No-Shave November

As a college freshman, my son’s dorm celebrated November by setting aside their shaving gear for the entire month. They called it “No-Shave November”; though the purpose was to raise cancer awareness, I suspect they just did it for fun.

My son embraced the challenge, relishing the comradery with his dorm mates as they tried to grow beards; his newfound girlfriend accepted his decision. Three and a half weeks later, he met her family for the first time, a scruffy-faced college student with an unruly mop on top, his appearance must have been questionable. But he won them over and shortly after graduation, became part of their family.

Most every year since, he has observed No-Shave November.

This year he asked me to join him. I surprised him by saying, “Yes!”

“Really, Dad?”

“Sure. Why not?”

This won’t be my first time with a beard. I had one before he was born. I started it in the fall, where it became a warming comfort to the assault of winter’s cold. I persisted through the summer, when it became a hot, scratchy irritant. But I kept it, looking forward to its warmth the following winter. The next spring, eighteen months after I started, I shaved it off, incrementally over the course of a week.

Today, I didn’t shave, and I plan not to for the rest of the month. As I recall, the first couple of days are itchy, but once I get past those, the rest will be easy. I don’t yet know what I’ll do on December first. I may shave, or I may wait until spring.

The more important thing is enjoying a shared experience with my son. Family is important and anything we do to bond with each other is a good thing.

Regardless of your shaving plans for November, may it be a good month, with great family moments.

Living with Family: An Awesome Opportunity

For the past two months, my wife and I have been living with our son and daughter-in-law. It’s been a great experience for us and a wonderful time of 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 as 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 will continue to make adjustments, we are 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 this 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 it will 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.

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.

Three Kinds of Capitalism

Capitalism is under fire. Pundits regularly take potshots at capitalism, decrying its evil nature and harmful outcomes. Indeed much of this criticism is warranted, as evidenced by many of the people who practice it wrongly. I call this, greedy capitalism.

Greedy capitalism is the insatiable lust for more. Profits, not for any real purpose other than to increment their money scorecard by another dollar. Monetary gains sought with no ethical compass to guide it: exploiting workers, defrauding investors, cheating on taxes, stealing from the innocent, backstabbing stakeholders, insider trading, and the list goes on. It’s no wonder practitioners of greedy capitalism receive the sneers of those who witness it.

Yet not all capitalism is greedy. There are two other kinds we don’t often hear about.

Entrepreneurial capitalism is the backbone of prosperity. It’s the driver of small business, those men and women with a vision to produce a product or provide a service. For their efforts, they dream of earning a profit to care for themselves and provide for their families. Entrepreneurial capitalism is the backbone of what made the United States great: pulling themselves up by their bootstraps, pursuing industry, raising their standard of living, and being self-sufficient.

Yet there is a risk when entrepreneurial capitalists become too successful, when profits far exceed needs. Then they place themselves at risk of becoming a greedy capitalist, but there is a third option, a higher calling.

Philanthropic capitalism is enterprise for the benefit of society. Its vision is to first provide for oneself and then to care for others: donating money to worthy causes, financially supporting others so they can help those in need, using business as a means to benefit humanity.

Capitalism is good; greed is bad. Join me in decrying greedy capitalism, while upholding the virtue of entrepreneurial capitalism and philanthropic capitalism. May we use money wisely to care for ourselves and benefit others.

Thoughts About Moving: Do You Leave Home or Take it With You?

My wife and I are selling our house. It wasn’t our plan, but things change.

We had just finished updating most of it: new roof, furnace, windows, carpet, flooring, kitchen, and bathrooms. It was a three-year effort that methodically moved from one project to the next as our budget allowed. We planned to live the rest of our lives in this house, the place where we raised our kids and the setting of many happy memories.

So, why then, are we moving? The answer is simple: family. Our son and his wife live about an hour away. It was hard not to be closer to them; the pull was strong. Then our daughter and her husband, along with our grandson, moved, ending up a few miles from her brother. The draw was inescapable.

My wife and I discussed this. Then we asked what our kids thought. They liked the idea, but one instituted a ten-mile buffer, but then reduced it to five, which eventually disappeared. Our daughter-in-law liked the idea of us living next door, where their kids could walk to grandpa and grandma’s. She grew up with that and so did I. Alas, we will not be that close, but we will be within seven miles of each of our kids’ homes.

Now, as we plan and pack, I recall the things that happened here: the happy times, the struggles we overcame, the celebrations, the milestones, and the friends who visited. But these memories do not reside in this house, they live in our minds.

The house will stay, but our home will move.

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 via social media.

Is it Time For a Checkup?

In my newsletter a few months ago, I recommended we periodically check our credit reports. This is a wise move in order to correct reporting errors and catch possible identity theft. Other finance related initiatives include making an annual budget, having life insurance, establishing an emergency fund, and planning for the future.

On the health front is scheduling appointments with the doctor and dentist. In addition, some people regularly check their pulse or take their blood pressure. Even stepping on the scale is a form of a medical checkup.

Aside from health issues, we regularly have the oil in our car changed and follow recommended maintenance to keep it running great. Many take similar steps with their homes.

I also do periodic checkups on my schedule to avoid over-commitment and guard against under-involvement.

So we take control of our finances, watch our health, care for our possessions, and protect our time, all by preforming regular checkups.

But what about relationships?

I too often take relationships for granted. Either they work or they don’t. But I should be intentional about them, too. I need to do a relationship checkup. Maybe you do, too. In my checkup, I ask these questions:

  • Am I investing in the relationships that are important to me? Do I seek to make our interactions significant? Do people anticipate spending time with me?
  • Conversely, am I protecting myself from toxic relationships that demand much, give little, and drag me down?
  • Am I looking to build relationships with others?
  • Do I need to remove myself from some relationships?
  • Am I in any enabling relationships?

Even more important is my relationship with family. They, too, deserve a thorough checkup.

On the spiritual front, is God, the most important relationship of all. Maybe we should do this checkup first.

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

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

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.

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 – 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.

Life is Better When Shared With Friends

I’m fortunate to have many valued friends in my life. Some of us get together once a month for our writers critique group, where we help each other improve as writers. Collectively, we write non-fiction, memoir, poetry, and an array of fiction. But regardless of the genre, the important thing is that we

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Puppy Therapy

Last week our daughter came over for the day. Her intent was not so much to see us but to enjoy our air conditioning. Being pregnant and midway through her third trimester, she had added reason to seek relief from the heat.

She didn’t come alone, however, bringing with her Zane, an adorable bundle of energy and delight

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Road Rage is Not a New Thing

In last week’s post I made brief mention of being a victim of road rage, long before a label had been conceived for out-of-control drivers. Here’s my story:

Some 30 years ago, my bride and I headed home from work, making a detour for groceries. I drove down the area’s busiest street, full of rush hour traffic, and attempted to pull into the left turn lane. Due to various reasons, I made a couple of partial forays into it, only to return to the lane for regular traffic. This infuriated the driver behind me, who began vehemently sounding his disapproval through the liberal use of his truck’s horn.

Once we were fully into the left turn lane, he began to roar past us when my spitfire of a wife stuck out her tongue. This sent him into a full fury. He screeched to a halt in the middle of rush hour, opening his truck door hard into the side of our vehicle. He ran around our car and challenged me to a fistfight in the middle of the road.

Being of sound mind, I stayed in my car. This irritated him even more. He stepped towards the driver’s door and cocked his arm. Just then, oncoming traffic cleared and I gunned the engine as he swung his fist towards my window. But due to the car’s sudden acceleration, he ended up shattering the rear window instead, spraying glass throughout the car. He then returned to his truck to give chase.

We drove around the store’s parking lot, playing cat and mouse between the rows of cars. Eventually I was able to maneuver to the front door, letting my bride escape and summon police. She was sure she was going to become a widow. I figured I could continue playing “keep away” until the police arrived — or I ran out of gas.

Fortunately I was too cagey for him and he soon gave up the chase. One witness got this license plate number and a bored cabby followed for a while to make sure he wasn’t coming back.

The police ran the plates; the truck’s owner had a history with the police and was well known to them. They arrived at his home to find his right hand wrapped in a bloodied bandage. He confessed to the whole thing and admitted he was aiming for my head when he swung his fist. He was later found guilty and required to pay court costs and make restitution.