Monthly Archives: February 2012

Native Americans and Marriage

Only three more days until my wedding day and I’m feeling a mix of emotions.  Excitement, anticipation, and nervousness are bouncing around in my head, dancing on every crevice of my brain.  Underlying those feelings is a sense of serenity, a calmness which I attribute to my absolute certainty with this choice.  It’s an interesting juxtaposition going on within me.  My internal feelings aside, the central idea for today’s posting is what’s going on outside of me.

On Monday I wrote about what’s going on in Marriage Today; check it out if you haven’t already.  Today I’m writing about Native Americans and Marriage.

From my own family I have several models of marriage – great grandparents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins have all taken the vow at one time.  My mother and father, although not with one another, have also been married.  Every marriage is different, no two couples are exactly alike, but what my family marriages overwhelmingly have in common is that they married other Natives.

When I was younger, in high school in particular, there was pressure put on me from my mother and step-father to marry a Native woman.  I recall countless sit-down sessions after dinner that would involve the two of them praising the virtues of such a marriage and enumerating the negative possibilities of marrying a woman who was non-Native.  I believe my parents’ hearts were in the right place, they lived long enough to see the results of such pairings and did not want that for their children.  However, as an adult now, I do believe their method of passing that knowledge along was flawed.

I cannot pretend to know what my own child will do when it comes to choosing a significant other.  Life is fraught with too many unknown variables to predict what attributes a child will seek in a partner when they’re an adult.  What I believe best sets a child up for a healthy relationship is for them to see it modeled in their own home.  Love, laughter, disagreements, resolutions, compromises, and communication – there’s no one better to demonstrate that than parents!  Sit-downs, while having their place, were not paramount to presenting the model of marriage.

I do envision my child being in a committed, lifelong, and loving relationship, but I cannot see whether the color of that person’s skin is white, black, or brown.  Faith, traditions, and culture are the pillars that I see a healthy and whole home being built upon.  For me, as a soon-to-be husband, I’ve kept that in my heart as the most important thing in my relationship.  I’m blessed to be marrying a woman who shares those same core values as I.  By holding these things important, we were able to find one another – Native man and Native woman.

I love my parents, and I thank them for giving me examples of what to do and what not to do in life and in marriage.  I seek to do the same during my marriage for my son, and for any future children.

Who are your marriage models?  What did you learn, good or bad, from their relationships?

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Marriage Today

As part of my daily news ritual, I make time to scan the headlines of various news outlets.  I’ll find myself looking at national and local sources, as well as special interest sites.  The New York Times, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Indian Country Today, and the Native News Network are a few of the places I frequent.  Last week I found an interesting article in the New York Times titled “For Women Under 30, Most Births Occur Outside Marriage”, check it out for yourself.

Immediately I began reading the article, taking in the depth of the issue presented.  With 5 days to go before my own wedding, marriage is definitely on my mind, and this article set off a few thoughts.  The first is on the topic of marriage today, which is discussed below, and the second is on Native Americans and marriage, which will be discussed Wednesday.

Marriage Today

There are many examples to look toward to underscore the importance of marriage.  Many of these examples are rooted in faith, culture, society, and economics.  Examples of social science findings include:

  • Married couples seem to build more wealth, on average, than singles or cohabiting couples, thus decreasing the likelihood that their children will grow up in poverty.
  • Children who live in a two-parent, married household enjoy better physical health, on average, than children in non-married households.
  • Healthy marriages reduce the risk of adults and children either perpetrating, or being victimized by, crime.

The history of marriage ceremony is rich and deep, going back centuries.  Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and many others all have teachings about marriage.  However, we’re not talking about history, we’re talking about today.  From the article in the New York Times:

  • More than half of births to American women under 30 occur outside of marriage.
  • The fastest growth in the last two decades has occurred among white women in their 20s who have some college education but no four-year degree.
  • One group still largely resists the trend: college graduates, who overwhelmingly marry before having children.

My own fiancée is a reflection of these findings.  She had her son while in her mid-twenties, unwed and in the process completing her undergraduate degree.  Other examples from abound from family to friends, each putting a face to the statistics.  One final excerpt from the article highlights an interesting point:

Even as many Americans withdraw from marriage, researchers say, they expect more from it: emotional fulfillment as opposed merely to practical support. “Family life is no longer about playing the social role of father or husband or wife, it’s more about individual satisfaction and self-development,” said Andrew Cherlin, a sociologist at Johns Hopkins University.

Individual satisfaction and Self-development – are these better accomplished prior to beginning a lifelong commitment to another person?  I have my own opinion on that question, but ask yourself this question – What does marriage mean to me today?  The answer will shed light onto what is important to you, and will perhaps reveal more about the shift that is occurring in marriages (or lack thereof) across America today.

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The Power of Half and Hunger

There’s been a book in our bookshelf at home that I’ve been meaning to read titled “The Power of Half”.  It’s got a funky looking cover and a catchy subtitle that reads “One Family’s Decision to Stop Taking and Start Giving Back”.  Intrigued by the cool looking cover and provoking title, I picked up the book a few days ago and began reading.  Little did I know that only a few chapters in that it would inspire me to craft my own commitment, which I’ve unimaginatively titled The Power of Half and Hunger.

The book is written by Kevin Salwen and Hannah Salwen, the father and daughter who comprise half of the Salwen family.  The family was inspired to effect changes in the disparities prevalent in today’s society.  Jarred to action by several experiences, the family decided to sell their mansion, buy a house half its size, and give half the sale price to a worthy charity.  You can check it out more for yourself by visiting the book’s website.

As I wrote earlier, I’ve only read the first few chapters, only up unto the point where the family is prepping to move out of their mansion.  Despite not having completed the book yet I’ve already been inspired to integrate the prevailing concept of the book – giving half of what we have to those who have less – into my own personal life.  The great thing about the concept is that it can be molded to fit our own lives in an appropriate manner, and thus my commitment took shape out of a previous experience.

I was previously a member of AmeriCorps, serving at Miami Dade College in a program designed to connect low-income people to government benefits to help them augment their finances while they complete their degree.  Through this experience I became gripped by hunger and its effects on society, I haven’t viewed many things the same.  It is here that the origin to my commitment is grounded.

I’ve committed to giving half of what I grocery shop for to local organizations that seek to end hunger.  What this means is that if my total grocery bill comes to $20, then half of that will be given to ending hunger.  I’ve yet to figure out which food bank or food pantry will receive my donation, but I know whichever gets selected will put food to excellent use.

I believe that my commitment is reasonable and measurable.  It’s basic and sound.  It’s also not enough.  I know that my commitment will only be sufficient to feed a few when what is needed is enough to feed all.  This is why I’m putting my commitment out there, to see if you will do what you can.  Just start by checking out the book and see where it takes you.  If you’re like me, then you know the journey is more important than the destination.

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3 Life Lessons Learned From Painting

There’s Michelangelo.  There’s da Vinci.  There’s Van Gogh.  Then, somewhere way, way down the list of painters and artists, there’s me.  I figure every one of those notable painters and artists had to start somewhere.  Perhaps it was in childhood or early in adolescence, but somewhere they got their inspiration to put brush to canvass and create what was in their minds.  I too have recently been inspired to do just this, but my inspiration did not derive to from childhood or any of the artists mentioned earlier. 

My inspiration can right from the tube, via cable channels such as HGTV and DIY Network.  That’s right. I’m a legit and certifiable home improvement buff.  What I lack in basic knowledge of plumbing and dry walling, I make up for with sheer positivity and indomitable will.  If your kitchen needs a remodel, don’t hesitate to call me… I have no problem doing a quick internet search for a quality contractor.  I’ve got experience with painting… three rooms and a porch. 

Okay, so I’m not very experienced but I’m a quick learner.  As a matter of fact that’s what this posting is all about, the lessons I learned from my painting escapade.  These aren’t just any lessons, rather these are life lessons that I thought about while painting.  I believe that life lessons manifest many different ways and are always present, but that it’s for us people to decode them.  So, without further ado, I present to you the 3 Life Lessons Learned From Painting:

  • Plan all you want, but all good things take time.  It took several months to complete my home painting project.  We would complete one room and get to the next a few weeks later.  Finally, when we completed the last room, I kept thinking about how good of a job we’ve done.
  • Try as hard as you can, but the paint is going to be somewhere you don’t want it.  I’d find paint on my clothes, on the floor, and even in my hair.  Just like the paint, parts of life will spill over into others.  Try as we might, we can’t compartmentalize work, home, recreation, faith, or anything else. 
  • The more you do, the better you get.  By the time we were painting the final room my painting form was down pat.  That was a far cry from the first room, I felt like that room would never get done.  Life is just the same, we find something we’re good at or work hard to improve at something we love, and the better we get at it.

There will no doubt be future home improvement projects, but life will always come first.  I’m focused on improving my ability to learn the lessons provided by each day.

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