Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Summer's Coming

Every family with school age children faces the challenge of helping those children maximize the joys of summer. The experiences that enrich their lives may not be confined to the movies they see or the television they watch. Summer offers unstructured time that is valuable in itself.

Consider creating conversations with your children about their visions, ideas and desires for spending time in which no school bell rings, and no time frame is relevant. We look for relationships we want to encourage, projects they can do on their own with just minimal supervision, books to read, and artistic talents to explore. A recently published book The Do It Yourself family by Eric Strommer is a good place to start.

You can act as a "consultant" to your child's sense of what they want to do and where they want to spend time. We've helped several families establish a 'no tv' zone for the entire summer. The days are long, the opportunities almost endless and there's plenty of time.

We ask you to write to us, give us your ideas for helping children utilize summer as a time of growing and expanding. We look forward to hearing from you.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Weekends in paradise

This is the Memorial Day weekend and we're not going anywhere, not doing anything, not stressing about what we should be doing and not competing with what the neighbors are doing. We're home. Our home is situated on a hill in eastern Ventura County. A little piece of county land called an Urban Rural Reserve. Nice name.

Since they named it that they've put more traffic on the street at the bottom of the hill, added houses in the city strip of land next to our reserve, built a presidential library on a nearby hill and more or less stripped away a lot of the 'rural reserve' part. But it's still our small piece of paradise.

This weekend we'll barbeque, tend to the yard, play games with our children, listen to some music, read a few stories and through it all, learn a little more about each other. For us, it's not a weekend to go away but a weekend to go towards each other. We'll create a little of the rural reserve right in our own back yard.

Friday, May 18, 2007

What was I thinking?

I'm really into the marriagen conversation. So much so that I sometimes overlook all the fun I'm having in my own marriage. Last night my wife Lynn, bustling about preparing for a day of jury duty that would pretty much wipe out all the other things she would want to be doing on Friday, well, she handed me a big brown envelope and said "this has to go to the Post Office tomorrow morning."

"What's inside?" I said, knowing full well that she was mailing the final edited version of her doctoral dissertation. "It's my thesis!" she said, I thought, somewhat impatiently. She's been working on that thing this last year and trying to balance being a mom, a grandmom, a wife, a professional (therapist), a major part of a new organization etc. During that time I have tried my best to fill in for her wherever possible but I have my own challenges.

We looked at each other over the big brown envelope that contained so much of her: intelligence, wit, passion, resiliency, doggedness - and knew something right there. Our marriage was more than what she calls "the regular" meaning, I think, companionship, tenderness, shared dreams. Our marriage was also a shared partnership in which we both acknowledged each other's hard work and supported each other's individuality and sense of purpose.

In all that, I sometimes forget how much fun it is to live with her, tease her, challenge her and fight with her. Last night we connected over a brown envelope. This morning I stood for 25 minutes in a line at the Post Office holding her in my hands. Then I mailed her.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Focus on the Big Stuff

The computer technician is down in my guest house office and I have irritated him by asking too many questions. He's the best at what he does that I have ever found so I tread lightly. Recently I had a friend instal some added memory and as a result my computer went belly up. The friend said it had nothing to do with him. "Must be a ______problem," he said.

I called my computer guy and he came over and spent three hours fixing what my friend may or may not have done. Then the computer guy said this. "Would you coach a couple if several other coaches or counselors were also coaching them?" I said no, and saw what he meant.

The small picture is that I thought I was getting a break by having my friend instal the additional memory. The straight shot is, maintaining computers is a lot like relationships generally, you want to be sure you're all working from the same playbook.

What I often forget is the big picture. My wife is irritable but it has nothing to do with me. She's tired, parented out, frustrated by her own business, dealing with aging. The big picture is my love for her and her right to live her life, have her feelings, experience her frustrations without it being a statement about me.

How does this relate to the computer guy? Well, if I could see the big picture of his knowledge and care of our computers I wouldn't even consider having someone else put their hands on the keyboards.
Marriage is far more intricate and also simpler than my challenges with this computer and its software. The key seems to be to focus on one thing at a time. Paying attention to my anxiety rather than her challenges clears a path to intimate conversation in which I ask questions rather than speculate on her motives.

My friend who installed new software was oblivious regarding how our computers are networked, the impact his programs would have on our firewalls and the work we had already done in the area he was trying to correct.

Like marriage, he would have served me better if he had asked a few questions before assuming he knew what was needed.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Life is short. Embrace your Marriage

We're back. With These Rings Vol.I is now available at our web site www.WithTheseRings.com and through Amazon, Barnes and Noble and AdvantageBookstore.com Vol.II will be out by early summer.

The Marriage Conversation is beginning. We were privileged to have a full hour radio interview with Shannon D. Sanford of WBTQ in New York. You can listen to it by going to her web site or WBTQ. We'll have it posted on WithTheseRings.com as well.

We're inviting you to participate in a conversation about marriage. Post your comments, ask your questions, send silly ideas. We'll look at all of them.

Today's silly idea appeared in yesterday's (Sundays) New York Times (May 13, 2007) in the Week in Review section (p.14). You have to see it to believe it. It's an ad by a Chicago attorney that reads "Life is short. Get a divorce."

We're used to things being dumbed down but is this the crudest yet? Let me know your ideas, opinions, etc.