Prov 17:22

A merry heart doeth good like a medicine... - Proverbs 17:22

Thursday, January 30, 2014

How to Fight Right

With Valentines season upon us, I’m taking it on myself to share some nuggets of wisdom with my married or hope-to-become-married readers. I’d love to say these tidbits were gleaned over the stretch of our 36 years of matrimony. Surprisingly enough, they all came from a marriage conference we stumbled upon last fall, with Dr. Doug Weiss. Whether he invented them himself I cannot say, but he taught them to us and left us wishing we’d learned them years ago. 

This week’s lesson is on fighting right; next week I’ll describe a tool for connecting on an emotional level; and thirdly, just in time for Valentine’s Day, a different take on Date Night!

I’m sure this never happens at your house, but Pete and Pam seem to experience the same argument in their home over and over. Either Pete is pouting (again) or Pam has lost her temper (again) or Pete starts mumbling sarcastic comments (again) over the same old issue. Perhaps one or the other finally gives in with a reluctant “fine!” But it leaves them both with a bitter edge, sometimes frustrated to tears because they’ve never learned to fight fair.

Step 1. This “Fighting Fair” tool requires a worksheet Pete and Pam can make. At the top, they identify the problem. Let’s say they’re fighting about who takes out the garbage and when. They write that at the top of the sheet.

Step 2. Each person involved in the fight lists at least three emotions that surface over this issue. So, one side lists “His Feelings” and the other side “Her Feelings” with 3-5 blank lines below. Pam and Pete might use words like frustrated, cranky, hurried, or unappreciated. This step is important because it acknowledges those feelings. Even if one spouse isn’t bothered in the least by this issue, if it’s a problem for either partner, it’s a problem for both.

Step 3. Each person lists at least three solutions. The left side says “His Solutions,” and the right side “Her Solutions” with 3-5 blank lines below. Independently, Pete and Pam must come up with at least three possible solutions; for example, “Pete does it all the time,” “Pam does it all the time,” “Take turns on garbage day,” “Kids do it every day,” etc. This part of the exercise is key because it forces everyone concerned to be part of the resolution. Including the children when appropriate teaches them good problem-solving skills, too.

Step 4. Once everyone provides at least three solutions, Pete and Pam compare them and make a list of all possible solutions from the suggestions made. Probably, some will overlap. Number each solution.

Step 5. The Vote. The left side of the sheet says “His Vote” and the right side “Her Vote.” Below that, each person has a numbered list representing the combined solutions. Let’s say the list contains eight suggestions. Separately, Pete and Pam assign a value to each solution, from one to eight, giving the highest value to their preferred solution.

Step 6. Pete and Pam total the value assigned to each solution. Whichever has the highest number becomes their decision. They write this on the Decision line.

Step 7. They fill in the date, and each person signs it. 

Step 8. Now they hole-punch the worksheet and put it in their Fight Binder. Now that a solution has been agreed upon, this issue need never be fought about again. Pete and Pam can simply refer back to the binder if needed and say, “see here, we decided this on January 30, 2014.”

This may seem like a lot of fuss, but wouldn’t you gladly spend an hour solving a problem if you knew you’d never need to fight about it again?

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Sparks and Embers

Our city is looking for more part-time firefighters. I was reminded of this recently by our Fire Chief, on his daily breeze through City Hall (some say he stops in to pick up mail, but it’s really to inspect the premises for fire hazards and it’s always a mad scramble to extinguish my candles before he comes around the corner.)

He asks me if I want to become a part-time firefighter. Of course, there’s always the remote chance he is teasing. But, assuming the department actually wants out-of-shape grandmothers with weak lungs and a fear of fire, I tell him I’ll consider it. I might look kinda cute in the gear.

Unlike a lot of kids, “firefighter” never appeared on my childhood list of things I wanted to be when I grew up. Perhaps that’s because back then, they were called “firemen,” like police officers were called “policemen” and mail carriers were “mailmen.” Most of the girls I knew wanted to become teachers or nurses, but maybe that’s because we considered those our only options. I figured I’d follow in the footsteps of my mother and sisters, all teachers. But a month of teaching Vacation Bible School in my teens cured me. Now, the only times I regret not becoming a teacher are summer, Christmas, and Spring Break.

I remember playing “secretary” a lot. I’d set up my desk with Mom’s old portable typewriter, a toy telephone, and an overturned toy cooking pot with red and green dots painted on it for my intercom—essential for alerting the invisible boss in the next room to incoming calls.

My Grade 8 English teacher, Mrs. Armstrong, told me I showed promise as a writer. For that, I’ll love her forever.

In high school, I studied office procedures, shorthand, and typing. While the shorthand turned out useless and obsolete, the typing has served me well both as an administrative assistant and as a writer. Sometimes when I’m doing nothing, my fingers are mentally typing the words I am thinking. Does this happen to you?

In an informal Facebook survey, I asked a few friends what their childhood aspirations had been, and was surprised by how many women said “veterinarian.” I remember having that thought briefly myself.

“Athlete” proved popular for both genders. One person (possibly related to me) confessed she is probably the fastest runner in the world but is relieved to have kept that talent under wraps since she hates running.

How about you? Do you still dream dreams you wish you had followed? What are you waiting for? Maybe you’re young enough to have a variety of sparks still burning, but for many of us, only a fragile ember remains. One thing none of has is the option of starting sooner.

I think I’ll pass on the firefighting opportunity and hope stronger, braver, healthier people apply. What I get to do suits me fine, and I concur with King David who, in Psalm 16, said: “Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup…you have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.”

(And I was kidding about the candles, Chief.)

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Ripped in Peace

Our long stretch of ruthlessly cold weather had me wimping out of my walk to work more often than not, which wouldn’t be so bad except I’d been simultaneously reneging on my workouts at home. Add to that the extra holiday treats, and I felt like a slimy slug sitting on a platter of poutine left too long on the counter, growing fuzzy around the edges. 

“I’ve gotten bored with my routine,” I told the girls at coffee break one morning. “Maybe I should buy myself a new workout DVD.”

That’s when Brandy made the brilliant suggestion of trading DVDs, thereby giving us both a fresh workout without spending a dime. I gave her my Jillian Michael’s “Yoga Meltdown” and she gave me Jillian’s “Ripped in 30.”

Five days later, I finally popped in the disk, ready to give it a whirl. The title isn’t lying when it calls the workout “Ripped in 30.”  It took me about 30 seconds to rip something.

But I soldiered on. The DVD gives you four completely different workouts, each more challenging than the next. As I sweated and panted through the first, I wondered what the 30 actually stood for. Years? Because that will make me a heck of a fit 85-year-old one day. 

Upper body strength is not my forte. I do the girlie push-ups, on my knees, and it still requires Herculean effort to push past four. But at least Jillian shows the decency to place them early in the routine when you still possess enough energy to fake your way through it before moving on. 

The aerobic and abdominal bits are killers, but they’re mercifully short. You can handle any amount of pain if you know it’s only for one minute, or even two. Right?

Afterwards, I felt certain I’d never make it back upstairs on my jelly legs, which wouldn’t have been such a bad outcome. There’s a bed and bathroom downstairs. If I could simply recruit my husband to bring me food and books, I’d have all I require for a happy life. 

My little fantasy ended abruptly when I discovered I’d somehow made it to the top of the stairs after all. Bummer.

The idea is to do the first workout five or six times the first week, then progress to the second. By the end of the fourth week/workout, you’ve become what’s known in fitness circles as “ripped.” For me, it will prove enough of a challenge to stay on the first level for a month before attempting the next. That method may not sell more DVDs for Jillian, but I sincerely doubt she is hurting.

And you know what? I could spread this thing out over four years and feel at peace about that. Because, as Jillian says, “it’s not about perfection. Transformation is not a future event. It’s a present activity.”

So, that’s my new year’s challenge to you. Start the transformation! Heave your sorry carcass off the couch and drag it around the block. Dust off your old exercise video. But don’t wait. And if you miss a workout, don’t allow it to paralyze you. Just start again the next day.

If I can suffer, so can you.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Just Me and My Man-flu

By the time you read this, I hope I am either recovered or dead. As I write, I battle a hostile, hideous bully of a viral bug determined to flatten me with aches, chills, fever, coughing fits, and bad hair. Not to mention delirium. Ever since my husband discovered me studying the Kleenex box for directions, I take no responsibility for any delusions or inaccuracies you may uncover in this week’s blog, nor for any domestic violence that may ensue in your home should you choose to read it aloud.

In 2012, I unwittingly started a dumb tradition of beginning each new year with a virus…cold, flu, who knows? But after my 2013 bout, I did not contract a single such malady again until New Years, 2014. So I really can’t complain.
Well, actually, I can. Quite well.

In fact, I’ve done so much whining and whimpering with this one that I strongly suspect I have, against all odds, come down with none other than the dreaded MAN-flu. I wouldn’t be surprised if I could give any man a run for his money in the self-pity department. I looked online to find out whether females can actually catch Man-flu, and it seems I am the first in the history of the universe, which pleases me in some twisted way.

One study found Man-flu may be a legitimate complaint due to the male’s higher level of testosterone and therefore lower level of immunity. But I prefer the more imaginative explanation given by Z. Aston Meddows-Taylor: “All flu bugs require their host to survive so they can feed off their host. Big bad flu bugs don’t pick on women as they fear they’ll kill them, eliminating their food source. They only go after big hairy men who can resist them. The weakling flu bugs only go after women, as men shrug them off at the slightest hint on contact.”

Gotta give the guy credit for creativity.

Maybe it’s a cold. I Googled the differences, but they’re complicated, especially when one’s brain is already slowly leaking into one’s lungs and getting horked up in quarter-sized gobs with every cough. 
The only thing I know for sure is, between my shivering one minute and sweating the next, God will not spit me out of his mouth any time soon. (And if you don’t get that joke, look up Revelation 3:16.)

Speaking of God, I decided on Day 5 of my flu to try focusing on all the things I could thank him for in the midst of my wretched misery, starting with the fact I wasn’t barfing. I felt thankful I no longer had little kids to look after. Then I added our warm house, working furnace, water heater, cozy blankets, hot tea, lemon juice, honey, a job with sick benefits, chocolate, and Tylenol. I listed my appliances, sunshine, a hubby to run errands and listen to my grumbling, and the pretty Christmas lights I had no energy to take down. Also flannel jammies, velour housecoat, and rabbit-fur slippers made by a First Nations friend. Lo and behold, before I knew it, my thank-you list outnumbered my flu symptoms.

It generally outnumbers most anything, once we take the time to make one. Happy Flu season.Stay well!