Friday, December 30, 2011

New Years and My Word

Happy Almost-New Year's Eve! 

So, I have to admit that New Years is about my second least favorite holiday. Right after Halloween. Not for any good reason. I just don't like to see the year end. And this particular coming year is the one that my "baby" will start school. Very sad, indeed.

And I'm not one of those people to make resolutions, primarily because it feels like setting myself up for failure. Do I want to lose weight? YES! Do I want to play with my kids more? YES! Do I want to spend more time with my husband? YES! Do I want to exercise every day? YES! And the list goes on and on. But resolutions always just seem like something that we should do, not something that will really happen. But then......

Just this week I was listening to my favorite radio station and it just so happened that my favorite DJ was on (she only substitutes right now, so I don't hear her much). She was talking about this very anti-resolution issue that I have! She said that she has started doing something a bit different. She picks one word to focus on for the next year. Then she spends the year thinking, praying, and living that word.

As soon as I heard this, I knew my word. It came to me during the Christmas Eve service I wrote about last week. My word for the coming year is SACRIFICE. This means many things, so I'll spend some time figuring out what this means to me, and how God wants me to live this word. I plan to do a self-directed word study in the Bible to find out what God says about sacrifice. I'll pray about how I can sacrifice in all areas of my life: my family, my friendships, my money, my time. And all the while I know I need to be careful not to be a doormat in my sacrifice. This is a balance I've struggled with before, but I know if I'm walking with God on this road, then He will help keep me on the right side of the doormat!

Part of the reason I'm sharing this is that you'll see my word reflected here. There will be times that my family and my communication will be influenced by this notion of sacrifice...and I look forward to sharing that with you.

So what's your word? Take a look at the website and read through the idea. See if you would like to choose a word this year, instead of a failure-inducing wish list.

Happy New Year, Blog Friends!

~ Andrea

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas, Friends!
I pray that your day has been filled with the wonder of our Lord's birth. While I've known for some time what Christmas is all about, church last night reminded me of the sacrifice that Jesus made in coming to Earth to live and die for all of us. That was clearly a reminder that I needed. I've spent my day since thinking a lot about how I can sacrifice for Jesus in the coming year.

Though we spend a lot of time teaching our children that we only celebrate Christmas because of the gift of Jesus, we believe that Santa can co-exist in that framework. So we do the "Santa thing" and open presents and eat lots of unhealthy food. Despite all that, it was a quiet day in the Scott house and I'm grateful for that. On Christmas Eve we arrived home safely from our trip to see "the Grandmas and Grandpa." While I appreciate the nice weather in Florida right now, I am tired of mosquitoes!

I've also posted a couple of book reviews over at Jamie's Precious Peas. One is actually a DVD that a friend helped me review. There are three cute Sesame Street stories about toddler life events: saying goodbye to a pacifier, getting a first haircut, and learning to ride a trike. Very cute!

I also reviewed Fit Moms for Life, a great book about getting moms in shape. I highly recommend this book for end-of-the-year reading.

More communication tips to come this week. For now, let's all enjoy the next few days as the Christmas craziness subsides.

God's best to you!

Monday, December 12, 2011


 Today think of three specific things you love about each child - and then tell them! For instance, "Son, I love your creativity when you do art. Who you are really comes through that piece." Of course, make it age appropriate. A 2 or 3 year old might just like to hear that you love her hugs or how she makes you laugh. Have fun and post back what you did. We'd love to hear!

Happy Communicating~ 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Sibling Love

Lately my sweet little boys aren't always sweet with each other. This is totally normal, I know. In part this occurs in our life because DS2 is at home alone with me all day while DS1 is at school. When DS1 comes home, my attention is divided - not popular for either one! DS1 wants to visit and talk about his day, while DS2 still wants the attention he had all day.

There's another factor at work here. Research shows that friendships are relatively easy to maintain, in part because the friend goes home. A sibling can't do that. You know what it's like to have a best friend and think you'll live together GREAT, but it turns out to be a fiasco. This is because time away from our friends actually helps our relationships. Siblings don't have that luxury.

This isn't necessarily a bad thing. Eventually they may want to spend their life with some special someone and skills for living day in and day out with the same people are hard earned. And siblings can share a special bond throughout their entire lives.

What's a parent to do? A few things. First, be sure they have time apart. Don't always force them to play together. Respect the boundaries that they set up. Kids aren't always suave at boundary setting, though! My DS2 will often say "I don't want you to read a book to me!" (you can hear the shouting whine, right?) What he's really saying is that he doesn't want DS1 with him right then....or doing that activity with him.

So time apart is healthy. So is teaching them communication skills for living with others. Skills like you'll learn at Your Successful Family!

Finally, and I know you know this but it can't be overstated: be sure to tell each one what is special and lovable about that specific child. Spend time doing what that child enjoys and protect that time as much as possible. This is a delicate balance, especially as the number of children increases. But with effort, it's workable, and worth it!

Happy Communicating~

Monday, December 5, 2011

Shared Meanings

In all relationships, meanings are formed as people interpret what they perceive and construct a sense of reality. Family meanings are developed as members interpret their behaviors through communication. For instance, my husband and I are working on telling each other what meaning we attach to certain things. For instance, last Thursday he surprised me with a Starbucks drink. This was very special to me! I told him that when he brings me "fancy" coffees unexpectedly, I feel loved and special to him. Yes, this sounds a bit stilted when I say it, but it's creating a shared meaning for us.

When behaviors are interpreted in the same way or interpretations are discussed and clarified, similar meanings emerge, and communication becomes clearer. This is our goal with trying to tell each other how we interpret various actions. As communication becomes clearer, conflict decreases and relationship satisfaction increases. THAT'S a great outcome!

Christmas is a great time to think about shared meanings and how they form. Lots of times we have certain "rituals" in our Christmas celebrations and we have a great deal of meaning attached to them...but our spouse may not. For instance, perhaps Christmas cookie baking symbolizes to you a time of shared joy as members bond during baking. Yet, your spouse may think Publix cookies are just as good and baking them is a waste of time. When you try to rally the troops to bake, your spouse may not support you. I see lots of tears and anger when efforts to bond are thwarted.  

Now is the time to talk about what the Christmas preparations  mean to you and ask what they mean to your spouse. If there is disagreement, then work through to a meaning you both can agree on. This might just bring more peace to your holidays. 

Happy Communicating~

2 Book Reviews

Tonight I've posted two more book reviews:

1. In Happy's Christmas Gift, a very special dog makes an unexpected visit to the North Pole and returns home with a gift for all who encounter him. My son makes a guest writing appearance by offering HIS review.

2. All That I Am chronicles the efforts of four young people who attempt to change the course of pre-WWII history in Germany.

Read here to find out more!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Jamie's Precious Peas

Well, I've been invited to write book reviews for Jamie's Precious Peas. I just posted my first one here about a book entitled "I Want You to Know Me." Take a look and enjoy all that Jamie has to offer.

I met Jamie at soccer where our oldest children were playing and our youngest children entertained each other. Jamie is a hard working, amazing woman! Her website is dedicated to reviewing children, family, and mom products. I'll keep you posted when I review for her.

Thanks for checking it out!

Speaking and Listening

A friend recently said she was reading the book of James in the Bible. Though I've read it before, I just finished reading Mark and thought James was a good place for my morning and evening Bible reading. I usually read just enough to give me something to think about and ponder.

This morning I encountered this nugget, "Let every person be swift to hear, slow to speak, and slow to wrath" (chapter 1, verse 19).  Ouch. With Thanksgiving two days away, my DH birthday in 10 days, and a family trip coming up, I will admit that wrath is often closer than anything else.

Yet, the wisdom written centuries ago by Jesus's brother is just as true today. My family relationships would be much better if I took the time to hear what people are trying to say, instead of jumping to conclusions. My soul would be at peace if I took the time to speak only after thinking and listening. 

As the holidays draw near...whichever holidays you celebrate...I encourage you to join me in being slow to speak and anger, while being swift in really hearing (listening) to others. It just might make our holidays more enjoyable.

Happy Communicating!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Lessons in Truth

Better is a dry morsel with quietness
Than a house full of feasting with strife.
Proverbs 17:1

Quietness...Strife. Which will you choose this day?
One may accompany rough and austere times, but love and peace prevail.
The other may accompany times of plenty, but quarreling and contentiousness prevail.

When we know God and His Son, Jesus Christ, we can choose quietness, even if it comes with a dry morsel. We know that in the end, we will have the feast.

At yoursuccessfulfamily, I try to include personal examples so you can see that what I tell you about is real, not just some objective textbook drudgery. I try to include lessons learned to help you avoid some pitfalls.

Today's Lesson in Truth hits home. I've tried strife and quietness with my family in the last week. And as always, the Bible is correct. I'll take that dry morsel any time. And I think my family is glad for that.

How about you?


Sunday, November 13, 2011

Friends and Life

So, it occurred to me the other day that I'm a soccer mom. I don't say that with all the societal connotations. I simply have a son who plays soccer through his school and I sit and watch twice a week for practice. There are three of us who actually leave our car and chat while our children play.

We three moms are all at different places in our lives. While we have children of similar ages, our adult interests vary some. One of my newfound friends commented that the other mom and I are supermoms. I was quick to point out that she does so much that we don't do. We all make great choices for our own lives and the lives of our children.

That's my message to you today. Don't think too much about what other moms are doing. Do what YOU are called to do. That's your responsibility. I have a dear friend who home schools four children under seven years old, while being strong in her faith and having a clean, beautiful house. I'm truly not sure how she does this. Yet, I am not her. I have different gifts and challenges. I use them in the ways I've been called.

As you and your friends communicate this week, remember it's okay to support her and still be true to who you are. There's no need for comparisons, envy, or judgment - just supermoms loving each other

Happy Communicating~

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Where Do You Come From?

This might seem like a strange question. But the family you grew up in plays a HUGE role in how you behave in your family now. This phenomenon is called "Family of Origin Influences." Each of us leaves the home we are raised in with a set of conscious and unconscious ways of relating to others based on our family of origin.

Our views of gender roles, themes, boundaries, play, stress, relaxation, conflict, coping with loss, religion's role, ethnic patters...all of these are influenced by where we come from. By knowing where we have come from - the good, the bad, and the ugly - we can understand why we do what we do.

Here's an example. Like most moms, I'm swamped by all that there is to do around my house. With two little ones and a husband I feel like I'm constantly cleaning up after someone. Some days the mountain of work bothers me more than others. Today it was really getting to me. After getting not nearly enough done around the house, DS2 and I went to pick up Big Brother.

Now, all week we've had plans after school. So I wanted today to be a quiet day at home (translated, they play nicely while I get some work done around the house). My boys, however, had a different plan. :-) They wanted to ride bikes in our cul-de-sac. What's a mom to do?

I decided to sit outside with the boys, a cup of iced coffee, a book, and our favorite radio station. My boys had a  blast. They drew with sidewalk chalk, used their tools to break up wood, and rode scooters and bikes around the circle. I sat there watching their joy at having a long time to just play outside. I also thought about the mess inside. And I remembered the post for today. I realized that some day my children may choose to play with their children simply because I took the time to play instead of work. I also found that the house didn't seem like such a big deal after relaxing with the kids for a while. That's a big benefit...and a lesson I'm thrilled to have them take with them when they eventually leave home.

Happy Communicating!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Lessons in Truth: Time Away

When I wake up in the morning, I stay in bed for a few minutes and read a few verses in my Bible. It's a great way to peacefully begin my day. Before I begin, I pray that God will give me something to ponder throughout my day. Most days he does.

Right now I'm reading through the book of Mark. If you aren't familiar with it, this is one of the four books that speaks directly to Jesus's life and ministry.

Today I read about him feeding 5,000 people with five loaves of bread and two fish as well as him walking on water. Both these events happened with his 12 disciples. Between those two events, however, is something very relevant for our families.

Jesus's disciples were among his closest friends. They were like his family. He taught them specifically and loved them. They walked miles and miles healing and learning with Jesus.

After they all fed the multitude, Jesus sent the disciples away to take their boat to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. Jesus then sent the thousands of people away. Mark 6:46 says: "And when He had sent them away, He departed to the mountain to pray. Now when evening came, the boat was in the middle of the sea; and He was alone on the land." Jesus then proceeds to walk on water to his disciples in the boat.

The key for me today is that Jesus sent his loved ones away so he could could be alone and pray. He rejuvenated by being alone with God.

So many days, I feel guilty if I send my kids into their room so I can have a few minutes to pray and be quiet or read my Bible. Yet, Jesus sets a wonderful example for us. He doesn't send the 12 away because He doesn't want to be with them or because he doesn't like them. He sends them because he loves them AND needs time alone. That time alone can be so valuable.

So today, I encourage you to make time to be alone. Send the kids to their rooms to play and you take a few minutes to read a Bible, pray, or simply be quiet with the day. I think that like Jesus we will feel ready to do amazing things with the rest of our day!

Happy Communicating,

Thursday, October 13, 2011

What's Your Family Image?

A family image is a mental picture of our family. It might be a tree, or a pond of frogs, or a spider web...or anything else your mind can conjure up!

How we think of our family impacts how we communicate. If we see our family as total chaos, we will communicate in a chaotic way. Different family members may have different images. Can you see how this would lead to miscommunication? If I see my family as a Zen garden and my mom sees it as the military, we will both communicate in a way that the other does not understand or relate to.

Most of us have this image, though sometimes it takes a while to make sense of it.  I never thought about this until I was an adult, so I have two: one for my family of origin and one for my current, grown up family. To get you thinking, I'll share my image for my family of origin:

Growing up our family was like a garden. It took a lot of work to yield good fruit. The weeds (negativity) took over frequently. Some plants (siblings) demanded more sunlight and watering (parental attention) than others. Overall, though, now that the garden is mature, I see that it is quite beautiful and has produced amazing fruits.

So, what's your family image? Feel free to share it here!

Happy Communicating~

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Communicating: Lessons of Truth

"A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver." Proverbs 25:11

King Solomon was a very wise man. Here he tell us how valuable good communication can be.

In King Solomon's time, as in ours, gold and silver were worth a lot of money. If you had an apple for food, that would be good. But to have one made of gold would be unheard of - something only kings would own. Then to have it set in silver!! My goodness, that would be treasure of great worth. I'd love to have one of those, even today. I can only imagine how much money it would bring back in King Solomon's time.

THAT is how valuable a well-placed word is. When we say something to someone that is just right, it's like giving the person a golden apple dipped in silver.

Doing this, however, can be difficult. Today I'm sick, and I have been for three days. I don't really want to be nice to my family. Yet, I realize that I am giving a valuable gift when I choose a kind word instead of a grumpy, sickness-induced word.

What words can you share today that are appropriate and timely? Make the right choice and you'll give the listener a gift money can't measure.


Thursday, October 6, 2011

Peanut Butter Pie

My husband has a poolside meeting today (yes, rough life, I know) and the meeting presenter LOVES this peanut butter pie. She has recently moved to south Florida so we don't see her much. DH asked if I could make her this special treat for their meeting. Of course, I obliged!

I will admit - it's a bit rich. We love rich, though! You'll see that Alton has you making the peanut butter. It is better this way, but you can use store bought if you must. Also, it's hard to find the chocolate wafer he talks about. I've used chocolate graham crackers with success. It's a bit crumbly when you eat, but that's a small price to pay for yummy, we think.

Enjoy - and please post to let me know what you think of it!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

How well do you know your spouse?

Lately I've been re-reading The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John Gottman, Ph.D. This amazing Seattle researcher can precdict divorce with an amazing 91% accuracy - simply by watching couples interact. His books are at the very top of suggested reading for my students.

Because I, too, want a marriage that thrives for the long haul, I enjoy reviewing the books from time to time. As you know, different seasons of marriage bring different challenges.

This week I'm spending time thinking about how well I know my husband. We took a little survey last week. The most surprising answer he gave for me was when he was asked what my all time favorite gift would be. Now, you first should understhand that my husband loves to buy gifts. Yet, he knew that the gift I'd want most of all is the gift of more time - to read, to accomplish, to enjoy life. All this time I thought he missed that point! But he didn't. His knowing this about me endeared him to me even more.

So, this week I encourage you to get to know your spouse all over again. Pretend you just met. Ask all those silly, getting-to-know you questions. Don't focus on pointing out wrong answers, but focus on seeking to understand your spouse. Even after decades you might be surprised at what you learn!

If you need help with getting started, or want to share how it goes, please post a comment!

Have a blessed week,

Monday, April 18, 2011

Responding to What We Think is Said

If you read the last post on "what we say and what the other person hears," you know that this can sometimes be a tricky situation in relationships. Today I'd like to address what we should do if we don't like what we think we hear.

Let's go back to the example from the last post. You and your husband are going out on a date. He asks, "Is that what you are wearing?" You hear "you're fat." In reality, though, he may simply think it's too dressy, or not dressy enough, for where you are going. BIG difference!

So, what's a woman to do?

We need to check our interpretations with our husband. And we need to set our insecurities aside long enough that we don't come across as accusatory, otherwise we start a vicious cycle of negativity ("So I'm FAT?!"..."No, I didn't say that"..."You MEANT it!"..."Wait, why are you yelling at ME?"...both parties are then escalating and preparing to ruin a perfectly good evening out).

Let's go back to his initial question. . . "is that what you are wearing?"
Your best answer is something like "yes, why?" If he says "no reason," don't let him off the hook! He did ask for a reason. But you also need to be prepared for his answer. It's best to be honest here ("Look honey, I know I've gained weight lately. Are you trying to tell me that what I'm wearing isn't flattering on me?").

When he answers, thank him for his honesty and make a decision about whether or not you are going to change. By setting aside your insecurity, taking his thoughts into consideration, and keeping your calm, you demonstrate respect and trust for your spouse while preserving your night out. That's a great combination!

Have any examples of He Said-She Heard? Share them here!

Happy Communicating~

Thursday, April 7, 2011

What we say vs. what they hear

Today I want to talk about what we say to someone and what they hear from us. Life experience tells us that sometimes these are two very different things!

In communication terms this refers to CONTENT and RELATIONAL level messages.

The content level is the words we say. The relational level is what we mean by what we say. And this level is often the most important because it reflects how we feel about the relationship. As I'm sure you can imagine, what you mean (relational level) by the message (content level) and what the other person thinks you mean might be two very different things.

Let's look at an example. Let's say your husband says "Is that what you are wearing to go out?" Those words, all by themselves, are the content level. On the surface this is a simple question with a yes/no answer.

Women, however, don't hear the message as a simple yes/no question. They interpret this as "I don't like what you are wearing" or "you look awful" or "you look fat" or .... you get the idea. Even further, though, some women may hear that their spouse thinks they can't make clothing decisions, or that their spouse is not satisfied with them (relational level message).

Our interpretation of the message is based in part on our husband's nonverbal cues. If he gives us a look with raised eyebrows and a scowl, we know that he does not like our outfit. If he peers around (or worse, asks us to turn around so he can see everything), we believe he thinks we look fat. So, how someone sends a message says a lot about how the receiver will interpret the message...and the sub-text of our relationship.

Can you see how hurtful...and helpful... this might be in a marriage?

Skill4U: As you interact with your spouse for the next two days, spend time focusing on YOUR content and relational level messages. Don't worry too much about how you are interpreting his messages right now. Focus on the words you are saying and what you mean to say (in the moment, and about your relationship). Try to get the two to line up (remember the post on 'mean what you say'?) This weekend I'll give some tips for interpreting.

Happy Communicating~

Sunday, April 3, 2011

True Confessions of a 21st Century Wife/Mother

Here it is...

I am a feminist AND a June Cleaver wannabe. "How can that BE?!" you ask yourself.

Here's the deal. While I choose to stay home with my children, despite having a post-graduate degree, I acknowledge that some mothers want to work. I support women's decisions and believe in the overall equality of women. Though I believe God made men and women very different, I don't believe that means women are 'less than' men.

On the other hand, I have a nearly overwhelming desire to be June Cleaver. Yes, I know she's a fictitious character from an idealized age. Got that. Yet I still long to vacuum in a dress and heels, ready to greet my DH with a kiss, and have hot cookies for the children after school.

All in all, I suppose I struggle with where God has me. I love studying and teaching about successful communication. I also love being an at-home wife and mom. I am one of those rare people who enjoys cleaning, cooking, and baking. No, my home does not always reflect the first, though! LOL

What does this have to do with family communication? Just about everything! First, it drives home the idea that all families are different. God may call me back to work sometime. And if that's the case, I'll go happily...and sadly. And no matter what, all those feelings will be reflected in how I communicate with my family. The challenge will be in identifying my myriad emotions so I can communicate with love despite my mixed feelings.

Thanks for reading through my thoughts. I hope that my experience can help someone else who feels like a walking contradiction, too!

Happy Communicating!

Monday, March 14, 2011

What' The Big Deal?

Today I'm going to share another blog post that struck me as perfect for my blog, as well.
This post is from a daily devotional that I read. Now, if you aren't "into" God, that's okay. I think you'll still find it useful.

So, until next time, enjoy today's "guest" blog post!

Happy Communicating,
~ Andrea

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Being a Successful Family...

... means sometimes saying "well done" when you want to say "what were you thinking!?"

Please let me explain.

My DS, 6 years old, has started getting his 2 year old brother up all by himself on Saturday mornings. He does this so I can sleep in. Of course, I don't usually keep sleeping once they are up! But it's a wonderful thought and some days I really do read in bed while I pray and listen to the sweet birds sing their songs.

When the boys are up, DS1 usually prepares breakfast. He generally gets out bowls and makes cereal for us all. Last week he made us a nice smorgasbord of items found in the pantry.

Today, he pulled out all the stops: figs, dates, marshmallows, chocolate granola thins, honey sticks, pistachios, carrot bran muffins, chocolate chip cookies that he 'fixed up' with confectioner's sugar and sprinkles, and dove chocolates. Upon seeing his proud creation, I wanted to scream. Honestly. All that sugar for breakfast?? And COOKIES??

But then I looked at his sweet, happy face. He was so proud of himself for letting me sleep and making breakfast. He put out foods he thought I would like. He tried. In the process, he helped his brother change out of his diaper and jammies and into underwear and clothes (means he also helped with the potty). He did something so nice for me.

I realized a little bit of sugar was NOT a big deal. So I praised him and told him what a good job he did. Later, perhaps, we can talk about putting some of the fresh fruit from the fridge and saving cookies for later. But for now, I'm simply happy that my typically clingy older son is exhibiting signs of independence (from me) and practicing acts of service.

That seems pretty successful to me.

Q4U: How do your kids communicate their love for YOU?

Happy Communicating!
~ Andrea

Monday, March 7, 2011

No Family is the Same

We all know that our friends grew up in different families, right? You're probably muttering something like "duh" right now.

Did you know that even siblings grow up in different families? That's right. Each time a new member is added to a family, the dynamic changes. So, you're not crazy when you remember one thing about your family growing up and your sister/brother remembers the same incident totally different.

Likewise, when you are raising a family, it's always different eacht ime you add a child. I remember crying to my sister after my second DS was born. I wanted things to be just like they were when it was just my DH and DS1. My sister said "you'll never be that Mommy again." I cried for nearly a year mourning the loss and fighting the reality of what she told me. Until I realized it's just a family dynamic thing. I might not be the SAME Mommy I was before, but I can be a great, different Mommy now.

So, instead of being frustrated by the different view you and a sibling have, or lamenting the change, rejoice in the differences!

Happy Communicating,

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Communication: The Big Picture

For this week's idea portion of the blog, I want to focus on the big picture of communication. This concept applies to ALL of our communication...with everyone from strangers to family.

Let's begin with a very short history. For a very long time, people thought that humans communicated one at a time. So, I might have an idea to communicate (face to face) with you. I send you my message while you passively sit by waiting to receive it. Then I wait while you send a message back to me. And so on...

Let's face it, though. Communicating is NOT like playing catch with a six year old! One person isn't just waiting for us to send our message. Even while we are talking, the other person is sending us signals (remember the blog about verbal/nonverbal-vocal/nonvocal messages??). So, in the 1960's researchers really began to develop this idea that communication is simultaneous.

Not only is communication simultaneous, but there are lots of other things going on during the communication episode. Even in a football game, while the quarterback is looking for a recipient for the ball, there's a lot of other action going on. The same thing happens while we formulate our message for our recipient. Life goes on all around us.

While we say our message and the other person responds (with words, looks, and sounds), other things are happening. First, our history with the person influences both the message and the other person's interpretation of it. If we had a fight with our friend last week, we might communicate more tentatively than with a friend we haven't recently fought with.

Second, our environment influences our communication. My book club meets at various locations each month. We tried the Starbucks at Target once. It was a fabulous idea and GREAT coffee. But the environment was just too fast and distracting to get much good conversation accomplished. There really is a time and a place for certain conversations.

Finally, noise influences our communication. By noise I don't just mean sounds. Of course, a loud environment (like the Starbucks at Target) can hinder any communication, especially meaningful conversation. Noise really refers to anything that detracts from sending or receiving a message. So, hunger, headaches, work problems, marital problems, financial challenges, and a long to-do list can all act as noise for a person.

I bet you didn't know there is SO much going on when you communicate. Perhaps now you have a clearer picture of why so many misunderstandings take place. With all the distractions happening, I sometimes marvel that we ever have a successful communication episode!

Happy Communicating~


Friday, February 25, 2011

Stay Tuned ....

Yes, I've taken a bit of a break. The family and I traveled from sunny Florida to snowy New York to visit family. We are back and I'm working on my blog updates. Stay tuned and I should have them up this weekend! Thanks to my devoted blog fans~

All the best,

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Skill Day: Being Normal

I're thinking, "being normal is a skill?"

Well, sort of! If you recall, last week I wrote about being normal and that there are several different ways researchers classify families as normal.

While being normal isn't really a skill, remembering that all families are different IS a skill. It's so easy to talk with our friends and start second-guessing our lives. A simple, innocuous question may lead to questioning our decisions and choices for our families. Sometimes it's hard to remember that we are all different. And being different is good! We don't need to be just like someone else.

So, whether you homeschool or send your children to school...whether you work or stay at home...whether you are Episcopalian or non-denominational...whether you have six children or none...whether you are married or divorced...all are okay. We all need to live the lives we have and be normal in our own way.

This week, as you talk to your friends and move about in your world, work on NOT comparing your life to someone else's. Just listen and talk and enjoy the friendships. You'll be happy you did.

Have a great week!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Being an Enterprising Family

One of my favorite authors, Christina Katz, posts a blog about writing. This week she discussed what it means to be enterprising in our careers and encouraged readers to blog about what the word 'enterprising' means to us. To that end, I'm creating this special entry to the blog about being an enterprising family.

For me, the word enterprising denotes being ACTIVE. It means seeking new information to make what we are doing even better. It means going above and beyond the minimum required of us to really shine at what we are doing. It means creativity at its best...thinking about our problems and solutions in a different way, communicating in new and different ways, and considering life from a new perspective. Enterprising means hard work, but also fruitful labor.

Whew! Sounds like a lot, now that I've typed it all. Since my area of expertise is the family, let's connect all those ideas back to our families.

Earlier this week I posted about the different ways families can be normal. So often we trudge along our normal life as if on a rail. We don't deviate from doing things the way we always have (and perhaps the way our family has done things for generations!).

If we decide to be enterprising in our family, we can do several fun and exciting things. We can seek new knowledge about families by reading books, magazines, and blogs. We can implement new rituals. These serve important family functions and are so fun. For instance, Valentine's Day is coming up. Do you have a special ritual for celebrating this with your children or spouse? If not, create something fun - make heart shaped pancakes for dinner or build a chocolate truffle tower!

Being enterprising also means solving problems in a new way. So often, we rely on those old patterns for problem solving. Next time a problem pops enterprising! Go to the library and find some books that may help you. Ask different people than usual for their counsel. It doesn't mean you have to DO what they say, but they will provide you with a new way to look at things.

Bottom be enterprising in our family is to get out of our ruts and be proactive.
Leave some comments telling me how YOU are being enterprising in your family!

All the best~

Monday, February 7, 2011

Honey, Are We Normal??

After several decades of living, I've decided that having an abnormal family is remarkably normal. While some lucky few had the typical "Leave it to Beaver" upbringing, most of us did not. Yet, most of us also turned out surprisingly healthy. We live and love well. Most moms I know are GREAT moms and are generally happy in their marriage. Yet, in conversations with friends, the idea of being normal still comes up. So, I thought I'd address that here.

If you've poked around the blog, you know that definitions are important to me. I believe that by defining our terms, we have a greater chance of being on the same page, or really understanding each other.

That said, when most of my friends ask if what they are going through is normal, I think they mean "do other people go through this, too?" Now, there are certain things I can't answer about being normal. My youngest is doing something funky and I'm not sure if it's "normal" (what most other kids do).

When it comes to communicating in a family, however, researchers have identified four perspectives of "normal":

• Asymptomatic Family Functioning (no major symptoms of psychopathology; no serial killers, schizophrenia, etc.)
• As average (typical or fit common patterns; we know this from researching families and reporting the findings)
• As optimal (positive or ideal; this is what I'll be talking about a lot here)
• Normal family processes (life stages and events that most families go through; this changes generationally; we'll talk about this a lot here, too)

So you see, there are several ways we can view normal. I hope it reassures you to know that most of us fit at least one of these perspectives! Obviously, there are lots of ways to be a normal family.

On that note, I hope you enjoy your normal family this week...whatever your version of normal is!


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Talking in Sick Times

Well, the flu has hit our happy little family. We ALL have it. Son #1 has been out of school for three days and all Mommy and Daddy want to do is sleep. Very little housework, cooking...or blogging...going on here!

This makes me realize, though, that communication is always important. As my DH and I drag ourselves around the house, avoiding the same space, I was sad to find out yesterday afternoon that I didn't know how he was feeling. No, I didn't feel much like asking. And I'd venture to say he didn't feel like asking me, either. But we believe that we are called to put others first. Even when we are sick. So, we care for our kids and each other.

When I was trying to sleep off the flu yesterday morning in bed (it was DH's turn to flu-sleep in the living room), DH unloaded clean dishes and loaded more...even though HE was sick. That communicates a lot to me. And not just that we were out of spoons for jello! He loves me, even when he's sick and we aren't talking much.

This morning I took time to ask him how I could help him, even though I was nauseated and wanted to go rest. He was freezing, so I brought in the warm blankets for him from the dryer.

Nope, we aren't always great at this when we are sick. But thinking, and writing, about the ways we can communicate well when we are sick reminds me how important it is to practice the skills when we are well so they come easier when we are sick.

I hope the flu passes you by this season. If not, get lots of rest and remember to ask your spouse how you can help!

All the best to you,

Thursday, January 27, 2011

SKILL DAY: How do YOU communicate?

This may seem like a strange question. If you read Monday's entry, you saw that I told you about four different modes of communicating:

with words and sounds (verbal/vocal; talking)
with words and no sounds (verbal/nonvocal; sign language)
with no words and sounds (nonverbal/vocal; tone of voice, volume, etc.)
with no words and no sounds (nonverbal/nonvocal; raised eyebrows, gestures, etc.)

On today's Skill Day, I want to focus on having you think about the ways you communicate. When visiting my mother last summer I realized I sigh...a lot. And I know exactly where I learned it! She sighs a lot, too. It frustrated me when she did it (sorry, Mom!). At that point I realized that while I'm usually sighing to try to "center" my thoughts, it may frustrate those around me. And that's NEVER my goal. Now, I'll be honest. I still sigh. I try to do it quieter now, though, and less frequently.

My dear husband has also helped me to see the ways I communicate that I'm sometimes oblivious to. For instance, sometimes when we are on the phone, the kids need my attention. You know what I'm talking about, right? He'll let me know, with love, that I'm not giving him my full attention. In communication lingo - I'm communicating in a way that I didn't realize. I love it when he does this because that's an opportunity for me to make changes! If I don't realize I'm doing something, I can't change it.

Skill4U: So, how do YOU communicate? Pay attention this week to what you are saying...and not saying. Maybe ask your spouse to help you tune in to your nonverbal communication (tone of voice, eye contact, etc.). By being more tuned in, we can communicate what we really mean to communicate.

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Many Ways We Communicate

For some reason, this is always a fun topic when I teach this. I think it's because we communicate in so many ways that most of us are unaware of. You see where this week's blog entries are going, right?

Some famous researchers (Watzlavick, Beavin, and Jackson for those keeping track!) once said that we "cannot not communicate". Think about that for a minute. If you walk into a room...even if you say are communicating to those present. The clothes you wear, how you smell, how you enter the room, the look on your face...all communicate something.

Let's take a minute and look at the different modes of communicating (whether intentional or not). Communication occurs in combinations of two mediums - verbal/nonverbal and vocal/nonvocal.
The verbal medium deals with words. Anything we communicate with words is verbal.
The vocal medium deals with using our voice. Here are the four modes broken down:

Verbal-Vocal: You got it! This one denotes talking. Any time we say something to someone we are using this mode of communication. This mode is most easily understood as communication.

Verbal-Nonvocal: This is when we use words but no voice. American Sign Language is the best example of this.

Nonverbal-Vocal: We use this when we are not using words, but we are using our voice. We may not always recognize this as communication, but at the same time we know when someone else does this. If your husband comes into the room and heaves a great S-I-G-H, you know something is going on...though he didn't say a word. Other examples include crying, screaming (without words, of course), humming, tone of voice, volume of speech, rate of speech, and 'huffing and puffing'.

Nonverbal-Nonvocal: This category is huge! I'll be coming back to this in much greater detail in future posts. For now, it's important to know that this includes appearance, smell, eye contact, proximtiy, issues of territory, and touch.

The wonderful world of interpersonal communication informs our understanding in so many ways.
By knowing the ways we communicate, we can better tune in to our loved ones and monitor our own communication to 'say' what we really mean. More on that on Thursday!

Have a wonderful week!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Skills Day: Theory into Practice

On Monday I wrote about the ways that communication is important to our families. Perhaps you read it and now have some new insights into your everyday communication.
Today I want to give you some ways to practice that communication.

  • Spend some time thinking and praying about what your family means to you. Are they friends? Are they "just" family...or is family "everything" to you? Some people feel that whether they like their family or not is irrelevant because family is forever. Others feel that their family is all the people they have a close relationship with, whether they are blood relatives or not.
  • Once you know what family means to you, take a look at what you say TO your family members and ABOUT your family memebers. Is what you say consistent with how you feel about your family?
  • If it is consistent, that's great! Keep up the good work. If the way you feel about your family and the way you talk to/about them isn't consistent then it's time for some changes.
    • You can begin those changes by thinking before you speak. We've all heard this before, but so few of us really do this. Sometimes we don't need to say how we feel. Perhaps we should let negative feelings be still for a bit before we 'spew' them all over someone. Often, I find time solves many of the trifling issues that seem so big in the moment.
    • If you decide an issue is 'big' enough to discuss, go right to the person with whom you have an issue. This is really important. Talking with everyone else won't solve the problem...because those people aren't the problem! Go to the source directly. I'll discuss in future posts the ins and outs of conflict management.
I hope today you have some ideas for how to identify and demonstrate your true feelings about family!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Communication: What’s the Big Deal?

If you’ve picked up any magazine in the last decade, you likely saw an article about communication. For many, it seems to be a buzzword that gets thrown around quite easily. I often read that families (spouses, in particular) should “communicate better”. Yet the role of communication in families is often implied…as if we all understand the role that communication plays in our lives.

From a family perspective, there are three ways that communication impacts our relationships:

  • Communication serves to constitute as well as reflect family relationships. This means that we use communication to create and maintain our relationships. This one is easy. Most of us know the frustration of trying to maintain a relationship with someone who won’t talk to us. It feels impossible!! Yet, the things we say about our family also tells us how we see those relationships. Let’s say I am griping about my brother to my mom. I say all kinds of nasty things about him. Yet, if someone asks me about my brother I might say we get along fine. But, the specifics I told my mom would really reflect the true feelings I have about my relationship with my brother. This kind of communication is fun to pay attention to!
  • Communication is the process by which family members create and share their meanings with each other. Growing up in my family, we called armpits ‘gapes’. I’m honestly not sure why. I can guess, but was never told. We just always called them gapes. And my sisters and I all think it’s a funny word. My husband’s family simply called them armpits. However, since he doesn’t see any harm in our silly family name for this body part, he goes along with calling them gapes with our sons. And they love it! They think it’s silly, too. So, in my family of origin, we had a word with meaning that we shared just in our family. It bonded us together in a good way. I bet your family has some special names or meanings, too. I’d love to hear about them!
  • Families are part of multigenerational, cultural communication patterns. This is one of my favorite concepts to teach freshmen at college because they insist they don’t have any cultural background. They are always wrong, though! Our cultural background can come from long ago family (my great grandfather is from Poland), to religious beliefs (born and raised Catholic, but more active Christian now), to regional differences (born in the northeast, while spending adult life in the south). All of those factors and more contribute to who we are as individuals. We each bring those differences to our marriage and future family. So, each of us is the product of generations of beliefs all shared through communication. We then form new family cultures when we merge our individual family cultures together. I think that’s a fascinating concept!
Q4U: So, now you know that communication helps us to create and tell others about our family, it helps us create meaning in our family, and it is the result of generations of cultural elements. How do you see these ideas lived out in your current family?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Happy New Year

Yes, I'm a bit late in offering New Year wishes. My youngest was just asking today if he can still tell people "Happy New Year". Of course, my answer was yes!

By this time, the rush to find 'resolutions' has passed...I hope. Now we've settled into the new year and are back to our routine. This is a great time, however, to establish some new routines in your marriage.

I know how hard it is to have a date. My DH works nights and sleeps during the day. This makes weekend date nights hard to come by. Knowing how important dates are, though, we've started implementing "at home dates". During these times we turn off the TV and focus on each other. Sometimes this just means getting caught up on the everday issues that have been lost due to our busy schedules. Sometimes it means planning (goals, finances, etc). Sometimes it means a back porch candlelight dinner. Sometimes it just means laughing and being silly. The important part is the time together.

So, I encourage you to find some time to be with your spouse each month. I'm not going to be unrealistic and expect this will happen weekly for you. It certainly doesn't for US! Get creative, though, and find some time for just the two of you. You'll be amazed how much this brings new life to your wintertime marriage.