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Most of us would agree that language is powerful and particularly its impact on our own ability to clearly see our own circumstances.  “Be careful what you say” is advice worth heeding, yet when we are in overwhelm, we typically describe the situation with the use of extreme words like always, never, and totally. This has a dramatic impact, and one that keeps us from clearly seeing the truth before us.

The following is an excerpt from Debbie Ford’s book Spiritual Divorce: Divorce as a Catalyst for an Extraordinary Life. Though her book was written to help people heal from divorce, her insight on getting stuck in the drama of your life is relevant to any overwhelming situation.

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Things Aren’t Always What They Seem

Divine guidance lays the foundation that gives us the support and understanding we need to begin practicing the Law of Acceptance. Acceptance is the essential ingredient that enables us to begin the healing process. We cannot accept a situation until we’re ready to look fearlessly at the facts of our circumstances. We can’t heal what we cannot see, and we can’t heal what we cannot feel. Yet too often the pain from our past and our fears of the future keep us stuck and unable to see our lives as a whole. Our blurred vision prohibits us from being in the present and opening up to higher levels of awareness. “It is only when we have the courage to face things exactly as they are, without any self-deception or illusion,” the I Ching states, “that a light will develop out of events, by which the path to success may be recognized.”

Acceptance comes when we step out of denial and judgment and are willing to see the present exactly as it exists in this moment, without any drama or story line. Drama keeps us stuck in an endless spiral of excuses that prevent us from being able to distinguish between fact and fantasy. Our drama serves as a defense mechanism designed to protect us from the pain of our past. When we’re caught up in our drama, we are no longer living in the present moment. Instead, we get hooked into every similar experience from our past that was left unhealed. We think we are responding to the challenges of our lives when in fact we are reacting to all of our unresolved pain.

We must realize that what is happening in this moment is calling us to heal what happened to us in the past. To break free from the confines of our story we must distinguish what is real from what is unreal. What is from the past and what is happening now? What is our present day pain and what is the unresolved pain of our past? (more…)

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Editor’s Note: This has nothing to do with anything other than it made me laugh. An internet thing that I don’t know who wrote but enjoy!

27 FACTS YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT MEN

1. Men like to barbecue. Men will cook if danger is involved.

2. Men who have pierced ears are better prepared for marriage. They’ve experienced pain and bought jewelry.

3. Marrying a divorced man is ecologically responsible. In a world where there are more women than men, it pays to recycle.

4. Men are very confident people. My husband is so confident that when he watches sports on television, he thinks that if he concentrates he can help his team. If the team is in trouble, he coaches the players from our living room, and if they’re really in trouble, I have to get off the phone in case they call him.

5. Men like phones with lots of buttons. It makes them feel important.

6. Men love to be the first to read the newspaper in the morning. Not being the first is upsetting to their psyches.

7. All men are afraid of eyelash curlers. I sleep with one under my pillow, instead of a gun.

8. A good place to meet a man is at the dry cleaner. These men usually have jobs and bathe.

9. All men hate to hear “We need to talk about our relationship.” These seven words strike fear in the heart of even General Schwarzkopf.

10. Men are sensitive in strange ways. If a man has built a fire and the last log does not burn, he will take it personally.

(more…)

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Pride: -noun 1. a high or inordinate opinion of one’s own dignity, importance, merit, or superiority, whether as cherished in the mind or as displayed in bearing, conduct, etc.  (from dictionary.com ~ thanks Christina!)

In a previous post, I wrote about effective marriage advice I once heard ~ the value of leaving things unsaid.  My own nature tends to lean heavily towards NEVER leaving things unsaid.  While sometimes that can be a good thing ~ say, when the comments are positive ~ when remarks fall in the “told you so” genre it cuts deeply.

I heard a marriage counselor one time say, “Do you want to be right or do you want to be happy?” Being “right” rarely serves the relationship, and as my friend Anne pointed out, “If it’s REALLY about being right, you’d keep your mouth shut.”  By the time we’ve reached the “told you so” point, we’re usually talking about pride ~ that “inordinate opinion of one’s own superiority.” Ouch.

“Mr. Owens, you would be doing Lily and the rest of us a favor by leaving her here.”

I’d heard August say more than once, “If you need something from somebody, always give that person a way to hand it to you.”  T. Ray needed a face-saving way to hand me over, and August was giving it to him.

~ The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

When you want to get something accomplished, sometimes you just need to give the other person room to give it to you.  I have watched this dynamic play out in my parents’ 55-year marriage.  Like many men of his generation, my dad is accustomed to being “in charge.” He likes to steer the ship.  Through the years, I have often watched my mother make suggestions only to be met by his knee-jerk “that will never work” reaction.  But a day or two will pass and Daddy will say, “Hey Barb, I was thinking, it might be a good idea if …” and then practically repeat back her idea VERBATIM.  And Mom will respond, “Oh that’s a good thought, Bob!”

Now if that was me, I’d have to say, “HELLO???  That’s what I said like, 3 days ago!  Thank you very much!” I would simply not be content until he had admitted that yes, indeed, it was MY idea.  One day, Mother and I were talking about this particular interplay.  Didn’t she find it completely irritating that he was ‘that’ way and PLEASE, why didn’t she point this out to him?  She replied nonchalantly, “What difference does it make?”

My brain went TILT.  But the more I thought about it, the more it made sense.  Mom would plant the seed and then give it room. Daddy would mull it over, perhaps even modify it slightly, and offer it up as his idea.  Ultimately, everybody got what they wanted.

When you want something from somebody, always give that person a way to hand it to you. After all, do you want to be right or do you want to be happy?

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The traffic was heavy as Brian and I headed to the recent back-to-school night at the high school.  As we pulled into the parking lot, I suggested that we park across the street at the nearby church.  It would have meant a further walk, but I had been stuck in that lot before after large events, so I knew we’d fare better if we parked elsewhere.  He ignored me, and we pulled into a convenient spot near the front doors.

When the evening concluded, we returned to our car where we sat for quite some time before we were able to exit the school property.  Exasperated, I commented, “Guess we should have parked at the church.” Brian responded with well-earned frustration, “Righteousness does NOT become you, Pam.”

Unfortunately, we were both correct.

As I silently stared out the car window, I recalled something I had recently read.  Gretchen Rubin wrote on her blog about the best marital advice she had received. Her words really struck a chord with me at the time, and I had vowed to put them into practice.

When I got engaged, a friend passed along a piece of advice that she’d heard from her boss: “In a good marriage, both spouses leave three things unsaid each day.”

I was surprised. I thought her advice would be something like, “Remember to say ‘I love you,’” or “Be sure to say ‘Thanks.’” I couldn’t imagine why I would have to leave things unsaid.

Well, now I know. And I realize that this advice was tremendously useful.

I only manage to follow the advice part of the time, but just in the last few days, I’ve left unsaid the following statements:

  • I’ve told you that three times already.
  • You said you’d try to come, but are you really going to try?
  • Can’t you do it this time?
  • Don’t stay up late tonight and then, tomorrow afternoon, tell me that you need a nap.
  • Can’t we talk about this now?

And these are just the statements I can think of off the top of my head.

Research backs up my friend’s advice to “leave things unsaid.” Studies show that one fact of human nature is that people have a “negativity bias”: we react to the bad more strongly and persistently than to the comparable good.

For example, within a marriage, it takes at least five good acts to repair the damage of one critical or destructive act.

So, by refraining from making an obnoxious comment, I’m actually doing a lot more to preserve the happiness of my marriage than by making a nice comment. The negative drags us down farther than the positive lifts us up.

by Gretchen Rubin

As we turned onto Slaughter Lane and headed towards home, I regretted my “told you so” comment.  I know this is one of my habits that is particularly unattractive and yet, I poison my conversations with these caustic remarks with disregard to their effects.  What point had it served to highlight the obvious?  What result did I achieve?  The satisfaction of  “winning” perhaps?

The quiet ride home proved that wasn’t the case.

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The Happiness Project (link on my sidebar) is the work of writer Gretchen Rubin. Her popular site is an account of the year she spent test-driving “every conceivable principle about how to be happy, from Aristotle to Ben Franklin to Oprah to Martin Seligman.”

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Interesting Question:  What’s the best marriage advice you have ever received or would offer?  Given my recent predilection, can you phrase it in only SIX WORDS?

  • “Leave three things unsaid each day.”
  • “Create a ‘Win-Win’ for both.”

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The frustrated woman stammered out her complaint, “After 10 years of marriage, Dr. Laura, I don’t think I love my husband anymore, I just don’t feel it. What should I do?”

The radio call-in host replied with her trademark no-nonsense approach, “You don’t feel like you love him? Well, act as if you do anyway.”

Huh?!

At first pass, this advice may seem ineffective and simplistic. What good is acting as if you love someone when you just don’t feel it? On closer examination though it makes sense. Dr. Laura Schlessinger expounds on this idea in the very first chapter of her book, The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands.

“The notion of love as a gift, as a verb, as an attitude, as a commitment, is a revelation to some. Unfortunately, love is usually looked at as a feeling that comes over you and makes you happy; and of course, if you’re happy, then you behave nicely. Somehow, the notion is out there that you’re entitled to behave badly if you don’t feel that lovin’ feeling. More than that, if you don’t feel that lovin’ feeling, you’re entitled to get it somehow, somewhere, with someone else who’s available. This sense of entitlement comes from a culture that has elevated feelings over obligation, responsibility and commitment.” (p. 4)

When faced with the “I’ve lost that lovin’ feeling” scenario, Dr. Laura advocates ACTING as if it’s so regardless. You choose a loving behavior despite your feelings. So you put on your lipstick before he comes home, you greet him with a hug and a kiss when he walks through the front door, you make eye contact and ask him about HIS day. Love is an ACTIVE verb, and you ACT as if it’s so.

And the result? Dr. Laura reports it’s not uncommon for this approach to lead to a change in your feelings too. When you act loving, your partner responds positively, and soon you may actually ignite that ‘lovin’ feeling once again.

Same Coin ~ Different Side

Years before I had ever heard of Dr. Laura, I coined my own phrase for a similar philosophy: “It’s not so much what you FEEL, it’s what you do with your feelings that’s important.” This was how I described it to a friend who told me she was upset that her new husband had commented on the attractiveness of another woman. “He’s not supposed to be attracted to anyone but ME,” she lamented. The fact that he was attracted to someone else simply didn’t matter I told her (and frankly, I thought she was nuts if she believed a wedding ring turned off that radar). What really mattered was what he did with his feelings. What were his actions?

But I’m only human!

Many times we beat up ourselves (and others) for our feelings ~ we judge them as “good” and “bad,” and then we’ll extend that same judgment to the individual. But feelings are neither; they are simply “what is.” Face it, you can’t help what you feel, but you absolutely have a choice in how you are going to act. As humans, we have free choice.

Which brings to me to another favorite Dr. Laura-ism …

Attempting to explain their own bad behavior, callers will sometimes offer up, “But I’m only human!” Dr. Laura is quick to respond. Humans, she’ll argue, are the one “animal” that has the ability to override “natural instincts” and choose a different course of action. Unlike other animals, we CAN refrain from acting on our feelings, we can choose the high road.

THIS is what it means to be “only human.” Just act as if it’s so.

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“Shiva without Shakti is Shava”

Tuesday night’s advanced yoga class with Christina Sell was a foray into forward bends and hip openers, culminating in my favorite peak pose Dwi Pada Sirsasana (a.k.a party trick variation) With a theme of balanced action, Christina talked about the need to cultivate both Shiva (masculine) and Shakti (feminine) energy. Shiva gives us the strength that defines the boundaries; Shakti gives us the freedom to fully express ourselves. We need both.

There is a saying: “Shiva without Shakti is Shava,” which means Shiva without Shakti is a corpse. Let us be clear here, we are not talking about the need of a man for a woman ~ though perhaps we could make that case in another post ~ but of the inherent need for the expression of both qualities in every individual. I read a commentary that said this philosophy gives equal importance to the feminine so much so that it makes it important for the existence of the other. “Like sun and its rays, like fire and its power to burn, like coiled snake and snake in motion these two are inseparable.” (Dr. C.S. Shah)

As we left class, I lingered in the parking lot to visit with Jessica Goulding, an Anusara Yoga Inspired teacher. Jess was my first introduction to Anusara yoga two years ago. When I think of her, it is with the awe one has for their first grade teacher, or that person who inspired a love of reading. No matter where you go or who you study with after that, you are always forever linked with gratitude to that first teacher who opened the door for you.

Jessica is a beautiful young woman, a former dancer, and a mother of two young toddlers. In addition to teaching at YogaYoga, Jessica writes a column for new moms. We hadn’t visited in awhile, and I asked her about her kids ~ a son now 3 and a daughter who just turned one. She excitedly shared that she’d just had just had her first tea party with one of her children. She told me the details of tea and teddy bears and how she’d exuberantly called her mother, “I thought I’d have to wait for my daughter to do this with, but it my SON. It was his idea!” There was such joy on her face and in her heart.

Shiva had found his Shakti and there was bliss!

As the mother of three boys, the significance of that moment was not lost on me. Girls just seem to offer up more of those opportunities to connect, those times that Moms so cherish. We somewhat expect it from our daughters, but not so much with our boys. So when a son gives his mother one of those surprise offerings, the moment is truly magical.

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Austin Goes to Kindergarten ~ First Day of School ~ 1994

Daniel (2 mos.), Bobby (3) & Austin (6)

The Images of the First Day of School

We have a tradition in our family that dates back to my childhood. We always take a photo on the first day of school just as my mother did with my sisters and me. In 1994, we took OUR first photo as we prepared to walk our oldest son to Kindergarten. We have continued the practice every year since, taking pictures by the same tree in our backyard. As the boys have gotten older, it takes a little more coaxing, but they indulge their mother.

Twelve years after that first photo, I snapped a shot of my now 6’2″‘boy’ beginning his senior year. I cried that morning with the realization it was his last “first day of school” photo (the first of many “lasts” to come that year!) As for Austin … well, you can see the sentimentality just oozing out of him in the photo below.

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Senior Year ~ August 2006

When school started back a year ago, we gathered in the backyard to take pictures of the boys once again, but with one less child to photograph. Austin was off to college preparing to start his freshman year at UT. The moment was bittersweet. He was gone from home, and my day-to-day mothering of him was done, but he was embarking on a new and exciting adventure. It was as it should be.

Two days later, classes began at the University of Texas. Austin called home that evening to report on his day. I was excited to hear from him and pleased he had thought to call me, but the real gift came the next morning. Rising early, I fixed a cup of coffee and logged on to my computer to check email. A message from Austin was waiting in my in-box, a message that came with an attachment. I opened it to find a photo ~ my son ready for his first day of college. He had gotten his roommate to take the picture ~ that all-important “first day of school” photo ~ and he had done it for ME.

Shiva with Shakti is indeed bliss!

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Austin Goes to College ~ First Day at UT ~ August 2007

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My 3 Boys ~ First Day of School ~ August 2008

The tradition continues … photos from earlier this week, and yes, he sent me another picture this year too! 😛

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Daniel (my baby) ~ his first Day of HIGH School

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Bobby at 17

He now DRIVES his brother to school!

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Hook ’em, Austin!

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“Life is like a train ride. We get on, we ride, we get off. We get back on and ride some more. There are accidents and there are delays. At certain stops there are surprises. Some of these will translate into great moments of joy, some will result in profound sorrow. …”

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This is the beginning of an inspirational piece I saw a few years ago. (Be sure to view the link above.)  I was reminded of it earlier today by a friend whose mother recently passed away. I have searched the internet over looking for the original author but without any success. Some credit the words to a short book called “The Station,” but I can’t locate that either. I’ve seen the photos attributed to Kim Anderson. The complete text is shared on another blog, along with a YouTube version of this piece.

Good night, my friends. I’m glad we share the same train.

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In yoga, we often talk about this idea of “kula” ~ or our community ~ often in light of its playfulness. Functioning like a circle of friends or even family, silliness and humor frequently permeates the group with great joy. It is certainly a wonderful byproduct. But the kula also serves another vital role in our lives ~ one of support, encouragement and strength.

As a vital link in a community ~ whether it’s yogic or familiar or neighborhood in nature ~ each one of us has an important role in tending to the needs of one another. When we “go it alone” it is easy to get lost in the abyss of the mind, the critic that pecks away at our truth, questioning the very nature of what we’re doing and why. Most of us are plagued by self-doubts from time to time, and we need to be bolstered up.

“Friends are angels who lift our feet when our own wings have trouble remembering how to fly.”

And yet, as we look at others, we often fail to realize that very same need exists ~ the deep need that we all share to be accepted, acknowledged and loved. Facades deceive us. We look at someone with a beautiful practice and think, “Of course she knows how inspiring she is!” We look at someone who is smiling despite great personal trials and think, “Of course he can handle this, he’s so strong!” We look at a great teacher and think, “Of course she knows how much we appreciate and learn from her!” We assume they know this too. Of course they do.

But sometimes they don’t.

Sometimes they are struggling, and they don’t know the truth. And sadly, we don’t take the time to tell them because, well, it just seems so very obvious to us. But we need to stop assuming. We need to look them in the eye and say, “I know the truth of who you are. I know the truth even if you don’t, and I will hold the space for you until you know it too. I will be your witness.”

This is our higher purpose.

Critically acclaimed singer/songwriter Marc Cohn (married to ABC news correspondent Elizabeth Vargas) released an album last year, Join the Parade. It was his first in almost a decade, a time marked by great personal challenges. (Cohn was shot in the head in an attempted carjacking following a Colorado performance in 2005.) One of the songs Let Me Be your Witness is a beautiful gospel ballad that Cohn describes as “the centerpiece of the record.” It is one that reminds us of this higher purpose:

When no one sees and no one hears
Your secret heart
Your bitter tears
When it feels like you’re just sinking in the sand
When you can’t remember who you are
When you wonder how you came this far
Call my name and put me on the stand

Let me be your witness…

To your mystery
To your ecstasy
To the tears you cry
I will testify
To your longest night
To how hard you fight
To your inner light
A higher place
Your grace
To where you are
And to who you’ve been—
Jesus
Jezebel
To your heaven
To your hell
Let me be your witness.

The kula: a community, an awesome fun-loving, beautiful circle of beings; providing energy and laughter to one another, along with the call to a higher purpose of support and encouragement …

If you can’t remember who you are, let ME be your witness.

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A 50th Anniversary Party

50 years together is a big event! First, just to make it to that illustrious mark is HUGE. But to do so with genuine love and affection for one another is MONUMENTAL! Last night, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of my aunt and uncle who have managed to reach that hallmark. What an example!

While I have spent many family holidays with Aunt Peggy and Uncle H.D. and our families our quite close, I found myself gaining a whole new perspective as I viewed them through the eyes of their friends, close to 150, who commemorated the occasion with them. The richness and variety of friends who were present was a testament to the life they’ve shared together.

Happy Anniversary Peg & H.D.

My Aunt Peggy is my mother’s only sibling and between my mother and her, they have raised six girls ~ my two cousins, along with my sisters and me. I have always thought it something of a remarkable feat that all six of us are happily married, AND to our first husbands. At 21 years, Brian and I have been married the shortest, while my sister Gayle just marked her 35th earlier this month. The influence of our parents has no doubt played a part.

What difference does an example make?

A happy marriage must be the ultimate practice in “balancing effort & ease!” My own parents celebrated their 55th anniversary this past Valentine’s Day. We have seen not only longevity, but longevity with genuine affection. It wasn’t just an exercise in gritting their teeth and baring it (though sometimes I’m sure that was part of it) but a shared mutual respect that has kept the bond strong.

The McFarland Family: Mother & Daddy (holding hands) and their Girls

Besides a strong marriage, they’ve each cultivated strong family bonds that have fostered strong ties between all of us as well. We are all so very different and yet so connected ~ as sisters, as cousins, as family. It is a touchstone if my life that keeps me grounded.

What difference does an example make? One helluva one to me!

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I am a woman of a lot of WORDS ~ a lot of words that want to come to OUT. This can be quite trying to a house full of men ~ we have 3 sons ~ as the male species typically doesn’t have the need (or patience) for that many words. Face it, there is a direct relationship between the number of words a female speaks and the degree at which the male eyes glaze over. I’ve known this for quite some time. LESS is MORE especially when it comes to sharing my “wisdom” with the men in my life. But this is not easy for a woman of many words, ESPECIALLY when she is certain she has so much good stuff to say!

With our oldest son now away at college, my opportunities for connecting with him and sharing have shifted from conversations to emails.
We send each other blog sites or online articles of interest, along with just a comment or two of reflection. In this way, I am able to fill my need to impart ‘motherly advice’ without holding him hostage in a conversation, trapped like a deer in the headlights who’s desperately longing to leap the nearest fence and make his escape.

With one of the Men in my Life ~ Our son Austin

In some ways, we have been able to “go deeper” in our writing than what we share face-to-face. Perhaps it’s because it’s not so forced or on “my time” that this is so, or maybe he’s just growing up, but I really enjoy our written exchanges and have come to treasure them almost more than our talks. After all, these I can hold onto long after the words of conversation fade away.

Earlier this spring, I sent him the following from an online article I ran across along with a short message.

Interesting article on relationships. Don’t know if you think Dad & I have a good relationship (I do) but I think this is a pretty accurate summation. Love, Mom

I wanted to say more, elaborate on each of the points, but I left it at that & sent along the article below:

Ten Characteristics of Successful Relationships
By Lisa Brookes Kift, Ma, Mft
Published: 12/27/2007
Marriage and Family Therapist draws from extensive experience with couples to identify her top ten characteristics of successful relationships

As a couple’s therapist, I’ve seen a myriad of relationships styles. People who come in for counseling are clearly looking to change something they see problematic in their partnership. The problems range from the relatively benign tweaks in communication to serious pain and trust violations due to infidelity and all sorts of issues in between. Filtering through all of this, I’ve identified ten characteristics of successful relationships. These qualities are integral parts of a healthy relationship foundation and I believe increase the chances of weathering the storms that life inevitably dishes out.

The ten characteristics are as follows and are in no particular order:

1. Friendship: Couples who have a strong friendship have staying power. They not only love each other but genuinely like each other as people. They enjoy hanging out together. They might even consider each other their “best friend.”

2. Humor: Partners who can make each other laugh tend to be good at de-escalating conflicts when they do arise. It’s the great mood lightener. I’ve noticed the use of funny nicknames can be an indicator of great fondness for one another. The names often stem from a “you had to be there” moment from the beginning of their relationship.

3. Communication: As obvious as this may seem, many couples are not very good at it. Those who are able to openly express their feelings in an emotionally safe environment typically deal with situations as they come up and avoid burying frustrations which always have a way of coming out at some point.

4. Chore Sharing: Those who divvy up the household or parenting responsibilities – in a way that is mutually agreed upon way are less likely to hold resentments about what they perceive as “unfair.” Each participates (albeit maybe begrudgingly) and both contribute to the relationship in this way.

5. Sexual Intimacy: Couples who have their sexual needs met or at least have negotiated a reasonable compromise if their levels of need aren’t compatible, feel taken care of by the other. Some are highly active, engaging in lovemaking multiple times a week and others are content with far less. There is no “right” or “wrong” amount. However, often times a negotiation is needed to make sure no one feels neglected by the other.

6. Affection: Partners who stay in physical contact in some way throughout the day have appeared to be the happiest ones. These moments don’t need to necessarily lead to sexual intimacy but are rather easy ways to say, “I love you,” without the words. These moments can be invaluable, especially these days when everyone seems to be racing around to get “somewhere.” Whether it’s a hug, kiss, swat on the rear, tussle of the hair or a sit on the lap, these acts of affection keep couples connected when life gets crazy.

7. No “Horsemen of the Apocalypse:” This is a term coined by a famous couples researcher named John Gottman who claims to be able to predict divorce with incredible accuracy. His “four horseman of the apocalypse” are criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling. His research has been shown that couples who demonstrate a high level of these in their relationships are in big trouble.

8. Mutual and Separate Friends: Partners who socialize with other couples and also maintain separate friendships have greater balance in regards to honoring themselves as individuals, within the relationship. This leads to more self satisfaction which translates to relationship satisfaction.

9. Reliability: Most of us want follow-through with our friendships and our partners. If couples do what they say and say what they do, they create an atmosphere of comfort in knowing their words mean something to the other.

10. Relationship Vision: It’s interesting the number of couples I’ve seen who don’t seem to have the big picture of their relationship in mind. Where do they see themselves in ten year? What are their relationship goals? Couples who have created a relationship vision for themselves know where they’re going as they’ve planned it together. They get joy out of reaching for their goals as a team and are less likely to be derailed by surprises down the line.

* * * * *

Just a few hours after I sent the email, he replied in part:

I definitely think you and Dad have a good relationship, I’m glad y’all never fought in front of us. I think it set a precedent in my life. I try and carry all these attributes into any relationship whether it be girlfriend or friend, being compassionate goes a long way.

Then he went on to share a story, how he had drawn on something I told him during a difficult time, and then concluded:

It was interesting how I pulled my… I guess “childhood” into my life now. Funny that I’m getting to that point in my life.

I have reread that message many times since filled with such gratitude: gratitude that his father and I were able to give him something that he looks at with pride, gratitude for his willingness to share that with me, and most of all, gratitude for this relationship I have with my son. It simply doesn’t get any “more” than that.

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Editor’s Note: This post was written earlier in the spring and originally posted it on my other blog.

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With my Guy!

Spring Break brought us a wonderful ski trip to Vail and a fabulous family wedding in Colorado Springs on a snow covered mountain. The wedding was a great celebration and gathering of family and friends. It took place on my sister Julia’s 50th birthday (the mother of the bride). So many people traveled to be there from Canada to California, Texas & even Ethiopia! It was a testimony to the friendships and relationships my sister & brother-in-law have created and nurtured.

My other blog, Retold Gold, has seen more action as I’ve been in a more reflective mode, writing about the blessings of family and sisterhood in particular. I invite you to check it out now if you haven’t recently. Additionally, I stumbled across another blog of interest: The Happiness Project. Writer Gretchen Rubin is working on a book to be released in 2009 that is an account of the year she spent test-driving every conceivable principle about how to be happy, from Aristotle to Ben Franklin to Oprah to Martin Seligman. Her blog is a daily accounting of her discoveries and is both entertaining and inspirational.

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A friend accepts us as we are yet helps us to be what we should.

~Author Unknown

A “new-ish” friend recently paid me a very high compliment that caused me to reflect on my belief about friendships. She wrote:

“I want to thank you for challenging me on my decisions over the past year. By asking me “why” so often, you really helped me be mindful about what I was doing. Most friends just kinda pat you on the head and tell you to soldier on or whatever, but you are one of a select few who made me be careful, which is actually better in the long run.”

No doubt, I AM the self-ordained Queen of Questions. Always have been. If I only had a dime for every time I have started a sentence with “Now here’s an interesting question …” ahh, well what a rich woman I’d be! I am drawn to “the deep end of the ocean” and I’m simply not content snorkeling around the surface. I want to know the why’s and the how come’s and the what about’s! Like a festering splinter, I can’t just pull it out and let go. I have to go in & dig around, bleed a little and maybe pour some Hydrogen Peroxide on the wound to see what will bubble up.

Beyond my morbid curiosity, I have a sincere belief in asking the hard questions. It is a good thing. None of us should just go forward blindly, and questions have always helped me “double check” my thoughts, clarify my beliefs, guide my path. In that line, the friends I value most have been the ones who have been patently honest with me, those who know both my strengths & (more importantly) my weaknesses and are willing to say, “Hey, I’m not sure about what you’re doing here, are you?” Sometimes their questions have caused a change of course and sometimes they haven’t, but I’ve always been grateful for that pause to reflect. No matter what, I KNEW with every part of my being that they came to me from a place of love, wanting the very best for me. These friends are a true blessing, and the kind I strive to be.

It is because of that belief that long ago I decided I did not want “yes” friends, nor did I intend to be one. You know the type, those people who will say things just because they think that’s what you want to hear? She’s the one you call when you’re irritated with your husband (not that I ever am) and she says, “Yeah, you’re right! He is a jerk!” That’s a “yes” friend. Real friends get you back on track with thoughtful questions: “Do you think maybe he felt …?” “Real” friends help you reframe — or as my Mom says, “let go and get a better hold.”

A true friend never gets in your way unless you happen to be going down.

~Arnold Glasow

I believe that our culture is filled with too much of the “You go, Girl!” mentality. We would rather agree with our friends than risk upsetting the apple cart: what if she gets mad at me, what if I hurt her feelings, what if …” blah, blah. So we opt to just stand there, clenching our fists and propping each other up with the “Yeah-Yeah” crutch, even when it’s NOT in our best interest to do so.

Of course, I do believe a lot of people just think to themselves, “It’s not my business; Who am I to say anything about that,” and so they hold their tongue. But how does that serve? Don’t we want the very best for our friends? Isn’t that the real question of friendship?

Side Note: Let me just say that I do think it is important to respect the intimate boundaries of delving deep. I am all too aware that’s a threshold I frequently breech & needs to be checked at the door. (“Ganesha, Ganesha, where for art thou?”) Perhaps the key is in the languaging – come in Judith Lasater, come in! Perhaps we could employ her strategy in these critical moments: “Are you willing to hear some feedback?”

And then — oh yeah — RESPECT whatever answer comes our way.

One final thought … Not EVERYONE is worth airtime. There are those with their own agendas so it’s always important to discern who’s who before taking in their opinions. But then that’s another post.

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