Saturday, April 2, 2011

Bricks, Mortar and The Three Little Pigs

My granddaughter’s favorite story is The Three Little Pigs. We all know the story. The pigs that built their houses out of straw and sticks saw them blown away by the big bad wolf. Fortunately, the third pig had the wisdom to build a sturdy house out of bricks, one that could not be blown away when the big bad wolf came.

The third pig took more time to build his house. He put mortar between each brick to bind them together for a strong and impenetrable house. He could have just stacked the bricks, maybe putting a little mortar here and there, and then gone off to play with his brothers. But then his house would have been blown away too and none of them would have had a safe refuge.

As we build our marriages (and yes, that is what we’re doing – building – marriages don’t come ready-made), we can learn a lot from The Three Little Pigs. It may seem more fun to be haphazard about things and not put thoughtful effort into our marriages. However, if we choose to do things that way, like the little pigs who built their houses out of straw and sticks, we may find that we don't have the strength we need when the threatening “winds” come (and they will come!)

We really can’t afford to just stack our bricks either. And we do this a lot. We have communication (the bricks) but we don’t really listen and acknowledge what the other person says. Instead, we try to “one-up” each other. “You think you had a bad day. You should have seen mine.” We have a lot of “conversations” but we don’t really connect.

We can put mortar between our bricks by listening and acknowledging what the other person says, whether or not we agree or whether or not we think it’s important. “Wow! It sounds like you really had a hard time.” This simple act of listening and acknowledging binds us together. It connects us and strengthens our relationship. It makes us feel safe and secure.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Choices and Climbing Vines

Last summer we grew honey dew, cantaloupe and watermelons in our garden beds. However, we didn’t realize how far reaching their climbing vines would be. We often found vines far away from the garden beds, climbing around other plants. It was hard to tell what vine belonged to what plant, what needed to be cut back and what needed more room to grow. In short, the vines had taken over!

How often do we let other things “take over” our lives? Just like the climbing vines, we don’t realize how far reaching and intertwining they are. And, to be honest, sometimes it’s just easier to let other things “take over” our lives. It frees us up from having to choose and think for ourselves.

For example, with the news and commentary about the news available 24 hours a day, how often do we just let the commentators do our thinking for us? Or how often do we just react to other people, what they say, what they do, instead of choosing our own actions, our own values? There are plenty of “climbing vines” out there and they can virtually take over our lives if we allow them to.

But we don’t have to let them take over our lives. We can choose to cut them back or better yet, to not let them take over in the first place. Instead of turning on the TV, we can choose to look inward, to determine what is important to us, what we value and then make decisions accordingly. We can choose to listen more to our spouse, to be the first to say something positive, to express appreciation instead of just reacting to them. Granted, this takes more effort and more personal accountability. But it’s also very liberating and empowering! Instead of letting the “climbing vines” take over our lives, we realize we are in charge and we see more clearly who we are and what a difference we can make!

Monday, February 21, 2011


Every day, every hour, every minute, we have choices to make. Some choices like stealing, cheating, purposely harming someone, are obviously poor choices. They end up hurting us as well as others. Our consciences help us avoid making these kinds of choices.

Then there are the other kinds of choices: the choices between good things – helping people, improving ourselves, spending time with friends and family. These are all good choices. No one would argue with that. The problem is we only have so much time, so much energy, so much money. We have to choose what good things we will do with the time, energy and money that we have.

What criteria can we use to make these choices? One thing we can do is look at lasting consequences – not just what’s good today but what will make a difference tomorrow and ten years from now. For example, we could reason that while spending time with friends seems very important right now, will it be as important ten years from now? Likewise, while taking a class will certainly be an opportunity to improve ourselves, will it matter that much ten years from now?

There are no easy answers to these questions. These are the kinds of choices we struggle with. Maybe it really will make a difference ten years from now or maybe it won’t. How can we know? Often, we just find out by trial and error.

There are, however, some things that we do know. We know that relationships need time and energy to grow and develop. They do not grow and develop by themselves. We also know that some relationships are more important than others. We know that when we are married and have families our primary relationships – our relationship with our spouse, with our children – are the most important relationships. The strength of those bonds directly affects the quality of our lives. They are as vital as the air that we breathe.

Every day, every hour, every minute we have choices to make. Think good and hard about the choices you make.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Boggle and Life

I did it! Yesterday I found an eight-letter word in Boggle!

If you’re not familiar with Boggle, it’s a game where you have three minutes to make words based on the letters in front of you after shaking them up. Typically, you’re able to find 3 or 4 letter words (worth 1 point each) – occasionally a 5 or 6 letter word (2 and 3 points each) and maybe once in a while a 7-letter word (5 points). Eight-letter words are so rare that you get 11 points for them.

I was so thrilled! It wasn’t something I expected but there it was right in front of me: t-o-r-r-e-n-t-s.

Isn’t this true of life too? We’re just minding our own business, plodding along, doing what we need to do, and all of a sudden - seemingly out of nowhere - something wonderful happens. We find that eight-letter word. Our child gives us a wonderful compliment. We have a euphoric connection with our spouse. Everything makes sense and we feel so much joy we could burst.

It doesn’t happen all the time. We go for long periods of time finding only 3 and 4 letter words. Sometimes we’re happy to find any words. But we don’t give up. We keep going. We keep trying. We learn to find satisfaction in little things – even just knowing that we’re doing what we need to be doing.

No, it doesn’t happen all the time. Perhaps, if it did it would be too much for us to handle – too torrential! But when it does happen – when we do get that wonderful compliment, when we do feel that euphoric connection, when we find that eight-letter word - it puts a little extra spring in our step and we know that every once in while, when we’re least expecting it, something wonderful can happen!

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Power of Apology

Jill arrived at our counseling session a few minutes before her husband, who was stuck in traffic. While we were waiting Jill made an interesting comment. “Maybe I just need to apologize to him but I don’t know what for.”

Giving a sincere apology is a challenge for many people. I think one of the problems many of us have is that we look at an apology primarily as an admission of guilt rather than as a healing balm to the relationship.

The truth is, it really isn’t so important who is right and who is wrong. What is important is that there is a wound that needs to be healed and an apology is a wonderful way (often needful way) to begin that healing process. To effectively use the healing balm of an apology, we need to first swallow our pride and let go of the need to be right. We need to not be so concerned about protecting our own ego as we are of removing the wedge that is interfering with our having a strong, close, loving relationship. A sincere, heartfelt apology can do that.

And as we look at apology in this way, of course we will not limit how often we apologize, thinking somehow we’ve apologized “enough”.
Instead we will look at saying “I’m sorry” in a similar way that we look at saying “I love you”. They are both words of caring, of healing, of connecting, of bonding.

Jill did apologize to her husband once she understood this. She found the words and didn’t worry about “what for”. She began the healing process.