Saturday, December 30, 2006

The Scrooge Effect

"People don't change." I hear that all the time, even from brides and grooms who have just embarked on one of the biggest changes in their lives - marriage.

To that I say: "Bah! Humbug!" We all know from Dickens that people can change radically, overnight. It's known as the Scrooge Effect. (Young readers might know it as the Grinch Effect. Same difference, as they say.)

I know what you're thinking: "A Christmas Carol" is a story. It isn't true. Well, let me suggest that if it wasn't true, it wouldn't be a story that would connect with audiences deeply.

When people say: "People don't change," what they often mean is: "Don't expect me to change," or "Don't expect me to expect change from the people close to me," or "I've tried to help folks around me change, but the people close to me are pigheaded stubborn!"

The first two attitudes are cop-outs. The third is understandable, of course, because some people really do dig in their heels. But I'll bet that for every heel-digger there is someone who really can change.

Not everyone wants to change or ever will change. But many can, and some will.

Notice in the Scrooge story that the Ghosts use three things to change Ebeneezer: emotion (nostalgia), awareness (of the present), and revelation (one might stretch this and call it imagination -- for practical purposes, let's call it that.) It probably does take all three of those to create change in one's life.

For example, let's say I remember the day Marian and I were married. We didn't yet have any baggage as a married couple. I remember how beautiful she was and how much I loved her in that moment. I remember that feeling.

Now let's say, six years later, Marian is really upset at me about something I did. Maybe it's not unlike something I've done or said a hundred times. She can't expect me to change!

But I remember how much I loved her six years ago, and so I want to do something. I'm aware that she's upset, and I suspect she's venting to her friends on the phone. I realize that she's not so eager to make breakfast for me the next morning, and she seems not to be getting good sleep. She doesn't smile a lot. I can choose to pretend these things aren't happening. And I've certainly been guilty of this in the past. Maybe I can do it again!

But I begin to imagine how things might progress if I don't apologize, and the Ghost of Christmas Future shows me a very unhappy Marian -- and Eric. Is divorce out of the question for a couple that does not tend to one another's feelings? Do we think that divorce is something that strikes from the outside, like lightning? And even if divorce isn't in the cards, is an unhappy marriage a satisfying alternative?

It really does take all three of those to loosen my heels from the hard ground of my heart and say, "I'm sorry."

When you go to the doctor, do you tell him in advance, "Now, don't tell me anything is wrong with my body, and don't you dare prescribe any medicine, diet change, or treatment of any kind. Because I'm fine as is!"

Then why do we get mad at therapists who tell us we need to change our ways if we expect our relationship to get better?

And why do we dig in our heels when our spouse points out any character imperfection whatsoever?

One of the vows we make at marriage should be, "I invite you to help make me a better husband, a better parent, a better person."

Some would exploit an invitation like that. It takes honest effort on both parties for it to work well.

You used to be a fun-loving person. You used to be a happy person. But you changed.

If you can change in one direction, can't you change in the other?

Every day I see our daughter change. She has changed radically in the past few weeks, nevermind months. By the time she hits her 20s, it may be hard to see any change in her for years at a stretch.

But I'll hope she'll know she can.

Please post examples of people you know who have changed in small or radical ways, for good or bad.

"God bless us, Every One!"

Thursday, December 28, 2006

The Blog-Solution Resolution

Part of the problem with most resolutions is that they are private affairs and no one holds you accountable. I probably need a life coach who will weigh me and whip me when I haven't lost the 20 pounds I say I'll shed. But I don't have the cash for that, even though it's probably a method that would work. (I really, really, hate to be whipped.)

So, I've decided on experiment: I'm hoping that those in the blogosphere who know me will supply the necessary encouragement and chiding to get me on track. Not with my weight, but with those more spiritual resolutions that we all try for. Ones like these:

1) I will be more kind, more encouraging, and listen better.
2) I will send ten thank-yous for every critical message I send.
3) If I think to say something that I think is lighthearted and funny but that might be taken the wrong way, I'll bite my tongue.

I could list more, but one of the problems with these things is getting carried away with good intentions. I'll do well to carry out even one of the three faithfully.

If you've noticed that I broke one of the above in 2006 in your presence, and it makes you feel better to point it out, I'll gladly hear you out and won't get defensive. And that goes for 2007 as well. You are welcome to post your comments as "anonymous," even if I know you well.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a lot of thank you notes to send.

Monday, December 18, 2006

"All I want for Christmas is my san-i-ty, my..."

Call me old fashioned, but I love those old Christmas albums my parents collected. Johnny Mathis, Spike Jones, and so on. Yes, we all know what we should know to be the real reason for the season, but there's something heavenly about Christmas kitsch, too. There is a cozy Christmas aesthetic that has been accumulated in our culture. Here are just a few holiday touchstones that come to mind, and you tell me if they don't ring a (Christmas) bell in your memory: Santa Coca-Cola glasses from Krystal; Rudolf, Heat Miser, and the odd way Frosty says, "Happy Birthday" whenever he comes to life in that cartoon; driving through otherwise uninteresting neighborhoods in the cold dark and checking out the lights; the cool feel of tinsel in your palms (because you just took it down from the attic) as you decorate the tree; the funky musty oldness of that 20-year-old cardboard box; the egg-shell ornaments your grandmother made during her "crafty" days; the color-coded (white, yellow, red, blue) painted metal ends of the plastic tree branches that you had to jam just so into the fake trunk; the Hickory Farms salami sausage you bought for your grandfather, which he shared with you; seeing a red light blinking on a jet and your parents confirming, yep, that's Rudolph alright; the plastic grips on your first bike's (a Rampar) handlebars that start to slip off after a few days; the way all the kids put their opened presents in a pile next to the hearth, and the fun of going through that pile again and again for a day or two; the feel and smell of new softback books you got for Christmas; the black, empty face of the Ghost of Christmas Future in the best "Christmas Carol" ever produced for film; putting together your first Star Wars puzzle with Han Solo and "Chewie" in the picture; helping out at the East Side (i.e. poor white side of town) Salvation Army putting toy-bundles together and groceries to give out to the families who show up there (yes, that's a cozy memory, too -- don't ask me why). I guess what I'm getting at is that being told over and over that we better be spiritual at Christmas ignores the fact that we are creatures of our senses, too, and have an affinity for sounds, tastes, touches, sights, and scents that are special and pleasing. Christmas appeals to the senses in so many ways, the closest to real magic we can ever get - save through romantic love. No wonder the Christmas story in the Bible is so appealing from start to finish. Depleting Christmas of Santa and presents and fine food (and fast-food Christmas glasses) might be like cutting out the part about the Three Wise Men and their exotic gifts; the donkey; the "Lo!" of the arch angel. We love those details of Christmas, too. I happen to think that God smiles at our delight of the so-called "trappings" of Christmas, because He gave us an awareness of beauty that is never so alive as at this time of year. Perhaps our senses (and our memories) are never more awake and aware than at Christmas. We're ready for a Scrooge-like conversion from our crazy, boring, insane adult lives. I'll take it. God bless us, every one!

Friday, December 15, 2006

canine cuddles (and struggles!)

I think Eric would concur that our biggest discipline problem with Stella is her physical, emotional, and verbal abuse of our dog. He has the patience of a saint, but any living thing can only take so much. She throws things at him constantly, runs full-speed towards him with her grocery cart/doll stroller/own body, yells very loudly when he comes near, and starts to cry when we are showing him attention.

OK, you may be laughing, but it's really not funny. I see now why people say to wait until all your children are older before introducing the family pet. I hate that Kope gets the shaft by being put outside for something he TOTALLY didn't do - but I can't risk a dog bite, no matter how much she egged him on.

After reading that, you'll see why this photo warms our hearts so much. Good night!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Gingerbread Houses (well, sort of)

Hi Guys!

OK, I'm trying really hard not to be as lazy with my blog as I have been with journaling in the past. With so many other things to do throughout the day, it's hard to make this a priority. But I'm going to give it my best shot (just be forgiving until the holidays are over)!

The last few weeks have been busy around here. We're winding things up with the businesses for 2006 and are proud to have filmed 60 weddings for 2006! That's up from 28 in 2005 - so we more than doubled our numbers. We are so pumped. We hope to do 75 next year. Our other company, Stellar Media, hopes to expand even more next year - doing more property videos, and trying our hand at commercials and life stories.

We're headed to Alabama in a week to spend 6 days with the Larsons. It should be fun - lots of ridiculous eating and a younger cousin for Stella to play with too! We will stop in Chattanooga on the way down to meet a friend and take a trip to the Tennessee Aquarium there in downtown Chattanooga.

Speaking of Stella, she has really been a hoot lately. I think her current favorite thing to do is to push her babies in her doll stroller. We will bundle her up, take that thing outside, and push that cheap little pink stroller up these hills, through the puddles, over rocks, etc. It doesn't even phase her. And she even stops at various sights (stream, flower, etc.) to "show" her babies. I love it.

Tonight we went to a Gingerbread House-making party. Our friends Jeff and Laura went all out preparing for it - all the house pieces nicely organized, dozens of candies, etc., for decorating, and munchies and good drinks for those of us working so hard. Stella decided to eat most of hers, but she did create what one friend there named the "gingerbread playground." Take a look for yourself.