Poems, Personal Stories, and Observations

Archive for the ‘Commentary’ Category

Complaint versus Criticism

Complaints versus criticisms. Example:

COMPLAINT: “I was so worried when you didn’t call that I stayed awake all night.”
CRITICISM: “You should have called. You made me stay up all night worrying about you. Talk about inconsiderate. [or, You’re a jerk!]”

COMPLAINT addresses actions that cause upset. CRITICISM attacks the other person, or their character.

Which do you think the recipient will be more likely to respond to?

Some people might not see a difference here; however I think some would be more hurt by criticism, whereas complaint will feel more reasonable and they’d be less defensive.

Adapted from “The Relationship Cure,” by John Gottman and Joan DeClaire, Three Rivers Press, 2001, pp. 71-73

Blueberries and Junk Piles

“… most marital arguments cannot be resolved.”
How about that for a startling statement?  Read on …

Now that my husband is retired, we have more “opportunities” to learn about each other’s perspectives.

Many years ago, I did learn that certain of my husband’s behaviors were not deliberate attempts to hurt me, though they often felt like it.  Now I am learning that we truly do see things differently, which is why we often have (usually settled amicably) conflicts.

Take the case of the blueberries.

One day we were beginning our breakfast routine, and Tom said he was going to put some frozen blueberries in his bowl.  I said, rather harshly, “Please eat the fresh blueberries first.”  A little while later, he asked me, “Why was it so important that I eat the fresh blueberries?  I like the frozen ones, because then the milk (or half and half) I pour on them freezes a little and it reminds me of ice cream.”

So I had to explain that I hate for food to be wasted, and I wanted the fresh berries used up before they became rotten.  Why didn’t I explain that, instead of being harsh with him?  Maybe I assumed he would have the same perspective I have, namely, the need to not be wasteful.  But he was seeing blueberries in a whole different way.

Then there’s the case of the junk pile, or piles.

I came home and noticed that my husband had kindly put out the trash bins on the street in anticipation of the following day’s trash collection.  When we went for a walk the next morning, he mentioned that he had started breaking up some items in the side yard, to “clear up more junk,” and had put them in the trash collection.  I said, “What exactly did you you put in?”  He named some items, and I said, “Wait a minute, I was going to give those to Goodwill or freecycle.org.”  “But I’m trying to clear up junk like we agreed to, and it was in the junk pile.”  “But,” I said, “the junk pile is in [area A], not the area you were clearing.”  He replied, “I thought the junk area was the whole side yard, and those items have been there for months.”

Well, besides us never having explicitly defined the actual junk pile area, and me leaving items out for a long time (because I needed to clean them before giving them away and I had procrastinated on that task), I realized that we needed to have a lot more communication.  “Why,” I asked, if he wasn’t sure about throwing something out, “did you not ask me?” “Because you weren’t home and I wanted to get the task done.”  Anyway, I thanked him for his effort and rushed home, but the trash collector had already come.  [By the way, afterwards I did clean up some remaining items and most have been given away successfully.]

So my point is that many disagreements have to do with misunderstandings and assumptions.  They aren’t necessarily examples of people being mean to each other.  Perhaps my husband and I have not talked enough about our perspectives, priorities, and what values are important to us (in this case, my value of frugality or not being wasteful).

In the book “The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work”, by John M. Gottman and Nan Silver (Harmony Books – 2015), on page 28 the authors state, “… most marital arguments cannot be resolved.  Couples spend year after year trying to change each other’s mind — but it can’t be done.  This is because most of their disagreements are rooted in fundamental differences of lifestyle, personality, or values.  By fighting over these differences, all they succeed in doing is wasting their time and harming their marriage.”

Mental Health Awareness Month

This is the last day of May, which is Mental Health Awareness Month.  Below are a few of my posts related to mental health, from Facebook.


5/18/2019:

In one town in recent travels, we saw a disturbing sight while sitting at an outdoor cafe. We had a party of about 14 people.

While eating, a man approached who was either mentally unbalanced or high on something, or both. There was a low metal fence between us and him, and he stood across from one of the tables and just stared at us. His pants were sunk too low, to put it kindly. Eventually I approached him with a gift card to a restaurant and said, “Could you use this?” He answered, I’m afraid of that,” but accepted it.

My daughter says that, working with homeless ministries, they don’t necessarily try to converse with such people, but would definitely give them food or clothes, etc., if wanted.

People like this used to be “institutionalized”, sometimes perhaps against their will. What are people’s thoughts on how to help them, if they can be helped?

I told this story to a mental health professional, and he surmised that the man suffers from paranoid schizophrenia. Imagine being afraid to ask people for what you need! Pray for the mentally ill!


5/24/2019:

[I recommend reading] the [book] “The Hiding Place”, by and about Corrie ten Boom. After WWII, she was able to forgive a Nazi officer (face to face) who had mistreated her in a concentration camp. That was through God’s grace, because her human emotions rebelled against forgiving him. But God gave her the power to forgive the man.  (Apparently he was repentant as well, though it’s not clear in the story.)


5/29/2019

I read somewhere, something to the effect that believing one cannot be forgiven by God or others, or being unable to forgive, can be a big factor in mental illness. Makes sense; I think I would go mad if I believed I [couldn’t] be forgiven.

Spiritually speaking, when we receive the grace of forgiveness from God, we won’t be so tied to those people who won’t forgive us, seeking their approval.  [And, when we forgive, we are freed from the same unhealthy “attachments”.]

[A book by a “forgiveness therapist:]
The Forgiving Life


Besides the Facebook posts, here is an article about forgiveness, which mentions forgiveness “expert” Everett Worthington:
Setting Captives Free: Forgiveness and Freedom

A Neophyte’s View of the RV World

I am a rank amateur when it comes to the recreational vehicle world, but here are a few experiences and observations that might whet the curiosity of those who have no experience at all.  If you do have a lot of experience, please write your corrections in the comments.

There is tremendous variation among recreational vehicles:  From small trailers with barely enough room to sleep in, to 19 or 20 foot sizes, to bus-sized vehicles.  Some RVs are towed, others, even very large ones, are driven independently.  And the independent ones sometimes tow a regular automobile, so that the users have a small vehicle available, exclusively for driving use, instead of for habitation.  We have even seen a truck towing a “fifth wheeler” RV and a “toy hauler” (a trailer that might contain a racing car, motorcycle(s), dune buggies, or similar items).  Many trailers, campers, or large RVs have pop-up roofs and/or “slide-outs” (sections that slide horizontally out of the RV to create more living space).  We were totally impressed once at a U.S. Forest Service campground near Oroville, California, as we watched the driver of a 30-to-40 foot RV back his vehicle (with the help of family) into a barely big enough camp site, AND he did it in such a way that the slide-outs were not blocked by the large surrounding pine trees.

The culture of the RV world is fascinating.  People come from all walks of life.  You can meet many interesting people, once you get them talking.  I always want to ask them, “Where are you from?”, and they are literally from all over the world.  At our most recent rental experience in California, there were four or five groups from Europe waiting to rent their RV.   Apparently they fly to the U.S., have a taxi bring them from the airport or their hotel to the rental location, and go on their vacation!  The rental companies charge them an extra fee to stock the RV with bedding, linens, cookware, dishware and utensils.  And at a recent campsite, our next-door neighbors spoke Japanese.

Reasons people have RVs:  Some rent temporarily for vacations, some buy for the same reason, or to live in continuously as a home.  We met a group of six who had flown from upstate New York to Las Vegas, Nevada, rented an RV, then drove up to the Grand Canyon in Arizona, to stay for two nights only.  On the other side of us at the same campsite, we met a couple whose RV was their main home.  They had sold their house, most of their possessions, and bought a thirty-five to forty-foot RV to use as a home.  We have met several couples like this, and they often use one of their children’s addresses as their permanent address.  A variation on this theme is people who are campground hosts, living in their RV all or part of the year at a campground at which they provide help and information to visiting campers, in exchange for a rent-free campsite.  Other families use RVs for vacations only, whether they rent or own.  And, we know of a family of seven who live out of their RV while traveling on their Christian ministry, home-schooling their children.  They have a bus-sized RV.

We once spoke briefly with a small family (mom, dad, and two small children) in Winnemucca, Nevada, who had a tear-drop shaped trailer.  The tear-drop shape is aerodynamic for towing, with the large side of the tear drop towards the front.  But when you park it, some models let you tilt the short side of the tear drop up, stand up inside, and convert the table to a bed for the kids, along with having an adult bed.  Some tear-drop trailers have kitchens, either inside or outside.  The tear-drops can have a heater and air conditioner, and some even have a shower inside.  As with many RV styles, tear-drop trailers vary in size and features.

Problems you may have with an RV:  Sensor problems are the most common we’ve encountered.    Many RVs have, for example, holding tanks for human waste, and there will be a sensor light inside the RV that will show whether the holding tank is 1/3, 2/3 or near 3/3 full.  Soon after the 3/3 light comes on, you will need to “dump” your holding tank.  In this case it’s called the “black water” or “dark water” tank.  Well, if your sensor isn’t working, you have to guess how full the tank is.  If you misguess, you may have a toilet backup.  Or the gray water tank (for water contaminated by washing) may have a sensor problem.  With our last two rentals, we’ve had problems with the tire pressure sensor, which is supposed to tell you if your tire pressure is off.  In both cases, the tire pressure alarm(s) kept indicating low pressure (at almost every gas station), though usually when we checked the tire pressure, it was fine.

Valves for the holding tanks can come loose, and if you forget to check those before dumping, you can have spillage of the gray or black water.  Needless to say, that can be nasty.  We had a small spillage once, diluted it with water, and the campground host eventually came by and threw kitty litter on it.

Here’s another interesting problem, a minor mystery we had:  For background, if your RV is not hooked up to city water, you have to use your vehicle’s stored fresh water and turn on your water pump.  At one point, we did have the city water hook-up connected, but from time to time, the water pump seemed to be turning itself on unnecessarily!  My husband ingeniously figured out that sometimes when we opened a cabinet near the water pump switch, it would bump the switch and turn it on.  That problem is a result of the small interior spaces some RVs have.

If you have a refrigerator in your RV, you will want your RV parked reasonably level, otherwise the refrigerator may not function, since it runs on propane.  Also, leveling will probably make life in your RV more comfortable, especially when sleeping.  (Many of us may recall that tent camping on a sloped campsite can be uncomfortable.)  The bigger RVs sometimes have leveling mechanisms attached to the RV.  Others use outside detached blocks for leveling.  And we learned that gray water backing up out of the shower drain can be because the RV is not level.

In short, the sizes, shapes, varieties, features and amenities of RVs are seemingly endless.  Be sure you learn how all the features work, especially those involved with your safety.  Then, enjoy your home away from home, or maybe your permanent home!

All the Difference

One life, Jesus’ life … has made all the difference.  Because of Him, we can have light instead of darkness, hope instead of despair, forgiveness instead of condemnation.

He was born in poverty, not riches. He was born without fame or popularity.  He was born to teach us how to give, not grab.

You, too, can make a difference by loving your neighbor and forgiving your enemies.

The Good Thief

One of the criminals, a thief, who was crucified with Jesus, said to him, “Jesus, remember me, when you come into your kingdom (Luke 23:42)”.  Somehow he knew Jesus’ name and that Jesus had a kingdom!

Was Jesus that famous?  Did everyone in Jerusalem know about him?  Perhaps it was because of the sign above Jesus that Pilot had ordered placed there.  The sign declared, “Jesus, King of the Jews”.

In another gospel, it states that, “And the robbers who were crucified with [Jesus] also reviled him … (Matthew 27:44).”  Either the two gospels are inconsistent, or there was a transformation in one of the thieves.  He went from reviling Jesus, to, in effect, asking his forgiveness.  He realized his sin and that he deserved punishment, whereas Jesus was innocent (Luke 23:39-41).

It is interesting to imagine how “the good thief” came to this conclusion.  He may have known something about Jesus before the time of execution.  Or, perhaps observing how Jesus bore his own suffering, he realized that Jesus was not just a man, but God also.

It Hurts to Love

The cross of Christ is a paradox.  How can something so painful be good, and even holy?  Perhaps the more you love others, the more you will suffer.  Yes, there will be times of joy, but let’s face it:  often, it hurts to love.

Because you cared about others, but often they misunderstood you, or they felt threatened by your love, you suffered.  Or, you suffered when you saw your loved one suffering.  Or, you see their bad choices, but cannot make them change.  Then you must wait and pray and trust that God may change their hearts.

Selfless Love

Jesus, Mary and Joseph are amazing examples of selfless love  Even in the midst of great joy, grief, pain, or challenges, they thought of the welfare of others.

Mary, upon learning that she would conceive Jesus the Messiah, the son of God, went off to help her cousin Elizabeth, who was also with child, though further along in her pregnancy.  At the wedding in Cana, Mary thought of the distress of a married couple running out of wine.  Mary also stood at the cross of Jesus when many had deserted Him.

We never hear Joseph, Mary’s husband, speak a word in the Bible.  But his actions speak loudly.  Like his namesake in the Old Testament, he was a dreamer, and as far as we know, he always obeyed God’s leading, which often came through dreams.  No matter the embarrassment (of Mary’s pregnancy), or inconvenience (having to travel long distances or pull up roots), he obeyed God and fulfilled his role as protector of Mary and Jesus.

Jesus, when he heard of his cousin John the Baptist’s beheading, went off to grieve privately, but when the crowds discovered His location, he had compassion on them and healed their diseases.  Later that day, he multiplied loaves and fishes to feed the crowd.  How often in our grief do we want to just curl up in a ball and pull the covers over our head?

While Jesus suffered excruciating pain on the cross, he still thought of us.  He prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

When we have a vision of how God wants us to cooperate in His plan, we, too, can be selfless, through His grace!

Gifts and Talents

If I don’t have a realistic view of my gifts and talents, I won’t be able to develop them appropriately, and will fall short of the best I could be.  Perhaps I will have missed God’s best plan for me.

It’s Not About Me

Life is not about me.  It’s about God’s plan and my part in it.  I may not understand God’s plan, I may be dimly aware of it, but I need to trust in it, or more precisely, to trust in the One who has a plan for me.  And not only for me, but for every person on this planet.

Lord, may I be in harmony with your plan.

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