Living with Family: An Awesome Opportunity

extended family

I remember when my wife and I have lived with our son and daughter-in-law, it’s been a great experience for us and a wonderful time connecting with our kids in a deeper, more meaningful way. After only eight weeks, we’ve gone through three phases:

1) The Honeymoon Phase

For the first few weeks, everything went smooth, dare I say perfect. Our sharing of one house, of melding two couples used to living by themselves into one family unit, flowed forth like a dream. We shared household duties and melded our schedules with ease. Eating together, going for walks, and having deep discussions all unfolded naturally. It was bliss.

2) The Adjustment Phase

Eventually, a few cracks appeared. We began to expose our quirks and saw each other’s foibles. Whereas we once only saw one another’s strengths, now weaknesses poked through. We began adjusting what we did, how we did it, and when we did it for the sake of unity. Though we all made small sacrifices for one another since the first day, now we began to realize it. Just as living as a couple requires flexibility, even more so does living as an extended family.

3) The Settling Down Phase

While we continued to make adjustments, we were settling into a comfortable, peaceful co-existence. It’s not perfect, as in the honeymoon phase, but it is really great. A stable arrangement has emerged; this is sustainable, and it is good.

An Awesome Opportunity

My wife and I view this as a great adventure, a time to connect more deeply with our kids and learn from each other. Though we expect that to be a five-month living arrangement, a friend of mine did the same thing for five years. For her, when the parents moved on, there was a great sense of loss. I expect the same emotion. Though would it be good when my wife and I move on and resume living as one couple, I wonder if what we give up will be more profound.

If we can embrace this opportunity to live as an extended family, we will emerge better and stronger as a result. Click To Tweet

In today’s modern society we celebrate individualism; we value our freedom. What we lose in the process is the opportunity to truly live as an extended family, to influence each other and learn from one another, to fully connect.

Our affluence actually serves to isolate us. Living as an extended family, whether by choice or circumstance, offers the opportunity to live more fully in community. If we can embrace this opportunity, we will emerge better and stronger as a result.

Wordsmith Peter DeHaan is magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Visit peterdehaan.com to receive his newsletter, read his blog, or connect on social media.

Preparing the Peeps

Like other holidays with historical religious meaning, Easter has been significantly skewed by both custom and commercialization.  Over time, the risen savior has been superseded by bunnies and eggs (reportedly symbols of fertility).

Notwithstanding, Easter egg hunts and chocolate candies of all variations are delightful traditions—as long as the true focus of Easter is retained.

One such staple of Easter tradition in our household is peeps—those mouth-watering creations of colored marshmallow and sugar. There is often debate as to the optimum timing in the consumption of these delectable treats: fresh or aged. I prefer my peeps to be aged in order to maximize my noshing enjoyment.

As most peep connoisseurs know, there are two methods of aging peeps. The preferred, yet painfully slow method is to leave them packaged in a dark place. Using this approach, aging takes between 6 to 12 months. The other technique is to remove them from their package so that they may “air age.” Though this takes only days, great caution must be exercised to protect them from environmental elements.

Regardless of your holiday focus or traditions, I hope that you had a wonderful Easter! Click To Tweet

Either way, care must be taken to keep them from becoming stale. There is, after all, a fine line between properly aged peeps and stale peeps.

Seeking instant gratification, some of our peeps were consumed “fresh” while others are being air aged; I seriously doubt if any will make it beyond a few days.

Regardless of your holiday focus or traditions, I hope that you had a wonderful Easter!

Wordsmith Peter DeHaan is magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Visit peterdehaan.com to receive his newsletter, read his blog, or connect on social media.

I’ve Got Water, How About You?

clean water

Although April began with the proverbial showers that are reputed to bring May flowers, it has been quite arid the past two weeks.  So much so that I have had to resort to watering my lawn.

I feel a bit guilty doing so.

You see, as I dump hundreds of gallons of pure, clean water on my lawn, over a billion people on this planet have no clean water drink.  I would gladly forgo my lawn watering ritual if it would somehow quench the thirst of those with parched throats, but alas, any water sacrifice that I make in Michigan does nothing to satiate those who are thirsty in third-world countries.

Remember to do your part to "water" thirsty people in the process. Click To Tweet

Even so, there are ways to help.  Countless organizations provide inexpensive and simple water filtration units to those with dirty, germ-laden, disease-infested water.  Even a small donation can provide a safe source of water to those in need.  Other organizations drill wells in areas lacking nearby surface water.  Wells are more expensive, but can serve thousands for many years.

I just did a Google search for “provide clean drinking water” and was treated to 284 million matches—I’m sure one of those organizations will click with you.

So, go ahead and irrigate your lawn if you must, just remember to do your part to “water” thirsty people in the process.

Wordsmith Peter DeHaan is magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Visit peterdehaan.com to receive his newsletter, read his blog, or connect on social media.

Do You Lie to Your Doctor?

lie to doctors

Eight years ago, I received at work, a shocking press release. In part of it said, “It’s an open secret in healthcare communities: patients lie.”

Sometimes when we lie to doctors, it's simply to keep them from reaching a wrong conclusion and subjecting us to needless pain. Click To Tweet

The reasons were many. Some lie because they don’t want to admit unhealthy behaviors to their doctors. For others, by not voicing a concern they subconsciously deny its existence. Still others make their own determinations as to what’s important and what’s not, lying to keep from revealing what they deem to be irrelevant.

Yet I think I understood this. I’ve made casual comments to doctors and the next thing I know they would want to schedule me for a series of tests unrelated to my visit or they would prescribe a medicine for a minor issue and the drug’s side-effects were worse than my minor ailment.

Sometimes these trivialities were verbally regurgitated visit after visit, long after I’ve forgotten them. As in, “Are you still suffering from blurred vision?” I respond, “That was three years ago and I haven’t accidently poked myself in the eye since then.”

Too often doctors only half listen. Once they hear a certain keyword, they tune out the details that surround it. They leap to a diagnosis or treatment for a problem that isn’t there.

Sometimes when we lie to doctors, it’s simply to keep them from reaching a wrong conclusion and subjecting us to needless pain.

Wordsmith Peter DeHaan is magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Visit peterdehaan.com to receive his newsletter, read his blog, or connect on social media.

Seeing Life Like a Child: Lessons From a Kid’s Matinée

the eyes of a child

I’m a bit of a movie buff and most any genre will do. I still remember when my wife and I went to our local theater to watch the children’s movie, The Smurfs 2. It was a matinée no less; we were by far the oldest people there.

I enjoyed the sequel, perhaps even more so than the first one. As a bonus, both stayed true to the original cartoon series, protecting the theme and characters, while smartly extending the storyline. Overall The Smurfs 2 provided us with some charming entertainment.

As we grow older, we risk becoming jaded, cynical, and hard to impress. We tend to hold back emotion and restrain ourselves. May I always delight in seeing life through the eyes of a child. Click To Tweet

The movie, however, also had some over-the-top, slapstick scenes. The first time this happened, my wife and I snorted a bit and shook our heads with incredulity. “I can’t believe it,” she whispered. She groaned and rolled her eyes in disdain. Had we been alone, I’d have surely done the same back to her, but before I could, the kid’s laugher overwhelmed me. Theirs wasn’t a pleasant chuckle or even a spontaneous giggle but a deep, unrestrained belly laugh that permeated the theater; perhaps, it was the most hilarious thing they’d ever seen.

I couldn’t help myself. I laughed, too. Yes, the scene was stupid (by my standards), but the kids delighted in its excessive, exaggerated buffoonery—tend to hold back emotion and restrain ourselves and I delighted in them.

Similar scenes followed. I laughed aloud. Not that it was funny, but I enjoyed it simply because they enjoyed it. Their laughter became my laughter; their glee produced my glee.

As we grow older, we risk becoming jaded, cynical, and hard to impress. We tend to hold back emotion and restrain ourselves. These kids reminded me just how foolish that is.

May that part of me never grow up. May I always delight in seeing life through the eyes of a child.

Wordsmith Peter DeHaan lives in southwest Michigan with his bride of three decades. In addition to his affection for movies, he looks forward to the day when pizza and popcorn are reclassified as major food groups. Visit peterdehaan.com to receive his newsletter, read his blog, or connect on social media.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day

HAPPY ST. PATRICK'S DAY

We just recently celebrated St. Patrick’s Day. Though most view it as a secular holiday, the celebration of St. Patrick’s Day has a religious origin. This has been lost over time, with his work and accomplishments having been long forgotten by most people.

After embarking on your favorite St. Patrick’s Day rituals and routines, don green attire, or imbibe in adult beverages of questionable coloration, let’s have a quick review. But, don’t worry; you will not be tested on this material.

Happy St. Patrick's Day! Click To Tweet
  • Patrick is not really a Saint. That is, he was not canonized by Rome.
  • He was not Irish. He was English.
  • He did not rid Ireland of snakes. That is folklore.
  • Patrick did go to Ireland. Actually, he went twice, the first time, unwillingly as a slave; the second time willingly, as a missionary.
  • For 30 years, he traveled Ireland, promoting Christianity and setting up churches and monasteries

He died on March 17, 461 (yes, a long, long time ago), marking the day that we commemorate his life—by celebrating his myth.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Wordsmith Peter DeHaan is magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Visit peterdehaan.com to receive his newsletter, read his blog, or connect on social media.

Daylight Saving Time

daylight saving time

Last weekend, most of us in the United States had set our clocks forward one hour for our springtime jump into Daylight Saving Time (DST).

We will stay in this mode for seven months, at which time we will “fall” back to “normal time.”

This means that every man, woman, and child in the US will realize an annual time savings of exactly—zero.

That’s right; it is a gross misrepresentation that Daylight Saving Time actually saves time. All it does is shift the clock setting forward one hour so that dusk has the allusion of being delayed. Of course, the tradeoff for this is that dawn likewise seems to arrive one hour later. So on one end, we seemingly have more time to play and on the other side, more time to sleep in. Yeah, right!

The result is that no time is created or lost in the process, merely the perception by some that they actually gained something through this temporal sleight of hand.

So, what will you do with all this extra time that you save?

Do you think Daylight Saving Time actually saves time? Click To Tweet

Wordsmith Peter DeHaan is magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Visit peterdehaan.com to receive his newsletter, read his blog, or connect on social media.

How Much Does it Cost?

the cost of

I’m not one who spends money easily or frivolously. It should surprise no one that at some point in a purchase decision I will deliberate on the cost of the item in question. Can I afford it? Is it within my budget? Is this a wise use of my money? Will I derive sufficient value? Is this an emotional or intellectual decision? If I buy this item now will it preclude a more relevant purchase later? Yeah, I do that.

When I’m at a restaurant I also look at prices. No, I don’t ask all of the above questions, but cost is an important consideration.

I resort to judging the amount of food by the cost of the meal. It always serves to save me money and often serves to save my waistline. Click To Tweet

For the first part of my life, price was a financially practical contemplation. Did I have enough money to pay the bill? I would only order what I could pay for with cash—be it with bills or coins.

I’m at a different place today. Though I never want to overpay for a meal, the primary reason I look at prices now is that I perceive price as being an indicator of the quantity of food. You see, I was taught to eat everything on my plate and to not waste food, so what the restaurant gives me, I will eat, even if I’m full.

If the portion is too big, I will end up eating too much. So I resort to judging the amount of food by the cost of the meal. Though not an error-free method, it always serves to save me money and often serves to save my waistline.

Wordsmith Peter DeHaan is magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Visit peterdehaan.com to receive his newsletter, read his blog, or connect on social media.

Two Different Ways to Go Paperless

paper or paperless

Several years ago, sending customers their invoices and statements via email became a trend. Businesses that did so save the expense of printing and mailing paper documents. For consumers, they received their information faster and could file it digitally, without the need to waste paper (but I wonder how many printed it anyway).

This is a practice that I both love and hate.

I love it when companies email me my invoice as an attachment. It is easy to access, view, and file. Time is saved and natural resources are not consumed.

I hate it when the email notice simply tells me my invoice or statement is available online. Then I need to go to their website, login—often a multistep process, navigate to the appropriate page, select the desired document, download it, open it, and then save it.

The process might be a tad easier if I click on the link provided in their email, but I don’t do that in order to protect myself from being victimized by a phishing scam. (To make this even more frustrating, one institution doesn’t even notify me via email when my statement was ready—I need to go through all these steps just to check.)

I understand these steps are required to protect my information from being accessed by the criminally-minded. But really, being forced to go paperless isn’t a customer-focused practice.

If a business is truly interested in serving their customers, they wouldn’t force them to jump through all these hoops just to receive their statements. They would offer options: paperless or paper. It’s the right thing to do.

Wordsmith Peter DeHaan is magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Visit peterdehaan.com to receive his newsletter, read his blog, or connect on social media.

Does Freedom of Speech Have a Responsibility?

Freedom of Speech

One of the core tenets of living in the United States is a right we revere: “Freedom of Speech.”

Within very broad limits (such as not screaming “Fire” in a crowded room) we, in the USA, enjoy the freedom to say what we want, when we want, and in the way we want. At least in theory.

But if everyone is talking, then no one is listening. The flip side of “freedom of speech” then is the “responsibility to listen.”

With 'freedom of speech' comes with the 'responsibility to listen.' Click To Tweet

That doesn’t mean we need to actually hear and consider every voice, but it does mean we need to show respect. Our freedom of speech doesn’t permit us to yell louder than someone else, shouting them down and thereby denying them their right to speak.

Sadly, I see this happening today, especially when the voice is advocating something unpopular or a “politically incorrect” view.

We are beginning to lose sight of all that freedom of speech entails. And if that happens completely, we might lose even more, including the very right itself.

[Freedom of Speech is provided for in Article 1 of the Bill of Rights.]

Wordsmith Peter DeHaan is magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Visit peterdehaan.com to receive his newsletter, read his blog, or connect on social media.