Expectation…Resolution…Action

By: Julie Manriquez

Expectation

My 12-year-old son expected an Xbox 360 for Christmas. Instead he received an emphatic “not gonna happen, Kid!” He persevered with the drive and optimism of a skilled closer, spouting assumptive comments like, “When I have my Xbox, you can use it to make sure I do my homework and my chores.” Wait a minute, isn’t it the JOB of every 12-year-old to—uhhh—do his homework and chores? After discussing with friends their discontent with the game and their kids’ effective behavior, the hubby and I stuck to our guns and kept the “kid crack” out of our home.

Just to clarify, we don’t have a problem with gaming, even the violent or adult varieties. And anyone who knows us knows we are certainly not big on censorship. The kid watched Gladiator at the age of eight at the hubby’s suggestion to get “pumped” for his basketball playoff game!  We simply do not wish to sabotage our kids’ sometimes limited focus on school and their chosen activities; but, even more importantly, we do not wish to rob them of the gift of pure, unadulterated boredom, which every child needs to expend physical energy, inspire creativity, innovation, and passion for something (anything!) larger than they are.

We proudly stood united and much to his chagrin no Xbox miraculously arrived beneath our rather odd left-leaning Christmas tree. Read more of this post

The Bluford Principle

The windshield keeps you focused on where you are going, but the rear view mirror reminds you where you came from.

We spend Christmas Eve every year at my in-laws in Modesto, CA, a little over an hour drive from my hometown of San Jose. We always have a great time there during the Holidays. My children get to see and spend time with their cousins, whom they don’t see very often. My wife gets to hang out with her siblings, whom because of life’s commitments- kids and work just to name a couple- she also sees a lot less than she probably should. And I get a mini-vacation, a few days that, because there are more adult eyes to look after ours and the other children, I get to relax and unwind a little.

As the stoplight turned green and we proceeded through the last busy intersection on the final stretch of road before my in-laws’ home, I noticed a man standing in a used car lot, which because it was nearly nine pm on Christmas Eve, had been closed for several hours. He was bundled up next to a streetlight, smoking what I’d hoped was a cigarette. “Look at that man,” my daughter said. “He must be cold,” my son added. Upon hearing my children, my eyes immediately glanced at the temperature gauge in my car. It read 36 degrees. Those readers who reside in the Northeast, or even the Midwest or South for that matter, might not see a man standing in 36 degree weather as particularly alarming. For a California boy, though, witnessing this man standing alone, on a street corner, in almost freezing weather, on Christmas Eve no less; was a perfect opportunity to empty my bucket (referring to the great book, How Full Is Your Bucket? If you have children and haven’t shared with them the kid version of this wonderful book, you definitely need to pick it up) and also teach my kids a valuable lesson.

It sounds so simple. “Appreciate what you have.” We make it poetic at times. “Be sure to smell the roses.” And sometimes it’s beaten over our heads by our moms. “Boy, there are people in Africa that wish they had half of what you have!” (That last one is courtesy of my mom, bless her soul.) But the truth is we all- or at least most of us- suffer from this affliction. The problem, I’ve determined, is not that we are all ingrates, as my wife hilariously proclaims at times. The issue is that it’s hard to feel that way–grateful and thankful– while working from a model or view of the world built on ill-advised and unproductive reference and comparison. I’ve gone so far as to name it. I call it the Bluford Principle. Why the Bluford Principle? Well, mostly because I haven’t heard anyone else refer to this dilemma, on which I’ll elaborate in a moment, in quite this way. And maybe a little because I just like the way it sounds. Read more of this post

9/12/2011: Practice Forgiveness for Better Health

As I wrapped Halloween goodie bags for the elderly at a National Charity League meeting on 9/11 with my 13-year-old daughter, she asked if we’d have time to attend mass that evening. We are hardly model churchgoers and—as I’ve mentioned (See Recipe for Change- Less Everyday) —I consider myself at best a “Recovering Catholic” open to the tenets of several faiths. Our children are the product of this open-minded spirituality regardless of their more formal exposure to Catholic teachings their first nine years. For me it is a gift to see them reach for their own spiritual lifeline when it comes to navigating their way through difficult times.

Over the past week we have discussed the 9/11 of ten years ago, when my son and daughter were just two and three; and, as I answered questions and cried tears as I recounted the day—the moment—that we all personally own, I realized that they too need to personally mourn this piece of history that defines their generation. Read more of this post

Money on memories!

Vacations are certainly not cheap. But the memories you create with your family are priceless!

When I was young–who am I kidding; even when I was not so young—I used to spend my (and more often than I care to admit, my parents’) money on material things. Whether it was cool jeans or the newest pair of “Jordan” sneakers when I was in high school and college or fancy rims for my car or cool electronics equipment when I was a little older; I never hesitated to spend money on “stuff”. Just “stuff”.

Well, whether it was because I was furthering my career in corporate accounting and finance and wanted to at least pretend to be responsible or because I got married, had children, and actually had to be responsible; I did a complete 180 with my approach to money, spending, and saving.  Rather than spend money as freely and carefree as I wanted and when I wanted, I began to deprive myself of almost any enjoyment or material ‘toy’, feeling that I was being selfish for spending on myself or, worse yet, that I hadn’t yet earned the right to reward myself.

Read more of this post

A friend’s role as storyteller

One of my blog followers and someone I consider a great friend is going through a tough time at work. His relationship with his manager has soured over the last few months and he now finds himself in an unsettling quandary. As a friend, my initial reaction was to help solve the problem. But I know how I am when I’m down or in a funk—I don’t want anyone around me, let alone trying to cheer me up or analyze the situation—and I certainly didn’t want to make a situation worse by providing unsolicited advice. The fact of the matter is that all we can hope to do as parents, colleagues, mentors, coaches, and yes, friends; is to provide anecdotes, stories, and other recollections that we hope will shed some light on the issue. Read more of this post