Monday, March 26, 2012

Personal Update - Preparing for Married Life

If you're interested - or even if you're not! - things are rolling along with my preparations for the married life.

Wedding - countdown, 61 days:
  1. We picked out Chris's wedding band, had it resized, and got it back. 
  2. We ordered the wedding invites. They came while I was on the road. Need to make an insert to include with them as well as buy stamps, work on addresses. Mail them next week?
  3. The fire dept. offered to pick up a big chunk of the cost for Chris's pricy Class A uniform, bringing the cost down to a more affordable level. In fact, it will cost us less than my dress. 
  4. Still waiting, nervously, for news our bridesmaid dresses have shipped from Singapore. 
  5. Finally met the best man. Well, he's more than a-guy-who's-going-to-be-in-our-wedding, I need to look at him as "Chris's good friend." But the first thing I noticed was that he's tall enough to tower over the rest of the wedding party. (Maybe he could kneel...?)
  6. I said no to glamor, bought some cute ballet flats to wear with my wedding dress. ($12!)
  7. I have a time and place for a bridal shower in Denver (April 28). Now, need to book tickets and make a list of people to invite (and/or other people to see while I'm there?)
House - our new home by the hazelnut orchard!
  1. On Friday we heard that our rental application was accepted - though they decided to increase the amount of our deposit by 53% since we're not - individually - rich enough to seem a good risk. Dang!
  2. Today we go to the bank for a $2000 cashier's check to show them we want it anyway.
  3. Final inspection this week, then they'll let us come sign the papers and get the keys. Not sure when that will happen. Would like to empty out my storage unit this month and start getting the place furnished for Chris and the kids, very soon. Yes, it seems best to us that they get out of his folks' house first, whereas I am happy to stay with R&L as long as they will keep me. They get back into town April 5 and I'll be happy to have housemates again! When the kids are with Chris, though (two weeks of each month) I'm going to have to take more responsibilities as chauffeur and cook, roles Chris's mom has been playing more often than not. Grandma is very sweet about it, but I think she needs a break!  
  4. Saturday we bought a set of new mattresses for the bed. Will pick them up once we have house keys.
  5. Sunday we found a good price on a comfortable couch and chairs for our living room. Quantities limited, but we'll go to the other store today and try to buy them and take them to his sister's place where she said we can keep them in the garage for a few days.
  6. Next up, a dining room table and chairs. Saw some we like but think we ought to get the other stuff in there first before we decide on the size and style for a table. The new place does have a kitchen bar & barstools which will do for a start.
  7. I'm trying not to stress out about how we're going to fit what we have/need in this tiny house. Four people (sometimes). One working from home. 1100 square feet. Once we get the keys we can go in and measure. I have this hutch/mirror thing that's been in my family a while and may need to be stashed in the garage, darn it. And need to find a spot (or spots) for those five bookcases of books... 
Mawwage, a Dweam within a Dweam...

Although our attempts to meet with our designated premarital counselor keep hitting snags, we've tried to be proactive about talking and working through what we believe to be the usual stuff! I'd rather have some third-party help on this, but maybe in the end it's more important that we can work on our marriage, together. So that's what we've been trying to do. Money, sex, parents, kids, and more.

Some of you know I'm not a fan of the now-you're-getting-married books and teachings that have a big emphasis on "men are like this, women are like that." You don't have to look far to find folks who fit into any given stereotype, but nor do you have to look far to find those who don't. Sometimes just the mirror...

Knowing there's some good stuff in these kind of books, though, I had my eyes open for some kind of strategy for finding and talking about the bits that really do describe Chris and me. So on our drives to and from Portland recently we talked through my friend David Mays' "book notes" on these two volumes (without taking the time to read the actual books at this point!):

For Men Only: A straightforward guide to the inner lives of women

For Women Only: What you need to know about the inner lives of men

Each book hit hard on several points that describe each of us to a T - as well as several that don't fit us at all. Have any of you read them?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

A Few Things that Caught My Eye

Knowing I'd have to get up at 4:00am somehow made it harder to sleep, not easier, and I was wide awake at 2:00am, instead. Reached for my iPad and did some reading. Here are a few things I enjoyed and thought you might, too:

Could the most important (and most transformative) command of the scriptures be the command to rest?
"This 'above all' command encourages us to trust in God in a way that no other activity can. So much more could be accomplished by adding another day of labor, but the Sabbath requires us to trust that God will provide for all our needs and that he will continue to manage the world without our help. The Sabbath is a practical reminder that we are completely dependent on God."
How Madeleine L'Engle little-known novel, Camilla, has been made into a movie.

A friend from Denver writes in defense of princesses.

Do Christians really  love people who aren't Christian?

I've been thinking a lot about church - what the church is supposed to be, what I expect from a church. Probably the most eye-opening thing was to realize that in the back of my mind I hope to find a church that will see my fiance, as a crisis chaplain, and me, as a mission mobilizer (or just as, I don't know, us as great people or something) and say, "Wow! Our church would be so blessed to have you." That's not happening. Pride goeth...

Something else I read: Thoughts from a Church Secret Shopper.

Jon Swanson looks at the spiritual discipline of "examen."

Two on singleness, marriage, and selfishness: Marriage: When Pre-Engagement Hopes Meet Reality and Sharing, Closet Space and How to Prepare for Marriage.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Counting the Cost of that Dream Wedding

Go figure, this whole wedding planning endeavor is providing some interesting opportunities to learn about stress management.While doing something that "isn't you" can ratchet up the tension, or expecting things to be perfect, so can "daring to be different." Eccentricity, individuality, personal expression, and the like, those things all take a toll. The wise bride should count the cost before she tries to plan her dream wedding. There's more at stake here than the money and the memories.

Shortly before we got engaged, a friend casually mentioned to me that the pressure of planning and preparing to be married took such a toll on her body that she was sick-ish for about six months after. Oooh, don't want that.

In comparing notes with my stepmother, I took to heart her observation that doing things in a fairly traditional way is just a lot easier; it can save you a lot of trouble. You don't have to come up with your own game plan, you just follow someone else's. I'm also realizing that doing what everybody else does can reduce the stress on other people was well. It's something of a kindness to avoid upsetting other people's applecarts, isn't it? They can rest easy, knowing this is what happens at a wedding, this is what the bride does, this is what the groom does, here's who else is involved, etc. I don't want to think I can please everyone, but it is a factor.

And yet at the same time, people tell me, "This is your day, and it it should be special!" An American wedding holds innumerable opportunities to "express yourself" by doing something unique. Although I feel the tug, each thing I consider doing "not like everybody else does it" comes with an emotional price tag and more stuff to research, assess, decide, and implement.

So... I found a long white dress I actually like. I have two youngish, single, female attendants. I will carry a bouquet. I'll come down the aisle to something classical (though not Lohengrin). We'll say some pretty standard vows. We'll have lunch, and cake, and toasts. We'll skip a few things like drinking and dancing, but we'll have good music. I'm not sure about the garter thing (which smacks of sexual conquest to me), but I will throw my bouquet... before we drive off in Chris's favorite fire truck (OK, maybe that's not traditional!)

My girls are going to wear maroon.
I'll also have wedding "colors." I had subtly thought that to be a silly requirement, but have a new appreciation for it when I look at how many decisions there are to make. Picking colors for your wedding is like buying Garanimals for your children: it greatly increases the chances that your stuff is going to be aesthetically pleasing when you put it all together! A good way to keep from borrowing trouble and taking on headaches you don't need.

We're still vacillating on how to dress our groomsmen, but found something that may work out nicely for the bridesmaids. "Who wouldn't want a dress that can be worn half a dozen different ways?" asked my maid of honor. So we started looking at these wrap dresses that can be worn to suit the 'drothers of the girl (or, should the bride dictate the matter, the bridesmaid can wrap the dress to suit herself on a different occasion).

I did, however, opt for the version produced by this little company in Singapore which sells its wares through Etsy, a web store for independent artists. Nice. But since they are coming from Asia, we can't try the dresses on first. They may take longer to arrive. Returns could be tricky if they don't work out. If they do work out, I'll have something fun and affordable to recommend to friends!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Mail Order

Looks like my favorite Central Asian people group, the Kyrgyz, have weddings on their minds much as I do. As I've mentioned before, as many as two thirds of Kyrgyz marriages and in some places more begin with some level of coercion. The groom and his family arrange to kidnap the bride - often to the surprise of the girl and her parents.

Yet here is an alternative route to the married state... Turns out that Kyrgyzstan is now home to a growing business as a supplier of mail order brides, particularly for grooms from South Korea!
>> Read more.

Speaking of mail, I realize Chris and I are a little behind in getting our invitations out - our union being a bit more public and premeditated than that of many a Kyrgyz couple. We worked on them this weekend. I'm about to place my order for 150 printed invitations; we should have them in the mail to our prospective guests before the winds of March are past. Some of the suggested wording we found quite hilarious. Tell me which sappy sample of phraseology tickles you the most:

It was love at first sight
but more important was the moment I realized
that I couldn't imagine my life without you in it
Marti Smith and Chris Wade
invite you to share their joy
as they are married
on Saturday, the twenty-sixth of May...

Like a butterfly in a summer breeze,
our hearts are uplifted by love
It is with joy that we,
Marti Smith
Chris Wade
pledge our love as one
on Saturday, the twenty-sixth of May...

He asked, and she said yes . . .
or was it the other way around?
However it happened
Marti Smith
Chris Wade
are getting married
and they ask you to join them
on Saturday, May 26th...

A week or two I got an email from one of those let-us-help-you-plan-your-wedding websites, The Knot. Actually they have written to me a number of times and are eager to share help and advice. This particular email congratulated me: only 90 days until my wedding! Also, I should know that there were 198 items on the "checklist" they had created for me... 88 of them overdue. Sigh!

Chris's mom showed me some of her pictures yesterday, an experience that also reminded me that a few decades ago these things were not nearly the production they tend to be, today.

Having accomplished a number of wedding-related tasks over the weekend - including (I can't fathom how they left this one of the list) "pick a fight with your groom" - I thought I'd go in and see how far I could get in persuading The Knot to acknowledge my efforts. I was able to check off or cross off quite a few items. One I was glad to see assigned to "the day of the wedding" was this:

"Thank your parents and tell them that you love them."

Friday, March 09, 2012

Want to Be a Great Teacher?

“Ask any great teacher or coach the most effective way to help people learn, and you’ll get a uniform answer: through stories. … Perhaps that was why Jesus Christ relied so heavily upon stories as His primary instructional method.” George Barna, in the introduction to Felicity Dale’s An Army of Ordinary People.

Do you think this is true?

Seriously, “any great teacher,” “the most effective way,” “uniform answer”? Sounds fishy.

I guess that tells you something about me. If you want to stir me to debate or make me think, just start making unequivocal statements like that one.

What is the most effective way to help people learn?

Any ideas?

Maybe it depends in part on culture, or personality, or "learning style."

The value of stories and storytelling as a teaching tool is great, I’ll grant you that. And, though I might never be a “great teacher or coach,” I, too, rely heavily on stories as an instructional method.

Yet I do not think storytelling alone will do the job, and I wouldn’t give it the #1 place in my bag of tricks to help people learn. I think there’s something better.

What do you think?

I'd say.... Experience. Call it situational learning, or created tension, or teachable moments. But many people learn the most through on-the-job training, not through novels or sermon illustration or hearing about something that happened in somebody else’s life. Internships, experimentation, and practical application assignments can do what lectures and stories cannot: only when a person applies the new skill or knowledge to a real-life situation does it really "stick."

So that’s why I say that storytelling isn’t #1, situational learning is. Look through the Gospels and see how well they jive with Barna's claim about Jesus and storytelling. The disciples weren't just sitting around on mountaintops listening to sermons and parables every day; instead, Jesus creates and redeems dozens of powerful teachable moments. 

Perhaps the wise teacher doesn’t use just one technique but several. If you want to be systematic about it, you might find it helpful to analyze your teaching plans in light of Robert Gagne's “Nine Events of Instruction.”
1. Gaining learners’ attention (e.g., ask a question to pique interest).

2. Informing learners of the objective (where are we going with this? What will they get out of it? Create a level of expectation for learning).

3. Stimulating recall of prior learning (i.e., appeal to previous teaching or common life experiences so learners can related it to something they already know).

4. Presenting new information (explain and demonstrate the “content”).

5. Guiding learning (case studies, examples, analogies, mnemonics to help them grasp the content).

6. Eliciting performance (learners apply the knowledge or skill and practice it, show that they can put it to use).

7. Providing informative feedback (coaching, basically. Learners are immediately rewarded/corrected for their application of the knowledge or skill; they see that they “got it” and that it works).

8. Assessing performance (this time, learners are tested in some way without hints, feedback, or coaching).

9. Enhancing learning transfer and retention (learners “perform” or apply their new skill or knowledge and are encouraged to review the content and create or consult reference materials when needed).