Thursday, February 24, 2011

Connecting Habits

When David I and first got engaged, he began to take my hand whenever we prayed. Whether we were in a corporate, small group, or private setting, every time prayer started, he would reach out and take my hand. It became a habit, not even a habit, but more of an expectation, something that we enjoyed. It connected us- physically and spiritually. Then a day came when if he was distracted and didn't reach for my hand, I reached for his- I had joined the habit.
I can't think of a time when we haven't held hands for prayer, if there was any way to be near each other at that time. Rarely, we'll pray over a meal at a large holiday gathering and we'll be on opposite sides of the room and just can't get to each other; in that case, we make eye contact before we bow our heads.
Now, this isn't a's a point of connection, a habit we developed rather unintentionally years ago. But, it's amazing. Why is it amazing?
Because in the good times and the bad, we connect.
Let's be honest marriage isn't easy. Two people falling in love and wanting to sacrifice a lot over the course of a lifetime, is a miracle in itself. There are going to be bumps along the way. Tough times, disagreements, frustrations, they will all happen. Having a 'connecting' habit is a great way to bring you back physically, emotionally, and spiritually to the good between you. It's a reminder that the bad isn't so bad and that 'this too shall pass.' There may be times, when these little connecting habits are all you've got or at least the best you've got in the communication department. I am not talking about when someone didn't do the dishes for the 100th time, even though it was their turn. I am talking about when there is a job change, a job loss, excessive work hours, disagreements over kids, money problems, addictions, extended family disputes, health crisis, mental instability, persistent schedule obstacles, and any number of other things a couple may face.
The simplistic beauty in this habit is that it's not entirely dependent on us. Even if we don't find (or prioritize) a time to pray together alone, we are going to be exposed to prayer- at church, in small groups, at meal time, at weddings, in lots of different places.
I wish we could say we planned it; this connecting habit is honestly one of the best things that ever happened to us...and we did it on accident!
And now, I am thrilled to say that the habit has spread to our kids. They love to try and reach out to grab our hand before we can even reach for theirs.

What habits do you have with a spouse, child, or other family member that connect you no matter what's going on in life?
What connecting habit would you like to start now?


Friday, February 18, 2011


I came to the conclusion this week at the gym that I have not been pushing myself enough. Now, I am a regular at the gym and even though sickness laid me off a lot in the last 2 months. I work hard and I'm in good shape; I run 10-20 miles a week- that's pushing yourself enough, isn't it?
Yesterday, I reaffirmed for myaelf that it isn't.
I was doing abs (which I hate and have done 3 of the last 5 days) and found myself pushing super hard for the last 10, then I let out a deep sound that mixed the 'out loud sigh' and a groan. The kind you should make when you are pushing to the next level of growth. Training, changing, and growing should hurt. Not hurt in a painful way but hurt in the 'I'm getting something for my effort and it's something worth having' way.
Why was I doing abs? Well, I don't like the way my abs look or feel but the bigger reason is that my core is weak and it has been contributing to other potential problems with my hips and knees. When parts of our body are out of balance then the other parts of our body must compensate. Usually it's not in a good way either.
This brought me to revisit the idea of balance as it relates to my life, not just exercise.

Why is it that when we are pushing in one area we slack off in others?
Work and Family
Cardio and Weights
Children and Spouse
Faith and Obligations

You name it, we struggle as humans (I know I am not the only one) to find a good balance.
A friend of mine long ago talked about faith, family, finance and fitness as the four spokes on a wheel. The wheel will be flat and not rotate if all four areas aren't in balance and in the case of fitness, there may be an internal wheel made up of Cardio, Stretching, Weights, and Nutrition.
It has been a 2 year journey for me to get back to looking at stretching, weights, and nutrition in addition to my cardio craze and you know what? until I got all four in balance I could only achieve sub-optimal results and risk getting hurt!

Is part of your life out of balance? Why? Do you want to fix it? How will you do it? 

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Indecent Proposal?

I don't know that I would blog about this normally but with all the unrest in the Middle East and Africa, I don't know that this huge piece of legislation got enough attention, so I am doing my small part to create consideration and discussion.
Yesterday, the Senate voted to extend the Patriot Act for ninety days to give the House and Senate a chance to come to agreement or compromise regarding the future. The House had already voted to extend the act until December. The White House also supports extension of the act.  (reference: BBC) Items covered in the act include: extension of wiretaps, access to business records, and surveillance of terror suspects, among other things.
I understand why this bill came into existence following the September 11th attacks and I can understand why it had so many supporters (and opponents). I had just exited the military less than a month prior to 9-11-01 and was still working at a military hospital. David was serving on active duty in intelligence at the time. There were definite concerns about further imminent attacks on American soil. There was a perceived if not real threat with significant potential consequences. I had questions and concerns when it became law in October 2001 and almost 10 years after the it's creation, I still have to ask some questions when it comes to the Patriot Act. I won't answer these questions for you, I just pose them here as something to be considered:

1. Does its provisions compromise the constitutional rights of Americans? 
2. What freedoms, if any, should Americans be willing to trade in the name of intelligence gathering?
3. If/When the act is in place (including it's standing since 2001) should it's provisions be limited by time (called 'sunsets'), for example, should it's powers be considered a necessary requirement for 12, 24, or 36 months following an attack on American soil-- with the ability to reinstate the act following new attacks?   ---this is how the act was originally designed and each time a sunset was reached, it's measures were extended or made 'permanent.'
4. What results have we actually achieved thru the Patriot Act? (Realistically and maybe necessarily, we will never have an accurate answer to this question, it's more rhetorical in nature.)
5. Is loss of dues process a worthwhile trade for gathering intelligence here in the US even if that intelligence stops an attack? --since activity related to use of the Patriot Act is usually protected information, for reasons of National Security, when an error is made under the act (a person under surveillance, detained, or resources seized in error), is recompense ever made to those affected?

After asking all these questions, I have to caveat that oversees intelligence collection is a different ball game; I do not question the government's (Intelligence agencies and Dept. of Defense) need to collect intelligence oversees. Also, I don't think that non-citizens are necessarily entitled to the same rights against surveillance that US citizens are entitled here in the US.
The conclusion I come to regarding the Patriot Act is that it is a slippery slope. It feels a little like a movie I saw long ago called Indecent Proposal. Maybe you've seen it. It's about a couple in need of money to fulfill a dream and avoid financial ruin. They go to Vegas and gamble what they have in search of the needed funds. They lose their money and are approached by a millionaire who offers $1million dollars for a night with the wife. The couple agrees to this 'deal' and signs a contract because this would solve their financial problems.
They learn the hard way that life is complicated. Following that night, they aren't just able to forget about their compromised marriage and how they managed to get the money.... the sacrifice looked reasonable in the beginning. They justified their choice, but in the end, they had given up something that they couldn't just forget about and couldn't be replaced. This couple nearly destroys themselves in the process.
I am concerned that the price of the Patriot Act is just too great.
Is congress accepting an indecent proposal on our behalf?

**Please note: Although this blog downloads to 2 Facebook accounts and a Twitter account. It is the sole opinion and commentary of Sharon R. Simon. This blog is not the work or opinion of David E. Simon or his employer, Mission Essential Personnel.

Monday, February 14, 2011

How was your day?

Years ago, I made a conscious decision that I would become intimately familiar with what David does for a living (even back when I worked). Why would I do this? Certainly not so that I could have burdens to bear and stress to endure or because I don't have enough to think about. For me, it was a decision about how to best partner with him in marriage.
For David (and for many men I suspect) so much of what is going on with him emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually is tied up with what he is going thru, achieving, chasing, or dealing with at work. Knowing what he does and how he processes it, as well as the dynamics of his workplace have helped me to listen, understand, know how to pray for & with him, as well as give advice or have discernment about a situation from a different perspective (when he asks of course).

Now there are several key components to doing this:
1. I am only familiar with David's workplace and co-workers from his perspective (and there are 2 sides to every scenario). If an issue arises, I often just listen or simply ask him to think of it from the other person's perspective.
2. I think about his work, job endeavors, and career path as "ours." And it is ours- we make those decisions together and I live with the commitment, hours, and travel required, picking up all the extra slack. BUT, he is the one who owns them everyday so I have to remind myself that my attachment to them is for his benefit First, not mine.
3. I try (very hard and fail often, and yet keep trying) to only give advice or an opinion when asked.
4. I visit the office for various things and engage with co-workers often; I interact and build relationships as the opportunity presents itself without regard to office politics and challenges-- they are always changing and I don't need to concern myself with those.
5. David has always worked with women and many times needed to travel with them. Knowing each of these women (and their spouses if they have them) creates a natural protection for my marriage. There is a clear knowledge and respect by these women for David's wife and family and therefore a decreased opportunity that a inappropriate or uncomfortable situation could present itself.   ***This is not because I have anything to worry about where David or his co-workers are concerned! This is just SMART, PROACTIVE, marital strategy.

The idea of really understanding the answer when you ask "How was your day?" may not appeal to you but I have learned that even in the busiest seasons of our lives, this practice has helped keep us connected. I'd encourage you to find out one new thing this week about how your spouse spends his/her day.


Saturday, February 12, 2011

A New Stage of Life

It's not unusual with four kids to feel like you are in Taxi Driver Stage- the time in which you seemingly serve only as a means of transportation for everyone's activities. This stage occurs a few years after Bessie the Milk Cow Stage- filled with breast or bottle feeding CONSTANTLY and the Potty Pooper Stage- a time in which your party IS the potty, poop, accidents, back-breaking hovering and much clothes washing.  None the less, the Taxi Driver Stage is as time consuming and messy (and filled with sheer joy and laughs!) as the stages before it.
Today, however I got a glimpse of a total different stage that I had never seen before (not sure that I like it either). I'm calling it the Mass Exodus Stage- the stage at which you don't just run your kids around, dropping them off for an hour or two, rushing back to pick them up again. In this stage, the kids are old enough to have day-long or in fact, weekend-long activities, routinely; I'm not just talking summer camp. I'm talking regularly scheduled calendar-worthy all-day activities.  What?!   Next, you'll tell me that they'll be driving (in just 3 short years) to these things- I may end up calling that the Scared S*#@less Stage.
HOW did I get here? 
Well, an egg meets a....oh, sorry, I meant- How did I come to this revelation today?
Connor is in Ohio with his aunt and uncle this weekend. Colin spent Saturday snowboarding with his small group and then, to compound the sense of exodus, Sybella, my 4year old, went out to play with a 1st grade neighbor and her older brother. I was left at home with just one young son. That's a 75% reduction in labor, distraction, entertainment, and sweet, sweet moments. To top it off, David left for a week-long business trip- so he couldn't even make it feel like I was getting much deserved time off from the work of motherhood.
I am tearing up just writing this. I typically celebrate the passing of stages and talk fondly of a time in life without the obligations that come along with kids- but this weekend, the Mass Exodus made me stop and 'feel' their departures. I have SO much respect for the moms I know who are sending first and second children off to college. I am saying a long prayer of thanks today that I have an 11 year span between my oldest and youngest- at least I will get to ease into these stages of aging children that lead us to the  Empty Nest.

What Stage are you in right now? What do you love best about it?

Friday, February 11, 2011

Mom Chat

This past weekend, I had the humbling opportunity to do a Mom's Chat for about 15 women hosted by my friend, Brooke. The idea was that I would give information on several topics from my experiences, errors, and lessons learned with our 4 kids and then there would be a time for Q&A. We didn't get a chance to do much Q&A due to starting a bit late and the fact that I prepared too much content (in fear that I wouldn't have enough- the thought of being unprepared is torture to me); but, amazingly enough, I think it went exactly the way it was supposed to go.
As I worked thru my preparation for the event and praying for both the event and the women involved, I kept expecting that God would give me exactly the parenting information that would help and encourage the women attending and.... he didn't! Instead he gave me two things to share that are awesome and I thought they might be an encouragement to others of you.
The first is the idea that Jesus knows exactly what burden each of us is carrying and although the burden may not seem big to anyone else, it's big to us; he knows it, and he wants to be in the middle of it with us-- we just have to let him. How reassuring is that! There is no one I'd rather have with me in the middle of my biggest challenges than Jesus.
The second thing I shared was that negative self-talk is discouraging and destroying women in awful and unnecessary ways. We talk to ourselves, criticize, and undermine ourselves with words and unforgiveness that we wouldn't use on our worst enemies. (At least I know that I have talked to myself that way.) I asked the ladies to write on a card something that they have been self-talking that they wouldn't admit to their best friend, their husband, or God himself. I encouraged them to destroy the card or better yet, leave the card with me or a friend as a symbol of the finality of this negative self-talk in their lives. Several women left cards with me and others have shared their cards with friends. It's amazing the steps that can be taken to break damaging behaviors with one 3x5 card!
So grateful for the opportunity to share my journey with the intent of helping and encouraging other women. Also especially grateful to Shauna, Tracy, Brooke, Lora, Glenda, Terri, Tobi, Kim, and Eileen for encouraging me- and speaking things into my life to help me be and live better!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Live out Loud

Lately, the blog has turned into a simple scrapbook of our lives; it's been a place where I attempt to post at least two-three times a month a recollection of our family events and pictures of the kids for all our friends and family across the world.
In 2011, I will be ramping up some content (of subjective quality) that is more a sharing of thoughts in an attempt to Live Out Loud. I will of course keep the pics of the kids and the events of our lives- I just want to give the blog some depth in 2011.
Stay tuned for new posts soon!