flags

Fly the Colors!

FLAG FLYING HOLIDAYS

  • 1 January- New Years Day
  • 3rd Monday in January- MLK’s Birthday
  • 20 January- Inauguration Day
  • 12 February- Lincoln’s Birthday
  • 3rd Monday in February- Presidents Day
  • 22 February- Washington’s Birthday
  • Easter Sunday
  • 2nd Sunday in May- Mother’s Day
  • 6 April- Army Day
  • 3rd Saturday in May- Armed Forces Day
  • Last Monday in May- Memorial Day
  • 14 June- Flag Day
  • 3rd Sunday in June- Father’s Day
  • 4 July- Independence Day
  • 27 July- National Korean War Veterans Armistice Day
  • 1st Monday in September- Labor Day
  • 11 September- Patriot Day
  • 17 September- Constitution Day
  • 2nd Monday in October- Columbus Day
  • 27 October- Navy Day (HOOYAH!)
  • 10 November- Marine Corps Birthday
  • 11 November- Veteran’s Day
  • 4th Thursday in November- Thanksgiving
  • 7 November- Pearl Harbor Day
  • 25 December- Christmas Day

Keep an eye out for my post on Flag Etiquette, Care & Guidelines.

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kipling

“If” By Rudyard Kipling

My grandmother gave me this poem when I was a boy and over the years I have always had a copy of it in my possessions.  Thinking back on my 45 years I have probably read it over 300 times.  It never fails to convict me and inspire me to be a better man.

If

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;

If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on”;

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man my son!

 Rudyard Kipling, 1896

 

kipling

“If”

My grandmother gave me this poem when I was a boy and over the years I have always had a copy of it in my possessions.  Thinking back on my 45 years I have probably read it over 300 times.  It never fails to convict me and inspire me to be a better man.

If

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;thumb-si
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools;
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on”;
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man my son!

 Rudyard Kipling, 1896

jbarh-TXcatering-no-logo-125x18

J-BAR-H Rules Of Life

The J-BAR-H Rules Of Life

  1. Never stand in line for a butt whooping.
  2. Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be. (Lincoln)
  3. No good deed goes unpunished.
  4. What you allow you approve.
  5. You can’t ride both sides of a fence.
  6. The likelihood that you are correct is not increased by the intensity of your conviction or the volume at which you express it.
  7. All disappointment is rooted in poorly set expectations.
  8. You are where you are supposed to be.
  9. Offense is taken, not given.
  10. Failure to plan on your part does not constitute a crisis to those around you.
  11. Failure is not in getting knocked down, but in not getting back up.
  12. Never pick a fight while wearing sandals.
  13. Don’t confuse fun with fulfillment or pleasure with happiness.
  14. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over the same way and expecting different results. (Einstein)
  15. Luck is the intersection between preparation and opportunity. (Seneca)
  16. If your horse dies, dismount.
  17. You cannot go through life trying to appease your critics. (Limbaugh)
  18. Never get into an argument with an idiot, they will drag you down to their level and beat you with experience. (Carlin)
  19. If you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is stop digging.
  20. Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.
  21. Whiskey makes you think you are smarter than you are.
  22. There’s an ass for every saddle
  23. If everything is under control you aren’t going fast enough. (Mario Andretti)
  24. It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt. (Mark Twain)
  25. Timing has a lot to do with the outcome of a rain dance.
  26. The quickest way to double your money is to fold it over and put it back into your pocket. (Warren Buffet)
  27. It doesn’t take a genius to spot a goat in a flock of sheep.
  28. Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there. (Will Rogers)
  29. The truth of the matter is that you always know the right thing to do. The hard part is doing it. (Schwarzkopf)
  30. A person, who is nice to you, but rude to the waiter, is not a nice person.
  31. You should not confuse your career with your life.
  32. Sometimes the hard thing and the right thing are the same thing.

 

 

LSOH

Feed Me!

FRIENDS: I want you to know that I love your cooking. When you invite me to your home and cook for me I savor every bite. I don’t judge it or compare it to what I would have done. The simplest meal is a feast of the senses to me and I am thankful to have someone cook for me. Even a peanut butter sandwich is a delicacy if I don’t have to cook it. Just because I am a chef I am not automatically a critic. In fact, I will eat almost anything served to me, and it is a little known fact that most chefs prefer junk food after work. So don’t worry that if you invite me over I will judge your food. More than likely I will be it’s biggest fan!

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Ronald Reagan’s Easter Radio Address

April 2 1983

My fellow Americans:

This week as American families draw together in worship, we join with millions upon millions of others around the world also celebrating the traditions of their faiths. During these days, at least, regardless of nationality, religion, or race, we are united by faith in God, and the barriers between us seem less significant.

Observing the rites of Passover and Easter, we’re linked in time to the ancient origins of our values and to the unborn generations who will still celebrate them long after we’re gone. As Paul explained in his Epistle to the Ephesians, “He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. So then you were no longer strangers and aliens, but you were fellow citizens of God’s household.”

This is a time of hope and peace, when our spirits are filled and lifted. It’s a time when we give thanks for our blessings-chief among them, freedom, peace, and the promise of eternal life.

This week Jewish families and friends have been celebrating Passover, a tradition rich in symbolism and meaning. Its observance reminds all of us that the struggle for freedom and the battle against oppression waged by Jews since ancient times is one shared by people everywhere. And Christians have been commemorating the last momentous days leading to the crucifixion of Jesus 1,950 years ago. Tomorrow, as morning spreads around the planet, we’ll celebrate the triumph of life over death, the Resurrection of Jesus. Both observances tell of sacrifice and pain but also of hope and triumph.

As we look around us today, we still find human pain and suffering, but we also see it answered with individual courage and spirit, strengthened by faith. For example, the brave Polish people, despite the oppression of a godless tyranny, still cling to their faith and their belief in freedom. Shortly after Palm Sunday Mass this week, Lech Walesa faced a cheering crowd of workers outside a Gdansk church. He held his hand up in a sign of victory and predicted, “The time will come when we will win.”

Recently, an East German professor, his wife, and two daughters climbed into a 7-foot rowboat and crossed the freezing, wind-whipped Baltic to escape from tyranny. Arriving in West Germany after a harrowing 7-hour, 31-mile journey past East German border patrols, the man said he and his family had risked everything so that the children would have the chance to grow up in freedom.

In Central America Communist-inspired revolution still spreads terror and instability, but it’s no match for the much greater force of faith that runs so deep among the people. We saw this during Pope John Paul II’s recent visit there. As he conducted a Mass in Nicaragua, state police jeered and led organized heckling by Sandinista supporters. But the Pope lifted a crucifix above his head and waved it at the crowd before him, then turned and symbolically held it up before the massive painting of Sandinista soldiers that loomed behind. The symbol of good prevailed. In contrast, everywhere else the Holy Father went in the region, spreading a message that only love can build, he was met by throngs of enthusiastic believers, eager for Papal guidance and blessing.

In this Easter season when so many of our young men and women in the Armed Forces are stationed so very far from their homes, I can’t resist recounting at least one example of their sacrifice and heroism. Every day I receive reports that would make you very proud, and today I’d like to share just one with you.

While the San Diego-based U.S.S. Hoel was steaming toward Melbourne, Australia, on Ash Wednesday, its crew heard of terrible brush fires sweeping two Australian States. More than 70 people were killed and the destruction was great. Well, the crew of this American ship raised $4,000 from their pockets to help, but they felt that it wasn’t enough. So, leaving only a skeleton crew aboard, the 100 American sailors gave up a day’s shore leave, rolled up their sleeves, and set to work rebuilding a ruined community on the opposite end of the Earth. Just Americans being Americans, but something for all of us to be proud of.

Stories like these—of men and women around the world who love God and freedom-bear a message of world hope and brotherhood like the rites of Passover and Easter that we celebrate this weekend.

A grade school class in Somerville, Massachusetts, recently wrote me to say, “We studied about countries and found out that each country in our world is beautiful and that we need each other. People may look a little different, but we’re still people who need the same things.” They said, “We want peace. We want to take care of one another. We want to be able to get along with one another. We want to be able to share. We want freedom and justice. We want to be friends. We want no wars. We want to be able to talk to one another. We want to be able to travel around the world without fear.”

And then they asked, “Do you think that we can have these things one day?” Well, I do. I really do. Nearly 2,000 years after the coming of the Prince of Peace, such simple wishes may still seem far from fulfillment. But we can achieve them. We must never stop trying.

The generation of Americans now growing up in schools across our country can make sure the United States will remain a force for good, the champion of peace and freedom, as their parents and grandparents before them have done. And if we live our lives and dedicate our country to truth, to love, and to God, we will be a part of something much stronger and much more enduring than any negative power here on Earth. That’s why this weekend is a celebration and why there is hope for us all.
reaganThanks for listening, and God bless you.

Watch Reagans address here.

 

kcskyline

What I Learned In Kansas City

2423218112_a9d4c53e30I recently spent some time in Kansas City with one of the nation’s most exclusive caterers.  Lon Lane’s Inspired Occasions is a beacon of creativity and charity in this beautiful city, serving their affluent clientele while at the same time supporting the local community.

Kansas City is a vibrant, beautiful city.  I was completely blown away by the architecture, the arts and the physical beauty of this jewel of the Midwest.  The people here are cultured and well traveled, their tastes refined.  While I wouldn’t call it a foodie town, I have to say that, as a foodie, I was over the moon most of the time and had one of the most impactful dining experiences ever while I was here.  And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that Kansas City is second only to Rome in the number of fountains, a fact that they are deservedly proud of.  I encourage everyone to visit at least once.

I went up there to help them, but ended up learning a few things along the way.

Here are the top 10 things I learned at Lon Lane’s Inspired Occasions; valuable to anyone, in any business.

  1. Exceptionalism is never an accident.Develop a culture of excellence where every member of the team is signed on to the mission of the organization.
  2. Simple things can be phenomenal.  One of the most ubiquitous items on his menus is a simple bite called an onion puff.  This understated bite is exploding with flavor and are snatched up quickly from trays as the servers filter through an event.  If your mindset is that only complicated or exotic things are acceptable, then you will miss out on some of life’s greatest pleasures.
  3. Presentation can make the mundane sublime.  We eat with our eyes first. Even the simplest platter brightened with fruit and flowers becomes exotic and engaging.
  4. Developing the trust of your clients gives you room to truly serve them.  In any business, trust is the most important hurtle.  Once trust is established a true relationship forms and becomes less transactional.  As we moved effortlessly through the homes of some of America’s most recognizable names, we were free to design events that almost seemed as if the hostess did everything on her own.  Without their confidence that we were working in their best interests the events would have been very different indeed.
  5. Some of the most amazing feats are pulled off by small armies of dedicated people.  Formal training doesn’t necessarily make for a more efficient organization or a better product.  The gorgeous food stylings that come out of the kitchens at Lon Lane’s Inspired Occasions are created by a group of cooks that love the food they prepare, not, as expected, a fleet of high-touqued euro-chef’s working in silence with tweezers and Chopin playing softly in the background.  I would put the passion and creativity of kitchen leader Zelda up against any CIA graduate you can find.
  6. A strong system will outlast the best people 10 out of 10 times.  Nothing falls through the cracks at Lon Lane’s Inspired Occasions.  Each event is produced with the intentionality that only a “Type A” personality could muster.  The guiding system here is proof that you don’t need a gaggle of geeks in the basement to have an efficient system.  This is as manual a process as I have witnessed in my visits to caterers around the country and yet it is hyper efficient, as evidenced by the low error rate of events going out the door.
  7. Check, check, and recheck.  Redundant accountability is the key to flawless execution.  Having a great system is useless if there is no way to verify the results while underway.  At each step of the way the questions are being asked to ensure that the client is receiving exactly what they expected, that the products are of the highest quality, and that the goals of the company are being met as well.
  8. Waste not, want not.  My grandfather may have said this a thousand times while I was growing up.  This actually got to be a running joke while I was there but it is as true today as it was when Benjamin Franklin penned “a penny saved is a penny earned.”  At Lon Lane’s Inspired Occasions they grow their own herbs and vegetables, watch the amount of wrap that goes around the pans that go out, and practice good stewardship of the resources at hand.  I remember one time that I “cater wrapped” a pan, where you pull the wrap out, set the pan on top of it and then pull the wrap over the top to create a perfect seal all the way around.  After watching me do this, one of their kitchen staff gently asked me why I was wasting all the wrap and unwrapped the pan, cut the wrap in half and ended up wrapping two pans with what I had applied to one.  It seems ridiculous, but when we watch the pennies, the dollars will take care of themselves.
  9. Sell people what they want to buy.  One of the reasons food businesses fail at such a high rate is that they are not selling what people want.  Seems pretty simple, but it can be traced directly back to the gnarly root of pride.  Many chefs feel that they will set the direction the food culture is going and people will catch up eventually.  What I witnessed is a company that listens to their clients, and moves with their tastes.  This isn’t to say that they aren’t a trendsetter and lead their clients on new and exciting food journeys, they most definitely are, but it is only after a thorough understanding of their clients tastes that the train leaves the station.photo1317
  10. Give back to your community in a way that is contextual to who you are.  As a food company, Lon Lane’s Inspired Occasions gives back in some very expected ways as well as some not so expected ways.  One of the amazing groups they sponsor is Catholic Charities of Kansas City that brings refugees in, sets them up with a plot of land and some seeds and teaches them how to grow their own produce.  This is a remarkably synergistic approach that is in no way a handout.  These people are developing a skill that will not only feed their own family and produce income, but they are adding fresh, organic produce into the Kansas City marketplace through farmers markets and agreements with food service establishments.  If you would like to support this very worthy cause, or champion one in your area, please visit: http://www.catholiccharitiesks.org/page.aspx?pid=511

I have to say that it was pretty hard to leave Kansas City, but I left with some valuable lessons learned and a new respect for the heartland.

food trucks

My Case Against Food Trucks…

food trucksBefore you pound me with messages about how a small business advocate such as myself could POSSIBLY be against food trucks, let me clarify my position:

I am NOT against food trucks from a business stand point.

I think they are the epitome of the entrepreneurial spirit.  Food trucks and trailers go way back in our Texas food lore and deserve all respect that they are getting.  (One of my favorite restaurants, The Salt Lick, in Driftwood, started out as a little trailer in the middle of nowhere and they have risen to legendary empire status.)  Food trucks take investment, time, creativity and hard, hard work.

I have a number of friends who own them and I have been inside a few and they are as clean as most restaurants I have visited.  Food safety and sanitation standards have to actually be higher, given the mobile nature of the setup.  (This doesn’t mean that there aren’t roach coaches out there, and it also doesn’t mean that there aren’t terrible restaurants either.)  Some of the most creative and loved food concepts in the world come from the streets and I respect a chef that is a total geek for what they are making.  You would have to be to work long hours in the cramped, hot, crowded environment of a food truck.

As an event professional I am against food trucks as a replacement for catering.

I went to a great event recently (as a guest for the first time in years.)  Everything was well thought out and there were lots of activities. They had firetrucks and water jumpy things to escape the heat of a hot August afternoon; inside activities (with lots of A/C, yeah!) and even snow cone vendors and slushies.  From all standpoints a success, except on one front: the food.  There were three food trucks plus a pizza trailer and a couple slushie/snow cone guys; apparently a couple of the trucks didn’t show up (typical for anyone that’s planned an event like this.)  It was 100 degrees, in a concrete parking lot with no shade, and barely a breath of air: the worst case scenario for a food truck setup- why?  Because for all their food-awesomeness, food trucks are notoriously slow under a heavy load scenario. My experience was to wait in line for 30 minute in the blazing sun, order, then wait 20 minutes for my food. (I ordered from a churrasco truck and it was amazing.)  This was 80% of my time at the event; waiting, either on line to place my order, or waiting for the order.  By the time I got my food & found a place to eat, I was sweaty, sapped from the heat and grumpy from standing on line and really just wanted to go home.

Food trucks are also not very cheap.  By the time you get your sandwich, side & drink, you are hitting $15-20.  This works well for the host because they are able to shift that cost burden to the guest, but not necessarily great for the out of work guy with a family of 5, or the economically challenged.  And don’t think you are going to be able to negotiate their prices down.  They are a small business and need to make money, just like everyone else.  The problem with bringing food trucks in and letting them fight it out is that they have no idea how many of anything they are going to sell.  If they give you a 20% discount and end up selling only half of the amount that they thought they would, they are going to lose money and that’s not good for anyone.

Food trucks can be inconsistent. Just the nature of the mobile equipment they use causes inconsistencies, as opposed to a restaurant setting.  My experience today was fantastic from the churrasco truck, but the lady in front of me was served almost raw beef because they were running behind and tried to make up for the pressure coming from a long line by pulling the meat off too early.  Long lines and complaining customers can make folks cut corners to keep the client happy.

Food trucks are loud and not environmentally friendly.  Well, not so much the truck as their ever-present generators.  A generator running all day is first and foremost LOUD and secondly has a large carbon footprint, especially if there are multiple trucks at the event.

Food trucks are outside. For a street festival under the trees in the spring or fall, food trucks are great.  But they are decidedly weather sensitive and there is really no “plan b” if your event is inside and the food is outside.  Also, it pulls people away from other activities for long lengths of time.

For the right event food trucks are an attractive option for the following reasons:

  • They are cool.
  • They offer a variety of cuisines.
  • They transfer a big chunk of the event cost onto the guest, freeing resources for other event elements (like more jumpy-things!)

But for all the reasons I stated above they are, in many cases, not the right choice for a successful event.  I have fed hundreds of thousands of people during my time as a caterer and I will tell you that people don’t want to stand in lines, especially if they are on a schedule or if the weather is anything but perfect.

The Case For Hiring A Caterer

Caterers know how to feed large groups of people efficiently, consistently and on schedule.   Food trucks are great at what they do, but speed and efficiency is not their hallmark.   And if your event has a timetable, food trucks are certainly not the way to go.  Most caterers can get everyone fed in less than 30 minutes, not something food trucks can manage.  (We did a fajita event for 2500 people and had everyone back in their seats in 25 minutes.)

Caterers are invested in the success of the event.  I have a friend who had a food truck event that got off to a slow start and one of the food truck operators got impatient and left.  Once the bulk of the crowd arrived, the other trucks couldn’t keep up, making everyone look bad.   Most food trucks are run by artists, people who are passionate about the cuisine they are selling.  Caterers are event professionals that can be a resource from the planning stage all the way through the clean up of the event.

photoCaterers can offer price efficiencies because the menu and pricing is worked out ahead of time, while the food trucks generally have no idea how much of anything they are going to sell.

Caterers can offer a variety of cuisines.  We did an event similar to the one above a few years ago and had a barbecue booth, grill booth, wrap booth, funnel cake booth as well as snow cones.  The organizer only had one contact to deal with for all the food and beverage and was able to focus on other aspects of the event.

 

If you still feel that food trucks are the way to go for your event, consider the following ideas:

  1. Have them pare down their menus to 3 or 4 items that they can get ahead on and serve as people order.  Having too wide of a menu means that they may or may not sell that item and wont take the risk of making it up ahead of time.
  2. To reduce the expense to the guest, offer a coupon system.  Have them check in when they get to the event and give each person a ticket worth, say $5.  At the end of the day, have the food truck operators turn in their tickets for payment.  This way you are only out the cost of what was actually spent.  The coupon system can have many variations depending on the type of event you are sponsoring and the group involved.  (If you are collecting the money, definitely sign up for a SQUARE or PAYPAL account to take credit cards, you will thank me later.)
  3. As a condition of entry have the food truck operators develop one menu item that equals your coupon price.  This way when people get up they can order the $5 special (easily could be a hotdog, chips & canned drink) or use that coupon towards more interesting items.  Using this system makes sure that no one is excluded from the event just because they don’t have the money.
  4. Do NOT compete against your food trucks.  I actually was invited as a vendor at a large school event where the booster club operated a concession stand that undercut all the vendors.  It was devastating because we had all prepared for a group of a few thousand people and 90% of them went to the concession stand, and the remaining 10% was divided up amongst the vendors.
  5. Create an environment where everyone can succeed. Most food trucks will need to feed around 150 people to make the event worth their while.  (Remember, they are not non-profit organizations.)  So if your event has 600 people coming, and 20% of those that attend won’t eat from the trucks, then booking any more than 3 trucks could wind up a loser for the operators.  From a planning standpoint you have to fight the urge to over book trucks because if they lose money, you will never get them to come back.  Moreover, they have an uncanny ability to smell a loser event and will just not show up.  If more than one pulls out, you could be left under provisioned.

In the end, whether or not food trucks are right for your event is something that needs to be considered carefully, weighing not only the needs or your organization, but your guests’ as well as the food truck operators.  Food trucks can offer variety and hipness, but also a whole lot of headaches as well.

John Homrighausen is a nationally recognized chef, caterer, speaker and consultant. 

 

 

John & Nicole's Big Day

20 Lessons From 20 Years Of Marriage

A happy marriage is the union of two good forgivers.-Ruth Bell Graham

I have no idea how we got to 20 years of marriage.  It seems like yesterday I was knocking on her apartment door asking to borrow water, just to have a reason to see her.  I told her on our first date that I was going to marry her and she told me I probably wouldn’t get a second date.  (That was the last time I won a dispute.)  Through marriage, kids, cancer, jobs & life, we managed to keep it together in spite of overwhelming odds against us.

Here are a few pointers we picked up along the way.  This isn’t a list that has been scholarly assembled through research and focus groups.  The lessons below are hard earned strategies that we try to work into our every day life.  Anyone with less than a year in should print this out and put it on the refrigerator.

  1. Hug your spouse every day.  Physical touch is critical to maintaining intimacy in a relationship.  Remember, this is a marathon, not a sprint.  The definition of intimacy changes over time.  What doesn’t change is the warmth that a hug gives your spouse.
  2. Tell your spouse you love them every day.  Even when you are not near them, and even when they are not being very loveable.  Sometimes conflicting schedules keep us apart, but a text message saying you love them and are thinking about them goes a long way in getting through the day.
  3. Have a regular date night and protect it viciously.  Even when you have young children, make it happen.  Meet for lunch, get a coffee, even grocery shop together just to get some time in with each other.
  4. Marry for companionship…Don’t marry for money, don’t marry for looks, don’t even marry for love.  It’s a long journey and you want to pick someone you will enjoy the trip with.  Looks fade, money goes away, and sometimes even love waxes and wanes; but a good friend will always be there for you.
  5. Yes, opposites attract, but it is the things we have in common that bind us together.  I am spontaneous and very loud, my wife is very deliberate and quiet.  We literally could not be more opposite in personality, but we are bound by our commitment to our family and our shared values.  If you are not in sync on the big things in life, the little things will eat you alive.
  6. Make new friends as a married couple and insert space between you and your single friends.  Going out for “Boys and girls nights” is like an alcoholic who has stopped drinking, but has one every now and then just to take the edge off.  When you go out, you should go out as a couple. And if you go out without your spouse, you need to go out with other married people, not your single friends.  Your old drinking buddy from college is going out for a completely different reason than you are.  By eliminating opportunities to be distracted from your marriage, you will stay focused on your spouse and not be tempted by someone who seems to give you what might be lacking at the time.  This is counter cultural, but is a key to a successful long term marriage.  It also requires a little growing up on your part.  You don’t have to give up your pals, but you shouldn’t be out prowling with them either.
  7. Walk away from your need to always have to be right.  Even if you get your spouse to give in to your way of thinking, they are really just trying to end the discussion.  A “tie” is an acceptable outcome in any situation in your marriage.
  8. Learn to say I am sorry.  And when your spouse says they are sorry, FORGIVE them.  Bury the hatchet and walk away.  It is not always so easy to forget, but if you forgive and release yourself from carrying that burden, you will be much happier.  Bringing up old arguments time and time again erodes the pilings of your marriage and creates resentment.
  9. Do not speak harsh words to each other or lash out verbally. A bell cannot be unrung and harsh words reside in the spirit of your spouse for eternity.  Learning to pause before you say something mean and ask yourself if this is really going to help resolve the issue is an investment in your relationship.  It took me some time to learn this, as it is 100% against my nature, but there is no reason to be mean to my wife.  It may make you feel better to get it out, but it just transfers the angst.  If you find yourself continually saying you are sorry, maybe you need to swim upstream a bit and stop the words before you have to eat them.
  10. Go to bed at the same time.  This seems so trivial and in some ways impossible, but when you wind down the day together it binds you.  It is one of the best times to communicate as well.
  11. Eat dinner together every night if it is even remotely possible.  As a family we have eaten dinner at the table together 95% of the time over the last 20 years.  This takes intentionality and planning, but will reap dividends for years to come.  So much happens around the dinner table, whether it’s just the two of you or an entire family.
  12. Accept that there is a natural order in life and embrace your role as well as your spouses.  Successful marriages and families embrace this and build on their  complementary strengths and talents.  Speaking specifically to the men- you need to be a leader of, a provider for, and a protector to your family.   This might be countercultural, but our culture is not set up to honor and protect a long term relationship, so in a sense, long term marriages are countercultural by nature.
  13. Don’t look for your spouses faults; seek out their positives.  It is easy to find fault and weakness in another person, but by finding their positive traits it not only builds them up, but endears them to you more.
  14. Spend time with your spouse/family. It is important to have hobbies, but are they draining resources away from your family?  Are you using them as an excuse to hide from your life?  I have seen marriages fall apart due to fishing, golfing, etc, keeping the husband away and draining thousands of dollars from their bank account.  It’s important to have a little “me” time, but remember that you joined a team when you got married.
  15. Don’t talk down to your spouse in public.  As a personal policy, I don’t talk down to my spouse ever, but especially would never do it in public if the situation presented itself.  We have been out with couples where they just pick at each other and degrade each other, sometimes passive-aggressively, and it makes everyone uncomfortable and gets people to talking.
  16. Keep your private business private.  I can’t tell you how many people I have seen melt down and air their dirty laundry on Facebook or at a party.  What seems like a good idea in the heat of the moment will cause pain for years to come.  If you are struggling with a problem, seek a trusted friend and get their advice, but telling everyone you know the gory details of your relationship is simply destructive.
  17. Your kids are temporary residents in your home.  They will be around for 20 years or so; you will be together for the rest of your life.  Make sure they do not come between you.  Don’t call each other mommy & daddy privately.  Find moments to be intimate, even if it is just a squish up against the refrigerator.  Kids, especially young ones, have a way of pitting parents against each other, of wearing them out, and of becoming more important than the two of you.  If your marriage is failing, how can you be good parents?  Keep the marriage and parenting aspects of your lives separate and work on them both continuously.
  18. You need to be aligned on your parenting strategy because your kids will exploit any gaps in between you. This doesn’t mean you can’t play good cop/bad cop, but you need to agree on the big issues and provide a united front.
  19. Find a mentor.  One of the best things that ever happened to us was a friendship with a married couple that was a little farther down the road than we were.  They were 10 years older, with three sons (we have 3 sons as well) and really helped us learn: 1) that we aren’t alone in this journey, and 2) everything we are going through has been suffered by those that came before us.  When we found out one of our kids was smoking pot, it was them who talked us off the ledge.  They had a son that had been through the same thing and even he helped us to weather out the storm.  We were headed in a completely different direction before we talked with them and are thankful for the course correction.
  20. J-BAR-H Rule of Life #7 is “All disappointment is rooted in poorly set expectations.”  This simply states that you are pretty much the reason for your own grief most of the time.  You are not going to change your spouse and if you married them hoping they would grow into this person you had pictured in your head, you are going to be sadly disappointed. Don’t set your spouse up to let you down.  If your spouse is a bad gift buyer and every year you get your feelings hurt because they didn’t put enough thought into it or it wasn’t what you wanted, TELL THEM what you want.  I had a friend tell me that she shouldn’t HAVE to tell her husband what she likes because after 10 years he should just know.  Obviously she is setting herself up for grief year after year.  My wife finally started telling me exactly what she wanted and where to get it and even has sent me Groupons in the past to make sure she gets what she wants.  She is happy & I am happy.

BONUS LESSON: The secret to staying together is to stay together.  Marriage is hard, and takes work.  These days it’s easy to leave, and there is no stigma attached.  If one of the possible outcomes to every situation is that you just leave, then your behavior will be different than if it is not an option.  If you have no chance of leaving at the end of an argument, you are less likely to go “scorched earth” or nuclear and more likely to work things out knowing that you are going to have to see this person in the morning.  It truly is the secret to long term relationships.

I don’t know if any of this is helpful, and it certainly is a pitifuly incomplete list.  But at the end of the day a successful marriage takes intentionality.  You have to intentionally CHOOSE to do things a certain way, even if it isn’t the easiest way.  Marriage isn’t easy, but it is worth it.

nicole

What is a Mother?

A mother can be almost any size or any age, but she won’t admit to anything over thirty. A mother has soft hands and smells good. A mother likes new dresses, music, a clean house, her children’s kisses, an automatic washer and Daddy.
A mother doesn’t like having her children sick, muddy feet, temper tantrums, loud noise or bad report cards. A mother can read a thermometer (much to the amazement of Daddy) and like magic, can kiss a hurt away.

A mother can bake good cakes and pies but likes to see her children eat vegetables. A mother can stuff a fat baby into a snowsuit in seconds and can kiss sad little faces and make them smile.

A mother is underpaid, has long hours and gets very little rest. She worries too much about her children but she says she doesn’t mind at all. And no matter how old her children are, she still likes to think of them as her little babies.

She is the guardian angel of the family, the queen, the tender hand of love. A mother is the best friend anyone ever had. A mother is love.