Archive for Celebration

Graduating Quiet as a Mouse? No Way!

My youngest daughter is one of the many young men and women graduating from college this year.  Like so many others during the covid-19 pandemic, she transitions quietly from one phase of life to another. No pomp and circumstance. No announcing of her name before a crowd of people. No walking across a stage to be given a congratulatory handshake as she receives her diploma. No cap thrown into the air with her classmates. No gathering of family and friends to celebrate. Just a quiet step from one stage of life into another.

But, do not let the forced isolation of this year’s graduation fool you. We recognize your hard work.  You have worked hard, and your hard work has paid off.  You have achieved a milestone in your life. We recognize your success.

I ask you not to let this time pass by without taking a moment to reflect in the quietness. Reflect on the long nights you conquered and the seemingly impossible demands you met. Reflect on the knowledge you have gained and the life experiences from which you have learned. Reflect and celebrate the friends you made, the joys you shared, and the obstacles you have overcome. I think you will discover, like I did, that although you are graduating quietly, you are more like a lion than a mouse. Yes, more like a lion quietly prowling through the tall grasses of anxiety and confusion that distract the world from seeing your hard-earned success. A lion stealthily studying the current climate, confidently looking for just the right moment and the right angle from which to gain the best gain in the current environment. Muscles primed for the quest of life’s next stage as you crouch, kneading the ground under your feet to assure good footing. Quietly preparing and watching for the right moment to pounce at full throttle into the next phase of life. Ready to conquer. Ready to run. Yes, you are much more like a lion.

But for now, it is quiet. Don’t worry. Wait patiently. Reflect on your accomplishments. Continue looking ahead to survey the possible opportunities. They will come and you will go. We have confidence in you and your ability, a confidence born from watching you achieve so much already, a confidence undergirded by our pride in who you have become.  Yes, we are proud of you. We may not be able to take you out to dinner or gather with friends and family to celebrate…we may not get the opportunity to applaud your success at a graduation ceremony…but, we are proud of you. We know you have worked hard. We watched you struggle with obstacles and overcome. We see you planning and waiting–patiently biding your time, itching to take that next leap. And we are as excited for your next step as you are. It will come. And when it does, you will leap. And through it all, we are behind you cheering you on. We are proud of you.

The Digital Bedtime Story?

I love to read. When my daughters were young, I loved reading to them at bedtime. I also loved lying in the bed with my wife and children listening to my wife read Little House on the Prairie or The Chronicles of Narnia to our children. We read physical books to our children…you know, books made of real paper as opposed to e-books. I’m not sure we had the choice of using e-books when my children were young. Still, the smell and touch of the paper, the sound of a turning page…it all has a certain beauty to it.

Today, you might think to read bedtime stories from an e-book, a nook, or a kindle to your children. But before you do, consider this small study published in 2019. This study involved 37 parent-child pairs. The children were an average of 29-months-old. The researchers observed and recorded behaviors while these parent-child pairs read stories together. In fact, each pair read each story in three different formats: a physical book, an e-reading tablet, and an e-reading tablet on which the story was interactive (touching added sounds, enhanced pictures, read words).

After observing and coding behavior, the researchers found that parent-child pairs using e-readers battled for possession of the tablet more often than they did when using a physical  book. Children moved so the parent could not see the e-reader more often, controlling the parent’s ability to read. Children and parents touched the book more often, pushed the other person’s hand away. Parents and children grabbed the book or attempted to move it out of the other’s range as well. In other words, parent and child exerted more effort to control the e-reader. They exhibited more behaviors aimed at “managing possession” of the tablet.

Why? The researchers note that tablets are generally for solitary use. For instance, parents may use the e-reader as an electronic babysitter for the child, letting their play with it alone while they clean the kitchen. This may increase the difficulty of using it collaboratively as a pair. Children also love to explore what is generally off limits to them. So, when an e-reader, which is generally off limits to them or turned off so they cannot use it, is suddenly presented to them, they may want to possess it. The researchers also suggest that both parent and child may be “mesmerized” by the screens that invite each one into a solitary interaction with the screen. In other words, in the long run, we really do not know why parents and children battled more for control of the e-reader when they can collaborate and share with the physical book. Perhaps that will be the next study we read.

But, whatever the reason, physical books led to greater interactive sharing versus attempts to control and possess. I like what the author of Bedtime Stories in the Digital Age concluded after reviewing this information: “if our parent-child interactions shape our future behaviors (and they do), we might want to read physical books with our children. Doing so is a more collaborative, less controlling interaction.”  And, if our world needs anything right now, it needs more collaborative, less controlling people. So, pick up a couple of physical books and enjoy reading them with your child.

Gratitude Will Help Your Family Survive

I am not suggesting we ignore struggles or gloss over pain, BUT gratitude will help your family and my family survive hard times. Let me explain a couple of ways in which gratitude will help your family through the tough times.

  • A study published in 2007 involving 236 undergraduate students showed that students who report greater gratitude were more likely to take active steps to deal with problems when they arose. They were less likely to blame themselves for the problem and more likely to look for something positive in the problem, the “silver-lining” so to speak. In other words, gratitude helps us take an active role in problem-solving during tough times.
  • A study published in 2009 surveyed 201 college students and found that those who were more grateful were also more likely to use positive reframing to cope with stress. In other words, grateful people were more likely to look for something in the problem to help them learn and grow rather than wallow in the negative aspects of the problem. 
  • A 2019 study involving 71 college students found that students who spent time recording their gratitude twice a week for four weeks were better able to decrease negative reactions to negative emotions. In other words, they were better able to manage their negative emotions. Interestingly, those who wrote about gratitude used more words to describe their emotions, allowing them to better process and manage them.
  • Finally, a 2014 study involving 75 participants found that those participants instructed to remember a time of gratitude were more likely to wait for a long-term reward than those who recalled times of happiness or just a typical day. Gratitude helped them manage impatient urges for immediate reward. Gratitude supported patience.

What do you think? In these studies, grateful people were less likely to blame themselves and more likely to actively seek solutions and participate in the solution of a present problem. Grateful people were more likely to look for the “silver lining,” to look for what they can learn from a difficult situation. Grateful people were better able to manage their negative emotions. And, grateful people were more patient. Perhaps what we need right now is a little more gratitude. I’m going to promote that in my own life and the life of my family. Will you join me?

Read about these benefits and more in Four Ways Gratitude Helps You with Difficult Emotions from Greater Good.

Easter While “Sheltered at Home”?

Many families have very active Easter weekend full of social gatherings and celebrations: Good Friday services, preparation for family gatherings, Sunrise services, Easter services, and large extended gatherings with family and friends. For Christians, this is am especially meaningful time of the year, a true “holy-day.” This year, however, is going to feel different. But don’t let those differences ruin your Easter. Don’t let Easter slip away without recalling what makes Easter such a special day for us. Be creative and make this Easter special, even as you “shelter-at-home.” Here are some tips to help us all remember the celebration of Easter.

  • Celebrate the Holy Week with creative calendars marking the events of each day during the Holy Week. Here’s one idea for doing a creative calendar.
  • Make resurrection cookies on Saturday night. It is a wonderful way to teach our children about the crucifixion & resurrection while having fun. And, you can enjoy the cookies on Easter Sunday.
  • Sit down with your family and watch the live streaming of your congregation’s Good Friday service and Easter morning service. If your congregation does not have a live stream, watch the live stream of another congregation’s service.
  • Read the story of Aslan’s resurrection in The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. Or, watch the movie (link).  Although we have a little bit of Peter, Susan, and Lucy in all of us, talk about how we are all like Edmund as well. Enjoy the realization of what Aslan’s sacrifice meant for Edmund…and what Jesus’ sacrifice means for us.
  • Watch The Passion of Christ by Mel Gibson. Use caution in watching this movie as a family though. It is very graphic. Consider if your children are ready for such a graphic depiction of the events surrounding the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ.
  • Have a family Easter egg hunt. Easter is still a celebration of new life and the finding of peace and joy in the work of God in Christ.
  • Enjoy a family Easter meal. Easter allows us to become part of the family of God. Celebrate family with a meal. Make it a feast of celebration.
  • As you enjoy your day together, play some classic Easter music in the background. Handel’s Messiah and hymns such as Christ the Lord is Risen Today come to mind. To help out, here is one playlist of Easter songs from YouTube you might like. Easter Songs and Hymns Playlist (Resurrection Theme)
  • I almost forgot….How could I? My daughters would kill me. Watch this video of “It’s Friday But Sunday’s Coming.”

Don’t let the differences of this year take away your Easter joy. Celebrate. Enjoy your Easter.

What are some of the creative ways you are celebrating Easter this year?

Survival Tips for Your Family During Corona Virus

The corona virus pandemic has brought major changes to our families. Children are home from school. Some parents are home from work while others have jobs that require them to continue working and take great precautions to not “catch the virus.” Having everyone home 24/7 is a new experience for many families. Family members may have different approaches to risk and anxiety of the corona virus. They may also have different tolerance levels for being “sheltered in place,” the resulting changes in activity level, and mandate of physical distance. With these things in mind, I’d like to suggest 7 survival tips for your family during the corona virus pandemic.

  1. Maintain as many routines as possible and develop new routines as needed. Being “sheltered in place” has disrupted many of our typical routines. You may experience changes in meal routines, morning routines, and routines that involve going out as well as others. Take time to assess your individual and family routines. Which ones can you keep in place? Where do you need to add new routines? This may prove an excellent time to begin a few routines you’ve been wanting to start. (You can even Add Meaning to Life by Building Routine.)
  2. Negotiate differences. Family members may have different needs for togetherness versus alone time. They may worry differently and have different tolerance levels around reduced activity or the mandate of physical distance. Accept your differences. Talk about those differences and determine how you will manage those differences. It may take some compromise so talk about your needs. Anything you can talk about you can resolve…and you can talk about anything.
  3. Enjoy some family time. Yes, some family members may require some alone time. Allow them that freedom. However, we all need family time and family support as well. So, develop some family times. Some great opportunities for family time may include meals, an evening movie, a family game, or reading in the same room. (A great family time involves The Lost Art of Family Meals.)
  4. Intentionally seek ways to serve one another. These are trying times. Workloads change with everyone home. So, notice what needs done and help. Take the opportunity to do something kind for your spouse, your children, your parent, or the whole family.  Send some cards to friends. Do an extra chore. Help cook a meal. Let the possibilities grow. Serve one another.
  5. Remain polite. Everyone is a little “edgy” being “stuck in the house” with their routines disrupted and typical activities curtailed. You can take the edge off with simple politeness. “Please.” “Excuse me.” “You’re welcome.” “Would you be able to…?” Simple politeness will go a long way in keeping the family secure through this time.
  6. Express gratitude. Just like politeness, gratitude is a powerful tool for building and maintaining relationships. Make it a point to thank your family members for the little things they do…even if it’s something they’re “supposed to do.”
  7. Laugh a little. Don’t let humor disappear amidst the stress. Tell a joke. Play a game. Be silly. Have fun. Laughter is great medicine.

The corona virus pandemic may change our daily routines and structure for a time. But it will pass. Your family will last well beyond the current situation. Doing these 7 things will help you draw your family closer during this time of crisis.

I’m a Daydream Believer. Are You?

It can happen anywhere. My mind wanders and I find myself in another world, a fantasy world. At times, my daydreaming got me into a little bit of trouble. Teachers often didn’t appreciate it. But now, thanks to a group of researchers, I’ve discovered how being a daydream believer can benefit my marriage. Perhaps it can help you and your marriage, too. Have you ever had times in which you and your spouse had to be apart? It may be as simple as having to spend the day at work. Or it might be more involved or lengthy, like a business trip, deployment, or living in different time zones due to work for a period of time. Could daydreaming help you maintain your connection?

In a study completed in 2015, 126 people were divided into three groups. One group was asked to daydream about a “another person  that you have a close, positive, relationship with like a friend, family member, or significant other.” A second group was to enjoy a daydream “just about yourself. It shouldn’t involve thinking about or interacting with anyone else.” And a third group was given a simple working-memory task (a control group). After being assigned to one of the three groups, each person took a quiz designed to elicit feelings of loneliness. Then, each group did their assigned daydreaming or working memory task. Following this, each person took several measures of feelings, desire to connect with others, and willingness to help another  person.

What were the results?

  • Social daydreamers (those who daydreamed about a loved one or friend) and non-social daydreamers (those who had a daydream that only included themselves) exhibited an increase in positive feelings. BUT, only social daydreamers exhibited an increase in positive social feelings. In other words, only social dreamers exhibited an increase in feelings of connection, love, and belonging!
  • Social daydreamers also exhibited a greater willingness than non-social daydreamers to help another person. In other words, their increase in positive social feelings went beyond mere feelings and led them to take different actions than non-social daydreamers. They “put their feelings where their actions were” and responded to requests for help.
  • Social daydreamers also expressed less desire to interact with others (strangers) in a future task. Their “need” for connection and belonging was satisfied through daydreaming about their significant other.

What does all this mean for you? Well, if you’re missing your spouse you don’t need to look for some connection at the bar or on-line chats or pornography. You don’t have to sit in your room feeling blue either. Instead, you might spend a little time daydreaming about past interactions and possible future interactions with your spouse. A little daydreaming and you’ll likely feel greater connection, love, and belonging. That’s why I’m a daydream believer.

PS—By the way, you don’t have to limit yourself to a daydream if you’re missing your spouse. You might also give your spouse a call.

Resting on a Stable Stool of Love

Passion and intimacy are important aspects of a healthy marriage. One theorist even developed a “Triarchic Theory of Love” that included passion, intimacy, and commitment. Like a 3-legged stool, this theory held that the seat of love rested on three components: Commitment, Intimacy, & Passion. Missing one or two of these components meant an unstable love. No one wants to sit on a 2-legged stool or, worse, a 1-legged stool. We need a stable love with all three components on which to rest.  Of course, passion and intimacy can wane, but commitment contributes to their waxing strong again. In fact, committing to these six activities can help keep passion and intimacy alive and growing.

  • Keep on dating. Dating is the opportunity to give one another the kind of attention you shared in the early days of your relationship. It is an opportunity to give your undivided attention to your spouse for an extended period of time. With that in mind, you can have a “date” at home as well as in the community. Take time every week to put the kids to bed or get a babysitter and spend one-on-one quality time in which you give one another your undivided attention. Remember, you can Make Date Night Spectacular with just a few simple actions.
  • While we’re on the idea of full, undivided attention, unplug. When you go on a date, unplug. Schedule daily tech-free periods of time with one another, times in which you can be together with no interruptions from technology. Two excellent times to create “a couple’s tech-free time” include mealtimes and the last 15-30 minutes before going to bed.
  • Practice eye contact. I know it sounds gushy, but stare at one another with those high school googly eyes of love. When you talk, look one another in the eye. Notice the beauty of your spouse’s eyes. Let them know how much you admire their beauty. It may be somewhat uncomfortable at first but allow yourself to enjoy the connection of eye-to-eye contact.
  • Hide a love note…or five…or ten….  Write a few simple love notes to your spouse and hide them in their clothes, their lunch box, their car, under their pillow…whatever creative place you can imagine. The note doesn’t have to be extravagant. They can be as simple as “I love you,” “You’re beautiful,” or “Thanks for being mine.”
  • Put on some music and dance. You can dance in the kitchen, the living room, the dining room, the bedroom…wherever you want. Even if you don’t like dancing in public, a little private dancing can sure ignite your passion and intimacy as a couple.
  • Give a massage; receive a massage. Sharing massages is a great way to relax and share romance. You don’t need any special training. Just pay attention to your spouse and give them a massage. If you want some hints, consider these simple instructions from wikiHow.

Don’t let your spouse sit on an unstable 2-legged stool. Commit to keeping keep the stool of love stable so you can both rest comfortably and securely on your passionate, intimate, committed love.

Top 5 Ways to Know Your Partner Feels Unappreciated

Number 5: You notice your partner leaving things they usually do undone. Yes, this is a little passive aggressive. But it sends a message loud and clear. “I’m tired of being unappreciated for all I do around here…so I’m just not doing it anymore.”

Number 4: Your spouse withdraws into a quiet shell. Sometimes a person will become quiet and sullen when they feel unappreciated. They look angry or unhappy in their quietness around you but perk up around others. If you see that, maybe you’re seeing a spouse that feels unappreciated.

Number 3: Your spouse begins to sound like a martyr. When your partner begins to act and talk like they are the martyr or say things about feeling taken advantage of, you may be living with a spouse that feels unappreciated.

Number 2: Your partner begins to complain. “Do I have to do everything around here?”  “Can’t you help out a little? I’m tired of doing everything.” “Why do you just sit around while I do all the work?” If you are hearing statements like this, your spouse likely feels unappreciated. (And, you may show your appreciation by helping “around here.”)

Number 1: Your spouse tells you directly. They may say it kindly. “I’m feeling a little underappreciated, honey?” Or they may say it in anger. “You don’t appreciate anything I do around here.” Either way, the easiest way to know your spouse feels unappreciated is when they tell you so.

More importantly, what can you do about this? The answer is simple. Begin appreciating your spouse. Look for opportunities to thank your spouse for things they do for you, your family, and your home. When you see something they have done, thank them. Don’t just smile or acknowledge what they’ve done in your head. Verbally tell them, “Thank you.”

Don’t stop there. Don’t just respond to things they do. Respond to who they are. Voice your admiration and adoration for them. Acknowledge their beauty, their hard work, their kindness, their wisdom. Whatever you admire and adore in your partner, let them know. (Here are 6 great things you can say to show appreciation to your spouse.)

Finally, get involved. Help around the house. Serve your family. Ask how you can help…then do it. Nothing makes a person feel more appreciated than a partner who is actively involved in working together.

Savoring X 3 Equals a Stronger Marriage

Traditional marriage vows included the phrases “to have and to hold” and “to love and to cherish.”  After reading the abstract and a short review of a study on cherishing, I think we need to add another phrase, “to have and to savor” (To Have and to Savor: Examining the Associations Between Savoring and Relationship Satisfaction). The authors of this study defined savoring as the “tendency to attend to and enjoy previous, current, and future positive events.” They also noted that savoring consisted of three facets: savoring in anticipation of an event (future), savoring in the present moment (present), and savoring in reminiscence of an event (past). Based on the results of this study of 122 undergraduate students in monogamous dating relationships, all three facets of savoring were associated with relationship satisfaction. Anticipatory savoring, however, had the strongest association to relationship satisfaction. In other words, attending to and enjoying (savoring) positive events and activities with your spouse leads to a happier marriage. No surprise there, right?

How can you savor times with your spouse in the moment, in reminiscing, and most importantly, in anticipation?  Here’s a few ideas.

Savoring your marriage in the moment:

  • Get a babysitter to watch your children and go on a date with your spouse.
  • Put the cell phone away and focus solely on your spouse. (For sure, Do NOT Text and Date.) Enjoy conversation with your spouse.  Flirt. Stare into one another’s eyes. Enjoy the romance.
  • While enjoying a date with your spouse, leave the planning, disagreements, and heated discussions for another time. Focus on those things you enjoy together and the moment of being in one another’s presence. (This will help you Make Date Night Spectacular!)
  • Hold hands. Sit arm in arm. Cuddle. Physical contact can help you remain focused in the present and savor the moment.
  • Take some pictures during your event. These can be used when you “savor your marriage by reminiscing.”

Savoring your marriage by reminiscing:

  • Open the photo album or pull up the pics you took while on previous outings (remember the pictures you took while savoring the moment?) or during previous times in your life as a couple. Look at the pictures of the past events and activities you shared with your spouse and enjoy retelling the stories of those events.
  • Even without pictures, talk about your favorite vacations, your favorite dates, your times of joy and pleasure. Retell the stories of obstacles you have overcome and joys you have experienced together.
  • Enjoy reminiscing about the beautiful story of your life together with all the ups and downs that have brought you closer together. (And enjoy sharing that story with your family…it’s The Story That Will Change Your Family Life.)

Savoring in anticipation (the savoring with the greatest impact on marital satisfaction):

  • Plan an outing for you and your spouse several days in advance. Let it be a surprise. Do not tell them what it is but give daily hints as the event approaches.
  • Plan an outing with your spouse. Talk about your anticipation for the outing.
  • Plan a vacation with your spouse. As a couple, learn some about the history and culture of the place you plan to visit on your vacation. Look up some restaurants and points of interest to visit. Talk about various activities you would like to engage in as a couple during the vacation. 
  • Talk about where you’d like to be in 5 or 10 years. What do you want to be like as a couple? Where would you like to visit as a couple? What would you like to do together…as a couple?
  • All in all, Put the Zing of Anticipation in Your Marriage.

Practice these 3 ways to savor your relationship and grow a stronger marriage. You’ll love the results!

A Gift Couples Must Share to Enjoy

Some gifts are meant for couples to share. They just aren’t as good when your spouse doesn’t share them with you.  For instance, it’s hard to celebrate a victory when your partner is down in the dumps or a “kill-joy.” Researchers at Florida State University uncovered another gift that is meant for couples to share. Not sharing this gift is a subtle but powerful “kill-joy” for a marriage. The gift meant to be shared is gratitude; and gratitude left unshared, a lack of gratitude, is a powerful “kill-joy” that hinders marriage.

This finding comes from a study of 120 newlywed couple who filled out surveys reporting their happiness and satisfaction in their marriage as well as how much gratitude they felt and expressed. The couples were followed for three years. After the first year, they retook the gratitude survey. And, every four months they retook the survey of happiness and satisfaction in their marriage. 

The results revealed that each individual’s level of gratitude impacted the relationship. Specifically, if both partners express gratitude on a regular basis, the couple was more satisfied with their marriage in three years. However, if one partner was grateful and the other ungrateful, marital satisfaction declined steeply over the three-year period. In fact, their marital satisfaction declined more than it did for couples in which both partners were ungrateful!

Individually, those individuals married to a grateful partner tended to be more satisfied after three years but ONLY IF they were grateful people themselves.  If they were not grateful themselves, they became less satisfied with their marriage to a grateful person.

In other words, when it comes to marriage, it takes two grateful people to benefit from the joys of gratitude. If one partner is ungrateful, it pulls both people and their marriage down. Gratitude is meant to be shared within a couple. So, why not decide, as a couple, to increase the level of gratitude in your home? Sit down as a couple and agree to nurture gratitude in your relationship. Commit to sharing gratitude with one another every day. Here’s a simple plan for doing it.

  • Talk with your spouse about all the work that gets done in your home and for your family—everything from laundry, cleaning, repair work, employment to support the family, shopping, transporting children, etc. The list goes on. Write it all down as you go. Take time to thank your partner for the work he or she does in the home and for the family. Keep the list. Look at it each week and add to it as ideas come to mind. When you do think of another contribution your spouse makes to the family, verbally thank them. 
  • Commit to taking 10 seconds three times a day to write down three things you can thank your spouse for today. At the end of the day, tell your spouse at least one of the things you wrote down. (This is actually part of a Math Equation To Save Your Marriage.)
  • Every day take time to review the day and consider what your spouse has done to contribute to the family and the home. Write it down. Then verbally thank them for that contribution.

It takes a little work, but these practices can build an environment of gratitude in your marriage. Sharing mutual gratitude with your spouse will strengthen your marriage. It will also model gratitude for your children who will naturally begin participating in this environment of gratitude by adding their own thanks to the mix. Give it a 30-day trial and let us know how it goes.

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