January 2010


A family that is good friends of our’s recently decided to adopt a girl from Russia.  I won’t try to tell the whole story because Amy (the mother in the family) does a much better job than I could on her blog (http://www.lifeattheevans.blogspot.com/).  We’ve known this family for almost 4 years now.  They already have three children who my oldest daughter, Olivia, absolutely adores and Amy kept my youngest daughter, Amelia, for several months prior to her going to daycare.  I can tell you that they are an amazing family and they will have a significant impact on the girl they are adopting.

Things like this are what my book and original intent of this blog are about – figuring our how you can make a difference in the lives of others and then passionately pursuing that mission without worrying about what others think, what it will cost, or what trivial luxuries you may forgo by pursuing it.

As you may know, adoption is expensive… very expensive.  Our friends have come up with a great idea for their first fundraiser.  They bought a 1000 piece puzzle and for each $10 donation, the person who makes the donation will sponsor one puzzle piece.  That piece (with the sponsor’s name on it) will then be added to the puzzle and the process repeats itself until the entire puzzle is complete.

I urge my readers to go to their website – http://www.lifeattheevans.blogspot.com/ – and click on the donate button near the upper right-hand side.  I know that there are many worthy causes that are asking donations…  I know that in these times there’s not a of extra money floating around…  I realize that there is a good chance that you don’t even know this family.  I also know that you will probably waste $10 in the next few days on something that is completely insignificant and worthless.  Don’t make me go all Sally Struthers on you, but don’t you think that $10 could be better used elsewhere?

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This title is taken from one of the works of John Piper and it hit me pretty hard.  Over the past week, I did a little experiment.  I kept up with my time in 15 minute increments.  I tracked everything – work, school, studying, reading, church, family, play, and yes, television.  What I discovered was a little shocking.  I spent just under 30 hours watching television last week!  The data may be a bit skewed because we’re right in the middle of the NFL playoffs (about 15 hours) and American Idol just started back, but almost 30 hours of mindlessly staring at a screen is unacceptable.

According to Piper, “… television reflects American culture at its most trivial.  And a steady diet of triviality shrinks the soul.  You get used to it.  It starts to seem normal.  Silly becomes funny.  And funny becomes pleasing.  And pleasing becomes soul-satisfaction.” 

Ouch.

Think about all the things you would like to accomplish in your life.  Then keep track of how much television you watch.  Don’t estimate it, actually track it.  If you estimate, you will undoubtedly underestimate.  What if you turned the TV off for a week… or a month?  How much more could you accomplish?  I think you’ll be amazed to realize how much of your life is spent doing essentially nothing.

We frequently hear comments about how good our girls are and cringe when people say, “You don’t know how lucky you are to have such good kids.”  We’re NOT lucky – it took a lot of work!  There is no such thing as luck.  I believe in hard work, preparation, help from others, and Divine Intervention.  Anyway, since I get these comments, I decided to put out some guidelines for structuring your child’s/grandchild’s activities.

For the firstborn, divide activities as follows and devote adequate time to each activity:

Educational activities

  • Literacy
    • Reading
    • Writing
    • Picture books
    • Trips to the library
  • Physical sciences
    • Zoo visits
    • Museums
    • At home experiments
  • Mathematics
  • Social sciences

Creative activities

  • Drawing/coloring
  • Cutting/pasting shapes
  • Music
  • Storytelling

Physical activities

  • General motor skills
  • Fine motor skill development
    • Learning to hit a ball
    • Gymnastics
    • Using building blocks
  • Team sports

Social activities

  • Teaching table manners
  • Use of polite phrases
  • Practicing self-control
  • Group play

For the second child and all that follow, divide activities into the following two categories and try to spend most of the day in the second grouping:

  • Things that require a visit to the ER
  • Things that are unlikely to require a visit to the ER

As I am writing this, my thermometer reads 17 degrees.  This was our third consecutive night in the teens and the cold weather is the only thing anyone is talking about around here.  The Atlanta news keeps reporting on an “Alberta Clipper” (when did Alberta get a basketball team?), everyone you see – whether at the grocery store, at work, or while dropping the kids off at school – reminds you to bundle up… as if you forgot it was cold, and Sarah Palin is accusing Al Gore of contributing to Global Cooling by overdoing his Global Warming tour (and inventing the internet).  I have to say the three consecutive nights in the teens seems cold to me now, but there was a time when this would have been downright tropical.

I spent most of the past decade moving all around the country.  I know, I know – we don’t actually start the new decade until 2011, but you know what I mean.  Back in 2000, we lived in Indiana and moved to central Florida; in 2002, we moved to northern New York; in 2004, we moved to northeastern Nebraska; and in 2006, we moved to the northeast Atlanta area.  In 2008, just for good measure, we moved about two miles down the road just because we were used to moving every two years but really liked the area where we were living.

While we experienced different cultures and landscapes everywhere we went, probably the biggest change at each location was the climate.  In central Florida, for example, I could wear shorts year round and people freaked out when it got down to 40 degrees at night.  I remember driving around looking at Christmas lights while people were watering their lawns.

We moved from there to northern NY in October.  This was not “Upstate NY”.  Instead, the locals called this area “The North Country”.  I called it Hoth.  We lived just off the northeastern shore of Lake Ontario – an area known for severe lake effect snow that will make Buffalo look appealing.  The coldest it got while we lived there was negative 35 degrees Fahrenheit.  That wasn’t the wind chill – that was the actual temperature.  We also experienced 10 feet of snow in 48 hours during one severe lake effect storm.  I don’t even know how much snow we got for the year, but I do know that we bought our house in October and I never saw our yard until April… only to have it covered by a foot of snow again in May.  How people continue to live there is beyond me.  Oh sure, it’s beautiful in the summer – all two weeks of it, but after that not even emperor penguins would want to call that place home.

The interesting thing is that people up there didn’t understand why Southerners would want to put up with the heat and humidity of the South.  My thinking was as follows:  100 degrees is uncomfortable.  Negative 35 degrees is painful.  In the South, you can go get the mail in the middle of summer and immediately break a sweat – inconvenient.  In The North Country, you can go get the mail in the middle of winter and loose extremities due to frostbite – crazy.

Here’s my point.  Our perception of what is uncomfortable, inconvenient, or painful is based on the climate to which we are accustomed.  In the South 35 degrees is cold; in the North it’s springtime.  To a childless couple, a screaming baby with a stinky diaper pinned underneath her older sister is chaos; to the parents of young children, it’s Tuesday night.  To an adult who’s been out of school for 20 years, enrolling in a college course can be frightening and intimidating; to a  third year college student; it’s just part of the routine.

We have the amazing capacity to adapt and cope.  Today’s chaos is tomorrow’s normal.  This is reassuring if the path we are on leads to our intended destination – we just endure and adapt and eventually we’ll be where we want to be.  It can be tragic, however, if the path we are on leads elsewhere.  We become so accustomed to following the wrong path, it just becomes routine until we finally get to the destination and wonder how we got there: How did we end up with so much debt?  Why don’t my children obey me?  Why am I out of breath after climbing one flight of stairs?  Why don’t I ever have time to spend with my family?

What is your normal?  Could a little chaos today lead to a better normal tomorrow?