Thursday, May 25, 2006

Kudos to my Dad!!

I would like to praise my father for joining the Big Brothers Big Sister program. Dad was just assigned his “little” last week, and they have already hung out three times! I am so impressed (and feeling a little guilty that I haven’t seen my “little” in a few weeks) with my Dad for taking this on and making a huge difference in someone’s life (besides just mine). Dad’s little is a nine year old boy named Randy* (name changed…not sure why, but it can’t hurt.). Here is an excerpt of my Dad’s e-mail to the BBBS coordinator about their first outing together:

“I took Randy to Captain D's but this kid is so starved for one on one attention under the circumstances (two younger siblings) that I believe I could have suggested going for BBQ worm sandwiches and he would have said "sounds great." Likes to talk and has a very healthy inquisitive nature. Think it will be a better than average match. Don't think I will have any problems finding things for us to do as he seems easily pleased. Brought him by house for a few minutes to see my truck and meet "Sancho" (oldest daughter's Chihuahua) that I evidently adopted about 3 years ago.”

What a lucky little boy—I’m so glad that there are people who believe that just a few hours of their time each week can make a difference. It does!

On another note, I can’t believe I’ve never blogged about my father. He’s quite the character. It’s hard to even know what to share about him….Styrofoamology, his cheapness, his Elvis impersonations, the times he’s tried to embarrass me in front of dates, his rants on my use of his home as a storage facility, or the time he made a surprise visit to my boyfriend’s parents home (who had never met him and lived two hours away). Don’t get me wrong—there are wonderful things about him; he is great about dispensing quick practical advice, and I often turn to him to do so. But he could give the creator of the Tightwad Gazette a run for her money. For example, when my sister and I were in elementary school, he would not permit us to order cheeseburgers when we ate at Burger King (Lord forbid someone tried to order “the most expensive thing on the menu”—chicken tenders). My dad explained that adding cheese to the burger was an extra 20 cents for a half slice of cheese. We could get a (cold) full slice of cheese at home for about a dime. Fortunately I didn’t like cheeseburgers back then, but I would always get a good talking to when we visited Captain D’s since I ordered “fish and shrimp” but refused to eat the nasty coleslaw and fries. “Fish and shrimp,” for those of you who don’t know, was the “most expensive thing on the menu.” I wonder if Randy gets to order whatever he wants?

Have you ever wondered who buys used shoes? Now you know.

My Dad’s thriftiness met a new extreme in my mind the day I saw him “saving” the ice I poured out in the sink. “What are you doing with my ice?” I asked. “Oh just rinsing it off before I use it” replied Dad. “There’s no sense in wasting perfectly good ice.”

You’ll probably be surprised based on what I’ve told you to learn that my father has a Jacuzzi. Or at least that’s what he told my then-boyfriend Zack* who came to Calhoun to meet the family. My Dad met us in the driveway, and I tried to start things out on a good note by telling Dad that Zack was Presbyterian. My Dad liked that a lot and proceeded to give Zack a tour of his home, which ended on the deck. My Dad pointed to an empty bathtub (with claw legs) in the back yard and explained that it would fill with water when it rained. Then the sun would heat the water, and he had his very own Jacuzzi.

Oh dear Dad, with all of this thriftiness I can’t imagine what my inheritance will look like. I already know that it includes a sound sense of living within my means and saving, loving a good deal, not letting others’ judgment pressure me into buying things I don’t need or want, and a fairly thick skin when it comes to feeling embarrassed.

*Name changed…not sure why, but it can’t hurt.

Question: should I capitalize dad when referring to my Dad?

Monday, May 22, 2006

The Best Prescription...

Lately I’ve been bothered by the fact that 65% of Americans are overweight or obese. I understand that weight is a very personal issue, but the reason this issue has probably been on my mind is also a personal one--the rising cost of health care. My newest health care “insurance” has a deductible of $2000. No co-pays. No nothing until I spend $2000 out of pocket. So when I had to have a minor procedure done in February I paid $650. That is, of course, difficult to budget for, and I cannot imagine how hard it must be for the secretaries I work with, especially the ones who have to reach a family deductible of $4000 before our “insurance” pays a penny. I've seen the numbers, and my employer isn't just being stingy. Our premiums, which my employer pays, increased 63% in one year.

I’m sure this figure can be debated, but I recently read that obesity has attributed to more than 27% of the increase in health care costs from 1987 to 2001. The average obese patient incurs 37% more expenses than a non-obese patient. That’s not difficult to believe since the number of people with Type II diabetes is increasing at alarming rates. Not to mention the many other health ailments come hand in hand with being overweight.

Insofar as adults are concerned, what’s going on? Why do people think they can eat whatever they want? Where did anyone get the notion that eating fast food every day was a good idea (you wouldn’t believe how many Americans eat fast food multiple times a week)? Or that you could eat Mexican for lunch, Burger King for dinner, and not gain weight? Don’t get me wrong—I do not profess to eat a perfect diet by anyone’s imagination. In fact, I’m constantly struggling to add vegetables and fruit into my diet and figure out when to fit in a workout. But if I gain some weight (like the 15 pounds I gained while living in Spain), I cut back and exercise more. And granted, our culture makes it more difficult than not to eat the way we know we should.

Perhaps I have the wrong view of this, but it seems like Americans are just completely abdicating personal responsibility. People want to blame industries rather than themselves. It’s not McDonalds fault. And it’s no one’s fault but our own when we take the elevator rather than the stairs. Or drive through a parking lot three times in an effort to get a spot just a little closer to the store entrance. Or order dessert or appetizer when we know we shouldn’t. Or choose to watch American Idol instead of going for a walk. And now we’re paying the price. What is it going to take for Americans to wake up and see the crisis? I’m not talking about having perfect bodies; I’m talking about the very real health concerns of a nation with 65% of its population being overweight or obese.

The most disturbing part of this epidemic is the effect on children. I only recently realized this, but my little in the Big Brother Big Sister program only has physical education class once a week. She’s in fourth grade; she’s also already struggling mightily with her weight. I also recently learned that soft drinks are sold during school hours at many schools. And my niece who is in kindergarten has the option of buying ice cream several days a week. Nachos are offered as an entrĂ©e is school cafeterias, and when I was in school we could choose to have pizza every single day. And accordingly, obesity in children has tripled in the last three decades. We are setting our nation’s youth up to have horrible habits and face very real health concerns at increasingly young ages. That’s reprehensible.

Why do you guys think this is? Why do you think despite our the health consequences and costs not to mention our culture’s enormous (and unhealthy) focus on appearance doesn’t spur Americans to eat less and exercise more? Is it a bigger problem than that? Is it just because we want to do what we want (whether it’s eating, having sex, driving drunk, etc.) and pretend there aren’t any consequences? Is our country just less disciplined as a whole than other nations? I know that we eat more processed and fast food, which makes it hard to maintain a healthy weight. The diet and exercise industry is a million, if not billion, dollar industry, so Americans are at least giving it a half-hearted try, but are we just not willing to go without everything that we want in the moment?

I wish that all Americans would give exercising just a one month trial-offer try--five days a week for forty minutes. If people would stick with it, imagine the amazing difference we would see. It’s the best prescription. Studies show that regular exercise often has the same benefits as an anti-depressant. It can prevent diabetes and other weight-related ailments. Employees who exercise regularly miss less work and are more productive. And I think people who exercise feel better about themselves. I wish it were as easy as taking a pill so that everyone would try it--if nothing else just so my health care cost wouldn’t be so insane.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Your Last Relationship.....

Failure? Or success? Was your last relationship either? Could it have been both? And if it ends, is it necessarily a failure?

I had always felt as if the ending of each relationship, particularly my engagement, was a failure. I suppose I have defined a successful relationship as one that lasts forever. About a year ago my friend Ryan mentioned an article in GQ magazine in which a celebrity discussed how he could not understand why his marriage, which is apparently coming to an end, is viewed as a failure (said celebrity is now playing house with Angelina Jolie). The actor said something to the effect that he rejected the idea that a relationship not being flawless or permanent renders it a failure--despite the beauty and honesty of the time two people had together.

I do not think that a marriage that ends in divorce as being successful. By its very definition, I think marriage is something that should last as long as the two who entered it live (with the exception of the Biblical exceptions—but even given those, you would not define that ending marriage as successful). I am, however, wondering if a dating relationship can be a success even if ultimately the two daters are not meant to have a permanent relationship. Prior to attempting to surrender my dating relationships to God (the first 26 years of my life), I would have voted that any relationship that doesn't make it "fails." Or at least it felt like failure (except for the ones in which I didn’t really care about the other person…I know—that’s sad).

Now I can see how a dating relationship could not result in marriage but still be a success. So what I'm thinking about now is why my view has changed. Off the top of my head, I think part of it is that I’m focusing more on what God wants (His plan) than my plan, which has often been based on what seems easiest or other faulty criteria. I also think that the way in which most of us date—“playing house” and practically living together (if not completely living together) and acting as if we’re married (basing all important decisions and social plans on the relationship) from a very early stage of the relationship is bound to lead to disappointment and feelings of failure. Even if you’re not having sex, if you’re together more days than not and spending the night together, you’re playing house and making it very difficult to let someone go if the relationship isn’t in God’s plan. Why not save some things for marriage?

So perhaps a successful dating relationship is one in which both people strive to treat the other as God instructs us to in the Bible and both have a respect for the other and for God that helps them set boundaries so that if the relationship ends, it feels less like divorce or failure or enormous disappointment and more like a relationship that honored and glorified God rather than our selfish desires for companionship, intimacy, and the like.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

I Think Too Much…And Vote for Arranged Marriages

I really do. I’m terrible about over-analyzing and over-thinking things. The latest area in which my mind has been in overdrive has been my relationship with Donatello. And as usual, I just wish God would send me an e-mail telling me exactly what my future holds and/or what I should be doing or not doing. I am sad to say that God doesn’t use the Internet (the whole omniscient thing kind of defeats the purpose) and therefore such e-mail has not been forthcoming.

I know….I’m supposed to pray, read God’s word, and seek counsel from my Godly friends. And I’m doing that, although I’ll admit that I’m still not good at this “quiet time” thing my Christian friends talk about nor have I tried to be “still.” Focusing is definitely a weak point for me. And historically I have needed really huge, glaringly obvious signs to end relationships—like someone cheating on me or standing me up on my birthday. Fortunately Donatello is not the kind of person who would do either. And yes, I am learning from all of these relationships, and I’m very happy to say that I am a better person for knowing Donatello. Donatello has encouraged me in so many positive ways and has helped keep me accountable for reading the Bible daily and tithing. He’s also the first person I’ve ever attempted to date in a way that would glorify God. And it’s not been easy or a complete success, but it’s hard for me to imagine many guys (especially normal ones) being as committed to this endeavor as Donatello has been. What a blessing!

Anyway, I kind of wish that we could be spared the process of dating. I’ve spent entirely too much of my life doing it (probably in part because I was not seeking relationships that glorified God). I know that He uses these experiences to teach us, develop our character, and draw us to Him, but sometimes I still wish that I could just not date until He sent me the photo and resume of the One, assuring me that he was the One from the beginning—like an arranged marriage but explicitly arranged by God. OR he could just give me an off switch for my brain, so I could quit overanalyzing. Or I could learn to submit my worries to God instead of holding on to them and mulling over them. Hmm…now there’s a thought.