Saturday, December 27, 2008

Evaluation Time: Holidays and New Year

Time to take a good look at yourself, your life, and your future. What? Didn't I tell you there would be a test at the end of the year? Well, here 'tis! Here are 16 life-enriching ideas to lead you into 2009.

Try to answer these as completely and honestly as you can. Might be hard to do on some of them! But, in oh, say August, you'll be glad you did when you have this to look back on.
After you've answered these (with your partner or alone) send them to us so I can share them with other families.

HOLIDAY REVIEW:
1) What did you do right
in dealing with the ex this Christmas season?
2) What
could you have done better in dealing with your kids' other parent?
[These are important to avoid conflicts and to build bridges in this vital relationship. Your kids need to know that Mom and Dad can work together, at least for them.]

3) In retrospect, did you over- or under- gift your kids?
4) How well did you help everyone enjoy the holidays?
5) What one thing do you really wish you had remembered to do for them?
[I'm talking here about blessing your family and guiding them to more joy.]

6) What was your "whiny" factor this year - from your partner's perspective?
7) Where were your priorities toward your mate's family?
8) How many times did you and your sweetheart laugh together the last five weeks?

NEXT YEAR GOALS
[NOW is the time to begin PLANNING for next year.]

9) Think back on (or, if you're brave enough, list) your mistakes of this year; then visualize how to avoid those same faux pas next year.
10) How many dates will you commit to with your loved one in 2009? Schedule them: weekly, monthly, every Tuesday evening, lunch on Thursdays? PLAN!
11
) Sit down with your sweety and daydream 25 goals for 2009 - romance, marriage, (step)parenting, career, home, personal time, etc.

12) How would you like next Christmas to go with your ex? OK, now, what are five things you can do this year to make that more possible in November/December?
13) What two trigger words or trigger phrases will you determine to turn loos of this year?

14) What are six things you want to do with your kid(s) in 2009? When? Details!
15) What two qualities will you teach your kids this year? Patience? Forgiveness? Honesty? Joy?
And how can you demonstrate those qualities to them?
16) List four activities you can do with your stepkid(s) this next year, just you and them? Think of sharing activities that will help you build common memories and shared experiences with them.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Holiday Movie Suggestion

If you're trying to find a holiday movie, but you've seen 'em all a hundred times, try one I saw for the first time last night - "Family Man" starring Nicolas Cage and Téa Leoni. OK, OK, most folks have probably already seen this Y2K movie, but I'm a bit behind on me cinema surfing! If you've seen it before, see it again. If you've not seen it - see it! [NOTE: this article contains "spoilers" that reveal the plot of the movie!]

And if you're feeling trapped by your family and your life - definitely see it! Cage plays an ultra successful Wall Street tycoon who, through a very "Wonderful Life" encounter, is allowed a glimpse of what life would have been like if he'd married his college sweetheart and followed the suburbia/family/mini van path. Cage and Leoni are - IMHO - utterly perfect in their portrayal of a confused, struggling, settled, happy married couple.

The story, though, is the thing that recommends this movie. Cage's character, Jack, is presented with an in-your-face comparison of two kinds of success: worldly and family. He falls into a marriage that is the envy of all their neighbors and friends, yet is the exact opposite of everything he's ever dreamed of. The focal point of the movie is how a perfect life can seem horrid if you aren't willing to see the perfection. Major points:

• Fidelity: Jack's best friend tells him, "A little flirtation is harmless but you're dealing with fire here. The fidelity bank and trust is a tough creditor. You make a deposit somewhere else, they close your account - FOREVER." Message: cheating is not some casual decision. It will change and ruin your life.

• Love is sexy: Just when Jack and his wife are about make love, she says, "Say it to me, Jack!" He blurts out something he thinks is sexy ("You're a bad girl, you make me hot.") but finds out later that what really turns his wife on is his telling her that he loves her. Nothing else makes her want him as much.

• Perfection is relevant: When given the opportunity to return to his wealthy, hedonistic, bachelor's paradise lifestyle, Jack comes to understand what's important: "I have kids! I'm going home!" And the overriding theme of the movie: "I choose us."

[NOTE: parental advisory: Rated PG-13 for married sensuality and some very strong language.]

Friday, December 19, 2008

Joy-Joy-Joy!

Merry Christmas ev'rbody!

Meaning of the 12 Days of Christmas

What in the world do leaping lords, French hens, swimming swans, and especially the partridge who won't come out of the pear tree have to do with Christmas?

During much of the british invasion and hostile occupation, Roman Catholics in Ireland were not permitted to practice their faith openly. Loyal church fathers during that era wrote this carol as a catechism song for young Catholics.

It has two levels of meaning: the surface meaning plus a hidden meaning known only to members of their church. Each element in the carol has a code word for a religious reality which the children could remember.

As you share the Christmas holidays with your (step)children, and as you sing this popular "secular" carol, you can remind your kids that Christmas originated as a holy-day to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ and His gifts to the world. The song also serves to remind us that these aren't the first days we Christians have faced persecution for believing in our God.

Here's an interpretation of the secret code words of this very special song:

- The "true Love" referred to is Jesus Christ ("God is Love")

-The partridge in a pear tree also was Jesus Christ - a dove (bird) hung on a tree (cross)

-Two turtle doves were the Old and New Testaments - doves, here, representing God's Word to mankind

-Three French hens stood for faith, hope and love - the "F" in French and Faith being a mnemonic to aid memory

-The four calling birds were the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke & John - actually, this was originally four "coley" birds (or black birds) who have a loud voice which carries throughout the land

-The five golden rings recalled the Torah or Law, the first five books of the Old Testament - the golden truths given by God to man

-The six geese a-laying stood for the six days of creation - laying = birth, or new life

-Seven swans a-swimming represented the sevenfold gifts of the Holy Spirit--Prophesy, Serving, Teaching, Exhortation, Contribution, Leadership and Mercy - another mnemonic: "S" for Seven Swans and Spirit

-The eight maids a-milking were the eight beatitudes - young maidens were considered beautiful and blessings

-Nine ladies dancing were the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit--Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self-Control - dancing represented joy of receiving the fruits

-The ten lords a-leaping were the ten commandments - members of the house of lords made most of the laws of the land

-The eleven pipers piping stood for the eleven faithful disciples - pipers being part of an ensemble that delivered music to the world

-The twelve drummers drumming symbolized the twelve points of belief in the Apostles' Creed - which was often learned in a chanting style, "drumming"

Merry CHRISTmas to you and your whole, wonderful family.

Love each other extra this next few weeks!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Christmas Stress Evaluation

So you think you are suffering from Christmas Stress? Check this out!
A stress test was invented by psychologist Thomas Holmes. His scale helps one measure the stress in life. He ascertained that a person's job could be awarded 35 stress points, getting married--50 points. Moving to a new city--25 points, etc. He also surmised that living through a typical Christmas Season could produce 14 stress points. At the end of the year, you were to add up all the points you had accumulated and if your score was more than 200, you were in danger of a nervous breakdown.
Bridget Kuhns, an enterprising young lady, took Holmes' scale and applied it to the Virgin Mary. Here were the results.
Pregnancy--40 points
Unplanned pregnancy--20 more points
Having to tell your parents that you were pregnant--(make up a number!)
Moving in with a relative for 3 months--25 points
Getting married--50 points
The family argument that must have happened when Joseph failed to make reservations in Bethlehem during the holiday season--35 points
Giving birth--39 points
Changes in eating and sleeping habits while traveling--31 points
And then there were all those guests during the Christmas season--angels, shepherds, etc.
Holmes reported that people get sick at 200 points.
Poor Mary! Her calculated stress level hits at least 424!!!!!
Get a grip! You don't know what stress is!!!!

Take Control This Season!

Feel it? The tension is ratcheting up as we near Christmas and the festive season of demands, expectations, custody swaps, conflicting schedules, and hopelessly gnarled traditions.

If you're feeling in-over-your-head, welcome to the stepfamily club! It doesn't mean you're a bad person or incompetent - it just means you're in a stepfamily. It's part of the process of growing into a real live family. This process, by the way, takes from FOUR to SEVEN YEARS.

You can survive and actually succeed if you'll keep a few vital points in mind:

1) YOU are in absolute control of yourself. No one can "make" you mad. They can annoy you, they can disrespect you, they can ignore you, but YOU decide how you will react. You also (with practice) can control how you feel about someone else's actions or attitude toward you.

2) You can only control yourself, so don't waste your time and energy (your life) fretting about how others act. Yes, you have a responsibility to raise your own biological children, but if you think you can control someone else's children you're in for a lot of frustration. That includes your neighbor's kids, the kids at the mall, those kids on TV ... or your spouse's kids.

3) Ask yourself whether your angry reaction will harm or protect a valued relationship. C-H-O-O-S-E how you react. In fact, try to act the way you want, rather than to RE-act based on others' words or deeds (or rolled eyes). If you just react to a provocation, you lose control of your life ... and give it to them.

4) BEWARE! Tomorrow will come around, and you will have to live with what you said and did today. Take a long viewpoint of your family relationships. Remember, you signed up for the long run ("till death do you part"!), so one bad day or week or season isn't the whole ball of wax. Someday the kids will be grown and you will have the honeymoon you dreamed of.

5) Stepparents who stick through tough times, who resist the urge to run away are HEROES! A hero is someone who goes above and beyond the call of duty; NOT someone who sits in the barracks during easy times. A hero has to have endured hardships in order to be a hero. So, if your life if tough, and if you can keep going, you can hold you head high and know you are a hero.

6) Love is not an on/off proposition. If you love someone, you love them always. You may ease out of that "in love" mystic feeling, but love goes on forever.
Just because you've heard it before doesn't make it any less true:

Love (real love, the kind that can make a stepfamily survive and succeed):

  • is patient
  • is kind
  • does not envy
  • does not boast
  • is not proud
  • is not rude
  • is not self-seeking
  • is not easily angered
  • keeps no record of wrongs
  • does not delight in evil
  • rejoices with the truth
  • always protects
  • always trusts
  • always hopes
  • always perseveres

1Cor. 13:4-7

email me if any of this seems too hard or too confusing or if you need more help.

STEPcoach
step@stepcarefully.com

Friday, December 12, 2008

Rude Stepkids: What to Do

Just recently got a note from a stepmom saying she is giving up and divorcing her husband after the holidays. Said she just can't deal with all the pressure anymore. What pressure? Her young teen stepdaughter is rude and disrespectful to her and to her dad. Period. Rude stepkid. Divorce.

sigh!

So much to say about this. But I'll just hit the highlights:

1) Running away is not an option. You might get a divorce, but you'll never get away from the failure and the fact that your partner's children scared you and you ran away in tears. You'll remember your failure the rest of your life.

2) You promised. "Til death do us part." If you break your promise you will be internally damaged in your spirit for ever.

3) Your own kids are watching (or your family, your friends, etc). They will judge you on whether you keep your promise. You will live with your new reputation always

4) Your mate trusted you when you made your solemn vow. You convinced him or her to trust you. You persuaded them that you were an honest, trustworthy person.

5) Rude stepkids are part of the landscape in stepfamilies. Everybody has 'em. If your stepkid is rude, it is just an indication she's breathing.

Stepparents: please keep in mind that your stepkids are victims of their parents' divorce. You are their lifeline to find hope again.
• If your stepkids are rude, it's because they've never been taught to be nice ... TEACH THEM yourself. Make a lasting memory for them.
If your stepkids are rude, it's because they've been through a DIVORCE! as KIDS! Show them how to recover with love.
If your stepkids are rude, it's because their parents are frightening them. Show them peace and comfort, even if they're rude to you.
If your stepkids are rude, it's just part of being in a stepfamily. Your job is to provide stability and reassurance to them, rude or not.

Don't give up. For your stepkids' sake; for your spouse's sake; for your own kids' sake; for your family's sake; for your reputation's sake; for your own sake. Don't quit and run away.

Merry Christmas.
STEPcoach

Friday, December 5, 2008

Holiday Quote fun ...

Some good quotes to share at family gatherings ... or to write on gift tags ... or in Christmas cards:

These first few are by Pope John Paul II:
• "As the family goes, so goes the nation and so goes the whole world in which we live."
• "Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are the Easter people and hallelujah is our song." (I love that one!)
• "Love is never defeated, and I could add, the history of Ireland proves it."
• "Stupidity is also a gift of God, but one mustn't misuse it. " (Ha!)

And some various others to enjoy and share:
• "Be happy while you're living, For you're a long time dead." An Irish proverb
• "Be nice to your kids. They'll choose your nursing home." A frightened parent
• "It is better to dwell in a corner of the housetop than with a brawling woman in a large house." Proverbs 21:9
• "Be true to your work, your word, and your friend." Henry David Thoreau
• "Beauty without grace is the hook without the bait." Ralph Waldo Emerson
• "Make it idiot-proof and someone will make a better idiot." American proverb
• "Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting, with strife." Proverbs 17:1
• "Am I not destroying my enemies when I make friends of them?" Abraham Lincoln
• "A good conscience is a continual Christmas." Benjamin Franklin

Good Grief! "test" newsletter!

HA! I guess if you're here, you passed the "test!" Sorry about sending you a newsletter that said it was a test version - it wasn't - even though I forgot to change the subject line.

Just goes to show you - even I get all flustered sometimes during the holiday rush.

But, I promise you this: I am going to practice what I'm preaching to you. I'm going to re-focus on what's really important this season, which includes my sweetheart, Jo Donna, my family, my faith, and BEING NICE to as many folks as I can.

Bless y'all!

STEPcoach Bob

Holiday Theme for your Family:

I know, I know. Holidays can me horrors. Between ex-spouses' interference, and stepkids having to be shuttled back and forth from one mess to another, and your own family's expectations, AND your own standards of perfection, it's sometimes just too much!

And it seems like everyone has A Plan to make Christmas better: buy this, don't buy that, do this, don't do that ... yikes!

Well, let me make it all easier for you with one simple idea for this holiday season ... BE NICE! That's all. Just "be nice." Liberally coat all your activities, chores, communications, everything in a double coating of Nice.

• BE NICE: to your stepkids when they are cranky - they may be afraid of how holidays will go with two "families" to visit,
BE NICE: to your ex - they are probably afraid you'll "win" in the "kid loyalty wars" - help them make it fun for the kids,
BE NICE to your spouse's ex - teach them a thing or two about how mature adults should treat others (do unto others ...),
BE NICE to your parents - show them how well you turned out; how well you handle challenges; show off your gentle spirit,
BE NICE to your spouse (your honey, sweety, darling). Your goal: make them proud and relieved that they are married to you this year!

As a dear Twitter friend (Lissa Boles) said, "
Be Nice - it can build bridges , heal hearts (over time) and give the kids whole new kind of security."

After all, this is supposed to be a NICE holiday, a NICE time of the year. It's supposed to be NICE to get "loved ones" together, to share family time. If you're NICE, you win - every time! Jesus said to even be NICE to mean people in Luke 6:28. Paul said to "think on" NICE things in Philippians 4:8. Peter said to keep being NICE to others in 1 Peter 3:9.

Remember this month: it's not new, and it's not hard, just determine to BE NICE!

STEPcoach


Wednesday, December 3, 2008

RESEARCHER Requests your Input ...

Hi Everyone,
My name is Sarah and I am part of a remarriage and am a stepmom to a teenager. I am also a PhD student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. One of the areas I am interested in studying is remarriage and stepfamily relationships. I am currently conducting a study examining marriages on uncertainty, topic avoidance, satisfaction, and trust. I firmly believe these relationships are very important and understanding them is equally important. I am looking for people who are currently married and would be willing to complete an online survey. The survey takes about 10 minutes and is completely anonymous, there is no way for me to know where the participants reside or how they learned about the link. If you would be willing to complete the survey I would be really appreciative. If so just click on this link or copy and paste it in your browser: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s.aspx?sm=rBBIjU6iHQxj2O10aKUrRQ_3d_3d
Thank you for your consideration. If you have any questions for me please contact me.
Sarah Dirks
sedirks@huskers.unl.edu
Doctoral Student
Department of Communication Studies
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Lincoln, NE 68588-0329
(402) 472-3348

What does "Love" look like?

An article in National Geographic several years ago provided an interesting picture of how we're loved. After a forest fire in Yellowstone National Park, forest rangers began their trek up a mountain to assess the inferno's damage.

One ranger found a bird literally petrified in ashes, perched statuesquely on the ground at the base of a tree. Somewhat sickened by the eerie sight, he knocked over the bird with a stick.

When he gently struck it, three tiny chicks scurried from under their dead mother's wings.

The loving mother, keenly aware of impending disaster, had carried her offspring to the base of the tree and had gathered them under her wings, instinctively knowing that the toxic smoke would rise. She could have flown to safety but had refused to abandon her babies. Then the blaze had arrived and the heat had scorched her small body. The mother had remained steadfast. She had been willing to die, so those under the cover of her wings would live.

"God will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge." (Psalm 91:4)

Being loved this much should make a difference in your life. Remember the One who loves you. You are never alone. Never.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Christmas Blessing

(Just in case you might need a suggestion for that Christmas dinner prayer. BC)

When He came to us as man,
the Son of God scattered the darkness of this world,
and filled this holy night (day) with His glory.
May the God of inifinite goodness
scatter the darkness of sin
and brighten your hearts with holiness.

(Optional response) Amen!

God sent His angels to shepherds
to herald the great joy of our Saviour's birth.
May He fill you with joy
and make you heralds of His gospel.

(Optional response) Amen!

When the Word became man,
earth was joined to heaven.
May He give you His peace and good will,
and fellowship with all the heavenly host.

(Optional response) Amen!

May almighty God bless you,
the Father, and the Son, + and the Holy Spirit.

(Optional response) Amen!

Friday, November 21, 2008

FAMILY: What's the Fuss All About? (Thanksgiving)

"Come on, already! Let's serve the turkey and get on with it. The games are starting on TV and I don't want to miss the first quarter!"

"No, dear, let's take a moment to each tell what we're thankful for this year and then to pray."

>sigh< "Why?! I just want to eat and get outta here."

"Why? Well, instead of me trying to tell you why I think we should pray and give thanks, let me read to you what the original idea for Thanksgiving was ...

"No human counsel hath devised, nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the most high God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

"It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American people. I do, therefore, invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens.

"And I recommend to them that, while offering up the prayers of thanks justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners, or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation, and to restore it, as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and union.

"In testimony whereof I have hereunto set my hand, and cause the seal of the United States to be affixed.

"Done at the city of Washington, this third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty three, and of the independence of the United States the eighty-eighth."
- Abraham Lincoln

[NOTE: from Lincoln's Thanksgiving Proclaimation]

Rub Your Mate ... the Right Way!

Nothing says I love you quite like a gentle, long, relaxing massage. But when I suggest this to some of the couples who come to me for relationship coaching or mediation, I usually get odd looks, snickers, or just plain silence. Seems most people either don't know how or just don't take time to give a good massage.

What a shame, because it can be very helpful in a troubled marriage. Just the act of giving service unselfishly can begin to break down the walls of resistance and resentment. To most wives, the idea of a soothing, loving massage from their husband is a dream.

Well, guys (and ladies) I've found a great instructional article, complete with photos, to help you make that dream come true. It's HERE and there's even a special page on giving a FOOT MASSAGE for those of you who have limited time or who are really, really interested in making your spouse sigh with pleasure.

With the holidays coming up, these massages could be a great way of helping your partner release the stress. You could even make a booklet of coupons offering massages on demand or in exchange for compensatory services ... !

Have fun!
BC

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

GO SEE THIS MOVIE!!!

If you value your marriage,
If you are having any
tension or stresses in your marriage,
If you are thinking - at all - about
giving up.
If your
spouse is thinking of giving up,
If you are not experiencing the
happiness you want and need in your marriage,
If you want a
happy, loving, genuine marriage relationship,

GO SEE THE MOVIE
FIREPROOF!
visit their web site at this link:
Fireproof

No kidding ...
GO SEE THIS MOVIE TOGETHER!
(you're welcome)

How-to Do A Couple's Conference Right

Just back from our Fall Couples' Getaway Weekend, and we had a great time! Seven couples was just the right number to allow for lots of mixing and fellowship without everyone feeling too crunched. We stayed in a very nice hotel (thank you, Hyatt Place!), ate at some great restaurants (Osegueras, Border Town, and P.F. Chang's), hear some in-depth couple teaching, and shared a LOT of thoughts and feelings about stepparenting. We also went to see the movie, Fireproof - which you MUST see if you've not seen it yet. It was one of the true highlights of the weekend!

Some tips on holding a Stepparenting Couple's Getaway Weekend:

* MAP OUT EVERYTHING! If someone can get lost, they will! Ensure all have a contact phone number for emergencies.
* make friends with the hotel planner/concierge so they can guide you away from mistakes and suggest side trips,
* Keep it fun! All want to learn how-to's, but no one likes a dead-serious event. Include outings or speakers who lighten up,
* Carpool as much as possible. It keeps individuals from getting lost and promotes fellowship and new friendships,
* Plan ahead for where to eat, rather than just cutting couples loose to get lost, frustrated, distracted,
* Have some extracurricular activities planned, but not required, for those who need a boost,
* Allow plenty of free time for socializing, visiting, between couples who share common situations'
* Don't get so wrapped up in organizing details you aren't available for couples with needs, questions, reassurance, etc.,
* Take lots of photos. These are not only keepsakes, but the ultimate promo tool for next event,
* ASK for discounts and bargains for your group. Most restaurants, hotels, and conference centers will happily comply,
* NO KIDS, plenty of private couple time, Don't ask why!

Most of all, relax and allow everyone to do the same. If the planner is running around looking freaked out, the participants will catch that spirit. The idea is to relax and refresh - let them!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Mediate Family Arguments - wikiHow

How to Mediate Family Arguments


from wikiHow - The How to Manual That You Can Edit


NOTE: This is an article I wrote for WikiHow. You can check out the original by following the links above ... or just read it here ...


Families fight. Even good families disagree. But bitter, hateful, long-lasting wars do not belong in homes among family members sworn to love and support each other. Here are some steps to resolve disputes in your family.

Steps


  1. Calm down. Very little positive is accomplished between angry people. Emotions can interfere with clear thoughts and angry emotions will especially interfere with understanding and empathy. Even though it's hard to just calm down when you're angry, this is an absolute must if you want a chance to solve anything. Take a walk, take a shower, take a breathing break. Whatever works for you, just get some air between you and the anger.
  2. Rejoin. Agree to meet to work together. Set an appointment. Set a date. Call a mediator. Find a time and place to work where you will not be likely to reengage in the battle. Perhaps a public restaurant will keep you from blowing up. Perhaps a formal meeting with a licensed mediator. Perhaps a session with a minister who you would be reluctant to loose your calm before. But set a time and place.
  3. Think. Don't just emote, going over and over your argument, getting worked up again. Instead, use the time before your mediation session to plot your approach, develop your points, consider all options, decide upon a possible settlement. List both sides and look for both positive and negative to each. Prepare.
  4. Be positive. This is your opportunity to lead the process and show the other side how serious you are about settling the dispute. Go into the meeting head up, smiling, positive, leaning toward a good solution.
  5. Follow the leader. If you use a professional mediator, he or she will have guidelines. If you handle the mediation on your own, look up professional mediation procedures (http://www.FamilyMediator.org/procedures.html) and follow those. The more formalized the process, the better the chance of its being taken seriously. Important guidelines include: A) take turns talking (don't interrupt); B) repeat what was just said to show you're listening; C) list, list, list every suggestion; D) quit if anyone gets angry - take a break to breathe; E) write down your agreement
  6. Document, Whatever your outcome, write it down and have both sides sign. This, again, formalizes the process, adds gravity, and helps both sides remember what they agreed to.
  7. Review if necessary. If the agreement begins to fall apart, re-convene the mediation and confirm the agreement. If amendments are necessary, follow the original mediation process.


Tips


  • If the argument is very personal or volatile, get professional help.
  • Find a neutral place to meet.
  • Get a mediator who is either neutral or respected by both sides.
  • Document everything!
  • Celebrate success. Reward yourselves for doing good.


Warnings


  • Both sides must be willing to at least try.
  • Don't meet for too long. Long mediations turn into endurance contests. Stop when you get tired or frustrated. Agree when to pick up again.
  • Avoid a mediator who may have reason to take either side. Your mother will not be a good mediator.
  • Keep your voices down. No yelling.
  • No insults. No accusatory "you" statements.
  • Focus on only one topic at a time. If something else comes up, make a note and come back to it later.
  • Leave the past in the past. Focus on now and the future.


Sources and Citations


Thursday, November 6, 2008

Re: Loving your Ex - backlash!

So, I posted the article about loving others (here) last week, and I'm getting some backlash about it. Which doesn't really surprise me. Whenever you suggest that it's OK to love your mean ol' ex-spouse (or others) you can expect to take some flak. I mean, even Jesus, who started the whole "pray for those who curse you" thing was attacked for it, right?!

I was asked, (quite loudly, BTW) "Are you saying I should love the man who abused me for so many years and is turning my kids against me!?" Well, yes. That's exactly what He means.

"But I can't do that! I can't even stand to look at him! I despise him!"

But, as some point, you loved him, right? At some point, you stood before God and witnesses and swore to love him "til death do you part" right? You promised him, them, Him, your kids, and yourself, right?

"But he's not the same person I married so long ago! He changed into a horrible person I don't even recognize."

Well, his personality changed (did it really? or did he just stop hiding it?), his actions changed, his words changed, but HE is the same person you vowed to love forever. If your child becomes a wild, rabid teenager some day, will you stop loving him or her, too? If your parent develops Alzheimer's and their personality completely changes someday, will you stop loving them, too? I hope not.

God told us that His love is eternal. He promises to love us even if we turn against him (see the story of the prodigal son in the Bible, in Luke, chapter 15). And He asks us to do the same for others:
* This is my command: Love each other. John 15:17
* Bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. ... love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Luke 6:28,35
* 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'Matthew 22:39

For Christians, these aren't suggestions, but marching orders from our General, our Lord. He also pointed out a reason for this order:
* "By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." John 13: 35
As Christians (literally, followers of Christ), we should look different; we should stand out in a crowd; we should behave/speak/LOVE differently than is expected by those outside the Family. Because we are to be an example to them of the Peace we have through Christ's Spirit and His salvation.

If we're not different from the outsiders, what's the point of faith in Christ? We follow Him because of the blessings and comfort and support we get from Him, as well as our gratefulness for His gift of salvation, right?

To the dear lady who insisted she could not love her ex - I agree. You, alone, in your own strength, cannot do this hard thing. But Christ in you, through his Spirit and the gift you received at salvation (see Galatians 5: 22, 23 for a list of the fruits - or gifts - of the Spirit which each person receives on accepting salvation from Jesus), Christ in you CAN do that. If you lean on your own strength, you will fall. Period. You must tap into that Grace and strength that you get from Him. Let him lead you to forgiveness so you can heal.

BC

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

What Have Your Kids Said About Family?

Most folks agree that, in a divorce, it's the children who get hit the hardest by the shock, the changes, the confusion and stress. I talk to parents all day long about how their kids (or their stepkids) are dealing with a new marriage or new relationship or the on-going balancing act of divorced co-parenting. They especially want to talk about how the kids act out toward everyone. But what I seldom hear from them is how their children feel.

We know in general that children feel frightened, frustrated, and powerless about their parents' decision to split the family. I teach classes every week almost to help parents understand how to help their children cope with the break up. We talk about how to approach the kids, how to comfort the kids, how to get the kids to talk about their fears, etc.

But what are the kids feeling?

Well, obviously, no one knows as well as the kids themselves. Except maybe insightful, tuned-in parents who are fielding tough questions from their children. So, I'm turning to you to help me create a new resource to help parents and stepparents understand what's going on in their children's hearts.

What have your children said to you? What have they asked you? What are the toughest things they've asked? What are the most confounding things they've said or asked?

Have they surprised you? Have they shocked you? Have they broken your heart? Have they made you angry? Have they just plain stunned you into dead silence sometimes?

Please help me help others by passing along your kids' and stepkids' statements, comments, questions, and demands regarding their feelings about their families' changes and rearrangements. I promise I'll keep everything anonymous - I'll only use first names, unless you specifically ask otherwise.

With your help, we can build a tool to help you and other parents understand their children better and to help them grow into healthier adults.

Monday, November 3, 2008

A Great Man's Celebration video

Billy Graham will celebrate his 90th birthday on November 7. He is in my opinion the greatest evangelist of the 20th & 21st centuries, and one of the greatest men to ever live. Please view this short video.



[Here's my birthday message to Dr. Billy Graham]: Today I lead a 5,000+ member ministry for stepfamilies around the world via the Internet. This began at age 9 when I accepted Dr. Graham's invitation to accept Christ as my Lord. Billy was on TV; I was in my parents' living room, lying under the coffee table, on our cool wood floor. I remember clearly how "Just As I Am" seemed to pierce my heart; how I cried; and how my dear mother prayed with me, directing me to a new life in Christ.
God bless you, Billy Graham. I love you dearly, my brother and friend in Christ.
Our ministry is located at http://www.stepcarefully.com

Friday, October 31, 2008

New toy! Here's me!

Just figuring out how to use my Photo Booth on my MacBook ... here's me right now!



I'm sitting at the World Headquarters for STEP-Carefully Inc. - my local Panera Bread! I'm contemplating the Creamy Tomato Soup for lunch - yummers!

"see" you!

Good History lesson for your kids ... and all of us!

Make Mine Freedom (1948)

This insightful "cartoon" still applies 60 years later! Isn't that an amazing tribute to American freedoms. Let's keep them!

Who - or What Do You Love?

Love - real, true, honest-to-goodness love - never ends. It can't. Well, it can't if you love a person. If you love a person, you love them no matter what they say or do ... or how they change.

I hear so many divorcing couples say they stopped loving their spouse, or their spouse stopped loving them. And, if I have the time and inclination (and patience) I ask them what they mean. How does that happen? What in them has changed to cause their original conviction and loyalty to just quit?

Of course, most tell me that it wasn't they who changed, but their soon-to-be ex who changed from the person they "fell in love with" into a different kind of person whom they didn't like or care for or love. Their love, they tell me, just died.

But, I counter, love never dies; it goes on forever no matter how differently the other person may act. I ask them, "So, did you love that person, or were you just attracted to the way they acted or spoke or smelled?" Which is generally met with dead silence and blank stares. Which actually is answer enough.

So, I ask you: do you still love those whom you have claimed to love before? Do you really believe that love - real, true, honest-to-goodness love - never dies? Or do you believe it is dependent on how you are spoken to, or treated, or acted towards?

And if it is conditional on actions, do you love - really, truly, honest-to-goodness love - your children, say, when they are acting out, or when they say "I hate you!," or when they turn their backs on you for someone else?
"But wait," you say, "that's different. He's my child. It's different."

Oh? what kind of love do you feel for your child that you did not feel for his father or mother, your ex? Loyalty? Protectiveness? Deep in your heart concern and tenderness? Well, there you go. If you never felt any of those for your ex, then, in my humble opinion, you never loved them. You were, as the Wise Ones say, only "in love." and that is a whole other animal from Love.

"Well," you might demand, "just what do you think Love is, then?"
Far be it from me to try to define anything so elemental as Love. I am but a man who is shaped by his past, his chemistry, and his emotions, just like you. But I do know where to find definitions for those sort of Big Questions:

"Love is patient, love is kind.
It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
It is not rude, it is not self-seeking,
it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects, always trusts,
always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails."

Any other definition - or opinion or attitude - about Love is based on chemistry and past illusions or disillusions. If you have ever loved someone - really, truly, honest-to-goodness loved someone - then you still care for them. You still love them. You may have, for some very good reason or another, moved on to another relationship. But that love is still there, in your heart and your memory. To deny it, either out of a perceived loyalty to a new love or out of belief that's what you're supposed to do, to deny it is wrong and damaging to you and everyone else you love.

Because, if you can convince yourself that you can dismiss love - real, true, honest-to-goodness love - for one person, then you begin to expect that you can dismiss love for someone else. And you begin to expect them to do the same to you.

It is NOT wrong to still love the father or mother of your children. In fact, for your children's sake you should still love their other parent. Does that make you disloyal to your current spouse? Don't be silly. Does it make you disloyal to your other spouse if you still love your mother or your father or your children? Of course not. Any spouse who tries to tell you that you should love only him or her is selfish and their love for you is seriously questionable.

As an adult, you have the ability to understand the human heart's capacity for love. You have the mental faculties to understand that you can, for example, love one child with your whole heart, and another child just as completely, and still another child totally, too. The human heart (as we call our love-center) was Designed to be able to expand to the maximum we ask of it.

"Love - real, true, honest-to-goodness love - never fails." It just grows to take in more people in your life. Only you can choose to give up on love. And when you do, you cheat yourself, your children, and everyone in your life.

Love one another.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Our Container Garden

Our first container garden is still producing super goodies:


We got these just last week. It's nice to know they're all organic and all packed with good stuff.

Here's our garden:


This was taken last Spring, after we'd just started the garden adventure.

Detail to show that everything is grown in containers - just cheap plastic tubs from the dollar store. But they have worked out great. It was amazing to see how well everything grew, much better than I've ever seen in regular, in-the-ground, hard work gardens.



We put the garden by our front porch, by the carport so it was easy to remember to water in the morning before we left for work, and quick to harvest on the way into the house. We'll definitely continue our new garden next year, probably expanding it a bit. Eventually, we will be able to grow all our vegetable needs out of little buckets!

I highly recommend this as a family project. Let each kid have their own container to be responsible for and let the whole family reap the rewards!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

New links to STEP-Carefully!

I'm really getting into this on-line networking - and it's paying off for us! In response to a few business newsletters I receive, I have joined some social networks. The idea is to get the word out through as many venues as possible about our services for stepfamilies and for breaking/broken marriages. So ...

you can now find me on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Startup Nation, and MyMission2. On each of those sites, I'm offering our tried and true helps to keep stepfamilies healthy, happy, and together.

Visit me at the following: (just click the name of the site to go there)
> Facebook
> Twitter
> Startup Nation
> LinkedIn
> MyMission2

And be sure to leave a comment to let me know you visited - PLUS leaving a comment moves that site higher in Google's search engines, which means more families will find help.

Thanks! See you there!

Bob C.

Building next newsletter ...

Hi all, I'm busily building our next issue of the STEP-Carefully! newsletter. Is there anything I can address for you or your family? The economy is a big topic, but so is (as always) marital peace and family stability. Then, there's the upcoming holiday excitement.

Email me with your ideas, questions, or needs for this or any upcoming newsletter.

Thanks!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Give It Your All!

Did you ever watch kids at a school dance? Notice that some of them just sort of stand there, trying not to move too much in fear that someone will notice that they can't dance too well. Don't they look silly? Eyes on the floor, sneaking glimpses around to see who's watching them.

Then there's the guy who jumps out there and, no matter how goofy he may look, you can really tell he's having a ball. Maybe he's got the silliest dance moves you've ever seen, but MAN! isn't he having a great time! His partner probably is, too. Because he throws all caution to the wind and jumps right in, he and his date ... and everyone around him have fun.

Who looks the dumbest: the guy who is trying not to move at all lest some sees him, or the happy guy who is dancing his heart out? I always felt sorry for that first guy because the harder he tries to not look silly, the sillier he looks. I also always admired the second guy. At the end of the dance, guess which one of them had the better memories of the dance? Guess which guy's date hugged him tighter?

You're that guy! (or gal)

In your relationship, you have the opportunity to either look the reluctant incompetent or the all-in happy person enjoying life and lifting everyone else's spirits.

How openly do you love your mate? How obvious is your relationship to anyone who might be glancing your way? What do your kids see in your commitment? How loved does your sweetheart feel when you're out for dinner or at church or just at home with the kids?

Well? Are you the goofy looking one or the one everyone else what's to be like?

Get in there and give it your all!

Relationship Tip: Develop Fierce Loyalty!

Here's an idea to give your sweety a jolt of happiness and your relationship a shot in the arm. Practice developing a personal sense of Fierce Loyalty toward your mate.

By Fierce Loyalty, I mean an ardent, strong attitude toward taking your partner's side, no matter what the situation. Let me give you an example. Recently a client told me how embarrassed he gets when his wife gets loud in defending her child. Often, he says, if she'd just ease off, the situation would take care of itself, her child wouldn't be embarrassed, and neither would he.

Yes, she seemed to be going overboard in some cases. And, yes, she probably could have more effectively handled many of the situations without turning them into confrontations. But, as he admitted, this was just the way she deals with stress.

So, I asked him if he could think of a way to make her change her ways, to quiet down and approach things more peacefully. He said with a sigh that he couldn't really see her doing that in the foreseeable future; that's just her way. His demeanor clearly said, Poor me, I guess she'll just keep embarrassing me like that.


But wait a minnit! Isn't this your sweetheart? Isn't this the lady you couldn't stand to be without just a couple of years ago? And wasn't she pretty vocal even then? (Yes, but it seemed different, he said.)

Well, it looks to me like you only have two choices here: you can run away or you can take control of the situation! Running away means admitting you can't keep your vows, that you are wishy-washy about loyalty and love, that you arent' trustworthy. Bad choice!

Which leaves Taking Control of the Situation. Most men will admit they like the idea of taking control instead of turning tail and running away. Actually, most ladies feel that way, too, right? So how could he take control of his loud, excitable wife without starting a war with her?

Simple. Take her side. Develop an attitude of Fierce Loyalty for this sweetheart of yours. What does that mean in practice? Let's say she repeats the pattern - jumps overboard and gets loud in defending her child at, say, a volleyball game. Hubby now has a choice. He can duck his head and try to hide from anyone knowing he's associated with her. Or he can step up, put his arm around her shoulder and say, You tell 'em, Honey! I'm right here with you, Pardner.

What will that do for him? Well, at least he won't look like a wimp, hiding from his wife. Instead he's supporting her in her belief. It also shows his stepkids that he believes in their mom and is a full partner with her, which will affect the way they look at both him and their mother. Plus it will reassure his wife that he is fully engaged in her life, rather than just hanging around.

By the way, after my client started taking this approach with his wife, and consistently showed her his Fierce Loyalty, guess what began happening? She started calming down. Not completely, but to a noticeable degree. Seems that once she realized she wasn't having to fight all her battles alone, she wasn't as defensive.

What's this mean for you and your mate? When you married each other, it was with the full expectation that you were gaining a totally committed partner who would be with you through everything. Fierce Loyalty is the natural result of that commitment. You've promised to love and honor that special sweety of yours forever. Doing so - especially publicly - will help them appreciate you so much more, and it will allow you to feel like you are doing right by your love.

Show your partner and your kids what being in love is all about. Develop Fierce Loyalty for your mate and watch them blossom because of it.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Please take our short Survey!

We are conducting a very short (just seven questions!), very important survey to find out how you use our services, what you'd like to see from us, and your thoughts about STEP-Carefully! for Stepparents!
Click Here to take survey
Your input will mean so much for us, your family, and so many other stepfamilies across the world.


Thank you!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Family Cell Phone Safety - I.C.E.

We all carry our mobile phones with names & numbers stored in its memory but nobody, other than ourselves, knows which of these numbers belong to our closest family or friends.

If we were to be involved in an accident or were taken ill, the people attending us would have our mobile phone but wouldn't know who to call. Yes, there are hundreds of numbers stored but which one is the contact person in case of an emergency? Hence this 'ICE' (In Case of Emergency) Campaign

The concept of 'ICE' is catching on quickly. It is a method of contact during emergency situations. As cell(mobile) phones are carried by the majority of the population, all you need to do is store the number of a contact person or persons who should be contacted during emergency under the name 'ICE' ( In Case Of Emergency).

The idea was thought up by a paramedic who found that when he went to the scenes of accidents, there were always mobile phones with patients, but they didn't know which number to call. He therefore thought that it would be a good idea if there was a nationally recognized name for this purpose.

In an emergency situation, Emergency Service personnel and hospital Staff would be able to quickly contact the right person by simply dialing the number you have stored as 'ICE.'
For more than one contact name simply enter ICE1, ICE2 and ICE3 etc.

A great idea that will make a difference!

(Verified at Snopes.com)

On Turning 50 ...

Well, it finally happened - I had my fiftieth birthday last Saturday (9/20/08) and it was all I'd expected: daunting, disconcerting, unsettling, and also enjoyable. During the week before my demicenturian birthday, I became much more reflective about my first 50 years of life.

I dreamed much more about events and places where I spent time as a child (see my personal blog at vanburenarkansas.blogspot.com where my favorite music list is also playing) and actually found myself trying to make sense of some of the things I've been through: two marriages, a step-parenthood, my faith, my friends, family, and pets, careers as an artist, a journalist, a writer, a bookkeeper, a minister, a coach, and a mediator.

I thought a lot about you, too, my friends. I thought about what I have to offer to you and your families, as well as what small contributions I've been able to make to a modest number of stepfamilies around the world. I've got some particularly eyebrow raising compliments from Russian, Chinese, Irish, African stepparents who claim to have benefited from my suggestions and (mostly) my willingness to share my mistakes and victories in my own family.

I have been invited into the secret inner workings of so very many couples' tumultuous relationships, which is a privilege beyond words. I have been allowed to participate in those relationships in trust and I remember each and every one of you. Not all of the details perhaps, but the couples and families. And I treasure each of you.

I've written many thousands of words of advice - mostly directed at one family or another, but applicable to most. I've been blessed to have met and known you all. And I look forward to knowing more of you. You are a great deal of my life, you know. I think of you all often and regularly and I pray for those of you whose situations I'm familiar with.

I hope to be able to serve you for another few decades. You are not alone. You have at least one friend in your corner. God bless you all, my friends.

Bob C.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Support FamilyMediator.org in the 2008 StartupNation Home-Based Business Competition

Support FamilyMediator.org in the 2008 StartupNation Home-Based Business Competition

Posted using ShareThis

Meet Me in the Stairwell: Remembering 9/11


'MEET ME IN THE STAIRWELL'

You say you will never forget where you were when
you heard the news On September 11, 2001.
Neither will I.

I was on the 110th floor in a smoke filled room
with a man who called his wife to say 'Good-Bye.' I
held his fingers steady as he dialed. I gave him the
peace to say, 'Honey, I am not going to make it, but it
is OK..I am ready to go.'

I was with his wife when he called as she fed
breakfast to their children. I held her up as she
tried to understand his words and as she realized
he wasn't coming home that night.

I was in the stairwell of the 23rd floor when a
woman cried out to Me for help. 'I have been
knocking on the door of your heart for 50 years!' I said.
'Of course I will show you the way home - only
believe in Me now.'

I was at the base of the building with the Priest
ministering to the injured and devastated souls.
I took him home to tend to his Flock in Heaven. He
heard my voice and answered.

I was on all four of those planes, in every seat,
with every prayer. I was with the crew as they
were overtaken. I was in the very hearts of the
believers there, comforting and assuring them that their
faith has saved them.

I was in Texas , Virginia , California , Michigan , Afghanistan ...
I was standing next to you when you heard the terrible news.
Did you sense Me?

I want you to know that I saw every face. I knew
every name - though not all know Me. Some met Me
for the first time on the 86th floor.

Some sought Me with their last breath.
Some couldn't hear Me calling to them through the
smoke and flames; 'Come to Me... this way... take
my hand.' Some chose, for the final time, to ignore Me.
But, I was there.

I did not place you in the Tower that day. You
may not know why, but I do. However, if you were
there in that explosive moment in time, would you have
reached for Me?

Sept. 11, 2001, was not the end of the journey
for you. But someday your journey will end. And I
will be there for you as well. Seek Me now while I may
be found. Then, at any moment, you know you are
'ready to go.'

I will be in the stairwell of your final moments.

Monday, September 8, 2008

But I've no Hairbrush!

A dear friend sent this to me and I share it with you. How many times have you felt like you should do something, but were reluctant or embarrassed or too timid to do it. This puts a whole new slant on those times.

(For those of you who are not Christians, please read this and get a glimpse at how difficult being a Christ follower can be sometimes!)

--------------
This is by Beth Moore, an outstanding Bible teacher, writer of Bible studies, and is a married mother of two daughters. This is one of her experiences:

April 20, 2005, at the Airport in Knoxville , waiting to board the plane, I had the Bible on my lap and was very intent upon what I was doing. I'd had a marvelous morning with the Lord. I say this because I want to tell you it is a scary thing to have the Spirit of God really working in you.
You could end up doing some things you never would have done otherwise. Life in the Spirit can be dangerous for a thousand reasons not the least of which is your ego.

I tried to keep from staring, but he was such a strange sight. Humped over in a wheelchair, he was skin and bones, dressed in clothes that obviously fit when he was at least twenty pounds heavier. His knees protruded from his trousers, and his shoulders looked like the coat hanger was still in his shirt. His hands looked like tangled masses of veins and bones.

The strangest part of him was his hair and nails. Stringy, gray hair hung well over his shoulders and down part of his back. His fingernails were long, clean but strangely out of place on an old man.

I looked down at my Bible as fast as I could, discomfort burning my face. There I sat; trying to concentrate on the Word to keep from being concerned about a thin slice of humanity served up on a wheelchair only a few seats from me. All the while, my heart was growing more and more overwhelmed with a feeling for him. Let's admit it. Curiosity is a heap more comfortable than true concern, and suddenly I was awash with aching emotion for this bizarre-looking old man.
I had walked with God long enough to see the handwriting on the wall. I've learned that when I begin to feel what God feels, something so contrary to my natural feelings, something dramatic is bound to happen. And it may be embarrassing.

There I sat in the blue vinyl chair begging His Highness, 'Please don't make me witness to this man. Not now. I'll do it on the plane.' Then I heard it....'I don't want you to witness to him. I want you to brush his hair.'

The words were so clear, my heart leap into my throat, and my thoughts spun like a top. Do I witness to the man or brush his hair? No-brainier. I looked straight back up at the ceiling and said, 'God, as I live and breathe, I want you to know I am ready to witness to this man. I'm on this Lord. I'm your girl! You've never seen a woman witness to a man faster in your life. What difference does it make if his hair is a mess if he is not redeemed? I am going to witness to this man.'

Again as clearly as I've ever heard an audible word, God seemed to write this statement across the wall of my mind. 'That is not what I said, Beth. I don't want you to witness to him. I want you to go brush his hair.'

I looked up at God and quipped, 'I don't have a hairbrush. It's in my suitcase on the plane. How am I supposed to brush his hair without a hairbrush?' God was so insistent that I almost involuntarily began to walk toward him as these thoughts came to me from God's word: 'I will thoroughly furnish you unto all good works.' 
(2 Timothy 3:17)

I stumbled over to the wheelchair thinking I could use one myself. Even as I retell this story, my pulse quickens and I feel those same butterflies. I knelt down in front of the man and asked as demurely as possible, 'Sir, may I have the pleasure of brushing your hair?'

He looked back at me and said, 'What did you say?'
'May I have the pleasure of brushing your hair?'

To which he responded in volume ten, 'Little lady, if you expect me to hear you, you're going to have to talk louder than that.'
At this point, I took a deep breath and blurted out, 'SIR, MAY I HAVE THE PLEASURE OF BRUSHING YOUR HAIR?' At which point every eye in the place darted right at me. I was the only thing in the room looking more peculiar than old Mr. Long Locks. Face crimson and forehead breaking out in a sweat, I watched him look up at me with absolute shock on his face, and say, 'If you really want to.'

Are you kidding? Of course I didn't want to. But God didn't seem interested in my personal preference right about then. He pressed on my heart until I could utter the words, 'Yes, sir, I would be pleased. But I have one little problem. I don't have a hairbrush.'
'I have one in my bag,' he responded.

I went around to the back of that wheelchair, and I got on my hands and knees and unzipped the stranger's old carry-on, hardly believing what I was doing. I stood up and started brushing the old man's hair.

It was perfectly clean, but it was tangled and matted. I don't do many things well, but must admit I've had notable experience untangling knotted hair mothering two little girls. Like I'd done with either Amanda or Melissa in such a condition, I began brushing at the very bottom of the strands, remembering to take my time not to pull.

A miraculous thing happened to me as I started brushing that old man's hair. Everybody else in the room disappeared. There was no one alive for those moments except that old man and me. I brushed and I brushed and I brushed until every tangle was out of that hair. I know this sounds so strange, but I've never felt that kind of love for another soul in my entire life. I believe with all my heart, I - for that few minutes - felt a portion of the very love of God. That He had overtaken my heart for a little while like someone renting a room and making Himself at home for a short while.

The emotions were so strong and so pure that I knew they had to be God's. His hair was finally
as soft and smooth as an infant's. I slipped the brush back in the bag and went around the chair to face him. I got back down on my knees, put my hands on his knee and said, 'Sir, do you know my Jesus?'
He said, 'Yes, I do'
Well, that figures, I thought.

He explained, 'I've known Him since I married my bride. She wouldn't marry me until I got to know the Savior.' He said, 'You see, the problem is, I haven't seen my bride in months. I've had open-heart surgery, and she's been too ill to come see me. I was sitting here thinking to myself, what a mess I must be for my bride.'

Only God knows how often He allows us to be part of a divine moment when we're completely unaware of the significance. This, on the other hand, was one of those rare encounters when I knew God had intervened in details only He could have known. It was a God moment, and I'll never forget it.

Our time came to board, and we were not on the same plane. I was deeply ashamed of how I'd acted earlier and would have been so proud to have accompanied him on that aircraft.
I still had a few minutes, and as I gathered my things to board, the airline hostess returned from the corridor, tears streaming down her cheeks. She said, 'That old man's sitting on the plane, sobbing. Why did you do that? What made you do that?'
I said, 'Do you know Jesus? He can be the bossiest thing!'
And we got to share.

I learned something about God that day. He knows if you're exhausted, you're hungry, you're serving in the wrong place or it is time to move on but you feel too responsible to budge. He knows if you're hurting or feeling rejected. He knows if you're sick or drowning under a wave of temptation. Or He knows if you just need your hair brushed. He sees you as an individual. Tell Him your need!

I got on my own flight, sobs choking my throat, wondering how many opportunities just like that one had I missed along the way ... all because I didn't want people to think I was strange. God didn't send me to that old man. He sent that old man to me.

John 1:14 'The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth'
Life shouldn't be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body, but rather, to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly shouting, 'Wow! What a ride! Thank You, Lord!'

And she was all, like. You know?

Oh boy. Some days it's almost too hard. Sitting here at Panera, trying to get the day going. Laying out my tasks: update blog, answer emails, set appointments for week, go to .... But across the room, just threetables away, some poor dear child is struggling with this new language she is learning. OK, she looks like she's about 24 and her accent is completely American. But the way she's falling all over herself to make a statement is, like, well, she's all >face<. You know?

I'm sorry, but I have such a difficult time not walking across the room, sitting down with her, looking deeply into her eyes and saying, "Now ... honey ... what ... is ... it ... you ... are ... trying ...
to ... say? Can ... I ... help ... you ... form ... a ... simple ... sentence ... my ... poor ... simple ... child?"

To paraphrase Professor Henry Higgins, who taught her to say "and he was all like," instead of "and he said"? Who taught her to place the burden of translation on her listener ("you know?") instead of on herself by actually describing what she means? And who in the world taught her to say, "I was like >face< >shrug<" instead of saying, "And it made me feel uncomfortable, so I couldn't think of what to say to her"?

I really want to know! WHO is teaching people to non-talk like this? Surely there has not been some rebellion by the teachers of America who have decided to pay back their insolent students by teaching them to speak in a way that virtually guarantees them to be rejected by any hiring manager at any job for which they might apply? Except McDonalds or Taco Bell, that is. Do they actually walk into an office, hand over their resumes, and say, "Hey! I'd like to, you know, like, really work for you guys! I think it it would be, like, you know, totally, you know >face<>

And watching her talk to her similarly disabled friend was as painful as listening to them. The eye rolls, shrugs, and exaggerated faces that accompanied their frequent "you knows" reminded me of nervous ticks or mini-seizures. What are they, Italian?

And so I say, on behalf of cognizant humans throughout the free world: parents, please teach your children to speak and express themselves. Otherwise, someday they may need help and only be able to say, "Hey! I'm like totally, like, you know, like ... " before passing out. Or, if that's not incentive enough, imagine yourself at 75, sitting in your nursing home room, unable to get up and run away from their twitching, babbling attempts at communication every time they visit.

Nurse! Isn't it time for my sleeping pill?!!

----------
Bob Collins, CDM
Certified Domestic Mediator
coach@FamilyMediator.org
FREE family newsletter @
http://www.stepcarefully.com

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The Tongue (not in cheek) Part 1

Lying back in the dentist's chair as my dental hygienist scraped my teeth (lovely mental image, huh?) I was struck by that familiar urge to reach into my mouth, detach my tongue, and stick it in my pocket where it would be out of the way of all the sharp, pokey things also in my mouth at that moment. I even asked her if she'd like me to do that. Which lead to a lively exchange about how nice it would be if we could actually do that. (I really like my dentist's office!) Sherry the Hygienist and I proceeded to develop a line of detachable tongues in various colors, with pre-set piercings, maybe with extensions so you could have a "snakey" tongue or a long "Gene Simmons" style slurper. On and on. Hardly felt a thing.

But that took me on to more serious musings - of course. And I got thinking about a particular couple I used to meet with quite often in session. They had what some might call impulse control problems - I just say they had trouble controlling their tongues when they got angry with each other or their mutual kids. He'd say something, she'd fire something mean back, her kids or his would enter the fray, and before you knew it I'd get a call to help settle the dust.

I figure that if I could really develop that detachable tongue, I could make a fortune. (Well, OK. Sherry and I could share a fortune.) Think of the blessing it would be to be able to reach in your mouth and yank that flapping trouble-maker out for awhile. Even better, let's ground your teenager's tongue for a week instead of her cell phone privileges!

What is it about that little flap of muscle in our mouths that gets us in so much trouble? The Bible says that the tongue is a "sharpened razor," a "deadly arrow." The tongue is described as deceitful, smooth, perverse, lying, malicious, sly, stammering, and incomprehensible. In over ninety references, the Bible points out the power of the tongue, of which James says, "The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell." Whew! Pretty strong words.

But think of some of the things you've popped out of your mouth that you wish you could have taken back or, better yet, not said at all. They really did burn.

But the same Book also says the tongue can be instructed, gentle, flattering, and healing. You've seen the effect of a mother's soothing words on a crying child. You've felt your sweetheart's words calm your fears and ease your sorrow. You've probably even been the giver of peace with your words.

So, what's the difference between a malicious, cutting tongue and a gentle, healing tongue? Well, the heart behind it, of course. If you are actively loving your mate, your child, or your stepchild, you are almost certainly incapable of slicing them with your sharp tongue. If you have love and true caring for them in your heart, it will come out in your words. Jesus said that what comes out of the mouth begins in the heart.

But, you say, I love my mate. I love my kids. So why do I hurt them so?
(You're not going to like my answer.)

Selfishness. If you continually find yourself saying things that hurt your family, then you are focusing on the wrong person. If you regularly have to clean up after harm you've cause to your loved ones, you are more interested in your own feelings, your own point of view, your own rights than those of your "loved ones." You are falling into the trap of letting your own welfare distract you from taking care of theirs.

What an awful thing to say! (you say.) Yes, it is awful. Especially if it's the truth.

Think about the last few times you've bitten into your dear ones' hearts with your words. What was really behind it? Defending yourself? Protecting yourself? Keeping yourself from being stepped all over? Who were you more interested in? Your self. That's selfishness.

Then who looks out for me? ... to be continued ...

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Oh, the foolishness of man

A story in the August 25 Canadian Globe and Mail newspaper tells that a Vancouver couple, married for 42 years, spent over $1,000,000 on their divorce. Good Grief! This couple "fought vigorously over almost every item that was part of their lengthy marriage: an inheritance that the wife believed was a personal, not a family, asset; expensive items such as works of art, jewellery and gold coins; and minor assets such as airline points."
They have three children.

How sad. Almost every aspect of this case could have been dealt with more reasonably, more sanely through mediation. Division of property is usually the easiest to mediate, as it deals strictly with numbers and opinions. And, although this was apparently a very wealthy family, money is rarely the motivating factor in a divorce. It's a matter of the heart.

MATTERS OF THE HEART

Our court systems (including Canada's) were not designed for domestic matters. They were set up, and work fairly well, for criminal or civic cases, such as one company suing another over a matter of contract. But divorce and family matters following divorce are essentially matters of the heart.

The couple may not love each other. They may hate each other, but these are still matters of emotion. Especially in cases where there are children in the family. Families begin in love and often end at the opposite pole, at hate. And, while the loving beginning should be a public affair, including at least friends and family as witnesses, the end is most effectively managed privately.

Privacy is a keystone of mediation. Not only do the mediation sessions take place in secret, between only the two separating spouses and the mediator, but all records of the discussions are private. In fact, they are protected from public record by law. As a licensed mediator, I am restrained by law from letting anyone know who is meeting, much less what they discuss. I cannot even be subpoenaed by a court to reveal what is discussed. And I make it a firm practice to destroy all mediation notes in front of both clients at our final session.

This Vancouver couple opened their bank accounts, business dealings, their closets, attics, and basements, and their hearts for all the world to examine. Every dirty secret, every private moment, every broken promise and crushed hope became public fodder. Mediation would have protected them and their whole family from this humiliation.

EVERYBODY LOSES OR EVERYBODY WINS

The story tells of the wife in this case that, "Despite her success, [she] felt the results at trial were disastrous for her and the appeal court ruling scarcely any better. She also was not pleased with the high cost of her divorce."

And that's pretty typical for litigation (lawyer-based court cases). National statistics show that around 85 percent of domestic litigants feel like they lost. Wait. Shouldn't that be 50 percent felt they lost and 50 percent felt they won? But it's not that way. Litigation drags the disputants through so much negativity and so much anger and hurt that they almost all feel it was a loss for them.

Mediation clients state almost the exact opposite feelings. Nearly 85 percent state they feel they won their cases through mediation. This is because - whether the couple is sorting through a full divorce, some part of their divorce, or the many conflicts that come up in the years following the divorce (child support, visitation, medical expenses, etc) - whatever the conflict, the solution is created by the couple. That means, when the dust settles, both members know exactly what they agreed to and they created the settlement.

MORAL OF THE STORY

So, what have we learned at the (very high) expense of this poor couple from Canada?
  1. divorce is a painful, expensive process, best avoided if at all possible
  2. litigating your divorce (dragging it through courts) is damaging all around
  3. litigation leads to disappointment, even when you "win"
  4. mediation saves money, time, and dignity
  5. whether before, during, or after divorce, mediation keeps the couple in charge
  6. mediation is better for families than court-based litigation
If you have questions about how mediation can help to improve or preserve your relationships, or how you can use mediation to settle a family conflict, or any other questions about mediation, please feel free to visit my private site or email me directly.

Bob Collins, Pontifex Familia

Friday, August 15, 2008

Who Am I Casting Crowns

Enjoy! This is a group wearing all black clothing and white gloves, in front of a blacklight. The performance was done by the youth of Oslo UPC Norway from United Pentecostal Church.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Teach Kids Decency & Self-esteem

Summer time and the livin' is sleazy. Sitting at my office-away-from-the-office, Panera Bread, I am reminded again that it is summer in the South by the outfits worn by far too many, far too young women.

Good grief! Didn't these girls' moms or dads look at them before they left the house?!! Yes, it's hot (107 yesterday), but stripping down to your underwear is not the way to keep cool, girls! In fact, most accepted advice on keeping cool suggests wearing light colored, loose fitting clothing that covers your skin to protect from the sun's rays and direct heat. So don't tell me your daughter has to strip to stay cool. She's trying to be hot!

Before you start firing off replies about half-naked guys ... yes, I see guys immodestly dressed, too, and I'm against their lack of decorum too. But the guys I see lean more toward ugly ripped, hanging off their rears, torn and worn styles that actually cover quite a bit of their bodies, when their shorts aren't falling down around their knees!

The game the girls play seems to be: "look at me! look at my body! look at the sexy words on my butt! What? why I didn't even notice I was naked." Come on Dad. Come on Mom. Do you really not care so much that you don't mind your baby girl flaunting her body like a ... well, like a not so nice girl? Most cities have laws against prostitutes dressing too provocatively to solicit business. What if they applied those same guidelines to what your daughter wore to the mall yesterday? Would they be calling you to pick her up?

"B-b-but ... but ... but everyone's doing it!" they cry. (Please don't say that yourself.) Yes, it is a cultural anti-fashion thing. But - must I say it? - if all their friends decided it was cool to jump off the Brooklyn Bridge, would your teen strip down to her undies, parade through Walmart, and jump off, too? Just because other parents don't care enough to teach their children decency doesn't mean you can't teach yours how to look nice.

TEACH BY EXAMPLE AND WORD

Which beings us to the crux of the problem: what are you teaching your daughters and stepdaughters? We have an epidemic of suicide and drug usage and casual sex among our children. Much of this is because of lack of esteem and a general malaise brought on by a disconnect between you and them. Kids, regardless of what they may mutter behind your back, really want your attention. They have craved your approval since you gushed over their saying "Mama" or "Dada" the first time, and your excitement over their first steps. Your children desire (yes, desire) your love and affection. In fact, some social scientists say they literally need your approval to properly develop into healthy adults.

Think about a young girl, say only 14 or 15 years old, who makes a choice to wear some of those ultra short shorts with a team name or some other lettering stretched tight across her bottom. What is going through her mind when she picks that outfit to go out in public? "She's just dressing like her friends do, is all," right? Sorry, that kneejerk response doesn't hold up. Her decisions about who to emulate are developed long before she meets those girls the first time.

You are her model. You are her ideal. You are the one who sets her standards.

Yes, she may fuss if you insist on decent, clean clothes in public. And yes, she may tell you you're ruining her social life by making her cover her body when she's around boys. But most teenage girls I've talked to after they became young women have confessed that they understood Mom's or Dad's insistence on decency. And, although they felt compelled to object, they were relieved to have an actual bona fide excuse to say no to their friends. "My Dad is insane. He doesn't understand fashion. But if I want to keep my cell phone, I have to do what he says." Bummer.

What does that teach them? First that you care enough to notice what they're wearing. You're not so absorbed by work and your own concerns to take a moment to really see her. Second, it tells them there is some order in their world. It can be scary out there for a teen. Knowing that Mom is still keeping a watchful eye can be comforting. Knowing that Dad is still holding her hand, so to speak, may be the encouragement she needs to avoid drugs or alcohol or the back seat of a boy's car.

And it also teaches them some self-respect.
"If you can keep your clothes on, when all about you are losing theirs ..." to plagiarize Kipling, she will be more of a woman within herself. Help her understand that she doesn't have to dress exactly like Brittney or Paris to be well thought of. In fact, boys appreciate girls who stand out in a crowd by looking better than others. They may ogle the naked chicks, but they'll more seriously consider a relationship with a mature, decent girl. Help her see the value of thinking for herself.

We are in danger of losing a generation to slovenliness. Sloppy dress habits equal sloppy morals. Just ask that teen boy drooling over your baby's barely covered bottom. He's thinking how much he'd like to get some o' dat. And how ready she much be to let him. "Clothes make the man." Well clothes make the woman, too. Think, Mom, how you feel the first time you wear a new outfit that you know looks great. You feel more beautiful, more together, more alive. Help your little girl learn that feeling.

Girls who dress like a _____ (pick your adjective) tend to more easily act like one, too. It's easier to fall into unwise behavior if those around you are expecting it. It's easier for others around you to think poorly of you if you're dressed to indicate your attitude toward casual sex.

MOMS AND DAUGHTERS

What really appalls me is when I see a mother and daughter (or stepmom and stepdaughter) both dressed scantily. Sometimes the mom is even more trashy looking than the young lady with her. Believe me ladies, no one is impressed. At least no one you want to impress. The only men who appreciate seeing that spectacle are the type guys you don't want to notice your little girl. And none of the women are impressed. None.

And what have those moms done? They have not only allowed, but encouraged their daughters to look trashy. How much do you want your baby to get a lousy reputation? Remember, how your daughters look reflects on you directly. Bad raising shows.

I don't know if those moms are afraid of appearing to be adults (horrors!), or if they have self-esteem issues themselves, but guiding your teen and pre-teen daughters to look like that is tantamount to child abuse. You're contributing to the delinquency of a minor, at the very least.

Kids have so many challenges these days. Especially stepkids. Please do them a favor and teach them how to be self-respecting. Teach them how to look and think like decent young adults. Teach them to care about themselves. You and your grandchildren will be glad you did.

For a good article on this topic, and a world view of the issue, follow this link to The Weekly telegraph online.

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