Author Archives: Shel Harrington
Author Archives: Shel Harrington
Excitement at the prospect
Planning what will go into it
Getting the seeds and the plants that we intend to nurture along
Side-by-side, doing the work of tilling the soil and planting the seeds to ensure a good foundation
Patiently waiting to see new growth
Reawakening of excitement as the shoots come up – we’re starting to glimpse the end result!
Realization of the need to water and fertilize frequently to keep things growing strong
Grudging acceptance of having to weed, hoe and put in some time so the good stuff doesn’t get choked out by the destructive weeds
Frustration in having to prune and cut off potential growth so that the energy of the main plant isn’t sapped by growth going in too many different directions
Glee as the produce ripens to the point that we have enough to add to our meals
Pure enjoyment as the harvest is plentiful enough to become the meal itself
Spontaneous sharing of the abundance with friends and family
Over-whelmed with excessive bounty that seems to keep coming
Dissatisfaction of having to do things when they need to be done to avoid wasting what we worked hard to produce
Effort expended together to can, freeze, preserve what we have obtained
Satisfaction of seeing the pantry and freezer stocked with the wealth of our labor
Enjoying the ability to supplement meals with what we have at the ready
Satisfying, fresh-tasting produce to get us through the cold seasons when the garden is barren
The ability to pluck right off the shelf to share with loved ones for their enjoyment or time of need
Appreciation for the wisdom, the unity, the bounty, and the love that result from combined efforts.
As a young newlywed, you head into marriage full of passion, commitment and a rosy glow. As well you should! To keep the glow rosy, avoid these seven common mistakes that young newlywed couples often make!
1. Trying to have the standard of living you enjoyed at your parent’s. Many young couples forget to factor in the 20-30 years it took their parents to evolve into their current standard of living. You have to pay your dues – which sometimes means living lean until you can save up to afford the necessities, then the extras, that you want. Just because you qualify for a credit card, doesn’t mean you should use it. Financing electronics, furniture, and vacations is shortsighted. Sure, you enjoy them immediately, but the stress of mounting bills and paying for things that no longer exist can take a major toll on a marriage. You also rob yourselves of the memories that come with setting goals and working together to achieve them.
2. Running home to mama – or the equivalent. It’s like “mind your own business” in reverse. When you’re having a spat, it’s tempting to run to someone who will support your viewpoint. Which means painting the picture for them of how horrible and unfair your new spouse (the one who was wonderful yesterday) really is. They might even be offended on your behalf at how unreasonable your mate has been. And then you go home and make up and remember that your spouse is indeed the wonderful person you thought they were. But family member/friend still has the ugly picture of them in their head – the one you put there.
3. Assuming there is a “right way.” Which, of course, is synonymous with “my way.” What tier of the dishwasher should be loaded first, which direction the toilet paper unrolls, and what brand of tomato soup should be purchased are preferences. Bottom tier, over the top, and Campbell’s may be strong preferences, but it still doesn’t make them “right.” It’s amazing how such little differences can spark major spats. If you have told your mate 100 times to put the paper on the roll the “right” way – I wouldn’t bother with 101. They’ve already heard you. They don’t care. Move on. Or live in frustration and earn the label of “nag.”
4. Assuming you know your mate inside-out. You know nothing. At least that’s how it will feel when you look back from twenty years down the road. Keep learning about the other by asking their opinion on issues, trying new things together and checking out new places. Make getting to know each other a life-long lesson.
5. Investing too much time in the soulmate syndrome. While it is lovely to be kindred spirits, you both need to continue to grow and develop your individual interests. As you develop new skills and enjoy different experiences as an individual, it enriches you personally and allows you to bring something new to the marriage.
6. Not cultivating a basic interest in the other’s passion. Often, during the passion of courtship, individual passions get put on a back burner while the relationship hits front and center. The painter may have put up the easel for a while, the tennis player may have limited play dates to be more available for love dates. As the marriage settles in, the passions once again emerge as priorities. Don’t take it personally – you are not loved less because time is spent on interests that existed in your mate’s life before your romance. You don’t have to pretend you love it as much as your mate does, but educate yourself (or allow yourself to be educated) to the point where your mate can share highlights of progress made. And you can respond with sincere interest and encouragement.
7. Maintaining the single social scene. There’s nothing wrong with maintaining friendships with your single friends after marriage. You just have to do it from a married person’s perspective. If part of your social interaction was going to places with the intent to flirt, dance, and meet new members of the opposite sex, you have to forgo that part of the social activities. You know there’s not an “innocent” way to do any of those things, right? Cultivating couple friends for you and your spouse to socialize with is just as important as hanging out with your single friends in a way that honors your marriage.
Whether you’re looking for reasons to date your spouse, dealing with deployment issues, needing to apologize, wondering about the benefits of “the letter,” or just wanting a good laugh, there’s something here for you! Today’s Friday Five is a compilation of articles I love because they offer great advice, made me chuckle or (bonus!) both.
1. Are you dealing with deployment or long separations from your spouse? 51 Tips for Deployment, Homecoming nd Everything in Between is an article that can be found on Jo, My Gosh blog. In addition to the send-off and the return, it offers suggestions for dealing with the absence of a spouse and for care packages. The site is loaded with other helpful information for military spouses and offers a free copy of The Ultimate Care Package Guide.
2. Never underestimate the power of a letter. Letters That Changed Our World, an article in Parade Magazine written by Liz Welch, gives heartfelt examples of how letters made a difference. It’s easy to overlook that there is a second page (hit “Next” at the bottom of the post), but that’s where you will find additional reasons to write letters as well as a link that gives a brief “how-to” with letter-writing tips. You might also find a previous post, How to Write a Love Letter to Your Spouse – And Why You Should helpful.
3. Stop using the kids as a reason you can’t make date night with your spouse happen. 5 Reasons Your Kids Should See You Date Your Spouse, guest-written by Steve Pare on True Agape blog, sets forth some compelling reasons why when you have kids it’s even more important to prioritize dating your spouse. The result in doing so? You benefit, your spouse benefits and the kids benefit – the ultimate win-win-win!
4. When delivering an apology, keep it real. How do you do that? Gina Barreca, columnist for the Hartford Courant and one of my favorite humorists, spells it out in her article To Apologize, What Makes it Real? The article is also helpful if you have already offered a needed apology, but it wasn’t well-received – it’s possible your delivery could use some improvement.
5. Maybe the changes in your marriage are a good thing. Funny guy Aaron Traister is at it again in his Redbook article 8 Signs Your Marriage Has Changed. You may recognize you and your spouse in a couple of his examples and decide, hmmmm, maybe these changes aren’t so bad after all! If you can ignore the rude, unrelated “reading recommendation” plopped into the post, this article will leave you chuckling!
Most of us would not want to be referred to as “A Gossip” – or get caught gossiping. So is gossip always a bad thing? I decided to check out a dictionary to see if there is any positive definition for ‘gossip.’ As it turns out, after checking several sources, I was indeed able to find a more benign definition of “gossip” than the rumor-riddled association it usually has. Vocabulary.com offers this definition: Gossip is conversation that’s light, informal, and usually about other people’s business.
My husband and I begin most weekdays by watching the early news. I have to admit, we sometimes watch with a critical eye. In between news stories we do a bit of the scuttlebutt kind of gossiping with regard to newscasters and the actors (I’m using the term loosely) on those early morning screaming car commercials. For instance, noticing a bad hair day, wondering (out loud) when earrings the size of Montana became professional wear, and questioning this ongoing trend of wearing sleeveless dresses no matter how much snow is on the ground. The chatter often ends with one or both of us shaking our head and saying: “They should have asked us!” We actually learn bits about the other and their preferences in these little exchanges, as well as make each other laugh. A bonding moment. Throw in a cup of coffee, and it’s a pretty nice start to the day!
Have you got your own spousal gossip going on? Do you ever find yourselves talking about the relationships of friends? In a recent Redbook article, Robb Willer, Ph.D, an associate professor of sociology at Stanford University, says such chat could be helpful to your own marriage. Analyzing behaviors is not the same as passing judgment. Discussing negative behaviors observed – spouses treated disrespectfully or inappropriate public displays – presents opportunities for spouses to discuss what each thinks is right or wrong, how they might have handled the situation, as well as to hash out their different points of view. Willer states that people who share the same values have stronger relationships.
As long as you’re not turning such discussions into comparisons to minimize your own marital issues or comparing your own relationship negatively to the point of creating unhealthy envy, such conversations can be quite productive. This kind of chitchat isn’t gossip – it’s couple’s therapy!
What makes people smile more than a bobblehead? Known also as “wobblers” or “nodders,” these dolls often have oversized heads connected to the body by a spring or hook in such a way that the head bounces with a light tap or breeze.
You may have seen sports figures bobbilized (a new word I’m creating for the occasion!) or cute animals with bobbing heads on people’s dashboards. These smile-makers have been around for decades – my earliest memory of them was the Beatle dolls we received in . . . a previous year.
But you don’t have to be famous to be bobbilized! There are several companies that make custom bobbleheads from pictures – complete with specified outfits. They are a bit of a splurge, starting around $100 for a single figure. But, because the businesses are competitive, there’s a good chance that you can catch a promotional deal or a groupon for an order. And, for a special occasion, it may be the perfect gift for your spouse – or for you and your spouse to give. Here are 5 suggestions for creative bobblehead-gifting:
1. Surprise your spouse on a birthday or other special occasion with a bobblehead duo of them and their best friend. For double the fun (and a super-splurge), get two sets so they can give one to their friend!
2. Memorialize you and your spouse – bobblehead style – and present to your spouse on your anniversary. This will generate some serious brownie points in addition to the smiles!
3. Bobbing makes the heart grow fonder – pack a bobblehead of you in your spouse’s luggage when they are headed out of town, or send in a care package to that deployed spouse, so they can end their nights with your head-bobbing proclamation of love even though you’re miles – or countries – away.
4. From the two of you – to a child memorializing their sport, graduation, a special accomplishment, to friends for their anniversary (of them, of course!), to that special engaged couple who would get a kick out of wedding-cake topper that could keep on bobbing long after the cake was eaten.
5. Lead the way with a gifted bobblehead chosen just for the recipient – a favored pet, celebrity, family member – perched in front of them as they drive no matter where they go. I mean, what says “hood ornament” better than a bobblehead??
When friends and family want to chip in to get memorable gift for a special someone, bobbleheads can add just the right touch of humor to that special event. The only thing better than having a reason to say “bobblehead” ten times is to actually have or give one. Bobbleheads – the gift that keeps on bobbing!*
*NO batteries or assembly required!
Note: This was not a sponsored post. Although I wish I’d thought of that – it might have solved the what-to-get-for-the-anniversary-gift-dilemma!
We want to show compassion for friends who tell us they are getting a divorce, but often we don’t know how to respond. It’s especially difficult when it’s clear they don’t want the divorce – that the choice was made by their spouse. Often the first thing that pops into our head – an unvarnished truth, perhaps? – is the very thing we should not say as a first response to the news. Here are ten statements that are often blurted out in a well-meaning attempt to offer comfort – followed by what goes on in the mind of the friend (who doesn’t want a divorce) when they hear it.
1. You’ll be better off without him.
The unspoken response: In what way? Better off financially without half of the family income? Better off with only seeing my kids half the time as they shuttle back and forth between two houses? Better off coming home to an empty house, an empty bed? Define “better off.”
2. You can do better than her.
The unspoken response: I don’t want “better” – I want what I thought was the best – the person I love.
3. You’re better than he’ll ever be.
The unspoken response: Then we must both be crap, because clearly I’m not good enough for the person who’s “not as good as me.”
4. The best revenge is being happy.
The unspoken response: Shut up, OK? Right now it flippin’ hurts and “happiness” is a concept I can’t begin to imagine.
5. He’ll be sorry one day.
The unspoken response: Uh, which day is that? I’m pretty sure it won’t be tomorrow. Or next Tuesday. As a matter of fact, I don’t think he will be. Ever. You need to work on your pep talks.
6. Time heals all wounds.
The unspoken response: I’m not “wounded,” you moron – I’m decimated. Does time heal decimated?
7. Have you prayed about it?
The unspoken response: Until my knees are raw and she’s still leaving me. My prayers haven’t been answered. Does that mean God doesn’t love me either? Just how unlovable AM I??
8. Is there another woman/man?
The unspoken response: Why would you immediately ask that? Do you know something? Does everybody know something?
9. Call me if there’s anything I can do.
The unspoken response: Yah – OK. Be expecting a call around 1:00 in the morning – I’ll be asking you to come over and fix my broken heart so I can get some sleep. Or, better yet, let me give you a call about fixing my spouse – make her change her mind about ending our marriage. Can you do that?
10. You don’t have guns in the house, do you?
The unspoken response: Is that suppose to be funny? You may not have noticed I’m not in a chuckling mood. And if it’s NOT suppose to be funny, who are you afraid for – my spouse or me? I don’t need you to put crazy thoughts in my head – there’s already plenty to deal with in there.
Whether you are thoroughly familiar with your friend’s marital history or didn’t see it coming, there are no magical words to be offered upon first hearing the news. If the news is being shared via phone or in writing, offer a simple: “Oh, Friend, I am so sorry” and let them make the next remark – one that may give you better guidance with what to say next. If you are told in person, and your relationship is such that physical contact is appropriate, sometimes it’s better to say nothing. Sometimes an immediate hug – an available shoulder “to cry on” – better conveys a wordless I hurt for you and with you.
In my Family Law practice, I see the results of extramarital affairs on a regular basis. A wife stunned that her husband and best friend had been meeting behind her back. A husband sent reeling when his wife leaves him for his brother. A spouse having midnight chats with an ex-flame on Facebook. Suspicions confirmed when a spouse who regularly “works late” is caught sexting a co-worker. Do any of these betrayals shock me? No. Sadden me, yes. Shock me, no.
If a spouse is determined to have an affair, for whatever reason, and they seek it out, it will happen. One can’t protect themself from such a deliberate act. But the I-didn’t-plan-it,-it-just-happened kind of affair is a different story.
First, the social media lie a spouse tells themself. It goes something like this: I just want to see what (fill in the name of the ex-boyfriend/girlfriend) is up to. I won’t even let them know I found them. I’ll just check their Facebook page. Look! There they are! I’ll just say a quick hello and let them know how cute their kids are.
All completely innocent, right? Well the test is, if your spouse was standing next to you, would you be taking that action? Or try this test: you walk into the room and your spouse is sitting in front of the computer reading stats about someone they had a romantic history with – just to see what they’re up to. Are you OK with that?
It seems so harmless. Just satisfying curiosity. But what is the real point? Why does it matter? Why do you, Married Person, want information about somebody who is no longer in your life? You will not be able to name a single good reason. If you choose to go ahead and look that person up (bad decision number one) it will lead to more decisions that have to be made.
Skip down the road a couple of bad decisions later to the point where you have had a few “just-catching-up exchanges.” It can be very flattering to be remembered fondly and spoken to admiringly by someone from your past. There can be some lovely sparks. The old high school stomach-flutter that you haven’t experienced with your spouse for years. (It’s so easy to forget how temporary that stage was before it deepened into something more substantial, isn’t it?) So the “harmless” written conversations expand to the point of deciding to meet to just have a quick coffee. Oh, by the way, is this wonderful person being deceptive to their spouse, too? This isn’t going to end well.
AFFAIR-PROOF STRATEGY #1: DON’T ENGAGE WITH EXES ON SOCIAL MEDIA OR IN ANY OTHER MANNER IF YOUR SPOUSE IS NOT DIRECTLY INVOLVED IN THE INTERACTION.
Second, let’s talk about why I don’t find it shocking that spouses run off with the other spouse’s best friend or sibling. Or that they develop a romantic relationship with a neighbor or somebody they work with. What’s the common denominator? FAMILIARITY. Which leads us to our second preventative strategy.
AFFAIR-PROOF STRATEGY #2: DON’T BE ALONE WITH A NON-FAMILY MEMBER OF THE OPPOSITE SEX.
And by “family” I mean direct family members such as parents, grandparents and siblings – in-laws and relatives that you weren’t raised with as siblings do not qualify for the exemption.
Work situations can be more difficult to control than family environments. Employees often have to work with opposite-gender co-workers one-on-one. Or in high-stress situations where they have to depend on each other for support, cooperation, or safety. It is imperative to plan ahead – before inappropriate feelings develop for another – how you will handle such situations. Have to have a working lunch? Invite others if that’s an option. Have a reason to drive separately and meet at the restaurant. Excuse yourself to check in with your spouse if things run long.
One friend, an emergency professional who is in a vehicle during his workday, shared his strategy when assigned female partners. He invites the new partner to his house for dinner to meet his wife and children so she sees what his family life looks like and his wife has an opportunity to get to know his partner. This, of course, is not foolproof – but it is behavior that makes it easier for both individuals to resist temptations that might otherwise be acted upon. It’s about being intentional about prevention. And intentional about protecting your marriage.
I’m not suggesting you take things to the extreme here – as in you can’t walk into the kitchen if only a sibling-in-law is there – and chat. Or you should refuse to go into your boss’s office when summoned to deal with business related matters. Obviously there are times when such interactions may be necessary or reasonable. But it’s about being vigilant. Recognize that just because you don’t feel that way about them, does NOT mean they don’t feel that way about you – or have the potential to.
So two simple things you can do to affair-proof your marriage: don’t engage with exes in a way you wouldn’t want your spouse to know about AND don’t be alone with non-family members of the opposite sex. Because affairs “don’t just happen.” Extramarital affairs evolve one step (and one bad decision) at a time. Don’t take that first step.
EVERY SPOUSE NEEDS A FRIEND. Who better to fill that role than the one who loves them most? Whether you consider your spouse to be your absolute best friend, or you think the term “friend” isn’t significant enough to describe your relationship, we can all do a better job in being a friend to our spouses.
You know that special buddy of yours that you only get to see once in a blue moon? The one you pick up the phone and call when you see something that reminds you of your shared history? Analyze how you treat them, how they treat you and why the friendship is special. What’s the expression on your faces when you see each other? How do you catch up on what has happened in each other’s lives since you last connected?
1. Let your face light up when you see them. What do I mean? Go stand in front of a mirror. Think about a visit from that favored friend that you haven’t see in ages – and how great it’s going to be to see them. See what happens to your face? Is your spouse getting greeted with that same smile and sparkle?
2. Show interest in what’s happened in their life since you last saw them. OK – maybe we should replace ‘life’ with ‘day’ – but it’s the same principle. Ask about it. And then really listen. Just like we wouldn’t presume to know everything about what’s happened with that dear friend since we last saw them, chances are there is much our spouse could chat about their own day to an interested listener.
3. Send a text, email, or – better yet – a letter, just to let them know you are thinking of them. Sure, they may see you before they actually receive the written confirmation that you thought of them in the midst of your day – but it will still make them feel special and result in a smile when they see it!
4. Set a specific time to meet. I’m not talking about the oft-referred to “date night” – although that is a very good thing. I’m just talking about a connection that might not otherwise happen. You wouldn’t suggest to that special friend that you get together on Tuesday and leave it at that – you make a specific plan. Every once in a while it’s nice to set a specific time to hang out for a quick “catch up” time – getting up 15 minutes earlier to linger over a morning coffee, a 7:45 p.m ice cream connection before viewing the planned evening program. An it’s-all-about-us moment.
5. Tell them something you’ve always admired about them. We generally don’t hesitate to tell friends what we think is special about them – after all, it’s an unknown when the next visit will be and we don’t want to miss such an opportunity. In spite of the fact that (we think) we know when we’ll next see our spouse, we need to be intentional about creating such opportunities to lift them up. After all, our dearest friend deserves no less!
Like a marriage, The Wizard of Oz is full of history, special moments, reasons to celebrate and meaningful lessons learned. Both have noted milestone anniversaries. The Wizard of Oz recently celebrated its 75th year – now that’s longevity! If we want our marriage to have that kind of staying power, we can take a lesson or two from this classic tale.
For some interesting trivia about the movie, check out 75 Weird Wonderful Facts About the Wizard of Oz by clicking (three times will not be necessary) the picture below!
Divorce is tough enough without having to endure a public battle and reliving all the strife in a courtroom. An alternative to that knock-down-drag-out trial is mediation – the process of both parties sitting down with a trained individual who can help you arrive at agreements that best suit your circumstances. I’m not saying it’s easy – not much about divorce is – but it’s a very good option to explore if you want to get through the process with less damage than a trial can inflict. Having described the process and it’s benefits in previous articles, including why my perspective changed after participating in a mediation as a party, I thought I’d pass on some tips from an expert.
Kevyn Mattax, a highly regarded Family Law attorney and certified Family Mediator in Oklahoma City, has some tips to help you get the most out of your mediation experience.
1. Understand the process and what it looks like. Have a discussion with your attorney about not just what mediation is, but how it physically works. Who will be there? How is it set up? Does the mediator provide separate rooms or will you all be in one room? Are there “joint sessions” or does the mediator caucus? Does the mediator provide refreshments or should you bring your own? No question is too silly or basic.
2. Plan ahead for what you might want/need while you are at mediation. Take gum, headache medicine, a bottle of water. Take a charger for your cell phone or your laptop. You may be there for many hours. If you tend to get warm or cold easily, dress in layers and bring a light sweater. If you have young children, make sure that you have someone to pick them up and care for them if the mediation goes longer than you had planned. Do not bring third parties to the mediation unless that has been approved in advance.
3. Come prepared. Make sure your attorney sent the mediator a memorandum with as much helpful information as possible (in advance). Ideally, you, as the client should have reviewed and approved that information. Meet with your attorney in advance and go over your position. Know all of the pros and cons and be prepared with your position, yet, work hard to be flexible and open to compromise at the mediation, if need be. Make sure that all necessary exhibits and helpful materials will be at the mediation. Be as organized as possible so that you can focus on the task at hand. The better informed you are about all of the issues, your assets and liabilities, etc. the smoother the process will be.
4. Expect to feel emotional. Get a good night’s sleep the night before. Mediation can be exhausting and mentally draining. Take whatever steps you can to make sure that you are clear headed. Get up and walk around and take mini breaks during the process. Be honest with the mediator – if you are feeling anxious, overwhelmed, stressed, tell him/her. Mediators are not mind readers, so just speak up and ask for a break and then share your concerns in private. Mediators are expecting these emotions from the parties and have techniques and tips to share with you to help alleviate stressful reactions. Make sure and stay hydrated and eat enough during the day to maintain your blood sugar.
5. Anticipate the resolution. When one side makes an offer, know that there are really only three possible responses: accept, reject or make an offer. Be prepared to go in slow increments at first. Any movement toward resolution is encouraging. Understand that concessions must be made. Concessions are the language of cooperation. Trust the process. Everything that happens at mediation is confidential so you can let your guard down and be willing to truly attempt resolution with the assistance of a good mediator.