t know what we have until we don’t have it anymore. This Tobago trip was our anniversary getaway and it was a beautiful and peaceful getaway!



August – Jared’s sister and her husband visited us for the first time together! All the way from Jamaica. We went to DC for one day and visited some of the monuments and musiems. It was a one day trip and a LONG but fun day. We also took them to Carowinds theme park and I concurred my fears of roller coasters thanks to Roger!!! What a thrill!!! Those where your feet dangle in the air feel less scary than those where your feet are planted on something. It was super crazy and fast but exhilarating!






September – What did we do in September? We had our housewarming!!! After 10 months of living in our new home we were finally able to paint, clean, and put together our house and welcome everyone. This was the cleanest I ever saw my house and I think it would be the cleanest ever. It was like Christmas cleaning to tell you the truth. I was happy that we were able to have a number of first timers to our home…both from church and our work. My desire is have a home that is open and welcoming. I plan to make a more concerted effort to extend my hospitality to those I normally don’t reach, like my co-workers and older folks from church. My house definitely felt warm and the paint colors look fabulous!!



October – Our trip is not here yet but we will be travelling to Dallas and NY at the end of the month. I have never been to TX before I am really excited to visit! TX is potentially a state that we would consider living in the future so it’s great that I am getting a taste. We decided to visit TX because it was a trip long overdue! We will be visiting the Kirby’s who was instrumental in helping Jared through undergrad and med school. I owe it to them to meet them. Coupled with the fact that Weldon is sick and getting sicker :(. For the second half of the week we will be going to NY…Jared has a child conference he wanted to attend, so I thought it would be the perfect time to visit my dad. I hope to do something funtabulous while in NY. We have not done any of the “touristy” things in NY yet, so perhaps we’ll venture out and visit a couple museums and the statue of liberty…maybe even catch a show and see a little night life!

November – Jared’s folks are visiting us for Thanksgiving! They have not been to our new home so this will be exciting having them there. I love them so much, they are the best in-laws ever!! I also hope we can make a trip to the mountains. I wanted to go last year but it didn’t happen. I would like to go white water rafting again and take in the scenic mountain view!

December – TBD. I am not sure where we will go for Christmas. I was hoping we could go to Trinidad if my visa approval came back in time. But after looking at ticket prices at $800 a piece, I don’t think that’s a possibility. Maybe prices will drop? Either way, I can only go to Trinidad if my visa application is approved because my visa is expired and I cant travel outside of the US until I get it. Bummer.

Things I hope to do:

• Skiing/snow tubing

• White water rafting (again…maybe when we go to the mountains)

• Camping

• Horseback riding

• Wine tasting (Dublin)

• Cruise (hopefully for my birthday)

• Florida Keys (hopefully for our 5th year anniversary)

• Trinidad – to get my visa (December or later)

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Phone Call

Today I called my step mom and dad…

Background- For the past year (LITERALLY) I have been trying to get my father to come and visit me in North Carolina. Since I have been in the U.S. NONE of my family have visited me…NOT EVEN FOR GRADUATION!! I digress. To be honest, I feel a little…no, a LOT hurt by that sometimes. I have been blessed to have my in-laws, friends, and church family near and far come and visit…But for some reason, it’s not my family’s prerogative. I have visited them…from NY to CA…I have visited my sisters…But I am still waiting on the day they would chose to visit me. Anyway, since we got our new home last year I have been asking my dad to come and visit me. At first, I told him that I wanted him to come and help us paint the house…I thought it would be a noble task for my daddy to help paint one of my rooms. Unfortunately, my step mother did not take me seriously and when it was time for me to buy the tickets, I got a WHOLE lot of BS…One big hullabaloo. My oldest sister even got involved and told me that I should NOT plan things without telling mom (my step mom) first. See, the problem was that my step mom never took me seriously…and it was ONLY when I told my father I purchased the ticket (I lied), everyone started to make a big deal out of it…

Well after several tense email exchanges with my oldest sister in November 2009, I was told that dad could not travel because my step mom was planning to have a surgery…A surgery that has not happened up to now! After the last email my sister sent me (which was way out of line) I never responded…and I have not spoken to her since…I decided that I was fed up of the crap she was dishing out. And I was simply tired of her talking down to me like I am some child of hers! Initially I had typed a response…but I never sent it…I recently emailed her a short “how are you doing?” email, but I have not heard back. Ah well…

Then in April, I found out that daddy went on a cruise…Hmmm, how interesting that you guys can plan a cruise to the freaking Caribbean, but not a 2 hour trip to see me! In June he went to Trinidad…and TODAY, I find out he is going to California by my sister.

WTH!!! So hold up…Am I just being tossed aside like nothing?????

OK, so today I called and my step mother answered…and usually she talks for a few minutes and passes the phone to my father…This time I decided to ask a question upfront before she had time to pass the phone. So I told her I would like for them to come to my house warming on September 25…It was then she told me (after pondering the date for a while) that they plan to go to LA…maybe around that time. OH really! So I decided to push a little and I asked her if they were not planning to visit me. And then she started on her usual rampage about how she does not visit any of the other children, and she does not like to go by anyone, and that I know why they HAVE TO GO to LA…So I asked why they had to go??…if it was because of health reasons? And said to me that I am smart and I know why…And just send a picture of the house…And then she hastily came off the phone and passed it to my dad.

Well, by that time I was in tears…And all I said to my father was hello…and silence…how are you? He asked me what was wrong and said that I didn’t sound like myself…Awww, how sweet *tear* So I told him that I heard that he was going to California and that it seems like he’s not making plans to come visit me. He said that he was not sure what was going on but my sister (who is a pediatrician) wanted him to come back to CA so he could see the doctors there and get checked out…OK, fair enough I thought…BUT WHAT ABOUT ME!??? I told him that since last year he has been promising to visit me and since then he has been on a cruise, made it to Trinidad and now going to CA!!! Why am I getting the bitter end of the stick??? He told me not to worry and he promises that he would come…He said that he would come even if he has to come alone…And he will come before the year is done…Probably when he gets back from CA. But this was the first time, in the past year, that my dad really spoke to my heart…And I felt that he really understood how hurt I have been by him not visiting me…And I hope (like the 10 year old girl within me)…I hope he comes through.

Even though my step mom said that she does not visit the other kids, I know my daddy…and I know that he would like to visit me…I know in his heart he wants to…and that’s all that matters to me…

But I must confess that this is a tough battle to fight…Especially since I don’t have much close relatives and my daddy is my closest blood relative to me…He is 80 years old and I know that he may not have much time left on this earth…And when he is gone, I will feel like an orphan…(I love you daddy)…

The tears can’t stop flowing as I write this…

From the heart of a 10 year old girl, in a 29 year old body…

I will pray, sing and meditate on Ps. 61:1-3

Psalm 61

1Hear my cry, O God; attend unto my prayer.

2From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I.

3For thou hast been a shelter for me, and a strong tower from the enemy.

And when my heart is overwhelmed, Lord lead me to the rock that is higher than I….That is higher than I.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Acceptance

I made a revelation…Well actually a friend helped me to make a revelation…
I made contact with my friend (Read post Friends are Not Forever). It was an email…a simple email…but none the less - contact. After 9 months of silence, I decided to break the silence. And all I asked was “how are you doing? It’s been a while.”

It took a lot out of me to make that step. I did not want to be the “bigger person.” When you are hurt, and upset you could care less about being mature, wise, blah blah blah. I was hurt, and for a while I allowed my hurt feelings to allow our friendship to dwindle away. I felt that if she loved me, and cared anything about our friendship, she would fight for me. But when she didn’t, her actions told me that she could do without me and our friendship. She was like a sister to me…Friends since I was 15…and it devastated me to think that she would just let it go without a fight. That devastation caused many tears on my part for several months…

And for several months I had anger building inside of me…I had hurt tearing me apart inside…For several months I WANTED to call her...OR email her…But I didn’t. I didn’t, because I knew that the words that I would have told her would have been mean and hateful. I had to come to a place where I could talk to her on her level – as normal.

Whenever I thought about talking with her I got mad…Because I knew that she would talk to me as if everything was normal or okay. That to me is hypocritical! If I know we have beef, I cannot pretend to talk to you as if everything is okay. BUT, that is me – NOT her. And I came to the realization (with the help of another friend) that even though she may talk to me “as normal” that does not mean she is okay with how things are…Even though she may not bring up the presenting problem that does not mean she does not want it resolved…And even though I am the type of person who has to talk about it to make it right, she is not. She is fully capable of working out a situation with herself, in her mind and moving forward successfully. Well, seemingly successfully…until the situation blows up again. She has a very forgiving heart that sometimes allows her to move forward without dealing with a problem constructively.

I did not appreciate that about her. I felt that she should have told me whatever I did that bothered her…and not someone else. I felt that she should have seen that something was wrong with me, and asked what happened…I felt that she should have not allowed 9 months to go by…

But I was reminded by another friend that I know her…I know who she is as a person…I know her heart…And so, I was able to write…and when she responded “as normal,” I didn’t get upset, because I knew that is who she is. I anticipated that her response would be positive, as if nothing ever happened, and 9 months didn’t just go by. And so said, so done…She responded very positively and has not dared ask me what happened…But, I cannot be surprised because I know that she avoids conflict…at all costs.

I had hoped that since she knew me, knew my heart, and knew that I needed to have this resolved in order for us to move forward, that she would do something…say something…and fight for us…for our friendship….Instead, she said she does not want to deal with this right now and she does not know if she ever will. She didn’t say this to me directly…but hearing that killed me. I think she was and is willing to allow our friendship to dissolve. I think that if I had not contacted her that she probably would not have contacted me…

At this stage I am not sure what I want to do…I have a strange feeling that she does not think she did anything wrong in this situation (i.e. avoid conflict, and avoided contact). I think she considers herself the victim in this situation…Like the person who was done wrong…And then with wide open, forgiving arms is perhaps waiting to welcome me back.

But we both need to come to the table and admit that we did each other wrong. She didn’t call me, and I didn’t call her. She avoided conflict and I helped her to avoid it by not confronting her. She abandoned our friendship and so did I. Though our reasons behind why we did what we did may be different…it still remains that our actions mirrored each other.

The revelation – accept a friend for who they are. Don’t be mad when they behave within their nature. Know they are not perfect…Know they may not love you the way you want to be loved, but that does not mean they don’t love you.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Conflict Avoiding in Marriage

People say marriage is HARD!….It’s no easy street….It’s not all it’s cracked out to be…But why? I wonder to myself why marriage can’t be easy?…Why can’t be easy street?…And why can’t it be something that gets better with time…Like wine…??

I have been married for 4 years. And I must confess that I have had an easy four years compared to what others have experienced. I sometimes wonder when my turn will come…When I would wake up to realize that I no longer love my husband. Or when he would no longer love me? Yes, I wonder these things…because I do not understand how so many romantics end up bitter and divorced in less than 7 years. I’m tearful and sad as I think about what the devil is doing to our families...And what he is doing to my friends…:-(

My husband and I talked about some reasons several marriages dwindle and die. One of the major contributing factors to a dying marriage is unresolved conflict. There are times when we must turn a blind eye so we don’t go “crazy.” That’s called, “not sweating the small stuff.” So he forgot to take out the garbage, or he didn’t wash his dinner plate…Or maybe she is fussing at you because the kids are up past their bedtime, or she is closing the church building when you are ready to go home. You get the gist…The small stuff in the grand scheme of things should not break your relationship…And is usually not worth the negative energy we sometimes display. You can control your reaction, and tell yourself that I have a good man, or a good woman. Ladies, if you have a man who loves you more than anything, and actively tries to please you, cut him some slack if or when he messes up. Likewise men, you know if you have a woman who is serving you and treating you like a king, indulge her seemingly insignificant requests if it would make her happy. Don’t waste time and energy trying to figure out how pointless your spouse’s request is and trying to convince them why they need to “lay off!”

But there are times and situations that warrant us to actively engage in conflict. Your relationship will determine what these conflicts are. I say anything that can potentially threaten the happiness of your marriage you should deal with it. I asked my husband how he determines what is worth battling over and what is worth leaving alone. He said that if he is unable to put aside the negative situation permanently and NEVER give it a second thought, then it’s worth bring up. He said for him, if he thinks about the situation and decides to leave it alone, but later he thinks about it again, then he knows that he needs to deal with it. I told him that he is a conflict avoider (UNLIKE me!) and that he never really brings up negative situations to me…But during the course of an argument, it comes bolting out de door…Which only adds fuel to the fire. He did acknowledge that he has done that but has promised to deal with conflict there and then.

In his words…When you deal with conflict as it occurs its help your relationship to grow. In the process of dealing with conflict you move closer as a couple because it forces you to concur a problem. During this process you also develop a certain skill set that will make it easier to move through different levels of conflict with greater ease. Too many times we end up cheating ourselves of this growth when we avoid conflict. These basic skills are exactly what is needed to create a happy and healthy marriage.

Avoiding conflict can take many forms…It can be straight up avoiding negative situations all together. You feel upset, but you keep those upset feelings to yourself…You may say that you just can’t bother to deal with the stress, so you chose to avoid it. Eventually these suppressed feelings manifest itself in a way that is often unhealthy for the relationship. Sometimes it’s used to add fuel to the fire and not really deal with the situation at hand.

We may think that people who avoid conflict are often quiet in nature…not loud mouths like me. However I believe that conflict avoiders can make noise too. The problem is the noise does not yield any positive results. I think I may have found myself in this situation on several occasions. Often times the “noise” is just sounds of frustration. Sometimes the only thing it serves to do is berate or disrespect our spouse. After we have said our “peace” we leave it alone. Yes, we may have acknowledged that there is a problem, but we never made any movements towards resolving the conflict. In essence, there was a problem, we yelled at our spouse, and then we swept it under the rug until the next time another problem pops up. Can you imagine if these problems crop up every day? Can you imagine what that “noise” does to your spouse? Would it be better to work towards resolving the conflict once and for all, than fight about it every day? Here is a real life example. I am somewhat of a neat freak. I don’t enjoy the process of cleaning but I love a clean home. My husband also enjoys a clean home…the problem is he also enjoys it when its messed up too. In other words, he’s not going to care if the bed isn’t made, or the dishes sit in the sink a few days. So let’s pretend that there are some dirty dishes sitting in the sink for 3 days. At this point I am upset that he has not washed up as promised. As he walks through the door I greet him with a complaint. “Why you aint wash de wears yet!?” I am sure he was looking forward to such a warm welcome. His response, “sorry hon, I forgot.” Me – “WHAT YOU MEAN YOU FORGET!? YOU DIDN’T JUST DROP A PLATE IN THERE THIS MORNING! DIDN’T YOU SEE THE SINK THEN!” He gets silent, I go upstairs. In this situation I have managed to confront the conflict and avoid it at the same time. I pout for a few hours, and then I am “back to normal.” The following week we repeat the same cycle. After a few years of this my mild feelings of annoyance will turn into a mountain of frustration…Before long, my husband would not be looking forward to coming home. Making noise is a good way to avoid dealing with conflict.

So what’s a good way to resolve this situation? Firstly, start by communicating with your spouse how much it means to you when he helps out. Let him know your desires, never assume he should know. Try to establish a routine…Maybe after dinner we both would put the dishes in the dishwasher. Decide on something that is practical for both of you. After a 12 hour day I wouldn’t want to wash dishes either…Listen to your spouse too…You want him to care about your wants or desires…be respectful of his wants or desires. He has every right to come home and just unwind in peace. Give him that. It’s all about meeting each other’s needs, not just your needs. Remember, you care more about the dishes than he does, so make sure to thank him for taking the time to help you. Don’t ever have an attitude of, “why should I thank him for something that he is SUPPOSED to do?” Truth be told, he does not HAVE to do anything. God gave everyone free choice. He is choosing to love you, just like you are choosing to serve him. Whenever I serve my husband’s food he says, “thank you baby.” That makes me feel that he appreciates my efforts to serve him, and he enjoys it. Sometimes I feel so good I’ll wash the dishes! LOL!

Another way of avoiding conflict is denial…Denying that there is a major problem in the relationship and downplaying it as one of the “small stuff.” You might tell yourself that if you make yourself okay with the insane situation, then everything would be okay. You don’t acknowledge how bad your situation really is. For example, your spouse comes home and tells you that he/she is moving to another country for work “with or without you.” You are in the middle of completing your PhD and cannot believe why your spouse would abandon you without any thought for you or discussion with you. After expressing your frustration with the situation, you eventually decide to “leave it alone” and stop “complaining” to your spouse. You tell yourself that your spouse is okay with moving away, otherwise he/she would not have chosen to move. In the end you decide to resolve the situation by moving with your spouse. However you have not dealt with the conflict presented in this relationship at all. In essence you have placed a Band-Aid on wound that needed major surgery! Here are several things that need addressing in this scenario…

• Communication – Both partners in this relationship need to learn basic communication skills. Perhaps the spouse in denial needs to learn how to effectively communicate problems and concerns.

• Respect for your spouse as an equal partner – Is one person more important than the other? By making life changing decisions without consulting your partner you have determined that you are more important.

• Compromise - it seems like the spouse who wants to move had made up their mind already – it’s my way or the highway! There was no room for compromise because there was no discussion before a decision was made.

• Love –When we truly examine what love really means in a marriage, we can see that this was clearly missing….on both sides…Yes, both sides. I think it’s obvious how love was missing with the spouse who decided to move with or without their counterpart. In a marriage, love is not that romantic feeling you feel in the pit of your stomach. Love in a marriage, is serving your mate, trying to fulfill their needs, putting yourself second and esteeming your mate better than yourself. Can you imagine when two people treat each other this way? Both parties actively trying to make the other happy first and foremost. That is a marriage made in heaven. And that was clearly missing. But, what about the partner who received the bitter end of the stick? How was love missing there? Love was missing because he/she chose to ignore major problems in the relationship. Problems that will eventually stifle a relationship and cause it to die.

Love is what motivates me to deal with conflict. Love is what motivates me to deal with tough situations in my marriage. Love is what makes me cry my heart out to my mate so we can reign triumphant and become a better, and stronger couple.

God provides situations (conflict) to help our relationships grow, to teach us the true meaning of love, and create a deeper more meaningful relationship with our mate than we can ever imagine. God allows us to experience conflict, so we can experience true happiness in our marriage. When we deal with conflict, and not avoid it, we have consciously made a decision to safe guard our marriage and build a strong relationship that the devil will never shake.

Conflict is not always easy to deal with. Sometimes we may even find ourselves in situations where we are going in circles, and never able to communicate effectively about what is bothering us. In those situations, never be too proud to seek help. Help can come in the form of a therapist who can provide the couple with basic skills in communication and dealing with conflict in a positive way. Is your relationship worth this investment? Relationship books also provide a great resource for tips and best practices. Would you make the time to read so you can build and grow your relationship? And of course, never forget the power of prayer. With a constant focus of developing your spiritual self, you will always be presented with life challenges that lead you straight to JESUS. Thankfully God has given us so many resources to help us. Now it’s up to us to accept the challenge.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Forgiveness

I used to think that forgiveness was easy and I didn’t have a problem with this. I have said that I have never not forgiven someone who asked for forgiveness. But what about those who don’t ask for forgiveness? What about them? How do we forgive those who either don’t know they hurt us or simply don’t care? Can we say like Jesus, “Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do”?


I asked a friend recently, “Can I rightly divorce my cheating husband if I forgive him?” He said, “forgiveness should mean that you no longer hold the unfaithful act to his account. To divorce him would mean that you are still holding his sin to his account and that means forgiveness wasn't really present.”

But then why would God create a legitimate avenue for divorce that in essence would be hinged on sin (unforgiveness)??

Think of forgiving a baby sitter who sexually abused your child. That person, though forgiven may never baby sit your child again. But if God's love is present that we would make sure that person is supported while they receive the help they need...and not cast aside never to be spoken to again. Right?

Somewhere along the way someone told us that forgiving someone was as easy as saying, “I forgive you.” A one time act that magically takes away our hurt and heart aches. An act that prevents us from dwelling on the past and moving forward with the future. Ohhh, but if it were so easy. Remember I started by saying that I thought I didn’t have a problem with this? Well, I must confess that I do.

Because we may think that forgiveness is a onetime act of saying “you are forgiven” we fool ourselves into thinking that since we are still hurt, upset, and crushed by what happened we can just ignore the person. They don’t need to be part of our lives to hurt us anymore. We say, “I can forgive you, but I don’t have to talk to you anymore.” I am not sure if this reflects the Christ like attitude Jesus wants us to have. Can you imagine if God forgave us but didn’t talk to us anymore? Or said that he forgave us but just to prevent Himself from being hurt he has chosen to cut us off?

I have recently had several human interactions that have challenged my ability to forgive. One being my oldest sister and a couple of my friends. I reached a point in my relationship with my sister where I was simply tired of her talking down to me…speaking to me as if I were some child….I was tired of being bullied by her. This may be the classic case of “forgive them for they know not what they do.” Maybe she has no clue how her actions has negatively impacted me. Maybe she thinks that she is justified. Maybe she is just being herself – a bossy mother hen. Well, November 2009 marked the last time I communicated with her. It was a harsh exchange of emails, that I eventually chose not to respond to. And so Christmas, New Years, birthdays and anniversaries have passed and we have not spoken. I chose to do this. This was a conscious decision on my part…Because I was tired…I was tired of her talking down to me…and I just could not deal with it anymore. So where does forgiveness come into play? How can I forgive her if she does not even acknowledge her follies? Should I tell her how I feel? Would she even care? I think that forgiveness is not a onetime act that we were taught, but it is a work in progress. It begins with admitting that you need to forgive – even when the person who offended you does not ask for forgiveness. You say to yourself that regardless of if they even admit they are wrong, or if they ask for forgiveness, I will forgive them. But how do you do that? It sounds really nice and “spiritual” but practically, how do you move to that point.

Well, I think that in getting to that point means that I have to work on me. I have to acknowledge that I, just like her, have faults…many I may never see…I, just like her, have hurt someone…and may never know…I, just like her, may have a lot on my plate, that I just need grace and mercy. That acknowledgement puts me in a better place. And it puts it back on me. God commanded me to love, He commanded me to forgive…regardless of what the other person does. So, I need to work on me. Maybe I need to work on being more vocal about my feelings when she offends me. Maybe I need to work on patience and endurance. MAYBE, I need to work through my feelings of hurt and pain and NOT ignore it!

One of the things that make forgiveness so difficult is that we do not give people enough time to work through their hurt and pain. We expect that they should forgive and forget in an instant! Almost ignoring their heartache. But it is perfectly acceptable to admit that we need time to work through our feelings. Perhaps a prayerful attitude can help this along. The key is not to ignore your feelings…Because that can turn into ignoring the person. A quick fix, but not necessarily the right fix…To say that we have forgiven someone yet ignore them is not forgiveness…it is us taking the easy way out.

Last year a good friend of mine stood me up. I travelled 3 hours (while in another country) to see him and never saw him! I called, texted, called and texted! No response! And no response days after…And no response weeks after…And no response months after… I was HURT to say the least. I emailed him and told him how hurt and disappointed I was…no response…Three months later I wrote him again, asking him for some type of explanation…and told me he could not give me an explanation and just said he was sorry. I told him I deserved some type of explanation for what he did…He never responded. In that correspondence, I told him that at this point I did not care about his apologies. I simply wanted to know what happened, why you didn’t text me to say something…or why did you take 3 months to respond??? I told him that our friendship was hanging in the balance because I was not sure if we could still be friends if he could trample over my feelings without explaining why…NO RESPONSE…

Then HE wrote me in July, saying that he was sorry but still refused to give me an explanation. He remains adamant about not giving me ANY type of explanation as to why he stood me up, why he never responded to my text, why he never emailed me when I emailed him a couple weeks later, or why he took 3 months to respond to my emails.

So he has asked for forgiveness, and I thought I had forgiven him….But at this point I no longer want to be his friend. AT this point, I no longer trust him with my heart/feelings…He is one of the FEW male friends I had. One of the few brothers that I loved so much…One of the few people that I thought I could still count out…who had my back… But he has proven that I can’t count on him. Almost a year later, and I still feel like how I felt that faithful October weekend…Tearful and sad…

Have I truly forgiven?

He is still my brother in Christ…And by that love should govern our relationship. Christ’s love. Therefore I should and will treat him like any brother or sister…with love…The crazy thing about Christ’s love is that it calls us to love each other…kinda the same way we love our friends.

Forgiveness – a work in progress…I will start with the acknowledgement that I need to work on me in order to truly forgive you.

Humble Beginnings

In 1998 I met Jared at the28th annual Caribbean Lectureship that was hosted in my home country of Trinidad. We were both 17 years old at the time. He came with his parents along with the Mona Acapella choir from Jamaica. Our paths crossed thanks to my best friend, Tammy. She introduced “Brother Kiddoe’s” son to me. She knew of him because his dad stayed at their house a couple years aback.
Well, at the time I had a boyfriend so I was not interested in anything romantic. A little na├»ve, I asked if we could be friends. Well, mister had something else in mind and said that if he can’t have me then we can’t be friends. HOW IMMATURE! Humph! We spent a bit of time during the lectureship getting to know each other. Again, I just wanted to be friends…but he wanted more. We exchanged contact info the last day. Over the next two years I probable wrote him a couple times and spoke to him on the phone a couple times. Nothing serious. He told me that he was planning to attend college in the U.S. Ironically, I wanted to study abroad myself!

Two years later the lectureship was being host by the Church of Christ in St. Lucia. I made plans to attend and called him a couple weeks before to find out if he was going. He said he was not sure. Ah well, I was just excited to venture out of the country to see another beautiful island! By that time I was fourteen months into my second relationship. A relationship characterized by turmoil and utter frustration, while at the same time deeply attached to each other. At 19 I already had in mind that I would marry him…We had joint accounts and everything! But there was something wrong…We argued more than we had fun…But he was a budding preacher…and good brother…But something was not right…I cried more than I smiled. I was frustrated by the image of appear to be a great couple when I knew we were not!!! Something was wrong.

When I went to the Caribbean Lectureship in St. Lucia and I figured out what was wrong…I had lost myself in this man. I had depended on him for my happiness…I was looking for him to give me what no one could give me…happiness. As I attended the lectures and fellowshipped with the saints, my soul was on a spiritual high…And for the first time in a LONG time, I was at peace, I was happy. I am thankful for this Lectureship because it changed the course of my life. At 19, I honestly thought I was destined to be unhappy. I thought that he was the best I could do and I would just have to live like this…unhappy.

Sunday we went to worship (the first day of the lectureship) and there was Jared! Yaaay! You made it! What a pleasant surprise :-). We hung out with each other for the entire lectureship. I was mesmerized by his witty charm. For a brief moment I had forgotten about my dreadful relationship. Until he called…Yep, he called me just to see how I was doing…And I was UP-SET! “Why are you calling me!? Can’t I get a break!?” That is when it hit me…He was not the one for me…I know I can be happy because I am happy right now…Happy to be away from you…Crazy! As soon as I got back to Trinidad at the end of that week I told him that I can’t do it anymore…I can’t continue with our relationship. And we ended a 14 month relationship. It was one of the hardest things I ever had to do…We were soooo connected…We were physically connected…and I think dysfunction attracts dysfunction.

I told myself that this year is for me…Just for me…to work on me, to work on my relationship with God, and to learn to be happy with myself, by myself. Jared and I acknowledged that we liked each other, but I made it clear that I was not ready for a relationship. I did not want him to be the rebound man. So we remained friends. And for that year we talked on line, kept in touch and just worked on getting to know each other as friends. That December I traveled to Jamaica to visit with him. I almost went to Grenada instead but thank God that didn’t work out :-).

Funny story – When I went to JA, I told Jared that we could not be together because I wanted to be a preacher’s wife…And since he wanted to be a doctor, we could not work out. Hahahaha. I was serious too. That was probably the day after Christmas and poor Jared was depressed. We continued as friends, and I eventually grew to realize that I should be with someone for who they are, not their profession. By the following summer, Jared came to Trinidad and we became “official” at age 20. We dated long distance for 5 years. Two of those years I was in Trinidad and he was in Texas! The other three years, I was in SC and he was in NC.

At age 25 we jumped the broom and we have been happily married for 4 years. I look at him and I can’t help but think that I picked the right one!!

Last week we went to the 40th annual Caribbean Lectureship that was held in Trinidad. It was great to go back to where we started. Two ditsy 17 year old…From since that time so much has changed. I graduated high school, did A’Levels, went to Preaching School for two years…Came to the U.S. and completed my undergrad in 3 years, got married, started working, completed my MSW, bought a house and car, got a promotion…Jared graduated from ACU with a Biochemistry degree…then went to Duke Med and came out with a M.D. AND M.A. in Psychology. He is now in his 3rd year of residency and is practicing in the field of Psychiatry. I would have never imagined how the Lord would have led us to where we are now…God is amazing.

Last week at the Caribbean lectureship, Jared (with my assistance) presented a 3 day parenting workshop. He feels so passionate about making a difference and felt that the one sure way to make a difference is to start with the parents. Since he eventually wants to work with children, he knows that it is almost impossible to work with a child if their parents are not on board. They can undo all the good that was done in therapy. So he thought what better way to help, than to teach parents how to be better parents…And then they can raise better children…And ultimately strengthen our communities. He has invested a lot of time and energy researching the parenting field, and sourcing materials that have been evidenced based. It was amazing to see how someone so young, with no kids of his own, be able to use his professional experience in working with this families, and his education background, to translate that into something the church can benefit from.

The feedback from the class was excellent! One sister even said that she has to go home and apologize to her two kids (17 & 24). WOW. That alone told me that the class was successful. To God be the glory!

I am so proud of you honey…And proud to see our humble beginnings. I cannot wait to see what the future will hold and how the Lord will continue to use us to strengthen his church.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Memoirs of a Wife

The day before the wedding-
I must be the luckiest woman in the world. I can’t believe the day is almost here!!! I have dreamed about this moment ever since I was a little girl, and it could not be more perfect! I know he is going to make me happy forever…He is a strong man of God. He comes from a good Christian family, he grew up in the church. I know he will lead our family and remain faithful to me and to God. He’s the perfect gentleman too! He is an example to so many people in church. They all look up to him…And guess what…HE’s MINE!!!

The honeymoon-

I am married to this chocolate hunk of a brother! He’s is so fine! I just want him to hold me, and cuddle with me…Let me just sit here and savor this moment…this is just pure bliss…perfection…And on top of that we get to do this forever. I’m so in love!

After the honeymoon-

I hope I will be able to make him happy. I have to get used to this new life…I want to serve him and support him…But I wonder sometimes if I am doing things right. Sometimes I feel like I am not being a good wife because I don’t cook all the time. I am not used to waking up at 5am and making breakfast, cooking dinner, and cleaning all the time…I hope he thinks I’m okay.

Beyond the honeymoon-

It would be nice if every once in a while he offered to help me with the chores!! We talked about this before we got married and he agreed that he would take out the trash and do the dishes…I just don’t get it! Why is he not living up to his end of the bargain!? Why does he think that I am the only one responsible for this!? Ugh! It just drives me crazy!!

Then he has the AUDACITY to tell me that he does this and that and I don’t acknowledge that…or tell him thanks. I just don’t understand why he thinks that he needs a thank you for something he is supposed to do…PLEASE! I don’t see him thanking me when I make the bed, or do laundry. But noooooo, the moment he does one little thing he is waiting for me to pat him on his back. Next thing he will be expecting me to thank him for brushing his teeth or taking a shower. No, this is just ridiculous now!

OK, and what is up with this intimacy thing…GOOD NIGHT! He can’t expect that I will always be available and on call whenever he wants it! After I go to work all day, and spend so much time cooking and cleaning…I’m tired man! I can’t even remember the last time he just held me…and cuddled. It’s like the romance went out the door! HELLO!

I’ll end with this one…

You know, I am starting to wonder if this man really went to school…Because sometimes its like he does not use his brain!! The other day he invited his parents over WITHOUT consulting with me first. I come home, thinking that I am going to relax after a long and taxing work week and low and behold I see his parents sitting on my couch! I understand that they don’t visit often, but I think it’s just wrong for him not to tell me they were coming. First of all the house was a mess…They probably think I am a bad wife…and then I just was not mentally prepared to have these people in my space. This is not the first time he has done this and it just pisses me off!

Can’t he just try to do better? Why should I have to hit the ceiling and the roof before he hears what I am saying!! UGH he makes me so mad sometimes!!!
Where is the man I married!?

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Moving

This post is dedicated to my sisters who are faced with having to move in the not too distant future…


I lived in the same place for the first 20 years of my life. Sometime around age 20 or 21 I unofficially started living with my best friend and her family. It started off as weekend visits, that turned into every weekend, that turned into staying the week, that just turned into staying months…I am and will be eternally grateful to God and to the Harris family for their kind hospitality. But after 2 years of living there, and a wanting to move forward with my life, I was more than ready to leave...I had a boyfriend in the US and I was desperate to come to the US. By July 2003 we had a long distance relationship going for 2 years. Trust me; I was ready for a move…But as luck would have it, I didn’t get a scholarship to any of the schools I applied for. I knew that the ONLY way I could come to the U.S. was if I got a full ride…My hope was broken, and my chances of being together with the man I was hoping to marry one day was fading…Then…in July…of 2003…I got the letter…THE SCHOLARSHIP LETTER!

In August of 2003 I made the BIG MOVE…I left everything I knew, everything I was familiar with, and I left the place I had eventually grown to love…I left my church family and my friends who were near and dear to me…I left, but I was ready!! I was ready to be closer to my boy! Closer to my family! And closer to my living my own life!

I arrived at JFK in Aug 2003 and I feverishly looked for a familiar face…But I didn’t see anyone. Where was my family? They were supposed to pick me up at the airport! It was at that point I feel a bout of aloneness…I thought about my friends I left behind…And how I never once was abandoned at an airport. I dragged my luggage to a chair and cried for 45 minutes nonstop. I eventually pulled myself together and found the strength to walk to the nearby pay phone and called my step mom. At that point I was yelled at for not calling earlier and not telling them what airline I was coming in on. You see, coming from a small country, it didn’t matter what airline you came in on because everyone exits through the same door…OKAY, so NY was a little bigger than I imagined and I didn’t realize different flights have different exits and pick up points. But if they knew this, why didn’t they call and ask?

So, not exactly the warm welcome I was expecting…My heart longed for home…My heart missed home, my friends, my church family…I was sad.

I stayed in NY a few days and then flew to ATL. I was met by an old friend from Trinidad who drove me 3 hours to Columbia, SC. It’s amazing how friends can be more dependable that your own family. Anyway, I digress. When I got to Benedict College (BC) some lady told me that registration was closed and asked if I could come back tomorrow! So my friend was gracious enough to take me to his home 2 hours away! The next day I came back (in time) and got my room assignment. We went shopping for basic essentials (linens, pillows, towels, etc.) and my friend left…At that point that lonely feeling started creeping back in. But this is what I wanted…Right!?

I eventually settled in and met a few other international students. Truthfully, they were my source of sanity for the majority of my 3 year stint at BC. For the first two year at BC, I did not have ANY American friends in school. I did make a few friends at church…But I felt so different culturally…like an outsider…I just didn’t relate…and I really didn’t care to. I hated the school…and the mindlessness that I was surrounded by. I couldn’t wait to leave!

After two years I started to open up myself more…I started to see that there were good people amidst the mindlessness…and I made friends…American friends! I started to feel more settled and content. At the end of three years I was 25 years old, graduating and planning a wedding! Another major move and life step. As I thought about moving to North Carolina, I felt so sad that I cried. I cried because I was going to another place where I had no friends…I felt that I had finally established a support network that really helped me to survive BC, and I was leaving all that behind to go to a place where I didn’t have that. It took me so long before I finally found a church home where I was comfortable, and friends I could relate to even though they were not like me…And just as I was getting comfortable, it was time to leave. BUT AGAIN, this was a move that I was ready for. I was ready to leave BC and start my life as a married woman!

When I moved to NC in 2006 I determined that I would fight with all my will to fit in…AND not take 3 years to do so! I did not have a circle of international friends to make me comfortable and feel like home. Knowing that I was going to a strange place with no friends, I promised that I would not sit and feel sorry for myself. I promised that I would open myself to new people, I promised that I would plug myself in church right away, I promised that I would not wait to be invited out but invite others in, I promised that I would extend myself to others and give of myself to others. And with that promise my goal was achieved. Once we returned from our honeymoon, we were moving and shaking! Before we knew it we had friends, people over at our house, and active in the college ministry. I felt like I was part of something…And best of all, I did not feel different, excluded, or sitting on the outside looking in.

I don’t know when next we would have to move…I am guessing that three years from now the cards may shift when my husband completes his residency. The entire map of the U.S. will be at our fingertips and we would be able to pick, choose and refuse where we want to live.

Through these major life moves I have learnt that God always provides people in our lives who will be our cheerleaders, and support. The key is that we must remain open to what He provides. We have to put ourselves out there to get caught. And we have to be proactive and be bold about what we want.

The beauty about life is that we have no idea who our next best friends would be. We do not know who will enter our life never to depart…We don’t know who else is out there that we are going to love…and is going to love us. We do not know who is going to be our rock of support when we need it most. What we know is who we have in our life at this very moment. And sometimes we grow so content with our circle, that we forget that our circle was meant to expand. But rest assured that you have a lot of friends…many of whom you have yet meet :-)…once you keep yourself open.

As you go, entering into unfamiliar territory, go brave… knowing that God will unveil many wonderful surprises that will bless your life more than you imagine…They called friends.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

You Don’t Need a Title to be a Leader (Mark Sanborn)

I absolutely enjoyed reading this book! Not only was it nice and short but quite encouraging. As the title suggests you do not need a title to be a leader. In today’s society we get caught up with job titles, status, and rank and file. In our every day dealings we say things like, “that’s not my job!” or “that’s not my problem!” and turn a blind eye. However the person who dares to make a difference, especially without a title is truly a leader.

Sanborn could not have said it any better when he said, we all make a difference, and it’s just our choice if we make a positive difference. If we don’t make a positive difference then we make a negative difference. It’s so easy to take the simple things in life for granted. A cheerful disposition, a kind word, a sweet smile, a friendly attitude…It’s easy to think that you don’t make a difference. But you do. When you wake up in the morning with a purpose you affect those around you. I have tried extra hard to have a chipper and friendly attitude since reading this book. Sometimes I think that what I do in my corner is “my business,” but I must be careful not to hinder someone else who is trying to achieve something positive. I feed off of people’s disposition easily. It can even change my mood from happy to downright depressed in seconds…So who am I not to think that I can’t have the same effect on someone else. We all make a difference…I will chose to make a positive difference.


Another point the author made was, “People who lead-whether or not they have a title-strive to make things better.” This describes my work ethic in print! I am always looking for ways to improve something, invent a system to make things more efficient, figure out a way to provide better quality service etc. I don’t mind talking to you about a problem you have at work or how things suck…BUT we can’t talk just for talking sake…we got to talk so we can make it better. That’s the purpose of us talking, right? I find it very difficult at work when others don’t adopt the same mindset…Especially when they have a “leadership” title! After engaging in a negative conversation, my next question is usually, “so what are you going to do about it?” To which I usually receive a disappointing reply, “nothing.” I realize we are not on the same page, and I struggle to maintain that friendly, positive disposition in a negative work environment.


ROI is a common term in the business world that means return on investment. However, Sanborn defines ROI as relationships, outcomes and improvements. It’s important that as leaders we don’t bully people into following us but rather foster relationships and influence individuals through our relationships. We use the art of persuasion and ultimately yield positive outcomes. I am not sure if persuade is the word I would choose to use. I would prefer to say “encourage.” Encouragement can go a longer way when you have an established relationship with someone. Relationships in this sense does not mean that you have to know a person’s family tree, and personal life but rather it suggests that you take an interest in that person as a person. You care about their feelings and you show that you care. You care about what they are doing, and so you ask.


We recently started talking about valuing our volunteers at BBBS (thanks to our VP of Partnerships). I realized that if we are able to build relationships with our volunteers then they would be more engaged with me, more engaged with the agency, more engaged with their mentee…They are more apt to call me back when I call, and I am able to have deeper and meaningful conversations with them about their match relationship. In the end, the relationships I am striving to build with these volunteers will yield better outcomes for our program. Right now I am trying to find the balance of building genuine relationships and being myself in the process. I must say that starting the day with a recognition that I make a difference and that gives me that burst of energy to answer the phone “happier” and push a little further.


Obligation or opportunity


In my job I call volunteers and parents about once a month to find out how things are coming along with the mentor-mentee relationship. After about call 59, I sometimes dread making the next call. The strange thing is that once I am on the phone with someone, I ENJOY talking to them…that might be because I love to talk! But it’s the process of getting there that can sometimes leave me with a daunting task that does not have to be so daunting. If I approach this as an obligation I am only going to feel like a slave to my job…Looking at my list of people to call looks more like a chore…But if I look at is as an opportunity…to make a difference, help someone, encourage someone, help strengthen a relationship, help problem solve (which is what takes place during my conversations) then I approach call number 59 with purpose and passion. And they are no longer call number 59 but Judy, Melanie, and Ingrid…they are somebody. Last week I posted the following on my Facebook status, “When you work with purpose, the work seems easier and more fulfilling!” This could not be truer for me.


I feel like I can go on and on about this book! I will end with a few highlights that I would like to take with me.


• Think like a leader – constantly feed your mind with new information and think critically.


• Make time to think – I imagine myself on a beach, with pen and paper…just thinking. On a day to day this can mean making that personal time with me and God alone.


• Take control of your life – Control what you can control and leave the rest alone!


• Remember to dream


• Make time to reflect


• Mirror those who are successful around you


• Retreat to advance. I love this one. At least once a year set aside some time where you can review your goals’ and objectives for your life. You should be inaccessible by phone or email.


• Enjoy the journey. Take time to enjoy life and don’t become so busy that you miss out on simply having fun. Remember the destination is just as important as the journey…So for every foot forward, take time to enjoy it!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Financial Matters for Couples!


Last week we had a very engaging discussion at our couples’ game night about finances. The question on the table was, “How do you create a financial system that is inclusive of both parties?” Since then, I asked for more feedback, ideas and suggestions.  Ideas and suggestions by others are written in italics.


Communicate, communicate and communicate some more!
Communication is key, as with every other part of marriage. Just like you have a regular date night, have a financial date night where you spend time discussing your current financial state, as well as your goals and dreams. My husband and I pool our resources and don't hide money from each other. We decided in the beginning that we would sink or swim together; do or die we are in it together, so there is no need to separate ourselves financially. That doesn't work for everyone, but it works for us, and I think it's a healthy option.


I must say that I truly love this idea! I never thought about having a financial date night before, but I sure will try it. Thanks Karon! I too believe that both parties should pool all their resources together and create a financial system that is fair and balanced. No one person should have more power because they make more, or more power because they are male (sorry, my feminist side just kicked in there:-).
SAVE like your life depended on it!
My non-married theory is to start off by trying to live off the equivalent of one person's income so that you can easily pay off debts or save for a house with the other income. I know one couple that managed to pay off all their debts in one year and another who used the money to buy a house in cash after five years. Then having your shared expenses (way below the sum of the two incomes) and I'd at least start by trying it so that each party pays their fraction of the household income (i.e. if both parties make the same, they split the costs 50/50, however if one partner makes 75% of the total household income, then they pay that share of the expenses.). I think it'll create a fairer share of "me" funds between the partners. But I'll let you know if it works once I actually try it.
I must confess I am a save-a-holic…in remission! We know how to live on one salary…especially when we only had one salary for the first two years of our marriage!  We got married when Jared had 2 more years of med school and I just graduated from college. We were both unemployed for the first three months, and it was literally my savings during college that held us over until I found a job. Thankfully, neither of us had any debt coming into marriage…no student loans, wedding bills, car payments, etc. I can only credit God and my father’s cheapness for that.
I probably started saving when I was 5 years old. By 10, I knew the concept of simple and compound interest and charged my dad 50% interest if he every borrowed money from me. I loved lending because it grew my savings! Because that was ingrained in me since I was a child, there has never been a day where I never had any money saved in the bank.
Adrienne, you reminded me that with the right focus we can pay off our house in 5 years!!! Whoooo, what a goal! I might have to start that 5 year plan when Jared graduates from residency…
Right before we got married Jared read an article on MSN relationships about how to handle finances. It said to give each partner equal "spending money" per month regardless of what each person made. We took the principle and use it today. We consider each other's income 100% OURS. The combined income is used for expenses and savings...Technically Jared contributes everything towards expenses and I contribute everything towards savings...that's just how it worked out practically...And then once we bought a house, the total savings decreased and the difference went towards the house. Our equal spending money goes into a separate individual accounts...I had to insist that Jared do this because his spending money ended up morphing with the expenses and we were never sure what he had to spend or save. The idea with the equal spending money is that each person can do what they want, spend it how they please and the other person should not be upset by it. Anything that comes out of our savings is discussed and agreed upon...and if we can’t agree we table the discussion until we can come to some compromise. Examples of that would be buying a house or car. There has never been a decision that we could not agree on even if we start on different sides of the fence.

We I have a joint "Bill Account".  A certain percentage of our income goes into this account each month to be used for all of our household bills.  He is the primary bread winner, so the percentage that he contributes is greater than the one I do.  We also have a joint savings acct that we both try to contribute to on a monthly basis. We also each have a separate checking acct that we use solely at our own discretion.  This helps eliminate fussing over the small things that come up...like me getting my hair done or him purchasing some electronic device. It also helps us surprise each other occasionally with gifts!  Anytime the need/desire arises for one of us to purchase something "big", we discuss it with each other and usually pay a portion of the price from our individual acct and a portion from the joint acct.  As for giving LARGE amounts of money to family members...we don't "lend" anything.  If we can't afford to give it away, then we don't do it.  And we discuss and agree on these matters before any transactions are made. Both of us are always open minded about these types of issues, but if both parties do not agree, then a suitable compromise is made that each person is ok with.  Again, this method has worked great at our address, but it may not be for everybody….Often times if there is something that I want that my spending money does not cover, he will just give me money from his acct to prevent us taping into a joint acct, and vice versa.  We may be different that way from many couples but we really haven't had major problems in this area b/c we trust one another and we make our financial needs known to each other.  He knows that I like to spend money and that makes me happy.  I also know that he would rather save and plan for our future.  This way, he has managed to give me the spending money that I need, (b/c he doesn't require as much), and I am aware of this so whenever he needs/desires extra from me, I have NO PROBLEM giving it to him.

One thing that I must say that one of the biggest predictors of a couples’ financial success is their attitude towards money and each other. The key is for both parties to be happy and comfortable with the arrangement. Whether one person has more spending money because they spend more, or  the other person pay more bills because they make more, the key is to agree and be happy with this. One person should not be left feeling hurt because they have less spending money because they make less…(I personally would feel this way if I had less spending money because my husband made more) or one person should not be upset because they are a saver and don’t spend as much but their spouse is a spender. It’s important that each person not only understands their spouse’s spending style, but try to respect it…as long as it does not jeopardize the family budget.

More practical tips on dividing your income! Thanks Matt!

LONG TERMS SAVINGS JOINT-1 joint long term savings account for major purchases (home, car or serious emergencies with 6-9 months of expenses available) contributed to together with 10% of our incomes.

SHORT TERM SAVINGS SINGLE-1 personal short term savings account managed privately by each partner for gifts, mainly, or individualized purchases that you don't necessarily want to get "permission" to spend. Like my Amazon addiction...Again, 10% of income.... See More

SINGLE RETIREMENT-10% of each income goes into our individual retirement.

JOINT BILL ACCOUNT-30% from each income goes towards a joint bill account (rent, utilities, groceries, gas...)
SINGLE CHECKING-40% from each income goes to individualized checking.


http://articles.moneycentral.msn.com/SavingandDebt/LearnToBudget/ASimplerWayToSaveThe60Solution.aspx

Other suggestions:
  • If one person is solely responsible for managing the expenses the other party should know where ALL the usernames and passwords are for all accounts. You never know what can happen to your spouse where you would suddenly need to manage the expenses…How frustrating would it be if you have no idea where to find the online electric bill etc. that needs to be paid!
  • Track ALL your income and expenditures from ALL your accounts in one place – http://www.mint.com/
  • Track your monthly expenses in an excel spreadsheet and email it to your spouse every month.
  • Don’t forget life insurance, retirement, emergency savings, long term and short term investments. There are nonprofits who can offer financial advice. Check out the black urban league.