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Grace, but not all the time. A Parenting Blog

Little Red Hen

A couple of weeks ago I was reminded of a book from my childhood called “The Little Red Hen.” In the story, the Hen invites his friends to help her bake a cake, but her friends are too lazy to help her. At the end of the book, the lazy friends wanted to share in the hard work of the Hen, but the Hen decided not to share and enjoyed the fruits of her labor while her friends stood there in shock.

We live in a world where everybody expects something for nothing. It didn’t become that way overnight. It’s the way many have been raised. You work hard at something and people are quick to expect you to share it with them when they didn’t do anything to deserve it. You can blame it on the way Baby Boomers raised their kids, but as an adult, I take responsibility for myself and what I expect from this world. I don’t want this post to turn political, but fewer people are trying to make something of themselves these days because they simply don’t have to.

We exercise a lot of grace with our children, probably too much at times. When demonstrated properly, Grace is an amazing thing. It shows the recipient that though they did nothing to deserve what they are receiving, they are given it because of love. We love our kids so it makes sense to pour out grace to them whenever possible. Grace is cool because it is not something that can be earned. If it was, it would be a reward.

What I love most about the book “The Little Red Hen,” is the unexpected ending. Reading through the book you realize that the cat, dog, and mouse are being lazy. What you don’t expect is that the Hen ends up eating the cake all to herself while her friends stand there with their jaws on the floor.

The Little Red Hen Book

The Little Red Hen doing work while her friends were being lazy.

Last night I had my wife and kids around me as I read the book. My wife remembered the book, but not how the story would end. When the Hen decided to withhold grace from her friends, my wife and kids had the same “jaw on the floor” expressions as the cat, dog, and mouse did. The Little Red Hen is an old story. It was adapted from an old folk tale most likely made up to teach kids about pitching in.

The Little Red Hen Book

The Little Red Hen eating her cake while her lazy friends watch.

The response my wife and kids had to the story was what I had expected. Most stories have a happy ending, and in this story, they expected that the Hen would have given her friends grace and allowed them to eat her cake. That just didn’t happen, and I love that it didn’t happen.

The story ends with the Hen’s friends being more than willing to help because they want to eat next time. It’s kind of a harsh story by today’s standards, but I think it’s just what the world needs. There is a time for grace and there is a time for a lesson.

The cool thing about grace is that it is not something you can earn. In life, when you do good, you usually get rewarded. When you do bad, you often get punished. At least that is the way we expect it. When you receive grace, you are receiving it out of the loving heart of the one offering it to you. This is why grace is so significant and why it shouldn’t be misused. Judgment and reward are something you earn, grace is something unearned.

I want my kids to be able to recognize grace when it is handed down to them. I do believe that grace is something that is handed down to you, and it can come in many forms. I only know this because I have received it, and recognize that the grace I received was unearned (insert spiritual undertones here). Grace is something that is unmerited. You get grace because someone wants you to have something you didn’t or couldn’t earn on your own. Kids need a lot of grace because they are learning their way in this world. However, I believe that there is a limit to the amount of grace we should pour out to our children and not allow ourselves to get too carried away. I don’t want to get into a discussion about what would be considered an act of grace and what doesn’t, but I do believe there are limits, and I think that we as parents have blurred the line between what giving grace is and what constitutes as enabling.

What do you think about this book? Have you read it? Was it read to you as a child? I think it’s a fantastic book and I love that my kids enjoyed it. They need to know that life is not a free ride. They need to understand that hard work pays off. I want to make sure that what they see in me is a person who works hard and that they are able to recognize when grace is given to them, whether it comes from my wife and me, or God.

 

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Some People are Timeless: Remembering my Grandmother

Carole Hill & Liam Hill

Carole Lucille HillI have only been on this earth 34 years but I have came to realize that some people are timeless and others are ephemeral. Timeless people leave their mark, a legacy if you will. My Grandmother, Carole Lucille Hill, was timeless.

The issue with timelessness is that it stands the test of time, it’s neverending. I felt that way about my Grandmother’s life. I could never imagine a time where she would not be around. On the night of her death, I spoke to her. We made plans to get lunch together. She had some Dr’s appointments, which she didn’t seem to concerned with, and we were to spend time together the following week. Though she was 85, she kept busy. Not one fabric of my being would have believed that only an hour and a half later, she would pass away.

My Grandmother Carole stood just shy of 5 feet tall but that didn’t stop her from commanding the attention and respect of all of us. She taught me that family is family and business is business. She was a business woman who taught me a lot through her actions and the way she dealt with people. Besides being well known in Real Estate in her time, she founded the Modesto Apartment Association. Before her successful career in Real Estate, her and my Grandfather Kenneth Hill founded Valley Air Conditioning, a company they sold in the 70’s when my Grandfather wanted to retire from the business.

Though I have had many great influences in my life, my Grandmother has influenced me in so many ways, it would be hard to recount them all.

When I hear about business woman theses days complaining about equality I think about my Grandmother. She became a Real Estate Broker and had offices in Modesto and Escalon, CA. Real Estate brokerage at that time was a male dominant profession. She told me many stories about her professional dealings. She never seemed intimidated. She knew what she wanted to achieve and she did just that. These days there are many female Real Estate Agents and Brokers. This taught me that it did not matter who you are or where you came from, you can achieve what you want to achieve if you work hard. My Grandparents are the American Dream. I have been self employed for 15 years now and I credit my entrepreneurial spirit to her and my Grandfather.

When I was a kid, she would pay me to help her with yard work. She had this jar of quarters that she would pull out to pay me from after an afternoon of pulling weeds or spreading bark around newly planted plants. My brothers and I spent a lot of time at our Grandparents home in Escalon, CA. Though my Grandfather had retired from Valley Air, he tried his hand at almond farming. I have pictures of myself around the age of 3 years old driving an Almond Harvest Sweeper. We grew up around mechanics and motorized vehicles such as go-karts and dirtbikes. We would blast around their property. My Grandmother yelling, “Where’s your helmet?!”

My Grandmother was the original early adopter. In the early 80’s, I spent a lot of time on her computer, which ran DOS. I played Lode Runner on it and my brothers and I spend countless hours getting the Soundblaster Parrot to say funny things. They had a whole house stereo system which I loved to spend time playing with. My Grandmother ordered me business cards when I was 5, I wonder if she has one of those cards saved… Every few years she would get a new computer to stay current. Even though she had been using computers for ages, they always gave her trouble; or maybe she gave them trouble. As I printed a photo from her computer today, it printed quickly. My Grandfather told me how it would have taken her hours to get it to print right. There are countless things she taught me such as how to track stocks. As an 8 year old, I was tracking the stock prices of Coke and Pepsi manually on graph paper.

During a week long river rafting adventure through the Colorado River, I had appendicitis. This resulted in her and I being airlifted to a nearby hospital where I had surgery and spent a few days in recovery. This could have been a scary time for me but she created so many memories during that time. I don’t remember any fear, I just remember the laughs we had together.

As I grew into an adult, spending time with my Grandmother was always important to me. We would get lunch and catch up. Occasionally I would ask her business related questions I knew she could relate to in hopes to glean some of her wisdom. I cherish the time I got to spend with her. She would always give me money to pay for lunch and let me keep the change. She still did this into my adult years even though it was embarrassing and I could easily afford to pay for our lunch on my own. To her, I was still her little boy.

Ken, Carole, Jerad, Mallory

I also credit my “photographic eye” to being introduced to photography at such a young age. Back in the film days, my Grandmother would take pictures at the same rate we take pictures in the digital age. She would walk into the local photo lab with a ziploc bag full of film rolls to have developed. She was always the one behind the camera documenting everything we did. She did her best to avoid being in pictures. When we tried to turn the camera on her, she would bark at us. Together, we would take pictures of interesting mailboxes. I couldn’t have been any older than 5 years old when we started that. As she moved into the digital world, she would print just about every photo she took, as a full page photo. Instead of having ziploc bags full of film canisters she now had ziploc bags full of dry inkjet cartridges from printing photos.

When I opened my first retail business, I needed a loan to make an initial purchase to become a direct factory dealer. She offered to give me the loan but there was a contract I had to sign and repayment was to be prompt. I feel like she was harder to bank with than an actual bank would have been. I paid them back within 60 days for a $14,000 loan. What I did learn was that I should do my best to fund my own needs in business. Since that day I have funded all of my own ventures.

My Grandmother always gave it to me straight. If I was in the wrong, she would let me know. She had strong opinions and convictions. You always knew where she stood, even if you preferred not to know. She taught me that you should always find reasons to celebrate. As a family, we celebrate all birthdays and would find other reasons to go out and celebrate. Now with my own family, we have carried on the tradition. We love to celebrate. Though I have never been good at budgeting, she taught me that you should spend 10% of your money for life and enjoyment. The rest is for expenses, saving, investing or donating. My parents didn’t travel much, but my Grandparents made sure we were able to explore and try new things. If we said we didn’t like something, my Grandmother would say, “Try it, you’ll like it.”

When I was 17 years old, my Grandmother signed me up for a Dale Carnegie course so I could learn to be a better speaker. My Grandparents had me around their friends and business colleagues when I was young. Because of that exposure, I have always been able to talk to and relate with just about anybody.

My Grandparents believed in living life. As they got older, they did not travel as much, but my Grandparents have seen the world. They enjoyed this world while they could and they have hundreds of amazing stories to tell because of it. Much of who I am today is because of my Grandparents.

It has only been a few days since her passing and I still can not believe it. I never thought I would see a day where she would no longer be around. I am so fortunate that my kids got to spend the first few years of their lives knowing their Nanna Kaye. My Grandmother’s nickname was Kaye. Liam will remember his Nanna Kaye well. Cohen will probably have some memories of her when he grows up. Unfortunately, Emmy is a bit too young to have any memories at all, but we have photos of her being held by her Nanna who loved her so much. Emerson is the first Hill girl in the family. I know how much my Grandmother looked forward to taking Emmy out shopping once she was old enough.

The Hill side of my family does not really express feelings verbally, but I know the love my Grandmother had for me well. She was a very giving and loving person.

People like this are timeless. Though her Real Estate Agency is no longer, her legacy lives on. It lives on in me and what I will teach my children because of the influences she had on me. Many times she told me that I am living in more difficult times than she did. Even though she grew up in the depression, she would say that it is harder for today’s youth than it was back then. Come to think of it, I don’t ever remember her telling me stories about how hard she had it back in her day. She always had fun stories to tell about every situation. This is how I want to live my life. I want to live life and love those who are closest to me. Even as I write this, I feel like I still expect to get an email from her telling me that she enjoyed my latest blog post.

Thank you Grandma for the countless hours poured into me. I am who I am today because of you. I will spend the rest of my life celebrating you and the things I have learned from you.

Carole Hill & Liam Hill

This is a photo of my Grandmother Carole Lucille Hill holding my oldest son Liam at a small party we had for my Grandparents 65th wedding anniversary in 2011.

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Your Kids Become You

influence

I find myself in discussions with so many people about parenting these days. Though I have only been a parent for a little over 3.5 years, I now have three kids and feel that I am somewhat knowledgeable on the subject. Though I have not experienced the full range of joys, emotions and hardships that come with parenting, I do know that my children will show many of the same characteristics that they see me express throughout their time under my care.

I came across this video a while back when it came out and it brought me to tears. I watched it again just a moment ago and it once again put tears in my eyes. I know that my kids will pick up some bad habits from me but what really makes me sad is that there are a lot of people out there that are raising kids just as messed up as they are. I am going to be honest and say that each and every one of us is messed up in one way or another. We all have bad habits and stuff that makes us imperfect. What hurts is when I see people act horribly to other people in front of their children. Youtube is full of videos of it happening and I see it just about every time I drive through my town or go anywhere there might be many people in one place. It breaks my heart.

I don’t know of one parent personally that does not want more for their child than they had growing up. This is why I have a hard time understanding why some people are so bad in front of their own children. They don’t seem to understand that their child is a sponge and will soak up as much as possible from their parent, the one who is suppose to love and care for them the most. Though this video is a bit more dramatic than you see in real life it paints a picture of what many kids will grow up to become.

My parents were not perfect. I realize that I carry some of their bad habits. I also have many of their good qualities as well. I was raised to listen to and respect people and because of this, and a lot of God’s grace, I have been around some great people in my life. I have also made a lot of bad decisions as well. Nobody is perfect and I am not saying that I or anybody else will ever achieve this “perfection” that books try to teach us or parenting blogs try to showcase. What we do need to try to do, is try. I don’t think that people try very hard these days. We live in a selfish society. We want what “we” want. People just get in the way and our kids definitely get in the way of us getting what we feel we deserve. That is the mentality of many. It’s not my mentality, though I am not going to lie and say I have not considered what I could be doing rather than dealing with three screaming kids. I made a choice.

I made a choice to love my children. I made a choice to raise them to the best of my ability. Even when I feel like I don’t have anything to give, I know that they need me and I need to find something to offer them. I can not leave their upbringing to anyone other than myself and my family. I must surround my children with the influences I want them to have so they can learn what it means to be a trustworthy person and have integrity. Today the world believes that it is the responsibility of the school system and other caretakers to raise our children. We put kids in daycare for 12 hours each day because we “need” to work. We live in a world where we have to work. This is wrong, but for many, there is no other choice. The result, is broken kids who don’t know who they belong to.

My kids will grow up knowing they belong to me and that their number one source of earthly love will come from their Mother and I. I will curb my anger, frustrations or bad habits so that they have the best chance of becoming better than I. I will show them what it means to be loved each day so that they too can love others. When I get mad, I will show compassion and hold back immediate judgement so that they will do the same to people. I will teach them to value, so that they do not value money and things over people and experiences.

It’s going to be hard, but it’s worth it. If we are not being an example to our children who will? I would rather my kids have nothing but love and a roof over their head than tons of toys but no parent at home.

I can go on forever about this but I will digress and just say this…

I have messed up many things in my life but I won’t mess up my kids.

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Constantly Demonstrate Your Value

hands_treeIt sounds competitive doesn’t it? Knowing that in this world today we need to constantly demonstrate our value to this world is resulting in just as much bad as it does good. It is stressful to have to think that every day. I know that I am always one step away from being forgotten about by some. Things come at us so fast from so many different directions that the only way that we can assure we remain in the minds of others is to make sure we are constantly adding value to their lives. We are that way as consumers, we are no longer loyal. I changed banks twice in 2008, nobody used to do that. The one who adds the most value wins. In the blogosphere who is paid attention to? The one demonstrating the most value to their readers. On Twitter who is talked about most? Need I answer that question…

It is a tall order to deliver every day, to make sure that each and every time you have something to say it is somehow benefiting someone, and what if you can not figure out what to say, you risk losing people by not saying anything at all. It’s no wonder depression is the leading cause of so many illnesses that incapacitate people. You either deliver or you diminish.

I however find it extremely invigorating. Though I struggle to come up with ways to add value every day I know that by simply listening to people I am adding enough value to stay afloat. I did not used to be a very good listener and sometimes I still catch myself failing when it comes to be attentive to the needs of others. I was at Starbucks on Easter, my wife had to work, and a homeless guy came up to me asking me for change so that his wife and himself could get something to eat. I usually offer up any change that I have in my pocket with out even thinking but that is all I did this time. I gave the guy the fifty cents I had. After he had left and was out of my sight I thought about how it was Easter and how much it must suck to have to be begging for spare change on Easter of all days. I should have given him everything I had in my wallet, which was $374. He needed it more then I did and it was freaking Easter for crying out loud. Can you tell that I was convicted?

Whether it be something as simple as adding value to someone’s life that is not asking much of you or making sure that your clients or customers are being fed by the knowledge you have you must constantly demonstrate your value to this world. The day you give up is the day the world gives up on you. Those who go unnoticed and pass away with out a tear being shed chose to keep their value to themselves. We all have value, more value then could be demonstrated in a lifetime, we just have to figure out what it is and put a tap in it so we can offer it up to others. Adding value means that you will always be offering of yourself to others through all facets of life.

A few books I suggest giving a read:

Love Is the Killer App: How to Win Business and Influence Friends
The Go-Giver: A Little Story About a Powerful Business Idea