Fatherhood

Five Ways to Appreciate Awesome Fatherhood

It’s tempting for some of us to dismiss Father’s Day. Greeting cards for dads aren’t as popular as they are on Mother’s Day. But it doesn’t matter what your father stories are. When we take time to reflect, there are five ways to appreciate awesome fatherhood.

Appreciate Fatherhood from your closest relationship

Think of your closest relationship and how you can appreciate fatherhood.

For me, it’s my husband Joe. Even though he’s never been a father, he is a remarkable “Papi Joe” to our four grandchildren. Yes, you may have heard the joke about skipping parenthood to become a grandparent. That is the case with Joe. But he’s more than “Papi Joe.” Right now, he’s becoming a father! No, we’re not Sarah and Abraham from the Old Testament. But it’s taken the two of us to conceive my book about messy marriages. For a woman who’s birthed four babies, writing this book is like going through nine months of pregnancy.

Appreciate Fatherhood from those who’ve passed on

For some of us, our dads are deceased and we miss them during this season. This is the first Father’s Day without my step-dad, Bob. He passed away a few months ago. Within the last decade, I’ve grown closer to him. I miss seeing his smile and hearing his laughter during family gatherings. Although Bob knew me as an adult, my other step-dad, Jim, influenced my formative years.

I have few memories of my young dad, Bill, who died of cancer when I was small. But my Aunt Sara said to me, “He was my favorite brother who took time to understand me.” I believe it’s my dad who passed this trait onto me to become the counselor I am today.

Appreciate Fatherhood from the dad who gave you life

Some struggle with their birth dad abandoning them. It’s easy to hold onto grudges. But our hearts can make room to appreciate them. Our freedom to forgive doesn’t minimize offenses. Nor does it mean it’s OK to let an untrustworthy man into your life. But being thankful helps us live more truthfully.

From the heart-ache I’ve heard in my counseling office, not all situations make this an easy task. And it won’t happen amidst bitterness and busy-ness. Most of us need extra help from a counselor to learn how to have healthy boundaries. We can cultivate an attitude of appreciation.

Appreciate Fatherhood from dads who’ve given you children & grandchildren

Let’s recognize our sons, sons-in-laws, and fathers of our grandchildren. And for some, it’s challenging to wish an ex-husband, “Happy Father’s Day.” Yet they all deserve our appreciation. Take time to notice the love they give and ways they provide.

We can cultivate appreciation even though all relationships have periodic or sometimes chronic messes. Click To Tweet

All relationships have periodic or sometimes chronic messes. Yet, we can still appreciate the dads who’ve born us children. It’s important to know that previous marriages and relationships are not failures. We can gain wisdom and focus on the beautiful lives conceived and birthed from those unions.

Appreciate Fatherhood from dads who’ve influenced you

Take notice of those who’ve been like a dad to you. It might be an extended family member or other mentor.

For me, it’s been my grandfather. His long and beautiful life lasted 94 years. I’m now blessed with living history through my 99-year-old grandmother, his widow. Also, I appreciate my father-in-law from my previous marriage who is now deceased.

Although my Uncle Ken has grown children of his own, I appreciate his influence on me as a father figure. He’s the one who encourages me and gives me advice when I ask for it. And he’s the one who’s known me since birth and has modeled a godly marriage and family over the years.

There’s a Father I’ve not met face-to-face. And I’m not Catholic. But, I appreciate Father Richard Rohr who’s made an impact on me in the last few years. I can tear up reading bite-sized portions of his small book “Just This.” Another book, “The Divine Dance” speaks to me on several levels. Parts of my memoir are about how God used dancing to move me into His divine invitations.

Celebrate Awesome Fatherhood

You may be full of natural appreciation for the fathers in your life. Or you may be avoiding Father’s Day. But we can all take time to ponder the positive things. We all can celebrate fathers as we focus on these five ways.  Let’s appreciate awesome fatherhood no matter how it shows up in our lives.

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Featured Photo by Morgan David de Lossy on Unsplash

How to Make People Feel Special

“Hi, Grandma. I have a surprise for you!”I made a quick call to my 99-year-old grandmother to tell her we were on our way to visit. It was my mom’s turn to drive as we finished the last hour of our twelve-hour trip. My grandmother has short-term memory loss. But she’s one who’s taught me how to make people feel special. I wanted to do that for her. And here are at least three ways to make people feel special. These three ways can help us connect with the humanity of the other person. When we do, we feel special, ourselves.

Make People Feel Special By Your Smiles

My grandmother has a natural smile that makes others feel comfortable. My step-dad, Bob also had a natural smile that matched his dimples. They both showed friendliness on their faces. Both could smile at strangers, acquaintances, and even their least favorite family members. Their smiles were always genuine.

But some people are born with solemn looks. It takes an effort to have a pleasant smile. It may be their facial muscles or lack of practice. But they’re unaware of how others experience them.

Whether you’re a natural smiler or not, the power of a smile makes a difference. In the presence of a small group or one-on-one interaction, a warm and pleasant smile helps us connect. And it makes others feel special.

Even in the most stressful situations, a smile can transform; both you and other people. #beyondmessymarriages Click To Tweet

If you struggle (as many do) with social anxiety, your face may be showing up as unapproachable to others. Practice your smile in front of the mirror. When you learn to do it, you’ll invite confidence in yourself and connection with others.

Make People Feel Special by Saying Their Name

It took a while before I could feel comfortable with this one. I’ve been known to immediately forget someone’s name when first introduced. But now, I say it back to the person who introduces themselves. As you continue the conversation, repeat their name a few times. It helps make the association in your brain so you don’t forget.

If you’re sitting in a meeting, jot a quick diagram with boxes. You can make a seating chart in the same way school teachers do. Then write their names in the boxes as people introduce themselves.

Here’s another idea. When the cashier is checking out your groceries, notice their name tag. Use their name as you say, “thank you.” Normally, they look up when you say their name. And sometimes they smile.

Make People Feel Special by Listening

One of the most valuable gifts you can give another person is the gift of listening. Dr. David G. Benner, my Spiritual Director showed me the value of dialogue.

Dialogue is making the space between two people emotionally safe. It’s being curious rather than judgmental.

Most of us think we’re listening. But instead, we’re formatting a response in our head. Listening to build your argument, is not true listening. But listening to hear and understand is the only kind that makes people feel special.

Smile, Name, Listen

We arrived at my grandmother’s assisted living, and knocked on her door. She expected us because of my call from the previous hour. “Judy, I’m so glad to see you!” She said it with a big smile on her face, and a warm embrace to my mom and me. She listened. All three of us felt special and connected.

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How to Get Positive Results In Your Relationship

We all have different stories in our heads about how secure or satisfying our relationships are. It’s common for one person to be satisfied while the other isn’t. That’s why it’s important to know how to get positive results in your relationship.

Some of us take pride in managing our money and then later found out a check bounced. Or we’ve balanced the checkbook and then discovered we spent more on the eating out category than budgeted.

Using another example, have you believed you were eating well, then were surprised the scales registered 10 pounds more than expected? Have you written down everything you ate? Then saw you were taking in many more calories than you were actually burning?

Uncertainty in Your Relationship

Many couples enter counseling with a lot of uncertainty. One is usually dragged in by the other.

One person says, “We need help.”

The other says, “We’re doing fine. . . We can work this out on our own. . .We’re not as bad off as you think.”

It makes sense that couples who detect problems in their relationship, on average, wait an additional six years before they get help.

Tiger/Turtle Syndrome in Your Relationship

It’s very common for one spouse to minimize and the other maximize. I call it the “Turtle/Tiger” syndrome.

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Turtles typically hide in their shells and avoid conflict or accuse their partners of blowing things out of proportion.

Turtles tend to see things “not as bad” as they really are. Tigers, on the other hand, roar and persist until they are heard. Many times they DO see things worse than they are.

Unsplash Photo

Consider Charting Patterns In Your Relationship

A couple years ago, I created The Partnership Pattern chart which helps you keep track of both positive and negative behaviors in your relationship.

For those who like to check things off, it can be a great way to balance the check book of your relationship. All you have to do is observe, experience, and rate measurable items that are going on now in your relationship.

But after I created the chart, I hesitated to share it. Why? I’m glad you asked.

  1. The tendency is to focus our attention on what our partner is doing wrong rather than what we are doing wrong. What we choose to focus on, we’ll find. Yet, it’s vital we don’t ignore clear behaviors that minimize our dignity. Generally, if you look for the positive behaviors, you’re likely to find them. And, of course those negative behaviors scream for your attention.
  2. Normally, we don’t realize how our own responses and reactions invite negativity from our partner. We’re paving the way to get the things we don’t want. Most relationships follow the law of reciprocity. But we need to be aware when the character of the relationship isn’t reciprocal.
  3. Filling out the chart objectively may reveal serious relationship issues such as emotional, mental, or physical abuse. Don’t hesitate to get immediate help if you’re living in fear or danger.

Here’s why I’m offering The Partnership Pattern chart anyway.

Get Clarity in Your Relationship

It’s vital we don’t ignore clear behaviors and attitudes that minimize our dignity.

If you could be honest with yourself, it can be revealing about how to get positive results in your relationship. And get the help that you may be minimizing.

Ideally, it’s great for both Tigers AND Turtles to participate. But if the Turtle in your life is still hiding, you Tigers will have a great outlet for grounding in reality.

The idea is to check off what you experienced most in the relationship that day. Do it every day for one month and get a clear picture of what you need, whether it’s a marriage enrichment weekend or crisis intervention with your local counselor. Know where your relationship stands.

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Relationship

3 Revealing Requirements To Save Your Relationship

 

After years of counseling couples and hearing multitudes of stories, I’ve come to believe three revealing requirements to save your relationship. These requirements not only save your relationship, they nurture it throughout the seasons of life. The story begins with my learning to dance.

Relationship Patterns Are Like Dance Movements

Having grown up in a faith tradition that doesn’t believe in playing cards, smoking, drinking, and engaging in pre-marital dancing, I began to explore a part of me I hadn’t previously developed. It wasn’t the smoking and drinking I was drawn to. Instead, I began to integrate freedom, movement, creativity, music, and emotionally safe partnership through taking ballroom dance lessons. I quickly discovered dancing was like sparks of light into deeper places of my soul.

The light-hearted atmosphere of learning to dance helped me take myself less seriously. And it was a contrast from the crisis counseling work I was doing at the time. I was energized. It provided joy and the lighter side of life.

After a few group and private lessons, I became more aware of how the same dance moves felt different with the style and frame of various partners. As we switched partners often during group lessons, each dancer carried their own unique energy, rhythm and frame.

We relate to our spouses or significant others through relationship patterns similar to dancing.  We all have learned behaviors and styles from childhood that carry over into our adult relationships. When chronic conflict begins to take over in a relationship, it’s time to re-evaluate those dance steps.

Reason # 1 – Your Relationship Requires Reciprocity 

During the romantic phase when we feel the connection, both partners make time to be together and have fun. When the chemistry wears off, our default patterns take over. The ease of the relationship dance works for a while until normal life stressors enter. Child-rearing differences, financial habits, careers, moves, in-laws, attitudes, and resentment wears off those early romantic feelings. What began as exciting and bigger than life becomes boring and irritating.

It’s time to consider the relationship dances and change those steps and styles. It takes two to make that happen.

Reason # 2 – Your Relationship Requires Change

Every stage of life is an invitation to knowing parts of your relationship that were previously hidden. For example, the transition from couplehood to parenthood opens up new and different roles. Research indicates a 70% drop in marital satisfaction within a baby’s first year of life. The husband/wife roles change to dad and mom. One parent may become jealous of time and attention a young child requires. Or new anxieties arise from the magnitude of being solely responsible for the development of another human being.

Added financial pressure, household chores, and caring for a baby requires a shift in perspectives. Expectant parents should consider couples’ counseling to be pro-active as they anticipate necessary changes.

Not only in the child-bearing years, but the dance of a marriage changes with each season of life. What may have worked early on in your relationship may not be relevant now.

Reason # 3 – Your Relationship Requires Fun

Negativity, limited beliefs, and ruminating on the past takes away the fun-loving energy we all need in our partnerships. In Dr. John Gottman’s longitudinal studies of couples, those who don’t recover quickly from conflicts are likely to divorce. It’s not a matter of having less conflict than the average couple. Happily married couples still experience 67% of unresolved conflict. But they’ve learned to shake it off quicker than troubled couples.

Just as the mind absorbs negativity on the neurons, we need to be intentional about light-hearted laughter and fun activities.

What’s Your Next Move?

My husband and I met through our ballroom dance community and we had a great couples dance teacher.  As we move to the rhythm of our lives together, we’re still learning to change what comes natural from the patterns we know so well.

To find out what your relationship needs now, ask about taking the Gottman Relationship Checkup.

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Regret

How To Transform Regret Into Powerful Life Lessons

I was trying to squeeze too much into my day and said “yes” when I should have said, “not now.” I began feeling regret and anger with myself for missing out. Really, I was trying to squeeze too much into my day. I made the wrong decision. We all know what that feels like. As we face our not-so-good decisions, can know how to transform regret into powerful life lessons.

Some folks say they intend to live with no regrets. And I think, really? Is that even possible?

I don’t believe we can live our entire lives without regrets.

No matter how intentional we are, we all experience regrets. Those of us who admit our regrets can become stuck in sadness with focused attention around helplessness. There’s nothing I can do about it now. Others ignore the regrets because the feelings are too painful.

Instead, it’s important to learn from regrets so we can make necessary changes.

With her care of people through hospice work, Bronnie Ware identified the five regrets of the dying. This list has been in my planner all year.

1. Have the courage to live life true to yourself and not what others expect.

Ancient literature reminds us of how universal fear is to our humanity. I highlighted several references of God’s message to Joshua in my Bible. Joshua was the one to champion the nation of Israel into the promised land. (Old Testament, book of Joshua) There’s several phrases of Be strong and of good courage along with more messages of Do not be afraid.

Notice that a pre-requisite for courage is fear. Let’s face it. We are all fearful at times. I believe fears (or any emotions we experience) are invitations to us from God to grow. Fear and courage are a necessary part of our growth.

2. Don’t work so hard.

We need to honor the God-given design of our bodies. Our brains need sleep, and our bodies need nutrition and exercise. Dr. Dan Seigel has a great diagram of our daily requirement for a healthy mind. Too many of us have stress-related health issues, and strained relationships due to overwork.

3. Express feelings.

Many of us don’t have words to describe how we feel. Or we may be constantly on the go and don’t notice our feelings. When we’re triggered in an instant, we fail to pause and explore what might really be going on. Instead, we medicate with social media or screen time.

4. Stay in touch with friends.

I fall short in this category and must admit I’d never been to any of my high-school reunions. Even though we have years of disconnect from former friends, it’s never too late to fill in that gap.

Not only is it healthy to nurture individual friendships, but it’s important to grow our marriages through couple friends. Recent research indicates friendships with other healthy couples increase happiness and partnership in marriage.

5. Let yourself be happy.

Some of us take ourselves way too seriously. When my husband meets new people, he usually asks, What do you do for fun? It’s amazing how many people just pause and are unsure how to answer. But it’s a great way to connect beyond our titles and what we do for a living. Somehow we learn a lot about a person when they share what they like doing for fun.

 

Remember, don’t let a powerful life lesson pass you by. Face regrets and take these five lessons to heart:

  1. Be courageous and true to yourself
  2. Relax from work
  3. Express your feelings
  4. Enjoy friendships
  5. Be happy.

Questions to Ponder

Which of the five lessons would you like to focus on?

Sign up for practical ways to do it:

  1. Ask for a free 20 minute consultation
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