Category Archives: Relationships

When I Am An Old Man (Serious Version)

Last month, I wrote a list of things I will do when I’m an old man. Most, if not all of them were pretty tongue and cheek. However, as I was writing it, I kept thinking of more serious things that I wanted to be doing when I’m an old man. And that’s what this list is all about.

Without any further ado, when I’m an old man:

  • I will still buy flowers for my wife and take her on dates. Just doing my part to keep the lovin’ alive. If I outlive her, I will take flowers to her grave on a regular basis.
  • I will rise with the fish before the birds. I will watch the former and catch the latter. Go ahead… just try to analyze that one. I dare ya.
  • I will give away lots of money. I have no idea what “lots of money” will mean for me when I’m an old man, but I’d love to be giving away at least half of whatever annual income I have at the time. If I have any wealth to speak of, I hope to also leave it all to charity. Sorry Iz… hopefully by the time you’re in your 50’s you won’t need your dad’s inheritance.
  • I will mentor younger men. If you’ve known me for any period of time, you’ve probably figured out by now how much I value mentoring. Most of my experience with mentoring so far in life has been on the receiving end. I hope to some day be on the giving end. Continue reading When I Am An Old Man (Serious Version)
  • Twelve Ways to Get PREPARE’d for Long Term Commitment

    Calling all couples who are past the DTR talk and are now considering long term commitment such as engagement, marriage or an alternative long-term relationship: this essay is for YOU.

    You now have more choices than ever before in terms of taking smart, educational and healthy steps in a “prevention” way to invest in “relationship insurance,” so to speak. Regardless of what you call it, taking the time to get your relationship fine-tuned is one of the biggest gifts you can give each other.

    Research shows that depending upon the program you choose, preventative education or premarital counseling can help your relationship stay together, on average, 3-8 years longer than couples who did nothing. This finding isn’t saying that your relationship is simply going to break down at a later date; it means that you’ve helped your relationship beat the divorce or break-up odds by taking 8-12 hours of time together –  to think through plans, skills, and meanings of what you’re getting ready to begin. In other words, the odds will be even MORE in your favor than before.

    In other-other words? Premarital or pre-commitment preparation is a no-brainer. A hard core, serious, bona fide NO-BRAINER!

    Continue reading Twelve Ways to Get PREPARE’d for Long Term Commitment

    How to Teach Your Children About Marriage…Without Saying A Word

    New parents, and new marriage teachers.

    Have you ever seen a child imitate a behavior they just observed?  Or catch them trying something out they saw happen in their home, on TV or when they were in a public location?  These small snapshots of a day in the life of a developing child can make anyone smile.  However, they also give us first hand examples of just how impressionable young minds are.

    Depending upon what professional you speak with, these imitation behaviors might be attributed to “Learning Theory,” or in some situations, “Script Theory.”  Other family scientists call it “modeling” or attribute a child’s actions to something called “Symbolic Interaction.”  But regardless of what this phenomenon is called, it’s real.  It happens every day in the life of a parent and child.  And, it’s way more powerful than you might sometimes think.

    I wish I had a positive impact video to show you along side this particular clip.  However, I think it does a pretty good job and getting the message across of my post today:

    Continue reading How to Teach Your Children About Marriage…Without Saying A Word

    Our Troubadours of the 21st Century

    There is a small magnetic whiteboard on my refrigerator.  The white plastic apparatus, clinging by electromagnetic magic to the fingerprint smudged stainless steel veneer, catches my eye every time I turn on my lights in the morning.  The whiteboard has become a beacon, a challenge, and a reminder of things to think about I didn’t know I should consider.

    Why?  Because my future son-in-law puts quotes on the board and leaves them there.  Sometimes I see him writing them.  Other times I’m surprised with a new message.  But they’re always powerful; they’re full of the angst and strength of young lovers and budding poets and young men and women discovering the world.  They remind me of the troubadours of the High Middle Ages.  And, they remind me that humans are passionate…that I should take care with the souls of those whom fate has placed in my family on Earth.

    Continue reading Our Troubadours of the 21st Century

    Seven Things You Should Expect From a Couples or Family Therapist

    From Moonstruck

    I.
    Rose: Do you love him, Loretta?
    Loretta Castorini: No.
    Rose: Good. When you love them they drive you crazy because they know they can.

    II.
    Rose: Do you love him, Loretta?
    Loretta Castorini: Aw, ma, I love him awful.
    Rose: Oh, God, that’s too bad.

    ***

    Early February serves as a reminder to consider those you love platonically, as well as those with whom you are in a romantic relationship.  National Marriage Week is celebrated during Valentine’s Day season, and we see lots of information on television and the internet about how people enjoy their special time together, all in the name of Love.  What also happens, however, is that Valentine’s Day sometimes brings to the front of our minds things that aren’t going so well.  This is because, for some, the thought or events surrounding the season inevitably point them back home…where the heart is….or, where the heart MIGHT be if it weren’t for the fact that they were arguing all the time.

    For those of you who plan to go out and have a wonderful time during the upcoming “week of love,” we wish you the best.  But for those of you who might be considering the possibility of getting some positive change in an unhealthy relationship, I want to make sure you have this list.  I’ve practiced therapy for ten years now and have summarized a list of standards you should expect if you decide to get counseling for your relationship. The list is based upon discussions with my own clients, and also from cases I’ve supervised:

    Continue reading Seven Things You Should Expect From a Couples or Family Therapist

    Silent Sunday: 1/30/11 ~ What I Think But Do Not Say

    Out loud: Grandma - "Oh, I need to buckle my seat belt!" In my head: "Yes you do, Grandma. I want you to be safe and sound for all the weddings and family events possible. Make sure it's latched...we love you."
    Out loud: "Do you want to take a photo of the table before we serve everyone?" Me out loud: "Yes, great idea. I'm on it!" Me in my head: "Do you have any idea how much I appreciate you all right now? Your table is beautiful and you got her a Raspberries n' Creme cake, even though they're expensive. You're melting my heart right now."

    Continue reading Silent Sunday: 1/30/11 ~ What I Think But Do Not Say

    Shaking the Saddlebags #2: The Fantastic Fear Trifecta

    Note – occasionally I write posts about my relationship with myself.  This is one such post.  It’s about my relationship with my Saddlebags.  You can search “Saddlebags” to catch the history of these posts, or go here for the entry prior to this one.

    ***

    I hate undergoing the orthodontic services.  I have a past childhood, former adolescence and present adulthood so filled with dental trauma that I know I’ll never get over the all-encompassing fear I face every sixth months of my life.  Seriously.

    When I was a kid, I had four permanent teeth removed for braces, I had four wisdom teeth removed prior to getting braces (plus a little piece of my jawbone – they had impacted, and having no where else to turn, went downward…into my jaw), cavities galore, more shots than I’ll ever be able to count…I puke when the dentist tries to give me laughing gas.  Can you tell I’m serious here? I really, really hate going to the dentist.  Now, I’m in the process of getting crowns because of all my cavities and I’m only finished with number three.  I have to get seven.  I also hate it when people tell me dentist stories…and I’ve just put you through an entire paragraph of mine. Oh my heavenly days – please forgive me! I have a point.  Really…

    My point is that I fear going to the dentist.  I hope that’s clear.  But I have realized since last November that I’ve been fearing going to the gym, practically at the same level of intensity…to shake my saddlebags, remember?  I mean I really worked myself up on how hard it was going to be to start a workout regimen again, and I had to literally drag myself into the gym the first time.  After generating so much lactic acid that I became nauseous and spent some quality time over the toilet, I decided that working out wasn’t just scary – – it was horrific.  So horrific that it took me six full days for my muscles to quit aching from the first workout.  I recall not being able to sit on the carpet during Thanksgiving because the prospect of getting back up meant moving my legs, arms and abdomen and that would induce pain…Pain! The emergecy orthodontist matter a lot in such cases.

    Continue reading Shaking the Saddlebags #2: The Fantastic Fear Trifecta

    Real Men and Tea Parties

    No, this post has nothing to do with a powerful political movement that’s sweeping our country. It’s about something way more important. A totally different kind of tea party.

    As the father of a beautiful three-month old little girl, I just want to make sure I’ve covered all my bases in writing about what actually constitutes a real man should I ever receive an invitation from my daughter to attend a tea party (imagined or otherwise) that she’s hosting. That said, a real man is willing to sit down for a tea party with his daughter.

    By attending a tea party as the honored guest of his daughter, a real man models for her the kind of man she should be interested in dating when she is of courting age.

    The only other important thing I can add to this discussion at this time is this: a real man always remembers to stick his pinky out.

    [michael]

    Boundary Education (Part 3): The Running Game – Draw Play, Quaterback Sneak and The Option

    Quarterback Sneak

    Football season is almost over.

    Each year the Main Football Curtain comes to a close with Superbowl Sunday, and that’s not too far down the road.  Therefore, I thought I would bring back a series I began last summer on “Boundary Education” using football metaphors.  It’s time for Lesson #3.  If you love football, feel you might need to learn a bit more about setting personal boundaries or learning how to utilize boundaries for the health of a couple relationship, begin your reading here:

    Boundary Education for Football Fans: The Flea Flicker and Four Other Strategic Plays for Relational Competence.  And, here…

    Knowing When to Take a Knee:  Boundary Lessons (Part Deaux)

    Now – if you’ve already reviewed Lessons One and Two, then you probably recall the scenario we’re using to set up all our boundary setting skill practices.  To summarize and briefly set the scene, you’re at a company picnic and see the one person you always try to avoid, setting up their “camp” next to your site…

    Just as you are thinking strongly about whether or not to fold the blanket back up and look for another spot, you hear your co-worker approaching you and the first thing that they say is, “Wow…here we are…at a family picnic!  Games for the kids, a little pool area, prizes for the tricycle race – what a set up.  Our kids can’t wait to get started.  So, when are you two going to get crackin’ and have your first baby?”

    So, we’ve already demonstrated how you might “punt” in terms of responding to your problem colleague, and we also worked through what “taking a knee” might look like.  Now, it’s time to step it up a little.  It’s time to move past the neutral responses and begin learning how to make progress.  I’ll show you three different ways you could consider:

    Continue reading Boundary Education (Part 3): The Running Game – Draw Play, Quaterback Sneak and The Option

    2011 Ranch Hand Guide: #1. Never Wrestle With a Pig. You Both Get All Dirty and the Pig Likes It.

    In The Ranch Hand’s Guide to 2011 I listed five guidelines that I’ve adopted to have a great year without resolutions.  Let’s just get some facts out of the way.  This article is not about pigs or dirt. I realize I like to talk using idioms and metaphors. If you are still wondering, rule #1 translates into “when it really doesn’t matter, you don’t need to argue with people.”

    The Seed

    Before I was ever able to recognize this in myself, I saw this undesirable trait in other people.  You know you have too.  I watched someone argue over a restaurant bill.  I heard friends and family members complain about their embarrassment when someone they were with argued with the Wal-mart checker.  The people I know who argue do it all the time…and are pretty good at it.  They usually aren’t happy with getting the last word.  They need to have the last two or three words, and when I really don’t care, they are still talking about it.  Those people are not good listeners and have a low tolerance for people who are different from them.  It dawned on me that maybe this is how they create a positive view of who they are.    I realized there were situations when I had argued unnecessarily.  Yuck. It was unattractive and it had to stop.

    Germination

    I began practicing this rule using baby steps.  I stopped talking before I had said everything I felt I “needed” to say.   My opponent and I were never left any better than when we started, so what was the use?  Then, I took the plunge into not even addressing the silly things that I once thought were important.  Silly things.  That’s the key.  Who cares if I ordered rice and I got rice and beans.  I like them both.  Then to take it a little further, I started extinguishing the beginnings of arguments started between, for example, my husband and others.  Wow!  What a difference in the conversations that followed between us. Suddenly the complaints were gone and discussions of our role in the perceived problem ensued.

    Continue reading 2011 Ranch Hand Guide: #1. Never Wrestle With a Pig. You Both Get All Dirty and the Pig Likes It.

    Why Thursday Evening Shout Outs and Kleenex Boxes Go Together

    He’s professional without being uncomfortable.  He’s nice.  He’s creative and has a keen interest in helping reveal the beauty of life within his subjects.  In an attempt to reduce a personality and business of positive complexities into a cohesive concept, his website reads:

    “There are two things you need to know about me. I enjoy life and I believe in creating images that make you feel something.”

    Carl Zoch went into full-time photography business only a few short years ago.  He and his wife had to talk about it.  And think about it. And part of those discussions were about Carl’s desire to learn more and more about the subject of photography until he had exhausted his capacity to learn.  He is still not done.  However, his business and business model is beginning to take shape.

    He only books 25 weddings per year.  He’s become well connected and referred within the photographer community of Oklahoma.  He is linked occasionally to other creative ventures or people such as Dusty Gilpin at Tree and Leaf (who, by the way, just designed our RDC T-Shirts).

    And, his work is very good.  I invite you to spend some time reviewing his website at your leisure.  I like the background music he’s chosen for his slides, and I like his open and willing communication style when I e-mail him, asking to publish an image for our “Silent Sunday” features.  But I think more than anything today, I like him because he just sent the proofs of my daughter’s engagement photos to her in a slideshow…and because they made me cry.

    Continue reading Why Thursday Evening Shout Outs and Kleenex Boxes Go Together

    Reframing Your Problems in 2011

    Nosy neighbor? Gossipy comrades?

    As you prepare to enter your New Year I wonder…are there people in your life who drive you crazy? Can you count on them to continue to do or say the same ridiculous, lame or annoying things over and over?  Do they grate on your nerves so much that you go out of your way to avoid them even though you know that keeping a connection with them would be better for you or your family?

    If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then it might be time for you to become a reframing expert this year.  The word “reframing” is used in relation to several different conceptual areas (math, problem solving, dealing with people, education, etc.).  I am specifically writing today, however, about how we see, understand, perceive and “know” people.  Human beings can really get into deep ruts with how they perceive people.  Sometimes these ruts feel or seem so deep that we give up.  We quit hoping that the “problem” person will change.  Rather, our solution is to put up with, avoid, or hurry through interactions with them.

    However, reframing might be just the step stool you needed in order to get out of those ruts…and stay out. So, what are reframes?

    Anthony Robbins wrote, “A signal has meaning only in the frame or context in which we perceive it. And although Tony Robbins is known for his powerful presentations on dealing with people, and implementing reframes, he wasn’t the first person to really articulate techniques for changing the games people play.  Therapists such as Virginia Satir and Milton Erickson are generally credited with defining them first when it comes to dealing with people.  Reframes are renaming, or “re-framing” ideas about people in positive ways that were generally seen as negative. When someone hears a reframe, their brain almost does a double-take.  In other words, it gives the people involved a chance to step back, take advantage of how things were shaken up, and redefine the “meaning in which we perceive” them or their behavior.  The trick is…if the problem is perceived negatively, the reframe must always be implemented with a positive approach. To reframe one negative into another does no one any good.

    Here are a few examples to help you understand specifically what this might look like.  You might recognize some people in your own life, and that is good too because you can begin practicing right now!

    Continue reading Reframing Your Problems in 2011

    Hot Diggity Dog, It’s Time For Some New Year’s Resolutions

    Our little Scout, at 12 weeks

    I’ve never been that crazy about dogs.  But you’d never know this by listening to my parents run through the seemingly endless list of pets my brothers and I had growing up .  I don’t remember what happened to most of them, so clearly I wasn’t attached enough to have traumatic memories of their demises.  While I have an appreciation for cute little critters, for most of my life I could say that I’d never been head over heels in love with something furry (I could make a joke here about my husband’s back, but…..whoopsie, I guess I just did!).

    When Jason and I decided to get a puppy together at about the time we were engaged, my “dog hating” streak ended.  Scout, a black and white Springer Spaniel, was the cutest little thing you’ve ever seen but we learned quickly how hard it is to train a puppy.  In fact, our puppy experience was more like training for the impending trials of marriage and parenthood.  We joke that our marriage preparation course was administered by a 50 pound slobbering baby.

    Scout was difficult from the beginning.  He scaled the puppy gate, ate Christmas bulbs like candy, and bloodied his paws trying to claw his way out of his kennel.  But he was ours and we loved him.

    We had Scout for 9 years, during which we welcomed a new home and two new babies.  He played with the kids and delighted in daily runs with Jason.  Even though he was annoying at times and added a lot of “stink” to our lives, he was a beautiful and loving dog.  When he started having seizures and eventually passed away 2 summers ago, Jason and I realized how tied he was to virtually all of our early marriage and new parent memories.

    Once we got over the loss, however, we quickly began enjoying the freedom of not having a dog in the house.  If we were gone for 15 hours straight, who cares?  There were no doggy considerations or repercussions.  Frankly, it was great. Continue reading Hot Diggity Dog, It’s Time For Some New Year’s Resolutions

    The Truth about Santa (Spoiler alert)

    Kyle at age 2 and "some strange old dude"

    Editor’s Note – Because this is a holiday week, our Relationships post has been written by our Sense and Centsibility author, Jenn Wallis.  It’s a Christmas parenting story. About Santa.

    For years, we went to great lengths to make sure my oldest son Kyle kept believing that Santa is real. After he would go to sleep on Christmas Eve, my husband Justin would get out one of his Doc Marten’s boots from the 90’s (that he still wears – but that’s fodder for another blog) and imprint the sole into the fireplace ash and on the hearth, as proof that Santa had come down the chimney.  Justin would even go out into the driveway and make a few muddy reindeer hoof prints.  We’d take bites out of the cookies and pour out a little of the milk to look like Santa had sipped it (it had been sitting out for hours, after all).

    Continue reading The Truth about Santa (Spoiler alert)

    I Will Miss You, Pastor David Thomas – That’s Certain

    Pastor David Thomas

    I spent eight years of my professional life on staff at the Oklahoma Christian Schools (OCS) High School and administrative offices. A good part of my energy went into building a drama department from scratch, but part of that time was also spent as the lead Freshman sponsor and the Freshman Bible Teacher.

    The Bible Department, from an outside view, represented quite a diversity of theological perspectives:  I was raised in an independent Christian church context, our Sophomore Bible teacher (David Thomas) was more of the charismatic persuasion having attended ORU for his education, our Junior Bible Teacher (Dan Anthony) was a Church of Christ cowboy, and our Senior Bible Teacher and Department Head (Ted Hough) had his master’s degrees both in Literature and in Divinity.  Sometimes it seemed to me that Ted’s perspective was to teach the Word of God with the finesse of only that which a liberal arts major could do.  His devotions were pure art.

    But today I want to talk about David Thomas, our Sophomore Bible teacher.  David went to meet his Maker on the evening of December 4th, 2010 after a decade-long battle with a brain tumor.  I loved his spirit and his heart and am dedicating this post to he and his family.  I’m going to write only briefly about his personality, his preaching and his prayer.  However, I promise you – volumes could be written…along the lines of how John honored Jesus when he said,

    25 Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.

    Continue reading I Will Miss You, Pastor David Thomas – That’s Certain

    Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch: Running Through the Ribbons

    wedding
    Our wedding day....December 12, 1997.

    When it comes to gifts, my husband has it pretty easy.  Even though I have received a few pieces of beautiful jewelry over the years, I don’t require these expensive gestures like some women do.  I got an upgraded wedding ring on our ten year anniversary.  It gets stuck in the fingers of my work gloves and it’s kind of annoying.   I prefer a card and/or  some quality time.  I already know that every day comes with its own gifts, and it’s up to me to “untie the ribbons”  (~Ruth Ann Schabacke).  Man, is this guy lucky, or what?

    We had only lived in the country for three weeks when our seven-year wedding anniversary weekend began.  In our typical style, we decided to forgo “gifts”  (we were starting plans to build an entire house, after all), and we opted to go out to eat.  There were three restaurants from which to choose…

    Continue reading Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch: Running Through the Ribbons

    Everything I Know About Kindness I Learned From Four Inch Blue Creatures

    It all started with a plastic Smurfs purse.

    On my 7th or 8th birthday, a sweet little girl named Amy giggled with excitement as my mom announced that it was time for the birthday girl to open gifts.  Everyone gathered, tired from what seemed like hours of pony rides across my dad’s farm land, but Amy eagerly planted herself at the front of the pack and requested that I open her gift first.  What I wouldn’t know until later was that she had already told my mother all about the gift, and my mother’s anxiety was growing by the second.  You see, I already had this particular Smurfs purse, which was carefully tucked away in my dresser at home.  Although it was my favorite new treasure, my mom was anticipating a less than stellar reaction to receiving a duplicate.  This feeling was tempered only by her hope that I would pull through the awkward moment with a gracious response.

    Just for fun, let’s turn this into a multiple choice question.  How do you think I responded?

    a.)    I smiled, thanked Amy for such a thoughtful gift and later discussed exchange options with my mom.

    b.)    I congratulated Amy on her great taste since I had recently picked out the very same purse.

    c.)    I absently said, “I already have this” and moved on to the next gift unaware that my friend, deflated, had moved to the back of the pack.

    Continue reading Everything I Know About Kindness I Learned From Four Inch Blue Creatures

    Perfect Pictures: Post-Thanksgiving Reflections, “Meet Joe Black” Style

    Meet Joe Black (1998)” was a movie about the Angel of Death and his earthly dialogue with a wealthy media mogul during his last days.  In the film, the wealthy man acts as a guide to Death who, in the form of a young man, falls in love with the man’s beautiful daughter.  Called by some as a “minimalist masterpiece,” you need patience and focus to get all the movie has to offer.

    Here’s one thing I got from the film, and a subsequent clip on T.V. sometime after it was released:  During a particular scene, Joe Black and  “Jamaican Woman” (as noted in the script) are having a conversation about life.  She waxes deeply philosophical in her discourse. At one point she says to him in some sort of summary thesis,

    …But the truth is, it bound to happen if you stay long enough. So take that nice picture you got in your head home with you, but don’t be fooled. We lonely here mostly too. If we lucky, maybe, we got some nice pictures to take with us.

    Later in an interview, Brad Pitt who played the Joe Black character reflected on that line.  He said, in paraphrased form, “She’s right, ya know…life goes by and every once in a while we get a few snapshots to take with us.  Perfect pictures we hold on to.”

    I remember the interview like it was yesterday because of the look on Pitt’s face when he was talking.  I don’t know what he was thinking about at the time, or why he chose that particular quote to talk about, but I thought about it last week out of the blue.  I wondered if our RDC team would get to capture a “perfect picture” somewhere along their Thanksgiving holiday time as they were together with family or friends.

    Continue reading Perfect Pictures: Post-Thanksgiving Reflections, “Meet Joe Black” Style

    The Marriage Crucible: How I Know My Husband Loves Me

    Here's Mick in his "other-centered" mode, helping me clean out my summer garden.

    The scene: Our little home on Harding Place, eleven years ago.  My muscles were so sore from moving scenery for our Spring musical dress rehearsal I could hardly get out of the car.  I had just pulled into the driveway, bringing the girls home from school.  So intense were my body aches that I asked the girls to manage dinner.  They were 8 and 12 years old; this was an unprecedented request of them and they looked at me like I had suddenly turned into an alien being.

    “Uh, okay…” Rachel said, and she turned to Rylee.  “Let’s have macaroni and cheese!”

    “I love macaroni and cheese!” Rylee responded.  And they headed toward the kitchen while I walked into my bedroom.  I sighed, took off my shoes, laid down on the bed and waited for Mick to get home.  I had tunnel vision from exhaustion and was concentrating very hard on our bedroom window.  “Get home.  Please…hurry and get here.”  I needed an intense rub-down with Icy Hot, some ibuprofen and a nap.  I looked at my watch while I listened to the girls in the kitchen.  I prayed that there wouldn’t be some sort of accident with the boiling water, and closed my eyes.

    A few minutes later I heard the truck pull into our driveway.  I was completely immersed in self-centered thought as I counted the seconds until he opened the front door.  I heard him come in, say something to the girls and hear their report of, “Mom needs to talk to you.”  I saw Mick’s shadow on the wall as he walked into the bedroom, but I didn’t turn around to face him.  Instead I said, “Can you please go get the Icy Hot and work on my back and shoulders?  They’re killing me; I need some help.”

    When he returned to begin his task I closed my eyes and winced.  It takes a while until muscles are worked enough to where they can relax and respond to the treatment.  Somewhere in-between “excruciating” and “sore,” I noticed Mick’s hands and arms were shaking.  Surprised, I asked him about it.  He said, “Well, we had to move three aisles of inventory in the warehouse today, all by hand.  I worked almost three hours overtime in order to finish the job, and I’m really tired.”

    I began to cry.  I asked him to stop, and to lay down beside me.  I said, “Let’s rest a while together.  By the time we’ve got a little energy back, the girls will have dinner ready.”  I had been so focused on my own needs I hadn’t even assessed where my husband was.  Our universes had intersected with mutually difficult and physically taxing days that had put both of us over our ability-to-manage threshold.  Yet he was willing to help ease my pain without even disclosing what he had just experienced.

    A few years later I was reading a book called, “Constructing the Sexual Crucible: An Integration of Sexual and Marital Therapy,” by David M. Schnarch. As I turned through the pages, I thought back to that time when Mick’s arms were shaking from fatigue. Although written about providing therapy for clients with sexual problems, the premise of the book was that a couple is initially immature and “unspiritual” in their relationship, but at some point grows mature and “spiritual;” they pass into a vulnerable and ‘other centered’ relationship that becomes so deep a mystery is revealed –  the mystery of what it means to be intimate with one another, cognitively, emotionally and spiritually.

    He quotes Sebastian Moore (1985) frequently when talking about this shift into a deeper intimacy.  I love the passage so much that I’m going to end this post with Moore’s words.  All the best to you as you find those moments of self-exposure, interdependence, hope and spirituality with those you love…~ Red Dirt Kelly

    ***

    …Desire reveals its true nature when it comes into the moment of decision, either for the new initiate of self-exposure that makes possible interdependence, or for the cowardice that overshadows our society.  Love is ‘desire, decided for.’ (emphasis added)

    …Desire is most nearly itself when, asserting my own goodness which is its source, I pass from dependence to interdependence whose soul is hope.  Then is desire most itself, so then am I most drawn – no longer by the obvious charm of another, but by the mystery that brings us together enlarging  that desire into hope. (Moore, 1985, p. 30)

    Moore, S. (1985). Let this mind be in you: The quest for identity through Oedipus to Christ. New York: Harper & Row.

    The Love Languages of our Elders

    Old farmer. Freddy from Utah - click photo to visit photographer's Flickr site.

    It’s about doing something that feels dead to you because it makes the other person feel more alive than anything else.  It’s about considering the “other” around you and relegating the “self” of you.  It’s about reaching outside of yourself and touching a dimension of those around you in a way that is personal, intentional and gives them an electric current through their soul.

    These thoughts and more comprise the thesis of Gary Smalley’s “Five Love Languages” book, now assimilated into many cultures and families across the U.S.  If you haven’t read the book, you might consider doing it soon.  The read is quick, the outline is clear, and there may be those around you that would begin benefiting immediately from your greater understanding of who they are – and how they operate.

    To review briefly for those who are not familiar with the work, “Love Languages” are ways to understand the process of yourself and others, and why communications or interactions are (or are not) meaningful.  These processes were identified by Smalley as: acts of service, quality time, receiving gifts, physical touch, and words of affirmation.  They must ring true for a great percentage of the population because his “Love Languages” workshops are still filling up across the country.  In fact, I ran into people who were familiar with his book while in the UK this past summer.

    So, why cover a topic when it’s so familiar?

    The other day I was walking across the parking lot of a supermarket.  I noticed an older woman being steered into the store by a caregiver.  The caregiver could have been a family member, but I’m not sure.  It seemed that every interaction between these two people was one of discomfort, misunderstanding, and ended up an impasse.  At one point, the older woman said, “Why isn’t it okay that I don’t want a pumpkin?  I would just like to enjoy a year where I don’t have to throw away something that just sat there.”  The caregiver said, “You’ve always had pumpkins – every year.  Let’s just get one, okay?”

    Resigned, the older woman put it in her basket, looked around the room helplessly, found my eyes watching the scene, and looked away.

    As I pushed my cart down the aisle, picking up groceries here and there, I began to think about my older family members.  I wondered how their styles of communication or their needs were being met (or not) by our younger family members.  Later that night, I was transcribing some of my grandmother’s memoirs and came across a letter from her father she had copied verbatim.  I recalled that my grandmother was also a “writing” person, that she touched many lives by her loyal letter writing over the years.

    Then my brain hopped a train down the “Love Languages” track.  I began to think about each one of my older family members and wondered if I could identify their “language.”  Hmm.

    My mother – My parents aren’t really “old,” but they are elders in our family.  Mom always brings sacks with things in it, every time she sees us.  Perhaps she’s a “receiving gifts” person and gives them because she likes to get them?

    My father – He seems to be a “quality time” person.  I know he takes friends to lunch, he meets with people for regular breakfasts or get together times to discuss books and politics – that’s how he conveys that he cares.

    My Grandma Yates – I think she was a “physical touch” person.  She used to always grab grandchildren, pull them toward her, kiss them with a loud smack and give another hug just for good measure.

    My Grandpa Yates – I think he was an “acts of service” person.  He measured people by what they did, not what they said.  And he appreciated what they did.  I don’t know if I have enough memories to really identify his love language, but my best guess is service-oriented.

    My Grandpa Frank – I wonder if he was a “words of affirmation” person.  He used to show us things, then look at us expectantly, waiting for our response.  Our job was to say, “Wow – that’s really neat.”  Or, “That was a good find, Grandpa.”  I think he liked to hear encouragement.

    My Grandmother Emma Lee – I wonder if hers is quality time?  I know she appreciates it when we come to see her.  But I also know she writes many letters.  Perhaps the letter writing is a way of giving time, of connecting.

    I think I’ve covered enough of my family members to make a point.  One of the points I just made with myself is that I don’t know for sure my own family’s love languages; especially the elders in my family who I may just not have considered before.

    Do you?  My encouragement for you this week is to observe carefully.  However it is that the elders in your life engage you may very well be how you could best meet their needs.  I can tell right now that I’m going to have to do a bit more investigation.  But at least now I am thinking about it.

    If you know the love languages of your elders, write a comment and let us know.  I’m interested in what you’ve observed of the elders in your life.